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Marijuana: Cincinnati City Council Votes to Extend Tough Ordinance

The Cincinnati City Council voted Tuesday to renew a tough municipal marijuana ordinance it approved last year despite charges that it had not done what supporters said it would do: reduce violent crime. Thanks to strong local opposition to the ordinance when originally passed, it included a sunset provision and would have expired Friday if the council had not acted.

Under Ohio law, possession of up to 100 grams of marijuana is no more than a ticketable offense with a maximum $100 fine. That was too lenient for the city fathers in Cincinnati, who last year passed a municipal ordinance allowing police to arrest and jail people for up to 30 days for simple pot possession. The measure would reduce crime by removing guns from the streets, allowing police to target dealers, and scaring residents of nearby Kentucky and Indiana away from coming to the city to buy drugs, supporters said at the time.

Cincinnati police testified that marijuana arrests had removed 62 guns from city streets, but opponents, led by a coalition of groups organized as Citizens for a Safer Cincinnati, argued that crime rates had increased since the ordinance was passed. They have the numbers on their side.

As Safer Cincinnati member and Hamilton County Libertarian Party head Paul Green noted in an analysis of crime figures since the ordinance was passed, the ordinance has not succeeded in any of its three goals. There were fewer arrests of out-of-staters, but their total number was small in both years, and the reduction is a measly 0.7%. And while police bragged that they had seized 62 weapons, the number of guns reported to have been used in crimes was up 27%. The number of handguns -- the weapon most commonly carried by drug dealers -- reported to have been used in crimes was up 17%.

Violent crime has also increased since the ordinance has been in place. Murders were up 16% in 2006 compared to 2005, and armed robbery was up a whopping 44%. Overall, the serious crime index showed a 4.4% increase in 2006.

But despite the ordinance's failure to achieve its stated goals, the council reapproved it. That will make the ordinance a campaign issue, Safer Cincinnati warned.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Two cops get busted, a jail guard pleads guilty, a Border Patrol agent is found guilty, and a sheriff's deputy is sent to prison. Just your typical week of drug prohibition-related law enforcement corruption. Let's get to it:

In Indianapolis, an Indianapolis Police reserve officer was arrested for stealing drugs and money from undercover officers. Reserve Officer Chris Spaulding is accused of stealing $7,000 from one undercover officer during a sting and failing to turn in the evidence. He is also charged with using a Hendricks County hotel room to sell drugs, especially marijuana. Spaulding is in jail pending a bail hearing. His trial date is set for May 14.

In Deerfield Beach, Florida, a patrol deputy was arrested Tuesday for taking cocaine and prescription drugs from what he thought was an abandoned automobile. Patrol Deputy Robert Delaney is charged with possession of cocaine and oxycodone. Delanay came to the attention of superiors when a confidential informant reported that he bought and used cocaine. That led the sheriff's office to set up a sting, leaving four grams of cocaine and six oxycodone tablets in a vehicle, then calling Delaney to investigate. As officers watched, Delaney took the drugs for himself. He also admitted snorting some of the cocaine while on duty.

In White Plains, New York, a Westchester County corrections officer pled guilty March 21 for his role in a drug distribution network. Jail guard Michael Gray, 43, pled guilty to attempted criminal sale of a controlled substance and promoting prison contraband for selling cocaine to another jail guard and bringing the drug into the jail in August 2005. He was part of a trafficking ring operating in the Bronx and Westchester County that was busted in a series of raids in December 2005. He will be sentenced in June.

In Tucson, a former Border Patrol agent has been found guilty of making off with a 22-pound brick of marijuana during a border bust. Former Agent Michael Carlos Gonzalez, 34, was convicted by a federal jury March 20 of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking offense. Gonzalez went down after a December 2005 traffic stop. An Arizona state trooper stopped a pickup, the passenger and driver fled into the desert, and the trooper pursued them. Gonzalez arrived on the scene, grabbed one of the numerous bricks of weed in the truck, moved the remaining bricks to cover up his theft, and put the brick in his vehicle. Unfortunately for him, the trooper's patrol car camera caught it all. Gonzalez is looking at up to 10 years in federal prison, five on each count.

In Winchester, Kentucky, a former Clark County deputy sheriff has been sentenced to prison on firearms and drug charges. Former Deputy Brad Myers was originally charged with two counts of trafficking in a controlled substance and two counts of carrying a firearm during the offense, but pled guilty to one count of distributing Lortab pills and one count of carrying a semiautomatic pistol. Myers' attorney argued that he developed an addiction to pain pills after being injured on the job, but he's still going to prison for three years.

NH: Medical marijuana measure rejected

United States
Concord Monitor (NH)

Reefer Madness: A Modest Proposal

United States
The Austin Chronicle

Medical Marijuana: New Hampshire Bill Narrowly Defeated

A bill that would have allowed ill New Hampshire residents to use medical marijuana was narrowly defeated Wednesday. The bill, HB 774, was killed on a 186-177 vote in the House.

Supporters of the bill argued that marijuana can be the only drug that works for patients with some conditions. Rep. Evelyn Merrick (D-Lancaster), who has suffered from cancer, said the treatments can be worse than the disease. "How many others must we allow to suffer needlessly?" she asked her colleagues.

But Rep. Joseph Miller (D-Durham), a retired doctor, and Rep. William Butynski (D-Hinsdale) scoffed at marijuana as medicine. "There is no such thing as medical marijuana," said Butynsk, who also worried aloud about allowing people to grow it.

Real medicine is injected, taken in pill form, or sprayed under the tongue -- not smoked -- said Miller. Besides, he added, it isn't needed. "We have ample therapeutic equivalents legally available," he said.

But while the arguments of opponents prevailed this year, chances are good that proponents of cannabis as medical will be back next year. Given the close vote this year and polling showing two-thirds support for medical marijuana in the state, the prospects are promising, said Stuart Cooper of the New Hampshire Marijuana Policy Initiative.

"This is sensible, compassionate legislation that protects our most vulnerable citizens," Cooper said in a statement after the vote. "But the close vote proves that it's only a matter of time before our elected officials give their constituents what they've asked for: an effective medical marijuana law that ensures nobody gets arrested just for battling life-threatening conditions."

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.

Law Enforcement: Atlanta Police Change Policies in Wake of Fatal Drug Raid

The Atlanta Police Department has announced a series of policy changes in the wake of a botched November drug raid that left a 92-year-old woman dead and three undercover officers wounded. According to Chief Richard Pennington, the changes are necessary to protect both citizens and officers in cases where police are relying on informants.

In the November raid in which Kathryn Johnston was shot and killed after opening fire on undercover officers breaking down her door, police said a confidential informant led them to the home. The man police named as the informant has since denied leading them there and has said police asked him to lie about it after the raid occurred.

Fulton County prosecutors have said they will pursue murder indictments against the officers involved. The FBI is also investigating.

"I think a lot of times, some of these things could have been avoided" had the new reforms been in place, Pennington told a downtown press conference Tuesday.

While the federal investigation continues, Pennington said the department would not wait to implement reforms. "We're going to wait for the FBI investigation, but I thought it was incumbent on us to see what we can do to ensure this is not going to happen again," he said.

Pennington said the department would nearly double the size of its narcotics unit, from 16 to 30 officers, and will rotate them off the drug squad every few years to prevent complacency. [Editor: They're increasing the size of the unit after they killed a 92-year old woman?!?!? Doubling it?!?!?!?!?!?] The department will also drug test all 1,800 of its officers.

More to the point, Pennington announced that all applications for "no-knock" warrants, like that obtained in the Johnston case, must now be approved by officers with the rank of major or higher. Applications for regular search warrants must now be approved by an officer with the rank of lieutenant or higher. Previously, lower ranking officers could approve "no-knock" warrants and drug raids.

Also, police supervisors must now witness any payments to confidential informants, and informants must now undergo "integrity checks" to ensure their truthfulness. Police must now photograph informants as they enter a drug location to make a buy, Pennington added.

RI: Senate committee to consider expanding medical marijuana law

Providence, RI
United States
Eyewitness News (RI)

4th Amendment Victories in State Courts

Cross-posted from Flex Your Rights

We've got some more required reading for all you "4th Amendment is dead" fools who keep farting on our freedom parade. I know, there's no shortage of police, judges, and prosecutors who can't find big enough boots to trample your rights with. Believe me, I know. But the law evolves over time, as does the behavior of our public servants. This month brought a couple examples of the ability of State Courts to set a higher threshold of 4th Amendment protection for the citizens they serve.

This week, the Wyoming Supreme Court rejected the State's argument that the inadvertent discovery of marijuana in a home justified searching a lockbox found elsewhere in the residence.

The Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Justice William Hill, said the state failed to prove the search that disclosed the evidence which was the basis for the charge against Benton was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Wyoming Constitution.

Hill's opinion quoted the amendment that protects citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures and case law "because we wish to make clear that the issue presented in a case such as this is one of the most important known to Anglo-American jurisprudence."
Meanwhile, in Vermont, the State Supreme Court has issued an impressive ruling declaring that post-arrest vehicle searches require a warrant. I've long lamented the unfortunate search-incident-to-arrest doctrine, which holds that officers may automatically search a vehicle after arresting the driver. I understand that police believe arrestees are more likely to be involved in unrelated criminal activity. Still, the "officer safety" justification that has been used to uphold these searches simply doesn't apply, since an arrested suspect has no access to their vehicle.

Vermont has now departed from U.S. Supreme Court precedent by requiring that officers obtain a warrant before performing post-arrest vehicle searches. Constitutional minimum standards require states to uphold at least the same amount of Bill of Rights protection as the federal government. Pete Guither observes hilariously that "actually, the federal Bill of Rights provides greater protections from unreasonable searches and seizures than does the federal government."

Still, the failure of the federal government to abide by their own standards does not displace the important ability of states to provide greater levels of privacy protection to their citizens. I think this pretty much says it all:
"The warrant requirement is robust, alive and well under the Vermont Constitution. It's gasping on life support under federal law," said Michael Mello, a professor at Vermont Law School in South Royalton. "It's a reaffirmation of Vermont -- we're special, we're different -- and the subtext is we're smarter and better than you, United States Supreme Court."
Let's hope other states continue to outsmart the U.S. Supreme Court. When it comes to the 4th Amendment, it really isn't that hard.

United States

ASA's Medical Marijuana in the News: Week of 3/23

FEDERAL: Raich Medical Marijuana Ruling Draws Criticism CONNECTICUT: Medical Marijuana Bill Supported MINNESOTA: State Medical Marijuana Measure Moves Forward RHODE ISLAND: Medical Marijuana Law Needs Action NEW MEXICO: Lawmakers’ Courage Lauded WASHINGTON: Limits of Medical Marijuana Law Questioned CALIFORNIA: Medical Marijuana ID Card Protections Clarified DISPENSARIES: Support from Officials with Experience __________________________________________ FEDERAL: Raich Medical Marijuana Ruling Drawing More Criticism Some take issue with the legal reasoning underpinning an appellate court’s ruling that Angel Raich, a terminally ill California who has been seeking protection from federal prosecution, cannot claim medical necessity for the purpose of an injunction. But all agree that keeping life-saving medicine from anyone must be wrong. Marijuana as medicine a decision for doctors EDITORIAL, The Republican (MA) Under the supervision of a physician, with adequate controls to prevent its abuse or improper use, marijuana is a proven, effective treatment for some seriously ill patients. The nation's lawmakers should look in their own medicine cabinets where they might find prescription drugs far more toxic and dangerous than marijuana. The Case of Angel Raich by Jon Carroll, Columnist, San Francisco Chronicle I think the federal government, in this case, is no better than a thug. I think that prosecutors who go after medical marijuana cases are criminals, morally if not actually. I think all the people who have participated in giving people ridiculous three-strike prison sentences for marijuana-related crimes are hypocrites and fools. It's an obvious and complete injustice. They all know it. They should all be ashamed of themselves. U.S. Judges Kill the Ninth Amendment by Fred E. Foldvary, Editorial, The Progress Report The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed on March 14 that the Ninth Amendment to the United States is now null and void, and that the federal government of the United States of America has no moral legitimacy. The judges did not explicitly express those statements in their ruling, but that is the implication. The case involved a woman whose life, according to her doctor, can only be preserved with medical marijuana. The judges ruled that the federal government may nevertheless prosecute her for violating federal laws regarding drugs. __________________________________________ CONNECTICUT: Medical Marijuana Bill Supported Emmy-award winning talkshow host Montel Williams lent support to a bill advancing through the Connecticut legislature. The former marine has been outspoken about how marijuana has helped him fight the symptoms of MS. Montel Williams makes emotional plea for Conn. medical marijuana bill by Susan Haigh, Associated Press Syndicated television talk show host Montel Williams choked back tears Friday as he urged Connecticut lawmakers to pass a bill legalizing marijuana use for medical purposes. Conn. lawmakers resurrect bill to allow medical use of marijuana by Susan Haigh, Associated Press A move to legalize marijuana for people suffering from certain medical problems cleared its first legislative hurdle Wednesday, giving hope to those who've been pushing for the bill for several years. Conn. judiciary panel OKs medical marijuana by Ken Dixon, Connecticut Post Connecticut would become the 13th state to let gravely ill people use marijuana, under legislation overwhelmingly approved Wednesday in the Judiciary Committee after a brief debate. __________________________________________ MINNESOTA: State Medical Marijuana Measure Moves Forward Committee by committee, state lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow Minnesotans to use marijuana on their doctors’ advice. Public opinion polls there show strong support for protecting patients. Minn. medical marijuana bill takes another step forward by Joe Fryer, KARE 11 (Minneapolis) A proposal to allow seriously ill patients to use marijuana with their doctors' permission is working its way through the state legislature. Medical Marijuana: Minnesota Bill Approved By Second House Panel Drug War Chronicle Members of a Minnesota House committee Monday voted to approve a medical marijuana bill despite the objections of law enforcement. The House Public Safety and Civil Law Committee approved the bill, HF655, on an 11-8 vote. It has already passed the House Health and Human Services Committee and is now headed for the House Finance Committee. __________________________________________ RHODE ISLAND: Medical Marijuana Law Needs Action The “sunset clause” Rhode Island lawmakers added to their medical marijuana bill means that the protections it affords will expire without further action by the legislature. By all accounts the program has been successful, with only one problem reported. ASA's Rhode Island Campaign for Safe Access is working to educate the community and legislators. Medical marijuana advocates ask to make law permanent Associated Press Medical marijuana advocates ask legislators to permanently legalize medicinal marijuana in Rhode Island. __________________________________________ NEW MEXICO: Lawmakers’ Courage Lauded The reversal of fortune for patients in New Mexico – with the legislature defeating a medical bill one week and then passing another the next – has opinionmakers commending the officials who found the courage to act. Editorial: Applaud lawmakers for medical pot bill EDITORIAL, Albuquerque Tribune It took years, a lot of wrangling and considerable grief, but finally New Mexico will join 11 other progressive and caring states that allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes. __________________________________________ WASHINGTON: Limits of Medical Marijuana Law Questioned The purpose of medical marijuana laws is clear: to protect patients from prison. The details of how patients are to comply with state medical laws can cause problems however, with some patients excluded on technicalities or issues of timing. Busted Pullman man fighting pot conviction by Courtney Adams, Daily Evergreen Nearly three years after being busted for marijuana possession, a Pullman man is still appealing a court decision that found him guilty of the crime. Loren R. Hanson grew marijuana plants after receiving information from his doctor, intending to use the marijuana to treat his glaucoma, his lawyer said. __________________________________________ CALIFORNIA: Medical Marijuana ID Card Protections Clarified State ID cards may guarantee patients protection from arrest, but according to a state appeals court, they don’t protect against searches. Law enforcement officers can confirm that patients who have state ID cards are within state or county amount guidelines. Pot card can't stop searches, court says by Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle California's medical marijuana law doesn't protect card-carrying patients from being stopped and searched by police who detect the presence of the drug, a state appeals court ruled Thursday. Court: Medical Marijuana Law Doesn't Bar Search by Bay City News, KPIX CBS 5 (San Francisco) California's medical marijuana law doesn't protect a person who claims to be a patient from a reasonable search of his or her car, a state appeals court in San Francisco ruled today. __________________________________________ DISPENSARIES: Support from Officials with Experience The importance of medical marijuana dispensaries to the most seriously ill Californians is obvious to their family and friends. When those family or friends are also local officials, there is no need to explain that dispensaries are a compassionate, community-based solution for providing access. In communities with moratoria in place, ASA is working to educate officials on the benefits of sound regulations for dispensaries. Politics of Caring by Zachary Stahl, Monterey County Herald When City Council-member Jyl Lutes’ then-husband lost his appetite during a battle with bone cancer more than 20 years ago, Stanford doctors gave him an experimental prescription: a vial of tightly-rolled joints. The marijuana cigarettes, she recalls, had a stamp from the Department of Agriculture on them and the directions read, “smoke at the first sign of nausea.” Lutes says the pot helped ease the pain of his last days—he died at the age of 30. Fontana staff: Ban pot dispensaries, for now by Michael Mello, Press-Enterprise (CA) Saying there's a local need, medical-marijuana advocates recently approached Fontana's Department of Community Development with questions about what city codes said concerning the operation of dispensaries. DHS extends medical marijuana moratorium by Bill Byron, Desert Sun Medical marijuana will have to wait at least another year in Desert Hot Springs.
United States

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