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Legal Pot In Colorado Helps Fill Tiny Rural Jails In KS, NE, WY

State lines can be symbols of divisions over values and cultures. The Washington Post says a three-hour drive from the profusion of pot shops in Denver (340 medical and recreational at last count) Colorado’s bold social experiment is confounding parents who have to explain to their children why this alluring but troubling substance is legal just down the road, a state line and a cultural divide away.

The same policy decisions that liberated pot smokers in Colorado are filling tiny rural jails in Kansas, Nebraska and Wyoming. “Every time we stop somebody, that’s taking up my deputy’s time with your Colorado pot,” said Scotts Bluff County, Ne., Sheriff Mark Overman. “We have to pay overtime, pay the prosecutor, pay to incarcerate them, pay for their defense if they’re indigent. Colorado’s taxing it, but everybody else is paying the price.”

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In "Grievous Act," Boy, 3, Caught In Chicago Gang Crossfire

Two Chicago men were charged after a gang-related shooting Friday night left a 3-year-old boy in critical condition, an incident that Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy called a "grievous act," the Chicago Tribune reports. "That incident, just to be clear, was a confrontation between two gang members," McCarthy said. "And typically, shots were fired and an innocent ... was struck. The three-year-old is expected to survive at this point but obviously has some pretty significant injuries."

The boy was outside with his mother and another man when two men and two women walked past and exchanged words with the boy's mother and the man she was with, police said. Someone among the group opened fire from down the block after walking by, hitting only the boy. McCarthy added that, "It's another one of those cases that you always hear me talking about, where the offender has an extensive criminal history and shouldn't have been on the streets in the first place to commit this grievous act."

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Homeowner Group Issue: What If Pot Is Legal, Neighbors Don't Like It?

Marijuana and hemp issues are increasingly facing homeowners' associations, reports the Associated Press. Some associations have changed their rules to accommodate for legal marijuana use or home-growing, but many more are banning home pot smoking. Homeowners' associations can't ban members from using marijuana in their homes when it's legal. If neighbors can see or smell weed, associations may regulate the drug as a nuisance, or a threat to children along the lines of a swimming pool with no fence.

"The fact that people may be legally entitled to smoke doesn't mean they can do it wherever they want, any more than they could walk into a restaurant and light up a cigarette," said Richard Thompson of a management consulting company that specializes in condominium and homeowner associations. There are growing conflicts among neighbors who want to smoke pot and others who don't want to see it or smell it. "What we're really seeing more now is regulating the associations' common areas," such as smoke wafting onto playgrounds or others' porches, said Erin McManis, an attorney in Phoenix whose firm represents hundreds of Arizona HOAs.

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Medicaid For Ex-Offenders: "Huge Opportunity" Or "Not The Silver Bullet"?

Advocates hope that enrolling thousands of ex-offenders in Medicaid under Obamacare can reduce recidivism and save incarceration costs. “This is a huge opportunity,” Kamala Mallik-Kane, who studies correctional systems, inmates, and health policy at the Urban Institute, tells the Christian Science Monitor. “The unprecedented step of connecting these newly eligible people to health insurance has incredible potential to change the trajectory of inmates to reintegrate back into society and not back into the justice system.”

Many experts, however, are wary of the notion that health reform and access to Medicaid for formerly imprisoned men can truly transform the criminal-justice system. “Medicaid enrollment for inmates is not the silver bullet,” says Paul Howard, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank and director of its Center for Medical Progress. He suggests that Medicaid, a $265 billion federal expenditure last year, is not yielding adequate results for the cost and that it’s time to take “a long and hard look” before expanding it to serve even more people. “Extending those benefits to a historically transient and difficult population with a whole host of social-issues challenges will not change their approach to health care or [their] behaviors,” he warns.

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New York Times Editorializes In Favor Of Marijuana Legalization

The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana, editorializes the New York Times. The newspaper says there are "no perfect answers" to legitimate concerns about marijuana, but neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol It concludes that on every level , including health, the impact on society and law-and-order, "the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization."

The result would be putting decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use at the state level. Retaining the federal prohibition while letting states continue to experiment would leave "citizens vulnerable to the whims of whoever happens to be in the White House and chooses to enforce or not enforce the federal law," The Times says. The newspaper notes that marijuana arrests fall "disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals."

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"Going Dark"--FBI Increasingly Can't Intercept Online Messages

Federal law enforcement and intelligence authorities are increasingly struggling to conduct court-ordered wiretaps on suspects because of a surge in chat services, instant messaging and other online communications that lack the technical means to be intercepted, reports the Washington Post. A large percentage of wiretap orders to pick up the communications of suspected spies and foreign agents are not being fulfilled, FBI officials said. Agents often decline even to seek orders when they know firms lack the means to tap into a suspect’s communications in real time. “It’s a significant problem, and it’s continuing to get worse,” said Amy Hess, executive assistant director of the FBI’s Science and Technology Branch.

One former U.S. official said that each year hundreds of individualized wiretap orders for foreign intelligence are not being fully executed because of a growing gap between the government’s legal authority and its practical ability to capture communications. FBI officials call the problem  “going dark.” Today, at least 4,000 U.S. companies provide some form of communication service, and a “significant portion” are not required by law to make sure their platforms are wiretap-ready, Hess said. Among the types of services that were unthinkable not long ago are photo-sharing services, which say they allow users to send photos that are automatically deleted, and peer-to-peer Internet phone calls, for which there are no practical means for interception.

 

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Some Wait Months For NC Court-Ordered Private Mental Evaluations

In 2012, as Wake County, N.C., prepared to get out of the business of providing mental health services, county officials said private companies would do a better job of helping those with mental illness, disability or addiction. A year after privatization, there is a crevice where the county’s mental health treatment system meets the criminal justice system, says the Raleigh News & Observer. As a result of errors and miscommunication, some people with mental illnesses or disabilities arrested for nonviolent offenses have been jailed for months in Wake County, waiting for court-ordered psychological evaluations that might help set them free and lead to better treatment.

The evaluations are supposed to take seven days. Judges order the tests to determine whether the inmates are capable of proceeding to trial. Once an evaluation has been ordered, no matter how long it takes, the criminal case is essentially suspended. Those charged can’t be tried, and they can’t be released. In many cases, the results of the evaluations cause prosecutors to dismiss charges. “It’s turned into a nightmare” for some defendants, said Emily Mistr of the Wake County Public Defender’s Office. Because of the delays, she said, disabled and mentally ill clients may spend more time in jail waiting on evaluations than they would if they were convicted and sentenced for the crime with which they are charged.

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Deporting Immigrant Kids: Could U.S. Make Same Mistake Twice?

Violence, poverty, unemployment and U.S. immigration policy have all been blamed for the massive arrival of unaccompanied children from Central America at the U.S. southern border. The Washington Post says some experts and advocates suggest another factor: U.S. policies of the 1990s and 2000s that deported thousands of gang members back to Central America. Authorities were attempting to root out Latino gang violence in American cities. Instead of dispersing, the gangs took root in Central America, abetted by the push of drug-trafficking routes into Central America from Mexico.

The gangs grew more ruthless and expanded into international drug trade and other crimes, leading to escalating violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Critics of proposals to deport the new crop of youths warn that the U.S. risks making the same mistake twice, accelerating violence over the border by condemning those fleeing the gang explosion to become either gang members or victims. Not everyone agrees that the earlier deportations are a root of the crisis. Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington said that while deporting gang members from the U.S. may have contributed to the growth of gangs in Central America, the real problem was the U.S. failure to enforce the law against illegal immigrants, especially criminals, in the first place.

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Federal Judge Overturns D.C. Ban On Public Handgun Carrying

Washington, D.C., police have been told not to arrest people for carrying handguns on the street after a judge’s ruling that overturned the city’s principal gun-control law, the Washington Post. reports. The D.C. attorney general’s office said it would seek a stay of the ruling while the city decides whether to appeal. In an order approved by Police Chief Cathy Lanier, police were told that District residents are permitted to carry pistols if the weapons are registered. Those who had not registered their handguns could be charged on that ground.

The number of registered pistols is thought to be low. Lanier’s instructions to police also said that residents of other jurisdictions without felony records would not be charged under the ban on carrying pistols. Judge Frederick Scullin, a senior U.S. District Court judge who normally sits in the Northern District of New York, wrote that he was stopping enforcement of the law “unless and until” the city adopted a constitutionally valid licensing mechanism.

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