You might not know that Ann Landers was actually the pseudonym for two advice columnists: Ruth Crowley (1942-1955) and Eppie Lederer (1955-2002). Over Lederer's 47-year career in the role, Ann Landers addressed topics like marriage and parenting as well as controversial issues including prostitution, abortion and even marijuana.
In 1999, a distraught parent from Virginia, writing under the pseudonym "Sad Mother", asked the famous advice columnist to comment on her son's legal trouble, which involved a bust for simple possession turning into a trafficking charge that could put him behind bars for 30 years. Here's her letter:
Dear Ann Landers: I just got a phone call from my son. He said, 'I've been arrested for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.' I knew he had used marijuana on occasion, but I'm sure he never tried to sell it. A lawyer told me if someone is caught with marijuana, chances are, the police will add 'intent to distribute,' even in the absence of supporting evidence. The accusation of intent changes the crime from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Ann, my son is a good kid who attends college and has a part-time job. He was caught with marijuana for his own personal use, and for this, he could get 30 years in prison. He has never gotten so much as a parking ticket.
I don't approve of smoking grass, nor do I approve of smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol. But this punishment seems excessive. I can't help but think of the thousands of families that have suffered this same horror.
I plead for compassion for those who are hurting only themselves when they use dangerous substances. What they need is counseling and medical intervention, not prison. Harsh laws don't work. Furthermore, they cost us a fortune in taxes to prosecute and incarcerate people who pose no danger to society. Enough. - A Sad Mother in Va.
Ann agreed with Sad Mother.
"I have long believed that the laws regarding marijuana are too harsh," Ann Landers wrote in 1999. "Those who keep pot for their own personal use should not be treated as criminals. Thirty years in prison makes no sense whatsoever. I'm with you."
So there you have it. One of the top syndicated advice columnists in the history of American journalism was also an advocate for decriminalizing marijuana, making her a member of the Marijuana Majority. Unfortunately, the state of Virginia hasn't taken her advice. As of today, residents can still face sentences up to 30 years or more for cannabis offences including possession of more than 5 lbs., selling to minors, growing marijuana and transporting more than 5 lbs. into the state.
banner image: Flickr / Alan Light