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Press Release from Judge Leonard I. Frieling on His Resignation in Protest of Harsh Marijuana Ordinance

Following my resignation as a Lafayette Municipal Court Associate Judge in protest of an unnecessary and drastic proposal to increase marijuana possession penalties in the City of Lafayette, some misinformed officials with the city launched an attack on my character, spurring news stories that suggested I was no longer an associate judge with the city at the time of my resignation. According to a member of the local press who requested my employment history from Lafayette Human Resource Director Pam Spring, my employment status was "active" as of Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2007. Ms. Spring also informed this individual that , while a new judge had been hired last April, I had not been replaced and retained my position with the City. It is true that I had not been called to sit on the bench for a while. As a result, the message I intended to send with my resignation is still as pertinent now as it was when this story first broke. The City hired me because they trusted my judgment, and I can no longer serve as a judge for a city willing to go to such great measures to ensure they have the ability to punish non-violent adult marijuana users more harshly than the state mandates. I do not pretend that it was a huge personal sacrifice. I am not the issue. The issue is the issue. Thus, I will be standing in opposition to this measure at a press conference Tuesday, the day on which this measure's fate will be determined. More details about this event will follow from Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER). I suspect that I will NOT attend the city council meeting on Tuesday evening. The city council SHOULD be informed of the position of the public on this issue. I suspect that they already are aware of my position, and won't benefit from hearing it again. I would be a distraction, and this story is not about me. Lenny Frieling (See Judge Frieling's blog piece written for DRCNet's Speakeasy here.)
Location: 
Lafayette, CO
United States

The War on Drugs hits the 'Orange Bubble'

Article from The Daily Princetonian, The War on Drugs hits the 'Orange Bubble', on loss of college aid because of drug convictions. (2/14/07)
Location: 
United States

Lafayette judge steps down: Frieling won't enforce new marijuana law

Location: 
Lafayette, CO
United States
Publication/Source: 
Daily Camera (Colorado)
URL: 
http://www.dailycamera.com/news/2007/feb/13/lafayette-judge-steps-down/

Marijuana fines could see boost in Lafayette

Location: 
Lafayette, CO
United States
Publication/Source: 
Colorado Home Town Newspapers
URL: 
http://www.coloradohometownnews.com/Lafayette-News/top-story.asp?ID=1053

Marijuana case lights up court

Location: 
WI
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Capital Times (WI)
URL: 
http://www.madison.com/tct/news/index.php?ntid=118800&ntpid=1

Tracy closes a second medical marijuana dispensary; legal fight may go on

Location: 
Tracy, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Conta Costa Times (CA)
URL: 
http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/state/16687080.htm

Pot Prisoners Cost America $1 Billion A Year

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Alternet
URL: 
http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v07/n160/a01.html?397

Law Enforcement: Atlanta Narcs to Be Indicted for Murder by State -- Federal Investigation Could Be Hurt

Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Paul Howard is moving to indict three Atlanta narcotics officers on charges including murder in the killing of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston, who opened fire on invading undercover officers executing an apparently bogus "no-knock" search warrant. But Johnston's family is not happy, fearing any state indictment could hamper an ongoing federal investigation and possible federal charges.

The proposed indictment accuses officers Gregg Junnier, Jason Smith, and Arthur Tesler of felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, burglary, making false statements, and violation of oath. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a defense attorney for one of the officers received an email from DA Howard Wednesday including the proposed indictment and saying prosecutors would take the matter to a grand jury on February 26.

The three officers sought and received a search warrant from a magistrate after Smith told him he and Tesler had a confidential informant buy crack at that house. But in the wake of the botched drug raid, which also left three officers wounded, it became evident that the officers had lied to the magistrate. There was no informant who had purchased crack at the house. After the raid, the officers attempted to get another informant to lie and say he had bought drugs there, but he instead told investigators about the request.

As community anger over the killing simmers, Howard has made efforts to let the Johnston family and the community know he was serious about doing justice in the case. "The death of Mrs. Johnston constitutes one of the greatest tragedies ever to occur in Fulton County," Howard wrote in a letter to the Johnston family spokesman Markel Hutchins. "I will not rest until every person responsible for her death is held accountable. When homicides occur in Fulton County, whether committed by a civilian or a law enforcement official, it is the obligation of the District Attorney's Office to take the appropriate legal actions."

While it would normally seem that indicting police officers whose lies led to the death of an elderly woman would be the appropriate legal action, by doing so Howard has broken with the ongoing federal investigation by the FBI. FBI spokesman Stephen Emmett told the Journal-Constitution, "We did not know this was taking place prior. The FBI has been charged with leading this investigation. And to date, this investigation has not been completed."

The Johnston family was also unhappy that Howard is moving to indict the officers. "The family of Kathryn Johnston is extremely unhappy and disappointed with today's turn of events," Hutchins said Wednesday. "Mr. Howard's move today of pressing charges would effectively limit the scope of and the potential charges of a federal investigation, and borders on tampering with a federal investigation."

Feature: Arkansas Law Punishing Mothers Whose Newborns Test Positive for Drugs Accomplishes Little, Study Finds

As legislators at statehouses across the country ponder laws that criminalize or civilly punish drug use by pregnant women, researchers in Arkansas have evaluated the working of a similar law there -- and found it wanting. Meanwhile, bills are pending in at least five states -- Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wyoming -- that would do the same thing. Proponents of such laws portray them as aimed at "saving the children," but critics argue such laws do little for children and are really aimed at controlling drug use by punishing young, poor, and minority women.

In 2005, Arkansas legislators passed a bill popularly known as Garrett's Law, after a baby supposedly born with methamphetamine in his system. [Editor's Note: Be wary of any law named after a victim; they seem to pass easily in a rush of emotion with science and reason brushed aside.] Under Garrett's Law, the mothers of newborn infants who test positive for illegal drugs are presumed to be guilty of parental neglect under the state's civil code, and medical personnel can report them to police and child protective service workers.

Last fall, at the request of policy analysts studying the law, the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Children and Family Services commissioned a report on how the law had been implemented and what its impact had been. Among that report's key findings:

  • There were 412 referrals under Garrett's Law in the 12-month period examined. With some 38,405 births recorded during that period, Garrett's Law referrals amounted to a rate of 10.7 per every thousand births.
  • Marijuana was by far the most commonly found drug, mentioned in just over half of all cases, while amphetamines and cocaine were found in about 25% of cases and heroin, barbiturates, or prescription drugs were found in about 7% of cases.
  • In two-thirds of cases, "no health problems" were reported in the infants. On the other extreme, eight infants died, but there is no evidence that the mother's drug use was the cause of death. Marijuana was most likely to be associated with no health problems, while health problems were more likely to be associated with stimulant use by the mother. Instances of death appear to be most commonly associated with barbiturate use.
  • A finding of child neglect was found to be "substantiated" in two-thirds of all cases referred and a Protective Services case was formally opened in 62% of all cases.
  • Slightly less than one-fourth (23%) of children involved with referrals were removed from the family home. The drug most associated with removal of children was cocaine, followed closely by amphetamines.
  • Only 5% of children removed from parents received any medical treatment related to the alleged maltreatment, although the report says it does not have complete numbers.
  • Either 6.6% or 20% of mothers reported received drug treatment. Again, the report complains of sloppy reporting and does not resolve the different figures.
  • Some 64% of mothers reported received some sort of "service," but in most cases that "service" was only drug testing.

"This report basically says there is nothing in the data that supports the notion these kids have health problems," said Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women. "This law is not about children's health, but has everything to do with controlling drug use in certain populations. They say people who use drugs are bad parents, but I say show me some evidence-based research that documents the extent to which drug use and parenting ability are truly associated," she said. "You have 72 million people admitting to having used marijuana -- are they all bad parents?" Paltrow continued.

While some analysts supported the law because of the broad goals of protecting the health and welfare of infants and their mothers it is supposed to advance, even they had serious concerns about its impact. "While it is critically important that women who are pregnant and giving birth and have an illegal drug in their system need to be looked at closely -- it is an indicator that something is going on -- there are several problems with Garrett's Law," said Paul Kelly, senior policy analyst for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, who sits on the Garrett's Law advisory group. "One thing we have found is that there are a lot of women who are not being tested. That means we are relying on the judgment of the attending physician to decide who is and is not being tested."

Kelly raises an interesting question about who is being subjected to the law. The report on the law's working does not provide a race and class breakdown of who is being reported, although that information is presumably readily available. The report does provide a breakdown by age, and not surprisingly, most of the women reported under the law were in their twenties.

"Another problem with the law is that in many cases, the finding of substance use is the sole cause of the finding of mistreatment," Kelly continued. "They may have other children who are doing well, are well-cared for, doing well in school, yet they may be taken from their mother because of substance use without any consideration of other factors involved."

The report's low figures on treatment for women in the report -- either 6.6% or 20%--also raise concerns. "There is a terrible lack of treatment available to these women," said Kelly. "We take their children away from them, yet we are not providing appropriate treatment. Are we here to help or punish? This law has had some consequences that need to be corrected."

An effort to do just that is just getting under way early in the legislative season. "We're in the middle of trying to revise Garrett's Law to make it a little less punitive and more family-friendly," said Cynthia Crone, executive director of the Arkansas Center for Addictions Research, Education and Services (Arkansas CARES), which, among other things, runs the state's largest treatment program specifically aimed at mothers suffering from substance abuse.

Advocates are in the final stages of drafting reform language and now have a sponsor in the statehouse, Kelly said. "There are several things we are looking at. We don't want the fact that an illegal substance was found in the child's body at birth to be the sole determinant of whether there is child abuse going on," he said. "If the only finding is that these women have drugs in their system, they should not be placed on the child abuse registry, but given the opportunity to seek treatment. We don't want to ruin their ability to care for their children and have gainful employment because of making foolish mistakes."

"This report doesn't find a strong association between any kind of prenatal exposure to drug use and health problems in the infant," said Paltrow. "For legislators to focus on maternal drug use as the primary threat to children's health when there are eight million children without health insurance is absurd. If we focus on things like this, it distracts our attention from much larger issues, like the 46 million uninsured, the lack of treatment, no paid maternity leave, those fundamental problems. They say it's about the kids, but the result is not more funding or treatment; instead, we're out arresting mothers."

Atlanta Police Officers to Face Murder Indictment; Fulton DA Seeks Charges in Shooting of Elderly Woman in Her Home

Location: 
Atlanta, GA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
URL: 
http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/atlanta/stories/2007/02/07/0207atlshoot.html

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