[Editor’s Note: Klára Samková is a criminal defense lawyer, former member of Parliament, and champion for human rights in the Czech Republic, and here relates a delightful tale far wilder than the usual medical marijuana cases heard in my own state of Colorado. Her client, Libuše Bryndová, is known in that part of the world as Mrs. Hemp, or Aunt Bushka. Klára herself calls her, affectionately I think, “Bushie,” not to be confused with the Presidential dynasty here in the United States, which only seems the result of a long strange trip.]
Prosecution as a Form of Education
According to reliable witnesses the case began with an absolutely smashing booze-up at Libuše Bryndová´s cottage near Tábor with a Czech TV crew in attendance. Apart from group sex, everything was present abused as per normal for such events, with Bushie´s neighbours contributing to the jollity with home-made pears schnapps which lacked methanol but had all the more kick to it as a result…
The excuse for a trip which deviated from the norm was a short TV profile about Bushie and her role as a grower of cannabis for healing purposes. And it was shot. And transmitted. And on the basis of what was no arty-farty film but rather reminding one of a leaving exam soirée from a special needs school for mature students, Bushie ended up being prosecuted for dissemination of a toxic substance. She, indeed, did disclose all she had on herself (and some more) with her heart opened out to all and sundry, her hand holding a joint and mirth playing sweet nothings across her lips.
When her mates came to ask me to defend her I knew full well that this case will bring me another Brownie point as the good deed here will be of major proportions and I can do no other.
Just the first trip to Court was demanding (to say the least). I was driving and giving a lift to a few of Bushie´s supporters from Prague. In the back we had the macho section, journalist Štěpán Kotrba as well as an avid promoter of growing cannabis, Dušan Dvořák – which turned out to be an error in seat distribution. Mr. Kotrba, as a lifelong leftie who has been banging into my ears for years that I am a cocooned socialist, and Mr. Dvořák, as a lifelong right-winger who keeps insisting that I mustn´t betray my right-wing ideals, went for each other´s throat in a manner which suggested we wouldn´t reach our destination. The result was that a Member of Parliament and (then) Vice-Chairman of the Council of Europe, Anička Čurdová, sitting in the front passenger seat, spent most of the journey hanging on her safety belt facing backwards trying to keep the two of them apart. Only upon my emphatic warning that Court waits for no-one did they take on board the need to stay put in their seats without engaging in fratricidal violence.
We picked up Bushie and took off for the Tábor Regional Court before which about half the membership of the south Bohemian Green party awaited, led by the Member of Parliament (and later Minister of Education) Mrs. Dana Kuchtová. Two camera crews and lots of newspaper folk were present as well.
Bushie´s questioning transmuted into an educational session on the theme of, “How to nurture and produce cannabis sowed in a way that its beneficial effects are best made use of,” whereby all efforts by the young judge (who most clearly had underestimated the opponent), to engage the accused in examining her supposed criminal activity were destined for failure. When he tried too much Bushie reproached him for his inadequate knowledge as to what kind of cannabis has what quantity of THC, and that he should listen and learn. When the poor wretch tried to ask questions, Bushie told him off for not reading her website in detail — otherwise he´d know and not ask stupid questions. The desperate judge lamented that he´d been swotting up on her website until 3 a.m. Not enough, commented Bushie, and I asked for a recess. I used the break for a visit to the toilet, which I must admit was a fundamental mistake as I´d left Bushie unsupervised. She used the freedom to educate the entire available public, with an emphasis on the media folk, as far as use of cannabis in medicine was concerned, and I, having returned from the lav and cottoned on to what was happening, pointed out in my most friendly way that if anyone so much as writes a word on this I will, as a peacenik who defends the right of free speech, beat the shit out of them.
After the recess the fraught judge adjourned the hearing, which wasn´t of much help to him, as during subsequent hearings Bushie ripped apart the worthy Professor acting as an expert witness and commented in regards to her own witness, an Assistant Professor of Addictology, that he didn´t cover the entire field properly. Not surprising that the court of first instance convicted her.
That completely destroyed her. It took three years in which she was convicted by the primary court, the judgment being set aside by an Appeal Court and the case being returned for a new hearing, the subsequent acquittal by the court of the first instance and for the Prosecutor to file a complaint. Thereafter, Bushie was acquitted without reservations.. The actual hearing, though, set out new legal rules in getting a fair trial insofar as the right to call witnesses. Bushie asked Assistant Professor Hanuš from the University of Jerusalem to testify on the basis that his testimony was vital and the State is dutybound to pay his airfare. I cross-examined witnesses in a manner Perry Mason wouldn´t have been ashamed of, and at night I lapped up information from Bushie’s web (no doubt in tandem with the judge, as the night before the main proceedings were due there were two people online on that website). The defence process seemed at time like a joust with the judge as to who knows more about cannabis and with Bushie acting as the umpire. The State Prosecutor with his dim criminal law paragraphs was sidelined into the role of a second unworthy of our attention.
In the meantime, the High Court expressed opinions regarding some aspects of similar cases. Further, use of cannabis for medicinal purposes was legalised in neighbouring Austria, which saw off the element of “social danger of a criminal act,” because to argue something is criminal — when some 80 kilometres away it isn´t — is somewhat awkward.
Thus, the defence was proceeding smoothly even though there were times when it was doubtful the accused would live to see the end of the court case, as there was reason to believe she might be strangled by her own lawyer. These moments were particularly imminent when, the day´s proceedings having finished, she started handing out to reporters small plastic cups filled with cannabis-based ointment with a recommendations as to where on the body it is most effective. But taking into account that my fees were only paid in the form of the above-mentioned ointment all I could really do was to keep my mouth shut.
The final verdict of acquittal from the Appeal Court based in České Budějovice, court branch Tábor, was a victory for all as everyone survived in one piece. The general agreement was that it was all the fault of the pear schnapps which turned the entire TV report into an untrustworthy piece of reportage and, as a result, there was no case to answer. After the decision was announced the Chairman of the Appeal Court informed Bushie that she can demand her property back from the police – approximately 5 kilos of dried cannabis plants and approximately ten plastic cups of confiscated ointment. There followed a lecture regarding the expiration of the medicinal effects of cannabis plants – the Appeal Court Chairman clearly hadn´t learnt from his younger colleague´s mistakes and forgot to read Bushie´s web properly. But the worst was to come: “And as far as the ointment is concerned, well, I bet that´s all used up! You know, esteemed Sir, police work is a real bind as far as hemorrhoids are concerned and the best cure is cannabis, y´know?“ “I know,“ retorted the judge, even though it was clear he didn´t know that police work causes hemorrhoids nor that cannabis was the best cure for it. I literally dragged Bushie out of that courtroom and made her swear that she´ll keep quiet at least until I got her home, as otherwise I might kick the bucket and public transport doesn´t go anywhere near the hole she lives in beyond Veselí, about 40 kilometres away.
From that time on, on the odd occasion, I accept a fee instalment in the form of the cannabis ointment (without paying VAT or Income Tax — and so you see what a subversive element cannabis is), and I also visit Bushie now and then for a jolly weekend away where I refresh myself listening to her notions of world politics, with particular stress on our relationship with Ukraine and the European Union, I learn about the latest discoveries how to extract Fénix´s tears which is a remarkable medicinal cannabis-based extract, have a good time with her ten cats, and take on board quotes from famous works in several foreign languages.
Slightly socially worse for wear I go to bed in her garden outhouse filled with flowers and whose back part serves as a chicken coop. The onus is upon the guest to let out the chickens early in the morning allowing them to do their pecking business. Thus ready to face the world, I return to the hustle and bustle of the city to devote my time to swindles, divorces, thefts, double-crosses and other related forms of behaviour which nearest and dearest like to commit on each other. In my nostrils there remains the aroma of medicinal cannabis…
From every tale there should be a moral lesson to be drawn, right? The moral here is that as a lawyer you never know what you´ll find out and learn. Knowledge that I gained solely through my legal work, apart from growing cannabis for medicinal use, was being educated in bee-keeping where the matter of “my“ bees was actually decided on by the Supreme court in the land, and as it wisely said, it never had to make a decision on bees. I, in fact, can distinguish a carniolan bee from a wild bee. Also thanks to the Law I hold information that says pigeons loosen their sphincter up to 25 metres after having flown off, which means that if your abode is less than 25 metres from the pigeon loft you will most definitely be shitted on. And much else besides. As I keep saying: advocacy – one big adventure.