Marijuana arrests fall to lowest level since 1996
The Washington Post - By. Christopher Ingraham - 9/26/2016
Arrests for simple marijuana possession in the United States fell to nearly a two-decade low last year, according to new statistics released Monday by the FBI.
The number of arrests for marijuana possession in 2015 -- 574,641 -- is the lowest number since 1996. It represents a 7 percent year-over-year drop, and roughly a 25 percent drop from the peak of close to 800,000 marijuana possession arrests in 2007.
The FBI data suggest that, in aggregate, law enforcement officers are devoting less time to marijuana enforcement relative to other drugs. In 2010, for instance, marijuana sales and possession together accounted for 52 percent of all drug arrests. By 2015, that number had fallen to 43 percent. By contrast, the numbers show police have been making more arrests for cocaine and heroin, and for other non-narcotic drugs.
Still, the marijuana possession arrest rate works out to more than one arrest every minute.
Advocates of drug policy reform have long criticized high rate of marijuana arrests as misplaced criminal justice priorities. The Drug Policy Alliance calls marijuana arrests "the engine driving the U.S. war on drugs" and says that "the huge number of marijuana arrests every year usurps scarce law enforcement, criminal justice and treatment resources at enormous cost to taxpayers."
A widely-cited 2013 ACLU report estimated that the total cost to taxpayers of marijuana possession enforcement in the U.S. was $3.6 billion. It also found that while whites and blacks use marijuana at similar rates, black users were four times more likely than whites to be arrested for it.
Four brothers kidnapped and forced to work on marijuana farm in Northern California
Los Angeles Times - By. Hailey Branson-Potts - 09/22/2016
Authorities in Northern California are investigating possible drug cartel activity after four Modesto brothers say they were kidnapped, tortured and forced to work for more than five months on an enormous, illegal marijuana farm under the threat of violence.
The Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department this week announced the arrest of two women. Guadalupe “Lupe” Arrellano, 43, and Medarda “Daniella” Urbieta Estudillo, 34, were arrested Sept. 14 in Modesto and charged with human trafficking, kidnapping, battery with serious bodily injury, making terrorist threats and drug charges, authorities said.
Sheriff’s officials said they are still seeking two men in connection with the case.
In February, Arrellano picked up two men from a Modesto business known as a place where day laborers congregate, Calaveras County Sheriff’s Capt. Jim Macedo said at a news conference. She told the men she needed help working on a landscaping project at a home in Calaveras County.
The brothers worked at a home in the small, remote town of West Point for several days before being taken by force to a nearby marijuana cultivation site, where they were threatened, according to the sheriff’s office.
Arrellano got the men’s home address in Modesto and went to the residence, where she told family members that two were working for her on a marijuana farm. She offered to take two more relatives to the site, but told them that if they said anything to law enforcement, their family members would be killed, according to the sheriff’s office.
Two additional brothers went with her to the West Point site, where they were threatened by armed men, taken to their family members and forced to work on the marijuana harvest while their remaining family members in Modesto were continually threatened by the captors, authorities said.
The four men, whose names have not been released, were kept in squalid conditions, sleeping on cots outdoors. They were severely beaten for complaining about the conditions.
At one point, one of the men heard a male captor ask Arrellano whether he could kill the victims, Macedo said. Arrellano reportedly told the captors no because they were nearly done with the marijuana harvest, but that they could be killed after they finished their work. About that time, one of the captors tried to stab one of the victims, holding a gun and knife at the same time, according to the sheriff’s office.
That night, on July 27, the men escaped and ran to a West Point home, where a resident called authorities. Three of the men had “significant” visible injuries.
The injured men were taken to a nearby hospital, and one had to be taken to a trauma center because of the severity of his wounds.
On July 28, law enforcement officials from Calaveras and Tuolumne counties and federal agencies served a search warrant near Bald Mountain Road, where they located the growing operation.
Investigators found 23,245 marijuana plants with an estimated street value between $18 and $60 million, at least two firearms, multiple cellphones and $10,000 in cash.
“There was mention of cartel activity that has yet to be corroborated,” Macedo said. “There was a specific cartel mentioned, however we have not corroborated that information at this time.”
Macedo said it was a “large-scale investigation” involving numerous local and federal agencies. The amount of food stored on the marijuana growing site indicated it was a large operation, he said.
Macedo described the remote location as a “long, narrow, winding road to the middle of nowhere.”
“It can seem like you’re a world away from your home,” he said.
While authorities searched the property, one man was seen running from investigators, according to the sheriff’s department. A backpack was found along the trail on which he ran; a handgun was inside.
No arrests were made at the time of the search, but authorities in the weeks following served search warrants at multiple locations in Stanislaus County.
Authorities said they found a religious shrine to Santa Muerte, the folk saint of death popular among drug traffickers and cartels, during a search of a Modesto home linked to the case.
Macedo said Arrellano and Urbieta Estudillo were in the country illegally and were known to use several aliases.
In May, the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors made it legal for farmers to grow medical marijuana for commercial sale. The urgency ordinance was enacted in part to help the struggling county recover from last year’s devastating Butte fire, which charred more than 70,000 acres, destroyed 549 homes and killed two people.
Authorities said the West Point marijuana farm was unregistered.
Driver Nabbed With Avocado Marijuana Pipe
The Smoking Gun - 9/22/16
While patrolling a stretch of highway earlier this month, a Missouri sheriff’s deputy spotted a motorist smoking a pipe and exhaling “a cloud of smoke.”
After pulling in behind the suspect around 9:35 PM, a cop noticed the vehicle had a break light out, so he “activated his emergency equipment” and stopped the car on a street in Branson, the popular tourist destination.
As two deputies approached the auto, they recognized the “strong odor of marijuana emitting from the interior of the car,” which was being driven by Benjamin Hensley, 21.
A deputy asked Hensley what he had been smoking while driving, according to a Taney County Sheriff’s Office report. Hensley, seen above, then “pointed to an avocado in the center cup holder of the vehicle.”
Hensley explained that he had fashioned the avocado into a pot pipe. He then handed the fruit (yes, avocado is a fruit) to a deputy, who noted the “strong odor of burnt marijuana emitting from a hole in the avocado.”
Hensley then retrieved a small bag of pot from the car’s center console and turned it over to a cop, who cited him for marijuana possession. In a two-count misdemeanor information filed last week, prosecutors tacked on a second charge, since “defendant possessed an avocado, which was drug paraphernalia.”
Deputies confiscated the avocado during the September 3 traffic stop. At the direction of an evidence technician, a deputy reported, “I placed the avocado in the evidence freezer.”
Hensley is scheduled for arraignment on October 17. The avocado enthusiast is a University of Arkansas student whose family lives in Branson.
Florida man accused of assaulting brother with marijuana plants
LAKELAND, Fla. – Sheriff's deputies say a Lakeland man faces domestic battery charges after hitting his brother with marijuana plants from their yard.
The fight happened Saturday evening shortly after 31-year-old Rodney Brown and 33-year-old Jackie Brown got into a verbal altercation at the house they share. Rodney Brown was arrested on charges that include domestic battery, cultivation of marijuana and possession of marijuana over 20 grams.
Jackie Brown told Polk County Sheriff's deputies his brother uprooted several cannabis plants in varying lengths up to three feet and starting hitting him in the face with them.
Deputies say Rodney Brown allowed them to search the property. They found 10 marijuana plants outside and drug paraphernalia inside the house.
Rodney Brown was taken to jail and posted bail. It wasn't clear whether he has an attorney and a phone number was not available for him.
Items linked to drug probe
Investigators seize laptops, papers at home of UAlbany police investigator, husband
By PAUL NELSON timesunion.com
Updated 09:46 p.m., Thursday, May 19, 2011
This one really messes with my moral compass.....This woman is scum......karma found ya detective! -UA
DUANESBURG -- Authorities seized several laptops, marijuana and "assorted paperwork" from the Duanesburg home and the work and personal vehicles of a highly respected University at Albany police detective and her husband as part of a sting involving an alleged marijuana-growing operation, according to court papers.
Besides the Colonial-style residence at 668 Suits Road, the search warrant issued Monday by Duanesburg Town Justice Robert Butler Sr. also covered the 1,400-square-foot pole barn where authorities allege Wendy and Kenneth Knoebel were growing about 100 pot plants.
The two, who face a federal charge of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, were released Wednesday after an appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Randolph Treece in Albany.
Wendy Knoebel, 48, is an investigator at the University at Albany campus. Kenneth Knoebel turns 44 at the end of the month.
Attorney Adam Parisi of Schenectady, who is listed in court documents as the couple's lawyer, did not return calls Thursday seeking comment.
UAlbany spokesman Karl Luntta said Knoebel's employment status was a personnel matter and declined to say if she had been suspended.
A feature story on Knoebel was removed from the UAlbany website by Luntta. He said he took it down because of all the attention that would be focused on Knoebel. In the story, she is highlighted for compassion toward students, and she talks about sifting through garbage and laundry for investigations and making arrests.
"What really separates her from other highly skilled professional is that she's relentless," UAlbany police Chief J. Frank Wiley said in the story. "She has the eye of the tiger. There is no one like her anywhere."
The feature story included a photo of her and several other UAlbany officers with President George Philip.
A federal felony complaint filed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration indicates State Police investigators raided the Schenectady County property on Monday. Police said they found marijuana plants growing inside a pole barn with heated floors.
Police said they also found small amounts of marijuana in the couple's home.
Knoebel became a SUNY police officer in 1991. She moved to Tennessee in the mid-1990s and continued her police career there before returning to the SUNY police force. She was assigned to the University at Albany campus in 1995.
In 1997, Knoebel, a certified evidence technician, was promoted to investigator, according to the university's website. In 2002, she received an award for "excellence in police services," according to the university.
Nearly three dozen demonstrators gathered Thursday outside of the federal courthouse in downtown Spokane, urging the removal of marijuana from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of drugs considered to have no medicinal value.
They also are circulating petitions asking Spokane Mayor Mary Verner to declare the sale of medical marijuana to doctor-approved users to be the lowest law enforcement priority in the city. Supporters say they’ve already gathered more than 1,000 signatures and hope to present them Monday night to the Spokane City Council.
“We’ll be out here as long as it takes,” said Rhonda Duncan, speaking through a megaphone at the Lincoln statue. “Please don’t let these medical marijuana patients suffer.”
Earlier this week, about a dozen medical marijuana advocates asked Spokane City Council members for support in achieving legal recognition for commercial dispensaries. State lawmakers are debating legislation that would regulate the production and sale of medical marijuana across Washington. Even if a bill wins approval, however, and is signed into law by Gov. Chris Gregoire, it likely would take months to take effect as state agencies draft rules for implementing its provisions.
Prompting the increased push for legal clarity was a Spokane County Superior Court trial last week. One of Spokane’s first medical marijuana dispensary operators, Scott Shupe, was convicted by jurors on drug-trafficking charges for selling marijuana to doctor-approved users. Drug investigators estimate there are about 40 medical marijuana dispensary operations in Spokane County.
Duncan, who owns the dispensary Club Compassion, said she’s worried federal agents may begin raiding medical marijuana dispensaries in Spokane. Dispensaries in Montana were raided last week as part of a federal investigation.
Although U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said federal authorities won’t prosecute medical marijuana cases that are complying with state law, Washington’s medical marijuana law is poorly crafted and ambiguous. Among other things, the state law contains no mention of commercial dispensaries, leading to differing interpretations over how medical marijuana users are to legally obtain marijuana.
“We’re trying to get the feds to notice that we want them to leave medical marijuana patients alone,” said Charles Wright, owner of the South Perry Street dispensary the THC Pharmacy. “They’re attacking the sick and dying.”