Marc Emery Prison Blog: How I Began My Plan to Overgrow the Government

By Marc Emery – Thursday, February 27 2014

 

CANNABIS CULTURE – Since the 20th anniversary of my activism in British Columbia is approaching on April 11th, I thought I would write a series of blogs about my early years, when there was no movement, no legal medical marijuana anywhere, books and magazines about cannabis were banned in Canada – in essence, there was nothing. Over the next few months I’ll tell you about great moments in my life where I contributed to the marijuana movement and helped changed several laws.

My history is packed with well-documented campaigns and pivotal moments. It includes the day in August 1996 when Dennis Peron was was with me in Vancouver for a large rally in historic Gastown, occupying the intersection that, 25 years earlier, had been the scene of the "Grasstown Police Riot" (where cops attacked and injured dozens of peaceful pot advocates and innocent bystanders), and his pioneering medical cannabis building in San Francisco was raided. I encouraged him to make a phone speech rallying his supporters to not back down – the after-effect of which really pushed the California voters in favour of Proposition 215.

Other significant events include my times with Jack Herer in the very early days (1991); selling banned marijuana books and magazines door-to-door in early 1994 to establish myself in Vancouver (after doing the same in Ontario years earlier, to challenge the laws prohibiting marijuana literature); producing the first issue of The Marijuana & Hemp Newsletter in 1994, which became Cannabis Canada magazine a year later, then Cannabis Culture in 1998; how I was inspired in November 1994 to "Overgrow the Government" by funding activism through seed sales; publishing my 1995 article "How To Open Your Own Hemp Store" that kickstarted a revolution across Canada (and continues to this day); underwriting the early days of the Marijuana Policy Project (1998); contributing to the success of the medical marijuana initiative in Washington DC (1998), Colorado and Arizona (2000); my role in making medical marijuana legal in Canada (1999); creating Pot TV, the first online cannabis video website in the world, with its construction beginning on January 1, 2000; going to the Canadian Supreme Court to legalize pot in December 2003 (and the ten years of court battles leading to that); and stories of how my many adversaries who once persecuted and prosecuted me became activist anti-prohibitionists, including Vancouver Mayors Philip Owen and Larry Campbell, Vancouver ‘GrowBusters’ chief Kash Heed, and Washington State District Attorney (and my prosecutor) John McKay.

Some great history reviews lay ahead, in this, the 20th anniversary year of Cannabis Culture and the retail-activist revolution that is now growing everywhere. I should start with my early efforts in my hometown of London, Ontario.

 

In 1990 I had a radio show at the University of Western Ontario’s CHRW-FM called "Radio Free Speech: Revolution Thru Rock N’ Rap" and I loved playing the Dead Kennedy’s and the spoken-word albums of lead singer Jello Biafra. When his 1990 spoken word album "I Blow Minds for a Living" came out, I decided to have a Jello Biafra spoken-word performance at Centennial Hall (Dufferin Ave by Victoria Park). We sold 450 tickets to cover the cost of Centennial Hall and Jello’s $3,000 fee. As part of the contract, he was obligated to go on CHRW with me for a special 3-hour show the next day (Saturday), which was a highlight of my 18-month London radio career before I was fired in 1991 for criticizing the station’s lame newscast.

In this new album and at his Centennial Hall performance, Jello did as segment called "Grow More Pot", wherein, though not a pot smoker himself, he urged the audience to grow more pot based on his reading and recommending the (seminal) work of the then-ascendant hemp movement, "The Emperor Wears No Clothes". It was a book by Jack Herer – and it was banned in Canada!

Nowhere in Canada was this book offered for sale (and remember, this was before Amazon.com and the internet existed!) and I found out that the federal government of Canada had prohibited all books and magazines that spoke honestly of marijuana. Since I had a bookstore in London, the City Lights Bookshop on Richmond Street (now owned and operated since July 1992 by then-employees Jim & Teresa), I decided I would get this book and challenge the ban by selling it at City Lights.

After some cursory research, I found that everything to do with marijuana was illegal in Canada since an act of Parliament in 1987 had banned all books, magazines, pipes, bongs, video – all and anything to do with marijuana culture was prohibited under section 462.2 of the Canadian criminal code. Since 1987, over 500 shops selling bongs, pipes, High Times magazine, etc. had been shut down, and now in 1991 there were no longer any head shops (as they were called then), nor was High Times available on any newsstand in Canada! Penalties for a first-time conviction for selling books like "The Emperor" or magazines like High Times, or bongs and pipes, included a fine of up to $100,000 and/or up to six months in jail for a first offense, and up to $300,000 for a second offense!

 

So I bought an ad in the daily London Free Press newspaper and announced that I would be selling the banned Jack Herer book to get arrested and go to court to challenge this law.

I sold over 100 copies of "The Emperor", but got no charge by police, nor was I raided. As a historical note, I had already been arrested and charged in previous attempts to change laws regarding Ontario’s Sunday-shopping prohibition (1986), and the province’s ban on explicit rap music (1990), so this was a technique that I had had good success with, up until this time. So I decided to go a little further and smuggled in hundreds of copies of every available marijuana grow guide, dozens of copies of back-issues of High Times, every copy of The Freak Brothers comics, all in huge quantities.

When we bought an ad in the London Free Press announcing this massive sale of over fifty different books and magazines – more than one thousand individual copies – I had over 150 people lined up outside the doors of City Lights at the 10:00am opening. Still, no police raid or arrest.

So I brought Jack Herer to town, to autograph copies of the book, and bought more ads flouting the law. Still… no arrest or charge. Then I flew in Ed Rosenthal to autograph copies of his books; Steve Hager (editor of High Times) for a special celebration dinner at the City-owned London Art Gallery, where over 100 people paid to attend; Paul Mavrides, writer and artist of the Freak Brothers, to autograph his comics.

 

I even gave away 300 copies of High Times to 300 people in front of the London police headquarters in February 1992 (since they law said ‘distributing’ any book or magazine was illegal, not just the selling of them) to force the London police to charge me. But they didn’t! So while I may not have had my day in court then to make marijuana literature legal, by having the law overturned, I did succeed at bringing important cannabis and hemp information into Canada when we had nothing available at all.

In 1994 I moved to Vancouver, and continued selling banned books and magazines on what became a huge scale. It was the cornerstone to getting established in my new West Coast base of operations; by June 1995, I was distributing 2,000 copies of High Times every month.

In the autumn of 1994, my friend Umberto Iorfida of Canada NORML was charged by Toronto police for handing out pamphlets to students at a high school where undercover narcs had entrapped teens by asking for marijuana. I undertook to finance his defense, and in July 1995, with lawyer Alan Young, Umberto and I got the aspect of the 462.2 law regarding media (books, magazines, video) struck down by Judge Ellen McDonald, in the Ontario Superior Court. This law, by the way, is still in the criminal code, because it was not overturned in the Canadian Supreme Court, but since the Ontario Crown did not appeal the Superior Court decision, the decision stands as law in Ontario.

That having been said, over the years, I have traveled to places that tried to ban my Cannabis Culture Magazine or High Times, like in Timmins, Ontario in 1999. The police went to convenience stores and told them that selling those magazines was illegal, and they’d have to stop. So I bought a half-page ad in the Timmins newspaper and went there to hand out 300 copies of my publication, Cannabis Culture Magazine, for several hours in front of the Timmins police station, daring them to try to charge me under 462.2. We ended up having an hours-long smoke-fest and street party in front of the police station. Media from all over Ontario covered that event, and Timmins police never tried that again.

In my peaceful civil disobedience regarding marijuana laws, I have been arrested 28 times in Canada, and jailed 22 times, in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and this one very long stint in federal prison in these United States (where, as most people know, I did not travel to or spend any time as a seed seller).

I regard all of this as punishment for my political activities, as all of them were acts done under clearly-political auspices, and most – if not all – are unique in North America, Canada, or the USA. For example, I have been arrested and convicted in Vancouver of giving away one gram of hash (the witness was brought 2,000 miles from the United States to testify against me for one gram I gave him, for free, at my Cannabis Cafe in 1997); arrested and convicted for promoting vaporizers, a charge I can hardly believe exists; arrested and convicted for selling seeds (to my knowledge, no other Canadian has ever been convicted of selling just seeds); and arrested and convicted (and sentenced to three months in prison!) for passing one joint in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, at a rally after my speech at University of Saskatchewan in 2004 (although no joint or pot was ever produced to prove their charge, merely a 22-year-old witness’ claim, upon police inquiry, that I passed him a joint).

 

I was arrested and jailed six times on my 2003 Summer of Legalization Tour across Canada, which was a campaign to demonstrate that the marijuana prohibition laws were of no force and effect due to a court ruling in Ontario (click here to see archive coverage on Pot TV and Cannabis Culture). To challenge the law nationwife, I promoted a tour where I smoked a bong or one-ounce joint in front of police station headquarters in every major city in Canada – eighteen stops in nine provinces – and on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in front of a huge RCMP phalanx. In those six arrests in Alberta (Calgary and Edmonton), Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Newfoundland, and New Brunswick, I was charged, but my charges – and charges against many Canadians – were later dropped when the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in October 2003 that there was, in fact, no valid marijuana possession law in effect in Canada from 2001 to 2003 (it was reinstated by that court at the time, unfortunately).

I was not arrested during the other 12 stops that tour, in cities in British Columbia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. I was also not arrested when I led a march in 2002 in Montreal at the Quebec Cannabis Cup after Montreal police arrested the organizer. I quickly responded with a bellicose protest immediately, took over the streets en route, and had a very confrontational conflict with riot-clad Montreal cops at the police station. I was also not arrested in my numerous attempts to get charged for selling banned marijuana literature in London, Ontario or Vancouver.

So whereas I have been arrested 28 times, jailed 22 times, and convicted on about ten of those arrests since 1990 to 2010, I have also attempted to get arrested – or risked getting arrested – well over 45 times, all related to fighting against marijuana prohibition or promoting cannabis culture.

And you ain’t heard nothin’ yet!

If you’re interested in seeing more about Marc’s earliest freedom activist causes and campaigns, watch the 1992 documentary "Messing Up The System" by the late Chris Doty (one hour), the 2006 CBC documentary "Prince of Pot: The US vs. Marc Emery" by Nick Wilson (one hour), and the thorough multi-part 2010 documentary "The Principle of Pot" by Paul McKeever (four hours).

CONTINUE READING ON CANNABIS CULTURE…

BREAKING: Death Sentence for a $96 ticket (NJWEEDMAN)

NJ WEEDMAN reads a letter from a prisoner who turns in jail for a wrongful death.

Published on Feb 10, 2014

special thanks to http://njweedman.com/ for bringing us this story.
In this video Luke Rudkowski interviews Ed Forchion the NJ Weed Man after he was recently released from jail and was given a shocking letter from a fellow inmate.

The letter details gross misconduct and neglect on behave of correctional officers which some are saying resulted in the murder of a fellow inmate.

The inmate who released the story to the public was put into solitary confinement for writing this letter.

 
Show your support by writing the whistle blower inmate at
Sean C. Turzanski # 90248
Burlington County Jail
54 Grant St.
Mt. Holly NJ 08060

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Jerry Duval, Medical Marijuana Patient, Lacks Adequate Health Care In Prison

 

The Michigan medical marijuana patient whose imprisonment could ultimately cost federal taxpayers more than $1.2 million is being denied adequate health care while he serves his sentence, his wife claims.

Jerry Duval surrendered to federal authorities in June to serve out a 10-year sentence for marijuana distribution at the Federal Medical Center Devens prison in Massachusetts. His wife, Tracey, said in an interview with The Huffington Post that he has suffered two hemorrhages in his eye since then. After the first one several months ago, Duval never received the outside medical care he needed, she alleged. And a second hemorrhage on Wednesday left him almost without sight in his right eye, his wife claimed.

"It’s actually the worst one that he’s ever had," said Tracey, who said she spoke to Duval over the phone after his eye worsened on Wednesday. "If this situation doesn’t get taken care of, he could lose his eye."

Tracey and the advocacy group Americans for Safe Access are urging the Federal Bureau of Prisons to allow Duval to visit an outside doctor to treat his glaucoma and retinal problems. They previously sought Duval’s compassionate release on the grounds that his numerous transplants and other medical problems would be better treated in a general population hospital.

Chris Burke, a Bureau of Prisons spokesman, told HuffPost over email that the agency does not comment on individual prisoners’ medical conditions.

"I can tell you that we provide appropriate and necessary medical care to inmates in our custody," he said.

CONTINUE READING…

Schapelle Corby: Time to let go of our obsession

Michael Bachelard

Michael Bachelard
Indonesia correspondent for Fairfax Media

Schapelle Corby waits in her cell before her trial in 2005.

CORBY: THE FACTS

 

Another nuance of activity occurred in Bali on Tuesday, as the parole process for Schapelle Corby inched forward once again. Representatives of an agency of the Indonesian Justice Department visited the house where she would be required to live if she were let out of jail early.

Even though she has not yet applied for parole, as with all things Corby, the "news" drove some of the frothier parts of the Australian media into habitual overdrive.

Schapelle Corby  is escorted by police to a courtroom in Denpasar in 2006.

Schapelle Corby is escorted by police to a courtroom in Denpasar in 2006. Photo: AFP

Some outlets have even put a date on her release – October 30.

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Well, that may or may not be so. Like the last time a date was so confidently predicted (in May last year, August 2012 was said to be when she would return to Australia), it’s far enough away to be possible, yet not so close that anyone is held accountable if the date is missed.

So, assuming her release is coming up after almost nine years in jail, let’s take the opportunity to assess our attitude to Schapelle Corby.

Schapelle Corby and fellow convicted drug mule Renae Lawrence in Kerobokan Jail in 2010.

Schapelle Corby and fellow convicted drug mule Renae Lawrence in Kerobokan Jail in 2010. Photo: Jason Childs

Many people have spent a great deal of time and energy poring over this one woman’s case – the Australian consulate in Bali; authors; lawyers; dozens, if not hundreds of journalists; prison officials, professional internet conspiracy theorists, politicians in both Australia and Indonesia.

It’s not only the Australian media who go into a frenzy at the mention of her name. She has become a touchstone in the Indonesian press, too. There, though, it’s not about an innocent entrapped in a third-world system, it’s about the ugly habit of Westerners to aggressively demand special treatment.

The head of Bali’s Kerobokan jail, Gusti Ngurah Wiratna, remarked to the press in frustration recently: "I’ve got 1000 prisoners, why are you only interested in Schapelle?"

Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of dollars, have changed hands – for paid interviews with the family, internet ads, defamation actions and other civil court actions, royalties and lawyers fees.

Her 2004 arrest and imprisonment has turned into a Schapelle industry.

Sadly, for several years, the subject of that industry has suffered from severe mental health issues, and has largely removed herself from its centre. Even the Corby family-friendly journalists can only quote  "those who know and live with her" in their stories because Corby herself refuses any direct interaction with the press.

She does not even go to the visitor’s area of Kerobokan in case there might be journalists there. Her absence, for the same reason, from compulsory prison events, has potentially even harmed her cause.

For a long time  Fairfax Media readers have held the dual belief that Corby is guilty, but that she deserves a shortened sentence.

Views of her innocence in the broader public are likely to be higher, but substantially lower than at the height of the "Our Schapelle" frenzy of 2004 and 2005.

It’s her perceived innocence that initially drove the Corby story to the point of obsession, but even though this has changed, nine years later, we in the media remain closely focused on every detail of her incarceration and possible release.

Perhaps we assume people will be moved by the same impulses, or the echoes of the impulses, that moved them a decade ago.

But let’s consider what all this will mean when she is ultimately released, whether on parole or at the end of her sentence.

After 10 years in a bubble, Corby will be exposed to the world.

She’ll be walking the narrow streets of Kuta, living in a Balinese compound whose address is well known, with the world’s media – including a chaotic Indonesian press pack – on her doorstep.

The inevitable paid interviews will create an appetite among the unsuccessful bidders for exclusives of a different kind – for evidence of her poor mental state, for pictures of her drinking her first beer, wearing a bikini at the beach, hanging out with a man, throwing a tantrum.

In the open, she’ll lack the protection afforded by the Australian consulate from the tourists and stickybeaks who even now occasionally try to get into the jail to visit her.

The local police are unwilling and unequipped to provide any protection.

Whatever you think of her guilt or innocence, Corby has served a long sentence, and her adjustment to life on the outside – difficult as it will be already – can only be made immeasurably harder by such attention.

Perhaps it’s time to let go of our decade-long obsession and finally just leave Schapelle Corby alone.

CORBY: THE FACTS
• Corby has been eligible for parole for more than a year, since the Indonesian president granted her clemency with a five-year sentence reduction;
• She has not yet applied for parole, and the Indonesians have not started the process, because the Indonesian immigration department has not yet confirmed that she can get a visa to be able to serve out her sentence in Bali with her sister Mercedes and brother-in-law Wayan;
• All the other conditions for parole – including an unprecedented letter from the Australian government guaranteeing her good behaviour – are in place;
• With continued remission for good behaviour, she is likely to be out in 2015 even if she does not win parole.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/schapelle-corby-time-to-let-go-of-our-obsession-20130814-2rvuc.html#ixzz2cKeyqYu5

Schapelle Corby
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Daniel Chong, forgotten in DEA cell, settles suit for $4.1 million

By Stan Wilson, CNN

updated 3:11 PM EDT, Wed July 31, 2013

San Diego (CNN) — A University of California San Diego student left unmonitored in a holding cell for five days by the Drug Enforcement Administration has settled a lawsuit for $4.1 million, his attorney said.

"This was a mistake of unbelievable and unimaginable proportions," attorney Julia Yoo said on Tuesday.

Daniel Chong, 25, drank his own urine to survive and even wrote a farewell note to his mother before authorities discovered him severely dehydrated after a 2012 drug raid in San Diego.

He was held in a 5-by-10-foot cell with no windows but a peephole through the door. It had thick concrete walls and was situated in a narrow hallway with four other cells, isolated from the rest of the DEA facility, said Eugene Iredale, another of Chong’s attorneys.

There was no toilet, only a metal bench on which he stood in a futile attempt to set off the sprinkler system with his cuffed hands, Chong told CNN affiliate KSWB.

He kicked the door and yelled, anything to get someone’s attention, the station reported.

"I was screaming. I was completely insane," he told KWSB.

One matter still unclear is why no one heard him. Chong told the San Diego Union-Tribune last year that he heard footsteps, muffled voices and the opening and closing of cell doors, even from the cell adjacent to his. Yet no one responded to the ruckus coming from inside his cell.

Chong was detained on the morning of April 21, 2012, when DEA agents raided a house they suspected was being used to distribute MDMA, commonly known as "ecstasy."

A multiagency narcotics task force, including state agents, detained nine people and seized about 18,000 ecstasy pills, marijuana, prescription medications, hallucinogenic mushrooms, several guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition from the house, according to the DEA.

It wasn’t until the afternoon of Wednesday, April 25, that an agent opened the steel door to Chong’s cell and found the handcuffed student, Iredale said last year.

Student drank urine to survive DEA cell

2012: Student feared death, dehydration

Upon his release, Mr. Chong told CNN affiliate KNSD that he was visiting a friend and knew nothing about the presence of drugs and guns. He was never formally arrested or charged, the DEA said.

While detained, Chong had given up and accepted death, using a shard of glass from his glasses to carve "Sorry Mom" onto his arm as a farewell message, Yoo said. Chong lost 15 pounds and suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, she said.

"He’s the strongest person I have ever met," Yoo said. "As a result of his case, it’s one of the primary reasons the DEA placed a nationwide policy that calls on each agent at satellite offices to check on the well-being of prisoners in their cells on a daily basis," Yoo said.

A DEA spokeswoman declined to comment extensively about the settlement and told CNN that a review of DEA procedures was conducted and submitted to the inspector general’s office at the Department of Justice. She also referred CNN to a previous statement.

"I am deeply troubled by the incident that occurred here," said DEA San Diego Special Agent in Charge William R. Sherman shortly after the incident. "I extend my deepest apologies to the young man and want to express that this event is not indicative of the high standards that I hold my employees to."

Since the incident, Chong has returned to complete his undergraduate degree at UC San Diego, Yoo said. "He changed his major from engineering to economics and wants to finish school, pursue his career and help take care of his mother."

CONTINUE THRU THIS LINK TO VIDEO…

Incarceration of HI marijuana minister at odds with Sixth Amendment, his supporters say

Screen-shot-2013-07-08-at-9.22.18-AM-297x300

By Malia Zimmerman | Watchdog.org

HONOLULU – An Hawaii Island minister in jail for three years on drug charges is treated more like a terrorist than a free-spirited minister whose religious beliefs include the cultivation and use of marijuana, some lawmakers and civil rights advocates say.

The minister, Roger Christie, is being held in Honolulu’s Federal Detention Center, without bail and, as of yet, without a trial.

Roger, his wife, Share Christie, and 12 others — the “Green 14” — in 2010 were charged with the sale and possession of cannabis, but only Roger Christie has been held at the jail since July 8, 2010. The others were either released on bail or are cooperating with authorities.

Christie’s 1,095-day incarceration has been costly to taxpayers, who have paid $116 per day — or $127,020 in hall — to keep him jailed.

The case has captured the attention of Hawaii lawmakers, drug legalization advocates, local Libertarians, Republicans, Democrats and civil rights advocates.

“The government is trying to put us at a distinct disadvantage denying me bail and bond and making me into a ‘political prisoner’ even though I have a clean criminal record,” Roger told Watchdog.org in an email.

Federal prosecutors deemed Christie, a state licensed and ordained minister who openly distributed marijuana as a part of his THC Ministry in Hilo, “a danger to the community.”

Prosecutors persuaded a magistrate judge and three judges on the U.S. District Court, as well as three panels for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, that the 64-year-old pacifist is dangerous because he’ll likely resume marijuana sales if released on bail.

In federal court papers, the government claims Christie operated a $1 million network, selling one-half pound of cannabis to 60 to 70 customers each day for a “donation” of the approximate street value, $400 per ounce.

The government seized nearly 2,300 marijuana plants, 33 pounds of marijuana, $55,000, nine weapons and four properties, court papers show.

Both sides blame the other for legal delays that have kept Christie behind bars.

The simple act of scheduling an in-person interview with Roger Christie has been difficult.

Numerous requests for the interview from Watchdog.org to the U.S. attorney’s office have been ignored since first submitted March 5. Tom Blumm, the assistant warden, denied access to Christie unless the U.S. attorney’s office grants permission first. According to the Christies’, no other media requests have been granted, including requests from National Geographic and Newsweek.

In fact, Christie has not been allowed to see visitors, with the exception of his attorney, Thomas Otake, and two state senators — Will Espero and Russell Ruderman — who serve on the Senate Public Safety Committee. Share said she was banned from the facility about a year ago, and the warden, David Shinn, has failed to respond to numerous written requests from Share Christie asking to see her husband.

Sens. Will Espero and Russell Ruderman at the federal prison where Roger Christie is being held.

“The government is using unfair tactics on both of us — a process of trying to wear us down by denial of even the normal rights that prisoners have. Without the ability to visit my husband, it’s as if I have been in prison as well for three years as he has,” said Share, who married Roger while he was in prison after dating him for many years prior.

Sens. Russell Ruderman, a Democrat from Hawaii Island, and Sam Slom, the Senate Republican Minority Leader, introduced separate resolutions asking the federal government to release Christie on bail pending trial.

Senate Resolution 42 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 75 were heard March 21. Hundreds of people came out to testify in support of Christie’s release.

Ruderman, who has known Roger Christie for 25 years, said, ” He is one of the most peaceful persons I know. To anyone who knows him, the claim that he is a danger to the community is absurd.”

Ruderman said while the charges against Roger Christie are federal, holding a defendant without bail while denying the constitutional right to a speedy trial is virtually unheard of in Hawaii. He said even people accused of serious crimes, such as large-scale drug dealers and violent criminals, are routinely released on bail pending trial.

Espero, who chairs the safety committee, said after a meeting with Christie: “I still feel that Mr. Christie should be released pending a trial.”

The Hawaii Democratic Party  backed Christie in a 2012 resolution, and former Republican Sen. John Carroll and former Hawaii Island Mayor Harry Kim have supported him.

Tracy Ryan, vice chair of the Hawaii Libertarian Party, said Roger Christie poses no danger to the community.

“In 2008, voters of Hawaii County, where the THC Ministry operates, spoke clearly to this very issue. They passed a county resolution making marijuana the lowest priority of law enforcement. Clearly the ‘community’ does not agree that Reverend Christie poses any danger. If the people of the community do not consider the activity to be dangerous and the prosecution offers no evidence whatsoever as to its danger other than to say ‘it is illegal,’ no one is safe,” Ryan said.

Hawaii Senate Resolution 12 asked President Obama to “initiate a formal investigation into the conduct of federal law enforcement personnel in regard to the violation of the constitutional rights of Hawaii County Resident, the Reverend Roger Christie,” but the resolution never received a hearing.

Senate Judiciary and Labor Chair Clayton Hee ultimately decided to kill the measure, although it had already passed the Senate Public Safety Committee and received support from his colleagues and the public.

Challenging the Political System

Roger Christie was born in Colorado and raised in New Jersey. After graduating with a degree from a two-year college and obtaining a commercial pilot’s certificate, he went on to careers in the military, in business and in the religious community.

He enlisted in the Army in 1970 and trained as an intelligence analyst but refused orders to deploy to Vietnam and was discharged honorably as a conscientious objector.

In 1991, just five years after he moved to Hawaii, Roger Christie launched one of the world’s first hemp retail outfits, Hawaiian Hemp Co.. But the company was accused of importing 25 pounds of hemp seeds that law enforcement called “active,” which led to marijuana charges. He and his partners, Aaron Anderson and Dwight Kondo, were never convicted.

An ordained minister for the Religion of Jesus Church, a division of the Universal Life Church, Christie founded his own THC Ministry, also known as the Hawaii Cannabis Ministry. The group believes is a “gift from God” and should be used as a part of religious services. The ministry’s web site stated: “We use Cannabis religiously and you can, too.”

Roger Christie ran for mayor in 2004 on a platform of legalizing marijuana garnering 3.3 percent of the vote.

The state Department of Health granted Christie license number 00-313, which allowed him to perform marriages as a “cannabis sacrament” minister.

He ran for mayor in 2004 on a platform of legalizing marijuana, getting 3.3 percent of the vote. Share Christie ran for mayor in 2012 on the same platform and received 1.2 percent of the vote.

“We were always open and public about what our ministry did,” Share Christie said on their websites and You Tube, noting the government spent an enormous amount of money to discover facts they openly proclaimed at the Hawaii Island County Council. 

“We thought we had federal immunity from prosecution due to Roger’s sincerity and the legitimacy of his ordainment and unique state license as a ‘cannabis sacrament’ minister,” she said.

“All the local and state cops left him and us alone and even said we were all good with them,” Roger Christie said.

“I’m sure our founding fathers, who grew Cannabis hemp, would be appalled at how we have treated what they fought for,” Share Christie said.

Roger said marijuana prohibition is a “modern-day witch-hunt,” and the Christies hope their case will be the “last marijuana trial” in U.S. history.

Christie’s next hearing in federal court is scheduled for 10:30 a.m.  July 29, and his attorney plans to argue a religious defense motion.

Federal prosecutors did not respond to multiple media inquiries for this story.

The Christies, if convicted, face between five and 40 years in prison. They’ve started a website and a Facebook page in their defense.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Postal Inspector, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, and U.S. Attorney have spent millions of dollars more on its two-year investigation and prosecution of the ministry’s network, the Christies’ estimate.

Reach Malia Zimmerman at [email protected]

Please, feel free to "steal our stuff"! Just remember to credit Watchdog.org. Find out more

Malia Zimmerman

CONTINUE READING…

Right now, five adults await death in prison for non-violent, marijuana-related crimes. Their names are John Knock, Paul Free, Larry Duke, William Dekle, and Charles “Fred” Cundiff.

Marijuana Crimes: Five Senior Citizens Serving Life Without Parole For Pot

AlterNet  |  By Kristen Gwynne Posted: 12/26/2012 11:16 am EST

Should five non-violent offenders die behind bars for a crime Americans increasingly believe should not even be a crime?

December 23, 2012  |  

Photo Credit: Farsh/ Shutterstock.com

Right now, five adults await death in prison for non-violent, marijuana-related crimes. Their names are John Knock, Paul Free, Larry Duke, William Dekle, and Charles “Fred” Cundiff. They are all more than 60 years old; they have all spent at least 15 years locked up for selling pot; and they are all what one might call model prisoners, serving life without parole. As time wrinkles their skin and weakens their bodies, Michael Kennedy of the Trans High Corporation has filed a legal petition with the federal government seeking their clemency. Otherwise they will die behind bars for selling a drug 40% of American adults have admitted to using, 50% of Americans want legal, and two states have already legalized for adult use. Since these men were convicted of these crimes many years ago, public opinion and policy related to marijuana have shifted greatly. Should these five non-violent senior-citizen offenders die behind bars for a crime Americans increasingly believe should not even be a crime?

1. John Knock, 65, has been incarcerated for more than 16 years. The only evidence against him was the testimony of informants; Knock was convicted of conspiracy to import and distribute marijuana. The judge sentenced him to 20 years for money laundering plus not one, but two terms of life-without-parole — a  punishment typically reserved for murderers. Despite the uniquely unjust sentence, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court denied his pleas for reconsideration via appeal or court order.
Waiting for death in jail, Knock suffers from chronic sinus problems linked to an untreated broken nose. Due to circulatory problems, one of his ankles swells to twice its size. Knock also suffers from what the legal petition called “untreated" hearing and vision problems. Easing some of his pain are visits from his family and his participation in prison programs. He has taught home building and physical education inside the prison that has become his home. According to the legal petition, he is assured employment and a home should his sentence be commuted.

2. Before he was incarcerated, Paul Free obtained a BA in marine biology and was starting a school while teaching English in Mexico. Now 62, he has continued his passion for education behind bars, where he has lived for the past 18 years. Free helps inmates prepare for the General Equivalency Diploma tests, and according to the petition, prison officials have applauded Paul’s hard work and his students’ high graduation rate. Paul suffers from degenerative joint disease, failing eyesight, sinus problems, and allergies, and he has had 11 skin cancers removed.

3. Once a union carpenter, Larry Duke, a 65-year-old decorated Marine, has spent the last 23 years of his life behind bars for weed. On top of the difficulties life in prison lays on the psyche, Duke suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from multiple tours in the Vietnam war. Like Knock, Duke received two life sentences without parole for a non-violent marijuana conspiracy, and was unsuccessful at appeal. According to the legal petition, Duke is the longest-serving nonviolent marijuana prisoner in the nation.  
Despite his incarceration in a country that has failed him, Duke works from behind bars to design patentable concepts that would assist the general public. While locked up, he has already managed to obtain a federal patent for a water-delivery system he plans to market to the U.S. Department of Defense. According to the legal petition, Duke enjoys the support of his wife and a growing family including two children, two grandsons, three siblings and many nieces and nephews. “They all want him to come home and be part of their lives and dreams,” the petition said.

4. William Dekle, 63, is also a former U.S. Marine serving two life sentences without parole, 22 of which he has already completed in a Kentucky penitentiary. Despite the depressing possibility that he will die behind bars, Dekle has participated in more than 30 prison courses, including counseling other inmates. Before his conviction, Dekle was a pilot certified in commercial and instrument flying, as well as multiengine aircraft. Now he suffers from a chronic knee injury. He is supported by his wife, two daughters, and grandchildren, who call him “Papa Billy.” Dekle’s relatives would ensure a stable home environment should he be granted clemency, the legal petition said.

5. Charles “Fred” Cundiff is a 66-year-old inmate who has served more than 20 years of his life sentence for marijuana. Before the marijuana arrest that changed his life forever, he worked in construction, retail and at a plant nursery. In prison, he worked for Unicor (Federal Prison Industries) for 12 years before his declining health interfered with his ability to work. Battling skin cancer, eye infections, and severe arthritis in his spine, Cundiff uses a walker. While the legal petition makes no mention of family, it says he is regularly visited by “friends from his youth.”
While these men have all spent many years behind bars for crimes they were convicted of many years ago, the same draconian punishments are handed down to marijuana criminals — young and old — to this day. Conspiracy charges, combined with mandatory minimums for marijuana sale and firearms charges, can quickly add up to decades behind bars. Should anyone in the entire criminal operation have a gun (legal or not), everyone involved can be charged with firearm possession during a drug offense, a five-year mandatory minimum that can reach 20 if the person is charged with continuing criminal enterprise — a long-term, large-scale operation. In the end, these sentences are often not applied, but used to encourage guilty pleas in exchange for a lesser sentence.

Marijuana prisoner Chris Williams is an example of one such case. He was recently facing a mandatory minimum of 85 to 92 years behind bars for providing medical marijuana in Montana, where it is legal. Citing a moral opposition to plea bargains forced by the threat of a lifetime in jail, WIlliams rejected a deal that would have drastically reduced his sentence by cutting away mandatory minimums. Then, this Tuesday, federal prosecutors agreed to drop six of eight of Williams’ charges, provided he waive his constitutional right to appeal. Now Williams faces a mandatory minimum of five years for the firearm-related charge, and another five for distribution.

“With the rest of my life literally hanging in the balance, I simply could not withstand the pressure any longer,” Williams said in a statement. “If Judge Christensen shows mercy and limits my sentence to the five-year mandatory minimum, I could be present at my 16-year-old son’s college graduation. This would most likely be impossible had I rejected the latest compromise.”

Kristen Gwynne covers drugs at AlterNet. She graduated from New York University with a degree in journalism and psychology.

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In 1994, California voters passed the harshest three-strikes law in the country

 

 

In 1994, California voters passed the harshest three-strikes law in the country. Soon after, stories began to emerge about people receiving life sentences for petty crimes such as stealing a pair of gloves or a slice of pizza. Such cases challenged the commonly held belief that the law applied only to violent criminals.

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Our interest in this issue deepened when we read the results of a 2010 report, shared with us by the Three Strikes Project at Stanford Law School. The study showed that more than 4,000 inmates in California are serving life sentences for nonviolent offenses under the three-strikes law. While it is possible that some of the inmates may be eligible for parole after 25 years, a majority face the prospect of decades of prison time. Many of these stiff sentences struck us as egregious.

Although judges have sentencing discretion in a very narrow band of three-strikes cases, the reality is that judges almost universally consider themselves bound under California law to impose a life sentence for a third felony offense, no matter how minor.

When we began working on this Op-Doc, as well as other short-format videos profiling nonviolent “three strikers” and their families, a portrait quickly emerged of Californians struggling with extreme poverty whose lives — in the words of one woman we interviewed — “can just be thrown away.” We also learned that the law is disproportionately applied to minorities, the mentally ill and the poor.

The case of Shane Taylor, the subject of this video, is common in many ways, but also unusual in that his judge and prosecutor have gone on record saying that his sentence is unfair and should be modified. Under current law, revising a sentence after it has been imposed is nearly impossible.

On Nov. 6, voters in California will decide whether to adopt Proposition 36, a ballot initiative that would reform the most draconian aspects of the law — and, in our view, restore the original intent of voters, which was to lock away violent career criminals for life, without unjustly throwing away the lives of small-time, nonviolent offenders like Mr. Taylor. Like most Californians, we believe that the punishment should fit the crime. We’re encouraged that polls show broad public support for the measure.

Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway received the best documentary screenplay award this year from the Writers Guild of America, West, and the Gotham Independent Film Award for best documentary last year, for their film “Better This World.” Funding for the production of this video was raised in part by David W. Mills, a Stanford law professor who supports Proposition 36 and has advocated reform of California’s three-strikes law.

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Five Stages of Impunity for Torture

By: Kevin Gosztola Saturday September 22, 2012

 

One hallmark of the administration of President Barack Obama has been the commitment of the administration to move forward and not look back—to, as a Democratic Party operative only concerned with election results might say, not re-litigate the eight years of the administration of George W. Bush. This means no accountability for those responsible for committing torture. It means no justice for torture victims.

Professor Alfred W. McCoy, author of Torture and Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation, was on “Democracy Now!” on Friday to talk about his book. Host Amy Goodman played a clip of President Obama in his first prime-time press conference giving a slick, calculated but somewhat banal comment on whether the administration would have a truth and reconciliation commission examine the past years of the Bush administration.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: My administration is going to operate in a way that leaves no doubt that we do not torture, that we abide by the Geneva Conventions, and that we observe our traditions of rule of law and due process as we are vigorously going after terrorists that can do us harm. And I don’t think those are contradictory. I think they are potentially complementary. My view is also that nobody is above the law, and if there are clear instances of wrongdoing, that people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen, but that, generally speaking, I’m more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwards.

McCoy reacted to this clip saying what Obama said was an example of “the third stage of impunity.” He then went through the stages of impunity, a “universal process” that he argues “happens in countries emerging from authoritarianism that have had problems with torture.”

Step one, McCoy stated:

…is blame the bad apples. Donald Rumsfeld did that right after the Abu Ghraib scandal was exposed in 2004.

Step two is saying that it was necessary for our national security—unfortunate, perhaps, but necessary to keep us all safe. That was done very articulately by former Vice President Cheney at the time, and he continues to make that argument. He claims that these “enhanced techniques,” as he calls them, i.e. CIA torture, saved thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of lives. OK?

The third step is the step we just witnessed in President Obama, saying that, well, whatever might have happened in the past, we need unity as a nation, we need to move forward together into the future. So, the past isn’t germane. We need to put it behind us, not investigate, not prosecute. And that was the position he was taking there.

In the fourth stage, those implicated in acts of torture seek not only exoneration for their crimes but also vindication. For example, former Bush administration officials argued “enhanced interrogation under the Bush administration led the Navy SEALs to Osama bin Laden,” despite there being no evidence for the claim. They created pressure on Attorney General Eric Holder to not investigate torture and drop investigations into torture, which appears to have worked.

“The fifth and final stage,” according to McCoy, is “rewriting the history, rewriting the past, ripping it apart, without respect to the truth of the matter, and reconstructing it in a way that justifies the torture.” Vice President Dick Cheney’s appearances on news television have frequently been utilized for this purpose—to make it seem as if torture was effective in getting suspected terrorists to talk so that plots could be disrupted.

Like the Party slogan in George Orwell’s 1984, “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past,” The Party controls the records, which allows it to control all memories. That allows the Party to control the past.

This is but another vile aspect of President Barack Obama, his administration, the Democratic Party leadership’s fealty to the mantra of moving forward and not looking back now enshrined in the messaging of the Obama 2012 campaign with the simple word, “Forward.” It is but another despicable aspect of members of Congress, especially Democrats, and supporters of Obama and Democrats’ refusal to raise their voice to take issue with the administration’s inaction and active refusal to prosecute individuals for torture.

Without accountability or justice, those who were at the center of acts of torture may work to clear their name, as if they never committed any wrong. They are able to suggest that if what they had done was criminal, they would have been put on trial. They would have been charged with committing a crime, but there are no prosecutions so all the civil liberties and human rights advocates and the antiwar or peace activists may just be part of focus groups, which happen to be deluded.

No justice gives former officials license to argue there was no torture. No convictions gives former officials the conviction and brass to sit before a television camera, write a memoir or pen an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal and assert what they did was for Americans’ protection and it is wrong for them to be scrutinized or questioned.

This does a great disservice to the victims of torture, especially those still indefinitely imprisoned in Guantanamo; but it is the inevitable byproduct of the Obama administration’s complicity in allowing officials responsible for torture to walk free. To the extent that the Obama administration continues to subject prisoners to torture and outsource torture to allies in the “war on terrorism,” it is worse than complicity. It is a coverup—an act to conceal and ensure the national security state can continue to be purveyors of violence and torture against those the US contends it has a right to indefinitely hold in detention without charge or trial, without judicial or due process.

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For ex-offenders, finding a job remains the biggest challenge to returning to society

By STEVE YODER, The Fiscal Times

March 27, 2012

For ex-offenders, finding a job remains the biggest challenge to returning to society. A 2003 study by Princeton University researcher Devah Pager in Milwaukee found that a criminal record cut someone’s chance of getting a call back from a prospective employer by nearly half.

RELATED: Meet America’s New Small-Business Owners: Ex-Cons

To avoid the prison record stigma, many offenders have chosen to branch out on their own. Here are seven who have launched successful businesses after spending time behind bars.

1. Adrienne Smalls served time from 1989 to 1991 in New York’s Westchester County Jail for hitting a policeman. From 1993 to 1998, she regularly took the bus from New York City to visit her son, who was jailed on a drug offense upstate. That provided the idea for her business – getting on the buses that took family members to visit their imprisoned loved ones to sell them what they needed: everything from Tylenol and pillows to toothpaste and soap. To start out, Smalls got $500 from her family and then, in 1998, she obtained a loan from a local development corporation that funded small businesses (she paid back the loan promptly, according to The New York Times). Today her business, Prisonhelp, is going strong, and when not outfitting upstate visitors for trips, she advises ex-cons on employment, legal and other reintegration issues. 

2. Vickie Stringer served a seven-year sentence in Texas for drug trafficking. While there, she wrote a fictionalized autobiography, Let That Be the Reason. After her manuscript was rejected by 26 publishers, she pulled together $2,500 from friends and family to self-publish the book, selling a thousand copies out of the trunk of her car in the first week. When a small publisher gave her a $50,000 advance to release the book, she launched Triple Crown Publications in 2002 to help other urban fiction writers get published. The company carries at least 96 titles and has revenues of between $2.5 and $5 million, according to manta.com.

3. Augustus Turner of Cleveland, Ohio, spent almost 10 years behind bars after being busted on drug trafficking charges. While in prison, he had a lot of time to think about his dream of creating art. After getting out, he started Masterpieces, an art studio, tattoo shop and silk-screening business on Cleveland’s west side – and it’s been going strong for more than 11 years. “What I learned from the streets is how to hustle,” Turner told The Plain-Dealer in 2010. “You can dream. You can pray. It all starts there. But you have to actively make it happen.”

4. Curtis Jackson, born in Queens New York, and orphaned at age 12, started dealing crack and spent seven months in a juvenile boot camp on gun and weapons charges. After renaming himself “50 Cent,” he began writing and performing rap songs, landing a deal with Columbia Records in 1999. Since then, he’s released five albums, appeared in multiple films, launched a line of clothing and landed a multimillion-dollar deal with Coca-Cola for his vitamin water, Formula 50.

5. Anthony DiVincenzo of Hinckley, Ohio, lost his home and his autobody business in 2005 when he was arrested after an all-night cocaine party. He served three years, but when he got out he couldn’t find a job – and not because he wasn’t qualified. “I have a lot of experience, so I was offered $50,000 a couple times from auto dealerships, but as soon as they found out I had a felony, they couldn’t walk me out the door fast enough,” he told The Plain-Dealer. So in 2008, he started another autobody shop called J.C. Auto Body LLC, before moving into a sales job at a high-end car dealership last year.

6. Dave Dahl, a former drug dealer, spent more than 15 years in prison. After his release in 2005, he experienced a turnaround, left drugs behind, and went to work in his father’s bakery. While there, he developed his own line of breads. Today, Dave’s Killer Bread, based outside Portland, Oregon, sells in health-food and grocery stores across the northwest and has revived the family business.

7. Cedric Hornbuckle served eight years in Texas for drug dealing when he was accepted into the Houston-based Prison Entrepreneurship Program. After going through PEP’s rigorous training program, in 2008 he founded a moving company, Moved by Love. “I always had the [entrepreneurial] mindset; it was just that I used it in bad ways,” he told Portfolio last year. “I knew all about profit margins and managing people; it’s just [that] what I did was illegal.”

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