Monday, January 10, 2011

$300 Fine Must be Assembled

I have been craving sugar and other sweets lately, which might explain my interest in the latest story. A lady named Lind Bird was travelling across the United States/ Canadian border when she was stopped and randomly searched. Authorities discovered an illegal item in her vehicle, threatened her with a fine, and eventually released her without a fine when she surrendered the object. She was later surprised to receive a letter asking her permission to destroy the contraband, informing her that if she wanted to contest the destruction it would cost her $250. She consented for the item to be disposed of.

The typical news commentators have gone wild for this story, but not for the reason one would suspect. Far from being an examination into searches, seizures, destruction of illicit property and so on, the focus is on the property itself; The object in question was a kinder surprise egg, which is illegal in the U.S because it poses a chocking hazard.

This is going to be tough for me to say, so no one say anything while I steel myself for it.
Here goes:
No one gives a tiny amount of a hell about this. 

At some point in the past legislation was passed that made the egg illegal, it is ridiculous, preposterous, and past the damn point to whine about it now; let alone realize the insanity of it at this late occasion because the enforcement of the law feels strange. One of the steps in evaluating legislation should involves considering the logistics of enforcing the law. If it is entirely unfeasible, the bill needs to be adjusted. If the notion seems ridiculous, deal with that.
But she was a Canadian; we have no say over United States law.
That is true, Dear Reader, but we do have control over what we bring on in, and if we travel to a foreign country, we should make sure we are not bringing in illegal crap, whatever form that might take, regardless of our views on the law. It is the duty of a conscientious traveler. When I was in Britain, I made sure to drive on the correct side of the road. I did not understand it, and I mostly did not like it, but I did it anyway. When I was flying recently, and the security pulled out of my bag a small Swiss army knife (the look security gave me when I was explaining my extend-able chopsticks was withering), I did not raise a stink about the fact that it was contraband because then I would not have gotten on the plane. If I had genuinely wanted to be a pisser about that, there are avenues to do it and they are not standing in line with your shoes off, waiting to board.

This relates to another problem Canada is facing. Over in Mission, B.C some homeowners are objecting the searches that have been conducted of their properties. The provincial law was intended to stop grow-ops, but is beginning to affect people that happen to like growing cucumbers in their basements (A tad eccentric, but honestly, if it would bring my decrepit basil plants back from the dead, I would dig myself a basement to keep them in) Functionally, the law describes the circumstances under which reasonable suspicion can be cast, allowing officials to search the premise, which can cause fines of typically $5,200, but have been known to go higher, for the process. Apparently, this whole system is different from most government plans because it has already paid it's own start-up costs back, and generates revenue.

Some of you may be wondering how this relates, other than the fact that both stories contain integral elements that you can stuff in your mouth, but the relation is this: Marijuana should be decriminalized. The enforcement of it is too strange and invasive for far too small of a benefit. Some might argue that it would open the door to decriminalizing all drugs, but there is a definable difference between weed and other drugs. Mostly that weed is a plant, and harassing gardeners in the fashion they are carrying on in, is different than harassing some person with a chem lab in their basement.

There is always a portion of rationality that must be applied in the building and enforcement of laws, and sometimes living with the laws reveals how unfeasible they are simply by the fact of their actualization.
Too often we ignore situations where laws conflict and cause unfair situations, but we should be spending more time paying attention to these, they will help us shape a more balanced society.
Anyway, that is my little soapbox for the day.


Anonymous said...

Hold on ... a plant? I've heard that opium comes from a plant too?!
lol, mapa

Michael said...

there are a great many plants that produce dangerous and illegal substances. "It's a plant" doesn't mean much. So are poppies, but growing poppies for opium makes up almost the entire economy of Afghanistan.

Even alcohol isn't entirely free to produce. There are limits on quantity produced, and stills have a LOT of legal restrictions, and in some cases are entire illegal.