Pubdate: Sat, 08 Jun 2013
Source: Ravalli Republic (Hamilton, MT)
Copyright: 2013 Ravalli Republic
Author: Perry Backus


CORVALLIS -- David Merrick wants to be noticed.

As Ravalli County's Libertarian Party chairman, he has a message about
property rights that he wants to share.

Merrick believes that people in this country have a right to do with
what they wish with their own body, as long as no one else is getting
hurt. In his mind, it's the essence of a constitutional protection of
personal property rights.

"If you don't have that property right to your own body, how can you
expect to use real estate property rights or any others?" he said.

The 71-year-old grandfather has been willing to use up a little shoe
leather to offer that message to the masses -- or at least those who
happen to drive by the county courthouse at just the right time.

This past year when a pair of Libertarian candidates and their spouses
faced charges of operating an illegal marijuana grow operation,
Merrick sat down with a large piece of signboard and a handful of
colored pens.

He carefully created a sign reading: "Stop Govt. Assaults on People
and Propt. End Prohibition!"

And when the court trials began early this year, he spent hours
marching around the outside of the courthouse holding his hand-painted
sign and talking with anyone who would listen.

Over the course of nine days, he figured he spent close to 60 hours
making his point.

"Surprisingly, there were some people who came by and agreed," Merrick
said. "Of course, there are a lot of avoiders who just look the other

And there were a few more who didn't agree one bit. They told him that
the government needs to crack down even more.

"I thought that was OK, too," he said. "It's good that people have an

But the best moment came when people stopped him on the sidewalk and
said: 'Hey, I know you. You're David Merrick.' "

"It seems like maybe I'm starting to get noticed," he

In the Bitterroot Valley, it's not a common sight to see someone
packing a placard and making a stand. Merrick said two or three people
wanted to know why it was that he decided to stage his protest in a
circular fashion around the county courthouse and city hall.

"My answer was always the same," he said. "It is where all the
assaults are generated, or at least most of them. I couldn't get to
Helena. There are some generated there, too."

In Merrick's mind, the marijuana issue is just one concrete example of
government interfering where it doesn't belong.

The country's war on drugs was criticized by the Libertarian Party's
2012 presidential candidate, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who
called for the legalization and taxation of marijuana. Voters in
Colorado and Washington state passed referendums that will do just

"It's just astounding to me that a plant can generate so much law and
regulation and injustice," Merrick said. "It's just a plant, after

Merrick said it's really not that much different that the castor plant
that used to grow in his family's yard when they lived in California.
The beans from that plant can be used to make the deadly poison,
ricin, which has been creating a stir for public officials recently
after letters laced with the poison have been sent in the mail.

"People don't really use castor oil much as a remedy any more," he
said. "After the ricin scare, you could probably pass a law and
prohibit the growth of that plant too, and make it a felony for those
who choose to do so anyway.

"I don't think that way of thinking is right," Merrick said. "Being a
Libertarian, I don't believe in forcing anything on anybody. That's
the message I'm hoping to convey when I walk around the

All last week, Merrick was making plans to take up his picketing again
Monday morning when the trial of Rob McCoy was initially set to begin.

McCoy was charged with felony drug counts last September after
Hamilton police raided his home following the detainment of McCoy's
daughter, who allegedly distributed marijuana-infused candy on a school bus.

McCoy was one of two Libertarian candidates who faced drug charges as
a result.

The case against Karen Fisher has already been resolved. Merrick paced
around the courthouse during her trial as well.

McCoy's trial has been postponed and that's left Merrick unsure on
when the next time will come when he'll take to the streets. Over the
past couple of months, he has also purchased advertisements in the
Ravalli Republic calling for an end to the prohibition in an effort to
reach more people.

"What will come out of this, I really have no idea," he said. "I'm 71
years old and not much has really changed so far. I do hope young
people will step forward and take notice."

"I'm sometimes worried that people are willing to sit back and let me,
Grandpa Liberty, take all this on," Merrick said. "I want people to
take some action on their own. I'm not getting any younger."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt