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BY PAUL DERIENZO | Medical marijuana activist Dana Beal was sentenced earlier this month to four to six years after being arrested in 2009 with 150 pounds of pot near Omaha, Nebraska.
According to Beal’s Nebraska attorney Glenn Shapiro he’ll be eligible for parole in two years, and with time served and good behavior, he could be out by next November.
Beal, 65, of 9 Bleecker St., was supported by friends who came from New York, California and as far away as New Zealand. Fellow cannabis activist Ed Rosenthal from Oakland, California, said it could have been a lot worse. Beal had faced a maximum of 20 years in prison, and the Saunders County attorney asked for a sentence of eight to 12 years.
“He has this problem,” said Rosenthal, “a conflict between the law and helping people.” But prosecutors claimed, as Rosenthal put it, “The guy is just a street dealer…and when he gets caught he says its medical.” Rosenthal called the accusation “insulting.” Prosecutors also said Beal should get a stiff term because he “lacked remorse.”
Michael Brinkley, an AIDS patient living in New York, testified on Beal’s behalf that he’s used pot “to halt H.I.V. disease progression.” Brinkley said the marijuana buyers club Beal supplied in New York has more than 1,000 members.
“If Beal is in jail the buyers club should be in prison, too,” he said, because, “We exploited Dana.”
Sheila Steinberg, also from New York City, said marijuana helps control her multiple sclerosis, moderating mood swings associated with the disease.
A member of the Yippies, a band of antiestablishment radicals with roots in the 1960s, Beal is probably best known for organizing the Global Marijuana March, held in New York City each May, and as an advocate of ibogaine, which Beal maintains can cure heroin addiction.
Marie Cotter, who came from Auckland, New Zealand, said Beal’s advocacy of ibogaine led to its legalization in her country, and as a personal note, she added, saved her son’s life. It was Cotter’s second trip to the United Stated on Beal’s behalf. She spoke at his 2011 sentencing to five years in prison in Wisconsin for a similar pot bust, at which Beal promised the judge his days of running medical pot across the country were over. After the Wisconsin sentencing in 2011, which broke down to two and a half years in jail and two and a half years probation, Beal was shipped to Nebraska to face trial on his marijuana bust there.
Shortly after his Wisconsin sentencing, Beal suffered a major heart attack where he claimed to be briefly dead and then brought back to life. He received a double bypass, and after a subsequent heart attack, a stent to hold his artery open. Beal said he continues to suffer from an untreated hernia.
The marijuana activist told the judge, “What I was doing is as obsolete as the Titanic, because of the legalization of pot as medicine in several states and recent legalization for recreational use in Colorado, which is next to Nebraska.”
Beal is currently being held under a “detainer” from Wisconsin and is expected to be sent back there to finish his sentence in that state.
DeRienzo is co-host of “Let Them Talk,” every Tuesday at 8 p.m. on the MNN Lifestyle channel