Let’s face it: 2015 has been a bumpy ride across the board — government intruded into our private lives by clandestinely passing CISA and laughed in our face by passing the ironically-monikered USA Freedom Act; the Police State kicked into high gear, with cops having killed at least one person in all 50 states by the time Christmas rolled around; and the attack in San Bernardino codified the presidential candidates’ push for war, while threatening to further erode any number of liberties for all of us. And that’s just a taste of what happened in the United States.
In order to narrow focus sufficiently for the confines of a single article, the struggle for cannabis rights earned more victories for the people than ever before, though the State still managed to ruin lives in several stunningly unjustifiable examples.
Following are a mere five stories of the countless wins — and sadly numerous losses — concerning cannabis, that took place in 2015.
1. Three-year-old Spencer Koptis lost his life because the State insists on waging war against a plant.
Spencer’s family received devastating news in his diagnosis of pilocytic, Pilomyxoid astrocytoma — inoperable brain cancer — when he was just 15 months old. After traditional chemotherapy did nothing to reduce the size of an insidious tumor, his mother, Suzetta Vonzell, sought alternative treatment — and eventually found hope in cannabis, which was generously donated by medical marijuana grower, James Benno.
Spencer’s large brain tumor, and several others along his spine, miraculously shrank. He began to move his hands and speak as he once had.
But all hope came crashing down, thanks to the unconscionable fist of the State and its absurd War on so-called Drugs: Benno’s cannabis growing facility was raided, and he and his two sons were arrested — and every miracle-giving plant, confiscated. Unable to locate another supplier for Spencer’s life-saving cannabis, Vonzell desperately turned back to pharmaceuticals. Unsurprisingly, the child’s health, and all progress, rapidly deteriorated. Mere days after celebrating Easter, Spencer passed away. Inexplicably immoral laws — and those who refuse to stand against, but instead enforce them, stole the life of a three-year-old child.
2. Kyler Carriker managed to thwart a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years, in an all-too-rare case where common sense prevailed.
Thinking he was doing a favor for an old classmate he hadn’t seen in many years, Carriker arranged for a cannabis transaction by calling a dealer he knew. Completely unaware the former school friend, Kyle Belts, had since joined a gang, Carriker set up a meeting at the home of Ronald Betts — a marijuana dealer whose brother, Donald, had once served as a Kansas state senator.
Belts’ nefarious plot to rob the two at gunpoint began almost as soon as he arrived, shooting both Carriker and Betts when he walked in the door. Betts later died from his injuries, but Carriker wound up with the murder charges — because, as the State saw it, he’d acted as middleman in the marijuana sale.
The state of Kansas retroactively applied a law enacted three months after the armed robbery, deeming marijuana offenses inherently dangerous felonies. Despite the obvious targeting of Carriker by authorities, rational heads prevailed in a jury’s decision he could not possibly be guilty of Betts’ murder. After several twists and attempts to railroad Carriker — likely to use him as an example — the father of two is back at home where he belongs.
3. For the crime of initiating a lucrative medical cannabis business and offering much-needed gainful employment to a number of people who needed it, the Pinoleville Pomo Nation was raided by the State — and lost everything.
On its sovereign land situated in California, the Pinoleville Pomo Nation began growing medical marijuana for sale to those in need of the vital medicine. Business was thriving, when, without warning, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office invaded their land and lay waste to everything the tribe had worked hard to create. Deputies decimated the cannabis crop in various locations around the property, including 400 plants, 100 pounds of trimmed and drying marijuana, and the tribe’s honey-oil manufacturing equipment.
“I think what they’re doing is not right,” said Nori Baldridge, director of economic development for the tribe. “This is sovereign land, and this is a sovereign nation.”
While this was quite a setback, the Pinoleville Pomo Nation is justifiably fighting the raid and the destruction of their property and livelihood — and considering the Sheriff and his minions have no legal authority over the tribe’s land, they are optimistic.
4. Cannabis continues to amaze as anecdotal as well as scientific evidence of its medical and medicinal value piles up — and several studies this year hinted at the miracle plant’s versatility.
In a groundbreaking survey of 446 patients who suffered traumatic brain injury, researchers at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) found promising correlation between cannabis use and the ability to survive trauma. “This study was one of the first in a clinical setting to specifically associate THC use as an independent predictor of survival after traumatic brain injury,” explained Dr. David Plurad, lead author of the study.
In a similar study, Israeli researchers discovered PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) may be abated by timely application of cannabinoids, or synthetic cannabis. In fact, that study critically found cannabinoids more effective in treating PTSD than commonly-prescribed SSRI antidepressants, whose adverse side effects often mimic or amplify the very condition they claim to treat — such as violent tendencies and suicidal ideation.
A further study suggests the non-psychoactive components in cannabis aid in healing bone fractures. Meanwhile, another study found the active component in marijuana — THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol — can delay rejection of incompatible organs after transplant.
With benefits constantly multiplying, the possible discoveries in the coming year are exciting — and anyone’s guess.
5. In yet another stunningly unnecessary display of State violence, unarmed Derek Cruice was robbed of life — without being given so much as the option for an appearance before a judge.
In March, a heavily militarized police unit originally intended to quash violent riots, SWAT, knocked and almost simultaneously used a battering ram to burst into Cruice’s home — despite prior knowledge he’d never before been convicted of a crime. Arrogantly acting as if on the field of battle in a warzone, multiple heavily-armed cops poured in and, according to witnesses inside, immediately began shooting.
Cruice, whom they suspected of dealing plant — and who could not have been mistaken for an armed and dangerous suspect, considering his only attire was basketball shorts — was shot in the face. He died at the scene because thugs in uniform, waving badges, wanted to play real-life cops and robbers — but there were no robbers — and the resulting loss of life in this case rests purely on arrogant, reactionary stupidity.
For Cruice’s family and friends, the officer who killed Derek escaped accountability for his heinous act when a grand jury somehow bought his valiant-warrior-against-drugs, bullshit excuse — and failed to indict him for murder.
6. Nothing exposes the State’s vile nature in its war on a plant quite like the murder of Zachary Hammond.
On July 26, Zach Hammond was on his first date with a new girlfriend. The two were stopping for ice cream when they were suddenly surrounded by cops.
Seneca Police Lt. Mark Tiller ran towards the 19-year-old’s car with his gun drawn because Hammond’s date, Tori Morton, allegedly sold a few grams of marijuana to an undercover cop. Tiller claimed that he was in danger and was forced to shoot Hammond to save his own life. However, dashcam video proved that to be false.
In October, the much-awaited dashcam footage was finally released and it shows that the officer was indeed not in danger as he murdered Hammond.
As Tiller exited his vehicle, he ran to the side of Hammond’s car. Hammond was only attempting to leave the scene when Tiller acted as if his life was in danger and began firing as he screamed, “I’m gonna shoot your f*cking ass!”
Immediately after falsely claiming that his life was in danger, Tiller screams, “He tried to hit me.” This statement, according to the video evidence, is a blatant lie.
Unfortunately, as is becoming absurdly commonplace, peaceful members of the community without any ill intent toward their fellow humans, fall victim to unjustifiable State violence — because of a remarkably beneficial plant.
Orwell’s dystopia couldn’t have been more prophetic — those once tasked with protecting the people, instead perpetrate the violence. Where law was intended to function as an extension of the people’s will, now generates State profit while eradicating rights — and often, lives.
It couldn’t be clearer this War on So-Called Drugs has no purpose but societal control, and a lack of conscience to match. Let’s all work to end this insanity in 2016.
Force is as pitiless to the man who possesses it, or thinks he does, as it is to its victims; the second it crushes, the first, it intoxicates. – Simone Weil
Claire Bernish writes for TheFreeThoughtProject.com