Editor’s note: Last year we published an article titled What does 4/20 mean to you? We asked this question to industry leaders and some of your answers made us laugh. We loved your answers and it’s worth a read, but this year we’re taking this question in a more serious direction, thanks to Last Prisoner Project. LPP has been collecting letters from prisoners who are incarcerated for marijuana “crimes.” Each letter answers the question: What does 4/20 mean to me? We will be publishing the letters in full leading up to the holiday as a reminder that our prisons are full of thoughtful people who are unjustly incarcerated for the very plant we are free to celebrate and profit from. We owe them so much.
By Edwin Rubis
This year, cannabis enthusiasts will celebrate 4/20 around the world. In America, thousands will toke up with their friends in their respective states where cannabis is legal. Marijuana businesses will take advantage of the holiday to sell and market their products.
I’ll be going through the same rigorous, monotonous routine I’ve gone through for the past 8,760 days, waking up to see fences upon fences topped with coiled razor wire and gun sentries, reminding me of the place I’ve been condemned to live in until God knows when. In a place where perturbed loudness and human uneasiness abound, in a place where senseless violence can explode at any moment.
True, there are many who believe I shouldn’t be here for a plant that’s now legal in thirty-five states and counting. The hundreds of letters I’ve received over the years testify of such lamentation. Yet feeling empathy for my situation, and others in the same boat, can only take you so far. Telling me, “that’s a horrible thing you’re going through,” can only comfort me so much. Our unjust situation needs radical personal involvement. A campaign in the form of NO-PARDON-NO-VOTE aimed at President Biden in the next election, or something of the sort.
Being in prison during 4/20 frustrates me more than anything else. The government is keeping us locked up for a product that many are profiting from, including politicians. Just ask ex-speaker of the house, John Boehner, member of Acreage Holdings, a cannabis company, who would rather make a buck than advocate for congress to let us go in the name of social justice.
Many celebrating 4/20 are unaware what prison is like for me. Over the years, I’ve had to scrounge for funds to further my education. I’ve had to go without food items and toiletries from the prison commissary just to buy my college books and pay for my tuition. I’ve had to go without so that I could make phone calls and send emails to my loved ones and friends.
Don’t get me wrong, Last Prisoner Project, FreedomGrow, MissionGreen, Cheri Sicard, and others help as much as they can (LPP bought my college books for my Master’s Degree). But it’s still not always enough to carry the day. A few weeks ago, I had only $.85 on my prison account, until Amy Povah and her organization deposited $150.00. This enabled me to buy food essentials in the form of pre-cooked rice, turkey sausage, tuna, oatmeal, peanut butter, dried fruit, and so forth to make my own microwaved meals. Regular prison food is unhealthy and not always so edible after eating it for over 24 years. The rest went to the phone and email. Everything in prison costs money.
So on this special day, all I can muster is a glimmer of hope and faith that someone will speak on our behalf, that someone will remember the forgotten ones, that someone will pledge and sponsor us, to ultimately bring us home to celebrate 4/20 with our friends and loved ones.
Edwin Rubis is serving 40 years in federal prison for a non-violent marijuana offense. He has been in prison since 1998. His release date is in 2033. You can email Edwin at: [email protected]