Newsbrief: New Web Site Compiles Judicial Opposition to Drug War 4/30/04

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The good folks at the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics ( have launched a new project: a web site that brings together in one place the best and most incisive judicial commentary on drug prohibition and the war on drugs.

The web site, Judges Against the Drug War, (, is an online database of judicial opinions critical of the war on drugs, compiled from rulings in the various state and federal courts. Made possible by startup funding from the Marijuana Policy Project, the web site "represents a unique historical record of judicial dissent against national drug policy," CCLE noted in a release announcing the site's debut this week.

It seeks to let judges critical of the drug war know they are not alone. "Judges are often isolated and unaware of what other judges are thinking about the war on drugs," said CCLE director Richard Glen Boire. "We hope the web site will provide a kind of support system for judges who would otherwise not speak out."

Still, as the web site's database makes clear, judicial dissent from the drug war is still a minority opinion. The database includes excerpts from 69 opinions rendered in cases since 1970, but 49 of those opinions were dissenting opinions. Even in the web site's "Hall of Fame" listing of the most cogent judicial comments, five of the six were from dissenting -- or losing -- opinions.

But dissenting opinions can be notable for their nobility as well as their futility, and warnings of drug war excess can, as is the case in these days of war without end against "terror," reverberate far beyond the confines of drug policy. Listen to US District Judge Weinstein harkening back to US Supreme Court Justice John Marshall as he contemplated drug war mission-creep in a 1990 case. "The war on drugs is today the excuse for a perceptible narrowing of the warrant clause. We are gradually creating what one author has termed the 'drug exception to the Fourth Amendment,' wrote Weinstein. "We ignore at our peril Justice Marshall's warning: 'Precisely because the need for action against the drug scourge is manifest, the need for vigilance against unconstitutional excess is great. History teaches that grave threats to liberty often come in times of urgency, when constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure.'"

And, of course, we don't lose them all, and sometimes the victories are all the sweeter for the artful judicial musings they inspire. Here is US District Court Judge Carrigan, writing the majority opinion in a case where Fourth Amendment rights were upheld. "If this nation were to win its "War on Drugs" at the cost of sacrificing its citizens' constitutional rights, it would be a Pyrrhic victory indeed. It ill behooves a great nation to compromise or sacrifice the freedoms of its citizens as the price of more efficient law enforcement."

Judges Against the Drug War is a contribution to the effort to end the drug war and protect traditional civil liberties that will be useful not only to judges and lawyers, but reporters and activists seeking judicial perspective and all of us seeking inspiration.

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Issue #335, 4/30/04 Announcing: "The New Prohibition: Voices of Dissent Challenge the Drug War" -- New Compendium by Sheriff Masters Features David Borden and Numerous Other Thinkers on Drug Policy | Peruvian Coca Growers' "March of Protest and Sacrifice" Reaches Lima as Government Seeks to Elevate Alternative Leadership | Like a Phoenix from the Ashes: Vancouver's "Pot Block" Rebounds from Weekend Arson Fire | There You Go Again, Joe: CASA Report Uses Suspect Science to Hype Teen Marijuana Menace | NORML 2004: Stroup to Retire, Lobbying the Hill, Initiative Excitement, Medical Marijuana | Newsbrief: Drug Czar, Media Campaign Well-Positioned to Influence November Elections | Newsbrief: FBI Was Looking for Dope, Not Terrorists, 9/11 Commission Says | Atlantic City Announces Needle Exchange Plans | Newsbrief: European Union Blocks Cannabis Exhibition | Newsbrief: New Web Site Compiles Judicial Opposition to Drug War | Newsbrief: Canadian Couple Appalled at Being Treated Like, Well, New Yorkers | Newsbrief: Albuquerque Cops Block 4-20 Event by Closing Park | Newsbrief: Colorado Drug Task Force Sued Over Methamphetamine "Decontamination" Public Stripping | This Week in History | The Reformer's Calendar

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