Sunday, April 4, 2010

Injustice on the Beat

Well, I've finally had a personal experience demonstrating the irrationality and incompetence of the drug war foot soldiers. This past week i was in my home town, an Eastern suburb of Cleveland, OH for spring break. Naturally, I spent some time visiting friends I hadn't seen in months. While driving home early Thursday morning, I was going a bit over the speed limit, so I was disappointed yet unsurprised.

The officer came to my window, white flashlight glaring. He explained that he'd pulled me over for speeding. I was quite polite with him and handed over my drivers liscence, which he thoroughly inspected under his light. He flashed the light in my face a few times and asked me to roll up my window.

"Is there something wrong?" I asked, confused by his request. He only repeated himself, as if I hadn't said anything. I supposed that there was no harm in me doing so, and knew that arguing wasn't a good idea, so I put the window up. I waited for my ticket for several minutes and then realized that the red and blue lights flashing behind me seemed to become more intense. I would eventually find that three more police vehicles had arrived to the scene.

The officer who pulled me over returned.

"We have a K-9 unit here," he said. "do you consent to a search of your vehicle for narcotics?"

I was bewildered by this, and asked him why I was being searched. He told me that because I was "close to hitting the curb (a new development)" it gave them reason to search the car.

I could tell that this wasn't quite standard procedure, but I knew that I had nothing to hide, so I stepped out of the car and was told to go stand on the curb next to another officer, a white haired gentleman with a belly and a comb over. He smiled at me.

"Is there a reason I'm being searched?" I asked. The officer sort of chuckled and threw both his arms out towards the scene of my little chevy cobalt that was being torn apart by two latex-gloved german shepherd wielding men with badges. He said something under his breath about standard procedure, and then said:

"You're sure you don't have anything on you?" I was sure, so I remained silent.

After some time, the original officer who had pulled me over joined us with his flashlight and my wallet. He questioned my Green Cross pin, rolling papers, and hemp seeds that I had in my glove compartment for snacking, and asked if I realized that marijuana's illegal.

With the utmost respect, a said that I knew marijuana was illegal, and explained that I got the button at a Students for Sensible Drug Policy conference in San Francisco, where medical marijuana is legal. Friends of mine roll their own cigarettes, so I have papers on hand. The tasty hemp seeds are high in essential proteins, which I lack as a vegetarian, and can be bought at several coffee shops in the area.

"You can try one," I offered, "they're quite delicious!"
"No thanks,"the officer scoffed "I can't be seein' funny stuff when I'm on the road."

After getting patted down by two male officers, and trying in vain to explain the lack of psychoactive product in my hemp seeds, the fuzz realized, to their chagrin, I think, that I had nothing on me. I was thoroughly upset though, to have my hemp seeds taken away. The ticket I received, a warning, claimed that I was "weaving through traffic."

My experience with the Lyndhurst police department made me confused and upset. They took my property and treated me like some sort of Johnny Potseed out to defile their jurisdiction. It seemed as though they were going out of their way to find something wrong with me. I'm sure four police cars and a canine unit were not standard procedure for apprehension of a speeder. When I called the station the next day to inquire about my hemp seeds, in hopes of getting them back, I spoke with Detective Jim Fiore, who accused me of possessing drug paraphernalia and also asked me if I knew if marijuana was illegal.

This demonstrates the hostility among some members of the law enforcement that is directed towards people who are against the drug war. The fact that they took food from me was a violation of personal freedom also exemplifies the ignorance present in some police departments regarding non psychoactive hemp.

This situation is frustrating, but it gives you all the more reason to encourage change in your local law enforcement. If you come across an opportunity to speak with an officer of the law, ask their opinions on the drug war, and share your knowledge with them. Go to town hall meetings and express interest in alternative harm reduction policies. Call your mayor and ask what they think. Most importantly, if you ever find yourself feeling wronged by officials in your area, write a letter and report it. If you know of any law enforcement officials who are in favor of sensible drug protocol, direct them to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, or LEAP. Their website is a great resource for discussion of this sort of thing, so be sure to check it out.

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