Newsbrief: Mississippi Drug Czar Not One to Let the Law Get in His Way 5/30/03

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Frank Melton, a television executive with no law enforcement experience whose anti-drug crusades got him appointed head of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics in December, is not a man inclined to let a little things like the US Constitution or state law get between him and his goals. One of his first acts as state drug czar was to join his agents in a Bureau of Narcotics roadblock near the state capitol in Jackson "to check drivers' licenses." Never mind that state law forbids the narcs from doing the roadblocks, never mind that Melton himself was not a certified law enforcement officer, and never mind that the Supreme Court has ruled that highway checkpoints can only be used for public safety -- not drug enforcement -- purposes.

Melton was scolded for his little adventure, the roadblocks ceased, but you can't keep someone like Melton down for long. Now he's back in the news, complaining about state laws that hinder his crusade and explaining how he gets around them. In a Monday interview with the Associated Press, Melton said he would find "unconventional" means of waging the drug war in the mean time.

Lawbreaker: Mississippi
drug czar Frank Melton,
with Gov. Ronnie Musgrove
He found the need for search warrants onerous, he told AP, using a recent meth lab bust as an example. "The way the law states is that we can go in and dismantle the laboratory to keep it from being a danger to the people, but then we have to go in and get a search warrant," he complained. "Well, the time that it takes us to go and get that warrant, we have people's lives in danger."

Melton did not explain precisely whose lives were in danger between the time a lab was raided and dismantled and the time a warrant to seize the evidence was issued. Police normally maintain control of crime scenes until their work is completed.

As obsessed with methamphetamine as any trailer-park speed cooker, Melton told AP he illegally bars meth suspects from returning to their homes after they've been arrested. "What I'm doing, which is also not legal, when I find those large laboratories like that, they're no longer eligible to live in the neighborhood," he said.

And Melton continues to brood about the roadblocks. He told AP he would ask legislators to change state law to allow the Bureau of Narcotics to engage in "public safety" roadblocks, a transparent ploy to get out and find drug violators. "Most of your drugs right now are being transported on the ground," he explained. "They're moving on the ground now because you can't get it through the airports because of the pre-security check-ins. But we can't check for drivers' licenses, we can't stop trucks. It almost ties our hands behind our backs."

Who will guard us from the guardians?

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Issue #289, 5/30/03 Editorial: For Decency's Sake, No More No-Knock Drug Raids | Canadian Government Introduces Cannabis Decriminalization Bill | Ed Rosenthal to be Sentenced Wednesday -- Could Escape Mandatory Minimum as Pleas for Leniency Roll In, Supporters Prepare to Rally | DRCNet Book Review: "Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use," by Jacob Sullum (Tarcher & Putnam, 24.95 HB) | Democratic Presidential Contender Endorses Medical Marijuana -- Ohio's Kucinich First Out of the Gate | Saying Yes: New Book Offer from DRCNet | Action Alerts: Medical Marijuana, HEA Drug Provision, Global Legalization and Drug Treaty Reform Petition | Newsbrief: NYPD Under Fire in Death of Woman in Botched Drug Raid | Newsbrief: Federal Hepatitis C Control and Prevention Bill Filed | Newsbrief: Mississippi Drug Czar Not One to Let the Law Get in His Way | Newsbrief: The Hash Fields of Morocco | Newsbrief: Dutch Coffee Shops Take Hit in Anti-Tobacco Campaign | Newsbrief: New Zealand to War on Evil Meth | Newsbrief: Garcia Marquez Takes Back His Legalization Comments, Sort Of | Newsbrief: Gambian Narcs Mar Marley Remembrance with Raids | Newsbrief: Japanese Author, Legalization Advocate Gets Suspended Sentence for Marijuana Possession | Reflections Seeking Submissions for Special Issue on Prison | The Reformer's Calendar
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