Pot at the tea party


The Boston Tea Party, the original one, occurred on the night of December 16, 1773, when the Sons of Liberty, some cunningly disguised as Ward Churchill, threw 342 chests of British East India Company tea into Boston Harbor.

But truth be told, as a date to hold a protest, December 16 sucks. So it’s not surprising that today’s tea partiers have decided to focus not on the date of the original party but on the point of the original exercise — it was a tax protest — in picking a time for national protesting. The tea partiers chose April 15, the day income taxes are due.

Want to reduce government spending and get the deficit under control? Eliminate the war on drugs.

But there is another tea party-like movement that holds rallies around the nation in April, the one that holds promarijuana rallies on April 20. It, too, is a protest movement, and its direct civil disobedience is in keeping with the spirit of the original tea party. And, since one of the old slang names for marijuana was “tea,” it even has a plausible claim to the tea party name.

So, in the interest of disambiguation, as they say at Wikipedia, let’s refer to the first group as the 415 party and the second as the 420 party.

Although they may be loathe to admit it, the two tea parties have a lot in common.

The 415 Tea Party’s Contract from America calls for individual liberty, limited government, lower taxes and government spending, and economic freedom — all of which have been savaged by the war on drugs.

Indeed, it is hard to think of anything the government has undertaken in the past 100 years that has done more to destroy personal freedom and limited government and to waste tax dollars than the drug war.

Want to reduce government spending and get the federal deficit under control? Eliminate the war on drugs and the federal government will save at least $200 billion over the next 10 years. State and local governments will save an additional $300 billion over that time frame.

Think government has become too big and too intrusive? Well, there are plenty of 420 tea partiers who will agree, as will the approximately 750,000 Americans who are arrested every year for simple possession of marijuana, which is a victimless crime.

Worried about government taking private property? A lot of 415 tea partiers are, and so are plenty of 420 tea partiers, who could tell you a thing or two about seizures of their cars, homes, and businesses by the drug war’s zerotolerance thugs.

Then there’s this:

The first clause in the 415ers Contract from America is called “Protect the Constitution.” It would require each bill introduced in Congress to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does.

Now then, care to tell me what part of the Constitution gives the federal government the authority to ban the possession, use, cultivation, production, transportation and sale of marijuana — or any other drug for that matter?

The word “marijuana” is nowhere to be found in the Constitution, and neither is the word “drug.” The Tenth Amendment says that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution are reserved to the States or to the people. So if the Constitution doesn’t explicitly give the federal government the power to regulate drugs, where does it get off doing so?

Well, actually, by using the comseemerce clause (found in
Article 1, Section 8, third paragraph down). It says Congress shall have
power “To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several
states, and with Indian tribes.”

That’s right, the constitutional authority for the
federal prohibition of marijuana (and all other recreational drugs)
rests entirely on Congress’ power “to regulate commerce among the
states.” That power extends to someone who grew a pot plant in the
closet, on the theory that even if the plant never crossed a state line
or even left the house, its mere existence affects the “web of

There’s a
reason why the commerce clause is referred to as the “elastic clause”
of the Constitution.

Still, in the case of the drug war the elasticity approaches that
of a bungee jump from low earth orbit.

The 415 tea partiers should be particularly
interested in the use of the commerce clause to allow the government to
prohibit (or mandate) personal conduct, because the same overreaching,
intellectually corrupt interpretations of the commerce clause used to
justify the drug war are being to justify the constitutionality of
requiring everyone in the country to buy health insurance.

The 415 tea partiers have,
wisely, gone to great lengths to keep culture war issues off their
agenda. But with the war on drugs they need to make an exception,
because ignoring it (or worse supporting it) makes a mockery of tea
party core principles. When it comes to out-of-control government
intruding into personal freedom and recklessly wasting hundreds of
billions of dollars, the war on drugs is the 500 pound gorilla in the
tea room.