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Pot Proponents Shout Down Governor

Location: 
Denver, CO
United States
Publication/Source: 
ABC-TV7 Denver
URL: 
http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/10174806/detail.html

Feature: Nail-Biting Time for South Dakota's Medical Marijuana Initiative

With election day little more than a week away, proponents of South Dakota's medical marijuana initiative are increasingly nervous about the measure's prospects in the face of a coordinated onslaught by the state's Republican political establishment, state and local law enforcement, and even the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office). Given South Dakota's social conservatism and a number of hot-button other issues on the ballot, including abortion and gay marriage, the assault by law enforcement only makes voter approval of the measure more difficult. But with no polling on the issue in the state since 2002 (when it got 64% approval), it is hard to gauge exactly where the vote is likely to go.

Known on the ballot as Initiated Measure 4, the medical marijuana measure would allow patients who suffer from specified medical conditions, have the okay of their doctor, and register with the state to use marijuana to alleviate their conditions. The measure also allows registered patients or their caregivers to grow up to six marijuana plants. If the measure passes, South Dakota would become the 12th state to legalize marijuana. If the measure fails, South Dakota would become the first state where voters explicitly rejected medical marijuana.

Beginning late last week, the organized opposition began fighting in earnest with a series of press conferences featuring Attorney General Larry Long (whom organizers were forced to successfully sue over biased ballot language), local law enforcement officials, and deputy drug czar Scott Burns. Burns called medical marijuana "a con" and accused initiative supporters of playing on the sympathies of voters to advance a dangerous agenda.

"It's a step backwards in South Dakota and a step backwards nationally," said Burns at a Sioux Falls press conference last Friday. "Do not fall for the con."

"The risk far outweighs the benefits," said Minnehaha County (Sioux Falls) Sheriff Mike Milstead at the same widely televised and reported press conference. "There's great concern about how easily this marijuana could fall into the wrong hands."

Some South Dakota law enforcement officials have gone further in their arguments against the measure. In a conversation with Drug War Chronicle Thursday, Hughes County (Pierre) Sheriff Mike Leidholt complained that initiative language barring registered patients from being prosecuted as drugged drivers because of residual metabolites in their systems would result in them being able to get away with driving while intoxicated. "If we can't test for the metabolite, how are we to enforce the law, or is that a free pass?" he asked.

Leidholt also expressed concern that marijuana grown for registered patients would escape into the larger market. "This measure allows any patient or caregiver to have up to six marijuana plants," he said. "One marijuana plant can produce up to 13,000 joints. If you have that much, what happens to the rest of it?"

[Editor's Note: We report, you decide. Assuming a joint weighs between one-half gram and one gram, that comes to somewhere between 15 and 30 pounds of smokeable bud. By our calculations, it would take a marijuana plant the size of a full-grown oak tree to produce that many joints.]

Leidholt conceded that marijuana may help a small number of seriously ill people in the state, but argued that that does not outweigh the need to keep marijuana off the streets. "I feel bad for those people, but the dangers are too great," he said.

That argument wasn't flying with Valerie Hannah of Deerfield, a combat medic in the Gulf War who know suffers chronic pain from nerve damage and who is serving as the primary spokesperson for South Dakotans for Medical Marijuana, the group behind the initiative. "We really need this for patients who are truly ill so they can have another means of release," she told the Chronicle.

Hannah and former Denver police officer Tony Ryan, who now lives in Sioux Falls, are the group's public face. Both are appearing in TV commercials airing around the state -- when they can squeeze in among all the abortion, gay marriage, tobacco tax, elected office, and other campaign commercials that are cluttering the airwaves.

"What law enforcement is doing is a real disappointment, but my biggest disappointment is Larry Long bringing in the national deputy drug czar to propagandize at press conferences," she said. "They're really starting to pull out the drug war money and going to town with it."

Hannah is in a lonely fight. No other medical marijuana patient in the state has yet stood up to be counted alongside her. But that is not surprising in a state where anyone who admits to marijuana use could be served with a search warrant and ordered to submit to a drug test, then prosecuted for "unlawful ingestion" of marijuana.

"People are scared here," Hannah said. "Not only are they scared to come out, some people who use medical marijuana have even told me they voted against it because they were afraid law enforcement would look at their ballots and somehow persecute them. It is past time for people to get over their fears and realize this is really all about sick and dying people."

While Hannah other initiative supporters are working frantically to secure victory on November 7, the outcome is "kind of iffy," she said. "Faced with all these false claims from law enforcement and the fear in the air in this state, I don't know how this will come out."

Hannah held out some hope though, citing surprising support among farmers and ranchers in the sparsely-populated, libertarian-leaning northwest part of the state. "That is good, but most of the votes are in the East, especially in Sioux Falls," she noted. With some 177,000 residents in the metro area, Sioux Falls accounts for about one-quarter of the state's population.

"Western South Dakota is a place where outlaws went to hide from the law -- and they stayed -- so it may be fertile ground for medical marijuana even if just for the tax money. But if they lose in Sioux Falls, they lose the entire state," said University of South Dakota political science Professor David Vick. "The city has been growing rapidly, and the small towns around there have become suburbs, and they vote like suburbs," he told the Chronicle.

Vick had a hard time imagining that the measure would succeed. "My opinion is that it will probably not pass," he said. "On the East side of the state, you tend to have values voters who vote along religious lines and conservative political lines. The only way I see this passing is if people vote for it in a backlash against government intrusion or fiscal conservatism. Of course, there are people who have found assistance from medical marijuana or know someone who has, and they could vote for it."

It now looks like an uphill battle in South Dakota, but we will not really know until the votes are counted.

Law Enforcement: Lawsuit Shines Light on Florida Police Department's Shady Forfeiture Practice

A lawsuit filed by a young Bradenton, Florida, man to win the return of $10,000 in cash seized from him by the Bradenton Police Department has shined a light on a longstanding -- and possibly illegal -- asset forfeiture policy by the department. Under the Florida Contraband Act, persons whose money and property were seized by police have the right to have a judge rule on the legality of the seizure. But the Bradenton police have for years been using their own "Contraband Forfeiture Agreement," which people arrested are told to sign to agree to give up their property and waive any legal recourse.

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Florida's finest...
The practice came to light last week, when the Sarasota Herald Tribune began reporting on the case of Delane Johnson, 20, who was stopped outside an apartment house in July. When police spotted a wad of cash in his pants pocket, he told them he was using the money for a party. They arrested him on the rarely-used charge of failing to report a business transaction in excess of $10,000 (he had $10,020). Police claim Johnson signed the "Contraband Forfeiture Agreement" -- a claim he disputes -- and they deposited the money in a police bank account.

County prosecutors dropped the charges, saying it was not a crime to carry cash, but police refused to return the money. Now Johnson is in court fighting to get his money back.

"The whole arrest was bogus. It's awful," attorney Varinia Van Ness, who represented Johnson, told the Herald Tribune. She wants the courts to order the department to follow state law instead of continuing its end run around the law.

"Hopefully, we'll put a stop to it when we get in front of a judge," said attorney Louis Daniel Lazaro, who also represents Johnson. "There are possible corruption charges on a criminal level."

This wouldn't be the first time people have gone to court to get their money back. Last year, a Manatee county judge ordered Bradenton police to return $7,000 seized from a woman who was arrested for a driver's license violation after a traffic stop. Judge Douglas Henderson ruled that the woman did not knowingly and willingly agree to have her money confiscated even though her named appeared on the forfeiture agreement.

The Bradenton Police Department's unusual practice was viewed with concern by attorneys and constitutional scholars contacted by the Herald Tribune. They said police may be pressuring people to sign away their rights, a charge some local residents said was true.

"Who knows what they are telling people to get them to sign it," said Sarasota-based defense attorney Henry E. Lee, who represented a woman last year in a police forfeiture case in Bradenton. "This is a source of revenue for the police, and it's just rife for abuse."

"It sounds like robbery to me," said Joseph Little, a law school professor at the University of Florida.

Bradenton police have seized more than $12,000 from 15 people arrested since August. Janie Brooks, 56, was one of them. She was in her front yard in a poor neighborhood when police swooped in, said they found drugs, and seized her car and $1,200 cash. As she sat in the back of a patrol car, police pressured her into signing the forfeiture form, she said. "He kept rushing me, like, 'Go ahead, things will be better if you did,'" Brooks said. "It was like, there's gonna be some big time stuff that happens to me if I don't sign it."

Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski was unrepentant. "If you're selling drugs, I'm going to take your money, your car, your house -- if I can get it," he said. "That's my goal here. Eventually we're going to seize someone's house." He also accused Delane Johnson of being a drug dealer, though he was never charged with a drug-related offense. "Does he really think a judge will give him back his drug money? God bless him if a judge goes along with that."

It's little wonder Radzilowski defends the practice. The county's asset forfeiture fund, which the department uses to buy new equipment and pay for drug education and other programs, has gone as high as $150,000.

The Deputy Drug Czar Comes to South Dakota

Scott Burns, deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota's largest city, on Friday. The only apparent reason for his presence was to try to defeat the medical marijuana initiative on the November 7 ballot. Burns showed up for a press conference with state and local law enforcement officials opposing the initiative.
"It's a step backwards in South Dakota and a step backwards nationally," said Burns. "Do not fall for the con." "The risk far outweighs the benefits," said Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead, who opposes the measure. "There's great concern about how easily this marijuana could fall into the wrong hands."
Burns went on to argue that marijuana was not a medicine, that legalizing medical marijuana would lead to an increase in teen drug use, and that it's just not a good idea, darn it! The press conference got play in the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader and on the main Sioux Falls TV station, KELOland, but both media outlets made sure to include opposing voices. There hasn't been a lot of other coverage of the initiative, a mere handful of stories. The Argus-Leader editiorialized briefly and feebly—sorry, the link seems to have vanished—against the initiative, with its four-sentence editorial complaining that marijuana didn't come in pill form and that passing the initiative would pose problems for police. Both reasons given are lame. Yes, raw marijuana is plant material. It is not processed, standardized, subject to FDA scrutiny (for what that's worth). But that certainly does not stop patients from rapidly learning to titrate their dosage and to figure out which strains work for them. The law enforcement excuse is even sillier. The South Dakota initiative provides for a state registry of patients and caregivers. If a county sheriff believes he may have evidence of a marijuana grow, the only thing he would have to do is pick up the phone and call the Health Department. If the person is not on the registry, let the evidence be gathered and the search warrant be issued. Two weeks until election day. Will South Dakota voters be as compassionate as those in other states? We will soon see.
Location: 
Sioux Falls, SD
United States

Law Enforcement Condemns Marijuana Measure (South Dakota)

Location: 
Sioux Falls, SD
United States
Publication/Source: 
KELO TV Sioux Falls
URL: 
http://www.keloland.com/News/NewsDetail6371.cfm?Id=0,51855

Medical Marijuana Policy Signed by CHP, Attorney General, Governor; ASA Lawsuit Settlement Yields Binding "Consent Decree" and $75,000 in

For Immediate Release-October 19, 2006 Contact: William Dolphin 510-919-1498 Medical Marijuana Policy Signed by CHP, Attorney General, Governor ASA Lawsuit Settlement Yields Binding "Consent Decree" and $75,000 in Legal Fees California's medical marijuana patients are now protected from arrest and seizure of their marijuana, thanks to a binding agreement between an advocacy group and state officials. The signed agreement settles a lawsuit filed last February against the California Highway Patrol by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) on behalf of qualified medical cannabis patients who had lost their medicine in CHP traffic stops. CHP had a policy of seizing any cannabis found, regardless of whether the officer was shown patient documentation or not. On August 22, 2005, as a result of the lawsuit, CHP adopted a new policy that respects the rights of qualified patients to possess and transport medical cannabis. The new settlement agreement - signed by CHP officials and counsel for Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Governor Schwarzenegger - makes binding the policy adopted last year. Qualified patients, whether they have a state ID card or not, are allowed to have either the quantities specified by SB420 or the local county guideline amounts, whichever is greater. "We're urging local officials around the state to adopt similar law enforcement policies," said Kris Hermes, ASA legal campaign director. "Medical cannabis patients have rights under the law that must be respected, and this consent decree acknowledges that." As part of the settlement, ASA received reimbursement of $75,000 in legal fees for prosecuting the case. ASA received the money yesterday. "California's private attorney general statute encourages concerned citizens to fix flawed policy through litigation and allows for the award of attorney fees where appropriate," said Joe Elford, ASA Chief Counsel. "This case corrects an egregious policy that completely ignored the right of sick and dying Californians to possess marijuana for medical use." The new consent decree is at http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/CHP_Settlement.pdf. A photo of ASA staff members with an enlargement of the $75,000 check can be seen at http://www.safeaccessnow.org/img/original/CHP_ Settlement.jpg. The CHP policy that went in to effect in August 2005 is at http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/CHP_policy_update.pdf. # # # With more than 30,000 members, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic uses and research. _______________________ _______________________ Caren Woodson Americans for Safe Access www.SafeAccessNow.org
Location: 
CA
United States

Sheriff Deputy Probed

Location: 
OK
United States
Publication/Source: 
Stillwater News Press
URL: 
http://www.stillwater-newspress.com/siteSearch/apstorysection/local_story_288011323.html

Veteran Payne County Oklahoma Deputy Sheriff Brooke Buchanan Suspended Amid (Meth Lab?) Investigation By State

Location: 
Stillwater, OK
United States
Publication/Source: 
More Bad Cop News
URL: 
http://www.morebadcopnews.com/veteran-payne-county-oklahoma-deputy-sheriff-brooke-buchanan-suspended-amid-meth-lab-investigation-by-state.html

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

David Borden, Executive Director, 10/20/06

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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!

Paraphernalia: Florida County Approves Tough New Ordinance

Head shop and paraphernalia store owners in Pinellas County, Florida, are in for a rough ride after the county commission Wednesday gave final approval to a new drug paraphernalia ordinance that will make it easier to win convictions than current Florida law. Under state law, people can only be found guilty of paraphernalia sales if it can be proven they knew the product they sold would be used to ingest drugs. The new county ordinance lowers the bar, requiring only that the seller should reasonably have known such use would occur.

Those convicted under the new county ordinance face up to 60 days in jail and fines of up to $500. Repeat offenders could see their business licenses jerked.

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pipe
The new law is the result of a county Drug Paraphernalia Abatement Task Force organized by County Commission Chairman Ken Welch last year. The ordinance follows almost letter by letter the recommendations of the task force's report issued in June, which claimed that drug paraphernalia "enabled" drug use.

Opponents of the ordinance showed up at the commission's Wednesday meeting to no avail. According to a report in the St. Petersburg Times, among those protesting the ordinance was Kurt Donely, executive director of the Florida NORML chapter. He said the proposed 60-day penalty was too extreme. "I would lose my house, my car," Donely said. "Something would happen to my pets."

Another opponent was Tamara Pare, 23, an employee of Purple Haze Tobacco & Accessories in St. Petersburg. She arrived dressed as a hooker, wearing red heels, a short skirt, and a halter top. Her attire, she said, was "a visual metaphor" that underscored the silliness of the "reasonably should know" standard. "Many reasonable people today might see me dressed like this and think I'm a prostitute," Pare told the board.

Her boss, Leo Calzadilla, spoke via videotape from his store, with shelves of water pipes on display behind him. The ordinance would be aimed at specialty shops like his when items that could be used as drug paraphernalia can be found almost anywhere he said. "This ordinance is going to do nothing but tie up our local courts system," Calzadilla warned.

But commission head Welch was unswayed, although he acknowledged the ordinance would not stop drug use. "It's not going to solve the entire problem," he said. "It's a step in the right direction."

Perhaps Welch and the county commission should be stepping over toward the county attorney's office because it appears it will be busy fending off challenges. "I'm still confused," Alan Berger, 51, co-owner of Balls of Steel in Gulfport, said after the vote. "Should I pull everything off the shelves? I guarantee you, we will fight."

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