Apr 232015

In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Nebraska police violated the Fourth Amendment by extending an otherwise lawful traffic stop in order to let a drug-sniffing dog investigate the outside of the vehicle. According to the majority opinion of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “a police stop exceeding the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made violates the Constitution’s shield against unreasonable seizures.” While “an officer…may conduct certain unrelated checks during an otherwise lawful traffic stop,” Ginsburg held, “a dog sniff, unlike the routine measures just mentioned, is not an ordinary incident of a traffic stop.” In the 2012 Nebraska traffic stop, the stopped driver, Dennys Rodriguez, refused to consent to letting the drug dog walk around the outside of his vehicle. The Nebraska officer called for back-up, thereby prolonging the stop by an additional eight minutes. According to the Court’s ruling today, those extra minutes violated Rodriguez’s constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment.

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Michele Leonhart is stepping down. Attorney General Eric Holder in a statement, said that Leonhart had informed him Tuesday of her decision. She will leave the agency in mid-May. Leonhart, who was confirmed to her position in December 2010 but has served in an acting capacity since November 2007, has presided over an agency that has been plagued by scandal in recent years. Just last month, a damning report from the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General revealed that several DEA agents had engaged in “sex parties” with prostitutes paid for by Colombian drug cartels. Earlier this month, both Democratic and Republican members of Congress berated DEA leaders for the agency’s history of sexual misconduct — which was more extensive and egregious than previously reported — and for the lack of accountability in the wake of revelations about this behavior.

Medical marijuana advocates trying to put an initiative on the Nov. 5 ballot have accused the founders of the well-financed ResponsibleOhio of crippling the smaller, weaker competitor last year before launching their own effort to push for full legalization. In an April 13 complaint to the Ohio Elections Commission, Ohio Rights Group said the people who went on to create ResponsibleOhio infiltrated the ORG to gain information and to dissuade potential financial donors. The complaint accuses David Bruno of using his childhood friendship with ORG Executive Director John Pardee to secure consultant’s fees from ORG while laying the foundation for ResponsibleOhio. Lydia Bolander, spokeswoman for ResponsibleOhio, scoffed Tuesday at the accusations. She said the group’s campaign has already collected more than 160,000 of the 306,000 signatures necessary to put the amendment on the ballot in just one month of signature gathering.

On Wednesday, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) introduced the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015 (H.R. 1940), a measure that would require the federal government to respect states that have ended prohibitions on the plant. Rohrabacher, who introduced the same bill in 2013, was joined by five members of his own party and six Democrats. “The American people, through the 35 states that have liberalized laws banning either medical marijuana, marijuana in general, or cannabinoid oils, have made it clear that federal enforcers should stay out of their personal lives,” Rohrabacher said in a statement Wednesday. The DOJ has said that it doesn’t believe recent acts by Congress forbidding federal spending on the prosecution of individuals or businesses in violation of federal law actually apply. The House bill introduced by Rohrabacher would go further than those previous measures by amending the Controlled Substances Act.

One of California’s largest marijuana-related apps is donating $2 million toward the drive to legalize weed in the state. Orange County dispensary-locating startup WeedMaps.com contributed $1 million Friday to a campaign committee called Californians for Sensible Reform, which will back what it feels will be the strongest marijuana legalization measure on the 2016 ballot. The company will also put another $1 million in a political action committee called Californians for Sensible Reform PAC that supports weed-friendly candidates. In November, billionaire tech venture capitalist Sean Parker said that while he supported the successful campaign to legalize marijuana in Oregon last year he quietly discouraged what he calls several “half-baked” efforts from starting in California. Parker is expected to be a major backer of a 2016 legalization campaign in California — if the ballot measure is written well.