|Freedom of Medicine and Diet|
|Dana Beal: Fighting for your rights since the 1960s, now he’s going to prison|
Political activist Dana Beal turns 65 next week. For more than 40 years, Dana has been on the forefront of the battle for drug law reform and civil liberties. And in a few weeks, he’ll turn himself in to serve an 11-month prison sentence.
Beal, as has been the case for his entire life, has a lot of irons in the fire. Besides his work to ensure safe access for medical marijuana patients nationwide, the firebrand radical works to bring ibogaine, an herb that promises to cure heroin/opiate addiction, to the people who need it most.
Of course, his impending prison sentence will interrupt the many projects about which Beal is passionate, including the Yippie Museum in New York, which will chronicle the 1960s’ culture of rebellion which spawned the Youth International Party (YIP), which Beal co-founded with his legendary friends Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman back in 1968.
|Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times|
|Beal in 2008 at NYC’s 9 Bleecker Street, a longtime home for the Youth International Party|
Tellingly, none of the concerns Beal expressed to Toke of the Town by telephone from the friend’s couch where he’s currently staying were about his personal safety, or convenience, or health (the latter, of course, being a huge factor at this point).
Dana’s regrets were that he couldn’t keep working on the projects that mean the most to him.
Of course, Beal doesn’t really have 11 months to waste, when it comes to his important work helping get addicts off opiates with ibogaine in far-flung locales like Egypt, South Africa and Afghanistan (where needle exchange and methadone programs have already been made available for addicts in the capital city of Kabul, with ibogaine treatments slated to begin soon).
All that important, life-saving work will, sadly, be very negatively impacted by his incarceration.
“We have a big, full medical clinic for ibogaine treatment going in Egypt, with all the stuff to resuscitate people when they go into cardiac arrest from a rare but dangerous side effect of ibogaine,” Beal told me. “I have to get a passport to travel. That’s one of the reasons I am very keen to resolve my Nebraska situation.”
“The people in New York are just going to have to save the Yippie Museum,” Dana told me. “But they have a plan to do that. They have a plan to pay off the note, to go free and clear on the museum.”
Then there’s the Global Marijuana March, which for about 30 years has been held on the first Saturday in May and with which Beal remans integrally involved.
“We’re up to 56 cities at last count on the Global Marijuana March,” Beal told me. “We’re about to get four more cities, to have 60 confirmed.”
But there’s nothing like the cold, hard finality of a prison door slamming to interrupt the best-made plans.
What Led Up To This
The past year wasn’t a kind one for Beal, who was charged with possessing 169 pounds of marijuana on January 6, 2011, after being pulled over in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, for a broken taillight and missing bumper.
Yeah, that was plenty bad enough, by itself. But you see, Dana was already facing charges involving 150 pounds the previous year in Nebraska — and that’s the case that is coming back to haunt him now.
On September 20, 2011, he got a five-year prison sentence for the Wisconsin charges, while the Nebraska case still hung over his head. He got a “half-and-half” deal, where he’d have to serve the first 2.5 years and be paroled for the second half.
But, “A strange thing happened to me right when they were taking me to prison,” Beal told Toke of the Town — he suffered a heart attack on the morning of September 27. “I think the attack was triggered by a panic which caused shortness of breath, because they never tell you they’re moving you (security),” he told us.
|DeCrescenzo/NY Daily News|
|Beal at the 2006 Million Marijuana March in New York City|
Dana had already tried to warn the Wisconsin judge about his bad health; both his parents died at age 65, and he turns 65 on January 9. But the judge didn’t believe him until Beal proved his point by almost dying.
So the Wisconsin 2.5-year prison sentence became probation. But that, of course, left the Nebraska charges still pending.
‘There’s Never Enough Good, Cheap, Medical-Grade Cannabis’
The unstoppable Beal seems unrepentant about having been busted twice in the past couple years with, basically, van-loads of marijuana. He says the stuff was headed for patients who needed the cannabis to manage their medical conditions.
“It wasn’t such a huge amount when you break it up between 20,000 registered patients in Michigan, plus patients back in New York and D.C.,” Dana told me. “Patients are paying $10, $15, and $20 a gram, and many can’t afford it because they’re on SSI, or they already pay thousands of dollars for meds each month.
“Our pot retails for $4, $5, and $6 — a quality generic product for poor people,” Beal said. “Do the math. The pot busted would have saved patients $800,000.
“There’s never enough good, cheap, medical-grade cannabis,” Dana pointed out. “About 150 pounds in Wahoo, Nebraska, where I’m facing charges I thought had been dropped as the result of a bad search!”
According to Beal, none of the marijuana he was caught carrying was even for Wisconsin or Nebraska.
“I came here on ibogaine business,” Dana told me. “The pot was for Michigan, D.C., and especially New York City.”
Beal is currently staying with friends in Wisconsin, tying up some loose ends and putingt his affairs in order.
The 65-year-old will then be forced to turn himself over to Wisconsin, and presumably shortly thereafter will begin serving his 11-month prison term there.
Former Yippie Pie-man Aron Kay is coordinating donations to Dana, and can be reached at (347) 962-5024.