Activists Face Federal Charges Over Smoking Joint
photo by Kit Friday
This article originally appeared on the Daily Chronic and was written by Scott Gacek. It can be seen here. To support the activists in their joint legal defense fund make contributions here.
Chris Goldstein activist and 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, each face six months in federal prison and/or a $1000 fine for smoking a joint at a protest of federal pot laws at Independence Mall National Historic Park in August.
While most cannabis possession offenses that happen on federal property result in a $175 fine, the US Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is refusing to let the two cannabis activists pay a fine, requiring instead that they appear in Federal Magistrate Court on October 24, 2013.
Goldstein and DeZarn were both cited twice in the past year during the monthly Smoke Down Prohibition protests, which are held in a public space designated for First Amendment activity.
Both defendants spoke at the rallies, then participated in planned civil disobedience actions to protest federal pot-prohibition laws. They were arrested by US Park Rangers for possessing a controlled substance.
“The federal government should not make a practice of targeting marijuana reform activists for their harshest legal treatment,” says Goldstein.
The ongoing monthly Smoke Down Prohibition protests began peacefully in Philadelphia and saw no arrests until May of this year. Since then, Assistant US Attorney Richard Goldberg and a noticeable presence of federal law enforcement have made arrests and prosecuted protesters.