In a major victory for rational public policy, and in what seems to me like one more baby step toward an environment where we can have a non-hysterical discussion about this nation’s drug policy, the draconian federal law that cut off funds to public transit agencies who run ads calling for legalization or medical use of an illegal drug (that is, transit systems who allow the purchase of paid advertising space with this point of view) was declared unconstitutional Wednesday by a federal judge.
Judge Paul Friedman said the amendment attached to a $3.1 billion transportation measure, signed in January by President Bush, violated freedom of speech by banning messages based on their viewpoint, saying, in part:
“The government has articulated no legitimate state interest in the suppression of this particular speech other than the fact that it disapproves of the message, an illegitimate and constitutionally impermissible reason,”
This was a suit brought by the Drug Policy Alliance, the ACLU, Change The Climate, and the Marijuana Policy Project. This is a solid victory for those groups and I congratulate them on their work.
Many of you who do not give a shit about drug policy think that those of us who do are just concerned about the legal status of certain chemicals, but it goes much deeper than that. It hits at the core of our fundamental right to engage in open discussion and debate without being squelched by the government, and to be free to make our own personal health decisions. Further, this could apply to any point of view – from abortion to civil rights to the war on terror.
Congress and the Bush Administration attempted to codify into law what is clear discrimination against a particular political point of view. The fact that this seemes acceptable – basically outlawing the right to express a point of view in a public forum – should be terrifying to every American who cherishes their sacred right to say what they think.
A good day.