The time has come to release the long-suffering prisoners of the war on marijuana. It is absurd that people remain in jail for “crimes” relating to marijuana that are already legal in numerous states. High Times asks that you please take the time to sign this petition addressed to Attorney General of the United States Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General Designate Loretta Lynch and Attorney General of the state of California Kamala Harris asking them “to recommend the immediate release of these prisoners, and to provide sentencing guidelines that will no longer imprison otherwise law-abiding people for victimless legal infractions involving the cannabis plant.”
Read the petition in full below and make sure to sign it HERE:
Dear Attorney General Holder, Attorney General Designate Lynch, and California Attorney General Harris,
As of January 2015, four states have legalized cannabis for recreational use, and 24 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized it for medical use. A poll of 450,000 adults conducted last year by CivicScience found that 58 percent of Americans were in favor of legislation that would “legalize, tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.” Despite the seismic shift in this nation’s laws and attitudes towards marijuana over the past few years, there are still tens of thousands of people currently incarcerated on the federal, state, and county level for non-violent, marijuana-only offenses. This petition asks that you use the powers of the offices of the Attorney General of the United States, and the Attorney General of California, to recommend the immediate release of these prisoners and to provide sentencing guidelines that will no longer imprison Americans for victimless legal infractions regarding the cannabis plant.
There exists now an untenable situation whereby U.S. citizens are in jail for engaging in actions that are currently legal and regulated in some parts of this country. It can not be denied that these people broke the law as it stood at the time and place of their transgressions, but it is also apparent that our nation is in the process of redefining its relationship with marijuana. America has yet to address the contradictions that exist between its past and present reasoning, and there are thousands separated from their loved ones, confined to penal institutions, awaiting this clarification.
The federal judiciary has already taken steps to align itself with public opinion in regards to marijuana, most notably with the August 2013 memo from Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole regarding federal marijuana enforcement guidelines. In a reversal of policy, the memo stated that, with certain exceptions, the federal government would allow states to implement and enforce their own marijuana laws, and would no longer prosecute marijuana businesses that were run in accordance with state law. We ask that you continue to amend your guidelines, and rectify the unfortunate scenario that exists today whereby thousands of people continue to be federally incarcerated for the use, manufacture and sale of marijuana, when in fact, these activities are now legal in an increasing amount of territories in the United States.
California, too, has shown positive progress in its move to reduce its prison population by releasing some marijuana offenders, but according to prison census data, as of June 30th, 2013, there were still 482 people incarcerated for infractions regarding this plant in our nation’s third largest state. We ask that California be an example for the other 49 states in the Union by restoring freedom to the remainder of its marijuana offenders and issuing guidelines that recommend an alternative to incarceration for the use, sale and cultivation of this relatively benign intoxicant by otherwise law-abiding citizens.
There is a systemic fallacy at the heart of all marijuana prosecutions based on an erroneous-yet-institutionalized assessment of the risk this plant poses to American society. Marijuana offenders have been—and continue to be—given unjustly severe prison sentences due to the fact that marijuana is classified on a federal level as a Schedule 1 narcotic. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, this means that pot is a drug, “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” It states that, “Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.” Marijuana shares space on this list with heroin, LSD, Quaaludes, ecstasy and peyote—substances with which it has nothing in common. The fact that medical pot is legal in 24 states and Washington DC unquestionably refutes the notion that it has no medical value, and goes a long way towards discounting the idea that it poses severe health risks.
The Cole memo itself can be seen as repudiation of marijuana’s placement on the narcotics schedule, for if marijuana truly posed the risks therein attributed to it, the Justice Department would not have acquiesced to the states in regards to its legalization. Twenty-five million Americans smoked marijuana last year, and 14 million smoke it on a regular basis. If indeed it posed “a high potential for abuse” and “potentially severe psychological or physical dependence” there would exist an unparalleled public health crises and a nationwide call for action. No such epidemic exists, even in states where adults can legally purchase, possess, grow and consume marijuana.
We, the undersigned, are requesting that both the Justice Department and the state of California reevaluate the rationale behind the continued incarceration of thousands of non-violent, marijuana-only offenders, and chart a course for their immediate release. We ask that you act with expediency and great compassion to alleviate the unjust suffering of these fellow Americans, and to produce new guidelines for the enforcement of marijuana law that will ensure that the severity of the punishment of future marijuana offenders does not eclipse the severity of the crimes for which they are accused.