Jumal George, a budtender at Housing Works’ dispensary, was released from a Pennsylvania jail on Thursday evening. He had spent more than three weeks imprisoned on Rikers Island, in part because of an arrest warrant for out-of-state cannabis charges.
George, 33, was arrested during a traffic stop on October 11 while driving home from his job working at the state’s first legal cannabis dispensary. Cops found that he was driving without a license — and that he had warrants against him related to marijuana.
In an interview with THE CITY, George recalled that he was first taken to the precinct because he had a warrant for possession of marijuana in New York — even though adult cannabis use has been legal for more than two years in the state.
Later that night, police discovered that he had an outstanding warrant in Pennsylvania as well, stemming from a 2021 arrest there from when he drove with his fiance and their daughter to an amusement park with edibles in his car.
“The system has to change,” an exhausted George said in a brief phone interview on Friday.
New York’s 2021 law legalizing cannabis included a provision to expunge cannabis convictions, but not pot-related arrest warrants. Jeffrey Hoffman, a cannabis lawyer in New York who was not involved in George’s case, said that was a clear oversight by lawmakers here.
“New York is leaving people out to dry based on the whims of other states,” Hoffman said.
After an initial hearing in New York was canceled last Friday, Geroge — who had never been locked up before — remained at Rikers until Tuesday, when he was transferred to a jail in Pennsylvania, a state where pot remains illegal.
After his arrest and detention, word spread through the cannabis community. Colleagues and friends rallied around George and created a GoFundMe to support his legal defense and bail.
The effort has raised more than $13,500 so far, and helped George hire a lawyer who secured a bail hearing in Pennsylvania on Thursday. Hours later, George posted bail on a $20,000 bond and was released.
Mike Hassell, a former Housing Works colleague who started the GoFundMe, said he was glad to be of help in such a difficult situation.
“I’m just proud of the cannabis community for coming together and accomplishing this goal, which is getting him back together with his family,” Hassell told THE CITY.
George told THE CITY that he’s just glad the ordeal is finally over.
“I’m good now – I’m home with my family,” George said.