Arlin Troutt, Marijuana Activist, Vows to Appeal Ruling on Arizona Cultivation Limit
When Arlin Troutt was sentenced in February 1996 for a marijuana-selling conspiracy, a crowd of supporters came to the Minneapolis federal courtroom to cheer him on.
The Arizona resident and former frontman for a line of hempwear affiliated with country singer Willie Nelson had been convicted of conspiring to transport and sell about 250 pounds of marijuana. Then 46, Troutt railed against the government's anti-marijuana policies to the judge, extolling the plant's value as "food, fuel, fiber, and medicine."
His lawyer told the press the speech probably added 19 months to Troutt's sentence of eight years, one month.
Troutt, now 64 and living in Gold Canyon, is still fighting the Man in the name of cannabis. He vows to appeal an administrative law judge's August 12 ruling that upholds a state rule prohibiting medical-marijuana patients from growing marijuana within 25 miles of a dispensary.
-The Hemp Ire Strikes Back
"The law doesn't say you can't grow marijuana," Troutt says emphatically. "I've read this law a million times now. Nothing in there restricts cultivation whatsoever."
Along with his wife, Cathy, Troutt has operated a company/organization called U.S. Hemp since the mid-1990s, selling hemp goods and putting up a website in 2011 that aims to promote all things cannabis. (The site's mainly been used to track Troutt's legal battles.) "We're not NORML," he likes to say, referring to the national legalization group.
"I've been doing this since I was 15," he tells New Times.
Doing what? we ask.
"Growing marijuana in my backyard and making hash in my kitchen -- that's what!" he says with a laugh.
Dave Walker, a former writer for New Times, wrote about Troutt's business association with Willie Nelson in a December 23, 1992, article, describing how they planned to market items made with industrial hemp like "ball caps, fanny packs, and signature shirts . . ." That was back when hardly anyone knew what industrial hemp was. According to Walker's article:
"Troutt met Nelson a few years ago, when both men owned fairway-side homes on Nelson's golf course, located near Austin, Texas . . . Troutt had prepared for that meeting by leading an admittedly colorful and somewhat mysterious existence, including, he says, stints as a professional guitarist in Phoenix and raising fighting cocks in Mexico. 'I have made a lot of easy money in my life,' he says, somewhat cryptically. It was while living in Mexico that Troutt had seen huge bales of marijuana stalks piled beside roadways, the unsmokable detritus of the international pot trade, and began to study the plant's many uses."
A few months later, Walker talked to Troutt while the activist was "on the lam," with federal drug agents looking to arrest him on what he claimed were trumped-up conspiracy charges. He told Walker he was "the victim of a government plot designed to intimidate entertainers -- his friend Willie, especially -- who have endorsed the movement to legalize hemp." He also admits to a tumultuous past that included other trips to jail.
The law caught up to Troutt eventually, landing him before U.S. District Judge James Rosenbaum for his sentencing.
"Fear and ignorance guided by greed and blind ambition created the prohibition of hemp," Troutt told the judge in 1996, according to an article at the time in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "I am morally and intellectually compelled to resist these forces. When the American people find out what hemp is and why it's really illegal, may they deal with this government as harshly as it has dealt with me."
A father of six children, Troutt returned to his property in Gold Canyon after doing his eight years in the slammer. Then, in 2010, Arizona voters approved Proposition 203, making marijuana legal for qualified medicinal users. Troutt, who says he has multiple conditions, was one of the first patients to obtain a registration card. His card, like that of other patients who signed up with the state system before any state-authorized dispensaries had opened, approved him for cultivation.