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Misplaced Aggression

Ashcroft wasting time and money on trivial issues

Published: Friday, March 7, 2003

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 19:07

Apparently frustrated with the miserable failure of the war on drugs, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Drug Enforcement Agency Administrator John B. Brown turned their ill-informed aggression toward legitimate businesses in a nationally televised address on CNN last week. Citing ambiguous federal law, Ashcroft, Brown and others announced the indictment of more than 50 sellers of tobacco pipes, or as Ashcroft might say, illegal drug paraphernalia distributors.

What should enrage freedom-loving Americans is not the crackdown on drug paraphernalia, but how broadly "paraphernalia" is being defined. According to www.DEA.gov, the government cites Title 21 U.S. Code Service Section 863, a 1996 law concerning what constitutes paraphernalia. Among the many vague stipulations considered about a product under this law are "circumstantial evidence of the ratio of sales of the items to the total sales of the business, the existence and scope of legitimate uses in the community and expert testimony concerning its use, ... (and any) other logically relevant factors." Well, that clarifies everything.

The fact that the federal government itself is determining the "existence and scope of legitimate uses" of these products and what factors are considered "logically relevant" is disheartening, as no government agency could ever make these decisions objectively, assuming the agency even understood the obscure jargon of this law. This is the type of stupidity of thought that tax-paying citizens should hold their representatives accountable for.

Equally disappointing is that the two nationwide crackdowns, which the DEA smugly refer to as Operations Pipe Dream and Headhunter, come as this nation is going up and down the colors of the terror alert ladder and preparing for a possible war with Iraq. Given the tense nature of the current climate, not only is an attack on alleged marijuana pipes and their distributors by the federal government laughable, it is downright embarrassing. Though exact figures were never revealed by Ashcroft, the fact that these are U.S. tax dollars at work is clearly a shame.

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Director Keith Stroup rightly identified Ashcroft as a man with a personal agenda possibly vying for future political advancement. Just like Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) used video game violence to propel himself up the political ladder, Ashcroft is taking on pipes.

According to news.com, Stroup said, "This latest enforcement is primarily an expression of extremism of this particular attorney general. President Bush and most of his serious advisers have more (important) work to focus on right now than whether someone's selling rolling papers and roach clips." Ashcroft probably has more important work to focus on, too.

But when incarcerating actual drug dealers presents too much of a challenge, the easy-to-catch, law-abiding businessman is targeted. Just because marijuana can be put into a pipe should not make pipes illegal and their dealers criminal; such an assertion is comical. Pipes and bongs can be made from simple household items as well, such as two-liter bottles, soda cans and tinfoil. These items, too, must apparently be confiscated and destroyed by the government, as they can be broadly defined as drug paraphernalia. Really, anything can.

According to this line of thought, guns should be illegal because they can be used as instruments of crime when loaded with bullets. One must totally disregard the fact that they have practical, legal uses. And as ridiculous as all this sounds, it is exactly what this nation's government is implying.

In reality, a pipe in its own right hurts no one. Drug abuse may very well be a problem in this country, but destroying pipes with legal uses will do nothing to curb that problem. The issue does bring to light another, much bigger, problem: governmental irresponsibility. Unless U.S. citizens hold agencies such as the DEA and individuals such as Attorney General Ashcroft accountable, they will continue to persecute and prosecute innocent Americans, defining federal law as they see fit.

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