For being caught with just over a quarter pound of pot, 54-year-old Henry Walter Wooten will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars, thanks to a jury in Tyler, Texas.
His prosecutor, Smith County Assistant District Attorney Richard Vance, originally sought a sentence of 99 years over the 4.6 ounces of marijuana police found in Wooten’s vehicle, according to published reports.
Wooten was reportedly caught smoking pot within 1,000 feet of a day care center, within the radius of a so-called “drug free zone.” Tipped off by the smell, police would later search the man’s vehicle, only to discover his cannabis stash and a digital scale, according to The Tyler Morning Telegraph.
Wooten, who was convicted of two felonies in the 1980s, was also accused of marijuana possession in a drug free zone in 2008, the paper noted. Drug free zones, or perimeters around schools, playgrounds, churches and other selected institutions or organizations, mandate significantly stronger penalties for anyone caught with illegal substances on the wrong side of the boundary. They were passed in the 1980s amid a surge in the popularity of “crack” cocaine, which the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency was later found to have aided the distribution of.
The Justice Policy Institute, a Washington-based thinktank, reported in 2006 that drug free zones have done little to enhance public health or safety and have instead disproportionately targeted minorities, according to the Associated Press.
“We just hope [Texas Department of Criminal Justice] can free up room for this menace to society; maybe the state can release a child molester or serial arsonist to find a cell for Wooten,” Houston Press scoffed in a Friday blog post.
“The fact is that most of you who are reading this article will probably believe that sentencing a person to prison for 35 years for the possession of a non-toxic, non-addicting, all natural substance that has proven anti-cancer capabilities is not really protecting society from anything dangerous,” opined a post on the Texas NORML forum. “He might have been stupid choosing his location to medicate, after all, it was Tyler, ‘Texas’, but nobody should spend a day in a steel cage for medicating, much less their entire life or 35 years.”
Wooten’s sentence is identical to the punishment dealt to Alejandro Arreola, who was given 35 years in jail by a jury in Del Rio, Texas for his involvement in a multimillion dollar marijuana smuggling ring. Arreola, according to reports, transported over 24 tons of the stuff into the United States. His accomplice, Casey Bob Hutto, got 24 years.
The U.S. State Department claimed earlier in March that Mexican marijuana cultivation escalated some 35 percent in 2009, while the Mexican military’s interdiction efforts decreased in the face of more dangerous substances like methamphetamine. Houston and the surrounding areas are well-known drug trafficking zones for the Mexican marijuana cartels and a significant portion of marijuana consumed in the state can be traced south of the border.
CORRECTION: The closest major metropolitan area to Tyler is Dallas/Fort Worth, not Houston. Modified from an original version.
Kris Kobach ridiculed after losing comeback bid in Kansas: ‘Adios amigo’
Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is the projected loser of the state's Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
Kobach, a longtime crusader against immigration, headed up President Donald Trump's so-called "voter fraud commission" before it was disbanded after failing to identify any widespread instances of fraud.
Kobach unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2018.
Here's some of what people were saying about Kobach's defeat:
Maddow reveals the ‘shocking sign’ the White House may be betting Trump is going to lose in 2020
MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow returned from vacation to host the Tuesday evening edition of her MSNBC show.
Maddow noted, "in 91 days we all get to decide if the guy who's currently in charge of how we're responding to this epidemic should stay in the job for four more years or if Democratic candidate Joe Biden would do better at this."
"It's honestly hard to know what it will be like for a president to stand for re-election with 200,000 dead Americans as a key metric from his first term, while he asks for a second term, but we're going to talk tonight about how some of that is going to work and some of what we can see coming down the pike," she explained. "And a lot of it is very worrying, in terms of the institutions of our democracy and what we count on to keep us a constitutional republic."
Trump may break with ‘presidential norms’ and give GOP convention speech from the White House lawn: report
On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that Republicans are exploring the possibility of President Donald Trump giving his presidential re-nomination speech from the South Lawn of the White House.
"The decision to stage the most high-profile political event of Trump’s reelection campaign at the national seat of presidential power would be just the latest break by Trump in presidential norms, which have historically drawn clear lines between official business of the president and campaign events," reported Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey. "People involved in the planning said that no final decision had been made on the location of the Republican convention’s celebratory events. Trump abandoned plans to hold the full convention in Charlotte, and later Jacksonville, Fla., over concerns that large crowds could spread the novel coronavirus."