Alex Maese is an example of how mistaken critics can be when they claim, as they have for decades, that Californians are not smart or sophisticated enough for direct democracy via ballot propositions.
Maese was convicted in 1997 of possessing a fragment of a cotton ball containing 0.029 grams of heroin, then sentenced to life in prison. No court at the time saw evidence of how he was using that tiny drug dose to self-medicate post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from his service in Viet Nam.
Stanford Law School students learned of his case and in 2008 convinced a Kern County judge to release Maese on the basis of the 11 years he had already served. Having completed a residential drug rehab program, he now lives in Los Angeles.
Maese’s case and the trivial offense that triggered his harsh sentence under California’s Three-Strikes-and-You’re-Out law was typical of those that spurred voters almost precisely a year ago to pass Proposition 36 by an overwhelming 69-31 percent margin...