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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.  

Originally posted to Loge on Fri Sep 11, 2009 at 10:51 AM PDT.


Is a selective dismissal of a criminal case with an unjust law, itself just?

21%12 votes
65%36 votes
5%3 votes
7%4 votes

| 55 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (5+ / 0-)

    "This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind[.]" -- Robert F. Kennedy

    by Loge on Fri Sep 11, 2009 at 10:51:38 AM PDT

  •  Interesting statistic the other day (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlueJessamine, Loge

    in the wake of Mexico making major changes in its drug laws and policies, was that the War on Drugs, which is pretty much universally recognized as a failure, cost as much as single payer healthcare would but the entrenched interests are more interested in maintaining the status quo than any sane revision of drug laws or healthcare

  •  A good example of judicial inequality. (0+ / 0-)

    It's not so much that Andrew's case was an injustice, but rather it is the underprivelaged people's treatment that is unjust. It is a disgrace that we can say the typical person in court is treated unfairly because of under-representation while Andrew's case is exceptional. Yes, our drug laws are also a disgrace and Andrew, nor anyone else, shouldn't have been arrested in the first place. The issue here, though, is judicial inequality, which is a serious problem regardless of cannabis' legality.

  •  He hasn't been treated all that well actually. (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Donut, Hunter Huxley, cee4, Lia, minachica, Loge

    First, the law here is confusing to people. One could be under the impression that since the beach is in Massachusetts possession of less than an ounce is no longer criminal. Its easy to see how one might think that smoking a joint at the beach wouldn't leave one vulnerable to such penalties.

    Now, if Sullivan were given the same punishments as the other cases here, he would suffer far more for his trangression, since it would put his citizenship application in question. Thats a grossly outrageous punishment for the crime in light of the confusing legal circumstances.

    On top of that, were Mr Sullivan not gay, his marriage to another man in Massachusetts would have given him automatic citizenship. So he's already being treated unfairly under the law. If we want to say the law should be applied equally, you have to say that his marriage should be recognized and he should be a citizen already.

    It makes it hard for me to see how given all this, he should have been more harshly punished for smoking a joint.

    •  These are all good points (0+ / 0-)

      And I suspect the elegant solution is for the feds just to leave marijuana smoking on the beach alone, entirely.  

      While Sullivan may have particularly sympathetic circumstances -- especially the point about his marriage! -- I'd worry about a system of perverse incentives whereby people who are subject to down-the-road consequences of marijuana arrests (citizenship, federal student loans) wind up with a literal "get out of jail free" card that ordinary folk don't.  

      "This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind[.]" -- Robert F. Kennedy

      by Loge on Fri Sep 11, 2009 at 11:13:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Oh please. (0+ / 0-)

      I have more to lose from a DUI than the average kid in the ghetto. Starting with my job since I work in substance abuse treatment research. That doesn't mean I deserve special treatment from the court system if I choose to drive drunk.

      Andrew Sullivan is not ignorant and uneducated. He knew damned good and well he'd better not even jaywalk until he got his citizenship.

      On a purely practical note, I seem to recall that getting out of Vietnam became a priority only after the draft lottery was instituted. The wealthy and the powerful didn't like the warmongering so much when they were no longer allowed to exempt their kids from the consequences.

      Un-exempting white families with money from the War on Drugs might not work that way. But I think it's worth a try.

      _Karl Rove is an outside agitator._

      by susanala on Fri Sep 11, 2009 at 12:16:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm in favor of prosecuting all privileged users (0+ / 0-)

    I am in favor of legalization and decriminalization.  Nevertheless, if I were king for a day, I would send SWAT teams into the dorm rooms of all the private colleges and universities across the country.  I would have them enter every dorm room due to exigent circumstances and to prevent destruction of evidence.  Then, wherever marijuana is found, no matter where it is hidden or how much is present, I would have everyone in the dorm room arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  Let the attorneys argue fourth Amendment rights, legal possession, reasonableness of the search, and all that.  If they want to plea, they can plea to a felony.

    That's how they do it in the projects.  I think if the double standards in this country were eliminated as far as class goes, the drug laws would be eliminated too.  And I think I could find just as many or more young people using illegal drugs in colleges and universities as are found with drugs in poor neighborhoods and projects using the same police "methods."

    As for this guy, I don't know a lot about his case, but I bristle when I read that his attorney has political connections.

  •  marijuana (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    should be legalized. Because I regard the drug war as immoral and fascistic I refuse to take a stance on anything related to it's persecution other then saying that the persecution should be stopped all together. I felt the same way when I heard people saying "oh the iraq war could have gone better if we had just done this..."

    It does sicken me though that there is a double standard in law enforcement and the racism that is often inherent behind the war on drugs is one of the reasons that I call for its end.

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