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SC Gov. Haley Recants on Unemployed Drug Use

Last week, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was caught falsely claiming high rates of positive drug tests among prospective workers at the Savannah River Site as she enthusiastically endorsed requiring people seeking unemployment compensation to pass drug tests. On Monday, though, the conservative Republican was forced to concede she couldn't back up her claims.

Nikki Haley (image via Wikimedia)
In an interview with the Associated Press, Haley said she had repeated "a million times" without challenge her claim that "half" of workers applying for jobs at the Energy Department facility had failed drug tests, but that she had now learned her lesson and will be more careful in the future.

"I've never felt like I had to back up what people tell me. You assume that you're given good information," Haley said. "And now I'm learning through you guys that I have to be careful before I say something."

She told the AP she was frustrated by being unable to document claims that have shaped her policy perspectives, including the demand for drug tests to receive unemployment benefits. She said she had met with people at the Savannah River Site as she campaigned for governor.

"We were on the site. There were multiple people in there. And that comment that they made had a huge impact on me," Haley said. "It is the reason you're hearing me look into whether we can do drug testing. It's the reason you hear me focus so much on job training," Haley said. "Somebody can't say that and it not stick you in the gut."

Even as she backtracked, Haley tried to blame Savannah River Site personnel. "Now they're all backing off saying it. And they know they said it," Haley said. "But now they don't have the backup."

The Department of Energy said that less than 1% of workers hired there failed pre-employment drug tests. Faced with that glaring contradiction between her initial claims and reality, Haley said she was done with that talking point.

"I'm not going to say it anymore," she said. But she still supports drug testing of people seeking unemployment benefits.

Columbia, SC
United States

WA State Voters Split on Marijuana Legalization

Washington state voters are evenly divided on the question of marijuana legalization, according to a poll released Monday. The Strategies 360 Washington Voter Survey found that of likely voters surveyed, 46% supported pot legalization and 46% opposed it.

The poll comes as advocates organized as New Approach Washington are in the midst of a signature-gathering campaign to place a legalization initiative, I-502, on the November 2012 general election ballot.

Polls conducted earlier this year did better. In July, an Elway poll had 30% "definitely supporting" legalization, with another 24% "inclined to support, but need[ing] to know more" -- a possible majority, but within the poll's +/- 5% margin of error. In January, as lawmakers considered bills that would decriminalize or legalize pot, KING5/SurveyUSA poll had 56% of respondents saying they thought legalization was a good idea, with 54% saying they thought lawmakers should allow marijuana to be sold at state-run liquor stores with the proceeds taxed.

The conventional wisdom among initiative campaign veterans is that a measure should start out polling at 60% or more to have a likelihood of breaking 50% on Election Day. For I-502 to start at 60%, its specific wording and title will have to win over some voters who responded negatively to these more general polls. Its ability to do so may in turn influence funders' willingness to support it. On the flip side, there is more than a year to go, and pro-legalization polling has continued to increase in most recent years.

In the current poll, marijuana legalization had its highest level of support among 2008 Obama voters (60%), Democrats or leaning Democratic (59%), independents (56%), King County and North Puget Sound residents (54%), and non-whites (51%).

The strongest opposition to legalization came from Republican and Republican leaning voters and 2008 McCain supporters (69%), Eastern Washington residents (59%), women (54%), and Western Washington residents (excluding King County and North Puget Sound) (52%).

The poll was conducted via telephone on September 11 through 14. It surveyed 500 Washington state residents who indicated they were likely to vote in the November 2012 election and included 400 who indicated they were likely to vote in the November 2011 election. The margin of error was +/- 4.4% for the 500-person sample and greater for subsamples.

Seattle, WA
United States

WA State Dems Endorse Marijuana Legalization

The Washington state Democratic Central Committee Saturday endorsed a marijuana legalization initiative, throwing the party's weight behind the effort to put the measure on the ballot for the November 2012 election.
downtown Seattle
The Central Committee voted 75-43 for a resolution supporting Initiative 502, which would legalize the possession of marijuana by adults and allow for its sale through pot-only stores regulated by the state liquor control authority. Initiative sponsors New Approach Washington estimate that marijuana legalization under its model would generate more than $200 a million a year in tax revenues, with more than half of that earmarked for public health programs.

The Democrats cited, among other things, law enforcement costs of marijuana prohibition and the revenues that could be gained with legalization. They noted that marijuana possession arrests, with mandatory 24-hour jail stays, accounted for half of all Washington drug arrests. 

I-502 is controversial among some segments of the marijuana legalization and medical marijuana communities because it also includes a per se driving under the influence provision. The initiative sets a blood THC level of 5 nanograms per millileter above which drivers are presumed to be impaired, but some activists argue that such a provision will result in the arrest and conviction of pot-accustomed drivers who are not actually impaired.

That didn't seem to bother the Democratic Central Committee too much, though. The committee included that provision in its long list of "whereases" in support of the initiative, noting that "this per se limit will not apply to the non-psychoactive marijuana metabolite carboxy-THC that can appear in blood or urine tests for days or even weeks after last use."

I-502 is supported by the ACLU of Washington, whose Alison Holcomb has taken a leave of absence to spearhead the campaign, and has been endorsed by prominent Washington figures, including former US Attorney John McKay (the man who prosecuted Marc Emery, ironically), Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, and travel writer and TV show host Rick Steves.

Organizers have until next July to gather 241,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. But I-502 is an initiative to the legislature, meaning that if it passes the signature-gathering hurdle, it would then go before the state legislature in the upcoming session. If the legislature refuses to act, the initiative would then go before the voters in November 2012.

Bellingham, WA
United States

Two More Drug War Deaths

[Editor's Note: Drug War Chronicle is trying to track every death directly attributable to domestic drug law enforcement during the year. We can use your help. If you come across a news account of a killing or death related to drug law enforcement, please send us an email at]

The Las Vegas Metro Police K-9 unit is part of the state and federal Interdiction Team (Image: LVMPD)
In separate incidents this week, two more people have died during drug-related encounters with law enforcement. The two people, both as yet unnamed, become the 36th and 37th persons to die during US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

In Las Vegas, police reported that a man who had been caught transporting several pounds of methamphetamine was killed Tuesday night after he ran from police while handcuffed and jumped in front of a tractor-trailer truck on Interstate 15. He was killed instantly.

[Editor's note: The Las Vegas victim was later identified as Andrey Cordero Rojas, 29.The second victim has yet to be named.]

Police had found 12 pounds of meth they valued at $300,000 in a hidden compartment in the man's vehicle after he was pulled over by the Interdiction Team, a multiagency task force composed of state and federal agents.

They said the man had been cooperating when he suddenly ran onto the highway's passing lane and stopped in front of the oncoming truck. "We're not sure what he was thinking," a police spokesman said.

In the second incident, in Chester, Pennsylvania, police reported that an as yet unidentified 41-year-old Delaware County man who ingested a "white chalk substance" after officers approached his car died of apparent cocaine poisoning.

Police said they were patrolling the neighborhood when they noticed "suspicious activity" in the car. The man in the car locked the doors, then began eating the substance and washing it down with "gulps" of water. He unlocked the doors after he was done ingesting the substance and was transported to a local hospital where he died.

ACLU Blocks Missouri College Drug Testing

A Missouri technical college's plan to force incoming students to undergo suspicionless drug testing is on hold after the ACLU of Eastern Missouri successfully sought a temporary injunction in federal court in St. Louis on September 14. With assistance from Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the group has filed a lawsuit on behalf of six Linn State Technical College students to challenge the constitutionality of the drug tests.

Linn State Technical College
Federal courts consider a drug test to be a search under the Fourth Amendment and have allowed only limited exceptions to the amendment's requirement that searches need a warrant based on reasonable suspicion. Those drug testing exceptions include people working in jobs that impact the public safety (truck drivers, airline pilots), police involved in drug law enforcement, and minor students who participate in high school athletic or other extracurricular activities.

Linn State administrators implemented the drug testing program this fall. It requires all first-year students and some returning students to be screened -- at their own expense -- for drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, and opiates.

Linn State admits in its drug testing FAQ that it does not believe "LSTC has any greater student drug use issue than other colleges," but justifies the drug testing by saying it is preparing students for the real world. "Drug screening is becoming an increasingly important part of the world of work," the FAQ said. "It is also believed it will better provide a safe, healthy, and productive environment for everyone who learns and works at LSTC by detecting, preventing, and deterring drug use and abuse among students."

The drug testing program at Linn State would be the first of its kind among public institutions of higher learning in the US. The ACLU is determined not to let that happen.

"It is unconstitutional to force students to submit to a drug test when there is zero indication of any kind of criminal activity," said Jason Williamson, staff attorney with the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project. "The college has demonstrated no legitimate need to drug test its students that outweigh their constitutionally protected privacy rights. This is an unprecedented policy and nothing like it has ever been sanctioned by the courts."

"This is an invasive policy that requires people to submit to tests that reveal private and intimate things like medical conditions or whether they are pregnant that people have a right to protect, said Anthony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. "A person's privacy should not be invaded like this, especially when they have done nothing wrong and when there's not even an allegation that they've done something wrong."

With the issuance of the temporary restraining order, the ACLU and the Linn State students it represents have won an initial victory. Now, they must convince the court in St. Louis that their temporary victory should be made permanent.

St. Louis, MO
United States

Hawaii Teachers Defeat Random Drug Testing

Ever since the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) agreed to make members submit to random suspicionless drug tests in a 2007 contract with a state, then backed away from that pledge after rethinking the rights it was agreeing to give up, the teachers and the state of Hawaii have been locked in a battle over random drug testing. That battle is now over.

Hawaii teachers won't have to provide these to keep their jobs. (image via Wikimedia)
While the administration of Republican Gov. Linda Lingle fought hard to force the teachers to submit, even taking the battle to the courts, the administration of Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie has taken a different course. In an agreement reached Monday, the state agreed to end its insistence on random drug and alcohol testing for teachers.

Negotiators for Gov. Abercrombie agreed to the settlement "to avoid further expense and risk of litigation," according to KITV-4 in Honolulu.

"For the past four years, the HSTA the ACLU have been challenging the random drug testing," said HSTA President Wil Okabe, who added the issue had become one of teachers' rights and the constitutionality of random suspicionless drug tests.

"We're very happy to see that no teachers will be exposed to this unconstitutional, expensive and unnecessary program," said ACLU attorney Dan Gluck.

While the HSTA does not support random suspicionless drug testing of teachers, the agreement does allow for drug testing with cause. The union is okay with that. "HSTA believes schools should be drug-free," said Okabe.

Honolulu, HI
United States

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A major pain pill bust takes down a trio of TSA agents and a pair of cops, adirty Chicago cop goes to prison, a crooked small-town New York officer faces the same fate, a Florida cop facing trial for peddling meth has gone on the lam, and four suburban Chicago cops are being sued. Let's get to it:

In Stamford, Connecticut, three Transportation Security Administration officers and two police officers were arrested Tuesday in a series of DEA-led busts that stretched from Stamford to West Palm Beach, Florida. Altogether, "Operation Blue Coast" rolled up 20 people for participating in a ring that sent tens of thousands of oxycodone tablets from the Sunshine State to the northeast. It all unraveled after an April bust of a courier in Stamford who told the DEA he was regularly shuttling thousands of pills at a time, sometimes driving, sometimes flying out of Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach. The TSA officers arrested included Christopher Allen, 45, and John Best, 30, TSA who were based at the Palm Beach International Airport; and Brigitte Jones, 48, a based at Westchester County Airport in New York. They are accused of taking at least $20,000 in payments from the courier to allow him to pass unmolested. Also going down in the busts was Florida State Trooper Justin Kolves, 28, who took payments to allow free passage on Central Florida highways, and Michael Brady, 36, a Westchester County police officer, who allegedly took cash to allow drug profits through the airport without detection. All 20 of those arrested on oxycodone trafficking, conspiracy, and associated charges face up to 20 years in prison.

In Chicago, a former Chicago police officer was sentenced September 7 to 12 years in prison for being part of a group of cops in the department's elite Special Operations Section who carried out armed robberies, home invasions, and other crimes across the city. Jerome Finnigan, 48, has already served four years in prison, so he should be a free man again in six or seven years. Finnigan was considered the ringleader in a group of officers who targeted mostly drug dealers for robberies to seize drugs and cash, which the cops then pocketed. The SOS scandal, as it is known in Chicago, has already cost the city more than $2 million in settlements of civil rights lawsuits from people victimized by the rogue cops, and many cases are still pending. Seven other SOS members have already pleaded guilty to state charges, but Finnigan and three others were indicted on federal charges in April. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to murder another officer prepared to testify against him and to tax charges related to the money he stole.

In Poughkeepsie, New York, a former Poughkeepsie police officer pleaded guilty last Friday to providing information about drug investigations to drug dealers in exchange for cocaine for his personal use. David Palazzolo, 47, a 20-year-veteran, pleaded guilty to three felony counts and is looking at between three and 10 years in prison when he is sentenced in December. Palazzolo admitted using the town police computer system on at least four occasions  to keep a drug dealer apprised of investigations and to warn him about the times and locations of drug surveillance operations carried out by town narcotics officers. He is free on $100,000 bail pending sentencing.

In Joliet, Illinois, four Joliet police officers were named as defendants in a civil rights lawsuit filed by a local man who alleges they falsely arrested and imprisoned him in a drug arrest last year. Patrick Moore's lawsuit claims that Officer Tom Banas made a crack cocaine deal with another man whom Moore accompanied. The videotaped drug deal went down inside a vehicle, while Moore remained standing outside the car, but officers arrested and charged him with delivering crack cocaine anyway, and he spent five months in jail awaiting trial before prosecutors dropped the charges. In addition to Officer Banas, the suit names Sgt. Patrick Cardwell, and Officers Alan Vertin and John Wilson, and alleges they falsified written police reports to bolster their false account of the arrest and hide their misconduct. The suit asks for $5 million in compensation.

In Miami, a Boynton Beach police officer has gone on the lam days before he was scheduled to go on trial for selling more than 500 grams of methamphetamine. Officer David Brito boarded a flight from Miami to Brazil on August 24, the same day he removed his ankle monitor and broke his 11:00pm curfew. Britto was Boynton Beach's "Officer of the Year" in 2010, but faced life in prison if convicted on the meth charges. He was scheduled to go to trial this week.

California Hemp Bill Awaits Governor's Signature

A bill that would allow farmers in four California counties to grow industrial hemp has passed the state legislature and now sits on the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown (D) awaiting his signature. The bill, Senate Bill 676, the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act, passed the Senate earlier this year, then passed the Assembly last week.

Hemp field at sunrise. Will California farmers be able to enjoy its fruits? (
Sponsored by state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), the bill would allow farmers in those counties to grow industrial hemp for the legal sale of hemp seed, oil, and fiber to manufacturers. The bill specifies that hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, and farmers must submit their crops to testing before it goes to market.

The eight-year pilot program would end in 2020, but not before the California attorney general would issue a report on law enforcement impact and the Hemp Industries Association would issue a report on its economic impact.

"California is one step closer to building a successful hemp industry in the Central Valley," said Leno after the Assembly approved the bill on a vote of 49-22 on September 7. The Senate gave its final approval to Assembly amendments the following day.

While hemp bills have passed the state legislature previously, SB 676 is the furthest reaching yet and managed to pick up support from businesses, farming groups, local government, labor, even law enforcement. Supporters ranged from the California Grange and the California Certified Organic Growers to the United Food and Commercial Workers to the Kern County Board of Supervisors and the Kern and King county sheriffs, both of whom wrote letters of support in favor of the bill.

"Hemp is a versatile cash and rotation crop with steadily rising sales as an organic food and body care ingredient. Today, more than 30 industrialized nations grow industrial hemp and export it to the US. Hemp is the only crop that is illegal to grow yet legal for Americans to import," explained Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp and executive director of the Hemp Industries Association.

The US hemp market is now estimated to be about $420 million in annual retail sales, but manufacturers must turn to foreign suppliers because the DEA, which refuses to differentiate between industrial hemp and recreational and medical marijuana, bars its cultivation here.

Sacramento, CA
United States

Missouri College Demands Students Undergo Drug Tests

Students arriving for the start of fall classes last week at Missouri's Linn State Technical College (LSTC) have been told they must take a mandatory drug test in order to attend classes at the school. The move by college officials makes the school the first public institution of higher education in the land to require suspicionless drug testing, and that has raised the hackles of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has announced it is seeking plaintiffs to challenge the policy in court.

Linn State Technical College
According to the school's FAQ about drug testing, students who refuse to undergo drug testing will be subject to "an administrative or student-initiated withdrawal," while those who test positive will be put on probation and required to complete either an online educational program at their own cost or assigned to complete unspecified "appropriate activities."

They have 45 days to retake the drug test and pass it, after which they will be subject to random drug testing for the rest of the semester. Students who fail both the first and the second tests will be subject to "student initiated withdrawal or an administrative withdrawal," the academic equivalent of "you can quit or you're fired."

Linn State admits in its FAQ that it does not believe "LSTC has any greater student drug use issue than other colleges," but justifies the drug testing by saying it is preparing students for the real world. "Drug screening is becoming an increasingly important part of the world of work," the FAQ said. "It is also believed it will better provide a safe, healthy, and productive environment for everyone who learns and works at LSTC by detecting, preventing, and deterring drug use and abuse among students."

The problem for Linn State and its suspicionless mandatory drug testing program is that the federal courts have viewed drug testing by government entities as a search under the Fourth Amendment. That requires particularized suspicion and the issuance of a search warrant.

Limited exceptions have been carved out, including for workers doing tasks that involve public safety, for law enforcement personnel doing anti-drug work, and for high school students involved in student athletics or extracurricular programs. But those are the only exceptions to the broad rule that there can be no government drug testing absent reasonable cause.

The ACLU champions this restrictive view of government's limited ability to demand drug testing -- its Florida affiliate announced last week that it is suing the state of Florida over a new law requiring welfare applicants to undergo drug tests -- and is ready to take Linn State to court.

"Americans have a right to privacy, and that includes the students of Linn State," the group wrote in a blog post last week. "The ACLU is looking for plaintiffs to challenge this illegal practice, and we want to hear from you. If you go to Linn State, please join our Facebook group, email or call us at (314) 652-3111. Unlike Linn State, we are here to protect your rights, not violate them."

Linn State is charging all incoming students $50 apiece to pay for their drug tests, but that is not going to cover the legal costs of defending what is very likely to be found an unconstitutional invasion of adult students' right to be free of unwarranted searches.

Linn, MO
United States

SC Gov. Haley Talks Trash About Drug Use and the Unemployed

South Carolina's Republican Gov. Nikki Haley wants to drug test unemployment recipients before they can receive benefits, she told a group of supporters last Thursday, and she wants it so bad she was willing to resort to lying about the extent of the problem.

Nikki Haley (image via Wikimedia)
"I so want drug testing. I so want it," Haley said during a question-and-answer session at the Lexington Rotary Club. But she added that that some hurdles had to be cleared first. "We have to make sure this works. We have to see what the return is on it. And, we have to see federally and legally if we can do it."

As for why South Carolina needs to drug test unemployment applicants, Haley claimed that huge numbers of applicants for jobs at the Savannah River Site nuclear facility failed post-interview drug tests.

"Down on River Site, they were hiring a few hundred people, and when we sat down and talked to them -- this was back before the campaign -- when we sat down and talked to them, they said of everybody they interviewed, half of them failed a drug test, and of the half that was left, of that 50%, the other half couldn't read and write properly," Haley said."That's what we have in South Carolina," she continued. "We don't have an unemployment problem. We have an education and poverty problem."

But as the Huffington Post reported Friday, Haley was full of it. The Post talked to Jim Giusti, a spokesman for the Department of Energy, which runs the facility. He said he had no idea what Haley was talking about.

"Half the people who applied for a job last year or year 2009 did not fail the drug test," Giusti said. "At the peak of hiring under the Recovery Act we had less than 1% of those hired test positive." And the River Site doesn't even test applicants, Giusti added. "We only test them when they have been accepted," he said.

South Carolina does not have a demonstrable problem with drugged out unemployed workers. What it does have is an unemployment rate of 10.9% and an unwillingness to spend state money to support the unemployed. In June, Gov. Haley signed into law a bill cutting unemployment benefits from 26 to 20 weeks while lowering unemployment taxes on businesses.

At least four other Republican controlled states have slashed the length of time out of work people can receive unemployment benefits, but no state has yet to pass a law requiring drug testing for unemployment beneficiaries, although several have been introduced this year. Republican-controlled Wisconsin and Indiana have passed laws that cut unemployment benefits for job applicants who fail a drug test.

If Gov. Haley's fictions about drugged out workers are the best that proponents of drug testing the unemployed can do, perhaps the South Carolina legislature will reject her welfare for drug testing labs proposal.

Lexington, SC
United States

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