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Drug War Chronicle #798 - August 29, 2013

1. Senator Leahy Calls Judiciary Hearing on Federal Marijuana Policy [FEATURE]

The head of the Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on the federal response to medical marijuana in 20 states and legal marijuana in two states. He has asked Attorney General Holder to testify. The hearing will be September 10.

2. Drug War Chronicle Needs Your Support

Now more than ever, StoptheDrugWar.org needs your financial support to continue to provide this crucial informational tool that builds and empowers the movement. We have a special new offer for those donating $50 or more, which this post provides some updated information about.

3. Holder Pressed on DEA Use of NSA Intelligence

Fallout continues from the Reuters revelation that the DEA is using NSA intelligence gathered under counter-terrorism laws. Now, senators and congressmen are asking Attorney General Holder to explain in a classified hearing next month.

4. Mexican Cartels Not in "Over 1,000 US Cities," Washington Post Report Finds

Another Mexican drug cartel myth has been demolished. Add "the cartels operate in 1,000 US cities" to the trash heap along with "the cartels are growing marijuana in the national forests."

5. DEA Must Pay $3 Million in 2010 Killing of LA Teen

The family of a Los Angeles honor student gunned down by DEA agents in a Studio City parking garage has been awarded $3 million in a wrongful death suit.

6. Oregon 2014 Marijuana Legalization Initiative Likely

A serious bid to get a 2014 marijuana legalization initiative on the ballot is underway in Oregon.

7. Medical Marijuana Update

Dispensaries are on the march in various states, even as in some places, localities fight rear-guard efforts. And there's more medical marijuana news, too.

8. Legalize/Decriminalize Marijuana, Canadians Say

Canadians are ready for marijuana law reform, a new poll finds. The only real question seems to be: legalization or decriminalization? Someone needs to tell the Conservative Party.

9. New Orleans Police Officer Jailed for 2012 Drug War Killing

Something unusual has happened. A police officer is going to prison for killing someone in the drug war. A New Orleans cop has pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges in the death of 20-year-old Wendell Anderson in a drug raid last year.

10. South Carolina Man Is Latest Drug War Fatality

A midnight traffic stop for a tinted windows violation in South Carolina turned into a drug bust when cops smelled weed, and one man is dead after fleeing and allegedly shooting at officers.

11. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Two Texas cops lose their jobs, a California jail guard gets busted at the playground, a Tennessee sheriff's lieutenant cops to slinging pain pills, and an Arizona Customs officer is headed for the pen.

12. Internships: Legislative, Writing/Research, Web, IT, Admin/Finance, Communications

Interns are making an important difference fighting the good fight with us at StoptheDrugWar.org.

1. Senator Leahy Calls Judiciary Hearing on Federal Marijuana Policy [FEATURE]

US Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced Monday that he would hold a hearing next month on the Justice Department's response to marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington and legal medical marijuana in 20 states and the District of Columbia. The hearing is set for September 10.

Patrick Leahy (senate.gov)
Leahy has invited Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole to testify before the committee and help clarify the conflicts between state and federal law, as well as the federal response. Cole is the author of the 2011 Cole memo giving federal prosecutors the green light to go after medical marijuana providers in states where it is not tightly regulated.

"It is important, especially at a time of budget constraints, to determine whether it is the best use of federal resources to prosecute the personal or medicinal use of marijuana in states that have made such consumption legal," Leahy said in a statement Monday. "I believe that these state laws should be respected. At a minimum, there should be guidance about enforcement from the federal government."

After Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana last November, Leahy sent a letter to the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy asking that the Obama administration make public its position on the matter. Although Holder said in February that a Justice Department response would be coming "relatively soon," it still hasn't appeared.

State officials in Colorado and Washington said last week that they thought the Justice Department had given them "tacit approval" to move forward with their plans to implement marijuana regulation, taxation, and legalization. Leahy, who has said he supports the efforts in those two states, would like to get something more definitive from the Justice Department.

In the meantime, while the feds are silent on how they will deal with legalization, federal prosecutors and the DEA have kept up the pressure on medical marijuana producers and distributors. Since the Cole memo came out two years ago, hundreds of dispensaries have been raided and hundreds more subjected to federal "threat letters." While actual prosecutions have been more rare, the result has been a reduction in access to medical marijuana for patients in areas where dispensaries have been forced out of business.

Leahy isn't the only one in Congress who is interested in federal marijuana policy. At least seven bills have been filed, most with bipartisan sponsorship, addressing federal marijuana policy. They range from bills to legalize hemp and marijuana to bills that would prevent the use of the IRS to crack down on medical marijuana dispensaries.

Holder won kudos from many drug reformers earlier this month when he announced his support for further sentencing reforms, but medical marijuana and marijuana legalization advocates were disappointed that he did not address the tension and contradictions between state and federal marijuana policies. Now, it appears that Leahy is going to force the issue, and marijuana reform advocates couldn't be more pleased.

"This is an important development for all sorts of reasons -- not least because the Senate has been so remarkably passive on marijuana issues even as twenty states have legalized medical marijuana and two have legalized it more broadly. I am delighted that Senator Leahy now seems ready to provide much needed leadership on this issue," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

"The ballot initiatives in Washington and Colorado made history not so much because they legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana but because they mandated that state governments regulate and tax what had previously been illicit markets," Nadelmann continued. "Ending marijuana prohibition not just in the states but also nationally is going to require the sort of leadership that Senator Leahy is now providing. Now is the time for his colleagues to stand up as well in defense of responsible state regulation of marijuana."

"Two states have made marijuana legal for adult use and are establishing regulated systems of production and distribution. Twenty states plus our nation's capital have made it legal for medical use. By failing to recognize the decisions of voters and legislators in those states, current federal law is undermining their ability to implement and enforce those laws," said Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project.

"Marijuana prohibition's days are numbered, and everyone in Washington knows that," Riffle continued. "It's time for Congress to stop ignoring the issue and develop a policy that allows states to adopt the most efficient and effective marijuana laws possible. We need to put the 'reefer madness' policies of the 1930s behind us and adopt an evidence-based approach for the 21st Century."

"We're still waiting for the administration to announce its response to the marijuana legalization laws in Colorado and Washington, a policy that the attorney general has been saying is coming 'relatively soon' since December," said Tom Angell, head of Marijuana Majority. "If the administration is serious about using law enforcement resources in a smarter way, it should be a no-brainer to strongly direct federal prosecutors to respect the majority of voters by allowing these groundbreaking state laws to be implemented without interference."

It ought to be an interesting, and perhaps, historic hearing. It's two weeks away.

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2. Drug War Chronicle Needs Your Support

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Dear friend of drug policy reform,

StoptheDrugWar.org needs your support more than ever before to continue our work of getting the word out online for the drug policy reform movement, building the movement, and providing this crucial informational tool that reformers around the world use in their work every day. I ask your support at this time with the most generous donation you can afford to enable this newsletter to continue.

In recent weeks we've announced our latest offer for members donating $50 or more, author-signed copies of three important new books. Phil has now completed reviews of all three of these works, most recently NYT bestselling author Doug Fine's -- Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution, as well as Marc Mauer and Sabrina Jones's Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling and Carl Hart's High Price: A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society.

To donate, and to order any of these or other items we offer, please use our online donation form at http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate, or scroll down for info on donating by mail. We are asking donations of $50 or more for a signed copy of any one or these books, $95 or more for signed copies of any two, or $135 or more for signed copies of all three. (If more than 25 people order the books by the time you place your order, we will ask the authors if they're willing to sign more. If that can't be worked out, we'll contact you and offer to make different arrangements, whether for a full or partial refund or to send different items.)

Now, $50 is a little more than we've asked for such items in the past, and of course they can be ordered online or purchased in a bookstore for less. Things have changed in the drug reform funding scene, making our organization more dependent on membership to continue our programs -- I hope you'll choose to support us at this time. Note that we continue to offer a range of books, videos, and StoptheDrugWar.org gift items with donations of as little as $7 -- visit our donation form to see the full list.

Also note that donations to StoptheDrugWar.org 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.) Donations can be made by credit card or PayPal at http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate, 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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3. Holder Pressed on DEA Use of NSA Intelligence

A group of Democratic senators and congressmen want Attorney General Eric Holder to answer questions about a Reuters report earlier this month revealing that the National Security Agency (NSA) supplied the DEA with intelligence information aimed not at fighting foreign terrorism, but at making drug cases in the US.

Five Democratic senators and three Democratic congressmen -- all senior members of the House Judiciary Committee -- have sent a letter to Holder, obtained by Reuters, that submitted questions on the issue. Congressional aides told Reuters the matter will be discussed during a classified hearing next month.

The original Reuters report showed that a DEA intelligence unit passes on NSA-gathered intelligence to field agents and instructs them not to reveal the source of the intelligence -- even in court. Those tips involve drugs, organized crime, and money laundering -- not terrorism, which is the raison d'etre for the NSA surveillance program.

"These allegations raise serious concerns that gaps in the policy and law are allowing overreach by the federal government's intelligence gathering apparatus," said the letter written by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Three congressmen -- ranking Judiciary Committee Democrat John Conyers of Michigan, Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Bobby Scott (D-VA) -- sent a similar letter after the original Reuters report earlier this month.

"If this report is accurate, then it describes an unacceptable breakdown in the barrier between foreign intelligence surveillance and criminal process," the congressmen wrote.

It's not just Democrats. House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) told CBS's Face the Nation August 18 that the NSA's passing of intelligence to the DEA for non-terrorist criminal investigations is of concern.

"I think we need to have a very careful examination of this. I think that the trust of the American people in their government is what's at stake here," he said.

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4. Mexican Cartels Not in "Over 1,000 US Cities," Washington Post Report Finds

The refrain that Mexican drug cartels "now maintain a presence in over 1,000 cities" has been widely heard ever since the claim was first made in a 2011 report by the now defunct National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC). But the Washington Post reported Sunday that it isn't true.

The US-Mexico border. The cartels are mainly on the other side of the fence. (wikimedia.org)
The figure is "misleading at best," law enforcement sources and drug policy analysts told the Post. The number was arrived by asking law enforcement agencies to self-report and not based on documented criminal cases involving Mexico's drug trafficking organizations, the so-called cartels.

DEA and Justice Department officials speaking off the record told the Post they didn't believe the numbers.

"It's not a DEA number," said a DEA official who requested anonymity. "We don't want to be attached to this number at all."

"I heard that they just cold-called people in different towns, as many as they could, and said, 'Do you have any Mexicans involved in drugs? And they would say, 'Yeah, sure,' " a Justice Department official told the Post, also anonymously.

The Post also interviewed police chiefs in towns with supposed cartel presence who said they were surprised to be included in the list of cities penetrated by the cartels. "That's news to me," Middleton, NH police chief Randy Sobel told the Post. Corinth, MS, police chief David Lancaster told the Post. "I have no knowledge of that."

Drug policy and drug trafficking analysts also scoffed at the number.

"They say there are Mexicans operating here and they must be part of a Mexican drug organization," said Peter Reuter, a University of Maryland professor and former co-director of the Rand Corporation's Drug Policy Research Center. "These numbers are mythical, and they keep getting reinforced by the echo chamber."

"Washington loves mythical numbers," former longtime Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) official John Carnevale told the Post. "Once the number is out there and it comes from a source perceived to be credible, it becomes hard to disprove, almost impossible, even when it's wrong."

The analysts said the claim was part of pattern in the drug war of promoting questionable statistics to justify drug enforcement budgets.

"At a time when agency budgets are being cut, you want to demonstrate that you are protecting the public from a menace," said Eric Sterling, president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, a drug- and policing-policy reform group. "If you say there are Mexican henchmen in 1,000 cities, you don't want to cut their budget."

The unjustifiably high number also resulted from definitional problems with the NDIC's effort.

"These definitions are interchangeable and indistinguishable," said Peter Andreas, a Brown University professor whose book "Smuggler Nation" was recently reviewed here. "This is a particularly egregious example of a pattern that unfortunately has not gotten a lot of scrutiny."

The "1,000 cities" canard isn't the only cartel myth widely circulating. For years, law enforcement in the Western US has claimed that Mexican cartels are behind large-scale marijuana grows in national forests and other public lands.Then, in January of this year, ONDCP was forced to admit there was no evidence of cartel involvement in such marijuana grows.

"Based on our intelligence, which includes thousands of cell phone numbers and wiretaps, we haven't been able to connect anyone to a major cartel," Tommy Lanier, head of ONDCP's National Marijuana Initiative, admitted to the Los Angeles Times in January.

He said law enforcement had long mislabeled marijuana grown on public land as "cartel grows" because Mexican nationals had been arrested in some cases and because raising the cartel threat was good for getting federal funding.

But Lanier's admission hasn't stopped local law enforcement from trying to play the cartel card. At least three have done so just this month: Police in San Luis Obispo, California said a marijuana grow there was "associated with Mexican drug cartels" even though no one has been arrested. Police in Grass Valley, California, warned of an "illegal Mexican cartel grow." And, police in Cedar City, Utah, said that marijuana grows on public lands were "big business for the Mexican drug cartels that operate them."

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5. DEA Must Pay $3 Million in 2010 Killing of LA Teen

A federal judge Tuesday awarded $3 million to the family of an 18-year-old Los Angeles honors student who was gunned down by undercover DEA agents in a parking garage in 2010. But the judge also ruled the officers were not negligent in their actions.

Zachary Champommier (justiceforazac.blogspot.com)
Zachary Champommier died when he drove into a Studio City shopping center parking lot to meet a friend. Also in the parking lot were a group of undercover officers, including DEA agents and LA County sheriff's deputies and LAPD officers who had been deputized by the DEA.

The cops were discussing a search warrant they had just served when they observed Champommier's friend walking in the parking garage. Suspecting the friend was breaking into cars, they detained him. When Champommier drove up, he saw his friend being accosted by people he didn't know and attempted to drive away from possible trouble.

Officers claimed that Champommier's vehicle struck a deputy as he attempted to leave the scene. Officers opened fire, killing the 18-year-old honor student and "band geek."

Both the DEA and the LA County Sheriff's Department said the shooting was justifiable because Champommier had tried to run down an officer.

"The nature of [Champommier's] aggressive actions, actually hitting the deputy -- that is not someone who is without some degree of fault," Sheriff Lee Baca said shortly after the shooting.

Champommier's mother, Carol, filed a wrongful death lawsuit, charging that federal and local drug enforcement officers were reckless in shooting at her son, who she claimed posed no reasonable threat.

US District Court Judge Michael Fitzgerald ruled that the DEA agents did have reason to believe they were in danger, but acted recklessly in shooting at Champommier's vehicle as it passed them because at that point they were no longer in danger.

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6. Oregon 2014 Marijuana Legalization Initiative Likely

Oregon activists organized as New Approach Oregon will try to put a marijuana legalization initiative on the November 2014 ballot, the leader of the group told the Willamette Week this week. The move comes after an effort in the legislature to put the issue before voters didn't bear fruit.

"Our coalition is moving forward with a legalization measure to end cannabis prohibition in Oregon in the 2014 election," said New Approach Oregon director Anthony Johnson.

Johnson said the Oregonians were working with Drug Policy Alliance(DPA), a move that should help with funding. Fundraising was a key shortcoming of the failed 2012 marijuana legalization Measure 80 initiative campaign headed by Paul Stanford.

Stanford filed two new initiatives in June, but it's not clear if he's going to move forward with them.

"DPA will help us draft the measure that we'll move forward in 2014," Johnson said.

The move comes after New Approach Oregon, DPA and a group of Oregon political insiders were unable to move House Bill 3371. Lawmakers could have referred that marijuana legalization bill to the voters, but declined to do so.

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7. Medical Marijuana Update

Dispensaries are on the march in various states, even as in some places, localities fight rear-guard efforts. And there's more medical marijuana news, too. Let's get to it:

California

Last Tuesday, Covina has become the latest Southern California city to ban medical marijuana dispensaries. The ordinance adopted by the city council bans all types of dispensaries, including delivery services.

Last Wednesday, Oakland's Harborside Dispensary said the feds were blocking armored car companies from carrying cash for dispensaries. Various federal agencies have blocked dispensary access to banks and credit card companies, leaving the businesses flush with cash and ripe for rip-offs. Harborside director Steve DeAngelo said the armored car company he had been using "was terminating service on the orders of an unnamed federal agency." Reports from Colorado say that armored car services for dispensaries have been stopped there as well.

Last week, the Bakersfield city attorney's office sent threat letters to 17 landlords whose properties house dispensaries. The letters notify property owners that the dispensaries have been banned within city limits and that, as owners, they face ordinance enforcedment. The idea is to get the property owners to force the dispensaries out. There had been 26 dispensaries in the city, but nine had shut down in the last three weeks.

Last Wednesday, the Studio City neighborhood council declined to support a "gentle ban" on dispensaries. A motion to support the Los Angeles city council's proposed citywide "gentle ban" failed on a 5-4 vote. While some residents supported the motion, the city attorney's office said it would only lead to more lawsuits filed by dispensaries, and there were already 70 such suits.

Colorado

Last Friday, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed because a patient was fired after testing positive for marijuana. Patient Paul Curry had been fired by MillerCoors and accused the brewer of violating the state's employment discrimination laws, but US District Court Judge John Kane dismissed the case, ruling that "anti-discrimination law does not extend so far as to shield a disabled employee from the implementation of his employer's standard policies against employee misconduct," according to the order.

Connecticut

Last Monday, attorneys for the General Assembly recommended that medical marijuana regulations be rejected by the legislative review committee. State law allows the department to submit revisions at least one week before the review committee votes on the regulations. That gives the legislative attorneys enough time to review the revisions and, if warranted, change their recommendation to the committee. The Legislative Commissioners' Office listed what it classified as 13 "substantive concerns" and 115 "technical corrections."

On Monday, Ansonia approved a one year moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries. "We got enough as it is. You can probably go anywhere on the street and buy it," said town resident Fred Mekdeci. "We could use a lot of jobs to be made but I don't think it's going to be beneficial by just growing marijuana," he said.

On Tuesday, the General Assembly's regulation review committee approved the medical marijuana regulations, clearing the way for the dispensary application process to begin. The Department of Consumer Protection will begin accepting applications within two weeks, with the application process taking up to 60 days. Licenses will be issued to between three and five dispensaries and between three and 10 growers.

District of Columbia

Last Thursday, the Takoma Wellness Center opened in Northwest DC. It is operated by Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn and his wife, Stephanie, whose parents' struggles with cancer and multiple sclerosis inspired the couple to take up the cause of medical marijuana.

On Sunday, news came that the District is seeking discounts for poor medical marijuana patients. A proposed regulation would require dispensaries to set aside 2% of their profits in order to provide a 20% discount for poor patients. No other medical marijuana clinics in the nation are required to make such an accommodation. In other states, discounts are funded by the state government, not the dispensary operators. The proposed rule is in the midst of a 30-day review.

Massachusetts

Last Thursday, state officials said more than 180 people had applied for dispensary licenses. That day was the last day to hand in applications. Now, applicants must undergo a background check and a financial viability test. State officials hope to complete the initial review by the middle of next month and award licenses by years' end.

On Monday, the Leominster city council approved a temporary moratorium on dispensaries, but only while the Planning Commission works out zoning details. Some council members called for expeditious action, even though the moratorium is in effect through June 30. "If it take more than three months, shame on us and shame on the city," said Councilor Robert Salvatelli. "I'm not willing to sacrifice one ill person if there is relief. If it goes beyond Christmas, something is very wrong with this city and the Planning Board."

Also on Monday, the Boston Public Health Commission said it wants to review dispensary plans for the city. The commission is seeking the authority to permit and inspect the shops that would open in the city.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

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8. Legalize/Decriminalize Marijuana, Canadians Say

The Canadian public strongly supports reforming the country's marijuana laws, according to a new Forum Research poll. The survey found that 69% either want to see marijuana legalized, taxed, and regulated or see the possession of small amounts decriminalized.

The poll comes just weeks after Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau called for legalization, bringing new life to the long-running debate on pot policy north of the border. It also comes just a week after Canadian police chiefs called for decriminalization, although they didn't want to use that word, instead preferring to say they wanted a "ticketing option."

Support for legalization was slightly higher (36%) than for decriminalization (34%), but the combined support for pot law reform was far ahead of support for the status quo (15%) or increasing marijuana penalties (13%). Only 3% were undecided.

Among political parties, support was strongest among self-described Liberals (76%), followed by New Democrats (72%), and even 61% of Conservatives. The Conservative government of Prime Minister Steven Harper has positioned itself as the party of cracking down on marijuana, but the ministers might want to check in with their base.

The poll also asked respondents whether Trudeau's recent admission that he had smoked pot while a Member of Parliament would affect their vote. Nearly two-thirds (63%) said it did not matter, while one in five (21%) said they would be less likely to vote for him. Conversely, 14% said they would be more likely to vote for him.

"Justin Trudeau is ahead of the zeitgeist on this issue, and the government's disapproval of his position is a strength he can play to in the coming months. Decriminalization or legalization has majority support right across the country, even among Conservative voters, and there appears to be little downside to this issue for him," said Forum Research President Dr. Lorne Bozinoff.

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9. New Orleans Police Officer Jailed for 2012 Drug War Killing

A New Orleans police officer who gunned down an unarmed 20-year-old man during a 2012 drug raid pleaded guilty to manslaughter last Friday and was led off to begin serving a four-year prison sentence. Joshua Colclough, 29, who resigned from the force the previous day, apologized to the family of his victim, Wendell Allen, before he was led away.

Colclough was part of a police team that raided a Gentilly home in March 2012 as part of a marijuana investigation. A shirtless, unarmed Allen appeared at the top of the stairs as Colclough searched the house, and Colclough shot and killed him.

Defense attorney Claude Kelly said Colclough made a split-second decision.

"Josh will live with this as will the Allen family, until the day he dies," Kelly said in court.

Colclough's apology to the family was the second in as many days. The day before the hearing, he met with Allen family members and tearfully apologized. The meeting was taped by WVUE-TV.

"I wanted to tell you for a very long time how sorry I am. I am so very sorry," he said during that meeting.

"I prayed for you. I prayed God have mercy on your soul, but what took you so long?" the victim's mother, Natasha Allen said at one point, also crying.

"I am so sorry it took so long. I'm very sorry for what I've put your family through," Colclough said.

Drug War Chronicle tallied 63 drug war deaths in 2012. Eight of the dead were law enforcement officers. Of the 55 civilian deaths, only two resulted in an officer being charged.

The other case was that of Ramarley Graham, an 18-year-old New York City resident who was gunned down in his own bathroom by an undercover officer who pursued him thinking he was armed. NYPD Officer Richard Haste was indicted in that case, but the indictment was dismissed because of prosecutorial error. The Justice Department is now investigating to determine if federal civil rights charges can be filed.

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10. South Carolina Man Is Latest Drug War Fatality

A Summerville, South Carolina man was shot and killed by police after allegedly engaging them with gunfire as he fled a traffic stop turned drug bust. Travis Miller, 22, becomes the 26th person to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to WCSC-TV Live 5 News, citing police sources, the incident began as an attempted traffic stop by city of Hanahan police. They were trying "to stop a motorist for a window tint violation a little before midnight" Monday, but the driver refused to stop. Instead, he led police on a short pursuit before pulling over.

When the vehicle stopped, police then said they smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle and ordered the driver and three passengers to exit the vehicle while they searched them and the car. Miller took off running with police in pursuit. Police said Miller opened fire on them as they pursued him. They returned fire.

Shortly thereafter, police found Miller dead in a wooded area. A handgun was found on him, police said.

The driver and the other two passengers were charged with marijuana possession, and the driver was cited for the tinted window violation. All three had prior drug arrests, and Miller also had an arrest history, but it wasn't clear what offenses he had been charged with.

The police officers involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.

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11. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Two Texas cops lose their jobs, a California jail guard gets busted at the playground, a Tennessee sheriff's lieutenant cops to slinging pain pills, and an Arizona Customs officer is headed for the pen. Let's get to it:

In Blue Mound, Texas, one Blue Mound police officer was fired and another resigned Monday after they were accused of tipping off the mayor that his name had been mentioned in a drug investigation. The mayor has denied any drug involvement, but his name came up during an investigation into drug sales at a local business by the Tarrant County Drug Task Force. Task force members tried unsuccessfully four times to purchase drugs at the business. Officer Robin Wall told Officer Fred Jepsen a task force member had asked him if he had ever seen the mayor going into the business, and Jepsen then informed the mayor, who promptly called the deputy chief of police to tell him one of his officers was divulging information about an investigation. Jepesen resigned his position and Wall was fired.

In Merced, California, a Merced County jail guard was arrested last Friday not for smuggling drugs into the jail, but for selling drugs to a minor. Officer Micha Justin Imler, 34, is charged with selling to a minor on or near a school's grounds. Three other suspects were arrested on similar charges at the same time. Imler is on paid administrative leave pending a full investigation.

In Knoxville, Tennessee, a former Cocke County sheriff's lieutenant pleaded guilty last Tuesday to peddling pain pills. Richard Caldwell, a former lieutenant and shift supervisor with the Sheriff's Office, pleaded guilty to delivery of the Schedule III controlled substance hydrocodone. Caldwell went down after an FBI investigation two years ago showed he was involved in illicit prescription drug distribution. Under his plea agreement, he will be sentenced to two years in prison in October.

In Tucson, Arizona, a former Customs and Border Protection officer was sentenced Monday to 12 years in federal prison for allowing loads of marijuana to enter the US. Luis Carlos Vasquez let the loads pass through the lane he monitored at the Douglas, Arizona, port of entry. Prosecutors had sought 19 years; the defense argued for the mandatory minimum five years.

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12. Internships: Legislative, Writing/Research, Web, IT, Admin/Finance, Communications

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StoptheDrugWar.org works for an end to drug prohibition worldwide and an end to the "drug war" in its current form. We believe that much of the harm commonly attributed to "drugs" is really the result of placing drugs in a criminal environment. We believe the global drug war has fueled violence, civil instability, and public health crises; and that the currently prevalent arrest- and punishment-based policies toward drugs are unjust. Please visit our web site, and please read more about us.

We are seeking Legislative, Writing/Research, Web Content, Information Technology, and Admin/Finance interns (potentially still this semester, depending on your interests, definitely for the summer). Communications may also be applicable to current organizational projects. Preference will be given to applicants with some demonstrated experience the relevant fields, and to applicants in the Washington, DC area. However, consideration will also be given to enthusiasm for drug policy and criminal justice reform.

Note that StoptheDrugWar.org internships are unpaid. We reimburse for metro fare. Please also note that the organization has functioned as a "virtual office" environment since spring 2011. Staff will meet with interns on a regular basis during the semester, and can be available to meet and work together on a weekly or even daily basis, but this will happen in places like coffee shops or campuses.

In order to help our interns forge ties with the larger community, we are organizing intern networking social hours with other organizations in drug policy and justice reform. We are also arranging tours of the DC courts and possibly jail, and public health and other programs that have bearing on drug policy. Interns are also welcome to join us at the frequent legislative working group meetings that take place on our issues here in Washington.

Please send cover letter, resume, and any supporting material you'd like to include, to StoptheDrugWar.org executive director David Borden, at [email protected]. (We recommend using a return receipt to ensure your emails are not blocked by any filters.) Thank you, and we look forward to hearing from you. Information on our specific intern positions follows below.

Legislative

Legislative interns will help, and in some cases play a leading role, on the following organizational projects:

  • Bill and vote tracking, at the federal and state level, including write-ups for our web site's legislative center (possibly in collaboration with Writing interns);
  • Creating action alerts on current legislation and other advocacy priorities, to be distributed through our web site and email list (possibly in collaboration with Writing and Web Content interns); and
  • Coalition outreach to secure partners for organizational sign-on letters to Congress.

Interns may also join us at working group meetings on issues including but not limited to sentencing reform, drug policy including marijuana law reform; collateral consequences of criminal convictions; and reinvigorating the presidential clemency/pardon system. Spanish-language skills may be useful.

Writing/Research

Writing/Research interns will have the following opportunities:

  • Assist Drug War Chronicle editor Phillip S. Smith with ongoing article collection and research for feature articles on our web site (which are frequently reprinted on major news sites such as alternet.org).
  • Assist with research on special topics, the goal of which is the publication of special reports. Likely projects include but are not necessarily limited to follow-up research on US drug war killings (see our recent report here); procuring drug arrest data and possibly arrest reports from various jurisdictions for various months and years, to evaluate the results of recent policy reforms, particularly for marijuana.
  • Bill and vote tracking, at the federal and state level, including write-ups for our web site's legislative center (possibly in collaboration with Legislative interns);
  • Creating action alerts on current legislation and other advocacy priorities, to be distributed through our web site and email list (possibly in collaboration with Legislative interns);
  • Updating an archive of SWAT raids and other paramilitarized policing activity that went wrong (possibly in collaboration with Web Content interns); and
  • Assisting with updating or creating various special sections of our web site (possibly in collaboration with Web Content interns).

Interns with Spanish-language skills may be involved with reporting on the Mexican drug war.

Web Content

Web Content interns will assist with the following work:

  • Daily link and other content postings;
  • Development or maintenance of special sections of our web site (possibly in collaboration with Writing interns); and
  • General social media work, including a number special social media projects.

We may also initiate an informal web video series, for which intern assistance would be invaluable, but this has not been decided yet.

Information Technology

IT interns will assist with the following projects:

  • Backend web site programming, primarily involving streamlining of our donations processing system;
  • Server migration to a "cloud" arrangement;
  • Security including PCI compliance;
  • Selection and set up of needed software and services; and
  • Database-related projects.

Admin/Finance

Admin & Finance interns may assist with the following organizational needs, among others:

  • Bookkeeping;
  • Nonprofit accounting including intra-company allocations and 990 preparation;
  • Budget & cash flow analysis;
  • Membership administration;
  • Database work.

Admin & finance interns will gain familiarity with a significant range of nonprofits' administrative activities, and depending on schedule may have the opportunity to sit in on portions of board discussions or meetings with advisors.

Communications

As noted above, communications skills are applicable to a number of facets of our work this semester, and communications majors are encouraged to apply. We have not listed communications as a separate internship this semester, because we have not decided whether to engage in specific outreach efforts to mainstream media this semester. Along with the possibility that we will do so, other work of relevance to communications can be found in our Legislative, Writing, and Web Content internships.

Thank you for considering an internship with our organization. We look forward to hearing from you.

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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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