The seriously messed-up ugliness of per se laws

This has been out for a bit (and even had some discussion in comments here), but I really wanted to put it front and center, because this kind of thing really demonstrates the kinds of outrages that exist in the drug war.

Island Lake fatal crash cited as Illinois no-tolerance DUI pot law is challenged

In December 2011, Scott Shirey and his 10-year-old twins, Griffin and Nicholas, were driving to swimming practice.

Along the way, a distracted driver in an overloaded pickup truck ran a red light at Route 12 and Old McHenry Road near Lake Zurich and slammed into Shirey’s Lincoln sedan, killing Griffin and severely injuring Nicholas.

Even though another driver caused the accident, it was the Island Lake father who faced up to 14 years in prison. He was not impaired at the time, but Shirey, now 52, was charged two months later after a blood test showed traces of marijuana in his system from — according to his attorney — smoking it a month beforehand.

“Nothing can possibly illustrate this idiotic law more than the Scott Shirey case,” defense attorney Patrick O’Byrne said. “It’s incomprehensible how bad the law is. It’s a worst-case scenario, charged with the homicide of your own son for smoking pot that had nothing to do with the accident.”

Yet prosecutors, law enforcement and Attorney General Lisa Madigan unequivocally support the law.

That’s just sick.

I have been banging the drum about the dangers of the push against drugged driving for years here, and have even been cautioned upon occasion from other reformers that seeming to be “soft” on drugged driving would hurt legalization chances. I disagreed then, and disagree now. Marijuana per se laws that do not address impairment are essentially a back-door method of criminalizing internal possession of marijuana, something that is candidly acknowledged in Illinois:

“The legislature has said, ‘If you’re going to consume these illegal drugs — illegally — you can’t drive,'” said Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon, noting the law clearly states drivers testing positive for any amounts of the drug are breaking the law.

Fortunately, there are some efforts to change the law in Illinois – a move supported by the state bar association.

Of course, the police organizations continue to be opposed to changes, including the ever-present rep of the Illinois Police Chiefs, Limey Nargelenas, who, as usual, spouts his lies:

“We in law enforcement don’t write the laws. We merely enforce them.”

Yeah, he says that every time he and his cohorts apply pressure on the legislature to pass and keep the laws he likes.

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5 Responses to The seriously messed-up ugliness of per se laws

  1. darkcycle says:

    Travesty. The brother lost his sibling to a distracted driver. Now he will possibly lose his father to a draconian justice system.
    Any thinking person should be nauseated.

    • allan says:

      truly… how thick must this stupidity get before a light turns on in the mind of the body politic?

      Good lord… if you’re in drug policy reform then it’s quite obvious that “Travesty” is the Drug War’s middle name (song title there if anyone wants it) because these travesties have been going on for decades.

      I usually point to the now fairly ubiquitous burial of the NIH Virginia med study finding cannabis fights cancer as an obvious point to begin. But as Jack Cole points out the laws against pot were part of Nixon’s foul play against groups like the black panthers.

      Ethan Nadelmann asked a few years back if it was time for civil disobedience… well if my spidey sense has any tingle left I think after this winter (and it’s still a month away from winter) we will see more than this issue coming to a head – and hopefully the civil disobedience will be non-violent.

      Between ignoring the police-state state of the drug war and the impact of a changing climate we’re up the creek.

      I mean this year it seemed like every month something new in drug policy was better than the month before’s and we have had rubble flying every which way all year long.

      I mean the ex-spurts we’re saying we couldn’t/shouldn’t/better not try for initiatives in an off year election. If FL hadn’t rigged the system we would’ve batted 1.000 and looked good doing it… 🙂

      What WE know is not what THEY – them, the folks out there – know. We know the travesties. We have been in and next to the travesties. And meanwhile the MSM spouts drain bamage and shrinkage… were it not for the good folk like Radley and the other wwweb based folks giving coverage… I shudder to think.

      We already know that here in OR we’ll be facing anti-cannabists wanting to add per se dui legislatively but I suspect they’ll get called on their crap. I mean at minimum they can provide the science to support their claims. Well, they could, if that science existed.

      • Duncan20903 says:


        I’m not sure that Oregonians can afford to be sanguine about the Election Day results. Within the last couple of days I’ve learned that the Oregon Legislature can do whatever it wants with that new law, up to and including flushing it with nothing more than a majority vote in the Legislature and the Governor’s signature.

        Speaking of Governor’s signatures, I know that I’ve mentioned that in 1997 the Legislature recriminalized cannabis and the Governor signed that law. The law was then kicked to the curb with a veto referendum on Election Day 1998. Anyway, the Governor that signed that law was Governor John Kitzhaber, the very same Governor John Kitzhaber who is the current Governor of Oregon. Well that sure doesn’t give me a warm fuzzy about the future of re-legalized cannabis in Oregon.

        The lunatics on the east side of the State don’t appear ready to take this sitting down. From what I’ve read they want their cannabis excise tax at an absolute minimum. The people who have been swearing with such certainty that they can’t have their money because of the law’s verbiage are just plain wrong. With a simple majority in the Legislature and Governor Kitzhaber’s John Hancock they can do whatever they want with this law.

        I do take some comfort from the fact that I haven’t heard a peep about getting the law struck down from the enemies of freedom in Oregon. I’m hoping that’s because they recognize that Oregon lawmakers have a deep seated respect for the will of the people. But on this side of the computer screen that’s simply baseless wishful thinking. Rather than respect for the people they may just think they don’t have the necessary political capital to make it happen. The excise tax thing is going to get them organized, once organized they may change their minds about not having that political capital.

        It may not be such a good idea for us to declare victory and relax. I keep flashing back to that moment of embarrassment that Sammy Watkins suffered last month.

  2. Servetus says:

    The current Illinois laws regarding marijuana consumers appear to be in a flux. For example, (from another article):

    On Jan. 1, Illinois residents with medical cannabis cards may purchase marijuana, use it and later drive — legally.

    If a card holder is pulled over, authorities must prove impairment — a different burden of proof than drivers who have illegally used marijuana; they can be found guilty of DUI through a blood test that detects any amount of pot.

    Somewhere in all this the 14th Amendment’s equal protection of the laws should apply.

    The current legal situation in Illinois regarding marijuana use is a perfect example of why legislating morality is virtually impossible to achieve without simultaneously ordaining absurdities.

  3. Down Arrow THIS! says:

    Great ANGER PORN.

    Pitchfork? Check.
    Burning Torch? Check.
    Funny Mask for tear gas protection? Check.
    Cup Protector for my tiny American balls? Check.

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