Saturday, May 28, 2005

Nashville Police Bust 60-Year-Old Cancer Victim for 303 Pounds of Medical Marijuana

Correction made 5-31-05:
Follow-up visit was primarily conducted by armed Dept. of Revenue Agents

Update: This is a recommended diary at Daily Kos. Check out the discussion.

At 3:00 am, ten police cars descended upon a small modest home in East Nashville. There are only 7 homes on the tiny dead-end street, so it was something of a spectacle. After rousing the astonished inhabits of the home, police asked Dale to step outside where they attempted to persuade the tired and startled 60-year-old cancer victim to sign a form granting them permission to enter and search his home.

While the officers were practicing their art of persuasion, one female officer entered the home and ordered the inhabitants - Dale’s 20 year old daughter and her house guest - to stay right where they were. The terrified citizens did as they were told.

Outside, the persuasive argument went like this: While chasing someone through Dale’s backyard earlier in the evening, a police officer had “smelled” some marijuana. His flashlight subsequently revealed ten 18 inch tall plants huddled tightly together in a small patch of the ground. As if this wasn’t bad enough, there were also sixteen 6 inch plants protruding from four tiny plastic trays, the kind commonly used for seedlings.

Police had obviously snared a big time drug kingpin, hence no expense was spared, and the impressive and intimidating squadron of ten police cars was immediately dispatched.

Undeniably, the spectacle of ten police cars surrounding the small home and the groggy state of the man who was so rudely aroused from his sleep, were very persuasive factors. Police also informed the elderly barefoot gentleman that he would not be permited to go inside to retrieve a jacket or his shoes, until he signed the permission slip or until a warrant arrived.
Once the permission form was signed, the other officers felt free to enter the home. The female officer went immediately to the refrigerator and opened the freezer door. One of her male colleagues quipped that she was always hungry. Laughter ensued.

Dale’s daughter sobbed quietly.

Concern for his daughter, as well as a good natured spirit, led Dale to take the invaders straight to his small stash of medical marijuana. The cancer victim had less than an ounce (less than 28 grams) of medical marijuana.

Police also confiscated some heavy duty paraphernalia.

Mild mannered and overly cooperative to the end, Dale finally did protest when an officer seized a package of cigarette papers. Gesturing toward his can of Bugler tobacco, Dale pointed out that the cigarette papers came with the tobacco and that without the alleged “paraphernalia” he couldn’t exercise his legal habit of rolling his own cigarettes. The officer ignored him. Officers then seized yet another unopened package of Bugler cigarette papers. Finally, Metro police seized a small tire gage, thinking it looked suspicious, but later they returned the item.

In Tennessee, possession of drug paraphernalia can get you one year and/or a fine of $2,500.

Folks who purchase Bugler tobacco might want to reconsider.

Despite Dale’s cooperation, it was daylight before the police finally left his home and hauled the big time criminal off to jail. His daughter performed the unpleasant task of calling her sisters and explaining, in between heartbroken sobs, that their beloved father was in jail. And she called me. As the mother of these beautiful young women, I got to experience, first hand, the kind of emotional devastation routinely inflicted upon families by the barbaric and inhumane drug laws so common in the U.S.

Dale reports that while he was being booked for his big time crime, several police officers and a considerably higher status official quietly told him that they personally see nothing wrong with the use of marijuana.

They are just doing their job.

Dale has been charged with manufacturing the controlled substance of marijuana in the amount of 136, 050 grams (303 pounds), or more, and possession of, with intent to sale, one kilogram, or more, of methamphetamine. (!)

While Dale was being booked at the downtown Nashville police station, Officer Neely pulled one of his daughters aside and informed her that someone had “tacked on” a “bogus charge of Meth.” Officer Neely advised the astonished young woman to be certain to get a lawyer in order to get the charge removed. The young woman reports that the officer did not appear to be surprised by the bogus charge.

It is not clear why the false charge was not immediately removed by Officer Neely or one of her colleagues or superiors.

The question that comes to mind: Were Nashville’s Finest waiting until they had a chance to locate some spare Meth before making the paperwork fit the bogus charge? As to why they might be motivated to tack on phony charges or grossly exaggerate the amount of marijuana seized, that will be discussed in a follow-up story.

The senior citizen has also been charged with possession of paraphernalia, i.e., two unopened packages of Bugler cigarette papers.

Are Nashville’s police officers corrupt or merely incompetent? I’m not sure, but I am sure that they deserve to be treated with the same amount of respect, fear and dread as your run-of-the-mill vampire.

This nightmare continues to develop. In the next post I’ll address the follow-up visit of Metro Police, in which they return with Revenue Agents who seize the senior citizen’s car, bank account, and home for failure to purchase drug tax stamps.

Ain’t life in Nashville grand? If you don’t live here, you probably don’t want to.

*The name of the drug kingpin has been changed. The name of the police officer has not. See also, Tennessee Independent Media Center. My thanks to Say Uncle and Drug WarRant for picking up the first installment of this story.