Article written by Richard Cowan, former NORML National Director and author of the CBD Seniors Hemp Recipe blog.
Yes, the headline is real. A seriously disabled woman really was sent to prison in Arizona on a minor marijuana charge. It was twenty years ago, but it really happened, and it took Arizona a decade after that to legalize medical marijuana, and it seems that it is about to legalize recreational marijuana… finally.
And we should not forget.
News Release from the Arizona Department of Corrections:
February 9, 2000
SEVERELY DISABLED OFFENDER TO DO PRISON TIME
A Superior Court Judge in Mohave County has revoked the probation of a woman born with no arms or legs, and sentenced her to the Arizona Department of Corrections for one year, a prison sentence that will cost taxpayers more than $300 a day to accommodate the inmate.
Corrections Director Terry L. Stewart expressed concern that a severely disabled woman was sentenced to prison time for violating probation on a minor drug offense, attempted sale of marijuana. “I simply can not understand how a judge can sentence a disabled woman to prison who presents absolutely no escape risk, no physical danger to the public, and who will be an extremely difficult and expensive person to care for, without exploring any alternative sentence measures such as intensive probation,” Stewart said.
Deborah Lynn Quinn, 39, arrived at the Arizona State Prison Complex Tucson- St. Mary’s Detention Ward yesterday. She was sentenced to prison by Mohave County Superior Court Judge Richard Weiss for violating her October, 1999 sentence of probation which was imposed on her for selling 3.98 grams of marijuana for $20 to a police informant. The court found her in violation of her probation when probation officers, who were inspecting her residence, discovered three to four ounces of marijuana, and other items of drug paraphernalia in her home. A juvenile who resided with her was also found to be in possession of marijuana and paraphernalia.
Quinn’s birth defects resulted in her having no arms, no right leg, and only a partial left leg which she uses to operate a battery powered wheelchair. Quinn requires around the clock care for feeding, bathing, and hygiene. As a result, the Department of Corrections has determined that its only alternative is to house Quinn at the extended care detention ward at St. Mary’s Hospital in Tucson. It will cost $345 a day, excluding whatever professional fees may arise. Corrections administrators also are researching the possibility of allowing Quinn to be medically furloughed to a residential setting where she would be under the intensive supervision of a Department parole officer.
“The plain and simple truth is the Department of Corrections is now faced with taking extraordinary measures to accommodate an inmate that probably could have been managed in the community at a reduced cost to the taxpayers of this state” Stewart said.
So, twenty years later, even the editorial board of AZCentral.com, the web presence of the Arizona Republic has endorsed legalization, saying, “It will be legal because the United States made a mistake when it chose to employ criminal law to control marijuana use — an improper use of the government’s most muscular authority. Now we’re in the process of a state-by-state correction.”
Ironically, having legalization on the ballot, is also likely to help push the once solidly Republican state over the top for Biden, partly because the Arizona Republicans seem to be brain dead prohibitionists.