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South Dakota Judge Sentences Marijuana Reform Activist to Shut Up

Submitted by Phillip Smith on
South Dakota's most well-known marijuana legalization advocate, Bob Newland, was sentenced yesterday to a year in the Pennington County Jail with all but 45 days suspended for felony marijuana possession--a little less than four ounces. Once he does his time, he'll be on probation for a year. Newland can, I suppose, consider himself fortunate. According to the South Dakota Department of Corrections, there are currently six people imprisoned for possession of less than half a pound and seven for more than half but less than one pound, as well as 14 doing time for distribution of less than an ounce and another 25 doing time for distribution of less than a pound. But in another respect, Newland is not so lucky. He has basically been stripped of his First Amendment right to advocate for marijuana legalization while he is on probation. As the Associated Press reported:
A longtime South Dakota supporter of legalized marijuana has been sentenced to serve 45 days in jail for possessing the illegal drug. Authorities say Bob Newland of Hermosa was found with four bags of marijuana, a scale and $385 in cash when he was stopped for speeding in March. He pleaded guilty in May to a possession charge under a plea agreement in which prosecutors agreed to drop a more serious charge of possession with intent to distribute. Newland will be on probation for the rest of the year following his jail term. During his probation, he is barred from publicly advocating the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Newland, understandably, is not inclined to challenge the probation condition. There's something about staring at the walls of a jail cell that does that to a guy. But that doesn't mean others shouldn't raise a stink about this arguably unconstititional sentence. I'll be looking into this and will have a Chronicle story about it on Friday.

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