"What might happen to these young people instead, if they could stay out of the criminal justice system?"
Judge John Delaney is a retired state district court judge who continues to adjudicate in Texas by special assignment. He currently presides over all child abuse and neglect cases in his county. John is a native Texan, born and raised in Houston, who has lived in Bryan since 1973. He is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of Texas School of Law and a former Navy officer.
John had his "light-bulb moment" in the Bryan Rotary Club in 2008 when he attended a Drug Policy Forum of Texas presentation by fellow Houston native Jerry Epstein. The presentation confirmed John's growing suspicions that arresting people for small quantities of marijuana was not working and in fact causing more harm than it prevented. These thoughts began to develop when John was assigned to preside in misdemeanor courts, observing the massive systemic costs of small marijuana possession cases. He adds them up: the police processing the arrest, the families using savings or taking on debt for the bond for their loved ones, the fees for hired or court-appointed lawyers, judges' time, juries' time, court employees' time, and jail space.
John himself lived through a tragic event that led him eventually to question how much crime and tragedy might be avoided by the implementation of a model of legalization, regulation, and treatment. In 1983, John's mother was beaten to death during the commission of a robbery. "This was an out-of-work young man on probation for possessing a small quantity of marijuana," John says. "He had no job, no car. He came to the house to steal her car. Would this have happened if he hadn't been made more desperate by the criminal justice system? It makes you wonder."
Some of the worst harm caused by marijuana laws are the post-conviction consequences, according to John. It can happen to anyone from any background: one of John's family members had a drug conviction on his record before the age of 21, leading to no driver's license and difficulty getting a job. And of course, this is a common story being played out by thousands of young people across the country.
In retirement, John also teaches an adult Sunday School class, teaches mediation, volunteers as a mediator at the Dispute Resolution Center in Bryan, and spends a lot of time playing golf. He has been a member of the Bryan Rotary Club since 1992. John was selected as the Team Leader of District 5910's Group Study Exchange Team that traveled to Argentina in March 2009. He now chairs the District GSE Committee. He and his wife, Jeanne, are the parents of four adult children.