If you were called to jury duty and asked if you would convict someone for possessing a 16th of an ounce of marijuana, how would you answer?
Well, potential jurors in Missoula, Montana, were asked that and answered with a resounding, “What? Are you high?” According to the Missoulian newspaper the response of members of the jury panel was: No way would they convict somebody for having a 16th of an ounce.
After getting this response numerous times, the judge asked for a show of hands to see how many people would consider convicting on the charge. Of the 27 people remaining in the jury pool, five raised their hands. This was after other potential jurors had already been dismissed after saying they wouldn’t convict.
As a result, the defendant, who was also charged with criminal distribution of dangerous drugs, agreed to a plea bargain.
This says two things:
First, the guy was guilty of something drug related. He wouldn’t have taken the deal if he wasn’t, seeing as how he was in the courtroom when the jurors kept saying they wouldn’t convict on the small possession charge.
More important, though, people see that current U.S. marijuana laws are absurd. If you’re going to convict this guy for that amount, that means you have to convict a high-school kid who’s carrying around a joint. Since a criminal conviction pretty much sticks with you for life, especially a drug conviction, to be scarred by something so petty is in itself criminal.
The “just say no” crowd won’t see it that way. It’ll say this is the first step toward total chaos. But there are places in the world where marijuana use is regulated, and those countries haven’t collapsed.
Take a look at the Netherlands. “Coffee shops” in Amsterdam are places where people ask for a menu and get to select various types of pot or hash. According to the Amsterdam Coffee Shop Directory: Dutch coffee shops are licensed to sell small quantities of cannabis to adults over 18.
Here’s a typical menu:
Now if the Dutch have legalized this, logic tells us that it’s a country of wasted stoners. But back in 2008, CBS News had a report that said: in the Netherlands, which has more liberal drug policies than the U.S., only 1.9% of people reported cocaine use and 19.8% reported marijuana use.
So if the Netherlands doesn’t lead the world in drug abuse, who does?
Americans were four times more likely to report using cocaine in their lifetime than the next closest country, New Zealand (16% vs. 4%),
Marijuana use was more widely reported worldwide, and the U.S. also had the highest rate of use at 42.4% compared with 41.9% of New Zealanders.
Are you really surprised?
By the way, for all you wealthy U.S. potheads who think you can let things stay the way they are in American while you fly across the ocean to puff away, the European Court of Justice has ruled that Dutch authorities can ban coffee shops from selling to marijuana to tourists. Seems people who jet to Holland to fly even higher can’t control themselves.
Another reason to change the laws here. The good folks in Missoula already understand this is a matter of self control, not government control. Apparently, a certain newly elected U.S. senator who did bong hits before the Aqua Buddha understands this as well. Time for everyone else to get their heads out of the clouds.