Interest of Justice
On March 16, 2015, I read an article in the Charlotte Observer about the arrest of a 94 year old Charlotte man for felony possession of marijuana. The who, what and when were laid out in terse and dispassionate language – 48 words total in 5 lines. Yet these 48 words gripped my interest and held it for 3 months as I attempted to learn everything I could about the circumstances and shared any information I found on the people’s media of social net-working. I turned to the article on-line where the story was fleshed out in the comments.
One activist posted a link to the arrest documents available on-line through the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s website. A neighbor noted that he was a WWII and Korean War vet who had served in the Merchant Marines and Naval Reserve. His daughter posted that he was using marijuana for medical reasons. Comment after comment, people expressed anger that a man who had served his country was now so poorly served by his country’s laws.
On June 17, 2015, I contacted the Mecklenburg Clerk of Court who told me that a date had been set for a first appearance (July 1, 2015). I pointed out to the Clerk that the gentleman in question was 94 and a WWII/Korean war vet. I was not able to learn who the presiding judge would be, or which DA would be prosecuting the case. I shared this information on Facebook, and many expressed an interest in going to bear witness to the court proceedings and provide moral support for the defendant.
On June 26, 2015 I searched the District Attorney’s website to see whether further information was available, to find that the case was no longer linked. I contacted the Clerk of Court on June 29th and was informed that the case had been dismissed. While this was very welcome news, it was still frustrating that so little information was available. I shared this information also and another activist friend also contacted the Clerk of Court who HIM e-mailed a form filed by Bart Menser and approved by David Kernodle with the terse note that the case was dismissed “Interest of justice” on June 19, 2015.
In Mecklenburg County in 2014, 4,507 people were arrested for Misdemeanor Possession of Marijuana up to ½ ounce; 226 for Misdemeanor Possession of Marijuana ½ – 1 ½ ounces; and 233 were arrested for Felony Possession of Marijuana over 1 ½ ounces for a total of 4,966 people arrested (that is about 13 people per day).
In 2013, the ACLU estimated $750.00 as the cost per arrest (as a low average, factoring in 1 – police expenditures; 2 – judicial and legal services expenditures; 3 – corrections expenditures). We can therefore estimate that the cost of arresting those 4,966 people was $3,724,500.
The interest of justice is not being served in our current war on drugs, however many will argue that as long as marijuana is illegal on a federal level there is little that states or communities can do about it.
Possession of personal amounts of cannabis should be decriminalized in Charlotte. Eureka Springs, AR, Fayetteville, AR, Berkeley, CA, Oakland, CA, Santa Barbara, CA, Santa Cruz, CA, San Francisco, CA, Santa Monica, CA, West Hollywood, CA, Denver, CO, Miami-Dade FL, Hawai’i County, HI, Columbia, MO, Missoula County, MO, Santa Fe, NM, Philadelphia, PA, Seattle, WA and Tacoma, WA have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. People in these jurisdictions who are found in possession of marijuana (usually up to ½ ounce) are given a ticket instead of being arrested. These ordinances put the police and sheriffs on notice that citizens prefer to have their tax dollars spent on arresting and convicting crimes against people and property rather than on arresting people for possession of marijuana.