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Twenty Three Million Marijuana Arrests Since 1937: We Reap What We Sow

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director September 30, 2011

    We reap what we sow….

    On the verge of a three night PBS documentary series on the abject failure of Alcohol Prohibition (one of the taglines for the documentary is ‘a look back to when a law made America lawless’) an email from a victim of the modern prohibition that has totally failed affirms the obvious: Cannabis Prohibition must end. We must stop arresting, prosecuting, incarcerating ,drug testing, labeling for life and causing great physical, mental and economic harm to citizens who choose to use cannabis for relaxation or as a therapeutic agent.

    NORML receives dozens and dozens of emails, letters and phone calls DAILY from citizens experiencing the waste, cruelty and ineffectiveness of Cannabis Prohibition vis-a-vis the criminal justice system. Of course, with over 850,000 cannabis-related arrests per year (with nearly 90% of the arrests for possession-only) there is a never ending reservoir of citizen-government horror stories that the organization can highlight.

    Want to know what can happen to you or your children during modern America’s Cannabis Prohibition era if caught with a mere trace of cannabis?

    Please find below an extremely well written email received by NORML last night by a young woman in Kentucky who has unfortunately experienced the lancet’s tip of Cannabis Prohibition. I respect her intelligence, moxie and recognition that what her own government did to her was wrong and that the policies have to change to stop what really has become nothing more than citizen abuse by Prohibition-loving law enforcement agencies. Regrettably, elected policy makers continue to not respect the general population’s desire for degrees of cannabis law reforms:

    According to most national polling today, approximately 75% of the population favors medical access to cannabis; 73% support decriminalizing; and 45% support legalizing it like alcohol.

    With clear public support increasing every year for substantive cannabis law reforms, when will politicians start listening more to their bosses—the voting public—than from the Prohibition-loving law enforcement agencies that created Cannabis Prohibition in the 1930s and who today vigorously defend an antiquated policy that causes more harm than good?

    Is it not shortsighted to the point of reckless that the producers and consumers of alcohol and tobacco products do not also recognize what kind of hurt from the government is coming down the pike for them too—using the same force of law and legal precedent established to rationalize 74 years of Cannabis Prohibition—once their products enter into the government’s crosshairs of political incorrectness?

    —— Forwarded Message
    From: Brittany M.
    Date: Thu, 29 Sep 2011 17:42:03 -0400
    To: <norml@norml.org>
    Subject: PLEASE READ! Why I Support NORML!

    Hello, fellow good-doers.  Since recently discovering NORML via internet research, I have become elated to realize that there is a group of serious people ready to make serious change regarding marijuana laws.  I am a citizen of Elliott County, Kentucky-an extremely small town in northeaster KY.  I believe that an abundance of citizens stand to gain a whole lot from your organization, if they can all be made aware of its existence.  Kentucky’s ridiculous marijuana laws have caused me so much turmoil and pain that I couldn’t resist contacting you PERSONALLY to tell you my story.

    I am seventeen years old now, but not in high school.  It’s not because I’m lazy or a drop-out, but because I graduated two years early, as a sophomore.  Not only have I always maintained straight-A’s, but I was accepted into Morehead State University at only sixteen years of age!  I had everyone’s support, and I was far beyond excited to finally be academically challenged.  My life had done a complete 180 at this point, because it wasn’t too long prior that I was in shambles…

    I suffer from anxiety and major depression.  When I was thirteen, I attempted suicide and began my journey into the world of psychiatric “help”.  I was medicated with Zoloft, Trazadone, and at least five other anti-anxiety/antidepressants that I can’t recall the names of.  Some of them made my hair fall out, while others caused me to sweat and shake uncontrollably.  All of them required a two-week period of adjustment upon starting, during which I would vomit more than I care to speak of.  Nowadays, I am prescribed to take two Prozac capsules every single day, and I may very well have to take them for the rest of my living days.  But, admittedly, marijuana helped me overcome the side effects that were crippling me. My first day on campus, in January of 2011, was the best I’ve had.  For the first time in a long time, I felt normal. I went to class, I met a boy, and everyone wanted to be my friend.  The next day, it was time for me to move into my dorm room.  I arrived well before my classes would begin, but I would never make it to class that day.  An anonymous tip had been called in to the campus police department that I was a “pot head”.  I had a debilitating anxiety attack while I watched three uniformed police officers tear through all of my belongings, throwing them aside as if they were garbage, and never once asking me, “What is wrong?”, or, “What are these medications for?”.  Minutes later I was whisked away, bad-mouthed by the Dean of Students (who had just been commending me on my ACT score of 30), and told that I was to leave and could not return until the Fall of 2013, a whole year after my original class, who I had long since surpassed, would graduate and move on.

    In August, after months and months of torture-seeing everyone else being happy and college-bound-and being tied up in Kentucky’s legal system, I had my final court date.  I was administered a supervised drug test, for which I passed all but THC, and sentenced to 7 days in Boyd Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Ashland, KY  I am fully aware that it is meant to be a punishment and not a vacation, but the facility was filthy and very poorly maintained.  I witnessed two staff members mocking a much younger boy who was obviously mentally handicapped.  I was forced to drink from a glass that had insects and dirt festering in the bottom.  On top of all of this, my mother was provided with paperwork stating that I was to be placed on a mandatory orientation that would last for 48 hours, which I was unaware of until I came home.  However, within the facility, we were told that orientation was no less than four days.

    I rested very well on night number four, having finally spoken to my family.  However, the next day I awoke to a brand-spanking-new, and very rigorous exercise regimen, introduced to us by a male employee who I was seeing on this day for the very first time.  During this regimen, I had an anxiety attack and everyone was asked to return to their cells while I was left to the floor, gasping for air and being closely watched, but otherwise unattended.  We ate our breakfast in the festering cesspool of a cafeteria, and then a female worker led us, not to our block, but to the gymnasium for more exercise.  Sometime during this activity, I began to feel weak, and weird.  Something totally foreign came over me, and I was scared.  I raised my hand, and waited to be called on, as was protocol, and quickly informed the staff member that I thought something was really wrong.  She simply replied that if I were to vomit, I would be cleaning it myself, and told me to run six laps for speaking out.  I’m not completely clear about what happened after that, other than that I hit the concrete floor, hard.
    I awoke much later, in a daze, and projectile vomiting ensued.  I was loaded into an ambulance, accompanied by the female worker who continuously asked me if I had medical insurance.  I was far too shaken, scared, and sick to pay her much attention at the time.  Here I was puking into a bag that the ambulance attendant provided me, and she wanted to know about my insurance policy?  I was whisked out of the ambulance and into the ER, with shackles around my feet.  All I could think about was my mother, and so I asked if she had been called.  She had not.  I noted a nearby clock on the wall of my hospital room read 9:45.  I was scanned, poked, prodded, and MRI-ed for what felt like an eternity, until they finally informed me that I had suffered an acute heart attack and may also have mitral valve prolapse (MVP), a heart condition that caused me synocopal episodes, and that I would need to be back the next day for more tests.

    Still too weak to walk, I was wheeled in a wheelchair to the front door, where BOTH the female and male staff members from BRJDC were waiting with big smiles and a bag of fast food for me.  Still, they were curious about my insurance  My family has zero income, and so I explained to them that I have a medical card provided to me by the state.  We pulled back into the facility, and I was put in a holding cell instead of my regular room.  I tossed and turned and listened to muffled voices from behind the door, until finally an unfamiliar staff member came to me with a box of my clothes, and announced to me that I was going home.

    I ran to my mother and hugged her.  I was seeing sunshine for the first time in five or six days.  It felt like a miracle.  In the car, I saw that it was 3:15.  I asked my mother why she didn’t come to the hospital, and she told me that she had only just been called, and rushed right over.  She had no idea what had happened to me.  Our brief reunion was devastated in the following weeks with doctors and tests, hospitals and neurologists, who finally put me on two new medicines that I will, once again, most likely have to be on for the rest of my life.
    BUT MY QUESTION TO YOU IS THIS…how much marijuana was I arrested with that caused me all this turmoil?  Back in January, back on campus, back in the campus PD…they weighed the crumpled cellophane from my pocket and the digital scale read 0.2 grams.

    My college career, my mental stability, and above all else, my health, have been irreversibly damaged.  I feel as though NORML can make sure that nothing like this happens to anyone in a situation similar to mine ever again.  I wouldn’t wish this travesty on any mother and daughter, and I know that you would not either.

    Thank you for listening,

    Brittany M.

    98 Responses to “Twenty Three Million Marijuana Arrests Since 1937: We Reap What We Sow”

    1. Cristopher says:

      Perfect comment. I dont think i can add anything of use to that at all. Prime example of whats wrong with America, prisons , Juvys..the whole fucking thing is absurd..

    2. John K says:

      God bless you Brittany. Im sorry this bullshit happened to a wonderful person such as yourself. Keep your head high babe, everything will be ok. This next bowl is for you!

    3. Brett says:

      Brittany, I sit here in tears after reading your story. I am 52 with 2 daughters @ UF. I know how hard they had worked in high school just to get into UF. You seem like a highly motivated young woman, that could do anything she wants. Smoking herb for whatever reason should be allowed. I have smoked for over 40 years, and had to deal with all of the stigma’s, like your lazy(have had my own business for 35 years) or that’s criminal(so is driving faster than the posted speed) if you burn. Look around you and tell me what is worst, letting a family get torn apart and a life almost destroyed, from smoking or our Government inflicting so much pain and suffering, just because you were trying to help your condition.

      APPLY FOR AS MANY GRANTS FOR SCHOOL AS YOU CAN, AND GO BACK TO CLASS AND PROVE THEM WRONG!!!

      You are young enough to over come this and move on! JUST BE MORE CAUTIOUS THIS TIME!

      Good luck to you, & god bless.

    4. This is not right. I am so sorry Brittany for the hell you had to endure. it can’t be easy to deal with this.

      Legally, is there anything that we can do about the people who did this to her? NORML if you can e-mail me and let me know if there is anyway of taking this issue head-on, it would be much appreciated.

    5. Lisa says:

      That poor girl! 0.2 grams? and she was an honor student and early graduate? Total craziness, our world is upside down. Shame on Kentucky and shame on the snitch. I am so sorry for you Brittany and for your family to have to go thru that. I can see what dangerous threat you are to society (sarcasm). Just remember that when you are a voting adult and if my generation cannot muster the polical will to correct this travesty of justice then your generation will have to pick up the fight to free the Blessed Herb. However I pray for reason to somehow be bestowed upon our leaders to listen to the voice of the people and NOT the $$ of Big Pharma, or others with a interest in keeping cannabis illegal. Hang Tough, We will prevail!

    6. Dave says:

      that snitch deserves an ass whoopin for messin up this poor girls life.

    7. V for Vendetta says:

      This girl had so much potential…taken away for. 2 grams. It amazes and disgusts me that all these people involved from the cops to the dean, judge, corrections officers, administrators, doctors, journalists, etc could express such indifference to another human being. For what? You know why this country is so screwed up? Because we have destroyed the lives of the best and brightest we have to offer humanity so all that is left is a bunch of hypocritical dillholes to perpetuate atrocities like this.

    8. Joel : the other Joel says:

      This letter does explain the horrors of American concentration camps. What is she being punished for?

      How would our federal government respond to this letter compared to the letters sent by Joyce Nalepka during the 1980’s?

    9. Chris says:

      This tears me apart, knowing that things like this happen. I’m almost speechless. This poor girl… I really do hope she is alright.

    10. Joel : the other Joel says:

      United States president Obama like to use the names of young students who went through hardships and struggles of prejudice and hatred in America. Would president Obama use the name Brittany M. in his speech?

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