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Human Rights Challenge: Responding to Extrajudicial Killings in the Drug War

On Thursday March 16th our international drug policy work took a new turn, when we presented "Human Rights Challenge: Responding to Extrajudicial Killings in the Drug War," a side event at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting in Vienna. The event addressed the situation in the Philippines, in which the new president of the country, former Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, entered office last summer promising to slaughter large numbers of purported drug suspects. More than 7,000 people have been killed in the Philippines at the time of this writing, by police or vigilantes.

Speakers Chito Gascon, Alison Smith and Marco Perduca (photo by Joey Tranchina)
Our session unexpectedly drew high-level political interest, and Vice President Leni Robredo of the Philippines, opposition leader and a critic of the killings, recorded a video to be presented there. The video and event were covered by TIME as part of being made public (one article featuring the video then another interviewing Robredo), and the news wire services Reuters and Agence France Press published articles, as did numerous outlets in the Philippines. At the time of this writing the video has garnered over 167,000 views.

Other speakers at the event included the Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, Chito Gascon; former prime minister of Thailand Abhisit Vejjajiva (also by video), the Chair of our partner group the Council of Asian Liberals & Democrats; and experts on international criminal justice.

Unfortunately, allies of Pres. Duterte as well as other rivals of Vice President Robredo seized on the video to attack her politically, claiming that the video constituted a "betrayal of the public trust" that she should be impeached for. Political figures including the Speaker of the Philippine House of Representatives and the president's spokesperson claimed falsely the video's release was timed to coincide with the filing by a member of Congress of an impeachment complaint against the president.

On the same day as the session, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for an end to the killings and for the release of Sen. Leila de Lima, another prominent critic of the killings who has been jailed on charges that are widely viewed as unsupported. The critics of the vice president, which include Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the late dictator who lost by a narrow margin to Robredo in the vice-presidential election and is challenging it in court, have charged that Robredo was behind all three events and is engaged in a "destabilization campaign" against the Duterte government to make herself president.

By the time the actual session took place, it was already controversial, and the heated political conflict the video prompted has raged in the Philippine media during weeks since then, only now possibly slowing down. A Google News search on "Robredo" turns up dozens of articles about it, most of them mentioning the video and our UN event. We've been able to play a helpful role at times -- the Philippine Daily Inquirer published an article this week which primarily featured an interview with our executive director (Group Say Duterte, Not Robredo, Upsetting Int'l Community), shared over 7,600 times according to the newspaper's web site, and several outlets including CNN Philippines published a statement we issued clarifying that the video's release was not related to the impeachment complaint against the president.

We have full footage from the event prepared, which we are shopping around to major media outlets before posting, but which we hope to make public by next week. We hope that seeing footage from the actual event will help to turn the discussion in the Philippines back to what's important: the extrajudicial killings and other abuses in the president's drug war, and the failure of the drug in the Philippines, US and elsewhere.

In the meanwhile, you can help by circulating the vice president's powerful video message on your networks. If you have a web site, you can post an embedded copy of the YouTube video, or you can post it to your social media pages. (When posting to Facebook, we recommend you use this Facebook copy, as we've heard that Facebook deprioritizes YouTube videos.)

Here is the event flyer:

And here is Vice President Robredo's video.

Vienna International Centre
Vienna
Austria

California Medical Marijuana Regulation Bill Dies

A controversial bill that would have imposed statewide regulations on California's multi-billion dollar medical marijuana industry died yesterday in Sacramento. The bill, Senate Bill 1262, was blocked by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, and the effort to impose some order on the industry is now dead for another year.

Steve DeAngelo at Oakland's Harborside dispensary. It and thousands more will remain unregulated at the state level. (leap.cc)
The bill sponsored by Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) was supported by law enforcement and the state's municipalities, as well as by some elements of the state's medical marijuana community. But it was also strongly opposed by other elements of the medical marijuana and drug reform communities.

Under the status quo, access to medical marijuana is largely determined by geography. Conservative areas of the state have tended to impose not only bans on dispensaries, but also bans on cultivation, sometimes even for personal amounts. It was not clear that SB 1262 would ameliorate that situation.

The bill also ran into problems trying to determine what entity would govern medical marijuana in the state. A competing bill from Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) would have had the state Department of Alcohol Control regulate medical marijuana, but that bill was defeated earlier.

The Correa bill originally gave control to the Department of Public Health, but was then amended to give control to the Department of Consumer Affairs. But Consumer Affairs seemed distinctly uninterested in the task; its representatives didn't bother to show up for any stakeholder meetings.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee also balked at the cost of the bill, which was estimated at $20 million to start the program. That figure, which was just released Monday, came as a bucket of cold water on bill supporters.

Now, it's back to the drawing board.

Sacramento, CA
United States

One of the Worst Ideas to Come Out of the War on Drugs: Sentencing Enhancement Zones

Video from the Prison Policy Initiative on what is indeed one of the worst ideas to come out of the war on drugs:
 

Police Shoot, Kill 80-Year Old Man In His Own Bed

The recklessness of drug raids...
 

California Cops Generate Two More Drug War Deaths

California police have shot and killed two people in separate drug law enforcement incidents in the past week. Luis Morin of Coachella and Mark Ayala of El Centro become the 7th and 8th persons to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

According to the San Bernardino Sun, citing police sources, the first killing, which occurred last Monday night, happened when a Riverside County sheriff's deputy attempted to arrest Morin on felony warrants.

"When the officer attempted to take the subject into custody, an altercation occurred, which resulted in an officer-involved shooting," Deputy Armando Munoz said.

Morin died at the scene, according to the coroner's office.

Police didn't specify what the warrants were for, but later in the week, Morin's family members told KESQ TV News that one was for possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell and the other was for grand theft auto. The family also expressed anger with the unnamed deputy who shot Morin.

"He did not come to serve a warrant," said Morin's father. "He came with bad intentions. I would love to see him prosecuted."

The deputy has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation by Riverside County prosecutors.

Two days later, according to KSWT 13 News, citing police sources, members of the Imperial County Narcotics Task Force shot and killed Ayala in a taxi in El Centro. The Imperial Valley Press reported that task force members present included Border Patrol and DEA agents, as well as agents from the Imperial County District Attorney's Office.

Police said Ayala was wanted for unspecified parole or probation violations and that he was armed. But they did not say whether he had brandished a weapon or fired at them. Ayala was hit by multiple shots and died at the scene. No police were injured.

A witness, who didn't want her name used, told KSWT 13 that Ayala was still in the back seat of the taxi when officers opened fire.

"I was in the kitchen and heard tires screeching and then I went outside," said the woman identified only as Guadelupe, whose remarks were printed in Spanish. "When I got outside, I saw a taxi and the officers were already pointing their guns at the guy in the back seat. "There was a lot of shooting," she said.

CA
United States

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

The stench grows in Philadelphia, a parole officer gets caught stealing parolee's pills, a reserve cop tries to trade dope for sex, and jail guards continue to go wild. Let's get to it:

In Philadelphia, seven police officers have been pulled from drug investigations amidst an ongoing corruption probe. Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey confirmed Friday that the Philadelphia police Internal Affairs unit is working jointly with the FBI and federal prosecutors in the probe that has already seen one of the officers arrested and led to the dismissal of hundreds of drug charges. Although the officers were transferred out of narcotics in December 2012, it wasn't officially acknowledged until Ramsey's comments. Since then, the city and the department have also been sued 40 times in federal court, with some lawsuits alleging officers framed people with false evidence and testimony and others alleged police stole their property and roughed them up.

In Kalamazoo, Michigan, a Prairieville Township Police reserve officer was arrested last Wednesday on charges he solicited sex in exchange for drugs. Michael Strong, 37, went down after a tipster talked to authorities, and the Michigan State Police and Southwest Enforcement Team set up a sting. Strong was arrested after he met an undercover officer at a local hotel and offered drugs for sex. He is charged with one count of delivery of amphetamine and one count of felony firearms. The drugs reportedly came from "friends," not the evidence room. He's looking at up to seven years in state prison.

In Paris, Kentucky, a Bourbon County Regional Jail guard was arrested last Wednesday for smuggling drugs into the jail after state police raided his home and found narcotics. Officer Jimmy Billups, Jr., 45, came under suspicion during an investigation by the State Police. He is charged with conspiracy to traffic in a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance. He was last reported on the other side of the bars at the neighboring Scott County Detention Center.

In Greenwich, New York, a state parole officer was arrested last Thursday on charges she took drugs from her parolees for her own use and falsified records to cover it up. Stacey Sullivan, 43, would find the drugs on her parolees, but instead of turning them in for parole violations, would keep and use them herself. She went down after colleagues saw her seizing drugs, but failing to log them in. She faces a felony count of falsifying business records and a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct. She has been released pending prosecution.

In Vidalia, Louisiana, a Concordia Parish jail guard was arrested last Thursday on charges he smuggled synthetic marijuana and cell phones into the jail. David Earl Bell, Jr., 23, went down after surveillance cameras caught "strange activity," and the parish sheriff's office investigated. He confessed when confronted by police. He is charged with introduction of contraband into a penal institute and malfeasance in office.

In Plainfield, Indiana, a Plainfield Correctional Facility jail guard was arrested last Friday after he got caught smuggling marijuana and tobacco into the jail inside a bowl of frozen food. James Thomas was carrying 69 grams of weed and a half-pound of tobacco when he got nailed. He is charged with trafficking and dealing in marijuana. He's been suspended without pay and was last reported residing at the Hendricks County Jail.

In Washington, DC, a former Price Georges County (MD) officer pleaded guilty last Wednesday to providing law enforcement information to a drug trafficking group. Vanessa Edwards-Hamm was one of 17 people indicted in July 2013 in connection with a major DC trafficking ring that purveyed cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and prescription pills. She was indicted on one count each of tampering with documents or proceedings and unlawful notice of electronic surveillance, but copped to a single count of unlawfully disclosing information about a wiretap being used on a target of a law enforcement investigation. She's looking at up to five years in the federal pen.

Phil Lauded in Denver Last Month -- Video

I posted some photos last month, but here is the video from Phil's award at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference. It was produced by Peter and Istvan from the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, who were the official conference videographers and whose you may have seen me post here before.

Phil's award was first in the line-up, and this video begins with Ethan Nadelmann talking about the DPA awards and their history. At a little over a minute in, he describes the Brecher Award, then turns it over to Tony Newman, who introduces Phil. And then it's all Phil -- I think he did a great job.

Video: How to Prevent Prescription Drug Overdoses

The next video from the International Drug Policy Reform Conference, by our friends from the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (who were also the conference's official videographers). The video highlights interviews with US-based harm reduction experts on ways to prevent prescription drug overdoses.

First Conference Glimpses

Phil's first report from the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Denver last week highlights the picture that is emerging of the next most likely states to legalize marijuana. More conference-inspired reporting will be forthcoming soon, but there are also some initial videos our from the conference too.
 
First, a photo of Phil's award speech:



And Phil, me, Ethan Nadelmann (who emceed) and Tony Newman (who introduced Phil and presented the award):



(These and many more conference photos were posted on Facebook by DrugWarFacts.org editor Doug McVay.)
 
The first video was shot by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union's Drugreporter team, whose work we've featured here before. This time they were the conference's official videographers. The video consists of highlights from the conference's first full day, and was shown during a plenary session the next morning:
 
 
The next one is from Dean Becker and the Drug Truth Network, of a tour for conference-goers of the River Rock dispensary:
 
 
A few more came out early from HCLU: Itefayo Harvey of DPA, Rep. Jared Polis, Nadelmann, and Rev. Edward Sanders:
 
 
 
 
 
Check back at HCLU, DPA and Drug Truth for more to come, and here on StoptheDrugWar.org.

Conference Tour of Colorado Medical Marijuana Industry

Some attendees at last week's conference signed up for a tour looking inside Colorado's legal cannabis industry, led by River Rock Wellness general counsel Norton Arbelaez. Video by Drug Truth Network's Dean Becker:

Location: 
Denver, CO
United States

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