• By Conor Scully
  • 2021-05-05 | May 05, 2021
  • comments : 0 comments
There are legitimate and illegitimate uses for all things under the sun. It’s alright to drive your car, but not always to sleep in it. Drain cleaner is a perfectly ordinary household product or a nasty way to get rid of your neighbor’s yapping dog. Glass pipes can be used to smoke tobacco or things more illicit. And while we live in a time when some parts of the country have made their peace with pot, quite a few no-high zones still remain. Oklahoma has some of the toughest marijuana laws in the nation. It’s possible to be sentenced to life in prison there merely for the non-violent sale of a sufficient amount of cannabis.

It was in this prohibitive climate that The Friendly Market - a bohemian lifestyle shop in Norman, Oklahoma - found itself defending the legitimate uses of smoking accessories in an epic legal saga. The story is studded with every classic courtroom flourish: loveable defendants, ambitious prosecutors, a no-nonsense judge, and plenty of dramatic irony. The accused - better known now as The Friendly Market Four - didn’t set out to become champions of justice. But none of us can hide from destiny.
Cox (left) and Holman (Right) at the Friendly Market Retrieved:
The Friendly Market was started in October of 2014 by Robert Cox, a former civil investigator who wanted his hometown of Norman to have a place that catered to wellness and harmony. He filled the shop with tapestries, art made from wood and hemp, herbal supplements, and pipes. Cox was confident the sale of pipes was legal in Oklahoma because he’d done his due diligence and asked a mess of lawyers and politicians ahead of time. They led him to conclude he was operating within the law. Even though marijuana is prohibited in Oklahoma, glass pipes can be used to smoke any number of legal herbs.

Of course, like any pipe, glass bubblers and pipes can be used to smoke tobacco. Or white sage, to relax and improve your mood. Or blue lotus, to feel euphoric. Or mullein, to ease anxiety. Or … Unfortunately, the Cleveland County District Attorney, Greg Mashburn, was unaware of the nuances of smokable herbs and their legality. And while one might assume that a complete understanding of the legality of things should be a prerequisite for District Attorney, that’s not the case. In 2015, DA Mashburn had his sights set on becoming Assistant U.S. Attorney for the entire state of Smokelahoma Oklahoma and wanted to foster a reputation for being tough on crime. To that end, he encouraged Norman law enforcement to go after head shops, and Detective Rick Newell answered the call.

Det. Newell was inspired to target The Friendly Market by a citizen’s report. Later, during trial, that citizen was revealed to be a fellow police officer. Newell approached Cox and threatened him with arrest if he continued to sell so-called paraphernalia. Cox complied but sought a second opinion. Once again, he consulted lawyers and politicians to get a truthful, wholly truthful, and nothing but truthful interpretation of paraphernalia law.

Because in order to be deemed paraphernalia, items have to be sold in a certain context. Otherwise, perfectly innocent objects like metal spoons or chemistry sets could be labeled paraphernalia, and we’d all be at risk of arrest. Paraphernalia, among other considerations, needs to be in a context where narcotics are being consumed, or displayed in a way suggesting it should be used with narcotics, or to come with instructions that reference narcotics, etc. Once all the criteria were taken into account, Robert Cox believed he wasn’t selling paraphernalia.

It was during this second round of consultation that Cox met Norman City Councilman, Stephen Tyler Holman. The two quickly became friends, and Holman took the post of store manager at The Friendly Market. Cox also met the lawyers Brecken Wagner and Blake Lynch, who had successfully defended holistic shops in the past. Wagner & Lynch went on to represent The Friendly Market Four, and they advised Cox to restock the glass room in his store.
“Even though marijuana is prohibited in Oklahoma, glass pipes can be used to smoke any number of legal herbs.”
On December 1st, 2015, Detective Newell followed through on his threat. The Friendly Market was raided by agents from multiple jurisdictions, and business records, cash, and merchandise (including many a GRAV pipe) were seized. Cox and Holman restocked their shelves again. After all, they were operating lawfully according to everyone besides the police department currently sitting on thousands of dollars of Friendly Market profit and property.

A second raid followed shortly thereafter. More cash and more glass went out the door, and Cox and Holman found themselves charged with multiple paraphernalia misdemeanors and the felony “obtaining proceeds of drug activity.” If they pled guilty to the misdemeanors, forfeited their cash and merchandise, and vowed never to sell pipes again, DA Mashburn would waive the felony charges and commute their sentences.

“Frack that! Fight for your right to be awesome, Friendly Marketeers!” one might be inclined to say. But consider the courage it took in real life to reject the State’s offer. Both men were facing months to years in prison. Stephen Holman could kiss his career in local politics goodbye. Robert Cox would lose his business and the means to provide for his family. They truly felt like they were doing nothing wrong, and when the government punishes you for doing nothing wrong, we call it persecution. It’s every American’s responsibility to resist persecution, but many of us rarely do. We owe a lot to folks like Cox and Holman.

They told the State no thank you. In return, DA Mashburn brought charges against The Friendly Market clerks, Cody Franklin and Max Walters, bringing the number of defendants to the eponymous Four. The State’s case was simple. You can call it a water pipe, you can say it’s for tobacco use only, and you can sell it next to Gandhi posters and bow-tie dog collars - but we all know a bong when we see one.
Robert Cox Goes to the Oklahoma Supreme Court Retrieved:
If the prosecution were to win even one of the cases to come, they would establish a precedent that would affect every pipe purveyor in the county and, possibly, beyond. Head shop owners across Oklahoma could expect to be raided, charged, and left penniless. Perhaps because of this potential ripple effect, the DKT Liberty Project stepped in to fund the defense. The Project fights prosecutorial overreach across the country, as more and more Americans are imprisoned without any benefit to society. They paid for all four trials, beginning with those of the clerks.

The law firm of Wagner & Lynch won Max Walters’ case with relative ease. During Cody Franklin’s trial, they had Detective Newell pack a glass pipe with tobacco to illustrate its legal uses. The common sense approach must have appealed to the jurors. Not only did they acquit Franklin, some of them also waited in the hall to ask The Friendly Market team how they could support the cause. All was going well.

But Cox and Holman’s trial would prove more difficult. The prosecution had the most to gain and lose with this last attempt, and they’d developed new strategies to oppose Wagner & Lynch’s rational and compassionate approach. Presiding over the final case was Judge Tracy Schumacher, who decided not to grant the defense an inch of wiggle room. She ruled against them on virtually every motion. Wagner & Lynch brought in an expert in the smoking of herbs, Max Montrose from the Trichome Institute in Denver. They wanted him to demonstrate for the jury how legal herbs could be smoked, either in person or via video footage, but Judge Schumacher refused both. Montrose was, however, allowed to testify.
Max Montrose at an Early Rally Photography Credit Joe Amon
“more and more Americans are imprisoned without any benefit to society.”
Max Montrose smokes a lot of cannabis. He’s also been fighting for an end to cannabis prohibition for many years. When it came time for him to testify, he was upfront and honest about his recreational indulgence - in the legal state of Colorado. But he also brought to bear a comprehensive understanding of medicinal botany and smoking culture. By the end of his testimony, the jury understood the real essence of the case: pipes can be used legally in Oklahoma. If something can be used legally or illegally and the government assumes we’re going to use it illegally before we do, they’re operating from a presumption of guilt. The Friendly Market would like to remind us that American criminal justice is supposed to operate from a presumption of innocence.
Oklahoma State Flag
The Calumet On Display
Cox and Holman were declared not guilty, but before they could bid farewell to the drama and get back to work, they needed to reclaim their $15,000 in cash and property. The State objected to returning what they’d seized, but were overruled, due in part to Oklahoma’s highly ironic state flag. The flag depicts an Osage tribal shield centered in a blue Choctaw field. Two symbols of peace lie across the shield: the Western olive branch and the Native American calumet, or peace pipe.

That’s right. The Oklahoma state flag has a pipe on it. In fact, it’s the only state flag to include a smoking device of any kind. And the Oklahoma State Supreme Court has a calumet prominently displayed in its lobby. If the State were to maintain possession of The Friendly Market’s merchandise, they should certainly seize the Supreme Court’s pipe as criminal evidence. Suffice it to say, DA Mashburn lost again, and on September 12th, 2017 the battle ended and the property was returned.

The Friendly Market is once again open for business and Cox, Holman, Franklin, and Walters can be found there happily making people happy. If you live in Oklahoma or are passing through, give them a visit, buy yourself a 100% legal pipe, and let them know you’re grateful for the two-year sacrifice they laid at the altar of freedom.
From left to right: Lynch, Cox, Holman, Wagner Retrieved: Retrieved:
Tags : Culture

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