Prior to this year, the state of Florida was regarded as one of the worst possible states to be caught in possession of cannabis. According to a 2009 analysis by former NORML Director Jon Gettman, no state in this country punished people more severely for minor marijuana offenses than Florida. However, thanks in part to a former Florida judge, all this is gradually changing.

By October 3, for the first time in its history, the state will issue IDs to medical marijuana patients. However, according to the former judge, the law doesn’t go nearly far enough.

Throughout the course of his career as a Florida judge, Doug Bench hated marijuana. He admits to locking up hundreds of people for this plant and did so because he thought it was the right thing to do. While it is too late for the now-retired judge to help those whose lives he likely ruined through the persecution of pot, he is taking actions to help countless others now and in the future.

When Bench was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, which can result in a slow and painful death, his life was saved after realizing the benefits of cannabis in treating his disease. Now, Bench has made it his life’s work to wake people up to the “70 years of lies” the US government has told the citizens about marijuana.


In a public forum on Florida’s Medical Marijuana Implementation earlier this year, Bench presented a powerful speech to note how the law simply does not go far enough to help those who need access to cannabis.

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“I put 311 people in jail for marijuana offenses — and I was wrong,” the judge says as he opens up his speech.

“I’ve been haunted for 30 years, wondering how many of those (people I put in jail) were using cannabis for medical reasons because our government suppressed that information for 70 years.”

Bench then notes that it was his COPD that opened his eyes to the benefits of cannabis.

“I’m now an advocate for medical marijuana because two years ago, I was diagnosed with a terminal disease,” he explains, before going on to explain that his wife’s “four hours of research on the internet,” found the benefits of cannabis oil for COPD.

“I hated marijuana, I hated the use of marijuana and the violation of the law,” Bench explains. “But, I had no choice, I had to break the law if I wanted to live.”

Bench, like so many other people who the Free Thought Project has interviewed and reported on, was forced to become a criminal to save his own life — in the land of the free.

At this point, Bench then advocates to let free enterprise handle the solution to medical marijuana instead of the slow turning wheels of the bureaucracy. Instead of a top-down system of the state running everything in regards to a plant that heals people, Bench advocates for a horizontal integration, allowing ease of access at all levels, not just those well-connected lobbyists with state ties.

“By the time you finally go (to the doctor to get medical cannabis), you need it now, not 90 days from now,” Bench said before calling out the restrictive nature of the Florida law.

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“I think you should take the word ‘debilitating’ totally out of it,” said Bench. “What I had, COPD, a terminal disease, is not on your list.”

“I’d be dead if I had to treat under this mandate of Florida law.”

The heroism and humility shown by Doug Bench are inspiring, to say the least. If a tiny fraction of the people within law enforcement and government had half of this man’s gumption, the drug war would be over tomorrow and people who can benefit from cannabis would have access immediately.

The Free Thought Project salutes you, Judge Doug Bench. Please share this article to show others how change is possible and even the most staunch drug warriors, who “hate marijuana,” have the ability to change.

Please share this article to show others how change is possible and even the most staunch drug warriors, who “hate marijuana,” have the ability to change.

Matt Agorist is an honorably discharged veteran of the USMC and former intelligence operator directly tasked by the NSA. This prior experience gives him unique insight into the world of government corruption and the American police state. Agorist has been an independent journalist for over a decade and has been featured on mainstream networks around the world. Agorist is also the Editor at Large at the Free Thought Project. Follow @MattAgorist on Twitter, Steemit, and now on Facebook.
  • Damiana

    While it is too late for the now-retired judge to help those whose lives he likely ruined through the persecution of pot…

    Why is it too late? He might be retired, but he still has wealth, connections, and power… all of which could be used to mitigate some of the damage he’s wrought. Even just a personal APOLOGY (not one that’s just a number thrown at a reporter, but a one-on-one “hey Jerry, I’m sorry I ruined your fucking life – is there anything I can do for you”) would help, but even better would be for him to see about getting records expunged and offering job opportunities, or offering to pay tuition for some of the college students whose education he slammed shut.

    • Matt Agorist

      He is apologizing. He said he is “haunted” by the fact that he did that, admitted to it, and is actively seeking to help others. He might be doing those things that you mention too.

      I was in the marine corps and through my actions, many people suffered. It would be outright impossible for me to go back and find those people to help them. However, through my actions now, I like to think that I am atoning for my past life. If I can turn from a violent tool of the state into a rights flexing advocate for peace — anyone can….

      • Matt Agorist

        With the colossal fuck ton of people who NEVER change, the mere act of admitting guilt is heroic. As I finished the article, if a very small group of people within the system had the courage and intellect to change their minds and reverse course, this nightmare would be over. Change must never be discounted as something so easily discovered.

        • Damiana

          You’re right. As I said elsewhere, the fact that you’ve run this story is a GOOD thing, because this is CERTAINLY better than the nothing-burger we’ve been getting from a lot of Drug Warriors.

          I guess what bothers me most about him is that he only gave a rat’s ass about this as an “issue” when it affected him personally. Such a complete lack of empathy for anything that isn’t right up his ass shows VERY poor character for someone who’s supposed to be a judge. It makes me wonder what else he’s decided is “OK now that I want some of it for myself.”

          In short, I’ll need to see a LOT more than a conscience-cleansing apology before I’m willing to entertain the notion that this guy has redeemed himself.

      • Damiana

        If he knows how many lives he’s ruined, then he can find their names. I’m sure a former judge would have ZERO problem accessing his old court records, so no…, this is NOT like the things you did in the Marines.

        • billdeserthills

          If in his ‘coming out’ about his results with marijuana, he can change some of his fellow judges way of thinking, he can accomplish a lot. I think it took a lot for him to publicly admit his fault and that is something we don’t see happen often enough

          • Damiana

            …which I think is why the bar has been set so embarrassingly low in this story. We’ve become so worn-down and oppressed that all we ask is for our overlords to ADMIT they’ve been unfair to us. No need to atone or make right any of the lives he’s shattered – just flap his fucking noise hole (with a degree of safety and impunity that he did NOT extend to anyone else) and we’ll call him a fucking “hero.”

  • Amor Terra

    I wonder if the folks who “just followed orders” or “obeyed the law” by herding people to the concentration camps got a pass after they said “I was wrong.” Sorry judge, Not buying it. You broke the law. Go turn yourself in and insist on being the cellie of one of the people whose life you ruined “just obeying” the unjust laws.

    • Damiana

      Indeed. The fact that he can sit around and brag on the news about defying the law (“but it’s different when I do it – I neeeeeed it, see – sorry for you other motherfuckers who needed it too, but too late to help you now”) without having to worry about a SWAT team kicking down his door and shooting his family in the face if they don’t like it is the shining epitome of Rich White Penis Privilege.

      He’s openly flaunting the law and no one is showing up to arrest him for it. Why is that, do you think?

      • Amor Terra

        That is, I’m afraid, the nature of the so-called justice system in this country. If you’re rich and white, you can get away with just about anything. If you’re poor, and especially poor and a racial minority, they don’t just throw the book at you–they launch it through your kid’s window with a grenade attached–and then post on Facebook about what a service they did to protect the community from a dangerous 2-year-old. In this case, I just see a hollow mea culpa, with no real action attached to it. Didn’t see anything about him visiting or trying to assist the people he wrongfully put in jail–just some whining to salve his guilt over being a career asshole who ruined peaceful people’s lives in return for a fat paycheck and a good pension, and fancies himself one of the “upstanding” ones of the community.

  • Abz B Zbas

    When I hear about politicians/government agents/people in power say that marijuana has no medicinal properties and medical marijuana should not be legal it makes my blood boil. The level of ignorance and stupidity it takes to have a stance like that is astounding. They might as well be saying the sky is purple and anyone who says it is blue should suffer in pain.

    • Damiana

      But… but… now that he wants marijuana for himself, he’s sorry. That’s good enough, right… just say “I’m sorry” and all the destruction and misery he’s brought about will be magically restored?

    • James Peters

      If the state’s initiative to decriminalise/legalise medical cannabis is merely a step toward allowing access to the recreational drug, then the medical community should be left out of the process. But if the goal is to make cannabis (cannabinoid) based treatments available for medical purposes, then it’s unclear why the approval process should be different from that used for other medications.

  • Blewitt1

    I have always maintained that the worse part of the drug war is the hypocrosy and corruption. I don’t see how, after Haldeman’s statement, anyone with a conscience or a sense of right or wrong can prosecute a marijuana case, nor sit back and do nothing

  • junktex

    Legal system in this country is a giant P.O.S.

  • oneiopen

    I seriously hate people who think the LAW is always just and right… “I thought it was the right thing to do..” how?

  • Brett Viddal

    He should sentence himself to Prison then. Simple as that. They only way anything is going to change is if people stand up and start doing what is “the right thing to do” and stop obeying and enforcing Laws and policies that they do not agree with. The terms “It’s my job” and “I don’t make the rules” need to be seen for what they are. Justification for treating people in an unfair manner. STOP JUSTIFYING AND START DOING THE RIGHT THING. If you are part of the system that enforces these unjust laws and policies, then you are just as guilty as the people who create these unjust laws and policies.

  • Chiron23

    Lies can destroy lives and the U.S. government dishes them out with the fervor of a demonic being.

  • Ed

    Stop being haunted, Bench. Put a bullet in your head and take a colleague or two with you.

  • The war on drugs is bull$#@%.

  • 174thandvyse

    It took him long enough to realize what we already knew. since he wasn’t involved in the use of Marijuana, and also since he was profiting off of it’s restrictions, he had absolutely no reason to, ahem, “examine his soul”. However, now that his number may be up, he wants to indulge, and he wants to be forgiven for his past sins!
    Not so fast there, judge…if you cannot even forgive yourself, how can you expect us to forgive you so easily?

  • Charles Kafka

    oh gee.. he discovered the government lies…
    now for 911, the war in the middle east, GMO foods, tainted vaccines and drinking water.
    the dark state, the state sponsored sex and body parts slave trade.
    mind control, etc..
    at least he is not a hypocrite
    except that marijuana has to be completely legalized, not just ok’d by a doctor..
    after all it’s not aspirin that causes ( ) deaths per year..
    oh wait, no one knows because doctors are stupid… they combine aspirin deaths with morphine, and other pain killers..
    so “no one knows” and why? because it’s “””science”””

  • solstar

    THC in pill form it is “medical”, breathing in the products of a burning plant is slow poison no matter how it makes you feel.
    Smoking ‘POT’ does the same thing to one’s lungs that smoking tobacco does.
    No one wants to tell the public that little fact tho.