Monday, February 9, 2009

Prioritize = Legalize

by Robin Sax

It’s no secret that I take crime very seriously. I am all about tough sentences and putting the bad guys away. But, come on, people. Is possession of a bong really worth ruining a guy’s career, livelihood, and reputation? I’m as tough on crime as the next guy, but suspending Michael Phelps from competitive swimming for 3 months for taking a bong hit (if he even really took the hit; all we know for sure is that he was photographed with a bong in hand). A possible prosecution for a picture of him holding a bong? Kellogg, allowing a major endorsement to expire because, “Michael’s behavior is not consistent with the image of Kellogg”?

I am not suggesting that Michael Phelps should be treated any differently than anybody else. I am not here arguing that Kobe Bryant was wrongfully accused, or that we are overly harsh with our sports stars (just ask Lawrence Philips what he thinks of me). What I am actually saying is that we need to have priorities in our criminal justice system.

Not all crimes are equal, just as not all drugs are equal. And courts, prosecutors, and cops don’t have the time or the resources to deal with the nonsense involved in simple possession of marijuana case. So, if that’s the case, why are the authorities making an example of Michael Phelps? Why are we using tax dollars to prosecute and incarcerate weed smokers?

Is it to deter kids from using and/or abusing pot? Well I think not. As Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) aptly states: “Regardless of one’s view of marijuana use as normal or immoral, healthy or unhealthy, the fact is that over 70 years of government prohibition has done little to nothing to achieve the long-stated public goals of increasing youth perception of harm from marijuana use, reducing youth access to untaxed and unregulated marijuana, increasing treatment for marijuana abuse and marijuana-related emergency room visits, and incarcerating users and dealers.”

Successful entrepreneurs and business people know that they must be effective time managers. And in order to be an effective time manager, they realize that they simply cannot do everything available to them. They have to be selective with their limited time, and consciously choose to spend it on what is most important to them.

So why does it seem that time management and court management mentioned in the same sentence seem like an oxymoron?

Why isn’t it cost effective and productive to prosecute simple marijuana cases? Because the penalties are minimal! Why is the law lenient on marijuana ? Because more than half of the American population thinks that marijuana should be legalized!

Citizens are not alone on this, by the way. In fact, last year, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced H.R. 5843: "To eliminate most Federal penalties for possession of marijuana for personal use." This a bi-partisan measure introduced by Rep. Barney Frank [D-MA] and Rep. Ronald Paul [R-TX] on April 17, 2008. The bill’s goals was to remove Federal penalties for personal possession, or non-profit transfer, of up to 100 grams of marijuana.

And while those who want to legalize marijuana have a long list of arguments supporting the legalization of pot, I suggest that we use the business model of prioritizing to make a sound, well-thought-out decision. As C. Ray Johnson states in the final chapter of his book, CEO Logic: How to Think and Act Like a Chief Executive: "Prioritizing is the answer to time management problems - not computers, efficiency experts, or matrix scheduling. You do not need to do work faster or to eliminate gaps in productivity to make better use of your time. You need to spend more time on the right things. . . ."

In the criminal justice system, the “right thing” is to prosecute people who hurt others, who abuse, rape, molest, batter, use weapons, steal, stalk, or terrorize—not those who are photographed with a bong in hand.

This post and all posts by Robin Sax do not reflect the opinion of he Los Angeles County District Attorney or the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office.


Jan C said...

Legalizing marijuana would go a long way towards reducing prison overcrowding which would leave room for violent offenders.

Also, treating marijuana like alcohol with the associated taxes, might even put a dent in our ever-growing federal deficit.

I've heard the argument that marijuana use leads to hard drugs. Maybe the reason is because marijuana is illegal. If it were sold in pot stores, instead of back alleys along with all the other drugs, there wouldn't be the association.

Marijuana really isn't much different than alcohol or tobacco.

FleaStiff said...

"...over 70 years of government prohibition has done nothing to achieve the long-stated public goals...”

Well, ofcourse it hasn't but since when have the long-stated public goals ever been the real goals?

Prohibition has kept prices high, diminished competition, snuffed out the independents, fueled the careers of countless cops and prosecutors and provided an endless supply of asset-forfeiture funds.

Anonymous said...

The problem with letting MP off is that some individuals are charged with possession and /or marijuana use and are serving time for it. If it isn't exactly a priority for LE anymore then it ought to be legalized. Oh, but if they did that, they'd have to let all the people out of prison who are in for Marijuana use and possession. Looks to me like it the perogative of the police to arrest or not. Hardly fair, is it?

Anonymous said...

Well said, I totally agree with your comments. I have long felt that one thing that keeps marijuana from being legalized is that you can grow your own and they cannot tax it! I am in my 60s and cannot name more than 5 friends in my whole life that have not tried marijuana, and some have smoked it for more than 40 years. These are not low-life type of people, these are hard working Americans who prefer pot to alcohol. I do not know one person that moved to other drugs. It is time for America to wake up and see that we are wasting money and time prosecuting this victimless crime. Just my humble opinion.

Unknown said...

I definitely agree with your post, Robin and with all the comments above.
It seems like busting individuals for possession of pot is an easy arrest since so many of them fall into the normally "law abiding citizen" category as opposed to being criminals who are apt to be armed and/or dangerous.
And, Jan, you are right. It is the fact that it is illegal that gets otherwise non-law breakers into the criminal environment. Saying it leads to other drugs is as specious as saying that 98% of all pot users, drank kool-aid when they were children.

A Voice of Sanity said...

Saying it leads to other drugs is as specious ...

The real 'gateway drug' is tobacco - extraordinarily difficult to break free of and it 'prepares the brain' for other drugs such as meth.

Anonymous said...

What is even more of a problem is the mandatory 5 years for getting caught within 2 miles of a school. Even for a first offense. Our system has it's priorities all wrong.

Analyst said...

Leah said: What is even more of a problem is the mandatory 5 years for getting caught within 2 miles of a school. Even for a first offense. Our system has it's priorities all wrong.
I suspect there are more drug sellers in many a school rather than outside it.

Anonymous said...

Analyst: Yes, there are, but point it that the law applies to everyone, even outside the schools.

A Voice of Sanity said...

The real point is that there are three choices:
1) You can let the government run it and collect the profits
2) You can let private enterprise run it and collect the profits
3) You can let murderous criminals run it and collect the profits

Why did you go with (3)?

A Voice of Sanity said...

By the way, did you know that once drugs were legal in the USA? That you could buy whatever you wanted at your local pharmacy? And that the law was changed because of racism? See The Opium Exclusion Act of 1909 (LINK) for the real history of the phony, failed drug war.