Archive for the ‘War on Drugs’ Category

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The State is not your friend (2)

December 7, 2016

This interesting article at The Economist comes via Paul B. Everyone knew that travelers’ luggage was being searched, but who knew there was an DEA-funded incentive program?

This stuff won’t stop until the legal theft we call civil asset forfeiture is outlawed and we put an end to the War on Drugs.

Transport employees in America were secretly paid by the government to search travellers’ bags

THERE are many reasons why you might have been stopped at an American transport hub and your bag searched by officials. You might have be chosen at random. Perhaps you matched a profile. Or you could have been flagged by an airline, railroad or security employee who was being secretly paid by the government as a confidential informant to uncover evidence of drug smuggling.

A committee of Congress heard remarkable testimony last week about a long-running programme by the Drug Enforcement Administration. For years, officials from the Department of Justice testified, the DEA has paid millions of dollars to a variety of confidential sources to provide tips on travellers who may be transporting drugs or large sums of money. Those sources include staff at airlines, Amtrak, parcel services and even the Transportation Safety Administration.

The testimony follows a report by the Justice Department that uncovered the DEA programme and detailed its many potential violations. According to that report, airline employees and other informers had an incentive to search more travellers’ bags, since they received payment whenever their actions resulted in DEA seizures of cash or contraband. The best-compensated of these appears to have been a parcel company employee who received more than $1m from the DEA over five years. One airline worker, meanwhile, received $617,676 from 2012 to 2015 for tips that led to confiscations. But the DEA itself profited much more from the programme. That well-paid informant got only about 12% of the amount the agency seized as a result of the his tips. […]

DEA delenda est

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What rock has this judge been living under?

October 12, 2016

Kudos to Judge Bransford for doing her best to set this case to rights. (My emphasis below.)

Pre-Dawn No-Knock SWAT Raid for Minor Drug Charge Ruled Unconstitutional
2015 militarized raid resulted in “fifth-degree drug possession.” That’s the lowest drug charge possible.

A Hennepin County (Minn.) drug squad — known as the Emergency Services Unit (ESU) — conducted a pre-dawn no-knock raid on a house in North Minneapolis one morning in November 2015. They were looking for Walter Power, who they suspected of being a marijuana dealer. To search the home they believed Power to be sleeping in, they brought a force of between 28-32 officers, most clad in riot gear and carrying rifles, accompanied by a sniper seated atop a Ballistic Engineered Armored Response (BEAR) vehicle.

Why did law enforcement officials feel they needed to display a show of overwhelming force that would be intense even in a foreign occupied city? Because the primary resident of the house, Michael Delgado, was a registered gun-owner with a license to carry.

Convinced of the potential danger posed to officers when raiding a house with an armed occupant, Hennepin County District Judge Tanya Bransford signed off on the no-knock raid, but later told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that she did not know a platoon of up to 32 officers would be deployed to search the house, or that they’d throw flash bang grenades through the windows in addition to knocking down doors.

The raid resulted in the arrest of Power — the suspected marijuana dealer — for “fifth-degree drug possession,” the lowest possible drug charges on the books. Even this modest charge would be dropped after Judge Bransford declared the raid unconstitutional in a ruling last summer, arguing that Delgado and Power had been subject to unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Bransford wrote in her ruling “that the types of militarized actions used in this case seem to be a matter of customary business practice,” which she found troubling. […]

"[C]ustomary business practice." Roger that, yer honor. And "troubling"… that’s a nice, mealy-mouthed way to put it.

Do you ever wonder how some people in the Justice System® can claim ignorance of how other people in that same system are conducting business?

The next thing we’ll hear is that a judge somewhere is surprised to learn that cops sometimes use too much force and innocent people die as a result.

What the hell? Don’t these people read the news?

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Drug War warrior

June 26, 2016

Here’s an interesting article from today’s Post-Dispatch. A young Missourian wants state agencies to live up to the state’s motto: Show Me.

A Missouri man seeking ammunition in his war on the war on drugs

MEXICO, MO. • A smartphone camera poked out of his shirt pocket. An attorney stood at his side. And in his right hand was a manila folder containing a printout of a law whose impotence would soon be revealed.

“Hi, there,” said Aaron Malin to a jailer behind a security window at the Audrain County Jail. “We are here for a meeting of the East Central Drug Task Force.”

Malin and lawyer David Roland were buzzed in, but then were told to leave.

“This meeting’s not a public meeting,” said a man, identifying himself as a detective.

“Yeah, it is,” Malin said.

They argued for the next two minutes, until the officer said: “You need to leave, man. I’m not going to ask you again.”

“There’s going to be statutory liability,” Malin said. Then he asked Roland: “How fast do you think we can get this filed?”

“I bet not before the meeting is over,” the officer quipped.

Ten days later, Malin filed a lawsuit. He was 21 years old, but he had already earned a reputation for attacking situations he deemed unjust with unrivaled tenacity.

Years earlier, he had concluded that the War on Drugs ruins more lives than it saves. Now he was focused on obtaining records to expose how that war is fought. Those details, he believed, would sway public sentiment. […]

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Busted for Intent to Garden

December 29, 2015

Radley Balko writes about the surveillance state again.

Paul sends the link along with the comment, "This has to stop."

Federal judge: Drinking tea, shopping at a gardening store is probable cause for a SWAT raid on your home

In April 2012, a Kansas SWAT team raided the home of Robert and Addie Harte, their 7-year-old daughter and their 13-year-old son. The couple, both former CIA analysts, awoke to pounding at the door. When Robert Harte answered, SWAT agents flooded the home. He was told to lie on the floor. When Addie Harte came out to see what was going on, she saw her husband on his stomach as SWAT cop stood over him with a gun. The family was then held at gunpoint for more than two hours while the police searched their home. Though they claimed to be looking for evidence of a major marijuana growing operation, they later stated that they knew within about 20 minutes that they wouldn’t find any such operation. So they switched to search for evidence of “personal use.” They found no evidence of any criminal activity.

The investigation leading to the raid began at least seven months earlier, when Robert Harte and his son went to a gardening store to purchase supplies to grow hydroponic tomatoes for a school project. A state trooper had been positioned in the store parking lot to collect the license plate numbers of customers, compile them into a spreadsheet, then send the spreadsheets to local sheriff’s departments for further investigation. Yes, merely shopping at a gardening store could make you the target of a criminal drug investigation.

More than half a year later, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department began investigating the Hartes as part of “Operation Constant Gardener,” basically a PR stunt in which the agency conducts multiple pot raids on April 20, or “4/20.” On several occasions, the Sheriff’s Department sent deputies out to sort through the family’s garbage. (The police don’t need a warrant to sift through your trash.) The deputies repeatedly found “saturated plant material” that they thought could possibly be marijuana. On two occasions, a drug testing field kit inexplicably indicated the presence of THC, the active drug in marijuana. It was on the basis of those tests and Harte’s patronage of a gardening store that the police obtained the warrant for the SWAT raid.

But, of course, they found nothing. Lab tests would later reveal that the “saturated plant material” was actually loose-leaf tea, which Addie Harte drinks on a regular basis. […]

DEA delenda est.


Update:

Orin Kerr (at the Volokh Conspiracy blog) writes a follow-up to Balko’s column. No, a federal judge did not rule that drinking tea and shopping at a gardening store amounts to probable cause.

Since I took Balko’s headline as hyperbole and since his column never mentioned such a ruling explicitly, so this isn’t too much of a surprise. But Mr. Kerr is keeping the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed for us.

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Faster, please (2)

November 27, 2015

Here’s an interesting article in today’s Washington Post.

The DEA has failed to eradicate marijuana. Now Congress wants it to stop trying.

The Drug Enforcement Administration is not having a great year.

The chief of the agency stepped down in April under a cloud of scandal. The acting administrator since then has courted ridicule for saying pot is “probably not” as dangerous as heroin, and more recently he provoked 100,000 petition-signers and seven members of Congress to call for his head after he called medical marijuana “a joke.”

This fall, the administration earned a scathing rebuke from a federal judge over its creative interpretation of a law intended to keep it from harassing medical marijuana providers. Then, the Brookings Institution issued a strongly worded report outlining the administration’s role in “stifling medical research” into medical uses of pot.

Unfortunately for the DEA, the year isn’t over yet. Last week, a group of 12 House members led by Ted Lieu (D) of California wrote to House leadership to push for a provision in the upcoming spending bill that would strip half of the funds away from the DEA’s Cannabis Eradication Program and put that money toward programs that “play a far more useful role in promoting the safety and economic prosperity of the American people”: domestic violence prevention and overall spending reduction efforts. […]

Who knew the DEA had a special patch for this effort?
mj-eradication-eagle-has-landed

DEA delenda est!

H.T. USMP of Kentucky

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If we can’t decriminalize drugs

November 9, 2015

We should at least get rid of the draconian jail sentences.

Now that I think of it, I’ve known at least one person who served multi-year sentence for drugs.

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The beginning of the end?

November 9, 2015

Ireland, Mexico, Canada Defect from the War on Drugs

On November 3, Ohio voters rejected a flawed plan to legalize marijuana, even though most Ohioans are in favor of legalization. The measure would have amended the state constitution to legalize the sale of cannabis, but only through a state-sanctioned drug cartel of ten licensed dealers.

But there are other encouraging signs that the War on Drugs is losing steam.

On November 4, Canada’s newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was sworn into office. Trudeau and the Liberal Party promise to legalize marijuana in Canada, which would make it only the second country to formally legalize the sale and consumption of cannabis. (Uruguay became the first, in 2013 — contrary to popular belief, pot is not technically legal in the Netherlands, but it is tolerated).

On November 3, the Irish government announced decriminalization of not just marijuana but also heroin and cocaine. The chief of Ireland’s National Drugs Strategy told the papers there was a “strong consensus that drugs across the board should be decriminalised.” […]

Decriminalization is a far cry from legalization — it’s still a crime to make, sell, or “profit from” drugs — but users and addicts would no longer be locked up for their personal consumption. The results from Portugal’s decriminalization of all drugs in 2001 have been extremely extraordinary: deaths, addiction, and HIV infections from drugs have all dropped precipitously.

Perhaps the most heartening news comes from Mexico, where the drug war has raged for decades. On November 5, the criminal chamber of the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that the country’s ban on marijuana was unconstitutional and found that individuals have a right to grow, possess, and use marijuana.

DEA delenda est!

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