Scott Bledsoe is the kind of marijuana activist we need to see more often.
Along with his valiant comrades in the Florida Cannabis Action Network (FLACAN), Bledsoe fights for pot freedom in the “Sunshine State,” where the drug war is run like a real war and police are always happy to kick some hippie’s ass.
Bledsoe is an expert at street protests, and he?s not afraid to get arrested. Last December, he was outside Jacksonville’s professional football stadium gathering signatures for a medical marijuana ballot initiative when private security thugs told him to leave. But Bledsoe had already sued Jacksonville and other communities, winning the right to free speech in public places. When Jacksonville police came to arrest him, Bledsoe showed them the written terms of a lawsuit he’d won against the city, specifying that cops wanting to arrest Bledsoe were to call the city attorney 24 hours a day, seven days a week before they arrested him for pot advocacy.
Apparently, as is often the case in redneck Florida, the officers couldn’t read. They jumped Bledsoe, trying to wrestle away the tape recorder he was using to document the confrontation. Four officers piled onto the thin activist, destroying his table and marijuana literature. He was charged with possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana, trespassing, and resisting arrest without violence.
On Christmas evening, Bledsoe was driving a friend home when he was stopped by Jacksonville police officer K.W. Bowen for allegedly running a blinking red light.
“The cop asked me if I had been drinking, which I had not,” Bledsoe said. “He told me to step out of the car. I told him I would step out, but was not consenting to a search of the car. He dragged me out of my vehicle and slammed me on top of his car. Then I was handcuffed and thrown into the back of the police car. They put my friend in another police car and searched my vehicle. They found a pipe, some papers, and a roach. I was charged with possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana, DUI, resisting arrest without violence, and running the light. When I got to the pre-trial detention center, they ordered me to take a sobriety test. I refused, knowing they have defective machines and that such tests are unreasonable searches that seek to make a person incriminate himself.”
Bledsoe was says he was unprepared for what happened next.
“Correctional Officer Prescott struck my face with his hand,” Bledsoe recalls. “He hit me as hard as he could and said, ‘Shut up or you’ll get more.'”
Injured and afraid, Bledsoe was jailed on an exorbitant $10,000 bond, and was barely able to scrape together the $1000 needed to gain release.
Bledsoe and other activists say the arrests and treatment are attempts to shut down FLACAN activism, which often takes the form of pot rallies and lawsuits against city governments and officials.
“The judge and the cops have indicated that they are aware of my political activities and they are against them,” Bledsoe said. “This is all a form of harassment.”
Bledsoe’s case is the tip of an iceberg in prohibitionist Florida, which has its own drug czar and a governor who is the brother of presidential candidate George W. Bush.
“There ?s a terrible amount of injustice in this state,” Bledsoe says. “Governor Jeb Bush spends millions trying to harm non-violent marijuana users, his drug czar wants to kill the state’s plants with fungi, the police ignore the law and my constitutional rights. We could use some help down here.”
In the short term, Bledsoe needs help raising money for an attorney. Contributions can be sent to Scott Bledsoe, 141 Old Orange Park Rd., #177, Orange Park, Florida, 32073.