Incarceration, Asset Forfeiture, Arrests, Informants, Police Raids, Search and Seizure

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Op-Ed: It's time to end pointless war on drugs

United States
Zanesville Times Recorder (OH)

Medical Marijuana: Washington State Group Raided

Washington state drug enforcement agents raided the headquarters of CannaCare, an Everett-based medical marijuana advocacy and support group Wednesday. Agents with the federally-funded West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team seized what they said was more than a thousand marijuana plants, as well as computers containing medical records and other personal information on about 200 people authorized to use the herb under state law. No one has yet been arrested or charged with a crime.

It is the second raid in a week at addresses linked to CannaCare. Last week, agents raided the Renton home of John Worthington, an associate of CannaCare head Steve Sarich, a prominent Washington medical marijuana advocate who, according to the Seattle Times, provoked police by "aannouncing that CannaCare will provide pot plants to patients."

In the Renton raid, police seized six marijuana plants, and Worthington screamed foul. "They went after me because I'm an activist, and I've been terrorized out of growing," Worthington told the Post-Intelligencer. "I can't have my kids frisked like they're criminals. That was disgusting. I'm not Al Capone -- I'm a dad."

Sarich, too, remains unrepentant. "Since they don't like medical marijuana, this is an attack on the people that support it," Sarich told the Seattle paper while insisting he is no drug dealer. According to Sarich, only a few ounces of marijuana were found in the raid, and most of the seized plants were unrooted clones and starter plants. The slightly more than $1,000 cash police seized was to pay his utility bill, he claimed.

But the network of patients around CannaCare and local privacy watchdogs are concerned about patient records falling into the hands of police. "Who knows what they're doing with our information?" said Steve Newman, who has multiple sclerosis and has been using marijuana, obtained through CannaCare, for two years. "It makes me concerned -- really, really concerned. But we're pretty helpless. Nobody can say much about it," he told the Post-Intelligencer.

"CannaCare had a lot of records related to patients they were providing cuttings for," said Alison Chin Holcomb, director of the Washington ACLU's Marijuana Education Project. "We are not real comfortable with law enforcement having the ability to disseminate information from people's medical records," she told Drug War Chronicle.

The group may move to restrict police access to those records, Holcomb said. "We're investigating what legal grounds we might have for requesting that a judge issue a protective order, or maybe even an order sealing those records," she said. "We want to minimize patient exposure."

But if CannaCare and Sarich were providing marijuana to more than one patient, there could be a tough legal battle ahead of them, Holcomb said. "Under Washington law, a designated caregiver can provide for only one patient. If it turns out he is providing to large numbers of people, that could be a real problem for him."

City of West Hollywood Officials Decry DEA Raids on Five Marijuana Dispensaries

Press Release Source: City of West Hollywood City of West Hollywood Officials Decry DEA Raids on Five Marijuana Dispensaries Wednesday January 17, 9:52 pm ET WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--City of West Hollywood officials reacted swiftly today to news that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had raided and shut down five medicinal marijuana dispensaries located in West Hollywood. "The City of West Hollywood has had a long-standing commitment to the compassionate use of medical marijuana for those persons who are facing catastrophic illnesses," said City Manager Paul Arevalo. The DEA's enforcement of federal drug laws against the dispensaries conflicts with Proposition 215, a ballot measure approved by the California voters in 1996 decriminalizing the use of medical marijuana. The following five marijuana dispensaries located in West Hollywood were raided by the DEA today: 7828 Santa Monica - Alternative Herbal Health 7825 Santa Monica - Medical Marijuana Pharmacy 7901 Santa Monica - West Hollywood Caregivers 8464 Santa Monica - California Cannabis Pharmacy 8921 Sunset - West Hollywood Center for Compassionate Healing Just last night the West Hollywood City Council introduced an ordinance establishing permanent regulations to mitigate the impacts of medical marijuana dispensaries, following a two-year moratorium. "The DEA raids came as a complete surprise to the City," said Arevalo. "It is regrettable that the federal, state and local governments cannot work together on this issue." The City of West Hollywood has been a long-standing supporter of the use of marijuana that is prescribed, dispensed and used for medicinal purposes. West Hollywood is home to a disproportionately large percentage of seniors afflicted with a variety of chronic illnesses, and people with HIV and AIDS, for which medicinal marijuana diminishes suffering. Here are comments regarding today's DEA action from two West Hollywood City Councilmembers: "The state of California voted to allow marijuana for medical purposes," says West Hollywood City Councilmember Abbe Land. "The City of West Hollywood along with other cities across the state have established regulations to govern the dispensing of medical marijuana, so that people whose lives depend on this drug can be assured of safe access to their medicine. The DEA should spend their time going after dispensaries that are not operating in accordance with local ordinances, as well as unscrupulous doctors who write illegitimate prescriptions," she continued. "Today's actions again demonstrate the skewed priorities of the Bush administration and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration," says West Hollywood City Councilmember Jeffrey Prang. "Providing safe access to medical marijuana for those living with serious and often painful illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, cancer and other terminal diseases is something this City supports. We have worked closely with our community to insure these establishments operate safely and comply with the spirit of Proposition 215 adopted by the voters of California," he continued. Contact: City of West Hollywood 323-848-6431 Fax: 323-848 6561 Tamara White Public Information Officer or Helen J. Goss, Esq. Director, Public Information and Prosecution Services
West Hollywood, CA
United States

Agents raid medical marijuana advocacy office

United States
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

DEA Raids Medical Marijuana Clinics

Los Angeles, CA
United States
Los Angeles Times

Law Enforcement: Florida County Will Pay for Manhandling Men in Errant Drug Bust Caught on Videotape

Florida's Pinellas County has agreed to pay $100,000 to two men mistakenly arrested and roughed up by deputies from the sheriff's department's narcotics division. Fortunately for the men, Desmond Small, 26, and Christopher Lobban, 20, the incident was caught on videotape from a camera in a car rental office where the bad bust went down.

The August 17 incident occurred when deputies following a vehicle thought to be carrying drugs lost track of it. Minutes later, another pair of deputies spotted what they thought was the same vehicle and followed it to the car rental agency. When the vehicle's occupants got out and entered the car rental office, the deputies burst in with guns drawn and forced Small and Lobban to the floor. One deputy put his foot on the back of Small's head and and repeatedly pushed his face into the floor. Small suffered abrasions to his face and a cut to his mouth that required stitches. Rental agency employees said the carpet he was lying on was so bloodstained they had to throw it out. The video also showed two officers exchanging high-fives over their big bust, and one of them apparently stomping on Small's leg as he lay cuffed on the carpet.

Although rental agency employees who witnessed the arrest said Small and Lobban did not resist, the deputies accused Small of not cooperating. "I don't think they were resisting other than just being kind of shocked," rental employee Brad Bess told the St. Petersburg Times.

"I was like, 'What the hell is going on?'" Small said in an interview with sheriff's investigators released Wednesday. "I said, 'Sir, I didn't do anything.'"

The $100,000 pay-out to the two men was approved by County Attorney Susan Churuti. She said that given the results of the sheriff's department's investigation, the pair could have sued the county for civil rights violations, wrongful arrest and personal injury.

The two narcotics deputies, whose status as undercover agents apparently protects them from having their identities revealed, are now serving 12-day suspensions without pay and are on workplace suspension for a year.

But at least one county commissioner doesn't think that's enough. "If I were sheriff, I think I would send a stronger message that that kind of conduct is unacceptable," Commissioner Kenny Welch said. "And I'm not sure I want to see those two particular officers working narcotics in South County. I plan to raise that issue with the sheriff."

Miami-Dade Green Party Drug War Forum

On Saturday, January 27, the Miami-Dade Green Party and The Wallflower Gallery is going to be hosting a Forum on the Drug War. This educational event is going to gather various proponents for drug law reform and work to enhance some communication between various organizations and individuals. As part of this Forum, there will be panel discussion, information tables and question & answer sessions. In addition, there will be musical and spoken word performances by a selection of independent artists including Sweetbone. The Miami-Dade Green Party Forum on the Drug War will cover various topics including medical marijuana, mandatory minimums, treatment vs incarceration, privatized prisons, reform strategies, public outreach techniques, current reform legislature and other related issues. Feature are Elvy Musikka (legal medical marijuana patient), Toni Latino and Kurt Donley from Florida NORML as well as members from the Miami-Dade Green Party. Other speakers and presenters will be listed as they continue to be confirmed. The Miami-Dade Green Party Forum on the Drug War is still open for other organizations to be included in this presentation. For any speakers or organizations who wish to be included, please contact Flash at The Wallflower Gallery - 305-579-0069. The Miami-Dade Green Party is working to reach out to people in the community who wish to participate in progressive change and reforms on social issues. The event starts at 4:00 p.m. There is a $5 admission. This is an all ages event. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. Thank you for your interest and your effort. Flash Funk Finder, The Wallflower Gallery
Sat, 01/27/2007 - 4:00pm - 8:00pm
10 N.E. 3rd Street
Miami, FL 33132
United States

Meeting: New York Campaign for Telephone Justice

NYCTJ Monthly Meeting Meetings are open to all friends and family members of people incarcerated in NYS prisons, ally organizations, and anyone concerned about this critical issue. Light refreshments served. Email Lauren Melodia at or call 212.614.6481 to RSVP. Monthly meetings are held the last Tuesday of every month.
Tue, 01/30/2007 - 6:00pm - 8:00pm
666 Broadway Room 602 (between Bleecker and Bond Streets)
New York, NY
United States

Victory in the Struggle for Telephone Justice

[Courtesy of our friends at the New York Campaign for Telephone Justice] Thank you for all your support and participation in the campaign thus far. We made significant headway in 2006, and today we had a big victory – Governor Spitzer Ended the Backdoor Tax on NY State’s Prison Phone Contract, effective April 1, 2007. This victory is the result of your dedication and participation in this campaign. Please see below for details about Governor Spitzer’s actions and upcoming meetings on how you can help us move forward to permanently stop the contract. We will keep you up-to-date on the developments from today’s events, and please contact Lauren Melodia at or 212.614.6481 if you have questions and to stay involved at this critical moment. ********************************************************************************************** VICTORY – Gov. Spitzer Ended the Backdoor Tax on NY State’s Prison Phone Contract, effective April 1, 2007 January 9, 2007 - Court Action in Albany at Oral Argument in telephone justice case Walton v. NYSDOCS GET INVOLVED – Upcoming campaign meetings Recent Press – Albany Times Union, North Country Gazette, Staten Island Advance, NY Daily News, New York Times. ********************************************************************************************** 1. VICTORY – Gov. Spitzer Ended the Backdoor Tax on NY State’s Prison Phone Contract, effective April 1, 2007 January 8, 2007 Albany, New York – Families in New York with a loved one in prison won a long-awaited victory today when Governor Spitzer committed to end the burdensome, back door tax on collect calls to inmates’ families. Since 1996, families of inmates have had no choice but to pay phone rates 630% the normal consumer rates to speak with their loved ones. And for the past 11 years, New York State has been collecting nearly 60 percent of the profits of these charges, $16 million in 2005. Family members have complained that the exorbitant phone rates forced them to choose between maintaining their relationship with a loved one and putting food on the table. Governor Spitzer declared that instead of raising funds via a backdoor tax imposed on the family members of inmates, the state will pay for mandated services in prisons using the State’s General Fund. Families should begin realizing savings in early April, when the General Fund will assume costs for these mandated services, including health care and family-based programs. “This is a victory for all New Yorkers because increased contact with family members is proven to reduce recidivism rates after release,” said Annette Dickerson coordinator for the NY Campaign for Telephone Justice on behalf of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). “Everyone benefits when inmates stay connected to their families, and for most people this means contact over the phone. Governor Spitzer has demonstrated his commitment to civil rights. The unlawful tax was flatly unconstitutional.” “Thank you Governor Spitzer, you are righting a major wrong,” said Ivey Walton, a prison family member. “This contract was ridiculous and illegal. Soon, no one will be cut off from their family just so the Department of Corrections and some telephone company can make a profit.” “We commend Governor Spitzer for standing up for innocent family members and doing what’s fair for all New Yorkers,” said Alison Coleman, Director of Prison Families of New York, Inc. a partner in the campaign. “By halting this backdoor tax Governor Spitzer and his administration have effectively stalled the contract with Verizon from renewing automatically. We’re thankful that at last we have a Governor who is acting in the people’s interest, not defending corporate profiteering and the bureaucratic status quo.” 2. January 9, 2007 - Court Action in Albany at Oral Argument in telephone justice case Walton v. NYSDOCS On January 9, 2007 at 2:00pm, New York States’ highest court – the Court of Appeals – is set to hear arguments in Walton v. NYSDOCS, which argues that the current prison phone system illegally imposes an unlegislated tax on inmates’ families. The court could dissolve the contract and end the overcharging. If you are in or near Albany, join us as we show support during the Oral Arguments at: Walton v. NYSDOCS January 9th at 2pm State of New York Court of Appeals 20 Eagle Street Albany, NY 12207 Walton v. NYSDOCS was originally filed in 2004 by the Center for Constitutional Rights and seeks an order prohibiting the State and its contracted prison phone provider from charging exorbitant rates to the family members of prisoners to finance a 57.5% kickback to the State. Judge George Ceresia of the Supreme Court of NY, Albany County, dismissed the suit in fall 2004, citing issues of timeliness. In August 2005, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed and won an appeal in this case. 3. GET INVOLVED – Upcoming campaign meetings We need to make sure that Spitzer’s efforts today remain part of NY State law and that the exploitative contract is replaced with one that is fair and provides options for families. Please join us this month – during our monthly conference call or our monthly meeting – as we discuss critical next steps in the campaign to permanently replace the contract with one that works for families and loved ones! Tuesday, January 16, 2007 at 7:00pm EST NYCTJ Family Member Conference Call Folks are invited to participate in the call at 7:00pm Eastern Standard Time. Call Alison at 518.453.6659 or email her at for the Toll Free Number. The Family Member Conference Call occurs every month on the third Tuesday of the month. Tuesday, January 30, 2007 6:00pm – 8:00pm NYCTJ Monthly Meeting 666 Broadway, Room 602 between Bleecker and Bond Streets. Meetings are open to all friends and family members of people incarcerated in NYS prisons, ally organizations, and anyone concerned about this critical issue. Light refreshments served. Email Lauren Melodia at or call 212.614.6481 to RSVP. Our monthly meetings are held the last Tuesday of every month.
United States

The Fine Line Between Forfeiture And Extortion

Via Rogier van Bakel, here's another example of gratuitous malfeasance courtesy of the war on drugs.

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The Milwaukee Police Department is accused of taking possession of a Mercedes-Benz convertible from a drug-addicted local businessman in return for agreeing not to prosecute him for cocaine possession.

"In brief, the family claims Beck did this only because it was threatened that the fact he had been arrested would be affirmatively disclosed to his former wife's attorney to be used against Mr. Beck in a child custody matter."

Again and again, we discover our public servants perverting justice and jettisoning any remote appearance of caring about the law. The complete moral bankruptcy of the drug war becomes particularly vivid when police start offering to drop charges in exchange for luxury sports cars.

Of course no such incident would be complete without the obligatory nonsensical rationalization from the local prosecutor:

"The drug violation in this case, . . . possession of cocaine, is among those violations for which a vehicle is not subject to forfeiture," [Milwaukee County district attorney, E. Michael McCann] wrote. "We believe the officers acted in good faith under this creative interpretation in justifying securing Mr. Beck's car, but it cannot stand up as a matter of law."

Ok, if something "doesn't stand up as a matter of law" that means it's illegal. It's not a "creative interpretation" of some otherwise appropriate sanction, and police shouldn't be administering punishments anyway. Of course Mr. Beck ultimately wasn't punished, because the police department accepted a bribe instead. That's called extortion.

Equally preposterous is McCann's casual determination that the officers acted in good faith. The "good faith" doctrine forgives police for actions they believed to be legal (i.e. executing a flawed warrant), but it requires some vague pretense of reasonableness. Calling something like this "good faith" is an extremely generous, but obnoxiously typical, prosecutorial response to police misconduct.

As long as prosecutors persist in redefining misconduct as "creative" or "good faith" policing, we should expect plenty more of it.
United States

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