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May 2015
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Government theft still going strong

This article is nothing new to us, but it’s a story that needs to be continually circulated so the rest of the population starts getting a little bit more pissed off about it.

DEA to traveler: Thanks, I’ll take that cash

All the money – $16,000 in cash – that Joseph Rivers said he had saved and relatives had given him to launch his dream in Hollywood is gone, seized during his trip out West not by thieves but by Drug Enforcement Administration agents during a stop at the Amtrak train station in Albuquerque. […]

Agencies like the DEA can confiscate money or property if they have a hunch, a suspicion, a notion that maybe, possibly, perhaps the items are connected with narcotics. Or something else illegal.

Or maybe the fact that the person holding a bunch of cash is a young black man is good enough.

I have hopes that Joseph will get his money back eventually – a good samaritan at the station helped him get home and contacted attorneys and the press about this situation.

This continued rampant theft by government agency cannot be allowed to go on. As the article notes, New Mexico has recently passed a law prohibiting this kind of thing, but that wouldn’t stop the DEA from continuing to steal money even in New Mexico.

And at some point, we have to put the DEA on some kind of watch list – you know, like a terrorist group watch list – where simply being a member of the DEA results in travel restrictions and possible arrest and trial for the world-wide destruction caused by this rogue agency.

DEA Can’t Tell Senate How Detained Student Was Left to Drink Own Urine to Live

During an obscure Senate hearing on Tuesday morning, lawmakers vented their frustrations with the Drug Enforcement Administration for failing to answer questions about an incident that saw a man almost die of dehydration while in its custody.

“At what point do I have to conclude that the [Drug Enforcement Administration] is hiding something about what happened here?” asked Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, unsuccessfully prodding a DEA witness to explain why Senate inquiries into what happened to Daniel Chong have been met with silence. […]

It’s been now eight months — I still don’t have a response from DEA to these questions,” Sen. Grassley said on Tuesday. He asked DEA Deputy Assistant Administrator of Drug Diversion Joseph Rannazzisi to commit the agency to responding to his inquiry by the end of the month.

Rannazzisi responded that “This was a regrettable tragic event,” before admitting that “I can’t speak for DEA or the department when the letter is going to come to you.”

Also lamenting the agency’s lack of transparency was Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. Her office sent two unanswered letters to the DEA last year in July and August seeking answers about the detention of her constituent.

“When we don’t get responses to our letters, that colors our view of the agency — particularly when we’re writing about a constituent who suffered from a real lapse in process,” Sen. Feinstein said during the hearing.

On Tuesday the Los Angeles Times revealed that the most severe punishment meted out to the agents responsible for Chong’s nightmare was a seven-day suspension.

“It blows my mind,” Sen. Feinstein said during the hearing, referring to the leniency afforded to the agents who were involved in what she described as a “serious infraction.”

Those of us in drug policy reform are almost used to the DEA’s maddening non-responsive tactics (when it comes to rescheduling, etc.). The Senate definitely isn’t enjoying it.

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Apparently, the only doctors who know what they’re doing are legislators

I know we’ve got a lot of veterans here, and this one is really going to make your head explode…

GOP congressman warns pot is making our veterans psychotic

In a debate on the House floor over the Department of Veterans Affairs’ policies on medical marijuana, Representative John Fleming (R-LA) warned colleagues that allowing veterans to smoke pot could turn them psychotic or schizophrenic.

“As a practicing physician and a veteran myself,” Fleming stated during the April 29 legislative proceedings, “the way we approach health care is not to just allow any healthcare provider to do whatever he or she wants to do at the time. That is simply not the way health care works.”

According to Fleming, letting doctors and patients make their own decisions about marijuana could be dangerous, which is why the federal government needs to step in.

“Smoking pot increases psychotic episodes by a factor of two to four times normal,” Fleming elaborates. “The conversion to schizophrenia, a permanent mental disorder, is enhanced by pot by a factor of two — double. Why in the world would we give a drug that is addictive, that is prohibited under Schedule I, that is not accepted for any specific mental disease or disorder and enhances psychosis and schizophrenia, why are we going to give that to our veterans, especially those with PTSD? That is just absolutely insane.”

Even forgetting about the fact that he’s mixing up correlation with causation in the whole psychotic episodes and schizophrenia discussion, or the fact that a factor of two is really quite small… The part that is really mind-boggling is his notion that federal legislators are more competent to decide on medical treatment than doctors and patients.

Maybe veterans should start asking Representative John Fleming for advice on cancer treatment, what to do about hemorrhoids, and how to fix their hernia. After all, “letting doctors and patients make their own decisions… could be dangerous.”

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Open Thread

Sorry for the lack of posts recently. It’s the end of the semester and I’ve been going non-stop with a variety of events and responsibilities. It’s great fun, but I’m completely wiped out. It’ll ease up after Commencement this coming Saturday.

I’ll definitely have some more things to say this week, so stick around, but the comments section here is, as always, lively and informative (and I’m following all of them), so if you’re looking for some drug war news and links, that’s a great source.

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David Simon, Baltimore, Drug War

David Simon has an outstanding interview with the Marshall Project. Nothing new to us here, but very well said…

David Simon on Baltimore’s Anguish

I guess there’s an awful lot to understand and I’m not sure I understand all of it. The part that seems systemic and connected is that the drug war — which Baltimore waged as aggressively as any American city — was transforming in terms of police/community relations, in terms of trust, particularly between the black community and the police department. Probable cause was destroyed by the drug war. It happened in stages, but even in the time that I was a police reporter, which would have been the early 80s to the early 90s, the need for police officers to address the basic rights of the people they were policing in Baltimore was minimized. It was done almost as a plan by the local government, by police commissioners and mayors, and it not only made everybody in these poor communities vulnerable to the most arbitrary behavior on the part of the police officers, it taught police officers how not to distinguish in ways that they once did.

Probable cause from a Baltimore police officer has always been a tenuous thing. It’s a tenuous thing anywhere, but in Baltimore, in these high crime, heavily policed areas, it was even worse. When I came on, there were jokes about, “You know what probable cause is on Edmondson Avenue? You roll by in your radio car and the guy looks at you for two seconds too long.” Probable cause was whatever you thought you could safely lie about when you got into district court. […]

We end the drug war. I know I sound like a broken record, but we end the fucking drug war. The drug war gives everybody permission to do anything. It gives cops permission to stop anybody, to go in anyone’s pockets, to manufacture any lie when they get to district court. You sit in the district court in Baltimore and you hear, ‘Your Honor, he was walking out of the alley and I saw him lift up the glassine bag and tap it lightly.’ No fucking dope fiend in Baltimore has ever walked out of an alley displaying a glassine bag for all the world to see. But it keeps happening over and over in the Western District court. The drug war gives everybody permission. And if it were draconian and we were fixing anything that would be one thing, but it’s draconian and it’s a disaster.

I know that there’s a lot of push to simply call the problem in Baltimore racism, and racism is part of the picture, but the bigger issue is the drug war and the need for us to dramatically reform the criminal justice system in America.

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The War on Drugs and the streets of our cities

The world is talking about Baltimore right now — another battleground between police and citizens who have lost respect for each other in large part due to the war on drugs.

Freddie Gray a victim of America’s longest war

Overall, the record on Freddie Gray reveals a young man who had frequent encounters with police as they carried out local operations in America’s longest war: the war on drugs.[…]

So, generally speaking, Gray was a low-level, nonviolent offender.

Some people will say his record is irrelevant to the central issues — how he died while in the custody of Baltimore police, and why the police pursued him on April 12 to begin with — and I agree.

But I mention his record because his encounters with the law stemmed from the enforcement of our drug laws.

Such encounters occur constantly throughout the country.[…]

Still, even with that change, we have the war on drugs. It goes on, day after day, constantly creating needless encounters between police and people like Freddie Gray.

A tweet from Sanho Tree last night…

I’m just trying to imagine what police/community relations might be like today if there’d never been a war on drugs.

police

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Open Thread

I’m playing the piano for a production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Assassins” this weekend, and have a number of visitors in town, so I’m just trying to keep my head above water, but there’s a lot going on in drug policy as well.

You can count on our commenters to be on top of it.

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Michele Leonhart

So it looks like Michele Leonhart is finally going to be leaving the DEA.

Michele Leonhard, Head of D.E.A., to Retire Over Handling of Sex Scandal

Ms. Leonhart’s impending departure after eight years in the top job follows a hearing last week in which lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee expressed outrage about her handling of reports that D.E.A. agents in Colombia had participated in sex parties with prostitutes paid for by drug cartels.

Before we go any further, let’s make a couple of things crystal clear:

1. Michele Leonhart leaving is only part of the solution.

The entire agency is corrupt and needs to be dismantled.

2. Sex parties aren’t the problem. They’re just a symptom.

The scandal only demonstrates the obscene level to which the agency considers itself above the law and responsible to no ethical or legal code, while at the same time using violence against citizens to enforce arbitrary laws that they help create.

So Michele is going to retire. She’s not being fired, or put in jail, but will retire after 35 years in the DEA, with a fine pension. That’s the penalty for what she and the DEA have done to this country?

Sigh.

Meanwhile, good citizens have lost their jobs, their homes, their families, their freedom — all because of her and her mercenary army.

I started writing about Michele way back in 2003 when she was nominated as deputy administrator.

DEA Bad Girl Michele Leonhart

(I’ve got to admit that I got some pleasure out of the fact that for several years, when the head of the DEA put her own name in Google, this was the first thing to show up. So I’m guessing she knows who I am.)

In that article, I talked about her relationship with supersnitch Andrew Chambers and her lack of concern about lying.

The most startling statement in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigation of Andrew Chambers was from Michele Leonhart:

“The only criticism (of Chambers) I’ve ever heard is what defense attorneys will characterize as perjury or a lie on the stand.”

She continued by saying that once prosecutors check him out, they’ll agree with his admirers in DEA that he’s “an outstanding testifier.”

That’s the key. To an agent like Leonhart, getting the bust and getting the conviction is all that matters. The testimony is good if it leads to a successful conclusion (from her perspective). Why nitpick about the truth?

Truth has never been important to Leonhart during her entire career with the DEA.

Yes, I’m glad to see her go, but not optimistic about the possibility of getting anyone in that position to replace her that would actually do what’s needed — dismantle the very agency they’ve been tasked to lead.

About the best we can hope for is for someone to be put in place that will be asked to follow a watered-down version of the slogan that comes from the Hippocratic school…

First, do less harm.

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Who knew? Supreme Court remembers the Fourth Amendment

Supreme Court Says Police Violated 4th Amendment When Use of Drug-Sniffing Dog Prolonged Routine Traffic Stop

In a 6-3 decision issued today in the case of Rodriguez v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Nebraska police violated the Fourth Amendment by extending an otherwise lawful traffic stop in order to let a drug-sniffing dog investigate the outside of the vehicle.

According to the majority opinion of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, “a police stop exceeding the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made violates the Constitution’s shield against unreasonable seizures.” […]

During the January 2015 oral argument in the case, Justice Sonia Sotomayor previewed the Court’s skepticism towards the police officer’s approach. “We can’t keep bending the Fourth Amendment to the resources of law enforcement,” Sotomayor declared. “Particularly when this stop is not incidental to the purpose of the stop. It’s purely to help the police get more criminals, yes. But then the Fourth Amendment becomes a useless piece of paper.”

Yep.

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Twas the Night Before 4.20

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Fire the DEA

Forget expressing no confidence in Michele Leonhardt, or even firing her. The entire agency is corrupt, out of control, and destructive to our society.

DEA’s Leonhart Doomed? Committee Declares ‘No Confidence’ Amid Sex Party Scandal — USA Today

Nearly two dozen lawmakers serving on the House oversight committee say it’s time for leadership change at the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The current DEA administrator, Michele Leonhart, infuriated committee members Tuesday with her testimony about agents who repeatedly attended sex parties with prostitutes that were funded by drug cartel members.

None of the misbehaving agents were fired. Seven of them were punished with suspensions of between one and 10 days. The Department of Justice’s inspector general reported on the wild overseas escapades last month.

Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said after the hearing that Leonhart should resign or be fired.

In a remarkably bipartisan Wednesday afternoon declaration, Chaffetz, Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and 20 other members said they have no confidence in Leonhart.

DEA: Bad Boys Sexing Up Colombian Prostitutes Supplied by Drug Cartels – by Diane Goldstein

As a career police officer and an Executive Board Member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of law enforcement professionals opposed to the War on Drugs, I have long believed that one of the most corrupting influences in policing is the enforcement of our drug laws. […]

I have often written about the Machiavellian effect of the drug war on policing and how it has fueled corruption. This scandal, as so many others is not a salacious tale about sex and drugs, but about the failures of drug prohibition and how power corrupts. The DEA, like the drug war has outlived its usefulness. The agency’s handling of not just this scandal, but also many others since its inception reflects their inability to manage itself. The time has come to dismantle an agency more concerned for its own power then for supporting the will of the American people and the rule of law.

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