How one nonprofit is helping to right the wrongs of cannabis prohibition with industry help
“It really remains a fundamental injustice,” said Stephen Post, of America’s criminalization of cannabis. “We’re really helping to try to turn around those injustices.”
Post works as a campaign manager for Last Prisoner Project (LPP). Formed in 2019, the nonprofit is dedicated to helping Americans convicted of cannabis-related crimes. With a growing list of corporate partners and personal donations, LPP’s goal is the release of all cannabis prisoners and assistance for them to rejoin society without stigma.
During a recent interview, Post told Profiles in Legalization how LPP helps through intervention, advocacy and awareness campaigns. As the legal cannabis industry grows, they focus on truly helping individuals with everything from letter writing campaigns pushing for clemency to helping cannabis convicts expunge their record and reintegrate into society.
“Through our legal efforts, our reentry team and some of the advocacy that we do directly for our constituents,” Post told us, “we’re really hopeful to make that impact.”
Rolling Up for Justice and Partnering for Freedom
While professionals like lawyers can volunteer their time to LPP, helping victims of prohibition get back on their feet requires money. In order to raise the type of funds needed, Last Prisoner Project partners with cannabis businesses. One of these fundraising campaigns was called “Roll It Up for Justice”.
The Roll It Up program partnered with dispensaries across the U.S. to raise awareness for the cause. At participating stores, customers could donate their change at payment to the project. As the campaign’s website says, “small change can make a big impact, and every cent raised through the program gets us closer to the day when every last cannabis prisoner is set free.”
Multi-state cannabis operator Trulieve was among the dispensary chains participating in “Roll It Up”. They announced a donation of $40,000 to LPP after their campaign in Fall, 2020. Trulieve chief executive Kim Rivers explained the multi-state cannabis operator’s support for LPP.
“While we are proud to do our part to help improve and restore the lives of those unfairly impacted by marijuana convictions via expungement and clemency efforts, there is still so much more to be done.” Rivers said in the release. She encouraged others in the industry to help as well.
Trulieve joined other major cannabis industry players like Weedmaps, Leafly and Dutchie in their efforts. After being a key sponsor in LPP’s Partners for Freedom campaign, Dutchie even decided to lead a new fundraising campaign of its own.
Partner Initiatives: Dutchie and House of Wise
Dutchie announced the initiative in a March press release.
“We cannot erase past injustices that people and communities have experienced as a result of decades of failed cannabis policy,” said Ross Lipton, CEO of Dutchie. “but we can work to bring restitution to those who have been harmed by supporting their release from incarceration and giving them a new lease on life.”
As part of that restitution, Dutchie announced a one-time donation of $100,000. They also pledged to match the generosity of their customers up to $1 million. According to the release, the large donation will empower LPP to give 400 grants “to help formerly incarcerated individuals reenter society.”
Post told us LPP just got QR codes for the receipts of dispensary purchases at participating stores. The upgrade means consumers don’t have to decide whether to donate at checkout. They can scan the code to learn more, take action, or donate later.
House of Wise, a women-focused CBD brand, partnered with LPP as well, taking the opportunity of the April 20th cannabis holiday this year. In addition to limited edition gold stash boxes released on 4/20, House of Wise launched a petition calling for the release of nonviolent cannabis offenders. In statements issued this month, the company said they hope to gather 100,000 signatures for change.
“We believe it is critical for us to collaborate with Last Prisoner Project and their community of constituents,” said Amanda Goetz, House of Wise’s founder and CEO, “and support the work they’re doing to ultimately grant freedom and destigmatize cannabis convictions.”
A Moral Obligation to Cannabis Prisoners
Advocates join reform movements for many reasons. For LPP’s Post, the impetus came from his experience at Ohio State University’s Drug Enforcement Policy Center. While he worked on graduate work related to drug policy, he met a professor involved with LPP’s legal committee who told him about the project.
When Post received his master’s degree last May, he found that Last Prisoner Project had an opening. He told us that “it all kind of fell into place.”
Post explained why he’s happy to work for and represent LPP.
“We at Last Prisoner Project really believe that those who have the privilege to sell and consume cannabis freely have a moral obligation to make sure that every single cannabis prisoner is eventually released.” More than released, though, Post thinks the cannabis industry should also “support them through the process of rebuilding their lives through clemency and other reentry programs.”
LPP has been successful in getting over 60 prisoners released, according to Post. They will continue to press for the release of every remaining cannabis prisoner, which LPP says is still over 40,000 people. Let’s hope the industry continues to support their efforts.
You can learn more about the project including how you can help by visiting LastPrisonerProject.org.
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