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This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

The border remains a temptation for Texas cops, a Southern California dispensary was a temptation for a crew of misbehaving cops there, and more. Let's get to it:

In Santa Ana, California, three Santa Ana police officers were fired last Thursday for their antics during the raid of a medical marijuana dispensary. Officers disabled surveillance cameras during the raid, but forgot one, leading to the whole thing being caught on video. The video showed police ridiculing a disabled woman in a wheelchair, laughing and joking, throwing darts, and eating snacks from the dispensary, which may or may not have been medical marijuana edibles. Officers Brandon Matthew Sontag, Nicole Lynn Quijas, and Jorge Arroyo are the ones fired. All three are also charged with petty theft, and Sontag is charged with vandalism for breaking the store's surveillance cameras.

In McAllen, Texas, a former Mission police officer and DEA task force member was convicted last Thursday of ripping off cocaine, cutting and packaging it, then using some of it in a staged fake drug bust. Hector Mendez, 46, and a coconspirator ripped off more than 30 pounds of cocaine. A jury convicted Mendez of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.

In Del Rio, Texas, a former Del Rio police officer was sentenced last Wednesday to seven years in federal prison after admitted he sold cocaine from an auto body shop he owned. Raymond Villarreal earlier had been found guilty by a jury of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. He also has to do five years of probation.

In Flemington, New Jersey, a former senior Department of Corrections guard was sentenced last Wednesday to five years in state prison for supplying synthetic cannabinoids to inmates at a Clinton Township youth jail. Nickoy Ellis, 32, had earlier pleaded guilty to official misconduct. He is also barred from ever holding public employment in the state. 

Chronicle AM: New England Pot Polls, First FL MedMJ Dispensary Set to Open, More... (7/20/16)

A Massachusetts poll has the pot legalization initiative losing, a New Hampshire poll shows record support for legalization, Florida's first dispensary gets the okay to open, and more. 

Marijuana Policy 

Massachusetts Poll Has Pot Legalization Losing, But… A new poll from Gravis Marketing has 51% opposed to the legalization initiative sponsored by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, with only 41% saying they would vote for it. The poll was commissioned by a conservative political action committee called Jobs First, and Gravis used "instant voice recognition" to conduct the survey. Gravis said the poll's margin of error was +/- 3.3%.

New Hampshire Poll Has Record Support for Pot Legalization. A whopping 61% of respondents said they supported legalizing small amounts of marijuana in a new WMUR Granite State poll. The strong support for freeing the weed comes as even as 43% of respondents named illegal drug use as the most important problem facing the state. Illegal drug use has been cited as the state's top problem in every WMUR since October 2015.

Medical Marijuana

Florida's First Dispensary Gets Okay to Open. The state Department of Health Wednesday granted a formal Authorization to Process and Authorization to Dispense to the Trulieve dispensary in Tallahassee. The shop will begin selling low-THC marijuana products beginning immediately, with high-THC products available early next month.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Illinois Governor Signs Bill to Allow Drug Court Participants to Use Opioid Treatment Meds. Gov. Bruce Raunder (R) last week signed into law a bill that will prevent drug court judges from barring participants from using medications doctors prescribe to treat opiate addiction. The measure will go into effect January 1. 

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A major Detroit corruption case comes to an end, a Pennsylvania cop gets nailed for accepting pain pills to let a drug dealer walk, an Ohio cop rips off the undercover drug buy fund, and more. Let's get to it:

In Sabina, Ohio, a former Sabina police officer was arrested last Wednesday for stealing a thousand bucks from the department's undercover drug buy fund. Olin Mills was in charge of that fund, from which the money went missing last August. He is charged with felony theft in office.

In Cullman, Alabama, a state prison guard was arrested last Thursday for trying to smuggle drugs into the St. Clair Correctional Facility. Guard Deandre Price, 23, is charged with possession of a controlled substance and promoting contraband within a state correctional facility. He went down after being subjected to a search as he arrived at work.

In Detroit, two Detroit narcotics officers were convicted Tuesday of ripping off drug dealers for drugs and cash during raids. Officers David Hansberry, 34, and Bryan Watson, 47, were convicted of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by extortion and robbery and face up to 20 years in federal prison. A third officer, Kevlin Brown, 46, was acquitted. The convictions bring to an end a sensational scandal that has rocked the city for months.

In Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a former Dupont police officer was sentenced Monday to five to 12 months in prison for letting a drug dealer go free in exchange for pain pills. Kenneth Shotwell, 47, went down after he let another officer who was getting drugs from the dealer persuade him not to arrest the dealer if the dealer gave him some pills. He was convicted in March of bribery, official oppression, and obstructing justice. The other cop is now doing time in federal prison.

Chronicle AM: House Passes Opioid Bill Without $$, CA Drug Felonies Plummet, More... (7/11/16)

California felony drug arrests are down, Colombian coca production is up, the Arizona marijuana legalization initiative is trailing in a new poll, Congress moves toward final passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, but there's a fight over funding, and more.

The House passes the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, but spurns efforts to pay for it. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Poll Has Legalization Initiative Trailing. A new poll from O.H. Predictive Insights has the legalization initiative sponsored by the Arizona Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol losing on election day. The poll found 52.5% opposed, with only 39% in favor. The initiative has not yet officially qualified for the ballot, but is expected to after supporters handed in 100,000 more signatures than needed, providing plenty of cushion for invalidated signatures. The campaign does have significant resources; it looks like it will need them to turn the numbers around.

Arizona Supreme Court Rules Mere Smell of Marijuana is Grounds for Search, Even Though It's a Medical Marijuana State. The state's high court ruled Monday that the mere smell of marijuana is sufficient grounds to obtain a search warrant, even though the state has legalized medical marijuana. But the court also held that the legal foundation for such a search can go up in smoke if police have evidence the suspected marijuana use or possession is legal under state law. The case is State v. Sisco.

North Dakota Legalization Initiative Campaign Comes Up Short. North Dakotans will not be voting on marijuana legalization this fall. Sponsors of the initiative conceded Monday they only had about 10,000 signatures, and they needed 13,452 valid signatures to qualify. Monday was the deadline for turning in signatures.

Medical Marijuana

Illinois Medical Marijuana Sales Continue Climbing. The state saw $2.57 million in medical marijuana sales in June, up from $2.3 million in May, according to figures from the state Department of Agriculture. Sales total $13.8 million since the first dispensaries started operating last November. The numbers should increase even further once two new qualifying conditions -- PTSD and terminal illness -- come on line. They've already been approved, but the Department of Health is in the midst of preparing new rules and application forms.

North Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative Campaign Hands in Signatures. The North Dakotans for Compassionate Care campaign handed in some 15,500 raw signatures for its medical marijuana initiative Monday, the last day for handing them in. The campaign needs 13,452 valid voter signatures to qualify, so there is very little cushion for invalidated signatures. Stay tuned.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

House Approves Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, But Without Requested Funding. The House last Friday gave final approval to S. 524, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), but beat back Democratic efforts to provide additional funding for it. The Obama administration had asked for $1.1 billion, and House Democrats tried in vain last week to $925 million in funding. The White House has suggested it may veto the bill if no extra funding is attached. House Republicans said funding was available elsewhere. The measure is a conference committee compromise, with the Senate set to give final approval this week.

Sentencing

California Drug Felony Arrests Plummet in Wake of Prop 47. What happens when you change drug felonies to misdemeanors? Drug felonies plummet. Felony drug arrests in California dropped between 68% and 73% between 2014 and 2015 according to new data from the California Attorney General. Marijuana felonies followed a similar curve, dropping from 13,300 in 2014 to 8,856 last year. On the other hand, misdemeanor drug arrests nearly doubled, from 92,469 in 2014 to 163,073 last year.

International

Poll Finds Majority of British MPs Favor Medical Marijuana. Some 58% of British MPs back the use of medical marijuana, according to the polling firm Populus. Only 27% were opposed. Support was strongest among Scottish National Party MPs (88%), followed by Labor (60%), and even 55% of Tories were on board.

Colombia Coca Boom Underway. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported last Thursday that coca cultivation had increased by 39% last year and nearly doubled since 2013. Some observers speculate that it reflects coca growers' belief that this could be the last chance to grow the cash crop before a peace deal between the government and the leftist guerrillas of the FARC takes hold. Colombia government officials said the largest increases in cultivation are in areas controlled by the FARC.

Chronicle AM: AR MedMJ Makes Ballot, Roadside Drug Tests Send Innocent to Jail, More... (7/7/16)

Arkansas will join Florida in voting on medical marijuana in November, California's Prop 64 legalization initiative just got another $1.25 million from Sean Parker, a major investigative report finds that police field drug tests are shoddy, unreliable, and are sending innocent people to jail and prison, and more.

Cheap police field drug tests are unreliable and send innocent people to jail, a major investigative report has found.
Marijuana Policy

Alaska Governor Signs Bill for National Criminal Background Checks on People Seeking Marijuana Business Licenses. Gov. Bill Walker (R) has signed into law Senate Bill 165, which will allow state regulators to send fingerprints acquired as part of the application process for marijuana business licenses to the state Department of Public Safety and FBI. Until now, regulators have been issuing licenses based on the applicant's sworn certification he does not hae a disqualifying criminal history.

Sean Parker Kicks in Another $1.25 Million for California Prop 64 Legalization Initiative. Former Facebook president and tech sector billionaire Sean Parker has just doubled his contribution to the Prop 64 campaign. Parker donated $1.25 million, bringing his total contributions so far to $2.5 million.

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act Qualifies for November Ballot. Arkansans for Compassionate Care (ACC) has collected enough valid voter signatures to qualify its medical marijuana initiative for the November ballot, Secretary of State Mack Martin confirmed Tuesday. A second initiative, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, has yet to qualify for the ballot, and ACC is calling on its organizers to end their campaign and join forces.

California: San Bernardino Initiative to Allow Dispensaries Will Go to Voters. The city council voted Tuesday night to put a dispensary regulatory system before the voters in November, even though a majority disapproves of it. Their hand was forced by a petition campaign that gathered more than 6,000 voter signatures. A second, competing proposal may also make the ballot.

California: Long Beach to Vote on Allowing Dispensaries. City Clerk Maria de la Luz Garcia announced Tuesday that an initiative to allow dispensaries has qualified for the November ballot. A city council member may try to add another ballot measure that would allow dispensaries, but with more restrictions.

Drug Testing

Roadside Drug Tests Are Sending Innocent People to Jail. In a major investigative piece, Pro Publica and the New York Times Magazine have collaborated to examine the pervasive use of cheap drug field tests by law enforcement and have found that the test generate huge numbers of false positives, resulting in innocent people being jailed and wrongfully convicted of drug charges. Faced with possible prison sentences, many pleaded guilty to lesser charges despite being innocent of any crime.

International

Uruguay Marijuana Consumer Licensing System About to Get Underway. This month, Uruguay will begin signing up pot smokers to buy marijuana from state-licensed pharmacies in the world's first scheme for state-licensed production and sale of the herb. The first crop is being harvested and should be available for sale by mid-August.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Houston cop who helped cocaine traffickers and procured guns that ended up in the hands of Mexican cartel leaders gets hammered at sentencing, cops in Phoenix and California get in trouble for warning drug suspects of police activity, and more. Let's get to it:

In Clay, New York, an Onondaga County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Thursday on charges he stole prescription opioid pills from his girlfriend and the medicine cart at the downtown jail. Deputy John Gioconodo, 50, worked as a jail deputy and is a 26-year veteran. He is accused of stealing the drugs from the jail while on duty. He's due back in court next week.

In Phoenix, Arizona, two former Phoenix police officers were indicted Wednesday on charges they warned customers and employees at a strip club that the club was being investigated for drug activity. Former officers Sebastian Castillo and Richard Denny both resigned after the March incident, but they have now been indicted on a single count of hindering prosecution, a felony.

In Sacramento, California, a former Yuba City police officer pleaded guilty last Friday to providing sensitive law enforcement information to a person he believed to be a cocaine trafficker. Harminder Phagura, 35, was paid at least $6,000 to repeatedly provide warnings that police were in the area. He pleaded guilty to one count of bribery. He's looking at up to 10 years in federal prison.

In New Orleans, a former Houston police officer was sentenced last Thursday to 30 years in federal prison for his role in a large-scale drug conspiracy. Noe Juarez had been convicted in January of conspiracy to possess and distribute more than five pounds of cocaine and conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense. Authorities said he helped an organization that distributed hundreds of pounds of cocaine throughout the country. Juarez played a critical role in the conspiracy by providing sensitive law enforcement information, including running license plate numbers, and sharing police tactics and activities with his co-conspirators. He also supplied vehicles, body armor, and weapons to his co-conspirators, some of which ended up in the hands of senior cartel figures in Mexico.

Chronicle AM: Jamaica Airport Pot Shops Coming, AZ Legalizers Hand in Signatures, More... (6/30/16)

Arizona marijuana legalization advocates turned in signatures today, Massachusetts legalizers filed a campaign complaint against a police chief, Canada takes its first step toward legalization, Jamaica wants airport pot shops, and more.

Good times are coming to Jamaica. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Arizona Legalization Campaign Hands in 200,000 Signatures. The Arizona Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Thursday handed in more than 200,000 signatures in a bid to get its legalization initiative on the November ballot. The campaign needs 150,000 valid voter signatures to qualify. Given that petition drives typically end up with 20%-30% of signatures deemed invalid, this is going to be a nail-biter. If 20% of signatures are invalid, it qualifies; if 30% are invalid; it fails to qualify.

Arizona Legalization Would Bring in Tens of Millions in Tax Revenues. A new report from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee estimates that legalization would be a half-billion a year market in the state and would generate $82 million a year in revenues for the state from taxes and fees.

Massachusetts Legalization Campaign Files Campaign Finance Complaint Against Police Chief. The Massachusetts Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Thursday filed a complaint against Walpole Police Chief John Carmichael with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance. The complaint says Carmichael appeared at an event by campaign opponents dressed in police uniform, during working hours, and had arrived in a work vehicle. Under state campaign law, appointed officials may not promote or oppose ballot questions during working hours or use public resources to do so.

Law Enforcement

Texas Man Facing Murder Trial in Cop's Death During Botched Drug Raid Says Friendly Fire Killed Him. Marvin Louis Guy, the Waco homeowner who has been jailed on capital murder charges ever since the May 2014 raid in which Officer Charles Dinwiddie was killed, has filed a federal civil rights complaints charging that Dinwiddie was actually killed by fellow officers as they fired a hail of bullets into his home. The raiders were serving a "no knock" search warrant looking for cocaine; they found none. Guy admitted firing a weapon through his window as the police attempt to break his door down "put me in fear of me and my family's safety," but said that his were not the fatal shots. He is seeking the dismissal of the murder charge and monetary damages.

International

Canada Announces Launch of Marijuana Legalization Task Force. The federal government has taken a first step toward implementing marijuana legalization by announcing the formation of a task force to draft legalization legislation. The government expects to have a bill ready to go by next spring. Over the next four months, the task force will consult with provincial, local, and indigenous governments, as well as youth and experts in healthcare, criminal justice, economics, industry, and law enforcement. It will also talk with companies that have experience in the sale, production, and distribution of the herb.

Jamaica Wants Airport Pot Shops for Tourists. The island nation's Cannabis Licensing Authority is drafting plans for marijuana shops that would allow tourists to buy up to two ounces of weed at airports as they enter the country. People from abroad who are medical marijuana patients could buy ganja without any further ado, but others would have to be licensed by workers at the airport shops.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Corrupt cops seem to have taken summer vacation this week, with only a couple of incidents popping up. They both involve cops with sticky fingers. Let's get to it:

In Syracuse, New York, an Onondaga County sheriff's deputy was arrested Tuesday on charges he stole drugs on two occasions. Deputy John Giocondo, 50, who worked at the county jail, was accused of stealing drugs at the jail and at another non-work-related site. He is charged with official misconduct, two counts of petit larceny, and two counts of possession of a controlled substance.

In Edinburg, Texas, a former Sullivan City police officer was sentenced last Monday to probation after being convicted of stealing handfuls of marijuana from the police department evidence room. Angel de la Mora, 32, was originally charged with theft by a public servant, possession of marijuana, and two counts of official oppression, but agreed to plead guilty to only the latter two charges. Former Sullivan City Police Chief Miguel Martinez also went down in the incident; he saw de la Mora take the weed, but didn't report it. He was forced to resign in April, after also being charged with marijuana possession and official oppression.

Chronicle AM: CA Will Vote on Legalization, Veterans' MedMJ Fight Not Over Yet, More... (6/29/16)

That nation's most populous state will vote on marijuana legalization in November, federal legislators keep fighting for medical marijuana access for veterans, a New Jersey needle exchange bill nears passage, the ACLU goes after the Border Patrol for abuses at interior check points, and more.

Marijuana Policy

It's Official -- California Will Vote on Marijuana Legalization in November. A broadly-backed initiative to legalize marijuana in the country's most populous state will be on the California ballot in November. The secretary of state's office made it official Tuesday afternoon, certifying that a random sample of more than 600,000 signatures turned in showed there were enough valid signatures to qualify the measure. "Today marks a fresh start for California, as we prepare to replace the costly, harmful and ineffective system of prohibition with a safe, legal and responsible adult-use marijuana system that gets it right and completely pays for itself," said Jason Kinney, spokesperson for the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA).

Medical Marijuana

Eleven Lawmakers Ask House and Senate Leadership to Restore Medical Marijuana Language in VA Bill. The move comes after language allowing VA docs to recommend medical marijuana passed both the House and Senate, only to be mysteriously dropped in conference committee. "We feel the failure of the Conferees to include either provision is a drastic misfortune for veterans and is contrary to the will of both chambers as demonstrated by the strong bipartisan support for these provisions," the supporters wrote to congressional leaders on Tuesday. Among the signatories were Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Sens. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). Other signatories to the letter, all Democrats, include Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Barbara Boxer of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Reps. Jared Polis of Colorado, Dina Titus of Nevada and Ruben Gallego of Arizona.

Illinois Judge Orders State to ADD PTSD to Medical Marijuana List. A Cook County judge has ordered the state Department of Public Health to add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of diseases eligible to be treated with medical marijuana. The sternly worded ruling also said the department's director, Niray Shah, an appointee of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, had engaged in a "constitutionally inappropriate private investigation" before deciding to rule against adding PTSD after the medical marijuana advisory board had recommended adding it. The court accused Shah of applying his own standard of medical evidence that "appears nowhere in the Act or the department's rules" and "was contrary to the plain language of the department's rules."

Los Angeles County Extends Ban on Medical Marijuana in Unincorporated Areas. County supervisors voted Tuesday to extend by a year a temporary ban on medical marijuana cultivation and distribution in unincorporated areas. The county enacted a 45-day ban earlier this year and then extended it by another month before now extending it for another year. County planning officials said the ban was needed as they study how to regulate medical marijuana, but advocates retorted that the supervisors should concentrate on actually regulating the industry, not on extending bans.

Harm Reduction

New Jersey Needle Exchange Bill Nears Passage. The Senate Monday gave final approval to a bill that would allow localities across the state to enact needle exchange programs. The Assembly is expected to approve changes in the Senate version of the bill Thursday. The measure, Assembly Bill 415, would then await the signature of Gov. Chris Christie (R) to become law. The state enacted a law allowing pilot needle exchange programs a decade ago.

Law Enforcement

ACLU Accuses Border Patrol of Wrongful Detentions, Seizures The ACLU of Arizona Tuesday filed a formal complaint with the Department of Homeland Security and its constituent agency, US Customs and Border Protection, demanding an investigation into "abuses arising from Border Patrol interior operations." "At the same time the Justice Department and the Obama administration are rightly urging local police to adopt 'best practices' -- ending racial profiling, collecting stop data, and curbing police militarization and asset forfeiture abuses -- we see the nation's largest law enforcement agency, CBP, rejecting those commonsense reforms," said James Lyall, a staff attorney with the ACLU. "The federal government is effectively saying, 'Do as I say, not as I do,' which leaves Border Patrol free to target citizens and non-citizens alike with these increasingly extreme and abusive practices."

Chronicle AM: Dem Senators Push DEA on Rescheduling, More Toronto Pot Shop Raids, More... (6/24/16)

Sanders supporters eye a pot plank in the Democratic Party platform, Democratic senators push the DEA on rescheduling, the UN says US heroin use is at a 20-year high, Toronto pot shops get raided, and more.

Cannabis Culture storefront bust in Toronto Thursday (Twitter/@EbonyReneeBaker)
Marijuana Policy

Sanders Pushes Marijuana Reform in the Democratic Platform. Bernie Sanders' campaign is not quiet. The Vermont senator has lost the nomination to Hillary Clinton, but he and his delegates are pushing for reformist planks in the Democratic Party platform, including removing marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act. At least 12 state Democratic Party platforms have embraced marijuana law reform; perhaps this year, the national party will, too.

Democratic Senators Urge DEA to Reschedule Marijuana. The DEA has said it's thinking about it -- in fact, it's in the "final stages" of deliberation -- but the Democratic lawmakers want to renew the pressure on the agency to act. Signers of the letters are Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Barbara Boxer of California, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkle of Oregon, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Delaware Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Calls for Legalization. State Sen.Colin Bonini (R-Dover) said Thursday that the legislature's passage of a bill allowing deferred judgment for small-time pot possessors has removed the last vestige of criminal accountability for pot possession and that the state might as well just legalize it. The Dover conservative is seeking his party's gubernatorial nomination.

Heroin and Prescription Opioids

Heroin Use in US at 20-Year High, UN Says. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported that the US now has a million heroin users, up three-fold from 2003, a situation the office described as "alarming." The finding came in the World Drug Report 2016, released yesterday.

International

Toronto Police Raid Four More Dispensaries, Including Jody and Marc Emery's. Police in Toronto raided four more dispensaries yesterday, including the Cannabis Culture storefront owned by Vancouver's leading cannabis couple, Marc and Jody Emery. Police Chief Mark Saunders said the dispensaries are operating illegally and police will continue to bust them. An earlier round of dispensary raids last month was widely criticized, with proponents noting that the Liberal government is moving to legalize marijuana.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays 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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