If you or someone you know has a criminal record for a marijuana offense, this next week will be very important.
National Expungement Week is more than a time of awareness around expungement relief and wrap-around services to communities affected by the War On Drugs. It’s an initiative established in 2018, devoted to give those convicted a second chance at life. 1 in 3 adults have a criminal record and there are more than 48,000 roadblocks for an individual trying to get their life back on track.
Things are slowly shifting. Earlier this month, Virginia became the latest state to offer expungement, with both chambers of its legislature approving bills to clear prior marijunana conviction. You can check out a full 50-state chart of legalization and record relief, courtesy of the Collateral Consequences Center.
The Advocacy of N.E.W.
The grassroots movement founded by We BAKED‘s LaTorie Marshall and Adam Vine of Cage Free Cannabis, began by hosting events across multiple cities, focused on providing free legal relief to any one of the 77 million people with a criminal record.
Now, more than three dozen coalitions participate, made possible by the Canopy Growth Corporation. It’s no secret the Black and brown communities are the enemies in the War On Drugs, whose only crime is being melanated. This targeted incentive was intended to break up Black families, restricting those convicted from being able to vote, purchase a home, start a business, receive public assistance, or an education– making it impossible to have a life. N.E.W.’s drive is to rebuild. How? Through community, of course. Lawyers, organizers, and activists come together in a supercharged effort for racial equity and reparative justice.
N.E.W. Continues to Clear the Path to Legal Relief
N.E.W has grown from 18 to over 40 events, helping citizens get their lives back. The organization is not cannabis-focused but recognizes the disparities when it comes to the arrest of Black Americans for marijuana. This year, in addition to their year-long efforts, N.E.W. aims to seal and/or clear eligible convictions starting Sept 19 through the 26th. The collective also released a statement, condemning the officers involved in the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Mike Ramos, and Tony McDade, and calling for restorative and environmental justice. Last year, N.E.W. helped 750 people clear or reduce legal fees and fines. The group also generated a public benefit of $7,143,964 to push for “automatic expungements, expansion of eligibility for record clearance, and a general uniformity and streamlining of the expungement process.”
Individuals are assisted with re-entry from incarceration and receive services for youth development, healing from trauma, community-based gang intervention, organizing efforts to end the War on Drugs, hiring in communities of color and much more.
How Can You Help?
The pursuit is equity, repair, and justice and we will never have that unless we take action. That could start with signing this petition to defund the police. To end the new Jim Crow is to remove its power, beginning with the root of excessive force and hatred towards marginalized communities– capitalism. Rather than continuing to protect criminals with a badge, the money — including the millions allocated to departments for wrongful death settlements— can be put to better use. Healthcare and school should not be low priority.
Attend an event.
If you live in a major city, you may have bon chance. N.E.W has planned a series of events from Arizona to Washington D.C. where attendees can register to vote, receive cannabis education, receive expungement and record sealing resources and actual services, job opportunities, pop-up pantries, and much more. Visit N.E.W’s site to find an event by state. You may even be able to log on to a few.
Host a Record Change Event In Your City
To help everyone create their own coalitions, John and Joanne Vine, along with Eunisses Hernandez of N.E.W., graciously created a toolkit to provide you with the resources and guidance to shake things up in your city. The PDF includes the services you should offer, how to secure funding, and preparation to ensure your event is a success. Download the kit, then safely gather your crew and get to repairing and saving lives.
Visit the National Expungement Week Instagram page for in-person and virtual event updates.