Cannabis and Law Enforcement

Written by Mark Pedersen

Written by Mark Pedersen

October 26, 2021

I’ve asked it before. What do you feel when you see the lights of a police cruiser in your rearview mirror? Does your pulse quicken? Does your chest tighten? Do you suddenly hit the brakes? Well, it would be one thing if you were speeding or doing something questionable, but, how about those times when you weren’t doing anything but enjoying your day, well under speed limit. …but still, the reaction is the same.
You may feel a bit silly afterward, perhaps even embarrassed, but it bears the question, why would ANY law-abiding citizen fear the police? For Cannabis patients, there’s good reason…

The Price Paid
Over the last eighty years, many have suffered dearly because of Cannabis prohibition. You might note that the suffering has not been confined only to the Cannabis user. Lives have been lost, families destroyed, innocent people – locked away in prison – some, for a lifetime. Why? Well, the powers-that-be have contended that public safety has always been the intent; that keeping harmful, dangerous drugs off the streets was paramount in keeping our children safe from the scourge of drugs. They called it, the…

“War on Drugs”.

It’s been ingrained in us since our earliest recollection. There are “good guys” in war and there are “bad guys”. Since we have ALWAYS been the “good guys”, anyone that our government declares war on must be the “bad guys”. Right? But as we’ve matured, we’ve learned that personal motivation more often than not takes precedence over one’s morality. Political power and personal wealth seem to be the primary motivators in this country. So, particularly… when it comes to Cannabis, the roles have always been a bit skewed.

Our Government hasn’t fared well with wars of late. In virtually every one, we as a country have paid a terrible price – monetarily, in lives lost or ruined, and in our image as a nation. When it comes to our “war on drugs”, this could not be any more true. In fact, the very ones our law enforcement was supposed to be protecting are the very ones who have suffered the most. …they and their families. The police seemingly didn’t care. They were just doing their job…and they would tell you so if you questioned their actions. Humanity was never part of the equation.
So, homes were divided at gun point…children traumatized and put in foster care. The war on drugs has actually been a war on our children.

I recall video from a “pot raid” that took place near Columbia, Missouri about twelve years ago. In the video, you can see cops in riot gear slamming their way through a home while children were screaming and dogs barking. The husband was pressed to the wall as he screamed, “Please don’t shoot my dogs. They won’t hurt you.”
The next thing you hear is the sound of gunfire as one of the officers shoots both dogs at point blank range. As I recall, the cops found little if any contraband. It was just one in a number of raids scheduled for that day.

Cannabis law has exemplified how the harm that a law creates can be far worse than the crime it addresses. And yet, these laws persist…and so tragically.

I organized a major Cannabis event that was held in Downtown St. Louis about eleven or twelve years ago. There were many bands and speakers and many hundreds of people. They spilled out into the streets, blocking traffic. All that the cops said to us was, “If they are going to smoke pot, see to it that they do it inside.”
Late in the afternoon, I walked to my car which was in a fenced parking lot a half a block away from my event. As I passed a dilapidated fence, a middle aged black man came up to me, offering to sell me a nickel bag of weed. I told him not to do that at this event and went on.
On my return, I witnessed a white officer beating the hell out of the pot pusher, slamming him up against the chain link. As I passed close by in shock, the officer looked up at me and smiled. Then he went on with his beating.
What made that black man worthy of a beating wasn’t the Cannabis that he was peddling. It fell within the scope of the police officer’s discretion. I was white and in charge and he was black, and prey. That’s the way things were done.

Tax Act of 1937
Drafted by DuPont Attorneys and enacted by Congress in August of 1937, this act made Cannabis illegal to possess or to sell without a “stamp”. The penalty for not possessing a stamp was quite severe. It created a deliberate, “Catch-22”, where any participation would make one guilty of a crime. Of course, the hope in making Cannabis so very illegal was to discourage everyone from growing, selling or consuming it.
In truth, it had nothing to do with protecting citizen’s health and everything to do with replacing an old industry (hemp) with a brand new one (nylon, per DuPont).
Truth has shown us, not all things are as they appear in history books. But that’s business in America, isn’t it? The people always end up the collateral damage in the pursuit of profit. The masses lack importance when considering the overall picture. Those who didn’t adhere to the absurdities…and those who just got in the way, were dealt with severely…and swept from view.

Controlled Substance Act
In 1970, Cannabis was placed on the Controlled Substance List, yet again giving the powers-that-be the authority to steal and demoralize citizenry. Albeit this time was for a far more political reason, tied so closely to the Vietnam conflict. And, of course, Cannabis was such a handy tool, after all, for crafty politicians and law enforcement.

If Cannabis had not been put on the Nation’s “CSL”, the world would have been a much different place. All those who, through the decades, were abused through traffic stops, raids and the courts; those who lost their freedom, their jobs, marriages and children, because of draconian laws regarding Cannabis; all those who were forced to watch as their cars and homes were ransacked – and in many cases, taken from them…and so much more. They would have never faced those horrors. Their world and that of those around them, their friends and family… would have had a chance at life…at happiness.

When it comes to Cannabis, law enforcement has had the means to void our civil rights and, in fact… even profit from what belongs to us. They rake in over 12 billion dollars a year through civil forfeiture (still), without even having to charge anyone with a crime. Those who have been unfortunate enough to pass through the system know the persecution goes far beyond the bust.

“Popular” Cannabis law reform groups like to brag when one of their attorneys would “plea bargain” a client’s case. But as that client would tell you, by the time their case makes it to court, they have already suffered GREATLY. What’s even worse, when one pleads guilty to a felony, that plea usually insures that the stigma of guilt will be with them the rest of their life. Every time they board a plane, or a train or bus, Every time they see a cop, their subconscious tells them “that cop thinks you’re guilty…of something”.
They’re not a citizen anymore. They’re less. Doesn’t matter if they committed a real crime or something silly, like use Cannabis.

But how about now?

Of course, I could talk about the injustices that I have seen over the last fifty years. How, when I was 18, I witnessed an off-duty police officer pull a young kid by his hair out of an open driver’s door window and to the pavement, while the car was still running. Back in those days, in small town Mid America, cops gloried in big muscles, steroids and short tempers.
But how about now? Have things improved? Well, that depends on where one lives, even in any particular state. Situations regarding Cannabis are a reflection of police misbehavior in general. The fact is, draconian laws regarding Cannabis are on the books of virtually every state in the Union – still!. Though some have been rendered somewhat mute, they still remain, where, someday they might once again be weaponized to benefit corrupt law enforcement or the courts. Most laws regarding Cannabis are subjective. In other words, they are left to the interpretation of the officer(s) present. Something I have heard said all across this country, by police officers and Sheriff’s deputies,

“Just arrest ’em… and let the courts sort it out.”

If you’re a clean-cut, affluent Caucasian, driving a reasonably nice automobile, perhaps this doesn’t pertain to you, but for the rest of us, the poor and the minorities, the actions of law enforcement seem firmly imbedded for all time. And without a doubt, universal. That’s the very meaning of the word “systemic”. Their malicious actions have continued for generations. So much so, television and the movies have stereotyped their behavior.
The actions of “bad cops” has been ingrained in virtually every police and Sheriff’s department across this country. Its a certain uniformed bravado of superiority. You didn’t cross the law.

Cannabis is not legal in any part of America. If you were to be stopped by a cop in just about any part of this country, and had been using Cannabis or suspected of doing so, the outcome would more than likely be the same. What do I mean? 

Let’s say “John Doe” has consumed Cannabis. A couple days later, he drives to a local restaurant, as he has done many times before. But this time, he’s pulled over by a local cop.
Now John has not broken any laws. As is the case with most “seasoned” Cannabis consumers, he is usually quite careful to obey the traffic laws when he goes out. The “bull’s eye” on his back may not be visible, but John ALWAYS knows that it’s there.  He’s young…and he has dark skin. 
Of course, John didn’t need to break a law. The cop who pulled him over had used a VERY popular patrol technic, (his favorite, actually), called “PROFILING”. John LOOKS like someone who uses Cannabis. The cop knows that if someone “LOOKS” like someone who uses Cannabis, the odds are that this “someone” probably does.

The officer more than likely has already decided if he’s going to search the car based on his quick evaluation of the driver and/or passenger(s). If the driver refuses to allow him to search the car, he can and, more often than not, will call more officers to come and surround John’s vehicle to intimidate him… with flashing lights and officers pacing about his car…. because refusing a search would be considered “questionable behavior”.
Any quick movements on the part of John could and would be interpreted as hostile and could be acted upon by lethal force, so hands need to stay on the steering wheel or moved slowly to wherever the officer directs.

Remember now, this has nothing to do with breaking the law. John and any passengers that might be unfortunate enough to be with him, are not guilty of anything but being in the wrong place at the wrong time. For all purposes,

They are prey.

The officer may or may not know that Cannabinoids can still be present in John’s bloodstream and urine – days… even weeks after consumption – even if John is only an occasional consumer.  The officer may ask when the last time was that he consumed “pot”. If John says any time in the last week or so, or if he says that he is a “legal” Cannabis patient, the officer knows that John more than likely will fail a drug test.
At that point, you can be assured, the officer will conduct a drug test.

This is when someone will feel the need to remind me that, “We have a medical Cannabis program in our state.” 

And that’s when I would say, “Have you read Cannabis law for your state?” The fact is, they wouldn’t have asked that question if they HAD read the law.  Most don’t. I have. I have read Cannabis policy for just about every state in the Union a number of times over… but, of course, its changing continually, so I’m not always up to date. Actually, I relish in being wrong about things like this. Unfortunately, that occurs quite rarely.

Here in Missouri, and virtually every other state that has a medical Cannabis program, when it comes to Cannabis consumers, even patients, there is absolutely NO protection from DUI. There is almost always, very restrictive DUI laws, and THC drug testing still applies – on the job, and on our nation’s streets and highways.
So, unfortunately, presenting that “medical marijuana card”, though sorta “legal” and issued by the state, will provide you little benefit in the event of a traffic stop or accident. In fact, it may very well complicate your life significantly.

A “medical” program does not make Cannabis legal. Legal would be like spinach. People are not arrested for consuming spinach while being behind the wheel. Cannabis is perceived as a Schedule I drug (because it is). Heroin is a Schedule I drug. Even here in Missouri where we sort of have a medical Cannabis program, Cannabis is considered a very dangerous substance by law.
As a legal medical patient, you are a potential felon the moment you start your car.

Now, John learned long ago that he needed to be careful. So he only consumed his Cannabis at home. But if that’s so, why would he fail a simple THC test?  The reason is literally because…

Cannabis is food.

Phytocannabinoids/Endocannabinoids
When you consume Cannabis, however you consume Cannabis, your body sees it as food. You may have heard that all mammals (even invertebrates) have an Endocannabinoid system. It enables our bodies to maintain homeostasis (balance).
The Cannabis plant has what is called a “phytocannabinoid” system. Its purpose for the Cannabis plant is much the same as the purpose that our own endogenous Endocannabinoid system has for us. 
Phytocannabinoids and Endocannabinoids are not the same thing, but they are similar enough. So similar, in fact, that our bodies treat phytocannabinoids much the same way as they treat the ones we produce endogenously.
Endocannabinoids facilitate healing of damaged tissue – cell repair. In our bloodstream – and John’s – the body cannot tell the difference between the phytocannabinoid, THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and the Endocannabinoid his body makes called “Anandamide”.
When Cannabinoids are introduced to John’s bloodstream, his body uses what it needs and stores the rest in his fat cells.

What happens when you exert yourself? You burn fat. That’s why your body retains fat…to fuel the cells throughout your body. If you have Cannabinoids stashed away, they may very well be released, too. Hence the “dirty” result in a drug test.
In many states (like Colorado), refusing a drug test can be grounds for an arrest.

This is when some might say, “Oh, that might have been the case a few years ago, but that’s certainly isn’t the way it is now. We have laws on the books now that make Cannabis “legal”.
Well, I hate to burst your bubble… Cannabis is NOT really legal. It’s only mildly tolerated.  As a Schedule I drug, the police can arrest at their own discretion – still today.  After all, being a Schedule I makes Cannabis as dangerous as heroin (another Sched. I drug).

What do I know?
I found out about this the hard way in 2015 while living in Colorado. I was arrested for providing Cannabis oil freely to two adults and the parents of two children.
One adult had basil cell and squamous cell carcinoma. Jack was in his seventies and had battled skin cancer most of his life. The other adult was a very sick, middle aged woman who was suffering from late stage 4 lung cancer.

One child, Gaige, suffered severe seizures, that only Cannabis oil could prevent. With the oil I provided, he was able to go to school, something not possible prior to his Cannabis therapy.  Gaige’s parents moved to Colorado so their child would have access to legal Cannabis. They only returned home to Missouri after financial constraints made it impossible to remain in Colorado.

The oldest of the children that I was helping was Jack Splitt. He was fifteen and the namesake for Colorado’s “Jack’s Law”. Jack was confined to a wheelchair and suffered from cerebral palsy and dystonia. He was profoundly disabled and could only communicate through an electronic device. My oil would relax the dystonia that was literally threatening his life by twisting and contort his body, particularly his diaphragm.

One February afternoon, the word went out through law enforcement across the state, the Jack of “Jack’s Law” had passed. Though it was quite obvious that his death was due to the negligence of his nurse, as documented by the detectives in my case discovery, the Jefferson County (Colorado) District Attorney, an avid prohibitionist, sought to make an example of me.
Because I was treating cancer and seizure disorder with Cannabis oil, a concentrate, my charges involved the production and suspected sale of a concentrate – considered a far more serious crime. I was eventually charged with 5 felonies, two with mandatory minimums, totaling 64 years in Colorado State prison. It was my first offense.  My attorney told me that my case was quite obviously political. I was just a pawn.
That year, there were more arrests and fines in Colorado than before there was a Cannabis program.  Now understand, Colorado has had a “medical” program since 2000. 

But that was Colorado. What about Missouri?
In 2018, there were over 20,000 Cannabis arrests in Missouri. Locally, just a few days ago, a young man was shot and killed in a traffic stop. 100 pounds of Cannabis was discovered in the vehicle he was in.
Anyone who tells you that Cannabis is “legal” and that we no longer have to be concerned with arrests…or worse… is either terribly misinformed or lying. 

But what would be John Doe’s fate?  Surely, he wouldn’t be facing the kind of persecution that I endured, just for a traffic stop, even if he WAS smoking Cannabis in his car. 
No… he probably wouldn’t… If he were white…and his ethnicity was obvious to the officer. But if a search of John’s car turned up a “roach”, you can be assured that he would be charged with a DUI. And if that were the case, John would be leaving the scene in handcuffs… in front of the restaurant and his friends. It would be embarrassing and scary… and very, very costly.
John’s car very well might be impounded. Impound lots can charge upwards of $400(and more) per day while they have one’s car. And if John’s in jail for more than one day, it’s going to get expensive real quick. Nothing personal. Just business.

In jail, John would be booked and subjected to a demoralizing public search. His clothes would be taken from him and placed in a plastic bag along with his pocket contents and replaced with prison issue underwear, socks, a pajama-like top and pants, and plastic slippers. After his arraignment, it will be up to him to find someone to post his bail… and that from a smelly, graffiti covered and broken phone in a crowded holding area.
I wasn’t allowed to post my own bail. I doubt John would, either. (Some things, like jails, are the same no matter where you go.) 

John’s life would be completely upturned.

  • Attorney fees could easily cost him between $5,000 and $10,000 (my case was quoted at costing more than $100,000, if it would have gone to trial).
  • retrieving his car from impound could cost him any where from $400 to over $1,000… (or more, depending on how long it sits in impound.)
  • fines, and civic additions to fines (every community has a bunch)
  • mandatory classes (that he will have to pay for)
  • (possibly) lost driver’s license
  • lost wages (possibly lost employment)

Sure, some people have fared a heck of a lot better, but a lot have fared far worse… and continue to do so…here, in Missouri.

It can all drag on for years, tainting life with fear and unknowing. Monthly payments to the state for court and probation costs. Monthly (or weekly) visits to, or from a probation officer can last five, even as much as ten years, depending on the mood of the sentencing judge.
More than likely, John Doe will eventually get this terrible thing behind him…but it will cost him. Without a doubt, it will cost him a great deal.

A New Awareness

For all of us, the last few years have brought questionable law enforcement policies and issues to the forefront. Us old timers can testify…it’s nothing new. We have witnessed it for decades… not just here in the Midwest, but all across the country.
Don’t believe the lies spread by police advocates that “there’s jus a few bad apples”. The truth is, the quasi legal activities of law enforcement are without a doubt, systemic. They are encouraged in virtually EVERY police department and protected by corrupt politicians, draconian policies and police unions.

It has perhaps NEVER been about protecting the rights of the citizenry, and truly ALWAYS about “running the business” of encarceration. It’s profitable business putting people in prison.

One might think that I have a grudge against all members of the law. I do not. In fact, through the years, I have had members and former members of law enforcement from all over the country seek me out for treatment information. In truth, we are all the same when facing terminal illness.

How do we fix it?

The laws that govern the actions of law enforcement and the courts, like Cannabis law, need to be addressed from the ground up, not just covered up or disguised with endless lines of rhetoric. Particularly in Cannabis law…it’s proven…Band-Aids don’t work!

Only through REAL legalization will law enforcement realize that Cannabis is not a tool for incarceration. Only through initiatives like Cannabis Restoration will those in authority, in law enforcement, the courts and the police unions be mandated to respect and protect the Cannabis patient and industry.
Cannabis Restoration would mean that traffic stops would be for actual infractions – like speeding – and not because you look like someone who uses Cannabis.
What would the world be like where Cannabis is truly legal? My hope is that we would see people approaching the issue of Cannabis maturely and responsibly. That parents would truly accept their role as parents and teach their children the values that they wish to instill in them, particularly when it comes to Cannabis.

The only way that we will ever see peace between Cannabis and Law Enforcement is if we stipulate it by law. Cannabis Restoration would do that.

It’s time to take Cannabis out of the equation.

Cannabis is nontoxic. Cannabis is food. Cannabis is the single most important medicine of the 21st century.

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