law enforcement

Home » law enforcement

Police Caught Framing Open Carry Activist at DUI Checkpoint

in Gun Rights, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Police Caught Framing Open Carry Activist at DUI Checkpoint

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

As America discusses yet another deadly police shooting, the name Terence Crutcher becomes a “viral” hashtag. And as many argue that yet another hashtag won’t make a dent in helping to put an end to the systemic violence associated with law enforcement, Washington Post’s Radley Balko continues to report on all kinds of police abuse cases, bringing certain stories to light that seldom get any air time due to their less than dramatic developments.

open carry

According to Balko, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Connecticut filed a lawsuit against the local police on behalf of Michael Picard, an open carry gun rights activist.

Picard was targeted by the local police while he was protesting a DUI checkpoint in September of 2015. He positioned himself ahead of the checkpoint, holding up a sign that read “cops ahead, remain silent.”

ACLU of Connecticut Legal Director Dan Barrett explained that, as soon as the police was made aware of Picard’s silent and legal protest, state officers working the checkpoint approached the protester and proceeded to slap the camera out of his hand. As the officer carries on, believing the camera had been broken, Picard is searched.

As an open carry activist, Picard had been carrying a gun in plain sight all along, making it easy for officers to find it immediately. Nevertheless, the officer in question announces he found a gun as loud as possible. As the officers check his permit and run a check on his records, Picard picks up his camera, prompting the officer to say “taking my picture is illegal.”

Nonsense, Barett says.

As Picard debates the officer over his constitutional rights, the officer “snatches” the camera from Picard’s hands and places it on top of the police cruiser.

Thankfully, the camera was still recording.

What happens next is why Picard is now suing the Connecticut police.

According to the footage, three troopers are caught talking about what they should do next. As they see Picard’s permit is valid, they say “oh crap. … we gotta punch a number on this guy.” Meaning they should “open an investigation in the police database.” The officer then says, “we really gotta cover our a*ses.”

They proceed, discussing what to do about Picard without facts to back their story. During at least eight minutes, they attempt to get to a conclusion as to how better they will “cover their” butts.

At no time, Balko explains, did the cops think of giving Picard his camera back and telling him he was free to go.

Toward the end of this ordeal, the officers get to the conclusion of charging Picard with two criminal infractions: “reckless use of a highway by a pedestrian,” and “creating a public disturbance.”

Thanks to Picard’s camera, we know the officers discuss how to support the public disturbance charge until a supervisor comes up with a plan.

“What we say,” he tells the other officers, “is that multiple motorists stopped to complain about a guy waving a gun around, but none of them wanted to stop and make a statement.”

After filing a complaint that led to nowhere, the ACLU took on the case.

Regardless of where Americans stand on gun rights or law enforcement, Picard’s right to protest the checkpoint in peace while carrying a weapon should always be upheld.

The same way pulling over and reaching out to the police with your arms raised should not give officers an excuse to practice target shooting over your helpless body.

Drug-Testing Industry Heavily Invested in Keeping Pot Illegal

in Consumer Protection, Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Advocates HQ Comments are off

Drug-Testing Industry Heavily Invested in Keeping Pot Illegal

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The US government’s war on drugs has always counted with a great deal of support coming from a variety of special interest groups. Crony capitalism, it seems, is always to blame. But while libertarians have always known that, the media is just now realizing that there are more special interest groups involved with the drug war than they had previously thought.

TestToo bad mainstream news sources often misdiagnose the root of the problem.

According to an extensive ATTN article, the drug-testing industry is one of the most powerful opponents to weed legalization in America, along with the private prison industry, law enforcement, and big drug companies.

In the ATTN piece, the writer gives inside information on the history of cronyism involving the drug-testing industry and the US government. It also explains that several former DEA administrators are now part of nonprofits that advocate and actively lobby for drug-testing in Washington to remain relevant. The piece also explains that while federal agencies were bound by law to implement drug-testing programs in the 1980s due to the passage of the Drug Free Workplace Act, government agencies were the first to be hit with the government’s recommendations regarding drug-testing policies, thanks to an executive order issued by the President Ronald Reagan administration.

“Urine tests,” the article explains “didn’t become a common workplace practice in the U.S. until the 1980s,” which is when the Reagan administration began requiring federal government employees to be tested. This statement implies that the entire drug-testing industry may have not had as much influence as it does now if not for a string of orders and regulations that require organizations to use their services.

To Jason Williamson, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Criminal Law Reform Project, “passing or failing a drug test has no bearing on whether or not they’re going to be impaired at the job two weeks later.” This “piece of the puzzle,” Williamson told Attn.com, is huge, and a major reason why “drug-testing companies don’t need or want to talk about” the real implications of their services.

According to a 1985 study shared by the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association, airline pilots using flight simulators after smoking marijuana showed signs of impairment 24 hours “after usage.” But in a more recent government-sponsored study from 1989, researchers found that the psychoactive effects of cannabis use “wore off after one to four hours.” Proving that the largest drug-testing industry trade group in the country might have been helping these firms do business with countless organizations and government agencies without addressing the problems brought up by pro-marijuana legalization activists.

A quick search on the Center for Responsive Politics website shows that, to this day, organizations associated with DATIA such as Quest Diagnostics are actively—and heavily—involved with Washington politics.

According to a 2012 Reason piece, another organization known as the Drugs of Abuse Testing Coalition spent thousands lobbying for “Medicare reimbursement … and payment rates for qualitative drug screen testing.”

Targeting crony capitalism and its negative consequences, even when the subject is the drug war, could help us clear away the fog, giving advocates access to the real roots of the government’s ineffective drug war and how to solve the problem.

Lawmaker Targets Burner Phones Over Terrorism, Ignores Unintended Consequences Tied to New Restrictions

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, Middle East, National Defense, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Lawmaker Targets Burner Phones Over Terrorism, Ignores Unintended Consequences Tied to New Restrictions

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

As politicians in Washington DC continue to wage what the late author Gore Vidal called an “idiotic” and “eternal” war on terror, more lawmakers refer to anti-liberty measures to crack down on potential terrorists at home.

Phone A bill known as Closing the Pre-Paid Mobile Device Security Gap Act of 2016 seeks to require consumers looking into buying prepaid burner phones to register and provide identification. Requirements would make it impossible for consumers to purchase the so-called burner phones without providing personal information upon purchase. According to Tech Dirt, the bill’s timing may have something to do with reports claiming that burner phones used by Islamist extremists helped them to evade law enforcement.

Democratic congresswoman Jackie Speier, the same lawmaker who introduced the proposal in Congress, called the prepaid phone “loophole” an “egregious gap in our legal framework.” According to the lawmaker and others who support the bill, allowing consumers to purchase anonymous phones helps terrorists and criminals.

This is not the first time Washington DC has targeted regular consumers in their fight against an abstract enemy. Recently, legislators targeted encrypted phones after reports claimed terrorists had used encryption to evade law enforcement. The encryption reports were later debunked.

According to Tech Dirt, the current proposal doesn’t provide a great deal of information on how legislators want to tackle the burner phone issue. But while the bill’s text remains a secret, the proposal has already been referred to three House committees.

If Speier’s proposal is passed by both the House and the Senate and it ends up making it to the president’s desk, customers would have to always provide their personal details to retailers whenever they purchase a burner phone. But what Tech Dirt writers claim is that, even if the law were to pass, it would do little to keep terrorists or criminals from providing their personal information. Instead, Tech Dirt argues, criminals would continue doing what they have already done in the past by using straw purchases or buying directly from resellers.

Much like the debate about background checks for gun purchases, the idea of forcing retailers to request extra information from prepaid phone consumers is likely to backfire, pushing criminals further into the dark. Another potential consequence of passing this law would be that the poor will be the first to suffer.

Too often, low income consumers choose to purchase burner phones because of credit issues or simply because they do not have the identification requirements needed to open an account with a phone service provider. A burner phone law change would end up inflicting further difficulties on those who are already suffering greatly. Furthermore, boosting restrictions could also push the price of these affordable phones up, which will also end up hurting the poor.

If lawmakers are serious about spotting criminals and targeting them—not common and innocent Americans who may not feel comfortable releasing their personal information in exchange for a cheap cell phone—this bill should be tossed. Quickly.

Snowden: Bulk Data Collection is Ineffective, Promotes Insecurity and Oppression

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Snowden: Bulk Data Collection is Ineffective, Promotes Insecurity and Oppression

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

As the country watches the battle between the FBI and Apple unfold, former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden uses his notoriety to bring attention to the surveillance problem publicly.

During an interview with the Spanish TV channel Sexta, Snowden gave his two cents on the subject, extending his commentary to the realm of bulk data collection and why it never works.

SnowdenDuring the interview, Snowden claimed that what Washington D.C. believes to be the most effective way to deter terrorists doesn’t pass the smell test.

“In the wake of the revelations of mass surveillance,” Snowden explained, “[US] President [Barack Obama] appointed two independent commissions to review the efficiency of these [surveillance] programs, what they really did and what effect they had in combating terrorism.” What they found, Snowden continued, was that none of the surveillance programs carried out by Washington “stopped a single terrorist attack and never made a concrete difference in a terrorist investigation.”

When looking into how the CIA and NSA have violated the US Constitution for ten years by snooping on Americans’ private communications without ever producing warrants, Snowden continued, “we must ask ourselves: Was it ever worth it?”

With news showing surveillance programs are used for purposes other than fighting terrorism, it’s difficult to ignore the whistleblower’s claims. Especially since the current administration seems unwilling to put an end to its ineffective programs.

Nowadays, bulk data collection is “more aggressive and invasive” than ever before, Snowden told Sexta. “Law enforcement and intelligence structures do not any longer bother to pick up a suspect and hack his cell phone, they cut into all lines and communications” instead. To the whistleblower, this is a clear violation of innocent people’s rights, since federal agents attack the “heart of the society” instead of following tangible evidence.

The debate revolving around privacy and bulk data collection often misses the importance of privacy in a free society. Something that Snowden likes to revisit often. During the interview, he explained this angle of the debate by reminding the reporter that “it is no different from saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say, … There are rights that provide value to you even if you’re not actively engaged in them in that moment.”

Currently, Americans are struggling to identify exactly what is and isn’t the best way to go about the surveillance subject. As the public is bombarded with divisive, autocratic rhetoric tied to the presidential campaign, many become oblivious, ignoring their surveillance-related concerns.

Understanding that existing tools like the Internet will always be abused by criminals, and that the federal government is incapable of keeping tabs on what citizens are doing at all times is all part of the problem. Famed economist F. A. Hayek talked extensively about the knowledge problem, explaining that the importance of knowledge of individual circumstances is often minimized by state officials, and the results are often bad to freedom since central planners like to claim they know just what they need to do to solve whatever problem is at hand.

Much like economic problems, which often become much worse as government intervention gets a boost, more surveillance has the same effect, forcing criminals to take part in even more obscure communication methods in order to remain untraceable. The unintended consequences are seldom discussed, but it’s the American individual who pays the price.

If Snowden and many other privacy advocates are right, the federal government’s efforts against terrorism could benefit greatly from a privacy-centered policy. After all, sacrificing freedom in the name of a false sense of security makes us both less safe and less free.

More Members of the Law Enforcement Community Join the Fight Against Tough Marijuana Laws

in Criminal Justice, Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

More Members of the Law Enforcement Community Join the Fight Against Tough Marijuana Laws

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Ever since the state of Colorado decided to set an example to the nation by practically nullifying the federal ban on the commerce of marijuana, legislators in many other states also acted on the marijuana ban locally. But as more and more lawmakers embrace a more humane approach to marijuana laws, and several states show signs that the times are changing, it’s even more interesting to see that members of the law enforcement community are also giving in to the “trend.”

PoliceWith the help of organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), two groups working alongside free marketers, marijuana researchers, freedom advocates, and Tenth Amendment champions, a greater number of states now have policies that lessen the consequences of the nationwide drug war, granting marijuana users and sellers the guarantee that their transactions won’t be targeted by law enforcement under certain circumstances.

According to PennLive.com, Harrisburg Police Chief Thomas Carter has shown signs that he supports some pro-marijuana advocates in Pennsylvania by urging local policymakers to reduce the penalties for marijuana possession. While Carter believes young people should avoid marijuana, he also believes that individuals caught using marijuana should not go to jail. Instead, Carter wants to treat the offense as a traffic ticket.

“We can turn our heads and deny we have a marijuana problem among our youth or we can proactively take action,” Carter told reporters. Instead of putting these kids in jail and ruining their lives, “I want to give kids a chance, an opportunity to make something better of their lives.”

The comment may have shocked many who were expecting to hear a tough on crime approach to what Carter calls a “marijuana problem,” only to be pleasantly surprised.

Last Tuesday, Carter appeared with other Harrisburg officials at a news conference to discuss the city’s efforts to lower the number of marijuana possession charges. This meeting follows the introduction of a proposal sponsored by Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse, who hopes to reduce the level of crime for possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana to a summary offense. As it stands, possession is handled as a misdemeanor locally.

But to critics of Papenfuse’s proposal, the new policy would force poor residents to pay steep fines. Currently, residents in the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburg pay a $25 fine for a first marijuana possession offense. But in Harrisburg, residents caught with pot would have to pay $100 for their first offense if the proposal becomes an ordinance.

Regardless of whether the proposal becomes an ordinance, the fact the law enforcement community in various areas across the country are joining anti-drug war advocates is important, and shouldn’t be ignored.

Chicago Police ‘Intentionally Destroying’ Police Car Dashcams, Microphones

in Criminal Justice, First Amendment, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Chicago Police ‘Intentionally Destroying’ Police Car Dashcams, Microphones

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Chicago is notorious for gun-related violence. With some of the toughest anti-gun rights on its books, the city struggles to keep its residents safe. With pro gun control advocates making the case that the town’s gun-related violence is due to the fact most people purchase their guns illegally, it’s hard not to see how enacting more restrictive laws won’t make a difference.

But gun violence alone is not the only issue in Chicago.

Chicago

According to Washington Post’s Radley Balko, corruption among Chicago Police Department officers continues to expose countless of innocent residents to unconstitutional abuses.

DNA Info Chicago reviewed over 1,800 police maintenance logs of the city’s many police cars to learn why 80 percent of the footage captured by squad car dashboard cameras in the city is often silent.

Last month, Chicago officials blamed the absence of audio on two factors, error and “intentional destruction.” With the help of the maintenance records, researchers found that, in many cases, officers pulled out batteries of their microphones, stashed full microphones in their glove boxes, and even destroyed microphone antennas. Microphones have also disappeared in several occasions.

But the research team also wanted to discover why footage of a particular 2014 incident involving a Chicago officer and a teenager did not contain any audio. What DNA Info learned is nothing short of horrifying.

On October 20, 2014, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was killed by officer Jason Van Dyke. The encounter’s footage was widely shared online. But while the video went viral, none of the patrol cars’ cameras present at the scene were able to capture any audio.

The dashcam attached to the patrol car used by Van Dyke had been sent to repair at least twice prior to the killing. According to DNA Info, police technicians reported on June 17, 2014 that a dashcam wiring issue had been fixed three months after the camera had been brought in for repair. But just one day later, the same dashcam was sent back to technicians.

According to the records obtained by DNA Info, technicians claimed that the issues presented the second time were due to “intentional damage.”

Twelve days after the camera came back from the technician’s desk, McDonald was killed.

Van Dyke’s patrol car camera did not register any audio of the incident. The video that went viral was recorded by another patrol car.

As the nation debates criminal justice reform, incidents like the one involving McDonald and officer Van Dyke should be part of the discussion.

Overcriminalization is a real issue. To Tim Lynch, the director of the Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice, “too many officer-involved shootings receive little scrutiny.” Setting emotions aside and bringing these issues to light may give the public a better idea of what the solution is. But simply standing idly by as law enforcement, state officials, and lawmakers push for more laws, more restrictions, and more penalties won’t do.

Instagrammers Beware: Your Pot Photo May Land You In Jail

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Instagrammers Beware: Your Pot Photo May Land You In Jail

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The US drug war initiated during the Nixon administration has been responsible for skyrocketing incarceration rates, the destruction of the black family, and increase in racial disparities in criminal justice. Now, it’s also responsible for a new wave of fear revolving marijuana users’ Instagram accounts.

That’s right.

According to a retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent, posting images of recreational use of marijuana on social media may result in a fine up to $150,000. The individual at fault could also spend 18 months in jail.

Pot

“Even though 23 states have legalized medical marijuana and four states have legalized recreational marijuana,” former DEA agent Patricia D’Orsa-Dijamco said, “marijuana remains illegal federally.”

In an interview for Fox News, the former DEA agent said that nobody should “be posting pictures of themselves smoking pot and using pot-themed hashtags to attract fans and ‘likes’ in any state. People who post pictures of themselves could potentially face criminal charges.”

According to Instagram’s own list of restrictions, users are not allowed to upload “unlawful” content to its site. Images of marijuana use fall under this category.

Despite the potential risks, there has been a rise in images of individuals making use of recreational marijuana on social media. But Instagram users will​ ​continue to be ​targeted by law enforcement if they do not slow down—unless the law changes.

Popular Instagram users like Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, and Wiz Khalifa haven’t suffered any restrictions after posting photos of recreational marijuana use to Instagram. But New Jersey 20-year-old marijuana user Connor Kennedy has.

In July of 2015, Kennedy was arrested by the Winslow Township Police Department after posting photos online of his marijuana use. He was allegedly growing seven marijuana plants in an abandoned backyard down the street from his house at the time.

​ “Concerned citizens” contacted​​ the police​ ​about Kennedy’s behavior​, which prompted the police to​​ catch the young man tending to the plants ​with a hidden​ camera. After this incident, investigators looked him up online. That’s when they found his incriminating photos.

He’s not the only one to have been arrested after posting photos of marijuana on Instagram.

Toward the end of 2015, there was a wave of hope among anti-drug war advocates when reports claiming that Congress had lifted the ban on medical marijuana hit the news. Unfortunately, they were not accurate.

In December of 2014, Congress passed an omnibus spending bill that included a provision keeping the Justice Department from using funds appropriated by that particular bill to fight against states pushing their own marijuana laws. That means that agencies like the DEA would not be able to use the omnibus bill’s funds to prevent states from passing their own marijuana legislation. This same provision was part of the 2015 omnibus bill.

Despite the bill’s wording, the Justice Department has largely ignored the law by prosecuting and seizing the property of countless medical marijuana suppliers. Officials often argue that these actions don’t “prevent” states from passing their own drug laws.

If the Justice Department is given a free pass and officials continue to ignore the laws written by Congress, it’s not hard to see how Americans’ freedom of speech will continue to suffer.

Until Congress tackles the issue directly by putting an end to the drug war and reforming the criminal justice system, Instagram users and marijuana suppliers will remain vulnerable.

Supreme Court Ignores Privacy Group’s Request to Disclose DHS’s Cellphone Shutdown Policy

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Supreme Court Ignores Privacy Group’s Request to Disclose DHS’s Cellphone Shutdown Policy

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Do you think the Department of Homeland Security keeps us safe? What about the Supreme Court? Do you believe it upholds the Constitution as it should?

Recently, a petition from the Electronic Privacy Information Center demanding the DHS to release its plan to close mobile phone services in the wake of disasters was set aside by the Supreme Court.

With the snub, the highest court of the land refused to look at the federal appeals court’s May ruling that upholds the secrecy surrounding DHS’s plan. If the ruling remains in place, DHS officers are not required to disclose details concerning Standard Operating Procedure 303, which outlines the guidelines that private and commercial wireless networks are required to follow during the service shutdown and restoration processes in the event of what the DHS describes as a “national crisis.”

Large Man Looking At Co-Worker With A Magnifying Glass

The appeals court used the Freedom of Information Act to keep the DHS from disclosing the plan in May, claiming that allowing details from SPP 303 to become public would put the safety of Americans at risk.

The factor that prompted the privacy group to act involved a full shutdown of cellphone service in the San Francisco Bay Area subway system during what EPIC calls a peaceful protest back in 2011. At the time, EPIC demanded DHS to divulge the contents of SOP 303, but the agency refused. Later, the case was taken to a district court in Washington, D.C., where the judge ruled in favor of the privacy group. Soon after, the federal appeals court overturned the district court’s ruling, claiming the SOP 303 is a “voluntary process” designed to protect Americans during “critical emergencies such as the threat of radio-activated improvised explosive devices.”

According to the heavily redacted version of the shutdown policy obtained by EPIC, federal, state, and local law enforcement officials have access to the powers granted by SOP 303. Despite the overreach and the policy’s restrictions on individuals’ communication devices without proper warning, document details are not accessible to Americans.

If a peaceful protest is enough of a reason to shut down the phone service of countless individuals who may have not even been part of the incident, privacy groups like EPIC want to make sure the DHS opens SOP 303′s contents for discussion.

By infringing the individual’s right to privacy without due process, the DHS is acting unconstitutionally, despite the Supreme Court’s decision to ignore EPIC’s petition.

If the American people are not made aware of the Supreme Court’s decision to ignore privacy concerns and government abuse, agencies like DHS will continue to abuse its powers.

Trashing the restrictions on government imposed by the US Constitution will not make us safe.

According to the Cato Institute, DHS is responsible for increasing bureaucracy while not improving the efficacy of Department of Homeland Security’s programs. In a perfect world, the DHS’s inefficiency alone would be enough to have it slashed.

As taxpayers foot the bill, agencies like the DHS work relentlessly to keep Americans from having access to policies that impact them directly. If privacy groups like EPIC are not able to push the Supreme Court to rule on this matter, what are other ways we should go about demanding our privacy is fully restored?

FIRED! SC School Resource Officer Assaults Student

in Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Chloe Anagnos Comments are off

FIRED! SC School Resource Officer Assaults Student

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

On Monday, Oct. 26, a video surfaced on the Internet of a South Carolina school resource officer throwing a female student across a classroom.

The incident occurred at the Spring Valley High School in Columbia, witnesses said, when the unnamed African-American student refused to put away her cell phone and then refused to leave the classroom after being asked by the teacher and school principal.

The officer was then summoned and asked her to leave again. She refused, and he told her she was under arrest.

The video then shows the officer violently knocking the student down, flipping her desk over her, and pulling her across the floor.

The incident was filmed by a fellow student and was uploaded to YouTube. The video made its way around social media, prompting the hashtag #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott suspended Deputy Ben Fields after the incident, and fired him Wednesday.

Lott said that Senior Deputy Ben Fields “did not follow proper procedure”.

He “should not have thrown a student – he could have done a lot of things he was trained to do, he was not trained to throw a student,” Sheriff Lott said.

Lott said he had received expressions of support for the officer from some parents and school officials. Officer Fields had received a “Culture of Excellence” award last year by an elementary school where he was also assigned.

But Sheriff Lott said the officer had “lost control” and had not handled this incident correctly.

“That is not proper technique and should not be used in law enforcement. And based on that, that is a violation of our policy and approximately 20 minutes ago Officer Ben Fields was terminated from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.”

He said complaints had been made about Officer Fields during his time at the school – some had been upheld and some had not.

Legal action has been taken three times against the officer, according to Associated Press:

  • 2013: An expelled student claims Fields targeted black students and falsely accused him of being a gang member in 2013. Fields will go to trial in January.
  • 2009: A woman filed a lawsuit, which was later dismissed, accusing Fields of battery and violating her rights during a 2006 arrest.
  • 2005: A federal jury found in Officer Fields’ favor after a black couple accused him of excessive force and battery during a noise complaint arrest.

The deputy has not been criminally charged but the Federal Bureau of Investigation and justice department have opened a civil rights investigation into the arrest.

Fellow students at the school have tweeted claims that they have seen him behaving in a similar manner in the past, but this was the first time such an incident was caught on camera.

Sheriff Lott has said the girl was unhurt in the incident aside from a carpet burn.

However, the girl’s attorney, Todd Rutherford, told ABC’s Good Morning America that she “has a cast on her arm, she has neck and back injuries” as well as a plaster on her forehead because of the carpet burn.

Sheriff Lott said he would “not describe the officer as remorseful, but he was sorry that the whole thing occurred”.

How to Prove the Drug War Is Futile and Self-Defeating

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, One Minute Liberty Tip by Sharon Harris Comments are off

How to Prove the Drug War Is Futile and Self-Defeating

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

“The Iron Law of Prohibition” offers you a powerful argument to help persuade others of the dangers of the War on Drugs.

white lightning (moonshine)The term was first used by Richard Cowan, longtime libertarian activist and former director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Cowan introduced the term and the concept behind it in a 1986 cover article for the conservative magazine National Review.

The idea is simple and powerful — and it undermines some of the major arguments for drug prohibition.

In a nutshell, the Iron Law of Prohibition says that the economics of black markets inevitably creates strong incentives for dealers to sell ever-stronger, ever-more-dangerous drugs. (I’ll explain that further in a moment.) So prohibition, rather than protecting the public, actually makes drugs ever more potent and ever more dangerous for drug users, the public, and law enforcement. Prohibition is thus extremely counterproductive — even by many of the stated goals of those who favor it.

As Cowan wrote in National Review: “The Iron Law of Drug Prohibition is that the more intense the law enforcement, the more potent the drugs will become.”

Why does this happen? It’s simple economics. When drugs are prohibited, they will continue to be produced and sold in black markets. And drug smugglers and drug sellers will invariably move to sell the drugs in the most concentrated and powerful forms possible. That’s because the more potent and concentrated forms use much less space to store and smuggle, and they sell for far more money, pound-for-pound.

It’s really just common sense. If alcohol is prohibited, bootleggers can smuggle bulky low potency beer, which sells for a low price, or high potency hard liquor, which takes up no more space than beer but sells for much more. Which do you think they will choose?

History confirms it. During alcohol Prohibition there was a huge shift from beer to hard liquor, as bootleggers began focusing on the higher profits of hard liquor — exactly as you would expect, given the Iron Law of Prohibition. Even hard liquor became “harder,” more potent. After Prohibition, consumers were again free to choose among competing products, and they resumed their pre-Prohibition move towards less potent (and less dangerous) drinks.

You can see The Iron Law of Prohibition at work in the War on Drugs. When bulky opium was made illegal around the turn of the century, refined high potency heroin quickly took its place. When marijuana was targeted, smugglers turned to other high-potency, less bulky, far easier to smuggle drugs like cocaine. Bulky bags of powder cocaine were in turn replaced by tiny pellets of highly addictive crack. The same process continues to bring such dubious innovations as crystal meth, dangerous and untested “designer drugs,” and other cheaper, more dangerous, more bang-for-the-buck drugs.

Cowan summarizes the Iron Law of Prohibition in bumper sticker form: “The harder the enforcement, the harder the drugs.”

It’s called “The Iron Law” because this effect is so predictable and invariable. It’s as rock-solid as the law of supply and demand. Or even the law of gravity.

Interestingly, the exact opposite tends to happen in legal markets. Consumers tend to prefer ever milder, less potent versions. Thus the popularity of beer over hard liquor.

The Iron Law of Prohibition means that the War on Drugs strategy is futile and fatally flawed. It will inevitably bring us ever stronger and more dangerous drugs, with the concurrent deaths, health problems, crime and so forth, until it is ended.

This argument can open minds. It may not by itself convince someone to turn against the Drug War, but it is a powerful and persuasive addition to your other arguments.

To learn more about The Iron Law of Prohibition, including other negative consequences of it, check out these resources from Mark Thornton, an economist who had done outstanding work in this field:

 

They Said It… With Doug Bandow, Judge Andrew Napolitano And More

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 20, No. 1 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

THE DRUG WAR GULAG: “The U.S. rate of incarceration, with nearly one of every 100 adults in prison or jail, is five to 10 times higher than the rates in Western Europe and other democracies… America puts people in prison for crimes that other nations don’t, mostly minor drug offenses, and keeps them in prison much longer. Yet these long sentences have had at best a marginal impact on crime reduction.” — former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin and Nicholas Turner, “The Steep Cost of America’s High Incarceration Rate,” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 25, 2014.

DEATH BY FDA: “The paternalist FDA long has delayed the approval of life-saving drugs, thereby killing thousands of people, far more than the number likely saved by preventing the sale of dangerous medicines.” — Doug Bandow, Cato Institute, “Close the Government to Close Bad Government Programs,” Cato Blog, December 31, 2014.

POLICE WATCHING YOU ONLINE:
Scottish Police on Twitter“Please be aware that we will continue to monitor comments on social media & any offensive comments will be investigated.” — tweet by the Scottish police, Dec. 30. Such monitoring is on the rise in the UK, according to the UK Independent; about 20,000 people in Britain have been investigated in the past three years for comments made online, and some have been arrested and imprisoned.

Judge Andrew Napolitano

NAPOLITANO ON TORTURE: “All torture is criminal under all circumstances — under treaties to which the U.S. is a party, under the Constitution that governs the government wherever it goes, and under federal law. Torture degrades the victim and the perpetrator. It undermines the moral authority of a country whose government condones it. It destroys the rule of law. It exposes our own folks to the awful retaliatory beheadings we have all seen. It is slow, inefficient, morbid, and ineffective. It is a recruiting tool for those who have come to cause us harm. All human beings possess basic inalienable rights derived from the natural law and protected by the Constitution the CIA has sworn to uphold. Torture violates all of those rights.” — Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, “The CIA and Its Torturers,” syndicated column, Dec. 11, 2014.

100 YEARS OF THE WAR ON DRUGS:
Mark Thornton“The War on Drugs … kills thousands of people, destroys untold number of lives, and wastes hundreds of billions of dollars every year. … What has the War on Drugs accomplished? It has not reduced access to illegal drugs. It has not reduced illegal drug use or abuse. It has not reduced the rate of addiction. If anything, the rates of use, abuse, and addiction have increased over the past century. Prison population statistics clearly indicate that it has been used to suppress minorities.

“It has also greatly increased the powers of law enforcement and the legal system and reduced the legal rights and protections of citizens under the tradition of the rule of law. It has greatly increased the militarization of the police and the use of the military in police work. It has also led to a significant increase in U.S. political and military intervention in foreign nations, particularly in the drug supply nations of Central and South America. … it is the number one cause of crime, corruption, and violence in the United States, as well as many of the countries of Central and South America.” — economist Mark Thornton, “The War on Drugs Was Born 100 Years Ago,” Mises Daily, December 17, 2014.

New FBI Report: Savage U.S. Marijuana War Continues, Despite Majority Support for Re-Legalization

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 20 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

A solid majority of Americans now favor re-legalizing marijuana. Many states have eased laws War on Drugspersecuting marijuana smokers, and four states and the District of Columbia have even re-legalized it.

Yet governments at all levels continue to wage a costly, pointless, and ferocious war against peaceful marijuana users.

In early November the FBI released its annual Uniform Crime Report, which gives the best look at marijuana arrests and related statistics. It covers the latest year for which figures are available, 2013.

Among the findings:

  • The good news: arrest numbers are down, slightly. In 2013, there were 693,481 arrests for marijuana charges. In 2012, there were 749,825. However, despite years of growing support for re-legalization, there were actually fewer arrests back in 1998 (682,885).
  • As always, the vast majority of these arrests — a whopping 88% — were for simple possession. 
  • The remaining 12% of arrests were for “sale/manufacture,” a broad category that includes all cultivation offenses — even those where the marijuana was being grown for personal or medical use. 
  • Marijuana arrests make up 40.6% of all drug arrests, making it clear that the War on Drugs is, in reality, largely a War on Marijuana Possession.
  • Nationwide, police make an average of one arrest for marijuana possession every minute.
  • Nationwide, 51.9% of violent crimes and over 80% of property crimes went unsolved or did not result in arrest. Is there a connection?
  • Arrests for mere possession of marijuana cost, at a minimum, roughly half a billion dollars, says NORML, using an ACLU estimate of cost-per-arrest ($750). Other estimates range to several billion dollars. 
  • The effects of an arrest can be devastating, notes Paul Armentano of NORML: 

“Probation and mandatory drug testing; loss of employment; loss of child custody; removal from subsidized housing; asset forfeiture; loss of student aid; loss of voting privileges; loss of adoption rights…” and of course, for some, time behind bars.

Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, summed it up nicely:

“Arresting even one adult for using a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol is inexcusable.

“Law enforcement officials should be spending their time and resources addressing serious crimes, not arresting and prosecuting adults for using marijuana. Every year, these statistics show hundreds of thousands of marijuana-related arrests are taking place and countless violent crimes are going unsolved. We have to wonder how many of those crimes could be solved — or prevented — if police weren’t wasting their time enforcing failed marijuana prohibition laws.”

Robbery With a Badge: Shocking New Report

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 16 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Asset forfeiture is a dull name for a shocking little-known legal device Civil Asset Forfeiturethat allows law enforcement officials to take your cash and property — without a warrant or criminal charges of any kind — and keep most of the proceeds.

That’s right: they can do this even if you have not committed a crime. Even if you’ve never been charged with one.

The only way you can get back your money or property is to go through an exhaustive legal process to prove that your property was legally acquired. Yes, in essence, you must prove to the government that you are not guilty. And the process is so difficult, time-consuming and expensive that most don’t attempt it.

Even if you think you know about this vile practice, a new report by the Washington Post entitled “Stop and seize: Aggressive police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes” has uncovered new information that will shock you.

Among the Post’s findings:

* Asset forfeiture has risen dramatically in the past decade. Thousands of Americans have had billions of dollars stolen by police — again, without being charged or convicted of a crime.

* The federal government has given millions of dollars to non-government organizations to train police officers in aggressive use of asset forfeiture. An estimated 50,000-plus police officers have had such training in the last decade.

* Says the Post: “Behind the rise in seizures is a little-known cottage industry of private police-training firms that teach the techniques of ‘highway interdiction’ to departments across the country.

“One of those firms created a private intelligence network known as Black Asphalt Electronic Networking & Notification System that enabled police nationwide to share detailed reports about American motorists — criminals and the innocent alike — including their Social Security numbers, addresses and identifying tattoos, as well as hunches about which drivers to stop. …

“A thriving subculture of road officers on the network now competes to see who can seize the most cash and contraband, describing their exploits in the network’s chat rooms and sharing ‘trophy shots’ of money and drugs…”

* “Some police advocate highway interdiction as a way of raising revenue for cash-strapped municipalities. ‘All of our home towns are sitting on a tax-liberating gold mine,’ Deputy Ron Hain of Kane County, Ill., wrote in a self-published book under a pseudonym. Hain is a marketing specialist for Desert Snow, a leading interdiction training firm based in Guthrie, Okla., whose founders also created Black Asphalt. Hain’s book calls for ‘turning our police forces into present-day Robin Hoods.’”

There’s much more in the Washington Post’s multi-part series, now online.

Are You on the Fed’s Terrorist Watchlist?

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

You can be pulled into the NSA’s database, put on a terrorist watchlist, and receive discriminatory treatment from local, state, and national law enforcement agents — without warning or notice, and for something as innocent as a Facebook or Twitter post.

So reports journalist Arjun Sethi in a shocking story in The Guardian, August 30, entitled, appropriately enough, “The US government can brand you a terrorist based on a Facebook post.”

“Through ICREACH, a Google-style search engine created for the intelligence community, the NSA provides data on private communications to 23 government agencies. More than 1,000 analysts had access to that information. …

“It was confirmed earlier this month that the FBI shares its master watchlist, the Terrorist Screening Database, with at least 22 foreign governments, countless federal agencies, state and local law enforcement, plus private contractors…

“The Terrorist Screening Database watchlist tracks ‘known’ and ‘suspected’ terrorists and includes both foreigners and Americans. It’s also based on loose standards and secret evidence, which ensnares innocent people. Indeed, the standards are so low that the U.S. government’s guidelines specifically allow for a single, uncorroborated source of information — including a Facebook or Twitter post — to serve as the basis for placing you on its master watchlist.”

Indeed, according to the investigative journalism website The Intercept, the Terrorist Screening Database has about 680,000 people on it — and more than 40 percent are described by the government itself as having “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” That’s a whopping 280,000 people.

Continues the Guardian: “These eye-popping numbers are largely the result of the US government’s use of a loose standard — so-called ‘reasonable suspicion’ — in determining who, exactly, can be watchlisted.

“Reasonable suspicion is such a low standard because it requires neither ‘concrete evidence’ nor ‘irrefutable evidence.’ Instead, an official is permitted to consider ‘reasonable inferences’ and ‘to draw from the facts in light of his/her experience.’”

Further, the loose rules allow watchlisting without even the minimum standard of  reasonable suspicion. Non-citizens can be watchlisted just for being associated with a watchlisted person, even if the relationship is totally innocent. If a source or tipster describes a non-citizen as an “extremist,” a “militant,” or some similar term, and the FBI can make some vague connection, this could be enough to watchlist a person. The watchlist designation is secret, so no one is able to challenge these allegations.

But being on the watchlist can bring terrible consequences, notes the Guardian:

“Life on the master watchlist can trigger enhanced screening at borders and airports; being on the No Fly List, which is a subset of the larger terrorist watchlist, can prevent airline travel altogether. The watchlist can separate family members for months or years, isolate individuals from friends and associates, and ruin employment prospects.

“Being branded a terrorism suspect also has far-reaching privacy implications. The watchlist is widely accessible, and government officials routinely collect the biometric data of watchlisted individuals, including their fingerprints and DNA strands. Law enforcement has likewise been directed to gather any and all available evidence when encountering watchlisted individuals, including receipts, business cards, health information and bank statements. …

“A watchlist based on poor standards and secret processes raises major constitutional concerns, including the right to travel freely and not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law.”

Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, agrees: “We’re getting into Minority Report territory when being friends with the wrong person can mean the government puts you in a database and adds DMV photos, iris scans, and face recognition technology to track you secretly and without your knowledge. The fact that this information can be shared with agencies from the CIA to the NYPD, which are not known for protecting civil liberties, brings us closer to an invasive and rights-violating government surveillance society at home and abroad.”

The Guardian concludes with a question you’re probably already asking yourself:

“Indeed, you can’t help but wonder: are you already on the watchlist?”

Read the next article from this issue here.

Go back to the full issue here.

Rand Paul, Others: Demilitarize the Police

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“We Must Demilitarize the Police” is the title of a bold article by Sen. Cartoon Militarized Police OfficerRand Paul at TIME.com.

Written as the troubles in riot-torn Ferguson, Missouri were escalating, Paul says:

“The outrage in Ferguson is understandable — though there is never an excuse for rioting or looting. There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response.

“The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action. …

“There is a systemic problem with today’s law enforcement. Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies — where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.

“This is usually done in the name of fighting the War on Drugs or terrorism. …

“When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury — national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture — we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.

“Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.”

Paul quoted others who share these concerns:

Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit): “Soldiers and police are supposed to be different. … But nowadays, police are looking, and acting, more like soldiers than cops, with bad consequences. And those who suffer the consequences are usually innocent civilians.”

Walter Olson (Cato Institute): “Why armored vehicles in a Midwestern inner suburb? Why would cops wear camouflage gear against a terrain patterned by convenience stores and beauty parlors? Why are the authorities in Ferguson, Mo. so given to quasi-martial crowd control methods (such as bans on walking on the street) and, per the reporting of Riverfront Times, the firing of tear gas at people in their own yards? … Why would someone identifying himself as an 82nd Airborne Army veteran, observing the Ferguson police scene, comment that ‘We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone’?”

Evan Bernick (Heritage Foundation): “The Department of Homeland Security has handed out anti-terrorism grants to cities and towns across the country, enabling them to buy armored vehicles, guns, armor, aircraft, and other equipment. … federal agencies of all stripes, as well as local police departments in towns with populations less than 14,000, come equipped with SWAT teams and heavy artillery. …

“Bossier Parish, Louisiana, has a .50 caliber gun mounted on an armored vehicle. The Pentagon gives away millions of pieces of military equipment to police departments across the country — tanks included.”

Concludes Sen. Paul: “The militarization of our law enforcement is due to an unprecedented expansion of government power in this realm. … Americans must never sacrifice their liberty for an illusive and dangerous, or false, security. This has been a cause I have championed for years, and one that is at a near-crisis point in our country.”

For more libertarian critiques on Ferguson, see “Where Are the Libertarians on Ferguson? Here, LMGTFY,” by Elizabeth Nolan Brown, The Dish, Aug. 14, 2014.

Radley Balko, a libertarian journalist who writes for the Washington Post, has a great recent book on the dangers of U.S. police militarization, Rise of the Warrior Cop. You can read a lengthy excerpt from it here.

Marijuana Shockers Propel New Re-Legalization Effort

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“The Uncovery” is a new online program by the American Civil Liberties Union designed to facilitate mass online activism in support of marijuana re-legalization.

The UncoveryThe Uncovery website lets users select facts about the failures of marijuana prohibition, both national and state by state, and convert these facts into customized graphic messages they can share on social media and send to legislators — all in sixty seconds or less.

Among the sobering facts offered by The Uncovery:

  • Police in the U.S. make a marijuana arrest every 37 seconds.
  • Police made over 8 million marijuana arrests total nationwide between 2001 and 2010.
  • 88% of all marijuana arrests are for marijuana possession.
  • States spent an estimated $496 million incarcerating people for marijuana possession in 2010.
  • States spent an estimated $1.4 billion adjudicating marijuana possession cases in 2010.
  • States spent an estimated $3.6 billion enforcing marijuana laws in 2010.
  • States spent over $1.7 billion on police enforcement of marijuana laws in 2010.
  • In 2010, police made 889,133 marijuana arrests — 300,000 more arrests than they made for all violent crimes.
  • Between 2002 and 2011, the government spent billions enforcing marijuana laws. In that time, marijuana use increased from 6.2% to 7%.
  • 9 out of 10 U.S. adults believe people who possess or use small amounts of marijuana should not face jail time.
  • 52% of Americans support legalizing marijuana.
  • Since legalizing marijuana in 2012, Washington State projects it will raise more than $500 million in marijuana-related revenues annually.
  • More than 42% of all Americans report having tried marijuana in their lifetime.
  • The world’s largest jailer, the U.S. has only 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prison population.
  • Black people and white people use marijuana at similar rates, but Blacks are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.
  • In New York and Texas in 2010, 97% of all marijuana arrests were for possession.
  • 62% of all marijuana arrests in 2010 were of people 24 years old or younger.
  • Between 1995 and 2010, police increased the number of marijuana arrests they made nationwide by 51%.
  • 52% of all drug arrests in 2010 were for marijuana.
  • If current trends continue, the government will spend almost $20 billion enforcing marijuana laws in the next five years.

Learn more at TheUncovery.org

TIME Magazine: The War on Drugs Is a Real War

in Communicating Liberty by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

TIME MagazineFrom “This Is Why Your Local Police Department Might Have a Tank,” TIME Magazine, June 24:

“Forget Officer Friendly. A new report finds that local police departments are becoming excessively militarized, equipped with weapons, uniforms and even vehicles formerly used by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. …

“As the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have wound down, police departments have been obtaining military equipment, vehicles and uniforms that have flowed directly from the Department of Defense. According to a new report by the ACLU, the federal government has funneled $4.3 billion of military property to law enforcement agencies since the late 1990s, including $450 million worth in 2013. Five hundred law enforcement agencies have received Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, built to withstand bomb blasts. More than 15,000 items of military protective equipment and ‘battle dress uniforms,’ or fatigues worn by the U.S. Army, have been transferred. The report includes details of police agencies in towns like North Little Rock, Ark., which has 34 automatic and semi-automatic rifles, a Mamba tactical vehicle and two MARCbots, which are armed robots designed for use in Afghanistan.

“‘More Americans are becoming aware of the militarization of policing, but the use of paramilitary tactics to fight the war on drugs has been going on for a very long time,’” says the ACLU’s Kara Dansky. Throughout the 1980s, law enforcement agencies got more aggressive in how they served drug warrants …

“As police departments have added military gear, they’ve also upped the number of SWAT deployments, especially for use in drug warrants. Eighty-nine percent of police departments serving populations of 50,000 or more had SWAT teams in the late 1990s, twice as many as in the mid-1980s. In the mid-2000s, 80% of smaller police agencies — those serving between 25 and 50,000 people — had SWAT teams, up from 20% in the mid-1980s.

“Those squads are increasingly being deployed for drug searches. Almost two-thirds of SWAT deployments between 2011 and 2012 were for drug raids. Many of those units base their strategy and tactics on military special operations like Navy SEALs. …

“Using military-style equipment has an effect on the behavior of police officers as well, adds Kraska. ‘It changes the culture of the police department,’ she says. ‘It gets them into a much more intense, paramilitary mindset rather than thinking about a community-oriented approach to policing.’”

 

Reason Poll: Only Six Percent of Americans Think Marijuana Possession Should Be Punished With Jail Time

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

Marijuana Possession Punishable with Jail Time?That’s right: only six percent of Americans think minor marijuana possession should be punishable by jail time.

Further, a strong plurality of Americans think the use or possession of small amounts of marijuana should not be punishable… at all.

These astonishing results, unimaginable just a few years ago, are from a new Reason-Rupe poll conducted May 9-13. They show how rapidly support for ending the despotic War on Marijuana is growing. (The Reason-Rupe polls are a project of the Reason Foundation and funded by the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.)

The nationwide telephone poll of 1,003 people asked: “Which approach do you think government and law enforcement should take toward someone found smoking marijuana or in possession of a small amount of marijuana?”

Only six percent of respondents said possession should be punishable with jail.

Twenty percent said it should result in mandatory substance abuse counseling.

Thirty-two percent said users should incur a fine, not jail.

Fully 35 percent of respondents said people caught with small amounts of marijuana should not be punished at all.

As Reason magazine notes, “The Reason-Rupe poll is one of the few instances — possibly the first — in which the usual polling dichotomies of incarceration versus treatment and criminal penalty versus civil penalty have been expanded to include no penalty whatsoever.

“The results suggest that Americans are comfortable with the idea of decriminalization — which reduces the penalty for minor marijuana possession to a civil fine — and more sympathetic than ever to the idea of fully legalizing possession.”

In addition, the poll found a majority of Americans support the right of states to legalize marijuana. Specifically, 52 percent would support legislation to “prevent the federal government from prosecuting people who grow, possess, or sell marijuana in the states that have legalized it.”