Scott Meiner of Americans for Forfeiture Reform, MJ Borden on Federal supremacy, Doug McVay re harm reduction for youth, Terry Nelson of LEAP re politicians drug war dance & BBC report on drug war failure
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Sunday, October 28, 2012
Americans for Forfeiture Reform
Tue, 10/30/2012 - 00:27
Cultural Baggage / October 28, 2012
Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.
“It’s not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally Un-American.”
“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”
“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”
DEAN BECKER: My Name is Dean Becker. I don’t condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on Eternal Drug War.
DEAN BECKER: Ah, yes…the drug war, the drug war, the eternal war, the war that goes on forever. Maybe not, maybe not if logic and common sense eventually has something to do with that.
Thank you for tuning into this edition of Cultural Baggage. Here in just a moment we’re going to bring in our guest. I want to kind of preface his appearance with this thought. We have screwed the pooch. We have failed one another. We have set in place an ongoing fiasco where people can be robbed of their worldly goods on the word of a law enforcement officer who benefits from that forfeiture, who has no reason not to take your stuff if you have no way to disprove that.
So, let’s go ahead and bring in our guest, Mr. Scott Meiner. He’s with the Forfeiture Reform. Hello, Scott.
SCOTT MEINER: Hi.
DEAN BECKER: Scott, tell us a little bit about your organization, please.
SCOTT MEINER: We work in conjunction with a number of other organizations to reform civil asset forfeiture law. We try to help claimants who have unfairly had their property taken or are in the process where law enforcement are trying to take their property and just try to generally make the process fair for our fellow citizens.
DEAN BECKER: Scott, before coming in studio today I took a snap shot of about a dozen/15 of your latest stories that appear on your website and it shows the widespread abuse, if you will, of these forfeiture laws. Does it not?
SCOTT MEINER: Indeed. It’s pretty much everywhere. Anywhere where there’s a financial incentive for law enforcement to acquire property. It’s gradually, sometimes automatically, corrupts the process and, eventually, it retards our civil rights.
DEAN BECKER: A lot of these forfeitures are the result of drug task forces, if you will, set in place without really any state or federal supervision. They kind of just put themselves in play and pay a portion (I won’t say bribes) but they pay a portion to some of the cities that are nearby. Is that true?
SCOTT MEINER: That’s true although I would disagree slightly with that. There is a lot of federal involvement. I don’t know how much supervision there is but there is a lot of federal involvement.
Primarily throughout the United States law enforcement, local law enforcement seize property and unless the states don’t have any protections they run it through federal law enforcement and then they get a share back – usually up to 80% - as part of the federal equiable sharing program.
There’s really not a lot of supervision that’s conducted with that but it does allow them, local law enforcement, to evade state protections that local law makers have put in place.
DEAN BECKER: Dare I say it’s a means whereby they can launder the money?
SCOTT MEINER: Yeah, you could phrase it that way. I would phrase it more as kickbacks but OK.
DEAN BECKER: 6 or one-half dozen, in my opinion but OK.
Scott, it occurs to me that there’s not much reason…I don’t know if you heard my opening ramble there but there’s not much reason for them to worry about the legitimacy of these arrests, these forfeitures.
SCOTT MEINER: No, particularly if it’s in conjunction with any criminal trial, they’re civil trials which are enormously expensive. One doesn’t have a right to counsel provided so even if one is innocent and they have their property taken it’s common where it makes sense to just go ahead and cut a deal and get up 80% of your property so you at least have 20% back.
DEAN BECKER: Which is a common place maneuver?
SCOTT MEINER: Yes. That being said this week, in particular, there 2 cases coming up in the Supreme Court which could completely change the landscape.
DEAN BECKER: Tell us about those, please.
SCOTT MEINER: There are 2 cases that are coming out of Florida – Florida v. Harris and Florida v. Eurdinus – which both involve looking at the legitimacy (well, potentially anyway) looking at the legitimacy of drug sniffing cases.
The Supreme Court has (and both lower courts as well) has largely held that drug sniffs are not searches within the context of the fourth amendment and it pretty much consider the drug dog to be infallible in terms of whether it identifies that there is the presence of drugs. Even if there aren’t drugs then there’s the assumption that there must have been drugs there at some point.
In Florida v. Eurdinas it involved a case where a local police officer took a dog to the front of a house and when the dog gave a positive alert they raided the house and found that there was marijuana there which involved all sorts of issues in terms of the protection of the sanctity of the home and whether the drug alert is actually reliable.
In the other case the Florida Supreme Court ruled that they can require something beyond simply the police officer attesting that a dog is reliable. Instead what they were asking for was actual information on the certification and statistics on when the dog alerted and there were no drugs.
The Supreme Court has…at least since 1983 has largely looked at them as infallible. There’s pretty compellable evidence that there’s a good chance that they might actually rethink this and throw that out which would completely change everything with civil forfeiture – at least in currency cases.
DEAN BECKER: The fact of the matter is if we checked every wallet in America 99% of them would have those residuals in it, wouldn’t it?
SCOTT MEINER: We would find trace amounts of drugs there certainly. Studies range anywhere from 85 to 95% of U.S. circulated currency has drug residue in it. We don’t know that there necessarily would be those odors.
There are all sorts of things that create the odors and those could be there. They’re common, shared things. In the instance of cocaine the odor that the dog alerts to is methyl benzoate and that is something that is produced in perfumes, insecticides and all sorts of cleaning agents. There’s hundreds of plant species that produce it. It’s also a detectable substance for molds – particularly black molds which creates really high counts - which is a big problem because that’s one of the ways they can identify that a building as “sick building syndrome.”
DEAN BECKER: It seems that we’ve kind of turned logic on its head. If all of these things can lead to a false alert, so to speak, and then we have the fact that the dogs themselves can be trained, if you will, little subtle clues that the handlers can do, right?
SCOTT MEINER: Yeah. There’s recent studies coming out of Illinois that 40% of the cases they were actually identifying something. The studies worldwide have indicated with cueing errors that there is probably somewhere between less than a 50% chance that the dog is actually positively alerting without a cueing error.
DEAN BECKER: A couple years back (I can’t think of the ladies name – I think she’s with the DEA) but she was touting the fact (maybe it was Bartwell, I’m not sure what her title was) but one of the ladies associated with it – either the DEA or the ONDCP was touting the fact that their agency practically pays for itself now. That’s a problem. That’s something that’s becoming more common for all kinds of law enforcement agencies where they’re starting to tote the bill without having to tax the taxpayer.
SCOTT MEINER: Indeed and then you end up in the situation where the local citizenery no longer have a choice of how they want their police to operate because the police are self-financed. You have no ability to compel. The power of the purse is how we corral our law enforcement and all of our government.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah, so if they’re not demanding more money for their endeavors then people don’t know about it and imagine what you can do in secret.
One of the more recent stories you had on your website…by the way that is http://forfeiturereform.org, right?
SCOTT MEINER: .com
DEAN BECKER: .com….http://forfeiturereform.com, OK. The most recent one was talking about the billion dollar U.S. Attorney’s office. Tell us about that one. It kind of coincides with what I was just saying, doesn’t it?
SCOTT MEINER: The offices in New York handle a staggering amount of civil forfeitures and way more than what their expenses are and essentially can conduct whatever investigations they want. It’s not to say that they aren’t necessarily legitimate investigations and so forth but there’s really no responsibility to the citizenry. You have a prosecuting office generating 800 million dollars in profit from civil forfeitures.
DEAN BECKER: This brings to mind that we have it where …there’s spots in East Texas and Louisiana where there’s little fiefdoms of forfeiture, if you will, where little police departments kind of just set up not like a speed trap but more of a courier trap and make their living that way, correct?
SCOTT MEINER: Yeah and some of them are just horrifying particularly in Kinea, Texas. There are occasions where local police were pulling over primarily people of color and asking them to sign over whatever cash they had on them, sign over their vehicles and so forth and they were leveraging that with saying they would take away their kids and send their kids to Child Protective Services if they didn’t sign over their vehicles. Those were some of the most horrendous examples we’ve seen but that’s a very common thing particularly in Texas. Illinois seems to be quite bad as well. Michigan is pretty bad.
DEAN BECKER: Once again, we’re speaking with Mr. Scott Meiner. He’s with Forfeiture Reform.
What is the full name of the organization, Scott, I’m sorry.
SCOTT MEINER: Americans for Forfeiture Reform.
DEAN BECKER: Americans for Forfeiture Reform. Scott, out in California and Colorado and other western states where they have medical marijuana dispensaries nobody hardly gets arrested these days – at least in California.
What they do is they come in and take the weed, the cash and recently started taking the ATMs as well. Tell us what’s going on out there.
SCOTT MEINER: Partially due to the confusion after the Ardent memo where a lot of the municipalities started to set up regulatory structures for medical marijuana and then the justice department, particularly the U.S. Attorney’s offices there, did an about face. They started filing civil asset forfeiture complaints to get the property, cash of the dispensaries there.
As you said there’s very few arrests but there’s huge sums of money to be made and, particularly in an era of limited budgets because of the recession, the police departments when they’re not resorting to civil forfeiture a lot of times drug task forces are being disbanded and so forth and it’s a method for them to survive and/or thrive.
DEAN BECKER: Another story I grabbed off your web page talks about, “Asset forfeiture funds used to send Milwaukee County Sheriff’s office employees to Disney training and to protect the Sheriff from deputies.”
This brings to mind…yeah, they can use these funds for whatever they deem appropriate. Am I right?
SCOTT MEINER: They can if they’re not federal funds. If there are federal funds there are some restrictions but it’s not really clear how well the restrictions are actually enforced.
If they don’t go through Equitable Sharing then it’s entirely up to whatever the local laws are. If they do go through Equitable Sharing then they’re not supposed to use them for salary, they’re not supposed to use them for various purposes but the corrections that are there seem to be rarely enforced so it’s not at all clear that the limits matter.
DEAN BECKER: Scott, this brings to mind then we have a country and I’m throwing a big blanket over all of this but where the U.S. Supreme Court has deemed that there is a drug war exception to our Constitution and that has given people the thought and the follow through to produce most of these type measures like forfeiture reform. It’s like cart blanc, right?
SCOTT MEINER: Yes, that’s largely true but it’s not all one direction and the courts have certainly stood up for individual liberties, rights, protections including privacy at times. They haven’t universally gone either way.
Both the branches are there. Certainly the courts have stood up for us more than anyone else – much more than the legislative and the executive branch.
DEAN BECKER: Sure and you’re right. The courts don’t directly benefit – at all.
SCOTT MEINER: Usually not. There are occasions where it appears that they are.
For instance, in Louisiana, with civil forfeitures, 20% of it goes into judicial funds which appears to be blatantly unconstitutional but, nonetheless, it’s carried on.
DEAN BECKER: This is editorializing, I suppose, but the fact of the matter is the obvious, glaring symptoms, problems of this drug war are so huge and it just pains me that our fellow citizens don’t recognize and do something more about it.
We got a couple minutes left here. Scott, I wanted to turn it over to you and please share your website. Tell folks how they should get involved and what’s on your website.
SCOTT MEINER: Our website is http://forfeiturereform.com. The organization is Americans for Forfeiture Reform.
We’re really supporting organizations like ours, organizations like Institute for Justice that help litigate cases for people who are unfairly having their rights deprived, contacting their local law makers, letting people know that if they are going to vote for them they expect their constitutional rights to be protected.
DEAN BECKER: The title of one of your articles, “Trust us – we have an excellent reason to take your house.” Kind of says it all, doesn’t it? I mean, that somehow all of this is legitimate and necessary and constitutional and so much of it is way beyond what our founding fathers would have stood for.
SCOTT MEINER: Most certainly.
DEAN BECKER: Once again, folks, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Scott Meiner. He’s with Americans for Forfeiture Reform. As he said it’s http://forfeiturereform.com
Scott, I appreciate you being with us. We’ll have to do this again soon.
SCOTT MEINER: Thank you. My pleasure.
(Game show music)
DEAN BECKER: It’s time to play: Name That Drug by Its Side Effects.
Responsible for countless overdose deaths, uncounted diseases, international graft, greed and corruption, stilled science and events, unchristian moral postulations of fiction as fact.
The answer: and this Drug is the United States’ immoral, improper, bigoted, unscientific and plain F-ing evil addiction to Drug War.
All approved by the FDA, absolved by that American Medical Association and persecuted by Congress and the cops and in abeyance to the needs of the bankers, the pharmaceutical houses and the international drug cartels.
$550 billion a year can be very addicting.
MARY JANE BORDEN: What is Federal Supremacy?
Hello drug policy aficionados! I'm Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts.
The question for this week asks, what is Federal Supremacy?
This is a term heard a lot in the marijuana debate.
The "supremacy" of federal law over state law is grounded in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution that reads, "[t]he Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land."
According to a 2012 report from the Congressional Research Service, "The Supremacy Clause ... 'elevates' the U.S. Constitution, federal statutes, federal regulations, and ratified treaties above the laws of the states. As a result, where a state law is in conflict with a federal law, the federal law must prevail." In other words, federal law preempts state law.
A 2009 Vanderbilt University law review article called entitled, "On the Limits of Supremacy," stated that Congress may "preempt any state law that obstructs, contradicts, impedes, or conflicts with federal law."
But, preemption and supremacy do have limits. The CRS said, "There is ... a presumption against federal preemption when it comes to the exercise of "historic police powers of the States." State medical marijuana laws have generally been accorded this presumption, as they are enacted pursuant to traditional state police powers in defining criminal conduct and regulating drugs and medical practices."
In fact, the federal Controlled Substances Act outlawing marijuana contains a clause does preempt the supremacy of federal law called Section 903 which, clarifies that, "Congress did not intend to ... wholly supplant traditional state authority ... States remain free to pass laws relating to marijuana, or other controlled substances, so long as they do not create a "positive conflict" with federal law."
These Facts and others like them can be found under the Marijuana Chapter of the Drug War Facts at www.drugwarfacts.org.
If you have a question for which you need facts, please e-mail it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll try to answer your question in an upcoming show.
So remember when you need facts about drugs and drug policy, you can get the facts at Drug War Facts.
Doug McVay: Since the 1970s the Monitoring the Future project at the University of Michigan, headed by Professor Lloyd Johnston, has studied the drug using and health behavior of young people, performing annual surveys of students in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades. MTF has just released a new report titled “HIV/AIDS: Risk and Protective Behavior Among American Young Adults 2004-2011.
According to the researchers, quote:
“The proportion of 21- to 30-year-olds who say that they have shared needles in the prior 12 months is 0.1%, with 0.2% of males and 0.1% of females reporting such behavior (a non-significant gender difference). This compares to 0.5% who said that they have injected a drug in the prior 12 months, so only about one fifth of past year injectors shared a needle during that interval.
The researchers also found that, quote:
“Among young adults, sharing needles relates positively to the number of partners; past 12 month sharing was 0.1% or less among those who had two or fewer partners in the past 12 months, and 0.9% among those reporting 5 or more partners in that period.. This means that needle sharers, who are at particular risk of having HIV, are more likely than others to have been exposing large numbers of partners to that risk through having sex with them. ”
In other words, the prevalence rises from one, or less, in one thousand, to nearly one in one hundred.
They note, quote:
“The extent to which these HIV/AIDS risk and protective behaviors are changing over time is of great importance to the country, and the evidence here from the most recent seven-year interval suggests that rather little change is taking place in the general population of young adults who have completed high school.”
A copy of the report can be downloaded from monitoringthefuture dot org.
Managing risk. Protecting against harm. These are concepts young people – all people – need to learn. The Harm Reduction Coalition describes harm reduction as: “a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. Harm Reduction is also a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who use drugs.” Sounds good to me. If you want to find out more, the Harm Reduction Coalition is a great place to start. Their 9th National Harm Reduction Conference will be this year, November 15-18 in Portland, OR. This year's slogan: From Public Health to Social Justice. Find out more about the conference, and about harm reduction, at their website, harmreduction dot org.
For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay with Common Sense for Drug Policy.
DOUG McVAY: The War on Drugs is built on a foundation of lies. That foundation crumbles when exposed to the light of the truth. This has been a production of the Drug Truth Network at http://drugtruthnetwork.net
DEAN BECKER: Good news. Doug McVay and I will be reporting from Portland. We’ll be attending that Harm Reduction Conference next month to let ya’ll know what’s going on in that regard.
TERRY NELSON: This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohbition. Watching our politicians dance around the drug war issue is amusing. They all know that the drug war is a total public policy failure and want it to go away. Unfortunately way too many people are benefiting from the drug war for it to just go away on it’s own. The same people that are benefiting from the war also make donations to politicians to continue the policy.
In my opinion, the drug war will not end until there is a consititutional challenge probably based on “states rights” issues. Legal cannabis is on the November ballot in Colorado, Washington and Oregon. This year there is a good possibility that Colorado will legalize cannabis for responsible adult use.
Washington State may also be successful in legalizaing cannabis. Oregon is facing opposition from legal growers of medical cannabis. This could be because they want to protect the financial benefits that they have now that they can grow medical cannabis and don’t want the competetion from legal cannabis.
Private prisons don’t want their populations reduced, prison unions don’t want their people to have to find other work, police unions want to protect their members overtime money, defense contractors want to protect their helicopter sales and maintenance contracts, Border police want to keep getting cool toys (drones, cameras, etc ) to allegedly protect us from terrorists when they are actually used to catch illegals.
So if cannabis is legalized in a State and it is still illegal according to the United States government then something will have to give. I feel that this could set up the court challenge and considering the mood of the country and that a large majority know the drug war has failed and a simple majority think cannabis should be legal. The court could well side with the States and if so then it will give politicians the cover they need to “do the right thing” and stop supporting this failed policy.
The huge sum of moneys that are wasted on the drug war, some estimates are around 80 billion dollars a year, could be saved. Money could be diverted to education so that we can train our future workers and leaders. Taxes collected from the sale of these substances can go to supporting a policy of education to prevent abuse of these drugs. Treatment centers can be established to treat and cure those that are addicted. All in all it will be a much more civilized society when the drug war goes away.
Police will no longer be seen as the enemy of the people and can start to reduce car thefts, burglaries, rape and other crimes against people or property. Police find that they don’t have to threaten or coerce the citizens to help solve these type crimes. But drug crimes can only be solved by turning brother against brother and friend agaisnt friend.
We will never arrest and incarcerate our way out of the drug war. Education and treatment is the solution.
This Terry Nelson of LEAP, www.leap.cc, signing off. Stay safe.
ANDY MORRE: 1,000 police officers involved in raids against drug dealers in Manchester last year. According to this report even large seizures by the police and border agencies have little or no impact on the overall supply.
In fact it argues that people who grow a small number of cannabis plants should be treated lienenantly because that would undermine the criminal networks who produce more potent cannabis on an industrial scale.
The UK Drug Policy Commission, an independent think tank, spent 6 years researching this study. It found that much of the 3 billion pounds spent tackling drugs every year is wasted because it isn’t based on what works. It said that some school’s education programs actually made people more likely to use drugs.
According to the reports using cannabis is no worse than eating junk food or gambling. The home office said that levels of drug use falling it’s not going to alter its approach.
Andy Moore, ABC News.
DEAN BECKER: You know the truth about the drug war is about everywhere. It’s just too many folks are just too confused or overloaded or distracted to really say or do much of anything about it.
I guess that’s the problem. We’ve all got to realize that we have to do our part and be full citizens and do something about this stupid, stupid drug war.
I want to thank Scott Meiner and the good folks at Americans for Forfeiture Reform.
You guys are the answer. As I was just saying – you got to do your part and, as always, I remind you that because of prohibition you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please, be careful.
DEAN BECKER: To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.
This show produced at the Pacifica Studios of KPFT Houston.
Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.
Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org