Where Is the Benefit Here


Drug-Growing Mother Loses House

Only one thing is certain: if pot is legalised, it won't be for our benefit but for the authorities.

- Germaine Greer

A Hastings woman who began growing cannabis to try to finance a kidney replacement for her dying son has lost her home and her son.

Diane Martin-Banks never made a cent of the $355,000 which police said her crop could have been worth, but she was jailed for eight months, and her son Troy died in Wellington Hospital in December.

Now, the Court of Appeal, in a reserved decision from a hearing in Wellington last week, has upheld a District Court order for the forfeiture of Martin-Banks family trust-owned Taradale property under the Proceeds of Crimes Act - a decision which she only learned today via a newspaper report.

Martin-Banks said when police raided the property in May 2000, she had no idea how she was going to sell the cannabis, and had not made any money.  She said she turned to crime when her doctor told her Troy would die unless he had an urgent transplant.  She had hoped she could raise enough money and then ask her first husband, Troy's father, to donate a kidney and offer to reimburse him for several months of lost earnings and other costs.

She served eight months of a two-year jail sentence, and her husband, Jim Banks, pleaded guilty to a charge of allowing the house to be used for growing a drug and was sentenced to two months' periodic detention.

Troy Martin underwent a transplant after one became available while his mother was in jail, but there were complications and he died after going into Wellington Hospital for further tests.

Martin-Banks, her husband and her daughter had appealed the District Court decision to order forfeiture of the house.  They said there should be some relief for parties who had an interest in the property but were innocent of any offending.  However, the appeal court upheld the District Court finding and said the other parties had made no financial contribution and had no responsibility for debts. - Hawke's Bay Today

Source: nzherald.co.nz 20 March 2002 © New Zealand Herald

Curiously enough, the following article, written by a doctor, says that the decriminalisation of cannabis "appears a sure thing"  It appeared on another New Zealand news site the preceding week.

When laws are followed rigidly, without properly taking extenuating circumstances into account - without wearing a human face - I feel something important is lost.  The jury for the trial described on the page following this one (see Underground Railroad) did a much more humane job (in my humble opinion).

Knowledge Crucial to Reducing Drug Abuse

by Caleb Armstrong

Decriminalisation of cannabis appears a sure thing and the debate now needs to be about what form it will take.

Martin Elliott's recent article on cannabis states that "Education programmes alone will not solve the (drug) problem".  I am saddened that a school principal has so little faith in education as a tool to help reduce drug abuse.  His pessimism is unfounded - in fact, all the evidence points towards knowledge as being crucial to all areas of health.  Sceptics only have to consider tobacco use.  During the past 20 years, tobacco use in this country has declined steadily, while the use of cannabis remains pretty static.

The decline in smoking can be attributed in no small part to effective public education measures, as well as organisations such as Quitline (0800-778-778) which offer support to those trying to quit.

The article promotes "tougher measures" as the solution to drug problems.  Presumably its author thinks that "tougher measures" ought to be used to combat the problems caused by alcohol and tobacco?  I have to deal with devastating medical conditions caused by alcohol and smoking every day.  Far from believing that these substances should be banned, my training is to educate people about the cause of these problems and support their efforts to moderate their substance use while respecting patient choice.  These principles are at the core of health promotion; prohibition is not.

Trends internationally are towards decriminalisation (witness Britain, Holland, Germany, Spain and most states of Australia) and the figures show that it works to reduce the rates of drug use.  Trends within New Zealand point towards growing tolerance for cannabis - witness the recent decision of Christchurch police not to charge an off-duty policewoman with possession when cannabis was found in the car that she had crashed.

Mr Elliott says that he supports prohibition, and yet describes some problems that are the direct consequence of prohibition.  For instance, his description of 9 and 10-year-old children buying cannabis is a terrible indictment of the way the Government has defaulted control over cannabis to the gangs: while alcohol and tobacco require that purchasers produce proof of age, some people who sell cannabis don't care about that.

There is only one way around this problem and that is to decriminalise sales.  The same goes for the argument that cannabis causes violence: the black market makes it worthwhile for criminals to rob people for cannabis.  One of the saddest instances of this is when medical users of cannabis are robbed of their medicine.

The Health Select Committee has finished hearing submissions on the most appropriate legal status of cannabis.  While Mr Elliott says that he has long spoken out against decriminalisation, he did not make a submission to the committee.  Reports from the committee hint that most submitters were in favour of decriminalisation, while prohibition-minded members of the committee such as MP Roger Sowry failed to attend most sessions.

Decriminalisation appears to be a sure thing.  The debate now needs to be about which form of decriminalisation we will have.  Will it be expensive and resource hungry (instant fines) or cheap to run (the Dutch model)?

I issue a challenge to those who profess to be interested in the health and education of our young people to support a rational form of decriminalisation.  Every dollar spent on prohibition cannot be spent on health care or education.  This is where people like Mr Elliott can make a real difference - by being real advocates for rational use of taxpayers' money. - Waikato Times

Dr Caleb Armstrong is a house surgeon at Waikato Hospital

Source: Stuff 13 March 2002

Court: Feds Can Seize Half of House

Branford, Connecticut - A woman who claimed she was unaware that her husband was growing pot in the basement will get to keep her half of their house, while the government can seize her husband's share, a federal appeals court has ruled.  The 2nd Circuit US Court of Appeals said in a ruling Wednesday that Harold Von Hofe must forfeit his interest in the home to the federal government.  However, his wife, Kathleen, does not have to because she wasn't actively involved in her husband's marijuana cultivation.  "The record is devoid of any evidence indicating her use of drugs or her involvement in any criminal activity whatsoever," the appeals court wrote.

Von Hofe, who was a teacher at Branford High School, and his wife were charged in 2001 after police raided their home and found 65 marijuana plants, glass smoking pipes and other items associated with growing marijuana.  Harold Von Hofe pleaded guilty to manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance while Kathleen Von Hofe pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance.  Both avoided prison time and received probation.

The Von Hofes' attorney, Jonathan J Einhorn, said Kathleen Von Hofe could get a mortgage for the government's half-interest in her home.  As of Wednesday, the couple remained in the house, valued at $248,000.  They have lived in the home since 1979 and don't have a mortgage.

Source: breitbart.com Associated Press 28 June 2007

I have a few concerns about this article.

bulletWhat if the woman was aware of the growing operation but did not participate?  Would she still have been able to keep half the house?
bulletWhat if she does not get a mortgage for the government's half?  Could it then sell its half to someone else?  Someone who might move in?  In that case, who would get the bathroom?  The kitchen?  The garage?
bulletWhat if the bank held a mortgage for half the value of the house?  Would the government take the paid-for half and leave Mrs Von Hofe to pay the other half?  If she then defaulted on the mortgage, would the bank find it had a fully-mortgaged half a house that was consequently virtually unsalable?  Or would the government only take Mr Von Hofe's paid-for portion, meaning it owned only 1/4 of the house, Mrs Von Hofe owned 1/4 and the bank owned 1/2?
bulletOr, if the bank held a mortgage for half the value of the house, would the government instead owe half that mortgage on its half?  Could the bank repossess from the Federal government if timely payments weren't made?  Could the bank take Ms Von Hofe's share as well, even though she was making her share of payments on time?
bulletWhat if the house were completely mortgaged?  Then would the Von Hofes be able to continue as normal?
bulletWhat if the house were a rental?  Then nothing is due?  Or would the landlord lose out? 
bulletWhat if the house were owned by a Von Hofe Family Trust with the Von Hofes as trustees?

There are a lot more potential questions, but you get the idea.  It seems to me that this is in essence a variable fine based on the value real estate assets with the real estate used as collateral - so the better off you are financially, the more your penalty for the same crime.

Could Mr Von Hofe get a mortgage himself and buy his half back from the government?

In case you can't tell, I think this is a punishment rife with problems and injustice.

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