Weed Watch

The latest dispatches from the front line of America's war on drugs.

On Dec. 4 the Marijuana Policy Project -- the advocates behind a number of November's failed drug-reform ballot initiatives -- filed a formal complaint with the federal Office of Special Counsel, calling for the ouster of drug czar John Walters, head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. In the three-page complaint, the MPP alleges that Walters was in "gross violation" of both federal and Nevada state law when he traveled to the Silver State in October to campaign against Question 9 -- a sweeping drug-reform initiative that would have both decriminalized marijuana possession and provided for the drug's legal sale. The MPP charges that Walters inappropriately acted in his official capacity to affect the fate of the defeated ballot initiative -- a clear violation, the group says, of the 1939 Hatch Act, which regulates the political activities of government officials and employees.

Under the federal statute -- 5 USC 7323.1 -- "an employee may not use his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election." Walters cut a wide swath across the Southwest this fall campaigning against drug-reform initiatives, spending at least two days in October stumping in Nevada against Q9, all the while acting in his official capacity and using his official title, the MPP charges. The group is calling for Walters' ouster from the ONDCP and also is asking that he be barred from any other government job. (The latter punishment is not prescribed under the Hatch Act.) "Given the disrespect for the law that Mr. Walters has demonstrated, we feel that disbarment from future federal employment would also be an appropriate remedy," the MPP complaint reads. In a press release, MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia didn't even try to disguise his contempt for the czar: "We want him out of the picture," he said. "We want him excommunicated from the federal government forever."

Meanwhile, it appears that Asa Hutchinson, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, may be leaving his post as head honcho in the unwinnable war on drugs for a commission in the equally futile war on terror. According to the Drug Reform Coordination Network, the former Arkansas congressman and Clinton impeachment trial manager is favored to become the undersecretary for border and transportation security in the newly created Dept. of Homeland Security, tasked with securing the nation's borders to "prevent the entry of terrorists." Current DEA Deputy Administrator John Bert Brown III, a career "narcocrat," appears anointed to take over at the DEA, the DRCNet reports. The former police officer has served with the DEA for nearly three decades, manning posts in both El Paso and Dallas before returning to Washington to be Hutchinson's No. 2.

In response to a September DEA raid on the Santa Cruz, Calif., medical marijuana cooperative Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, the Santa Cruz City Council has voted 7-0 to "deputize" WAMM's owners Valerie and Michael Corral, the Drug Policy Alliance reports. The raid destroyed the medical marijuana farm that provided pot to ailing patients in compliance with the Golden State's medical marijuana laws. It was one of a handful of federal raids in California over the past year that prompted California Attorney General Bill Lockyer this fall to pen a terse letter to Hutchinson and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, asking the feds to kindly butt out of the state's affairs. The request went over like a lead brick on the federal narcs. According to the Corrals' attorney Ben Rice, the council move gives his clients the policing power necessary to carry out the city's drug laws, including Santa Cruz's own ordinance regulating the distribution of medical marijuana.

And the latest from the Dept. of Overkill: Two 9-year-old Florida boys were arrested last week on felony drug charges after they were caught at school in possession of 15 small baggies of marijuana. While the total amount of drugs seized totaled under a half-ounce of pot, the two boys were charged with felonies because the alleged offenses took place inside a "drug-free" school zone, the DPA reports. And in Eugene, Ore., neighbors are hopping mad at Eugene police after an October drug raid turned their sleepy neighborhood into a war zone. According to the DRCNet, the cops came to the 'hood to serve a warrant on an alleged pot grower -- using an armored personnel carrier and 45 SWAT officers. Officers lobbed flash-bang grenades, kicked in doors, and handcuffed four people -- including two naked women, one of whom had her head covered by the cops with a black bag until she "agreed to cooperate" -- before discovering there was no pot to seize. Area residents have filed complaints with the Eugene Police Commission. The DRCNet reports that EPD Capt. Steve Swenson says the officers were within policy and that they "rely on the element of surprise and speed" and an "overwhelming display of force" to get the job done. But not, apparently, on ensuring they have the correct target.

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