Even so, we must keep asking such questions. The more we ask, the more nervous Congress will become. Eventually, they will be forced to either answer our questions or admit publicly that they don’t care what the Constitution says.
What we didn’t mention in the previous Dispatch was the Constitutional problem of the War on Drugs. That’s because . . .
Many people seem not to care what the Constitution requires. Today’s message is for those who do care.
Drug control is NOT a Constitutional power of the federal government. At the very most the federal government could, perhaps, ban the importation of drugs, and prohibit their sale across state lines under the Commerce Clause of Article I, Section 8.
But nowhere in the Constitution is Congress empowered to prohibit the sale or possession of any item within state boundaries. The Tenth Amendment dictates that whatever Congress is not empowered to do must be left to the States, or to the people. This means Congress cannot . . .
* forbid the personal possession or use of drugs
* prohibit drug sales within the same state
* intervene in other countries with money or troops to fight undeclared drug wars
This means that drug prohibition laws can only exist at the state level. Imagine what could happen if some states had no prohibition laws, while other states had prohibition laws of differing severity. Competing claims about drug prohibition could be tested, in the real world. As it is . . .
Federal prohibition laws not only prohibit the sale and use of drugs, they also prohibit us from learning what would work best.
The 10th Amendment’s Constitutional restrictions on federal power used to be well-known and understood. For instance, those who wanted to prohibit alcohol in the 1910′s knew that the Constitution didn’t give Congress the power to do this. So they had to pass the 18th Amendment, ratified in 1919.
Alcohol prohibition was a failure, so in 1933 the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment.
If prohibiting alcohol required a Constitutional Amendment, how does prohibiting other drugs NOT require a Constitutional Amendment?
Quote of the Day: “While few would argue that criminals ought to be able to keep the proceeds of their crimes, civil forfeiture allows the government to seize and keep property without actually having to prove a crime was committed in the first place. . . . Proceeds from civil forfeiture at the state and local level usually go back to the police departments and prosecutors’ offices, giving them a clear and unmistakable incentive to seize as much property as often as possible.” – Radley Balko
Under Illinois law, the state can withhold cash, cars, or other property for six months without even a preliminary hearing! Under the law, three innocent people had to wait over a year to get their cars back. They, along with three innocent people who had money stolen from them, have argued the Constitutionality of the Illinois law.
The “good” news is that this law will be argued in the Supreme Court this month in Alvarez v. Smith.
CLINTON, Indiana – 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 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 weeks time. Those two purchases put her in violation of Indiana law.
Quote of the Day: “Those who suffer from the abuse of drugs have themselves to blame for it. This does not mean that society is absolved from active concern for their plight. It does mean that their plight is subordinate to the plight of those citizens who do not experiment with drugs, but whose life, liberty, and property are substantially affected by the illegalization of the drugs.” — William F. Buckley
There have been positive signs that America is reconsidering some aspects of drug prohibition.
In February, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Administration would stop medical marijuana raids in states where it’s legal
In May, the Supreme Court refused to hear a case arguing that California’s medical marijuana law was in conflict with federal law
The Obama Administration did not object when Mexico liberalized its drug possession law last month
But as America takes baby steps toward Drug War reform, statesmen south of the border are suggesting something bolder.
This week, the Global Public Policy Forum on the U.S. War on Drugs was held on the front lines of the Drug War, in the border cities of El Paso and Juarez. The Forum was organized by the University of Texas-El Paso, but the idea originated with the El Paso City Council. The Council also unanimously called for “an honest open national debate on ending the prohibition on narcotics” (although that resolution was vetoed by the mayor under the threat of losing federal funds).
Today, only a fraction of drug shipments are intercepted. This means the only way to “win” the War on Drugs is to lose the Bill of Rights and our way of life by substantially increasing arbitrary searches and seizures at home, and employing a much larger military as a narcotics police force across the globe.
Drug prohibition costs hundreds of billions in both direct costs and opportunity costs such as the lost wages of the imprisoned. It endangers the lives of innocents caught in turf wars. It promotes chaos and instability in much of the world — and all of this in a futile attempt to save a tiny fraction of the population from themselves.
But if we lifted the prohibition on drugs . . .Read More »
I’m amazed and encouraged by the recent uptick in news stories about legalizing pot. Call it pot, marijuana, hemp or what have you, the basic issue is the same. While I agree that we should decriminalize this incredible plant that can be used for numerous industrial, commercial and medicinal uses, I’m discouraged by two points coming from the strongest supporters for legalization. These are:
Keep ‘harder’ drugs illegal
This is a losing position and I’ll tell you why. On the issue of taxation, wouldn’t it be OK if there was one thing in this world that the government didn’t tax? I mean, do some fat cat politicians in Washington really deserve a slice of every bit of productive activity in this country? The income that a person uses to buy any item in America has already been taxed multiple times – through corporate taxes, payroll taxes, income taxes, medicaid and social security taxes and the list goes on and on. What makes people think that the government needs any more money from us?
Also, assuming that it was legalized and taxed, why wouldn’t people still buy it off the streets at a discount, tax-free? Assuming an 8% minimum tax, which is the sales tax rate in New York, why wouldn’t people who already ‘get it from a friend’ continue to do so? In fact, I think it’s safe to assume that an 8% tax is probably much lower than what the government would actually institute. Tobacco manufacturers could be counted on to lobby government to make sure that marijuana taxes were as high or higher than tobacco taxes to make sure they didn’t loose further business to a cheaper (and more healthy) alternative.
The leader of a congressional effort to reform the criminal justice system said Thursday that all issues — including drug legalization — need to be on the table.
Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), who has made criminal justice and prison reform a signature issue of his this year in Congress, is the most high-profile lawmaker to indicate openness to drug decriminalization or outright legalization.
“Well, I think what we need to do is to put all of the issues on the table,” Webb said this morning on CNN if asked if marijuana legalization would be part of his criminal justice reform efforts.
“If you go back to 1980 as a starting point, I think we had 40,000 people in prison on drug charges, and today, we have about 500,000 of them,” the first-term Virginia lawmaker said. “And the great majority of those are nonviolent crimes — possession crimes or minor sales.”
Well, this all sounded great until I read the following:
“I think they should examine every aspect of drugs policy to see what’s working and what’s not working, and where the consistencies are and, quite frankly, where the inconsistencies are in terms of how people end up in the system with similar activities,” Webb explained, reiterating his call for a high-level blue ribbon commission to reform the criminal justice system.
Oh no! Not yet another “blue ribbon commission”! That is a Capitol Hill euphemism for a “political dog and pony show”. In the end nothing gets accomplished. I hope this one is different, but I have my doubts.
Ron Paul appeared on CNN American Morning today to discuss his views on legalizing drugs and the insane drug war. This time the host allowed Paul to answer the questions without interruption and Ron Paul did a pretty good job of doing so.
He did seem to avoid the question on introducing legislation to legalize drugs (all drugs, not just marijuana), but overall it was a good appearance. The clip cuts off the results of the CNN poll where 49% of those polled thus far stated they wanted all drugs to be legalized. This gives me hope that someday, maybe in my lifetime, the insane war on drugs will be abolished.