• Montana Supreme Court Cites Biggie Smalls lyrics in court ruling

    The Montana Supreme Court has ruled against Bruce Glass, who is serving a nine-year federal prison sentence for distributing methamphetamine. Glass argued that a state charge of possession of the same meth constituted double jeopardy. The court disagreed, citing a lyric from Biggie Smalls' 1997 song "Ten Crack Commandments."

    "'Don't get high on your own supply' is a long-established rule of the drug trade specifically because such conduct is inconsistent with the criminal objective of distributing drugs for profit," Justice James Shea wrote for the majority. "To that rule, we now add the legal caveat: 'Don't get high on your own supply, 'cause double jeopardy don't apply.'"

    The decision cited the line's appearance in "Ten Crack Commandments," as well as a 2002 episode of The Wire, the 1987 N.W.A. song "Dopeman," and the 1983 film Scarface. (Biggie actually offered a slightly different version of the adage—"Never get high on your own supply"—but this minor misquote is not grounds for an appeal.)

    The state had originally charged Glass with both drug possession and distribution, but Glass moved to dismiss the charges, arguing double jeopardy applied. State prosecutors conceded the distribution charge was not permitted, but they challenged the contention that the possession charge was also double jeopardy, arguing that possession for personal use "did not involve the same criminal objective as Glass's federal conviction for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine," as Shea summarized it. The courts agreed.

    The whole affair illustrates many problems with how the war on drugs is prosecuted. Beyond the fact that state prosecutors filed a charge they later admitted was inappropriate, why exactly were state and federal authorities working the same one defendant accused of selling 8 pounds of meth and keeping 8 ounces for himself?

    There's an argument to be made that meth wouldn't be so popular in the first place if it weren't for the drug war. "Increased enforcement of drug laws, backed by increased penalties, led to higher prices and decreased availability of preferred recreational drugs such as marijuana and cocaine," Mark Thornton wrote in 2011. "High prices and periodic shortages led drug dealers and consumers to find substitutes—ersatz goods that would produce similar results but at a lower cost." Enter meth, which is relatively easily made with relatively easily available ingredients.

    More than 40 years after Richard Nixon declared war on drugs, drugs are often cheaper and more potent than ever before; drug use in the U.S. recently hit an all-time high (as did the U.S. prison population). Where it has been tried, legalization has reversed some of these trends—teen marijuana use in Colorado has gone down since marijuana was legalized there, and opioid use has decreased in states that permit medical marijuana.