Articles Posted in Drugs

Florida voters overwhelmingly agreed that medical marijuana should be legal in the Sunshine State – but don’t expect cultivation and possession arrests to drop off any time soon.marijuana plants

Amendment 2, in favor of access to medicinal cannabis for those with certain serious illnesses, received a groundswell of support from the electorate. But it’s also a very short piece of legislation, which means there is a significant amount of power in the hands of the Florida Department of Health to make rules for medical marijuana treatment centers. There is still the need to hammer out procedures for licensing, registration, records, testing, labeling, inspection, security and revocation of registration. Further, a number of cities in South Florida have temporarily banned marijuana dispensaries and treatment centers, arguing officials need time to weigh the effects on the community and set zoning regulations.

In the meantime, don’t expect any breaks when it comes to the prosecution of marijuana-related crimes. Just recently, according to The Sun-Sentinel, a 40-year-old in Deerfield Beach was arrested for growing some 200 marijuana plants inside two residences in the city. Authorities first searched a home on Southeast Eleventh Street and discovered 25 marijuana plants growing in two separate bedrooms. He was arrested at that location. Investigators then went to a residence on Southeast Tenth Street, also owned by defendant, and there discovered an additional 169 marijuana plants, plus 12,000 grams of packaged cannabis and a jar of cannabis oil. He was arrested on charges of manufacturing/ producing cannabis and suspicion of traffic marijuana greater than 25 pounds less than 2,000 pounds. Continue reading

Thousands of individuals convicted on potentially tainted scientific evidence have been waiting years for the chance to clear their name, ProPublica recently reported. arrest

Four years ago, a long-time chemist working at a state drug laboratory in Massachusetts admitted to contaminating samples over the course of her nearly nine-year career, resulting in more than 20,000 drug crime convictions that could have potentially been flawed. Those cases involved people from all across the nation and from eight different countries. In many cases, defendants were jailed. In some cases, defendants were deported. At the time, prosecutors insisted to the governor that addressing any possible breaches of justice would be priority No. 1.

Unfortunately, that has not proven to be true. Four years later, and prosecutors have battled to hang onto pretty much every single conviction garnered with this flawed evidence. Meanwhile, defense attorneys arguing on behalf of potentially innocent defendants are asking courts to vacate all the convictions that relied to any substantial degree on that lab worker’s tainted results.  Continue reading

Dontrell Stephens was awarded $23 million earlier this year by a federal jury after he was paralyzed from the waist down when shot by a Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy after being stopped for riding his bicycle into traffic. wheelchair

Now, he is facing felony drug charges for reportedly selling heroin, cocaine and marijuana in close proximity to a preschool. Authorities announced the arrest of the 23-year-old Palm Beach County man in a Facebook post with his mugshot and the hashtag “BUSTED.” It was the first arrest the agency announced since it posted news of an arrest in a 40-year-old murder case. A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office said the announcement on Facebook had “nothing to do with who he is, but was because he was arrested for selling drugs near a day care.”

Right…

She also insisted the agency wasn’t trying to publicize the arrest because they hadn’t issued a press release to the media. Formal press release or not, most reporters do follow the agency’s official Facebook page and would have seen it featured fairly prominently.  Continue reading

The so-called, “War on Drugs” has been an irrefutable failure in so many respects, to the point many states and municipalities have been actively working to de-criminalize possession of marijuana and related non-violent offenses. However, this does not meant that those caught with the substance can expect a break. marijuana

The Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-marijuana advocacy group, reports that since June 2015, numerous cities and counties in Florida have taken marijuana policy into their own hands to reduce the chances that consumers of marijuana are going to be arrested or jailed. Those include measures taken by: Miami-Dade County, Miami Beach, Hallandale Beach, Key West, West Palm Beach, Broward County, Wilton Manors, Palm Beach County, Volusia County, Orlando, Tampa, Osceola County, Alachua County and Port Ritchie. (Specifically here in Broward County, commissioners voted unanimously to give police the option to issue a $100 civil fine rather than arrest those caught with 20 grams or less of the drug. However, police still have the choice to make an arrest, at their discretion.)

But the question is whether laws like this are actually making a real dent. According to a new report by The Human Rights Watch, there continues to be a drug possession arrest in the U.S. every 25 seconds.  Continue reading

Police in Fort Lauderdale recently made a targeted effort to take down an alleged drug trafficking ring in South Middle River near downtown. They launched a six month undercover investigation, dubbed “Operation Bad Karma,” in which they ultimately made 22 arrests, aided by the U.S. Marshals Office and the Broward State Attorney’s Office.handcuffs1

Chief Frank Adderley said the goal was to reduce the proliferation of crack cocaine in these neighborhoods by arresting those responsible for its sale and distribution. Police suspect the group responsible for dealing crack cocaine in the region was also tied to an uptick in violence in the area over the last 12 months, including a handful of murders.

Residents in the area say they have been complaining for more than a year about open-air drug sales as well as violence connected to those engaged in the drug dealing. Police said the hope was that if they could get a handle on the drug activity, they would curb any further escalation of violence. The effort really got underway with fervor in January, when the bodies of two murder victims were found on the very same property where a man had been killed just three months earlier. Continue reading

Drivers in states where marijuana is legal cannot be pulled over in other states by cops who make assumptions based on solely on the origin of the license plate. That’s according to a ruling by federal justices with the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Tenth Circuit. marijuana2

Mind you, this ruling – Vasquez v. Lewis and Jimerson – is technically only applicable in the Tenth Circuit, which covers the six states of Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah, plus those portions of the Yellowstone National Park extending into Montana and Idaho. However, given that this is not an issue that has arisen at this level in other jurisdictions, it’s likely to have set a clear precedent on the constitutionality of such practices. Some have referred to policing in this manner as, “license plate profiling.”

It’s not as major of a problem here in Florida because not many other nearby states have allowed legal marijuana, even for medicinal purposes. But that’s not to say someone traveling from Washington or Colorado might not get the side eye from law enforcement here. Based on the reasoning of the 10th Circuit, this is wrong.  Continue reading

Two stolen prescription pads. That’s all authorities say was needed to forge 140 prescriptions for approximately 17,250 doses of powerful prescription drugs, which were then resold on the streets of South Florida, likely for tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Prescription bottles used to store medicine

Authorities allege the group operated in Boynton Beach throughout 2015. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has filed hundreds of charges in the case – including 112 counts against a single 29-year-old woman from Pompano Beach. She and another woman, 25, of Lake Worth were medical assistants at Bethesda Health who allegedly stole the prescription pads from the office of Dr. Edyta Mularczyk, an internist in Boynton Beach. Investigators are accusing them and four others – ages 52 to 62 – of drug trafficking and RICO conspiracy charges. Warrants have been issued for four other individuals, including three from Fort Lauderdale. (Two of those already arrested are from Fort Lauderdale as well.)

It is alleged the group wrote prescriptions for drugs such as oxycodone and morphine, and then sold those drugs on the black market. Warrants for their arrest say the missing prescription pads was the first red flag, though it’s not clear if that was initially reported to police. What staffers began to notice, however, was that the number of prescriptions filled by certain patients aroused suspicions. For example, in one case, a single patient filled 19 prescriptions for powerful pain medications over the course of just a few months.  Continue reading

U.S. prosecutors were dealt a significant blow recently with a decision by justices with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in their decision regarding 10 consolidated appeals of persons facing federal marijuana charges. What the court ruled was that prosecutors can’t use federal tax dollars to prosecute individuals who were acting in accordance with state-approved marijuana laws. marijuanabuds

The ruling follows a 2014 Congressional amendment that strips the Department of Justice of the right to interfere with the state-level implementation of medical marijuana laws. Prior to this, it was not uncommon for federal prosecutors to aggressively pursue those who operated medical marijuana cultivation operations, medical marijuana dispensaries and manufacturers of certain marijuana-infused products.

When this law was passed, numerous people who were being prosecuted by the federal government on these types of charges asked the courts to dismiss their cases, arguing their actions were in compliance with state law. For example, one group of defendants (there were 10 in all in the consolidated appeal) operated a number of L.A. marijuana dispensaries were criminally charged by the feds with distributing more than 100 marijuana plants. The court remanded those consolidated cases back to the lower court for consideration of whether defendants were in fact in compliance with state statutes. If they were, the charges against them should be dismissed.  Continue reading

A man arrested for possession of ecstasy in Fort Lauderdale in 2013 has won $30,000 from the city after the nine pills with yellow hearts stamps reportedly turned out to be aspirin.pills12

The 37-year-old sued the city in civil court alleging false arrest, battery and unlawful search following a 2013. According to The Sun Sentinel, plaintiff in the case, Antonio Grant was a passenger in a vehicle that had been pulled over for expired tags.

He was allegedly handcuffed at gunpoint, ordered face-down on the asphalt and forcibly had his shorts searched. The officer also reportedly searched his rectum digitally to look for drugs. Officers did find nine pills, but testing proved the substance was actually generic aspirin.  Continue reading

It is common in traffic stops where officers suspect the presence of drugs to search the driver and request a search of the vehicle. If an officer finds a substance he or she suspects to be an illicit drug, they rely on a roadside drug test to make the call. The results of these $2 kits, which have largely remained the same in design and process since they were first released in 1973, can mean the difference between a person being released at the scene or being arrested on felony charges.

DCF 1.0

In a troubling expose on these kits, The New York Times delved into the accuracy of these kits and what they have meant to the lives of many of the 1.2 million people who are arrested annually in the U.S. on illegal drug possession charges. While those arrested are presumed innocent until proven guilty, these cheap testing kits are often a key deciding factor in how public defenders fight these cases and how prosecutors pursue them.

One analysis of the accuracy of the kits was conducted by the laboratory system operated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). What they discovered was that more than 20 percent of the evidence police listed as “methamphetamine” in fact was NOT methamphetamine. In fact, half of the false positives weren’t even drugs at all. A tracking by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office revealed 15 false methamphetamine positives just in the first seven months of 2014. Further, in combing through department records, officers had been given ambiguous instructions on how to conduct the tests and some misunderstood which colors indicated a positive and which indicated a negative.  Continue reading