January 2013 Archives

Legal Marijuana Unlikely in 2013

January 24, 2013

1380109_the_maryland_state_house.jpgThis year's legislative session is well under way in Annapolis, and all signs point to the conclusion that legalized pot is still a pipedream in Maryland. The state made national and even global headlines in November for officially sanctioning same sex marriage and has been called one of the most liberal in the country. But when it comes to drug enforcement, and marijuana in particular, Maryland is a far cry from liberal. In fact, our great state is stricter than most when it comes to drug crimes and possible sentences. Possession of over ten grams of the drug still carries a one year jail sentence, and cops around the state are arresting large numbers of simple possession defendants. There are multiple reasons for the grim outlook on possible recreational and medical marijuana legalization, but the biggest reason comes from the top of the political food chain. Governor O'Malley has repeatedly threatened to veto any legalization bill that crosses his desk, and has shown no signs of backing down from this stance.

Other concerns stem from concern amongst legislators that the federal government would step in and begin prosecuting any legal state marijuana operations. The drug is still years away from federal legalization and the Justice Department has shown no signs of change on the issue either. But according to supporters for legalization, concerns over the federal government meddling in the state's medical marijuana policy is unfounded and lacks precedent. There are very few cases around the country where the federal government has made an effort to corral medical use operations, and there is no evidence that the federal government is going to interfere with Colorado and Washington's recreational use laws. Lately, it seems the federal government excuse is becoming more popular with politicians across the country that are reluctant to take a stance on legalization.

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Feds Bust Large Anne Arundel County Drug Ring

January 17, 2013

1377964_tightened_100_dollar_roll_.jpgFederal law enforcement recently announced that a major drug ring in suburban Maryland has been busted up, and numerous arrests have been made. In total, 18 people were arrested in the bust, and as many as 15 have already been charged with conspiracy to distribute more than two thousand pounds of marijuana and various other drugs. The federal grand jury indictment included information, which led federal officers to believe that the Anne Arundel County drug ring distributed cocaine, prescription pills, steroids, as well as large amounts of pot. As many as 250 federal agents participated in multiple raids that reportedly resulted in the seizure of 30 cars, 60 pounds of marijuana, upwards of 300 thousand dollars cash, and multiple guns. The seizures are not even close to complete as the U.S. Justice Department is seeking the court's approval to confiscate over 10 million dollars in cash, multiple real estate properties, bank accounts, cars, and business assets.

The yearlong investigation that led to the recent bust began rather fortuitously for law enforcement. Last year around this time, a Glen Burnie man was involved in a serious car accident, and upon arriving on the scene police found over a pound of marijuana and a money counting machine. Cops also found papers detailing the operation, which ultimately spear headed the investigation. Over the next 12 months federal authorities learned about a highly complex interstate organization that was complete with stash houses to store the drugs, and shell corporations to launder the profits. Cops also learned that the drugs were shipped, driven, and even flown to Baltimore from California and New Jersey. Authorities reported that the alleged traffickers were bold enough to fly the drugs into BWI airport during the operation.

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Violent Crime Down But Homicide Up In Baltimore

January 8, 2013

1249005_glock_29_replica_1-1.jpgThe Baltimore Police Department and the Mayor's office has released it annual crime report, and the statistics are mixed as to whether 2012 was another step in the right direction. The city's homicide rate rose for the first time in a few years, and this is a cause for concern from the police and the mayor's office. In 2011 the city reported 197 murders, which is still a relatively high number considering the overall population. But last year this number actually rose ten percent to 217 murders, thus assuring that Baltimore will still be talked about with the likes of Detroit, Oakland, and St. Louis as one of the most violent cities in America. Although homicides were up it still may not be fair to lump our city in with the usual suspects of violent places. In fact, 2012 crime statistics of other violent crimes and certain property crimes show just the opposite.

Police Chief Batts and Mayor Rawlings-Blake were quick to point out that in spite of the homicide spike, the total violent crime rate dropped five percent. Total violent crime includes homicide, as well as other criminal offenses such as robbery, aggravated assault, and rape. Overall there were 400 less of these incidents in 2012 as opposed to 2011. Burglary, arson, and theft numbers were also down by about five percent, and there were a total of 1,800 fewer type I crime victims this past year. Type I crime includes all of the above crimes. Gun crime also increased significantly according to the police statistics. 2012 marked the lowest number of non-fatal shootings in the city since statistics records of these incidents began in the year 2000. There was also a six percent decrease in the combined amount of shootings, carjackings, and armed robberies from 2011 to 2012. Gun arrests and gun seizures did not experience a significant change, as police arrested around 1,100 people for gun crimes and seized over 1,800 illegal firearms.

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Gun Control Bills Up For Debate In Annapolis

January 2, 2013

1136758_were_at_war.jpgMaryland lawmakers are set to begin the 2013 legislative session next week in Annapolis, and gun control is one topic on the minds of many representatives. State legislatures from all over the country will undoubtedly take a deep look into their respective gun laws following the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy, and Maryland is no exception. At least one representative, a democrat from Baltimore County, has already publically proposed a bill that would require active duty police officers to be deployed full time in all state public schools. There are currently school resources officers in many middle and high schools and a few elementary schools, but deploying these officers in public schools is not mandatory. School resource officers are sworn policemen and women that have arrest powers, and carry standard issue police firearms. The bill was submitted as emergency legislation, which means that if it passes it could go into effect as soon as February. It is obviously too early to tell if the bill will receive any opposition, but it seems as if the financial burden on local police jurisdictions would be the only obstacle to the bill's passage.

If the bill is passed in the next few weeks, it could cost Maryland's city and county police departments between 50 and 70 million dollars per year. This money would likely come from gambling revenue that is already earmarked for the state's schools. It seems logical that this bill will pass easily and the required funds will be made available. Many had been questioning why this type of law was not implicated pre Newtown, and now after the latest school tragedy the legislature is unlikely to go through the next 3 months without putting a gun control law on the books. Requiring police in every public school is not the only bill that will be proposed in the upcoming session. Many representatives have also come out in support of a state ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines. This bill may meet slightly more opposition than the school officer bill due to the constitutional issues that it may present. There may also be a bill introduced in Annapolis that attempts to keep all guns away from anyone with a dangerous mental illness, but this bill may have the same constitutional issues in addition to being difficult to implement.

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