Medical Marijuana arrest of Breckenridge man, part 2
'Dread' Fred Hopson, arrested for medical marijuana use, tells his storyBy Richard Chase, SFP Oct 2000
Editor's note: Fred Hopson and his girlfriend Shannon Scott were arrested Aug. 4 in Park County for growing marijuana. Hopson insists that he has to use pot to treat severe headaches that he suffers as the result of an accident. He is under a doctor's care for his condition. On Sept. 28, Hopson and Scott were granted a 60-day continuance by the courts, effectively delaying his case until after the November election, when medical marijuana is on the ballot. The two could face federal prison incarceration and the forfeiture of their Alma house to the Park County police and Summit County Drug Task Force.
Richard Chase: Please give us some background on your case.
Fred: About 31/2 years ago I had a really bad accident. I somehow fell off a two-story building head first, about 26 feet. I landed head first, and it's just amazing I'm alive. It's a beautiful thing because, man, I went through a lot of rehabilitation. I had to go to brain injury school for about 6 months to learn things like how to turn a shower on, and I'm a lot further now than they ever expected; I'm not paralyzed and that was the main thing. They thought I'd be a vegetable and that I'd be paralyzed. But, I'm getting close to making a full recovery.
They gave me lots of drugs to help me through all these headaches and things I have. I started smoking pot about a month-and-a-half after the accident and what it did to me was, my head was way above my head, this kind of crazy feeling, and when I would smoke grass with my twin brother it made me feel normal again. It really helped with my headaches through this whole thing. It actually kept me grounded. People who've had injuries like this, they freak out, they have depression problems and everything like that, so I mean, it actually kept me being Fred again.
But, on Aug. 4, hard to believe it, but the SWAT team came busting in my door. They knocked three times and came in right away. The door was unlocked; they gave us no chance. The Park County sheriff's office, along with the Summit County Narcotics Team, were both here.
RC: How did they get the tip?
Shannon: It's all hear-say now.
RC: But it will come up in discovery?
Fred: It should, but our new lawyer thinks that it might not, just to protect the informant. It is our constitutional right, I believe, to face whoever turned us in. I see no reason why they can't face us and tell us why they did this. Because Shannon and I are, I feel, the most loving and peaceful people in the world, and why do that to someone? I own my own house; they're trying to take it from me.
RC: Did they run an electric bill scam on you?
Fred: They did. Our electric bill is between $100 and $120 a month. That gave them reasonable cause to bust into our house.
RC: A lot of households have $120 electric bills.
Shannon: Yes, but there was a big jump from the winter to the spring. So, that's what they were looking at. But, we installed a washer/dryer and a computer at that time, which was enough usage to jump the bill up that much. Since the raid, our electric bill has not changed. I just cannot believe that a bill of that size can justify a raid of this kind.
RC: What are they seizing in terms of property and possessions?
Fred: We had six cars, the nicest one is a 1994 Toyota pickup which right now can be sold for $9,000. A beautiful Volkswagen bus that is mint to me, and can definitely be sold for $2,000. It's a big dual door panel van and is just very special to me. Then Shannon's car was a '71 Volkswagen bus, then an '88 Subaru that we just paid a thousand dollars for. We also had a 1979 Ford pickup that we used for plowing our road. We just purchased it for $3500. And the other one was a piece of junk; we're glad it's gone.
Shannon: We had our chainsaw in the back, so we can't cut our firewood until we get that back.
Fred: This house is worth $143,000. I've put $43,000 into it of my own equity, and then I put a new roof on it. So the house is worth probably $50,000 equity to me right now. You know, as we were saying, I have a brain injury and the people I was working for didn't have any workmen's compensation. So I had a lawsuit that I won. I had over $240,000 in medical bills that had to be paid. Medicaid helped me cover a lot of that, so this is what I bought with the money I made off that lawsuit, this house and the Toyota. Then I put the new roof on - I didn't do it myself, I freeze when I get up to any kind of height now - pretty scary.
RC: Besides your personal freedom, of course, what would you like to see happen out of all this?
Shannon: That people's rights not be infringed on like this. It should be our personal right to do what we want with our bodies. It should be our personal right in a free country, if we want to call ourselves free, not to have these people come ruin our lives because they have something to earn off it. They're abusing their power, and trying to make money off some innocent people who work hard to earn our money. We do not use the plants to make money.
Fred: What I want the police to do is to find out, or prove, that we're hardened criminals, someone that's going to fight back or shoot at them, but, I don't want them breaking in our door at 5:30 in the morning sticking their rifles with lights on the barrels in my face.
RC: Is that when it happened, at 5:30?
Fred: 5:30 in the morning, eight of them came busting in the house with lights on the ends of their shotguns, putting them right in my face when Shannon and I were both naked. So, I mean, why couldn't they knock on our door at 9 or 10 in the morning, and say, "This is a raid, you are under arrest"? They did not look into my past to see if I was a very violent person.
Shannon: They're just taking their power way too far. They're picking on their own people, people who pay their salaries. Everyday that I work, I help pay their salaries, yet they come and totally try to destroy our lives. Why? Because they need some more income? I mean, are they really saving the world?
RC: So, Shannon, you're going to trial too?
Fred: She was right there with me that morning. They made her stand up naked and wouldn't let her put her clothes on. Eventually, she forced them, demanded that she be able to put her clothes on.
Shannon: Their tactics are becoming way out of control.
Fred: They were wearing army helmets, camouflage pants, guns with lights on the barrels. I mean, please, we are not violent people.
Shannon: We would be the ones to help their grandma across the street if she needed it.
Fred: I open the door for men and women, I mean, I'm from Alabama, I have respect for life. There ain't no way I'm going to shoot at them. I've never owned a gun.
Shannon: They were threatening to throw a grenade down the cellar because no one was coming out.
RC: A grenade?
Shannon: They were going to throw a grenade in our house.
RC: A smoke grenade, or, they didn't say?
Shannon: They just said they were going to throw a grenade down there: "if you don't come out right now." I mean, it's 5:30 in the morning, why would anybody be down there? I was still asleep when they came in the house.
Fred: I was awake. I was lying in bed thinking, man, it's 5:30, I'm 15 minutes later than I'm supposed to be getting up. I looked at my watch and then BOOM! They knocked on the door, pushed it open and Shannon looked at me straight in the face and said who's that? And I said, Shannon, it's the police.
Here's the Flume, (Park County's newspaper). They say officials estimate that they confiscated $240,000 worth of drugs if grown to maturity. They also confiscated six motor vehicles. (Reads from the Flume): "Dawn on August 4th found two Mosquito Gulch residents facing the business end of weapons wielded by the Park County Sheriff's Response Team." Please, they're making us look like the biggest criminals in the world. They never found a scale in our house. They cannot prove that we sold to anyone, because we never did sell it to anyone. I mean, please, we're not drug dealers, we are pot smokers, and that's all. All we wanted to do was to have it for us.
Shannon: I studied plant medicine. I want to heal people with plants. I was planning on going to school in October for it, but those plans got postponed. I want to know why I can grow my peppermint to help his stomach ache and I can grow this pineapple sage. It just doesn't make sense that I can grow all these plants that will heal people, and not be able to grow pot for its healing properties.
Fred: What about pot instead of muscle relaxers, which I'm taking right now? I hadn't been to the doctor in over a year because I was smoking herb and it was totally helping my headaches. Now I'm on muscle relaxers because they took the herb away.
Shannon: He's been to the doctor six or seven times already to go get different prescriptions and none of them are working. The whole impact of this is really bad.
It's just really weird that they should take the medicine we can produce ourselves away from us. It just frustrates me so bad that someone would believe that their skin was more important than us, our house, our livelihood, our, you know, our happiness. We had so many good things going for us up to that moment on August 4th, and they destroyed everything. We can't plan our wedding, I can't go to school.
We're not going to take this lying down, and I think that's what they expect us to do. We're going to fight for our freedom, we're going to fight for our rights to do as we wish to our bodies, because that is our god-given right, and because it is so controversial right now I think these people are going to be sorry that they picked on the wrong individuals. I just believe it's happened to us to make a difference.
But, we can help the community gain some momentum and really fight for what is right and maybe get the wrong people out of office, and to empower us as a people, as a free people as the constitution allows us to be. We're good people and we deserve only the best, and this is wrong.