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

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Ten Ways the War On Drugs Violates the U.S. Constitution - Page 2

By Clarence Walker 04/10/14

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


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(3) Drug Testing at High Schools: The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Vernonia, Oregon public school policy to randomly drug-test students and athletes if school faculty merely suspect a student may be using drugs. A 6-3 majority opinion held that the Fourth Amendment only protects against "unreasonable search and seizures, but when ‘special needs’ outside of ordinary law enforcement makes obtaining a warrant impractical, the school can test students for drugs."

In a dissenting opinion, Justice 'O Connor said the policy “was too broad and too imprecise to be constitutional under the Fourth Amendment.”

(4) Violation of Free Speech Under the First Amendment: Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) co-authored the Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act, a law designed to prohibit certain speech advocating drug use or production. This law further prohibited websites or blogs that sold drug paraphernalia or pages linked to similar sites, which violates the First Amendment that in part, says: "Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press!”

(5) Unemployed Workers Receiving Benefits: Have you ever been fired or laid off from your job because your employer suspected drug use and you desperately needed unemployment benefits to help make ends meet? Well hopefully you don't live in one of the 20 states which will deny unemployment benefits if an employee either admitted or was suspected of drug use.

To add injury to insult, conservatives are in the process of passing legislation to drug-test innocent people seeking unemployment benefits. Lest we forget, just recently, states like Georgia and Florida unsuccessfully tried to pass laws to deny welfare assistance to the poor applying for food stamps.

(6) Pharmacies: Pharmacies across the nation like CVS, Walgreens, and others, previously sold non-prescribed over-the-counter cold medicine like Theraflu and Sudafed. Both products contain pseudoephedrine. Claiming these cold medicines were used to cook up dangerous drugs the government passed the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005, a law added into the Patriot Act. Now the medication is only available from a pharmacy and the purchaser must provide identification so that the pharmacist can enter the person's name, address, and product description into a specialized database. Purchasers of cold medicine now have their purchasing activities tracked.

(7) DEA Registration Number: Every dentist, physician, pharmacist and nurse practitioner has a DEA number that allows the DEA to monitor written prescriptions for controlled substances. Controlled substance prescriptions are sent to a DEA database. If doctors or pharmacists overprescribe medications they can expect a visit from law enforcement.

(8) Doctors Refusing to Prescribe Large Quantities: News media sources have reported how some doctors refuse to make multiple refills of pain medication due to fear they may be targeted by the DEA. Many doctors now limit the amount of prescribed pain pills to patients—no matter how bad they are suffering. Patients who need medication like oxycodone just to function properly are being denied refills to treat excruciating pain.

As if denial of refills is not enough to disturb you, this should sicken you: some chronic patients had to submit to drug-testing to show they have actually used their prescribed medication and haven't sold the pills to street dealers. If they test clean, they come under suspicion.

(9) Fedex and UPS: Our government has forced UPS (United Parcel Service) and Fedex to spy on customers' packages. Within the last 3-5 years the DEA investigated the companies for shipping alleged illegal drugs for online pharmacies. When the heat came down, a Fedex spokesman said, "At the heart of the investigation are sealed packages being sent by licensed pharmacies…These are medicines with legal prescriptions written by licensed physicians. So it's difficult for us to understand why we have some role in this. We deliver close to 10 million packages every day and we have no way of knowing specifically what's inside, and we have no interest in violating the privacy rights of our customers."

But ask yourself: How can we trust Fedex to protect customers’ privacy rights when both Fedex and UPS permit DEA and U.S. Custom Officials to access their national and international databases. Fedex also created a system to send reports of suspicious activity to Homeland Security using a discreet computer link.

(10) Property Seizures: Drug war policies violate the Fifth Amendment when government agencies like the DEA, U.S. Customs, IRS, and local law enforcement agencies seize property, various assets—or cash currency in drug cases. Legal experts have said this offending tactic violates due process under the presumption of innocence!

So how egregious is it when government takes properties and funds from a person before they are found guilty in a court of law, a person who is guaranteed the presumption of innocence under the Fifth Amendment?

Yes it is a stone cold fact that law enforcement is granted authority under a flimsy legal theory to take a citizen's property or money in narcotic cases even before a person is tried in court. In other cases, law enforcement can seize property belonging to someone who has not committed a crime simply because people on his property have been arrested for using drugs, regardless of whether the owner knows. In U.S. vs Caswell, the feds tried to illegally take Russ Caswell’s motel property in Tewksbury, Massachusetts after a number of drug arrests had occurred on Caswell's property, although owner Caswell previously helped police to make arrests and complied with police and city ordinances to beef up security on the premises and to report suspicious drug activities.

The scheme to rip-off Caswell property will blow your mind. Vincent Kelly, a DEA Special Agent assigned to Asset Forfeiture Division in New England testified under oath in the Caswell case that his job is to look for high dollar property similar in value to Caswell's $1.2 million property that had no mortgage or liens. Properties without mortgages and liens, according to Kelly, were ripe for forfeiture proceedings if people possess drugs on the property. Kelly explained in a matter-of-fact tone how he often checked the Registry of Deeds "to find out who owns the property, and how much equity it has."

Then, in a power grab, DEA Kelly contacted local police to see how many drug arrests or other serious crimes have been committed on the property in order to start forfeiture proceedings. Miraculously, Caswell, represented by Independent Justice Institute, won a major victory last year against the government to save his inherited property.

Seized properties and other assets are cash cows for the Feds. For example, according to Drugwarfacts.org, between 1989 and 2010, an estimated $12.6 billion dollars was seized by U.S. Attorneys in Asset Forfeiture cases. Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury Department maintained a similar fund that held more than $400 million in assets in 2008.

Drug war policy is the worst assault ever upon the Constitution. The tragic irony is that one success the drug war can claim is curtailing the liberty and privacy of the American people.

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

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

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