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Marijuana Can’t Kill, But Marijuana Prohibition Certainly Can

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director July 19, 2011

    Today’s New York Times City Blog features an article about a court settlement between New York City and Jamie Rutkowski. Who is Jamie Rutkowski? Until New York City police decided to arrest her for minor cannabis possession—in a city that is supposed to be issuing civil tickets— locking her up in police detention, creating a health hazard for the young woman with diabetes and ultimately paying her $125,000 in damages, no one knew who she was.

    Now, all cannabis consumers in the United States—notably in municipalities and states that have reformed their cannabis laws with decriminalization laws and patient protections for medicinal use—should cite Ms. Rutkowski’s case settlement as precedent against overzealous law enforcement agencies who choose to physically arrest and detain minor cannabis offenders, rather than issue them a civil fine, similar to a speeding or parking ticket.

    Kudos to Ms. Rutkowski and her attorney Joel Berger for 1) challenging the NYC police department’s infamous practice of arresting and detaining for many hours minor cannabis offenders and 2) for making it ironically clear that even an arrest on minor cannabis charges can create serious health concerns whereby an adult who chooses to consume a non-toxic and relatively safe recreational drug like cannabis (or, has the drug recommended to them to consume medically by their physician) can quite literally be placed into a life or death situation.

    “They could have killed me over a joint,” Ms. Rutkowski said. “Something needs to be done.”

    After thousands of years of human use, there is little-to-no scientific evidence that moderate cannabis use is harmful to the individual consumer or society in the whole. However, there is overwhelming and abundantly clear evidence that Cannabis Prohibition can be deadly for individual consumers, law enforcement personnel and those involved in the currently illegal and untaxed businesses of cultivating, transporting and selling cannabis.

    Disgustingly, in a city that, since the late 1970s, is supposed to have true ‘decriminalization’ laws for cannabis possession cases, New York City continues to nearly lead the nation in per capita arrests for simple cannabis possession cases (approximately 43,000 cannabis possession arrests annually; constituting nearly five percent of all annual cannabis arrests nationwide) as well as having one of the most racially imbalanced arrest rates for minorities (approximately nine out of ten cannabis arrests in NYC are made against minorities).

    After Diabetic Woman’s Arrest, a $125,000 Settlement

    By ADRIANE QUINLAN

    Her decision to smoke a marijuana cigarette outside a Manhattan bar where she was attending a bachelorette party landed Jaime Rutkowski in jail, threatened her life and lead to a lawsuit that on Monday yielded $125,000 from the city.

    On Oct. 16, Ms. Rutkowski, who has diabetes, said she was thrown to the ground and arrested on charges of possession of marijuana outside a club on Ludlow Street on the Lower East Side.

    Stress elevates her blood sugar levels and at the nearby police station house, the blood sugar meter she uses was confiscated. She relied on the meter to determine how much insulin to inject into her system from an insulin pump inserted in her stomach. An overdose could be life-threatening.

    The police eventually called for an ambulance more than three hours after Ms. Rutkowski had been taken into custody. Emergency medical technicians found that her sugar level was almost four times the normal level, dangerous enough to take her to Bellevue Hospital Center.

    Ms. Rutkowski and her lawyer, Joel Berger, filed a suit against the city and the officers involved in part because they hope it will alert the the Police Department to the needs of diabetic prisoners.

    “The settlement is so high because a woman nearly died,” said Mr. Berger.

    Mr. Berger also said Ms. Rutkowski’s crime was “trivial.” He added: “Almost any jury was not going to be exactly shocked by the nature of the offense. They’re not going to view this as the crime of the century.”

    Ms. Rutkowski was charged with a class-B misdemeanor and received an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, which means that she was not fined and that after one year her case will be dropped and sealed.

    Elizabeth Thomas, a spokeswoman for the city’s Law Department, said, “We believe the settlement is in the best interest of all the parties.”

    The Police Department’s aggressive enforcement of marijuana possession laws has led to an increase in arrests for possessing small amounts of the drug. While many of those arrests result in fines but no jail time, they do typically result in spending a night in jail.

    “They could have killed me over a joint,” Ms. Rutkowski said. “Something needs to be done.”

    Mr. Berger said the police did not have a specific protocol to deal with diabetic patients, something that he believes needs to be addressed. “Police officers need to understand that when they arrest a diabetic, there are potentially life-threatening effects,” he said.

    Ms. Rutkowski said she would use money from the settlement to pay student loans and to further her education. A graduate of Temple, where she studied chemistry, she said she’s interested in pursuing a degree as a doctor of veterinary medicine. “I’m going to try and make something good out of a terrible situation,” she said.

    96 Responses to “Marijuana Can’t Kill, But Marijuana Prohibition Certainly Can”

    1. Bobby D.Denning says:

      Throwing and tackling? not a good idea. What happens when bleeding happens and the victim is HIV- POSITIVE? Pothead or not.

    2. Paul R. says:

      The money surely came from taxpayers so it is unlikely the police care much, but glad she got paid anyway….who were they protecting locking this girl up? …and even one night in jail is jail time

    3. bongstar420 says:

      bah…..This is a problem independent of prohibition since diabetics are not going to stop getting arrested if prohibition is lifted. Besides, this person was being stupid by knowingly and publicly breaking a law in an area that apparently is known for asshole cops. When one is being arrested, one needs to retain a calm tone with respectful inoffensive language, maintain as little movement as possible, and do what they say. In addition to this, I am willing to bet the perp was not the most cooperative upon arrest.

      This person did not almost die unless she had been catatonic for multiple hours. I would bet she was still conscious when the ambulance carted her off. She is being opportunistic by asking for anything more than the cost of the hospital visit.

      If she really cared about this, then she should pay those hospital bills and give the rest up to ending prohibition. Obviously, its more important to her to raise her status then to use this as an opportunity to contribute to ending injustice.

      I bet you people wouldn’t be singing this tune if she had been under investigation for murder or something heinous.

      The police here simply mishandled a medical condition. This is an issue that is independent of prohibition per se. Her getting all that cash is stupid. The involved authorities should have been fired and the department should redouble its efforts to implement appropriate medical observation. The hospital visit should be free.

    4. Calcula7ed says:

      “Yellow journalism won over medical science.”

      [ Member from upstate New York: “Mr. Speaker, what is this bill about?”

      Speaker Rayburn: “I don’t know. It has something to do with a thing called marihuana. I think it’s a narcotic of some kind.”

      “Mr. Speaker, does the American Medical Association support this bill?”

      Member on the committee jumps up and says: “Their Doctor Wentworth[sic] came down here. They support this bill 100 percent.”]

      And on the basis of that lie, on August 2, 1937, marijuana became illegal at the federal level.

      FEDS you’ve got some explaining to do.

    5. Calcula7ed says:

      Next you’ll tell us that our brain only uses 10% of us [pric]. Wait reverse that then continue. :]

    6. Another great example of our failed govt treating us like nazis
      Treating the jews. Sickening
      Well let’s all look foward to 2012 and all the young people
      Must come out to vote n really show the man who is boss.

    7. Calcula7ed says:

      The propaganda machine has aided the prohibitionists, including but not limited to media/select politicians/mega corporations, in outlawing cannabis long ago based on fallacies to enact personal gains. As real facts, to the positive effects/uses/utilization of cannabis as a commodity, surface and gain traction I believe that it will end in the demise (non-specific) of the corrupt who have instilled it’s image as a destructive purpose. You’ve done this to yourselves. Ironic isn’t it?

    8. Calcula7ed says:

      Check the “blind spot.”

    9. Tennessee Activist says:

      Over kill, the crime has never fit the punishment. Complaints listed are never heard because of money pay offs to cops and Politicians, etc., etc., etc. How long must this bull go on till you get it through your little minds that there must be a real war fought to gain freedom, the freedom you dream of. Now that the system is designed to kill us a little at a time, how long will YOU take it till you take action?

    10. Bobby D.Denning says:

      Is this how some diseases get spread around? how sanitary are places of confinement from the world. The lack of ID, PLAIN CLOTHING might be part of the reason why disappearances and murder occurenses are executed and never discovered. We are all subject to this . Ignorance is DEADLY, not blissful. It is to my knowledge that anyone can be a slave to it, but can we master it? Time will tell.

    11. Anonymous says:

      #17 JC, the answer is NO, they can’t. It’s a shame. Maybe you or I could, though.

    12. […] woman who was arrested by New York City Police and almost died in custody due to a complication with her diabe… has been awarded $125,000 in damages. Jamie Rutkowski was arrested on October 16th of last year […]

    13. Bobby D.Denning says:

      Do any of the inforcement agencies at least ask about health problems at all? like pregnancies etc.

    14. The American Genesist says:

      CDXX Communion of 07.20.11
      To my brethren of the Genesist Faith

      Genesists believe that God [reaffirmed] the gift of Manna in Genesis IX: 3. Do you?
      And God Said – Even as the green herb , I give you all things

      3. And God said, every moving thing that liveth shall be food/meat for you; even as the green herb, have I given you all things.

      Establishment Clause.
      “Without exemption (circumscription – qualification) no person(s) shall make any law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

      Today’s Thanksgiving
      Lord of both body and mind – Where the mind is – there is the treasure. We thank you for our treasures, and the many blessings that we have received through your immense unconditional love and generosity. “We count our blessings.” For every creature is good, and nothing to be refused if it is received [with] thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by your word.

      The Bible [any Bible] – the Supreme Law of Creation – and – the Constitution – the Supreme Law of the Land – are the only to references I require.

    15. Calcula7ed says:

      “There were three bodies of testimony at the hearings on the national marijuana prohibition.”

      It took 2 hours, that’s right people 2 hours, to completely sway the minds of representatives. Interesting to say the least.

      Anyone care to take a guess who those 3 were? I’ll save you the time. Anslinger (at the time Commissioner of the FBN) reading directly from text by a DA (?Mr. Stanley?) from New Orleans. “Marihuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death.” “That was the Government testimony to support the marijuana prohibition from the Commissioner.”

      Next body came from an “Industrial Spokesman”/”Rope Guy”/”Birdseed” who represented certain industries. We know who these are don’t we? Research it.

      Finally two pieces of “medical evidence.” A pharmacologist from Temple University who “claimed” to have injected the active ingredient of cannabis into the brains of 300 dogs, of which two died. “When asked by the Congressmen, and I quote, “Doctor, did you choose dogs for the similarity of their reactions to that of humans?” The answer of the pharmacologist was, “I wouldn’t know, I am not a dog psychologist.” “Well, the active ingredient in marijuana was first synthesized in a laboratory in Holland after World War II. So what it was this pharmacologist injected into these dogs we will never know, but it almost certainly was not the active ingredient in marijuana.”

      Then Dr. William C. Woodward whom was also a lawyer and the Chief Counsel for the AMA testified. And I quote, “The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marihuana is a dangerous drug.” “What’s amazing is not whether that’s true or not. What’s amazing is what the Congressmen then said to him. Immediately upon his saying, and I quote again, “The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marihuana is a dangerous drug.”, one of the Congressmen said, “Doctor, if you can’t say something good about what we are trying to do, why don’t you go home?”

      That’s an exact quote. The next Congressman said, “Doctor, if you haven’t got something better to say than that, we are sick of hearing you.”

      “Now, the interesting question for us is not about the medical evidence. The most fascinating question is: why was this legal counsel to the most prestigious group of doctors in the United States treated in such a high-handed way?”

      FEDS? Explain. If you can.

      Thank you Mr. Whitebread for your analysis and in depth research on the topic from which the quotations derived from. Thought provoking isn’t it people?

    16. R jon NYC says:

      Oh that right there be having say a lot to those polices. Be serving them right now we be having a leg to be standing on! They be thinking twice next time they be trying to munipulates the law… but ha ha like they always be doings.

      I dont know how it be that they cans do that in NYC when it have been decrinization? How that be? Anybodies be knowing how that legal? What they be saying to arresten you? How thing be stinking…be I degress or what have you.

      Ok then please legalize soons.

    17. CC says:

      Why is someone with diabetes smoking dope? Surely having the munchies will cause consumption of high sugar foods such as mmmm…..chocolate and stroopwaffels etc ;-)
      Seriously though, the law sucks, including over here in the UK. In my job if one of the residents in the hostel I work at is even suspected of smoking dope we are supposed to call the police to search them and their room, which wastes everyone’s time and the taxpayers’ money, also keeping the police from attending at real crime scenes!

    18. ConservativeChristian says:

      Jesus said to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, so it’s time to say a big THANK YOU to Governor Christie for opening up the mmj opportunity to the people of New Jersey. We can send Governor Christie an email at http://www.state.nj.us/governor/contact/ and show him our support for this decision!

      Hey, Norml- Where’s an article on the NJ MJ decision? :)

    19. Don says:

      @44 Larz – You say: “It is time for the people to stand up and let our government know just how wrong they are in keeping the marijuana prohibition to continue.”

      Do you have any specific suggestions as to what we can do that we haven’t already – without getting violent? I think most of us have written our leaders numerous times, participated in countless blogs where it is obvious the majority wants to end this prohibition to anyone paying attention, tried to participate in Obama’s townhall meetings… All to little or no avail… Back in the 60’s there were lots of people in the street protesting both marijuana prohibition and wanting an end to the Vietnam war. They failed and a great many of them suffered broken bones and worse by the law enforcement personel of that time. What can we do when they (people like John Boehner, Obama, and Lamar Smith) continue to ignore us? From what I can tell, if it were up to them, not only would they not end prohibition – they would like to see even more users getting busted and locked up.

    20. bj says:

      This whole event can be attributed to 1 person. The cop who was so stupid as to jail her for this.
      I hope the sob loses his job if he’s so dumb!

    21. fishcreekbob says:

      You take down cannibis and you take the cornerstone of they’re control of everything.Spreading the wealth across the Republic. Leavving them to their job description. Ok you know the Constitution.

    22. Bobby D.Denning says:

      Seems that the lack of wisdom is prevailing all over the governments on a global scale. When will you see this? Prohibition was used to keep attention off the real criminals. Still think it’s not a good idea to protect your family when being shot at? don’t get me wrong, it still not a good idea to retaliate but when given no choice what would you do if a stoned or worse policeman starts to tackle or shoot at you first ( plain clothes or not. ) I think reform is needed here as well.

    23. Bobby D.Denning says:

      Does politics understand people,at all? funny little word . Somebody needs to read its true meaning. Seriously!!!!

    24. The American Genesist says:

      “Wherever freedom is at stake – a Genesist will be there.”

    25. Bobby D.Denning says:

      Do enforcement agencies have periodic drug testing? obviously not. Whose in charge of drug testing on them? If i refuse a breathilizer test what then? Do i get to be free to tackle without question or the watchful eye on me as well? alls fair , love and war, but for who. Who gets this freedom?

    26. Anonymous says:

      For 70 Don, Go back and look at # 17 JC. Why we don’t do this is beyond me. It’s how all the other special interest get things done, You know like the NRA, AARP, etc… As far as I know we only did this once in 2002 with Mr. Bob Barr.(google it) Tactic was runaway success, turned the worst prohibitionist in congress into a pro-pot lobbyest. So of course we then forgot about it and went back to begging. Go figure.

    27. brian davis says:

      I am so gladd to hear about this judgment. I went through something very similar. I was arrested for growing cannabis in Mississippi (ten CLONES 5 INCHES tall). I had been prescribed fentanyl and zanax for treatment of spinal compression as a result of radiation damage, which was caused from treatment for cancer. I was locked up and forced to de-tox off of these dangerous medications, and almost died. If it werent for other inmates feeding me and giving me water I WOULD have died. While In jail I was given NO medical treatment so i was also in agony from the spinal compression. So yes, cannabis CAN KILL…not the plant, but the BEYOND DRACONIAN laws that restrict its use, and allow the police and jails to treat suffering patients with no regard whatsoever for their health. I am only here because of other “criminals” and the grace and mercy of God. I hope that this case will make it to the mainstream media, so these people who allow this to go on will think VERY HARD before cuffing and stuffing non-violent cannabis users…btw…while using cannabis i was able to reduce my use of fentanyl from 100 mcq patches down to 50 mcq…if that isnt medicine, then there is no such thing AS medicine…WAKE UP AMERICA!!!! turning our country around starts with ending a STUPID was against a PLANT!!!!

    28. Don says:

      @77: I read #17 and agree absolutely 110% that if there was an online list of people who we need to vote in and vote out that it would be of immense help!!! In fact, I actually wrote to NORML about it about a year ago but as it turns out NORML can’t do it because of their legal status. It would be great if someone could and then let everyone in the country know who the prohibitionists are so we could all work together to vote them the hell out!

    29. Don says:

      @78 Brian – I am so glad you survived your arrest. If you had died, your story would have been buried along with you. Our Govt and Law Enforcement prefer not to have this kind of information made public. I have to wonder how many stories like yours have been buried!

    30. The American Genesist says:

      CDXX Communion of 07.21.11
      To my brethren of the Genesist Faith

      Genesists believe Ezekiel [the Prophet] 34: 29, 30, 31. Do you?
      A plant of renown – Neither bear the shame of the heathen anymore – They are my people – And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men.

      29. And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of the heathen any more. 30. Thus shall they know that I the Lord their God am with them, and that they are my people sayith the Lord God. 31. And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, sayith the Lord God.”

      Establishment Clause.
      “Without exemption (circumscription – qualification) no person(s) shall make any law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

      Today’s Thanksgiving
      Lord of both body and mind – We are thankful for the bond of family. There’s nothing more powerful in life than the bond of family. “The greatest thing we will ever learn is to love and be loved in return.”

      The Bible [any Bible] – the Supreme Law of Creation – and – the Constitution – the Supreme Law of the Land – are the only to references I require.

    31. Elmer Fittery says:

      There are incidents like this across America.

      I suggest that:

      1. When ever anybody hears of such a incident, they report it to NORMAL.

      2. Eventually somebody will die and if they do, the settlement could be in the millions.

      3. When the proper case is found, NORMAL starts a fund to collect gifts to prosecute the case.

      4. Take the case to court and collect as much as possible for future cases.

      It would be nice if these kind of actions could be done against the feds.

      JMHO

    32. Anonymous says:

      Thanks 79. I’ve wondered about that for a long time, now I know.

    33. […] NORML Blog Share and Enjoy: TAGS: Bellevue Hospital Center, diabetes, Jaime Rutkowski, Jamie Rutkowski, Joel […]

    34. The American Genesist says:

      CDXX Communion of 07.22.11
      To my brethren of the Genesist Faith

      Genesists believe Exodus 30:22-29. Do you?
      Thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment It shall be a holy anointing oil – And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy: whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy.

      22. Moreover the Lord spake unto Moses saying, 23. Take thou also unto thee principle spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty sheckels, and of sweet calamus [kaneh bosem – cannabis] two hundred and fifty sheckels, 24. And of cassia five hundred sheckels, after the sheckel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin: 25. And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be a holy anointing oil. 26. And thou shalt anoint the tabernacle of the congregation therewith, and the ark of the testimony. 27. And the table and all his vessels, and the candlestick and his vessels, and the altar of incense, 28. And the altar of burnt offering with all his vessels, and thee laver and his foot. 29. And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy: whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy.

      Establishment Clause.
      “Without exemption (circumscription – qualification) no person(s) shall make any law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

      Today’s Thanksgiving
      Lord of both body and mind – We recognize your inspiration and we give thanks for the joy and fulfillment in this life – “The Reward” – for Equilibrium of the Soul. We are thankful for the exaltation of our soul [Logos Nous].

      The Bible [any Bible] – the Supreme Law of Creation – and – the Constitution – the Supreme Law of the Land – are the only to references I require.

    35. Daniel says:

      You know its sad. When you hear people say “America, is the land of the free.” How is it the land of the free if We Americans are arrested and treated as criminals for using marijuana in our own homes? Especially for Medical purposes. I mean I really feel for this lady. Not only she got mistreated for smoking some pot, but because she could have lost a limb or something. I know quite a few people that have diabetes that even the minor bruises can be fatal for a diabetic.

      Its time for Fellow Americans to step up and fight for this “Land of the free.” Spread the word and Help end this corrupt war on Marijuana.Don’t we waste enough money on something that has been used in our history for at least a 1000 years?

    36. SAINT RICO says:

      Fawk YOU, Joann…..don’t generalize homeless people like that!!! Unless you are ok with pot users being generalized….and judging from your daughter’s experience, you don’t. SO, DON”T!!!!!

    37. Don says:

      @88 – What the **xk are you talking about? Have you been drinking? I read Joann’s posts and there is no mention of homeless. I feel terrible for her and her daughter. SAINT RICO – you are clearly not a saint in any way shape or form – you’re a jerk!

    38. JC says:

      @62,79 Thanks for your replies, I am new to this and want to do more, so please excuse me if I state the obvious, or you guys have already tried these approaches. HR2306 specifically: currently has 8 co sponsors (http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/D?d112:6:./temp/~bdLdpE:@@@N) listed in this link from library of congress, if your rep is not on this list he or she is not informed or is opposed. I will be writing my reps with this specific question, and let you know their answers, let me know if anyone thinks this is helpful, or is their any other forum where we can keep track.

    39. The American Genesist says:

      CDXX Communion of 07.23.11
      To my brethren of the Genesist Faith

      Establishment Clause.
      “Without exemption (circumscription – qualification) no person(s) shall make any law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

      Religious Exercise means: 1.) any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to a system of religious belief. 2.) any conduct protected as exercise of religion under the first amendment of the Constitution.

      Free Exercise means: That portion of the first amendment to the Constitution that proscribes laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion and includes the application of that proscription under the 14th amendment to the Constitution.

      Today’s Thanksgiving
      Lord of both body and mind – We praise you [with jubilee] for all the heaven’s and earth’s array, the goodness of creation, and respect the Sixth Day as – A day of thanksgiving. We honor your will, word and blessing [with] fellowship, [in] CDXX Communion, [on] the Sixth Day – A day of thanksgiving.

      The Bible [any Bible] – the Supreme Law of Creation – and – the Constitution – the Supreme Law of the Land – are the only to references I require.

    40. The American Genesist says:

      82. Elmer Fittery

      “Eventually somebody will die and if they do, the settlement could be in the millions.”

      Elmer – Forget eventually – some have already died at the hands of law enforcement. Settlement will “eventually” come – but – it won’t be in the form of money – and – it may not be totally over cannbis – if you get my drif – it will be Aristocracy v. Prolatariat – Freedom v. Fabian Socialism – God v. Satin. There are a lot of pissed off puppies out there – and – “their fuse is lit.” When it starts the politicians will be running for shelter. It’s rumored that the gangs will start banging first. So! “we will wait – and – we will see.”

    41. I know for a fact that cannabis can and does save lives. Im living proff. The rich man has kept it from us long enough from profiting off of big pharma stocks and we all know that the list also icludes oil companies the timber industries and it would take away the monies for the failed drug war. Im a 6 year Vet. and I cant beleive that the laws of an impeached Pres. like Nixion! Also its covienent to criminalize the sick and weak makes you look like a real big Brother to the rest of the world. Hoover and Asshinger was a mistake of our people at the time. 70 Yrs. is to long .

    42. sucksforthem says:

      They ‘could have’ killed you over a joint? No. They ‘would have’ and afterwards, they would have slept like babies. The powers that be are one sick party of pathetic pups. They can’t last. Evil never does. Have hope brothers and sisters. They are few. WE ARE MANY.

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