Criminal Justice

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Chronicle AM: Activists Block Bad MI MedMJ Bills, Jeb Bush Now Open to Decrim, More (12/14/15)

San Francisco prepares for marijuana legalization, a Kentucky state senator wants it there too, Ohio legalizers spent millions losing last month, a federal drug and mental health treatment bill passes the Senate, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Jeb Bush Now Supports Decriminalization, But Still Calls Pot a "Gateway Drug." GOP presidential contender Jeb Bush last Friday said he could live with decriminalization. "It's one thing to say we should have decriminalization of marijuana. I support that," he said in an interview with Joe Mathieu of Boston' WBZ NewsRadio. While that is an advance for the former Florida governor, he added that he rejected legalization and brought out the discredited gateway theory for support. "Marijuana is a gateway drug just as opiates are a gateway drug," Bush continued. "Of course it is, every study shows that."

Kentucky Senator Files Marijuana Legalization Bill. Sen. Perry Clark (D-Louisville) announced last Friday that he has pre-filed the Cannabis Freedom Act, which would repeal pot prohibition and replace it with a regulatory framework that would "promote public safety and responsible cannabis consumption by persons over 21 years of age." The bill will be considered during the 2016 legislative session, which starts January 5.

Michigan Supreme Court Okays Grand Rapids Decriminalization Ordinance. The state high court has rejected a challenge to the ordinance's legality from Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth. The ordinance, approved by voters in 2012, makes possession or sharing marijuana a civil infraction, punishable only by fines. Forsyth had argued that the ordinance was an illegal restriction on his power to enforce state drug laws, but he lost in circuit court and the Court of Appeals. And he lost again, and finally, when the state Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal.

Ohio Legalizers Spent Nearly $22 Million in Failed Initiative Campaign. Ouch, that's gotta hurt! ResponsibleOhio and its deep-pocketed backers, who hoped to win monopolistic marijuana concessions, spent more than $21 million in their campaign, only to get trounced last month. The campaign spent $12 million between July and October and had burned through nearly another $10 million just getting on the ballot.

Eyeing Looming Legalization, San Francisco Creates Marijuana Task Force. Last week, the Board of Supervisors' Rules Committee voted to appoint 11 people to a task force aimed at helping to guide the city's policies in the face of seemingly inevitable marijuana legalization.

Medical Marijuana

Michigan Medical Marijuana Activists Stop Dispensary Bills. Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) has given up on moving his medical marijuana dispensary bills in the face of strong opposition by activists. The link has all the juicy details.

Utah Poll Has Strong Support for Medical Marijuana. Some 61% of Utahns support legalizing medical marijuana, according to a new poll from Dan Jones and Associates. The poll comes as Sen. Mark Madsen (R-Saratoga Springs) says he will reintroduce a medical marijuana in the coming session. His bill last session failed by one vote in the Senate.

Heroin

New Hampshire Attorney General Will Seek Murder Charges in Heroin Overdoses. Attorney General Joe Foster (D) says he plans to aggressively seek murder charges against dealers of drugs involved in overdose deaths. "The message to dealers is: If you sell this stuff here and we can (figure) the facts out, you will be going to jail for a very, very long time," Attorney General Joe Foster said. Overdose deaths are expected to top 400 in the state this. Foster also said he is seeking $115,000 for a new prosecutor for drug cases and exploring a federal grant to hire another drug prosecutor.

Drug Policy

Federal Synthetic Drugs Bill Filed. Rep. John Katko (R-NY) has filed HR 4229, which seeks to "address the continued threat posed by dangerous synthetic drugs by amending the Controlled Substance Act" to make it easier to go after drug analogs. It also calls on the US Sentencing Commission to ensure that sentences for violations are "appropriately severe."

Drug Treatment

Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act Passes Senate. The act, S 993, sponsored by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), passed the Senate last Thursday. It is aimed at facilitating collaboration among the criminal justice, juvenile justice, veterans treatment services, mental health treatment, and substance abuse systems. The bill now goes to the House.

International

Colombian Senate Approves Medical Marijuana. In a plenary session last Friday, the Colombian Senate approved a bill legalizing medical marijuana. President Santos had said he would do it through an executive order, but the Senate decided not to wait. The bill now moves to the Chamber of Deputies, where it will be debated early next year.

(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.)

Chronicle AM: Mexico Issues First Pot Permits, DOJ Wants More $$$ for Asset Forfeiture, More (12/11/15)

A legalization initiative dies in Florida, but another is born in Montana; the Justice Department proposes funding increases for asset forfeiture programs, Mexico issues the first permits allowing people to grow and possess marijuana, and more.

!Viva Mexico!
Marijuana Policy

Florida Legalization Initiative Gives Up. Marijuana legalization will not be on the Florida ballot next year. Regulate Florida, which was the group behind the campaign, conceded Wednesday that it would not be able to gather the 683,000 needed signatures by the February deadline. They may try again in 2018, the group said.

Montana Legalization Initiative Approved for Signature Gathering. Secretary of State Linda McCulloch (D) Thursday approved the language of Initiative 178, which would legalize pot for people 21 and over, subject to licensing requirements and state regulations. Petitioners need 24,175 valid voter signatures, including at least 5% of registered voters in each of the state's 343 House districts.

St. Petersburg Ponders Decriminalization. St. Petersburg city council members Thursday asked Pinellas County commissioners to decriminalize small-time pot possession. Council members said that if the county doesn't act, they will draft their own municipal decriminalization proposal. In the past year, local decriminalization has taken off in Florida, with Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, as well as several municipalities in those counties, adopting similar ordinances.

Asset Forfeiture

Justice Department Wants Even More Money for Asset Forfeiture Programs. American law enforcement is seizing property from citizens at a record rate, but that's apparently not good enough for the Justice Department, which is seeking increased funding to support the asset forfeiture activities of the DEA and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces. The department wants $297.2 million to fund asset forfeiture in FY 2016, up $14 million over the previous year and up a whopping 146% since 2008. The entire federal drug control budget has increased by only 25% during that same period.

Drug Policy

Maine Legislature Caves in to Governor, Agrees to Hire More Drug Agents. Legislative leaders Wednesday unveiled a $4.8 million plan to fight the state's opiate use problem, with half of the funding going to law enforcement, including the hiring of 10 new state drug agents. Gov. Paul Le Page (R) had threatened to call in the National Guard today to fight drugs if the legislature didn't fund his demands. The other half of the money designated would go toward treatment, recovery, and education.

International

Mexico Issues First Permits to Grow and Use Marijuana. The Mexican government has awarded permits to four people that allow them to grow and possess marijuana for personal use. The move comes in the wake of last month's Supreme Court decision allowing the four to legally produce it for their own use. Both the court ruling and the permits were limited to the four people in the case, but could pave the way for similar court rulings across the country and, ultimately, pot legalization nationwide.

Danish Parliament Considers Medical Marijuana. The parliament today began debating a proposal to legalize marijuana for medical use. The bill is sponsored by Alternativet, but has the support of other parties as well. Alternativet, Dansk Folkeparti, Liberal Alliance, Socialistisk Folkeparti, and Radikale all support the bill. Together, they have 88 votes in parliament, precisely the number needed for the measure to pass.

Chronicle AM: Naloxone News in NC & NYC, DC Pot Social Club Fight, CO Pot Tourism, More (12/10/15)

Legal weed is drawing tourists to Colorado, DC activists fight for pot clubs, a federal appeals court rules that all students at a technical college can be subjected to drug testing, there's naloxone news from New York City and North Carolina, and more.

NCHRC reports 1,500 overdoses prevented with Naloxone in 2 1/2 years.
Marijuana Policy

Legal Marijuana is Boosting Colorado Tourism. Pot businesses have long claimed as much, and now they have some solid evidence. A Colorado Tourism Office study released Wednesday shows that the state's marijuana laws influenced nearly half (49%) of decisions to vacation in the state. Some 22% of survey respondents said marijuana was "extremely influential" in their decision to visit Colorado. Twenty percent said it was "very much influential" and nearly 7% said it was "somewhat influential."

DC Activists Fight Back Against Bill That Would Ban Pot Clubs. The city council is today hearing a bill that would make permanent a ban on businesses allowing patrons to smoke marijuana on premises, but that's not sitting well with the people who got weed legalized in the District. "It's unnecessary. The current law prohibits any venue from selling marijuana or promising marijuana in exchange for admission. But what they're doing with this bill is banning any kind of use of use outside the home. There's a big problem with that, because there are lots of people who have nowhere to use their cannabis," said Adam Eidinger, the man behind the District's successful 2014 legalization initiative. Eidinger is warning that if the council passes the bill, he could push more ballot initiatives, including one allowing marijuana to be treated like tobacco and one that would impose term limits on council members.

Illinois Lawmaker Files Decriminalization Bill. Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) announced today that she is filing House Bill 4357, which would make possession of up to 10 grams a civil offense punishable only by a fine. A similar bill passed earlier this year only to be vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner (R), who proposed amendments to it at the time of his veto. The new bill addresses those amendments.

Michigan Legalization Campaign to Extend Signature Gathering. MI Legalize is extending its signature gathering campaign and turning to paid circulators to qualify for next year's general election ballot. Under state law, petitioners have 180 days to gather signatures, but that is a clock that runs backward from the time signatures are actually turned in. The campaign's original turn-in date was December 21, but it will now go longer. That means early gathered signatures may not be counted. For example, if the campaign turned in signatures on January 21 instead of December 21, the first 30 days' worth of signatures would not be counted, but more recent signatures would.

Medical Marijuana

Georgia Medical Marijuana Commission Rejects Growing It In-State. The Commission on Medical Cannabis voted 9-5 against allowing medical marijuana to be grown in the state, but the main proponent of expanding the program, Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) said he was still optimistic he can get in-state cultivation approved. "I think we can still make a compelling argument to the governor," Peake said. "I think we can address the fears of law enforcement. I think we can address the issue of potential demand. I'm absolutely certain we can provide legislation that both maximizes the benefit for our citizens and minimizes the risk to public health in our state."

Missouri Medical Marijuana Initiative Approved for Circulation. Secretary of State Jason Kander (D) has approved a medical marijuana initiative for signature-gathering. Read the initiative here.

Drug Testing

Federal Appeals Court Rules Missouri College Can Drug Test All Students. The 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis ruled Monday that the Linn State Technical College can require all students to take drug tests. The appeals court decision overturns a federal judge's 2013 decision that the college could only drug test students in five particularly safety-sensitive programs. The school policy had been challenged by the ACLU of Missouri, which said such widespread, suspicionless drug testing violated the Fourth Amendment.

Harm Reduction

New York City Makes Overdose Reversal Drug Naloxone Available Without a Prescription. Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced Monday that the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone (Narcan) will now be available without a prescription in pharmacies in the city. "The deaths are what we all struggle to avoid… but that's just the tip of the iceberg," de Blasio said during his announcement at a YMCA. "For every death, there are literally hundreds who struggle with addiction."

North Carolina Sees 1,500 Lives Saved With Overdose Reversal Drug Naloxone. In just under 2 ½ years, more than 1,500 overdose deaths have been prevented with the use of the overdose reversal drug naloxone (Narcan), the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition reported today.

Law Enforcement

Rep. Steven Cohen Rips Use of Student Snitches. In the wake of a 60 Minutes report last Sunday and earlier reporting by Reason, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) ripped into the practice of using nonviolent, first-time drug offenders as confidential informants. "It's time for the Department of Justice to take a close look at how the behavior of confidential informants not only threatens to ruin young lives, but in some cases, end their lives," he said, adding that he intends to file reform legislation.

International

Scotland To Begin Ticketing, Not Prosecuting, People With Pot. Starting next month, Scottish police will issue warnings to people caught with marijuana rather than prosecuting them. The move is part of a broader effort to change how police deal with petty crime, freeing them up to deal with more serious offenses.

Chronicle AM: Canada Still Legalizing Weed, GAO Rakes Drug Czar Over Drug War Failures, More (12/7/15)

Canada reiterates its intent to legalize pot, there's strong support for expanding medical marijuana in Georgia, the GAO reports that federal drug policy goals are not being met, and more.

Oh, Canada.
Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts Doctors Oppose Legalization. Doctors with the Massachusetts Medical Society voted over the weekend to reaffirm their opposition to marijuana legalization. The move comes as a legalization initiative appears poised to go before voters next year. The doctors voted to continue their opposition to legalization, a policy first adopted in 1997, and also urged that if legalization were to occur, people under 21 should be barred from use.

Medical Marijuana

Georgia Poll Finds Strong Support for Expanding Medical Marijuana Law. Under current Georgia law, people with certain illnesses are allowed to use medical marijuana, but it can't be grown or produced in the state. A new poll has 84.5% of respondents supporting expanding that law to allow for in-state cultivation with strict regulation. Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) has sponsored legislation that would do just that.

Illinois Tells Patients They Can't Be Gun Owners, Then Retreats. Illinois state police sent letters to a handful of patients saying their firearms cards were being revoked, but now say the letters were sent in error. Patients remain skeptical.

Drug Policy

GAO Says National Drug Policy Goals Not Being Met. In a report released today the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) and other agencies "had not made progress toward achieving most of the goals in the 2010 National Drug Control Strategy (the Strategy) and ONDCP had established a new mechanism to monitor and assess progress. In the Strategy, ONDCP established seven goals related to reducing illicit drug use and its consequences to be achieved by 2015. As of March 2013, GAO's analysis showed that of the five goals for which primary data on results were available, one showed progress and four showed no progress. GAO also reported that ONDCP established a new monitoring system intended to provide information on progress toward Strategy goals and help identify performance gaps and options for improvement. At that time, the system was still in its early stages, and GAO reported that it could help increase accountability for improving progress. In November 2015, ONDCP issued its annual Strategy and performance report, which assess progress toward all seven goals. The Strategy shows progress in achieving one goal, no progress on three goals, and mixed progress on the other three goals. Overall, none of the goals in the Strategy have been fully achieved."

Law Enforcement

The Sickening Use of Young People as Confidential Informants in the Drug War. "Supporters of the drug war often claim that we need to wage this unwinnable war to "protect" young people. 60 Minutes ran an explosive piece last night showing one of the many ways that the war on drugs actually endangers young people: the sickening use of young students as confidential informants," writes the Drug Policy Alliance's Tony Newman. Click on the link for the whole piece.

International

Canada's New Liberal Government Reiterates Vow to Legalize Marijuana. In the annual throne speech last Friday, Governor General David Johnson reiterated Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's plans to legalize marijuana. The effort should get moving once parliament is back in session.

Chilean President Removes Marijuana From Hard Drug List. President Michelle Bachelet has signed an order removing marijuana from the country's list of hard drugs and authorizing the sale of marijuana-derived medicines in pharmacies. Marijuana production and distribution remain criminal offenses, but the Congress is expected to discuss wider reforms of the drug laws early next year.

Five More Useless Drug War Deaths Last Month

At least five people died at the hands of law enforcement officers attempting to enforce the drug laws between October 30 and the end of November, bringing the Drug War Chronicle's drug war death toll so far this year to 54. The tally includes only people who died as a result of drug law enforcement activities.

Two of the victims were white; three were black. Four of the dead had been armed and fired at police (according to police accounts); one was unarmed.

Here is this month's toll:

  1. Floyd Ray Cook, 61, was shot and killed by two Kentucky state troopers and a US Marshal on the night of October 30, ending a seven-day manhunt that began when he shot a Tennessee police officer who had tried to pull him over. At the time, Cook was wanted on methamphetamine trafficking charges after failing to appear at an August hearing in his case. After shooting the Tennessee officer, Cook managed to elude authorities for a week before being cornered at the side of a highway and engaging in gunfire with police. His case made national headlines, with some media reports describing him as a "fugitive rapist," even though his rape conviction had occurred in 1970.
  2. Timothy Gene Smith, 47, was shot and killed by San Diego police November 2 after he fled arresting officers who were looking for him and his wife, Janie Sanders, 32, on a Missouri drug possession warrant. Officers on patrol spotted Smith and gave chase, but lost sight of him until a police helicopter spotted him hiding in a shed between two apartment buildings. Smith then bolted and was bitten by a police dog before hopping a fence and climbing onto the ledge of an apartment building. Police said he turned toward Sgt. Scott Holslag while refusing to show his hands and Holslag, who "feared for his safety," then shot and killed him. No weapons were recovered. Hours later, police arrested Sanders after she refused to leave a Pacific Heights apartment. "Officers killed my husband today, unarmed," Sanders said as she was cuffed and placed in a squad car. While San Diego police said Smith was an armed and dangerous felon wanted on warrants, a Missouri bondsman said the only warrant was for Sanders.
  3. Randy Allen Smith, 34, was shot and killed by a Manatee County (Florida) sheriff's deputy the night of November 17 after allegedly pulling a gun on deputies during a struggle in a Winn Dixie store parking lot. A deputy had spotted a "suspicious" vehicle parked in a side lot and called in back up, and two deputies then approached the vehicle. Smith was ordered out of the car, but refused to show his hands, police said, so they attempted to Taser him, but the Taser hit Smith's dreadlocks and failed to incapacitate him. Police said Smith punched the second deputy in the face, causing him to fall and injure his head. "So he's woozy, and he thinks he sees a gun. Then one of the deputies, we're not sure which one at this point, started saying, 'Gun, a gun, a gun,'" sheriff's spokesman Dan Bristow said. "And that's when our guy shot him (Smith)." A gun was recovered at the scene. Bristow said heroin and cocaine were found on Smith, and while he didn't specify the quantity, he said they appeared packaged for sale. Smith was out on bond for possession of a controlled substance. He had also been previously convicted of cocaine possession, marijuana possession, possession of a firearm by a felon, and resisting an officer without violence.
  4. Demetrius Bryant, 21, was shot and killed by Cayce, South Carolina, police officers in what they called a "drug-related incident" the night of November 17. He died after allegedly exchanging gunfire with officers at an apartment complex in the town. Police said Bryant opened fire, wounding one officer before they returned fire, fatally wounding him. A later report said that police had been attempting to arrest Bryant on unspecified drug charges. "During that arrest procedure, the subject appears to have begun resisting, and a struggle ensued between himself and our two officers," said Sgt.Evan Antley with the Cayce Department of Public Safety.
  5. Darius Smith, 18, was shot and killed by Atlanta police on the night of November 30 after police tried to pull over a drug-laden vehicle in which he was riding. As the car attempted to elude police, it was involved in an accident, and the two men inside jumped out and fled. The driver was arrested a block away, while Smith ran several blocks to the rear of a nearby hotel. "The fleeing male began shooting at officers, which caused officers on scene to return fire striking the suspect multiple times which resulted in his death," Atlanta Police spokeswoman Elizabeth Espy said in a statement. Smith's body was found behind a trash bin. Police said they recovered about two pounds of marijuana, 60 grams of cocaine, Ecstasy tablets, six grams of powder Ecstasy, and $6,000 in cash in the car. The driver, 18-year-old Isiah Irby, is charged with possession of a firearm during commission of a felony, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and trafficking cocaine.

Chronicle AM: No Oregon MJ Social Clubs, Huge Chilean MedMJ Crop, More (12/4/15)

Oregon's cannabis cafes face a bleak future after running afoul of the state's anti-smoking laws, a no-smoking Florida medical marijuana bill advances, a huge medical marijuana crop grows in Chile, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Oregon Marijuana Cafes Must Shut Down By Next Month. Operations that allow people to smoke marijuana inside will have to shut down by January 1 or face fines for violating the Oregon Indoor Clean Air Act. Some cannabis café owners, such as Madeline Martinez, operator of the World Famous Cannabis Café, say they will fight. "People will be forced to consume in the street, in their car, at the park," she said. "It's a nightmare. I'm going to have to close my doors."

Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Attorney General Rejects Wording on Medical Marijuana Initiative. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R) has rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to allow for medical marijuana in the state, saying the wording is ambiguous. Initiative proponent David Crouch, a Little Rock attorney, will have to submit revised language if he wants to move forward.

Florida Medical Marijuana Bill Advances. A bill that would allow for cannabis oils containing higher levels of THC-- but not for smokable medical marijuana -- passed the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice Thursday. The measure, SB 460, would amend the state's Right to Try Act, which allows patients facing death to try experimental medicines. A companion measure is also moving in the House.

Asset Forfeiture

Virginia Panel Rejects Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform. The Virginia State Crime Commission voted 9-3 Thursday against endorsing civil asset forfeiture reform legislation. Virginia doesn't have a problem with asset forfeiture, asserted Brunswick County Sheriff Brian Roberts, who sits on the panel. The legislature considered asset forfeiture reform last year, but refused to vote on it and instead bumped it over to the crime commission for further study.

International

Latin America's Largest Ever Legal Marijuana Crop Planted in Chile. Regional agricultural authorities in central Chile last month approved a 6,900-plant medical marijuana grow operation that will produce 20 strains of high-potency marijuana. The resulting buds will be converted to cannabis oil after being harvested next spring (fall in the Southern Hemisphere).

Chronicle AM: Drug Czar Calls Overdoses Top Priority, Just One MA Init Left, More (12/3/15)

The drug czar is concerned about the rising toll of heroin overdose deaths. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

Poll: Marijuana Legalization Not a High Priority for Californians. Californians are more concerned with school funding, increasing the minimum wage, and tax levels than they are with marijuana legalization, according to a new Public Policy Institute of California poll. The poll found that 88% thought school funding was "very" or "somewhat" important, 80% though increasing the minimum wage was, 76% thought extending tax increases was, but only 49% though legalizing pot was. Fully one-third (32%) of respondents said legalization was "not at all important."

Down to One Legalization Initiative in Massachusetts. The legalization situation is clarifying. Bay State Repeal, which had mounted a grassroots effort to get its own legalization initiative on the ballot next year, has conceded that if failed to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. That leaves the Marijuana Policy Project-backed Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol as the sole possible contender next year. The latter group turned in more than 100,000 voter signatures earlier this week; it needs some 67,000 valid ones to qualify for the ballot.

Drug Policy

Drug Czar Says Heroin, Prescription Opiate Overdoses Top Priority. Michael Botticelli, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office), told a congressional hearing Wednesday that heroin and prescription opiates overdoses are the most urgent issue facing his agency. "There is no more pressing issue," said Botticelli, who testified at a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing on the nation's drug policy. "We have seen a reduction in prescription drug misuse among young adults but that has been replaced by a significant increase in heroin overdose deaths. We know some of this is related to the vast supply of very cheap, very pure heroin in parts of the country where we haven't seen it before." He said that more than 8,000 people died of heroin overdoses in 2013 and that he expects last year's figure to be substantially higher.

Sentencing

Massachusetts Poll Shows Broad Support for Repealing Mandatory Minimums. A poll conducted by Suffolk University's Political Research Center for Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) found that voters there support repealing mandatory minimum sentences by a margin of three-to-one. Some 62% supported repeal, while only 21% were opposed. Other poll questions showed broad support for sentencing reforms as well. "Massachusetts voters get it," said Barbara J. Dougan, Massachusetts project director for FAMM. "They know that mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses are a failed public policy. They want these ineffective and expensive laws repealed. The only question left is whether state lawmakers will listen to their constituents."

International

Malaysian Truck Driver Faces Death Sentence for Less Than a Pound of Pot. Abdul Sukur Saiful Bahri, 38, a driver for a government agency, faces a mandatory death sentence after being charged under the country's draconian drug trafficking laws. He was caught with 305 grams of marijuana, about 11 ounces of weed.

Australian Government Creates National Medical Marijuana Licensing Scheme. The federal government has announced a national licensing plan that will remove the need for states and territories to come up with their own regulatory schemes. The national government will now oversee all regulations for medical marijuana. A bill is being drafted to turn the plan into law. That's expected to happen next year.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Border Patrol agent gets caught with a trunk-load of cocaine, a California narc was working for the other side, a whole bunch of jail and prison guards go bad, and more. Let's get to it:

In Fort Pierce, Florida, a St. Lucie County sheriff's deputy was arrested November 16 after a search of her residence turned up more than 81 grams of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. The raid against Deputy Heather Tucker, 27, came after authorities received a tip she was involved in drug activity. She is charged with marijuana possession with intent to distribute.

In Indianapolis, a Marion County sheriff's deputy was arrested November 19 after he sold marijuana to an undercover informant. Deputy Jed Adams, a 7-year veteran, went down after showing up to a meeting and providing the drugs. He is charged with possession of methamphetamine and marijuana, distribution of marijuana, and official misconduct.

In Bakersfield, California, a Bakersfield Police narcotics detective was arrested November 20 for funneling information about police activities and snitches to a drug dealer in return for bribes. Detective Damacio Diaz is charged with bribery, drug trafficking, obstruction of justice, and filing false tax returns. Diaz is a 17-year veteran of the department, and before that, he was sheriff of Tulare County.

In Marana, Arizona, a US Border Patrol agent was arrested last Monday after state troopers pulled over his vehicle and found 110 pounds of cocaine. Agent Juan Pimental was driving a rental car headed for Chicago when he was stopped. According to court documents, Pimental said he was being paid $50,000 to transport the drugs. He is charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

In New York City, a Rikers Island jail guard was arrested last Tuesday after he was caught trying to smuggle 16 packages of synthetic cannabinoids and seven scalpel blades into the prison. Guard Kevin McCoy, 30, and found with 125 grams of synthetic cannabinoids, and when police searched his home, they found a half-pound of marijuana, another 101 grams of synthetic cannabinoids, 18 suboxone strips, nine more scalpel blades, and two ounces of loose tobacco. Formal charges have not been announced.

In Santa Fe, New Mexico, a Santa Fe County jail guard was arrested last Wednesday after he was caught bringing marijuana, Xanax, and suboxone strips into the jail. Authorities said a prisoner's wife had paid Brandon Valdez, 19, $300 to bring the drugs into the jail. Formal charges have not been announced, but he has been fired.

In Baltimore, a former Maryland prison guard was sentenced on November 20 to three months in jail for his role in a prison drug smuggling operation. Kenyatta Trotter, 42, went down after an inmate cooperating with prison officials snitched him out. He was actually sentenced to 12 years, but all except the three months was suspended. He had pleaded guilty to bribery of a public official and misconduct in office.

In Ocala, Florida,a former federal prison guard was sentenced November 20 to two years in federal prison after being caught accepting a $2,600 bribe from a cooperating witness for items already smuggled into the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex. Robert Lawrence Brown, 32, had pleaded guilty to bribery in September and had been looking at up to 15 years.

Police Took More From Citizens Than Burglars Did Last Year

This article was written in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

When you think about getting property stolen, you think about criminals, but maybe you should be thinking about the police. Law enforcement use of asset forfeiture laws to seize property -- often without a criminal conviction or even an arrest -- has gone through the roof in recent years, and now the cops are giving the criminals a run for their money -- and winning.

According to a new report on asset forfeiture from the Institute for Justice, police seized $4.5 billion in cash and property through civil forfeiture last year. That exceeds the $3.9 billion worth of property stolen in burglaries during the same period. The valuation of burglary proceeds is from the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Report.

Now, not every dollar seized by police is "stolen." Some of it is seized legitimately from real criminals who should pay for the damage their crimes cause. But in too many cases, property is seized from people who have not been convicted of anything, like Charles Clarke.

Clarke, a 24-year-old college student, was relieved of $11,000 in cash by federal agents at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport after a ticket agent reportedly told them he smelled like marijuana. They stopped and searched him at the airport, found no drugs or other banned items, and never charged him with a crime, but they took his money.

Clarke says the cash was money he had saved over five years for college tuition. A federal judge this month said he was inclined to believe Clarke and has ordered the feds to actually show he made the money from drug dealing, as they claimed.

Clarke may get his money back, but it is an uphill battle. Unlike criminal law, where prosecutors must prove the guilt of the defendant, under civil asset forfeiture law, the burden of proof falls on the person from whom the money or property was seized. The property owner must prove that the property was not the proceeds of crime. And he must pay attorneys to fight for him. And he may not win.

With police racking up billions in seizures each year, law enforcement itself begins to take on the appearance of a criminal enterprise. It's an enterprise with an ever-expanding appetite. According to Armstrong Economics, federal prosecutors seized an estimated $12.6 billion between 1989 and 2010, and the trend is upward. Federal asset forfeiture proceeds hovered at just under a billion dollars a year until 2007, doubled to two billion by 2009, and doubled again to over four billion in both 2013 and 2014.

Abuses of civil asset forfeiture have struck a chord with the public, and states are now beginning to pass laws banning or severely restricting civil asset forfeiture. Both New Mexico and Michigan did this year, and so did Wyoming, but that law fell victim to a governor's veto.

Likewise, the issue is again gaining attention in Congress, which passed minor asset forfeiture reforms after a similar outcry 15 years ago. There are at least two bills going after civil asset forfeiture in this Congress, including one from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and a bipartisan bill that would bar the use of civil asset forfeiture funds by the DEA to eradicate marijuana.

But until federal legislation actually passes, it's still open season on the citizenry.

Did "LSD Toxicity" Kill Troy Goode, Or Was It The Police Hogtie? [FEATURE]

This article was written in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

A man who died after being hogtied by police in South Haven, Mississippi, earlier this year, was killed by "complications of LSD toxicity," the State Medical Examiner office announced Tuesday, ruling the death "accidental" in an official autopsy report. But given that there are no known cases of fatal LSD overdoses, the examiner's findings are hard to credit.

Troy Goode and his wife (family photo)
The family of Troy Goode isn't buying it. And they have their own, independent autopsy findings and the science of psychedelics to back them up.

Goode, his wife, and friends were in the parking lot of a Widespread Panic concert before the show when he began behaving erratically after taking several hits of LSD. His wife attempted to drive him home, but at some point, he got out of the car and began creating a disturbance. Police were called, and they chased and arrested him, hogtieing him face down on a stretcher. He was charged with resisting arrest, then taken in an ambulance to a hospital, where he died two hours later.

Last month, Goode's family and their attorney, Tim Edwards, cited an independent autopsy report that found Goode died after being hogtied and left prone for an extended period. That stress position caused him to have trouble breathing and, as his heart attempted to compensate, it went into cardiac arrhythmia.

"He was suffocating. His heart increased into what is called tachycardia," Edwards said. "There is no scientific basis to attribute his death to LSD. This was lethal force, putting someone in a prolonged hogtied position," Edwards said. "This was not a situation where a 300-pound man attacked a police officer in the dark. This was a science nerd."

At the time, Edwards said the family was asking the Justice Department to open a civil rights investigation into Goode's death and that the family planned to file a lawsuit in January seeking compensation and a ban on hogties.

The Goode family, now represented by attorney Kevin McCormack, isn't any happier today. McCormack said he was "shocked and surprised" by the official autopsy finding.

"It says the cause of death was due to complications resulting from LSD toxicity. My initial reaction when I read that was shock and surprise. As I mentioned numerous times, there's not a single reported death in all of the medical literature from the beginning of human time, not a single reported death due to LSD toxicity," said McCormack.

"In the medical literature there are cases where people took 1000 and 7000 times more LSD than Troy did and ended up fine," said McCormack. "I have no idea what they would mean by complications. What we do know is that LSD, even extremely high doses, is very unlikely to kill anyone and that hogtieing is extremely likely to kill someone," said McCormack.

"We know why Troy died, we know what caused it, and we know it was not LSD," said McCormack.

The widely-acclaimed drug information website Erowid has reviewed the evidence around LSD fatalities, and it backs up what the Goode family lawyers have been saying: "Put simply, LSD does not cause death at recreational or therapeutic doses… Fewer than a handful of human deaths have been tied in the medical literature to the pharmacological effects of LSD, and none of these deaths have been unquestionably attributable to LSD's actions."

Erowid is relying on the scientists:

"No well-documented human deaths resulting directly from the toxic effects of LSD itself have occurred, though LSD has been implicated in accidental deaths, suicides, and homicides," Haddad and Winchester noted in 1990.

"LSD is not toxic in the biological sense," Dr. Paul Gahlinger wrote in his 2001 book "Illegal Drugs: A Complete Guide to Their History, Chemistry, Use and Abuse."

"There have been no documented human deaths from an LSD overdose," a 2008 review of the scientific literature by Passie et al concluded.

Erowid expanded on the accidental death theme to note that some deaths have been associated with inebriated or combative behavior, "including falling or jumping from a height or dying after beaten by police."

Goode was beaten by police, bitten by a police dog, and then restrained. The official autopsy notes cuts to his cheek and chin, bleeding between his scalp and his brain, more cuts or scrapes on his chest, and three fractured ribs. Goode also suffered puncture wounds from a dog bite to his left arm and bruises on both wrists, both ankles, "multiple contusions on the lower left leg," and bruises and cuts or scrapes to his right thigh.

But it was the LSD that killed him, according to Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Erin A. Barnhart, M.D., who signed the autopsy report: "Based on the autopsy findings and current investigational information, the 30-year-old male died as a result of complications of LSD toxicity."

DeSoto County District Attorney John Champion is prepared to wrap it all up. He said Tuesday that, based on the evidence, there was no police misconduct. Now it's up to the family to decide whether to pursue other means of recourse.

Southaven, MS
United States

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