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A Unexpected Trip to the Farmers' Market

Lara and I took the kids to the Fayetteville Farmers' Market this morning. Background: My primary "occupation" involves selling Aflac supplamental insurance policies. This activity, largely due to insufficient industry on my part, has not provided sufficient income to meet the financial needs of my family, so I took a second job as a recruiter for the J.B. Hunt Transport company. This job involved my working a 8am to 7pm shift every Saturday and Sunday. It paid minimum wage plus commissions for every driver recruited. This week I opened two new payroll accounts with Aflac and earned as much in two days as I would have earned in five months working at J. B. Hunt for just the base pay, and after two 20-hour weekends on the phone, I had developed very serious doubts about earning many commissions to supplament the minimum hourly wage I received for bothering people in their homes on Saturdays and Sundays.

This morning I got up at 6 am and went through all the usuall proceedures of preparing for my long and dreary weekend at J. B. Hunt (making coffee, ironing work clothes, yogaesque stretches to limber up my spine, showering, shaving and the like) but not a two minute interval passed in which I didn't think about calling in and quitting. I didn't do that, though. I drove to the jobsite in Lowell, logged in, got on the phones and spent 45 frustrating minutes there before logging out and going to my supervisor and telling him that I did not plan to continue with the job. He received the news calmly and didn't make any objection. "This job isn't for everyone," he said.

I clocked out, turned in my ID, got in my truck and drove back to my rental house in Fayetteville. When I got home, Lara responded to the news with a smile and good-natured laughter. We need all the income I can generate, but those long days with Logan and Callum wore on her psyche as much as those same long days spent on the phone talking to truck drivers wore on mine. From there, we got the kids dressed and loaded into the car, and we drove to the farmers' market.

At the farmers' market, we stopped in at Patrice's stand and talked to him for a bit, but Logan tugged anxiously at my arm, and so I left and followed him to a part of the Fayetteville Square where kids gathered to play on and around a constructed stone waterfall. We stayed there for maybe twenty minutes and then we went to regroup with Lara and Callum. We found them standing in front of a table covered with books and pamplets. A man with a long white beard was talking to Lara. He wore a lei of flowers and (I'm guessing, faux) marijuana leaves. As I approached, I could hear that the man was telling Lara about a recent legal decission that cleared the way for the importation of ayahuasca into the US for legal use as a religious sacrament. As I took my place beside her, she handed me a pamphlet entitled "The Magic of Jesus: Part 1" The black and white, tri-fold pamphlet has a large marijuana leaf printed on it. I have since read the panphlet, and it actually makes no mention of marijuana. I guess that comes in Part II.

Upon my arrival, Lara informed the man that she and I had gone to Peru together, and I patted Logan on the head and told the bearded man that Logan was our ayahuasca baby. "What a blessing," he said, or something to that effect. I introduced myself and extended a hand. He shook it and introduced himself as Reverend Tom Brown. In talking with him at the market and reading about him on-line, I've learned that Rev. Brown owns a 40-acre farm here in Fayetteville and that he spent five years in prison for growing the marijuana that his First Church of the Magi uses as its sacrament.

I found this photo of Rev. Brown using the Google image search, but he looks considerably different now with the a beard that reaches his tummy.

Rev. Brown had an intensity about him that set off my internal alarms, but it should come as no surprise that a man who spent five years in prison for practicing his religion and emerged unrepentant would radiate the ideological fervor of the true believer. I was wearing my prescription sun glasses, but Rev. Brown maintained unwavering eye contact with me as he spoke. Lara and I wondered if he had smoked anything before coming to the farmer's market. I guessed that he had not and it was because of the clarity of consciousness I thought I read in his eyes.

I have no opinions about the possible use of marijuana by Jesus, but Rev. Brown would have to talk to a great many people before he found someone more sympathetic to the idea of ending the prohibition against marijuana and the persecution of those who grow and use it. On paper, I would seem the perfect audience for him. Even so, I found myself adopting a stand-offish attitude with him. In particular, I expressed skepticism regarding his seemingly boundless optimism regarding an impending supreme court decission that stands ready to demolish the legal impediments to growing and using marijuana and hemp any day now. He pointed out, rightly, that I had not followed the case of Angel Raich Vs. John Ashcroft as he had. He recommended that I do a Google search on the topic when I got home. I did just that and found the following:

http://blogs.salon.com/0002762/stories/2004/11/23/raichVAshcroftAGuideToTheS.html

In short, Angel Raich uses marijuana for medical purposes on the advise of her doctor. Her doctor maintains that she will die without marijuana. The feds raided her California medical marijuana coop and arrested her. Her defense challenges the constitutionality of the federal government's actions to prohibit the production and intra-state distribution of marijuana.

The federal government's authority to wage a war on drugs supposedly stems from the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution which grants the federal government the power to regulate commerce with foriegn countries and between the states. Angel Raich maintains that no money changed hands in conducting the affairs of the patients' coop, and that all of the activity from planting the seeds to smoking the marijuana took place inside the state of California. The activity for which the federal government is prosecuting her did not involve the exchange of money, and thus does not constitute commerce, nor did it involve anyone outside of the state of California, so any claim by the federal government that their raid on her home and their persecution of her falls under the rubric of regulating interstate commerce is clearly spurious.

The Raich case has gone all the way to the US Supreme Court, and they will announce their decission in the Spring of 2005. That means the final ruling in this case really could come any day and it really might just represent a fundamental turning point in the federal government's world war on some drugs and the people who choose to use them.

The Justice Department and the DEA stand to loose an enormous amount of power and authority if the federal courts rule that they may not arrest people for violations of the rules of interstate commerce when the activity in question involves neither the exchange of money nor the movement of prohibitted substances across state lines. It seems to me that they would do anything to prevent such a ruling or to establish that it does nothing to impede their authority to break into people's homes, imprison them, and confiscate their property and assets. I expressed skepticism at the prospect that the Drug War gravvy train might really be nearing the end of the line, but what I've read on-line since coming home from the farmers' market today seems to lend some credibility to Rev. Brown's optimism.

From
Raich v. Ashcroft - A Guide to the Supreme Court Case by Pete Guither
:
This case is likely to be one of the most important cases in recent years. It could have enormous impact on medical marijuana, states' rights, centralized federal power, the ability of Congress to direct local police activites, and much more.

And it is a case, by its nature, that essentially requires the court to make a strong decision. It would take a significant reach to find a technical loophole decision which would allow the status quo to continue in both the federal government's view of the applicability of the CSA and in the notion of federalism.

The Supreme Court doesn't like to overturn established laws of Congress, but the alternative will be to overturn states' rights principles. It may come down to what kind of coalition is formed within the Supreme Court within the new dynamics. States' rights has traditionally been the domain of the conservatives, yet is looking more attractive to liberals today. Every one of the Justices will find something on the Raich side that is appealing (whether it's medical necessity, individual liberty, federalism, strict constructionism, etc.)

My Prediction

I'm an optimist, and rarely do well with predictions, but I'll give mine anyway.

Here's my thinking. I've seen nothing in the Government's materials that gives them a good answer to the question "If we overturn Raich, can you name any activity that is outside the reach of the Federal government?" In addition, there's not going to be any interest in overturning Morrison and Lopez this quickly (which they'd almost have to do in order to overturn Raich).

I'm going to guess that the Supreme Court is going to end up deciding to make this one a landmark decision, reaffirming a specific carved out place for states' rights. 8-0 decision in favor of Raich, applying narrowly to situations where states have specific legal and medical systems/procedures in place.


I still think that we're years away from drug peace, but it could happen very quickly once the right set of circumstances emerges. I remember how quickly the Cold War ended when for my entire life up to that point it seemed like something so entrenched and unassailable that it would never end.

Dare we hope?

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
wildgarden
May. 1st, 2005 04:03 am (UTC)
good post
I hope.

I worked with a San Pedro group for many years and now lately I have been interested in Santo Daime religion. I know there's a church in new mexico. I wonder if there is a group in northern cali?
kmo
May. 2nd, 2005 01:11 pm (UTC)
a group in northern cali?
I'm sure the interest is there. Perhaps you could start one.
sutut
May. 1st, 2005 05:22 pm (UTC)
I hope too.

It seems right now we have a war between the Judicial system and the rest of the government and that's another way they can 'stick it to the fascists' and still be well within their house.
kmo
May. 2nd, 2005 01:09 pm (UTC)
a war between the Judicial system and the rest of the government

If the SC upholds Raich it will add a big bundle of fuel to the "activist judges" cry of the cultural conservatives.
sutut
May. 2nd, 2005 05:07 pm (UTC)
Re: a war between the Judicial system and the rest of the government
They had their heydey with Terri a while back. Since they refused to break the interpetations of the law they were expected to, it cost them big time. Any of the legislators, including the Governor or the President could have saved her with one word. For instance, the President controls the "Surgeon General"'s office and can act in his place if he fires him for any or no reason. A simple warning that every single doctor in that hospital would permanantly lose his medical liscense for not treating her would do the job. But that would have interferred with payouts from insurance companies and corporations that own hospitals. That is the obvious reason why Bush jr. as Governor of Texas signed a bill that allowed doctors to suffocate a little black baby against its mother's wishes. Of course, it is interesting how little news coverage that recieved and without the internet, IMHO, it would have had none.

I really doubt this will be plastered all over the media. There would be to much public support FOR them this time.
mungojelly
May. 1st, 2005 05:58 pm (UTC)
Of course we can hope.

One thing's for sure: It's going to be a fascinating ruling to read, either way.
kmo
May. 2nd, 2005 01:06 pm (UTC)
fascinating ruling to read, either way
Fascinating and frightening. I fear that their desire to justify the drug war will prompt the court to do some extraordinary constitutional/ideological gymnastics that will open the floodgates to stepped up federal intrusion into realms previously regarded as the domain of the states.

At this point, I can well imagine a near-term future in which we wish the SC had never agreed to hear this case. Hopefully it will go the other way.

Here's hoping that the drug war ends as quickly and peacefully as did the cold war. [Fingers crossed and knocking on wood.]
mungojelly
May. 2nd, 2005 04:35 pm (UTC)
Re: fascinating ruling to read, either way
And what do you do, in a supposed democracy, when the Supreme Court makes rulings which clearly contradict the spirit & letter of the constitution?

One ideas I've had in the past: Amend the constitution by underlining certain parts!

Of course if growing marijuana & smoking it in the same house without any transfer of money (or barter), or transfer of anything at all except bud from plant to vaporizer, is "interstate commerce" (interstate!! commerce!!) then I really can't see any way that it matters what we put into the constitution.

Hell, all it says is "Congress shall make no law".. maybe they could just make regulations or rulings or even ah.. suggestions. That's it. Congress suggests you not publish that particular book, on pain of death. Not that it's a law or anything, you'll back me up on this one, right SC ol' pal??
kmo
May. 2nd, 2005 09:29 pm (UTC)
Re: fascinating ruling to read, either way
I like the idea of amending the constitution by underlining parts of it.

Also, we could append certain passages with phrases like "For real," and "This means you."
mungojelly
May. 3rd, 2005 02:41 am (UTC)
Re: fascinating ruling to read, either way
Here's another good one I thought of:

The Bill of Rights was supposed to ennumerate certain rights of the people for absolute certain, but it wasn't supposed to be a catalog of ALL of the rights of the people. It was just the absolute most important ones. Since then the precedent seems to be to consider those enumerated rights as pretty much the whole thing, with maybe a few others here & there.

My idea is to somehow employ modern technology to enumerate as many rights as is possible/necessary to get the idea across that the people ought to actually have lots of specific degrees of freedom. People could submit rights for consideration, like "the right to burst into spontaneous joyful laughter" or "the right to say the word 'banana'."
quietlion
May. 2nd, 2005 02:56 pm (UTC)
Excellent post, Kevin. It's nice to hear about your life.

Richard
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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