Ten Ways the War On Drugs Violates the U.S. Constitution

By Clarence Walker 04/10/14

How our government's ongoing policy on drugs threatens all of us in unexpected ways.


Even while marijuana legalization has been approved in some states, the War on Drugs remains the biggest and greatest violation and imminent threat to our civil liberties and the preservation of the Bill of Rights under the Constitution. The War on Drugs is an enemy to the rights and privacy of U.S. citizens everywhere. And this war not only targets guilty drug users or traffickers; it is also waged against innocent Americans who may think they are safe from draconian drug war policies.

This belief is a myth, and here's why: even if you don’t use marijuana, cocaine, pop pills or inject heroin—the drug war can still target you as a suspect. It doesn't matter if you're at work, picking up mail, applying for a job or even purchasing cold medicine at drug stores like CVS or Walgreens, the drug war has boldly established a 24-7 disturbing presence in the lives of American citizens.

The drug war is also responsible for the past and present illegal surveillance of people's cars and property and even plays a vital role in collecting information through illegal spying. The government's drug policies have unequivocally undermined basic civil rights and gutted the constitutional amendments. And it's not coincidental that much of the eroding civil rights in the "war on terror" came directly from the war on drugs.

Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall once summed up the drug war by reminding his fellow justices that "there is no drug exception to the Constitution."

The drug war is a war on everyone. So who is the real enemy? Drugs are not the enemy because drugs are chemicals. We have a war on drugs no more than we have a war on fruit trees. Just read the Constitution and there's nothing in it that says our government can pass laws to prohibit citizens from injecting narcotics or smoking marijuana; our brains and bodies don't belong to the government.

In a recent email, Phil Smith, editor of Drug War Chronicle, slammed the drug war this way: "One area of constitutional violations is in the realm of mandatory, suspicionless drug testing. The federal courts have held repeatedly that a drug test is a search under the Fourth Amendment and have generally barred government from requiring such tests, although they carved out a handful of exceptions for public safety-sensitive positions such as law enforcement, and for students engaged in extracurricular activities."

Smith points out the differences in how the Constitution functions against the government and private entities. "The Fourth Amendment protects us from the government, not privatization. That's why private employers can demand a drug test for no reason, but the government cannot demand welfare recipients take a drug test for no reason."

According to drugpolicy.org and Forbes, here are the stats proving the failure and institutionalized racism of the drug war:

• More than $51 billion has been spent annually in the U.S. on the drug war.

• 1.55 million people were arrested in 2012 on non-violent drug charges.

• 749,825 people were arrested that same year for marijuana drug violations. Of those, 658,231 were charged with possession only.

• Over 200,000 students lost federal financial aid eligibility due to a drug conviction.

• Studies show that the amount of tax revenues drug legalization would rake in annually is estimated at $46.7 billion dollars if current illegal drugs were taxed at rates comparable to alcohol and tobacco.

• African Americans represent an alarming 62 percent of all drug offenders sent to U.S. state prisons, yet they only represent 12 percent of the American population.

• Black men are sent to prison on drug charges at a rate that is 13 times that of white men.

• Out of 25.4 million Americans arrested on drug charges since 1980; approximately one-third of them were black

Here are prime examples of how the drug war policies violate the Constitution:

(1) Facts Behind How DEA Designated Marijuana as a Schedule 1 Drug: Long ago the federal government defined marijuana as a schedule 1 drug with no scientific accepted medical use. Apparently the feds intentionally ignored how marijuana is beneficial for people to treat serious ailments like arthritis, diabetes, glaucoma, Crohn's disease, and Parkinson’s disease and marijuana is also used to relieve joint pain as well as relieve nausea that cancer patients feel after undergoing chemotherapy. Further, marijuana has been used to treat depression and other mood disorders.

Plus we must not forget how the DEA and conservative lawmakers have tried to block legislation for states to pass medical marijuana laws. Thousands of chronically ill patients have suffered unnecessarily due to this opposition. In states where medical marijuana is legal the DEA along with city and county law enforcement officers continue to raid marijuana businesses, and arrest patients and legal pot growers.

Warning: Anyone living in a state without medical marijuana laws can be arrested for buying it to treat a medical condition. Under federal law marijuana is illegal even if a particular state legalizes it for medical or recreational purposes.

(2) Millions of Americans are Drug-Tested Each Year: Remember the job you applied for where the hiring requirements included submitting to a drug test? Well approximately 84 percent of U.S employers drug-test current employees including anyone considered for hiring.

So here's the kicker: what if a potential employee confides to a prospective employer that he takes prescribed legal opiates like oxycodone for pain, or a legal amphetamine like Adderall for ADHD, or even medical marijuana? The potential employee has just set himself up for rejection; even though he takes legally prescribed medication, this testing mandate actually gives employers unlimited power to discriminate against millions of workers based on private health decisions.

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Clarence Walker has written for the website Stop The Drug War and can be reached at [email protected].