A group of protesters gathered at the White House Monday morning to protest the inaction of the Biden administration to release prisoners incarcerated for possession of cannabis.
Protesters were reacting to the announcement Biden made on Oct. 6 claiming to initiate mass pardons for people convicted of cannabis possession. So far, not one prisoner has been released.
Protest organizers also highlighted Biden’s statements from the fifth Democratic debate in 2019, playing his response to a feisty Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) on a loop in the background during most of the protest activities.
“Number one. I think we should decriminalize marijuana, period,” Biden said in the recorded debate statements. “Anyone who has a record should be let out of jail and their records expunged. Every gets out, record expunged.”
The White House protest was organized by community activist group DC Marijuana Justice (DCMJ), headed by Adam Eidinger, who led the recreational marijuana legalization efforts in D.C. in 2014; Steve DeAngelo, the co-founder of Harborside in Oakland, California; members of the Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit working on cannabis criminal justice reform that lobbied the White House on this issue; and Students for Sensible Drug Policy, who have partnered with the Last Prisoner Project.
“There is a lot of press here right now who are finding out about this for the first time,” Eidinger told Green Market Report. “This is the first protest about this issue in the Biden administration.”
The Washington Post, CBS News, National Geographic, and other national press outlets were on hand to cover the protest.
Rap star M1, part of the popular underground hip-hop rap duo Dead Prez, said that Biden told a blatant lie that he would free all cannabis prisoners and expunge records.
“But not only that, the narrative that he has done something that moves towards that is completely false. And that’s why I’m standing here in front of the White House,” M1 told GMR. “We’ve never really gotten justice out of that place. The pressure has always had to come from the people to force policy change or force certain things to emerge. So we have to do it on our own.”
DeAngelo, speaking to the gathering of about 75 protesters, asked what kind of world it is where you see Republican former Speaker of the House John Boehner being paid millions of dollars to sit on the board of a cannabis company that is selling tons and tons of cannabis? “And yet we have 2,800 people still in federal prison for doing exactly the same thing except at much smaller scale.”
DeAngelo later told GMR that he thought the protest was “very historic.”
“I think what you’re seeing is we have reached the tipping point here. And for a long time, our movement has been relying on our fairly well-funded activist organizations who have been making polite engagements with the Biden administration, working within the established channels of political change, and we’re getting nowhere,” he said. “We were made an explicit promise and that promise was blatantly broken.
Protesters inflated a 50-foot joint, a familiar prop used for years by DCMJ to promote various aspects of legalizing cannabis, and marched with it to the executive office building just west of the West Wing where the vice president has her office.
There, they continued speeches as a group of Secret Service officers watched activists mostly read aloud the names of those still incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis arrests
“President Biden said everybody gets out,” DeAngelo said. “And that’s what we want to see. We want to see our friends, our family, our mothers, our fathers, our sons and daughters, and our neighbors, released from this bondage.
“We will come to the White House, and we will go to Democratic national campaign headquarters. We will go every place that we need to, to make it clear that that time has come for a change. We’re not going to ‘study’ the issue anymore,” he said.