Inspired by a fellow Bayou State native, music mogul Master P is leading the charge to acknowledge May 20 as Cannabis Freedom Day, meant to champion widespread legislative change and freedom for people convicted of marijuana sales.
Fate Vincent Winslow was sentenced to life in prison in 2008 after selling $20 of marijuana to an undercover officer. After 12 years in the Louisiana State Penitentiary also known as Angola, a huge prison industrial complex sitting on land that was formerly a slave plantation, he was released in December 2020, aided by Innocence Project New Orleans activists, resentenced to 12 years with time served.
Winslow, 53, was killed on May 4, shot dead in Shreveport less than five months after being released, gunned down while sitting in a car. “None of his family were prepared,” they noted in a specially-created GoFundMe, “for something like this to happen—he had just come home, and we looked forward to many years enjoying his laughter, kindness, and joy. We want to give him a proper funeral for his community to grieve the loss.
However, Percy “Master P” Miller is hoping to use Winslow’s story to prompt conversations about how so many African Americans remain incarcerated for the possession or selling of nominal amounts of marijuana when it has been legalized in 34 states.
Miller stated, “We have to make sure that this injustice doesn’t happen to more people. We need to increase awareness, help educate our culture and help prepare the imprisoned for freedom.
Anyone who is incarcerated for a small amount of cannabis and is fighting this injustice still, we want to help them gain their freedom back. And we’re celebrating by making 5/20 Cannabis Freedom Day, another holiday.
The term “5/20” is already acknowledged as cultural slang for exotic marijuana, but Miller believes the date could be a new holiday that celebrates prisoners’ release from prison and creates more progressive change across legislative and judicial landscapes.
Since 1999, a long-standing Global Marijuana March has been held annually at numerous locations on the first Saturday of May. That international event is also focused on educating communities about cannabis, celebrating the medicinal benefits of the flower and acknowledging how it has been criminalized for generations.
Cannabis legalization has become more and more widespread and over 60,000 cannabis-related convictions have been reduced or fully dismissed in California, where cannabis is legal. As of 2021, 34 states have decriminalized cannabis, eliminating the risk of jail time for possession of small amounts. In states where cannabis is still illegal, a person arrested for cannabis can end up with a permanent criminal record, which can strip them of various essential opportunities like employment, housing, financial aid and even child custody.
Miller is working on a documentary “5/20 Cannabis Freedom Day” detailing his efforts, set to release in 2022.