A Federal Bureau of Investigations study released in 2012 showed that police in America arrest someone for cannabis every 42 seconds. That’s around 750,000 arrests annually for marijuana alone. The enforcement, prosecution, and imprisonment of this never ending flow of low-level non-violent offenders are a drain on scarce resources for local and state governments.
Imagine if we could save all of that money and reassign law enforcement agencies to go after the real criminals. Now imagine if we could do all of that for the low, low cost of just 3.75 billion words.
That’s just what a judge in Bristol, England is experimenting with in the case of convicted marijuana dealer, 32 year old Terry Bennett who has been ordered to write a 5000 word essay on the dangers of smoking weed, or face imprisonment.
Bennett, a father of two who still lives with his mum in South Gloucestershire, was caught with around a kilogram (just over two pounds) of the dog’s bollox of UK cannabis, and later admitted to authorities his intent to sell the herbs to hooligans and ne’er-do-wells around the ‘shire.
Originally handed a one year suspended prison sentence and 240 hours of community service, Bennett convinced the judge that he was unable to comply after tearing up his shoulder while snowboarding six years earlier. Seriously. The judge bought it and wiped out the jail time and the community service, instead reducing the sentence to a four month curfew (from 8pm-8am each day) and the 5000 word essay on the dangers of marijuana.
A self-described “former plumber”, Bennett was pleasantly surprised by his new-found writing deadline, saying, “My shoulder is so bad I can’t really do much, so it was nice but a bit of a shock to be given such an unusual punishment.”
The gimpy Brit talks of his love to write as a youth, adding, “Hopefully the essay should be quite good but it’s been ages since I last wrote an essay. I have already done a bit of research. I’m going to approach it from a different angle, writing about the dangers that come about because it is illegal, rather than the nature of weed itself.
“Weed often causes more problems because of the social inertia and stigma that surrounds it. I’ve got a drugs conviction, so for me to subsequently take on a more serious role in society, it is imperative that I prove to everyone I meet that I’m clean and steering clear of cannabis, purely because it is illegal.”
I’m not sure if Bennett’s case should be the model we choose for relaxing marijuana laws, but I suppose it’s a start. It could even stimulate the economy by unemployed editors and English teachers back to work.
Below, check out a video interview with Bennett from South West New Service.