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More Undercover Drug Cases Dropped Amid Growing SFPD Scandal

Location: 
San Francisco, CA
United States
Eight more criminal cases were dropped by prosecutors in connection with a looming scandal involving an undercover police unit accused of conducting illegal drug raids and falsifying police reports. The cases in San Francisco Superior Court involved the same officers previously accused of entering residential hotel rooms without warrants or consent and then allegedly lying about their actions on police reports. One officer was accused of falsely arresting a man for drug possession.
Publication/Source: 
The San Francisco Examiner (CA)
URL: 
http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/crime/2011/03/more-undercover-drug-cases-disappear-amid-growing-sfpd-scandal

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's a veritable cornucopia of drug-related law enforcement corruption! We don't even know where to begin -- just jump in, but don't forget to take a shower after you're done. Let's get to it:

evidence room of opportunity
In Philadelphia, a narcotics cop accused of stealing money from people he stopped has been fired after the Philadelphia Daily News published those allegations. Officer Joseph Sulpizio, 42, had been looking at criminal charges, but Police Chief Charles Ramsey said that now wouldn't happen because the news article "blew the investigation." It was unclear how the Daily News article actually prevented the prosecution.

In San Francisco, six narcotics officers have been accused of illegal searches and perjury by the San Francisco Public Defender's Office, which has released a video it says proves its case. In two separate drug busts at apartments in the Henry Hotel in December and January, police without search warrants entered the apartments and arrested the occupants on drug sales charges. Police said they had informant tips and hot gotten consent to search from the residents. But videos captured by hallway surveillance cameras showed that an officer had used a master key to enter the apartments without the consent of the residents. Last week, a San Francisco Superior Court judge threw out one case, and prosecutors dropped the second one the next day. The public defenders are calling for an additional independent investigation of the incidents, perhaps by the state attorney general's office.

In Buffalo, New York, a Transportation Security Administration agent was arrested March 2 on charges he allowed a "drug kingpin" to pass unmolested through security at the Buffalo Airport. TSA agent Minetta Walker, 43, a behavioral detection officer, is also accused of helping other drug traffickers evade scans and searches to take cash -- but not drugs -- through the airport. She was arrested along with the "kingpin," a Buffalo man who regularly flew to Arizona with large amounts of cash that he used to purchase marijuana, which he then shipped back to Buffalo. Walker is accused of letting him travel under a false name and ushering him past security lines where he might be stopped for carrying large amounts of cash. She has pleaded not guilty to charges of running a criminal enterprise, conspiracy and intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, as well as charges of conspiring to defraud the US and aiding and abetting another to avoid security requirements.

In Dallas, the head of the Mesquite Police Department narcotics unit was arrested last Friday on charges he was ripping off cash during the execution of drug search warrants. Sgt. John David McAllister, 42, after the FBI received a tip in December that he was stealing cash. The FBI set up a sting operation in which an undercover FBI officer posed as a drug courier carrying $100,000 in cash. McAllister and his partner approached the vehicle, turned the driver over to other police, then searched the vehicle, finding the bundles of cash. Video recordings captured him taking one of the bundles and stashing it in his pants. When FBI agents counted the seized cash, it was short $2,000. McAllister is charged with theft of government property, and faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.

In Danville, California, a Contra Costa County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Friday in connection with the investigation of a state narcotics agent who allegedly stole drugs from evidence lockers for resale. Deputy Stephen Tanabe, 47, was charged with suspicion of possession and transfer of an assault rifle and conspiracy to possess and sell controlled substances. Tanabe went down as a result of investigations into the February 16 arrest of Contra Costa Central Narcotics Enforcement Team lead Christopher Butler, who was arrested along with a private investigator on 28 felony counts of theft and the possession and sale of meth, marijuana, steroids, and prescription pills. Butler, Tanabe, and the private investigator were all police officers together at the Antioch Police Department in the 1990s.

In Phoenix, a Phoenix police detective was arrested Monday after being accused of replacing Oxycontin in the department's evidence room with over-the-counter drugs. The detective, whose name has not yet been released, is believed to have tampered with 83 evidence bags and swapped-out 2,400 prescription narcotics, replacing them with OTC drugs. The detective could face charges of evidence tampering, theft and drug possession in connection with the investigation. He has been interviewed and released and has resigned from the force.

In Detroit, another Inskter police officer and a former Wayne County prosecutor have pleaded guilty in a case in which Inskter narcotics officers, Wayne County drug prosecutor Karen Plants, and Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Mary Waterstone conspired to knowingly allow perjured testimony to be heard in a cocaine trafficking case. Officer Robert McArthur admitted filing false investigative reports in the 2005 case and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of willful neglect of duty. Charges of perjury and conspiracy were dropped against McArthur, who could have faced life in prison. Plants then pleaded guilty to one count of official misconduct and agreed to serve six months in jail. The former drug prosecutor copped to the plea in order to avoid trial on a conspiracy count that could have given her life in prison. Earlier, Inskter Officer Scott Rechtzigel pleaded guilty in the same case. Judge Waterstone is scheduled for trial in May. The four plotted to hide the fact that a witness in the case was in fact a snitch for the Inskster cops who had a large monetary incentive to testify as he did.

In Philadelphia, a fired Philadelphia police officer was convicted last Friday in a scheme to steal 300 grams of heroin during a fake traffic stop in his patrol car. Mark Williams, 27, was found guilty of drug and robbery charges. Williams staged the robbery of drug courier last May and split $6,000 in what he thought were proceeds from the sale of the heroin with two other officers, who have already pleaded guilty. But one of his co-conspirators was actually a DEA informant, and the $6,000 was really government bait money. Williams was convicted of conspiracy to distribute more than 100 grams of heroin, possession with intent to distribute heroin, conspiracy to commit robbery and attempted robbery. He's looking at a mandatory minimum five years on the drug counts and another five years on the robbery charges. He has been jailed pending sentencing.

In Alice, Texas, the former Jim Wells County district attorney pleaded guilty Monday to charges he misused millions in seized drug money. For six years ending in 2008, former DA Joe Frank Garza led Jim Wells County law enforcement in an aggressive scheme to pull cars over and seize forfeited property and cash. Garza spent the cash on bonuses for himself and three secretaries, as well as trips to Las Vegas for "seminars." Texas law requires that asset forfeiture expenditures be approved by the county commission, but Garza never bothered. He pleaded guilty to one count of misappropriating more than $2 million, and will likely be sentenced to six months in jail at sentencing in May. He will also have to pay $2.1 million in restitution.

New York City Still America's Marijuana Arrest Capital [FEATURE]

The New York City Police Department arrested nearly 140 people a day for low-level marijuana possession offenses in 2010, according to recently released figures from the New York Division of Criminal Justice. Arrests totaled 50,383 last year, accounting for more than 6% of all small-time pot busts nationwide.

NYPD's highest law enforcement priority? (image via Wikimedia)
While for the past 20 years, New York City has had high marijuana possession arrest rates, last year was the sixth year in a row that the numbers increased. Last year's arrest totals marked a 69% increase over the 29,752 pot possession arrests in 2005. Since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office in 2002, more than 350,000 people have been arrested for misdemeanor pot possession in the Big Apple.

The dramatic increase in arrests comes even as marijuana usage rates have declined from the 1980 peak, according to US government data. The arrests suggest that the NYPD has quietly made small-time pot busts its top law enforcement priority.

Although the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) put out a press release with the numbers a week ago, and the story received some play in New York City media, neither Mayor Bloomberg nor the NYPD have deigned to comment.

"New York has made more marijuana arrests under Bloomberg than any mayor in New York City history," said Dr. Harry Levine, a sociology professor at Queens College and a leading scholar of marijuana arrest patterns. "Bloomberg's police have arrested more people for marijuana than Mayors Koch, Dinkins, and Giuliani combined. These arrests cost tens of millions of dollars every year, and introduce tens of thousands of young people into our broken criminal justice system."

The high marijuana possession arrest numbers are particularly shocking because New York state decriminalized marijuana possession back in the 1977. What typically happens is that someone is stopped by the NYPD -- they stopped 575,000 people in 2009 and frisked more than 325,000 of them -- and the police demand that they empty their pockets. When they comply, and a bag of weed emerges, they are then charged not with simple marijuana possession, which is a violation under state law, but with possession "in public view," which is a misdemeanor.

In a stop and frisk, police are allowed to pat down a person to determine whether they are carrying a weapon, but they are not allowed to search inside pockets or bags without probable cause. By complying with a police officer's command to "empty your pockets," the subject is effectively consenting to a search. The better course of action is to say, "Officer, I'm sorry, but I do not consent to any searches." Then, if the officer does search without consent, he could only charge the subject with the violation -- not the misdemeanor "in public view" possession -- and such a charge could be challenged in court.

"Police will intimidate people to get them to take the marijuana out of their pockets, then, once it's in public view, it's an arrestable offense," said the New York native Noah Mamber, of the Marijuana Policy Project. "It's not fair."

Although these offenders are typically sentenced only to a fine, the city gets its pound of flesh first. People busted for pot possession are handcuffed, taken to a police station, booked, and held in jail for 24 hours or more before being arraigned.

The NYPD's "stop and frisk and bust" policy appears to be aimed disproportionately at the city's minority residents and its youth. A whopping 86% of those arrested were black or Latino, even though research consistently shows that young whites use at a higher rate, and 70% of those arrested were under the age of 30.

Mayor Bloomberg could act to stop these busts.
"The NYPD and Mayor Bloomberg are waging a war on young Blacks and Latinos in New York," said Kyung Ji Rhee, director of the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reforms and Alternatives (IJJRA). "These 50,000 arrests for small amounts of marijuana can have devastating consequences for New Yorkers and their families, including: permanent criminal records, loss of financial aid, possible loss of child custody, loss of public housing and a host of other collateral damage. It's not a coincidence that the neighborhoods with high marijuana arrests are the same neighborhoods with high stop-and-frisks and high juvenile arrests."

"The NYPD's marijuana enforcement practices are racially biased, unjust, and costly," said Gabriel Sayegh, DPA's New York state director. "The mayor can end these arrests immediately by simply ordering Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and the NYPD to follow the legislative intent of the 1977 decriminalization law. What the Legislature found in 1977 holds true today: Arrests for small amounts of marijuana are inappropriate and wasteful."

"There is no sane reason New York City should have a higher per capita marijuana possession arrest rate than South Carolina or Georgia or Oklahoma," said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. (NORML). "The really vexing part is that the numbers have gone up when they should be going down and that they racial disparity numbers are still at about nine to one. This really seems to belie New York City otherwise progressive attitudes on social issues. Ironically, it's safer to be a cannabis consumer in Buffalo or Schenectady than in Greenwich Village, because police in those cities respect the intent of the law."

The policy is really "a left-handed jobs program for New York City police," St. Pierre continued. "Police in the city can't negotiate increased wages and salaries, but they seem to have an agreement with the mayor's office that they can achieve pay increases by arresting cannabis consumers and then getting overtime. Harry Levine calls it 'dollars for collars.'"

"This is nothing surprising," sighed Morgan Fox, MPP director of communications. "New York City has been an epicenter of marijuana arrests for years, and the racial disparities are no surprise either.

New York City needs to change its low-down ways, said Fox. "They either need to amend the law so it is completely and truly decriminalized, or they could just tax and regulate it similar to alcohol," he argued.

DPA and the IJJRA are working on it on a couple of different levels. The two groups have launched a training program called "Know Your Rights, Build Your Future," which will hold training sessions across the city to educate New Yorkers about their rights and the law. They are also calling on the city council to hold hearings to learn more about the human and fiscal costs of the arrests and to demand greater accountability from the NYPD.

In the mean time, New York City pot smokers need to watch out -- especially if they're young, non-white, or in the outer boroughs. And they would be well-served to educate themselves about what their rights are and how to effectively exercise them.

New York , NY
United States

Reason.tv: How to Deal with Cops

Reason.tv has a fun interview with Flex Your Rights founder Steve Silverman.



As many of you know, Flex Your Rights is my day job, hence the occasional posts about consent searches and 4th Amendment issues that you sometimes see here in addition to drug policy coverage.

New Certification Proposed for Drug-Sniffing Dogs As They Are Wrong Far More Often Than Right

Location: 
IL
United States
A Illinois state representative has again asked fellow legislators to force police dogs to meet certification standards before being used for tasks such as sniffing for drugs at traffic stops. The bill, introduced by State Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) follows a recent investigation that showed drug-sniffing dogs, according to state data, have been wrong more often than they have been right about whether vehicles contain drugs or drug paraphernalia.
Publication/Source: 
Chicago Tribune (IL)
URL: 
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chibrknews-new-certification-proposed-for-drugsniffing-dogs-20110208,0,872573.story

Warrantless GPS Tracking Facing Fourth Amendment Challenges [FEATURE]

GPS satellite
by Clarence Walker

[Editor’s note: This feature story is part two of an occasional series involving electronic surveillance and its impact on the Fourth Amendment in drug investigations and other criminal matters in the United States. Read the first installment in the series here. Clarence Walker is a Houston-based criminal justice journalist. He can be reached at cwalkerinvestigate@gmail.com.]

Recent federal and state court decisions that overturned narcotic convictions of suspected drug dealers as a result of law enforcement using warrantless GPS tracking devices to watch suspects have triggered an intense debate over the Fourth Amendment, which provides citizens against unreasonable search and seizures.

The GPS controversy is at the center of a raging legal discussion over privacy rights: Should law enforcement  be allowed to install a GPS on a vehicle without a warrant during criminal investigations to track a suspect’s movement 24-7, and does warrantless tracking violate a person’s privacy although they are being watched by the police in public?

Two significant 2010 decisions on privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment highlight the continuing struggles that courts around the country are having around GPS tracking. In August, the DC 9th Circuit Court overturned the conviction of Antoine Jones based on police using a warrantless GPS to connect Jones to places containing several kilos of cocaine. Jones was sentenced to life without parole at Supermax federal prison in Florence Colorado. (Read more about the Antoine Jones case here.)

Legal experts say this case might go before the US Supreme Court. Federal prosecutors were denied an en-banc hearing in November to have a full court to throw out the 9th Circuit decision, and they have until February 14 to petition the Supreme Court to  consider their appeal of the Jones case. In the meantime, Jones continues to sit in prison.

"When the court denied the government an en-banc hearing, this sets up the Antoine Jones case for the Supreme Court to decide if GPS tracking violates the Fourth Amendment. The importance of the Jones case is that it would be the first time the Supreme Court would decide GPS surveillance in relation to search and seizure," said Stephen Lecklar, who wrote the appeal that reversed Jones conviction.

In a second case, Delaware v. Holden, on December 28, Delaware Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden reversed a suppression hearing from a lower court involving drug charges against Michael Holden. Holden, a Newark resident, was stopped by police carrying 10 pounds of marijuana. The evidence showed that prior to arresting Holden, police used GPS tracking without a warrant to follow him for 20 days.

Antoine Jones remains in federal prison pending, he hopes, one last government appeal. (Image courtesy the author)
According to press accounts, Deputy Attorney General Brian Robertson argued that information from the GPS that police attached to Holden’s vehicle was only a part of a larger "multifaceted case" against the marijuana trafficker. But Holden’s attorney, John Decker, told the court that "the 20-day long use of the GPS amounted to an unreasonable search under the state constitution and violated his client's privacy without probable cause."

"The advance of technology will continue ad infinitum," said Judge Jurden in throwing out the charge. "An Orwellian state is now technologically feasible. Without adequate judicial preservation of privacy, there’s nothing to protect our citizens from being tracked 24-7. And if no warrant is required for such surveillance any individual could be tracked indefinitely without suspicion of any crime by police without probable cause."

Meanwhile, Antoine Jones remains frustrated over the fact of being unable to be released on bond although his conviction has been reversed and the appellate courts this past November also denied the feds to an en-banc hearing to strike down the ninth circuit original decision.

"We are pleased that the Court of Appeals declined the Government's request for en banc reconsideration and reaffirmed the constitutional concerns identified by the ninth circuit," Jones' appellate attorney, Stephen Leckar, said in an email sent to reporters covering the case.

But Jones questions why he's still in prison."My conviction has been overturned, the en-banc hearing was denied,  the appeal process is over but I am still in this hellhole," he wrote to the author. "The feds' last shot is to petition the US Supreme Court, but the experts have said that only one-percent of petitioners are chosen for review."

"The court should release Mr. Jones on bond," said California attorney Diane Bass, who handles federal drug cases.

Chances for Jones's release on bond pending the government's next course of action are unclear. "The issues that a court looks at when deciding whether to release someone on bond are, is the defendant a flight risk or a danger to society," Bass said. "In an appeal situation, they also look at whether there are viable issues on appeal. Drug cases carry a presumption of flight, because of the mandatory minimum sentences which the defendant has the burden of rebutting. And the court would require an equity of $100,000 or more. I would say that since there's a possibility the Supreme Court will deny certiorari in this case, the court would be wise to release Mr. Jones on appeal."

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/jjurd_10.jpg
Delaware Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden
While Jones sits in federal prison pending the resolution of his case, the thorny issue of warrantless GPS tracking and the Fourth Amendment continues to vex the courts. When the issue finally arrives at the Supreme Court, it will have to decide first whether GPS tracking constitutes a "search" under the Fourth Amendment, and second whether long-term, continuous GPS tracking without a warrant amounts to an illegal search.


"There's no clear Supreme Court guidance on this issue," said John Verdi, a senior counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a DC-based advocacy group. "Courts have left the states to decide what should be done using their own state constitutions."

Some states, like Texas, have specific requirements law enforcement officers must meet to obtain a warrant for GPS tracking. What isn't too well publicized is that an officer can ask the court for a tracking order based on reasonable suspicion as opposed to requesting a warrant which require a higher burden of probable cause.

Steve Baldassano, a senior-level prosecutor with the Harris County District Attorney Office in Houston explained:  "A tracking order requires 'reasonable suspicion.' If it's okay for a cop to follow someone in a car, it's not that much worse if the cops watch a person using electronic signals."

An unidentified Houston Police Department narcotic officer offered this blunt view: "Theoretically, a person can have a GPS tracker placed on their vehicle for life as long as the investigator has reason to believe the person will commit criminal offenses."

Whatever the realities on the street, the state and federal courts have split on warrantless GPS tracking and related issues. Courts in Wisconsin and Virginia have supported warrantless tracking, while courts in New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington have ruled against it. With the federal appeals court also split, the issue seem ripe for Supreme Court review.

In the meantime, big brother is staying busy. Maryland state officials announced last year they would implement a statewide network in 2011 to collect data from automatic license plate readers. "The license plate reader provides the plate number, exact time, and the GPS location of a vehicle upon sight," the Muckraker blog noted.

With technological innovation fueling the rise of the surveillance state, preserving one's privacy from the state looks to be ever more difficult. By the time the Supreme Court has sorted out warrantless GPS tracking, there will doubtless be some new form of surveillance that we will have to be litigated.

Drug-Sniffing Dog Performance Massively Affected by Handlers' Beliefs

A new study by researchers at UC Davis has found that drug-sniffing dog/handler teams' performance is affected by human handlers' beliefs, possibly in response to subtle, unintentional handler cues. The study found that detection-dog/handler teams erroneously 'alerted,' or identified a scent, when there was no scent present more than 200 times-particularly when the handler believed that there was scent present.
Publication/Source: 
Sify News (India)
URL: 
http://www.sify.com/news/drug-and-explosive-sniffing-dog-performance-is-affected-by-handlers-beliefs-news-international-lcbr4offacb.html

If You Have Drugs, Don't Agree to a Police Search

It seems like such a simple concept, but for some irrational reason, a lot of people still don't get it. Here's another example of what happens when you give police permission to search your house for drugs:

After being told the deputies were looking for evidence of illegal activity, Cantres-Soto said, "You can search my whole room. I go to college and I don't have anything to worry about. You can search everything."
 

That's exactly what they did and it didn’t work out so well for this guy:

He remains held in the Osceola County Jail in lieu of $8,000 bail on charges of Possession with Intent to Sell Crack Cocaine and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.

Did he think that agreeing to the search would somehow stop them from searching? A lot of people worry that refusing the search will make police suspicious, but so what? Which is worse: making police suspicious or just giving up and going straight to jail?

Remember that there's more to the matter than just what takes place at your doorstep. Unless they have a search warrant or probable cause, police need your permission to make the search hold up in court. It's true that police sometimes search despite your refusal, but if you end up in front of a judge, the question of whether you agreed or not is a big issue. You've got no case if you gave permission, but your lawyer can often get the charges dropped if you said no to the search. Our prisons are filled with people who didn't understand this distinction.

If you're not convinced yet, maybe this will help:

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.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School