She realized how foolish they were: smoking pot in her boyfriend's car. When the police lights came on behind them, she tried to put away the "blunt" (a stupidly oversized joint). She nervously knocked the fixings all over the seat and floor. Fortunately it was well within the misdemeanor range (about a gram: 1/28th of an ounce. Anything below four ounces is a misdemeanor in Texas). She was horrified when she found out she had been charged with a felony: an extremely serious and life changing charge. Because the police officer observed the small amount of pot on the seat and floor, the prosecutor decided to charge her with tampering with evidence. Maximum penalty: ten years in prison! Her court appointed attorney advised her to take a plea bargain and accept ten years probation. She will have paid over ten thousand dollars by the time it’s over. And she will have a felony permanently embedded on her record.
Another person came in for counseling due to some serious depression. Two years before he was pulled over for speeding. He had no problem with the officer searching his car as he hadn’t smoked pot in a couple of years. To his shock, the cop found an ancient “roach” decaying in a tiny metal box. He was charged, posted non-refundable bail, then the charges were later dropped as the roach was so old and tiny, they couldn’t get a sample from it. He had custody of his two young children, as his angry ex-wife needed more “space”. However, her parents wanted the kids and she was living with them, so they hired an expensive attorney from Dallas, and using the arrest as evidence of his inability to care for his two children, he lost custody of his children.
We can easily blame an excited and overzealous District Attorney, but regardless, the law is in place. The only relief is to reduce the extreme punishment for a light “crime”. Drop the debate for a while on the legalization of marijuana, and let’s consider the reduction of extreme punishment in decriminalization. Look it up, as there’s a huge difference. The problem is the people who are charge of creating a humane environment are politicians. Most do not want to create a potential controversy by taking a stand. Their main concern, perhaps their only concern is to keep their relatively easy and well paid jobs. So they stay quiet.
This is not an endorsement of smoking pot, but a reasonable request to drop the extreme penalties of the 1940’s, and make the law fit the crime. I hope our fine state is not only populated by political scaredy cats. We are long overdue to step up to the plate and make the shoe (or boot) fit the foot.
John S. Sommer
National Certified Addictions Counselor II
Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Supervisor