Pubdate: Thu, 04 May 2000
Source: Canberra Times (Australia)
Copyright: 2000 Canberra Times
Author: Peter Watney


IN RESPONSE to your April 24 editorial Linda Oja asked: "Is the editor 
insinuating that the US should decriminalise crime?" (Letters, April 27) 
Take two cases heard in Oklahoma in 1996-97: one of a father imprisoned for 
four years for the murder of his child; the other of Will Foster for a 
cannabis offence. Will Foster had served honourably in the US Army; had no 
previous convictions; was a happily married man with three children; had 
good employment, but suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis, for which 
cannabis offered relief. The jury gave these verdicts and recommended 
sentences: Guilty of cultivation and possession of marijuana, a Schedule I 
substance. Recommended sentence: 70 years and $50,000 fine; Guilty of the 
aggravating factor of possession in the "presence of a minor, under age 
11". Recommended sentence: 20 years; Guilty of possession with intent to 
distribute. (Foster admitted sharing some of his marijuana, consumed in his 
home.) Recommended sentence: two years and $10,000 fine; Guilty of failure 
to procure a state tax stamp for the (illegal) distribution. Recommended 
sentence: one year. Total: 93 years' consecutive and $60,000 fine. No 
evidence was given that he distributed his crop. No evidence was given that 
his children were aware of the crop or its use. The sentence has since been 
reduced to 20 years.

Peter Watney, Holt
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