Published: Monday, May 23, 2011
Earlier this month, a Louisiana judge sentenced a 35-year-old man to prison for the rest of his life—for marijuana. According to the Times-Picayune, Cornell Hood II was charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute after law enforcement found approximately two pounds of marijuana and $1,600 in cash in Hood’s home. The jury convicted him of a lesser charge, but the prosecutor used Hood’s prior convictions to seek a life sentence anyway, arguing Hood was a “career criminal.”
What were Hood’s prior convictions? In 2005 and 2009, he pled guilty to selling marijuana. Obviously, Hood has been making his living selling marijuana for the past half-dozen years, and selling marijuana for recreational use is still a crime in this country. But Hood’s offenses involved no violence, no damage or theft of property. He was sentenced to probation in each of his prior cases.
Setting aside the question of whether jailing a person for life for marijuana can be ethically justified, let’s look at whether it’s smart.