Drug War Briefs: Alaska to Canada

Author's Note: This marks the final installment of Drug War Briefs. Thank you to all those who have written over the years. I hope this regular feature has been useful and informative to all students of the U.S.-led "war on drugs." Look for the annual review, "A Year in the Life of the Drug War," coming in January 2005 on AlterNet.

August 28 Anchorage Daily News reports: The Alaska Court of Appeals ruled Friday that police cannot execute a search warrant in a person's home for possession of less than four ounces of marijuana. 

Attorney General Gregg Renkes says he will appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court and he is "fearful that this will shut down effective investigation of marijuana growing cases."

The Appeals Court ruled in the case of Leo Richardson Crocker Jr., who was charged with controlled substance misconduct after police, acting on a tip, searched his Anchor Point home and found marijuana and growing equipment. A lower court ruled the search warrant that led to the arrest should never have been issued and suppressed the evidence against Crocker. The Appeals Court agreed. 

The opinion is the latest decision that has carved out protections for possessing marijuana in an Alaska home. The state Supreme Court in 1975 ruled that an adult's rights to limited marijuana possession was protected under the state constitution's privacy provisions. Last year the Appeals Court defined that limit as four ounces. 

The Appeals Court also struck down a 1990 voter initiative that criminalized possession of any amount of marijuana. To execute a search warrant, police must have reason to believe the amount of marijuana exceeds four ounces or is being used in connection with a crime, the Appeals Court said Friday. 

August 31 The Hamilton Spectator of Ontario, Canada reports: Chances are a senior citizen isn't the first person you'd expect to get busted at the new marijuana cafe.

But yesterday afternoon, in mid-joint, a 70-year-old woman became the first person arrested for pot possession inside the Up In Smoke Cafe.

The woman was smoking at a table when three uniformed police officers entered the establishment, according to witnesses. Farid Kayhan, 24, a volunteer at the cafe who witnessed the arrest said police told her to butt out.

The woman was arrested, although not handcuffed, and released at the scene, said acting Staff Sergeant Ron Hayward.

"It was a very simple possession arrest," said Sgt. Hayward.

The amount was less than 30 grams.

Up In Smoke Cafe opened nearly two weeks ago, and is touted as a relaxed atmosphere where people can enjoy a coffee and a smoke. Police have said they will watch over the cafe, and lay charges if they see a crime being committed.

Kayhan said the woman has been in the cafe before. "She became a member on the first day, and this is the fist time she had come down to sit down and relax and smoke her medicine," said Kayhan, who believed the woman was in the process of obtaining the necessary approval to use marijuana for medicinal purposes.

August 31 The Calgary Sun reports: A former RCMP officer who sold marijuana seized by police drug squads is now behind bars with other pushers. Joseph Daniel Ryan, 33, was sentenced yesterday to four years in prison, a year longer than the Crown requested. Ryan was convicted in June of marijuana trafficking and breach of trust.

"Oh my god," cried Ryan's pregnant wife, Lilly, as the sentence was read in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

Ryan, a former officer at the RCMP detachment in Tantallon, N.S., was a highly respected constable who was in line to join the PM's security team in Ottawa when he was charged.

"I love you, babe," Ryan sobbed to his wife as he was led out of court.

The prison sentence came one month after another blow to the Ryan family. The couple's six-month-old son suffered a severe brain injury in a traffic accident that also broke Ryan's ribs. 

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