Category Archives: The War on Drugs

Point: Nullification Is The Civil Disobedience of Federalism

This post is a part of our continuing series Point/Counterpoint. I am taking the position that state Nullification of federal law is a legitimate action, and Doug Mataconis will respond tomorrow with a rebuttal. In memory of James Kilpatrick, we’ll dedicate this installment to him.

In federal politics, states are party to an uneasy compact with other states under the guise of a superior government.

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

As such, they cede many powers to that national government, but one must think that they do not cede all of their own powers. Something must be held in reserve. The question is what? After all, this “Supremacy Clause” Constitution only grants supremacy to those laws made in pursuance of the Constitution itself — anything not permitted by the Constitution must not be considered to be Supreme. The real question, then, is who decides what is Constitutional?

Since 1803 and John Marshall, half of that question has been decided. The US Supreme Court is the arbiter of what is, and what is not, Constitutional. Further, a critical tool of state protection against the overreaches of the national government, the state appointment of Senators, was stricken in 1913 by the Seventeenth Amendment. Thus, the only legal method of appeal to Constitutionality available to the States is appeal to the Supreme Court, a body that hasn’t found many overreaches of national government since the New Deal.

Nullification, the doctrine that states can disregard federal laws, declaring them unconstitutional, is a provocation somewhere between fighting a battle at the Supreme Court level and secession.

Appeal to the Supreme Court is basic and need not be addressed here. Secession is a far more drastic measure, far more controversial, and an area where I believe Doug and I disagree, so it does require some treatment. Secession is often equated with violence, and treated as “violent revolution”, but I would say that most instances of violence were continued by the government trying to retain their subjects, not by those trying to withdraw. In the American Revolution, nothing that I’ve seen suggests that had the British peacefully withdrawn their troops, the colonists would have had any cause for continuation of violence. Even in the US Civil War, it is unlikely that, had the North allowed the South to secede, that the South would have ridden on Washington to impose slavery back upon the North. Secession is not overthrow of the government, it is withdrawal therefrom. Of course, Doug and I agree that, whether they had the right or not, the South’s secession was for morally unconscionable reasons — the continuance of the despicable practice of slavery. But the South’s secession was no different than the American Revolution in that they were NOT attempts to overthrow a government outside of the territories that wanted their freedom, they could have been peaceful separations. The breakup of the Soviet Union is a good example. While it was only peaceful because the Russians didn’t have the power to hold it together, it was a peaceful secession nonetheless.

So at this point we’ve sketched out two responses to potentially unconstitutional overreaches by a national government. The first is the relatively weak appeal to the Supreme Court — asking the government to self-regulate. This is a difficult option. A Senate prior to the Seventeenth Amendment might take seriously their “Advice and Consent” role in judicial nominations to only nominate those who would respect state sovereignty and Constitutional limits, but that ship has sailed. In its wake, it’s left a court with an expansive view of national government authority. Secession, on the other hand, is all-or-nothing. And while it may not be a violent act, history has shown that it often will be. As Doug pointed out in all three posts I read of his referencing secession, Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence said that taking to arms should not be done “for light and transient causes”.

Leaving only these two options is a fool’s game. Secession will only be legitimate in the face of absolutely unconscionably abuse, and appeal to the judiciary is impotent and unlikely to succeed [and further, the structure of the direct election of Senate and the Supreme Court nomination process makes it unlikely this will change]. If one wants to give the national government limitless power, asking only that it police itself, having only these two options is the roadmap…

…which is why we need nullification.

Nullification is the civil disobedience of Federalism. Is it legal? No. After all, the Supremacy Clause and judicial review see to that. But it wasn’t legal for Rosa Parks to sit at the front of the bus, or for black students to sit at a “Whites-only” counter at Woolworth’s. Sometimes, the law is a ass. Sometimes, you need to disobey to make a point.

I’ll give an example. Here in California, we have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. This is in DIRECT contradiction to the Controlled Substances Act, an act that empowered the regulation to be written that declares marijuana a Schedule I drug — with no medical use whatsoever. This is nullification in action. This is civil disobedience. California is not denying the Federal government’s power to enforce the drug laws — but it is denying its compliance with those laws and its assistance to the Feds in such power.

What will the result of this action be? Well, this (and potentially the follow-on Proposition 19) forces the people of California address the question of marijuana. Several states have followed on with their own medical marijuana laws. We now have a body of medical marijuana users which can be called upon to testify that marijuana does have medical use. We have families who have watched their loved ones, battling horrible diseases which sap their appetite, who have been able to eat enough to keep their strength. Hopefully the result of this action will be the government backing down and taking marijuana off Schedule I.

Viewed this way, nullification is less about disobedience as it is about changing policy. Nullification is a tactic in a wider strategy. It is a way to register unhappiness with federal dictates without necessarily going full-bore and threatening secession. Further, it is a way to demonstrate, by direct example, that changes in policy are preferable to the way Washington demands.

Undoubtedly, Doug will respond that nullification can be used for nefarious purposes, much like secession. I cannot disagree. Arizona is willing to prove that, as if there haven’t been enough historical examples already. Nullification is a tool, and it is the one who wields the tool who is important.

The national government appropriates power to itself, and it has built structures to weaken or remove legal impediments to that power. In response, we need illegal, but peaceful, impediments. Non-violent resistance carries with it a moral weight that legal Supreme Court wrangling never will, and that is a tool that we in the fight for liberty do NOT want to cede.

Nullification may not be legal, but it is legitimate.

Hey, It’s Better Than Leeches!

Historically, barbers, have served a somewhat larger purpose than they do today:

The barbers of former times were also surgeons and dentists. In addition to haircutting, hairdressing, and shaving, barbers performed surgery, bloodletting and leeching, fire cupping, enemas, and the extraction of teeth. Thus they were called barber surgeons, and they formed their first organization in 1094. The barber pole red and white in spiral indicated the two crafts, surgery in red and barbering in white. The barber was paid higher than the surgeon until surgeons were entered into British war ships during its many naval wars. Some of the duties of the barber included neck manipulation, cleaning of ears and scalp, draining of boils, fistula and lancing of cysts with wicks.

It seems that a barber in Pomona, CA is trying to revive the good old days, doing a bit of dabbling in pharmacology:

The owner of the “Groom Time” barber shop in Pomona was arrested today when police discovered he was offering trims, shaves, and prepackaged bags of marijuana from his shop.

Officers sniffed marijuana coming from a parked white 1993 Buick Le Sabre in an alley at the back of the barber shop, Becker said.

During a search of the car, officers found 35 grams of individually packaged marijuana baggies.

If he can’t successfully mount Shaggy’s “It wasn’t me” defense, perhaps he can stand up as a provider of alternative medicine.

Legalization Of Marijuana To Be On California Ballot In November

Advocates of marijuana legalization have succeeded in getting a referendum on the November ballot:

LOS ANGELES, March 24 (UPI) — California will again be the flashpoint in the smoldering debate on legalization of pot as officials said Wednesday the question will be on the November ballot.

Los Angeles County elections officials Wednesday submitted their official estimate of valid signatures collected in the county on a statewide legalization initiative, putting the number of signatures collected statewide over the 433,971 needed to put the measure on the ballot, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The move to legalize marijuana comes 14 years after California decided the controversial weed could be used for medicinal purposes. The initiative would permit people age 21 or older to possess up to an ounce of pot for personal use.

Proponents cite the financial and social cost of enforcing a marijuana prohibition and argue that marijuana isn’t as dangerous and addictive as alcohol or tobacco. Opponents counter with statistics of marijuana-related crimes, rising use among teens and the physical harm pot can cause.

Is this the beginning of the end of the War On (Some) Drugs ? I sure hope so.

LP’s Wes Benedict on ‘Limited Government’ Conservatives

Those of us who truly believe in limited government* tend to be simultaneously amused and irritated hearing the folks at CPAC speak of limited government as though it’s a principle they truly support. Yesterday, the Libertarian Party’s Executive Director Wes Benedict, monitoring the CPAC festivities from afar, said some of the things that many of us have been thinking:

Unlike libertarians, most conservatives simply don’t want small government. They want their own version of big government. Of course, they have done a pretty good job of fooling American voters for decades by repeating the phrases “limited government” and “small government” like a hypnotic chant.

It’s interesting that conservatives only notice “big government” when it’s something their political enemies want. When conservatives want it, apparently it doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants a trillion-dollar foreign war, that doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants a 700-billion-dollar bank bailout, that doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants to spend billions fighting a needless and destructive War on Drugs, that doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants to spend billions building border fences, that doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants to “protect” the huge, unjust, and terribly inefficient Social Security and Medicare programs, that doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants billions in farm subsidies, that doesn’t count.

It’s truly amazing how many things “don’t count.”

Benedict went on to point out the lack of concern these same people had with the government expansion of President Bush and the health care mandates of another CPAC favorite – Mitt Romney.

While I’m by no means a supporter of the Obama Administration, the idea that many Conservatives seem to have that all the problems we are faced with started on January 20, 2009 is completely ludicrous**.

These are the same people who would gladly support Sarah ‘the Quitter’ Palin, ‘Mandate’ Mitt Romney, or ‘Tax Hike Mike’ Huckabee – none are what I would call ‘limited government’ by any stretch of the imagination.

» Read more

Tuesday Open Thread

In this country, it has become socially acceptable to use internet or over-the-phone consults with a fraudulent “ailment” for prescriptions of a recreational drug (Viagra/Cialis).

In this country, it is still socially unacceptable (in the areas where it is legal) to go see a doctor in-person with a moderately fraudulent ailment for prescriptions of a recreational drug (marijuana).

Discuss.

Liberty Rock Friday: “Prison Song” by SOAD

Here’s a perfect song to complement my recent call to action to pass the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009.

toxicity

System of a Down
“Prison Song”
Toxicity (2001)

Written by: Tankian, Serj;Malakian, Daron;Odadjian, Shavarsh; and Dolmayan, John

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,

Following the rights movements
You clamped on with your iron fists,
Drugs became conveniently
Available for all the kids,
Following the rights movements
You clamped on with your iron fists,
Drugs became conveniently
Available for all the kids,

I buy my crack, my smack, my bitch
right here in Hollywood.

Nearly 2 million [*] Americans are incarcerated
In the prison system, prison system,
Prison system of the U.S.

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison, (for you and me to live in)
Another prison system,
Another prison system,
Another prison system. (for you and me to live in)

Minor drug offenders fill your prisons
You don’t even flinch
All our taxes paying for your wars
Against the new non-rich,
Minor drug offenders fill your prisons
You don’t even flinch
All our taxes paying for your wars
Against the new non-rich,

I buy my crack, my smack, my bitch
right here in Hollywood.

The percentage of Americans in the prison system
Prison system, has doubled since 1985,

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison, (for you and me to live in)
Another prison system,
Another prison system,
Another prison system. (for you and me to live in)
For you and I, for you and I , for you and I.

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
For you and me,
Oh baby, you and me.

All research and successful drug policy show
That treatment should be increased,
And law enforcement decreased,
While abolishing mandatory minimum sentences,
All research and successful drug policy show
That treatment should be increased,
And law enforcement decreased,
While abolishing mandatory minimum sentences.

Utilizing drugs to pay for secret wars around the world,
Drugs are now your global policy,
Now you police the globe,

I buy my crack, my smack, my bitch
right here in Hollywood.

Drug money is used to rig elections,
And train brutal corporate sponsored
Dictators around the world.

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison, (for you and me to live in)
Another prison system,
Another prison system,
Another prison system. (for you and me to live in)
For you and I, for you and I , for you and I.
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
For you and me,
Oh baby, you and me.

*This number has since increased to about 2.4 million according to the Sen. Webb’s findings.

Action Alert: Help Pass the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009

In April of 2009, I wrote a post entitled “Reforming America’s Prison System: The Time Has Come”

A full 8 months later, the time has truly come. Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-VA) bill S.714, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009, is scheduled to be before the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow.

The purpose of the bill is as follows:

SEC. 3. ESTABLISHMENT OF COMMISSION.
There is established a commission to be known as the `National Criminal Justice Commission’ (referred to in this Act as the `Commission’).

SEC. 4. PURPOSE OF THE COMMISSION.
The Commission shall undertake a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system, make findings related to current Federal and State criminal justice policies and practices, and make reform recommendations for the President, Congress, and State governments to improve public safety, cost-effectiveness, overall prison administration, and fairness in the implementation of the Nation’s criminal justice system.

America accounts for 5% of the world’s population but a staggering 25% of the world’s reported prisoners. This statistic seems to be at odds with those of us who want to believe our nation is a “free” and “just” nation.

Also, its worth pointing out that this commission will give the war on (some) drugs some much needed scrutiny (as the graphs below show, drug offenses account for more than half of the prison population).

Source: Bureau of Prisons as of February 2009

Source: Bureau of Prisons as of February 2009

bop-graph_page_2

I have already contacted my senators, now its time to do your part. If you don’t want to spend much time on writing an e-mail or letter, NORML has an easy form to fill out here (the message goes directly to both of your Senators even if you don’t happen to know who your Senators are).

With your help, perhaps this bill will pass. This will be a great first step in combating the prison industrial complex.

Cory Maye to Have a Second Chance at Justice

With my busy work schedule as it is, I managed to miss the very encouraging news that Cory Maye will get a new trial!

I think it will be very interesting how his second trial unfolds now that he will have a better legal team with better expert witnesses to debunk the dubious testimony of the prosecution.

The prosecution isn’t showing any signs of dropping the charges; if anything they seem to be hell bent on keeping Maye behind bars:

“Certainly we disagree,” said District Attorney Hal Kittrell, adding that the attorney general’s office will seek a rehearing on the matter and will appeal, if necessary, to the state Supreme Court.

If the courts all agree that a new trial is necessary, there will be another trial because prosecutors believe Maye is guilty, he said. “We didn’t buy it (his self-defense claim), nor did a jury, so we’ll go back.”

For more background on the Cory Maye saga, here are some of my previous posts on the case posted here and elsewhere.

Reason.tv also did a great job telling Cory’s story (below).

Is the End of Government Reefer Madness Near?

Referring back to my post I wrote last week about the “perfect storm” the Obama Administration has created regarding medical marijuana, Colorado in many ways seems to be in the eye of this storm. It seems that more and more people are starting to understand the insanity of declaring war on a substance which has never resulted in an overdose of any kind (much less a deadly overdose). In yesterday’s election, voters in Breckenridge, CO passed a measure by 71% which decriminalizes marijuana in amounts of an ounce or less for individuals 21 and over.

The Denver Post is having guest columnists who are staunchly pro-legalization write persuasive and articulate articles which could be mistaken for something you might read here at The Liberty Papers. Here’s an excerpt from an article written by Robert Cory Jr.

Today, not much about Colorado’s economy moves. The state is broke and releases prisoners because it cannot afford to keep them. The governor slashes the higher education budget 40 percent. People lose jobs, homes and financial security. Our leaders face serious issues.

And what keeps some politicians up at night? That sneaking suspicion that some suffering cancer patient may gain limited pain relief through medical marijuana, coupled with that gnawing certainty that someone, somewhere, actually grew the plant for that patient.

But government cannot repeal the laws of supply and demand, and cannot extinguish the spark of freedom in peoples’ hearts. Now, the marijuana distribution chain becomes legal. Responsible entrepreneurs open shops to supply a skyrocketing demand for medicine. These small businesses serve needy patients. They pay taxes. They hire employees. They lease space. They advertise. And the drug war industrial complex can’t stand it.

The article only gets better from there. I find it very encouraging that Colorado’s newspaper of record would print this and that citizens are pushing back against big government, if only on this issue.

Street Value

Uh-oh:

Last week the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that bong water is an illegal drug. Under state law, a controlled substance includes any “mixture” containing that substance, “regardless of purity.” The consequences of reading that definition literally can be severe. In the case before the court, a woman whose bong contained 37 grams of water with traces of methamphetamine will now be treated as if she possessed 37 grams of speed, which converts possession of drug paraphernalia, a petty misdemeanor punishable by a $300 fine, into a a first-degree drug offense, punishable by seven or more years in prison.

Wow… According to such a ruling, and since the old wives’ tale is true, I must be carrying cocaine with a street value of $35 around with me (one Jackson, two Lincolns and five Washingtons). Good thing I’m not carrying any c-notes today! A Benji would certainly push up the mandatory minimum!

Obama Creates Perfect Storm with Marijuana Policy Change

Last week’s announcement from the Obama Administration that the Justice Department would call off the dogs with regard to medical marijuana in states where legal has created a perfect storm regarding state and local regulations. Colorado Attorney General lamented that with this announcement, a “legal vacuum” has been created and was quoted in The New York Times: “The federal Department of Justice is saying it will only go after you if you’re in violation of state law,” Mr. Suthers said. “But in Colorado it’s not clear what state law is.”

Here’s a thought Mr. Suthers: rather than trying to interpret the law yourself, why not allow the state legislature and/or Colorado voters clarify the law. In the meantime, while the law in your opinion is vague, err on the side of freedom by no longer prosecuting medical marijuana users or dispensary operators.

Greeley (Colorado) City Council member Carrol Martin also expressed concerns with the Obama Administration’s change in federal policy: “The federal government says they’re not going to control it [medical marijuana], so the only other option we have is to control it ourselves” and “If we have no regulations at all, then we can’t control it, and our police officers have their hands tied.”

Councilman, I would argue that this is a very good thing. You are no longer responsible for enforcing federal laws but state and local laws regarding medical marijuana. Your police officers “have their hands tied”? I think it’s quite the opposite councilman. Your police department can now concentrate on violent crime rather than spend valuable resources on going after non-violent, medicinal, marijuana users and their suppliers. If anything, the Greeley police has their hands freed!

In a time when we have an administration which wants to control banking, housing, the auto industry, the healthcare industry, and everything in-between we have one instance of the same administration relinquishing control and giving it back to the states. This is the perfect opportunity for states to act as independent laboratories of government. Some will pass stricter controls on medical marijuana (or outright ban it) while others may go the other direction and outright decriminalize or leagalize marijuana altogether.

Kirk Johnson writing for The New York Times:

Some legal scholars said the federal government, by deciding not to enforce its own laws (possession and the sale of marijuana remain federal crimes), has introduced an unpredictable variable into the drug regulation system.

“The next step would be a particular state deciding to legalize marijuana entirely,” said Peter J. Cohen, a doctor and a lawyer who teaches public health law at Georgetown University. If federal prosecutors kept their distance even then, Dr. Cohen said, legalized marijuana would become a de facto reality.

Senator Morrisette in Oregon said he thought that exact situation — a state moving toward legalization, perhaps California — could play out much sooner now than might have been imagined even a few weeks ago. And the continuing recession would only help, he said, with advocates for legalization able to promise relief to an overburdened prison system and injection of tax revenues to the state budget.

This seems like a very reasonable step to take for California from a purely economic standpoint. As I reported in my post Reforming America’s Prison System: The Time Has Come, last year California spent almost $10 million on corrections, more than half of the U.S. prison population accounts for drug offenses, 75% of state drug offenders are non-violent offenders, and that nearly half of all drug arrests in the U.S. were for marijuana offenses.

By my math, that would mean that if California* released all non-violent marijuana users and stopped prosecuting new cases involving non-violent marijuana use, the state could cut its prison population by 19% and save California taxpayers about $2 million** per year just on corrections (to say nothing of other costs associated with policing marijuana use).

If California or any other state tried such a bold approach, the American public would most likely learn that legalization does not lead to the sort of mayhem drug warriors have warned us of over the decades***. We would most certainly not see the sort of mayhem that has occurred via the drug war.

Not only does this perfect storm which the Obama Administration created have possible implications for the War on (Some) Drugs, but the very concept of Federalism itself. What might state governments learn about self governing once they have been encouraged to do so? Might the states resist the next attempted power grab from Washington?

There are many exciting possibilities. Those of us who advocate for smaller government should make the most of this opportunity.

» Read more

Sorry Granny, “But For The Good Of Everyone, The Law Was Put Into Effect.”

I tells ya, sometimes ya just gotta to make an example of ‘em:

When Sally Harpold bought cold medicine for her family back in March, she never dreamed that four months later she would end up in handcuffs.

Harpold is a grandmother of triplets who bought one box of Zyrtec-D cold medicine for her husband at a Rockville pharmacy. Less than seven days later, she bought a box of Mucinex-D cold medicine for her adult daughter at a Clinton pharmacy, thereby purchasing 3.6 grams total of pseudoephedrine in a week’s time.

Those two purchases put her in violation of Indiana law 35-48-4-14.7, which restricts the sale of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, or PSE, products to no more than 3.0 grams within any seven-day period.

When the police came knocking at the door of Harpold’s Parke County residence on July 30, she was arrested on a Vermillion County warrant for a class-C misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to 60 days in jail and up to a $500 fine. But through a deferral program offered by Vermillion County Prosecutor Nina Alexander, the charge could be wiped from Harpold’s record by mid-September.

You know the only thing worse than a police force given the discretion to determine whether or not a lawbreaker is a real threat to society and should be arrested for a crime — a situation which can lead to unintended consequences of racist enforcement, letting cronies off the hook, etc? A police force which enforces horrible, no-good, very bad laws evenly.

H/T: Reason

Nearly 1.5 Million Americans Arrested For Victimless Crimes In 2008

The new FBI Crime Report is out and reveals some interesting information:

  • Prostitution and “commercialized vice” — 75,004 arrests
  • Gambling — 9,811 arrests
  • Drug Possession — 1,401,188 arrests
    • Heroin or Cocaine Possession — 342,210 arrests
    • Marijuana — 754,224 arrests
    • Synthetic drugs (i.e., crystal meth) — 56,184 arrests
    • Other “dangerous” drugs — 248,570

Which leaves us with a grand total of 1,486,003 Americans arrested in 2008 for victimless crimes.

H/T: Coyote Blog and Radley Balko

Georgia Pastor Is Latest Victim Of War On (Some) Drugs

A Georgia Pastor was mistakenly killed in the a police drug string operation:

STEPHENS COUNTY, Ga. — A pastor was shot and killed following a drug sting in Stephens County, Ga., on Tuesday, and the officers involved and friends of the pastor are giving different versions of what led up to the shooting.

The Stephens County coroner confirmed that 28-year-old Jonathan Ayers was pronounced dead at Stephens County Hospital on Tuesday.

Ayers, a father-to-be, was the pastor of the Shoal Creek Baptist Church. He maintained a personal blog linked off the church’s Web page, jonathanayers.blogspot.com.

Sheriff Randy Shirley said that officers had been involved in an undercover drug sting at an unnamed establishment in Toccoa. He said the target of the sting was a passenger in Ayers’ car. Shirley said Ayers dropped the woman off and went to the Shell station. He said the officers followed Ayers there.

hirley said, outside the Shell station, the plain-clothes officers identified themselves with a badge. The officers said that Ayers put his car in reverse and struck and agent. They said they opened fire on Ayers when he drove toward the second officer. Two shots were fired in the car, one hit Ayers. The officers said Ayers sped away and crashed about a half mile from the Shell station. They said they found him conscious and alert, but he died a short time later.

The woman who was the subject of the drug sting was arrested, but police are not identifying her yet. She is charged with selling cocaine. Other charges against her are pending.

Investigators said they did not find drugs in Ayers’ car.

“They deserve punishment,” said Ayers’ sister, Rebecca Floyd. “They deserve to feel somewhat of the pain we’re feeling, because I can’t get my brother back he’s gone forever.”

And, no doubt, the officers won’t receive any punishment at all.

Chew A Rolaids, Go To Jail

The War On (Some) Drugs has reached the ridiculous stage:

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — A man is suing the Kissimmee Police Department for an arrest over mints. When officers pulled Donald May over for an expired tag, they thought the mints he was chewing were crack and arrested him.

May told Eyewitness News they wouldn’t let him out of jail for three months until tests proved the so-called drugs were candy.

May said he was just minding his business, driving home from work, when a Kissimmee police officer pulled him over near 192.

“I don’t know how it occurred,” he said.

May was pulled over for an expired tag on his car. When the officer walked up to him, he noticed something white in May’s mouth. May said it was breath mints, but the officer thought it was crack cocaine.

“He took them out of my mouth and put them in a baggy and locked me up [for] possession of cocaine and tampering with evidence,” May explained.

The officer claimed he field-tested the evidence and it tested positive for drugs. The officer said he saw May buying drugs while he was stopped at an intersection. He also stated in his report May waived his Miranda rights and voluntarily admitted to buying drugs.

May said that never happened.

“My client never admitted he purchased crack cocaine. Why would he say that?” attorney Adam Sudbury said.

Obviously, he was high on antacid.

The Nuance Of Medical Marijuana Raids In California

One of Obama’s campaign promises was to stop federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries which were allowed by state law. Many pundits (myself included) have been lambasting him for not living up to that promise based upon stories like these:

Police raids on medical marijuana dispensaries continue–and continue with federal help, despite an Obama promise to end federal raids on state-legal medical pot dealers.

Of course, Obama gave his Justice Department a loophole, with Attorney General Eric Holder saying back in March that his DEA’s resources would “go after those people who violate both federal and state law….Given the limited resources that we have, our focus will be on people, organizations that are growing, cultivating substantial amounts of marijuana and doing so in a way that’s inconsistent with federal and state law.” This was a way to live up to Obama’s promise that federal raids on people who were not violating their own state’s law regarding medical marijuana would cease.

Unfortunately, so far it’s hard to know how serious to take this promise in relation to these latest L.A. raids, since the federal agents’ role in the raids on two Westside pot dispensaries (and their owners’ private homes) is still unexplained as of this writing. As the San Jose Mercury News reports.

Authorities are not saying why they raided two medical marijuana clinics and arrested the operator at his Los Angeles home. Jeffrey Joseph was free on bail Thursday, one day after local and federal agents searched his home and the dispensaries in Los Angeles and Culver City. Agents seized 450 plants and hundreds of pounds of marijuana products.

Spokespeople for the Drug Enforcement Administration, Los Angeles police, and the U.S. attorney say they don’t know what Joseph was book on. County prosecutors released no details.

Distributing medical pot is legal under California law but it’s a federal crime. However, the U.S. attorney general has said he wouldn’t target distributors unless state and federal laws were broken. County prosecutors say the task force was acting on a state warrant.

There’s a little history here. Medical Marijuana dispensaries have become much more common in Los Angeles over the last few years due to several loopholes and exemptions that made it possible for them to open quickly. The city council has been trying recently to cut down on these loopholes in order to reduce the number of operating dispensaries, but their own legal exemptions are making it very hard to do this quickly.

So how to close these shops without having to go through arduous examinations of dispensaries’ “hardship exemption” applications? Simple, prove they’ve been doing something else to break the guidelines. On the bright side, they can then call in the big guns at the DEA to lend a hand! It’s win-win for the City Council and the Feds (and a big LOSE for the dispensary owners and their customers, of course).

Sadly, many of the dispensaries are making the job easy on the city. A personal acquaintance of mine is a CPA and runs the books for several of these dispensaries, and this is his take on the matter:

The more I interact within this industry the more I realize how illegal most of these operations are. The state attorney general set up specific guidelines, as did the state board of equalization, that would allow an owner to operate freely without fear of raids & prosecution. The key issue in these operations is transparency, which most dispensaries fail to realize. Those operations that have their doors and books open to state and city regulators are never harassed. The clubs that operate outside of the guidelines are always targeted. And from a accounting and tax standpoint, it’s extremely simple to figure out who is operating by the book and who’s not.

I tell all my new clients to always be aware of the fact that the board of equalization is keeping a close eye on the industry to ensure that every sale is taxed and that every penny is sent to the state. The state BOE is in bed with the Feds and have no problem calling for the leg-breakers (the IRS) when they feel they’re being ripped off; which in most cases they are.

These raids are a violent and disruptive elucidation of one critical aspect of business in our government-dominated world — your business exists at the pleasure of the state. If they want to find a reason to come after you, they will find a reason to come after you, or manufacture one. There are a lot of regulations attached to any business, and even more to the medical marijuana industry. If they’re watching, they’ll catch you breaking one of them:

The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.
-Ayn Rand

This is the modern equivalent to catching Al Capone on tax evasion, when there wasn’t enough to bust him on the charges of bootlegging (and everything else he was involved in). Obama’s not technically breaking his promise here, but he’s still offering to bring in the big guns and prosecute pot dispensaries if they violate tax laws. He’s violating the spirit of the promise.

Papers Please

Over at the Agitator, Radley Balko asks why people are amused by Bob Dylan’s latest run-in with the law.

I find it pretty depressing. There was a time when we condescendingly used the term “your papers, please” to distinguish ourselves from Eastern Block countries and other authoritarian states. Post-Hiibel, America has become a place where a harmless, 68-year-old man out on a stroll can be stopped, interrogated, detained, and forced to produce proof of identification to state authorities, despite having committed no crime.

Maybe what makes it comical rather than a tragedy is that it happened to a famous guy rather than some ordinary person.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do

THIS BOOK IS BASED on a single idea: You should be allowed to do whatever you want with your own person and property, as long as you don’t physically harm the person or property of a nonconsenting other.

Thus begins a book that everyone interested in politics should read; Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Country by Peter McWilliams.  Published in 1998, it is a damning survey of how the United States had become a state composed of “clergymen with billy-clubs”.  It analyzes the consequences of punishing so-called victimless crimes from numerous viewpoints, demonstrating that regardless of what you think is the most important organizing principle or purpose of society the investigation, prosecution and punishment of these non-crimes is harmful to society.

This remarkable book is now posted online, and if one can bear to wade through the awful website design, one will find lots of thought-provoking worthwhile commentary, analysis, theory and history.

His final chapter, on how to change the system, while consisting mainly of pie-in-the-sky, ineffective suggestions of working within the system, starts of with an extremely good bit of advice that I urge all our readers to try:

The single most effective form of change is one-on-one interaction with the people you come into contact with day-by-day. The next time someone condemns a consensual activity in your presence, you can ask the simple question, “Well, isn’t that their own business?” Asking this, of course, may be like hitting a beehive with a baseball bat, and it may seem—after the commotion (and emotion) has died down—that attitudes have not changed. If, however, a beehive is hit often enough, the bees move somewhere else. Of course, you don’t have to hit the same hive every time. If all the people who agree that the laws against consensual crimes should be repealed post haste would go around whacking (or at least firmly tapping) every beehive that presented itself, the bees would buzz less often.

I highly recommend this book.  Even though I have some pretty fundamental disagreements with some of his proposals, I think that this book is a fine addition to the bookshelf of any advocate of freedom and civilization.

Hat Tip: J.D. Tuccille of Disloyal Opposition.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Mother Jones Takes on the War on (Some) Drugs

The July/August 2009 issue of the Left-leaning Mother Jones dedicates several articles to the asinine War on (some) Drugs.
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The title of the magazine’s cover story states it best – “Totally Wasted: We’ve blown $300 billion. Death squads roam Mexico. Cartels operate in 259 cities. This is your War on Drugs. Any Questions?”

Reason’s Nick Gillespie points out that there are many areas that libertarians would disagree with (like I said, MoJo is a Left-leaning publication) but I think it’s good to expose a new audience to the failure that is this nation’s drug policy. From there we can debate the best way to bring the War on (some) Drugs to a conclusion.

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