By Mike Krause
Feature Syndicate Opinion-Editorial
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 said no.
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
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
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
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)
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