How One Cannabis Tech Giant Is Helping Free Nonviolent Cannabis Prisoners

This story originally appeared on Benzinga

Kevin Allen is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole in Louisiana after he was convicted for selling $20 worth of cannabis.

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Allen is one of more than 15.7 million Americans arrested for cannabis offenses over the last 20 years. 

What happened

The Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit dedicated to undoing the harms of the failed war on drugs, recently launched a campaign to free Allen. That campaign, and thousands of others like it, received a significant boost on Monday as the Last Prisoner Project announced a new wide-reaching partnership with cannabis technology platform, Dutchie.

To kickstart the partnership, Dutchie is matching $1 million in donations from their dispensary partners and cannabis consumers, in addition to a $100,000 donation upfront to the Last Prisoner Project. 

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Why it matters

The new partnership will provide support across several initiatives, including expungement of criminal records, re-entry support, criminal justice policy reforms, industry event coordination and technological avenues to exponentially increase charitable contributions. Lastly, the new funding will enable the Last Prisoner Project to give at least 400 new grants to help formerly incarcerated individuals reenter society and build their lives back. 

“Dutchie is committed to having a positive impact on the future of the cannabis industry and the broad benefits it is bringing to society,” said Ross Lipson, CEO and co-founder of Dutchie.

“We cannot erase past injustices that people and communities have experienced as a result of decades of failed cannabis policy. But, we can work to bring restitution to those who have been harmed by supporting their release from incarceration and giving them a new lease on life. We are committed to advancing our shared vision to release those behind bars for non-violent cannabis offenses and we’re excited to leverage the Dutchie ecosystem to help scale our impact,” Lipson added.

Although cannabis is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, over 40,000 people in the U.S. alone are incarcerated for cannabis offenses — and people of color are disproportionately impacted by outdated policies and laws.

Despite roughly equal usage rates, Black Americans are 3.73 times more likely than whites or others to be arrested for marijuana.

The Last Prisoner Project has one mission: to set each and every cannabis prisoner free and help them reenter society. The organization was founded in 2019 by cannabis industry leaders, social justice advocates and policy experts to right the historic and ongoing wrongs of our country’s failed cannabis policies. 

RELATED: Buy This New NFT, Support Nonviolent Cannabis Prisoners

What’s next

“We are excited to begin our partnership with Dutchie and grateful for their generous support of our mission. Together, we will redress the harms of cannabis prohibition by advancing crucial criminal justice and drug policy reforms,” said Mary Bailey, managing director of Last Prisoner Project. “More than 15.7 million Americans have been arrested for nonviolent cannabis crimes in the last two decades. Some of whom are serving life sentences without parole. Together, we’ll help give people and families their lives back.”

In addition to this new partnership, Dutchie offers a social equity program to support BIPOC and women-led dispensaries through training and marketing stipends. In the coming months, Dutchie — a member of the Minority Cannabis Business Association — said the company will leverage its network of thousands of dispensary partners to help scale Last Prisoner Project’s life-changing efforts and expects to announce new ways to further scale the impact of their partnership. 

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