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.”


Mr. Ross said...

Seems like all the more reason to just drink that stuff after a smoke.

Adi Jaffe said...

Love this post. I just want to point out the smoking meth in a bong has been around for a while (I did it back in my using days along with dozens of other people I knew). It's another example of the excess-mentality in the U.S.

It's sad when courts offer such misguided rulings, especially whem they're swayed by police-forces (and DA offices) that care little about justice and more about conviction rates.

scott said...

that's gross Mr Ross...

This will probably serve to make stoners avoid owning a bong, or better yet, change that nasty water more often

Dirk Hanson said...


Man I must be getting old. Didn't know the meth bong was all that popular.

falkin42 said...

Didn't know about the meth/bong either, but that's a bit outside my sphere of usage. I can't imagine anyone drinking my (or any) bong water, though, excepting desperation I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Just me, but.... isn't methamphetamine water soluble? Putting it into a water-filled bong sounds like an effort to dispose of or hide the substance, not use it.
Additionally, THC is fat soluble, which is why it will travel through water unhindered in the first place. This also means that there is VERY, VERY LITTLE THC left in the water itself. I read an analysis of bong water once that said you'd have to drink two gallons (I think, maybe more) to get high

Dirk Hanson said...

"Putting it into a water-filled bong sounds like an effort to dispose of or hide the substance, not use it."

That's what I thought, but I have been put right by people who have shown me that specially-made meth bongs are in fact rather popular.

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