EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 13, 2014

Editorial: A look at what others are saying

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — The following are excerpts from editorials in other newspapers across New England:

Lawmakers and the courts must move swiftly to address the civil rights implications of emerging technology in an ever more connected age.

A federal appeals court turned aside an appeal by lawyers arguing that evidence from a GPS device planted on a defendant’s car in Vermont without a search warrant was improperly allowed in a trial.

Common sense would seem to dictate that law enforcement would need court permission to use a device as intrusive as a GPS to track a suspect.

But what seems like common sense was not the law in 2009, when an agent from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration placed a GPS device on then-drug suspect Stephen T. Aguiar’s car.

Aguiar was convicted in 2011 of conspiracy and distributing cocaine in 2008 and 2009. Evidence from the GPS tracking was also introduced in the trials of William Murray and Corey Whitcomb, both convicted on lesser charges.

That didn’t happen until 2012 when the Supreme Court ruled that police must obtain a search warrant before placing GPS tracking devices on a vehicle.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t rule that planting a GPS device on vehicles to track movements amounts to a search, thus requiring a court-approved search warrant, until three years after Vermont incident.

The ruling, in effect, says that in 2009 the law had yet to catch up to the growing use of a technology by law enforcement.

The high court ruling shows how interpretation of the law can adapt to the spread of new technology, but the pace needs to pick up. The pace of innovation today means that several generations of a technology can come online in three years with new challenges.

Those entrusted with preserving Americans’ constitutional rights must keep up with the pace of emerging technology.

-- The Burlington (Vt.) Free Press

Legal marijuana

Changes in public policy toward the use of marijuana are taking place with amazing speed, too fast, perhaps, to appreciate the full implications of these changes. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of medical marijuana, 16 states have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of the plant material, making it akin to a traffic ticket. Nine states have done both.

Then Colorado became the first state to make the sale and purchase of marijuana for recreational use fully legal, regulated and taxed. Colorado adults, 21 and older, are able to purchase up to an ounce, visitors from out of state one-quarter of an ounce. While Colorado residents can legally grow a few pot plants, most are expected to purchase their grass from liquor-store like outlets offering various strains of marijuana with differing potency and purported effects.

Voters in Colorado and Washington state approved ballot initiatives in November 2012 calling for marijuana legalization, but it has taken time for these states to create the regulatory and taxing policies to implement it. Expect legal sales of marijuana to begin in Washington this coming summer.

Legalization takes things to an entirely different level and this newspaper, as we suspect much of the nation, will be closely watching the experiments with legalization in Colorado and Washington.

However, it is naïve to suggest pot is benign and legalization without potential problems. Legalization removes a stigma associated with marijuana use, likely encouraging more use and abuse. The Colorado law is written to allow use of the drug on private property, with the owner’s permission, and includes penalties for use in public places. Given human nature, expect many to ignore this provision. Whether that becomes a problem is difficult to say at this point.

-- The Day of New London (Conn.)