A Father's Lament: Cannabis Prohibition, Race and My Son

Despite the bizarre claims of some prohibitionists and law enforcement representatives that ‘no one in America gets arrested or goes to jail for cannabis charges’, NORML receives hundreds of emails and letters a week from our fellow citizens who’ve been negatively impacted by cannabis prohibition laws–notably due to an encounter with law enforcement.
A few weeks ago I received a letter from a father of a young man arrested and incarcerated on minor cannabis-related charges in Arlington, Virginia. The father’s lament is deep and profound, beyond the standard pleas for help NORML so regularly receives. So much so that I asked him if he would send NORML the original letter for publication.
A few local points of interest to those outside of the Washington, DC area. Arlington county is by most measures one of the more ‘liberal’ and tolerant counties in the commonwealth, maybe the most liberal. Thousands of people who work for the federal government, political partisans, non profit organizations and trade associations reside in Arlington, which has an ever-shrinking native African American community. The writer clearly sets out to make it clear that supposedly progressive counties like Arlington still have a dark side regarding how disproportionately minorities are ensnared into the criminal justice system for cannabis, and how dramatic the impact is to them, their family members–and the taxpayer’s of Arlington.
The Barnes family’s experience in Arlington plays out across the nation every single day, where minorities are arrested at rates three to one, and higher, with even greater disparity regarding incarceration.
In fact the New York Times just reported on such last Wednesday in an apropos article entitled ‘White Smokes Pot, But Blacks Get Arrested‘.

While it is true that most cannabis consumers who get busted for possession do not go to jail or prison on the first offense (however,  tens of thousands of Americans are incarcerated annually on cannabis-related charges, including on mere possession charges, often for subsequent possession arrests), a positive drug test submitted whilst on probation can often land otherwise minor cannabis possession cases into jail or prison, most acutely to minorities and the poor.
The practice is called ‘shock incarceration’.
Many citizens–rich and poor, black and white–self-medicate with cannabis to try to work through any number of mental disorders, from bipolarity to attention deficit disorders to post-traumatic stress, however, a life-shattering introduction into the tax coffer-draining criminal justice system is hardly the proper prescription for their health struggles.

Arlington, VA
December 9, 2009
Re:  Joshua Barnes, incarceration for distribution of several ounces of marijuana and probation violation pertaining to same.
Dear Mr. St. Pierre:
On February 13, 2009 my son Joshua Barnes was incarcerated in Arlington County, Virginia for possession and distribution of four ounces or less of marijuana on three occasions in 2008 and for violation of probation pertaining to several possessions and distribution charges, also of four ounces or less of marijuana in 2005.  On September 19, 2009 Arlington County Circuit Judge Benjamin Kendrick sentenced Joshua on the former charge to five years with two and one-half years suspended plus three years of supervised probation effective immediately upon his release.  Then on October 2, 2009, fellow Circuit Court Judge James Almond sentenced him to an additional fourteen months of the 2006 four-year suspended sentence, to be served consecutively in the penitentiary.  The combined time will confine my son for roughly forty four months, minus fifteen percent plus an additional three years of probation immediately upon release, all totaling more than six years under law enforcement control and scrutiny.
In Arlington County, as in any predominately white enclave a black before the courts is likely to be the recipient of justice compromised.  Whether you perceive yourself as black, white or any of the other commonly used arbitrary colors to designate one’s racial/ethnic classification we must step up to the plate and be candid with ourselves in regard to “what is” in dealing with this reality.  We must be mindful that we are not dealing with mere machines but humans whose mental processes and emotions do play major roles in the composition of personality.  To put it another way, what we perceive by means of whatever medium molds our conscience, thus; our reactions are in response.  Invariably, for example, the average white’s response to black male’s presence in the immediate vicinity while stopped awaiting the signal light to change is to activate the door locks.   This common response fosters the criminal image of the black male held by whites and negatively impacts the mindset when the latter sits in judgment, be it the role of the judge, juror, or prosecutor on a black fate.  To put it blatantly, for whites one of the foremost traits of blacks is criminal.  When blacks behave accordingly, whites’ racist contention is fulfilled and appeasement is rewarded as a consequence.  For those in rejoice regarding the behavior it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy is achieved.  Any major newspaper of cities where blacks are in substantial numbers will have mug shots of black males in their daily crime sections.  This further fuels the mindset regarding and criminal black male and gives greater reinforcement and criminal nature of blacks, particularly the black male.
Therefore, it is illogical and ludicrous to assume (it is only an assumption) that the average white judge, juror prosecutor or any other role player involved will suddenly and miraculously be impartial and color-blind when acting in judgment on the fate of a black, especially black male.  Ideally, we wish human nature would allow us to vacate our personal prejudices, if only temporarily.
Justice, as many of us are aware of can be manipulated and often has a price tag.  Unlikely, elite corporates, powerful industrialists, politicians, select entertainment moguls and etc. would be subjected to the same criminal system and receive comparable sentences for distribution of small amounts of marijuana and probation involving the same charges.  It would be utterly unimaginable to witness a Kennedy, Bush, Gates, Bloomberg, Clinton, McCartney, Buffet, Oprah Winfrey or the likes who received the same fate as Joshua for the same non-violent violation.  This tactic of using power to influence justice is probably as old as prostitution and man’s enjoyment from his marijuana use.  Moreover, this reality is closely akin to the old adage, “might makes right”.  Unfortunately, in this regard we are not of the class referenced.  Thus, we are not able to mold justice to render it more human or even unethically circumvent it, as mentioned.
It is a given when it come to white/black matters, ingrained color, prejudice trumps reason.  In my view, most whites do not want to reside with blacks in the same community, desire to worship or dine with them, be buried in the same cemetery and certainly not engage in romantic relationships and etc.  Again it is far-fetched and insane to think that the courts or any segment of society is free of partiality predicated on color of skin.
Theoretically, we as a society do by reason utilize imprisonment as a plausible measure to remove those from the general populace who do harm or present imminent endangerment to society.  We, as the most civilized, technologically advanced with the most powerful military in history, should not make laws to take away human freedom because these are merely laws in-and-of themselves, minus moral judgment. Compare marijuana’s use and consequences to some other substances, legal or illegal.  Alcohol use, especially excessive consumption, produces grave consequences in that it contributes to deaths of tens of thousands and causes untold injuries to millions more.  Also, it is the leading cause of certain types of cancer.  In many alcohol related cases, if not most involving manslaughter the guilty is assessed a lighter sentence than Joshua.  For instance, doctors found guilty of medical malpractice resulting in the death of their patients often times are not more severely punished.  Moreover, many other crimes resulting in severe bodily harm receive less incarceration time.
Marijuana use has been around for hundreds if not thousands of years without producing known destruction to human welfare.  In the past few decades tens of millions of Americans have smoked marijuana and millions more still partake. Statistically, as much as forty-percent of all adult Americans (They have not moved on to harsher drugs as some contend) smoke or have smoked marijuana.  Many keep or would keep on occasion a few ounces for their own personal use (or “stash”).  “A Gallup Poll in October found forty-four percent of Americans favor full legalization of marijuana –a rise of 13 points since 2000, (“Support for legalizing of Marijuana Grows Rapidly U.S.”,  Karl Vick, The Washington Post. Monday, November 23, 2009).”
Joshua was a heavy smoker and also consumed substantial amounts of alcohol himself.  His addiction in-and-of itself caused him self-destruction and eventual doom, especially with the commonwealths legal system.  I reiterate the message that history does not provide real horror stories pertaining to consequences of marijuana use.
Conversely, the use of alcohol, heroin, crack, methamphetamine, cigarette, coffee, Tylenol and other contrabands have had devastating impacts on most, if not all of us at some time.  In regard, we do grave disservice to ourselves and society by denying the truth, thus avoidable destruction and pain are prolonged.  As appalling as it is we devote much valued time, energy, and resources to apprehend and imprison citizens for possession and sale of a few ounces of marijuana when we, as a nation, face far daunting tasks.  Violent crimes remain throughout this land.  Many of us cannot safely walk the streets of our neighborhood during daylight hours let alone at night.  Racial and religious hostilities are still prevalent in the land, just to name a few.  The polls show that there is a real movement to transform laws governing marijuana, but many are still staunchly oriented toward maintaining the ages-old practice of filling jail and prison cells with more and more predominately young black males who have no history of violent crimes.  As a result of these immoral practices they cause these families of black males to struggle and endure unwanted suffering.
Resources expended to take away the freedom of these blacks would be more wisely used to educate them and others, but; those in the prison/court complex are often opposed and they are the real beneficiaries.  The courts are not sentimental and are impervious to the harm and grief brought upon these individuals and their families as a result of the sentenced due to non-violent crimes.  In Joshua’s case the court also ignored the matter of Joshua’s Attention Deficit Disorder history.  Moreover, six days following his incarceration on February 13, 2009, his girlfriend gave birth to his first son, and our first grandchild.
As a final assessment, any harmful affect to any individual or society as a result of Joshua’s action is absent.  Conversely, racial animosity and backlash of the systematic imprisonment of black males is a major instrument in widening the wedge in black/white efforts to alleviate vestiges of centuries-old racial inequalities and strife.  In the final analysis, where is the human harm caused by Joshua’s action?  Do his actions warrant, in a moral sense the take-away of his freedom and, consequently the denial of a father for his new-born?
These marijuana laws are likened to the Poll Tax Laws of the Jim Crow Era in that they disenfranchise millions, particularly blacks.  In the near future, history will show that, again we allowed flawed government policies to damage the image, soul, and fabric of America.  In conclusion, we should all hope sincerely and pray, color-blind to a color-blind god that we be delivered from our heart-held prejudices, long entrenched in hatred to a humane state of consciousness where love dictates.
Willie Barnes

0 thoughts

  1. # 33 Bayou23 ,
    Revelation 13;16
    and he causeth all both small & great , rich or poor , free & bond to receive a mark in their right hand or in their forehead .
    Satan discriminates against no one .
    Truly this has got to be the work of the Beast .
    Doesn’t anyone understand whose controlling the World ?

  2. Unbelievable some of the comments here. Where’s the frakking compassion? NO arrests should be made for marijuana.
    Instead of writing a letter to the Barnes family I’m sending NORML a donation. It’s never a large amount sent but I’m consistent and committed. For all of you who partake how about cutting your consumption in half for six months and sending what you would have spent on weed to NORML?
    It also appears some people need a refresher course on handling the police. Flex Your Rights has a video you all need to watch and memorize.
    I do hope Mr. Willie Barnes sent a letter to the President. But then again, I also wonder if Obama would ever see that letter, or for that matter give a hoot.

  3. Very funny chart I think its that white people are more in the mindset of “dont worry about it” and everyone else is over worried about it and too afraid to say it for whatever reason I am white myself and I know and speak to many random african people all day and they all smoke the ganj.. not to mention many business men and women who are too professional to announce there hobbys.

  4. #8
    I totally agree. I am white and live in a 90% Mexican neighborhood in north Phoenix known locally as the”square”. Johnny law has no problem harassing anyone brown for no reason at all….at any time. I’ve watched cops pull over and go into someone’s yard in order to(excuse my L.), fuck with them!! Simply because that Mexican chose to enjoy the day/night on the property they pay rent on…….I don’t recollect ever witnessing that scenario go down in my sister’s neighborhood….. naturally. That area is predominantly white.
    What’s even funnier is that since I’ve moved and lived in the “square”….I noticed. Noticed that MOST; not all; but most Mexicans in my apartments don’t give me or my wife half the dirty looks I’ve watched my fellow white’s (especially RICH ones) give Black/brown folks when they(Blcks/brwns)are in a 90% white environment.
    I’m NOT in favor of Illegal aliens. However, neither am I for arresting hard-working minorities that are just trying to make ends meet(same as me…).

  5. Your son broke the same law, as ridiculous a law it may be,3 times and unfortunately must deal with it! Like they say 3 strikes and your OUT ! It’s always the Race Cared ! I just don’t get it he knew that he was breaking the Law stand up and get him some help !
    [Editor’s note: Three strikes and you’re out? It is impossible to support law reform and a failed prohibition, at the same time, that arrests citizens multiple times. Which is worse, a quitter or a racially discriminatory criminal justice system?]

  6. how could NORML could back someone DUMB enough to get caught with a quarter-pound of marijuana 3 TIMES in one year???? and they weren’t even using it for medicinal purposes, but for selling…
    looks like you won’t be getting my dies next year…
    fucking shame i just paid you guys again…
    [Editor’s note: The government charged the victim with selling based on the weight…the victim’s father indicated likely medical use for attention deficit disorder. If posting a letter is ‘backing’ a victim of cannabis prohibition, then yes you’ve sent your membership dues to the wrong organization as NORML supports the victims of cannabis prohibition–black, white, smart, dumb, etc….]

  7. I work at one of Fl. youth care prison(a prison for profit)and what I found was it was not the use of cannabis that was the problem. It was the temptation for big money that caused the violence. If it were decrimalized there would be no money temptation and it would not even an issue. These kid have nothing to do all day but think up new crimes while there there. Prison just make there futures worse. Granted there our some youths that are BAD and realy should be there. Think if we had spent the $2.5 trillion Doctors and Hospital. Decrimilize it we will all sleep better

  8. Having grown up in Northern Virginia I can understand how your son could get a riduculous sentence for this crime. The law is wrong every which way and I am sorry for what has happened to him. I will continue my support for NORML and organizations like NORML.
    To those that think we should just respect law because it is the law remember that if people did have the guts to challenge these tyranical laws things would never change.

  9. Dear Sirs I too am a little confused too why this was posted. Their seems to be more to the story then just the fathers view please get both side so we can be fair and “UNPREJUDICED” synapses of the issue. I personally like many others get real tired when “race card” is pulled and am disappointed that NORML would try to inject it into the fight to legalize Marijuana. Slavery ended more then a hundred years ago(because thousand of White, brown and black people fought and died to end it) and segregation ended more then 40 years ago too thanks to the courage of thousands of Whites and Blacks and many other races. We have a Black president, Black senators, Black police officers, Black generals, Black congress men and yes even “Black judges”. So if what he is saying is true(which I believe is not the case) their must be thousand of white, Hispanic and Asian people who where wrongly prosecuted by racist Black judges in areas where their is a higher black majority. I’m 100% for the legalization of marijuana and have been for years but please lets keep this type of RACIST dribble out of the issue and lets work more on the real issues of “LEGALIZATION”. I am white male and I am proud of my culture and my race and find it offensive and “RACIST” when people make comment like this gentleman did in his letter. P.S. just because someone doesn’t agree with you doesn’t make them a racist.
    [Editor’s note: You’re upset that NORML injected race into cannabis prohibition? The sui generis of cannabis prohibition is racism! Race and the unjust criminal justice system re ‘drugs’ in America are impossible to separate. One man’s racist ‘dribble’ is another man’s call for freedom. What side of history do you choose to stand on, freedom’s or racism’s?]


  11. I like the constitution……when written; it was not influenced by corrupt personal interest lobbyists. I can not say the same for most of the laws being created today……

  12. I feel this guy needs to stop looking at the color of his skin and start looking at what his son did. His son was dealing a lot of marijuana on three different occasions. I live next to Arlington and i can tell you that anyone with these offenses are going to be severally punished regardless of skin. A white friend of mine was recently targeted by the police, set up to deal to undercover officers, arrested and sentenced to considerable jail time and was dealing far smaller quantities then Josh. Joshua should not have been committing whats regarded as such serious crimes knowing he had a child on the way, that’s completely irresponsible and a horrible job as a parent.
    [Editor’s note: Joshua Barnes was charged with dealing, not convicted of such. One of the many problems with cannabis prohibition is that if the penalties go from misdemeanor to felony based on relatively low weight (many people reading this blog don’t think of four ounces as a lot of cannabis; in some parts of the country four ounces fetches immediate ‘dealing’ charges, in other parts of the country, possessing less than four ounces can be viewed as little more than a personal crisis), the prosecution can readily exact PLEA BARGAINS, which is what happens in over 98% of all criminal cannabis cases.
    BTW, NORML’s national office regularly has white, affluent young people (read college students and government workers) from Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax, and Montgomery county in Maryland, have to serve their time after getting busted for cannabis not in prison, but stuffing envelopes, writing programming code or answering prisoner mail for their ‘community service’ at NORML. The staff calls this ‘Ironically Good Karma’…
    Oddly, or not, very few blacks or Latinos do their community service at NORML.]

  13. Unfortunate. The reason why your son is in jail is because of people like this… This was taken from yahoo news.
    -Ron Brooks, president of the National Narcotics Officers’ Associations’ Coalition, said that he feared that, if legalized, marijuana would contribute to more highway accidents and deaths, as well as a potential increase in health care costs for those who smoke it.
    State lawmakers, he said, need to ask themselves “if they believe we really will make all that revenue, and even if we did, will it be worth the suffering, the loss of opportunities, the chronic illness or death that would occur?”-
    I love how he says chronic illness and death. Ive been smoking medicinal pot all day everyday for over 6 years and if anything, I get sick less. Oh, and im not dead either obviously. This ignorant fool knows not what he speaks of. Why do we let morons like this run our society? We can’t just vote them out. The nation is no longer a democracy! Politicians are selected by elite private interests not the people! FOR GOD SAKE WAKE THE FUCK UP EVERYONE!! The united states has been high jacked by compulsive lying lunatics, and they are calling US the bad guys! You think you’re gonna just simply vote them out of power? We are past that point America. We need to force them out of power. They are killing the earth, and believe it or not, innocent people are dying as a result of hardcore prohibitionists. You just don’t see it on the news because it isn’t happening in this country. We are so focused on terrorism that we are blind to see what’s happening on our own countrie’s stage. Stand up people! Stand up and fight for your freedoms! The only reason why we are our own nation is because we defeated evil on our own soil. WE CAN DO IT AGAIN. There is no peaceful solution when dealing with evil. REVOLT! Revolt and make America free again.

  14. 2hr breakdown of our govt’s role in supplying drugs to it’s populus and then making money off of our incarceration to boot.

  15. Touchy subject matter I see. Had to think about this one for a while. Hits close to home for me and several freinds.
    Yes racisim still exists– more so in some parts than others– and is another form of classism, (or visa-versa, not sure). Neither is healthy for society. A lot of it is so ingrained that those perpetuating it don’t even realize that they’re even doing so for the most part. That doesn’t make it ok though.
    I’m white but grew up in neighborhoods and schools in which that was the minority so I have a taste of how that feels.
    Depending on how I dress and wear my hair I can still get people (minorities and whites) locking their car doors when they pull up to an intersection I’m about to cross. It’s silly to the point of disgust how approachable or not fellow customers (at Starbucks for example) are depending on I’m in flannel and well worn Levis with the hair hanging as opposed to my other…. more socially acceptable attire with the hair pulled back and pony tail hidden under the jacket collar.
    Out West I got caught up in the system on a few occasions and what I saw firsthand was more about how much lawyer one could afford being the main determining factor of how much “justice” one might recieve. I know that this is just one mans small veiw of the bigger picture though. Not trying to ruffel any feathers.
    In any event nobody should be doing time for marijuana posession. Whether he was medicating, recreating, or flipping it to pay his way shouldn’t matter any more than the quality of representation he can afford or the color of his skin.

  16. My point is that this punishment was not due to race.I find this letter to be very racist and i am upset norml is promoting it. The issue here should not be race but the current laws in place. There are plenty of black men and women in this area from police officers to judges. Not to mention the black president residing 5 minutes from where this takes place.
    While some people would not consider that a lot of marijuana ( I wouldn’t mind living there), here it is. Joshua knowingly broke the law on multiple accounts. I enjoy marijuana and find it helps me with my depression among other problems including ADD, but as much as i dislike the laws in place i know the risk i am taking. I don’t deal with four ounces of marijuana because it’s well known in this area how much trouble that can get you. For his father to completely ignore what Joshua did and blame it on a racist judicial system is irresponsible, similar to Joshua conducting this activity with a child on the way.
    Current marijuana laws are wrong, and i support legalization. The fact is though that they are in place, and accordingly we must keep in mind the possible outcome of our decisions. While its horrible that someone can receive such a punishment for marijuana, racism is not the issue but the laws itself. I have plenty of black friends who have violated marijuana laws in this area and received no different punishment then anyone else would.
    P.S. If you could e-mail me opportunities for community service through norml or other opportunities to help norml in the washington metro area i would likely be able to provide service.

  17. This is a very well written letter by a person that is obviously educated.
    It sounds to me as if the young man had several past problems with selling marijuana. If he was using it to medicate himself he would not have been selling it or if it was for another ill person it should have been delivered to his/her home.
    This letter sounds more like a blck movement letter that should have been sent to Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, or is that racist? I am offended that this letter was even published on the NORML page. We are here to deal with the reform of law as it pertains to marijuana, not fight a race war.
    Tell your son to stop selling his wares and he will not get arrested. If he wants to smoke he needs to do it at home. It is obvious he is not utilizing marijuana for medicinal purposes if he has so many prior convicetions. Try to extend some of your education to your son because he obviously has no common sense.
    Being a dumb ass does not discriminate between black, white or any other race…………….but if the shoe fits.
    [Editor’s note: The want for some to demean what they perceive to be reverse racism in favor of citizens going to prison for something they claim should be legal is revealing about still yet festering racism in America.
    How quickly some who claim to be reformers side with the government when the narrative fits their world view.
    So the shoe fits? So it does, and we’re all the worse for it.
    Racism help create cannabis prohibition, and it helps to foster it today.]

  18. I feel that there are many valid points in this letter. The writer certainly knows what he is talking about, and I agree whole heartedly that his son was potentially targeted more so because he was black.
    That being said, we have to look at the situation. Regardless of my race if I were arrested once for possession or selling, I would stop my use of marijuana. This is due to our current laws that are in place. I know people of all races (I am white) that have been put into jail for simple possession charges over a period of time. With all of our actions in life we have to look at the risk versus the reward. If you have been caught twice for possession, why continue on?
    I agree 100% that our laws are ineffective, but they are our laws. So, if we disagree it is up to us to help change them. At the same time though, if we continue to break them then we are assuming the risk involved. That is a choice, and it is a choice that can come with consequences as with this mans son.
    What I do disagree with though is the writer’s judgement of white people, and their relationship with black people. I do not feel that the issue here is how black and white people get along. The issue here is our current laws that are in place, that are putting marijuana users in jail. It appears that the writer comes from a very segregated area of the country that is not extremely diverse. He is confusing the racial tensions of where he is from with the legal issues his son faces. These are two seperate issues that need to be addressed in different ways. I live in the midwest, and while there is always some level of racial tensions, people of all ethnic backgrounds get along just fine. I myself have been in a relationship with a black woman for over a year. So, I feel that his feelings that black people and white people don’t get along is more based upon his personal experiences instead of looking at where we truly are as a country. I am not saying we don’t still have a ways to go, but I know that people of my generation (I am 24) consider ourselves very color blind.
    All in all, I feel for this man and his son. However, his son did make a choice. This man needs to spend his time fighting for what he is passionate about. If that means fighting marijuana prohibition, that’s great. If it means fighting against racism, that is great also. But, these are two separate issues, and I feel it is incorrect to lump them together.

  19. ………….there’s a ( propaganda ) TV ad where two guys are ” high ” on weed & as they are leaving a drive up window they plow down a little boy ( whose white ) on his bicycle . The race of these guys ( as i remember ) were black .
    There are two reasons why this TV ad is pretty sick .
    # 1 = It’s meant to show you that ” blacks ” are oblivious when smoking weed & they run down kids. Blacks are the criminals .
    # 2 = D.A.T. ( Satan ) is manipulating innocent little Children in life or death situations to lie & deceive you .

  20. america needs too wake up and just legalize pot. i feel sorry for this man and his son. black people are people to no matter what color your skin is doesn’t matter your your out come in a court off law, this is b.s. here in mn. and i’m sure all over the country if you have long hair you are treed worse off then someone with short hair. i had a friend that the cops busted down his door and tore the place apart for less then a half oz. they treated him differently then the ones with short hair that’s b.s. to. nothing has changed, it midis-well be the 1960’s too some 3/4 of the cops it still is once a cop puts on the badge their like a boss no longer a human but a a.hole. legalize pot and end the discrimination, it’s for the u.s. to wake up and end this war on people and drugs. Eric your are a ractis.

  21. Willie: the white world is not against your son. If you feel your son was improperly punished appeal his conviction! what is does sound like is that he is a repeat offender in a world where marijuana is still illegal. Not a smart move selling the weed until we all fight for its legality. His customers ratted him out. You also mention he had alcohol problems. Sounds like the best thing you could have done is tell your son to get his act together or he will screw up his life. Sorry for the jail time, but all kids who press the limit of the current laws get busted. stay out dealing, just enjoy the weed in private and get a real job! As a felon, your son will never get to vote in the US and he loses his right to change laws using the vote!
    [Editor’s note: In VA, like many states, the weight of the cannabis triggers a charge of sales, even if there is no proof of such. Facing more than 4 years in prison a plea bargain was arrived at, not a conviction for sales. There are no appeals on plea bargains.
    If you support the taxpayers paying $25,000-$35,000 a year to place Joshua in prison for being CHARGED by police for sales, and to likely pay child support to the son he will not parent until he is nearly four years old, you’re being oddly vindictive, especially if you fancy yourself a ‘reformer’, as well as short-sighted.
    Cannabis law reformers need to get with the obvious concept of not favoring at all incarcerating non-violent criminal offenders, most especially if the ‘criminal’ offense is anything involving the use/sales/cultivation of cannabis among consenting, responsible adults–whether the accused has one joint, one ounce, one pound or one ton.]

  22. Enough. Topics like this are incendiary and only make people angry. The dude commited a crime. As a parent I get why the author of this letter is lashing out. As a ( mostly 🙂 ) law abiding citizen I have little sympathy for a guy who broke the same law 3 times then got sent to jail. Man up. You fucked up and it’s time to pay the price. If stoners were a remotely organized bunch marijuana prohibition would have been exposed for the obvious fraud that it is a long time ago. Why can’t potheads muster more political clout so we can stop wasting tax dollars on trivial offenders like ‘joshua’. Hell, I am half tempted to run for office myself to get these damn laws changed.
    [Editor’s note: So Joshua is supposed to ‘man up’ but you think his crime to be trivial? If his ‘crime’ is trivial, why should the taxpayer’s pay for his multi-year incarceration? You need to be more consistent in your thinking, especially if you want people to believe you as a reform-minded politician.]

  23. Your son had 3 strikes and got sentenced. I’ve seen white kids get locked up for the same thing. You begin with Josh’s story, assert that white people cannot render fair judgments to minorities, then tie it back into Josh’s circumstance.
    “In Arlington County, as in any predominately white enclave a black before the courts is likely to be the recipient of justice compromised.”
    You start with that terribly opinionated sentence?!
    With the same argument, Blacks can no longer judge white people effectively on courts either, let’s just separate everyone. I guess segregation was a good idea after all? 😛
    [Editor’s note: The truth hurts, and the statistics are clear: Blacks are arrested at higher rates than whites, despite using cannabis less. Why shouldn’t the father of a black child targeted by the criminal justice system have an opinion about why the system is unfair. Wouldn’t you? If you didn’t, you’d be an uncaring and uninspired parent.]

  24. Although in this case, 3 times in a row merits the same ridiculous consequence for both races.. also understand for those commenting, different places have different levels of racism.. There are counties that are completally dominant in it, and others that arent or arent as much. Just because it might not be as bad in where you live, doesn’t mean it isn’t as bad as it can possibly be somewhere else.

  25. how do they get the “fact” THAT WHITES USE MORE POT ? I, nor anyone i have ever met have been asked or answered a survey. that whole pie chart is crap and unsubstantiated. as previously stated, every black i ever spoke to or served time with not only smokes pot but acts like a kid seeing santa when i explain and demonstrate my Vapir One vaporizor. Every time i bring this numbers game up the people in earshot say “because whites take it home and brothers stand around on the corner smoking a blunt.” now, while i would easily be called a racist (as a matter of fact i was in a altercation for this in prison but thats another story)its easy to see how a few young black guys on a corner are questioned on their intentions and when claiming to be hanging out are patted down and some mj found which leads to arrest. but if you dont think crackers are in jail for the same thing yoiur crazy!! i’ll guarantee its happening down south today. and by the way, mr holier than thou editor,Bill Cosby”s comments are perfect for this situation– Brad, Eric, lets hang out sometime!!
    [Editor’s note: What your personal experience is regarding who you perceive to use cannabis, or whether or not you’ve been surveyed in a country of 300 million is irrelevant. Since 1975, the federal surveys have clearly indicated a large statistical difference between whites and blacks’ use of cannabis, yet blacks are arrested at higher rates across the country, in some parts of the country (like New York City) at astronomically different rates.
    Despite Cosby’s lament, are his kids any different regarding cannabis use? No. The real jeopardy in the American criminal justice system over and beyond race as determining factors for getting busted are age, gender and class: Males between the ages of 15 and 30-years-old make up almost 75% of all cannabis-related arrests; no money for legal representation, equates no little to no ‘justice’.
    But, the data is clear, the American criminal justice system arrests, prosecutes and notably incarcerates blacks at disproportionately higher rates then whites for cannabis–even though they use less cannabis.
    Re other races and gender, the numbers of arrests largely comport with the percentage of cannabis users from a given subset, i.e., women use cannabis at lower rates and subsequently get arrested in lower numbers. Same thing with Asian and Indian Americans: low cannabis use reports equate to low arrest numbers.
    But, not if the user is African American.
    You may or not be a racist, but if you can’t accept the well established social science and statistical data, you’re certainly ignorant.]

  26. i am white stop with the race card.when i see a black person on tv i change chanals real qiuck.smoke a joint and lighten up.im tired of black people who blame white people for there troubles.
    [Editor’s note: The next time you want to publicly pronounce yourself to be a racist, you might want to have a dictionary handy so that you’re not tipping off every one that you’re ignorant too.]

  27. Sounds like you are making a lot of excuses for your drug dealing son. Instead of blaming society for his problems, question why he’s been caught selling drugs 3 times, race aside. That is why he’s getting a lot of jail time, not because he was caught with a joint on one occasion or because he’s black. As an Arlington taxpayer, I’m glad he’s in jail– otherwise he would have made hundreds more drug transactions in my neighborhood over those 4 years of jail time. This area is very liberal and lenient– so the fact that he’s getting all this jail time leads me to believe his criminal record is longer than your letter. All the fancy websites in the world won’t make up for the product of your parenting.
    [Editor’s note: There is nothing ‘liberal’ about caging your fellow humans for offenses that should not be crimes in the first place. You’re a fool to want anyone in your city’s criminal justice system for cannabis-only related charges.
    Why would anyone favor wasting tax money on the clearly ineffective criminal justice systems regarding cannabis when there are roads to pave, library books to purchase and weapons needed by military personnel?]

  28. pmMy name is Sun and I live in TX. Two days ago the police raided my home to seize my 1lb of weed.
    Since the recession hit, there were no jobs to obtain with my current degree. I decided to sell pot to get some school for cash.
    Some people argue that I should work hard and go to school and not sell drugs. Have you ever worked 90 hours a week? Have you done 50+ hours of labor a week and go to school full time and still not have enough money to pay for school? Especially when obtaining my undergraduate degree put me in $20,000 debt.
    I am half way done with my masters thanks to selling weed. Also kids under me who have made mistakes in the past were following the right track to succeed in life before I got arrested. No one I dealt with had any intentions of hurting anyone. My main runner just wanted to stack up cash to support his baby which he had when he was 18. One day I was happily coming back from the school library after I found out I made an A in my Organizational behavior test (oh this was the first semester EVER in which was able to afford not to work and pursue school full time….thanks to weed) an undercover cop pushed me to the ground, pointed his gun in my face and gave me a search warrant. I pleaded them not to make a scene to my neighbors and I cooperate with them. All the cops made a scene as they all laughed at me… Now all my neighbors think I am some Juvenile who has nothing better to do with his life. Now they’re sort of right. My degree matters no more because I have a felony…I am in fear of getting deported from the ONLY COUTNRY that I ever knew (USA). Only thing I have to look forward to are my classes hoping marijuana will be legalized and I will actually be seen as a hero who took care of everyone under me and around me with the profits arose from marijuana. I owned a gun (until the cops took it), but that gun wasn’t to hurt anyone. My friend and I go to the shooting range often. The officers looked at me like an animal and tried to seize everything I worked for…and they were successful…they also tried to take my runner’s baby away who was staying with me….They accused us of putting the baby under the influence. All the pipes were in the garage. Since the baby was born, we never smoked a cigarette or weed in the house. They just tore my house apart. I would take pictures and post them but they took my iphone too…
    Although I got arrested and got everyone taken away…. marijuana got me the dignity to keep my head up high from the education she helped me obtain. My mom couldn’t help me….my dad couldn’t help me….It seems the only one willing to lend a hand was Mary Jane.
    As soon as I get up….I would hit the pipe….then the gym for an hour and half….then study rest of the day….I don’t understand this negative vibe people put on us about being lazy and causing trouble….All the people I dealt with started avoiding trouble when they started smoking (until the cops interfered) I made many lifelong friends smoking marijuana together…Please…I’m begging the people of California….vote to legalize pot…and let the freedom flow to Texas where I reside….Thank you..
    My friends were sitting at my home with a lot of money ready to purchase. They took $40,000 cash from my runners. They should have cussed me out and called me stupid. But they did not care about the money at all but rather just my well being. Thanks to marijuana I have found true friends that will never turn their back on me…Not even for a great deal of money. My dealer who brought me 24lbs that day was a good person. He goes to full time school and was just about to move out. His bro was the nicest guy I met too shipping the stuff from California. They offered me a place to stay if I ever came that way. I am so sorry that I didn’t get a new number resulting in a phone tap…..I only meant to do good…..we may have gotten robbed but never ROBBED OTHERS….Please legalize marijuana so I have a chance of getting my life back as well as the nice people that were involved with me…We all had a close bond helping each other make money….And then maybe people would see me as a hero that provided rather than a convict that lost everything…I am not saying legalize drugs that makes people cracked out and steal from others just pot…

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