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MA to toss 21,000 Drug Convictions Due to Lab Fraud

Massachussetts is throwing out 21,000 drug convictions due to the lab fraud by chemist Annie Dookhan. (Background here.) Dookhan was convicted in 2013 and jailed. She was released on parole in 2016.

Most of the defendants have already served their time. Dismissal is just the first step: [more...]

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DEA Rejects Rescheduling Marijuana

The Drug Enforcement Administration announced today it will not initiate proceedings to reschedule marijuana from a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Why not? According to its notice, available here:

In accordance with the CSA rescheduling provisions, after gathering the necessary data, the DEA requested a scientific and medical evaluation and scheduling recommendation from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The HHS concluded that marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no accepted medical use in the United States, and lacks an acceptable level of safety for use even under medical supervision. Therefore, the HHS recommended that marijuana remain in Schedule I....Based on the HHS evaluation and all other relevant data, the DEA has concluded that there is no substantial evidence that marijuana should be removed from Schedule I.

The DEA is locked in the stone age and as a result, marijuana will remain in the same schedule with controlled substances like heroin. The DEA says because of public interest in the topic, it is publishing all of its findings. The 186 page document, which will be published in the Federal Register, is available here.

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Bratton Resigns From NYPD

New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has resigned. He was expected to announce he would not seek a second term, but the resignation, effective next month, was a surprise to most. NYPD Chief of Department James O'Neill will take over as interim chief.

Bratton previously served as New York Police Commissioner under Rudy Giulani from 1994 to 1996, and is credited with the "broken windows" theory of policing (with which I have never agreed.)

I have not followed events involving Commissioner Bratton since he returned to New York. I do remember when he became Police Commissioner of Los Angeles in 2002 since I was attended his swearing-in, along with two other defense lawyer pals. We were invited because we all are friends with his wife, former criminal defense attorney turned TV host and legal analyst, Rikki Klieman). I wrote a long post on it and the parties afterwards here.

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Prince: Chronic Pain vs. Pain Pills, Big Difference

Lorraine Berry at Raw Story writes an excellent op-ed: Chronic Pain killed Prince, not pain pills.

Prince was not addicted to pain medication. Prince had a medical condition — chronic pain — which is criminally under-treated. It is also a medical problem that is more likely to be reacted to with stigma and condescension, even challenges about the patient’s moral character, or, if male, masculinity. Pain is still the condition that we treat by telling its sufferers to just “suck it up,” or “maintain a stiff upper lip,” or to stop acting like a “wuss.” And yet, when someone dies from complications of the disease — for that is what chronic pain is — we react with shock and pity and anger that the person died from a drug overdose. Some outlets make money off our confusion about overdose and medications and our fascination with drugs.


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The Evolving Global Drug War

The U.N. holding its first special session on the global war on drugs in 20 years. Cracks are showing, but there's a long way to go.

The countries clashed over the death penalty for drug traffickers. Indonesia is unrepentant.


The governments of Mexico and Central and South America seem more attuned to the problems:[More...]

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DOJ Forms Task Forces to Go After Nursing Homes

The Department of Justice announced last week it was forming task forces in 10 districts to combat fraud and elder abuse in nursing homes.

These teams will bring together federal, state and local prosecutors, law enforcement, and agencies that provide services to the elderly, to coordinate and enhance efforts to pursue nursing homes that provide grossly substandard care to their residents.

“Millions of seniors count on nursing homes to provide them with quality care and to treat them with dignity and respect when they are most vulnerable,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart F. Delery. “Yet, all too often we have found nursing home owners or operators who put their own economic gain before the needs of their residents. These task forces will help ensure that we are working closely with all relevant parties to protect the elderly.”


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Can the Culture of Law Enforcement Change?

The Denver Sheriff's Department has been been justly slammed by an outside report of its performance, including multiple incidents involving the use of excessive force. Can it -- or any law enforcement agency -- change the culture that breeds such abuses?

The Denver Post reports the Sheriff's Department is trying. The largest recruitment class ever has begun training, and the recruits are being taught their role is one of a guardian, not a warrior. They are told that even when deadly force is legally authorized, it may not be the best option. It can also jeopardize their careers.

"We're in a monumental cultural change — not just us, but law enforcement nationwide. It's a culture of service. Our duty is to protect life. That's the message we want to convey...."


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The Making of a Narco-Terror Case

I've been writing about the DEA's most excellent African Adventures since 2009, particularly the sting cases where people from all over the world are extradited (or kidnapped and forcibly brought) to the U.S. for trial on drug offenses that had nothing or little to do with the U.S. In many, the DEA claimed a terror connection.

Ginger Thompson of Pro Publica (formerly an outstanding New York Times reporter) has been investigating these cases for a long time. She recently traveled to Mali and other far-off places to interview people directly involved. (Days before she left, I spoke to her on the phone about the cases for a very long time.) Two weeks ago she published her findings in an excellent article called The Narco Terror Trap.

The DEA warns that drugs are funding terror. An examination of cases raises questions about whether the agency is stopping threats or staging them.


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Mexico Supreme Court Opens Door to Legal Marijuana

In an 88 page opinion based on principles of human rights, Justice Arturo Zaldívara of the Mexican Supreme Court has paved the way for legal marijuana in Mexico.

The vote by the court’s criminal chamber declared that individuals should have the right to grow and distribute marijuana for their personal use. While the ruling does not strike down current drug laws, it lays the groundwork for a wave of legal actions that could ultimately rewrite them, proponents of legalization say.

Justice Zaldívar writes: "...[T]he state recognizes an individual’s autonomy to engage in recreational activities that do not harm others.


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The Changing Landscape of Heroin Use

[Lou Reed, Nico and the Velvet Underground, 1966.)


The New York Times: Parents of heroin addicts are urging a kindler, gentler drug war.

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1991 and the Racial Justice Act

Continuing from the last post on the battle between Joe Biden and Pres. H.W. Bush, with each claiming to be tougher on Crime: There was one voice of reason at the hearing: Sen. Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio. Here's what he said about why the Racial Justice Bill should not be dropped from the new bill that would implement 30 to 50 new death penalty offenses: (Cite is 137 Cong Rec S 8263

Mr. METZENBAUM. Mr. President, I rise to oppose any effort to remove the Racial Justice Act amendments from the death penalty provisions of the crime bill. If a crime bill with numerous death penalty provisions is to pass this body, it is critical that we deal with the obvious discriminatory nature of death penalty sentences.

The Racial Justice Act has nothing to do with whether you are for or against the death penalty. It is about racial discrimination.[more...]

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John Oliver Takes on Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Great segment by John Oliver on mandatory minimum sentences.

Ridiculously long sentences are not a great deterrent to crime. Prison sentences are a lot like p*nises: if they're used correctly, even a short one can do the trick."

(Asterisk used to avoid inviting spam.) As he points out:

Everyone has agreed that mandatory minimum rules were a mistake, and we cannot have a system where people are continuing to pay for that mistake."

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U.S. 2014 Wiretap Report Released

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has released the 2014 Wiretap Report.

The number of federal and state wiretaps authorized in 2014 decreased 1 percent from 2013. The most serious offense under investigation in 89 percent of all applications for intercepts was illegal drugs.

Here's the data page showing totals by federal district. The full report is here.

DEA wiretaps have tripled in the last decade, and it appears the DEA is increasingly filing requests in state courts, bypassing Title III and federal courts.

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New UN Drug Report on Colombia: Coca Production is Up

The UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) released its latest report on coca production in Colombia today. Coca production is up 44%.

The increase is the biggest in almost a decade and takes coca production back to levels not seen since 2009. The findings come on the heels of a separate U.S. government survey showing production shot up 39 percent in 2014.

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DEA Wiretaps Triple Over Nine Years

DEA wiretaps have tripled over the last nine years. Of particular concern: It is increasingly bypassing the Title III requirements by applying for wiretaps in state courts.

USA Today reports (no link due to autoplay video)

The DEA conducted 11,681 electronic intercepts in the fiscal year that ended in September. Ten years earlier, the drug agency conducted 3,394.

The statistics are here.

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