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How Utterly Insane Are Our Drug Laws?
Via Reason, a guy in Florida was sentenced to 25 years in jail for drug possession -- for possessing painkillers for which he had a prescription! Colleen Jenkins writes in the St. Pete Times:

TAMPA - Mark O'Hara left jail without handcuffs Wednesday, two years after he went to prison and one week since an appeals court ordered him a new trial.

He was serving a 25-year sentence for having 58 Vicodin pills in his bread truck. Jurors weren't told that it is legal to possess the drug with a prescription, which he had.

...The opinion faulted prosecutors' claims that Florida statutes do not allow a "prescription defense" in drug trafficking cases.

Using words like "absurd" and "ridiculous," three appellate judges said the state's position would make patients with valid prescriptions criminals as soon as they left the drugstore.

Tampa airport police arrested O'Hara in August 2004 after they found the hydrocodone and a small amount of marijuana in his illegally parked and unattended bread truck.

He refused plea agreements from prosecutors before trial, one for three years in prison. Instead, jurors heard from two doctors who said they had been treating O'Hara since the early 1990s for pain related to gout and auto accident injuries.

Prosecutors did not contend that O'Hara, who went to prison in the 1980s for cocaine trafficking, sold any of the 80 Vicodin pills he had been prescribed in the eight months before his arrest. Under the law, simply possessing the quantity of pills he had constitutes trafficking.

...He sold two condos, his car and his bread business to pay for the appeal. But the state took the proceeds, according to family friend Eric Mastro, to pay toward the $500,000 fine that came with his conviction.

Posted by aalkon at August 1, 2007 10:25 AM


The injustice here makes me sick.

Posted by: kishke at August 1, 2007 7:57 AM

Oh jail someone for drugs because they are hurting who? Themselves? And then imprison them for their own good? How dose that help anyone? I am sick and tired of paying for all this injustice. When I think about the tax revenue we could have from legalizing pot verses the money we squander investigating, going to trial and then incarcerating some 60,000 pot smokers a year it just makes me sick.

Posted by: rusty wilson at August 1, 2007 9:11 AM

Simple solution make drugs as legal as alcohol, make operationg heavey equipment while under the influenece a felony.

Make DUI felony murder punishable by death.

Dumbass drug users who harm others are disposed of and responsible people can live their livews without being punished for the actions of others.

Posted by: lujlp at August 1, 2007 12:39 PM

lujlp -

I've been saying that for years. Make all of it legal, if you're caught driving under the influence, you get charged with attempted manslaughter. Seems quite reasonable to me and might, might, just get through thick skulls that driving while intoxicated is not ok.

Meanwhile, let everyone else, who's responsible about it, do to their bodies what they will. Kind of a new Our Bodies, Ourselves for everybody. I should note that I also believe in legalized, regulated and taxed prostitution, along with the right to die - with assistance.

Posted by: DuWayne at August 1, 2007 7:20 PM

BTW, Balko rocks.

Posted by: DuWayne at August 1, 2007 7:48 PM

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