By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Where There’s Smoke . . .
A medical-marijuana activist says he spent a night in jail for trying to educate sheriff’s deputies about legal pot at the OC Fair
Stan Pasqual had spent more than $200 to buy several tickets so he and his wife and a few of her friends could attend the July 11 Duran Duran show at the Orange County Fair. Just as the music began, shortly after 7 p.m., his wife lit up a cigarette, and an usher asked her to put it out. Then Pasqual noticed that the guy in front of him was smoking a bowl of marijuana. A moment later, he says, the usher accused him of smelling like weed. “I had a joint in my pocket, but I was saving it for later,” Pasqual says. “But I told her that I was allowed to smoke marijuana because I’m a patient and have a state-issued ID card that makes it legal.”
Pasqual would soon regret making that announcement; a few minutes later, a uniformed Orange County sheriff’s deputy demanded to see his identification—not the medical marijuana ID card, but his driver’s license. After Pasqual complied, the deputy leaned into him. “You smell like weed,” the deputy declared. “You know that’s illegal.”
Pasqual says he begged to differ. “I have my state ID card, and it’s legal,” he told the deputy, handing him the card in question. “He gave a hand signal and said something like ‘code blue,’ and the next thing I know, I’m being tackled from behind and have knees in my back and my neck, and I’m being handcuffed.”
Being knocked to the ground sent sharp currents of pain up and down Pasqual’s crooked spine. Six years ago, Pasqual suffered a back injury during a head-on car crash, and his spine has never straightened itself. He’s had weekly visits to a chiropractor ever since, and he says he smokes marijuana to relieve the constant pain. He’s also a volunteer for one of Orange County’s several dozen cannabis collectives, which have blossomed in the past year, ever since the county Board of Supervisors voted to encourage medical-marijuana smokers who have a doctor’s prescription to register with the county health department, thereby obtaining a state ID card allowing them to possess and smoke marijuana.
While being tackled and having his face pushed against the concrete, Pasqual continued to hold onto his ID card, which further angered the deputies, he says. “They kept yelling for me to stop resisting, but I went down like a sack of potatoes. I wasn’t resisting,” he says. “I just wouldn’t let go of my card.” Finally, a deputy asked him what the card was, and Pasqual explained that it allowed him to smoke pot and admitted that he had an unsmoked joint in his pocket.
After examining the card, one of the deputies scratched his head as if unsure what to do, according to Pasqual. “Then they told me they were kicking me out of the concert, and I had to leave the fair or else I was trespassing,” Pasqual says. “I told them I paid $200 to see this concert, and I haven’t done anything wrong.” Pasqual says he demanded an apology from the deputies who’d tackled him. “You guys are going to let me back in the concert and apologize,” he announced. “Let me go, and everything will be fine.” The deputies once again informed Pasqual that if he didn’t leave the fair, he’d be arrested, he says. “Fine,” he replied. “Take me to jail.”
But instead of taking Pasqual to jail, the deputies took him to a detention area at the fairgrounds, where a different group of deputies let him lie down in an air-conditioned van. One of the deputies working there asked him what happened, then told him he’d likely be released in a few minutes, he says.
Instead, Pasqual spent another hour or so at the detention center before being driven to the Orange County Men’s Jail in Santa Ana, where he was booked for obstructing a police officer. Pasqual spent the night being paraded from one jail cell to another in a processing area of the jail called the “loop.” He claims he saw deputies punching inmates who refused to heed their commands and watched seized-up heroin addicts twitching on the floor. Despite the searing pain in his back, he was refused any medical treatment before finally being released, according to a log of his arrest, at approximately 2:30 the following afternoon.
Pasqual faces an Aug. 8 hearing at the Harbor Justice Center for obstructing the deputy who arrested him. He plans to fight the charges, and he says that while he has no plans to sue the county, he still wants an apology and an explanation from the sheriff’s department. “I’d like a letter from the sheriff’s department saying that ‘if you have a state of California ID card, we will not detain you, take your marijuana, or beat the shit out of you.’ That’s all I want.”