DRUG WAR BRIEFS: What Privacy Rights?

November 15- The Tahoe Daily Tribune reports: A district court judge in Sacramento ruled last week that records of at least 400 South Shore medicinal marijuana patients could be examined by agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The DEA seized more than 5,000 records from the California Medical Research Center on Sept. 28 saying its medical marijuana recommendations to patients may represent acts of "aiding and abetting" marijuana sales, according to U.S. Attorney Anne Pings.

The research center is a two-year-old medical marijuana clinic in Cool, a town at the northwestern edge of El Dorado County, that has hundreds of clients from South Shore.

The clinic is run by Dr. Molly Fry, a medical marijuana patient who suffers from breast cancer, and her husband Dale Schafer, an attorney. They hand out recommendations for marijuana if a patient is determined to have a medical need under the guidelines of Proposition 215, a law that passed in 1996. Fry and Schafer have not been charged with a crime. The record seizure is considered a pre-indictment proceeding, Schafer said.

"The whole battle is keeping people's confidences confidential," Schafer said. "I want those records back. Most people using marijuana for medical reasons came to us to stay out of trouble.

November 16- The Evansville Courier & Press reports: A Boonville, Ind., teen-ager who was found dead early Tuesday night had signed as a police narcotics informant less than three months before her death. Police do not know whether that agreement had anything to do with Amanda VanScyoc's death, Warrick County Sheriff Bruce Hargrave said. VanScyoc's body was found in rural Anderson Township by a pair of local men sighting their guns for deer hunting.

Preliminary autopsy results released Thursday morning indicated that VanScyoc was strangled to death.

"We had, in fact, signed her as an informant to do narcotics work with my narcotics officer," Hargrave said. "(But) it is our opinion at this point that her signing as an informant is not relevant to her homicide. I emphasize 'at this time,' because anything could happen (this) morning."

"We knew that she was telling a lot of people that she had signed as an informant, which generally ruins that person for any kind of undercover work," Hargrave said. "People who are conducting illegal ventures generally don't want to associate with someone who is telling everyone they are an informant. They're not completely stupid."

November 16- The Washington Post reports: Babies born with drugs or alcohol in their blood would automatically be taken from their mothers' custody under legislation before the D.C. Council, part of wide-ranging revisions proposed for the city's child protection system.

Unveiled yesterday, the proposal is dividing the child protection community between those who believe babies should be safeguarded at all costs and those who call the measure Draconian and say it would result in more infants being exposed to drugs and alcohol. They argue that mothers may avoid prenatal care out of fear they would lose their children.

Under the measure, sponsored by council member Sandy Allen (D-Ward 8), children born exposed to drugs or alcohol would be "presumed" neglected or abused. It would require the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency to "begin immediate proceedings to remove the child from the home of the mother" and would order social workers to open investigations.

If approved, it would be among the toughest provisions of its kind in the nation. Only five states have passed similar laws.

City officials said yesterday that something should be done. But several testified that the proposal could deter mothers from seeking prenatal care and drug treatment and put more babies into an already strained foster care system.

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson at kcnelson@premier1.net.

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