Regular readers know I'm a teetotaler: no alcohol, no tobacco, and certainly no dope or other illegal drugs. Seeking altered states of mind through chemicals wastes time and money and far too often leads to trouble. That's my line as a dad, and to keep from giving my little one mixed signals, my political line hews closely thereto. I'm pretty sure some drugs should be illegal, though I'm open to debate on where to draw the lines of bans and regulations.
But as in any legal realm, if we're going to prosecute folks for using drugs, we need to prosecute them on reliable evidence. Adam Hurlburt of the Black Hills Pioneer reports that South Dakota is the only state in the country that uses remnants and metabolized by-products of restricted drugs as evidence for felony drug prosecutions. Lawrence County public defender Matthew Pike says using such evidence is unreliable and unconstitutional.
Pike has appealed to the South Dakota Supreme Court a case in which a client was prosecuted for felony possession of cocaine based on the presence of benzolecgonine in his urine. Pike maintains that evidence does not prove criminal activity in South Dakota:
Benzolecgonine is a metabolite of cocaine that can remain in the body for up to three days after ingestion of cocaine or any coca leaf-based substances, including decocainized coca leaf tea, which is legal both federally and in the state of South Dakota. Pike says the substance may also be found in some over-the-counter medications and even tap water.
Pike says it’s impossible to prove exactly how benzolecgonine ended up in his client’s system, and even if Whistler had knowingly imbibed cocaine, it would be impossible to prove that he’d done so in South Dakota based solely on the detection of benzolecgonine in his bodily fluids [Adam Hurlburt, "SD Supreme Court Case Could Alter Interpretation of State Drug Law," Black Hills Pioneer, 2014.03.28, updated 2014.04.02].
Pike raises a good question: there appears to be reasonable doubt about the reasons metabolites like benzolecgonine might be in anyone's bloodstream. How high should the bar be for drug prosecutions? Should we allow law enforcement to prosecute individuals based on the contents of their bodily fluids? Or should we declare our bodies, like our minds, off limits to investigation (Fifth Amendment, anyone?) and require prosecutors to rely solely on external evidence of illegal drugs themselves?