Daniel Chong's 5-Day Nightmare Behind Bars Sparks Outrage for Marijuana Nation

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Fri, May 4, 2012 at 8:03 AM

click to enlarge Chong. - CIZZLE ROSSILINI / NBC
  • Cizzle Rossilini / NBC
  • Chong.
The case of Daniel Chong, the UCSD student who was locked up by the DEA and forgotten for nearly five days as he tried to commit suicide and drank his own urine, has fired up the marijuana nation.

As news hit that Chong was filing a $20 million legal claim against the DEA, Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, is highlighting the ordeal as an example of the folly of contemporary American cannabis politics.

Chong was celebrating 4/20 at a friend's house when the DEA came knocking:

Unfortunately for him, the DEA was targeting ecstasy at the house, and they say they found it -- 18,000 pills worth.

Nine people were detained and processed as potential criminals -- including fingerprinting -- but Chong was never arrested, nor was he considered an official suspect.

He was, it would seem, just visiting local friends on April 20.

And, the DEA admits, they locked him up and forgot about him.


Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance says this demonstrates why U.S. drug enforcement is retarded:

What happened to Daniel Chong is an inevitable consequence of a war on drugs that arrests and detains millions of people for drug law violations, most of them involving petty offenses.

Being incarcerated, even for just a few days, can be devastating. People guilty of nothing more than possessing a little marijuana are locked up with people who may be violent criminals. Some are abused, beaten and raped, and others deprived of essential medication or contact with their families. A few commit suicide. Many are otherwise traumatized by the experience of being tossed into jail even when their jailers don't forget about them. And even greater numbers suffer serious and sometimes permanent consequences from whatever conviction results, including loss of employment, housing and government assistance, loss of custody of one's children, and much more.

He said Chong's detention questions ...

... the policies of mass arrest and incarceration that distinguish the United States from all other nations.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer called on President Obama's Department of Justice to investigate the episode. She wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder that says, in part:

Given the seriousness of this incident, I urge you to personally ensure that the Department of Justice conducts a full and thorough investigation to find out what happened, who was responsible and what steps must be taken to make sure it never happens again.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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