Two senators held a hearing of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics to determine if the Justice Department is neglecting its duty to enforce federal marijuana laws. Only anti-pot activists and those opposed to legalization were invited to testify.

Senators hold a ‘one-sided prohibitionist party’ – marijuana activists

Published time: 6 Apr, 2016 01:27

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Two senators held a hearing of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics to determine if the Justice Department is neglecting its duty to enforce federal marijuana laws. Only anti-pot activists and those opposed to legalization were invited to testify.

Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-California) may be on opposite sides of the political aisle, but they are on the same page when it comes to opposing marijuana legalization as co-chairs of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics.

Despite representing a state that has legalized medical marijuana, Senator Feinstein authored letters to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State John Kerry last year to point out, “It is our understanding that no one in the Justice Department has initiated a centralized effort to measure the overall effect of these laws,” the LA Times reported.

Guns & ganja: Alaska asks DoJ to revise regulations for users of guns & medical marijuana

The ironically named Senator Grassley, who opposes changing weed from a Schedule I to a Schedule II drug, recently told the Des Moines Register, “Recent studies suggest marijuana use by young people can cause long-term and possibly permanent damage to brain development.

Joining them at the hearing were Sam B. Wagner, a federal prosecutor with a history of prosecuting low-level marijuana crimes; Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, who unsuccessfully attempted to sue Colorado over their legalization of marijuana in the Supreme Court; and Kathryn Wells, a pediatrician on the Science Advisory Board of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-marijuana group that envisions a society where “commercialization and normalization of marijuana are no more.

Offering a counterpoint to the one-sided group was… no one. A press release from the Drug Policy Alliance, a group advocating for drug policy reform, called the hearings a “one-sided prohibitionist party.

The points raised by the hearing’s speakers and participants sounded like those that might be made at a DARE meeting, though even that prominent drug-free organization has backed off its anti-marijuana campaigns.

Grassley argued that marijuana is a gateway drug, connecting it to the heroin and opioid epidemic currently ravaging much of the US.

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control found that people who are addicted to marijuana are three times more likely to be addicted to heroin. So if the Obama Administration is serious about addressing this epidemic, it should stop burying its head in the sand about what’s happening to its enforcement priorities on recreational marijuana,” Grassley said.

However, the Washington Post points out that, as a result of marijuana’s potentially pain relieving properties, broadening accessibility to pot could reduce the need for painkilling drugs, possibly reducing the related risk of addiction and overdoses.

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said that Colorado’s recreational and medicinal legalization are negatively affecting his state’s youth.

I can tell you story after story of… high school students gathering up their money and sending a buyer into Colorado and bringing [marijuana] edibles back or bringing the product back,” he said.

Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) contradicts those claims. SAMHSA found that from 2012 to 2014, marijuana usage in Nebraska declined among teens. In 2012, Colorado voted to pass Amendment 64, a measure that legalized the sale of marijuana for recreational use to adults aged 21 years or older.

California, Arizona, Nevada, and Massachusetts are also going to the polls to vote on similar legalization this year. With Colorado’s pot industry raking in just under $1 billion in 2015 alone, the pro-marijuana side may not have needed to attend the Senate’s caucus on international narcotics.

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Native Americans Perplexed by Obama’s Latest Marijuana Gift

A Justice Department memo sets the stage for Indian tribes to grow and sell marijuana, but do they even want to?

Julie Bykowicz

Julie Bykowicz t bykowicz

There may be no better friend to Native Americans than President Barack Obama, who has gone out of his way to foster economic development by extending gaming and energy development rights, among many other benefits, to the impoverished community. But in an odd twist, his administration’s latest entreaty—to allow marijuana crops and sales on reservations—is being viewed by some tribes as not very friendly at all.

“We actually have no idea what’s going on here,” said Troy Eid, a Denver attorney and chairman of the Indian Law and Order Commission, which advises Obama and Congress on tribal criminal justice issues. “What we do know is that, for unknown reasons, there has been no consultation between the administration and tribes as to what they want to do. It’s a very unusual gap in how this president has approached things.”

The Justice Department said last week that it will treat tribal lands—and there are 300 in 30 states—as it does the four states that have legalized marijuana. In its memo, the department said it was responding to the request of “some tribes” that had asked for guidance. 

“We actually have no idea what’s going on here.”

Troy Eid, presidential adviser on Indian criminal justice issues

“No idea,” responded Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, when asked which tribes made the request. 

Eid, whose firm represents more than 70 tribes, said that while some of his clients might be interested in exploring their marijuana options, many more are upset and worried that this DOJ memo gives the federal government, which handles prosecution of crimes that occur on reservations, an excuse to not enforce drug laws. Lots of tribes want robust prosecution, he said. Indians have struggled with addiction, so many are sensitive to making it easier to obtain drugs of any kind.

Wyn Hornbuckle, a DOJ spokesman, said the agency will deal with tribes as individual governments. The policy statement recognizes that “some tribes are very concerned with public safety implications, such as the impact on youth, and the use of tribal lands for the cultivation or transport of marijuana, while others have explored decriminalization and other approaches,” he said, noting that marijuana remains illegal under federal law. 

So far the Mohegan Indian Tribe of Connecticut is one of the few to publicly express interest in marijuana as a cash crop. They also were trailblazers in the gaming industry, though their receipts have been flagging in recent years. As Eid points out, the Justice memo makes no mention that it took this step as a way to bolster tribal finances. “Maybe it looks like they’re doing something good, but I don’t think that’s clear,” he said.

That being said, Obama has had far better relations with Indian country than previous presidents, Eid and Pata said.

“He has been the best president for Indian country,” Pata said. Obama set the stage for this on the campaign trial in 2008, visiting reservations and making promises to respect tribes as the independent nations that are. He also made it personal a year after his historic election. “Over the last few years, I’ve had a chance to speak with Native American leaders across the country about the challenges you face, and those conversations have been deeply important to me,” Obama said in an address to Indian leaders in November 2009. “I get it. I’m on your side. I understand what it means to be an outsider.” 

In a three-part series last year, Bloomberg News explored the friendly relationship between Obama and Indian country through the lens of gambling. He has tried to usher more tribes into this $28 billion industry, to the delight of many Native Americans and the irritation of Senator Dianne Feinstein, a fierce opponent of gambling. Under President George W. Bush, new licenses for tribal casinos on off-reservation lands had all but stalled. Obama’s Bureau of Indian Affairs not only began approving long-dormant projects, but redefined what counts as highly regulated, taxed slot machines, opening up new cash flows for tribes. And when a U.S. Supreme Court ruling questioned the sovereignty of at least 50 tribes, some of which want to open casinos, the Obama administration found a work-around.

The economic benefits of vice are hotly debated. Legalized pot in the states is too new for assessment. Economists who have studied the Indian gaming industry have found mixed results. Casinos help some individual tribes, but not the demographic as a whole. One in four American Indians was living in poverty in 2012. It’s far higher at some reservations. At one that Obama visited this year, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, nearly half of the inhabitants live in poverty. 

The DOJ’s marijuana decision has the potential to be lucrative, especially because crops would likely not face the high taxes imposed by the states. And maybe some tribes will go for it, Eid said.  “But we’re far from that,” he said. “At this point the administration needs to start over, and start with some serious tribal consultation.” 

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Justice Department on Thursday will tell U.S. attorneys to not prevent tribes from growing or selling marijuana on the sovereign lands

U.S. won’t stop Native Americans from growing, selling pot on their lands

By Timothy M. Phelps contact the reporter

The Justice Department will generally not try to enforce federal marijuana laws on Native American reservation

Opening the door for what could be a lucrative and controversial new industry on some Native American reservations, the Justice Department on Thursday will tell U.S. attorneys to not prevent tribes from growing or selling marijuana on the sovereign lands, even in states that ban the practice.

The new guidance, released in a memorandum, will be implemented on a case-by-case basis and tribes must still follow federal guidelines, said Timothy Purdon, the U.S. attorney for North Dakota and the chairman of the Attorney General’s Subcommittee on Native American Issues.

It once again sends a message that we really don’t care about federal drug laws. – Kevin A. Sabet, an opponent of marijuana legalization and former advisor on drug issues to President Obama

It remains to be seen how many reservations will take advantage of the policy. Many tribes are opposed to legalizing pot on their lands, and federal officials will continue to enforce the law in those areas, if requested.

Southern California is home to nearly 30 federal- and state-recognized Indian tribes, with a total population of nearly 200,000, according to state estimates. The largest tribes operate profitable casinos and outlet malls, including those by the Morongo, Cabazon, San Manuel and Pechanga tribes.

Representatives of several of the largest tribes could not be reached for comment.

The policy comes on the heels of the 2013 Justice Department decision to stop most federal marijuana prosecutions in states that have legalized the possession or sale of pot. Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia have all moved to legalize the drug, though the D.C. law may be scaled back by Congress.

Related story: Shunned by banks, legitimate pot shops must deal in risky cash

 

Some tribes see marijuana sales as a potential source of revenue, similar to cigarette sales and casino gambling, which have brought a financial boon to reservations across the country. Others, including the Yakama Reservation in Washington state, remain strongly opposed to the sale or use of marijuana on their lands.

Purdon said in an interview that the majority of Native American tribes, mindful of the painful legacy of alcohol abuse in their communities, appear to be against allowing marijuana use on their territory.

The federal government will continue to legally support those tribes that wish to ban marijuana, even in states that now permit its sale, Purdon said.

But the Justice Department will generally not attempt to enforce federal marijuana laws on federally recognized tribes that choose to allow it, as long as they meet eight federal guidelines, including that marijuana not be sold to minors and not be transported to areas that prohibit it.

“The tribes have the sovereign right to set the code on their reservations,” Purdon said.

John Walsh, the U.S. attorney for Colorado, said a primary purpose of the memorandum to be released Thursday is to assure U.S. attorney offices and tribes that despite the changes in Justice Department policy announced last year, federal prosecutors still have the authority to prosecute marijuana felonies on tribal lands.

 

In many cases, federal prosecutors are the only ones permitted by law to prosecute marijuana felonies on tribal lands.

Walsh said that the new memorandum, like the one issued for states last year, emphasizes that states or reservations must have “robust and effective regulatory systems in place” and that federal prosecutors reserve the right to take broader enforcement actions.

The policy is likely to be criticized in states opposed to marijuana sales, particularly those with Native American reservations.

Kevin A. Sabet, an opponent of marijuana legalization and former advisor on drug issues to President Obama, called the policy an “extremely troubling development.”

“It once again sends a message that we really don’t care about federal drug laws,” he said.

Sabet, director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida, said, “Native Americans and their families suffer disproportionately from addiction compared to other groups. The last thing they want is another commercialized industry that targets them for greater use.”

[email protected]

Times staff writer Hugo Martin in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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12 Of The Sketchiest Things The DEA Has Done While Waging The War On Drugs

 

 

This is part one of a two-part series. Read part two here.

The Drug Enforcement Administration was established under the Justice Department in 1973 by President Richard Nixon. Its mission was to keep the nation off and away from drugs, which, at least according to the White House, were a moral evil and catalyst of criminal behavior. The agency was formed just two years after Nixon launched what became known as the “war on drugs.” Congress and the rest of the nation remained convinced that the scourge of narcotics and drug abusers — and perhaps particularly those who were young, poor or black — was pounding at the gates. Over the next four decades, with most drug policy now firmly in the grips of law enforcement officials, the DEA’s annual budget saw a fortyfold increase, going from a paltry $75 million to nearly $3 billion in 2014.

With more than 11,000 employees and a host of responsibilities, the agency’s activity has expanded worldwide, all the while attracting scrutiny from critics of the drug war who contend that the DEA is an ineffective agency that uses controversial tools to enforce often misguided or unjust federal drug laws.

The catalog of controversies below helps explain why the public has often questioned the DEA’s priorities, as well as the methods it employs to advance them. While the DEA does its best to keep many of its dealings out of the public eye — it regularly claims secrecy is imperative to the success of its anti-drug operations — here are some of the most sketchy, messed up things that we know it has done:

The DEA claimed Prohibition was a success.

alcohol prohibition officers

Most historians believe the “noble experiment” of alcohol prohibition in the 1920s backfired, creating a myriad of negative unintended consequences and serving as a lesson about the hazards of governing public morals. The DEA, however, tells a different story. In 2010, the DEA and the International Association of Chiefs of Police released a report providing key arguments against drug legalization. In one passage, first highlighted by the Republic Report, the report set out to combat what it called the “myth” that “prohibition didn’t work in the 20’s and it doesn’t work now.” Its main argument was that the 18th Amendment didn’t go far enough to restrict the manufacturing and consumption of alcohol at the onset of Prohibition.

Citing figures that suggest there was a decline in alcohol use during that 13-year period — statistics that are regularly contested and impossible to verify — the document argues that Prohibition was a successful policy. The report also downplayed the secondary effects of banning alcohol, such as the precipitous rise of organized crime, at one point suggesting that those effects were increasing before the enactment of Prohibition.

dea prohibition

A sample of the DEA’s report.

Unsurprisingly, the report made no mention of the clear negative parallels between early-20th century Prohibition laws and today’s laws that target drugs. In both cases, strict prohibition has taken away resources from treatment for addiction and abuse, overburdened court systems and jails, fostered corruption in law enforcement, propped up organized crime and even, some argue, created a damaging disrespect for the rule of law. In return, these incredibly costly enforcement experiments have largely failed to actually limit people’s consumptive habits.

The DEA imprisoned an innocent suspect in a holding cell for five days without food or water.

In 2012, 24-year-old Daniel Chong was detained by DEA agents in San Diego after his friend’s house was targeted by a drug raid. Chong was told there were no plans to charge him and that he’d be released the same day. But he wasn’t released, and agents who heard or saw him over the next five days did nothing, each believing he was somebody else’s responsibility. Chong was trapped in a windowless 5-by-10 enclosure without food or water, all for the crime of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. When he was finally discovered, he was incoherent and required medical attention. He said he’d drank his own urine to survive, and at one point attempted suicide. At some point, Chong began to carve “sorry mom” into his arm with broken glass from his eyeglasses, which he ate before being released.

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DEA agent sued over Facebook decoy page

DEA agent sued over Facebook decoy page

This image obtained by The Associated Press shows a Facebook page for “Sondra Prince.” The Justice Department said Tuesday it is reviewing a woman’s complaint that a Drug Enforcement Administration agent set up a fake Facebook account using her identity. AP

 

WASHINGTON – The Drug Enforcement Administration set up a fake Facebook account using photographs and other personal information it took from the cellphone of a New York woman arrested in a cocaine case, to trick her friends and associates into revealing incriminating drug secrets.

The Justice Department initially defended the practice in court filings but now says it is reviewing whether the Facebook guise went too far.

Sondra Arquiett’s Facebook account looked as real as any other. It included photos of her posing on the hood of a sleek BMW and a close-up with her young son and niece. She even appeared to write that she missed her boyfriend, who was identified by his nickname.

But it wasn’t her. The account was the work of DEA Agent Timothy Sinnigen, Arquiett said in a federal lawsuit. The case is scheduled for trial next week in Albany, New York.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement Tuesday that officials are reviewing both the incident and the practice, although in court papers filed earlier in the case, the federal government defended it. Fallon declined to comment further because the case is pending.

Details of the case were first reported by the online news site Buzzfeed.

Arquiett was arrested in July 2010 on charges of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. She was accused of being part of a drug distribution ring run by her boyfriend, who had been previously indicted.

In a court filing in August, the Justice Department contended that while Arquiett didn’t directly authorize Sinnigen to create the fake account, she “implicitly consented by granting access to the information stored in her cellphone and by consenting to the use of that information to aid in … ongoing criminal investigations.”

The government also contended that the Facebook account was not public. A reporter was able to access it early Tuesday, though it was later disabled.

A spokesman for Facebook declined Tuesday to comment on the legal dispute. Facebook’s own policies appear to prohibit the practice, telling users that “You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.”

Lawyers for Arquiett did not immediately respond to email and telephone messages from The Associated Press. Arquiett did not immediately respond to an email asking to discuss the case.

Arquiett said in her filing that she suffered “fear and great emotional distress” and was endangered because the fake page gave the impression that she was cooperating with Sinnigen’s investigation as he interacted online with “dangerous individuals he was investigating.”

The fate of Arquiett’s fight against the government’s use of her identity online is unclear.

A staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation – a civil liberties organization – Nate Cardozo, said the government’s rationale was “laughable.”

“If I’m cooperating with law enforcement, and law enforcement says, ‘Can I search your phone?’ and I hand it over to them, my expectation is that they will search the phone for evidence of a crime – not that they will take things that are not evidence off my phone and use it in another context,” Cardozo said,

Lawrence Friedman, a privacy and constitutional law professor at New England Law-Boston, a law school, said the Arquiett’s “privacy claim rises and falls on the extent to which she consented to what it is the government says she consented to.”

If Arquiett agreed to cooperate with an ongoing investigation and allow her phone to be used as part of that probe – as the government alleged in its court filing – then it would be harder for her to prove that her privacy rights were violated, Friedman said. If her phone were seized without consent, then she would have an easier claim.

“Basically, when you strike that kind of deal, you kind of have to play by the government’s rules,” Friedman said. “This is not the ordinary situation in which the person walking down the street can have their identity stolen by the government,” he said. “She was involved in a criminal investigation.”

AP

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