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Tag: Drugs

New DEA Chief: Marijuana ‘Probably Not’ As Dangerous As Heroin

Marijuana

Photo by Steve Neavling

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The new head of the DEA says marijuana is “probably not” as dangerous as heroin, a position that was in contrast to his predecessor, the U.S. News & World Report. 

Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg said the DEA would not prioritize marijuana enforcement, but emphasized that agents are still going to pursue pot cases.

“If you want me to say that marijuana’s not dangerous, I’m not going to say that because I think it is,” Rosenberg said. “Do I think it’s as dangerous as heroin? Probably not. I’m not an expert.”

He added: “Let me say it this way: I’d rather be in a car accident going 30 miles an hour than 60 miles an hour, but I’d prefer not to be in a car accident at all.”

Marijuana advocates praised Rosenberg for being less aggressive with marijuana than his predecessor, Michele Leonhart.

“This is not a matter of opinion,” Dan Riffle, director of federal policies at the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project, says. “It’s far less harmful than heroin and it’s encouraging that the DEA is finally willing to recognize that.”

Other Stories of Interest

President Obama Calls for Reformed Drug Sentences That Overwhelmingly Face Young Black Men

president obama state of unionBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Obama on Thursday delivered a clear message Wednesday when he commuted the federal prison sentences of 46 nonviolent drug offenders: The time has come to overhaul a criminal justice system that locks away too many nonviolent offenders.

Obama also expressed concern that may of the nonviolent offenders who are incarcerated are young black men, CNN reports. 

During an impassioned speech at the annual NAACP convention in Philadelphia, Obama bemoaned the fact that inmates are confined to horrible prison conditions, including rape and solitary confinement, which he declared “have no place in any civilized country.”

“In too many places, black boys and black men, and Latino boys and Latino men, experience being treated different under the law,” Obama said, claiming his assertion wasn’t “anecdote” or “barber shop talk,” but instead backed by data.

Obama is trying to gain bipartisan support for reforming the current sentencing laws.

Parker: The Role of Doctors in the Heroin Plague

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.

800px-Heroin

By Ross Parker

With the recent volume of media on the issue of the heroin epidemic, its overdoses and deaths, has come an effort to provide an easy explanation for the cause of and solution to this multifaceted problem. Much of the blame has been directed at doctors, who are charged with being either intentionally or negligently pill-happy with painkiller prescriptions. Their failures, it is charged, have made medical patients into addicts and, when the scrips became unavailable or too expensive, the patients were forced to turn to heroin and other opiates on the streets.

The tragic death of actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman who went from painkiller to heroin addiction and then to an overdose death is presented as a prime example for this explanation for the increase.

But the reasons for the current heroin upsurge are far more complex than the responsibility of a single group. Factors such as a failure of individual responsibility, insufficient education for kids, inadequate drug treatment resources, the emergence of Mexico as the dangerous big dog in shipping heroin up north, inadequate regulation and, yes, law enforcement, as well as a dozen other reasons contribute to the pandemic.

But doctors and their regulators do play an important role in this analysis and any feasible solution. It is not merely a coincidence that the country is in the midst of both a painkiller and a heroin overdose epidemic. The relationship between the two provide part of the cause.

The number of painkillers prescribed has quadrupled in recent years. Every day 44 people in the U.S. die from an overdose of painkillers. The number of deaths has skyrocketed from 4,000 to 16,000 annually. Experts from the health and law enforcement fields point to prescription drug abuse as a major cause of the epidemic. But they usually fail to add that 70% of these overdoses were by individuals other than the patient who obtained the prescription. Their access was from patients, many of whom legitimately needed the prescription, or from the street traffickers.

Which is not to say that medical profession doesn’t need to get its house in order.  Reforms need to be made even if doctors are not the only or even the primary culprit for the contagion.  It is true that a substantial percentage of physicians fail to find out about a patient’s history with controlled substances or their obtaining multiple scrips, even though this information is readily available. Plus many doctors lack the training and experience to identify opioid abusers and what alternative pain relief regimens could substitute for these drugs for patients at risk.

The February 2015 New England Journal of Medicine bemoans the absence of the use of proven medication treatment strategies both by physicians and drug treatment centers. The lack of insurance coverage, physician training, policy hindrances, and adequate resources are only part of the explanation for this failure.

Researchers of a study presented recently in the Clinical Journal of Pain found that many primary care doctors lacked an adequate knowledge base about opioid treatment and failed to appreciate the danger of diversion to non-patients. These two deficiencies often made the doctors prescribe them more often than necessary.

Read more »

FBI Agent Who Stole Heroin Seized As Evidence Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison

fbi-badgeBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

An FBI agent who stole heroin seized as evidence to feed his addiction was sentenced to three years in federal prison Thursday, a much lighter sentence than prosecutors wanted, the Washington Post reports. 

Matthew Lowry’s theft of evidence prompted prosecutors to dismiss drug cases against 28 defendants.

Calling it the most difficult decision in his 32 years on the bench, U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan said he choose a lighter sentence because of Lowry’s addition. The sentencing guidelines had called for seven to nine years in prison.

“What we have here is a successful young agent with a sterling reputation who abused his position and abused his trust,” Hogan said.

He added, however, that because of Lowry’s actions, “major drug dealers were put back on the street to harm our citizens and endanger our children.”

Ex-FBI Agent Who Stole Heroin From Evidence to Be Sentenced Today

fbi badgeBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A former FBI agent who stole heroin from criminal investigations to feed his addiction should be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison, prosecutors plan to urge a judge, the Washington Post reports.

Former agent Matthew Lowry, who worked in the Washington field office, spoiled drug case and forced prosecutors to dismiss drug charges against 28 people.

“Whatever can be said of the defendant’s decision to self-medicate, what is both indefensible and inexcusable is the fact that the defendant decided to supply himself with heroin by stealing it from FBI custody,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin R. Brenner wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

Lowry is scheduled to be sentenced at 1:3o p.m. today.

Updated: South Carolina Man Who Shot DEA Agent Sentenced to 8 Years

Joel Robinson

Joel Robinson

Update: Monday, 2:54 p.m. —   Orangeburg County resident Joel Robinson, who shot and wounded a DEA agent during a surprise pre-dawn drug raid outside his home last fall, was sentenced in Columbia, S.C. Monday to eight years in prison, The State newspaper reported.

The paper reports that there was a courtroom full of law enforcement officer during the sentencing.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A South Carolina man is expected to be sentenced to prison today after shooting and wounding a DEA agent during a drug raid at the suspect’s house.

The State reports that Joel Robinson will likely receive 8 years in prison as part of a plea agreement.

The 33-year-old had faced up to 30 years in prison.

Prosecutors agreed to dismiss most of the charges against Robinson if he pleaded guilty to shooting DEA Agent Barry Wilson.

No drugs were found.

Wilson said he thought the raid was a break-in.

Other Stories of Interest

SLT Editorial: DEA Should Not Bypass Judges Or Search Warrants

dea-badgeBy Editorial Board
The Salt Lake Tribune

If the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says it can’t do its job without bypassing a judge’s signature, it raises reasonable suspicions about law enforcement operating without proper oversight.

If the DEA adds that such a bypass is needed to stop Utahns from overdosing at high rates, it exposes just how shameless the war on drugs has become.

In a move that raises the specter of indiscriminate NSA phone monitoring, the federal government’s drug cops are pushing back against a Utah law that took effect this year that requires a judge to sign a search warrant for access to the state’s data base of prescriptions. Before that law, law enforcement could simply use “administrative subpoenas” that required no signoff from a judge.

It is precisely because of the abuse of such subpoenas that Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, sponsored the Utah law. The prescription data base was created in 1995 to track the blossoming problem of prescription drug abuse, particularly pain medications, and police could access it without a formal warrant from a judge.

In a notorious case, Cottonwood Heights police searched through every prescription issued to 480 Unified Fire Authority employees after pills were found missing from ambulances. If that egregious violation of privacy wasn’t enough, prosecutors eventually filed faulty charges against one assistant fire chief based on the search. He was cleared, and he’s now suing Cottonwood Heights.

DEA’s spokeswoman says the state’s new requirement “will significantly hamper our mission,” but she didn’t elaborate on how. All the Utah law asks is that the DEA get a judge to sign a warrant before the data base can be searched. That is something that could take as little as a couple of hours in a process that most of law enforcement uses daily. It also adds a measure of legitimacy to any investigation, meaning that the eventual charges have a better chance of sticking.

To read more click here. 

Prison Where 2 Killer Inmates Escaped Is Under Investigation for Alleged Drug Smuggling Ring

Clinton Correctional Facility

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI is investigating an alleged drug smuggling ring that operated at the upstate New York prison where two killers escaped, the New York Post reports. 

“The FBI is investigating the prison for drug trafficking. Agents are re-interviewing inmates and prison workers who have already been interviewed by state investigators,” a source familiar with the investigation said.

“This is a vote of no confidence by the feds in the state investigation. And it’s likely the state investigators did not ask pertinent questions regarding the drug trafficking that the FBI is currently asking. The information on the possible drug trafficking came up in the initial interviews conducted by state investigators with inmates and staff,” the source said.

The investigation is exploring other reported crimes at the Clinton Correctional Facility.

Convicted killers Richard Matt and David Sweat escaped but both were later captured. Matt was shot and killed Friday, and Sweet was wounded and captured Sunday.