Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A federal prison contraband-for-sex scandal exploded into lethal violence Wednesday. And then there's the run of the mill: A one-time Wisconsin deputy goes down in a major marijuana bust, a former Mississippi deputy goes down for meth, a San Francisco prosecutor goes to prison for taking Ecstasy bribes, and a former Alabama deputy gets ready to go to prison for providing a gun and some crack rocks to an ex-con. Let's get to it:

In Tallahassee, Florida, a federal prison guard and a Department of Justice officer are dead, a second officer was wounded, and five more prison guards were arrested Wednesday when federal agents showed up to arrest the six guards on charges they smuggled contraband -- alcohol, marijuana, cash, and messages -- into the prison in exchange for sexual favors from inmates at the 1,400-woman facility. Federal Bureau of Prisons guard Ralph Hill opened fire when the feds arrived inside the prison, killing Justice Department Office of the Inspector General agent William Sentner and wounding an unnamed, uninvolved prison guard before being killed by other federal agents. Guards Alfred Barnes, Gregory Dixon, Ralph Hill, Vincent Johnson, Alan Moore and E. Lavon Spence face charges of engaging in a conspiracy to commit acts of bribery, witness tampering, and mail fraud; and interstate transportation in aid of racketeering. They could face up to 20 years in prison.

In Dunn, Wisconsin, a former Dane County sheriff's deputy was arrested June 14 on federal marijuana distribution conspiracy charges. Robert Lowery, 57, is accused in federal affidavits of employing a young Genesee, Wisconsin, couple to bring hundreds of pounds of pot to Wisconsin from Arizona. During a raid on his home by state Department of Criminal Investigation and Dane County deputies, the cops seized 15 pounds of pot, 25 ounces of cocaine, five guns, and $47,000 cash. They also seized 52 dogs, including 50 pit bulls, and arrested Lowery's wife on weapons and cocaine possession charges. Lowery was fired as Dane County deputy in 1981 after being accused of seeking information to provide to drug dealing associates, and charging documents allege he has been in the business ever since. The young couple has also been charged.

In Hancock County, Mississippi, a former constable and Hancock County deputy sheriff was arrested June 14 on methamphetamine possession and sales charges. Danny Hamby, 38, was one of three men arrested in a drug raid that netted a half-ounce of speed following an eight-month investigation by the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, Coastal Narcotics Enforcement Team, the DEA, and the Hancock County Sheriff's Department. Hamby was elected constable in 1999, but resigned two years later as part of a plea agreement in a domestic violence case. He then went to work briefly as a Hancock County deputy. He is being held without bond in a neighboring county jail.

In San Francisco, a former city assistant district attorney is going to prison for six months after pleading guilty to accepting drugs in exchange for leniency for two defendants he was prosecuting. Robert Roland, 35 was sentenced June 14 after a pleading guilty in February to three counts of Ecstasy possession and one count of using a telephone in a felony drug transaction. In one case, Roland dropped a felony drug count to a misdemeanor for a high school buddy, who repaid him with Ecstasy the next day. In a second case, another acquaintance supplied him with Ecstasy after he discussed diverting that case into treatment. Both of those cases occurred in 2002. Roland reports to prison August 1.

In Montgomery, Alabama, a former Houston County deputy pleaded guilty Monday to selling a gun to a convicted felon and supplying him with cocaine to sell. Michael Shawn Campbell, 27, who was working for the Houston County narcotics unit at the time, admitted selling the gun to Joshua Whigan, who he knew to be a felon, and to supplying him with crack. Whigan ratted him out. Both men await sentencing, and Campbell faces up to 40 years on the drug charge and another 10 for the gun charge.

Alert: Major Medical Marijuana Vote in Congress Next Week!

Since medical marijuana initiatives were first passed ten years ago, the DEA has conducted raids against medical marijuana clinics in California, recently with increasing frequency, forcing hundreds if not thousands of patients to procure marijuana in the black market instead. In a ruling issued on June 6, 2005, the US Supreme Court upheld the government's power to do this.

While this doesn't change anything -- state laws protecting medical marijuana patients and their providers still are binding upon state and local law enforcement authorities -- it is a missed opportunity for the Court to rein in federal overreaching and help some of our society's most vulnerable members.

Next week (as soon as Monday, June 26), the US House of Representatives will vote again on the Hinchey-Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment, which if passed will forbid the US Dept. of Justice from interfering with state medical marijuana laws. Your help is needed -- it is crucial that more members of Congress vote for medical marijuana this year than did last year. Please visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/medicalmarijuana/ to e-mail your member of Congress today!

When you're done, please call him or her on the phone to make additional impact -- use the talking points appearing below to prepare for your phone call. You can reach your Rep.'s office through the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, or you can find the direct number using our lookup tool online.

Please also tell your friends about this important action alert -- we need for everyone who cares about this to take action, and sending them to our web site to do so will also help to grow our list for the next time. Again, please visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/medicalmarijuana/ to lobby Congress and help medical marijuana patients today!
Talking Points for Your Phone Call or Letters to the Editor:

The Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment, which will come up during debate on the House Science-State-Justice-Commerce Appropriations bill this July, would forbid the Dept. of Justice from using funds to undermine state medical marijuana laws.

* More than three out of four Americans think medical use of marijuana should be legal, according to polls, and eleven states -- Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Washington -- have all enacted medical marijuana laws in recent years.
* Despite such strong support, the federal government continues to block even research to determine marijuana's medical benefits. Yet the 1999 Institute of Medicine report determined that marijuana does have medical benefit.
* Medical organizations such as the American Nurses Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians support legal access to medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.
* Blocking patients from receiving needed medicine -- threatening them with arrest, prosecution and incarceration -- is senseless and cruel.

Congress should respect state's rights and not used armed federal agents to threaten patients and providers who are in compliance with state law.

Book Offer: Burning Rainbow Farm: How a Stoner Utopia Went up in Smoke

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Many DRCNet readers remember the heartbreaking tragedy of Rainbow Farm, the alternative campground and concert site outside Vandalia, Michigan, where marijuana activists Tom Crosslin and Rollie Rohm, driven to desperation by a relentless prosecutor, were killed by FBI and state police in fall 2001. Killed for no good reason -- as a local sympathizer expressed it to Drug War Chronicle's Phil Smith at the funeral, "[Prosecutor] Scott Teter said this was their choice, but it was his choice to hound them and try to take their land and their son. He's the one who chose to shoot and kill." Rohm and Crosslin before the end burned down their beloved buildings to keep the government from getting them.

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Journalist Dean Kuipers of the Los Angeles CityBeat has now written "Burning Rainbow Farm: How a Stoner Utopia Went up in Smoke," a 304-page book being released by Bloomsbury USA this June 13. DRCNet is offering "Burning Rainbow Farm" as our latest membership premium -- donate $35 or more to DRCNet, and we will send you a copy -- donate $45 or more and we will send you one signed by the author. Your donations will help our work to end drug prohibition, while raising awareness of the recklessness and excesses of drug enforcers like prosecutor Teter -- click here to donate and order your copy.

Publishers Weekly writes of Kuipers' book, "Drawing on extensive interviews, government documents and news coverage, the author [who grew up 20 miles from the shootings] verges on portraying the prosecutor as evil incarnate. But Kuipers doesn't cross the line from sound journalism into advocacy, while letting the story unfold through superbly detailed characterizations and skillful pacing."

We also continue to offer the DVD video Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and the 5th edition of Drug War Facts. Add $5 to the minimum donation to add either of these to your request, or $10 to add both of them. Again, you can make your donation and place your order online, or send a check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. (Note that contributions to Drug Reform Coordination Network, which support our lobbying work, are not tax-deductible. Deductible contributions can be made to DRCNet Foundation, same address.) Lastly, please contact us for instructions if you wish to make a donation of stock. (Also note that copies of Rainbow Farm will be mailed out from DRCNet during the third week of June.)

Thank you for your support. If you want to read more about Rainbow Farm in the meanwhile, please see Phil's articles in the Drug War Chronicle archive: Michigan Drug Warriors Drive Marijuana Activists to the Brink, Then Gun Them Down on 9/7/01; Rainbow Farm Marijuana Activists Laid to Rest, Friends Not Resting on 9/21; and Phil's book review last week.

Offer and Appeal: Important New Legalization Video and Drug War Facts Book Available

Drug War Facts -- an important resource used widely in "the movement" -- is an extensive compilation of quotes, stats, charts and other info dealing with more than 50 drug policy topics ranging from economics to needle exchange programs to the marijuana gateway theory to environmental damage in the drug war, drug policy in other countries, race as it plays into drug war issues, even a "Drug Prohibition Timeline." Whether your goal is to improve your understanding, add force to your letters to the editor or prepare for a debate or interview, Drug War Facts, a publication of Common Sense for Drug Policy, is a valuable if not essential tool.

The 5th edition of the convenient print version of Drug War Facts is now available. Donate $17 or more to DRCNet, and we will send you -- or your specified gift recipient -- a copy of Drug War Facts. Or, donate $25 or more for Drug War Facts AND the essential DVD video Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.Please visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ to make your donation and order Drug War Facts 5th Edition today -- consider signing up to donate monthly!

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Testimonials for Drug War Facts:

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"A valuable resource for anyone concerned with drug policy." - Ira Rosen, Senior Producer, ABC News
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"Filled with hard numbers that shed much needed light on the drug war." - Lester Grinspoon, MD, Assoc. Prof of Psychiatry (emeritus), Harvard Medical School
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"A compendium of facts that fly in the face of accepted wisdom." - David Duncan, Clinical Associate Professor, Brown University Medical School

We continue to offer the new DVD from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). As Walter Cronkite wrote in a testimonial for the video, "Anyone concerned about the failure of our $69 billion-a-year War on Drugs should watch this 12-minute program. You will meet front line, ranking police officers who give us a devastating report on why it cannot work. It is a must-see for any journalist or public official dealing with this issue."

DRCNet's ability to get the word out about important tools like Drug War Facts and the LEAP DVD depends on the health and reach of our network, and that depends on your donations.Please consider donating more than the minimum -- $50, $100, $250 -- whatever you are able to spare to the cause.The cause is important -- as former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper expressed it in the LEAP video, "The Drug War has arguably been the single most devastating, dysfunctional social policy since slavery."

LEAP DVD promo

Again, our web site for credit card donations is http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ -- or send a check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. (Note that contributions to Drug Reform Coordination Network, which support our lobbying work, are not tax-deductible. Deductible contributions can be made to DRCNet Foundation, same address.) Lastly, please contact us for instructions if you wish to make a donation of stock.

Thank you for your support -- we hope to hear from you soon. Special thanks for Common Sense for Drug Policy for making these important resources possible.

DRCNet Review Essay: Over the Transom -- Modern Day Pamphleteers Address the Drug War

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Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor

"Demons, Discrimination, and Dollars: A Brief History of the Origins of American Drug Policy," by David Bearman (2005, Prosperity Press, $18.95 PB)

"The Definitive Answer to the War on Drugs," by Micah Charles (2005, Author House, $12.95 PB)

"The Beginning of Today: The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937," by Kenneth White (2004, Publish America, $9.00 PB)

"The Naked Truth About Drugs," by Daniel Williams (2004, Cronin House, $24.95 HB)

On the eve of American independence, the colonies were awash with wild-eyed radicals taking pen to hand to denounce the latest iniquities of the British crown. Tom Paine is perhaps the best known of those colonial rabble-rousers; his pamphlet "Common Sense" was a clarion call to rebellion against the injustices of colonial rule. But he was by no means alone; Paine, in fact, was representative of a hands-on, egalitarian impulse that appeared early in American society, an impulse that cried out "I have something to say and every right to be heard!"

More than two centuries later, that impulse is alive and well -- at least when it comes to the war on drugs. There is something about the issue that excites people to have their say. Other public policy issues seem to attract less outrage and fewer grassroots efforts to articulate a critique. Where, for example, are the hordes of self-published authors jumping into print with autodidactic tomes on the politics of waste water management or the epidemiology of mumps?

Perhaps it is because the drug war and drug prohibition feels so fundamentally wrong to so many American idealists. You know them: The people who actually believe all that stuff they told us when we were kids. The people who believe America is about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The people who believe America is -- or should be -- a shining beacon of freedom. The people whose attitudes toward government in general and drug prohibition in particular could be summed up by the famous coiled snake flag of the Revolutionary War: "Don't tread on me."

These days, would-be pamphleteers have other options. They can take to the Internet and blog away, as do folks like Peter Guither at Drug War Rant), Radley Balko at The Agitator, or Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast. (The latter two sites are broader than drug policy). Or they can become part of the new breed of movement journalists, like rebel radioman Dean Becker of the Drug Truth Network, Richard Cowan of Marijuana News, Preston Peet of Drug War.com, or yours truly with Drug War Chronicle. But there is something both extremely satisfying and quintessentially American in wanting to see one's impassioned ideas between the covers of a book. Here is what four of these contemporary Tom Paines are up to:

In "The Naked Truth About Drugs," author Daniel Williams provides an engaging, well-written account of various popular illicit substances and their prohibition histories. One part drug-taking memoir, one part pharmacological treatise, one part concise historical and cultural study, "The Naked Truth" provides an accessible point of entry to the debates over illegal drugs as well as solid suggestions for where we go from here. And Williams asks the key question: "Who benefits from the war on drugs?" "The Naked Truth" is an interesting, opinionated, and passionate effort, so much so that the author can be forgiven for using a nude photo of himself on the front cover.

"In the Beginning of Today," California attorney and law professor Kenneth White undertakes a detailed examination of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, the founding act of federal pot prohibition in the US, and uses it as a lead-in to a discussion of ending the war on marijuana. With chapters on the run-up to the Tax Act, the politics surrounding the Act, and current US marijuana policy and its alternatives, White covers a lot of ground in this concise volume. While his discussion of the Tax Act is likely to prove slow reading for all but historians and legal scholars, White's discussion of where we go from here is succinct and well thought-out.

In "The Definitive Answer to the War on Drugs," Micah Charles lays out a legalization scheme that would doubtless win the approval of Bolivian President Evo Morales and countless Afghan opium farmers, as well as all those "marijuana as sacrament" people. Charles summarizes his argument in one sentence printed on the book's cover: "Give back to mankind their right to all plants and the drug war will dissolve itself." Charles' naturalistic approach, however, would leave synthetic drugs like amphetamines or plant alkaloids like cocaine and heroin illegal, leading one to ask whether he has indeed come up with "the definitive answer," but he at least takes the discussion to a new level.

In "Demons, Discrimination, and Dollars," long-time drug treatment specialist Dr. David Bearman examines the tangled cultural and historical roots of drug prohibition in the US and the Western world. This is a familiar story, but Bearman has a deft touch and makes the material feel new and refreshing as he takes us through witch hysteria, tales of crazed Negroes on cocaine, Reefer Madness, and scary "hippies on acid" propaganda. Bearman finds the roots of prohibition in racism and religious fears and addresses how those causes have been joined by the economic benefits prohibition brings for important social actors.

At the very end of his book, Bearman resorts to a tellingly All-American appeal to authority. He quotes Thomas Jefferson: "The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government," the founding father wrote. It is fitting indeed that this modern day pamphleteer bring the American story in all its glory and tragedy back to its beginnings.

Feature: Move to Block DEA Medical Marijuana Raids Heads for House Floor Vote Next Week

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Rep. Maurice Hinchey addresses 2005 medical marijuana press conference as Montel Williams awaits his turn at the podium
For the fourth consecutive year, an effort is underway in Congress to stop the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from arresting and prosecuting medical marijuana patients and providers in the 11 states where it is legal.

Named after its sponsors, Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment would bar the Justice Department from using federal funds to pursue the medical marijuana community in those 11 states. It is scheduled for a floor vote next week.

The amendment responds to a real need: According to Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical marijuana defense group pushing for the amendment, at least 20 California dispensaries and collectives have been raided by the feds since the Supreme Court gave the DEA a green light with its decision in the Raich case almost a year ago. In that case, the court held that federal law making marijuana illegal superseded -- but did not invalidate -- any state medical marijuana laws.

"We are talking about at least two very important issues here," Rep. Hinchey told DRCNet Wednesday. "One is the ability to alleviate the conditions of people who are suffering from serious illnesses, such as cancer and HIV/AIDS. A study done by the Institute of Medicine under the auspices of the National Academy of Science found that marijuana used under a physician's recommendation can have very significant and salutary benefits for people suffering from those conditions. The idea that we would deprive human beings of relief recommended by a licensed physician is not humanitarian; it's inhumane. It's a really bad thing to do," Hinchey said.

"We have an administration whose Justice Department is interfering with that kind of medical practice, and we have a recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision which to some extent backs them up. That decision and the actions of the Justice Department are frankly inexplicable because what we're dealing with here is a decision by either the legislative bodies or the people themselves through referenda to provide this kind of medical relief and assistance to their citizens," Hinchey continued from his Capitol Hill office.

"Under the Constitution, these kinds of decisions are not in the hands of the federal government; they are in the hands of the states," said Hinchey, who represents a district in New York's Southern Tier. "Eleven states have decided they want to provide this kind of relief to their citizens, and now the federal government is sticking its nose in somebody else's business and trying to impede those decisions. That is just inappropriate, unconstitutional, and shouldn't be allowed. This amendment is designed put a stop to it."

Support for Hinchey-Rohrabacher is trending upward. In 2003, it got 152 votes. In 2004, an election year, support dropped to 148 votes, but rose to 161 last year. It takes 218 votes to ensure passage in the House. Supporters said they expected to make significant gains in next week's vote, although none was bold enough to predict victory this year.

Although the bill is cosponsored by California Republican Rep. Rohrabacher, voting has hardly been bipartisan. Last year, 145 Democrats voted for the amendment, while only 15 Republicans did.

With a floor vote expected next Wednesday or Thursday, the measure's sponsors and a coalition of drug reform groups, including the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), ASA, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), DRCNet and others are going into high gear. "This is the final push," said MPP director of government relations Aaron Houston. "We've really been trying to connect with members of Congress. I have a good feeling about this year."

"We're trying to lean on all the swing votes right now," said Bill Piper, DPA head of national affairs. "We've been dropping off materials to members, and we'll be sending out an action alert this week," he told DRCNet. "We're definitely going to pick up votes. The real question is how many, and whether we will lose any because it's an election year, but I suspect our numbers will go up significantly."

With Democrats already generally supporting the amendment -- 70% of them voted for it last year -- reformers are also reaching out to Republicans. "We're aiming at both parties, of course, but we emphasized working on the Republicans earlier this year," Piper said. "We've hit a ceiling of sorts with Democrats. We will pick some more Democrats up, but there are so many more Republicans who could vote yes, and I think that's where we'll see out biggest gains."

"We're optimistic," said Piper. "Everyone is expecting to pick up votes and keep the momentum going. If we could get almost all the Democrats to vote for this, we would win, assuming Republican support stayed the same. And there are a lot of conservative House Republicans that are very frustrated with the White House and the drug czar. They might be willing to send a message to the DEA and the Justice Department that the money used to go after medical marijuana patients could be used to go after methamphetamine. If we get a significant vote increase, that would be a strong message that they need to think again."

"We had 27 meetings on the Hill," exclaimed ASA executive director Steph Sherer, who recently relocated to Washington. "We had a group of doctors, scientists, and patients and we went to see the toughest congressional targets," she told DRCNet. "This was the first time some of these people had ever met a patient, doctor, or scientist talking about this. I don't know whether they will support it this year, but I think we're opening a dialogue that will lead to long-term solutions for medical marijuana at the federal level."

MPP is also aiming at Republicans, said Houston. "We've got a GOP lobbying team of six people, all Republicans, all but one from groups not focused on drug policy," he told DRCNet. That team includes an Eagle Foundation education lobbyist, a Republican banking committee staffer, and a Republican Connecticut state legislator, Houston said. "These are conservative Republican organizations," he pointed out.

On the West Coast, the group has also enlisted Alex Holstein, a former executive director of the Republican Party of San Diego County, to enlist GOP support. Now head of the California Coalition for Compassionate Access, Holstein is urging Republicans to stand by conservative values in supporting the amendment.

"Local control and reduced federal authority are lynchpin Republican principles," he said. "We're asking our fellow Republicans to stand by those principles and end federal interference with the decisions made by states like California to protect medical marijuana patients from arrest and prosecution."

"States' rights is something many Republicans agree with on its face," said MPP's Houston, "and it will get some major traction if Republicans are willing to buck their party. States' rights will be the key argument for many Republicans. Protecting medical marijuana patients is entirely consistent with Republican small government states' rights principles. Republicans who vote against this amendment are showing a nanny-state liberal tendency to interfere in the lives of sick people."

Emphasizing states' rights is one way of appealing to Republicans, agreed Rep. Hinchey, who addressed a fundraising gala for MPP in New York City earlier this month. "Interfering with relief for people who are suffering in states that have approved medical marijuana unconstitutionally impedes states' rights. It's very clear," he said. "The practice of medicine is something that has been controlled by the states from the very beginning of the republic. We have picked up a few votes from principled Republicans who seem to understand this, and we hope we can find a few more."

"I have a good feeling about this year," said Houston. "The fact that the administration is in such hot water right now with congressional Republicans will probably hurt party discipline, and with the Hammer gone," a reference to recently departed House Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX), "we might see more Republicans actually willing to vote their consciences and stand up for states' rights rather than blindly following the administration's anti-science and cruel and heartless policy of arresting patients."

"You never know what's going to happen," said Hinchey, refusing to make a prediction on the outcome. "There are some people with their fingers in the air testing the wind."

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