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Law Enforcement Condemns Marijuana Measure (South Dakota)

Sioux Falls, SD
United States
KELO TV Sioux Falls

Divided [Oregon] Supreme Court Upholds Restrictions on Police Seizures

United States
Salem Statesman Journal

Oregon Supreme Court Affirms Legality of Property Protection Act of 2000

For Immediate Release: Contact: Tony Newman (646) 335-5384 October 19, 2006 Daniel Abrahamson (510) 295-5635 Oregon Supreme Court Affirms Legality of Property Protection Act of 2000 Asset Forfeiture Reform Requires Conviction before Law Enforcement Can Seize Property; Seized Property Goes to Fund Treatment, Not to Enrich Police Forces Ruling Ends Six-year Legal Challenge to Popular Voter-approved Initiative The Oregon State Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling today upholding Measure 3, the ballot initiative overwhelmingly approved in 2000 by voters that dramatically reformed Oregon's asset forfeiture laws. Today's decision comes in the case Lincoln Interagency Narcotics Team v. Kitzhaber, Case No. S50904 Measure 3 - The Oregon Property Protection Act of 2000 - was passed with 67.2 percent of the statewide vote - and a 60 percent majority in each of the state's 36 counties. The measure rewrote the state's forfeiture practices by preventing private property from being forfeited unless the individual was convicted of a crime, limiting the amount of assets forfeited in accordance with the severity of the crime, and directing the proceeds from forfeited property toward the funding of drug treatment programs instead of law enforcement budgets. “Today, the Supreme Court upheld the clear will of the voters,” said Daniel Abrahamson, director of Legal Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, a national organization devoted to drug policy reform, which worked with local organizations and individuals to craft and pass Measure 3 and funded the litigation to protect the law. “Not only do the people wish to be assured that forfeitures are reined in, they shall encourage it by removing the carrot which otherwise would tempt the two political branches of government to treat the criminal law as a revenue-raising source,” noted Abrahamson, quoting from the opinion. According to Abrahamson, “today's decision not only makes sure that people have basic protections from having their assets forfeited, but directs the forfeiture proceeds to where the money can make the most difference in creating safer communities and saving lives: by funding drug treatment programs.” Following its passage, the Lincoln County Interagency Narcotics Team, one of many drug teams whose operating budget was almost entirely financed from forfeiture dollars, filed suit in state court challenging the constitutionality of Measure 3, claiming it violated the state’s “separate-vote” requirement for ballot initiatives by making more than one substantive change to the state constitution. Backers of Measure 3 won an early court victory and the initiative has remained on the books through today's ruling. Portland attorney Eli Stutsman, who defended Measure 3 before the court, said “today’s decision brings a welcome conclusion to the long and complex battle over Measure 3. We appreciate the careful consideration that the Supreme Court gave this case and the high level of professionalism and advocacy by all the parties involved. Naturally, we are also pleased with the decision handed us by the court.”
United States

Editorial: Drug Busts as Taxpayer-Funded Media Lobbying/Electioneering Campaigns

David Borden, Executive Director, 10/20/06

David Borden
One of the news items today was a report from Colorado of a major marijuana bust. The Denver DEA office and District Attorney announced they had roped in 38 dealers, and held a press conference to brag about it.

The timing was questioned by the group Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), the sponsors of a marijuana legalization initiative on next month's statewide ballot. SAFER's press release called the press conference "an orchestrated political event," implying that the local drug warriors by staging this bust at this time and publicizing it were really trying to influence an election starting 19 days later with early voting starting only four days later. (SAFER also pointed out that there are listings in Denver for at least 347 dealers of alcohol -- a more dangerous drug than marijuana according to SAFER and according to any reasonable reading of the science on the issue.)

In my opinion the timing does indeed cast suspicion on the enforcers' motivation. Did Colorado narcs use the pretext of a drug bust to in reality conduct a media/lobbying/electioneering campaign at the expense of the taxpayer (as well as the expense of the people busted)?

If so, it wouldn't be the first time such a thing happened. In 1991, I'm told, the federal courthouse in Charlottesville, Virginia, was in danger of being shut down for budgetary reasons, its operations to be merged into other nearby facilities. Enter "Operation Equinox," which saw 12 fraternity brothers taken down on drug charges. The court got publicity and an apparent reason for being, and is alive and thriving today.

In California this summer they actually came right out and said what they were doing. A July press release from Attorney General Lockyer's office about how “44 task forces led by the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement... arrested at least 115 individuals and seized at least $11.9 million worth of drugs as part of a one-day nationwide crime sweep," stated that the operation “promoted the continued funding of the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program that supports local and statewide drug enforcement. The federally funded program has suffered deep cuts over the last few years.”

In the advocacy business, when we stage media-worthy events that we hope will affect the legislative process, it's considered lobbying. Were these 38 Coloradans, 115 Californians, the 12 UVA frat boys and others on numerous other occasions really pawns in the political games played by people who hold the power to incarcerate? That can be hard to prove, but it's pretty clear that that dynamic exists, and sometimes it isn't that hard to prove. Indeed, the prosecutor who seeks high-profile prosecutions and large numbers of convictions to bolster his or her political career is a well known creature, and one of the most powerful in government.

Let's hope this odious tactic backfires on Colorado's narcs -- on November 7!

Feature: Prominent Drug Reformers Run for Statewide Office in Connecticut, Maryland

Two of the country's most well-known drug reformers are on the November ballot, and while, barring a miracle, they have no chance of winning, both are taking the drug reform message to new audiences and, hopefully, gaining new support for undoing drug prohibition. In Connecticut, Cliff Thornton, head of the reform group Efficacy is running as the Green Party nominee for governor. In Maryland, Kevin Zeese, of NORML and early Drug Policy Foundation (forerunner of the Drug Policy Alliance) fame and president of Common Sense for Drug Policy is running for US Senate as a "unity" candidate as the nominee of the Green, Libertarian, and Populist parties. (In Alabama, drug reform activist Loretta Nall won the Libertarian Party nomination for governor, but having failed to overcome the state's onerous third party ballot qualification requirements, has been reduced to doing a write-in campaign.)

Cliff Thornton on the campaign trail
In Connecticut, Thornton is up against Democratic challenger John DeStefano and the incumbent, Republican Gov. Jodi Rell, who, according to most recent polls, is cruising to victory with a margin of greater than 20 percentage points. Although Thornton has not been included in the polls and has been squeezed out of Wednesday night televised debate -- he did manage to get a campaign ad placed right before the debate -- he told Drug War Chronicle his campaign has been opening new space for drug reform in Connecticut.

"You know we're having an impact," he said. "There have been about 175 shootings and killings here in the last three months, and I talk about why. That's the main reason Rell and DeStefano don't want me in the debates -- they don't want to defend a failed drug policy."

They may not want to talk drug policy, but for Thornton it is the centerpiece of his campaign. "I don't always lead with the drug issues, but everyone wants to know about the drug issue. Everybody gets it," said Thornton. "Rell and DeStefano are shying away from the whole issue, although sometimes their staff members will talk about it."

Thornton's year of work in the trenches of drug policy reform in Connecticut and nationwide have made him a known quantity in local political and media circles, and this year's gubernatorial run has provided plenty of fodder for articles on Thornton and the drug issue. The issue is now gaining an even higher profile in Connecticut thanks to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which is currently engaged in a statewide speaking tour. While LEAP doesn't campaign for candidates, the timing of Thornton's campaign is adding fire to their Connecticut efforts. The group has already had some 70 speaking engagements or media interviews during this current blitz, with more scheduled.

"It is difficult to measure LEAP's impact," said Thornton, "but it is very powerful."

With only weeks left in the campaign, Thornton is going full-bore. "We have a helluva schedule between now and election day," he said. "They don't want us in the debates, they don't want us in the polls, but they can't keep our message from getting out, and in that sense, we've already won."

While in Connecticut, a vote for Thornton instead of Rell or DeStefano is unlikely to have any impact on Rell's presumptive victory, it's a different story in the Maryland US Senate race. In that open seat, Democrat Ben Cardin is locked in a tight race with Republican Michael Steele. According to most recent polls, Cardin has a slight lead, but at least one poll shows a dead heat, with each candidate getting 46% of the vote and Zeese getting 3%. In Maryland, the Zeese campaign could be a real spoiler, or as Zeese prefers to put it, "competition."

Zeese has already had some noticeable achievements. He has managed to forge an outsider alliance with his Green-Libertarian-Populist candidacy and he has become the first third-party candidate in Maryland to win a seat in Senate debates. Since he lacks the campaign funds to mount a full-scale media campaign, the debates will be critical to the Zeese campaign's success.

"I've broken through to get in the debates -- there may be as many as six of them -- and that's key for the whole campaign. We have to be heard and seen, and this will help make the media acknowledge my candidacy," Zeese told the Chronicle. "I think my poll numbers will go up significantly once the debates start because then people will hear my message."

He is having a hard time getting heard now. "The Zeese campaign is invisible," said University of Maryland government professor Paul Hernson. "He hasn't gotten much coverage."

Still, said Hernson, with the race as tight as it is, Zeese could have an impact. "If this race ends up very close, it is possible a minor party candidate like Zeese can play the role of spoiler," he told the Chronicle.

Zeese may benefit from the tangled racial politics of this race. The Democrat, Cardin, is white and trying to appeal to his black Democratic base, which is still stung by Cardin's victory over Kweisi Mfume in the primaries, while the Republican, Steele, is black and trying to appeal to white conservatives as well as picking up some black Democratic voters.

Zeese is taking advantage of the drug policy issue where he can. "At the Urban League debate, in my introduction I talked about the need for treatment, not incarceration, and I talked about the prison population," he related. "When someone asked about whether African-Americans should support Democrats, I talked about Maryland being the most racially unfair state in the nation, with 90% of those incarcerated for drug offenses being black. That's what you get for electing Democrats, I told them."

With Steele closing in on Cardin, Zeese could make the difference. The only question is who he is more likely to pull votes from, and that is by no means clear.

Two other prominent drug reformers not running for office, Drug Policy Alliance executive director Ethan Nadelmann and Criminal Justice Policy Foundation executive director Eric Sterling, told the Chronicle they generally welcomed such third-party campaigns by drug reformers, although Nadelmann worried about the impact they could have on the Democratic Party.

"Historically, third parties play a critical role in legitimizing controversial subjects for national political action," said Sterling, who was quick to note he had contributed to both the Zeese and Thornton campaigns. "The Republican Party was a third party when it formed and organized around the issue of the abolition of slavery. Third parties in the 1920s and 1930s advanced labor management issues that were enacted in the 1930s and 1940s that we now completely take for granted as part of the American way of life, such as paid vacations and the five day work week. The idea that there are only two political parties is unique to the United States and doesn't exist in the Constitution," he pointed out.

"In Connecticut, the problems of prohibition, crime, and drug abuse have been major problems in the three major cities," Sterling said, pointing to revolving police chiefs in Hartford, the cocaine-using current mayor in Bridgeport, and historically high drug prohibition-related crime levels in New Haven. "Given this background, Cliff Thornton's candidacy, his unique personal biography and his uncommon ability to speak powerfully and effectively to many audiences has enabled him to speak about the drug issue in Connecticut and caused many people to think about the nature of our drug problem, our means of approaching it, and the consequences of approaching it that way."

In Maryland, said Sterling, it is a three-way race and Zeese deserves support whether it hurts the Democratic candidate or not. "If you accept that there is a legitimate role for third parties in our democratic process, then it can't be the case that it's only when it makes no difference," he argued. "If Ben Cardin is unable to mobilize his allies in the African-American community, that is his fault, not Kevin Zeese's."

Such campaigns are "unquestionably worth it," said Sterling. "Those of us who read the Drug War Chronicle understand that the struggle to change the world's drug laws is a long-term struggle and to make our ideas the conventional wisdom requires that they be articulated in the conventional forums of policy debate, such as election campaigns. In Connecticut, the Thornton campaign has done more than any single thing to legitimize the debate about drug policy, and that is unquestionably a good thing."

The Drug Policy Alliance's Nadelmann largely concurred, but he raised concerns about possible negative consequences. "If you're talking about a race for governor, the question is how are the other candidates on this issue and is this helping the likely winner to arrive at a better drug policy position or not," he said. "In Connecticut, Thornton is playing a constructive role talking about drug policy and is unlikely to have an impact on who wins. But will Gov. Rell hold that against us when we need her to sign a medical marijuana bill or a bill on drug free zones?"

It's a slightly different equation for legislative office, Nadelmann argued, especially this year. "It is clear that drug policy reform will fare better under a Democratic House and Senate than a Republican one. In Maryland, Kevin Zeese has broken new ground with his coalition, and that's a good thing. What you don't want to see happen is to have votes for Kevin end up throwing the election to the candidate and the party that is worse on drug policy."

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Busy, busy, busy. Judges on cocaine, cops dealing cocaine, cops selling ecstasy, Air Force pilots smuggling ecstasy, police chemists pilfering from the evidence pile, and, of course, jail guards smuggling dope into prisons. Let's get to it:

In Las Cruces, New Mexico, the state Judicial Standards Commission filed a petition last Friday seeking the removal of a Dona Ana County magistrate on the grounds he tested positive for cocaine, according to the Associated Press. Magistrate Carlos Garza, 42, has denied using drugs and vowed to fight the move. Garza has been suspended by the commission since September 20, when he failed to comply with a commission order he submit to a drug test. According to the commission, he has since failed another drug test. The commission also accused Garza of trying to pressure a Mesilla deputy marshal during a traffic stop where the judge was in a car with a woman "with whom he had a personal relationship" and asking a court clerk to clear the woman's license early in a drunk driving case. He was put on probation by the Judicial Standards Commission earlier this year in that case, and he said the charge he used cocaine was a continuation of a commission vendetta against him. He said the cocaine metabolites found in his system could have been received through "passive exposure." Garza is running unopposed for reelection in next month's elections.

[Ed: Whether to include mere drug use/possession by criminal justice personnel among the examples of corruption is a dilemma Drug War Chronicle routinely faces. We've opted so far to include them, because a judge who uses illegal drugs may also be a judge who presides over trials of, and pronounces sentences on, other drug users who have only done the same thing (hypocrisy); and because the judge is violating a law he has sworn to uphold (it being a law with which we disagree notwithstanding). Still, it bears reminder that there is a difference between drug use even by police or judges vs. profiting from the drug trade or other examples of official misconduct.]

In Durham, North Carolina, a Durham County sheriff's deputy has been arrested in a drug raid at a local bar and two more deputies have been fired for working security there. Deputy Michael Owens, the owner of the raided bar, was charged along with four others with trafficking cocaine and conspiracy to traffic cocaine, and he faces the additional charge of maintaining a building for the purposes of distributing cocaine. Deputies Brad King and Keith Dotson, who worked off-duty as security for the club, were suspended that same night, the Durham Herald Sun reported, and fired early this week. Authorities reported seizing 1.4 ounces of cocaine during the raid.

In Biloxi, Mississippi, a former Biloxi police officer pleaded guilty last Friday to selling ecstasy, the Biloxi Sun Herald reported. Darrell Cvitanovich, who resigned from the force after his arrest, faces up to 30 years in prison after he admitted selling four ecstasy tablets to a friend. Cvitanovich, who is the son of a former Biloxi police chief, was arrested in June 2005 after an investigation into allegations he was involved in drug activities. During a search of his home, police found 11 ecstasy tablets and a small amount of methamphetamine. He was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell and transfer of a controlled substance, but pleaded last week to the single sales charge. Cvitanovich is free on $50,000 bond pending sentencing.

In New York City, a US Air National Guard pilot who took an Air Force jet to Germany and carried back 200,000 ecstasy tablets was sentenced last Friday to 17 ½ years in prison. Capt. Franklin Rodriguez, 36, and his coconspirator, Master Sgt. John Fong, 37, had pleaded guilty in federal court after being busted for the April 2005 flight. Fong awaits sentencing. The pair went down after federal law enforcement agents watched Fong load 28 bags into a BMW sedan and found them filled with ecstasy tablets, according to the Associated Press. Prosecutors said Rodriguez had repeatedly flown drugs on military flights, bringing hundreds of thousands of ecstasy tablets to the US. The feds found more than $700,000 cash in his apartment. They have it now.

In Philadelphia, a former civilian chemist for the Philadelphia Police Department was arrested October 11 on charges she stole drugs for her own use, the Associated Press reported. Colleen Brubaker, 30, came under suspicion in April and resigned in May. Authorities now accuse her of grabbing pain-relieving opiates like Oxycontin, Percocet, and Vicodin to feed her own habit. She is charged with drug possession, theft, receiving stolen property, tampering with evidence, obstruction, tampering with public records or information, and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence. Since Brubaker was the chemist responsible for hundreds of drug cases, public defenders are now looking into the possibility that some of them may have to be dismissed.

In Stillwater, Oklahoma, a Payne County sheriff's deputy has been suspended without pay pending an investigation by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, the Associated Press reported. Local officials are mum about exactly what Deputy Brooke Buchanan, a 13-year veteran of the department, is accused of doing, but they did confirm that a special prosecutor has been named in the investigation. The investigation could take several more weeks before any charges are filed.

In Lubbock, Texas, a Lubbock County jail guard was arrested Sunday night as she arrived at work carrying marijuana, KLBK-CBS 13 TV in Lubbock reported. Renata Hernandez, 26, is charged with introducing a prohibited substance into a correctional facility. She faces between two and ten years in prison. While sheriff's office spokesmen said they believed she was bringing the weed into the jail to sell it, they have not been able to prove that yet.

Potheads, Puritans, and Pragmatists: Two Marijuana Initiatives Put Drug Warriors on the Defensive

United States

South Dakotans for Medical Marijuana TV Ad Running with Election Coming Up

Click here for the new South Dakota medical marijuana campaign ad, featuring patient/activist Valerie Hannah.

United States

Media Advisory: Medical marijuana protest to return to Green campaign (Wisconsin)

Media Advisory: Medical marijuana protest to return to Green campaign office Wednesday WHAT? Protest at Mark Green's Campaign Office WHERE? Mark Green's campaign office 1915 S. Webster, Allouez, Wi. WHEN? Wednesday, October 18 @ 10:00am Background: (WHO? and WHY?) Jacki Rickert, founder of Is My Medicine Legal Yet?, (www.immly.org) suffers from two incurable medical conditions, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and Advanced Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. Jacki has found that marijuana helps treat these painful and debilitating illnesses, and with assistance from her physician, now deceased, she was approved to receive medical marijuana from the federal government's Compassionate IND program. However, the program was closed to new patients, and the 8 medical marijuana patients already in the program were grandfathered in. The program's 5 surviving patients continue to receive marijuana from the government to this day. Congressman Mark Green has been asked about his stance on medical marijuana, and he has written, "I believe current medical options are superior to legalizing an addictive and dangerous illegal drug". Jacki wants to know what medical options he's speaking of to treat her incurable conditions, since she has yet to find these superior medical options that he speaks of. Jacki Rickert went to Mark Green's office on October 10 with a letter, (http://www.immly.org/jacki2green.htm) asking him to tell her about these "superior medical options". He has yet to respond. The staffer in Mark Green's office said they would give this issue some thought, but when WGBA NBC 26 television asked for their stance, Mark Green's Campaign manager Mark Graul laughed and said that he didn't believe "the majority of Wisconsinites would want to legalize drugs". Mark Green's office figured they could just ignore Jacki since she came from far away, and is in a wheelchair. However, Jacki's supporters, including other medical marijuana patients, are coming back to his office to find out what these "superior medical options" are. For more information contact: Eric Tatera (920) 713-0230 (event coordinator in Green Bay) Jacki Rickert (715) 926-4950 (Mondovi) Gary Storck (608) 241-8922 (Madison) - 30 - (This blog post 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.)
Allouez, WI
United States

Countdown to the November elections

Election day is now three weeks away, and the Chronicle will be focusing on drug policy-related races across the country between now and then. With most people's attention focused on whether the Democrats will regain control of the House and/or Senate, the drug policy-related races and ballot questions are not getting much attention, except at the local and state level, but there are some important drug policy-related questions being decided on election day. Expect to see a lot of articles focused on the elections between now and November 7, and, of course, the Friday following the election. Here is a list of the races and ballot questions we'll be reporting on: Marijuana legalization initiatives—Colorado and Nevada Medical marijuana initiative—South Dakota "Lowest law enforcement priority" initiatives—Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, Missoula, MT; Eureka Springs, AR Alabama governor's race—Drug reformer Loretta Nall is in a write-in campaign Connecticut governor's race—Drug reformer Cliff Thornton is running as a Green Maryland senate race—Drug reformer Kevin Zeese is running as a Green/Libertarian unity candidate Are there any I have failed to list? Please let me know.
United States

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