Drug War Chronicle #808 - November 7, 2013

1. New Daily Roundups from Drug War Chronicle

There's a lot going on in the world of drug policy. Here are the stories we noted in our new Chronicle AM daily survey this week.

2. The Crooked Cop and the Case of the Vanishing Guilty Plea [FEATURE]

When can you get a guilty plea overturned in federal court? When the cop who busted you is crooked, that's when.

3. Former UN Head and Brazilian President Call for Drug Decriminalization

Former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan and former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso called for global drug decriminalization and other reforms in an op-ed published on CNN.com today.

4. Portland, Maine, Legalizes Marijuana Possession

Portland, Maine, has become the first East Coast city to vote to legalize marijuana possession, and it did so overwhelmingly.

5. Marijuana Policy on the Ballot (Last) Tuesday

Marijuana policy reform questions are on the ballot in Colorado, a trio of Michigan localities, and Portland, Maine, tomorrow.

6. Medical Marijuana Update

And the beat goes on. From the West Coast to the East Coast and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast, medical marijuana is on the agenda.

7. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

We took a week off from the Corrupt Cops stories, but the corrupt cops sure didn't. Here's a rather lengthy list of backlogged law enforcement miscreants.

1. New Daily Roundups from Drug War Chronicle

If you've been following Drug War Chronicle on our web site the past week, you have probably noticed a new, daily feature, "Chronicle AM." The AM is a roundup of stories that have hit the news wires. As Phil noted in his award speech two weeks ago, there is too much happening now to be able to give it all even medium-level coverage, much less to do so quickly. Chronicle AM is a way to survey a lot of the important stories each day, and we continue to publish our usual features and newsbriefs on a daily basis too. The following are the stories we noted in Chronicle AM installments during the past week.

Marijuana Policy

New Hampshire Marijuana Legalization Bill Dies in Committee. House Bill 492, which would have taxed and regulated marijuana like alcohol was defeated in the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee Wednesday on an 11-7 vote. The action came just a week after a state poll showed 60% supported the bill.

Federal Judge Cuts Marijuana Sentences. Maryland US District Court Judge James Bredar Monday handed down sentences lighter than called for in federal guidelines in a major marijuana smuggling case, saying such offenses are "not regarded with the same seriousness" as they were just a few decades ago. Bredar also noted that the federal government's decision to largely leave marijuana sales in legalization states raised "equal justice" concerns.

Amendments Filed to California Marijuana Legalization Initiative. Americans for Policy Reform, the people behind the 2014 Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act initiative, Wednesday filed amendments to the proposed law. They include strengthening some penalties and clarifying medical marijuana patient ID card requirements. This is one of two initiatives aiming at 2014 in California, neither of which have big donor support.

Portland, Maine, Marijuana Legalization Initiative Draws Late Opposition. Small signs urging Portlanders to "Vote No on Question 1, NO to POTland" have begun popping up just days before the city votes on legalization next week. Who put them up is a mystery; no group has filed paperwork at city hall opposing the initiative. The initiative would not legalize marijuana per se, but would allow people 21 and over to "engage in activities for the purposes of ascertaining the possession of marijuana and paraphernalia."

Arkansas Attorney General Rejects Marijuana Legalization Initiative. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel Tuesday rejected the ballot title for a proposed legalization initiative, saying the language was ambiguous. This is the second time he has rejected the measure, which can still be rewritten and resubmitted.

Colorado to Vote Tuesday on Marijuana Tax. Colorado voters will decide Tuesday whether to impose a 15% excise tax on marijuana sales to pay for school construction and a 10% sales tax to pay for marijuana regulation. The tax vote wasn't included in Amendment 64 because state law requires any new taxes to be approved by the voters. The measure is expected to pass despite opposition from some marijuana activists.

No Pot in Washington Bars, State Regulators Say. The Washington State Liquor Control Board Wednesday filed a draft rule banning any business with a liquor license from allowing on-site marijuana use. The state's pot law already bars public use, including in bars, clubs, and restaurants, but some businesses have tried to find loopholes allowing customers to use on premise, such as by having "private clubs" within the establishment.

DC Marijuana Reform Moves Could Spur Congress to Ponder Legalization. The DC city council appears set to approve decriminalization, and DC marijuana activists are pondering a 2014 ballot initiative to legalize marijuana. That could set the stage for Congress to finally turn its sights on federal marijuana legalization, Bloomberg News suggested in this think piece.

One-Fourth of Americans Would Buy Legal Weed, Poll Finds. At least one out of four Americans (26%) said they would buy marijuana at least on "rare occasions" if it were legal, according to a Huffington Post/YouGov poll released Thursday. Only 9% said they buy it on rare occasions now. One out of six (16%) of respondents said they never buy it now, but might if it were legal.

Dispensaries like this one could become marijuana retail stores in Colorado.
Let A Hundred Pot Shops Bloom… in Colorado. The Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division reported late last week that it has received applications from 136 people seeking to open adult use marijuana retail stores. By law, only people currently operating medical marijuana businesses could apply. Those who applied by the end of October will have decisions on their applications before year's end, meaning they could open on January 1, the earliest date adult marijuana sales will be allowed in the state.

NYC Subway Vigilante Bernie Goetz Busted in Penny Ante Marijuana Sting. The New York City man who became a national figure after shooting four teens who asked him for money on the subway back in 1984 was arrested last Friday over a $30 marijuana sale. Bernie Goetz is accused of selling the miniscule amount of marijuana to an undercover officer.

Colorado Voters Approve Marijuana Taxes. Colorado voters approved a taxation scheme that will add 25% in wholesale and retail taxes to the price of legally sold marijuana in the state. Proposition AA was winning with 64% of the vote at last report.

Three Michigan Cities Approve Marijuana Measures. Voters in the Michigan cities of Lansing, Jackson, and Ferndale handily approved local measures to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults 21 and over. The measures passed with 69% of the vote in Ferndale, 63% in Lansing, and 61% in Jackson. The trio of towns now join other Michigan cities, including Grand Rapids and Detroit, that have municipally decriminalized pot possession.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Lawmakers Oppose Medical Marijuana Initiative. Florida House and Senate leaders said late last week that they will join Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) in asking the state Supreme Court to block a medical marijuana initiative from going to the ballot. "We certainly don't want a situation like they've got in Colorado," explained state Rep. Doug Holder (R-Venice). Petitioners have gathered only about 200,000 of the more than 600,000 signatures they need to make the ballot. They have until February, unless the state Supreme Court puts the kibosh on the effort.

Florida Governor Candidate Supports Medical Marijuana Initiative. Candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination Nan Rich said last Friday she supports a proposed medical marijuana ballot initiative. "I've seen the research, I've studied the issue, and I've met with patients who clearly benefit and desperately need medically prescribed cannabis," Rich said in a statement. "That's why I'm signing the petition to get this important measure on the ballot in 2014 and I'm calling on all of my friends and supporters to do the same. There is simply no reason patients should suffer when an effective, safe, and organic remedy is readily available."

Washington State Regulators to Hold Hearing on Controversial Medical Marijuana Plans. The Washington state Liquor Control Board announced last Friday it will hold a hearing November 13 in Lacey to take public testimony on proposed changes to the state's medical marijuana system. Regulators have issued draft recommendations that would reduce the amount of medical marijuana patients could possess and end their ability to grow their own, among other things.

Search and Seizure

Federal Appeals Court Blocks Judge's Ruling on NYPD Stop-and-Frisk. The 2nd US Court of Appeals in New York City blocked an order by District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin requiring changes in the NYPD's much criticized stop-and-frisk program. In an unusual move, the appeals court also removed Judge Scheindlin from the case, saying she had violated the code of conduct for federal judges by giving media interviews and publicly responding to criticism of her court. Scheindlin had found that NYPD violated the civil rights of tens of thousands of people by subjecting them to stop-and-frisk searches based on their race.

New Mexico Man Sues over Forced Anal Drug Search. A Deming, New Mexico, man detained for running a stop sign allegedly had his buttocks clenched when ordered out of his vehicle by police, leading them to suspect he had drugs secreted in his rectum. Police obtained a search warrant from a compliant judge, then had medical personnel forcibly subject the man to repeated anal probes, enemas, and a colonoscopy in a futile attempt to find any drugs. In addition to the unreasonableness of the invasive searches, they also took place outside of the jurisdiction where the warrant was issued and after the timeline specified in the warrant. The victim, David Eckert, ought to be picking up a nice check one of these years.

Second New Mexico Anal Drug Search Victim Emerges. Yesterday, the Chronicle AM noted the case of Deming, New Mexico, resident David Eckert, who was subjected to anal probes, enemas, x-rays, and colonoscopies without his consent after being pulled over for running a stop sign. The cops suspected he had drugs. He didn't and is now suing the police, the county, and the medical personnel who participated. Now, a second victim has emerged. Timothy Young was stopped for failure to use a turn signal. As was the case with Eckert, a drug dog -- Leo the K-9 -- alerted, but as was the case with Eckert, no drugs were found, despite the extensive invasive searches. Turns out the drug dog has not been certified for more than two years and has a history of false alerts, and the hospital where the searches were conducted was not within the jurisdiction of the search warrant. It looks like another New Mexico resident will get a big check at the taxpayers' expense one of these days.

Drug Testing

Truckers Object to Federal Bill to Allow Hair Drug Tests. A bill pending in Congress, House Resolution 3403, the "Drug Free Commercial Driver Act of 2013," is drawing opposition from an independent trucker group, the association's organ Landline Magazine reports. The bill would allow trucking companies to use hair testing for pre-employment and random drug tests. Currently, federal regulations mandate urine testing and allow hair testing only in conjunction with urine tests, not as a replacement. Hair-based testing can reveal drug use weeks or months prior to the testing date. The independent truckers accuse bill sponsors of carrying water for larger trucking firms that want to undercut their competition.

Michigan Governor Signs Unemployment Drug Testing Law. Gov. Rick Snyder (R) Tuesday signed a bill that denies unemployment benefits to job seekers who fail employer drug tests. The law is in effect for one year as a pilot program.

Drug Testing Provision Stripped from New Hampshire Hep C Bill. A bill written in the wake of an outbreak of Hep C infections linked to an Exeter Hospital employee will not include random drug testing for health care employees. The bill, House Bill 597, originally contained such language, but it was stripped out in the House Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee. Federal courts have held that drug tests constitute a search under the meaning of the Fourth Amendment and thus require probable cause, except in limited circumstances.

Psychedelics

New Group Formed to Assure Sustainability of Psychedelic Plants. The Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council was launched at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Denver last weekend. It will concentrate on "assuring the sustainability and safe use of traditional plants," and prominently mentioned ayahuasca in its formation announcement.

Sentencing Reform

Bipartisan Mandatory Minimum Reform Bill Introduced in US House. On Wednesday, Reps. Raul Labrador (R-ID) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the Smarter Sentencing Act, which would significantly reform mandatory minimum drug sentencing policies. Companion legislation in the Senate, Senate Bill 1410, was introduced in July. The bills would halve mandatory minimum sentence lengths and expand safety valve access, as well as extend retroactivity under the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.

Study Shows Way to Louisiana Sentencing Reform. A study released Tuesday by the Reason Foundation, the Pelican Institute for Public Policy, and the Texas Public Policy Foundation details how Louisiana can reduce its prison population and corrections spending without lessening public safety by eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders and reforming its habitual offender law. The study, "Smart on Sentencing, Smart on Crime: Reforming Louisiana's Determinate Sentencing Laws," is available online here.

International

At Least Five Dead in Mexico Vigilante vs. Cartel Clashes. Attacks in the Western Mexican state of Michoacan, home of the Knights Templar cartel, between anti-cartel vigilantes and cartel members left at least five dead and thousands without electric power last weekend. The fighting erupted after anti-cartel "self defense forces" marched Friday in the Knights Templar stronghold of Apatzingan and accelerated over the weekend. Vigilantes said they saw the bodies of at least 12 cartel members.

UNODC Head Says Afghan Opium Crop is Thriving, Spreading. In remarks in advance of the release of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime's annual Afghan opium survey early in November, UNODC head Yury Fedotov warned that the poppy crop will increase for the third straight year and that cultivation had spread into formerly poppy-free areas under central government control. Afghanistan accounts for about 90% of the global illicit opium supply.

New Zealand to Host International Conference on Drug Reform Laws. The country has drawn international attention for its innovative approach to new synthetic drugs -- regulating instead of prohibiting them -- and will be the site of a March 20, 2014 "Pathway to Reform" conference explaining how the domestic synthetic drug industry began, how the regulatory approach was chosen and how it works. International attendees will include Drug Policy Alliance head Ethan Nadelmann and Amanda Fielding, of Britain's Beckley Foundation.

Canada SSDP to Hold National Conference in Vancouver. Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP) will hold its sixth annual conference on November 22-24 in Vancouver, BC. Featured speakers will include Donald McPherson, head of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition; Dana Larsen, director of Sensible BC and the Vancouver Dispensary Society; and Missi Woolrdige, director of DanceSafe, among others.

Hong Kong Docs Criticize Government Drug Testing Plan. The Hong Kong Medical Association said Monday that a government plan to allow police to test anyone for drug use based on "reasonable suspicion" is flawed and violates basic human rights. The local government began a four-month consultation on the plan in September, and now the doctors have weighed in. The association said that drug testing was an unproven method of reducing drug use and resources should instead be devoted to prevention and education campaigns and cooperation with mainland police against drug trafficking.

India to Greatly Expand Opiate Maintenence Centers. Responding to an increase in the number of injection drug users, the Indian government is moving to expand the number of its Opiate Substitution Therapy (OST) centers six-fold, from a current 52 to 300 by the end of the year. Drug user groups, including the Indian Drug Users Forum, and harm reduction groups, such as Project Orchid have been involved in planning the expansion. It's not clear what drug the Indians are using in OST.

Ireland Parliament to Debate Marijuana Legalization This Week. A private motion by independent Dail, or Irish parliament, member Luke "Ming" Flanagan will be debated on Tuesday and Wednesday. Flanagan's bill would make it legal to possess, grow, and sell marijuana products.

Cartel Violence Flares in Mexican Border Town. Sunday shootouts between rival drug trafficking organizations and between traffickers and soldiers left at least 13 people dead in the Mexican border town of Matamoros, just across the Rio Grande River from Brownville, Texas. Four men and a woman were killed in clashes between rival gangs, and eight more died in fighting with Mexican Marines. Somewhere north of 75,000 people have been killed in violence since former President Felipe Calderon called out the armed forces to wage war on the cartels six and a half years ago. Meanwhile, the drugs continue to flow north and the guns and cash flow south.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (wikipedia.org)
Toronto Mayor Admits He Smoked Crack, But Says He's Not an Addict. Months after rumors of a video showing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine emerged, but only days after Toronto police said they had a copy of that video, Ford told reporters Tuesday that he had indeed smoked crack, but that he did so "in a drunken stupor" and that he wasn't an addict. Time will tell if his political career survives the revelation.

Marijuana Legalization Debate Looms in Morocco. Moroccan activists and politicians are close to firming up a date later this month for the parliament to hear a seminar on the economic implications of legalization hosted by the powerful Party of Authenticity and Modernity. Morocco is one of the world's largest marijuana producers, with output estimated at 40,000 tons a year, most of which is transformed into hashish and destined for European markets.

Czech Police in Mass Raid on Grow Shops. Although the Czech Republic has a reputation as a pot-friendly destination, recreational marijuana use remains illegal. Czech police served up a reminder of that reality Tuesday, raiding dozens of stores that sell growers' supplies. Police seized fertilizer, grow lights, and marijuana growing guidebooks and said they suspected store owners of violating drug laws by providing people with all the equipment they needed to grow their own. There was no mention made of any arrests.

New Zealand Court Says Employer Can't Force Workers to Undergo Drug Tests. New Zealand's Employment Court has ruled that companies cannot impose random drug tests on workers, nor discipline them for refusing such a test. Mighty River Power Company had a collective bargaining agreement with workers, which allowed testing only under specified circumstances, but initiated random drug tests later. If the company wants random drug test, the court said, it would need to negotiate a new provision in the collective bargaining agreement.

Mexican Military Takes over Key Pacific Seaport in Bid to Fight Cartels. The Mexican military has moved into the major port of Lazaro Cardenas and the adjoining town of the same name in the violence-plagued state of Michoacan. Soldiers are now responsible for policing duties, and all 113 police officers in Lazaro Cardenas have been sidelined until they undergo drug testing and police training. The port of Lazaro Cardenas is the main entrepot for precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, which is produced in the state by the Knights Templar cartel. The Knights are also engaged in ongoing fighting with vigilante "self-defense" forces in the state.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

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2. The Crooked Cop and the Case of the Vanishing Guilty Plea [FEATURE]

Special to the Chronicle by Houston-based investigative journalist Clarence Walker, [email protected]. This is Part 8 in his continuing series of stories about prosecutorial misconduct and police corruption in the drug war.

In an unusual recent case, the US 4th Circuit Appeals Court overturned a conviction in a crack cocaine case despite the defendant having pleaded guilty. The case involving Baltimore drug dealer Cortez Leon Fisher was not overturned because the plea agreement was coerced or not voluntary -- the usual standard -- but because it was based on the lies of a corrupt police officer.

The case -- but not this tale -- began with an October 29, 2007 raid on Fisher's home executed by Baltimore police officer and DEA drug task force member Mark Lunsford. The search turned up crack cocaine and a loaded weapon. To avoid a decades-long stretch behind bars, Fisher copped a plea to one count of possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Federal District Court Judge Frederick Motz then sentenced Fisher to 10 years in federal prison.

Fisher subsequently appealed to overturn his plea agreement after Lunsford was indicted on theft and perjury charges involving his use of bogus informants to falsely arrest and rip off drug dealers. In July 2010, the crooked cop got 20 months in federal prison for his crimes.

Lunsford's arrest and conviction uncovered a pattern of fabricating evidence to enrich police officers and selected informants, who received payments in cases in which they had not provided information. Reward money was fraudulently awarded to undeserving informants, and the proceeds were split between Lunsford and the snitches.

A search of Lunsford's home turned up jewelry belonging to alleged drug dealers and $46,000 in cash stolen from them. Federal prosecutors made no effort to return the stolen money to its rightful owners, but instead seized it for their own coffers.

But it gets worse. Lunsford also had a long history with Fisher and some of his family members, whom he had previously arrested on drug charges, some of which had been dismissed. In this light, Lunsford's pursuit of Fisher takes on the appearance of a personal vendetta.

When Fisher discovered that Lunsford had been indicted for perjury and theft in 2009, he wrote a pro se appeal to the judge who sentenced him, requesting that his guilty plea be vacated. But Judge Motz demurred.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/J._Frederick_Motz_District_Judge.jpg
Judge Fredrik Motz
"Unquestionably if the defendant had known of Lunsford's misconduct he would have filed a motion to suppress, and the motion may well have been successful," Motz wrote in denying the appeal. Nevertheless, "the defendant does not deny he was in possession of a firearm (as he admitted under oath during his Rule 11).Under these circumstances, I cannot find that a failure to allow defendant to withdraw his guilty plea would result in a 'miscarriage of justice.'"

Fisher appealed that decision to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. In his appeal, Fisher wrote that Lunsford "set me up and arrested me unlawfully." The informant in the case, Fisher said in the appeal, "never gave Lunsford information concerning drug activities at Fisher's home." Citing prior arrests of Fisher by Lunsford years ago, the appeal went on to say that after Lunsford arrested Fisher in 2007 in the current case, "the officer returned to my apartment later, stole a safe containing all my jewelry specifically numerous diamonds with blue and red design, including a diamond watch."

The 4th Circuit overturned the trial judge. The key question for the court was whether a police officer's misrepresentations of facts invalidated a guilty plea under the due process clause. The court noted that in order to invalidate a plea, the defendant must show that egregious impermissible conduct preceded the entry of the plea and that the misconduct influenced the defendant's decision to plead guilty.

While one member of the three-judge panel voted to dismiss Fisher's appeal, arguing that "natural reaction of extreme distaste to Lunsford's criminal act does not instantaneously transform Fisher's guilty plea into some form of due process violation that permits him now to withdraw his plea," his was a dissenting opinion.

Judges James Wynn and Henry Floyd disagreed. Lunsford's lies influenced Fisher to cop a plea and his perjury "undermined the entire proceedings, thus rendering the defendant's pleas involuntary, and violated his due process rights," they wrote. "A plea based on law enforcement fraud is invalid even if the person is guilty," the court held in its ruling in the case.

Cortez Fisher is still behind bars, waiting to see if the US Attorney's Office in Maryland will dismiss his case. Meanwhile, Lunford, the dirty cop, has already been released from prison, as have other defendants caught up in Lunsford's perjury and bogus search warrants.

Fisher was scheduled to appear in court on October 25th to resolve the matter, but a court clerk told the Chronicle a new date has not been announced yet. Fisher's attorney, Marta Khan, did not respond to phone and email messages seeking comment about the matter.

"I was supposed to be home like the other people that they let go behind Lunsford's lies but I believe the feds will try to recharge me," Fisher told the Chronicle in a letter from prison."But I am ready for a new trial since I have all this new evidence."

Cop v. Drug Dealer

Baltimore police officer Mark Lunsford despised drug dealer Cortez Fisher. Their adversarial history stretches years to when Lunsford rode patrol near Baltimore's notorious Murphy Homes Project, where Fisher and his brother called "Midget" sold drugs, according to court documents.

Between 1993 and 2004, Lunsford's aggressive efforts to rid the crime-ridden community of drug dealers helped fellow narcotics officers make some of the cases against Fisher, including one particular case in 1999 when Fisher faced charges for armed marijuana trafficking.

In 2001, Fisher picked up another drug case, but was never convicted. Doggedly pursuing Fisher, Lunsford finally nailed him in 2004 on drug trafficking and a weapons charge filed in federal court. Fisher immediately copped a plea to serve 36 months in prison.

After finishing serving the 36 months, Fisher got nailed again on drug charges by Lunsford, this time costing him another 12 months behind bars. But Lunsford wasn't through yet.

In a search warrant affidavit dated October 29, 2007, Lunsford wrote that he received reliable information from a snitch that Fisher was selling drugs out of his house. Then, based on that false report, Lunsford claimed he personally saw Fisher sell drugs from his car. It was all a lie.

Court records filed in Fisher's case include a redacted FBI document dated October 23, 2009, where Lunsford admits that he fabricated source information in Fisher's and numerous other narcotics cases that sent citizens to prison. Lunsford told FBI agent that, fully aware of Fisher's involvement in the drug trade, he had lied when he said the informant he had named in the affidavit was the source of his information about Fisher.

Fisher may well have had a career as a drug dealer, but as the 4th Circuit noted, "even the guilty can suffer a miscarriage of justice."

Cortez Fisher remains imprisoned as he awaits word on what prosecutors will do. In the worst case, he will stay there until 2017. Meanwhile, the crooked cop whose perjurious information led to Fisher's arrest and subsequent plea bargain is a free man, not on parole, and not in the clutches of the criminal justice system.

For the guy from the mean streets of Baltimore, there is nothing left to do except to start over -- again.

"They took everything I had," he explained.

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3. Former UN Head and Brazilian President Call for Drug Decriminalization

In an op-ed on CNN.com published Tuesday, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso called for governments around the globe to decriminalize drug possession and find more effective and humane ways of regulating drugs.

(image from globalcommissionondrugs.org)
"Each year, hundreds of thousands of people die globally from preventable drug-related disease and violence," they wrote. "Millions of users are arrested and thrown in jail. Communities all over the world are blighted by drug-related crime. Citizens see huge amounts of their taxes spent on harsh policies which are not working."

Both men are members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which, building on the work of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, has called for a paradigm shift in global and national approaches to drug regulation.

"We called on governments to adopt more humane and effective ways of controlling and regulating drugs," the two statesmen noted. "We recommended that the criminalization of drug use should be replaced by a public health approach. We also appealed for countries to carefully test models of legal regulation as a means to undermine the power of organized crime, which thrives on illicit drug trafficking."

Now, they said, momentum is on the side of reform. They cited advances in South America, Europe, and even the United States, where two states legalized marijuana last year and where marijuana decriminalization has picked up steam in the past decade after going on hiatus after the 1970s.

That such globally renowned figures are calling for a radical restructuring of approaches to drug regulation is evidence that the global dialogue has definitively shifted, said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

"The Global Commission, led by President Cardoso, has played a pivotal role in transforming global dialog about drug policy," said Nadelmann. "Its influence will only grow now that Kofi Annan has embraced drug policy reform as a personal priority both globally and with respect to the work of his foundation in Africa. Policy options that were readily mocked and dismissed just a few years ago are now integral to planning for a 21st Century global drug control regime to replace the failed prohibitionist regime of the last century."

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4. Portland, Maine, Legalizes Marijuana Possession

Voters in Portland, Maine, have chosen overwhelmingly to approve a ballot measure that eliminates all legal penalties for the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana by people 21 and over. With 80% of the precincts reporting late Tuesday evening, the measure was passing with a hefty 70% of the vote.

Portland is Maine's largest city. It now becomes the first city on the East Coast to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The victory in Portland will boost efforts to legalize marijuana statewide, either through the state legislature or via an initiative in 2016.

Portland voters approved Question 1, which, in addition to legalizing small amounts for adults, allows for legal use and for legal possession of pot paraphernalia. The measure bans use in public and allows landlords to bar indoor use by posting non-smoking signs on building entrances.

The measure also puts the city of Portland on record as "supporting taxation and regulation of marijuana by the state of Maine and the federal government."

Denver and Detroit, as well as other Michigan cities, have passed similar measures. Three more Michigan cities were also voting today on personal marijuana legalization measures. 

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5. Marijuana Policy on the Ballot (Last) Tuesday

[Ed: This piece was written before Election Day. See other articles this issue for the results.]

State and local elections Tuesday will see voters in Colorado, three Michigan cities, and Portland, Maine, deciding on marijuana policy reform questions. In Colorado, voters will decide whether to approve taxation of the legal marijuana industry, while in Michigan and Portland, voters will decide on decriminalization and legalization, respectively.

In Colorado, Proposition AA would impose a 15% excise tax on wholesale recreational marijuana transactions, as well as an additional 10% sales tax at the retail level. The measure is expected to pass despite the opposition of some vocal segments of the state's marijuana community.

In Lansing, Jackson, and Ferndale, Michigan, voters will be asked to amend city charters to ensure "that nothing in the Code of Ordinances shall apply to the use, possession, and transfer of less than one ounce of marijuana, on private property, by a person who has attained 21 years," as the Lansing language puts it.

"It's important to send a message and to take a position as a capital city," said Jeffrey Hank, a Lansing attorney who has pushed to decriminalize marijuana in Lansing. "We're the last of the major Michigan cities to have (marijuana decriminalization) reform."

Decriminalization (or personal legalization) has already passed in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Ypsilanti.

In Portland, voters in Maine's largest city will decide whether to approve Question 1, which would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to 2 ½ ounces without penalty. The question also includes a resolution of support for taxing and regulating marijuana at the state and federal level.

While the Maine and Michigan local initiatives are likely to be ignored by state and local law enforcement, they will still have the symbolic value of putting voters on record as supporting marijuana law reform. If they pass, that is.

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6. Medical Marijuana Update

And the beat goes on. From the West Coast to the East Coast and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast, medical marijuana is on the agenda. Let's get to it:

California

Last Tuesday, Santa Cruz County supervisors approved an ordinance that allows new dispensaries to apply for permits starting in December. The 3-2 vote blocked an effort by Supervisor Zach Friend to impose new, heavy-handed cultivation rules and renew the county's dispensary moratorium. That was set to expire next week.

Last Wednesday, word came that a Browns Valley family is suing Yuba County over a raid in which their medical marijuana plants were seized and family members were jailed despite being registered patients. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop future "unlawful seizures" and "reasonable compensation" for the lost plants. In the August 2012 raid, deputies seized all but two plants from the three-generation, five-member family.

On Monday, San Francisco medical marijuana advocates and a dispensary applicant met with Board of Supervisors Chair David Chiu in a bid to head off a tougher approval process for dispensaries on Mission Street between Alemany Boulevard and the San Mateo County line. Supervisors were expected to vote Tuesday on a proposal from Supervisor John Avalos to tighten up on the corridor, but as of press time, there was no word the vote actually happened.

Also on Monday, San Diego dispensary operator Jovan Jackson was found guilty of marijuana trafficking charges in state court. This is the second time he was convicted in the case; an earlier conviction was thrown out after an appeals court ruled that dispensary operators have the right to a defense in state court. His case has become a cause célèbre in San Diego medical marijuana circles, where activists accuse DA Bonnie Dumanis of engaging in a crusade against medical marijuana.

On Tuesday, the Eureka city council voted to keep the city's medical marijuana ordinance and let the moratorium on dispensaries lapse. The council in the Humboldt County community split 3-2 on the vote, which regulates personal grows on a land-use basis and would allow two dispensaries in the town. An amendment to prohibit co-ops and collectives and mobile delivery services failed.

Also on Tuesday, Palm Springs voters approved a new dispensary tax. Measure B asked voters if they wanted to levy a tax of up to 15% of dispensary sales, with the city council setting the actual tax rate. The measure passed with two-thirds of the vote and is expected to raise up to $1 million a year for city coffers.

Connecticut

On Monday, state regulators reported that 1,243 people had been certified as medical marijuana patients.

Florida

Last Thursday, state legislators urged the state Supreme Court to reject a pending medical marijuana initiative, joining Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi in opposing the measure. They claimed it would mislead voters and "open the door for anyone to smoke pot."

Last Friday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Rich said she supported the initiative. "I've seen the research, I've studied the issue, and I've met with patients who clearly benefit and desperately need medically prescribed cannabis," Rich said in a statement.

On Tuesday, a Miami Beach straw poll saw two-thirds approving medical marijuana. Medical marijuana got more votes than the leading mayoral candidate, although he had three other candidates to contend with.

Illinois

Last week, Rep. Lou Lang introduced a bill to amend the state's new medical marijuana law. The bill, Senate Bill 1955, has good provisions adding protections for veterans and for patients who want to use edibles, but also contains provisions that would remove two qualifying conditions that opponents think might allow for abuse. The Marijuana Policy Project supports the bill because "we feel the bill would do more good than harm."

Massachusetts

On Tuesday, the Milford planning board gave a favorable recommendation to a medical marijuana facility seeking to open there. Baystate Alternative Health Care needs a special permit for its dispensary and grow operations, and the request now moves to the Zoning Board of Appeals. One facility has already been licensed in town.

Oklahoma

Last Saturday, patients and state Sen. Constance Johnson (D-Oklahoma City) rallied at the state capitol to call for medical marijuana in the Sooner State. Johnson has been pushing medical marijuana bills in the legislature but getting nowhere, and the rally was designed to generate attention and support.

Oregon

On Monday, the city of Newport learned it would have a dispensary as of March 1, when a state bill passed earlier this year to regulate dispensaries goes into effect. Some law enforcement officials have vowed to fend off dispensaries through local bans and ordinances, but Newport Police Chief Mark Miranda said, "We don't have a dog in this fight."

Pennsylvania

On Monday, a pending medical marijuana bill picked up its first Republican supporter. Rep. Jim Cox said he signed on as a cosponsor of House Bill 1181 after speaking with a woman whose daughter suffers from epilepsy. The bill was introduced in April, but has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.

Vermont

Last Thursday, the Department of Public Safety announced it had approved a dispensary in Brattleboro. Southern Vermont Wellness, Inc. will be the fourth and final dispensary allowed under the state's 2011 medical marijuana dispensary law.

Washington

Last Friday, the state Liquor Control Board announced it would hold a November 13 hearing on controversial plans to integrate the state's medical marijuana program into its broader marijuana legalization scheme. Among other things, the board is calling for a end to patient grows and a reduction in the amount of marijuana they can possess.

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

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

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7. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

We took a week off from the Corrupt Cops stories, but the corrupt cops sure didn't. Here's a rather lengthy list of backlogged law enforcement miscreants. Let's get to it:

In Philadelphia, five Philadelphia police narcotics officers are under investigation for allegedly breaking into a woman's home and stealing valuables. The officers from the 24th District Narcotics Unit are being investigated by Internal Affairs. Witnesses saw the officers breaking in the home, they didn't have a warrant, and the homeowner filed a report the next morning. Some items stolen from the home were found at 24th District headquarters. The unnamed officers have been put on administrative leave pending investigation results.

In Fort Worth, Texas, a Fort Worth narcotics supervisor was arrested October 23 for allegedly stealing a pair of Air Jordan shoe during a failed drug raid the week before. Sgt. Antoine Williams was seen carrying the shoes out of the home that was raided, and his home was then raided by the department's Special Investigations Section the following days. The Air Jordans were recovered, and Williams is now on restricted duty. The raid victim, Marquis Green, said, "They didn't find no drugs in the house at all. They just took shoes that I ain't never wore. They is the bad guys, really. They just got a badge on their side; that's the only thing."

In New York City, an NYPD narcotics detective was arrested last Tuesday for giving two different sworn accounts of arresting an accused PCP dealer in East Harlem. Detective Abel Joseph, 39, first testified that he and his team had never lost sight of their target, but later testified that they had. He also claimed first that he was unable to find the alleged drug buyers, then later claimed that he had stopped and searched them, but found no drugs. The charges against the alleged dealer have been dismissed. Joseph is charged with felony perjury.

In La Crosse, Wisconsin, a former La Crosse police officer was formally charged last Wednesday in an August drug sting that led to his arrest and resignation. Former Lt. Brian Thompson is charged with possession of narcotics without a prescription. He went down after superiors noticed he was spending time in the evidence room outside the course of his normal duties and stung him by giving him a duffel bag containing fake Oxycontin pills and telling him to book it into evidence. He did, but the fake pills were missing. He later admitted taking and consuming them. He's looking at up to 3 ½ years in prison.

In Winthrop, Massachusetts, a Winthrop auxiliary police officer was arrested last Thursday for allegedly dealing drugs in uniform and from his Auxiliary Police cruiser on several occasions. Officer Bledar Naco was arrested by the FBI, Winthrop and Revere police and faces currently unspecified charges.

In Cumberland, Maryland, an Allegheny County jail guard was arrested last Thursday after buying Oxycontin in a drug sting. William Smith, 26, went down after jail administrators received information he was involved in smuggling drugs into the jail. He is charged with conspiracy of a controlled dangerous substance possession with intent to distribute, conspiracy of possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to deliver in a place of confinement, and other offenses.

In New Orleans, a New Orleans police officer was arrested last Friday for getting involved in the cocaine trade. Officer Jason Cross is charged in federal court with possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute. The incident allegedly took place January 10 in Jefferson Parish. Cross resigned from the department the day of his arrest.

In Burlington, Vermont, a US Customs officer was arrested last Friday for stealing prescription drugs from vehicles he searched at the Canadian border. Christopher Vanzandt, 28, didn't get busted at work, but instead went to a house police were watching in a heroin investigation, broke into the garage, and stole some heroin hidden in WD-40 cans. That's when he was arrested. A subsequent search of his vehicle revealed the stolen pills. He was charged in state court with burglary and drug possession, but those charges will likely be dropped so he can be arraigned in federal court.

In Littleton, Colorado, a Littleton police officer pleaded guilty last Monday to planning to sell Ecstasy pills. Jeffrey Allan Johnston, 46, went down last summer after the FBI learned he was selling Ecstasy out of his home. He was arrested after buying 37 pills and 6.3 grams of powder Ecstasy from an undercover officer in July. Police also found cocaine, steroids, hundreds of prescription pills, and various weapons when they searched his home. He pleaded guilty to one count of possessing Ecstasy with intent to distribute and one count of being a prohibited person in possession of firearms. He is scheduled to be sentenced by US District Court Judge Philip A. Brimmer in February and is looking at up to 20 years in federal prison.

In Montclair, New Jersey, a Montclair police officer was convicted October 10 of being involved in an interstate marijuana sales operation. Anes Hadziefejzovic was accused of accompanying loads of marijuana from Maryland to New Jersey and was convicted of conspiracy to distribute more than 1,000 kilos of marijuana.

In Stillwater, Minnesota, a former Washington County sheriff's deputy was convicted Monday of stealing drugs from a locked pharmaceutical drop box in the county government building. Ricky Harry Gruber, 43, was found guilty of misconduct by a public employee and illegal possession of prescription drugs. He got caught on video removing the secure drug drum from the box and was arrested when he came back with it minutes later. He admitted having stolen the key to the secure area and taking the drugs.

In Little Rock, Arkansas, a former Little Rock police officer was sentenced last Wednesday to nearly nine years in prison on drug trafficking charges. Mark Jones and fellow officer Randall Robinson were arrested in June and charged with conspiracy to distribute more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana. Jones went immediately from court to jail.

In Oxford, Mississippi, a former Water Valley police officer was sentenced last Thursday to one year in prison for taking money from a drug trafficker in return for information about law enforcement. John David Hernandez, 35, had pleaded guilty to one count of extortion under color of official right, one count of money laundering, and one count of obstruction of a federal investigation.

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