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Drug-War Idiocy in Oklahoma

Drug-Warby Jacob G. Hornberger

More proof that licensing of lawyers doesn’t guarantee that judges won’t engage in judicial idiocy comes out of the state of Oklahoma.

Three days before Christmas, a state judge named Susie Pritchett, whose retirement would become effective on December 31, sentenced a 25-year-old mother of four named Patricia Marilyn Spottedcrow to ten years in the state penitentiary.

Spottedcrow’s crime? She and her mother sold a “dime bag” of marijuana to a police informant for $11. Two weeks later, another sale to the same informant netted another $20 for the women. That’s a grand total of $31.

Yes, you read that right. Oklahoma retired Judge Suzie Pritchett sentenced Patricia Marilyn Spottedcrow to prison for 10 years for selling the grand total of $31 of marijuana to a police informant.

Wow! What a magnificent victory in the decades-long war on drugs? I wonder if this $31 sale was one of those famous drug-war record busts. Does this great victory mean that the drug war has finally been won and that the war can be declared over?

Oh, did I mention that Patricia Marilyn Spottedcrow isn’t white? She’s a non-white who has no criminal record.

How long will Americans tolerate this drug-war idiocy? How many more lives must be ruined before the American people become as outraged over this democratic tyranny as the people in the Middle East are outraged over their authoritarian tyranny?

When I was growing up in the border town of Laredo, Texas, state and federal judges were engaged in the same type of drug-war idiocy as Suzie Pritchett. Some of them were known by the moniker “Maximum” because they loved to mete out to drug-war violators the maximum sentence allowed by law.

Did any of those maximum sentences do any good? Did they ever stem the tide of drugs? Of course not. They just ended up ruining lives, year after year, decade after decade. Over time, those judges would be replaced by new judges, who would engage in the same mindless “maximum” sentence idiocy. No doubt few of them, including Prichard, ever asked themselves an important question: What good am I doing for society by engaging in this maximum-sentence drug-war idiocy?

Why did Spottedcrow sell the marijuana? Because she needed the money. She was poor and unemployed. Her family had recently lost their home for non-payment of the mortgage expense.

Presentence investigators, whose jobs often depend on the drug war, condemned Spottedcrow for selling marijuana instead of getting legitimate employment. What the report failed to point out is the U.S. government’s role in the overall economic debacle that made conditions difficult for her to find legitimate employment.

What the report also failed to point out is the U.S. government’s role in luring people into the drug trade. After all, notice that Spottedcrow chose to sell marijuana rather than beer or cigarettes to that police informant. Why was that? Because the U.S. government’s decades-long drug war makes the price of marijuana artificially high, as compared to the free-market prices of drugs like beer and cigarettes. That artificially high price lures the unemployed, the desperate, the poor into making a quick buck, something that that police informant surely knew when he approached Spottedcrow and asked to purchase $31 worth of marijuana.

Judge Pritchett claimed that she was showing leniency by granting probation to the grandmother, who, Pritchett said, could help Spottedcrow’s husband care for the children until Spottedcrow was released from jail ten years from now.

But isn’t that just more judicial idiocy? Both women committed the same offense. If it was a matter of having someone to help care for the children, wouldn’t it have made more sense to send the grandmother to jail for 10 years instead of the mother? More important, the fact that one person receives 10 years in prison while the other receives probation for the same offense just goes to show the arbitrariness and capriciousness of the drug-war judicial process.

Spottedcrow is now serving her 10-year prison sentence in one of Oklahoma’s two prisons for women. In this article by Ginnie Graham in Tulsa World (from which the facts in my article are drawn), it is pointed out that 48 percent of women in Oklahoma prisons are serving time for nonviolent drug offenses.

Maybe Spottedcrow and those other drug-war prisoners will get lucky and the Oklahoma government will go broke soon, which could force the state to release these women early. Even better, maybe it will force the state to abandon occupational licensure, which could mean less idiocy on the judicial bench. Best of all, maybe going broke would force Oklahoma to finally bring an end to the drug war itself.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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