Dear Ann Landers, I just got a phone call from my son. He said, "I've been arrested for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute." I knew he had used marijuana on occasion, but I'm sure he never tried to sell it. A lawyer told me if someone is caught with marijuana, chances are the police will add "intent to distribute," even in the absence of supporting evidence. The accusation of intent changes the crime from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Ann, my son is a good kid who attends college and has a part-time job. He didn't hurt anyone. He didn't steal anything. He didn't cheat anybody. He was caught with marijuana for his own personal use, and for this, he could get 30 years in prison.
He has never gotten so much as a parking ticket.
I don't approve of smoking grass, nor do I approve of smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol. But this punishment seems excessive. I can't help but think of the thousands of families who have suffered this same horror. These harsh laws hurt us all. People who criminalize marijuana believe users are dangerous addicts in dark trench coats, lurking near playgrounds, ready to pounce on young children.
I plead for compassion for those who are hurting only themselves when they use dangerous substances. What they need is counseling and medical intervention, not prison. Harsh laws don't work. Furthermore, it costs us a fortune in taxes to prosecute and incarcerate people who pose no danger to society. Enough. -- A Sad Mother in Va.
Dear Sad Mother, I'm sad about your son's predicament. If the police added "intent to distribute" without real evidence, your son will need the help of a competent lawyer who can get those charges dismissed.
I have long believed the laws regarding marijuana are too harsh. Those who keep pot for their own personal use should not be treated as criminals. Thirty years in prison makes no sense whatsoever. I'm with you.
What's the truth about pot, cocaine, LSD, PCP, crack, speed and downers? "The Lowdown on Dope" has information on drugs. Send a self-addressed, long, business-sized envelope and a check or money order for $5 (this includes postage and handling) to: Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Ann Landers and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.