At 8am on the morning of September 29, 2011, the Butte Interagency Narcotic Task Force (BINTF) forced entry into the home of Daisy Bram and her husband Jayme Walsh. Law enforcement officers arrested the couple and working jointly with Child Protective Services, seized their children — including their 3-week-old suckling newborn, Zeus, who was violently ripped from his mother’s arms. He and his 15-month-old brother, Thor, were snatched and placed in a stranger’s home. Neither of these nursing babies had ever been away from their parents.
Three weeks prior, on September 7, 2011, after a summer of watching sheriff’s helicopters fly over the area, two Butte County Sheriff’s deputies trespassed onto a clearly marked private road, maneuvered around a locked/gated driveway, and onto the property of Daisy and Jayme’s remote home on a mountain in Concow, California. They were there for a “compliance check”.
[A “compliance check” is a convenient excuse created by local county law enforcement used solely for the purpose of unlawfully obtaining access to private homes to investigate legal medicinal cannabis gardens for potential arrest and prosecution.]
During this “compliance check” police assured Daisy’s husband that “…everything looks okay… good luck with the baby.” The necessary and appropriate valid medical paperwork was and is in order.
The couple has since been charged with eight class A felonies, six relating to cannabis and two charges of child abuse). After a preliminary hearing, at which Jayme Walsh represented himself and Bram, they had the good fortune of retaining attorneys Michael Levinsohn and Jen Reeder. The child related charges, and one cannabis related charge were dismissed, leaving five remaining criminal cannabis charges. One of the most disturbing factors in this nightmare is that there has never been any attempt by prosecutors to verify the validity of their status as qualified patients in the state of California. Both Walsh and Bram have legal state-recognized recommendations for medical marijuana.
UPDATE [3/13/12] – Butte County Assistant District Attorney, Jeff Greeson, re-filed felony child abuse and misdemeanor child endangerment charges, against Daisy Bram (www.freemybabies.org). Daisy and her husband Jayme Walsh are medical cannabis patients in Butte County. Their 3 week old and 15 month-old children were taken and held by Butte County CPS for more than four months, following the parents arrest for cannabis.
Tamara Lujan, NORML Women’s Alliance Community Leader for Butte County issued the following statement:
“Considering the felony and misdemeanor charges were dropped, and are now being re-filed after public outcry and the filing for a Grand Jury Investigation, we can come to no other conclusion except this is a retaliatory measure, from the Butte County DA’s office.”
The outrage over this incident has driven several local residents to come forward with similar complaints regarding the misconduct of the BINTF and Child Services Division of Butte County (which leads all of California’s large counties in the percentage rate of permanent removal of children from parents). As a result, the NORML Women’s Alliance has filed an official request for an investigation by the Grand Jury in Butte County (including a financial audit). On Friday March 9th, the NWA, along with Butte County residents, put forward a complaint to the Grand Jury of Butte requesting an investigation into the County Children Services Division for the agency’s perceived and widespread misconduct. The findings in the people’s request include numerous testimonials from directly affected persons, submitted herein via the GRAND JURY COMPLAINT FORMS, which specify various and detailed claims of CSD misdeeds.
To see the full press click here.
“We thank the Grand Jury for its time, consideration and diligence in pursing our request. Only when government agencies have proper oversight can we as a community rest assured that corruption, abuse and other misdeeds are kept in check and deterred. Together We the People of Butte County and the Grand Jury can make these necessary strides of investigation and oversight to ensure all Butte families are truly served well, and are safe and secure at home.” – Tamara Lujan (NWA Butte County Community Leader)
By Kellen Russoniello, student, George Washington University Law Center and NORML legal intern
[Update: A federal judge ruled on April 26, 2012 that Florida’s drug testing law for unemployment benefits is unconstitutional.]
As several states are considering or implementing policies that require recipients of government benefits such as welfare to undergo drug tests, the federal government has shown approval for the same flawed rationale. Last week, President Obama signed into law an agreement reached by Congress which maintains the payroll tax cut and extends unemployment benefits, but also allows states to drug test people who seek unemployment benefits if they were fired from their previous job for using drugs or if they are seeking a job that would ordinarily require drug tests.
The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, H.R. 3630, was signed on February 22, 2012. Section 2105 amends the Social Security Act by allowing states to drug test applicants for unemployment benefits and deny those benefits in the case of a positive result.
What percentage of those applying would be forced to pee in a cup? Although the numbers are unclear, Republicans had cited a study claiming 84% of employers required new hires to pass a drug test. Initially, Republicans had pushed for drug testing all applicants, but this was opposed by Democrats. In order to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment, however, Democrats caved on the issue of drug testing.
A columnist for Time pointed out several flaws in this policy. First, a single failure of a drug test does not treat addiction or even determine if treatment is necessary. In fact, because marijuana can stay in the body’s system for extended periods of time, drug tests are likely to disqualify cannabis users even though it is one of the least addictive drugs. Second, people may shift their use to other drugs, such as K2 or Spice, which are more difficult to detect in a urine screen but may be more detrimental to the person’s health. Third, creating obstacles for the unemployed to get back on their feet may actually worsen drug use, as it fosters anger and resentment.
Further arguments against this policy include that although the government estimates drug use among unemployed to be about twice that of the employed population, the rates of drug use among those applying for welfare benefits were found to be equal to the general population in Michigan when it tried to implement a drug test law, and much less than the general population in Florida. Not to mention, this type of policy is most likely unconstitutional.
Hopefully states will come to their senses and not opt to implement this policy. If your state is one of the 23 states considering mandatory drug testing for welfare benefits, contact your legislators and tell them to oppose these unsound and unconstitutional policies.
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New PSA – Who Would You Rather Your Kids Talk to About Drugs?
Misinformation about marijuana, from programs such as DARE, distort our children’s understanding of the real world ramifications of marijuana use. It is up to the parents to have a rational conversation with their kids, educate them, and help them to make the right decisions. Legalizing marijuana demystifies the substance, moves it from the street corner to behind the counter, and creates safer communities free of uncontrolled drug violence and circulation. Please watch and share our latest public service announcement.
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Florida’s Drug-Testing of the Poor Proves a Failure, but Some States Still Want to Follow their ExampleFebruary 18, 2012
By Kellen Russoniello, George Washington University Law student and NORML Legal Intern
The recent push for implementing drug testing for potential welfare recipients across several states has revealed at least two things: 1. The policy is not economically sound; and 2. It really brings out the hypocrisy in some elected officials.
Last summer, Florida implemented a law requiring all welfare applicants to submit to a mandatory drug test before receiving any benefits (Applicants had to pay the $30 for the test themselves, only to be reimbursed later if they passed. For more information, see this NORML blog post.). Not surprisingly, the program was brought to a quick halt. Back in October of 2011, a federal judge ruled that the Florida drug testing law was unconstitutional.
Further, in the few months that the program was up and running, it was shown that only 2% of welfare applicants tested positive for drugs. About 9% of the general population reports using drugs in the past month. So much for Governor Rick Scott’s theory that the poor use drugs more often than the rest of the populace.
Even more striking is the amount of money that Florida lost from this poorly designed policy. The Tampa Bay Online estimated that $3,400 to $8,200 in savings would be recognized every month from drug testing welfare applicants. As it turns out, the program is estimated to have cost Florida over $200,000. From any perspective, this policy can be regarded as a failure.
Despite the lessons that can be learned from Florida’s debacle, several states are still considering implementing programs to subject their impoverished population to drug tests. The Huffington Post reported that twelve states attempted passing legislation in 2011 that would require drug tests for welfare applicants. Florida, Missouri, and Arizona were the only three that succeeded. However, Pennsylvania has just begun a pilot program in Schuylkill County that subjects certain applicants to drug tests. By tailoring their laws to apply only to applicants that have aroused reasonable suspicion, these states are hoping to avoid constitutional problems like those that ultimately invalidated the Florida law and a similar Michigan law in 2000 (which was affirmed in 2003). Several states have also tried to drug test those who seek unemployment benefits, state employees, and private sector employees, including the passage of an Indiana law that requires drug testing for those in a state job-training program.
When pressed, legislators that support this policy try to justify their position by claiming that the taxpayers should not subsidize drug addiction. But taxpayers pay for much more than just welfare. Some of their money goes towards paying their legislators’ salaries. Wouldn’t this same rationale justify drug testing legislators? This has been the tactic of many Democratic state legislators to thwart Republican efforts to test welfare applicants. In fact, a Republican State representative in the Indiana General Assembly recently pulled a bill after another representative amended it to include drug testing for legislators. The bill was reintroduced and passed by the Indiana General Assembly the following week, which included a section requiring legislators to submit to random drug tests. Missouri and Tennessee currently have bills that would require legislators to submit to drug tests. These were introduced in reaction to a slew of bills aimed at requiring drug tests on different areas of the population. It seems that the legislators who want to drug test the poor aren’t really convinced of the merits of the program when applied to themselves.
Hopefully, state politicians will come to their senses as knowledge about the failure of Florida’s policy becomes more well-known. But given this country’s track record on drug policy, I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath.
To see a hilarious summary of Florida’s drug-test-the-poor policy, watch this Daily Show clip, which includes Florida State Representative Scott Plakon’s and Governor Rick Scott’s reactions to being asked to take a drug test.
The Fall of 2011 saw a major increase in reach and support from around the country and the world. The Alliance is now active on three continents and in five countries. The Facebook page has more than 20,000 followers and reaches over 65,000 people a week. Over 15,000 supporters have signed up for our email list and almost 1,000 have signed up to volunteer.
The NORML Women’s Alliance/SSDP Sister-to-Sister program has matched almost 500 women. While the NORML Women’s Alliance is still in its infancy (the program is barely 2 years old), it is evolving quickly into an effective platform (and forum) for women to speak out and support marijuana legalization. It’s a very exciting time to be a woman in the marijuana law reform movement.
Join the NORML Women’s Alliance as a community organizer by clicking the link below: