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Tag: marijuana

DOJ Operation Leads to Largest Seizure of Drugs Sold on Darknet sites

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Federal investigators have arrested dozens of people accused of trafficking drugs through Darknet sites, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

The operation led to the seizure of more than $6.5 million in cash and virtual currencies, about 274 kilograms of drugs ranging from fentanyl and oxycodone to methamphetamine to heroin in the U.S., and 63 firearms.

The busts were part of operation DisrupTor, an international effort involving the Justice Department and law enforcement partners in Europe. It was the largest seizure of drugs sold online in U.S. history.

Darknet sites, which are on encrypted networks to make access difficult, have become a popular way to distribute illicit drugs.

“Criminals selling fentanyl on the Darknet should pay attention to Operation DisrupTor,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said in a news release. “The arrest of 179 of them in seven countries—with the seizure of their drug supplies and their money as well — shows that there will be no safe haven for drug dealing in cyberspace.”

“With the spike in opioid-related overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize that today’s announcement is important and timely,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said. “The FBI wants to assure the American public, and the world, that we are committed to identifying Darknet drug dealers and bringing them to justice.  But our work does not end with today’s announcement. The FBI, through JCODE and our partnership with Europol, continues to be actively engaged in a combined effort to disrupt the borderless, worldwide trade of illicit drugs. The FBI will continue to use all investigative techniques and tools to identify and prosecute Darknet opioid dealers, wherever they may be located.”

Click here to read prepared remarks on the busts.

Sharp Rise in Illegal Drug Seizures As Cartels Adapt to Coronavirus Pandemic

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Federal authorities are reporting a steep rise in the seizure of illegal drugs as cartels adopt to new tactics during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan.

Most notably, meth seizures along the border through August have more than doubled over all of fiscal year 2019. Marijuana and fentanyl seizures also are higher than last year.

Via CBP.

“Cartels are constantly finding new and innovative ways to smuggle not only illegal immigrants, but also drugs,” Morgan said, BorderReport.com reports. “We saw a precipitous drop in March but they changed their tactics and procedures quickly and are right back on top.”

After a sharp decline in drug trafficking amid the pandemic, drug traffickers are now focusing on deadly drugs that are easier to hide and more cost-effective to ship. Morgan pointed to the seizure in mid-August of 158 pounds of liquid meth that were concealed in three cases of bottled water.

Seizures of drugs such as meth, heroin and fentanyl rose 56% in August compared to July.

The increase in drug trafficking has translated to a surge in violence in Mexican border towns, Morgan said. Since the end of August, Tijuana has reported 1,339 homicides, many of them drug-related.

FBI Investigating Corruption in Blooming Marijuana Industry in California And Nevada

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The FBI warned in August that the blooming marijuana industry was a “public corruption threat” because of the money and power involved.

Now the bureau is investigating whether public officials in California accepted bribes from Sacramento-area marijuana businesses who wanted favorable treatment, including licenses to open dispensaries, The Sacramento Bee reports.

Sacramento officials recently called for an investigation into the cannabis dispensary licensing process following the decision to grant eight dispensary permits to a group linked to a Ukrainian-born businessman indicted last for alleged violations of federal campaign finance laws.

In Nevada, the governor also has called for an investigation into potential corruption in the legal marijuana industry.

Details of the investigations were murky, and the FBI declined to provide divulge details.
In a podcast in August, the FBI warned about the threat of public corruption in the marijuana industry and urged listeners to call their local bureau field offices if they suspect public corruption

DEA to Join Fight Against Illicit THC Cartridges Behind Lung Illness Outbreak

Counterfeit cannabis cartridges, via the New York State Department of Health.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The Food and Drug Administration is asking the DEA to help with the ongoing investigation into a lung illness outbreak linked to vaping.

The FDA wants the DEA to help crack down on the supply side of the crisis because health experts have linked the illnesses to black market cannabis vape cartridges.

Health experts are increasingly focusing on illicit cannabis cartridges that are cut with vitamin E acetate, a thickening agent that resembles marijuana oil.

“To be clear, if we determine that someone is manufacturing or distributing illicit, adulterated products that caused illness or death for personal profit, we would consider that a criminal act,” acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless testified before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Wednesday.

Last week, the FDA launched a criminal investigation focused on the black market makers of the cartridges.

In the past month, law enforcement has busted at least two major distributors of counterfeit, black market cannabis cartridges.

More than 53o people have been sickened by the mysterious lung illness, and at least nine people have died. In a vast majority of the cases, the patients vaped black market cannabis cartridges.

DEA Gets Serious about Studying Marijuana for Its Medical Values While Crack Down on Opioids

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The DEA is proposing to increase the amount of marijuana that can be legally grown for research by 30% in 2020, a promising sign for cannabis advocates who have long insisted the plant has healing properties.

Under the plans unveiled Wednesday, the DEA has called for 3.2 million grams of cannabis to be manufactured for scientific studies to determine the medical value of marijuana

“This will meet the need created by the increase in the amount of approved research involving marijuana,” DEA said in a press release. “Over the last two years, the total number of individuals registered by DEA to conduct research with marijuana, marijuana extracts, derivatives and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has increased by more than 40 percent, from 384 in January 2017 to 542 in January 2019.”

The DEA also is proposing to reduce the amount of Schedule II opioids that can be manufactured in the U.S. next year. The DEA wants to reduce the amount by 31 percent, hydrocodone by 19 percent, hydromorphone by 25 percent, oxycodone by nine percent and oxymorphone by 55 percent.

“The aggregate production quota set by DEA each calendar year ensures that patients have the medicines they need while also reducing excess production of controlled prescription drugs that can be diverted and misused,” Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon said in a statement. “DEA takes seriously its obligations to both protect the public from illicit drug trafficking and ensure adequate supplies to meet the legitimate needs of patients and researchers for these substances.”

For decades, marijuana has been illegal because it was listed as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, which means researchers believe it has no medical value. More substantial research could change that.

Numerous states have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational purposes, despite a federal law making it illegal.

DEA Inches Closer to Opening Up More Marijuana Research

Photo by Steve Neavling.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The DEA’s hesitance to allow for more serious research into marijuana may finally be coming to an end.

The agency announced this week that it’s going to enable more researchers to grow cannabis for studies. For decades, the only entity allowed to research marijuana was the University of Mississippi.

The move could make it easier to legalize marijuana – a step that many states have taken over the past five years.

Marijuana has been illegal on the federal level because it has been labeled a schedule 1 drug, which means it has no medicinal value.

“The main thing that it will likely do is precipitate broader changes in federal policy in marijuana, which will have immense knock-on effects for the industry,” said David Abernathy, vice president of government affairs at the Arcview Group, which markets marijuana research, CNN reports.

FBI Warns about Public Corruption in Blossoming Marijuana Industry

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Legal marijuana has become a multi-billion-dollar industry that continues to grow by the day as more states allow for the sale of recreational and medical pot.

And everyone knows corruption follows money.

So it’s no surprise the FBI is getting more involved in the industry.

“As an increasing number of states change their marijuana legislation, the FBI is seeing a public corruption threat emerge in the expanding cannabis industry,” FBI spokeswoman Mollie Halpern said on a recent podcast released by the FBI.

“States require licenses to grow and sell the drug, opening the possibility for public officials to become susceptible to bribes in exchange for those licenses.”

Halpern urged listeners to call their local FBI field offices if they suspect public corruption.

FBI scrutiny “actually can be a good thing,” California cannabis attorney Henry Wykowski, a former federal prosecutor, told Marijuana Business Daily.

“I think some people are taking advantage of the industry, and we’re entitled to the same protection other industries receive.”

Senate Confirms John Demers to Head DOJ’s National Security Division

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The Senate on Thursday confirmed John Demers to head the Justice Department’s national security division after a Republican senator lifted a hold on his confirmation over a dispute on marijuana.

Demers, an attorney for Boeing and former member of the Justice Department’s national security division team, is set to become assistant attorney general for national security.

“John Demers was on the leadership team at the creation of the National Security Division, which today plays a crucial role in protecting Americans from the threat of terrorism,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

“I am grateful to the Senate for confirming John and I look forward to his return to the department, where his significant experience in both the private sector and public service will most certainly benefit the American people.”

The confirmation was made possible after Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado lifted a hold on the nomination over a dispute with Sessions’ zealous crackdown on marijuana, even in states that legalized pot.

“I have decided to lift my holds on the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, United States Attorneys, and United States Marshals as an act of good faith,” Gardner said in a statement. “My holds on all other DOJ nominees will remain in place as discussions continue.”

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