It’s rare to get good news from a person just arrested for marijuana.
A few days ago, we reported the sad story of medical marijuana grower-patient Tom Waters, who contacted us very upset about being raided by Orange County, California sheriffs who came into his home last week and trashed his legal medical cannabis garden.
When we first interviewed him, Waters was typical of most people arrested for cannabis ? he was depressed and scared but angry, confused about what to do, and worried that protesting the raid in public would cause police and prosecutors to harm him even more.
He was traumatized by the arrest; police had apparently told him that if he retained an attorney or told the media about the raid, that they would bring in the DEA and make things far worse for him.
As we put together the article and waited for Waters to send us before and after pictures of his raided garden (grown from Marc Emery seeds), Waters understandably wavered about whether he wanted us to use his real name in the article. In many cases, a defendant’s public criticism of police soon after being arrested, and especially before the defendant has been formally charged with a crime, can have a variety of effects, not all of them positive.
Some argue that the best defense is a good offense. Following the lead of Marc Emery and other cannabis advocates who refuse to lie about their marijuana activities and would rather do jail time than run from prosecution or denounce the plant they believe in, Waters at first insisted that his real name be used in the article.
Later, after discussing the situation with his wife and people familiar with police-prosecutor vindictiveness, he wondered if it would be better to use a pseudonym.
As marijuana journalists, we always err on the side of caution, rarely using real names, details or identifying photos of people committing illegal acts of cannabis civil disobedience, even if they want us to use their real names and identifying photos. We change the article so that Tom Waters became “John Doe.”
Eventually, however, Waters decided to stand tall for his plants, and authorized us to use his real name, which appeared in an article published online last week.
A similar situation occurred with head shop entrepreneur William Perry in Maple Ridge, Canada, who contacted us very upset about being raided July 6th. Perry had already given boldly defiant interviews to two local publications in the small community near Vancouver where he lives, but later wondered if that would inflame the situation.
After consultation with his partner and friends, and citing the example of Marc Emery, he decided to do a no-holds-barred interview with us in which he denounced the police and defended his character, business practices, and marijuana. Indeed, Perry said that the bust made him decide to go political, and he used the local newspaper articles about the raid to announce that he would run for mayor!
We’ve seen such courage backfire sometimes. Arrested people who publicly trash the police or who actively defy police by continuing to be involved in marijuana often find the police again and again back at their door. Or they might find that relatively minor charges and penalties have been upgraded by prosecutors and judges who disliked the “impudence” of pot advocates who refuse to feel guilty for being involved with the plant.
Such was the case with Emery last year in Saskatoon, when the judge who sentenced Emery to 90 days in jail for passing a joint specifically indicated that the unusually harsh sentence resulted from Emery’s refusal to stop breaking marijuana laws.
Tom Waters has a degenerative spinal disorder and a digestive disorder that he treats with cannabis. Two other bona fide patients, protected by California’s Prop. 215, were counting on his garden as well.
The grower was apparently busted after nark neighbors turned him in. Police used fear tactics during the raid, first telling Waters he would go to jail for a long time unless he cooperated by narking on other people, and later contradicting that by admitting that local jails are too full to have room for medpot patients.
Nevertheless, police took Waters’ medicine, wrecked his grow room, and left him believing that prosecutors would lay charges against him. He went public in a CC article, and waited to see what would happen.
Late last night, he gave us surprisingly welcome information.
“I’ve got possible good news,” he said. “You guys aren’t going to believe this. I called the Orange County Sheriffs Department unit that raided my house, and the officer said on the phone that although he couldn’t give me legal advice regarding obtaining marijuana, he felt that I did have a serious enough medical condition, and that I can get my stuff back through a judge or the district attorney. I just need to call them tomorrow.”
Waters has yet to verify if this unexpected show of compassion is real, but he believes that it indicates that police have reviewed their raid and determine that it should never have taken place. In most situations, especially in conservative places like Orange County, California, prosecutors charge a person and force them to spend thousands of dollars on attorneys to prove their innocence using Prop. 215 as an affirmative defense. Sometimes they refer cases to federal prosecutors, where there is no affirmative defense.
In Waters’ case, if the officer is to be trusted, the raid was the beginning and the end of the bad situation.
“What a deal,” Waters said with relief. “Even though karma sent a shock wave through my life with the raid, it did do some positive things, like putting my ego in check. Everyone can stand to be humbled in this life at some point. It also made me realize what I really want to do in my life ? be a cannabis activist and freedom fighter who gives back to those that need help the most. In the future I am giving a certain percent of my income to worthy causes.”
Waters immediately put his money where his mouth is, asking us to give him contact info for William Perry so he can send the embattled Canadian a donation for his legal defense fund.
Unlike some others who have received media assistance and/or financial assistance from Cannabis Culture and Marc Emery (Emery gives away hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to pro-pot individuals, organizations, legal challenges, events and causes), Waters is one of few individuals that I can remember in my career as a pot journalist who has given us a spontaneous, sincere heart-conscious thanks for caring about and publicizing his case.
“Thanks so much for your support,” he said, adding that he’s eager to get more Emery genetics and re-grow his garden. “You all are such wonderful people. I want you to know you all have a place to stay here in California anytime, if you want to come down. I mean that! And just because I got lucky doesn’t mean I am going to stop my important activism work. I cannot rest until the injustice that has been done to our plant is reversed. I’m sending much love to all you wonderful souls. I truly can’t believe that I might get my medicine back and no charges will be filed. Why do cops make you think the very worst? They told me so many lies. But in the end, love always triumphs over hate. Every time!”