Please Do Not Assault Your Neighbors For Smoking Cannabis (or Call the Cops)

Magic Valley Times News, out of Twin Falls, features an opinion column written by the Heyburn Chief of Police, Dan Bristol. The question and answer column, titled “Ask Policeman Dan,” receives questions from the public that are then answered by the Chief using the his own experience and discretion.

The most recent article, titled “Getting Rid of a Neighbor’s Stench,” asks Chief Bristol for his input on whether or not to call the police if a neighbor is smoking Marijuana on their front porch.

Policeman Dan’s initial response, apparently meant to be funny, is to “get the hose out and water some weeds.”

The rest of the response shouldn’t surprise anyone as the Chief suggests that if the reader wishes to stay anonymous, that they can call Crime Stoppers and report the crime of smoking marijuana.

He goes on to explain that providing the information anonymously can allow the police to use it as reasonable suspicion and maybe take away that stench for the reader.

It is true that it is against the law to possess Marijuana in the state of Idaho, so it is logical that a police officer’s suggestion would be to call the police. But it is definitely more harmful to spray someone with a hose, or call the police, than it is to smoke Marijuana or even just smell it in the breeze drifting over from the neighbor’s house, despite someone’s dislike for the stench.

Heyburn Police Chief, Dan Bristol

I am sorely disappointed in this Chief’s attitude towards Marijuana consumers. To jest about violence towards a non-violent person is ludicrous. To jokingly suggest that the reader get out the hose and spray their neighbor is unprofessional and borderline criminal.

Assault, as defined by Idaho Statute, Title 18, Chapter 9, is:
(a)  An unlawful attempt, coupled with apparent ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another; or

(b)  An intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another, coupled with an apparent ability to do so, and doing some act which creates a well-founded fear in such other person that such violence is imminent.

Seeing as Chief Bristol’s first response is technically defined as assault, I would expect that many readers were shocked by his lack of integrity in the joke.

And then to mention that he “isn’t saying [to get the hose out] because next week’s question would be who to call to get the hose out,” is ridiculous. I would think next week’s question would be “what do I do now that I’ve been charged with assault for getting the hose out?”

And YES… spraying someone with a hose is considered a violent act. It is a physical assault on another human being. Even if the weapon is water.

It is no different than spitting in someone’s face or pouring beer on them in a bar.

An example of using water in such a way it is considered assault can be seen in the hate crime and assault charges an 89 year old woman in Milton-Freewater faced after spraying her Hispanic neighbor, and then the police, with her garden hose. If the police can charge an elderly lady with assault on an officer for spraying one with her hose, then getting the hose out to “water some weeds” and spray the neighbor for smoking marijuana would be considered assault as well.

To joke about assaulting someone, while wearing a Chief’s badge, is disturbing and childish. It raises the question of why this specific officer has a job that gives him physical control over the lives of others.

But for his first thought to be to assault a Marijuana user for smoking a joint on their own property shows exactly how ignorant he is when it comes to Marijuana users, why they use Marijuana in the first place, and his own role in the War on Drugs.

While the Drug Warriors of Idaho would like you to believe that people who smoke Marijuana “just want to get high,” most people really don’t do it for recreational purposes.

Recreation is likely not the reason that your neighbor is willing to violate the law and face a year or more in jail just for smoking that joint. It’s more likely it is for medical purposes. Whether or not Medical Marijuana is illegal in Idaho doesn’t change the fact that Marijuana is medicine and that Idahoans are going to risk their freedom to use it.

A great many of your Idaho neighbors are illegally using Marijuana as medicine, every single day, for serious and life altering illnesses and disabilities. Many illnesses are characterized by extreme physical pain and discomfort, often exacerbated by other physical influences, sometimes even the most gentle touch.

Medical Marijuana patients in Idaho suffer from such life changing illnesses as Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, cancer, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, and many, many more.

If your neighbor is risking their freedom, and bravely hoping that you, their neighbor, won’t call the cops, then they are likely attempting to combat some physical or mental aspect of a chronic and devastating illness.

What you see as someone smoking a joint on their patio, is more likely someone attempting to alleviate extreme pain. It may be the only reason they are out of bed that day.

Or it might be someone trying to reduce nausea associated with chemotherapy, or other medical treatments, just so they can eat the dinner that’s waiting inside.

It could be someone who suffers from epilepsy, and that joint helps prevent them from having a seizure today.

It might even be a solider, scarred by the horrors of war, attempting to normalize their memories and their sanity. Can you imagine what turning a hose on someone like that would do?

Physically, or even mentally?
Especially if someone is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress?

Even calling the police could have unforeseen consequences, and not just for your neighbor.

Take the case of Matthew Stewart, an Army veteran in Utah, whose house was raided because an anonymous source claimed he was growing marijuana. One officer killed, and 5 others wounded, all
because Matthew suffered from Post Traumatic Stress from his time in combat in Iraq, and was self-treating with Marijuana despite Utah’s strict Anti-Marijuana laws.

Half asleep and scared, Matthew reacted badly to the trigger of armed men bursting through his door in the dead of night. After being charged with Capital Murder and faced with Utah’s death penalty, Matthew took his own life while he was incarcerated, awaiting trial.

That’s two dead, and five wounded, all because of an anonymous call to the police over Medical Marijuana.

So, please, think twice about turning on the hose, or even calling the cops, when you see your neighbor smoking a joint. Ask yourself, who is he really hurting? Is he hurting you? Really? Is he hurting your family? What happens after the police show up? How exactly do they remove that stench?

What will likely occur, if you decided to call 911, is the police will show up and use your tax payer dollars to persecute your neighbor for choosing something that likely gives them a better quality of life. That persecution will then destroy his life, and the life of his family, in the process.

Are you really that guy?

As Marijuana users, we understand that the “stench” is very distinct and often times those who do not use, or are not familiar with the smell, can find it foul.

But as illegal marijuana users, we do not have access to modern medical options, such as vaporizers and edibles, because of Idaho’s laws. Prohibition has delayed the medical evolution of Marijuana, and it isn’t easily available in medical forms in our state.

So, we often times don’t have an option other than to smoke Marijuana to take our medicine. And if there are children in the house, or to accommodate the request of a loved one, we often smoke it outside. But that doesn’t make it any less an effective medicine.

Typically, we are not violent people. We are not criminals.

Marijuana users are quite logical and reasonable people, and I bet if you go ask your neighbor nicely if they would try to hide the smell better, they would likely attempt to accommodate your request. They may even be thankful for the alert that their use is being noticed by others, and grateful to know that you aren’t a cop-calling neighbor.

Want to remain anonymous?
Send them a letter.

If you are an officer reading this, it might be a good thing to learn more about WHY there is such a fight for Idahoans to use Marijuana safely and legally. More importantly, learn WHY cops, judges, and prosecutors from all over the country are taking a stand against the failed War on Drugs.

Maybe then you won’t find it so funny to joke about assaulting non-violent marijuana users just for smoking a joint – possibly done just to ease their own suffering.

Or, if you are the neighbor in this situation, and there is the chance that the cops might show up at your door with “reasonable suspicion” that you are smoking marijuana, this local attorney’s bLawg article might be of crucial importance to you: Oh, S*IT… the police are at my door… what are my rights?

Like it or not, some day Marijuana is going to be legal in Idaho.

The fact that people use Marijuana, legal or not, shows the demand for it.
Where there is demand, there will always be supply, and some day Idaho will wake up to the logic that surrounds us. Someday, we will take control of the supply out of the hands of the black market street dealers. When that day comes, it’s up to you whether or not you are still on the wrong side of history.
We all have that choice to make.