MARIJUANA ARRESTS

By Julian Heicklen

Presented to the Fourth of July Hemp Coalition

July 4, 2000

I am the Libertarian Party Candidate for Attorney General of Pennsylvania. If I am elected, I will stop prosecution of consensual acts involving mentally-competent adults. Why are we arresting people for what they eat, drink, or smoke, for what medicine they use, for whom and how they make love, for gambling, or for fortune telling? That's right folks. In Pennsylvania, it is a crime to tell fortunes. Besides the immorality, injustice, and unconstitutionality of these arrests, they can only be prosecuted by abhorrent means. Often a criminal is offered a reduced sentence, if he will testify against someone else. In my religious tradition, that is called bribery and, in many cases, bearing false witness. The courts accept such testimony to send someone to prison. However if an inmate complains about being tortured or beaten in prison, for which he surely will be punished by the prison guards, he often is considered to be lying.

Here is what happens to some people:

A. Louis E. Covar

Louis E. Covar has been in a wheelchair for 35 years, unable to do more than raise his shoulders. In 2000, he began a seven-year prison sentence. His crime: smoking marijuana. Cost to taxpayers to keep him behind bars: $258.33 a day and $660,000 during seven years.

B. Deborah Lynn Quinn

Born with no arms and only a partial left leg, Deborah Lynn Quinn, 39, was placed in a "secure" medical unit by the Arizona Corrections Department in 2000, because she could not be sent to a regular prison. Quinn was charged with selling $20 worth of marijuana to a police informant and with possessing a small amount of the drug in her home after she had been placed on probation.

C. Angela Jenkins

Angela Jenkins gave birth to her second son on September 22, 1999. One week later both of her children were taken from her by the Children's Protective Service (CPS) without a court order. Jenkins and her newborn son had both tested positive for marijuana.

There are no allegations of abuse or drug use by the father, but CPS has filed a petition to terminate both parents parental rights. Neither parent has a criminal record. The children have been placed in a home with foster parents.

D. Noel Lujan

Noel Lujan, who was given a sedative during labor lost custody of her newborn son and other children for three months when the baby failed a drug test. Orange County child welfare officials say they only learned in January that the barbiturate found in Noel Lujan's son was prescribed by a doctor at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital. In the meantime Lujan, 25, could not feed her child without supervision, and contends she lost her job because of absences to attend a required drug treatment program.

Lujan, who is unmarried, arrived at the hospital emergency room on Oct. 18, 1999.Dr. Charles Moniak said he authorized her to receive Seconal, often used to calm women in labor. Lujan gave birth the next day. Later, a social worker came to her room and told her Daniel had tested positive for drugs and she could not take him home.

Eventually, Lujan was forbidden to breast-feed Daniel or to be alone with the boy or her other children, ages 2, 5 and 6. Her parents were given temporary custody. Lujan was allowed to stay with the children at her parents' home, but only if her mother or father were on hand for Daniel's feedings.

Lujan also had to take anti-drug classes and pass hair follicle and urine tests, even though she continued to insist that she had not used drugs. The doctor who prescribed the Seconal said he was not contacted "before they took those babies away."

E. Cheryl Sanders

Five days before Christmas 1995, Cheryl Sanders of Long Beach, Calif., was driving on Interstate 10 in Sulphur, LA, when she was stopped by three police officers. They told her she had been speeding. But instead of giving Sanders a ticket, they handcuffed her and took her to a local jail, where she was made to disrobe and submit to a search. No drugs were found on her or in her car, nor did she have a criminal record. "You're free to go now," a policeman told Sanders. "But we're keeping your car.

Under Louisiana's civil asset-forfeiture law in 1995, police could seize vehicles on little more than suspicion that the owner was a drug dealer. Sulphur police said that the trunk of Sanders's Lincoln Town Car contained a 2 1/2-inch-deep compartment under a false bottom capable of concealing narcotics

Ms. Sanders, who had purchased the car used only six months earlier, didn't know what they were talking about. She hired an attorney, and after seven months a judge ruled that the city had to return her property since the police seizure lacked probable cause. By then she had to sell the car to pay her legal bills. "They stole my car," Sanders complains."It was highway robbery."

Closing Remarks

We are engaged in a struggle for the soul of America. It is immoral to arrest anyone for owning a vegetable. It is a sin against God to take babies away from their mothers. The most fundamental of all human rights is the right to be left alone. The issue here is not marijuana. Marijuana is the messenger, not the message. The issue is whether we are going to live in freedom or under tyranny.