Amarillo Jury Takes Step Toward Sanity With Pot Case Acquittal

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—– Original Message —–
From: "Richard Lake" <rlake@mapinc.org>
To: <mmjlist@cannabismd.org>
Sent: Wednesday, April 02, 2008 9:19 AM
Subject: [mmjlist] US TX: Column: Amarillo Jury Takes Step Toward Sanity
With Pot Case Acquittal

> Newshawk: Suzanne Wills
> Pubdate: Tue, 1 Apr 2008
> Source: Amarillo Globe-News (TX)
> Copyright: 2008 Amarillo Globe-News
> Contact: letters@amarillonet.com
> Website: http://amarillonet.com/
> Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/13
> Author: Greg Sagan
> Note: Greg Sagan is an Amarillo business consultant and freelance writer.
> His column appears on Tuesday.
> Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mmj.htm (Marijuana – Medicinal)
> Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/topic/necessity+defense
>
> AMARILLO JURY TAKES STEP TOWARD SANITY WITH POT CASE ACQUITTAL
>
> "Never say, ‘Of this water I will not drink.’"
>
> Spanish proverb
>
> I was gratified to see last week that an Amarillo man was acquitted on a
> charge of possessing marijuana.
>
> Amazed, too.
>
> Tim Stevens, who was arrested last October, is HIV positive and suffers
> from cyclical vomiting syndrome. He uses the marijuana to relieve the
> nausea. This "necessity defense" – that the need to reduce the nausea was
> of greater importance than the law he broke – was something even a local
> jury could accept, and from my point of view they did the right thing.
>
> I understand the visceral resistance many Americans have when anyone
> advocates an end to the harsh treatment our society inflicts on those who
> use illegal drugs. Those of us with children tend to look on illegal drugs
> as a corrupting influence, and we tend to want our children as far removed
> from such influences as we can get them.
>
> But it seems to me we go way beyond this simple consideration with our
> laws. It isn’t enough to educate our children, to lead by example, and to
> accept that some people will indulge drugs to a small or large extent no
> matter what we do. We want to imprison anyone who violates these laws. We
> want to punish anyone who produces or delivers illegal drugs. We want to
> rip the plants from the ground and salt the earth to eliminate even the
> "occasion of sin." And we want to cloak our extremism in moral authority,
> science, historical myth and patriotic fables.
>
> In doing so, we violate the very morality we seek to establish.
>
> The simple truth of the matter is that all of us make our own decisions
> about drug use and abuse. Some people never display even the urge to
> experiment with illegal drugs. The vast majority who try any kind of
> drug – legal or illegal, recreational or therapeutic – eventually reach a
> personal accommodation that permits them to live otherwise productive and
> honorable lives. Some get hooked and stay that way, using chemicals to
> avoid a reality that is just too painful or difficult to address without
> altering their state of consciousness.
>
> And some of us who don’t like drugs and wouldn’t use them under any normal
> circumstance will, nevertheless, take them when the pain is bad enough.
>
> Our society has decided that there are "good drugs" – manufactured by
> pharmaceutical companies and distributed in everything from grocery stores
> to the Internet – and "bad drugs." These are value judgments which are,
> more often than not, the product of prejudice. Those who use marijuana
> know it isn’t the killer or even the "gateway" that we claim it is, but we
> all rally around the fiction as though it were gospel and we punish people
> who use it as though progress toward a more pure society can be measured
> by how many users are behind bars.
>
> But even as we prosecute the offenders and celebrate each victory in court
> with a martini at Marty’s we are also denying compassion and justice to
> some who can only live a tolerable existence by using the substances we
> insist they cannot have.
>
> Let’s forget for a moment the recreational aspect. Let’s even ignore for a
> moment the incredibly obtuse commentary from the medical community that
> marijuana lacks "efficacy." Let us, instead, concentrate on the fact that
> all forms of relief are subjective and that what we have on this planet is
> all we have. The chemicals we hate so deeply may yet prove to be useful
> enough to leave alone, and our challenge is to figure out how to use these
> resources and not to destroy them.
>
> We seem to forget that recreation is a legitimate pastime in our culture.
> But before we even arrive at the argument favoring recreational use of
> illegal drugs we must first listen to the arguments from those who insist
> that a joint does them more direct benefit and less direct harm than
> anything else we’ve figured out how to make. These arguments may well be
> right. And no one alive today can say with certainty that come tomorrow
> we, ourselves, will not be the ones defending ourselves before a pitiless
> court unwilling or unable to put itself in our shoes.
>
> Amarillo is the last place on Earth I would expect to see a jury render
> the kind of verdict we saw in Tim Stevens’ case. But I commend jurors for
> their courage and their open minds.
>
> It was a small, but important, step toward social sanity.
>
>
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