Jurors Can Help Efforts to Legalize Marijuana
According to the latest Gallop poll, over 50 percent of Americans want to legalize marijuana. Unlike alcohol and pharmaceutical drugs — our culture's popular legal addictions — marijuana has zero evidence of being lethal and leads to far fewer violent crimes and serious health complications than either alcohol or pill addiction.
In addition, some proponents point to the creation story of Genesis in the Bible, which expressly states that God has given every plant to man for his use. Making marijuana illegal, then, directly contradicts the word of God in the Bible. Creationists — get on board with that one!
On a recent Alternet blog, "Why Jurors Should Refuse to Convict Drug Arrestees," Drug Policy Alliance communication director Tony Newman cites Paul Butler's — former federal prosecutor and law professor of George Washington University — recent op-ed in the New York Times, noting that jurors are not required to enforce unjust laws and can legally refuse to convict a person, even if he or she appears to be guilty.
There were over 750,000 arrests last year for the minor offense of marijuana possession, overwhelming and crowding our jails and courts with non-violent, mostly poor and minority offenders (despite statistics showing equal marijuana use between whites and non-whites overall.) In New York City, marijuana possession was the number one reason people were arrested.
While the majority of Americans and elected officials know that our "war on drugs" is a complete failure that fills our prisons while doing nothing to help the people struggling with addiction or reduce street crime, the drug war machine only seems to get stronger. President Obama has not advanced marijuana legalization as promised; on the contrary, he has increased federal raids and all but repealed the sanctity of state's rights where medical marijuana is concerned.
Here's where the power of the people through jury nullification comes in. Jury nullification is a constitutional doctrine that allows juries to acquit defendants who are technically guilty, but who don't deserve punishment. Nullification is generally credited with ending disastrous Prohibition laws in our country as more and more jurors refused to send their neighbors to jail for a law they didn't believe was just.
If our lawmakers will not listen to the will of the people and use common sense to legalize marijuana, thereby also opening the door to reestablishing a flourishing hemp products industry in America, then it will be up to the people to take on the job themselves.
Carol Bedrosian is the publisher of Spirit of Change holistic magazine.