San Marcos Seven

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The San Marcos Seven (or San Marcos 7) were seven demonstrators—Angela Atkins, Jody Dodd, Daniel Rodrigues Scales, Bill O'Rourke, Joe Gaddy, Jeffrey Stefanoff, and Joe Ptak—convicted of misdemeanor possession of cannabis following protests at the San Marcos, Texas, police station in March 1991.[1][2][3]

Three of the protesters (Gaddy, Stefanoff, and Ptak) pleaded not guilty and were convicted by juries; two received prison sentences and one received probation. The four who pleaded guilty were given deferred adjudication and were sentenced to do community service work.[4][5]

While incarcerated, Gaddy and Stefanoff went on hunger strikes. A protest camp supporting the San Marcos Seven grew outside the Hays County Law Enforcement Center while Stefanoff was incarcerated.[6][7]


Jeffrey Sefanoff, a Vietnam War Army veteran, and musician and painter Joe Ptak, before conspiring to get arrested for cannabis at the police station, published the Hays County Guardian, a free newspaper that focused on social justice issues.[8] Stefanoff and Ptak sued Texas State University when the school tried to bar them from distributing the paper and won at the appeals court level, and the Supreme Court refused to hear the university's appeal.[9]:11-12[10][11]

Brett Stahl, a San Marcos businessman, was arrested in 1992 for marijuana possession when he went to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts office to buy tax stamps for the cannabis.[12][13]

During the same week in 1991 as the San Marcos Seven protests, a drug policy forum sponsored by the Associated Student Government was held at Texas State University. Joe Gaddy was arrested on the day before the forum began.[1]

Civil disobedience[edit]

Over nine days beginning March 12, 1991, nine people came to the sheriff's office in Hays County, Texas, to smoke a joint in acts of civil disobedience protesting laws against marijuana. The seven who were arrested for smoking marijuana in the parking lot, Gaddy, Stefanoff, Angela Atkins, Ptak, Jody Dodd, Daniel Rodriguez Scales, and Bill O'Rourke, were charged with Class B misdemeanors, punishable in Texas by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.[1][2][3] Four of the protesters agreed to plea bargains and were ordered to do community service work and three went to trial.[4][5]

The civil disobedience was cooperative between protesters and police.[2][14]

Two of the nine protesters were not arrested for marijuana possession. One of them did not bring enough marijuana to be arrested. And one of them was on parole and was talked out of getting arrested by a sheriff's deputy.[2]

The seven who were arrested were employed as house painters, construction workers, graduate students, cooks, and chimney sweeps. They became known as the "San Marcos Seven."[15]


Gaddy, who was 29 at the time of his arrest, was the first to stand trial for marijuana possession.[2] Howard Warner was the judge. Activists wearing pro-hemp shirts packed the courtroom. He was convicted, served a four-month prison sentence, and was fined $700. Gaddy said of the near-maximum sentence, that he felt he was being made an example, and that he felt the only way to highlight the need to change the law was by breaking it.[4] The Fort Worth Star-Telegram speculated that Gaddy's sentence may have been influenced by the fact that his trial took place during national Red Ribbon Week, which honors Enrique Camarena, a Drug Enforcement Administration undercover agent who was tortured and murdered.[16]

Stefanoff, 38 at the time of arrest, was the second to stand trial. The judge was Warner.[2][17] The jury deliberated for just 20 minutes. Stefanoff was sentenced to six months in jail.[6][7]

Ptak, 33, was the last to stand trial. He was sentenced to probation, and paid a fine.[2][7]

Responses to trial outcomes[edit]

Hunger strikes[edit]

Gaddy wrote a letter to Ann Richards (pictured in 1992) asking for a pardon.

Gaddy started a hunger strike when his sentence began on November 14, 1991.[18] He was put under medical supervision, and wrote a letter to Governor Ann Richards asking for a pardon.[16] On November 22, about 30 supporters demonstrated outside the jail, chanting "Let Joe go."[19] He ended his hunger strike after 18 days, on December 2, when Sheriff Paul Hastings carried out a court order to feed Gaddy intravenously and had a needle inserted into his arm.[6]

Stefanoff said he wore clothing woven from hemp fabric when he arrived at the jail, on June 3, 1993.[5] He started a hunger strike when his sentence began, and said he would not eat until President Bill Clinton publicly accepted literature and a brochure about the usefulness of hemp from him.[12] Stefanoff was put under medical supervision and ended his hunger strike on July 6, after 34 days.[7][20][21]

Hemp City[edit]

During Stefanoff's hunger strike, his supporters camped out in front of the jail in a tent city called Hemp Town, which grew as followers joined. Ptak was awarded High Times magazine's Freedom Fighter of the Month for his leadership in facilitating the demonstration.[7] Vicki Hartin was another local leader. Stahl was one of the supporters during the encampment outside the jail and he started a hunger strike at the same time as Stefanoff, which lasted 16 days.[12][17][20] A half-dozen tents on the lawn next to the police station housed 20 activists. The San Antonio Express-News said that the protesters regard hemp as a "miracle herb" with great potential as a source of fuel, fiber and medicine.[14][22]

Nationally, Green Panthers coordinated publicity and public relations for the Hemp City protest.[20]

According to Stahl, the tent city was in front of the jail for more than a month, until they were evicted by sheriff's deputies on July 7, 1993. They moved their tents across the street to the main square in front of the county courthouse in San Marcos until they were asked to leave by police on July 9. Then they relocated to Five Mile Dam, a county park just outside San Marcos, where Hemp City remained for another month, until August 1993.[17][20]

Arrests of supporters[edit]

On July 4, 1993, Billy Jack Williams turned himself in for marijuana possession in an act of civil disobedience in support of Stefanoff inside the jail. Williams was freed after posting a bond.[20][22]

Two days later, on July 6, 1993, Stahl was arrested for trespassing when he refused to leave the jail property. A jury, in 1994, found Stahl not guilty of trespassing.[17][23]

Stefanoff's lawsuit[edit]

Stefanoff filed a lawsuit against Hays County, and the sheriff personally, for refusing to release him early for good conduct. The case was dismissed in 1998.[24][25]

After 1991[edit]

Ptak was arrested and stood trial in 1996 for possession of 1.5 grams of marijuana. He mounted a successful legal defense on grounds of medical necessity, which he said was the first such successful defense in Texas.[7]

In 1997, Stefanoff was arrested for possessing about 2 pounds of marijuana. At his trial he offered a medical necessity defense and said that he used marijuana to alleviate the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder as a Vietnam War Army veteran. The jury found him guilty.[7] He appealed the conviction and sentence and lost.[26]

In 1997, Ptak and Stefanoff continued their free speech activism and started a pirate radio station called Micro KIND Radio 105.9 FM.[8][27]

Stefanoff ran unsuccessfully for Hays County commissioner, and sheriff. Rodriguez Scales ran for mayor, justice of the peace, and council in San Marcos. Dodd, a student at the time of the protests, became employed by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.[15][28]

In 2000, at a march and rally at the Texas State Capitol in Austin that included about 300 people, Stefanoff encouraged people to engage in civil disobedience, like he did, as a way of forcing the end to cannabis prohibition.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Barneburg, Tina (March 16, 1991). "3 puff marijuana in front of police". San Antonio Express-News. Mike Kleinman, secretary-treasurer of Texas N.O.R.M.L., said the organization does not advocate breaking the law. "We only advocate the legalization of marijuana. It's up to each person to decide what they want to do to try to bring about those results," he said. Kleinman said the move to legalize the growth of marijuana can be likened to a civil-rights issue such as segregation. "In the past, people have had to go to jail for these issues," he said. "I think these people were trying to point out the lunacy of locking people up for using marijuana." Arrested were: Joe Warren Gaddy, 29; Jeffrey Walter Stefanoff, 38; and Angela Atkins, 20, all of San Marcos.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "San Marcos Journal; A Move for Marijuana Where the 60's Survive". The New York Times. April 10, 1991. If the situation here can be considered a throwback to the 60s, it comes without the violence and animosity that characterized the protests of old. There is no name-calling, for instance, between law-enforcement officers and marijuana smokers. The word "pig" does not come up here at all, except on the billboards that advertise Ralph, the swimming pig that gets star billing at Aquarena Springs, a local tourist attraction. The only sign of tension between the two sides is rooted in the sheriff's characterization of the movement's members as "old hippies."
  3. ^ a b Hartin, Vicki (July 1991). "Freedom Fighters of the Month: The San Marcos Seven". High Times. The following four days saw four more protesters - Joe Ptak, Daniel Rodriguez-Scales, Jody Dodd and Bill O'Rourke - get arrested.
  4. ^ a b c Associated Press (October 24, 1991). "Protestor gets jail time for smoking pot at lockup". Kerrville Daily Times. A man who smoked marijuana at police facilities last March in a stunt to gain support for marijuana legalization has baan sentenced to four months in jail. Joe Gaddy, 30, of San Marcos, was one of nine protesters who gathered March 12 at the San Marcos Police Department and Hays County Law Enforcement Center to protest laws making possession of marijuana a crime. Gaddy, a construction worker and musician, was convicted Wednesday of marijuana possession, a Class B misdemeanor. Hays County Court-at-Law Judge Howard Warner also fined Gaddy $700. The maximum penalty was six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Gaddy said he felt he was being made an example. "I wonder how many people get sentenced to four months for a first-time possession of marijuana?"
  5. ^ a b c Associated Press (June 3, 1993). "Protester begins jail term". The Paris News. The leader of a movement to legalize marijuana said he would show up for today's start of his six-month jail term today dressed in clothes woven from hemp fabric.
  6. ^ a b c Borden, Keefe (December 5, 1991). "Steak, potatoes end 18-day hunger strike". San Antonio Express-News. Joe Gaddy, 30, who was jailed for walking into the San Marcos police station and lighting a marijuana cigarette as part of his protest, called off his 18-day hunger strike late Monday at the Hays County Law Enforcement Center. Armed with a court order, jailers had stuck a needle in his arm and were prepared to force-feed him intravenously, Gaddy said in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Donald, Mark (March 22, 2001). "Joint Effort". Dallas Observer. In 1991, he was one of the "San Marcos 7": a protest in which one person a day for seven days walked into the Hays County Jail smoking a joint and asking to be arrested.
  8. ^ a b Pyle, Emily (June 22, 2001). "The Death and Life of Free Radio: Austin Microradio Lived Fast and Died Young. Will the Movement Live to Broadcast Another Day?". The Austin Chronicle.
  9. ^ Kushibab, Pete (2003). "Forum Analysis In Public Colleges and Universities" (PDF). 24th Annual National Conference of Law & Higher Education. Stetson University. Conference index page
  10. ^ "Hays County Guardian v. Supple No. 91-8168". August 10, 1992. Rehearing and Rehearing Denied September 4, 1992.: United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. 1992. p. 111.
  11. ^ "United States Reports Volume 506: Cases Adjudged in the Supreme Court" (PDF). US Supreme Court. p. 1087. No. 92–1008. Supple et al. v. Hays County Guardian et al. C. A. 5th Cir. Motion of American Council on Education for leave to file a brief as amicus curiae granted. Certiorari denied. Reported below: 969 F. 2d 111
  12. ^ a b c Associated Press (June 17, 1993). "'Spacey' Hunger Striker Protests Marijuana Laws". Austin American-Statesman. Both Stahl, on the outside, and Stefanoff, in his cell, began fasting when Stefanoff began serving his term on June 3. Stefanoff was arrested two years ago when he and six others walked into the sheriff's office with marijuana to be arrested in a peaceful protest. Stahl had been arrested for walking into the state comptroller's office to buy tax stamps for the marijuana he was carrying. Stahl has lost 10 pounds in the two weeks since his fast began. He said he will continue until his physician advises him he must stop. Stefanoff said he will continue indefinitely, unless President Clinton publicly accepts a letter and brochures discussing uses of the hemp plant. Stefanoff has been placed in the prison infirmary, and authorities said that if his condition deteriorates, they will seek a court order to force feed him.
  13. ^ Associated Press (April 16, 1993). "Marijuana activist gets day in court". The Paris News. He was arrested last year after he took some marijuana into the state comptroller's office to challenge a state tax on illegal drugs. He had asked workers how many tax stamps he needed to buy.
  14. ^ a b MacCormack, John (July 2, 1993). "Marijuana-law protest sprouts outside jail". San Antonio Express-News. Hays County Sheriff Paul Hastings, who enjoys a friendly relationship with Stefanoff, is playing host to the tent city with good humor and patience.
  15. ^ a b Price, Asher (March 18, 2005). "Hemp Petition Makes the Rounds: 15 Years After Pot Arrests, Demonstrators Switch Tactics". Austin American-Statesman. His arrest, along with those of six others, garnered brief national attention and a nifty nickname - the San Marcos Seven.
  16. ^ a b Potter, Karen (November 28, 1991). "Legalized-pot drive claims ecology goal: Texas protesters stage smoke-ins, hunger strikes". Fort Worth Star-Telegram via the Arizona Daily Star. Yesterday, one of them began the 14th day of a jailhouse hunger strike and is petitioning Gov. Ann Richards to listen to his arguments why marijuana or hemp, the term they like to use, could be the planet's last best hope.
  17. ^ a b c d Dodge, Larry (1994). "A chat with Brett" (PDF). The FIJActivist Number 17. Autumn 1994. Our protest lasted a total of 84 days.
  18. ^ Associated Press (November 22, 1991). "State hunger striker moved to Hays County jail". Kerrville Daily Times. Joe Gaddy, 30, began serving a 120-day sentence for possession of marijuana on Nov. 14.
  19. ^ Associated Press (November 24, 1991). "Marijuana supporters lead vigil outside jail". The Paris News. A man arrested for marijuana possession continued his hunger strike Saturday, a day after about 30 protesters shouting "Let Joe go" demonstrated outside the Hays County Jail.
  20. ^ a b c d e Weinberg, Bill (October 1993). "Freedom Fighters of the Month: Hemp City & the San Marcos Hunger Strikers". High Times. One Hemp City protester, 22-year-old Billy Jack Williams, turned himself in at the jail for marijuana possession in an act of civil disobedience. Hemp City residents subsequently moved their tents and signs to the county courthouse in the main square of San Marcos. After police evicted them from the new site on July 9, they moved to Five Mile Dam, a county park just outside San Marcos.
  21. ^ Associated Press (July 8, 1993). "Pro-marijuana demonstration over after four weeks". New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung. They support inmate Zeal Stefanoff, who has been serving time since June 3 for marijuana possession and ended a 34-day hunger strike early Tuesday.
  22. ^ a b "20 Hays County marijuana-law protesters issued tent city eviction notices". San Antonio Express-News. July 7, 1993. Joe Ptak, one of the organizers of the protest in support of Stefanoff's battle against the criminalization of marijuana, said they plan to move their seven tents to the Hays County Courthouse lawn while seeking permission from Commissioners Court to remain in front of the jail.
  23. ^ Hiott, Debbie (July 7, 1993). "No protesters allowed: Demonstrators who support San Marcos inmate, use of hemp asked to leave jail grounds". Austin American-Statesman. Brett Stahl, a 24-year-old San Marcos resident, was arrested when he refused to vacate the property after a deputy's warning.
  24. ^ "Stefanoff v. Hays County Texas No. 96-50482". September 24, 1998. Rehearing Denied November 19, 1998.: United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. 1998. p. 523.
  25. ^ "Denial of Good Time Because of Jury Sentencing Choice Violates Equal Protection". Prison Legal News. April 1999. He also stated that he would have denied the good time even without the policy because Stefanoff disrupted jail operations by staging a hunger strike, corresponding with the media, and expressing a desire to organize other prisoners, thus creating the basis of Stefanoff's First Amendment claim.
  26. ^ "Stefanoff v. State No. 03-00-00747-CR". Decided: February 22, 2002.: Court of Appeals of Texas, Austin. 2002.
  27. ^ "Left Field: Sputnik, The Busch Beat, The Bush Beat, KIND Radio". The Texas Observer. February 19, 1999. In 1991, I was one of the San Marcos Seven. We walked into the police station [openly displaying marijuana] one after another for nine days in a row; they only arrested the first seven of us. And that was in the middle of the drug war, I mean there was no hemp movement, no cannabis buyers' clubs, no nothing.
  28. ^ Turner, Allen (January 13, 1996). "Ponytailed Candidate Runs Texas Sheriff's Race On Pro-marijuana Platform". Houston Chronicle.
  29. ^ Strahan, Amy (May 7, 2000). "Demonstrators urge marijuana legalization". Amarillo Globe-News. Zeal Stefanoff, a Hays County man who in 1991 protested drug laws by smoking a joint in the San Marcos police station, called Saturday for more civil disobedience.