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#FreeDanaBeal needs help with bail

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Sometimes…even the “godfather” needs a little help.

Dana Beal, a veteran drug-legalization advocate, has been in jail in Gooding County, Idaho, for the past two months. He was arrested Jan. 12 when a van in which he was a passenger broke down in the Gem State and police reportedly found “quite a lot” of cannabis inside of it.

For years, Beal was best known as an advocate for pot legalization. From his Yippie headquarters building in Noho, at 9 Bleecker St., he organized and led New York City’s annual Million Marijuana March. He’s rightfully known as one of the “godfathers” of the movement.

However, even before New York legalized weed, Beal had been ratcheting up his advocacy for another natural substance, ibogaine. He and others tout the root as a cure-all for addiction — even for Parkinson’s and traumatic brain injury, too. Beal hopes to commercially produce ibogaine/CBD pills at a factory in West Africa — though the drug currently remains illegal in America.

For now, though, Beal, 77, is in jail and unable to meet his high bail of $250,000. If he pleads guilty, his sentence will be a year behind bars.  A GoFundMe started by his daughter, Aivia Monitto, titled “Free Dana Beal and Abolish Cannabis Prohibition,” as of March 7 had raised $10,866 toward a goal of $75,000.

But what Beal says he mainly needs now is a second person to “co-sign” for him, so that he can get out by using a bail bond agent. He already has one co-signer, but apparently that person cannot insure coverage of the entire bail amount.

Beal assured that, if sprung, he would not be a flight risk.

“I won’t abscond,” he said.

And he professed his innocence.

“It wasn’t my pot,” he said of the Idaho bust. “It wasn’t the driver’s pot. It’s somebody else’s pot — it’s not ours. I was really along for the ride. I had to get home. I had to go back to New York. I didn’t want to fly.”

As for where the cannabis came from and how it got into the van, he declined to comment.

Previously, Beal told The Village Sun, “My objective was to raise money for equipment — equipment that we need for the [ibogaine] facility…in Ghana.” At another point, he said, “What was I doing? I was on my way to bring ibogaine to Ukraine. The pot was incidental.”

Indeed, a few months ago, in what sounds like something out of an international spy thriller, Beal traveled to Africa to buy iboga root, then took it to Ukraine, where he worked with a military psychologist on using the drug to treat soldiers’ traumatic brain injury and battlefield burnout.

Dana Beal’s friends would like to see Charles King of Housing Works, above, help his longtime ally by bailing him out of jail in Idaho. (Housing Works)

Meanwhile, closer to home, some of Beal’s longtime allies are calling for Charles King, the co-founder and C.E.O. of Housing Works, to “bail Dana out.” Housing Works got its start providing housing for people with H.I.V./AIDS. The nonprofit also advocates harm reduction — as in, allowing people to use illegal recreational drugs, like heroin, more safely, such as through needle exchanges to provide clean sharps.

Beal, for his part, has always championed medical marijuana. Pot played an important role during the AIDS crisis since it sparked patients’ appetites, helping combat the physical wasting they were suffering. Beal personally used to deliver pot right to AIDS/H.I.V. patients’ homes.

Since those days, Housing Works has grown, including, in December 2022, opening the Housing Works Cannabis Co., at Broadway and Eighth Street, the state’s first officially licensed pot shop. The store raked in $12 million in sales in its first six months.

However, King said his organization, in general, does not provide bail or co-sign for bond — nor would it make an exception in Beal’s case simply because he is “high profile” for his work on medical marijuana.

“I am aware of Dana’s arrest, about which I have no comment,” King said. “Housing Works serves hundreds of people who are arrested on a variety of charges, in many cases innocent of the charge. We are not in a position to provide these folk with bail or to take on the liability of co-signing for their bond. The fact that someone is high profile in the H.I.V. community does not afford a justification to treat that person’s case differently from the many less-well-known people whom we serve.”

Aron Kay a.k.a. “The Yippie Pie Man” (whose claim to fame was pelting archconservatives in the face with pies) noted that Beal also deserves credit for fostering unity in the East Village in 1966 and ’67 as the counterculture was taking root there. Beal held pot paloozas in Tompkins Square Park, helping smooth over mistrust.

“If there was no Dana Beal, there’d be no smoke-ins,” Kay said. “Dana did it to bring peace between the hippies and the Puerto Ricans.”

In a related story, one of Beal’s “free the weed” allies told The Village Sun he is mulling vending pot in front of the Housing Works dispensary as a protest against the state requiring a license to sell it. He requested anonymity.

“Let’s have peace talks — is it too late for peace talks?” the veteran pot activist said, asking, “What do you think they’ll do to me if I do it?”

King, however, said that Housing Works “strongly supports” enforcement against unlicensed cannabis sales.

“Housing Works has no authority to enforce state law against unlicensed retail cannabis,” he noted. “That said, we strongly support government enforcement. The licensed cannabis program as developed in New York State gives strong priority to individuals and communities harmed by cannabis criminalization. It also supports the development and sale of lab-certified, locally grown product. And taxes on legal cannabis sales benefit everyone.”


  1. Johnny Potseed Johnny Potseed March 11, 2024

    “New York State gives strong priority to individuals and communities harmed by cannabis criminalization” – Charles King

    Charles King, for his own benefit, is perpetuating the self-serving myth that people of color were disproportionately affected by the war of pot.

    Total BS.

    Yes, the bulk of folk arrested — key word = arrested — for marijuana possession may be people of color. But that was vastly overwhelmingly for small amounts, misdemeanors, that would lead to a desk appearance ticket or one night in jail.

    On the other hand, the people who did hard time in prison were overwhelmingly white.

    For instance, Dana Beal and his Yippie cohorts, wholesale distributors on the West Coast, like the Brotherhood of Eternal  Love, smugglers like Richard Mark, the old Psychedelicatessen crew in the East Village, John Sinclair of Ann Arbor, and countless lesser know bulk dealers, wholesalers, transporters and distributors.

    They did not get a slap on the wrist. Many spent years, even a decade or more, in prison.

    Yet they are deprived of being qualified to sell because they are considered major felons and are not “people of color”.

    On the other hand, profiteers like King can now sell and make millions from cannabis but refuse to aid or assist Dana, scorning the true pioneers and Robin Hoods who made legal cannabis stores possible. For shame!!!

    Cannabis users should boycott these government-sanctioned smoke shops and continue to buy from their local dealer, who has been supplying them since their first joint, despite the risk.

  2. Aron pieman kay Aron pieman kay March 11, 2024

    Hey, Charles King
    Thanx for refusing to bail Dana out
    I demand you give a revolutionary tithe to the movement!!!
    I demand that Housing Works and all the legal pot shops donate to support our prisoners of weed…
    The shops can donate to support legal defense and commissary for our prisoners of weed…
    Don’t act like Target!!! Call Charles King to demand he support the Dana Beal Defense Committee

  3. Stoney Bud Stoney Bud March 9, 2024

    I have a question for Charles King. It is my understanding that the State of NY was going to give Cannabis sale approval priority to those who had been convicted of Cannabis crimes in NY and minorities. Since neither one of these applies to you why did you get the first license ?

  4. John Penley USN 1972 - 76 Vietnam Era John Penley USN 1972 - 76 Vietnam Era March 9, 2024

    King’s statement about selling “locally grown product” is BS. I have bought legal Medical Cannabis in 6 different States and every State requires sellers to sell Cannabis produced in that State because of Federal Law, which prohibits interstate transport for resale. As a Navy Vet with severe chronic pain issues, I was given mild opiate-based pain meds by the VA but was tested later by the VA and because I tested positive for THC, the VA cut my pain meds off. On the subject of Veterans, every State I bought in gives Vets a 20% discount — does the Housing Works store do the same? Mr. King, how about working and advocating to change Federal Law and also the Federal classification which makes Cannabis the same as heroin and other strong drugs?

  5. Aron Kay Aron Kay March 9, 2024

    Hey King
    I am issuing a yippie fatwa for being a class collaborator…
    Should you be complicit in arrests of unlicensed vendors,
    you will be boycotted
    If u did this back in the 80s you would get pied

  6. Alan Jules Weberman Alan Jules Weberman March 8, 2024

    Dana starting working toward the legalization of pot beginning in 1969 when he and I formed the New York Provos. He never used any of the money he made to enrich himself – FREE DANA BEAL – you can make a career out of it.

  7. John Penley John Penley March 8, 2024

    My admiration for Charles King has gone way down. He dismissed Dana as a “High-Profile Activist” and did not even acknowledge his longtime Cannabis legalization work. He also lumps Dana in with all the for-profit, unsanctioned Cannabis sellers. Dana was doing medical marijuana work for his friends long before King got a legal permit to sell Cannabis. King would not be raking in millions without Dana’s activism, which has been going on since King started Housing Works, and until he started selling legal pot I cannot remember King doing anything to fight for Cannabis Legalization in the past? Perhaps King should set up a bail fund for low-income people, especially HIV-positive ones? King’s comments on this story really suck and it seems he should have been at least a little sympathetic to Dana and not sounded like a law-and-order Republican. I personally photographed King being arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge protesting Ed Koch’s lack of action on the AIDS crisis, and always admired him. And I remember when he fought Antonio Pagan and others to open the Housing Works housing on Avenue D, but he seems to have changed from activist to establishment propaganda jerk.

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