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Dragon Teeth

Dragon Teeth image
Parent Issue
Day
12
Month
November
Year
1971
OCR Text

I want to take this week's column to try to clear up some of the confusión that seems to exist in the community about the struggle to legalize marijuana and the part my appeal plays in that struggle. We have said over the years that my appeal is designed not only to get me of the penitentiary-because when we started out with this case almost five years ago we never thought that Vd be locked up while the legal battle was going on - but that it is primarily aimed at getting the present marijuana laws declared unconstitutional on the grounds that marijuana was classified as a narcotic by the state legislature with no medical basis for doing so (violation of due process of law ) , that marijuana is thrown in with heroin and other narcotics to which it bears no rational resemblance ( violation of equal protection ) , and that the penalties provide for both possession and sale of marijuana ( 10 years for possession, 20-years-to-life for sale or giving it away ) constitute "cruel and unusual punishment" ( violation of the VIII th Amendment ). Those are what we consider to be the major issues in my appeal; there are also a number of strictly legal issues involved which we say provide grounds for a reversal af my conviction, the major issue of this nature being the fact that the trial judge ruled that the evidence ( the infamous two joints or U. 50 grains of the sacrament) was obtained by pólice agents through illegal entrapment. In other words, the pólice agents conspired to entrap me into committing a crime ( dispensing marijuana ) which I would not otherwise have committed, and the judge himself ruled that their illegal entrapment was grounds for dismissal of the original charge, which was "dispensing marijuana" and which car ried a 20-year minimum sentence. But the judge, Robert J. Colombo, turned around and said that even though the evidence had been obtained illegally, he could still use it to convict me of the secondary charge of "possession of marijuana. " The law is absolutely clear on this issue - illegally obtained evidence is not to be used at but Colombo flagrantly violated the law himself in keeping this obtained evidence and using it to gain a conviction for possession so they could get me off the st reets. Now it may be that the Supreme Court will try to get out of dealing with the constitutional issues by reversing my conviction solely on the basis of this issue - or they may decide not to reverse my conviction at all, which is what the Court of Appeals did last February - and I'd settle for that right now because it means that I could come back home and get back to work, but the point is that we have presented them with the opportunity and the demand that they f ollow the constitution and do the only rational thing they could do, which is to declare the present marijuana laws completely unconstitutional, nuil and void. That's what we set out to do in 1967, that's the argument we made last Tuesday before the Supreme Court, and that's what we hope they will do, but on the other hand there's no way we can guar antee that the court will deal with the consitutional issues at this time. We've done as much as we can do in the courts-we've presented the issues for them to deal with, and if they refuse to deal with them then we have to try a whole different approach. The other thing I want to make clear is the f act that even if we win my appeal on the co nstitutional grounds, that is, even if the Supreme Court declares that the present marijuana laws are unconstitutional, that still won 't result in what we all need, that is, the complete legalization of marijuana. It would result in the repeal of the present laws, but it wouldn't mean that marijuana is really completely legal the way we all know it has to be. It would be a big step toward the complete legalization of weed, but we'd still have to carry on a sustained drive to remove marijuana from the legal process altogether, which of course is what we're trying to bring about. What we mean by the complete legalization of marijuana is the removal of all government restrictions on the use, possession, and transfer of the sacrament - we mean that anybody who wants to smoke weed should be able to do just that, whenever they want to, wherever they want to, and however they want to. We believe that marijuana has no harmful properties whatsoever, that it is a benevolent natural herb which should be available for anybody who wants to use it, and that the possession, use, atidor distribution of marijuana is a question for people to decide for themselves, with no interference from the machinery of the state. It seems to me that we won't be able to have that kind of situation, however, until the whole established order is replaced with a revolutionary social order in which all power rests in the hands of the people; in othe r words, as long as the present social system exists there wül be some kind of control exercised over the possession, use, and distribution of marijuana by the people, and we have to understand that we have to change the whole structure of society if we want to be really free the way we dream of being when we're smoking that weed, right? The people who run this country don't want us smoking weed just because it makes us want to be free like that, and they'll resist even the simple legalization of marijuana as long as they can because the y can always hold their laws over our heads to try to keep us in line, and they'll keep telling us lies about it because they want to keep us from getting high and dreaming about being free, but it's apparent by now that they have to change their marijuana laws to some extent simply because the people won't stand for what's going down any longer. What we will have to settle for as long as the present system exists is the removal of marijuana from the penal codes, the licensing of mari - juana distributors by the state, and the ready availabüity of marijuana through licensed dealers on the same scale that tobáceo and alcohol are presently available. I would say that that's our most realistic goal at this time, and that it's a goal which can be realized through a protracted struggle over the next few years to legalize marijuana. I would say that this struggle will progress through a number of stages, the first of which is to get the present laws repealed, marijuana removed from the felonynarcoticsstatutes, marijuana distribution or sale made a two-year or a five-year maximum sentence. I would say that if we can bring this about we will have won a major victory in the overall struggle to legalize marijuana - removing marijuana possession from the narcotics statutes and reducing the penalties for possession to a misdemeanor will keep the state from locking us up the way they're doing now, it'll give us a little more room to breathe, and it'll take away one more weapon f rom the state's arsenal of repression. It won't solve the problem, but it'll certainly be a big step in the right direction. There is a bilí before the legislature in the st ate oí Michigan right now which would remove marijuana from the narcotics statutes and make possession a 90-day misdemeanor. This bill was passed last spring by the state House of Representatives, but the Senate is trying to raise possession back up to a f elony with a two-year max before they pass the bill. Again, this certainly isn't enough, but it's a step in the right direction, and we certainly couldn't help but benefit from the passage of such a law. It would mean that a couple hundred of our brothers and sisters, including myself , would be released from the penitentiaries awaiting trial on marijuana charges. At the same time my appeal, if the Supreme Court rules favorably on the constitutional issues we have brought up, would accomplish essentially the same thing - it wouldi legalize marijuana and greatly reduce the penalties for possession of the j