Justice Byron R. White Quote

“While the collateral consequences of drugs such as cocaine are indisputably severe, they are not unlike those which flow from the misuse of other, legal, substances.”

~ Justice Byron R. White

dissenting in Harmelin v. Michigan 501 U.S. 957 at 1023 (1991)

Ratings and Comments

Terry Berg, Occidental, CA

This may, on the face of it, sound a bit reckless but it's not. The key word here is 'misuse'.

E Archer, NYC

'Drugs' include all those little pills in your medicine cabinet and purse -- not just the illegal ones. Be careful about giving government the ability to drug you and your children -- they won't give you the good stuff, only the drugs that will make you more docile and suicidal. Government soma is paid for with our own lives.

Mike, Norwalk

The quote is true on its face but does not address context. Comparing illegal drugs to legal drugs for open consumption is more an emotional argument than a lawful one. The argument for any drug's use, pro or con, in the arena of The God of Nature's law(s) of personal freedom, liberty, and responsibility is a much stronger argument if it were allowed in any of government's 4 branches (the media being the government's PR extension 4th branch). The current de facto theocratic collective no longer recognizes personal sovereignty or law, but only its own unlawful perversions, declarations, and interpretations.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

What is the point of the quote? Legal drugs supposedly have a beneficial use. Is there a beneficial use of coaine? A redeeming value?

Me Again
  • Reply
    Me Again    4/24/08

    I'll have to partially agree with this quote.

    StanLee, South Dakota

    I would love to see the context in which this quote was made. I certainly hope Justice White is not attempting to justify or excuse Illegal drugs on the premise of legal drug abuse.

    E Archer, NYC

    Yes, cocaine has medicinal purposes, as does heroin and even marijuana. Congress repeatedly ignores the advice of physicians and medical associations. What does Congress know about medicine -- they need those campaign dollars from big pharma. Leave medical issues to patients and their physicians. Waffler, you say "change the law" if you don't like it -- well, 15 states have legalized marijuana for medical use and more are coming -- yet the federal government continues to imprison people who grow their own medicine with their doctors approval AND the approval of the State by will of the People. Waffler, if you are such an advocate of democracy, what gives Washington the right to ignore the will of the People in those states that have legalized marijuana? I believe the point of the quote is to demonstrate that even federal judges are against drug prohibition even if they do have to uphold federal laws that usurp States' and individual rights.

    Joe, North Caldwell, NJ

    Well, Archer & I finally agree on something. As a physician, I can tell you that legalization is something we should all advocate. We would not control drug addiction this way but we would eliminate most of the criminal activity that surrounds it. Drug addiction is an unsolved problem. No matter how you approach it, once a person becomes addicted, they tend to go back to their drug of choice. This is one issue on which I am in complete agreement with my Libertarian friends. Legalizing it gets rid of a huge and violent criminal empire just as it did with alcohol. Neither drug addiction nor alcoholism are reasonable behaviors, but as my grandmother used to say about liquor when I was a kid, "You can't legislate behavior." And that is that.

    jim k, austin, tx

    Amen ,Joe from New Jersey. Check out this web site, LEAP.CC and see what a group of former drug cops have to say.

    Editor, Liberty Quotes

    StanLee, the source of the quote has been added. Cheers.

    Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

    Archer, the 15 states notwithstanding I assume it is still a Federal Law that is being violated. Don't blame the cops for enforcing the law. You and the 15 have a right to keep fighting until you change the law, you and the 15 have a right to disobey the law but don't bitch if you get caught.

    Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

    Archer it is cute how you use "democracy" to your benefit when you think you can get away with it. I respectfully suggest that 15 states do not a majority make, so democracy is not helphing you here Kid!

    warren, olathe

    In spirit I agree with the legalization of drugs but it has proven in countries that have tried it to be a disaster. Addiction sky rocketed until they were made illegal again. The damage to society would be devastating. It would not stop people from committing crimes in order to purchase them whether legal or not. May be less organized crime but more crime by drug seekers.

    Joe, North Caldwell, NJ

    Warren, where legalization has failed (most famously in England), it was not because they botched the implementation, but because it was a bad idea. You want a disaster? Our approach (criminalization) has been a complete disaster. It's time to try something else.

    E Archer, NYC

    Waffler, apparently you do not believe in your own sovereign rights and the sovereignty of each state of the union, therefore, you always refer to the federal government as your authority. I, however, consider the individual the sovereign power, the government is our servant not our lord, and we have rights that no person holding any office can take away. It is a defeatist attitude to say we have to do whatever the government says, and indeed, the only way to remove unconstitutional statutes is to NOT observe them -- they are void on their face. That makes every person in jail because of marijuana possession a political prisoner -- and the laws are changing because the prisons are over-flowing with non-violent offenders of victimless-crimes. Just remember when we were growing up that black and white were segregated with signs for white and 'colored' services -- and that seemed normal for generations before that. The same is true for these obviously racist drug laws. We must stop making 'war' on ourselves -- who do we think we are anyway? My heart goes out to the million guys in jail for being caught with their stash and didn't hurt anyone -- what a disgrace of our in-justice system.

    Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

    Where you err Archer is in seeing what society does to us as "the government". Society has a right to protect itself and when it does yes some individual freedoms may take a back seat. Don't always see what society does, like fad diets, as something that is being done by the government.

    E Archer, NYC

    For the good of society? Creating huge criminal black markets and militarizing domestic police forces are NOT good for society. A government that ignores the Consitution and thus our inalienable rights is NOT good for society. To throw a man in prison because he smoked a joint instead of drinking a beer is NOT good for society. Alcohol prohibition was introduced for the good of society, but it was repealed because it did more damage than good. The same is true for the current drug war. Waffler's argument justifies any violation of rights if it is for the good of society. That is fascism -- and it is only a matter of time before they get around to you. Let he that is without sin cast the first stone.

    Mike, Norwalk

    Waffler, WHAT ? ? ? Based solely on your comments, what redeeming value do you have? You hate liberty and freedom, tyrannous government is your god, you make your living off pillaging the defenseless and you claim that some phantasm - "society" - is the foundation of morals, ethics as well as all else. I have tried to subpoena Mr./Mrs/Mz. Society ('Public', 'John Q. Public'. 'Populace', 'Communal', etc.) into court so I could question his/her/its true thoughts, what damage has been done and how they/it have suffered. How does society protect itself (I can't even find it)? I understand how a person (individually and in concert) can protect him/themselves (I can subpoena all of them). With in the current police state, even the badge toting thugs protect the, in toto aloof, alien government (I guess society) in stead of 'We The People'. So much has been blamed on this 'society' that I can't find. There has been a loss of freedom, prosperity, application of natural law, morality, and extreme collateral consequences. all in the name of protecting 'society'. Though a very weak argument, the quote here does make a valid point.

    Ronw13, Yachats Or

    Within the medical profession !! Big Pharma taking control of the helm has been observed very closely over the past say fifty years. Let alone the great minds of the not so long ago past, partaking of the delights of cocaine as with other herbs in the highest circles of society. " Misuse of other legal substances " ( DRUGS ). has shown to be the greatest source of misuse. Grandma selling her script on the street, grandma lives, sometimes in the poorest of neighborhoods ! As with others lacking any moral fiber concerning responsibility distributing their ( legal substance ) to fellow laborers ! Working class ( manual labor ) for one, is and has been, one of the worst hit. Resale on the street at a thousand percent mark up. Doctors writing scripts knowing well what is going on. Now it is the norm in creating as many addicts as possible, joined at the hip with big pharma, and big gov. for the sake of controlling sentiment towards socialist big brother. Blaming " society " for the trap their foot is caught in, perhaps the biggest lie ever told. Organic vs synthetic, moving away from simplicity for the sake of profit and discovery at the highest cost, Humanity and a Moral society. As a small child growing up in and around the medical profession, the first addicts I ever heard of, this in the days of sulfur drugs, were the doctors and nurses themselves. Heroin and cocaine addicts. Has anybody here besides the Doc worked in a Big Hospital lately !! Some as Waffler spouting rhetoric when he has no idea what in the h@ll he is talking about ! The quote is spot on !
    Semper FI

    Ronw13, Yachats Or

    Two things God supplies mankind with by way of his Natural Laws, " The Tool box and The Medicine Cabinet." You had better make damn well sure you,( know, Ginosko ) what you are talking about concerning both !


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