Wed, May 11, 2011 5:51 pm
There’s no good word in the English language for when you’re paranoid – and right.
I’m not prone to conspiracy theories, but one has to wonder when it comes to cannabis and the Supreme Court of the United States (a.k.a. SCOTUS). By this I mean the court’s pervasive series of decisions on cannabis prohibition – dating back to the 1960s – that has placed a huge segment of society and the government in conflict. SCOTUS almost always rules in favor of the government, which means the very high court sworn to uphold the US Constitution and protect individual liberties has, in every single one of these rulings, created a greater jeopardy for other basic civil liberties by way of terrible and self-fulfilling legal precedents that diminish the freedom of all citizens, religious institutions and businesses.
One would be hard-pressed to find another public policy – a long and failed public policy – that has created so many opportunities for the government to invade the private spaces of Americans, interfere with their personal health decisions, pervert banking regulations and free-market principles, and create a massive, taxpayer-supported bureaucracy than the 74-year-old policy of cannabis prohibition.
I came to be reminded about all the terrible, liberty-sucking legal decisions from SCOTUS after reading the transcripts from oral arguments in Kentucky vs. King. In this case, cops in Kentucky claimed to have smelled marijuana being used in a certain apartment, then performed a warrantless “knock and talk.” When no one immediately answered the door, the cops forcibly knocked it down, entered the apartment and arrested a couple of otherwise harmless pot smokers (a.k.a. taxpaying citizens trying to relax in the privacy of their home).
The question for the Supreme Court is this: Is it legal under the US Constitution for the police, in the dead of night, to kick down a citizen’s door, with no warrant and virtually no probable cause (aside from a scent in the hallway), in pursuit of enforcing a self-evidently unenforceable prohibition? How is any of this good for freedom and liberty?
Unfortunately, to see how SCOTUS is likely to decide this case, we only have to look at the many past decisions where the Supreme Court has consistently ruled against patients who use medical cannabis, or the religious use of cannabis as a sacrament, or even cannabis-related free speech (i.e., the case involving high-school students unfurling a banner that read “Bong Hits for Jesus”), but has just as consistently ruled for more drug testing, tax stamps, civil forfeiture, roadblocks and searches of the car, home and locker.
If the past is prologue, then with this current SCOTUS, cannabis consumers will have one more good reason for being paranoid in this stupid, wasteful and constitutionally warping epoch of cannabis prohibition.
Allen St. Pierre is the executive director of NORML in Washington, DC (norml.org).