Lifelong Penalties for Pot

Although U.S. prisons are not filled with pot smokers (contrary to what you sometimes hear from overenthusiastic critics of the war on drugs), there are about 750,000 marijuana arrests in this country every year, the vast majority involving simple possession. They generally do not result in jail time, but the cost, inconvenience, and embarrassment of getting busted for pot is nothing to sneeze at. And as a new report from the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics notes, people convicted of minor marijuana offenses also suffer nonjudicial penalties that may persist for life, including "revocation or suspension of professional licenses, barriers to employment or promotion, loss of educational aid, driver's license suspension, and bars on adoption, voting and jury service."

According to the report, the states with the most severe collateral sanctions for marijuana offenses are Florida, Delaware, Alabama, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Virginia, Utah, Arizona, and South Carolina. Marijuana offenses trigger the least severe collateral sanctions in New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Missouri, Maine, Vermont, District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Kansas, and California. In terms of collateral sanctions, marijuana offeders often are treated as severely as violent felons, and in some cases (e.g., loss of student aid and welfare benefits) they suffer penalties that robbers, rapists, and murderers escape. Polls indicate that most Americans don't think peoople should go to jail for smoking pot. I wonder what they would say about lifetime disabilities such as being barred from adopting children or forbidden to practice one's profession.

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  • Doug||

    "People convicted of minor marijuana offenses also suffer nonjudicial penalties that may persist for life, including "revocation or suspension of professional licenses, barriers to employment or promotion, loss of educational aid, driver's license suspension, and bars on adoption, voting and jury service."

    Drugs are Bad.

  • Dave B.||

    But if people convicted of pot possession could keep their licenses, I'd have no guarantee that my surgeon wasn't high! I think I need that reassurance more than some pothead needs to make a living.

  • Doctor Gulag||

    A ban on jury service? Wow. That almost makes it worth it. :)

  • ||

    "I think I need that reassurance more than some pothead needs to make a living."

    What guarantee do you have that your doctor isn't a drunk? You have none. In the case of pot, testing can only tell whether or not you've used in the last ~30 days - you can't easily determine whether anyone is high at a given time. Is a doctor who drank a few beers watching football with his buddies - and doctors have buddies, too - a couple of Sundays ago somehow a lesser threat to society than a doctor who shared a joint with some buddies. I think that they constitute the same level of threat which, with responsible use of either Sunday drug, is little to none.

    "In terms of collateral sanctions, marijuana offenders often are treated as severely as violent felons, and in some cases (e.g., loss of student aid and welfare benefits) they suffer penalties that robbers, rapists, and murderers escape."

    The amount of logic that must be suspended in order that a recreational, non-violent drug user be treated more severely than a capital criminal is staggering. Yet, in much the same way as Intelligent Design continues to gain favor with a vocal yet non-thinking segment of the population, warriors in the WoD continue to whip up a frenzy amongst their frightened and empty-headed followers while they pretend that they have morality and science on their side.

  • ||

    No funny comment here, just frustration...

    I fear America has gone past the point of no return. We will never get our liberties back.

    And I'm out of pot...

  • JohnD||

    Hey potheads... If you can't do the time, don't do the crime...

  • sarcasmo||

    I wonder how many incompetents applaud this state of affairs because they know that with "druggie" competition they'd lose in the marketplace? It must be sad to be so dumb you can't confidently compete with the impaired, but I see people that dumb every day...
    JMR

  • Russ 2000||

    Although U.S. prisons are not filled with pot smokers...

    ...they get fined exhorbitant amounts which the poorest can only pay by resorting to harder crimes. And they go to jail for those crimes or for not paying the fines.

  • The Owner\'s Manual||

    Marijuana laws are draconian and unjust. But getting enough appropriate people into office would mean a White House, Congress, and Supreme Court full of Hillarys, Pelosis, Kerrys, Ginsburgs, and Reids.

    You know what? It ain't worth sucking down the detritus that accompanies the leftist mindset just to right this one wrong.

    Suck it up.

  • Guy Montag||

    Although U.S. prisons are not filled with pot smokers (contrary to what you sometimes hear from overenthusiastic critics of the war on drugs),

    No fair picking on Radley while he is still out at a rave!

  • ||

    Crimes for which the probability of getting caught is low must have extremely harsh penalties in order to make the law work. It's a simple matter of expected value.

    It's the same reason blowing a red light at a crowded intersection (I mean a light that's been red for a while, not going through it just after it turns red) will get you only a fraction of the fine that going 70 in a 55 will. Blowing a red light vastly increases the chance of being in an accident, so that type of crime will be discovered more often. Whereas, only very rarely will speeding by 15mph cause an accident.

  • AngryOne||

    @TOM: If you really think those liberal asshats would ever do anything towards relegalization you don't know what you are talking about. That would show they are soft on crime, after all, and that would hinder their reelection.

    @JohnD: I think law enforcement should be glad that pot smokers are largely peaceful, because otherwise there'd be a lot more dead cops. Or, to borrow a turn of phrase, don't piss on my parade and tell me it's raining, you legalistic ass.

  • ||

    This is why I don't smoke pot. I guess the drug war is working on some level....

    Instead I drink Schlitz Malt Liquor or Zima to get hammered.

  • ||

    Well, if voting, adopting children, holding a professional license, or serving on a jury was so important to you, you should have thought about that before you toked up.

  • ||

    Instead I drink Schlitz Malt Liquor or Zima to get hammered.

    The horrors resulting from the unintended consequences of prohibition are ever worse than I feared.

    Damn, I need a ... oh god

  • LarryA||

    But if people convicted of pot possession could keep their licenses, I'd have no guarantee that my surgeon wasn't high! I think I need that reassurance more than some pothead needs to make a living.

    Except that these sanctions are for life. So if a college student gets caught once he will never become the 40-year-old no-longer-using doctor that could do your surgery.

    There are a lot of good people who have lived exemplary lives after making one mistake when they were 17. IMHO there should be time limits on how long all these disabilities last, or a simple way to clear your record.

    At least we don't have a drug offender registry, yet.

    Crimes for which the probability of getting caught is low must have extremely harsh penalties in order to make the law work. It's a simple matter of expected value.

    If the "probability of getting caught is low" because committing the "crime" harms no one and isn't easily detectable, there should be no penalty.

    We drug test workers because using pot is illegal. Using pot is illegal because it impairs performance. But if pot impairs performance, why do we need drug tests to spot users?

  • paul||

    "Well, if voting, adopting children, holding a professional license, or serving on a jury was so important to you, you should have thought about that before you toked up."

    What if theoretically, alcohol was illegal? Would you take the same high horse stance on that?

    (Btw, I say "theoretical" lightly, because it'd actually be a far more realistic policy if alcohol was illegal, and pot was lega.)

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