Philadelphia Marijuana Activists Due in Federal Court this WeekBy Scott Gacek | The Daily Chronic October 21, 2013
PHILADELPHIA, PA — Two longtime marijuana reform activists are due in United States Federal Magistrate Court this Thursday, charged with possession of marijuana, for smoking a joint at the Independence Hall National Park in Philadelphia. They are facing six months in federal prison.
“The United States is now divided by a patchwork of freedom for cannabis consumers,” says Chris Goldstein, one of the two defendants. “It is time to remove cannabis from Controlled Substances Act and finally end marijuana prohibition. We’re keeping the pressure on the federal government with this monthly protest.”
Goldstein, who is the co-chair of Philly NORML, the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and co-defendant Don DeZarn, a candidate for the New Jersey Senate’s 14th legislative district, are each facing six months in federal prison and/or a $1000 fine for smoking a joint in protest of federal cannabis prohibition laws at Independence Mall National Historic Park in August.
DeZarn and Goldstein were both detained for the possession of a single marijuana joint each. No other controlled substances or paraphernalia was found in their possession after being searched by authorities.
“The federal government should not make a practice to targeting marijuana reform activists for their harshest legal treatment,” says Goldstein.
Because very few simple marijuana possession cases go before federal courts every year, Goldstein says that it is important to offer the most vigorous legal defense possible. The pair has established a legal defense fund on fundraising website GoFundMe, and are hoping to raise $10,000 to cover attorney costs.
While most cannabis possession offenses that occur on national park property results in a $175 fine, the US Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has refused to allow the two pro-cannabis activists to pay a simple fine, instead they must appear in Federal Magistrate Court on October 24, 2013 at 10:30 AM.
Goldstein and DeZarn have both been cited twice in the last year during the monthly Smoke Down Prohibition protests in Philadelphia, which take place in an public space designated for First Amendment activity in the shadow of the Liberty Bell.
Both defendants spoke at the rallies, and then participated in planned civil disobedience actions in protest of federal laws prohibiting marijuana. Both were arrested by US Park Rangers for the possession of a controlled substance.
Meanwhile, activists in Philadelphia plan to return to the Liberty Bell on Saturday for the tenth installment of the Smoke Down Prohibition protests. Philly NORML will once again pair with The Panic hour to host the event in the First Amendment area located at 5th and Market Streets. The protest is scheduled to begin at 3:30 pm.
Participants at Smoke Down Prohibition X will hear speeches from activists and advocates then some will take part in a “moment of cannabis reflection” at 4:20PM. The time is symbolic to many American cannabis consumers and marijuana joints are lit as a civil disobedience action, with protesters risking arrest by US Park Rangers, who are anticipated to once again be in attendance.
Since the monthly protests bean, over 2,500 people have protested federal marijuana prohibition laws by lighting up at 4:20 pm. Since US Park Rangers began cracking down on the protests in May, approximately 30 attendees have been arrested or cited for possession at the events.
More information about Saturday’s protest can be found here.Chris Goldstein , Department of Justice , Don Dezarn , Eric Holder , Independence Mall National Historic Park , N.A Poe , PhillyNORML‘ , Smoke Down Prohibition , The Panic Hour
by Scott Gacek
A long time marijuana reform activist from Boston, Scott Gacek served on the Board of Directors of MassCann, the Massachusetts state NORML chapter, from 2009-2011. In July 2013, Scott assumed the role of Editor in Chief of The Daily Chronic.