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Drugs

Everyone Supports Medical Marijuana, So Stop Prosecuting People for Growing and Smoking

Every time we take two steps toward finally ending the war on drugs, we take one step back—it’s still far too easy to come across stories of horrific injustices.

by Lucy Steigerwald
Jul 14 2014, 8:25pm

Some friendly marijuana plants. Photo via Flickr user Mark

Last week, Washington’s recreational marijuana stores opened amid much excitement as it became the second state, after Colorado, to allow people who aren’t “medical marijuana patients” to smoke pot. But every time we take two steps toward finally ending the war on drugs, we take one step back—even as politicians talk the talk on not punishing people for getting high, it’s far too easy to come across stories of horrific injustices.

The July 21 print issue of Time has one such story, about Larry Harvey, a 70-year-old Washington resident who is about to go to trial for his family’s medical marijuana grow operation. Harvey destroyed his knees from years as a trucker, and also suffers from gout, conditions that marijuana has apparently helped with. He also had enough land to grow pot for friends who didn’t have the room to cultivate their own weed gardens, which is how he ended up with 70 weed plants. Then, in August 2012, local cops and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) came rolling in and now Harvey, his family, and a friend who helped him grow are facing up to ten years in prison. (Harvey’s legal guns were also a problem—since 2011, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has been in the business of taking away medical marijuana users’ Second Amendment rights.) Other medical marijuana growers have faced similar charges all over the country—the cruelest case, or at least the cruelest I’ve heard about this month, might be the Iowa man with rare blood cancer who had to be rushed to the hospital during his trial for growing bud.

You probably know this already, but there has been some good news on the drug war front lately: A majority of Americans support legal marijuana. A much larger majority support medical marijuana. A majority of adults also believe that the feds should butt out of states that have legalize marijuana. Politicians have begun inching towards tolerance of legal weed, or at least the medical kind, and in May, the House voted to defund the DEA’s operations against medical marijuana business in states where medicinal pot use is legal. The Obama administration has told the Department of Justice to stand down in Colorado and Washington too.

And yet this old war continues, running on inertia if nothing else. There are prosecutors and cops dedicated to busting people whenever possible. There are still law and order lunatics who talk about marijuana as a “gateway drug” and want to police what people put in their bodies. The war on drugs is still a morally bankrupt disaster; the biggest thing the activists fighting against it have achieved is that now at least it’s often recognized as such—we now need to actually end the war. Harvey told Time he’s likely to go prison for a long time, but “it just isn’t right.” It sure as fuck isn’t.

On to this week’s bad cops:

-On Wednesday at 7 AM, a family in St. Paul, Minnesota, received the full no-knock, SWAT raid special from local police. Camille Perry and Larry Lee Arman had their door kicked in, and before Arman knew what was happening, he told the media, his two dogs were being shot by police, one as she “was running for her life.” Perry said she was awake and in the bathroom when the raid began and was terrified for her children, who had been sleeping on a mattress with Arman near the front door. The raid was supposedly dangerous enough to require that the cops got a no-knock warrant, but the only thing police removed from the home was a bong and scraps of weed. (Arman admitted to smoking marijuana, not that this justifies anything.) Two dogs are dead, a family is freaked out, and kids were put in danger over bits of pot left in a grinder. A police spokesman told the local FOX affiliate that everything was legal, a judge had signed off on the warrant, and basically this is just something that happens.

-In more positive no-knock raid news, on July 8 in San Antonio, Texas, Adrian Perryman was found not guilty of the aggravated assault charges he faced after a 2010 early-morning narcotics raid on his home. Perryman shot one of the officers storming into his house—because, he said, he didn’t know it was busting through the door—then surrendered once he realized it was the cops. Perryman’s lawyer used this argument as a defense, and it was successful—as it should be. In a nation of people who have legal guns for self-defense purposes, it’s outrageously hypocritical of the government to send them to prison for using them to defend their homes.

-More good news: Durham, North Carolina police officers are now banned from lying to homeowners about 911 calls in order to search their houses. Wait, they could do that before? Well, whether it was legal or not, several officers tried to tell people they had received 911 emergency calls from their addresses as a pretext to getting them to open their doors. One officer claimed it was departmental policy to do this (!) but now the practice has been disallowed—probably because, as a judge said, “You cannot enter someone's house based on a lie.”

-VICE has a brand new documentary that focuses on how police exploit vulnerable kids like Jesse Snodgrass, a teenager with Asperger's and other difficulties who was entrapped by an undercover police officer posing as his high school buddy. Check it out, it’s guaranteed to make you so upset you punch a wall.

-A July 12 Washington Post piece relates a disturbing allegation about a Target employee being fired after he reported a Fairfax County, Virginia, sheriff’s deputy for shoplifting. Dallas Northington spent eight years working in Target’s loss prevention unit, and when he saw a man stealing through the security camera he did what he always did and reported the incident to the police—but two days later he was fired and the unnamed cop retired. Target disputes Northington’s account and says he didn't follow proper procedure... though he had been working there for eight years. Hrmph.

-William Binney, a whistleblower who resigned from the NSA after 9/11 because he felt the agency was moving the country toward becoming a surveillance state, recently claimed his former bosses are sucking up all of our information because they want “total population control.” Sweet Jesus, start making your tinfoil hat and stockpiling gold now.

-Last month, an Arlington, Texas police officer rescued a loose dog and returned him to his owner without anything bad happening! Hooray! Skittish people reported that the 11-month-old pit bull was aggressive, but Sergeant Gary Carter investigated and, having met a dog before, decided he was “trying to make friends” instead. Last week, the dog’s owner ditched him and sent him to animal control, so once again Carter stepped in by adopting the pup and renaming him Chance. Carter is our Good Cop of the Week for his double dose of dog rescuing. Other cops could learn a few things from him.

Lucy Steigerwald is a freelance writer and photographer. Read her blog here and follow her on Twitter.

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