Thursday, April 21, 2016

Press Release: Pro-Drug Policy Reform Police Officer Wins Free Speech Case

DRUG POLICY REFORM POLICE OFFICER WINS FREE SPEECH CASE

Victoria Police Department Ordered to Pay Highest-Ever Award for Injury to Dignity in a Political Belief Case in Canada

Victoria, B.C., Canada - Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) speaker and board member Constable David Bratzer won a free speech case against his employer, the Victoria Police Department (VicPD), for discrimination against his political beliefs. The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal has ruled the Victoria Police Department discriminated against Officer Bratzer by unlawfully restricting his off-duty activities as a drug policy reform advocate. The decision clarifies the strong protections for political belief offered by the British Columbia Human Rights Code.

Throughout the case, Bratzer has been unable to speak publicly as a representative of LEAP but has remained active through leadership roles. His valuable expertise on drug policy has been noticeably absent from the public discourse in Canada.

“It’s been a difficult road, but I’m happy to finally have my voice back,” said Constable David Bratzer.
  •     The Tribunal determined that employers have a duty to accommodate the political beliefs of employees (paragraph 323).
  •     The Tribunal recognized that the protection offered by the Code for political belief includes not only the belief itself but also the manner of expression (paragraphs 274 and 276).
  •     The Tribunal ruled that employers cannot force their employees to ask for permission in advance of expressing their political beliefs (paragraph 401).
  •     The Tribunal recognized the right of police officers to participate in political advocacy and in the affairs of a political party (paragraphs 321 and 386).
  •     VicPD has been ordered to pay $20,000 to Constable Bratzer for injury to dignity, the highest ever award for a political belief case in Canada (paragraphs 437 and 438).
“If officers of the law can’t speak up about their political beliefs, their ability to work toward improving their communities and the policing institution is constrained,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of LEAP.

LEAP is a nonprofit group of police, judges, prosecutors, and other criminal justice professionals working to end the War on Drugs. The drug war has created dangerous underground markets and gang violence, fostered corruption and racism, and largely ignored the public health crisis of addiction.

To access the official case decision documents, please visit http://tinyurl.com/zwdneyo

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Friday, April 1, 2016

Press Release: FLORIDA PASSES SWEEPING CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE REFORM

Contact: Mikayla Hellwich                                                      
240.461.3066

FLORIDA PASSES SWEEPING CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE REFORM

Gov. Scott Signs After Unanimous Bipartisan Vote in Both Houses

Tallahassee, FL – Today, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed civil asset forfeiture reform bill SB 1044. The new law strengthens individual property rights and holds police departments to a higher standard of record keeping and accountability. Civil forfeiture is a legal process by which law enforcement can seize property and money from individuals merely suspected of criminal activity, even if they are never charged with a crime. The practice has fostered questionable incentives for law enforcement agencies to benefit financially from a process that infringes on civil liberties. SB 1044 was unanimously supported in both the House and Senate and lauded by civil liberties and law enforcement organizations. According to a new poll from Drug Policy Action, 84% of registered Florida voters believe that police should not be able to seize and permanently take away property from people who have not been convicted of a crime.

“As enforcers of the law, we have a duty to stand up against policies that are unjust and recognize when our voices can be a powerful force for positive change,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of criminal justice professionals working to end civil forfeiture and the drug war. “Although there is more to be done, the Florida Sheriff’s Association and the Florida Association of Police Chiefs deserve recognition for making steps towards more sensible policies.”

Also on the lengthy list of SB 1044 supporters are the Drug Policy Alliance, Florida American Civil Liberties Union, the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Institute for Justice, and Americans for Tax Reform.

The bill changes Florida’s Contraband Forfeiture Act, which decides how and when law enforcement agencies are able to seize assets. SB 1044 requires that police make an arrest in order to seize property in most cases, increases the evidentiary standard of proof from “clear and convincing” to “proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” holds the agency accountable for damages on seized property, and outlines reporting requirements for agencies to track forfeitures. No such requirement existed previously. Currently, Florida law enforcement agencies seizing assets of more than $15,000 per year must donate 15% of those assets to predetermined programs. The new law increases the donation requirement to 25%.

In nearly every U.S. state, law enforcement can seize money and property from individuals without seeking or obtaining a criminal conviction. Civil forfeiture places the legal burden of proof on the property (in-rem) rather than the owner (in personam), meaning the property is being charged rather than the person who owns it. Another type of forfeiture called “criminal forfeiture” requires the officer to obtain a conviction and ultimately accuses the property owner of criminal activity rather than the property being seized. This practice is generally considered beneficial because it aligns with the constitutional right to due process. According to a 2015 report by the Institute for Justice, 87% of forfeitures in the U.S. between 1997 and 2013 were civil and only 13% involved criminal cases. The same report graded Florida’s previous civil forfeiture laws with a D+ for abysmal individual property rights and unethical incentive for law enforcement to profit from these interactions.

LEAP is committed to ending decades of unconstitutional civil forfeiture laws that have damaged the trust between communities and police, fostered a misuse of law enforcement power, and eroded civil liberties nationwide.

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Press Release: SCOTUS VOTES 6-2, REJECTS HEARING NE, OK LAWSUIT AGAINST CO MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION LAW

Mikayla Hellwich
media@leap.cc
240.461.3066 
SCOTUS VOTES 6-2, REJECTS HEARING NE, OK LAWSUIT AGAINST CO MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION LAW

Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request to hear a lawsuit Nebraska and Oklahoma brought against Colorado’s marijuana legalization law, a rare case falling under the Court’s original jurisdiction to hear lawsuits between states. In 2012, Colorado voted to legalize marijuana production, sales, and consumption for adults, but Attorneys General in the two neighboring states claimed the law is causing marijuana to spill into their states, creating a law enforcement burden, and that the law is a violation of the Controlled Substances Act. Colorado argued that their law is designed to minimize the illicit market and associated dangers. They also argued that the case is more appropriate for a lower court and that overturning their marijuana law won’t solve the problem outlined by the plaintiffs. SCOTUS didn’t explain the reason for refusing to hear the suit but recommended submitting the case to a federal trial court instead.

“If Nebraska and Oklahoma had the good sense to legalize and regulate marijuana too, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. What a monumental waste of time to ask our highest court to solve a problem that could be fixed with a well-written piece of legislation or a ballot initiative,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a criminal justice group working to end the War on Drugs.

SCOTUS typically decides on appeals from lower courts, but they occasionally take on disputes between states in “original jurisdiction” suits. These types of suits occur infrequently and generally deal with disagreements over the use of resources, such as rivers, that flow through more than one state. In December 2015, the U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli extended his recommendation to reject hearing the case, which he said would, “…represent a substantial and unwarranted expansion of this court’s original jurisdiction.”

Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and the District of Columbia have all legalized marijuana for adult use. 23 states and D.C. have legalized some form of access to medical marijuana. In August 2013, the Department of Justice released a memorandumindicating they would no longer interfere in states that choose to regulate marijuana as long as common sense measures are taken to prevent organized crime within the legal businesses and prevent youth access to marijuana, among other reasonable goals.

LEAP is committed to ending decades of failed marijuana policies that have engendered gang violence, fostered corruption and racism, clogged the justice system at every step of the process, and diverted significant resources away from addressing more important crimes.

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Press Release: FORMER AG HOLDER DECLARES SUPPORT FOR RESCHEDULING

Contact: Mikayla Hellwich                                                    For Immediate Release:

media@leap.cc                                                               Thursday, February 25, 2016

240.461.3066


FORMER AG HOLDER DECLARES SUPPORT FOR RESCHEDULING 


In a detailed PBS Frontline interview published Tuesday, Former Attorney General Eric

Holder said marijuana should be rescheduled. Marijuana is currently listed under Schedule I

of the Controlled Substances Act, a category relegated to drugs that have no safe medical

uses and extremely high potential for abuse and addiction. Placement in this category makes

domestic research into the effects of marijuana extremely difficult and often impossible.

Marijuana’s placement has been widely criticized and disputes mounting ever-growing

evidence from other countries.


“I certainly think it ought to be rescheduled…so at a minimum, I think Congress needs to

do that,” Holder told PBS. “Then I think we need to look at what happens in Colorado and

what happens in Washington.”


“I believe Holder’s statements will inspire more high-ranking officials to speak publicly

about the injustices they see in our failed marijuana policies,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.),

executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a criminal justice

group working to legalize marijuana. “Ultimately, his support will move us closer to ending

marijuana prohibition for good.”


Rescheduling marijuana to a more lenient Schedule III could increase the ease with which

researchers can study the drug in scientific and clinical settings as well as allow state-legal

marijuana businesses the same business expense tax-deductions enjoyed by other companies.

Rescheduling would also encourage states considering legalizing, regulating, and controlling

the drug to carry out the will of their voters. A 2015 Gallup Poll found that 58% of

Americans support legalization.  


Marijuana is currently legal for adult use in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and the

District of Columbia. Twenty states report marijuana legalization efforts for 2016.

LEAP is committed to ending decades of failed policy that have created dangerous

underground markets and gang violence, fostered corruption and racism, and largely ignored

the public health crisis of addiction. Marijuana prohibition has damaged the relationship

between communities and police and has ultimately diverted the penal system’s attention

away from more important crimes.


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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Press Release: DOJ Suspends Asset Forfeiture Equitable Sharing

Contact: Mikayla Hellwich                                            
Media@leap.cc                                                               
240.461.3066

DOJ SUSPENDS ASSET FORFEITURE EQUITABLE SHARING

Police Currently Take More of Citizens’ Assets Than Do Thieves

Federal Sharing Linked to Circumvention of State Reforms

Washington, D.C. – The Department of Justice released a memorandum addressed to local, state, and tribal law enforcement agencies Monday to announce that the equitable sharing program for asset forfeiture funds has been temporarily suspended due to financial considerations. This means that state and local law enforcement can no longer expect to receive a share of federal funds confiscated through the process of civil asset forfeiture, a method by which law enforcement can seize property and money from individuals without charging them with a crime. Until now, the Department of Justice’s Equitable Sharing Program allowed departments to keep up to 80% of assets seized in joint operations, a practice scholars have shown allows local agencies to circumvent reforms in their own states. At least one estimate puts the amount of assets confiscated by law enforcement agencies in 2014 above the total amount of robberies, suggesting, according to Reason Magazine, that “Your local police or sheriff's department is more likely to take your stuff than a robber.

“This is one temporary solution I’d like to see made permanent,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.) executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a criminal justice group working to reform civil asset forfeiture. “There has been a tremendous amount of work done at the state level to reform these laws, but that’s all being undermined by equitable sharing. This is the biggest threat to civil liberties the public doesn’t know about.”  

Civil forfeiture cases in most states require the lowest burden of proof (“preponderance of evidence”) to make a seizure. Since the cost of contesting the case in court is usually more than the value of the property seized, most people never challenge the case and permanently lose their property. In 35 states, the burden of proof is placed on the property owner, meaning that after the property is seized, it’s up to the owner to prove that they weren’t involved in the alleged crime. 

Two of the original architects of civil forfeiture laws, John Yoder and Brad Cates, regret what the equitable sharing program has become. They told the Washington Post in 2014 that, “The program began with good intentions but now, having failed in both purpose and execution, it should be abolished.”

In November, the Institute for Justice published Policing For Profit, 2nd Edition to outline the major problems that have resulted from civil asset forfeiture. Between 1997 and 2013, 87% of Department of Justice seizures were civil and just 13% were criminal. This means that only 13% of people who had their property seized by law enforcement during this time were ever charged with a crime. The Institute for Justice concluded that the equitable sharing program made it possible for agencies to circumvent state laws by working with multi-jurisdictional task forces that included federal agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration.


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Friday, December 18, 2015

Press Release: STATE MEDICAL MARIJUANA LAWS PROTECTED, FEDERAL BAN ON SYRINGE EXCHANGE FUNDING RELAXED BY SPENDING BILL

Contact: Mikayla Hellwich                                                                       For Immediate Release:
Media@leap.cc                                                                                       Friday, December 18th, 2015
240.461.3066

STATE MEDICAL MARIJUANA LAWS PROTECTED, FEDERAL BAN ON SYRINGE EXCHANGE FUNDING RELAXED BY SPENDING BILL

President Obama Expected to Sign Bill Into Law

Washington D.C. – President Barack Obama is expected to sign a critical spending bill passed this morning by Congress that contains two significant drug policy provisions that will protect state’s rights, medical marijuana businesses and patients, and improve public health. Last year, Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA) cosponsored an amendment that prevents the Department of Justice (DOJ) from using funds to go after state-legal medical marijuana businesses. The amendment was approved on a temporary, one-year basis in the last spending bill and will be renewed pending the President’s signature.

The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment protects medical marijuana businesses that abide by state law from federal interference. Federal law still lists marijuana under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, a category supposedly relegated to drugs that have no medical value or applicable uses in medical settings and extremely high potential for abuse and addiction. Until the amendment was passed, federal enforcement agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), were still able to shut down facilities despite state law. A federal judge in California upheld the amendment in October after the DEA brought a case against a medical marijuana business owner.  

“Patients who benefit from medical marijuana should not be treated like dangerous criminals, and the businesses that support them need to be protected from the old drug war mentality that still runs deep within the DEA,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of criminal justice professionals working to end the drug war. “It’s very encouraging to see such widespread support for protecting state’s rights and the rights of patients.”

In an incredible victory for public health, the bill undermines the decades-old ban on federal funding used for clean syringe programs. Federal dollars still won’t be permitted for purchasing syringes directly, but money can be used for everything else involved in the programs, including staff, if local public health agencies in consultation with the CDC agree that there is an HIV or hepatitis outbreak. In 1988 the government banned federal funds from being used to provide clean syringes to people who inject drugs. It was a common misconception at the time that providing basic harm reduction services, such as clean needles, enables people with addictions and will increase the number of people who use drugs. This myth has been debunked repeatedly (though the same argument continues to be made against the lifesaving opiate-overdose-reversal drug naloxone), and federal law now demonstrates a more significant effort to show basic compassion and improve the health of injecting drug users and the community at large. Countries that have robust needle exchange programs are greatly reducing the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis.

“Needle exchange is a public health and safety necessity,” said retired corrections officer, substance abuse counselor, and LEAP speaker, Patrick Heintz. “This new law will not only protect those who use drugs from disease, but it will help prevent other innocent victims who come into intimate contact with people who use IV drugs that have been forced for so long to share contaminated needles.”

Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized the adult-use of marijuana. Twenty-three states and D.C. allow some form of medical marijuana access. The United States has one of the lowest records of availability of clean syringe access in the developed world even though 203 programs operate in 34 states.

LEAP is committed to ending decades of failed policy that have created dangerous underground markets and gang violence, fostered corruption and racism, and largely ignored the public health crisis of addiction. The drug war has cost nearly $2 trillion dollars, yielded only disastrous outcomes, and has diverted valuable law enforcement resources away from more important crimes.


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