These 3 Marijuana Nonprofits Are Offering Real Responses To The Pandemic And Racial Injustice

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In response to stay-at-home orders and nighttime police curfews, three marijuana nonprofits are finding creative ways to fulfill their missions. In an exclusive story with Green Entrepreneur, all have agreed to reveal their strategies for successfully managing the stresses of the pandemic and protests during these unprecedented times. 

#1 Last Prisoner Project (LPP)

Andrew and Steve DeAngelo founded the Last Prisoner Project alongside other industry leaders to help those imprisoned for cannabis-related charges. LPP’s mission is to “get every cannabis-charged prisoner out of prison,” says Andrew DeAngelo, longtime cannabis advocate and co-founder of Harborside Health Center

Freedom and rehabilitation

LPP advocates for and educates about marijuana incarceration, pushing to improve living conditions for prisoners and helping them reintegrate into society by supplying access to an apartment, job, and professional training courses.

Their service programs include pro bono legal services, including efforts to secure prisoners’ release and executive clemency to expunge their records. This is often a complex problem, requiring support from the governor or the federal level, according to DeAngelo.

Once prisoners are out of jail, LPP offers further guidance with re-entry programs where they can find help.

“We are also in the late stages of designing and beginning to implement a robust reentry program to build pathways to employment in the industry for directly-impacted individuals," according to Mary Bailey, LPP’s executive director, adding that LLP "engages in reentry services on a case-by-case basis for our constituents.”

Protecting prisoners

During the spread of COVID-19, the Last Prisoner Project ramped up its workload, focusing its resources and energy on helping prisoners access medical care/supplies, paying bills, and scheduling visitations. 

 “We've done a lot of activism to try to get prisoners masks and hand sanitizer and just protect PPE [personal protective equipment.]," says DeAngelo. 

He claims this has been problematic because "many of the shenanigans were the guards and guys [taking] the toilet paper, and they hoard things. Because they're scared of these prisons or incubators for the virus, a lot of prison guards. It's not just the inmates.”

LPP gives prisoners a small financial donation to buy sanitation products; separately, they also try to expedite the release of at-risk and special needs prisoners, according to Bailey.

One person for whom they’re still advocating is 68-year old, nonviolent offender Michael Thompson. Given the maximum sentence of 40-60 years. He’s missed the death of his mother, father, and son while maintaining a good reputation in prison.

He’s also at risk for COVID-19 due to having Type 2 diabetes.

Activism for protestors

Legal Prisoner Project is providing legal representation to those arrested during the George Floyd protests.

Says DeAngelo, “There's a lot of lawyers out in all of these urban areas, maybe even suburban areas in the United States, that are offering pro bono assistance to the protesters. So LPP is helping to facilitate some of that activity. Our executive directors, also an attorney, were in the street today doing some of that, too.”

DeAngelo says support for LPP is growing due to heightened awareness of the racial issues in the justice system. These protests bring to light the racial profiling of African Americans for marijuana charges.

How you can get involved

Brands or retailers have several avenues to team up with LPP. The Partners for Freedom program offers incentives for different levels of donation, including the opportunity to add your logo to brand packaging or products themselves. This signals to consumers that the brand is directly aligned with a nationally popular movement. 

Also, the Roll It Up for Justice program offers customers the opportunity to donate to LPP at their donation store’s checkout.

Corporate partnerships

  • Ocean Grown Extracts is linking its new brand, Evidence, to the cause, as is CannaCraft's new brand, Farmer & the Felon
  • LPP is working on a new flavor with Wana Brands with partial profits being donated to the Last Prisoner Project.
  • My Bud Vase is donating $15 for every purchase of their product called The DeAngelo, named after our co-founder, Steve DeAngelo.
  • According to Kris Krane, president of 4front Ventures, his dispensary is partnering with LPP’s “give back” programs: “We have donation jars for LPP in our project. We piloted that here at our trauma store," he says adding," Unfortunately, it was the one that was raided last week. Currently shut down, that we rebuilt.” Krane says, “We have an advocacy station at that Chicago store that we've essentially given to the LPP, so customers can donate some time to write letters to people who are currently incarcerated for a kind of expensive digital project. Other materials are put together by LPP.

 #2 Marijuana Policy Project (MPP)

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is the largest organization working solely on marijuana policy reform in the USA. Their mission to legalize cannabis has resulted in the passing of 13medical cannabis laws over the past 15 years.

Nationwide legalization

Evidence of MPP's effectiveness? Of the 11 states with some form of legalization law on the books, the organziation led the political campaign for eight.

During the pandemic, MPP has been active in pushing state and local governments to declare cannabis businesses essential. They've supported state-wide emergency measures to protect cannabis businesses and ensure safe access to cannabis for patients and consumers.

They also helped pave the way for allowing for curbside pickup, expanding delivery services, permitting telemedicine for new and existing patients, and extending expiration dates for patient ID cards, according to Violet Cavendish, Communications

Likewise, MPP is still focused on original, pre-pandemic missions, like advocating for Congress to pass the SAFE Banking Act, which would allow cannabis businesses to access regular banking services.

Activism

During the nationwide protests, MPP has been focused on the safety of cannabis industry workers. 

“In terms of the unrest related to George Floyd, we are as shocked as anyone to have seen the horrible crime committed against Mr. Floyd, and we hope that justice can somehow be served,” says Chris Lindsey, Director of Government Relations. “Our primary concern right now is over the safety of all citizens, but in particular the cannabis industry workers that may be in harm's way around these demonstrations. We have seen social media posts from allies in the cannabis community describing horrible scenes of looting and destruction. Fortunately, our own workers in D.C. and other places remain safe, but there are many who are still at risk as the unrest continues."

MPP sees their marijuana policy initiatives as a key part of the national conversation about racial reform, arguing that marijuana laws often target people of color.

Says Krane, “Probably your number one reason for law enforcement to target random people, particularly people of color on the street [is] they're going to find that a question of marijuana [more] than any other type of illegal substance or any other kind of drug, or even [a] firearm."

He adds. “If law enforcement wants to apprehend somebody or detain somebody, marijuana laws are one of the lowest hanging fruit that they have to do that. And so taking that out of the equation is one piece in this broader book into police brutality.

#3 Cannabis for Conservation (CFC)

The Cannabis Conservation connects the environment with social issues that are specific to cannabis production.

Revive and recycle

CFC works with the California Department of Fish & Wildlife to help pass the cannabis industry’s first Safe Harbor Agreement. This encourages new partnerships with private landowners for conservation and endangered species efforts.

CFC also consulted on the CROP project (Cannabis Removal on Public Lands), which addresses “trespass grows,” or growers cultivating cannabis on public lands and are hazardous to ecosystems. They often use pesticides which are poisonous and hard to neutralize.

“When Cannabis for Conservation was just a concept, we had plans to be a for-profit business with a great commitment to corporate social and environmental responsibility," explains Jacquelyn Riccio, Executive Director and Conservation Coordinator. "But the seriousness with which we hold conservation and adaptive management outweighed the need to be profitable, and so we incorporated as a nonprofit.”

“We not only incorporated as a nonprofit with the state, but became the first federally exempt 501(c)(3) environmental nonprofit associated strictly with cannabis. The nonprofit status has been critical to carrying out our mission and forwarding corporate social responsibility within the industry.”

“It has allowed us to connect more deeply with cannabis businesses, instead of our conservation work being dismissed on the assumption of profit-seeking. We are honored to be a resource to the industry, and continue our work towards broader wildlife conservation and management objectives for cannabis.”

Activism 

CFC views corporate social responsibility as essential. “The environmental and social issues that our society faces today can only be remedied when everyone -- including businesses —do their part, and contribute to the solution. When CSR is adopted by more businesses, we see more scalable and tangible impacts in our communities, and on a national level,” says Riccio.

How to get involved

As an environmental organization, Cannabis for Conservation has an abundance of information to share about effective conservation and management. 

CFC is a nonprofit partner of 1 percent for the Planet, a corporate social responsibility program run by Patagonia. 

Brands or businesses can become a 1 percent FTP member and donate 1% of a single product, product line, or entire sales and choose us as their nonprofit partner.

For-profit partners may use their logo and Patagonia’s internationally recognized 1% FTP logo on their products to let consumers know of their financial commitment but they claim it’s not a green certification by any means.

"Our first 1 percent FTP partner was One Sun CBD, a Humboldt County CBD company, who chose the entire sales donation model." Mckenna from One Sun believes that Partnering with CFC furthers our mission in promoting personal health in harmony with nature.

Mckenna, from One Sun, added how partnering with CC helps her company’s ethos for giving back that:

“CBD and cannabis, in general, fosters a connection with nature and offers so many health benefits. We have chosen to show our gratitude for our amazing planet and to this healing plant by donating to Cannabis for Conservation.

"I am proud to support sustainable practices and projects, and believe this should be the norm. Having the Cannabis for Conservation owl and the One Percent For the Planet Foundation logo on our products lets our customers know that every purchase helps to protect animals, our planet, and health on a personal and planetary scale.”

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