In a case drawing nationwide attention as it involves a killing, a group of armed ranchers in Oregon occupied federal land for weeks in protest of grazing fees and fines for grazing without a permit. They were getting a pretty decent deal from the Federal Bureau of Land Management on the grazing fees, too—better than 90 percent off the going market rate paid to private landowners.
These ranchers are just lucky they didn’t get caught instead with some “marijuana” in the wrong state, or they could be facing prison terms up to 10 times longer—even life.
Life in prison—for weed?
You read that right. What is happening in the U.S. today? How mad is the madness? For a little insight, here are five bad states to be caught with cannabis in:
Oklahoma judges can hand out life sentences to those wretched souls convicted of cannabis cultivation. Rheumatoid arthritis sufferer and U.S. Army veteran Will Foster, convicted of growing in 1997, was insulted with a ridiculous sentence of 93 years. Jimmy Montgomery was also sentenced to a life term after two ounces of medical cannabis were found in his wheelchair. Amid heavy public outcry, Montgomery, who is paraplegic, was later released on medical parole. But an ulcerated bedsore resulting from maltreatment in prison, where he was chained to the bed, led to the the affected leg being amputated. We just have to keep reminding ourselves, incredulously: This is over weed.
Texas holds the national record among states for arrests and criminal prosecution of cannabis offenses, 97 percent of which are for simple possession. Over half of ALL arrests in the Lone Star State concern cannabis. (In other words, legalization would more than double the available law enforcement resources for addressing actual crimes.)
In Louisiana, possessing two pounds of the herb—an amount small enough to fit in a backpack—can carry a life sentence. In Florida, anyone cultivating even a single cannabis plant is risking five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. And Arizona is the only state left that still treats first-time possession of any amount of cannabis as a felony offense.
The greater threat
Between 1996 and 2014, federal judges sentenced 54 human beings to life without parole for so-called “marijuana” offenses, with potentially dozens more at the state level. So, Americans in all 50 states need to ask themselves: Which is the greater threat—a veteran in a wheelchair growing a green leafy vegetable to relieve insomnia and pain, or, say, armed ranchers taking over federal land at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon and threatening law enforcement agents?
According to the FBI and Oregon State Police, all eight people arrested in connection with the occupation face a federal felony charge of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States from discharging their official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats. The charge is a felony and carries a maximum six-year prison sentence plus fines.
The absurdity here rings loud and clear. This is true regardless of one’s position on guns; federal guidelines for use of deadly force against U.S. nationals; the ranchers’ beliefs; whether LaVoy Finicum was still reaching for the sky at the instant he was shot by a federal agent; the cost of grazing cattle; or anything at all regarding the particulars of the Oregon ranch situation. One can have any position or no position on any of those things, or on cannabis legalization, and yet recoil at the insanity of what is before us: Threatening law enforcement officers during an armed occupation of federal land can carry LESS prison time than growing or possessing some leafy green vegetable that doctors say relieves suffering.
Countless hardened criminals are serving shorter sentences for violent crimes like kidnapping, rape, armed robbery, and even homicide than what some are serving for the crime of having some plants or vegetable matter. This is pure insanity, being forced on the citizenry by governance that is broken, corrupt, and sorely lacking in reason and accountability.
Oregon is a leader in cannabis law reform, becoming just the fourth state (plus D.C.) to legalize the herb for adult discretionary consumption since the new Prohibition went into effect in 1937. About two dozen states permit some degree of medical cannabis therapy. Clearly, it is time for the rest of the nation to follow suit and end the madness.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Garyn Angel is an inventor, entrepreneur, award-winning financial consultant, and CEO of MagicalButter.com, which manufactures the appliance he invented for converting cannabis to an edible form. Angel is committed to cannabis law reform and was named to the CNBC NEXT List of global business leaders for his work on legal marijuana. He is also founder of the Cheers to Goodness Foundation, a charity that helps “medical refugees”—veterans and children who need cannabis therapy when traditional treatment options have failed. Angel’s charity helps families relocate to states where cannabis medicine is legally accessible.