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Drug War Chronicle #649 - September 16, 2010

1. Cops Say Yes to California Marijuana Legalization Measure [FEATURE]

As the clock ticks toward election day, the battle over Proposition 19 in California is heating up. This week, law enforcement spoke out for marijuana legalization.

2. Washington Prosecutor Candidate Makes Drug Reform a Key Issue [FEATURE]

Two Democratic veteran prosecutors are running for prosecutor in Snohomish County, Washington. One is running as a drug reformer. Can his stance lead him to victory?

3. NORML Lawyers' Advice to Marijuana Suspects: STFU [FEATURE]

A six-pack of marijuana defense attorneys had plenty of blunt advice for pot growers, sellers, and smokers.

4. Support the National Criminal Justice Commission Act!

Jim Webb's National Criminal Justice Commission Act would do a comprehensive review of the wreck that is the US criminal justice system. It has passed the House of Representatives, and now it needs your support to pass the Senate and become law.

5. Former Spanish Prime Minister Says Legalize Drugs to End Violence

Former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez is the latest global political figure to come out for drug legalization.

6. Legalize Marijuana, Says Britain's Leading Cannabis Researcher

The United Kingdom's top cannabis researcher has come out in support of legalizing the weed. Will the government start listening?

7. Russian Diplomat Takes Over at UN Drug Agency

It's the changing of the guard at the UNODC. As of Monday, a veteran Russian diplomat now runs one of the backbones of the global drug prohibition regime.

8. Mexico Drug War Update

25 people were murdered across Ciudad Juarez last Thursday, the bloodiest single-day total in the city's history. Meanwhile the body count in Mexico's drug war in 2010 approaches the 8,000 mark.

9. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

One narcotics supervisor sexually assaults a female snitch, another makes off with the drug buy money. A pair of jail guards go down after getting caught having sex in a car in a parking lot. And that's just for starters.

10. Michigan Bill Would Allow Roadside Drug Tests

A former Michigan sheriff turned Republican legislator has introduced a bill that would allow for the roadside drug testing of suspect drivers.

11. Sensible Washington to Petition Again in 2011

With disagreement over strategy from some sectors of the Washington state reform community, Sensible Washington failed to attract the support needed to get its pot legalization initiative on the ballot this year. Now they're aiming for November 2011.

12. This Week in History

Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.

1. Cops Say Yes to California Marijuana Legalization Measure [FEATURE]

It was a law enforcement trifecta in support of California's Proposition 19 Monday, with a phalanx of police, prosecutors, and judges coming out in support of the marijuana legalization initiative in a pair of early morning press conferences in Oakland and Los Angeles and a teleconference later in the day for those unable to attend the live events. The endorsements come with Prop 19 in a very tight race and Election Day just seven weeks away.

While, unsurprisingly, a large number of California law enforcement officials have come out in opposition to Prop 19, Monday's events were designed to show that law enforcement opposition to marijuana legalization is by no means monolithic. Organizers of the events also released a letter endorsing Prop 19 signed by dozens of current and former law enforcement officials.

"As police officers, judges, prosecutors, corrections officials and others who have labored to enforce the laws that seek to prohibit cannabis (marijuana) use, and who have witnessed the abysmal failure of this current criminalization approach, we stand together in calling for new laws that will effectively control and tax cannabis," the letter read. "As criminal justice professionals, we have seen with our own eyes that keeping cannabis illegal damages public safety -- for cannabis consumers and non-consumers alike. We've also seen that prohibition sometimes has tragic consequences for the law enforcers charged with putting their lives on the line to enforce it. The only groups that benefit from continuing to keep marijuana illegal are the violent gangs and cartels that control its distribution and reap immense profits from it through the black market. If California's voters make the sensible decision to effectively control and tax cannabis this November, it will eliminate illegal marijuana distribution networks, just as ending alcohol prohibition put a stop to violent and corrupting gangsters' control of beer, wine and liquor sales."

The same themes were reprised in the three press conferences Monday. "I was with the LAPD when Nixon declared the 'War on Drugs' over 40 years ago and was one of the 'generals' on the front lines who helped implement that same failed drug policy that is still in effect today," said Stephen Downing, a retired deputy chief of police with the LAPD who is now a speaker with the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). "During my career, I not only saw the ineffectiveness of our marijuana laws up close but also witnessed the harm our prohibition approach inflicts on public safety. By keeping marijuana illegal, we aren't preventing anyone from using it. The only results are billions of tax-free dollars being funneled into the pockets of bloodthirsty drug cartels and gangs who control the illegal market."

Former LAPD sergeant and Los Angeles County deputy district attorney William John Cox added, "This November, Californians finally have a chance to flip the equation and put drug cartels out of business, while restoring public respect for the criminal laws and their enforcement by passing Proposition 19 to control and regulate marijuana."

"This is a very, very good opportunity to increase safety on our streets and highways, get officers out of drug law enforcement and back on patrol," said LEAP executive director Neill Franklin, a now retired 34-year law enforcement veteran. "In addition, it will give up more cops on the streets to focus on drunk and drugged driving. All of our police officers are trained in drug recognition,and this is an opportunity to get more cops out stopping vehicles and checking for those who are driving impaired."

Former San Jose police Chief Joseph McNamara, now a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institute, also took to the podium in support of Prop 19. "I've been studying drugs for years," he said, relating how he rose through the ranks of the NYPD before becoming chief in Kansas City and then San Jose. "We learned pretty quickly in New York that the people we were arresting were low-level offenders. All the arrests weren't doing any good. As cops, we felt the community would be better off if we were arresting robbers, burglars, and rapists. Enforcing prohibition took us away from protecting people on our beat," he said.

"I signed onto Prop 19 because I think it is a real opportunity for the voters to eliminate somewhere between 40 million and 200 million crimes overnight by making legal behavior that is today wasting so many law enforcement resources," McNamara continued. "Prohibition hasn't reduced the use of marijuana, and it also produces enormous funding for the cartels and the drug gangs. And violence, not because people are getting stoned on marijuana, but by the whole gangster syndrome that exists with prohibition driving prices up."

Passage of Prop 19 would be a "game changer," McNamara said. He challenged the media, which has been closely scrutinizing the measure, to apply the same rigorous evaluation to marijuana prohibition itself. "They are ignoring the details of the status quo," he said. "What do we have with this costly war against marijuana?" he asked. "Widespread violence, more use than if it were manufactured legally, and tremendous disrespect for the law."

Former federal prosecutor and California Superior Court Judge James Gray also spoke in support of Prop 19. "I was basically a drug warrior until I saw that the tougher we get with regard to nonviolent drug offenses, the softer we get with everything else because we only have so many resources in the criminal justice system," he said.

Gray also addressed the opposition's "what about the kids" argument by turning it on its head. "We are corrupting our children, not because of marijuana, but because of marijuana prohibition," he argued. "We are putting our children in harm's way. Ask our young people what's harder to get, beer or marijuana, and they will tell you it's easier to get marijuana, because alcohol is regulated and controlled by the government, and illegal marijuana dealers don't ask for ID."

Calling the Prop 19 vote "probably the most important election of my lifetime," Gray said the voters are ahead of the politicians. "I think we have a pretty good chance of doing something good for our state and for the country by passing Prop 19," he concluded.

Monday's law enforcement endorsements are just the latest in a long and ever-growing list of people and organizations lining up to support the measure, including labor unions, the National Black Police Association, the NAACP, doctors, politicians, political parties, and many more. Let's hope that list grows much longer in the remaining weeks until election day on November 2.

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2. Washington Prosecutor Candidate Makes Drug Reform a Key Issue [FEATURE]

Snohomish County, Washington, stretches from the Seattle suburbs in the south to the city of Everett in the north. It encompasses the Pacific Coast and the Cascade Range, and come November, its 700,000 citizens will be electing a new prosecutor. One of the candidates is staking out a very progressive position on drug policy.

Jim Kenny with firefighters (jimkenny.org)
The campaign pits incumbent prosecutor Mark Roe against challenger Jim Kenny. Both are long-time prosecutors, Roe in Snohomish County and Kenny in Seattle, and both are Democrats. But only one supported I-1068, this year's failed marijuana legalization initiative, and only one is trying to make drug policy reform a winning issue. That would be Jim Kenny.

Under Washington election law, the top two vote-getters in the primary go to the general election ballot, regardless of party affiliation. Roe won the primary with 67% of the vote, while Kenny came in second with 31%.

"You could say I'm the underdog," Kenny told the Chronicle this week. "But we do have a plan to turn those numbers around and win in the general election. We think we can double the turnout over the primary election," he said.

With both candidates running as Democrats and experienced prosecutors, the challenger is looking for issues to differentiate himself from the incumbent, and for Kenny, drug policy is one of those issues. Reformist stances are drug policy positions are prominently displayed on his campaign web site's issues page. Roe does not even have an issues page.

Kenny supported I-1068 because "it was the right thing to do," he said. "I supported 1068 for a variety of reasons," said the veteran prosecutor. "I think it was the right thing to do to end 40 years of the war on drugs and marijuana prohibition. It could have had financial benefits for the state through a redirection of law enforcement resources or potentially even a reduction in the need for those resources."

Kenny pointed out that there were 12,000 marijuana prosecutions in Washington in 2008. "Those prosecutions cost the state more than $18 million," he said. "If you legalize marijuana, you would reduce the need for all those arrests, prosecutions, and incarcerations. You can save those resources, or redirect them to fight real crime."

"You could also tax marijuana, and those tax dollars would be a real financial benefit to the state," he said.

"Another reason 1068 made a lot of sense," Kenny continued, "is that it started allowing our community in the state of Washington to look at drugs within a public health model instead of a criminal justice model. We spent 40 years prosecuting people for drugs, but now the Obama administration has come out with a new drug control strategy that walks away from war on drugs rhetoric and talks about dealing with drugs as a public health issue. It didn't involve any changing of programs or funding, but I think it's significant for the federal government to disavow the term 'war on drugs.' That provides the opportunity for people at the local level, for prosecutors, to run with it. I'm afraid the federal government may not take more significant steps in that direction, but it is something local governments can run with."

Kenny also sought to draw a sharp line between himself and Roe on medical marijuana. "My opponent is prosecuting some sick and injured people as felons for marijuana distribution, and I think that's the wrong thing to do," Kenny said. "People with medical marijuana authorizations should be treated as patients, not criminals."

Talking drug policy reform could be a winning issue, or at least not a losing one in Western Washington, said Seattle attorney Rachel Kurtz. "I feel like we're pretty advanced here," she said. "[Drug reformer and state representative] Roger Goodman runs for office, and in his last election he was attacked for not doing enough on drug reform. In this financial climate, drug policy reform is seen as a way to save money and taxes. I don't think Kenny is going to lose because of his drug policy stances. The electorate is becoming smarter and you can use those old tactics anymore," she said.

Kenny isn't just talking about pot. He is also advocating innovative criminal justice measures to reduce incarceration levels and promising to bring transparency to police-involved shootings. It's all part of what he calls "smart on crime" policies, as opposed to "tough on crime."

"We need to continue to incarcerate serious and violent offenders, but for low- and mid-level offenders we can do more," Kenny said. "In other cities across the country, they are using some innovative ideas to help people help themselves by addressing root causes, such as mental health and drug and alcohol problems," he said, pointing to problem-solving courts, such as drug court, mental health court, and veterans' court.

Snohomish County, with a large naval base and veteran population, should have a veterans' court, Kenny argued. "It's a specialized court with a redirection of resources where you might take in all the vets' cases," he said. "It's really about asking these defendants what's going on with them, why are they doing this, looking at their criminal histories and asking how we can change this. Ideally, it involves additional resources, particularly getting people into alcohol and drug treatment. It's about slowing down the process and asking why, and that makes a real difference."

The county does have a drug court, Kenny noted, but needs more problem-solving courts. "Those programs have been expanded in places in the country and the state, and we need to bring them to Snohomish County."

He also favors alternative sentencing arrangements. "Work crews, electronic monitoring, community service -- all of those keep people out of jail and allow us to not have to build a second jail any time in the near future. If we can use these tools to reduce recidivism, especially without putting people in jail, that would be a good thing," he said. "My conservative opponents don't like to focus on the fact that jail can be a school for criminals."

Kenny is also taking a strong stand on accountability for police-involved killings. In the past 18 months, Snohomish police have shot six people to death and Tasered one to death. Those killings need a light shone on them, he said.

"That's a real concern. I want to establish mandatory inquests," he said. "Inquests are not a criminal case, but a fact-finding investigation to find out what happened and whether it was justified. We need some transparency for these incidents where police use lethal force in the name of the community. There is currently no inquest, so unless the decedent files a lawsuit, we may never hear what happened in that particular case. And even then, civil cases are settled out of court all the time. Bad things could be happening and we never learn the details of why."

Mandatory inquests would be "good for the community and good for the police," Kenny said. "It gives police the opportunity to take the stand and explain why they used lethal force. They should explain to the community why. It costs some money, but it will provide transparency, and the community can rely on the fact that the police are doing the right thing."

When, running on a drug reform platform, New York prosecutor David Soares defeated the incumbent in the Albany County district attorney race in 2004, it was a shock. It is a measure of how far we have come that if Kenny manages to pull off a long-shot victory in November, it will be no shock at all, just a pleasant surprise.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

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3. NORML Lawyers' Advice to Marijuana Suspects: STFU [FEATURE]

A panel of marijuana criminal defense attorneys on the opening day of NORML's 39th Annual National Conference in Portland Thursday were unanimous and emphatic on one thing people with pot should do when confronted by police: exercise their right to remain silent.

"Don't talk to those people," warned Oakland defense attorney and NORML board member Bill Panzer. "Their job is to throw your ass in jail. They are not there to help you."

"Don't talk to the cops," agreed Seattle defense attorney Jeffrey Steinborn. "No matter what you say to a cop, they will write down what they want to hear. They can't misinterpret stone cold silence."

"Shut the fuck up," punctuated Seattle defense attorney Douglas Hiatt, noting that people were understandably under stress when having encounters with law enforcement. People are prone to try to talk their way out of trouble, he said. "This is not the time you're going to be doing quality thinking."

Less colorful variations on the theme also came from Columbia, Missouri, defense attorney and NORML board Dan Viets, Portland defense attorney John Lucy, and Florida defense attorney and NORML board member Norm Kent. All were members of the panel "Warning: Marijuana is Still Illegal for Non-Patients! Legal Defenses and Strategies for Cannabis Consumers," moderated by Kent.

Telling pot people they have -- and should exercise -- the right to remain silent isn't anything new. Groups from the ACLU to Flex Your Rights have long offered the same counsel, as will any defense attorney if you ask him. But with millions of marijuana consumers, legions of police ready to take them down, and 800,000 marijuana arrests a year, nearly 90% for small-time possession, this panel of pot friendly legal pros clearly felt it was a message worth reiterating.

The defense attorneys had plenty of other admonitions for pot smokers, growers, and dealers, all frankly designed to help them flout laws the lawyers consider immoral. The tough warnings were, however, leavened by outbursts of laughter as they shared stories of bumbling and hapless clients.

Like Norm Kent's tale of a home in Florida where police suspected a marijuana grow was going on, but lacked sufficient evidence to obtain a search warrant. They conducted a "knock and talk," where they simply knocked on the front door to see if the resident would let them in. Kent's advice: Don't talk to the police. In fact, you don't even have to acknowledge their presence.

That's not what happened. Instead a 17-year-old opened the door to the knocking police, was asked about marijuana being grown at the residence, and blurted out, "It's my dad's dope; not mine!"

Kent got a client he wouldn't otherwise have had because the kid didn't know how to respond properly (by not even answering the door, or not opening it). "You have the right to say no," he said. "Just say no."

"Don't even open the door," said Steinborn. "Make them break it down."

Steinborn, a white-haired veteran, said he had three rules: "Only break one law at a time," he said, especially when driving. "The second rule is leave the paraphernalia at home. Learn to roll a joint!" he exclaimed. "The third rule is to always be courteous, but ask them if you're free to go."

"Don't text message," groaned Panzer. "If you've got 'Dude, I loved the purp! Can I get 3 lbs?' on your phone, they will find it, even if you deleted it."

That proscription should apply to any use of electronic media for conducting marijuana business, the attorneys said. Pot leaves on your Facebook page could help police convince a judge their request for a search warrant had merit. Photos of you proudly displaying your garden would be even more incriminating.

"Anything on email or the Internet is out there," said Steinborn.

Hire them or attorneys like them for your own good, especially if you're growing or selling, they pleaded. And don't wait until after you've been arrested.

"If you're a pot grower or dealer and you don’t have a lawyer on retainer, you're nuts," said Lucy. "If you're going to engage in felonious conduct on a regular basis and you haven't spent $250 for a lawyer…" he trailed off.

Guns and marijuana don't mix, the defense attorneys warned, citing mandatory minimum federal and state sentencing enhancements that come into play if a gun is found in the home, even if it was not used or brandished. You can have your guns or you can have your grow, they said, but you shouldn't have both or you're exposing yourself to serious time.

The war on marijuana is ultimately a war on the people who grow, sell, and use it. This NORML panel was quite frank about being on the other side of the battle and was offering up some basic training Thursday afternoon.

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4. Support the National Criminal Justice Commission Act!

Wednesday, September 15, was a National Call-In Day supporting S. 714, Sen. Jim Webb's bill establishing a National Criminal Justice Commission to do a full, top-to-bottom study of the wreck that is the US criminal justice system. But the work has just begun! If you haven't already, please call your two US senators to urge their support for this important and historic bill. The House of Representatives has already passed their version of the commission bill, so if the Senate passes S. 714 it will be almost law!

You can reach your two US senators (or find out who they are) by calling the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You can also look up their numbers using your zip code, and download a set of talking points, at a page set up by the group Families Against Mandatory Minimums, available here. (If you are not from the United States, please forward this to drug policy and justice reform supporters you know who are.)

Thank you for taking action for JUSTICE. Please let us know if you get any good feedback from your senators' staff members that we should know about.back to top

5. Former Spanish Prime Minister Says Legalize Drugs to End Violence

Felipe Gonzalez has joined the ranks of prominent global political figures calling for the legalization of drugs. In remarks made Monday at a Madrid event commemorating Mexico's 200th anniversary of Independence, Gonzalez said that legalizing drug consumption should be considered as a solution for the violence currently sweeping Mexico.

Felipe Gonzalez
But the violence in Mexico isn't solely a Mexican problem, Gonzalez said. It has much to do with the United States, and the solution could be to legalize drug consumption.

"Mexico is burying the dead, but it isn't just Mexico's problem," Gonzalez said. "The $350 million or $350 million is on the other side" of the border with the US. "From there come the weapons," he added.

Gonzalez joins Colombia's Juan Manuel Santos and Mexico's Vicente Fox as the latest current and former heads of state to call for legalization. Mexico's current president, Felipe Calderon, has also lent recent support to discussing legalization, though without taking the pro position.

Organized crime is "one of the most serious threats to security that the world faces," Spain's former prime minister said. An international conference on the matter could be "an option," he added.

One need only look at the experience of alcohol Prohibition in the US to see what happens, Gonzalez continued. "Look back and think about the organized crime in the United States, with thousands of deaths, that occurred as a result of the criminalization of alcohol," he said. That violence "did away with Prohibition, and the business, with its taxes, was made legal."

In that sense, legalization of drugs could be defended as a solution, Gonzalez said, although he added that "no country can do this unilaterally without an extraordinarily grave cost for its leaders." Instead, "there must be an international agreement that is agreed to by all" because if only one country legalizes, there would be "a growth in consumption with an unsustainable cost for political leaders," he said.

An international agreement to end drug prohibition is the way to go, Gonzalez reiterated. "I think that that's going to be the only path that we really have to confront" the problem.

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6. Legalize Marijuana, Says Britain's Leading Cannabis Researcher

More than 30 years ago, British neuropharmacologist Roger Pertwee co-discovered THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Now, Britain's leading expert on cannabis says it should be legalized with regulations similar to alcohol and tobacco.

Roger Pertwee (courtesy cannabisculture.com)
Such a move is necessary to take marijuana out of the hands of criminals and justifiable because marijuana is not "any more dangerous" than alcohol or tobacco, he said.

"In my view, we don't have an ideal solution yet to deal with recreational cannabis," the Aberdeen University cannabis expert said. "We should consider licensing and marketing cannabis and cannabis products just as we do alcohol and tobacco. At the moment, cannabis is in the hands of criminals, and that's crazy. We're allowed to take alcohol, we're allowed to smoke cigarettes. Cannabis, if it's handled properly, is probably not going to be any more dangerous than that."

The former Labor government down-scheduled cannabis from a Class B to a Class C drug in 2004, but then up-scheduled it back to Class B last year against the advice of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. The council's chairman, Professor David Nutt, was fired after criticizing the government's drug policy, leading five other council members to resign in protest.

Possession of Class B drugs, a category that lumps marijuana in with amphetamines and barbiturates, is punishable by up to five years in prison, while selling pot can garner up to 14 years behind bars. More than 158,000 Britons were convicted of marijuana possession last year, according to the Home Office.

Pertrwee said he wanted to reopen the debate on marijuana and that he favored legalization if there were sufficient regulations in place. Prohibition forces users to either grow illegally or buy the drug from a criminal drug dealer, he said, and that carries its own problems.

"They have no idea what the composition is, what has been added to it, and they are at risk of being invited to take other drugs," he said.

Citing concerns about the link between marijuana and the onset of schizophrenia in a small sub-set of the population, Pertwee suggested that marijuana users be licensed after they see a doctor for an assessment of any potential mental health problems.

"You would need a minimum age of 21, but I would go further: that you have to have a license. You have to have a car license, you have to have a dog license; why not a cannabis license, so you can only take it if it's medically safe for you to do so?" he said.

Pertwee's remarks won a positive response from Nutt, a professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College, London. "I welcome this attempt by the UK's leading expert on cannabis to bring rationality to the debate on its legal status," he said. "As cannabis is clearly less harmful than alcohol, criminalization of people who prefer this drug is illogical and unjust. We need a new regulatory approach to cannabis. The Dutch coffee-shop model is one that has been proven to work but some of Professor Pertwee's new suggestions may well have extra benefits and should be actively debated."

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7. Russian Diplomat Takes Over at UN Drug Agency

As of Monday, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is under new management. Russian diplomat Yury Fedotov , who was nominated for the post earlier this year by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, has now taken over the organization that makes up a key part of the global drug prohibition regime. He replaces outgoing UNODC head Antonio Maria Costa.

Yuri Fedotov (courtesy Voice of Russia, ruvr.ru)
The Vienna-based agency, established in 1997, is charged with fighting the illegal drug trade, as well as other international crime, such as corruption and human trafficking. It also publishes annual reports on the global drug scene, as well as regional reports, including annual surveys of Afghan opium poppy production.

"Public health and human rights must be central" to his agency's work, Fedotov said in a statement Monday. "Whether we talk of the victims of human trafficking, communities oppressed by corrupt leaders, unfair criminal justice systems or drug users marginalized by society, we are committed to making a positive difference," he said.

"Drug dependence is a health disorder, and drug users need humane and effective treatment -- not punishment," he added. "Drug treatment should also promote the prevention of HIV."

Harm reductionists and AIDS activists had earlier urged Ki-moon not to appoint Fedotov, pointing to Russia's abysmal record on human rights, the treatment of drug users, and HIV/AIDS prevention. But on Monday, the International Harm Reduction Association told the Associated Press it was willing to give Fedotov a chance based on his early remarks.

"We certainly hope this sets the benchmark for the path he'll be taking," said the association's executive director Rick Lines. "For any public official, they're going to be judged by what they do with the responsibility they're given."

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8. Mexico Drug War Update

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed more than 28,000 people, the government reported in August. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Wednesday, September 8

Sergio "El Grande" Villarreal
In Tegucigalpa, Honduras, police said that the Tuesday killing of 17 people was related to gangs that work for Mexican organized crime groups. Local gangs such as MS-13 and Mara 18 are known to work for Mexican cartels moving drugs through Central America or as enforcers. They are often paid in product, leading to an increase of drug consumption across Central America.

In Washington DC, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Mexico's drug war was an insurgency resembling that of Colombia 20 years ago. Mexican government officials, most notably security spokesman Alejandro Poire, quickly responded to Clinton's remarks, calling them untrue.

Thursday, September 9

In Ciudad Juarez, 25 people were murdered across the city. This makes it the bloodiest single-day total in Ciudad Juarez in its history. The dead included seven females, three minors, and a handicapped man. In one incident, four people were shot dead after witnessing the murder of another two individuals in the Juarez Nuevo neighborhood of the city. In another incident, four people were killed after gunmen stormed a house in the El Granjero neighborhood.

Friday, September 10

In Reynosa, 85 prison inmates escaped after allegedly climbing a fence. Police immediately took over 40 guards and other prison staff into custody. Two guards were reported missing. Prison escapes have become fairly common in northern Mexico.

Sunday, September 12

In Sinaloa, four people were killed in several parts of the state.In Culiacan, a man was found shot dead with had his hands and feet bound. A note left along with the body accused the man of being an informant and a rapist. In Los Mochis, a man was found tortured and shot dead.

Monday, September 13

In Puebla, Marines captured Sergio Villareal, a high ranking cartel figure nicknamed "El Grande". Villareal is thought to be a lieutenant of cartel boss Hector Beltran-Leyva, and was fighting against a faction led by Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez, who was arrested last week. Villareal was arrested in an operation involving dozens of marines backed by armored vehicles.

Tuesday, September 14

In Matamoros, Tamaulipas, three explosions were heard near the international bridge, followed by gunfire between unknown parties that lasted up to an hour.

Across Mexico, security was stepped up for Mexico's bicentennial celebrations, which are to begin on Wednesday. Several cities, including Ciudad Juarez, have canceled celebrations due to security concerns, and many others have scaled back previously planned celebrations. In 2008, a grenade attack at an independence day celebration in Morelos, Michoacan killed eight people and wounded over 100.

Total Body Count for the Week: 134

Total Body Count for the Year: 7,862

Read the previous Mexico Drug War Update here.

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9. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

One narcotics supervisor sexually assaults a female snitch, another makes off with the drug buy money. A pair of jail guards go down after getting caught having sex in a car in a parking lot. And that's just for starters. Let's get to it:

where's the cash?
In Athens, Ohio, the head of the Athens County Narcotics Task Force was arraigned last Friday on charges he sexually assaulted a female undercover informant. Deputy Jerry Hallowell, 43, faces three counts of sexual battery and one count of attempted sexual battery. The sexual batteries occurred August 6, September 3, and September 5, while the attempted battery occurred on September 9. Hallowell is looking at up to 16 years in prison if convicted on all counts. He is out on $50,000 bond and has been suspended with pay pending further action by the department.

In Syracuse, New York, a former Syracuse police officer pleaded guilty Monday to charges he ran a drug trafficking operation from his home and sexually abused two teenage boys. Fredrick Baunee, 49, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of first-degree sexual abuse and one felony count of fourth-degree conspiracy. He was arrested in May for running a drug ring from his home and using the teens as dealers and for sexual activities. Braun was suspended from the police force in 2007 and retired after being convicted of giving alcohol to and inappropriately touching a 14-year-old boy. He will be sentenced to seven years in prison, but remains free on $100,000 bail until formal sentencing in November.

In Durham, North Carolina, a former Durham County narcotics supervisor was indicted September 7 for allegedly stealing nearly $100,000 in sheriff's department funds for paying informants and making drug buys. Former Lt. Derek O'Mary faces 26 counts of embezzlement and one count each of obstructing justice and possession of cocaine. O'Mary, 43, was an 18-year veteran of the sheriff's office and had risen through the ranks to a lieutenant supervising the Sheriff’s Anti-Crime & Narcotics Unit. He was fired in April 2009 after his own narcs snitched him out.

In Gaffney, South Carolina, money from a recent drug bust has gone missing and the Cherokee County sheriff wants to know where it went. Sheriff Bill Blanton has called in the State Law Enforcement Division to try to find out what happened to the undisclosed amount of cash missing from the Cherokee County narcotics division

In Philadelphia, three former Philadelphia police officers already facing corruption charges were hit with new ones September 9. Robert Snyder, Jamez Venziale, and Mark Williams were charged in July with plotting with a suspected drug dealer to steal drugs in a staged traffic stop. Now the three face additional charges of possession with intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of a school. Snyder and Williams were also charged with planning to rob a man they believed was a mobster collecting gambling proceeds. Authorities say that plot was never carried out. 

In Lebanon, Ohio, two former Warren Correctional Institution guards were indicted last Friday on drug charges after they were caught having sex in a vehicle with hundreds of pills and a note about inmates getting illegal drugs. Annika Skinner, 36, faces nine counts of deception to obtain drugs and a single misdemeanor drug possession count. Herbert Cook, 61, faces one count of drug trafficking. Skinner is looking at up to 19 years in prison and Cook is looking at one. Both had resigned as prison guards in July as authorities investigated after they were discovered going at it in May in a parking lot. Police recovered more than 100 pills, as well as plastic bags and the note indicating inmates were getting drugs. Both are free on bail.

In Sonora, California, a former prison guard at the Sierra Conservation Center was sentenced last week to a year in county jail for smuggling marijuana to an inmate. Matthew McCollum, 28, was convicted of bringing pot to an inmate in 2008 and 2009.

In Graceville, Georgia, a Graceville Correctional Facility guard was arrested September 8 on charges he planned to smuggle marijuana into the jail. Guard Brandon Sikora, 21, went down after agreeing to take a half-pound of pot into the jail and pocketing $2,000 for his efforts. The man who Sikora met with was a police informant. Now Sikora is charged with attempting to introduce contraband into a secure facility and possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana with intent to distribute. He has also been placed on suspension from the correctional facility pending the outcome of an investigation.

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10. Michigan Bill Would Allow Roadside Drug Tests

Michigan could become the first state in the nation to drug test drivers if a Republican lawmaker has his way. Last week, Rep. Rick Jones (R-Grand Lodge) announced he was filing a bill that would allow police officers to administer roadside drug tests if they have probable cause.

traffic stop scene, from "10 Rules for Dealing with Police" (buy at stopthedrugwar.org/10rules)
Jones, a former sheriff, said the roadside tests could replace what is now an expensive and time-consuming process. Currently, officers who want to test drivers for drugs must get a search warrant to take a blood sample, which is then tested by backlogged state crime labs.

"A portable drug testing kit would be an extremely powerful tool to keep unsafe drivers off our streets. With a portable kit, officers will know in minutes whether the driver is high on drugs," Jones said in a statement

"The kit has the potential to save a great deal of tax dollars by reducing the need for state crime labs to do many tests," Jones continued. "Patrol officers now have to make a judgment call whether they believe a driver is under the influence of drugs. Science has now caught up with the need, and our patrol officers should have the option of using this valuable public safety tool."

Under the proposal, suspected drugged drivers would have to submit to a preliminary saliva drug test that can detect six kinds of drugs, including marijuana, methamphetamines, and cocaine. If the preliminary test, which produces results in minutes, came back positive, additional testing would occur.

The motivation for Jones' bill appears to be his opposition to the state medical marijuana law, enacted by the will of the voters in 2008. Last month, he introduced a bill that would bar medical marijuana "clubs and bars" throughout the state. In a statement then, the former sheriff worried about "clubs where users could get high and drive away, endangering people."

Jones' legislation is actually a three-part package, with House Bill 6430 covering motor vehicles, HB 6431 covering snowmobiles and ATVs, and HB 6432 covering trains.

[Ed: Along with the civil liberties issues, this proposal deserves scrutiny based on the drug test technology in use as well. Research has found that field drug tests commonly in use by police generate frequent false positives, sometimes from mere exposure to air.]

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11. Sensible Washington to Petition Again in 2011

Sensible Washington, the group behind this year's effort to place the I-1068 marijuana legalization initiative on the November ballot, will be back next year, the group announced Friday at the 39th Annual NORML National Conference in Portland, Oregon. The effort this year fell short with organizers gathering about 180,000 signatures, about 60,000 fewer than the 241,000 required to make the ballot.

"We're going to try to put an initiative on the ballot again to remove all punishments for possession, cultivation, and sale of marijuana," said Sensible Washington member and initiative co-author Douglas Hiatt, a Seattle defense attorney. "Some people say we're moving too soon, but don’t let that discourage you. There will be about 15,000 people arrested for marijuana in Washington next year. It's worth making a try, and we think we can do it," he said. "We have no choice but to try."

The group also picked up the endorsement of national NORML during the conference. "We are excited to once again enjoy the support of our friends at NORML, the nation’s oldest marijuana reform group," said Hiatt.

The initiative simply removes marijuana from the state's list of controlled substances and repeals associated penalties. It contains no provisions for regulating what would be a newly legal commerce in marijuana because, Sensible Washington argued, state law prevented them from addressing regulation.

Sensible Washington's strategy was challenged by the ACLU of Washington, whose Alison Holcomb released in February a letter saying the organization would not support I-1068 "because it does not provide a responsible regulatory system." Because the ACLU of Washington has a high profile on drug reform issues, its refusal to endorse hurt the initiative.

This year's effort suffered another serious blow in July, when after a brief courtship, the Service Employees International Union declined to help get it over the top. Washington SEIU spokesman Adam Glickman told Publicola at the time the initiative would be "open to a lot of attacks -- attacks around law enforcement issues" and that "losing the campaign wouldn't be very helpful."

But Sensible Washington is undeterred and is moving full-speed ahead on getting the measure on the ballot in 2011. Meanwhile, state and national movement leaders met over the weekend in a private meeting and at a public forum Sunday in a bid to reduce the chaos within the state's marijuana reform movement. Look for a Chronicle feature article in the coming weeks on the state of play of pot politics in the Evergreen State.

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12. This Week in History

September 18, 1969: In testimony before the Senate Special Subcommittee on Alcohol and Narcotics, Judge Charles W. Halleck of the District of Columbia Court of General Sessions explains why he no longer issues jail sentences to youthful marijuana offenders: "If I send a [long-haired marijuana offender] to jail even for 30 days, Senator, he is going to be the victim of the most brutal type of homosexual, unnatural, perverted assaults and attacks that you can imagine, and anybody who tells you it doesn't happen in that jail day in and day out is simply not telling you the truth... How in God's name, Senator, can I send anybody to that jail knowing that? How can I send some poor young kid who gets caught by some zealous policeman who wants to make his record on a narcotics arrest? How can I send that kid to jail? I can't do it. So I put him on probation or I suspend the sentence and everybody says the judge doesn't care. The judge doesn't care about drugs, lets them all go. You simply can't treat these kinds of people like that." [Ed: This quote was given in 1969. By repeating it in full, Drug War Chronicle does not intend to imply that any kind of sexual assault is acceptable.]

September 21, 1969: In an attempt to reduce marijuana smuggling from Mexico, the Customs Department, under Commissioner Myles Ambrose, acting on the orders of President Richard Nixon, launches Operation Intercept, subjecting every vehicle crossing the Mexican border to a three-minute inspection and to many observers marking the beginning of the modern war on drugs. The operation lasts two weeks and wreaks economic havoc on both sides of the border, but fails to seriously impact the flow of marijuana into the US.

September 19, 1986: Federal Judge H. Lee Sarokin says, "Drug testing is a form of surveillance, albeit a technological one. Nonetheless, it reports on a person's off-duty activities just as surely as if someone had been present and watching. It is George Orwell's Big Brother society come to life."

September 17, 1998: Ninety-three members of Congress vote yes in the first vote on medical marijuana to take place on the floor of the House.

September 20, 1999: The public is finally informed of the results of Washington, DC's Initiative 59, the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998, after Judge Richard Roberts orders the release of the tally previously suppressed by Congress. Voters had supported medical marijuana by 69-31%.

September 17, 2002: Santa Cruz, California officials allow a medical marijuana giveaway at City Hall to protest federal raids.

September 19, 2002: The Guardian (UK) reports that Mo Mowlam, the former cabinet minister responsible for drugs policy, is calling for the international legalization of the drug trade as part of a more effective drive to combat terrorism.

September 21, 2004: In a speech, US House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) says, "The illegal drug trade is the financial engine that fuels many terrorist organizations around the world, including Osama bin Laden."

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Permission to Reprint: This issue of Drug War Chronicle is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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