When asked what type of agency the Northwest Missouri Interagency Response Operation was, an officer on the other line told Aaron Malin that it’s a grant situation.
NITRO is a drug strike force that operates in Northwest Missouri outside of Buchanan County. But Missouri’s marijuana legalization organization, Show-Me Cannabis, has asserted that the organization doesn’t want to comply with Sunshine Laws. In its report “This is not a Drug Strike Force: The Kafkaesque World of NITRO,” the group details a phone conversation with a law enforcement officer who says the drug strike force isn’t a state or federal agency.
“I guess because of that they’ve also tried to say they aren’t subject to the same Missouri Sunshine Laws that clearly all the other drug task forces are subject to,” said Amber Langston, deputy director of Show-Me Cannabis. “It’s questionable. We don’t know what’s going on with NITRO and we would like to find out. That’s the purpose of the Sunshine Law and that’s the purpose of oversight.”
Show-Me Cannabis has researched the 27 drug strike forces in Missouri. Ms. Langston said out of those 27, none of them seemed to have the same relationship with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“I don’t believe we had that particular response from anyone,” Ms. Langston said. “Regardless, it doesn’t really matter because the way the Missouri statutes are written for the Sunshine Law it means any quasi-governmental body is subject to the same law.”
John Ham, ATF agent and public information officer for NITRO, said part of the funding for the task force comes from a federal grant, the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, but is administered by the state. Additional funding is provided through asset seizures.
Seized assets also are distributed among participating agencies. In 2010, the ATF released a press release stating it disbursed $90,000 of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets it has seized.
“It’s just not clear who is responsible for the oversight of this organization,” Ms. Langston said.
Show-Me Cannabis has filed Sunshine requests for further financial information and basic information about their oversight board, which they are required by law to establish. During the group’s research, it found that one drug strike force in St. Louis didn’t have an oversight board.
Show-Me Cannabis has already filed Sunshine lawsuits against drug strike forces in Kansas City, St. Louis and East Central Missouri.