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This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A dirty Des Moines cop goes down for planting evidence, plus more jail guards gone bad. Let's get to it:

In Raleigh, North Carolina, a Wake County jail guard was arrested July 28 for selling drugs to inmates. (The bust was not publicized until this week). Andrew Richard Byrd, 25, went down after he was caught with drugs at the jail. He's charged with possession of a controlled substance on jail premises, providing drugs to inmates, and conspiracy to distribute Schedule III controlled substances. And he's been fired. 

In Mount Olive, West Virginia, a Mount Olive Correctional Center guard was arrested last Friday on charges he took bribes to smuggle drugs and other contraband into the jail. Toby Lyle Stover, 43, went down after authorities used surveillance video and cell phone records to show he set up a fake company to receive payments from inmates and that he delivered drugs, knives, and cellphones. He has been hit with seven counts each of bribery and aiding an adult in confinement.

In Des Moines, Iowa, a former Des Moines police officer was charged Tuesday with planting drug evidence in a bid to falsely arrest a 21-year-old man on meth charges. Tyson Teut, 30, had resigned last year amid allegations of wrongdoing and now has been formally charged with perjury and felonious misconduct in office. The man he arrested was convicted of meth possession, but that conviction was later overturned.

FEATURE: Sessions/Trump Pull Off an Amazing Feat: They Make the DEA Look Reasonable By Comparison

This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has never been known as forward-thinking place when it comes to drug and crime policy, but these days, the hide-bound drug fighting agency is coming off as much more reasonable on drugs than its bosses, President Trump and Attorney General Sessions.

DEA doing its thing. (Creative Commons/Wikimedia)
And as is the case with everyone from Republican elected officials to top corporate executives, the Trump administration's bad case of crazy is forcing even the DEA to distance itself from some of Trump's more ill-thought and insidious mouthings.

No, the DEA hasn't gone soft. It's still out there doing its best to enforce federal drug prohibition, and just last year it was old school enough to refuse to move pot out of Schedule I, but several recent incidents show a DEA behaving in a more responsible manner than the president or his attorney general:

1. The DEA has been accepting applications from scientists to grow marijuana for research purposes, only to be blocked by the Sessions Justice Department.

For years, researchers have complained that a government monopoly on marijuana grown for research purposes has both stifled useful research and illustrated the DEA's role in hindering science. Late in the Obama administration, though, the agency relented, saying it would take proposals from researchers to grow their own crops.

But The Washington Post reported last week that DEA had received 25 research proposals since it began accepting applications a year ago, but needed DOJ's approval to move forward. That approval has not been forthcoming, much like DOJ when queried about it by the Post. DOJ may not have had anything to say, but some insiders did.

"They're sitting on it. They just will not act on these things," said one unnamed source described by the Post as a "law enforcement official familiar with the matter."

Another source described as a "senior DEA official" said that as a result, "the Justice Department has effectively shut down this program to increase research registrations."

2. The DEA head feels compelled to repudiate Trump's remarks about roughing up suspects.

The Wall Street Journal obtained an email from acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg to staff members written after President Trump told police officers in Long Island month that they needn't be too gentle with suspects. Rosenberg rejected the president's remarks.

Saying he was writing "because we have an obligation to speak out when something is wrong," Rosenberg said bluntly that Trump had "condoned police misconduct."

>Instead of heeding the president, Rosenberg said, DEA agents must "always act honorably" by maintaining "the very highest standards" in the treatment of suspects.

It is a strange state of affairs when an agency many people consider to be the very embodiment of heavy-handed policing has to tell its employees to ignore the president of the United States because he's being too thuggish.

3. The DEA has to fend off the Trump/Sessions obsession with MS-13.

Trump loves to fulminate against MS-13, the vicious gang whose roots lie in the Salvadoran diaspora during the US-backed civil war of the 1980s, and to use them to conflate the issues of immigration, crime, and drugs. His loyal attorney general has declared war on them. Both insist that breaking MS-13 will be a victory in the war on drugs and are pressuring the DEA to specifically target them.

But, the Post reported, Rosenberg and other DEA officials have told DOJ that the gang "is not one of the biggest players when it comes to distributing and selling narcotics."

In the DEA view, Mexican cartels are the big problem and MS-13 is simply one of many gangs the cartels use to peddle their wares. DEA administrators have told their underlings to focus on whatever is the biggest threat in their area—not MS-13—because "in many parts of the country, MS-13 simply does not pose a major criminal or drug-dealing threat compared with other groups," according to unnamed DEA officials.

"The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they could face professional consequences for candidly describing the internal disputes," the Post noted.

The president and the attorney general are seeking to distort what the DEA sees as its key drug enforcement priorities so Trump can score some cheap demagogic political points, and the DEA is unhappy enough to leak to the press. We are indeed in a strange place. 

Chronicle AM: Global NGOs Concerned About Forced Coca Eradication in Colombia, More... (8/18/17)

Global NGOs have written to the Colombian president to express concerns about forced eradication of coca crops, a Nevada judge removes a marijuana sales bottleneck, Massachusetts has a new police force aimed at "extremists and drug traffickers," and more.

Colombian peasant harvesting coca (dea.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Nevada Judge Clears Way for More Distribution Licenses. Carson City District Judge James Russell on Thursday lifted a temporary restraining order that had forced the state to limit marijuana distribution rights to liquor wholesalers. The state's legalization initiative had required officials to limit distribution rights to liquor wholesalers for the first year and a half -- unless they couldn't keep up with demand. In his ruling Thursday, Judge Russell held that they had demonstrated they couldn't.

Asset Forfeiture

Illinois Asset Forfeiture Reform Law Now in Effect. An asset forfeiture reform bill passed earlier this year, House Bill 303 (with asset forfeiture reform added as an amendment to an unrelated bill), is now in effect. The bill does not end civil asset forfeiture, but increases the standard of evidence needed to seize property and adds reporting requirements for all seizures.

Law Enforcement

Massachusetts State Police Division Created to Go After Extremists and Drug Traffickers. Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito (R) announced Thursday the formation of a new State Police division to address threats from "extremists and drug traffickers." The new Fifth Division will collect and analyze criminal intelligence and provide protection for large-scale events and key infrastructure, Polito's office said.

International

Global NGOs Concerned About Forced Eradication in Colombia. In a letter to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), a global network of 177 NGOs, expressed strong support for the Peace Accord signed by the Colombian government and the FARC, while also expressing deep concern regarding intensified, and increasingly militarized, forced coca eradication efforts, especially in areas where communities have already signed crop substitution agreements. Forced eradication in areas where communities have signed crop substitution agreements perpetuates violence and generates new conflicts, undermines the very spirit of the voluntary crop substitution agreements and confidence-building efforts with local communities, and potentially threatens the effective implementation of the peace accord, the groups charged.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Texas border town cop tries an innovative method of financing his campaign for elected office, a Chicago cop on a DEA task force gets nailed for telling childhood friends a bust was coming, and more. Let's get to it:

In Fort Smith, Arkansas, a Sebastian County detention deputy was arrested last Wednesday after he was caught smuggling drugs into the jail. Darryl Wingate, 29, went down after someone alerted his coworkers, and he is now charged with possession of meth with intent to deliver and furnishing prohibited articles.

In McAllen, Texas, a Progreso police officer was arrested last Saturday after telling an informant he would provide police protection for a vehicle he believed to contain drugs. Sgt. Giovani Hernandez told the informant he needed money to campaign for a Hidalgo County constable position and agreed to provide protection in return for $5,000. He didn't get the $5,000, but he did get arrested and charged with possession with intent to distribute more than five pounds of cocaine.

In Harper Woods, Michigan, a former Harper Woods police officer was arrested last Wednesday for allegedly stealing drugs from the evidence room for his own use. Michaael Lynch, 37, went down after an internal investigation led to the Michigan State Police being called him. He faces one count of heroin possession, one count of misconduct in office, and six counts of larceny in a building.

In Chicago, a Chicago police officer was convicted last Thursday of tipping off suspects in a year-long drug investigation that busts were about to go down. Ronald T. Coleman, 46, had been detailed to work on a DEA task force, but that didn't stop him from warning an old high school friend, who spread the word, leaving raiding police with missing suspects and empty drug houses. He's looking at up to 20 years in federal prison when sentenced in November. And he's now a former Chicago police officer -- he was fired after being convicted.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Texas parole officer gets popped for getting pills from a parolee, a pair of California deputies get their hands slapped for stealing and reselling weed, a Texas jail guard gets nailed for collecting drug debts for a prisoner, and more. Let's get to it:

In San Antonio, Texas, a Bexar County jail guard was arrested last Tuesday on allegations she was collecting drug debts for an imprisoned dealer. Guard Rita Alvarez, an 11-year veteran, put at least a couple hundred dollars in the account of the prisoner -- the fruits of her collection activities. She is charged with engaging in organized criminal activity and "illegal barter."

In Denton, Texas, a state parole officer was arrested last Tuesday after allegedly obtaining hydrocodone pills from one of his parolees. Parole Officer Michael Lee Bush, 52, went down after Denton police saw him being handed pills in the parole office parking lot and then set up a controlled delivery with the parolee delivering more drugs to Bush as police watched. It's not clear what the precise charges against Bush are.

In Louisville, Kentucky, a former Bullitt County deputy was sentenced last Wednesday to three years in federal prison for slinging dope and hiding the proceeds. Christopher Mattingly, 40, admitted smuggling a thousand kilograms of weed from California, along with some meth, and engaging in money laundering to cover up his misdeeds. He copped to drug trafficking and money laundering charges earlier this year.

In Wetumpka, Alabama, a former Elmore County jail guard was sentenced last Friday to 4 ½ years in federal prison for smuggling drugs into the jail. Johntarance McCray, 23, had only nine months on the job when a search by supervisors as he reported to duty turned up six different controlled substances -- powder cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana, meth, suboxone, and Xanax -- stuffed in his underwear. A subsequent search of his vehicle turned up more drugs, a loaded handgun, and hundreds of dollars in cash. Local reporting did not make clear what they exact charges were.

In Bakersfield, California, two former Kern County deputies were sentenced Monday to three years' probation for stealing weed from the evidence locker, turning it over to an informant to sell, and collecting the proceeds. Logan August and Derrick Penney also had to surrender drug profits made in the scheme. The pair was accused of working with now-imprisoned former Bakersfield police detective Andrew Mara, who went down for stealing and selling both weed and meth. The pair copped to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute marijuana.

In Bid to Defend Marijuana Arrests, NYC Mayor de Blasio Attacks Drug Reformers

Last month, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) released a report noting that marijuana arrests under New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio continue to be marked by shocking racial disparities, much as they were under his predecessors, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg. Stung by the criticism, de Blasio is fighting back, but his response so far has consisted of attacking DPA as "legalizers" and comparing apples to oranges.

New York City still has a marijuana arrest problem under Mayor de Blasio. (Wikimedia)
The DPA report, Unjust and Unconstitutional: 60,000 Jim Crow Marijuana Arrests in Mayor de Blasio’s New York, noted that while marijuana possession arrests are down under de Blasio from the grotesque numbers achieved under Giuliani (more than 40,000 arrests in 2001) or Bloomberg (more than 50,000 arrests in 2011), NYPD still arrested made more than 18,000 of them last year. A whopping 86% of them were black or brown, maintaining the racial disparities so apparent in earlier administrations.

That's "a far cry from the Mayor's pledge to rein in NYPD's targeting of people of color," charged DPA New York State Director Kassandra Frederique in the report. That de Blasio had managed to bring pot arrests down to an average of only 20,000 a year during his tenure shouldn't be portrayed as progress, argued Frederique, instead describing it as "slower injustice, but slower injustice is still injustice delivered."

De Blasio struck back last Friday, releasing a statement that called the DPA report "misleading" and attacked DPA as "a group committed to legalization." De Blasio's statement emphasized that marijuana arrests had dropped significantly under his administration -- something DPA never disputed -- but failed to address the claim of continuing racial disparities in arrests. Instead, it merely noted that because arrests were down overall, arrests of black and brown people were down, too.

But the takeaway sentence in de Blasio's statement inadvertently makes DPA's case:

As a result of this new policy, arrests for marijuana possession are down 37%  -- from almost 29,000 in 2013 to approximately 18,000 in 2016. This has translated into approximately 9,600 fewer arrests of Black and Latino New Yorkers for marijuana possession in 2016 as compared to 2013.

In other words, a reduction of less than 11,000 total marijuana arrests between the two years resulted in about 9,600 people of color not being arrested. De Blasio's own data and arguments show that the city's minorities clearly take the brunt of marijuana law enforcement, his wriggling notwithstanding.

And now, DPA is returning fire at de Blasio.

"Mayor de Blasio is not disputing the data published in our report, he is trying to spin his poor record to look as though he has made some progress," Frederique said in a Friday press release. "In reality, New York City was the marijuana arrest capital of the world under Bloomberg and still holds that dubious title under de Blasio today. The 18,000 arrests in 2016 alone and outrageous racial disparities are a disgrace to the city and a blight on the mayor’s record. The unjust and racially-targeted arrests are devastating black and Latino communities across the city."

Frederique also applied some political ju-jitsu to de Blasio's "legalizer" attack.

"The mayor’s efforts to discredit the report and the Drug Policy Alliance by calling us legalizers, is a desperate attempt to distract the public from the facts of his abysmal record. Our report is based on data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. Rather than attack his critics, the mayor should attack the problem of racially-targeted arrests," she said. "For the record, the Drug Policy Alliance is committed to marijuana legalization to increase access for patients and end targeted policing in communities of color. And we’re not alone; nearly 60% of Americans also support legalization."

Instead of attacking critics, the mayor should fix the problem, Frederique added.

"It’s time for the mayor to get out of the spin cycle and back to work," she prescribed. "The mayor must end the biased policing practices that have ruined the lives of so many young black and Latino New Yorkers now."

New York, NY
United States

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A crooked police scandal is brewing in Baltimore, a crooked Chicago-area cop heads for federal prison, so does an Alabama prison guard, and more. Let's get to it:

In Baltimore, prosecutors threw out 34 drug cases last Friday as they investigate three officers accused of planting evidence at crime scenes. Body camera footage recently released appeared to show an officer planting drugs at a crime scene in January, and that has prompted the dismissals. Another 123 cases are under review.

In Putnamville, Indiana, a state prison guard was arrested last Thursday after being caught smuggling drugs into the Putnamville Prison. Guard Stephany Dawson went down after officers searched her car as she arrived at work and found meth, marijuana, and tobacco. She admitted bringing a large amount of drugs into the prison. It's unclear precisely what charges she faces.

In Louisville, a state prison guard was arrested last Friday after he was caught bringing drugs into the prison. Guard Danny Ford, 49, was arrested at the West Kentucky Correctional Complex after officers found him with a large quantity of suboxone. He is charged with possession of a controlled substance and promoting contraband.

In Chicago, a former Melrose Park police detective was sentenced last Wednesday to 11 years in federal prison for a career of corruption. Gregory Salvi had pleaded earlier this year to moonlighting as a drug dealer, including selling drugs he stole from the evidence room. Salvi was looking at a 10-year mandatory minimum on one count each of possession of drugs with intent to deliver and using a gun in a drug trafficking crime.

In Birmingham, Alabama, a former state prison guard was sentenced last Thursday to 54 months in federal prison for smuggling drugs into the prison. Johntarance Henriquis McCray, 23, went down after authorities were alerted he was trafficking into the prison and searched him. They found two bundles in his underwear containing crack cocaine, powder cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, Xanax, and Suboxone. Officers found a duffle bag containing additional drugs, a loaded 9-milimeter handgun and more than $400 in McCray's vehicle.

Chronicle AM: Wyden Wants DOJ to Release MJ Recs, Pressure on DHS Over Meth Death, More... (8/2/17)

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has asked Attorney General Sessions to release recommendations on possible changes in federal marijuana enforcement, congressmembers want changes at Customs and Border Protection after video of a Mexican teen's death after drinking meth in front of Customs agents went public, and more.

Puerto Rico is hoping medical marijuana will deliver an economic miracle. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Ron Wyden Asks Sessions to Release Crime Task Force Marijuana Recommendations. Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden sent a letter to Attorney General Sessions Tuesday pressing him to reveal any possible changes to federal marijuana enforcement policies contained in recommendations presented to him last week by the Justice Department's Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety. "It is concerning to see this administration failing, once again, to be transparent and straightforward with the American people about the motivations behind its policy shifts," Wyden wrote. "I write to you today to ask that the recommendations of the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety immediately be made public."

Medical Marijuana

Puerto Rico Looks to Medical Marijuana as Economic Medicine. Economically ravaged Puerto Rico is counting on medical marijuana to boost its economy. The island's treasury secretary estimates the industry could generate up to $100 million a year and help reduce an unemployment rate currently around 12%. The US territory is in a fiscal crisis, facing billions in budgets cuts and a public debt load of $70 billion. David Quinones, operations director of Puerto Rico's largest medical marijuana producer, Natural Ventures, told the Washington Post: "Name one new industry in Puerto Rico capable of generating millions and billions in capital and improving an economy in a mega-crisis. There is none."

Law Enforcement

Oregon Drug Task Force Disbanding. The Lane County Interagency Narcotics Enforcement Team is disbanding effective immediately, with Board Chairman Rick Lewis, the police chief in Springfield, citing budget and staffing issues. The task force, which was founded in 1987 to deal primarily with meth labs, has disbanded once before. In 2005, it was shut down for three years after budgeting shortfalls. Last year, the task force made 110 arrests and seized nearly 15 pounds of meth and $133,000 in cash.

After Death Of Teen Who Drank Liquid Meth At Checkpoint, Lawmakers Call For Action. Members of Congress are calling on the Department of Homeland Security to take steps to improve training after video of a Mexican teen drinking liquid methamphetamine in front of Customs agents and then dying became public last week. The boy, Cruz Velazquez Acevedo, died in 2013. "What happened to Cruz Velazquez was absolutely horrible, and we must guarantee that something like this never happens again," Rep. Juan Vargas, D-Calif., said in an email Monday to KPBS. "I am requesting an immediate response from the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that proper training is put in place for Customs and Border Protection agents." The Department of Homeland Security has already paid a $1 million settlement with the teen's family.

Chronicle AM: Senate Keeps MedMj Language, Kansas SWAT Lawsuit Revived, More... (7/27/17)

A Senate panel has approved an amendment barring the DOJ from going after medical marijuana states, criminal justice reform groups want close scrutiny of US Attorney nominees, a federal appeals court reinstates a lawsuit over a SWAT raid that turned up only tomatoes and tea leaves, and more.

A Kansas SWAT team looking for a pot grow raided a couple who were only growing tomatoes. Now, their lawsuit can proceed.
Medical Marijuana

Senate Panel Approves Amendment Defunding DOJ Medical Marijuana Enforcement. The Senate Appropriations Committee voted Thursday to approve an amendment that would block the Justice Department from spending any funds to go after medical marijuana in states where it is legal. The amendment, which passed with strong Republican support, is a striking rebuke to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had personally requested that Congress kill the amendment. A House committee yesterday killed a similar amendment, but if the Senate amendment stays in the appropriations bill, it could be the basis for conference committee negotiations later.

Nevada Supreme Court Upholds Medical Marijuana Registry. In a Tuesday decision, the state Supreme Court unanimously upheld the constitutionality of the state's medical marijuana registry. The program had been challenged by a John Doe lawsuit, which complained that the registry and associated fees violated his due process rights. The lawsuit was rejected by lower state courts, and now the state's highest court has agreed.

Law Enforcement

Reform Groups Call on Senate to Closely Scrutinize Trump's US Attorney Nominees. A number of criminal justice reform groups on both the left and the right are calling on Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to have committee members actually question nominees, whether at hearings or in writing. The groups, which include Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Right on Crime, and the American Conservative Union, want nominees' positions on key issues such as asset forfeiture, sentencing policy, and respecting the authority of states to be made clear. "In view of the recent policies announced by the Department of Justice (DOJ), it is even more important that the Senate understand each nominee's views of the proper role government attorneys play in seeking justice rather than merely 'winning' the cases they bring," the groups wrote. The coalition made an initial request to Grassley in March, but got no response.

Federal Appeals Court Reinstates Lawsuit Against Kansas Cops Who Led SWAT Raid Against Couple Growing Tomatoes. In a blistering decision, the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated a lawsuit filed by a suburban Kansas City couple after a SWAT-style raid based on the couple's visit to a garden supply shop and a faulty field drug test that said tea leaves in their trash were marijuana. There was no marijuana. The family sued the Johnson County Sheriff's Office after the 2012 raid. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2015, but now the 10th Circuit has overruled him.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's jail guards gone wild this week, with a trio of correctional officers looking to make something on the side. Let's get to it:

In Lawton, Oklahoma, a Lawton Correctional Facility guard was arrested last Saturday after being caught coming to work with a diaper filled with marijuana. Two of her coworkers ratted her out for smelling like pot, and the as yet unnamed guard said she'd been around people smoking weed, but during a pat down search, she handed the diaper and a bag with 55 grams of weed in it to officers. She was also carrying a cell phone, two prepaid credit cards, and notebook with credit card numbers in it. She is charged with bringing contraband into the jail.

In Round Rock, Texas, a Williamson County jail guard was arrested last Tuesday after a drug-sniffing dog alerted deputies to his vehicle in the jail parking garage. Richard Acuna, Jr. went down after deputies then found cocaine in his car. He is charged with possession of a controlled substance. It's unclear whether he was bringing drugs to the jail.

In Rustburg, Virginia, a former Campbell County Adult Detention Center guard was arrested last Wednesday for allegedly giving prescription drugs to prisoners. Benjamin Joel Rackley is charged with handing out pills over a six-month period ending in February. He is charged with one count of conspiracy to deliver drugs to prisoners, one count of delivery of drugs to prisoners, and two counts distribution of a controlled substance.

Drug War Issues

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