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)
United Republic Investigative Report: Why Can’t You Smoke Pot? Because Lobbyists Are Getting Rich Off of the War on DrugsMarch 8, 2012
A relatively new webpage called Republic Reports (a project of United Republic with the sub moniker ‘Investigating How Money Corrupts Democracy‘) has turned much needed public attention to one of the five pillars of Pot Prohibition: The Law enforcement community’s role in perpetuating another possible 74 years of Cannabis Prohibition laws in America.
Local/state police, sheriffs, prosecutors and federal agents from the DEA claim, as they often do, that ‘they don’t make the laws, they only enforce them‘.
Is this really true? Not according to Republic Report.
By Lee FangJohn Lovell is a lobbyist who makes a lot of money from making sure you can’t smoke a joint. That’s his job. He’s a lobbyist for the police unions in Sacramento, and he is a driving force behind grabbing Federal dollars to shut down the California marijuana industry. I’ll get to the evidence on this important story in a bit, but first, some context.
At some point in the distant past, the war on drugs might have been popular. But not anymore — the polling is clear, but beyond that, the last three Presidents have used illegal drugs. So why do we still put hundreds of thousands of people in steel cages for pot-related offenses? Well, there are many reasons, but one of them is, of course, money in politics. Corruption. Whatever you want to call it, it’s why you can’t smoke a joint without committing a crime, though of course you can ingest any number of pills or drinks completely within the law.
Some of the groups who want to keep the drug illegal are police unions that want more members to pay more dues. One of the primary sources for cash for more policing activities are Federal grants for penalizing illegal drug use, which help pay for overtime, additional police officers, and equipment for the force. That’s what Lovell does, he gets those grants. He also fights against democratic mechanisms to legalize drugs.
In 2010, California considered Prop 19, a measure to legalize marijuana and tax it as alcohol. The proposition gained more votes than Meg Whitman, the former eBay executive and Republican gubernatorial nominee that year, but failed to pass. Opponents of the initiative ran ads, organized rallies, and spread conspiracy theories about billionaire George Soros to confuse voters.
Read the rest here.
[Editor's note: This post is excerpted from this week's forthcoming NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML's news alerts and legislative advisories delivered straight to your in-box, sign up here.]
Democrat Gov. Jack Markell has abruptly halted plans to implement legislation passed in 2011 that allows qualified patients to obtain marijuana from state-licensed facilities.
Governor Markell had initially signed the law, Senate Bill 17, The Delaware Medical Marijuana Act, last May. Under the law, patients with a qualifying illness may legally possess up to six ounces of cannabis, provided they obtained it from a state-licensed, not-for-profit ‘compassion center.’ State regulators were anticipated to begin licensing marijuana producers and distributors later this year.
On Friday, Gov. Markell announced that he was suspending the program because his office had received a letter from the Obama Justice Department alleging that it would subject those licensed under the law, as well as public servants, to federal criminal prosecution.
States the letter, authored by US Attorney Charles M. Oberly III, “[G]rowing, distributing and possessing marijuana, in any capacity, other than as part of a federally authorized research program, is a violation of federal law regardless of state laws permitting such activities. Moreover, those who engage in financial transactions involving the proceeds of such activities may also be in violation of federal money laundering statutes.”
The letter further threatens, “State employees who conduct activities mandated by the Delaware Medical Marijuana Act are not immune from liability under” the Controlled Substances Act.
Justice Department officials sent similar letters to lawmakers and governors in states considering related legislation last spring. Shortly after receiving the letters, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed legislation that sought to allow for licensed cannabis dispensaries in that state. Soon thereafter, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee also nixed regulations allowing for the state-licensed production and distribution of cannabis.
In a statement issued by Gov. Markell on Friday, he claimed that the federal government left him with no choice but to suspend the law’s implementation. “To do otherwise would put our state employees in legal jeopardy, and I will not do that,” he said.
In response to the Governor’s actions, sponsors of the law have suggested amending the Medical Marijuana Act to allow for qualified patients to cultivate cannabis at home, a practice that is presently allowed under state law in 14 other states.
To date, three states – Colorado, Maine, and New Mexico – have issued licenses to allow for the state-sanctioned production and distribution of cannabis. So far, programs in those states have operated largely without federal interference.
Similar licensing legislation approved in recent years in Arizona, New Jersey, Vermont, and Washington, DC has yet to be implemented by local lawmakers.
Low level marijuana arrests in New York City rose for the seventh straight year in 2011 to 50,680. The arrest total is the highest total on record since former pot smoker Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office and it is the second highest total of pot arrests ever recorded in the history of the city (just 587 arrests behind the record holding year 2000, when Mayor Rudolph Giuliani oversaw some 51,267 people arrested for marijuana violations).
Shockingly, the near-record high arrest total comes just months after New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly called on officers to cease making marijuana misdemeanor arrests. Apparently, NYPD officers aren’t very good at listening to their commanding officer.
Of course, what is most troubling about these arrest figures is that under state law they largely shouldn’t be occurring at all. Since 1977, New York State law has categorized the possession of 25 grams of marijuana or less as a violation, not a misdemeanor crime. So then how are NYPD making so many misdemeanor pot arrests? By violating the spirit of the law, if not the law itself.
Rather than ticketing low level marijuana offenders, City police for over a decade have been taking advantage of a separate statute, NY State Penal Law 221.10, which makes it a criminal misdemeanor to possess pot if it is ‘open to public view.’ According to an investigation last year by New York City public radio station WNYC, it was determined that City cops routinely conduct warrantless ‘stop-and-frisk’ searches of civilians, find marijuana hidden on their persons, and then falsely charge them with possessing pot ‘open to public view.’
And what has been the result of these illegal ‘stop and frisks?’ A press advisory issued yesterday by the Drug Policy Alliance lists the grim details.
– The NYPD has made more than 100,000 marijuana possession arrests for the last two years; nearly 150,000 marijuana possession arrests in the last three years; and more than 227,000 marijuana possession arrests in the last five years.
– New York City spent at least $150 million in the last two years and has spent at least $340 million in the last five years making marijuana possession arrests.
– In the last decade since Michael Bloomberg became mayor, the NYPD has made 400,038 lowest level marijuana possession arrests at a cost to taxpayers of $600 million dollars.
– Nearly 350,000 of the marijuana possession arrests made under Bloomberg are of overwhelmingly young Black and Latino men, despite the fact that young whites use marijuana at higher rates than young Blacks and Latinos.
– In the last five years, the NYPD under Bloomberg has made more marijuana arrests (2007 to 2011 = 227,093) than in the 24 years from 1978 through 2001 under Mayor Giuliani, Mayor Dinkins, and Mayor Koch combined (1978 to 2001 = 226,861).
Commissioner Kelly’s 2011 memorandum explicitly directed officers to stop charging defendants with criminal misdemeanors in instances where the contraband ‘was disclosed to public view at an officer’s direction.’ Nevertheless, the record number of low level pot arrests appears to be continuing unabated. Most likely, it will take an act of law to stop this practice.
Fortunately, bipartisan legislation is pending in both the New York State Assembly and Senate to stop this disgusting, ongoing practice. Assembly Bill 7620 and Senate Bill 5187 reduce marijuana penalties involving cases where where marijuana was either consumed or allegedly possessed in public from a criminal misdemeanor to a non-criminal violation. Passage of SB 5187 and AB 7620 will save taxpayer dollars, protect New York City’s citizens against illegal searches, and reduce unwarranted racial disparities in arrests by clarifying the law and standardizing penalties for marijuana possession offenses.
If you reside in New York and want to end the City’s dubious distinction of being the ‘marijuana arrest capital of the world,’ then please contact your state elected officials today and urge them to support SB 5187 and AB 7620. You can do so via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.
In December I blogged about rumors that the Obama Justice Department was finalizing plans to expand its recent crackdown on medical cannabis producers and providers to include state-licensed facilities in Colorado. Today, the federal government made good on its threats.
According to numerous media reports, federal authorities today issued warning letters to 23 state-licensed dispensaries in Colorado stating that “action will be taken to seize and forfeit their property” if they continue operating within 1,000 feet of a school. The letters, sent by U.S. Attorney John Walsh, say that the dispensaries have 45 days from today to close shop or face federal sanction.
It states, in part:
“Federal law prohibits the manufacture, distribution, and possession of marijuana. … (This) dispensary is operating in violation of federal law, and the department of Justice has the authority to enforce federal law even when such activities may be permitted under state law. Persons … who operate or facilitate the operation of such dispensaries are subject to criminal prosecution and civil enforcement actions under federal law. Moreover, because the dispensary is operating within 1,000 feet of a school, enhanced federal penalties apply.
… This letter … constitutes formal notice that action will be taken to seize and forfeit (your) property if you do not cause the sale and/or distribution of marijuana and marijuana-infused substances at (this) location to be discontinued.”
While the federal government in recent months has utilized similar tactics to close down cannabis providers in California and has also coordinated DEA-led raids of dispensaries in other states, most notably in Washington and Montana, today’s efforts mark the first time that the federal authorities have specifically targeted facilities that are operating explicitly under a state license. (To date, only officials in the states of Colorado, Maine, and New Mexico have formally issued licenses to authorized cannabis providers.) It is estimated that that some 700 state licensed dispensaries are presently operating in Colorado.
Once again, the federal government’s actions belie the administration’s claim that it only intends to target those medical cannabis operators that “use marijuana in a way that’s not consistent with the state statute.” In this case, the operations in question were grandfathered in under local or state regulations. They are acting in compliance with state law and explicitly with the state’s permission.
Nonetheless, the imprimatur of the state apparently carries little if any weight with the Obama administration, whose first priority in Colorado appears to be matters of zoning enforcement.
Legislating medical marijuana operations and prosecuting those who act in a manner that is inconsistent with state law and voters’ sentiment should be a responsibility left to the state and local officials, not the federal government. It is time for this administration to fulfill the assurances it gave to the medical cannabis community and to respect the decisions of voters and lawmakers in states that recognize its therapeutic efficacy.