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This past week, Teddy Wayne Gentry, a retired 70-year-old gentleman and resident of Fort Payne, was pulled over for speeding outside the city limits of Fort Payne by Cherokee County sheriff’s deputies.
While I was not present, and I have not seen the actual arrest report, as a former law enforcement officer, I imagine that when the traffic stop was made the officers made a request to search the vehicle, and Gentry was most likely unaware of both his 4th and 5th Amendment rights to refuse the requested search.
Gentry was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana in the second degree and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia. Jail records show that Gentry was booked into the Cherokee County Jail at 10:38 a.m. Monday, September 12. Gentry bonded out and was released on his own recognizance.
In Alabama, the first-time possession of personal amounts of marijuana is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison, as well as a fine of up to $6,000 and a mandatory six-month driver’s license suspension. Repeat offenses and possession with intent to sell are considered felonies.
This would not be news, however, if it weren’t for the fact that Gentry and his cousins Randy Owen and Jeff Cook formed a local country music band back in 1972, a band that later changed its name to “Alabama” as they rose in stature, where they eventually sold 73 million albums with 21 Number-One ranked singles, and in 2005 were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
What this arrest brings to light, however, is that Alabama law enforcement is still enforcing their antiquated laws that infringe upon your just liberties and freedoms, no matter what your celebrity status may be.
The first law that made cannabis illegal in the State of Alabama was signed into law by Alabama Governor Benjamin M. Miller in 1931. Governor Miller, through his mother, Sarah Pressly Miller, was a descendant of the Hearst family, who had immigrated to South Carolina during the colonial era.
Coincidentally, newspaper mogul William Randolph Hurst happened to be descended from that very same family. While many contributed, Hurst was probably the single person most responsible for getting the government to declare prohibition of a plant.
Hurst had ulterior motives when he began a yellow journalism campaign against the plant. First, as a newspaper publisher, Hurst invested heavily into timber, the raw product for his newspapers. However, at that time, hemp, a form of cannabis, was a serious competitor to his timber for the same usage. Hurst needed to figure out a way to get hemp banned so that the value of his timber would rise.
Fortunate for Hurst, he happened to own a newspaper empire, and he got double the value for his efforts when he began a campaign against the plant through the use of sensationalized articles that sold more newspapers and generated a fear of the plant by the public; that influenced politicians across this nation “to do something;” that, in the end, increased the value of his timber. Unfortunately, most of that fear was targeted against usage of the plant by minorities, both Black and Hispanic, who were known to use the plant for recreational purposes, with effects somewhat similar to the consumption of alcohol, that was still at that time banned in the United States by the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Hurst’s efforts to get both the states and eventually the federal government to ban the plant were aided by the Dupont Corporation that had a patent for nylon, of which hemp was a competitive product. Together, their influence over key congressmen led to the creation of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1932 and the creation of numerous federal laws to follow.
Although restricted medical usage of marijuana was legalized in Alabama in 2021, cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, and the State of Alabama has not yet allowed doctors to begin prescribing cannabis as a medicine. Meanwhile law enforcement is still arresting any citizen they may catch who possesses any form of cannabis, even if it was medically prescribed by an actual doctor in an adjoining state, mainly for revenue generating purposes.
Without liberty there is no freedom. If we accept that we do not have the freedom to choose what we do or do not put into our own bodies (as long as our actions do not infringe upon others), we are accepting that the state claims ownership of our bodies. As we all should know, if an entity owns a person, that person has been enslaved. And slavery is something that was renounced by the 13th Amendment to our federal Constitution in 1865, wherein it states that: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Additionally, the 9th Amendment, a part of the Bill of Rights, states that: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
Thus, is it not a right of the people to choose what they may endeavor as a career, and certainly some may choose to farm, and does not every farmer choose to produce whatever will best generate an income to support themselves, and their families?
With that, I contend that all drug laws are in violation of the constitutional rights of “We the People.” I further contend that all humans are born with natural rights that pre-exist our constitution and that we retain the fundamental right to freedom, regardless of whether that right is enumerated within a document, as our rights are intrinsic to our humanity.
At a minimum, if it took an amendment to our U.S. Constitution to ban alcohol then it should take no less to ban a plant. All said, the “prohibition” of alcohol was an absolute failure, as is the prohibition of a plant. It is time for our government to declare a truce and leave their citizens alone to decide for themselves what is or is not best suited for the circumstances.
Even though I do not use cannabis, I stand for the right of others to be free. I take this stand because I am a veteran who served a full military career and was honorably retired, who swore an eternal oath to protect and defend our constitution against all enemies.
Politicians created unconstitutional laws because they themselves, or their connected constituents, would benefit from those laws. The “War on Drugs” increased the size of government and wrongfully targeted minorities. The “War on Drugs” was in reality a “War on We the People,” and it is my hope that in the end, “We the People” will persevere and return this nation to a land of liberty and a more limited government that will abstain from violating the liberties of our citizens.