Bong water is an illegal drug, Minn. Supreme Court rules

By chillinwill · Oct 22, 2009 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    Time to dump your bong water in case the feds show up at your door. They might think you actually plan to drink it later. According to a split decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court, a person in possession of more than 25 grams of bong water that contains a controlled substance can be prosecuted for a first-degree drug crime.

    While most people wouldn't consider bong water to be a legitimate drug, a narcotics officer testified that users will sometimes save the bong water and drink it later. We just puked a little.

    The decision came after a Rice County woman had a glass bong seized from her home that tested positive for methamphetamine. The Supreme Court says that bong water now counts as a drug "mixture" under state law.

    Here's an idea: If you find bong water that tests positive for drugs, chances are you'll find some drugs hanging out somewhere close by. Are we getting that desperate in these drug wars to suspect that a normal person would actually drink bong water to get high? At that point we should almost have sympathy for drug addicts.

    By Emily Kaiser
    October 22, 2009
    City Pages Free Expression

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  1. Coconut
    Absurdity of the same calibre as jenkem. Nobody in their right mind would ever drink used bong water... ever.

    I feel I should also mention that delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and many other cannabinoids are barely - or not at all - soluble in water, so this law just demonstrates a lack of basic research and knowledge.
  2. chillinwill
    Last week the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that bong water is an illegal drug. Under state law, a controlled substance includes any "mixture" containing that substance, "regardless of purity."
    The consequences of reading that definition literally can be severe. In the case before the court, a woman whose bong contained 37 grams of water with traces of methamphetamine will now be treated as if she possessed 37 grams of speed, which converts possession of drug paraphernalia, a petty misdemeanor punishable by a $300 fine, into a a first-degree drug offense, punishable by seven or more years in prison. Three dissenting justices wrote that the majority's interpretation of the statute "misapplies the plain-meaning rule...runs counter to the legislative structure of our drug laws, does not make common sense, and borders on the absurd."

    This sort of absurdity has a long pedigree. Back in 1993, I wrote a piece for Reason in which I highlighted the ridiculously unjust results of including the "carrier medium" for LSD (typically blotter paper) in calculating the drug's weight for sentencing purposes:

    Under federal sentencing guidelines, selling 100 doses of LSD in pure form triggers a minimum sentence of less than a year, but selling the same amount on paper will get you a sentence of at least two years, three months. And if you were old-fashioned enough to drop your acid onto sugar cubes, you will end up behind bars for no less than 15 years, eight months.

    Like the Minnesota ruling, this interpretation of the law elicited amazed dissents. "All this seems crazy," the 7th Circuit's Richard Posner wrote in 1990. "To base punishment on the weight of the carrier medium makes about as much sense as basing punishment on the weight of the defendant." The arbitrary, incomplete fix that the U.S. Sentencing Commission devised for that problem—counting each dose in a carrier medium as 0.4 milligram to avoid "unwarranted disparity among offenses involving the same quantity of actual LSD"—is still in force, to judge by this 2006 sentencing manual (PDF). Many states also include "mixtures" in their definitions of illegal drugs; the earliest example I found was New York in 1969.

    Rereading that 1993 article, I was also struck by the discussion of the disparity in sentences between crack and cocaine powder:

    Julie Stewart, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, says the Sentencing Commission's proposed LSD amendment will probably take the pressure off Congress. Especially if the change is retroactive, the families of LSD defendants will be less noisy, and judges will find the sentences they're forced to impose less disturbing.

    Stewart is more optimistic about the possibility of a legislative solution for crack offenders. Federal law treats crack cocaine as if it were 100 times worse than the powdered form of the drug, cocaine hydrochloride. Thus 500 grams of crack triggers the same penalty as 50 kilograms of cocaine hydrochloride. A first-time offender with 20 grams of cocaine hydrochloride faces a minimum sentence of 10 months, while a first-time offender with 20 grams of crack faces a minimum of six years, six months.

    As I noted a couple weeks ago, it looks like the remedy that Stewart was optimistic about 16 years ago is finally coming to pass.

    Jacob Sullum
    October 28, 2009
  3. sirmoonie
    It gets worse. The updated article:

    "........a narcotics officer had testified that drug users sometimes keep bong water to drink or inject later."

    There was a time (thankfully, a very short time) when SWIM and his friends would shoot just about anything, just for kicks. SWIM can't imagine it even crossing his mind to shoot up bong water, and there was always plenty of that disgusting stuff around.

    That narc lied under oath, and that poor woman is facing serious incarceration as a result. An absolute "war on drugs" tragedy.
  4. chillinwill
    Follow up article pointed out by sirmoonie:

    Minn. Supreme Court Harshes Bong Water's Buzz

    Bong water can count as a controlled substance, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a decision that raises the threat of longer sentences for drug smokers who fail to dump the water out of their pipes.

    In a 4-3 decision Thursday, the state's highest court said a person can be prosecuted for a first-degree drug crime for 25 grams or more of bong water that tests positive for a controlled substance.

    The decision, which reverses two lower court rulings, came in the case of Sara Peck. Items seized during a search of her Rice County home in 2007 included a glass bong -- a type of water pipe often used to smoke drugs -- that contained 37 grams -- about 2 1/2 tablespoons -- of a liquid that tested positive for the presence of methamphetamine.

    The Supreme Court said that unambiguously counts as a drug "mixture" under the wording of state law and sent the case back to Rice County District Court for further proceedings. The decision, authored by Justice G. Barry Anderson, noted that the liquid wasn't plain clear water, but had a pink color and fruity odor, and that a narcotics officer had testified that drug users sometimes keep bong water to drink or inject later.

    The statute defines a drug "mixture" as "a preparation, compound, mixture, or substance containing a controlled substance, regardless of purity." When the language of a statute is unambiguous, the high court said, precedents prohibit courts from disregarding the letter of the law under the pretext of pursuing the letter of the law.

    In a sharply worded dissent, Justice Paul Anderson said the majority's decision "does not make sense, and borders on the absurd." He said it isn't consistent with what the Legislature intended when it wrote the state's drug laws. And he blasted Rice County authorities for charging Peck with such a serious crime.

    If bong water is considered a drug mixture, and it weighs enough to raise the crime to a first-degree drug offense, the presumed sentence for a first-time offender is seven years and two months in prison, and a felony drug offense goes on his or her record, Paul Anderson wrote.

    But if the bong water is treated as part of the drug paraphernalia, as the lower courts held, he wrote, the same defendant would face no more than a $300 fine and the petty misdemeanor conviction would not go on his or her record.

    Justices Alan Page and Helen Meyer joined in Paul Anderson's dissent.

    Attorney Bradford Delapena, who represents Peck, said he had not yet had a chance to discuss the ruling with her, but he said the dissent correctly pointed out the problems the ruling raises.

    "They're treating Ms. Peck, who had two tablespoons of bong water, as if she were a major drug wholesaler," he said.

    Delapena said Peck's case now goes back to the trial court, where he said prosecutors could use the ruling to try to extract a guilty plea to a more serious offense with a stiffer sentence than a $300 fine on a petty misdemeanor. He laughed at the suggestion that it means dope smokers should empty their bongs promptly.

    "I wouldn't presume to draw that lesson," he said. "I would just stick with the legal lessons."

    October 23, 2009
  5. Yail Bloor
    What is it I'm feeling? Rage? Frustration? Sadness? Fear? My heart certainly goes out to Ms. Peck... What kind of ignorant, despicable, small-minded mutant(s) could come up with this kind of atavistic bullshit? Why does this remind me of the 1936 propaganda film Reefer Madness? Have we, as human beings, not yet learned better? Ugh....
  6. Don't fear the Reaper
    SWIM is just dumbfounded at this. Injecting bong water... dear god..
  7. godztear
    SWIY should know this is why legal things are sold with warning labels on them, like snow blowers that say do not use on the roof. Just because some idiot somewhere has probably injected bong water this narcotics officer is just trying to stir up a fuss and make a name for themselves.

    On a side note, 37 grams of water somehow is suppose to be the equivalent of 37 grams of powdered speed? That ratio just doesn't even make sense, there is no science behind that judgment at all. The supreme court needs to be educated or just slapped around a bit to wake em up.
  8. mickey_bee
    Back when swim was 13 and smokin a bong with a friend in some nearby woods, he would occasionally have to move spots if there were too many people about, which meant pourin the bong water into a bottle.

    Unsurprisingly, after a few hours, swim made the mistake of thinking the bong water was the drinking water and vice versa...........nearly 10 years on and swim can still remember the taste, f**kin foul.

    And as for injecting bong just defies belief some of the crap these people are willing to spout. Insane.
  9. gammabetalactone
    SWIM accidently drank bong water once after consuming a large amount of mdxx pills thinking it was vodka. After SWIM realised what he did he felt very ill and defiently did not get high. Thinking about it even makes SWIM feel sick.
  10. HabitualCriminal
    Swim knows several people who have done this in the exact same situation! ha :confused:
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