Groups, lawmakers use 4/20 to raise awareness about marijuana sentencing reform

Groups, lawmakers use 4/20 to raise awareness about marijuana sentencing reform

Progressive advocacy groups and lawmakers commemorated the unofficial 4/20 holiday on Saturday by attempting to raise awareness about racial disparities in incarceration rates for marijuana-related crimes.

Organizations and politicians favoring marijuana legalization set up petitions, sold merchandise and called for political change on the day regarded for its popularity in cannabis culture.


Several messages pointed to racial inequities in the enforcement of marijuana laws across the country.

“If you love pot AND you’re white, everything is totally awesome these days,” ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s said in a statement. “Let’s be clear: even with increased legalization, hundreds of thousands of people are still being arrested for pot. And most of those people are Black.”

The company started a petition on Friday to have Congress act on marijuana convictions, asking lawmakers to provide pardons or amnesty to those whose only crime was possessing cannabis

“Want to feel really really good this 4/20? Then let’s make sure that legalization benefits all of us. That’ll turn 4/20 into a day that we all can celebrate,” the company added.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent an email to supporters advertising a limited-edition t-shirt and travel bag with the text “The War on Drugs is bullshit” and a picture of former President Richard Nixon, who pushed for tough drug policies during his administration.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) urged lawmakers to follow the 33 states where the drug has been legalized.

“While states continue to blaze the trail forward with regard to the regulation of the legal medical and adult-use marijuana markets, lawmakers in D.C. should take note,” the group tweeted.

Several politicians, including a slew of Democratic presidential candidates, also urged for legislative reform to help correct any disparities in enforcement.

“As we work to legalize marijuana nationwide, we’ve got to also ensure equity in the marijuana industry. Communities that have been historically targeted by the failed War on Drugs can't be left out of opportunities to participate in the legal marijuana economy,” Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerGillibrand seizes on abortion debate to jump-start campaign 2020 hopeful John Delaney unveils T climate plan Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign MORE (D-N.J.) tweeted.

“The Marijuana Justice Act wouldn’t just legalize marijuana—it would expunge the records of millions of people who have been hurt by the War on Drugs,” he added, referencing a bill he introduced in the Senate.

“It’s time we legalize marijuana at the federal level and restore justice to our communities. Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs. We must reverse this trend,” Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSan Francisco police chief apologizes for raid on journalist's home Gillibrand seizes on abortion debate to jump-start campaign Senate Democrats to House: Tamp down the impeachment talk MORE (D-Calif.), another 2020 candidate, added.

"Our nation’s current drug laws are counterproductive, fueling racial disparities and drug wars. I’m proud of my state’s progressive policies on this issue. Now let’s legalize marijuana nationwide," Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeOvernight Energy: Democrats push EPA to collect 4K in 'excessive' Pruitt travel expenses | Greens angered over new rules for rocket fuel chemical | Inslee to join youth climate strikers in Las Vegas Inslee hits 65,000 donor threshold for primary debate Inslee says he'll join youth climate strikers in Las Vegas MORE (D-Wash.) tweeted.

“Legalizing marijuana is a basic question of fairness & freedom for the American people. We must legalize marijuana, expunge the records of those w/ marijuana possession charges/convictions & hold Big Pharma accountable for the opioid epidemic that has killed thousands #420” tweeted 2020 contender Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardCNN's O'Rourke town hall finishes behind Fox News, MSNBC Progressive Democrat says Trump victory shed light on divide between Silicon Valley, rural US Anita Hill: Female 2020 Democrats 'not being taken seriously' MORE (D-Hawaii).

"It’s not enough just to say we want to #LegalizeIt. We will also regulate it, taking best practices of states that have successfully legalized marijuana. And while we’re at it, we’ll expunge the records of folks who’ve been incarcerated for using it," former San Antonio Mayor Julian CastroJulian CastroDe Blasio pitches himself as tough New Yorker who can take on 'Don the con' Michael Bennet must find a way to stand out in the crowd Sandra Bland's sister: She's 'literally speaking for herself even beyond her grave' in video MORE (D) said.

"I’m for full legalization of marijuana. I would go a step further and on 4/20, 2021, exactly 2 years from today, I would pardon everyone who’s in jail for a low-level, non-violent marijuana offense and I would high five them on their way out of jail," businessman Andrew YangAndrew YangDNC boss says candidates to be involved in debate lottery Hillicon Valley: Assange hit with 17 more charges | Facebook removes record 2.2B fake profiles | Senate passes anti-robocall bill | Senators offer bill to help companies remove Huawei equipment Swalwell becomes second 2020 candidate to accept cryptocurrency donations MORE vowed.

“Cannabis criminalization disproportionately impacts communities of color. We must finally legalize cannabis nationwide and expunge records for those incarcerated for cannabis-related offenses,” Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarIt's Joe Biden's 2020 presidential nomination to lose Omar hits Trump on 'stable genius' claim: 'Deranged, bizarre, incoherent, sad' Carson invokes abortion in Twitter response to jab from Omar MORE (D-Minn.), a progressive firebrand in the House, added.

According to ACLU data, 8 million arrests for pot were made between 2001 and 2010. The data found that, in that timespan, a black person was 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for possession than a white person, despite cannabis being used at similar rates among white and black people.

Nearly every major 2020 presidential candidate has publicly supported proposals to legalize marijuana, erase past convictions for minor possession and remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act.

A record high number of Americans, 65 percent, say they believe that marijuana should be legalized, according to a CBS News poll released Friday. The poll found that 56 percent of Republicans back legalization, the first time a majority of the group has supported the proposal.

A majority of Americans, the poll found, also believe legalizing weed wouldn’t have negative impacts on the economy or crime rates.

Updated at 4:25 p.m.