By Michael Bachara
Clay Pierce, an Oregon medical marijuana cardholder, is imprisoned in the notorious Mariona prison in El Salvador for 36 grams of cannabis. This story is an important notice to all Oregonians: just because you are traveling from one legal cannabis location to another, we must be aware of the laws in our connecting flight locations.
In October, Mr. Pierce sold everything he had in Oregon and was moving to Colombia when his flight to Colombia had a brief scheduled stop in San Salvador, the capitol of El Salvador.
On November 1, while he was in the airport, waiting on his connecting flight, the El Salvador authorities searched his checked bag and found a small amount of marijuana and a book on growing. Pierce was just on a connecting flight, he wasn’t visiting El Salvador. Pierce was legal in Oregon, where he was coming from, and he was legal in Colombia, where he was going to. Pierce had no intention of being in El Salvador, it was an airline connecting flight. They arrested him, charged him with drug trafficking for a small amount of personal use medical cannabis and put him in what many people consider to be the worst prison in the world, Mariona.
Paul Stanford, Pierce’s friend, and the contact for our story, went to visit him in El Salvador in mid-December. Stanford visited the US Embassy there, and held a press conference that received significant TV and newspaper coverage.
“I was able to visit Clay this afternoon. He is unable to receive letters or books. He has been mistreated and denied medical care. Today, for the very first time since he was arrested on November 1st, we could put some money on his account so he can buy food and make phone calls,” said Stanford.
Pierce’s lawyers, Ricardo A. Langlois and Yanira Jurado, have moved the court for a special hearing for Mr. Pierce and it has been scheduled for this Wednesday, January 10th. They are asking that Mr. Pierce be released in El Salvador until the next hearing at the end of February.
The coalition to Free Clay Pierce has created a web page to mobilize an effort to free their friend. Their website details personal conditions & abuses, Clay’s communication with the exterior and the legal strategy for Mr. Pierce’s case.