Vin Suprynowicz

The Libertarian

Vin Suprynowicz

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HOW HARD SHOULD IT BE TO LEGALIZE MARIJUANA?

Such is the shorthand of politics that -- should Nevadans defeat Question 7 on November’s ballot -- the national press would doubtless report “Nevadans refuse to legalize up to on ounce of pot.”

In fact, I’m no lawyer, but I believe I could easily draft a straightforward provision to re-legalize pot. It would go something like:

“Whereas the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ has done more harm than good; and whereas all adults have the natural, human, civil, Ninth Amendment, and God-given right to medicate themselves in any way and to consume any plant extract they see fit for any purpose; therefore any and all laws, ordinances, and regulations which tax or otherwise tend to restrict, infringe, or limit the possession, manufacture, cultivation, purchase, sale, or use of the cannabis plant, once known as Indian hemp and now commonly called marijuana, are declared anathema by the people of Nevada, and are hereby revoked, repealed, and declared null and void, retroactively and forever.”

I’m tempted to add a clause that anyone ever imprisoned solely for marijuana possession, sale, or use would be due retroactive state compensation at a rate of $40,000 per year, but that would tend to defeat my point here, which is simply that marijuana could be re-legalized fairly simply, without spinning 5,000 words of legal stipulations -- as Question 7 does -- without establishing any new regime of taxation and regulation -- as Question 7 does -- and without increasing penalties for causing injuries while driving under the influence “of drugs or alcohol” (which Question 7 also does -- somewhat dangerously, I would submit, in a state which sets no reasonable bottom limit for drug impairment.)

There are some who will decline to vote for Question 7 because they have sworn on the altar of freedom to support no new taxes or regulations. If the national press should record such votes as being “against the legalization of pot,” the national press will be wrong -- though that would hardly be anything new.

Personally, I suspect Question 7 will pass -- and not accomplish much, in the short run, since Nevada’s electorate will show neither the wisdom nor the courage to elect sufficient Libertarians or Independent Americans (though Don Chairez as attorney general might be a good start) with the courage to stand up to the federal goons when they wade in with their paddy wagons and their rigged federal trials. (Do California’s black-robed inquisitors still make witnesses swear to “tell the whole truth” after threatening to fine and jail any defense attorney who lets them mention that pot’s now legal under state law? That’s hilarious.)

Mind you, I can’t see any reason why tourists shouldn’t be as free to toke up in Las Vegas as in any Amsterdam hash bar. It would provide Nevada’s tourist economy a good 20-year shot in the arm (sorry) and give a whole new meaning to “smoking section, please.”

But wait. Question 7 provides a legal definition that tells us marijuana “means a plant of the genus Cannabis or its product, but the term does not include hashish” -- which is like saying you’re legalizing maple trees but not maple sugar -- and that smoking dope or even flashing a pipe would remain illegal “in any place open to the public or exposed to public view.”

Isn't everything the proponents say about the evils of prohibition and the relative harmlessness of the plant extract equally true about hashish?

Not only no hash bars -- no smoking on your hotel room balcony. So much for the tourist marketing incentive.

The defense for such embarrassing timidity, I’m sure, is “Hey, that’s all the voters were likely to swallow, this time around.”

That’s merely cynical and pathetic. But under this scheme, also note that a 20-year-old who shares her pot with a 17-year-old boyfriend “shall be imprisoned in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and not more than 8 years” (see Section 11).

If this is the road to the high ground of freedom, why does it start by winding down toward the prison yard?

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I bear no personal animosity to prosecutor Conrad Hafen, who’s challenging incumbent District Judge Tim Williams in Department 16. In fact, Mr. Hafen is a personable fellow, who deserves credit for refusing campaign contributions from other lawyers (though that won’t make things easy for him on Election Day.)

But Mr. Hafen also declares himself “very proud” that he pursued the Hiibel case all the way to a victory in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Back in 2000, for those of you who were watching “Dukes of Hazzard” re-runs, Northern Nevada cattle rancher Larry Hiibel was standing beside his parked truck by the side of Grass Valley Road when he was approached by a Humboldt County sheriff’s deputy. Mr. Hiibel refused 11 times to present proof of identification, insisting he’d done nothing wrong.

Mr. Hiibel was convicted of resisting and obstructing an officer in the performance of his duties. By a 4-3 vote, Nevada’s reliably statist Supreme Court (motto: “How can we help Big Government today?”) ruled any privacy right guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is “outweighed by the benefits to officers and community safety” that flow from allowing police to force people to provide ID, anywhere.

Safety? Have we established our courts to place hypothetical group safety over our precious individual liberties? In a land where Ben Franklin warned us that “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”?

“I cannot imagine any responsible citizen objecting to giving his name,” concurred law-and-order Justice Antonin Scalia, as the U.S. Supreme Court upheld this latest ratcheting up of the police state, in 2004.

Can the closeted Mr. Scalia really believe Mr. Hiibel would have been off the hook if he had merely said “OK, my name is Sears Roebuck”? This was about requiring Americans (though not illegal aliens, of course) to produce a bona fide “government-issued photo ID” on demand. And using his patrol car computer terminal, the modern American police officer can learn more about a citizen from today’s government-issued photo ID -- cross-indexed to your nine-digit Social Slave number -- than was contained in the infamous “travel papers” required of any citizen of the Third Reich.

If you’re tempted to push that button for Conrad Hafen on Nov. 7, remember that it’s thanks to him (he’s “very proud”) that Americans no longer have any more freedom to “Just say No” than those German train passengers in the old movies, shivering in their seats as the Gestapo man works his way down the aisle, demanding “Papers, please.”

And, just for good measure, Mr. Hafen further asserts “If people in the individual states want to pass a more restrictive gun law, they should be able to do that” -- never mind that nagging little 14th Amendment guarantee that “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”

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