By Joan Eberhardt
In the aftermath of the election many people feel they need to become more actively involved in the causes that are important to them. By doing the work needed to support the causes we believe in, such as cannabis law reform at a state and federal level, expanding access to medical marijuana for those who can benefit from it, creating and growing legal marijuana businesses that give back to their communities and helping those in prison for nonviolent crimes while reducing the overall prison population. Here we have compiled a few of the organizations you can help to ensure we build upon the progress we have already made and continue to make that progress at every level possible.
The National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is one of the oldest grassroots organizations advocating for recreational and medical marijuana laws. They’ve been leading the charge since the organization was founded in 1970. Earlier this year they declared that 2016 was a monumental year for marijuana laws, having gone adult use in four states.
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) has been successfully lobbying for marijuana law reforms since its founding in 1995. They actively lobby state-by-state to create access to legal medical marijuana for seriously ill patients, replacing prohibition laws with regulation legislation that treats cannabis like alcohol or tobacco and reducing the White House’s Drug Czar budget (really!). Their primary focus, however, is on removing the criminal penalty for marijuana use, since as they say “the greatest harm associated with marijuana use is prison.”
The Drug Policy Alliance promotes drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights. They’re working to create policies that reduce the harm both illegal drugs and drug laws create. Their intention is to help create laws that don’t include arrest, incarceration, disenfranchisement or harm millions of disproportionately young people and people of color.
One of the most destructive things the War on Drugs has produced is a glut of prisoners who were given unreasonably long sentences for nonviolent crimes. Since its founding in 1986 The Sentencing Project has worked to promote reforms in sentencing policy, addressing unjust racial disparities and practices, and advocating for alternatives to incarceration. Through research, media campaigns and advocacy for policy reform, they have been successful in changing the ways Americans think about criminals and criminal justice. “As a result of The Sentencing Project’s research, publications, and advocacy, many people know that this country is the world’s leader in incarceration; that racial disparities pervade the criminal justice system; that nearly six million Americans can’t vote because of felony convictions; and that thousands of women and children have lost food stamps and cash assistance as the result of convictions for drug offenses.”
The Center for Prison Reform seeks to improve conditions inside prisons to give inmates more educational, skill-based training with the ultimate goal of giving nonviolent offenders the chance to become productive, non-offending members of society. They also help integrate prisoners back into society once released. Ex-convicts are often discriminated against for housing and jobs, which greatly increases the likelihood of recidivism. By helping provide stable housing and job opportunities for nonviolent ex-convicts, the Center for Prison Reform has evidence-based programs that produce productive, non-offending citizens.
A great deal many more charities and nonprofits that seek to provide direct aid to incarcerated persons, through literacy and book donation programs, to legal aid organizations to education and minority-focused groups here.