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Chronicle AM: MA Drug Lab Scandal Redux, PA MJ Support Strong and Rising, More... (9/22/17)

Pennsylvania support for marijuana legalization is strong and rising, Attorney General Sessions mixes drug and immigration policy, another federal court rules against Stingray, a second Massachusetts drug lab scandal could see thousands more cases dismissed, and more.

Massachusetts state drug testing labs continue to generate serious problems -- and thousands of case dismissals. (Wikimedia)
Marijuana Policy

California Will Issue Temporary Business Licenses. Regulators will introduce a temporary marijuana business licensing system to ensure a smooth start to regulated marijuana sales beginning on January 1, the state's top marijuana official announced Thursday. Businesses would only need to provide some "pretty basic information" for the temporary licenses, said Lori Ajax. The application will be available in early December, after temporary rulemaking is completed. "We don't have time to do regular rulemaking," she explained, adding that would come next year.

Pennsylvania Poll Shows Strong, Rising Support for Legalization. A Franklin & Marshall College poll released Thursday has support for marijuana legalization at 59%, with only 31% opposed and 9% undecided. The pro-legalization numbers are the highest ever in the poll, up three points since May and a whopping 19 points since June2015.

Immigration

Sessions Blames Lax Immigration Policies for Drug Gangs, Cartels. Attorney General Jeff Sessions used concerns over drug gangs and cartels to attack "loose" immigration policy in remarks in Boston Thursday. He specifically singled out MS-13 as an example, while failing to note the gang's origins among Salvadoran refugees fleeing a US-sponsored civil war there in the 1980s. He also attacked the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which offers protections to undocumented residents who were brought to the country as children. "The gangs use this program as a means to recruit members," Sessions said. "We cannot allow young people to be brought into this life of crime." Sessions did not mention that DACA participants are carefully vetted and must have no serious criminal records or that 90% of them are working or in college.

Law Enforcement

DC Court Latest to Rule Against Warrantless Stingray Searches. The DC Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the warrantless use of a Stingray cell-site stimulator to monitor phone calls was unconstitutional. The ruling was only the latest in a string of recent federal appeals court judgments that ruled using the Stingray amounts to a search under the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. In the DC case, the court found the violation so egregious that it excluded all evidence derived from it, overturning the conviction of Prince Jones on drug charges.

ACLU Calls for Thousands More Massachusetts Drug Cases to Be Thrown Out in Drug Lab Scandals. Bay State judges have already dismissed more than 20,000 drug cases tainted by the misbehavior of state lab chemist Annie Dookhan, but now the ACLU is calling for judges and prosecutors to dismiss thousands more in a second case of lab tech misbehavior. Amherst state lab chemist Sonja Farak pleaded guilty in 2014 to stealing cocaine from the lab and admitted she was high nearly every day from 2004 to 2013 on cocaine, meth, and other stimulant drugs she pilfered from her job. The ACLU charges that prosecutors have sought to minimize Farak's misbehavior in a bid to preserve drug cases and convictions and failed to notify defendants that the evidence in their cases had been tainted. "Far worse than the Hinton scandal, the Amherst scandal combines a lab crisis with prosecutorial misconduct of unparalleled scope and irremediable consequence," the ACLU argued. "This latest systemic lapse in the justice system demands a most emphatic response." And that response would be mass dismissals.

International

Iceland Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed. Members of the Reform Party and the Pirate Party have banded together to file a bill that would legalize marijuana in the North Atlantic island nation. The bill would allow anyone 20 and over to possess and cultivate pot for personal use -- with a government permit. The bill would also allow retail sales and consumption lounges, but not at the same business.

Australia to See First Music Festival With On-Site Pill Testing. The Spilt Milk Festival in Canberra will provide on-site pill testing for attendees in a harm reduction move aimed at reducing overdoses and other bad drug interactions. The Australian Capital Territory government has given the okay for the project, which will be operated by the Safety Testing Advisory Service at Festivals and Events. That consortium consists of Harm Reduction Australia, the Australian Drug Observatory, the Noffs Foundation, DanceWize, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Louisiana cop gets nailed for having sex and peddling dope on the job, a sticky-fingered Pennsyvlania cop gets nailed for stealing drug money, a South Carolina cop gets nailed -- nine years after the fact -- for lying on a drug search warrant, and more. Let's get to it:

In Conway, South Carolina, a Horry County police officer was fired last Friday after he was found to have "misrepresented the truth" in a search warrant application nine years ago. Kent Donald went down after a Horry County man sentenced to 25 years in prison for cocaine trafficking got his conviction reversed after convincing an appeals court that the search warrant used against him was "maliciously and intentionally issued upon false information and for the purpose of securing a criminal investigation." The man, who spent five years in prison, is now pursuing a civil lawsuit against Donald and the Horry County Police Department.

In Muncie, Indiana, a Delaware County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Wednesday on charges related to his tight relationship with a drug-dealing informant. Deputy Jerry Parks was caught on surveillance tapes while present during a marijuana deal and on recordings providing the description of an undercover officer to the informant. When the informant was arrested on drug charges in Indianapolis, he told investigators Parks gave him information on undercover officers, held his drugs for safekeeping, gave him a department issued gun to use while transporting drug money, and gave him drugs he had seized on duty. It's not clear what the exact charges are.

In Alexandria, Louisiana, an Alexandria police officer was arrested last Thursday for allegedly selling drugs and having sex while on duty. Officer Kenneth Seth Thomas went down after somebody snitched him out to state law enforcement, and an investigation found that Thomas "had engaged in illegal activities by having sex with at least one woman while on duty and distributing illegal drugs." He is charged with malfeasance in office, distribution of a controlled dangerous substance I and possession of a firearm in the presence of drugs.

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a former Fairview Township police officer was convicted last Friday of stealing money seized as evidence in drug arrests. Tyson Baker, 43, a 17-year veteran of the force, was suspected of making off with between $2,000 of $15,0000 seized from a marijuana dealer. He went down in a sting where an undercover agent was pulled over by township police. A video camera recorded him searching the car without a warrant and stealing $3,000 from a cash stash hidden in a gym bag. He was found guilty in federal court of two counts of theft of seized drug money, one count of falsifying records to impede a drug investigation, one count of theft of federal property, and one count of making false reports to the FBI. He will be sentenced at a later date.

In Augusta, Georgia, a former youth detention center guard pleaded guilty last Friday to bringing marijuana into the facility. Devin Lott, 24, admitted the offense and pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and violation of oath by a public officer. He was sentenced to 10 years' probation instead of jail time after the judge took mercy on him. His mother and nephew had been killed in a recent car crash and his sister, who was driving, was severely injured and needs assistance with daily activities.

In Hagatna, Guam, a former Guam police officer was sentenced last Thursday to six months in jail after a police search found drugs and paraphernalia at his home. Manuel Joaquin Perez. Perez claimed he'd found and discarded syringes and a baggie with meth residue, but his wife admitted using the stuff. He pleaded guilty to hindering apprehension and official misconduct, both misdemeanors, but had a felony drug possession charge dismissed.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

An Illinois DA gets indicted for asset forfeiture abuses, a Boston cop pleads guilty to extorting cocaine from a drug dealer, and more. Let's get to it:

In Ottawa, Illinois, a LaSalle County prosecutor was indicted last Tuesday on 17 charges, including paying personal expenses with money seized under the asset forfeiture program. Brian Towne had run his own police force, which he dubbed the State's Attorney's Felony Enforcement Unit (SAFE), out of his office. The unit seized vehicles, cash, and other assets worth hundreds of thousands of dollars before being ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court earlier this year. The indictment charges that Towne used some of that money to pay for a GMC Yukon and internet service for his personal use.

In Las Lunas, New Mexico, a state prison guard was arrested last Thursday for allegedly smuggling drugs into the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility. Guard Manuel Romero, 21, went down after an inmate died of a drug overdose and surveillance video showed Romero bringing items to his cell. Romero admitted providing drugs on at least three occasions. It's not clear what the precise charges are.

In Putnamville, Indiana, a state prison guard was arrested last Sunday after he admitted smuggling drugs into the Putnamville Correctional Facility. Officer Justin Ray Johnson, 25, went down after prison officials got word he was up to no good. He admitted smuggling drugs to inmates on several occasions. He is now charged with Level 5 felony trafficking with an inmate.

In Boston, a former Lawrence police officer pleaded guilty August 31 to extorting cocaine from a drug dealer by threatening to arrest him. John DeSantis Jr., 45, a 16-year veteran of the force, bought small amounts of cocaine from the dealer for a year without identifying himself as a cop, then in May 2016, showed him his gun and badge, took his cocaine, and threatened to arrest him if he not did continue to supply more coke. DeSantis pleaded guilty to extortion and attempted extortion under color of official right and through the use of threatened force and fear. He's looking at up to 18 months in prison when sentenced in November.

Chronicle AM: House Blocks Sessions Civil Asset Forfeiture Move, More... (9/13/17)

The House votes to defund Attorney General Sessions' newly revived Equitable Sharing asset forfeiture program, Maine lawmakers want a 20% sales tax on weed, Duterte allies in the Philippines vote to defund the country's human rights commission over its critique of the drug war, and more.

The attorney general isn't smiling over the House's asset forfeiture vote. (senate.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Maine Lawmakers Want to Double Pot Sales Tax. In a draft bill released Tuesday, the legislature's marijuana legalization committee is recommending a 20% sales tax on recreational marijuana. Earlier, the committee had supported a 10% excise tax and a 10% sales tax, but now it's going all sales tax.

Medical Marijuana

Arizona Supreme Court Refuses to Lift Restrictions on Medical Marijuana for PTSD. The state Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected without comment an argument from the Arizona Cannabis Nurses Association that the former state health director had illegally imposed restrictions on when doctors can recommend the drug for PTSD. The high court's decision leaves intact an earlier Court of Appeals ruling upholding the restrictions. Attorneys for the association say they may take the case to federal court on equal protection grounds.

Asset Forfeiture

House Slaps Down Sessions' Move to Reinstate Equitable Sharing Program. In a surprise move, the House voted virtually unanimously Tuesday to curb federal asset forfeitures, a slap in the face to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions had reinstated a federal civil asset forfeiture program that allowed state and local law enforcement to evade state forfeiture restrictions by handing their cases over to the feds, with the feds then returning 80% of the money to the seizing agency. The move came in a voice vote on an amendment to the Justice Department appropriations bill, which was sponsored by strange bedfellows Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Mark Sanford (R-SC), Raúl Labrador (R-ID), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Don Beyer (D-VA).

Foreign Policy

Feinstein, Grassley Fret Over Colombian Cocaine. The two senior senators, chair and co-chair of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Affairs, expressed worries Tuesday that a peace deal between Colombia and the leftist rebels of the FARC had led to a surge of cocaine being imported into the US. Feinstein also used the Senate hearing to express concern that the Trump administration will not adequately fund interdiction law enforcement efforts.

International

Philippine Congress Budgets Measly $20 to Fund Human Rights Commission. No, that's not a typo, and no, we didn't forget some zeroes. Lawmakers allied with President Rodrigo Duterte voted Tuesday to allocate just 1,000 pesos (USD $20) for the Commission on Human Rights, which has repeatedly criticized Duterte's bloody drug war, which has left thousands dead at the hands of police and vigilantes. The funding move was explicit retaliation for the commission's criticism of the human rights disaster. In a Facebook post responding to the move, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard said Filipinos deserved an independent organization that could hold the government accountable for its misdeeds. "Instead they are getting a 'war on drugs' which, by the president's own account, has failed to curtail addiction rates, while creating a climate of fear and insecurity, feeding impunity, and undermining the constitutional fabrics of the country," she wrote. "If the Philippines Congress is looking for public money being wasted, damaging and hurting the Philippines society, this is it."

Chronicle AM: Trouble in the Philly Narc Squad, TN Cops Misused Seizure Funds, More... (9/8/17)

We're seeing progress on pot policy in gubernatorial candidates in Minnesota and Virginia, Tennessee cops get scorched for asset forfeiture spending abuses, black Philly narcs charge their bosses are racist and corrupt, and more.

"Honor, Service, Integrity"
Marijuana Policy

California Lawmakers Propose Allowing Integrated Pot Operations. An Assembly Budget Committee "clean up" bill aimed at addressing inconsistencies and confusion caused by previous efforts to regulate marijuana in the state includes a provision that would allow growers and sellers to group multiple permitted operations together. Under the bill, a dispensary could also sell for recreational use if properly licensed, a pot shop would be to run a same-site manufacturing operation, and multiple groups could be licensed to grow marijuana at the same facility.

Minnesota DFL Gubernatorial Candidates Line Up for Legalization. Five out of six Democratic Farm Labor candidates for governor have come out for marijuana legalization. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, state Reps. Erin Murphy, Tina Liebling and Paul Thissen, and US Rep. Tim Walz are all ready to free the weed. Among the major DFL candidates, only State Auditor Rebecca Otto isn't ready to go there.

Virginia GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Calls for Decriminalization. Virginia Republican candidate for governor Ed Gillespie has come out for the decriminalization of small-time pot possession. He said he would try to persuade the General Assembly to adjust the pot laws so that a "person arrested for simple possession of marijuana would not be charged with possession until the third instance." Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ralph Northam has already called for decriminalization.

Asset Forfeiture

DOJ Report Finds Tennessee Cops Misused Asset Forfeiture Funds. A report from the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General found that state law enforcement misused funds from the department's Equitable Sharing asset forfeiture program. In one case, police spent $110,000 on catering services, which is not an allowed use of the funds. The report also cited lax tracking and reporting requirements and recommended the state get on the ball. It also said the state should "remedy" that catering expense.

Law Enforcement

Black Philly Narcs Charge Supervisors With Racism, Corruption. Six black Philadelphia Police narcotics officers have filed complaints with the state Human Relations Commission charging that two white supervisors, Chief Inspector Anthony Boyle and Inspector Raymond Evers, are racist and corrupt and should be removed from their positions. The complaints included allowing a white narc to park his car adorned with a confederate flag on city property, encouraging officers to file false documents and falsify evidence, and denying black officers overtime opportunities and choice work assignments. Boyle is also accused of referring to black citizens as "scum" and referring to the deaths of blacks as "thinning the herd." The black narcs said a civil lawsuit is being considered.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org"s lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays 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.)

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Yee-haw, it's getting crazy out there: A Philly drug task force officer gets nailed for exchanging drugs for sex, a Pennsylvania cop gets busted after being found ODing on stolen drugs on the evidence room floor, and more. Let's get to it:

In Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a former Johnstown police officer was arrested last Thursday after being found suffering from an apparent drug overdose at the police station. William Slisz is accused of repeatedly stealing heroin from an evidence locker beginning in 2015 and later from the secure evidence room. After losing the key to that room, he allegedly crawled through the ceiling into a co-worker's office and got another key. Then, last September, he hammered a hole through the evidence room wall before being found unconscious and revived with naloxone. He is charged with burglary and evidence tampering. No word on why it took prosecutors nearly a year to charge him.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer was arrested Tuesday for fraudulently obtaining prescription drugs. Officer Jennifer Wolfe, 37, went down after an employee of a dental practice contacted the department and an investigation revealed she had received a fraudulent prescription for opioid pain relievers from another employee of the practice. She is charged with five counts of obtaining a Schedule II controlled substance by fraud.

In Philadelphia, a former Philadelphia police narcotics officer pleaded guilty last Friday to trading heroin and other drugs for sexual favors from women, including one who got high and then was involved in a car wreck that killed a 90-year-old woman. Stanley Davis, 50, a member of an FBI narcotics task force, admitted enticing two women he met in Kensington into a series of sexual encounters in New Jersey motel rooms and in his assigned police vehicle. Davis went down after the fatal wreck, when the woman involved told investigators she got her dope from Davis. He pleaded guilty in federal court to drug distribution charges. Sentencing will come later.

In Missoula, Montana, a former Missoula police officer was sentenced last Wednesday to probation for stealing narcotics from the State Crime Lab. Steven Brester, 55, had been a 20-year veteran police officer before taking a job at the lab, apparently so he could gain access to opioids he had gotten himself strung out on after a car accident. At least 50 drugs cases in the state were impacted by Brester's thefts. He was charged with tampering with records, tampering with evidence, and criminal possession of dangerous drugs, with prosecutors recommending a five-year prison sentence followed by 10 years on probation. But the judge just gave him 10 years' probation.

In Hazelton, West Virginia, a Hazelton US Penitentiary guard was sentenced Monday to eight months behind bars for providing marijuana for an inmate. Cody Tyler Layman, 32, pleaded guilty to one count of introduction of prohibited item -- marijuana in a prison.

Chronicle AM: White House Seeks MA MedMJ Data, Ecstasy for PTSD Advances, More... (8/28/17)

The White House is sniffing around Massachusetts medical marijuana patient data, the FDA has granted breakthrough drug status for MDMA as a treatment of PTSD, the DEA warns of a looming tide of cocaine, the State Department's top anti-drug official calls it quits, and more.

Cocaine supplies and seizures are at record levels, the DEA says. (US CBP)
Medical Marijuana

White House Seeks Massachusetts Data On Medical Marijuana Users. The National Marijuana Initiative, part of the Trump administration's anti-drug task force, has asked the state Department of Public Health to provide data on the health conditions cited by medical marijuana users. The department has already provided data on patient by age and gender, but said it was considering whether to hand over additional data.

Tennessee Lawmakers to Study Whether to Legalize Medical Marijuana. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R) and House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) announced in a letter last Friday that they are forming an ad hoc committee to study whether the state should legalize medical marijuana. The lawmakers said they would undertake a comprehensive review of the matter. The committee will consist of 10 legislators.

Ecstasy

FDA Grants Breakthrough Therapy Designation for MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy for PTSD. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) announced last Friday that Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation to MDMA for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). MAPS and the FDA have also reached agreement under the Special Protocol Assessment Process (SPA) for the design of two upcoming Phase 3 of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for patients with severe PTSD. MDMA-assisted psychotherapy is a novel treatment package that combines psychotherapeutic techniques with three administrations of MDMA as a pharmacological adjunct. By granting Breakthrough Therapy Designation, the FDA has agreed that this treatment may have a meaningful advantage and greater compliance over available medications for PTSD.

Drug Policy

State Department's Top Anti-Drug Diplomat Joins Exodus, Resigns. William Brownfield, the US Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs ("drugs and thugs"), has announced he is quitting at the end of September. Foreign Policy had reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was considering Brownfield for a position as top envoy to Latin America, but instead Brownfield is leaving. His departure is only the latest of top officials from Foggy Bottom, including Brownfield's wife, Kristie Kenney, one of the department's senior foreign service officers, a few months back. Also resigning Friday, was Tracey Ann Jacobsen, the acting director of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs. Earlier in the week, Foreign Policy reported that the department's top official for European affairs, John Heffern, was forced out of his job, adding to "concerns of a growing wave of resignations by foreign policy professionals who are either being pushed out or resigning over frustration with an administration that has downgraded the importance of Washington's diplomatic corps."

Search and Seizure

Indiana Appeals Court Rules Genital Search for Blunt too Intrusive. The state Court of Appeals ruled last week that a police officer's search that included touching a woman's genitals was unconstitutional. Taccasia Porter had been convicted of marijuana possession, but appealed her conviction, arguing that the marijuana found in her underwear shouldn't have been admitted as evidence because it was the fruit of an unlawful search. The appeals court agreed, saying that while an initial search was lawful, the hands-down-the-pants search was not. "While the initial pat-down search was permissible, we find that the subsequent search ran afoul of both the federal and state constitutions," wrote appellate Judge John G. Baker. "All of this took place in a public area on the side of a road, with no evidence that any precautions were taken to protect Porter's privacy from pedestrian or vehicular passers-by or the two men on the scene," the opinion said. No word yet on whether prosecutors will appeal.

International

DEA Report Says Colombia Cocaine Expansion Fueling Rise in Use and Supply in the US. An August DEA Intelligence Brief notes that US cocaine supplies are at the highest levels since at least 2007 and the usage has jumped to the highest levels since 2009. The report also says that cocaine production and US border seizures "have reached the highest levels ever observed. The DEA argued that cocaine supply and us in the US will continue to rise barring a change in US drug habits, cartel behavior, or "a significant shift in the Government of Colombia's policies."

Trudeau Government Not Decriminalizing More Drugs Than Marijuana. Responding to calls from public health and political figures in British Columbia to decriminalize drugs in a bid to combat the opioid overdose epidemic, federal Health Minister Jane Philpott says no way. "Our government is currently working on the legalization, strict regulation, and restriction of access to cannabis, in order to keep it out of the hands of youth, and profits out of the hands of criminals," she said in a statement last week. "We are not looking to decriminalize or legalize other illicit substances at this time."

Mass March for Philippine Teen Drug War Victim.More than a thousand people joined the funeral procession last Saturday for Kian Delos Santos, 17, who was gunned down by Philippines police days earlier as part of their bloody anti-drug campaign. His killing has galvanized opposition to the year-long campaign undertaken by President Rodrigo Duterte upon his inauguration last year, which has resulted in thousands of deaths and increasing attention to charges that police are systematically executing suspected drug users and dealers.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A dirty Des Moines cop goes down for planting evidence, plus more jail guards gone bad. Let's get to it:

In Raleigh, North Carolina, a Wake County jail guard was arrested July 28 for selling drugs to inmates. (The bust was not publicized until this week.) Andrew Richard Byrd, 25, went down after he was caught with drugs at the jail. He's charged with possession of a controlled substance on jail premises, providing drugs to inmates, and conspiracy to distribute Schedule III controlled substances. And he's been fired.

In Mount Olive, West Virginia, a Mount Olive Correctional Center guard was arrested last Friday on charges he took bribes to smuggle drugs and other contraband into the jail. Toby Lyle Stover, 43, went down after authorities used surveillance video and cell phone records to show he set up a fake company to receive payments from inmates and that he delivered drugs, knives, and cellphones. He has been hit with seven counts each of bribery and aiding an adult in confinement.

In Des Moines, Iowa, a former Des Moines police officer was charged Tuesday with planting drug evidence in a bid to falsely arrest a 21-year-old man on meth charges. Tyson Teut, 30, had resigned last year amid allegations of wrongdoing and now has been formally charged with perjury and felonious misconduct in office. The man he arrested was convicted of meth possession, but that conviction was later overturned.

Sessions/Trump Pull Off an Amazing Feat -- Making the DEA Look Reasonable [FEATURE]

This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has never been known as a forward-thinking place when it comes to drug and crime policy, but these days, the hide-bound drug fighting agency is coming off as much more reasonable on drugs than its bosses, President Trump and Attorney General Sessions.

DEA doing its thing. (Creative Commons/Wikimedia)
And as is the case with everyone from Republican elected officials to top corporate executives, the Trump administration's bad case of crazy is forcing even the DEA to distance itself from some of Trump's more ill-thought and insidious mouthings.

No, the DEA hasn't gone soft. It's still out there doing its best to enforce federal drug prohibition, and just last year it was old school enough to refuse to move pot out of Schedule I. But several recent incidents show a DEA behaving in a more responsible manner than the president or his attorney general:

1. The DEA has been accepting applications from scientists to grow marijuana for research purposes, only to be blocked by the Sessions Justice Department.

For years, researchers have complained that a government monopoly on marijuana grown for research purposes has both stifled useful research and illustrated the DEA's role in hindering science. Late in the Obama administration, though, the agency relented, saying it would take proposals from researchers to grow their own crops.

But The Washington Post reported last week that DEA had received 25 research proposals since it began accepting applications a year ago, but needed DOJ's approval to move forward. That approval has not been forthcoming, much like DOJ when queried about it by the Post. DOJ may not have had anything to say, but some insiders did.

"They're sitting on it. They just will not act on these things," said one unnamed source described by the Post as a "law enforcement official familiar with the matter."

Another source described as a "senior DEA official" said that as a result, "the Justice Department has effectively shut down this program to increase research registrations."

2. The DEA head feels compelled to repudiate Trump's remarks about roughing up suspects.

The Wall Street Journal obtained an email from acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg to staff members written after President Trump told police officers in Long Island month that they needn't be too gentle with suspects. Rosenberg rejected the president's remarks.

Saying he was writing "because we have an obligation to speak out when something is wrong," Rosenberg said bluntly that Trump had "condoned police misconduct."

Instead of heeding the president, Rosenberg said, DEA agents must "always act honorably" by maintaining "the very highest standards" in the treatment of suspects.

It is a strange state of affairs when an agency many people consider to be the very embodiment of heavy-handed policing has to tell its employees to ignore the president of the United States because he's being too thuggish.

3. The DEA has to fend off the Trump/Sessions obsession with MS-13.

Trump loves to fulminate against MS-13, the vicious gang whose roots lie in the Salvadoran diaspora during the US-backed civil war of the 1980s, and to use them to conflate the issues of immigration, crime, and drugs. His loyal attorney general has declared war on them. Both insist that breaking MS-13 will be a victory in the war on drugs and are pressuring the DEA to specifically target them.

But, the Post reported, Rosenberg and other DEA officials have told DOJ that the gang "is not one of the biggest players when it comes to distributing and selling narcotics."

In the DEA view, Mexican cartels are the big problem and MS-13 is simply one of many gangs the cartels use to peddle their wares. DEA administrators have told their underlings to focus on whatever is the biggest threat in their area -- not MS-13 -- because "in many parts of the country, MS-13 simply does not pose a major criminal or drug-dealing threat compared with other groups," according to unnamed DEA officials.

"The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they could face professional consequences for candidly describing the internal disputes," the Post noted.

The president and the attorney general are seeking to distort what the DEA sees as its key drug enforcement priorities so Trump can score some cheap demagogic political points, and the DEA is unhappy enough to leak to the press. We are indeed in a strange place.

Chronicle AM: Global NGOs Concerned About Forced Coca Eradication in Colombia, More... (8/18/17)

Global NGOs have written to the Colombian president to express concerns about forced eradication of coca crops, a Nevada judge removes a marijuana sales bottleneck, Massachusetts has a new police force aimed at "extremists and drug traffickers," and more.

Colombian peasant harvesting coca (dea.gov)
Marijuana Policy

Nevada Judge Clears Way for More Distribution Licenses. Carson City District Judge James Russell on Thursday lifted a temporary restraining order that had forced the state to limit marijuana distribution rights to liquor wholesalers. The state's legalization initiative had required officials to limit distribution rights to liquor wholesalers for the first year and a half -- unless they couldn't keep up with demand. In his ruling Thursday, Judge Russell held that they had demonstrated they couldn't.

Asset Forfeiture

Illinois Asset Forfeiture Reform Law Now in Effect. An asset forfeiture reform bill passed earlier this year, House Bill 303 (with asset forfeiture reform added as an amendment to an unrelated bill), is now in effect. The bill does not end civil asset forfeiture, but increases the standard of evidence needed to seize property and adds reporting requirements for all seizures.

Law Enforcement

Massachusetts State Police Division Created to Go After Extremists and Drug Traffickers. Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito (R) announced Thursday the formation of a new State Police division to address threats from "extremists and drug traffickers." The new Fifth Division will collect and analyze criminal intelligence and provide protection for large-scale events and key infrastructure, Polito's office said.

International

Global NGOs Concerned About Forced Eradication in Colombia. In a letter to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), a global network of 177 NGOs, expressed strong support for the Peace Accord signed by the Colombian government and the FARC, while also expressing deep concern regarding intensified, and increasingly militarized, forced coca eradication efforts, especially in areas where communities have already signed crop substitution agreements. Forced eradication in areas where communities have signed crop substitution agreements perpetuates violence and generates new conflicts, undermines the very spirit of the voluntary crop substitution agreements and confidence-building efforts with local communities, and potentially threatens the effective implementation of the peace accord, the groups charged.

Drug War Issues

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