Michael Herrick

To legalize or to moot?

Some people think the title of this song is irrelevant. But it’s not irrelevant, it’s a hippopotamus. —Michael Flanders

Today, someone asked me how I felt about the “our republican governor’s” resistance to the legalization of the use of marijuana. Pot-smoking not being an issue specially close to my heart, I had to admit I didn’t care much one way or the other. But I couldn’t help observing that the political tactics of these grass-roots activists strike me as laughably respectful, deferential, and old-fashioned.

One way to create a world where you can smoke marijuana with impunity is to seek legal permission from your rulers. You can write to your legislators and buy advertising and vote in elections and bribe politicians. The democratic process.

But why waste time on that sausage-factory? The fact is, prosecutors can’t beg, bully or bargain a possession conviction out of any jury in the country. There’s an easier way and all it takes is a little nerve.

Five years ago, a prosector in Missoula worked his hardest to ruin a fellow’s life for possessing an illegal plant. Unfortunately for the prosecutor’s career, the local community didn’t see things his way.

In fact, one juror wondered why the county was wasting time and money prosecuting the case at all…. “I thought, ‘Geez, I don’t know if we can seat a jury,’” said [the judge]…. And he didn’t.

The prosecutor called it a “mutiny.” Aye aye Cap’n! Flog those jurors with the cat-o-nine-tails!

This Captain Bligh complex is rampant in prosecutors’ offices around the country. A tin-plated prosecutor in Virginia recently warned jurors very sternly that “the law does not permit you” to disagree with the law. Interesting law. But they did anyway.

Prosecutors and judges try their best to bully juries with this baloney. You must enforce the law. You can’t practice “nullification.” You must “do your duty.” But folks are losing the stomach for it. And—mutiny or not—no one’s getting flogged. The law’s the law, but when push comes to shove, your peers don’t want to be the ones who lock you up for owning a plant. And that’s the whole point of the jury system. Politicians file prohibitions and cops fill quotas, but the juries are the final check and balance.

Pinched on a possession beef? Don’t write your congressman. Don’t vote. Don’t make your voice heard. Shut your mouth, post your bail, and demand a jury trial.

And watch Cap’n Bligh turn red.

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