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Fifteen years ago, voters in the state of Washington passed into law one of the nation’s first state-level medical marijuana programs. While certainly flawed, as most of those early laws were, the pioneering program has produced a robust network of doctors, growers, dispensaries, and patients in the Pacific Northwest.
Last year, in the 2012 elections, Washington joined Colorado as the first two states to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults, enjoying an easy 55-45 victory at the polls. More recently, a memo was sent out by Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. Department of Justice, essentially giving the two states the feds’ blessing to move ahead with their experiments with legal weed. It’s all good in Washington, then, right? Unfortunately, no.

Free Dana Beal
Dana Beal: “I’m not a run-of-the-mill drug runner. I’m a medical advocate. I had to do it.”

Dana Beal was one of the original Yippies back in the late 1960s, helping organize the radical counterculture group which disrupted the 1968 and 1972 Democratic conventions, advocating a society powered by people rather than profit. Years later, Beal organized marches in New York City calling for the legalization of marijuana, and helped open a clinic which dispenses cannabis to AIDS patients in the Big Apple.

But Beal, 65, says he’s now fighting for his life from a Nebraska jail, reports Paul Hammel at the Omaha World-Herald. Just nine months after a serious heart attack, he faces up to five years in prison after a 2009 arrest near Ashland, Neb., riding in a van holding 150 pounds of marijuana.

Free Dana Beal
Dana Beal to Toke of the Town: “They had to let me go, ’cause I up and died on them”

‚ÄčExclusive Interview: Dana Beal

Longtime marijuana activist Dana Beal has had a rough year. Back on January 6, he was charged with possessing 169 pounds of marijuana after being pulled over in Dodgeville, Wisconsin for a broken taillight and missing bumper — and he was already facing charges involving 150 pounds the previous year in Nebraska. On September 20, he got a five-year prison sentence for the newer charges.

It seemed a foregone conclusion. Beal — with an ancestor who signed the Declaration of Independence, Beal, a founding member of the Youth International Party (Yippies) along with the legendary Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, Beal, who’d been involved in every major social justice movement since the early 1960s — was going to be spending some time in the Big House. His sentence was a “half and half,” where he’d have to serve the first 2.5 years and be paroled for the second half.
But Dana’s life has never been, and probably never will be, a boring one, from the 1960s to being in his 60s. In 1967 he was charged with trying to sell acid to an undercover cop; he went on the run but eventually ended up serving a year on that rap. In 1972 he founded, then edited, the Yipster Times (later to become Overthrow) which published until 1979. His efforts to promote the use of ibogaine to cure addiction to heroin, cocaine and alcohol through the organization Cures Not Wars have resulted in thousands of people being able to walk away from hard drugs.