Absolute Assinine Law
Posted: 10/24/2014 10:47 am EDT
This is the second part of a two-part series. Read part one here.
Americans spent approximately $100 billion a year on illegal drugs between 2000 and 2010, according to a 2012 report published by the RAND corporation. Part of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s job, alongside several other law enforcement agencies, is to make that process more difficult at home, where harsh federal drug laws have ensured that such transactions are conducted — until recently, in some states — entirely on the black market. The DEA also works to cut off imported illicit drugs at the source, which means mounting operations around the world to tackle a global drug trade that generates $322 billion annually, according to UN estimates.
It’s a gargantuan task. Critics of the war on drugs say it’s an impossible one. Over 40 years, the U.S. has spent more than $1 trillion in the fight. Thousands of people on both sides of the battle have lost their lives. In the end, it’s led only to cheaper, higher quality drugs at home and abroad, and by most accounts, little change in the number of people using them. While the momentum may finally be shifting away from an enforcement-first national drug policy and toward prevention and treatment, aggressive enforcement of the nation’s drug laws doesn’t appear to be going anywhere just yet.
Until the nation drastically rethinks its approach on drugs, the DEA will continue to play an integral part in the war against them, and that sometimes means resorting to controversial tactics. Below, find out how domestic spying, broken promises and a 14-year-old from Detroit have all played a part in that seemingly endless struggle.
The DEA has been spying on U.S. citizens with a surveillance program more expansive than the NSA’s.
Just months after Edward Snowden unmasked the National Security Agency’s massive domestic spying program, The New York Times broke news of the Hemisphere Project, which pairs experts from telecommunications giant AT&T with federal and local anti-drug officials, including DEA agents. It gives law enforcement officials access to "every call that passes through an AT&T switch — not just those made by AT&T customers — and includes calls dating back 26 years," according to the Times report. That’s around 4 billion call records every day, each logged with information on the location of callers. The official government slideshow describing the program suggested it had been helpful in tracking drug dealers who frequently change phones, or use disposable "burner" phones.
The White House attempted to allay privacy concerns about the Hemisphere Project last year, noting that AT&T stores the collected data, unlike in the NSA’s program, in which data is turned over to the government. Federal officials can quickly access the records, however, often within an hour of a subpoena.
The ACLU criticized the apparent secrecy of the program, which had been in existence for six years before being revealed by the Times in 2013. The organization suggested that blanket surveillance and close federal involvement could represent a violation of the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
"Hemisphere is deeply troubling, not only because the government is amassing detailed, comprehensive information about people who’ve done nothing wrong, but also because the government has deliberately kept Hemisphere secret, even from criminal defendants who’ve been subjected to the program," wrote ACLU attorney Linda Lye.
And the DEA instructs agents not to tell the truth about sources of key intelligence.
A Reuters report, also from 2013, detailed how the DEA’s Special Operations Division, or SOD, teaches agents to cover up vital tips that come from the department. A DEA document obtained by Reuters shows that federal agents are trained in "parallel construction," in which essential intelligence obtained SOD wiretaps, informants or other surveillance methods can be concealed by crediting it to another source.
An unnamed former federal agent who received tips from the SOD gave an example of how the process worked: "You’d be told only, ‘Be at a certain truck stop at a certain time and look for a certain vehicle.’ And so we’d alert the state police to find an excuse to stop that vehicle, and then have a drug dog search it," the agent said.
If an arrest was made, agents were instructed to hide the fact that the initial tip had come from SOD, and instead use "normal investigative techniques to recreate the information." This process is sometimes used to hide case details from prosecutors and judges, as well as defense attorneys. Several lawyers told Reuters that the practice could jeopardize a defendant’s constitutional right to fair trial and cover up evidence that might otherwise be inadmissible.
DEA officials defended the technique, however, calling it a common law enforcement tool that allows the SOD to crack high-profile cases.
The DEA has confidential informants who have made it a lifetime career.
Confidential informants — sometimes referred to as "snitches" — are crucial assets in the DEA’s war on drugs. In 2005, the agency told the Justice Department it has around 4,000 of these sources actively working for it at any given time. Many of these informants are recruited after being caught for drug crimes themselves, and are offered a chance to work for the DEA as a way to earn a reduced sentence. Others have made a full-time profession out of informing, a controversial practice in itself, as some critics suggest it encourages longtime informants to go after and potentially entrap low-level dealers rather than higher profile targets.
Informants can make tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars helping the government prosecute and convict drug dealers, with payment often contingent on how much money is seized in an eventual bust. That’s how Andrew Chambers Jr. once made a name for himself as "the highest-paid snitch in DEA history," with a 16-year career as a federal informant between 1984 and 2000, during which time he reportedly netted as much as $4 million in government money, nearly half of it from the DEA. A report earlier this year in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette found that Chambers was only one of the agency’s million-dollar informants.
Chambers, seen in a YouTube video from the Speakers Agency.
The "highest-paid snitch in DEA history" was also found to have lied repeatedly in testimony. Despite his reputation, he recently resumed work with the DEA.
Chambers’ work with the DEA halted in 2000, after a review of testimony revealed he’d committed perjury in at least 16 cases, when he lied on the witness stand about his credentials. Agents who’d worked closely with Chambers during the time, however — including Michele Leonhart, who became DEA administrator in 2010 — spoke highly of him despite the criticism that made him a national story. Around the time of Leonhart’s confirmation, the DEA reactivated Chambers as an informant.
While his current role with the DEA is unclear, legal professionals have expressed concerns beyond Chambers’ record of perjury. Defense attorneys told the Arizona Republic that he regularly failed to record introductory meetings, which left open the possibility that he was entrapping suspects and compromising cases.
Shortly after news broke that Chambers had resumed working with the DEA, a case in which he served as the primary informant fell apart and federal prosecutors asked for the charges to be dismissed.
Confidential informants are given so much free rein that one top DEA source actually had his own sub-network of informants.
While the DEA has released information about the general size of the program and the basic guidelines under which it operates, less is known about exactly how — and to what extent — the agency controls its informants.
The perils of this ambiguity were exposed in 2004, when it was revealed that a star DEA informant was actually paying his own sub-informants to help him set up drug deals. In one case, in which this arrangement wasn’t initially revealed to defense attorneys, a sub-informant made a number of calls to a defendant who would later be facing charges for trafficking methamphetamines. The calls weren’t recorded, however, which opened up the possibility that the alleged meth trafficker had actually been pressured to go through with the deal that led to his arrest. A judge determined that this raised the possibility of entrapment and ordered federal prosecutors to release a full list of the cases in which the informant and sub-informant had collaborated. When the government refused, the judge threw out the indictment and freed the defendant, writing that the DEA had tried to "shield itself from accountability by hiring someone outside of law enforcement who is free to violate citizens’ rights."
In a ruling explaining her decision, the judge also blasted the DEA, suggesting it was "highly unlikely" that it was unaware of the informant’s sub-contractors. In an earlier case, the informant had testified that he’d never told his DEA handlers about his network, and that they’d never asked.
The DEA allows informants to break the law, but have no records as to how often it happens.
Federal agencies came under fire in 2012 in the wake of the Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal for not adequately tracking instances in which they authorize informants to commit crimes in the line of government duty. In the case of Fast and Furious, gun dealers working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sold 2,000 weapons to Mexican cartels, but failed to have them traced. In response to a USA Today report, both the ATF and DEA claimed they were "in compliance" with rules determining when they could advise their informants to break the law.
Both agencies also acknowledged that they didn’t track how frequently they granted such permission.
Some congressional representatives have called for more accountability among federal agencies with regard to informants. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) sponsored an unsuccessful bill in 2013 that would have required federal agencies to report to lawmakers whenever an informant commits a serious crime, with or without authorization.
One of America’s most notorious terrorists once served as a DEA informant.
In 2013, David Coleman Headley, an American of Pakistani descent, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for plotting the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, which killed at least 164 people and wounded hundreds more. Government officials with knowledge of Headley’s past spoke of a man who had grown increasingly radicalized in the years leading up to the attack, but subsequent reporting also followed up on his work as a confidential informant for the DEA between 1997 and 2005, according to sources.
The DEA, which sent Headley on a number of trips to gather intelligence on heroin traffickers in Pakistan, has denied that he was working officially with the agency as late as 2005, or at any time when he was receiving training at militant camps in the region.
An Indian soldier takes cover as the Taj Mahal hotel burns during gun battle between Indian military and militants in Mumbai, India. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder, File)
Another informant allegedly shot and killed a man who confronted him for molesting his child.
Sometimes informants get caught doing unauthorized dirty deeds while on the agency’s payroll. In Albuquerque, the DEA is facing a lawsuit claiming it was negligent in supervising an informant who allegedly shot and killed another man earlier this year. The informant has been charged in the man’s death, as well as with criminal sexual penetration of a child under 13 and a host of other charges. The victim had allegedly confronted the informant over the sexual assault of his son when he was shot. The suit is seeking $50 million in damages, alleging that the informant had prior felony convictions and a history of violence and should not have been recruited by the DEA.
The DEA strung one informant along for 20 years with the promise of citizenship. She still hasn’t received it.
When Norma was just 19 years old, she became a confidential informant for the DEA. She told her story to Yolanda Gonzalez Gomez as part of a partnership between New America Media and HuffPost Voces. Norma explained how desperation and the promise of citizenship led her to sign up for a commitment she knew little about. Over the course of 20 years, Norma says she repeatedly put her life on the line for the DEA, and in return, she got paid, although she said agents sometimes refused to give her the money she was owed. Citizenship, however, never came, and now Norma fears she’ll be deported and sent back to Mexico, where she hasn’t lived since she was 5 years old. She also said she believes her life would be in danger there as a result of her work for the DEA.
Norma is an alias — she asked that her real name be withheld — but immigration attorney Jodi Goodwin knows stories like hers are not uncommon. "Federal government agencies use and abuse undocumented confidential informants for years, trample their rights with impunity, promise them permanent residency and never deliver on it," she told Gomez. "And they know they don’t have to deliver on it. But they keep pressuring them with that promise so they will keep cooperating."
The DEA has also been accused of using other exploitative means to recruit assets.
In a lawsuit filed earlier this year, a New Mexico man and former DEA informant alleged that the agency had recruited him by targeting his history of substance abuse. An attorney representing 38-year-old Aaron Romero claimed that her client had recently beaten a crack cocaine addiction in 2011, when a DEA-sponsored informant offered him the opportunity to sell drugs — provided to him by the U.S. government — and to feed the agency information on other drug dealers. His payment, Romero’s attorney alleged, came in the form of crack for personal use. Romero relapsed, his attorney said, and was eventually arrested on federal counts of distributing crack cocaine near a school, charges that were ultimately dropped after he spent a number of months in jail.
The DEA once turned a teenager into a drug kingpin so he could act as an informant.
In the 1980s, federal agents with the DEA and FBI plucked 14-year-old Richard Wershe from his Detroit high school and began crafting a new identity for him as a drug kingpin. Over the next few years, the teenage Wershe would live a double life, one as the legend who’d later be known as White Boy Rick, one of the most notorious drug lords in city, and the other as a valuable informant for the DEA and other law enforcement agencies.
"I was just a kid when the agents pulled me out of high school in the ninth grade and had me out to 3 in the morning every night," Wershe told The Fix in 2013. "They gave me a fake ID when I was 15 that said I was 21 so I could travel to Vegas and to Miami to do drug deals."
With intelligence provided by Wershe, authorities were able to make a series of high-profile arrests, disrupting Detroit’s rampant drug trade and the police corruption that had grown alongside it.
But in 1988, then 17 and no longer an informant, Wershe was pulled over and busted for work in the same drug business as the one to which the DEA had introduced him. The 17 pounds of cocaine found in his car resulted in a life sentence. He’s the only convict still behind bars in Michigan to receive a life sentence as a minor under the state’s now-repealed "650-lifer" law. Many of the targets whom Wershe helped put in jail have long since been released.
The DEA did treat one informant very nicely, giving him nearly $900,000 for information it could have gotten for free.
The Associated Press reported in August that the DEA had paid an Amtrak secretary $854,460 over nearly 20 years as an informant to pass confidential information about passenger reservations. But as the AP reported, Amtrak police are already part of an anti-drug task force that includes the DEA, and would have given the agency that information free of charge.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
Posted Online: Sept. 06, 2014, 5:31 pm
His gait is slow, and his eyelids often battle against the weight of sleep. Benton Mackenzie struggles, pausing to rest on each step as he climbs to the main floor of his parents’ two-story home, tucked between Eldridge and Long Grove. His eyes close and his back hunches from the effort as he finally reaches the top step. Enveloped in a heavy blanket, the 48-year-old takes halting steps towards the dining room table. He stops to arrange a stack of pillows on his chair then sinks down, his face clenched in pain, the shape of his tumors obvious beneath the folds of his gray sweatpants.
The bulbous cysts are painful reminders of an aggressive form of cancer he has tried to combat by growing marijuana and self-treating with cannabis oil. Benton says the oil — which has low amounts of THC, the psychoactive chemical that makes smokers high — has kept his tumors at bay for more than four years. Illegal in Iowa, his actions drew the attention of Scott County prosecutors.
In May, a Scott County jury convicted Benton, wife Loretta and their son, Cody, 22, of marijuana charges related to 71 plants and paraphernalia found at the home the family shares with Benton’s parents.
"He wasn’t bothering anybody, he wasn’t even telling anybody. And here’s all these people who are salivating over this," his mother, Dorothy "Dottie" Mackenzie, 75, said. "It has gotten to be a joke."
The family is scheduled to be sentenced at 2 p.m. Tuesday in Davenport before Scott County Judge Henry Latham II.
Benton maintains that his crime was nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or more precisely, the wrong state.
Scott County attorney Mike Walton has said he had no choice but to prosecute, given Benton’s prior convictions, including possession of magic mushrooms in 2000 and a 2010 cannabis arrest. In the latter case, Benton maintained he was producing oil for treatment that was more effective than rounds of painful chemotherapy. "Those are his reasons for breaking the law," Mr. Walton said.
Benton continues to defend those reasons with scripture, medical research and by citing the spread of medical marijuana laws around the country. "It is not lawful to stand idly by while somebody else suffers," he said.
Recently back from a trip to Portland, Ore. — where he can buy cannabis oil for medical use — Benton said he was struck by the difference in attitudes, compared to Iowa, where he is currently required to live due to probation restrictions. "It was very refreshing, and overwhelming at the same time," he said. "We weren’t prepared for that much reception."
Oregon’s Medical Marijuana Act was passed in 1998. About 65,000 medical marijuana cards are issued to state residents for conditions ranging from cancer and epilepsy to post traumatic stress and Alzheimer’s, according to the Oregon Health Authority. The state also is gearing up to vote in November over whether to legalize recreational marijuana.
The trip to Portland — which Judge Latham did not object to — was hard on Benton, whose plane ride was made bearable by morphine-based painkillers.
"It was torture," he said. "It’s almost getting to the point where if I don’t take first class, I just can’t fit in the seat."
Benton draws the blanket tighter around his shoulders as he talks, his voice at times reaching barely above a whisper.
His parents’ home around him is cheerfully decorated, brimming with antiques, framed family pictures and paintings done by his brother.
But the quiet family scene was interrupted last June when heavily armed police officers swarmed outside.
Loretta answered the door to guns pointed in her face and shouts of "Get on the floor!" the family said.
"They’ve actually treated this family like we’re some sort of a mafia family or something," Loretta said. "The kind of gusto they put into it … I mean, 20 SWAT agents at 5:45 a.m.?"
Loretta gave up her job to care for Benton after his diagnosis with angiosarcoma in 2011 and, during the recent trial, plumped pillows, fetched water, juggled doctor visits and accompanied him to the hospital after he suffered dizziness and hallucinations.
She spoke excitedly about the family’s trip to Portland. "It’s been amazing. They’ve had the freedom for so many years to innovate with cannabis science. I mean, everybody had their own recipe for tinctures and oils: ‘Use this stuff for burns; use this stuff for aches and pains.’ And, it all works."
After landing, they went to a local dispensary to get cannabis oil and cannabis juice, the taste of which Benton likened to wheat grass or "grass clippings."
They were not allowed to bring the cannabis products back to Iowa.
Frustratingly for the family, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed into a law a medical marijuana bill in May that only allowed epileptics and their caregivers to legally purchase cannabis oil.
"That’s the nature of the bill," Benton said. "With the oil that I need — if I had epilepsy I could bring it back."
Since the Mackenzie family was convicted, supporters have collected more than 16,000 signatures to petition Gov. Branstad to pardon the family.
Jimmy Centers, a spokesman for the governor, declined to comment on whether Gov. Branstad would consider a pardon, saying it was "premature to offer an opinion on a case" prior to sentencing.
Portland provided the Mackenzies a brief reprieve from thinking about the case.
They were invited to speak on the Internet-based show "Cannabis Common Sense," hosted by Paul Stanford.
Loretta ended up doing most of the talking after Benton started to nod off, drained of energy from taking stronger doses of oil than he was used to so he could make up for treatment time lost.
"Every time I’m forced to be without it, or am just without it, it takes so much more coming back to be as effective as it was before," he said.
In Iowa, it’s clear that the family’s paranoia about being targeted by police has not lessened since the trial. At one point during dinner, conversation among the four adults abruptly halted as they strained to watch a black SUV drive slowly past the house.
"They still drive around here," Dottie said, shaking her head.
They had brief relief last month when prosecutor Patrick McElyea dropped charges against Dottie and husband Charles "Chuck" Mackenzie, 76, saying there was no evidence to suggest they hosted a drug house.
The aging couple said they repeatedly declined plea deals offered by prosecutors, in the hope of going to trial and telling their son’s story.
Despite showing up to court in a wheelchair and bandages, Benton’s medical condition was kept secret from jurors, as were his reasons for growing the cannabis plants.
Judge Latham prohibited Benton from using his medical condition as a legal defense, based on the 2005 Iowa Supreme Court decision in State v. Bonjour, in which an AIDS patient arrested for growing marijuana was barred from using a medical defense.
Benton repeatedly challenged Judge Latham’s decision, pointing to Bible passages, such as Genesis 1:29, to argue that God created "seed-bearing plants" — including cannabis — for human use.
"He has never been one to let rules stop him if the rule is stupid," Dottie said. "Rules always had to make sense to Ben."
The family dreams of one day moving to Oregon, where Benton could legally grow and purchase marijuana to manage his cancer.
Plans are cloudier if the sentencing puts them in prison jumpsuits. With the extensive care and treatment Benton requires, the family can’t imagine what imprisonment would mean for them.
"I’m certain that Ben’s case is not the only case of somebody who is using marijuana to treat medical issues," Loretta said. "People are too scared to fight, and I think, if anything, they’re looking at this and saying ‘Wow.’ I think some people will come out of the closet."
Chuck, thinks marijuana has been unfairly demonized at the expense of those who need it.
"People are afraid of it — you see people, you say marijuana, and they equate it with somebody laying down on a street corner, smoking," Chuck said. "And that’s not what this is about."
For now, Benton remains in pain, his family praying for a miracle. He says he is waiting for the "punchline" to all of this.
"I think it’s built to a point where it has to make a change," Benton said. "Something is going to happen because of it. It’s un-ignorable."
A nonprofit group has canceled an October anti-drug summit in Madras — which was to feature a prominent opponent of marijuana legalization — after complaints were raised by sponsors of the ballot measure that would permit recreational use of the drug.
The sponsors of the legalization initiative, Measure 91, charged this week that it was wrong for summit organizers to use federal funds to help pay for an appearance by Kevin Sabet, a former White House drug adviser who has formed an organization opposing marijuana legalization.
Sabet was also scheduled to appear in 12 other Oregon cities as part of an "Oregon Marijuana Education Tour" following the summit. Sabet had said that, at the request of organizers, he would not talk about the ballot measure at either the Madras event or on the tour.
Rick Treleaven, the executive director of BestCare Treatment Practices and the organizer of the Madras summit, said he decided to cancel the summit because he "could see from an outside perspective that it could look like a conflict."
Treleaven, whose nonprofit that runs community mental health programs for Jefferson County, said he did not know if the 12-city tour featuring Sabet would still take place. "It depends on what the other folks do," he said, referring to the local sponsors, some of whom were also using federal anti-drug grants to help pay for the events.
Treleaven said he hoped to reschedule the Madras summit for some time after the election. He has noted that the summit has been held for several years in October and that this year’s event was not intended to influence the marijuana vote.
However, Anthony Johnson, chief sponsor of the marijuana legalization measure, said Wednesday that the heavy focus on marijuana during the summit and on the tour smacked of electioneering using federal money — even if participants did not specifically discuss the initiative.
Johnson could not be reached Thursday evening, but Peter Zuckerman, a spokesman for the campaign said sponsors did the right thing in canceling the summit and should do the same for the 12-city tour.
"Federal taxpayer dollars should not be used to influence an election," he said. "Calling this an educational campaign is ridiculous."Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Posted: Tue 2:47 PM, Aug 19, 2014
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — West Virginia billionaire Jim Justice has reached a $1.5 million settlement with Kentucky officials over dozens of reclamation violations at several of his coal mines in eastern Kentucky.
The agreement between Justice and the state’s Department for Natural Resources is a reduction from the $4.5 million in outstanding penalties he owed for the violations. Kentucky officials said the violations stemmed from the lack of post-mining restoration work required by law at Justice mines in eight counties.
Justice, who is worth about $1.6 billion according to Forbes.com, has idled several mines in eastern Kentucky and said his Appalachian mines are struggling to stay open due to poor market conditions.
The agreement also requires Justice to post millions in bond and complete the reclamation work by September 2015.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
We live in the only country in the world where a child can be sentenced to be in prison until they die
We live in the only country in the world where a child can be sentenced to be in prison until they die.
What’s worse is that it’s not even rare — more than 2,500 people who were sentenced as kids will spend the rest of their lives in prison.
Juwan is one of them. He was a skinny 16-year-old kid when he was arrested after he saw a companion kill a pizza deliveryman. The shooter was never convicted, but because Juwan was present and had a gun, he was sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Without the possibility of parole, Juwan will never have a second chance for rehabilitation.
Just one year before Juwan was sentenced, the Supreme Court decided that mandatory juvenile life without parole was unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.
The problem is — the decision left gaping loopholes and didn’t ban the sentence outright, meaning that Juwan and other children became victims of poor timing and inadequate policy implementation. While six states have moved to ban the practice, this barbaric punishment is still perfectly legal in 44 states.
But the Department of Justice has the power to close some of these loopholes and set the standard on the federal level. By providing policy guidelines for U.S. attorneys, the DOJ can ensure that judges are empowered to use discretion and give appropriate sentences based on unique circumstances.
Attorney General Eric Holder has already endorsed proposals that limit life without parole sentences for non-violent drug offenders. If he hears from thousands of us who support criminal justice reform, he can provide the tools needed to limit juvenile life without parole sentences.
It’s time that we give kids like Juwan a second chance at life.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
How local cops are still colluding with the feds to seize pot-related assets—even in states with legal marijuana.
The Shame of “Equitable Sharing”
How local cops are still colluding with the feds to seize pot-related assets—even in states with legal marijuana.
By Nick Sibilla
When voters in Colorado and Washington state approved legalizing marijuana in 2012, those votes undermined an abusive—and profitable—police practice: civil forfeiture. Unlike with criminal forfeiture, under civil forfeiture people do not have to be convicted of or even charged with a crime to permanently lose their cash, cars, and other property. Police can then auction off that seized property and use the proceeds to fund themselves. In the 42 states that allow police departments to profit from forfeiture, that cash flow has funded both the militarization of police and allowed law enforcement to make ridiculous purchases, including a margarita machine, a Hawaiian vacation, and a Dodge Viper.
In Colorado and Washington, the federal government processed more than $36 million worth of cash and other property in civil and criminal marijuana forfeitures between 2002 and 2012. Pursuing cannabis cases earned local law enforcement in Washington an additional $6 million to $9 million in forfeiture revenue since 2008. Nationwide, the Wall Street Journal reported the federal government scored $1 billion in forfeiture from marijuana cases over the past decade.
Legalization now threatens that forfeiture revenue for the police departments that have relied on it. Legal cannabis and the subsequent drop in forfeiture have already caused one drug task force in Washington to cut its budget by 15 percent. That’s great news for due process and property rights.
But marijuana is still illegal under federal law, so local legalization has created ambiguity in civil forfeiture proceedings. Even in states where recreational or medical marijuana is legal, property owned by innocent people is still at risk thanks to “equitable sharing.” This federal program lets local and state law enforcement do an end run around state law and profit from civil forfeiture, simply by collaborating with a federal agency.
Equitable sharing is a two-way street: For the federal government to “adopt” a forfeiture case, cops can approach the feds and vice versa. The U.S. Department of Justice has applications online for agencies to apply for adoption and to transfer federally forfeited property. Crucially, criminal charges do not have to accompany a civil forfeiture case.
The proceeds from federal forfeitures are deposited into the DOJ’s Asset Forfeiture Fund. After the DOJ determines the size of the cut for the feds, equitable sharing allows the local police to take up to 80 percent of what the property is worth. In fiscal year 2012, the federal government paid out almost $700 million in equitable sharing proceeds to local and state law enforcement agencies.
Equitable sharing tempts cops to become bounty hunters, even in states with legal marijuana. Tony Jalali is living proof of this travesty. Jalali almost lost his business over four grams of marijuana.
After immigrating to the United States from Iran in 1978, Jalali became a successful small business owner. Jalali owns an office building in Anaheim, Calif.—worth around $1.5 million—that he rents out to fund his retirement.
Among the more staid tenants—a dentist’s office, an insurance company—was ReLeaf Health & Wellness, a medical marijuana dispensary. Posing as a patient with a legitimate doctor’s recommendation, an undercover Anaheim police officer bought $37 worth of cannabis from that dispensary. Keep in mind that medical marijuana sales were—and are—legal in California under state law, and this Anaheim cop worked for local law enforcement, not the feds.
Jalali never bought or sold marijuana. Jalali was not charged with any crime nor was he warned that renting to a dispensary could lead to civil forfeiture. “I had no idea I was doing anything wrong,” Jalali said.
Yet for the DEA, which collaborated with Anaheim police in pursing the forfeiture, that $37 pot sale was enough evidence that Jalali should lose his property.
This Kafkaesque nightmare should not have happened under California law. Not only did California voters legalize medical marijuana in 1996, state law bans forfeiting real property (like a home or a business) unless the owner has been convicted of a crime related to the property. In fact, Anaheim authorities even requested aid from California prosecutors to take action against Jalali’s property. State officials refused.
But the state’s protections don’t exist on the federal level. By participating in equitable sharing, Anaheim police could directly benefit from a federal forfeiture, bypassing California law to cash in on Jalali’s property.
His case was not an isolated incident. In just the Central District of California alone (which includes Anaheim and Los Angeles), the U.S. attorney’s office filed 30 forfeiture actions against landlords and threatened more than 525 marijuana businesses in 2012 and 2013. Since 2008, Anaheim police have received over $21 million in forfeiture proceeds from the federal government. At the same time, for four straight years the city-owned Anaheim Convention Center has hosted the Kush Expo, the world’s largest medical marijuana trade show.
Both the ACLU and the Institute for Justice (IJ), where I work, have launched campaigns to close the equitable sharing loophole and end policing for profit. IJ took Jalali’s case pro bono. The federal government dropped the forfeiture suit this past October and cannot refile the case.
For the time being, the feds appear to be shifting priorities. Last August, Deputy Attorney General James Cole announced new guidelines to U.S. attorneys. If state laws regarding marijuana don’t conflict with federal law enforcement priorities (like keeping cannabis away from kids and preventing it from crossing state lines), the feds will defer to the states. But even that cautious memo is filled with caveats, like “this memorandum does not alter in any way the Department’s authority to enforce federal law, including federal laws relating to marijuana, regardless of state law.”
The equitable sharing loophole still exists. The federal government can continue to prosecute criminal cases and litigate civil forfeiture actions related to cannabis. Citing the risk of federal forfeiture, Wells Fargo, one of Colorado’s largest banks, has refused to finance properties in that state’s marijuana industry.
Few things have been more corrosive to the basic concepts of due process and other constitutional protections for citizens/restrictions on police than the War on Drugs. More…
Buying recreational marijuana has been legal in Colorado only since Jan. 1 and pot stores haven’t opened yet in Washington. Yet selling the plant has already generated $14 million in Colorado—a tempting cash cow for local police.
The incentives behind equitable sharing are primed for abuse. Property owners’ protection from forfeiture currently depends on prosecutorial discretion. That is no substitute for meaningful legal reform.
Nick Sibilla is a writer for the Institute for Justice.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )We got accountants playin’ Godand countin’ out the pillsYeah, I know, that sucks – that your HMOAin’t doin’ what you thought it would doBut everybody’s gotta die sometime…- Steve EarleBy Friday morning, we were frantic; she had one dose left, her MS symptoms were escalating rapidly because she had been rationing her medication for days, and if we didn’t get it done today, there could be no Saturday delivery of the medication, and we would be stuck with no medicine until after the weekend, and likely into the middle of the next week, if not beyond. Repeated calls to Anthem resulted in the same lather-rinse-repeat runaround, so in extremis, we reached out to her neurologist in Boston to see if he could help.
As Gatewood Galbraith once said, "Our Father’s and Grandfather’s did not go to the beaches of Normandy so that their children could piss in a cup to get a job"…
Corporate "Drug Testing" aided by Pharmaceutical Companies who develop and produce these tests have taken our very right to be able to work away. So long as they are allowed to do this our country will never be truly free and we will have not won ANY war.
The drug testing laws have forced us to be liar’s, cheater’s and last but most important – unemployed.
There is virtually no "blue collar" job for which there is not drug testing.
Everyone already knows how unfair it is to the casual marijuana smoker as the cannabinoids remain in your body for an extended length of time – which in and of itself is a GOOD thing, but Corporate Fascist have condemed us to be "worthless", for corporate use…
Some smaller businesses may be ignorant of the fact that the "1988 Drug Free Workplace Act (DFWA)" DOES NOT require the majority of these businesses conduct drug testing. Other’s are part of the corporate majority who will adhere to drug testing to try to lower their insurance premiums and "slap the hands" of anyone who would like to use marijuana either for personal or medical reasons. They do this in order to continue the "Elkhorn Manifesto" regime to keep cannabis out of the hands of those who would attempt to put an end to the oil based society which we now "enjoy".
It’s all about where the profit is and how far they are willing to go to keep it.
The slaves were never set free. Everyone just became "equal" in color and was run off of their farms and into the Industrial Revolution.
The slaves are us. All of us.
Until we can get the drug testing laws eradicated we will continue on as slaves long after the "law" has been changed regarding the use of marijuana/cannabis.
It may not be in the government’s best interest to keep paying for incarceration for use, but it IS in corporate America’s best interest to keep the cannabis off the shelf.
Thats life in America…let the "private sector" handle it…
Drug-Free Workplaces do NOT have to test for marijuana (Updated) – November 21, 2012 by Russ Belville
WASHINGTON — The government wants businesses to drug test their workers to boost productivity and reduce health care costs, according to the 2012 National Drug Control Report released Tuesday.
@ShereeKrider 7.1.13Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Official White House Response to Legalize and Regulate Marijuana in a Manner Similar to Alcohol. and 7 other petitions
What We Have to Say About Legalizing Marijuana
By Gil Kerlikowske
When the President took office, he directed all of his policymakers to develop policies based on science and research, not ideology or politics. So our concern about marijuana is based on what the science tells us about the drug’s effects.
According to scientists at the National Institutes of Health- the world’s largest source of drug abuse research – marijuana use is associated with addiction, respiratory disease, and cognitive impairment. We know from an array of treatment admission information and Federal data that marijuana use is a significant source for voluntary drug treatment admissions and visits to emergency rooms. Studies also reveal that marijuana potency has almost tripled over the past 20 years, raising serious concerns about what this means for public health – especially among young people who use the drug because research shows their brains continue to develop well into their 20’s. Simply put, it is not a benign drug.
Like many, we are interested in the potential marijuana may have in providing relief to individuals diagnosed with certain serious illnesses. That is why we ardently support ongoing research into determining what components of the marijuana plant can be used as medicine. To date, however, neither the FDA nor the Institute of Medicine have found smoked marijuana to meet the modern standard for safe or effective medicine for any condition.
As a former police chief, I recognize we are not going to arrest our way out of the problem. We also recognize that legalizing marijuana would not provide the answer to any of the health, social, youth education, criminal justice, and community quality of life challenges associated with drug use.
That is why the President’s National Drug Control Strategy is balanced and comprehensive, emphasizing prevention and treatment while at the same time supporting innovative law enforcement efforts that protect public safety and disrupt the supply of drugs entering our communities. Preventing drug use is the most cost-effective way to reduce drug use and its consequences in America. And, as we’ve seen in our work through community coalitions across the country, this approach works in making communities healthier and safer. We’re also focused on expanding access to drug treatment for addicts. Treatment works. In fact, millions of Americans are in successful recovery for drug and alcoholism today. And through our work with innovative drug courts across the Nation, we are improving our criminal justice system to divert non-violent offenders into treatment.
Our commitment to a balanced approach to drug control is real. This last fiscal year alone, the Federal Government spent over $10 billion on drug education and treatment programs compared to just over $9 billion on drug related law enforcement in the U.S.
Thank you for making your voice heard. I encourage you to take a moment to read about the President’s approach to drug control to learn more.
- National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
- Marijuana Facts (ONDCP)
- Drug Abuse Warning Network (HHS)
- Treatment Episode Data Set (HHS)
- National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS)
- Monitoring the Future Survey, University of Michigan
Gil Kerlikowske is Director of the Office of National Drug Control PolicyRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
WASHINGTON — An appeals court rejected the bid by medical marijuana backers to ease federal controls of the drug, ruling that the government properly kept the substance in its most dangerous category.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld the Drug Enforcement Administration’s decision to maintain marijuana as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act because there are no adequate scientific studies finding an acceptable medical use.
“The question before the court is not whether marijuana could have some medical benefits,” U.S. Circuit Judge Harry Edwards wrote in the opinion.
Edwards said the court’s review was limited to whether the DEA’s decision declining to reschedule the drug was arbitrary and capricious. He said the court found there was “substantial evidence” to support the agency’s determination that such studies don’t exist.
The case involves a 10-year-old petition from medical marijuana advocates who asked the DEA to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III, IV or V drug, which would allow for looser regulation. On June 21, 2011, the DEA rejected the request, stating that existing clinical evidence wasn’t adequate to warrant reclassification.
“To deny that sufficient evidence is lacking on the medical efficacy of marijuana is to ignore a mountain of well- documented studies that conclude otherwise,” Joe Elford, chief counsel with Americans for Safe Access, the medical marijuana advocacy
organization that brought the case, said in an e-mailed statement.
Elford told the court during arguments in October that there were more than 200 studies that the agency refused to consider.
The group said it will appeal the ruling, according to the statement.
Lena Watkins, a lawyer for the Justice Department, told the court in October that the studies cited by the marijuana proponents were rejected because the research didn’t meet government standards. She said about 15 studies meet the standards, though the government doesn’t have the final results yet.
The court also waved off claims that government blocked efforts to study the medical effects of marijuana, citing the Health and Human Services Department policy supporting the clinical research with botanical marijuana.
“It appears that adequate and well-controlled studies are wanting not because they have been foreclosed but because they have not been completed,” Edwards said in the ruling.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Latest update on his case in New Jersey in which he is hoping to utilize “Jury Nullification” .
COLUMBUS — The Ohio Highway Patrol joined forces Sept. 27-29 with state police forces in Michigan, Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Indiana in an effort to combat drug trafficking through a marijuana interdiction and eradication enforcement blitz.
This successful enforcement effort netted 32 felony and 152 misdemeanor marijuana-related drug arrests. The agencies also seized more than 94,000 grams of marijuana and a total of 14,126 marijuana plants.
"Successful multi-agency enforcement efforts, like the one this past weekend, illustrate the collective power of making our roadways and communities safer for everyone," said Col. John Born, Ohio Highway Patrol superintendent.
During one traffic stop, an Ohio Highway Patrol trooper stopped a 2012 Ford Fusion for a turn-signal violation on Interstate 75 and U.S. 68 at 2:20 a.m. Sept. 27.
Troopers observed criminal indicators and a Hancock County drug-sniffing canine alerted to the vehicle. A probable-cause search revealed half a pound of hydroponic marijuana in the vehicle’s trunk, concealed inside of a light fixture box. Troopers also located drug paraphernalia and prescription pills.
This multi-agency enforcement effort is part of the Six State Trooper Project aimed at providing combined and coordinated law enforcement and security services in the areas of highway safety, criminal patrol and intelligence sharing.
The patrol continues to urge motorists to call 677 to report impaired drivers or drug activity.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Justice Department uses prosecutorial discretion to seek decades in prison for legal Michigan cultivators
By ASA, Fri, September 28, 2012
Justice Department uses prosecutorial discretion to seek decades in prison for legal Michigan cultivators
Detroit, MI — Five medical marijuana patients and caregivers will be sentenced in federal court next week, highlighting the human cost of the federal government’s intolerance for state medical marijuana laws.
Two medical marijuana caregivers from Monroe County who were convicted earlier this year in federal court will be sentenced at 3pm Monday, October 1st before U.S. District Court Judge David M. Lawson (231 W. Lafayette Blvd, Detroit). Gerald Lee Duval Jr., 52, and his son, Jeremy Duval, 30, were raided by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents in 2011 and charged with felony cultivation, maintaining a place to cultivate marijuana, and conspiracy to distribute. In April, the Duvals were convicted at trial, the expected result of federal laws that prohibit any medical defense or reference to state law in front of juries.
"The Duvals’ case is another tragedy from President Obama’s war on medical marijuana," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country’s leading medical marijuana advocacy group. "This type of enforcement is completely discretionary, unnecessary and far from the public health approach that medical marijuana patients deserve." The Duvals face decades in prison despite no evidence of state law violations.
Days later, three more medical marijuana patients and caregivers will be sentenced in federal court in Michigan. Around the same time federal agents were raiding the Duvals, officers with the Central Michigan Enforcement Team (CMET) and the Mecosta County Sheriff’s Department raided the Austin Township home and other property of John Marcinkewciz, 42, and Shelley Waldron, 42. Marcinkewciz, Waldron and Jaycob Montague, 26, were originally charged under state law with cultivation and conspiracy to cultivate, but prosecutors soon turned their cases over to the federal Justice Department, where the three had no chance of defending themselves against federal law. Marcinkewciz, Waldron and Montague all subsequently took plea bargains in May.
Waldron and Montague are scheduled to be sentenced at 8:45am on October 4th before Judge Robert Bell in U.S. District Court at 110 Michigan Street NW, Grand Rapids. Marcinkewciz is scheduled to be sentenced at 8:45am on October 5th before the same judge. In spite of the plea bargains, the three medical marijuana providers still face decades in prison.
"The federal raids and prosecutions in Michigan are unfortunately only an example of the broader aggressive campaign by the Obama Administration to undermine state medical marijuana laws," continued Sherer. As with the Duval raid, DEA agents commonly burst onto the scene wearing full body armor and wielding machine guns in a clear attempt to intimidate. Despite claims by the president that he was "not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws," Obama’s Justice Department has conducted more than 200 SWAT-style raids and indicted well over 70 medical marijuana patients and providers since he took office.
A federal lawsuit to force the DEA to reclassify marijuana for medical use will be heard by the D.C. Circuit on October 16th. The case Americans for Safe Access v. DEA is bringing the science of medical marijuana into federal court for the first time in nearly 20 years. If marijuana were reclassified, the five people being sentenced in Michigan would be entitled to a medical defense, a right they are now denied.
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The man was riding a horse.
Danny Reynolds was riding his horse on a rural road near his house about 8 miles south of Nicholasville in Jessamine County.
Sheriff’s deputies told the 55-year-old to get down from his horse. They said he staggered while dismounting the animal. Reynolds said he staggered because he was severely
diabetic and feeling light-headed.
Officials said tests showed Reynolds’ blood-alcohol level was two time over the legal limit. The arresting officer also found rolling papers and marijuana in his pockets.
Reynolds told CBS affiliate WKYT he drank a couple beers to celebrate his son’s birthday, but did not think he was drunk. He said he normally doesn’t drink.
According to the arrest report, "(Reynolds) had several beers in his saddle bag and a mason jar which he identified as moonshine."
Chief Deputy Allen Peel admitted it was a unique case, but the deputies were concerned about Reynolds’ safety.
"He could have swerved into a car, causing danger to himself and others," said Peel.
Reynolds was charged with operating a non-motor vehicle under the influence, possession of marijuana and drug possession.
"I really didn’t mean to cause any harm," Reynolds said. "I definitely learned my lesson and I hope other riders pay attention."
Similar cases have happened in Tennessee. A woman was arrested in 2009 while riding a horse in the Shelbyville Christmas parade. She was charged with public
intoxication.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES, Sept 7 (Reuters) – Nine former heads of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration urged Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday to take a stand against possible legalization of recreational marijuana in three western states, saying silence would convey acceptance.
The former officials said in a letter sent on Friday that legalization would pose a direct conflict with federal law, indicating there would be a clash between the states and the federal government on the issue.
Voters in Colorado, Washington state and Oregon are due to decide in November whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use and to regulate and tax its sale.
"To continue to remain silent conveys to the American public and the global community a tacit acceptance of these dangerous initiatives," they said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters. A spokeswoman for Holder declined to comment on the letter.
The letter is similar to one they sent Holder in 2010 urging him to oppose a recreational pot legalization ballot measure in California. It was defeated with 53.5 percent of voters rejecting it.
Holder opposed the California measure before the vote, warning that U.S. officials would enforce federal laws against marijuana in California despite any state legalization.
Kevin Sabet, a former senior adviser on marijuana issues to President Barack Obama’s administration, said he would not be surprised if Holder took that same position again.
"Essentially, a state vote in favor of legalization is a moot point since federal laws would be, in (Holder’s) own words (from 2010), ‘vigorously enforced,’" Sabet said. "I can’t imagine a scenario where the Feds would sit back and do nothing."
Obama administration officials have until now said little about the upcoming ballot measures, although the federal government has cracked down on medical cannabis dispensaries in several states by raiding them and threatening legal action.
In recent years polls have shown growing national support for decriminalizing marijuana. In May, an Angus Reid survey showed 52 percent of those polled expressed support for legalizing pot. The poll of 1,017 respondents had a margin of error of 3.1 percent.
Gallup saw support hit 50 percent last year, the highest number the organization had ever measured on the question.
In the swing state of Colorado, the marijuana measure with its potential to bring out young voters is seen as potentially influencing votes for president. Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling said earlier this year that marijuana "could be a difference maker" in the state.
The nine signatories to Friday’s letter included John Bartels, who ran the DEA from 1973 to 1975, and Karen Tandy, who was in charge from 2003 to 2007.
Tom Constantine, who was in charge of the DEA from 1994 to 1999 and also signed the letter, said the former administrators hoped it would send a message to voters and alter the public debate.
He said the letter had been sent so "voters would know in all fairness that no matter what they vote on in Colorado or wherever it is, that federal law still prevails."
In response to a 2011 petition to legalize and regulate marijuana, Obama administration drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said at that time that federal officials were concerned about the drug because it was "associated with addiction, respiratory disease and cognitive impairment."
Legalization advocates say the decades-old drug war in the United States has failed, and they compare laws against marijuana to the prohibition of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933. They argue that society would be better served if marijuana could be taxed and regulated.
While no U.S. state allows recreational use of marijuana, 17 states and the District of Columbia permit its use in medicine.
"Anyone who is objective at all knows that current marijuana policy in this country is a complete disaster, with massive arrests, wasted resources, and violence in the U.S. and especially in Mexico," said Jill Harris, managing director of strategic initiatives for Drug Policy Action, which has poured money into legalization campaigns.
(Reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and David Brunnstrom)Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Originally posted on U.S. Marijuana Party:
LINCOLN — One of the original members of the ‘60s revolutionary group, the Yippies, was found guilty this week of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver after being caught with 155 pounds of baled pot in a van at Ashland, Neb.
Saunders County District Judge Mary Gilbride, in an order dated Tuesday, also rejected, for the second time the use of a “choice of evils” defense by Dana Beal, 65, of New York City, a long-time advocate for using marijuana as medicine, and the official historian of the Yippie Museum.
Beal, at a trial last month, admitted he was a passenger three years ago in a van carrying the marijuana.
But in court…
View original 332 more words
Uploaded by mrwhateverfor on Dec 20, 2011
On July 29, 2005, Canadian police, acting on a request from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), simultaneously raided the BC Marijuana Party Bookstore and Headquarters in Vancouver and arrested Emery for extradition to the United States outside a local storefront in the community of Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia where he was attending a HempFest.
American authorities charged Emery and co-defendants Gregory Keith Williams, 50, of Vancouver, BC and Michelle Rainey-Fenkarek, 34, of Vancouver, BC with “‘Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana”, “Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana Seeds” and “Conspiracy to Engage in Money Laundering”. Even though all the alleged offenses occurred in Canada, Canadian police did not lay any charges.
The day of Emery’s arrest, American DEA Administrator Karen Tandy admitted reasons behind the arrest were politically motivated by releasing the following statement, which praised blows dealt to the legalization movement: Today’s DEA arrest of Marc Scott Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture Magazine, and the founder of a marijuana legalization group — is a significant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the U.S. and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement. His marijuana trade and propagandist marijuana magazine have generated nearly $5 million a year in profits that bolstered his trafficking efforts, but those have gone up in smoke today. Emery and his organization had been designated as one of the Attorney General’s most wanted international drug trafficking organizational targets — one of only 46 in the world and the only one from Canada. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of Emery’s illicit profits are known to have been channeled to marijuana legalization groups active in the United States and Canada. Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on.
Emery was freed on a $50,000 bail and prepared to fight extradition in the courts.
Emery and his two associates, all charged in the United States with drug and money laundering offences, each faced a minimum 10-year sentence and the possibility of life imprisonment if convicted there.
On January 14, 2008, Emery had agreed to a tentative plea-bargain with U.S. authorities. The terms of the agreement were a 5-year prison term to be served in both Canadian and U.S. prisons. In return, he demanded the charges against his friends Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams be dropped.
(An appeal court judge ruled on March 7, 2008 in a similar case that a one-month jail sentence and probation constituted an adequate sentence for the crime of marijuana seed selling in Canada. This could possibly have been used to Emery’s advantage in his fight against extradition.
On March 27, 2008 the plea-bargain deal collapsed because of the refusal of the Canadian Conservative government to approve its side of the arrangement.
In late 2008, an extradition hearing was scheduled for June, 2009. However, before those hearings Emery agreed to plead guilty to one charge of drug distribution and accept a five-year sentence in the USA.
On September 21, 2009, Emery entered his guilty plea, and on September 28, he was incarcerated in a British Columbia prison awaiting extradition to a US federal prison to serve the five year sentence. There is a 30 day appeal period before extradition.
Emery was granted bail on November 18, after seven weeks in the pre-trial centre, to await the Justice Minister’s decision on the extradition order.
While Emery was imprisoned, his supporters held a permanent vigil outside the prison with tents and banners for 45 days, ending when Emery was released on bail.
On September 10, 2010, Emery was sentenced to 5 years in prison minus time served.
Until April 2011 Emery was held by the Federal Bureau of Prisons at the D. Ray James Correctional Institution in Folkston, Georgia.
On April 20, 2011, Emery was transferred to Yazoo City Prison in Mississippi.
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O’Donnell blasts hypocrisy of marijuana prohibition (via Raw Story )
MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell slammed politicians Tuesday night for ignoring reality and continuing to “get high” on alcohol while Americans were being sent to jail for smoking marijuana. Gallup has found that Americans favor marijuana legalization now more than ever. A record-high 50 percent…
Montreal’s Centre de Compassion, a medical marijuana facility, was raided last year and subsequently shut down, its director Marc-Boris St. Maurice charged with trafficking. Yet, much to his surprise, Health Canada asked him for advice on the subject of medical marijuana, along with other black market medical marijuana growers and dispensers and members of Health Canada’s Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulatory Reform, at a meeting in Ottawa Wednesday. They wanted to know how to grow, distribute and regulate the drug for medical purposes. The National Post’s Kristin Annable spoke to Mr. St. Maurice:
Q: Health Canada had an audience full of people who Ottawa has spent years trying to shut up and shut down. With this opportunity, what sort of questions did they ask?
A: Well I have the sheet right here, some examples are:
In an indoor installation would you use artificial or natural light?
Should you use hydroponic or natural soil?
What are the minimum requirements, in your opinion, for the person in charge of quality?
Q: And how did you answer those questions?
A: In my opinion the most important thing is the proficiency of the person, whether it is hydroponic or natural soil. Obviously, I prefer indoor because you can control the environment better. I think you would need someone with both microbiology experience and someone who has experience cultivating.
Q: Usually facilities like yours are at odds with the government. How does it feel to have Health Canada come to you looking for help?
A: That is the irony of the situation. Health Canada has come to court testifying against myself and other medical marijuana providers many times. Yet, now they are coming to us looking for information because they know it has value. Some people here have cases pending against them; are they going to testify against us after inviting us here?
Q: What were the people like who were there?
A: There were producers from all over the country. I think there was at least three from Toronto, some more from Montreal, Halifax, Guelph. The crowd was quite diverse, people in suits and ties, people in ponytails and leather hats, everyone from lawyers to old hippies.
Q: Over the years you must have developed quite the expertise on the subject.
A: Yes, we have always had to do it illegally. The positive is that they are acknowledging our level of expertise, which is a phenomenon.
Q: So how did they extend the invite to you?
A: Last summer, Health Canada announced that they were overhauling the whole medical marijuana access regulations and getting rid of personal production licenses. We went to a consultation at that time to discuss dispensing marijuana, where they announced that they would be giving out commercial production licenses to “compassion care” facilities to supply and legally produce it.
Q: So they decided that they want it produced commercially for medical use?
A: They said they would have a subsequent meeting to follow-up, which was this meeting. This was the first meeting that they have reached out to and recognized our expertise on the subject of production.
Q: And how did they conduct the meeting?
A: It was in a hotel conference room. We were broken up into three groups to discuss three themes: Quality, record keeping and security.
Q: Do you think the government understands what they are doing when it comes to growing marijuana?
A: No I don’t think they do. After 10 years of this, they are realizing that what we do is complex.
Q: What were the bigger concerns raised at this consultation?
A: Security. One thing they were asking was whether they should do criminal background checks for the producers. I’m of the opinion it would be wrong to exclude people who have a record of marijuana production, because they have the experience. It’d be like having a gay rights club and only letting straight people in.
Originally posted on and Sow it Everywhere:
Some of you know about the Big Grow others may not. The Big Grow is an act of Civil Disobedience where you plant your left over seeds in a place of display with no idea of getting the plant back in any way.
The point is for people to see the plant and get used to it being around and to keep the police busy running around over calls until they decide not to react.
At that point Marijuana is basically legal. No one is shocked by it and the police stop arresting people for it. Sounds to easy but both the Sociology and the Psychology are their believe me.
In the spirit of saving a fallen brother brother in arms I am starting a Free Marc Emery campaign in the USA. For those with their heads in the sand Marc Emery was extorted out of Canada to the US…
View original 631 more words
Landmark Prescription Drug Bill Takes Effect; Gov. Beshear Praises Full Throttle Attack on Prescription Abuse
Office of the Attorney General
Landmark Prescription Drug Bill Takes Effect; Gov. Beshear Praises Full Throttle Attack on Prescription Abuse
Press Release Date:
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Just days after a landmark prescription drug abuse law took effect, Governor Steve Beshear joined lawmakers and medical providers to report the law has already effected changes in the medical field and positioned Kentucky as a national leader in battling prescription abuse.
House Bill 1 (HB1), sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, passed in a special legislative session this spring. The bill included multiple elements to prevent the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs and to enhance law enforcement’s tools to investigate illegal prescribing practices.
“The enforcement of this bill began just a couple of days ago, and yet we already know that four ‘pain management clinics’ in Kentucky have waved the white flag and notified us they will shut their doors,” said Gov. Beshear. “We know that more than 9,000 medical providers have signed up for electronic prescription monitoring just since this law passed in April – more than doubling the number registered. The word is out. Kentucky is deadly serious about stopping this scourge of prescription drug abuse, and now we have some of the strongest tools in the country to make that happen.”
Gov. Beshear was joined by Attorney General Jack Conway as well as representatives from medical licensure boards, advocacy groups and law enforcement organizations, for today’s announcement.
HB1 expands the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting (KASPER) system, the state’s prescription monitoring system, by requiring all prescription providers of controlled substances to register. It requires pain management clinics to be owned by a licensed medical practitioner, and requires professional licensure boards to investigate prescribing complaints immediately. The legislation allows for better coordination between health regulators and law enforcement to address problems of abuse. Finally, elements of HB1 will help prevent Kentucky from becoming a source state for prescription pills.
According to Kentucky’s Drug Control Policy Office, nearly 1,000 Kentuckians die every year from drug overdoses – an annual fatality rate that exceeds deaths from car accidents. More than 5,000 overdose patients are admitted to hospitals annually.
“Let’s be very clear – if you need a prescription for a controlled substance for a legitimate medical condition, you have nothing to fear. You’ll get your medicine. For doctors who worry their ability to prescribe will be compromised, you have nothing to fear. The law is built to protect valid prescribing,” said Gov. Beshear. “But if you’re doctor-shopping, buying extra pills for recreational use, or prescribing pills for cash, you’d better change your vocation or change your location, because we’re coming after you.”
“Prescription drug abuse is killing Kentuckians. Three people will die today from prescription drug overdoses. I believe the provisions in House Bill 1 will save the lives of our friends, our neighbors and our family members,” said Attorney General Jack Conway. “The provisions in this law will help shut down rogue clinics and providers who are poisoning people. I appreciate those in the medical community who have joined with us as responsible providers to be a part of the solution instead of part of the problem.”
“House Bill 1 and the emergency regulations will help stop tragic loss of life to drug abuse. We are working closely with medical professionals to ensure that legitimate pain management cases are not adversely affected,” said Speaker Stumbo. “The joint Implementation and Oversight Committee will be alert to any needed corrections, and we will make sure that all concerns are addressed.”
Lawmakers praised the cooperation of the Cabinets, agencies, and boards who worked together to create new regulations, educate patients and medical providers, and build the necessary computer infrastructure to support the implementation of the law.
HB1 Impact – KASPER enhancements
Effective July 20, all medical practitioners who prescribe controlled substances must register to use KASPER and run a KASPER report before prescribing a patient a controlled substance such as Oxycontin or Xanax.
When the law passed in April, KASPER had 7,911 registered accounts. Since then, another 9,137 providers have signed up for the program, a 115 percent increase.
According to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), which oversees KASPER, 90 percent of all KASPER reports are completed within 15 to 30 seconds. The reports show medical providers what other controlled substances have been prescribed to a patient and in what amount.
“Some providers worried that running a KASPER report would be cumbersome or time consuming, but 9 times out of 10, it will take as much time as measuring a patient’s blood pressure or recording their insurance information,” said Mary Begley, CHFS Inspector General. “It’s a very short investment of time that will become as routine as taking a patient’s temperature. A report can provide crucial information that not only may flag a problem user, but may also warn a provider of otherwise unforeseen complications from drug interactions.”
KASPER’s cache of prescription information will grow more robust as more users add records. Supporters say patient care will become more precise as medical providers review patient prescription history and know more about existing prescriptions.
A 2010 CHFS poll of KASPER users noted that 94 percent of medical providers said that the program is an effective tool in tracking an individual’s prescription history, and nearly 94 percent reported satisfaction with the tool. Nearly 9 in 10 KASPER users reported denying a prescription for a controlled substance to a patient based on information provided by a KASPER report.
To accommodate the steep increase in KASPER use, CHFS has hired additional staff, implemented system upgrades and expanded capacity.
Existing regulations provide that all dispensers (usually pharmacists) report to KASPER when any Schedule II through Schedule V controlled substances are dispensed. For the first time, new regulations provide that all prescribers must request a KASPER report before Schedule II, III and some IVs are prescribed. A list of certain Schedule IV controlled substances, which are known to be used or diverted, is attached.
HB1 Impact: Shared Investigative Information
HB1 requires that when a complaint about prescription abuse is lodged with any of several investigative agencies – the Attorney General, Kentucky State Police (KSP), CHFS, or any of the professional licensure boards – that complaint must be shared with the remaining agencies.
Previously, if KSP was investigating a possible pill mill, the agencies that licensed that clinic were not required to be notified, nor would they be compelled to contribute information to the case.
The Attorney General, KSP, CHFS and the six professional licensure boards have signed a memorandum of understanding to notify the other agencies of prescription complaints within three days of receipt. This will allow the investigators to share information quickly.
The six professional boards – Medical Licensure, Nursing, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Podiatry and Optometry – are required to share reports with the Attorney General, KSP and CHFS but not required to share among each other. This alleviates concerns that the professional organizations would be forced to report information to other boards that have no jurisdiction over the complaint.
HB1 Impact: Regulations Squeeze Offenders, Offer Grace Period for Providers
Regulations for the implementation of HB1 were filed on July 20, the effective date of HB1. These regulations, which interpret how the law is carried out by each agency, board, or office, uphold the intent of HB1 – to reduce the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs.
New regulations mandate that all pain management clinics must be owned by a licensed medical provider or employ a medical director in good standing with one of the professional licensure boards. Clinics will have some time to meet those requirements, but CHFS administrators say that already, four of the state’s pain clinics not owned by physicians have reported that they will close their doors. Another 9 have not yet contacted CHFS regarding licensing, and will be investigated to determine if they are operating illegally.
“Not all pain management clinics are abusing their prescribing authority – many of them are meeting legitimate patient needs,” said CHFS Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes. “However, these regulations are designed to make it very, very difficult to stay in business if your clinic is a pill mill, prescribing high volumes of powerful drugs to people who are addicted.”
Each of the professional license boards has also created an educational period for practitioners through October 1st. Much like other laws such as the seat belt law, providers will have a few months to get accustomed to the new practices before any disciplinary action will take place.
“We don’t want the medical community to be afraid of immediate repercussions if they make an error this early in the process,” said Preston Nunnelley, chair of the Board of Medical Licensure. “We’ll have a few months to learn how the new policies will work, and we’ll be able to correct and guide providers along the way, instead of punishing people for unintentional errors.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Should health care facilities have the power to make lifestyle decisions for you — and punish you when your choices don’t measure up to their ideals? More and more hospitals are making exactly those kinds of decisions when it comes to people who choose to use marijuana — even legal patients in medical marijuana states. Apparently, these places don’t mind looking exactly as if they have more loyalty to their Big Pharma benefactors than they do to their own patients.
A new policy at one Alaska clinic — requiring patients taking painkilling medications to be marijuana free — serves to highlight the hypocrisy and cruelty of such rules, which are used at more and more health care facilities, particularly the big corporate chains (the clinic in question is a member of the Banner Health chain).
Tanana Valley Clinic, in Fairbanks, started handing out prepared statements to all chronic pain patients on Monday, said Corinne Leistikow, assistant medical director for family practice at TVC, reports Dorothy Chomicz at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
“We will no longer prescribe controlled substances, such as opiates and benzodiazepines, to patients who are using marijuana (THC),” the statement reads in part. “These drugs are psychoactive substances and it is not safe for you to take them together.” (This statement is patently false; marijuana has no known dangerous reactions with any other drugs, and in fact, since marijuana relieves chronic pain, it often makes it possible for pain patients to take smaller, safer doses of opiates and other drugs.)
LIAR, LIAR: Corinne Leistikow, M.D. says “patients who use opiates and marijuana together are at much higher risk of death.” We’d love to see the study you’re talking about, Corinne.
“Your urine will be tested for marijuana,” patients are sternly warned. “If you test positive you will have two months to get it out of your system. You will be retested in two months. If you still have THC in your urine, we will no longer prescribe controlled substances for you.”
TVC patient Scott Ide, who takes methadone to control chronic back pain, also uses medical marijuana to ease the nausea and vomiting caused by gastroparesis. He believes TVC decided to change its policy after an Anchorage-based medical marijuana authorization clinic spend three days in Fairbanks in June, helping patients get the necessary documentation to get a state medical marijuana card.
“I’m a victim of circumstance because of what occurred,” Ide said. “I was already a patient with her — I was already on this regimen. We already knew what we were doing to get me better and work things out for me. I think it’s wrong.”
Ide, a former Alaska State Trooper, said he was addicted to painkillers, but medical marijuana helped him wean himself off all medications except methadone.
Leistikow admitted that the new policy may force some patients to drive all the way to Anchorage, because there are only a few chronic pain specialists in Fairbanks. Still, she claimed the strict new policy was “necessary.”
The assistant medical director is so eager to defend the clinic’s new policy that she took a significant departure from the facts in so doing.
“What we have decided as a clinic — we’re setting policy for which patients we can take care of and which ones we can’t — patients who use opiates and marijuana together are at much higher risk of death, abuse and misuse of medications, of having side effects from their medications, and recommendations are generally that patients on those should be followed by a pain specialist,” Leistikow lied.
Patients who use opiates and marijuana together are NOT in fact at higher risk of death, abuse, misuse and side effects; I invite Ms. Leistikow to produce any studies which indicate they are. As mentioned earlier, pain patients who also use marijuana are usually able to use smaller, safer doses of painkillers than would be the case without cannabis supplementation.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
PHOENIX — Doctors and businesses in Arizona that are cheated out of money by medical marijuana dispensaries may have no legal recourse after a recent court ruling.
The new legal reality stems from a case in which two Arizonans, Michele Rene Hammer and Mark Haile, gave a $500,000 loan to a medical marijuana company in Colorado, which — along with Arizona and over a dozen other states — permits some medicinal use of the drug.
When the company failed to repay the loan, Hammer and Haile sued.
But Maricopa County, Ariz., Superior Court Judge Michael McVey threw out their lawsuit because federal law prohibits marijuana possession for all reasons.
“The explicitly stated purpose of these loan agreements was to finance the sale and distribution of marijuana,” McVey wrote in his judgment of dismissal. “This was in clear violation of the laws of the United States. As such, this contract is void and unenforceable.”
It is unknown whether Hammer and Haile will appeal.
Legal observers noted McVey’s ruling could make it impossible to enforce business agreements with medical marijuana companies.
“This is just one contractual relationship,” Randy Nussbaum, managing partner of a law firm that represented Hammer and Haile, told The Arizona Republic. “The macro view of this is, if it’s true that anyone who has a contractual relationship with anyone dispensing medical marijuana and that contract is not enforceable, how does anyone enforce a legitimate contract in this business?”
Phoenix attorney Richard Keyt, who discusses legal issues related to medical marijuana on his blog keytlaw.com, noted that McVey’s ruling means landlords who rent to medical marijuana dispensaries may not be able to take squatting tenants to court.
Doctors who provide services to dispensaries may also have no legal options if they are denied payments, according to Keyt.
“Until an Arizona appellate court reverses the result in this case it means that people who enter into contracts that relate in any way to Arizona medical marijuana will have to hope the other side to the contract satisfies his/her/its obligations because it may not be possible to sue for breach of contract and get a judgment against the party who defaults,” Keyt wrote.
By DANIELLE CARPENTER Published April 29, 2012 at 11:45pm
Pushing for the legalization of recreational marijuana is a waste of time.
The Tucson Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws held its annual protest on April 20. About 50 protesters made their way to Cheba Hut for the seventh annual protest, where they held up signs to flash at traffic about legalizing marijuana. It’s sad how badly those people want recreational marijuana legalized. Medical marijuana helps people, but recreational marijuana can be dangerous.
Marijuana is the most common illegal drug found in “impaired drivers and crash victims involved in ‘drugged driving’ accidents,” according to the Alcohol Drug Abuse Help & Resource Center website. The drug interferes with the cerebellum, which is the part of the brain that controls coordination, according to the center’s website. Legalizing this drug will do nothing more then increase the number of DUIs and fatal car accidents, as if Arizona needs higher numbers in that department.
A lot of people assume that marijuana does nothing bad for them. But the THC in marijuana — the reason for its effects — can interfere with the hippocampus, according to the center’s website. The hippocampus is one of the most important parts of the brain, as it controls memory, judgment and learning.
In chronic users, the impact on memory and learning can last days or weeks after marijuana’s effects seem to fade, according to a 2001 study in the medical journal Archives of General Psychiatry.
Studies have shown that frequent use of the drug can actually lead to more anxiety and higher rates of mental illness like depression.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse, a division of the National Institutes of Health, notes that schizophrenia in particular seems to have a link to marijuana use, as a 2007 study found. This may be due to the fact that frequent use of marijuana case can cause a dire psychotic reaction in susceptible people, according to the NIDA, making it a possible factor in the onset or relapse of schizophrenia.
A 2006 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 84 percent of employers drug test new hires, and 39 percent will randomly test employees after they are hired. (Usually, those who meet the criteria for being able to have medical marijuana are excused.)
Most employers want mature, intelligent and dedicated employees who do not abuse drugs. Some employers, such as hospitals, are even starting to look at whether or not their applicants smoke cigarettes, not just marijuana or other controlled substances.
Smoking, marijuana or cigarettes, does not make one more appealing in any way, shape or form to a handful of careers or to other people. It’s time for people to grow up, and figure out how to live life without depending on marijuana.
If even California of all states would not pass a bill legalizing weed for those 21 and older, it’s clear that protesting Arizonans are fighting a hopeless cause. Arizonans should spend their time more wisely than trying to get something as pointless as recreational pot to happen.
The outcomes of keeping recreational marijuana use illegal will save Arizona from the increase of drug-related fatal car accidents, and protect the mental health of residents. Smoking weed recreationally should remain against the law.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Uploaded by Derek5141 on Sep 6, 2010
Jack embarrasses himself July 22 at the Kentucky Farm Bureau by using the discredited “gateway” theory to justify the continued senseless prohibition on the farming of industrial hemp, which is allowed in just about every other industrialized nation in the world except the United States. If Jack truly cared about Kentucky farmers as much as he claims to, he would be in favor of allowing them to grow a valuable cash crop that we currently have to import from all around the world, including from major producing countries such as Canada, China, and France. For more information on the many uses of industrial hemp, see here:
Jack’s reefer madness doesn’t end there however. Jack doesn’t even think sick and disabled people such as cancer and AIDS patients and returning veterans suffering from their injuries should be allowed to relieve their symptoms through the use of marijuana under the care of a doctor ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ToIRCZRLbUo ). Jack’s position is that if these people can’t relieve their suffering effectively through the use of expensive and often addictive prescription drugs that typically have very dangerous side effects, then that’s just too bad. Jack feels that these people should go to jail for simply trying to treat their medical conditions and relieve their suffering in the most effective way possible.
Tags: Jack Conway Rand Paul Ron Paul industrial hemp medical marijuana medicinal cannabis agriculture 2010 Kentucky Senate Race fancy farm Democrat Democratic drug warrior neocon fake progressive Rachel Maddow Keith Olbermann Chris Matthews Hardball Ed Schultz MSNBC jackconwayforsenate Bill Clinton Aqua Buddha
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José Peña brought some roadside weeds home from Kansas. Cops decided it was reefer, and a Texas court sentenced him to life in prison – without the evidence. It took a decade for Peña to get back some of the pieces of his life.
José Peña was tired as he drove south toward Houston on the morning of Sept. 27, 1998. Following a quick trip north to Kansas in a rented van – to pick up the brother of a distant cousin’s son – he was on his way home to Houston, where he lived with his wife and four children. It was the kind of favor Peña often did for friends and family, no matter how distant the relation – and the kind of favor that irritated his wife. “I was tired, and I was trying to get home,” the 50-year-old recently recalled. “My wife was mad at me for doing favors for other people” when he could instead be home.
That morning, just before 8am, Peña was cruising south down I-45, a little more than two hours from home. He was driving in the right-hand lane through Leon County when he passed a state trooper sitting in his car on the grass median. He thought nothing of it – just another Texas trooper on a long and nondescript stretch of highway – until he noticed the trooper pull out onto the road and follow him. The officer, Mike Asby, a veteran member of the Texas Department of Public Safety, drove in the left lane until his car was parallel with Peña’s. Peña looked over at Asby. “He pulled up next to me, and I looked at him because I wasn’t not going to make eye contact” with an officer whom Peña thought was definitely checking him out for whatever reason.
Although Peña steadfastly maintains that he wasn’t doing anything wrong or unusual, Asby would later testify that Peña caught his attention because he was driving more slowly than the rest of traffic in a van caked with mud; when the van “weaved across the center stripe and also across the solid yellow line on the shoulder,” Asby testified in January 2003, he had to take action. “You’re required to stay in a single lane of traffic,” he said. He activated his lights and pulled Peña over.
Within the hour, Peña would be in handcuffs in the back of the trooper’s car, headed to the county jail in Centerville on a charge of marijuana possession. Nearly five years later, Peña would be convicted and sentenced to life in prison for possession of what the state said turned out to be 23.46 pounds of freshly cut marijuana that Peña was transporting in the back of the muddy blue van. Although Asby testified that this was not a normal highway drug bust – “normally,” he testified, marijuana moves north from Houston, already “dried out, cured, and ready to be sold” – he was certain that what he found casually laid out in the back of the van was pot because it smelled like pot – and he knows pot when he smells it. “It’s something that you learned in  years of experience being on the road?” prosecutor Whitney Smith (now Leon County’s elected D.A.) asked Asby.
“Yes, sir,” Asby replied.
Just Trust Us
There are at least two problems with the official story of Peña’s arrest and prosecution. First, Peña is adamant – and has been since 1998 – that what he was transporting was not marijuana, but actually hemp, pot’s non-narcotic cousin. Peña says he found the plants growing wild in Kansas and cut them down, thinking that he could use the stems and leaves in the various craft projects he made with leather and wood in his garage workshop; there was no doubt in Peña’s mind that what he was transporting was not marijuana. The second, and eventually more decisive problem with the official story of the Peña bust, is that prior to his trial, officials with the Department of Public Safety lab in Waco, where the plants were taken for testing, completely destroyed all of the case evidence – all 23.46 pounds of plant material – and then also lost the case file with all of the original documentation of the lab’s work on the case. By the time Peña was finally tried – more than four years later – there was absolutely no evidence to show the jury; instead, the state relied completely on the “experience” of Asby and of Waco lab supervisor Charles Mott (now retired) to persuade jurors that what they say they saw and tested was actually marijuana.
That is, it worked until late last year, when Peña’s conviction was finally overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court, and Leon County subsequently dismissed the charges for good. In the intervening decade, however, Peña’s case became a political hot potato, catching the attention of judges and lawyers across the state who watched as the 10th Court of Appeals, based in Waco, played tug-of-war with the Austin-based CCA over the power of the Texas Constitution, and whether it affords citizens greater rights and protection against state power than does the U.S. Constitution.
It’s a conflict that has left the state of Texas divided and may mean – at least for the time being – that persons tried for crimes in one part of the state will be afforded greater protection from prosecutorial errors or malfeasance than are others. Frankly, says Keith Hampton, an Austin defense attorney who represented Peña just before his case was dismissed, you just “don’t see this happen very often.” Ultimately, whether the protections gleaned from the Texas Constitution by the 10th Court will remain in force and be applied to all Texans is still to be determined.
Weeds, Not Weed
Peña had a knack for creating handcrafted leather and wood items that sold like hotcakes, he says, at flea markets in and around Houston. He made personalized shellacked plaques and leather key chains with popular first names spelled out in tiny beads, and at a dollar a key chain, they sold well. So when he first saw the hemp plants growing on the roadside near Manhattan, Kan., they gave him an idea. He would take the plants – which, to an untrained eye, look exactly like marijuana plants – press the leaves, and then use them on plaques or affixed to the small leather wallets that he also had become expert at making. He recognized these as “volunteer” hemp plants – they grow wild across the country, reminders of the days when hemp farming was commonplace and even, during World War II, encouraged by the feds as supporting the war effort. By the Kansas roadside, they were scraggly and abundant. When he pulled into the Tuttle Creek State Park outside Manhattan, and saw the plants growing everywhere, he “loaded … up.”
Indeed, Peña thought nothing of the fresh-cut plants that he’d laid out in the back of the blue van he was driving. He knew – partly from experience of having smoked pot when he was younger, and partly because he knew that hemp was once a major agricultural commodity – that the plants were nothing more than weeds that looked like weed.
However, that’s not how Asby saw it. To him, it was clear that one thing, and only one thing, was taking place. Peña was moving a large amount of marijuana to Houston – as unusual as that might be, Asby acknowledged.
Peña repeatedly told Asby that the plants were hemp, and his insistence clearly gave some pause to Asby and the two backup officers who soon joined him. The three men stood next to the van pondering the notion that a plant could look like, but not actually be, marijuana. “I … questioned them, I said, ‘Well, he says it’s not marijuana,'” Asby recalled in court. “I knew that there was a substance called hemp and I was asking them. … And I asked them, ‘You ever heard of something like marijuana, just hemp, that is legal to have?'” he continued. “I don’t know that there is a legal kind. That was the question I was asking the officers: ‘Have you ever heard of this … where marijuana was cut and it turns out to be legal?'”
In the end, Asby was unpersuaded. “I just know marijuana smells like marijuana,” he testified in 2003. “And I have never found anything that I thought was marijuana that wasn’t.” He cuffed Peña and hauled him off to jail.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )