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How the Drug War Has Affected My LifeKristin Flor, special to Salem-News.com
The federal drug war is an actual war, against the people, and they have no tolerance for we, the 'enemy'.
(SOUTH HILL, Wash.) - For as long as I can remember, my parents have been involved in the drug war.
My dad loved cannabis. He planted, traded, smoked, and educated himself about it since he was young. My parents they knew the medicinal value, and as they got older they turned into hard-core activists and eventually my dad co-owned 5 medical cannabis dispensaries in Montana, called Montana Cannabis. My mom worked for the company.
Medical cannabis was first legalized in Montana by a ballot initiative approved by 62% of the popular vote in 2004, and the Legislature placed strong restrictions on the medical program.
My parents abided by state law. State and local law enforcement leaders knew about, toured and seemed to fully approve the dispensary operation.
But the state laws were no matter to the Federal Government, they simply disregarded them.
The Montana Cannabis dispensaries were an easy target, and so were my parents.
In 2011 his company was raided. I remember so clearly, I was at work where I lived in Washington state, I got a phone call from one of my parents’ neighbors saying my mom's and dad’s house was being raided.
That was just the beginning of my war story as the drug war suddenly showed up at my parent’s house. I was so scared, right from the beginning when the feds1 came into their house with so many guns, they took multiple government agencies in order to raid my mom and dad’s house.
They were not arrested that day. My mom was healthy, but my 67-year old dad was... not so much. I knew my dad’s health wasn’t good, and his heart couldn’t take any more stress, plus he had a lot more medical problems that were taking over him. Long-story-short, my mom survived the war but painfully, my dad didn’t make it.
The Feds Arrest My ParentsA few months later, I got a phone call (I am starting to hate phone calls) from a family friend saying my parents had been arrested.
I remember so clearly, I was at work again. It had been a while since they were raided so their arrests totally snuck up on me. I thought maybe the government came to their senses and realized this was all a big mistake. However, I was extremely wrong.
I remember breaking down, painfully stricken by the terrible news. I knew my dad’s health was fragile, I worried he wouldn’t make it a day. It was torture. My mom was doing fine in jail, not my dad.
After a few days in jail, he started losing his mind, seeing things calling me with distorted thoughts and visions. Physically his body was also failing him.
About two weeks later their attorneys got them both freed, but only for the moment. The feds did not allow the state laws in their court, so they had no defense.
Even though he was momentarily free, times were still scary. He came home with bruises all over his already fragile body, his mental health was failing, and his physical health was rapidly falling apart.
Within a few hours after he got out, he had a life-threatening reaction to a medicine change they gave him in jail, he fell to the floor and was airlifted from Miles City hospital to a Billings hospital in Montana.
What did I do? I rushed to Billings! Packed up my kids and hurried to my dad.
He was in a coma. I thought he was dying. I had to hurry so I could say goodbye before he left. When I got there, I rushed to his room. Within a few seconds of me talking to him, he started to move! My dad was ALIVE! Soon, we were laughing again, like nothing ever happened. Little did I know, this was just the beginning.
I stayed in Montana for about a week and had to get home. I had a job and my kids had school. It was hard for me, I was a single mom, taking care of my 11 and 14-year-old kids.
Driving back and forth from Washington to Montana, stressing, worrying, not sleeping because of them, plus having to work and provide for my children.
At the same time, my dad’s life was getting harder to manage for my mom, his health was rapidly declining. He had major and multiple health problems plus Alzheimer's was setting in.
She couldn’t take care of him herself anymore, he needed 24-hour care. This was too much for my mom. She was taking care of my dad 24/7 and facing prison time herself.
No VA Hospital for this VeteranMy dad’s attorney told the judge that he couldn’t carry a simple conversation with my dad and that he couldn’t remember details of the past. He told him he was concerned about my dad’s mental health.
The judge sent him to the SeaTac Federal Bureau of Prisons for 30 days, so he could be seen by one of their psychologists in order to find out what was wrong with him.
This upset me because he was a Veteran, with VA medical, why not go to the VA? It was confusing to me and it hurt deeply that he was going to have to go to prison for 30 days to verify his mental health problems. It was torture.
At the time I lived in Tacoma, Washington, about 25 minutes away from SeaTac Prison where he was sent for those 30 days.
Due to my dad’s mental health, he rocked back and forth, my mom used to hold his shirt in bed to keep him from falling; now that he was in prison there was no one to hold him up anymore. I was constantly worried for him.
He broke his first 5 bones (ribs) that month. It didn’t help that he had osteoporosis. He called me crying multiple times in pain, they would barely give him one ibuprofen.
They just let him lie there and scream for help for multiple days before x-raying him. I called the prison constantly to check on him to tell them that he needed bed rails, pillows, something soft on the floor, or a 24-hour nurse to keep him from falling.
The prison staff laughed at me, joked and teased me, and made me sadder than I already was. They did the same thing to my mom when she called to check on him.
30 days later he got out and guess what? All that pain and suffering to find out he had dementia.
Sentencing a Man with DementiaI think it was about this point when I realized this was a war, and they have no tolerance for the ‘enemy’. How? We are the same, from the same place, and still, I couldn’t figure it out.
My father never hurt anyone. He helped people. The feds are so aggressive and scary. It was not over. My dad was home now and my mom needed my help and fast. I rushed back to Montana with my kids. I ended up losing my job, and my kids were failing their classes. It didn’t seem like that mattered because right now, it was an emergency. Family first.
I stayed with my parents for a few months while I helped to take care of my dad and while they prepared for sentencing.
They wouldn’t let him go to trial because of his dementia. That confused me because why would they let him take a deal?
It’s a war and they need convictions to win the war. There is no compassion.
They let my mom self-surrender (she plead guilty to money laundering). My dad wasn’t so lucky. His charges were worse because he was a "leader" (aka: business owner) and he owned guns.
They did not let him surrender himself, they took him immediately, without his walker (his bones were still broken) off to a private prison.
He was eventually sentenced to 5 years (he was facing 144 years mandatory minimum if he went to trial). However, it was a death sentence (de facto life).
I kept my mom with me until she had to self-surrender. We moved what we could from their house to storage and came to Washington to my house. My dad was now in prison and his health was falling apart even more.
When you are in medical care in prison, you cannot use the phone. So, when he would stop calling for days, we would worry like crazy. It was always extreme reasons like not getting his insulin, or his meds, stomach pain, or broken bones, the list goes on. It was miserable.
He was so sick and unable to take care of himself. He begged for help because his stomach and chest were hurting him and he was no longer getting his heart medicine and other important meds that were keeping him alive. This was hard for me and my mom because we also still had to turn her in.
About a month later, I took her to turn herself in. I flew to Phoenix so she didn’t have to face the wrath of her sentence alone. I walked her as far as I could, right up to the prison doors, and said goodbye.
I was a wreck. My parents were my besties, they helped me with my kids, my bills, they got me through my hardest times, now they were gone. Off to prison.
I was already lost and the next few months were about to get harder.
Now that my mom was in prison, my parents could no longer talk to each other on the phone and the wardens would not let them write letters. Not even after 36 years of marriage.
It became my job to relay messages back and forth to them for each other. That was a hard job for me because the separation that the war was putting on our family was intense and unbearable and I was right in the middle. However, my dad raised me to be tough enough to get through all this.
He stayed motivating to me and kept my spirits high regardless of his health. Meanwhile, my poor father was still falling out of bed and breaking more bones.
Shackled for LifeMy dad kept disappearing to medical. He would call me and tell me about more broken bones, or how his ‘kites’2 are getting ignored, or to give me a message for my mom. Sometimes they were so sad that I didn’t have the heart to tell her them all.
The other prisoners were taking care of him, getting his food, washing his clothes, guards were feeling sorry for him, and I was losing it. I was crying all the time.
My dad started calling more, sometimes he would be so panicked and scared, he was always in so much pain begging me for help, asking me to call 911.
His pain was getting extreme, he had 7 broken bones now (rib bones, clavicle, and collar bone) from falling out of bed, making it even harder to move or walk, and they kept taking away his walker.
Mental abuse from the prison staff was also taking a toll. The nurses would walk into his cell in the middle of the night when he was crying for help and accuse him of faking his pain and tell him to stop.
Every time he called me he told me traumatic stories of his fight to stay alive. He was sounding like he was a prisoner of war being tortured.
I did what I could. You can’t call 911 to a prison so I tried the US marshals, governors, attorneys, anyone I could think of to get him help and it was impossible.
Four months into his federal incarceration he was still being shackled by his ankles and his wrists daily, regardless of his pain or his broken bones.
He hated the shackles, they were heavy and his osteoporosis made it harder for him to walk. His suffering was extreme and they did not give him any pain medicines other than occasional ibuprofen that they made him beg for.
His health was still being neglected, nothing was changing. Luckily, he was still alive and calling me when he could make it to the phones. I was hurting with him.
It seemed my bestie was being tortured to death. However, he finally made it out of the torture chamber (Shelby private prison) and was off to be temporarily held at the Las Vegas jail.
I was relieved. Finally, I felt a tiny bit better.
Just a couple of days later, I got a phone call. It was from the US Marshals. They informed me that my dad had 2 major heart attacks during transport. He was leaving the Vegas jail to get on a plane to go to his final destination.
After 4 months of being denied proper medical, he finally made it to a hospital. The US marshals told me what happened and that I need to get to Vegas ASAP.
I got off the phone and booked a ticket to Vegas. I went straight to University Medical Center (UMC) and found my dad in a hospital bed, hooked up to all the hospital machines. There were two US Marshals guarding us.
He looked dead, but he wasn’t. He was still hanging on. When I got close to him I simply said, "Hi Dad", and his whole body started shaking.
Even though he was so close to death, we were still communicating. After he calmed down, I realized he had been waiting for me.
The doctors took me to the other room and let me know that besides the heart attacks, his body was being taken over by cancer, his kidneys and liver were failing and more. There was nothing else they could do to keep him alive. I would have to say goodbye and remove him from life support.
Just after receiving this horrific news my mom called my cell phone, collect from prison so I put the phone to my dad’s ear.
He started shaking again. He heard her. He felt her love over the phone while she was in prison. He couldn’t speak but he started shaking again when he heard her voice. I watched tears run from my dad’s eyes as my mom said her goodbyes and told him how much she loved him. That was the first time he heard her voice in 4 months.
After my mom said goodbye, my dad’s body became limp again, and I spent some more time with him before I removed the life support. As he left, I looked into his eyes and held his hand as he drifted off to freedom.
I left his bed, took a couple of steps, looked back and the US Marshals were unchaining his fragile ankles from the bed. He was still shackled.
I was already broken but seeing him chained to the bed killed me even more. He didn’t even die as a free man. He is free now. RIP DAD XO.
I have felt guilty about this since. I feel like there is something I could have done. I could have asked the feds to unchain him. He hated the shackles. How could I let him die with his ankles chained to a bed?
Regardless, my daughterly duty was served that night for sure as I set him free, he passed with me, not alone, not in a prison cell. We were united while his pain and suffering came to an end, his soul was set free. I am grateful for that.
They further punished my mother, unnecessarily, when they wouldn’t allow her to attend my father's funeral. They were married for 36 years.
After my father’s death, one of his business partners (Chris Williams) went to trial. The other business partners snitched on him and received no jail time.
The Unfair and Unbalanced Drug War ContinuesThe autopsy showed that his cause of death was undiagnosed colon cancer. It wasn’t even the heart attacks that killed him. He was growing cancer and being accused of faking it.
It also showed he was only receiving 2 of the 32 meds his doctor was prescribing him before he was incarcerated. We tried to sue but we lost. I have learned that this ‘war’ is unfair and unbalanced, you can’t really win with the feds.
Even though my dad found his freedom, my heart didn’t. The day after my dad died I decided to make his death stand for something so I started my life as an activist. My heart's been stuck behind bars with the other prisoners that are still there. After all, my mom was still there.
I started meeting other people who had been through prohibition and started to work with them to bring attention to the cannabis prisoners.
It’s been about 10 years since all this happened, and my mom has gotten out of prison. They took my parents’ house so when my mom got out she came to live with me.
I have been diagnosed with PTSD. I don’t let it bring me down. I have found peace through yoga, meditation, the power of water, and the power of breath. I teach what I love.
My dad’s death has motivated me to exercise more and do my best to eat healthily. I spend a lot of time with my family and never take a moment for granted. I am still healing. I know there is still a war going on so I just take it one day at a time.
I am still a cannabis prison outreach specialist and Freedom Grow (freedomgrow.org), a non-profit 501c3, is where I dedicate my time and energy. I have been able to work with a lot of people who have been incarcerated and their families as well. I have seen a lot of freedom happen!
Every time a prisoner gets out of prison my heart feels a little better. Freedom Grow is dedicated to bringing cannabis prisoners resources such as commissary money, magazines, books and family outreach. We also work to help find them freedom.
I am an executive board member, my fellow board members (Randy, Stephanie, Tracie, Stacey and Tom) have either been to prison for cannabis or have had family in prison so we all know too well the war on drugs has affected our families.
This year, Freedom Grow raised $28,000 dollars to help our cannabis prisoners' children during the holidays. This personally makes me so happy and helps me heal, it puts a big band-aid on my broken heart to see outreach for our families, because not too long ago most people didn’t even know there were people in prison for a plant.
$25,000 of the donations was made possible by AYR Wellness. We are very grateful because this is the largest donation Freedom Grow has ever received! If you would like to help our nonprofit organization or would like to know more about us please visit our website freedomgrow.org.
Two things I would like to tell you that I have learned:
Every action starts with a thought. We can end the war on drugs.
1Feds: federal DEA officers 2Kite: In prison, the term "kite" refers to a written request for something, like medical attention.
Kristin Flor is Cannabis Education Director, Image Director, Event Coordinator and Executive Board Member of Freedom Grow. In 2013 she became a public speaker about the subject of cannabis prisoners and an active membership with the Human Solution. After leaving The Human Solution in 2015, she co-founded Voices of the Cannabis War (VOW). VOW focused on writing articles in various magazines about the prisoners, creating images about them, attending events and hosting VOW radio with Eugene Fischer who served 35 years of a LIFE sentence for cannabis. In 2019, she started working seriously deep with Freedom Grow.
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