Monday, June 08, 2009

Freedom of Speech Does Not Permit You To Break The Law

Ian Barry is a Seventeen year old who knowingly broke the law to make a point. Ian gave a speech as to why Marijuana ought to be legal to a High School class. During the speech, he lit a joint and by the end of the speech, ingested the joint. Police arrested him. He has been charged locally. He says in this article that he accepts responsibility for his actions and that he is ready to pay a penalty for his actions.

Ian points out that he had to break the law to bring any real attention to his cause. There he may be right. Many are calling his act a act of civil disobedience and claim that it ought to be protected from prosecution as freedom of speech. I think the kid understands free speech better than many lawyers do.

His act was not an act of free speech though it was an act of civil disobedience. He broke the law to prove a point; that the law is wrong. He may get attention to his cause, he may even earn jury nullification, which would go far in getting his point even more attention, but he is not protected from arrest prosecution and conviction for his act.

It is oft said that one's rights come to an end at the tip of another's nose. In other words, you are free to do what you like until you interfere with someone else's right to do the same. In Ian's case, he is not free to break the law, only to criticize it. He moved on from that when he carried the joint to/or in school. Given the SCOTUS recent decision in the "Bong hits for Jesus" case, Ian is headed for a criminal record assuming he doesn't go to trial and convince a jury to nullify the law. He is also garnering a lot of attention for his cause.

I am not sure this is a call I'd like a teenager to make. He has no idea, despite his bravado, of the trouble he has caused himself in the future. He has however made the decision and will have to live with the consequences until the law catches up with the rest of the society's view of marijuana.
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