Newsbrief: Drug Checkpoints at West Virginia NORML Rally Draw Lawsuit 12/27/02

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Official harassment of people on their way to a event sponsored by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in Barbour County, West Virginia, in July 2001 has resulted in a lawsuit against the West Virginia State Police and the Barbour County Sheriff's Department. The lawsuit, filed on December 19 by West Virginia ACLU attorneys on behalf of two men who were stopped and searched at a checkpoint near the NORML meeting, charges that West Virginia law enforcement authorities violated the right of free assembly and due process protections.

Thomas Thacker and Brett Gasper were among attendees at the NORML function who were stopped and subjected to drug-sniffing dogs while on their way to the event. "I was asked if my car could be searched, and when I said no, the drug dogs were brought on the scene to pressure me to waive my constitutional rights," said Gasper in an ACLU press release. "I don't like drugs, and I especially don't like big German Shepherds in my face, or dirty looks from policeman or insinuating remarks from the same."

State troopers and sheriff's deputies ran the drug checkpoint "in a manner that singled out and discriminated against NORML members, supporters and other festival attendees," charged the lawsuit. The lawsuit also charged that the roadblocks were set up to investigate criminal activity (as opposed to improving public safety like sobriety checkpoints) and thus required individualized suspicion before of such activity before searches would be allowable.

Thacker and Gasper are seeking an injunction to bar similar checkpoints in the future, as well as compensation and punitive damages. Neither was arrested.

"Members of law enforcement shouldn't have to violate the law to enforce the law," said West Virginia ACLU director Andrew Schneider.

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Issue #269, 12/27/02 Latin American Anti-Prohibition Conference, Feb. 12-15, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico | Cumbre Internacional Sobre Legalización, 15-Dec Febrero, Mérida, México | Newsbrief: New Zealand MP Tanczos Cleared in Marijuana Probe | Newsbrief: Nevada High Court Voids Meth Drug Ingredient Law | Newsbrief: "What About the Children?" -- Colorado Bills Target Home Meth Labs | Newsbrief: Ohio Supreme Court Backs Workers in Workers' Comp Drug Test Ruling | Newsbrief: Brit MP Calls for Drug Testing 10-Year-Olds, Comments Came in Debate Over Criminal Justice Bill | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story | Newsbrief: US-Trained Thai Drug Unit Pulls Back from Burmese Border | Newsbrief: Columbia, Missouri, Marijuana Petition Has Enough Signatures | Newsbrief: Tampa Ordinance Would Criminalize "Drug Dealer Behavior" | Newsbrief: Drug Checkpoints at West Virginia NORML Rally Draw Lawsuit | Online Petition Launched Supporting MEPs' Call for Ending Prohibition | Media Scan: Montreal Compassion Club, Impact Press on Marijuana Legalization | DC Job Opportunities at DRCNet | The Reformer's Calendar

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