- Published on 20 June 2012
- Written by Phil Smnith, www.stopthedrugwar.org
In a memo released by the US Department of Justice has notified federal firearms dealers that medical marijuana patients are "addicts" or "unlawful drug users" who cannot legally own weapons or ammunition. A medical marijuana registration card is proof enough to deny a weapons sale, the memo said. That has medical marijuana advocates crying foul, but national gun rights groups -- not so much. [Update: One national group now has responded; watch the statement from Gun Owners of America in the video link below.]
The memo was authored by Arthur Herbert, Assistant Director for Enforcement Programs and Services for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF). Herbert said he wrote the memo after receiving "a number of inquiries about the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and its applicability to federal firearms laws."
Herbert cited the section of the federal criminal code that prohibits anyone who is "an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance" from possessing firearms. He reminded firearms dealers that they cannot legally sell guns to people they have reasonable cause to believe are illegal drug users or addicts and wrote that anyone presenting a medical marijuana registration card is providing reasonable cause for the dealer to believe they are illegal drug users or addicts.
Despite the Obama administration's 2009 Justice Department memo famously vowing not to go after patients and providers in compliance with state laws, the federal government has never wavered from its stance that, despite state medical marijuana laws, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance.
"Any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether or not his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or is addicted to a controlled substance and is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition," Herbert wrote.
- Published on 20 June 2012
- Written by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel
Sydney, Australia: Some 80 percent of drug dog 'alerts' in New South Wales in 2011 yielded no illicit substances, according to state government statistics published this week by the Sydney Morning Herald. According to the paper, in the first nine months of 2011, "14,102 searches were conducted after a dog sat next to a person, indicating they might be carrying drugs. But, in 11,248 cases, no drugs were found."
Statistics for 2010 showed a similarly high false positive rate. Of the 15,779 searches conducted after police-dog identification, no drugs were found in 11,694 cases, the Herald reported. The statistics were made public following a Parliamentary inquiry regarding the widespread use of drug dogs. Despite the high error rate, a spokesman for the NSW Police Minister said that the government "fully supported the use of dogs because police had found them effective."
Earlier this year, a study published in the scientific journal Animal Cognition reported that the performance of drug-sniffing dogs is significantly influenced by whether or not their handlers believe illicit substances are present. In 2004, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Illinois v. Caballes that an alert from a police dog during a traffic stop provides a constitutional basis for law enforcement to search the interior of the vehicle.
- Published on 10 May 2013
- Written by Kristen Gwynne, Alternet
Thanks to the drug war, police have much more incentive to go after drug crimes than more heinous crimes.
In Colorado this year, a 13-person SWAT raid on two medical marijuana users began with a kicked-in door and a flash bang grenade.
"They acted like they were coming for a big terrorist," Chuck Ball, one of the patients, told KRDO. "They came in here, drug me across the kitchen floor and handcuffed me," he said. "They kept telling me to shut up."
According to KRDO, “Ball said the raid was prompted by tips to investigators from his roommate's estranged ex who told police that there was an illegal number of medical marijuana plants in the house."
No charges were filed because the patients were growing a legal amount of medical marijuana.
Strange, isn’t it, that hunches and vague tips about potential marijuana growing (in a state that recently legalized the drug!) is motivation enough to send a SWAT team busting down a door? Compare that to recent reports that police in Cleveland, Ohio ignored years of tips and calls about strange things going on in the home of the three Cleveland men suspected of holding captive, brutally raping and beating three women for nearly a decade.
Before the big break on Monday, neighbors say they knew something was up and claim that they repeatedly called the cops. The police did not appear concerned; they certainly lacked the enthusiasm many law enforcement officers display when going after drug crimes (and non-crimes):
Elsie Cintron, who lives three houses away, said her daughter once saw a naked woman crawling on her hands and knees in the backyard several years ago and called police. "But they didn't take it seriously," she said.
Another neighbor, Israel Lugo, said he heard pounding on some of the doors of Castro's house, which had plastic bags on the windows, in November 2011. Lugo said officers knocked on the front door, but no one answered. "They walked to the side of the house and then left," he said.
Israel Lugo said he, his family and neighbors called police three times between 2011 and 2012 after seeing disturbing things at the home of Ariel Castro. Lugo lives two houses down from Castro and grew suspicious after neighbors reported seeing naked women on leashes crawling on all fours behind Castro's house.
Lugo said about two years ago his sister told him she heard a woman pounding on a window at Castro's home as if she needed help. When his sister looked up, she saw a woman and a baby standing in a window half covered with a wooden plank. His sister told him and Lugo called the police.
A third call came from neighborhood women who lived in an apartment building. Those women told Lugo they called police because they saw three young girls crawling on all fours naked with dog leashes around their necks. Three men were controlling them in the backyard. The women told Lugo they waited two hours but police never responded to the calls. Still looking it into it, though.
Without proof of the 911 calls, it is hard to say definitively that the Cleveland Police Department failed to properly follow up on tips (and it is assuring the public that it did all it could to find the young women). If the neighbors aren’t making it up, which seems unlikely, there is some explaining to do.
Retired law enforcement veteran Stephen Downing, former captain of detectives in the LAPD, says he has not seen proof that the police officers failed to adequately respond to information in this case; indeed, police cannot possibly crack every case and investigate every angle all the time. At the same time, we must recognize that police are incentivized to go after certain crimes -- like drug crimes -- and not other, far more heinous crimes, like rape.
In the first place, federal cash giveaways make police departments' reactions to drug cases much more swift and severe.
“The statistical demands of the drug war and the grants that come from the federal government --- all they do is incentivize our local police to chase drugs and chase seizures so they can supplement their budgets," Downing said. "We call that 'policing for profit.'”
Furthermore, allowing military training of local police has “turned our police into drug warriors,” instead of “police officers and peace officers.”
“Every police department, every sheriff’s department, and the federal government have personnel that are dedicated 100 percent of the time to drug enforcement,” said Downing, “and the result of that is to use police resources for that purpose.”
Perhaps the strongest example of how drug war policing can distract resources from more pressing problems is the use of department laboratories. In Ohio, police agencies across the state have sent more than 2,300 untested rape kits to a state crime lab for testing. Some of them are decades old, and could contain vital clues regarding suspects in rapes. But they've been backed up in police departments across the country.
“What they don’t talk about is why do they have that backlog in the first place?” said Downing. “The answer is that drugs take a priority because they often involve people in custody, and they’re going to be in court, so when they show up in court, they’re going to have those tests. Thousands and thousands of tests run through our police labs for drugs when most of the time it's a personal use decision. Most of the time it's a recreational use of drugs rather than an abuse of drugs. But our criminal justice system is completely involved in dealing with drug crime rather than dealing with crime that truly affects public safety, like property and crimes against persons."
Praising the man who helped Amanda Berry escape, Stephen Downing also says police need to become more involved with their communities.
“The community is involved in solving these cases and the willingness of people is helpful,” he said. “If the police would recognize more the true value of their community -- that the people are the police and the police are the people -- rather than chasing drugs and asset seizures and policing for profit modalities, all our communities would be better off and more aware.”
Want to read more articles by Kristen Gwynne see http://www.alternet.org/authors/kristen-gwynne