Typically when we think of activism we think of catchy slogans, fire in the streets, and large yet confusing bills being passed. Though these methods are all important and do perform in a larger function actor, model, and spiritual savant Jimi Samuels has turned his sights towards using everyday essentials to share the messages he believes in. From your daily tote bags to trucker hats, Jimi is reimagining our everyday wear in a way that casually informs the world around us that it is fucked up and it is up to us to fix it.
Around the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and in the midst of the George Floyd protests, Jimi was inspired to be more involved and share his voice, while uplifting the voices of those who are forgotten in the fight for cannabis advocacy. Realizing that while we are all enjoying legal weed and billionaires are going public with their “newfound” marijuana brands, Black men are still serving time for these same exact activities.
That leads us to Jimi’s.World, a creative launching pad for his activism which has now led Jimi to an official partnership with the Last Prisoners Project, a non-profit organization fighting for the rights of prisoners incarcerated for marijuana offenses.
What inspired you to begin advocating for the release of prisoners for nonviolent weed offenses?
There were a few experiences in my life that had inspired this advocacy. My family has been deeply affected by the War on Drugs because my father was locked up for ten years for a non-violent drug crime when I was a child. Although it was not cannabis, families all share the same dismantling structure of growing up in a single-parent household and all the struggles that tie into that.
Fast forward to last year I was heavily involved with showing up to the George Floyd protests during the height of the pandemic. As an artist, I wanted to express the frustrations I had felt dealing with racism in this country and began reflecting on what other injustices were going on that I wanted to speak up about.
Being one to indulge with cannabis, I was seeing the rise within the industry and the social acceptance of it beginning to grow, but there was still an elephant in the room many were overlooking. As the cannabis industry brings in billions in revenue over time, there are still an estimated 40,000 people today incarcerated for cannabis offenses. I was inspired and felt compelled to advocate for this particular cause. No one should still be imprisoned for these non-violent offenses, it’s really that simple.
Why did you choose the medium of design as your point of emphasis?
Behind every action is an intention. The shirt showcases two bold facts: the cannabis industry is almost being exclusively run by white men with a projected $45 billion in revenue from sales across the industry in 2024, while an estimated 40,000 are incarcerated (many of them being BIPOC folks) still to this day in the midst of that for cannabis offenses. That is the “why”, the back of the shirt simply says to Free All Cannabis Prisoners Now with the main design to make a statement for the action we are advocating to see take place.
The reason I chose to make shirts out of them is that the message can be worn by many and seen by others in the day-to-day shuffle. Even when I wear my shirt I receive an array of compliments, questions, curiosity, and holding space amongst strangers speaking on the subject matter. It is creating conversation. Conversations can create opportunities for education. Education keeps us empowered and can inspire others to take action. That is the goal.
How did you get connected with the Last Prisoner Project?
Originally before the shirts, I had made tote bags with the same message. I went on a whim not knowing if others felt the same…but I ended up selling out and the conversations bred from these moments showed me how important this was to others as well. There were multiple requests to do more with this message and I thought about doing a shirt next.
I told myself if I do it again, now knowing there was a demand, I would be able to help contribute even more by donating to an organization that was deeply rooted in the cause. After some research, I found the Last Prisoner Project. For those that don’t know, the Last Prisoner Project is an organization dedicated to fighting for the full freedom of cannabis prisoners through release, removal of cannabis crimes from their records, and training for successful reentry into society.
With the Last Prisoner Project, I wanted to see if I could establish a charitable partnership through my brand Jimi’s World. Fortunately, my friend Mo Carpio who is a content producer at Puffco had a friendship with the managing director of the organization who is Mary Bailey. She connected us, we set up a meeting, shared our experiences and goals, and made an official partnership that day. Everything aligned and it further validated to me to keep going. I am forever grateful to what the organization is doing and everyone that has supported and contributed to this cause.
How has your journey with spirituality shaped your view on psychoactive drugs?
My journey with spirituality has allowed me to view these psychoactive drugs as a teacher and medicine. These plants naturally come from the Earth and cannabis—along with other psychoactive plants—no matter what people’s intentions may be for personal use, should have a level of respect when using them.
Even for those that choose not to utilize them, I believe everyone should have the right to have autonomy with their bodies and minds and do what they see fit if they are in the legal age of being an adult. They provide space and opportunity to become more open-minded and expand consciousness if folks choose to use them in such ways.
We are here in this life to learn and teach, I believe psychoactive drugs can be an aid to both causes.
As a weed connoisseur did you feel like you had a duty to use your voice and platform in this way?
Absolutely. As a free citizen of this country being able to legally engage and have access to this plant, it felt like my duty to help give back to those that were on the frontlines that are currently incarcerated for cannabis. I find it to be of dire importance to not forget about those who have had their freedom removed for non-violent cannabis crimes while we have access to weed casually without issue.
I don’t think it is right for them to still be in prison while it is now a legal, legitimate industry. It just doesn’t make sense. Their lives matter. They deserve to be freed so they can be back with their families and live their life fully. A lot of progress has been made with legalization, I do not want to discredit that by any means, but we still have ways to go.
How can others use their voice/platform to help advocate for people who are in prison for weed offenses?
Social media is a powerful tool for others to use their voice and platform speaking on this matter. Holding space with family and friends, discussing what’s going on so that they are educated. They can purchase a Free All Cannabis Prisoners shirt on my site Jimis.World and 20% of the proceeds go towards the Last Prisoner Project.
Even more so, folks can directly go on the Last Prisoner Project to donate, receive additional resources, and even connect with a cannabis prisoner by being pen pals through the letter-writing program on the site. Signing petitions and connecting with additional organizations that are helping to free cannabis prisoners. Seeing if there are volunteer opportunities. Anyone can contribute, there are a number of ways and it does help!
Are there any new projects or merch you have coming that you are excited about?
I’m planning on releasing more merch related to Free All Cannabis Prisoners soon. I’ve had a lot of exciting interest and if all goes well before the summer is up I’d like to host a letter-writing event. It would be an event where people can hold space to indulge in some weed if they choose and write letters to cannabis prisoners. That way we are doing something positive that impacts these folks to let them know that they are seen, while also catching a vibe among like-minded individuals.
Outside of that I have some ideas for Jimi’s World merch I’ll be putting out in the coming months. I’m currently working on a short film I co-wrote that I’m looking forward to submitting to some festivals.
You can support Jimi and the Last Prisoners Project by purchasing his newest merch at Jimis.World and keep up with new collection drops on Instagram.
Interviewed by Gustavo Oliver
Designer/Model- Jimi Samuels
Model- Lia Bass
Photographer- J.E. Williams