Dana Beal, pot icon, freed on bail after California bust

Dana Beal speaking about marijuana legalization and ibogaine outside the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in 2016. Photos by John Penley

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Dana Beal — known as the “Grandfather of Marijuana” and the “Last of the Yippies” — has gotten burned again, caught trying to drive 22 pounds of pot out of Northern California.

On Sat., Dec. 16, the longtime medical-marijuana advocate was busted in Hayfork, California, 100 miles from the Oregon border, according to the Trinity County sheriff, the Daily News reported.

A sheriff’s spokesperson said it was a traffic stop where a K9 unit “alerted to the odor of narcotics.”

The vehicle was swerving, plus driving 15 or 20 miles under the speed limit.

Beal was charged with two counts: suspicion of misdemeanor possession of cannabis for sale and felony attempt to transport marijuana across state lines. If convicted, he faces up to four years behind bars.

Beal was the passenger. The driver was James Statzer, a resident of Michigan, which is where Beal grew up before moving to New York City in the 1960s and settling at 9 Bleecker St., formerly known as “Yippie Headquarters.”

The two pleaded not guilty on both charges on Tuesday, and were being held behind bars after bail for each was initially set at $75,000. However, Aton Edwards, a friend and ally of Beal, told The Villager that Beal was released from jail Thursday night. The judge accepted Beal’s attorney’s arguments that the septuagenarian is not a flight risk and also has serious health issues.

Beal’s bondsman put up a promissory note of $4,500, Edwards said. Statzer has not been released yet.

According to the News, a year ago, Beal and Statzer were arrested together in Oregon when a state trooper searched their vehicle, reportedly finding 55 pounds of pot and $1,800. But the prosecutor chose not to go to trial, due to concerns about how the bust occurred.

Before that, Beal was convicted of transporting more than 100 pounds of pot in vans caught by cops two different times — in Nebraska in 2009 and Wisconsin in 2011.

He subsequently served about two years in jail in Nebraska, during which he had a heart attack in 2011, which was reportedly nearly fatal.

Since his release, he has been working to set up ibogaine clinics in Tibet and Afghanistan, hoping to demonstrate that ibogaine — which is derived from an African plant — is an effective addiction treatment for many substances, including heroin and opioids. During that time, Beal has been living in a Midtown Manhattan synagogue, at the invitation of its rabbi.

“This is particularly painful given Dana’s health,” Edwards said, speaking earlier this week after Beal’s latest arrest but before his release. “He suffered a heart attack in jail several years ago and he actually flat-lined. He’s on critical medication. He’ll be 71 in January. He comes from a family that’s prone to stroke and heart attack.

“We’re asking for the court to be compassionate,” Edwards said. “He’s ill. And given the shifting position in the country on marijuana — marijuana is becoming normalized.

“We don’t want the cycle to repeat,” Edwards said, “though we think that the California system is a little more lenient [than Nebraska].” Another jail stint for Beal, Edwards said, “would be a death sentence for him.”

Sale of pot for recreational use will be legal in California starting Jan. 1, though medical pot has been legal there for more than 10 years. But transporting large amounts of weed or taking it out of state are still illegal.

The Newser Web site reported that a person can buy pot in California’s so-called “Emerald Triangle” for $800 or $1,000 a pound and then resell it on the East Coast for $3,000 or $4,000 a pound.

The Daily News reported that Beal and Statzer had purchased $17,600 worth of weed.

Dana Beal, the longtime Yippie and drug-legalization advocate, right, at a rally to legalize pot and ibogaine outside Philadelphia City Hall during the Democratic National Convention in 2016.

Edwards said Beal’s supporters are now strategizing on legal arguments to save him from going back to the slammer, and also working to find him a place to stay during the meantime.

As for ibogaine, some cynically say Beal is simply trying to position himself to cash in big time if the U.S. ever legalizes its use for addiction treatment. But Edwards said that’s not the case at all.

“Dana’s interest with ibogaine was not to enrich himself,” he said. “It was to have clinics around the world. This is the guy who has been wearing the same pair of boots for 40 years,” he noted.

“He wore those boots as he pushed an AIDS patient in a wheelchair 240 miles from Boston to New York,” in support of medical marijuana, Edwards said.

Asked if Beal periodically puts new heels and soles on the boots, Edwards said, yes, exactly.

In another of the Yippie activist’s sartorial staples, Edwards added that Beal has also worn his jacket — brown corduroy — forever.

“The movement for ibogaine, the movement for weed — Dana is like the grandfather,” Edwards said, reverently. “When people are marching around the world [for pot legalization]…the fact that marijuana is being legalized in 23 states is because of Dana and others. Dana has bled for this. The straw that stirred the drink was Dana.

“We’re not going to get another Dana Beal. He’s the last of the Yippies.”

John Penley, another longtime friend of Beal, added, “Dana for many years provided New York City military veterans with medical marijuana for little or no cost. Also there is a lot of speculation that Dana did give medical marijuana to Roger Stone because, even though they were at odds on many things, Stone was pro-medical marijuana.”

The Villager recently reported that nine years ago, Stone, a longtime G.O.P. “dirty trickster” operative, tried to buy pot from Aron Kay, “The Yippie Pie Man,” at the Yippie Cafe, at 9 Bleecker St.

But Kay rebuffed him, saying, “I don’t know you.”

Stone is at the center of the current investigation by the House Committee on Intelligence into alleged Russian collusion in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Stone reportedly told the committee that Randy Credico, a comedian well known in Downtown Manhattan and left-wing activist circles, was his “back channel” connection who introduced him to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks, of course, publicly released e-mails by John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairperson, and others before the election — which Stone had publicly predicted.

Credico, who is also a longtime drug-legalization advocate, in 2008 brought Stone to a comedy night Credico was hosting at the Yippie Cafe, at 9 Bleecker St. A few days afterward, Stone tried to buy pot there from “The Yippie Pie Man.”

Credico was recently subpoenaed by the House Intelligence Committee to give a deposition, but pled the Fifth on the advice of his attorney. The committee waived his requirement to appear on the scheduled date and there has, thus far, been no update.

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