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>"In a 4-1 ruling, the court found that prohibitions on using marijuana violated the 'right to the free development of personality'"

Perhaps that is out of context, and I don't know their constitution as a whole, but I am not finding a lot of sense in that sentence.

If drug use can be considered a "right to the free development of personality", then how else could America's "right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" be interpreted?




The Declaration of Independence, where that phrase comes from, is basically marketing bullshit. It's full of rhetorical flourish that Jefferson got away with precisely because it has no legal significance. After all, that same document says that "all men are created equal" while the Constitution enshrined the institution of slavery for another few generations.

The closest analogue in the Constituon is the idea that due process protects those fundamental rights inherent in "ordered liberty."


There is no analogue in the Constitution because the Constitution enumerates the specific powers granted to the Federal Government. Drug prohibition is not one of them, and the entire Federal war on drugs is held up by the lynch-pin supreme court case Wickard v Filburn... where the Supreme Court decided that "interstate commerce" applies to goods literally not involved in any commerce whatsoever.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wickard_v._Filburn https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gonzales_v._Raich


Wickard v. Filburn isn't the lynch-pin of the Federal war on drugs. It's a ridiculous case, but it's also a narrow one: does the Commerce Clause cover marijuana grown for personal use. That is obviously not interstate commerce within any sensible definition of the concept.

However, the drug trade in general is archetypal interstate commerce. Almost nobody grows and processes their own weed or their own cocaine. It all happens through cross-border commercial transactions.


Possession is illegal at the Federal level. All drug commerce that does not cross state lines is also illegal. There could be no federal war on drugs at all without the interstate commerce power the supreme court has derived.

Going further, the purpose of the interstate commerce clause was to give the power to regulate tariffs (and other taxes) between the states, not make entire trades illegal because sometimes those goods are sold elsewhere.


> There could be no federal war on drugs at all without the interstate commerce power the supreme court has derived.

For states where the state's laws agree that the drugs are illegal (i.e. most states now, and all states until relatively recently), there could be a (legal) federal war on drugs so long as the state government does not object. As to the practicality of the enforcement of such objections, we're seeing it play out right now with the states that have legalized it.


> Almost nobody grows and processes their own weed...

Er... really? In my experience, it's quite common.


weed is maybe a bad example. I think heroin would be more apt here, since that is usually grown and processed overseas before being imported.

where I'm from, growing and processing (curing and trimming) your own weed is very common.

this time of year is harvest season in fact.

plenty of odd jobs trimming marijuana pop up seasonally around here because of it.


I know more pot growers than pot buyers and I'm not even in a decriminalized state.


I know one person who grows their own weed. But I live in the city. In any case, marijuana and possession generally are a small part of the federal drug war.


The constitution was agnostic on slavery so far as I can recall. Article and section please?


Article I, Section 9, cl. 1 (which was among the provisions explicitly shielded from Amendment prior to 1808 by Article V.)


For the lazy

>The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.


Also Article I, Section 2, Paragraph 3 (the 3/5ths clause).


"Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three."

or to put it in terms that this forum would appreciate

  representatives = {NH:3, MA:8, RI:1 CN:5, NY:6, NJ:4, PA:8, DL:1, ML:6, VA:10, NC:5, SC:5, GA:3}

  def census(state): #call this in 3 years, and again in every 10 years
     result = 0
     for i in state.persons:
        if i.free or i.bound_to_service:
           result += 1
        elif not(i.indian and not i.taxed):
           result += 0 #included for clarity
        else:
           result += 3/5
     return max(int(result / 30000),1)
Note the 3/5th compromise is reached by way of "no other category applies" rather than an explicit "slavery" condition. Make of that what you will. Unrelated note: imagine if all law were written as programming.


As far as I'm aware that phrase isn't anywhere in the US constitution -- just the Declaration of Independence. It doesn't have any legal force.

The phrase "el libre desarrollo de la personalidad" however is present in the Mexican constitution, although in its context it isn't clear to me how it applies.


True, but people still basically accept it as a canonical element of American philosophy and believe it should be used to justify governmental actions. The Constitution contains the very similar phrase "promote the general welfare".


Sorry, HN is full of morons who like to downvote.

The Declaration of Independence has indeed been cited by the Supreme Court to give evidence of the intent of the drafters of the Constitution, where the phrasing in the Constitution is ambiguous. So you are perfectly correct.


They have used other documents from the time period for the same reasons. The point is it does not have direct legal Athority only incite into the way people thought.


Ah, I see.


Unfortunately the Supreme Court can't find laws unDeclaration-of-Independance-al.


People use statements from the Founding Fathers to justify anything they want. For example, since the Preamble to the Constitution specifies that it was set up to "promote the general welfare", there are many people that believe the government's job goes beyond providing favorable conditions for free markets and keeping them reasonably fair all the way to literally owing them a wage just for breathing, since the "general welfare" is not helped by some people being poor.

The fact of the matter is that if you're in a position to justify something you strongly believe in, no matter how high, visible, or supposedly rationally-based that position is supposed to be, you're going to find a way to push it through. Look at the ruling in Obergefell; even liberal publications said the legal basis cited for it was rubbish. In the general case, people will use whatever pretense they can to get what they strongly believe in, and justify it by saying that they're making something good happen (that is, the ends justify the means). Social sciences are like 90% this, and from thence comes the phrase "never trust a statistic you haven't faked yourself".

It's not universal, but it happens way more often than most of us want to admit, in every field.


It just baffles me how people keep trying to use "maybe the government should protect people who can't protect themselves" as a self-evident example of egregious governmental overstep, instead of the fundamental reason we invented government.


We invented government to provide a fair and equitable structure that everyone could operate under. The idea is that everyone can conduct their affairs in peace under our laws, and that those laws will allow (note, not guarantee, as the government can't force someone to be productive or useful) individuals to prosper and flourish by protecting their fundamental natural freedoms.

Government does not exist solely to "protect those who can't protect themselves". Whether a person has substantial physical resources with which to "protect himself" or not, that person can petition the government for relief and participate in the democratic process.

The thing here is that "protect people who can't protect themselves" is so generic it can mean anything, just like "the pursuit of happiness" or promotion of "the general welfare". Do you mean protecting employers against employees that want to steal time or goods? Do you mean protecting workers against idlers who want to consume their resources without having done anything to earn them? What about protecting companies against frivolous lawsuits from people just trying to get a big settlement? These likely aren't the problems you're thinking about, but they're the problems some people out there are thinking about.

See what I'm saying? People are going to bias their opinion to favor their individual circumstances, but again, we all have to live under the government's rule, and it needs to be as fair and equitable as possible for everyone. Not just rich people and not just poor people; not just atheists and not just theists; not just healthy people and not just sick people. The interests must be well-balanced to maintain social order.


It's never about what the laws say, but rather about who interprets the laws.


I've always hated that a "law" can be interpreted really.


This is your engineering or science background clashing with reality. I, for one, am glad that laws are interpreted and not taken as hard rules. Stupidity would reign otherwise, because it is impossible to create a hard and fast rule that will stand the test of time in a changing civilization.

Unfortunately, I have met too many CS types that are surprised by the concept of law interpretation. That's why liberal education is important.


I was following and agreeing with you (and was going to upvote you), until the last 2 sentences. You could have made your point without bashing "CS types" and CS/engineering education.


Don't you think it is scary to invest that much power in a post that is unelected and for life?


Not possible for it to be otherwise. Also, not desirable.

The law is not like an OS that society runs on, that's a very dangerous but sadly pervasive idea. The law is a tool that society uses for its own betterment, hopefully in the service of justice and liberty.


That's the nature of communication. There can be no communication without interpretation.


We do have some separation between eval (legislative) and apply (executive) though, but that mostly only works for a few things like presidential pardons.


Without it, our Constitution would be almost worthless. Segregation was brought down by the Interstate Commerce Clause!


I would argue that the ICC is something that seriously diminishes the Constitution, as the courts have applied such tortured logic so as to allow the federal government to regulate virtually anything.


The veneration of the Constitution is a weak point in American government. It's riddled with policy mistakes (see: Impeachment, where the Vice President would cast the deciding vote in his own trial should there be a tie) and rediculous vagaries (Judges serve for life so long as they remain "in good behavior"), not to mention the validation of the fundamental evil of slavery which was, at the time, already a point of contention.

Rather than an objective framework for government, the Constitution has morphed into a shield against discourse, a talisman wielded to justify policies that deserve to be questioned. It's our National Bible, where things are right because see, it says it right there.


You hit the nail on the head. We Americans are religious folks, and the Constitution is our own home-grown religious text.

Look at the veneration for the founding fathers, even elsewhere in these comments. That's religion, not thoughtful political discourse!


> It's riddled with policy mistakes (see: Impeachment, where the Vice President would cast the deciding vote in his own trial should there be a tie)

As mistakes go, this one is purely cosmetic. It has no actual implications; there would be nothing even minorly surprising about saying "the impeached party wins ties".


Not sure what gives you that impression. During the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, Chief Justice Chase cast 2 tie breaking votes on procedural issues. The purpose of this provision (Article 1, Section 3 - Chief Justice presides over the trial of the President in cases of impeachment) was separation of powers but the authors appear to have overlooked that value when it comes to the Vice President.


It doesn't matter. At worst it says that impeachment issues have to win by 2 votes. That doesn't damage separation of powers in any way. It's just an oddity.


I don't think the VP can vote unless there's a tie, so it just says impeachment issues have to win.


I personally think the Constitution should be thrown out and start over. It's an archaic document reflecting a radically different society.

Some love to treat it as sacred, but if it's so sacred how come we've had to amend it so much? Though come to think of it I wouldn't mind a few amendments to the Bible and Koran.


I always wondered why amendments weren't MORE common.


Consider how poorly the legislature works and then look at the process for amending the Constitution. I'm amazed there were so many!


Wow, who downvoted you for that? Wickard v. Filburn, seriously.


What else would you do with it?


Why don't we stop enumerating specific rights (which leads to picking winners and losers and inconsistent application) and refactor them into a few basic principles. Such as the basic property right of self ownership. Since you own your body, not the State, you may use marijuana. Simple.


We actually have such an amendment:

   The powers not delegated to the United States by
   the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the
   States, are reserved to the States respectively,
   or to the people.
Unfortunately the Supreme Court treats it like a fucking joke[1]:

Even though the woman grew cannabis strictly for her own consumption and never sold any, the Supreme Court stated that growing one's own cannabis affects the interstate market of cannabis. The theory was that the cannabis could enter the stream of interstate commerce, even if it clearly wasn't grown for that purpose and that was unlikely ever to happen (the same reasoning as in the Wickard v. Filburn decision). It therefore ruled that this practice may be regulated by the federal government under the authority of the Commerce Clause.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenth_Amendment_to_the_United_...


I like to think of it more as a Ninth Amendment issue:

  The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights,
  shall not be construed to deny or disparage others
  retained by the people
Just because a "right to the free development of personality" isn't specifically listed doesn't mean we don't have it.


Then every court case becomes a philosophical argument about the meaning, bound, and effects of those 'few basic principals.' Without a steady legal framework with predictable outcomes large society binds up pretty quick.


You think vague principles like "self ownership" are going to make for consistent legal frameworks?

How about we throw out our constitutions and make "be a good person" the law and leave it at that.


Those words are from the Declaration of Liberty, not the Constitution.

I'm not sure how/if SCOTUS uses the Declaration in their decisions. But it certainly does illuminate the feelings of the founders.


You people do realize that the Mexican Supreme Court does rule about the Mexican Constitution, right?




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