I had a very interesting conversation with a client the other night. We had just finished resolving a couple of traffic tickets out in Magnolia when my client asked me if I had time to talk.
It turns out that he's doing research into the effects of marijuana on athletes and wanted to know my opinion of the current drug laws. I realized over the course of our conversation that I had some general ideas but I had absolutely no idea what would be the best way to implement them.
Most folks who are charged with possession are battling addictions of some form. Using the court system to treat an addiction problem makes as much sense as using a shotgun to control mosquitoes. Our court system is designed to determine whether a person actually did what the government accused them of doing - and, if so, assessing punishment. That's it. End of story.
Our court system is not designed to diagnose a medical condition and design a treatment program around the diagnosis. Placing a person in a pretrial diversion program with the threat of prison looming over their heads if they relapse is just not going to get the desired effect. Everyone who has battled an addiction has fallen down on the road to recovery. Everyone relapses at some point.
When an addict suffers a relapse, entering a conviction and carting them off to prison does nothing to cure that addiction. When an addict suffers a relapse he or she needs more help. They need someone who can pick them up and get them back on the road. They don't need to be "treated" by lawyers and probation officers and judges; they need to be treated by medical and mental health professionals who aren't concerned with the number of cases on their docket. They need to be treated by someone who isn't concerned about the latest polls.
Having said that, I haven't the foggiest idea how we get there. I just know that what we've got right now isn't working. I'm open for suggestions.
There's an axiom in economics and business that an organization should concentrate on performing those tasks that it performs best. Economists call it comparative advantage and business people call it specialization. Either way, it's a better way to use your resources than trying to do a little of this and a little of that.
Using the criminal (in)justice system to treat a public health problem is just such a waste of valuable resources.