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RECENTS

The Cost of Cannabis is Blood: Facing 20 years in Prison

With corporations from coast to coast diving in for a lucrative new industry, the scars of criminalization and the terror of mass-incarceration remain firmly etched in my psyche. It has only been a handful of years since being swarmed by undercover officers, drug officers, undercover detectives, local police, a drug dog, and god only knows who else. Right then it hits you, I’m smoked. The next 18 months on bond nearly broke me, while facing twenty years in Florida’s Department Of Corrections for three cannabis sales.


The cost of cannabis sales today Is profit, but not so long ago, the cost was Blood & Life.

It’s 2013 and here’s my story...


As I walked into the local taco place, my associate I was meeting with needed to use the restroom. I was scraping by, while attending school in St Pete Florida, and helping to bring some grade A wax to the gun-shine state. As I held our spot in line, a commotion erupted behind me as I turned to see the goon squad suited and booted entering the premises. My heart sunk realizing it was a set-up. I immediately booked it to the door, becoming shoulder to shoulder with two pigs before they realized I was the suspect to be apprehended. Life flashes before the eyes.


JUNKYARD RATS

After being cuffed and stuffed in a patrol car, we were heading in the opposite direction from the Pinellas county jail. A few minutes later we were pulling into a junkyard, as my senses went on ultra-high alert. The car came to a stop, the driver refusing to answer my questions. To my delight, the dude who had been to my home and smoked with me before was the first to open the car door and offer his services– a get out of jail free card– if you will, that is, after I unleashed a barrage of insults, as this confidential informant dared to show himself! Too bad the informant was actually the detective, pulling his badge to make it known. He also made it clear that if I wasn’t in school or if I was selling other drugs, he would have continued to conduct controlled buys, multiplying the felonies into a life sentence. And this, the state that supplied the nation with Oxycontin and overdose from countless Pill Mills in the 2-3 years prior. I was arrested and charged with three felonies for cannabis sales stated as: “The possession with intent to sell, distribute, manufacture, or produce a controlled substance,” after handing back the rat card.


Sentence Enhancers

To make things infinitely worse, I was already on bond for purchasing and possessing a whopping total of one-half of one Xanax bar. It was nearly a sting operation with a guy randomly offering bars in the park and me figuring why not. Boom, felony arrest. Cops had the place staked-out. In the court’s eyes I was now operating a controlled drug organization, selling cannabis while on felony bond. Over the course of the next 18 months I lost everything including my sanity for extended lengths of time, fighting a case that easily could have cost me my life.


Despite bonding out before I’d been booked in the jail (thanks to a call from the junkyard) by the time I was back home, almost everything in my apartment was gone. The police raided my apartment after the arrest and left my front door wide open. Not just unlocked, but with the door left wide open. The cost of bond and an attorney left me in dire straits. My funding for school would be revoked and my pursuit of higher education dashed. Coming from Colorado where cannabis is everyday life, I was a fish out of water. With real life crack heads still roaming the streets and the parks full of bath-salt smokers, targeting cannabis was so outrageous, it never really crossed my mind.


20 years minimum sentencing range


Three cannabis felonies, one felony for possession of xanex, with five years for each, run consecutively, totaled 20 years in the department of corrections. No plea deal would be accomplished, but trial was out of the question. I was guilty and nailed dead to rights. It wasn’t like this was any sort of secret, just quality cannabis for me and a few neighbors when east coast weed was still awful. There was no more than thirty or forty grams of CO2 wax involved in the sales and no more than a few thousand dollars exchanged, yet a picture began to crystallize.


The Wire

No police officer, whether undercover or not, would set foot inside someone’s home to conduct controlled purchases, without a fleet of police officers just around the block. Video surveillance, audio surveillance, back-up, permission from superiors, and documentation were needed. The mere thought of what is required to set up three controlled buys (2 at my apartment & 1 at the taco spot) is astounding. The cost is unthinkable. What a godforsaken waste of taxpayer dollars, easily spending hundreds of thousands on this operation alone.


Living under the crushing weight of felony charges and the mere thought of incarceration is enough to bring many to suicide. Life becomes unbearable, meaningless, pointless and things can get dark quick. The amount of times I wished I’d just drop dead are far too many to count. Life becomes more about preparation for a lengthy period of incarceration, (which in practice looks more like losing one’s sanity). Considering the circumstances and my thorough experience with the criminal justice system, decades in prison wouldn’t be too outlandish to hand out. Especially in Florida. And as soon as the court proceedings begin, the harmless little plant may as well be crack cocaine or heroin in the court’s eyes. I’d seen this system inside and out from my incarceration in Colorado where being arrested from the emergency room after overdosing was the cause for my first felony conviction. Anyone who thinks as I did, would assume in this day and age the justice system couldn’t possibly error in such egregious ways. We are wrong.


Plea-Tortures

The district attorney’s demanded prison time for a minimum of two years if I was willing to accept their offers. I was not. I denied their offers, all of which were absolutely absurd to me. This is how the American justice system works through intimidation. Without my willingness to wait, and of course my ability to make bond, (which explains the ability to be patient), I could have signed up for two years in prison at any time. Without the money to bond out, I'd have almost certainly signed the offer immediately in order to leave the tortured confines of county jail and begin the sentence in prison. My refusal matched with a private attorney who can stall and keep the case alive for over a year, is the only reason I avoided prison time. The longer you wait, the harder you fight, and the more effort you put into your so-called recovery, the more willing the court is to move on, choosing to pick their battles accordingly. There’s a never ending list of inexperienced Americans ready to cop to a plea bargain immediately, terrified by intimidation and the sentencing range.



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