On October 10th of this year, The Marijuana Times published a piece I wrote entitled “When Prohibitionists Try to Claim the Moral High Ground”. The focus of this article was an incident outside of Rep. Andy Harris’ office earlier this month; I used that incident as a springboard to discuss how prohibitionists have no moral high ground when it comes to violence because the enforcement of prohibition invariably involves the use of violence on peaceful people.
I started the article thus: “Last week two pro-marijuana protestors were arrested outside the congressional office of Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) after police say they smoked cannabis in public. There was also allegedly an incident in which protestors tried to force open a door to Harris’ office, an incident during which both Harris and one of the protestors say they suffered minor injuries.
“Many of our readers may recognize Harris’ name since he was one of the major roadblocks to funding for Washington D.C. to implement cannabis legalization that voters in the city overwhelmingly approved in 2014.”
My use of the word “allegedly” denotes the fact that I have no proof that violence was used against the Congressman other than what the Congressman says – and let’s face it, prohibitionists are not known to be the most truthful people in the world. Later in the article I point out my feeling on the use of violence and note that I believe it should only be used when defending against violence, and I use Rep. Harris’ statement on the incident to proffer my thoughts on prohibitionists and the moral high ground.
To some it may have seemed that I was implying that I know the protestors used unwarranted violence, despite my use of the word “allegedly” in the first paragraph. Apparently it seemed that way to Kris Furnish of DCMJ, the group that organized the protest in question. Here is what Kris wrote to The Marijuana Times, in full:
“I’d like to start off by stating that I, Kris Furnish was one of the protesters that got arrested for PEACEFULLY protesting my congressman Rep. Andy Harris. Second, the story you have written up about this incident is completely biased and one sided. At no point were any members of DCMJ or MDMJ violent nor did any of us lay a finger on the congressman. It deeply saddened me to read this article because you have failed to reach out to members of the groups to find out why it is we were protesting Rep. Harris. This article is completely inaccurate and you should take the word of a cannabis activist before you take the word of a politician heavily invested in Big Pharma and who is one of the top 5 worst politicians when it comes to cannabis reform. Thanks again for misrepresenting a group of activist fighting for cannabis reform to keep our prisons open for DANGEROUS MURDERERS AND CORRUPT POLITICIANS instead of nonviolent cannabis possession charged individuals.
I speak for many cannabis advocates in writing this letter to you.
Members of DCMJ & MDMJ”
Obviously, those who read the article can decide for themselves if I was unfair; it is linked above. As for not reaching out to the group, I know why they were protesting and stated as much in the article. Rep. Harris has been blocking marijuana legalization from moving forward in Washington D.C. for several years. But, in the interest of fairness, here is some of what DCMJ had to say about the incident at the Congressman’s office:
“At approximately 12 noon today, Tuesday, October 2, cannabis reform advocates gathered outside of Congressman Harris’ District of Columbia office at 1533 Longworth House Office Building. As advocates were making their way toward the Congressman’s door, he was walking down the hallway in the opposite direction and made a bee-line towards his office. DCMJ volunteer, Rachel Ramone Donlan, whom Congressman Harris promised he would talk to in person about cannabis reform, asked to speak with the Congressman and followed him to one of the entrances to his office. Instead of acknowledging her and fulfilling the promise he gave to her at his August 10 town hall meeting in Salisbury, Maryland, Congressman Harris slammed the door on her face. She tried to open the door only to find Harris had locked the door. Ms. Donlan then walked toward the other entrance to Congressman Harris’ office and his staff slammed the door on her leg. Ms. Donlan is disabled and suffers Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which is a genetic connective tissue disorder that causes her intense pain. She consumes medical cannabis in order to stay off addictive prescription drugs. After the door caught her foot, she proceeded to go on with the planned demonstration and used her medical cannabis in the hallway to help mitigate the physical pain caused by Harris and his staff.
At no time was there any assault on the Congressman, rather the Congressman and his staff assaulted cannabis reform advocates instead of attempting to hear why they were at his office in the first place. Any bruising to the Congressman’s wrists was self-inflicted and not caused by Ms. Donlan. She weighs approximately 90 pounds and is about 5 feet tall and is spending tonight in jail due to Harris’ continued callous attitude toward cannabis reform.”
A Periscope video of the protest can be seen here, with the incident described above happening within the first 2 minutes.
So the Congressman says the protestors tried to force their way in, and the protestors say that is not the case. The video seems to show a very quick incident in which Rachel Donlan says her foot is stuck in the door. All of this changes nothing about my original story, and I stand by every point I made in it. If it seems that I implied that I believed the Congressman’s version of events, that was not my intention, because the truth of the matter is, I am biased.
I don’t pretend to be fair and balanced or an unbiased reporter. I support cannabis legalization and I support a complete repeal of any and all legal prohibitions on the cannabis plant in the United States and around the world. I support the release of every person serving jail time for non-violent cannabis offenses. Anyone who reads my articles or watches Cannabis News on an even semi-regular basis knows this.
But I also realize that new people find my work every day and may not have that inherent sense of my biases, and that they may not get that sense from a single article. That’s a fair point. What I find unfair, however, is the notion that my original article was in any way an attack on the protestors, DCMJ, or the cause they are fighting for. There is nothing “inaccurate” in my article and no one is “misrepresented”.
If I was not as illuminating as I could have been as to the motives of the protestors, blame my concise nature honed in the age of Internet-driven short attention spans. But never doubt my conviction that cannabis should be legal, as expressed in countless podcast episodes, videos, and 3,000+ articles over the past 10 years.