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Marijuana Arrest: Devastation Of A Life Well Lived

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director December 26, 2013

    If there is another human being who has publicly debated more in favor of cannabis law reform, or, spoken to more legal victims of America’s cannabis laws than me, I want to meet and thank them. From these hundreds of debates and thousands of personal encounters with my fellow cannabis consumers busted for ganja, one single phrase that I constantly hear from those who still support cannabis prohibition that instantly pushes my button is: No one gets busted for pot anymore in America…It’s practically legal.

    Thankfully, because of the non-stop work from a cast of thousands of citizen-activists, going back over forty years, the latter is somewhat true for about one-third of America’s population. However the former is a bald face lie that must be confronted every time it is uttered by the proponents of pot prohibition.

    Even in states where cannabis is supposed to be decriminalized, where states have passed laws making cannabis a ‘minor civil offense’, an encounter with law enforcement regarding one’s cannabis possession or use can have expensive, life-altering and devastating negative effects on a person’s life.

    Kudos to BuzzFeed for producing a very well done video profile of a beloved public school teacher in New York City named Alberto Willmore, who, save for this video, would be yet another faceless victim of New York City’s expensive and reckless enforcement of what should be a minor civil offense, like a parking ticket or citation for spitting on the sidewalk. Instead of simply issuing Mr. Willmore a civil fine for possessing a small amount of cannabis, New York City continues to disrespect state laws governing cannabis possession by arresting, detaining, prosecuting and forcing Mr. Willmore to lose his dream job as an art teacher for what law enforcement deem a ‘serious crime’, when the legislature does not–even more so when almost 60% of the US public support legalizing cannabis sales.

    NORML has been advocating for almost twenty years in New York City for the city to return to it’s historic cannabis possession arrest rate of under 1,000 per year, down dramatically from the now nearly 40,000 cannabis possession arrests annually in New York City, which exploded under mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg.

    Next time you hear a law enforcement representative, opinion maker or politician declare that ‘nobody gets busted for pot any more’, remind them of one of America’s nearly 700,000 annual cannabis arrests: Alberto Willmore

    With the recent release by incoming mayor Bill de Blasio’s family of a video from his daughter talking about her use of cannabis, and incoming police commissioner William Bratton’s long experience in effective policing, NORML hopes that 2014 will finally be the year that New York City ceases being the hotbed for cannabis arrests in America and relents on destroying the lives of it’s otherwise productive and appreciated citizens–like Alberto Willmore–who happen to choose to consume cannabis in their home.

    28 Responses to “Marijuana Arrest: Devastation Of A Life Well Lived”

    1. Matt says:

      I can think of at least a million places where 678 million dollars could be better spent. It’s simple, regulate marijuana like alcohol through controlled stores and by being at least 21 years of age to purchase, develop a test to similar to a breathalyzer for intoxicated driving, and make it illegal to smoke in public as it is illegal to drink in public. It’s fucked that smoking and alcohol are legal in this country and marijuana is not.

    2. RUT says:

      THE WICKED WITCH IS NOT DEAD! Some politicians try to give the impression that they get it and are open to a change. In the mean time the arrest continue on and there is no real movement away from this cash cow our elected officials have decided to keep milking.
      . Soon it will be election time and we will see Mr. Politician at a rally doing the symbolic removing of the suit jacket and rolling up his sleeves like he just can not wait take charge. Lets start asking these people where they stand on the prohibition issue and get them on record before we elect them. I will not ever visit an american city like N.Y. as long as cops can stick their hands in my pockets because they do not like the way i look. Some shining city on a hill ! Some beacon of freedom… more like” America a penal colony!”

    3. Somedood says:

      There should be no fine or punishment for a responsible adult having marijuana. The statement that there should be some form of punishment pushes my buttons.

    4. Dave Evans says:

      This weird, unfounded hatred of marijuana has warped our whole country and our relationship with the rest of the world.

      What was the point of the Cold War, only for us to turn around and try to beat the Chinese and Russians at their game of treating their own people like shit? That the truth should get you locked up on trumped up charges…?

    5. Demonhype says:

      Yeah, it’s been my experience that prohibitionists live in their own fantasy world, devoid of logic or facts, devoted only to their dream of a “drug-free world” no matter the cost, even if the cost is to lose everything in life that matters and everything this country is supposed to stand for, and regardless of whether or not their methods even work or make the problem worse. It’s like they’re freaking cowards, just so incredibly scared of the drug boogey man that any security blanket that makes them “feel” safer must be clutched onto with a death grip, regardless of its actual efficacy, regardless of whether or not that security blanket actually offers security from the monsters or even does the opposite of what it is supposed to do in reality. Screw reality, facts, logic, and actual effectiveness of the solutions, we have frightened, cowardly, pants-wetting fee-fees to coddle, and anything that stops their pathetic squalling and makes them feel safe from the boogey man is good enough.

      Either that or their filthy rotten liars. Which, in the case of people who are invested in the drug war industries either by ownership, stock investment, or employment, is highly likely. Those really are the only two kinds of people who still support prohibition: stupid putrid cowards and personally invested liars/frauds.

      You know the only reason they’ve been taken so seriously for forty years is because they’ve effectively silenced the opposition through typical witch-hunt methods, and they’re terrified at this point because that’s wearing off and people are starting to see the facts, and no matter how loudly they scream their lies they can’t make them sound any more plausible or evidenced or logical or fact-based. On the other hand, thanks to their witch-hunt, our message sounds fresh and new and stands distinct from the background noise of the drug war talking points.

    6. J100409 says:

      I don’t understand why people are putting so much hope in deBlasio. He wants to end stop and frisk, but otherwise has not given any indication that he wishes to be better on cannabis than Bloomberg.

    7. Voice of the Resistance says:

      Yeah, and I’m probably the only American brave, or foolish enough to call Mr Bloomberg what he is a screwball. Mr Bloomberg sir, you’re a pure-d screwball.

    8. This is an excellent point. Marijuana prohibition has created a class of hate your guts law enforcement that would make chairman Mao proud. These are the misfits that get into law enforcement in order to punish people and manipulate the law to do it. They are the one’s that were picked on in high school or washed out of the military. And now they want pay back. The only problem is they cant find enough child molester so they focus on what they consider is the next best thing. “Pot Smokers” The LITTLE RED BOOK of Narcissistic law enforcement shows that this is how they get promoted. Now the charges go to the prosecutors office and he can justify his existence through the federal level. All the while this is greasing the wheels of hatred.

    9. phrtao says:

      How can some one support prohibition and at the same time claim it is not enforced against users ? (that is not prohibition – it is ban on controlled manufacture) I would think this strategy just gives control of supply to criminals but does not reduce the availability (only the quality suffers and the price goes up)
      I have often thought that if prohibition was to work then the harshest penalties should be for users – not those who make and distribute. If the market was too scared to buy then prices would fall and the criminal profits would disappear. Only one problem with this approach though – there are many more users than law enforcers or prison places. Which ever way you look at it prohibition does not work, can not work and is not working !

    10. Young people need to speak out and demand a change since they are most at risk to get arrested and ruin their chances for employment. Noone should be arrested for marijuana. It is an example of modern government departing from the constitution. Government should focus on Murders, shooters and potential violence.

    11. ajc91907 says:

      Contact your elected representatives. Make sure you do it over and over again until you get a response. That is how they feel the pressure of the people!

    12. Dakota says:

      Damn this makes me sad and pissed all at the sametime. No respec is ever given.

    13. Adenovir says:

      If you watch that video, you’ll see that the teacher didn’t even posess marijuana. The cop saw him flick a cigarette butt into the street, found (or planted) a roach and arrested him for it. It’s total bullsh*t.

    14. Jana says:

      Obama smoked marijuana and achieved his dream of becoming The President of the United States. Lets be honest our last 3 presidents smoked pot inhaling and exhaling. They know mj is less harmful than alcohol and there is plenty of research proving the benefits of medical cannabis for chronic illnesses. If the truth be known, Michelle doesn’t want Obama’s legacy to be turning America to pot (figuratively speaking). Unfortunately, Obama care will do this (literary speaking)to our healthcare system. Obama doesn’t care for Mr.Willmore’s dream nor my pain or health concerns. “Obama don’t care” will be his legacy. He took our votes and continues to turn his back on us by not changing the scheduling of cannabis.

    15. imyou says:

      “what should be a minor civil offense” – under state law, but it shouldn’t even be that, it should be NOTHING. Nothing at all.

    16. Dave Evans says:

      “Yeah, it’s been my experience that prohibitionists live in their own fantasy world, devoid of logic or facts, devoted only to their dream of a “drug-free world” no matter the cost, even if the cost is to lose everything in life that matters and everything this country is supposed to stand for, and regardless of whether or not their methods even work or make the problem worse.”

      That is the point, when they start acting like this, it is time to retire them. If someone says they want a “drug-free world”, you got to wonder why they they aren’t protesting in front of their local pharmacy. Nothing but Bullshit. Worthless, empty words that mean the speaker is hollow.

    17. Dave Evans says:

      Err, if the fellow doesn’t have marijuana in his system, how can he be arrested for using marijuana? This is nothing but a blanket protection for the police for their corruption. Why does the school even care if he was arrested? Seriously??? If the police do not have to follow the law, why do schools have to??? One wrong doesn’t fix another, but how is not firing someone you know has false charges agaisnt them equal another wrong? Not having this fellow’s back is the second wrong, and it is just hard working people being played out by assholes for their gain.

    18. Bruce Gionet says:

      I am trying to find out the answer to a simple question with serious ramifications, and have not yet been able to. Maybe NORML does not have enough people on the East Coast, but what Federal and state laws come into play in carrying small amounts between states, like say NY and NJ, which everyone here knows happens every day in the possession of thousands of commuters?

      [Editor's note: NORML has been based out of Washington, DC since 1970....only federal law is applicable to charges of inter-state trafficking. When do feds charge citizens as potential violators of federal laws? When ever they want. However, over 98% of all cannabis arrests in America happen at local and state level, with feds only getting involved if the amount of drugs/money is high, the syndication widespread or offenses occur on federal property/land/airports/ports of entry/border crossings.

      Feds don't care about citizens crossing from one state to another with possession amount of cannabis. Feds find out some one is selling/trafficking drugs across state lines, that has great interest to them.

      There are over 600 members of NORML who're lawyers...one probably close by.]

    19. profbg says:

      Clearly prohibition is wrong in so many ways, and is merely a knee-jerk response to an invented problem that got continually re-legislated into the status quo. Another example of how we do things upside-down in this country. But there is hope! Keep the conversation going. I agree with those who say that legalization is the next gay marriage issue politically. Keep it in front of people and they will come around. A few hard-ass prohibitionist (Republican, usually Southern, Western, or mid-western) legislators whose kids get caught with weed, then see how things change…

    20. Paul Bahre says:

      I have a radical idea. That we come up with a protest that would overwhelm the American Judicial system with MJ arrests. We could like say on 4/20 we will send people out to smoke pot in front of every police station in the US. In front of every Federal building in the US and force the arrest of millions. And while arrested we do not talk to the police or federal agents. We go to these protests void of any identification and upon being arrested we give no clues to our identification and do not co-operate one bit with the authorities. We litterly make them cuff us and stuff us under their power. Refuse to even walk to a police car or a holding cell. Refuse to even co-operate when being booked make it has hard as hell for the authorities to even process the millions of pot smokers protesting. When going to court we would refuse to even stand up before a judge and plead. The whole point would be to bankrupt and completely disrupt law enforcements and the governments ability to even process and house all of us. This would bring the legalization issue to the federal state and local governments and they would have to realize they cannot economically move forward with prohibition. Look I’m up for this but I will never do it alone with with just a few thousand on the local level. It has to be absolutely massive.

    21. Dad In Virginia says:

      Stop the madness in virginia.

      In Colorado you can buy an oz for personal use. In Virginia a 1/2 oz gets you busted and charged with a felony for possible 10 years.

      Does anyone care??

      My son was busted in virginia and he is facing a bunch of charges related to marijuana. It is a nightmare. I don’t understand how it can be legal in one state and in another state will send you to jail for 10 years and put a felony on your record. Destroy your life for 1/2 oz of pot.

      In fairfax county, if a person is in possession of more than ½ ounce of marijuana, the likelihood is that the person will be charged with possession with intent to distribute, a Class 5 Felony, which carries a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

      In US, Police carried out 749,825 arrests of people for marijuana violations in 2012, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report. Marijuana arrests comprise nearly one-half (approximately 48 percent) of all drug arrests reported in the United States. Approximately 42 percent of all drug arrests nationwide are for marijuana possession. – See more at: http://www.drugpolicy.org/drug-facts/10-facts-about-marijuana#sthash.I3Gd6hOp.dpuf

    22. Youth of America says:

      From 16 to 18 years of age I had 4 minor cannabis related charges, All from the same UC mind you. It was complete and utter harassment (name calling, wrongful search and se.). No victim besides myself. Probably spent 2 years in diversion programs programs (passed) one day in jail not even a month after I turned 18. My family ended up moving from the state it got so bad. In conclusion I guess I’m just trying to say I have lost faith in law enforcement. The law has been on the wrong side to long, the time for change is long since over due.

    23. profbg says:

      Massive protest is a good idea, except for a few details:
      Refusal to co-operate makes one subject to arrest for other violations like resisting arrest.
      Not identifying oneself risks all sorts of nasty responses that have nothing to do with decriminalization and would only cloud the issue.
      As with OWS, it is difficult to keep the focus on the issue itself and not scare people away by inviting a drastic and inappropriate response.

    24. Mark Sullivan says:

      After 15 years as a top salesperson, my friend lost his job because THC was detected in his blood. After a minor fender-bender car accident which was the fault of the other driver, and was not work related, he was required to undergo a drug test. The company’s policy is zero tolerance.

      Why????

      Please keep supporting NORML!!!

    25. Mark I says:

      The prohibitionists are still spending their public funds to continue the abuse of the american population and the disrespect for civil liberties. Cut their access to the taxes we pay for protection and regulation and the prohibitionists will not spend their own monies on this waste of tax dollars.

    26. Dave Evans says:

      Because they are dicks. Firing people for marijuana use does not help a company, they do it for kicks, to feel better about themselves. It is a good excuse for anti-social behavior and they take it everytime.

    27. My husband and I were busted for growing – and the cops only reported what they couldn’t take and use for themselves. The War on Drugs is about money and control – nothing more. To say that is to protect our children is pretense and smokescreen. I wrote a book on our experiences – The War on Drugs: An Old Wives Tale and we look forward to the day when this insane prohibition comes to an end.

    28. Many of the cases I am writing about include the same effects of guilty findings and guilty pleas in marijuana cases (the book is “Operation Frozen Timber”). Decades in prison and a lifetime of being tied to the system.

      It is not often that any story other than arrests and convictions are told. The public is not usually aware of the aftereffects of the smallest ‘criminal’ marijuana case or the largest organized marijuana crime arrests. In the bigger cases, so many people are caught up in the case as unintended consequences (collateral damage) that dozens of families are directly affected.

      The public needs to be educated.

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