Here is an update from South Dakota where the judge who placed a one year gag order on South Dakota NORML’s Bob Newland not to publicly advocate for cannabis law reform whilst on probation for a minor cannabis offense has had to defend his sentencing and constitutionally-questionable limitations on Mr. Newland’s First Amendment rights to free speech; the right to peaceably assemble; petition the government for a redress of grievances.
To place this into sharper political context, in their first attempt two years ago, South Dakotan voters narrowly defeated a pro-medical cannabis initiative, 51%-49%.
Therefore, placing First Amendment restrictions on the state’s most vocal and notable cannabis law reform advocate for a minor cannabis offense sets a wretched legal precedent for personal freedom and political organizing in South Dakota.
To make matters worse, now an anti-drug state senator is gratuitously misleading the public by claiming that medical cannabis advocates in South Dakota are disingenuous:
“Judge Delaney was absolutely correct. To characterize Newland as an advocate for the legalization of marijuana for MEDICAL purposes is untrue. He is only interested in making marijuana available for his friends and others for recreational purposes, and perhaps financial gain.”
The voters of South Dakota need to run another pro-cannabis law reform initiative and pass it ASAP, making politicos like Adelstein and Judge Delaney eat crow—like hundreds of other politicos since the early 1990s who’ve opposed cannabis law reform, only to see voter-driven initiatives wash over them, and their opposition to these important–and popular–public law reforms.
28 July 2009
I write today to tell a tale of an execrable and gratuitous lie told by SD State Senator Stanford Adelstein.
First, on Monday, July 27, the following story appeared in the Rapid City Journal
Judge defends marijuana sentence
Jack Delaney imposed a gag order on political activist Bob Newland
By Kevin Woster, Journal staff | Monday, July 27, 2009
The well-known public advocate for the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes had previously pleaded guilty to felony possession of the drug. And Delaney wanted to make the sentence sting without imposing an unduly harsh prison term on a 60-year-old man with a relatively clean criminal record.
So in essence, he told him to shut up for a year about one thing: medical marijuana, and an ongoing campaign to bring the issue to another public vote in 2010.
Delaney sentenced Newland to one year in Pennington County Jail but suspended all but 45 days under a set of stipulations that included weekly drug tests, random searches and a one-year ban on public advocacy for medical marijuana.
Delaney rejects assertions by some that he was imposing his personal beliefs on medical marijuana through the sentence.
“I have no concern whatsoever about whether medical marijuana is legalized,” Delaney said during an interview with the Journal in his office. “The important thing was to have a sentence crafted to impose a penalty on Mr. Newland that was significant to him.”
The advocacy ban was an infringement on Newland’s First Amendment rights. Delaney doesn’t deny that. But neither does he consider it more onerous or any less appropriate than many other infringements imposed as part of felony sentences.
The random searches Newland faces in the next year would be violations of his constitutional rights, but for the felony plea. Felons can face otherwise unconstitutional firearms restrictions and the right to associate with certain people or go to certain establishments, Delaney said.
“We restrict speech as well in a lot of protection orders, or in divorces, where in some cases the parties’ freedom to speak to one another may be limited,” he said.
And given the fact that the maximum penalty for Class 6 felony marijuana possession was two years in prison and a $4,000 fine, Newland’s sentence could be considered light by others who face similar charges, Delaney said. He was particularly concerned about younger minority defendants who might get a longer jail term for the same crime.
“I’m sitting there faced with a gentleman who is older, well known, who is thought by many to be considerably more well off than he is, and he is seeking a sentence that is going to be considerably more lenient that what they (minority defendants) might receive,” Delaney said. “So my thought was that I have to take something from him that is as valuable or maybe even more valuable than his freedom.”
Delaney settled on what he calls the “partial infringement of speech,” as well as limits on his freedom of association in support of medical marijuana. Newland may still meet in private with medical marijuana advocates to plan the medical-marijuana campaign. But he cannot appear publicly in or speak on or for the campaign.
“I’m taking away a legal right of the person to associate,” Delaney said. “I’m taking away his liberties. But not nearly as much as if he were in jail.”
Typical sentences for the same felony possession charge range from 45 days to 120 days in jail, Delaney said. But many of those who receive such sentences have more criminal marks on their record, he said.
Delaney has received about 40 e-mails commenting on the verdict, with many critical of the ban on speech and public involvement in the medical marijuana campaign. Many of the e-mails came from people active in the medical marijuana movement, he said, and some engaged in “name calling.”
Others, however, were more understanding when Delaney explained his rationale.
“All felonies are serious crimes, and they have a wide range of impacts on anybody who’s a felon,” he said. “This is unusual. And if it hadn’t been Bob Newland, it wouldn’t have had the same impact.”
Contact Kevin Woster at 394-8413 or firstname.lastname@example.org
In the online “Comments” on this story, Sen. Adelstein said this (reprinted as written, bad grammar and spelling intact):
Judge Delaney was absolutely correct. To characterize Newland as an advocate for the legalization of marijuana for MEDICAL purposes is untrue. He is only interested in making marijuana available for his friends and others for recreational purposes, and perhaps financial gain.
I met with him at the Capitol in Room 411, (or maybe 412) during the session to offer, to assist for MRDICAL purposes in a Bill, as Chair of Health and Human Services. I said that I would only do so if there were 3 (three) simple changes in the legislation he was proposing.
1. There would be a required prescription from and MD legally authorized to issue drug prescription
2.The prescription could only be given if either there was no FDA drug that would accomplish the same as the marijuana or that drug cost three more times the cost of the pot.
3. The marijuana could only come from one or two sites approved and inspected by the SD Dept of Health
He and his friends in the room flatly rejected all three saying that anyone could grow the stuff for anyone else at any time that it was needed
I walked out of the room, knowing that they had no true interest in the help for people with pain and/or suffering. I of course opposed their bill vigorously and it did not even get to the House floor.
Newland is and should be treated as a common felon. The Judge was correct from stopping his phone posturing, I only wish that it was for more than a single year.
Stan Adelstein, State Senator District 32
The details of the meeting as described by Adelstein are a lie. You can read the true story at the decorum Forum Blog, and you can comment there or at the Journal “Comments” site above.
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