Fair Trials, a globally focused nongovernmental non-profit organization which campaigns for the right to a fair trial and against discrimination within justice systems is, along with the Last Prisoner Project, calling on the cannabis industry for action. They want to begin addressing the harm caused by cannabis prohibition—on a global basis—by working to free those jailed for cannabis possession and use.
Cannabis legalization may now be a reality in more and more countries across the globe. However, far too many people remain behind bars or continue to suffer directly from the war on the plant.
“The injustice of cannabis prohibition has resulted in millions of people worldwide serving time in prison or being saddled with a cannabis conviction, which brings with it a lifetime of harmful consequences, ranging from education and employment opportunities to immigration status and parental rights,” said Fair Trials Global CEO Norman L. Reimer.
“These harmful effects of prohibition not only impact the individuals charged, but also their families and communities. And those effects have been borne disproportionately by minorities, communities of colour, and the socio-economically disadvantaged. Legalising cannabis alone does not equal justice. Together, we must address the ongoing harms of past prohibition and leave no cannabis prisoner behind,” he said.
The campaign will be modeled on the American Cannabis Justice Initiative—a joint effort between the industry and volunteer lawyers.
The Terrible Impact of Unreformed Justice Systems
According to the ACLU, half of all American drug arrests in 2010 were for cannabis. Of the 8.2 million cannabis arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88% were for simple possession. While these numbers have dropped dramatically since then (according to NORML), several hundred thousand Americans are arrested in states where the drug is still outlawed to this day.
The problem of course is not confined to the U.S.
Even in Europe, which has a far more lenient policy towards all drug use and cannabis in particular, people still go to jail for the “crime” of both possession and home cultivation (even for medical use). In Germany, for example, cannabis is the number one “illicit” drug of choice and, of course, also accounts for the vast number of arrests. In Spain, the organizer of the club movement, Albert Tió, was prosecuted with jail time for his role in the same. However, here, like other places in the world, even the threat of prison does not deter users—and according to those who study the issue, it is not likely to in the future. Finland remains the E.U. state with the most people imprisoned for use.
Outside of the E.U., there are places where cannabis “crimes” are punished more harshly, including with life sentences or even the death penalty. Of these, most are in the “east” and Asia. Thailand in fact just made global news with the release of 4,200 prisoners in jail for cannabis (in conjunction with the implementation of federal liberalization policies). In other countries, reform has not happened yet—starting with China. Singapore and Malaysia have both been in the news over the last several years for sentencing people to death for possession. Last year, in the United Arab Emirates, a 25-year sentence was handed to a British soccer coach in possession of CBD oil.
The War on Drugs may finally be ending. But its terrible legacy still creates a dark overhang that shadows far too many people’s lives.
To find out more about the project, contact Norman L. Reimer at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ivan J. Dominguez at email@example.com.