Things That Matter

A Man Spent A Month In Jail After Feds Thought He Was Carrying 3,000 pounds of ‘Marijuana,’ Lab Results Showed It Was Hemp

In what was supposedly a giant drug bust by the Texas Department of Public Safety, led to one giant 3,350-pound mistake.

On Dec. 6, a DPS trooper pulled over and arrested a driver who the agency claimed was carrying multiple boxes that held pounds of marijuana east of Amarillo, Texas along Interstate 40. The trooper called for more backup in the form of DEA agents who thought they had the drug bust of all drug busts. They even took to Facebook to post about the incident that showed that showed dozens of boxes, supposedly stuffed with over 3,000 pounds of marijuana, in front of the U-Haul trailer stopped by authorities. 

The culprit, Florida resident Aneudy Gonzalez, 39, a contract driver who was making a cross country trip from San Jose, California, to New York City. Gonzalez was pulled over by the trooper after he was seen driving on the highway shoulder and that’s when things started getting south. 

Gonzalez was being paid to transport the boxes that the DPS trooper smelled upon inspecting the cargo in the trailer. He suspected it was marijuana after he found pounds of the “green leafy substance” in boxes and black trash bags. 

The boxes, however, didn’t have marijuana in them. Gonzalez was being paid $2,500 to transport boxes of legal hemp from a California farm to a New York company. Yet even after he showed the trooper a lab report that verified the cargo met the state’s new legal definition of hemp, he was still charged with federal drug trafficking charges and placed in jail.

According to the Texas Tribune, A DEA agent testified as being unaware of the state law and was confused by the THC content rules. 

The root of all of this confusion stems from the recently passed HB 1325 that was signed into law by Gov. Abbott in June 2019. The law legalized the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp, as well as allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp under a state-regulated program in Texas. According to the Texas Tribune, “any cannabis with less than that amount of THC is hemp, which is used in products like clothing, twine, protein powder, and CBD oil.”

This is where authorities made the big mistake in not only arresting Gonzalez but also breaking state policy in interfering “with the interstate commerce of hemp”, which is exactly what happened here. According to Gonzalez’s attorney, Adam Tisdell, a cannabis criminal defense lawyer, the lab report that was shown to the trooper was more than enough evidence to let his client go. 

“Especially in a time right now of immense skepticism of law enforcement, the idea that Texas DPS and ultimately, a DEA task force agent, would have no idea what the law is and people go to jail that are completely innocent is horrifying to me and I do believe it should be for the other citizens as well. That’s the moral of this story.” Daniel Mehler, another attorney representing Gonzalez with Tisdell, told KCBD

It took an entire month for Gonzalez to finally be released from jail after authorities finally dismissed the case. He intends to file legal action and sue for violation of his civil rights.  

DPS officials issued a statement that read that the trooper that arrested Gonzalez believed that he was indeed carrying marijuana, not hemp. The agency would then send the confiscated material to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to test for THC levels. The results showed that Gonzalez was indeed carrying hemp and was in compliance with federal law. 

“I was just doing my job and the government threw me in jail for almost a month. I fully intend on pursuing justice, whatever that entails,” Gonzalez told Law 360. “Nobody has apologized to me. Somebody owes me an apology.”

After the test results, federal prosecutors asked a judge a month later to dismiss the case, and Gonzalez was released from jail on Jan. 2, a month after being arrested. That sad part for Gonzalez was that this wasn’t the first time he had been arrested on the trip. He spent a night in jail in Arizona after authorities there also confused his cargo for marijuana. He was eventually released the next day after officials determined it was legal hemp. 

Gonzalez’s case is an example of potential problems that law enforcement may face as hemp legalization spreads across the country, with many not knowing the difference between it and marijuana. In return, Texas has seen a major drop in marijuana prosecutions since hemp became legal. Gonzalez’s lawyer says that police need to be more aware of these new laws and be able to differentiate between the two to avoid situations like this in the future.  

“Today we beat the feds,” Mehler Cannabis, the law firm defending Gonzalez that specializes in marijuana-related laws and litigation, wrote in a Facebook post. “We maintained from the word ‘go’ that all he had was hemp, and this morning the U.S. government moved to dismiss the charges against our client.”

The law firm is seeking the return of the property that was taken from Gonzalez and “just compensation for our client losing a month of his life in the custody.”

READ: A New Florida Law And Lack Of Testing Facilities In The State Means Miami-Dade County Won’t Be Prosecuting Misdemeanor Pot Cases

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Texas High Schoolers Conducted a Mock ‘Slave Auction’ Of Black Students Over Snapchat

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Texas High Schoolers Conducted a Mock ‘Slave Auction’ Of Black Students Over Snapchat

Photo via Getty Images

Students at a high school in Aledo, Texas are being disciplined after the administration discovered they held a mock slave auction on Snapchat where they “traded” Black students.

Screenshots of the Snapchat group show that these unnamed students “bid” on students of color, ranging anywhere from $1 to $100.

One student in particular was priced at $1 because his hair was “bad”. The screenshot also shows that the group chat’s name changed regularly. The group’s name started as “Slave Trade” then changed to “N—-r Farm”, and finally to “N—– Auction”.

Upon learning of the mock slave auction, the Daniel Ninth Grade Campus’s principal wrote a note to parents explaining the situation. Principal Carolyn Ansley called the mock slave auction “an incident of cyberbullying and harassment” which “led to conversations about how inappropriate and hurtful language can have a profound and lasting impact” on people.

Many people felt that the school principal downplayed the gravity of the mock slave auction. Not once did she mention the word racism in the letter that she sent out to parents.

“Calling it cyberbullying rather than calling it racism… that is the piece that really gets under my skin,” said Mark Grubbs, father to three former Aledo ISD students, to NBC DFW. But Grubbs, along with many other Aledo parents and community members, say that the incident didn’t surprise them.

In fact, Grubbs said he had to take his children out of the Aledo ISD school system because of how much racist harassment his children were facing. “A lot of racism,” he said of his son’s experience at the school. “My son being called out of his name and what not and it got to the point he didn’t mind fighting and that didn’t sit right with me and my wife. My son was never a fighter.”

After the backlash to the initial statement, Superintendent Susan Bohn finally released a statement condemning the racism and “hatred” of the mock slave auction.

“There is no room for racism or hatred in the Aledo ISD, period,’ Bohn wrote. “Using inappropriate, offensive and racially charged language and conduct is completely unacceptable and is prohibited by district policy.”

The problem with “policies” like these is they fail to target the issue of racism at the root. Hate speech may be “prohibited”, but if a child is displaying racist behavior for whatever reason, the bigger problem is the way that they have been educated and indoctrinated. Slave auctions have no place in 2021.

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Texas Republicans Are Recruiting An ‘Army’ of Poll-Watchers To Go Into Black and Brown Precincts To ‘Fight Voter Fraud’

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Texas Republicans Are Recruiting An ‘Army’ of Poll-Watchers To Go Into Black and Brown Precincts To ‘Fight Voter Fraud’

Photo via Getty Images

The GOP’S voter-suppression tactics in Georgia have been gripping the nation. But now, the media is also turning its attention to other voter-suppression tactics in the rest of the country. Now, Texas Republicans are taking the heat.

According to Common Cause Texas, Texas Republicans are planning on recruiting thousands of volunteers create an “election integrity brigade”. They want the “brigade” to go into Black and brown neighborhoods in Houston and “fight voter fraud”.

A Texas GOP presentation was leaked that outlined plans to send an “army” of poll-watchers to Black and brown precincts.

“I’m trying to encourage and recruit, as a precinct chair, about 30 people in my precinct who will have the confidence and courage to come down in here…,” said an unnamed GOP official, pointing to majority non-white urban areas, “…in these areas where we really need poll-workers. Because this is where the problem is occuring.”

“So me finding poll-watchers out here, it helps, but it’s a pretty safe precinct”. He said this while pointing to majority-white Houston neighborhoods.

The video inspired outrage among people who saw these tactics as blatant attempts to suppress the voting rights of POC.

“The impetus for releasing [the video] right now is there are some bills in the legislature that seek to empower poll watchers in some really scary ways,” said executive director of Common Cause Texas, Anthony Gutierrez, to NBC News. “And also at the same time, take away the power of the presiding judge at the poll site from being able to remove a disruptive poll watcher.”

“It’s very clear that we’re talking about recruiting people from the predominantly Anglo parts of town to go to Black and Brown neighborhoods,” said Gutierrez to The Washington Post.

“This is a role that’s supposed to do nothing but stand at a poll site and observe,” he added. Why is he suggesting someone needs to be ‘courageous’?”

This “election integrity brigade” comes on the heels of a problematic election bill the Texas Senate just passed.

According to NBC News, the bill “bans overnight early voting and drive-thru early voting” and also “empowers partisan poll watchers.”

“It’s part of the intimidation, the confusion, the antics that (the Republican Party) has engaged in for so many generations that culminated in President Trump asking people to overturn the election,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo to CNN.

“What they’re doing is filing bills that are essentially a poll tax that weaponize the election system against our own voters,” she continued. “And what they’re proposing is absolutely tragic and reminiscent of the worst of what we’ve seen in Texas and across the South since Reconstruction.”

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