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10/31/2013 6:02:00 AM
Marijuana vs. meth: Different sentences demonstrate changing standards
"I accepted it because I recognize citizens and the Legislature feel different about marijuana than they do methamphetamine and other drugs, the fact you have no prior felony convictions ... As much as I regret what kind of message I'm sending to others who want to transport marijuana." -- Superior Court Judge Rick Williams
Doug McMurdo
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN - More and more, society's evolving - some would say enlightened - opinion of marijuana is finding its way into Mohave County courtrooms, but rarely has that reality been illustrated more vividly than what occurred Tuesday in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Rick Williams.

Williams sentenced two drug offenders Tuesday afternoon. One got a walk and the other received hard time.

Both are middle-aged. Both were arrested for - and eventually pleaded guilty to - possessing large quantities of drugs. One had a clean record for nearly six decades before his arrest. The other has been in and out of trouble her entire adult life, trapped in a despairing cycle of addiction.

The key difference between the two is one was caught with pounds of marijuana. The other possessed 91 grams of methamphetamine.

Weldon Steinman, 59, by all accounts is not your typical pot dealer. The struggling business owner had never been in trouble with the law in his life before he was arrested last year and charged with importing marijuana for sale.

He has substantial medical issues - his eyes are failing - and his attorney said it is unlikely Steinman will ever again land in legal hot water.

For his part, Steinman offered a heartfelt apology to the court and spoke of the burden of shame his crime has placed on his family.

Even the prosecutor told Williams that leniency would be appropriate for this specific case.

Williams apparently agreed, but he took the time to explain his reasoning.

"The biggest problem I have with this plea is as a matter of public policy," he said. "You're not typical," he said directly to the defendant. "But you're getting a slap on the wrist. Why are we even going with this procedure?"

The question was rhetorical, but Williams answered it anyway.

"I accepted it because I recognize citizens and the Legislature feel different about marijuana than they do methamphetamine and other drugs, the fact you have no prior felony convictions ... As much as I regret what kind of message I'm sending to others who want to transport marijuana."

Williams reduced Steinman's felony conviction to a class 1 misdemeanor and sentenced him to six months unsupervised probation.

While Steinman was in front of the judge, Kimberly Ann Alvarez, 51, sat in striped jail clothes, shackled hand and foot, and cried nonstop. She shook her head in disagreement when Williams spoke of society's shifting view of marijuana compared to methamphetamine.

For once, she wasn't buying what someone else was selling.

Her attorney told Williams what he already knew: that Alvarez has been an addict her entire life.

The defendant had nothing to say to Williams when given the opportunity to sponsor herself. She wanted a five-year term, the minimum, rather than the maximum of seven years.

She knew, perhaps instinctively, that things would not go her way.

Earlier Tuesday, Williams sentenced a man who pleaded guilty to a meth charge and who had no prior felony convictions to a five-year prison term.

"The trouble I have is earlier this afternoon I sentenced a young man who had 14 grams of methamphetamine, not 91 grams like you did, and no priors like you do, to five years."

He sentenced Alvarez to the max, and she has to do that time day for day with no good time credits.

Alvarez cried, as did her family, who quietly sat in the gallery.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, November 17, 2013
Article comment by: Amaryllis Smith

This sentencing decision by this Judge reminds me of how unjust justice is. Two illegal drug cases and totally different decision and orders by judge.
This is like cases of murder where two people participate but depending on which one snitches off the other first, the turned states evidence one gets life while the gets the death penalty. I have never figured out how "JUSTICE is achieved in such a manner and it happens all the time.


Posted: Friday, November 15, 2013
Article comment by: Kaila White

My oldest sister Alicia Gilstrap now 28, was sentenced to 15 years 9 months last July. She possessed about 3.5 grams of methamphetamines, she had one prior but almost 16 years for a punishment is justice to the "system"? Alicia is not a bad person by any means, but yet she has to miss out on making special memories because of a mistake and addiction. I know a punishment is appropriate, jail time and help which is treatment, but there are people who get less time for taking another's life. I thought and believe justice is looking for a solution... not the easy way out for those who have "control". People make mistakes, it's about finding what will HELP them and/or punish them for their mistakes seems "to difficult" for "the system". I am 18 and will be 32 when she's released in 2025-27. Justice huh? I Love You Alicia. Stay strong sis..

Posted: Sunday, November 10, 2013
Article comment by: Frank Lee Speaking

"I beleive since my brother is an addict....

Of his own free choice, but nice try at turning him into a "victim".

"with no priors and no violent crimes"

We only know about the one where he was actually caught. And you would never tell us of any others you know about anyway.

"he should of been offered treatment."

Bet you would never say that if you had to be responsible for the cost of his rehab. It is always easy to demand something when you do not have to pay for it yourself.

"but locking him up with no real rehabilitation isn't going to be to anyones benifit."

Since he is a methhead, the odds are he would (and will) get worse and commit more crimes in the future. Locking him up sure seems like a benefit to the public to me.


Posted: Sunday, November 10, 2013
Article comment by: Joe Miller

@ Frank Lee
Your suggestion to make currently illicit drugs like methamphetamines and heroin available to addicts free or at cost isn’t a bad one. It would destroy the current black market in drug production and distribution by criminal predators almost overnight. Your suggestion is at least far more humane and productive than the path we’re currently following.

Welcome aboard the comprehensive drug law reform movement!


Posted: Friday, November 8, 2013
Article comment by: Frank Lee Speaking

" How about you work at it and come up with a solution that will work for everyone?"

Okay. A solution. Give methheads, crackheads, and heroin addicts thier drug of choice for free....and no limit on the amount. They will not have to commit crimes to get their drugs. And as a added bonus, they will likely soon be dead from using it, saving the taxpayers a great deal of money in the future. It would never happen, of course, but economically it is a sound one.

As for your idea of better rehab programs, nonsense. At least it is nonesense until you show me statistics for any program that has something other than a laughable success rate.

The other thing wrong with rehab is that part of it will be to get every user they can signed up for SSD, and a added burden to taxpayers They are never going to be productive citizens. And for that reason, I really like my idea. It's a win-win.

As for LOL. When some people stop giving me a reason for using it, it won't be used. Sorry, you do not get to dictate terms.

LOL


Posted: Friday, November 8, 2013
Article comment by: @ Original Kingman Resident

So that is your logic. Incarcerate people because their medical condition is “illegal”? Pure genius my friend, pure genius. (Cough, cough).

Posted: Friday, November 8, 2013
Article comment by: Yvette Ledesma

My 19 year old brother is the young man mentioned at the end of this article, the one with no priors and sentenced to 5years in prison for 14grams of meth. The thing that bothers me the most is that my little brother who turned 19 a month ago is going to be locked up for 5 years with murders, rapist, child molesters, people there for violent crime,ect. Its a shame that the state of Arizona is okay with just isolating and locking him up like an animal as suitable punishment. I beleive since my brother is an addict with no priors and no violent crimes he should of been offered treatment. Not saying that he didn't deserve any jail time but locking him up with no real rehabilitation isn't going to be to anyones benifit. I think there has to be more that's considered and looked at when its time for sentencing.

Posted: Friday, November 8, 2013
Article comment by: Cha Ching

and gun guy.......there are no weights. If they have coffee it is because someone from the outside bought it from securepak......another money maker. And the food......well they only get enough to barely survive. Maybe u r thinking celebrity federal prisons?

Posted: Friday, November 8, 2013
Article comment by: Cha Ching

gunguy......you are out of it! If a prisoner get a TV, it is because his family or friends from the outside buys a little one for $300. Bensusan is RIGHTON, prisons have turned into money making machines! Lord help us!

Posted: Friday, November 8, 2013
Article comment by: Origional Kingman Resident

"maybe you can tell us why you don’t think alcoholics should be incarcerated for being alcoholics."

Simple, alcohol is not an illegal substance.


Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2013
Article comment by: Kman InKingman

Frank: Pardon the testiness. I just don’t like LOL. It seems antagonistic, condescending and “closed.” Am I interpreting it wrong? Is this forum purely for opinionated debate with lines drawn? I think you’d agree we can all get that by watching the Executive and Legislative branches of our government! If this is an open discussion where folks reason together, merge ideas and perhaps even come to potential solutions to serious issues, I’m all in. I mentioned that I agree with some of what you have said here. Not everything – but I’m sure that is the case for everyone who contributes. Here's an idea with respect to incarceration: What about a much more aggressive plan to rehabilitate those incarcerated? Let’s say 90% of people convicted of meth related crimes cycle back through the judicial and penal systems over and over. A lot of tax dollars right? What if rehab during incarceration was revamped and paramount for this population resulting in a decrease (say 10-30%). Would it be worth it? Would it save money? I don’t know. I’ve got other ideas but 200 words is limiting! I welcome your input but please, no more LOL ok?

Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2013
Article comment by: Joe Miller

@ Oh ya

We were speaking of the physical symptoms of severe addiction to meth vs. alcohol, not casual users. I agree with you that it would be unlikely most people would be able to observe any symptoms at all indicating casual use. I also agree with you that most people are able to cease using these substances at will. In my original response to you I was taking issue with your demonization of severe meth addicts over severe alcoholics. Please try to follow along.

@ Frank Lee

"For those individuals who do develop an addiction, treatment for methamphetamine addiction is similar to that for cocaine and other stimulants and just as likely to succeed.”

King, Ryan. The Next Big Thing? Methamphetamine in the United States. Washington, D.C.: The Sentencing Project, Jun. 2006 and Otero, Cathleen, and Sharon Boles, Nancy K. Young, Dennis Kim. Methamphetamine Addiction, Treatment, and Outcomes: Implications for Child Welfare Workers. Irvine, CA: National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare, April 2006: 12-13.


Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2013
Article comment by: Kman InKingman

Frank: Why do you LOL? I really don't see anything amusing and notice you seem to LOL at everyone not precisely aligned with you. I don't work in the environment you reference and I don't know the answer to your question. Not good would be my guess. Meth is horrible. I was only answering one question you posted to the group earlier: drug dependence (not abuse mind you - but when physiological withdrawal kicks in) is in fact a recognized medical condition. What we do with it from your concerned financial standpoint, I don't know. How about you work at it and come up with a solution that will work for everyone?

Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Article comment by: Frank Lee Speaking

"I can tell you as a nurse with 15+ years of experience in addiction medicine that there clearly is a medical condition involved."

Hey, maybe you can answer a question that no one who makes a buck off the taxpayers for publically funded "rehab" ever wants to answer. What is the average success rate for rehabbed methheads one year post-treatment?
They avoid that question like the plague.

And, of course, methheads are always going to claim they just need rehab when they are in front of a judge. It beats going to jail and they can keep right on using.

LOL


Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Article comment by: Oh Ya

"Your observations of the physical side-effects of severe alcoholism are seriously understated."

As a former meth-head, alcoholic, pothead, you would of ever known I was under the influence without doing a chemical test. Three times that I can remember, I was stopped, and given warning tickets for "speeding". Forget the fact that I had an eight ball and an open beer in my center console. I'm not proud of the fact, but it is meant to show you that not "ALL" of the meth-head/alcoholic/potheads fit your typical description. I was completely functional sober or stoned. I'm just glad I quit, and I did it without rehabilitation, no intervention, I just quit. So I am not so quick to jump onto the pitty party train when you speak of the addiction, I call it a cop-out.

"Initially, drug use is a choice but for many the "choice" disappears with the onset of addiction.

It's always about "choice". It's people that are out to make a quick buck that build these rehab & treatment centers. Talk about enabling, you merely give them excuses. Lock them up and make the choice for them, if they "Choose" to use again when the get out, again it's their "Choice".


Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Article comment by: Joe Miller

@ oh yeah

As a retired police officer and former probation officer I have extensive experience working with meth users, alcoholics, and heroin addicts in addition to the users of numerous other drugs including multi-drug users.

Your observations of the physical side-effects of severe alcoholism are seriously understated.

@ Frank Lee

Please read the article again. They agreed she was a long-time meth addict. Addiction sir is primarily a medical condition. If you don’t agree with that, maybe you can tell us why you don’t think alcoholics should be incarcerated for being alcoholics.

My comparisons of current drug prohibition laws are very much so relevant to our past experiences with alcohol prohibition. The comparisons are hardly “mind boggling”, assuming you’re capable of recognizing the obvious correlations.

@ Crystal Waters

Apparently you aren’t aware that methamphetamines can be ingested orally, via inhalation, injection, or insufflation, all similarly to the ingestion of heroin and other opiates. Other than manner of ingestion is there anything else that makes heroin use stand out in your mind as more problematic than methamphetamine use? Please see boggie man politics’ comment in this thread.


Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Article comment by: Kman InKingman

@ Frank Lee: I do agree with some of what you say. Initially, drug use is a choice but for many the "choice" disappears with the onset of addiction. I can tell you as a nurse with 15+ years of experience in addiction medicine that there clearly is a medical condition involved. "Drug dependence" is the preferred term (PT) straight from the Medical Dictionary for Regulatory Affairs (MEDRA). In addition to the psychosocial aspect, it also includes very real physiological problems. Careful medical detoxification is often needed to safety avoid serious health complications from withdrawal, including death. Once this is accomplished, however, future use clearly becomes a choice again. Sadly, some people can never break the cycle. I hope I provided some clarity and context for this discussion.

Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Article comment by: DENISE BENSUSAN

Got to keep the PRIVATE PRISONS full don't forget...... PRIVATE for profit prisons go against the entire reasoning for incarceration!

Posted: Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Article comment by: Crystal Waters

Hello Kingman,
If you are not aware Kingman is full of drug addicts. I grew up in this town I had to watch all of my best friends turn into drug addicts. All under 30 most under 25. It is a really sad story most have children they cant take care of, and they no longer have them. My best friends turned into those people they swore they never would, there parents.Yes, weed is a drug. But I would much rather have my friends high on weed. Than strung out on dope while it kills them from the inside. Destroying there mind souls and anything they ever stood for. Also wake up mommy's and daddy's theirs a new meth in town and its called heroin here to destroy all our loved ones. And they can smoke it not just shot it up so be aware please save your children. And to all the drug addict elders quit getting high with your kids and there friends. LOOK were its got you. No ware.


Posted: Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Article comment by: Frank Lee Speaking

"For a guy who likes to complain about folks not reading the articles you sure don't read the articles very well.

Okay, now respond with a quote from the article where her lawyer, the judge, or anyone said that her being a methhead is a "medical condition". It is not there at all. But maybe your reading comprehension skills are lacking. The only one claiming she has a medical condition is you. She chooses to use meth, it is not a "medical condition". But you do hear that excuse used a lot by friends, family members, and general enablers. Nice attempt to turn her into a “victim”. She is only a “victim” of her own incredible stupidity.

"Frank, what do you think about the idea of incarcerating folks for being alcoholics or for selling alcohol?

Get back to me when prohibition is once more fashionable and a law is passed outlawing booze. But your comparing a legal product with meth is mind-boggling.


Posted: Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Article comment by: Oh Ya

"Have you ever looked at the “faces of alcoholism”? Far worse than the meth users."

You must of never seen the face (or body) of a hardcore meth head! I'm talking bleeding sores all over their body from scratching. Sores all over their face. The worse you'll see from an alcoholic is the ole varicose veins on the nose and maybe their hands and arms.


Posted: Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Article comment by: Joe Miller

Correction on my last post. I was referring to SEVERE alcoholics. As I'm certain we all recognize, most regular alcoholics (like meth users) can be around and annoying us all at Thanksgiving dinners for years.

Posted: Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Article comment by: Joe Miller

@ Jon Mullinix

Again, I’m not encouraging drug use of any kind, licit or illicit. The reality is however that most users of these drugs don’t “ruin their lives.” Far from it. Attempting to force an “all recreational drug use is destructive” mindset and a “drug free world” is never going to happen nor should it. It is time we stopped playing Ayatollah type strategy social control programs as they may relate to drug use/abuse issues and concentrate on policies that are best for our country including both those who use and particularly those who do not.

@ Glenda Erwin

Have you ever looked at the “faces of alcoholism”? Far worse than the meth users. I’m not trying to defend meth use but unlike most meth users alcoholics seldom even make it the full year. Most alcoholic can only WISH they were addicted to meth instead but for the chance of going to prison for possession in today’s crazy world of treating addicts where we send most of them to prison for “treatment” that are addicted to any drug other than alcohol and a handful of other licit drugs.


Posted: Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Article comment by: Joe Miller

@ Frank Lee

For a guy who likes to complain about folks not reading the articles you sure don't read the articles very well.

"Her attorney told Williams what he already knew: that Alvarez has been an addict her entire life."

Both the defense attorney and the Judge Williams (a Judge by the way that I actually have the utmost respect for) were quite aware that Alvarez is a along-time meth addict. By the way, drugs are plentiful in prison. Decent treatment for addiction is the hard thing to get in prison.

Frank, what do you think about the idea of incarcerating folks for being alcoholics or for selling alcohol? Sort of dumb and counter-productive, huh? A few decades we tried to throw the producers and distributors in jail and we didn't even bother with the users. Remember how that worked out? It turned out to be a totally counter-productive drug policy for our entire nations users, non-users... friggen everybody. Well, everyone but the criminal predators involved due to the prohibitionist policies in the production and distribution of the drug (oh, and prisons and dirty cops).


Posted: Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Article comment by: Dont count on it Frank

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