MARIJUANA SMOKE OUTS

January 15, 1998

by Julian Heicklen

Professor Emeritus of Chemistry

Penn State University

 

We are engaged in a struggle for the soul of America. I believe that it is immoral to arrest someone for owning a vegetable. The issue is not smoking marijuana. I do not use or support the use of marijuana. The issue is whether we are going to live in freedom or in tyranny. Competent adults should be allowed to make their own decisions. Today the lighted marijuana weed is the torch of liberty.

A series of "Marijuana Smoke Outs" was held to protest the injustice of arresting people for pursuing happiness by using recreational drugs. These smoke outs were supported by the Centre County Libertarian Party and Smart on Crime, a citizen's lobby to reduce the prison population. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is providing free legal counsel.

Smoke Out of January 15, 1998

After informing a group of about 50 people of what I intended to do and why, I (Julian Heicklen) smoked a marijuana cigarette at the corner of College Avenue and Allen Street in University Park, PA in front of the main gate of Penn State University at noon. TV and press coverage was good. WJAC/TV was there, as was The Daily Collegian and the Centre Daily Times, among others. An anonymous call at 12:17 PM informed the campus police of my activity. At about 12:50 PM, campus police arrived and tried to question me. I gave my name and address, but refused to give any other information. The police informed me that I had committed a misdemeanor, but that no citation or arrest would be made. That ended the day's activities.

The police later informed the press that no arrest was made, because there was no smell of marijuana smoke, so there was no reason to believe that a crime was committed. Furthermore, it would not be in the public interest to arrest me. Some students wrote to University President Graham Spanier asking the University to take disciplinary action against me. The University Public Information Officer reported that no disciplinary action would be taken, because I was retired and not arrested.

Smoke Out of January 29, 1998

The Smoke Out was repeated on January 29, 1998, at the same location and time. About 100 people were present. Press coverage was much greater. While I was smoking, a man approached me at about 12:20 PM, flashed his wallet, and said that he wanted to talk with me. I turned away, whereupon he grabbed my hand and stole my smoke. He said in a threatening voice that I would hear from him, and he left. This whole event was videotaped. Someone gave me another marijuana cigarette to smoke, which I did

The following day, I read in the Centre Daily Times that the mugger was Penn State Police Supervisor Ron Shrevler. He did not identify himself at the time of the mugging. No search warrant was produced. No citation or arrest was made. It was a plain and simple mugging. I wrote to Centre County District Attorney, Ray Gricar, and asked that he prosecute Mr. Shrevler for assault and theft. Likewise I wrote to University President Spanier to point out that it was not in the University's best interest for campus police to mug faculty members. I asked that Mr. Shrevler's employment with the University be terminated.

About two days later, the campus police informed the press that a laboratory test showed that my confiscated cigarette did not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and that I was not really smoking a marijuana cigarette. No crime was committed and no further action would be taken.

Smoke Out of February 5, 1998

On February 5, 1998, another smoke out occurred at the same place. When I arrived at noon, there was a crowd of about 200 people, including a number from the press. In the front line of the crowd was a uniformed campus police officer. I addressed the crowd and announced that today others would join me in the smoke out. I produced my marijuana cigarette. The campus police officer moved right next to me. He waited patiently until I had the cigarette lit and had taken a couple of puffs. Then he asked me for the cigarette. I did not respond. He informed me that if I did not give him the cigarette, it could not be tested, and my political cause would not be promoted. I did not respond. He announced that was all for today and left.

About 7 people joined me in the smoke out. I traded joints with 4 or 5 of those people and took several puffs from each of their joints, as they did of mine. The smoke out ended at about 12:40 PM.

The story was reported by almost all of the local media and carried by the Associated Press Wire Service. It was a front-page story in the February 6 edition of the Harrisburg Patriot. It appeared in the February 6 edition of the Baltimore Sun and the February 8 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It was a lead story in the February 5 edition of the Internet Marijuana News.

Smoke Out of February 5, 1998

The Smoke out of February 5, 1998, was held on the other side of College Avenue in front of the restaurant known as the Corner Room. About 280 people were present, and we had a microphone and loud speaker to address the crowd. Several people, including marijuana activist Alan Gordon, joined me in smoking marijuana. Again I exchanged joints with about 3 other smokers.

At about 12:15 PM, Police Officer Noel of the State College Police approached me and took my joint, which already was a traded one. Officer Noel was in uniform with a badge and name tag. However, he did not introduce himself, present a search warrant, or cite or arrest any smokers. Other officers confiscated joints of other smokers and took their names and addresses.

After that was done, the police officers directed traffic, stayed in the crowd, and answered questions. When the crowd overflowed into the street, Officer Robb asked us to move back to the campus side of College Avenue, where there was more room, so as not to impede traffic. We complied with his request.

News media attention was more extensive than previously. In addition to local media, I was contacted by the Associated Press, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Internet Marijuana News, and radio stations WFBG in Altoona, WKRL in Syracuse, WEGR in Memphis, WPHT in Philadelphia, KRRF in Denver, WRMA in Scranton-Wilkes Barre, and WRCX in Chicago.

Click here for Videotape Information of the Smoke Outs