Hollywood A-lister and cannabis entrepreneur Seth Rogen will headline the event. Former NBA star Al Harrington will attend. So will NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson.
The event is “Reimagining Justice,” a three-a-a-half-hour live-steam event focusing on cannabis and racial justice reform, and scheduled for Wednesday, 1 to 4:30 p.m. E.D.T. The conference is being sponsored by the Marijuana Policy Project and is available for registration as well as viewable at MPP’s Facebook Live.
Washington, D.C.-based MPP works to reform and humanise cannabis laws, with state-by-state and federal legalisation a primary goal. “What we strive for is to see cannabis taxed and regulated like other businesses,” MPP CEO Steve Hawkins said in an interview. “We also strive to ensure that we change the frame with which cannabis has been used in the United States over these last 50 years, tied to the ‘War on Drugs.’”
In fact, cannabis' classification as a Schedule I drug since the 1970s has deeply affected businesses in this space and defined policing in the U.S. in terms of how the police have targeted people of colour as part of the so-called War on Drugs, Hawkins said. Decriminalisation has barely improved things, he said; police still have a pretest to stop young black men, at times with lethal results. Only full federal legalization would change that.
According to FBI data, police officers in 2018 made about 663,000 arrests for cannabis-related offences in the 50 states and District of Columbia, amounting to 40% of the 1.65 million total drug arrests in the U.S. that year. A disproportionate amount of those arrests targeted people of colour.
Civil rights activists have certainly taken notice. “The result [of the arrest rate] has been devastating to these communities,” Johnson, the NAACP CEO, said in a statement. “The NAACP has a long history of fighting against these policies at the state and federal level.”
The civil rights organisation has been calling for the decriminalization of cannabis since 2011. As the legalised cannabis industry expands, ”It is simply inadequate for there to be any scenario in which millions of people are languishing in prisons for marijuana-related convictions while a few others are making millions of dollars in profit,” Johnson said.
Seth Rogen, who co-founded Houseplant, a Canadian cannabis company, with Evan Goldberg, also weighed in, pre-conference. “It is crazy that there are millions of people in America who can’t vote, who can’t get a job, who can’t do things that so many take for granted because they have been arrested for something that isn’t illegal anymore,” said Rogen, an entertainer known for roles in blockbusters like Lion King, Shrek, Monsters and Aliens and Pineapple Express.
Also appearing on the online event’s speaker slate are business people like Natalie Papillion, founder and executive director of The Equity Organization; Jasmine Rand, attorney to the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown; David Johns, executive director of the National lack Justice Coalition; and Rachael Rollins, district attorney of Suffolk County, Massachusetts.