Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Legalize the Stuff

Some things are just wrong. You can’t steal candy from a baby. You can’t intentionally run over a stray dog, and you can’t put grandma in jail.

I know there are some exceptions to the rule. You can lock granny up if she walks into a public place and opens fire on everyone in the room. Lock her up if she gets stopped for drinking while drunk after running over kids crossing the street after school. There are some crimes that are so despicable that age is thrown out the door. Sometimes you have to shake your head and tell the judge to lock grandma up and throw away the key, but boy it’s hard to find a reason to justify locking granny up for the rest of her days.

That’s why it was hard for me to read the story of a couple in their 60s getting busted after sheriff detectives discovered marijuana plants worth a quarter of a million dollars growing in their southwestern Durham home. Benjamin Franklin Harrington, 61, and Annie Harris Harrington, 60 were arrested after detectives found 42 marijuana plants with an estimated street values of $244,440 growing in their home. It’s safe to say the weed wasn’t for personal consumption.

In addition to the weed, detectives confiscated one gram of powder cocaine, two 30-caliber rifles and $760 bucks. No biggie on the rifles and cash. Yeah, I have problems with the cocaine, but the real issue is the cannabis. Grandma and Grandpa may go down for the manufacture and distribution of weed. There is something wrong with this picture.

It reminds me of the arrest of a 65-year old rural Wake County woman on charges of growing five marijuana plants back in 1993. The arrest of Alta Belle Mills sparked a debate that led the News & Observer to write an editorial supporting the legalization of marijuana. Mills was arrested after helicopter surveillance revealed the plants. She received only a suspended sentence, but federal officials sought to seize her mobile home and her eight acres of land under federal forfeiture laws.

The thought of sending a person to the penitentiary for peddling pot is hard for me to swallow. I stopped smoking the stuff back in the early 80s, so I don’t a horse in this race. I had to give it up due to my addiction to more potent drugs. My own issues with recovery aren’t enough to offset the argument in favor of legalizing marijuana.

With that being said, the legalization of marijuana hits me at home due to the number of my personal friends who get high. Many of them function in high places, and would shock the world if word got out about their love of the whacky weed. My opinion has shifted over the years. There was a time when I felt the need to preach abstinence. I taunted the consequences of getting high-jail time, brain damage, poor role modeling, you know the list.

My opinion changed because of all of those friends who use the stuff. That combined with the young black men I know who are either serving time or facing a court date because of weed. It is certain that crimes need to be punished, but, given all of the evidence out there about marijuana, I would rather see law enforcement spend more time dealing with more pressing concerns like unsolved murders.

Given all of those fine outstanding citizens who smoke pot, why not legalize and tax marijuana instead of putting them in jail? There has to be an economic advantage. I’m told that since weed was legalized in California for medical purposes, there are more smoking houses than Starbucks coffee houses. That’s a business success story if I ever heard of one.

I can hear my moralist friends shouting about the need to uphold family values. The problem with that argument is all of us don’t share the same values, and the last time I checked that constitution protects freedom of expression. Our desire to make American a fine Christian nation often gets in the way of making decisions that make good sense.

I have a problem with locking grandma up. Call me insane. Call me too liberal. Call me whatever you want, but putting grandma in jail isn’t a good family value.

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