By Frank Berardi & Kim Kole
Which action is more offensive and causes more damage to society, the sexual assault on a juvenile or the sale of cannabis to people who either want it or need it for medical reasons?
While the answer should be obvious, it appears that our criminal justice system needs a reminder. Let’s examine some examples of sentences that have been handed down in both situations.
Warren Tanner, a 77 yearold extrooper was sentenced to 12 years in a child molestation case. In another example, Fairbanks Catholic priest Clint Michael Landry was sentenced to 10 years for child pornography. One of the leading marijuana prohibitionists in the state is Senator Pete Kelly, whose son has been convicted and sentenced to six years in prison for exposing himself and masturbating in front of a victim under the age of 13. These criminals are leaders of the prohibitionist movement which supports the extended incarceration of Rocky Burns and Larry Stamper.
Burns and Stamper are marijuana activists who ran a grey area (not classified as legal or illegal) delivery service that created zero victims. In fact, they were able to supply essential medicine to many people who would not have been able to obtain it without them while providing steady employment to many drivers. For this service, they are each being charged with felonies that will result in 150 years in jail, which equates to a life sentence for supplying cannabis to people who wanted and needed it. In a few short months, similar services will be conducted without incident throughout the state every single day. Meanwhile, an exTrooper, Senator’s son, and a religious leader get a mere decade of incarceration at the expense of innocent children who will have to bear the burden of these men’s actions for a lifetime.
What makes this comparison even more egregious, is the way in which Burns and Stamper have been treated throughout the process. When they began their enterprise, they obtained a state business license for a courier. They did not try to hide what they were doing, and they were granted this license by the state. They then repeatedly asked state officials for guidance as to this grey area business, but received no response until their homes were searched and the remains of Stamper’s father were scattered by Anchorage police officers over a burn pile of trash. The state saw fit to try Burns and Stamper. Then, when a Motion to Dismiss on behalf of Stamper was filed that called into question the validity of the evidence
presented to the grand jury, the state reindicted them both and added on an unclassified felony for criminal enterprise, increasing their potential jail time to 150 years.
This disproportionate treatment of individuals by our law enforcement and criminal justice system should be called into question. Were light sentences granted because of their leadership roles in the government and religious communities? If so, shouldn’t they be held to a higher standard, not given allowances for their monstrous behavior against children? It is completely hypocritical to impose the “morality” from
these two prohibitionist entities, some members of law enforcement and churches, upon two men who were trying to conduct a legitimate service for people in need while supplying others with employment.
The same government that feels as though it has a monopoly over morality, is entitled to overreaching authority and is qualified to administer justice has come under fire for being among the most corrupt state governments in the United States. F ortune magazine ranks.
Alaska as the seventh most corrupt state in the country. The A laska Dispatch News article in 2011 entitled “Alaska’s Political Corruption Scandal” detailed how corrupt the state government, lobbyists and business people tied to the government are. We have lobbyist organizations, like the Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police, that oppose the people at every turn and seek to create the laws they enforce. They are opposed to legal marijuana and have lobbied to keep Alaska’s corrupt asset forfeiture program alive against the will of the people.
The separation of powers for our government exists for good reason. The police are not supposed to influence the creation of the law or to interpret it; those are the duties of the legislative and judicial branches of government. Law enforcement is part of the executive branch and should adhere to enforcing laws. We see a member of the Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police inserted into the state Marijuana Control Board, where he has succeeded in requiring a label on marijuana products that claims no medicinal value, which we know is not true. Additionally, when it was brought to the state’s attention that the Fairbanks Four were imprisoned for life for murder but were actually innocent, the state didn’t want to release them unless they signed away their right to sue the state. The state actually extorted four innocent people before they would let them out of prison. This state government and the local governments within it are involved in corruption, but we as citizens are actually responsible for it. The government is made of the people. We elect these people and we also choose to do nothing about their illegal activities. We then do not question when this same government who wants to put two of our citizens in prison for 150 years for a victimless crime.
Rocky Burns and Larry Stamper have sold marijuana, just as many others have. They chose the wrong strategy to transition into the legal market by advertising and conducting sales prior to a proper structure being constructed. While it may be appropriate to deny them a license to operate in this industry, it is completely unreasonable for our state to pursue a sentence that will impact them and their wives and children for the remainder of their lives. The state of Alaska’s corruption has led to a failure to protect children from sexual assault, but instead, it chooses to target people who find themselves on the wrong side of corrupt politics. We can choose to like or dislike Rocky Burns and Larry Stamper, but we should be
adamantly opposed to how the state is treating them. The state may come after you next if it feels it can pursue these methods in an attempt to stop the cannabis industry from its inevitable growth. It is timeto stand up in defense of citizens who believe in the freedom of cannabis use and sale.
The Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislations (c rclalaska.org) seeks to establish a coalition of reputable business owners, prominent persons and legalization supporters with the purpose of helping to create effective future Cannabis legislation.