Twenty-five pounds of marijuana earned a North Carolina man seven to 23 months in jail Thursday from a Northampton County judge who said she disagrees with efforts across the country to decriminalize pot.
From her 27 years on the bench, Judge F.P. Kimberly McFadden told John R. Horn she sees marijuana as a gateway drug as she sentenced him on his guilty plea to drug delivery.
“It starts with marijuana, then it moves to cocaine and then we get into the heroin range,” McFadden said.
On Jan. 30, state police discovered the marijuana — with a street value of $112,500 — after pulling Horn over on Interstate 78 in Lower Saucon Township for following another car too closely, according to court records. Horn, of High Point, N.C., gave several stories, but troopers found the drug stashed inside his trunk in a suitcase and a shopping bag.
Horn, who at 45 has no prior record, told police that he had picked up the pot in Long Island and was driving it to Reading to deliver, an arrest affidavit said. He claimed he was to be paid $1,000 at the drop off, police said.
While marijuana is illegal in Pennsylvania, there is a “significant difference” between it and heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine, said Horn’s attorney, Jack McMahon. With the defendant’s wife and a close family friend sitting in the courtroom, McMahon referenced states such as Colorado that have legalized pot and the city of Philadelphia, which has decriminalized it.
“I don’t understand that, but that’s OK,” McFadden told McMahon.
“We can sit here and agree or disagree with that philosophy,” McMahon responded, “but it is something that is happening in our country.”
Horn’s jail term fell in the low end of standard sentencing guidelines, considering the amount of marijuana he was caught with. It came as marijuana delivery cases in Northampton County typically bring probationary sentences, as a review in August by The Morning Call found.
In 2013 and 2014, seven in 10 cases of possession with intent to deliver marijuana in the county concluded without the defendants spending any time in prison, the newspaper reported. Not one of the 54 cases reviewed produced a state-prison sentence, with three months the typical jail term in the 16 instances in which prison was handed down.
McMahon pushed for probation for his client, saying that Horn has a job and has never been in trouble before. McMahon said Horn took responsibility for his crime, even though he may have had grounds to challenge the constitutionality of the police stop that led to the marijuana being discovered.
“To me, John Horn is not one of these people we need to house,” McMahon said.
“I made a mistake and I’m terribly sorry,” Horn told McFadden.
Free on bail, Horn will report to Northampton County Prison on Jan. 2.
Copyright © 2014, The Morning Call
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