Tagged: drug policy


Stanford Law Review Online: How the War on Drugs Distorts Privacy Law

Stanford Law Review

The Stanford Law Review Online has just published an Essay by Jane Yakowitz Bambauer entitled How the War on Drugs Distorts Privacy Law. Professor Yakowitz analyzes the opportunity the Supreme Court has to rewrite certain privacy standards in Florida v. Jardines:

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon determine whether a trained narcotics dog’s sniff at the front door of a home constitutes a Fourth Amendment search. The case, Florida v. Jardines, has privacy scholars abuzz because it presents two possible shifts in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. First, the Court might expand the physical spaces rationale from Justice Scalia’s majority opinion in United States v. Jones. A favorable outcome for Mr. Jardines could reinforce that the home is a formidable privacy fortress, protecting all information from government detection unless that information is visible to the human eye.

Alternatively, and more sensibly, the Court may choose to revisit its previous dog sniff cases, United States v. Place and Illinois v. Caballes. This precedent has shielded dog sniffs from constitutional scrutiny by finding that sniffs of luggage and a car, respectively, did not constitute searches. Their logic is straightforward: since a sniff “discloses only the presence or absence of narcotics, a contraband item,” a search incident to a dog’s alert cannot offend reasonable expectations of privacy. Of course, the logical flaw is equally obvious: police dogs often alert when drugs are not present, resulting in unnecessary suspicionless searches.

She concludes:

Jardines offers the Court an opportunity to carefully assess a mode of policing that subjects all constituents to the burdens of investigation and punishment, not just the “suspicious.” Today, drug-sniffing dogs are unique law enforcement tools that can be used without either individualized suspicion or a “special needs” checkpoint. Given their haphazard deployment and erratic performance, police dogs deserve the skepticism many scholars and courts have expressed. But the wrong reasoning in Jardines could fix indefinitely an assumption that police technologies and civil liberties are always at odds. This would be unfortunate. New technologies have the potential to be what dogs never were—accurate and fair. Explosive detecting systems may eventually meet the standards for this test, and DNA-matching and pattern-based data mining offer more than mere hypothetical promise. Responsible use of these emerging techniques requires more transparency and even application than police departments are accustomed to, but decrease in law enforcement discretion is its own achievement. With luck, the Court will find a search in Jardines while avoiding a rule that reflexively hampers the use of new technologies.

Read the full article, How the War on Drugs Distorts Privacy Law by Jane Yakowitz Bambauer, at the Stanford Law Review Online.


LSD and Health

Kool-AidYet again medical science is testing those darn boundaries; this time the drug is LSD. Then again, medicine was considering the ways LSD might have therapeutic value a long time ago. In the 1970s LSD research was banned out of fear that it caused mental illness. As the Guardian reported, “A growing number of people are taking LSD and other psychedelic drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy to help them cope with a variety of conditions including anorexia nervosa, cluster headaches and chronic anxiety attacks.”

The problem we face is that some folks just want the drugs for recreational use. The symptoms and disorders at issue seem difficult to quantify. Is a drug as potent as LSD (“A single dose of LSD may be between 100 and 500 micrograms — an amount roughly equal to one-tenth the mass of a grain of sand. Threshold effects can be felt with as little as 25 micrograms of LSD“) really helping people? Some have been able to use LSD once or twice a year as part of programs to curb alcohol abuse and others have seen success in preventing chronic abuse of other substances. Research at Harvard indicates that cluster headaches and intense pain have been reduced. And researchers at Berkeley are pursuing the way in which LSD affects creativity.

If any if this research is fruitful, it seems to me that the government should be more willing to allow researchers to explore ways to the true benefits of drugs and cope with the social problems as a separate matter.

As a side note, with a Bay Area-Harvard connection emerging, maybe we’ll have another round of Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test with modern Merry Pranksters and magic buses touring the country. If so, and Wolfe wrote a follow-up to his book, that would be interesting too. In any event, if you have not read the book, do so. It is an excellent bit of writing and a great study of one way to understand the United States of the book’s era.