"Play faster!" he cried, wildly, over and over. "Play faster!"
The dame who was tickling the ivories complied, out of control
herself. The music revved to a dangerous velocity oh, too fast for
decent, sober, well-behaved Americans to bear and ... well, you
just knew, violence, madness, laughter were just around the corner.
The year was 1936 and, oh my God, they were high on marijuana, public
enemy No. 1
The scene is from "Reefer Madness," arguably the dumbest movie ever
made but smugly at the emotional and ideological core of American
drug policy for the last three-quarters of a century. The policy,
which morphed in 1970 into an all-out "war" on drugs, has filled our
prisons to bursting, created powerful criminal enterprises, launched
a real war in Mexico and presided over the skyrocketing of
recreational drug use in the United States. The war on drugs just may
be a bigger disaster than the war on terror.
[continues 719 words]
NAPLES -- The Palmetto Elementary School students bounded to the front
of their fifth-grade classroom two-by-two, each coming under friendly
questioning from Collier County sheriff's Cpl. Sandra Doria.
Cassie Figga, wearing a D.A.R.E. T-shirt and red headband, took the
situation in stride.
"You're hanging out at Hollywood 20," Doria said. "After the movie, a
pack of cigarettes is passed around. What do you say?"
"First," Figga said, sizing up the question, "I would tell them that's
not a very good idea, and then I'd go tell a manager."
[continues 1246 words]
BUNNELL -- A dark-haired girl wearing a sandwich board smiled and
waved at passing motorists along Moody Boulevard in Bunnell.
Suzanne Garrison wasn't hawking coffee or tax services. Her message
was personal -- "Drug Court Works."
"I've been addicted to oxycodone since I was 18," the 21-year-old
said, standing on the shoulder of the roadway in front of the Kim C.
Hammond Justice Center. "I get treatments through the courts."
Drug Court is a supervised, comprehensive treatment program for those
charged with non-violent drug-related felonies, according to
information provided on Flagler County's website by coordinator Mike
[continues 420 words]
Jeremy Harris' household was winding down for the night. It was about
10 p.m., his children were getting ready for bed and he was watching
TV, when a uniformed deputy and two undercover detectives knocked on
the door of his Dunedin home.
Harris says the Pinellas sheriff's detectives told him they had gotten
an anonymous tip that he was growing marijuana, and they asked if they
could search his property.
Harris stepped outside and was astonished to see other deputies
standing nearby in groups of two - 10 to 14 of them, he estimates.
[continues 836 words]
The tragedies are coming with appalling regularity. Lakeland police
officer Arnulfo Crispin, 25, died Wednesday after being shot in the
head Sunday night while investigating suspicious activity in a city
park. The suspect is 19 years old.
Last February, a St. Petersburg police officer was shot while
approaching a suspicious individual on the street. A 16-year-old was charged.
A few weeks before, two St. Petersburg policemen were shot to death
and a federal marshal seriously wounded as they attempted to serve a
domestic abuse warrant on a sex offender, who was killed during the encounter.
[continues 384 words]
Arnulfo Crispin In Grave Condition As Suspect, 19, Arrested
A neighborhood park where a Lakeland police officer was shot and
gravely wounded is known more for being a hang-out for drug dealers
than a place where children clamor over the jungle gyms.
'Little kids got guns,' said Phillip Rogers, 22, who lives near the
city-owned Crystal Grove Park, 'and they ain't afraid to use them.' A
10 p.m. Sunday call about suspicious activity in the park ended in
tragedy for a popular police officer, who was left for dead. By the
day's end, officer Arnulfo Crispin barely clung to life at Lakeland
Regional Medical Center.
[continues 1051 words]
Jury Deadlocks On Trespassing Charge
FORT LAUDERDALE -- A Miramar police officer was found guilty on
Monday of official misconduct, falsifying records and criminal
mischief in connection with the search of a drug suspect's apartment
Officer Jean Paul Jacobi bowed his head as the verdicts against him
were read late Monday afternoon.
The jury deliberated more than four hours before announcing they
reached a partial verdict, deadlocking on trespass charges against
Jacobi and his co-defendant, Det. Jennifer Conger. Broward Circuit
Judge Raag Singhal declared a mistrial on those charges.
[continues 544 words]
It was a typical Thursday morning at Lake Worth High School until
police burst onto the scene and arrested three students in an
undercover drug sting.
"They knew who they were coming after," Principal George Lockhart said
a few hours later. "They grabbed the kids and they were gone."
The action - which coincided with nine arrests at Boynton Beach High
School - was the latest milestone in a long-term investigation called
"Operation D-Minus," Palm Beach County School District Police Chief
Jim Kelly said.
[continues 535 words]
The Santa Rosa County school district is looking to stop a drug
problem in its schools before it gets out of control.
Spice, also known as K-2 and Blaze it is a potpourri substance sprayed
with a chemical. When smoked, the substance gives the same effects
that someone might feel while high on marijuana. The drug gained
popularity over the years, and is available at most gas stations and
The federal government cracked down on the drug back in July banning
the chemical in the substance. Since the ruling, the school district
has continued to see the drug being used in the schools. The law
passed by the government does not outlaw the potpourri, but the actual
chemical it is sprayed with. Only lab tests can determine how much
chemicals, if any, have been sprayed on the potpourri.
[continues 267 words]
Patients Deserve Pain-Free Dignity
I practiced medicine for more than 40 years and oncology for more
than 30. I can remember patients literally screaming from pain all
the way to death. Based on my experience, effective pain management
has been the most important achievement of medical care in the last 30 years.
Dr. Kathy Foley, who spearheaded this effort, is a Catholic
neurologist who works at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. She
has devoted her professional life, supported and inspired by her
faith, to bringing back a human dimension (the patient perspective)
to an increasingly technological type of medicine.
[continues 152 words]
The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office has been using a law enforcement
technique that resembles a fishing expedition. It surreptitiously
trained a camera at a hydroponics supply business, turning every
customer who walked through the door into a suspected marijuana
grower. This kind of surveillance may be technically legal, but it is
intrusive and violates the spirit of the Fourth Amendment's privacy
protections. People should be allowed to pursue lawful activities
without automatically provoking a police investigation.
To his credit, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has ordered the camera
taken down. Gualtieri, who was only recently appointed by Gov. Rick
Scott to fill the remainder of an unexpired term, says the
prescription drug problem, cocaine and other drugs where public safety
is at risk will be the agency's priority. Encouragingly, he also says
that his agency has to be careful about focusing attention on people
who are going about their business and not engaging in inherently
[continues 405 words]
I owe Kyle Vogt an apology. A former military policeman, he's now a
member of a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, or LEAP,
a group of former cops, prosecutors and judges that supports ending
the war on drugs.
When I interviewed Vogt for a column earlier this year, everything he
said about the high cost and low results of the war on drugs made
perfect sense. But he made one claim which, though I smiled politely,
I didn't believe and didn't use in my column: that dozens and dozens
of drug cops have contacted LEAP to express their support.
[continues 530 words]
Once again police resources are wasted with surA-veillance cameras and
manpower and a net result of one arrest and one marijuana plant
We are not paying attention to the lessons learned (or not) from
Prohibition. The number of arrests for pot-related crimes is
mind-boggling. The war on drugs a colossal failure. Pot should be
legal and taxed like tobacco.
Jim Caputo, Spring Hill
As someone suffering with chronic pain issues, I took exception to the
comment by the pharmacy owner that if an 'addict can't get
oxycodone, Adderall is viewed by some as a reasonable alternative.'
It is this attitude by pharmacists that is part of the problem, as
well as the profiling they subject people to. People with genuine
pain issues are being forced to suffer due to a small segment of the
population that abuses these medicines. It is not fair that these
people make snap judgment calls as to who is an 'addict' or not.
Daniel Patrick McCarthy, Clearwater
A federal judge in Orlando on Monday temporarily blocked Florida's
controversial law requiring welfare applicants be drug tested in
order to receive benefits.
Judge Mary Scriven issued a temporary injunction against the state,
writing in a 37-page order that the law could violate the
Constitution's Fourth Amendment ban on illegal search and seizure.
The constitutional rights of a class of citizen are at stake," Scriven wrote.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state last month on
behalf of Luis Lebron, a 35-year-old Navy veteran and single father
from Orlando who is finishing his college degree.
[continues 715 words]
Lawyers Cry Foul When Deputies Focus on a Legal Hydroponic Garden
Shop to Hunt Marijuana Growers
LARGO - Last fall, a white Chevy truck pulled into the parking lot of
a hydroponic gardening shop on Ulmerton Road.
A man went in, purchased some supplies and drove off.
Someone was watching.
Detectives with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, watching via a
camera mounted on a pole nearby, recorded the Chevy's license plate
number, checked motor vehicle records to identify the owner, and soon
showed up at his home in Seminole.
[continues 1557 words]
The steady rise in drug-sniffing dogs in schools, warrantless police
searches, and random drug testing have led to a loss of civil
liberties in America while failing miserably to prevent drug use.
Based on findings that criminal records are inappropriate as health
interventions and ineffective as deterrents, a majority of European
Union countries have decriminalized marijuana. Despite marijuana
prohibition, lifetime use of marijuana is higher in the United States
than any European country.
The drug war threatens the integrity of a country founded on the
concept of limited government. It's not possible to wage a moralistic
war against consensual vices unless privacy is eliminated, along with
the U.S. Constitution. America can either be a free country or a
"drug-free" country, but not both.
Robert Sharpe, policy analyst, Common Sense for Drug Policy, Arlington, Va.
Due process should not be tossed aside for the sake of expediency. Yet
Florida state courts are doing just that by upholding drug convictions
despite a recent finding by a federal judge that a key state drug law
U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven of the Middle District ruled in July
that Florida's statute making possession and delivery of an illicit
substance a crime is constitutionally flawed and violates due process
protections. But state courts have barely noticed. Miami-Dade's 3rd
District Court of Appeal joined many other state courts recently in
upholding the law.
[continues 443 words]
TALLAHASSEE - A case that could result in the release of hundreds, if
not thousands, of drug offenders is on a fast track in the Florida
The state's appeal of a Manatee County judge's decision on Sept. 14
that struck down Florida's drug law regarding "guilty knowledge" of
illegal drugs is running parallel with, but quicker, than a similar
Just two weeks after the Manatee ruling, a three-judge state appellate
panel sent the Manatee case to the justices without a decision so it
could get to Florida's highest court as quickly as possible.
[continues 603 words]
The drug testing bill for welfare recipients in Florida, specifically
for those receiving cash benefits under Temporary Assistance for Needy
Families, should be repealed.
The bill does not include drug testing for those receiving other types
of subsidies, such as food stamps. (These cash benefits are $180 a
month for one person and $364 for a family of four.)
The state would reimburse the welfare recipients if they tested
negative. The bill recently was halted because of an appeal by a
single father and Navy veteran who felt the requirement was
unconstitutional. Florida federal judge Mary Scriven (a George W. Bush
appointee) agreed with the plaintiff.
[continues 244 words]