Current Events, Legal

Hawaii: Rastafarian To Begin Jury Trial Monday After Four Year Delay

Reverend Nancy Harris is finally getting her day in court.

Reverend Nancy Harris said Friday that she has declined a slap-on-the-wrist plea deal and is beginning her jury trial this Monday.

Reverend Harris, facing a charge of “commercial promotion of marijuana” from a raid back in February of 2007, will be in court Monday morning to begin her jury trial.

Rather than accepting a plea deal offered by prosecution that amounted to a slap on the wrist, Reverend Harris said Friday that she has instead decided to let a jury decide whether or not she is to spend 20 years in prison.

Reverend Harris wrote the following letter to supporters Friday, and asked that it be shared with as many people as possible:

Greetings in the Name of Haile Selassie I,

As you probably know, I have been facing criminal charges for quite some time. My feeling about the situation is this: I am being charged for being the president of the board of Sacred Truth Mission, a church which recognizes the Holy Cannabis plant as sacrament. This all started with an intrusion on church property that happened on February 15, 2007. The intruders claimed to be police but showed no identification to Christopher Carpenter, who was the only member present when they barged into our Sacred Sanctuary. He called me, and I called 911, because calling 911 is what you’re supposed to do when you’re being trespassed upon. I headed to the church, but the 911 officer got there first. The intruders turned out to be infamous rogue cop John Weber and his cronies, who showed identification after being confronted by the 911 officer. John Weber and crew searched the property, arrested me, got a search warrant, gathered evidence and trashed the church. In that order. Six months later, on the testimony of John Weber, I was indicted for commercial promotion of marijuana, paraphernalia, and possession. The claims were enormously inflated, of course, and carry huge penalties. The sentence for “commercial promotion of marijuana” is 20 years in prison.

In the four and a half years since the raid, quite a number of rights that I had been taught to believe I am entitled to as an American citizen have been violated. From the Bill of Rights, the 1st–the right to my religious practice and free speech and freedom of assembly, 2nd–the right to bear arms (although this one is moot for me personally); 4th–the right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure, 5th–the right to due process of law; 6th–the right to speedy trial and to confront witnesses, 8th–the right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment, 9th–inalienable rights; and 10th–the rights retained by the people; have all been violated during the pre-trial process.

Reverend Nancy Harris with friends and family before court, 2009.

I believe that the judicial system is terribly broken. The drug war has overburdened the legal system with unenforceable and often immoral regulations. These laws, although a scourge to society, have created whole industries–private prisons, drug testing laboratories, private probation and counseling services. For example, there were 859,000 some odd marijuana arrests in 2009. Each arrest carries with it untold pain–for those arrested, their families and their communities. The lawyers – judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and civil forfeiture specialists -make about 24 billion dollars every year from that carnage. Due to the huge numbers of humans who are arrested and charged under these laws, most cases end in plea bargains. The Government doesn’t play fair; they threaten defendants with the loss of their children and their land to force the bargains upon them. Most people who accept plea bargains later regret it, but they accept the bargains out of love for their children or their land.

I have been offered a plea bargain as well. The offer given to me is this: No jail and no probation; I would plead “no contest” to a misdemeanor charge and pay $1000; the plea would be deferred, so that I could appeal the Constitutional issues. It’s really a sweet deal, as they go. I almost took it. The thing that stopped me is this: I am not guilty. And the unfair methods that are used on most defendants don’t apply to me. My children are grown and I do not own land. So I turned it down.

From the beginning of this endeavor, the only part of the judicial system that I have had faith in is a jury of twelve of my peers. Now we will find out if my faith is well-placed.

After months and YEARS of delay, it is finally happening.

My jury trial begins MONDAY at 8:30 am. We will have a prayer outside the courtroom at about 8:20.

I believe that the more light on this trial, the better. Cannabis cases rarely get this far; most people succumb to the pressure far before this point. I’m scared, but I’m going forward. Please find it in your heart to help by attending, if possible, or by sending your thoughts and prayers if you cannot be there in person.

One Louve,

Rev. Nancy

Marijuana prohibition was ruled unconstitutional in Leary v. United States, 395 U.S. 6 (1969), Shortly thereafter, the Controlled Substances Act was established and marijuana was classified as a Schedule I substance (no medical use, high potential for abuse), despite the government’s own Shafer Commission recommendation that marijuana should not be criminalized:

“[T]he criminal law is too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in the effort to discourage use. It implies an overwhelming indictment of the behavior which we believe is not appropriate. The actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior, a step which our society takes only ‘with the greatest reluctance.” March 22, 1972 Shafer Report to Congress.

President Nixon stubbornly ignored the Commission’s advice, and the resulting mess has left many victims in the failed War on Drugs.

When is the United States going to stop this insane policy of criminalizing cannabis?

Follow WeedPress on Facebook for future updates on her jury trial as it develops. Reverend Nancy Harris should be commended for her courage and bravery in standing up to the unjust and unconstitutional laws that criminalize cannabis. I believe our justice system will do this case justice, and dismiss the charges. If a plea deal of $1,000 and no jail or probation was offered to Nancy, I doubt the prosecution will be able to convince twelve jurors that she deserves to spend 20 years or more in prison. Good luck, Nancy, and thanks for standing up for what you believe in.



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