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Potheads, puritans and pragmatists: Two marijuana initiatives put drug warriors on the defensive
Townhall ^ | October 18, 2006 | Jacob Sullum

Posted on 10/23/2006 5:03:34 PM PDT by JTN

Nevada is known for gambling, 24-hour liquor sales and legal prostitution. Yet the main group opposing Question 7, an initiative on the state's ballot next month that would allow the sale and possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults 21 or older, is called the Committee to Keep Nevada Respectable.

In Colorado, opponents of Amendment 44, which would eliminate penalties for adults possessing an ounce or less of marijuana, are equally certain of their own rectitude. "Those who want to legalize drugs weaken our collective struggle against this scourge," declares the Colorado Drug Investigators Association. "Like a cancer, proponents for legalization eat away at society's resolve and moral fiber."

To sum up, smoking pot is less respectable than a drunken gambling spree followed by a visit to a hooker, while people who think adults shouldn't be punished for their choice of recreational intoxicants are like a tumor that will kill you unless it's eradicated. In the face of such self-righteous posturing, the marijuana initiatives' backers have refused to cede the moral high ground, a strategy from which other activists can learn.

The Nevada campaign, which calls itself the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana, emphasizes the advantages of removing marijuana from the black market, where regulation and control are impossible, and allowing adults to obtain the drug from licensed, accountable merchants. To signal that a legal market does not mean anything goes, the initiative increases penalties for injuring people while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The "regulate and control" message has attracted public support from more than 30 Nevada religious leaders. The list includes not just the usual suspects -- Unitarian Universalist ministers and Reform rabbis -- but also representatives of more conservative groups, such as Lutherans and Southern Baptists.

"I don't think using marijuana is a wise choice for anyone," says the Rev. William C. Webb, senior pastor of Reno's Second Baptist Church. "Drugs ruin enough lives. But we don't need our laws ruining more lives. If there has to be a market for marijuana, I'd rather it be regulated with sensible safeguards than run by violent gangs and dangerous drug dealers."

Troy Dayton of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative, who was largely responsible for persuading Webb and the other religious leaders to back Question 7, notes that support from members of the clergy, which was important in repealing alcohol prohibition, "forces a reframing of the issue." It's no longer a contest between potheads and puritans.

The Colorado campaign, which goes by the name SAFER (Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation), emphasizes that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol and asks, "Should adults be punished for making the rational choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol?" This approach puts prohibitionists on the defensive by asking them to justify the disparate legal treatment of the two drugs.

So far they have not been up to the task. Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger has implicitly conceded marijuana itself is not so bad by implausibly linking it to methamphetamine. In a televised debate with SAFER's Mason Tvert, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers insisted "the only acceptable alternative to intoxication is sobriety."

That's fine for those who avoid all psychoactive substances as a matter of principle. But since most people -- including Suthers, who acknowledges drinking -- like using chemicals to alter their moods and minds, it's reasonable to ask for some consistency in the law's treatment of those chemicals, especially at a time when police are arresting a record number of Americans (nearly 787,000 last year) for marijuana offenses.

Despite a hard push by federal, state and local drug warriors who have been telling voters in Nevada and Colorado that failing to punish adults for smoking pot will "send the wrong message" to children, the latest polls indicate most are unpersuaded. Perhaps they worry about the message sent by the current policy of mindless intolerance.

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Editorial; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: addiction; bongbrigade; dopers; drugaddled; druggies; drugskilledbelushi; explainsclinton; goaskalice; letsgetstupid; libertarians; potheads; potheadsvotedemocrat; reverendleroy; smokybackroomin10; userslosers; wodlist
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1 posted on 10/23/2006 5:03:36 PM PDT by JTN
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To: Wolfie; traviskicks

Ping


2 posted on 10/23/2006 5:03:58 PM PDT by JTN ("I came here to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And I'm all out of bubble gum.")
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To: traviskicks

ping


3 posted on 10/23/2006 5:04:39 PM PDT by KoRn
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To: JTN; KoRn; Abram; albertp; AlexandriaDuke; Alexander Rubin; Allosaurs_r_us; Americanwolf; ...
Libertarian ping! To be added or removed from my ping list freepmail me or post a message here.
4 posted on 10/23/2006 5:09:36 PM PDT by traviskicks (http://www.neoperspectives.com/Amnesty_From_Government.htm)
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To: JTN

I don't want THC users living next door to me or my kids. Or anywhere in my neighborhood.

So, if deluded legalizers cannot find a way to banish these dangerous fools to some cave, then maintain its status of illegality nation wide.


5 posted on 10/23/2006 5:26:13 PM PDT by eleni121 ("Show me just what Mohammed brought:: evil and inhumanity")
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To: traviskicks

I was having a conversation today about someone who's "out of it" all the time due to a past marijuana habit.

It really does fry your brain, whether we should allow people the "freedom" to fry their brains ...


6 posted on 10/23/2006 5:26:59 PM PDT by ROTB (Our Constitution ... only for a moral and religious people... -- John Q. Adams, October 11, 1798)
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To: JTN
To sum up, smoking pot is less respectable than a drunken gambling spree followed by a visit to a hooker,

LOL - I've done all of the above. ;-)

7 posted on 10/23/2006 5:29:10 PM PDT by glorgau
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To: JTN
To sum up, smoking pot is less respectable than a drunken gambling spree followed by a visit to a hooker

That's not the issue at all. The issue is nobody wants to pay good money for a hooker that is stoned......I kid, I kid. Don't ban me.

In all seriousness the last time this came up the pro-dopers were dealt a blow right before the election. A journalist from the Las Vegas newspaper got killed by a driver who was stoned out of his gourd.

The same argument was made a couple years ago about the marriage protection act that was placed on the ballot. Nevada is the easiest state to get married, the easiest to get a divorce, legal gambling in every public venue outside schools, churches, and public libraries, legalized brothels; and now they want to protect marriage. Pretty good argument, but it still passed.

8 posted on 10/23/2006 5:30:10 PM PDT by USNBandit (sarcasm engaged at all times)
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To: ROTB

"It really does fry your brain, whether we should allow people the "freedom" to fry their brains ..."

... while we 'allow' them the freedom to calcify their livers, cancerfy their lungs, and tan their perfect skins to carcenoma. Not to mention eat until they resemble Jabba the Hutt. Why pick on a homegrown vegetable?


9 posted on 10/23/2006 5:32:36 PM PDT by gcruse (http://gcruse.typepad.com)
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To: ROTB
"I was having a conversation today about someone who's "out of it" all the time due to a past marijuana habit"

Thats funny I also deal with people so "out of it" every single day and almost every one of them have never touched the stuff... /shrug
10 posted on 10/23/2006 5:38:25 PM PDT by FreedomNeocon (Success is not final; Failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts -- Churchill)
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To: gcruse

If it's just a vegetable, then smoke squash, and shut up already about pot.


11 posted on 10/23/2006 5:47:40 PM PDT by Moonman62 (The issue of whether cheap labor makes America great should have been settled by the Civil War.)
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To: JTN
For those who advocate legalization on practical grounds, NOT constitutional grounds, what outcome of legalization would constitute a failure in your book?
12 posted on 10/23/2006 5:48:50 PM PDT by SampleMan (Do not dispute the peacefulness of Islam, so as not to send Muslims into violent outrage.)
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To: Moonman62

Uhm, this thread's about pot. If you can't even handle reading about pot, maybe you shouldn't be on the thread.


13 posted on 10/23/2006 5:51:45 PM PDT by gcruse (http://gcruse.typepad.com)
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To: eleni121
So, if deluded legalizers cannot find a way to banish these dangerous fools to some cave, then maintain its status of illegality nation wide.

I think mandatory drug testing as an OSHA standard for all employment (including politicians) would take care of it.

In fact, mandatory drug testing for all employees of 501(c) tax-exempt corporations by the Internal Revenue Code as a condition for "non-profit" status would have all the leftist front groups fold overnight...

14 posted on 10/23/2006 5:51:55 PM PDT by Sir Francis Dashwood (LET'S ROLL!)
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To: FreedomNeocon

Yeah, a lot of people are out of it. And not all admit it necessarily that it's due to pot use.

Trust me, pot use makes people lose theirselves. Even a relatively minor usage changes a person for the worse.


15 posted on 10/23/2006 5:52:20 PM PDT by Tolsti
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To: Moonman62

I think mandatory drug testing as an OSHA standard for all employment (including politicians) would take care of it.

Mandatory drug testing for all employees of 501(c) tax-exempt corporations by the Internal Revenue Code as a condition for "non-profit" status would have all the leftist front groups fold overnight...


16 posted on 10/23/2006 5:53:08 PM PDT by Sir Francis Dashwood (LET'S ROLL!)
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To: All
I meant to address this question for general discussion. My apologies for double posting.

For those who advocate legalization on practical grounds, NOT constitutional grounds, what outcome of legalization would constitute a failure in your book?

17 posted on 10/23/2006 5:59:14 PM PDT by SampleMan (Do not dispute the peacefulness of Islam, so as not to send Muslims into violent outrage.)
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To: JTN

This is me, not posting on this thread, because I'm so tired of hearing all the pro and con arguments for and against legalizing pot. In fact, I'm actually not even here, and you're not even reading this.


18 posted on 10/23/2006 6:00:49 PM PDT by NurdlyPeon (Wearing My 'Jammies Proudly)
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To: SampleMan

I'll tell you what they want. To be able to get high easier without legal hassles and for cheaper. QED.


19 posted on 10/23/2006 6:02:01 PM PDT by Tolsti
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To: Sir Francis Dashwood
I think mandatory drug testing as an OSHA standard for all employment (including politicians) would take care of it.

I've noticed there are two kinds of conservatives on this forum. The first group believes in the founding documents and the republic and the constitution and freedom.

The second group believe in mob rule just like the liberals but just have a different agenda. You belong in the second group, and you have more in common with the liberals than those who love freedom. You are willing to give up the 4th Amendment because you do not like potsmokers. You do not deserve freedom.
20 posted on 10/23/2006 6:02:02 PM PDT by microgood
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To: Sir Francis Dashwood

Sir Francis: Mandatory drug testing for all including politicians of course--- When do we start? I love it!


21 posted on 10/23/2006 6:07:06 PM PDT by eleni121 ("Show me just what Mohammed brought:: evil and inhumanity")
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To: microgood

I've noticed there are two types of people who advocate legalizing pot. The first group smokes pot.


22 posted on 10/23/2006 6:07:23 PM PDT by SampleMan (Do not dispute the peacefulness of Islam, so as not to send Muslims into violent outrage.)
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To: SampleMan
I've noticed there are two types of people who advocate legalizing pot. The first group smokes pot.

And the second group supports legalized tyranny.

23 posted on 10/23/2006 6:18:53 PM PDT by Unknown Pundit
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To: SampleMan
I've noticed there are two types of people who advocate legalizing pot. The first group smokes pot.

And the second group believes its none of their business if someone does and that government is to here protect our freedom, not tell us what we can or cannot ingest.

I admit the notion of live and let live is outdated, since now we live under my way or the highway at the mercy of the latest whims of the currently in power anal retentive control freaks.
24 posted on 10/23/2006 6:18:53 PM PDT by microgood
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To: SampleMan
Since you addressed the question for general discussion, I'll give you what I would view as a failure:

Police still being able to conduct no-knock SWAT raids on what may or may not be the right house to make a marijuana bust. Young people still getting convictions that prevent them from getting student loans or joining the military. Street dealers still financing criminal enterprises through obscene profits, and selling unknown green substances that could be anything from oregano to poison. Billions of tax dollars still spent to locate, arrest, process, prosecute, and incarcerate people for buying or using marijuana. People still being killed over marijuana, or marijuana profits.

If marijuana were legal to produce, sell, buy, and consume, and those things still occurred, that legalization would have been a failure from a practical perspective, in my opinion.

25 posted on 10/23/2006 6:21:28 PM PDT by Turbopilot (iumop ap!sdn w,I 'aw dlaH)
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To: JTN

I havent touched the stuff since 1977. I think it is stupid. I also think it should be legal.

That is, in a free country it should be legal.


26 posted on 10/23/2006 6:22:41 PM PDT by RobRoy (Islam is a greater threat to the world today than Naziism was in 1937.)
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To: Sir Francis Dashwood

Wow. That's a good idea. And all it would take is a hair sample.


27 posted on 10/23/2006 6:23:58 PM PDT by RobRoy (Islam is a greater threat to the world today than Naziism was in 1937.)
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To: microgood
There's a second group? ;)

I fall into the category that's open for discussion of the issue as a non-constitutional question. I don't think that all behavior such as polygamy, drug use, and non-murderous cannibalism are constitutionally protected. Thus, I think there is a discussion to be had beyond, "I'm being repressed."
28 posted on 10/23/2006 6:25:19 PM PDT by SampleMan (Do not dispute the peacefulness of Islam, so as not to send Muslims into violent outrage.)
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To: Turbopilot

Well that was a complete dodge of the question if there ever was one.
I'll just mark you down as, "The only failure could be not getting free and easy weed."


29 posted on 10/23/2006 6:26:59 PM PDT by SampleMan (Do not dispute the peacefulness of Islam, so as not to send Muslims into violent outrage.)
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To: eleni121
I don't want THC users living next door to me or my kids. Or anywhere in my neighborhood.

I would much rather have a THC user living next to me that a violent drunk. Or especially someone who goes out to a bar and then drives home drunk.

30 posted on 10/23/2006 6:29:25 PM PDT by dirtboy (Good fences make good neighbors)
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To: SampleMan
I don't think that all behavior such as polygamy, drug use, and non-murderous cannibalism are constitutionally protected. Thus, I think there is a discussion to be had beyond, "I'm being repressed."

The constitutional part of my original reply was based on drug testing being advocated and my objection based on the Fourth Amendment, which it clearly violates.

On the larger issue, my problem with the drug war is that the cure has been worse than the disease, and no other regulation of vices has spawned the militarization of the police, no-knock searches, widespread abuse of asset forfeiture, corruption of our police, judges, politicians, and erosion of our Fourth Amendment rights. Drugs are truly the gateway issue the government is using to trash the Constitution.

And especially with pot, it is rather hypocritical to leave it illegal when alcohol is not. It really makes no sense from a rational perspective.
31 posted on 10/23/2006 6:32:51 PM PDT by microgood
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To: dirtboy

That's bad too. Put them away and lock them up for ever. Just don't add insult to injury by making THC legal.


32 posted on 10/23/2006 6:33:55 PM PDT by eleni121 ("Show me just what Mohammed brought:: evil and inhumanity")
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To: SampleMan
For those who advocate legalization on practical grounds, NOT constitutional grounds, what outcome of legalization would constitute a failure in your book?

Can't think of too many. Colorado already has pot decriminalized to where possession of an ounce or less is a summary offense, and we haven't seen an outbreak there of crazed potheads committing armed robberies of junk food from 7-11s as some have claimed would be inevitable.

Seriously, I smoked the crap when I was younger. And did beer. Still drink beer. Don't smoke pot any longer. My experience with both is that some people can handle alcohol, some can't. Some people can handle pot, some can't. There will be problems with people in the latter categories. But the number of people in the latter category when it comes to pot who also present a clear and present danger to society is far smaller than with booze.

So it's stupid to make pot possession criminal. It's a waste of law enforcement resources and prison cells. Best to decriminalize it but still allow some law enforcement levers for the few people that do become social problems from abuse of weed.

33 posted on 10/23/2006 6:33:59 PM PDT by dirtboy (Good fences make good neighbors)
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To: microgood

I assume you are OK with an employer being able to not hire or fire an employee for any reason, including drug use, as a matter of this being a free country. I can't see that the pure libertarian argument can force an employer to do otherwise.

In the public sector, the employer would be the electorate, deciding who gets government employment, help, etc. and who doesn't.


34 posted on 10/23/2006 6:34:08 PM PDT by SampleMan (Do not dispute the peacefulness of Islam, so as not to send Muslims into violent outrage.)
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To: RobRoy

I am actually surprised the stuff isn't legal. It gives government one more thing to regulate the crap out of along with every other sin tax. The logistical problem with legalizing drugs would be the constant black market. Government legalizes certain drugs, others become hotter commodities. You also have a black market for stronger versions of the government regulated drug.


35 posted on 10/23/2006 6:35:12 PM PDT by satchmodog9 (Most people stand on the tracks and never even hear the train coming)
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To: dirtboy
Does that mean if it was a choice btw a non-user or a user you would want to have a user next door?
36 posted on 10/23/2006 6:35:24 PM PDT by FUBAR12 (God ,guns,and a good lady is all a man needs.)
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To: dirtboy
I think its stupid to legalize the possession of small amounts. It should either be legal or illegal. To legalize small amounts is like making stealing $5 legal.

I'm OK with a state legalizing pot if the majority of that state decides to, but I'm not OK with the concept that its a constitutional right.

I'm also OK with employers, including government (the electorate), having very broad rights in who they hire and fire, or otherwise hand out money to. If a man doesn't want to employ someone who smokes pot or drinks alcohol or smokes, that should be his business. Same goes for how government funds are spent.

Do what you want, but bare the consequences, might indeed be the best alternative to drug use.

37 posted on 10/23/2006 6:43:11 PM PDT by SampleMan (Do not dispute the peacefulness of Islam, so as not to send Muslims into violent outrage.)
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To: SampleMan
I assume you are OK with an employer being able to not hire or fire an employee for any reason, including drug use, as a matter of this being a free country.

For the most part. I believe employment is a kind of contract which binds both sides in certain ways. The Fourth Amendment does not apply to employers but at the same time, they should not be able to fire you one year before retirement to screw you out of your benefits either. There has to be good faith on both sides.

Actually I just read an article about a month ago where many employers are ending their drug testing programs because they have not been beneficial or cost effective and so now the drug testing companies are lobbying public schools trying to make up the shortfall (it was posted here a FR a month or so ago).
38 posted on 10/23/2006 6:44:39 PM PDT by microgood
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To: microgood
The constitutional part of my original reply was based on drug testing being advocated and my objection based on the Fourth Amendment, which it clearly violates.

If the government holds a person down and conducts a drug test without a warrant, you have a point, otherwise you don't.

If I'm an employer, private or government, I have a right to set limits on that employment, even if I'm misguided. The prospective employee is in no way forced to undergo a drug test. They can simply go elsewhere.

Employers or any person giving out money, should be able to set their conditions for the voluntary contract. Of course, the drug user can also refuse and go elsewhere.

39 posted on 10/23/2006 6:48:38 PM PDT by SampleMan (Do not dispute the peacefulness of Islam, so as not to send Muslims into violent outrage.)
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To: Sir Francis Dashwood
I think mandatory drug testing as an OSHA standard for all employment (including politicians) would take care of it.

I love your plan, that way when I retire I can stop drinking and start smoking pot legally.
40 posted on 10/23/2006 6:50:43 PM PDT by Tailback
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To: microgood
The Fourth Amendment does not apply to employers but at the same time, they should not be able to fire you one year before retirement to screw you out of your benefits either. There has to be good faith on both sides.

Apples and oranges. If not using a particular drug is set down as a condition of employment, then that's the contract.

41 posted on 10/23/2006 6:51:27 PM PDT by SampleMan (Do not dispute the peacefulness of Islam, so as not to send Muslims into violent outrage.)
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To: SampleMan
If the government holds a person down and conducts a drug test without a warrant, you have a point, otherwise you don't.

What was being advocated was to mandate drug testing for all employees nationwide using OSHA. Without any cause or any warrant. The forced searching of all Americans that have a job by the Federal Government would violate the Fourth Amendment.

It would of course also violate the equal protection clause since people who were not employed would be exempted from the law.
42 posted on 10/23/2006 6:55:42 PM PDT by microgood
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To: SampleMan
Apples and oranges. If not using a particular drug is set down as a condition of employment, then that's the contract.

I was assuming they were not being fired for using the drug in question, but so the employer could save money and screw the employee out of retirement, so it was not apples and oranges.
43 posted on 10/23/2006 6:59:08 PM PDT by microgood
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To: microgood
I was assuming they were not being fired for using the drug in question, but so the employer could save money and screw the employee out of retirement, so it was not apples and oranges.

Legally, it doesn't matter why one party wants to uphold the contract. If the employee doesn't want to get fired for smoking pot, they have clear options. Don't smoke pot, or don't work for an employer that prohibits it.

44 posted on 10/23/2006 7:02:49 PM PDT by SampleMan (Do not dispute the peacefulness of Islam, so as not to send Muslims into violent outrage.)
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To: SampleMan
Legally, it doesn't matter why one party wants to uphold the contract. If the employee doesn't want to get fired for smoking pot, they have clear options. Don't smoke pot, or don't work for an employer that prohibits it.

I agree with that, I was just making the point that neither side can break the contract, the employee cannot use the drug, and the employer cannot fire the employee to screw him out of his retirement when the employee has fulfilled his end of the bargain. Employers can violate contracts as easily as employees.
45 posted on 10/23/2006 7:05:17 PM PDT by microgood
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To: microgood
What was being advocated was to mandate drug testing for all employees nationwide using OSHA. Without any cause or any warrant. The forced searching of all Americans that have a job by the Federal Government would violate the Fourth Amendment.

Actually, the cause would be safety if it were OSHA, and it would be as constitutional as prohibiting a worker from using alcohol (alcohol is often prohibited in amounts less than what creates intoxication). This would require that a substantial enough case could be made to keep a majority of voters from overturning it. OSHA does not now regulate a large portion of the workforce, so it would be a highly unlikely eventuality.

It would of course also violate the equal protection clause since people who were not employed would be exempted from the law.

That's just crazy talk. Like saying that DUI laws violate equal protection, because not everyone drives. Not every citizen has to be immediately subject to a law for it to be valid. Does the requirement for a pilot's license violate equal protection because not everyone is a pilot? Of course not. Your equal protection argument is beyond flimsy.

46 posted on 10/23/2006 7:11:13 PM PDT by SampleMan (Do not dispute the peacefulness of Islam, so as not to send Muslims into violent outrage.)
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To: Moonman62

"If it's just a vegetable, then smoke squash, and shut up already about pot."

Hey, don't talk about banning squash. I like squash.


47 posted on 10/23/2006 7:12:42 PM PDT by webstersII
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To: microgood
Employers can violate contracts as easily as employees.

And be sued for such just as easily.

48 posted on 10/23/2006 7:13:04 PM PDT by SampleMan (Do not dispute the peacefulness of Islam, so as not to send Muslims into violent outrage.)
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To: webstersII
Hey, don't talk about banning squash. I like squash.

Is it hard to get squash to stay lit?

49 posted on 10/23/2006 7:15:41 PM PDT by SampleMan (Do not dispute the peacefulness of Islam, so as not to send Muslims into violent outrage.)
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To: NurdlyPeon

Pick it, pack it,
Fire it up, Come along,
And take a hit from the bong,
Put the blunt down just for a second,
Don't get me wrong it's not a new method,
Inhale, Exhale,
Just got a ounce in the mail,
I like a blunt or a big fat bowl,
But my double barrel bong is gettin' me stoned,
I'm skill it, There's water inside don't spill it,
It smells like shit on the carpet,
Still it, goes down smooth when I get a clean hit,
Of the skunky funky smelly green shit,
Sing my song, puff all night long,
As I take Hits from the bong...

Hits from the bong y'all

Let's smoke that bowl, hit the bong,
And then take that finger off of that hole,
Plug it, unplug it,
Don't straaaain, I love you Mary Jane,
She never complains, when I hit Mary,
With that flame, I light up the cherry,
She's so good to me, when I pack a fresh bowl I clean the screen,
Don't get me stirred up the smoke, through the bubbling water,
Is Makin' it pure so I got ta', take my hit and hold it,
Just like Chong, I hit the bowl and I reload it,
Get my four-footer and bring it on...
As I take Hits from the bong,


50 posted on 10/23/2006 7:17:27 PM PDT by Crooked Constituent
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