In a July 29, 2009 e-mail (which was voluntarily forwarded to the NORML office), Rep. Benton wrote: “Thanks for the email. We will have to agree to disagree on this and whether or not money is wasted (by mandating the state to prosecute minor marijuana offenders). I am opposed to the legalization of marijuana. I think we should go to caning for people caught using and maybe execute dealers. [emphasis NORML’s] That would solve the problem as well. That is what they do in Singapore and they don’t have a drug problem.”
Caning is a form of corporal punishment consisting of up to 24 violent lashes with a long rattan cane that has been soaked in water. The procedure inflicts intense pain and deep, bloody lacerations that can take several months to heal.
Rep. Benton followed up his remarks in a separate e-mail on August 11 (also forwarded to NORML) in which he threatened to turn over the names of citizens who disagreed with his political viewpoints to local law enforcement.
He wrote: “You and your cronies want it (marijuana) legalized so you can get a hit anytime without having to worry about getting arrested. I have forwarded your email to the Lowndes County sheriffs [sic] office so that they can be on the lookout for you. [emphasis NORML’s] Consider this my last correspondence on the the [sic] subject to you or anyone else who shares your similar “conservative views’.”
Benton was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 2005.
UPDATE from Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator – Please Don’t Threaten Rep. Benton! Just Vote Him Out of Office.
Since we began covering the story of Georgia Rep. Tommy “Caning for Potheads” Benton on July 29, the story has spread like wildfire. We issued an official press release today and featured the story here and the NORML front page just yesterday and already the story has been covered from the libertarian/right Reason blog to the liberal/left TalkLeft blog.
However, I am deeply disturbed at some of the nearly 250 comments the story has gotten at the NORML Blog. There are threats of assassinating, shooting, caning, and kicking the ass of Rep. Benton, as well as comparisons to Adolf Hitler. Some have even threatened his wife, children, and family dog and published Rep. Benton’s home telephone number (which I’ve scrubbed).
Stop it! Rise above the level of people like Rep. Benton. Violence and threats of violence not only solve nothing and hurt our movement, but they may be actionable criminal acts.
I understand the feelings of anger and desire for vengeance. For far too long our people have been intimidated, harassed, threatened, assaulted, imprisoned, and killed for our interaction with a plant. Far too many homes have been burst into by armor-clad assault-weapon-armed police. Our people have had our careers shattered, education thwarted, children taken, healthcare denied, civil rights abrogated, dogs murdered, property stolen and destroyed, and voting rights erased in this “Land of the Free” because we liked to use the hemp plant in the same way this country’s Founders did. Believe me, I report stories and read heartbreaking personal emails like this every day.
I considered deleting these comments but have not (though my superiors may overrule me) because I do think they tap into the strong current of “we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take this anymore” that runs through the cannabis community. Plus I am a strong advocate of free speech on our forums.
But realize that this kind of reaction only empowers Rep. Benton within his community of hateful anti-pot zealots. “See,” he’ll crow to fellow prohibitionists, “smoking pot turns you into a raving violent psycho!” We’re better than that. Cannabis is supposed to be the peaceful plant. Do not sink to this man’s level. Fighting fire with fire only burns down everyone’s house and an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. Fight this man with peace, education, and voting for his opponents in the primary or general election.