Rise Up! Washington: Marley Natural and Minority Cannabis Business Association Host Expungement Day in Seattle

“We need to stop using the criminal justice system to enforce drug laws.”

On May 20, Marley Natural partnered with the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) to host RISE UP Washington Expungement Day. The event to helped men and women convicted of nonviolent cannabis offenses file motions to clear their criminal records. Expungement offers a fresh start to people held back from secure housing, employment, and other opportunities due to a cannabis conviction. Expungement programs are important to us because it’s a meaningful way Marley Natural can help support communities harmed by the war on drugs. 

When preparing to host our Expungement Day, we learned many applicants didn’t qualify for expungement in Washington due to unpaid fines. When otherwise qualified applicants are not able to pay fines, many are still denied opportunities because of their conviction. According to policy experts, it’s a primary reason people become stuck in the prison pipeline, which further fuels the very real harms of mass incarceration. As a result, we decided to expand our program to help people in need meet their financial obligations.

At Expungement Day, we helped 18 participants complete the complex legal paperwork needed to finalize the expungement process. We also hosted a community education and networking event open to the community at large. We heard from MCBA founder Jesce Horton and policy expert Inge Frykland, a board member for the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), an organization of law enforcement professionals who speak out against the war on drugs.

Jesce shared his own experiences with us in a powerful story. His father served seven years in prison for cannabis possession, and Jesce lost a college scholarship due to a cannabis-related misdemeanor. Today he fights on behalf of people in similar situations to ensure they can access every possible opportunity to better their life. This includes becoming cannabis business owners and activists.

Cannabis has been legal for five years in Washington, but the onerous expungement process means many residents still feel the effects of prohibition. Rapper and community activist Yirim Seck is a leader in the Seattle community. He spoke with us about how a cannabis conviction from over a decade ago still impacted his daily life. Yirim couldn’t register for Selective Service or even register to vote.

“This has been a hindrance for some time,” Yirim told us. After completing RISE UP’s expungement process, “I can finally go back to living a normal life,” he said.

Through programs like RISE UP Expungement Day, we hope continue Bob’s legacy, change lives, and empower communities impacted by the war on drugs. We have a lot of work to do to heal the harms of the drug war, but events like these are a step in the right direction.