John A. Steakely

Attorney John Steakley is a 1996 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law. He began his career as the Special Prosecutor for Drug Crimes for a multi-county, multi-agency drug task force in Tennessee, where he represented the State of Tennessee in thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases in a 5-county judicial district.

Prohibition is Power

Prohibition is Power

My criminal justice clients sometimes ask my opinion on why the government likes to prohibit and regulate things that don't seem to do much social harm.  The most common example is marijuana, but there are all sorts of government regulations that don't seem to serve much of a purpose.  

But ALL government regulations serve the same purpose of giving the government more power.  Here's a quote from Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" (1957) where Dr. Ferris is explaining to Hank Reardon why the government wants to regulate his business and others as much as possible:  

“Did you really think we want those laws observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them to be broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against... We're after power and we mean it... There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Reardon, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with.” 
― Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged 
Prohibition doesn't need a reason.  Prohibition IS the reason. Criminalizing marijuana provides police with a reason to stop, frisk and arrest people.  It's no different than making about everything you do on the road a traffic violation of some kind so that the police have an excuse to pull you over anytime they want.  Police really don't care if one of your three tag lights aren't working.  They just want to use that as an excuse to pull you over and interrogate you for something else (DUI, drugs, etc..).  It's a facade, and everyone knows it.
For the client, here's what that means:  If you think you're going to go to court and say, "But Judge, it's no big deal.  Why does the government care about these things?" and have your case dismissed, you're wrong.  Government writes and selectively enforces laws for reasons that the average person on the street never understands.
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