Local governments have implemented excessive fines to replace criminal prosecutions and maintain the status quo of cannabis prohibition. When cannabis growers are unable to pay the imposed fines, counties place liens on homes and sell them at public auction. This mirrors the use of fines to coerce freed slaves to continue involuntary labor after the Civil War. These abuses led to the Civil Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Today, the United States Supreme Court published its decision in the case of Timbs v. Indiana, 2019 U.S. LEXIS 1350. The high court ruled:
For good reason, the protection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history: Exorbitant tolls undermine other constitutional liberties. Excessive fines can be used, for example, to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies, as the Stuarts’ critics learned several centuries ago. Even absent a political motive, fines may be employed “in a measure out of accord with the penal goals of retribution and deterrence,” for “fines are a source of revenue,” while other forms of punishment “cost a State money.” (opinion of Scalia, J.) (“it makes sense to scrutinize governmental action more closely when the State stands to benefit”). … (“Perhaps because they are politically easier to impose than generally applicable taxes, state and local governments nationwide increasingly depend heavily on fines and fees as a source of general revenue.”).
In short, the historical and logical case for concluding that the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Excessive Fines Clause is overwhelming. Protection against excessive punitive economic sanctions secured by the Clause is, to repeat, both “fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty” and “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.”