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Saturday, June 15, 2024

The Last Prisoner Project: Seeking Justice for Cannabis Convicts

Key Takeaways:

  • The Last Prisoner Project is a nonprofit organization working to achieve cannabis criminal justice reform and free prisoners.
  • Cannabis prohibition disproportionately affects people of color, who are more likely to be arrested for cannabis-related charges.
  • While some progress has been made with federal pardons, state action is crucial to ensuring the freedom of cannabis convicts.
  • The Last Prisoner Project focuses on prisoner release, record clearance, and re-entry support to achieve freedom for cannabis prisoners.
  • Individuals who benefit from the legal cannabis industry are urged to take action and support those still suffering from cannabis criminalization.

In the United States, there are over 40,000 prisoners serving sentences for cannabis-related charges. The Last Prisoner Project (LPP) is a nonprofit organization founded in 2019 with the mission to bring about cannabis criminal justice reform and free these prisoners. Led by a team of attorneys, criminal justice reformers, and advocates, LPP works through legal intervention, advocacy campaigns, and policy change to not only release prisoners but also address the injustices caused by cannabis prohibition.

While the legal cannabis industry is worth over $10 billion, thousands of individuals continue to suffer in prisons for activities that are no longer considered crimes. LPP believes it is the responsibility of those benefiting from the industry to work towards restorative justice. Despite consuming cannabis at similar rates, people of color are disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition laws. African Americans are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis-related charges, and people of color account for around 84% of federal cannabis-related sentences. On the other hand, white men dominate the cannabis industry executive positions.

Freedom Is a Complicated Process

In 2022, President Biden issued a federal pardon for simple marijuana possession charges. However, this pardon did not result in the release of any federal prisoners since none of the offenders were still incarcerated. It’s important to note that a federal pardon does not remove individuals from custody, and it does not expunge their convictions from their criminal records. Expungement is crucial for individuals to regain access to employment, housing, and other benefits without being hindered by their criminal records.

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Although some states offer expungement opportunities to clear cannabis-related charges from criminal records, the process can be complicated and inaccessible for many individuals. Expungement requires navigating complex legal procedures, petitioning officials, reviewing legal documents, completing lengthy applications, appearing in court, and paying fees. Furthermore, different states have different expungement processes, and each case is unique, making legal assistance essential for successful expungement.

While federal pardons are a step in the right direction, they do not address state-level convictions, which make up the majority of cannabis-related convictions. State-initiated programs that grant clemency, record clearance, and resentencing are essential to bringing about justice for cannabis convicts. It is crucial that individuals affected by cannabis criminalization and those who benefit from legalization take action and support these programs.

A Multidimensional Approach

The Last Prisoner Project takes a multidimensional approach to achieve freedom for cannabis prisoners. The organization focuses on three main initiatives:

  • Prisoner Release: LPP works to release prisoners incarcerated for non-violent cannabis-related crimes through state and federal clemency programs, advocates for resentencing policies, and supports legalization campaigns.
  • Record Clearance: LPP advances the implementation of criminal record clearance programs to ensure that prisoners are freed from the barriers to employment, housing, and other benefits imposed by their criminal records.
  • Re-entry Support: LPP provides professional, financial, and educational resources to help released prisoners rebuild their lives and reintegrate into their communities.

While the release of prisoners is an important aspect, the Last Prisoner Project recognizes the need to address other barriers imposed by cannabis criminal convictions. By advocating for record clearance, ending prohibition, and providing support for re-entry, LPP aims to achieve comprehensive justice for cannabis prisoners.

If you are one of the fortunate individuals benefiting from the legalization of cannabis, it is crucial to acknowledge the ongoing prohibition in many states and the disproportionate burden it places on vulnerable communities. Take action and support organizations like the Last Prisoner Project that are working towards justice and freedom for those affected by cannabis criminalization.


1. How does the Last Prisoner Project work?

The Last Prisoner Project works through legal intervention, advocacy campaigns, and policy change to release cannabis prisoners, clear their criminal records, and provide re-entry support.

2. Why are people of color disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition laws?

Despite similar consumption rates, people of color are more likely to be arrested and convicted for cannabis-related charges due to systemic biases and racial disparities in law enforcement.

3. Can federal pardons clear cannabis convictions from criminal records?

No, federal pardons do not expunge convictions from criminal records. Expungement is a separate legal process that must be pursued to remove the conviction from an individual’s record.

4. How can individuals support the Last Prisoner Project?

Individuals can take action by donating to the organization, advocating for cannabis criminal justice reform, and supporting state-level initiatives for clemency, record clearance, and resentencing.

Dr. Jen Chalmers
Dr. Jen Chalmers
Dr. Jen Chalmers is an accomplished writer and cannabis enthusiast. With a Ph.D. in Botany and years of experience as a researcher, she brings a scientific perspective to her captivating articles on cannabis news, recipes, and the fascinating world of psychedelics.

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