The Arizona Desert Lamp

Fourth Amendment rights – you’re doing it wrong

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 4 May 2009

One step forward, one step back:

A man was cited and released for possession of marijuana on April 24 at 10:48 a.m.

While on patrol, an officer stopped two men on bicycles for a traffic violation. The officer noticed that the men both had large backpacks on and asked to search them. Both men agreed to the search.

In one of the men’s backpacks, an officer found a marijuana joint in the left zippered pocket. He noted that there was also marijuana “shake” in the front zippered pocket.

The man told the officer that the joint was not his and he did know it was in there. He was cited and released on scene and the joint was confiscated.

The issue is moot because the kids gave consent, but is the UAPD honestly trying to suggest that “large backpacks” are a reasonable condition for requesting a search? The issue isn’t so much legal (as you can always ask to search someone) as it is commonsensical, unless there’s some sort of correlation with “large backpacks” and drug use.


And I know my rights so you gon’ need a warrant for that

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 28 April 2009

Reminding college students of their Fourth Amendment rights is one of the pet issues here at the Lamp, so naturally we’re glad to see that some kids are reading their Constitution:

Police responded to Navajo Residence Hall in reference to the smell of marijuana coming from one of the rooms. When they arrived, police made contact with the resident assistant and one of the men who lived in the room.

. . .

Police asked the man if they could search his room, but he refused saying that he would prefer not “because of principle.” The man said that his roommate was in the room all night and was sleeping.

Police knocked on the door and the man’s roommate answered. He seemed to be in a daze from waking up, and was asked if there was any marijuana in the room. The roommate said no. Police noticed that there was a strong odor of marijuana coming from the room as soon as the door was opened. They asked the roommate if they could search the room, and he too said no.

Police noted that every time they tried to talk to the first man, he accused them of “bullying” him or “being mean” to him. He would not allow officers to speak and he refused to stop talking when asked to be quiet. Throughout the incident, the man continued to yell at the RA and told his roommate not to speak with officers. Police asked him if there was nothing in the room, why would he not allow them to search it. The man continued to say that it was on principle. Police told the men that they had the right to deny a search, but the more they cooperated the better it would be for them. Both men said that they still did not want police to search the room. The man became so upset at one point he started crying and would not stop for several minutes.

See? It’s that easy. The kids in this case ended up getting cited for disorderly conduct, but if you drop the righteous rage you might just get away scot-free. Contrary to police assertions, the men ended up being in a better position for not cooperating.

Have you talked to your parents about the war on marijuana?

Posted in Politics by Evan Lisull on 20 April 2009

Kids Talking to Their ParentsToday is April 20, colloquially known as “420” –not only the high holiday for tokers worldwide, but a day that’s also become important for those who advocate against the federal war on drugs. Naturally, the day is accompanied with unsurprising administrative action, this time over at UC-Santa Cruz (HT: Inside Higher Ed):

University of California-Santa Cruz leaders are reaching out to parents of first-year students in an effort to curb the annual unsanctioned April 20 “4/20” marijuana festival this year.

According to a recently sent e-mail from Felicia McGinty, vice-chancellor of student affairs, delivered to in boxes of UC-Santa Cruz freshman parents, “I encourage you to talk with your student about his or her plans for 4/20. Ask direct questions about the choices they make and express your expectations regarding marijuana, alcohol or other drug use. Although students may not initiate discussion on this topic, your opinions and expectations can influence their behavior.”

We can’t agree more – you should “initiate discussion” with your parents. Ask them why marijuana is legally considered more dangerous than cocaine, in spite of a multitude of studies finding medical merit. Ask them why World of Warcraft is still legal, if ‘social withdrawal‘ is a negative enough effect to merit a nation-wide ban, or why alcohol hasn’t been banned to prevent drunk driving.

You should also tell them that while some users may grow up to be burrito tasters, potheads have grown up and had other jobs as well: entrepreneurs, professional basketball players, scientists, jazz legends, public policy gurus, Olympians, Newberry medalists, teachers, and presidents of the United States of America, among other professions. (HT: Radley Balko)

They might also want to know about the policy implications on the ban. While preventing kids from stupidly bobbing their heads to “Jammin'” might be a worthy cause, it is a cause that has resulted in the imprisonment of almost 100 people per hour, at a time when the U.S. prison system is reaching a breaking point. Here in Tucson, crime related to drug cartels – those same cartels that derive as much as 75 percent of their revenue from marijuana – has skyrocketed.

You should also ask them why our current President thought the question of legalization was so funny, and whether he thought that the cases of Kathryn Johnson, Cheye Calvo, Derek Kopp, or Ryan Frederick were equally amusing. You should ask why the Economist, William F. Buckley, and 500 economists (including Milton Friedman) disagree with his stance.

We can’t guarantee that you’ll get through to them the first time – for many, old attitudes die hard, and the DEA doesn’t exactly help. Yet by talking to your parents, you can take one step forward in ensuring a more responsible drug policy in the future.

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An Open Letter

Posted in Random by Evan Lisull on 5 March 2009

Dear Ramsey Joseph,

In your letter to the Wildcat today, you wrote the following:

Marijuana has numerous dangers, including some akin to those of alcohol. In fact, in the U.S., U.K. and many other European countries, marijuana is the most common drug (next to alcohol) found involved in fatal accidents and impaired driving cases.

I could not agree with you more – alcohol is an extremely dangerous substance, and the slew of accidents related to drunk driving demonstrate that it cannot be safely consumed by anyone, anywhere. Therefore, I hope you will join my cause in reinstating the Eighteenth Amendment, so that citizens everywhere can once again rejoice in the Eden that was Prohibitionera America.


Evan Lisull

Proud member of the Prohibition Party, the oldest “third party” in the United States.

Introducing the Arizona Reefer Review

Posted in Campus, Politics by Connor Mendenhall on 7 February 2009

devilsharvestIn a column I wrote last year on 4th amendment rights in UA residence halls, I observed that “a cursory look at the Wildcat‘s popular ‘Police Beat'” shows most evictions and arrests for alcohol and drugs “could be avoided if students merely exercised their rights.” I am amazed by the number of college students who happily open their doors when police come knocking, and consent without a second thought to searches that might otherwise require a warrant.

So I’ll repeat the crux of my column again, for the good of the studentry: when any agent of the state knocks on your door, you have the right to turn them away. That action has consequences. If it’s an RA, they may call the police. If it’s a police officer, they’ll call a judge for a warrant to enter. But your constitutional rights don’t end where the university begins, and you ought to know how to exercise those rights to protect yourself.

I’m no fan of abetting campus criminals, but the victimless drug violations that account for almost a third of all UAPD arrests are criminal in name only–or at least, I assumed most of them were. To be sure, I decided to take a more-than-cursory look at this year’s police blotter entries, to see how many arrests might have been avoided and how many crimes were consensual. The Arizona Reefer Review, a new project here at the Lamp, is a collection of digital clippings I’ve compiled from the Wildcat‘s “Police Beat,” chronicling all marijuana-related arrests and citations reported in the campus daily since the beginning of the 2008-2009 academic year. The results might shock drug warriors:

Of the 46 arrests and incidents involving marijuana possession reported in “Police Beat” this year, there were only three cases where police discovered anything beyond more pot, alcohol, and the occasional bong or pipe: a routine traffic stop on a car passing through campus that turned up six pounds of marijuana and a revolver, a man arrested in the library for violating an exclusionary order, and a man caught playing “Mario Kart” in Coronado with an outstanding warrant. None of the three cases involved UA students. In other words, all reported incidents involving marijuana on the UA campus this year have been victimless, nonviolent, consensual crimes.

Of the 46 arrests and incidents, there are 27 cases in which students had a chance to assert their rights by asking for a warrant before admitting police to their rooms or consenting to a further search, but did not do so. Just once did students resist a search, by refusing to acknowledge an officer’s knock at the door of their dorm room.

Of the 46 arrests and incidents, there are no reported cases involving students who smoked so much marijuana that they were rushed to the hospital in an ambulance or discovered covered in vomit on the bathroom floor in their dorm. There are no reported cases where marijuana made a student trash his roommate’s bedroom or send threatening messages to his ex-girlfriend. Not one–just otherwise normal students enjoying a drug so potent that even occasional users can go on to win fourteen gold medals or become President of the United States.

Imagine if UAPD stopped wasting officer time and taxpayer money responding to nightly calls from resident assistants who catch a whiff of weed. Imagine if UAPD spent that time and those resources on something else, like stopping drunk driving–the biggest campus crime that imposes significant costs on others.

Imagine if the Dean of Students office stopped wasting time disciplining students for their private choices, and wasting money running a parallel students-only judicial system. Imagine if all the students whose property was confiscated by the state or who were arrested or cited by officers could have continued their academic lives without the hassle of mandatory diversion courses or trips downtown to Superior Court to be punished for their own decisions.

Then imagine if all these students had been private citizens whose homes were burned and dogs killed in no-knock raids, or Hispanic kids caught in a park in South Tucson, and be thankful that the worst atrocities and injustices of the war on drugs haven’t yet come to UA.