Tag Archives: Drug War

No legalized pot in California’s near future

8 Aug

Cynicism is the result of many factors, and in the political world, it is the product of our representatives consistent refusal to heed the voters demands. Even though a majority of Californians support the legalization of marijuana, not one of the candidates who is eyeing the Governor’s seat in 2010 supports it:

“If the whole society starts getting stoned, we’re going to be even less competitive,” Democratic Attorney General Jerry Brown – who as governor signed a 1975 law reducing possession of small amounts of pot to a $100 misdemeanor – said on a recent radio show.

“Like electing Jerry Brown as governor, the idea of legalizing drugs is one more bad idea from a bygone era,” said Jarrod Ag en, spokesman for Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner, the state insurance commissioner.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom says the state needs “a new direction in drug policy,” but opposes legalizing marijuana -though he welcomes an “open dialog” on the subject as he seeks the Democratic nomination.

The legalizing and taxation of marijuana could bring the state an estimated $1.4 billion annually, which would be a nice little dent in the state’s budget deficit. It would also move California in the direction of individual freedom and responsibility and away from the terribly tyrannical concept that the government owns your body and can therefore regulate and control what you can put into it.

It’s not surprising to see the GOP against legalizing marijuana, but it is disappointing to see the “liberal” Democratic candidates also opposing it.

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Obama’s tobacco tyranny

8 Aug

It is hard to comprehend the righteous enthusiasm some Americans have for using the government to punish or effectively ban things that they find “offensive” or “immoral.” So it didn’t surprise me to see near universal applause when President Obama’s signed last month’s bill giving the FDA the power to regulate tobacco.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act now gives sweeping powers to the FDA. Anyone involved in manufacturing, preparing, compounding, or processing tobacco has to register with the FDA and submit to FDA inspections, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The FDA will also restrict tobacco advertising and advertising on labels, a blatant unconstitutional restriction of free speech. All of these new measures will be funded, of course, by taxes on manufactures, importers, and the cigarettes themselves.

Objections to this type of government control is not an endorsement of the harmful and deadly effects of smoking. Smoking is a bad habit and a personal choice, and the  way to combat vices is through education and information, not with the corruptible power of the state. Liberals defend freedom from government only in private and social issues, and conservatives tend to only praise economic freedom, seeing no philosophical contradiction. These equally inconsistent ideologies have spent the last century playing a tug-of-war with each other over the reins of the massive US government, and depending on who is in charge, the vice hunting begins.

The enthusiasm behind this bill, and the tax raises on cigarettes that are gaining popularity, is disconcerting since it represents a regressive step in fighting the insanity of US drug laws and other prohibitions. A majority of Americans now think that marijuana should be decriminalized, and some states are standing up for themselves and making their own drug laws. Authorizing the FDA to regulate tobacco makes the repeal of victimless crime laws that much harder.

President Obama promised a different and encouraging approach to federal drug policy, but is again showing his reptilian political ability to say one thing and do the other. The raids on medical marijuana facilities have increased, including one a few months ago here in San Francisco. Our prisons are already bursting with millions of non-violent drug users. Will the hypocritical Puffer-in-Chief’s tobacco tyranny result in the criminal punishment of smokers?

An overreaction? Maybe. But consider that the beginning of the road for the federal ban on marijuana started with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. It effectively taxed marijuana at extremely high levels, and slowly but surely the government grabbed more and more control and regulation over “illicit” drugs until they were completely criminalized by Nixon’s junta.

The prohibition or taxation of a substance that is deemed “dangerous” or “harmful” has had, and continues to have, incredibly destructive repercussions that are worse than the drugs themselves. Modern drug prohibition, like alcohol prohibition before it, creates a black market where bloody organized crime steps in to supply the demand, forces police forces to waste valuable resources hunting drug offenders down, and actually increases drug use and addiction.

The road to hell is paved with government’s good intentions, and no matter how noble it may sound to regulate harmful substances for the benefit of the children (and don’t forget that nauseating, all-inclusive “society”), social problems, like smoking, are best handled by families, communities, churches, charities, guilds, and the thousands of other voluntary associations that existed when Americans didn’t live under a nanny state.

My fundamental objection to the regulation of tobacco, and drug prohibition, ultimately lies in the principal that our bodies and our property do not belong to the state. These prohibitions and massive regulations are counterproductive and costly, yes, but the real crime is how much of our individual liberty gets trampled by the government’s refusal to mind its own business.


The Supreme Court finally defends civil liberties

27 Jun

The Supreme Court is now doing what the Executive and Legislative branches have consistently failed to do: defend our precious and ever-eroding civil liberties.

Last week, in Arizona v. Gant, the Supreme Court ruled that police officers may no longer routinely search the vehicles of citizens that they have just arrested. This ruling puts some much needed teeth into the “unreasonable searches and seizures” clause of the 4th Amendment, and makes it harder for the government to fight its immoral and oppressive drug war.

This ruling is a pleasant surprise, given the Court’s recent history of ignoring nearly all of our 4th Amendment protections. Before this case, the Court has ruled that a warrant can be issued from an anonymous informant; that evidence collected without a warrant can be used in court if the officer acted in “good faith”; that police don’t need a warrant to monitor homes and backyards with low-flying helicopters; that police can use dogs to search luggage and cars without probable cause; and that government employees and public school students are allowed to be drug tested.

All of these previous rulings are not only gross violations of our constitutional protections against the misuse and abuse of unchecked state power, but most have come as a result of our government’s insistence in fighting the drug war.

In 1981, a New York police officer pulled a car over, “smelt burning marijuana,” confiscated numerous envelopes thought of containing the weed, searched the driver’s trunk, zippers and eventually his pockets, where he found a bag of cocaine. In 1999, Rodney Gant (the same Gant whose charges were just dropped by Arizona) was pulled over in the driveway in his Tucson, Arizona home for driving with a suspended license. After handcuffing Gant and placing him in the backseat of the police car, “officer” Todd Griffith then searched his car, found cocaine in one of his jacket pockets, and he went to jail.

The Supreme Court ruled that both of these cases were totally constitutional; that police had the power to search a citizen’s car without a search warrant.

Police obviously have the right to act if an arrestee reaches for a weapon or attempts to hide evidence. But in both cases previously mentioned, and thousands of similar cases a year, the arrestees were either properly handcuffed or in the back of a police car. For almost thirty years, police officers have been routinely conducting searches of cars and property without warrants, but now, with this recent Supreme Court ruling, this will (hopefully) come to a screeching halt.

In Arizona, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the opinion of the Court, stating that police may only search for evidence that is directly connected to the crime that caused the arrest.

Stevens’ opinion, coincidentally, was joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, two justices whom liberals hate, but for the most part, are principled civil libertarians. Scalia, in his eloquent concurrence, goes even farther than Justice Stevens in defense of civil liberties. Scalia called routine car searches “plainly unconstitutional,” arguing that these searches are not necessary to protect officers from hidden weapons, which can be done by simply restraining the arrestee.

The Supreme Court has not been perfect on 4th Amendment protections, but this case is a bold defense of necessary restraints on the State (i.e., police), especially as more and more of our liberties are stripped away from the consequences of the drug war.