Every time I read a thread like this, it reminds me how ridiculous the drug and alcohol laws are in this country. Let's face it--if the bar enforced an ethics standard that excluded anybody who had been arrested on a drug or alcohol charge, then this country would have far fewer lawyers. Perhaps that's not a big deal (maybe it's a good thing, considering the glut of jd's) but the same thing can be said for just about any profession. The FBI was forced to end its policy of screening out people who had tried marijuana simply because the practice so substantially reduced the pool of otherwise qualified applicants. If the federal government locked every marijuana user up tomorrow, this country's economy would grind to a halt (granted, California Oregon and Washington would be hit hardest!).
One might ask, well, what's the big deal? That scenario will never happen, so why care too much about the law? We've reached a point in our society where a drug possession charge (especially for marijuana) frequently doesn't matter that much. Of course, I think most people on this site can see multiple flaws in that reasoning. One of the most troubling has to do with selective law enforcement. If a law is unenforceable, then necessity requires that law enforcement officials make multiple choices--the most common being what laws should be enforced and to what extent (obviously enormous ethical and philosophical issues are raised by this choice). There is, however, a more troubling choice to be made as well--who
should be targeted for enforcement? I (and of course many others) believe that this choice (and how it is made by law enforcement officers) represents perhaps the most damaging manifestation of racism in this country.
To use a small example (from personal experience)--if you happen to be an African American male high school student in certain parts of Los Angeles, the likely punishment you face for a possession charge is far more serious than just about any other demographic group.* One mistake, and a student can be placed on a path from which it is incredibly difficult to escape. It is easy for many middle to upper-class folks to shrink from the challenge of reforming our country's drug laws because so few of us actually see significantly negative effects. The stories on this board confirm that fact--Caught with weed, caught drinking underage, and yet still on a path to law school.
I apologize for the diatribe
, but I guess this issue just makes me stew, and I felt like getting it out. In any case, I'm interested in hearing what other people think about this issue.
*Not to minimize the challenges faced by other groups--it's just that in my experience young black boys receive the roughest treatment.