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This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Pretty quiet on the corrupt cops front this week. Thank goodness for jail guards! Let's get to it:

In Tucson, Arizona, a Pima County jail guard was arrested last Wednesday on charges he was smuggling drugs in to inmates. Corrections Officer Martin Lopez, 27, went down after somebody tipped off the sheriff's office. Few details have been released, but he is charged with transportation of narcotics and promoting prison contraband.

In Ridgeville, South Carolina, a Lieber Correctional Institution guard was arrested last Friday on charges he was smuggling drugs in to inmates. Joshua Jerome Glover confessed after Department of Corrections officers investigating a tip talked to him. He admitted receiving around $6,000 to smuggle in tobacco and marijuana on at least 15 occasions, and he admitted having weed in his vehicle in the employee parking lot. Investigators found 145 grams of it in the car. He is charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana; furnishing or attempting to furnish prisoners with contraband; misconduct in office with malfeasance; and conspiracy, as well as a violation of state ethics laws dealing with public officials.

Chronicle AM: Good IL, MI Pot Polls, Denver Psilocybin Initiative, ACLU Targets DAs, More... (3/6/18)

Pot polls in a pair of key Midwest states are looking good, the ACLU seeks to influence district attorney races around the nation,  a Denver magic mushroom initiative is getting underway, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Illinois Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll has support for marijuana legalization at 66%, with only 32% opposed. The poll comes as a measure to hold a non-binding public referendum on legalization moves through the legislature.

Michigan Poll Has Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization. A new EPIC-MRA poll has support for a pending marijuana legalization initiative at 61%. The initiative campaign has already handed in some 365,000 signatures; it only needs 252,253 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. State officials have been counting signatures since November, but it remains unclear when they will decide the measure has qualified for the ballot or not.

Nevada Gambling Regulators Reject Ties to Marijuana Businesses. The state's Gaming Policy Committee has recommended that the gambling industry not have any business relationship wit marijuana distributors. That recommendation reflects existing policy, but the issue came up again after the state legalized weed in 2016.

New Jersey Marijuana Legalization Hearing Reveals Deep Splits. The Assembly Oversight, Refom and Federal Relations Committee heard from dozens of witnesses for and against marijuana legalization during a day-long hearing Monday. The hearing was the legislature's first step toward addressing legalization this session. Even though Gov. Phil Murphy (D) supports legalization, there was no consensus emerging from the hearing and no vote taken.

Rhode Island Report on Marijuana Legalization Released. Advocacy groups the Marijuana Policy Project and Regulate Rhode Island have released a report on legalization in the state: "How should Rhode Island legalize marijuana: Asking the right questions." The 42-page document features detailed discussion of different models for regulating marijuana for adults based on other states’ experiences and urges policymakers to consider the benefits and costs of various approaches.

Albuquerque City Council Files Bill to Decriminalize Marijuana Possession. Albuquerque City Council members Pat Davis and Isaac Benton have filed a new bill to remove criminal sanctions pertaining to possession of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia from the city’s municipal codes. The proposed ordinance makes one ounce or less of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia a civil infraction with a fine of $25. A civil infraction is not considered a criminal conviction. The ordinance also takes away the potential for jail time. Currently, a person can spend more than two weeks in jail for a first offense and 90 days for a subsequent offense.

Medical Marijuana

<Idaho Senate Panel Kills Bill Allowing Use of CBD. A last-ditch effort to pass a CBD medical marijuana bill, House Bill 577, was derailed Monday amidst legislative turmoil. Sen. Tony Potts (R) accused the Republican legislative leadership of blocking action on the bill and asked Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chair Lee Heider (R) to allow a vote. That didn't happen; instead the committee approved a motion to keep the bill in committee, killing it for the year.Pennsylvania Dispensaries Facing Product Shortages. Medical marijuana dispensaries are already running out of supply less than two weeks after sales began in the state. The main reason is that only one of the state's 12 licensed growers is actually shipping product. The other reason is unexpected demand.


Denver Magic Mushroom Decriminalization Initiative Getting Underway. A group calling itself Coloradans for Psilocybin has met with Denver officials about putting an initiative on the municipal ballot that would decriminalize psilocybin possession and make it law enforcement's lowest priority. Anyone caught with less than two pounds of magic mushrooms would face only a $99 ticket. The group says it will have an initiative cleared for signature gathering soon.

Drug Testing

Faced With Legal Weed, Full Employment, Employee Drug Testing is Declining Pre-employment drug testing is in decline in the face of spreading marijuana legalization and a tightening job market. The change is most evident in pot-legal states, such as Colorado, where the number of companies doing the tests declined from 77% last year to 66% now. "The benefits of at least reconsidering the drug policy on behalf of an employer would be pretty high," said Jeremy Kidd, a professor at Mercer Law School, who wrote a paper on the economics of workplace drug testing. "A blanket prohibition can't possibly be the most economically efficient policy" he told McClatchy.

Law Enforcement

ACLU Using Soros Money to Target District Attorney Races. Backed by millions of dollars from financier George Soros's Open Society Foundations, the ACLU is making a major play to influence local prosecutor races around the country. The group is planning voter education and outreach campaigns in district attorney races in California, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Vermont and possibly North Carolina and Missouri. The ACLU says it will focus on big cities with large jail populations in what it's calling its Campaign for Smart Justice. The ACLU doesn't endorse candidates, but says its goal is to raise awareness of criminal justice issues.

Putting Pressure on the Philippines: Activists Call Out Drug War Human Rights Abuses at DC Embassy [VIDEO]

It was deadly serious street theater (see video below) outside the Philippine embassy in Washington Wednesday afternoon as protestors demanding an end to the country's murderous drug war waved signs, chanted slogans, and dressed as mask-wearing police and caricature-wearing Filipino political figures.

Leila de Lima figure about to be jailed at the demo in front of the Philippine Embassy Wednesday. (Bran SantosTwitter)
Since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June 2016, police and mysterious "vigilantes" have killed between 12,000 and 20,000 alleged drug users and sellers in a massive wave of extrajudicial killings condemned by human rights organizations, the Catholic Church, and political figures around the globe. Duterte is now being investigated by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Duterte, who rode to fame as the death squad mayor of Davao City, is targeting not just drug users and sellers, but also critics of his bloody crackdown. His most prominent critic, Senator Leila de Lima, has been jailed on drug charges that appear fabricated for more than a year. Her real offense was bringing a confessed former member of Duterte's Davao City death squads to testify before the Senate.

Along with calling for an end to the killings, Wednesday's protestors also rallied to demand freedom for Senator de Lima. During the demonstration, attendees symbolically freed a Leila de Lima figure from a mobile model prison cell.

The demonstration was spearheaded by's David Borden and was supported by drug reform and human rights groups including Amnesty International USA, the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, local marijuana activists of DCMJ, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines, the Filipino-American Human Rights Alliance, Gabriela-DC, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, the IPS Drug Policy Project, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

Not everyone was pleased with the demo. A virtual troll army of Duterte supporters descended on's Facebook page, which carried live video of the event, to denounce it:

"Hang delima to death," counseled a Facebook user account claiming to belong to one Nida Adam Landoo.

"DELIMA IS A DRUG CUDDLER ,SHE IS NOT INNOCENT.HAPPY 1ST YR. ANNIVERSARY DELIMA IN JAIL,MORE YEARS TO COME," chimed in a user account sporting the name Sheila Mae Williams.

"Is this sponsored by the druglords in the US?" the operator of the NoyZanx Beldia account wanted to know.

No, but you knew that.

Here's the video from the demonstration:

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Two LAPD cops go away for a long time for sexually assaulting female drug suspects, a Pennsylvania attorney general's narc gets popped for a drug cash rip-off scheme, a Washington state local cop gets popped stealing pain pills, and more. Let's get to it:

In Port Orchard, Washington, a Poulsbo police officer was arrested last Wednesday after confessing that she repeatedly stole drugs left in the city's prescription drug takeback box. Officer Stacey Lee Smaaladen, 49, told investigators she took the pills to supplement her own legally prescribed pain medications. She is charged with theft and felony drug possession.

In Warsaw, New York, a state prison guard was arrested last Thursday on charges he took money from inmates at the Wyoming Correctional Facility in exchange for drugs. Guard William Fannan, 37, allegedly took money to smuggle synthetic cannabinoids into the prison. He is charged with third-degree receiving a bribe, first-degree promoting prison contraband, official misconduct and fifth-degree conspiracy.

In Galveston, Texas, a Galveston police officer was arrested last Friday amidst allegations he supplied a suspected drug dealer with information that helped him avoid other police officers. Officer John Rutherford is accused of providing the suspect with information of officers' locations, working assignments, and work patterns. He is charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, misusing official information, and a weapons violation.

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a former state attorney general's office narcotics agent was arrested last Friday for allegedly participating in a scheme to launder stolen drug proceeds. Timothy Riley, 48, is accused of conspiring with the driver of a truck carrying more than $2.5 million in drug cash to set up a bust where he reported seizing only $1.77 million. In return for his services, Riley received three cash payments totaling $48,000. He is charged with money laundering and other offenses and is looking at up to 20 years in prison.

In Los Angeles, two LAPD officers were sentenced Monday to 25 years in prison for sexually assaulting four women they were investigating on drug charges. Officers James Nichols and Luis Valenzuela pleaded guilty to two counts each of forcible rape and forcible oral copulation. The pair were patrol partners who rampaged between 2008 and 2011, according to prosecutors.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Sticky-fingered cops go down, so do inmate-serving prison guards. Let's get to it:

In Wichita, Kansas, a former Sedgewick County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Tuesday for failing to turn in drug evidence in a narcotics case. Justin Price, a 4 ½ year veteran of the department, is charged with official misconduct.

In Laurel, Indiana, a former Laurel Reserve Police officer was arrested last Wednesday for using $2,500 in drug buy money for his own purposes. Clinton Ellis, 34, caught the eye of authorities when a fellow officer reported that Ellis had given him a seized gun as a gift, and further investigation revealed the theft of the drug bust money. He faces two counts each of theft and official misconduct.

In Blairsville, Georgia, an East Ellijay police officer was arrested last Friday for allegedly stealing money from a woman he arrested on drug charges. Officer Michael Gene McLure is accused of stealing and cashing a $150 money order from a woman he arrested for driving under the influence of drugs. He is charged with violation of oath by a public officer and theft by taking -- both misdemeanor offenses.

In St. Gabriel, Louisiana, a former state prison guard was arrested last Friday after reportedly trying to smuggle drugs into the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center. Samantha Suel, 29, admitted to ditching four ounces of marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids inside the prison when she arrived at work to discover a shakedown of employees was underway. Surveillance footage showed her stashing the drugs. She's been fired and is now charged with introduction of contraband into a penal institution and malfeasance in office.

In Summerville, Georgia, a Hays State Prison guard was arrested last Saturday after being caught with contraband as he came to work. Guard Mark Edward Jeffery, 33, got nailed carrying four cell phones, two phone chargers, 65 grams of ecstasy tablets, 3 ½ grams of meth, and a bottle of alcohol behind bars. Investigators also found another gram of meth in his vehicle. He is charged with crossing a guard line with drugs and other contraband, possession of a controlled substance, trafficking drugs and violation of oath of office.

Trump's Drug Budget Doubles Down on the War on Drugs

The Trump administration released its proposed Fiscal Year 2019 budget Monday, and it looks like a return to last century's failed law-and-order drug war policies. While paying lip service to the nation's opioid crisis, the administration shows its priorities by asking for more money for Trump's quixotic border wall than to actually address opioids.

In contrast with the Obama administration, which sought to tip the balance between law enforcement and treatment and prevention by tilting funding toward more counselors than cops, the Trump budget tilts back toward law enforcement.

The budget would also gut the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP, the drug czar's office), a move that is alarming mainstream critics of Trump's drug policies, but one that more radical critics of drug prohibition -- on both the left and the right -- have mixed views about.

But overall, the Trump budget is doubling down on the drug war. Here are some of its lowlights:

"Trump's budget proposes new funds for addressing the opioid overdose crisis, but far more money is being sought by the president to escalate the war on drugs," said Grant Smith, interim director of Drug Policy Alliance's Office of National Affairs. "We know from decades of locking people up for drugs that it doesn't work to curb drug use, but Trump's budget proposes wasting billions of dollars to do exactly that. That money would be much better spent on harm reduction and treatment interventions that actually prevent overdoses and save lives."

The Trump budget does include $900 million in increased funding for the Department of Health and Human Services to address the opioid epidemic, and it claims it would allocate a total of $13 billion to "combat the opioid epidemic," but that figure mixes treatment, prevention and war on drugs funding. And it's still less than what Trump wants to spend on his border wall.

The bright side is that the Trump FY 2019 budget is likely dead on arrival. It's a wish list, likely to be shredded and reconstructed during budget negotiations, and unlikely to look much like the proposal by the time things get done. Still, it demonstrates Trump's priorities with cold clarity.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A massive Baltimore corruption case comes to an end, a former Homeland Security agent heads to prison for taking bribes from a Cali cartel capo, and more. Let's get to it:

In Hogansville, Georgia, a Hogansville police officer was arrested last Monday after he was caught red-handed in an apparent drug deal. Daniel-Cameron William Kemp, 23, was spotted passing a gun and a container to a man in a car. When deputies pulled over the vehicle, they smelled marijuana, and the driver admitted buying a weapon and some weed from Kemp, adding that he'd bought drugs from him before. Police also found marijuana in Kemp's squad car. It's not clear what the precise charges are.

In Baltimore, two members of the Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force were convicted Monday of robbing citizens behind the protection of their badges and claiming massive overtime for unworked hours. Six other members of the squad had already pleaded guilty in the broad-ranging corruption scandal before Detectives Daniel T. Hersl, 48, and Marcus R. Taylor, 31, were found guilty of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy and robbery. Squad members specialized in robbing drug dealers of both cash and drugs.

In Miami, a former federal Homeland Security agent was sentenced last Friday to three years in prison for taking bribes from a Colombian drug lord. Christopher Ciccione II, 52, admitted taking $18,000 in cash, prostitutes, restaurant meals, and hotel rooms in return for getting Cali cartel boss Jose Bayron Piedrahita removed from a cocaine smuggling indictment. He pleaded guilty to a conspiracy of "deceit, craft, and trickery" against the US government.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Florida cop with his very own forfeiture program heads to prison, a Maryland cop gets nailed peddling pain pills, and more. Let's get to it:

In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a former Fort Lauderdale police officer was sentenced last Friday to 16 months in prison for stealing more than $310,000 from the department's asset forfeiture fund. Gerard Brady, 34, had been named forfeiture coordinator in 2010 and started skimming cash in December 2012. He also has to repay more than $225,000.

In Marksville, Louisiana, an Avoyelles Parish jail guard was arrested last Friday after he was caught bringing drugs and other contraband to work. Corrections Officer Requan Steven Mingo was carrying synthetic cannabinoids, meth, and cell phones. He is charged with introduction of contraband into a penal institution, possession of schedule I CDS with intent to distribute, possession of schedule 2 CDS with intent to distribute and malfeasance in office.

In Hagerstown, Maryland, a Hagerstown police officer was arrested last Friday for allegedly peddling pain pills. Sgt. Christopher Barnett went down after he was caught on video giving narcotic pills to another person. He is charged with distribution of controlled dangerous substance, possession of a controlled dangerous substance, malfeasance in office and theft under $100.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's been a pretty quiet week on the corrupt front, but we've got another prison guard breaking bad and a police dispatcher who picked the wrong husband. Let's get to it:

In Columbus, Georgia, a former state prison guard was sentenced Tuesday to nearly seven years in federal prison after being caught trying to bring a hundred grams of meth and more than a pound of pot into the Calhoun State Prison in Morgan. Joshua Washington, 30, said he had been promised $3,000 to bring the drugs into the prison. He copped to a single count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

In Claremont, North Carolina, a police dispatcher was fired Tuesday after Catawba County narcotics officers executing a search warrant found 65 pounds of marijuana in her home. The dispatcher was neither arrested nor named, but her husband, Blong Ly Vang, now faces marijuana and stolen firearms charges.

Eight Things That Do (or Don't) Happen When We Legalize Marijuana [FEATURE]

The great social experiment that is marijuana legalization is now five years old, with six states already allowing legal marijuana sales, two more where legal sales will begin within months, and yet another that, along with the District of Columbia, has legalized personal possession and cultivation of the herb.

As a number of state legislatures -- including Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York -- seriously contemplate joining the parade this year, it's more important than ever to be able to assess just what impact marijuana legalization has had on those states that have led the way.

The prophets of doom warned of all manner of social ills that would arise if marijuana were legalized. From hordes of dope-addled youths aimlessly wandering the streets to red-eyed carnage on the highway, the divinations were dire.

So far at least, they were wrong. And while things will doubtless continue to evolve over the long term, as the industry matures, prices possibly drop, regulations change, and familiarity with legal marijuana grows, so far things are looking pretty encouraging. A report released Tuesday by the Drug Policy Alliance, From Prohibition to Progress, takes a long look at what has happened in the states have legalized it:

1. Marijuana arrests plummeted.

Well, of course. If there's one thing you could predict about legalizing marijuana, this is it. The decline in the number of pot arrests is dramatic: 98% in Washington, 96% in Oregon, 93% in Alaska, 81% in Colorado, 76% in DC. That means tens of thousands of people not being cuffed, hauled away, and branded with lifelong criminal records, with all the consequences those bring.

The savings in human dignity, liberty and potential are inestimable, but the savings to state criminal justice and correctional systems are not: The report puts them at hundreds of millions of dollars.

2. …But the racial disparities in marijuana arrests have not ended.

While marijuana legalization dramatically reduces the number of people arrested for marijuana offenses, it clearly does not end racially disparate policing. The vast disparities in marijuana arrests remain, even in legal states. Black and Latino people remain far more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than white people, despite similar rates of use and sales across racial groups. There is work to be done here.

3. A tide of teenage weed heads is not unleashed upon the nation.

High school kids in the earliest legalization states smoke pot at rates similar to kids in states that haven't legalized it, and those rates have remained stable. In the later legalization states, rates of teen use vary widely, but have mostly stabilized or declined in the years leading up to legalization. And in those latest states -- Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, California -- regulatory programs are either not yet in place or so new they're unlikely to have effected youth use rates.

4. The highways remain safe.

In the earliest legalization states, Colorado and Washington, the total number of arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs is down, and the crash rates in both states are statistically similar to states that haven't legalized it. In fact, there seems to be no correlation between legalization and crash rates.

5. States with legal marijuana have lower rates of opioid-related harms.

In Colorado, an upward trend in overdoses began to decline after 2014, the first year of retail pot sales in the state. Other positive indicia come from medical marijuana states, which report a nearly 25% drop in overdose death rates, a 23% reduction in opioid addiction-related hospitalizations and a 15% reduction in opioid treatment admissions.

6. Marijuana tax revenues are big -- and bigger than predicted.

Legalization states have collected more than a billion dollars in pot tax revenues -- and that's not counting the monster market in California, where recreational sales just began this month. Likewise, slow rollouts of taxed and regulated marijuana commerce in Maine and Massachusetts, mean no tax dollars have yet been generated there. In the states that do have legal pot sales, overall sales and tax revenues quickly exceeded initial estimates.

7. Marijuana tax dollars are going for good things.

Like $230 million to the Colorado Department of Education in two years to fund school construction, early literacy, school health, and bullying prevention programs. Likewise, schools in Oregon get 40% of the pot taxes and schools in Nevada will get $56 million in wholesale pot tax revenues. Oregon also allocates 20% of pot taxes for alcohol and drug treatment, while Washington kicks in 25%. In Washington state, 55% of pot tax revenues fund basic health plans.

8. Legal marijuana is a job creation engine.

The legal marijuana industry has already created an estimated 200,000 full- and part-time jobs, and that's before California, Maine, and Massachusetts come online. As marijuana moves from the black market to legal markets, weed looks like a growth industry and job generator for years to come.

"Marijuana criminalization has been a massive waste of money and has unequally harmed black and Latino communities," said Jolene Forrman, staff attorney at the Drug Policy Alliance and author of the report. "This report shows that marijuana legalization is working. States are effectively protecting public health and safety through comprehensive regulations. Now more states should build on the successes of marijuana legalization and advance policies to repair the racially disparate harms of the war on drugs."

In addition to reforming police practices to reduce racial disparities, the report also says there is more work to be done on fostering equity within the marijuana industry and points to models for doing so, such as the California provision that having a prior drug conviction can't be the sole basis for denying a marijuana license.

Having places where people can actually smoke legal marijuana also remains an issue, the report noted. Public consumption is not allowed in any of the legal states. It's a ticketable offense in some and a misdemeanor in others. Public use violations are also disproportionately enforced against people of color, and the imposition of fines could lead to jail time for poor people unable to pay for the crime of using a legal substance.

And what about the kids? The report notes that while legalization has generally resulted in reducing historically high numbers of young people being stopped and arrested for pot offenses, these reductions are inconsistent, and in some circumstances, young people now comprise a growing percentage of marijuana arrests. A model could be California, where kids under 18 can only be charged with civil infractions.

Legalizing marijuana may be necessary for achieving social justice goals, but it's not sufficient for achieving them. As this report makes clear, how we legalize marijuana matters, and that's still a work in progress. But so far, it's looking pretty good.

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