Death by Marijuana Prohibition

Eric Perez was jailed for a small quantity of marijuana…

…and died in jail from marijuana possession

On July 2, 2011, Eric Perez turned eighteen. On July 10th, he died.

On June 29, 2011, Eric Perez rode his bike on a balmy Florida night. His bike had no light. The police stopped and found him holding a small amount of marijuana. He was on probation for robbery from years earlier, so the police immediately detained him and took him to juvenile detention.

He drew his last breath during his brief incarceration.

Perez complained of a severe headache and began hallucinating that an imaginary person was on top of him. He screamed, writhed in pain, and wretched for hours. Guards sought “guidance” from a nurse who did not answer her phone. Records indicate lockup supervisors and the facility’s superintendent instructed staff not to call 911.

Eric Perez died in jail for a possessing a small amount of marijuana

Michele M. Leonhart, DEA Administrator, stated marijuana is as dangerous as heroin. She continues her illusory insistence that marijuana has a high potential for abuse… no currently accepted medical use [and] lacks accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Further, she states the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.

Leonheart’s ridiculous support of cannabis laws killed Perez. He suffered over six hours before he received medical attention. By the time Perez was taken to emergency care, it was too late. He flat-lined.

Had Perez been given medical treatment earlier, he would still be alive.

In 14 states possession marijuana is a civil violation and violators are not sent to jail. If Florida adopted similar taxed and regulated marijuana distribution for adult medical and non-medical use, Perez would have received a ticket and gone on his way. Perhaps police might praised him for riding a bicycle rather than driving a car while intoxicated.

If Eric had no pot on him, the police would not consider a missing bike light a probation violation. The police placed him in custody and ignored him while he slowly died. Marijuana doesn’t kill, but prohibition sure does.

The current federal marijuana policy promotes consequences lean towards tragic—lost lives, destroyed families, and government waste. Until we replace our failed marijuana policies with more sensible and less destructive alternatives, we will continue to see stories like Mr. Perez’s.

Former President Jimmy Carter once said, Penalties against drug use should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against the possession of marijuana in private for personal use. Marijuana never would have killed Perez—but his incarceration did.

Study after study proves marijuana’s efficacy. In a 1997 medical study, marijuana is recommended for those who suffer from nausea associated with chemotherapy, alleviate cachexia (loss of weight, muscle atrophy, fatigue, weakness, and significant loss of appetite), decrease intraocular pressure for glaucoma patients, is an analgesic, and helps alleviate problems with neurological and movement disorders, such a Parkinson’s. Marijuana has been used medicinally for 5,000 years.

Prior to Perez’s untimely death, a de-facto marijuana legalization bill will be introduced in Congress. Criminal justice organizations and law enforcement professionals advocate for an end to the War on Drugs. The bipartisan bill was introduced by the unlikely paring of Rep. Barney Frank (D) and Rep. Ron Paul (R). .

Frank stated, criminally prosecuting adults for making the choice to smoke marijuana is a waste of law enforcement resources and an intrusion on personal freedom.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith said his panel would not even consider it.

Marijuana use and distribution is prohibited under federal law because it has a high potential for abuse and does not have an accepted medical use in the U.S.,” said [Congressman Lamar] Smith, who like Paul is a Texas Republican. “The Food and Drug Administration has not approved smoked marijuana for any condition or disease.”

“Decriminalizing marijuana will only lead to millions more Americans becoming addicted to drugs and greater profits for drug cartels who fund violence along the U.S.-Mexico border. Allowing states to determine their own marijuana policy flies in the face of Supreme Court precedent.”

“Our concern with marijuana is not borne out of any culture war or drug war mentality, but out of what the science tells us about the drug’s effects. The facts are that marijuana potency has tripled in the past 20 years and teens are using the drug at earlier ages.” The Times.

“The earlier a person begins to use drugs, the more likely they are to progress to more serious abuse and addiction.” Legalization remains a nonstarter in the Obama administration because research shows marijuana use is associated [fallaciously] with voluntary treatment admissions, fatal drugged driving accidents, and emergency room admissions,” the statement said.

Even if the bill passes by some miracle, it’s too late for Eric Perez.

Had a dream,
It was (a drug) war.
And they couldn’t tell me what it was for
But it was something they could lie about
Something we could die about
Who knows…?

[Sleeping With The Enemy, Roger Hodgson]

Mad Mike’s America wants to know: should state law trump federal law regarding marijuana regulation? Is marijuana a gateway drug?

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Posted by on August 7, 2011. Filed under Commentary,News,Social Issues. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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16 Responses to Death by Marijuana Prohibition

  1. Sagacious Hillbilly

    August 7, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Could you please fill in some blanks?
    For starters:
    What did this guy die of?

    It sounds to me like he died from police negligence unrelated to marijuana, but again, I don’t have a comlete picture after reading this article.

    • Dorothy Anderson

      August 7, 2011 at 11:15 pm

      You did read the article correctly, SH. Perez was busted for a small amount of pot, was put in a cell, and suffered for hours before he got medical attention.

      • Sagacious Hillbilly

        August 8, 2011 at 1:21 am

        Ok, so the problem here is that this kid was not attended to after he was jailed. The fact that he was jailed on a marijuana charge is a sidebar, why make it the story. Wanna make a marijuana charge a story? Check out some of the folks jailed for really long periods of time on such charges. Catching someone on probation with a bag of dope and throwing him in jail is not news. If you’re on probation and you’re dumb enough to be smokin dope, then you shouldn’t be surprised when you end up in the slammer after getting popped for it.
        The story here is that some group of cops or corrections officers neglected their duty and didn’t provide this inmate with the attention he needed. I hope the family gets a good lawyer.

        Mike, you know as well as I do that not all jails are run by correctional officers. Many county slammers are run by sheriff’s deputies and city lock-ups by municipal cops. Most cop joints have holding facilities where prisoners might sit for a number of hours while charges are fabri. . . concoc. . . established and someone can transport to the regional/county facility. Larger facilities of course are usually run by some sort of corrections officials. We don’t have the information needed to ascertain what the situation is here. . . it’s a very sketchy article.
        And yea, for the most part cops are thugs like the criminals they should be going after. Problem is, they get bored when there are no criminals around and begin treating everyone like criminals. I’m around cops all the time and the large majority are thugs with anger problems who love to bully people.
        We need to totally change the culture of law enforcement in this country or it will continue to get worse.

  2. Brenda

    August 7, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    I sincerely hope his parents hire a lawyer to call these so called protect and serve abusers to pay for their sons death. It is obscene to watch someone suffer and not take care to ensure their wellbeing. Police brutality can take many forms. Shame on everyone who was involved….they killed that boy as surely as if they had fired a bullit into him.

  3. Michael John Scott

    August 7, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    I don’t for one minute believe the police ignored him in the first place. In the second place police do not guard prisoners. Corrections officers guard prisoners. They are not police officers. So, before we bang the cops for something they didn’t do I highly recommend that we get the facts straight. I have seen this mistake time and again, and the cop haters love it. There is an assumption that after the police arrest a dirt bag they are required to watch him until he is released. This is absolutely not the case. Cops just cuff and stuff…the corrections officers do the rest.

    As to marijuana laws I think they are ridiculous as is that idiot that is running the DEA. She is clueless, and should not have a say in legislation. The DEA is just another agency in the system.

    So, in the event I wasn’t clear: I think pot should be legalized and I don’t think we should be so hasty as to blame the police for something they didn’t do….Peace!

    • lazersedge

      August 7, 2011 at 6:02 pm

      Gee Mike, who put him there for a small amount of marijuana. Whether it was police officers, detention officers, or Judy in the Sky the point is that the system failed this kid whom you label as a dirt bag. It wasn’t the fault of the officers who arrested him and most likely not the fault of the guards. But, it may be the fault of a society who considers everyone who makes a mistake a throw-away and not worthy of concern for human decency, i.e., dirt bags.

      • Michael John Scott

        August 7, 2011 at 6:21 pm

        Bill I know your loyalty lies with the bad guys, and there really are bad guys out there you know? They’re not always victims of the nasty “system.” Some are really and truly “dirt-bags!” Go in peace my friend 🙂 🙂 🙂

        • lazersedge

          August 7, 2011 at 10:28 pm

          Mike, I fully realize that. I still deal with some of them on a day to day basis. But I also deal with cops on a day to day basis who are no better than those you call dirt bags. All people who screw up are not real bad guys and not all cops are good guys. It is just a fact of life that we take the bad with the good my friend. 🙂 🙂

          • Dorothy Anderson

            August 7, 2011 at 11:39 pm

            Once again, I agree with lazersedge, Mike. Because pot isn’t legal, or at least regulated, there are many, many people incarcerated for a victimless crime. Some are there for life. I am pro legalization and regulation of all drugs and prostitution, but that’s for another article.

            I did state that “police” ignored Perez, and you’re right that I should have written “correction officers” instead. Nevertheless, I still think the police never should have arrested Perez in the first place.

            I smell a big cover-up. I am not, and will never be, a cop hater. Not all cops are good, not all those incarcerated are dirt bags. Individuals vary no matter the group to which they are affiliated.

            The same applies to corrections officers. Floyd Powell tried to do the right thing and got stymied for his efforts is an outrage. I feel terrible for him, too.

            The problem, of course, is lack of funding. On the morning Perez died, Powell said he was working a double shift so that the lockup would have enough guards to patrol the facility. (Remember that this is the same state that elected Jeb Bush governor.)

            One of the two people fired in the incident, guard Floyd Powell, 35, told The Miami Herald on Monday he was fired after he disclosed to investigators that he was forbidden to call 911 when he became concerned for the teen, who was screaming that his head hurt and had vomited for several hours.

            “I was going to call 911, but my supervisor looked at me in the face and said, ‘He’ll be fine. Don’t call 911,’ ” Powell said.

            Powell’s one-page termination letter, provided to the newspaper late Monday under Florida’s public records law, said only that Powell had failed to complete a probationary period.

            Powell’s lawyer, Cathy L. Purvis Lively of Lake Worth, said she will seek damages from the state for his “wrongful termination.”

            “This guy desperately wanted to call 911,” Lively said. “He was told, No, you are not to do that.”

            Powell could not make the call on his own, Lively said, because the “module” where he oversaw several detained youth did not contain a telephone, and Powell could not reach a phone without walking away from his post and leaving other youth unsupervised. Guards are not allowed to bring their personal cell phones into the lockup.

            And though Powell and other guards did notify an on-call nurse to see Eric, the nurse failed to return two messages, he said.

            “I asked [Perez] ‘What’s going on?,” Powell said. “He wasn’t talking. He was crying out loud in pain.”

            Leaders of the Palm Beach Public Defender’s office told The Herald late Monday that several other detainees in the B2 Module with Perez confirmed to their attorneys that Eric had pleaded for help for hours without success.

          • Michael John Scott

            August 8, 2011 at 10:56 am

            In my 35 year career, and that includes running several internal affairs units, I have known of a handful of cops that went bad. They are not legion, whereas dirt bags are like the stars. Too many to count.

  4. Bradley scott

    August 7, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    A teenager died screaming in a cage while those listening didn’t think to do anything more than seek ‘guidance’ and follow orders. I agree with Jimmy Carter.

  5. lazersedge

    August 7, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    Dorothy, a major part of this problem exists within a concept called “job protection.” The DEA has been using the same reason, spelled e x c u s e, to fight the decriminalization or legalization of that nasty weed for over a half century. As long as they kept saying “no known medical benefits” while they control the only medical tests being done they can safely keep spending $100 billion of the taxpayers money to fight this war. There may come a day when the idiots running this country will look at those states who have legalized it for medicinal purposes and see that it does have a positive effect on peoples lives. Until that time we will continue to have to live with the real drug wars where people die every day from gunfire from the drug dealers trying to dominate turf in their areas. Somehow you almost have to believe that The DEA and the drug dealers are in this together.

    • Dorothy Anderson

      August 7, 2011 at 11:53 pm

      Of course, lazersedge. The “war” on drugs is about job protection. You, Mike, and I can agree that marijuana laws are ridiculous as is that idiot that is running the DEA. She is clueless…

      While I wrote this article, the song “Sleeping With the Enemy” kept going through my head. Had a dream, it was war, and they didn’t tell me what it was for.

      Now, you’ve answered what the war on drugs is for.

    • Michael John Scott

      August 8, 2011 at 10:53 am

      Right on the money Bill. Without the nonsensical war on drugs the DEA is out of work.

  6. ned morlef

    August 8, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Proof there is no scientific basis for evolution. de-evolution is more like it. They become more barbaric with each passing day. These are supposed to be our best and brightest yet, they kill indiscriminately over a leaf…..and we ridicule the past for burning witches. What does electricity do? it burns.

    we haven’t budged in mindset in a thousand years. Extremist are still extreme….and they’re still in power.

    • Sagacious Hillbilly

      August 8, 2011 at 11:03 am

      Cops our best and brightest? That’s absurd by any standard. Usually dumb thugs with huge anger issues and inferiority complexes.