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NORML Lawyers' Advice to Marijuana Suspects: STFU [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #649)
Consequences of Prohibition

A panel of marijuana criminal defense attorneys on the opening day of NORML's 39th Annual National Conference in Portland Thursday were unanimous and emphatic on one thing people with pot should do when confronted by police: exercise their right to remain silent.

"Don't talk to those people," warned Oakland defense attorney and NORML board member Bill Panzer. "Their job is to throw your ass in jail. They are not there to help you."

"Don't talk to the cops," agreed Seattle defense attorney Jeffrey Steinborn. "No matter what you say to a cop, they will write down what they want to hear. They can't misinterpret stone cold silence."

"Shut the fuck up," punctuated Seattle defense attorney Douglas Hiatt, noting that people were understandably under stress when having encounters with law enforcement. People are prone to try to talk their way out of trouble, he said. "This is not the time you're going to be doing quality thinking."

Less colorful variations on the theme also came from Columbia, Missouri, defense attorney and NORML board Dan Viets, Portland defense attorney John Lucy, and Florida defense attorney and NORML board member Norm Kent. All were members of the panel "Warning: Marijuana is Still Illegal for Non-Patients! Legal Defenses and Strategies for Cannabis Consumers," moderated by Kent.

Telling pot people they have -- and should exercise -- the right to remain silent isn't anything new. Groups from the ACLU to Flex Your Rights have long offered the same counsel, as will any defense attorney if you ask him. But with millions of marijuana consumers, legions of police ready to take them down, and 800,000 marijuana arrests a year, nearly 90% for small-time possession, this panel of pot friendly legal pros clearly felt it was a message worth reiterating.

The defense attorneys had plenty of other admonitions for pot smokers, growers, and dealers, all frankly designed to help them flout laws the lawyers consider immoral. The tough warnings were, however, leavened by outbursts of laughter as they shared stories of bumbling and hapless clients.

Like Norm Kent's tale of a home in Florida where police suspected a marijuana grow was going on, but lacked sufficient evidence to obtain a search warrant. They conducted a "knock and talk," where they simply knocked on the front door to see if the resident would let them in. Kent's advice: Don't talk to the police. In fact, you don't even have to acknowledge their presence.

That's not what happened. Instead a 17-year-old opened the door to the knocking police, was asked about marijuana being grown at the residence, and blurted out, "It's my dad's dope; not mine!"

Kent got a client he wouldn't otherwise have had because the kid didn't know how to respond properly (by not even answering the door, or not opening it). "You have the right to say no," he said. "Just say no."

"Don't even open the door," said Steinborn. "Make them break it down."

Steinborn, a white-haired veteran, said he had three rules: "Only break one law at a time," he said, especially when driving. "The second rule is leave the paraphernalia at home. Learn to roll a joint!" he exclaimed. "The third rule is to always be courteous, but ask them if you're free to go."

"Don't text message," groaned Panzer. "If you've got 'Dude, I loved the purp! Can I get 3 lbs?' on your phone, they will find it, even if you deleted it."

That proscription should apply to any use of electronic media for conducting marijuana business, the attorneys said. Pot leaves on your Facebook page could help police convince a judge their request for a search warrant had merit. Photos of you proudly displaying your garden would be even more incriminating.

"Anything on email or the Internet is out there," said Steinborn.

Hire them or attorneys like them for your own good, especially if you're growing or selling, they pleaded. And don't wait until after you've been arrested.

"If you're a pot grower or dealer and you don’t have a lawyer on retainer, you're nuts," said Lucy. "If you're going to engage in felonious conduct on a regular basis and you haven't spent $250 for a lawyer…" he trailed off.

Guns and marijuana don't mix, the defense attorneys warned, citing mandatory minimum federal and state sentencing enhancements that come into play if a gun is found in the home, even if it was not used or brandished. You can have your guns or you can have your grow, they said, but you shouldn't have both or you're exposing yourself to serious time.

The war on marijuana is ultimately a war on the people who grow, sell, and use it. This NORML panel was quite frank about being on the other side of the battle and was offering up some basic training Thursday afternoon.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


EAH (not verified)

I can't tell you how many of my friends said, "Oh yeah, I watch Cops all the time, I know you should never talk to cops" and then proceeded try and talk their way out of a trip to jail, and not only hastened the trip but made the job of their Lawyers MUCH more difficult. When I had my encounter with LE, I was the only person of the dozen confronted by investigating officers to say nothing but "I wish to speak to a Lawyer". Nothing, Zip, Nada, NFW.....

Sat, 09/11/2010 - 1:04am Permalink
malcolmkyle (not verified)

Like it or not, there has never been, and nor will there ever be, a drug-free society; the use of addictive or recreational drugs is a natural part of human existence. Nobody here is claiming that any substance is beneficial for either the individual or society. It is true however that certain substances help the soul heal and relieve pain while others provide short-term relief from a monotonous existence at the risk of possible long-term health problems.

An important aspect of Individual freedom is the right to do with yourself as you please as long as your actions cause no unnecessary suffering or direct harm to others. Many among us may disagree with this, and they should be free to believe what they wish, but the moment they are willing to use force to impose their will on the rest of us, is the exact same moment that the petty criminals/dealers, the Mafia, drug barons, terrorists and corrupt government officials/agencies enter the equation. The problems created by self harm then rapidly pale into insignificance as society spirals downwards into a dark abyss, while the most shady characters and 'black-market corporate entities' exponentially enrich themselves in a feeding frenzy likened to that of piranhas on bath-tub meth.

Prohibition isn't like a disease where we're still waiting for the cure to be discovered - we know the cure for this. This isn't like putting a man on the moon or inventing the Internet - it doesn't take some stroke of genius or feat of technology. We have everything we need, right now, to end this moronothon. Rarely in the history of mankind have we encountered a problem of such magnitude and consequence that is so eminently solvable.

The Founding Fathers were not social conservatives who believed that citizens should be subordinate to any particular narrow religious moral order. That is what the whole concept of unalienable individual rights means, and sumptuary laws, especially in the form of prohibition, were something they continually warned about.

Imagine, that by some impossible means, prohibition succeeded in eradicating more than 90% of all the cocaine in the world, bringing production down to a mere one ton a week. Now imagine what that one single ton would be worth and what people would be willing to do to get it to market.

Sat, 09/11/2010 - 6:20am Permalink

The knowledge of how to make these drugs like meth and crack is everywhere. You can see online how to grow any plant and harvest the drugs from it. The Genie is out of the bottle and it will never go back in , only underground. We are stuck with drugs in our society for the rest of mankind, so we may as well get used to it and accommodate it's use. I do not know where the quote came from but it said something like learn to be tolerant or build more prisons, that is our options. Here in Canada, for some screwed up reason, the Harper government is building prisons when crime is at A 30 YEAR LOW!!!. Many laws that Harper is putting out are 180 degrees to what the majority of Canadians want,legal weed. He is forcing mandatory minimums when it has been proven to be a failure in the U.S. and elsewhere it has been tried. He will have to kill millions in order to scare the rest into allowing thugs dressed as police to kick in your door for no reason and if you have a dog, shoot it on sight and if there happens to be kids about... oh well, they should have not been there... (not to mention the hundreds of wrong addresses and the killing of innocent people), but I digress. My point here is if we continue to fight an unwinnable war on drugs, we will not survive, as all our resources get eaten up to supply the prison/military complex with fresh meat, as jailed or jailers. Those will be the only jobs, so we had better have an endless stream of "Criminals" to pay for this farce. Why not just tax and regulate it?

Mon, 09/13/2010 - 12:29am Permalink
KIng Pothead (not verified)

In reply to by Medicinal Mike (not verified)

How very, very stupid it would be for Canada to follow in the steps of this country in any way.  The U.S.A. is a f***ed up mess and I would really hate to see our neighbor to the north make the same mistakes by following the lead of that Harper conservatard.

Thu, 09/16/2010 - 12:58pm Permalink
Patrick Star (not verified)

I'm a 100% Service Connected Disabled Veteran. I have suffered from pain since 1972 and the only thing the VA offers for pain relief is OPIATES and "pain cocktails" after one receives "Pain Management Training".

After 8 years of being a hydromorphone addict, I went cold turkey and began medical marijuana. The majority of my pain is now "manageable". My life is now easier and less painful - a 100% improvement and I'm not addicted to narcotics anymore.

Take it from an ex-hippie, 40 yr. ex-smoker, addict and alcoholic, medical marijuana is no more addicting than coffee.

Mon, 09/13/2010 - 10:20pm Permalink

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