Drug War Chronicle #772 - February 21, 2013

1. Bipartisan Hemp, Medical Marijuana Bills Introduced in Congress [FEATURE]

With the introduction of medical marijuana and hemp bills this week, along with marijuana legalization legislation introduced earlier this month, Congress has a full-blown marijuana agenda before it this session. And now, it has an emerging cannabis caucus.

2. In Memoriam: Dave Purchase, Needle Exchange Pioneer

We remember needle exchange pioneer Dave Purchase, who passed away last month at age 73.

3. New Gift Items Available with Donations of $15 or Greater

We are pleased to launch a new gift offer -- and continue several older but good ones -- for StoptheDrugWar.org supporters donating $15 or more.

4. Bloomberg Says No More Jail Stays for Minor NYC Marijuana Busts

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced that police will no longer hold people arrested for small-time marijuana busts, but will instead merely have them make a desk appearance and then be released.

5. US Supreme Court Upholds Drug Dog Search of Truck

A police drug dog's training or certification records are sufficient indicators of its reliability to establish probable cause for a vehicle search, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

6. Brits Want Marijuana Reforms, Drug Policy Review

There is majority support for legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana in Britain, a new poll has found. And two-thirds also want to see a comprehensive review of British drug policy.

7. Medical Marijuana Update

Most of the action was at statehouses this week, but there was also news from the Harborside Health Center battle in California and an announcement that the nation's capital will soon have its first dispensary.

8. AZ Court Says You Don't Have to Be High to Get a DUI

An Arizona appeals court has ruled that even the presence of inactive THC metabolites from as long as a month after toking is sufficient to earn a driving under the influence conviction.

9. West Virginia Bill Would Drug Test Teens for Driver Licenses

In the latest example of the drug testing fever sweeping Charleston, a West Virginia delegate has introduced a bill requiring teens to pass not one but three drug tests before being granted full drivers' licenses.

10. Michigan Bill to Allow Medical Marijuana Sales Filed

After the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that dispensaries are illegal, a conservative lawmker is introducing a bill that would allow them by local option.

11. Two Dead in Police Grow House Shootout in Miami

A Miami police investigation of a possible grow house turned into a half-hour-long gun battle with three men, two of whom are now dead. They become the 4th and 5th persons to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

12. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A North Carolina narc gets canned, and so does a Florida patrol officer, and an Ohio evidence room supervisor gets busted after drugs walk away.

1. Bipartisan Hemp, Medical Marijuana Bills Introduced in Congress [FEATURE]

It's a marijuana policy trifecta on Capitol Hill now: recreational marijuana, medical marijuana, and hemp. Earlier this month, reformist House members filed bills to end federal pot prohibition and tax the trade and last week to legalize hemp. Now, some of those same legislators -- joined by more -- have filed bills that would protect medical marijuana patients and providers and some senators have filed their companion bill to legalize industrial hemp.

Kentucky Republicans McConnell and Paul are supporting hemp legislation in the Senate
Phase II took place Thursday, when Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), sponsor of the above-mentioned marijuana tax bill, rolled out House Resolution 689, the States' Medical Marijuana Protection Act; Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) introduced House Resolution 710, the Truth in Trials Act; and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and three co-sponsors filed the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013, the companion to House Resolution 525.

Blumenauer's bill would grant federal recognition to the use of medical marijuana and remove it from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. Regulating medical marijuana would be left to the states, and people complying with state medical marijuana laws would be exempt from federal arrest and prosecution.

It was introduced with bipartisan co-sponsorship, including Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Sam Farr (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Michael Honda (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA) ), Barbara Lee (D-CA), James Moran (D-VA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

"The States' Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act will allow medical marijuana patients and businesses -- who are complying with state law -- the ability to access and distribute marijuana free from federal interference," Blumenauer said. "Nineteen jurisdictions have passed laws recognizing the importance of providing access to medical marijuana for the hundreds of thousands of patients who rely on it. It is time for the federal government to respect these decisions, and stop inhibiting safe access."

"There is a plethora of scientific evidence establishing marijuana’s medical safety and efficacy and public polling for marijuana law reform is skyrocketing," said Jasmine Tyler, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "However, when it comes to marijuana and the federal government, old fashioned politics routinely trumps modern science. The States' Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act offers us hope we will see significant change with its passage. Congress should move swiftly to acknowledge what patients, doctors, researchers and scientists have been telling us for years: marijuana has therapeutic and medicinal benefits," said Tyler.

Farr's Truth in Trials Act is an attempt to restore fairness in federal medical marijuana prosecutions. Because the federal government refuses to recognize marijuana as anything other than a proscribed controlled substance, medical marijuana defendants and their attorneys are barred from even mentioning it or their state laws allowing its use in federal court. That has repeatedly resulted in state law-abiding medical marijuana growers and providers being convicted as drug dealers in federal courts, and sentenced accordingly.

Similar legislation has been introduced in previous years, but made little progress. Now, however, as the Obama administration keeps up the pressure on medical marijuana providers and in the wake of November's election results, supporters hope the bill can gain some traction.

This year's bill is cosponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Barbara Lee (D-CA), James Moran (D-VA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Jared Polis (D-Co), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Henry Waxman (D-CA).

"The federal government for too long has denied due process to defendants who can demonstrate that they were using medical marijuana legally under local or state law," Farr said. "This bill would ensure that all the evidence is heard in a case and not just the evidence that favors conviction."

"Congress has the opportunity to establish a sensible public health policy on medical marijuana, and do what the Obama Administration has been afraid or unwilling to do," said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), which has been working with members of Congress to advance this legislation. "Patient advocates intend to push Congress to take heed of the abundant scientific evidence showing marijuana's medical value, and act in accordance with the overwhelming popular support this issue receives."

ASA is holding its first ever National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference this month in Washington, in part to do a big lobbying push for the bills. Attendees will convene in Washington on Friday, with the four-day conference culminating with a press conference and lobby day on Capitol Hill on Monday.

And then there was hemp. With Sen. Wyden's introduction of a Senate bill, there are now hemp bills in both houses. In addition to Wyden and Democratic and fellow Oregonian Sen. Jeff Merkley (D), the Senate hemp bill has the support of Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Senate party leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), both of whom have also endorsed hemp legislation back home in Kentucky.

"I am proud to introduce legislation with my friend Rand Paul and Senate colleagues, that will allow Kentucky farmers to harness the economic potential that industrial hemp can provide," McConnell said. "During these tough economic times, this legislation has the potential to create jobs and provide a boost to Kentucky's economy and to our farmers and their families."

"The Industrial Hemp Farming Act paves the way to creating jobs across the country -- from Kentucky to Oregon and everywhere else," Paul said. "Allowing American farmers to cultivate industrial hemp and benefit from its many uses will boost our states' economies and bring much-needed jobs in the agriculture community."

The House version of the bill was introduced earlier by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and has 28 cosponsors: Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Dan Benishek (R-MI), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), John Campbell (R-CA), Lacy Clay (D-MO), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Sam Farr (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Richard Hanna (D-NY), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), George Miller (D-CA), James Moran (D-VA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Eleanor Norton (D-DC), Collin Peterson (D-MN), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Jared Polis (D-CO), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), John Yarmuth (D-KY), and Ted Yoho (R-FL).

The hemp bills would remove federal restrictions on the domestic cultivation of industrial hemp. Specifically, the bill would remove hemp from the Schedule I controlled substance list under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, and would define it as a non-drug so long as it contained less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Eight states, including Oregon, have already passed bills providing for legal hemp production, but action in those states is on hold because the DEA refuses to recognize any difference between hemp and marijuana. That means US hemp product manufacturers must import hemp from countries that do recognize the difference between hemp and marijuana.

"Unfortunately, there are some dumb regulations that are hurting economic growth and job creation, and the ban on growing industrial hemp is certainly among them," Wyden said. "The opportunities for American farmers and businesses are obvious here. It's time to boost revenues for farmers and reduce the costs for the businesses around the country that use hemp."

Congress now has a full-blown marijuana agenda on its plate, from pot legalization to industrial hemp to medical marijuana, if it chooses to address it. And, given the overlapping cosponsorships on the various bills, it now appears to have developed a cannabis caucus. We've already come a long way from the days when it was all up to Barney Frank and Ron Paul, and they've just been gone a few weeks.

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2. In Memoriam: Dave Purchase, Needle Exchange Pioneer

Needle exchange pioneer Dave Purchase died last month in Tacoma, Washington, where he had long resided and where he began handing out sterile syringes to prevent the spread of AIDS among intravenous drug users back in the summer of 1998. Purchase died on January 21 of complications from pneumonia. He was 73.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/dave-purchase-250px.jpg
Dave Purchase
Purchase is widely cited as having started the first needle exchange in the country, although that is difficult to verify.

A Harley rider, the bearded and burly Purchase was working as a drug counselor when he was hit by a drunk driver in 1983. He returned to work after recovering and used $3,000 from a settlement from the crash to buy his first supplies and begin handing out needles, cotton swabs, bleach, and condoms. Within months, he had handed out 13,000 needles, most of them bought with his own money.

By 1993, Purchase had founded the Point Defiance AIDS Project, working with local authorities, and the North American Syringe Exchange Network (NASEN), which now distributes more than 15 million needles a year to syringe exchange programs.

Purchase started his exchanges without official sanction and said he was prepared to go to jail for possessing drug paraphernalia, but then-Tacoma Police Chief Ray Fjetland wisely suspended enforcement of the paraphernalia law at the exchanges. Over the years, Purchase's Tacoma exchange became a model, especially in winning the cooperation of local authorities.

At last count, there were around 200 needle exchange programs in the country, which distributed some 36 million syringes in 2011. Those needle exchange programs have been repeatedly shown to save lives by reducing the spread of AIDS and other blood-borne infections. Dave Purchase wasn't the only early needle exchange advocate, but he was a tireless one, and countless people owe their lives to his efforts.

And maybe more than lives. In a testimonial posted on the NASEN web site (linked below), Nick Crofts expressed thoughts felt by many in calling Dave "a presence in the world... a taken-for-granted, a defining pole, a constant point of reference when there was trouble or confusion, an ethical touchstone." Crofts wrote, "[a]ll the people Dave inspired share one characteristic with him... he accepted people for what they were, he valued them for their very existence, he made it known to them and everyone else that their lives were equally important as his and everyone else's. This is the hallmark and the revolution of the harm reduction movement... and Dave stamped this all over the north American scene, and through his acolytes all over the world."

Dave may be gone now, but his work lives on. More testimonials and links about him can be found on the NASEN web site and the Tacoma Syringe Program Facebook page.

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3. New Gift Items Available with Donations of $15 or Greater

Dear friend of StoptheDrugWar.org:

We are pleased to launch a new membership offer -- and continue several older but good ones -- for supporters making donations of $15 or greater to our organization.

The new item is a pair of reports that highlight the US and international legal landscapes as legalization becomes a mainstream issue. Though the text of each report can be found online, for $15 or more you can hold the nice printed copies -- the history in the making -- in your hands. We will send you one each of both of these reports, for just one $15 or greater donation:

  • "On the Limits of Federal Supremacy: When States Relax (or Abandon) Marijuana Bans," a Cato Institute Policy Analysis by Vanderbilt law professor Robert Mikos, explores the limits in federal law and resources for enforcing marijuana prohibition in states that have legalized.
  • "Governing The Global Drug Wars," a special report by London School of Economics IDEAS, details the history of the global prohibition regime; the obstacles it poses to nations seeking to explore legalization and other reforms, and efforts by nations and agencies to transform the system into one respecting public health and human rights.

We are also pleased to continue offering the following items (while supplies last), now also with donations of $15 or more:

  • Emperor of Hemp DVD, about the life and work of Jack Herer (memorial tribute edition)
  • Cannabis Yields and Dosage, by Chris Conrad
  • StoptheDrugWar.org strobe light
  • StoptheDrugWar.org stamp and ink pad
  • StoptheDrugWar.org mouse pad

Though we offer these items for $15, I hope you will consider making a larger donation if you can, or supplementing your initial gift with a monthly one. If the gifts are not important to you, I hope you'll consider sending a donation that's just for our work.

Donations can be tax-deductible, supporting our educational work, or non-deductible, supporting our lobbying work. (Note that selecting any gift items reduces the amount of your donation that is deductible -- which with a smaller gift amount can be most of it.) They can be made online on our web site by credit card or PayPal, or sent by mail to P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. If you are donating by check, please make it payable to DRCNet Foundation (if tax-deductible) or Drug Reform Coordination Network (if not deductible).

If you wish to donate stock, the information to give your brokerage is Ameritrade, (800) 669-3900), DTC #0188, and account number 781926492 for tax-deductible gifts or 864663500 for non-deductible gifts -- please make sure to contact us if donating in this way.

Thank you for standing with us to stop the drug war's cruelties and meet the opportunity this time offers to make a brighter future. As recent events show: Time, and the truth, are on our side!

Sincerely,

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org
Washington, DC
http://stopthedrugwar.org

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4. Bloomberg Says No More Jail Stays for Minor NYC Marijuana Busts

In his final state of the city address Thursday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that people caught with small amounts of marijuana in the city will no longer be subjected to overnight stays in the city's jails, but will merely be taken to the precinct for a desk appearance and then released.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (wikimedia.org)
The move is in response to increasingly loud criticism of the city's extremely high marijuana arrest rates, which are taking place despite New York state having decriminalized pot possession more than three decades ago. The NYPD managed to get its pound of flesh from marijuana users by intimidating them into removing baggies from their pockets, then charging them with the misdemeanor of public possession of marijuana, not the infraction of simple possession, and then making them sit in holding cells for up to 24 hours.

During Bloomberg's 10-year tenure as mayor, more than 400,000 people have been arrested on pot possession charges, nearly 350,000 of them young men of color. That number has begun to decline in recent months as police have modified their practices under pressure.

"We know that there's more we can do to keep New Yorkers, particularly young men, from ending up with a criminal record," Bloomberg said. "Commissioner Kelly and I support Governor Cuomo's proposal to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a violation, rather than a misdemeanor, and we'll work to help him pass it this year. But we won't wait for that to happen," he said.

"Right now, those arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana are often held in custody overnight. We're changing that. Effective next month, anyone presenting an ID and clearing a warrant check will be released directly from the precinct with a desk appearance ticket to return to court. It's consistent with the law, it's the right thing to do, and it will allow us to target police resources where they're needed most."

Drug reform and civil rights activists said it was a step in the right direction, but a small one.

"Mayor Bloomberg stopped defending the indefensible and now recognizes that we cannot afford to criminalize youth of color for carrying small amounts of marijuana," said Alredo Carrasquillo, a community organizer with VOCAL-NY. "But being 'consistent with the law' means more than just issuing desk appearance tickets instead of putting people in jail. Most people targeted for these arrests only produce marijuana in plain view after being illegally searched during stop, question and frisk encounters with police. Mayor Bloomberg's support for marijuana reform is a step in the right direction but does not solve the fundamental problems with the NYPD's policing strategies."

"We agree with the mayor that there's more we can do keep New Yorkers, especially young people of color, from ending up with a criminal record," said Kyung Ji Rhee, the juvenile justice director for the Center for NuLeadership. "For instance, the mayor can direct Commissioner Kelly to immediately cease and desist NYPD’s broken 'stop and frisk' program. We must stop these mass arrests and criminalizing people for simply possessing small amounts of marijuana. And we can get the police out of our schools to end the 'schools to prison' pipeline."

"This new policy is a step in the right direction -- and it's the direct result of the ongoing campaign led by community groups in New York to end these racially biased, unpopular, unjust and expensive arrests," said Gabriel Sayegh, New York state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Marijuana possession is the number one arrest in New York City and with this new policy change, tens of thousands of people, mostly young men of color, will no longer be held in jail overnight on for possessing small amounts of marijuana. But the arrests themselves need to end -- period. Now the legislature must act -- immediately -- to pass Gov. Cuomo's marijuana decriminalization bill. Every reasonable New Yorker supports the measure. Reform is long, long overdue."

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5. US Supreme Court Upholds Drug Dog Search of Truck

The US Supreme Court Tuesday upheld the use of police dog's sniff of a truck, finding that training and testing records were sufficient indicators of the dog's reliability and gave police probable cause for the search. The high court in 2005 upheld the legality of highway drug dog searches; in this case, the court focused on the reliability of drug dog searches.

In deciding the case, the high court reversed a decision from the Florida Supreme Court. The Florida court had held that a wide array of evidence was necessary to establish probable cause for the search, including field performance records that would indicate how many times the dog had falsely alerted. Without such records, the Florida court held, police could not establish probable cause.

Tuesday's ruling came in Florida v. Harris, in which Clayton Harris had been pulled over by a police officer in Liberty County in 2006. The drug dog, Aldo, alerted to the truck's door handle, the officer searched the truck, and methamphetamine precursor chemicals were found. Clayton was arrested on meth-related charges.

Harris was again pulled over by the same officer while out on bail, and Aldo again alerted on his vehicle. This time the vehicle search came up empty. Harris's attorneys challenged Aldo's reliability in part because of this second alert that turned up nothing. The Florida Supreme Court agreed with their argument that the dog's performance in the field needed to be assessed in order to determine probable cause for the search.

But not the US Supreme Court. It unanimously reversed the decision.

A drug dog's "satisfactory performance" in a certification or training program provided sufficient probable cause to trust its alert, Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the majority. "The question -- similar to every inquiry into probable cause -- is whether all the facts surrounding a dog's alert, viewed through the lens of common sense, would make a reasonably prudent person think that a search would reveal contraband or evidence of a crime," Kagan wrote. "A sniff is up to snuff when it meets that test."

The case is one of two Florida drug dog cases before the Supreme Court this session. In the other, the high court takes up the question of whether a drug dog can sniff the front doorstep of a home without a search warrant. The Supreme Court has upheld drug dog searches of vehicles on the highway and packages at delivery service warehouses, but in other cases has shown greater deference to Fourth Amendment requirements at residences.

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6. Brits Want Marijuana Reforms, Drug Policy Review

According to a new Ipsos Mori poll, a majority of Britons favor either decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana and two-thirds support a comprehensive review of all the options for controlling drugs, from legalization to tougher enforcement.

The poll found that 53% of those surveyed supported either decriminalization or one form or another of legalization. Legalization, whether under "strict," "moderate," or "minimal" control, was supported by 41%, and decriminalization by 12%.

Only 35% favored the status quo (21%) or harsher treatment of marijuana (14%). Eight percent had no opinion and 4% said "I have never heard of this drug."

Britain down-scheduled marijuana from a Class B to a Class C drug in 2004, but reversed course in 2008, placing it back on the more serious Class B amid rising fears of the dangers of "skunk" marijuana, Britain's generic term for high-potency, domestically-produced weed. 

When it comes to other drugs, a majority (60%) favored the status quo, while only slightly more than one-third (36%) favored either decriminalization (14%) or a pilot decriminalization program (21%).

But more than two-thirds of respondents (67%) wanted a comprehensive independent review of Britain's drug policies. Support cut across party lines, with 69% of Labor supporters and 70% of Conservative supporters calling for a review of drug policy.

Britain's Conservative-led government has shown distinct disinterest in revisiting the country's drug policies, although that has led to some friction with its Liberal Democrat junior partners.

"These results just show how far ahead of politicians the public are," said the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, which commissioned the poll. "Whilst Labor and Conservative politicians shy away from the debate on drugs, around half of their supporters want to see legal regulation of cannabis production and supply or decriminalization of cannabis possession, and a significant majority want a comprehensive review of our approach to drugs -- including consideration of legal regulation," the group said.

"Politicians have repeated their 'tough on drugs' propaganda for so long that they assume the public are more fearful of change than they really are," Transform said. "In fact the world has changed, and the public are far more progressive than was thought, right across the political spectrum. At the very least the government should heed long standing and growing calls for a review of all policy options, including legal regulation. And as a matter of urgency the coalition should engage in experiments in the Portuguese style decriminalization of possession of drugs for personal use. Now is the time for the heads of all parties to show the leadership citizens surely deserve."

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7. Medical Marijuana Update

Most of the action was at statehouses this week, but there was also news from the Harborside Health Center battle in California and an announcement that the nation's capital will soon have its first dispensary.

Arkansas

On Tuesday, the state attorney general rejected the wording of a ballot measure that would legalize medical marijuana. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel complained of ambiguities in the measure. McDaniel must certify the measure before signature-gathering  to qualify for the 2014 ballot can begin.That means it's redrafting time for Arkansans for Compassionate Care, the same folks who brought a narrowly-defeated measure to the ballot last year.

California

Last Thursday, a federal magistrate rejected the city of Oakland's challenge to the federal government's effort to shut down Harborside Health Center, the world's largest medical marijuana dispensary. Magistrate Maria-Elena James ruled that only those who have a direct interest in the property -- Harborside and its landlords -- have the right to challenge the government's effort to seize it. The city had intervened in the case on Harborside's behalf, arguing that its closure would lead to public health and safety problems.

On Wednesday, medical marijuana patient Daisy Bram was arraigned in Tehama County on marijuana cultivation charges. This is the second run-in with recalcitrant local authorities for Bram, who was arrested on similar charges in 2011 in Butte County. In both cases, authorities also seized her children. In the Butte County case, police and social workers tore Bram's month-old son from her arms, and he and his sibling remained in foster care for six months. Her children have been seized once again, as has her 12-year-old personal vehicle, which authorities claimed was purchased with the fruits of crime.

District of Columbia

Last Friday, operators of Capital City Care announced that the District's first dispensary will open in April. It's been a long time coming. Voters approved medical marijuana in 1998, but Congress blocked its implementation for more than a decade, and District officials have moved at an excruciatingly slow pace in enacting regulations and permissions. City officials have approved three dispensaries and six cultivation centers, but Capital City will be the first out the gate.

Massachusetts

Last Thursday, state health officials held a "listening session" in Boston to get public input as they work on regulations for the state's nascent medical marijuana industry. They heard from patients seeking broad access, as well as from substance-abuse groups, youth counselors and police, who urged them to draft strict regulations. This was the second of three "listening sessions" undertaken by the Department of Public Health. The department has until May 1 to draft regulations for the program.

Montana

Last Friday, a package of bills to fix the state's gutted medical marijuana program was defeated in a House committee vote. The bills were an effort to undo some of the restrictions passed by the legislature in 2012 that effectively killed the state's burgeoning medical marijuana industry. The hearing was also notable for one of the more colorful comments on marijuana heard in recent years. Marijuana is "a joke," said House Human Services Committee Chair David Howard (R-Park City), a former FBI agent, adding, "It makes you delusional. It is psychologically addicting and physiologically addicting and it absorbs in your fat cells, which is the most dangerous drug there is. This is not a drug. It's a poison."

Washington

On Monday, lawmakers held a hearing on taxing medical marijuana dispensaries. The bill's sponsors said they want to hit dispensaries with a 25% tax on cannabis sales like the one mandated for non-medical marijuana under the state's new legalization scheme. The idea is to avoid a dual market -- one taxed and one not -- once legalization regulations go into effect. But more than a dozen people, most of them patients, testified against the move. No vote was taken.

West Virginia

On Monday, Del. Mike Manypenny (D-Taylor) introduced a medical marijuana bill. The bill, House Bill 2230, would allow patients to possess up to six ounces of marijuana and establishes five "compassion centers" to provide patients their medicine. Manypenny introduced similar bills in the last two sessions, but they never got a hearing.

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8. AZ Court Says You Don't Have to Be High to Get a DUI

An Arizona appeals court has ruled that marijuana users don't need to be actually impaired to be successfully prosecuted for driving under the influence. The ruling came Tuesday in the case of a man who tested positive for an inactive marijuana metabolite that remains in the body for weeks after the high from smoking marijuana has worn off.

The ruling in Arizona v. Shilgevorkyan overturned a decision by a superior court judge who said that it didn't make sense to prosecute people for driving under the influence if they're not actually under the influence.

The ruling turned on a close reading of legislative intent in writing the state's DUID law. The legislation specified the presence of "the metabolite" of THC, and Shilgevorkyan had argued that lawmakers meant "hydroxy-THC, the metabolite which would indicate current impairment, not carboxy-THC, an inactive metabolite that indicates only usage some time in the past.

The appeals court disagreed, citing its decisions on earlier challenges to the DUID. "The legislature intended to create a 'per se prohibition' and a 'flat ban on driving with any proscribed drug in one's system," the court noted. "We determined that the legislative ban extends to all substances, whether capable of causing impairment or not."

Because the law was drafted to protect public safety, the appeals court said, it should be interpreted broadly to include inactive as well as active compounds.

But Superior Court Commissioner Myra Harris, who had ruled on Shilgevorkyan's behalf, warned in her earlier opinion that the appeals court's interpretation of the law would result in people, including out of state medical marijuana patients, being charged with DUI when they are not impaired.

"Residents of these states, particularly those geographically near Arizona, are likely to travel to Arizona," Harris said in her 2012 ruling upholding the dismissal. "It would be irrational for Arizona to prosecute a defendant for an act that might have occurred outside of Arizona several weeks earlier."

Shilgevorkyan's attorney said he plans to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

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9. West Virginia Bill Would Drug Test Teens for Driver Licenses

A bill introduced Tuesday in the West Virginia House of Delegates would require prospective teen drivers to pass three separate drug tests before receiving a full drivers' license. It's only the latest drug testing proposal to emerge at the statehouse in Charleston this year.

teen driving lesson
Introduced by Del. Joe Ellington (R-Mercer), House Bill 2528 would require teens to "pass a drug test designed to detect illegal consumption of controlled substances" before getting a learner's permit, before getting an intermediate license, and before getting a full license.

"So the goal was: they really want to get that driver's license -- their incentive would be to not use anything and maybe not bow down to peer pressure to succumb to drug use," Ellington explained to WSAZ News Channel 3 in Charleston Tuesday night.

Ellington, an obstetrician, is the minority chair of the Health Committee and member of the Roads and Transportation Committee, where the bill has been referred.

Charleston has been a hotbed of drug testing fever in recent years, which have repeatedly seen bills introduced that would require drug testing of welfare recipients. There's another one this year, as well as bills that would expand drug testing of coal miners and require health care providers to release drug testing records of minors to their parents.

It's not just Republicans at the statehouse. Last year, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) issued an executive order requiring participants in the state's job training programs to undergo mandatory, suspicionless drug testing.

The enthusiasm for drug testing in Charleston remains despite the sobering results of Tomblin's job trainee drug testing. The first six months of testing resulted in just five failed tests out of 562.

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10. Michigan Bill to Allow Medical Marijuana Sales Filed

A little more than a week after the state Supreme Court ruled that Michigan's medical marijuana law doesn't allow for dispensaries, a state lawmaker is ready to file a bill that would allow cities and counties to approve them via local option.

State Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville) said Monday he would introduce House Bill 4271 Tuesday. The bill already has bipartisan support, with eight Democrat and eight Republican cosponsors.

A similar bill died in committee last year, and medical marijuana foe Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) has said no further medical marijuana bills are needed this year, but Callton told the Lansing State Journal he thought the measure would fare better this time around.

"I'm a Republican and I'm from a conservative area, but I've seen growing support from a lot of other legislators for this from both parties," Callton  said. "And now, with this court ruling, it becomes much more important. I want people to be able to take a recommendation for (marijuana) from their doctor and be able to go to what we're calling a provisionary center."

Not only has Schuette come out against any new medical marijuana bills, his office will this week send out letters to all 83 county prosecutors instructing them to shut down anything resembling a dispensary, his office said on Friday.

Between the state Supreme Court ruling and Schuette's aggressive posture, Michigan dispensary operators -- there may be as many as a hundred statewide -- are running scared. Many have closed their doors, while others remain open only on the down low.

"Nobody I know in this state is advertising this service anymore -- it's all going to be word-of-mouth from now on," Holice Wood, owner of a compassion club, told the State Journal.

The state's 125,000 registered medical marijuana patients now must grow their medicine themselves, rely on a caregiver (limited to no more than five patients), or resort to the black market. Patients need safe access to their medicine, they said.

"It's cost-prohibitive to grow this yourself, and it's labor intensive," said Alec McKelvey Jr., 41, of Warren, a state-registered patient who uses marijuana to fight the side effects of cancer treatments. "You have to spend hundreds of dollars on equipment and really know what you're doing to get a quality plant that has no parasites or mold -- that would make my health worse," McKelvey said.

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11. Two Dead in Police Grow House Shootout in Miami

Two people are dead and one man is under arrest after a Miami-Dade Police investigation into a possible marijuana grow house Tuesday evening turned into a sustained gun battle. Dell Peter DiGiovanni, 50, and (presumably -- see below) Michael DiGiovanni, 28, become the 4th and 5th persons to die in US domestic drug law operations so far this year.

According to CBS 4 News in Miami, Miami-Dade Police went to a home shared by the DiGiovannis and 29-year-old Brian Hall around 7:00pm Tuesday as part of "a narcotics investigation" and were met by gunfire.

"As they approached the door the subjects inside the house opened fire on the detectives," said Miami-Dade police spokesman Det. Alvaro Zabaleta." They immediately returned fire and three of the subjects were able to flee on foot."

While Zabaleta described the officers as detectives, it is not clear if they were in plain clothes.

A shootout estimated at 30 minutes long then took place, during which the residence shared by the three men caught fire. Police were able to arrest Hall Tuesday night, but were unable to search the house that night because of the fire. A body believed to be that of Michael DiGiovanni was found inside the house Wednesday.

Then, Wednesday afternoon, police reported that they had found the body of Dell Peter DiGiovanni hanging from a tree in front of home in the neighborhood. They said he had apparently committed suicide.

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12. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A North Carolina narc gets canned and so does a Florida patrol officer, and an Ohio evidence room supervisor gets busted after drugs walk away. Let's get to it:

In Cincinnati, the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office property room supervisor was arrested last Wednesday, along with his wife and her son, for stealing "various drugs" from the facility. Michael Esposito, 71, went down after "a source" tipped off authorities six months ago that drugs were walking out of the property room. Officials are being tight-lipped, and have refused to reveal what items were taken, what type, or their value. The investigation is ongoing, and more charges are pending they said. The Esposito clan bailed out of jail shortly after being arrested.

In Greenville, North Carolina, a Greenville narcotics officer was fired last Friday for "serious policy violations" and "criminal misconduct." Rose Edmonds, a 20-year veteran and narcotics detective got canned for as yet unspecified offenses after the county prosecutor and police chief requested a probe of her actions in December. The State Bureau of Investigation continues to investigate.

In New Port Richey, Florida, a New Port Richey police officer was fired Monday after being arrested on drug charges in Hernando County. John Nohejl was arrested on charges of trafficking drugs, tampering with evidence, fleeing or attempting to flee law enforcement, possession of drug paraphernalia, and cocaine possession. He had been on administrative leave since last April for unacceptable conduct and had come under investigation again in November for allegedly making false statements and reporting for duty under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He was fired for failing to cooperate with Internal Affairs and failing to tell his bosses about his drug bust. At last report, he was in the Hernando County Jail.

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