Articles Posted in Drug Offenses

With the recreational use of Marijuana now legal in eight states including California and its medical use legal in many more states, it might be time to revisit Reefer Madness. We laugh at that 1936 film that claimed marijuana created psychotic addicts but there may have been some truth in that old movie. While there is no evidence that “the burning weed with its roots in hell” as marijuana is depicted in Reefer Madness causes users to become violent or insane, there is substantial evidence that marijuana usage can increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.

The risk is particularly pronounced in adolescents who have a genetic susceptibility to schizophrenia. In a study conducted at the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv (Israel) University, researchers conducted experiments on mice that had a mutant gene indicating a genetic susceptibility to schizophrenia and on a control group of mice that were not susceptible. The mice were there exposed to THC. After exposure, the schizophrenia-susceptible mice exhibited behavioral and biochemical brain pathologies indicating a schizophrenic episode, while no similar indications presented in the non-susceptible mice. I am simplifying the research and findings but the upshot is that the researchers found that the clinical representation mimics a schizophrenic “first episode” in humans.

Now you might think, as I did, that this is one study and it was done on mice. But other studies, independent of the one conducted at Tel Aviv University, have confirmed these results. At Bristol University in England, researchers found that THC disrupted the brain activity in rats that is responsible for memory and decision-making leaving the rats no longer able to navigate a maze. The areas of the brain affected in this study are also the areas of the brain implicated in schizophrenia. The authors of the study, which was published in the Journal of Neuroscience, believe that there is a connection between abuse of marijuana, which causes the brain disruptions, and onset of schizophrenia. One U.K. study even estimated that if marijuana use were eliminated in the U.K., schizophrenia would decrease by 8%.

Way back in 1971, President Nixon declared a “War on Drugs.” The federal drug control agencies were dramatically beefed-up, the DEA was created (1973). Quaint as it seems now, much of the effort was directed at marijuana. Back in those innocent days, marijuana was considered a major drug problem. By the 1980s the use of cocaine and its cousin, crack, became a major problem in this country. Cocaine usage increased by 700% just in the years 1978-1984. Many believed that marijuana was a gateway drug to these harder substances.

By the early 80’s, President Reagan, initiated get tough laws on drugs. “Zero tolerance” initiatives were the trend. It was during the 1980’s that this country’s prison began to fill with drug users. From 1980 to 1997, the number of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offense increased eight-fold! The DARE program, an off-shoot of the War of Drugs was initiated in the 1980’s by Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates, who was actually quoted as saying that casual drug users should be shot. (I’m sure he didn’t mean that literally but it sure did fit in with the “war” theme.)

By the 1990’s Presidents Bush and Clinton continued to escalate the so-called War on Drugs. The prison population continued to explode in great part because of the increasingly hysterical War on Drugs. Three-strikes laws became a thing and many who found themselves in prison for life under three-strikes laws were there because at least one of the strikes was a drug offense. I am not talking about cartel-type drug dealers, these were often drug users and addicts and no more.


HOW TO BE A DRUG DEALER WITHOUT GETTING BUSTED

No, I am not really going to tell you how to break the law and get away with it, but Purdue Pharma certainly knows how to deal an extremely dangerous drug, which has been abused by millions in this country, without going to jail. I’m talking about the pain killer OxyContin. OxyContin is believed by experts to have been the synthetic opioid that triggered the serious epidemic of opioid abuse sweeping this country. No longer confined to certain areas of this country, the opioid epidemic is everywhere.

You might be familiar with OxyContin, maybe it was prescribed to you for pain, maybe you are even addicted to it. It is estimated that over the last 20 years, more than 7 million Americans have been or are now addicted to OxyContin and there are 2.1 million people in this country presently addicted to opioid painkillers; many of these addictions started with legitimate prescriptions for pain. OxyContin and similar opioids have killed almost 200,000 people in this country since 1999. I’ve previously discussed this terrible opioid epidemic, but how did this happen?

FENTANYL MAKES FOR GRIM STATISTICS AS WE CLOSE OUT 2016

Prince was one of thousands of people who died last year after overdosing on fentanyl. The number of deaths attributed to fentanyl overdoses is rising almost exponentially. Fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid, is said to be from 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and so powerful that heroin addicts report they can no longer get high off heroin after using fentanyl.   Developed over 50 years ago as a “safe alternative” to morphine, its purpose was to treat severe pain. And it is still prescribed, although strictly controlled, to treat cancer pain and as an anesthetic during surgery.

The New York Times recently reported that fentanyl fatalities are surpassing heroin fatalities in much of the country and as part of a national trend that is expected to continue. Drug overdose fatalities are increasing, in no small part due to the rise of fentanyl abuse. For the first time in New York City’s history, drug overdoses exceed 1,000 people in 2016 and half of those were a result of fentanyl. One addiction counselor aptly described fentanyl as “the serial killer of drugs.”

PETITION UNDER PROPOSITION 64 TO DISMISS AND SEAL OR TO REDUCE A PRIOR MARIJUANA CONVICTION

By a hefty margin of 56%, Prop 64 was passed in California on November 8. It is now legal for Californians over the age of 21 to possess, transport, and buy 28.5 grams (a little over one ounce) of marijuana for personal use. It is also now legal to grow up to six marijuana plants at a time.

So, what about all those Californians who were arrested and convicted for possessing or transporting amounts of marijuana now legal under the law?

Not long ago, I wrote about the scourge of fentanyl , which is a powerful synthetic opiate sold on the black market as Norco. Fentanyl has been blamed for a rash of overdose deaths but recently the ante has been upped. As shocking as it may seem, a drug, which is 100 times more potent as fentanyl and 10,000 times stronger than morphine, is appearing on the black market. This drug, carfentanil, one of the most potent opioids ever developed, is used to sedate elephants and other large animals. But recently law enforcement agencies are finding that carfentanil is being mixed in with street heroin or even being passed off as heroin.

Carfentanil is so potent that veterinarians administering it typically protect themselves with face shields, gloves and other gear when preparing the medicine. According to the executive director of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians, even on drop that inadvertently lands in a person’s eye or nose could be fatal. Although authorities are not sure of the source of the carfentanil showing up on the street, it is suspected that the source may be online sales by Chinese companies.

Some users apparently are looking for a high that can take them right up to the edge of death and that, law enforcement fears, will make this drug even more attractive. Others users may be unwitting victims of this drug as the nationwide heroin and opioid epidemic has resulted in many addicts just looking for a “fix” and they may not be aware that they are getting a powerful and far more dangerous drug. The emergence of fentanyl and carfentanil are beginning to make heroin seem almost safe in comparison. Addiction experts even fear that these more potent drugs will push heroin off the market, eventually resulting in increasingly dangerous overdoses and deaths.

Police Chase Suspect Into Backyard Hot Tub

A 29-year-old Anaheim man was arrested after Placentia police chased him into an Anaheim neighborhood and then discovered him hiding in a hot tub in the backyard of a residence.

The incident began around 5:00 a.m. when police attempted to pull over an individual in a Mustang. However, the driver ignored the officers’ instructions to pull over. At some point, a passenger in the Mustang jumped out and was detained by the officers, as the Mustang continued driving southbound on Kramer Boulevard and onto the westbound 91 freeway.

Often the drug Norco, a combination of acetaminophen and hydrocodone, is prescribed for pain. Perhaps you or someone you know has been prescribed Norco following surgery or to treat a chronic condition. You may also know that Norco and similar pain relievers containing hydrocodone can be abused and can cause the user to become dependent on the drug. Hydrocodone is highly addictive and the abuse of Norco and other drugs containing hydrocodone has become a serious drug problem in the United States. In August of 2014, hydrocodone was up-scheduled from a Schedule III drug to a Schedule II drug. A Schedule II drug such as Norco may still be prescribed by a doctor but with the warning that these drugs have a high potential for abuse and may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

Unfortunately, many people in the United States have become addicted to Norco after having been legitimately prescribed this pain-killer. Others have become addicted after buying it on the street and using it recreationally. And because doctors are often reluctant to prescribe prescription pain-killers, some people resort to the black market to self-treat their chronic pain. It is dangerous enough to take this drug without a doctor’s oversight but the danger has been amplified by the illegal sales of a powerful synthetic opiate analgesic, fentanyl, which is being illegally sold on the black market as Norco. The street fentanyl, which is also a pain-killer, is similar in appearance to Norco but is far more potent than Norco. In fact, fentanyl is so powerful that it said to be 50 times more powerful than heroin. While fentanyl is legally prescribed in this country for severe pain, the DEA suspects the black market fentanyl is manufactured in China and smuggled through Mexico by the Mexican drug trafficking cartels.

The fake Norco caused six deaths and 22 overdoses in Sacramento County in just one week this past March. Since then and as of this writing there have been three more deaths in that county and 20 additional hospitalizations related to the counterfeit Norco pills. While the news broke in Sacramento County, the DEA is now issued a public safety alert regarding the fake Norco.

The Marijuana Laws Are A-Changin’

Back in 1964 when Bob Dylan sang “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” marijuana was called the “killer weed” and even simple possession was a felony in California carrying a sentence of one to ten years. Now over 60 years later, the citizens of California will decide whether to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The wheels of change grind slowly.

California was the first state to enact laws allowing the regulated sale, cultivation, and use of medical marijuana. Since then, other states have pushed forward and made the recreational use of marijuana legal. Recreational use is now legal in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and Alaska, as well as the District of Columbia. California has its own ballot initiative, which will be before the voters in the 2016 elections. If the initiative passes, the recreational use of marijuana will become legal.

IS COERCED TREATMENT FOR SUBSTANCE ABUSERS THE RIGHT APPROACH?

A recent study that has garnered a lot of attention is the finding by two Princeton economists, one a Nobel prize winner, that there is what has been termed an “epidemic” of substance abuse by middle-aged white Americans. In fact, the study found that for white Americans aged 45 to 54 with no college education, the increase in deaths attributed to substance abuse, which includes alcohol, heroin and prescription opioids increased at an extraordinary rate from 1999 to 2014. The debate swirls around the causes of this increase but of more pressing concern is how to abate this phenomenon.

Enter Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. In that state, 1,200 people died from drug overdoses in 2014. Addressing what has been termed a “brutal opioid epidemic” in his state, Governor Baker has proposed legislation that would give hospitals authority to force treatment on drug addicts who are a danger to themselves or others. The legislation, if signed into law, would be similar to Massachusetts statute that permits the commitment of mentally ill individuals, often against their will. The proposed legislation would give hospitals the power to hold addicts for three days, against their will, in order to evaluate them. If the hospital determines that a longer commitment is needed, the proposed law would allow the hospital to seek legal permission to hold the addict for a longer commitment. The law would apply not only to drug addicts but to those addicted to alcohol as well. Massachusetts already has a law that allows families, police officers, and doctors to seek 90-day civil commitments for addicts who pose a serious risk to themselves or others, but this new law would up the ante for what is called “coerced treatment” by shifting the focus and authority to the hospitals.