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Archive for the ‘Drug laws’ Category

Why the DEA intentionally lets drugs into communities

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The DEA has its oddities (e.g., having marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug), but this one is surprising. Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:

Last week, the acting director of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration was asked whether his agents ever intentionally allow drug shipments into communities in the interest of making a bigger bust later on.

Chuck Rosenberg’s answer: “I’ll have to check and get back to you on that.”

Rosenberg was addressing the House Judiciary Committee at a hearing on oversight of the DEA and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. During that hearing, Louisiana Democratic Rep. Cedric L. Richmond asked about the practice. Here’s the full exchange:

RICHMOND: This committee held many hearings, and was furious about the Fast and Furious program. At least from my knowledge of DEA and other drug agencies, oftentimes part of a bigger sting is letting transactions and other things go through. Now, it’s a very specific question. In DEA’s past, present, future, any times do you let drugs hit communities to get the bigger fish?

ROSENBERG: We’re not supposed to know, sir.

RICHMOND: Okay. Are you aware of any instances where it may happen?

ROSENBERG: I’ll have to check and get back to you on that.

Rosenberg’s demurral isn’t entirely surprising, given the framing. “Fast and Furious” was the name of an ATF operation that allowed illegal gun sales to proceed to track their buyers and sellers. Roughly 1,400 of the guns were lost, two of which turned up at the scene of a Border Patrol agent’s murder in 2010.

But it’s notable that Rosenberg didn’t deny his agency conducts similarly structured operations and likely wasn’t being entirely forthcoming, as there is considerable evidence that DEA does allow drugs to enter communities in the hopes of bringing down major players in drug dealing and distribution.

In 2015, the DOJ’s Inspector General criticized the DEA for how it tracked and approved the illegal activity of its sources: “These inadequate DEA policies and procedures related to OIA greatly increase the risk to the DEA, the U.S. government, and the public from the involvement of DEA confidential sources in OIA.”

Federal law allows informants, like those employed by the DEA, to engage in “otherwise illegal activity” as part of an investigation. Those activities include “trafficking in what would be considered as large quantities of controlled substances” — 450 kilos of cocaine, for instance, or more than 90,000 kilos of marijuana.

“DEA undercover agents or DEA confidential sources of information commonly pose as buyers or sellers of controlled substances,” explained DEA spokesman Russell Baer in an email. Those informants are permitted to engage in all manner of illegal activities, even the large-scale trafficking of drugs.

Baer added that “as a general rule, DEA does not sell drugs. This type of activity is not a normal investigative technique, and is not commonplace.” Moreover, any illegal activity undertaken by confidential sources must be approved by supervising agents, Baer said.

But we don’t know how often such large-scale trafficking might happen under DEA supervision because the agency doesn’t release this information. Outside experts say that DEA-approved drug sales are “routine.”

“In my experience dealing with hundreds of drug war prisoners this behavior is embedded in DEA practices,” said Tony Papa of the Drug Policy Alliance, a reform group.

Papa knows better than others: Down on his luck in the Bronx in the 1980s, he agreed to deliver an envelope containing cocaine on behalf of a friend for $500. The friend was actually an informant cooperating with the DEA to get out of his own drug troubles.

Papa was busted and given a sentence of 15 years to life under New York state’s harsh drug laws. “Something like this is routine,” he said.

The DEA maintains its confidential sources “provide invaluable contributions and assistance in furtherance of DEA investigations against major domestic and transnational criminal organizations.” But the use of confidential sources in drug investigations has come under fire in recent years, particularly after several high-profile deathsof young people who critics say were coerced into becoming informants after being arrested for low-level offenses involving marijuana and other drugs.

Aside from direct involvement in drug deals, law enforcement officials may also allow drugs to flow into communities because they’re interested in seizing the cash proceeds from the sale of those drugs. Investigations have revealed that drug task force authorities working the nation’s highways often focus on the routes where cash from drug transactions travels, rather than the routes the drugs themselves flow through.

That’s been the case, for instance, in Oklahoma, according to an ACLU report. “We are deliberately letting the drugs get to their final destination, get sold, get used, and in some cases letting someone die of an overdose,” said Brady Henderson of the Oklahoma ACLU last year.

Critics say there’s a simple reason for this: When police seize drugs, those drugs get destroyed. But if they seize cash, they often get to keep it under highly permissive state and federal asset forfeiture laws. This can create an incentive for law enforcement to look the other way when drugs flow into cities to grab the cash from those transactions on its way back out. . .

Continue reading.

Drugs have had a serious and corrupting effect on law enforcement at every level, a problem made worse by the police code of silence, which protects criminal cops.

It would be interesting to know the number of overdose deaths following drug shipments expedited by the DEA. I’m sure the DEA will go to any lengths to keep that information from becoming known to the public. (To be fair, the DEA has a very low opinion of those who use drugs; they seem to view drug users as scum, barely human, and so having a drug user overdose probably doesn’t strike them as that big a deal. Some probably view it as a positive)

UPDATE: A revealing look at what law enforcement in the US is becoming: “Secret A.T.F. Account Paid for $21,000 Nascar Suite and Las Vegas Trip,” by Matt Apuzzo in the NY Times. It begins:

Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives used a secret, off-the-books bank account to rent a $21,000 suite at a Nascar race, take a trip to Las Vegas and donate money to the school of one of the agents’ children, according to records and interviews.

Agents also used the account to finance undercover operations around the country, despite laws prohibiting government officials from using private money to supplement their budgets, according to current and former government officials and others familiar with the account.

The revelations highlight the lax oversight at the A.T.F. that allowed agents and informants to spend millions while avoiding the normal accounting process. The Justice Department’s inspector general, who is investigating the secret account, criticized the A.T.F. recently for mismanagement and said the agency did not know how many informants it had or how much they were paid.

The New York Times revealed the existence of the bank account in February, prompting an investigation by the House oversight committee. The Justice Department, which oversees the A.T.F., has denied any wrongdoing, and the department has refused to say whether the bureau continues to operate such secret accounts, which the government called “management accounts.”

The A.T.F. has also refused to say who authorized the account, which was created by agents based in Bristol, Va., who were investigating tobacco smuggling. One government official said the bureau regarded the account as a hybrid of government funds and private money, a combination that is not authorized under federal law. Ryan Kaye, an A.T.F. supervisor, is quoted in public court documents as saying the agents received “verbal directives” from unidentified officials at headquarters to open the account.

The arrangement dates back at least to 2011, court records show. Records show that a pair of A.T.F. informants who ran a tobacco warehouse in Bristol,

Written by LeisureGuy

11 April 2017 at 2:50 pm

How Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper really feels about marijuana

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Alicia Wallace has an interesting article in the Cannabist:

In 2012, when Colorado voters wanted their state to legalize weed for adult recreational use, Gov. John Hickenlooper was thrust into an interesting predicament.

The moderate Democrat had stood in opposition to Amendment 64, a measure he felt would send the wrong message to kids, create public health risks, detract from Colorado’s desirability, and, not to mention, stoke the ire of the feds.

But voters’ will spoke and Hickenlooper became an extremely reluctant figurehead and participant in one of the most unique social and political experiments in recent years.

Nearly five years after that historic vote and a little more than three years since the regulated adult-use sales began, that experiment is ongoing and Colorado’s regulations are evolving. And on this front, the broader national landscape is flush with activity: While eight states, including Colorado, now have recreational marijuana laws, the federal government may no longer be a sleeping giant.

The experiment is headed toward a crossroads.

Hickenlooper this week sat down briefly with The Cannabist to address topics such as the looming threat of increased federal enforcement, how Colorado has fared thus far, 2017 state legislation to allow for the social use and home delivery of medical marijuana, his views as the parent of a teen and more.

(The following has been edited for clarity and length.)

Q: We’re three years into recreational marijuana sales in the state. How’s it going? What are your biggest concerns and priorities at this time — both in terms of the regulatory as well as industry development?

Hickenlooper: Always our primary focus has been public safety and to make sure that kids … we’re not going to see a big spike in teenagers using marijuana. I’d say in most circumstances, from most perspectives, our worst nightmares haven’t materialized.

We haven’t seen a spike in teenage use. We haven’t seen a giant increase in people’s consumption of marijuana. Seems like the people who were using marijuana before it was legal, still are. Seems like the people who weren’t using marijuana before it was legal, still aren’t.

Obviously now, (the) appointment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions has added an additional level of complexity; but overall, I’d say that the experiment — as it continues to move forward — has gone better certainly than I anticipated and I think certainly better than many people anticipated. Doesn’t mean that we’re completely out of the woods. We don’t have sufficient data to say there aren’t still unintended consequences that we need to address. But it’s certainly not as bad as what most people thought.

Q: You referenced Attorney General Sessions and I know you’re well aware of the remarks that both he and White House spokesman Sean Spicer have made in regard to potential enforcement as it relates to state-based cannabis programs. What could be the most likely courses of action that the feds may take, and what would your responses be?

Hickenlooper: It’s hard to predict what the action will be. Most of the lawyers I talk to find no legal difference between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana as it relates to federal law. So to crack down on only recreational marijuana and leave medical marijuana untouched, seems unlikely – if you assume that people are going to approach it the same way.

But by the same token, more than 60 percent of the population of this country live in a state that has either medical or recreational marijuana legal. That’s almost two-thirds of the people of this country living in a state that has some sort of legalized marijuana. To roll that back would be very difficult. And President Trump repeatedly said on the campaign that he thought that states were the right place and this was an experiment being done at the state level, and he wasn’t sure the federal government should get in and disrupt something that seemed to be moving forward.

I don’t think there’s much question the old system was a disaster. We sent hundreds of thousands — millions — on a nationwide basis, millions of kids to jail for non-violent crimes. We inducted them into a high probability of a lifetime of crime, strictly by sending them to prison for something that was a non-violent crime.

This new system, where we may not be completely sure of (whether) we’ve solved all the problems and that we’re going to be successful in this grand experiment, it does offer certain advantages to the status quo of the previous system. Now we have tax revenues.

Some people complain about the black market, “You’ve got this black market, this large black market. How do you address that?” Well, you know five years ago, it was a huge black market. Everything was black market, right? It was all illegal. Everything was being paid in cash and under the table. At least now we have some tax revenues that we can use to market to teenagers and make sure they understand that they could lose permanently a piece of their long-term memory.

Almost every brain doctor I’ve talked to feels there’s a very high probability — if your brain is still rapidly growing during your teenage years … there’s a high probability, it’s more than just risk, you’ll lose a sliver of your long-term memory every time you smoke this high-THC marijuana. Most kids don’t realize that. But we now have money we can advertise for that. We can provide more money to public safety to crack down on this gray market that turns into a black market. Each year we’re changing the regulatory structure to make it I think a little better.

Q: In terms of those changes, there are a couple of bills in this current session that you’ve said you’re not a big fan of — the marijuana delivery bill as well as the marijuana clubs bill. What are your biggest concerns about those respective pieces of legislation, and what fixes could be made, if any, to earn your signature?

Hickenlooper: The pot clubs, when the public voted on (Amendment 64), it was explicit in that initiative that it would not be for public consumption. So I’m just trying to defend the will of the voters in that.

In terms of delivery, that notion of having a delivery person go around house to house and dropping off potentially significant amounts of marijuana — any amount of marijuana — I think we look at that as just a hazard. And if we’re really serious about keeping marijuana out of the hands of teenagers, delivery service offers more opportunity for that marijuana to get into the hands of kids.

Q: And as they stand right now, would you veto them? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 April 2017 at 11:37 am

Jerry Jones’s marijuana proposal could save NFL players’ lives

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I’m not really a sports fan and the NFL leaves me cold, especially since we now know the damage being done to the players, but Christopher Ingraham has a very good report on some reforms that could help the players (but since the reforms make no money for the owners, it will be an uphill struggle). He writes in the Washington Post:

The owner of the Dallas Cowboys said in a recent meeting of NFL owners that the league should “drop its prohibition on marijuana use,” according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio.

While recreational marijuana use is legal in eight states plus D.C., and medical marijuana is legal is about 20 more, NFL players are banned from using the drug for any purposes under the existing collective bargaining agreement, which expires in 2020. Under that agreement, players who test positive for marijuana must enter a substance abuse program. Subsequent violations lead to fines, 10-game suspensions, and, ultimately, banishment from the league.

Former NFL players have been increasingly vocal in their criticism of the ban in recent years, saying that medical marijuana is a safe alternative to the powerful prescription opiates routinely prescribed to NFL players for pain. Documents obtained by The Post earlier this yearshow that NFL teams are heavy users of prescription pain medications, averaging about “six to seven pain pills or injections a week per player over the course of a typical NFL season.”

Science, as it turns out, is on the players’ — and now Jones’s — side.

There’s little evidence that opiates work for the chronic aches and pains often suffered by football players. But there’s strong evidence that anyone, NFL pro or otherwise, who uses opiates on a long-term basis is putting themself at serious risk for drug dependency, overdose and death.

A 2014 review of 39 studies investigating the efficacy of opiate painkillers for chronic pain found that “evidence on long-term opioid therapy for chronic pain is very limited but suggests an increased risk of serious harms that appear to be dose-dependent.” In other words, there’s little evidence of benefit for treating chronic pain with opioids, but a there is a real risk of harm.

The implications of this finding shouldn’t be understated, for either NFL players or the public. Opiate painkillers, like the ones prescribed in bulk by the NFL, kill over 15,000 people a year via overdose. No death from a marijuana overdose has been reported, according to the DEA.

On the other hand, chronic pain is one of the conditions that marijuana has been shown to be effective at treating. Earlier this year the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine published an expansive literature review, spanning decades of research, showing “substantial evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults.”

The NFL, in other words, is pumping its players full of highly addictive and deadly substances that are of dubious use for treating the long-term, chronic pain suffered by so many players — and fining and suspending players who choose instead to self-medicate with a less-addictive and nonlethal substance.

The disproportionality of the league’s substance abuse policy was put into stark relief in 2015, when the Browns’ Josh Gordon received a year-long suspension for multiple violations of the league’s marijuana ban. When Ravens running back Ray Rice was charged with aggravated assault for beating his then-fiancee, his initial suspension from the league was only two games. . .

Continue reading.

It seems obvious to me that there is something seriously wrong with the NFL, and the NFL is not going to look at it.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 April 2017 at 11:00 am

When a drug epidemic’s victims are white

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German Lopez has a good report in Vox, with video at the link:

When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie discusses his compassionate approach to the ongoing opioid epidemic, he frequently brings up a close friend from law school. He describes this friend as perfect — incredibly smart, with a successful law practice, with a beautiful and brilliant wife and kids, and both good looking and athletic. “So we loved him, but we hated him,” Christie joked at a 2015 town hall. “Because the guy had everything, right?”

This friend, however, had a drug problem. Starting with a back injury from running, he was prescribed opioid painkillers. That initial prescription eventually grew into a full-blown addiction. And despite Christie’s and others’ attempts to help, the addiction consumed his friend, who Christie has kept anonymous to protect the family from media attention. Over the next 10 years, despite some stints in rehab, his friend lost his wife, his home, his money, the ability to see his girls, his law practice, and even his driver’s license. Then, he overdosed and died at 52 years old.

“By every measure that we define success in this country, this guy had it,” Christie said. “He’s a drug addict. And he couldn’t get help. And he’s dead.” He added, “When I sat there as the governor of New Jersey at his funeral, and looked across the pew at his three daughters sobbing ’cause their dad is gone, there but for the grace of God go I. It can happen to anyone. And so we need to start treating people in this country, not jailing them. We need to give them the tools they need to recover, because every life is precious.”

This is the kind of story that not just Christie but countless lawmakers across the US have told in reaction to the opioid epidemic: how a close experience with a personal friend or family member drove them to understand drug addiction and the opioid crisis in a much more compassionate way — one that emphasizes treating drug misuse as a public health issue.

Similarly, President Donald Trump, who appointed Christie to a commission studying the opioid epidemic, often brings up the alcohol addiction that consumed and killed his brother. Businesswoman Carly Fiorina, who briefly ran for president in 2016, also mentionedher daughter’s death due to drugs on the campaign trail. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush wrote an article on his daughter’s drug struggles on Medium. And that doesn’t even begin to get into the many, many state lawmakers who have shared similar stories about husbands, wives, sons, daughters, friends, and coworkers who struggled with addiction.

This, they all say, has led them to believe in the need for better, comprehensive drug treatment.

These stories show how lived experiences and personal relationships can influence serious policy decisions. After all, politicians bring up the people in their lives who they saw needlessly suffer and die due to drugs for a specific purpose: to call for an approach to addiction focused on public health over criminal justice.

But in this way, these stories also expose the impact of another issue that may not seem related at first: race.

Even after decades of progress on racial issues, America remains a very segregated country. On a day to day basis, most Americans closely interact only with people of the same race. And that impacts our policies.

Consider the opioid epidemic, which contributed to the record 52,000 drug overdose deaths reported in 2015. Because the crisis has disproportionately affected white Americans, white lawmakers — who make up a disproportionate amount of all levels of government — are more likely to come into contact with people afflicted by the opioid epidemic than, say, the disproportionately black drug users who suffered during the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and ’90s. And that means a lawmaker is perhaps more likely to have the kind of interaction that Christie, Trump, Bush, and Fiorina described — one that might lead them to support more compassionate drug policies — in the current crisis than the ones of old.

Is it any wonder, then, that the crack epidemic led to a “tough on crime” crackdown focused on harsher prison sentences and police tactics, while the current opioid crisis has led more to calls for legislation, including a measure Congress passed last year, that boosted spending on drug treatment to get people with substance use disorders help?

Ithaca, New York, Mayor Svante Myrick, who’s black, told me this has led to resentment in much of the black community in his predominantly white town. “It’s very real,” he acknowledged. The typical response from his black constituents, he said, goes something like this: “Oh, when it was happening in my neighborhood it was ‘lock ’em up.’ Now that it’s happening in the [largely white, wealthy] Heights, the answer is to use my tax dollars to fund treatment centers. Well, my son could have used a treatment center in 1989, and he didn’t get one.”

Still, Myrick added, “I’m as angry about this as anybody. But just because these are now white kids dying doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care, because these are still kids dying.”

Stories like Christie’s, Trump’s, Fiorina’s, and Bush’s show one of the many ways we got to this point, where a policy response can vary largely based on a victim’s race. They demonstrate that it’s not just personal racism that can lead to racially disparate policies, but structural factors like segregation as well. . .

Continue reading.

The US really needs to look at how racism is baked into our institutions, social structures, and daily lives. Until we talk about how race matters a lot in daily life, and listen with empathy to those who endure the on-going impact of racism, we as a nation will continue to be weakened by fault lines the prevent us (as a nation) from reaching our full potential.

Read the full article. There’s a lot more.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 April 2017 at 10:21 am

The government’s struggle to hold opioid manufacturers accountable

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The DEA is keen to bust marijuana users (even patients), but is helpless when it comes to a real menace. Lenny Bernstein and Scot Higham report in the Washington Post:

To combat an escalating opioid epidemic, the Drug Enforcement Administration trained its sights in 2011 on Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of the highly addictive generic painkiller oxycodone.

It was the first time the DEA had targeted a manufacturer of opioids for alleged violations of laws designed to prevent diversion of legal narcotics to the black market. And it would become the largest prescription-drug case the agency has pursued.

Ultimately, the DEA and federal prosecutors would contend that the company ignored its responsibility to report suspicious orders as 500 million of its pills ended up in Florida between 2008 and 2012 — 66 percent of all oxycodone sold in the state. Government investigators alleged in internal documents that the company’s lack of due diligence could have resulted in nearly 44,000 federal violations and exposed it to $2.3 billion in fines, according to confidential government records and emails obtained by The Washington Post.

But six years later, after four investigations that spanned five states, the government has taken no legal action against Mallinckrodt. Instead, the company has reached a tentative settlement with federal prosecutors, according to sources familiar with the discussions. Under the proposal, which remains confidential, Mallinckrodt would agree to pay a $35 million fine and admit no wrongdoing.

“Mallinckrodt’s response was that ­‘everyone knew what was going on in Florida but they had no duty to report it,’ ” according to an internal summary of the case prepared by federal prosecutors and obtained by The Post.

The case shows how difficult it is for the government to hold a drug manufacturer responsible for the damage done by its product. DEA investigators appalled by rising overdose deaths said they worked for years to build the biggest case of their careers only to watch it falter on uncertain legal territory and in the face of stiff resistance from the company.

“They just weren’t taking this seriously, and people were dying,” said a former law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is pending. “People were dying all over the place. It wasn’t their kids, their wives, their husbands, their brothers. It was some hillbilly in Central Florida, so who cares?”

In a statement, a Mallinckrodt spokesman said the company has worked hard to fight drug diversion.

“Mallinckrodt has long been a recognized leader in developing and sharing best practices related to the prevention of opioid diversion and misuse, and has continuously invested significant resources to address this serious drug epidemic,” the statement said. “We are proud of the programs and initiatives we’ve developed to ensure appropriate use of pain medication and, most importantly, to deter such medications from ending up in the wrong hands.”

Officials at the DEA declined to comment for this article. The U.S. attorney’s office in Detroit, which is handling the case, issued a statement. “Our office works diligently to use all the legal tools available to us to hold corporations responsible for their actions,” acting U.S. attorney Daniel Lemisch said. “This is particularly true in a highly regulated industry such as the manufacture of opioids. As this case is still in settlement negotiations, we cannot comment on the specifics of the matter.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 April 2017 at 6:20 pm

Inspector General’s The Watch Opinion Report: The DEA has seized billions in cash. Owners rarely get due process.

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Radley Balko in the Washington Post:

A new report from the Justice Department’s inspector general finds that during the past 10 years, the Drug Enforcement Administration has seized more than $4 billion in cash allegedly tied to drug activity. More than 75 percent of that total never resulted in criminal charges, and 80 percent ended up in the federal forfeiture fund through administrative procedures — meaning that the owners never got a day in court.

There’s no uniform standard for what constitutes a connection to drug activity. Cash can be seized if narcotics officers think it was earned from the sale of drugs or will be used to buy drugs. At airports, bus terminals and train stations, agents have seized cash from travelers coming from or going to a city known to be a hub for drug trafficking, for buying a one-way ticket or for acting “suspiciously.” From the report:

We found that different task force officers made different decisions in similar situations when deciding whether to seize all of the cash discovered. These differences demonstrate how seizure decisions can appear arbitrary, which should be a concern for the Department, both because of potentially improper conduct and because even the appearance of arbitrary decision-making in asset seizure can fuel public perception that law enforcement is not using this authority legitimately, thereby undermining public confidence in law enforcement.

In a review of 100 seizures, the report found that 85 occurred while property or the owner of the seized property was in transit (at an airport, during a traffic stop, at a shipping center, etc.), and that 79 of those were initiated based solely on a DEA agent or cooperating drug officer’s suspicions, not on preexisting intelligence.

While civil asset forfeiture is justified on the premise that it prevents criminals from ill-gotten gains, the DEA can’t say what percentage of its seizures resulted in broader investigations, or what percentage of those investigations resulted in criminal charges — because it doesn’t keep track. Given the building momentum against these seizures, one would think that if there were a clear connection between seizures of cash and investigations that nab drug dealers or result in large seizures of illicit substances, the DEA would want to track and promote those figures to tout its success. That they don’t even bother suggests that the connection between seizures and actual criminal activity is minimal.

That lack of data is why the IG’s office selected 100 cases to review itself. Its conclusion? “This review of sampled seizures provided evidence that many of the DEA’s interdiction seizures may not advance or relate to criminal investigations.”

In other words, they’re just stealing from people, albeit under the color of law. The report also found that state and local officers on federal anti-drug task forces aren’t required to get any formal training on forfeiture laws and procedures, which again results in rather arbitrary and inconsistent standards, policies and procedures.

Defenders of forfeiture often argue that . . .

Continue reading.

It’s a criminal enterprise.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 March 2017 at 3:18 pm

A pharma company that spent $500,000 trying to keep pot illegal just got DEA approval for synthetic marijuana

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:sigh: One grows tired of this stuff. Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:

Insys Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company that was one of the chief financial backers of the opposition to marijuana legalization in Arizona last year, received preliminary approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration this week for Syndros, a synthetic marijuana drug.

Insys gave $500,000 last summer to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, the group opposing marijuana legalization in Arizona. The donation amounted to roughly 10 percent of all money raised by the group in an ultimately successful campaign against legalization. Insys was the only pharmaceutical company known to be giving money to oppose legalization last year, according to a Washington Post analysis of campaign finance records.

Syndros is a synthetic formulation of THC, the main psychoactive component in the cannabis plant. It was approved by the FDA last summer to treat nausea, vomiting and weight loss in cancer and AIDS patients. The DEA approval places Syndros and its generic formulations in Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act, indicating a “high potential for abuse.” Other Schedule II drugs include cocaine, morphine, and many prescription painkillers.

Whole-plant marijuana remains in Schedule I of the CSA, an even stricter regulatory category that designates a lack of medically-accepted use in addition to a high abuse potential.

Insys has been active marijuana policy for several years. In 2011 it wrote to the DEA to express opposition to loosening restrictions on naturally-derived THC, citing  “the abuse potential in terms of the need to grow and cultivate substantial crops of marijuana in the United States.”

Last year it petitioned the DEA to loosen restrictions on synthetic versions of CBD, another compound in the cannabis plant. The company is currently developing a CBD-based drug to treat pediatric epilepsy.

“It appears they are trying to kill a non-pharmaceutical market for marijuana in order to line their own pockets,” a spokesman for Arizona’s marijuana legalization campaign said of Insys last year. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 March 2017 at 10:37 am

Posted in Business, Drug laws

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