All In   |  June 19, 2013

Marijuana laws lag way behind public opinion

A 66 year old man offered coffee to police as they packed up the pot for which he was charged with drug trafficking, despite the fact that the pot was grown for his ailing wife.  Chris Hayes and guest Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post look at the absurdity and unfairness of so many marijuana laws, which are running way behind public opinion.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> was arrested for drug trafficking , because he was caught growing marijuana plants for his sick wife. it helps her eat and sleep better. the story seemed like a classic case of how our laws have not caught up with the society that now largely favors the legalization of marijuana. especially for medicinal use. then we noticed that the suspect whose mugshot you see here was busted after 137 plants were confiscated from his property. we thought, okay, wait a second, with those plants maybe there was something more to this drug trafficking charge. 137 plants must look like something like this, right? or even something like this. lots and lots of pot. but the very helpful public information officer, sergeant robert mcintosh said the 100 plus plants were three pots, in various stages of development, so possibly three of these.

>> sergeant mcintosh informed us there was no evidence mr. peters was selling the pot or making a profit. it looks like what peters says it is, he was growing plants in order to provide comfort for his wife, who is suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease . this dangerous criminal has been taken down. after someone, a guest or a neighbor alerted the sheriff's office about the plants, police went to the 66-year-old man's residence and conducted a knock and talk, and mr. peters was immediately cooperative and forthcoming. he invited the officers in and directed them to the direction of the marijuana. he then served up coffee while the officers went and gathered the pot plants. a time was set whereby mr. peters would turn himself in which he did, after arranging for a caregiver to come look after his sick wife. peters was booked for drug trafficking , because the number of plants exceeded 100 and he was released the same day. despite the implicit acknowledge by police that mr. peters is not a dangerous criminal, he could face up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to $25,000 or both. you have to wonder, why are we doing this? look at the polling. look at this elderly man no one is hurting anyone, and there are scores of other arrests like that of mr. peters who told a reporter, i have a moral obligation to make my wife as comfortable as possible. joining me now is ryan grim reporter for the huffington post , this is your can't on drugs. ryan , i thought -- was so taken with the story, because it seemed to perfectly embody the madness of the war on drugs, this guy's not doing anything, here's the other twist to this, south carolina has medicinal marijuana , which they passed all the way back in 1980 , you just have to get it from the department of health and environmental control which has never distributed the drug.

>> well, i wrote a book about this, and i didn't know that south carolina had a medical marijuana law. it's so absurd, maybe what he should have done is donated his plants to the south carolina department of health and then had the department of health donate them right back to him i mean, why people in south carolina would want to use their tax dollars or anyone in the united states would want to use their tax dollars to take this man away from his sick wife and put him in prison. in michigan a man was arrested who had a kidney and pancreas transplant . he was growing medical marijuana for himself. the government has sent him to the same prison where tsarnaev is.

>> is that really true?

>> it is true. at first they weren't going to do that, despite the judge recommending that he go to a federal hospital instead of a prison. they were going to put him in a regular prison. there was some press inquiries and a protest. he'll be sent to the same prison as dzhokhar, the boston bomber. because he has two transplants, his health care is extremely expensive. it will cost at least a million dollars to imprison this very old, very sick man who was growing weed.

>> this is jerry duvall who you're talking about, we should be clear here, these are not freak occurrences, there are 100,000 people incarcerated. as we have seen a real sea change in the polling data, as we've seen the politics change at the state level, are we seeing that filter down to the basic street level in terms of cops? it seems there's a growing disconnect between where society is, what it thinks is wrong, and where the law and law enforcement are.

>> i think yes and no. you are seeing some change in the ground. you are seeing some officers treated much less differently in colorado, for instance, after voters legalized marijuana , the d.a.'s dropped all the pending pot charges they had against people. even though, because it was illegal when it was passed, they still could have gone forward with that, but it's still costing people their lives. even people who aren't in prison for drugs are affected by it, let's say that you're in prison for burglary. and then you get paroled, if you show up and take a drug test and you test positive for marijuana, you're going right back into prison. so --

>> you're using tax resources on someone who presumably may not be a residivist. we're putting them back in the system and spend all the tax resources on that?

>> right. and even people who aren't in that situation, you know, because -- they might not be able to get a job because of this, i mean, they might get fired from their job. there are all kinds of repercussions that continue to hit people. nearly a million people a year are still arrested to this day for marijuana. now, the statistics are that marijuana selling has increased 10 to 15% the last several years, with arrests flat, the intensity of the arrests is going down, that's a small comfort to these nearly 1 million people whose lives are being disrupted by these arrests.

>> ryan grim from the huffington post , thank you so much.

>> thank you.