Jason Cantrell, an assistant city attorney in New Orleans, has resigned after being given a summons for marijuana possession. Cantrell was in court when a joint fell out of his pocket in front of a New Orleans police officer. The incident not only cost Cantrell his job but has put his wife, New Orleans City Council candidate LaToya Cantrell in a difficult spot.
Cantrell issued a statement saying she was “angry, embarrassed, and disappointed” with her spouse but declining to withdraw from the race. It strikes me as rather bizarre that a husband found in possession of a single joint would prompt demands for a withdrawal from a campaign. Cantrell however made clear how serious this matter is, stating that she is “very concerned for his health and well-being . . . and encourage Jason to seek the professional.”
I do not wish to downplay any drug use and I do find it outrageous for lawyer to carry drugs into a court. However, this violation is rarely prosecuted in most states and most people would not see this as evidence of an addiction or serious health concern. The question is how to deal with such a matter as a professional matter. There is a trend toward decriminalization. That is not the case with New Orleans, of course, and a prosecutor is particularly held to a high standard of compliance with the laws that he must enforce. However if a prosecutor were found publicly intoxicated or even cited for DUI, should there be a resignation? In an earlier case, we debated this issue earlier with a prosecutor who was both drunk and unruly.
In the end, a prosecutor must charge people with drug violations even if one joint is unlikely to result in a charge. When you combine drug use with introduction of drugs in a courthouse, the matter would be clear for many supervisory officials.