How to Hide Your Weed

An ex-cop from East Texas decides to switch sides

"It's called kicking some ass and saying what needs to be said and not eking around," he says. "Hey, let's make marijuana legal, medicinal marijuana, and try to eke something through. Let's be nice to law enforcement because we're trying to join them. No, that's nuts. Law enforcement is not nice to us -- no violence against law enforcement, you know that's not what I'm talking about. But law enforcement is not nice to us, locking 750,000 of us up a year for smoking pot. Why in the world would we extend the hand of niceness to them?"

Medical marijuana, he says, is just a way of pussyfooting around the issue. It's a back door, and people on both sides know it. Just ask any local stoner who's been offered nuggs of that good medicinal shit from California.

Dean Becker, the deep-voiced, Houston-based host of the Drug Truth Network, says there might be a "minor truth" to what Cooper says about medicinal pot, but Cooper has "probably never sat down with an MS patient and smoked marijuana with him." The effects of the pot are almost instantaneous, he says. "You can see the blood flow return, you can see the hands calm down, you can begin to better understand the words they say." But ultimately Becker thinks Cooper has done a good thing, even if the former cop wasn't as diplomatic with other organizations as he could've been. "I think what he has done thus far has been wonderful," says Becker. "I think it opened the dialogue, because that's really what progress is all about."

How to Hide Your Weed
An ex-cop from East Texas decides to switch sides
How to Hide Your Weed
An ex-cop from East Texas decides to switch sides
Barry Cooper's Web site received more than four million hits in its first three weeks.
Barry Cooper's Web site received more than four million hits in its first three weeks.

But opening up dialogue has only gotten the movement so far. The war on drugs isn't working, says Cooper, and neither is the war on the war. "The drug reformationists, right now I think they carried the ball to the 40-yard line or 30-yard line, and everybody's trying to figure out how to get it into the end zone," he says. And that's where his above-the-radar, guerrilla-style tactics could come into play.

The thing about revolutionaries who've been at it for a while, though, is that they're often resistant to change. As word of Cooper's plans bounced around the Internet, Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, penned an e-mail to colleagues in which he said: "Let's not kid ourselves that this ex-narc is suddenly a champion for civil rights; he is just trying to make a fast buck. I would be cautious before inviting him to join LEAP or any other reform organization. We should learn what we can about beating the drug dogs, but we should not trust this scumbag who worked for years locking people like us up."

When Stroup spoke with the Press, he said that e-mail hadn't been intended for publication, but then he continued. "My point is still valid," he says. "I went up and looked at his promo video -- I suspect lots of people have. It's one of the most disgusting pieces of marketing I've ever run into in this area. I mean, it makes late-night gadget salesmen look sophisticated. He's shouting. He's screaming. He's jumping up and down." Stroup says he has absolutely no problem with former drug warriors rethinking their positions; he just thinks Cooper is all about the cash. As for the video, he says, "I don't suspect there'll be a single person more or less arrested as a result of it."

Jerry Epstein, cofounder of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, isn't so sure. "I have worked with some of the best experts in the country for years now, and they can't get on TV shows," he says, noting Cooper's knack for publicity. "We're gonna take the opportunity to support communication to the public about the problem, even if we don't particularly like the package it got wrapped in."

Cooper has big plans. A second volume of Never Get Busted Again. A video on search warrants called Never Get Raided, with tips on how to spot informants and undercover officers. He claims to love the study of human behavior, and his best idea might be a little project called 50-50, where he'll get 50 people in a room, have them drink booze till 4 a.m. -- ambulance on site -- and record the results. Then he'll replace the hooch with weed and do it all over again. Needless to say, the first night, full of fighting and flirting and puking, will probably make for better reality TV.

As for the old-guard reformers, he's confident he'll eventually win them over. And even if not, "I'm young," he says. "I'm going to be here a lot longer than they are." He might've just started out as a cop with doubts -- "Fifteen men in SWAT gear, kicking in a door on a mom and dad and little kids, and I'm thinking, ÔDude! This is not right!'" -- but now he's got one up on many reformers. He's on the line, a civil disobedient, basically begging the police to harass him.

"I watch everything, because I constantly think I'm going to be arrested," he says. "I might be a little out there, but I produce, I put money into the economy, I raise a good family, I'm not a dangerous person, no history of violence, and I'm scared to go to prison. You see why I'm making the noise I'm making? I have a chance at a national level to say what all these other commoners want to say, but they don't have the platform to say it. I truly believe I'm the mouthpiece for millions of people across the U.S., and I'm not going to shut up. I'm going to get louder. I'll use reason and logic, but I'm going to use everything in me, to stay in the spotlight, to end this shit, whatever it takes."

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