On September 16, 2017 the Board of Directors of Minnesota NORML elected Thomas C. Gallagher to the position of Chair of the Board. Gallagher is a Minneapolis Criminal Lawyer who twice campaigned for election as a Representative in the Minnesota House in District 61B (incumbent Paul Thissen) in 2014 and 2016. He was the endorsed candidate of Republican Party of Minnesota in both election cycles.
“Minnesota NORML is a non-partisan Minnesota Nonprofit with 501(c)(4) status,” Gallagher noted. “Our goal is legal marijuana in Minnesota for responsible adult use. Minnesotans should have equal rights to cannabis as to beer and wine. This means age 21 and older, taxed and regulated the same as beer and wine, and legal small batch home production.”
Thomas C. Gallagher, Chair, Minnesota NORML
“Home grow” Gallagher said, “is essential. Ending marijuana prohibition is only incidentally about marijuana; it is really about personal freedom. We want to empower the People, support Liberty for all. With legal home grow, anyone can grow their own cannabis for medicinal or personal use with little money. Freedom should not be limited to people with money.”
“Now that all major polling shows majority support for legalization of marijuana (and a super-majority for medical marijuana), why – in a democracy – is the will of the People not yet enacted into law?” Gallagher asks.
If our elected officials lack the political courage to enact the will of the People, then we say “Let the People Decide!” Bills in the Minnesota legislature would place a constitutional amendment on the general election ballot to, finally, legalize marijuana for responsible adult use like beer and wine. Even politicians unwilling to support legalization should be able to support democracy, the vote and “allowing” the People to decide. We support these Bills.
“It’s not inevitable. There are vested interests who now profit from the current Prohibition regime fighting hard to reverse the progress we’ve made, and to stop the return of Freedom to the People of Minnesota,” Gallagher warned. “’How soon will it be legal?’ people ask me. ‘How soon will you join us working hard to make it happen?’ is my smiling reply” says Gallagher.
The Minnesota Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, has now ruled that Bong Water (water which had been used in a water pipe) was a “mixture” of “25 grams or more” supporting a criminal conviction for Controlled Substance crime in the first degree. The crime is the most serious felony drug crime in Minnesota, with a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison for a first offense. The case is Minnesota v Peck, A08-579, Minnesota Supreme Court, October 22, 2009.
The majority opinion takes an absurd literal view, arguing in essence that anyamount of a substance dissolved in water makes that water a “mixture” containing that substance. Perhaps. But, since Minnesota’s criminal prohibition laws are organized to make greater quantities of drug possession a more serious crime than smaller quantities, such a simple-minded view defeats the purpose of the quantity-based severity levels.
If a person possessed one-tenth of a gram of methamphetamine, they could be charged with a Controlled Substance Fifth Degree crime, with a five-year maximum. But – dissolve the one-tenth of a gram in 26 grams of water, on purpose or by accident, and now under this new decision from the Minnesota Supreme Court, that can be prosecuted as Controlled Substance First Degree – with a 30-year prison term. Just add water for five times the sentence!In the case of marijuana, a non-criminal amount under 42.5 grams smoked through a bong could give the police and government lawyers the legal right to charge a felony drug crime with possible prison time – not for the marijuana, but for the bong water.This defeats the legislative purpose of treating larger quantities of drugs more harshly. Worse – it makes no sense. It is irrational. It leads to an absurd result.
What is a bong? It is a water pipe. A water pipe, such as a bong, can be used to smoke tobacco, marijuana, methamphetamine (as in the Peck case), or anything that can be smoked. Smokers view the water which has been used to filter and cool the smoke as something disgusting, not unlike a used cigarette filter, to be discarded – sooner or later. The used water is not commonly used for any other purpose. Apparently a naive or misguided police officer testified otherwise in the Peck case, and – amazingly -the four in the majority of the court appears to have given that testimony credit.
In general, courts have made efforts to prevent police and government lawyers from having the ability to manipulate the facts or evidence in such a way as to either create criminal liability for targeted people, or, to increase the penalty the target might suffer. Here is an instance to the contrary.
If the government wants to charge a more serious drug crime – what to do?Just add water! (Water is heavy – heavier than drugs. Drug crimes are based on weight. Water is not currently defined by law as an illegal drug.)
Frequent news reports remind us about thedrugs in the rivers and most of our municipal water supplies (not concentrated enough to hurt us, we are reassured). Type “in water supply” into your favorite internet search engine and you can read thousands of reports of scientific studies documenting this.
As a result, if you have water sourced from a river, like we do in Minneapolis, then you could now be charged with a Minnesota Controlled Substance First Degree Crime (toilets tanks hold way more than 25 grams of water with illegal drugs dissolved).This can be a particularly troubling variation of the trace-drug criminal case, where only a trace of suspected illegal drugs is found. Trace cases can be problematic, in part because there may not be enough of the suspected material to be tested twice for its chemical identity.
The widespread scientific reports of cocaine contamination (in trace amounts) on most United States currency, would be another example of “trace evidence of illegal drugs possession.”Under the Peck case, we can have a situation of a trace amount of illegal substance “mixed” with water, which is heavy. Or – we could have a relatively small amount (by weight) of illegal contraband mixed with a large amount of (heavy) water.
Even if you believe some drugs possession should be a crime – should one gram mixed in water be treated the same as one kilogram (1,000 grams) in powder form?
What can be done about this particular absurd injustice?
Ask the legislature to repeal the criminal prohibition laws.
Remember this case at election time.Vote! You can vote for or against Minnesota Supreme Court candidates, including incumbents.
Jury Nullification, or the rule of jury lenity. Jurors have legal rights to acquit, despite the facts, despite the judges instructions on the law. Just do it!
Remove all water sourced from rivers from your home and office, including toilets, in the meantime.
At least the dissenting opinion, by Justice Paul H. Anderson, joined by Justice Alan C. Page, and Justice Helen M. Meyer, exhibits common sense. Here is what Justice Paul Anderson wrote in dissent of the majority opinion:
“The majority’s decision to permit bong water to be used to support a first-degree felony controlled-substance charge runs counter to the legislative structure of our drug laws, does not make common sense, and borders on the absurd…the result is a decision that has the potential to undermine public confidence in our criminal justice system.”
It’s a good read (link at the beginning of this article, above). It is shocking that four in the majority could have disagreed with the dissenters. Hopefully, this is the beginning of the end of the 100 year experiment in using criminal blame as a strategy to solve a public health problem.
No? Well, the Minnesota legislature has decreed otherwise. Minnesota’s marijuana cultivation laws contain nonsense.
Minnesota lawmakers, influenced by the state’s prosecutors, have taken a page from Humpty Dumpty in Alice Through the Lookinglass:
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, ” it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make a words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be the master – that’s all.”
Statutory nonsense verse
The legislature thinks it can define terms in any way they wish, regardless of common meaning. Like Humpty Dumpty in Alice, sometimes they go too far. The legislature gives words a statutory definition completely divorced from their common meaning. And they’ve done it again – in Minnesota’s marijuana cultivation laws.
The limits on legislative power
Yet – their power does have limits. We, the People, are complicit in unjust laws to the extent that we tolerate them. We must hold the legislature accountable, when needs be.
The courts can strike down such nonsense as unconstitutional. And we can ask the courts to do so.
And the People on the Jury have the power of Jury Nullification. The jury can acquit anyone of criminal charges based on a law that that the Jury finds to be nonsense.
Even one juror can veto the law. One lone dissenter on the juror has the power to stop a “guilty” verdict. Why? Because a verdict in a criminal case must be unanimous.
The framers designed this jury power to be a check and balance on government power. The jury’s power limits the power of the elites in the legislative, executive and judicial branches.
If the judge won’t dismiss a prosecution based on these nonsense marijuana cultivation laws, they jury still can.
Grow a tomato; money magically appears?
If you grow a tomato in your backyard, then eat it there off the vine; have you by doing so also “Sold” it? Replace “tomato” with “marijuana.” Same conclusion?
Minnesota Statutes §152.01, subd. 15a, defines “Sell”to include “to manufacture.”Then, , their definition of “Manufacture” in Minnesota Statutes §152.01, subd. 7, means “cultivation” of “drugs.”
Tricky, aren’t they?
By redefining the common meaning of words, they’ve turned “growing marijuana” into a “sale,” where no sale took place. No money. No buyer. That’s how low Minnesota’s marijuana cultivation laws go.