R. Bentley #41731
c/o Victoria Co. Jail
101 N. Glass St.
Victoria, TX 77901

September 12, 1996

I just wanted to write you a letter and let you know how it's going with me.  As I'm sure you've heard, I was busted on February 13 by U.S. Customs & DEA SWAT teams at my house in Minneapolis.  I was originally charged with conspiracy for over 1,000 kilos of pot, money laundering and 5 counts of possession with intent to distribute.  Everyone on my indictment became informers except me.  Even when told I faced 20 years of federal time, I refused to even meet with narcs, or say anything at all about my activities.  In June I pled guilty to one count of possession of 500 pounds in February 1992.  In August I was sentenced to 63 months in the Bureau of Prisons. The state of Texas is currently revoking my probation on an 80 pound possession charge, also from 1992, that may or may not result in more time.  I am presently on my way (hopefully) to a federal corrections institute in Minnesota.  Some people have insinuated that my arrest, like similar arrests of people like Arlin Troutt and Dennis Peron, have discredited the Grassroots Party and the Hemp Movement.  This is absurd. The only "crime" I have ever been convicted of is possession of marijuana - the breaking of an unjust and unreasonable law.  The same goes for Arlin and Dennis.  Any you.  I am angry and disgusted by certain elements who are trying to defame people like us who have put their lives on the line to further a righteous cause.  I am not saying that everyone should break the marijuana laws, but I am sickened by self-righteous hypocrites who condemn those of us who have been arrested and given up years of our lives for nothing more than possession of a plant that is a gift from God.  There are three equally important aspects of the cannabis legalization issue: industrial, medical and HUMAN RIGHTS.  Human rights encompasses personal and religious use.  I have always said that the Hemp Movement will only be successful when all three aspects are accorded equal importance. There are between 100,000 and a quarter million Americans in prison today for marijuana alone.  Their cause is EVERY BIT as legitimate and vital as that of medical users or "industrial use" advocates. For one group of Hemp Activists to look down their noses at another is ridiculous and counter-productive.  It should be remembered that the purpose and intent of the laws against marijuana is the total eradication and extinction of the cannabis plant.  Were it not for "outlaws" who have kept the cannabis species alive over the last 60 years, the industrial and medical use advocates may well not have had a plant to be talking about. Ghandi said, "We have a moral obligation to disobey unrighteous laws."  Thoreau said, "In a land where any are imprisoned unjustly, the only place for a truly just man is in prison."  I agree with them both.  I did not become an activist after my arrest - I've been at it for over seven years, and I've worked as hard and given as much as anyone in this movement has.  Now I am giving 5 years of my life in federal prison. Marijuana prisoners ask for no special accolades or recognition - we know ourselves the worth of our sacrifice and dedication, for we are the ones who must pay its price.  But we do not deserve the condemnation and recrimination of anyone who claims to fight for Truth and Justice.  The Hemp Movement is stuggling to change a law that will change the world.  We need all the help we can get, and we must work together.  You keep doing your job, and we'll keep doin' ours. Until We Win, Russell "Bongo" Bentley

P.S.  I don't know how much time you have for reading, but I HIGHLY RECOMMEND LIVING IN TRUTH by VACLAC HAVEL.  Read it, you'll be glad you did.