Indiana’s Republican governor, Mitch Daniels, has recently been named a possible contender in the GOP presidential primary. Perhaps realizing that the Oval Office’s three most recent occupants were marijuana users, the governor decided that it couldn’t hurt to expand on his own bust story from May 1970.
The Daily Princetonian reported in a recent interview with Daniels that, “Officers found enough marijuana in his room to fill two size 12 shoe boxes, reports of the incident say. He and the other inhabitants of the room were also charged with possession of LSD and prescription drugs without a prescription.” Of the incident, Daniels says “I had used marijuana and I was fined for that, and that was appropriate.”
I applaud Governor Daniels for telling his story, and I’m truly glad his arrest didn’t devastate his life as it does with so many others. But I will point out that Daniels was arrested with a relatively significant amount of marijuana. Two large shoeboxes is enough volume that it’s hard to conceive of any modern hard-charging prosecutor not seeking an indictment for possession with intent to distribute in such a case. Daniels was also busted about six months prior to President Nixon signing the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (on October 27). If that law had been on books in May 1970, Daniels could have faced an array of charges, including several felonies. And if he had been busted after 1998 when the Higher Education Act’s Aid Elimination Penalty took effect, he could have lost any federal financial aid as the result of a drug conviction.
I hope that when Daniels says fining him was an “appropriate” punishment he means that a fine should be the maximum penalty for possessing several pounds of marijuana and LSD. If not, does he believe it’s right to punish drug arrestees more harshly than he was treated?