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February 2012
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Drug laws don’t work, so let’s pass a lot of other laws

One of the basic foundations of the drug war is that, since it outlaws a fully consensual act, it is difficult to enforce as there are no aggrieved parties to cooperate with the police. Add to that the high demand and the incredibly easy means of supply and you get frustrated prohibitionists.

This leads to a plethora of back-door and sideways attacks by legislators and law enforcement, as they add volumes of laws outlawing things even peripherally related to drugs.

In Ohio, they’re looking to make it illegal to have a hidden compartment in your car.

A proposed state law, advocated by Gov. John Kasich, would make it a fourth-degree felony to own a vehicle equipped with secret compartments. A conviction would mean up to 18 months in jail and a potential $5,000 fine.

Note that with this law it doesn’t matter whether you’re using the secret compartment for anything illegal. It’s the existence of the compartment itself that is banned.

After all, you could have a very legitimate reason to have a secret compartment. If you’re traveling with valuables and you’re concerned about thugs with guns pulling you over and taking your cash for no reason… (Oh, yeah…)

… yes, the asset forfeiture aspect of the drug war has been a huge peripheral part of it, with cash, cars, and buildings being seized merely for the suspicion of being connected to drug trafficking, even if you are not charged.

Drug warriors had a hard time sometimes catching people in the act of selling, so the lawmakers decided to make possession of a certain quantity of drugs proof of selling whether you actually did sell or not. So trafficking can merely mean that you didn’t want to go to a criminal to buy your drugs so often and got a larger quantity for yourself.

And I find almost amusing that if you merely allow a plant to grow by itself in your back yard you can be charged with “manufacturing” (taking a lot of credit away from Mother Nature/God).

Drug-free school zones have nothing to do with selling to kids and merely add on penalties for selling drugs in the city.

Money laundering and conspiracy laws are used to convict people when they don’t have the evidence to convict people.

Drug paraphernalia laws are absurd, since almost anything can have multiple uses, and we have endless dances around what stores can sell, related to other merchandise that they have.

A Chicago politician tried to outlaw small plastic bags. In some states, it’s illegal to sell “rose tubes” (which can also be used as crack pipes). In Georgia, they arrested 32 Indians named Patel, among others, for failing to understand the drug slang that undercover officers were using when the cops bought common household items from them in convenience stores.

Of course, these days all of use have to be careful not to have too many colds. Now you can’t even buy the useful cold medicine with Sudafed at night when you need it, and you risk jail if you buy too much in one month.

And, of course, this hasn’t stopped anything. Meth is still widely available.

The absurdity is pointed out in this delightful tongue-in-cheek article in the Journal of Apocryphal Chemistry: A Simple and Convenient Synthesis of Pseudoephedrine From
N-Methylamphetamine
by O. Hai, and I. B. Hakkenshit

A novel and straightforward synthesis of pseudoephidrine from
readily available N-methylamphetamine is presented. This practical synthesis is expected to be a disruptive technology replacing the need to find an open pharmacy.

Maybe I’ll try that next time I get a cold.

So, what other bizarre laws related to the drug war do you know?

[H/T/ Radley Balko]

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23 comments to Drug laws don’t work, so let’s pass a lot of other laws

  • darkcycle

    What, exactly are they calling “secret”? How are they going to implement this? What about cabbies? Don’t they commonly place a concealed lockbox in cabs? What about document safes? Couldn’t the space behind the door panels and under the dash be considered a secret compartment? What about if I have a baggie with residue slip down into the defroster vent? Or a roach slip behind the ashtray? Are there now drugs stashed in a “secret compartment”? What about the map holder that you can’t see with the sun visor up? Stupid bad law.

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    • kant

      A draft of the law describes a hidden compartment as a “space, box, or other closed container” that is added, modified or attached to an existing vehicle.

      so no the map slot won’t count as a secret compartment, but say a toolbox added to the back of a pick up truck or a lock box in your truck to hold onto valuables sounds like a it would be considered “a secret compartment”.

      But then of course there’s the other worrying thing. What happens if you remove something from the center console. Does the area behind/inside the dash count as a hidden compartments because technically it’s been modified and allows access to a place that otherwise wouldn’t?

      Imagine how many cars are on the road in ohio that are missing their radios. And of course what about cars that aren’t register in ohio but are simply passing through? And one final disturbing thought. Does this make the vehicle eligible for asset forfeiture? “We’re taking your car because you broke a law that isn’t necessarily drug related but could possibly in some capacity used to smuggle drugs even though we don’t suspect you using the car to smuggl drugs.”

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    • Maria

      Some car manufacturers have standard “secret” compartments under seats, within other compartments, under floors, and under/around the spare tire. They are are awesome for emergency cash, keys, batteries, prepaid CC etcetc.

      Unless like darkcycle asks, “secret compartment” means actively using the empty space between the pretty plastic and molded metal areas of your own fucking car.

      Wouldn’t the very existence of this “secret” empty space plus visual evidence of a few missing screws/plugs/tabs constitute probable cause? Oh … right.

      What’s really chilling is that, as I understand it, that law could potentially be extended into the home.

      “Only guilty people need doors and locks and safes. What are you hiding?”

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    • Windy

      What we really need to do is ban stupid politicians making stupid laws.

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  • darkcycle

    A trailer is added to a vehicle, attached with a modification (trailer hitch)….so…that would potentially make my camper a “secret compartment”? Wait, that’s another vehicle…so the cooler bolted to the back, that’s the hidden compartment. I could find something that meets that criteria on half of the vehicles in the country. Another bullshtit law virtually designed to be selectively enforced.

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  • Steve

    I live in Ohio and read this as well – one officer was quoted as saying it would be pretty difficult to prosecute the hidden compartment if it didn’t actually have drugs in it at the time they inspected it. Got to love politicians, did no one bring that up during discussion?

    Other weird laws, get busted for growing marijuana in Ohio and they don’t just weigh the usable buds, they weigh the whole plant, roots, leaves, stalks, etc. Last time I checked, the non THC laden plant material couldn’t get you high no matter how much you put through your system…

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    • darkcycle

      Actually, there is some thc in all plant parts but the seed. It is primarilyconcentrated in the buds but there is content in all of it. Leaves and stems can be used to make tincture. Roots are called for in many folk remedies. Only the seeds are free of thc totally.

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      • Duncan20903

        For years I’ve been making edibles from my unworthy of inhalation stems. From time to time I mourn the pounds and pounds of stems I mistakenly labeled trash and threw away.

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  • kaptinemo

    What’s needed are something like the old Proxmire “Golden Fleece” awards for DrugWarrior’s proposing such stupidity. Publicly shame the idiots, and make examples of them. Hold them up to the ridicule they so richly deserve.

    There’s only one ‘golden lining’ to this, as far as I am concerned; the amount of desperation required for such people to rationalize such damnfoolishness has to be pretty high. The stress involved in withholding the awful urge to publicly demonstrate such rank idiocy must be so excruciating that they can’t take it anymore, and are, in the words of an old slogan, “Letting it all hang out”.

    And the more they do that, the more the taxpayers see that the people they are funding to run these programs are closeted bleedin’ bughouse crazies.

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    • darkcycle

      Sort of like a “prohibitionist of the year”? We already discussed catagories, now we just need the nominees and a handy place to vote. Maybe facebook? Pete you could accept votes tallied by likes. Just leave one post for each nominee in a catagory, and let the likes do the deciding. C’mon nemo, let it slip your mind? Oh yeah. You had passed out on the couch when we had that conversation. I remember ’cause thatwas when we filled your hand with whipped cream and tickled your forehead. BTW, you snore.

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      • kaptinemo

        I don’t know what to make of this. Please elaborate on the reason for making this statement.

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        • darkcycle

          We discussed breifely having a POTTY, or prohibitionist of of the year, I think about three or four months ago. IIRC it was on an open thread and we even discussed catagories. Some suggested catagories were the best hysterical rhetori, and the best WATC (what about the children) handwringing, etc.
          That’s what you get for being asleep on the couch.

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  • Duncan20903

    .
    .

    This isn’t anything new. I know that Maryland, Florida, and California have comparable laws. I’m almost certain that Arizona does too. I’m more surprised that Ohio doesn’t already have such a law rather than that it’s proposed. I suppose when I learned that Maryland had the law I presumed it was likely in most of the States. For the most part my State’s Legislature is filled with bandwagon riders.

    BTW I’m certain I’ve bought pseudoephedrine at the 24 hour CVS. The only restriction here is the Federal daily limit and you have to get it from the pharmacy counter.

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  • Duncan20903

    I think that Messrs. Hai and Hakkenshit stole that idea from Stephen Colbert.

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  • Peter

    “A lot of the people that are dealing these drugs are after our kids,” Kasich said at a news conference.

    now there’s an original thought from this buffoon NOT

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  • Francis

    Why don’t they just pass a law requiring us all to drive one of these? If it gets even one ounce of the demon weed off our streets, it will have been worth it.

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  • Mike R

    In TX (and several other states now I believe) it is illegal to possess a substance that produces an effect on your CB receptors similar to marijuana. As if banning the drug itself isn’t enough, and all the synthetic variants as well, but they’ve banned receptors in our brains, by name.

    Technically, this makes Tylenol illegal in the state of TX because it effects the CB2 receptors.

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  • One of the stranger joys of policing in Denmark is that police will routinely try to nail those in possession of “sales packages” (small doses wrapped in paper og tin foil) for distribution. Obviously, anyone who purchased such a package would likely regard said package as a “purchase package” …

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  • stayan

    Granny in trouble for taking pseudoephidrine interstate:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kk0XCb3G4OA&feature=youtu.be

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  • Jose

    They better get to work arresting independent couriers specializing in transporting small “legal” valuables promptly. These drivers may use a “secret compartment” for added security. In fact, it could be a great cash cow if they seize said goods and let the drivers bond company eat the loss! Brilliant idea for generating revenue.

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  • rita

    A few years ago in Arizona, a car was stopped on the Interstate, drug dog called, car searched, empty secret compartment found, along with what LEO’s decided was a suspicious amount of cash. Driver arrested, car siezed. I don’t know what ever became of the guy, but Ohio’s law only legitimizes what’s going on all over the country anyway. One more abuse in a long, long LONG tradition of abuses.

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