Stephen McIntyre was a good man.
He was a passionate father, husband and activist who fought against the marijuana laws of this country and within the anti-prohibition community, his warmth and calm sensibilities made him a well known and well liked leader.
I met Stephen years ago and had re-connected with him recently as he worked to set up Green Cross. In his later years, Stephen had moved from campaigning for the decriminalization of marijuana to focussing on medical cannabis. Green Cross was the realization of that activism. It provided medical quality marijuana to patients with a doctor's prescription. NZ law allows for doctors to prescribe synthetic marijuana and the 2010 Law Commission review called for that to be widened to organic marijuana as well.
That's where Green Cross came in. They had a list of patients with doctor's prescriptions whose illnesses ranged from those with chronic pain to cancer. Synthetic product did not work for many of these people.
I would joke to Stephen that he wasn't so much 'Doctors Without Borders' as 'Stoners Without Borders'.
Green Cross opened an office with a members lounge room and dispensary, similar to the California model. The office served as an information center on medical marijuana. The organisation was tireless in its dealings with the Ministry of Health in trying to shift the policy debate to allow those with written prescriptions to legally purchase organic marijuana from a registered center like Green Cross without fear of prosecution.
At the beginning of June this year, the Dactory was raided. The Dactory was a wild west shed out in New Lynn that was an open shop for marijuana smokers and dealers. It was the very type of operation Stephen shunned because of it's lack of self regulation or competence. During this raid, some of those arrested were allegedly yelling, 'why are you arresting us, what about Green Cross'?
Days after that raid, on June 8th, Police officers went to Green Cross demanding to be let in. They became very agitated and aggressive when refused entry and they were told to come back with a warrant if they wanted access to the building. They threatened to smash down the door, but calmed down very quickly when it was pointed out that the Green Cross security cameras were watching. Police then claimed to have an arrest warrant for one of the club members for breaching a protection order. The member met them outside and went cooperatively.
On the 20th of June two uniformed, friendly Police officers turned up at Green Cross and met Stephen. He said that both officers made very sympathetic noises about what Green Cross were trying to do on the medical marijuana front. Stephen was definitely left with the impression that they thought Green Cross were operating on the edge of the law, but because there is no profit based criminal activity going on, that they would be left alone.
On the 22nd of June, Police arrived at the Green Cross office while Stephen was there and pulled the old 'we smell cannabis' trick and started a search. They found 350 grams of medical quality marijuana and $1470 worth of cash. Stephen was arrested.
I met with him shortly after his arrest and he spoke with passion about how he would defend these charges. I remember the defiant look in his eyes as he spoke about the patients he worked with. He declared that this was going to be the moment that the medical marijuana debate was sparked, so to speak. The decriminalization debate, which had stagnated and gone no where of late, could open a new front.
I wished him all the best in this endeavor and pledged that I would do what I could to publicize the debate when it came to court. I wanted to help because I also found the idea of making sick people seeking pain relief from marijuana (and those who help them get that marijuana) into criminals a complete injustice.
Sadly, we'll never have that court date.
On Monday 16th July at approximately 8.15pm the Police turned up at the McIntyre's house. Stephen was teaching guitar lessons to 4 students while his wife and two teenage sons were at home. The Police claim they were conducting a bail check. However, Stephen had no bail conditions imposed upon him after the arrest other than agreeing to remain living at the address given at the time of arrest. There was no curfew.
What happened next is crucial to the question of whether or not the NZ Police used tactics that killed my friend.
The Police intimidated Stephen outside the front of his house and claimed they could smell cannabis while demanding to know what he would plead and threatening him with further charges if he turned the issue into a campaign.
It is now apparent that having the Police turn up at his home at night and demand to know what he was going to plead while threatening further charges had a terrible impact on Stephen.
On Sunday 22nd of July, Stephen, terrified beyond his wits by the Police threats, took his own life.
I was shocked and horrified the next day when I was informed. It would appear to me that the visit and the manner in which it was conducted, was intended to pressure Stephen into backing off his campaigning and into pleading guilty.
I want answers from the NZ Police and I'll do all I can to draw attention to what I see as despicable bullying tactics.
I have questions:
Why were the Police at Stephen's home on the 16th of July 'checking bail conditions' when Stephen had no bail conditions?
Why did the Police threaten and intimidate Stephen with further charges?
Is it normal to appear at a person's home when their lawyer is not informed and able to be present? and then to threaten further charges if a person doesn't plead guilty?
Why did the Police want to know how he would plead? Why was this information sought at night, at his home?
Why did the Police claim they could 'small cannabis'? And if they could, why did they not conduct a search of his house?
Are these bullying tactics supported by Police leaders?
I believe that these dirty intimidation tactics by the NZ Police must be exposed.
Stephen McIntyre was a good man, and he sure as hell didn't deserve to be terrified to death by the Police in his own home.
Part 2 and 3 of this story will be published this week.