The Brooklyn DA walked into court this week and announced the dismissal of all pending cannabis cases in his jurisdiction – all 3,578 of them – because, he said, “These arrests ruined the lives of thousands of people over the years, saddling many with criminal convictions that prevented them from pursuing opportunities in life.”
Exhibit A in the unfairness of cannabis prohibition could easily be 68 year old legally blind Dublin pensioner Evelyn Corrigan – who’s never had so much as a parking ticket – charged with possessing cannabis for the purpose of sale.
In her trial last week in Dublin Criminal Court she took the stand to explain why she was growing 3 cannabis plants in her home – because she suffered from asthma, a dystrophy affecting her left eye, a transient ischemic attack, generalized anxiety disorder, and degenerative arthritis of her lower back – and the cannabis oil (CBD & THC) she extracted from the plants relieved her pain & anxiety:
It doesn’t make me go all funny like if I drank wine. It just stops the pain.
Her doctor also took the stand and backed up Corrigan’s testimony, saying that “by using her own CBD oil Corrigan was able to manage her pain and anxiety well enough to take exercise.”
The jury acquitted on the charge of possession for sale, and the judge dismissed the simple possession count, presumably for compassionate reasons.
Nevertheless, this lady – who, remember, suffered from “generalized anxiety disorder” even before the trial – had her home invaded by police; was arrested, cuffed, fingerprinted, charged, had to hire a lawyer, endured a criminal jury trial, and was forced to live with the anxiety of an ordeal that began four years ago when she was arrested way back in 2017.
With the upshot, that, according to her doctor’s trial testimony, “Since stopping her CBD her symptoms have returned and we have been trying to manage it by more conventional means.”
Corrigan is by no means alone. Two weeks ago when Senator Cory Booker announced legislation to legalize cannabis, he reminded us that there’s still more cannabis arrests each year than for all violent crimes put together. In 2019 (the last year figures are available) there were 545,602 people arrested for cannabis offenses vs 495,871 for violent crime.
Most of these cases won’t be as egregious as Corrigan’s, because of her age and health. On the other hand, notice what the Brooklyn DA was saying when he dropped all the cannabis cases in his office – they “prevented [people] from pursuing opportunities in life.”
In other words, a 20-something Evelyn Corrigan would still face the same ordeal, the difference being that her arrest record would now follow her for 60-plus years (9 in 10 employers now require criminal record checks) instead of being saddled with it much later in life when, we hope, it will have less effect.