Archive for the ‘law enforcement’ category

Cannabis Sniffing Canines Needed No More

February 2nd, 2015

Need another prime example of cannabis prohibition coming to pass in these United States? Look no further than the states of Alaska and Oregon where the voters have ended cannabis prohibition and instead replaced the failed prohibition with tax-n-regulate policies, both states are canceling the use (and expense) of maintaining and employing cannabis sniffing canines.pot_civil_rights

Up next in states that have jettisoned cannabis prohibition: Canceling law enforcement overflights looking for once illegal cannabis plants.

 

 

Voters Have Spoken, But Drug Warriors Aren’t Listening

February 2nd, 2015

6_8_NORMLK.StroupPortrait_zThe drug warriors — led principally by law enforcement and their handmaidens in the state legislatures — continue to do everything within their power to prolong marijuana prohibition, even in those states in which the voters have approved full legalization.

I am referring specifically to a legislative proposal introduced last week in the Alaska state legislature, allegedly to implement their recent legalization initiative, under which possession of one ounce of marijuana and the private cultivation of six plants was legalized for everyone over 21 years of age. Recreational marijuana use will be totally decriminalized effective February 24, although the state has until the end of the year to implement the regulations for licensing recreational growers and dispensaries.

Senate Bill 30, and it’s House companion bill, HB 79, initially considered by the House and Senate Judiciary Committees last week, would have kept any amount of marijuana illegal, causing users to be arrested and brought to trial, when they could then raise an affirmative defense by proving they were over 21 and their conduct was protected under the new initiative.

To read the balance of this column, please go to Marijuana.com.

 

Holder Restricts Asset Forfeiture Laws, Dealing Blow to War on Marijuana

January 16th, 2015
eric-holder-3
AG Eric Holder

Earlier today, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that local and state law enforcement would no longer be able to use federal asset forfeiture laws to seize and keep property without evidence of a crime.

According to the Washington Post:

Holder’s action represents the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago as part of the war on drugs.

Since 2008, thousands of local and state police agencies have made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion under a civil asset forfeiture program at the Justice Department called Equitable Sharing.

The program has enabled local and state police to make seizures and then have them “adopted” by federal agencies, which share in the proceeds. The program allowed police departments and drug task forces to keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds of the adopted seizures, with the rest going to federal agencies.

While police can continue to make seizures under their own state laws, the federal program was easy to use and required most of the proceeds from the seizures to go to local and state police departments. Many states require seized proceeds to go into the general fund.

A Justice official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the attorney general’s motivation, said Holder “also believes that the new policy will eliminate any possibility that the adoption process might unintentionally incentivize unnecessary stops and seizures.”

The old policy allowed law enforcement to take and keep people’s cash and property on the pretense of things like the scent of marijuana, even if none is found in their possession. Since the proceeds go directly to local police budgets, some argue that this was one of the primary reasons for law enforcement’s continued opposition to marijuana policy reform.

Obama to Native Americans: Marijuana Legalization Is A-OK

December 12th, 2014

In a completely unexpected move by the Obama Administration, the US Department of Justice released a memo on October 28 indicating to Native American tribes that they can engage in cannabis commerce–cultivation, processing and retail sales–as long as they comport with the existing eight rules put forward in a previous August 2013 Obama Administration memo allowing states the autonomy to develop cannabis-based businesses in states where voters have passed binding ballot initiatives or elected policymakers have passed reform legislation.

  • Distribution of marijuana to minors
  • Revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels
  • Diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal to states where it remains illegal
  • State-authorized marijuana activity being used as a cover for trafficking other illegal drugs or activity
  • Violence or the use of firearms as part of cultivation and distribution of marijuana
  • Drugged driving or the exacerbation of other negative health consequences associated with marijuana use
  • Growing marijuana on public lands
  • Marijuana possession or use on federal property

It's NORML to smoke pot

US News writes that “there are 326 federally recognized American Indian reservations, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Many reservations are in states that don’t allow marijuana for medical or recreational use, such as Oklahoma, Utah and the Dakotas. Others are located near major East Coast cities and far from legal pot stores in the West.

“The tribes have the sovereign right to set the code on their reservations,” U.S. attorney for North Dakota Timothy Purdon, chairman of the Attorney General’s Subcommittee on Native American Issues, told the Times.

In a statement, the Department of Justice said U.S. attorneys will review tribal marijuana policies on a case-by-case basis and that prosecutors retain the right to enforce federal law.

“Each U.S. attorney will assess the threats and circumstances in his or her district, and consult closely with tribal partners and the Justice Department when significant issues or enforcement decisions arise in this area,” the statement says. 

Read the DOJ memo allowing Native American tribes to regulate cannabis-related businesses here.

A detailed map of Native American tribes is found here.

New York City Officials Announce Plan To Halt Minor Marijuana Arrests

November 11th, 2014

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton publicly announced plans yesterday to halt the NYPD’s practice of arresting tens of thousands of minor marijuana offenders annually.

Under the new plan, set to take effect November 19, city police would issue first-time marijuana offenders a summons, payable by a fine, in lieu of making a criminal arrest.

Though the Mayor and the Police Commissioner have made pledges in the past to reduce the city’s marijuana arrest totals, which average nearly 30,000 per year, they have previously failed to do so. Of those arrested for minor marijuana offenses in New York City, a disproportionate percentage (86 percent) are either Black or Latino. Nearly three out of four arrested possessed no prior criminal record.

Although New York state law classifies minor marijuana possession offenses as a non-criminal offense, separate penal law (NY State Penal Law 221.10) defines marijuana possession in a manner that is ‘open to public view’ as an arrestable offense.

Mayor de Blasio called the City’s proposed depenalization policy “a smart policy that keeps New Yorkers safe, but it is also a more fair policy.”

Philadelphia Depenalizes Marijuana Possession

October 3rd, 2014

Philadelphia mayor signs depenalization legislation into lawAs anticipated, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed municipal legislation this week removing criminal penalties for the possession of minor quantities of cannabis by adults. (Watch a video of the Mayor’s ordinance signing and accompanying press conference here.)

The new measure amends citywide penalties pertaining to the possession of up to approximately one ounce of cannabis (30 grams) from a criminal misdemeanor to a non-summary civil offense, punishable by a $25 fine – no arrest and no criminal record. Public use of cannabis will be punishable by up to a $100 fine and/or the completion of community service.

Philadelphia NORML had long lobbied in support of a change in the city’s criminal classification of marijuana possession offenses. A 2013 review of marijuana arrest data by the organization reported that African Americans are arrested in Philadelphia for minor marijuana violations at five times the rate of whites despite both races consuming the substance at nearly equal rates.

Council member James Kenney, who sponsored the decriminalization ordinance, acknowledged that it was Philadelphia NORML’s outreach on this issue that ultimately persuaded him to push for the change in law.

The reduced penalties go into effect on October 20, 2014.

Joseph McNamara RIP: Champion Against Cops Drug Warring

October 1st, 2014

A genuinely early and respected voice against the war on some drugs passed away Friday, September 19 in California.

Joe McNamara was a former police chief in Kansas City and San Jose who, in the late 1980s, started to both write and lecture about the need for substantive changes in law enforcement practices (and that the law enforcement community and establishment inherently should SUPPORT drug law policy reform, not reflexively oppose it).

Joe is often credited with being the ‘father of community policing’.

When I first arrived at NORML in 1991, I devoured everything Joe wrote about the drug war. His efforts are clearly the sui generis of one of the most important drug policy reform organizations today—Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).norml_remember_prohibition_

His arguments were so persuasive and fact driven (he was as highly educated as he was a decorated police officer) that, in time, I came to see him as the proxy editorial voice for ‘legalization’ at a hugely important and politically influential newspaper—the Wall Street Journal. He spoke to the concerns the editorial board is unfortunately still to date too timid to publicly express under their own byline. His affiliation with the Hoover Institution at Stanford only enhanced his credibility in the eyes of WSJ editors.

Joe was able to breakthrough with ‘conservatives’ on the need to end cannabis prohibition like few others have (i.e., William F. Buckley).

It was in reading the WSJ last week that I learned of Joe’s passing…

Joe gave great, revealing, informed and prescient lectures at NORML, Drug Policy Foundation/Drug Policy Alliance, Cato Institute and other public policy conferences and seminars. I personally enjoyed conversing with him whenever, about whatever. He had much to share.

Passing at the age of 79, Joe lived what can readily be described as a full life, and that his intelligent and law enforcement reform advocacy, driven by decades of tough and challenging field police work, will live long after his days among us.

Joe McNamara RIP!

Maryland: Reduced Marijuana Possession Penalties Take Effect

September 30th, 2014

A new Maryland law depenalizing marijuana possession offenses takes effect this Wednesday.

Senate Bill 364, signed into law this past April, amends statewide penalties for marijuana possession offenses involving ten grams or less from a criminal misdemeanor (presently punishable by arrest, up to 90 days in jail, a $500 fine, and a criminal record) to a non-arrestable, non-criminal, fine-only offense ($100 fine for first-time offenders, $250 for second-time offenders).

The new law does not reclassify penalties involving the possession of marijuana paraphernalia, which remains a criminal offense.

A 2013 ACLU analysis of state-by-state marijuana arrests data reported that Maryland has the fourth highest rate of marijuana possession arrests in the nation.

Nearly 20 additional states, as well as the District of Columbia, now classify minor marijuana possession as a non-arrestable offense.

Police Chief Joseph McNamara Who Fought to End The Drug War Dies at 79

September 22nd, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 22, 2014
Contact: Darby Beck: darby.beck@leap.cc or 415.823.5496


RETIRED SAN JOSE POLICE CHIEF WHO FOUGHT TO END THE DRUG WAR DIES AT 79

Joseph McNamara Leaves Behind a Remarkable Legacy of Public Service and Activism


MONTEREY, CA—Retired police chief Joseph McNamara passed away last Friday, September 19th at the age of 79. His thirty-five-year law enforcement career began in 1956 as a beat cop for the New York City Police Department. He would later become a criminal justice fellow at Harvard, where he focused on criminal justice research and methodology. During this time McNamara took leave from police work to obtain a doctorate in Public Administration, and was appointed deputy inspector of crime analysis in New York City upon his return.

McNamara spoke out publicly against the drug war long before the issue had come to the political forefront. He was a speaker and advisory board member for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs. “When you’re telling cops that they’re soldiers in a Drug War, you’re destroying the whole concept of the citizen peace officer, a peace officer whose fundamental duty is to protect life and be a community servant,” said McNamara at a presentation for the International Conference on Drug Policy Reform in 1995.

“Chief Joe McNamara was one of the first people of position both to see the futility of our drug policy and have the courage to speak publicly about it,” said retired California Superior Court Judge James Gray, another LEAP speaker. “Without his contributions this movement would not be nearly as advanced as it is today.”

In 1973 he became the Kansas City police chief and is credited with leading the charge on groundbreaking and innovative programs and research. He hired more women and minorities, worked to bridge the racial divides for which Kansas City had been infamous, and promoted accountability within his department. He instituted record-keeping policies, updated technological capabilities, and spoke out against racial profiling. After three years McNamara was appointed police chief of San Jose, California where he remained until retirement in 1991. After retirement, he became a consultant for the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI, and the State Department. He also authored five books including a crime-prevention text and three best-selling crime novels.

Retired Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper remembers him fondly. “What I do remember,” said Stamper, “...was Joe’s graciousness, his humor, and his integrity. Over the years, he demonstrated the power of principle, of speaking one’s mind and heart, of advancing the causes of justice and equality.

Joseph McNamara is survived by his three children and his wife, Laurie.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is a nonprofit organization of criminal justice professionals who bear personal witness to the wasteful futility and harms of our current drug policies.

Madison Police Chief Urges End To Marijuana Prohibition

September 15th, 2014
Mike Koval
Chief Mike Koval

In an interview last week, Madison, Wisconsin Police Chief Mike Koval called marijuana prohibition a failure and advocated regulating and taxing the substance in order to pay for treatment programs that focus on more dangerous drugs.

The comments came during an interview with the State Journal Wednesday about data showing African Americans in Madison were arrested or cited for marijuana offenses at about 12 times the rate of whites in the city.

Koval called efforts to enforce laws against marijuana an “abject failure” and said the same about the broader war on drugs. “We’ve done such an abysmal job using marijuana as a centerpiece of drug enforcement, that it’s time to reorder and triage the necessities of what’s more important now,” Koval said.

Referring to the states of Washington and Colorado, which have legalized the drug for recreational use and sale at state-regulated stores, he said it was time for Wisconsin to consider doing the same.

Under current Wisconsin law, possession of any amount of marijuana can earn you six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. A subsequent offense is a felony punishable by up to $10,000 in fines and three and a half years in prison.

Chief Koval is just one example of a growing movement of law enforcement professionals who are breaking rank with many of their colleagues and calling for an end to the war on marijuana users.