Editorial: Constitutional Inconveniences 1/3/03

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David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 1/3/03

Constitutions can be inconvenient to governments sometimes. A court in Ontario, Canada, has thrown marijuana enforcement in that province into disarray by invalidating the law banning possession. Colombia's president feels inconvenienced by a Supreme Court ruling making drug possession in the country legal, and wants to amend his country's Constitution for that reason.

Sometimes a society finds a Constitution's true implications too inconvenient. Our Bill of Rights in the US has bent and bent and bent to conform to a drug war ideology and the desires of its police and prosecutors to employ every tactic they can dream up to arrest, jail and impoverish proven or accused drug offenders.

Still, the possibility of relief from drug war tyranny through Constitutional means continues to exist, if only at the margins. There is a Fourth Amendment protecting against unreasonable search and seizure, even if the interpretation of that amendment has been diluted quite unreasonably. There is a First Amendment that guarantees the right to write or speak about drug or drug war issues, even if rogue prosecutors or legislators unscrupulously try sometimes to suppress speech they dislike.

While the Constitution is sometimes derided by police state apologists as "protecting criminals," the Constitution is in truth the ultimate law of the land, governing all other laws. Those who violate or abuse the Constitution violate and abuse law in its very spirit. In their zealotry to punish those who commit what they rightly or wrongly consider crimes, they commit the worst of crimes. They attack our democracy and our system of laws at its very heart. They threaten to undo an experiment in freedom and egalitarianism that has inspired nations around the globe.

This week's news highlights a number of drug war crimes that demonstrate the importance of the Bill of Rights to our nation and the urgent need to restore its glory:

  • Northampton, Massachusetts, police seize bail money from a mother and father before they can bail their daughter, accused of marijuana distribution, out of jail. Their justification was, they claimed, the cash had "a slight odor of marijuana."
  • Louisiana police turn a small town into a war zone while arresting peaceful members of a community whom they accuse of cocaine offenses.
  • A New Jersey court hears the case of Ed Forchion, activist whose parole was revoked because he dared to express his opinion publicly that marijuana should be legal.
In light of these and countless more abuses throughout all our country, all of the time, the full purpose of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights should be clearer. The Bill of Rights is not only intended to protect the rights of the accused. The Bill of Rights exists to prevent governmental authorities from degenerating into kidnappers, thieves and thugs.

That ideal is not always realized; in the end, only a spirit of justice and freedom can hold in check the zealotry and corruption to which any institution of power is vulnerable. But at least the tool exists with which to hold tyranny at bay and strive for something better. The drug warriors are a principal opponent of that lofty goal. But in the end their overreaching and disregard for the rule of law will unmask the indecency of their agenda: Freedom and justice will one day prevail.

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Issue #270, 1/3/03 Editorial: Constitutional Inconveniences | Pressure for Change Mounts as Ontario Judge Rules Canadian Marijuana Possession Law Invalid 270/californiabudget Budget Crisis Forces California Governor to Consider Early Releases, Other Prison Measures | Prosecutors Enlist in Drug Czar's Anti-Marijuana Campaign -- Will Prioritize Marijuana Cases, Lobby Against Reform | Latin American Anti-Prohibition Conference, Feb. 12-15, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico | Cumbre Internacional Sobre Legalización, 15-Dec Febrero, Mérida, México | Newsbrief: Connecticut Legislator to Reintroduce Medical Marijuana Bill | Newsbrief: Prosecutors Seize Bail Money, Claim Pot Smell -- A New Tactic? | Newsbrief: Louisiana Drug Raid Draws Protests | Newsbrief: France Looking to Heighten Marijuana Penalties | Newsbrief: NJ Weedman to Get Day in Federal Court After Months in Jail for Thought Crime | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story | Newsbrief: Afghan Opium Farmers Drive Out Eradicators | Newsbrief: Ethiopian Farmers Turn to Khat in Face of Drought, Low Coffee Prices | DC Job Opportunities at DRCNet | The Reformer's Calendar

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