Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Candid Camera Goon Squad

As a writer and advocate of drug policy reform, I'm often asked if I'm worried about getting arrested. I tell them no. If authorities have me under surveillance have as thoroughly as I know they can, they know I'm not a drug dealer. Those authorities would also know that if I witness a crime of violence, I'll be the first to report it.

But what about the possibility of false arrest? After all, citizens don't have to be breaking the law to be illegally detained. They can even be set up (they have been, in several cases). But I cover my bases. I don't worry because I carry a tape recorder, laptop, and video camera with me when I travel. When I deal with authorities, it's strictly professional.

I undertand the questions, however. It would make sense for me to feel paranoid. While traveling the country with federal marijuana patient George McMahon, I engaged in a public dispute with a Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Rent-A-Cop who threatened my friend and co-author with false arrest. I also publicly confronted the University of Kansas police chief (and the Kansas Attorney General's office) with the possibility of a lawsuit for violating the rights of federally-approved marijuana patients. I've witnessed a fellow guest-speaker assaulted with police mace (yet again, reported in the press). My friend Alex White Plume has been raided by the DEA, in violation of Indian sovereignity. My friend Fat Freddy has been repeatedly harassed by misguided officers. And one of my publishers, Marc Emery, is being extradited from Canada to the United States, to face a possible death penalty - for the monstrous and inhuman crime of selling marijuana seeds. If only Mr. Emery had raped a child instead, the U.S. Government would have gone easy on him (the federal sentence for child sexual abuse is 18-24 months in prison, as opposed to the death penalty for Johnny Potseed). As many American legislators are fond of saying when they enact draconian drug laws, "We have to protect the children."

I know I live in a nation where some legislators defecate on the Constitution and then cover their mess with Stars and Stripes. Believe me, it's not easy to fight government officials and mobsters at the same time. I have cause to feel like a marked man - except for one thing...

I've met dozens of decent law enforcement officials during my travels (and I count a few of them as personal friends). These men are heroes to me, because they serve their communities in a manner consistent with principles of public safety, human dignity, and mutual respect. In other words, they are peace officers. Many of them don't think our current drug policies are working to make our communities safer. They believe our policies have transformed personal health problems into social, political, familial, economic, civil, Constitutional, and judicial nightmares that have disastrous impact on public safety. Some of these officials are working as citizens to change the laws.

Since my faith in humanity is (generally) intact, I had little reason to suspect I'd wind up being busted by a renegade law enforcement official named Sgt. Belcher, disguised as an investigative reporter, using the alias, Colonel Sanders.

This undercover agent was crafty, among the best. First he interviewed me in the cemetery across from my home (with two notable tombstones labeled BONER and BLEWETT, I kid you not). Then later that evening, he stormed my residence with a full squad of cops and a video camera.

You can view the rather embarrassing footage from that raid HERE.

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