Activists are taking advantage of the day after the country's biggest weed holiday to spread a message of diversity, inclusion, and restorative justice as legalization at the state and federal level increasingly becomes the law of the land.
"Prohibition only ends once."
-- Sky Cohen, event organizer
A new group, 421 For All, aims to use the day after 4/20—a national day to enjoy marijuana products—to promote what organizer Sky Cohen, a New York-based event promoter and activist, called "equitable growth in the industry."
"Prohibition only ends once," said Cohen. "We want to make sure that our intervention encourages policy that guarantees access to those who have been historically criminalized."
The push for a more equitable marijuana industry begins with the legalization process, 421 For All founder Cristina Buccola told Cannabis Now Wednesday, but shouldn't end there.
"Cannabis legalization all too frequently omits meaningful criminal justice reforms, fails to repair communities that have borne the brunt of prohibition, doesn’t require diverse economic, ownership and educational opportunities, and forgets to protect patients’ rights and our environment," said Buccola.
The group will kick off its inaugural fundraising event on April 21 at New York's Chelsea Music Hall.
"The event is going to be a mixture of spoken presentation from our beneficiary organizations and music from local talent," said Cohen. "The event will be hosted by Mike Glazer and Mary Jane from Weed + Grub Podcast."
421 For All is live-streaming the fundraiser for free.
The group's advocacy for equity and fairness in the cannabis industry comes at a unique moment for marijuana policy in the country.
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"The concept of 421 was born out of frustration: mainstream cannabis conversations were failing to address the non-commercial aspects of cannabis legalization, like criminal justice reform," said Buccola.
States are increasingly legalizing the plant—leading to discussions about what to do about thousands of drug convictions. And some are taking the initiative to right the wrongs of the past.
In Maine, three separate bills which aim to seal or erase marijuana convictions are moving through the statehouse. Across the country, in Washington state, lawmakers in both chambers of the state's Congress already passed comprehensive legislation that would vacate marijuana convictions for those over 21 at the time of their arrest—over 69,000 cases.
Cohen told Common Dreams that he hopes to see the same thing happen in New York, where he lives.
"Soon we will see dispensaries opening up in communities where local cannabis entrepreneurs were incarcerated," said Cohen. "We don't believe that the NYC industry should be able to develop without addressing it's history of draconian war on drug policies."
Buccola said that a concentration on profits and business threatened to erase the very real, and important, work that needs to be done for the role of cannabis in criminal justice reform as this pillar of the drug war topples.
"The message of organizations and advocates who have been doing this very work was being drowned out by cannabis revenue talk," said Buccola. "The answer was to create 421 as a day focused on cannabis justice matters, highlighting the issues that accompany cannabis legalization and the people who are doing this important work."
"On 4/20, we celebrate the cannabis plant," she added. "On 4/21 we celebrate the people who are focused on these crucial matters of cannabis justice, amplify their message, and have a call to action to continue the work."