Making Pot Legal

Making Pot Legal October 24, 2012

There was a dead child on the floor but that was of little concern to the man pacing.

He had pushed a dining room table and chairs up against a hollow-wood door, in a frantic effort to keep out the EMTs and law enforcement officials who had descended on his home like August gnats.

Everyone noticed the way he walked back and forth around that table, stalking his territory, mostly annoyed it seemed to onlookers that the child’s death may, implicate him. Not of murder, mind you. Shawn Field insists even to this day, from behind prison bars, that he doesn’t know how the child ended up dead while in his care. The dozens of bruises that covered her body? No idea. The ruptured eyeball? Allergies gone bad. The blunt force trauma that killed the child? Again, not his problem.

Only it was more of problem than Shawn Field cared to admit.

He realized that given the murdered child in his home, police would likely do a search and if they did, they would more than likely find the marijuana grow hidden behind that closed door.

Initially it was that illegal marijuana grow that gave Corvallis Police the legal authority to take Shawn Field into custody. That arrest provided detectives and the DA a much-needed window of opportunity early in a murder investigation to establish a timeline of the last day of three-year-old Karly Sheehan’s life. And to identify any possible suspects.

On the day Karly was murdered, Shawn Field was booked into the local jail for manufacturing a controlled substance within a 1,000 feet of a school. Later, after investigators had conducted some preliminary interviews, and gathered some evidence, including that camera belonging to Shawn Field, they charged him with the murder of Karly Sheehan.

But it’s that initial arrest that I think about.

How critical that marijuana grow proved to this case.

How EMTs and others commented upon the strange behavior of Shawn, roaming around the house, sweating over a marijuana grow when a child lay dead on a bedroom floor.

How police were able to make an early arrest in the case, even when they hadn’t yet realized the incriminating evidence that would be discovered on Shawn Field’s camera.

And I think of Karly.

All the Karlys.

What, I wonder, would have happened in this case if marijuana were a legitimate cash crop?

What if it had been entirely legal for Shawn Field to grow all the marijuana his selfish heart desired?

Karly’s mom testified that when she arrived home and discovered her daughter dead, Shawn Field wandered off to smoke a joint. I suppose all that killing takes something out of a man. I can understand why he might need the detached aloofness that marijuana provides.

Like you, I’ve endured mind-numbing lectures from dread-heads and dress suits alike about the many benefits of marijuana, about all the revenue we are losing because we continue to criminalize something so completely harmless.

But on this ballot issue I remain unmoved.

I will never, ever vote to legalize marijuana.

This nation is already replete with people intellectually disengaged, emotionally tuned out, spiritually wasted, and morally compromised. 

Pot, some maintain, is a gateway drug.

That certainly proved true for Shawn Field.

That hidden grow of his turned out to be the gateway to the city jail. Murder was his ticket to prison.


Karen Spears Zacharias is author of A Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder. 





Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • candeux

    Karen, I like a lot of what you have to say, but I think your judgement is a little clouded on this one. I know the Karly Sheehan story is very meaningful and personal to you, but it shouldn’t be allowed to impair your logic. To illustrate, substitute alcohol for marijuana in her story and set it during Prohibition: suppose she had been killed by someone under the influence of alcohol and that person happened to have a still in his back yard. Given that many have died at the hands of the alcohol-impaired and given our experience during Prohibition it shouldn’t be hard to imagine such a scenario.

    I am not going to rehash (no pun intended) the pros and cons of marijuana and its criminalization, as those arguments have been made endlessly. All I ask is that you and others consider the consistency of legalizing alcohol and banning marijuana. The Karly Sheehan story is no doubt tragic and instructive, and it has plenty of potent messages without co-opting it for the fight against marijuana legalization.

    • You know what I always say — stick with me long enough and you’ll be sure to disagree with me on something.
      I appreciate your comments but let’s consider some facts — legalized alcohol is responsible for over 100,000 deaths a year. Should we then regard it as the acceptable standard for setting drug policy in this nation? Moreover, consider that 85 percent of those who use alcohol do not get intoxicated. With drugs, like marijuana, the whole point is intoxication, an altered state of mind, emotions and physical responses.

      • Nox

        What does any of this have to do with whether marijuana should be legalized?

        You’re saying a private activity should be criminalized for everyone because you found one example where the police accidentally arrested a killer on a drug conviction? I’d point out that it appears to be an emotional appeal designed to bypass logic by waving a dead child over the issue, but it looks like that’s exactly what you intended it to be.

        I find it interesting that on a blog post where you advocate punishing the masses for an anecdotal incident, someone points out that christians kill people and your response is “People who eat McDonald’s hamburgers and people who drink Starbucks have also been involved in killing others. So?”. Did you not notice what thread you were posting that on?

        Yeah, sometimes people kill people. Some of them drink coffee. Some of them smoke weed. And some don’t. But what does that have to do with whether marijuana should be legal?

        • Nobody was “accidentally” arrested. Who is calling for “punishing the masses”? I am just stating one of many reasons why I will not be voting to legalize marijuana. There is a correlation between drug use and criminal activity. (See above stats from Bureau of Justice). Are you suggesting that not legalizing marijuana is a punishment of the masses? #FirstWorldProblem

          • Nox

            “Who is calling for “punishing the masses”?”

            You are advocating for a law to held over everyone because in one anecdotal incident (that you chose specifically for this reason) it could be said that it was tangentially beneficial that marijuana was illegal (even that would be spurious as Field would still be on the hook for the dead kid either way).

            Everyone should be prohibited from a harmless private activity that you find distasteful, and we should continue supporting a drug war which has killed far more than one child (and criminalized millions of non-violent drug users), because of one child whose death you admit further down had nothing to do with marijuana. That would be you calling for punishing the masses.

            A sensible society does not make laws for one person.

            “I am just stating one of many reasons why I will not be voting to legalize marijuana.”

            You can vote however you like. That is of course your right. If I somehow could stop you, I wouldn’t. I’d no more vote for your vote to be ignored than vote for your private activities to be restricted. But it is dishonest for you to state it as a personal freedom issue, when what you are advocating the restricting of personal freedom for others.

            “There is a correlation between drug use and criminal activity.”

            If drugs are illegal, the possession and use of said drugs is criminal activity (regardless of whether those drugs are themselves harmful prior to being illegal). Of course there’s a correlation. And if we make drugs which aren’t related to other criminal activity no longer criminal, then that correlation dissolves.

            Drug war advocates have been saying for years that marijuana makes people intellectually disengaged, emotionally tuned out, spiritually wasted, and morally compromised. Like the gateway drug thing, none have ever given any evidence that this is true. And you seem to have accepted it without evidence as you repeat it here without evidence.

          • Are seatbelt laws punishing? Is the law demanding motorcyclist wear helmets punishing? Are laws restricting drunks from driving punishing for the masses? Which drugs exactly aren’t related to other criminal activity? What drugs would you make illegal? Or should all drugs be legal because adults ought to be able to decide for themselves whether they are harmful or not? For that matter why don’t we do away with red lights? Everyone driving ought to be responsible enough to stop and yield, right? The evidence regarding the problems with marijuana are as numerous as is the argument in favor of it. If it’s evidence you seek, may I suggest Google?

  • This is such a strange, unusual story (thankfully). Many more children die in our war on drugs than have ever died at the hands of someone who uses marijuana directly. And alcohol is far, far, far, far more deadly yet we manage. Nothing good has come from marijuana prohibition. And even if marijuana were legal, what are the odds that someone like Shawn Field would be growing it under approved conditions? I understand that this case is very near to you, but this is a terrible argument against the legalization of marijuana.

    • Many who work on the front lines of drug war would tell you the odds are quite high that Shawn Field would continue to grow it under approved conditions.
      Legalization will increase usage, not lessen it. And how will you regulate that usage?
      And if it becomes the cash cow that the proponents claim it will be for states, you can expect a marketing push to capitalize on that. It will be marketed as a glamorous indulgence.
      And the whole point of marijuana, let’s keep in mind, is intoxication. The society we have now isn’t bad enough? You want to create one run by Dumb and Dumber?

      • “You want to create one run by Dumb and Dumber? ”

        Strawman. Again. You should be ashamed at the poor quality of your arguments.

        • I wear shame like a second skin.

          • matt

            No doubt about that. Most of what you say is shameful.

  • Gloria

    I am with you Karen. I will NEVER EVER vote to legalize pot either! They can spout all they want about it not be addictive and how people aren’t impaired when they use it. Yeah right! Go hang around someone who uses it regularly and see what you see about their behavior!

    • Monimonika

      Yeah! And since alcohol does pretty much the same thing, that should be made illegal too! Throw all those people who have just had a sip of booze into jail! Alcoholics who want to seek treatment for their addiction? Hah! Throw them in jail, slap a job-killing record on them, have them socialize with the criminals in jail, and when they eventually are let out penniless, homeless, and still addicted, we’ll catch them again if they dare try to drink their despair away.

      …okay, the following is not sarcasm:
      With regards to alcohol, which is legal, the only time we jail people is if they are in a position that their being drunk can or do harm other people (including themselves) or property. In all other circumstances (the vast majority) we don’t bother jailing them because there’s no benefit in ruining otherwise productive people’s lives.

      Since alcohol is not illegal, alcoholics are able to seek treatment for their addiction without worrying that they’ll lose their jobs (due to a criminal record) and freedom.

      What’s the benefit in jailing someone who gets high for an hour once a day if the person had made sure that they weren’t operating any heavy machinery and are just relaxing in their own living room? The only ones who benefit are private prison operators, who make a profit with over-stuffed jails.

      People who are sent to jail don’t just disappear, you know? Unless they’re serving a life sentence or are on deathrow for cold-blooded murder, the majority are released back into society after serving their time. The majority of those jailed for non-violent drug use/possession come out having learned how to be more violent and are likely to be very frustrated at the loss of job opportunities that could’ve helped them get back into normal society. What do jobless, frustrated, desperate, violent people do? Commit crimes.

      In other words, we taxpayers are paying for prisons to convert our fellow taxpayers into criminals, thus paying the prisons even more to contain the increasing number of criminals and decreasing the number of taxpayers.

  • Donalbain

    So, you think that because someone was afraid of being found with illegal pot, that is a good reason to keep pot illegal?

    And I also not ice a staggeirngly lack of evidence for the idea that keeping pot illegal leads to lower levels of “stoners half-ass parenting the next generation.”

  • Craig

    Karen, I let me express my surprise: your post has the feel of a drug-induced, irrational tirade. I simply cannot discover any underlying logic as you jump from this particular tragedy to your peculiar stand on marijuana laws. I’d expect better reasoning from a stoned-out-of-his-mind pothead.

    • Craig: Because you disagree with me does not make my argument against legalization any less valid than yours for it. Good luck finding a stoned person who can reason his way around a two-seater outhouse.

      • Craig

        Karen, try spelling out the logic behind your inference. I and others have searched in vain for it. I’m not even saying I disagree with your conclusion; I’m pointing out what others have pointed out: you’ve not provided a sensible argument for it.

  • Susan

    To put the blame on marijuana as the reason Karly was murdered isn’t right. Shawn Field sounds like a very bad guy. There were indications of abuse before the murder. The marijuana plants was the least of it.
    I’ve seen too many cases of medical marijuana doing great things. I can’t agree with it being illegal. At the very least, it should be available medically.

    What a horrible story. I hope blessings reach her loved ones.

    • Susan: No where am I saying that marijuana led to the murder of Karly Sheehan. What I am saying is that the fact that marijuana is illegal made it possible for police to hold Shawn Field as they continued to conduct their investigation into the murder of Karly Sheehan.
      It is not uncommon for police to find illegal drugs on a person while conducting an investigation into other criminal activity. Not that the drugs cause the criminal activity, but that there is a high correlation between criminal activity and the use of illegal drugs. Marijuana being one of those.

      • Mr. Bud

        There is a high correlation of criminal activity with the use of alcohol also. The fact is if marijuana were legalized and taxed then it probably wouldn’t have been in his closet in the first place. But he probably still would have killed her anyway because of the type of person he is. They may have been fighting. Domestic violence happens every day everywhere and it matters not weather the person is drunk, high, straight, male or female. If the criminal intent is there it will happen.
        If marijuana were legalized it would decrease the drug trade across our borders and increase revenue to help fight more serious drugs and threats we face as a nation. In other countries where it has been decriminalized the increase in use hasn’t happened. Companies would still check employees, etc. Keeping it illegal is what is killing people.

        • Agreed. The fact that Shawn Field killed Karly had nothing to do with the marijuana growing in the closet. But the marijuana growing in the closet gave police reason to arrest him while they carried out the investigation into Karly’s murder.
          How is keeping it illegal killing people?
          How would it decrease the drug trade? Wouldn’t it just mean that the person doing the trading would change? It would simply put the states in the business of drug trafficking.

          • Yes. Tragic. Really. Sometimes police make the wrong judgment call. It has happened in Seattle, Portland, in cities around the nation. Does that mean we should legalize marijuana as a means to enable police to have better judgment?

          • It means that the innocent people killed in enforcing the law should be considered. As you yourself admit, the killing you lead with had nothing to do with drug use or trafficking; it was entirely coincidental that the killer could be detained on those charges as well. Marijuana laws do actual harm, harm which you seem to prefer to not having a way of detaining one guy during an investigation. If you want investigative detention laws, advocate for them instead of for laws that cause actual harm but coincidentally once allowed a suspect in one crime to be held for an unrelated crime.

      • Donalbain

        Again, a nce claim, but no evidence.

        • Bureau of Justice Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities, 32% of state prisoners and 26% of federal prisoners said they had committed their current offense while under the influence of drugs. Among state prisoners, drug offenders (44%) and property offenders (39%) reported the highest incidence of drug use at the time of the offense. Among federal prisoners, drug offenders (32%) and violent offenders (24%) were the most likely to report drug use at the time of their crimes.
          More than two-thirds of local jail inmates (68%) were found to be dependent on drugs or alcohol or abusing them.

    • RE: Medical marijuana. We already passed that law here in Oregon.

  • pagansister

    As horrible as the story above is—that child probably would have been killed even if the fellow wasn’t smoking pot. Most likely he was abusing her even when he wasn’t smoking. All the efforts to stop the growing/using of it hasn’t stopped it’s use. Trying to stop the sale of liquor only created more problems than it was worth, and I feel that law enforcement has all it can do to take cocaine, etc. etc. off the streets. Perhaps allowing a certain amount to be legal would be preferable then sending folks to jail for a small amount. Medical MJ most certainly should be legal—and is in some places already. Legalizing it for recreational use? Is it worse than those that get drunk and drive?

    • I agree. The pot smoking had nothing to do with the killing. But the pot-growing gave police the ability to hold him until they could complete more of their initial investigation, then to arrest him on murder.
      Shaping our nation’s drug policy on the basis of our relationship with alcohol seems like a really bad idea, given all the problems we have due to alcohol. And I agree that law enforcement has all it can handle already, so how does putting more intoxicated people on the streets help with that?

      • pagansister

        I’m attempting to say that there are rules regarding who can buy and consume alcohol, (age rules). Yes, there are many problems with alcohol use, but making it illegal didn’t solve the problem, it only caused more problems. Making alcohol legal again, IMO, didn’t cause more people to drink. Perhaps there should also be rules as to who can purchase (grow?) pot for personal use. Would it make things worse?

  • JasonMankey

    If it was legal maybe he wouldn’t be growing it in his house? Perhaps if it was legal it would be growing in a field next to a tobacco crop in North Carolina? The story is tragic but it doesn’t make a case for keeping marijuana illegal.

    I don’t like pot, I’m not a user, but we are currently wasting billions of dollars enforcing laws that don’t stop its use. We spend billions of dollars locking up non-criminal users. When people complain about our budget problems I’m surprised when they come out against re-evaluating marijuana.

    Yes, legal marijuana could result in an increase in use, but it’s not hard to get right now. It’s easier to get marijuana on many high school campuses than alcohol. Think about that. Perhaps we take a percentage of the tax dollars that might be gained by legalizing marijuana and funnel it into anti-pot education?

    • So should we also legalize meth because we are spending far more arresting and rearresting users of meth? Legalizing marijuana will increase usage. States who look to it for a cash crop will make sure of that. They will spend $$ on advertising, attracting an audience that doesn’t yet exist. And what about oversight? Regulations on usage? And it is simply not true that law enforcement goes around spending millions tracking down pot users and locking them up. Even in the case of Shawn Field, they didn’t go out to his home to raid his closet. It was in the connection to a child’s murder. Arrests for pot are almost always in connection to some other criminal activity.

      • JasonMankey

        Your line of reasoning suggests that states have a financial incentive to encourage excessive drinking or teenage smoking. Smoking rates tend to decrease when money is spent on anti-smoking initiatives. I see no reason why this wouldn’t also apply to marijuana. The “audience” as you put it already exists. Movies, television, music have all portrayed pot in a positive light for several decades now.

        Marijuana is a complex issues and if it was legalized (or decriminalized) there would have to be an extensive amount of laws regulating usage and other such things. I certainly would’t want people driving while high.

        I take exception to the notion that pot arrests are always “in connection with some other criminal activity.” People are still arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

        • Law Enforcement has enough to worry about in the meth market. They aren’t running around looking for the guy who smokes a joint in his living room, while watching Monday Night Football. Maybe if the guy is selling pot on the high school football field, that might be another story.

  • “Murder was his ticket to prison.” Period. End. Full stop.

  • gerard lynch

    “… stick with me long enough and you’ll be sure to disagree with me on something.”
    Never thought it would be happen but you’re right. A little research on the subject would show–never mind, it is in your interest to take a look. But try to think of how many get killed everyday in the trafficking and how the illegal sale of marijuana feeds an underworld empire that helps fund its other enterprises, such the white slavery market.
    The War on Drugs has become big business; it does not pay for those involved to do what is best abd legalize marijuana.

    • Would show?
      Yes and terrorist have traded cocaine for arms. Should we legalize that too?

      • Donalbain


  • “Like you, I’ve endured mind-numbing lectures from dread-heads and dress suits alike about the many benefits of marijuana, about all the revenue we are losing because we continue to criminalize something so completely harmless.

    But on this ballot issue I remain unmoved.”

    Well, I certainly don’t want to provide yet another ‘mind-numbing lecture,’ especially as you seem to value emotional strawmen over facts and reasoned arguments. Your story about Karly is a sad one to be sure, but your attempt to connect this to marijuana is tenuous at best, and your assertion that this murderer would have somehow gone free if marijuana were legal is presumptuous and speculative.

    • Nowhere do I make the assertion that a killer would have gone free except for his arrest on marijuana. What I do say, however, is that Shawn Field was arrested first on the marijuana charge, allowing investigators to collect more evidence on the murder charge. That early arrest on the drug charge gave them some breathing room. That’s not an unusual occurrence for law enforcement to make arrests for possession while conducting investigations into more serious criminal activity. Stats prove that much criminal activity is committed by those under the influence of drugs – including alcohol.

  • matt

    Oh indeed, if he wouldn’t have smoked pot he would have not murdered. Every pot smoker is a murderer and deserves prison, right Karen?

    • Reading isn’t your strong suit, heh?

      • matt

        Nor is argumentation yours. And sorry, but that’s exactly what you’re equating.

  • kalimsaki


    Said Nursi had proved the existence of God in his books.

    I want to share some part From Risalei Nur collection by Said Nursi (23th word)

    Man is such an antique work of art of Almighty God. He is a most subtle and graceful miracle of His power whom He created to manifest all his Names and their inscriptions, in the form of a miniature specimen of the universe. If the light of belief enters his being, all the meaningful inscriptions on him may be read. As one who believes, he reads them consciously, and through that relation, causes others to read them. That is to say, the dominical art in man becomes apparent through meanings like, “I am the creature and artefact of the All-Glorious Maker. I manifest His mercy and munificence.” That is, belief, which consists of being connected to the Maker, makes apparent all the works of art in man. Man’s value is in accordance with that dominical art and by virtue of being a mirror to the Eternally Besought One. In this respect insignificant man becomes God’s addressee and a guest of the Sustainer worthy of Paradise superior to all other creatures.

    However, should unbelief, which consists of the severance of the relation, enter man’s being, then all those meaningful inscriptions of the Divine Names are plunged into darkness and become illegible. For if the Maker is forgotten, the spiritual aspects which look to Him will not be comprehended, they will be as though reversed. The majority of those meaningful sublime arts and elevated inscriptions will be hidden. The remainder, those that may be seen with the eye, will be attributed to lowly causes, nature, and chance, and will become utterly devoid of value. While they are all brilliant diamonds, they become dull pieces of glass. His importance looks only to his animal, physical being. And as we said, the aim and fruit of his physical being is only to pass a brief and partial life as the most impotent, needy, and grieving of animals. Then it decays and departs. See how unbelief destroys human nature, and transforms it from diamonds into coal.

  • matt

    You run a rigged game, as you deleted my comment.

  • matt

    worst anti-pot article ever!

  • Cicely Duke

    Are you equally concerned about non-violent pot users being imprisoned with violent offenders, where they are frequently raped and often contract HIV?

    People should not be in jail for any action that does not threaten another person’s life, liberty or property.