Category Archives: Absolute Assinine Law

Kentucky considering roadside driver drug tests

Mike Wynn, @MikeWynn_CJ 11:54 p.m. EDT September 16, 2015


Above:  Schwendau, assistant director of Highway Safety Programs.

Right now, officials are only testing the kits for accuracy and reliability, administering them to volunteers after an arrest is complete. If they prove reliable, lawmakers say they will consider legislation next year to expand their use as a common part of police work.

Schwendau says police might soon use the swab kits in the same way they rely on roadside breath tests to identify drunken drivers, adding one more step to “remove that question of doubt” during a traffic stop.

Defense attorneys are more skeptical, warning that the tests could lead to invasive searches or give officers false pretense for arrests.

“They are chipping away at our rights — I just don’t know how else to put it,” said Larry “The DUI Guy” Forman, an attorney in Louisville who specializes in impaired driving cases.

Damon Preston, deputy public advocate at the Department of Public Advocacy, cautions that the courts still need to determine the reliability of the kits and what circumstances warrant their use in the field.

“The ease or simplicity of a sobriety test should never infringe upon the rights of persons to be free from unwarranted or invasive searches of their bodies,” he said.

The side of safety

The swabs don’t show a person’s level of impairment — only that drugs are present in their system. Supporters say Kentucky law would not allow them as evidence in court, and to build a case, police would still rely on the same process they currently use in investigations.

That typically involves a field sobriety test followed by an evaluation from a drug recognition expert, who is trained to monitor the suspect’s behavior and physical condition to determine their level of intoxication. Police also collect blood samples, which are much more conclusive.

Schwendau said the roadside tests could help police narrow down which drugs to test for in a blood sample. He said the kits already have proved successful in other states, particularity in California where authorities have upped the ante with digital devices precise enough to provide court evidence. That has saved the state money in the long run because more suspects are pleading out cases, he said.

On his website, Forman advises people to refuse field sobriety tests and breathalyzers to improve their chances of a successful defense in court. If swabs become commonplace in Kentucky, Forman says, drivers should refuse them as well.

One problem, he argues, could occur when people use drugs earlier in the day but are pulled over after the effects have worn off. He cited concerns that the swab could still test positive even though a driver is no longer under the influence.

Forman also questions how variations in temperature or allowing kits to sit in a hot police car for long periods might affect the results.

“It just gets really, really hairy, really fast,” he said.

But Schwendau points out that drivers who are not impaired will be vindicated in later tests. He also worries that while most people know it’s wrong to get behind the wheel drunk, many still think it’s OK to take an extra prescription pill before driving.

“We are doing it to save lives and get risks off the road,” he said. For police, “the best decision I think always is to err on the side of safety.”

Deadly risks

According to Kentucky State Police, authorities suspected that drugs were a factor in nearly 1,600 traffic collisions across the state last year, resulting in 939 injuries and 214 deaths.

In some areas struggling with epidemic drug abuse, high drivers are more common than drunken drivers, according to Van Ingram, head of the Office of Drug Control Policy. A lot of areas are having problems with drivers who are intoxicated on both drugs and alcohol, he said.

House Judiciary Chairman John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, said lawmakers will want to look at the highway safety office’s pilot project before putting forth any legislation. Still, he reasons that the swabs also could help exclude drivers who might otherwise fall suspect because they swerved accidentally.

Officials have distributed 100 kits for the pilot tests, which they hope to wrap up in October.

Schwendau said he will bring the results to a state task force on impaired driving along with the Governor’s Executive Committee on Highway Safety.

Even if the kits are approved and adopted, police face a cost of $7 per unit.

Schwendau said local communities would have to choose whether to use them since the kits are too expensive for the state to provide. But departments could apply for federal grants, he said.

“It’s not our place to force it on them,” Schwendau said. “We just want to offer them a better tool.”

Reporter Mike Wynn can be reached at (502) 875-5136. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeWynn_CJ.


State seizes 11-year-old, arrests his mother after he defends medical marijuana during a school presentation

By Radley Balko April 17

From the website run by investigative journalist Ben Swann:

On March 24, cannabis oil activist Shona Banda‘s life was flipped upside-down after her son was taken from her by the State of Kansas. The ordeal started when police and counselors at her 11-year-old son’s school conducted a drug education class. Her son, who had previously lived in Colorado for a period of time, disagreed with some of the anti-pot points that were being made by school officials. “My son says different things like my ‘Mom calls it cannabis and not marijuana.’ He let them know how educated he was on the facts,” said Banda in an exclusive interview with Banda successfully treated her own Crohn’s disease with cannabis oil.

After her son spoke out about medical marijuana, police detained him and launched a raid on Shona Banda’s home. “Well, they had that drug education class at school that was just conducted by the counselors… They pulled my son out of school at about 1:40 in the afternoon and interrogated him. Police showed up at my house at 3… I let them know that they weren’t allowed in my home without a warrant… I didn’t believe you could get a warrant off of something a child says in school.” Banda continued, “We waited from 3 o’clock until 6 o’clock. They got a warrant at 6 o’clock at night and executed a warrant into my home. My husband and I are separated, and neither parent was contacted by authorities before [our son] was taken and questioned.”

The police apparently found 2 ounces of cannabis oil in her home. She fears that the state will now attempt to take her son away. She has a custody hearing on Monday.

I contacted the Garden City Police Department to verify some of the details that have been reported online. A spokesman confirmed that officers had searched Banda’s home, though he denied it was a raid. He also said the initial anti-drug program was put on entirely by the school — the police had no involvement. At that event Banda’s son apparently contradicted some of the claims made about marijuana. The school then contacted the child protection agency, which then contacted the police. Officers from the department showed up at Banda’s at home and asked her permission to conduct a search. She refused. They then obtained a warrant and searched her home. The spokesman wouldn’t comment on exactly what was found, except to say that there was “evidence” of drug activity. Banda was then arrested and her son was seized from the home. Currently, there are no criminal charges against her. The spokesman wouldn’t comment on whether charges may be forthcoming. He added that possession of marijuana is illegal in Kansas, without exception.

The absurdity here of course is that a woman could lose her custody of her child for therapeutically using a drug that’s legal for recreational use an hour to the west. It seems safe to say that the amount of the drug she had in her home was an amount consistent with personal use. (If she had been distributing, she’d almost certainly have been charged by now.)

This boy was defending his mother’s use of a drug that helps her deal with an awful condition. Because he stuck up for his mother, the state arrested her and ripped him away from her. Even if he is eventually returned to his mother (as he ought to be), the school, the town, and the state of Kansas have already done a lot more damage to this kid than Banda’s use of pot to treat her Crohn’s disease ever could.

Banda’s supporters have now set up a legal defense fund page for her at Go Fund Me.

Read more from The Watch:

Absurd appeals court ruling embodies everything that’s wrong with drug raids

By Radley Balko April 17

Please be aware that "Pertussis/Whooping Cough" is active in the SC KY area.


images23(old pic, lol)



Please be aware that "Pertussis/Whooping Cough" is active in the SC KY area.

If you have symptoms of upper respiratory infection please contact your doctor right away. I have been diagnosed with this thru CDC as my Grandson has had it…I am sicker now than when I went to Dr for URI on 4th….The RX I was given at the time does not attack this Virus!!!!!!!!!!!!    Do not take this lightly! I probably won’t be online as much for a few days or so – smk


UPDATE: THIS IS HOW AND WHY "PANDEMICS" GET STARTED: I called my DR as the RN from BCH told me to. Requested meds be sent to Pharmacy. Few hours later they call me back and tell me that they cant diagnose Pertussis— that I have to go Urgent Care to be tested to confirm —- at THAT time my dr. can send in antibiotics….Problem with this is: #1 I offered the RN’s info that contacted me from CDC to my Doctors RN who refused to take it. #2 Its already been confirmed that my grandson has it. That is why CDC called ME! #3 I had ALREADY been to MY DR and was under their care for URI- which I would think would confirm that I’m sick (?) #4 If I have to go out into a public place to "verify" this diagnosis then HOW MANY OTHER FUCKING PEOPLE WILL BE EXPOSED????? When I pointed this out, the RN from MY Doctors office just said — well, we cant diagnose it but we will treat it but you have to be a confirmed case??? RN from CDC recommended that I try not to expose anyone else until after I am not contagious…….‪#‎BarrenCountyHealthcare‬

UPDATE:  Apparently, Doctors are so wrapped up by DEA “suggestions” for dispensing that they either CAN’T or WON’T prescribe any narcotic medicines hardly at all anymore….Unless you have Cancer of course.

I did what my Doctor told me to do….I went to TJ Urgent Care and was tested for the Pertussis.  They prescribed  Erythromycin after doing a swab test which won’t be back for 3-5 days. However, since “urgent care” means that they will not prescribe any narcotic, meaning no cough medicine (for Whooping Cough), I went over to my regular Doctors office after being seen by urgent care for testing per their request.  I showed them the paperwork from the visit and the Erythromycin RX and asked if the Doctor would call me in or give me RX for some cough medicine.  I was told I would have to be seen by the Doctor before he would prescribe and the wait was about 2 hours in a room full of people —– Really?  They want me to sit there in misery and possibly cause a lot more people the same misery?  I declined, citing why I could not sit there for that long and left.  I went to the parking lot, called the Doctors office back and talked to the RN and explained what had happened and sure enough she tells me “the Doctor won’t prescribe cough medicine for whooping cough”………….. WTF?  So even if I HAD sit there for two hours and infected others, I STILL would have no relief.

What is it made for if not for use with such an illness?  It is idiotic to me that these Doctors are under so much duress that they cannot even effectively treat their own patients.

I currently have NOTHING in my medical records to prevent them from prescribing for me.  Therefore there is no logical reason why they would not.  That being said even if I HAD a record of not passing a drug test, I would still consider this to be an insane gesture given the fact that I have been confirmed as being sick. 

Apparently they are TRYING to start an epidemic because according to the Nurse at Urgent Care there had been a rash of these cases and they do not even have access to enough Vaccine to dispense it.  They had NONE available there.  (Not that I really wanted it anyway – but I would have took it because this is something that can affect everyone around me)…

So I ask you this, WTF have they done to our medical system in this country?  As a child I was sickly with low immune and the Doctor always treated me well, never let me suffer and I never became addicted to anything.   As an adult I was pushed into pain clinics which mandated my use of “hard narcotics” vs. Tylenol 3 I requested, and then I was addicted for a few years before I came off of it on my own.

Since that time I take pride in the fact that I have not misused any narcotic.  That does not mean that I do not NEED it for an illness when I become sick.

Whoever is in charge of writing these “statutes”, “suggestions”, or whatever you want to call them need to take a step back and look at what they are doing to decent people who need decent healthcare…

Changing the prescribing “recommendations” for narcotics is only hurting the people who really need them (at times) and forcing the addicts into the street to even harder illicit drugs – the favorite down here has become heroin….Go figure.

I have tried to research and find specific statutes on dispensing pain medication (or other narcotics) to patients.  Apparently there is not a steadfast rule of law concerning this.  The DEA/FDA and whoever else has their hands in this rely on these suggestions for practice and then raid the Doctors office at will to see how many narcotics they have dispensed.  I worked on this with a RN online who helped me search it out and neither of us could ever find specific statutes on prescribing….and HER Husband is an M.D. 

So there you go,

I would rather go to a Veterinarian’s office for my care than a Medical Doctor anymore…They are much more compassionate.

That’s it – that’s that – – I’ve had my say….What is your opinion?


The DEA Once Turned A 14-Year-Old Into A Drug Kingpin. Welcome To The War On Drugs

Posted: 10/24/2014 10:47 am EDT

Nick Wing Become a fan


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.

burner phone

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.

andrew chambers jr

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.

mumbai terror attacks

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.

crack cocaine pipe

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.

richard wershe

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.

For more on the sketchiest things the DEA has done, read part one of this series.


Cancer-stricken Mackenzie prepares for pot sentencing

Posted Online: Sept. 06, 2014, 5:31 pm

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By Rachel Warmke,

marijuana leaf


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.

Stephen Bloomer, a longtime friend of the Mackenzies, also was charged with helping to grow the marijuana. He took a plea deal to avoid trial and will be sentenced Sept. 18.
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."


Sponsors cancel drug summit in Madras after facing criticism from marijuana legalization advocates

By Jeff Mapes |
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on August 21, 2014 at 7:25 PM, updated August 21, 2014 at 7:28 PM

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."

— Jeff Mapes


Billionaire to Pay $1.5M Fine for Kentucky Mines

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, 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.


SB1391 – SB1391.pdf

SB1391 – SB1391.pdf.

AN ACT to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 39,
relative to criminal law.
SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 39-13-
107(c), in amended by
inserting the word “lawful” before the word “act” an
d inserting the word “lawful” before the word
SECTION 2. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 39-13-
107(c), is further amended by
adding a new sentence at the end of this subsection as follows:
However, nothing in the section shall preclude prosecution of a woman for an
assaultive offense for the illegal use of a narcotic dru
g while pregnant, if her child is born
addicted to or harmed by the narcotic drug or for crim
inal homicide if her child dies as a
result of her illegal use of a narcotic drug taken while pregnant

We live in the only country in the world where a child can be sentenced to be in prison until they die

Juwan being interrogated

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.


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.

Top Comment

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…


17 Comments Join In

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.