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Drug Policy News Demonstration Project

Prohibition Doesn't Stop Houston Residents from Obtaining Drugs

The following adaptation is based on an article by James Pinkerton, (Police suspect accused Harris deputy protected drug dealers, Dec 17, 2010, Houston Chronicle), and is part of a demonstration project on drug policy conducted by the publication Drug War Chronicle.
Geography: 
Harris County, Texas

 

In a suspected case of prohibition-related police corruption, a veteran Harris County deputy was busted by Houston police in an undercover narcotics investigation, the Houston Chronicle reported earlier this month.

Richard Bryan Nutt Jr., 43, a deputy assigned to the county jail, was busted by prohibition agents as part of an undercover narcotics investigation. Sources told the Chronicle he is suspected of accepting payments to protect drug dealers and their product. Three other area men were arrested in the investigation as well.

Investigation results also suggest that Houston-area residents are largely able to obey or disobey prohibition laws as they see fit, apparently including jail inmates. The operation recovered a whopping two kilograms of cocaine, or 4 1/2 pounds, according to the Chronicle.

Nutt's defense attorney, Mark Thering, told the Chronicle that his client is "not a drug dealer."

Prohibition Law Violations Rampant in Snohomish County, Arrests Demonstrate

The following adaptation is based on an article by staff, (Arrests Made In Drug, Money Laundering Investigation, Dec 16, 2010, KIROTV.com), and is part of a demonstration project on drug policy conducted by the publication Drug War Chronicle.
Geography: 
Everett, WA

Ninety-six years since Congress prohibited the use and sales of narcotics (drugs derived from opium, or which mimic them), users and sellers of the substances in Snohomish County, Washington, continue to flaunt the law in order to satisfy their habits or reap the tremendous profit that prohibition makes possible, a report by KIRO-TV in Everett demonstrates.

Prohibition agents from several cooperating agencies, including ATF, DEA, ICE, IRS, and the Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force, executed multiple search and arrests warrants earlier this month, responding to alleged OxyContin sales and money laundering, according to KIROTV.com, at homes in Mill Creek, Lynnwood and Everett.

Kelvin Crenshaw, Special Agent in Chart of the ATF Seattle Field Division told KIRO, "Together, these agents and officers relentlessly pursued thugs who peddled illegal drugs on our streets and in our communities and arrogantly flaunted their illegal gains. Today is a bad day for these drug dealers, a good day for law enforcement and a win for our communities," said Kelvin Crenshaw, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Seattle Field Division.


David Borden, Executive Director of StoptheDrugWar.org, told the drug policy reform newsletter Drug War Chronicle, "December was a bad month for those drug dealers, but a good day for their rival dealers who have already taken over their former market share. It's doubtful that Snohomish County has one fewer pill on the street illegally than they had before. Prohibition doesn't work."

In 2005, a coalition of professional associations led by the neighboring King County Bar Association adopted a resolution calling current drug control policies "fundamentally flawed" and calling for "a new framework of state-level regulatory control over psychoactive substances, intended to render the illegal markets for such substances unprofitable."

Would Alcohol Bootleggers Have Opposed Prop 19?

The following adaptation is based on an article by Jason Weintraub, (Are Beer Distributors Opposing Prop. 19?, Sep 21, 2010, HipHopWired), and is part of a demonstration project on drug policy conducted by the publication Drug War Chronicle.
Geography: 
California

HipHopWired reports that the California Beer & Beverage Distributors donated $10,000 on September 7th to a committee opposing the California "Tax and Regulate Cannabis" marijuana legalization initiative, Prop 19. They joined the California Police Chiefs Association, which contributed $30,000 to the Prop 19 opponents, their largest donor so far.

"Alcohol sellers, both legal and illegal, have always been among the most ardent opponents of moves to lift restrictions on alcohol sales -- the former to protect their turf from new competition, the latter also to protect their turf from new competition," said David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org, an organization which supports Prop 19.

"Now the alcohol industry has joined with many of California's current marijuana growers who also oppose the initiative, in order to preserve today's status quo for the same reasons," Borden continued. "Legalization is the biggest threat to today's illegal drug sellers, and they know it."

Drug Laws Prove Superfluous in Monroe, Louisiana, Highway Stop This Weekend

The following adaptation is based on an article by staff, (Man Booked for Drug Possession, Dec 6, 2009, The News-Star), and is part of a demonstration project on drug policy conducted by the publication Drug War Chronicle.

Louisiana state troopers arrested a Monroe resident on Sunday, in an incident that demonstrated the superfluousness of drug prohibition laws.

Geography: 
Monroe, LA

Louisiana state troopers arrested a Monroe resident on Sunday, in an incident that demonstrated the superfluousness of drug prohibition laws.

According to The News-Star, state troopers stopped the suspect, a 34-year old man, after they saw him speeding in a Ford Taurus on eastbound Highway 594. The man was booked into Ouachita Correctional Center on charges of speeding, violating the open container law, possession of marijuana and possession of PCP.

"The road safety laws were all that were needed to take this dangerous driver off the road," said David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org. "Laws banning drug possession did nothing to make the traffic stop more likely -- the troopers didn't even know about the drugs when they stopped the guy."

The suspect's bond was set at $17,150, according to The News-Star.

Hartford Drug Sales Continue in Wake of Major Anti-Drug Operation

The following adaptation is based on an article by Edmund H. Mahoney, (Hartford Man, 22, Sentenced To Two Years In Prison For Conspiracy To Distribute Cocaine, Dec 5, 2009, Hartford Courant), and is part of a demonstration project on drug policy conducted by the publication Drug War Chronicle.

A Hartford resident arrested in a law enforcement crackdown on gang-related violence and drug dealing was sentenced Friday to two years in prison, the Hartford Courant reported. The man, who is 22, was one of 55 people arrested by a task force composed of local, state and federal prohibition agents in an operation titled "Operation Solid Gold." Prosecutors said the man was supplied with cocaine by a member of the Latin Kings gang who controlled drug trafficking in the Arnold Street area.

According to a Connecticut US Attorney's Office, "Operation Solid Gold" took a year and involved court-authorized wiretaps, controlled purchases of cocaine and heroin, and physical surveillance.

Sales and use of illegal drugs have continued in the area since that time, despite the expenditure of law enforcement resources to target the now-former dealers. Other cities have found the drug trade tends to return to previous levels within a couple of weeks from the conclusion of such operations.

Geography: 
Hartford, CT

A Hartford resident arrested in a law enforcement crackdown on gang-related violence and drug dealing was sentenced Friday to two years in prison, the Hartford Courant reported. The man, who is 22, was one of 55 people arrested by a task force composed of local, state and federal prohibition agents in an operation titled "Operation Solid Gold." Prosecutors said the man was supplied with cocaine by a member of the Latin Kings gang who controlled drug trafficking in the Arnold Street area.

According to a Connecticut US Attorney's Office, "Operation Solid Gold" took a year and involved court-authorized wiretaps, controlled purchases of cocaine and heroin, and physical surveillance.

Sales and use of illegal drugs have continued in the area since that time, despite the expenditure of law enforcement resources to target the now-former dealers. Other cities have found the drug trade tends to return to previous levels within a couple of weeks from the conclusion of such operations.

Cross-Border Marijuana Shipments are Large and Frequent, Prohibition Agents Find

The following adaptation is based on an article by R. Stickney, (Agents Unlock Pot Shipment, Nov 30, 2009, NBC San Diego), and is part of a demonstration project on drug policy conducted by the publication Drug War Chronicle.

Cross-border marijuana bootlegging is a massive enterprise, despite extensive efforts by prohibition agents to block the traffic.

Geography: 
San Diego, CA

Cross-border marijuana bootlegging is a massive enterprise, despite extensive efforts by prohibition agents to block the traffic. NBC San Diego recently reported on a large seizure of the prohibited substance by authorities, and this morning they reported on yet another. This time, agents found more than 6,000 pounds of marijuana at the Calexico East port cargo facility, according to NBC.

The contraband was wrapped into 458 packages, which were concealed amongst 67 boxes of door locks in a 1998 tractor trailer, according to prohibition agents. A 30-year-old Mexicali man was arrested after a canine team alerted on the cargo. The bootlegger was arrested and turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, according to NBC.

Because drugs are illegal, their price on the street market is artificially inflated in what economists call a "risk premium." Hence, while three tons of wheat might fetch $500 on the current California market, prohibition agents valued the marijuana at approximately $5.9 million.

Area marijuana users have not reported shortages lately, suggesting that bootleggers adjust the amount they traffic to compensate for anticipated losses such as occurred this morning and that many other shipments have probably gotten through.

Dartmouth, MA Marijuana Seizure Illustrates Prohibition's Impracticality

The following adaptation is based on an article by Brian Fraga, ( Police seize 200 pounds of marijuana in Dartmouth, Nov 26, 2009, New Bedford Standard-Times), and is part of a demonstration project on drug policy conducted by the publication Drug War Chronicle.
Geography: 
Dartmouth, MA

The failure of drug prohibition was dramatically demonstrated in the town of North Dartmouth, MA, this week, after prohibition agents seized 200 pounds of marijuana inside an Idaho-based tractor-trailer and arrested its two drivers, according to the New Bedford Standard-Times.

Documents filed in New Bedford District Court allege that the duo -- a father and son -- had been using a Fall River hotel parking lot as a drop-off and delivery point, the Standard-Times reported.

Illustrating the sheer impracticality of prohibition, the two arrests were made only after much of a long-term investigation into a suspected marijuana-trafficking operation had already been completed. Authorities believe that the pair operated without significant impediment during all that time.

Illustrating how difficult prohibition can make it to distinguish between innocence and guilt, defense lawyer Michelle Rioux pointed out that the pair of alleged traffickers could have been set up. Neither of them have lengthy criminal records, she told the Standard-Times.

The two men were arraigned Wednesday on trafficking and conspiracy charges, and were being held on $50,000 cash bail. Authorities believe other traffickers now supply marijuana to the area.

Airfields Help Bootleggers Foil Drug Prohibition Laws

The following adaptation is based on an article by staff, (Airfield used by cocaine importer, Nov 26, 2009, BBC News), and is part of a demonstration project on drug policy conducted by the publication Drug War Chronicle.

Evidence of prohibition's failure to staunch the flow of drugs was found at a Welsh airfield used by both the Royal Air Force and civilians, BBC News reported. Mona airfield on Anglesey, an auxiliary landing site for crews at nearby RAF Valley, was apparently the centre of a multi-million pound bootlegging operation, officials told Liverpool Crown Court.

How many millions of pounds before they were caught? Only the bootleggers know for certain.

Geography: 
Anglesey, UK

Evidence of prohibition's failure to staunch the flow of drugs was found at a Welsh airfield used by both the Royal Air Force and civilians, BBC News reported. Mona airfield on Anglesey, an auxiliary landing site for crews at nearby RAF Valley, was apparently the centre of a multi-million pound bootlegging operation, officials told Liverpool Crown Court.

How many millions of pounds before they were caught? Only the bootleggers know for certain.

A man from Manchester pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiring to import cocaine into Britain using the airfield. He was targeted after prohibition agents discovered £1m worth of cocaine on a light aircraft which had arrived from Le Touquet, France, according to BBC.

The man was granted bail and is expected to be sentenced in February. Officials believe that other smugglers now supply cocaine to the UK.

Low-flying airplanes are prohibition's latest threat to safety, recent articles about the drug wars suggest. Bootleggers often fly very low to the ground in order to avoid detection on radar screens. In a recent case in Michigan, a prohibition agent on helicopter patrol spotted a bootlegging plane at just 150 metres.

Former Prohibition Chief's Reputation on Trial in Prohibition-Related Corruption Case

The following adaptation is based on an article by Sebastian Rotella, (Mexican American former anti-drug chief's reputation on trial, Nov 22, 2009, Los Angeles Times), and is part of a demonstration project on drug policy conducted by the publication Drug War Chronicle.
Geography: 
Nogales, AZ

Former prohibition honcho Richard Padilla Cramer is accused of selling out to prohibition's outlaws, helping them to discover informants and set up bootlegging deals, according to the Los Angeles Times. Family and colleagues don't believe it.

The joke around Nogales, Arizona is that most people work for the government or the mafias, says the LA Times. Or for both of them, a situation that prohibition's large flows of underground cash has made common. But a case brought against a former top Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official, which investigators have predicted will widen to implicate more US agents, has upped the ante.

Richard Padilla Cramer, a Mexican immigrant, US citizen since childhood, grandfather and decorated Vietnam veteran, had used his perfect Spanish skills and a talent for undercover work for three decades in border law enforcement, according to the LA Times. He rose through the ranks, racking up drug prohibition busts and locking up corrupt officials, retiring after a stint as US attache in Mexico for ICE. In September, Cramer was arrested by fellow prohibition agents, and in a trial beginning Monday in Miami will face charges that he sold his talents to drug lords while in Mexico, according to the Times.

If friends and family of Cramer including several officials are right, it may be a case of over-zealous prosecutors relying on the word of informants naming names in order to get their own sentences reduced or for money -- a tactic that's common in drug prohibition cases, though usually involving less prominent defendants. Such informants in turn have been known to invent charges against the innocent. In perhaps the most spectacular known example, Andrew Chambers netted over $2 million for "informing" on more than 400 people -- DEA operatives continued using him for years despite his having been caught repeatedly perjuring himself.

"Of the people I worked with in my career, he's one of a group of four or five who I would trust with my life," retired ICE supervisor Terry Kirkpatrick told the Times. "Unless somebody says, 'Here's a videotape,' I am not going to believe it."

"This is impossible to grasp," said Rene Andreu, a former assistant ICE chief in Tucson told the Times. "Richard is old-fashioned in his integrity, his honor, the perceptions people have of him. I can't imagine him taking the risk of having his family look at him differently."

Others say that prohibition corrupted Cramer well before he took the attache post. A high-ranking federal official, who requested anonymity, told the Times they believe it went as far back as Cramer's years as a chief agent in Nogales, though prosecutors haven't alleged that.

Kirkpatrick's reminiscences paint a different picture. When Cramer was a rookie border inspector, a childhood friend was enlisted to offer him a bribe, but he reported it. Eight or nine people were arrested after Cramer reported being approached about letting loads of drugs through, Kirkpatrick told the Times. "[Cramer] and I got death threats because of work we did" locking up corrupt officials, said Kirkpatrick.

If the charges are true, they demonstrate the abundance of opportunity for personal profit that prohibition presents to those charged with enforcing it. According to the Times, the federal complaint alleges that Cramer was able to use his sources cultivated through undercover work to invest $40,000 of his own in a cocaine shipment from Panama that got intercepted in Spain. One informant says he received a DEA document by email from Cramer, naming his email address as proof -- "corpsmanpop," a reference to Cramer's son who enlisted in the Navy and tended to wounded soldiers in Iraq. Traffickers apparently obtained at least 10 criminal history documents that Cramer alleged downloaded from US databases, according to the Times. How much is one useful email that took an hour to compile, worth to a drug lord who could use it to save his drug shipments and maybe his and his henchmen's freedom?

If, on the other hand, the charges are wrong, they may demonstrate the extent to which prohibition law prosecutions rely on guesswork to decide whether a defendant will spend decades in prison or go free. Kirkpatrick offered an alternative explanation for the downloads, suggesting he could have slipped the information to friends in Mexican law enforcement as a favor, without knowing they were corrupt. "You are not supposed to give documents to the Mexicans like that," he told the Times. "If he did it, shame on him. But it's not the same as the charges in the complaint."

Is Richard Cramer a highly-placed official who yielded to prohibition's temptations? Or is he an innocent victim of federally-suborned perjury by informants working with rival agencies?

Either way, prohibition has failed to stem the flow of cocaine from its South American producers to its largely North American and European consumers. But it has cast a pall of suspicion over its enforcers on both sides of the border, and on anyone who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Prohibition Corrupting Britain's Prison Officers

The following adaptation is based on an article by staff, (Smuggling prison officer jailed, Nov 19, 2009, BBC News), and is part of a demonstration project on drug policy conducted by the publication Drug War Chronicle.
Geography: 
Evesham, United Kingdom

In a sign of prohibition's failure even inside Britain's prisons, a prison officer who smuggled drugs into a maximum security prison has been jailed for seven years, according to the BBC News.

Lucy Reynolds, 29, of Evesham, pleaded guilty to violation of the UK's drug prohibition laws -- possession of heroin and cannabis with intent to supply -- as well as misconduct by smuggling phones and sim cards into Long Lartin Prison. She pleaded guilty to the charges at Worcester Crown Court in September, reported BBC.

According to Conservative MP for Mid-Worcestershire Peter Luff, prohibition failing to keep drugs out of prisons -- and corrupting those charged with guarding the prisons -- not only in Worcester but across the country. But Luff, who did not use the word "prohibition," thinks it will finally be different this time, reports BBC. "I hope [the seven-year sentence] sends a very strong message out to other people who may have access to prisoners and participate in this trade."

Whether things do turn out differently this time is secondary to Luff, however. According to BBC, he's "delighted" that someone has been caught and given a "severe penalty."

Reynolds told the court she had fallen in love with an inmate, and her attorney also said she felt under pressure to smuggle items into the jail and that inmates had threatened to scald her with water and oil if she refused, reported BBC.

Prohibition Undermining Justice System

Because drugs selling is criminalized and punishable by harsh sentences, drugs in turn fetch premium prices on the black market. The trade in drugs in turn flourishes in most communities, including prisons, where only one official or visitor needs to sneak the drugs in or look the other way. Reynolds hid the drugs inside her bra, a reminder that prohibited substances can be anywhere or everywhere.

According to BBC, Paul Whitfield, crown advocate at the Crown Prosecution Service, said after the case: "Seven years is a high sentence but it reflects the breach of trust that is demonstrated by this behaviour."

Unfortunately, police corruption driven by illicit drug trade profits is likely to continue wherever and for however long prohibition continues, if the "This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories" column, a feature of the US-based Drug War Chronicle newsletter, is any indication. Which means prisoners are going to obtain their drugs, in Britain and elsewhere, despite prohibition.

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