Saturday, August 26, 1995

Gainesville Sun interviews Richard Grayson on Legal Challenges to Marijuana Laws

The Gainesville Sun today (Saturday, August 26, 1995) interviewed attorney Richard Grayson on legal challenges to marijuana laws after a Gainesville man,Dennis Watkins, the "doobie tosser," was arrested at the Hempfest celebration for tossing joints into the crowd.

An excerpt:
But court records regarding marijuana cases suggest there won't be any changes in the law because of December's hearing, said Richard Grayson, visiting assistant in law at the University of Florida's Center for Governmental Responsibility

"There have been a lot of constitutional challenges under the federal and state constitutions. Most of the challenges have been unavailing," Grayson said.

Past challenges have been based on a variety of arguments, including selective arrests, the right to privacy, religious beliefs, cruel and unusual punishment because of harsh drug laws, the lack of legislation regarding “drugs” such as alcohol and tobacco and the distinction between the use of marijuana and cocaine or heroin, Grayson said.

Grayson also noted that some drug cases have been overturned because there is a legal distinction between what occurs in the home and in public.

“Your home is your castle. You can do things there, like walk around without clothing. You can’t do that on the street.”

Watkins was charged by Gainesville Police last November for distribution and possession of marijuana after officers said he tossed marijuana cigarettes to the Hempfest crowd outside the courthouse.

“It doesn’t sound like you have much of a chance,” said Grayson about the defense’s position.

“We are hopeful we can get some favorable ruling,” said Watkins’ attorney, Gary Wainwright, about the upcoming trial.

The trial also gives marijuana supporters a chance to express their opinions to the public, Grayson said.

There is always a chance that something surprising will happen, Grayson said.

In 1978, a Florida circuit court found the state statute for private possession and use of marijuana unconstitutional following medical testimony showing the social effects of prohibition outweighed the social effects of decriminalization.

“There are all kinds of constitutional things if you have a creative attorney,” Grayson said.

Grayson also appeared as a guest on the WUFT-TV/5 program North Florida Journal in a show devoted to the issue marijuana legalization.