Mary is a good student, and a tad independent. At 18, she’s getting ready to graduate from a Catholic high school with honors.
And every once in a while, Mary smokes pot with her friends—friends she’s had since grade school.
Leaving a concert at US Bank Pavilion, Mary and her friends stop at Denny’s. In Mary’s purse is a dime bag of pot. It’s been there for weeks, and she hasn’t really thought it.
People at another table complained to their waitress that Mary and her friends were too loud. The waitress asked the kids to quiet down, and they did. But their laughter and singing picked up again shortly.
A pair of Maryland Heights police officers walked in Denny’s, and the older table called them over.
“Those kids are being obnoxious, and the won’t quiet down. They’re stoned are something,” one woman told the officers.
Two hours later, Mary had been charged with possession of marijuana, disturbing the peace, and related charges.
She’s dropped from her high school’s honor roll and placed on probation pending the results of trial. The local college she’d applied to withdraws the small scholarship they’d offered her and puts her application on hold.
If convicted, Mary will lose eligibility for federal student loans. Because the federal government seized control of the student loan industry, Mary’s hopes of a college education will be gone.
Missouri has among the most draconian marijuana laws in the US. Stories like Mary’s aren’t unusual.
Sure, Mary made a choice. Eighteen-year-olds make a lot of choices.
Her life isn’t ruined, of course, but it will be much more difficult than it would have been if Missouri treated marijuana consistently with dangers the weed poses.
Far more people die or are injured from alcohol and tobacco. And yet marijuana is easier for a minor to obtain than either of those, and the legal consequences more significant.
As a first time offender possessing a tiny amount of pot, Mary faces a year in prison and a $100,000 fine, loss of student loan eligibility, possible expulsion from high school, and a felony record for life.
Marijuana isn’t worth the risk to Mary. But the ridiculous damage to Mary’s life and productivity wasn’t worth cost to society.
The Republican Party is supposed to be about liberty and common sense. Missouri’s marijuana laws violate both.