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This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Cops continue to have problems keeping their hands off the drugs they come across. And they're developing problems with prescription pills, too. Let's get to it:

In Seattle, a South Seattle police officer was arrested January 4 in a sting after colleagues and members of the public complained of his handling of drug evidence. Patrolman Richard Nelson went down after failing an "integrity test," in which an undercover officer posing as someone who found a purse containing cocaine turned it in to him as investigators monitored him. He didn't turn in the drugs and was arrested. He was released from jail early the next morning, and hours later, he shot himself to death in the Cascades foothills.

In Rhine, Georgia, the Rhine police chief was arrested last Thursday on charges he was trafficking in prescription pills. Chief Kip Herman Cravey went down after a joint investigation by the Dodge County Sheriff's Office, the Eastman Police Department, and the Oconee Drug Task Force. He is charged with one count of unlawfully distributing Schedule III narcotics (two dozen Soma tablets) and one count of criminal attempt to purchase Schedule II narcotics (Roxicodone). Additional charges may be filed. No word yet on bail arrangements.

In Piscataway, New Jersey, a former Piscataway police officer pleaded guilty last Thursday to stealing cocaine from the department's evidence vault. Albert Annuzzi, 47, a 22-year veteran of the department, was arrested in April 2011. In court, he admitted he took the cocaine for his own personal use. Under a plea deal with prosecutors, he faces up to three years in prison and must serve two before being eligible for parole. He will also be banned from holding any public job in New Jersey and forfeit his pension. He is free on bond pending sentencing.

In Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, a former Wolfeboro police officer was convicted last Thursday of stealing drugs from the department's evidence room. Roger Martel, 40, was caught stealing 120 oxycodone tablets given to police as part of a prescription drug take-back program. He was charged and convicted on one count of theft by unauthorized taking and one count of controlling a vehicle in which a controlled drug was illegally kept. The eight-year veteran will do only three days in jail after he convinced the judge that he stole the pills because he had developed an addiction to them after being injured on the job. He was sentenced to 12 months behind bars, but the judge deferred all but three days provided Martel follows the court's other orders.

In Buffalo, New York, a former TSA "behavior detection officer" was sentenced January 4 to two years in prison for letting a local drug operation smuggle cash through the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Minnetta Walker got the maximum sentence allowed after pleading down from her original charges of participating in a continuing criminal enterprise and conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

In St. Ignace, Michigan, a former state prison guard was sentenced last Friday to 10 months in jail for trying to smuggle drugs into the prison. Matthew Bell was busted in September 2011 and later pleaded guilty to possession with intent to deliver less than 50 grams of heroin, possession of less than 25 grams of heroin, and maintaining a drug house. He must also do two years probation.

Florida Medical Marijuana Bills Filed

For the second year in a row, medical marijuana legislation has been filed in Florida, and for the first time ever, bills have been filed in both the House and the Senate. The bills, House Joint Resolution 353 and Senate Joint Resolution 1028, ask the legislature to approve a referendum on medical marijuana for the November ballot.

Florida Decides activist Catherine Jordan
If the legislature approves the resolutions, the referendum must then win the approval of 60% of the voters. If 60% of the voters approve it, the state constitution would be amended to include medical marijuana language.

Under the resolutions, patients with a doctor's recommendation and his or her primary caregiver would have an affirmative defense if charged with a marijuana offense as long as the amount of marijuana was not greater than the amount set by the state and could still mount an affirmative defense if it was, provided that greater amount is "medically necessary." The amount is not set in the resolutions; instead, the legislature would be charged with setting quantity limits in the event the referendum passes.

Neither bill has been scheduled for a hearing. Still, Florida activists are happy to see them and will be present in Tallahassee to lobby for them.

"This is the first time since 1978 that cannabis advocates will have a sustained presence in the legislature," said veteran activist Jodi James of the Florida Cannabis Action Network.  "Sick and dying people need access to this medicine now, she told the Gainesville Sun.

The group has also created a Florida Decides web site with a petition to Gov. Rick Scott (R) asking him to urge the legislature to bypass the referendum process and just pass a medical marijuana bill directly. So far, that petition has 2,876 electronic signatures.

While the House version has a handful of cosponsors, the sole sponsor in the Senate is Sen. Larcenia Bullard (D-Miami). She told the Sun she had originally sponsored the bill as a courtesy to constituents, but after researching it, has embraced the cause.

Now, it's up to the rest of the legislature to embrace the cause, and James and the Florida Cannabis Action Network are there to help them see the light.

Tallahassee, FL
United States

Mississippi Public Benefits Drug Test Bill Proposed

Last year saw efforts in numerous states to pass laws requiring that people receiving or applying for public benefits, such as food stamps or unemployment, be required to take and pass drug tests. This year looks to be more of the same, and some Mississippi legislators want the Magnolia State to be first out of the gate.

Mississippi State House
State Sen. Michael Watson (R-Pascagoula) told the Mississippi Press Monday that he will introduce this week a bill that requires recipients of public benefits to take mandatory drug tests and prove their US citizenship. The bill would apply to people receiving Medicaid, food stamps, electronic benefit transfer cards and other state assistance program benefits.

"Our system is abused," Watson said. "Across the state, lawmakers have big hearts and truly want to help people, but we want to help people who also want to help themselves."

Public benefits are designed as temporary help for people going through hard times, he explained.

"To the people who are taking advantage of our generosity and hardworking Mississippian's tax dollars, we want to say no more," Watson said. "The folks that can work need to get a job and stop taking advantage of our system."

The unemployment rate in Mississippi was 10.5% in November, the last month for which state-level data are available. It has hovered at over 10% and above the national average for all of the past two years.

Watson said he has heard opposing arguments that such programs are likely to save states little money, but said it would still be worth it.

"It's a sensitive and an emotional topic, but you have to look at it logically," Watson said. "Even if you break even, it's well worth it in my opinion."

Watson said his bill is modeled on a Florida law implemented last year. He didn't mention that the law was blocked shortly after it went into effect. A Florida welfare recipient backed by civil liberties attorneys successfully sought a temporary injunction in federal court and is awaiting a decision on a permanent injunction.

In Florida, the federal district court found a high probability that suspicionless drug testing will be found to be an illegal search under the Fourth Amendment. That ruling was based in part on a US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in 2003 that threw out a Michigan welfare drug testing law -- the last suspicionless drug testing bill to be passed before Florida's.

Other states have passed drug testing bills that seek to avoid the constitutional issues by limiting drug tests to those benefits recipients officials have reasonable grounds to believe have been using drugs. Such measures have been passed in Arizona, Indiana, and Missouri, and have so far not been tested in the courts.

Ed Sivak, director of the Mississippi Economic Policy Center, told the Mississippi Press such efforts are misguided. "This is a policy proposal that's looking for a problem," Sivak said.

Sivak cited studies of programs in Idaho and Louisiana that found only small percentages of people tested positive and that the programs could cost as much as they save. He also said the state could have to pay to defend the bill if it becomes law and is challenged.

Legislators seem split along party lines on the welfare drug testing issue.

Rep. Steve Holland (D-Plantersville) said he saw no benefit to it. "And for what reason?" he asked. "What value does it offer? Other than further humiliation of mankind?"

But Sen. Bruce Wiggins (R-Pascagoula) said he supported the bill. "If you're getting, essentially, free healthcare from the government, you don't need to be doing drugs," Wiggins said.

Watson's bill could go before the Drug Policy Committee, where he is vice-chairman, or before the Public Health and Welfare Committee, on which Wiggins sits.

Mississippi isn't the only state moving fast on the issue this year. A hearing on an unemployment drug testing bill is set for this week in South Carolina, and movement is happening in other states, too. Look for a feature article on the issue next week.

Jackson, MS
United States

Tallahassee to Pay in Death of Informant Rachel Hoffman

Tallahassee, Florida, city commissioners last Friday voted to approve a $2.6 million settlement in the wrongful death suit of a young woman killed in a drug sting when she agreed to be a confidential informant for police after being busted on marijuana and ecstasy charges. The payout comes even as a similar killing is shaking the Detroit area.

Rachel Hoffman (facebook.com)
Rachel Hoffman, 23, a recent Florida State University graduate, inhabited student drug circles, but after she was busted and agreed to become a snitch in 2008, Tallahassee police sent her out into an entirely different world. They set up a "buy-bust" sting, giving Hoffman $13,000 in marked bills to buy ecstasy, cocaine, and a gun. Instead of completing the transaction, the two men targeted shot and killed her, stole the money, her credit cards, and her car, and left her body in a ditch. The killers were later caught and are now serving life sentences.

But Hoffman's parents sued after her death, claiming police were negligent in setting her up as an informant and putting her in harm's way. Jury selection in the case began two weeks ago, and the trial was set to begin Monday. After meeting with city attorneys, commissioners voted 3-2 to approve the settlement. The city itself will pay an initial $200,000 installment shortly, but under Florida law, the rest will only be paid after the Florida legislature passes a "claims bill," which could take years.

The city's settlement isn't the only fallout from Hoffman's killing. After her death, her parents lobbied for, and the legislature passed, "Rachel's Law," which mandated reforms to protect informants. Under that law, police who work with informants are also required to get special training, must allow them to talk with an attorney before agreeing to anything, and cannot promise them reduced sentences if they cooperate.

If Michigan had such a law, perhaps Shelley Hilliard would be alive today. The 19-year-old transgender woman was found murdered and mutilated on Detroit's east side in October after last being seen going to meet a man she had set up in a drug sting after being busted herself for marijuana.

In a Thursday preliminary hearing for Qasim Raqib, the man charged with her killing, testimony revealed that police told her she could avoid arrest by helping to set up a drug deal. She used her cell phone to call Raqib as police listened in on a speaker phone and told him she knew someone who wanted to buy $335 worth of marijuana and cocaine. He was arrested when he arrived at a local motel 20 minutes later.

Further testimony suggested Raqib called Hilliard two days later and urged her to meet him. A taxi driver who took Hilliard on all her calls testified she said she was worried that Raqib would seek payback over the drug bust. The taxi driver testified that after dropping her off, she called him and sounded fearful, and he then heard a sound like the phone dropping to the ground before it went dead. Her body was found hours later.

Tallahassee, FL
United States

Supreme Court Will Hear Florida Drug Dog Case

The US Supreme Court said last Friday it would decide whether having a drug dog sniff at the door of a private residence violates the Fourth Amendment's proscription against warrantless searches. The court agreed to hear an appeal from the state of Florida in a case where the Florida Supreme Court ruled that such searches were indeed unconstitutional.

The case is Florida v. Jardines, which began with the arrest and conviction of Joelis Jardines for marijuana trafficking and electricity theft after a Florida police officer's drug dog sniffed at Jardines' front door and alerted to the odor of marijuana, Jardines and his attorney challenged the search, claiming the dog sniff was an unconstitutional intrusion into his home.

The trial judge agreed, throwing out the evidence, but an appeals court reversed the lower court decision. In April, in a split decision, the state Supreme Court reversed the appeals court, siding with the trial judge.

What the high court decides will be watched with great interest by law enforcement, which sees drug-sniffing dogs as an invaluable tool in its fight to suppress drug use and the drug trade. Eighteen states had joined with Florida in urging the court to take up the case. They argued that the state court decision went against legal precedent and threatened a valuable and widely-used tactic.

This will be only the latest legal tussle over whether the use of dogs to find drugs, explosives and other illegal or dangerous substances violates the Fourth Amendment protection against illegal search and seizure. In previous cases, the Supreme Court has upheld the use of drug-sniffing dogs during traffic stops, at airport luggage inspections, and for shipped packages in transit.

This case is different because it involves a private residence. The Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized that a residence is entitled to greater privacy than cars on a highway, luggage at an airport, or a package in transit. The court used that reasoning in a 2001 case involving the use of thermal imaging to detect heat from a marijuana grow operation in a home, ruling that the scan constituted a search requiring either a search warrant or probable cause.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in April and render a decision by the end of June.

Washington, DC
United States

Five Utah Police Wounded, One Killed in Drug Raid

[Editor's Note: Again this year, we are trying to track all deaths directly attributable to US domestic drug law enforcement operations. We can use your help. Let us know if you come across an incident that you think qualifies. To see the 2011 drug war deaths, go here.]

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/agent-jared-francom.jpg
Agent Jared Francom
An Ogden, Utah, police officer was shot and killed and five others wounded, two in critical condition, in a drug raid on an Ogden home the night of January 4. The resident was also wounded and is in custody facing as yet unspecified charges. Although police aren't saying, it appears the target was a personal marijuana grow. Agent Jared Francom becomes the first person killed in US domestic drug law operations this year.

According to the Deseret News, citing police sources, Agent Francom died at the Ogden Regional Medical Center early last Thursday. He was assigned to the Weber-Morgan Metro Narcotics Strike Force when he was killed.

Twelve members of the strike force were attempting to serve a warrant when a gun battle erupted. Police said they were doing a "knock and enter" warrant, meaning they would knock on the door and enter if no one responded. When the entered the residence, they were met with gunfire. They later found the resident wounded and hiding in a shed.

The resident and suspected shooter is Matthew David Stewart, 37, who worked a midnight shift at a local Walmart and whose previous criminal record consisted of a misdemeanor conviction for driving without insurance in 2005 and a citation for not wearing a seat belt in 2004.

Police did not specify what the warrant was for, but Stewart's father, Michael Stewart, told the Deseret News his son had "mental difficulties" and was self-medicating with marijuana. The elder Stewart also said he believed his son was growing marijuana, but only for himself. He added that Stewart was probably sleeping before going to work when the 8:40 pm raid happened and he reacted the way he did because he awoke to people in his house.

Police are not releasing further details on the raid pending completion of their internal investigations.

Ogden, UT
United States

Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed more than 45,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year and approximately 12,000 this year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest or killing of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Thursday, December 22

In Veracruz, suspected Zetas attacked three passenger buses with gunfire and a grenade in an apparent robbery spree, killing eleven people. Three of the dead were later confirmed to be US citizens who were visiting relatives in Mexico for the holidays. The army later announced that it killed the five gunmen after they were shot at attempting to arrest them.

Friday, December 23

In Culiacan, army commandos captured the head of security for the Sinaloa Cartel. Felipe Cabrera Sarabia, "The Engineer," is thought to have run cartel operations in Durango and in part of Chihuahua. No shots were fired during the arrest operation. Over the course of 2011, Cabrera was involved in a bloody dispute with another Sinaloa Cartel faction in the state of Durango.

In the port of Manzanillo, authorities seized 21 metric tons of precursor chemicals used to produce crystal meth on a ship headed towards Guatemala.

In Tampico Alto, Veracruz, ten bodies were discovered. The bodies all bore signs of having been tortured and several were decapitated.

In Los Mochis, Sinaloa, three decapitated bodies were discovered at a location where the body of a municipal police officer was found on December 18th.

Saturday, December 24

In Michoacan, the body of a teenage American citizen was found in the trunk of a burned car along with two others. The teenager, Alex Uriel Marron, 18, was reportedly from the Chicago area and visiting family in the village of Quiringuicharo.

In Saltillo, Coahuila, three gunmen were killed in a fire fight with police. A fourth person was wounded. Several assault rifles were confiscated from a car in which the gunmen were traveling.

Sunday, December 25

In Tamaulipas, authorities discoved 13 bodies in an abandoned truck just across the state border from Veracruz. A banner left with the bodies indicated that the killings were due to an ongoing cartel battle for control of the Veracruz region.

Tuesday, December 27

In Mexico City, the leader of a small cartel was arrested at the airport. Luis Rodriguez Olivera, "Whitey," is thought to have been head of the "Blondies" Organization which has been allied to several larger cartels. US authorities were offering a $5 million reward for his capture, and accuse him and a brother of smuggling cocaine and meth to the US and to Europe.

In Nuevo Leon, police discovered seven bodies buried in a shallow pit or in a well. The bodies, which were found in Linares and Montemorelos, were discovered using information provided by a group of captured kidnappers alleged to be Zetas.

In Sinaloa, a former high-ranking federal police official was sentenced to 10 years for helping the Sinaloa Cartel. Javier Herrera Valles was arrested in 2008, although the arrest was controversial because he had recently accused some of his commanding officers of corruption or incompetence.

Wednesday, December 28

In Michoacan, six gunmen were killed in two separate clashes with the army. In the first, which took place Wednesday night, three men were killed after encountering an army patrol in the Buenavista Tomatlan area. Later, early Thursday morning, another three were killed in a nearby village. All the dead men are thought to be members of the Knights Templar Organization, which is active in the area. In 2011, troops in 21st military district in Michoacan shot dead a total of 91 gunmen from several organizations.

In Ciudad Juarez, a leading cartel enforcer was arrested by police. Arturo Bautista, 31, "El Mil Amores," is thought to be a high-ranking member of La Linea, the enforcement arm of the Juarez Cartel. It is unclear, however, if that is his real name. He has been identified as a resident of El Paso, Texas. Bautista was arrested along with three other men after the murder of a woman whom police say was thought to have been passing intelligence to a rival criminal group.

Friday, December 30

In Veracruz, the Zetas hung up a banner stating they were not responsible for the December 22 bus attacks which killed at least seven people, including three US citizens. The banners claim that corrupt police officers were responsible for the attacks.

In Coahuila, seven suspected Zetas were captured by the army on the Saltillo-Torreon highway. One of the men was identified as a high-ranking member, but the army has so far not identified him.

Saturday, December 31

In Ciudad Juarez, at least four people were murdered in several incidents. According to researcher Molly Molloy, this brings the city’s 2011 homicide numbers to 1,980 for the year. This is nearly 40% lower than the 3,622 murders that took place in 2010, but still considerably higher than the 2008 total of 1,623. In total, since 2007, 10,299 homicides have taken place in Ciudad Juarez. February was the bloodiest month in 2011, with 231 murders having taken place.

Sunday, January 1

In Mexico City, the National Human Rights Commission said that they concluded that five men held in connection with a July 2010 car bombing in Ciudad Juarez had been tortured to obtain confessions. They recommended that six federal police officers and a doctor be questioned in relation with the incident. The men were also accused of the killings of two federal agents. Although cleared in those incidents, the men remain incarcerated on narcotics and weapons charges.

Tuesday, January 3

In Sonora, at least five people were murdered. In one incident, the bodies of three young men were found on the side of a highway. In another part of the state, two men were found dead in a bullet-riddled truck. Several weapons, including an AK-47 were found in the truck.

Drug-related violence was confirmed in at least six other states, with nine people confirmed dead.

[Editor's Note: Our 2011 estimated death toll is 12,150, pending the release of official figures.Our new 2012 death toll is also an estimate.]

Total Body Count for 2007 (approx.): 4,300

Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400

Total Body Count for 2009 (approx.): 9,600

Total Body Count for 2010 (official): 15,273

Total Body Count for 2011 (approx.): 12,150

Total Body Count for 2012: (approx.) 15

TOTAL: > 46,000

Mexico

Arizona Governor's Medical Marijuana Lawsuit Dismissed

A federal judge Wednesday threw out a lawsuit filed on behalf of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) that had blocked the implementation of the state's voter-approved medical marijuana dispensary program. Brewer and state health officials had sued to ask the court for clarification about whether the state's medical marijuana law was preempted by federal drug laws, saying they feared going forward would put state employees at risk of federal prosecution.

But US District Court Judge Susan Bolton dismissed the lawsuit, saying the state had not shown that federal prosecutors there had threatened to prosecute state or local employees for following the law, nor had it shown that any harm would come absent a ruling from the court.

"Plaintiffs do not challenge any specific action taken by any defendant," Bolton wrote. "Plaintiffs also do not describe any actions by state employees that were in violation of (the Controlled Substances Act) or any threat of prosecution for any reason by federal officials. These issues, as presented, are not appropriate for judicial review."

Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson told the Arizona Republic the governor was consulting with Attorney General Tom Horne before deciding whether to appeal. He also criticized the decision.

"What this court has essentially said is that it won't hear the state's lawsuit unless and until a state employee faces federal prosecution for enforcing Proposition 203," Benson said. "The federal court has essentially punted on the issue."

The ruling came in response to a motion to dismiss filed by the ACLU, which welcomed the decision and called on Brewer to quit being an obstacle.

“It is unconscionable for Gov. Brewer to continue to force very sick people to needlessly suffer by stripping them of the legal avenue through which to obtain their vital medicine," said Ezekiel Edwards, director of the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project. "Today's ruling underscores the need for state officials to stop playing politics and implement the law as approved by a majority of Arizona voters so that thousands of patients can access the medicine their doctors believe is most effective for them."

Under Arizona's medical marijuana law, passed in 2010, patients registered with the state are supposed to be able to obtain medical marijuana from tightly-regulated dispensaries, but that hasn't happened yet. Now, one more hurdle has been removed.

Phoenix, AZ
United States

Medical Marijuana Update

Here's the latest from the medical marijuana skirmishes:

Arizona

A federal judge Wednesday threw out a lawsuit filed on behalf of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) that had blocked the implementation of the state's voter-approved medical marijuana dispensary program. Brewer and state health officials had sued to ask the court for clarification about whether the state's medical marijuana law was preempted by federal drug laws, saying they feared going forward would put state employees at risk of federal prosecution.

California

On December 21, California Attorney General Kamala Harris sent a letter to top lawmakers in which she warned that any efforts to regulate medical marijuana via the legislative process will be limited by the state constitution and by the federal government's enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act. In the letter, she noted that an appeals court ruling (Pack v. Superior Court) found that state regulation of large scale medical marijuana cultivation "stands as an obstacle to federal enforcement efforts and is therefore preempted by the Federal Controlled Substances Act."

But Harris also noted that because Proposition 215 was enacted by voter initiative, any legislative regulation that would "undo what the people have done" would be unconstitutional under state law. Still, Harris wrote, the legislature needs to intervene because there are "significant unresolved legal questions" regarding parts of the initiative that allow for collaborative cultivation and the legality of dispensaries.

"I hope that the foregoing suggestions are helpful to you in crafting legislation," Harris concluded. "California law places a premium on patients' rights to access marijuana for medical use. In any legislative action that is taken, the voters' decision to allow physicians to recommend marijuana to treat seriously ill patients must be respected."

Also on December 21, the Happy Wellness Center in Newark reopened a week after being raided by state agents. "There's no way that me, the way I am, could just sit back and not open," said the center's CEO, Justin Hammer. "If I felt we were doing anything wrong, anything illegal, I wouldn't be here." The Happy Wellness Center operated for 105 days before the raid and originally opened before the city ban on such operations. An attorney for the collective says only a court order will change their position.

On December 23, the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department returned 2 pounds of medicinal marijuana to a dispensary from which it was seized earlier this month. The move came after a Superior Court judge the same day ordered them to return the medicine. It had been seized in a December 1 raid at the Common Roots Collective.

On December 23, two Long Beach dispensary operators, Jon Grumbine and Joseph Byron, were found guilty of marijuana trafficking after prosecutors argued the men operated the businesses for profit, which is forbidden under state law.

On December 26, medical marijuana patients rallied and marched in San Diego to protest the federal crackdown and recalcitrant local authorities. A crowd of 50 to 75 people showed up, including Democratic Congressman Bob Filner, who is running for mayor. 

On December 28, Riverside County officials said they had begun legal action to close down about three dozen dispensaries in unincorporated areas. The county asked a Riverside County Superior Court judge to declare Platinum Collective in Home Gardens a public nuisance. The county is seeking civil penalties of $1,000 for each day Platinum Collective has been open since March 7, when the business was notified it was operating illegally, and wants reimbursement for the cost of abatement, investigation and enforcement. Dispensaries are illegal under a ban the Board of Supervisors approved in 2006.

On December 29, veteran activist Steve Kubby filed a municipal initiative in South Lake Tahoe to control marijuana odor and rewrite restrictive cultivation rules. The city has 15 days from then to write a title and summary so the signature-gathering process can begin.

In late December, San Francisco's Market Street Co-op announced it would close January 9 due to pressure on its landlords from the feds. "A San Francisco Assistant United States Attorney threatened our landlords with property forfeiture if the cooperative does not stop dispensing cannabis at our current location," the dispensary noted.

On New Year's Eve, Sacramento's One Love Wellness Center closed its doors. The dispensary had had its bank account seized by federal authorities in September after a Treasury Department criminal task force alleged that the dispensary structured $102,713 in deposits in small amounts to skirt rules requiring financial establishments to report all deposits of $10,000 or more to the Internal Revenue Service. No charges have been filed, but One Love was under additional pressure after Sacramento US Attorney Benjamin Wagner sent out a notice threatening its landlord with seizure of its property if marijuana sales continued on site. One Love said the move will cost 20 jobs. The dispensary also noted that it had paid more than $227,000 into state coffers in sales taxes last year and nearly $50,000 to the city of Sacramento. About two dozen dispensaries remain in the city, but nearly a hundred Sacramento County dispensaries have been shut down since supervisors decided they weren't permitted in unincorporated communities.

On Tuesday, medical marijuana patients in Shasta County began seeking to oust Sheriff Tom Bosenko in the latest skirmish in the on-going war between them and county officials. Bosenko was handed a recall notice Tuesday by patient and advocate Rob McDonald after he suggested tightening restrictions on medical marijuana cultivation in the county. Recall notices are being prepared for supervisors David Kehoe and Les Baugh, though neither has been presented yet, McDonald said. He is also targeting for recall Redding City Council members Patrick Jones, Francie Sullivan and Rick Bosetti in response to the city's dispensary ban, passed in November.

Also in Redding, Shasta County Superior Court Judge Stephen Baker granted the city of Anderson's request for a preliminary injunction against the Green Heart, the city's only dispensary. The judge gave Green Heart until next Tuesday to appeal.

Also on Tuesday, in Lakeport, the Lake County Board of Supervisors rescinded an October cultivation ordinance in response to a successful referendum petition. The Lake County Citizens for Responsible Regulations and the Lake County Green Farmers Association want less stringent rules than those passed by the board. The board could have let the voters decide in a special election, but decided that would be too expensive, and just repealed the ordinance.

And also on Tuesday, Riverside County officials raided numerous dispensaries in the Lakeland Village area. Police, county code enforcement, and a county attorney came knocking on doors to let dispensaries know they must shut down within 72 hours or face legal action. The move came after the county Board of Supervisors last month authorized county attorneys to sue any dispensaries still open in unincorporated areas of the county.

Colorado

On December 22, Colorado became the fourth state to ask the DEA to reschedule marijuana. The head of the state Department of Revenue made the request in compliance with state law. Colorado now joins Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington in seeking rescheduling.

Rhode Island

On December 27, Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox said he will personally petition the federal Department of Justice to see how Rhode Island can open the large-scale dispensaries for growing and selling marijuana that advocates have long sought. Fox disagrees with Gov. Lincoln Chafee's decision to halt the process of issuing dispensary permits in the face of federal threats.

Washington

On December 15, state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles released a summary of a proposed comprehensive medical marijuana bill. The Cannabis Defense Coalition had some issues with it; click the link to find out more.

On December 21, a state medical board that regulates medical marijuana has scheduled a hearing in Renton for January 11 to consider adding Attention Deficit Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as qualifying conditions.

On December 27, the town of Castle Rock approved zoning regulations for medical marijuana gardens. Under the zoning rules, group gardens only are allowed in two commercial areas east of Interstate 5 near exits 48 and 49. The gardens must not be able to be viewed from public streets and must be locked or otherwise secured. Any planned group garden also must be inspected by city officials. The city is trying to keep gardens away from schools and public areas.

Supreme Court Asked to Take Drug Dog Case

The state of Florida is asking the US Supreme Court to reverse a ruling by the Florida Supreme Court that having a drug dog sniff the front door of a residence is a violation of the Fourth Amendment's proscription against unreasonable searches. Court followers told the Associated Press the high court is likely to take up the case.

drug dog (wikimedia.org)
In Florida v. Jardines, a case that originated with the arrest and conviction of Joelis Jardines for marijuana trafficking and electricity theft after a Florida police officer's drug dog sniffed at Jardines' front door and alerted to the odor of marijuana, the state Supreme Court held that the drug dog sniff was indeed a search under the Fourth Amendment and thus required either probable cause or reasonable suspicion if conducted without a search warrant.

The justices could decide this month whether to take the case, the latest dispute about whether the use of dogs to find drugs, explosives and other illegal or dangerous substances violates the Fourth Amendment protection against illegal search and seizure. In previous cases, the Supreme Court has upheld the use of drug-sniffing dogs during traffic stops, at airport luggage inspections, and for shipped packages in transit.

This case is different because it involves a private residence. The Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized that a residence is entitled to greater privacy than cars on a highway, luggage at an airport, or a package in transit. The court used that reasoning in a 2001 case involving the use of thermal imaging to detect heat from a marijuana grow operation in a home, ruling that the scan constituted a search requiring either a search warrant or probable cause.

"We have said that the Fourth Amendment draws a firm line at the entrance to the house," the court held in that case, Kyllo v. United States. The opinion noted that thermal imaging could detect such private matters as "at what hour each night the lady of the house takes her daily sauna and bath."

Jardines and his attorney challenged the search, claiming the dog sniff was an unconstitutional intrusion into his home. The trial judge agreed, throwing out the evidence, but an appeals court reversed the lower court decision. In April, in a split decision, the state Supreme Court reversed the appeals court, siding with the trial judge.

Now, attorneys for Florida are seeking US Supreme Court review. They argue that the state Supreme Court decision conflicts with previous rulings that a drug dog sniff is not a search.

"A dog sniff of a house reveals only that the house contains drugs, not any other private information about the house or the persons in it," wrote Carolyn Snurkowski, Florida associate deputy attorney general. "A person has no reasonable expectation of privacy in illegal drugs."

Tallahassee, FL
United States

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School