President-elect Donald Trump may have promised to make America great, but criminal justice reform activists across the nation are promising to make 1/20 420, and honestly, good for them. Inauguration Day, aka the day upon which the nightmarish events of Election Day alas come to fruition, falls on Jan. 20, and the DC Cannabis Coalition is ringing in the official installment of our next president in the best possible way: by distributing thousands (approximately 4,200) of free joints to attendees.
Despite what you might think, no, the DC Cannabis Coalition isn’t just handing out weed as the very necessary coping mechanism that it is to deal with the fact that Trump is literally going to be our president. Their actions are also meant to serve as a push for federal legalization of cannabis, like many other advocates who recognize legal weed as a means to reduce mass incarceration, reform the criminal justice system, and bolster the economy (just look at all the education and public health initiatives, funded through tax on legal weed, which have helped make Colorado great).
The group will begin handing out joints at 8 a.m. Jan. 20 on the west side of Dupont Circle in the nation’s capital, where recreational marijuana is legal, before beginning a protest march to the National Mall, USA Today reports.
“The main message is it’s time to legalize cannabis at the federal level,” Adam Eidinger, the founder of DCMJ, a group that introduced and campaigned to get Initiative 71 passed in the District. Initiative 71 made it legal for individuals to possess 2 ounces or less of marijuana, grow it, and give it away, although the initiative did not make it legal to sell pot. “We don’t want any money exchanged whatsoever. This is really a gift for people who come to Washington, D.C.” Eidinger also told USA Today that protesters who come along and smoke at the National Mall will, technically, be committing a crime and risking arrest, but what better site for civil disobedience is there than the National Mall?
Edinger has noted that the protest is largely meant to call out Trump’s pick for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, who not only has a long history of racist comments, i.e. “joking” that his only beef with the KKK was their smoking marijuana, but also subscribes to scientifically disproven myths about marijuana’s dangers (certainly no more/no less than those of alcohol and tobacco), rather than Trump himself. Sessions also seems to perceive cannabis consumers who, historically, have been predominantly PoC, as dirty criminals.
The D.C. Cannabis Coalition will be gifting over 4200 joints Inauguration Day to raise awareness of legalization of pot on a federal level. pic.twitter.com/cUSHrZru1h— DC Maryland Virginia (@DMVFollowers) January 4, 2017
For his own part, Trump has said very little about legal weed, offering advocates neither hope nor cause for worry.
On election night, while progress and human decency took a pretty major L, both medical and recreational marijuana legalization won big in states across the nation. More than 65 million Americans now live in states where weed is recreationally legal, and roughly half of all Americans live in states where marijuana is legal in some form, Politico has noted. Despite this, marijuana has yet to be legalized on a federal level, and as Attorney General, Sessions will have the ability to order the arrests of growers, retailers, and all users of the drug, despite how retail cannabis has already become a thriving, billion dollar industry and substantial source of job growth in states where it is legal. Basically, it will be entirely within the scope of Sessions’ power to expand mass incarceration and subject nonviolent users and dealers across the nation to lives as convicts mired in stigma. (Happy Wednesday!)
Sure, legalizing marijuana without clearing previous drug offenders’ criminal records or commuting the sentences of the 48 percent of federal prisoners locked up for nonviolent drug crimes isn’t going to fix too many problems with mass incarceration in the short-term. After all, in America, incarceration is pretty much just chapter one when you consider how a criminal record essentially forbids convicts from reentering mainstream society. Convicts are denied access to the social safety net, public housing, and face relentless discrimination from landlords and employers alike. And without access to any resources to help get their lives back on track, nor any means to find work or lead self-sufficient lives due to discrimination, former inmates are likely to relapse.
So, legalizing marijuana might not do much for former/current inmates, but at the very least, could prevent others from meeting the same fate. And on top of that, it certainly won’t hurt to pass out joints on Inauguration Day if for no other reason than to help the poor souls trapped in DC take the edge off.