By Jeremy Fischbein
Editor’s foreword: Mr. Fischbein arrived in Mammoth at the start of the new year, looking for work. Not surprisingly, he couldn’t find any. By the time I had responded to his query, he had already left town. But he mentioned in passing that he’d been stopped by the Mono County Sheriff’s Dept. and had his car searched on the trip out. Given last week’s editorial about the Youssef Boulaalam case, I asked him if he would elaborate on the stop. The following is what he wrote about his brief experience in Mammoth, as well as the traffic stop.
After a failed attempt at snow farming in the Rocky Mountains, we arrived in Gold Country broke and having nowhere to stay but with family and friends. Like an epiphany, it hit me. I remembered my ex, with whom I had kept up a friendship, mentioning something about needing a baker at the café she worked for; they needed someone who had experience baking gluten-free & vegan dishes at high altitudes. This just happens to be my girlfriend’s specialty.
The baking position for Stellar Brew was nothing short of a dream job, and the people are amazing. (Did you know that one of Stellar Brew’s employees draws incredible comics and has finished two complete comic novels, and is in the process of finishing a third?) However, due to the disproportionately steep living expenses to living wage ratio in Mammoth, with available work spread as thin as the snow cover, we were forced to retreat.
On Friday, January 17, it was hardly dusk as we traveled north on Highway 395. We had just passed Lee Vining, and I was snacking on some fresh fruit, when my girlfriend, who was driving, noticed the bright headlights tailgating us. As the solid yellow lines became broken, this vehicle raced up alongside. She eased off the accelerator to allow the car to pass safely, when the vehicle suddenly braked hard and swerved back behind us … the kind of driving found in chase scenes of movies – not the kind I would expect from local law enforcement.
At just that moment, police lights started flashing behind us. All I could think to myself was, “what could we possibly be doing to warrant this encounter?” Apparently, the tint on our windows (the tint that was on the vehicle when we purchased and registered it with the DMV) was in some kind of violation. The officers then stated that they smelled marijuana (cannabis) and had my girlfriend step out of the vehicle.
Well, we have our medical recommendations, and were in possession of far less than the legal limit; about a gram of flower (the part of the female cannabis plant that is most commonly used for smoking and contains the highest concentrations of THC: Tetrahydrocannabinol) and a couple tenths of a gram of BHO (Butane Hash Oil; a concentrated cannabis oil that is commonly smoked, that is made using a cold gas, in this case butane, extraction method applied to female cannabis plant matter).
I have a medical cannabis recommendation prescribed to me for chronic headaches, back pain, and as a general mood stabilizer. My girlfriend’s script (cannabis prescription) is for anxiety treatment, mood stability, and diet moderation. We presented our identification and our medical recommendations, and informed the deputies of the medicine we were carrying. With this information, they should have been able to cite us for the window tint and send us on our way.
Instead, they told me to step out of the vehicle and we were commanded to sit in the back of the police vehicle and were informed that we would remain there while our vehicle was searched.
The police conducted themselves as though we were prime candidates for a big bust. We were not given an opportunity to exercise any rights that we supposedly have – especially without doing so in a way that the police would perceive as resisting or interfering.
Which leads me to a side point: law is not my profession and at no point in the thirteen years of required public education had I in any way been educated on law or how to navigate the legal system. At no point were we informed of any specifics on what the police were searching for and were actually accused of and questioned about everything illegal I assume they could think of.
They were soon joined by what they referred to as the transport, which I suppose consisted of the officers and vehicle they planned to use to transport us to wherever they take the people they arrest, or kidnap as I find more appropriate.
They proceeded to search our entire vehicle, while the senior officer, or the officer we supposed was the senior officer, sat in the front seat of the vehicle, attempting to lead us down a line of questioning that would incriminate us of something … anything!
I really haven’t the audiographic memory to recall the hour or so long conversation I carried on with the officer, though I’m sure they have it recorded in its entirety. I do remember a segment that struck me as particularly disturbing. The officer was in the midst of explaining to us why peace and love are not the solution, how marijuana makes us unmotivated (we’ll see who’s unmotivated when this gets published), and how without punishment, crime would run rampant.
Attempting to convince us we need to get a gun, the officer asks me how I would react if someone came at us with a knife and I didn’t have a gun. I replied that I would attempt to disarm the individual and at least put myself between the aggressor and my girlfriend. By now, I’m sure the officer was convinced I was trapped, and asks me, “If you had a gun, would you shoot them?”
Ahhh… I thought to myself, this is what all the bullshit I have dealt with from authorities my entire life has led up to. So I respond, “Well, sir, I suppose I would not be able to accurately say what I would do in such circumstances until I found myself in them.” It was somewhat comforting to feel the officer huffing and puffing inside, as his flames suffocated without fuel.
Now this is where the story gets interesting. This is what convinced me that the state of the environmentally impacted economy was, in fact, reaching into pockets as deep as local law enforcement. This is why I can appreciate that the flaw of the entire system is that everything is allowed to be driven by a false value, such as currency. You see, I am not a violent person. I truly wish all individuals who are willing to use force against another individual in order to impose their will or the will of a standard would simply vanish from existence.
So when they find a keepsake as dangerous as a mere letter opener, there is obviously no injured party.
The knife was in a sheath, in a wooden cigar box, buried under some books, at the bottom of a backpack, in the trunk of the car. An officer informed me, that I would face a felony weapon possession charge if he so chose.
But he didn’t choose.
I suppose that since we had nothing of value in our possession that is illegal and we are less of a threat to peace than they are, it most likely would have cost the system more to prosecute and imprison me than any fines I may have incurred. Never mind I honestly can’t afford to pay them anyway. What I found most interesting is that they didn’t cite my girlfriend for the tinted windows, which makes me wonder if the tint was even dark enough to be a violation in the first place.
As far as the Mono County Sheriff Dept. and authorities in general are concerned, when sociopathy is a common trait in those viewed by civilization as successful, and when empathy and collaboration more commonly lead to being taken advantage of, then the objective truth is blunt: That which denies symbiotic, co-existential sustainability, is inevitably destroyed. Don’t take my word for it though, as I am a mere man. I can only perceive the conditions in which I exist. But I do thank the Mono County Sheriff’s Dept. for showing at least a spec of common decency, of humanity, in not hauling me off to jail.
Since this unsettling, disruptive experience, my girlfriend and I have chosen to tuck ourselves away in a safe little spot where we can contribute enough to sustain ourselves while working on our art and on finding somewhere in the world where we can escape the global police state, to live peacefully, growing our own food and medicine; living without money and authority; whether secluded from people altogether or with like-minded individuals; certainly away from the collapse of modern civilization. We would love to have a child or two, but we look at the condition of the world around us, even in the “Land of the Free,” and can’t help but wonder what type of society those children would be born into.
Mr. Fischbein has relocated to the Bay Area. If you’d like to reach him, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to connect you.