(photo via DCist)
DCist has a story up about AIDS activist Antonio Davis which has to be read to be believed. Davis and 11 other protestors were arrested while protesting AIDS/HIV budget cuts outside the ceremonial office of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. While this sort of arrest is usually not a big deal, a failed drug test is threatening Davis with a trial and jailtime. The drug was marijuana, prescribed to him by his doctor. "I do not use marijuana as a substance to get high," says Davis, who takes the medication to counteract side effects from his nine AIDS medications.
Davis and others were offered a "Deferred Prosecution Agreement," where they had the opportunity to perform 32 hours of community service and take a few drug tests. Upon successfully completing those, charges would be dropped. But two of the men - Davis and David Goode, failed their drug tests. And though a judge had assured Davis and Goode that the Deferred Prosecution would be honored since they both were able to produce letters from their doctors attesting to their medical need for marijuana, things took a bad turn: their case was handed-off to two other prosecutors. In the switch, the third prosecutor told the 12 activists that their first 32 hours of community service didn't count. Davis and Goode tested positive for (medical) marijuana again, which according to the prosecutor, made a trial inevitable. The other 10 activist were told that they'd have to do another 32 hours of community service or also stand trial.
DCist notes that on the same day, "Mayor Vince Gray, members of the D.C. Council and more than 30 residents were arrested during a protest on Capitol Hill for D.C. voting rights." Most of these protestors, according to DCist, were able to pay a $50 "and go on their merry way." This was not the case at all for the other protestors, namely Davis and Goode, who after 96 hours of community service, still may face jailtime. The Director of Advocacy at the Health GAP, Matt Kavanaugh, who was also arrested with Davis and Goode, was angered over the matter. "Requiring repeated drug tests, repeated unpaid community services, and a half dozen court appearances," says Kavanaugh, "is completely unreasonable on a charge for which city council members pay a fine and walk away from."
A U.S. Attorney for the District claims that everything has been handled correctly. Mayor Vince Gray and company were processed by the District of Columbia Office of Attorney General. Davis, Goode, and the other 10 protestors, however, were charged with unlawful conduct on Capitol grounds, which is prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office, who requires drug tests for a Deferred Prosecution.
In the meantime, Davis has given up his medical marijuana. It used to be a once-a-week appetite stimulant and countermeasure to side effects from his AIDS medication. Now, without it, Davis has lost 20lbs in the last two months. And the worst bit of irony is that D.C. Pre-Trial Services no longer tests for marijuana. Davis' case, of course, predates this, so his charge still stands.
Davis just wants the ordeal to be over, and asks that U.S. for the District Ron Machen "look in his heart to make a reasonable decision." Davis' case is currently set to go to trial in May.