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Is government in drug war for the money?

By Hempology | July 28, 2007

Burlington Times-News, NC
25 Jul 2007


The drug war has provided the entertainment industry with seemingly endless fodder for movies and novels.  It has also led to laws that trample Americans’ freedom and rights in the effort to rid the nation of illicit drugs.  Among those laws are some we find particularly galling, such as asset forfeiture laws that allow law enforcement agencies to seize property or possessions that are linked to crimes.  These laws have been misused to fatten government coffers, sometimes without the benefit of due process.  And while seizures are always serious business, sometimes there’s a humorous, if not outright ridiculous, side to them.

Harold Von Hofe of Branford, Conn., found out the hard way that growing pot in one’s basement can have serious consequences.  He pleaded guilty to manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance after police raided his home and found 65 marijuana plants and assorted drug paraphernalia.  His wife, Kathleen, pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance, even though she denied knowledge of Harold’s secret garden in the basement of their home.

The Von Hofes were sentenced to probation for their crimes.  But they were in for a larger penalty.  When the government moved to seize the house, Kathleen objected, arguing she shouldn’t lose her home because she was unaware of what was going on downstairs and was guilty of simple possession.  The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and let her keep her half of the house.

Although we can see the justice of not taking Kathleen’s home from her for something of which she was unaware, we struggle with finding any sense in the case.  If one believes Harold got what he had coming, what did he lose? He still lives in the house with his wife; they’re just joint owners with the government.

Kathleen is free to take out a mortgage and buy out the government’s interest, but that means she would pay an additional penalty above her probation, and a high price to pay for simple possession.  It makes the government appear to be in the drug war just for the money.

Laws should be implemented to protect citizens from the actions of others, not to raise money for the government.  If politicians think government needs more money, they should raise taxes and face the voters in the next election.

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