When Being a Member of Marijuana Culture Could Make You a Police Crime Victim Like George Floyd

This is a marijuana grower’s magazine all about how to grow your biggest, most potent, most valuable cannabis ever, and we usually avoid current events and politics unless it relates to things that impact all growers, such as marijuana laws or events within the marijuana industry.

On the other hand, many of us senior staffers at this magazine remember a time when being a cannabis user, grower and especially marijuana legalization activist opened you up to the same kind of profiling, brutality and injustice we’re all mourning when it comes to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many other unarmed black Americans and other Americans attacked and even killed by police.

Those of you under 30 years old probably don’t know there was a time when “looking like a pothead” almost guaranteed you’d be pulled over, even if you were obeying all traffic and vehicle safety laws and had a valid license plate. Even if you were not, in fact, a cannabis user.

And being pulled over by police almost guaranteed you’ll endure some form of police officer illegal violation of your rights, which could lead to you being jailed, beaten or even killed.

This was especially prevalent in rural states and towns, or if you were driving a rainbow-colored VW van with a camper top, and Grateful Dead stickers on it,  with reggae music blaring, and burning patchouly incense.

It didn’t matter if you were white, black, yellow, green, purple or brown, rich or poor, nice car or crappy car, short-haired or long-haired, if police were bored or angry or their wives weren’t “giving them any” at home, they’d stop you and try to make a marijuana arrest. It was like hunting baby rabbits with a machine gun, just some fun on a boring afternoon for a guy with a gun and badge.

Now that’s just the risk faced by cannabis consumers. The people even more targeted by the police war on marijuana were the growers. If you were running a marijuana grow op, you better be professionally “paranoid,” knowing that police use infrared radars from air and handheld to scan entire neighborhoods house by house for the telltale heat produced by indoor marijuana grow lights. You better keep your indoor grow room a secret, or you could end up robbed, or in prison.

Anti-marijuana police teams work with electricity companies to see if you’re using “too much juice.” They go into your trash at night looking for weed or grow op supply boxes.

They set up surveillance outside hydroponics stores, trace your license plate, see if they can get a search warrant. They pay narks and jailhouse snitches to lie about you or do staged buys. If your house smells like weed because you’re growing it for yourself and the millions of people who love to consume it, you cower in fear every time you hear a knock on the door!

These are the kinds of deeply-rooted conditions of fear and suffering experienced by members of the cannabis community at the hands of the police.

Consider this: in the 1970s, 80s and early 90s, before cannabis activist Dennis Peron’s pioneering Prop. 215 California medical marijuana law started the cascade of state legalization many Americans enjoy today, almost a million Americans were busted for cannabis “crimes” each year, and most of them just for having weed, not even for growing or selling.

Many of these arrests ruined lives, preventing those convicted of drug crimes from getting college scholarships or loans, from getting professional credentials or good jobs, from renting a home. Harmless, innocent hippie potheads were thrown into jail cells and prisons with dangerous, predatory criminals. A significant percentage of them were beaten, raped or even killed in prison. Read the incredible book, Shattered Lives  that profiles family after family destroyed by the war on drugs.

Back then, a marijuana arrest or conviction was like having “bad person” tattooed on your forehead. This was a time when 65% of polled Americans opposed marijuana legalization, because they’d been fed 60 years of Reefer Madness marijuana-hating bullshit.

The marijuana haters are still among us: Trump’s first attorney general, former Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, was on record as saying that marijuana users were “bad people” and promoting the death penalty for large-scale marijuana growers and sellers!

And having a marijuana conviction makes it easier for police to bust you again, search you, surveil you.

You know what else they did back then, before the marijuana legalization revolution? DEA and DARE propaganda-spewing police officers entered our public schools to brainwash little children to nark on their parents and other family members and friends for using marijuana.

I personally observed DARE and DEA in public schools. They lied to the children about the harms of cannabis, They told the kids that no matter how beloved and helpful in the child’s life, if the person is a marijuana user, the child is doing everyone a big favor by narking the person out to law enforcement.

This shows you how far the war on weed went: the DARE officers had a “DARE box” during some of their presentations. This was a box where kids could anonymously inform on family members and anyone else about “drug problems.” These tips often led to search warrants, raids, injuries, arrests of parents or other caregivers, kids taken away and put in foster care.

This was a a time when you’d drive down the freeway in so-called liberal California, seeing billboards showing a sinister gangsterish cartoon character and the headline: “Eradicate the Marijuana Scum. Paid Bounty. Call 1-800-WEEDTIP. Anonymity Guaranteed.”

Busting weedheads was easy money for police forces, especially because politicians and courts authorized police to commit legalized robbery against you, otherwise known as “civil asset forfeiture.”

That’s the term they use for stealing everything from you when they bust you for cannabis, claiming automatically that you’re a seller, claiming without evidence that all your assets are seizable because they come from “tainted money” made by marijuana dealing.

Your land, home, car, other assets and cash are bureaucratically stolen by police, and even if all charges are dropped or you’re acquitted for your marijuana crimes, the police aren’t required to give you your possessions back--you have to sue the police in civil court to get any compensation at all, and about half the time, the court rules against you.

Out on the road in those pre-legalization days,  when a cop pulls you over and wants to make a pot bust, you could be subject to the same level of cruel horrors we’ve seen on video in the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd and other killings and injuries caused by police against unarmed black people, activists, journalists, innocent bystanders, and others. In fact, just a casual query of the magazine’s team members brings forth recollections of the following drug war persecution incidents…

  • Dragged out of van for no reason. Minor girls strip searched in broad daylight including cavity/orifice searches by male police officer. No drugs found. Officer not punished.
  • Officer requests permission to search vehicle. Driver refuses. Officer threatens to “tear this car apart” and “beat down” anyone who “resists my search.” The driver’s girlfriend is hit in face by officer. No cannabis found. Officer not punished or even suspended.
  • A man and his wife and kids are pulled over in an upscale neighborhood. The man and his wife are college teachers. The officer says he smells the odor of marijuana. The man laughs at him, pointing to the three small children in the back of the car, and informing the officer they’re just returning from hosting a dinner at the Unitarian Church. “Perhaps you smell the leftovers.” Officer gets angry, drags man out of the car, handcuffs man. Detains wife and kids. Calls for drug dog. Drug dog arrives and terrorizes children, biting one of them. No drugs found. No punishment for officer.
  • Police execute search warrant on suspected grower. They tell grower if he doesn’t confess to trafficking in cannabis and nark on others who grow or use cannabis, that when the grower’s girlfriend comes home from work, multiple officers will do “invasive strip search” of her and “you never know what will happen, do you?” This was one of several sexually-loaded threats the officers made during interrogation. The officers’ threatening conduct was challenged in court. Case law presented by prosecutor showed U.S. Supreme Court previously ruled “drug war” is a “real war” so normal civil rights and other constitutional protections don’t apply. In fact, officers are wholly allowed by legal precedent to use coercive and even potentially violent tactics to obtain confessions.
  • A grower transporting cannabis from Humboldt to San Francisco was pulled over on Highway 101 north of Santa Rosa by California Highway Patrol and local law enforcement. When he refused to consent to a search of his vehicle, he was pulled from the car and beaten by at least two officers. He sustained two broken ribs, a fractured eye socket, and a concussion. In their official report, police officers said the injured person was “resisting arrest.” No officers punished. County refused to pay medical costs.
  • Legal medical cannabis grower in a legal cannabis state. SWAT team kicks down his door using a falsified search warrant, put guns to the heads of him, his wife, and son, steal his entire grow room and all his cash. Charges dropped after two years of court appearances and $23,000 in legal fees. Grower lost civil asset forfeiture battle. Lost job. Declared bankruptcy. Six-year-old son diagnosed with PTSD.
  • When the late, great cannabis freedom fighter Dennis Peron was selling huge amounts of cannabis and using the profits to fund his medical marijuana political activism and the Prop. 215 marijuana legalization ballot initiative, police raided his house, shot the unarmed Peron in the leg, and arrested Peron’s lover, who had HIV-AIDS. Peron’s lover was brutalized by police, and denied his medications. He died shortly after being arrested. No police officer was held accountable for any of this.
  • At a cannabis legalization rally in Washington D.C., federal park police repeatedly strip-searched and sexually molested minor girls as young as 12-years-old attending the rally, under the guise of searching them for cannabis and paraphernalia. When a journalist wearing press pass photographed police doing this, the officers did a Rodney King on the journalist, beating him unconscious and arresting him for “assaulting a police officer.” No charges ever filed against beaten journalist, whose lawsuit against the officers was dismissed after police lawyer successfully argued police have “qualified immunity” that blocks citizens from holding them criminally or civilly accountable for their crimes while on duty (Note: police officer forced-barter sex,  molestation or rape of women including minors during marijuana arrests is frequently reported).
  • Dozens of police officers would hide on little roads all around Eugene, Oregon every year when an annual summer massive cannabis festival was held, featuring bands like Fishbone, and cannabis activist speakers such as Jack Herer and Dennis Peron. The cops would arrest hundreds of people, some of whom would suffer brutality, false charges, women extorted for sex, impossibly high bail, children taken away from them, vehicles impounded, etc. Federal agents harassed and arrested the owner of the land on which the festival was held, so it’s held no more.
  • Sick and dying elderly, disabled and military veteran patients at a legal Santa Cruz, California cannabis grower’s cooperative were pushed out of their wheelchairs and otherwise terrorized during a federal marijuana raid.

So we see how badly police officers still treat black people, and also see that during the era when cannabis was illegal everywhere in the United States, cannabis users and growers were similarly considered prey animals for law enforcement to attack, and you couldn’t count on race or class privilege to protect you from the ravages of the war on marijuana.

It wasn’t “racial profiling,” it was “cannabis culture profiling.” In fact, the DEA and Department of Justice profile descriptions of the “typical marijuana user, grower, smuggler or trafficker” were so broad that everyone was a suspect…

If you were a white person in a black neighborhood, police could jack you up because they suspected you were there to buy drugs. If you were a black person in a white neighborhood, you were assumed to be selling drugs to white folk.

If you drove a rundown car with a bad taillight, perhaps you were carrying a few grams of weed. An easy bust. If you were driving a super-duper expensive car, especially if you’re black or young, that’s “probable cause” to pull you over and search for drugs.

If your eyes are glassy, you’re likely a stoner. But if they’re super clear, that means you just used Visine, which is a sure sign of a pothead.

If you’re on I-95, I-75, the 401, Highway 1, I-5, I-405, I-80 and numerous other major interstates and even tiny roads, especially ones that travel through fully legalized states like Colorado to prohibition states, cops say those are “known cannabis smuggling routes” and hover like vultures, waiting to swoop down on the unsuspecting weedhead.

The point I’m making is that just like black people in America have very good reason to be nervous every time they see a police officer, it used to be like that all the time everywhere for the cannabis community. And if you happened to be a member of the cannabis community and black or Hispanic, you were even more at risk of police profiling, harassment and violence.

As we know, the war on cannabis was started in the 1930s by a law enforcement clown named Henry Anslinger who contrived a hysterical fear of “weed-crazed” Mexicanos and black jazz musicians to sell cannabis prohibition to feckless politicians.

The drug war continues to be used disproportionately against people of color. In March 2020, Breonna Taylor, a beloved EMT in Lousiville, Kentucky, was gunned down in her own bed by undercover cops who kicked her door down with guns drawn, executing a drug war search warrant…because Taylor’s ex-boyfriend, an alleged drug dealer she has no contact with, once had a package delivered to her house.

No drugs were found. Taylor is dead. The police officers who killed her were not arrested or fired. They were merely reassigned to desk jobs.

The police had a culture war reason to prey on cannabis users and growers in the 1960s and 70s when cannabis use was correlated and associated with being progressive Left, anti-war, hippie, anti-capitalist, libertarian, survivalist, LBBTQ, radical environmentalist or some other anti-establishment counterculture.

These are all traits police hate, seeing the cannabis community as part of “rebellious, revolutionary culture,” they were glad to use a cannabis bust to damage, cage or reduce the life potential of any person who questions authority and fights back against the corrupt system. The cops aren’t just enforcing marijuana laws. They’re enforcing a societal code. A way of demonizing and branding cannabis users, crippling them, trying to intimidate them away from the greatest plant on earth.

That’s what made the drug war a real war with real casualties, but you never knew when they’d target you. Like when the U.S. military operating illegally on American soil killed an innocent Mexican sheepherder who was peacefully out on the open range with his sheep. After the murderers discovered they’d murdered a poor sheepherder, they claimed “he could have been using the sheep to smuggle marihuana.” He wasn’t.

As an old white man, I’ve definitely benefited from white privilege. But when I used to wear Jack Herer, Rasta, Bob Marley, and cannabis leaf t-shirts and had long hair and attended cannabis events and rallies, I was super-paranoid about police all the time.

Once I got pulled over and was so grateful all I had on me was a few grams of bubblehash I hurriedly washed down with hemp milk just before the cop got to my car window. He was very aggressive and had his hand on his gun.

As it is, and because my white privilege and prior training led me to treat the officer very carefully like the rabid dog that he was, I drove away from that encounter shaken but alive, and high as hell on the eaten bubblehash. If I had been a black man, I might not be here today to tell you about this frightening drug war incident.

One important message we here at the Growing Marijuana Perfectly team are trying to convey with this unusual foray into political and current events is there are three kinds of police officers:

  • Good guys like former NYPD officer Frank Serpico who are whistleblowers openly trying to treat citizens with respect and dignity while also purging dangerous, corrupt cops from their midst. These are the only heroes on the police force.
  • Indifferent, frightened cops who don’t directly violate civil liberties and brutalize cultural or ethnic minorities, but refuse to break the police code of silence, thus protecting the worst cops. These cops are complicit, and criminal.
  • Vicious, villainous criminal cops who break the law, terrorize the citizens who pay their salaries, lie on the witness stand, extort, and otherwise abuse the powers of their guns and badges. Their crimes include killing people, as was done to George Floyd on a public street with the killers knowing they were being filmed.

We might argue about what percentage of police fit into each category.  But what’s obvious is that when copsuckers excuse police criminality by saying “it’s only a few bad apples,” they’re lying.

It’s also obvious from the George Floyd murder videos that when three cops in broad daylight press a man onto the pavement so hard and for so long that he stops breathing, with yet another cop standing guard while onlookers vocally point out the cops are murdering the man, and those cops aren’t immediately arrested and charged with first-degree murder, you why cops believe they can get away with murder. And 95% of the time they do. They don’t get fired like the murderous cops in Minneapolis did. They get suspended with pay.

The City and police officers’ union pay for the best attorneys to get bad cops off. And even if they get found guilty or fired, they don’t suffer much. They just go to some other police department and start working there. The fact that they’re officially known as a stone-cold abuser of the public is considered an asset, not a disqualifier.

For us potheads, things have improved in the last 25 years. What I mean is, in 1995, if you or I had been caught anywhere in America growing more than a couple of cannabis plants, we’d be going to state prison for a long time, maybe even life imprisonment. Now here we are in 2020–the same grow op that could cost you a prison sentence 25 years ago is legalized in nearly half of America!

But injustice persists. Right now as I write this, militarized police goons are beating, tear-gassing, killing black people, protesters, and journalists. Here’s what few people realize–the police trained for this during the drug war. The U.S. Supreme Court, and mayors and governors of most places back the cops, no matter what they do. The police use the drug war to justify “stop and frisk” searches that disproportionately target young black and brown citizens.

The federal government gives cops hundreds of millions worth of military hardware. The U.S. military, the Israeli Mossad and Israeli Defense Forces train American street cops to look at us as if we were terrorists, and to use anti-terror tactics against us in our own country, even though we’re not criminals.

The police agencies hire troubled, angry, testosterone-overloaded military grunts fresh off the streets of Iraq, Afghanistan or some other war zone, and put them on American streets, where they view us as “the enemy.”

But maybe things will change, given the nationwide protests we’re seeing these days. Looks like the murderous police have done their dirty deeds on video one time too many. Polls show that even an increasing number of evangelicals, MAGA fans, libertarians, and self-described conservatives are sympathetic to street rage against tyrannical police and systemic injustice. A recent poll showed that a majority of Trump supporters back the protesters over the police bullies who use violence against innocent citizens.

A significant percentage of the slumbering American sheeple are awakening to how out of control the police are. And as the cops and military soldiers beat, gas, and otherwise injure non-violent protesters and journalists on live television, the whole world is watching.

Thank the gods cannabis is now legal in so many places here in America that fewer cops are still trying to wage the drug war. But don’t be fooled by legalization’s good news–the war on marijuana is far from over! Police officers made about 663,000 arrests for marijuana-related offenses in the 50 states and the District of Columbia in 2018, amounting to 40% of the 1.65 million total drug arrests in the U.S. that year (the most recent for which data is available).

Hopefully, there’ll come a time when people of all races and colors, civil rights activists and all victims of police brutality enjoy the tepid progress of normalization that the cannabis culture has seen since Dennis Peron and his team of activists first legalized medical marijuana in California all those years ago. Perhaps America will change, so we can all feel a little less afraid of police officers.

Until American police become intelligent, fair, ethical, and restrained public servants, all of us–stoners and non-stoners, young and old, conservative and progressive, of all colors and creeds–are united in our steadfast demand that police agencies cease being the most dangerous terrorist organization in America.