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Medical Marijuana in the Workplace

Location: 
MT
United States
Montana's House Human Services Committee today hears a bill tackling medical marijuana in the workplace. This the third bill to come from an interim committee that spent six months working on medical marijuana legislation, Republican Representative Gary MacLaren’s (House District 89,) House Bill 43 gives guidelines and restrictions to employers on how to handle employees who use medical marijuana. Medical cannabis supporters say they interpret the bill to mean that an employer could terminate an employee simply for having a medical marijuana card, at the same time subjecting them to drug testing that violates privacy.
Publication/Source: 
KFBB (MT)
URL: 
http://www.kfbb.com/news/local/Medical-Marijuana-in-the-Workplace-114533229.html

Medical Marijuana Rules in Colorado -- Your Chance to Speak Out

 

Public Hearing on Medical Marijuana Rules This Thursday and Friday

Attn: Medical Marijuana Community Members

Please join Sensible Colorado in speaking out for patient privacy on January 27 and 28 at the Colorado Dept. of Revenue hearing.  While the Dept. of Revenue considers the most comprehensive medical marijuana distribution system in history, it is crucial that Department officials hear from patients and advocates about the importance of maintaining patient privacy and closely guarding patient health records. That's where we need YOU!  (Note suggested "talking points" below).

When:  Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011 and Friday, Jan. 28, 2011at 9:00am

Where: Jefferson County Justice Center, Administration and Court Facility, Hearing Room 1, 100 Jefferson County Parkway, Golden, CO 80419

Talking Points on Patient Privacy

  • “My patient status, including any diagnosis, is private. The state legislature should take as many steps possible to keep these records confidential. I suggest extending the privacy requirements and fines that the constitutional amendment created for the Dept. of Health to the Dept of Revenue.”
  • “To protect patient privacy, the Dept. of Revenue should minimize the number of individuals that have access to medical files and should take steps to instruct employees not to cooperate with federal authorities. “
  • “Many patients need dispensing centers for safe and legal access to their medicine. State law already requires that the only people utilizing these centers are qualifying patients and caregivers. Video surveillance of patients as they enter these centers will have a chilling effect on patient acccess.”

**Please support Sensible Colorado my becoming a monthly donor today.  See you at the hearing!

Location: 
100 Jefferson County Parkway Jefferson County Justice Center, Administration and Court Facility
Golden, CO 80419
United States

Welfare Drug Testing Bills Filed in Virginia

Add Virginia to the list of states where lawmakers are seeking to impose drug testing requirements on recipients of public assistance. One bill would direct state officials to assess the cost and benefits of drug testing welfare recipients, while another would require drug screening of participants in the Virginia Initiative for Employment not Welfare (VIEW), the commonwealth's welfare-to-work program.

Virginia Capitol
A bill filed by Del. Danny Marshall (R-Danville), HJ 616, calls on the state's Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to review the cost and benefits of drug testing people on the state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

A bill filed by state Sen. Roscoe Reynolds (D-Ridgeway), SB 781, would require local social service departments to screen each participant in the state's welfare-to-work program to determine if there is probable cause to believe the participants is using illegal drugs. If there is probable cause to suspect drug use, the participant would be subject to a formal substance abuse assessment, which could include drug testing. People who test positive or who refuse to participate in the screening or assessment would be ineligible for TANF payments for a year.

Marshall told the Martinsville Bulletin area employers complained that "they can't find people who are drug-free to hire" and that his bill is intended to be a first step toward his goal of a "drug-free Virginia." Under his bill, he said, TANF recipients who fail drug tests "would go through the process to get them clean... so they can become productive members of society."

Welfare or unemployment drug testing bills, a perennial favorite of posturing politicians, have been introduced in at least five states this year. But that's really nothing new. They are introduced in a handful of states each year, but no state has passed such a bill since Michigan did so in 1998. That bill was found unconstitutional by the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2003.

Richmond, VA
United States

Family Home Stormed in Another Botched Drug Prohibition SWAT Raid

Location: 
36 Sharon Drive
Spring Valley, NY 10977
United States
Another police raid and yet another innocent family caught up in a failed drug prohibition war that sends heavily armed, masked and hyped up cops in search of largely nonviolent offenders. This time the raid happened in Spring Valley, New York, and left a 13-year-old child vomiting and gasping for air in an asthma attack triggered by the over-the-top and misdirected actions of police and DEA agents.
Publication/Source: 
Change.org (DC)
URL: 
http://criminaljustice.change.org/blog/view/family_home_stormed_in_another_botched_swat_raid

Michigan's Top Court to Settle Dispute Over Marijuana Bust

Location: 
MI
United States
The Michigan Supreme Court is considering whether marijuana found by a firefighter during an emergency call can be used to prosecute a man in the state's Oakland County. A judge and the state appeals court so far have thrown out evidence against Mark Slaughter.
Publication/Source: 
Detroit Free Press (MI)
URL: 
http://www.freep.com/article/20110120/NEWS06/110120016/1322/States-top-court-to-settle-dispute-over-pot-bust

Welfare Drug Testing Bills Introduced in Four States [FEATURE]

drug testing lab -- corporate welfare carrying out an ineffective strategy?
Critics of welfare drug testing cite unconstitutionality of warrantless drug testing, the cost of drug testing tens or hundreds of thousands of people, counterproductive results and mean-spiritedness in opposing legislation that would require it. But that hasn't stopped legislators from coming back again and again.

With this year's state legislative season barely under way, bills have been introduced in four states -- Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oregon -- to require drug testing for people receiving public assistance. And in a novel twist, a bill in Indiana would require unemployment recipients to declare they are not using illegal drugs and threatens them with up to three years in prison for perjury if they are found to be using them.

But while such bills may be popular with politicians of a certain stripe, they don't find much support among professionals in the field. Groups that have lined up against such bills include the American Public Health Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, the National Health Law Project, the National Association on Alcohol, Drugs and Disability, National Advocates for Pregnant Women, the National Black Women’s Health Project, the Legal Action Center, the National Welfare Rights Union, the Youth Law Center, the Juvenile Law Center, and the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which successfully litigated against Michigan's welfare drug testing law, has also come down strongly against welfare drug testing. Such laws are "scientifically, fiscally, and constitutionally unsound," in the ACLU's opinion. The group cites studies showing welfare recipients are no more likely to use drugs than the rest of the population and that 70% of illicit drug users are employed. It also cites research showing that drug testing is an expensive, but ineffective way to uncover drug abuse. (Full citations and more information are available at the ACLU link above.)

But the kicker for the ACLU is the unconstitutionality of warrantless drug testing by the state, as determined by the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in the Michigan case. Michigan was the only state to actually implement a welfare drug testing program, but the appeals court found that the program violated the Fourth Amendment's provision barring unreasonable searches.

The persistence of such attempts is drawing concern from the drug reform community as well. Given the fiscal pressures facing the states, legislators could be even more susceptible to pseudo-populist demagoguery than usual.

"I am quite concerned that recurring legislative proposals to require drug testing of welfare and/or unemployment applicants and beneficiaries will gain new momentum with the budget crises confronting so many states, and also in Congress," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "The proposals are mean-spirited, counter-productive and will ultimately cost much more than they save by depriving needy Americans of access to benefits. DPA will do all it can to ensure that these proposals do not become law."

"These kinds of laws aren't going to stop someone who is addicted from being addicted," said Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. "They're just going to drive them further away from getting any kind of help. Also, it is often poverty that causes the stress that helps create addiction. If you make someone poorer, you just deepen that despair," he pointed out.

"If you really want to deal with the problem of addiction, provide treatment on demand," Wexler offered. "And if people are worried that not everyone will take advantage of it, let's put that to the test. Make drug treatment immediately available and see if the claim that people will turn it down has any merit."

But nobody is offering treatment on demand. Instead, legislators are offering up a stick with no carrot.

In Kentucky, a bill championed by Rep. Lonnie Napier (R-Lancaster), HB 208, would require all adults applying for public assistance to undergo drug tests, followed by random testing once a year. The measure would apply to all adults receiving or applying to receive food stamps, cash assistance, or Medicaid. Although Napier told the Richmond Register a positive test result would not necessarily result in the loss of benefits, the bill itself says that a positive test will make the individual "ineligible" for public assistance.

"There’s people buying food with food stamps and trading that food for drugs. Children are not getting benefit from it. Children do not need to be in a home where drugs are present," the loquacious Napier told the Register. "Maybe it could get people off drugs. Drugs are breaking the state up. If we could get a few people off drugs, it would be worth it," he said.

But Napier's assertion about trading food stamps for drugs appears to be based on little more than hearsay. "People tell me people are abusing the system," he said. "If you knew you were to be tested, you'd want to be clean."

Still, Napier's bill has some powerful friends. Among its cosponsors are House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonburg) and House Minority Leader Danny Ford (R-Mt. Vernon).

In Missouri, Rep. Ellen Brandom (R-Sikeston) is pushing HB 73, which would require a drug test for anyone applying for or receiving public benefits if there is "reasonable cause" to believe they are using drugs. Failure to pass the drug test would result in the suspension of benefits for one year, and the person would then have to apply to be reinstated in the program.

Brandom told Kansas City's KCTV 5 that she was doing it for the taxpayers. "They're very resentful that they're working hard, and have to take a drug test to work," Brandom said. "The people who aren't working can receive their tax dollars, and don't have to be held to the same high standard."

That bill passed the House Rules Committee on an 11-4 vote last week and is set for a House floor vote this week. A similar measure passed the House last year, but died in the Senate.

A welfare drug testing bill has also been introduced in Nebraska. The Chronicle covered it last week; you can read about it here.

In Oregon, there are two separate bills aimed at recipients of public assistance. State Sen. Bruce Starr (R-Hillsboro) has introduced SB 538, which would require all people receiving welfare and food stamps to be take a drug test each six months -- at their own expense. A positive test result would result in the termination of public assistance.

And state Rep. Dennis Richardson (R-Central Point) has introduced HB 2995, which would require those applying for unemployment benefits to first pass a drug test. Those who tested positive would have to enter drug treatment or give up their benefits.

Richardson's bill has not yet been assigned to a committee. Starr's bill was assigned Tuesday to the Senate Health Care, Human Services and Rural Health Committee. No hearing dates have been set.

And then there's Indiana. In the Hoosier State, state Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) has introduced SB 86, which would require people seeking unemployment benefits to declare on their applications that they will refrain from any illegal drug use. The bill also says that applicants are subject to "penalty of perjury" if they sign a declaration and then are found to be using drugs. Perjury carries a prison sentence of up to three years in Indiana.

"In employers' eyes as well as many Hoosiers' eyes, there is something wrong with the system if unemployment applicants are able to receive taxpayer money that may, in fact, be used to purchase controlled substances and lead to them being unqualified to work," Leising said in a press release. "This is an issue legislators need to review."

The bill is moving. It passed out of the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee last week.

The battle over welfare and/or unemployment drug testing is going to have to be fought again and again. In addition to the states that have bills this year, similar legislation has been proposed since 2008 in Texas, Rhode Island, Missouri, Nebraska, Georgia, Kansas, West Virginia, and Arizona. The impulse to target the poor and disenfranchised remains strong and is made even stronger by the dire fiscal position in which the states find themselves. The bright side is that, so far, that impulse has not prevailed.

Supreme Court Debates Warrantless Entry When Police Smell Marijuana

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/scaleofjustice2.png

Recent Supreme Court decisions regarding search and seizure haven't exactly signaled an unyielding reverence for our 4th Amendment rights, so I shudder to think how the Court will rule on this:

Kentucky police were following a man who had just sold drugs to an undercover informant. They entered an apartment breezeway, heard a door slam and found they had two choices.

Behind door No. 1 was the dealer. And, unfortunately for him, behind door No. 2 were Hollis King and friends, smoking marijuana.

Smelling the drug, the officers banged loudly on King's apartment door and identified themselves as police. The officers said they heard a noise and feared evidence was being destroyed. They kicked down the door and found King, two friends, some drugs and cash. [Washington Post]
 

Home searches generally require a warrant, even when probable cause exists (the smell of marijuana), but officers claimed their fear that evidence would be destroyed constituted an "exigent circumstances" exception to the warrant requirement. Ironically, however, the presence of police became known to the suspects only because the officers knocked and announced themselves. If any effort was made to dispose of evidence, it was obviously triggered by the police, who could have waited for a warrant rather than initiating contact right then and there.

If the Supreme Court upholds this search, police will be encouraged to creatively interpret any noises heard within homes they'd like to search, and it's hard to imagine what sorts of sounds couldn’t potentially be said to indicate possible destruction of evidence. Police who hear "sudden movements" after pounding on someone's door can claim to be concerned about destruction of evidence, but who wouldn't make a sudden movement if cops were shouting and banging on the door? Maybe I'm just putting on some pants. Maybe I'm hastily locking my dog in the bathroom so they won't shoot its brains out. People are going to react when disturbed in their homes and it's absurd to strip our 4th Amendment rights based on one of many possible explanations for the movements people make when you startle them.

Keep in mind, however, that this case involved a probable cause situation in which police did smell marijuana. Even the worst possible ruling still wouldn't give police the authority to randomly knock on doors with no evidence and perform emergency searches based on suspicious reactions from the people inside. But if the Court continues chipping away at the 4th Amendment at its current pace, I can't blame anyone for worrying that we're headed in that direction. Fortunately, some of the justices expressed serious concerns about giving police more leeway to perform emergency searches. This one could go either way and we'll be sure to keep you posted.

Cross-posted from Flex Your Rights

Police Can Kick Down Doors in Drug Searches, Some Justices Say

Police officers who smell marijuana coming from an apartment can break down the door and burst in if they have reason to believe this evidence might be destroyed, several Supreme Court's justices suggested Wednesday. In the past, the high court has said police usually cannot enter a home or apartment without a search warrant because of the 4th Amendment's ban on "unreasonable searches and seizures."
Publication/Source: 
Los Angeles Times (CA)
URL: 
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/wire/sc-dc-0113-court-search-20110112,0,7017935.story

War on Marijuana Grow-Ops in British Columbia Has Unexpected Casualties

Location: 
BC
Canada
In the war on marijuana grow-ops, municipalities across the Lower Mainland are slapping homeowners – including those with no link to illegal drugs – with a hefty bill for an inspection of their property, saying the fees cover the costs involved. Critics say the safety inspections are a substitute for police raids of suspected grow-ops. Police cannot enter a home without reasonable grounds for believing that they will find illegal activity. However, safety inspectors can just go in and look around. If they find a grow-op, they call police, who are usually waiting at the curb.
Publication/Source: 
The Globe and Mail (Canada)
URL: 
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/war-on-grow-ops-in-bc-has-unexpected-casualties/article1866458/

Hearing Delayed on Medical Marijuana Case After Compassion Clubs Objects to DEA Obtaining Confidential State Records

Location: 
MI
United States
The Michigan Association of Compassion Clubs filed an emergency motion to halt the federal government's efforts to gain access to confidential medical marijuana records compiled by the state.
Publication/Source: 
The Grand Rapids Press (MI)
URL: 
http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2011/01/hearing_delayed_on_medical-mar.html

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