“[T]he president and the administration believe that targeting individual marijuana users… is not the best allocation of federal law enforcement resources.” -- White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest, August 22, 2013

A friend of mine named Chris Goldstein has just been sentenced to two years of probation, with regular drug testing, and a $3,000 fine for smoking a joint. While this sort of thing happens to cannabis consumers everywhere but Washington and Colorado, rarely does it happen at the hands of federal authorities.

Chris is a phenomenal marijuana activist and largely responsible for creating the job I have today as a marijuana legalization talk radio host. I met Chris when he was producing NORML’s podcast, the Daily Audio Stash. He’d also been active with Philly NORML and was helping to promote various reforms, from medical marijuana bills in Harrisburg to decriminalization in Philadelphia. He’s done more local media promoting reform in New Jersey and Pennsylvania than I can count.

Lately he’s been working with comedian N.A. Poe and producing “Smoke Down Prohibition” rallies at the Liberty Bell. The first few rallies culminated with an expression of civil disobedience as protestors, including Poe and Goldstein, lit up joints at 4:20pm. The Liberty Bell cite is federal park property, but over the first few rallies the park police paid little attention to the toking, but eventually, the park police issued Chris a citation, leading to Chris’s conviction and sentencing today.

Fines, probation, and drug testing are awful, and I’m glad that Chris isn’t behind bars. However, one aspect of Chris’s probation troubles me, aside from the usual punishment-for-weed-is-stupid-period reason. Chris is barred from being within 100 feet of the 40-acre Independence National Historical Park “in connection with any meeting, event, group, gathering or demonstration of which the purpose is to advocate or commit a criminal act.”

Basically, Chris has been sentenced to shut up about marijuana legalization anywhere near the Liberty Bell.


The Liberty Bell was forged in 1751 in honor of the freedom of conscience. It was rung in 1776 to proclaim the independence of our nation. It was named “The Liberty Bell” by abolitionists who used it as a symbol of eradicating slavery in the 1800s. It toured the country in the 1900s to protest for women’s right to vote.

But in the 2000s smoking pot around it to protest for freedom of conscience or marijuana rights costs your liberty? Why, are we worried what those hemp-growing Founding Fathers would think?

This administration says it doesn’t want to waste limited federal resources going after individuals who smoke pot. Yet we taxpayers paid for the court and processing time and are going to be funding Chris Goldstein’s whizz quizzes and paying his probation officer for the next two years. Meanwhile, not a single banker who devastated our economy has faced a federal judge.

"Radical" Russ Belville is the host of The Russ Belville Show, which airs live at 3pm Pacific.