Attorney Scott Campbell

Criminal Defense Attorney

Category: Marijuana

SWATing at Flies

I often interview people charged with drug offenses who were arrested by a SWAT team.  Last week, I interviewed a person who was accused of delivering one ounce of marijuana in a very public parking lot and was arrested by black and armor-clad SWAT officers who jumped out of two vans.  Overkill?  Obviously.  Why are SWAT teams used to make arrests when there is no known threat of heavily armed people?  There is a reason, and it has nothing to do with the actual arrest.

The first time I, and probably most people, became aware of SWAT teams was in 1974 when a televised attempt to arrest Patty Hearst and those who kidnapped her was seen from Los Angeles.  The group, the Symbionese Liberation Army, was known to be heavily armed and LAPD wisely used their recently formed SWAT team to raid a house.

Soon after, many very large police departments decided they needed the same firepower, equipment, and training and formed their own SWAT teams.  For these very large police agencies who would utilize such a team often enough to justify the expense, it was a wise move.  However, smaller and smaller police departments decided “hey, we’re big too – we need a SWAT team too!”

As more and more police chiefs in smaller and smaller departments convinced their cities that real bad things can happen in their city too, the cities agreed to finance, arm, and train their own officers in SWAT tactics.  Never mind that an adjacent large city would lend them a SWAT team if was needed (which it may be, every 5 or 10 years).  That would mean the smaller city did not have a “full service” police department.

Now, the inevitable happened.  The smaller cities had expensive SWAT teams that were not being used enough to justify the expense.  The police chiefs had to explain their waste of money – or show that the SWAT teams were being used.  So, they changed the rules.

Now, SWAT teams would be used to serve any search warrant, not just those where armed resistance was threatened.  Now, SWAT teams would be used to make any planned arrest.  Voila!  SWAT teams were needed and the money was wisely spent!  Smoke and mirrors.  Justifying the unjustifiable.  SWATing at flies.

Proposed Change in Federal Marijuana Law; a Tip of the Hat to Federalism

I am seldom stunned by what is done in Washington. I simply chalk new things I hear up to the continuing march of the American Lemmings down the path to completely centralized government.  In the past few days, however, I heard a proposal that truly surprised me.

In response to many States passing laws that, to one extent or another, allow people to possess and use marijuana, there is a proposal in congress to change marijuana from a Schedule I drug to another category, allow the possession and use in those States that allow it, tax it, and move enforcement of marijuana laws from the DEA to the ATF (to be renamed Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana, and Firearms).

Wow.  What an idea.  Letting people do what they want.  Letting States decide such momentous things as regulating the use of a substance.  Letting people who reside in States decide to have different laws than other States.  Allowing social norms to be decided on a (more) local level.  Federalism.

After many, many years of the federal government deciding such things as how much water can be in your toilet tank, they finally present an idea for consideration on what the State government can decide you can put in your body.  I know, it is a small stem to personal freedom, but it is a surprising one nonetheless.  I actually think this is like 1968 when there was a critical mass of people who wanted Washington to get out of Viet Nam.  It took a huge grass-roots groundswell to get them to change.  Now, after 15 or so States thumbed their noses at Washington, Big Brother has finally seen a groundswell.

Don’t get too excited.  Republicans still think it is the evil weed.  Also, it took from ’68 to ’75 to get out of Viet Nam.  But it is a start.

Arizona Medical Marijuana Laws Are Fraught With Danger

Two years ago, voters in Arizona passed a citizen’s initiative that legalized medical marijuana.  The law (actually a series of statutes) legalizes some things, prohibits others, and creates many shades of gray.

When the initiative passed, I became intimately familiar with it, parsing the minutiae to find out exactly what was allowed and what was not.  I found that the laws, written by an activist group, left much to be desired for clarity.

Many people, perhaps over 200, have been referred to me to consult on what is allowed, what is not allowed, and how gray certain areas are.  I have heard many business plans, especially those involving the sparsely-addressed area of “caregiver,” that sought to profit from growing and selling marijuana.  Almost always, the person said he was not “selling” marijuana, but was taking a “donation” for some service.  I won’t go into the plans, or my advice, here.

In addition to consulting on the ins and outs of the laws, I have represented people charged with crimes involving marijuana where the medical marijuana laws impacted the charges.  I have been able to have over 20 felony charges thrown out because of the confusion in the laws.

What I find now, though, is disconcerting.  I am seeing a trend of people either listening to others who do not know the law and doing illegal things and, worse, I see people I have counseled doing it “their way” and being charged with crimes.  I don’t like being in the position of saying to someone charged with a crime “why didn’t you follow my advice?”

The Maricopa County Attorney and the Arizona Attorney General are making every legal effort to have the Arizona medical marijuana laws voided.  This should tell you something; they think marijuana is evil and they will prosecute you if you violate the medical marijuana laws even slightly.

Before you decide to get involved in medical marijuana, please consult with someone who knows the laws, and follow their advice.  If the police show up, realize that they may or may not know the law, don’t consent to any search, and above all don’t talk to the police.  Call a lawyer.

The Failed Attempt To Outlaw Drugs

I read this article by John Stossel.  (edited for space)  It states my opinion of the “war on drugs.”

 

Forty years ago, the United States locked up fewer than 200 of every 100,000 Americans. Then President Nixon declared war on drugs. Now we lock up more of our people than any other country — more even than the authoritarian regimes in Russia and China.

A war on drugs — on people, that is — is unworthy of a country that claims to be free.  Unfortunately, this outrage probably won’t be discussed in Tampa or Charlotte.

The media (including Fox News) run frightening stories about Mexican cocaine cartels and marijuana gangs. Few of my colleagues stop to think that this is a consequence of the war and that decriminalization would end the violence. There are no wine “cartels” or beer “gangs.” No one “smuggles” liquor. Liquor dealers are called “businesses,” not gangs, and they “ship” products instead of “smuggling” them. They settle disputes with lawyers rather than with guns.

Everything can be abused, but that doesn’t mean government can stop it. Government runs amok when it tries to protect us from ourselves.

“Our discomfort with the idea of heroin available at drugstores is similar to that of a Prohibitionist shuddering at the thought of bourbon at the corner store. We’ll get over it.” – John McWhorter

Drug-related crime occurs because the drugs are available only through the artificially expensive black market. Drug users steal not because drugs drive them to steal. Our government says heroin and nicotine are similarly addictive, but no one robs convenience stores to get Marlboros. (That could change with confiscatory tobacco taxes.)

Are defenders of the drug war aware of the consequences? I don’t think so.

John McWhorter, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, indicts the drug war for “destroying black America.” McWhorter, by the way, is black.

McWhorter sees prohibition as the saboteur of black families. “Enduring prison time is seen as a badge of strength. It’s regarded (with some justification) as an unjust punishment for selling people something they want. The ex-con is a hero rather than someone who went the wrong way.”

He enumerates the positive results from ending prohibition. “No more gang wars over turf, no more kids shooting each other. … Men get jobs, as they did in the old days, even in the worst ghettos, because they have to.”

Would cheaper and freely available drugs bring their own catastrophe? “Our discomfort with the idea of heroin available at drugstores is similar to that of a Prohibitionist shuddering at the thought of bourbon at the corner store. We’ll get over it.”

The media tell us that some drugs are so powerful that one “hit” or “snort” will hook the user forever. But the government’s own statistics disprove that. The National Institutes of Health found that 36 million Americans have tried crack. But only 12 percent have used it in the previous year, and fewer than six percent have used it in the previous month. If crack is so addictive, how did 88 percent of the users quit?

If drugs were legal, I suppose that at first more people would try them. But most would give them up. Eventually, drug use would diminish, as it has in Portugal, which decriminalized all drugs, and the Netherlands, which allows legal marijuana. More young men would find real jobs; police could focus on real crime.

If we as adults own our own bodies, we ought to get to control what we put in them. It’s legitimate for government to protect me from reckless drivers and drunken airline pilots — but not to protect me from myself.

Legalized Theft

In just another example of how the government is out of control, abuses the power we give it, and has as a main goal extracting the most money out of anyone it can, is a recent client who had her car stolen from her by these zealots who have drunk the Jim Jones juice.

A woman bought a car in her own name (she was married at the time) with cash that she diligently saved (isn’t that what we should encourage?).  Because she overextended herself by using all her cash to buy this used car, she had to take out a title loan to help her over a financial hump.  The loan was in her name only.  She let her husband drive her car and…you guessed it…he was stopped for speeding and the police officer eventually found 3 pounds of plant material in the car.  The husband gets probation.  The wife loses a car.

I filed a claim because this was a clear-cut case of an innocent owner.  Or so I thought.  The County Attorney ignored the claim and filed a Complaint, I think assuming that because the owner had to take a title loan she would not have the ability to fight the forfeiture.  Well, he was right.

I explained the process to my client and my belief that she would ultimately prevail.  Knowing her financial situation, and really believing in her plight, I offered a deeply discounted hourly fee.  I also told her how many hours it would probably take to write the Answer (with the associated filing fee), the Disclosure statement, other filings, and to appear at a hearing (artfully designed to be in front of a judge with no jury…gee, what happened to the Seventh Amendment).  She didn’t have the money.

So, for lack of some money, my client loses all the equity in the car she saved so diligently to buy, the government gets a few dollars after auctioning off the used car and paying the outstanding loan, and my client gets punished more than her husband.

I know there are hundreds of similar stories.  It just hits home when you see it firsthand.