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Jan-10-2018 03:00printcommentsVideo

Oregon Man Imprisoned in El Salvador en Route to Colombia

Clay Pierce is a disabled patient jailed in hellish conditions for months.

Clay Pierce
Clay Pierce is fighting for freedom from prison in El Salvador.
Photo: FreeClay.org

(SALEM, Ore.) - Oregonian Clay Pierce is imprisoned in the Mariona prison in El Salvador for possession of personal use medical cannabis, just $43 worth of Oregon-licensed homegrown medicine. Pierce is an Oregon medical marijuana cardholder.

This story is an important notice to all Oregonians: when traveling from one legal cannabis location to another, you must be aware of the laws in all connecting flight locations.

57-year old Clay Andrew Pierce is a disabled patient and activist who has volunteered for the Cannabis Common Sense TV show in Portland, Oregon for 15 years. Today he is languishing in one of the most notoriously horrible jails in the world- Mariona- and facing up to 20 years for possession.

How did he end up there?

Mariona prison, El Salvador

In 2016, he traveled to Colombia with Paul Stanford for a speaking engagement at Expomedeweed. Clay fell in love with Colombia.

He spent 6 months there helping the indigenous Native American people and medical marijuana patients in Cauca, Colombia. He couldn't wait to get back.

"Life with a purpose": In October, he sold everything he had in the USA and was moving to Colombia, his dream coming to fruition, when his flight to Colombia had a brief scheduled stop in San Salvador, the capitol of El Salvador.

November 1, 2017, while he was in the International Monseñor Romero Airport, waiting on his connecting flight, the El Salvador authorities searched his checked bag and found a small amount of marijuana (cannabis), some marijuana oil, and a book on growing.

He was just on a connecting flight, he wasn't visiting El Salvador. He is a legal patient in Oregon, where he was coming from, and he is legal in Colombia, where he was going to. He had no intention of being in El Salvador.

Clay Pierce was arrested and charged with drug trafficking for the small amount (36 grams) of personal use medical cannabis. They took everything he has in the world and put him in the Centro Penal La Esperanza Mariona, San Salvador.

The El Salvador Department of Justice determined that the marijuana Clay Pierce was transporting was worth $42.86 USD. The prosecution’s official document also said that they did not determine the value of the cannabis oil.

The Oregon man is being held in an overcrowded jail cell and forced to sleep on the concrete floor with no blanket.

Cannabis freedom fighter Paul Stanford traveled to El Salvador in mid-December, determined to help Clay Pierce. He visited the US Embassy there, and with their help, was able to accomplish some steps in the right direction. Stanford held a press conference in El Salvador that received significant TV and newspaper coverage.

"I was able to visit Clay. He is unable to receive letters or books. He has been mistreated and denied medical care. Today, for the very first time since he was arrested on November 1st, we could put some money on his account so he can buy food and make phone calls," said Stanford.

Paul Stanford is one of the most well-known medical marijuana activists in the USA. He said he was shocked about the treatment of his friend and the lack of knowledge regarding the therapeutic use of marijuana in El Salvador.

Pierce's lawyers, Ricardo A. Langlois Calderon and Yanira Jurado, have moved the court for a “special hearing” which is scheduled for today, Wednesday, January 10th. They are asking that he be released in El Salvador until the next hearing at the end of February.

A letter from his attorney explains, “A special hearing is a procedural measures review hearing (audiencia especial de revisión de medidas). The intent of this hearing is to show the health risks of Mr. Pierce as for remaining in detention and also show, through proper documentation, that he was only in transit in El Salvador, and that the cannabis he had with him has a legal status in Colorado [Oregon] and Colombia, and also that the possession of this was only for medical purposes, not trafficking.

“...in this hearing, we will state what the documents are needed for and will be our opportunity to get Mr. Pierce out of detention and have him face the process under liberty. Other measures will be specified, like visiting the court every x amount of days, not leaving the country or any other less restrictive measure the judge considers.”

Paul Stanford went to the Oregon State Capitol in Salem to have many documents authenticated for the court in El Salvador and shipped them international priority, so they will arrive before the hearing.

“The investigation period is for three months, which ends on February 21st of 2018, then the next hearing comes,” added Clay Pierce’s attorney, Ricardo Alberto Langlois Calderon.

According to Pierce’s lawyers, he has been suffering from harassment from the guards and the prisoners, including being allowed a limited time for using the bathroom. A few days ago, he was having stomach problems and needed to use the bathroom with frequency. The other men banged the door and the walls around the toilet.

Paul Stanford and Pierce's attorneys at press conference in
El Salvador. Dec 2017

The worst thing, according to lawyer Ricardo Langolis, is that Pierce has not been taking the medication that his chronic condition demands. Clay suffered injuries from a motorcycle crash 15 years ago that obligated him to use marijuana therapeutically for chronic pain management, which he was able to do in place of addictive narcotics. His health depends on access to the correct medicine.

Visit FreeClay.org to see what can be done to set him free.

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