Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Significance of Colorado and Nevada marijuana initiatives -- even if they lose

A poll published in today's Rocky Mountain News in Denver finds for the statewide initiative:

Legalizing marijuana

The poll results for Amendment 44 to legalize the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana for persons 21 or older showed it failing 53 percent to 42 percent.

Assume that this is the vote on election day. This would demonstrate that there is no moral consensus in Colorado to support the prosecution of marijuana users.

If the question were to spend $100 million of public funds to build a school or a prison, the principle of majority rule is perfectly appropriate.

But when the question is, "Should we take away the liberty of people who possess less than one ounce of marijuana?" the answer comes out differently.

Almost 100 percent of the public agrees that the following acts should be crimes meriting punishment: murder, assault, theft, rape, child abuse, etc. There is a moral consensus.

The tiny fraction of the public who violate those laws --who harm others, who violate the rights of others -- cannot claim the law is unjust. They may raise exceptions such as a right to self-defense that exculpates them from the accusation. But they are not challenging the society's moral consensus.

When forty percent or more of a society declares, this conduct is not morally reprehensible, it does not merit punishment, the majority is not morally free to continue to punish that conduct.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Congress on the Student and Teacher Safety Act of 2006

As one listens to the debate in the floor of the House of Representatives, you can imagine that soon Congress will consider legislation to station FBI and ATF agents in our schools to stop the threat of guns and drugs.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Bill to require searches of students by teachers on House floor

The National PTA has joined the School Boards association, the School Administrators association, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy in opposing H.R. 5295, the "Student and Teacher Safety Act of 2006."

This bill is the brainchild of Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY) who is facing a stiff re-election battle. He convinced the House leadership to schedule to a vote on the House floor September 19. The bill has all of 11 co-sponsors in the 435 member House.

The bill has never been subjected to any hearings nor considered by the Committee to which it was referred, the Committee on Education and the Workforce. Even though it purports to interpret the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment regarding searches, it was not referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

The guts of the bill is the following:


    (a) In General- Each State, local educational agency, and school district shall have in effect throughout the jurisdiction of the State, agency, or district, as the case may be, policies that ensure that a search described in subsection (b) is deemed reasonable and permissible.

    (b) Searches Covered- A search referred to in subsection (a) is a search by a full-time teacher or school official, acting on any colorable suspicion based on professional experience and judgment, of any minor student on the grounds of any public school, if the search is conducted to ensure that classrooms, school buildings, and school property remain free of all weapons, dangerous materials, or illegal narcotics.


    (a) In General- A State, local educational agency, or school district that fails to comply with section 3 shall not, during the period of noncompliance, receive any Safe Schools and Citizenship Education funds after fiscal year 2008.
Notice the key term, "colorable suspicion." Colorable is defined (Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed.) "1. seemingly valid or genuine 2. intended to deceive: COUNTERFEIT"

In other words, teachers are directed to search students if they have a phoney suspicion. The bill authorizes mass searches even if only a single student might be suspected.

And finally, any state, or school district that does not enact this plainly unconstitutional policy shall lose all their federal Safe Schools funding assistance.

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