A Site For All Your Needs

Archive for the tag “marijuana”

‘What Happened to Him?’

Basketball Star Jonathon Hargett’s Promising Career Derailed

Jonathan Hargett is in prison in Virginia serving the final months of a nearly five-year sentence for drug possession with intent to sell.


CHESAPEAKE, Va. — From the playgrounds of Richmond, Va., to the highest levels of international basketball, the exploits of Jonathan Hargett still resonate.

Amar’e Stoudemire, a high school teammate, has called Hargett the best player he has played with at any level. Carmelo Anthony, a summer league teammate when both were in high school, vividly recalls Hargett, a frenetic 5-foot-11 guard with a 44-inch vertical leap and skills that evoked comparisons to Allen Iverson.

At the London Olympics, Kevin Durant overheard a reporter talking to Anthony about Hargett and asked wide-eyed about his whereabouts. Durant graduated from one of the four high schools Hargett attended, but he knows him only by his reputation.

His signature move was his ability to freeze an opponent with a crossover dribble, then blow past him toward the basket, lobbing the ball off the backboard and catching it and dunking it with one hand. It became known simply as a Hargett.

“Especially when you’re talking about memories and things like that from high school basketball and A.A.U. basketball, he’s definitely one of the names that comes up,” Anthony said. “What happened to him?”

The answer is jarring and sadly predictable. Hargett, who turns 30 this weekend, is an inmate at the medium-security Indian Creek Correctional Center here, serving the final months of a nearly five-year sentence for drug possession with intent to sell.

Tattoos are a tribute to Jonathan Hargett’s wizardry with the basketball.

How he ended up here, a decade removed from his one season of major-college basketball and far short of the N.B.A. career that many thought was his destiny, is a story that Hargett told recently in two jailhouse interviews totaling nearly seven hours. Wearing the standard-issue prison uniform of jeans and a blue button-down shirt that resembled a pajama top, Hargett spoke of dealing with an agent at 15 and of eventually choosing to attend West Virginia because he was offered $20,000. He also recounted his years of abusing marijuana and making nearly $1,000 a day selling cocaine, a way of life that resulted in his being shot with a bullet that remains lodged in his hip.

His family’s story is even darker. When Hargett was 6, his father died while in prison, lacking even a suit to be buried in. Hargett’s sister did not have a dress to wear to the funeral. Of his mother’s four other sons, one is dead and the other three are in jail — two for rape and one for armed robbery.

“It’s an American tragedy, in a lot of ways,” said Ernie Nestor, who coached Hargett’s brother Mike at George Mason. Mike died at 30.

Hargett is scheduled to be released Jan. 11. Highly sought after as a high school player — he was a top-10 recruit in the class of 2001, rated higher than the future N.B.A. guards Ben Gordon and T. J. Ford — he rarely receives visitors now. He spends his days helping make cleaning supplies in the hope of having $500 saved to spend on his two daughters when he leaves prison. With nearly five years to dwell on the mistakes that kept him from the N.B.A., Hargett has ultimately pinpointed one person for his failures.

“I can’t blame nobody,” he said. “I’ve got to blame myself.”

Those Amazing Stories

Around Richmond, the stories about Hargett are told like the basketball version of campfire fables. How, even as he cycled through high schools, his talent was such that many N.B.A. scouts thought he could be the first point guard to jump directly to the N.B.A. How he had tattoos on the back of his hands that read “Gifted Hands,” a tribute to his wizardry with the basketball.

Tyrone Sally, a high school and college teammate of Hargett’s, said he still is asked at least twice a week, “Whatever happened to Jonathan Hargett?”

George Lancaster, 67, has coached high school basketball in the Richmond area for nearly 40 years and has helped more than 120 players get college scholarships, dating from Gerald Henderson, who went on to play for the Boston Celtics. Lancaster said he never coached a more talented player than Hargett. But Lancaster described him as a portrait of contrasts. Hargett was shy but strong-willed, a thrill to coach yet lazy and stubborn, supremely confident on the court with self-esteem issues away from the gym.

Hargett’s mother, Nancy, worked multiple jobs to help support her six children. With his mother often working and no father figure around, Hargett began to form bad habits. Lancaster said that after Hargett’s ninth-grade year, he began showing up late to practice, and Lancaster noticed an entourage beginning to form around him.

“He listened to the streets and the people that took care of his immediate needs,” Lancaster said. “Imagine someone walking down an alley with mirrors everywhere. When you’re looking, you can only see the images and reflection of yourself. You can’t see anything on the horizon.”

Hargett began smoking marijuana in seventh grade and dabbled in selling drugs about then. By high school, he was smoking whenever he could, often when he woke up in the morning.

“I can’t blame nobody,” Jonathan Hargett said. “I’ve got to blame myself.” He added: “I made a lot of bad decisions. I don’t have no ego, pride or none of that no more.”

Read More


Grandmas Grow Gold in Swaziland

Sibongile Nkosi, 70, started growing marijuana near Piggs Peak when she heard that the plant could earn a decent return.


PIGGS PEAK, Swaziland — After her daughters died, Khathazile took in her 11 orphaned grandchildren without hesitation. It is what a gogo, or grandmother, does in a country where the world’s highest H.I.V. infection rate has left a sea of motherless children.

“God will help us,” she said.

Perhaps. But Khathazile has some insurance in case divine intervention fails: Swazi Gold, a highly potent and valuable strain of marijuana that is sought after in the thriving drug market of next-door South Africa. In a field deep in the forest, atop a distant hill in this arid corner of tiny Swaziland, Khathazile grows Swazi Gold to keep her growing brood of grandchildren fed, clothed and in school.

“Without weed, we would be starving,” explained Khathazile, who asked that only her middle name be used.

Khathazile is one of thousands of peasants eking out a meager living in the rural areas of this kingdom at Africa’s southern tip by growing marijuana, according to relief workers, embracing it as a much-needed income boost that is relatively hardy and easy to grow.

She does not think of herself as part of a vast global chain of drug cultivation that includes poppy farmers in Afghanistan or coca growers in Latin America. She simply has her grandchildren to consider and says she started growing it when her attempts at other crops failed.

Swazi Gold, a highly potent and valuable strain of marijuana, is sought after in South Africa’s drug market.

“If you grow corn or cabbages, the baboons steal them,” Khathazile said.

Swaziland, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, is officially a middle-income country. But deep poverty remains the rule here in the rural hinterlands around Piggs Peak, a dusty town in the country’s mountainous northwest. Not much grows in its rocky soil, and jobs are tough to find. Many young people flee to Swaziland’s two big cities, Mbabane and Manzini, or to neighboring South Africa to look for work.

That leaves behind a lot of old women and children. Aggressive rollout of antiretroviral therapy has helped curb the country’s AIDS death rate, but the disease has hollowed out virtually every family in one way or another, leaving older siblings caring for younger ones and frail grandparents struggling to raise small children once again.

It is the story of Khathazile’s family. In 2007, her daughter Tensile died at the age of 24, she said, leaving behind four orphaned children to take in. A couple of years later another daughter, Spiwe, died, leaving three more mouths to feed. They, too, came to live with their gogo. Then in July, her daughter Nomsa died, leaving behind four more children. There was nothing to be done but move them into her one-room hut as well.

“I cannot abandon these kids,” Khathazile said.

Such families struggle to make ends meet. “Most people are farming in a way that depends on rain,” said Tshepiso Mthimkhulu, an official at Swaziland’s Red Cross, based in Piggs Peak. “There are many orphans and widows who have difficulty surviving.”

There is certainly a market for their alternative source of income. According to the United Nations, South Africa has reported rising marijuana use, and Swaziland appears to be an eager supplier. The country, a tiny nation of about 1.4 million people, was reported to havemore acreage under marijuana cultivation in 2010 than India, a nation more than 180 times its geographic size.

Sibongile Nkosi, 70, said she started growing marijuana even before her daughter died and left her with two orphans to feed. She had heard from other women in her village, which sits on a hilltop on the outskirts of Piggs Peak, that the plant could earn a decent return.

“I put the seeds in the ground, watered them, and it grew,” she said of her first crop. “I was able to feed my children.”

Marijuana cultivation may provide a safety net, but the grandmothers of Piggs Peak are hardly drug kingpins. They must find a secret field to plant, often one deep in the forest, which they reach by walking for hours. Clearing a patch is tough work, even for women long accustomed to hard labor. They have to buy seeds, if they are new at planting, as well as manure. Not enough manure and the crop fetches a lower price. It must be carefully pruned to produce the right kind of flowers. And they have to watch out for weeds.

“Weeds are very bad for weed,” Ms. Nkosi said.

Then there are the police. They often search for marijuana fields in March and April, just before the harvest, and burn them to the ground, leaving the women with nothing to show for their hard work.

A good harvest can yield as much as 25 pounds of marijuana. But they sell to middlemen who come through the villages at harvest time, and have little bargaining power. Most make less than $400 per crop.

“The men come from South Africa to buy, but they cheat us,” Ms. Nkosi said. “What can we do? If you sit with it the police can come and arrest you.”

Enterprising growers bury part of their harvest in watertight barrels deep in the woods, saving them until December when the supply dries up and prices rise. But most of the grandmothers need the money last week, not six months from now.

Ms. Nkosi said she had never been tempted to sample her crop.

“It makes you drunk,” she exclaimed when asked if she had ever smoked marijuana. “If I try it I will fall on the ground!”

Marijuana had provided her family with enough to survive, but she wondered if it was really worth it.

“I don’t want to grow it anymore,” Ms. Nkosi said. “The money is too little.”

But as this year’s planting season began, she was gearing up for another crop. School fees for her two remaining grandchildren at home would be nearly $400 next school year, she said, and she had no other way to earn the money.

“When you are in poverty you must do whatever you can to live,” she said. “If I earn a little something my heart will be content.”

Grandmas Grow Gold in Swaziland

Charlotte Prepares for an ‘Extraordinary Event,’ With All the Security That Entails

As the nation’s second-largest banking city, Charlotte has been the scene of several large protests.  Demonstrators marched during the Bank of America shareholders meeting in May.


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The variety of demonstrators planning to invade this Southern city for the Democratic National Convention is wide and deep.

When the party gathers on Sept. 4, both anarchists bent on bringing down government and radical evangelical groups bearing down on homosexuals and abortion doctors will be here.

In between, others will protest a range of issues that includes war, increases in college costs, immigration reform, labor practices, antigay laws, the nation’s policies on marijuana and the jailing of a soldier accused of leaking classified material.

There will be the “UndocuBus,” filled with illegal immigrants, and the Values Bus, sponsored by the Family Research Council and the Heritage Foundation.

Counting a Muslim day of prayer that begins before the convention starts and a conservative country music concert and rally that starts a day after President Obama is expected to accept the nomination on Sept. 6, the numbers of people showing up to protest in Charlotte will most likely be in the tens of thousands.

Even with 6,000 delegates and another 30,000 estimated associated visitors, it will not be the largest gathering ever in this city of 760,000, but it certainly promises to be the most difficult to manage.

“We have not seen anything like this, no,” said Carol Jennings, the city’s liaison to the convention. In true Southern fashion, she added, “We welcome all our visitors.”

But it won’t be all barbecue and bourbon. The city will spend $50 million in federal money on security, the same amount the Republicans gathering in Tampa, Fla., have received. It will be used to hire as many as 3,400 officers from outside departments, build about five miles of nine-foot fencing and pay for, among other things, steel barriers strong enough to stop a 15,000-pound vehicle traveling 30 miles per hour.

The city is also relying on a recent law that gives its manager the power to declare a large-scale gathering an “extraordinary event.” When that happens, a section of the city is marked off and the police have wide powers to search and possibly arrest people in that zone who carry items capable of hiding weapons or inflicting injury.

On the long list are backpacks, hammers, coolers, chains, glass bottles and water guns known as Super Soakers. Face-concealing scarves could also be tagged.

Since the law was put into place in January, the city has used it a handful of times, including the annual shareholders’ meetings for Duke Energy and Bank of America and for Speed Street, a May street party featuring Nascar drivers and food booths that in 2011 resulted in more than 100 arrests. The police said arrests were down by half this year.

On Wednesday, the city and the Secret Service announced the perimeters of the security zone, which covers about 60 percent of the city’s Uptown commercial district and dips south to cover the special areas the city has set aside for protesters.

The extraordinary events measure has rankled enough people that the city offered reassurances in a news release.

“For example,” it said, “residents will be able to walk their dog within the extraordinary event boundaries without fear of arrest.”

People were not appeased.

“We’ve never had anything of this caliber, and they didn’t know how to handle it so they over-handled it,” said Timeka Moore, 24, a waitress at a Mexican restaurant who has to travel through Uptown to get to her job.

Tampa has its own version of an event zone, and both cities have grappled with trying to prevent concealed weapons inside them despite state laws that allow people to carry permitted weapons. They have also set up special protest and parade areas, even providing a stage and microphones for demonstrators.

In both cities, people organizing protests have criticized the areas as being too far from the action, too restrictive and not particularly comfortable or conducive for expressing opinion to the people attending the convention, although city officials say the areas and the permitting process meet legal standards for such public expression developed after protests in other cities.

Not so, says Michael Zytkow of Occupy Charlotte. The security zone covers “every part of Uptown that anyone would normally walk through,” he said. And the area set aside for the so-called free speech zone is so remote “we’re calling it a parking lot tour,” he said.

Having free speech zones implies the rest of the city is not, critics say. Issuing permits for people to protest and using special event zones as a regular part of convention business concern some who believe such controls border on selective oppression of free speech.

“The biggest problem is the use of seemingly neutral laws to control protests to restrict certain kind of protests or keep inconvenient protests out of the public eye,” said Gabe Rottman, a policy adviser and legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. “How they are going to use these laws is absolutely of concern.”

A similar law was used at the 2008 Democratic convention in Denver. That convention, as well as the Republican convention in St. Paul, were marred by hundreds of arrests and violence and resulted in a series of lawsuits over the government’s attempts to investigate protest groups and its use of arrests to quell demonstrations and journalists covering them.

All of which party and city officials have on their minds.

“It has been a growing issue for folks every four years,” said Stephen Kerrigan, chief executive of the Democratic National Convention Committee, who also ran the event in Boston in 2004. “Our approach from the very beginning has been about increasing the engagement of people all across the board.”

Unlike Tampa, two major events in Charlotte — a kickoff festival and the final speech by President Obama at the Bank of America Stadium — will be open to the public, he said.

By many accounts, the crowds could be greater here than in Tampa, too.

For one thing, Charlotte will have a sitting president. And it is the second-largest banking city in the nation, home to both Bank of America and Wells Fargo — a designation that is driving at least 80 national groups, many from the Occupy movement and organized loosely as the Coalition to March on Wall Street South, to show up for a Sept. 2 protest.

Conversely, conservative Christians are planning a conference called Charlotte714, a reference to a biblical passage that promises God will forgive sins if people turn from their “wicked ways.” An estimated 40 churches will gather in the 20,000-seat Verizon Wireless Amphitheater the night before the convention for a church service.

That event is being organized by David and Jason Benham, twin sons of Flip Blenham, a well-known antigay and anti-abortion protester whom the city has battled in court over public assembly, noise and picketing regulations.

“In many ways, both Flip and the Occupy movement in Charlotte were really good preparation for the D.N.C.,” said Robert E. Hagemann, the city attorney. “Legally, I’m totally unconcerned. From a policy standpoint, we have to make sure we respect different perspectives.”

For some residents who plan to have nothing to do with the convention, however, the tightening of security has gone too far.

“It seems like they are going to turn it into a concentration camp around here,” said Malachi El-Bui, 56, who moved to Charlotte from New York City several years ago. “They act like we are the ones to arrest. They’re talking about we can’t have backpacks or they could arrest us? They’re tripping.”

Charlotte Prepares for an ‘Extraordinary Event,’ With All the Security That Entails

Police officers’ raid on marijuana dispensary caught on video

By Samantha Tata and Michelle Valles

A raid on a marijuana dispensary in Long Beach was caught on video showing officers smashing surveillance cameras and stepping on a suspect, moves that prompted accusations against the officers of excessive force.

More than a dozen police raided THC Downtown Collective in the 300 block of Atlantic Boulevard (map) on June 19, officials said. The video was posted to YouTube by user “Long Beach Raids” on July 1. Officials said they learned about the video on July 3.

The two-minute-long video opens to show a man surrendering to police, three of whom surround him while two put him in handcuffs.

One of the officers is seen stepping on volunteer employee Dorian Brooks’ back with both feet before stepping on his neck, with what Brooks described as 300 pounds of pressure.

The video, which was being recorded at an off-site location, then cuts to an officer pointing at the recording camera before another looks up and smashes the lens.

“They noticed there was a camera that was on the wall right above my head, so they proceeded to smash it with a metal rod,” said Brooks, adding that the camera shattered on him. “I wasn’t able to protect myeslf because my hands were cuffed.”

“I felt violated; I felt disrespected,” Brooks said.

The video cuts again and reopens on a man donning a tshirt and backwards baseball cap with what appears to be a badge hanging from his neck. This man, apparently behind the dispensary’s counter, also smashes the recording camera.

Footage from after the raid shows a disheveled room, with portions of the ceiling removed and scattered on the floor, strew with boxes, electrical cables and other objects.

Dispensary employees claim the raid caused tens of thousands of damage, and police took the collective’s ATM and cannabis.

“A thorough review into what occurred during that operation will be conducted once all of the facts have been collected. This is a personnel matter and we are unable to discuss any further details,” Lisa Massacani, with LB police, wrote in a statement.

Police said the dispensary was operating under state compliance, but did not have a city permit.

Five people were arrested in the raid, according to Long Beach police:

  • Dallas Alexander, 31, of Long Beach, was arrested on suspicion of operating an unpermitted marijuana dispensary, serving as a looking for illegal activity and on an outstanding warrant from another jurisdiction;
  • Fernando Garcia, 50, and Mario Sanchez, 31, both of Los Angeles, and Landon Alexander, 22 of Long Beach were arrested on suspicion of operating an unpermitted marijuana dispensary and obstruction;
  • Dorian Brooks, 28, of Long Beach, was arrested on suspicion of operating an unpermitted marijuana dispensary.

Police officers’ raid on marijuana dispensary caught on video

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo seeks to cut marijuana penalty

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Albany. Cuomo is proposing the decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view.

By Michael Muskal

New York will join more than a dozen states in decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana displayed in public if the state Legislature approves a proposal made Monday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

At an Albany news conference, Cuomo, a Democrat, called for changing the state law to make possession of 25 grams of marijuana — whether in public or private – punishable by a fine. Currently having at least 25 grams on public view is a misdemeanor, though having the same amount in private is just a violation.

Civil libertarians have long criticized the difference in approaches, which they contend discriminates against minorities and the young. A person could have a small amount of marijuana in his or her pocket and be charged with no more than a violation. But if ordered by a police officer to empty that pocket, the marijuana would be on public display and the suspect could face a misdemeanor charge.

According to state statistics, more than half  of the 53,000 people arrested last year were younger than 25, and 82% were black or Latino. Less than 10% were ever convicted of a crime, Cuomo stated.

Moreover, 94% of the arrests took place in New York City, where a  stop-and-frisk policy has become a sore point in relations between police and the minority communities.

“Today’s announcement is about creating fairness and consistency in our laws since there is a blatant inconsistency in the way we deal with small amounts of marijuana possession,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This is an issue that disproportionately affects young people — they wind up with a permanent stain on their record for something that would otherwise be a violation. The charge makes it more difficult for them to find a job. Together, we are making New York fairer and safer, and ensuring that every New Yorker has access to justice system that doesn’t discriminate based on age or color.”

Cuomo’s proposal would not change the status of smoking marijuana in public; that would remain a misdemeanor.

If the measure were approved, New York would be following in the footsteps of such states as California and Connecticut, which have taken similar action. New York in 1977 made the penalty for privately possessing 25 grams or less of pot a violation that carries a maximum fine of $100 for first-time offenders. An ounce is about 28 grams.

New York City officials backed Cuomo’s proposed changes, saying in a statement that they follow police practices instituted last year.

In a statement, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg noted:

“Last year, Police Commissioner [Raymond] Kelly issued a policy order directing officers to issue violations, rather than misdemeanors, for small amounts of marijuana that come into open view during a search. The governor’s proposal today is consistent with the commissioner’s directive, and strikes the right balance by ensuring that the NYPD will continue to have the tools it needs to maintain public safety – including making arrests for selling or smoking marijuana.”

For his part, Kelly stated: “The proposed legislation takes a balanced approach and comports with the spirit of the NYPD operations order issued on the subject last year. Further, the department’s ongoing quality of life enforcement is supported by preserving the penalties for smoking marijuana in public.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo seeks to cut marijuana penalty

Post Navigation