Last week, all five members of NORML’s Wake Board Team were arrested for possession of marijuana as they sat on their competition ski boat, Hydro, at the Red Bull Cliff Diving Competition at Possum Kingdom Lake in Gradford, Texas.
Eight game wardens swarmed in on four boats and surrounded them before boarding the Hydro ski boat with no warrant. The armed wardens arrested three young men on NORML’s boat and two other team members who were on a float nearby.
The game wardens allegedly found less than three grams of pot on one of the team members who immediately took full responsibility. Although there was no evidence that anyone had smoked anything on the boat, that fact did not stop the game wardens.
“They hauled off all five team members and took them by boat on a two-hour trip to a crowded, makeshift shack to be processed,” David Sloane, Attorney and DFW NORML’s Public Information Officer, told High Times. “All five young men were strip searched despite being in bathing suits, held overnight and released on $1,500 bond each the following day.”
The game wardens’ reason for boarding NORML’s ski boat? They claimed they smelled pot, the scent of which was apparently thick in the air at the popular cliff diving event all morning.
“Their search and seizure was warrantless, and the officers gave conflicting accounts of their alleged probable cause when they made the seizure,” Sloane explained.
Sloane was pleased to tell HT about the unprecedented involvement of a “dream team of lawyers assisting in this case,” including Chad West, James Spencer and Jamie Balagia.
“The most talented and aggressive NORML lawyers across Texas are mobilizing to defend these young men,” he said. “We intend to have them acquitted and these arrests expunged from their records.”
No trial date has been set for the five young men, all of whom have no previous arrest records. This was their first time at Texas’ Possum Kingdom Lake for the cliff diving championships where the team wanted to be “on hand repping for the cause” and supporting the world’s best cliff divers, according to Hydro the NORML Boat‘s Facebook page.
“People love us where ever we go. We’ve never caused or had any problems,” Sloane said of DFW NORML (Dallas Fort Worth), one of the most vibrant NORML chapters in Texas. Sloane himself has been a member since 1984 and sponsors NORML’s Hydro boat and the wakeboard team.
“When they took the young men off the boat under arrest, the crowds gave them a standing ovation and cheered for them,” Sloane said.
Texas Park and Wildlife game wardens at Possum Kingdom Lake seem to engage in an unwelcoming habit of shaking down tourists for all types of minor infractions. Friendly locals try to warn visitors with a little saying they’ve coined: “Come on vacation, leave on probation.”
High Times asked David Sloane if NORML’s wakeboard team would go back to Possum King Lake, site of the Hell’s Gate cliffs, and his answer was categorical.
“Absolutely yes,” he said. “I can promise you that. It is an amazing event and we wish we could have stayed longer… But we will be back.”