Dana Beal, a permanent fixture on the counterculture scene and a veteran New York City-based activist perhaps best known for organizing the annual Global Marijuana Marches and smoke-ins for the past 30 years, was arrested last week in Illinois on money-laundering charges. But at a court hearing Thursday, the original charge was abandoned and Beal was charged with the much lesser offense of obstruction of justice. He was able to make the $7,500 cash bond set at that hearing and is now a free man, at least for now.
"They're saying the money smelled like marijuana," Beal's local attorney told the Times.
The Times reported that Beal had told friends he was traveling with the cash because he was planning to finance an ibogaine clinic with it. Beal is a long-time advocate for ibogaine, which he and others argue can be used to break addictions to other drugs.
Although Beal was originally charged with money-laundering, local prosecutors may have figured out that a US Supreme Court ruling last week cut the legs out from under them. In that case, Regalado Cuellar v. US, the high court ruled that merely hiding money in a vehicle does not constitute money laundering. Instead, prosecutors must show that the money was hidden with the purpose of hiding the true source of the funds. Illinois prosecutors said they may try to file money-laundering charges later, but that will require more evidence than merely hiding money.
Still, Beal is currently facing charges and his money is now in the hands of Illinois authorities. Whether he can keep his freedom -- or get the cash back -- remains to be seen.
(Drug War Chronicle will publish information on Beal's legal defense fund when it becomes available.)