A conversation with Mikelina Belaineh.
Mikelina's career has been spent exploring how to facilitate community regeneration and empowerment in marginalized communities. Mikelina is a lawyer who graduated from Harvard in 2016. After taking the bar exam, Mikelina chose not to practice due to dissatisfaction with available job opportunities. Mikelina's work has focused on examining the disparate impact of the criminal legal system on black and brown communities.
The Last Prisoner Project
Mikelina works for The Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit organization that works at the intersection of criminal justice advocacy and cannabis reform. The population they serve includes people who have been negatively impacted by the criminalization of cannabis and the war on drugs. Their team is composed of cannabis industry leaders, criminal and social justice advocates, policy and education experts, and leaders in social justice and drug policy reform. They are committed to freeing every last prisoner of the unjust war on drugs, starting with 40,000 people in prison for cannabis offenses legal in most states.
Black people are still four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis, despite the fact we know there is equal usage among races.
Police are still arresting more for cannabis than they are for all violent offenses combined.
Over 90 percent of arrests made for cannabis are for possession alone.
We have businesses springing up and making millions of dollars off cannabis while black and brown people are still being arrested and incarcerated for it. How can we fix this?
There is no single answer to this question. This issue is systemic and therefore requires a multi-faceted approach of barriers. The vision would be a whole new billion-dollar industry in which the profits could be used to help heal black and brown communities from the injustices they have faced surrounding cannabis.
Check out this video to learn more about criminal justice reform related to cannabis:
This week's episode can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZAvpqNFKOs