Drugs

Another 'Successful' Drug Raid

This week, another dramatic school drug raid yielding nothing is hailed a success by police; a Massachusetts federal judge complains about misplaced priorities at the federal court level; CA Gov. Schwarzenegger changes course and backs an independent prison watchdog agency; and the hemp foods industry wins a court battle against the DEA.
February 4: The Providence (RI) Journal reports: A drug sweep and "school lockdown" at East Greenwich High School last Friday found no drugs but did raise the ire of some parents, who argued that the police action -- the first of its kind here -- sparked unnecessary alarm in the community.

East Greenwich officers, accompanied by eight or nine drug-sniffing dogs, entered the building at 8:45 a.m. Shortly thereafter, all entrances to the building were locked and an announcement went out over the school's speaker system advising students and faculty to remain in their classrooms. Then, for roughly 20 minutes, the dogs combed the hallways, noses perked for the scent of drugs.

They found none.

"This was a demonstration of the fact that a lot of things are going right," said Robert L. Houghtaling, the coordinator of the East Greenwich Substance Abuse Prevention Program.

But some parents last week disagreed with Houghtaling's assessment.

In an e-mail sent to School Committtee Chairwoman Sue P. Duff on Friday evening, one parent complained that "the students and the faculty have been made to feel unsafe by the very people ... whose duty it is to make the public safe!"

Since 2002, two police officers -- known as school resource officers or SROs -- have been stationed at the high school as part of a program to foster communication among the police, students and school administrators.

Duff said yesterday that both she and some parents worry that the sweep may have undermined the trust the SROs, who did not participate in the drug search, have established with the student body. The drug search, she said, may have led some students to fear the police.

February 6: The Boston Globe reports: A federal judge yesterday accused the US attorney's office in Massachusetts of spending too much time on drug and gun cases that belong in state court, instead of focusing on federal crimes such as public corruption and white-collar offenses that he said would have a greater impact on society.

US District Judge Mark L. Wolf, in an unusually frank discussion with reporters, said his fundamental problem is with the type of cases being brought by federal prosecutors under US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan "and the fact that they are being brought, in my view, at the expense of important federal cases that it would take a lot of hard work to develop."

"When federal prosecutors are preoccupied with presenting cases that have been investigated by state and local agencies, there's a real opportunity cost, and it means they're not doing the longer term, grand jury-type investigations which are likely to get the bigger and morally more culpable people," Wolf said.

"The federal judges are not soft on crime, but there are a lot of federal judges who know what a real federal crime is," said Wolf.

February 7: The San Jose Mercury News reports: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday promised a broad shake-up of California's troubled corrections system, starting with phasing out wire-mesh cages for youthful inmates and reversing his plan to scale back the state's prison watchdog agency.

The governor also removed wardens at two prisons and requested a federal inquiry into whether top prison officials covered up a probe of a 2002 gang riot at Folsom Prison.

"I am gravely concerned with what I have recently learned about internal operations within the California prison system,'' Schwarzenegger said in a statement. "Prison employees who engage in misconduct bring disgrace and dishonor to the many hardworking professionals who daily go to work and do their best to serve the public.''

February 7: The San Jose Mercury News reports: Makers of hemp foods, who waged a two-and a-half-year fight with the federal government, won a major victory Friday when a federal appeals court ruled unanimously that their beers, bread, cereals, granola bars, waffles and other products can stay on supermarket shelves.

Nowhere was the decision by San Francisco's 9th Circuit Court of Appeals more hailed than in California, home to more hemp-food manufacturers than any other state.

"It's a great day for us, and I'm looking forward to offering hemp foods without having the shadow of government trying to slow us down," said John Roulac, a plaintiff and founder of Nutiva, a Sebastopol company that makes hemp-food bars and hemp chips.

The three-judge panel overturned a federal rule that would have banned the sale of foods made from sterilized hemp seeds and oil, which contain trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the hallucinogenic substance found in marijuana.

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson.
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