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Medical Marijuana Update

At least the DEA didn't raid anybody this week, but some Michigan cops did. That and more in this week's update. Let's get to it:

Arizona

On Wednesday, the first dispensary opened in Santa Cruz County. Greenmed Wellness Center opened in Rio Rico. A physician was on hand to review patient histories and issue recommendations so potential patients could apply for state-issued ID cards.

California

Last Tuesday, the Highland city council voted to ban medical marijuana delivery services. The San Bernardino County city already bans dispensaries.

Last Wednesday, the Bakersfield city council voted to ban dispensaries. The ordinance will take effect in 30 days. Actual enforcement of the ban will vary depending upon the situation, but investigations will be initiated by complaints, the city attorney said, and likely will involve both the city Code Enforcement Department, which investigates zoning violations; and the Police Department, which will determine whether a particular building actually houses a business where marijuana is being sold.

Last Friday, the Los Angeles City Attorney released a list of 134 dispensaries that will be allowed to operate in the city under Proposition D, the May initiative approved by voters. The dispensaries on the list are those that registered with the city prior to City Hall imposing a moratorium on new facilities in 2007. Opponents of the measure, who are seeking to allow more clinics to open in the city, have said they are reviewing possible legal challenges to the city's law.

On Monday, a medical marijuana summit in San Diego brought together medical marijuana-friendly Mayor Bob Filner, US Attorney Laura Duffy, and other representatives of of law enforcement, science, health care, education and community interest. The summit led to talk of hopes that local and federal officials can come to some sort of working arrangement in dealing with dispensaries.

Connecticut

Last Friday, a company filed an application with the city of West Haven to open a medical marijuana production facility. Advanced Grow Labs LLC will appear before the city Planning and Zoning Commission next Tuesday. But even if the city approves the proposal, the facility will still have to apply for a state license, and those aren't expected to be handed out for several months.

Michigan

Last Wednesday, police raided three dispensaries near Battle Creek, the Karmacy, Southwest Compassion Care Center, and Happy Daze. Police also served a search warrant on offices of the city of Springfield, seeking documents about licenses and financial records for the three businesses, which they claim were operating illegally. Police seized about six pounds of marijuana, 150 plants, seven handguns, ammunition, and "IEDs," which they described as "homemade fireworks." Michael Mcain, owner of Compassion Care Center wasn't happy. "Police said they had made a buy. But everyone who comes in has a card," Cain told the Battle Creek Enquirer. "They came in and robbed us and took all of our money and all of our stuff."

Washington

On Tuesday, the Marysville city council banned dispensaries and collective gardens. The Snohomish County community had had temporary moratoria on them since 2011. The Marysville ordinance does allow for individual gardens of up to 15 plants.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Thuggery in Philly, protecting drug shipments in Houston and Detroit, sticky fingers in Los Angeles, and that's not all. Let's get to it:

In Philadelphia, five undercover narcotics officers are the subject of a civil rights lawsuit filed by a man who claims he was wrongfully arrested during a drug raid at a friend's auto shop that included acts of police brutality directed at him and others present. Thomas Basara claims the narcs used a battering ram to break down an office door and conduct a search without a search warrant.  The lawsuit says the narcs never identified themselves as police, asked those present "where the money and drugs were hidden," then brutally assaulted them. Office Thomas Liciardello was named as an officer who struck one man with a steel pipe, knocking him unconscious, then kicked him in the mouth so hard his front upper row of teeth were separated from their roots.  He also broke the man's index finger and pointed his service revolver at the man's head, threatening to kill him. Basara claims that officers also beat him, knocking out two of his teeth and causing rib and back injuries, and that the narcs stole $41,000 in cash as drug profits, but only turned in $6,600, keeping $34,400 for themselves. The other officers named in the suit are Brian Reynolds, Brian Speiser, Michael Spicer and Lt. Robert Otto.

In Orange, Texas, a former Orange police officer was arrested last Tuesday after a citizen's complaint that he was stealing prescription pain pills. Taylor Scott Saleme resigned from his position as the complaint was investigated. He had worked as a Jefferson County sheriff's deputy for two years before joining the Orange Police Department last August. He is charged with possession of a controlled substance -- hydrocodone. He has bailed out of jail.

In Washington Park, Illinois, a Washington Park police officer was arrested last Thursday on charges he smuggled drugs to a female jail inmate. Douglas Young, 61, is charged with official misconduct for bringing narcotics and prescription drugs to an inmate of the St. Clair County Jail, where he "used his position as a law enforcement officer" to arrange jail visits to a woman in custody on theft charges. He was being held on $25,000 bail.

In Los Angeles, a former LA County sheriff's narcotics sergeant was arrested Monday on charges he stole $4,000 in cash during a sting set up by his own department. Bonnie Bryant III, 57, took the money in a July 2012 sting set up by the department's criminal internal affairs division. That sting went down after Bryant was caught on a business surveillance camera stealing money during a May 2012 bust. He is charged with one felony count each of grand theft of personal property and embezzlement by a public official. He was a narcotics task force supervisor when arrested and resigned from the department in December. He's looking at up to four years and six months if convicted.

In Houston, two former Houston police officer were convicted last Friday of protecting what they thought were drug shipments in return for bribes. Emerson Canizales, 27, and Michael Miceli, 27, went down after investigators learned they were involved in illegal conduct involving drugs and bribes. Both men acknowledged taking money to protect the drug load. They were convicted of extortion under color of law and face up to 20 years in prison when sentenced in September.

In Detroit, a former Highland park police officer was sentenced last Thursday to a year and a day in prison for agreeing to take money in exchange for delivering a shipment of cocaine. Craig Clayton, 55, was one of four Highland Park officers charged with taking bribes and conspiring to distribute cocaine. Clayton was accused of bringing his badge and gun to protect a shipment, and accepting $1,500 in cash from an FBI informant. He copped to one count of conspiracy to commit extortion. Two other officers in the case have pleaded guilty.

Los Angeles Deputies Kill Armed Man, 80, in Marijuana Raid

Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies shot and killed an armed 80-year-old man as they served a search warrant on a marijuana grow operation in a remote part of the county early Thursday morning. The as yet unnamed man [Update: He has been identified as Eugene Mallory] becomes the 19th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year, and the fourth in the past week.

According to NBC Los Angeles, deputies were serving a "narcotics" search warrant at the multi-unit rural property in the desert community of Littlerock at 7:30am. Lt. Dave Dolson told the TV station deputies entered the home through an unlocked front door, and one deputy fired when they encountered a man armed with a handgun. The man, who may have been the property owner, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Later Thursday afternoon, the Sheriff's Department released a statement on the killing.

"When deputies approached a rear bedroom at the location, they encountered an 80-year-old male who was armed with a semi-automatic handgun. The suspect pointed the handgun at the deputies and a deputy-involved shooting occurred," the statement read.

Deputies recovered the gun, marijuana, and growing equipment at the home where the man was shot. Residents who lived in other units on the property were detained, but later released.

The shooting will be investigated separately by several agencies, including the offices of the Los Angeles County District Attorney and Coroner, and the Sheriff's Homicide and Internal Affairs bureaus.

Littlerock, CA
United States

SWAT Team Kills Armed Homeowner in Dawn Drug Raid

An armed West Virginia homeowner who confronted dawn police raiders with a rifle was shot and killed by State Police officers Wednesday. Richard Dale Kohler, 66, becomes the 18th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year, and the third in less than a week.

According to the West Virginia Gazette, State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous said officers from the State Police special response team and DEA agents knocked on the door of Kohler's home at 6:05am. to serve a federal warrant. The newspaper described the special response team as "akin to a SWAT team."

Officers knocked on the door, Baylous said, but no one answered, so police "had to break down the door or forcefully open it somehow." Baylous gave no indication of the amount of time that elapsed between the initial knock on the door and police breaking it open.

When police break down the door, they saw Kohler pointing a rifle at them, Baylous said. The troopers opened fire, shooting multiple rounds and killing Kohler. Baylous said he did not think Kohler had fired his weapon, but it was still unclear.

Baylous said the warrant police were executing was part of a larger, ongoing drug investigation with multiple suspects. He would not comment further on the nature of the investigation, except to say that the DEA division involved was one that focused primarily on prescription drugs.

A neighbor told WSAZ TV that she had seen unusual amounts of traffic going to and from Kohler's home, but that she was surprised to hear he even had a gun.

"I mean, I can't see him just open fire like that, but you know when all that comes after you, you never know what somebody's going to do," Christina Murdock said.

Clay , WV
United States

Medical Marijuana Update

The medical marijuana scene is hectic! Bill passing, raids happening, local officials pondering, and California dispensaries dwindling. Let's get to it:

California

On May 21, the Lakeport city council gave first approval to a cultivation ordinance that would require grows be conducted within detached structures on residential properties. The council will hold the second reading of the ordinance at its June 18 meeting. The document before the council on Tuesday night also prohibits outdoor cultivation and requires grows to be contained in accessory outdoor structures. However, it also puts the emphasis on complaint-driven enforcement.

On May 22, the Earth Choice Collective in Fresno closed its doors after a local TV station blew the whistle on the below-the-radar dispensary. Undercover narcotics officers served Earth Choice Collective with a notice to vacate several weeks ago, but it had remained open until the TV station aired its report.

On May 25, Anaheim authorities reported that 10 of 11 dispensaries had complied with orders to close their doors. Anaheim ordered all dispensaries to close in the wake of the California Supreme Court ruling upholding the ability of localities to ban them. One remained open and was facing fines of up to a $1,000 a day.

Last Wednesday, San Bernardino police shut down another dispensary. They, too, were acting in response to the California Supreme Court ruling. More than 100 mason jars filled with marijuana were seized at the SBPC dispensary, and several workers and customers were detained temporarily.

Last Thursday, DEA agents and San Bernardino County deputies raided two dispensaries and five homes associated with them. Targeted were the Green Oasis Collective dispensaries in Yucaipa and San Bernardino. Five people were arrested on a variety of charges, including possession of pyrotechnic explosive devices, possession of meth, and various marijuana offenses.

Last Friday, police in Garden Grove began fining medical marijuana delivery services. The move came after the services sprang up in the wake of the city's ban on dispensaries last month. They are fining the delivery businesses $1,000 a day. One dispensary, OrganaCann Wellness Centers, switched to delivery mode after the ban and reported receiving $3,000 in fines, but is vowing to vigorously defend itself.

Also last Friday, Stockton dispensary operator Matthew Davies pleaded guilty to federal marijuana charges. He had argued that his store in Stockton operated in accordance with California laws, after working extensively with accountants and lawyers before opening the business. He faces a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence.

Also last Friday, a statewide dispensary regulation bill failed to advance, but its sponsor, Rep. Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) said the bill lives and he is talks with members of the Senate to advance it.

On Monday, the Healdsburg city council voted to form a task force to study cultivation issues. The task force will consider whether outdoor grows will be allowed, or whether they should be confined indoors. Police Chief Kevin Burke had proposed guidelines in response to neighborhood complaints about backyard grows, and the Planning Commission had recommended allowing patients to grow up to 12 mature plants and 24 immature ones, but limited grows to indoors and not within 300 feet of schools, churches, hospitals, child care and youth centers. But after the guidelines were publicized, they met harsh criticism, thus, the task force.

District of Columbia

As of Monday, DC medical marijuana patients were still waiting to get their medicine. Two dispensaries and three grow operations have been approved by District officials, but the District Department of Health has yet to give doctors the authority to recommend marijuana to their patients. A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said marijuana dispensaries would likely open in the middle of June.

Michigan

Last Tuesday, medical marijuana supporters held a press conference in Detroit to publicize the imminent imprisonment of several Michigan patients and caregivers. One, Jerry Duval, a kidney-pancreas transplant patient with coronary artery disease, has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison and must report next week. Three other Michigan cultivators, Dennis Forsberg, 59, his son Lance Forsberg, 32, and Ryan Basore, 36, who were sentenced to 3-4 years in prison surrendered last Thursday. They were all convicted in federal court without being able to present evidence that they were complying with state law.

Montana

Last Wednesday, federal prosecutors appealed the sentence of a medical marijuana provider because they thought it was not stiff enough. They appealed the two-year prison sentence given to former University of Montana quarterback Jason Washington, who was convicted on federal charges for his role in a dispensary operation legal under state law. Prosecutors have also appealed the sentences of three other medical marijuana defendants out of 33 convicted in the wake of the 2011 federal crackdown in the state.

Nevada

On Monday, a medical marijuana dispensary bill passed the state legislature. The Assembly approved it the previous week, and the Senate approved it Monday. It now goes to the governor. If he signs it, up to 66 dispensaries will be allowed in the state, with up to 40 in Las Vegas and 10 in Reno.

New Hampshire

Last Thursday, the Senate approved a medical marijuana bill, but with amendments designed to placate Gov. Margaret Hassan (D) that advocates say will make the bill unworkable. The Assembly had already passed the bill; now a conference committee must try to reconcile the two versions.

New York

Last Thursday, more than 600 New York physicians came out for pending medical marijuana legislation. They signed a statement affirming that doctors should not be punished for recommending the use of marijuana for seriously ill people, and that seriously ill people should not be subject to criminal sanctions for using marijuana if the patients' physicians have told them such use may be beneficial. The bill also has the support of the state’s leading medical organizations, including the New York State Nurses Association, The Hospice and Palliative Care Association, Pharmacist Society of the State of New York, among others.

Last Friday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg trashed medical marijuana, calling it "one of the greatest hoaxes of all time." The former pot-smoker's comments came as the legislature is considering the medical marijuana bill.

On Monday, the medical marijuana bill passed the Assembly. It now goes to the Senate, where three previous medical marijuana bills approved by the Assembly in recent years have died. But the pressure is on.

Ohio

Last Wednesday, the sponsor of a medical marijuana bill testified on its behalf, but acknowledged that it is going nowhere in the Republican-controlled legislature. Instead, Rep. Bob Hagan (D-Youngstown) is urging support for a constitutional amendment on the issue.

Oregon

Last Thursday, DEA agents and local law enforcement raided four southern Oregon dispensaries. Raiders hit the Greener Side in Eugene and three Medford dispensaries. Several people were arrested.

Also last Thursday, the state legislature approved adding PTSD to the list of ailments for which medical marijuana can be used. The Oregon House passed Senate Bill 281 36-21, following a 19-11 vote in the Senate.  The bill awaits Gov. Kitzhaber's signature.

South Carolina

On May 23, an attempt to legalize medical marijuana in the state failed in the House. Rep. Todd Rutherford (D-Columbia) tried to amend a bill dealing with controlled substances to add marijuana to the list of drugs that doctors could prescribe, but his amendment was ruled out of order.

Washington

On Monday, it was revealed that the DEA has sent threatening letters to 41 Seattle-area dispensaries that have effectively closed some of them. At least one Spokane dispensary has also received a threat letter, but from the US Attorney, not the DEA.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Ft. Worth Man Tasered to Death in Fruitless Drug Raid

A Forth Worth, Texas, man died after being subjected to electric shocks by police executing a drug search warrant earlier this month. Jarmaine Darden, 34, becomes the 14th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

Jarmaine Darden (family photo)
According to Dallas-Fort Worth CBS 11 TV, Fort Worth police "zero tolerance officers" were searching for cocaine when the incident happened. They didn't find any, but they did find Darden asleep on his couch. The 350-pound Darden suffered from asthma and had to sleep sitting up, family members said.

A police report said Darden resisted arrest -- although it is unclear what he was being arrested for, given that no drugs were found on him -- and was shocked at least twice by a taser. He then stopped breathing and died. Two other people present in the home were arrested for drug offenses, but both just for possession -- one for marijuana, another for an unidentified "controlled dangerous substance."

Family members who were present disputed the police account.

"They physically pulled him off the couch because, like I said, he was asleep. They pulled him off the couch and they tried to put him on his stomach. He can't breathe on his stomach. He don't even lie on the bed on his stomach," said Donna Randle, the mother of the victim. "He had his hands behind his back the whole time. But me and about five other people were hollering the whole time, 'He cannot breathe like that. Please handcuff him on his side,'" said Randle.

According to Eric Darden, the victim's brother, a police officer warned Jarmaine that if he didn't get on his stomach, they would tase him, and they did.

"I'm not even accepting the fact that he's gone. I'm waiting for him to drive up any minute. It's just not believable," said Randle, adding that he left behind two teenage sons.

Fort Worth police have yet to publicly comment on the death, but community leaders said Police Chief Jeff Halstead has promised to keep them informed as the department investigates.

Some people aren't waiting for the police. A Justice for Jarmaine Darden online petition asks that Fort Worth police be better trained in the use of tasers "to prevent serious injury and death." As of this writing, there are only 22 signatures on that petition. [Update: As of Wednesday, June 5, there are now 12,993 signatures.]

Fort Worth, TX
United States

Missouri Man Killed After Firing at Police in Drug Raid

A Warrensburg, Missouri, man was shot and killed by police executing a drug search warrant last Thursday night. Beau Appleton, 57,becomes the 10th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to local media reports, members of the Warrensburg Police Department's Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) went to Appleton's home to serve a drug search warrant. He "apparently" fired a shotgun at the SERT team as its members entered the residence. Police then opened fire, killing Appleton.

No further details on the shooting were available. Police have not said whether any officers were injured in the incident.

Police said they seized drugs, drug paraphernalia, and firearms, but have not released more specific information.

While the extent of Appleton's criminal history isn't clear, records show he was arrested for drunk driving in Illinois in 2011 and again for driving without a drivers' license in Missouri in February.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol is investigating the shooting at the request of the Warrensburg Police.

Warrensburg , MO
United States

Connecticut Towns Pay Out Big for Deadly SWAT Drug Raid

Five Connecticut towns whose SWAT team killed an unarmed man during a 2008 drug raid have agreed to pay $3.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the man's family. Another lawsuit, filed by the man who owned the home that was raided, is pending.

Gonzalo Guizan
In a joint statement, officials from Easton, Monroe, Trumbull, Wilton and Darien all maintained their police were not responsible for the death of Gonzalo Guizan that day. Eaton First Selectman Thomas Herrmann spoke for all five towns.

"While the defendants, police departments and officers from Darien, Easton, Trumbull, Monroe and Wilton maintain they were not responsible for the unfortunate death of Mr. Guizan, the insurers for the defendants, who will bear the full cost of the settlement, believed that it was best to resolve the matter rather than incur further attorneys' fees, which were anticipated to be significant," Hermann said. "The defendants concurred, further believing it was important to facilitate the Guizan family being relieved of the combined burden of litigation."

But the attorney representing the homeowner, Ronald Terebisi, told the Stamford Advocate the settlement was solid evidence the towns knew their SWAT team had gone overboard.

"This is a clear admission of misconduct on their part," said Gary Mastronardi. "There is undisputed evidence Guizan and Terebesi were huddled in a corner when police shot," he said. "This is just the first of two shoes that have dropped," Mastronardi added, referencing his pending lawsuit for Terebisi's emotional suffering and damage to his home.

A federal judge last summer had upheld the lawsuits, holding that there was sufficient evidence for a jury to decide if the SWAT team had used excessive and unreasonable force against the pair. That led to pressure on the towns to settle, even though they had filed an appeal.

The raid was organized by former Easton Police Chief John Solomon, who said in pretrial depositions that he had been under pressure to "do something" about Teresbisi, who was considered a blot on the neighborhood. Terebisi had entertained strippers at his home and was once found passed out in his home because of drug use. On one occasion, a boyfriend of one of the strippers shot up Terebisi's house, heightening neighborhood concerns.

On May 18, 2008, things came to a head. That morning, a stripper called Easton police and said she had seen a small amount of drugs in the house. (She later admitted that she had left the house after having a dispute with Terebisi.)

Early that afternoon, the Southwest Emergency Regional Response Team, dressed in full SWAT garb, took off for Terebisi's house after Solomon and others warned them that Terebisi was armed and would likely shoot at police. Police videos showed them throwing a flash-bang grenade through a window, smashing down the back door, and yelling out, "Police, warrant!"

One of the officers, Monroe police officer Michael Sweeney, yelled "I'm hit, I'm hit," and then there was the sound of repeated gunfire. When it was over, Guizan lay dead on the floor with six gunshot wounds and Terebisi, who had been pinned by one of the officers, was handcuffed and dragged out of the house.

SWAT members then searched the house, but found no guns. They did find two crack pipes and a small amount of cocaine. Sweeney, the officer who yelled "I'm hit," was the one who fired on Guizan and Terebisi. He turned out to have been hit by debris from a third flash-bang explosion. He claimed in testimony that he had struggled with the pair and shot because he felt his life was in danger, but other officers at the scene didn't back up that account. Guizan was found lifeless in a corner.

Sweeney received the Monroe Police Officer of the Year award for his part in the raid.

Easton, CT
United States

Medical Marijuana Update

The California Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a key case on whether localities can ban dispensaries, and medical marijuana bills died in two Midwest states, and there's more news, too. Let's get to it:

California

Last Thursday, the Obama administration sought to dismiss a lawsuit by the city of Oakland defending its ability to issue permits for dispensaries. Oakland had sued the feds after US prosecutors moved against the Harborside Health Center, seeking to shut it down. The Justice Department argued that the city was using the wrong legal remedy, but Oakland argued that shutting down Harborside would send tens of thousands of patients into the streets seeking medicine, posing a threat to public safety in a city with crime problems. No ruling was made.

Also last Thursday, the LAPD raided a massive grow up that supplied dispensaries. LAPD officers and US Homeland Security gang agents found 1,500 pounds of marijuana and several firearms. Police said the warehouse grow did about $7.6 million in business every 60 days, and supplied numerous dispensaries in Southern California. Authorities also allege it was shipping marijuana to the Midwest and East Coast. Four people were arrested; their names have not been released.

On Monday, San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis dropped the charges against two medical marijuana patients. The move came in the cases of Clint Guidry and Cameron Mitchell, and represented a setback for the staunchly anti-medical marijuana Dumanis.

On Tuesday, LA City Attorney Carmen Trutanich said dispensaries should be allowed to operate in the city. Up for reelection, the formerly anti-dispensary Trutanich said he was endorsing a city council initiative that would allow the 100 to 180 retailers that existed before a fall 2007 city moratorium on dispensaries to essentially carry on so long as they follow certain rules. A second initiative also set for the ballot would allow virtually all of the city's hundreds--possibly up to a thousand--dispensaries to stay open.

Also on Tuesday, the state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a key dispensary ban case. The issue is whether the city of Riverside's ban on dispensaries violates the state's medical marijuana laws. Questioning by the justices suggested that they were prepared to agree with the city that the state constitution gives cities wide policing power over land use and suggested that the state's medical marijuana laws have not undercut that authority.

On Wednesday, DEA agents and San Bernardino police raided a chain of dispensaries and a private residence. The raiders hit Kush Concepts at three locations, where they marched patients out of the dispensaries. City officials said there are 41 dispensaries in San Bernardino.

Also on Wednesday, an appeals court upheld Tehama County's cultivation ordinance. A group of medical marijuana patients sued over the ordinance in 2010, arguing it was unconstitutional and conflicted with the Compassionate Use Act. The county prevailed in Superior Court, and that decision was appealed. Now that appeal has been lost.

Colorado

Last Tuesday, the first applications for Fort Collins dispensary licenses were submitted. The city had had 21 dispensaries that were forced to close when voters chose to impose a ban in 2011. The ban was overturned by voters in November, and now the dispensaries are coming back.

Iowa

Last Thursday, legislators killed a medical marijuana bill. House Public Safety Committee Chair Clel Baudler (R-Greenfield) call it one of the "stupidest" bills he had ever seen. He was joined by the other Republican on the three-member panel in voting to kill it.

Massachusetts

On Sunday, state officials said they may not make the deadline to come up with medical marijuana regulations. They are required to have them in place by May 1, but health officials said the complexity of the issues was such that they were unlikely to be able to comply. Medical marijuana advocates responded that any delay is unjustified and would cause patients to suffer.

Michigan

On Tuesday, a report said the state had collected $10 million in revenues from medical marijuana program applicants. The report covered the period through the end of the state's budget year on September 30. It says the revenue intake was nearly double that needed to run the program.

Montana

Last Friday, Chris Williams was sentenced to a mandatory minimum five years in prison for his role in Montana Cannabis, the state's largest dispensary during its short-lived medical marijuana boom. He had been facing more than 90 years in federal prison after refusing plea agreements and then being convicted of marijuana cultivation and firearms offenses in federal court (they had a shotgun at their grow op), but in the face of a public outcry, prosecutors sought and got an unusual post-conviction plea bargain limiting his prison exposure.

South Dakota

On Tuesday, a medical marijuana bill was killed in the legislature. It went down on a 7-6 vote in the House Health and Human Services Committee. Medical marijuana bills have been repeatedly introduced since 2001, only to die. South Dakota voters have also twice rejected medical marijuana initiatives.

Look Out, New York, It's Credico For Mayor! [FEATURE]

New York City has earned itself the sobriquet of Marijuana Arrest Capital of the World, with tens of thousands of minor pot possession arrests every year -- mostly of young men of color -- generated in good part by the city's equally infamous stop-and-frisk policing, again aimed primarily at the city's young and non-white residents. There's a man running an outsider campaign for the mayor's office there this year who wants to end all that.

Randy Credico during 2010 Senate campaign
Veteran Big Apple civil rights, social justice, Occupy Wall Street (OWS), and drug reform activist Randy Credico, who also doubles as a professional comedian, is mounting an insurgent campaign for the Democratic Party mayoral nomination, and he wants to end the city's drug war and a whole lot more, and he wants to do it now.

The inventively funny, yet deadly serious, agitprop artist has an ambitious 17-point program for his first day in office, with promises that range from going after "the biggest criminals in our city" -- the Wall Street bankers -- and reforming the city's tax code to favor the poor to rolling back privatization of city schools and reforming various city agencies.

But just beneath banksters and taxes is a vow to begin reining in the NYPD by firing Police Commissioner Ray Kelly (to be replaced with Frank Serpico) and "abolishing the NYPD’s unconstitutional policies of racial profiling, stop and frisk, domestic spying, entrapment, and its infamous (albeit unadmitted) 'quota system.'"

Central to that policing reform plank, Credico says, is reclassifying the smoking and carrying of marijuana as no longer an arrestable offense. He also vows to fire any officer who lies or perjures himself on the stand, and to bar the use of "no-knock" warrants and stun grenades "except in the case of legitimate terrorist attack."

And he wants to replace the city's Special Narcotics Office with a Harm Reduction Office, whose leadership he has offered to Drug Policy Alliance head Ethan Nadelmann. He also vows to shut down the Rikers Island prison and turn it into a treatment center and education facility with a state of the art library, and to nominate law professor Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color-blindness, to run it.

That's quite a tall order for a first day in office, but Credico says he's up for it.

"I plan to stay up for 24 hours and get all that stuff done," he told the Chronicle.

Of course, first he has to win the Democratic Party nomination and then win the general election, and that's a pretty tall order, too. There is a bevy of candidates (polling data at the link as well) running for a shot at the prestigious post, and he is facing stiff establishment opposition in the primary, most notably from Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and the as yet officially undeclared city council Speaker Christine Quinn, who leads the other Democrats in early polls, but is in a close race with "undecided."

The Republican race includes a handful of announced or potential candidates led by former Metropolitan Transit Authority head Joseph Lhota (who still trails "undecided" by a large margin) and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, who is as yet unannounced. The Libertarians may also field a candidate this year, possibly former "Manhattan madam" and gubernatorial candidate Kristin Davis, and we can't forget the Rent Is Too Damn High Party, either.

"The GOP has a rich guy who just jumped in, and the Democrats have a six-pack of hacks, all getting money from the real estate interests and Wall Street and none of whom will talk about the issues," Credico explained. "The Democrats are all doing the Schumer act -- just talking about the middle class, not the poor, the homeless, the division between the rich and poor, not about drug policy. This city is virtually a police state right now."

Credico has a remedy for that: Elect him.

"I will get rid of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who is a combination of J. Edgar Hoover and Joseph Fouche, Napoleon's dreaded head of the secret police. Everyone is afraid of him. He's got the Red Squads going; they were infiltrating groups at Occupy Wall Street. Kelly is doing all these joint operations with the feds under the guise of fighting terrorism, and this city is crawling with undercover cops -- FBI, DEA, AFT, all running joint task forces with the NYPD. They've foiled 14 plots, all hatched by the NYPD. Ray Kelly has way too much power," the veteran activist said flatly.

"There is a lot of money not only in the prison industrial complex, but also the police industrial complex," Credico noted. "They have asset forfeiture and lots of new schemes, tons of undercover agents, who are really there to beat up on the black community. They infiltrate, demonize, and destroy lives, and this has to stop."

Credico has been active in the Occupy Wall Street moving, having been arrested five times by the NYPD, but before that, he was active in the city's minority communities for years, working to reform the Rockefeller drug laws with the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice (in between stints flying out to Tulia, Texas, to deal with the bogus mass arrests of black men on drug charges there), and fighting stop-and-frisk. He currently is taking time out of his days to attend hearings in the criminal trial of the NYPD officer who shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Ramarley Graham in his own bathroom as he was flushing a bag of weed down the toilet.

"I go to every one of the court dates and sit right next to his mother," he said. "This cop invaded Ramarley's house and shot him in the head for weed, but it's not an isolated incident. No cops go to jail for killing a black person, but a spit on a cop and you can go to jail for years. This is just one cop -- and he's like the Lt. Calley of the NYPD. [Editor's Note: Calley was the sole US Army officer convicted of a crime in the Vietnam War My Lai massacre.] It's not an isolated incident; it's the policy, the same policy that killed Ramarley Graham and Sean Bell and Amador Diallou. So many people have been killed by the NYPD, and it's not just the guys on the street; it's a brutal force."

Marijuana could also be a wedge issue for him, Credico said.

"I'm a committed pot smoker, and I think it should be legal, and I'm the only candidate saying it should be legal. Of course, it's up to the state legislature to do that, but I would direct the NYPD not to enforce those laws and particularly not to arrest anyone."

Under current state law, pot possession is decriminalized, but beginning with Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the NYPD had a policy of turning what should have been tickets for possession into misdemeanors by either reaching in someone's pocket and removing the baggie or intimidating the person into revealing it himself, thus elevating the offense from an infraction to the misdemeanor of "public possession." Under increasing pressure over the tactic, Commissioner Kelly last year issued an order for it to stop, and arrests have declined somewhat, but still remain at unacceptably high levels.

In 2011, there were some 50,000 marijuana possession arrests in the city, nearly 80% of them of people of color. Nearly one-quarter (12,000) were youth aged 16 to 19, and of those, 94% had no prior criminal records.

And it's not just marijuana, Credico said.

"There should be no more prosecutions for drug possession," he said. "They should be going after the real criminals, the guys on Wall Street. They don't have to go up to Harlem and Washington Heights, the real big barracudas are right down here."

The city's criminal justice system is rotten to the core, he said.

"This is like Tulia, this is like the South," he moaned. "The criminal justice system here is a black box where blacks and Latinos go in and disappear into the penal system. The cops are white, the judges are white, the prosecutors are white -- only the Bronx has a rainbow coalition of prosecutors -- the rest are white, and they're going after black people in this city."

Many of those busted ended up in Rikers Island or the Tombs, often after first spending hours or days crammed into precinct holding cells.

"Rikers Island is like Alcatraz for poor people on minor drug offenses," said Credico. "It's all Mickey Mouse; there's no Hannibal Lectors there. They need to turn it into a university for poor people. And no one is talking about the Tombs. I've been there. There are lots of junkies in there going through withdrawals, filthy toilets, people penned in like cattle. No one will talk about that, or about the hundreds of precincts with their holding cells."

Unsurprisingly, Credico doesn't think much of his establishment opposition.

"Christine Quinn is Bloomberg in drag wearing a red wig," he declared, "and de Blasio supported stop-and-frisk. He was also Hillary's hit man when she was running for the Senate, and derailed Grandpa Munster Al Lewis's campaign then."

Lhota, who has recently made noises about legalizing marijuana, "looks like a weed head," Credico snorted. "But I actually smoke it."

Now, Credico has to go through the process of qualifying as a Democratic candidate, smiting his foes within the party, and then taking on the Republican challenger in the general election. His first official campaign task will be to complete a month-long signature-gathering drive in late spring to qualify for the primary.

"I'll be on talk shows -- people all over the place are asking for interviews -- making some ads and some YouTube videos, and they'll be interesting and funny. It will be a very entertaining campaign. We have buttons coming out soon, we have the web site, there are people who will be putting ads in the Nation," he explained.

"Drug reformers are interested in my campaign, and I've got tons of volunteers from the stop-and-frisk campaigns and people from OWS," he said. "I'm getting a lot of attention right now."

Credico, of course, is a long-shot, but even if he doesn't become the next mayor of New York, to the degree that his campaign shines a light on the problems in the city's criminal justice system and forces other candidates to address them, he will be judged a success.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

New York City, NY
United States

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