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LAPD skid row searches found unconstitutional

Location: 
Los Angeles, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Los Angeles Times
URL: 
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-downtown25apr25,0,2444457.story?coll=la-home-local

Feature: Punk Rocker's Jailing Raises Questions About Field Drug Tests

Don Bolles, drummer for the legendary punk band the Germs, was going to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting with his girlfriend, 21-year-old Cat Scandal, after picking her up for "a day off" from drug rehab, on April 4, when they were pulled over in a traffic stop by Newport Beach Police. During a search of the vehicle -- to which Bolles unwisely consented -- police found a bottle of peppermint Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap. According to a police field drug test, the soap contained GHB (gamma hydroxyl butyrate), a so-called date rape drug illegal under state and federal law.

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GHB -- Don Bolles and Dr. Bronner's don't have it
Despite Bolles' disbelieving protests of innocence, he was arrested and charged with possession of GHB. The aging punk spent three and a half days in a series of Orange County jails before being bailed out, and another 10 days facing felony charges before a confirmation test done by the Orange County Sheriff's Department Crime Lab came back negative and prosecutors announced they were dropping the charges.

The field test was performed by a kit manufactured by Armor Forensics/ODV called the Narcopouch 928. Armor Forensics/ODV did not respond to calls from the Chronicle about the false positives reported by its product. One man at ODV who refused to identify himself said only that he could not comment because of possible legal action.

The Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association did not respond to Chronicle queries about accuracy standards within the industry. In the group's defense, however, it should be noted that they were all out of the office this week attending a national drug testing industry convention.

The Newport Beach Police Department did not respond to calls from the Chronicle about the accuracy of the GHB field test.

Bolles is out from under the long arm of the law now, but he's not happy about his experience. Neither is Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, whose president, David Bronner, is also a leading figure in the hemp movement and a friend of drug policy reform. Bronner offered Bolles legal assistance when he heard the news, and Dr. Bronner's began a public campaign to clear its name and put the drug testing industry on the defensive.

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NarcoPouch Squad Pack Kit -- not an accurate test for GHB
Bolles couldn't believe he was being arrested for drug possession, he told the Chronicle. "I knew it wasn't GHB, I knew it was soap; I used it that morning," he said. "It was ridiculous."

Ridiculous it may have been, but Bolles' three and a half day journey through the jails of Southern California was no laughing matter. "They kept me in several different jails, and it was a pretty hardcore experience for me," he said. "There was some 28-hour, weird booking procedure; you have to sit around in a concrete cubicle with other prisoners, they wake you up every half hour. It was pretty horrifying."

When Dr. Bronner's heard about Bolles' predicament on April 9 it issued the first of a series of press releases decrying his arrest and flatly denying that its product contained GHB. "This clearly is a case of profiling by the Newport Beach police of a person who doesn't look like the people who live in that town," said vice-president Michael Bronner. "We are paying the cost of Mr. Bolles' lawyer, and we demand the charges be dropped or proof from the police forensics lab of GHB contamination be immediately provided to us," he stated.

David Bronner derided the police for their bizarre notion that soap was a good place to put GHB. "We cannot imagine anyone putting GHB, or any other drug for that matter, into a rinse-off soap product that is lathered and rinsed off the body immediately," he said. "The Newport Beach police should see how much of a buzz putting beer in their shampoo gives them, and get a grip and apologize on their hands and knees to Mr. Bolles."

"This is ridiculous," Bronner told the Chronicle. "Not only is drug testing an incredible intrusion into people's privacy -- countries like Canada and Europe don't allow this -- but this test is completely unreliable, causing false positives with things like soap. What kind of standards are these tests subject to before they are placed on the market?"

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Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps -- not a useful medium for consuming GHB
"The testing of substances for drugs is basically unregulated," Kevin Zeese, a prominent long-time drug reformer and political activist with expertise in the intersection of law and drug testing. "If it were the feds, the DEA would set the standards, but at the local level, it's state and local police who make the decisions. This all takes place within the criminal justice system; there is no regulation by the FDA or any other agency apart from law enforcement agencies," he told the Chronicle.

"There have been lots of cases of these sorts of tests not being accurate and causing problems, so this is not surprising," said Zeese. "Now, the local police are going to have to do something to correct their standards so they don't falsely accuse people. If they don't, this kind of thing ends up being regulated by the courts."

Bronner had another, disturbing question. "What else can cause a false positive, and how many people have been thrown in jail because of that?" he asked. "Don came under a whole lot of pressure to just plead. According to the drug testing company literature, you can get a conviction based on just a field test and a confession. The confirmation tests have lower cut-offs, so the cops try to get you to confess based on the field test."

Bronner's campaign isn't ending with Bolles' exoneration. At least four other soaps have resulted in false positives in the Narcopouch 928 GHB test kit, including Neutrogena and Tom's of Maine. "We are testing more products and videotaping those tests. Products from Johnson & Johnson and Palmolive are testing positive, so we'll go to the Cosmetics, Toiletries and Fragrances Association, show them these products are testing positive, and then work through them to explore options for addressing the situation with these field drug test kits. Ideally, we could force a product recall, but we need at least a disclaimer if this product is going to continue to be sold. If they don't know soap tests positive, what else don't they know?"

He is also calling for law enforcement to quit using the Narcopouch 928. "Police departments across the country should stop using that immediately," he said.

Bolles rose to fame in the late 1970s as a member of the LA punk band the Germs, whose influence was widespread in the scene and who are credited with popularizing the Mohawk haircut. The band broke up in 1980 after lead singer Darby Crash killed himself. The surviving members reunited two years ago and will tour this summer.

Bolles has not washed his hands of the case yet, either. "The lawyers and David and I have been consulting about our best legal strategy," he said. "We haven't decided which direction to go yet. But what happened to me shouldn't happen to anybody else."

Nicaragua Attacks Advancing Mexican Drug Cartel

Location: 
Nicaragua
Publication/Source: 
Javno (Croatia)
URL: 
http://www.javno.com/en/world/clanak.php?id=35295

Marijuana: After Denver Votes to Legalize It, Cops Arrest Even More

In November 2005, voters in Denver approved a municipal ordinance legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Denver police and prosecutors refused to play ball, continuing to cite people under the state marijuana law. Now, to add insult to injury, arrest figures from the police department show they are arresting more people for marijuana possession than ever.

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SAFER's Chickenlooper activist (photo courtesy SAFER)
With 2,446 misdemeanor pot charges last year, Denver police busted 11% more people for pot in 2006 than they did in 2005. That's less than the increase in the overall number of arrests between the two years, which was up 14%.

But it was still too much for Mason Tvert, who as head of SAFER Colorado led the Denver legalization campaign. "If there's one, it's too many," Tvert told the Rocky Mountain News. "They (police) have the discretion not to arrest." Tvert also pointed out that the city's black population bears the brunt of marijuana law enforcement. Blacks make up 11% of the city's population, but are 32% of those arrested on misdemeanor marijuana charges.

Tvert has led a band of activists on a campaign to embarrass Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper over the arrest figures. This week, the activists have trailed Hickenlooper as he conducted campaign forums called "A Dialogue With Denver." Hickenlooper, who owns the Wynkoop Brewing Company, has so far refused to answer any questions related to the arrest figures, despite being hounded by a man dressed in a chicken suit calling himself "Whine-Coop Chickenlooper" and holding a sign asking "What's So Scary About Marijuana?"

Malaysia: More govt staff nabbed for drugs since Jan

Location: 
Kota Kinabalu
Malaysia
Publication/Source: 
Daily Express (Malaysia)
URL: 
http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/news.cfm?NewsID=49005

Punk Rocker Jailed -- Over Soap!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Adam Eidinger April 9, 2007

"Germ" Wrongly Jailed Over Soap

Absurd GHB Drug Charges for Don Bolles, Drummer of the "The Germs", Stem From a Bottle of Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap Found in Van During Police Stop ESCONDIDO, CA – The Bronner family, makers of the popular organic Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps are shocked and disturbed by musician Don Bolles' April 4th arrest for felony drug possession after police alleged an 8oz bottle of peppermint Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap tested positive for the illicit drug GHB (Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate). The notion that anyone would put GHB in a rinse-off liquid soap product is beyond belief, and the police field test used must have been flawed or tampered with. GHB, which produces euphoria and is an alleged aphrodisiac when ingested, of course has absolutely no effect in a soap product that is rinsed off the hands and body. Mr. Bolles, drummer of the legendary punk band The Germs, was arrested following a police traffic stop and spent three and half days in various jails in Orange County before being released early Easter morning. During a consented search of Mr. Bolles vintage 1968 A-108 van, Newport Beach police found a bottle of peppermint Dr. Bronner's soap which is made with organic coconut, olive, hemp, peppermint and jojoba oils. Felony drug possession could mean 20 years in prison if convicted. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Friday, April 13, 2007 at the Harbor Justice Center, 4601 Jamboree Road Newport Beach, CA at 8:30am. "I've used only Dr. Bronner's soap for 35 years," says Mr. Bolles. "I use it for everything - bathing, washing my hair, washing my clothes - it goes everywhere I go. I'm scheduled to go to Europe to tour with The Germs this summer, but these felony charges could keep me from traveling out of the country. This whole thing could be really devastating to a 50 year old guy just trying to make a living. I told the officer 'its soap, it smells like peppermint soap,' but he seemed intent on arresting me." "It is totally outrageous that the police could be this malicious and idiotic," says Michael Bronner, Vice-President of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps. "This clearly is a case of profiling by the Newport Beach police of a person who doesn't look like the people who live in that town. We are paying the cost of Mr. Bolle's lawyer, and we demand the charges be dropped or proof from the police forensics lab of GHB contamination be immediately provided to us," said Bronner. Adds brother David Bronner, President: "We cannot imagine anyone putting GHB, or any other drug for that matter, into a rinse-off soap product that is lathered and rinsed off the body immediately. The Newport Beach police should see how much of a buzz putting beer in their shampoo gives them, and get a grip and apologize on their hands and knees to Mr. Bolles." At the time of the arrest Mr. Bowles was driving his girlfriend, and fellow musician Cat Scandal to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in Newport Beach. "I had heard of GHB but the police had to tell me what it was," said Bolles. "I'm going to fight these charges." To arrange an interview with Don Bolles, Michael Bronner or David Bronner please contact Adam Eidinger at adam@drbronner.com. ###
Location: 
Newport Beach, CA
United States

Methamphetamine: Feds Make First Cold Medicine Bust Under Combat Meth Act

An Ontario, New York, man last Friday won the dubious distinction of being the first person arrested under the 2005 Combat Meth Epidemic Act. According to a DEA press release, William Fousse was arrested for purchasing cold tablets containing more than nine grams of pseudoephedrine within a one month period.

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Busted for Bronkaid
Under the Combat Meth Act, passed with little scrutiny when it was attached to a bill renewing provisions of the Patriot Act, chemicals widely used as cold remedies or other non-prescription medicines that can also be used in home meth manufacture, such as ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine, are now "scheduled listed chemical products."

Products containing these chemicals are now kept behind the counter. In order to purchase them, one must show identification and sign a log book at pharmacies. DEA and state and local law enforcement monitor those logbooks to see if anyone is buying amounts over the limit.

"This is a first for DEA," crowed DEA Western New York Special Agent in Charge John Gilbride. "DEA's focus is to dismantle clandestine methamphetamine labs and trafficking organizations and to also monitor the products that are illegally used to produce methamphetamine. DEA is committed to keeping our communities safe from the dangers of methamphetamine production and abuse. Today's arrest is a warning to those who violate the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act."

Fousse is alleged to have purchased more than 400 Bronkaid tablets containing a total of more than 29 grams of ephedrine during the month of January -- more than three times the legal limit -- at one pharmacy and to have purchased a like amount at two others. It was a call from the first pharmacist to the DEA's Buffalo office that set the wheels in motion.

DEA agents visited Fousse at his home on February 13. According to a police affidavit, Fousse said he was unaware of the law, was not selling the pills to meth cooks, and was using the stuff himself. That was not good enough for the DEA and federal prosecutors. He faces a May 1 court date.

New York City Is Hell for Pot Smokers

Location: 
New York, NY
United States
Publication/Source: 
AlterNet (CA)
URL: 
http://www.alternet.org/drugreporter/49594/%3chttp:/www.alternet.org/drugreporter/49594/

Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Beat the Heat: How to Handle Encounters With Law Enforcement," by Katya Komisaruk (2003, AK Press, 192 pp., $16.00 PB)

We don't usually review books except when they're hot off the press, but we're making an exception with attorney Katya Komisaruk's "Beat the Heat." This is the best legal self defense book we've seen in some time and we think our readers need to know about it.

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It's a sad commentary on our society that we need books that tell us how to protect ourselves from the police. But with the number of drug arrests each year climbing inexorably toward the two million mark, and with drug prohibition being, in our view, morally indefensible, those of us who use illicit substances (or have friends or loved ones that do) need all the protection we can get.

This book will help drug users avoid arrest. I won't be shy: I think this is a good thing. Call it applying the principles of harm reduction to the US criminal justice system. While we acknowledge the possible harms drug users can incur to themselves or inflict upon others, we think the harms of being arrested, and quite possibly imprisoned, far exceed those of drug use. People who harm others can be punished under other kinds of laws than those that criminalize drugs. Anything that can throw some sand in the gears of the drug war machine is something to cheer.

"Beat the Heat" throws sand in the gears of the drug war machine. It does so by teaching its readers how to exercise their basic constitutional rights. That's another sad commentary in itself. We have a prohibitionist drug policy that relies on citizens knowingly or unknowingly waiving their rights in the face of intimidating uniformed men with guns. After all, it's not like drug use or sales is a crime where there is a complaining victim. Nor do drug users or sellers normally flaunt their contraband items. The only way many drug arrests are made is by people letting the police browbeat them into doing something stupid -- like admitting they smoke pot or allowing the police to search their vehicle when they know there are illicit items within.

Katya Komisaruk shows you how to exercise your rights in an easy-to-read, down-to-earth fashion, complete with illustrated scenarios where she shows you what you did wrong and what to do instead. It's not rocket science: Never talk to the police, she advises, and never consent to a search. You've got nothing to gain and plenty to lose.

The police aren't talking to you to make idle chit-chat. They are investigating, looking for possible crimes, and the more you open your mouth, the greater the chances of ending up in jail. In response to police requests to talk, Komisaruk recommends this phrase: "Am I free to go?"

If the answer is "yes," then go. If the answer is "no," you are already being detained or arrested. The correct answer to all further inquiries from police is: "I'm going to remain silent. I'd like to see a lawyer."

And when it comes to requests to search you, your home, or your vehicle, the answer is always: "I do not consent to a search."

These are basic constitutional rights, and it seems simple to exercise them. But police are experts in getting people to waive their rights. A valuable portion of "Beat the Heat" is devoted to explaining just how police get people to waive their rights -- intimidation, false friendliness, lies -- and how to avoid falling into those traps.

But "Beat the Heat" is much more than just how not to get busted. It's also a primer for those who have been arrested and are now facing the tender mercies of the criminal justice system. Komarisuk covers it all, from getting out on bail to working with your lawyer to what to do if all else has failed and you're headed for prison. There's also a chapter on how to witness and accurately report police misconduct, as well as chapters on the legal rights of minors and non-citizens.

Don't get me wrong: "Beat the Heat" is not written as a book to help drug users stay out of jail. Nor is it a diatribe against the drug war. It merely teaches people how to protect themselves from unnecessary arrest by knowing their rights and how to effectively exercise them. And that makes it a book that helps drug users stay out of jail. I'm all for that.

There are 20 million drug users abroad in the land today. If you are one or know one, you need to get this book. Komisaruk will make it easy for you to understand what you need to do to protect yourself.

Law Enforcement: The Drug War Dominates Grand Jury Action in One Ohio County

Ashtabula County, Ohio, sits in the far northeast corner of the state, adjacent to Cleveland. With slightly more than 100,000 people, 95% of them white, there is not a whole lot of criminal justice system activity going on. Without drug prohibition, there would be even less.

Last Friday, the Ashtabula County grand jury issued indictments for 15 people. One was a sex offender who failed to register, two assaulted a police officer, one was charged with attempted murder, one was charged with auto theft, and one was charged with felonious assault. That's six out of 15 indictments.

The remaining nine indictments were drug-related. The charges included possession of methamphetamine, possession of cocaine, possession of crack cocaine (2), possession of methadone, possession of meth precursors (2), marijuana distribution, and cocaine distribution.

In other words, people charged with simple drug (or precursor) possession accounted for nearly half of all criminal indictments in Ashtabula County last week, and drug-related charges constituted 60% of all indictments. With an end to drug prohibition, or at least an end to arresting drug users, the Ashtabula County court house would be a much quieter place. And while the figures may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, it's pretty much the same all over.

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