Watch out for Oklahoma if you are carrying herbs

Thomas Cagle (nh-adapt@juno.com)
Fri, 11 Sep 1998 16:14:04 -0400


--------- Begin forwarded message ----------
From: creationsgarden@JUNO.COM
Subject: Watch out for Oklahoma if you are carrying herbs
Date: Fri, 11 Sep 1998 13:11:19 -0400


To herb@MyList.net from creationsgarden@juno.com:

If muellin is "imitation marajuana" in Oklahoma, then no herb is safe!

<< This article appeared on the front page of the Brattleboro Reformer  
newspaper on Saturday, Sept. 5, 1998.  Permission has been obtained from
 the Reformer's Publisher to reproduce the article anywhere so long as it
is
 not re-published for profit.  Please address any inquiries about the
story
 itself, or re-publication rights, to The Brattleboro Reformer
 <reformer@sover.net>.  
 I have substantiated (no pun intended) the facts of this story,
including
 the outrageous Oklahoma statute under which charges were brought. 
George  Singleton, the victim of an obscene system run amok, is a gentle
man of
 great talents and abilities who runs a national effort to promote
open-air  organic gardening in the inner cities and elsewhere.  If you
have any
 questions for him about his organization (HOPE LA-USA) or about this
case,
 you may forward them to George at <hopelausa@aol.com>.
           --  John Wilmerding, General Secretary, CERJ
 
 FORWARDED MATERIAL BEGINS HERE:  
 [PHOTOGRAPH - 4"x6" - Caption:  SUBSTANTIAL IMITATION -- George
Singleton, 49, inspects the herb garden at his Putney office Thursday
evening.
 Singleton faces more than a year in an Oklahoma prison on charges of
 possessing an "imitation" controlled substance.]
 
 Headline:  "Local Man Faces Jail for Legal Weed"
 
 By Les Kozaczek, Brattleboro Reformer staff writer  
 PUTNEY, VT - George Singleton is African-American and he has dredlocks
down
 to his waist, so he says he's used to being "hassled" by authorities. In
 fact, he said he's been stopped by police officers -- for no apparent
 reason -- and searched for marijuana in states such as Texas, Ohio,
 Virginia, and California.
 
 Those stops turned up nothing and he was allowed to go on his way.
 
 That was the scenario he envisioned when, on Feb. 27, on a business trip
 from California to Indiana, he was stopped by a police officer in Craig
 County, Okla.
 
 He admits that, though he was going 10 miles an hour below the posted 75
 mph speed limit, his slowing car was above the legal speed limit for the
 construction zone he was approaching.
 
 He also thought that the person at the toll booth he had just passed
 through might have "pointed me out" to the police officer.  If that were
 the case, then the officer might have seen in a background check a
 marijuana arrest and two-week imprisonment Singleton incurred 17 years
ago, Singleton said.  He said he has not used marijuana in years.  
 Still, Singleton said, he knew the routine.  So, when the officer asked
to
 search his car, Singleton, having nothing in the car except for the
herbs
 he was carrying as part of his job, assumed he would be on his way in no
time.
 
 Twenty-five days later, Singleton, 49, was still in an Oklahoma prison. 

 "The officer found some mullein and rosemary in my car.  I take them for
my
 tuberculosis," Singleton said Thursday evening.  "I told him it wasn't
marijuana."  
 Despite the fact that mullein, a green-leafed, yellow-flowered plant
that
 grows wild, looks and smells nothing like marijuana, Singleton said the
 officer put him in the police cruiser and drove him 10 miles, with his
 hands cuffed behind his back, to the hospital for a blood test.
 
 Singleton said he was arraigned on the day he was arrested and bail was
 posted at the unusually high $650.
 
 Three days later, test results of the blood samples taken at the 
time of  his arrest showed that Singleton, according to the official
state
 transcript, had "negative blood alcohol," and had "no basic drugs
detected" in his blood.
 
 In most states, that would have elicited an apology and a ride to
 Singleton's car, so that he could go about his business as executive
 director of Hope LA/USA Project.  
 But, Singleton said, Oklahoma has an unusual law under which it is
illegal
 to possess any substance that a reasonable person might think was an
 illegal substance.  He was not going to be freed.
 
 "When I found that out, all I could think was "isn't this America?"
Singleton said.  
 The Oklahoma prosecutor could not be reached for comment Thursday
evening.
   Singleton, who said he holds a doctorate in herbology, makes many
cross
 country drives carrying herbs and other organic matter, as part of his
job.   He said that both the "substances" that he was carrying and using
are
 widely used and freely available over the counter and have never been
shown to have any effect remotely similar to any illegal drug.  
 Ironically, Singleton said, part of his Hope LA/USA program is to get
youth
 off drugs.  He also said he uses organic farming techniques that do away
 with animal products and pesticides because of their toxicity.  
 "We transform inner city neighborhoods with agricultural methods rooted
in
 the old ways of gardening," Singleton said.  Singleton's program, which
has
 been lauded by Los Angeles law enforcement and other institutions,
brings
 together members of enemy gangs and other disaffected youth.  
 Singleton said it took his mother 25 days and $800 to work with a lawyer
to get his bail reduced to the more usual $125 and get him out of jail.  
 Since then, Singleon has had to return from his Putney, Vermont office
to
 Oklahoma twice to deal with the case.  Singleton estimates the case has
 cost him more than $2,000 in legal, travel, and other expenses.
   He is scheduled to return for trial on charges of possessing imitation
 illegal drugs on Oct. 8.  He said he faces the prospect of going to
prison
 for a year or more and isn't too hopeful that he'll be coming back any
time soon.
 
 "The prosecutor is up for election this year and I can't see him going  
 ahead with a prosecution (possession of an imitation substance) that he
 thinks he isn't going to win easily.  He isn't going to risk
embarrassing
 himself publicly in an election year by by being seen losing (a case) to
 a black person without a (law) degree," Singleton said.
 
 Oddly, Singleton said, he has yet to receive a ticket for any traffic
 violation as a result of the Oklahoma incident.
 
  >>
Karen Vaughan