Thousands Cited for Having Pot on Federal Land

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  Thousands Cited for Having Pot on Federal Land

Posted by CN Staff on September 16, 2013 at 16:01:38 PT
By Gene Johnson, The Associated Press  
Source: Associated Press 

Tacoma, Wash. -- Karen Strand didn't think she'd get in trouble for having a small container of medical marijuana when she went hiking in Olympic National Park this summer. President Barack Obama, she remembered, had said the federal government had "bigger fish to fry" than people who follow state marijuana laws, and Washington state had just legalized pot. 
But a ranger pulled her over on a remote gravel road, and Strand wound up as one of at least 27,700 people cited for having pot on federal land since 2009, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal court data. The number of citations is small compared to the hundreds of millions of visitors to national parks, forests and monuments each year. But it nevertheless illustrates one of the many issues Washington, Colorado and other states face in complying with last month's Justice Department memo that requires them to address eight federal law enforcement priorities if they want to regulate marijuana. Among those priorities is keeping marijuana use and possession off federal property. State officials have no plans to license pot gardens or stores on federal land, but beyond that, they say, it's not clear what they can do to discourage backpackers or campers from bringing a few joints into Rocky Mountain or Mount Rainier National Park. "It's not one of the big topics we've talked a lot about," said Jaime Smith, a spokeswoman for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Other concerns on the DOJ's list include keeping marijuana away from kids and cartels, preventing drugged driving and pot-related gun violence, and keeping unregulated marijuana grows from spoiling federal land. Thousands of people receive tickets every year charging them with having pot on U.S. property — a federal misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. The charges typically don't result in jail time, but often do require at least one court appearance. They are frequently negotiated down to an infraction, akin to a traffic ticket, and a fine of up to a few hundred dollars. Through the first seven months of this year, at least 146 people had been cited in Washington for having pot on federal land, which makes up nearly one-third of the state. At least 135 had been cited in Colorado. Washington's figure is slightly below the same period for the past few years, while Colorado's is roughly on track. The number of people cited nationally has dropped, from 6,282 in 2009 to 5,772 in 2012, and is on pace to hit about 5,300 this year, according to data from the U.S. Courts Central Violations Bureau. The citations were issued at national parks, seashores, forests, military bases and monuments. There were even 10 tickets issued at the Pentagon. Officials say the actual numbers are likely greater: Park rangers and other federal agents sometimes simply write on the ticket that the offender had a controlled substance, without specifying the drug. Defendants say being prosecuted for having tiny amounts of pot on U.S. land — especially in Washington, Colorado and states with medical marijuana laws — belies the administration's assertions that going after people who comply with state marijuana laws is not a priority. The DOJ first announced that position in a 2009 memo, though the fine print also made clear that pot isn't welcome on federal property. Strand, 36, was pulled over for having a broken taillight, and the ranger reported that he could smell fresh pot. She was ticketed for having 2 grams — far less than the ounce, or 28 grams, allowed by Washington's recreational pot law, or the 24 ounces allowed by the state's medical marijuana law. "It is exceptionally confusing," she said. One morning this month, Strand sat in a small, crowded room at the federal courthouse in Tacoma for her initial appearance on charges of marijuana possession and drug paraphernalia — a pipe. Near her sat her husband as well as several other people caught with weed on federal land, including a 21-year-old man who was accused of having 0.1 grams during a traffic stop on a highway that skirts Mount Rainier National Park. "I just thought it was legal now," Jonah Hunt said. "I didn't know I was on federal land." Barbara Sievers, the assistant U.S. attorney handling the cases, informed the defendants their charges would not be dismissed. "Regardless of whatever happened in the state, it's federal law, and it's federal property," she said. Former school teacher Melanie Cease, of Seattle, said a park ranger approached her one day in June at a secluded campsite in Olympic National Park. He came to make sure her dog was on a leash, but then saw an empty pipe on the picnic table. With his hand on his gun, she said, the ranger demanded she turn over whatever pot she had. Cease, 48, was cited for having a "trace amount," according to the ranger's report. "I've never been arrested in my life, and now I'm being threatened with six months in jail and a $5,000 fine for using my medicine?" she said. "It was my understanding the government was not going to mess with individual patients." Strand and Cease both pleaded not guilty, and their cases were set for trial in October. Strand and her husband, Thomas, said they remain troubled by what they said felt like harassment from the park ranger. He repeatedly placed his hand on his gun when speaking to them, they said. "It's a beautiful place up there," Thomas Strand said. "And I don't know if I'll ever go back." Source: Associated Press (Wire) Author: Gene Johnson, The Associated Press Published:  September 16, 2013Copyright: 2013 The Associated PressCannabisNews   -- Cannabis Archives 

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Comment #15 posted by Hope on September 21, 2013 at 09:19:49 PT
You know...
I need to retract part of comment thirteen, I think. Maybe no one knows, but Dr. Hart's study does strengthen my personal observations and feelings about anyone's excesses, including my own.Drug warriors and professional prohibitionists disagree with the study. Of course. "Addiction" and fear of that concept is one of their main "Tools". Like a hatchet. Or a hammer. You know what they say about the ability to understand and how it's connected to one's own pocketbook.I always knew if you gave me something very valuable... like a cure for disease or freedom from imprisonment for someone or a million dollars... I could quit smoking or eating sugar. Instantly. The thing about quitting some things suddenly is that it can be deadly. Of course the professional "Helpers" will always be needed to help those that decide to quit but have to deal with that corner they painted themselves into. Maybe no one knows.... but maybe they do.
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Comment #14 posted by Hope on September 21, 2013 at 09:01:16 PT
Thank you, Afterburner for reminding me
to read that article in the New York Times. The Rational Choices of Crack Addicts's the second or third time I've been advised to read it. It's a must read for anyone interested in drug policy or cannabis/weed policy. It's very important.Thanks again, Afterburner. Now I'm asking everyone that hasn't read it, to read it.
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Comment #13 posted by Hope on September 20, 2013 at 17:51:59 PT

Afterburner, Comment 9
It is an interesting conversation.I'm inclined to favor the conscious decision opinion. But who knows? 
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Comment #11 posted by Hope on September 18, 2013 at 19:58:51 PT

Afterburner Comment 9
 I'm working on it.
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Comment #10 posted by museman on September 18, 2013 at 18:20:23 PT

#'s 5 & 6 
Don't forget the Mythical Robin Hood, and the "Kings Forest." People, Natives, all screwed by the same ilk, over and over. Fight a revolution, history records the people's 'bravery' upholding 'principles' of blah blah, but since they are just fodder in their grave, they can't tell their children the truth, probably because they won't ever have any (children). If you somehow survive, you must tell your children in secret, or the Ones Who Compose History will come with their own contemporary jackboot on your door to correct your liberties.Yes, I've seen it before as well. Contrary to media programming, the truth still remains. Pity most still choose the programming over the truth.LEGALIZE FREEDOM
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Comment #9 posted by afterburner on September 18, 2013 at 16:06:29 PT

Hope #8
Have you seen this over at Pete's?:Addiction – it isn’t just about the drug discussion of the hidden payoffs to continuing the demonizing of "drug people."
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Comment #8 posted by Hope on September 18, 2013 at 13:50:08 PT

This "Fed" bit is highly irritating. 
When this country was started... people often paid taxes with hemp. Hemp and hemp farmers have done so much for this country. The "Fed" should be ashamed. Very ashamed. Prohibitionists are vicious, foolish, brutes. "Wolves in sheep's clothing." The prohibitionists claim to be good and some sort of wise, but they are certainly not. Especially, when it comes to prohibition of cannabis hemp. In this case, cannabis prohibition, they are "Cutting their noses off, (and everyone else's too), to spite their faces."
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Comment #7 posted by Hope on September 18, 2013 at 13:39:04 PT

Thank you, The GCW!
I'm so glad to know you are ok. I was really worried.
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Comment #6 posted by afterburner on September 17, 2013 at 05:12:02 PT

Federal Land
I hate that the U.S. federal government acts like they own Federal Land. We The People own the government. Federal Land is our land. Government of the people, by the people, for the people."that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." --Gettysburg Address - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Comment #5 posted by Sam Adams on September 16, 2013 at 20:02:01 PT

seen this before
The feds really do treat us just like the Indians. They promise peace again and again and then send in the cavalry to get us. 

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Comment #4 posted by The GCW on September 16, 2013 at 17:41:09 PT

Doin' good. My county is not getting flooded.
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Comment #3 posted by Hope on September 16, 2013 at 17:09:39 PT

The GCW!
It's good to see you. I've been worried. Are you ok? Is your home ok?
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Comment #2 posted by mexweed on September 16, 2013 at 16:52:17 PT:

Sneak Overdose Enforcement
Did you notice that charge of "drug paraphernalia-- a pipe"? Someone dig out the text of federal law on the subject. Does this amount to DE FACTO federal favoritism toward $igarette papers? Just because they are EASIER TO HIDE, rolling papers are "safer" to possess than a pipe, less likely to result in charges such as "paraphernalia". Yes, and if the anti-marijuana laws coupled with anti-pipe verbiage like this result in more youngsters getting addicted to real H-ot B-urning O-verdose M-onoxide tobackgo $igarettes, the government (local, county, state, federal) will make more MONEY on $igarette taxes-- Conflict of Interest?Two grams is 80 single tokes if her utensil has a small screened crater capable of providing 25-mg single tokes. Maybe bring less herb along? Oh yes, they booked someone for 0.1 grams, or four single tokes.Propaganda PS: check out "phonemic echoes" of fear-laden smaller words hidden in officialese big words: "paraphernalia" contains "paranoid", "infernal", "alien" and maybe others. Someone in Washington (city) wants you to "roll a joint"...
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Comment #1 posted by The GCW on September 16, 2013 at 16:32:49 PT

Hey BooBoo, I think I spotted a tiny little joint.
This here article is also in the Summit Daily News
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