The Patriot Act is similar to our previous discussion on Judicial Review in one simple way- is grants too much power, and power without limitation. The Patriot Act supplies a very loose definition of terrorism. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Section 802 of the USA PATRIOT Act (Pub. L. No. 107-52) expanded the definition of terrorism to cover “”domestic,”” as opposed to international, terrorism… “A person engages in domestic terrorism if they do an act “”dangerous to human life”” that is a violation of the criminal laws of a state or the United States, if the act appears to be intended to: (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping. Additionally, the acts have to occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States and if they do not, may be regarded as international terrorism.” Simply put, our law enforcement agencies are granted the right to pursue individuals for criminal activity if it is deemed a potential act of terrorism. This has translated to quite an abuse of power of the years. Many would argue that this act has given law enforcement officials the legislation needed to pursue individuals for “regular” criminal activity that they otherwise do not possess enough evidence for, among other questionable legal activities. While I believe that the Pat Act was well intended, it has certainly proven to put a lot of individual rights in question. How far should our law makers be able to go to defend our land and protect our country, yet violate and deter the rights of individuals? And, at what cost?
ACLU, 2015. Top ten abuses of power since 9/11. Retrieved from https://www.aclu.org/top-ten-abuses-power-911.
The Patriot Act was established to help the government to detect terrorists and terrorist activity. The Patriot Act grants the government and the law enforcement more power than what they already have. “Congress enacted the Patriot Act by overwhelming, bipartisan margins, arming law enforcement with new tools to detect and prevent terrorism” (The USA Patriot Act, N.D).
The Patriot Act does infringe on civil rights and liberties when the government thinks an individual might be affiliated with terrorist activities. This is violates the Fourth Amendment, which is supposed to “protect individuals “in their persons”, homes, documents, etc. against unreasonable searches and seizures without the issuance of a warrant and probable cause” (Khalil, 2005). The Patriot Act allows law enforcement to search a home or a business without a search warrant or permission from the owner. It allows the FBI to search telephone records, email records, and financial records without the consent of the owner or court order”(Limeberry, 2008). The Patriot Act does much to damage the Constitution and violate the rights of immigrants and American citizens. Shouldn’t there be probable cause of criminal activity before a search or seizure can be made? According to the Patriot Act, it seems that there is no need for any probable cause to be determined. Once the FBI determines a “type of terrorist criminal activity”, whether of terrorist form or not, they can search a home and seize anything in it. Granted, The Patriot Act may have made it easier for law enforcement to detect terrorist activity, but it is also worsening our civil rights and liberties.
The Court signaled a retreat of sorts in Gonzales v. Raich (2005). In Raich, the Court upheld Congress’s power to prohibit growing or possessing marijuana for any reason. It ruled, by a 6–3 margin, that the California Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which permitted California residents to grow and use marijuana for medical purposes, did not supersede congressional law. To ensure that patients and their primary caregivers who obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes upon the recommendation of a physician are not subject to criminal prosecution or sanction.
Though medical marijuana was legalized and accepted by the majority of California voters, Proposition 215 does not supersede federal law. Marijuana is still illegal under federal law which causes a conflict between the state and the U.S. Government.
Since Raich, the Court has found only one other federal law to violate the Commerce Clause, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA), the ambitious federal health care law signed into law by President Barack Obama. But, as will be discussed in the next section, the Court upheld the ACA as a legitimate exercise of the taxing and spending power of Congress. Whether the Court has charted a clear path one way or the other on congressional power to promote social policy through the Commerce Clause is, at this point, up in the air.
Under the Commerce Clause, the Controlled Substances Act give the federal government the right to intervene in any sales or possession of marijuana. Marijuana is still classified as a schedule 1 drug. Drugs including marijuana under this schedule are deemed illegal by the federal government. States like California and Colorado have deemed marijuana legal for personal recreational and medicinal use. These States may allow this type of activity, however the federal government may also intervene in these issues. One such instance would be the case of Gonzales vs Raich. A recent essay released by the University of Missouri Kansas City explains the details of this case. Essentially in this case Angel Raich and Diane Monson cultivate and use marijuana for medicinal purposes. Their use is regulated by board certified practitioners who deem the use necessary for controlling their symptoms. According to the essay, “on August 15, 2002, county deputy sheriffs and agents from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) came to Monson’s home. After a thorough investigation, the county officials concluded that her use of marijuana was entirely lawful as a matter of California law. Nevertheless, after a 3-hour standoff, the federal agents seized and destroyed all six of her cannabis plants.” (UMKC, 2005) While the confiscation of the marijuana plants being used for a valid reason may be morally corrupt in the eyes of some, legally the action was justified under the Controlled Substances Act. (UMKC, 2005) Political issues that arise from this case are questions regarding the power and control of the federal government over state governments. The Supremacy Clause gives the United States Constitution, and the federal government the supreme law of the land. Although the Commerce Clause and Controlled Substance Act protects the nation from illegal drug distribution, black market crime, drug manufacturing, and sales, it can also cause controversy regarding personal liberties within various states. Legally the federal government can control any production of food and goods if it is deemed that by doing so, the economy is affected in any manner. (Ivers, 2013)
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