A Townville man has an idea to draw tourists to Crawford County and raise money to open Conneaut Lake Park: He wants to turn the county into a pot smoker's paradise.
Pot plan mastermind Charles Stiles Jr. has a long history with the drug. He spent six years in prison for possession of marijuana and in November 2007, 57 people attended a rally in Meadville's Diamond Park as part of his ultimately unsuccessful attempt to get a referendum legalizing marijuana use on the ballot.
Now he wants the county's magisterial district judges to throw out all marijuana charges, which Stiles claims would for practical purposes make the drug legal here. He's also calling for the establishment of marijuana-growing licenses to raise revenue.
He has sent a letter to all the five county magisterial judges asking them to attend a public forum to discuss his plan.
If the reaction of two of the county's top law enforcers is any indication, Stiles' invitation will get no takers.
"It's insane," said county District Attorney Francis Schultz. "Of course not," he said when asked if he would support such a move.
"In the bizarre world, if they ( district magisterial judges ) would do that, it would not make it ( marijuana ) legal. It would still be against the law and people would still be arrested and charges filed," he said.
"The Legislature decides what's legal and what's not legal," said Schultz, adding the magisterial district judges don't make that decision.
He said marijuana isn't legal for any reason in Pennsylvania.
Meadville Area Magisterial District Judge William Chisholm, who is president of the Crawford County Magisterial District Judge Association, said Stiles' "position seems rather unique."
However, he said any dismissal of charges would have to be solely on whether the evidence presented meets the threshold required by law or whether an agreement has been reached with the police and the defendant.
Chisholm said once a case is dismissed for lack of evidence, the police officer would have the right to refile the charges.
He said magisterial judges take an oath to uphold the "Constitution of the United States and the constitution of Pennsylvania and follow the rules of the court. What he's asking is totally contrary to logic and the rules in our system."
Furthermore, he probably won't attend the meeting, noting the judicial canon of ethics doesn't permit judges to "take an active role in tearing down the Constitution. Our presence on the surface would appear to be supportive of what he wants us to do."
Stiles has a different view of the magisterial justices' role. "All they have to do is tell the police no more pot charges," he said.
He said if no pot charges are filed, Crawford County can be advertised as a "legal pot county," a move he said will draw lots of tourists to the county.
His plan would include a county-issued license at $5 a plant, with the money going to getting Conneaut Lake Park opened.
The one exception to dismissal of charges is if somebody sells the drug without a license. "They have to keep it in their house," he said, adding his plan also would permit no advertisement of the product's availability.
Instead, he would set up an 800 telephone number for those growing the plant to connect with buyers.
Advocating for his plan, Stiles cited alleged medical benefits of marijuana for glaucoma, heart disease and other conditions. He said cancer patients with chemotherapy "swear by it."
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I have worked in the Cannabis reform movement for the last 5 years. I worked with the Marijuana Policy Project on state wide campaigns in Arkansas, Nevada, and Oregon. I moved to Oakland California and started working for Richard Lee in Oaksterdam. I was the first Dean of Admissions for Oaksterdam University.
“The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced.” - Albert Einstein