Three Lives Transformed by Post-Legalization Pardons of Cannabis Offenses
December 09,2016 | By Marley Natural
“Just last week somebody went away for 30 years for carrying a gram of cannabis. If that person had just been in a state where it was medicinally or recreationally legal, they would be free … There is no justice in that.” –Dr. Rachel Knox, Medical Chair, Minority Cannabis Business Association
As voters in nine states sit down to consider adult-use or medical cannabis legalization, it’s important to remember that legalization doesn’t just clear a path for overarching economic and public health benefits; it also opens doors for those whose cannabis-related criminal records have long kept them out of the running for jobs, student loans, housing, and even custody of their own children.
Expungement of Cannabis Convictions Changes Lives
In the wake of successful legalization in states like Oregon, Marley Natural – the official Bob Marley cannabis brand – sees an opportunity to help those with past cannabis convictions piece their lives back together. Rise Up Expungement Day, recently held by Marley Natural in partnership with the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA), walked non-violent offenders in Oregon through applying for expungement of cannabis-related convictions. All costs and application fees were covered by Marley Natural.
“Marley Natural strongly believes in empowering those harmed by the effects of cannabis prohibition,” said Berrin Noorata, director of marketing for Marley Natural. Jesce Horton, chairman of the MCBA, agreed. “We’re doing programs like this collaboration with Marley Natural to make sure that we are helping what prohibition has caused,” he explained. “There are still a lot of people in prisons suffering from arrest for doing things that are now legal.”
The stories below, shared on Expungement Day, remind us of the power of legalization to help make reparations for the devastating consequences of the Drug War. “Of all the things I’ve volunteered for, this is the most noble,” said JoDee Lackey, who helped out at Rise Up Expungement Day. “I have no ulterior motive. I’m here for them.” Lackey reflected on the fact that it could have easily been her applying for expungement, rather than assisting others. “I’m 73 in November, I was smoking during the years of prohibition … when I could have been in prison and lost my children,” she explained. “I have to be grateful that I’m here now and able to do this.”
Expungement Day Participants Share Their Stories
From: Salem, Oregon
“I’m not often early, but I arrived half an hour early for this Expungement Day. I’ve been struggling ever since I got this felony in 2012. I lost the house I was living in for 11 years and my children were taken away from a stable home – having a felony makes getting a job so much harder.
I was just using cannabis to medicate and didn’t have a medical card. I’ve tried so many medicines that the doctors prescribe me that have just made me sicker with the worst side effects. Because I want to work in human services, having a felony hinders you from being able to get a job in that industry because it sounds like you’re a real criminal. Getting my record expunged today is going to change my life so much for the better.”
From: Portland, Oregon
“When I found out that I qualified [for Expungement Day], I flipped out! You guys are going to change my life. I was in high school and I decided to bring some pot to a friend’s house and was caught with it. Now I can actually apply for my Bachelor’s and get a job!
Up until today, I was going to graduate with a Master’s in Social Work, be about $20,000 in debt and not be able to get a job in my field – all because of a mistake I made when I was 18. I feel like I shouldn’t have been punished for the rest of my life for something that happened when I was 18; I’m a completely different person now.”
From: Portland, Oregon
“I’ve had this misdemeanor since 2008. It’s been tough. The hardest thing was finding employment and having something like this on my record. This follows me and I’m trying to better myself.
I was finally able to get a job working with the NAYA – the Native American Youth and Family Association. I’m honored to be an employee in general but especially there. The cannabis charge has been a big barrier for me job-wise. I’m looking forward to getting help today and having this opportunity to change my life and be free of this major block.”