drug war fail
April 16, 2018

The Drug Enforcement Administration likes to use something called a "sneak-and-peek warrant," a search warrant that allows agents to enter and search a property without notifying the owner as a normal warrant would require. Officers operating on a sneak-and-peek (officially, a Delayed Notice Warrant) typically aren't allowed to take any evidence they find on-site — but they do frequently trash the place, faking a burglary to explain their break-in.

Sneak-and-peek searches were authorized by the Patriot Act and, as is often the case with this law's provisions, quickly became more useful for the federal drug war. But the trouble with fake-robbing people is it can lead to unintended, dangerous consequences, like those experienced by an Oregon storage locker manager named Shawn Riley.

In December, The Oregonian reports, Riley was tied up and held at gunpoint by alleged drug traffickers who believed he'd stolen the cache of marijuana they'd stored at his facility. It turns out the DEA was the real culprit; agents had done a sneak-and-peek and confiscated 500 pounds of pot. "The danger of violence is obviously real, and this case makes it very evident," said Cleveland State criminal law professor Jonathan Witner-Rich, a warrants expert. "Someone could have been killed."

Marijuana is legal in Oregon, and the 500 pounds was allegedly set for transport to Texas. The DEA declined to comment to The Oregonian. Bonnie Kristian

June 13, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee today, but he's recently been in touch with Congress about another matter: prosecuting medical marijuana providers.

Some context: Since 2014, Congress has prohibited the Justice Department from spending any money to interfere with states "implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana." The law functions as a de facto federal legalization of medical marijuana wherever it is legalized at the state level, and it was upheld in appeals court in 2016.

That's the rule Sessions wants to nix. He wrote a letter to Congress in May arguing it is "unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the [Justice] Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime." Sessions' argument here is disingenuous; as The Washington Post notes, the "historic drug epidemic" in question involves opioids, not marijuana, and states in which medical marijuana is legal see a substantially lower rate of opioid overdose and abuse. Bonnie Kristian

January 8, 2017

A Texas man named Ross LeBeau spent three days in jail in December because law enforcement confused cat litter with methamphetamine and arrested him on drug charges. LeBeau had a bag of litter in his car which cops noticed during a routine traffic stop. The litter tested positive for meth in two field tests (false positives are an endemic problem with roadside test kits), and LeBeau was arrested.

Then, the Harris County Sheriff's Office sent out a press release boasting that the arrest "may have kept our children and loved ones free from being introduced to drugs." But, as a lab test later revealed, they actually only saved the children from kitty litter.

LeBeau's case was eventually dismissed and he is now attempting to clear his arrest record. "People have been calling me a kingpin or a drug lord," he said. "They thought they had the biggest bust in Harris County. This was the bust of the year for them." Bonnie Kristian

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