Reefer Madness in America: Another Arrest Statistic Speaks To The Horror and Waste of Cannabis ProhibitionJune 26, 2012
At NORML, we’re always a little hesitant to broadly publicize the plights of what are hundreds of thousands of victims annually of Cannabis Prohibition laws. NORML’s snail mail overflows daily with letters and pleas of help from our brothers and sisters incarcerated on cannabis-only related offenses and while the organization replies to all with 1) support and encouragement for them to keep persevering, 2) affirming to them that America’s cannabis laws are overly harsh and punitive, and 3) that their legal plight is recognized and, in turn, fodder to help educate the public, media and elected policymakers on the crucial need to immediately and forever end Cannabis Prohibition in America.
Below is an email I received yesterday from a mother traveling from California to Texas, who, unfortunately chose a travel route that exposed her to a federal government law enforcement checkpoint on the highway that resulted in her arrest, detention and now prosecution for possessing a small amount of medical cannabis (specifically hash). These very legally questionable federal roadblocks are done under the guise of ‘immigration control’ ensnare thousands of cannabis consumers annually on nothing but minor possession charges.
Fortunately, she was able to make bail and post a bond, otherwise, she would still be in the local jail…and self-evidently would not be reaching out online for assistance and guidance.
The account below is an unedited first person description of what they experienced, witnessed and heard when they became one of America’s approximate 820,000 annual arrests for a minor cannabis-related charge.
My personal reply follows…
Please join and support NORML and local NORML chapters to help reform our country’s antiquated cannabis laws and to provide help and support to the victims of this long-suffering and wasteful public policy.
I just wanted to make you aware of an encounter I had with Border Patrol in TX and Hudspeth County Jail. It’s sort of a very rough account of my dealings. I’m being charged with a third degree felony for PCOS of hashish. I’m a CA resident and not that is matters, I have a dr’s recommendation for the state of CA.
On Tuesday June 12th I was on my way to pick up my son from Fort Worth, TX. He had been visiting with his grandparents the past 3 weeks. Heading around the bend of a mountain about 200 or so miles into Texas I spotted a permanent border patrol checkpoint. As soon as you turn the corner there are cameras pointed at your car, dogs walking up and down, and men with the border patrol stalking you.
As soon as I reached the front of the line they were alerted to my vehicle. I was asked to step out of my car and to grab my driver’s license after being asked if I’ve ever traveled through Texas before. The men and dogs tore through my vehicle as I was questioned and informed that I was under arrest for “narcotics.”
They took me into the border patrol building, without handcuffing. They filled out some paperwork and about an hour and a half after I was arrested I was read my miranda rights. I was thrown into a cage in the building and left to sit for about 7 hours. I was told a few times that the sheriff was on his way to pick me up.
The sheriff then took me away from the room I had been held in, asked me if that was my car parked out there, which I replied “yes,” and then I was put in the passenger seat of his car, again without handcuffs. The 5 minute drive seemed like eternity. Being in the mercy of this man with guns whose car smelled of burnt cannabis and hashish. I felt the corruption as soon as I sat in his car. I looked over at the time, it was about 10:30 pm.
When we arrived to the jail we both stepped out of the car and walked in. I was told to dress and give them my personal belongings that I had on me: cell phone, id, and $21. While I was dressing I over heard a woman night guard speak to the sheriff, “We’ve been getting a ton of phone calls for her and it’s been annoying. We should throw her into solitary.” The sheriff and others laughed. I couldn’t tell if he had agreed until I was indeed thrown into a cage marked as solitary.
I looked around the filthy room, full of used feminine products, hair, dirt, and all sorts of debris. The room was lacking a bed roll, toilet paper, a blanket, and a cup. I asked several times to be provided with these items as I had been awake since 4 am that day and was extremely exhausted. Everytime I was met with the same thing, “when we get you booked.” What seemed like a few hours later I begged for toilet paper and a cup. After another hour of so I was provided with toilet paper and a cup filled with ice that I thought must have come from the male urinal. The next few hours I attempted to sleep on the metal bed frame with the toilet paper under my neck for support. I was shivering from the cold cell and lack of clothing.
A few hours after falling asleep I was woken up with a yell, “hey, get up.” I was then booked into the jail. I looked over at the digital clock in the room the guards were in: 3:45 am. A few more snide remarks were made about the phone calls as they asked me questions, took my hand prints, picture, and I filled out paperwork with them. One of the forms I filled out stated it was an acknowledgement that I received my bedroll, toilet paper, cup, spoon, blanket, etc. When I told the man those were items I hadn’t received yet, he said that I would obtain them when I reached my cell block.
After I was booked, I was taken to the cell block. Provided with a mattress, blanket, cup and spoon. I took the toilet paper from solitary.
The next day I asked every few hours when I was to be arraigned. I was told between 9am and 1pm. The female guard had told me it would more likely be around 1pm because the magistrate shows up later than sooner, usually.
1pm comes and goes. I get anxious and start asking the guards every 30 minutes when I was going to be arraigned. I kept getting told it would be a bit longer. It was about 3pm that I was arraigned by the magistrate. She had made a comment when she heard about the phone calls from my friends that she should have held me for 72 hours before seeing me. I told her, “My friends don’t like when peaceful people are caged.” She didn’t reply.
I immediately called my husband and asked him to bail me out. I had been away from my son for 3 weeks and I was afraid of any further mistreatment. My bailiff showed up around 4 pm and paid the bail. I kept asking when I was going to be released and was ignored for 2 hours. I find out after that, the reason for their delay, my clothing had been lost. I was furious and couldn’t stop sobbing. I was released about 7:30 pm to my bailiff when my clothing finally showed up. She took me to a motel room and I slept for the night after a hot shower.
As of this date, I have not received any more information regarding a court date. I’m unprepared financially and with knowledge to fight this. Any help you can provide would be great, even if it’s spreading the story about my horrible treatment over a healing plant.
Thanks for your email, though I’m sorry to read of the circumstances that precipitate your communication.
Indeed, every 38 seconds in America, a cannabis consumer is arrested (850,000/year…90% for possession only). I’m not entirely sure post-arrest what practical help NORML can be as 1) you’re correct that a recommendation for medical cannabis use from CA holds no legal sway in TX, 2) there are thousands of drivers/passengers a year harassed/arrested by law enforcement checkpoints in CA, AZ, NM and TX (the ones in TX have nabbed Willie Nelson and other celebrities too), 3) It is not clear what if any legal defense one can employ to challenge the search as, for the most part, these searches are deemed legally conducted by local and regional judges (and the dogs’ smell abilities are not much in question).
NORML has a few dozen members who’re also lawyers in TX…and you might want to contact one or more of them to inquire 1) what if any possible legal challenges are availed to you and 2) if there is no viable and/or cost effective way to challenge the search in court, then to try to mitigate the possible negative legal outcomes as much as possible is probably the best course (ie, plea bargain, drug court, etc….).
Also, you might want to be in touch with NORML chapters in TX too:
I’ve CCd NORML’s Legal Counsel to see if he has any further ideas or suggestions.
Your writing about a terrible event that has happened to you during this period of Cannabis Prohibition in TX is extremely well written and articulate. Thank you again for sharing what has happened to you, which only affirms the need for law reform groups like NORML to succeed in ending Cannabis Prohibition. And, please be in touch with local NORML chapters and lawyers in TX to maximize your information base, so that you and your family make the most prudent decision to get this Prohibition-related nightmare behind you…and to look to a future where you too help change these misguided laws as a genuine stakeholder.
Allen St. Pierre
Member, Board of Directors
NORML / NORML Foundation
1600 K St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20006
The establishment of medical cannabis dispensaries does not adversely impact local crime rates, according to a federally funded study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
Investigators at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) examined whether the proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries is associated with elevated crimes rates. Researchers assessed the spatial relationship between density of medical marijuana dispensaries and two types of crime rates (violent crime and property crime) in 95 census tracts in Sacramento, California, during the year 2009.
Researchers reported: “There were no observed cross-sectional associations between the density of medical marijuana dispensaries and either violent or property crime rates in this study. These results suggest that the density of medical marijuana dispensaries may not be associated with crime rates or that other factors, such as measures dispensaries take to reduce crime (i.e., doormen, video cameras), may increase guardianship such that it deters possible motivated offenders.”
Authors acknowledged that their findings “run contrary to public perceptions” and that they conflict with public statements made by the California Police Chief’s Association, which had previously claimed, “Drug dealing, sales to minors, loitering, heavy vehicle and foot traffic in retail areas, increased noise, and robberies of customers just outside dispensaries are … common ancillary by-products of (medicinal cannabis) operations.”
The UCLA is not the first study to dispute the allegation that brick-and-mortar dispensaries are adversely associated with crime. A 2011 study of crime rates in Los Angeles published by the RAND Corporation similarly concluded, “[W]e found no evidence that medical marijuana dispensaries in general cause crime to rise.” However, shortly following its publication RAND removed the study from its website after their findings were publicly criticized by the Los Angeles city attorney’s office.
Other analyses of crime statistics in the cities of Denver, Los Angeles, and Colorado Springs have separately disputed the notion that the locations of dispensaries are associated with elevated incidences of criminal activity.
Full text of the study, “Exploring the Ecological Association Between Crime and Medical Marijuana Dispensaries,” appears in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
Dear NORML Supporters,
Arrests, penalties and the threat of incarceration when widely broadcast to society are supposed to act as deterrent to unwanted human behavior. True or not, one thing is for sure: Despite nearly seventy-five years of Cannabis Prohibition in America, and the presence of nearly 40 million consumers and 850,000 cannabis-related criminal arrests annually, most cannabis consumers (and medical patients who use cannabis) do not know what their state’s laws and penalties are for cannabis.
Of the many functions and responsibilities of a cannabis law reform group like NORML — lobbying, litigation, political organizing and education — one very specific service-oriented function we faithfully perform is to research, publish and maintain an updated state-by-state listing of laws and penalties associated with cannabis.
Since 1970, no other organization, government body or any other entity has devoted the time and resources to be the chronicler of America’s Cannabis Prohibition laws and penalties. Most local, state and federal authorities cite or reference NORML’s ‘Guide to State and Federal Cannabis Laws‘.
The state-by-state guide has now been greatly enhanced and updated, including adding new sections on Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID), statutory law and penal code citations. The medical cannabis law section as well as the Legal Brief Bank section is regularly updated.
This summer’s crop of legal interns is currently finishing a new section on hashish and cannabis concentrates that will be helpful to millions of cannabis consumers and patients across the country.
Please consider a tax-deductible donation to the NORML Foundation. Make a $50 donation and receive a complete legal guide to medical cannabis laws in California; donate $100 dollars and we will include an odorless backpack provided by Stealth Products.
Thanks in advance for caring and sharing!
Allen St. Pierre
NORML / NORML Foundation
Contact: Michael Cindrich (619) 262-2500 | Lance Rogers (619) 333-6882
Please be advised that on Monday, May 7, 2012 at 4:20 p.m., the local chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) will protest the Drug Enforcement Administration’s detention of UCSD Engineering student Daniel Chong for five days without food and water. The protest will take place outside of the DEA office compound at 4560 Viewridge Avenue in San Diego. If you can’t be in San Diego, show your solidarity by joining the protest live online at live.norml.org.
According to news reports, Chong was arrested for smoking marijuana at a 4/20 party with other UCSD students. He was transported to a DEA holding cell and then forgotten about. During his five days in the federal cell, Chong had no access to food, water, or access to the outside world. He was forced to drink his own urine to stay alive. At one point, Chong broke his glasses with his teeth and used the glass shards to attempt suicide. He attempted to carve the words "Sorry Mom" into his arm. According to Chong, he "pretty much lost (his) mind" during the ordeal.
NORML advocates for the full legalization of marijuana so that innocent users such as Daniel Chong are not subjected to torture at the hands of the DEA. Over 20 million Americans have been arrested for marijuana offenses since 1965. NORML believes that the time has come to amend criminal prohibition and replace it with a system of legalization, regulation, and education.
More information can be found at San Diego NORML’s Facebook page.
Michael Sherer at Time Magazine has posted online today a particularly astute examination of the Obama administration’s flip-flop on marijuana policy. Below are some key excerpts. Michael’s full article appears in the newsstand edition of Time.
[T]he Obama Administration is cracking down on medical marijuana dispensaries and growers just as harshly as the Administration of George W. Bush did. In 2011, the Department of Justice revised its guidance to U.S. Attorneys, allowing them to target any medical marijuana activity except for ill patients and their immediate caregivers. The Drug Enforcement Administration has made it clear that “medical marijuana is not medicine,” and even called it a “mortal danger.” … In many states, U.S. Attorneys have advised state and local officials to back away from plans to create rules and regulations that would codify the medical pot industry, in some cases raising the possibility that lawmakers could be prosecuted for promoting drug use that is legal under state law.
… Over the last few weeks, I have talked with nearly a dozen people in the medical marijuana business, three U.S. Attorneys, White House officials and local officials who oppose the federal crackdown for a story that will appear in this week’s newsstand issue of TIME. The answer on the ground is, predictably, far more complicated than either medical marijuana advocates or the Obama Administration is willing to describe. And it all comes down to this: Despite Obama’s promises during the 2008 campaign, federal prosecutors have lost faith in the ability of state and local officials to control a booming commercial industry for a drug that is still illegal to grow, possess or sell under federal law. As a result, a once broad exemption from prosecution for medical marijuana providers in state where it’s legal has been narrowed to a tiny one. … [T]he nation is left with an uneasy status quo: The federal government is not trying to eliminate medical marijuana altogether, but it has decided that it cannot stand for the commercialization or large scale production of marijuana for the stated purpose of helping the sick, even when that production is technically within the bounds of state law.
…[I]n a different world, the federal government might work with state and local officials to more tightly regulate the growing of marijuana for medical purposes. But since pot is illegal under all circumstances under federal law, the opposite has been happening. Attempts, particularly in California, to more tightly regulate and thereby provide greater legal protection for the drug, have been shut down by the federal government.
And so, medical marijuana is left in a no man’s land. Individual sick users are safe from prosecution, but they are likely to find it harder in the coming months to get the drug. Growers and dispensers are not protected by state law from federal prosecution, especially if they become large enough to get noticed by federal investigators. And the likely result is that more of the medical marijuana industry will be pushed underground in the coming years, making it more difficult for local officials to track the business. This arguably will only increase some criminal activity, as large amounts of money and a very profitable commodity move through the system by way of small-time dealers working without sophisticated security systems.
…“What this really screams for a cohesive national policy.”
But there is no such policy on the horizon. Obama has shown little interest in elevating the issue. Some in federal law enforcement–and at the Office of National Drug Control Policy–hope that the advent of new pharmaceutical replacements for grown medical marijuana, like the Canadian drug Sativex, [Editor's note: Sativex is a British drug, not a Canadian manufactured product -- though it is legal by prescription in Canada.] will make the entire issue moot in the coming decade. But that looks unlikely in the short term, given the lack of concern among the general public with medical marijuana. A 2010 poll by the Pew Center for the People and the Press found that 73% say they favor “their state allowing the sale and use of marijuana for medical purposes if it is prescribed by a doctor.”
In other words, don’t hold your breath for clarity anytime soon. The haze is here to stay.