Sunday, December 26, 2010

Time For Marijuana Laws To Change

The folks in California failed to legalize marijuana possession in the last election, but I can't believe legalization is very far away for the United States.   Attitudes are changing, and that is evident even in the courts of this country.   More and more juries just don't want to convict defendants for simple possession of marijuana.

Back in March of 2008 I wrote about an amazing incident where I live -- in Amarillo, Texas.   Amarillo is perhaps one of the most right-wing fundamentalist parts of this nation, but attitudes are even changing here.   The county was prosecuting a man for possession of marijuana.   The defendant admitted possessing the drug, and said it was because it helped him in his battle with AIDS.   It took the Amarillo jury only 11 minutes to find him innocent.   The jury was not going to convict a sick man for marijuana possession, regardless of what the law said.

It happened again last year -- this time in Illinois (which, like Texas, has no medical marijuana law).   Police had arrested a Vietnam veteran with 25 pounds of marijuana (and another 50 pounds growing in his home).   That would be enough marijuana most places to charge the defendant as a dealer.   The defendant said he was growing and possessing the marijuana to treat his pain and post-traumatic stress.   It took the jury about 2 hours to find him innocent of the charges.

Last week in Montana there was another incident like this.   The trial hadn't even started.   As the attorneys were questioning the jury a woman said she couldn't convict someone of possession of marijuana (and this wasn't a defendent who claimed he was using marijuana because of an illness).   Then five other people raised their hands and said they agreed with the woman.   Afraid he wouldn't even be able to get a jury seated that might convict, the D.A. gave the defendant a plea deal of a reduced charge.

Now Texas, Illinois and Montana are not liberal places -- far from it.   If juries in these states are balking at convicting people for possession of marijuana, then attitudes are truly changing in this country.   It might be a little while yet, but every day we come a little closer to legalizing marijuana.

And that's just what needs to happen.   It makes no sense to be putting people in prison and ruining their lives for possession of marijuana, especially since it is not a toxic drug (there are no deaths from marijuana use) and is much safer than legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco.   In a free country, as America claims to be, a person should be able to possess (and grow and sell) marijuana.  

And the government should be able to tax the sale of marijuana -- which could provide these entities with billions of new dollars (and take this lucrative business out of the hands of the drug cartels).   There are lots of good reasons to legalize marijuana and no good reasons to keep it illegal (except to keep throwing money away funding the failed "war on drugs").

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