I, Walter Terry, am the founder and chairman of Nat Turner Revolution. I was imprisoned on a trumped-up federal charge, of shipping medical cannabis across state lines. This is the story of how I got there, and why I started Nat Turner Revolution.
I grew up in Seattle. My father was the first Black teacher to graduate from Seattle University and first Black man to teach for Seattle School District.
My mother was the first Black nurse to graduate from Seattle University and first Black registered nurse in Washington state.
I went to University of Portland on a track scholarship; and earned my BA in Marketing in 1982.
For the next two decades I was a marketing executive. Seven of those years I was Account executive at ADVO, the world's largest direct mail company and a pioneer in targeted marketing.
In 1996, a horrible motor vehicle accident left me with chronic back pain. My primary physician recommended medical cannabis. That is how I became a supporter of Green Relief, a medical marijuana collective.
One day, when I was facing a family crisis and urgently needed $300,000, some people approached me pretending to be representatives of medical marijuana collectives in Idaho and Texas. They placed large orders. Under their influence, I got into the Schedule 1 drug trade. I attracted the DEA’s attention. They started investigating. A DEA agent, posing as head of a collective of chronic pain patients in Idaho, placed an order with me. I fell in their trap.
During interrogations, the DEA was only interested in information about my Black, Asian, and Mexican associates. They had no interest in my White associates. No interest in the White growers in California with M16 rifles. No interest in the neurotic White self-proclaimed heroin addict stockpiling ammunition. No interest in the White attorney helping launder money. No interest in the White human traffickers feeding their criminal profits into the legal cannabises business. The DEA’s racism appalled me.
Their agents negotiated. They forced me to place listening devices in places controlled by people of color and wanted me give evidence about Blacks involved with my medical cannabises collective.
Still, instead of suing me in Washington, where marijuana is legal, they prosecuted my federal case in Idaho, where it is prohibited. Idaho also has some of the nation’s harshest drug laws.
Fortunately, John McKay, former US district attorney and a family friend, advised me that I could trust my Idaho court appointed attorneys. I informed my Idaho attorneys about my interrogations with the DEA and they arranged for me to meet homeland security officers. I gave them information about the human traffickers. In less than a month, they arrested several people involved in bringing Asian girls into the US for prostitution. At that time, some of the information I gave their officers was repeated in Seattle Times. I was given credit for my information at sentencing. My case is sealed but my attorney will verify this matter.
At my sentencing in Idaho Federal Court, the judge described the members of my collective as victims. He would not acknowledge my doctor’s recommendation. My mind was burning with rage. I thought, “How, in a free country, is one forbidden from following their physician recommendation? This judge doesn’t even know my blood pressure but he’s forcing his medical opinion on me.”
But my attorney advised me to keep my thoughts to myself. I knew if I tested positive for THC (the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis), the court would simply add time to my year and a day sentence.
So, I held my peace.
Nonetheless, on that day in January 2016, the seed for Nat Turner Revolution started to germinate.
Once I reported to SeaTac, I told my story to the staff and other inmates. The inmates let me interview them. They told me how they had never been offered treatment until they were in prison, and how they led normal lives until criminal justice systems barged in.
The staff psychiatrist let me study in her medical library and check out books. She also authorized me to attend drug treatment and anger management classes.
The inmates and counselor allowed me to take notes. (Usually, an inmate is forbidden from noting what is discussed during counseling sessions.). I found three common threads in my fellow patients’ stories:
I particularly remember discussing a 20-year-old’s story with the drug counselor. This young man was abandoned at 9 by his drug-dependent and physically-abusive parents. He lived under a bridge in Montana and stole food every day. He took drugs to forget the pain in his life. A drug dealer he knew wanted guns for protection. Desperate for money to buy drugs, he told the dealer about a storage facility holding dozens of antique rifles and other handguns. He broke in and sold the guns to the dealer — who was actually an undercover agent from AFT (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives).
That’s how he got sent to prison.
The drug counselor said, “The availability of an addicting drug has very little correlation to an individual’s recovery from drug dependency. The key to recovery from chemical dependency is to be with people who care. How are we expected to heal them if no one cares about them?”
With help of my BOP (Federal Bureau of Prisons) counselors, I was released after six months. My personal physician recommend I see her for a complete physical after my release. On that visit, I mentioned that while in prison I had read they used to put physicians in prison for prescribing opiates in the 1920s. She smiled and said, “Walter, they still put us in prison for prescribing opiates.”
She suggested I look up Doctors of Courage.
She also referred me to Dr. Thomas Kline, a Harvard graduate who had done his residency at Stanford. Dr. Kline confirmed my anecdotal accounts, viz., 75% of drug users operate quite normally; and most of the rest had mental health problems that needed to be solved for there to be any reduction in their drug use.
Based on what I had studied and experienced, I started writing a thesis asserting that the only moral and effective response to treating chemically dependent patients is medical, not penal.
I showed its rough draft to a therapist, to review of its free distribution therapy model; and to a former US attorney, John McKay, to review its legal content. John congratulated me for a well-written thesis but advised me to address the issue legislatively. Specifically, he suggested the way to go was to file a civil lawsuit, under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), in every federal district court, against all Members of Congress. The suit would have eight indictments of grievous harm due to holding on to laws that criminalize drug use.
After making a few minor changes, I showed my thesis to an attorney I met at a hemp fest in Seattle. He too said it was a great thesis but warned that it will costs millions to litigate in the way proposed: Attorneys do not do so much work pro bono.
I know raising money will not be easy.
I also know it must be done.
Drawing on my training in Marketing and experience as an advertising executive, I have formulated a digital fundraising plan. I have founded Nat Turner Revolution to execute this plan and, then, to implement the multi-pronged agenda framed in my thesis.
Our mission is to end the War on Drugs for ever and to bring the fruits of peace to every American. We believe the only way to do this is to put plain facts and watertight arguments before the American people so they will compel their elected representatives to throw away the foul laws fueling this wasting war against our own people, especially people of color.
Many other nations have stopped fighting and healed. It’s time we followed their lead.