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BACCUS V. LOUISIANA, 232 U. S. 334 (1914)

U.S. Supreme Court

Baccus v. Louisiana, 232 U.S. 334 (1914)

Baccus v. Louisiana

No. 170

Argued January 19, 1914

Decided February 24, 1914

232 U.S. 334


This Court will not disregard the construction placed upon a state statute by the highest court of the state, especially if it involves giving the statute one meaning for the purpose of determining whether the acts in question are within its terms and another meaning for the purpose of escaping the federal question.

A state may classify and regulate itinerant vendors and peddlers, Ement v. Missouri, 156 U. S. 296, and may also regulate the sale of drugs and medicines.

The statute of Louisiana of 1894, prohibiting sale of drugs, etc., by itinerant vendors or peddlers, is not unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment either as denying due process of law by preventing a citizen from pursuing a lawful vocation or as denying equal protection of the law.

This writ of error was directed to a district court of the State of Louisiana, as that court had jurisdiction, in last resort, over the conviction sought to be reviewed. The information upon which the conviction was based charged that the accused had, in violation of § 12 of Act 49 of the Laws of Louisiana for 1894, illegally, as an itinerant vendor or peddler, "sold drugs, ointments, nostrums and applications intended for the treatment of diseases and deformity." A motion was made to quash on the following

Page 232 U. S. 335

grounds: first, because the statute upon which the charge was based provided for no offense; second, because, if it did, the acts charged were not, generally speaking, within the statute, and especially were not embraced by its provisions because the sale of drugs or proprietary preparations put up in sealed packages with directions for use did not constitute the practice of medicine; third, because if the statute embraced, as asserted, the acts charged, it was in conflict with the state constitution, since it permitted all persons to sell drugs, ointments, etc., except itinerant venders; fourth, because if the statute operated as contended for, it was repugnant to the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

"(a) because it prevents a citizen from pursuing a lawful vocation; (b) it denies to other citizens rights enjoyed by all others in the state, and . . . is class legislation in its effect, as it gives to the local dealer a monopoly in the sale of such drugs, etc., and deprives the itinerant vender or dealer of the privilege to sell such articles. . . ."

The motion to quash having been overruled, the case was submitted to the court without a jury upon an agreed statement of facts to the following effect: first, "that the defendant was an itinerant vender of drugs, nostrums," etc., and as such had sold the articles "intended for the treatment of diseases, as alleged in the information." Second,

"that the drugs so sold by the defendant as an itinerant vender were compounded and prepared by the Rawleigh Medical Company of the State of Illinois, and that said remedies, drugs, nostrums, ointments, and applications were put up in sealed packages or bottles ready for use, with printed directions on the packages or bottles, and that defendant was an itinerant vender of same in original packages and bottles, and prepared by the proprietors."


"that all persons except itinerant venders have the right to sell said remedies -- that is, patent and proprietary drugs, nostrums, ointments, and applications, intended for the cure

Page 232 U. S. 336

of diseases."

By requests to charge which were overruled, and to which exceptions were reserved, the defenses based both upon the state and the United States Constitution, embodied in the motion to quash, were reiterated, and on conviction and sentence after an unsuccessful effort by certiorari to procure as an act of grace, a review of the case by the supreme court of the state, this writ of error was sued out.

Page 232 U. S. 337

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