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Florida Governor Orders State Employee Drug Testing

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) Tuesday issued an executive order Tuesday requiring that current state employees submit to random drug tests and that applicants for state jobs undergo pre-hiring drug tests. The order will go into effect in 60 days for current employees and immediately for new hires, but it certain to be challenged in court.

Rick Scott
The executive order came as the state legislature grapples with a bill that would require people who apply for state welfare benefits to submit to a drug test -- and pay for it themselves -- before receiving them. That bill, Senate Bill 556, is supported by Gov. Scott and passed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee Tuesday.

"Floridians deserve to know that those in public service, whose salaries are paid with taxpayer dollars, are part of a drug-free workplace," Scott said. "Just as it is appropriate to screen those seeking taxpayer assistance, it is also appropriate to screen government employees."

The bill applies only to workers in executive agencies that answer to the governor. Legislators and their staffs would be exempt.

State law already allows for, but does not require, pre-employment drug testing of applicants for jobs at state agencies under the Florida Drug-Free Workplace Act. But the random drug testing of both state employees and welfare recipients is likely to run up against the US Constitution.

Federal courts have generally found that random testing of government workers who aren't in jobs that affect public safety amounts to a "search" by the government. Such searches must be "reasonable," generally, and some courts have interpreted such requirements of ordinary government workers as a violation of the US Constitution's Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches. A Michigan law requiring drug testing of welfare recipients was thrown out by the federal courts in 2003.

The ACLU of Florida attacked Scott's order, saying that a federal court had in 2004 already ruled that the state was violating the Fourth Amendment when the Department of Juvenile Justice instituted a random drug testing program. In that case, a US district judge ordered the agency to halt random drug testing and pay the worker who sued $150,000.

"I'm not sure why Gov. Scott does not know that the policy he recreated by executive order today has already been declared unconstitutional," ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon said in a statement. "The state of Florida cannot force people to surrender their constitutional rights in order to work for the state. Absent any evidence of illegal drug use, or assigned a safety-sensitive job, people have a right to be left alone."

While Gov. Scott is coming off as a hard-liner when it comes to drug testing poor people and state workers, he has also zeroed out the state drug czar's office and blocked the state from beginning a prescription drug tracking plan. But then, as the saying goes, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

Tallahassee, FL
United States

Drug Courts Poor Public Policy, Reports Charge [FEATURE]

With a pair of separate reports released Tuesday, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) have issued a damning indictment of drug courts as a policy response to drug use. Instead of relying on criminal justice approaches like drug courts, policymakers would be better served by moving toward evidence-based public health approaches, including harm reduction and drug treatment, as well as by decriminalizing drug use, the reports conclude.

Since then-Dade County District Attorney Janet Reno created the first drug court in Miami in 1989, drug courts have appeared all over the country and now number around 2,000. In drug courts, drug offenders are given the option of avoiding prison by instead pleading guilty and being put under the scrutiny of the drug court judge. Drug courts enforce abstinence by imposing sanctions on offenders who relapse, including jail or prison time and being thrown out of the program and imprisoned on the original charge. The Obama administration wants to provide $57 million in federal funding for them in its FY 2012 budget.

Through organizations like the National Association of Drug Court Professionals  (NADCP), the drug court movement has created a well-oiled public relations machine to justify its existence and expansion. NADCP maintains that the science shows that drug courts work and even maintains a convenient response to criticisms leveled by earlier critics.

The Chronicle contacted NADCP for comment this week, but representatives of the group said they were still digesting the reports and would issue a statement in a few days.

But in a Monday teleconference, DPA, JPI, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), which issued its own critical report on America's Problem-Solving Courts in 2009, slashed away at drug court claims of efficacy and scientific support. Drug courts are harsh on true addicts, don't benefit the public health or safety, and are an inefficient use of criminal justice system resources, they said.

"The drug court phenomenon is, in large part, a case of good intentions being mistaken for a good idea," said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, DPA's Southern California state deputy director and co-author of the DPA report, Drug Courts are Not the Answer: Toward a Health-Centered Approach to Drug Use. "Drug courts have helped many people, but they have also failed many others, focused resources on people who could be better treated outside the criminal justice system and in some cases even led to increased incarceration. As long as they focus on people whose only crime is their health condition, drug courts will be part of the problem -- not the solution -- created by drug war policies," she said.

"Even if drug courts were able to take in all 1.4 million people arrested for just drug possession each year, over 500,000 to 1 million people would be kicked out and sentenced conventionally," Dooley-Sammuli added. "Drug courts just don't make sense as a response to low-level drug violations."

The DPA report found that drug courts have not demonstrated cost savings, reduced incarceration, or improved public safety. Previous "unscientific and poorly designed research" supporting drug courts has failed to acknowledge that drug courts often "cherry pick" people expected to do well, that many petty drug law violators choose drug courts because they are offered a choice of treatment or jail and drug courts thus are not diverting large numbers of people from long prison sentences, or that, given their focus on low-level drug violators, even positive results for individuals accrue few public safety benefits for the community.

Not only are drug courts' successes unproven, DPA said, they are often worse for the people participating in them. Their quick resort to incarceration for relapses means some defendants end up serving more time than if they had stayed out of drug court. And defendants who "fail" in drug court may face longer sentences because they lost the opportunity to plead to a lesser charge. In addition, the existence of drug courts is associated with increased arrests and imprisonment because law enforcement and others believe people will "get help" if arrested.

Worst, the DPA report found, drug courts are toughest on those who most need treatment for their addictions. Because of their use of quick sanctions against those who relapse, the seriously addicted are more likely to end up incarcerated for failing to stay clean, while those who don't have a drug problem are most likely to succeed. Drug courts typically don't allow what Dooley-Sammuli called the "gold standard" of treatment for opiate addiction, methadone or other maintenance therapies.

Drug courts should be reserved for cases involving offenses against persons and property committed by people who have substance abuse problems, while providing other options such as probation or treatment for people arrested for low-level drug law violations, the report recommended. It also called for bolstering public health systems, including harm reduction and drug treatment programs, to deal with drug use outside the criminal justice system, and for decriminalizing drug use to end the problem of mass arrests and incarceration.

"Drug courts are not a true alternative to incarceration," said Natassia Walsh, author of the JPI report, Addicted to Courts: How a Growing Dependency on Drug Courts Impacts People and Communities. "They are widening the net of criminal justice control. Even the mere existence of a drug court means more people are arrested for drug offenses, which brings more people into the criminal justice system, which means increased costs for states and localities, as well as for offenders and their families."

The JPI report found that providing people with alternatives like community-based drug treatment are more cost-effective and have more public safety benefits than treatment attached to the criminal justice system, with all its collateral consequences.

"It is shameful that for many people, involvement in the criminal justice system is the only way to access substance abuse treatment in this country," said Walsh. "We need to change the way we think about drug use and the drug policies that bring so many people into the justice system. The dramatic increase in drug courts over the past 20 years may provide talking points for so-called 'tough-on-crime' policymakers; however, there are other, better options that can save money and support people and communities. More effective, community-based programs and services that can have a positive, lasting impact on individuals, families and communities should be available."

"All three of our reports have some things in common, " said the NACDL's Elizabeth Kelly. "They recognize that substance abuse is a public health issue not appropriate for the criminal justice system to handle, they recognize that these problem-solving courts cherry pick their participants, allowing them to inflate success rates, and they recognize that drug courts exclude the people who are most problematic and who have the most profound addictions," she said.

"It is fundamentally bad public policy to make the only means to treatment through the criminal justice system that stigmatizes and burdens the individual with all the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction," Kelly concluded.

The fight to avoid the drug policy dead end that is drug courts is on.

HUD Says Medical Marijuana Policies Up to Local Housing Authorities

A Colorado-based non-profit has received a statement from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) making it clear that local housing authorities themselves are responsible for determining policies regarding medical marijuana use by recipients of federal housing assistance. "PHAs [public housing authorities] have discretion to determine, on a case by case basis, the appropriateness of program termination for the use of medical marijuana," Milan M. Ozdinec, the deputy assistant secretary for Public Housing and Voucher Program, said in the statement.
Publication/Source: 
The Huffington Post (CA)
URL: 
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/16/colorado-medical-marijuan_65_n_836879.html

Mass Marijuana Arrest Policy Costs NYC Big Bucks

In a report released Tuesday, the Drug Policy Alliance charged that New York City's unwritten policy of mass arrests of pot smokers -- overwhelmingly young and minority -- is costing the city $75 million a year. The report, bluntly titled $75 Million a Year: The Cost of New York City's Marijuana Arrests, was co-authored by City University of New York professor and marijuana arrest expert Harry Levine.

drug arrest scene, "10 Rules for Dealing with Police," flexyourrights.org
Although New York state decriminalized marijuana possession in the 1970s, the NYPD has made it a practice to stop and frisk people by the hundreds of thousands a year and demand that they empty their pockets. When they produce marijuana from their pockets, they are then charged with public possession -- possession in plain view -- a misdemeanor.

The NYPD is arresting about a thousand pot smokers a week and has busted more than 350,000 of them during Mayor Michael Bloomberg's tenure in office. This is the same Mayor Bloomberg who once said he smoked marijuana and like it.

Bloomberg's and the NYPD's mass arrest policies cost the city big bucks in a time of economic difficulty. With Levine and his co-author Loren Siegel estimating the cost of arresting and prosecuting each pot possession offender at between $1,000 and $2,000, New York City has spent somewhere between $350 million and $700 million to persecute pot people since Bloomberg has been in office.

"More people have been arrested for marijuana possession under Mayor Bloomberg than under Mayors Koch, Dinkins, and Guiliani combined," said Levine at a City Hall news conference Tuesday. "These arrests are wildly expensive, do not improve public safety, and create permanent criminal records which seriously damage the life chances of the young people targeted and jailed," Levine said.

"Upwards of $75 million have been used to arrest NYC residents for marijuana possession that could have legally been handled with a summons and not a criminal offense," said City Council Member Jumaane Willimas. "This, as we are debating closing our senior centers. In addition, 86% of those arrests are young children of more color. I don't believe that this represents the percentage of people who take the occasional 'pull.'  It does however better reflect the communities abused by the current stop and frisk policies. Had this been 86% of our young children of a lighter shade, there would be uproar. I believe there still should be. All of our children are gifts to be nurtured; yet we are losing them to the system at an alarming rate. There must be a better way to deal with drugs in New York City. These arrests are simply about boosting arrest numbers and aren't the answer to our problems," said Williams.

"It is clear that the NYPD's current policy of giving high arrest priority to marijuana enforcement is fiscally wasteful, and has a greater impact on low-income communities where the 'war-on-drugs' has been primarily focused," said Council Member Letitia James. "Although African-Americans only constitute 13% of national of drug users, they make up 38% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 59% of those convicted of drug offenses. It is fair to say that the high priority given to marijuana enforcement directly relates to racial profiling in New York."

"The consequences of an arrest are severe, especially for young people of color who are already disproportionately arrested and incarcerated in juvenile facilities," said Kyung Ji Rhee, Director of the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives. "Young people of color are targeted, illegally searched and being put through the criminal justice system for possessing or smoking marijuana. Whatever your opinion may be on marijuana, this is no way to treat or teach young people about the choices they make."

"It is beyond hypocritical for the Mayor, who once said he smoked marijuana and enjoyed it, to make arresting young people of color for marijuana possession his top law enforcement priority," said Gabriel Sayegh, New York State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "While cutting services for seniors, youth, housing, transportation, teachers, education, and more, the Mayor spent S75 million last year to arrest over 50,000 people for marijuana possession -- which isn’t even a crime under NY State law. It's just outrageous."

Will Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD see the light? Not without some political heat -- stay tuned.

New York, NY
United States

Life After the War on Drugs: Reviewing Past and Present Policies with an Eye Toward Legal Reform

University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law
2011 Law Review Symposium

David A. Clarke School of Law
 

"Life After the War on Drugs: Reviewing Past and Present Policies With an Eye Toward Legal Reform"


Introduction (10:00 – 10:15 a.m.)
• John Brittain, Professor, UDC-DCSL, Chief Counsel and Senior Deputy Director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (2005-2009)

Panel 1: Drug Policy at Home and Abroad (10:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.)
• Eric Sterling, Advisory Board Member, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)
• Brooke Mascagni, PhD Candidate, University of California, Santa Barbara
• Jordan Blair Woods, PhD Candidate, Cambridge University (U.K.), J.D. University of California Los Angeles

Lunch (12:00 – 1:00 pm)
• Lunch Keynote Speaker: Ronald C. Machen, Jr., United States Attorney for the District of Columbia

Panel 2: Conflicts between State and Federal Drug Laws (1:00 – 3:30 p.m.)
• Andrew Ferguson (Moderator), Professor, UDC-DCSL, Public Defender Service of the District of Columbia (2004-2010)
• Robert Hildum, Director, D.C. Dept. of Youth Rehabilitation Services (2010)
• Sumeet H. Chugani, Esq. and Xingjian Zhao, Esq., Diaz, Reus & Targ, LLP (Miami, FL)
• Alex Kreit, Director, Center for Law and Social Justice, Thomas Jefferson School of Law (San Diego, CA)

Panel 3: The Unknown Effects of the War on Drugs (3:45 – 5:00 p.m.)
• Brian Gilmore, Director, Michigan State University College of Law Housing Clinic
• Ken Lammers, Deputy Commonwealth Attorney, County of Wise and City of Norton in Virginia
• Michael Liszewski, Board of Directors, Students for Sensible Drug Policy

Cocktail Reception (5:10 – 6:00 p.m.)

Plenary Panel: Life After the War on Drugs (6:00 – 9:00 p.m.)
• Keynote Speaker: Wade Henderson, President and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
• Jasmine Tyler, Deputy Director of National Affairs, Drug Policy Alliance
• Mark Osler, Professor, University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minneapolis, MN)
• The Honorable Arthur L. Burnett, Sr., National Executive Director, National African-American Drug Policy Coalition
• Dr. Faye Taxman, Director, Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence, George Mason University

The event is free and open to the public, but registration is limited. To register, see http://www.law.udc.edu/events/event_details.asp?id=136549.

For any questions, please contact Symposium Editor Leila Mansouri at Leila.Mansouri@udc.edu.

Date: 
Thu, 03/24/2011 - 10:00am - 9:00pm
Location: 
4200 Connecticut Avenue, NW University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, Windows Lounge: Building 38, 2nd Floor
Washington, DC 20008
United States

Washington State Medical Marijuana User Dies Without Transplant

Location: 
WA
United States
Timothy Garon, a musician who was denied a liver transplant because he used marijuana with medical approval under Washington state law to ease the symptoms of advanced hepatitis C, died. Dr. Brad Roter, the physician who authorized Garon to use medical marijuana to alleviate for nausea and abdominal pain and to stimulate his appetite, said he did not know it would be such a hurdle if Garon were to need a transplant.
Publication/Source: 
KBOI (ID)
URL: 
http://www.kboi2.com/news/local/117191348.html

Study: Welfare Drug Tests Not Cost Effective

Location: 
ID
United States
A study conducted in Idaho concluded the cost of mandatory drug testing of public assistance recipients would exceed any savings from booting offenders from programs. Republican lawmakers demanded the study last March, saying their constituents considered it unfair that some Idahoans are drug-tested by their employers while those on public assistance are not.
Publication/Source: 
New England Cable News (MA)
URL: 
http://www.necn.com/02/11/11/Study-Welfare-drug-tests-not-cost-effect/landing_politics.html?&blockID=3&apID=7652298022f14bdd98aad62177421918

Cannabis Council Reaches Out to Help Colorado Teenager Denied Access to Medical Marijuana for Very Rare Condition

Location: 
Colorado Springs, CO
United States
Mark Slaugh, membership director of the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council, wrote to Rep. Mark Barker, R-Colorado Springs, and Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs to urge legislative action on behalf of a teenage medical marijuana patient being denied access to his medicine by Colorado's Harrison School District 2. The teenager in question was diagnosed a little more than a year ago with a very rare condition that causes seizures, which can last for days. Slaugh said the district should take a more reasonable approach to the situation and the legislature should rewrite medical marijuana laws so that this situation doesn’t come up in the first place.
Publication/Source: 
The Colorado Independent (DC)
URL: 
http://coloradoindependent.com/74315/cannabis-council-reaches-out-to-help-teenager

South Dakota House Rejects Drug Tests for Welfare Recipients

Location: 
SD
United States
The South Dakota House rejected a bill that would have forced drug tests on welfare recipients to determine their eligibility. The measure failed on a vote of 32-36 after opponents said it would be impractical and would provide little help to children in poor families.
Publication/Source: 
KCAU (IA)
URL: 
http://www.kcautv.com/Global/story.asp?S=13986224

Law Student Sues St. John’s University for Rescinding Readmission Over Drug Charges

Location: 
8000 Utopia Parkway St. John’s University
Queens, NY 11439
United States
David Powers, an accountant who took time out of law school at St. John’s University, has sued the Roman Catholic university in New York after it refused to readmit him, saying that he had not been honest about a criminal conviction, since expunged, in his past. Three semesters into his law degree, Mr. Powers was granted a leave of absence to manage a $2-billion investment fund in Hong Kong.
Publication/Source: 
The Chronicle of Higher Education (DC)
URL: 
http://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/law-student-sues-st-johns-u-for-rescinding-readmission-over-drug-charges/30251

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