Menu Home

When the law, just like the times, needs to change

If there is one thing that I like to think I am is flexible. I don’t like to be set in my ways because I could be wrong and have no way of correcting myself. As Moriarty said in the season finale of the first season of “Sherlock”, “I’m so changeable. It is a weakness with me, but, to be fair to myself, it is my only weakness.” Except that I don’t see it as a weakness.

There used to be a time when I believed that marihuana was an instrument of the Devil. Well, not THE Devil but a demon of its own. I was raised to believe that anyone and everyone who used marihuana was a bad person, worthy of being shunned or jailed. “Pot heads” had to be thrown away into a prison, no questions asked.

The world is a little more complicated than that. Years of experience in the healthcare field, in public health, and in interactions with friends and family have changed my mind. It is perfectly okay, and it should be legal, for an adult to enjoy whatever psychotropic they want to enjoy in the privacy of their home and when they’re not in a position to hurt others by omission or commission.

Of course, from a public health perspective, I’d rather that no one use and abuse any kind of psychotropic drug, including alcohol and tobacco. That is the ideal view of the world that many of us share. In reality, however, people are going to use drugs for a variety of reasons, many of them valid and many of them misguided.

I’m still against children and adolescents having access to marihuana. The developing brain has trouble adapting to the world around it all on its own. Throwing in psychotropics — not under the direction of a licensed, certified healthcare provider — complicates things. You don’t want teenagers drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, or consuming weed. Neuroscience and psychology/psychiatry is very clear about that.

But adults? That’s a whole other thing. We cannot treat as a criminal someone who is doing something that feels good and helps them deal with the world around them. It doesn’t work. Prisons are filled to the bream with addicts, and only a minute percentage of them have become sober through that process. What works when it comes to addictions is rehabilitation, moving away from the source of drug, and finding better ways to cope with life. None of those are currently found in the US justice system.

Today, I learned that a local business man was taken to jail for having two plants of marihuana growing on his property. Did he harvest it and sell it to kids? No. Did he sell it at all? No. Did he hurt someone while high on pot? No. Could someone in his household have been hurt (e.g. a small child) because he was high and not caring? No. The only thing he and his wife did was grow two plants for personal consumption instead of going out on the street and paying money for it… Money that would have continued to finance the drug wars in Mexico, the cartels and gangs that make college students disappear.

What did they do?

“West Manchester Township Police Chief Art Smith said in all his years of policing, he has never known of anyone to display marijuana plants outside their front door… Smith said that when someone grows the plant, even if their intent may be to only use it for themselves and not to sell it, the amount is considered more than for personal use, and so it is a felony.”

Because of the law, we now have the president and CEO of a theater company and his wife facing felony charges. They’re looking at jail and hefty fines if found guilty. It is my sincere hope that the judge or the jury see the nonsense in this, and that some sort of jurisprudence is created whereby plants grown for personal use and not sold to anyone nor given to anyone outside of adults within the household is not treated as a felony. It just can’t. It’s crazy to have a law that encourages people to go out and buy pot from dealers and line the pockets of the drug cartels in Latin America and violent gangs here.

But that would only make sense, wouldn’t it?

I share the opinion that drugs of abuse are bad. That opinion is based on many factors, many led by science and evidence. But I disagree that people who use and abuse those kinds of drugs should be thrown into jail or driven to crime because we don’t provide proper rehabilitation services, because we’ve failed to recognize that addicts are not by definition criminals but people in need of service.

Categories: Blog

Tagged as:

René F. Najera, DrPH

I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
About History of Vaccines: I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Please read the About page on the site for more information.
About Epidemiological: I am the sole contributor to Epidemiological, my personal blog to discuss all sorts of issues. It also has an About page you should check out.

2 replies

  1. Ah, but you don’t see the big business side of it. The business of government seizing property via forfeiture laws, selling what gains the most for that government, keeping the rest for department usage.
    Meanwhile, government can say, “See? I’m doing something about crime” by locking away as many people as possible. An added bonus is contracting firms that guard and supply the prisons making campaign contributions to those elected officials.
    What is ignored is the incredible size of our prison system, the phenomenal numbers in prison that rivals and even exceeds most dictatorships and the financial cost to society. Keep adding more prisons and prisoners, the county, state and nation will be bankrupt.
    But the, we arrest people for all manner of inane things, not paying for a traffic fine, stealing cable television, using marijuana, being insane and creating “a public nuisance” and feeding the homeless.

    When one keeps doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results, one is either operating stupidly or working in quantum physics.
    The latter has nothing whatsoever to do with governing a nation, state, county or city or prisons.


    1. You’re right. Something has to keep that giant monster well fed or… Or something. I understand the “conservative” idea of smaller government, and I even support some of its tenets. It’s just that every politician wants to cut where it won’t hurt them and no one wants to look “soft” on crime. Can you imagine if I were running for mayor of Baltimore and told the people that maybe it’s not a good idea to throw angry young men in prison? Even if my proposed alternative was reasonable and proven everywhere, the idea of letting “gangs of thugs” be free would make them lose their minds.


%d bloggers like this: