An employee of mine, a Rastafarian, was arrested last week for possession of a pound and a half of marijuana. Rastafarians smoke a lot of pot. It’s hard to argue they should all be imprisoned, at taxpayer expense. This particular Rastafarian — who’s a lot more congenial when he’s stoned than when he’s not, incidentally — has a lovely wife and three beautiful young daughters. He’s determined to see them grow up and go to college. How should society treat someone like this?

More background:

He lives in a tough part of town that, quixotically, a few of us are trying to turn around. He’s anything but a saint. A man in his mid-thirties about Rodney King’s size, he long ago fell into the trap of believing a black man can’t succeed in racist America — especially a big, scary-looking black man — which, because there is an element of truth in it, becomes self-fulfilling. He has a huge chip on his shoulder, and it’s also his excuse to be lazy. (When I say he works for me, I don’t mean to suggest he does a whole lot.)

But what do we do with a guy like this? Send him to prison because he’s filled with racial bitterness? Because there’s a streak of larceny in his heart? Because he smokes a lot of marijuana and may be selling it to his fellow Rastafarians? (He’s almost certainly not selling it to kids.)

When the Swat team arrived to arrest him, he was minding his own business, out in the yard. The next minute, he was face down on the ground with a machine gun at his head. For half an hour the police ransacked his apartment, broke the TV, destroyed some other stuff, confiscated seven firearms, four of which were licensed, and found the marijuana but no other drugs. (Rastafarians are don’t see marijuana as being like crack.)

The night he was carted off to jail, I called his wife. She was sick with worry. What would the family do without him?

This is getting to be a long comment, so why don’t I end it here and leave you to decide how the story should end.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you what did happen. And suggest a “middle course” for marijuana.

Tomorrow: The Denouement


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