Madison County Circuit Judge William Chapman, before his retirement in January, set aside Patrick Beadle’s conviction for drug trafficking and allowed him to plead guilty to simple possession.

The case received national publicity. Beadle, a Jamaican musician, had purchased the marijuana legally in Oregon. He came to Mississippi as a blues music tourist when he was pulled over in Madison on a dubious traffic violation, whereupon the marijuana was found. He was sentenced as a drug dealer based on the amount of pot, even though there was no proof that he was dealing. The jurors had no idea their verdict could cause Beadle to spend decades in jail.

As more than 30 states have legalized marijuana in some form, Mississippi will be perceived as backward with its draconian pot laws. Even with the sentence reduction, Beadle will spend three years behind bars for his recreational use of marijuana — something that is legal in 10 states and the nation’s capital. This is a waste of a man’s life.

Mississippi has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. In prison, you must join a gang for protection. This allows gangs to grow in power and increases crime. Locking up people for drug possession is not helping reduce real crime.

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