Drug-Law Activist Axed from Bus-Driving Job

Drug-Law Activist Axed from Bus-Driving Job
Posted by CN Staff on July 01, 2003 at 09:05:43 PT
By John Fitzgerald of The Gazette Staff 
Source: Billings Gazette
In what appears to be a case of extremely bad timing, a Billings man at the center of a national debate over freedom of speech says he lost his job after a story about the case appeared in The Gazette. Adam Jones, 21, is a student at Montana State University-Billings and had been working at the Laurel YMCA as a camp counselor and bus driver. In 2002, he was convicted of felony possession of a half-gram of psylocybin mushrooms and was sentenced to three years probation. 
His conviction prompted an interest in drug reform laws and he organized a Billings chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML. He planned a May 30 concert at the Billings Eagles Lodge to raise money for an initiative to place the legalization of medicinal marijuana on the 2004 ballot. The day before the concert, Jones was jailed for failing to notify his probation officer about a change in job supervisors. He was released June 1. Meanwhile, on May 30, an agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency told Eagles Lodge officials that under a new federal law, they could be fined up to $250,000 if drugs were used or sold during an event at their facility. The Eagles then canceled the NORML fund-raiser. Advocates for drug reform and free speech latched onto the case, claiming Jones' freedom of speech was denied. Jones and Eagles officials received phone calls from reporters and lawyers from across the country. A story about the concert appeared in Gazette on June 14. Three days later, Jones lost his job at the Laurel YMCA. Jones thinks the action was due to the NORML incident. His boss, Laurel YMCA executive director Donna Hirt, insists that isn't true. Jones was a camp counselor at the YMCA. He holds a commercial drivers license and drove the camp bus as well as interacted with the children. He was excellent at his job, Hirt said, and the YMCA was aware of his felony conviction. "Everyone deserves a second chance," Hirt said. The problem, Hirt said, is that the Laurel YMCA had used buses from the Billings YMCA. But, because Billings needed its buses full-time, Laurel had to find other buses. Hirt said she decided to use buses from the Laurel School District. For insurance purposes, YMCA bus drivers would have to be hired by the Laurel district and become district substitute bus drivers. When she turned in some paperwork to Laurel school officials on June 13, she was told the district could not hire anyone with a felony conviction. Hirt said she tried to find other buses, but couldn't. She eventually offered Jones a job at the YMCA pool. He would start at three hours a day and make minimum wage. As a counselor, he was full-time and his salary was $350 a week. Jones saw the job as a demotion and he declined the offer. Hirt said the NORML controversy had nothing to do with Jones' job situation. "What people do when they're off the job is their business. For us, the bottom line was we couldn't get him in the system to drive the bus," she said. Jones isn't so sure. "I was the only bus driver out there. Because I couldn't pass the background check, they never put the application in. ... I became a liability because of my political beliefs." Meanwhile, the DEA issued a memo to agents describing how to correctly use the new federal law. Under the new interpretation, the events at the Eagles' Lodge would not have occurred. The Laurel YMCA is using a Laurel school district bus and three drivers recommended by the district. Jones is looking for another job, taking classes and hopes to move to Missoula in the fall. He said his First Amendment right to free speech has gotten him into nothing but trouble, so he won't be active in any drug reform organizations until he has been released from probation. Complete Title: Drug-Law Activist Axed from Laurel Y Bus-Driving Job Source: Billings Gazette, The (MT)Author: John Fitzgerald of The Gazette Staff Published: July 1, 2003Copyright: 2003 The Billings GazetteContact: speakup billingsgazette.comWebsite: Articles & Web Sites:NORML NORML Get Drug Law Clarification Eagles Lodge Threatened by DEA? Law Assists Political Intimidation
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Post Comment