Pubdate: Mon, 07 Apr 2008
Source: Star-Banner, The (Ocala, FL)
Copyright: 2008 The Star-Banner
Author: Josh Gardinier


I was recently talking to one of my friends about his court date. He
was explaining to me the details of his so-called probation that will
most likely follow him for the rest of his life.

He was pulled over for a minor traffic violation by a Marion County
sheriff's deputy. The deputy then proceeded to search his car for any
drugs, drug paraphernalia and any weapons he might have been hiding.

My friend is 19, and like most young people in our area he has dabbled
in the use of marijuana. The deputy found three blunt roaches and a
crumpled up plastic baggie. The deputy then tested the roaches to see
what it was, finding them to be marijuana. He then placed my friend in

Being that we live in Florida, a "no tolerance" state, my friend was
prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and received three years
probation and untold court costs. This is too often the scene with the
youth in our area.

Now I know what you might be thinking: Here is another young kid who
wants marijuana legalized. That's not the case at all.

I fully support marijuana being illegal, but what I do not support are
the harsh laws that we as a state have implemented in the punishment
of minor drug and drug paraphernalia charges.

I fully understand and support the fact that if you get pulled over
with a few pounds or even an ounce of marijuana in your possession you
should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. My friend, on
probation, now, will have to find a new job. And being that he is now
a felon he will have more difficulty finding one.

What happened to him is unfair. What kind of message do we want to
send the young people in our area? That if you make one small mistake
you will be haunted and labeled for the rest of your life?

Or should we be taking the time and making the effort to give these
young people a second chance and show them that drugs are not the answer?

Josh Gardinier, Belleview
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