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News (Media Awareness Project) - US CA: OPED: California Going to Pot: Crime & Non-Punishment
Title:US CA: OPED: California Going to Pot: Crime & Non-Punishment
Published On:2011-11-21
Source:Manteca Bulletin (CA)
Fetched On:2011-11-23 06:00:49

San Joaquin County is a trendsetter when it comes to crime and
non-punishment in California.

The county jail was severely overcrowded long before the state lost
the judicial lottery and was ordered by the nation's highest court to
release 33,000 prisoners by 2013.

Catch and release replaced catch and incarcerate years ago for a
repertoire of serious misdemeanors as well as low-level felonies in
San Joaquin County. In such cases unless you had previously ignored
an order from a judge you were just cited when caught and then sent
on your merry way.

California is quickly headed in that same direction.

Blame it on what you like - the economy, good policing, the U.S.
Supreme Court, or non-sense sentencing laws - but there is no more
room in the pen.

It means many crimes considered serious are going to have less severe
consequences for those found guilty. Freely translated, those
involved in property crimes for the most part are going to receive
either a get out of jail free card or avoid jail altogether.

There is a sound argument that the Three Strikes law coupled with
more effective policing has helped reduce serious crime rates.

Many who embrace Three Strikes view drug crimes as precursor to
bigger and "badder" things.

If you doubt that, take a good look at what drugs have done to inner
cities and impoverished neighborhoods. It isn't pretty.

Pot is viewed as a gateway drug not for all but for enough that it
creates a serious drug problem,

It is why there is a resistance to weakening criminal sanctions
against drugs such as "recreational" marijuana.

It is painfully obvious that punishing such users isn't doing much good.

Yet you don't want to give those who use and abuse drugs and commit a
horrendous list of other crimes a free pass. In fact, you might
actually want to stiffen penalties for those who commit crimes
against persons and even property while under the influence whether
it is drugs or alcohol.

That is why the time has come to ease the legal restrictions against
marijuana use while eliminating diminished capacity defenses for
anyone who commits a crime while under the influence of any substance
whether it is drugs or alcohol.

Classify marijuana the same as alcohol. Give employers the absolute
right to dismiss someone who is under the influence or test at a
predetermined threshold. Tax it accordingly and use some of the extra
revenue to alleviate the fears of those who believe taking it easy on
marijuana users will increase problems.

Spend the money to quadruple the overtime funding of police
checkpoints. Anyone under the influence - drugs or alcohol - will get
their vehicles impounded automatically not for 30 days but 60 days.
And on the second such infraction they get their vehicle taken away forever.

The federal government wouldn't like it. But here's the rub. A
federal decision by the high court is ultimately going to render
marijuana being illegal in California a moot point since even if the
laws are enforced there will be no consequences.

It goes against my grain personally to legalize marijuana.

It is abundantly clear, though, that the course we are on ultimately
will seriously undermine the viability of the concept of crime and punishment.

It's time to back off on marijuana punishment and treat users like
alcohol consumers before California's entire criminal justice system
goes to pot.
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