and he musta lost a pot case or something... bitchin' about judges, and as nutty/entertaining as always...
Misplaced marijuana backlash
Misplaced marijuana backlash
Jeffrey Schwartz/For the Times-Standard
Posted: 02/24/2009 01:27:30 AM PST
Some elected officials in the criminal justice systems in Humboldt and Mendocino counties now act as if voters and legislators gave them a mandate to adopt a harsh penal policy toward marijuana growers. This is a recent and ominous change.
Measure B last June in Mendocino rescinded a previous measure that allowed for the personal possession of and expanded cultivation of medical marijuana. Arcata adopted an ordinance late last year that regulates grow houses. Together, these two measures and other similar ones emboldened the prosecutor in Mendocino County and a judge or two in Humboldt County to take a hard line on marijuana growers. These elected officials should be cautious. While they lead a backlash against the spread of marijuana cultivation, with harsher punishment for growers, they risk a stronger backlash at the polls.
It is disconcerting to hear around the courthouses of Mendocino County deputy district attorneys with marching orders arguing “zero tolerance” on marijuana cases and at least one judge in Humboldt County meting out sentences on first-time marijuana growers until now reserved for cocaine and meth dealers. One deputy district attorney in Mendocino stated, “the people have spoken,” referring to Measure B, when demanding a 365-day sentence for a 19-year old HSU student caught driving a few pounds of marijuana through Willits. This is a kid with a perfectly clean record. The type of felony insisted on by the A will never come off his rap sheet and will destroy his chance of getting a decent job in the future.
We need to gain perspective. We should remember that the personal possession of marijuana is all but legal in California -- if one is caught with an ounce or less of marijuana the penalty is a $100 fine, it is basically a traffic ticket. Should we treat the people who provide them with an ounce of what is all but legal the same way we treat heroin, cocaine or meth dealers?
Consider the recent case of a Humboldt County judge who grabbed the “mandate” and recently sentenced three marijuana growers to nine months in county jail, three months longer than the most hard-line deputy district attorney in Humboldt County had even requested.
Zero tolerance on marijuana growers may become contagious in our courthouses among the judges. If that happens, the would-be hard-line judges and the Mendocino district attorney will have sorely misconstrued what our collective community intended when they passed or agreed with these ordinances. The residents who voted for Measure B and support regulations on grow houses in Arcata were fed up with the abuses of marijuana growing and the noise and smell and pollution that go with it; in the same way they don't want a roofer setting up a tar boiling operation next door.
Harsher punishment of marijuana growers is a big mistake for an elected official. Marijuana decriminalization in our counties is a hot issue like abortion and gay marriage. There are a whole lot of people supporting both sides of the issue -- and then there are the blogging Rush Limbaugh types. With marijuana, as is the case with pro-choice and the right to marry, the majority in our counties want it decriminalized.
In coastal Northern California we suffer from limited budgets and small police departments but we spend an exorbitant amount of public funds in the form of police and top-of-the-line prosecutors' time and county jail space to put marijuana growers behind bars. In Humboldt, one of the two best prosecutors in the office is spending her time prosecuting marijuana growers instead of child molesters, rapists or murderers.
These officials of the criminal justice system need to wake up or when their elected terms end, they will find themselves back in private practice. The people of Mendocino and Humboldt counties are looking for regulation not criminalization.
Jeffrey Schwartz is an Arcata attorney practicing criminal defense law in Humboldt and Mendocino counties. He resides in Willits and Arcata. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: Jeffrey "yougofree.com" Schwartz was a defense attorney who came to work in the Humboldt County DA's Office. The best comment about him is that he managed to set more people free as a DDA than he did as a defense attorney. He ran a failed campaign for Arcata City Council, complete with a bizarre blog. The guy is a nut. And I don't mean that in a good way.
Response: ☛ Paul Hooker's TS Op-Ed Pot grows are ruining neighborhoods
☛ TS Comments thread