In what can only be described as a horrible tragedy for college student Daniel Chong–as well as for the American taxpayer–the Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration has agreed to pay $4.1 million dollars to Mr. Chong for falsely imprisoning him after an April 20, 2012 party, and worse, literally forgetting about him in a holding cell for five days where Mr. Chong drank his own urine to survive, and cut himself to leave a dying message to his mother.
To date no DEA field agents or local managers have been held responsible for this gross error (ironically, only the taxpayer is left being the responsible party in this legal nightmare).
This kind of abuseful and money-wasting government nitwittery is another prime example of why cannabis prohibition must end in America post haste.
San Diego Union Tribune article about the settlement, and previous news coverage, is below:
By Jeff McDonald1:08 a.m.July 30, 2013
Daniel Chong, the self-confessed pot smoker who was caught up in a drug sweep last year and nearly died after federal agents inadvertently abandoned him in a holding cell for five days without food or water, is now a millionaire.
Attorney Eugene Iredale announced Tuesday he reached a $4.1 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, without even filing a lawsuit.
The harrowing experience for Chong, 25, an engineering student, began on a Friday night in 2012, when he admittedly went to some friends’ house in University City to celebrate April 20, a special date for marijuana users.
Chong didn’t know it at the time, but the home had been under surveillance by a federal narcotics task force.
Drug agents executed a search warrant early in the morning of April 21, Among other things, they found 18,000 ecstasy pills, marijuana and several weapons in the residence, according to court papers.
The agents also found Chong sleeping on a couch in the front room and transported him and six others to the San Diego field office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for follow-up interviews.
Chong said he answered all of the agents’ questions and they agreed to send him home without criminal charges.
But instead he was returned to a temporary holding cell, where he spent the next four days without food or water. He has said he became delirious, drank his own urine, ate the broken shards of his glasses and used the glass to cut the message “sorry mom” in his own forearm.
He said he kicked the door and screamed for help but agents never came to his assistance. DEA agents admitted later they “accidentally” left Chong in the cell and took the unusual step of apologizing publicly to the UCSD student.
DEA officials declined to comment about the case Monday.
Findings of an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. Department of Justice have not been released.
In St. Louis, Missouri Sgt. Gary Wiegert has been given permission by his chief of police to become an official lobbyist in the state to legalize marijuana for the non-profit organization Show Me Cannabis.
While there are hundreds of former law enforcement officers lobbying with the non-profit group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), having a currently employed law enforcement officer being given the ‘green’ light by their command to lobby for marijuana legalization maybe a first. Regardless, it most certainly will not be the last!
Article appeared from the AP in the Kansas City Star:
ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson has reversed course and will allow a veteran officer to moonlight as a lobbyist for a pro-marijuana organization.Dotson wrote to police Sgt. Gary Wiegert on Tuesday saying his request for “secondary employment” will be allowed.
Wiegert filed a complaint earlier this year with U.S. District Court claiming the department violated his First Amendment rights to free speech for refusing to allow him to lobby on behalf of Show-Me Cannabis.
Wiegert worked for three years as a lobbyist for the St. Louis Tea Party. In February, he submitted a new application to the department. The application did not require him to state for whom he would lobby. It was approved but revoked after the department learned Wiegert was lobbying for the pro-marijuana group.
On May 18th, The Panic Hour and PhillyNORML held “Smoke Down Prohibition V” in a free speech zone near the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, PA. As the name suggests, this was the fifth such event they had organized. The previous four were well attended, with hundreds of legalization advocates attending and peacefully demonstrating against our country’s failed policy of marijuana prohibition. You can view video of the largest event, held on April 20th of this year, by clicking here.
The previous rallies went off without a hitch. Protestors were peaceful and respectful while law enforcement kept their distance and allowed them to voice their constitutionally guaranteed rights (as evidenced in this video, where National Park Police refuse to interfere with the event). This time, things were different. It was immediately clear from the outset that the police were taking a different approach to Smoke Down Prohibition V, from the very beginning the police presence was massive, with a couple dozen officers standing by and a newly erected fence in place to keep the attendees contained.
Smoke Down Prohibition V continued as planned, despite the inclement weather and ominous group of National Park Service Officers and Philadelphia Police keeping watch. Speakers addressed the crowd of about 100 through the rain and things seemed to be going smoothly. However, as The Panic Hour’s N.a. Poe began the countdown to 4:20, a time at which the crowd traditionally engages in a moment of “cannabis reflection,” the police made their move. Rushing past a crowd of people openly smoking cannabis, they stormed the stage and began the process of violently detaining several marijuana activists, including N.a. Poe, radio host Adam Kokesh, and New Jersey Libertarian candidate for Senate, Don DeZarn. The travesty that followed can be best understood by watching cell phone video captured from the scene below:
(Poe’s arrest starts around 1:50 mark, he is in the hat and yellow shirt being violently pinned to the ground by law enforcement.)
When the dust settled, several were detained and released. N.a. Poe and Adam Kokesh were taken into federal custody. For six days they were held in solitary confinement at a nearby federal detention center, with Poe being denied even a single phone call. The confinement was supposed to provide him with one hour out of solitary for every 23 hours he was in, but this often did not occur, with Poe spending over 36 hours straight in his cell at points. During these six days, he was also denied recreation, access to lawyers, and medical treatment.
Photo Credit: Vanessa Maria, The Panic Hour
When they were brought up for a hearing on their charges, Poe was charged with felony assault on a federal officer and resisting arrest though Kokesh ultimately had his charges dropped to citations. Unfortunately, Poe still must appear in court under these trumped up allegations, which it seems rather clear to any who watched the countless videos, filmed at multiple angles, never happened.
Despite law enforcement’s best efforts to silence him, Poe remains undaunted in his fight against our nation’s absurd marijuana policy. “The suppression of freedom of speech and targeting of activists expressing their views at the birthplace of liberty is a travesty that casts a bright light on the failure of marijuana prohibition at a federal level,” he stated.
N.a Poe and The Panic Hour have long been supporters and friends of NORML and the marijuana legalization movement and the seemingly purposeful targeting of him and several other marijuana activists is an appalling example of the lengths law enforcement will go to, not just to criminalize marijuana smokers, but to silence our ability to utilize our First Amendment rights speak out against this prohibition. NORML will keep you updated as his case moves forward, you can click here to learn more how you can help by supporting N.a. Poe’s legal defense fund.
Not ones to be intimidated, The Panic Hour and PhillyNORML will be hosting Smoke Down Prohibition VI on June 30th, featuring a pro-legalization march with the Cannabus and live comments from N.a. Poe (who will have to be video streamed in as the conditions of his release require him to stay off of federal park property). Stay tuned to The Panic Hour and PhillyNORML‘s facebook pages for more info very soon.
The American Civil Liberties Union released a new report affirming NORML’s historic data that minorities are disproportionately arrested (and most certainly prosecuted and, worse, incarcerated) at a rate four times higher than whites for cannabis (based on per capita cannabis use rates).
In some midwest states–like Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota–minorities are arrested at rates eight times higher than whites.
ACLU’s report ‘The War On Marijuana/In Black And White‘ is a fascinating and well researched multimedia presentation about why America’s failed seventy-five year-old social experiment known as ‘Cannabis Prohibition’ must end, and new public policies created that reflect today’s public sentiment in favor of such reforms.
As more women are drawn to Humboldt County’s marijuana trade and off-grid lifestyle, a local battered-women’s shelter has noticed a growing trend of violent encounters. The Standard-Examiner reports that, “The bulk of… cases involve single young women aged 18 to 26, who may travel to the area and are lured to farms by promises of work, money and, often, romance. The women are hired for trim work, which involves cleaning freshly harvested pot and preparing it for sale.” Most women who survive violence are hesitant to seek help in general. The women in the pot-growing business however, are under even more pressure to keep quiet because they are part of a culture that promotes secrecy.
There is no doubt the pot-growing industry supports the local economy by pumping much-needed cash into the community. The problem is however, that because farm owners and managers (most of whom are male) are running illegal operations under federal law, standard employment regulations such as working conditions and sexual harassment laws do not apply. The Director of W.I.S.H (Women’s Crisis Center of Southern Humboldt), points out that, “Men managing the farms can be paranoid over the threat of raids or people stealing the plants. Women’s cell phones may be taken away and they may not be allowed to leave until season’s end. Some are forced off farms at gunpoint without being paid. Women may be beaten or psychologically controlled…”.
The cycle of violence is perpetuated by an underground, black market economy. This is just one more reason marijuana needs to be legalized and regulated. Moving the entire marijuana industry above ground will protect workers’ rights, hold employers accountable, and remove the culture of secrecy that continues to foster female exploitation.