- The First Amendment scored a recent win in a Denver
bookstore, but new federal legislation expanding the war on drugs and supported
by both of Colorado,s U.S. Senators may make that victory ring hollow.
When the Drug Enforcement Administration sent an administrative subpoena
to Denver,s Tattered Cover bookstore seeking the sales records for an
individual under investigation for a drug offense, owner Joyce Meskis
- When agents of the North Metro Task Force accompanied
by Denver police officers showed up at the LoDo Tattered Cover store with
a search warrant for said records, Denver District Judge Martin Egelhoff
said no and temporarily quashed the warrant (there is a July 26th hearing
scheduled to decide the validity of the warrant and Joyce Meskis has stated
she will appeal the matter as far as possible).
- This should serve as an inspired reminder that in America,
principles matter, the authority of the government is limited and what
kind of books people buy are quite simply none of the drug police,s business.
Nuances that the DEA, the Denver District Attorney,s Office and the North
Metro drug police don,t seem to grasp.
- But if the federal government has its way, the ability
of booksellers such as Ms. Meskis to stand on principle and diligent local
judges to make wise decisions on such matters will be taken away. A new
law will allow the federal drug police to arrest any pesky booksellers
who happen to sell a politically unacceptable book.
- The Senate recently passed S.486, the "Methamphetamine
Anti-Proliferation Act, the latest expansion of government power at the
expense of the Constitution. The act,s assault on the Fourth Amendment
has already been exposed (for details see Dave Kopel,s "Fourth Amendment
Sneak Attack). Also tucked away in the massive bill is a stealth assault
on the First Amendment.
- The act makes it a federal crime to " distribute
by any means information pertaining to, in whole or in part, the manufacture
or use of a controlled substance So if Ed Rosenthal,s "Marijuana
Growing Tips or Mary Cooper,s "The Business of Drugs appears amongst
the several thousand titles on the Tattered Cover,s shelves, will Joyce
Meskis be a drug felon rather than a First Amendment stalwart? It,s bad
enough that the war on drugs has turned the honorable profession of Peace
Officer into Drug Warrior, now will we have the book police?
- Perhaps it should also be a federal crime for a politician
to be found in possession of his good sense, or a copy of the Constitution.
- This flies in the face of the idea of free expression,
unfettered public discourse and the acquiring of knowledge -- even politically
incorrect knowledge -- not to mention the First Amendment.
- The Unabomber had a copy of Al Gore,s "Earth In
The Balance. Should Mr. Gore be liable as the author for Ted Kaczynski,s
anti-technology crimes? Should a book on sex found in a brothel make the
publisher an accessory to prostitution?
- Both Senators Allard and Campbell voted for the act,
even though the above-mentioned provision seems to violate Republican
principles of limited government and individual liberties. How Colorado,s
congressional delegation will vote on the House version has yet to be
seen. Is this really what America is about?
- The havoc the war on drugs has wreaked on civil society
and Constitutional liberties is staggering. From the seizing of people,s
property and money without benefit of charges, perjured warrants, the militarization
of local police agencies, a steady expansion of federal power and an unnerving
zeal to incarcerate people.
- The Cato Institute has shown that it took America 200
years to jail its first million prisoners, but a scant ten years for its
second million -- with 80% of the federal prisoners being drug offenders.
Do we really want to start adding booksellers to that crowd?
- As the destructive war on drugs (read war on American
citizens) continues to lose popularity, the federal drug junta has turned
to burying its anti-liberty agenda -- which would not pass muster on its
own -- in large pieces of legislation with politically expedient titles.
- People of principled sensibilities should be heartily
outraged by this. It,s high time to say enough is enough. _____
- Michael Krause wrote this article for the Independence
Institute, a free market think tank in Golden, Colorado (http://i2i.org)
- This article, from the Independence Institute staff,
fellows and research network, is offered for your use at no charge. Independence
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