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From: Glenn Petersen6/18/2018 10:37:36 PM
1 Recommendation   of 2215
 
Texas GOP Endorses Marijuana Decriminalization

Republicans in one of the most conservative states in the union gave a thumbs up to rolling back marijuana prohibition.

Christian Britschgi|
Reason.com
Jun. 18, 2018 2:05 pm



The Republican Party of Texas has officially endorsed decriminalization of marijuana, offering yet more proof of the dizzying speed at which attitudes are changing toward marijuana and marijuana prohibition.

At the state's GOP biennial party convention in San Antonio last week, assembled delegates lent their overwhelming support to adding four cannabis-related planks to the party platform, including the repeal of criminal penalties for marijuana possession, the expansion of the state's incredibly limited medical marijuana law, a call for the rescheduling of marijuana at the federal level, and the legalization of industrial hemp production. All measures passed with 80 percent of the vote or more.

"Texas Republicans are no exception to the majority of Americans that want to see marijuana laws reformed," says Heather Fazio, a spokesperson for Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, one of the advocacy groups pushing for the marijuana planks' inclusion. "Texas is still living under very harsh penalties for even small amounts of marijuana. Delegates took a stand for a more sensible approach to these policies."

The move comes a few short weeks after President Trump gave a hedged endorsement of a marijuana federalism bill that would allow state-legal marijuana markets to continue without federal interference.

Possessing under four ounces of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $2,000 fine. Roughly 12 percent of all marijuana arrests—about 60,000 a year—happen in Texas. Some 98 percent of these arrests are for simple possession.

Penalties extend beyond the immediate criminal sanctions, too.

"Criminal penalties for drug possession, even marijuana, come with a lifetime of collateral consequences. That's hindered access to education, employment, housing, your driver's license is suspended for 6 months," says Fazio. "With those of us in Texas supportive of our Second Amendment protected rights, our license to carry in Texas is suspended for five years."

The Republican Party of Texas' official position now is that these penalties should be abolished and replaced with civil fines of $100 or less.

The change complements efforts being made on the local level in Texas. In December 2017, the city of Dallas dispensed with arresting people on misdemeanor marijuana charges. Kim Ogg, district attorney for Harris County (which includes the city of Houston) has gone even further. As of March 2017, her office is declining to prosecute most marijuana offenses and instead diverting people into "cognitive decision-making classes."

That same year, a bipartisan marijuana decriminalization bill was introduced into the Texas House of Representatives. It managed to pass out of committee but never received a vote by the whole chamber.

The legislature also has made some tepid moves toward liberalizing marijuana for medical use, passing a Compassionate Use Act in 2015. The bill allows doctors to recommend low-THC, CBD-rich strains of marijuana for some epilepsy patients.

The 2016 Texas GOP platform endorsed allowing doctors to decide which patients they could recommend for the program, a plank that was retained in this year's platform.

In what she describes as a "last minute bonus," convention delegates also approved a rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule One drug—the most restrictive classification—to a Schedule Two drug.

Fazio stresses that while she would prefer descheduling of marijuana, the willingness of party delegates to take on federal laws governing marijuana was encouraging, saying it "sent the right message to Congress."

Despite these positive gains, support for loosening marijuana laws is not universal in the Lone Star State.

At least one anti-marijuana group was present at this year's Texas GOP convention, advocating against any inclusion of decriminalization language in the platform. State Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, for instance, has characterized Harris County's approach to marijuana enforcement as creating a sanctuary city for drug offenders.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbot has staked out a less-than-courageous wait-and-see approach toward expanding the state's medical marijuana program, while rehashing canned concerns about its effect as a "gateway drug."

Nevertheless, the fact that marijuana decriminalization language made it into the platform of the Republican party in one of the most conservative states in the union—right alongside language about protecting gay conversion therapy and cutting all funding to the U.N.—is a surefire sign that rolling back marijuana prohibition is quickly becoming a bipartisan issue.

reason.com

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From: TimF7/17/2018 9:39:23 AM
2 Recommendations   of 2215
 
Field Drug Tests: The $2 Tool That Can Destroy Lives
from the life-is-cheap dept

It only takes $2 and a few minutes to ruin someone's life. Field tests for drugs are notoriously unreliable and yet they're still considered to be evidence enough to deprive someone of their freedom and start a chain of events that could easily end in joblessness and/or homelessness.

Ryan Gabrielson and Topher Sanders -- writing for the New York Times magazine -- take a detailed look at these field tests, filtered through the experience of Amy Albritton, who spent 21 days in jail thanks to a false positive.

A traffic stop that resulted in a vehicle search turned up an empty syringe and a "suspicious" crumb of something on the floor. The field test said it was crack cocaine. Albritton was taken to a county jail where she spent the next three weeks after pleading guilty to possession, rather than face a trial and a possible sentence of two years.

The crumb of whatever had been sent on to a lab for verification, but with Albritton's guilty plea, there was no hurry to ensure the substance retrieved from Albritton's car was actually illegal. In fact, with the case adjudicated and closed, the evidence could simply have been destroyed. It wasn't. Long after Albritton had been released, the substance was tested.
On Feb. 23, 2011 — five months after Albritton completed her sentence and returned home as a felon — one of Houston’s forensic scientists, Ahtavea Barker, pulled the envelope up to her bench. It contained the crumb, the powder and the still-unexplained syringe. First she weighed everything. The syringe had too little residue on it even to test. It was just a syringe. The remainder of the “white chunk substance” that Officer Helms had tested positive with his field kit as crack cocaine totaled 0.0134 grams, Barker wrote on the examination sheet, about the same as a tiny pinch of salt.

[...]

The powder was a combination of aspirin and caffeine — the ingredients in BC Powder, the over-the-counter painkiller, as Albritton had insisted.

[...]

The crumb’s fragmentation pattern did not match that of cocaine, or any other compound in the lab’s extensive database. It was not a drug. It did not contain anything mixed with drugs. It was a crumb — food debris, perhaps. Barker wrote “N.A.M.” on the spectrum printout, “no acceptable match,” and then added another set of letters: “N.C.S.” No controlled substance identified.
Albritton was innocent, but with a guilty plea, she now had a criminal record. And three weeks in jail turned her life upside down.
Albritton had managed the Frances Place Apartments, a well-maintained brick complex, for two years, and a free apartment was part of her compensation. But as far as the company knew, Albritton had abandoned her job and her home. She was fired, and her furniture and other belongings were put out on the side of the road. “So I lost all that,” she says.

[...]

Albritton gave up trying to convince people otherwise. She focused instead on Landon [her son]. Using a wheelchair, he needed regular sessions of physical and occupational therapy, and Albritton’s career managing the rental complex had been an ideal fit, providing a free home that kept her close to her son while she was at work, and allowing her the flexibility to ferry him to his appointments. But now, because of her new felony criminal record, which showed up immediately in background checks, she couldn’t even land an interview at another apartment complex. With a felony conviction, she couldn’t be approved as a renter either.
As the authors point out, 90% of jurisdictions will allow prosecutors to accept a guilty plea based on nothing more than highly-unreliable field test results. The test used in Albritton's case contains a chemical that turns blue when exposed to cocaine. Unfortunately, it also turns blue when exposed to 80 other legal substances, including acne medicine and household cleaners.

The tests are about as accurate as you'd expect for a $2 test. Differences in ambient temperature can affect test results, as can the alteration of the order in which the three tubes in each test are used. A positive field test is still a long way from being a credible indication of an illegal substance.
In Las Vegas, authorities re-examined a sampling of cocaine field tests conducted between 2010 and 2013 and found that 33 percent of them were false positives. Data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab system show that 21 percent of evidence that the police listed as methamphetamine after identifying it was not methamphetamine, and half of those false positives were not any kind of illegal drug at all. In one notable Florida episode, Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies produced 15 false positives for methamphetamine in the first seven months of 2014.
But they're just good enough to destroy lives.

Fortunately, the article reports a few positive developments. Some people who have pled guilty to possession charges based on field tests have had their convictions overturned when lab tests come back clean. This is after the fact -- sometimes years after the fact -- so it does little to undo the damage already done.

In addition to only allowing someone who's life has been drastically altered to maybe finally make some forward progress, this sort of thing is limited only to those jurisdictions where crime labs are required to test every incoming sample, whether or not a conviction has already been obtained. Very few labs have this requirement. The standard M.O. is to simply destroy "unneeded" evidence if the case has been closed.

The most immediate fix would be to discard the faulty tests and develop something far more precise for field testing. But until that occurs, it seems unlikely law enforcement will abandon a product that allows officers to develop probable cause for drug possession arrests. A more immediate route towards ensuring few wrongful convictions would be to institute a requirement that all field-tested substances be tested by a lab before the prosecution can move forward. Otherwise, the system is basically convicting people on suspicion, rather than actual guilt.

In the county where Albritton was arrested, this change has been made.
Last year, Devon Anderson, the current Harris County district attorney, prohibited plea deals in drug-possession cases before the lab has issued a report.
That's still not enough to prevent the accused's world from falling apart while waiting for a lab test.
The labs issue reports in about two weeks, but defendants typically wait three weeks before they can see a judge — enough time to lose a job, lose an apartment, lose everything.
But it's still better than the alternative: doing nothing. Since this policy was implemented, dismissals are up 31% in the county, thanks to lab tests showing substances seized were not illegal.

techdirt.com

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From: TimF9/11/2018 7:39:01 PM
   of 2215
 
Erlanger, Ky. police pull over minivan with obstructed plates, arrest mom for driving on a suspended license, detain rest of the family for an hour while the drug doggie comes. (New entry for the "things that police think are indicative of drug activity" file: having wrenches, screwdrivers, and other work tools in one's minivan.) No drugs found. Sixth Circuit: No qualified immunity for an officer who allegedly, after the drug doggie sniff had been completely, searched 17-year-old daughter's bra before letting her go to the bathroom.

From reason.com

On May 22, 2014, Harris, along with her mother, father and older sister, went out for dinner at TGI Friday’s. On the way home, their minivan was stopped by City of Erlanger police officers because of an obstructed license plate. The officers then conducted an investigation of Harris’s mother, who was the driver. Her mother was arrested for obstructing a license plate, driving with no registration plates, driving with a suspended license, and possession of a forged instrument.

...1 During the investigation, officers also noticed that
Harris’s father had “equipment for his work” in the vehicle, including “tools, like screwdrivers and wrenches,” some of which were “sitting out” and some of which were “in containers.” Based on the presence of these tools in conjunction with the violations listed above, the officers began to suspect that Harris’s mother was engaged in drug activity. They sent for a drug dog, but it found no drugs.

The wait for the drug dog to arrive took about an hour, and Harris needed to use the restroom. In order to escort Harris to the restroom, the police summoned a female officer, Kimberly Klare. Before Klare escorted Harris to the restroom, the officers ask
ed Harris’s father if Klare had his permission to do so, and he consented. While waiting near the minivan, Harris observed Klare “put her hand on her gun...three, four times.” Harris and Klare did not leave until after Harris’s mother had been arrested and, according to Harris, after the dog’s sniffing — and indication that no drugs were in the minivan —was completed.

2 En route to the restroom, Klare told Harris that she “may have to search” her. Klare then
asked Harris, “would you step over here,” to which Harris answered “yes” and walked to the
requested location. By this time, the snap securing Klare’s gun was unfastened, and she placed
her hand on the gun five times while talking to Harris. The parties agree that at this point, Klare secured Harris’s hands behind her back. What happened next is disputed, but, as noted, for purposes of this summary judgment appeal, we must accept Harris’s version of events. She claims that, as part of a pat down, Klare placed her hands under Harris’s brassiere and pinched the girl’s breasts, causing bruising. According to Harris, Klare told her that she searched her the way she did because a previous suspect at that location had “stuffed needles in her bra” and because “[y]ou have that look,” “[y]ou have the look of a junkie whore.” But Klare found no drugs, drug paraphernalia, weapon, or other contraband on Harris...

opn.ca6.uscourts.gov

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From: TimF11/29/2018 8:51:53 PM
   of 2215
 
What a meth: Woman held for 3 months after cops mistake candy floss for hard drugs
Roadside test on sugar treat said it was crank. It wasn't

theregister.co.uk

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From: TimF1/15/2019 3:58:52 PM
   of 2215
 
Why Is N.Y. Mayor De Blasio Yelling at Corporations About Harms Caused by the City's War on Weed?
The government is the villain of this story, not wealthy industrialists.
Scott Shackford | Dec. 21, 2018

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio formally declared his support for legalizing marijuana Thursday, but he did so in a way that makes it abundantly clear that he doesn't actually support people's free choices.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo beat de Blasio to the punch Monday by reversing his own opposition to marijuana legalization (lagging, like most politicians do, well behind public opinion). De Blasio's own transformation on marijuana comes with so much top-down, progressive, anti-market baggage that you'd be forgiven if you thought this clip of his speech tweeted from his account was actually a rejection of legalization:

Legal marijuana is at a crossroads. We can either let corporate cannabis take control or let the will of the people win the day. pic.twitter.com/UEIu6CYF5V

— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) December 21, 2018 De Blasio wants to legalize marijuana but also control who gets to profit off it, all to fulfill his fantasies of what the industry should look like rather than letting the market sort it out. He doesn't want more freedom for New York City's citizens; he wants control over the marijuana market. Marijuana Moment quotes a letter he wrote explaining his vision of legal marijuana in the Big Apple:
The mayor's letter spells out what he thinks a legal marijuana industry should look like.

"We've seen these kinds of new industries spring up before. Legalization can follow two routes. In one, corporate Cannabis rushes in and seizes a big, new market, driven by a single motive: greed," he wrote. "In another, New Yorkers build their own local cannabis industry, led by small businesses and organized to benefit our whole diverse community."

"Tragically, we know what happens when corporations run the show," de Blasio wrote.
Yes, we all recall the time that goons from R.J. Reynolds attacked Eric Garner on a street corner and choked him to death. No, wait, those were officers from de Blasio's own police department, and one reason they were hassling Garner was because of his history of hustling untaxed loose cigarettes. New York City has a massive cigarette black market caused not by corporations but by the city's high taxes, price controls, and other controls on the market. Is that what New Yorkers want marijuana legalization to look like too?

The government of New York City is the villain of this story, not the hero. Government control over who may participate in markets leads to cronyism and corruption. Consider occupational licensing regimes that serve entrenched business interests and protect them from market competition. It's typically the poor who ultimately suffer as their opportunities to participate are reduced.

De Blasio insists he's going to try to force the opposite here, but that's just not how government permitting works in actual practice. Restricting access to this market will hurt those who lack influence, not help them.

De Blasio also calls for expunging the records of those arrested for past marijuana crimes. That part's great, particularly since the New York Police Department kept arresting people even after the state made possession just a citable offense. That doesn't make the City of New York the hero of the story, any more than a bully becomes virtuous because he stops beating up kids in the playground.

If de Blasio is truly committed to making lives better for his poor, underprivileged city dwellers, he should try to keep the government out of the pot industry as much as possible, let the market provide opportunities, and don't put unneeded restrictions on who participates. And don't tax the hell out of it, thereby keeping the demand in place for marijuana black markets.

reason.com

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From: TimF2/13/2019 5:49:05 PM
   of 2215
 
Legal Cannabis Is Here to Stay, and Consumers and Entrepreneurs Deserve Safe Banking Options
On Wednesday, US Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY) will lead a subcommittee hearing on access to banking services for cannabis-related businesses.
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Yaël Ossowski
fee.org

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From: TimF3/20/2019 3:13:58 PM
   of 2215
 
Florida Man Awarded $37,500 After Cops Mistake Glazed Doughnut Crumbs For Meth
October 16, 2017

It sounds like a joke, but, well — keep reading.

In December 2015, 64-year-old Daniel Rushing had just dropped off a friend at chemotherapy and was driving home an older woman from his church who worked at the 7-Eleven and would otherwise walk the 2 miles home.

As Rushing drove away from the convenience store, police pulled him over. The officer said he had been driving 42 miles an hour in a 30 zone and had failed to come to a complete stop before entering the roadway. When Rushing handed over his driver's license, Officer Shelby Riggs-Hopkins noticed his concealed-weapons permit. Rushing confirmed he had a pistol, and she asked him to step out of the car for her safety.

The officer then asked if police could search his car, and Rushing said sure — if it meant he wouldn't be ticketed. Rushing watched as the officers, who now numbered four, conducted a very thorough inspection of his car.

Finally, Riggs-Hopkins said to him, "You want to tell me about what we found?"

"There's nothing to find," he said, confused.

But Riggs-Hopkins had noticed some crystals on the floorboard of the car, and when officers used a field testing kit, the white substance tested positive for methamphetamine.

Rushing said that was impossible: "I've never even smoked a cigarette," he protested.

The officer showed him the substance in question, and Rushing was aghast.

"That's glaze from a Krispy Kreme doughnut!" he explained. "I get one every other Wednesday."

But officers weren't buying it. Rushing was booked on charges of possessing methamphetamine while armed with a weapon.

As he sat in jail, he asked himself, "Lord, what am I doing here?"

"It was funny," Rushing says, "because I called my wife to tell her what happened, and the guy next to me waiting for the phone started to laugh. He said, 'This is crazy. I think you got a real good lawsuit here.' "

He spent more than 10 hours in jail before being released on bail.

Orlando police sent the evidence it had collected from Rushing's car to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for further testing — which determined that just as he'd said, the white crystals were not a controlled substance. (Results did not indicate whether the substance was sweet and delicious.)

All charges against Rushing were dropped.

It would be a funnier story if it hadn't been so closely replicated in Oviedo, a Florida city northeast of Orlando.

Karlos Cashe was pulled over in March for driving without headlights and arrested by Oviedo police when court records showed that he was out past his court-ordered curfew. Those records were later shown to be out of date and inaccurate, ABC affiliate WFTV reported.

Police saw white dust on the floorboards of Cashe's car and tested it with a field kit. The substance showed positive for cocaine.

Cashe went to jail for 90 days – 90 days in which he knew that the white substance in his car was simply drywall dust.

"I know for a fact it's drywall because I'm a handyman," Cashe told WFTV. "I said that continuously during the arrest stop."

Police in Orlando and Oviedo, like many other law enforcement agencies, use inexpensive field kits to test for drugs. Orlando's police use NIK brand narcotic testing kits. A NIK general screening kit, which tests for opiates, meth and other drugs, costs just $18 for a box of 10.

But such roadside test kits are far from foolproof.

A 2016 investigation by ProPublica and The New York Times found that tens of thousands of people are sent to jail each year based on the kits' results, which often generate false positives:


"Some tests ... use a single tube of a chemical called cobalt thiocyanate, which turns blue when it is exposed to cocaine. But cobalt thiocyanate also turns blue when it is exposed to more than 80 other compounds, including methadone, certain acne medications and several common household cleaners. Other tests use three tubes, which the officer can break in a specific order to rule out everything but the drug in question — but if the officer breaks the tubes in the wrong order, that, too, can invalidate the results. The environment can also present problems. Cold weather slows the color development; heat speeds it up, or sometimes prevents a color reaction from taking place at all."


Data from the state law enforcement lab in Florida found that 21 percent of the evidence recorded by police as methamphetamine was not in fact methamphetamine, and of that, half was not illegal drugs at all, according to the ProPublica investigation: "When we examined the department's records, they showed that officers, faced with somewhat ambiguous directions on the pouches, had simply misunderstood which colors indicated a positive result."

Those findings are part of what spurred Rushing to file a lawsuit against the city of Orlando after the charges against him were dropped. Two weeks ago, Rushing says he reached a settlement with the city for $37,500.

"I thought [the lawsuit] was the right thing to do, for what they did to me," he tells NPR.

An Orlando police spokeswoman says that after the Rushing incident, the department conducted an internal investigation and officers received additional training in using the field kits — but it's still using the same NIK narcotic test kits.

The Safariland Group, which makes the NIK tests, told ProPublica that it provides all law enforcement agencies with comprehensive field test training manuals, in addition to its instructions, and says its products are not intended for use other than directed.

"These training materials, which outline protocols for use, clearly state that the tests are presumptive aids that serve only as confirmation of probable cause and are not a substitute for laboratory testing," the company wrote in a statement.

For his part, Rushing bears no ill will toward the city's police department and says that the arresting officer was "very polite and nice." He worked alongside the police as a parks department employee for more than 25 years, and his brother is a former Orlando cop.

He says the issue is that the department keeps using the kits, despite the well-documented problems with using them.

"These kits give a false positive 1 out of every 5 times," he says. "I'm thinking about running for statehouse next year. And if I do, I'd like to get something done about these kits."

With the lawsuit behind him, Rushing's next step is getting his record expunged. He says he would like to find more work in security — but it's been hard to get business with a record showing an arrest for possession of meth while armed.

After the glaze incident, Rushing stopped by his local Krispy Kreme to let the people there know they might be in for a little publicity.

Sometimes they give him a free doughnut.

"But I don't eat them in the car," he says, laughing.

npr.org

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From: TimF4/1/2019 4:24:43 PM
1 Recommendation   of 2215
 
"...perhaps the best reason to legalize hard drugs is that people who wish to consume them have the same liberty to determine their own well-being as those who consume alcohol, or marijuana, or anything else. In a free society, the presumption must always be that individuals, not government, get to decide what is in their own best interest"

cato.org

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From: TimF4/12/2019 6:14:37 PM
   of 2215
 
Alabama Cops Raided Their House, Seized Their Cash, and Ruined Their Lives Over $50 of Marijuana
Greg and Teresa Almond lost their house after a financially devastating drug raid involving civil asset forfeiture.
C.J. Ciaramella | Apr. 12, 2019
reason.com

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From: TimF7/12/2019 2:45:18 PM
   of 2215
 
Florida Sheriff Deputy Arrested After Planting Drugs on Innocent People
Reason uncovered body camera footage of the officer lying about a roadside field test for drugs.
C.J. Ciaramella

A former Florida sheriff's deputy was arrested Wednesday for planting drugs and falsely arresting at least 10 people, including one case where Reason obtained body camera footage showing him lying about the results of roadside field test.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) announced yesterday that, following a months-long investigation, former Jackson County sheriff's deputy Zach Wester had been arrested and charged with 52 felony crimes, including racketeering, false imprisonment, fabricating evidence, and drug possession.

In a stunning 30-page affidavit, the FDLE laid out how Wester kept unmarked bags of marijuana and methamphetamines in the trunk of his patrol car, manipulated his body cam footage, planted drugs in people's cars, and falsified arrest reports to railroad innocent people under the color of law. His victims, many of whom had prior records or were working to stay sober, had their lives upended. One man lost custody of his daughter.

"There is no question that Wester's crimes were deliberate and that his actions put innocent people in jail," Chris Williams, the FDLE's assistant special agent in charge, said in a press release.

The Jackson County sheriff suspended Wester last August; it fired him after body camera footage, first reported by the Tallahassee Democrat, appeared to show him planting a baggie of methamphetamines in the car of Teresa Odom. After Wester's credibility was destroyed, the local state attorney's office dismissed more than 100 criminal cases where he was the primary or sole officer, and a judge vacated eight more criminal convictions.

Reason then filed a public records request for body camera video from those dismissed cases. We uncovered footage of Wester falsely arresting another person, Florida resident Steve Vann.

Wester pulled over Vann on April 17, 2018, for allegedly crossing over the center line. Although the body camera footage mysteriously starts in the middle of the traffic stop, it shows Wester rummaging through Vann's car before appearing to find a small plastic bag.

"Honesty is going to go a long way with me," Wester tells Vann, holding up the baggie. "Have you ever seen this before?"

"No, no what is that?" Vann says. "Where'd you get that?"

"The center console," Wester says as he walks back to his patrol car to perform a roadside test of the baggie for methamphetamines.

"There ain't no way, man," a distraught Vann says. "Oh my God, you gotta be fucking kidding me."

The field test that Wester used is supposed to turn bright blue almost immediately to indicate a positive result for methamphetamines or MDMA, but it instead turned a muddled red, despite Wester continuing to shake it for several moments.

Nevertheless, Vann can be heard saying "blue" on the video as he stares at it. He then walks back to inform Vann, who by then is in tears, that the test came back presumptive positive for methamphetamine.

Vann was subsequently charged with possession of methamphetamines and paraphernalia, but state prosecutors later dropped those charges as part of a review of more than 250 cases that Wester was involved with.

Wester, on the other hand, now faces charges of false imprisonment, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of methamphetamine, fabricating evidence, perjury, and official misconduct.

Things turned out worse for some of Wester's other victims, such as Benjamin Bowling. In October 2017, Bowling and a woman were driving to a store to buy diapers when Wester pulled them over for allegedly having inoperable tag lights and swerving over the center line. Wester said he smelled marijuana, and the woman gave him permission to search the car.

As in other cases, Wester reported that he discovered three small baggies that tested positive for methamphetamines. Although he reported that his body camera was active during the stop, investigators found no footage of it. The FDLE describes what happened next:
At the time, the Department of Children and Families had awarded Bowling custody of his daughter, and he consistently submitted to drug testing. Bowling was adamant he had been clean since was released from prison for a DUI conviction. Furthermore, Bowling voluntarily took a drug test after he was arrested and it was negative. Bowling contacted the Sheriff's Office and requested that the drugs were tested for DNA and fingerprints. Bowling also requested the body camera video but never received it. Bowling lost custody of his daughter because of the arrest.
After Wester was suspended, internal affairs investigators searched Wester's patrol car and found two plastic containers hidden in his black tactical gloves. One contained an unused test kit with methamphetamines already in it. The other contained a small plastic baggie that also tested positive for meth. Investigators also found unlabeled evidence bags with marijuana and meth in the trunk, as well as dozens of pieces of drug paraphernalia.

Before joining the Jackson County Sheriff's Office in 2016, Wester was fired from his previous job at the Liberty County Sheriff's Office for inappropriate relations with women, the Tallahassee Democrat revealed.

In addition to criminal charges, there are also several federal civil rights lawsuits pending against Wester and the Jackson County Sheriff's Office.

The prosecutor who first flagged some of Wester's suspicious cases has since quit the state attorney's office and filed a whistleblower retaliation complaint against her former employer, saying she was "ostracized and ignored" after bringing Wester's misconduct to light.

One question that has yet to be answered is why Wester framed people.

"You're never certain of the ways of the heart of man," State Attorney William Eddins of the 1st Judicial Circuit said in a news conference Wednesday. "We have some ideas and some theories, and we've talked about that a lot. But I do not feel that it would be appropriate to go into it in any detail at this time."

The FDLE's investigation into Wester is still ongoing.

reason.com

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