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Leary Plans Drug Conviction Appeal, Urges Test Case of Marijuana Laws

By Andrew T. Weil

Timothy F. Leary, convicted Friday on marijuana charges, told the Boston CRIMSON yesterday that a "battery of lawyers" would appeal his sentence of 30 years imprisonment and a $30,000 fine. The former Harvard lecturer on Psychology said he would also try to make his case a legal test of current laws on marijuana.

Leary, whose work with hallucinogenic drugs like LSD, marijuana and psilocybin has received wide publicity, last week by a federal court jury in Laredo, Texas and found guilty of transporting and failing to pay tax on half an ounce of marijuana.

District Judge Ben C. Connally also sentenced Leary's 8-year old daughter Susan to an indeterminate period in a correctional institution for falling to pay the tax.

He said yesterday his lawyers were "dizzy because there are so many grounds for appeal on both technical and constitutional grounds." He claimed that the amount of marijuana involved would cost thirty cents in Mexico and three dollars in New York City -- "incommensurate with a $30,000 fine." However, one of Leary's lawyers, Joel Finer of Austin, Texas, called the heavy sentence "meaningless" because it is not a final sentence. Finer explained that Judge `Connally had an option to impose final sentence on Leary Friday or to commit him for 90-day psychiatric observation first.

In most cases, the Judge would have simply pronounced final sentence. But because Leary had no prior criminal record and the judge had little information on him, he chose to invoke the 90-day commitment option.

In order to do so, he had to impose an initial maximum sentence because Federal statute prohibits commitment without it. "In other words," Finer said, "the 30 years and $30,000 was just a device to get information on Leary."

Leary has ten days to file an appeal. In the absence of an appeal, he would have to go to some institution for psychiatric evaluation. At the end of 90 days, Judge Connally would give him an actual sentence. Since Leary will appeal, he will not have to go through this procedure; instead, he will probably remain free on ball until his case come up in a Federal Court of Appeals.

At the moment Leary is at his home in Millbrook, New York, where he directs activities of The Castalia Foundation, are institution devoted to research on "psychedelic," or "mind-broadening," experiments, such as those induced by certain drugs. "This was a heresy trial," Leary said yesterday, "but in the long history of heresy trials, I suppose I got off lightly."

Leary said he was most offended at the treatment of his daughter Susan, who ranks third in her class at a New York bearding school. "The Court sentenced her to an indeterminate term in a correctional institution for adult women, yet it claimed to be interested only in her welfare," he complained.

The half ounce of marijuana was found on Susan Leary's person by a customs official at the Mexican border last Dec. 22; at the trial, Leary testified that the marijuana "is mine and I am solely responsible for it."

Joel Finer is planning Leary's appeal on three broad constitutional arguments. The first is freedom of religion, since Leary maintains he uses marijuana in a legitimate religious context. "The state will have to show that there is a clear or present danger of grave evil inherent in this use." Finer said, "and we are planning to amass considerable evidence to show that there is not."

Second, Leary insists that he has the freedom to raise his family in the way he sees best.

Third, Finer will argue that Leary ought to have the freedom to "pursue scientific truth" -- a right that has not yet been established in constitutional law, he said.

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