On July 11, 2013, dozens of gunmen burst into Todd Stimson’s Henderson County, North Carolina home and held his teenage daughter at gunpoint. These weren’t armed bandits looking for loot, or mafia men attempting to kidnap the child for ransom. They were members of the Fletcher Police Department and Henderson County Sheriff’s Office, accompanied by a SWAT team, there to arrest Stimson on drug-related charges.
Stimson is the owner of Blue Ridge Medical Cannabis Research Corporation (BRMCRC), and had obtained all the necessary documentation to ensure that the company was operating legally. For the past three years, Stimson has held a valid privilege license for the art of healing, issued by the North Carolina Department of Revenue. He has valid state and federal tax ID numbers for the business, and has filed articles of incorporation with the Secretary of State. Stimson conducted all of his business legally, paying his taxes and researching which strains of the medicinal plant are most effective for treating different symptoms and conditions. The problem? Despite having multiple state agencies approve the ongoing operation of BRMCRC, despite the tax revenue they made from Todd Stimson’s legal business, despite the fact that he had been issued tax stamps specifically for different parts of the plants he was researching, the state’s position is that the plants he’s studying aren’t legal. That was allegedly their justification for storming Stimson’s home and business and arresting him on charges from which he’d assumed he was safe.
In a recent interview, Stimson described the charges he’s facing now:
“…possession of drug paraphernalia, felony maintaining a dwelling for controlled substance, felony possession of marijuana, felony possession with intent to sell and distribute marijuana, felony manufacturing schedule 5 controlled substance, trafficking marijuana and trafficking by possession. The last two trafficking charges carry a minimum/mandatory [sentence] of 25 months each … I feel as I will be a political prisoner and they want to make a example of me.”
This is not so much a debate about whether or not medicinal marijuana should be legal, or a question of whether or not Stimson’s research was as beneficial as some medical cannabis users believe it is. This case is about a man who had a business that the state told him he was legally allowed to operate, and who is now facing charges that could take him away from his family– including a young daughter recently diagnosed with cancer –for years.
Todd Stimson’s next court date is Monday, March 10. A protest is planned for that day at 8 a.m., outside the Henderson County courthouse.