Another Hypocrite to run for President?

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Pols hypocrites on pot penalties

JACOB SULLUM
Mar 2, 2011 2:07AM
Chicago Sun-times

Last week Mitch Daniels, Indiana’s governor, told the Daily Princetonian that “justice was served” when he was arrested for marijuana possession during his junior year at Princeton. But like many pot smokers who became politicians, Daniels, a potential contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, seems to have two standards of justice: one for him and one for anyone else who does what he did.

Although Daniels was caught with enough marijuana to trigger a prison sentence, he got off with a $350 fine. Yet he has advocated “jail time” for “casual users” — a stark illustration of the schizophrenic attitudes that help perpetuate drug policies widely recognized as unjust.

According to the Princetonian, “Officers found enough marijuana in [Daniels’] room to fill two Size 12 shoe boxes.” Under current New Jersey law, possessing more than 50 grams (about 1.8 ounces) of marijuana is a felony punishable by up to 18 months in prison. Given the amount of pot Daniels had, he easily could have been charged with intent to distribute, which currently triggers a penalty of three to five years.

At the time of Daniels’ arrest in May 1970, New Jersey’s marijuana penalties were even more severe. Six months after his arrest, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided a case involving an 18-year-old who received a sentence of two to three years in prison after police found a pot pipe and part of a joint in his house.

Concluding that “the sentence was entirely too harsh,” the court ruled that “a suspended sentence with an appropriate term of probation is sufficient penalty for a person who is convicted for the first time of possessing marijuana for his own use.” But given the legal situation prior to this ruling, Daniels was very lucky to escape with no more than a fine. This lenient treatment was possible because he did not plead guilty to marijuana possession — only to the lesser offense of “maintaining a common nuisance.”

In 1989, when he was president of the Hudson Institute, Daniels recounted his brush with the law in a Washington Post op-ed piece. Amazingly, he did so in support of harsher treatment for “casual users,” whom he said were getting off too lightly.

A few years after Daniels called for a crackdown on drug users, the number of marijuana arrests in the U.S. began a steady climb, peaking at 873,000 in 2007, up from 327,000 in 1990. In 2009 there were 858,000 marijuana arrests, of which 87 percent were for possession.

The increase in pot busts has been especially dramatic in New York City under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. This is what Bloomberg said in 2001, shortly before he announced his candidacy for mayor, when a reporter asked him whether he had smoked marijuana: “You bet I did, and I enjoyed it.”

Bloomberg’s honesty was refreshing compared to the evasiveness of Bill Clinton, who said he’d tried pot without inhaling, and George W. Bush, who refused to address the subject. But whatever points Bloomberg earned for candor he lost for the blatant hypocrisy of his continuing anti-pot campaign. Likewise Barack Obama, another self-identified former pot smoker who stopped supporting marijuana decriminalization when he ran for president.

To his credit, Daniels today advocates criminal justice reform, including a reconsideration of sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. But if he really believes a fine is the appropriate penalty for someone caught with two shoeboxes of marijuana, he should at least support decriminalizing possession and treating it as a citable offense.

Currently in Indiana, the amount of pot Daniels had triggers a sentence of six months to three years.

1 COMMENT

  1. Another example of Government double standards. It just amuses me how politicians are never measured by the same standards they preach especially when it comes to drug policy enforcement. Just plain ridiculous.

  2. Life is unbeleivable. You have to be damn close to being tortured to

    death to be given the right to ingest a plant that grows wild, like aloe,

    chamomile, lavender, sage, comfrey and tons of other natural, organic and

    soothing herbs. Today Cannabis has been tweaked and critiqued over

    generations, manifesting into an amazing and beautiful medicine, behind which

    we may shield ourselves from this toxic, narcotic, pharmeceutical, storm raining

    down upon, “OUR”, nation. Its not just Mexico killing us with thier drugs

    anymore people, its our own medicine cabinets, and our neighbors’. Are drugs

    safe because they were made on home soil, and FDA approved? I don’t know

    a single member of the FDA. Do you? Should I just beleive that a pill is safe,

    shouldn’t we go with our gut instincts? Take Aderol for example. If your a

    parent, and your kid is prescribed Aderol, take one. No I’m serious, I know the

    Doctor told you not to take anything your not prescribed to, but if your CHILD is

    taking it, you should know what effect it has on them, right?. That shit will make

    you FAIL a drug test for METH-Amphetamines, that’s not something to be

    casually feeding your 3rd grader on a daily basis. Get a Clue people, WAKE UP!

    The people fighting our medicine are feeding thier children Aderol, thier parents

    Oxycontin, and taking Prozac themselves. And they’re telling us we can’t use

    Cannabis as medicine? What about the Land of the Free? “We the people” need

    to educate ourselves, and our communities, of what’s taking place in our Nation,

    and what alternatives are available. We have the right to bear arms,

    handheld “weapons of death”, used in just about every violent crime. Should

    this be so? Because people do have the right, and they are educated, tested,

    and instructed on how to handle a firearm correctly and responsibly. Why is

    this not also true of such a medicinal plant, it could NEVER kill you. Why

    can’t an American Citizen of this free country responsibly use Cannabis if

    licensed and educated in some regulatory fashion? Should it really be restricted

    and prohibited to the extent that it is today?

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