By Maureen Meehan
In a live-streamed event, NBA star Al Harrington, 4-time Grammy-award winner Drake, world champion boxer Badou Jack, rapper and activist Killer Mike, Meek Mill, NFL player Julio Jones and NBA star John Wall and others announced on Tuesday that they’d co-written and signed a letter to President Joe Biden requesting a general pardon for “all persons subject to federal criminal or civil enforcement on the basis of a nonviolent marijuana offense.”
The letter to President Biden, spearheaded by Weldon Angelos of the Weldon Project/Mission Green and Academy for Justice Director Erik Luna, includes signatures from some 150 artists, athletes, producers, lawmakers, law enforcement officials, academics, business leaders, policy experts, reform advocates and other professionals.
Angelos, along with Luna, Harrington and Ralo, also participated in the live-streamed event in which they discussed the letter to President Biden and emphasized the call for clemency.
The stories of those this will help are compelling, Angelos told Benzinga, noting that Drake, Lil Baby, Meek Mill, Killer Mike and dozens of other hip-hop artists signed on the letter in support of their friend and fellow rapper Ralo, who is facing 8 years for a nonviolent marijuana offense.
“I appreciate my friends and peers in the hip-hop community, such as Drake [and] Killer Mike, for supporting my clemency because it’s just not right that corporations are allowed to violate federal law and become millionaires while people like myself go to prison for years,” Ralo said. “This is hypocrisy. But I am hopeful that Joe Biden will honor his campaign promise and grant us clemency, without delay, so that we can return home to our families and communities.”
Angelos added, “The long-term effects on the formerly incarcerated for federal marijuana convictions go beyond the prison walls, making it difficult if not impossible for someone to get a job, have access affordable housing, educational loans etc. They’re limited in so many ways that people don’t realize when they just want to begin again and contribute to society. Enough is enough. No one should be locked up in federal prison for marijuana.”
Why It Matters
It is important to note that three-quarters of the states have abandoned the federal government’s criminal ban in favor of a safe, regulated cannabis program, yet, more than a half-million individuals are arrested each year for marijuana-related offenses.
“It’s time for the federal government to say the drug war is over when it comes to marijuana,” said Professor Luna, two-time Fulbright Award winner whose scholarship often explores the criminalization of victimless crimes. “With the stroke of a pen, President Biden can help end the national criminal prohibition of marijuana, a crude policy that has wrought havoc for nearly a century.”
Biden Campaign Promise
“When Biden ran for president, he promised to take action and use the pardon power of the presidency to release those serving prison time for marijuana and pardon their felony convictions,” Angelos said. “At a time when dispensaries are as prevalent as liquor stores in some states, it is time for President Biden to now make good on that promise.”
Luke Scarmazzo, currently serving 22 years for operating a state-compliant medical marijuana dispensary in Modesto, California, is hopeful the President will do the right thing.
“The letter delivered to President Biden today demonstrates that the public no longer supports these incarcerations,” Scarmazzo said in a press statement. “And I pray the President fulfills his campaign promise of releasing cannabis prisoners and expunging our records. The country is urging him to act.”
The live stream of the press conference can be viewed here.
This story was originally published on and appears courtesy of Benzinga.
Featured image: Weldon Angelos of The Weldon Project/Mission Green. Courtesy of Weldon Angelos.
Maureen Meehan is a reporter with years of writing and radio experience abroad, including Latin America, Middle East, Spain and currently NYC where she has been writing for Weedmaps News, High Times, Cannabis Now and other cannabis-related publications. She is a Cannabis Editor for Benzinga.