A friend who admits she smokes marijuana says laws declaring the drug illegal are "stupid."
"When the law is stupid I see no reason to obey it," she adds.
She and other members of the Floyd County’s marijuana community are upset over Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Shortt’s dogged enforcement of laws against marijuana manufacturing and use. Shortt recently obtained a guilty plea from Patrick Fenn, a local pot user who grows a lot of the drug for his use and to hand out to friends. Shortt is also threatening to take Fenn’s house because Virginia law allows confiscation of property used in drug production and distribution.
"Stephanie Shortt’s problem is that she never smoked grass," my friend declared.
I don’t know if Shortt smoked grass as a young woman or not. A lot of people her age did so during their college years. It’s not a question I normally ask a candidate for office. For the record, I did not smoke grass in college. My drug of choice was scotch and I abused it and other alcohol for more than 30 years. My last use of that drug was 14 years, 11 months and two days ago.
Shortt campaigned for office on a promise to enforce the drug laws and to crack down on the "get out of jail free" plea deals of previous Commonwealth’s Attorney Gordon Hannett. Her pursuit of Fenn and other marijuana growers in the county has angered some of the pot heads who supported her in the 2007 elections, making Shortt one of those rare politicians who is in trouble with some supporters for actually delivering on a campaign promise.
"We must be a nation of laws," said John Adams, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. That notion provided one of the foundations of that historic document and the Constitution that followed it.
Yet I hear from people who suggest that we should be a nation of laws only when they happen to agree with that law. This issue has popped up in recent weeks with our stories on the the widespread violations of traffic laws.
Says one emailer: "The stop sign at Barberry should be a yield sign. It used to be one. It should be again."
Or another: "Passing on the right is not that dangerous. It should not be against the law."
If we are to be a nation of laws can we be one if people are allowed to pick and choose which laws to obey and discard those they feel are "stupid" or "wrong?"
Some might say that breaking a traffic law is no big deal. After all, traffic laws are not even considered misdemeanors, much less a felony.
If you run a stop sign and cause an accident that causes a death you can be charged with vehicular manslaughter, which is a felony. If a car ahead of you is turning left and you whip around on the right and strike a pedestrian, motorcyclist or another vehicle and someone dies you could, and should, end up in prison.
And if you grow marijuana and give enough of it to your friends that is called distribution under the law and is also a felony.
A felony conviction can cost you basic rights of citizenship, including the right to vote, to obtain a passport and travel or keep you from getting a job and making a living.
Yeah, the law might be stupid but the real stupidity is putting your future at risk by ignoring it.