In a prime example of this nation's outrageous, upside-down-and-backwards drug stance, a New Orleans man was slapped with a life sentence for possessing just two pounds of marijuana -- all because it was his fourth offense. Louisiana is a state practicing 'three strikes,' a law that's notoriously harsh on small-time drug criminals and emphasizes unceremonious society-removal over the more productive (and cheaper) rehabilitation.
Cornell Hood II, 35, had been arrested three times before for marijuana possession with intent to distribute, but in each case the judge handed down a deferred five-year sentence, with probation. In September, however, his probation officer visited Hood's home and discovered bags of marijuana totaling just up to two pounds -- his fourth offense.
At Hood's one-day trial, the evidence presented by the prosecution included a digital scale and about a dozen bags that had contained marijuana before being seized from the house, testimony showed. Deputies also found $1,600 in cash and a student-loan application with Hood's name on it inside of a night stand.
A jury found him guilty in February and last week, a judge handed down the lifetime sentence -- all for the infraction of one count of possession with intend to distribute. Such an extreme sentence for such a relatively harmless, victimless crime shows exactly how screwed up the justice system's priorities can be with regards to marijuana laws. As the Drug Policy Alliance puts it:
"The prohibition of marijuana is an utter failure. The United States wastes billions of dollars enforcing low-level marijuana offenses, incarcerating and penalizing marijuana users, and denying seriously ill patients access to beneficial treatment. Prohibitionist laws have led to unprecedented levels of violence and corruption, while marijuana remains widely consumed and almost universally available to young people. Even as public opinion has shifted in favor of marijuana law reform, arrests for marijuana possession have swollen over the last decade, with disproportionate targeting of blacks and Latinos at the heart of that enforcement surge."
[The Drug Policy Alliance advocates for the elimination of criminal penalties for the adult use of marijuana, the creation of a legal regulatory market for the production and distribution of marijuana, and the establishment of laws that provide and protect access to medical marijuana by patients.]
Julianne Escobedo Shepherd
May 9, 2011
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