ACLU Gets One Right; We Should Take the Warning

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If the facts of the case bear out as described in the Rhode Island ACLU’s press release, it looks like the organization is on the right side of a controversy (which happens every now and then):

In January 2017, [Marissa] Lacoste was leaving work [at Twin River] when two RISP detectives approached her car. In response to their demand that she “hand over the weed,” Ms. Lacoste produced a bag with less than one ounce of marijuana. Under RI law, possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is not a crime. Despite Lacoste having committed no criminal offense, the detectives suggested that she was in serious trouble and could go to jail, and demanded that she accompany them to the Lincoln Woods Barracks.  She complied, and while there, they told her that if she didn’t assist them with an ongoing investigation at the Casino, they could cause her to lose her job.

In February, after cooperating with RISP for a period of time, Lacoste indicated that she was no longer willing to assist. Weeks later, she was issued a civil summons for her January possession of marijuana, and she further learned that RISP had requested, unsuccessfully, that the Department of Business Regulation revoke her “Service Employee” license, a permit required for those who work in the state’s gaming facilities.

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Thereafter, Lacoste and a representative of her union met with her employer who informed her that the civil citation she received would not affect her employment.  However, upon reporting to work for her next scheduled shift, Lacoste was stopped by Twin River security and told that she had been permanently excluded from the Casino by order of the State Police, effectively terminating her from her job.  Since that time, RISP has repeatedly denied her requests for an opportunity to be heard regarding her exclusion from the Casino.

Lacoste’s case provides a helpfully broad example of the reasons we should limit government influence.  When government makes things illegal, we’re all potential criminals.  When government licenses everything, we’re all dependent on its good graces.  And when government regulates businesses, our livelihoods can be threatened.

There’s a balance, of course, but it ought to be struck with awareness of the dangers, not naiveté about good intentions.



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