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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Pot luck

Leniency for me but not for thee:

Last week Mitch Daniels, Indiana's governor, told The Daily Princetonian that "justice was served" when he was arrested for marijuana possession during his junior year at Princeton. But like many pot smokers who became politicians, Daniels, a potential contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, seems to have two standards of justice: one for him and one for anyone else who does what he did.

Although Daniels was caught with enough marijuana to trigger a prison sentence, he got off with a $350 fine. Yet he has advocated "jail time" for "casual users"—a stark illustration of the schizophrenic attitudes that help perpetuate drug policies widely recognized as unjust.

According to the Princetonian, "officers found enough marijuana in [Daniels'] room to fill two size 12 shoe boxes." Under current New Jersey law, possessing more than 50 grams (about 1.8 ounces) of marijuana is a felony punishable by up to 18 months in prison. Given the amount of pot Daniels had, he easily could have been charged with intent to distribute, which under current law triggers a penalty of three to five years.

[. . .]

To his credit, Daniels today advocates criminal justice reform, including a reconsideration of sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. But if he really believes a fine is the appropriate penalty for someone caught with two shoeboxes of marijuana, he should at least support decriminalizing possession and treating it as a citable offense. Currently in Indiana, the amount of pot Daniels had triggers a sentence of six months to three years.

If Daniels does seek the presidential nomination, he's going to have to talk about this. Hypocrisy has gotten to be a tiresome and predictable complaint about politicians, but there are a lot of interesting and important issues underlying this case. Most of us secretly think we should be exempt from the rules sometimes -- our judgment is so much better, after all -- even if we don't come right out and say so. But it's not an attractive quality in a politician. "I'm so superior to you as a human being that I don't need the same sanctions I would impose on you" doesn't get many votes.

(I can't take credit for the very clever heading. It was


Wed, 03/02/2011 - 12:48pm

Maybe you can start a gressroots campaign to get him nominated.

Tim Zank
Wed, 03/02/2011 - 1:55pm

"In the book, Obama acknowledges that he used cocaine as a high school student but rejected heroin. "Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it. Not smack, though," he says.:

One would think previous drug use is a-ok, no?

Wed, 03/02/2011 - 3:52pm

I hope none of us will ever be taken to task for what we did in high school.

Harl Delos
Thu, 03/03/2011 - 4:16am

I used to commute past a cemetery where the sign said "Get lots while you're young." I didn't do nearly as much in high school as I wish I had done.