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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."

Drug Testing: Chess Federation Caves, Ivanchuk Will Not Be Suspended

As we noted three weeks ago, the chess world was in turmoil over drug testing in a simmering spat sparked afresh by the threatened suspension of a popular and well-known grandmaster for failing to stop to take a drug test after storming out of the chess hall upon losing an important match. Now, we can report that the chess federation has come to its senses.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.com/files/vassily-ivanchuk.jpg
Vassily Ivanchuk (courtesy wikimedia.org)
In what most consider a quixotic bid to get chess included as an Olympic sport, the World Chess Federation, usually referred to by its French acronym, FIDE, began drug testing chess players. Such testing is required in Olympic sports. Players had grumbled about and ridiculed the policy in the past, but the issue blew up in FIDE's face at last year's Chess Olympiad in Dresden.

There, Ukrainian Grandmaster Vassily Ivanchuk was leading his team to a medal, perhaps even the gold, in the last round. But instead of victory, Ivanchuk and the Ukrainians lost, and a furious and distraught Ivanchuk stormed out of the building -- right past a FIDE official waiting to give him a random urine test. Ivanchuk said he did not realize the man was an official, but FIDE decided to convene a hearing on his failure to take the drug test. Under FIDE rules, he could have been suspended for up to two years.

In a January 20 hearing conducted by FIDE during the Corus tournament in the Netherlands, in which Ivanchuk is participating, the panel heard testimony that there was no "designated doping control officer," validating Ivanchuk's claim he did not know the man was a drug testing official. The panel also noted that the FIDE official spoke to Ivanchuk in English, not his native language, and that Ivanchuk was upset at the time.

In its decision rendered the same day, the panel concluded: "The procedural error allied with Mr Ivanchuk's state of mind led him unintentionally to miss the test. The Hearing Panel therefore concludes unanimously that there should be no penalty."

Given the ridicule and anger generated in the chess community over the whole Ivanchuk fiasco, that was a very politic decision indeed.

Matt Fogg is Awesome


Back in April, the Metropolitan Police Dept. here in D.C. announced plans to go door-to-door asking to search homes in high-crime neighborhoods. Flex Your Rights joined with several local groups to oppose the measure and we shot this great video of Matt Fogg from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition speaking at a community meeting.

I post it now because it randomly popped up at The Agitator and DrugWarRant last week and I realized I’d never shared this here. Matt Fogg is wildly entertaining and gets me riled up every time I run into him.



MPD cancelled the home-search program due to public opposition, proving that events like this can really make a difference.

Search and Seizure: Supreme Court to Hear Case of School Girl Strip-Searched for Ibuprofen

The US Supreme Court agreed last Friday to review the case of a 13-year-old honor student who was subjected to a strip search by school officials looking for prescription-strength Ibuprofen. In doing so, it will once again revisit the contentious topic of just how far school officials can go in performing anti-drug searches that would be considered unconstitutional if conducted outside the school setting.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/supremecourt.jpg
US Supreme Court
The case had its genesis in the 2003 search of then 8th-grade honor student Savana Redding after another student who had been found with Ibuprofen pills in violation of school policy said Redding had given her the pills. Redding denied having provided any pills. School officials searched Redding's locker and belongings and found nothing. They then made Redding strip to her bra and underwear and ordered her, in the words of the appeal court, "to pull her bra out to the side and shake it" and "pull out her underwear at the crotch and shake it." No pills were found.

Redding's mother filed a lawsuit challenging the strip search as unconstitutional and seeking damages from the school district. A trial judge dismissed the lawsuit against school officials, ruling that they were immune from suit. A three-judge panel of the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, but was overturned in a 6-5 vote by the full court, which ruled that the suit could go forward against the assistant principal who ordered the search.

The 9th Circuit majority was scathing in its opinion. "It does not require a constitutional scholar to conclude that a nude search of a 13-year-old child is an invasion of constitutional rights of some magnitude," Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the majority, quoting a decision in another case. "More than that: it is a violation of any known principle of human dignity."

But in his dissent, Judge Michael Daly Hawkins said that while the case was "a close call" given the "humiliation and degradation" endured by Redding, school officials were "not unreasonable" in ordering the search. "I do not think it was unreasonable for school officials, acting in good faith, to conduct the search in an effort to obviate a potential threat to the health and safety of their students. I would find this search constitutional," he wrote, "and would certainly forgive the Safford officials' mistake as reasonable."

Now, the Supreme Court must decide two questions: "Whether the Fourth Amendment prohibits school officials from conducting a search of a student suspected of possessing and distributing prescription drugs, and whether the 9th Circuit departed from established principles of qualified immunity in holding that a public school administrator may be liable in a damages lawsuit for conducting a search of a student."

The case is Redding v. Safford Unified School District #1, or, as it is now known with the school district appealing, Safford Unified School District v. Redding.

Southeast Asia: Philippines President Names Herself Drug Czar, Orders Random Testing of All High School Students, More to Come

Philippines President Gloria Arroyo named herself the country's drug czar Monday and ordered government agencies to prepare for battle against big-time drug traffickers. But in the meantime, she has announced new marching orders on another front: student drug testing. As one of her first acts as drug czar, she ordered random student drug testing for every high school in the country, public or private.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/gloria-arroyo.jpg
Philippine president and top drug war demagogue Gloria Arroyo
The immediate cause of Arroyo's seizure of the reins of drug control policy was the "Alabang Boys scandal," in which three Ecstasy traffickers managed to get initially acquitted despite the strong evidence against them, leading to suspicions of crooked prosecutors. Arroyo this week ordered five prosecutors suspended pending further investigation.

But problems in the Philippines' drug war policing go much further than the Alabang Boys. Filipino drug fighters have compiled a dismal record in prosecuting drug evidence, due apparently, to equal parts incompetence and corruption. Of the nearly 100,000 cases filed by the Philippines Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in the last five years, nearly 78,000 are still unresolved.

Arroyo has pledged to change all that. "Governments that delay action against illegal drugs, or regard it as a routine police matter, do so at their own peril," Arroyo told a Monday cabinet meeting. "A country awash with illegal drugs is a country compromised, its law and order institutions tainted and corrupted. I will temporarily act as czar, or overseer, of the war against illegal drugs," Arroyo added, stressing that the campaign would include boosting law enforcement and prosecution.

On Tuesday, Arroyo showed she meant business by sending Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita out to tell reporters she had ordered law enforcement agencies to prepare an order of battle against traffickers. "Our law enforcement agencies involved in the campaign must come up with specific actions against those who are known big-time people involved in drug trafficking. It follows without saying, the President wants immediate identification of those who could be subject of this campaign and bring them before the bar of justice," Ermita said at the Palace news conference.

Anybody involved in drugs is fair game, he warned. "There will be no sacred cows on this. The drive will go all the way. Anyone who will be involved, whoever they may be, they will have to account before the law."

But it is high school students who will first feel the tender mercies of Arroyo's newly reinvigorated war on drugs. The Department of Education announced this week that while it had already planned to reinstitute random drug testing of students -- the Philippines did it between 2003 and 2005 -- it was now moving ahead at an accelerated pace to suit Arroyo's wishes.

And testing of students may be just the beginning. Some Philippines political figures are talking about drug testing employees of outsourced call center workers, others are calling for testing university students, and the government is currently considering drug testing all government employees.

Supreme Court Strikes Another Small Blow Against Exclusionary Rule

The Supreme Court handed down yet another bad 4th Amendment ruling today. I've got a post over at Flex Your Rights explaining, as I often do, that the 4th Amendment isn't dead yet.

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