A staple joke from late night comedians, going back to George Carlin in the 1970s, is about how cannabis law reformers are too stoned to gather signatures and turn them in, when, ironically, or not, it is usually agents of the government who more often than not interfere with the democratic process of citizens gathering signatures in public to petition their government for grievance.
A case example from a local effort in Miami Beach to reform the city’s cannabis laws has resulted in NORML-affiliated lawyers procuring a monetary settlement with the city, that now, almost karmically, will help fund a cannabis reformer’s further advocacy.
From the law firm of NORML board member Norman Kent of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida:
The City of Miami Beach has agreed to pay a monetary settlement to marijuana rights activist, C.D. Flash, for damages he suffered during a false arrest in October, 2010. The settlement was paid as Mr. Flash was preparing to file suit claiming that his arrest was a direct violation of his First Amendment right to engage in political petitioning in public spaces.
Mr. Flash was collecting signatures for a marijuana decriminalization petition on the Lincoln Road mall when he was stopped by Miami Beach Code Enforcement and Police officers, who incorrectly informed him that he needed a permit to collect signatures.
When Mr. Flash asserted that he had the constitutional right to collect signatures in public, he was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct. Mr. Flash maintains that he was never disorderly and complied with the requests of the police, but that he insisted upon exercising his right to remain and gather petition signatures.
Mr. Flash was jailed for 24 hours a result of his arrest and was required to face the charges in court. On January 12, 2011, Mr. Flash appeared in court with his attorney, Russell Cormican, only to have the State dismiss all charges moments before the case was called for trial. The prosecutor indicated that the arresting officer, John Pereira, no longer had any recollection of the arrest, despite the fact that it had occurred less than 90 days earlier. Officer Pereira has a long history of disciplinary issues, with numerous internal affairs complaints, including one filed by the sister of singer, Beyonce Knowles.
“Mr. Flash was clearly targeted for arrest based on the fact that his political beliefs were unpopular with police officers” said Mr. Cormican, attorney for Mr. Flash. ”It is very encouraging to see the City of Miami Beach offering to quickly settle this case and acknowledge the right of individuals to engage in peaceful political expression, no matter what their viewpoint is.”
Mr. Flash was working in conjunction with the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy (CSMP) and was gathering petition signatures for a ballot initiative that seeks to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The initiative would allow police officers to give offenders a citation in lieu arresting them if the possession was for less than 20 grams. The violation could then be satisfied with the payment of a $100.00 fine. Mr. Flash intends to utilize the proceeds from his settlement to continue working for the reform of marijuana laws.
* * * * *
Mr. Cormican, and his law partner, Norm Kent, have set up CAFA, Citizens Against False Arrest, to redress grievances of citizens who are illegally prosecuted or arrested while exercising their constitutional rights of free speech.
Of the many numerous peaceful and constitutionally-respectful means employed for decades by which cannabis law reformers have been to try to bring about about an end to Cannabis Prohibition laws, one of the most benign, yet most powerful arrows in the activist’s quiver is jury nullification–whereby jurors are educated and informed about their right to vote not guilty in cases where they morally question the underlying law itself (and not just to cast a verdict ‘for’ or ‘against’ individuals the government has charged with ‘crimes’).
For almost 20 years NORML supporter and former Penn State Chemistry professor Julien Heicklen has been publicly advocating that jurors can’t be punished for voting their conscience, notably in cannabis-related cases, where, despite the evidence marshaled and the pleas for conviction and punishment by the government, jurors vote ‘not guilty’ in cases where the underlying law is in great dispute and/or are no longer supported by society in large (case in point here approximately 75% of the American public supports medical access to cannabis; 50% support ending Cannabis Prohibition outright).
Last year Dr. Heicklen was arrested in front of a federal court house in New York City for providing educational pamphlets to people passing by, including perspective jurors, that informed them of America’s long history with jury nullification (i.e. the trial of Peter Zenger during the colonial period) and that the practice is still important today in a functional democracy.
Thankfully, the charges of jury tampering against Dr. Heicklen were dismissed last week and there is now an even greater legal precedent to cite for both citizens accused of cannabis-related crimes (approximately 850,000 annually in America) and citizens asked to sit on juries to keep upholding antiquated Cannabis Prohibition laws.
To learn more about jury nullification and its likely historical importance in helping to end Cannabis Prohibition, please checkout the Fully Informed Jury Association (a.k.a. FIJA) @ fija.org
From New York Times
Jury Statute not Violated by Protester, Judge Rules
April 19, 2012
By BENJAMIN WEISER
The next time the 80-year-old retired chemistry professor takes his protest to the plaza outside the federal courthouse in Manhattan, he may make it home without being locked up.
A federal judge on Thursday ordered the dismissal of an indictment against the professor, Julian P. Heicklen, who had been charged with jury tampering for advocating the controversial position known as jury nullification while outside the courthouse.
Mr. Heicklen had repeatedly stood with a “Jury Info” sign and handed out brochures supporting nullification, the view that jurors who disagree with a law may ignore their oaths and vote to acquit a defendant accused of violating it.
Prosecutors said such advocacy, “directed as it is to jurors, would be both criminal and without constitutional protections no matter where it occurred.”
But the judge, Kimba M. Wood of Federal District Court, wrote that a person violated the jury tampering statute only when he or she knowingly tried to influence a juror’s decision through a written communication “made in relation to a specific case pending before that juror.”
Judge Wood added that she would not “stretch the interpretation” of the statute to cover speech that was “not meant to influence” a juror’s actions in a specific case.
Mr. Heicklen expressed pleasure at the ruling. “Not just for me,” he said. “I think it’s a major decision for the country.” (more…)
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The latest installment of “This Week in Weed” is now streaming on NORMLtv.
In this episode: NORML attorneys file a lawsuit in NJ, DC announces 6 marijuana cultivation centers, a new poll shows growing support for legalization, and more.
New Jersey: NORML Lawyers File Constitutional Lawsuit Over State’s Failure To Implement Two-Year-Old Medical Cannabis LawApril 5, 2012
Members of the NORML Legal Committee filed suit yesterday against the State of New Jersey over regulators failure to implement the Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act.
First signed into law by former Gov. Jon Corzine on January 18, 2010, the law — which establishes the creation of up to six state-licensed ‘alternative treatment centers’ to provide medicinal cannabis to qualified patients — was initially scheduled to take effect in July 2010. Since that time state regulators, at the behest of present Gov. Chris Christie, have unduly delayed the law’s implementation. To date, not a single patient in New Jersey has been afforded legal protections under the Act in the 27 months since the measure was signed into law.
On Wednesday, April 4, NORML Legal Committee attorneys William H. Buckman of Moorestown and Anne M. Davis of Brick filed a lawsuit on behalf of a New Jersey medical patient who would qualify for cannabis access. The suit also represents one of the few medical doctors who have registered with NJ to recommend medical marijuana. Named in the suit are the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Commissioner Mary O’Dowd and the newly appointed director of the Medicinal Marijuana Program John O’Brien.
Read the press release below:
CONSTITUTIONAL LAWSUIT FILED OVER FAILED NJ MEDICAL MARIJUANA PROGRAM
Trenton: Today a lawsuit was filed against the State of New Jersey over the failure to implement the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. Named in the suit are the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Commissioner Mary O’Dowd and the newly appointed director of the Medicinal Marijuana Program John O’Brien.
Civil rights attorneys William H. Buckman of Moorestown and Anne M. Davis of Brick brought the suit on behalf of a New Jersey medical patient who would qualify for cannabis access. The suit also represents one of the few medical doctors who have registered with NJ to recommend medical marijuana.
The compassionate use law was passed in January 2010 with a six-month implementation timeline. But since 2010 a series of politically motivated regulatory, legislative and bureaucratic delays have kept the program from operating at all. None of the six approved Alternative Treatment Centers have been fully permitted by DHSS to open.
“We represent a patient who suffered actual damages as a result of these delays,” said Anne Davis, “He cannot utilize the cannabis because New Jersey’s lack of a working program means he could lose his disability pension if he tested positive for cannabis.”
Davis continued, “Our neighbors with AIDS, cancer, MS and the worst of medical conditions have testified before the legislature and changed the law. Now, patients and doctors have to go to court to win the rights that they should have already been afforded.”
The lawsuit gathers more than two years of facts demonstrating that those in charge of the implementation process for New Jersey’s medical marijuana program have been unable or unwilling to put the law into place.
“Today we are filing suit to require the DHHS to do what every other citizen must do — follow the law,” said William Buckman, “We are also insisting that pursuant to the legislature’s will, sick people have access to medical marijuana without fear of arrest.”
[Editor's note: This post is excerpted from next week's forthcoming NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML's news alerts and legislative advisories delivered straight to your in-box, sign up here.]
Drug screening results, including those from federally certified labs, may not always be reliable, according to a white paper published online this week by the National Workrights Institute.
“[Government] certified drug testing laboratories have significant reliability problems and that the government’s assurances that false positive test results are a thing of the past is untrue,” the paper concludes.
The NWI paper bases its conclusion on several key findings. These include:
• “The accuracy of certified labs has never been tested.”
• Government certified labs do not “consistently followed federally mandated procedures for lab accuracy.”
• Federal regulations “allow labs to make mistakes on ten percent of the blind samples used in the certification process.
• “[C]ertified labs do not always maintain a proper chain of custody.”
According to the paper, documented examples of errors by federally certified labs are not uncommon. It finds, “In the last four years alone, one laboratory had its certification revoked and three others had their certification suspended.”
The paper acknowledges that federally certified labs are likely to yield more reliable results than non-certified facilities, but cautions that their procedures may still inadvertently produce false positive results.
Full text of the paper, “Latest Research Reveals New Problems With Drug Testing,” is available online here.