The Bong Water Case
In the case of the State of Minnesota v. Peck, A08-579, Minnesota Supreme Court (Oct. 22, 2009), a majority of the justices decided that a “mixture” of methamphetamine (or a “residue,” as the rest of us call it) found to be left over in bong water is the legal equivalent of possessing an actual amount of amphetamine equal to the weight of the bong water itself. In other words, once you smoked meth through a bong, the bong water itself legally becomes the same thing as meth. Of course, this Minnesota Supreme Court opinion defies all logic for rationally-thinking people. However, one reason 4 of the 7 justices on the bench decided in favor of idiocracy was because the state had a police “expert” testify that a person may later drink or intravenously ingest the bong water itself to get high. Apparently, these justices have no real-life experience of their own to assist in understanding the absurdity of this testimony; ergo, their legal holding.
The Minnesota Supreme Court opinion clearly works against the legislative intent of the Minnesota controlled substance laws in that these laws have traditionally punished greater amounts of controlled substances with a greater penalty. Now, however, a very small amount of a controlled substance (often referred to as “trace amounts” or “unusable amount”) would become increasingly more severe when diluted with (or mixed into) water – say, for example, by getting a bucket of soapy water and cleaning up around your house or helping someone else clean up. If you happen to clean up any “trace amounts” of a controlled substance (which often go unseen by the naked eye and are generally found on the vast majority of dollar bills in the United States) and then rinse your rag out in that bucket of soapy water, voila! You now have in your possession a bucket of illegal narcotics punishable by a mandatory prison sentence often only used for the worst-of-the-worst drug dealers.
As another prominent Minnesota attorney put it,
Frequent news reports remind us about the drugs in the rivers and most of our municipal water supplies (not concentrated enough to hurt us, we are reassured). Type “in water supply” into your favorite internet search engine and you can read thousands of reports of scientific studies documenting this. As a result, if you have water sourced from a river, like we do in Minneapolis, thenyou could now be charged with a Minnesota Controlled Substance First Degree Crime [because] toilet tanks hold way more than 25 grams of water with illegal drugs dissolved.
Further, the case of the State of Minnesota v. Peck was a case that involved a bong (or water pipe) used to smoke methamphetamine – not pot (i.e., not marijuana). As recognized by the Minnesota Court of Appeals, a water-filled bong is used “to cool hot vapors before inhaling the controlled substance” rather than to mix or combine the controlled substance with water to form a controlled substance compound. Many people have argued that this decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court does not infer that a bong used to smoke marijuana would lead to the same result (i.e., the bong water itself becoming a “mixture” of marijuana and then being prosecuted by over-zealous state attorneys for its total combined weight of water and residue). However, I wouldn’t be so sure.
It is true that the statute at issue in the Peck case involved the legal definition of a “mixture,” as found in and defined by sec. 152.01, subd. 9a of the Minnesota Statutes, and there is a good legal argument to be made asserting that the legal definition in that subdivision does not apply to the legal definition used to define marijuana. However, just prior to Subdivision 9a, is Subdivision 9, which does directly define what “marijuana” is under Minnesota law, and it includes “…every…mixture…of such plant.” Thus, to determine the meaning of “mixture,” a state prosecutor may certainly try to argue that the general controlled substance definition of “mixture” found in Subdivision 9a should be used to define “mixture” as it is written into Subdivision 9. If this is successfully argued by the government, then pot smokes and those nearby should be increasingly more aware of how and when they dispose of their bong water.
But even if you believe possession of certain drugs should be a crime (whether it’s pot, coke, meth or any other drug), should a drug residue (or even a small, usable amount of drugs) that is mixed in water be treated the same as one kilogram (1,000 grams) in powder form?
This question becomes even more relevant as we consider the obvious availability of water and the ease of being added to a narcotic. Consider for example that in general courts have made efforts to prevent police and government lawyers from having the ability to manipulate the facts or evidence in a way that would either (1) create criminal liability for group of people the government dislikes (but who are not in fact actually committing any crimes and have no criminal liability) or (2) increase the penalty this group of people might suffer for an otherwise minor criminal offense. The Peck case is an instance where the court acted to the contrary and has given police and prosecutors greater ability to convict actually innocent people of crimes for which they really did not commit AND to increase the sentences and prison lengths a person receives for an offense that would otherwise receive a very minimal penalty (e.g., a fine of up to $300 for possession of drug paraphernalia).
Experienced Marijuana Lawyer in Minnesota
Given the stakes have been raised to almost incomprehensible levels for those people who smoke out of a bong, what used to carry an amazingly lower penalty (like just a fine) now carry mandatory, long-term prison sentences and require an experienced, knowledgeable, and often high-priced attorney who knows how to defend these drug possession cases under this new legal standard.
Time may be of the essence in defending you and your legal rights.
An experienced criminal defense attorney is one who has represented hundreds of clients charged with drug crimes – including many marijuana cases. Marijuana cases can involve very nuanced laws and legal arguments because of the state of the law and changing societal values regarding the use, growth, cultivation, and dispensing of marijuana. Further, the best drug charge defense attorneys will break down the legal options for you in a way that is easy to understand and that makes it easier for you to decide how you want to go forward.
Written by Jesse Hall.