Reefer Madness in America: Another Arrest Statistic Speaks To The Horror and Waste of Cannabis Prohibition

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director June 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.


    Hi Allen,

    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.



    Hello X,

    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.

    Kind regards,

    Allen St. Pierre
    Executive Director
    Member, Board of Directors
    NORML / NORML Foundation

    1600 K St., NW
    Washington, D.C. 20006

    51 responses to “Reefer Madness in America: Another Arrest Statistic Speaks To The Horror and Waste of Cannabis Prohibition”

    1. SmalltownTexas says:

      This is just another example of how law inforcement in america has become the largest criminal organisation we have ever seen. If you legalize marijuana, 60% of todays lawinforcement officers will no longer be needed to police our cities and towns, and their power to brutilize americans without and culpability, will be greatly deminished. It is time to take our country back, and vote those members of congress out of office who refuse to heed the wishes of the people of the country they were elected to serve. What our justice department is doing is paramount to treason, and those that are involved should be tried in a court of law for that crime.

    2. Brian says:

      I fucking hate this country

    3. Fireweed says:

      Illustrates EXACTLY why cannabis is a human rights issue.

    4. Galileo Galilei says:

      My experience was the law was considerably better. The accommodations were indeed sparse, but my treatment was less severe. I treated them with courtesy and respect and was treated the same, except for the plain clothes narc who kept trying to bait me into a response. He had no behaviors in place to deal with such a ‘felon’.

      My record was eventually expunged, but I can no longer obtain a security clearance.

    5. annonyms says:

      I have had similar experiences with border patrol and would like to point out that it is a bit disturbing to me that almost all checkpoints have drug dogs, are within state borders, many appear to be completely random, and all have cameras seemingly locking you in…etc.The question i ask my self is are these checkpoints really to catch illegal immigrants and if so why is so much extra money spent to catch drug offenders??It just seems as if its just another ploy to spend money on a war on drugs that will never be won…pretty fucked up…glad to see my state moving closer and closer to decriminlization of cannabis/hemp and to the states that are not hang in there 25 is the number of states that i feel need to pass the law before it will get legalized nationally at least that was the case with alcohol prohibition

    6. dshoes420 says:

      oh yeah and fuck texas bastards i hope i never visit

    7. Shawn Christopher says:

      the government has no control over these power freaks, they all bond and get buddy, buddy, over how they are better than civilians, it makes me sick,

    8. Cameron says:

      Why do we put up with it? Where’s the outrage? Why aren’t people demanding to make it legal overnight? It’s a fight for freedom, and our government is clearly violating it. Over half of the country supports legalization, so why aren’t we using force if necessary to take our freedoms back? It’s time to stop being cowards and do something.

    9. Shawn Christopher says:

      if i hear another cop or politician say “This never happens” I’m going to actually be sick…………

    10. m.sebastian patrick says:

      You must treat them like the gestappo they are.-When bringing just seed back over the border-found the perfect place to hide the sacred seed-even spoke to the border patrol agent; whilst the seeds were safely right in front of his face-just post 9/11 and didn’t smoke a speck before crossing. Be like james fucking bond in naziesque redneck states who claim to be free and american-or don’t bring forth the forbidden flower. Last I checked; America was supposed to be the land of the free for the people; of the people; by the people. As long as we persecute other citizens’ whose beliefs and lifestyles may clash with our own ideals: we never will be.

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