Police incompetence coupled with the war on drugs is a dangerous mixture that all too often takes the lives of entirely innocent people and hurls them into turmoil and destruction. Not only does the war on drugs lay waste to the rights and lives of countless innocent people caught with substances deemed illegal by the state but many people who never possess these substances fall victim to drug warrior cops so hell bent on ruining lives that they will claim that honey is crystal meth.
Leon Haughton is yet another victim in the state’s grossly inept and insidious war on drugs. Despite not having any actual illegal substances on him, police claimed that this legal green card-holding Jamaican immigrant was transporting meth through the Baltimore-Washington International Airport last December.
Haughton was travelling back from his visit to Jamaica last year when he was detained at the airport. This completely innocent man had no idea why he was being detained but he would quickly learn that police mistook the several bottles of honey in his bag for meth. Despite the bottles all being labelled as honey, police would use one of the notoriously flawed field drug test kits to stake their claim.
As TFTP has reported on numerous occasions, tens of thousands have been convicted and served time for crimes they didn’t commit because the cases against them relied on horribly unreliable field drug test kits.
So prone to errors are the tests, courts won’t allow their submission as evidence. However, they are continued to be used by law enforcement, needlessly ruining thousands of lives. Haughton’s nightmare is evidence of this horrifically flawed system.
After they claimed the honey was meth, Haughton was arrested and thrown in jail—where he would spend the next 82 days locked in a cage—on six counts of felony drug trafficking. He had committed no crime and had harmed no one.
After he’d spent three weeks in a cage, Maryland State Police lab test results confirmed the substance was actually honey. The felony trafficking charges were then all dropped. However, because this system is so corrupt and incompetent, Haughton was not released. Despite knowing it was honey, because the faulty field test kit said it was drugs, police still charged Haughton with misdemeanor possession.
Nearly four weeks after he was kidnapped, Haughton’s attorney demanded they allow him to pay bail for the misdemeanor and let his client out of jail. But this demand was denied in spite of the fact that most people are released on their own recognizance for the exact same charge.
As Reason Magazine points out, normally, Haughton would’ve been released on his own recognizance since the charges levied against him had been whittled down to one misdemeanor. But the original felony counts triggered an active Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer—so if the state released him, the feds could arrest and deport him. Haughton’s legal saga took place in the midst of the winter’s lengthy government shutdown, meaning that no one could get in touch with the agency to have the detainer lifted.
“The ICE detainer is really prohibitive,” said Laura M. Robinson, a U.S. District Court judge for Anne Arundel County, during Haughton’s third bail review hearing on February 5, according to The Washington Post. “I’m kind of up against it on the ICE detainer.”
Not until nearly three months had passed was Haughton finally released after several more tests proved the substance in his luggage was indeed honey. While he was in jail, Haughton lost both of his jobs and was unable to be a father to his six children who he says suffered greatly while he was locked in a cage.
“It broke me right down,” Haughton told The Post. His children kept asking him, “When are you coming home?”
As TFTP has reported, Haughton’s story is extremely common and happens every day throughout the US. The standard $2 field drug tests, manufactured by The Safariland Group, have been proven to be unreliable. And according to the manufacturer, should not be used as a stand-alone test for convictions related to drug possession. But cops continue to ruin lives with them.
Studies have shown how everyday foods, spices, and medicine tested positive in field drug tests. In one experiment, scientists even discovered that air could set off false positive for these tests.
According to Forensic Resources:
“The director of a lab recognized by the International Association of Chiefs of Police for forensic science excellence has called field drug testing kits “totally useless” due to the possibility of false positives. In laboratory experiments, at least two brands of field testing kits have been shown to produce false positives in tests of Mucinex, chocolate, aspirin, chocolate, and oregano.”
Dr. Frederic Whitehurst, a Ph.D. chemist and former FBI lab supervisor, has also voiced objections, saying that he has “no confidence at all in those test kits.”
According to the national litigation and public policy organization, the Innocence Project, at any given time there are an estimated 40,000 to 100,000 innocent people currently locked in a cage in U.S. prisons. But keep saying to yourself, “If you do nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about.”
Over the years, The Free Thought Project has reported on countless stories of odd things creating false positives in field drug tests. We have seen people put behind bars for possession of things like drywall, glazed donuts, crackers, kitty litter, baking soda, cotton candy, bird sh*t, and now honey.