A way to work around federal drug laws?

California allows the medicinal use of marijuana, but the federal government is still arresting people under federal drug laws. Suppose that California were to declare the use of medicinal marijuana an infraction, with a fine of .01. Then, anyone who uses medicinal marijuana can turn themselves in, plead guilty, pay the .01 fine, and thanks to the prohibition against double jeopardy, be immune against federal prosecution. Would this work?

double jeopardy doesn’t prevent you from being arrested/tried for further instances of the same or simlar crimes.

The Feds can prosecute you for the same act because they are a different sovereign. It would not be considered double jeopardy. They often do that when they don’t like the result of a state trial. The cops of Rodney King fame were prosecuted later by the Feds for “infringing on his civil rights”.

Another example of how the federal government has exceeded its constitutional limits.

What power in the Constitution grants the federal government the right to ban the personal growing of marijuana for personal use?

Actually, this has been covered in a thread I had a while ago

adaher, The Commerce Clause.

But, Soup, consider Prohibtion. Back in the twenties, it was understood that the Federal govt did not have the power to outlaw alcohol; that outlawing it would require a constitutional amendment. A constitutional amendment was passed – and later repealed, due to the war on alcohol turning out to be an utter failure.

Later on, when the Feds wanted to outlaw marijuana, heroin, etc., nothing had changed. Outlawing marijuana, heroin, etc. was no more constitutional than outlawing alcohol would have been. But times had changed. Or attitudes. Or something. Maybe the Feds had just developed more hutzpah. This time, no constitution amendment. The Feds just went ahead and passed laws. And got away with it.

The war on drugs has been just as complete and total a failure as the war on alcohol was, or worse. But rather than call a halt, the Feds just keep pouring more and more money and effort into it, and getting more and more fanatical about it.

Maybe we need a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana and related subsances, and decriminalize the other outlawed drugs.

I just followed Joel’s link. In the earlier thread, Cliffy provided a fascinating account of the origin of the custom of the Feds being able to pass any law they want to, on the grounds that whatever they’re outlawing or regulating or whatever constitutes interstate commerse. This change, it turns out, occurred during the Depression – after the Prohibition Amendment was passed, but before the laws vs. pot and hard drugs were passed. Guess that explains that.

The Commerce Clause

INTERSTATE commerce clause.

The federal government has no power to regulate my yard.

Well, they do, but it’s not constitutional.

IIRC, Marijuana is outlawed under a intl trade treaty.

I think that the Senate could de-ratify (?) the treaty if they wished. (If they thought enough of us wished.)

I agree that this is an unecessary intrusion of the govt into the private lives of citizens. Somehow, the pop-cons[sup]*[/sup] haven’t gotten around to realizeing it yet. I don’t see how one can be a conservative and not be in against the govt regulating these sorts of ‘victimless crimes.’ Individual responsibility trumps the net harm to society that these laws cause by a long shot.

[size=1][sup]*[/sup] Pop-cons: the conservative analog of pop-music. It is technically music, but often just tripe, commercial product rather than a genuine expression of artistry.

Victimless? No man (or woman) is an island. What we do affects other people. If drugs were legalized, or decriminalized, the amount of users would go up, and that would affect a lot more people than just the user.
I’ve heard that Holland, that because of their lax drug laws, is strewn with junkies. While I don’t have any first hand experiance, never being there, I did a quick Google search and found this:

Sorry, but I don’t want to see that happen here.

By this rationale, so many other things should be illegal: smoking, drinking, driving poorly, owning a gun, etc. because making those choices could potentially affect other people.
And, yes, our choices do affect other people, but that should merely be a consideration when making those choices and not justification for the outlawing of an option. I should be able to make the choice of whether I want to smoke a joint or not; I shouldn’t have my answer pre-decided by the federal government. And then, when contemplating whether to smoke or not, the negative consequences of drug use, which you alluded to, should come into consideration.
If one were to decriminalize all drugs then yes, there would be an increase in the number of junkies prowling the streets. This would not be the result, however, if the non-addictive (physically, at least) marijuana were decriminalized. (And don’t lay any of that “gateway drug” crap on me).

As for avoiding federal prosecution for drug use, there is only one sure fire way: dont’ do drugs.
Or, I suppose, you could get the laws changed. But if you’re not an energy company, good luck.

BY that standard, there can never be individual rights of any kind.

No, since Joel isn’t saying that the potential for adversely affecting other people is sufficient grounds for criminalization. Rather, he’s pointing out that drugs do impact other people adversely, which negates the premise that they only harm the user.

IMO, much of the harm caused by illegal drugs is caused by their illegality, not by the drugs themselves. I don’t know why so many people believe that legalization or decriminalization will make things worse. People can already obtain any illegal substance they want. As far as I can see, the war on drugs has completely and utterly failed to provent anyone from using drugs. I do not think that there is any great number of Americans who would like to use illegal drugs, and are not doing so solely because it’s against the law. And in any case, an increase in users, should such an increase occur, would still leave us better off than we are with this ghastly war on drugs.

IMO, it’s a bad idea to outlaw something on the grounds that it might lead to some bad result. I say, do something about the bad results when and if they occur. After all, anything might lead to anything.

If a mind-altering substance exists or can be manufactored, some people will use it. Not every user will get into trouble thereby. Use does not automatically mean abuse.

Many Americans drink alcoholic beverages throughout their adult lives without becoming alcoholics, without driving drunk, without otherwise getting into trouble with alcohol. For the minority of drinkers who do get into trouble, the best solution is treatment: detox, AA, whatever. If their alcohol use leads them into criminal behavior, let them face the consequences. If they drive drunk, beat someone up while drunk, knock over a gas station because it seemed like a good idea while they were drunk, let them pay the penalty for the actual crime comitted. If people neglect their children due to alcoholism, handle the matter the same way as you would when people who don’t drink neglect their children. But don’t outlaw alcohol for everyone in a vein attempt to prevent these crimes from occuring. We tried that, remember? It didn’t work.

What we’re doing now, with the war on drugs, is exactly the same thing we tried (and failed) to do with Prohibition. We’re outlawing subsances on the grounds of what their use might lead to. We need to realize that not every user will get into trouble with their substance of choice. It will be far easier, and far cheaper, to deal with whatever problems result from substance abuse than it is to continue this failed, futile war on drugs.

Marijuana, in particular, is not a substance that has any need to be outlawed. It is less harmful to the user than alcohol, and it causes less harm to others. It’s drunks, not potheads, who beat people up, rob convenience stores, etc.

Unitarian Universalists for Drug Policy Reform

Here’s a quote from the Site:

"The General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association passed the “Alternatives to the War on Drugs” Statement of Conscience on June 22, 2002… Excerpts include:

"Establish a legal, regulated, and taxed market for marijuana. Treat marijuana as we treat alcohol.

"Remove criminal penalties for possession and use of currently illegal drugs, with drug abusers subject to arrest and imprisonment only if they commit an actual crime (e.g., assault, burglary, impaired driving, vandalism).

"Drug use, drug abuse, and drug addiction are distinct from one another. Using a drug does not necessarily mean abusing the drug, much less becoming addicted to it. Drug abuse issues are essentially matters for medical attention. We do not believe that drug use should be considered criminal behavior.

“Make all drugs legally available with a prescription by a licensed physician, subject to professional oversight. End the practice of punishing an individual for obtaining, possessing, or using an otherwise illegal substance to treat a medical condition,” and allow “medically administered drug maintenance” as a treatment option for drug addiction."


As you said, “no man is an island.” If Holland didn’t have lax drug laws compared to her neighbors then she wouldn’t be stewn with junkies.

It already has, if you don’t want to see it then I suggest you stay out of large urban areas like New York or San Francisco then.


A couple of things.
First, As JThunder pointed out, I was pointing out that drug use affects more than just the user.
Second, I gave a personal oppinion as to one of the reasons for why I don’t want to see drugs legalized/decriminalized and not, as JThunder put it, sufficient grounds for criminalization.

The standard is a little more strict than affecting other people: the regulated conduct has to involve a channel or instrumentality of interstate commerce, or an activity that substantially affects interstate commerce. The primary case for the last one is Wickard v. Filburn, where the Court upheld a Commerce Clause regluation under which a farmer he couldn’t grow wheat past a quota, even for his own personal use on his farm. The farmer’s personal use for his own consumption may have had an insignificant effect on interstate commece, but the aggregate effect if everybody did so would be subtantial, and defeat the purpose of laws designed to lift us out of the depression. The Court didn’t strike down any legislation under the Commerce Clause for around 70 years of so, until U.S. v. Lopez and U.S. v. Morrison in which they pretty much started to say they were going to start making sure that the effect was indeed subtantial, and that the regulated activity was indeed commercial.

As to the O.P., like sailor said, wouldn’t work. Double jeopardy only bars subsequent proceedings in the same jurisdiction. State governments and the feds are dual sovereigns, each different jurisdictions. If you kidnap someone in Texas and drive with them in your trunk to Louisiana, you can be tried for kidnapping in federal court and both state’s courts.

Even though I don’t want to see any of the currently illegal drugs become legalized, except for medical use if any medical benefit can be proven, I do have to totally agree with you that the war on drugs is complete and utter failure. I personally believe that it’s a joke. However, I don’t share your idea of an alternative, but sadly, for me, I don’t have any alternatives myself.

So, we’d be better off with more drug users?

When passing laws, law makers, to some degree engage in this kind of thinking. I mean, not wearing a seat belt won’t necessarily lead to anything bad, but lots of states have seat belt laws anyway because the chances of something bad happening in a car accident are a lot higher if you’re not wearing a seat belt. Same thing applies to helmet laws for bicycles and motorcycles.

On that last point, I can’t argue. The government tried prohibition on alcohol, it didn’t work, they repealed it. They’re trying it on drugs, it’s not working, but this time, they haven’t given up, even though the drug war is totally ineffective

The reason I think that people come down harder on drugs is, (and I’ve never tried drugs myself, so if anything I’m saying is wrong, please correct me) unlike alcohol, usually, using = getting high.
With alcohol you have to drink a certain amount before getting drunk. With LSD, cocaine, heroin, and so on it affects you instantly. Of course, as far as pot is concerned, I don’t know if that’s the case, or, if like alcohol, you can smoke a certain amount, and still be sober.

I have no knowledge firsthand, or otherwise, about Marijuana VS alcohol, so I can’t give an informed opinion. Also, something that makes it hard for me to make a judgment on Marijuana is that, I bet that (and yes, this is just a guess on my part) a lot of people who are against legalizing it, see nothing wrong with frequenting bars and stocking your fridge with beer or wine, or whatever, and it does bug me about the double standard of, getting drunk is OK, getting high isn’t.
So, I can’t on the one hand, say that legal alcohol is OK, but pot, if, like people claim, which is only as bad, or even slightly better, should be illegal. On the other hand, I have no problem saying that the other, hard core drugs should be legal, because they are far worse than alcohol.
OK, I hope this last part of my post didn’t confuse anybody, because, to be honest, I’m starting to confuse myself. I guess it’s time to stop typing now. Hope you understood this last post.