Archive for the ‘law enforcement’ category

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.

Philadelphia: Mayor To Sign Marijuana Depenalization Measure

September 8th, 2014

City mayor Michael Nutter announced today that he will sign municipal legislation into law decriminalizing marijuana possession penalties.

Under the measure, penalties pertaining to the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis would be reduced from a criminal misdemeanor to a non-summary civil offense, punishable by a $25 fine – no arrest and no criminal record.

Members of the City Council in June voted 13 to 3 to reduce municipal marijuana penalties. A slightly amended version of this proposal is anticipated to be before the mayor by the end of this month. The revised language is expected to take effect on October 20.

Anyone cited under the pending ordinance would be required to make an appearance before a Municipal Court judge, but would not face criminal charges or a criminal record. Those caught smoking marijuana in public would face a $100 fine, which could be waived if the defendant agreed to perform several hours of public 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.

“This will go a long way toward a much more saner and a much better policy for people in Philadelphia,” said Chris Goldstein, PhillyNORML co-chair. “This is something that should have happened earlier in the summer. It would have alleviated almost 1,000 people getting arrested.”

It remains to be seen to what extent local police will enforce the new ordinance, once enacted. In past statements, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey had publicly pledged to ignore the ordinance, stating, “State law trumps city ordinances.”

[UPDATE! It is now being reported that Chief Ramsey is on board with the amended ordinance.]

Does Medical Cannabis Legalization Impact Police Safety?

August 11th, 2014

Does Medical Cannabis Legalization Impact Police Officer Safety?While the US government effectively bans scientific research regarding cannabis and any potential therapeutic uses, you can help University of Texas at Dallas associate professor of Criminology Dr. Robert Morris, II conduct another in a series of cannabis policy research-related questions.

Dr. Morris and associates have already published an interesting research article earlier this year at PLoS One, answering the question: Does Legalizing Medical Cannabis Reduce Violent Crimes?*

This time around Dr. Morris and his colleagues are asking the sensible question public policy question: ‘Does Medical Cannabis Legalization Impact Police Officer Safety?’

NORML’s curious, aren’t you too?

Let’s help fund the research via crowdsourcing and find out the important answer to the above question after the data is gathered, crunched, analyzed and published.

Thanks for advancing science and public policy making in America regarding cannabis!

*The answer from the paper on medical cannabis’ impact on violent crime rates: ‘no’, violent crime rates do not rise because of the presence of medical cannabis retail stores.

DEA Stands Down: Allows Kentucky To Go Forward With Hemp Planting

May 23rd, 2014

The Drug Enforcement Agency is permitting Kentucky farmers to go forward with plans to engage in the state-sponsored cultivation of industrial hemp.

According to the Associated Press, representatives from the federal anti-drug agency late Thursday granted Kentucky regulators permission to import an estimated 250 pounds of hemp seeds.

The agency had previously confiscated the seeds, which Kentucky officials had ordered from Italy. In response, Kentucky’s Agriculture Department sued the agency last week.

After two federal hearings, as well as a face-to-face meeting with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), DEA officials on agreed to authorize the shipment of hemp seeds to go forward — ending the approximately month-long standoff. Kentucky’s first modern hemp planting may occur as soon as this weekend, the Associated Press reports.

In February, members of Congress approved language (Section 7606) in the omnibus federal farm bill authorizing states to sponsor hemp research absent federal reclassification of the plant. Since then, five states — Hawaii, Indiana, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Utah — have enacted legislation authorizing state-sponsored hemp cultivation. (Similar legislation is pending in Illinois and South Carolina.)

Kentucky lawmakers initially approve legislation regulating hemp production in 2013.

According to a 2013 white paper authored by the Congressional Research Service, a “commercial hemp industry in the United States could provide opportunities as an economically viable alternative crop for some US growers.”

New York City’s New Boss, Same as the Old?

May 9th, 2014

A new report released this week by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project reveals that marijuana arrests have actually increased in New York City under the new leadership of Mayor De Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton.

In March 2014, the NYPD performed more marijuana possession arrests than in any month in the last six months under the Bloomberg administration. In fact, March 2014 saw more arrests than in 10 of the 12 months in 2013 under the previous administration. The total number of arrests for first quarter of 2014 are higher than both the third and fourth quarters of 2013.

These arrests also continue the disturbing trend of disproportionately falling on individuals of color. In Brooklyn, in predominately white Park Slope, police made just 7 marijuana possession arrests in the first three months of 2014. In Carroll Gardens and Red Hook they made 12 marijuana arrests in that same time frame. More affluent neighborhoods saw even fewer arrests. In Manhattan, Police only made two marijuana possession arrests in the Tribeca/Wall Street area, one arrest in the Upper East Side, and four arrests in the Upper West Side. The story is quite different in predominately black or latino neighborhoods, where the police made significantly more arrests. In Bedford-Stuyvesant 111 individuals were arrested, 130 in Crown Heights, and 438 in East New York from January to March of this year.

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Despite similar use rates across racial groups, 86% of those arrested in the first quarter of 2014 were blacks and Latinos.

Harry Levine, a sociology professor at Queens College, City University of New York, and co-director of Marijuana Arrest Research Project said:

“At 28,000 arrests a year, New York still makes more marijuana possession arrests than any city in the world. Yet the simple possession of marijuana has not been a crime in New York State since 1978. Isn’t it time for these unfair, biased, damaging, often illegal arrests to just stop, now?”

Arizona: Supreme Court Rejects DUI Per Se Standard For THC Metabolites

April 23rd, 2014

The Arizona Supreme Court this week rejected a 1990 state law that classified the presence of inert THC metabolites in blood or urine as a per se traffic safety violation.

Carboxy-THC, the primary metabolite (breakdown product) of THC is not psychoactive. Because it is lipid soluble, the metabolite may remain detectable in blood or urine for periods of time that extend well beyond any suspected period of impairment. As a result, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acknowledges, “It is … currently impossible to predict specific effects based on THC-COOH concentrations.”

Nonetheless, under Arizona law, the mere presence of carboxy THC — absent any evidence of behavioral impairment — was considered to be a criminal violation of the state’s traffic safety laws. (Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Utah impose similar statutes.) On Wednesday, the Court struck down the provision.

Writing for the majority, Justice Robert Brutinel opined: “The State’s interpretation that ‘its metabolite’ includes any byproduct of a drug listed in § 13-3401 found in a driver’s system leads to absurd results. … Most notably, this interpretation would create criminal liability regardless of how long the metabolite remains in the driver’s system or whether it has any impairing effect. For example, at oral argument the State acknowledged that, under its reading of the statute, if a metabolite could be detected five years after ingesting a proscribed drug, a driver who tested positive for trace elements of a non-impairing substance could be prosecuted.”

He added: “Additionally, this interpretation would criminalize otherwise legal conduct. In 2010, Arizona voters passed the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (“AMMA”), legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Despite the legality of such use, and because § 28-1381(A)(3) does not require the State to prove that the marijuana was illegally ingested, prosecutors can charge legal users under the (A)(3) provision. Because carboxy-THC can remain in the body for as many as twenty-eight to thirty days after ingestion, the State’s position suggests that a medical-marijuana user could face prosecution for driving any time nearly a month after they had legally ingested marijuana.”

The Court concluded: “Because the legislature intended to prevent impaired driving, we hold that the ‘metabolite’ reference in § 28-1381(A)(3) is limited to any of a proscribed substance’s metabolites that are capable of causing impairment. Accordingly, … drivers cannot be convicted of the (A)(3) offense based merely on the presence of a non-impairing metabolite that may reflect the prior usage of marijuana.”

The Court did not address provisions in the state’s per se DUI law outlawing the operation of a motor vehicle with any presence of THC in one’s blood even though, according to NHTSA, “It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects.”

Minnesota: African Americans Six Times More Likely Than Whites To Be Arrested For Marijuana Possession

April 21st, 2014

African Americans are arrested for marijuana possession offenses in Minnesota at a rate that is more than six-times higher than that of Caucasians, according to an analysis of 2011 FBI arrest data released today by the nonpartisan think-tank Minnesota 2020 and commissioned in part by Minnesota NORML.

Although African Americans comprise less than six percent of the state’s population, they represented over 27 percent of those persons arrested for violating marijuana possession laws in 2011. By comparison, whites comprise some 87 percent of the state’s population and constituted 69 percent of those arrested for violating marijuana possession laws. “Thus, the black arrest rate for marijuana possession was 687 and the white arrest rate was 107, making blacks 6.4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites,” the study found.

In 2010, blacks in Minnesota were arrested for cannabis possession at 7.8 times the rate of whites. Both African Americans and Caucasians consume cannabis at approximately similar rates.

The racial disparity in Minnesota in marijuana possession arrests is significantly higher than the national average. According to a 2013 analysis of marijuana possession arrests by race in 945 counties nationwide, blacks are approximately four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.

“[This] kind of over-representation cannot be accounted for without racial bias,” Minnesota 2020 Executive Director Steve Fletcher said today at a press conference. “It means black Minnesotans are bearing a disproportionate share of the personal and collateral costs of our war on drugs.”

A variety of factors contribute to the disparity in arrest rates, the study found. These include “over-policing in communities of color, cultural differences in where or how marijuana is used and purchased, and [the prevalence] of grants and seizure policies that incentivize volume over quality in drug arrests,” the think-tank acknowledged in a press release.

The report estimated that the collateral costs of a low-level marijuana arrest may total as much as $76,000 over the course of a decade, including attorney fees, fines, costs associated with attending mandatory drug treatment, lost income and job prospects, and barriers to public assistance and federal aid.

“In light of these human and financial costs, Minnesota lawmakers and law enforcement officials have a responsibility to consider whether marijuana possession laws in their current conception are actually contributing to public safety, or if they are instead producing undue hardship for individuals and growing inequities within society,” the study concludes.

Full text of the study, entitled “Collateral Costs: Racial Disparities and Injustice in Minnesota’s Marijuana Laws,” is available online here.

Study: Enactment Of Medical Cannabis Laws Not Associated With Higher Crime Rates

April 8th, 2014

The enactment of medicinal cannabis laws is not associated with any rise in statewide criminal activity and may even be related to reductions in incidences of violent crime, according to data published online in the journal PLoS ONE.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas tracked crime rates across all 50 states between the years between 1990 and 2006, a time period during which 11 states legalized marijuana for medical use. Authors reviewed FBI data to determine whether there existed any association between the passage of medicinal cannabis laws and varying rates of statewide criminal activity, specifically reported crimes of homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft.

Investigators reported that the passage of medical marijuana laws was not associated with an increase in any of the seven crime types assessed, but that liberalized laws were associated with decreases in certain types of violent crime.

“The central finding gleaned from the present study was that MML (medical marijuana legalization) is not predictive of higher crime rates and may be related to reductions in rates of homicide and assault,” authors reported. “Interestingly, robbery and burglary rates were unaffected by medicinal marijuana legislation, which runs counter to the claim that dispensaries and grow houses lead to an increase in victimization due to the opportunity structures linked to the amount of drugs and cash that are present. Although, this is in line with prior research suggesting that medical marijuana dispensaries may actually reduce crime in the immediate vicinity.”

Researchers concluded: “Medical marijuana laws were not found to have a crime exacerbating effect on any of the seven crime types. On the contrary, our findings indicated that MML precedes a reduction in homicide and assault. … In sum, these findings run counter to arguments suggesting the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes poses a danger to public health in terms of exposure to violent crime and property crimes.”

Full text of the study, “The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on Crime: Evidence from State Panel Data, 1990-2006,” appears online here.

Majority of Law Enforcement Officers Want to Reform Marijuana Laws

April 5th, 2014

A survey released this week by the publication Law Officer revealed that a majority of law enforcement officers want to see our country’s marijuana laws reformed.

The poll, which questioned over 11,000 law enforcement officers regarding their opinions on drug policy, revealed that just over 64% believed our marijuana laws needed to be relaxed in some form. When asked “Do you believe possession of marijuana for personal use should…” and presented with several options, 35.68% of respondents stated that marijuana be legalized, regulated and taxed, 10.84% chose that it should be be legalized for medical reasons and with a doctor’s prescription only, 14.24% said it should continue to be illegal but only punished via fines (no incarceration), and 3.68% said marijuana should simply be decriminalized. Only 34.7% believed marijuana should continue to be illegal with the criminal penalties that are currently in place.

“This poll reveals that support for marijuana prohibition is eroding even amongst those who are serving on the front lines enforcing it,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “When a majority of the American people and most of those tasked with implementing a law disagree with it in principle, it is time to change that law.”

You can view the full results of this survey here.

“Prohibition cannot be enforced for the simple reason that the majority of the American people do not want it enforced and are resisting its enforcement. That being so, the orderly thing to do under our form of government is to abolish a law that cannot be enforced, a law which the people of the country do not want enforced.” – New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia on alcohol prohibition.