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Poll Finds California Not Quite There on Marijuana Legalization

Californians overwhelmingly support medical marijuana, especially for "patients with terminal and debilitating conditions," but when it comes to legalizing it, a new poll finds the state has a ways to go. According to the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll, only 46% of respondents favored legalization, with 50% opposed.

On medical marijuana, 80% supported it, with 62% strongly supporting and 18% supporting. Only 17% were opposed, and 3% pronounced themselves undecided.

On marijuana legalization, the poll asked "Do you think marijuana should be legalized for recreational or general use by adults?" One-third (33%) strongly supported legalization, while another 13% supported it. Strong opposition to legalization was at 42%, with soft opposition at 8%, while the remaining 4% either had no opinion or refused to answer.

Looking at the poll's cross tabs provides a more detailed breakdown of where support for legalization is strong and where it isn't. The cross tabs show majority support for legalization among independents (56%) and Democrats (51%), but not Republicans (28%). Among ethnic groups, half of blacks (50%) support legalization, and 49% of whites, but only 37% of Hispanics. Among people with kids, only 47% support legalization, but that's one point higher than people without kids (46%).

Support for legalization correlates with income. Among people making $50,000 a year or more, support was at 54%, while among people making less than that, support was only at 40%.

The only region of the state with majority support for legalization was the San Francisco Bay area, with 55%, followed by Los Angeles County (49%), Sacramento and Northern California (46%), the Central Coast (42%), Southern California outside of LA County (41%), and the Central Valley (34%).

The gender gap evident in other marijuana polls also shows up in this one. While 51% of men favored legalization, only 41% of women did.

With no legalization initiatives making the ballot this year, California activists have at least two years to work on upping the numbers. It looks like they better be prepared to do a lot of talking to Hispanic women with kids and low-paying jobs.

CA
United States

Medical Marijuana Update

It's been a pretty quiet week on the medical marijuana front. Heck, it looks like even the DEA took a break -- no raids to report. Let's get to it:

National

On Memorial Day, a veterans' group slammed the Obama administration for its stance on medical marijuana. Veterans for Medical Cannabis had petitioned the administration to look into the reliable new science showing that medical marijuana has benefits and asked the administration to change its policies to allow vets to use it for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. What they got instead was a canned non-response from drug czar Gil Kerlikowske.

Arizona

Last Friday, the Department of Health Services held a hearing on requests to expand its fledgling medical marijuana program to allow use of the herb for a variety of conditions, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Besides PTSD and migraines, the requests for covered conditions include depression and general anxiety disorder. The law already permits medical marijuana use for such medical reasons as cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, chronic pain, muscle spasms and hepatitis C.

Also last Friday, the application period for people seeking to open dispensaries ended. The Department of Health Services will issue only 126 dispensary permits statewide, but had received nearly 500 applications, along with a $5,000 fee, $4,000 of which is non-refundable. The department will review the applications and grant permits on August 7. If an application passes review and is the only application in its district, it will be granted a permit. In districts with multiple applications, those that survive the review process will enter a lottery to see who gets the permit.

California

Last Wednesday, a San Diego medical marijuana prosecution ended in a mistrial after jurors deadlocked and the judge dismissed prosecutors' request to retry the case "in the interest of justice." The effort by San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis to convict Therapeutic Healing operator Dexter Padilla was only the latest in her ongoing campaign against medical marijuana. In dismissing the prosecution request for a new trial, the judge accused the DA's office of being "disingenuous" in its arguments in the case.

Also last Wednesday, the state Supreme Court denied review of a key medical marijuana case, handing a victory to patients and providers. Attorney General Kamala Harris and law enforcement had asked the court to review People v. Colvin, which upheld certain protections for patients and providers, in a bid to get the court to rule that patients in collectives must help cultivate their medication. The court declined to review the case, affirming that patients are not required to help grow their medicine.

On Tuesday, the LA city council moved closer to a ban on dispensaries. A council committee approved a recommendation to ban dispensaries while allowing small groups of patients and their primary caregivers to grow their own. A counterproposal that would allow up to 100 existing dispensaries to stay open also won a committee recommendation. In 2007, the city imposed a moratorium on dispensaries, but a loophole allowed hundreds of new pot shops to proliferate. In reaction, lawmakers approved an ordinance two years ago that called for a lottery to limit which dispensaries should be allowed to operate. But City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has argued that the ordinance should be revoked because it may violate federal law. The turning point was an appellate court ruling last year that Long Beach, which also imposed a lottery, was violating federal law by in effect sanctioning the distribution of drugs. The proposed ban in Los Angeles would last at least until the California Supreme Court reviews the Long Beach case.

Colorado

On Tuesday, patients and supporters petitioned to add PTSD to the list of conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana. The effort is a reprise of a failed attempt to add it in 2010. That year, the Colorado Department of Public Health opposed legislation that would have added PTSD. Now, we will see if the department has changed its mind.

New Jersey

Last Wednesday, Newark Mayor Cory Booker came out in support of medical marijuana. His support came amidst of series of Twitter tweets he sent out critical of the war on drugs, and while he said he didn't support all-out drug legalization because of fears of addiction, he told one follower, "However, I'm with you on medical marijuana, and NJ should do more to make it real for those who need it."

Washington

On Tuesday, medical marijuana advocates sent a letter to the Kent City Council opposing a planned ordinance that would ban all medical marijuana access points within the city, including collective grows, which are explicitly allowed by state law. The letter signed by Sensible Washington and state Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) calls on the city "to respect the wishes and demands of the voters of Washington State, to act in adherence to the laws adopted by our state in regards to medical cannabis (pursuant to RCW 69.51a), and to cease and desist any and all attacks on qualifying medical cannabis patients, medical providers,  and safe access points within the City of Kent." The statute mentioned reads as follows: "Qualifying patients may create and participate in collective gardens for the purpose of producing, processing, transporting, and delivering cannabis for medical use." The city council is scheduled to take up the ordinance on June 5.


 

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Don't give joints to snitches you're having an affair with -- that's the lesson one California cop learned last week. There are more crooked cops for us this week, too. Let's get to it:

In New Bern, North Carolina, a New Bern police officer was arrested last Wednesday on charges she was stealing pain pills from the evidence room. Officer Frances Sutton went down after the department reviewed drug cases in which she was the charging officer and found oxycodone tablets seized as evidence had gone missing. She is charged with four felony counts of obstruction of justice and three felony counts of altering, destroying, or stealing evidence of criminal conduct. She was placed in the Craven County Jail under a $35,000 secured bond.

In LaGrange, Georgia, a Troup County jail officer was arrested last Thursday on charges he snuck marijuana, cell phones, credit cards and other items to inmates. Officer Angel Vargas, 38, went down after an eight-month investigation by the sheriff's office. He is charged with violating Georgia's controlled substance act, prohibited possession of inmate contraband and crossing the guard line of the jail with contraband. Vargas is the 78th Georgia correctional officer to be charged with smuggling contraband to inmates in the last four years.

In Hayward, California, a former San Leandro police detective pleaded no contest last Wednesday to charges he gave marijuana to a police informant with whom he was having an extramarital affair. Jason Frederikkson, 39, copped to a misdemeanor count of possession of more than an ounce of marijuana after prosecutors agreed to drop a felony count of transporting and furnishing marijuana to an informant. He got a 30-day jail sentence, but will be able to serve the time on work release. He was also sentenced to five years probation.

Rhode Island Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Awaits Final Votes

The Rhode Island General Assembly House and Senate judiciary committees both voted Tuesday afternoon to approve a marijuana decriminalization bill, Senate Bill 2253 and its companion bill in the House, HB 7092. The bills now head for final floor votes in their respective chambers.

The bill would make the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a fine of $150 for most offenses. Under current Rhode Island law, pot possession is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $500 fine.

The bills have strong public support. A Public Policy Polling survey in January showed that 65% of likely voters supported decriminalization. Support came from across the political spectrum, with 73% of Democrats, 64% of Republicans, and 60% of independents in favor of the measure.

The bills are also supported by a number of social science and public health professionals.

"H 7092 and S 2253 represent the beginning of a new way forward for marijuana policy in the Ocean State -- an approach that moves away from punitive law enforcement tactics by placing a greater emphasis on public health," said Dr. Glenn Loury, professor of social science and economics at Brown University. "In addition to the issuance of a civil violation, the bills require minors who are caught in possession of a small amount of marijuana to attend a drug education course and perform community service. Community service, parental discipline, and honest education on the negative consequences of drug and alcohol use are more humane ways to deal with marijuana than incarcerating adolescent users."

"My forty years as a public health advocate have convinced me that decriminalizing marijuana possession is a sensible move for both public health and public safety," said Dr. David Lewis, professor of community health and medicine and founder of the Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies. "Contrary to common fears, the evidence from many states shows that decriminalizing possession does not result in a significant rise in marijuana use. I'm grateful that Rhode Island is moving toward a less punitive policy."

"Committee approval sets the stage for Rhode Island to join the ever growing number of states that have removed the threat of jail time for the nonviolent act of simply possessing a small amount of marijuana," said Robert Capecchi, legislative analyst at the Marijuana Policy Project. "Neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut have done so as well, with no ill effects. In fact, most of the states that have decriminalized marijuana possession did so in the 1970s, and none of them have suffered in any way by doing so. Rhode Island lawmakers should be proud to sensibly reform state law."

The General Assembly has about two more weeks to act before the legislative session ends.

Providence, RI
United States

Marijuana Legalization Advocate Wins Texas Congressional Primary

Former El Paso city councilman Beto O'Rourke has defeated US Rep. Silvestre Reyes in the battle for the Democratic Party nomination for the seat Reyes has held since 1996. According to election results from the Texas Secretary of State's office early Wednesday morning, O'Rourke had picked up 51.3% of the vote to Reyes' 41.3%, meaning O'Rourke also avoids the need for a run-off election.

Beto O'Rourke (betoforcongress.com)
O'Rourke is a vocal drug policy reformer who has specifically called for marijuana legalization, while Reyes, a former Border Patrol official, has built a career on tough on the border and tough on drugs politics.

O'Rourke garnered national attention in 2009, when he championed a council resolution calling for a national conversation on legalizing and regulating drugs as a possible solution to the drug cartel violence just over El Paso's border in Mexico. The mayor vetoed the unanimously-passed resolution and the council was set to override the veto until Congressman Reyes threatened that the city would lose federal funding if it insisted on pushing the legalization conversation. The override vote failed, but O'Rourke has managed to use the issue as a launching pad for his campaign against what had been a heavily-favored incumbent.

O'Rourke has spoken eloquently of the violence in Mexico and its roots in drug prohibition, including at Drug Policy Alliance conferences, and is the coauthor, along with fellow El Paso city council member Susie Byrd, of Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the US and Mexico, which calls explicitly for marijuana legalization.

"O'Rourke's victory demonstrates that support for drug policy reform, and even for legalizing marijuana, is no detriment to electoral success - in fact it was a key asset in his triumph," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of Drug Policy Action, the Alliance's campaign and lobbying arm.. "Reyes' surprising defeat, meanwhile, shows that kneejerk support for persisting with failed drug war tactics can hurt politicians at the ballot box."

Earlier this month, the Democratic primary for Attorney General in Oregon featured a similar dynamic. Ellen Rosenblum won a surprising victory over favorite Dwight Holton, in a race in which medical marijuana became a major issue. Rosenblum is supportive of patients' right to safe and legal access to medical marijuana, while her opponent, former Interim U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton, is sharply critical of the program. Although Holton was heavily favored early in the race, he was targeted for defeat by supporters of medical marijuana after actively trying to undermine responsible state regulation. With no Republican filing for the office, Rosenblum is all but certain to be the state's next attorney general.

"Beto O'Rourke's congressional victory in Texas, coming on the heels of Ellen Roseblum's victory in Oregon's attorney general race, shows that drug policy reform is no longer a third rail in American politics," said Jill Harris, managing director of strategic initiatives for Drug Policy Action. "In both of those races, the candidates' views on marijuana reform were used against them in attacks by their opponents - and in both cases, the voters supported the pro-reform candidate. A majority of Americans now favor treating marijuana like alcohol, and strong majorities of both Democrats and Republicans say the federal government should not interfere with state medical marijuana laws. From blue states like Oregon to red states like Texas, it's a new day for the politics of drug policy reform."

Having won the Democratic primary, O'Rourke is well placed for a victory in November in this solidly Democratic district that has sent Reyes to Washington eight times. But now, it's a drug reformer El Paso is likely to send to Congress, not a drug warrior.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

El Paso, TX
United States

Indonesia Cuts Schapelle Corby's 20-Year Marijuana Sentence

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono cut Australian Schapelle Corby's 20-year prison sentence for smuggling marijuana into the country by five years last Tuesday, meaning the former beauty school student will be eligible for parole this fall.

Schapelle Corby, November 2006 (Schapelle.net)
Corby's plight became something of a cause célèbre -- there is even a web site devoted to her release -- after she was arrested at an airport in Bali as she arrived on vacation in 2004. In her luggage was found nine pounds of marijuana. She always maintained her innocence, and the case strained relations between Australia and Indonesia.

Corby applied for a sentence reduction two years ago, with her attorney arguing that her mental health was slipping after years of confinement in the overcrowded Kerobokan Penitentiary.

Australia welcomed the cut in sentence.

"The Australian government has consistently supported Ms. Corby's application for clemency on humanitarian grounds," Foreign Minister Bob Carr said in a statement.

The 34-year-old's release is not, however, a done deal. She must be approved for parole, and Australia must guarantee her good behavior upon release. Corby and her team are asking the Australian government for its support in the parole bid.

Despite some criticism from hard-liners, Indonesian Justice Minister Amir Syamsuddin said Corby's conviction was "not related to heroin or other heavy drugs" and was not for major drug trafficking. "It was purely marijuana and the marijuana didn't weigh hundreds of kilograms," he said.

Jakarta
Indonesia

Tennessee Governor Signs Welfare Drug Testing Bill

Tennessee has become the latest state to jump on the drug testing for public benefits bandwagon. Last Thursday, Gov. Bill Haslam (R) signed into law House Bill 2725, which requires applicants for welfare to submit to a drug test if, during preliminary screening, state workers suspect he or she is using drugs.

Under the new law, persons who do not submit to drug testing lose their benefits. Those who test positive lose their benefits for one year, or for six months if they undergo drug treatment and test negative at least twice and 30 days apart. Those who test positive after being readmitted to the program face a loss of benefits for three years, or less if they undergo treatment and test negative at least twice and 30 days apart.

In the past two years, two states, Florida and Georgia, have passed laws requiring mandatory, suspicionless drug testing of welfare applicants. The Florida law has been blocked by a federal judge's temporary order as she considers whether to declare it an unconstitutional violation of the Fourth Amendments proscription against warrantless searches. Civil liberties and civil rights advocates in Georgia have vowed similar action against the law there when it goes into effect July 1. An earlier Michigan attempt to impose suspicionless drug testing of welfare recipients was found unconstitutional by a divided federal appeals court it 2003. That ruling was not appealed.

Several other states have passed public benefits drug testing laws with a screening process to create "reasonable suspicion" that a given individual might be a drug user. Those include Arizona and Missouri last year and Utah and now Tennessee this year. None of those laws have faced legal challenges, but in their fiscal impact statement, legislative analysts estimated the state would spend $100,000 to defend the law in court.

Haslam didn't issue a signing statement, but he told the Associated Press he's comfortable with the legislation because the Department of Human Services will develop rules for testing and the attorney general will ensure the law is constitutional. The original version of the bill called for suspicionless drug testing of welfare applicants, but Attorney General Robert Cooper (D) warned that such testing was probably unconstitutional, and the bill was amended.

Nashville, TN
United States

New Biography Says Obama Smoked Pot -- A Lot

President Obama has written about his drug use as a teenager, but excerpts from a new biography of the president portray him as a party hardy high school and college marijuana user. And that has reform advocates calling foul on a president who laughs off serious questions about marijuana legalization and whose Justice Department is cracking down on medical marijuana distribution.

The new biography, Barack Obama: The Story, is written by veteran Washington political journalist David Maraniss and contains extensive material about the president's smoke-filled young adulthood including his leading role in the Choom Gang, with "choom" used as verb meaning to get high.

Obama choomed his way through the Punohao School in Honolulu and Occidental College in Los Angeles, Maraniss reports, citing interviews with the president's erstwhile colleagues. And young Obama wasn't just experimenting; he showed signs of being a serious pothead.

He created a pot-smoking trend among his peers called "TA," short for "total absorption," and also is credited with popularizing the notion of "roof hits," or rolling up all the windows in a car while smoking, then tilting one's head back and sucking the last remnants of smoke from the roof.

Young Barry and his Choom Gang buddies were so serious about their fun that they assessed penalties on their peers for wasting smoke by not inhaling fully. If you wasted smoke, you were penalized by being passed by the next time the joint came around. "Wasting good bud smoke was not tolerated," a member of the gang told Maraniss.

The president-to-be was also an eager pot smoker. He was known for elbowing his way in out of turn when a joint was being passed, shouting "Intercepted!" and taking an extra hit.

Obama seemed to retain his marijuana-friendly attitude until he attained the presidency. While there are no stories of him getting baked while editing the Harvard Law Review, he was critical of the drug war while an Illinois senator, and as a presidential candidate, he vowed to not go after medical marijuana in states where it is legal.

But as president, he has converted himself into a full-blown prohibitionist, laughing off marijuana legalization, continuing to fund the drug war at the same high levels (and with the same law enforcement heavy spending ratio), and attempting to export US drug war strategies to violence-wracked areas like Mexico and Central America. And, after a year and a half of relatively benign neglect, his Justice Department has turned on medical marijuana providers with a vengeance.

The publication of the Maraniss excerpts provoked a response from Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, who chided the president for his shifting stance and warned there could be a political price to pay.

"Barack Obama won a lot of hearts and minds some years ago when he talked so openly and frankly about his youthful marijuana use. That contrasted refreshingly with Bill Clinton's hemming and hawing about not having inhaled, much less George Bush's refusal to even acknowledge what old friends revealed about his marijuana use," Nadelmann noted. "But the president has been losing lots of hearts and minds, especially those of young voters, with his striking silence on marijuana issues since he became president -- apart from providing lame excuses for the federal government's aggressive undermining of state medical marijuana laws.

"Most disappointing is his failure to say a word as president about the fact that half of all drug arrests each year are for nothing more than possessing a small amount of marijuana, which is something Barack Obama did lots of in his younger days, or to offer any critical comments about the stunning racial disproportionality in marijuana arrests around the country," Nadelmann continued. "Roughly twice as many people are arrested for marijuana possession now as were arrested in the early 1980s, even though the number of people consuming marijuana is no greater now than then. If police had been as keen on making marijuana arrests back then, it's quite likely that a young African American man named Barry Obama would have landed up with a criminal record -- and even more likely that he would not have his current job."

Recent polls show support for marijuana legalization at 50% or higher, with even higher levels of support among liberals and Democrats. It is time for Obama to address the issue, Nadelmann said.

"President Obama needs to come clean once again about marijuana -- but this time he needs to speak not of his own youthful use but rather of the harmful consequences of today's punitive marijuana policies for young Americans today," he said.

Washington, DC
United States

Medical Marijuana Update

The Rhode Island governor has finally opened the door to compassion centers, a medical marijuana initiative campaign is getting underway in North Dakota, people are going to federal prison in Montana, and the battles continue in California. Let's get to it:

California

Last Wednesday, Fresno police said they would shut down a newly opened dispensary. The California Herbal Relief Center opened quietly and said "a loophole" in the city code allowed it to circumvent the city's ordinance against dispensaries, but Fresno police were having none of it. The department has sent the operator  a "hand delivered note that he needs to stop doing what he is doing," a police spokesman said.

On Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, advocates held a three-day unity event in Sacramento to rally support for state-regulated medical marijuana industry. About 200 people turned out Saturday to rally for a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) that would do just that. On Monday, reformers took to the capitol to lobby for the bill, Assembly Bill 2312.

On Monday, a federal appeals court ruled that cities do not violate the rights of the disabled when they ban dispensaries. A three-judge panel of the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco rejected a claim by patients from Costa Mesa and Lake Forest that those cities' efforts to close dispensaries violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The law does not protect the use of drugs banned by the federal government, the court held.

Also on Monday, the LA branch of the NORML Women's Alliance launched a voter education project aimed at identifying favorable (or unfavorable) candidates Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge in the June 5 primary election. Candidates for Superior Court Judge in Los Angeles County are being asked their positions on issues relating to medical marijuana, as well as three-strikes laws, mandatory minimum sentencing and the recent United States Supreme Court mandate to end overcrowding in California prisons.

Also on Monday, Tulare County filed suit against five collective members for growing medical marijuana in the wrong place. The lawsuit asserts that they are violating the county's land use ordinance by growing marijuana in a rural area near Cutler in northern Tulare County zoned exclusively for agriculture. Under the county's ordinance, medical marijuana collectives and cooperatives must operate in a commercial or manufacturing zone. This is not the first time Tulare County has sued medical marijuana growers. In 2009, the county sued Foothill Growers Association for growing marijuana in a building on agricultural property near Ivanhoe and cited the same ordinance. The collective put up a court fight but lost.

On Tuesday, Novato's last remaining dispensary announced it was closing. The Green Door Wellness Education Center will shut its doors June 15. It had been open since April 2010. The city has a moratorium on dispensaries, and the second-to-the-last one, the Green Tiger, closed in April under federal pressure.

Also on Tuesday, an attorney filed a suit to block Nevada County from enforcing an emergency marijuana cultivation ordinance it passed earlier this month. Attorney Jeffrey Lake is seeking a temporary restraining order on behalf of Americans for Safe Access Nevada County, Grassroots Solutions and Patricia Smith, who is the founder of the nonprofit patient advocacy group and the ASA chapter.

On Wednesday, Imperial Beach initiative campaigners announced they had gathered more than 2,000 signatures in less than two months for a municipal initiative to repeal a ban on dispensaries and replace it with reasonable regulations. Canvass for a Cause, a San Diego based nonprofit with the largest gay rights field program in the county, has partnered with San Diego Americans for Safe Access, a local chapter of the nation’s largest medical marijuana patients’ rights advocacy group on this campaign. They will hand in signatures to the city clerk on Saturday.

Maine

Last week, a medical marijuana clinic opened in Brewer. It is operated by Wellness Connection of Maine.

Massachusetts

Last Wednesday, the Massachusetts Prevention Alliance filed a lawsuit challenging the language in a likely ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana. The lawsuit argues that the language is "misleading" and the initiative has "radical components." Attorney General Martha Coakley's office has already certified the ballot initiative titled, "An Act for the Humanitarian Use of Medical Marijuana." Proponents of the initiative must now collect 11,485 signatures by early July to get the initiative on the November ballot.

Over the weekend, the Massachusetts Medical Society approved a resolution opposing the legalization of medical marijuana without further scientific study. It did, however, pass another resolution calling on the DEA to reclassify marijuana to permit more studies.

Michigan

On Tuesday, the Marijuana Policy Project warned that more bad bills are coming in the state Senate. The bills would dramatically undermine the state's medical marijuana law, the group said, and it urged Michiganders to contact their senators.

Montana

On Monday, a Kalispell landlord was sentenced to a year in federal prison for renting a property to a medical marijuana business. Jonathan Janetski pleaded guilty to maintaining a drug involved premises, but he said he had no ties to the growing operation. The prosecution said Janetski wasn't just a landlord, that he didn't take money for rent for a year, and that he was an equal partner.

North Dakota

On Tuesday, a medical marijuana initiative campaign got underway. Rep. Steve Zaiser (D-Fargo) turned the proposed law in to the secretary of state's office for its approval, which is needed before signature-gathering can commence. The proposed law says someone with a "debilitating medical condition" may grow and use marijuana, and possess up to 2 ½ ounces of the drug. It says people with cancer, the HIV virus, post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions may use marijuana legally.

Rhode Island

On Tuesday night, Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) signed the bill allowing compassion centers to open. Championed by Sen. Rhoda Perry and Rep. Scott Slater, the bill was crafted to allay the governor's concerns, which had caused him to block them from opening more than a year ago. The amended law only allows centers to possess 1,500 ounces at one time and they can have no more than 99 mature plants at one time. Patients and caregivers will be able to sell any excess medical marijuana they produce directly to the centers as well.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Philadelphia pays for police misbehavior, more cops get caught pilfering the evidence, one gets caught helping a heroin dealer, and another goes down hard for helping drug traffickers. Let's get to it:

In Philadelphia, the city has quietly settled 21 lawsuits filed by shop owners after members of the Narcotics Field Unit stole cash and merchandise when ostensibly raiding the places in search of small plastic bags used to sell drugs. The unit's actions exploded into a major scandal in 2009 when a security camera unit members thought they had disabled recorded their actions on a computer hard drive. The result was an FBI investigation of the officers, dropped charges against some defendants, and numerous federal civil right lawsuits filed by people who said they were abused or framed by the squad. The 21 who have settled so far have received an average pay out of $40,000. No officers have yet been charged, but the FBI continues to investigate.

In Baltimore, a Baltimore police sergeant was arrested last Wednesday on charges he made up information to obtain a drug search warrant. Sgt. Dennis Workley, a 16-year veteran of the force, is charged with perjury and misconduct over a December drug raid. Baltimore police investigated after receiving a citizen's complaint, and it is alleged discrepancies in his warrant application for that raid showed he "cut and pasted" text from another case. Workley has been suspended.

In Hatboro, Pennsylvania, a former Hatboro police detective-sergeant was arrested last Thursday on charges he stole guns, drugs, and cash from the department evidence room and used a police informant to buy drugs for him. John Becker, 42, was the evidence room custodian and is accused of stealing 10 guns between 2003 and 2011, along with $18,000 in cash, and more than $2,000 in drugs. Prosecutors said it was to feed his opiate pain pill habit, and that he also "convinced or coerced several individuals to make numerous drug purchases on his behalf, including powerful prescription pain medications such as OxyContin and Percocet, along with cocaine" under the pretense that he was doing undercover drug investigations. Numerous items missing from the evidence room were found during a search of his home last year. He faces numerous charges.

In Suffield, Connecticut, a Suffield police officer was arrested last Friday for stealing cash from a drug bust. Jeremy DePietro was the arresting officer in a March 2011 call where officers found narcotics and $332 in cash. After the case was disposed of, the court ordered the drugs destroyed and the cash placed in the court's general fund, but the cash was gone. An investigation pointed to DePietro. He is now charged with tampering with evidence and sixth degree larceny. He was also fired. He is out on $24,000 bond.

In New York City, a Queens-based NYPD officer was arrested Tuesday on charge he used his position to gain access to sensitive computer records and pass them on to a convicted heroin dealer. Officer Devon Daniels, 30, went down in a DEA investigation that included wiretaps after agents found evidence he used an NYPD database to look up license plate numbers and check the status of criminal warrants for heroin traffickers in Jamaica, Queens. He is heard on wiretaps asking the dealer for money, "any working revolver," and the use of one of his cars. On one occasion, while driving the dealer's car, he stopped at the scene of an arrest of one of the dealer's crew, quizzed police about what was going on, and immediately reported back to the dealer. He has not yet been formally charged and is out on $150,000 bond awaiting arraignment.

In Carlsbad, California, a Carlsbad police officer pleaded guilty last Thursday to stealing heroin from the department evidence room. Officer Michael Koch, 44, was arrested in January after two employees saw him stealing the dope. Prosecutors said Koch was strung out and stole the drugs for personal use. He entered rehab after being arrested. He will be sentenced June 20 and is expected to receive probation. In the meantime, he's still collecting his $86,000 annual salary while a departmental internal investigation continues.

In San Juan, Puerto Rico, a former Arecibo police officer was sentenced last Friday to 24 years in federal prison for his role in a drug ring. David Gonzalez-Perez was indicted with 16 other people in a 70-count drug trafficking indictment in September 2010 and was found guilty of 28 counts of conspiracy and attempt to possess with intent to distribute cocaine after a two-week trial in August 2011. He participated in 15 drug transactions, which totaled over 200 kilograms of cocaine and received $36,000 in payments for his security services during the drug transactions. He also recruited 15 others to provide armed security with him during these drug transactions, including his brother and sister-in-law.

Drug War Issues

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