Category Archives: Drug War

Sullum Destroys Drug Warriors’ Case against Legal Marijuana in Colorado

In a new op-ed for Complete Colorado (via Reason), Jacob Sullum critiques a new report from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area purporting to show the harms of legal marijuana in Colorado. This tax-financed report is deceptive on a number of points. The report claims, among other things, that “traffic fatalities involving operators testing positive for marijuana have increased 100 percent from 2007 to 2012″ and that the “percent of all hospitalizations that were marijuana related increased 91 percent from 2008 to 2013.” But in both cases, Sullum points out, there’s no indication that the traffic fatalities or the hospitalizations were caused by marijuana. Moreover, I would add, part of the difference may simply be that police and hospitals are checking for marijuana more rigorously, and therefore finding it more often.

Of course, the statists at the Heritage Foundation seized on the drug warriors’ report to decry legal marijuana.

But let’s not lose sight of the big picture: One of the benefits of legal marijuana is that, to a substantial degree, police officers are no longer harassing people, arresting them, and locking them in metal cages for doing something they have a moral right to do do.

End Asset Forfeiture Abuse

The Institute for Justice just published a video critical of abusive asset forfeiture. “Civil forfeiture is a little-known legal device that allows law enforcement officials to take your property, sell it and pocket the proceeds—even if you have done nothing wrong,” IJ notes. Thankfully, we substantially reformed asset forfeiture in Colorado in 2002—although now police officers sometimes evade the state law by collaborating with federal agencies (a topic worthy of further research).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6MT_YLO5yg

Oh, You Mean Marijuana Doesn’t Improve People’s Driving?

Cully Stimson writes for the Heritage Institute: “Colorado traffic fatalities have gone down since 2007, but they went up in 2012. More to the point, Colorado traffic fatalities between 2007 and 2012 involving operators testing positive for marijuana use increased 100 percent over that period—from 39 in 2007 up to 78 in 2012.” He helpfully adds, “Of course, we have no idea what actually caused those fatalities.” Often people who test positive for marijuana consumed it long enough ago that they’re no longer under the drug’s influence. And often people who test positive for marijuana also test positive for alcohol and other substances. I’d also like to know whether police are simply reporting marijuana levels more diligently—something that would hardly be surprising given the heated politics surrounding the issue. But even if it is the case that marijuana consumption is a causal factor in more traffic wrecks, that doesn’t mean marijuana should be banned or more heavily regulated—any more than the fact that alcohol consumption is a causal factor in many traffic wrecks means that alcohol should be banned or more heavily regulated. The principle is that government ought not violate the rights of people who use something responsibly (whether guns or drugs or magnets or whatever) because a minority use that thing irresponsibly.

Government Doesn’t Need to Regulate Edible Marijuana Potency

As the Associated Press reports, “Colorado regulators have drafted an emergency rule”—expected to take effect in November—requiring sellers of edible marijuana to sell products with clearly marked “”servings’ of 10 milligrams of THC.” I agree it’s a very good idea for sellers to let their customers know the levels of THC they’re ingesting. But the goal hardly requires government regulations. Most consumers want to know doses, creating a market for sellers to provide the doses. Sellers who misrepresent the dosages of their products may be sued. So government should be involved only at the judicial level, not the regulatory level. The regulations will inevitably have harmful consequences for some consumers. As the AP reports, “stronger-dosed edibles are holdovers from the medical pot marketplace, where sellers say consumers who have built up strong tolerances won’t buy anything that has a dosage less than 100 milligrams of THC.” Cancer patients shouldn’t have to eat ten brownies to get the dosages they need. People have a moral right to seek higher-dosage “servings” if they want, and sellers have a moral right to offer them (but not to fraudulently or negligently mislabel them).

An Open Reply to a Pharmacist Regarding Prescription Drug Monitoring

600px-Ritalin-SR-20mg-1000x1000Last month I wrote an op-ed and a follow-up blog post critical of a proposal to expand Colorado’s prescription drug monitoring program. I pointed out (among other things) that the program was promoted and financed largely by federal law enforcement; that law enforcement agents can access the information in the database (by warrant) for purposes of pursuing criminal investigations; that the program does little to curb drug abuse, in part because drug abusers easily can switch to different drugs, and in part because some drug abusers steal their drugs (or, I’ll add here, buy them on the black market); and that the proposal seeks to force doctors (and other prescribers) to register with the database.

My main point was that it is not the government’s proper role to save drug addicts from their own dangerous behavior—particularly given the government’s actions in this area inevitably make it harder for some people to obtain the drugs they desperately need to manage their excruciating pain.

On March 31, someone who identified himself only as “John” replied to my web page:

Ari, hello. My name is John and I am a retail pharmacist. I rely heavily on our prescription monitoring program here in Nevada. As pharmacists, we use it to make sure people are not filling multiple controlled substance prescriptions at different pharmacies, using multiple doctors for controlled substances, and that they are not misusing or abusing controlled substances. This tool has prevented abuse and diversion in our state and is a very useful tool. Also, to stress an important point, a good pharmacist understands true pain (cancer) and always strives to take compassionate care of the patient.

Following is my open reply:

Dear John,

As a pharmacist, you are undoubtedly a smart fellow; you must realize, therefore, that you have not actually responded to any of the observations or arguments I make in my op-ed and related post.

I have no doubt that the monitoring programs set up by the governments of various states prevent some drug addicts from obtaining certain drugs from certain sources. (Whether it substantially prevents drug addicts from abusing drugs, on the other hand, is extremely doubtful.) My primary philosophical objection is that it is not the government’s proper role to address or prevent the problem of drug abuse; rather, it is to protect people’s rights, including the rights of consenting adults to contract freely. Although a full defense of that position lies outside the scope of this short letter, I will note here that there are other—and much better—ways to help drug addicts with their problems.

I will also note here that my criticisms of government-run drug prescription drug monitoring programs (run largely at the behest of federal law enforcement agents) do not constitute reasons to prohibit doctors and pharmacists from independently sharing certain information about potentially dangerous situations. And of course nothing in my position implies that reckless doctors should be free from civil and even (if circumstances warrant) criminal liability.

As a pharmacist, your ability to “take compassionate care of the patient” is inherently limited. After all, you are not legally authorized to diagnose any disease or to write drug prescriptions. Thus, there is no case in which you can actually expand the delivery of pain medications to the patients who desperately need them. Your actions can have one and only one effect in this regard: to block or delay such delivery.

Of course, your actions might also have the effect of subjecting the doctors and other medical professionals, who are legally authorized to write drug prescriptions, to the actions of federal and state law enforcement agents. Those agents, in turn, have the power in some cases to arrest doctors and to help other government agents prosecute doctors or strip them of their ability to practice medicine.

As a pharmacist, John, you are not in any danger of having your power stripped to write drug prescriptions (as you have no such power) or of being prosecuted for writing drug prescriptions (as you do not write any). You are, however, quite capable of assisting federal and state drug enforcement agents create a climate of fear and intimidation among those who do write drug prescriptions, such that, on balance, those who prescribe drugs tend to err on the side of legal precaution and not help people coping with excruciating pain obtain the drugs they desperately need. Such a result is possible—and I think likely—even assuming (as I’m sure is the case) that most uses of the monitoring program do not involve law enforcement. And the more the program is expanded, the more substantial will be its effects in this regard.

In using the monitoring program, you act primarily on guesswork and speculation. Consider the activities that you regard as inherently suspicious: people “filling multiple controlled substance prescriptions at different pharmacies” and “using multiple doctors for controlled substances.”

Again, I do not doubt that such behavior describes some drug addicts. But I also do not doubt that such behavior also describes some people coping with excruciating pain due to cancer or other serious diseases.

Consider that cancer patients and others coping with serious illnesses typically see multiple doctors in multiple locations to manage their diseases. They also typically use different types of pain medications concurrently to cope with their diseases. Moreover, cancer patients often end up leaving their jobs, moving to a different location, and switching their insurance companies—developments that can result in them seeing more doctors in more locations. Add to this the fact that people suffering from a variety of diseases often require supplemental surgeries—surgeries that initially cause enormous pain and that involve yet more medical facilities. For all these reasons, people coping with such diseases very often get multiple drug prescriptions, written by multiple doctors, filled at multiple pharmacies—the very behaviors that you claim to “make sure” to treat as suspicious.

As a pharmacist, John, you typically lack access to the pertinent information about such patients, and when you lack such information you cannot possibly “take compassionate care” of them. With respect to such patients, your actions can have one and only one result: to make it harder for them to obtain the pain medications they so desperately need.

I will thus repeat here what I wrote at the outset: “the answer is not for the government to monitor and harass people who suffer from devastating pain—and make it harder for them to manage their pain—in a misguided attempt to save drug abusers from themselves.”

Sincerely, Ari Armstrong

Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Problems with Prescription Drug Monitoring

Yesterday the Greeley Tribune published my article, “Prescription Drug Monitoring Punishes the Responsible for the Sake of the Irresponsible,” written for the Independence Institute. That article begins:

Prescription drug abuse is a serious problem, sometimes a fatal one. But the answer is not for the government to monitor and harass people who suffer from devastating pain — and make it harder for them to manage their pain — in a misguided attempt to save drug abusers from themselves. Unfortunately, that is precisely the effect of House Bill 1283, sponsored by Rep. Beth McCann of Denver.

Here I thought I’d take the opportunity to offer more details about the program and my research of it.

Health Information Designs

One interesting fact about the Colorado database that tracks (some) prescription drug use is that it is operated by a limited-liability corporation, Health Information Designs (HID).

Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) links users directly to HID for information about the Electronic Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). Interestingly (or perhaps disturbingly), HID originally went into business producing “data mining software” for prescription drugs.

So let us clarify what’s going on here. The Colorado government encourages doctors and pharmacies to enter patients’ personal medical information into a central database, run by a for-profit corporation, and this information is available to a wide range of medical professionals—whether or not patients wish their records to be so distributed—and to law enforcement agents who obtain a warrant to see the records.

One thing McCann wants to do is force all prescribing doctors and pharmacies to register with the database. McCann’s bill would not force prescribing doctors and pharmacies to actually use the register, but does anyone seriously doubt that’s the Drug Enforcement Administration’s eventual aim? The goal here is for Big Brother to be able to monitor every individual’s use of prescription drugs, every doctor’s prescriptions, and every pharmacy’s drug sales. And, of course, the government wants to subject violators of the (ambiguous) prescription laws to penalties, including the penalty of getting locked in a metal cage.

The Funding for the PDMP

Tellingly, the Colorado PDMP, launched in 2005, got its primary funding from the U.S. Department of Justice—of which the DEA is an agency.

The legislator’s fiscal note for 2005 House Bill 1130 states the following:

The bill is assessed at having a conditional fiscal impact of $547,156 . . . in its first year of implementation and $271,484 . . . in its second year of implementation. . . . During the current fiscal year, the Department of Regulatory Agencies has received a $50,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant in support of the Harold Rogers Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. . . . Additionally, the federal government will make a $350,000 grant available to implement the program once statutorily authorized.

I do not have complete funding details about the program. However, it is apparent that the program is driven primarily by federal law enforcement.

News Sources

I relied on several news reports in conducting my research. 9News published a story about McCann’s current bill. Eli Stokol’s pathetic excuse for journalism on this matter essentially uncritically relates McCann’s talking points, without bothering to raise a single critical question. Hopefully in the future Stokol will take his role as a journalist more seriously and set a higher bar for himself than legislative lapdog.

Over at the Denver Post, I found Felisa Cardona’s 2011 story about the legislature’s renewal of the PDMP that year as well as Michael Booth’s 2012 story about DEA complains of low registry use.

Drug Substitution

As I point out in my op-ed, drug abusers who have a harder time getting one type of drug often switch to another type. My claim is supported by a recent news story from the Washington Post (republished by the Denver Post).

[T]he U.S. government’s decade-long crackdown on abuse of prescription drugs has run an unsettling risk: that arresting doctors and shuttering “pill mills” would inadvertently fuel a new epidemic of heroin use. . . . [A]t the same time that some pain medications have become less available on the street and pricier, many users have switched to cheaper heroin, since prescription pills and heroin are in the same class of drugs and provide a comparable euphoric high.

It should go without saying—but, in today’s political climate not even the most obvious facts may go without saying—that substituting street heroin addictions and deaths for prescription drug addictions and deaths is no great victory.

Drug Thefts

I cut the following line from my op-ed due to space restraints, but it’s an interesting detail: “In testifying in favor of McCann’s bill, Robert Valuck from the University of Colorado offered the example of a woman who robbed a pharmacy at gunpoint—but the expanded registry would promote rather than deter thefts of prescription drugs.” Valuck’s claim is included in 9News’s video, not in Stokol’s written account.

The Magnitude of Prescription Drug Deaths

In my op-ed, I claim that McCann apparently overstated the magnitude of deaths related to prescription drugs. Specifically, she said, ““More people actually die from prescription drug overdose than from traffic accidents.”

I have an email out to McCann asking for her sources, so perhaps she’ll send me something I have not yet considered. However, based on the sources I’ve been able to find so far, McCann’s claim seems not to have support.

This past October, an outfit called Trust for America’s Health published a report, “Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic.” (Likening a volitional behavior—drug abuse—to an infectious disease is epistemologically and morally offensive, but I’ll leave that topic for another day.)

That report does not state that prescription drugs are responsible for more deaths than are traffic accidents. Instead, the report claims that “[p]rescription painkillers are responsible for more than 16,000 deaths” per year. The number of motor vehicle deaths exceed 30,000 each year.

Regarding traffic fatalities, the report makes a different claim: “Drug poisoning deaths—the majority of which are related to prescription drugs—surpassed traffic-related crashes as the leading cause of injury death in the United States in 2009.”

My guess is that McCann misstated this report’s (or a derivative report’s) findings.

(I also saw that Dr. Joseph Mercola makes a broad statement about prescription drug deaths surpassing auto deaths, but, if you trace back his links, you find that the statistic pertains only to Ohio. I have not traced the claim beyond a 2011 New York Times story.)

The best statistics I’ve found about the problem of prescription drug abuse are provided by the Centers for Disease Control, which report, “In 2008, drug overdoses in the United States caused 36,450 deaths. OPR [opioid pain relievers] were involved in 14,800 deaths (73.8%) of the 20,044 prescription drug overdose deaths.” (In many cases a death involves the mixing of various types of drugs.)

Of course, as the CDC also report, most people who intentionally kill themselves by overdosing on drugs use prescription drugs for the purpose. But the monitoring program will not pick up one-time drug purchases among suicidal people, nor will it prevent suicidal people from substituting one method of suicide for another.

Conclusions

I have known people who have died from terminal cancer. I know people now dealing with the agonizing pain caused by late-stage cancer and other diseases. The simple fact is that more people with serious injuries and diseases will suffer more pain because of the government’s crackdown on prescription drugs—all to save irresponsible drug abusers from their own poor choices. That policy is morally wrong.

Image of Beth McCann: Wikimedia Commons

DA Candidate Weir Shares Goals, Views of Drug Policy

Pete Weir, district attorney candidate for Colorado’s First Judicial district (Jefferson and Gilpin counties), discusses the balance between helping low-level offenders rehabilitate and cracking down on hardened criminals. He also discusses drug offenses and proposals to legalize marijuana.

Weir spoke September 27 at the Wheat Ridge United Neighborhoods Election Preview Forum.

Westminster Police Used Dog for “Drug Checkpoint”

My wife and I drove past signs stating “Drug Checkpoint Ahead” on the night of June 12 as we headed northwest on Highway 36; the signs were placed before the Church Ranch exit, which we use on our route home.

Here are the basic facts already established about the incident based on direct observation and news accounts (see also my first, second, and third reports):

  • The police pulled over 23 vehicles, arrested one man for felony marijuana possession, and issued three citations.
  • The police did not stop every passing vehicle; rather, they pulled over people for an alleged “identified violation” (and yet, again, they issued only three citations).
  • My wife witnessed the police in the process of searching six vehicles, two along Highway 36, and four more along Church Ranch. I do not know how many vehicles in total the police searched.
  • The Department of Homeland Security was involved in training the Westminster police to conduct these sorts of “drug checkpoints.”

The new information is that the Westminster police used at least one police dog in the course of the “drug checkpoint,” and Randy Corporon, a defense attorney and fill-in host for Grassroots Radio, had a conversation with Trevor Materasso of the Westminster Police.

There’s a humorous aside regarding the bit about the drug dogs. Complete Colorado features a headline, “Homeland Security trained police dogs for HWY 36 checkpoints?!?” Accompanying this headline is a photo of a police dog. However, the link goes to my article about Homeland Security; there is no mention of a dog. So yesterday Ken Clark invited me on to Grassroots Radio to discuss the police dogs, and I had nothing for him on that topic. (Clark is one of the show’s two regular hosts.)

But it turns out Westminster Police did use a police dog, though my wife and I didn’t see it.

In the June 22 North Jeffco Westsider (front page, “Police enforce drug checkpoint”), Ashley Reimers cites Materasso: “One of the biggest resources we use in these checkpoints is K-9 units. We have a dog on scene that alerts us as to whether or not . . . drugs are in the vehicle, and then we search the vehicle.”

But that must not be much a police dog, given the police searched six vehicles that we saw and made only one arrest for drugs.

Today I went back on Grassroots radio to discuss this detail and hear Corporon’s additional insights.

Mostly Corporon verified previously reported facts, including Materasso’s claim that police pulled people over for “identified violations.” One example Corporon gave of an alleged violation was an illegal u-turn.

However, it seemed to me that Corporon was overly credulous regarding Materasso’s claims. My wife and I witnessed no cars pulled over on the other side of Highway 36, as would have been the case for an illegal u-turn. Moreover, as previously noted, the police issued only three citations (and made one arrest) out of 23 stops. These alleged “violations” were evidently mere pretexts, for the most part.

Again, the issue is not whether such police activity passes muster in court, but whether these “drug checkpoints” inappropriately harass citizens “guilty” of nothing more than going about their business.

Image: City of Westminster

Homeland Security Trained Westminster Police for “Drug Checkpoints”

What is Homeland Security doing training local police to operate “drug checkpoints”?

Today the Denver Post published an editorial condemning the Westminster Police “drug checkpoints” that I wrote about last week. The editorial follows Vincent Carroll’s June 15 piece on the same topic for the Post‘s opinion blog.

The Daily Camera, which the Post cites, published the first newspaper account (to my knowledge) of the “drug checkpoints”:

Westminster police stopped 23 cars and made one arrest at a high-profile drug checkpoint in the Boulder-bound lanes of U.S. 36. . . .

Of the 23 stopped, it’s unclear how many were searched for drugs, but three traffic tickets were issued, and one man was arrested on suspicion of felony marijuana possession, [police investigator Trevor] Materasso said.

The Post also cites a Colorado Independent story that contains the information about Homeland Security:

In a Friday email to the Independent, Materasso added that the drug stop operations have not been designed by the Westminster force in isolation but are a product of interactions with federal agencies.

“The operation [was] established based on training provided by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and Homeland Security, which has guidelines, protocols and procedures to ensure Constitutional rights are not violated. These govern how we conduct this type of operation.”

The Post rightly retorts, “[J]ust because a policy does not, strictly speaking [and according to the courts], violate constitutional rights hardly means it earns an A-plus for respecting civil liberties.”

I checked in with Cory Lamz, one of the two Camera reporters who covered the story, and he said his paper got a news tip about the “drug checkpoints” and that multiple staff members also saw the signs as they drove by on Highway 36. Once he started working on the story, he said, he saw my initial post on the subject and then asked my wife and me for a statement.

What I want to know is this: What does training local police to search innocent people’s cars for drugs without substantial reason have to do with “Protecting the Homeland”? In this case, the threats against which Americans need protection are the police abuses encouraged by the Department of Homeland Security and the other agencies involved.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Westminster’s “Drug Checkpoint” Fishing Expedition

June 17 Update: Vincent Carroll wrote about this issue Friday for the Denver Post. He hopes these sorts of checkpoints don’t become a policing habit, and he agrees I make “a number of compelling arguments” in the post below:

On Tuesday night, my wife and I passed two signs stating “Drug Checkpoint Ahead” as we drove northwest on Highway 36, just before the Church Ranch exit. (See yesterday’s initial report.)

Here’s the statement my wife sent to Cory Lamz of the Daily Camera on the matter (a bit of which was quoted in the paper):

Here’s what I saw. We were heading westbound on Highway 36, and we saw two signs that said ‘drug checkpoint ahead.’ We exited on Church Ranch to head home, and there were two cop cars that had two civilian cars pulled over on the shoulder of the highway, just past the exist. They had orange cones flagged out for those cars. The trunks and doors were all open, so they were obviously doing a search. Then we were on Church Ranch, heading west, and we got to the Eagle Landing apartment complex—there’s a traffic light there—and to the left of the traffic light (by the apartment complex), there were four cop cars and four civilian cars. There were two cop cars paired with two civilian cars on each side of that road. There were cops mulling about, trunks open, people standing nearby.

The reporting of Lamz and Joe Rubino adds some important details about what happened:

Westminster police stopped 23 cars and made one arrest at a high-profile drug checkpoint in the Boulder-bound lanes of U.S. 36 on Tuesday night. . . . [T]hree traffic tickets were issued, and one man was arrested on suspicion of felony marijuana possession, [Westminster police investigator Trevor] Materasso said.

Materasso told the reporters that the cars were pulled over “for some identified violation,” but that’s obvious nonsense. If the cars had been pulled over for real violations, the police would have issued 22 citations rather than three. Quite obviously, the police pulled over these vehicles on mere pretexts in order to search the cars for drugs. This was a fishing expedition, pure and simple. Or, to put the matter another way, Westminster police used tax dollars to flagrantly violate the rights of Colorado citizens. (And please let nobody claim that these rights violations are fine just because the police can get away with them in court.)

Moreover, assuming that three of the drivers were in fact violating traffic laws, the police could have pulled them over and cited them without the “Drug Checkpoint” setup.

The police, then, pulled over 23 vehicles at a “Drug Checkpoint” and made one arrest. That’s a four percent success rate. And apparently the guy arrested didn’t actually have large amounts of marijuana, or Materasso surely would have trumpeted that fact.

To state these facts a different way, the police pulled over 19 drivers for no significant reason. For the “crime” of going about their business, they were harassed and intimidated by the police. That’s wrong. (And this is not the first time the Westminster police have employed this tactic.)

And how much did this cost taxpayers? Clearly the Westminster Police Department needs a budget cut, if they best way the police can spend a Tuesday night is to harass and intimidate innocent drivers.

Know Your Rights

The silver lining to this incident is that at least it has prompted many Coloradans to talk about police actions and abuses.

Mark Silverstein of the Colorado ACLU told the Camera:

One of the disappointing facts about the state of people’s awareness of civil liberties is many, many, many people don’t know they have the right to say “no” to a search. If a cop stops you and says, “Mind if I look in your trunk?” it’s your choice.

The ACLU offers some good material on the subject. The ACLU advises:

Stop the car in a safe place as quickly as possible. Turn off the car, turn on the internal light, open the window part way and place your hands on the wheel. Upon request, show police your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. If an officer. . . asks to look inside your car, you can refuse to consent to the search. But if police believe your car contains evidence of a crime, your car can be searched without your consent. Both drivers and passengers have the right to remain silent. If you are a passenger, you can ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, sit silently or calmly leave. Even if the officer says no, you have the right to remain silent.

The state ACLU also published a multi-part video; here’s the first part.

The group Flex Your Rights offers the video, Busted: The Citizen’s Guide to Surviving Police Encounters.

Of course the problem of overzealous policing is a concern to citizens on the right as well. Grassroots Radio invited me on Wednesday from 5:30 to 6:30 to discuss the issue; I joined host Ken Clark and Randy Corporon, a defense attorney sitting in for Jason Worley. Listen to Part I (starting at minute 23) and Part II.

I argued the following (starting at minute 33 in the first hour):

Here’s my concern. With these quasi-random checkpoints, either for drugs or alcohol, without any other . . . serious cause of wrongdoing, or reason for the police to think you’ve done something wrong; with things like no-knock raids (which, as we know here in Denver, sometimes the police don’t even get the right address for those); with things like TSA doing these invasive types of searches, even for young children—my fear is that Americans are being conditioned to a state in which, instead of the police officers working for the citizens, and protecting our rights, and being our servants, instead we’re in a state where usually we’re afraid of the police officers, and afraid that we’re going to be intimidated or harassed, even when we’re doing nothing wrong. . . . While I dislike the checkpoint that I witnessed last night, in and of itself, I worry about this growing trend toward—it seems like police have control over the citizens, instead of vice versa.

Corporon, a defense attorney, added some excellent points about asserting one’s rights.

His main advice was to “shut up” if the police are questioning you without the presence of your attorney. He said his biggest headache is when clients call him after they’ve already gone down to the police station and given a statement, without legal representation.

A related video I’ve seen advises, Don’t Talk to the Police. See also my write-up of Boston T. Party’s talk at the University of Colorado about “You and the Police.”

Corporon also advised people never to voluntarily consent to a police search of one’s vehicle. He pointed out that consenting, when the officer has neither cause nor a warrant, only encourages abusive practices.

“Be polite,” Corporon urged.

He pointed out a great reason to roll your window only part-way down: in addition to protecting the driver from overly-intrusive policing, it offers the officer assurance that the driver can’t reach out the window aggressively.

Clark added that his personal practice, as a holder of a concealed carry permit, is to always have his permit in hand with his other paperwork—with his hands on the steering wheel—and to tell the officer right away that he has a permit. (Please note that I’m not an attorney and am not offering legal advice, but merely reporting what others said.)

The upshot is this. As a citizen, you need to assert your rights. By asserting your rights, you encourage decent policing and remind police officers that they work for us, not the other way around. You also need to defend your rights, to speak out against rights violations and injustices. Finally, we need to think seriously about the sort of political system that fosters rights-protecting government activity—and the sort of political system that fosters oppression and systematic rights violations by government agents. Yes, it is a large task, but it is a necessary one if we wish to continue to live in the Land of the Free.

Image: City of Westminster

Drug Checkpoint Outrage

I was shocked and outraged to see two “Drug Checkpoint Ahead” signs this evening along Highway 36 northbound ahead of the Church Ranch exit (in Westminster, Colorado). Even worse, the police had pulled over two vehicles along Highway 36, and another four vehicles along Church Ranch, and were in the process of searching those vehicles.

I do not know which police agency or agencies were involved in this frankly fascistic violation of the civil rights of the citizens. I called the “Administration” and “Desk Officer” lines of the Westminster Police Department but got a recording. (This was at 10:21 pm; I doubted that those at dispatch would be in a position to answer my questions on the subject.)

Apparently the police were pulling over cars totally at random; they did not pull me over (as they all seemed to be occupied searching others’ vehicles).

What is especially angering about this is that the police are spending MY tax dollars for the purpose of violating people’s rights.

Ironically, I witnessed this travesty as I returned from Liberty In the Books, where we had just reviewed an extraordinary set of lectures by Ludwig von Mises on the importance of limiting government to the protection of rights. In those lectures Mises criticizes America’s first “experiment” with Prohibition; I will conclude with his commentary:

[T]he notion that a capitalist form of government can prevent people from hurting themselves by controlling their consumption is false. The idea of government as a paternal authority, as a guardian for everybody, is the idea of those who favor socialism. In the United States some years ago, the government tried what was called “a noble experiment.” This noble experiment was a law making it illegal to buy or sell intoxicating beverages. It is certainly true that many people drink too much brandy and whiskey, and that they may hurt themselves by doing so. . . . This raises a question which goes far beyond economic discussion: it shows what freedom really means. . . .

[O]nce you have admitted [that government should stop people from drinking too much], other people will say: Is the body everything? Is not the mind of man much more important? Is not the mind of man the real human endowment, the real human quality? If you give the government the right to determine the consumption of the human body, to determine whether one should smoke or not smoke, drink or not drink, there is no good reply you can give to people who say: “More important than the body is the mind and the soul, and man hurts himself much more by reading bad books, by listening to bad music and looking at bad movies. Therefore it is the duty of the government to prevent people from committing these faults.”

Drug Reform Bill Favors Treatment Over Felonies

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published March 30 by Grand Junction Free Press.

Politicians trying to save people from the consequences of their own stupidity is itself stupid. The effort breeds invasive, Nanny State laws that undermine individual responsibility. The ultimate effect is to encourage stupidity rather than curb it.

Whether we care about personal health, responsible living, or responsible governance, what we need above all is a people capable of thinking for themselves and taking responsibility for their own actions. A government that attempts to do people’s thinking for them undermines responsible action.

Politicians trying to save people from the consequences of their own stupidity by threatening to destroy their lives with felony convictions is outright insanity. Yet that is precisely how Colorado law currently treats low-level drug offenders.

Thankfully, Senate Bill 163 would bring a touch of sanity to Colorado’s drug laws. Fox31 reports that the bill would “reduce the crime of possession of 4 grams or less of a schedule I or II controlled substance or 2 grams or less of methamphetamine from a felony to a misdemeanor.” The bill pertains to possession only, not distribution.

Christie Donner, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition (CCJRC) and a supporter of the bill, explained the measure would alter criminal penalties for “everything from heroin and cocaine to methamphetamines,” drugs whose abuse often involves serious addictions. The bill would not impact marijuana, she added.

Those tempted to think of this as a weepy leftist “soft on crime” bill should consider that two of the bill’s sponsors, Shawn Mitchell and Don Beezley, are perhaps the legislature’s two most stalwart defenders of economic liberty.

In a remarkably personal moment, Mitchell said during a media conference (as reported by Fox31): “My younger brother has been a meth addict for nearly a decade. He’s has been in jail in more than one state, he has a felony conviction. He got a treatment program in a county jail in Utah that helped him see things differently and my family is filled with love and hope for his turnaround.”

Representative Claire Levy, a Boulder Democrat (if we may repeat ourselves), also talked sense: “Going to prison does not help someone with a drug problem. They don’t get treatment in prison, and it’s a tremendous waste of taxpayer resources. This bill is not only about being smarter on crime, but it’s about saving taxpayer money and devoting those resources to better purposes.”

In an email alert, CCJRC added, “A felony conviction is a lifetime punishment, resulting in significantly reduced ability to obtain housing and employment, the basics of productive life. Low-level drug possession does not warrant a lifetime of diminished opportunity.”

To be sure, the bill is not perfect. While the bill would pay for drug treatment out of savings from reduced incarceration, we’re not convinced the government should be in the business of financing drug treatment with dollars forcibly taken from taxpayers. We’d rather see voluntary efforts to fund drug treatment. But the bill wouldn’t spend any additional taxes, and its positive effects far outweighs our concern here.

Of course, the bill will do nothing directly to reduce the problems of criminal violence, toxically tainted drugs, and property damage associated with the criminal distribution of drugs. The simple fact is that all the worst problems associated with drugs result directly from the prohibition of those drugs, not the drugs themselves.

The largest and most obvious problem is all the gang violence surrounding the drug trade. As during the prohibition of alcohol, drug prohibition confers enormous wealth to violent criminal gangsters.

Moreover, we think it’s very likely that the nasty methamphetamines of today never even would have been invented but for the prohibition of milder amphetamines that pharmacists sold over the counter until a few decades ago.

But we don’t expect the legislature to embrace our radical views for at least a few more years. As a matter of practical politics, Bill 163 represents a good-faith effort by the bill’s sponsors to bring incremental but meaningful reform to the state’s drug laws.

We should not confuse a reduction in criminal penalties for possessing these drugs with any sort of sanction of the drugs’ abuse. Obviously these drugs can be extremely harmful to those abusing them. We personally know people who have seriously harmed their lives by abusing these drugs. Chances are good that you do, too.

But we’re not doing people with drug problems any favors by locking them up with hardened criminals or slapping them with a felony record. As Mitchell said, “If we’re trying to stop people from ruining their life with poison, it doesn’t make sense to ruin their life legally with the permanent consequences of a felony conviction.”

Those with drug problems deserve the chance to straighten out their lives, get on a good career path, and move on. For many, Bill 163 would give them that chance.

Nanny Statist Sullivan Arrested for Consensual Crimes

Pat Sullivan, who as Arapahoe County Sheriff from 1984 to 2002 busted drug dealers and prostitutes, himself was recently arrested for attempting to trade meth for sex.

As CBS summarizes, “Today, he’s accused of offering methamphetamine in exchange for sex from a male acquaintance, and he’s locked up in the jail that bears his name, the Patrick Sullivan Jr. Detention Facility.”

Sullivan was a hard-core drug warrior. CBS continues, “In 2007 and 2008, Sullivan actively participated in state and local meth task forces, created to help the state deal with the drug problem.”

I mentioned the story to Jacob Sullum over at Reason, and Sullum looked up more details on Sullivan’s drug-warrior past. Sullum reviews a Denver Post story about how current drug warriors set up Sullivan with paid informants and surveillance. (As I mentioned on Twitter, ordinarily those who surveil consenting adults trading drugs for sex are justly regarded as perverted stalkers.) Sullum writes:

This sort of sleazy setup is an egregious waste of law enforcement resources, and it is manifestly unjust to threaten someone with six years in prison for attempting a peaceful, entirely consensual transaction with another adult. But that is par for the course in the war on drugs, a cause Sullivan enthusiastically served for many years. He led opposition to a 1998 medical marijuana initiative and calledasset forfeiture “an incredible tool” in the battle againt meth.

Thankfully, because of asset-forfeiture reforms that I helped to promote, the cops are less likely to steal Sullivan’s house or car over the alleged drugs.

But Sullivan was not merely a drug warrior, he also enthusiastically busted people for prostitution. Consider this February 6, 1990 article by theDenver Post:

Gerald Perry of the Denver Broncos turned himself in yesterday to begin serving a 15-day jail sentence for soliciting a prostitute. …

Sheriff Pat Sullivan said the offense that Perry was convicted of occurred in the portion of Aurora that is in Adams County. Perry was sentenced by an Aurora municipal judge to the Arapahoe County Jail, but in the order written by the court clerk, the Adams County Jail was specified….

He said the Broncos left tackle will be confined in the jail’s 12-cell medical unit except for meals and recreation periods.

“Someone of his stature and reputation would be disruptive” if placed in the facility’s general population, said Sullivan. …

The sheriff said that with time off for good behavior, Perry could walk out of the jail Feb. 14. “He gets six days of good time, as long as he’s good,” Sullivan said.

Reading that in light of Sullivan’s own recent arrest is downright creepy.

But Sullivan’s Nanny Statism did not extend only to drugs and prostitution, with which he was allegedly involved, but also to gambling. Consider this March 24, 1990 article by John Sanko in the Rocky Mountain News:

Gov. Roy Romer says he doesn’t want Colorado cities turned into miniature versions of Las Vegas or Atlantic City, where casino gambling is the name of the game. …

“I don’t think this is healthy, I don’t think it’s wise and I don’t think it’s needed,” Romer said of plans to bring casino-style gambling to eight small towns and allow electronic poker in others.

“It would put us on a slippery slope that we would not recover from and we would become a full-scale gambling state.”

Lawmakers who support the gambling plan scoffed, but Romer got no argument from Fort Collins District Attorney Stuart VanMeveren.

“It brings in prostitution , it brings in a lot of transients, it brings in a lot of other social problems,” VanMeveren said.

Speaking for the state’s law officers, Arapahoe County Sheriff Pat Sullivan said serious problems cropped up in the past just with fund-raising “casino nights” for charities.

We wouldn’t want low-life drug-dealing prostitutes doing something like raising money for charity through casino nights!

So as sheriff Sullivan fought drug use, prostitution, and gambling — the Nanny State trifecta — and he also advocated controls on civilian gun ownership. In an email today, Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners wrote:

One of the reasons I am so opposed to the government being involved in your Second Amendment rights is that it takes the power away from you and puts it in their hands.

In the hands of people like the former Republican Sheriff of Arapahoe County, Patrick Sullivan.

Sullivan made a habit of helping out groups like the Brady Campaign when it came to preventing law-abiding citizens from exercising their Second Amendment rights.

He even testified before Congress for Handgun Control in favor of the Brady bill, and in the State Capitol against any concealed carry reform.

During his 18-year tenure as Arapahoe County Sheriff, Sullivan was a poster boy for big government…

But not only was Sullivan a major Nanny Statist, he was also a tax-and-spender. Vincent Carroll reviews for the Denver Post:

[Sullivan] agreed to participate in a political advertisement in 1992 against the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in which he pointed to a section of the amendment that he said “cuts cops and puts criminals back on the street.”

That claim was a lurid falsehood — which voters apparently sensed because they approved TABOR that year by a comfortable margin.

Given how little Sullivan cared for others’ freedoms, it’s a little hard to feel too sorry for him now that he has been arrested for consensual crimes.

And yet we must also remember all the violence Sullivan stopped as a peace officer, and all the innocent people he helped protect from harm.

Lovers of liberty must point out the basic injustice of Sullivan’s arrest, even though it’s the sort of police action Sullivan himself once endorsed.

Stop the Hatchet Job on Medical Marijuana Shops

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published July 8 by Grand Junction Free Press.

Around the turn of the last century, Carrie Nation opposed alcohol use. So zealous was her crusade that she gained a reputation for barging into bars armed with her Bible and a hatchet to smash up the establishments. Some say she even excused the assassination of President William McKinley, as he allegedly drank alcohol.

Today’s prohibitionists, too civilized for direct physical force, instead seek to impose the force of the vote. Rather than send in a woman with a hatchet, they threaten to send in police armed with guns.

Grand Junction voters already banned medical marijuana dispensaries. Apparently they want to punish people with debilitating pain and nausea by making their medicine harder to obtain. (Disclosure: One of our relatives uses a medical marijuana card.)

The modern Carrie Nations now want to legally destroy the lonely medicalmarijuana shop in Palisade. But does this make any sense?

To vote for such a ban, you must believe that mob rule properly trumps rights of property, economic production, and voluntary exchange. Once the mob gains the sanction of the government and the use of its guns, it can be difficult to contain. Who will become the next victim, and on what pretext? Should the mob also be empowered to shut down gun stores or politically incorrect bookstores?

Another victim of Carrie’s hatchet is individual responsibility. Most early Americans placed the responsibility of overindulgence on the user. For example, they condemned drunkenness as an abuse of a God-given gift. But alcohol was no more to blame for being drunk than food was responsible for being fat or guns for being careless. While God made no bad drink, people tended to think, some people made bad choices. Today many count medical marijuana as a God-given gift.

We wonder whether Carrie Nation would gleefully applaud or recoil in horror to witness her modern intellectual heirs. Today, rather than blame individuals for obesity, many blame the clown Ronald McDonald, promotional toys, and supersized portions. Who needs parental responsibility? Far easier to blame inanimate objects.

Modern-day Carrie Nations have taken the hatchet to all of Mexico, where the United States’ prohibitionist policies have decimated the country by enriching violent and well-armed narcoterrorists. Tea Party favorites such as Ron Paul, Gary Johnson, and Tom Tancredo have suggested scaling back the drug war as a way to curtail that violence.

That prohibition causes crime waves and police corruption should come as no surprise. Alcohol Prohibition enriched violent gangsters like Al Capone and Bugs Moran. Today, we don’t know brewers of alcoholic beverages as violent gangsters with names like “Johnny the Hick,” we know them as respectable citizens with names like “Governor John Hickenlooper.” Yes, alcohol is a drug, so we elected a one-time drug dealer to lead our state.

We wonder whether Carrie Nation would have been proud that her prohibitionist legacy included the government intentionally poisoning people. Last year Deborah Blum wrote an article for Slate titled, “The Chemist’s War: The little-told story of how the U.S. government poisoned alcohol during Prohibition with deadly consequences.”

Blum writes, “Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.”

Collateral damage, right? Just like the sick in the Grand Valley who no longer have access to their medicine.

Blum quotes a 1927 editorial from the Chicago Tribune: “Normally, no American government would engage in such business… It is only in the curious fanaticism of Prohibition that any means, however barbarous, are considered justified.”

By the logic of prohibition, the ends justify the means, and individuals and their rights become expendable.

At least medical marijuana is available now in Colorado — though the state recently saddled the industry with onerous rules and regulatory incompetence. We seem to be lurching in the right direction.

We are also heartened that Rep. Jared Polis from Boulder has signed on to a bill to help return marijuana policy to the states. Polis joins other Democrats as well as Republicans Ron Paul and Dana Rohrabacher.

Polis stated in a release, “When a small business, such as a medical marijuana dispensary, can’t access basic banking services [because of federal laws] they either have to become cash-only — and become targets of crime — or they’ll end up out of business.”

Frankly people of the Grand Valley should be embarrassed to let Boulder take the lead on such an important issue of property rights and individual liberty.

The AIDS Party

Colorado Republicans never cease to astound me. Here were are, on the eve of a major “Tax Day Tea Party,” when plenty of Americans are irritated with the Democrats over intrusive government, and Colorado Republicans issue a media release reminding everybody that they also want an intrusive government, especially when it results in more people getting AIDS and Hepatitis C. But, hey, some people deserve to get those diseases, according to one senior Republican.

It is this sort of nonsense that persuades me that 2010 may still be the year when Republicans manage, against all odds, to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Again. Because they are just that stupid.

As Tim Hoover over at the Denver Post reviews, the state senate’s Health and Human Services committee referred Bill 10-189. The bill would “allow needle exchange programs for illegal drug users,” as Hoover summarizes.

Here’s the most remarkable line from Hoover’s report: “Sen. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, said the bill was a move toward eliminating ‘the negative consequences of this behavior that’s not acceptable to the majority of Coloradans.'” Negative consequences like AIDS and Hepatitis C. Because who would want to remove those!

Of course, as Hoover also points out, the Republicans were not unanimous in opposing the bill. In fact, the Republican vote was only two-to-one against. Because Shawn Mitchell, who often sides with liberty in the legislature, has not absolutely lost his mind.

Now, it is not always clear why members vote for or against certain amendments and bills in committee. Sometimes a Senator is playing some longer-range strategy. However, given that, on the face of it, one of the three Republicans on the committee supports the bill, it is unclear to me why the GOP’s Colorado Senate News issued a media release stating Republican opposition to the bill. Is not Mitchell one of the most respected Republicans in this state?

Regardless, the media release itself is dishonest:

“Nobody wants to see the spread of infectious diseases, but I hardly think it is the taxpayers’ job to foot the bill for a needle exchange program,” said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud. “And with just a month left in the session we should be focused on the economy and next year’s $1 billion budget cliff. There just isn’t room to debate the creation of a new public health program.” … He also lamented the fact that bill doesn’t explicitly bar the use of public funds for needle exchange programs.

But neither does the bill promise “public funds for needle exchange programs.” Instead, the bill explicitly says that a county or district public health agency may contract with a nonprofit organization to run a needle exchange program. If Lundberg were genuinely interested in cutting off tax funding for needle exchange, he would have restricted his position to modifying the bill accordingly, not arguing against all needle exchange programs. (Of course, I do not believe a nonprofit should have to suck up to bureaucrats to get permission to do good works in the community, but such a truly liberty-oriented bill would have faced even harsher opposition.)

The comments by Senator Minority Leader Josh Penry are equally dishonest:

“Dirty needles are an occupational hazard for drug users, sure, but so are laced drugs and gun fights,” said Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction. “Does Senator Steadman think we should buy heroin and bullet proof jackets for druggies too?”

Penry leaves his “we” conveniently vague. Regarding clean needles, does he mean taxpayers or willing contributers to nonprofits? If he means taxpayers, he should address that narrow issue.

The obvious difference between clean needles and heroin or bullet proof vests is that the spread of AIDS and Hepatitis C can have more extensive spill-over effects onto other parties. Of course Penry understands this point very well, only he is trying to score political points through willful distortion of the issues.

Rob Corry Discusses Marijuana Policy

Attorney Rob Corry discussed marijuana policy on March 17, 2010, at Denver’s Liberty On the Rocks. (The date, St. Patrick’s Day, explains his flair.)

In this second video, Corry discusses Colorado legislation, how to present his case to conservatives, the use of medical marijuana in the work place, and the clash between state and federal laws.

Finally, Corry addresses the criticism that medical marijuana is a ploy to legalize marijuana generally.

Marijuana and Psychosis: Correlation or Causation?

The Denver Post republished an article by Nicole Ostrow of Bloomberg News that begins, “Young adults who used marijuana as teens were more likely to develop schizophrenia and psychotic symptoms…”

Ostrow claims, “The authors said the study was the first to look at sibling pairs to discount genetic or environmental influence and still find marijuana linked to later psychosis.”

No, the authors did not “discount genetic or environmental influence,” nor did they discount other nongenetic differences between siblings.

Here’s what the study (John McGrath etc., Archives of General Psychiatry) says instead: “Prospective cohort studies have identified an association between cannabis use and later psychosis-related outcomes, but concerns remain about unmeasured confounding variables. The use of sibling pair analysis reduces the influence of unmeasured residual confounding.”

Reducing “the influence of unmeasured residual confounding” is hardly demonstrating the direction of causal flow.

Quite obviously, siblings are quite different from each other, not only genetically but according to their environmental interactions and, of critical importance, in their choices. (Does anyone doubt that “psychosis-related outcomes” are at least in many cases significantly the result of a person’s poor choices?) The most obvious explanation for the study’s findings is that the the siblings with the most problems tended to abuse drugs more. In other words, the drug abuse was a symptom of a person’s problems, not a cause of them.

Notably, the study uses an extremely wide definition of “psychosis-related outcomes” that includes “nonaffective psychosis, hallucinations, and Peters et al Delusions Inventory score.” But marijuana is a hallucinogenic drug. So, in part, the study is claiming, “People who take hallucinogenic drugs tend to suffer hallucinations.” (And it cost how much money to figure that out?)

“Nonaffective psychosis” includes things like poor concentration and mood disorders, which are obvious short-term effects of using the drug as well as reflections of personalities with deeper problems.

And what, you may wonder, is the “Peters et al Delusions Inventory score?”It asks questions like the following:

“Do you ever feel as if people seem to drop hints about you or say things with a double meaning?”

“Do you ever feel as if some people are not what they seem to be?”

Besides the fact that some of these questions are ridiculous and need not indicate psychosis, again, people with more problems tend to abuse drugs more. Big insight, there.

Moreover, the differences associated with marijuana use are relatively small. For example, whereas 26 of 1246 people (two percent) who never used marijuana showed signs of “nonaffective psychosis,” 12 of 310 people (3.9 percent) who had used marijuana for six years or more showed signs. Nintety of 1182 people (7.6 percent) who had never used marijuana showed signs of hallucinations, while 54 or 268 (20 percent) of those who had used marijuana for six years or more showed signs (again, not surprising given that marijuana is a hallucinogenic drug).

The upshot is that a small minority of people who didn’t use marijuana showed “psychosis-related outcomes,” while a somewhat larger minority of people who did use marijuana showed such signs. Again, this is consistent with the idea that people with more problems tend to abuse drugs more.

Now, I do not doubt that abusing marijuana (or any drug) can also contribute to a person’s mental and emotional problems. Certainly drug abuse can reinforce a person’s negative tendencies; I don’t need a costly study to convince me of that. However, it is equally obvious that far and away the major problem is something other than the drug abuse. Mostly, the drug abuse is a symptom of deeper problems, not a cause of them. (Regardless, there are many other good reasons not to use marijuana except perhaps medicinally.)

I’m sure that won’t stop politicians and bureaucrats from citing nonsensical news reports of meaningless studies to stir up more Reefer Madness. (Say, wouldn’t paranoia about the impacts of smoking marijuana count as a “psychosis-related outcome?”)

Drug-War Insanity

Speaking of insanity, here’s the latest news about the drug war from an e-mail from DRCNet:

One would think after Atlanta police killed 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston, that they would get the idea, but they haven’t, and the carnage continues. Last Friday, 1/4/08, a SWAT team, serving an ordinary drug search warrant, invaded the Ohio home of Tarika Wilson — an innocent woman — shot and killed her, and shot her one-year-old son. “They went in that home shooting,” her mother said at a vigil that night. The boy lost at least one of his fingers. Two dogs were shot too.

Radley Balko, who tracks such abuses, has more about the raid in a first, second, and third post. Here’s a quote from Balko’s third post:

Lima police and city officials are bunkering down, as almost always happens in these cases. We do now know that Tarika Wilson and her son were shot on the second floor, after police had taken her boyfriend Anthony Terry–the man they were after–into custody. Police still haven’t said what quantity of drugs they found, nor have they mentioned whether Wilson or Terry fired a weapon.

Even assuming the worst about the victims, the police in this case were totally out of control. Why do we continue to let this happen, here, in America?