The U.S. Supreme Court could decide the petition privacy case Doe v. Reed as soon as Thursday. Many organizations on the left were upset that a conservative group seeking to thwart gay marriage rights in Washington state would seek to cloak their members in a shield of anonymity reminiscent of the authors of the Federalist Papers.
Some of the same liberal blogs, though, reacted with horror when an interdepartmental goon squad killed the buzz of pot activists in Washington by bogarting their petitions, howling about invasion of privacy.
Last month, a federally-funded, multi-jurisdictional task force called WestNet raided a medical marijuana dispensary in Tacoma, Wash. looking for evidence of the illegal sale of marijuana. While the raid turned up 70 marijuana plants (15 is the legal limit in Washington per medical marijuana patient), WestNet seized 200 signed petitions supporting Initiative 1068 (I-1068) which would legalize the sale, use, and possession of marijuana by persons 18 and older. The federal agents photocopied the petitions, keeping the names and addresses of Washington residents who favor legalization.
The episode has brought charges by the left that WestNet violated the petition signers’ First Amendment rights by seizing the petitions. Phillip Dawdy, spokesman for I-1068, said he understands police procedures about seizing potential evidence, but he worries that such a confiscation might have a “chilling effect” on future signature-gathering. The progressive news site Fire Dog Lake (FDL) started its own petition to have the seized petitions returned and FDL contributor Michael Whitney wrote that the federal agents engaged in a “clear act of intimidation designed to scare potential supporters of legalization from signing on to petitions.”