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In November, Washington voters passed I-502 (full text here) which provides that adult possession of up to an ounce of marijuana or specified amounts of marijuana-infused products is not a state crime and creates a regulatory scheme to license sellers. The initiative is now law and went into effect today.
The vote on Colorado's Amendment 64, legalizing adult possession and setting up a regulatory framework to distribute and sell it, was certified by the Secretary of State today, and will become law by January 5.
The New York Times reports the Justice Department and Obama Administration are considering filing lawsuits to upend both states' laws, but a decision doesn't appear to be on the immediate horizon. [More...]
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How much trouble can your insta-messaging and texting get you into? Plenty.
Two former stockbrokers, age 34 and 32, who later went to law school together and are now lawyers, were indicted yesterday in the Southern District of New York for insider trading while they were stockbrokers. One is a lawyer in Denver. He was arrested today at his home in Lousiville, CO.
They texted about wanting to avoid jail and not end up like Martha Stewart. The odd thing about the Indictment: The "unindicted co-conspirators" (my translation: cooperators) made $700k. The Colorado lawyer made $2,500.00. (His indicted pal made $130 k.) The unindicted co-conspirator who started spreading the word is from Australia and returned there when he learned of the investigation.
Not only did this young lawyer get indicted for his $2,500. gain, the Southern District of New York is asking he be held without bond. The lawyer made his first appearance in court in Denver today, and according to the docket, he was remanded into custody and detention hearing will be held tomorrow. He's got a good lawyer, and I can't imagine he won't be granted bond, but still, seeking pre-trial detention seems like overkill by the U.S. Attorney's office. [More...]
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Washington's Initiative 502, which decriminalizes adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, is already having an effect. Today, the elected prosecutors of Washington's two largest counties, King (which includes Seattle) and Pierce, announced they will dismiss more than 220 pending cases with marijuana possession charges. They have decided to apply I 502 now, rather than wait until the Dec. 6 effective date:
"I think when the people voted to change the policy, they weren't focused on when the effective date of the new policy would be. They spoke loudly and clearly that we should not treat small amounts of marijuana as an offense," [DA]Satterberg said...."There is no point in continuing to seek criminal penalties for conduct that will be legal next month."
Seattle police and the King's County Sheriff also announced they will immediately cease arresting people for personal possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.
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Via the New York Times: U.S. Rethinks a Drug War After Deaths in Honduras
All joint operations in Honduras are now suspended. Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, expressing the concerns of several Democrats in Congress, is holding up tens of millions of dollars in security assistance, not just because of the planes, but also over suspected human rights abuses by the Honduran police and three shootings in which commandos with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration effectively led raids when they were only supposed to act as advisers.
DEA's FAST program began under George W Bush. (Obama has extended it.) FAST stands for Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team. In plain English, squads of commandos. It operates in Haiti, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Belize. Here's a powerpoint about it.
The Administration's total Drug War budget for 2013 is $25 billion. [More.]
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To read this "exclusive" report by a news service called GigaOM, one would expect news in the ongoing lawsuit brought by a former New York prosecutor against the major cell phone companies for gouging the FBI, federal and state law enforcement agencies for compliance with wiretap orders.
A former New York prosecutor, John Prather, claims AT&T, Verizon, Qwest and Sprint regularly charged law enforcement agencies 10 times what they should have for routine wiretaps. He’s now suing on behalf of the FBI and state and city police departments to recover many millions of dollars for overcharging that allegedly took place for almost 20 years.
The case provides a window on the evolving world of wiretaps during an era of increasing surveillance. But the case is complicated because Prather stands to get a big chunk of money if the case succeeds and, as the phone companies argue, he may not be a real whistle-blower in the first place.
First, the lawsuit is not new. It was filed almost a year ago. Second, it's a Qui Tam lawsuit which means the prosecutor is essentially a bounty hunter who collects a portion of any proceeds awarded (like a whistleblower), usually about 15 to 25%. [More...]
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The New Yorker has an extensive article, The Throwaways , on the misuse of informants.
Informants are the foot soldiers in the government’s war on drugs. By some estimates, up to eighty per cent of all drug cases in America involve them, often in active roles like Hoffman’s. For police departments facing budget woes, untrained C.I.s provide an inexpensive way to outsource the work of undercover officers. “The system makes it cheap and easy to use informants, as opposed to other, less risky but more cumbersome approaches,” says Alexandra Natapoff, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and a leading expert on informants. “There are fewer procedures in place and fewer institutional checks on their use.” Often, deploying informants involves no paperwork and no institutional oversight, let alone lawyers, judges, or public scrutiny; their use is necessarily shrouded in secrecy.
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R.I.P., Richard Flor, a 68 year old medical marijuana dispensary owner who has died in federal prison. The story will make you sick.
US District Court Judge Charles Lovell sentenced Flor to to 5 years in federal prison despite testimony that he was suffering from a variety of illnesses, including dementia, diabetes, hepatitis C, and osteoporosis. Lovell did recommend that Flor "be designated for incarceration at a federal medical center" where his "numerous physical and mental diseases and conditions can be evaluated and treated."
Months after beginning his sentence, he still hadn't been transferred to a medical facility. His lawyer described his condition in a brief:
On multiple occasions while in custody, Flor had fallen out of bed breaking his ribs, his clavicle and his cervical bones as well as injuring vertebrae in his spine. Flor also suffered from dementia, diabetes and kidney failure among other ailments,.
Here's what the Judge had to say: [More..]
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The militarization of the war on drugs is officially underway.
A team of 200 U.S. Marines began patrolling Guatemala's western coast this week in an unprecedented operation to beat drug traffickers in the Central America region, a U.S. military spokesman said Wednesday.
The Marines are deployed as part of Operation Martillo, a broader effort started last Jan. 15 to stop drug trafficking along the Central American coast. Focused exclusively on drug dealers in airplanes or boats, the U.S.-led operation involves troops or law enforcement agents from Belize, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Honduras, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama and Spain.
Wired has more here.
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The New York Times reports the Drug Enforcement Administration will be expanding operations in West Africa, in continued efforts to stop cocaine from going from South America to Africa to Europe.
“We see Africa as the new frontier in terms of counterterrorism and counternarcotics issues,” said Jeffrey P. Breeden, the chief of the D.E.A.’s Europe, Asia and Africa section. “It’s a place that we need to get ahead of — we’re already behind the curve in some ways, and we need to catch up.”
In 2009, the U.S. drug war budget for Africa was $7.5 million. For 2010 and 2011, it was $50 million. Now, for 2013, it seems to be at least $60 million.
At the State Department, Asst. Secy. William Brownfield has been pushing hard for support for the DEA's African adventures, including new initiatives like the five year West African Citizen Security Initiative (WACSI). There's also the West Africa Coast Initiative (WACI). [More...]
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The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has released its annual report on the use of federal and state wiretaps and electronic surveillance. The summary is here, and the page with all the appendixes and charts is here. Some highlights:
- 85% of the federal wiretaps were in drug cases.
- The average cost for a federal wiretap was $71,748, a 13 percent increase from 2010.
- Telephone wiretaps accounted for 96 percent (2,092 cases) of the intercepts installed in 2011, the majority of them involving cellular telephones.
- During 2011, a total of 4,006 arrests, 2,700 convictions, and additional costs of $51,874,823 arose from and were reported for wiretaps completed in previous years.
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Congressman Jared Polis grills DEA Chief Michele Leonhart on the dangers of heroin and meth as compared to marijuana. Great job by Polis. Not so great job by Leonhart who couldn't answer the simple question of whether methamphetamine or heroin is worse for your health than marijuana.
The hearing was held yesterday by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security and the subject was Oversight of the DEA. Here is Leonhart's prepared testimony. [More...]
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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced a legislative proposal that would make marijuana possession in public a violation punishable by a fine, and enforced via a summons in lieu of arrest. That's the current law in New York for personal possession of small amounts of marijuana (up to an ounce) not in public view.
Smoking marijuana in public would remain a misdemeanor. But Cuomo endorsed the police department's use of stop and frisk.
“Stop-and-frisk is a well-accepted police strategy all across the country,” the governor said in announcing his legislative proposal yesterday.
Mayor Bloomberg is supporting Cuomo's bill. Why go halfway? Neither public nor private possession of marijuana should be a violation or a crime. [More...]
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Judicial Business of the U.S. Courts publishes the most detailed statistical tables on the work of the federal Judiciary. This week it released its statistical analysis for the 12 month period ending September 30, 2011. A summary is here, and the full report, with tables, is here.
The summary and news accounts of the report skip some of the report's most interesting statistics on criminal cases. The chart that leapt out at me is how bail has become the exception in federal courts while pre-trial detention has become the rule. First the punishment, then the verdict.
Where's the worst place to be charged with a crime? The district most likely to deny you bail, keep you locked up for months or years awaiting trial, in either federal detention centers or dismal county jails not meant to house long-term prisoners, where you are unable to work and provide for your family, have no access to meaningful rehabilitative programs and have only limited access to your lawyer in cramped visiting rooms to prepare your defense. [More...]
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At the meeting of the UN Commmission on Narcotic Drugs that opened today in Vienna, Bolivian President Evo Morales held up a coca leaf and defended -- to applause -- the right of Bolivians to grow and chew the plant:
Morales said that chewing coca leaves was an "ancestral right" for Bolivians. "We are not drug addicts when we consume the coca leaf. The coca leaf is not cocaine, we have to get rid of this misconception," he said in a speech that ended with applause from the hall.
"This is a millennia-old tradition in Bolivia and we would hope that you will understand that coca leaf producers are not drug dealers."
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Vice President Joe Biden in Mexico today on U.S. drug policy:
There is no possibility that the Obama-Biden administration will change its policy on legalization."
Biden said the Obama Administration will ask for more funding for Central America's drug war in addition to the $361 million we've given so far:
Biden said the U.S. has provided about $361 million in anti-crime aid under the Central America Regional Security Initiative, but leaders in the region called that insufficient. Biden said the administration is asking more from congress.
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