Tag Archives: Department of Justice

On eve of pot legalization, a warning from the feds

Pot, as you probably know, becomes legal to possess in Washington as of tomorrow. Initiative 502, passed by voters last month, allows adults 21 and older to have up to an ounce starting Dec. 6. (Don’t ask how one goes about getting marijuana, which is still illegal to sell, or distribute, or — unless you’re authorized under the state’s medical marijuana law — grow).

It’s the first state ever to do so — some are calling it “cannabiotic armistice day” — as Colorado’s legalization law, also passed this November, does not take effect until January. Later, the initiative calls for a system of growers, brokers and retail stores to sell pot.

But the looming cloud of uncertainty as to what the federal government, which still regards weed as a dangerous, unhealthy narcotic — will do in the wake of 502′s passage was lifted ever so slightly with a news release Wednesday. Here it is in its entirety. I’ll leave it to you to interpret it:

“The Department of Justice is reviewing the legalization initiatives recently passed in Colorado and Washington State.   The Department’s responsibility to enforce the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged.  Neither States nor the Executive branch can nullify a statute passed by Congress.  In enacting the Controlled Substances Act, Congress determined that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance.  Regardless of any changes in state law, including the change that will go into effect on December 6th in Washington State, growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law.  Members of the public are also advised to remember that it remains against federal law to bring any amount of marijuana onto federal property, including all federal buildings, national parks and forests, military installations, and courthouses.”

Feds sweep medical marijuana dispensaries around Western Washington

In a widespread enforcement action, the federal government has raided several medical marijuana dispensaries around Western Washington.

No word yet if any are close to Kitsap (which has no dispensaries) but I’ll keep you posted.

“The activities today and the ongoing investigations are targeted actions consistent with Department of Justice policy and guidelines,” Jenny Durkan, US Attorney for Western Washington, said in a news release. “Our job is to enforce federal criminal laws. In doing so, we always prioritize and focus our resources.”

She continued:

“As we have previously stated, we will not prosecute truly ill people or their doctors who determine that marijuana is an appropriate medical treatment. However, state laws of compassion were never intended to protect brash criminal conduct that masquerades as medical treatment,” she said.

“In determining how to focus our drug enforcement resources, we will look at the true nature and scope of an enterprise, and its impact on the community. We will continue to target and investigate entities that are large scale commercial drug enterprises, or that threaten public safety in other ways. Sales to people who are not ill, particularly our youth, sales or grows in school zones, and the use of guns in connection with an enterprise all present a danger to our community.”

Can murder of federal Seattle prosecutor be solved?

Thomas C. Wales, a federal prosecutor based in Seattle, was killed 10 years ago this month. And close to the anniversary of his tragic death, efforts to find his killer are once again being ramped up.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Wednesday came to Seattle to help shine the light on the case, in the hopes that a tip or clue could come forward that will help bring justice to the unsolved murder of a Western Washington federal prosecutor.

We’re not strangers to cold cases here in Kitsap County. Four in five homicides go unsolved. Indeed, as a country, 6,000 people a year get away with murder.

Here’s more about the Wales killing from a news release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle:

SEATTLE – Attorney General Eric Holder joined U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington Jenny A. Durkan, the Wales family and the FBI in Seattle today to announce a new media and social media effort to seek information related to the 2001 slaying of Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas C. Wales.  Wales worked as a federal prosecutor in the Western District of Washington for 18 years before he was shot and killed 10 years ago in his home the evening of Oct. 11, 2001.

“Tom was a dedicated public servant, a committed advocate, and a loving father and friend,” Attorney General Holder said.  “Although this case remains unsolved, and Tom’s killer remains unknown, our resolve to uncover the truth – and to help Tom’s family, friends, colleagues and neighbors find the answers and the closure that they deserve – has never been stronger.”

“The message to the public is: what you know may matter. Please call. What may seem to you to be a small, insignificant observation could be a critical clue for law enforcement,” said U.S. Attorney Durkan.  “It was one month after the 9-11 attacks. Think back, remember what you saw, heard or knew, and use the FBI tip line.  You could make the difference.”

In conjunction with the anniversary, the FBI is launching a major media and social media effort to encourage people with information to come forward.  Investigators believe there are people who have not yet contacted the FBI, either because they are fearful or they do not believe their information is significant.

This effort includes advertisements in The Seattle Times and The Stranger, on Seattle-area billboards, and in commercials on local radio and television which start today and run through the anniversary of Wales’ death on October 11th.  The FBI has also launched a new web page, www.fbi.gov/wales which is solely committed to posting and receiving information from the public about the Wales case. Additionally, the FBI will use its existing Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages to reach the public across the country to seek any new information.

In addition to these efforts, anyone with even the smallest bit of information is encouraged to contact the FBI and can do so confidentially by phone at 1-800 CALL FBI or by email at walestips@ic.fbi.gov. People can also send anonymous tips to the FBI at PO Box 2755, Seattle, Washington, 98111.

“The murder of Tom Wales was more than a single act of violence against an individual,” said Greg Fowler, FBI Inspector-in-Charge of the case.  “It was a crime that impacted many, but no one more than his family.  Tom Wales left behind a legacy and a life that cannot be replaced.  We remain confident that, with the public’s help, we will find those responsible and bring them to justice. “

The FBI and the Seattle Police Department have led the joint investigation since the beginning.  They are joined by staff from the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

“It is regretful that the suspect in Tom Wales’ murder has not been brought to justice,” said Seattle Police Chief John Diaz.  “We will continue to work with our federal partners and do everything within our investigatory power to solve this heinous crime.”

“Attorney General Holder’s presence is a powerful reminder of the Justice Department’s dedication to pursuing justice in the murder of Tom Wales,” said Dan Satterberg, King County Prosecuting Attorney.  “Local prosecutors will continue our partnership with federal investigators on this case.  We are determined to solve this terrible crime.”

The compete library of information, including copies of the print and broadcast media pieces, the FBI “Seeking Information” poster, details about the tiplines and more can be found at www.fbi.gov/wales. Additional information regarding the FBI’s efforts is available at www.facebook.com/FBI, twitter.com/#!/FBIPRESSOFFICE and www.youtube.com/user/FBI.

Suquamish police can give your heart a restart (if necessary)

The Suquamish Police Department was the first law enforcement agency in Kitsap County to outfit its force with video cameras in patrol cars. These days, they’re the first to have another tool in each officer’s vehicle: an Automatic External Defibrillator, or AED.

AEDs, which can help restart the heart muscle, are by all accounts wonderful pieces of technology, but they are pricey at around $1,000 per unit. Suquamish PD got them using a federal grant available to tribal police departments.

Will the rest of the county’s agencies join in? I polled other agencies and the answer was no.

Port Orchard: “We have one in city hall,” said Port Orchard Police Chief Al Townsend. “That’s about it.”

But Kitsap County Sheriff’s Spokesman Scott Wilson notes that more AEDs are on the way to the county, even if they’re not in patrol cars:

“The sheriff’s office has obtained grant money administered through the Department of Homeland Security (Region 2),” Wilson wrote me in an email. “These are funds dedicated, for all Kitsap County law enforcement agencies, for the purchase and deployment of AEDs.”

“The AEDs will be placed in / on:

  • All law enforcement buildings / offices (that need them)
  • Select law enforcement vehicles, such as the RV mobile command post, the SWAT team vehicle, BPD major crimes unit vehicle, etc.
  • All marine patrol boats (every agency that has them).

“All told, there should be about 30 AEDs purchased and deployed,” Wilson wrote.

Here’s the rest of the press release from the Suquamish Police Department, including some facts about cardiac arrest:

The Suquamish Police Department is pleased to announce that all officers have been issued Automatic External Defibrillators.  The Phillips “Heartstart” AED’s were purchased using a Department of Justice Tribal Resources Grant Program.

AED’s have proven to be a valuable tool for saving lives.  While we have outstanding Fire and Medical response in North Kitsap County, there are some locations and circumstances where Law Enforcement officers are closer to the scene of a sudden cardiac arrest, and can arrive minutes earlier.  Our officers have been trained in the use of AED’s for years, but we were finally able to obtain funding to equip every police officer with an AED for their car.

The model that our department purchased will work on both adults and children.

This new equipment will allow us to better serve all of the 7000+ residents who live on the Port Madison reservation.  We are particularly interested in protecting our community elders, and keeping their knowledge and wisdom with us for many years to come.

Some facts about Sudden Cardiac Arrest:

  • More people die from SCA than from breast cancer, prostate cancer, AIDS, house fires, handguns and traffic accidents combined.
  • Nearly 80 percent of all cardiac arrests occur in the home; the majority are witnessed by someone who could potentially be a lifesaver.
  • The underlying cause of SCA is not well understood. Many victims have no previously reported history of heart disease, or if heart disease is present, it has not functionally impaired them.
  • 50 percent of men and 63 percent of women who died from SCA had not previously reported symptoms of heart disease.
  • SCA strikes both men and women. The average age of victims is 65; however, many of those who experience SCA are much younger—many in their 30s and 40s.
  • Defibrillation is recognized as the definitive treatment for ventricular fibrillation, the abnormal heart rhythm most often associated with SCA. While CPR may help prolong the window of survival, it cannot restore a normal cardiac rhythm.
  • For every minute that goes by without defibrillation, a cardiac arrest victim’s chances of survival decrease by about 10 percent. After 10 minutes without defibrillation, few attempts at resuscitation are successful.
  • SCA survivors have a good long-term prognosis: 80 percent of survivors are alive after one year and 57 percent after five years.
  • The average National response time for emergency medical services in a typical community is nine minutes.
  • Presently, the national SCA survival rate in the United States is less than five percent.
  • The American Heart Association estimates that 40,000 more lives could be saved annually in the U.S. alone if automated external defibrillators (AEDs) were more widely available and could reach victims more quickly.