Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Why's pot still illegal, again?

Posted By on Wed, Dec 22, 2010 at 11:40 AM

Fascinating story out of Missoula, Mont.

Cops busted some guy named Touray Cornell on charges of dealing drugs. The evidence that they confiscated? Some pot, not much, nowhere near enough for a Battlestar Galactica marathon.

Its (probably) just a cigarette.
  • It's (probably) just a cigarette.

Since the charge was for dealing, Cornell was facing a felony. And the case was pretty solid. His neighbors said that they had witnessed him dealing. The cops found some joints and a pipe in his house, along with a shoulder holster and some ammunition for a pistol, according to the Billings Gazette.

Most important for the conviction, Cornell is a multiple offender. He was actually out on bond awaiting sentencing in connection to a conspiracy to commit theft conviction a few months earlier at the time of the pot bust. Since the dealing charge would have been his ninth felony, he probably would have been kicked back to the hoosegow for a good long time.

And all of this would have weighed significantly on the jury's decision — if, that is, he had gone before a jury. But he didn't because the court was having trouble finding 12 people who didn't immediately find it insane to try a man over the possession of such a small amount of marijuana.

No, they said, one after the other. No way would they convict somebody for having a 16th of an ounce.

In fact, one juror wondered why the county was wasting time and money prosecuting the case at all, said a flummoxed Deputy Missoula County Attorney Andrew Paul.

District Judge Dusty Deschamps took a quick poll as to who might agree. Of the 27 potential jurors before him, maybe five raised their hands. A couple of others had already been excused because of their philosophical objections.

“I thought, ‘Geez, I don’t know if we can seat a jury,’ ” said Deschamps, who called a recess.

And he didn't.

During the recess, Cornell's lawyer reached a plea deal with the prosecutor over the pot. Of course he's going to have to do some time over the theft conviction, but he didn't have to face another felony conviction because he had some weed on him. Thanks to these potential jurors, a lot of money and time was saved. At least in Missoula it seems, common sense in the war against pot has gone mainstream.

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