Can Renee get political asylum in Canada over drug charges?
May 2, 2002 3:55 PM   Subscribe

Can Renee get political asylum in Canada over drug charges? Over half of those in US federal prisons are in on drug charges, and one in five of those people are there on cannabis-related charges. In a word, this is wrong. It is time for Canada to once again act as the conscience of our neighbors to the south, as we did during the final days of slavery, providing a sanctuary at the end of the Underground Railroad; as we did in the final days of the Vietnam War, providing a haven for its conscientious objectors. Once again it is time to tell America, both firmly and with compassion, "what you are doing is wrong." To do so and to act thus, is a Canadian tradition and an obligation to the world at large.
posted by skallas (21 comments total)
 
People in favor of marijuana legalization(and I count myself among them) realize that in the case of weed, at least, it's not the drug that's the problem, but rather the behavior of many who deal in them that's wreaking havoc on society.
These problems all stem from the drugs illegality-dealers shooting eachother to maintain territory, people breaking into your house to steal the TV cos the stuffs so expensive. So I hope Canada does offer small-time pot offenders asylum.
I do hope they use discretion in who they offer it to, because there are some dangerous people in the pot business as there are in any business where billions of dollars are at stake.
When the argument moves into harder drugs, the idea of an Underground Railroad becomes more problematic because the damage wreaked by say meth or heroin is far more severe and far reaching.
posted by jonmc at 4:39 PM on May 2, 2002


Meanwhile in Oregon the terminally ill have to fight for their democratically chosen right to die with dignity. It's as if the DOJ actually wants people to suffer. They're out of their fucking minds. I really hope Canada helps this woman and others like her.
posted by homunculus at 6:21 PM on May 2, 2002


Solution is, as always, simple: legalize possession and growing of "personal" amounts of weed. Prosecute hell out of people for trafficking it (exchanging $ for grams) and for large-scale grows. Except, of course, for the government-sanctioned operations that are used to supply the government-controlled retail sales through government-run recreational drug (alcohol and pot, and let's throw tobacco in there while we're at it) stores, with enormous taxes built-in.

All of a sudden there's a renewed interest in gardening, a lot less tension in the nation, the national debt is eliminated, and the drug gangs move south.

Personally, I'd be happy to see all drugs legalized, all available through government-run distribution, and taxed to the hilt, with that money directly and clearly funding drug rehabilitation programs. It sure as heck can't cost more than the losing "war on drugs" and would do a helluva lot more good.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:32 PM on May 2, 2002


five fresh fish, thank you.
posted by keithl at 6:38 PM on May 2, 2002


I think most people support marijuana decriminalization. Think about it, have you ever actually met someone who thought marijuana should be illegal? I haven't, I bet most of the posts on this thread will be pro decriminalization too.

My theory is that all these polls showing Americans opposing marijuana are made up by the corporations and the government. That referendum in Alaska should have passed man.
posted by bobo123 at 7:36 PM on May 2, 2002


What a slap in the face on the US-led global war on drugs this would be. Sure Canada is no Holland, but if they started saving US citizens from their own government it might wake some up to the mindlessness behind the war on drugs. Bobo123, if it wasn't for the anti-drug people we wouldn't have this problem. Trust me, they're out there.
posted by skallas at 8:03 PM on May 2, 2002


What really blows me away about this whole silly-assed "war on drugs" is that our political leaders must be stark raving mad.

There's a saying that goes something like "the definition of crazy is to do the same thing and expect different results."

To everyone that isn't delusional, it's quite obvious that everyone who's had an inkling to have a drug has been able to get that drug. There is obviously no real control over drugs. The entire drug war thing is a flop.

If a mere civilian were to cause as much damage to society as our leaders have by enacting this stupid drug war, we'd lock him up and throw away the key. He'd clearly be certifiably insane and a threat to others.

Yet somehow, we keep managing to let madmen make policy.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:51 PM on May 2, 2002


To actually address the article and subject:

Disclaimer: I do not support all of the US' "war on drugs"

Folks, this thread has nothing to with US policy on drugs, the number of drug offenders in prison, or even your view or usage of drugs.

Sympathy for these people does not equal a grant of asylum
A grant of asylum for these people would be an abuse of power and an inappropriate use of assume. Alyssum is meant to protect people who are being persecuted for their religious or political beliefs. Wanting to do drugs is neither a protected right or political belief. It is against the law. While one may argue laws banning weed smoking are wrong or even unjust the fact remains the activity is illegal.

Even if smoking weed were legal one would still not have a protected right to smoke it. Nor would stopping a person from smoking weed amount to persecution. Is stopping someone from drinking booze or doing any other legal act that is not constitutionally protected political persecution? No. Persecution is fairly high standard to meet. Thus, there are only few activities that meet such a standard. Even if legal, smoking weed does not meet this standard.

These people should return to the US to stand trial. At trial they have a legitimate 14th Amendment argument that they should be tried at the state level. Folks, this argument could be a winner. Even a loss at the trial court, would not mean defeat. If found guilty, these people have a strong 14th Amendment argument at the appellate level.

In sum...
1) Asylum is inappropriate because wanting to do illegal acts (made illegal for public health reasons) is neither a protected activity nor a political belief.

2) These people have a legitimate and strong 14th Amendment argument (courts have historically upheld more than less of these claims) at both the trial court and appellate level notwithstanding a half hearted, B.S. claim for asylum. So, these people have no reason not to come back.

Making this a us v. them or peaceful pot smokers v. big, bad US Government is foolish, unfounded and only done to obscure the real issue involved.
Shame on all of you!

So, Mr. Cauchon, I humbly beg you to extradite these people.
posted by Bag Man at 10:38 PM on May 2, 2002


Here's a depressing link to an op-ed piece in the Washington Post by John P. Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy: "The Myth of 'Harmless' Marijuana."
posted by StOne at 10:47 PM on May 2, 2002


(depressing, I mean, because it only proves the Feds are still holding to the hardline, not because the arguments Walters makes are vaild)
posted by StOne at 10:49 PM on May 2, 2002


. Is stopping someone from drinking booze or doing any other legal act that is not constitutionally protected political persecution?

Bag Man, I think you missed the point. According to Chris Bennett the marijuana was used medicinally and not recreationally. The whole point is that Renee allegedly helped grow a small amount of marijuana for someone who was, again, allegedly using it medicinally. If we believe the author, then the booze comparision doesn't work. Booze being recreational, pot in this case being medicinal.

I do believe being pro-drug legalization is a political stance and according to the author one of the ill men who used marijuana for his nausua died in prison because he was denied it. Persecution? I think so. Is it on the level of genocide? No, but this is more of a personal attempt for Chris to continue to keep his family without US law taking his wife away over growing medicinal marijuana.
posted by skallas at 11:48 PM on May 2, 2002


Bag Man, you have missed the point entirely. The fact that Renee was breaking US law is irrelevent. If the Burmese ban all political parties (as an example) then anyone who joins an opposition party is breaking the law. A Burmese political activist is hassled and threatened by the military police. Would you deny that person asylum because they broke Burmese law? I hope your answer is "of course not".

I think you're also being overly optimistic about this woman's chances of success if she were to stand trial in the US. In the current climate, things are worse than ever. The US is more out of step with drug attitudes in the rest of the first world than I can ever remember. 10 years for a crime like this is laughable.
posted by salmacis at 5:56 AM on May 3, 2002


Alyssum is meant to protect people who are being persecuted for their religious or political beliefs.

I think you're making a pretty narrow definition. Over the past few years, the US INS has extended asylum to both abused women and gays. Would either of these groups fit in the category of religious or political beliefs?
posted by norm29 at 6:15 AM on May 3, 2002


While one may argue laws banning weed smoking are wrong or even unjust

if it is unjust, wouldn't escaping unjustice laws be a good reason for asylum?
posted by tolkhan at 6:45 AM on May 3, 2002


In response:

The US is more out of step with drug attitudes in the rest of the first world than I can ever remember. I think you're also being overly optimistic about this woman's chances of success if she were to stand trial in the US. In the current climate, things are worse than ever

Given the "lag" in the appointments to the Federal Bench the US's current trend toward a harsher "war on drugs" should have little affect on a judge's ruling of law. Also, the Federal Bench is in the Judicial Branch, quite separate from the current rashness of the legislative branch and the executive branch.

P.S. So what, I do want to impose by beliefs on other people, so other people's veiws should not be imposed on us. Poor argument.

Over the past few years, the US INS has extended asylum to both abused women and gays. Would either of these groups fit in the category of religious or political beliefs?

Smoking or growing weed can be distinguished from being gay. Being gay is lifestyle that goes toward the expression of sexual preference. Smoking week goes toward liking to do a recreational or medicinal activity. Sexual preference is fundamental right, which is protected at law (see the amendments to the Civil Right Acts of 1964 and 1968, as well as several state and Federal Supreme Court decisions). Doing or frowing drugs is not.

Given that these people grow the weed for medical use (which Federal law bans, but is ok in her state) a change is jurisdiction base on a 14th amendment argument is the correct argument not an asylum argument.

If the Burmese ban all political parties (as an example) then anyone who joins an opposition party is breaking the law. A Burmese political activist is hassled and threatened by the military police. Would you deny that person asylum because they broke Burmese law? I hope your answer is "of course not".

Yes, of course my answer would be to allow asylum in such a case. However that case is distinguishable. Freedom of speech and political association is fundamental right recognized by both the US and most of the world. Doing drugs or even growing them for medical use has NEVER, anywhere in the world (although legal is some places) been give the status of a FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT. It's a question of degrees; smoking or growing weed does not rise to a degree of a fundamental right that need protection by asylum.

I support the growing of weed for medial use. I even visit the chief ever so often, but I not will condone the twisting of the law and the bastardization of the asylum concept for such a thing. Especially when these people have an adequate recourse (although not a guaranteed winner) in another form.

I know I've hit the nail on the head. It's not about pot smoking; it's about what is and what is not recognized as a fundamental right to engage in an activity. See?
posted by Bag Man at 7:27 AM on May 3, 2002


Bag Man, scaping slavery was illegal, and so was dodging a war started on a lie. But apart from that, this is a political charge. So political that the GOP government is bringing federal charges against the expressed will of the California voters. What gives?
posted by magullo at 7:29 AM on May 3, 2002


Bag Man is arguing the law and the facts and his interlocutors are pounding the table.
posted by Holden at 7:43 AM on May 3, 2002


Holden, Bag Man is saying the written law of a country cannot be deemed unfair by other. As an clear example of how that is not the case, several European countries have recently declined to extradite terrorist suspects to the USA because they deem the death penalty unfair. And that is the end of it. It doesn't matter whether the guys have broken the law, it doesn't matter that the U.S. was attacked, it doesn't matter that it is a democraic country (at times): the suspects are simply not extradited due to an unfair law.
posted by magullo at 8:06 AM on May 3, 2002


Bag Man is arguing the law and the facts and his interlocutors are pounding the table.

If you're counting me as a table-banger, then I have to disagree. I'm simply suggesting that the definition of political asylum he has offered is a straw man, not that it should be used in this particular case.

Political asylum seems to be used as a political weapon as often as not, denying asylum to refugees from "friendly nations", while throwing the door wide open when it suits our propaganda purposes. (I'm speaking of the US here.)

While the 14th Amendment argument is good, if my freedom depended on it, I would try any option available.
posted by norm29 at 8:58 AM on May 3, 2002


The aforementioned table-pounders are persuasive and are arguing the law. On reflection, we have no table-pounders.
posted by Holden at 9:54 AM on May 3, 2002


While the 14th Amendment argument is good, if my freedom depended on it, I would try any option available.

Good point, I would too. However, I'm making a legal argument. It is fundamental that that law be applied equally to all. Why should an exception be made in this case? I don't any persuasive evidence to create an exception for drug use.

Bag Man, scraping slavery was illegal

Actually, not true at all. At the time slavery existed, although legal in many states, it was against the Federal Constitution’s guarantee of the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, along with a pretty serious violation of first amendment rights. At that point in time it should have been declared unconstitutional and illegal. The subsequent passage of the 14th and 15th amendments in the 1860s was not done to grant new freedoms, but done to ensure existing freedoms were not being enforced. Further the constitution’s instance a black slave was only "worth" 3/5 of a white person was not done not to deny rights, but was rather to determine representation and tax policies. Even if the 3/5 clause was done to deny rights, it was still inconsistent with existing first amendment rights (not to mention tons of other rights).

Bag Man, scraping slavery was illegal

Even if that was true, it's still a bad example. Again, we have a difference in degrees. The constitution protects political rights that seen as universal and granted by natural law. The constitution is amended to make sure that those basic universal laws are applied equally to all. I am racking my brains to find any universal law or any part of the Constitution to enforce the argument that doing or growing drugs should be protected as fundamental political right.

The wrong of owning people = the wrong of not allowing one to grow weed? Come now, you can't be serious.

Further, advocating the legalization of weed (a protected free speech right) should be confused with engaging in conduct that is illegal and not proteced by any fundamental Constitutional right.

So political that the GOP government is bringing federal charges against the expressed will of the California voters. What gives?

Federal law supercedes state law. Regardless of who is in power, this is a tenant of law. Are these two laws in conflict? Who wins? I'd argue the Cally law is an exception to the Federal and not in conflict with the Federal law – hence, the 14th amendment due process agreement is sustained.

Also the GOP (I’m not sure who are referring to) does not have the power to bring charges against anyone. I hope that the Republican Nation Committee (Nor the Democratic National Committee for that matter) ever has such a power. The office of the Attorney General is bringing the charges. While a conservative Republican is head of the AG’s office, Aschroft is not bringing the charges. It’s likely that it some lawyer who has predates he Bush administration has drafted the complaint and will representing the people (not the government) in this matter. Further, it is likely that a Democratic controlled AG Office would do the same. Also, if that does not convince you…a Federal judge will make the ruling of law. A Federal judge is a member of the Judicial Branch. The Bush administration is part of the executive Branch. See the division of power? If it makes you feel any better, liberal Clinton appointees dominate the Federal judiciary. Judicial lag is in favor these people.

BTW: Holden, thank you

Bag Man is arguing the law and the facts and his interlocutors are pounding the table.

Isn't that the whole point? Appling facts to a legal doctrine to determine liability is the basis of a legal analysis. If that was not how it is done, the law would be totally arbitrary, I don't think we want that. A legal analysis must be done to see if a person is entitled to a right. Asylum is a legal right. If these people what asylum then the facts of their circumstances must be applied to the applicable law. The result of such an analysis is the answer to our legal question. What’s wrong with that?

Do I bang tables? If that means using logic to get an answer, than I will bang away.

P.S. What's interlocutors ? I guess you win the battle of vexing vocabulary.
posted by Bag Man at 12:31 PM on May 3, 2002


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