Am I a dork?

I think the policy of legalizing marijuana is a bad thing, although I would substantially lower the penalties. By the way, I believe “medical marijuana” is harmful too. While the penalties for recreational use of grass are far too high, I would not decriminalize sales of the drug for any purpose.

That got me thinking. I have never smoked marijuana or consumed it in any other way. I think that makes me a dork.* If I am a dork, does that matter in my job as a judge?

What you think?


* Meaning a quirky and socially inept person who is out of touch with contemporary trends.  Wiktionary, a wiki-based open content dictionary (March 15, 2015). See also “dorkface.”

33 responses

  1. No, I don’t think you’re a dork. I think you allow yourself to be governed by a puritanical desire to prevent people from experiencing pleasure in any way other than what you consider moral. And you’re willing to ruin someone’s life over that. And yes, even if you support lessened penalties, you still want to ruin someone’s life, which a criminal conviction of any sort pretty much does. It prevents you from getting into a decent college, from obtaining any sort of decently-paying job, and makes you lose several other important opportunities to better yourself in life. Anyone opposed to decriminalization supports ruining lives to prevent people from getting high.

  2. As long as you consider alcohol as a source of pleasure in a social or personal setting, and you consider marijuana an illegal substance not to be mean but yes you are a dork. Medical pot isn’t a ruse used to fool government into allowing people to get high. It in many ways makes sick people feel better. Somewhat like your chemo. But without the nasty aftereffects.

  3. …as a judge the verdict must be impartial, and consideration of a personal opinion is void.

    Because I find myself on the other side of the bench many times, with one being as recent as the day of fools; and keeping on subject, I found myself in violation of the current program. A drug screen had come back being positive for THC. I did consume an additive in my coffee, CBD; which is oil from a plant of the same genus.

    I was a pedestrian hit by a car, and suffered a traumatic brain injury. During rehabilitation I would conduct research to arrive at the CBD molecule to be used in treatment of aphasia. Most recently I have ingested CBD oil for purposes of the anti inflammatory characteristics.

    What is unknown is the extent to the research once the Federal government accepts an outcome not recognizable to those losing control. The states, driven by the pretext of medical value, have discovered a pathway to a new revenue stream directly in the hopes of mass control.

    Now that the market has developed into a few listed companies it is the time for legislation to be passed so that business efficiency can oversee daily operation.

    Now, reading to the end; a bit dorky!

  4. Ha ha judge, not for the reason you mentioned, but YES for stirring the “pot.”

    I am more interested in your obsession in this regard.

  5. Judge,

    Why do you think it is bad policy? Would you have been against the 21st amendment? Do you think that alcohol and tobacco use should be criminalized? What about sugar? In your court, do you seen more crimes that are related to marijuana use than alcohol use (other than, of course, crimes related to possession and distribution)?. You claim that marijuana is “harmful.” There are a lot of things that are harmful, but not illegal.

    Truly, I do not understand the logical basis for having marijuana be illegal, when other, more addictive and harmful substances are not. My understanding is that marijuana’s demonization was based upon racial stereotypes and government hype rather than actual harms it caused. If there is a logical basis for the position, I would like to hear it.

  6. BTW,

    I don’t think you are a dork (any more than anyone of an older generation than me is one). You are just misinformed.

  7. Judge: I don’t think it makes you a dork at all. Not that I agree with you overall.

    But more specifically, I agree that marijuana is harmful in ways that alcohol is not, and I would discourage anyone from using marijuana or any mood altering drug, other things being equal. If there’s a legitimate therapeutic purpose, I wouldn’t disapprove, but in almost every other case I would.

    However. All that means is that I personally disapprove and if anyone wants to know what I think they can of course just ask. But I have also come to the conclusion that drug criminalization of any kind, whether marijuana or heroin, is morally wrong, socially wrong and practically speaking at best futile and at worst extremely destructive, potentially far more destructive than anything the drug can do.

    We have to remember that in the US history prior to about 1930 there were no laws of any kind about any drugs and we had managed. Addressing drug addiction issues by criminalizing drugs is a failed policy, or there’s no such thing as a failed policy.

  8. I think you are someone who would benefit from getting high. No one should go to jail for doing drugs. The criminal justice system has benefitted as no other from drug use, as have the banks, gangsters, mobsters and providers of services to the jails. And those of you who sentence people to jail for drugs have ruined the bill of rights, in addition to whatever respect there should be and could be for the criminal justice system by continuing to enslave blacks and minorities whom you house in jails to cover up failures to offer equal opportunites to learn and work.

    As far as your being a dork, I reserve comment. Not a word I would use.

  9. Judge:
    I do not believe that, in a free society, the government should criminalize any substance–including marijuana–that an adult (and I stress the word “adult”) voluntarily chooses to use. But I do find compelling some of the arguments against marijuana usage, namely, that it’s a “gateway” drug or that using while driving or operating heavy machinery makes one a threat to the public no different than those who do so while inebriated. So, you are not a dork…just someone struggling with these issues as most of us normally do.

  10. While I disagree with both you positions, wonder what happened to the brave empiricist where medical mj is concern, any dorkyness is NE not you in particular. One of our state slogans is “I’ll get drunk like the Good Lord intended.”

  11. It would seem to me that – at the very least — you should disclose on the record your Dork status to any non-Dork parties, especially if dorkiness could possibly become a factor in the case you are being asked to try and to decide.

  12. Hi Rich. Enjoying your comments. Hope you are feeling well.
    We are all dorks in those areas we aren’t experienced… like jumping from perfectly good airplanes. But we can be informed on the benefits of such adventures.
    In my case I didn’t have to share the experience my dying 24 year old son received from smoking pot. The first time I saw the relief he received from the emetic effects of chemo and the relativel pain altering effects (and the rare subsequent smile from such) I was educated. There always be the addictive types that do unsocial actions with marihuana (and jumping from planes) but I would have gladly gone to jail to see the relief my late son found.

    Now can we talk about the federal judge in California’s prisoner sex change operation payment ruling?

    Have a great day.

  13. I can do rules; it is the law I find difficult. Rules pertain to a situation or event which occurs after proclamation of the rules; the law requires an awareness which ten percent of adults do not comprehend.

  14. Him, let’s see. On the one hand, you drink beer, watch football, and know something about baseball. There is also an uncanny similarity to Hunter Thompson, not to mention posting a blog where you had the brass to publicly muse that you sometimes wish the Supreme Court would just STFU.

    On the other hand, you once wrote an opinion over 400 pages (apologizing for the length of same to the appellate panel having to read it). You are a student of philosophy. You live in Nebraska. You recite poetry (at least on your blog) You’re An active blogger, and smart enough to be a federal judge.

    No, on the whole I wouldn’t call you a dork, just an observant student of life with a healthy sense of humor.

    Now, if you start using a pocket protector for pens and pencils, or else put gold stripes on your robes when you sit in court, then I might change my opinion.

  15. For insight into dorkiness, you may wish to view the Weird Al Yankovich video performance of his song, “White and Nerdy.”

  16. repentinglawyer,

    When board certified doctors in oncology or pain management or the like who have an ongoing relationship with the patient are the ones empowered to prescribe marijuana, you will see me support “medical marijuana” legislation. I acknowledge that there is a need in certain cases. However, if you look at what really is happening now in the great majority of the cases, docs who maintain a “marijuana practice” are merely dealers in white coats.

    As Edith Ann reminds us, “and that’s the truth.”

    All the best.


  17. Craig,

    Thank you for your comment, kindness and empathy. Given the experience with your son, I marvel at your equanimity.

    All the best.


  18. Any physician can prescribe any medication. Are you suggesting that a GP could never prescribe narcotics or Viagra? Would only an endrocronologist be able to prescribe insulin?

    There are a limited number of oncologists. Do we want them opening subscription clinics for medical marijuana while ignoring those who need more intensive treatment?

    What if we were to suggest that only federal district judges could issue rulings (dispositive and nondispositve), with the argument that magistrate judges are ipso facto unqualified to do so?

    If someone made this sort of argument in your courtroom, I would think you would reject it out of hand.

  19. Excellent topic for a Friday, Judge. Never was a toker, but I have no problems with (legitimate) sale for and use of for medical treatment(s). Recreationally, I guess I think it should be regulated like alcohol. I do worry about adlolescents using it and the possible effect on intellect.

  20. You are definitely a dork.

    However, I would like to extend an invitation to you, the attorney generals of Nebraska and Oklahoma, and your partners to come on over for an evening of good food and fun during the 37th annual Barleycorn Summer Solstice Jamboree.

    If the dork in you is needing to satisfy its curiosities, and you behave yourselves, I might have just the perfect strain to introduce the cannabinoid receptors within your hippocampus’ to the delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol molecule.

    You will still be a dork but not such ignorant dork when the night is through.

    It will be fun. And I couldn’t think of a more interesting group to join the conversation around the fire. You can talk about the Cole Memo and I think you will have everyone smiling during the “You know you are a dork when, _________.” game.

    P.S. Bring your Dylan Albums I think I have a few that you might be interested in trading out for a few weeks.

  21. Powerful post, Craig. Stories like that breathe life into a discussion in a way that mere logic never can. It’s a poignant reminder that, at the end of the day, the purpose of the law is to help people. Us lawyers should never forget that.


  22. I think you just find it hard to adjust your thinking about how things always have been. I distinctly remember you giving me a serious lecture when I steered a car load of undergrads to a downtown Kearney apartment where the smell of the air would seem to indicate that an illegal substance had been recently burned. It might have turned out different had we gotten you there earlier, but probably not.

  23. How is it that so many people have responded to this post, but only one person has pointed out the racist implications of continued marijuana prohibition? Cannabis was criminalized to perpetuate white supremacy. Abstaining from weed doesn’t make anyone a dork, but wanting to punish people for indulging is a good indication of at least casual racism.

  24. I think you must answer the following questions of you are to make a mature and sensible judgement regarding marijuana:

    First, what effect does criminalization have on the marijuana business? As far as I can tell, all the practical problems of the marijuana business you are likely to see in your courtroom stem from the fact that marijuana is illegal. For example, if you learn that the Joey the Pot Dealer has built his marijuana farm on government land, in a national forest, displacing an endangered species in the process, that he has fired shots at people who he suspects of stealing his crop, that he has carried guns in the commission of a felony, that he has stolen water and power from a nearby government facility… Is there even a single one of his illegal actions which would be necessary under that form of “logic” practised by criminals if marijuana was legal?

    I seems obvious to me that if marijuana was legal, Joey would grow his marijuana on legally acquired land, purchase his water and power from the relevant utilities, use his gun only on whatever animals are a menace to growing pot plants, and Joey would have no reason to fire bullets at his fellow human beings. If you’re looking for a historical example, consider the history of alcohol prohibition – once alcohol became legal again gangs no longer trafficked in the substance and the criminality associated with liquor vanished immediately. You might also take a look at what is currently happening in Washington and Colorado while answering the question above – I’m sure there’s a lot being published on this very issue, and a research trip to Colorado would be amply justified. (I hear the Rockies are very nice in the spring.)

    Let me re-emphasize that the history of alcohol prohibition and how it related to criminal activity are hugely relevant to the drug war.

    Second, I think you must ask yourself whether the cure is worse than the disease? There are multiple issues to consider here. The primary issue is constitutional, and there are so many questions here that I’m at a complete loss at how to present them, so I’ll simply encourage you to google “Drug War asset forfeiture,” “drug war fourth amendment,” or “drug war warrantless surveillance.” I would argue that we are giving up a gigantic number of our constitutional protections to the Drug Warriors, and that this is a horrific violation of our rights.

    You doubtless know already that the Internet doesn’t contain all the answers, but it should expose that side of these issues which you’re not hearing about in your courtroom and this will hopefully lead to better sources for you to research. I suspect that as a federal judge you are living in something of a bubble; unless you make a deliberate effort to get outside that bubble you’ll never really hear the other side of the arguments on this issue.

    The other “cure vs. disease” issue is practical. Let’s imagine that Randolph Jorgensen is an alcohol addict with a good job. Leaving aside family/personal issues, the worst legal problem Randolph might face is a drunk driving arrest. This will not ever be a federal case, and he might well escape from the arrest with both his job and his liberty intact, particularly on a first offense. His children will still live in a nice neighborhood and have the opportunity to graduate from college without student loan debt. On the other hand, if Randolph is a marijuana addict, his addiction comes at a much higher financial cost due to marijuana’s illegality, making it more difficult for his children to afford college. If Randolph is arrested for marijuana, his legal costs could well be much higher and it is far more likely that he will be unemployable after his arrest. If someone suspects that Randolph is dealing, his home, cars, jewellery, and other assets may be subject to asset forfeiture, leaving him unable to afford an attorney, (once again, his kids would like to go to college…) Randolph’s home might be subject to a no-knock drug raid, with all the attendant dangers, and his chances of being tried in federal court, with its immensely higher costs, increase.

    However if you study the science of addiction the practical difference in Randolph’s life as a marijuana vs. an alcohol addict is not remotely justified, particularly as it affects his children.

    Those practical issues aren’t merely personal. Consider what is happening to Mexico as it becomes a hollowed-out narco-state where the government and various drug-running-gangs fight each other for the privilege of running illegal drugs to the US. We’re talking about a whole country that’s going down the tubes because of our War on Drugs. Marijuana and other narcotics are all agricultural products, and we have known for years how to produce them cheaply. They are expensive only because they are illegal, and the massive profits which are available drive the horrific behaviors of the drug gangs. Make them legal and the gangs don’t have anything to sell. Once again, the history of US alcohol prohibition is hugely important here.

    Lastly, I think you should learn something about the history of drug prohibition, particularly as it relates to race. Once again this is a huge subject and presenting it rationally is difficult in the short format of a blog comment, but if you google “prejudice drug war,” “nixon drug war,” and “anslinger drug war” you’ll get a lot of good information.

    Personally, I don’t use – I’ve tried marijuana but didn’t like it much – so we’re probably both dorks, but I think the very worst thing a government can do attack problems like addiction with the wrong solutions, particularly when those solutions are ugly, impractical, racially biased, and so often unconstitutional.

    By the way, I hope you’re feeling better. I bookmarked your blog last year and I’ve been enjoying it ever since.

  25. I’m not sure “benefit from getting high” is a phrase I would use. I do think that anyone who is required to make legal judgements about marijuana should smoke a couple joints, specifically for the purpose of judging the anti-marijuana propaganda against personal experience.

  26. From the medical (and personal) side:

    (1) No, I don’t use MJ partly because of lack of interest and partly because it’s illegal in my work even though I live in Colorado. Does it make me upset that my government thinks Reefer Madness was a documentary? You bet.

    (2) MJ has legitimate medical uses. Get over it.

    (3) Can MJ be addictive? Sure. So can alcohol and Ben & Jerry’s. I’d like to make my own decisions about these substances without getting busted (I’m over 21).

    (4) Since my state of Colorado legalized recreational MJ, social order has not disintegrated. Potheads are not clogging the gutters. Lines outside MJ dispensaries have not reached twice around the block. In truth, nobody has noticed much change in our daily lives except we’re collecting more taxes instead of conducting surveillance operations. No apocalypse. It’s a little anticlimactic. Kind of like the Year 2000 bug.

    (5) Did we learn nothing from Prohibition? I guess not.

    (6) You’re not a dork, just on the other side of the issue. Hope you’re feeling better.

  27. Oh please, Anon, get your head out of the sand and read some history of the Good Ole USA.

  28. Nah, not a dork, but perhaps misinformed. I believe that legalization nay-sayers retain the mindset similar to that portrayed in the now cult film, “Reefer Madness.” I have experienced marijuana in the long ago too-many-years-to-count past, and personally, its just not for me. I much prefer a well made, top shelf margarita – but I digress…As to marijuana’s medicinal use: please watch 2 reports Dr. Sanjay Gupta filmed for CNN, “Weed,” and “Weed 2: Cannibis Madness”. Gupta went in with the intent to show that medicinal marijuana is useless, and why legalization is not a good idea. The results of the medicinal benefits of marijuana use were captured on film, and startling – – simply AMAZING. By the end of filming, Gupta had been converted and now believes and advocates that medicinal marijuana should be federally legalized for a number of reasons, including medicinal efficacy in treating horrible disabilities where no other treatment has been found. The segments involving children suffering numerous horrific seizures – daily – will break your heart. Watch, and even if you don’t become a believer, too, you will at least see for yourself the other side of the argument.

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