While outside the courthouse, Creamer was not arrested for smoking marijuana even though he called 911 from a restaurant, telling the dispatcher that someone was standing on a sidewalk smoking marijuana. He then returned to the sidewalk. A Lawrence policeman twice drove past Creamer on Massachusetts Street, waving when Creamer whistled for his attention. Creamer stood outside the courthouse about 40 minutes before going inside the Law Enforcement Center. "This is a typical situation in Lawrence. Kansas," Creamer said. "Everybody smokes as much as they want and nobody cares." Creamer said the government should concentrate its efforts on hard drug users and sellers. "One thing I want to do is show they don't have enough money to get everyone who does pot." he said.
After spending the night in jail, Creamer was charged Wednesday with a felony count of possessing marijuana and released on $5,000 recognizance bond. Creamer told Douglas County District Judge Jean Shepherd he had been convicted 18 years ago of possessing marijuana. Creamer was charged with a fel≠ony because of that previous convic≠tion. The minimum penalty on con≠viction would be one to two years in prison, the maximum five to 10. After his release, Creamer said he lit up because he was tired of pre≠tending not to be a marijuana smok≠er and because he wanted to make a statement about the war against drugs.
David Stewart for the editorial board
FOR HIS $100, Creamer said he received 28 stamps. That is the minimum amount of stamps that can be purchased under a Kansas law that requires people who possess drugs to affix tax stamps to those drugs. The drug tax requirement is designed to give prosecutors another tool to use against drug-law violators. The Douglas County district attorney's office hds filed the charge of failing to obtain a tax stamp -- which has been upheld by the state Supreme Court -- against a number of violators. Creamer said he purchased the stamps only to "further my campaign and advertise my cause" and is planning to give them to people as souvenirs.
CREAMER'S campaign began Sept. 5, when he smoked a marijuana cigarette in the lobby outside the Lawrence Police Department in a deliberate attempt to be arrested. Officers obliged, and Creamer last Wednesday was charged in Douglas County District Court with a felony count of possessing marijuana. Today, Creamer said his protest stemmed from his belief that marijuana is a "soft drug and is far less dangerous than drugs such as cocaine, heroin and PCP. For that matter, Creamer said, marijuana leads to fewer deaths than tobacco and alcohol. He believes decriminalizing marijuana and eventually legalizing and taxing it, would allow law enforcement officials to concentrate their efforts on wiping out "hard" drugs.
PURCHASING the stamps does not allow Creamer to sell or possess marijuana. If he does so, he could face new criminal charges. Creamer is free on a $5,000 recognizance bond awaiting an Oct. 30 preliminary hearing on the current charges. He and his attorney, Jerry Harper of Lawrence, are fighting conditions of the bond which require Creamer to submit to random urine tests and obtain a drug alcohol evaluation. Harper said the conditions threaten his client's constitutional right to a fair trial. A hearing on the matter was scheduled for 4 p.m. today.
Basically, the Lawrence police wanted to keep the whole thing low-key, Mulvenon said. And it was that low-key attitude that I misinterpreted as apathy. I met one of the drug officers, and he locked his eyes on mine as he shook my hand. It wasn't an apathetic look. It was the kind of look you naturally would give some college kid if you were laying your life on the line every day to fight against rampant drug use and he said in print that you weren't doing your job well. So of course I can understand the concerns of the police. They've got a tough job, and they are taking it seriously.
And as I've said, all the facts aren't in on the Creamer case. I saw him milling around the court area on the first floor of the Law Enforcement Center while I was on my way to meet Mulvenon. He still has a long fight ahead of him, and the Lawrence police still have some questions they need to answer about that night. I still think, however, that there is a general apathy about the drug issue. After I left the courthouse, I flipped on the televison in ray apartment and happened to catch the end of President Bush's speech to children about drugs. It was on Cable News Network. During the speech, CNN cut to their cameras at a junior high school in Miami, Fla. A few students were watching the Bush speech intensely, and then one student leaned over to another, and the other broke out laughing. CNN immediately cut back to the president. Bush's message was that drugs are no joke. The children obviously didn't think so.
But those are children. What about Creamer? Is what he did a joke; was he making light of the drug problem? Possibly, but in his eyes, and the eyes of many others, the problem is that marijuana isn't legal, not that people are using it. But as long as drugs are not legal, the Lawrence police, in conjunction with county and state agencies, will fight against them as seriously as they can. I could see it in their eyes.
David Stewart is a Tulsa, Okla., senior majoring in journalism.
Creamer began making his case shortly after Bush's televised announcement of his $8 billion plan to combat drugs on Sept. 6. He was arrested for smoking a marijuana cigarette at the Lawrence Judicial and Law Enforcement Center. "I didn't want to be a hypocrite any longer," he said. "I felt I had to do what I thought was right." Creamer, a father of six, claims that marijuana is as intoxicating as drinking two beers and less harmful than alcohol. "There's been a war on drugs for 20 years." he said. Creamer himself is a veteran. In 1971, he was arrested in Lawrence for attempted possession of marijuana. He presently faces a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, because a second drug conviction would be a felony. He said he is prepared to go to prison.
"It would hurt my family more than it would hurt me," he said. Creamer, with close-cropped hair, rejects the suggestion that he is a hold-over from 1960s. He's not a middle-aged radical hippy, he said. "Bush is living in the 1950s," he contended. "I'm ready to go into the '90s. I'm established, I own my own home. I'm a productive member of society." Creamer has lived in Lawrence since 1966, he said. He graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in social psychology and was a plumbing contractor until he was injured. He said he is now a house husband and sculptor.
But Dr. Eric A. Voth, medical director of a chemical dependency treatment center in Topeka and chairman of the Scientific Committee for the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth, feels otherwise.
Voth says careful medical research has shown that in the' short term pot smoking causes poor concentration, poor coordination and affects short-term memory. In the long term, it reinforces the effects on concentration, causes permanent memory loss, affects motivation and thus performance, decreases male hormones in men and lowers the birth rate in women, affects the menstrual cycle, damages the lungs and causes "precancerous changes" in the body. Also, he adds, it is addictive and carries a bigger risk of cancer than tobacco.
Creamer says it's harmless. Creamer also says he's been smoking pot for 20 years. Voth hasn't. We'll go with Voth.
Maybe he's right. But where are they? Fact is, Creamer's campaign has been such a yawner that he's had trouble getting the police interested enough to arrest him. In the aftermath of President Bush's big drug speech Sept. 5, Creamer alerted certain news media that he'd be openly smoking a marijuana cigarette outside the Lawrence judicial center. When he realized his prank was going nowhere, he apparently called 911 to report his little indiscretion. The cops just continued to wave and roll on by. Perhaps feeling that there's never a cop outside the police station when you need one, he walked inside and lit up for the receptionist, blowing his stenchy smoke through the porthole in the lobby glass. His bizarre brand of civil disobedience made good local television that night and has been the subject of several commentaries such as this one. But not even Andy Warhol would endorse such fleeting attention as an even trade for up to 10 years in prison or a $10,000 fine, which Creamer could now face for a marijuana conviction (his second, and therefore a felony).
Of course, any judge who's not smoking the stuff would know better than to make a martyr of Creamer with protracted prison term. But itís puzzling nonethe≠less why Creamer feels so strong≠ly about his hobby that heís willing to risk losing a home and a family of six children to defend it. Perhaps such a risk would be worthy if his actions had stirred the masses, instead of a few sto≠ry-hungry reporters. But his rally last Monday at the Capitol was a forlorn affair. Why? Maybe it's because most of us, except for the most active pro-lifers, have become rather rusty at performing civil disobedience.
The first rule of civil disobedience is that the authors of it, and indeed anyone who participates in it, must believe that the subject of it is morally correct, almost beyond a reasonable doubt. One doesn't skip work, miss "thirtysomething" or make a spectacle of oneself for causes that don't stir some amount of fury. Pro-lifers have little problem surviving this test; after all, they define their target as the senseless killing of babies. Marijuana smokers can't claim as emotional a cause, and many just can't bring themselves to be self-righteous about their right to blow their minds. What's more, they're not willing to subject themselves to arrest or public ridicule for something they're not sure about.
Secondly, the subject of civil disobedience must also be capable of luring mass empathy. With marijuana, you'd better forget it; especially in the Reagan-Bush era, in which so many young up-and-comers are so cocksure of their morality. It is this new wave of young moralistic soldiers now beginning to take power -- not the new Supreme Court or the economy that will be Reagan's greatest legacy. And Creamer is fighting it.
Thirdly, the subject of civil disobedience must simply be worth the consequences. And marijuana is clearly not. Not any more than any other hobby. One might enjoy model trains, but they're hardly worth going to the slammer. Better to take up collecting Bob Uecker baseball cards. One might argue, quite idealistically, that anything you consider morally correct (or even permissible) is worth fighting for, and that you're a hypocrite for not speaking out. Maybe. But -- and it doesn't feel good to say this -- in the adult world, being a hypocrite helps pay the bills. The risks of speaking out about anything you believe simply must be weighed. Call it a "cost-benefit analysis."
Lastly, civil disobedience must be well-orchestrated to maximize its attention-getting powers. That's why we picket on busy streets, not behind a barn. Anymore, successful civil disobedience almost has to have a Madison Avenue approach: advertisers already know that the competition for public attention is unmercifully fierce. And unpolished campaigps tend to get lost in the shuffle of big-city diversions.
If Creamer is going to risk his liberty, family and reputation in a campaign to legalize marijuana, he had better be completely sure itís a worthy cause, that a good bit of the public agrees with him and that his campaign is co≠herent. Otherwise, heís blowing smoke.
Michael Ryan is The Capital-≠Journal legal affairs writer.
Creamer said he has amassed some "quiet support" in his efforts to legalize drugs after visiting several colleges across the state. But he said few are bold enough to join him publicly, and few will even write checks to his legal defense fund, though some will give him cash. He said about 60 people did show up for a protest rally in Topeka on Halloween. Creamer said he isn't ashamed or embarrassed about smoking marijuana, which he considers "a softer drug than alcohol," and he didn't want to be a hypocrite about it any more.
He said he figured he would be the only protester when Bennett was at the Leavenworth penitentiary, but he decided he wanted to take his message to the drug czar anyway. Creamer said he saw Bennett in his official car as he whisked away from the prison on his way to Kansas City, Mo., to address a convention of Future Farmers of America. However, he said he thought Bennett managed to "purposely ignore" him and his placard.
The legal cease-fire was short-lived, however, because Paddock then granted a motion by Douglas County Assistant Dist. Atty. Rick Trapp allowing the state to file an amended complaint Monday afternoon charging Creamer with a misdemeanor count of possessing marijuana. Creamer was arrested Sept. 5 after he walked into the Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center and lit a marijuana cigarette in front of a Lawrence police officer.
Creamer says his protest stems from his belief that marijuana is a "soft" drug and is far less dangerous than drugs such as cocaine, heroin and PCP. He says marijuana leads to fewer deaths than tobacco and alcohol. Furthermore, he believes decriminalizing marijuana use, and eventually legalizing and taxing it, would allow law enforcement officials to concentrate their efforts on wiping out "hard" drugs.
Creamer has protested marijuana laws on the steps of the state capitol building and in Lawrence; Leavenworth and Manhattan. In the original complaint against Creamer, prosecutors claimed he previously had been convicted of possessing the drug. Under Kansas statutes, possessing marijuana is a misdemeanor charge but a second charge of possessing marijuana is treated as a felony.
THE LEGAL maneuvering began Monday when Trapp changed the language of the original complaint to state that Creamer had a prior conviction of attempted possession of marijuana. The charge remained a felony. Court records show that Creamer was found guilty of attempted possession of the drug in September 1971. Because Creamer's previous conviction was for attempted possession and not straight possession, his attorney, Jerry Harper, argued that his client could not be charged with a felony.
Paddock agreed, saying the statute "looks pretty clear to me," and then granted Trapp's motion to file the amended misdemeanor charge. Because of Monday's action, Creamer no longer faces imprisonment. The maximum penalty for marijuana possession, a Class A misdemeanor, is a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Creamer's first appearance on the amended complaint will be at 11 a.m. Jan. 24 before Douglas County District Judge Jean Shepherd.
AFTER leaving the courtroom, Creamer said he was relieved by Paddock's ruling. Still, he said, he's prepared to go to jail for the cause. "I've already decided that I will do as much community service as they want, but I will not pay a fine," he said, adding that he wouldn't pay a fine because he feels he would be feeding the government crackdown on marijuana.