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The Speakeasy Blog

New Orleans Cop Indicted in Drug Raid Killing

In a rare event, a police officer has actually been indicted for killing someone during a drug raid. What would be even more rare would be for him to actually be convicted. Chronicle story here.

US-Mexican Caravan for (Drug War) Peace Gets Underway [FEATURE]

Hoping to put a human face on the drug war's toll, a cross-border Caravan for Peace has begun its weeks-long, 27-city journey across the US. Chronicle feature story here.

Three More Drug War Deaths

Three more people have died in drug war-related incidents in recent days, including a police officer. Chronicle story here.

Medical Marijuana Should Make Arkansas Ballot

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act looks set to qualify for the ballot after proponents handed in three times as many signatures as they need to make it for the November election. Chronicle story here.

Another Jury Revolts Against Marijuana Laws, "They felt marijuana should be legalized."

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Jacob Sullum shares this incredible story from a defense attorney in Kansas.

I had a jury trial this morning on level 3 possession with intent MJ, level 4 possession drug paraphernalia and level 10 no drug tax stamp. During voir dire, my almost all white, middle-class, middle-aged jury went into full rebellion against the prosecutor stating that they wouldn't convict even if the client's guilt was proven beyond a reasonable doubt -- almost all of them! They felt marijuana should be legalized, what he does with it is his own business and that the jails are already full of people for this silly charge. Then, when the potential jurors found out that the State wanted him to pay taxes on illegal drugs, they went nuts. One woman from the back said how stupid this was and why are we even here wasting our time. A "suit" from the front said this was the most ridiculous thing he'd ever heard. The prosecutor ended up dismissing the case. Judge gave me a dismissal with prejudice. I'm still laughing my ass off over this one.  I have NEVER seen a full on mutiny by an entire jury pool before. Easiest win ever! 

In so many ways, the drug war's own exploding unpopularity is poised to become its downfall. Events like this aren't the norm (yet), but the mere threat of insurrection in the courtroom is already an important check against prosecutorial overreach in the war on drugs (in case you were wondering why so many medical marijuana raids never lead to criminal charges).

As the polls continue to turn in favor of reform, the refusal of juries to convict marijuana offenders could quickly become a brutal burden for these drug war boneheads to bear. It's about damn time.

Redefining the English Language to Fight the Drug War

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The tendency of the courts to trash our privacy rights in a pathetic attempt to prevent marijuana smoking is so routine that I seldom bother even to point it out anymore, but something about this case bugged me just enough to slap it around for a second.

FAIRBANKS, Alaska -- The federal government can obtain suspected marijuana growers' utility records without a warrant.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled in the case of a Fairbanks utility, Golden Valley Electric Association, which refused turning over records to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

GVEA argued the Fourth Amendment protects customers from search and seizure without a proper warrant.

But the appeals court ruled a customer lacks an expectation of privacy in an item, like a business record. [SacBee.com]

Doesn't that just sound silly? In fairness, I've studied enough law to know that the legal definition of a term like "expectation of privacy" is always slowly evolving and doesn't necessarily mean what a random person would think it to mean. But come the hell on. Once we reach point where they're telling us with a straight face that we have no "expectation of privacy" with regards to our business records, well, that's just too stupid for school.

Unfortunately, it's really rather consistent with how the courts treat our privacy rights, and the decision of how much privacy we can reasonably expect is not ours to make. Courts have consistently ruled, for example, that information you share with a third party carries no expectation of privacy because you're assuming the risk that someone will turn that information over to the government. I disagree.

Rather obviously, we wouldn't have to worry about the government obtaining our information from third parties if the government hadn't granted itself the authority to collect said information and then introduce it as evidence against us in court. I wouldn't have to worry about third parties carelessly disclosing my private information if such information were legally inadmissible as it ought to be.

When I hear the term "expectation of privacy" I think of the physical boundaries that separate public from private. I don't expect privacy with regards to my purchases at the grocery store, or the content of a conversation on a crowded street. It's well understood that any crime committed in "plain view" is fair game for police, even if they have to use binoculars to get a good view. I even sort of sympathize with allowing police to search your trash, since you left it outside where anyone could walk off with it.

But anyone can't just walk off with my utility bills. Stealing mail is a crime, after all. To say that I have no expectation of privacy with regards to that information is preposterous. Yes, the utility company could give my information to the police, but so could a neighbor who steals my mail. Either way, I'm getting screwed by somebody and it's not my fault for expecting privacy.

New Anti-Drug Ad is Scary and Ironic

The Partnership at DrugFree.org has been putting out outrageous anti-drug propaganda for many years, but this latest spot takes us in a really strange direction…

This thing goes into overdrive instantly, and for a second I thought they were seriously suggesting smashing up your kids' stuff to keep them off drugs (unfortunately, it's only a short trip from the typical nuttiness one can expect from anti-drug zealots like these). But the conclusion reveals a more nuanced message, encouraging parents not to break their kids' crap with a bat, but rather to seek help from sources like DrugFree.org if you think your child is involved with drugs.

Now I would never recommend that anyone get drug information from DrugFree.org, as you could write several books on what those people don’t know about drugs (those books already exist, in fact), but I suppose I'd have to agree with the ad's central message that going apeshit with an aluminum baseball bat in your own driveway is a bad plan.

I find it amusing, however, that parents are now being warned not to overreact to their kids' drug use by the very same organization that's spend many years and many millions to convince parents to be scared senseless at the thought of their kids doing drugs. Parental panic is a product of the hysteria that's been spread by these very same people, and it's the height of irony that they now dramatize this legacy of confusion and fear in a peculiar attempt at self-promotion. I have a feeling it won't work so well.

Bill O'Reilly Shouts Dumb Stuff About the Drug War Again

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I don't even want to know how many times I've written about the reckless idiocy of this man, but what am I supposed to do, ignore him? The arrogance on display here is so perfectly horrible, I'm afraid I just can’t look away.

You can see the frustration of his guests as they struggle to explain anything at all about our drug policy to a guy who is so determined never to understand it. From his casual slander against medical marijuana laws, to his bizarre inversion of factual vs. theoretical examples, to his ridiculous insistence that any drug sale borders on attempted murder, O'Reilly is the hellish incarnation of every dumb idea anybody ever had about how to deal with drugs.

I can't wait to hear what he has to say when we finally end the drug war and everyone is safer, happier, and healthy. I can only assume he'll complain quite vigorously about it.

Now They're Trying to Ban... Kratom? [FEATURE]

Kratom is a fairly innocuous organic substance that is useful in treating a number of conditions, but that doesn't mean people in power don't want to reflexively ban it. The fight is on in Pinellas County, Florida. Chronicle feature story here.

North Dakota Medical Marijuana Petitions Handed In

North Dakota could be voting on medical marijuana this fall. Initiative campaigners have handed in 150% of the signatures they need to qualify. Now, they have to wait and see if they have enough valid signatures. Chronicle story here.

New Hemp Bill Introduced in US Senate

In a bipartisan effort, four US senators are cosponsoring a bill that would differentiate hemp from marijuana under the Controlled Substance Act. Chronicle story here.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It never stops, does it? Here's another seven bad apples. Chronicle story here.

Medical Marijuana Update

The end of dispensaries in LA looms, more threat letters in Colorado, and a medical marijuana initiative in North Dakota!? That's just some of the news -- Chronicle update here.

Olympic Athlete's Expulsion for Marijuana Raises Questions

The expulsion of American Olympic judo competitor Nick Delpopolo from the Games after he tested positive for marijuana is raising questions about why pot is on the list of substances banned for athletes in the first place. Chronicle story here.

Arizona SWAT Team Kills Man in Drug Raid Shootout

A kick-the-door-down SWAT team drug raid was met with gunfire at a Phoenix house early Thursday. One man was killed, making him the 39th to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year. Chronicle story here.

Springfield (Missouri) Marijuana Decriminalization Initiative Certified

Springfield, Missouri, voters will have a chance to vote for marijuana decriminalization in November -- if the city council doesn't approve it first -- after an initiative there qualified Thursday. Chronicle story here.

Police Kill Miami Man in Marijuana Grow House Shootout

A Miami man is dead after police said he opened fire on them as they investigated a possible marijuana grow house. Still no word if it actually was a marijuana grow house, though. Chronicle story here.

Bipartisan Bill to Fight Overdoses Filed in Congress

A couple of dozen House members have introduced a bill aimed at reducing the steadily climbing toll from drug overdoses, most of them from prescription opioid pain relievers, by providing federal support for state and local prevention and education programs, including expanded use of naloxone. Chronicle story here.

Medical Marijuana Update

What!? No DEA raids? Not this week, but the federal crackdown on dispensaries continues, and cities and localities in medical marijuana states continue to grapple with the issues around it. Chronicle story here.

Handcuffed Marijuana Offender Shot, Killed in Police Car

Police say a young Mississippi man shot himself while cuffed with his hands behind his back in the back sear of a police car with a gun they missed while searching him after arresting him for marijuana. His mother isn't buying it. Chronicle story here.

Lebanon Hash Eradication Hits New Obstacle

Lebanon's annual effort to wipe out hashish production is having a particularly rocky time this year. On Tuesday, eradicators were stuck without bulldozers after locals refused to rent to them. At least no one was shooting at them this week. Chronicle story here.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A crank-dealing sheriff cops a plea, an LA narc gets a case of sticky fingers, an Arkansas narc develops a fondness for dope, and a North Carolina parole officer gets caught forcing his parolees to supply him with dope. Chronicle story here.

DOJ to Sentencing Commission: Fewer Prisoners, Please

The Justice Department is signaling it wants a smaller federal prison population because we can't afford our mass incarceration binge anymore, but it doesn't want to talk about the drug war. Chronicle story here.

Woman Walks After Prosecutorial Perfidy in Tucson [FEATURE]

Aurora Lopez-Avila is back home in Mexico. A mother of three, she struggles daily to rebuild a shattered life that once hung in the balance -- after sitting for more than two years in a Tucson, Arizona, federal jail facing charges that she attempted to transport 10 kilos of cocaine across the Arizona-Mexico border on December 8, 2009. Chronicle feature story here.

Medical Marijuana Rescheduling Lawsuit Moving

Ten years after the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis filed a petition to remove marijuana from Schedule I and one year after the DEA rejected that petition, a federal appeals court is set to hear the evidence. Chronicle story here.

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