Pubdate: Wed, 30 May 2001
Source: Mountain Xpress (NC)
Copyright: 2001 Mountain Xpress
Author: Michael Morgan


North Carolina is experiencing a serious budget shortfall, which has
led to a call from Raleigh to all state entities: "Find ways to trim
your budgets." I don't want to see one penny cut from the education
budget. As John Bardo, Chancellor of Western Carolina University said,
"When you fail to educate your children, you're eating your seed corn."

There's a source of funding we can tap to bolster the education
budget. We can reallocate all of the millions of dollars spent on
marijuana investigations, prosecutions, probation, incarceration and
parole. Instead, put the money into the education budget. Education is
the real way to fight drug abuse, not criminal prosecution.

As local elected officials have repeatedly pointed out, local and
state governments cannot override federal laws. It's also true that
the federal government cannot set a state's spending priorities. If we
choose to spend our money educating our children instead of locking
them up in prison, that's our business.

This is a chance for our elected representatives to take a much needed
step in the right direction. They would be taking an overt step to
publicly support education, as they all claimed to do in their
election campaigns, and they would be making a covert statement that
they recognize the idiocy of our failed federal marijuana-prohibition

A gentleman opposed this idea, saying, "We can't set a precedent of
letting prosecutors pick and choose which crimes they try." That
already happens many times a day in every D.A.'s office in this
country. Every plea bargain rests on the basic premise of "We won't
prosecute you for these minor, associated charges if you'll plead
guilty to this one major charge."

Prosecutors also opt to try cases that have the most supporting
evidence, or the most publicity, or cases that will cost the least to
investigate and bring to trial (the D.A.'s office has a budget, too).
Like all other occupations, D.A.s get job-performance reviews, which
include cases-won-versus-cases-lost ratios. There is a great incentive
to choose to prosecute the cases with the greatest chance of success.
Figure out for yourself which crime is the easiest to prosecute - the
indigent kid caught with a dime bag of pot, or the wealthy corporation
violating EPA pollution standards, which keeps a team of lawyers on

I wish somebody with access to the correct dollar amounts would
calculate the millions of dollars we could channel into the education
budget if we re-allocated the marijuana prosecution funding. Let's
truly put our children first. Let's educate them instead of
incarcerate them.

- - Michael Morgan
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