Sheriffs From Multiple States Sue Colorado Over Marijuana Legalization

On Thursday, a group of sheriffs announced that Colorado is facing yet another suit over its experiment with marijuana legalization.

“Big Marijuana must be feeling the heat, and I’m sure they are lawyering up,” Kevin A. Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said in a statement.

This time, the suit’s been filed in federal court by a group of sheriffs in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. They want Colorado’s Amendment 64 to be struck down. Medical marijuana will be left untouched, but if the suit is successful, every single recreational shop in Colorado will have to close. Additionally, the sheriffs want protections for marijuana possession and use removed, distinguishing the suit from past attempts. The Colorado sheriffs claim that Amendment 64 has placed them in a precarious situation: In their day-to-day duties, they’re being forced to choose to violate either the Colorado Constitution or the Constitution of the United States.

Amendment 64 stands directly opposed to the Supremacy Clause in the United States Constitution, the sheriffs argue. Justin Smith, a sheriff from Larimer County in Colorado, wondered about the possibility that the crafters of Amendment 64 understood the legal contradiction but decided to mislead voters and forward it to the public, anyway.

Gov. John Hickenlooper is named as a defendant. Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has confirmed that she will battle the lawsuit.

“While a growing majority of Americans supports replacing failed prohibition policies with legalization, there will always be some people who desperately try to cling to what’s familiar,” Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The people of Colorado and other states have spoken, and now these prohibitionists who lost at the ballot box on Election Day are trying to overturn the will of the voters by making a last-ditch attempt in the courts. They are wrong about marijuana policy and they are on the wrong side of history.”

The action follows on the heels of an earlier lawsuit from neighboring states Nebraska and Oklahoma, and in both cases, the legal argument is almost exactly the same: the Supremacy Clause entails that the federal government has the right to regulate interstate commerce, so reserves the right to strike down any policy that contradicts federal drug policy. (RELATED: Nebraska And Oklahoma Join Forces To Strike Down Colorado’s Legal Marijuana)

Safe Streets, an organization in Washington, D.C., joined the fray in late February with a slightly different legal approach, namely by going after marijuana industry leaders under federal racketeering laws. These companies, according to Safe Streets, are the operational equivalent of a “commercial drug conspiracy.” (RELATED: Anti-Marijuana Group Wants Legalization Gone, Sues Colorado And Businesses)

“This is just another case of the Arrest and Prosecution industry teaming up with marijuana prohibition groups to roll back the progress that has been made in Colorado,” Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, told TheDCNF. “Marijuana is legal for adults in Colorado, regulation is working, and it’s time for these law enforcement officials need to get over it.”

“We cannot fathom why these guys would prefer marijuana cultivation and sales go back to being completely uncontrolled in Colorado. If they want to maintain a system of marijuana chaos in their states, that’s their choice. But they shouldn’t be trying to drag Colorado down with them.”

While Sabet argues that the current jail sentence for smoking a joint is too heavy-handed, he opposes the Big Marijuana becoming a new of Big Tobacco.

“This is now the latest in a series of lawsuits against legalization, and we support this action because Colorado’s decisions regarding marijuana are not without consequences to neighboring states, and indeed all Americans,” Sabet said. “The legalization of marijuana is not implemented in a vacuum. Dealers and traffickers are openly bragging about how they have been able to smuggle state-sanctioned marijuana out of Colorado.”

But pro-marijuana attorney Adam Scavone argues that these suits are not legally sound.

“It’s another baseless lawsuit, just like the one filed by Nebraska and Oklahoma, that fails Constitutional Law 101,” Scavone told TheDCNF. “Amazingly, the sheriffs and prosecutors recognize and admit in their brief that nothing in federal law requires — or could require — Colorado to march in lockstep with the federal government’s foolish, wasteful, and outdated marijuana policy.”

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

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Cellphone Surveillance Pursued by Silicon Valley Sheriffs

It’s not just the immense amount of information collected by such tech giants as Apple, Google and Facebook that is riling privacy advocates. Now the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department is seeking new cellphone surveillance technology — paid for by federal funds from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

With time running short on the availability of DHS grant money, and bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress for advancing new phone protections, critics accused Santa Clara County officials of haste and overreach.

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith found herself at the center of the dispute, which revolves around her request to the county’s Board of Supervisors for a portable surveillance system commonly known as “Stingray” (pictured above).

According to Ars Technica, “The same company that exclusively manufacturers the Stingray — Florida-based Harris Corporation — has for years been selling government agencies an entire range of secretive mobile phone surveillance technologies from a catalogue that it conceals from the public on national security grounds.”

For the Silicon Valley situation, the San Francisco Chronicle explained, “The device is said to mimic a cell tower, allowing authorities to track cellphones and pinpoint their location.” Stingray equipment ran a tab of over $500,000 — costs that could be covered by Homeland Security grants acquired by the county two years ago.

Skepticism on the Board of Supervisors has contributed to cops’ sense of urgency. Supervisor Sen. Joe Simitian, a former state senator, told the Contra Costa Times he knew about the potential Stingray deal since December. “I’m a little disappointed if they’re trying to hurry this up because the grant is going to expire,” he said. “It would have been nice to have been told about this a year ago.”

Stingray technology is already used in Alameda County and the cities of San Jose and San Francisco, with agencies around the San Diego and Los Angeles areas also getting into the act. But Simitian has spoken out about the value of more internal deliberation and resident input, criticizing Santa Clara sheriffs for holding a single, brief public meeting on the matter.

Legal questions

Challenges to Santa Clara’s plans haven’t just focused on the technology itself. Although some federal legislators have recently reintroduced a bill designed to bring some constraints to how cellphones can be monitored, for now police departments have enjoyed wide latitude in choosing how to proceed.

In Congress, the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act was recently rolled out by a bipartisan group including Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill. Designed to protect individuals’ cellphones from excessive intrusion by law enforcement or others, the act would require a warrant from police before using technology like Stingray to track locations.

“GPS data can be a valuable tool for law enforcement,” said Wyden in a statement, “but our laws need to keep up with technology and set out exactly when and how the government can collect Americans’ electronic location data.”

Santa Clara sheriffs, meanwhile, have tried to frame their broader approach in reasonable terms. The sheriff’s office announced its intended use of stingray technology “triangulates on a mobile phone only, and does not monitor, eavesdrop, or intercept conversations or data such as texts,” Ars Technica reported.

According to the Chronicle, Sheriff Smith tried to emphasize the potential benefits to allowing her office to set limits on its own:

“Smith … said the device will be used only ‘to acquire criminal-activity data to aid in apprehension and prosecution,’ and not to ‘observe community members.’ She said the device could help her deputies — and officers from other nearby agencies — find missing people and victims of human trafficking.

“But the department has no finalized policy for using the technology, and officials do not plan to seek public approval of a policy when it is completed.”

Changing expectations

That put California’s longstanding privacy and civil liberty advocates up in arms. “Because Stingrays are capable of dragnet secretive surveillance, they raise serious privacy issues and necessitate robust oversight by citizens, elected leaders and the judiciary,” wrote Matt Cagle of the American Civil Liberties Union. “The ‘just trust us’ approach to surveillance doesn’t cut it, especially when the surveillance is close to home. Yet the public’s ability to learn about and debate surveillance technology should not depend on the good will of law enforcement agencies – it should be incorporated into our democratic processes.”

Pending legislation, however, expectations for change have been blunted by events at the federal level.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, for years the U.S. Department of Justice has been using Stingray technology in a once-secret airborne surveillance program.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

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