The ridiculous War on (some) Drugs

I ran across a statute yesterday that does a pretty good job of illustrating the ridiculous focus on The War on Drugs. It’s Virginia Code §53.1-203, which deals with “Felonies by prisoners”. I’ve quoted the relevant parts below, but you should go read the whole thing to get a good idea of what I’m talking about.

§ 53.1-203. Felonies by prisoners; penalties.

It shall be unlawful for a prisoner in a state, local or community correctional facility or in the custody of an employee thereof to:


6.  Procure, sell, secrete or have in his possession a controlled substance classified in Schedule III of the Drug Control Act (§ 54.1-3400 et seq.) or marijuana;


For violation of any of the provisions of this section, except subdivision 6, the prisoner shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony. For a violation of subdivision 6, he shall be guilty of a Class 5 felony. […][emphasis added]

In Virginia, punishment for felonies is defined by Code §18.2-10. A Class 6 Felony is punishable by 1-5 years in jail, while a Class 5 Felony is punishable by 1-10 years in jail.

Think about that for a minute. Did you read that first statute? Take another look at some of the other offenses, and think about it again.

Under §53.1-203, the following offenses are less serious than possession of even a tiny amount of marijuana:

1. Escape from a correctional facility or from any person in charge of such prisoner;

4. Make, procure, secrete or have in his possession a knife, instrument, tool or other thing not authorized by the superintendent or sheriff which is capable of causing death or bodily injury;

7. Introduce into a correctional facility or have in his possession firearms or ammunition for firearms;

8. Willfully burn or destroy by use of any explosive device or substance, in whole or in part, or cause to be so burned or destroyed, any personal property, within any correctional facility;

Got that? Having a gun while in jail carries a lesser penalty than having drugs. Arson while in jail carries a lesser penalty than having drugs. Escaping from custody carries a lesser penalty than having marijuana.

Medical marijuana is another good example of this: the FDA won’t approve research on medical applications of marijuana because it’s an illegal substance, but it’s an illegal substance because there’s no evidence that it has any medical applications. Catch-22.

The War on (some) Drugs has taken over common sense and intelligent thought. We will never get a handle on crime until we actually use common sense in punishing it.

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1 Comment

  1. Your last sentence sums this issue up very well. The near future, however, should address this issue with more reason. Individual states have already started this motion, as has much of Western Europe and Canada.
    Very interesting blog. Keep up the good work.


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