Unjust Laws and a Morally Reasonable Jury

“There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.”

–Charles de Montesquieu

Most of our readers are aware  that America is on a dangerous path, but many still believe we can fix the system through votes and elections. The anything-but-Patriot Act, the Department of Homeland Security, absurdly broad interpretation of the Constitution’s commerce clause…. all are symptoms of a troubling concentration of power in the hands of the federal government, contrary to intentions of the founders of our Constitution.

Montana’s medical marijuana community was ravaged in March of 2011, when government-sanctioned thugs, under the guise of public safety; dramatically (agents wore hazmat suits and were armed with machine guns) raided the businesses and homes of medical cannabis growers and patients across the state.  Patients were thrown to the ground, handcuffed and frightened; as they watched helplessly as officers from every unrelated government agency imaginable- from the EPA to OSHA– seized assets, destroyed plants and medicine, and confiscated confidential medical records of tens of thousands of Montana’s ill.  Although several indictments have resulted from investigations associated with the raids, the vast majority of them will happen in coming weeks and many Montanans will question the logic and morality of imprisoning professional and otherwise law abiding productive citizens for mandatory minimum sentences of 35 years or more.  Because the federal government continues to maintain the absurd “Reefer Madness“-esque policies of 1937, juries won’t ever hear that the defendants were in compliance with state medical marijuana laws.  The juries won’t hear Obama’s campaign speeches promising to stop prosecuting patients in states with medical marijuana laws.  The juries won’t likely read the infamous Ogden memo, the one that changed the medical marijuana world.  What will they hear?  They will hear chilling tales of money laundering, organized crime, distribution of dangerous drugs, and conspiracy- and by legal definition- each defendant is likely guilty.  Jurors will be advised that based on the evidence presented- not personal opinions of the law itself- a verdict must be reached. What about when the offense itself inspires far less horror than its punishment?

One of the government’s best kept secrets, sadly; is that juries not only have the power, but the right to acquit when the law is clearly unjust.  Although the courts won’t advise juries of this additional option, termed jury nullification; it has been recognized since the founding of our nation, as one last check in our system of checks and balances to protect us from unjust laws and tyranny. Jury nullification generally refers to a jury’s decision to acquit a defendant even though the jurors believe the accused to be factually guilty of the crime.

Increased use of jury nullification historically portends change on the horizon. Almost universally unknown among jurors, this option in the hands of an informed jury could easily tip the scales of justice in favor of reforming irrational statutes. .  Despite the court’s consistent refusal to inform juries of their veto power, the use of jury nullification was a major factor in the end of prohibition of alcohol, the repeal of the 18th amendment..   In December of 2010, Montana witnessed an extreme example, a sort of pre-jury nullification, termed the “great Montana marijuana mutiny” when Missoula prosecutors were unable to seat a jury willing to convict the defendant who had been charged with possession of only a few measly grams of cannabis.

Trials of defendants charged with marijuana crimes are prime candidates for future use of jury nullification.  Despite documented evidence supporting the substance’s medical use, a 6000+ year history of safety, and state laws providing for its use, the federal government has refused to remove cannabis from the dreaded list of dangerous Schedule I narcotics and has participated in a deadly bait and switch with America’s ill.  A majority of citizens are no longer willing to accept the propaganda supporting the failed “war on drugs” and are well aware that in reality, it is a war on us.

Education is key.  As is, the chances a jury will acquit my friends who will be soon indicted and convicted quickly in the court of public opinion are very slim.  Perhaps if members of juries were more informed, our legislators would lack the audacity to force their personal “morality” on the state.  For more information on jury nullification, check out the website of Fully Informed Jury Association, an activist group founded by two Montanans. September 5 is Jury Rights Day, in commemoration of the William Penn case in 1670 which firmly established protection for the jury, and firmly established the right of the jurors to refuse to accept bad government laws.  Celebrate by writing a letter to the editor to educate the public. Educate your friends.  When you receive a summons for jury duty, consider it an opportunity, not a punishment.  We need more informed jurors.

Jury nullification is not a right, but a RESPONSIBILITY. We only have a duty to obey and uphold just laws that promote peace, tranquility, and the common good. We have no obligation to uphold laws that favor special interests, corrupt politicians, or self-serving bureaucrats. Jury nullification is the last peaceful means of defending our Constitution- and the effects are permanent as the fifth amendment  prevents trying the defendant again.

Montanans placed medical marijuana on the ballot in 2004 because the legislature failed to do so, and 62% voted to approve its use.  The legislature ignored the issue for a few sessions until enough tea people had been elected that they knew they could force their social agenda upon the entire state.  The federal government is clearly complicit, as once again, promises of the Obama administration have been broken. We continue to spend billions of dollars imprisoning non-violent marijuana offenders. I have no hope for our federal or state governments, my bets are on the people.  We need to nullify the entire war on drugs and stop our government from taking our friends as political prisoners. The founding fathers would certainly agree.

Jurors should acquit, even against the judge’s instruction…if exercising their judgement with discretion and honesty they have a clear conviction the charge of the court is wrong.
— Alexander Hamilton, 1804

It is not only the juror’s right, but his duty to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgement and conscience, though in direct opposition to the instruction of the court.
–John Adams, 1771

I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.
— Thomas Jefferson, 1789

It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made
by men of their choice, if the laws are so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they… undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what it will be tomorrow.
— James Madison

21 thoughts on “Unjust Laws and a Morally Reasonable Jury

  1. I was so proud to have been a Missoulian in December, 2010 when they couldn’t find a jury who would convict the man for having several grams of marijuana. This whole MMJ situation in the last year has really opened up my eyes as to how repressive our federal government has become. This is the reason I have always voted for less govenment. The more laws and regulations you make, the less freedom you have. The more you rely on the government to support and take care of you, the less freedom you have. To see good, decent people facing these horrendous charges is horrifying. How can this be happening in America? Our founding fathers were right! It is our DUTY to stand up to these people, and stand up now!

  2. Please don’t blame the Tea Party- we voted for these people for LESS government and MORE fiscal responsibility. They failed and at least on a state level, the Tea Party supporters are not pleased with those we helped to elect. The handling of MMJ is government run amok and certainly as far from fiscally responsible as you can get what with putting 5,000 Montanans out of business and the cost of prosecuting citizens. They think all “pot smokers” are liberals and have failed to take into consideration that their constituents may have medical issues that they would prefer to treat with a more natural alternative. We voted them in, we can vote them out.

    • Marie, I’m glad to hear your opinion on this. I shouldn’t blame the entire group of tea people for the bad batch of them in Billings. The Montana Shrugged group is as hypocritical as they come and has really left a horrible taste in my mouth. They scream for smaller government and send out propaganda emails warning of a medical marijuana emergency. Groups like Americans for Prosperity shouldn’t be having events headlining Essmann as the key speaker with his prohibitionist pals, McGillvray and Kerns; if the tea party isn’t actually to be blamed.

    • Don’t blame the tea party? WAKE UP. the TP was created by the ultra rich KockBros to insure that they didn’t lose the Bush era tax cuts (you know the cuts that continue to break the fiscal back of america)
      . you baggers need to look at what is really going on in america today. MMJ in MT. is small potatos when one considers the loss of worker rights, pension theft, ect being perpitrated upon folks all over the nation. This is not a populast tax revolt as it’s clever name would suggest. You’re being snowed and it’s destroying america. Do you want your children to live in a facist new world order? that is exactly what you are creating. As if things under president Dick were not scary enough, you idiots had to elect a new better organized group of corperate whores and now you whine about your presonal loss. If you care for american freedom, dissmantle the GOP and support you’re president, like you told me to do for eight freakin years.

  3. The government scum who perpetrated these acts of war upon normal citizens, will NOT go unpunished. Steps are now being taken to ensure that ALL police who have Cannabis busts on their hands &other assorted scum, pay for their crimes. This will affect the US, Britain & Australia.

  4. Ron Paul is considered the “Father of the Tea Party”, but he isn’t like these people. I think what happened is that a lot of people who favored low taxes AND had a religious moral agenda got elected, and called themselves Tea Partiers. They are actually Teavangelicals, and we need to kick them out along with the other moral nannies in the Republican Party. From my perspective, the Mormon church, especially in Billings, is a driving force behind this movement in MT. I’m not saying all Mormons are like them, but I am saying these guys are scarier than shit and need to be voted out. I can’t believe what a mess Mr. Essman and his SB423 have created. Someone needs to keep track of how much it’s costing the taxpayers of the state, and make sure this info is published.

    • I don’t know if it is even possible to measure the costs to taxpayers. From the feds on down to local governments, the costs are massive. Look at the March raids for instance. The feds claim they were the results of 18 mo investigations. They involved every federal agency you could imagine- the EPA? Department of Homeland Security? Ugh! Yellowstone County has hired outside legal counsel to represent them in upcoming action regarding their recent bans. Then consider how much it will cost taxpayers to imprison someone with a very serious illness for the next 35 years instead of allowing him to continue to pay taxes on his 6 figure non-cannabis income. Repeat hundreds of times. Like the number? YIKES.

    • I think what happened is that a lot of people who favored low taxes AND had a religious moral agenda got elected, and called themselves Tea Partiers.

      That just about nails it. What stated off as a fiscal conservative movement was overtaken by the Religious Right. Note to the RR – Don’t preach to me and I won’t preach to you

  5. “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” Thomas Jefferson

    We The People are going to have to vote out the tyrants from the local level all the way to Washington D.C. and this is going to take quite a few years to do and until that time I’m afraid we don’t have any hopes of the legalization of cannabis. It appears to be a trend in pressuring states to abide to the Federal wishes by the use of fear tactics to turn the tide of Medical Marijuana accepting states. Liberty is a slow battle indeed.

  6. I just don’t get how our elected officials (national and local) can support wolf management (and ultimately delisting) by the individual states, in direct contradiction to their listing via the Endangered Species Act, yet they can’t support cannabis management (and ultimately re-scheduling) by the individual states? How would wolf hunters react if the feds swept in and confiscated their guns? What if retailers were held criminally complicit if they sold wolf tags? Seems to me that the feds regulate endangered animals and controlled substances via the commerce clause to the Constitution. Supporting state violation of federal laws in regards to wolves, but not in regards to cannabis, is hypocritical, no matter what party you favor.

  7. Names are being taken & those responsible for persecuting citizens over Cannabis, WILL be brought to justice VERY soon. THIS MEANS COPS ESPECIALLY!!!
    No more “but it’s my job” crap (the Nazis said killing Jews was their job too).
    You low forms of life WILL BE MADE TO PAY FOR YOUR CRIMES.
    Lowlife scum!!!
    Die anti-Cannabis “scum of the Earth”. Die!!!

    • I distinctly remember the leaders of Montana Shrugged advocating for the medical cannabis repeal bill. I also remember James Knox, a ‘local’ T-Bag, pushing very hard for not only the repeal bill, but also for the ban on shops in Billings. Numerous other T-bags that were elected in 2010 also voted for the repeal and SB423. So, you are wrong Eric.

      Obama may have presided over the newest wave of DEA prohibition enforcement, but he certainly wasn’t here shutting down the shops or the providers.

      • Emphatically YES – The Great Leader DID shut down the caregivers.

        I read the interviews with caregivers, and they are so worried about having their lives ruined that if MJ was ever legalized in Montana that they would not be in business –

    • Eric… it wasn’t the Obama regime, it was the state. Now, did the Obama regime contribute with their timely raids and schizophrenic bait and switch policy? Most definitely, but the state did this. Most REAL tea partiers (those in other states) believe in liberty. The ones in Montana are the exception. The tea partiers certainly advocated repeal. I have plenty of proof.

      • I think there is more to this than just the “all or nothing view.” I think the reason most voters that were/are for repeal, were so because of the blatant misuse and abuse by the countless MMC holders who did not have a VALID medical reasoning behind their getting a MMC in the first place. I.e. An 18 year old kid that broke his leg skiing when he was 12, now has “chronic pain”. There are many that voted in favor of MM the first time around would still be for it today had there been some level of regulation. I am not talking about over reaching legislation and excessive bs, but some requirement to show a VALID medical reason for requiring MM. Most people aren’t opposed to those in need finding affordable and natural medicine (in the form of MM or other) but the blatant mockery that many others not needing MM, have turned this issue into. — I am sure that with proper reform, there would no longer be an issue. I know many (including myself) that feel this way.

        • Lone Ranger, I think that you are right in that there were people who had cards who didn’t have debilatating conditions. Where we differ is that I am not terribly bothered by this fact because I know that those people of whom we speak would just get marijuana from a black market supplier if they didn’t have a card. I, personally, would rather have registered providers giving non deserving people “medical” marijuana, than black market gangs and criminals selling it them. Don’t you think there are some people who have prescriptions for lortabs or muscle relaxers or oxycontin that really don’t need them? There will always be those who abuse the system, but that doesn’ mean that we throw the system away which, in this instance, ends up bringing in gangs and criminals selling marijuana who are much more offensive and dangerous than licensed providers.

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