Busts & Seizures

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Italy signals major overhaul of drugs laws (EuroNews, France)

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Police: Deli served marijuana on the side (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

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Seizure law under review: Police's policy of seizing criminals' cars draws criticism (Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

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Customs agent pleads guilty to taking bribe, letting drugs cross border (The Arizona Republic)

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Random car stops for drugs (The Daily Telegraph, Australia)

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No Kidding: DEA Says MJ Legalization Initiative Could Result in MJ Legalization

Reformers may have jumped the gun in condemning DEA’s opposition to Colorado's marijuana legalization initiative. If they're gonna keep saying stuff like this, I say we hear ‘em out.

From CBS 4 in Denver:

"There aren't enough federal resources on the entire planet to handle ounce size marijuana possession," Jeffrey Sweetin, a DEA agent said. "Your viewers should understand if this passes, we're really legitimately legalizing an ounce of marijuana. They're not going to be prosecuted."

That’s the point, silly. If the citizens of Colorado decide to stop arresting each other for marijuana, you’re not supposed to show up and ruin everything. Thank goodness there aren’t enough federal resources to do it, but that’s beside the point.

His observation is helpful though, because it illustrates the impracticality of enforcing federal laws that conflict with state-level reforms. It’s an argument for our side, and I can’t imagine why he’s using it.

Give ‘em enough rope…

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Guatemalan troops storm prison with jacuzzi, drugs


Free Willie!

After a 50 year investigation, Operation Follow Willie Nelson’s Tour Bus has finally produced results:

Willie Nelson and some friends were cited yesterday for illegal music downloading marijuana and mushroom possession.

THE ULTIMATE IRONY: Nelson and others weren't arrested because the St. Martin Parish (Louisiana) jail was already filled to capacity. If convicted, Nelson and four others could each face up to 6 months in jail, however, they are more likely to receive probation and/or fines.
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Bungled DEA Raid Raises Troubling Questions

California NORML Release, Aug 31 2006 Yesterday's DEA raid at Trichome Healing Center in Van Nuys ended in a stand-down. No arrests were made. An undercover DEA team arrived without a warrant. One agent tried to gain entry with a bad ID, but was turned down. The agent blew his cool, a security guard saw his gun and thought he was a robber; a scuffle broke out, and other agents came to the rescue. After several hours, the DEA procured a warrant from a local judge. The DEA left the scene after midnight, but not before calling in a professional safecracker to clean out the premises. In the meantime, patient advocates were on hand protesting. Degee Coutee called an LAPD operator, who appeared unaware of the raid. LAPD arrived and reassured the crowd that they had a right to protest and take pictures. Aside from its comic incompetence, this raid raises troubling questions. For the past couple of years, it has typically been DEA policy not to raid medical marijuana dispensaries without support from the local police. The exception has been when a particular DEA investigation (such as a grow bust) has led them to a dispensary. It is possible that the DEA were acting in cooperation with rogue elements of the LAPD, such as the North Hollywood narcotics division, who have recently been hassling dispensaries. ( There is an unconfirmed rumor that officer John Smith of NoHO PD may have been present at the raid.) This could have gone on unbeknownst to the rest of LAPD. It is also possible that DEA had some particular lead that took them to Trichome Healing, but it seems doubtful that they would have used a warrantless undercover investigation of this kind to make the bust.. More disturbing is the possibility that this could be part of a wider DEA undercover operation aimed at penetrating and taking down the LA dispensaries. It would be a departure from recent policy for DEA to do so without support from local police and without evidence that the dispensaries are violating Prop. 215. (Note that the DEA were in fact trying to get Trichome Healing to violate 215 by selling without a valid recommendation). Whatever the truth, it is important the LA area residents organize & respond now to defend patients' access to medicine. There will be a public emergency meeting to address the situation at 4 PM this Saturday, Sept 2 at LA Patients and Caregivers Group, 7213 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood. Angelenos should call on the city council and mayor to stop arbitrary police raids and defend safe access by enacting reasonable city regulations to legally license dispensaries, as in West Hollywood and LA County. - D. Gieringer, Cal NORML PS: In a seemingly unrelated incident, the LAPD raided another patients' collective in Van Nuys at the same time as the Trichome Healing raid. Police cleaned out a storage room rented by the After Hours Collective, which is not a dispensary but a delivery collective serving over 100 patients. Police might have been tipped off by fire inspectors, who had visited the space earlier and seen some plants growing. Joey Naffah, director of Trichome Healing, says that he let the inspectors in feeling that everything was legal and within SB 420 guidelines. After the police came, they confiscated a score of plants and drilled into the collective's safe to remove a few pounds of medicine. - D. G. First hand report on the Trichome Raid from Weedtracker: http://weedtracker.com/forums/showthread.php?p=90576 Thc Raided I Was There For Part Of It What I understand to have happened before I arrived: In the early afternoon, on Wednesday August 30th, a DEA agent appeared at THC's door with a phony ID. THC's security guard spotted the forgery and refused entry to the DEA agent. Realizing this wasn't going to be as easy as he thought, the officer spoke the words "Don't hurt me" into his transmitter. This was apparently the signal for his fellow agents to follow him in. At no time was this DEA agent under any threat from THC or its security force, but, by characterizing his situation as urgent I'm sure he's provided a lovely excuse for exigent circumstances, thus justifying the initial lack of a warrent. My understanding is that they've already put out a press release claiming an imminent threat to the officer's safety justified their actions. They are lying. Hopefully THC's security system was beaming to remote locations and they've got the fact the officer was never in any danger right there on the security feed. The poor receptionist soon found herself facing not one, not two, but THREE loaded guns pointed at her face, this despite the fact she already had her hands up and could not possibly have been a threat to anyone's safety. Interestingly enough, one of the DEA officers was dressed enough like THC's security staff to lure people in. One of the people who got snagged was a driver for a vendor, who was delivering a shipment of edibles. This gentleman was hassled, and the edible shipment was seized by the DEA. We know this story to be true, because the person who manufactured the edibles came down and spoke to us about what had happened. Thankfully, they let the driver go. The guy was pretty brave, he actually requested the Feds return the edibles to him, which they of course, declined to do. To the best of my knowledge, no patients were detained or charged. However, the alert guard who spotted the forged ID was kept in the facility from the time the feds arrived until nearly 1 am in the morning, and we saw no food or water being delivered, so this gentlemen was given less consideration by his own government then the Geneva convention would have afforded him if he was a prisoner of war. My understanding was that he was cuffed during the episode. My god, could you imagine being in handcuffs for eleven hours? He must have been in agony. Degee got the call at CPG and started rallying the troops. Ana and Degee were already there when I arrived in the late afternoon. ASA put out an alert and Weedtracker picked it up. People began arriving, at the height I think there must have been at least fifty people. What Happened After I Arrived: Several dispensary owners closed immediately and brought their staffs. Alert participants, realizing it was the dinner hour went and got dinner for everyone and water and chips circulated. One gentleman arrived in a huge pickup truck with a couch in the back. Anyone who needed to rest had a couch they could use. Whenever the DEA poked their noses out of the door, we immediately began chanting and demonstrating. Because there were back and front entrances, people split into two groups watching both exits carefully. Photos were taken of DEA vehicles and the officers. As patients arrived we explained what was going on and asked them to post on Weedtracker, so others would know not to come down if they were looking for medicine. The media was out in force, and stayed with us for much of the time. One station did a live remote with all of us standing in the background. Much love to NBC, Fox and the gentlemen filming a documentary for sharing OUR side of the story. As the evening wore on a van arrived, containing several gentlemen. As it was obvious they were there to aid the DEA, we peacefully surrounded the van and began chanting, holding up our signs. They decided it might be expeditious to leave and did so. Boy, did THAT cheer us up. Shortly thereafter, the local constables arrived, went upstairs and spoke with the DEA. We asked as many questions of the police as we could, they were not very forthcoming, but did inform us we had the right to protest. More men in blue arrived, but other than forcing us to stay behind a police tape they were pretty polite. More time passed. Another vehicle arrived with more DEA helpers. This time, as our local men and blue were present, we were not able to surround the car. My understanding was that they were needed to crack open the safe. We waited and watched. At last the back door opened to the dispensary and the agents began loading cardboard boxes into the bevy of cars they'd brought with them, I believe Ana counted no less than eight cars. The police herded us as far away as they could, Degee and Ana really got in their faces about this, but it was either move or be arrested, the police explained to us, so we moved. But fear not, our voices were heard. "Theif!" we screamed. "Robbers!" "How does it feel to steal medicine from sick people? Your mother must be SO proud." Other less restrained remarks were also uttered. They left as quickly as they could, no doubt because it was after midnight and they wanted to leave as badly as the rest of us. The good news is that they didn't arrest the guards. These gentlemen, after being detained for what, twelve hours? then went about their business, securing the premises as best they could. We all crowded around the front door and gave them some love, they are the real heros of this story. Please everyone, there will be an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss what we can do to stop the DEA. It will be held at CPG beginning at 4 pm. If you are not a member of CPG just tell the guard at the door that you're there for the meeting. Dispensary owners, please come, if you cannot, please designate someone on your staff to attend and serve as your representative. Patients, if you can possibly attend, please come. The DEA has begun closing us down. We must all hang together now, or surely, we will hang separately. It's 3am now, I'm dead tired and hurt. Please forgive the grammar and spelling, the words are blurring on the page. -------------- California NORML (415) 563-5858 // canorml@igc.org 2215-R Market St. #278, San Francisco CA 94114 --------------
Los Angeles, CA
United States

Harvest Season Hijinks

Every year in August, we see a flurry of marijuana eradication stories in local papers, as police target outdoor plants ripening for the fall harvest. Nowhere is this phenomenon more visible than in California where the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) makes Federal dollars available to local police departments wishing to send their officers on a treasure hunt in the forest.

Local papers have become shameless cheerleaders for this annual ritual, seeking to amaze the public with sexy photos of heavily armed cops repelling into dangerous terrain from helicopters alongside boastful headlines touting seizures in the millions.

Of course, for all the fanfare, many people will notice that there’s no shortage of high-grade marijuana in California. So police use deception to keep the reporters and the public interested.

Here’s how they do it:

Deception #1: Claim a “record” number of seizures every year.

Setting records implies that progress is being made. Every article on outdoor eradication efforts includes a quote like this:

From the Daily Democrat in Woodland, CA:

"I expect this year to be another big year," said [Officer] Resendez. "If we continue on the same pace, we'll exceed the number of plants eradicated last year."

Police are basically competing with themselves here, so they can’t lose. If the numbers go down, they’ll say it’s because last year’s effort intimidated the growers.

Of course record seizures are meaningless if you don’t compare them to an estimate of the overall crop size. A 10% increase in eradication is a failure if the total crop has increased by 20%, but you never get that type of analysis.

There are other factors at play as well. From the Union Democrat in Tuolumne County, CA:

"The increase in plant count is because the gardens are bigger," said Tuolumne County Sheriff Lt. Dan Bressler. "The gardens are bigger because there was so much rain this past year. Streams are full and a lot of water runoff means they're better able to supply their gardens."

Out of a dozen articles on marijuana eradication in California I’ve skimmed this week, only this one mentioned increased rain. Every other article praised record seizures, allowing readers to infer that good police work was the sole factor. It’s a notable omission since rain, unlike police, will find every plant in the forest. If anything, we should be expecting an impressive crop come October.

Deception #2:Dramatically overestimate crop values.

Big numbers get headlines and police will say anything. Here’s a typical quote from KATU News in Oregon:

The plants were four to six feet tall, growing in scattered gardens on three acres of Bureau of Land Management property near Hyatt Lake. Plants of that size can produce about a pound of marijuana each - worth about five-thousand dollars on the street.

I emailed Chris Conrad, court-qualified cannabis expert, to see what he thinks about these numbers. Here’s what Conrad has to say:

After decades of proclaiming "a pound of bud per plant" as being the average harvest, the DEA and DoJ had the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) do an actual study at their experimental marijuana garden at the University of Mississippi. The result: A typical mature female cannabis plant growing outdoors puts out 4 ounces of bud, that is 25% of their claimed yield, and it can be calculated by taking the square foot of the canopy and multiplying it by 1/2 ounce per square foot of area covered by the plant's canopy. The result, published in Cannabis Yields, 1992, notes that "a survey" of police came to a pound per plant, and that is clarified that drug police "estimate" a pound of bud per plant, but it is clear that there is absolutely no data to back that up, it is a made up number used by police to exaggerate crop values.

According to Conrad, police tend to exaggerate crop values within a range of “anywhere from 4 to 1 to 400 to 1.” Of course, with newspapers reporting that you can make $5,000 per plant, it’s no wonder so many people are out in the woods planting the stuff.

Deception #3 Pretend that marijuana eradication is dangerous.

Articles about marijuana eradication always claim the work is hazardous, citing difficult terrain and armed criminals. Again from the Daily Democrat:

[Resendez] added that there are several hazards to law enforcement officials, including the rocky terrain and the suspects. "It's pretty dangerous," Resendez said. "You'll encounter a suspect and they'll be armed. Not so much to protect themselves from law enforcement but from criminals who are trying to steal their plants."

At least he admits that growers arm themselves to protect the crop from thieves and not police. Still, the perception that growers might attack officers has continually driven a militarized approach to eradication. In his book The Great Drug War, Professor Arnold S. Trebach describes how “sensational journalism” in the early 1980s fueled a widespread perception that marijuana growers were armed and dangerous. CAMP officers have been armed to the teeth ever since.

Deception #4: Blame the Mexicans.

Every article on outdoor marijuana growing in CA must have an obligatory reference to the Mexican gangs that are supposedly behind it all. We’ve come full-circle here, since racial animosity towards Mexicans was originally used as leverage in the first efforts to criminalize marijuana.

From the Crestline Courier-News in Lake Arrowhead, CA:

“Ninety-nine percent of the plants seized in the national forests,” [Special Agent] Stokes said, “were planted by members of the Mexican National Cartel which has a huge network throughout California and the west.”

99%!? It’s a convenient generalization, since most such articles note that the growers are rarely seen or apprehended. But I’ll bet if you’re a Mexican walking around a remote California forest in August, you’re a heck of a lot more likely to get questioned by the park police.

To the extent that Mexican gangs are getting involved in outdoor marijuana cultivation, it’s entirely due to prohibition. But it also reflects poorly on CAMP, which has dedicated 20 years to fighting marijuana in California’s forests, only to find that the business is still attracting new participants. If they exist, these gangs are the best evidence that CAMP has failed.

Regardless, I believe the role of Mexican crime syndicates has been dramatically overstated. Let’s face it, the upper half of California is crawling with white people that absolutely love planting pot in the woods. They’ve been there for decades.

For more on the history of CAMP, read Martin Targoff’s excellent book Can’t Find My Way Home. And if you’re ever accused of attempting to grow $50 million worth of marijuana, make sure your lawyer calls Chris Conrad to the stand.

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