Monday, September 14, 2009

Dismissed marijuana charge raises judge’s ire

US attorney gave blogger a reprieve

A self-described libertarian conservative, Andrew Sullivan has denounced restrictions on medical marijuana.
By Jonathan Saltzman
A self-described libertarian conservative, Andrew Sullivan has denounced restrictions on medical marijuana.Andrew M. Sullivan, the British author, editor, and political commentator, is one of the best-known figures in the new-media elite, and his blog, The Daily Dish, is among the most popular on the Web. But a federal judge says Sullivan did not deserve preferential treatment from prosecutors who dropped a marijuana possession charge after the journalist was recently caught smoking a joint on a federally owned beach on Cape Cod.

In a strongly worded memorandum issued Thursday, US Magistrate Judge Robert B. Collings said the decision by Acting US Attorney Michael K. Loucks to dismiss a federal misdemeanor possession charge against Sullivan flouted a "cardinal principle of our legal system'' - that all persons stand equal before the law.

Three other defendants charged with the same offense had to appear before Collings the same day as Sullivan, the judge noted. But Sullivan's case was the only one prosecutors did not pursue, out of concern that the $125 fine carried by the relatively minor offense could derail his US immigration application.

"It is quite apparent that Mr. Sullivan is being treated differently from others who have been charged with the same crime in similar circumstances,'' Collings wrote in the 11-page memorandum, adding that prosecutors' rationale for the dismissal was inadequate.

Collings added with obvious irritation that he had no power to order prosecutors to pursue the case, and granted their motion to dismiss it. The fact that he did, however, "does not require the Court to believe that the end result is a just one,'' he wrote.

The memorandum was first reported Thursday on a Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly news blog.

Brandy Donini-Melanson, a spokeswoman for the US attorney's office, said yesterday that Loucks had no comment on the matter.

Sullivan, 46, declined to comment in an e-mail. A self-described libertarian conservative, Sullivan is well known for his idiosyncratic views. Catholic and openly gay, he is a strong proponent of same-sex marriage and has denounced restrictions on medical marijuana in his Daily Dish blog on The Atlantic Online.

His lawyer, Robert M. Delahunt Jr. of Boston, also would not comment.

Collings's ruling stems from an otherwise unremarkable event on the Cape Cod National Seashore on July 13.

Sullivan, who lives in Washington but owns a home in Provincetown, was stopped by a park ranger for smoking marijuana on the beach shortly before 3:45 p.m. When the ranger asked Sullivan if he had any other joints, the writer fished one out of his wallet and said, "I thought small amounts of marijuana were legal to have in Massachusetts,'' according to court records.

Massachusetts voters approved a referendum in November that decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, but the change does not apply to federal property.

1 comment: said...

There are many persuasive arguments on why America should legalize marijuana, the problem is that fact has not translated into real political pressure on the people who can change the laws. One of the problems inhibiting legalization is that people that smoke a glass pipe or a hand rolled marijuana cigarette are not considered serious or mature. It is this stigma and the illegal nature of pot that makes people hide their use from public view but the reality of who smokes pot is very different than it seems. Marijuana Legislation is a serious issue and that has profound effects on crime the economy and society. In the end it is up to us to be public about our choices and to voice our opinions to the ones that ultimately decide what is legal. Every hand written letter that makes it to a representative is considered to be the voice of a thousand people who did not take the time to write. Send an email, send a letter, make a phone call and get counted.