Last week I noted the First Amendment implications of the crusade against drug paraphernalia, citing the October 26 raids on two Capitol Hemp locations in Washington, D.C. To show that the water pipes sold at the stores were meant for smoking marijuana (rather than legal plant material such as tobacco), the search warrant affidavit noted the books and videos carried by Capitol Hemp, including "a DVD…entitled '10 Rules for Dealing with Police.'" To which Steve Silverman of Flex Your Rights responds: Hey, that's our video! The affidavit highlighted the DVD's nefarious aims:
The DVD gave the following listed topics that were covered as:
A. Deal with traffic stops, street stops and police at your door.
B. Know your rights and maintain your cool, and;
C. Avoid common police tricks and prevent humiliating searches.
Your Affiant notes that while this DVD is informative for any citizen, when introduced into a store that promotes the use of a controlled substance this DVD becomes a tool for deceiving law enforcement to keep from being arrested. The typical citizen would not need to know detailed information as to US Supreme Court case law regarding search and seizure because they are not transporting illegal substances in fear of being caught.
In other words, the water pipes are not inherently illegal, and neither are the DVDs. But if you sell them together in the same store, you can be busted for violating the District of Columbia Drug Paraphernalia Act. The upshot is that you are punished for exercising your First Amendment right to freedom of speech, which makes a kind of sense, because the effort to eradicate drug paraphernalia is all about stamping out controversial messages (as I argued in "Bongs Away!," my 2009 Reason story on the subject). Silverman also objects to the implication that only criminals take an interest in the Fourth Amendment:
10 Rules for Dealing with Police shows how everyday people can sometimes face uncomfortable encounters with police, and every citizen is better off understanding their constitutional rights. There is nothing in the video that a "typical citizen would not need to know," because every citizen has a chance of having an encounter with police at some point in their lives.
I'm pleased to discover that law enforcement and legal scholars share our belief in the importance of making this material available to the public. We've received more orders from police departments than hemp stores, and I'm proud that our film has helped foster positive collaborations between police and the communities they serve. The film is also a popular tool among police trainers, who use it to educate officers about respecting constitutional rights and to appreciate how they're perceived by the public they serve.
That's why I'm disappointed to hear our material described as "a tool for deceiving law enforcement." When police use it in criminal procedure courses at the academy, that doesn't make it a tool for arresting people any more than a hemp store customer might use it to trick cops. The Bill of Rights is not a trick or a loophole to protect criminals. It's the highest law of the land. It's also a template for good police work and good citizenship.
More on Flex Your Rights here.