DEA Analysts Producing False Marijuana Test Reports

A recent article reported that D.C. Superior Court Judge J. William Ryan recently released a discovery order indicating that DEA analysts are submitting marijuana test reports that are resulting in wrongful convictions.  Specifically, the report in question stated “exhibit 1 contains a measurable amount of marijuana” without stating how the measurable amount was found.  Basically, it was stating a conclusion without any data.  According to the article, state courts have held that “the [prosecution] should provide more than the bare test results and reports to the defendant in discovery.”  Further, the Court of Appeals in North Carolina stated that “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 article states that reviewability and reproducibility are extremely important.  The article notes that, in the Daubert case, the court said “something doesn’t become ‘scientific knowledge’ just because it’s uttered by a scientist.”  The DEA founded and chairs the Working Group on the Analysis of Seized Drugs (SWGDRUG) to provide standards for drug related testing.  When asked why the analyst that submitted the deficient report that Judge Ryan found issue with did not adhere to the SWGDRUG standards, the analyst replied that the standards are not laws and, therefore, the DEA does not have a policy requiring adherence to the standards.

Essentially, the analyst stated that the DEA analysts do not even have to adhere to standards the DEA helped found.  While they may not be bound to follow the standards, the analyst’s comment definitely raises a red flag.  Even if an analyst believes that test results are accurate, the court needs to see why and how the conclusion was reached.  Otherwise, there could be other people wrongfully convicted of drug-related crimes they did not commit.



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