Emal's Corner

By Russ Emal

I was arrested, tried, and convicted for cultivation of marijuana in the late 80's. Since that trial and conviction, I decided that I would come out of the closet about my marijuana growing and use. I know that many reading this would like to do the same but as yet, you have not been forced out of your hidy-hole. Since 1986 I have spent a lot of time studying the issue.

Most pot smokers living in our area remember when Mexican pot sold for under $100 a pound and local grown weed sold for well under $1000 a pound. This was back about a decade or two ago. Now Mexican sells for 10 to 15 times as much and local bud for about $5000 a pound wholesale. That makes pot worth more than gold. Imagine. You have an ounce of gold in your hand and no one will swap you for an ounce of local bud.

Why did this happen? How could it happen?

Twenty years ago, many of my neighbors and I grew pot in our back yards next to the corn and tomatoes. Joe Allen, Mendocino County's D.A. back then, called this type of garden a "mom and pop garden." Allen pledged that his office wouldn't prosecute anyone unless they grew more then 50 plants. If the cops showed up when you weren't home and confiscated your pot, they would leave you a friendly note. Remember those notes? They read, "If you want to claim your missing property come on down to the Sheriff's Department to identify it."

Everyone shared their pot and smoked openly. There were few rip-offs, no guns, helicopters, COMMET or CAMP, and never any violence. What we did have in Mendocino County was prosperity. Houses were being constructed and roads were going into new spots. In Anderson Valley we had a Sheriff's Deputy who grew and smoked pot. We even smoked with people who we later elected to public office and serve in that capacity today.

Then, one day, someone decided that since pot really was illegal, Mendocino County had to get tough and end the pot puffing problem. Enter stage right, the politicians. They were going to fight a problem that we didn't have. Although many private and government commissions have studied marijuana use and have declared that pot poses no threat to society, politicians keep it illegal. There have been numerous reports in the media about the horrors associated with using pot. Some may believe them, But every time you put together a group of non biased doctors and scientists to study marijuana, they ALL issue the same finding. Decriminalize pot. The first was the La Guardia Commission Reports, produced by the State of New York. The same results were produced by our federal government during the Nixon years; decriminalize pot. Still, today in Ukiah, there are dozens of men and women imprisoned for marijuana offenses.

So, all the peace and goodwill ended in Mendocino County. Joe Allen resigned as our District Attorney. The D.A.'s elected since Allen look at Mendoland as a rest stop on their personal highway to the Supreme Court. So they fall in line with the politicians and "Get Tough." Susan Massini, our current DA, feverishly prosecutes pot cases. Nationally, the Reagan's war on drugs was instigated and many constitutional safeguards were reversed to assist the government's drug crusade. The laws on Miranda, search and seizure, and even the manner in which we question prospective jurors has been modified. These laws were all designed for public protection. Today, none of us enjoy these rights. Our current congress pledges to enact legislation that will accept unconstitutionally obtained evidence to be used in court. They want cops to be allowed to do something illegal so that they can catch someone doing something illegal. Today helicopters are authorized to hover over our rooftops and army troops, under the open fields rule, cross our land. All of this, though inconceivable, is the law. Annually, billions of dollars are spent to try and stop people from doing what they have done for millenniums, smoke marijuana. All to no avail but great expense.

As pressure was increased on pot growers, they evolved from "mom and pop" to professionals. The "New Laws" allowed for the confiscation of property, so many small groups were formed to purchase land under other people's names. This reaction to the "New Laws" brought us the status of organized criminals. Pot growers are now tried for conspiring to commit a felony. Aerial surveillance from choppers, spy satellites and air force high altitude reconnaissance planes demand that growers use improved camouflage techniques. Mendocino County is the new Vietnam. Growing is now done under trees to camouflage plants, so they grow smaller and more are grown. Larger gardens were essential to pay for the land that was bought, for the additional partners and for the now needed around the clock guards. All of this has taken place due to increased police pressure. It was these tactics alone that forced the stakes in the pot growing game to be raised. So long forever, to the "mom and pop gardens."

Some say that there is violence associated with growing pot. It is suggested by politicians that we hire more cops to curtail this violence. But the truth is that even with the enormous quantity of plants and billions of dollars in pot essentially just lying on the ground, there is little violence. There is more violence associated with 7-11 stores than with marijuana cultivation. Maybe we should make 7-11 stores illegal and tax marijuana.

When I was in jail there were about 150 drug related prisoners with me. I'm sure that it is the same today. This costs the taxpayer about $65 per day per person. That is about $10,000 a day or over $3.5 million dollars a year. Law enforcement in our county sees this as a revenue or job security, but incarceration of pot growers is now viewed by a large segment of our population as wasted tax money. There is also the additional cost of probation officers, judges, public defenders, COMMET, secretaries, building costs and on and on. What is the bill nationally?

Politicians tell us that they have another good idea. Let's hire 100,000 more cops, build more prisons, and put all smokers in jail. How will we pay for this? Middle class America will pay for it by closing all our public libraries and by making our public schools substandard. Soon all public institutions be substandard. Although this is a bad idea, it is what is already happening and our future has more of this thinking awaiting us.

Or does it?

In a few short days we can change the course of California and American history. We can and certainly should vote yes on Proposition 215. While the California Narcotic Officers Association opposes Prop 215, other law enforcement officials disagree. The following are people who approved the passing of SB 1364, the law passed by the California Senate but later was not signed by Governor Wilson; District Attorney Arlo Smith-S.F., District Attorney Gil Garcetti-L.A., the American Civil Liberties Union and the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice. Mike Hennessey, Sheriff- City and County of San Francisco, had this to say, "For people who are suffering and in pain, the use of marijuana is strictly a medical issue to be decided between patient and physician and should not become a law enforcement issue."

Ask doctors how they feel about the medical use of marijuana . "This medicine works. It is being kept from patients for purely political reasons,"-Dean Edell, M.D., ABC-TV Medical Advisor. "Physicians should also be allowed to prescribe marijuana to supplement cancer therapy, AIDS and eye treatments."-Ivan J. Silverberg, MD., Oncologist. "I believe there are 2.5 million multiple sclerosis patients who may benefit from marijuana to control spasticity." -Dennis Petro, M.D., Neurologist. "This medicine does no harm to the patient and is effective in relieving pain and nausea." -Dr. Richard Cohen, Chief Oncologist, California Pacific Hospital.

The Medical Press Agrees. The Journal of Clinical Oncology reports 44% of respondents to a survey of cancer specialists recommended marijuana as medicine - July, '91. The National Academy of Science reports that marijuana relieves asthma attacks and loss of appetite. Furthermore, marijuana can be clinically used to combat nausea and vomiting, epilepsy, muscle spasticity, anxiety, depression, pain, glaucoma, and symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol and narcotics. NAS; Marijuana and Health Report - June, '82.

This is one of the most important issues we will be asked to vote upon this year. The California Legislature has twice passed laws that would do what Prop 215 will do. Twice they were given to our governor and twice he did not sign them into law. This time you and I can make the law stick. Dennis Peron, Director of N.O.R.M.L. says, "Join us in our quest for a more just and compassionate society." Vote YES on Proposition 215.

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Last Update: 11/8/96