The 10th Amendment Is Not a Treaty Violation

The 10th Amendment Is Not a Treaty Violation
After Carol Anne Bond discovered that her husband had impregnated her best friend, the Pennsylvania microbiologist took revenge by spreading toxic chemicals on her ex-friend's car door, mailbox and doorknob. The poisonous prank was mostly ineffectual, inflicting nothing worse than a minor thumb burn.

Bond's prosecution, the focus of a case the Supreme Court heard on Tuesday, could do a lot more damage. Defending its decision to make a federal case out of what sounds like fodder for a tabloid talk show, the Justice Department argues that treaties can give Congress new powers -- a theory that threatens to destroy the constitutional division of authority between the states and the national government.

Instead of letting Pennsylvania's courts handle Bond's crime, federal prosecutors decided to indict her under the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act. She received a six-year prison sentence, three times as severe as the maximum penalty available under state law.

The federal law makes it a crime to possess or use "any chemical weapon," defined as any substance that "can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm to humans or animals" unless it is intended for "peaceful purposes." Hence a host of widely used chemicals -- chemicals that are sitting right now in your garage or under your kitchen sink -- can be converted into contraband by evil thoughts.
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