Tragedy struck the Seattle area this weekend as long-time cannabis activist Matthew Jack Little was hit and killed while walking home on the side of a busy highway.
Why was a 59-year-old man walking home on the side of the highway in the middle of a cold Washington November, you might ask?
Months prior, Marine Corps Veteran Matthew Jack Little was banned from public transportation for six months because of he often smelled like cannabis while riding the bus.
According to his daughter, Little was killed while trying to cross Highway 303 in Bremerton, Washington.
Little was a medical marijuana patient who needed to consume large amounts of cannabis due to an excruciating spine condition. On top of the fact that Little carried his medical card that allowed him to ingest (and smell) like cannabis at all times, he also resided in a state that legalized cannabis for adult use in 2012.
Little was an adored figure in the cannabis community, he was never ashamed of his use of the healing herb. I personally always looked forward to seeing him at Seattle’s annual Hempfest and various other cannabis gatherings; his free-spirit and sense of humor always put a smile on my face.
Everyone loved Jack, except for one particularly petulant bus driver who consistently dramatized Little’s marijuana stench. Even though Little always went to the back of the bus to avoid disturbing the driver, on his fourth warning, he was kicked off the bus.
Kitsap Transit prohibited Little from riding on any bus and even restricted him from standing at bus stops for 6 months. “Out of the blue, I’m kicked off your busses for six months? How do I get to my doctor’s?”– Little said at the time.
One of the more frustrating aspects of his story is that Kitsap Transit’s Code of Conduct states that the only scents that can warrant a transit ban are extreme bodily odors such as excrement or urine. While Kitsap Transit claimed the ban was set in place because Little broke “code and conduct rules,” KIRO 7 confirmed that the bus company’s Code of Conduct does not mention cannabis smell.
And this is all on top of the fact that recreational and medical marijuana are both legal in Washington State.
Jack is survived by his mother, Luella Stephens; brother and sister-in-law, Glen Jr. and Grace Little; nephews, Doug and Robert Little; great nephew, Alex Little; wife, Luann; and daughters, Jessica and Minty.
In addition to his immediate family, he will be profoundly missed by his canna-family. This tragedy is making waves across the community, his heartbreaking loss affects each and every one of us.
This, unfortunately, is another severe and tragic example of how the stigma of marijuana use still negatively influences those even in recreationally legal states.
After leaving a voicemail and several Tweets to Kitsap County, I received a call back from Sanjay Bhatt, Public Information Manager at Kitsap Transit. While we shared remorse over the loss of Little’s life, Sanjay wanted to make it clear Kitsap Transit is not targeting people who “smoke pot.” He explained, that over the past 4.5 years and 2.3 million annual passengers, Kitsap Transit has only issued 12 notices of overpowering odors to 6 individuals — Little’s notice and ban are the only relating to marijuana odor. Sanjay added, “If we were going after pot smokers, there would be many more cases.”
So what happened with Matthew Jack Little?
According to Kitsap Transit, there has been tension between the transit company and Little since the mid-2000’s. Little sued Kitsap Transit in 2008 for violating his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by excluding him from Kitsap Transit vehicles and property, but after reviewing the altercations involving Little, the case was dismissed by the judge. Kitsap Transit emphasized that the long history of multiple violations combined with the excessive marijuana smell was the reason behind banning Little from public transportation. “We don’t want people to think we cavalierly exclude people from public transportation,” Sanjay explained, “Exclusion for odors is a rare event.”
Little’s daughter, Jessica, told Seattle’s KIRO 7, “I know I can’t say that Kitsap Transit is responsible for my father’s death, but it certainly feels like it may have been prevented had they not decided to make the call to exclude him.”
Let’s all toke one up today in honor of Matthew Jack Little.
Rest in Peace, friend. ❤︎