BERKELEY, CA - MARCH 25: Medicinal marijuana user Dave Karp smokes marijuana at the Berkeley Patients Group March 25, 2010 in Berkeley, California. California Secretary of State Debra Bowen certified a ballot initiative late yesterday to legalize the possession and sale of marijuana in the State of California after proponents of the measure submitted over 690,000 signatures. The measure will appear on the November 2 general election ballot. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
If you have a certain Adams Morgan-area pot delivery guy on speed dial and you haven't been able to get through lately, stop calling—and count yourself lucky you didn't get busted.
A police source tells City Desk vice officers recently served a warrant on an alleged drug dealer's house in the 3rd District, after interrupting a street buy. Besides finding weed at the guy's place, they found a cell phone that rang "every 90 seconds." "He was making deliveries," says the source, "like he was a pizza delivery guy." So the cops decided to start answering the phone, executing what they later referred to in court papers as an "undercover reverse drug buy."
The vice squad began taking pot orders and making deliveries to residences and meet-up spots around the city, eventually arresting about 20 people. Those busted, says the source, were very diverse demographically, ranging from professionals to college kids. (The sting is now over.)
Reviewing records, City Desk found that on July 20, 11 people were cited for an attempt to possess marijuana. Another person was cited for the same charge on July 23. Since the police source could not say how long the sting had been going, it's possible there were more District residents caught in the trap. Court papers related to the ruse reveal that cops showed up and sold callers "counterfeit marijuana." Following the hand-off, they gave a signal for an arrest team to swoop in.
But despite all that elaborate police work, no one's going to jail—or facing any consequences—as a result. Everyone was "no-papered," meaning the charges were dropped before trial. A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney's office, William Miller, says via e-mail that to the best of his knowledge "we did not prosecute any of the cases resulting from this investigation." Miller says he can't say why: "We typically do not comment on the reasons behind these decisions."
The end result, though, only underscores the disparity in the way D.C. handles pot smoking. Recently, Washington City Paper reported on statistics showing African American pot smokers are arrested about eight times as often as white pot smokers in the District. The explanation, experts say, has to do with where police try to make busts. In this case, though, police tracked potheads all across the city and ended up with a diverse haul that included a George Washington University grad student. And the prosecutors didn't bother with the cases. One former D.C. prosecutor says that generally, when it comes to marijuana cases, authorities aren't interested in going after "end users." If that's the case, no one seems to have told the cops—who must have expended a chunk of resources on their sting.
Whether authorities should bother making any arrests for pot, of course, is subject to some debate; after all, D.C. recently approved medical marijuana, and California is voting this fall on whether to legalize the drug altogether. But if the law makes weed illegal, and it's going to be enforced, it ought to be enforced against everyone, no matter who they are, where they live or how they buy. It's still not clear that's what happens in the District.
was originally published by
on Aug 25, 2010