Thursday, September 01, 2005

Pothead

I used to be a pothead. I smoked the evil weed all through college. In fact, I used to take final exams stoned, because I figured I always went to class stoned, so it just made sense. (I graduated with a 3.4 GPA, by the way. And yes, I took real classes like statistics, physics and literature.) I finally got tired of it and quit, when I was 26. I have friends that still partake, and I have no problem with that. Here is what I do have a problem with: The Law.

When I lived in Florida, I had a next-door neighbor named Steve. Nicest guy in the world. He had moved up from Key West, had a beautiful young wife, a nine-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter. He was a lobster fisherman, he employed three or four people every season, made a lot of money, paid his taxes and loved his kids. He was 30.

Apparently, when Steve was 18, he sold pot. I don't know any details, just that he admitted to me that it was true. The police caught wind of it and tried to put him in jail. Eventually they had to drop the charges because of lack of evidence.

Twelve years later, a bunch of guys cut deals with the prosecutor, ratting out Steve in order to reduce their own marijuana sentences. Steve said that about half of them were guys he knew, but many were guys he'd never heard of, jumping on the wagon to get out early. So based on this jailhouse testimony, the prosecutor re-opened the case. This was Steve's choice:

A) Plead guilty and go to prison for 14 years.

B) Go to court, and if you are found guilty, go to prison for 35 years.

35 years!

For selling pot.

In Key West.

When he was 18.

Every election year, these boneheads in Congress puff out their chests and say "It's time to get tough on crime!" So they pass these ridiculous mandatory sentencing laws to put drug "kingpins" behind bars. There is no judicial discretion allowed. It is ridiculous.

Steve didn't want to risk going for 35 years. He pled guilty. Steve had to kiss his wife and kids goodbye, sell his business, rent out his house, and go to prison until his kids are grown. For selling pot. When he was 18. Judges are speaking out, because they don't have any discretion in making the punishment fit the crime. Meanwhile, instead of Steve contributing to society, we are paying to lock him up for 14 years. Longer than some rapists, armed robbers and murderers.

O.J. Simpson has a tee time tomorrow right down the street from where we are paying to keep Steve locked up. Write your congressman. This is shameful.

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