Vice Squad
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
Drug War Chronicle Highlights

Drug War Chronicle, a newsletter produced at Stop the Drug (now linked
on the Vice Squad sidebar) is chock-full of interesting items this week. I'll mention
four of them here:

(1) A driver was stopped on Interstate 95 in Georgia in 2001 for a traffic
violation. After being told that he would receive only a warning ticket, he
was asked to consent to a search. The motorist refused. The officer then
quickly called for a drug-sniffing dog to join the party -- a common tactic
that is employed against those few motorists who actually exercise their
right to refuse to a consent search. About twelve minutes later, the dog
arrived and "alerted" to the trunk of the motorist's car. A search ensued,
in which some marijuana and more than 10,000 ecstasy pills were found.

Now a federal appeals court has ruled that the search violated the Fourth
Amendment. The opinion (pdf version here) is based primarily on the
belief of the court that reasonable suspicion for the dog sniff did not exist
prior to the motorist's refusal to consent to a search. That is, the dog
sniff appeared to be brought on not by other reasonable suspicion, but
rather by the exercise of the Constitutional right not to consent to a
warrantless search. So this opinion, it seems, does not make dog sniffs
unconstitutional in the Eleventh district; rather, it requires that there be
reasonable suspicion prior to such a sniff, and that refusal to consent to
a search cannot itself provide the reasonable suspicion.

Vice Squad earlier wrote about a state of Illinois case that similarly mandated
reasonable suspicion for dog sniffs.

(2) Italy appears to be on the brink of a significant rollback of it drug
decriminalization by instituting administrative penalties for those
found in possession of small quantities of currently illegal drugs. This is
not the first about-face for Italian drug policy: a 1975 decriminalization
(actually, depenalization) was reversed in 1990, and then reinstated in
1993. (This is a microcosm of vice policy generally, and not just in Italy --
recurring, significant swings seemingly unrelated to new scientific
evidence. ) Vice Squad noted the potential for the Italian rollback a few
months ago, here.

(3) Argentina appears to be headed in the opposite direction,
considering a bill that would decriminalize drugs (not just pot) for
personal use. According to the Drug War Chronicle story, "If the bill is
enacted, Argentina would join Colombia, Peru, and Uruguay as Latin
American countries that have decriminalized, or in Colombia's case,
legalized drug use and possession." But the decriminalization adoption
in Argentina seems to be much less of a sure thing than the Italian
repenalization. [Furthermore, I believe that the claim that drug
possession has been legalized in Colombia is false.]

(4) Meanwhile, Bhutan is going the drug prohibitionists one better, by
banning the sale of tobacco products. Many US states banned
cigarette sales in the early part of the 20th century; for that matter,
Uzbekistan has banned billiards. The urge to prohibit other people's
vices appears to be one of the enduring, unifying themes of mankind.

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