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Right History

Although we recognize it in February, every month is Black History Month. It's always the right time to consciously center and celebrate Black empowerment and achievements, but also stay mindful of the struggles they have faced and continue to face by educating those around us. During the month of February, we are highlighting community members who are working every month of the year to build equity and equality not only in the cannabis space, but in the communities we serve.


First, we would like to introduce you to Roz McCarthy, Founder/CEO of Minorities for Medical Marijuana – a powerhouse of a leader, making moves in the cannabis space.

Why this cause? 
The foundation of cannabis prohibition was built on targeting, arresting, and incarcerating Black people who consumed cannabis. Hence the priority to release and repair people most harmed by the "war on drugs" era should be a priority.

What would reducing non-violent drug offenses do for people who are negatively impacted by them? 
Reducing/removing non-violent drug charges like simple possession and paraphernalia possession would have a positive impact on individuals who are competing for jobs, contracts, housing, credit and more. It also creates a feeling of embarrassment and discouragement when these charges frequently pop up when pursuing these normal opportunities.

What is one thing you can say to illustrate the disproportionate sentencing regarding these crimes?
"A Systemic problem that affects Black people 2:1" Issues with sentencing is also based on economics. People of color do not have the means to hire and retain experienced criminal defense attorneys who have the ability to plea down cases, remove charges all together, and utilize diversion programs as an alternative to incarceration.

What is your biggest hope for the outcome of sentencing reform?
It's an ongoing battle that begins with voting in state attorney generals who are more progressive and less punitive in their sentencing guideline philosophy.

What type of effects does this type of sentencing have on a community? 
Black men have overwhelmingly bore the brunt on the "war on drugs". The sudden removal of the father in the home who also is responsible for being a major provider disrupts the nucleus of the family. Disrupting families in this manner has reverberating effects on the communities they live in.


Christian Frazier
Position: Advocate - Mental Health Advocate/Veteran/Full Time Psychology Student

What drew you to this cause? There is a disproportionate amount of black and brown men & women incarcerated for cannabis when there are corporations & local governments making billions of dollars for selling cannabis. In the United States, systematic racism created a prison system economy with the lives of Black & brown communities as the commodity.

What would reducing non-violent drug offenses do for people who negatively impact them?
Reducing or complete expungement of non-violent drug offenses for cannabis would significantly affect the social-economic environment in low-income communities. There are mental health issues and trauma created by incarcerating many of our friends & family.

What can you say to illustrate the disproportionate sentencing regarding crimes? 
The economic & emotional impact of seeing our friends, sisters, brothers, fathers, and mothers incarcerated is immeasurable. Taking people out of our community is not the answer but teaching them a better way to create generational wealth, wisdom, and employable skills helps develop strong values and character.

What type of effects does this type of sentencing have on a community? 
The current laws and sentencing are unusually harsh and increasing an already over-populated prison system. Statistics already show the numbers in our minority communities have always been disproportionate. Making changes to these laws is just one of many ways to begin creating socio-economic change.

What is your biggest hope for the outcome of sentencing reform? 
My biggest hope in sentence reform is a successful transition to society program established by the industry. I would love to see a public-private partnership to create a free training program for those interested in a career or becoming a vendor in the cannabis industry. Reducing or completely expunging records and providing training gives those incarcerated an exponential chance of success outside of prison.


Tara Gibson
CEO/President: ALL BLACK LLC and the ALL BLACK Impact Foundation, Inc.

What drew you to this cause? 
I was born into the cause. As an African American, I grew up witnessing firsthand the negative effects of the war on drugs in my community.

What would reducing non-violent drug offences do for people who are negatively impacted by them?
Reducing non-violent drug offenses along with providing educational support and services would allow non-violent drug offenders an opportunity to correct their mistakes without adding the additional burden of carrying a criminal record and the limitations for advancement associated with it.

What is one thing you can say to illustrate the disproportionate sentencing regarding these crimes? 
The numbers do not lie. The data clearly shows that minority communities bear the brunt of disproportionate sentencing.

What is your biggest hope for the outcome of sentencing reform? 
My biggest hope is that sentencing reform actually happens and that there are a diverse group of people involved in rebuilding a system that is fair for all.

What type of effects does this type of sentencing have on a community? 
The negative effects of this type of sentencing on a community is generational. It disrupts the family structure, compounds poverty, and raises a generation of repeat offenders. Given the circumstances, this equates to a community that is unhealthy and poorly affects the overall health of our communities at-large.


Kenya "Garcon" Hutton
Organization: Center for Black Equity Position
Title: Deputy Director

What drew you to this cause?
As i grew older and began to view the justice system for what it is, it became evident that I needed to use my voice and my platform to raise awareness of the imbalance experienced by communities of color in the justice system.

What would reducing non-violent drug offenses do for people who are negatively impacted by them? 
If non-violent drug offenses are reduced, fewer families will be separated because of crimes, such as possession of non-lethal substances like marijuana, creating more prison spaces for violent offenders.

What is one thing you can say to illustrate the disproportionate sentencing regarding these crimes?
The ACLU calculated that nationwide, 65.4 percent of prisoners serving LWOP for nonviolent offenses are Black. That seems disproportionate to me. Black people are only 13% of America's population.

What is your biggest hope for the outcome of sentencing reform?
That it will bring balance to a system that has disproportionately affected communities of color.

What type of effects does this type of sentencing have on a community?
There are significant negative effects of criminalization on community because of factors such as the loss of working-age adults within the community, increased exposure to infectious diseases, and shifting of resources from public health and social services to the criminal justice system.


Name: Karen Skyers
Title: Attorney
Organization: Skyers Law, P.A.

What drew you to this cause? 
As an Afro-Latina lawyer that grew up in the Bronx, I know that the United States has a criminal justice system that delivers two different outcomes for non-violent offenders that are financially able or unable to afford representation. Those that are financially challenged experience a full spectrum of unintended collateral consequences that have a damaging effect in their personal and professional lives. Once I became a public defender, I learned how this flawed system destroys families and good people. I’ve dedicated my practice to assist people that have been caught up in the maze of our legal system.


What would reducing non-violent drug offenses do for people who are negatively impacted by them?
Now that we see the ineffectiveness of strict sentencing guidelines, reducing nonviolent drug offense sentences would allow for a system backed by drug rehabilitation, job readiness and holistic preparedness in a law-abiding community setting. It is also economically sound to allow or give non-violent offenders an opportunity to right their wrongs by becoming productive members of society.

What is one thing you can say to illustrate the disproportionate sentencing regarding these crimes?
Policies such as mandatory sentencing contribute to a substantial increase in sentence length and time served in cases where the defendant is Black and Brown. Decriminalizing low level drug offenses would help to undo the decades of “tough on crime” policies that can be a life sentence.

What is your biggest hope for the outcome of sentencing reform?
My biggest hope for sentencing reform is that all states pass decriminalization laws for low-level offenses, that include alternatives to incarceration, such as mental health centers, substance abuse treatment and address homelessness.


Philipe Henriquez
Organization: The Kushness (@gloriousmisfit)
Position / Title creator: Cannabis Entrepreneur

What type of effects does this type of sentencing have on a community?
The unfair and biased criminal justice system in the United States has crippled communities of color for decades. Collateral consequences such as the inability to obtain gainful employment or find suitable housing allow for the destruction of lives and families.

What would reducing non-violent drug offences do for people who are negatively impacted by them? 
It would give relief from severe targeting from law enforcement to those communities that they disproportionately chose to enforce laws like these.

What is one thing you can say to illustrate the disproportionate sentencing regarding these crimes? 
Imagine an uphill battle that you are inherently fighting daily. That is what many victims of these drug laws are facing. From “driving while black”, to inappropriate stop and frisks, Police have been focused on criminalizing Black and brown communities.

I’ve experienced a stop and frisk at age 12, being slammed against a wall and illegally searched. The police officer acted so entitled, and when they found nothing, they said they had the wrong suspect. I walked away from this experience, but the reality is, many don’t. The underlying hate that embodies the laws created has targeted Black and brown people and given police permission to harass with no repercussions. These laws set a tone and a narrative against all of us in the community. They do not see our human side.

What is your biggest hope for the outcome of sentencing reform?
My biggest hope is a shift of our reality.

Changing these laws will give more people an opportunity of a fuller life. It creates More Opportunities for people in the future, without stigmas and biases from society.

An even playing field is something that the creators of these laws are so afraid of. They are afraid to see black and brown people of these communities rise to amazing potential. Seeing black and brown communities thrive, would goes against all the lies and racist rhetoric that has been told to society for so long.

What type of effects does this type of sentencing have on a community?
Huge effects! These laws are just covert ways to criminalize and sentence Black and brown people who may have mental health issues but lack appropriate support. It pumps the brakes on professional and social progress, and that is the exact intention of the law makers who support them.

It takes the future leaders of our communities, who may have been future voices for jail/law reform and takes them out of them society they can influence, grow, and mobilize.

Its time laws were made with a human experience in mind. But that would mean we would have to be seen equally, as humans first.


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