Despite Legalization, Thousands of Americans Still Go to Jail–and Need Lawyers to Defend Them

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel July 7, 2014

    The temptation is to celebrate the enormous progress we have made over the last few years by legalizing marijuana for medical use in 22 states and the District of Columbia. Even more importantly, we’ve legalized marijuana for all adults in Colorado and Washington.

    Thus, it’s easy to presume we’re getting near the finish line in this decades long struggle to legalize marijuana.

    But that would be both presumptuous and premature.

    The reality is that marijuana smokers remain the target of aggressive and misguided law enforcement activities in most states today. They read about the newly-won freedoms in a handful of states, and dream of the day when their state laws will become more tolerant; but they are still being busted in large numbers and have to worry that that next knock on the door may be the police with a search warrant, about to destroy their homes and wreck their lives, looking for a little weed.


    23 responses to “Despite Legalization, Thousands of Americans Still Go to Jail–and Need Lawyers to Defend Them”

    1. Ohio I am says:

      Me thinks some of the resistance cannabis
      is getting is due to the powers that be
      are fearful that after cannabis is legal, then
      common sense people will focus on another
      issue that is seriously out of whack.
      Thus actually giving power to the people.
      This is when the revolution gets started.
      so they flex their muscles on cannabis
      to keep us in tow.

    2. AlaminiCasino says:

      What really makes the Law Enforcement misguided is the fact there are parking lots in bars, even though drinking and driving is illegal. I realize there are supposed to be drink limits, but anybody who believes bars stick to that is either naive or never stepped foot into one. We should all collectively sue our cities for putting is into danger.

    3. Miles says:

      Personally, I hate cops (although I know some are good people), and most people I know feel the same way. It is a shame that Americans generally fear law enforcement personnel rather than believing that they are there to “protect and serve”. The only thing many are protecting and serving is themselves!

      I’ve long believed that many cops were previously schoolyard bullies who have gone on to make a career out of harassing people. It’s pretty disgusting…

    4. Julian says:

      If you have been arrested or know someone who has been arrested for marijuana posession;
      1) Save recorded evidence from cell phone cameras, pictures from damage, emails, documents, receipts; SAVE EVERYTHING. Local law enforcement might not be helpful, but the evidence may help in your CIVIL SUIT.
      2) Take care of your laptop and backup pictures and evidence. 1 out of 3 defendants get their laptop lost or stolen during legal defense.
      3) NEVER trust your lawyer. Just because you hire them doesn’t mean you trust them. A lawyer could turn evidence on you and sell you to the D.A. while on vacation, or right in front of you while whispering at the judge’s bench. Investigate your lawyer by digging up legal records, history and ask around the courthouse. If he or she is friends with the DA this could be very good if you want a plea bargain or very bad if you wish to appeal.
      4) DON’T SIGN ANYTHING. Intimidation is the tactic of law enforcement, the Department of Health and Human Services and the District Attorney’s office. Say “Speak to my lawyer,” even if you don’t have one.
      5) When pulled over, place both hands on the steering wheel at 10 and 4. Turn the cab light on if at night. Remember a cop is armed, trained, and if they’re a rookie, they’re possibly scared and a bad shot.
      5) If an officer asks to search your vehicle, answer, “Am I being arrested?” They may insist to search your vehicle. Repeat the question, “Am I being arrested?” When they say “no,” then say, “Then may I go?” And repeat the question and so on. Be polite. Be calm. But be persistent.
      6). Keep a cloud account on your cell phone. If you have time before being arrested, upload pictures (and concealed recordings 🙂 to your cloud account before they confiscate your phone. Be careful trying to hide your phone. Cops want to see your hands and don’t like quick movements.
      7) Research your criminal lawyers and keep one in your contacts list. In Texas, the Lone Star Legal Aid group is a useful contact to defend civil property forfeitures.
      8)Read your local Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Penal Code, Rules and Civil Procedures, and local court procedures. There’s PLENTY of stuff you can do yourself without a lawyer.
      9) Get your case OUT of LOCAL COURTS and IN TO an APPELLATE or FEDERAL court. If you live in states like Virginia or Texas you can forget about finding a good judge; The State has prosecutors on our tax dollar-payroll all day that can stall and switch to a corrupt judge that accepts campaign contributions with a pending, open case. Your 4th and 15th amendments are more likely going to be protected in a Federal court where they’re more concerned about your rights than the payoffs and kickbacks from state property seizures. If you’re going pro-se and defending yourself, find the proper documentation by downloading your state Civil Practice and Remedies Code. For example, if you’re trying to keep your property from being condemned in posession of the state, you need a form called a “Writ of Certiorari” or “Writ of Cert.” File this in your local District Clerk’s Office, if you’re being harrassed by the City, or in a Federal Court if you are being harrassed by the County or State. You’re effectively getting a judge from a higher court to review the case, without all the cost of appealing.
      10). If that doesn’t work, appeal. The DEA never expects anyone to face 10 to life and DO that, so the DA might just drop the case.

      Above all, people, get a vaporizer, be discreet, and donate to NORML PAC. Watch out for jealous, degenerate in-laws or neighbors who are looking to adopt kids for profit. KEEP FILES ON THEM. The best way to defend a case is don’t get caught, get active, and help change your state’s cannabis policies so we can all live in peace.

    5. Dave Evans says:


      Who cares if there are parking lots next to bars? The only thing that should matter is whether or not the people driving their cars can do so safely or not. It doesn’t matter how much someone has in their system, if they can past a sobriety test, then they aren’t impaired and have not committed a crime. Numbers on pieces of paper are for Control Freaks.

      It does not matter if someone smoked marijuana before getting in their car or not. What does matter is whether they can safely operator said vehicle. This is the only thing police should be looking at. If they can’t find a problem with your sobriety test, then there shouldn’t be any further testing done at all–period end of story even if you smell like a blunt it is still just fishing for a technical violation. I.e. bullshit.

      Results of alcohol tests do follow a curve, but the results of using marijuana depend on the type of marijuana, the way you imbibed and how much.

    6. Raven says:

      Thank You Julian.
      Saved your post in a text file.

    7. Fed-Up says:

      finish line? i think their will always be some -ass backward- counties and states that want to keep the traditions of farming cannabis users for profit.It’s so simple and lucrative,”Let’s go trap a pot smoker son,and steal his property and possessions..yee-haw! “be gentle boy”s we got a live one’-read him his rights-all this FOR A FLOWER for christ sakes!

      Those naughty homo sapiens.

      Only on planet earth.

    8. Galileo Galilei says:

      I’ve always considered bars with parking lots to be an Orwellian absurdity. A guy whose been drinking all night decides whether or not he’s sober enough to drive. What’s wrong with this picture?

      I used to play music in redneck bars. I saw people stagger to their cars after every gig. I’m surprised there aren’t far more accidents than there are.

      You can find websites that let you enter your body weight, number of drinks, etc., then your level of blood alcohol is displayed. I weigh 180 pounds. I can have 5 beers in 5 half hours. 6 in 6 takes me just over the limit. If you stick to this, you can develop a feels for how inebriated you are versus your alcohol blood level. A very useful feel to have.

      If you like to drink with people in bars, it behooves you to develop this feel. Think about it. If you kill someone or maim a child, you will wake up to that realization every day for the rest of your life.

      ‘nuf sad.

    9. AlaminoCasino says:


      It just amazes me that although drinking and driving is illegal, they allow people the outlet to do so. If they just said that out loud “bars have parking lots”

      I have seen people go into wal-mart and buy cases of beer and start drinking in the parking lot. Even if they have just one, that’s still pretty much open container. I am just saying if I was ever arrested for possession, I would let them know I’m going to call them every 5 minutes to let them know there MIGHT be somebody drinking and driving because the bar has a parking lot, and that I am scared to drive anywhere because of that. Of course I wouldn’t be scared to drive, but sometimes you’ve got to stoop down to there illogical way of thinking to combat it.

    10. Miles says:

      @Dave Evans – I agree 100% with you that some arbitrary limit on how much of any substance in your body should automatically mean you are too impaired to drive!

      I am absolutely certain that I could be at, or even over, their limits for alcohol or pot and still be one of the safest drivers on the road. I have a near perfect driving record as I fast approach age 60 🙂

      Law Enforcement needs to start considering one’s true state of mind and ability instead of relying on some stupid chemistry test which really tells very little about one’s ability to drive safely.