NORML Wants To Know: Are You Or A Loved One A ‘Unicorn’?

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director September 26, 2008

    By Dominic Holden, NORML Board Member

    Originally published by the Seattle Stranger’s Slog.

    Last week White House appointee John Walters claimed on C-SPAN that finding people in jail for “first-time nonviolent possession of marijuana… is like finding a unicorn … because it doesn’t exist.” I had a hunch that some of the 775,138 people arrested for pot possession last year were actually unicorns…

    But the drug czar probably assumed that it’s a freebie to call people with criminal convictions anything he wants, because they’re likely to be too ashamed to defend themselves. That’s certainly true, but it didn’t take me long to find credible people willing to vouch for the existence of first-time, non-violent marijuana offenders—excuse me, unicorns.

    In just one hour, I’ve found five people who have seen the Drug Czar’s unicorns with their own eyes. Here are Slog’s exclusive unicorn reports:

    Andy Robertson, criminal defense attorney for 10 years at the Rosen Law Firm in Seattle.I have had it happen where [my client] goes to jail where they have one joint on them, and they have never gone to jail before. This is their first and only brush with the law. I don’t think that I have ever had a case where the person charged for marijuana is anything but the most peaceful person you can imagine.

    A judge who I spoke to recently said that about every afternoon, he’ll put at least one person a day in jail for possession of marijuana or paraphernalia. He’s bee pro tem-ing for at least five years.

    Sunil Abraham, public defender for the King County Defender Association. When asked how many people he has personally encountered with no prior record who have served time in jail for a nonviolent marijuana-possession charge, here’s what he said: I’d say 50 people and they have all done time in jail. I’d guess that if you obtained the booking history for the last 100 marijuana arrests for somebody who has no criminal history, 80 percent of them do time in jail. It may be one day, but they serve time in jail. [Police] don’t commonly arrest for marijuana and release; you are going to go to jail.

    Alison Holcomb, drug policy director of the ACLU of Washington.
    According to data compiled by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs and requested by the ACLU of Washington, Washington police agencies reported 11,553 arrests for possession of marijuana in 2007. Misdemeanor possession of marijuana carries a mandatory day in jail, and up to ninety. Data obtained from the Washington State Patrol’s Identification and Criminal History Section reveals that 3,588 convictions for misdemeanor marijuana possession were entered in Washington courts in 2007.

    Muraco Kyashana-tocha, works in the law offices of Jeffrey Steinborn and Douglas Hiatt, the city’s leading marijuana-defense attorneys. I know of two cases that were handled … in the last year. They were both over in Redmond. I know both of them by name. One gram [possessed] by one of them, and 12 grams by the other one. They were squeaky clean: no record no juvenile record. I know a lot of people who went to jail while their case was processing. They may be in jail over the weekend for three days. A lot of the people charged with misdemeanor [possession] cannot afford $3000-5000 for legal representation, so they are doing time.

    Jeffrey Steinborn, the city’s leading marijuana defense attorney. Walters is either shamefully ignorant, or intentionally lying to us. Sometimes we get lucky because a big shot in white shirt shows up. Sometimes the prosecutor will say the statute is mandatory, so they say, “Fuck you, your client’s going to jail.” Sometimes the judge will convert that to community service but the law says they can’t. To avoid that day in jail is the exception rather than the rule.

    Surely, more of these magical animals walk among us. Have you seen a unicorn? Are you a unicorn? Put your unicorn-sighting story in comments or send me an email.

    104 responses to “NORML Wants To Know: Are You Or A Loved One A ‘Unicorn’?”

    1. D says:

      Funny how we hear stories from public defenders, attorneys, people’s brothers, but never the actual unicorns themselves. To be honest, serving 12 hours or a day in general lockup with a dozen other people until they process you hardly counts as spending time in jail. Your in jail when they take all your clothes and you are forced to wear an orange jumpsuit, eat nasty prison food from a cafeteria tray, shower with dozens of other men, and live in a cell with someone named Bubba. I’ve been toking every day for the past 8 years. I think John Walters is a skeevy, two-faced, lying…you get where I’m going with this, but on this _ONE_ comment I really do have to agree with him. I got charged (In Connecticut which is one of the worst states for pot laws) with possession, possession within 1500 feet of a school zone, possession of paraphernalia, got let off with some community service. Got arrested again, two months later, in the same place (College dorm room), same charges, same outcome, community service. Perhaps I am an anomaly but I know several others who got arrested for similar charges and no one ever did any jail time.

    2. get the word out people

    3. cannabispatient says:

      I know a unicorn serving a life sentence for simple possesion. He has been sentenced to life as a second class citizen because he had a little marijuana when he was 19, now he cant get college grants or financial aid and he has a hard time finding decent work. He has also never been in trouble for anything else in his life. So FUCK YOU Waters, you are a constitutional criminal and I hope you are brought to justice.

    4. John Viragh says:

      When I was 20 years old,I was busted for buying a small amount of marijuana from a dealer.I was told if I coughed up the pot I would be given a ticket/bench appearance ticket.I ended up being cuffed,tossed in the back of a cargo van,and driven around for hours,sometimes at high speeds.All night long the van was being filled with guys like myself.I spent 3 1/2 days in jail,I lost my job,and I almost lost my NYC housing rent controlled apartment,which I had to fight in court to keep.I am now in a highly revered proffesion,which I had extended probation due to that prior arrest.Yeah,I am a unicorn of sorts….We in America are no longer individuals,but one festering mass controlled by another.

    5. John Viragh says:

      PS- I had no priors of any kind..

    6. TORCHO says:


    7. Anonymous says:

      I got pulled over for speeding and the cop found a pipe wedged down in my seat (I had lost it a week earlier). He took me to jail and I spent the night there. I didn’t have any marijuana with me at the time.

    8. T-4 says:

      Hi, that’s a Pegasus not a Unicorn. It doesn’t even have a horn.

      Seriously, though, this is some ridiculous misinformation. It is amazing that this kind of stuff can be spread to the public and people will probably just buy it hook, line, and sinker.

    9. Rick says:

      What I find the most annoying is that the prohibitionists do not debate. They declare from on high. They know that the people do not support what they do, but they frankly do not care. The arrogance of power…

    10. aaron says:

      i am a fabled unicorn even if i only spent a day in jail that is a day i will never get back i was goin to kansas with a buddy we pulled off the road to sleep in oklahoma woken up by cops searched the found less than a bowl of some dirt weed on me i was arrested spent a day in jail i had 60 bucks to my name and when the police officer had me sign the paper with my invetory it said they only found 3 dollars on me i told them i had alot more money than that he left then came back with a large ball of money and was like is that more like it ended up giving me more money than i had shady police man