Recently ran across an article describing the acquittal of a New Jersey man on "intent to distribute" charges after he was stopped on the highway with a significant amount of marijuana. What's interesting about the case's outcome is not so much that he was acquitted but that the jury vote was unanimous, 12-0. It seems at least 10 of those 12 jurors viewed the case as a way to send a message to the state of New Jersey and the State's Attorney. And that message is: your drug laws are unfair.
The story can be viewed here.
It's funny to think how far we have--and have not--come. Graduates of the Class of 1980 thought they were on the verge of seeing marijuana legalized in the U.S. Then came Ronald Reagan and the War on Drugs. When added to the "three strikes" and "zero tolerance" policies that have followed, the result is the highest incarceration rate in the industrial world, and in the creation of a marginalized population of ex-cons who cannot vote and will (thanks to internet snooping) never have a shot at a decent job because they were caught smoking a joint. And the contraction continues. Teen girls are being arrested for having ibuprofen in their purses. And no voice of reason has emerged from the President, who continues to endorse strict drug enforcement policies in California.
It is time to admit that the policies of the last 30 years have failed. And it's time to take a second look at our national attitude toward addiction (and treatment) and toward recreational drug use. We cannot continue to believe we can incarcerate our way to freedom.