Restorative justice is a primary component of recreational weed legalization

As cannabis experiences a culture of legalization for recreational adult use, an underlying dingy aroma surfaces and eats away at our collective conscience. It is vehemently wrong, unethical  and immoral for some individuals to amass great wealth by participating as an entrepreneur in the legal cannabis industry while another individual wastes away in prison as a convicted felon for engaging in the same behavior.

As marijuana begins to come into its own across the United States, judges, lawmakers, and those successful in the cannabis industry are able to clearly see the need to help those less fortunate with being released from incarceration and having their records expunged. Additionally due to the injustice and undo suffering experienced by the convicted marijuana offender, services for successful transition from convicted incarcerated felon to happy well adjusted contributing member of society must be provided.

Having an intimate understanding of how criminal convictions completely ostracize individuals from opportunities, I am excited about the restorative justice that will soon take place in New Mexico.  I am also hopeful that latino, black and poor individuals will be removed as targets for government harassment and neglect. 

To be absolutely clear the restorative justice component has not yet been put into effect in New Mexico.  Rather,  In order for a recreational marijuana bill to have any hopes of becoming law, this integral component must be properly addressed and take on a primary component of  said legislation

The Last Prisoner Project

The last prisoner project is a non profit organization whose job is to elevate awareness and conduct proactive campaigns in states that legalize to ensure the release of every incarcerated marijuana offender. 

It is an organization formed by successful cannabis industry leaders to promote the restorative justice process, ensuring justice is served. 

The Last Prisoner Project asserts that there is sufficient evidence to support the fact that the war on drugs has been a deliberate attempt by the federal government to disrupt the lives of latino, black and poor americans. 

With the recent calls for social justice, specifically with the police killing black people for fun, the current awareness of America is at an all time high.   Its willingness to take the necessary steps to ensure justice for everyone is big right now, and it’s the perfect time to proactively raise awareness for the restorative justice required for marijuana offenders.

I encourage everyone to check out the last prisoner project, and would request that local new mexico dispensaries fulfill your ethical obligations by providing donation boxes in your establishments and raising awareness about restorative justice. 

Where New Mexico is in the legalization process

The Governor has repeatedly requested comprehensive marijuana legalization bills and apparently the 2020 bill looked exactly like the 2019 bill and did not properly address the restorative justice component.   State representative Javier Martinez in a recent interview with Grow Forward told  the interviewing reporter that because the war on drugs is actually a movement that disproportionately punishes poor latino and black citizens, especially when it comes to marijuana convictions, a legalization bill that automatically expunges the records of non violent marijuana offenders is required.

Recent studies show that without automatic expungements less than 25% of those eligible for release from prison and expungement of criminal records ever receive the justice due them.  With the exception of appeals, the legal component of criminal offenses ends when a convicted offender is sentenced.  Without automatic expungement many individuals eligible for restorative justice would have no knowledge of the matter.  

Wisconsin, a state that  has legalized recreational use and has not incorporated automatic expungement into its legalization process, currently has a black man serving a life sentence for selling 3 pounds of marijuana to an undercover police officer.  The fact that cannabis entrepreneurs are able to generate excessive wealth from the sale of marijuana while individuals rot in prison for the same behavior is horrific.

Closer to home, a gentleman named Frank, who sold 3 grams of weed to an undercover in Las Cruces, was railroaded into taking a 7 year deal by then district attorney Suzana Martinez.  After serving his time Frank was unable to obtain meaningful employment and fell into homelessness.  Fortunately Frank eventually sought help through Saint Martins and received housing assistance.  The really awful aspect of this story is that Frank wasted 16 years of his life from conviction to housing, and even today is ineligible for any career employment due to his felony conviction some 20 years ago.

New Mexico is committed to doing the right thing

Although many proponents of legalization in the state grow frustrated that a legalization bill has not yet passed, it is reassuring to know that New Mexico lawmakers have a deep sense of the importance of restorative justice.  New Mexico lawmakers will not pass a bill that does not completely address the issue and provide automatic expungement for previous offenses.  

Hopefully 2021 will be the year the legislation is composed correctly, adequately providing for automatic restorative justice for New Mexico offenders.  With a failing economy and a pandemic that is not letting up anytime in the near future, legalization would create a desperately needed boost to our local economy.  However a bill that does not properly address the restorative justice component would be both a gross injustice to our citizens as well as the birth of an industry rooted in systemic racism

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