Last Wednesday, at least four medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington state—where even recreational use of pot is legal in small amounts—got quite a scare when the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) came calling. The clinics, all of which had been targeted back in 2011, were supposedly not abiding by state law, which is the often cited, albeit quizzical, justification for a federal raid.
In Washington, one dispensary owner initially worried he was being robbed. Other owners throughout the state feared this was the beginning of an official federal crackdown—the Department of Justice had decided to deal with states where recreational weed use is legal by sending in the DEA. But a source told Seattle’s King-5 that the raids took place because those specific marijuana outfits had the same problems they had in 2011, not because of any new federal policy.
In lieu an official federal policy toward states that have legalized medical marijuana, this ad hoc, willy-nilly method of policing has become the norm, and you might not be too off base if you assumed that the DOJ’s unspoken strategy was to kill the industry by a million paper cuts.
According to Americans for Safe Access, the Obama administration has spent $300 million on medical marijuana raids since 2009. Crackdowns have lead to serious jail time for dispensary owners in Michiganand Montana. No arrests were made this week in Washington, but several thousand dollars in marijuana was seized, along with cell phones, papers, and computers. The DEA also started the process of seizing a boat through asset forfeiture. Supposedly these dispensaries were laundering money and providing marijuana to nonpatients, which is possible. It should also have been up to the state to decide if state law was being broken.
Really, allegations from the DEA shouldn’t hold much weight. Their job—their only job, differentiating them from regular federal, state, or local law enforcement—is to enforce drug laws in America.The DEA is just the federal arm of the 40-year, trillion-dollar human rights nightmare known as the war on drugs. If drug laws continue to loosen, sometime in the next few years or decades, all their agents will be out of work. When that happens, it won’t be a second too soon.
Now on to the week’s bad cops:
- In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Moreno family is suing the city and the chief of police, alleging that back in December,2010 an 11-member SWAT team busted down their door, threatened them, and spent 45 minutes yelling and trashing their home. The complaint says police even pulled a ten-year-old child out of the bathtub and pointed guns at him and his four-year-old sister. Why? The family says it was a Mafia-esque exercise in intimidation because the father, William Moreno, argued with a drunk, off-duty cop the night before.
- Police in Fort Worth, Texas claim that “poor lighting” lead to the shooting of an innocent homeowner. At 1 AM on May 28, police were called to the scene of a reported break-in began searching a neighbor’s yard instead by accident. That home actually belonged to 72-year-old Jerry Waller, who came outside armed to investigate the lights and noises. According to police, Waller pointed his handgun at officers, and they were forced to shoot him dead in his own garage. A police investigation into the shooting is ongoing.
- After an informant purchased heroin at the house, a drug task force raided a home in West Tarentum, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday and arrested four people. No one was injured, but everything about the raid sounds like routinely bad, potentially dangerous policy: the use of SWAT on low-level offenders, cops busting in at six in the morning, and their use of a flash-bang grenade, even though the home contained four young children.
- A July 28 article in the Advocate reports that in the last two years, sheriff’s deputies in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, have entrapped a dozen men with offers of gay sex, then attempted to have them prosecuted under unconstitutional antisodomy laws. Thankfully, the reasonable District Attorney has yet to press charges, but the LGBT community wants to know what the deal is.
- Nevada state troopers have been ordered to return $1 million they took from a woman named Tara Mishra during a traffic stop in March 2012. As previously described in Bad Cop Blotter, forfeiture laws allow for this kind of seizure to take place on no more than suspicion. After pulling Mishra over for speeding, police searched her car and found the aforementioned million in cash. Arrested on the assumption that this was drug money, turns out the 31-year-old had been working as a stripper and carefully saving for more than a decade to buy a nightclub with her business partner, who was present. Mishra and her friend were delayed more than a year in their plans, but a federal judge ruled in mid-July that the cops must return the money with interest.
- Initial reports of robbers impersonating Detroit police turns out to be real police officers going rogue. One officer—a sergeant—was arrested by his on precinct when he tried to go to work on Saturday. He, and at least one other Detroit cop, is suspected of robbing and pistol-whipping customers at a Citgo gas station.
- In Pensacola, Florida, on Saturday at 2:40 AM, 60-year-old Roy Middleton went outside to look through his mother’s car in order to find a cigarette. One of his neighbors decided there was a break-in and called the police. Escambia County sheriff’s deputies arrived while Middleton was still in the car. They told him to put his hands up, which Middleton says he did, but they still fired. A teenage witness says Middleton, who was hit but is expected to make a full recovery, didn’t do anything wrong.
- The US Department of Education’s Civil Rights Division is investigating the complaints of more than 13 students from the University of Southern California who claim that the university—including campus public-safety officers—dismissed reports of sexual assaults. One woman says a campus officer swore she couldn’t have been raped since her attacker didn’t ejaculate. Another complaint states that a campus cop responded to a sexual-assault report with the comment that women can’t “go out, get drunk, and expect not to get raped.” The investigation will try to ascertain whether these women’s civil rights were violated by the university’s failure to address such serious allegations.
- An unnamed law enforcement source released audio recordings relating to a grisly Hartford, Connecticut, home invasion that killed three in 2007. The recordings show that cops and dispatch told a hostage negotiator he wasn’t needed because they didn’t believe Jennifer Hawke-Petit when she told a bank teller she needed to withdraw money because her family was being held captive. Hawke-Petit and her children were both murdered half an hour after cops arrived at the home and set up a perimeter. The police department hasn’t reviewed its response to the tragedy and isn’t answering questions.
- In May, undercover cops in Salt Lake City, Utah, busted a bar for selling so-called bootleg beer—meaning it wasn’t purchased at a state store, or from a licensed seller at the correct, regulated price—and was probably illegally bought out of state. Cops also confiscated several other “unauthorized” beers. The owners of the bar, The Spot, now face prosecution and up to $25,000 in fines.
- This week’s Good Cop comes via the Huffington Post: the tale of a Reddit commenter probably named Brianna who was “buzzed” one night, and wrote a note on her car which said as much, but that she promised she would move the car first thing the next morning, and to please not ticket her. The traffic enforcement officer left an answering note that read, “I appreciate you being responsible,” and politely advised the woman to try to avoid parking there in future. Good work, everyone. High-fives for all.
Lucy Steigerwald is a freelance writer and photographer. Read her blog here and follow her on Twitter: @lucystag
Previously: Routine Raid Terror