In the News

Drug taxes due despite lack of charges

Wire service reports originating from the State of Kentucky indicate Charles Thomas Jr. doesn't own any land near his trailer where police seized more than 500 marijuana plants last year. Thomas says he didn't plant them. And, after being questioned by police, he was never charged with a crime.
A local grand jury declined to indict Thomas, but Kentucky nonetheless is demanding that he pay $1,161,859.94 in taxes, penalties and interest on the marijuana under a 1994 law that allows such an assessment based only on a police officer's report.

The Marijuana and Controlled Substances Tax law says that anyone who possesses enough illegal drugs to be considered a drug dealer must pay taxes on them. Lawmakers hoped the measure would recover some of the profits of the illegal drug trade and get tough on drug dealers.

Few apply for corrections jobs

A lack of applicants for an upcoming Corrections Officer entrance exam has Spokane County (Washington) civil service employees wondering whether there will be enough people to fill vacancies in the jail next year.
With six days left to apply, only 10 people have applied to take the exam. Usually more than 100 people apply to take the test, reports the Spokesman-Review.

Haiti at center of Caribbean drug trade

Mysterious planes land on deserted highways in the dead of night. Gleaming gas stations sprout in a country where one in 70 people own a car. Majestic mansions rise, their turrets looming eerily over sad slums.

According to major news sources, signs of drug money are growing in Haiti - one of the world's poorest nations - supporting contentions by U.S. officials that the Caribbean island has become a major conduit for smuggling narcotics into the United States. Increasingly, ill-gotten drug profits are staying in the cash-starved nation, fueling accusations that local authorities are tainted and toughening the challenge for U.S. anti-drug enforcers employed to stop the drug flow.

Haiti accounts for 14 percent of all cocaine entering the United States and "is now the major drug transshipment country of the entire Caribbean," said Rep. John L. Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, in one international wire service report.

Peru shoots down alleged drug plane

Peruvian air force fighter jets in August shot down a small plane suspected of narcotics trafficking in the central Amazon near the border with Brazil, according to press reports quoting Peruvian authorities. The jets downed the plane with machine gun fire over dense jungle about 370 miles northeast of Lima after its pilot failed to respond to radio messages and ignored warning shots, the air force said. Police searched for the wreckage, but the fate of the plane's occupants was not known.

In the early 1990's President Alberto Fujimori adopted tough anti-narcotics policies to eliminate Peru's infamous title as the world's largest producer of coca, the raw material used to make cocaine. The measures included shooting down planes en route from Peru's Amazon to Colombian.

Lockney school defends drug policy

LOCKNEY TEXAS - In a response to a lawsuit against the Lockney school district, the district's attorney denied that Lockney's mandatory drug testing policy is unconstitutional.

The district is being sued by Larry Tannahill, a Lockney parent who refuses to allow his 12-year-old son to be tested for drugs.

"Defendants deny that its policy or policies deprive the plaintiff of his right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure as guaranteed by the fourth and 14th Amendments to the Constitution", a copy of the response said. The response to the suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Lubbock.

On Feb. 1, the Lockney school district implemented a drug testing policy requiring that all students in grades six through twelve submit a urine sample for screening. Faculty and staff are subjected to random testing.

Refusal is considered a positive test by the district and results in in-school suspension, and other repercussions. The district has temporarily agreed to refrain from suspending Tannahill's son, Brady.

Follow That Story: Texas Border DAs Again Tell Feds to Pay Up or They Won't Prosecute

Back in June, DRCNet Week Online reported on threats by disgruntled state prosecutors on the Texas border to quit prosecuting drug cases developed by federal agents because the cases drained the resources of poor border counties
Later in the summer, federal officials responded with $12 million Southwest Border Local Assistance Initiative, which would reimburse the counties for the costs they accrued prosecuting the drug cases. That move ended talk of a border revolt among the prosecutors.

But the funds have yet to reach the prosecutors. Instead, they have been tied up in a dispute among prosecutors, lawmakers, and federal officials over whether they can be used to defer jail costs, which the DAs say account for the majority of their expenses.

Now, with the $12 million yet to be seen, the prosecutors are again vowing to quit prosecuting federal drug cases effective October 1st and federal prosecutors are preparing for an avalanche of small-time (less than 100 pounds of marijuana) drug cases, the San Antonio Express News has reported.

For El Paso DA Jaime Esparza "The bottom line is the bottom line. It's too expensive to subsidize the federal government by doing what is clearly theirs to do." Esparza told the Express News the 60 prosecutors in his office try about 500 federal drug cases each year, at a cost to local taxpayers of $8 million.

Colombian rebels issue threat to US troops

Reuters news services reported in late September that Colombia's largest guerrilla force, the 17,000-member Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), has warned that US soldiers will be "military targets" if they participate in any front-line combat role in that country's decades-long civil war.

"The FARC declares United States soldiers a military target," read the headline of a statement distributed on the Internet by the FARC.

The FARC, peasant-based leftist revolutionaries, have been in revolt against the central government since 1964. They currently control roughly 40% of Colombian territory, including vast tracts where peasants grow coca. The US-sponsored Plan Colombia, on which US taxpayers have just made an initial investment of $1.3 billion, is designed to retake the coca-growing regions.

The US has said that it does not plan a combat role for American troops, but the Colombian aid package allows for as many as 500 US military advisors, and that limit can be waived in the event of "imminent involvement" in hostilities. Other US military, intelligence, and law enforcement personnel are also involved in the muddied anti-drug/anti-guerrilla conflict. Five US military personnel died last summer when the plane they were using to overfly FARC territory crashed for unknown reasons.

"All Colombian or foreign military personnel in combat zones will be a military target of the FARC," said rebel commander Andres Paris in the statement. "At the moment FARC guerrillas do not wish to reveal if there are concrete plans to attack United States military bases in the country," said Paris, but several bases where US soldiers are stationed are "very close to regions where guerrillas recently staged intense combat that caused government forces important casualties."

The FARC has stepped up its attacks on Colombia police and military forces since the US aid package was passed two months ago, with a combat death toll in the hundreds since then.

San Francisco rejects seizing drug buyers' cars

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has resoundingly defeated a motion by Supervisor Amos Brown that would have allowed police to confiscate the cars of drug buyers and johns, even if they were never later convicted of a crime.
Brown hoped to follow the example of cross-bay neighbor Oakland, which has such a law on the books. That law is under challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU has lost at the superior court and appeals court levels, but has appealed to the Supreme Court. It had also vowed to sue San Francisco if it approved Brown's measure.

The bill's backers argued that it would be a useful tool in cracking down on rampant drug dealing and prostitution in San Francisco neighborhoods.
But opponents cited due process and fairness concerns. Supervisor Leslie Katz told the San Francisco Examiner, "I have heard in countless communities the stories of mothers having to walk their kids to school through a gauntlet of dealers, prostitutes, and their customers... Unfortunately, this vehicle seizure ordinance is just not a method we should embrace."

"In this ordinance," Katz continued, "the forfeiting of vehicles runs the risk of forfeiting those rights we hold dear, and that is my primary concern."
Katz' position prevailed, 8-3.

DEA proposing ban on hemp products

The DEA and the drug czar claim that hemp products are "confounding our federal drug control testing program." They are claiming that the use of hemp products can cause people to test positive for marijuana, even if they have not used marijuana. This, the DEA argues, undermines the government's ability to hunt down marijuana users.

Under the proposed ban, hemp products intended for human consumption, such as hemp seed cakes and nutritional supplements, would be illegal.

The DEA is also threatening to ban personal-care hemp products - such as hemp-based shampoos, soaps, lotions, and lip balm - because they claim that hemp products that touch the skin might convey THC into the human system!

Only hemp paper, clothing, rope, and animal feed (including birdseed) would still be legal, because the DEA expects that people will not eat these products.

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