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Epileptic 12-year-old’s vital medical cannabis confiscated by ‘criminal’ UK authorities at border — RT...
Bunker busted: £1mn worth of pot snatched by cops in nuclear bunker-turned-giant cannabis plantation
The small Latin American nation of Uruguay has taken the brave step of becoming the first country in the world to fully legalize marijuana, one of the several progressive policies being undertaken by the left-of-center government of President José Mujica. The former Marxist and guerilla revolutionary spent more than a decade in jail prior to his release in 1985, and he later climbed his way up the political ladder from an elected deputy to president in 2009. Known for maintaining a frugal lifestyle and a preference for giving most of his monthly salary to charities that benefit the poor, Mujica has overseen the legalization of gay marriage, abortion, and now marijuana. Uruguay has become perhaps the region’s most socially liberal country, and the state’s decision to regulate the sale of marijuana – a de facto nationalization – will allow it to tinker with policies that can be emulated elsewhere if proven successful.
The new legislation would make marijuana commercially available to adult citizens after registering in a government database; users will be able to purchase 40 grams of marijuana from pharmacies every month and cultivate up to six plants on their property. The government aims to make marijuana available for one dollar per gram, with the aim of undercutting the black market rate of $1.40 per gram. Uruguay is estimated to have some 120,000 to 200,000 daily-to-occasional cannabis users, and the rationale behind the policy is that instead of these users getting their marijuana from traffickers and local mafia groups, the sensible alternative is to rein in the $40 million domestic industry by legitimizing it and offering a good quality product which can be regulated and offered in a safe environment.
Cannabis is a healing plant and can even assist in healing cancer if we let it.
March 21, 2013 |
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Editor’s note: Michelle Aldrich, 66, has been working for marijuana legalization —which she defines as “the right to grow it for free in your backyard”— for most of her life. She and her husband Michael live in a comfortable old apartment near the San Francisco Marina which they moved into 40 years ago. The following is adapted from a talk Michelle gave in July 2012 to the Women’s Visionary Congress.
I had smoked cannabis since 1967 but early in 2011 I kept saying I could not get high. I was smoking a lot. I now believe that THC was going to the tumor and lymph nodes, which is why the cancer did not spread more than it had.
On November 15, 2011, I was supposed to have lunch with Diane Fornbacher from the NORML Women’s Alliance. I was too sick to go. I felt like I had the flu.
That week I got a call from Linda Ward, who is now my therapist. I had been looking for a new therapist since 2009, when I got off all the meds that I had been taking for 20 years for depression —Prozac, Lamictal, and Trazadone. Rick Doblin [director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies] found Linda for me just when I really needed to talk to someone. The start of synchronicity.
I felt well enough to go see the doctor on November 22. It was my first visit with a physician’s assistant named Sally Holland. The first thing I told her was that I smoked marijuana. She asked if I vaporized? I told her I didn’t. Then I said my husband and I got the lifetime achievement award from High Times Magazine last June. Her response was that her brother was the general counsel for High Times. I knew at that point that Sally and I would get along and I could trust her and didn’t have to educate her about cannabis. Lovely...
Sally said that I had bronchitis, which I usually get at least once a year. She asked when was the last time I had a chest x-ray. I said a long time. She sent me for a chest x-ray and gave me antibiotics. The next day Sally called to tell me I had pneumonia.
I saw Sally again on November 30 for a follow-up. I was still sick and was given more antibiotics. Sally informed me that the x-ray showed a growth on my right lung, which would need to be checked out. My first response was “cut it out” if it was so small. I wanted to be aggressive. I saw Sally again on December 9. She sent me for lab work and said the doctor wanted to see me.
On December 21, I saw Gary Feldman, MD, my primary care physician, who gave me a thorough workup. I told Gary about the heat I had felt in the middle of my chest for almost a year. The tumor and lymph nodes were right on my heart chakra. He sent me for a CT scan on December 23.
The CT scan showed that the tumor on my lung measured 23 x 28 millimeters. [25.4 millimeters = one inch.] There was also a growth on my left kidney.
On January 4th, 2012, I had another CT scan to evaluate the growth they had found on my kidney.
On January 5th I had an echocardiogram, a procedure using ultrasound to show a two-dimensional picture of the heart.
On January 6th I had a CT fine-needle aspiration biopsy of the lung. Tissue was taken for analysis in a lab.
Philip May’s Capital Group profits from British weed-growing op while British patients denied access...
Denver Post Revolts Against Its Vulture Hedge-Fund Owner and Demands 126-Year-Old Newspaper Be Saved
Kansas lawmaker ‘regrets’ saying African-Americans ‘respond the worst’ to marijuana due to genetics —...
Timothy Alexander Guzman, Silent Crow News – The first country to defy the ‘War on Drugs’ by legalizing marijuana is Uruguay. It was described as a revolutionary act against the prohibition of a plant that is used by millions worldwide under the former Marxist guerilla and political prisoner who is now the President of Uruguay Jose Mujica. Seems like the Mujica government is allowing Monsanto, Syngenta and Dupont among others to operate in Uruguay and harvest marijuana through their GMO-based seeds. Details of how the new marijuana laws will operate by monitoring the population through a database that would collect fingerprints and other parts of your body to assure you are using government controlled “Genetically Modified Marijuana”.
Last December the Associated Press reported on Uruguay’s decision to move forward to experiment on legalized marijuana to undermine illegal drug trafficking and crime in an article titled ‘From Seed to Smoke, Uruguay Testing Legalized Pot.’ The report stated what the Mujica government’s intentions were concerning the legalization of marijuana:
President Jose Mujica’s goal is to drive drug traffickers out of the dope business and reduce consumption by creating a safe, legal and transparent environment in which the state closely monitors every aspect of marijuana use, from seed to smoke. That means designing and maintaining an industry that is small, contained and profitable. Congress only approved Mujica’s grand “experiment” in broad strokes.
The fine print must strike a delicate balance on issues including what strength to allow for marijuana, what price to charge, who can farm it, how to crack down on illegal growers, how to persuade users to buy from the state instead of a dealer, and how to monitor use without being seen as Big Brother. If the rules are too lenient, or too strict, the whole project could fail
The report also quoted Uruguayan Senator Lucia Topolansk (President Mujica’s wife) when she said that “the state would provide cloned seeds whose plants can be traced.” It should not surprise anyone, especially those who understand what corporations such as Monsanto are trying to achieve on a global scale. Mainstream media outlet CNBC reported in 2010 that “most large agribusiness producers and distributors wouldn’t comment on any marijuana cultivation plans while it’s still largely illegal.” Now, Uruguay is fair game since they passed legislation to legalize marijuana. Although they did say that “seed and agri-chemical maker Monsanto isn’t focused on it, says spokesman Darren Wallis, adding that even if that changed tomorrow, development of a mass-scale crop takes time.” Yes, it does take time to produce. CNBC also did say that “other big food and agricultural firms would not comment, saying the proposition was too hypothetical or inappropriate given the largely illegal current status of the drug.” Well, it is not hypothetical anymore since Uruguay passed laws to legalize marijuana cultivation and use. It is now a reality for biotech corporations to move forward with genetic manipulation of the crop because now they have an incentive to dominate the marijuana industry starting with Uruguay. An interesting analysis by www.cannabisculture.com titled ‘Manipulating Marijuana: Monsanto and Syngenta Invest in RNA Interference Technology’ by Tracy Giesz-Ramsay on Monsanto and Syngenta’s investments in RNA Interference (RNAi) technology and what it means for the production of Marijuana in the future. Giesz-Ramsey wrote the following:
Having been cultivated and used ceremonially, recreationally and medicinally for thousands of years, cannabis – despite prohibitive laws surrounding the non-medicinal use of the plant – is undoubtedly on the radar of big agribusiness.
These companies would certainly turn a profit from developing a patentable transgenic seed for sole distribution if the use of cannabis were to become legal. It would be easy for these companies to create a monopoly over the industry by abusing their ties with federal regulators. This has all been a point of much debate within the cannabis community for many years.
With this in mind, it’s fair to say that one of the only positives of marijuana prohibition, with the art of breeding, growing and distributing cannabis heavily underground for most of its commercial history, the Big 6 seed and chemical companies have not been able to dominate the industry with their patented technologies.
The trouble: things may change soon. Monsanto, Syngenta, BASF, Bayer, Dow and DuPont have, until recently, largely focused their energy on monopolizing the food industry, but some have developed a keen interest in this still-illegal plant as well.
The biggest concern with cannabis and GM control now remains. While they gain a monopoly over medical marijuana, the challenge of governments who continue to wage the ostensible “War on Drugs” is being taken on by some of the Big 6. Monsanto and Syngenta are currently investing millions of dollars into a new GM technology called RNA interference.
RNAi, as it’s also known, is a method where the RNA – which is the code from a plant or animal’s DNA that tells its proteins how to organize in order to create, say, what colour the plant will be – is interfered with. In RNAi, double-stranded RNA is inserted so that this original code is obstructed; so that the pigmentation instructions don’t make it to the proteins
As we already know about Monsanto’s GMO seeds, they are genetically modified plants that are resistant to chemical herbicides such as “Round-Up.” The herbicides kill other plants, allowing genetically altered plants to resist the herbicide and be planted closer together than traditional crops normally used by farmers. It apparently allows farmers to gain more from crop production on their farmland than ever before. The seeds are known as “Round-Up Ready.” Farmers are required to purchase the GMO-laced seeds every season once they agree to use the product. Uruguay is falling into a danger zone when it comes to planting GMO seeds in the agricultural-rich country. It can affect natural food crops in the long-run as Monsanto and other agri-businesses would eventually expand into other areas of food production.
With Uruguay’s decision to allow multi-national biotech corporations to operate on its lands, it also opens the door to a police state monitoring its citizens who will use “cloned” marijuana as reported by RT news earlier this month in a report titled “Uruguay rolls out marijuana legal sale details.” It described Uruguay’s methods:
Police will be able to carry out on-the-spot checks to make sure drivers are not under the influence while behind the wheel. Companies and trade unions will also be permitted to carry out random checks to make sure employees are not stoned, particularly while undergoing risky or dangerous work.
The strains of the drug will also be limited to five, which will be allowed a maximum THC level of 15 percent. Each bag of marijuana will be barcoded and radio-frequency tagged, which will allow authorities to determine its origin and legality.
People who buy pot in pharmacies will be identified by fingerprint readers to preserve their anonymity, but their consumption of the drug will be tracked on a government database.
This will allow police to test for illegal weed when they come across it, and arrest anyone possessing marijuana without the proper tracers
Uruguay’s control over all facets of the new marijuana industry with a national database does seem “Orwellian” as it borders on fascism for the fear that legalizing marijuana can lead to higher drug use among the population. It is understandable, but imposing a police state to control drug-use and crime is not an answer to the war on drugs. However, not collecting taxes on marijuana is a good start. Uruguay has also approved a law that will exempt marijuana producers and sales of the crop from taxes that would undermine marijuana illegally imported from other countries such as Paraguay. Reuters reported on Uruguay’s tax policy regarding the issue of legalized marijuana when it said that “The principal objective is not tax collection. Everything has to be geared toward undercutting the black market,” said Felix Abadi, a contractor who is developing Uruguay’s marijuana tax structure. “So we have to make sure the price is low.” Which is true in a sense, since a high risk of incarceration increases the price of marijuana. Uruguay’s new law will also issue licenses to farmers to produce cannabis according to Reuters “Uruguay will auction up to six licenses to produce cannabis legally in the next weeks. The government is also considering growing marijuana on a plot of land controlled by the military to avoid illegal trafficking of the crop.”
Mujica met with US President Barack Obama earlier this month after his government released the details of the new marijuana law to discuss stronger relations between both countries. Obama welcomed President Mujica when he said:
President Mujica personally has extraordinary credibility when it comes to issues of democracy and human rights given his strong values and personal history, and is a leader on these issues throughout the hemisphere. And we share an interest in strengthening further the people-to-people bonds between our two countries, particularly around the issues of science, technology and education
Uruguayan President Mujica’s response:
We have been looking toward everywhere, but towards ourselves a bit also. And from the humbleness of my little Uruguay, my people, who are there amongst an enormous area of fertile and much water, come here to seek out knowledge and research in all groups of the biological sciences, particularly in land that require local research, because the continent must produce much food for the world. And besides, this is the most advanced country in the world for biological sciences, but we don’t want to merely send students out because they get married — and the American corporations pay more money, so we lose these qualified people. We have to bring teachers so then can come, but we need to make arrangements so that they can continue to contribute to Social Security here. Wisdom must be looked for there where it is
President Mujica has called for ‘normalized relations’ between Cuba and the US to end the embargo and has supported South American leaders such as Bolivian President Evo Morales during the time when the US and EU forced Morales’s plane to land in Vienna to search for NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden. “We are not colonies any more,” Uruguay’s president, Jose Mujica, said. “We deserve respect, and when one of our governments is insulted we feel the insult throughout Latin America” according to the Guardian. In many ways President Mujica is a revolutionary against Western imperialism. But allowing GMO crops in Uruguay is a step in the wrong direction although he probably does believe that allowing GMO’s would actually feed the world. Maybe he is misinformed, which I do believe is the case, after all he believes that smoking marijuana is an “addiction.” However, I do believe he does mean well. President Mujica should reconsider using any form of Genetic Modified crops that is dangerous to humans no matter what he thinks about marijuana use. Hopefully he will create a committee to re-evaluate proven research on the effects of GMO’s. Biotech Corporations just want to exploit Uruguay’s lands as an experiment. Let’s hope the Mujica government will make a U-turn away from corporate dominance.
In an empty, muted family court, with armed guards at its doors, D.C. Superior Court Judge J. William Ryan released a discovery order revealing that the DEA’s analysts are producing false marijuana test reports resulting in wrongful convictions. By critiquing DEA chemist Heather Hartshorn’s reports and testimony through the prism of the 2009 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on forensic tests, Ryan showed that her marijuana report mirrored the NAS’s example of a totally deficient report. Their example read: “Results: The green-brown plant material in item 1 was identified as marijuana.” Hartshorn’s report read: “Exhibit 1 contains a measurable amount of marijuana.”
A number of state courts have “held that the [prosecution] should provide more than the bare test results and reports to the defendant in discovery under similar [expert notice] rules.” For instance, the Court of Appeals of North Carolina has ruled that a defendant charged with selling heroin was entitled to the state laboratory analyst’s “laboratory protocols, incidences of false positive test results, quality control and quality assurance, and proficiency tests.” 
The Supreme Court in Jackson v. Virginia has ruled that reports such as Hartshorn’s, based on non-specific, screening tests are not worth the paper they’re printed on because they do not provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt of the presence of marijuana in a seized substance. Hartshorn herself admitted she used non-specific, screening tests yet testified erroneously that they positively confirmed the presence of marijuana.
Ryan also disclosed that Hartshorn’s report lacked adequate details and data to allow a review of her work by an independent defense analyst to see whether she used valid, reliable tests and applied them correctly. This was a significant failing as the NAS report concluded that many forensic tests “are not based on a body of knowledge that recognizes the underlying limitations of the scientific principles and methodologies for problem solving and discovery (Hartshorn claimed there were no limitations) [and] are not informed by scientific knowledge, or are not developed within the culture of science.”
According to Dr. Vedoster Ingram, a 29-year-veteran of the DEA, this was typical of the DEA. “As reports are normally presented, an official report of analysis is introduced into the court records for litigation without significant explanation.” Reviewable data for Hartshorn’s tests should have included microphotographs of the suspected marijuana sample, highlighting the relevant morphological characteristics; photographs of the Duquenois-Levine (D-L) color chemical test results, including side-by-side contemporaneous images of the suspected marijuana and actual marijuana standard for proper comparison; and photographs or photocopies of the Thin Layered Chromatography (TLC) plate with the measured values and observed colors recorded contemporaneously with the testing.
The NAS report said that such reports were unacceptable and should lead to dismissals of charges. In fact, much of Hartshorn’s report was indecipherable with abbreviations known only to herself. She dismissed this concern by stating that: “It’s not our policy to keep [reviewable data]; it’s not needed.” 
Reviewability and reproducibility are at the heart of verification and the scientific method. Regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the Ninth Circuit Court declared that: “Something doesn’t become ‘scientific knowledge’ just because it’s uttered by a scientist nor can an expert’s self-serving assertions that his conclusions were ‘derived by the scientific method’ be deemed conclusive, else the Supreme Court’s opinion could have ended with footnote 2. As we read the Supreme Court’s teaching in Daubert, therefore, though we are largely untrained in science and certainly no match for any of the witnesses whose testimony we are reviewing, it is our responsibility to determine whether those experts’ proposed testimony amounts to ‘scientific knowledge,’ constitutes ‘good science,’ and was ‘derived by the scientific method.’
Judge Kozinski’s Ninth Circuit opinion noted further that a gate keeping court must decide in part whether “ ‘… scientists have derived their findings through the scientific method or whether their testimony is based on scientifically valid principles….’ (Daubert, 43F. 3d at 1316). In its gate keeping role, the court should view reliability as follows: ‘this means that the expert’s bald assurance of validity is not enough. Rather, the party presenting the expert must show that the expert’s findings are based on sound science, and this will require some objective, independent validation of the expert’s methodology.’” – i.e., review and reproduction of test findings.
The Court of Appeals of Maryland has ruled that: “Access to laboratory information generally is significant for another reason. The validity of testing procedures and principles is assessed in the scientific community by publishing the data in peer review journals …. [P]ublication of a laboratory’s work product and data used in [scientific] analysis, as well as independent replication and validation studies, are essential prerequisites to reliability.” Replication and validation of Hartshorn’s findings were impossible since she presented no supporting data.
For independent reviewability, replication, and validation, lab reports should contain sufficient information to evaluate case notes and interpret the data as well as procedures, standards, blanks, observations, and test results. Supporting documentation should include charts, graphs, and spectra generated during an analysis.  Since Hartshorn provided none of these details, her reports could not be checked out and proved nothing, least of all that the suspected sample was marijuana.
The DEA founded and presently chairs Scientific Working Group on the Analysis of Seized Drugs (SWGDRUG) which provides minimum standards for scientifically sound lab and testing procedures. According to SWGDRUG:
Laboratories shall have documented policies establishing protocols for technical and administrative review.
Laboratories shall have and follow documented analytical procedures.
Laboratories shall have in place protocols for the sampling of evidence.
Laboratories shall monitor the analytical processes using appropriate controls and traceable standards.
Laboratories shall have and follow documented guidelines for the acceptance and interpretation of data.
Analytical procedures shall be validated in compliance with Section 11.
When analysts determine the identity of a drug in a sample, they shall ensure that the result relates to the right submission. This is best established by the use of at least two appropriate techniques based on different principles and two independent samplings.
Method validation is required to demonstrate that methods are suitable for their intended purpose. For qualitative analysis (identifying drugs), the parameters that need to be checked are selectivity, limit or detection and reproducibility.
Minimum acceptability criteria should be described along with the means for demonstrating compliance.
Validation documentation is required. Laboratories adopting methods validated elsewhere should verify their methods and establish their own limits of detection and reproducibility.
Documentation shall contain sufficient information to allow a peer to evaluate case notes and interpret the data.
Analytical documentation should include documentation including charts, graphs, and spectra generated during analysis.
Laboratories shall perform proficiency testing in order to verify the laboratory’s performance. 
Hartshorn was asked whether she followed DEA protocols or at least the guidelines of SWGDRUG. “[T]hey aren’t laws, and so, as of right now, that is not our policy,” she casually responded. In other words, the DEA does not follow its own regulatory body. Even worse, the “DEA does not have such guidance set forth in one particular document type or ‘protocol’ that would provide instruction on how one is to test cocaine or marijuana. . . There are no mandatory methods, and the forensic chemists are afforded considerable discretion in determining which testing methods and instruments to use.” This according to Harshorn’s lab director, James Malone, who testified that the DEA has no protocol or standard methodology and does not validate its drug tests; calibrate its testing instrumentation right before testing; or run contemporaneous scientific controls to prevent and detect contamination.
Judge: For marijuana in this case, for example, there is no calibration?
James Malone: There is not. . . So we’re not running a positive control on the Duquenois-Levine (marijuana test) on a daily basis.
Prosecutor: Now with regard to standard methodologies, DEA has a standard methodology on how to do examinations?
JM: No, we don’t.
P: So for qualitative analysis, the actual identification of a drug, you don’t have such (validation) studies, as you understood her (defense expert) to mean, correct?
JM: Correct. . . Identification – (validation) studies related to identification are not generally – there are no requirements for that. (SWGDRUG: “Method validation is required to demonstrate that methods are suitable for their intended purpose.”)
According to SWGDRUG Recommendations at Part IV.A.6.1.1 (“Laboratories shall have and follow documented analytical procedures”); id at Part IV.A.6.1.6 (“Analytical procedures shall be validated in compliance with Part IV B Validation”); id, at Part IV.B.IA (“All methods shall be validated or verified to demonstrate that they will perform in the normal operational environment when used by individuals expected to utilize the methods on casework”); id at Part IV.B.1.5 (“The entire validation/verification process shall be documented and the documentation shall be retained. Documentation shall include … personnel involved, dates, observations from the process, analytical data, a statement of conclusions and/or recommendations, authorization approval signature”).”
In short, the DEA is not engaged in scientific testing; a conviction machine. Voodoo science as someone commented. It also means that the DEA labs are, in fact, unaccredited because they received their accreditation on the basis that they follow strict protocols and SOPs, determine error rates and test limitations, validate its tests, and run positive and negative controls.
What really set off Ryan, however, was Hartshorn’s testimony that the DEA’s marijuana tests as well as her testing are infallible. She claimed a zero percent (0%) error rate with the tests and her testing. “Ridiculous on its face,” said Ryan. “Ms. Hartshorn makes a bold statement in her testimony in which she asserted that the three tests performed in these cases are infallible in their combined ability to conclusively identify marijuana,” wrote defense expert Heather Harris. “She was unable to offer any scientific studies to confirm this assertion, which is a scientific impossibility.” The NAS report concluded that “no forensic method has been rigorously shown to have the capacity to consistently, and with a high degree of certainty, demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source.”
Infallibility claims fly in the face of the fact that uncertainty enters testing in many ways, and each life stage of the evidence is susceptible to error. Contamination or misidentification can occur during the collection of the evidence. Analytical methods have practical and technical limitations. Reference standards and controls may fail quality control checks. Laboratory analysts who oversee the entire analytical process may make mistakes. Transcription errors can occur. In short, contrary to Hartshorn’s testimony, there is a panoply of errors that can occur. The three tests she used were: a microscopic examination, a presumptive color test named Duquenois-Levine (D-L), and Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC). None of these tests provide a specific identification to the exclusion of all other possible substances, and each of these tests has an associated degree of uncertainty or error rate.
With the microscopic exam, DEA analysts look for so-called cystolith hairs which occur on marijuana plants. But many other plant species unrelated to marijuana have cystolith hairs. Thus, a false positive (error) is possible with this examination. Also according to the NAS report, the microscopic exam can only be done properly by a qualified botanist. The DEA does not employ botanists.
George Nakamura, who is not a botanist, established use of the microscopic exam as a marijuana test. He examined 600 plants and found 80 with cystolith hairs. He then subjected the 80 “similar” plants to the D-L test, and only marijuana passed the entire test. However there was an elementary scientific flaw in Nakamura’s procedure for which reason his report should not have been published, let alone adopted as a protocol. His plant population sample was woefully inadequate since there are 200 –500, 000 plants he did not examine, and there are at least 24 species of plants with cystolith hairs. Nakamura himself admitted that there were some 30,000 plants which he did not examine.
Nakamura also claimed that the D-L was confirmatory of, and, specific to, marijuana, i. e. identified it to the exclusion of all other substances and did not render false positives. In fact, with the D-L test, false positives are expected based on the analytical mechanism of color tests. Color tests are screening tests that look at molecular groups rather than the specific molecule as a whole. Many unrelated molecules share common molecular groups, so any substance containing the target molecular group would give a positive response. In other words, the D-L test solely identifies the group of chemicals to which marijuana belongs. And there are other chemicals in that group which could give a positive D-L response, i.e., a false positive. Moreover, Nakamura himself reported that there were 25 substances that had been shown to cause false positives with the D-L test. So his claim was contrary to chemical facts and scientific demonstrations, and, again, should not have been published.
The D-L test is actually a combination of two individual tests. With the Duquenois test, a petroleum ether or chloroform extract of the plant extract is added to an ethanolic solution of vanillin and acetaldehyde, followed by addition of concentrated hydrochloric acid. Marijuana gives a deep blue-violet color. With the Levine modification, the blue-violet test mixture obtained in the Duquenois test is shaken with chloroform. With marijuana, the blue-violet color is transferred into the chloroform layer. However, at least 50 legal substances have been shown to give the same color reactions.
As early as 1938, the French pharmacist Pierre Duquenois, who developed the Duquenois test, found that it was not specific and gave false positives. Yet, he reported that the test was specific. Although he claimed it was specific, he worked to modify the original test into the D-L test to eliminate false positives – which as noted above was impossible given the nature of the D-L test. As he should have known in advance, the D-L test was no better and rendered false positives. Still, he reported that the D-L test was specific. Duquenois’s lie was repeated in 1972 by John Thornton and George Nakamura who falsely claimed that the D-L test was specific and in conjunction with a microscopic exam was a confirmatory, identification test. Their study is still the protocol for marijuana identification in crime labs throughout the country even though it was false and rebutted by Fullerton and Kurzman and Whitehurst.
With regard to TLC, its ability to identify a substance, which in this case is not marijuana but rather its active ingredient THC, is limited by the number of distinguishable responses possible. TLC is a method of separation, not of identification. “It is prone to confusion because of the appearance of unrecognized peaks or spots on a chromatograph, particularly when an analyst is dealing with a wide variety of biological samples from a number of sources.” The TLC test as generally performed for marijuana evidence has 100 distinct measurable values and 2 to 3 distinguishable colors. This allows for the distinct identification of at most 300 compounds without taking into account the possibility of compounds that will behave the same as the target molecule, THC. In other words, a positive TLC test could indicate any one of some 300 compounds in addition to THC.
When these three tests are performed in sequence, the uncertainty of the final result is the sum of the uncertainties attributable to each test. In this case, where each of the tests can produce errors, the uncertainty can be great. Moreover, a main concern with this sequence of testing is that the D-L and TLC tests produce results that are heavily dependent on the analyst’s subjective interpretation of the colors produced. What’s dark blue to one analyst, is purple to another. At a minimum, a standard reference material (a sample of known marijuana) should be tested along with the evidence sample as a comparison sample. The DEA does not do this. In addition, without the proper determination of the variability of positive results, the final identification is still simply the analyst’s subjective opinion.
Confirmation bias is also a concern with this sequence of testing. This is the tendency of an analyst to interpret analytical information in a way that confirms his/her preconceptions about an item of evidence as well as the results of the previous test. In a sequence of testing that relies entirely upon an analyst’s interpretation of test results, this is a likely source of error.
Hartshorn admitted that separately each of the tests is a screening test that renders false positives, i.e. errors. But miraculously when they are conducted in concert, they are error-free as is the analyst. In direct contradiction of Hartshorn’s claims of infallibility was a study done at her own lab which found false positives and a very high 20% error rate. And every independent scientific study has found an error rate and false positives with these tests. For instance, a comprehensive series of studies in 1974 involving no fewer than 14 scientists and two attorneys concluded, in part, as follows.
The probability of error in using screening tests for forensic identification is particularly great with marijuana because:
1. Screening tests are not specific;
2. Many common plants are confused with marijuana by “users” and law officers alike;
3. Inexpertly collected plant samples are not necessarily homogenous, i. e., only a single plant; and
4. The flowering plants include some 200,000 – 500,000 species besides marijuana.
As many as 20% (An Army study found 30%.) of the samples presumed to be marijuana and submitted to forensic laboratories have been found in recent years not to be Cannabis. “If BNDD (Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, predecessor to DEA) files are any indication, many. . . marijuana users are getting ‘high’ on parsely, alfalfa, or some other weed.” Common plants which have been confused with marijuana include tobacco, catnip, parsley, oregano, tea and other substances – sometimes laced with various chemicals.
Inexpertly collected plant samples commonly contain some extraneous plant materials – a weed grabbed by mistake, a plant which looked like the others, etc. The forensic analyst then needs to be concerned with one plant passing one screening test, and a contaminant passing another. (Furthermore, it’s not possible to determine if ground-up plant samples are from the same species. To avoid a misidentification, the analyst should assume the sample is adulterated or contaminated.) Because of this factor, and the common presence of added chemicals, the specificity of marijuana screening tests, even when used in combination, is no greater than the specificity of the most specific single test.
Because Hartshorne’s testimony raised serious concerns about her qualifications and “integrity” as well as a “flaw” in her testing, Ryan ordered that the prosecution produce all information verifying that the three tests in combination were infallible. What Ryan apparently did not realize was that Hartshorn was repeating unsupported infallibility claims made by DEA lab directors since at least 1999. For instance, on April 9, 1999, Joseph P. Bono, director of the DEA’s Mid-Atlantic Laboratory submitted a sworn affidavit to the courts that all DEA analyses and tests are “incapable of producing a false positive. . . In other words, even if the test results are inaccurate, the results will not indicate the presence of a controlled substance when none is present in the unknown sample. Even if the instruments used in the testing are not properly calibrated, if no controlled substance is present in the exhibit, then no controlled substance will be identified . . . even when an instrument is not functioning properly, it will not identify cocaine, or any other controlled substance, as being present in a sample, unless that controlled substance is actually present.”
Bono’s successor at this lab, Richard Fox, was more specific in his sworn affidavit which stated, in part, that:
“There is no other plant material that will give a positive result for all three tests. . . Neither the analyst in this case, nor any other DEA analyst, has ever misidentified marijuana. . . As such, the uncertainty measurement associated with the conclusions reached by the analyst resulting in the identification of marijuana is zero.”
Fox’s successor, James Malone, who is also Hartshorn’s supervisor who has signed off on her reports, has testified, in part, as follows in another marijuana case in D.C.
Prosecutor: To your knowledge, while you’ve been at the lab, has the laboratory ever misidentified a controlled substance?
James Malone: No.
P: And when you say – what are you basing that on?
JM: On my knowledge of the operations of the laboratory. We have not misidentified anything.
P: Are you aware of anything which shows that a mis-calibrated system or chromatographer in this case, but any system that was not calibrated correctly would create a false positive for cocaine or a controlled substance?
P: Have you ever seen it in the lab?
JM: Have I ever seen what?
P: A false positive from a mis-calibrated system.
Judge: But Mr. Chawla’s position was, can it ever – can a mis-calibrated machine ever give a false positive?
JM: No. A mis-calibrated machine isn’t going to give you a positive cocaine if there’s not cocaine.
Judge: Why not?
JM: It just wouldn’t. . .
P: More specifically, if the reagent isn’t working, is it going to show that the substance isn’t marijuana? In other words, if the reagent isn’t working, what’s the result of the Duquenois-Levine going to be?
JM: It’s going to be negative.
P: Would I get a positive out of a Duquenois-Levine test? If I used a reagent that wasn’t working anymore and tried to run a Duquenois-Levine with that reagent, what would happen?
JM: You wouldn’t get a false positive, no.
P: With regard to identification techniques, is there any – do you have any reason to believe that a mis-calibrated or non-calibrated device would result in a false positive?
JM: No, I don’t.
Malone’s testimony makes clear that he is basing his infallibility claim on ipse dixit evidence as were Bono and Fox who have never presented data to support their unheard of assertions.
Decades before their infallibility claims, several high courts including the U.S. Supreme Court found that the tests did not prove the presence of marijuana beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court of Wisconsin ruled in 1973 that: “An expert opinion that the substance is probably marijuana (based on a microscopic examination, D-L test and TLC) is not sufficient to meet the burden of proving the identity of the substance beyond a reasonable doubt. . . If this were a possession case, the tests would be insufficient. . . It is quite true that the tests used by Mr. Michael Rehburg, a chemist and witness for the prosecution, were not specific for marijuana. . . . He admitted, . . . these tests were not specific for marijuana.”
In 1979, a trial judge in North Carolina found that the D-L test was “not specific for marijuana” and had “no scientific acceptance as a reliable and accurate means of identifying the controlled substance marijuana.” This finding was upheld by the North Carolina Court of Appeals as well as the North Carolina Supreme Court which found that: “The determination that the test used was not scientifically acceptable because it was not specific for marijuana was amply supported by the facts. . . The trial court’s ruling that the results of the tests conducted on green vegetable matter by using the Duquenois-Levine color test in the Sirchie drug kit were inadmissible in evidence was supported by the court’s findings that the test is not scientifically accepted, reliable or accurate and that the test is not specific for marijuana because it reportedly also gives a positive reaction for some brands of coffee and aspirin. . . . The conclusion to exclude the test results is amply supported by these findings of fact . . . and the test results were properly suppressed . . .”
Also in 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court in Jackson v Virginia ruled that nonspecific tests could not be the basis for advancing a prosecution or a conviction because they do not provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Ultimately, Judge Ryan concluded that “such claims of infallibility belie one of the most basic tenets of science: that some degree of error is inherent in every scientific test, process, or analysis. . .While explaining that each of these tests used alone is presumptive, as distinct from confirmatory, Ms. Hartshorn nonetheless maintained their infallibility when used in concert. With the designation that these tests are merely presumptive, the DEA chemist acknowledged that there is some degree of inherent error calculable with respect to each of these tests when they are performed in isolation. That there is some distinct and additional degree of error calculable with respect to this analyst’s performance of each test is also without question.”
It is clear from Judge Ryan’s remarks that he would have denied admission of the test results as evidence as well as Hartshorn’s testimony at trial, and this would have resulted in a withdrawal of the charges. He did not do so because defense counsel did not request it. Since Kurzman’s study and others occurred before this case as well as applicable court decisions such as Jackson, Daubert and Kumho Tire, defense counsel should have requested an evidentiary hearing for challenging the tests and sufficiency of evidence. Their failure to do so amounted to ineffective counsel.
This is exactly what U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner concluded in a similar case wherein the defense counsel did not request an evidentiary hearing to challenge the forensic evidence. This is seen if one simply substitutes “marijuana” in her following remarks. “Under the ‘prevailing professional norms,’ reasonably competent counsel should have moved for a Daubert/Kumho Tire hearing before trial on all the expert testimony — a) on the [marijuana] laboratory analysis based on the investigator’s failure to use a comparison or control sample and not test beyond the generic finding of [“Exhibit 1 contains a measurable amount of marijuana”]; b) on the [marijuana] evidence, highlighting problems with proficiency testing and emphasizing the limited scope of the testimony; and, c) on the expert cause-and-origin testimony, when the expert’s proposed testimony was scientifically flawed. If counsel had requested such a hearing, there is more than a ‘reasonable probability’ that it would have been granted, that the laboratory analysis and the [marijuana] evidence would have been excluded, or severely limited, at the very least. . . . As the Court held in Daubert, some testimony may be so problematic that the usual trial techniques are just not enough to prevent a jury from giving it far more credence than it deserves. See Daubert, 509 U.S. at 596-97. The testimony should not reach the jury at all. (This was absolutely true with Judge Ryan’s case.) Here, the scientific literature cast doubt on the significance of the [marijuana tests] and even raised concerns about . . . “proficiency” testing, concerns counsel never raised. . . just what the law and literature caution against”
It is instructive to compare the two cases in detail because like Judge Ryan, Judge Gertner also critiqued the government’s evidence and experts through the prism of the NAS report. Gertner pointed out that it was significant that by 2006, a number of articles in legal journals and cases had cast a critical eye on the scientific reliability of arson evidence, methodologies, and techniques. Because of this, competent counsel should have been aware that defendants had been convicted and sentenced on the basis of flawed arson evidence and taken appropriate steps to litigate the issues using all the tools available including challenging the tests and requesting an evidentiary hearing.
The same was even more true of marijuana evidence by the time of Judge Ryan’s case. The marijuana tests had been scientifically established as unreliable and inaccurate, and previous court decisions had excluded admission of the marijuana test results as evidence.
Gertner found that there was ineffective counsel because the defense attorneys did not move for a Daubert hearing prior to trial on any expert issue. They did not seek exclusion of any of the proposed expert testimony or move for its limitation. They did not argue that the expert testimony failed to meet the minimal threshold for reliability of scientific evidence and should not have been admitted at all. They did not alert the Court to the ways in which the government’s investigation undermined their very ability to present a defense.
The same was true with the case of Judge Ryan who called Hartshorn’s testimony “[R]idiculous on its face” and lacking in “integrity.”
In addition, Gertner argued that it was crucial to try to exclude expert testimony before trial because “a certain patina attaches to an expert’s testimony unlike any other witness; this is ‘science,’ a professional’s judgment, the jury may think, and give more credence to the testimony than it may deserve. United States v. Hines, 55 F. Supp. 2d 62, 64 (D. Mass. 1999); see also Michigan Millers Mut. Ins. Corp. v. Benfield, 140 F.3d 915, 920 (11th Cir. 1998) (‘The use of ‘science’ to explain how something occurred has the potential to carry great weight with a jury, explaining both why counsel might seek to couch an expert witness’s testimony in terms of science, as well as why the trial judge plays an important role as the gate-keeper in monitoring the evidentiary reliability of such testimony.’).”
This again was even more true with Judge Ryan’s case because DEA chemists were poised to testify that the marijuana tests as well as their testing were infallible, and that no DEA analyst had ever misidentified marijuana. In fact, defense counsel in Judge Ryan’s case had been involved in previous marijuana case wherein DEA analysts had claimed infallibility under oath. All the more reason why they should have sought to exclude the evidence.
For its part, the DEA was ethically and scientifically bound to suspend Hartshorn and Malone and investigate all their previous marijuana cases. In fact, Hartshorn and Malone were subsequently both witnesses in another discovery hearing in the same court room opposed by the same defense counsel who again had not requested an evidentiary hearing to challenge the same marijuana tests. This hearing was presided over by Judge Florence Y. Pan who had read Judge Ryan’s order. Heather Harris, who was highly praised by Judge Ryan, was the defense expert in this hearing as well. With no justification, Pan found Hartshorn and Malone to be credible as opposed to Harris even though Malone claimed infallibility without any proof. “On my knowledge of the operations of the laboratory,” he said, “We have not misidentified anything.” He also said that “a mis-calibrated instrument would never cause a false positive result.” Asked why by Pan, he replied: “It just wouldn’t.”
As we saw, Malone further testified that the DEA has no protocols or standard operating procedures and does not validate its tests or run sufficient numbers of controls. He threw in that the Analysis of Drugs Manual and the Analytical Sufficiency Document are “the closest thing the DEA has to standard operating procedures for the chemists.” Again, no problem for Pan even though Malone said these documents were “DEA proprietary,” and SWGDRUG and scientific practice require protocols, test validations, and controls. Malone claimed there were published studies validating the tests, but this is not true.
Harris disagreed with Malone on all accounts. No problem for Pan who decreed that: “To the extent the testimony of the witnesses conflicts, however, the Court credits the testimony of Mr. Malone. . . the Court found the testimony of Mr. Malone to be extremely credible and persuasive [and was] impressed by Mr. Malone’s candor, expertise, and professional demeanor. . . His testimony was very clear and logical, and the Court found him to be forthright.” Pan did not mention the lack of scientific data or explanations for Malone’s testimony or that it showed the DEA was at odds with SWGDRUG requirements and scientific practice.
In short, there were more than enough scientific studies and favorable case law before Judge Pan’s case, not to mention Judge Ryan’s order, to justify requesting an evidentiary hearing in an attempt to deny admission of the test results as evidence. Defense counsel also had a highly qualified expert to confirm that the tests results did not provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the DEA’s proffered evidence and testimony were false.
As Judge Gertner observed: “If the lawyers do not tee up the issue, the evidence will be introduced without objection.” This is exactly what happens in nearly all marijuana cases. Defense attorneys do not challenge the tests or the sufficiency of the evidence. In 2010, 853, 839 people were arrested on marijuana charges, and you can count on one hand the number of defense attorneys who challenged the tests or even the subjective opinions of arresting police officers.
This failure on the part of defense attorneys is particularly irresponsible because claims of infallibility can be to the advantage of a defendant as they undermine the admissibility of marijuana test results and the credibility of a prosecutor’s expert witnesses. Before a trial, a defense attorney can request an evidentiary hearing wherein he or she can examine the qualifications of the prosecution’s forensic analysts, the laboratory, and the nature and manner of the testing procedures used in identifying the drug the defendant was charged with possessing or selling. If this examination reveals deficiencies or inadequacies, the attorney can challenge the sufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence and seek a dismissal. Dr. Bruce Stein et al have reported that: “Based on our survey, such a challenge would be warranted in many cases.”
The possibilities of these challenges was seen in a recent case in Michigan in 2010. Defense attorney Michael Nichols obtained a pre-trial evidentiary hearing and cross examined Michigan State Police lab analyst Jerome Waldron who testified that in more than 6,000 cases, he had never encountered a false positive, and that the marijuana tests had an error rate of zero. Nichols then entered a motion to exclude Waldron’s testimony from trial as well as use of the test results as evidence, citing scientific articles, prior court decisions, and Waldron’s lack of credibility. Even before the judge rendered his decision, the prosecutor withdrew the charges.
If lab conditions or procedures do not conform to scientific guidelines and principles or court rulings such as Daubert, the defense attorney can motion to exclude the test results as well as testimony from the analyst at trial. Below is a list of such requests which have led to pre-trial dismissals of marijuana charges because they revealed deficiencies in the lab.
1. Evidence collection forms or logs (description of evidence, packaging, identification of specimens, identification of individuals collecting samples, sample collection procedures.
2. Chain-of-custody records (field-to-lab transfers, and all transfers of evidence and associated analytical samples within the laboratory).
3. Laboratory receiving records (records documenting the date, time and condition of receipt of the evidence in question; laboratory-assigned identifiers; storage location).
4. Laboratory procedures for subsampling (collection of analytical aliquots) and contamination control.
5. Copies of technical procedures in effect at the time the subject testing was performed (often termed Standard Operating Procedures, or SOP’s) for each procedure used during sample screening and confirmation, including; sample preparation, sample analysis, data reporting, and instrument operation.
6. Copies of the two bracketing controlled substance proficiency results for each analyst and technician responsible for preparation or analysis of subject specimens, including raw data and reported results, target values and acceptance ranges, performance scores, and all related correspondence.
7. Copies of traceability documentation for standards and reference materials used during analysis, including unique identifications, origins, dates of preparation and use, composition and concentration of prepared materials, certifications or traceability records from suppliers, assigned shelf lives and storage conditions.
8. Sample preparation records, including dates and conditions of preparation, responsible analyst, procedural reference, purity, concentration and origins of solvents, reagents, and control materials prepared and used, samples processed concurrently, extract volume.
9. Copies of bench notes, log books, and any other records pertaining to case samples or instruments; records documenting observations, notations, or measurements regarding case testing.
10. Instrument run log with identification of all standards, reference materials, sample blanks, rinses, and controls analyzed during the day/shift with subject samples (as appropriate: run sequence, origins, times of analysis and aborted run sequences).
11. Record of instrument operating conditions and criteria for variables, including as appropriate: Gas chromatograph column, instrument file identification, tuning criteria, instrument performance check (e.g., ion abundance criteria), initial calibration, continuing calibration checks, calibration verification.
12. Record of instrument maintenance status and activities for instruments used in subject testing, documenting routine and as-needed maintenance activities in the weeks surrounding subject testing.
13. Raw data for the complete measurement sequence (opening and closing quality control included) that includes the subject samples. For GC-MS analysis, this would include: areas and retention times, injection volumes, dilution factors, chromatograms and mass spectra. As prepared and as determined values for all quality control samples.
14. A description of the library used for spectral matches for the purpose of qualitative identification of controlled substances, including source(s) and number of reference spectra.
15. Copy of records documenting computation of illicit drug laboratory’s theoretical production yield, including the basis for the computation, and the algorithm used, as appropriate.
16. Procedure(s) for operation and calibration checks of analytical balances used to weigh controlled substances
17. Results of calibration checks and documentation of mass traceability for gravimetric determinations.
18. Results of contamination control surveys for trace level analytes relevant to test methods at the time of analysis, including sampling design and analytical procedures.
19. Records and results of internal reviews of subject data.
20. Method validation records documenting the laboratory’s performance characteristics for qualitative identification and quantitative determinations of the controlled substance, to include data documenting specificity, accuracy, precision, linearity, and method detection limits.
21. Copy of the laboratory’s Quality Manual in effect at the time the subject samples were tested as well as the laboratory’s most recent Quality Manual (however named; the document that describes the laboratory’s quality objects and policies).
22. Copy of the laboratory’s ASCLD-LAB application for accreditation, and most recent Annual Accreditation Review Report, as appropriate.
23. Statement of qualifications of each analyst and/or technician responsible for processing case samples to include all names, locations and jurisdictions of cases in which these personnel testified concerning the same substances found in the present case.
24. Copy of the laboratory’s ASCLD-LAB on-site inspection report, as appropriate, as well as any reports of on-site inspections by any other testing laboratory audit organization.
25. Copy of internal audit reports generated during the period subject samples were tested..
26. List of capital instrumentation in the laboratory at the time subject testing was performed, including manufacturer, model number, and major accessories.
27. Production throughput data for the drug testing section: numbers of tests performed per month or per year, and the number of Full Time Equivalent personnel in the drug testing section of the laboratory.
Marijuana field tests also have specific requirements that are seldom observed by the police. For instance, the field tests used by police officers have expiration dates because the chemicals and reagents in the tubes deteriorate over time and as a result of heat or cold. Before going to a hearing or trial, a defense attorney can find out exactly what brand of field test kit was used with his/her client. This can be done through a public records request and sometimes by simply asking the prosecutor. The defense attorney can then purchase the exact same kit online. In court, the defense attorney can show the judge that the test has an expiration date after which the test would be inaccurate. If the police officer did not check the expiration date before using the test, then the test results should be assumed to be invalid. Under the law, any tests or equipment that are not in good working order produce results that are inadmissible as evidence. If the police officer cannot attest to the expiration date or whether the test was used after its expiration date, the drug charges should be dismissed. Some search warrants are based on positive kit results and may be ruled invalid if the police officer did not know the expiration date of the kit. This should also result in a dismissal of charges.
Even if the field test has not expired, the test does not prove the presence of marijuana in a seized substance because it is a presumptive or screening test only. Information accompanying the kits indicate this fact. For instance, the carton containing one commonly used NIK field test states that it is: “A specially formulated reagent system for the presumptive identification of Marijuana.” In other words, the company itself is saying that the test does not prove the presence of marijuana. It is further stated that: “The results of a single test may or may not yield a valid result. . . There is no existing chemical reagent test, adaptable to field use that will continually eliminate the occurrence of an occasional invalid test results [sic]. A complete forensic laboratory would be required to qualitatively identify an unknown suspect substance.” A defense attorney can show this to a judge or jury and explain what it means. Therefore, if the only evidence is positive results from a field test, the charges should be dismissed or the defendant acquitted.
Recently, defense attorneys in Colorado did challenge the DEA’s test results and blocked their admission as evidence including results from Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) analysis, the gold standard of drug testing. U.S. District Court Judge Marcia S. Krieger of Colorado ruled on April 21, 2011 that based on DEA information and the testimony of DEA chemist Anthea Chan, the prosecution failed to show the existence of reliable, accurate testing being reliably applied that proved the presence of amphetamines. She therefore denied admission of the test results as evidence at trial.
The hearing, known as a Rule 702 (of the Federal Rules of Evidence) Hearing, provided a rare glimpse into the inner workings of a DEA lab. It was meant to determine whether their testing conformed to Rule 702 requirements for scientifically sound testing. Rule 702 requirements are all but identical to Daubert requirements. Krieger’s first task was to determine whether Chan had correctly tested according to DEA protocols and SOPs. Chan testified that she followed no protocols or SOPs and, in fact, was not aware of any protocols or SOPs. These facts alone, said Krieger, were enough to deny admission of the test results as evidence because it was impossible to determine whether Chan reliably applied reliable tests.
Krieger did, not, however, rule at this point because she wanted her ruling to encompass defense expert Janine Arvizu’s findings. Arvizu attempted to reconstruct the practices, protocols, and results relevant to Chan’s qualitative and quantitative test conclusions and whether they adhered to quality requirements and universally accepted standards designed to ensure the quality and reliability of tests, specifically, what’s known as ISO 17025 standards. However, as was the case in Washington, only a very limited amount of laboratory discoverable material was made available making it impossible to determine or evaluate the laboratory’s technical requirements or quality controls during the subject testing.
“That’s exactly the position the Court finds itself in,” noted Judge Krieger, “because it does not have evidence as to the protocol that was used, the reliability of the protocol compared to other labs, or whether Ms. Chan complied with the protocol in a reliable fashion.”
Arvizu was, however, able to determine that Chan’s testing in particular was unreliable and inaccurate. Chan first used the Marquis chemical color test as a screening test, and the suspected substance turned orange/brown suggesting it was amphetamines. But the test was unreliable and meaningless because she did not use a color chart with which to compare her results. As she herself testified: “I believe it’s the same as you saying something is blue and me saying it’s light blue. It’s subjective.” Subjective tests are unreliable by definition.
Her next test was a GC/MS analysis. Chan first ran a “blank” or negative control to check for contamination. The test consisted of putting the suspected amphetamines into a solution and then placing this solution onto the machine. But she first put the solution alone onto the machine, to see whether it would register positive. It did, meaning the machine was contaminated. As Arvizu testified: “When quality control samples fail, the run should be terminated and the failure should be investigated and corrective action taken before unknown sample are tested.” Inexplicably, Chan continued the testing with the contaminated machine.
Actually, even before beginning her test, Chan should have also run a positive control by placing a known quantity of amphetamines, known as a standard, on the machine to calibrate it and see whether it was working properly. DEA analysts are required under ASCLD/LAB and ISO 17025 guidelines to run standards immediately before testing. Chan said she was not familiar with these guidelines and was not required to do so. Chan’s superior Shana Irby, who approved her testing, also testified that it is not required to run contemporaneous standards, and that it suffices if the machine has been checked ten months prior. She claimed to have never seen any protocol requiring the running of contemporaneous standards, and that “as soon as I walk up to an instrument, I know – I generally know if it’s working or not.” She also claimed it was not necessary to check beforehand whether the standard had disintegrated because “[M]ethamphetamine to my knowledge does not degrade.” This is false, and these standards come with an expiration date beyond which they are not useable.
DEA labs are accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/ Laboratory Accreditation Board ((ASCLD/LAB) under the international criteria detailed in ISO/IEC 17025:2005 and the 2006 ASCLD/LAB International Supplemental Requirements. Accreditation certifies that the management and technical operations of the laboratory comply with the program requirements, including any corrective action that was required during any of audits. (Details regarding the accreditation program may be obtained from www.ascld-lab.org.) In other words, DEA labs are accredited on the basis that they ascribe to ISO/IEC 17025 and ASCLD/LAB International Supplemental Requirements. Arvizu said the DEA adheres to neither, and is, therefore, de facto, unaccredited.
In today’s On the News segment: Five million low-income people will go without basic health benefits because of their Republican governors; in the debt ceiling standoff, our nation lost at least 900,000 jobs, our economy lost at least $24 billion dollars, and our national credit rating is once again on the brink of being downgraded; California voters want to put marijuana legalization on the ballot; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Only hours before the debt limit deadline, Congress finally passed a temporary measure to avoid default. The plan was approved 81 to 18 in the Senate, and 285 to 144 in the House. The Continuing Appropriations Act funds the government through January, suspends the debt limit until February, and directs both parties to agree on a long-term budget by December 13th. After two weeks of Tea Party hostage-taking, Republicans only got a continuation of the sequester and an Obamacare income-verification rule in exchange. But, they caused serious harm to our nation in their effort to extract more demands. Because of the standoff, our nation lost at least 900,000 jobs, our economy lost at least $24 billion dollars, and our national credit rating is once again on the brink of being downgraded. After both chambers approved the legislation, President Obama made a short statement. He praised Congress for passing the measure, but said, "We've got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis." However, the temporary measure that Congress passed could simply have scheduled the next one. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the deal "is far less than many [Republicans] hoped for, quite frankly, but it's far better than what some had sought. Now it's time for Republicans to unite behind other crucial goals." Presumably, those goals include trying to dismantle Obamacare, and slash the budgets of other social net programs. In addition to the economic consequences, the debt-limit standoff produced record-low approval ratings for Republicans, so it's unclear why they would want to have the same fight over again. The American people want to see Congress move on to working on ways to improve our nation, and stop this governing-by-hostage-taking.
In screwed news... Five million low-income people will go without basic health benefits because of their Republican governors. These are some of the poorest people who live in red states, where lawmakers have refused to expand Medicaid. And, these Americans can't get subsidies under Obamacare, because their income is low enough to qualify for Medicaid under the new guidelines. Twenty-two states have refused to expand the low-income health program, despite the fact that it would be completely funded by the federal government until 2016 – and 90% federally funded thereafter. In those states, many people are stuck in a "gap" between extremely harsh state guidelines for Medicaid, and the minimum income required to get subsidies to buy health insurance. These Republican governors would rather see people suffering in the cracks, than do anything that could be seen as supporting the president. Some red states have come around to accepting the Medicaid expansion, and there's at least five million people around our nation who hope that their governors will accept it as well.
In the best of the rest of the news...
California voters want to put marijuana legalization on the ballot. Supporters of the Marijuana Control, Legalization, and Revenue Act of 2014 are circulating a petition to get the measure before voters in 2014. And, the bill is an open-source creation that was drafted by a group of activists and supporters. Last year, the initiative's sponsor, Dave Hodges, came up with idea to collaborate on a proposal with others. So he created a website, email list, and Google document, which activists and supporters used to exchange ideas. Although the process did provide some edits and suggestions that weren't very useful, it eventually led to the creation of a final propsal. Medical marijuana is already legal in that state, but the new initiative would give "Californians the freedom to use, grow, transport, and sell cannabis, subject to reasonable regulation and taxation in a manner similar to alcohol." The proposed bill would also prevent cities from banning medical marijuana dispensaries, which has prevented owners from opening stores in some areas. Hopefully, Mr. Hodges will get enough signatures to put the measure before the voters of California, and they approve this common-sense legislation.
It turns out that ensuring access to birth control doesn't only benefit women. A new paper from University of Michigan economist Martha Bailey explains that family planning services actually help society as a whole. Ms. Bailey examined contraceptive policies as far back as the 1950s and 1960s, and found that expanding access to birth control has long-term positive effects, like higher family incomes and better college graduation rates. In fact, women being able to chose when to give birth actually benefited their kids much later in life. Ms. Bailey found that "individuals' access to contraceptives increased their children's college completion, labor force participation, wages, and family incomes decades later." By deciding when to have kids and how many kids to have, women were more likely to have more time and money to devote to each of their children. Thus, their kids had a better chance of succeeding all the way through life. Those benefits translate into better workers, higher average incomes, higher education levels, and more tax revenues for society as a whole. It isn't only women who benefit from being able to plan their families as they choose, it turns out that we are all better off when women have access to contraceptives.
And finally... Ted Nugent is making threats again, but not in his usual Second Amendment fashion. This time, the Nuge is threatening to run for office. In an interview with Florida-based CBS host Chad Tyson, Ted Nugent said, "The threat of me running for public office is alive and well because obviously our government has been overtaken by gangsters and America-haters." He then went on to add a few nonsense talking points about President Obama being a racist, the need to run the federal budget like a family budget, and the "engineered obsolescence" of federal employees. Just in case that wasn't enough to make you want to contribute to his campaign, Ted added "I have a message for Harry Reid and the president, 'Eat Me!'" Glad to see Ted Nugent's keeping it classy – I'm sure his campaign ads will elevate the political debate.
And that's the way it is today – Thursday, October 17, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.
Gloria de Piero, Labour's new spokesman for women, has voiced her disgust and upset after revealing a national newspaper has been offering thousands for pictures of her as a topless teenager.
Gloria De Piero, Labour's new shadow minister for women
She claims she was given "amazing" support by the then-women and equalities minister, Harriet Harman.
TOP STORIES TODAY
Yesterday I learned that a news agency claiming to be acting on behalf of a national newspaper have offered several thousand pounds to obtain topless pictures I posed for when I was a teenager. The offer was made to the owner of a building in Bradford. I understand that he was offered money for access to the building and a further payment if the pictures were found.
I have talked about why I posed for these pictures in interviews before. I thought at the time it was a way of improving my circumstances. This is part of my story and part of who I am. I can’t change it now but this happened over twenty years ago.
It is now time to call off the hunt for these pictures and let me get on with the job I was elected to do, representing the people of Ashfield and serving in the shadow cabinet.
I don’t think anyone wants politics to be open only to those people who were planning their political careers in their teens. I would like to see a politics that represents our country, including many more women from all walks of life, and that is something I am passionately committed to help bring about.
No one should have to worry that something they did when they were young might prevent them from serving their community or getting involved in politics at a local or national level.
The revelation is the latest in a string of stories where politicians have taken the media to task for invasions into their private lives.
Earlier this month, Labour leader Ed Miliband demanded a public apology for the Mail's piece about his father Ralph Miliband entitled 'The Man Who Hated Britain'. He got a right-of-reply, but no apology. But Geordie Greig, editor of the Mail on Sunday, did apologise after reporters crashed a memorial service for Miliband's uncle in the midst of the media storm.
Louise Mensch, the former Tory MP, successfully headed off a story about her youthful drug taking.
In an attempt to take the wind out of the story before it was published, Mensch said it was "highly probable" she had taken drugs at the time.
"I'm sure it was not the only incident of the kind; we all do idiotic things when young," she said.
She won plaudits from political friends and foes at the time for her candour.
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