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Privacy: Kansas House Passes Bill Mandating Drug Tests for Public Assistance

The Kansas House Wednesday gave final approval to a bill that requires Kansans who seek public assistance to undergo drug testing. The bill, HB 2275, passed by a margin of 99-26. It now heads to the state Senate.

Sponsored by Sen. Kasha Kelly (R-Arkansas City), the bill targets the 14,000 Kansans who receive cash assistance from the state Department of Social Rehabilitation Services. Recipients of financial support in temporary aid for families, general assistance, child care support, and grandparents as caregivers programs would all be subjected to drug testing. It would not apply to non-cash benefits, such as food stamps and medical care.

The bill envisions testing one-third of the target population each year. A positive drug test would result in an evaluation and possible drug treatment. Failure to complete evaluation and/or treatment would result in the termination of benefits, as would a third positive drug test.

As the Chronicle reported last week Kansas is only one of a number of states where legislatoes are pushing similar bills. Drug testing public assistance recipients was okayed, but not required, under the 1996 federal welfare reform bill. But the only state to actually implement such a plan, Michigan, was shot down by the federal courts, which held that it violated the Fourth Amendment's proscription against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Kelly, unconcerned about constitutional niceties, said the state should work to keep parents off drugs and advance the interests of children. "Shouldn't you be fearful if you're using?" she said on the House floor.

Social Rehabilitation Services Secretary Don Jordan testified that only 3% to 8% of clients would likely test positive for marijuana, cocaine, or other illegal drugs. That figure is slightly below overall nationwide drug use levels. The program would cost $800,000 a year, he said. The bill will not be implemented unless the legislature makes a specific appropriation to cover the cost, but in a fiscal note, legislative analysts suggested the possibility of using asset forfeiture proceeds to fund the program.

The bill was opposed by the Kansas Public Health Authority, but legislators proved receptive to arguments like those of Rep. Brenda Landwehr (R-Wichita), head of the House Health and Human Services Committee, who said if the bill failed to pass it is as if the legislature would be declaring: "Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer, we don't really care if someone buys drugs with your hard-earned money."

Rep. Marti Crow (D-Leavenworth) wasn't buying it. "Testing someone because they're poor? Where does that make any sense?" he asked. "This is crazy and mean."

But Crow was in the minority. The bill now goes to the state Senate.

Southeast Asia: Indonesia to Treat Drug Users, Not Jail Them

In a surprise move, the Indonesian Supreme Court last Friday issued a memo to judges ordering them to send drug users to drug treatment centers, not prison. The memo is not retroactive, meaning people currently imprisoned for drug use or possession will not be eligible.

According to the memo, arrestees would be eligible for treatment only if the amount of drugs with which they were caught were below certain "personal use" quantities. For marijuana, the upper limit is 5 grams; for cocaine, heroin, and morphine, 0.15 grams, for methamphetamine, 0.25 grams.

In the memo, the Supreme Court said drug users in treatment must submit to drug tests on request, must obtain a letter of recommendation for treatment from a court-appointed psychiatrist, must not relapse, and must not be drug dealers.

While the move is arguably a step forward for drug users, it is causing concern in the Indonesian Judiciary Supervisory Committee, which worried that is could encourage corruption. "Drug suspects could easily pay investigators some money to change their status from drug dealers to drug users," the committee's Hasril Hertanto said Sunday. "Judges usually determine the status of drug case suspects based on the dossiers presented by police and prosecutors. So they are the ones who must be very cautious about this matter."

Southeast Asian nations are among the toughest in the world when it comes to punishing drug users. Even with reservations about coerced treatment, the Supreme Court's move is an advance in drug policy for the archipelago.

Feature: Bills to Require Drug Testing for Welfare, Unemployment Pop Up Around the Country

With states across the country feeling the effects of the economic crisis gripping the land, some legislators are engaging in the cheap politics of resentment as a supposed budget-cutting move. In at least six states, bills have been filed that would require people seeking public assistance and/or unemployment benefits to submit to random drug testing, with their benefits at stake.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/drugtest.jpg
drug tests: don't waste the money
In Arizona, Hawaii, Missouri, and Oklahoma, bills have been filed that would force people seeking public assistance to undergo random drug tests and forgo benefits if they test positive. In Florida, a bill has been filed to do the same to people who receive unemployment compensation. In West Virginia, both groups are targeted. [Update: Kansas passed a bill on March 5.]

In most cases, legislators are pointing to the 1996 federal Welfare Reform Act, which authorized -- but did not require -- random drug testing as a condition of receiving welfare benefits. But a major problem for the proponents of such schemes is that the only state to try to actually implement a random drug testing program got slapped down by the federal courts.

Michigan passed a welfare drug testing law in 1999 that required all Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) applicants to provide urine samples to be considered eligible for assistance. But that program was shut down almost immediately by a restraining order. Three and a half years later, the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an earlier district court ruling that the blanket, suspicionless testing of recipients violated the Fourth Amendment's proscription of unreasonable searches and seizures and was thus unconstitutional.

"This ruling should send a message to the rest of the nation that drug testing programs like these are neither an appropriate or effective use of a state's limited resources," said the ACLU Drug Policy Litigation Project head Graham Boyd at the time.

According to the ACLU's now-renamed Drug Law Reform Project, which had intervened in the Michigan case, the other 49 states had rejected drug testing for various reasons. At least 21 states concluded that the program "may be unlawful," 17 states cited cost concerns, 11 gave a variety of practical or operational reasons, and 11 said they had not seriously considered drug testing at all (some states cited more than one reason).

Random drug testing of welfare recipients has also been rejected by a broad cross-section of organizations concerned with public health, welfare rights, and drug reform, including the American Public Health Association, National Association of Social Workers, Inc., National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, National Health Law Project, National Association on Alcohol, Drugs and Disability, Inc., National Advocates for Pregnant Women, National Black Women's Health Project, Legal Action Center, National Welfare Rights Union, Youth Law Center, Juvenile Law Center, and National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.

But that hasn't stopped politicians eager to take a stand on the backs of society's most vulnerable. Using remarkably similar rhetoric, legislators across the land are demanding that those seeking benefits be tested.

In West Virginia, Rep. Craig Blair (R-Berkeley County) has created a web site, Not With My Tax Dollars, to publicize his bill, which would apply to anyone seeking welfare, food stamps, or unemployment insurance. "I think it's time that we get serious about the problem of illegal drug users abusing our public assistance system in West Virginia," he wrote on the site. "We should require random drug testing for every individual receiving welfare, food assistance or unemployment benefits. After all, more and more employers are requiring drug testing. Why not make sure that people who are supposed to be looking for work are already prequalified by being drug free?"

In Florida, Sen. Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton) has sponsored a bill that would require random drug testing of one out of 10 people seeking unemployment benefits. Those people are supposed to be "ready, able, and willing" to work, he told Tampa Bay Online. "If they can't pass a drug test for unemployment compensation," Bennett said, "then they can't pass a drug test at my construction business."

In Hawaii, Rep. Mele Carroll (D-District 13) introduced her "Welfare Drug Testing" bill last month. "The idea came from knowing a lot of families and members in the community who are on assistance that may or may not use some of our public funds for their drug habit," Carroll told KHON in Honolulu. "If the state is pouring money out there to assist families, this could be a way to look at some of our families who are on substance abuse. Make them accountable," she argued.

But such arguments didn't fly with any of the welfare rights, civil liberties, or poverty and child care organizations the Chronicle spoke with in recent weeks. They were unanimous in denouncing welfare drug testing as ineffective, arguably unconstitutional, and just plain mean-spirited.

"Drug testing welfare recipients is coming back?" asked an incredulous Maureen Taylor, Michigan state chair for the National Welfare Rights Organization. "That's ridiculous. The courts slapped it down when they tried it here, and they should slap it down again. These politicians think the reason people are poor is because they're on drugs, and that's just stupid," she scoffed.

"We are in favor of a drug free America and we believe people who exhibit strange behavior should be tested," said Taylor. "Elected officials who propose such things would be an excellent place to start. The politicians should lead by example."

"This is really bad policy," said Frank Crabtree of the West Virginia ACLU. "These are the most vulnerable people in our society, and their children are even more vulnerable. These are people of whom the legislature has no fear. They have to deal with the problems of daily life to such a degree that they are not as politically active, and that makes this bill just seem like a bullying tactic."

Crabtree also addressed the legality of any such programs. "Constitutionally speaking, I don't think the state can force you to give up your right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures to obtain public benefits," Crabtree said. "This would seem to fit that category."

Crabtree saw the West Virginia bill more as political grandstanding than a serious contribution to public policy. "If part of their rationale is that there is more drug use among recipients of public assistance, that argument fails," said Crabtree. "But this does appeal to a certain kneejerk mentality, which leads me to think this is just a lot of political posturing and pandering to a conservative constituency."

"I oppose such legislation for both philosophical and practical reasons," said Darin Preis, executive director of Central Missouri Community Action, which works with poor families. "The proposal here would have state social workers taking on yet another task for which they are not prepared. This will add cost and more bureaucracy, and with our state budget in the fix it is, I don't think we can pull this off," he said.

"Philosophically, I think we should be holding people accountable for what we want them to do, not for what we don't want them to do," said Preis. "People want to take care of their families, to do the right thing. It just doesn't make sense to me. Taking away benefits from someone struggling with substance abuse issues isn't going to help them; it will only make matters worse."

"These bills are a waste of money at a time when governments don't have money to waste," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "And they're extremely discriminatory in that they focus on someone smoking marijuana, but don't address at all whether someone is blowing his check on alcohol or gambling or vacations. The bottom line is that even if someone is using drugs, that doesn't mean they should be denied public assistance, health care, or anything else to which citizens are entitled. These bills are unnecessarily cruel and they show that some politicians still think it's in their best interest to pick on vulnerable people with substance abuse issues."

The bills seeking to drug test people seeking unemployment benefits are even more pernicious, Piper said. "Unemployment compensation is something that people pay into when they're working, that's not a gift from the state," he said. "If you are unemployed, you earned those benefits and you shouldn't have to prove anything to anyone."

"Drug testing welfare recipients or people getting unemployment is a terribly misguided policy," said Hilary McQuie, western director for the Harm Reduction Coalition. "If you find people and cut them off the rolls, what's the end result? You have to look at the end result."

Legislators proposing random drug testing of welfare or unemployment recipients have a wide array of organizations opposing them, as well as common sense and common decency. But none of that has prevented equally pernicious legislation from passing in the past. These bills bear watching.

Search and Seizure: EFF, ACLU Ask Federal Appeals Court to Reject Warrantless GPS Tracking

Two leading civil liberties groups, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union, have intervened in a pending case in federal appeals court in Washington, DC. The two groups have filed an amicus brief urging the court to reject as unconstitutional the surreptitious placement, without a search warrant, of Global Positioning Service (GPS) devices by law enforcement on vehicles belonging to suspected criminals. Doing so without a warrant based on probable cause violates the Fourth Amendment's guarantees against unreasonable searches and seizures, the groups argued.

The brief was filed in US v. Jones, in which Lawrence Maynard and Antoine Jones were investigated by police for supposed cocaine trafficking. During the investigation, police placed a GPS device in Jones' vehicle, as well as surveilling the pair and targeting them with informants. They were ultimately arrested, and authorities seized 200 pounds of cocaine, a pound of crack cocaine, and $850,000 cash. Jones appealed, arguing that placement of a GPS device on his vehicle without a warrant violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

"The Supreme Court has recognized that a Fourth Amendment search may occur through the use of advanced technology to reveal detailed and personal information about individuals," the joint brief said. "These characteristics apply to GPS tracking, and a warrant should therefore be required for its unconsented use. Such a ruling also comports with the public's rejection of 'Big Brother' police surveillance, and with the empirical evidence that Americans have a strong expectation of privacy that their every movement by automobile or foot will not remotely be tracked or recorded by private parties or law enforcement."

The EFF and ACLU noted that the federal courts have previously placed limits on the use of new technologies to obtain information without a warrant. The US Supreme Court, for example, barred the use of thermal imaging of a person's home without a warrant.

The groups also argued that warrantless GPS tracking could undermine First Amendment rights to associate privately with others by allowing the government to track their whereabouts without their knowledge. "GPS tracking can reveal whether a person visits a Planned Parenthood clinic, patronizes a gay bar, or attends a meeting of an unpopular political organization," the brief states.

The groups also warned that GPS devices are growing more sophisticated and more versatile. Some GPS devices now work indoors, while others take the form of darts that can be fired at fleeing vehicles. "In sum, warrantless, remote GPS tracking trespasses on individuals' reasonable expectation not to be tracked electronically, twenty-four hours a day, for extensive periods of time," the brief concluded.

Video of False Positive Drug Testing Press Conference

The Marijuana Policy Project and the Mintwood Media Collective present the findings of a new study, False Positives Equal False Justice. The video exposes how field drug tests used by police and other government agencies give false positives. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djXVnmrlKvE
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Field Tests for Identifying Drugs Are Proven Wildly Inaccurate


This is simply jawdropping:



The results of the study are available in the MPP-funded report False Positives Equal False Justice.

This research has quite far-reaching implications when you consider the massive number of drug arrests performed each year based on the results of these inaccurate field tests. With nearly a million marijuana arrests in the U.S. every year, the number of people convicted of marijuana possession who never actually had marijuana is certainly much larger than zero. I'd also like to know what other countries use these tests and what procedures exist to confirm the results before suspects are charged and sentenced.

It's a powerfully disturbing development and yet another reminder that nothing in the war on drugs is what it seems. When you pull back the curtain, every stage in the drug prohibition process is exposed as utterly fraudulent and perverted. Literally nothing that happens in the war on drugs is reliably correct.

I wouldn't have though it possible…but if we can't even trust police to accurately identify the drugs they're arresting people for, the drug war is somehow even more shockingly stupid and unfair than I thought.

Press Conference To Expose Faulty Drug Test Kits Used Widely by Law Enforcement

The Marijuana Policy Project and Mintwood Media Collective will host a press conference at the National Press Club to release a new report that exposes faulty drug test kits used widely by law enforcement. The study, entitled "False Positives Equal False Justice," reveals that the NIK NarcoPouch 908/Duquenois-Levine Reagent field test kit, the most widely used field test for identifying marijuana, as well as the majority of other drug test kits used as the basis for arrest and prosecution by law enforcement have an unacceptably high rate of rendering false positives. In addition to testimony by experts in the field, as well as those directly impacted by these faulty tests, experiments will be performed at the press conference that will demonstrate the unreliability of various drug tests and their capacity to render false positives. Natural soap, chocolate and newspaper, among other household items, all will test positive for marijuana and other drugs such as GHB in these drug tests, yet these kits continue to be used in both arrests and prosecutions nationwide. These faulty tests result in the unjust arrest, imprisonment and even prosecution of innocent citizens. Presenters include: Frederic Whitehurst: a retired FBI agent and forensics expert, whose findings are featured extensively in the new report. David Bronner: the president of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. In 2007, the results of a NarcoPouch® 928 field drug test of his company’s popular organic soap was used to jail Don Bolles - drummer for the legendary punk band, the Germs – for possession of the drug GHB (Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate). A crime lab confirmation using a more reliable test exonerated Bolles and Dr. Bronner’s soaps of the drug possession charges. John Kelly: a researcher and author of "False Positives Equal False Justice." Dr. Omar Bagasra: a professor and the director of the South Carolina Center for Biotechnology at Claflin University. He contributed significantly to the report, including testing the specificity of the NIK NarcoPouch with 42 non-marijuana substances following the procedure prescribed by NIK. Rob Kampia: executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. Ron Obadia and Nadine Artemis: co-owners of Living Libations Inc. They have been arrested twice because their raw chocolate tested positive for hashish with the Duquenois-Levine color chemical test. Upon their first arrest, they were placed in separate rooms and told they faced “life in prison.” Subsequent lab testing proved there was no hashish in the chocolate. Their arrests have resulted in extensive legal bills and other challenges.
Date: 
Tue, 03/03/2009 - 1:00pm - 2:00pm
Location: 
529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor
Washington, DC 20045
United States

Press Advisory: Press Conference To Expose Faulty Drug Test Kits Used Widely by Law Enforcement

 
 
NEWS ADVISORY                                                       CONTACT:       Ryan Fletcher 202-641-0277
Feb. 24, 2009                                                                                           Adam Eidinger 202-744-2671
                                                                          
MARCH 3 PRESS CONFERENCE TO EXPOSE FAULTY DRUG TEST KITS USED WIDELY BY LAW ENFORCEMENT
Report Entitled ‘False Positives Equal False Justice’ to Be Released at National Press Club; Retired FBI Forensics Expert and Victims of False Arrests to Testify

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Tuesday, March 3 at 1 p.m., the Marijuana Policy Project and Mintwood Media Collective will host a press conference at the National Press Club to release a new report that exposes faulty drug test kits used widely by law enforcement. The study, entitled "False Positives Equal False Justice," reveals that the NIK NarcoPouch 908/Duquenois-Levine Reagent field test kit, the most widely used field test for identifying marijuana, as well as the majority of other drug test kits used as the basis for arrest and prosecution by law enforcement have an unacceptably high rate of rendering false positives.
In addition to testimony by experts in the field, as well as those directly impacted by these faulty tests, experiments will be performed at the press conference that will demonstrate the unreliability of various drug tests and their capacity to render false positives. Natural soap, chocolate and newspaper, among other household items, all will test positive for marijuana and other drugs such as GHB in these drug tests, yet these kits continue to be used in both arrests and prosecutions nationwide. These faulty tests result in the unjust arrest, imprisonment and even prosecution of innocent citizens.

WHAT:  Press conference exposing faulty drug tests through the release of a new report entitled "False    
                Positives Equal False Justice"
WHEN:  Tuesday March 3 at 1 p.m.
WHERE: Zenger Room at the National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor - Washington, D.C., 20045
WHO:     Frederic Whitehurst is a retired FBI agent and forensics expert, whose findings are featured
                 extensively in the new report.
 
David Bronner is the president of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. In 2007, the results of a NarcoPouch® 928 field drug test of his company’s popular organic soap was used to jail Don Bolles - drummer for the legendary punk band, the Germs – for possession of the drug GHB (Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate). A crime lab confirmation using a more reliable test exonerated Bolles and Dr. Bronner’s soaps of the drug possession charges.
 
John Kelly is a researcher and author of "False Positives Equal False Justice." 
 
Dr. Omar Bagasra is a professor and the director of the South Carolina Center for Biotechnology at Claflin University. He contributed significantly to the report, including testing the specificity of the NIK NarcoPouch with 42 non-marijuana substances following the procedure prescribed by NIK.
 
Rob Kampia is executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project.
 
Ron Obadia and Nadine Artemis are co-owners of Living Libations Inc. They have been arrested twice because their raw chocolate tested positive for hashish with the Duquenois-Levine color chemical test. Upon their first arrest, they were placed in separate rooms and told they faced “life in prison.” Subsequent lab testing proved there was no hashish in the chocolate. Their arrests have resulted in extensive legal bills and other challenges. 
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Drug Raids: Virginia Man Found Guilty of Manslaughter in Shooting of Police Officer Battering His Door Down

A Virginia jury on Wednesday convicted Ryan Frederick (see his MySpace page here)
of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of a police officer during a no-knock drug raid. Prosecutors asked for and the jury recommended a 10-year prison sentence for the 28-year-old resident of Chesapeake. The trial judge will make a final determination in a May hearing.

The jury did not convict Frederick of capital murder as prosecutors had sought. Nor was he found guilty of marijuana production -- the police raid was in search of an alleged grow -- but only of possession of a small amount of pot.

On January 17, 2008, local police executing a search warrant based on the word of questionable snitch -- who admitted burglarizing Frederick's home days earlier -- began breaking down Frederick's door. Saying he thought he was under assault from violent unknown intruders, he picked up his rifle and fired a shot through the door, killing Officer Jarrod Shivers, whose job it was to break down doors during raids. As Frederick put it himself in a jailhouse interview shortly after the incident:

Frederick said he was sleeping in a back bedroom because his job as a soft drink merchandiser required him to get up early. His dogs, Dora and Bud, were in the house. He woke up because his dogs "were barking like crazy. They're going like really crazy, so I grab my gun. As I'm walking through the hall, someone comes busting through my door."

Intruders were pushing through the bottom panels of the four-panel door, he said. The lighting in the house was dim. Frederick said he didn't hear anyone say "police" or see identification.

"I was like, 'Oh, God, if I don't shoot, then he's going to kill me'... I think I shot twice. I can't remember. It happened so fast. All I know is the gun jammed."

Frederick said he then went back to the bedroom to get a telephone. When he realized police were outside, he walked out of the house and surrendered.

In tears at times, Frederick said he doesn't grow or sell marijuana. He had a smoking bong and a small bag of marijuana, he said.

The raid and its unfortunate outcome for all involved added to rising concerns among civil libertarians and drug reform advocates about the apparently routine resort to SWAT-style tactics employed against small-scale drug offenders and, all too often, completely innocent parties.

The particulars in this case also raise serious questions about the quality of justice in that particular part of Virginia. For a closer look, try Radley Balko's detailed coverage for Reason magazine's Hit & Run blog here.

The case isn't over yet. Frederick's attorney said an appeal was definite.

Search and Seizure: US Supreme Court Okays Passenger Frisks During Traffic Stops

The US Supreme Court ruled Monday that police officers have the right to frisk passengers in cars stopped for traffic offenses even if they have no evidence the passenger has committed a crime or is about to do so. The ruling marks the latest in a now long line of high court decisions since the end of the Warren court -- many of them in drug cases -- that have eroded the Fourth Amendment's proscription against warrantless searches.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/car-search.jpg
In its decision, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected an Arizona appeals court ruling that threw out the evidence in one such search as unconstitutionally obtained.

The ruling came in Arizona v. Johnson, in which Lemon Johnson was the back seat passenger in a car pulled over by anti-gang police in Oro Valley. After questioning Johnson in the car and being informed that he was from "a place [the officer] knew was home to a Crips gang" and that he had served time for burglary, the officer, the officer asked him to get out of the car for further questioning. Noting also that Johnson wore a blue bandana and had a scanner in his pocket, the officer "patted him down for officer safety."

During the pat-down search, the officer found a pistol and a small bag of marijuana. Johnson was charged with weapons and drug possession offenses. He was convicted at trial, but that conviction was overturned by the appeals court, which held that although Johnson had been lawfully detained when police stopped the car for the traffic violation, during the course of the encounter before Johnson was frisked, the detention had "evolved into a separate, consensual encounter stemming from an unrelated investigation by [the officer] of Johnson's possible gang affiliation." Without "reason to believe Johnson was involved in criminal activity," the court ruled, the officer "had no right to pat him down for weapons, even if she had reason to suspect he was armed and dangerous."

That's not right, the Supreme Court said in a ruling authored by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Citing case law going back to Terry v. Ohio (1968), which established that police may constitutionally stop and interrogate people if they reasonably believe a crime has been or is about to be committed and that police can then frisk them to search for weapons, Ginsburg and the court ruled that such pat-down searches are allowable if police "harbor reasonable suspicion that a person subjected to the frisk is armed, and therefore dangerous to the safety of the police and public."

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