In Memory of Rachel Hoffman

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Who was Rachel Hoffman?


There is a long standing debate on the legalization of Marijuana, both for medical and recreational purposes. Those against the legalization fear that marijuana is a gateway drug and is dangerous for society. Conversely, those for the legalization of marijuana feel that it is the least of society’s problems and there are legal substances that are more lethal, primarily alcohol. This article is not about the good and bad of marijuana but about a young woman who had been busted for the possession of marijuana and was offered a deal in order to drop the charges. The deal she made with the police killed her. Not the marijuana, but those she trusted to protect her, the current judicial system and politics over marijuana. Her name is Rachel Hoffman.

Rachel was a graduate of Florida State University, and planned to attend culinary school. Interestingly, she was involved with Florida State’s ‘Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP)’ and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). As a normal young college woman she used marijuana occasionally like many of her fellow college students. Rachel enjoyed music and would attend music festivals wearing a large, furry purple hat. She was well liked by everyone and up until her first arrest for marijuana possession she was a contributing member of society for good. As a tribute, there is a yearly music festival in her honor called the Purple Hatters Ball in Live Oak, Florida.

When I first learned of Rachel’s story, my first feeling was for her parents. I have a son close to her age and as a mother, my heart went out to a couple who lost a child to murder…set up by their own trusted public servants. All I could think of is that she could have been my daughter, and what if she was? What would I do? Well, we can never know what anyone of us would do in this situation but at the moment I first learned of her story, I was enraged and of course thought of every horrible thing I would do to those involved in her murder.

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The 'Deal'


The sad thing about this whole story is that her possession violations were considered felonies even though she possessed very small amounts of marijuana by dealer standards. Rachel and her friends would go in together to buy large amounts of marijuana in order to save money not to become a ‘drug ring’. Her first arrest was on February 22, 2007 for 25 grams (less than an ounce) of marijuana. She was put under drug court supervision and on April 17, 2008, the police searched her Tallahassee, Florida apartment based on a ‘tip’. They found 151.7 grams (about 5.3 ounces) of marijuana and 4 ecstasy pills. Her charges then became a felony since the amount discovered was over 20 grams, a felony in Florida which constitutes time in prison. The police initially tried to get her to tell them who she bought it from and to identify other marijuana users in order to drop her charges. When she refused they offered her a deal she felt she couldn’t refuse. The police offered her the opportunity to become a confidential drug informant and she agreed.

The operation would be as follows: Rachel would be set up to buy 1,500 ecstasy pills, 2 ounces of cocaine and a handgun (no marijuana?). She was given $13,000 in cash and given instructions of where to meet the drug dealers that the police wanted to set up. There was a ‘buy spot’ location arranged with two men that Rachel was to buy from. When she arrived, the two men decided to change the location of the buy and Rachel agreed. It was then that the police lost track of her. The two men became suspicious of Rachel and executed her at the new location.

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Was Rachel really a Criminal?


The police used a small fish to set up a couple of ‘whales’ in the world of drugs. They were career criminals and Rachel was not…she never stood a chance yet the police used her anyway. They found such a small amount of marijuana in her apartment, how could they have EVER sent her to buy drugs she didn’t even use? Undoubtedly the dealers became suspicious immediately, ‘drug informant’ was practically written on Rachel’s forehead with all the real experience she had. The police made a blanket distinction of ‘drug user’ when it came to Rachel; she uses marijuana so she must be a criminal; therefore she knows how to interact with other criminals. In fact in an interview with 20/20, Tallahassee police chief, Dennis Jones, referred to Rachel as a criminal. A criminal for possessing what amounts to a ‘baggie’ of marijuana. Chief Jones states that Rachel was suspected of selling drugs and was rightly treated as a criminal.

So what’s my point? Well, my point is that no one should have to face four years in prison for an amount of marijuana that most real drug dealers laugh at. We have many Rachel’s that have not made it in the news, many Rachel’s sitting in prison on taxpayer’s money, and many Rachel’s that are normal everyday citizens in America being treated like ‘blights on society’. Rachel was killed by dangerous men, who were real threats and true drug dealers who dealt in large quantities of a multitude of illegal and potentially more lethal drugs than marijuana not to mention dealing in illegal weapons.

Maybe our society needs to learn how to pick our battles. It seems as though being caught with marijuana is more dangerous than using it. It certainly was for Rachel. Bless you and may you rest in peace.

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