The Tragic Death Of Rachel Hoffman — And The Tragedy That Is Pot Prohibition

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 25, 2008


    You can now watch Friday’s excellent 20/20 segment on Rachel Hoffman here. I also have an expanded essay on this tragic situation here.

    Rachel Hoffman is dead.

    Rachel Hoffman, like many young adults, occasionally smoked marijuana.

    But Rachel Hoffman is not dead as a result of smoking marijuana; she is dead as a result of marijuana prohibition.

    Under prohibition, Rachel faced up to five years in prison for possessing a small amount of marijuana.  

    Under prohibition, the police in Rachel’s community viewed her as nothing more than a common “criminal,” and threatened her with years in jail unless she cooperated with them as an untrained, unsupervised confidential informant.

    Under prohibition, the law enforcement officers responsible for placing Rachel in the very situation that resulted in her murder have failed to publicly express any remorse — because, after all, under prohibition Rachel Hoffman was no longer a human being deserving of such sympathies.

    On Friday, ABC’s 20/20 shed a national spotlight on the tragedy surrounding Rachel Hoffman’s untimely death — and the tragedy that is marijuana prohibition. 

    Are pot users criminals? The tragic case of Rachel Hoffman
    via ABC News

    After being caught twice with a “baggie” of marijuana, 23-year old Rachel Hoffman was reportedly told by police in Tallahassee, Florida that she would go to prison for four years unless she became an undercover informant.

    The young woman, a recent graduate of Florida State University, was murdered during a botched sting operation two months ago.

    … “The idea of waging a war on drugs is to protect people and here it seems like we’re putting people in harm’s way,” said Lance Block, a lawyer hired by Rachel’s parents.

    The Florida Attorney General’s office says it is reviewing the procedures and protocol of the Tallahassee police.Rachel’s case also has raised new questions about state and federal laws related to marijuana possession.

    I’m calling her a criminal,” Tallahassee police chief Dennis Jones told 20/20, who maintains that both drug dealers and drug users are considered criminals to his department.

    Under Florida law, possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana is a felony.

    Rachel was also found in possession of two ecstasy pills, a felony under Florida law no matter the quantity because it “has a high potential for abuse and has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”

    The Tallahassee police chief says Rachel was suspected of selling drugs and she was rightly treated as a criminal.

    73 responses to “The Tragic Death Of Rachel Hoffman — And The Tragedy That Is Pot Prohibition”

    1. Joseph says:

      Watching now… this disgusts me.

    2. Joe says:

      This site used to be a respectable resource of information and news. Now it’s turning into the Fox News of reform. Way to go guys.

    3. Ming Peng says:

      This should be a lesson. Take your punishment, and not turn rat!!

    4. the fool says:

      until pot smokers TAKE back the herb, they WILL loose many

    5. Steve says:

      That’s completely ridiculous.

      Look- fully 22% of the United States have thus far decriminalized Marijuana to some extent.

      But still- an innocent, untrained young woman being thrown in harm’s way? …With no possible recourse- no possibility of protection? No remorse to her family for putting her in harm’s way??

      …Assume for a moment marijuana was decrimininalized.
      …Who here would have gotten hurt??

      Is it really such a bad thing that from time-to-time people might want to light up a joint together?
      As long as you aren’t out driving impaired, who exactly does that harm??
      If marijuana were decriminialized, *NONE* of this would have ever happened.

      …In my mind, Rachel Hoffman is now a martyr, and its the meddlesome sentiment of useless law enforcement that caused her death- not marijuana.

      So- here’s to you Ms. Hoffman.
      This will not have been in vain. Me and my friends hold vigil- and remember you fondly as you linger among the smoke of clouds.

    6. D Perkinz says:

      “I’m calling her a criminal,” Tallahassee police chief Dennis Jones told 20/20, who maintains that both drug dealers and drug users are considered criminals to his department.

      The real criminals in this case wore badges.

    7. Anthony says:

      This is disgusting. My faith in humanity is diminished once more.

    8. emily says:

      What a sad story! Of course the war on drugs is already a useless and fruitless venture, but now we are spilling over into taking people’s lives? This is so wrong, it’s disgusting. Where is the accountability from the police force? They should be ashamed of themselves!

    9. Sean H says:

      For those who missed the 20/20 special last night, here is the link to abcnews for the particular segment.
      Being a responsible user who is so close in age to this poor woman, I urge everyone to please be responsible about these things and be careful who you trust. “To protect and serve”….They still have a budget each month.

    10. Liza Patty says:

      This is Liza Patty I was on 20/20 in regard to the death of one of my best friends Rachel Hoffman. I just wanted to thank you for your coverage of this story. I’m glad that you seen the peace and love that was my friend.
      Thank You