Police priorities questioned during hurricane preparation after marijuana arrest
As Hurricane Harvey barreled towards the Texas coast, preparing and securing the area as well as themselves was on the minds of many Texans along the coast for when the storm made landfall. One man says that police in his area had other priorities however after he was arrested for marijuana possession.
Corey Mendes and his wife Christy of Beaumont had been getting ready to ride out the hurricane earlier in the day by getting food and supplies. While many stocked up on alcohol, they opted for a different, albeit illegal, substance to help pass the time. During this supply run, they also purchased an ounce of marijuana.
Later that day however, they received word that a friend had gone missing during the rush to prepare for Harvey. This led to the couple heading out in their car to search for their friend.
Corey says that at one point an officer with Nederland Police Department running radar pulled his wife over for driving 5 mph over the speed limit. When the officer approached the vehicle, they stated that they smelled marijuana and proceeded to conduct a search. According to Corey, smell could have been a reason, or it was due to their embroidered seats with marijuana leafs. Christy did ultimately tell the officer that they had a joint.
That is when the officer found the previously purchased ounce of marijuana in the glove-box.
Corey stated that they had forgotten to remove it from the car after they got the call, which prompted them to dart home, change, and go out searching for their friend.
The officer ended up giving Christy a paraphernalia ticket, and charged Corey with possession under two ounces when he took responsibility for the ounce of cannabis. This occurred around 7:00 p.m. and Corey says that he did not get out of jail until after midnight.
When he asked the officer to observe state law which allows a person to be given a court summons and be released without arrest for the marijuana, his request was denied, prompting the five hour plus process of booking and bonding out which involved seven officers, one of which Corey says told them that they “had nothing better to do.”
“It was just ridiculous that we were searching for a missing person in their city and they had nothing better to do” he stated. “Our community should know that while everyone was prepping for Hurricane Harvey, NPD was out arresting people for minor possession. Cannabis consumers are not criminals or outlaws, we care about our communities and work to ensure our streets are safe.”
The two made their way home and rode out the hurricane with no flooding and little damage. After the storm passed, the two were active in relief efforts and took people into their home who had no place to go.
“We have since been rescuing people from dangerous flooded areas, housing displaced families in our home, collecting and distributing supplies to families and first respondors, conducted animal rescues, and we have now teamed up with an organization that does volunteer cleanup of damaged homes,” says Corey. “We also volunteered our time to dispatch rescue units and input data for response units when we couldn’t get out on the water.”
They are now coordinating relief efforts through Southeast Texas NORML, a chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, to recruit and organize volunteers, and also collect supplies for the area.
“I just thought the irony of us (citizens deemed criminals by our laws) helping our community during a major disaster seemed rather contradictory to why laws were set in place in the first place. For the safety of our community,” Corey stated.
As for their friend, she has not yet been found.