Interview by Paul Salfen
Thousands of individuals are in federal prison for nonviolent cannabis offenses. Paul Salfen talks with Bella Thorne, Kyle Kazan and Weldon Angelos about Texas cannabis laws.
- Bella Thorne: Actor and Forbidden Flowers cannabis entrepreneur
- Kyle Kazan: Co-Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Glass House Brands
- Weldon Angelos: President & Co-Founder, The Weldon Project
On September 14, 2021, the Weldon Project delivered a letter to President Biden urging him to grant a general pardon to anyone convicted of a federal marijuana offense. The letter was signed by Drake, NBA Star Al Harrington, Killer Mike, activist Weldon Angelos, Meek Mill, Mike Tyson, NFL Star Deion Sanders, Lil’ Baby, Glass House Brands, and over 150 artists, athletes, law enforcement, business leaders, elected and appointed government officials, and leading advocates like CAN-DO Clemency, Buried Alive Project, and many others. Please join us by signing and sharing the petition below:
Dear President Biden:
We write in support of your strong leadership on criminal justice reform in the United States. We share your goals of a more just and fair society that lives up to the promises made in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. We believe, as you do, that real and lasting public safety can only be achieved by fulfilling those promises.
For these reasons, we urge you to exercise your authority as the chief law enforcement officer and the sole decision-maker on clemency under the U.S. Constitution to grant a full, complete, and unconditional pardon to all persons subject to federal criminal or civil enforcement on the basis of non-violent marijuana offenses.
As you know, the federal “war on drugs” has crushed many souls and countless futures, while spreading intolerable levels of mistrust and dysfunction between minority communities and those sworn to protect them. Although the war impacts individuals of all races, the effects of drug prohibition—from surveillance and arrest, to trial and conviction, to incarceration and reentry into society—are felt most keenly by the poor, the powerless, and people of color. Reckoning with these harms is a critical civil rights issue, which must proceed with what Dr. King memorably described as the “fierce urgency of now.”
This resolve is witnessed today in both red and blue states, from coast to coast, as the American people call for an end to marijuana prohibition. Whatever one thinks of other drugs and other defendants, incarcerating marijuana offenders in federal prisons is a misuse of our nation’s resources and grossly hypocritical, given that a clear majority of Americans oppose marijuana prohibition and about half admit to using the drug during their lifetime. It also stands against the arc of history and the principle of federalism: nearly three-quarters of the states have now abandoned the federal government’s blanket criminal ban in favor of safe, regulated legal access to marijuana for adults and/or those with qualifying medical conditions.
The harms of incarceration are obvious, but the pains of federal marijuana convictions transcend prison walls, making it more difficult for someone to get a job, access affordable housing, and receive an education. A conviction can forever limit an individual’s constitutional rights and can put the American dream further out of reach for an entire family.
Enough is enough. No one should be locked up in federal prison for marijuana. No one should continue to bear the scarlet letter of a federal conviction for marijuana offenses.
We know you share our concerns. In November 2019, during a Democratic Primary Debate, you stated: “I think we should decriminalize marijuana, period. And I think everyone—anyone who has a record—should be let out of jail, their records expunged, … completely zeroed out.” On the eve of your election, you reaffirmed “my commitment to you,” the American people, to “decriminalize marijuana and automatically expunge prior marijuana convictions.” You were right then, and you remain right today.
Relief from the federal war on marijuana would not only be just, it would also be good policy by advancing public safety and economic prosperity. A general pardon poses a low risk to the American public by expunging records and releasing the last remaining prisoners of federal marijuana prohibition. Those who will have their sentences commuted comprise a small percentage of the federal prison population and are incarcerated only for non-violent marijuana offenses. All other beneficiaries of a categorical pardon represent an even lower risk, since these people are already living peacefully among their neighbors.
A general pardon of all federal marijuana offenders would also be consistent with the Constitution and past practices. Presidents from both political parties have issued categorical grants of clemency when circumstances warranted it. In 1974, President Ford established a program of conditional clemency for Selective Service Act violators. In 1977, President Carter issued a categorical pardon to all Selective Service Act violators, closing the book on a costly and painful war. You have the power to do the same for the federal war on marijuana.
We appreciate that the Biden-Sanders Task Force recommendations speak to these issues, and we recognize that expungement of harmful convictions is an important part of the healing process. By your act of constitutional grace, a general clemency will send a clear and powerful message that our country is truly taking a new course on criminal justice policy and practice.
Thank you for your leadership in reforming criminal justice and advancing public safety in America today
READ the FULL letter and 150+ signers HERE: https://cannabisclemencynow.org/Marijuana%20Clemency%20-%20Letter%20to%20President%20Biden.pdf