Rachel Hoffman is dead.
Rachel Hoffman, like many young adults, occasionally smoked marijuana.
But Rachel Hoffman is not dead as a result of smoking marijuana; she is dead as a result of marijuana prohibition.
Under prohibition, Rachel faced up to five years in prison for possessing a small amount of marijuana.
Under prohibition, the police in Rachel’s community viewed her as nothing more than a common “criminal,” and threatened her with years in jail unless she cooperated with them as an untrained, unsupervised confidential informant.
Under prohibition, the law enforcement officers responsible for placing Rachel in the very situation that resulted in her murder have failed to publicly express any remorse — because, after all, under prohibition Rachel Hoffman was no longer a human being deserving of such sympathies.
After being caught twice with a “baggie” of marijuana, 23-year old Rachel Hoffman was reportedly told by police in Tallahassee, Florida that she would go to prison for four years unless she became an undercover informant.
The young woman, a recent graduate of Florida State University, was murdered during a botched sting operation two months ago.
Her case will be profiled Friday on 20/20.
“The idea of waging a war on drugs is to protect people and here it seems like we’re putting people in harm’s way,” said Lance Block, a lawyer hired by Rachel’s parents.
The Florida Attorney General’s office says it is reviewing the procedures and protocol of the Tallahassee police. Rachel’s case also has raised new questions about state and federal laws related to marijuana possession.
“I’m calling her a criminal,” Tallahassee police chief Dennis Jones told 20/20, who maintains that both drug dealers and drug users are considered criminals to his department.
Under Florida law, possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana is a felony.
Rachel was also found in possession of two ecstasy pills, a felony under Florida law no matter the quantity because it “has a high potential for abuse and has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”
The Tallahassee police chief says Rachel was suspected of selling drugs and she was rightly treated as a criminal.
Paul Armentano [send him mail] is the senior policy analyst for NORML and the NORML Foundation in Washington, DC. He is the author of "Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids: A Review of the Scientific Literature" (2007, NORML Foundation).