Justice Sonia Sotomayor is a Wise Latina who seems to have a history with drugs. In her memoir, My Beloved World (affiliate link), she recounts the time her ex-husband tried to make her pop pills on their wedding night. She also tells the tale of unknowingly driving her cousin to a drug den (where he apparently did heroin) while she was working as a prosecutor. Later in her career, she asked about cocaine from the bench — specifically, if it could be made into a rock form without using a base.
From pills, to heroin, to crack cocaine, it seems like Sotomayor’s got all of her bases covered when it comes to drugs, but she claims not to have used any of them. Well, what about marijuana?
Come on, it’s just a little pot. Everyone smokes pot. Hell, 47 percent of our readers admitted to smoking it habitually. Some would wager that even Supreme Court justices smoke weed in the privacy of their own homes (they don’t sniff glue, though; ask AMK about that one). But no, not Sonia Sotomayor — that goody two-shoes doesn’t puff, puff, or pass, and she even quit her 3½-pack-a-day cigarette habit.
So then how does this woman know so freakin’ much about joints?
Yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down a 7-2 decision having to do with immigration and drugs in Moncrieffe v. Holder, noting that “social sharing of a small amount of marijuana” isn’t grounds for deportation of legal immigrants. Sotomayor wrote for the majority, wherein she described exactly how much pot one would need to roll a joint — or three. Here are the details from the New York Times:
The case arose from a traffic stop in Georgia in 2007 during which Adrian Moncrieffe, a Jamaican citizen, was found with 1.3 grams of marijuana — “the equivalent,” Justice Sotomayor wrote, “of about two or three marijuana cigarettes.”
We had to consult some connoisseurs of herbal entertainment to establish that 1.3 grams of weed would result in two or three skinny joints — maybe. In fact, one of our sources chuckled, ate a Dorito, and wondered why the dude didn’t just roll a blunt, but that’s clearly a question for another day.
Today’s question is how Sotomayor knew the amount of weed to pack in a joint. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but Sotomayor knew because it’s plainly stated in the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual. But as she observes for the majority, even though it’s still classified as an “aggravated felony” under our immigration laws, possession of such a trifling amount of marijuana really isn’t grounds for deportation — especially when dealing with contradictory interpretations of both state and federal laws.
The Times notes that Moncrieffe is the third in a string of Supreme Court cases involving state drug crimes viewed under the lens of our nation’s immigration laws:
The question in all of the cases was how to understand state drug convictions in light of a part of the immigration laws that defines aggravated felonies to include drug offenses that would be punishable by more than a year in prison under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
The act generally calls for a maximum term of five years for possessing controlled substances with an intent to distribute them. But it contains an exception for the distribution of “a small amount of marijuana for no remuneration,” which judges may treat as a misdemeanor subject to no more than a year in prison.
Here, Sotomayor said there was just too much ambiguity to subject Moncrieffe to automatic deportation. Besides, according to the good justice, even though the government would argue otherwise, our immigration courts are too “overburdened” to make the proper calls in these cases anyway. The results would simply have been “absurd.” Speaking of absurd results, we’d love to see an immigration case like this pop up in a state where marijuana’s been legalized — SCOTUS would have a field day.
So no, Sotomayor doesn’t smoke pot, but she probably wanted to try after dealing with this case.
Moncrieffe v. Holder [Opinion: Supreme Court of the United States]
Court Rules for Immigrant on Deportation in Drug Case [New York Times]