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Honey or Liquid Meth? It May Be Hard to Tell

A K9 police officer with his dog.
By Christopher Coble, Esq. on August 26, 2019

Being a law enforcement officer isn't easy. There are bad guys out there, using every trick in the book to avoid detection. Cops need to know all the dirty tricks criminals will use to conceal their crimes, and keeping up with the latest and greatest in drug-smuggling deception is hard work.

Is it illegal pot or legal hemp? Not so obvious. Is that candy or crystal meth or ecstasy? Even harder to tell. Is that liquid meth in your pocket or just some jars of harmless honey that you enjoy using to sweeten your tea? Who knows.

Busy Little Bees

Well, we do now, after jars packed in Leon Haughton's luggage went through two rounds of laboratory testing and were found to be sweet, natural, bee-produced honey. But not before Haughton spent 82 days behind bars. So, while this may seem like a funny case of mistaken identity, it's important to remember the father of three lost both of his jobs as a construction worker and cleaner during his almost three months in jail.

Haughton purchased the honey during a Christmas visit to relatives in Jamaica, grabbing three bottles from his favorite roadside stand. When he touched down in Baltimore, however, U.S. Customs officials detained him and accused him of smuggling liquid methamphetamine. And while that might sound outlandish, Australian officials have since seized $1 million in liquid meth disguised in snow globes.

Initial lab tests on Haughton's jars came back negative. But police were not convinced, so they sent samples to another lab. When those also came back negative, Haughton was released without charges. "Someone dropped the ball somewhere," Haughton's lawyer Terry Morris said. "An innocent man spent 82 days in jail for bringing honey into the United States."

Something Doesn't Smell Right

Why was Haughton stopped at all? According to the original charging documents, a police dog named Beny conducted a "random scan" and alerted to possible drugs. But studies have shown that drug-dog alerts are wrong up to 50 percent of the time, and many dogs are only alerting to please their handlers.

And why was Haughton detained for so long during the testing process? According to his attorney, a judge would have allowed him to be released, but Haughton, a green card holder, was arrested at an airport for alleged drug felonies. Therefore, his charges triggered a federal detention order that extended his time in jail, an order his lawyer could not get ICE to rescind.

"They messed up my life," Haughton told the Washington Post. "I want the world to know that the system is not right. If I didn't have strong people around me, they would probably leave me in jail. You're lost in the system."

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