“While the rest of America is gearing up to celebrate 420,” writes Mary Bailey, “cannabis prisoners are languishing in a prison cell.”
Bailey is the Managing Director of the Last Prisoner Project, a restorative justice nonprofit that works to free the nearly 40,000 people incarcerated nationwide on cannabis-related charges. Although 37 states have legalized some form of medical cannabis, with 18 of those states and Washington, D.C. also legalizing recreational use, there are still thousands of people waiting on clemency and release due to the harmful policies instituted by the War on Drugs. Even more are working on re-entry after incarceration, trying to rebuild their lives with few resources, employment opportunities or housing options.
For all those whose lives have been upended by cannabis convictions, the "high holiday" of 420 - National Cannabis Day - means something very different than lighting up with friends. Bailey recently asked incarcerated cannabis prisoners to answer the question of what 420 signifies to them. They responded by sharing the touching, very personal letters below.
Read on to learn how someone locked up in prison because of a cannabis plant feels about 420. In this national holiday, we hope you will remember those still suffering in the unequal War on Drugs.
We Will Not Stop Until Every Last Cannabis Prisoner is Set Free
Written By: Juanita Kinsey
4\20 and 4:20 are my favorite time of year and day, especially when I'm not incarcerated. The first time I heard about 420 was at a tiny, tucked away head shop in Tallahassee, Florida back in 1998. I learned that day that 420 was an international cannabis smoke-out day. The shop had these holographic 420 stickers that I immediately became obsessed with. I proceeded to buy all 6 different stickers and put them all over the outside of my car. This may or may not have been some of the reasons my criminal history started with my first charge of possession of less than 20 grams ( 1 joint) in 1999.
Cannabis Prisoner in Florida
420 has been my favorite holiday ever since. Every one of my friends and I would start planning the greatest smoke out for that day! Flavored papers, blunts, bongs, gravity bong made out of a mop bucket and a 2-liter coke bottle with the bottom cut off and the cap with a bowl rigged in it! OMG! Some of my best memories were from these gatherings!
I am so thankful for this day that brings so many people together to celebrate cannabis all over the world.
Cannabis brings healing to the body, the nations, love, compassion, friendship, unity, and much, much more.
People coming together for 420 has had a huge impact on legalization to get us to the point we are at today. Upon my release, I will be celebrating legally with some high-quality California's finest medical cannabis with the love of my life, Colby Standley! Until then, put a fatty in the air for all the incarcerated cannabis lovers on 420 and whenever you think about us! Peace, Love, and Smoke
Juanita Kinsey is serving a 6-year sentence for a cannabis charge in Florida. She is a loving mother and wife. She currently works in the dog therapy program in her prison and hopes to continue her work training therapy dogs upon her release. Her husband and co-defendent, Colby Standley, is also an LPP constituent incarcerated in Florida for cannabis.
To find out how you can help in the release of 40k cannabis inmates, visit https://www.lastprisonerproject.org/ and learn about the multitude of ways that you can get involved. https://www.lastprisonerproject.org/takeaction