The Fourteenth Amendment of the United States constitution was passed after the civil war to provide equal protection to freed slaves under the law and to protect them from discriminatory behavior by the government. However, since then, the equal protection clause has been extended to prevent discriminatory action by the government against other races, as well as gender discrimination. One principle stated by the modern court regarding this amendment has been "the invidious quality of a law claimed to be racially discriminatory must ultimately be traced to a racially discriminatory purpose...governmental action is not unconstitutional soly because it has a disproportional impact." Read only this far, marijuana laws would not be considered unconstitutional despite the fact that Black men are admitted to state prisons on drug convictions at rates 13.4 times higher than white men, and in 2006, 44.2% of drug inmates were black, 27.1% white and 20% Hispanic, despite the statistic that In 2008, illicit drug use by blacks were 10.1%, whites were 8.5%, and 6.2% for Hispanics. However "discriminatory purpose May be shown by data regarding administration of a law, not merely by a disadvantaging racial classification on the face of the law. Moreover, a law neutral in language and application may have been enacted with a purpose or motive to discriminate." If this judicial reasoning and precedents are applied to the current application of marijuana laws it becomes abundantly apparent that the law as it stands should be unconstitutional under the equal protection clause.
In Yick Wo vs. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356 (1886) a San Francisco ordinance "prohibited operating a laundry without the consent of the Board of supervisors except in a brick or stone building" unless the board granted an operating permit -- a seemingly fair and reasonable law. However, the board granted 200 permits for operation in wooden buildings to all but 1 non Chinese applicants, but none to 200 Chinese applicants. Yick Wo was imprisoned because of his violation of the ordinance. However the court found that there was discrimination in the administration of the law despite the apparently neutrality in the laws language. The use of empirical and statistical data was enough to show that there was purposeful discrimination based upon racial hostility, though motive arguments were not permitted, only empirical data, which is abundant in the case of the application of US marijuana laws.
In addition to the statistical data provided in the first paragraph showing disproportional imprisonment of blacks and Latinos for marijuana violations, which constitutes the sort of empirical and data driven evidence accepted by the supreme court as proof of discriminatory purpose above and beyond simple and mere effect, the consequences of the application of marijuana laws also deny public services such as federal education loans, and opportunity to serve in military and civilians positions to black and Hispanics at a empirically obvious and statistically significant at a greater than 99% confidence level. When blacks and Hispanics are arrested and convicted on minor marijuana charges, they lose the ability to access federal student aid grants, as well as serve in positions in the government and military, without regard to the severity of usage or the ambiguity of the evidence regarding the mal-effects of marijuana on the use.
The statistical evidence shows that the administration of marijuana laws in this country is patently discriminating despite the neutrality of laws as written. According to precedent established by the supreme court, this statistical evidence is sufficient to show that the purpose of these laws are discriminating in nature and are thus unconstitutional. Further evidence of the unconstitutionality of current marijuana laws as they stand are further illustrated by the effect on the self conception of those who are light to moderate marijuana users, which is similar to the effect of inferiority disproportionately imposed upon groups in these already racially disadvantaged groups; an implication of inferiority which led the supreme court to rule that segregated schools were also unconstitutional due to
their similar invidious effects upon the affected groups of individuals. This inferiority imposition is created since these users as a class are deemed unfit to serve along side their peer, most of whom abuse a far more dangerous and toxic substance: alcohol.
This argument does not take into consideration the economic effects of the war on drugs and the pernicious effect it has in foreign countries because this would be a political matter that falls under the sphere of foreign affairs which may only be decided by congress. However, the cost on human life, is far greater than the benefits of deterrence of usage, which is statistically unfounded, of criminalization of marijuana. Again those arguments will not be considered here because of their speculative and subjective nature. Finally, this argument does not delve into the original intent of the marijuana laws first enacted in the early 20th century, despite the evidence that their original purpose was to discriminate against Mexican Americans, another argument that will be left unexplored due to their speculative nature which cannot be demonstrated with empirical evidence. However, based on the simple statistics provided in the first paragraph, which may be further supported by mass amounts of further numerical and empirical datasets, the marijuana statutes, they stand, are patently discriminatory.
Marijuana Laws And 14th Amendment
- The Supreme Court Undermines Racial Preferences For College Admissions
- What Explains Racial Differences In Restaurant Tipping?
- Post-Affirmative Action: Racism Occurs Less Often In College Admissions
- Supreme Court Slightly More Diverse Than 200 Years Ago
- Science vs. Nonscience: Teaching Creation and Evolution is not the Compromise Position, it's the Fundamentalist One