“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.
Behind The Walls
By Andrew Wayne Landells
To most Americans & other people from around the world who are lovers of the special sacred medicinal herb called marijuana, 420 signifies a day of liberation & freedom to smoke, cleanse the body and mind, heal the soul and exalt their consciousness in peace and happiness. For those who chose to go and paint the town green and enjoy the pleasure of their chosen company without limitation, this must truly be a liberating feeling to step out from behind the walls of your home knowing you express yourself freely.
I share this beautiful day of jubilation with you in spirit, and I know a day will come when Marijuana is legalized federally and you will see it being sold in pharmacies, 7/11, Walmart stores, gas stations, and your local corner store just like cigarettes. But we are not there yet. My people, please do not let the most critical part of this movement be shoved under the carpet. Your Brothers and sisters who are still in prison serving harsh inhumane sentences for marijuana are the true sacrificial martyrs who carried this industry on their back and kept it relevant for everyone to be able to reap the benefits of today.
To some, they see me as one of the few who wrote the blueprint to this game, I have always seen myself as an Entrepreneur, with one of my core principles to never partake in any business that would do harm to any being.
How We Help
In today’s world, marijuana companies are doing no different from what I was doing. It's been over a decade and I am still in prison for a non-violent marijuana offense, out of sight out of mind; along with so many other injured players sitting out the game on the sidelines, getting bits and pieces of updates via trunks of what's happening and cheering the new players on, always knowing the dual side of reality, freedom still feels like a dream of Martin Luther that we may never see.
One can sympathize but until you actually walk for just one day in my shoes, its impossible to truly explain the feelings of a father, on a 15 min phone call with his 5-year-old daughter, "Daddy, my best friend at my new school said to me today, “You talk about your dad every day and all the fun stuff you guys do together, when is he going to come and pick you from school?” My daughter says, "Daddy, it hurts me sooo much because I did not know how to say my dad was in prison, and it keeps hurting and now it's affecting my school work.”
I am sharing this to say the innocent children and loved ones of marijuana prisoners are free but mentally they are living their everyday lives behind an invisible wall. These are all your fellow law-abiding citizens and they too are hurting and this pain won't cease until marijuana is no longer in the same classification as heroin, cocaine, etc. Money laundering and trafficking in connection to marijuana offenses should be thrown out and these Prisoners of Peace immediately released.
Andrew Landells is currently serving a 15-year federal sentence for cannabis and has been incarcerated since 2014 at FCI Edgefield, SC.
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