Tony Newman of the Huffington Post wrote a short piece commemorating the 1 year anniversary of 18 year old Mitchell Lawrence’s 2 year prison sentence for selling a tiny amount of marijuana to an undercover cop within 3 football field’s length of a preschool tucked away in a not-so-nearby church basement.

Some of the comments on the piece illustrate the difficulties encountered when trying to have substantive, logical discussions with folks about why mandatory minimums and so called drug free zone enhancements are such bad ideas.

I’m sure this young man was the salt of the earth and had no previous record for anything. He probably loved puppies and helped little old ladies cross the street. Surely this was his first offense and the police have never heard of him before.


I understand that mandatory minimums sometimes lead to horrible decisions. That being said, selling drugs near or at a school needs to carry such a punishment that it scares all away.

Second, I also understand that you can only be charged/convicted with evidence, but to use the words "…one joint’s worth…" tends to imply this was a regular kid selling a tiny bit for the first time.

Why do pro-drug warriors tend to argue that unreasonable sentences are OK, because “this probably wasn’t the first time he ever did anything wrong”? Isn’t that somehow an acknowledgement on their part that the sentences for first time offenders are indeed unreasonable? Otherwise, they wouldn’t need to use that as an excuse. More comments…

You want to sell? Too freaking bad about the penalties. There are six billion people on this planet, not everyone deserves a second chance.

OK. My question here is…what percentage of the planet (or the United States) needs to be in prison…before we consider revising or eliminating mandatory minimums? Another comment…

My guess is that this kid knew what the laws were (I can’t imagine this kind of punishment was never discussed in the media) and chose to sell anyway.

This is a poor “guess”. At least one study has shown that fewer than 1% of sales in drug free zones are to children in the first place. This is primarily due to the whole “several football fields away” qualifies aspect. The state always argues to the jury that they do not need to prove that the defendant was aware of a “school” in the area, just that there was one. And, as the law is written, they are correct.

Also, I can tell you from personal experience that clients are almost always genuinely shocked as to the potential penalties. Another comment…

Why do you think it would be a good idea to let people sell drugs by our schools?

This really sums it up, doesn’t it? To question the efficacy, morality, or wisdom of our current drug laws is the logical equivalent of actually wanting all children to smoke crack.  Of course, some might also argue that a policy of regulating marijuana would make it more difficult for children to have access.  As it is now, "drug dealers" don’t exactly ask for ID, do they?

Not all the comments were so poorly thought out, however. I’ll leave you with my favorite…

How dare anyone sell pot near a school! It might cause strange side effects when mixed with the kids’ Ritalin and Prozac.

  • amy wright

    my husband was sentenced to 10 years with a school zone and is up for parole in 2012. does this mean he cant be out any time before ?

  • Michele

    My husband was arrested across the street from a school smoking or just finished smoking. He has yet to go to court. Is it safe to assume he will get jail time here in Austin? AND we have a cruise to the Caribbean paid for in Mar. 2011, do we have to cancel?