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Legal References

Legal References on Drug Policy

Federal Court Decisions on Drugs by Decade

1920

Year Title and Summary

1920
US Supreme Court

JIN FUEY MOY v. UNITED STATES -   December 6, 1920

In each case where defendant was found guilty the evidence fully warranted the jury in finding that he aided, abetted, and procured a sale of morphine sulphate without written order upon a blank form issued by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue; and that he did this by means of a prescription issued not to a patient and not in the course of his professional practice, contrary to the prohibition of 2 of the act. Manifestly the phrases "to a patient" and "in the course of his professional practice only" are intended to confine the immunity of a registered physician, in dispensing the narcotic drugs mentioned in the act, strictly within the appropriate bounds of a physician's professional practice, and not to extend it to include a sale to a dealer or a distribution intended to cater to the appetite or satisfy the craving of one addicted to the use of the drug. A "prescription" issued for either of the latter purposes protects neither the physician who issues it nor the dealer who knowingly accepts and fills it. Webb v. United States,

1920
US Supreme Court

THE COCA-COLA COMPANY v. THE KOKE COMPANY OF AMERICA ET AL. - December 6, 1920

Plaintiff's beverage, . . . "Coca-Cola," with a picture of coca leaves and cola nuts on the labels, and containing certain harmless extractives from coca leaves and cola nuts, claimed to add flavor, with some caffein from the nuts and more superadded, originally contained also some cocaine derived from the coca leaves, and was once advertised as an "ideal nerve tonic and stimulant"; but long before this suit began, cocaine was eliminated, the article was advertised and sold as a beverage only, free from cocaine; and, for the public generally, the name came to signify the beverage itself, the plaintiff's product, rather than its ingredients. Held, that the continued use of the name with the picture was not a fraud depriving the plaintiff of the right to enjoin infringement and unfair competition in selling a like preparation under the name of "Koke"; but that the injunction should not restrain use of the name "Dope," a featureless word not specifically suggestive of "Coca-Cola" by similarity or in use, nor forbid manufacture and sale of the product, including the coloring matter. .

1921
US Supreme Court

STATE OF MINNESOTA ON THE RELATION OF WHIPPLE v.MARTINSON, SHERIFF OF HENNEPIN COUNTY, MINNESOTA - April 11, 1921

1. Minnesota Laws, 1915, c. 260, regulating the administration, sale and possession of morphine and other narcotic drugs, held consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment.

2. The presence in the law of a provision interpreted by the state courts as forbidding physicians to furnish these drugs to drug addicts otherwise than through prescriptions does not bring it into conflict with the federal "Anti-Narcotic" Revenue Act, not containing such restriction, since it does not prevent enforcement of the federal act.

1922
US Supreme Court

UNITED STATES v. BALINT ET AL. - March 27, 1922

1. Whether scienter is a necessary element of a statutory crime, though not expressed in the statute, is a question of legislative intent to be answered by a construction of the statute.

2. Punishment for an illegal act done by one in ignorance of the facts making it illegal, is not contrary to due process of law.

3. To constitute the offense of selling drugs contrary to 2 of the Anti-Narcotic Act, it is not necessary that the seller be aware of their character.

1922
US Supreme Court

UNITED STATES v. BEHRMAN. - March 27, 1922

It may be admitted that to prescribe a single dose, or even a number of doses, may not bring a physician within the penalties of the act; but what is here charged is that the defendant physician by means of prescriptions has enabled one, known by him to be an addict, to obtain from a pharmacist the enormous number of doses contained in 150 grains of heroin, 360 grains of morphine, and 210 grains of cocaine. . . . more than three thousand ordinary doses were placed in the control of King. Undoubtedly doses may be varied to suit different cases as determined by the judgement of a physician. But the quantities named in the indictment are charged to have been entrusted to a person known by the physician to be an addict without restraint upon him in its administration or disposition by anything more than his own weakened and perverted will. Such so-called prescriptions could only result in the gratification of a diseased appetite for these pernicious drugs or result in an unlawful parting with them to others in violation of the act as heretofore interpreted in this court within the principles laid down in the Webb and Jin Fuey Moy Cases, supra.

We hold that the acts charged in the indictment constituted an offense within the terms and meaning of the act.

1922
US Supreme Court

UNITED STATES v. WONG SING - October 23, 1922

1. Under the Revenue Act of February 24, 1919, c. 18, 1006, 40 Stat. 1130, in order that a person may be liable criminally as a purchaser of narcotic drugs it is not necessary that he be of the class who must register and pay special taxes.

2. The act, as so construed, is constitutional, within the revenue power.

1925

US Supreme Court

LINDER v. UNITED STATES. No. 183. U.S. Supreme Court 268 U.S. 5 Submitted March 9, 1925. Decided April 13, 1925.

Dr. Linder was convicted of prescribing narcotics in violation of the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act. The court ruled:

The Narcotic Law is essentially a revenue measure and its provisions must be reasonably applied with the primary view of enforcing the special tax. We find no facts alleged in the indictment sufficient to show that petitioner had done anything falling within definite inhibitions or sufficient materially to imperil orderly collection of revenue from sales. Federal power is delegated, and its prescribed limits must not be transcended even though the end seems desirable. The unfortunate condition of the recipient certainly created no reasonable probability that she would sell or otherwise dispose of the few tablets intrusted to her; and we cannot say that by so dispensing [268 U.S. 5, 23] them the doctor necessarily transcended the limits of that professional conduct with which Congress never intended to interfere.

The judgment below must be reversed. The cause will be remanded to the District Court for further proceedings in harmony with this opinion.

1925
US Supreme Court

YEE HEM v. THE UNITED STATES - April 27, 1925

1. Congress has power to prohibit the importation of opium and, as a measure reasonably calculated to aid in the enforcement of the prohibition, to make its concealment, with knowledge of its unlawful importation, a crime. 

2. The Act of February 9, 1909, 1 and 2, as amended, January 17, 1914, prohibited the importation of smoking opium after April 1, 1909, made it an offense to conceal such opium knowing it to have been imported contrary to law, and provided that possession by the defendant "shall be deemed sufficient evidence to authorize conviction unless the defendant shall explain the possession to the satisfaction of the jury." Section 3 provided that on and after July 1, 1913, all smoking opium within the United States should be presumed to have been imported after April 1, 1909, and that the burden of proof should be on the claimant or accused to rebut the presumption. Held that the presumptions thus created are reasonable and do not contravene the due process of law and the compulsory self-incrimination clauses of the Fifth Amendment..

 

1925
US Supreme Court

AGNELLO ET AL. v.   UNITED STATES -  October 12, 1925

.  . the search . .  was not justified, since they did not have such probable cause as would have justified the issuance of a search warrant. . .  The possession of opium is not an offense under the Harrison Act. A warrant to search the premises for narcotics cannot be granted merely upon proof that narcotics will be found upon the premises, but upon proof that a crime against the statute of the United States is being committed upon the premises by the sale of narcotics. Narcotics are not forfeitable to the United States. Search warrants, . .   "may not be used as a means of gaining access to a man's house or office and papers solely for the purpose of making search to secure evidence to be used against him in a criminal or penal proceeding, but that they may be resorted to only when a primary right to such search and seizure may be found in the interest which the public or the complainant may have in the property to be seized, or in the right to the possession of it, or when a valid exercise of the police power renders possession of the property by the accused unlawful and provides that it may be taken."

1926
US Supreme Court

UNITED STATES v. DAUGHERTY -   January 4, 1926

The defendant was convicted of three separate offenses of sale of cocaine, and received three consecutive five year sentences.  The court ruled that it was legal to treat all three offenses as separate offenses for sentencing but stated:

We deem it proper to add that the sentence of fifteen years imposed upon respondent seems extremely harsh. Circumstances not disclosed by the record may justify it, but only extraordinary ones could do so.

1926
US Supreme Court

BOYD v. UNITED STATES - April 19, 1926

1. The mere fact that the quantity of morphine dispensed by a registered physician by a prescription to a morphine addict without a written order, exceeds what would be required by the patient for a single dose, does not constitute a violation of the Anti-Narcotic Act. Linder v. United States, 268 U.S. 5. P. 106.

2. An ambiguous statement in a charge in a criminal case, which, interpreted one way, would be erroneous, but which, considered with the charge as a whole, probably was understood by the jury in a harmless sense, is not a ground for reversal, where the defendant did not object and seek a correction in the trial court. P. 107.

1927
US Supreme Court

WONG TAI v.  UNITED STATES - January 3, 1927

1. The Court need not consider objections not contained in the assignment of errors but set out for the first time in the briefs filed here.

2. To comply with the Sixth Amendment, an indictment must be sufficiently specific to advise the defendant of the nature and cause of the accusation in order that he may meet it and prepare for trial and, after judgment, be able to plead the record and judgement in bar of a further prosecution for the same offense.

3. In an indictment for conspiring to commit an offense -- in which the conspiracy is the gist of the crime -- it is not necessary to allege with technical precision all the elements essential to the commission of the offense which is the object of the conspiracy, or to state such object with the detail which would be required in an indictment for committing the substantive offense.

4. An application for a bill of particulars in a criminal case is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court.

5. An exception is necessary for review of an alleged assigned error in charging a jury.

1927
US Supreme Court

ALSTON v. UNITED STATES -  May 16, 1927

The present cause arises under those provisions of 1 which impose a stamp tax on certain drugs and declare it unlawful to purchase or sell them except in or from original stamped packages. These provisions are clearly within the power of Congress to lay taxes and have no necessary connection with any requirement of the Act which may be subject to reasonable disputation. They do not absolutely prohibit buying or selling; have produced substantial revenue; contain nothing to indicate that by colorable use of taxation Congress is attempting to invade the reserved powers of the States. The impositions are not penalties.

1927
Supreme Court of Alabama

TRANUM v. STRINGER  -   June 30, 1927

A prohibition enforcement officer stopped the plaintiff on the road and found liquor in his car.  The criminal case was thrown out of court, so the plaintiff sued the officer for $500 damages.  The court ruled that the plaintiff was not entitled to damages.

1928
US Supreme Court

CASEY v. UNITED STATES -  April 9, 1928

1. Where evidence in a criminal trial tends to prove inferentially that the offence was within the venue, and supplementary evidence on that point might be produced if attention were called to it, objection that the venue has not been established should be made specifically and not rested upon a general request to direct a verdict for want of sufficient evidence.

2. Section 1 of the Anti-Narcotic Act in providing that absence of the required stamps from any of the drugs shall be prima facie evidence of a violation of the section by the person in whose possession such drugs are found, is merely a regulation of the burden of proof.

3. This provision is constitutional as applied to a person charged with unlawful purchase of morphine who possessed the drug under circumstances warranting suspicion.

4. Upon the evidence in this case, the court, acting on its own motion, would not be justified in deciding that the Government induced the crime.

5. The amended Anti-Narcotic Act, as applied to this case, is within the power of Congress.

1928
US Supreme Court

NIGRO v. UNITED STATES - April 9, 1928  

1. In 2 of the Anti-Narcotic Act, as amended, which provides that it shall be unlawful for "any person" to sell, etc., any of the drugs specified in the first section except in pursuance of a written order of the person to whom the article is sold, etc., on a form issued by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, the words "any person" include all persons and not merely those who by 1 are required to register and pay the tax.

2. So construed, the provision is constitutional.

3. The Act, as amended February 24, 1919, is a genuine taxing act.

4. The provision in question, being reasonably adapted to enforcement of the tax, is not an undue invasion of the police power of the States; and an incidental motive to discourage harmful uses of the drugs taxed would not make it so.

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