Pubdate: Thu, 17 Apr 2008
Source: Sidelines, The (Middle Tennessee State U, TN Edu)
Copyright: 2008 The Sidelines
Author: Byron Wilkes
Cited: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition


Attorney Jay Fisher revealed his and others' belief that the war on
drugs is eroding the rights of civilians.

Fisher spoke on behalf of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, with
the term prohibition referring to the current illegal status of
narcotics, from marijuana to crack cocaine and ecstasy.

LEAP consists of sheriffs, constables, and cops, as well as academics
such as linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky and noted economist
Milton Friedman.

"The act of prohibition effectively sets up the black market which
America fights against," Fisher said. "The notion of an absolute ban
is a failure. The question of policy can only be debated proactively
after elected officials have hashed out the current situation."

Fisher spoke not only from a policeman's perspective, but as someone
who has spent five years as a paramedic, seeing the brutal reality of
the drug war as it affects common people in the streets.

Fisher also represents Georgia's state corrections department
constitutional rights cases, and has seen the overcrowding of prisons
by inmates with nonviolent drug offenses firsthand.

During the lecture, Fisher defined the rights an average person is
entitled to. After showing a few quotations of men such as John Adams
and James Madison, Fisher put on view a quote from current President
Bush that read: "There ought to be limits to freedom."

He discussed the statutes which state and federal government have
usually made their case against narcotic drugs known as the Commerce
Clause of the Constitution, which allows Congress to regulate commerce
between states, and vicariously, many areas including criminal justice.

Fisher brought up Gonzales vs. Raich, a Supreme Court case in which
Angel Raich, an elderly woman, was convicted for buying medical
marijuana in California despite the fact that no interstate commerce
had taken place in the transaction.

He also pointed to the 18th Amendment that prohibition ultimately
fails despite the extent of any measures taken to fulfill the law.

Pointing to research done at the Cato Institute indicating the initial
decrease of alcohol consumption in 1921, and the relapse that
increased alcohol consumption beyond its prior levels by 1923, Fisher
asserts that the relapse was due to the activities of gangsters and
bootleggers, who realized the potential profit that could be made due
to the prohibition of alcohol.

Fisher also discussed the salient dissimilarity between the types of
arrests law enforcement officials make when dealing with different
kinds of criminals. He mentioned the show "48 Hours," in which
suspected murderers are actually often treated as docile citizens
without the use of excessive force or firepower.

In contrast, Fisher brought up the extreme methods used by narcotics
agents or the Drug Enforcement Administration, including the approval
of Special Weapons and Tactics team entries.

"One reason people justify the use of SWAT teams is for the quick
apprehension of a suspect," Fisher said. "But a larger aspect of it is
the heavy reliance authorities have on confidential informants whose
information can often lead to bad decision making on the part of the

According to a Cato Institute study, there have been 150 botched raids
conducted by paramilitary SWAT teams; a 'botched' raid denotes the
death of at least one individual not affiliated with the police.

Fisher also discussed a future in America where the twisted and
paradoxical execution of the drug war might be brought under close
scrutiny in terms of its constitutionality.

Steps have already been taken to close disparities between sentencing
for similar drugs (in terms of sentencing, possession of a single gram
of crack is equal to 500 grams of powder cocaine), but the question of
retroactivity and timeliness for those already incarcerated remains an
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