Letter to the Editor: Rinaldo Del Gallo, III

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With respect to Mr. Bill Finley's excellent op-ed, “Englehart Mariguana Suspension: Enough Already,” while I agree with the general conclusion that the sentence was draconian (a year's suspension for testing positive for marijuana), I must disagree with one his points.

Mr. Finley says, “Holding a racing license is a privilege and not a right.” I would respectfully assert that the right to practice one's chosen profession is just that–a right not a privilege. It may not be an absolute right, just as the right to move about freely is contingent upon not breaking the criminal code. But the right to practice one's profession is nonetheless a right. The debate whether something is a privilege or a right is not merely quibbling, for it shapes how we look at policy.

As an attorney, I can assure you the courts agree with me when I call the right to practice one's profession “a right.” All courts recognize, for instance, that the suspension from any license to practice any trade brings with it a panoply of procedural due process rights and implicates the liberty interest of the 14th Amendment.

Mr. Finley's piece mentioned two instances when trainers were suspended for smoking marijuana. I would say, as an attorney (who has admittedly not thoroughly researched this issue), that suspending a trainer for such a minor violation of law so completely unrelated to his or her profession raises serious substantive due process issues. There must be some point when a violation of law is so minor, and the violation so unrelated to the licensee's ability to perform the given licensed profession, that suspending the right to practice one's profession will violate the United States Constitution or a state constitution.

It is supposed that reasonable people could disagree where that line should be, but no reasonable person should disagree that there should be a line. No reasonable person would agree that jockeys should be subject to suspension for jay walking or spitting on a sidewalk, and no reasonable judge would agree if such were the case, that such would pass constitutional muster. This might prove for an interesting test case.

As to the issue of the recreational use of marijuana by a trainer, not shown to be under the influence while performing his or her profession, there should be a bright line rule: it should never be the basis of a suspension. It is too trifling an infraction for such a serious penalty. There are serious issues about animal welfare and racing–it is best that emphasis be placed there.

Rinaldo Del Gallo, III

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