Minnesota v. Peck.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
The Bong Water Case Revisited
Minnesota v. Peck.
Astute readers will recall the Great Bong Water Decision of 2009, in which the Minnesota Supreme Court determined, 4-3, that water used in a water pipe can be considered a “drug mixture.” Twenty five grams or more of this water, the court ruled, qualified the possessor for a first-degree criminal conviction and up to 30 years in prison.
The decision made the Minnesota Court the punch line in a worldwide joke, but things didn’t turn out so funny for defendant Sara Peck, who was sentenced to a year in jail, with six months suspended, after she pleaded guilty to Controlled Substance violations. The quirk in the case was that the drug dissolved in the bong water wasn’t marijuana, but methamphetamine--a strange circumstance to say the least.
Nonetheless, Minneapolis criminal attorney Thomas Gallagher thinks that the ruling basically meant that, under the new interpretation, water could enhance the severity of a drug crime: “If trace amounts of criminalized drugs in bong water could be a crime based upon the weight of the water ‘mixture,’ then would not trace amounts of illegal drugs in our drinking water also be a crime to possess?”
It follows logically that “every citizen of Minnesota [is] a drug criminal” if they use tap water, since trace amounts of dozens of prescription drugs are routinely present in tap water (I live in Minnesota, but, as the fates would have it, draw my water from a well, which should protect me from prosecution).
A bill introduced in the Minnesota House is designed to correct the situation. The bill would have the state determine the volume of illegal drugs in an arrest by “weighing the residue of a controlled substance” rather than the entire weight of the compound or mixture the drugs might be a part of. (I can already envision a legal argument regarding the possession of unsmokable, discardable marijuana plant stems, by far the majority component of high-volume pot busts.)
The problem is obvious: “The Minnesota Bong Water case has helped undermine what public confidence there was in criminal drug laws and their enforcement,” writes Gallagher, citing a portion of the written dissent in the original court ruling in the Peck case:
“The majority’s decision to permit bong water to be used to support a first-degree felony controlled-substance charge runs counter to the legislative structure of our drug laws, does not make common sense, and borders on the absurd.”
Photo Credit: http://www.pigginempire.co.uk