Andrew Sullivan can rest easy, having had his criminal marijuana case dismissed yesterday. But, not before being on the receiving end of a scathing opinion by U.S. Magistrate Robert B. Collings. (Opinion here).
It seems Mr. Sullivan was caught with some reefer at the Cape Cod National Seashore, given a criminal citation, and summoned to appear in Court or else forefit $125 in collateral.
Now, here's where it gets tricky. Sullivan is attempting to become a naturalized U.S. Citizen, and credit to him for that. Needless to say, marijuana arrests are not considered points in favor. In light of this, the U.S. Attorneys' office for the District of Massachussets agreed to dismiss the criminal charges, but required leave of the Court in order to do so.
The judge did not see any merit in the argument that dismissal either would mitigate the adverse impact of the arrest on Sullivan's natualization, or that Sullivan should be treated any differently from the three other identical cases that appeared on the same calendar call. But, he felt constrained to dismiss the case because of the traditional deference given to prosecutors. (Interesting tidbit: Sullivan's lawyer was Congressman Delahunt's brother.)
So, the question is, if you believe as I do that marijuana should be decriminalized, does the right outcome justify a possibly unjust process? My tentative view is that it does not. I lean in this direction because I suspect the only way marijuana laws will be decriminalized at the federal level is if people in a position to possibly change the law, like Andrew Sullivan, are subject to the same consequences as everyone else. This is a problem with the drug war, generally. To his credit, I think Sullivan recognizes this in principle, but isn't willing to follow through in practice.