New Jersey versus Medical Marijuana

January 11, 2010, 10:54 p.m.
A few moments ago, the lead headline on NYTimes.com was: New Jersey Lawmakers Pass Medical Marijuana Bill.

Which reminded me that the irrepressible Nick Mackey, who caused all kinds of controversy in Charlotte a few years ago when he won and then lost the Sheriff’s job, is now in the North Carolina State House (District 99), and that last year he co-sponsored a Medical Marijuana bill. If it got any media attention in Charlotte, I missed it. (You can read the bill here.) In fact, I didn’t know about the bill until I saw Mackey at a PAC fundraiser last month, and he mentioned it.

Now I don’t know whether the Medical Marijuana bill in New Jersey, or the one in North Carolina are good ideas. But as a criminal defense lawyer for the last 17 years, here are some comments I can make:

  • Off the record, some DEA agents and drug task force officers say that they wish small user amounts of marijuana would be legalized. This would cause the powers that be to tell the agents to quit chasing marijuana traffickers, and instead concentrate on the drugs that are a growing scourge in our area: heroin and methamphetamine.
  • As for this quote from the Times article:
    “Some educators and law enforcement advocates worked doggedly against the proposal, saying the law would make marijuana more readily available and more likely to be abused, and that it would lead to increased drug use by teenagers. ”
    Right. Citations and arrests of teenagers in Charlotte for possession of less than ½ ounce of marijuana (a Class 3 misdemeanor) have been plentiful for many years. In other words, marijuana is now and will always be “readily available” to teenagers. To believe otherwise is silliness.
  • I think medical marijuana or legalization of small amounts of marijuana is an issue that secretly transcends political affiliation. One of the cool things about being a criminal defense lawyer is that people feel free to tell you thoughts they probably don’t tell anyone else. And I’ve had many right-wing, conservative folks nudge me at cocktail parties or other events and in a conspiratorial soft voice say one or more of the following:– “They ought to just legalize marijuana and send the cops after the illegal immigrants.”
    – “The legislature might should legalize it, and tax the hell out of it. Maybe let the ABC stores be the exclusive sellers, and charge 50 cents tax per joint. They’d make so much money I wouldn’t have to pay income taxes anymore!”
    – “Big Pharma doesn’t want marijuana legalized! They know if that happened, all their sales of those anti-anxiety drugs they’re pushing on TV would plummet.”