Drug War Chronicle #522 - February 8, 2008

1. Feature: With More Cuts Proposed in Drug Task Force Grant Program, Battle to Restore Funding Moves to Two Tracks

Even as law enforcement and its allies fight a rear-guard effort to restore lost 2008 funding for the grant program that funds state and local drug task forces, the Bush administration is proposing to cut it again in the 2009 budget.

2. Feature: Vancouver Conference Sends a Message to the UN

As part of a series of regional forums in advance of next month's meeting of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, Vancouver this week hosted a forum where participants sent a clear signal that prohibition is not working.

3. Appeal: Three Exciting New Book Offers for Our Donating Supporters

We are pleased to offer the works "Over the Influence: The Harm Reduction Guide for Managing Drugs and Alcohol," "Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the US Prison System," and "Cannabis: Yields and Dosage," as our latest membership premium gifts.

4. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

"80% of Drug Policy Experts Oppose the Drug War," "You Can Go to Jail For 27 Years For Selling Marijuana," "A Cop is Dead Because An Informant Mistook Japanese Maple Trees For Marijuana," "Nevermind, Barack Obama Wants to Arrest Marijuana Users After All," "Heading Down Mexico Way," "How many drug dealers does it take to supply a 10,000-person community? Or, is Twiggs County, Georgia, the latest Tulia?"

5. Students: Intern at DRCNet and Help Stop the Drug War!

Apply for an internship at DRCNet for this fall (or spring), and you could spend the semester fighting the good fight!

6. Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

More Los Angeles area cops go down in a broad conspiracy, a Customs officer gets nailed for helping traffickers, a Kentucky cop gets nailed for peddling pills, another NYPD cop gets busted, and so does a Tennessee sheriff. Just another week in the drug war.

7. Sentencing: Mukasey Tells Congress to Pass Bill Blocking Early Release for Crack Prisoners

The US Sentencing Commission has ordered that sentence cuts for federal crack cocaine offenders be retroactive, but Attorney General Mukasey is now urging Congress to undo that.

8. Medical Marijuana: New Northern California US Attorney Hints the Era of DEA Raids May Be Coming to an End

The newly appointed US Attorney for Northern California hinted at his first press briefing that medical marijuana raids may soon be a thing of the past. They're a waste of time and resources, he said.

9. Search and Seizure: The Smell of a Burning Joint Does Not Justify a Warrantless Entry, US Fourth Circuit Holds

A cop who smells marijuana smoke coming from an apartment still needs a search warrant before entering, the conservative US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.

10. Ecstasy: Kansas Bill Would Make Simple Possession a Felony

Spurred by the state's narcs, the Kansas legislature is considering a bill that would make ecstasy possession a felony. It's all about the kids, proponents argue, but opponents wonder how saddling them with felony records will help.

11. Tobacco: In Wake of Smoking Ban in Bars, Restriction on Strip Clubs, Underground "Smokehouses" Appear in Cleveland

What are you going to do if they ban smoking and strippers? Some Cleveland-area residents have an idea.

12. Southeast Asia: Philippines Court Orders Life Sentence for Selling Two Grams of Marijuana

The Philippines may no longer execute drug offenders, but it is still handing out horrendous sentences. This week, a man was sentenced to life in prison for selling less than two grams of marijuana.

13. Death Penalty: Hash-Selling, Drunkenness Earn Ultimate Sanction, Two More Beheaded in Saudi Arabia

One man gets a death sentence for drinking in Iran, another for selling hash in India, and Saudi Arabia keeps up the pace, executing two traffickers last week.

14. Weekly: This Week in History

Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.

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1. Feature: With More Cuts Proposed in Drug Task Force Grant Program, Battle to Restore Funding Moves to Two Tracks

Even as law enforcement and its allies in Congress move to restore funding for the embattled Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program, which is best known for funding the legions of state- and local-level multi-jurisdictional drug task forces that now roam the land, the Bush administration has struck again, this time proposing folding it into a broader grants program and funding it at only $200 million. Now, law enforcement will have to fight a rear-guard action to get back last year's cuts while at the same time having to try to persuade Congress to undo the cuts proposed in this year's budget.

Sen. Harkin leads press conference calling for restoration of Byrne funding
It's not that the Bush administration is averse to funding drug war activities. According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) fact sheet on Justice Department spending, the DEA is seeing its budget increased slightly to just over $1.9 billion, the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force is also getting a slight increase, to $532 million, and the new Southwest Border Enforcement Initiative would throw another $100 million at drugs, guns, and violent gangs on the border. The 2009 Bush budget also allocates hundreds of millions of dollars for Plan Colombia and its new baby brother, Plan Mexico.

Funded at $520 million last year, the two-decade old JAG program that allows states to supplement their anti-drug spending with federal tax dollars was already down substantially from previous funding levels. For the past three years, as a cost-cutting move, the Bush administration has tried to zero it out completely, but that has proven extremely unpopular with Congress. This year, the House voted to fund the block grant portion of the program at $600 million and the Senate at $660 million, but in last-minute budget negotiations, the White House insisted the funding be cut to $170 million.

While federal funding for law enforcement drug task forces would appear to be a sacred cow in a law-and-order Republican administration, there are several reasons the JAG program is a tempting target for cost-cutters, said Eric Sterling, executive director of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation and former counsel for the House Judiciary Committee.

"First, Bush is not running for reelection, so there is no political cost in that sense," Sterling said. "And if Congress does listen to the cops, Bush can blame Congress for exceeding his budget."

The second reason has to do with conservative fiscal ideology, said Sterling. "The typical Republican position is to let the states pay for state and local programs. It's a states' rights and states' responsibilities sort of position," he said. "And given the way their budgets have bankrupted the federal government, they have to cut somewhere."

And the pressure of looming cuts feeds into the third reason JAG is now on the line: bureaucratic imperatives. "The budget deficit is a real headache for all agencies," Sterling said. "For a manager within the Department of Justice faced with cuts that would lay off FBI agents or US Marshals or faced with cutting a program that only gives money to someone else, the choice is easy. It's much easier for Justice to say 'let's cut this.'"

That sort of decision is made a little easier by a 2005 OMB report that undoubtedly is one of the underpinnings of the Bush administration's effort to cut the program. OMB described the program as "results not demonstrated," and found that it scored extremely poorly when assessed for planning and design, strategic management, and results and accountability. The same sort of assessments lay behind other drug war programs the administration has cut or attempted to cut, such as the drug czar's youth media program and the National Drug Intelligence Center, which is once again on the chopping block.

As the Chronicle noted in our recent report on the battle over JAG program funding, the drug task forces have been repeatedly criticized by drug reform, civil liberties, and civil rights organizations as out-of-control cowboys responsible for scandals like Tulia and Hearne, Texas. But such criticisms have played no noticeable role in the administration's assault on the program.

Nor have they resonated with a bipartisan group of senators who last week announced they would seek to reinstate 2008 fiscal year funding for the JAG program at a level of $660 million. Led by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), the effort is also being backed by Sens. Kit Bond (R-MO), Joe Biden (D-DE), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

"Without financial support, Iowa communities are forced to combat crime and drugs with fewer and fewer resources. More than 10 Iowa counties have been forced to shut down their task forces because of funding cuts. This gutting of drug prevention programs cannot continue," Harkin said at a press conference announcing the move. "My aim is to restore Byrne Grants to a level that will give local law enforcement officials in Iowa and across the country ample funding for already successful anti-crime and anti-drug initiatives."

The senators' initiative is being supported and prodded by a powerful coalition of law enforcement groups, including the National Criminal Justice Association (NCJA), the National Narcotics Officers Associations Coalition, and the National Association of County Officials.

"Let there be no room for doubt, communities everywhere will see the effects of this bill and its cuts to criminal justice funding," said NCJA president David Steingraber. "A cut to the JAG program is a cut to local law enforcement and victims of crime everywhere. Congress has just made the job of every police officer in this country more difficult. Members of Congress have turned their backs on local law enforcement officers who are now forced to make due without significant federal assistance," Steingraber said. "It is our hope these drastic cuts are not a long-term solution to a federal fiscal problem. The safety of our nation is far too important and deserves adequate funding, with violent crime back on the rise".

But despite the formidable lobbying power of the police and their allies, the future of JAG funding remains in doubt. And drug reformers will unite with fiscal conservatives and the Bush administration in a strange alliance to try to keep the funding cuts intact.

"The reason the JAG funding was cut at the last minute last year was that it was obvious that Bush would veto it, and it remains clear that he pretty much wants to eliminate it," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "This year's appropriations process is just starting, but what is interesting and hopeful is that because Bush wants to eliminate it completely, that is going to make it harder for the Democrats to restore last year's funding."

But not impossible. As law enforcement proponents of restoring the money told the Chronicle last week, they will try to get it back any way they can, including attaching it to either the economic stimulus package or the supplemental war funding appropriation. It's the latter that has Piper worried.

"The Iraq supplemental doesn't have to fit within the overall budget, and Bush would be reluctant to veto his war spending bill," he said. "I know law enforcement and some senators are already talking about this. Our challenge is to reach out to fiscal conservative organizations and craft a message that funding shouldn't be restored, but if it is, it should be earmarked for treatment. It can already be used for that, but most states don't."

The JAG grant program is but one line item in a record-breaking, deficit-building, $3 trillion dollar 2009 federal budget. But it is one line item that could stand to be completely eliminated. That probably won't happen this year, but it seems likely the drug task forces are going to have to limp along with reduced funding, persuade state and local governments to cough up more money, or go out of business once and for all.

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2. Feature: Vancouver Conference Sends a Message to the UN

Vancouver, British Columbia, was the scene this week of an international conference on drug policy, affiliated with the United Nations, that didn't turn out the way the UN imagined it. Organized as part of the UN's Beyond 2008 global forum to review the accomplishments and failures of the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs, the Vancouver conference sent the UN a strong message: end drug prohibition.

Attended by harm reductionists, treatment providers, prevention specialists, anti-prohibitionists and others from the US and Canada, the Vancouver forum differed greatly in tone and content from the other regional forums held so far as part of a process overseen by the Vienna NGO Committee on Narcotic Drugs, which works with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs to incorporate the views of non-governmental organizations and civil society into the crafting of the next UNGASS drug strategy. In other regional forums, drug treatment and prevention forces dominated the conversation, as in the North American forum held last month in St. Petersburg, Florida, where groups like the Drug Free America Foundation held sway.

But in Vancouver, pioneer of the four-pillars policy (prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and law enforcement), home of the continent's only safe injection site, and ground zero for Canada's cannabis culture, it was a different story. Organizers there made sure it wasn't just another prohibitionist gathering.

"We wanted to make sure that we included absolutely everybody," said Gillian Maxwell of Keeping the Door Open: Dialogues on Drug Use, a Vancouver-based community coalition that cosponsored the forum. "In St. Petersburg, it was clear that drug reform and harm reduction people were not invited, which is a little odd. If you think about it, what do the UN treaties have to do with people involved in rolling out 12-step abstinence programs?"

Former Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen, architect of the four-pillars strategy, set the tone for the event early on. The "old-school prohibition" crowd had its say, said Owen, but now it's time for a new approach. "There are still those, in the US and in our federal government, who say drug users are criminals and should get a job, pay taxes and salute the flag," he said. But mayors, who see the problems first-hand, are calling for change, he said, pointing to the US Conference of Mayors declaration last June, where they "agreed unanimously the war on drugs is not working. Mayors are close to the issue so they actually see the drug users as people who are ill and need treatment, and they have to deal with related crime, yet it's our federal government that controls narcotics," Owen said.

"Drug-policy reform won the day because most rational people on the front lines realize that the war on drugs has been a miserable failure," Owen added. "The war on drugs is coming to an end, hopefully in my lifetime," he concluded.

Jack Cole, head of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), told the nearly 100 delegates that drug addiction should be treated as a health problem, not a law enforcement one. "We have to at least get legalization and regulation of drugs on the agenda," he said, with one eye on Vienna, where the Commission on Narcotic Drugs will meet next month to review the past decade's progress in meeting the 1998 UNGASS goals.

It was clear that the forum had reached a general opinion, if not a complete consensus, said Maxwell. "It seems the majority of the people in the room think it's impossible to prevent drug use, and, therefore, you get the war on drugs, which is a war on people," Maxwell said.

In addition to LEAP's Cole, the US contingent included representatives of reform groups including Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Common Sense for Drug Policy, and Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML, who presented the national NORML statement to the forum. In that statement, NORML said that the UN's goal of "eliminating or substantially reducing" the global supply of marijuana had failed and that "the only practicable way to realize the UN's goal of eliminating the problems illicit cannabis supply and demand is to eliminate its illicit status."

If ending the drug war was the majority position, not everyone was won over. At least two participants complained to the Georgia Strait that the conference was unbalanced.

Alcohol-Drug Education Service's Judi Lalonde told the Straight there was too much harm reduction and not enough prevention at the conference. "Representation from the groups for legalization are probably about 95%, to possibly 5% in the area of prevention," Lalonde claimed. "I'm quite disappointed with the whole process of the last few days." She preferred the St. Petersburg forum, which "allowed for a real dialogue from a balanced perspective," while Vancouver's "became a forum for lobbyists and activists."

Brian Whiteford, the delegate for DARE BC at the conference, also complained of "disproportionate representation" of pro-legalization advocates. But Whiteford also added that the forum did a "good job" of bringing people together to exchange perspectives.

The criticisms about balance aren't fair, Maxwell protested. "We invited people from all sides of the spectrum," she said. "They just didn't all come. We invited many Canadian national groups, but many didn't even reply. Yes, we had a larger proportion of reformers and harm reductionists, but that's because they weren't even invited to the other North American forum in St. Petersburg."

Maxwell pronounced the forum a success. "It was very interesting, and I was so impressed by everybody -- they were all so articulate and respectful," she summarized. "I was so impressed by the intellect and the caring that people brought to this. This was a good moment for democracy and a good moment for civil society."

At least one local newspaper disagreed. The conference provoked an angry editorial from the Province, a Vancouver tabloid daily. "Drug legalization is not the solution it's cracked up to be," the Province warned. "The pro-drug lobby masquerades as a champion of individual liberties. But behind that disguise lurks the ugly face of societal decay."

As Mahatma Gandhi once famously noted: First they ignore you, then they attack you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. The path to ending global drug prohibition is long and twisting, but events like the one in Vancouver this week are laying the groundwork -- and nobody is laughing about it now.

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3. Appeal: Three Exciting New Book Offers for Our Donating Supporters

We are pleased to announce our first membership premiums of 2008, three very different and important books:

Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the US Prison System. This work by Silja Talvi, one of the most active writers on criminal justice issues, draws on interviews with inmates, correctional officers and administrators, providing readers with a look at the devastating impact incarceration is having on our society.

Over the Influence: The Harm Reduction Guide for Managing Drugs and Alcohol. Dr. Patt Denning offers a much needed guide to options for dealing with substance use issues that go beyond the conventional "all or nothing" approaches.

Cannabis Yields and Dosage, by court-certified cannabis expert Chris Conrad, is the authoritative study of the science and legalities of calculating medical marijuana.

Copies of Women Behind Bars or Over the Influence can be requested with donations of $30 or more -- donate $55 or more to receive both. Copies of Cannabis Yields and Dosage can be requested with donations of $20 or more -- donate $45 or more for Cannabis Yields and Dosages plus one of the others. Donate $70 and receive all three books as our thanks. We also continue all our other recent offers -- visit our donation page online to view all the offerings in the righthand column.

You can also preview Cannabis Yields and Dosage online at ChrisConrad.com -- the print copies we'll send you are thanks for your generous donations, and I hope you will donate. Your donations will help DRCNet as we advance our campaign to stop dangerous SWAT raids in routine situations; to take on new issues like the drug penalties in welfare and housing law; to advance the dialogue on drug legalization; to continue our stunning web site successes of the last third of 2007; while continuing to publish our acclaimed and widely-used newsletter, Drug War Chronicle.

So please make a generous donation today to help the cause! I know you will feel the money was well spent after you see what DRCNet has in store. Our online donation form lets you donate by credit card, by PayPal, or to print out a form to send with your check or money order by mail.

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4. Weekly: Blogging @ the Speakeasy

Along with our weekly in-depth Chronicle reporting, DRCNet has since late summer also been providing daily content in the way of blogging in the Stop the Drug War Speakeasy -- huge numbers of people have been reading it recently -- as well as Latest News links (upper right-hand corner of most web pages), event listings (lower right-hand corner) and other info. Check out DRCNet every day to stay on top of the drug reform game!

prohibition-era beer raid, Washington, DC (Library of Congress)

Since last issue:

Scott Morgan brings us: "80% of Drug Policy Experts Oppose the Drug War," "You Can Go to Jail For 27 Years For Selling Marijuana," "A Cop is Dead Because An Informant Mistook Japanese Maple Trees For Marijuana," "Nevermind, Barack Obama Wants to Arrest Marijuana Users After All."

Phil Smith previews: "Heading Down Mexico Way."

David Borden asks, "How many drug dealers does it take to supply a 10,000-person community? Or, is Twiggs County, Georgia, the latest Tulia?"

David Guard posts numerous press releases, action alerts and other organizational announcements in the In the Trenches blog.

Please join us in the Reader Blogs too.

Thanks for reading, and writing...

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5. Students: Intern at DRCNet and Help Stop the Drug War!

Want to help end the "war on drugs," while earning college credit too? Apply for a DRCNet internship for this fall semester (or spring) and you could come join the team and help us fight the fight!

DRCNet (also known as "Stop the Drug War") has a strong record of providing substantive work experience to our interns -- you won't spend the summer doing filing or running errands, you will play an integral role in one or more of our exciting programs. Options for work you can do with us include coalition outreach as part of the campaign to repeal the drug provision of the Higher Education Act, and to expand that effort to encompass other bad drug laws like the similar provisions in welfare and public housing law; blogosphere/web outreach; media research and outreach; web site work (research, writing, technical); possibly other areas. If you are chosen for an internship, we will strive to match your interests and abilities to whichever area is the best fit for you.

While our internships are unpaid, we will reimburse you for metro fare, and DRCNet is a fun and rewarding place to work. To apply, please send your resume to David Guard at [email protected], and feel free to contact us at (202) 293-8340. We hope to hear from you! Check out our web site at http://stopthedrugwar.org to learn more about our organization.

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6. Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

More Los Angeles area cops go down in a broad conspiracy, a Customs officer gets nailed for helping traffickers, a Kentucky cop gets nailed for peddling pills, another NYPD cop gets busted, and so does a Tennessee sheriff. Just another week in the drug war. Let's get to it:

In Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Hamilton County Sheriff was arrested last Friday by federal agents who charged him with extorting money from ethnic Indian convenience store owners and laundering what he thought was drug money sent from Mexico in cremation urns. Sheriff Billy Long, 55, was arrested after an undercover FBI investigation that began in April 2007. Beginning then, Long was videotaped and audiotaped taking cash payments amounting to more than $17,000 from what he thought were convenience store owners seeking to protect their illegal gambling activities and sales of meth precursors. The FBI also hornswoggled Long into accepting five cash payments totaling $6,550 that he agreed to deliver as a payment to someone supposedly laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars of illegal drug proceeds. Long was set for a bail hearing early this week.

In Los Angeles, a former LAPD officer and his brother, a former Long Beach police officer, were convicted January 30 of ripping off drug dealers in a series of burglaries and robberies between 1999 and 2001. Former LAPD Officer William Ferguson and former Long Beach Police Officer Joseph Ferguson were found guilty of conspiring to violate civil rights, conspiring to possess narcotics with the intent to distribute, and possession of narcotics with intent to distribute. They were part of a broader conspiracy to rip-off dealers that has so far resulted in guilty pleas from 15 people, including members of the LAPD, Long Beach Police, LA County Sheriff's Department, and the California Department of Corrections. The rogue cops would target locations where drugs were being sold, then hit the places, pretending that they were conducting legitimate drug raids. The victims were variously restrained, cuffed, threatened, or assaulted during the robberies. The cops would give their booty to civilian co-conspirators to sell, then split the proceeds among themselves.

In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a Customs and Border Protection officer was convicted last Friday on federal charges of attempting to help traffickers smuggle cocaine and heroin into Miami International airport from Puerto Rico. Officer Edwin Disla was found guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine, attempted possession with intent to distribute cocaine, and attempted possession with intent to distribute heroin. Disla went down in a sting after agreeing to carry what he thought was cocaine through the Luis Munoz Marin Airport in Puerto Rico and Miami International Airport. During his trip, he used his law enforcement authority to bypass security. He was arrested in Puerto Rico after agreeing to take possession of multi-pound shipments of what he thought were heroin and cocaine. He faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced in April.

In Louisville, Kentucky, a former central Kentucky police officer was sentenced Monday for plotting with his girlfriend to peddle Oxycontin. Former Lebanon Police Sgt. David Carr, 33, was sentenced to one year and a day after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute the drug. He and his girlfriend were arrested together in June; she got four months in jail and four months of house arrest.

In New York City, an NYPD detective was indicted January 31 on federal charges that he was providing confidential information to cocaine dealers. Detective Luis Batista pleaded not guilty to drug dealing, obstruction of justice, and other charges in a case where he is accused of participating in a drug ring run by old friends. Another NYPD officer, internal affairs Sgt. Henry Conde, was also indicted, on charges that last year he tipped Batista that he was the target of an internal probe.

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7. Sentencing: Mukasey Tells Congress to Pass Bill Blocking Early Release for Crack Prisoners

US Attorney General Michael Mukasey took his campaign against retroactive early releases for people sentenced under the federal crack cocaine laws to a new level Wednesday as he called on Congress to pass legislation by March 3 to block the releases. This week's call to arms comes just a few days after Mukasey first sounded the alarm about the release of crack prisoners, raising the specter of thousands of criminals pouring out of the nation's prisons and wreaking havoc on the streets.

Michael Mukasey -- the mini-Ashcroft
Mukasey is responding to a decision by the US Sentencing Commission in December to make changes in the crack sentencing guidelines retroactive so they will apply to about 20,000 prisoners doing time under the crack laws. Earlier in the year, the commission had changed the sentencing guidelines for current offenders. The decision making the changes retroactive will go into effect March 3.

While as many as 20,000 crack prisoners could apply for sentence cuts, each one will have to go through a judicial process, and the cuts are not guaranteed. And only about 1,600 of them are eligible for sentence cuts that could result in their being released this year.

But that hasn't stopped Mukasey from playing up the fear angle. He was at it again Wednesday during a House Judiciary Committee hearing. In testimony prepared for that hearing, Mukasey said, "Overall, the Sentencing Commission estimates that retroactive applications of these lower guidelines could lead to the re-sentencing of more than 20,000 crack cocaine offenders, any number of whom will be released early."

Congress needs to act to avert that threat, Mukasey said. But given that March 3 is less than a month away, given that Congress very rarely moves so swiftly, and given that Congress passed on the chance to kill the retroactivity provision last year, Mukasey seems unlikely to get his wish.

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8. Medical Marijuana: New Northern California US Attorney Hints the Era of DEA Raids May Be Coming to an End

Incoming US Attorney for Northern California Joseph Russoniello held his first press briefing January 31, and during that briefing, he suggested that raiding and prosecuting medical marijuana providers is a waste of resources. That's a bit of a surprise, given Russoniello's history as a hard-line Republican prosecutor, but could augur a new day in Northern California.

SF US Attorney's Office
Although personally opposed to medical marijuana and openly skeptical that many who claim to be using the herb medicinally are not really ill, Russoniello suggested that trying to prosecute dispensaries out of existence was akin to trying to plough the sea. "The overwhelming majority of people in my view who are so-called patients are not," he said, but he added that cracking down on dispensaries was futile. "We could spend a lifetime closing dispensaries and doing other kinds of drugs, enforcement actions, bringing cases and prosecuting people, shoveling sand against the tide. It would be terribly unproductive and probably not an efficient use of precious federal resources," said Russoniello.

Whether Russoniello's words will translate into policy changes in his office remains to be seen, but they could be a harbinger of things to come. Both Democratic presidential contenders have said they would halt the DEA raids on dispensaries in California, so his office could have few medical marijuana cases to prosecute in any case.

Russoniello has other, higher priorities, including gun crimes, hard drugs, gangs, and child pornography, he said. "Guns which are a scourge to communities, which combined with the twin poisons of gangs and drugs are literally enslaving whole neighborhoods," he said.

Russionello took over as US Attorney for Northern California early last month. He also spent eight years in that position under President Reagan in the 1980s.

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9. Search and Seizure: The Smell of a Burning Joint Does Not Justify a Warrantless Entry, US Fourth Circuit Holds

Police who entered an apartment after smelling marijuana being smoked there violated the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals held in a late January ruling. Evidence found during a subsequent search with a search warrant based on that illegal entry must also be thrown out, the court held.

The decision came in US v. Mowatt, in which Bladensburg, Maryland, police showed up at the door of Karim Mowatt's 10th floor apartment to investigate a noise complaint. They smelled marijuana and demanded they be allowed to enter the apartment, but Mowatt refused, repeatedly asking if they had a search warrant. Police then claimed they feared Mowatt had a weapon, forced their way in, and found guns and drugs. Police then used the evidence they found at the apartment to get a search warrant to further search the apartment. Based on contraband found there, Mowatt was charged with various drug and gun offenses.

Before trial, the trial judge denied Mowatt's motions to suppress the evidence, buying prosecutors' contentions that the warrantless entry was lawful because "the risk of destruction of the evidence of marijuana possession constituted exigent circumstances." Mowatt was found guilty in May 2006 and sentenced to a total of 16 years and 5 months.

The 4th Circuit disagreed, noting it was only the arrival of the officers at the door that created any exigent circumstances. "[A]lthough the officers had every right to knock on Mowatt's door to try to talk to him about the complaint... without a warrant, they could not require him to open it," Judge William B. Traxler Jr. wrote. The officers "needed only to seek a warrant before confronting the apartment's occupants," Traxler wrote. "By not doing so, they set up the wholly foreseeable risk that the occupants, upon being notified of the officers' presence, would seek to destroy the evidence of their crimes."

US Attorney Rod Rosenstein, who argued the case, wasn't happy, he told the Maryland Daily Record. "The implications of this opinion are very broad for what police officers should do in this situation -- which isn't an uncommon one," he said. He added that he is working with the Justice Department to decide whether to appeal the decision.

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10. Ecstasy: Kansas Bill Would Make Simple Possession a Felony

Lawmakers in Kansas this week held a hearing on a bill that would make possession of ecstasy a felony. Under current Kansas law, simple possession is only a misdemeanor.

That would change under HB 2545, which is being pushed by the Kansas Narcotics Officers Association. Making possession a felony would keep "children" from taking the drug, said the association's Mike Life in remarks reported by the Wichita Eagle. "We're telling them that it's not a big deal by keeping it as misdemeanor status," he argued.

But the Kansas Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys begged to differ. Saddling young people with felony records for ecstasy possession will not help them, the group worried.

The Kansas Sentencing Commission also dashed some cold water on the proposal. It would cost the state an extra $1.3 million and put an additional 291 people into the prison system, the commission found.

The committee took no action this week. Perhaps this measure will quietly go to the oblivion it deserves.

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11. Tobacco: In Wake of Smoking Ban in Bars, Restriction on Strip Clubs, Underground "Smokehouses" Appear in Cleveland

Ah, the unintended -- if not unforeseeable -- consequences of prohibition. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Sunday that in the wake of a crackdown on strip joints and smoking in bars, a new, if shadowy, presence has made itself known on the back streets of the city: the smokehouse. These unlicensed premises offer what legal clubs and bars cannot: a place for tipplers to smoke while they drink and watch strippers after midnight. Vice cops say they also provide a haven for prostitution.

The smokehouses are a response to laws that took effect last year banning smoking in public places and nude dancing after midnight.

One Cleveland vice detective, Tom Shoulders, compared the smokehouses to the gin houses of the Prohibition era. "You put too many restrictions on people, they're going to find someplace else to go for their entertainment," he said.

According to what snitches are telling the cops, the smokehouse patrons, mainly suburban white guys, bring their own liquor, cigarettes, and cigars, while doormen at the clubs collect entry fees of up to $25 for a "buffet."

"They have succeeded in creating this underground, sleazy, cash-only business that cannot be regulated, taxed or secured by police," said Skip Lazzaro, an attorney who represents legal nightclubs in court -- although it isn't clear if he should be referring to the proprietors and clients or to the legislature.

While the combination of after-hours strippers and underground smoking is a new twist, the smokeasy isn't. In fact, smokeasies, or clubs that covertly allow smoking despite laws prohibiting it, seem to pop up just about everywhere smoking bans do. From New York to San Francisco, and many places in between, you can find them... if you only know whom to ask.

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12. Southeast Asia: Philippines Court Orders Life Sentence for Selling Two Grams of Marijuana

The Philippines has effectively imposed a moratorium on the death penalty, but that doesn't mean drug offenders don't still face incredibly harsh punishments there. That was certainly the case this week, when a judge sentenced a 54-year-old man to life in prison for selling 10 sticks of marijuana weighing just 1.79 grams, or less than one-eighth of an ounce.

Regional Trial Court Judge Gabriel Ingles Monday sentenced Rosario Bayot Mahinay to life on Monday. Mahinay was convicted of selling marijuana to undercover agents, a charge he denied. He said two men approached him as he waited for his daughter and offered him money for marijuana, which he refused because he wasn't selling marijuana. One of the men then threw down a plastic bag containing marijuana, and Mahinay was then arrested, he said.

Judge Ingles, however, pronounced himself unconvinced by Mahinay's testimony. He said Mahinay had failed to present any evidence to show ill faith by the undercover officers who did the buy-bust.

Mahinay's may be an extreme case, but law enforcement in the Philippines, abetted by a mass media prone to tabloid-style sensationalism on drug issues, continues to consider marijuana serious business.

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13. Death Penalty: Hash-Selling, Drunkenness Earn Ultimate Sanction, Two More Beheaded in Saudi Arabia

The resort to the death penalty for drug offenses continued unabated this week and arguably scaled new heights as an Indian court sentenced a man to death for selling hash and an Iranian court handed out the same sentence to a chronic drunk. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia lopped the heads off another pair of drug traffickers.

As reported by the death penalty abolitionist group Hands Off Cain, an Iranian court sentenced a 22-year-old man to death for repeatedly violating the Islamic Republic's ban on drinking alcohol. The man, identified only by his first name, Mohsen, has confessed and expressed remorse, his lawyer told the Iranian state news agency. Under Iran's Sharia law, a person caught drinking four times can face capital punishment, but the resort to the ultimate sanction for drinking is reportedly rare.

Meanwhile, India made a rare appearance among the ranks of the death-dealing countries this week when a Mumbai court meted out a death sentence for selling 20 kilos of hashish. Under Indian law, a second drug trafficking offense can merit the death penalty, but the sentence handed down to Gulam Malik was the first one in the city of Mumbai.

And Saudi Arabia kept up on its bid to be a world leader in drug executions, with the executions in Mecca last week of two people for drug trafficking. Pakistani citizen Ghulam Nawaz was beheaded after being found guilty of trafficking, as was Nigerian woman Tawa Ibrahim. Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of Islamic law that prescribes the death sentence for murder, apostasy, rape, drug trafficking, highway robbery, sabotage and armed robbery.

The resort to the death penalty appears to be a violation of international law. An international campaign to end the practice is getting underway. Read about it here.

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14. Weekly: This Week in History

February 9, 1909: Congress passes the Opium Exclusion Act.

February 8, 1914: In an example of the role of racial prejudice in the genesis of US drug laws, The New York Times publishes an article entitled "Negro Cocaine 'Fiends' New Southern Menace."

February 14, 1929: St. Valentine's Day Massacre symbolizes the mob violence of the Prohibition era.

February 12, 1961: In the first televised challenge to marijuana prohibition, Beat poet Allen Ginsberg uses an appearance on the John Crosby show to argue for the harmlessness of marijuana. By the end of the program, Crosby and guests author Norman Mailer and anthropologist Ashley Montagu all joined Ginsberg in agreeing the current laws were too extreme.

February 11, 1982: Attorney General William French Smith grants an exemption sparing the CIA from a legal requirement to report on drug smuggling by agency assets. The exemption had been secretly engineered by CIA Director William J. Casey according to a letter placed into the Congressional Record by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) on May 7, 1998, which establishes that Casey foresaw the legal dilemma which the CIA would encounter should federal law require it to report on illicit narcotics smuggling by its agents.

February 11, 1988: The international heroin seizure record is set -- 2,816 pounds in Bangkok, Thailand.

February 14, 1995: The US House of Representatives approves several drug-related bills, including H.R. 728, a bill that replaces the police ($8.8 billion), prevention ($4 billion), and drug courts ($1 billion) provisions of the 1994 Crime Act with a $10 billion block grant program.

February 14, 1996: Fairfax Police Chief Jim Anderson becomes one of the latest officials to speak out in favor of California's medical marijuana initiative when he says, "I believe there is adequate unbiased and scientific evidence that marijuana does have medicinal benefit."

February 10, 1998: The United Kingdom House of Lords announces an investigation into the recreational and medical use of marijuana to be conducted by the Lords Select Committee. Announcement of the inquiry follows a campaign by the UK's Independent to decriminalize marijuana, a report from the British Medical Association urging Ministers to consider allowing the medical use of cannabinoids, and a plea from Lord Chief Justice Lord Bingham of Cornhill, who says marijuana decriminalization deserves "detached, objective, [and] independent consideration."

February 11, 1999: Researchers in Boston, Massachusetts, announce they found no link between marijuana use by pregnant mothers and miscarriages. The study does document a strong link between tobacco consumption and miscarriages, and also shows an increased risk of miscarriage by mothers who use cocaine.

February 9, 2000: Deborah Lynn Quinn, born with no arms or legs, is sentenced to one year in an Arizona prison for marijuana possession and violating probation on a previous drug offense, the attempted sale of four grams of marijuana to a police informant for $20. Quinn requires around the clock care for feeding, bathing, and hygiene.

February 11, 2001: President Jorge Battle of Uruguay becomes the first head of state in Latin America to call for drug legalization.

February 12, 2002: The same day that President George W. Bush issues his National Drug Control Strategy, DEA agents raid the Harm Reduction Center, a medical marijuana club in San Francisco.

February 10, 2003: South Dakota's HB 1153 passes the state's House of Representatives. The bill revises the current penalties for marijuana distribution to include "intent to distribute."

February 14, 2004: The Daytona Beach News Journal reports that Volusia County sheriff's investigators seized bricks of marijuana during several drug busts that were, in fact, bricks they had already seized before. As it turned out, half a million dollars' worth of drugs was stolen from their evidence compound by a former evidence manager. How many times it may have happened prior wasn't known.

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15. Feedback: Do You Read Drug War Chronicle?

Do you read Drug War Chronicle? If so, we'd like to hear from you. DRCNet needs two things:

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  2. Please send quotes and reports on how you put our flow of information to work, for use in upcoming grant proposals and letters to funders or potential funders. Do you use DRCNet as a source for public speaking? For letters to the editor? Helping you talk to friends or associates about the issue? Research? For your own edification? Have you changed your mind about any aspects of drug policy since subscribing, or inspired you to get involved in the cause? Do you reprint or repost portions of our bulletins on other lists or in other newsletters? Do you have any criticisms or complaints, or suggestions? We want to hear those too. Please send your response -- one or two sentences would be fine; more is great, too -- email [email protected] or reply to a Chronicle email or use our online comment form. Please let us know if we may reprint your comments, and if so, if we may include your name or if you wish to remain anonymous. IMPORTANT: Even if you have given us this kind of feedback before, we could use your updated feedback now too -- we need to hear from you!

Again, please help us keep Drug War Chronicle alive at this important time! Click here to make a donation online, or send your check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. Make your check payable to DRCNet Foundation to make a tax-deductible donation for Drug War Chronicle -- remember if you select one of our member premium gifts that will reduce the portion of your donation that is tax-deductible -- or make a non-deductible donation for our lobbying work -- online or check payable to Drug Reform Coordination Network, same address. We can also accept contributions of stock -- email [email protected] for the necessary info.

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16. Webmasters: Help the Movement by Running DRCNet Syndication Feeds on Your Web Site!

Are you a fan of DRCNet, and do you have a web site you'd like to use to spread the word more forcefully than a single link to our site can achieve? We are pleased to announce that DRCNet content syndication feeds are now available. Whether your readers' interest is in-depth reporting as in Drug War Chronicle, the ongoing commentary in our blogs, or info on specific drug war subtopics, we are now able to provide customizable code for you to paste into appropriate spots on your blog or web site to run automatically updating links to DRCNet educational content.

For example, if you're a big fan of Drug War Chronicle and you think your readers would benefit from it, you can have the latest issue's headlines, or a portion of them, automatically show up and refresh when each new issue comes out.

If your site is devoted to marijuana policy, you can run our topical archive, featuring links to every item we post to our site about marijuana -- Chronicle articles, blog posts, event listings, outside news links, more. The same for harm reduction, asset forfeiture, drug trade violence, needle exchange programs, Canada, ballot initiatives, roughly a hundred different topics we are now tracking on an ongoing basis. (Visit the Chronicle main page, right-hand column, to see the complete current list.)

If you're especially into our new Speakeasy blog section, new content coming out every day dealing with all the issues, you can run links to those posts or to subsections of the Speakeasy.

Click here to view a sample of what is available -- please note that the length, the look and other details of how it will appear on your site can be customized to match your needs and preferences.

Please also note that we will be happy to make additional permutations of our content available to you upon request (though we cannot promise immediate fulfillment of such requests as the timing will in many cases depend on the availability of our web site designer). Visit our Site Map page to see what is currently available -- any RSS feed made available there is also available as a javascript feed for your web site (along with the Chronicle feed which is not showing up yet but which you can find on the feeds page linked above). Feel free to try out our automatic feed generator, online here.

Contact us for assistance or to let us know what you are running and where. And thank you in advance for your support.

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17. Resource: DRCNet Web Site Offers Wide Array of RSS Feeds for Your Reader

RSS feeds are the wave of the future -- and DRCNet now offers them! The latest Drug War Chronicle issue is now available using RSS at http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/feed online.

We have many other RSS feeds available as well, following about a hundred different drug policy subtopics that we began tracking since the relaunch of our web site this summer -- indexing not only Drug War Chronicle articles but also Speakeasy blog posts, event listings, outside news links and more -- and for our daily blog postings and the different subtracks of them. Visit our Site Map page to peruse the full set.

Thank you for tuning in to DRCNet and drug policy reform!

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18. Resource: Reformer's Calendar Accessible Through DRCNet Web Site

DRCNet's Reformer's Calendar is a tool you can use to let the world know about your events, and find out what is going on in your area in the issue. This resource used to run in our newsletter each week, but now is available from the right hand column of most of the pages on our web site.

The Reformer's Calendar publishes events large and small of interest to drug policy reformers around the world. Whether it's a major international conference, a demonstration bringing together people from around the region or a forum at the local college, we want to know so we can let others know, too.

But we need your help to keep the calendar current, so please make sure to contact us and don't assume that we already know about the event or that we'll hear about it from someone else, because that doesn't always happen.

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Permission to Reprint: This issue of Drug War Chronicle is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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