Monthly Archives: October 2013

Police in Florida suburb make millions selling drugs, report finds

Police in Florida have been luring big-money drug buyers to a small suburban town from across the United States and as far north as Canada, negotiating sales of cocaine in popular restaurants and then arresting the buyers and confiscating their cash and cars.

According to a six-month investigation by the Sun Sentinel, undercover detectives in Sunrise, Fla., seized millions of dollars from the drug stings, offering cash rewards for the confidential informants who help police attract faraway buyers, including paying one informant more than $800,000 over the past five years.

The paper’s investigation has led the police department to stop the cocaine stings, with Mayor Michael Ryan, who supports the police work, blaming the Sun Sentinel for exposing the department’s strategies and compromising the undercover work.

In announcing the end to the program, Ryan did not address the huge overtime payments the police earned, or the expensive incentives rewarding a network of secret informants, the paper reported. In one instance, a sergeant running the stings collected more than $240,000 in overtime during a three-and-a-half year period.

In a review of payroll data, the Sun Sentinel found a dozen narcotics officers since 2010 have collectively earned $1.2 million in overtime pay.

Police in Sunrise have been conducting what are known as “reverse stings” for years, according to the Sun Sentinel, and over the past two years have netted $5.8 million in seized money.

“They can take their cars, jewelry,” Sun Sentinel reporter Megan O’Matz, who broke the story with colleague John Maines, told ABC News. “One fella told us a cop said, ‘Hey, I like the sunglasses you’re wearing,’ and snatched them, so there is a real profit motive for the police.”

According to the story by Maines and O’Matz, the Sunrise suburb is hauling in three times as much forfeited by any other city in Broward and Palm Beach counties. The next-biggest haul for the 2011-2012 period was the $1.8 million seized by Fort Lauderdale.

Since 2009, according to the Sun Sentinel report, Sunrise has arrested at least 190 people on cocaine-trafficking charges. That is more than any other municipality in the county. Only seven of those arrested lived in Sunrise.

“Sunrise is extraordinary in the amount of cases they produce,” Fort Lauderdale defense attorney Martin Roth told the paper. “That might be a good or bad thing depending on your point of view.”

The seized money buys new guns, radios, protective gear, computers, training and other crime-fighting expenses for the police department.

“In my view, it’s all about the money,” Roth said.

Sunrise police leaders disagree.

“Our job is to put bad guys in jail, and we do a good job of it,” Criminal Investigations Capt. Robert Voss, who oversees the Sunrise Vice, Intelligence & Narcotics Division, said in an interview with the paper earlier this year.

The Sunrise Police Department declined to answer any further questions in an email to the Sun Sentinel.

via Fox

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Medical Marijuana goes before Michigan Supreme Court

LANSING, Mich. (WZZM) — The State Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday in a West Michigan case that will decide if all communities can restrict medical marijuana.

Michigan voters approved the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act in 2008 but the City of Wyoming created a strict ordinance to regulate it.

Justices heard opening arguments Thursday from the City of Wyoming and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

The city of Wyoming argues, since the medical marijuana law violates federal law, the city has a right to restrict it.

Right now, a zoning ordinance is in place, but the court repeatedly questioned Wyoming City Attorney Jack Sluiter why zoning was any different than a ban.

“We are not trying to ban medical marijuana use by citizens, we are attempting to regulate the cultivation of the growing, distribution, of marijuana in the city of Wyoming,” Sluiter told reporters.

“We want to eliminate the issues we’ve already had with crime involved in people growing marijuana, in their basements, we’ve had break-ins, home invasions, theft involving medical marijuana.

We’ve had fires involving medical marijuana because people are using grow lights and other things that are catching electrical systems and properties.”

“If the public is at risk, I think the court was very clear today that local authorities and state authorities can take measures to safeguard to public risk,” said American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan attorney Daniel Korobkin.

“They’re trying to nullify the Medical Marijuana Act within their city, and if they succeed there will be lots of cities that will try to do that but that’s for the same reason the people of Michigan had to go to the polls.

“I thought Wyoming had a really big hill to climb and I don’t think they climbed it,” said David Overholt, a local medical marijuana advocate who joined others in the courtroom. He will go before the justices down the road.

The court has until July to issue a ruling in the case.

via ABC News

Battle over local bans on medical marijuana set for Michigan Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a landmark case Thursday that will decide whether Michigan communities can bar medical marijuana within their borders and possibly whether Michiganders can keep using marijuana at all for health purposes.

Those joining forces against medical cannabis include the State Bar of Michigan and the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, both of which contend that the entire state act allowing medical marijuana should be thrown out.

Yet that would nullify the wishes of the 63% of Michigan voters who passed the act into law in 2008, according to opposing groups that include the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the conservative Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.

Detroiter Tim Beck, 61, who for years has pushed to relax marijuana laws, said a handful of Michigan communities passed bans on medical marijuana “that carry serious penalties, and that includes jail time.” The ordinances “didn’t even mention medical marijuana — they just said any activity that was illegal under federal law was also illegal in their community,” Beck said.

In Wyoming, a Grand Rapids suburb of about 73,000 residents, retired attorney John Ter Beek sued in 2010 to overturn a medical cannabis ban. Ter Beek is a state-registered user who has diabetes and a painful neurological disorder, according to the lawsuit.

Ter Beek lost in a local court but won in the Michigan Court of Appeals. In April, the Michigan Supreme Court granted the city of Wyoming’s request to appeal.

Wyoming’s ban was followed by an almost identical ordinance in Livonia, which has filed a brief siding with Wyoming in the appeal; and by ordinances in Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills and Lyon Township. Ter Beek, who could not be reached this week, said in 2012 that he sued because he feared he’d be arrested if he grew or used medical marijuana. That was after a state Appeals Court ruled 3-0 in his favor.

“I’ve tried narcotic-based drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin, and nothing worked like medical marijuana,” Ter Beek told the Free Press in a 2012 statement. “I just couldn’t sit by as our elected officials try to ignore the will of the people and take this option from me and thousands of others.”

The Court of Appeals ruling declared Wyoming’s ordinance to be pre-empted by Michigan’s medical marijuana act. It also said that local governments could not use federal drug laws as grounds for ignoring the state act.

“Congress can criminalize all uses of medical marijuana, (but) it cannot require the state to do the same,” the court ruled. This year, federal authorities made plain that they will not intervene in states where medical marijuana is allowed and regulated.

Despite that, a brief supporting Wyoming filed by the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan argues that Michigan’s medical marijuana act “stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress and is therefore preempted.” And the brief of the State Bar of Michigan’s public corporation law section states in bold-faced type: “The supremacy clause of the United States Constitution applies. . . to void the Michigan Medical Marihana Act in its entirety” – incidentally misspelling Michigan’s statutory term for the drug, “marihuana.”

Also arguing in support of local ordinances that ban medical marijuana is the Michigan Municipal League, the Lansing-based lobby group for 524 cities, villages and townships across the state, according to the group’s Web site. The League’s brief says that Michigan municipalities should be free “to zone and regulate their own unique land use activities” in ways that ban medical marijuana.

via Freep