MY LEGAL ODYSSEY

By Julian Heicklen

Presented at the Hemp Splash, Echo Lake Resort, Afton, NY

July 29, 2000

It is immoral to arrest someone for owning a vegetable. It also is unconstitutional. The Ninth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution says: "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be considered to deny or disparage others retained by the people." The most fundamental of all human rights is the right to control one's own body. As U. S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis put it: "The right to be left alone." It required a Constitutional amendment to prohibit alcohol. Why doesn't the same apply for marijuana? 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.

In 1972, President Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs. We have been fighting that war for 28 years. What are the results? In 1998, 1.4 million people were arrested for non-violent narcotic violations. One-half of these were for marijuana violations, of which 87% were for possession only.

Our incarcerated population has reached two million (0.73% of our population). This compares with the incarcerated population of two hundred thousand in 1967—1972. The U. S. has 4.6% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prisoners. One out of every three people entering state or federal prison is doing so for a non-violent narcotics violation. About 24% of the inmates in state prisons are there for non-violent narcotic violations. In federal prisons, the number is 60%. Keeping these prisoners costs a lot of money, my money. I object to supporting dopeheads in prison, when they should be out working to support me. Here is what I have done:

1. In January 1998, I started the Marijuana Smoke Outs in downtown State College. We have held demonstrations every single Thursday (with two exceptions) since then. I was arrested six times for publicly smoking pot. The last arrest was in July 1998. Since then, I regularly smoke pot every week and announce what I am doing on a bullhorn. The police no longer bother even to appear at these demonstrations. Eventually, defendants in marijuana trials will be acquitted because of selective enforcement.

2. My marijuana arrests were based on positive tests for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). According to Pennsylvania state law, THC is not a component of illicit marijuana. THC is a legal pharmaceutical drug, sold under the trade names of Marinol and Dronabinol at local drug stores. I have filed suits against the police for false arrest.

3. In four of my cases, I was found guilty based on THC evidence. We asked the judge to read the law to the jury, but he refused. Based on this refusal, I have appealed these convictions. I lost in Superior Court, but now the case is in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

4. In two of my marijuana arrests, I was held in prison in lieu of $10,000 and $50,000 straight bail, respectively. The usual bail is $500. I have filed law suits against the district magistrates for excessive bail.

5. Diane Fornbacher and I were arrested in February 1999, for using a bullhorn at a Marijuana Smoke Out. We filed a writ of habeas corpus. Judge Thomas Kistler declared the municipal bullhorn ordinance to be in violation of the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution and dismissed the case against us. We sued the Borough of State College for damages. It has settled out-of-court for $8,000.

6. Penn State University declared the Willard Building steps forbidden for public speech. The purpose was to drive away Gary Cattell, "The Willard Preacher," who had preached there for 17 years without incident. The University also prohibited demonstrations involving more than 9 people anywhere on campus without prior approval.

I placed an advertisement in the campus newspaper stating that I would debate Gary Cattell on the Willard Building steps and hold a parade in defiance of University regulations. On September 9, 1999, I did both of these things. About 150 people attended the debate, including campus police. The police did not interfere with the debate. Before and after the debate, about 15 of us marched around campus with placards protesting the drug war. Two campus police accompanied us, but did not interfere with the parade. Since then, I have held several more debates with Gary on the Willard Building steps without incident. Gary continues his daily preaching there.

7. I was arrested twice for campaigning in front of a Wal-Mart store. I filed a writ of habeas corpus. Judge Thomas Kistler declared that I had the right to campaign there, and dismissed the cases.

8. The Centre County Board of Elections refused to permit vote-count watchers at the unofficial vote count on election night. I filed two law suits against the Board of Elections and won both. In the first lawsuit, Judge Kistler ordered that political parties and candidates be allowed to watch the vote count. In the second lawsuit, Judge Kistler outlined the conditions for the vote-count watch.

9. One of our poll watchers was denied permission to watch the vote in the November 2, 1999, election. I filed suit against the Board of Elections for $5000, but the suit was dismissed, because there was no provision in state law for restitution.

10. In the election of November 2, 1999, one of our candidates received more than 5% of the total votes cast in Centre County. According to state law, this entitles us to run a primary in the April 4, 2000, election. The Pennsylvania Board of Elections refused to allow a primary for us. I have sued the PA Board of Elections to force it to run a primary for the Libertarian Party. I lost this case in Commonwealth Court. I appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and lost again. I filed a complaint in the U. S. District Court for violations of my 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law. Again I lost. There will be no free and equal election in Pennsylvania in 2000.

11. The PA Department of Corrections would not send me a report on the number of inmates with hepatitis C virus and how they were being treated. I have filed suit in Commonwealth court to get the pertinent documents under the PA "Right-to-Know Law."

I have been involved in 34 law suits in the last two years; fifteen as a criminal defendant and nineteen as the plaintiff in civil actions. I have been arrested 15 times and incarcerated five times in the last 2-1/2 years. Based on frequency of arrest, I am the number one criminal in the United States. Do you know why I am so dangerous? Because I own a vegetable! Well, let me tell you something. I am the most dangerous man in the United States. I am the Libertarian Party candidate for Attorney General of Pennsylvania. If I am elected, I mean to restore the Bill of Rights, stop prosecutions of consensual acts involving mentally competent adults, reform our prisons, and reduce the prison population.

Here are some of the positive results from the Marijuana Smoke Outs:

  1. Peter Marshall, the Borough Manager of State College, had Diane Fornbacher and me arrested for using a bullhorn. He since has told me that he now favors medical marijuana, after reading our ads in the 1999 campaign. His lawyer in our recent lawsuit told my lawyer that Marshall likes us and thinks that we are an asset to the community.
  2. District Magistrate Bradley Lunsford is one of the chief drug warriors in Centre County. He has found me in contempt of court twice, and I am suing him for over $1.5 million. Two weeks ago, he and I were talking. He now sees decriminalization of marijuana as a viable option. He is a Republican. He told me that the Libertarian Party is what the Republican Party should be.
  3. Joe Filko is an editorial writer for the Centre Daily Times. He is another of the chief drug warriors in town. He has written in the newspaper that I should be put in a net and carted away. A few weeks ago, when I was collecting signatures, he met me on the street, introduced himself to me, and said that drugs should be legalized, but not now.
  4. Dr. David Werner is one of the leading ophthamologists in Centre County. He is a former Chief-of-Staff of the Centre Community Hospital. He was elected to that position three times. He now comes to our Marijuana Smoke Outs every Thursday and holds a sign.
  5. Gary Cattell is the Willard Preacher, who preaches the Christian gospel on campus every day. He believes that drugs should remain illegal. We became friendly when the University tried to drive him from the Willard Building, and I intervened on his behalf. His brother intends to vote Libertarian in November. His father is considering joining the Libertarian Party.
  6. When we first started our Marijuana Smoke Outs, counter protests were led by Martin Austermueller, a student on campus. Now he is the campus representative for the Drug Reform Coordination Network.

Folks, this is the way real progress is made. The six people above do not agree with everything that we say or even most of what we say. But we are slowly winning them over on some positions. We must welcome them when they join us on some issues and respect them when they disagree with us. You know, it is possible that we are wrong on some issues or aspects of them, heretical as that may seem.

Much remains to be done. It is wrong for the government to lie to us about drugs. It is wrong for teachers to lie to our children about the dangers of drugs. It is disgusting that the government pushes drugs on children by criminalizing drugs and promoting a black market. It is against God's commandment for children to inform on their parents. It is unconscionable to torture the sick by denying them medicine. It is immoral to arrest anyone for owning a vegetable. It is a sin against God to take babies away from their mothers.

We are engaged in a struggle for the soul of America. I hope that you will help elect Libertarian candidates, such as John Clifton, the candidate for U. S. Senate in New York, Mark Edgerton, the candidate for Governor of New Jersey, and myself, the candidate for Attorney General of Pennsylvania, so that we can end these abuses. Thank you.