A recent, “routine” marijuana arrest in Florida serves as both a cautionary tale, and a timely reminder that while the War on Weed may be ending, it's far from over.
How can you tell that pot legalization, at long last, is almost here?
Forget the latest polls in Oklahoma and recent historic pronouncements from the US Justice Department. Forget that Colorado and Washington state will soon boast marijuana stores where any 21-year-old, from anywhere in the world, can buy buds, tinctures, topicals, edibles and concentrates without hassle of any kind. Forget that the cops in Seattle handed out Doritos at their city's legendary Hempfest this year—as part of what was seriously, officially dubbed “Operation Orange Fingers”—and nobody from Frito-lay so much as issued a corporate press release to deny the company's involvement.
Forget all that, and consider instead the unfortunate case of 37-year-old Floridian Jason Sprott. Whose story of getting pulled over, searched, and arrested for marijuana possession would be sadly all too common—dog bites man, if you will—were it not for one small, distinguishing detail. In fact, first reported in the local Gainesville Sun, this particular peculiarity was no doubt what inspired the mighty Associated Press to pick up the news, and send it out over their wires to publications nationwide.
Of course, as typically happens when the mainstream media reports on marijuana, they got some of the facts right, but completely missed their higher significance. Starting with the headline:
Man With Marijuana On Shirt Arrested
First of all, that awkward phrasing leads you to erroneously believe the guy got busted because a pro-pot message on his T-shirt lead to a search—a completely unconstitutional turn of events. When really he (allegedly) had actual cannabis plant matter stuck onto his clothing when he got pulled over, which obviously does qualify as probable cause in a state with absolutely no legal herb, even for patients with terminal cancer and a note from their doctors.
And so, a far more accurate and enlightening headline for this same article would read:
Man with Dreadlocks (Including In His Beard) Thinks Its Safe to Drive A Van Full of Pot Smoke Through a Small, Conservative Town in the Deep South Known For Corrupt Traffic Stops While Completely Stoned (With Weed Stuck to His Shirt)
Home to just over 1,000 residents, Waldo, Florida, where the incident took place, recently ranked #3 in a listing of the "Worst Speed Trap Cities" in North America. A situation so bad that the American Automobile Association actually paid to put up billboards warning motorists in both directions as they approach the town. And still, in one year, local cops wrote nearly 9,000 tickets, more than 25 per day, bringing in around $300,000 in revenue.
So it's not hard to imagine how Mr. Sprott, who appears to be more than a little irie in his mug shot, attracted some unwanted attention from the local authorities as he rolled through town (presumably blasting Peter Tosh's Legalize It! from his car stereo). Especially, according to the official police report, after he exited the allegedly clam-baked vehicle and promptly confessed to his interrogators that he'd been smoking weed and even had an appreciable amount of it in his van. All of which leads a well-informed reader to only one conclusion: This incredibly enthusiastic ganja aficionado simply forgot that his favorite plant remains fully illegal in Florida (and 29 other states).
After all, when it comes to cannabis in the news lately, you tend to read a lot more about amazing medical breakthroughs and new high-minded business opportunities in the emerging marijuana industry than the fact that our nation will still arrest about 800,000 people for pot this year. So let this story serve as a healthy reminder to keep your outlaw instincts up and running whenever and wherever loving Mary Jane still puts you afoul of the law.
In particular, as the wonderful outdoor cannabis harvest season fast approaches, please keep in mind that all trimmers, leafers, and other ganja farm workers of the world must most definitely maintain one set of clothes to wear while knee deep in the sticky-icky, and another completely clean set for heading into town. Because while it's wonderful to wear your love for marijuana on your sleeve, that's not an expression to be taken literally. And least not while driving through Waldo!