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Medical marijuana bill introduced in Idaho

Newsletter IdahoOn January 19, Idaho made a great stride toward securing medical marijuana patients against the threat of arrest and prosecution when representative Tom Trail introduced a medical marijuana bill into the state's legislature. If passed, the legislation would make Idaho the 16th medical marijuana state. Read more ...

Why are some cops so hostile to marijuana policy reform?

Newsletter Hostile PoliceMPP executive director Rob Kampia looks at the reasons why law enforcement officials are so often resistant against, or opposed to, marijuana policy reform. What do you think – is it ignorance, job security, quality of life, or perhaps something else? Read more ...

Utah man killed in outrageous police raid

Newsletter RaidA recently released video of a police raid in Utah last September, which depicts a man being shot and killed as police force entry into his home, has enraged many readers of our blog. Take a look, but be forewarned: the contents of this video are shocking and outrageous, and likely to induce commentary. Read more ...

Courts hearing cases on rights of medical marijuana patients

Newsletter V1_I8 courtroomTwo separate cases (in two separate states) involving the rights of medical marijuana patients will be heard by supreme courts. One case deals with employment protections for registered medical marijuana patients, and the other deals with issues of handgun permits for medical marijuana patients. Read more ...

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The MPP Video of the Month

Todd Blair Drug Raid

Featured Person

Newsletter V1_I10 VictimIn January 2000, 18-year-old Marisa Garcia received a ticket for marijuana possession that nearly cost her a college education.
Hear her story...

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Where's the Outrage Over 'Wrong-Door' Drug Raid? (Opinion)

Location: 
Spring Valley, NY
United States
Bob Goldberg opines on the surprise early morning raid by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the Spring Valley police which terrorized an innocent Spring Valley family asleep in their home.
Publication/Source: 
The Journal News (NY)
URL: 
http://www.lohud.com/article/20110126/OPINION/101260312/1076/OPINION01/Where+%27s%20the%20outrage%20over%20+%27wrong-door+%27%20drug%20raid

More FOX Coverage of Botched Drug Raid Killings

Radley Balko was on Freedom Watch last night for the second time this month, discussing the SWAT killing of Todd Blair that went viral last week.

Reagan Turns 100: Fawning Media Ignore His Disastrous War on Drugs (Opinion)

Tony Newman, communications director for the Drug Policy Alliance, opines on Ronald Reagan's legacy. Newman says Reagan's harsh drug policies not only exploded the prison population, he also blocked programs that could have prevented hundreds of thousands of AIDS deaths.
Publication/Source: 
Alternet (CA)
URL: 
http://www.alternet.org/drugs/149658/reagan_turns_100%3A_fawning_media_ignore_his_disastrous_%27war_on_drugs%27

Settlement Reached in Maryland Mayor's SWAT Raid Lawsuit

Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo's lawsuit against Prince Georges County, Maryland over a 2008 SWAT raid in which his two dogs were shot dead and he was held at gunpoint is over. Calvo told the Washington Post Monday that a settlement had been reached, but declined to comment on the settlement amount or other details, which are still being worked out.

They shoot dogs, don't they? Maybe fewer now. (image via Wikimedia)
Calvo did say that the settlement will bring reforms in the way the county conducts drug raids. How and when SWAT teams are deployed and the humane treatment of pets are among the areas where reforms will occur, he said.

"We're achieving the reforms we were seeking," Calvo said.

A civil trial in the lawsuit was set to begin Monday. The county had no comment as of Monday afternoon.

Calvo's home was raided in July 2008 by Prince Georges Sheriff's SWAT officers who were assisting county police narcotics investigators. Police had been tipped that a package being shipped to Calvo's address contained marijuana. They intercepted the package, delivered it to Calvo's porch, then broke down the door after Calvo, returning from walking his dogs, picked up the package and took it inside.

SWAT officers shot and killed Calvo's two dogs and kept the mayor handcuffed and kneeling on the ground. But it turned out that Calvo had nothing to do with the marijuana, which was being shipped to the addresses of unwitting people to be picked up off their porches by pot dealers before they got home.

Calvo's lawsuit alleged that the SWAT team failed to "knock and announce" their presence before raiding the house and that the county was too loose in its usage of the SWAT team. He also accused the sheriff's department of having no policy for dealing with pets in a home being raided.

Calvo filed suit after the sheriff's department declared itself exonerated following an internal investigation. That and the raid itself were "business as usual" for Prince Georges County, Calvo wrote in a 2009 Washington Post op-ed. That's what prompted him to file the lawsuit, on the same day as the county's announcement. Calvo also successfully lobbied for passage of a statewide SWAT reporting bill.

Here's hoping there really is no more of that sort of "business as usual" in Prince Georges County. And here's thanking Cheye Calvo for standing up to official oppression.

Upper Marlboro, MD
United States

Family Home Stormed in Another Botched Drug Prohibition SWAT Raid

Location: 
36 Sharon Drive
Spring Valley, NY 10977
United States
Another police raid and yet another innocent family caught up in a failed drug prohibition war that sends heavily armed, masked and hyped up cops in search of largely nonviolent offenders. This time the raid happened in Spring Valley, New York, and left a 13-year-old child vomiting and gasping for air in an asthma attack triggered by the over-the-top and misdirected actions of police and DEA agents.
Publication/Source: 
Change.org (DC)
URL: 
http://criminaljustice.change.org/blog/view/family_home_stormed_in_another_botched_swat_raid

Video Shows Utah Man Being Killed in Drug Raid

Utah SWAT team bringing death in
A police video of a September drug raid in Utah provides graphic evidence of the sometimes dire consequences of SWAT-style drug law enforcement. In the video released by the Salt Lake Tribune, a member of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force repeatedly shoots and kills resident Todd Blair as Blair steps into a hallway holding a golf club like a baseball bat.

According to a Tribune article in December, Blair, while a methamphetamine user and familiar to police, was not the target of the raid and was not supposed to be in the house. In fact, police had earlier seen a man they thought was Blair leaving the house and pulled him over so he wouldn't be present during the raid. But the man was not Blair and was released, at which point police began to prepare a "dynamic entry" or no-knock raid.

Police had received a warrant for a no-knock warrant after claiming in their affidavit that the house had "lookouts" who would warn of their arrival and that their suspect -- not Blair -- might attempt to destroy the evidence. The affidavit did not mention that their suspect had already moved out of the house.

Because they had expected to raid an empty residence, the police SWAT team had not prepared a "dynamic entry" plan. Instead of falling back and creating one in the standard procedure, they retreated to a nearby retirement home and improvised one. They had also forgotten to bring along a copy of their search warrant -- not a legal failing in a no-knock raid, but another indication of a drug squad fraying at the edges.

The video show police yelling, "Police! Search warrant!" and breaking down the door in a matter of seconds. Ogden police Sgt. Troy Burnett was the first officer through the door when Blair, shirtless, stepped into a hallway brandishing the golf club. He was eight to ten feet away and not advancing when Burnett, without uttering a warning, shoots him three times in the head and chest. As he collapses, Burnett yells "Get on the ground!"

Utah authorities determined the shooting was justified.



Roy, UT
United States

Brutal Drug Raid Killing Caught on Video

The drug czar has gone to great rhetorical lengths to convince the American people that our drug policy isn’t a war any longer, but you don't have to look very hard to see the violence that still erupts daily, not only in Mexico, but right here in our own communities. If you can handle it, I'd like you to take a look at just one example of the incredible violence police use when enforcing our drug laws.

That is how quickly lives are lost in the war on drugs. When police invade private homes in search of drugs, anything and everything can go wrong, and even the slightest misunderstanding becomes a matter of life and death. The victim in this case, Todd Blair, brandished a golf club in terror as armed men stormed his home in the night. We'll never know for sure if he realized they were police. But we do know that only a small amount of drugs were found in the raid that took his life.

That drugs and violence often go hand in hand isn't a mystery to many among us – the bloodshed gripping Mexico is old news by now – but this is a very different kind of drug war violence than the infamous turf wars of the cartels. This is a rare glimpse into the unbelievable level of force our own public servants unleash routinely in order to protect us from ourselves. This man was just a drug user. Whether he ever sold drugs is in dispute, but there's no question that he lived and died in poverty, and not from drugs, but from police who gunned him down in his own home.

So long as we rely on police to lead the fight against drug abuse, the consequences will unfold brutally all around us and people who could have been helped – not to mention innocent bystanders – will be lost to us forever. Mistakes and misunderstandings will continue to occur with deadly frequency, but to a very large extent, the tragic events that take place daily in the war on drugs are not mistakes at all; they are the real and inevitable results of the laws our police enforce and the orders they receive. If heavily-armed pre-dawn drug raids are standard protocol, then people getting shot dead in the dark obviously can't be considered a crime, and it shouldn't be called an accident either.

The movement to end the war on drugs isn't just about making drugs legal. It's also about making it illegal for police to kill our friends and family over small bags of contraband. 

FOX Covers Latest Botched Drug Raid Killing

Freedom Watch with Judge Napolitano is on point yet again with this coverage of the recent killing of grandfather Eurie Stamps.


Unfortunately, tragedies like this one are all too common, and it's honestly hard to summon the same level of outrage after watching the same horrific fact pattern unfold again and again. Nevertheless, it's at least encouraging to see Freedom Watch emerge as a high profile venue for exposing the drug war's reckless brutality to the light of day. Radley Balko also deserves credit for his hard work on this issue, though it must suck to be the go-to guy for a media quote whenever an innocent person gets shot dead by the cops. How depressing.

Massachusetts Sees First US Drug War Killing of 2011

[Editor's Note: This year, Drug War Chronicle is going to try to track every death directly attributable to drug law enforcement. We didn't have to wait long, did we? We can use your help. If you come across a news account of a killing related to drug law enforcement, please send us an email at psmith@drcnet.org.]

A 68-year-old Framingham, Massachusetts, man has become the first person killed by police enforcing the drug laws in the US this year. Eurie Stamps Sr. was fatally shot by a Framingham Police SWAT officer shortly after midnight Wednesday as police served a drug search warrant at his residence.

Authorities have not released details of the shooting, which is now under investigation by the Middlesex District Attorney's Office and the Massachusetts State Police. A spokesman for DA Gerry Leone said authorities are investigating whether Stamps was armed. But a family friend told the MetroWest newspaper that authorities said the shooting was accidental.

The friend, Dwayne Barrett of Framingham, described Stamps as "a very good man, the type of man who'd give you the shirt off his back. This shouldn't have happened."

Police said they arrested two men at the residence during the drug raid, one of whom is Stamps' stepson. Those men are charged with possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute, conspiracy to violate the state's controlled substances law, and a school zone violation.


(Click here for WBZ news report.)

Framingham, MA
United States

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