Both cases would take several years to reach their conclusions, but in the instant aftermath of having three cops in my living room, I secretly lived at the High Times office for a very long week. Those next seven days were brutal. Time crawled even as my imagination ran. My mind raced through every possible scenario and none were good; but I consoled myself knowing that I have never accurately predicted an outcome in court. A surprise was always more likely, and this case would be no exception.
Two days before our hearing I got a call on my cell phone.
“You’re not supposed to be calling me.”
“I know. I just wanted to tell you… You know that thing you’re worried about?
“Well, I’m not going to go there.”
“No. I’m not. And I’m not going to talk about your job either. That’s not what this is about.”
“What is this about?”
“Look, I just called to tell you that. I’m not going to go there, that’s all. I thought you should know.”
She hung up the phone and I sat in my office for a long time wondering what that meant.
Forty-eight hours later…
“I am forced to make a decision between two parents who obviously care for their child very much,” the judge declared.
The next several years would prove to be an emotional roller coaster ride for everyone involved – up and down, up and down – but the essential truth was set in stone that afternoon in Judge Nancy Sivilli’s courtroom: She found in my favor, lifted the restraining order and told my wife she had to find somewhere else to live.
That’s the day I became a single dad, and, for me, everything else became less important. But that hearing decided residential custody. Full custody was still outstanding, and that process was just beginning.
* * *
When Keith returned to Washington DC after our preliminary hearing he dutifully notified the NORML Board of Directors of our arrest. That’s how the former chairman of NORML, the esteemed Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Lester Grinspoon (ret.) discovered our predicament. Grinspoon gave Keith a call.
Thinking back, it would have been odd if Dr. Grinspoon did not call. Lester and Keith go back a long way, back to the very beginning of the modern marijuana law reform movement when the separate arcs of their infamous careers first aligned. They evoke a time when Keith was founding NORML and Lester was correcting the galleys a book that, in hindsight, seemed inevitable.
There were serious books about marijuana before Grinspoon’s book – admirably contrived and well informed – but each one had its own flaw – dense prose, an overwrought objectivity or a tentative voice. For those reasons, none of these titles achieved cultural resonance.
Marihuana Reconsidered was not dry, dense, tentative or overwrought. It was a beautifully written exploration of marihuana with an “h,” weaving the plant’s history, culture, chemistry, pharmacology and medical use together as well as its unfortunate legal concerns. Lester’s book was the first solid polemic for cannabis legalization built with bricks of clear prose that could (and would) withstand the many strong winds that would come. Every serious marijuana activist in the last fifty years either began – or read someone who began – by reading Marihuana Reconsidered.
So after Lester got involved in our case, everything changed:
Dr. Grinspoon kickstarted our defense fund with a $5K donation that took care of the immediate problem of travel and lodging. His amicus brief to the court was the first of a tall stack of current evidence for the jury to consider, and he came to our court appearances and noticeably sat with the defense. The Boston Court knew who Lester Grinspoon was, and his very presence lent credibility to our claims.
And finally, Lester gave us Charlie, the inimitable Professor Charles Nesson, our lead counsel and visionary jurist who took a pissant pot bust and flipped it into a noble attempt to overturn Massachusetts’s antique marijuana laws through a constitutional challenge or the specter or jury nullification. Charlie refused to take our case at first, but then Lester emailed four simple words to him – “I am most disappointed.” – and that was enough to make Charlie reconsider.