'We're On a Mission From God -- Like the Blues Brothers," Says Kingston Man Lobbying to Legalize Marijuana
ALBANY -- Most lobbyists come to the Capitol with a briefcase, a position paper and a cellphone. At least one arrived with a pot plant, and for this she must answer.
Abigail Storm-Eggink, 58, doesn't deny she's the owner of the two 18-inch plants cops took from her in separate incidents recently. One was confiscated by the Albany Police Department on June 30 as she carried it down Pearl Street on her way to the Capitol, where the Kingston woman and her 71-year-old husband, Dan Eggink, have been coming regularly for 14 months -- including the past 10 weeks straight, five days a week -- to protest pot laws.
"The police ( officer ) told me not to walk the street with it, to put it in a plastic bag," she said.
A couple of days later, she brought a second plant covered by a bag, and got it past the Capitol's security screeners. It was on the same afternoon as a plant sale outside Empire State Plaza.
For two days, Storm-Eggink and her husband had paraded outside the government complex with the weed. But on July 3, according to a court document, after she brought it inside and used it as a visual aid while confronting senators in the corridors, she was charged by State Police with unlawful possession of a controlled substance as soon as she stepped out onto the landing on State Street.
Storm-Eggink and her husband say they have been called by God to right a wrong. She refused a chance to settle the two cases -- which have been merged -- with the offer of an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal.
"That would mean I'm guilty," she said. "I don't want to plead guilty. The whole purpose is to expose fraud. I want my plants; they have value. It belonged to the people. God gave it to the people."
Storm-Eggink hopes to use the trial before City Court Judge Rachel Kretser to make a larger case based on the First Amendment, religious freedom and what she sees as the inalienable right to the bounty of the land -- including marijuana. Storm-Eggink, who plans to represent herself, is to appear Friday morning on the charges.
The offense carries a charge of no more than 15 days in jail.
Storm-Eggink and her husband have become fixtures in Albany. Besides their daily lobbying vigil at the Capitol -- where the couple have made their case to lawmakers, legislative aides and reporters -- they've taken up their "Free Marijuana" sign and attended every Alive At Five concert at the Corning Preserve. They are eager to complete the series with this Thursday's show, which aptly enough features Bob Marley's reggae band, The Wailers.
The couple say they grow and use pot for many purposes and that all New Yorkers should be free to do so without fear of arrest. Hemp, they say, can be used for many consumer products that are mostly imported now, and for medical purposes, although they oppose a proposed medical marijuana bill that would restrict legal use to very sick people.
Dan Eggink says he wishes his first wife, who died of cancer in 1977, had been able to use the oils from cannabis. He's convinced the herbal treatment kills cancer cells. ( Needless to say, this theory falls well outside conventional medicine. )
Eggink says he and his wife "are on a mission from God -- like the Blues Brothers."
The two have moved around, but have lived in and around Woodstock for two decades. "We've lived on everything from sinking houseboats to penthouses in Manhattan and Paris," he said, adding that like-minded people have aided their activism. "In Albany, a lot of people smoke pot and keep it secret."
The couple, who have seven children, have also been homeless. They support themselves as they can, and help pay for their New York Citizens Against Marijuana Prohibition campaign partly from a settlement in an accidental death case involving their son, who was shot by an acquaintance who was playing with a faulty pistol.
They were arrested and convicted once before on a pot charge, in 1977 in Eugene, Ore. A person they knew entrapped them, they said, when they took $10 from him and gave him a bag of "very good cannabis." They paid a $100 fine.
Sen. Marty Golden, R-Brooklyn, a former New York City police officer who was seriously injured during a drug bust, said he hopes Storm-Eggink gets the book thrown at her.
"You can advocate for anything in this state, but when you start to bring in samples that are illegal, then it's illegal," he said. "I hope she gets the max."
Golden said he does not like to see drug props, and is still upset with Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. for holding up bags of sugar during the debate over restructuring the Rockefeller Drug Laws to show how little an eighth of an ounce of cocaine is.
Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, a business law professor, said the pot activists don't bother him, and he considers them "kind of funny."
"They weren't obnoxious; they weren't in your face," he said. "Every time we came out of conference they tended to be there. I don't think they were taken seriously by anybody; I don't think their issue is taken seriously by anyone. In my judgment they were just trying to get attention."
by James M. Odato
August 11, 2009