NVDAILY.COM | Local News

Posted September 10, 2012 | comments 41 Comments

Former judge gets one month in jail

Allamong sentenced after pleading guilty in marijuana case

By Sally Voth svoth@nvdaily.com

Nearly a year after police found dozens of marijuana plants growing on his property, former judge James H. Allamong pleaded guilty to reduced charges in Shenandoah County Circuit Court on Monday.

Allamong, 63, of Copp Road in Fishers Hill, entered into a plea agreement that requires him to spend 30 days in jail. The agreement states the jail sentence is deferred until Oct. 5, and he can serve it at the Warren County Jail if it doesn't cost Shenandoah County to do so.

Firefighters putting out a fire on his property on Oct. 3 found suspected marijuana growing.

According to a Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office criminal complaint, Allamong, an attorney who served as a substitute judge in General District Court prior to his arrest, allowed investigators to search his home.

They found 41 marijuana plants growing outside, as well as more pot inside his home, according to the release.

Originally charged with manufacturing marijuana and possession with the intent to distribute the drug, Allamong saw his charges amended to possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia -- both misdemeanors -- as part of the plea agreement.

For the former charge, Allamong was sentenced to a month in jail and a $500 fine, and for the paraphernalia charge, he received a 12-month suspended sentence, according to the agreement.

Allamong must perform 200 hours of community service and be on unsupervised probation for two years. He is also subject to random drug testing.

The original charge of manufacturing marijuana carries a minimum sentence of five years in prison, with a 30-year maximum sentence, and a maximum fine of $10,000, according to the agreement. Possession with the intent to distribute can be punished by one to 10 years in prison, or 12 months in jail, the agreement states.

In an interview following his arrest last year, Allamong said he grew the marijuana which he used to combat the pain of injuries suffered during the Vietnam War.

"Obviously, I wish I had an opportunity to go another way, where you can get medicinal marijuana in Virginia, but that's not an option," he said Oct. 5. "I was wounded in Vietnam from a severe concussion blast and had severe joint and hip problems that just are debilitating."

Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert acted as special prosecutor in the case and retired Judge Paul F. Sheridan presided, according to court documents.

The Virginia State Bar likely will contact the court system to secure documentation surrounding Allamong's convictions, Deputy Clerk Vivian Byrd said Monday afternoon.

"Typically, once the state bar receives notification from the court documentation showing that this attorney has been found guilty of a crime, then this office opens up a case," she said.

That usually results in an attorney being called before the disciplinary board to show why his license shouldn't be suspended or revoked, Byrd said.

41 Comments | Leave a comment

    Told you guys after this story first broke he would never get convicted of those more serious charges. Not because of his connections in Woodstock but because he was innocent of the more serious charges they socked to him. They brought in people that Jim did not know to try him and all they could get was possession of weed and a bowl. This was a waste of time and money.

      Oh right, that's the problem in the u.s. no one is guilty, if he was judging you.....how much time would you be doing?

        I have never had a drug conviction so I probably would have got 0 days in jail. Most people who have no criminal record or a record but no prior drug convictions and gets popped with a large homegrown supply gets less of a punishment than what Jim did. My guess, and Mr. Downes may have a more educated opinion, is Jim took the sure thing. That is not getting a felony conviction so he could continue his practice. My guess is the prosecution knew there was reasonable doubt that Jim was a distributor and agreed to the lower charge but also knew Jim desperately wanted to avoid the felony and got some bang for their buck with the 30 day jail sentence(15 days after good time since it's not a felony). If the prosecutor was attempting to curb moronic conspiracy spec ulation it did not work, at least not here. I dont know why Jim is angling for Warren Co. to imprison him. My guess is the work release program is better suiting or maybe he can get home monitoring easier there. Not because of the idiot's theory earlier. And I see no problem with Jim being the judge who tapped the gavel on a pot case. He served them just like he got served by his judge. Should speeders have their tickets reimbursed because the judge who presided got a speeding ticket himself? Should murderers go free because the judge on their case murdered somebody years after their case was decided? I would think not. The bigger crime here that no one speaks of is arson. Back to Mike who replied to me, "no one is guilty"- Jim admitted the pot was his even though it was not on his property. Now I would think Jim probably knew he would have a good chance to beat this completely since it was not on his property. But he admitted guilt. Of possession, what he was convicted. Why is no one talking of the more major crime here, arson? An accellerant was detected in starting this fire. Did someone set this to draw attention to Jim's weed? We probably will never know who did it. Jim suffered more than anyone else convicted of possession by far! Glad Jim will continue on o.k. after all of this is a memory and people, it is the law now but the law needs attention. Legalize pot!

    On an early morning in the late 80s while riding around Strasburg, we unwittingly used Mr. Allamong's driveway for a bathroom break. After noticing the name on the mailbox, we thought it was so funny; that is, until we saw a light (flashlight) in the woods...then we took off like maniacs!

    We were young and stupid... I suppose we could have raided his stash, but more than likely we would have been caught in a raid or prosecuted. Saw this story and snickered.

    I'm not a pot user but two points: 1) It is the fault of interdiction that a simple weed is worth that much. And, 2) when arrests are made, the more money you can make it look like, the better it looks on someone's resume.

    This is baloney. Those firemen should have just minded their own business, this crap is costly nonsense. Leave people alone. If Liberty just covers things you all agree with, then it ain't worth much, is it?

    If marijuana were legalized, it would put a huge dent in the transfer of wealth from this nation to the drug lords of Latin America, prevent hundreds if not thousands of deaths, create an economy in this country that would add to the tax base and the income of farmers (large and small), and keep thousands out of the prisons (private and public). This is not likely to happen, not because doing so would be unhealthy for the country or our people, but because it would be unprofitable to Big Pharma.

      You are absolutely correct. It's not about anything but who makes the money and the legal drug business is the biggest racket of all! It is always the taxpayers who keeps paying for all of this other nonsense.

      Just like alcohol and prohibition, it only gives the street gangs more reason to exist: you would think someone would wise up.

      I have my doubts that Allamong was growing this stuff just for his medical condition, however, we all knew how this would go. Now we'll see if this affect his practice?

      I agree wholeheartedly Mr. Cash! After I worked in property management (apartments) for a couple of years in Denver, I had my naive eyes opened to how prevalent use of marijuana is and have maintained that the govt. is missing out on a huge tax base!
      But, here in VA, and Shenandoah County, it is not legal for recreational or medicinal use. What bothers me the most is that Mr. Allamong, as an attorney and an OFFICER of the COURT (a JUDGE), was very aware of the laws that he was breaking by growing and using (by his own admission) an illegal substance! "Obviously, I wish I had an opportunity to go another way, where you can get medicinal marijuana in Virginia, but that's not an option," he said Oct. 5. "I was wounded in Vietnam from a severe concussion blast and had severe joint and hip problems that just are debilitating." He said he had no choice, what an excuse! We all have a choice; my husband and I CHOOSE to live within the laws. He could have CHOSEN to move to DC or another location where medicinal marijuana is legal or he could have CHOSEN to obey the laws of where he CHOSE to live and he could have/SHOULD have CHOSEN not to take the position of substitute judge while knowingly and willingly breaking the law. What bothers me the most is that this is the example that my teenage children, as well as the rest of the county's teen population will see and draw conclusions from as they are making their life choices.
      As a side note, couldn't the courts at least have fined him enough to have covered the cost of fighting the fire and the rest of the man hours that the county has had to pay out due to this fool's decision to do as he pleases?!?

    Did he lose his license to practice law? Are they going to overturn others convictions and reduce it to possession, I hardly doubt it. They took enough time to find a way to let him off the hook.

    I myself think it should be legalized and I don't use it. What is good for one is good for all.

    Sentence is not a Shocker. I hope all those poor snooks that he stood in judgement of agree. Especially the ones that have done time for the same thing.
    Some of you people are missing the point "It ain't legal." No matter what you weed avocates think, "It ain't legal" and until it is, it ain't.
    Yes, there's alot of worse things that law enforcers could be spending there time, and those serious crimes, I can only hope, don't make it in front of a smoked up judge for sentencing.

    That is B/S that he didn't know the ones that presided his case, every judge and every lawyer knows each other with in surrounding areas and the the state because of different meetings and gatherings that they have... If the would ever legalize pot to be legal then they would have to legalize drinking and driving and I hope that neither one ever happens, if a person is permitted to use pot for a medical reason then they should have to use a machine in there vehicle that if they are impaired then the vehicle wouldn't start or surrender there license . I don't want my family or myself or anyone elses family on to be on the road with a bunch of impaired morons that has no respect for anyone else as well as themselves, The penalty for DUI, DWI, or DUD should be alot stiffer than they are.. There has been way to many innocent people thas has suffered from losing family members, friends, and partners because morons refuse to take the responsibilities not to get drunk or stoned and then try to drive and put everyone at risk for there stupidness...

      Can you explain your reasoning? Why would we have to legalize driving while drunk if we legalize marijuana? Your entire point makes no sense and is based on misinformation and propaganda. Time to come out of the "reefer madness" age and take a step into reality. Stop believing everything Fox News tells you and do some real research before passing judgement on others.

    I happen to know people from many years ago that were arrested for growing less than 10 plants and they were charged with manufacturing and they got 25 years in prison and had to serve 7 yrs.

    This all happened about the same time that an old woman decided it was a good idea to poison the elderly man she was living with and caring for with the agreement that when he passed away she would inherit his property. She thought it was taking him too long to die so she helped him along....and she only got 6 years in prison for killing someone!!!

    Now tell me this legal system of ours isn't a joke! Allamong's case just proved it!

    Our justice system is rapidly becoming an INJUSTICE system. Minimum of 6 years, maximum of 30 and this JUDGE that is supposed to be living by the book and setting an EXAMPLE gets a measley 30 days in jail when the normal Jo Schmo on the street facing these same exact charges would've been slapped with the minimum of 6 years with a plea involved. Makes me SICK!!! In my opinion people that are place to uphold the law should be held to higher penalties when they break the law - after all how long did he study the laws to be a substitute judge/lawyer.

    Another good question..............he was growing this for personal use (which I DON"T believe) due to an injury in Vietnam.....well, well, how long was he growing this? Vietnam was quite some time ago.

    Oh, and as a side note....he was still allowed to serve as a lawyer while this case was pending...again, when the normal person walking the streets would've had pretrial, possible curfews and possible job loss - with a normal everyday position. Not the position of a LAWYER/SUBSTITUTE JUDGE.

    To Gail, Tstar, and MDA8389 You guys said it very well, You are spot on.....This sort of irresponsible behavior affects everyone is some compacity or another in life. It's dishearting to see how much little respect is shown from the court systems, legal standpoint and most of all to the fellow man...Our children have a tough enough time growing up without being exposed to one more idiocracy. Shame on anyone thinking
    this behavior is OK.

    What BS....Imagine this, sitting in a "local jail" serving 7 months for a possession charge, for a quanity, much smaller than the "on the Right side" of the law lawyer...I agree wholeheartedly, that Pot should legalized...but guess what , it is not!, waste of tax payers money yes! and guess what , Mr. "Allabong" should pay for it!...I can't understand why it is so different for some???

    It just totally makes a mockery of our legal system that Mr Allamong was sworn to uphold! Did he prosecute anyone under similar circumstances and if so, what prey tell did these folks get as punishment? Growing more than 41 plants outside not counting how many growing inside and gets it reduced to a simple possession charge!

    It's not that I care that he did it as much as I care that our "one size fits all" legal system doesn't include the "special people" especially those whose job it is to enforce the law! Not only is it a mockery it is hypocritical to boot!

    I just figure if the lawyer wanted to grow some dubbage for his medical use, he might have had less plants. Maybe less outside would have been better. I understand firefighters seeing it, probably just talked about it among themselves, and it go back to someone...being police. Or who knows someone would have been blazing later depending on the buddage.

      Shendoah-you must have missed the story last fall. The discovery of plants was made by firefighters called to the scene of a fire at Allamong's home. The fire was a shed outside and in and around the shed was were the plants were found growing. When the firefighters found the plants, they called in law enforcement.

        Yep, I guess I missed the originaly article...Gail. Yep LocalYocal, i guess we hide behind pen names on here when not printed on real paper. I'm not sure why that is.

        I see pot plants on occasion on my routes. I don't know the people, so I keep my mouth shut. I figure it is either growing wild like a weed, or it is something I should not be worried about.

    Why would they be sending him to Warren County Jail "if it is no cost to Shenandoah County?" Is Warren County Jail free? It is because there are inmates he has sentenced to a lot more time in Shenandoah County.We cant risk something happening to the good judge while he is incarcerated. What a joke!

    Plea agreement?????????????? How can you enter into a plea agreement when it all is yours in the first place and is growing inside the house also? How does that intitle you for a reduced sentenence??? I think all people involved in the court systems should be subject to random drug testing!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have lived here for 20 years and seen this happen all the time and in my opinion it depends on who you are on what kind of punishment you will get.

      Dear Screamingeagle,

      Learn the facts before you post, as an officer of the Court I have to submit to random urine screens. I also have to report the most minor offenses, i.e. a speeding ticket to my supervisor. A traffic violation in my personal vehicle while off duty is subject to my being reprimanded at work.

      Does your job hold you to such high standards?
      Do you have a specific dress code you must adhere to?
      Are you on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days year?

      Probably

    For all of you who think he got off easy, just consider this. He lost his job as a judge. His standing in the community and within his profession is severly damaged. He will probably lose his law license and he probably spent a lot of money on attorney fees. He is also going to jail albeit for only a short time but nonetheless he is going to jail. How many "normal Jo Schmo's"
    lose all of this for the same offense. Most people growing marijuana get first offender status unless it can be proven they are dealing. First offender status is no jail time. The judge did wrong, but to say he is going unpunished is just wrong.

    As a criminal defense lawyer for the past 25 years, a proud member of NORML, and a loyal friend of Mr. Allamong, I have a few bias observations:
    1) “It is unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally to possess marijuana unless the substance was obtained directly from, or pursuant to, a valid prescription…” Virginia Code § 18.2-250.1(A). Virginia law permits possession of Marijuana IF obtained by a valid prescription. The hypocrisy is that no Virginia physician can legally prescribe it.
    2) “[I]t shall be unlawful for any person to sell, give, distribute or possess with intent to sell, give or distribute marijuana.” Virginia Code § 18.2-248.1. If the Commonwealth cannot prove the element of “possess with intent to sell”, reducing to the lesser included offense of simple possession would be likely for any defendant. Receiving 30 days was the maximum sentence any defendant could receive for the first offense of possession.
    3) I struggle with disproportionate sentences between defendants every day. Attempting to reconcile can be mind numbing. Multiple factors should be considered and, inevitably, both sides will perceive the result as “unfair” and “unjust”.
    4) In this case, a man who has demonstrated honor and integrity in all of my dealings with him has lost more than any previous drug possession client of mine.
    5) Finally, rather than wish further ill towards a man that served your country and community, please reflect on the failures of our “drug war” and need for better policy. Consider that the pharmaceutical industry is the most profitable industry in our country with over half a trillion dollars in sales. With drug use so prevalent, why are we fixated on the use of drugs that compete with the local pharmacy? Incidentally, decriminalization of Marijuana would not change our DUID laws.

    Jim Allamong is a very good lawyer and was always professional and honest in all of my dealings with him . I truly wish him the very best and hope his professional reputation can recover from this , everyone makes mistakes and a lot of people are very judgmental when they have done the same or worse all I can say is good luck Jim and I wish you the very best .

    So, everybody has their own expert opinion, but most of you use an anonymous name. Apparently that allows you to verbalize any half thought in your head. The Daily should NOT be printing in the newspaper opinions of people who hide behind cute little disguises. When someone writes a letter to the editor, that is printed in the newspaper, our full name and address has to be included, so that people are held accountable for what they write.

    There are lots of good citizens who have done good things for our country who were contributing to their communities, and are now in jail for Marijuana. Mr. Allimong chose his career as a judge and lawyer. It is not like that was the only job he could find. When you choose a job that gives you power over other peoples lives and mistakes they make, then I believe you should be held to a higher standard. You are not above the law because you have money, or have made friends over the years in the court system. Mandatory jail time should be stiffer for people in these kinds of positions found guilty of crimes, because , 1 they choose the job, and 2 they have power over other peoplel lives.

    There are lots of good citizens who have done good things for our country who were contributing to their communities, and are now in jail for Marijuana. -Really? Do you know these “citizens” personally or have any data to support this assertion?
    Mr. Allimong (sic) chose his career as a judge and lawyer. - Actually, he was selected for his position as a substitute judge and he accepted that responsibility.
    It is not like that was the only job he could find. - Actually, he is pretty lazy and inept because of his Marijuana use. Note to “jm”: I am not being serious but neither is your correlating enhanced punishment to persons “lucky” enough to choose their vocation. The logical syllogism would be that we should be more lenient on drug dealers because they could find no other employment.
    When you choose a job that gives you power over other peoples (sic) lives and mistakes they make, then I believe you should be held to a higher standard. - Clearly, you have some personal resentment against people in power. If you feel inadequate or powerless, at least acknowledge this bias. Otherwise, your logic for enhanced punishment for “people with power” is not only vague but counter intuitive. Normally, courts sentence defendants more harshly if they have a prior criminal record. Your suggestion is that people without any prior criminal record, i.e., people in power, should be more harshly sanctioned for their first offense.
    You are not above the law because you have money, or have made friends over the years in the court system. - Finally, something we agree upon – nobody should be above the law. Incidentally, I noticed your criticism has shifted from “people with power” to “people with money”. I am not sure you meant to make these groups synonymous or that you merely resent anyone with more influence, money, education, resources, good looks or common sense than you. In any event, using Mr. Allamong, not “Allimong”, to support this proposition is not supported by the facts.
    Mandatory jail time should be stiffer for people in these kinds of positions found guilty of crimes… - “jm”, thank you for jumping on the bandwagon that has made us the leading country in the world with incarcerated citizens per capita and in the history of our nation. To quote Dr. Phil, “… and how is that working for you?” To error on the side of caution, I should strike all prospective jurors with the initials, j.m., for fear that no amount of evidence and reason will ever persuade you to change your mind.

    In support of my comments, the American Conservative published this insightful article yesterday: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-right-the-drug-war/ This dichotomy between persons for and against Marijuana decriminalization is no longer between the left wing and right wing politics but the informed and uninformed.

    ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!! LEAGALIZE AND DE-CRIMINALIZE. IT'S THE ONLY WAY TO FIX THE DEBT, MIN. NEW TAXES AND HAVE THE FUNDS TO GO AFTER THE 'HARDER' STUFF. WAKE UP PEOPLE!!! HEMP IS THE ANSWER FOR GLOBAL SUSTAIABILITY. JOIN NORML

    I ALSO WANTED TO ADD, DAVID DOWNES, YOU ARE MY HERO...I PAID YOU TO REPRESENT ME ONCE AND YOU ARE QUITE POSSIBLY THE BEST THIS TOWN HAS TO OFFER. YOU ARE SMART, EFFICIENT AND A GREAT REPRESENATIVE OF THE PEOPLE. I COMMEND YOU IN YOUR EFFORTS TO PRESENT A GOOD ARGUMENT IN THE FACE OF SO MANY OBSTICALS OF OPPONENTS TO OUR FAIR (AAHEMMM) JUSTICE SYSTEM IN THIS COUNTY. CONTINUE TO DO WORK, MY FRIEND...IT IS NOT WITHOUT NOTICE AND APPRECIATION. NOT AFFRAID TO SIGN MY NAME....YOURS TRUELY, BARBARA JUDSON

    HERE'S TO YOU, DAVID,

    Pat Robertson began publicly criticizing the drug war in December 2010, and he has become more vocal since. Unlike the vague critiques often heard from prominent figures—even Barack Obama has called the drug war a failure—Robertson’s insights have been precise, and consistent, and deeply-rooted. “We here in America make up 5 percent of the world’s population, but we make up 25 percent of jailed prisoners,” he noted in March, appearing genuinely moved by the issue. “I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat … alcohol,” he told the New York Times. Beyond the practical argument, Robertson sees the moral dimension: “I believe in working with the hearts of people, and not locking them up.”

    In light of his key role in the religious right, Robertson’s comments take on special significance. The man speaks to a particular strain of social conservatives, not straying from their rhetorical comfort zone even as he champions drug legalization for principled reasons. He even blames the left for a burgeoning police state: “Every time the liberals pass a bill—I don’t care what it involves—they stick criminal sanctions on it.”

    Should “theocons” adopt a more tolerant view on drugs, it would shake the entire right-wing on the issue. They would be the last prominent faction to demonstrate skepticism. The American right has long had its share of drug-war critics. William F. Buckley articulately defended legalization on a half-hour PBS special in 1996. George Will has often explained the unintended consequences of prohibition, although he still falls short of calling for decriminalization. Barry Goldwater expressed skepticism toward the criminal-justice approach.

    Neocons have either not cared much about drugs and other domestic matters or have sometimes embraced drug decriminalization as a nod to their social liberal side. Fusionist and libertarian-leaning conservatives have tended toward decriminalization. Right-wing talk radio, the information source for millions, has also featured many voices skeptical of drug laws, from the sensationalist Michael Savage to Jeffersonians like Mike Church. The common-sense center-right has often decried the futility of marijuana prohibition in particular.

    Missing in the conservative approach to the issue has been an understanding of the grave threats prohibition poses to the social institutions that cultural conservatives, including the Christian right, hold dear. If Robertson foreshadows a coming shift in the Silent Majority’s sentiments, this void will finally be filled. Despite the prominent critics among their ranks, everyday conservatives have consistently revealed themselves in polls as more hostile to decriminalization than liberals and moderates. A socially conservative turnaround on the issue would change everything. Just as many moralists who championed temperance turned against alcohol prohibition after seeing the social destruction it unleashed in the 1920s, today’s social conservatives could play a defining role in ending drug prohibition.

    The drug war embodies secular leviathan like few other government efforts. The federal anti-drug crusade began with Woodrow Wilson’s signing of the Harrison Narcotics Act in 1914, escalated with Franklin Roosevelt’s signing of the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, and tyrannically expanded to cover previously legal psychedelics and other substances during Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Bill Clinton increased marijuana arrests and drug task force spending, greatly accelerating the Reagan-Bush drug war. Under Obama, the policies have once again enjoyed a boost: his 2009 stimulus bill included major hikes in drug enforcement spending that had dwindled under George W. Bush.

    If alcohol prohibition qualified as the progressives’ greatest domestic triumph in the early 20th century, drug prohibition has achieved even more as a usurpation of traditional morality and the social order. Constitutionalism, states’ rights, subsidiarity, community norms, traditional medicine, family authority, and the role of the church have all been violently pushed aside to wage an impossibly ambitious national project to control people in the most intimate of ways. For years, the federal DARE program encouraged children to rat out their parents for minor drug offenses, an intrusion into family life all too reminiscent of Soviet Russia.

    Prohibition-fueled gang warfare has not only inflicted violence upon the social fabric; the crime wave has also served as a rationale to weaken the very civil liberties that conservatives most cherish—particularly Second Amendment rights. Bloodshed on city streets attributed to the 1920s liquor trade spawned the National Firearms Act of 1934. Congress specifically targeted drug users in its Gun Control Act of 1968. The 1990 Crime Control Act focused on creating drug-free school zones, but semi-automatic rifles also came under its ambit. Even the 1993 Waco standoff, rationalized by the Clinton Justice Department as an anti-assault-weapons operation, started with search warrants dubiously directed at finding a meth lab. In the 1980s drugs had served as the excuse to carve out exceptions to the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act forbidding military involvement in domestic law enforcement. The radicalized grassroots patriots in the post-Cold War 1990s who saw national police power as a threat to their liberty, their guns, and their families should have recognized America’s drug laws as a principal culprit.

    Today drug money finances not just domestic gangs but foreign thugs as well. In the last decade many reporters have commented on how opium profits have enriched the Taliban—a nearly unavoidable result of America’s drug policies, which keep narcotics highly profitable. But today the most conspicuous violent foreign threat comes from Mexico. The cartels, whose killing spree has taken tens of thousands of lives in just the last couple years, have shattered the peace on the border and become the subject of the Obama administration’s most notorious scandal. Some conservatives have wondered aloud whether the “Fast and Furious” program of arming Mexican drug gangs was intended to create an excuse to crack down on American gun ownership. Regardless of the ATF’s intentions, the drug violence has indeed served as a rationale to restrict American liberties, including the right to bear arms. But very little of this would be possible if these cartels could not fund themselves with the amplified profits that drug prohibition produces. (No wonder all of the conservative movement’s heroes of economic science—Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, and Milton Friedman—were unambiguous in opposing the drug war, on practical as well as moral grounds.)

    Recent polls indicate that a slight majority of Americans is now open to legalizing marijuana. Somewhat surprisingly, residents of liberal California are less likely than the nation at large to support the idea, according to a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll, although Democrats and voters in the lefty Bay Area favor decriminalization in far higher numbers than Republicans and the rest of the state. Conservatives are still the main ideological barrier to drug liberalization.

    But the tide may be turning. At a Republican primary debate in South Carolina last May, Ron Paul likened the freedom to use drugs to the freedom to worship according to one’s faith, a radical insight about the liberty of conscience usually heard mainly from proud proponents of psycho-pharmacological experimentation. Moderator Chris Wallace asked the Texas congressman whether using heroin was simply an “an exercise of liberty.” Paul responded with a rhetorical question: “How many people here would use heroin if it were legal?” He mocked the very idea of paternalistic prohibition: “Oh yeah, I need the government to take care of me. I don’t want to use heroin, so I need these laws.”

    The audience erupted in laughter and enthusiastic applause. Many of Paul’s supporters sat in the crowd, but more important was the lack of booing from the more conventionally conservative attendees. In this Republican audience in a right-leaning state, some of the most radical arguments for heroin legalization fared surprisingly well. Even if today’s conservatives do not buy into all the reasons to end prohibition, they no longer find them as dangerous or worthy of ridicule as in years past.

    Also in May, a survey conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research found that 67 percent of Republicans wanted to see an end to federal medical-marijuana raids. President Obama’s policies are not only out of touch with his liberal base, they are far more draconian than what most conservatives want. On the issue of national power, this is not a completely new development on the right. Citing states’ rights, George W. Bush suggested he would put a stop to the raids in 1999. After becoming president, he stepped them up instead, but not nearly as much as Obama has done. According to Americans for Safe Access, the Obama Justice Department conducted 170 SWAT-style raids of medical-marijuana dispensaries between October 2009 and Spring 2012. Given his campaign promises to the contrary, Obama has “gone from first to worst,” according to Marijuana Policy Project Executive Director Rob Kampia. “There’s no question that Obama is the worst president on medical marijuana.”

    The federalism argument against the raids has always seemed more appealing to conservatives than liberals. In 2005, the Supreme Court upheld the marijuana raids in Gonzales v. Raich in the name of preserving an expansive federal commerce power. Antonin Scalia joined the majority, but Clarence Thomas, Sandra Day O’Connor, and William Rehnquist dissented. Justice Thomas, the court’s most conservative member, issued the most stirring rebuke, which he grounded in a restrictive reading of Commerce Clause power: “If the Federal Government can regulate growing a half-dozen cannabis plants for personal consumption (not because it is interstate commerce, but because it is inextricably bound up with interstate commerce), then Congress’ Article I powers—as expanded by the Necessary and Proper Clause—have no meaningful limits.”

    Tellingly, the Supreme Court’s opinion upholding Obamacare this summer cited the precedents of Raich many times. Dissenting conservatives on the court attempted to find a distinction between the two rulings, but many commentators noted the corner into which Scalia in particular had painted himself, viewing federal power as nearly unlimited concerning medical marijuana but restrained on health insurance. Thomas was right in Raich that a federal police power that can supersede state marijuana laws, bust down someone’s door, and jail him for growing a plant for personal use, faces no effective limits and is the very face of tyranny. The liberals who endorsed unmitigated federal power on Obamacare as well as on medical marijuana were being completely consistent. The logic of the drug war is the logic of the New Deal, national supremacy, and everything conservatives profess to hate about Obama-style governance.

    Drug laws expose the tension within the conservative movement: devoted to localism and nationalism, freedom and law and order, today’s conservatives, if they are to mount a meaningful resistance to the unrestrained bureaucracy in Washington, D.C., must choose between their conflicting values. Many on the Tea Party right have come to regard the Bush-created Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as clumsy and despotic. They cling proudly to their guns and religion. They worry about their privacy in the face of a relentlessly growing central state. But it was the drug war that first shredded the Bill of Rights in modern times.

    Public opinion has gradually been turning against the militarized Just Say No approach. Meanwhile, special interests like the tobacco and law-enforcement lobbies continue to put pressure on politicians to maintain the status quo. Democrats do not have the political will or capital to push for major changes. Perhaps Republican leaders—unafraid of accusations of being soft on crime, emboldened by a conservative movement increasingly skeptical of unlimited police power—are the ones most likely to lead the charge toward liberalization. This prospect leaves much to be desired, but for the first time in many years perhaps there is some hope on the horizon, and from an unexpected direction.

      Wow, I read the last comment by daygogirl probably about 300,000 acres. Actually I browsed it, read some of it from the start, and read some of it from the bottom up. I acknowledge I'm not much of a book reader. I think I have attention defeciet or however you spell it. As you can see, im not much on backspacing either.

      The last book i read was " A Walk in the Woods". I'm sure most people on here would think that was a thriller...LOL. I think I understand her comments above. everything is regulated, thus higher profits for thugs, etc...more violence, etc.

      anyhow, have a goodnight.

      A rather interesting political analysis of the problem with decriminalization of marijuana. The problem as I understand it is more about money than ideology, though. There is too much money in keeping the drug laws as they are. Big Pharma will loose a lot of money if marijuana is decriminalized and so will spend a lot to keep that from happening, in essence buying off any who stray away from their interests. In addition, the private prison industry will loose money if we cannot keep our prisons filled with those we convict of drug offenses. They in turn will spend lots of money buying votes in Congress, too. And since guns and drugs go so well together, the gun industry knows that it is likely to loose money if the war on drugs is reduced in anyway, so they will spend money buying up congressfolks, too.

    Actually I have more insight! But after hiring and helping the surveyor on that 300,000 acres, I'm relatively exhausted....;).

    Keep up the good work daygogirl!!!!

    I was only stating my opinion. I did not mean to upset anyone. I do not resent people with power or money. I would not want a Doctor operating on me if he were stoned. What if I were in a wreck? I would not want the rescue personel coming to help me to be drunk. I believe if you choose these kinds of jobs you should be held to a higher stanard. My sister is a nurse, she is held to a higher standard otherwise she could loose her liscence. Mr. Allamong may have been selected, but he chose his career. He may not have been selected had it been known he was using drugs. That is my opinion. I never said it was right. I could tell you were a lawyer before I got to your name. Your opinion is right no one elses' matters. So sorry for the spelling!


Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily | nvdaily.com | 152 N. Holliday St., Strasburg, Va. 22657 | (800) 296-5137