Pictured above :: James, Krista and Tiffany
Moving Across the Country
Our trip wasn’t really going well. We had stopped on five different occasions for repairs by the time we hit Nebraska. I was feeling a little less nervous now, having been through so much already on the journey, I figured it was time for me to just let go and let ‘God.’ The night before in Nebraska we had stayed at a Walmart and there had been tremendous storms. The sky alternated between pitch black and bright white as the wind rocked the RV like a boat on a stormy sea. In the morning we headed westward on I-80.
During the trip, the RV — a 1988 Fleetwood Jamboree– had been through more than it’s fair share of difficulties. An alternator, a water pump, heater core, radiator hoses, steering column, ignition, and more… had all needed replacement. We were pulling a car, a small one, but enough to make the RV struggle with even the slightest of incline, so much so that we were now driving separately. Krista was behind me in the Honda Fit. I realized that the engine couldn’t really handle difficult climbs. We were headed, eventually, to Northern California. As I planned out the route I-70 and in general Colorado seemed out of the question across the Rocky Mountains. The grade was steep, the mountains were 14000′ high, and the weather was always a question mark. For that reason, we chose the route across Wyoming, Northern Utah, and finally across Nevada. It was a safety call.
On the Morning of September 13th, less than two weeks after departing our home in central Connecticut, we made a stop at Oliver reservoir in Western Nebraska. The trip had been so stressful thus far. My nerves were shot, my wife and I were constantly fighting. The difficulties with the RV were wearing at me as was my mounting debt. The serene water at the reservoir brought me true peace for the first time in many moons. Nestled between the highway 80 and the rural route 30, the reservoir was peaceful and windswept. The sun shined clearly and I was able to submerge myself and wash my stresses away.
As we left, I felt a renewed sense of positivity and center. For on this leg of the trip, we simply couldn’t handle the highways climb at a speed higher than 45. This area was mostly tractor trailers traveling anywhere from 55-80, so we took the rural route. This route, while it took longer and wasn’t as direct, gave me the opportunity to see things in a different light and feel more at ease.
So our day continued, we drove methodically westward until we reached an area where we had to merge with I-80 at the Wyoming border. The rural route no longer existed for a 30-40 mile stretch past Cheyenne. While I wasn’t looking forward to it, there was really no other option, so I gathered myself and we moved onward.
Things Fall Apart
Wyoming, if you have never been, can be an incredibly windy place, and this day was no exception. Because of this, I was an incredibly vigilant driver. Maintaining a speed of 50-55 miles per hour and keeping both hands on the wheel at all times, I was focused. Krista was just behind me, occasionally using her hazard lights, protecting me from behind as the RV did struggle at times to maintain highway level speeds. We passed a few Wyoming State Troopers just a mile or two into the state, some of the only ones we had seen across the country.
Here is where I should share some things with you and be frank, so you understand the rest of the story…
My Relationship with Cannabis
My wife and I were headed to California to work on a farm. It was, in fact, a cannabis farm. Krista had been there to work the year prior so we knew what we were getting into. We had both met the owner and operators as not only work partners but as friends. There was potential work for me as a chef, where I would provide food for those who stayed on the land during harvesting and trimming. This was, I remind you, a legal operation on the California state level. Federally, as we all know, the issue has yet to be resolved (I wasn’t worried about this part.)
Needless to say my wife and I were supportive of using cannabis to treat ailments, to deal with anxiety, just to enjoy oneself, or however else someone may use it. Krista had been regularly smoking for a few years. Before smoking, she had been taking 4 medications and was able to relieve herself of this toxic burden with the medicinal assistance of cannabis in addition to healing from past abuse and trauma. I myself, wasn’t as green, you might say. I had started smoking when I was 15. At the time, I was sick, sad, angry, and confused. I had terrible health issues all centered around my gut. I was diagnosed with depression, my body ached, my mind was foggy, and I just lived in a general malaise.
Within a few weeks of smoking, I had realized that I could somehow be in charge of my inner world, I had a friend in cannabis. Over the next two months I lost almost 20 pounds and my stomach didn’t hurt when I was high. I began to experience an increase in energy, confidence, and my mood was elevated. Over the next 20 years, I had my times where I didn’t engage with cannabis. From 21-24 I was completely sober from both alcohol and cannabis. This was the pattern for me.
Depending on the stresses in my life and severity of my digestive symptoms, I would eat edibles, smoke a joint, hit a bong, or just stay away from cannabis altogether. There were times where I was probably too stringent and could have benefited from a hit or a brownie. There were times where I spent a few days in my apartment in Brooklyn just smoking and cooking for myself, doing yoga and meditating. Like any other substance, there was a pattern of use based on a mostly conscious choice to be appropriately present with my life circumstances. I had learned through the years that cannabis was not only a mild psychedelic, but primarily a medicine that could be used for treating and remedying imbalance within the body. Overall, smoking didn’t do much to offer me a clear head and I had mostly relegated it’s use to soothing, grounding, and calming my body and internal state. Intention goes a long way.
Back to September 13th… at this time, I was in a place of remaining sober when traveling. I did not take on situations that required attention to detail and potential safety concerns while stoned. If we were camped out for a few days in the RV, I would smoke and go for a walk around the campground to release some of the stress of travel or whatever, because I wanted to.
As we passed the troopers I felt a twinge in my stomach. I knew that these specific individuals (State Troopers that is) are simply out to make money under the guise of “protecting our roadways” or something like that. Of course they do occasionally help people and I dare say have likely saved some lives. Let’s be serious though, they are mostly the bullies of the highways out to collect fines for the local government and assert their power and dominance over others. So, as I drove by I thought, well, I’m good… my vehicle is registered, I have insurance, I am following the speed limit, I am sober, I am driving consciously. As an added bonus, I knew that I was extra safe because I was white. The inherently racist practice of highway profiling benefitted me in this situation, or at least I thought it did.
When the trooper’s SUV pulled up alongside me, then slowed down, then got behind me, then back on the side of me again, I can say I was a little unnerved. Personally I have never liked police, maybe it is because I have a penchant for ‘bending the rules’ or ‘breaking laws’. Or perhaps it is because of what my eyes have seen and my body experienced, a fraternity of thugs that justifies evil doing under the guise or serving and protecting. As I had become accustomed to saying, a “highly organized crime outfit”.
When his lights came on I immediately pulled over and began to take deep breaths. Here is where I should share something else with you that you have probably already figured out. My wife and I were traveling with cannabis, enough of it to have what we needed for a few months of potential travel. We had pipes, a small bubbler, rolling papers, grinder, etc. all neatly organized in a box under one of the benches in the RV which was our home at the time.
(Not) Super Troopers
As the trooper approached the vehicle I greeted him and then asked him why I had been pulled over. He responded that I had “failed to maintain my lane”. Okay, I was pretty sure that wasn’t true. “Which side?” I asked. He motioned towards the right side of the roadway “Your passenger side, sir. License and registration please.” Spoiler Alert!! Video evidence later showed that there was absolutely no moving violation. My tire never even tapped what is known as the ‘fog line’. Basically, he was lying, and never actually cited me for that initial claim. As I was pulling my NY State license out my wallet I mentioned to him that I had four cats in the vehicle in case he heard any noise. The whole situation was clearly making him nervous, he was resting one hand on his gun, I can’t imagine what he thought might be going on back there. He asked where I was heading and I responded “My wife and I are headed to California to live.” Thinking back on the ass backwards twilight zone that is Cheyenne, that wasn’t the best answer I could have given however, I often approach difficult situations with honesty. Whoops!
My registration was in a folder behind the drivers seat. I told him this and that I would have to stand up to get it. At this point, he asked me to exit the vehicle. I didn’t see the reason to, but I had seen too many videos of people getting their ass kicked by cops then to resist a seemingly conservative white man with a gun. So I stepped out of the vehicle and he said to me “When the plates run clear we will let you go with a citation for the traffic violation.” I knew at this moment that I couldn’t trust this man, but also knew that I was basically already in his custody. He walked me back to his vehicle and the moment we were both in the front seats of his patrol vehicle he said “Can I ask you while I smell raw marijuana?” Again “Why is it that I have smelled raw marijuana from the moment I approached your vehicle?” Continuing “When was the last time you smoked marijuana?” And again “Are you under the influence of marijuana right now?”.
At this point I had gone a bit cold and distant, like sleeping a womb made of ice. “I can’t answer those questions, I have no idea why you smell what you smell, no I am not high right now.” I was pretty despondent, I knew what was happening, I felt the trouble looming.
He continued to press me “If I search your vehicle, will I find anything?” “Do you have any weapons in your vehicle?” “You are smarter than this.” I begin to see what is happening and so I say “Listen man, you are going to do whatever you want at this point, so just go ahead and do it.” “I don’t think you have the right to search my car or detain me, but I know you are going to do it anyway, so just stop asking me questions.” I was pretty low at this point. Then the kicker, he grabs his walkie and radios “Have the wife pull her car up and search her as well.”
The Healing Begins
At this point I entered some sort of altered state of being. I was simultaneously completely relaxed and having a panic attack, I imagine it is what a serial killer might feel as they lure in their prey. Noticing my heart rate, I got a little worried and told the officer that I was having a panic attack. He moved me to the back of the vehicle and handcuffed me. This was the feeling of trauma settling in. I didn’t know what else to do, so I alternated between asking him to be careful with my cats on the side of a highway and deep breaths. I was ohm-ing non stop as a way of self soothing. I was a long way from home, from family. I was broke and in debt, and I knew they were going to find all of the cannabis related items in both the RV and in my wife’s car.
I watched as they checked out everything they could in the RV, at one time coming back to me with a large jar of dried reishi mushrooms and crystals. “What are these sir?” some of the backup troopers asked. “Well, the reishi, also known as lingzhi are a central point of chinese medicine. They are specifically good for treating imbalances within the body as they are adaptogenic….” I continued on explaining what an adaptogen is and that I wild harvested these in Connecticut. I think an answer of “these are not illegal drugs” probably would have sufficed, but I like to think that somewhere down the line one of these guys will have a family member who needs help and he’ll think of this mycological wonder.
They allowed Krista to come talk to me before we were taken to jail about 30 miles west in Cheyenne. She said she was worried about me, and I told her so was I, but I was fine. We were both so worried about what was going to happen to the cats, we have four of them. We were assured that they would go to the local animal rescue and would be kept their for up to seven days. I had overheard the possible penalties we were facing and was feeling pretty sick to my stomach, these were felony offenses in the state of Wyoming. Krista and I shared some love and then we were both whisked away in separate vehicles to the station.
Luckily for both of us in this instance, Wyoming exists in some time long ago, when men did men things, and women did women things. Because of this, Krista was allowed to keep her phone and make phone calls on the way back to the station and contacted my parents to let them know what had happened. I, on the other hand, wasn’t allowed to touch my phone because, as the trooper stated “You could send a few texts and then I could have a shootout on my hands.” Yup, that’s me, always got my gang right behind me as I peacefully cross Wyoming with my cats and wife. Anyway, my mother was on it, god bless her soul, finding a lawyer to protect whatever rights I had left.
When we were brought in for booking, they asked that Krista and I not talk or make eye contact. They took our clothes, our shoes, our wedding rings, all of our possessions before checking our ‘cavities’ for weapons or drugs. As a rule I don’t put dangerous things in my ass, but hey, I guess they were doing their jobs. Krista had $40 on her and I had $0, so our jailbird accounts reflected this amount. Later on I wouldn’t be able to make any phone calls but Krista was able to contact the right people at the right times.
Being an Inmate
Jail is a sad place, I was on a cell block with 25 other men. Some of them were there for violent crimes but most of them were there for things like a domestic disturbance (not abuse), petty theft, or drug charges (most common). Cheyenne has a meth problem and, I don’t blame it, the place is inherently toxic. Because of this, most people in jail are detoxing and giving off a vibe that isn’t the most comfortable to be around.
That night I had no way of knowing what was going to happen. I arrived too late for dinner and didn’t eat at all that day. I spent the evening pretending to read a book that I couldn’t focus on and trying not to cry to much. My cell mate was a self proclaimed life long prisoner. Recently he had turned himself in for failing to appear on other charges. He shared some stories about joining a gang, moving large amounts of cocaine, being a father to his son, and killing people in the early 2000’s, including one man while in custody in Richmond, Virginia. A crime which he describes as a crime of passion based on gang related pride, a moment where he just ‘lost control’. I don’t know what to believe, but it all seemed legit, the scariest part being that the specific facility where the murder took place never punished anyone as the man killed was not of any specific note to any family or community. In fact, he stated that the man he killed was generally disliked and an annoyance to both the inmates and the staff.
After sharing all of this while pacing back and forth in the small white concrete cell, he stopped an looked into my eyes. His stocky build was fiercely strong but quite small and somehow friendly. From my horizontal position on the top bunk, his eyes were at the same height. “You seem pretty chill for having never been in jail before homie” (most of his sentences did in fact end with the word ‘homie’). “Yeah I guess I’m just a chill dude, what else am I going to do?” “You don’t belong here, this place ain’t for you, homie.”
Before going to sleep or whatever state I was in, I told him about my work as an astrologer and mapped out his chart as best I could in my head. He was fascinated and described how he had studied Carl Jung while imprisoned for a 4 year term most recently. He resonated with the idea of the unconscious running things. So I was able to share some insight with him and engage in some personal healing.
I woke up in the morning to fluorescent lights buzzing in my eyes. I had no idea what time it was nor did it matter. I got up and made the bed, feeling a combination of sick and nervous. I was very disoriented, but I just knew that I should eat whatever it was that was offered. I generally don’t eat any animal products or gluten or sugar but, I just took down what was in front of me. I had no idea what was going to happen that day or how long I would be there. Apparently arraignment could take up to two weeks and I wasn’t sure that I would even have the option to be bailed out before then. So I was doing my best to accept my current state: I was going to have to eat. Two hard boiled eggs, cornbread, a piece of cake, some imitation butter, washed down with hot water. However disgusting I may have found this food a week ago, it was amazing, I was very grateful for the nourishment.
During that morning I was told that I would be seeing a judge via video later in the day where bond may or may not be set. That was 4 hours away, so I spent my time getting to know the space. I spoke with 5 different men who were there intimately, getting to know their stories. I figured that it had been a while since someone had held space for them to express and be heard and loved, so again, more healing. There was a small courtyard that was walled in on all four sides with a slatted metal roofing. In the courtyard was a bent basketball rim, I inquired about a ball and the CO offered me an egg shaped orange piece of tattered rubber, hey it worked. I shot around with some men for about 15 minutes, it was odd to play around in crocs that were 4 sizes too big. From one corner of the yard you could sit in the sun, so I did that for a while. There was tv inside and a bunch of silent men sitting around it just seemingly waiting for the next opportunity to perceive the image of a woman, it was too creepy to sit there.
When time came to go to a small room and be in front of the virtual judge, I was told that my wife would be in the same room and I was not to speak, make eye contact, or have any communication with her. This was, by far, the most heart wrenching of all the moments. I just wanted to sit next to her, hold her hand, or just look at her. I was told that if I did my judgement would be put on hold until the next available time which could be days or weeks away, yikes, don’t want that.
My charges were read to me, and I was told that I was facing up to 22 years in prison. My bond was set for $2500 cash and I was set back to my cell. Magically, after a lunch of beans and rice and some sort of sausage, I was informed that it was time to go. Apparently my lawyer had posted my bond and I could leave now. In the end I was in custody for approximately 26 hours from start to finish. As I was being processed out, I just wanted to know about my wife, but no one could give me any information.
I walked out of the Cheyenne Police Precinct around 4PM on September 14th, expecting my wife to be right behind me. I turned on my phone and immediately I had messages telling me that I had an appointment with my lawyer at 8AM the next day. I spent close to an hour just sitting there with my phone battery dying waiting for my love to come walking out the door. Finally she called me, word had gotten to her that I was released. Her bond was not yet posted and wouldn’t be until the following day.
I quickly found the cheapest hotel around and walked about 1.6 miles to get there. Remember at this point both my car and RV were in an impound lot southeast of town. I checked into the hotel, turned on the shower and just began crying on the floor. I had no idea what was happening or what could happen. I switched the television to ESPN and turned it up as loud as it went and just stood under the warm running water of the shower. I made a phone call to my best friend, a magical witch of a being, and told them what was happening. They managed to pull me out of a suicidal tailspin and I got some sleep that night.
My visit with my lawyer was quick and direct, she advised me to get on a drug testing protocol immediately and to set up some sort of residence. As I began to walk out of her office she asked “Where exactly are you going?”. I was walking to the impound lot which was about 4 miles away. She offered me a ride and I graciously accepted.
I arrived at the tow yard and paid them $475 to get my RV back. A friendly man drove me down the road to where the RV was stationed and, as expected, it didn’t start. He was nice enough to jump me while I busily emptied the fridge of rotten ingredients and began to clean up. I’m not exactly sure what had happened during the tow, but the headlights didn’t work, the blinkers didn’t work, and the electrical system overall seemed shot. I was able to get out of the tow yard and parked behind a local business with a dumpster.
The interior of the RV had been ransacked. Our personal possessions were everywhere and there was actually cannabis all over the place, almost as if they had taken the remnants of a container and spread them around. I did a full cleaning of the RV and burned some incense. My goal that day was to get my cats back. One of them, Adelé, had recently been sick and I was pretty damn worried.
I drove the few miles to the Animal Rescue and paid $450 dollars to get my cat’s back. At this point I heard from my wife and her bond had been posted, she met me just as I had gotten the cats back into the RV. There was no time for emotion or sharing, just making sure the cats were alright.
I already had a plan for us to stay, so we pulled in at an RV campground just outside of town. I arranged to stay for the week and walked back out to the RV which didn’t start. We got another jump and finally were able to set ourselves up and create our RV as a sustainable living space. The next day we got our car back another $475, and the rebuilding began.
Over the next 30 days until our arraignment, we showed up for random drug testing everyday. We lived in a cold windy campground and did our best to stay solid and figure out what we were going to do with our lives. There was no guarantee that we would not be going to jail, there was no guarantee that we would be able to leave the state. Our bond conditions prohibited us from going to any place that served alcohol or being around people of ‘negative character’ (whatever that means, I guess like Dr. Evil or Walter White).
In all that time, none of our tests were positive for THC or any other illicit substance. It was recommended to me that I not talk about the case with anyone until it had
completed, so I was living in between worlds. It was here, at AB Campground in Cheyenne, Wyoming, that I found my greatest depths. In a matter of an hour, every tangible and some intangible thing that I care about was taken away from me. My love, my cats, my home and all things within it. I was stripped bare, and what I found within was very very strong, but also incredibly bitter and angry.
I had to become my bitter angry self, I had no other choice.
We did our best to bide our time while in Cheyenne. There was a farmers market on Saturday, a place to get wheatgrass, a Natural Grocer, a Barnes and Noble where I could work, and a Chinese Buffet that became a weekly endeavor. In that time, we even took two trips to Ft. Collins, Colorado and Medicine Bow National Forest. The only other choice with no friends and no fun was to eat and watch TV in our 200 square feet of home with 4 cats.
The Slow Drip of the Justice System
By October 17th when arraignment came, again, our charges were read. 2 Felony Counts, 2 Misdemeanor Counts, up to 22 years in prison, up to $30,000 in fines. At this point, at least we knew we could leave. Our goal in this whole situation was to get charges dropped or reduced to the point where we would be free or on probation. While we hoped for the best and getting off completely, that was highly unlikely.
During our time in Wyoming, we had many conversations about where we would go to live. Based on communication with our lawyers, we knew that we would have to choose a state that would be likely to accept a transfer of probation. California and Colorado were out of the question as their attitude towards cannabis would conflict with Wyoming’s rather conservative drug laws. Just to give you an idea, in Wyoming, you can go to jail for 6 months for being stoned… let that sink in.
It didn’t take us long to decide to come to Tucson. We had already been married in Phoenix the previous year before honeymooning in Tucson for the Gem Show and Sedona for the “Sedona.” Arizona is a magical place and also would be warm for the looming winter, something we desperately needed after such a cold experience, both literally and metaphorically.
The RV needed work two more times before we reach Denver and it was in Pueblo Colorado that a combination of nerves and anger caused me to abandon ship. We attempted to sell the RV in one day but alas put it into storage and rented a Penske truck. One night to Santa Fe and the next night in Tucson. The cats were happy with the arrangement but we had bigger things in mind, like an actual home.
After 10 days of living in hotels with our cats, we found our new home here in Tucson Arizona. Just north of the University and nestled close enough to the Catalina Mountains that they hover like angels over our every move.
Completion of the Criminal Case…
In January of 2018 we traveled back to Wyoming to sign a plea agreement. This did not guarantee anything, but it made it highly likely that we would receive probation as opposed to jail time. Finally, we travelled back for the final time on May 4th 2018 for sentencing. As expected from our lawyers, we received probation from the judge for 3 years. A sentence that can be relieved from our records after 1 year if we follow all of the rules as stipulated by probation.
It is, all in all, a very happy ending to a stressful time. While both my wife and I will continue to be on a random testing protocol (meaning if we smoke pot we violate probation and a warrant issued for our arrest), have to watch our company, and report to an officer from time to time, it is better than jail time.
The time between September and now during which my case was slowly working it’s way through the court, counts for nothing. Nearly 8 months of weekly testing at $26 dollars a test (and not a single one positive) and 8 months of reporting to a parole agent don’t count towards anything (just needed to get that out).
For now I am happy and grateful for the fact that I no longer have to visit or experience the close minded and archaic culture of Wyoming. The land is magical, as is land everywhere, but the culture is devoid of individuality, creativity, and heart based acceptance of personal differences.
I always attempt to see the bigger picture in all things. I am regularly delving deep into my life to see how I have played a role in the creation of both positive and negative experiences. I trust myself in this way to be accountable for my situations.
In this case, however, I just feel wounded. I was driving, that is all. In fact, I was driving consciously, soberly, and with love in my heart. I was following all stated rules and regulations of the road, but yet I was profiled and harassed by the police. The law that I was breaking involved possessing a medicine, a plant, within a home, within a box, within a jar. Because of this, the state of Wyoming was able to justify harassing, kidnapping, and putting my wife and I into a cage.
Overall this situation has cost us over $10,000 but the pain and challenge goes much deeper than money…
This has challenged my relationship to my wife, my parents, my in-laws, and my business. My confidence was shattered, my will to live was paper thin, I was scared to drive or express myself. My health on a physical level came into question the way it did as a child. One of my helpful coping mechanisms for the stresses of life, the conscious use of cannabis, was taken away from me. All in all, I have a lot of healing to do in my relationship with myself.
All of this because of the whim of some man “Just doing his job” with a gun on the side of the highway in Eastern Wyoming. As my heart continues to heal, my mind wrestles with the injustices of life. I am thankful that I am considered “white” as I have no idea how these men would have treated a “minority.” I am incredibly grateful that my parents were able to assist in bailing me out of jail, where I would have otherwise stayed for weeks. I am incredibly grateful for the fact that I got married, as my bond with my wife offered me a space to love and be loved unconditionally as I processed this traumatic time.
I have been learning to receive. My meditation practice is on point. We host gatherings for the new and full moons at our home. I take an amazing CBD extract made by a shamanic healer, safe for those being drug tested, infused with powerful healing vibes :: SUPherbals (use code “STARMAN” for a discount). I am trading my astrology work for massage therapy, kinesiology, private readings, energy healing, and counseling. I take time everyday to do affirmations to rebuild my sense of self, this was quite a hit. Here is the book I’m currently working with A Primer for Ascension. I give myself space and time to fall apart, to be angry, to acknowledge my feelings, and give them space to erupt and flow.
First and foremost I focus on ME, cause right now, I need it.
I will not use this time to get on a soapbox, just to let you know that this kind of shit happens, and I am very very glad this things are changing. I was a casualty of the drug war, of the morality that insidiously pervades our culture like rotting fruit in your breakfast cereal. Blessings to you, and thank you for reading.
Xx May we let others live, and may we live in peace xX