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Marijuana: Wisconsin's Dane County (Madison) Will No Longer Prosecute Simple Possession

The Dane County, Wisconsin, District Attorney's Office will no longer prosecute simple marijuana possession cases involving less than 25 grams (nearly an ounce) of pot. Prosecutors said it wasn't an effort to decriminalize marijuana, merely recognition of limited resources and setting priorities for the office.

"There's been some adjustment in our policies," Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard told reporters March 1. While Blanchard acknowledged that state law defines marijuana possession as a crime, he said his office had different priorities. "We're simply going more wholesale to saying 25 grams or less of possession of marijuana -- not a crime."

With Dane County having the same number of prosecutors it had 20 years ago, prosecuting marijuana possession offenses cannot take priority over other crimes, Blanchard said. "We're about to have the same number of prosecutors in this office that we had in 1988," he noted. "We struggle to staff child abuse cases, so when it comes to something like marijuana possession we are not going to be handling it as aggressively as we could."

While state law mandates up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for simple marijuana possession, Dane County residents will now be looking at only a citation. In Madison, a ticket for pot possession could cost up to $109, but in some smaller Dane County communities, the fines could be much steeper, as in Fitchburg, where users could be hit with a $1,300 ticket. County communities without a local marijuana ordinance can submit cases to the District Attorney's Office, which will issue citations for violating the county anti-marijuana ordinance. That carries a fine of up to $310.

"Marijuana possession is one of the least significant cases we get in our office," Blanchard said. Cases with victims -- such as sexual and physical assaults and thefts -- take priority, he said. The county faces much more serious drug problems than marijuana, Blanchard said. "I don't think we have a marijuana problem in Dane County. I think we have a heroin problem. I think we have a crack problem... I think we have a much larger alcohol problem than we have a marijuana problem."

Ontario bans marijuana dispensaries

Location: 
Ontario, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (CA)
URL: 
http://www.dailybulletin.com/news/ci_5372109

Drug czar to visit N.O. school that drug-tests students

Location: 
New Orleans, LA
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Times-Picayune (LA)
URL: 
http://www.nola.com/newsflash/louisiana/index.ssf?/base/news-30/1173294850100120.xml&storylist=louisiana

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Our "This Week's Corrupt Cops" feature may have been on hiatus while your editor was down South America way, but it's been pretty much business as usual. We're back now, and here's this week's edition with the usual cast of crooked cops and greedy guards. Let's get to it:

In Randolph County, North Carolina, a juvenile detention supervisor has been indicted on federal cocaine trafficking charges. James Ledwell, 37, who spent the last nine years teaching young people about the dangers of drugs, was arrested February 28 on federal charges. The indictment came three weeks after Ledwell was busted trying to sell more than a half-pound of coke to a Greensboro police officer.

In Hollywood, Florida, a veteran detective has surrendered after being charged along with three other officers in a sting where they thought they were protecting mob shipments of drugs and stolen art, diamonds, and watches. Hollywood Detective Thomas Simcox, 50, surrendered to federal agents February 28 and was released later that same day on a $350,000 bond. The four officers were charged with drug trafficking and other offenses after a two-year FBI sting in which they agreed to "protect and facilitate" criminal activities for what was supposed to be a "criminal organization based out of New York." Instead, it was feds posing as mobsters. Now the cops face up to life in prison.

In Scranton, Pennsylvania, a Scranton police officer was arrested March 1 after allegedly dealing drugs while on duty. Officer Mark Conway, 36, was in uniform when Lackawanna County detectives found five Oxycontin tablets and 33 methadone tablets in his car. Conway went down after an informant told police Conway had been addicted to heroin for more than a year and the informant had scored for him numerous times. A second informant recorded a conversation with Conway in which the officer agreed to deliver Oxycontin and methadone for $780. Conway was charged with possession of methadone, possession of OxyContin, unlawful delivery of OxyContin and two counts of using a telephone for a drug transaction. He is out on $25,000 bail.

In Fishkill, New York, an Ulster County jail guard was arrested Monday after being caught with 10 ounces of cocaine. Shawn Forte, 30, faces a charge of first degree criminal possession of a controlled substance after he was stopped for "speeding" on Interstate 84 in Fishkill. According to state police, the charges stemmed from an investigation by the Ulster County Sheriff's Office and the Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team. Forte was being held without bail at the Dutchess County Jail as of mid-week, and more charges could be pending.

In Beaver, Pennsylvania, an outside report has found that the Beaver County Jail is "tainted" with sex, drugs, and violence, and jail guards are involved. The report found guards having sex with prisoners, guards physically abusing prisoners, guards accused of providing drugs to prisoners, and nearly half of prisoners who had been in for at least 60 days and were tested for drugs came back positive. Beaver County Controller Richard Towcimak, who chairs the prison board, said board members were "completely disheartened" by the report, while Beaver County District Attorney Tony Berosh said he would turn it over to the state attorney general's office.

Editorial: Restore property rights stolen by drug warriors

Location: 
MI
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Detroit News
URL: 
http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070307/OPINION01/703070313/1008

Medical marijuana bill passes committee

Location: 
Springfield, IL
United States
Publication/Source: 
The News-Gazette (IL)
URL: 
http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2007/03/07/medical_marijuana_bill_passes_committee

Court Orders Police to Return Medicinal Marijuana

Location: 
Santa Rosa, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
NPR
URL: 
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7725289

Drug charge policy to change

Location: 
WI
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Badger Herald (WI)
URL: 
http://badgerherald.com/news/2007/03/05/drug_charge_policy_t.php

Disenfranchisement: News/Updates (March 2, 2007 Edition)

[From our friends at The Sentencing Project] Florida: Continued Debate on Restoring the Vote Gov. Charlie Crist postponed a vote this week that would have allowed most formerly incarcerated individuals voting rights upon completion of sentence. The Florida Board of Executive Clemency was expected to vote in favor of the long-awaited change, but Crist did not want to isolate fellow Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum as the lone vote, according to the Miami Herald. “Obviously, I favor the restoration of civil rights and I am optimistic we will be able to get to that point, but I want to build a consensus before we go there,” said Crist following the state clemency board meeting. Prior to the postponement, Attorney General McCollum submitted a list of four recommendations to Crist and the board to reduce the backlog of formerly incarcerated individuals interested in regaining their civil rights, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The list suggested more frequent clemency meetings in addition to drafting a list of those not eligible for civil rights restoration without a hearing. A Tallahassee Democrat opinion editorial discussed the various restrictions imposed on formerly incarcerated persons and the resources necessary for rehabilitation, as pointed out in former Gov. Jeb Bush’s Ex-Offender Task Force report. Author Mark Schlakman also highlighted the necessity of re- enfranchisement both for reintegration and public safety. Alabama: Attorney General Defends View, ‘Sets the Record Straight’ In response to various newspaper editorials and letters to the editor, Alabama Attorney General Troy King defended his view in a Montgomery Advertiser guest column advocating that all persons completing a sentencing should have to apply to have their rights restored. He wrote: “Regardless of what editorialists say, ‘all the conditions of a sentence’ have not been met when a convicted felon completes his or her prison sentence. The suspension of voting rights is not a separate punishment, but part of the original sentence. I have proposed that we return to a more simple and workable solution by removing the civil and political rights of anyone who is convicted of a felony. The Advertiser should be ashamed of its willingness to cheapen democracy by advocating the automatic restoration of rights to felons. The rest of us should refuse to help them.” National: Disenfranchisement Reform Taking Hold "Momentum for felony disenfranchisement reform began 10 years ago. Since 1997, 16 states have taken steps to reform disenfranchisement laws and more than 600,000 people have regained their voting rights," states Kara Gotsch, director of advocacy for The Sentencing Project, in a column featured on Tompaine.com. She notes that policymakers have introduced legislation addressing felony disenfranchisement in 20 states this year, and voting rights advances are expected in Maryland and Florida. Gotsch's piece also highlights the disproportionate racial impact of disenfranchisement policies and emphasizes the benefits of restoring the right to vote upon release from prison. The Washington Informer featured a summary of recent efforts in vote restoration around the nation, including a recent meeting of Maryland African Methodist Episcopal church leaders and state legislators considering re-enfranchisement to formerly incarcerated individuals. Maine: Disenfranchisement Bill is Too Lenient, Columnist Says Representative Steve Hanley is the first Democrat to sponsor legislation denying prison inmates the right to vote in Maine by way of a bill banning voting rights to persons convicted of murder and Class A and B offenses. Kennebec Journal columnist George Smith praised Hanley’s efforts, yet said his bill is too lenient and suggested that all offenders, currently or formerly incarcerated, should not possess the right to vote. Because the legislation requires a constitutional amendment, the bill must win the votes of two-thirds of the members of the House and Senate, which is not considered likely. Vermont is the only other state that allows incarcerated individuals the right to vote. Kentucky: Students Take a Stand in Opposition of Disenfranchisement Students at the University of Kentucky, along with disenfranchised residents, participated this week in Restoration of Voting Rights Lobby Day in support of HB70, which would allow citizens to vote on whether or not to restore some felons' voting rights. If passed, residents will vote in 2008 on whether to change the Kentucky Constitution to allow persons convicted of non-violent crimes to vote after they complete their sentence. See the Kentucky Kernel. Contact Information: Email: zjennings@sentencingproject.org web: http://www.sentencingproject.org
Location: 
United States

Op-Ed: State's war on drugs a 100-year-old bust

Location: 
CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
San Francisco Chronicle
URL: 
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/03/04/ING44OD4AU1.DTL

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