"We are ordinary citizens who think we need to stop sending people to prison for pot," says event organizer Kevin Black. The vigil began in 2000 as a joint project of the November Coalition, a drug war prisoner outreach organization, and the Seattle Hempfest.
Some might wonder if a state that just voted to legalize pot still needs drug war vigils. "People around this country are still being sent to prison for marijuana," says Black. "Even here in Washington, we still have pot growers in our state prisons."
Corrections officials confirm that. "At any given time, 37 offenders [on average] are serving a sentence with marijuana as the most serious crime," says Department of Corrections spokeswoman Norah West. Another 176 prisoners have a secondary pot charge, which West says represents about 1% of their 17,000 prisoners.
That's too many Washington pot prisoners, argues Black. "As long as our brothers and sisters are in prison over a flower, we will keep holding vigil. We want them to know they are not forgotten."
The 14th Annual Christmas Vigil is Wednesday, Dec. 25 from 12 noon to 2 p.m. at the King County Jail, 500 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104. Wear warm clothing.