Medical marijuana activist John Tracey was arrested (see video, below) in the parking lot of Cruzan Amphitheatre before Wednesday night's Black Sabbath concert in West Palm Beach. He was attempting to gather signatures for a petition to allow a referendum on medical marijuana on Florida's 2014 ballot.
According to a police booking blotter, Tracey was charged with "trespassing - fail to leave property upon order by owner." But Cruzan is owned by the South Florida Fair and, by state law, is considered public property. Tracey says Live Nation Entertainment, which operates the venue (and also owns Ticketmaster), complained about his being there.
According to Carol Hammond, an executive assistant with the South Florida Fair, her organization was not involved with the arrest. New Times has also contacted the offices of Cruzan Amphitheatre and Live Nation, who have yet to comment.
Tracey was acting as part of the Palm Beach arm of People United for Medical Marijuana (PUFMM). The Orlando-based group says it was "formed by Kim Russell, whose grandmother -- ill with glaucoma -- would not break the law, despite the medical benefits that marijuana could offer her condition."
In a statement to New Times, Tracey called medical marijuana "a very important reform. Current drug law hurts patients and costs taxpayers millions." He said he has "the utmost respect for the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office and the dedicated officers who keep the peace" but "I will not be intimidated from freely exercising my First Amendment rights on public space."
An attorney familiar with the petition drive, Russell Cormican of Fort Lauderdale firm Kent & Cormican, told New Times the Cruzan arrest is "just one of an ongoing series of problems [the campaign] has seen all over South Florida." He said petitioners have been hassled by authorities at the VA hospital in Palm Beach County, at the north campus of Broward Community College and at the Palm Beach County Courthouse.
Cormican said he's "sure it's the marijuana aspect" that provokes official hostility but that their intimidation offends "the right to petition in public spaces. They need to respect that."
(Petitioners, by the way, are making decent money with the gig, which pays per signature -- valid signature. Tracey said that's "another reason I'm pissed they made me leave. I've got a family of five to support.")
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.
Keep New Times Broward-Palm Beach Free... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering South Florida with no paywalls.