Federal Appeals Court Bars DOJ From Prosecuting Medical Marijuana Cases

On August 16, 2016, a three- judge panel of the 9th Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals (this is the federal appellate court that covers California) ruled against the Federal Government, holding the Department of Justice (DOJ) cannot prosecute marijuana cases when a STATE permits medical marijuana &/or a business or individual is in compliance with state law.

In 2014, Congress passed a bill known as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment that DOJ cannot use any of its funding in any given fiscal year to interfere with medical marijuana laws in the states. In other words, the Federal Government is barred from preventing states from how they regulate the use or sale of marijuana.

This is a victory for proponents of medical marijuana laws, but there are two apparent limitations:

  • The cases will likely turn on whether there is strict compliance with the relevant conditions of state law; and
  • The Congressional appropriation restriction noted above expires 9/30/16 and, unless Congress passes a new bill to extend that prohibition, it will soon expire.

This is a unique situation inasmuch as the Federal Government has not updated its laws for40-50 years while approximately 41 states authorize at least one form of medical marijuana use. Some commentators argue the Federal Government is out of step with [what seems] a growing trend in a majority of states

We can expect to see new legislation by Congress regarding this subject very soon.

 

Unintended Consequences of Criminal Offenders Being Transferred from State Prison to County Jail

The growing population of over 150,000 inmates in state prisons in California has exceeded the level the U.S. Supreme Court opined in 2011 is permissible. There has been litigation in Federal Court to obtain a more speedy reduction of the state prison population, and a new law has been enacted as a result of the Governor and Legislature in California establishing the state’s prison realignment; this is the name given to transferring inmates to county jails to reduce the state prison population to about 110,000. A Federal three-judge court previously set June, 2013 as the deadline for California to reduce by over 37% its state prison population beyond each prison’s building capacity. The date was recently extended to February, 2016.  This narrative has been based upon the perceived challenge of the State of California to provide adequate health care to inmates.

The Federal Court allowed this additional period of time subject to transferring state prisoners to private correctional centers and county jails in California, but not any longer to out of state facilities. This was also based upon, among other reasons, the representation of Governor Brown that shorter sentences would be imposed on non-violent criminals; issuing additional good behavior credits to prisoners so they could be eligible for an earlier release; speeding up and expanding early parole for those over 65 years of age with at least 25 years in prison; along with those who are medically incapacitated, as well as expanding the rehabilitation programs provided to inmates.

The problem is not simply the transfer of inmates to County Jails, but now the local detention facilities statewide are overcrowded. Moreover, it has been alleged there is an even greater conundrum in that far more sophisticated criminals are now incarcerated in County Jails.  For example, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department that oversees the jails in this County has reported there has been an increased number of drugs being smuggled into the jails; this drug trade that previously was typical of state prisons has now become a serious problem in county jails.  It has been reported there were 221 of these drug and alcohol cases in the San Diego County Jails in 2012, which constitutes over a 50% increase from that in 2011. There was a total of 279 of such cases in 2013, and about 335 of these particular cases between January and September, 2014.

To better address one of  these problems, San Diego has installed body scanners at a cost of $150, 000 each unit and $10,000 each year to provide service and maintenance. This month, the County Board of Supervisors also approved spending more than three-quarters of a million dollars to obtain four additional scanners and for a five year maintenance agreement. Besides visitors hiding contraband, some of those picked up for minor probation and parole violations have been smuggling drugs into the jails, as they may only be incarcerated for up to 10 days.

But what is the best solution? Clearly, we need to implement greater rehabilitation and educational programs. For the most part, we are spending the money to incarcerate people who are addicted to alcohol and drugs, have a mental illness and/or do not have sufficient education and labor skills, when rehabilitation will have a far greater impact on this growing societal problem. Many advocates believe it can help to let local and state legislators know our political views, and of course, to become more involved in community programs.

 

 

Feds raid 17 Calif. auto stores for nitrous oxide

Several Southern California auto shops and other businesses suspected of illegally selling nitrous oxide for recreational use were raided by hundreds of law enforcement officers on Friday. This drug raid has been considered the largest of its kind in the nation.

During 17 simultaneous raids conducted in Orange County, Los Angeles, and Riverside County, four federal arrest warrants were also served. At least two individuals were arrested on misdemeanor charges.

This nitrous oxide raid is the result of a year-and-a-half-long investigation conducted by the FDA’s Administration Office of Criminal Investigations and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.  Although this type of drug has been commonly used at raves for a long time, the drug has quickly grown into mainstream use. Furthermore, because it is not a controlled substance, law enforcement does not have the ability to control it.

This drug is legally used by dentists when needing to administer anesthesia, but authorities have stated that its illegal use has contributed to dozens of car accidents, rapes, and deaths among teenagers.

22 students arrested in drug sting (Sam Spital)

COMMENTARY BY SAM SPITAL, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY- SAN DIEGO:

“Fox 5 digital news reported on December 12, 2012 an illegal drug ring was discovered by an undercover drug investigation in which officers posed as students in several high school campuses in the Temecula Valley area of Riverside County, a community adjacent to San Diego. In total there were 22 arrests of which 20 minors were taken to Juvenile Hall and 2 adult students taken into custody were arrested for sales of narcotics and child endangerment. Seized in the sting were cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine (meth), ecstasy, LSD, marijuana and illegal prescription drugs.

It strains credulity that so many of our youth fall into the trap of experimenting with and/or using drugs to feel good. Life has many challenges, but equally true is the fact there are far greater opportunities. However, we have to question whether our schools are providing sufficient information, case studies and material in their curriculum as well as using appropriate resources to build self-esteem, positive values, goals and dreams to motivate students to achieve happiness. Instead, far too many students experiment with drugs in order to get ‘high.’ Substituting artificial, extremely dangerous and addictive drugs only to provide an extremely short lived result can only lead to a trap as in the case of quick sand, offering no long term pleasure, relief &/or remedy while posing the risk of a life time of further complications as well as death. Although so much money is spent to solve social ills and problems, it hardly seems to have had a sufficient impact to reduce the scourge of illegal possession, use and sales of drugs and narcotics.”

–Sam Spital

Agents seize $500,000 in drugs (Sam Spital)

“On September 13, 2012, the UT News printed an article about Border Patrol agents in several check points in both the counties of San Diego and Orange stopping vehicles and finding hidden in various parts of the automobiles a total of about a half-million dollars in street value of illegal drugs.As long as there are individuals that use drugs illegally, there will be those that profit from others’ misfortunes. The scourge in society continues to a level that seems worse every year. Some argue we should legalize certain drugs; others contend this would only lead to those that use drugs to eventually seek out and use more drugs to help them deal with their life issues. Unfortunately, people who abuse drugs become addicted and the result seems to inevitable lead to increased social problems, including suicides, serious crimes and accidents. The challenge for our education system and the press is to seek greater solutions and better intervention programs.”

Sam Spital, Criminal Defense Lawyer

Hit-and-run killer gets more jail time for drugs (Sam Spital)

“Fox 5 News reported on September 12, 2012, a Defendant previously convicted and incarcerated for a felony hit and run killing was sentenced to more jail time. She was charged with and pled guilty to smuggling drugs into jail; she made phone calls to help another inmate get drug laced greeting cards into the jail; and, was found in possession of marijuana and non- prescription drugs.

The defense argued she made bad choices, was sexually assaulted as a child and suffered psychological injuries.

The original sentence was unusually low — only one year in jail and three years’ probation, no doubt for several factors not fully set forth in the article.

She was a nursing student at the time of her first offense and has remorse for her past crimes. Let’s hope she gets her life together and is rehabilitated to make a positive contribution to society and her future.”

Sam Spital, Criminal Defense Lawyer

 

San Diego CBP agents seize drugs worth $253,550 (SAM SPITAL)

“Clearly, the continued escalation of drug smuggling evinces the growing use of and seemingly unending reliance upon drugs by individuals who cannot tolerate their daily life challenges.

~ Addiction is a never ending cycle that demands rigid adherence to known and successful recovery programs.

~ Better education, developing proven life skills, and utilizing accepted and successful support systems can help reduce this scourge.

The role of defense counsel, among other things, is to identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s evidence; find all of the procedural errors, if any; marginalize the opponent case; and, emphasize the mitigating facts and circumstances.

The overriding premise is that everyone deserves a full and fair hearing, and even though accused of a crime are innocent unless and until proven guilty. It is too easy to rush to judgement based upon media accounts that far too frequently do not provide a balanced report.”

Sam Spital, Criminal Defense Lawyer