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They're Drug Testing Our Sewage

I'll spare you the excrement jokes and just let this idea speak for itself:
Environmental scientists are beginning to use an unsavory new tool -- raw sewage -- to paint an accurate portrait of drug abuse in communities. Like one big, citywide urinalysis, tests at municipal sewage plants in many areas of the United States and Europe, including Los Angeles County, have detected illicit drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana.

Law enforcement officials have long sought a way to come up with reliable and verifiable calculations of narcotics use, to identify new trends and formulate policies. Surveys, the backbone of drug-use estimates, are only as reliable as the people who answer them. But sewage does not lie. [Los Angeles Times]

Admittedly, assuming the methodology is sound, this appears to be a breakthrough technique for obtaining accurate drug use demographics. And it's already beginning to cast doubt on existing data, not surprisingly to the effect of indicating that drug use has been widely underreported:

The scientists were even able to use sewage to estimate individual use and weekly trends. For instance, they estimated that people in Milan used twice as much cocaine, about 35 grams per person per year, than Italy's government surveys had suggested.

That's kind of neat, I suppose, that they can figure out stuff like that. But ya know what? If our drug policy weren't a raging nightmare, drug testing raw sewage wouldn’t be even remotely necessary. Seriously, the moment the government finds itself digging around in our sewage to figure out what drugs we take, it becomes completely clear that we've screwed up our approach to drugs beyond belief. It shouldn’t even be necessary to formulate arguments as to why this is not the behavior of a healthy society. I mean, really. They're drug testing sewage. What's wrong with them?

All of this is symbolic of the utter lack of information and knowledge about drug use that we've achieved in the course of our abundantly destructive attempts to control this very behavior. Nothing could be easier than determining down to the bottle or butt exactly how many Heinekens™ or Newport Lights™ are consumed by the population, but in order to study marijuana use, we must collect frothing f#%king sewage into test tubes, mix in some noxious chemicals, and run the results through some mindbendingly complex algorithm?

Clueless and reeking of poo, the champions of our failed drug control crusade stand before us straight-faced and swear that everything is going according to plan.

Drug Tests Are Useless Devices That Don’t Even Work at Detecting Drugs

The Drug Czar's blog was very excited on Friday. Why? Because a school in Florida drug tested 120 students and all of them passed!

"It worked out very positively," [the principal] said this afternoon. "We did not have a single student test positive, out of 120 students we tested."

Random meant random, she said. Tests were done unannounced at different times during different days of the week. Some students were tested more than once, just because of the randomness of it all, she said. [Tampa Bay Online]
Admittedly, a random sample of 120 students testing negative for drugs is a surprising result. So surprising, in fact, that one begins to wonder how the hell it happened. Well the answer is simple: according to Tampa Bay Online, they used saliva tests, which are practically useless.

Via wikipedia, here are the estimated detection times for saliva drug testing:

So, basically, all 120 of these students could have been smoking hash and crack all night on Friday and still passed their drug tests on Monday when they got to school. I'm not saying that's what happened. I'm just saying that testing students' saliva doesn't prove whether or not they use drugs. That's not how it works, and any newspaper article purporting to celebrate the effectiveness of such a program ought to disclose that fact, lest it should become yet another arm in the Drug Czar's nationwide campaign to randomly collect bodily fluids from our children.

Medical Marijuana: Employment Rights Bill Passes California Assembly

A medical marijuana employment rights bill that would protect California patients from being fired because their medication is marijuana passed the California Assembly Wednesday. Introduced by leading legislative medical marijuana defender Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), and cosponsored by Assemblymembers Patty Berg (D-Eureka), Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) and Lori Saldaña (D-San Diego), the bill, AB 2279, would overturn a January California Supreme Court decision, Ross v. Raging Wire.

In that case, the state Supreme Court upheld the ability of employers to fire employees who test positive for marijuana even if they are patients. That decision left the state's estimated 150,000 registered medical marijuana patients facing renewed job insecurity.

AB 2279 would undo that ruling. It would "declare it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment or otherwise penalize a person, if the discrimination is based upon the person's status as a qualified patient or primary caregiver, or a positive drug test for marijuana, except as specified."

The bill also provides authorization for those who have been discriminated against by employers because of their medical marijuana use to sue for damages, seek injunctions and other appropriate relief. It would not prevent an employer from firing an employee who is impaired on the job because of medical marijuana use.

"AB 2279 is not about being under the influence while at work. That's against the law, and will remain so," said Leno, the bill's author. "It's about allowing patients who are able to work safely and who use their doctor-recommended medication in the privacy of their own homes, to not be arbitrarily fired from their jobs. The voters who supported Proposition 215 did not intend for medical marijuana patients to be forced into unemployment in order to benefit from their medicine," Leno continued.

"The California Assembly has acted to protect the right of patients to work and be productive members of society," said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access, the medical marijuana advocacy group that argued the case before the Court and is now a supporter of the bill. "The state Senate now has the important task of passing this bill with the aim to protect the jobs of thousands of Californians with serious illnesses such as cancer and HIV/AIDS."

"It's important that we not allow employment discrimination in California," said Gary Ross, the former plaintiff in Ross v. Raging Wire. "If the Court is going to ignore the need for protection, then it's up to the legislature to ensure that productive workers like me are free from discrimination."

The bill has broad support from labor, business, civil rights, and medical groups. It now heads to the state Senate.

Feature: Summer's Here and the Time is Right for... Getting Busted Going to the Festival (If You're Not Careful)

With Memorial Day now just a memory, the summer music festival season is on -- and with it, special drug law enforcement aimed at festival goers in what could be called a form of cultural profiling. If years past are any indicator, music lovers should be prepared to encounter everything from announced "Drug Checkpoints" that aren't -- they are instead traps to lure the freaked out -- to real, unconstitutional, highway drug checkpoints masquerading as "safety checks" (complete with drug dogs) to undercover cops working inside the festival grounds themselves.
Richard Anderson, via
Nationally known festivals like Bonaroo in Tennessee and Wakarusa in Kansas, as well as countless lesser festivals, especially in rural areas, have drawn special law enforcement efforts in the past. With this year unlikely to be any different, festival goers will need to know their rights and how to exercise them when they encounter the cops.

The police enforcement actions are already getting underway. Last weekend, the 2008 Summer Camp Festival in Chillicothe, Illinois, drew some 13,000 fans to hear a diverse line-up of bands including the Flaming Lips, George Clinton & Parliament/Funkadelic, Blind Melon, the Roots, and the New Pornographers. It also drew city and state police, who claimed 20 drug arrests -- for marijuana, ecstasy, and LSD -- between them in and around the festival.

The police were pleased. "I think a lot of it had to do with all of the agencies getting together before the event and really planning out our attack," Chillicothe Police Chief Steven Maurer told local HOI-19 TV News. "Our goal is to prevent it from coming in and that's what we did a lot of."

Meanwhile, down in northeast Georgia, some other law enforcement agencies had also gotten together to plan an attack. This one wasn't aimed directly at concert-goers, but at the highway-traveling public in general. In what the Northeast Georgian described as "one of the county's largest highway interdiction and safety checks in at least five years," personnel from the Habersham County Sheriff's Office, Northeast Georgia Drug Task Force, Georgia National Guard Counter Drug Task Force, Georgia State Patrol, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia Department of Public Safety Motor Carrier Compliance Unit, Lee Arrendale State Prison, Phillips State Prison and Cornelia Police Department participated in a 24-hour checkpoint on a local highway.

Police bragged about the success of their checkpoint, which netted 74 arrests, 31 of them for drug offenses. "It worked well, I thought," said Habersham County Sheriff De Ray Fincher. "The operation resulted in a seizure of $36,000 in illegal drugs. And a total amount of currency, drugs and vehicles seized is estimated to have a value of $82,000."

Police did write some tickets for traffic offenses, Fincher told WNEG-TV 32 News. "We got a lot of people with no insurance, no driver's license or suspended license," he said. And some pot smokers: "The majority of our cases were marijuana cases; however, we did get several methamphetamine and we got one case of cocaine," Fincher explained.

In a 2000 Supreme Court decision, Indianapolis v. Edmonds, the high court held that indiscriminate highway drug checkpoints were unconstitutional since motorists were being stopped without suspicion for a law enforcement -- not a public safety -- purpose.

But Fincher was open about his constitutionally-suspect highway checkpoint. "We are trying to do everything we can to prevent drug activity in Habersham County, whether it's just passing through or stopping here," he said, noting that drug arrests in the county were on the rise. "That just means we've taken a real aggressive approach to drug enforcement."

"In the wake of the Indianapolis case, law enforcement has tried to figure out ways to still conduct drug checkpoints that comport with that ruling," said Adam Wolf of the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. "Intent is the name of the game. If the intent is to conduct a checkpoint basically for law enforcement purposes, that's not okay. If it's for public safety purposes, such as sobriety checkpoints, that is okay."

A constitutional challenge to any given checkpoint would turn on intent, said Wolf. "If it turns out the intent was primarily to be a drug checkpoint, that would be an unreasonable search and not comply with the Constitution," he said. "That kind of checkpoint should be shut down, but it would take someone to challenge it."

Noting Sheriff Fincher's report of cash and goods seized, Wolf suggested the purpose of the checkpoints could really be about something other than law enforcement or public safety. "So often these things are being done to fund law enforcement agencies. Asset forfeiture is really a cash cow," he said.

Whether the checkpoints or other special law enforcement tactics are to raise money, wage the drug war, or indeed for "public safety," experts consulted by the Chronicle sang a remarkably similar song: Be prepared, don't be stupid, and don't give away your rights.

"The most efficient way to get arrested for marijuana possession short of blowing pot smoke in an officer's face is to smoke marijuana while driving or parked in your car, especially on the way to a festival," said Steven Silverman of the civil liberties group Flex Your Rights, which has released a video instructing people how to flex theirs. "You have a minimal expectation of privacy, and it reeks. Officers can smell it, and if they can smell it, that's probable cause to search you."

"Keep your private items out of view," recommended the ACLU's Wolf. A baggie full of weed on the front seat is all the probable cause an officer needs to search the vehicle and arrest the owner.
car search
"The only sure thing to do is not to carry," said Keith Stroup, founder and currently senior counsel for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). "But the problem with that is there may or may not be good marijuana available at the festivals. If you're going to bring something with you, keep the quantity as small as possible, and for God's sake, don't smoke in the car!"

If you are stopped at a checkpoint (or pulled over for any reason) and you haven't provided police probable cause to search you or your vehicle, now is the time to exercise your rights. People in such situations should be polite but assertive, the experts said.

"If you are pulled over by police for any reason, the officers are very likely to ask you to consent to a search," said Silverman. "Don't do it. Never, ever consent under any circumstances. It might be couched in terms of a command, but it is a request. If you consent, you are waiving your Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. They won't 'go easier' on you; anything they find, they will confiscate, and arrest you and put you in jail. Don't do their job for them."

"There is no circumstance I can imagine where you should ever consent to a search," agreed NORML's Stroup. "If you give permission, you waive your Fourth Amendment protections. They may say it'll go easier if you cooperate, but that's bullshit. Their only reason for being there is to see if you have contraband and arrest you and put you in jail if you do."

"Just say no to warrantless searches," echoed the ACLU's Wolf. "Officers won't tell you you have the right not to consent, but you do, and it is one that people have held dear since the founding of the Republic."

There are other highway hazards for the unwary festival-goer. Law enforcement can be creative in its unending war on drug users and sellers.

"Anybody driving to see his favorite band should also be aware of fake drug checkpoints," said Silverman. "Drug checkpoints are unconstitutional, but what some sheriffs will do close to festival sites is set up a big 'Drug Checkpoint Ahead' sign, and then watch who turns off the highway at the next ramp or who throws something out his car window. Then they pull them over for littering or failure to signal a lane change or something. If you see such a sign, keep driving -- it's a bluff designed to see who it scares."

"When you see a sign like that, proceed ahead within the speed limit, driving safely through the area," advised Wolf.

Wolf has problems with the harassment of festival-goers that run deeper than particular law enforcement tactics. "Profiling based on race is not okay, profiling based on gender is not okay, and profiling based on the type of concert you attend is not okay," he said. "It's unreasonable and unjustifiable for police to target a group of people because they are going to any particular type of concert."

"Simply having a Grateful Dead sticker or dreadlocks doesn't constitute reasonable suspicion of anything," agreed Silverman.

But in the real world, it can. Festival-goers and other highway travelers need to be aware of their rights, as well as the realities of life in the contemporary US, as they hit the highway this summer.

And one last thing once you actually make it to the festival. "There's a big myth out there that police officers must reveal if they're an undercover cop," said Silverman. "That's wrong, and it's stupid to believe that. Police officers can and do legally lie in doing their jobs. Believing that has probably led to thousands of people being arrested."

Senior Citizens Caught in the War on Drugs -- DrugSense FOCUS Alert #367

Below the Florida Times-Union Senior Columnist Tonya Weathersbee provides a disturbing analysis of an aspect of the failure of the War on Drugs. Please consider writing and sending a Letter to the Editor of the Florida Times Union expressing your reaction to this column. Thanks for your effort and support. It's not what others do it's what YOU do. ********************************************************************** Contact: Florida Times-Union Pubdate: Mon, 26 May 2008 Source: Florida Times-Union (FL) Copyright: 2008 The Florida Times-Union Author: Tonyaa Weathersbee, The Times-Union SOME ARE DRIVEN TO CRIME BY ECONOMIC DESPERATION Ruth Davis says she isn't on drugs. But she was desperate. She's also a cautionary tale. According to a recent McClatchy News Service story, the Miami grandmother is sitting in a North Carolina jail. She's been there since December. That was when a state trooper nabbed her as she was transporting 33 pounds of marijuana to New York. He stopped Davis for speeding, but then noticed a strong odor as she rolled down her car window. Her answers to the trooper's questions about her travel plans didn't jibe. So he asked if he could search her car. She agreed. But Davis didn't know he was going to call the dogs to help him look. Game over. Drug enforcement officials say that people like Davis, who is 65, are becoming part of a trend; that drug dealers are now recruiting elderly people to carry drugs because there's less of a chance that they will be stopped or profiled. There's also the chance that police will be disarmed by their sweetness and vulnerability. Davis, in fact, said that she had hoped to charm her way out of a speeding ticket. I almost wish that had worked for her. Because it wasn't greed that made Davis agree to become a drug mule. It was pain. It was the pain of not being able to pay the $20,000-plus that she owed doctors for treatment of a blood disease. It was the pain of seeing her daughter's face disfigured from a car crash, and not being able to help her pay the $3,000 needed for corrective plastic surgery. It was the pain that a person feels when hitting rock bottom with no safety net to catch her. It's a pain that has been exploited by drug dealers who recruit the desperate and the defeated. And just as the drug trade has become the dominant economy for many poor, inner-city communities, it's not surprising that as other safety nets begin to fray, more people will grab on to anything to stop their free fall. In Davis' case, that meant grabbing onto the promises of a drug dealer. Me, I'm not all that surprised that some elderly folks would be vulnerable to that kind of coercion. In some neighborhoods in which drug dealers are the closest thing to philanthropists that most people there will ever see, they help some old people pay bills. But while Davis wasn't exactly poor - she said she owns her own home and works as a diet consultant - her medical bills apparently still made it hard for her to make ends meet. And, in case we forget, soaring medical bills can plunge anyone into poverty. Or it can push them to make thoughtless choices. So when I see cases such as hers, I'm reminded of how the drug trade is fueled by different degrees of hopelessness. In the inner cities, you have kids who work as drug sellers and lookouts because few know the lure of legitimate work, because not much of that exists where they live. Then you have some people who sell drugs to supplement low-wage jobs. Unlike Davis, they aren't casualties of an emergency as much as they are casualties of an illicit economy that has usurped the legitimate economy. Then there's the hopelessness that turned Davis into a drug mule. Such hopelessness is the kind that overwhelms people who are being let down by what many have come to view as guarantees in American life; that if you pay your bills, obey the law, drink your milk and say your prayers, the system won't allow misfortunes like medical emergencies to make you destitute. Now I know that not every senior citizen who is faced with hardships is going to sell drugs. Yet, Davis' story still is a revealing one. Among other things, it illustrates, once again, the failure of the war on drugs. We fill our prisons and jails with nonviolent offenders like Davis - a woman who, ironically, became a felon to avoid becoming a deadbeat - as the kingpins go free. And even as people like Davis sit in jail, Americans continue to use drugs at about the same rate as they did when President Nixon declared a war on drugs in 1971. As long as that continues to happen, and as long as jobs continue to hemorrhage and medical costs continue to spiral, people will look for ways to survive. And the drug lords will be waiting. ********************************************************************** Additional suggestions for writing LTEs are at our Media Activism Center:, or contact MAP's Media Activism Facilitator for tips on how to write LTEs that are printed. ********************************************************************** PLEASE SEND US A COPY OF YOUR LETTER Please post a copy of your letter or report your action to the sent letter list ( if you are subscribed, or by E-mailing a copy directly to if you are not subscribed. Your letter will then be forwarded to the list so others can learn from your efforts. Subscribing to the Sent LTE list ( will help you to review other sent LTEs and perhaps come up with new ideas or approaches as well as keeping others aware of your important writing efforts.
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Drug Czars Say the Darndest Things

Deputy Drug Czar Bertha Madras delivered this gem in Colorado as she promoted random student drug testing to school administrators:

"We are not waging a war on drugs; we are waging a war of defense --
a defense of the basis of humanity, and that is our brain," said Dr.
Bertha Madras, the White House deputy drug czar in charge of reducing
demand for drugs. [Denver Post]

This is the same woman who argued against distributing overdose prevention kits, claiming that overdoses would teach people not to use heroin. So no, she's actually not very interested in "defense" against the harms of drugs.

She supports drug testing programs that don’t work, but opposes overdose prevention programs that do. Her ideas would make considerably more sense if her job were to make the drug problem worse.

Update: In comments, Giordano asks "Is Dr. Madras’ brain on the defensive?" Yes, I think that's exactly what's going on here.

Press Release: White House Pushes Harmful and Ineffective Student Drug Testing Agenda at DC Summit

For Immediate Release: May 6, 2008

For More Info: Contact: Jennifer Kern (415) 373-7694 or Jasmine Tyler (202) 294-8292

White House Pushes Controversial Student Drug Testing Agenda at D.C. Summit on May 7

Largest Study, Leading Health Groups Call Random, Suspicionless Drug Testing Harmful and Ineffective

Concerned Citizens to Provide Educators with Missing Information; Experts Available for Interviews

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is conducting a series of regional summits designed to convince local educators to start drug testing students -- randomly and without cause. This policy is unsupported by the available science and opposed by leading experts in adolescent health. The Bush Administration is hosting a summit on Wednesday, May 7 at the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the 5th floor conference room of 750 17th Street, N.W. in Washington, D.C. from 1:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m.

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) will provide attendees with copies of DPA’s booklet Making Sense of Student Drug Testing: Why Educators Are Saying No, which provides resources for evidence-based alternatives and summarizes research showing that such testing is ineffective.

Studies have found that suspicionless drug testing is ineffective in deterring student drug use. The first large-scale national study on student drug testing, which was published by researchers at the University of Michigan in 2003, found no difference in rates of student drug use between schools that have drug testing programs and those that do not. A two-year randomized experimental trial published last November in the Journal of Adolescent Health concluded random drug testing targeting student athletes did not reliably reduce past month drug use and, in fact, produced attitudinal changes among students that indicate new risk factors for future substance use. 

"Drug testing is humiliating, costly and ineffective, but it’s an easy anti-drug sound bite for the White House," said Jennifer Kern, youth policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance. "The people and educators across the country who make serious decisions about young people’s safety won’t find the information they need at these propaganda-filled summits. They need the actual research, not slogans and junk science."

The American Academy of Pediatrics, National Education Association, the Association of Addiction Professionals and the National Association of Social Workers object to testing. They believe random testing programs erect counter-productive obstacles to student participation in extracurricular activities, marginalize at-risk students and make open communication more difficult.

“Drug testing breaks down relationships of trust,” said Jasmine Tyler, deputy director of national affairs with the Drug Policy Alliance. “All credible research on substance abuse prevention points to eliminating, rather than creating, sources of alienation and conflict between young people, their parents and schools.”

A December 2007 policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Substance Abuse and Council of School Health reaffirmed their opposition to student drug testing, holding:  “Physicians should not support drug testing in schools … [because] it has not yet been established that drug testing does not cause harm.

Making Sense of Student Drug Testing: Why Educators are Saying No published by the Drug Policy Alliance and the American Civil Liberties Union can be found online at An excerpt from the booklet is included below:

Comprehensive, rigorous and respected research shows there are many reasons why random student drug testing is not good policy:

  • Drug testing is not effective in deterring drug use among young people;
  • Drug testing is expensive, taking away scarce dollars from other, more effective programs that keep young people out of trouble with drugs;
  • Drug testing can be legally risky, exposing schools to potentially costly litigation;
  • Drug testing may drive students away from extracurricular activities, which are a proven means of helping students stay out of trouble with drugs;
  • Drug testing can undermine trust between students and teachers, and between parents and children;
  • Drug testing can result in false positives, leading to the punishment of innocent students;
  • Drug testing does not effectively identify students who have serious problems with drugs; and
  • Drug testing may lead to unintended consequences, such as students using drugs (like alcohol) that are more dangerous but less detectable by a drug test.


Washington, DC
United States

Canada: Supreme Court Nixes Random Use of Drug Dogs

In a ruling last Friday, the Canadian Supreme Court held that the use of drug-sniffing dogs in a random search of an Ontario school was unconstitutional. The decision should result in an end to random drug dog searches across the country -- except at borders and airports, where customs officials have free rein.
drug dog
The court held that the use of a drug-sniffing dog without particularized suspicion violated Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which governs what constitutes reasonable search and seizure.

The case began in 2002, when police visited St. Patrick's High School in Sarnia, in the southwestern part of the province. Police confined students to their classrooms, while taking their backpacks to an empty gym. The dog alerted on one backpack, and one youth who was identified only by his initials was subsequently charged with possession of marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms.

Police admitted they had no search warrant nor even a tip that drugs were present at the school. Instead, they said, they were responding to a long-standing open invitation from school officials.

The trial judge in the case granted a motion to exclude the seized drugs as evidence and acquitted the youth. Prosecutors appealed, but the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2004 upheld the trial judge, saying the sniffing of backpacks by the drug dog amounted to "a warrantless, random search with the entire student body held in detention."

Crown lawyers argued unsuccessfully that being sniffed by a drug dog does not constitute a search. Odors in the public air are not private, and a drug dog detecting contraband by smell should be viewed as similar to police officers detecting an odor in the air, they argued.

That argument would have flown in the United States, where the Supreme Court has okayed the use of drug dogs in random searches, saying a drug dog sniff did not amount to a search. But it didn't fly in the Canadian courts. Now, police will not be able to conduct random searches with drug dogs in public places, such as churches, schools, and shopping malls.

Don't Give Your Marijuana to the Police

This remarkable New York Times piece exposes New York City's out of control marijuana policy, which has produced 374,900 misdemeanor marijuana arrests since 1998, despite a decrim law that's been in effect for 30 years. This is a rare example of professional-quality drug war coverage from the mainstream media and should be read in its entirety, as it raises several interesting issues.

I found this passage, which describes one particular arrest, quite revealing:

"I came out of the building, and this unmarked car, no light, no indication it was police, was right on me," said the man, a Latino who asked that his name not be used because he was concerned about his job. "Right on my tail. An officer got out, he said, 'I saw you walking from that building, I know you bought weed, give me the weed.' He made it an option: 'Give me the weed now and I will give you a summons, or we can search your vehicle and can take you in.' "

He opened the console and handed them his marijuana — making it "open to public view."

"I was duped," he said. But the deception was legal, and his pot wasn’t.

The officers escorted him in handcuffs to the unmarked car.

Amazingly, police must actually trick citizens into displaying their marijuana in order to make an arrest, since the decrim law requires plain view discovery. NYPD officers have become quite adept at initiating this through the typical threats and coercion that have long been the hallmark of petty drug war police practices.

Fortunately, the most obvious and effective antidote to New York's overzealous marijuana policing is really pretty simple: don't give them your marijuana. Don't admit having marijuana. Don't give them consent to search you or your vehicle. Ask if you're free to go.

Ending this obscene spectacle, which violates the spirit of New York's marijuana laws and wastes precious law-enforcement resources, is vitally important. But until that happens, citizens can protect themselves by not idiotically turning over their illegal drugs to the police. Seriously, stop giving them your drugs.

United States

Virginia v. Moore: Just Another Dumb Ruling, Not a Full-blown 4th Amendment Crisis

Yesterday's Supreme Court decision in Virginia v. Moore upheld the use of evidence seized during arrests that are illegal under state law. So now the whole "4th Amendment is Dead" choir is harmonizing again, this time about how police can now illegally arrest and search anyone anytime. But it ain't like that, not yet. My analysis is available here.

I hate a bad search and seizure ruling as much as anyone, but I'm also the associate director of Flex Your Rights, where we teach people how to exercise their rights during police encounters. That mission is challenging enough without well-meaning Bill of Rights enthusiasts issuing hyperbolic eulogies for the 4th Amendment every 3-6 months.

We face grave threats to our civil liberties, but ranking high among them is the fact that most of us don't have a clue what these rights are to begin with. Exaggerating the practical impact of bad rulings and legislation may feel like a strategy to get the public's attention, but it's not. That language merely serves to convince people that the battle is already lost and not worth fighting. It also exacerbates the widespread and tragic tendency of the majority of citizens to waive their constitutional rights whenever police ask them to.

That's why we defend constitutional rights by teaching people to assert them, instead of running around pronouncing to our friends and neighbors that they have no rights.
United States

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