The president wants to cut opioid prescriptions by one-third within three years. He seeks the death penalty for dealers, which aides say would apply only to “very specific, high-level cases.”
President Trump pledged to achieve victory over the opioid epidemic in a speech in hard-hit New Hampshire, touting a “tough” law-enforcement approach—including the death penalty for dealers—as Congress wrestles with treatment funding, the Wall Street Journal reports. “Addiction is not our future. We will liberate our country from this crisis,” Trump said. “This is about winning a very, very tough problem, and if we don’t get very tough on these dealers, it’s not going to happen, folks.” Trump’s remarks at a community college on Monday marked the unveiling of the next phase of his administration’s plan to turn the tide of the opioid epidemic, now claiming the lives of 100 Americans a day through overdoses of prescription opioid pills, fentanyl and heroin.
The plan calls for opioid prescriptions to be reduced by one-third within three years, partly by encouraging physicians to change their behavior. It seeks guaranteed access to overdose-reversal drug naloxone and Justice Department filing of death-penalty cases against drug traffickers. Trump said concerns about fentanyl and heroin supported his policies seeking to extend a barrier on the southern border and punish cities that refuse to cooperate with federal deportation efforts. White House aides said the proposal on the death penalty was focused only “very specific high-level cases” and that the administration was more interested in seeing new laws providing mandatory minimum sentences for fentanyl dealers. The plan backs expanding access to medication-assisted treatment, though it doesn’t come with a price tag. Democrats have criticized the administration’s response as slow, saying they want a specific commitment for funds. “This is not a crisis that we can solve just by being tougher on drug dealers,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), “We need presidential leadership in pushing for the significant additional funding that it will ultimately take.”
Research finds that injection sites prevent fatal overdoses and reduce the spread of infectious diseases. Still, the sites themselves violate federal anti-drug law and could face prosecution.
Several cities could soon face a legal showdown with the Trump administration over efforts to open “supervised injection facilities” where drug addicts can shoot up with powerful illegal drugs while trained personnel stand by to prevent fatal overdoses, McClatchy Newspapers reports. San Francisco plans to open the nation’s first two authorized injection facilities in July. Philadelphia and Seattle are also pursuing similar sites. Other large cities like Denver and New York City and even smaller towns, like Ithaca, N.Y. have considered such facilities. The Massachusetts Medical Society and the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association want a pilot facility in their state.
Research on injection sites around the world have found they prevent fatal overdoses and reduce the spread of infectious diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV by providing sterile needles and equipment. They also connect drug users with counseling, treatment and other services without increasing area drug trafficking and other crime, studies have found. Armed with naloxone to reverse overdoses, injection facility staff provide a lifesaving backstop to addicts whose stash may be tainted with lethal fentanyl, said Taeko Frost of the Harm Reduction Coalition in Oakland. By being in illegal possession of controlled substances, every user who visits an injection site would violate drug-possession provisions of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, said Katherine Pfaff of the Drug Enforcement Administration. The sites themselves would violate the law’s “crack house statute” that prohibits the use of a location to manufacture, store, distribute or use controlled substances, Pfaff said. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is likely to oppose safe injection sites but he might let local U.S. Attorneys decide how best to deal with an injection facility in their jurisdiction.
The 21st Century Cures Act provided $500 million to deal with the opioid crisis but three-quarters of it remains unspent. The law’s two-year spending span makes it difficult for treatment providers to build long-term programs. “This is a total failure,” says one expert.
Congress sent states hundreds of millions of dollars to fight an opioid crisis claiming more than 100 lives a day, but much of the money is unspent after a year, reports Politico. Mixed signals from the Trump administration on how to use the money and state challenges in ramping up their efforts have left untouched more than three-quarters of the $500 million Congress set aside under the 21st Century Cures Act in late 2016. As President Trump heads to hard-hit New Hampshire on Monday to tout his plan to combat the crisis, the slow drip of dollars into communities hit hard by addiction has put state officials in a bind, and frustrated addiction experts and treatment organizations. “This is a total failure,” said Andrew Kolodny, former chief medical officer at Phoenix House now at Brandeis University. He likens the situation to food and water “stuck in an airport somewhere, while people are starving to death.”
The grants for opioid addiction and prevention efforts were part of a $1 billion over two years provided in the Cures Act, which President Obama signed just before leaving office. State officials were happy to receive new money, but the two-year span made it difficult to get long-term commitments from health care providers to build programs and hire a workforce. Many of those trying to expand access to medication-assisted treatment, buy overdose reversal drugs and bolster recovery programs were hamstrung in their efforts to solve an expanding public health emergency with a short-term program. Congress is set to release the second $500 million tranche of aid soon, and is weighing whether to extend the grants beyond two years. The funding is valuable for some programs, but doesn’t come close to paying for aggressive treatment, said Robin Parsons of the Fairbanks Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment Center in Indianapolis.
A majority of Americans favor marijuana legalization, but opinions can diverge sharply at the local level. There are tensions between those who want to treat it as a business and those who see it as an opportunity for social justice.
From a distance, California’s legalization of recreational marijuana can appear like a giant collective embrace of the drug by a state that is by far its largest producer and consumer. The diverging paths of Oakland and Compton, two cities with histories of illicit drugs and years of aggressive law enforcement crackdowns, highlight the continued ambivalence of many Californians toward marijuana. Oakland allows marijuana businesses but Compton banned them, the New York Times reports.It is a lesson for states and municipalities across the U.S. that are drawn to marijuana legalization as a source of revenue and see it as an inevitability given the failure of decades of federal efforts to stamp out cannabis. National polls suggest a majority of Americans favor legalization. Opinions can diverge sharply at the local level, and there are tensions between those who want to treat it as a business and those who see it as an opportunity for social justice.
Several states, including Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania, are assisting communities disproportionately affected by drug interdiction efforts. In California, Oakland led the way in framing the legalization as both an opportunity to address past injustice and as a source of revenue. Dozens of other cities and towns across the state want nothing to do with recreational marijuana sales. Only 14 percent of California’s 482 cities and towns allow retail sales of recreational marijuana, says the website Weedmaps.Oakland offers licenses to those with previous marijuana arrests. The idea, which has been copied in cities like Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco, was intended as a redress for the years before legalization, when nonwhites were arrested at rates that were disproportionate to their share of the population.
The proposal calls for law enforcement measures — like the death penalty for some drug dealers — that public health advocates and members of Congress warn will detract from efforts to reverse the epidemic.
The Trump administration is finalizing a long-awaited plan that it says will solve the opioid crisis. It calls for law enforcement measures — like the death penalty for some drug dealers — that public health advocates and congressional Republicans warn will detract from efforts to reverse the epidemic, Politico reports. The ambitious plan, which the White House has quietly been circulating among political appointees, could be announced as soon as Monday when President Trump visits New Hampshire, a state hard hit by the epidemic. It includes a mix of prevention and treatment measures that advocates have long endorsed, as well as beefed-up enforcement in line with the president’s frequent calls for a harsh crackdown on drug traffickers and dealers.
Several congressional Democrats said they were alarmed by Trump’s plan to ramp up punishment. “We are still paying the costs for one failed ‘war on drugs,’ and now President Trump is drawing up battle plans for another,” said Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts. “We will not incarcerate or execute our way out of the opioid epidemic.” The White House’s most concrete proposal yet to address opioids comes after complaints from state health officials and advocates that Trump has moved too slowly to combat the epidemic after his bold campaign promises to wipe out the crisis touching all parts of the country. The plan could cost billions of dollars more than Trump budgeted — and likely far more than any funding package that Congress would approve — raising questions about how much of it can actually be put into practice.
Alarmed that California’s fledgling legal marijuana industry is being undercut by the black market, a group of legislators has proposed to reduce state taxes for three years on growing and selling cannabis to allow licensed sellers to get on their feet.
Alarmed that California’s fledgling legal marijuana industry is being undercut by the black market, a group of legislators has proposed to reduce state taxes for three years on growing and selling cannabis to allow licensed sellers to get on their feet, the Los Angeles Times reports. With many California license holders claiming they can’t compete because of high state and local taxes, the new legislation would cut the state excise tax from 15 percent to 11 percent and suspend a cultivation tax that charges $148 per pound. “Criminals do not pay business taxes, ensure consumers are 21 and over, obtain licenses or follow product safety regulations,” said Assemblyman Tom Lackey. “We need to give legal businesses some temporary tax relief so they do not continue to be undercut by the black market.”
California voters approved the 15 percent tax when they passed Proposition 64 in 2016, allowing legal growing, distribution and sales of marijuana for recreational use and requiring state licenses for the continued sale of pot for medical purposes. License holders began growing and selling pot on Jan. 1. Legal growers say the excise and grower’s taxes are a burden on top of local taxes adopted by cities and counties, as well as a sales tax that is as high as 9.2 percent in some counties. Combined, taxes can raise the price of marijuana sold legally by up to 45 percent. That is a major disadvantage, industry leaders say, especially when the state soon will begin charging a $1,000 license processing fee. The temporary suspension of state taxes will “help level the playing field,” between the legal and underground marijuana markets, according to Hezekiah Allen of the cannabis trade group California Growers Association.
Reading from the Voice Media empire: In March 2017, as we’ve reported, former medical marijuana dispensary owner Rocky Pedersen was arrested for an AR-15-toting pot-shop robbery spree. He’s now been sentenced to fourteen years behind bars for a series of crimes that he blames on his switch from cannabis to heroin. However, the prosecutor in the […]
The post Ex-Pot Shop Owner Rocky Pedersen Blames AR-15-Toting Robberies on Heroin Habit appeared first on True Crime Report.
Reading from the Voice Media empire: In March 2017, as we’ve reported, former medical marijuana dispensary owner Rocky Pedersen was arrested for an AR-15-toting pot-shop robbery spree. He’s now been sentenced to fourteen years behind bars for a series of crimes that he blames on his switch from cannabis to heroin. However, the prosecutor in the [...]
The post Ex-Pot Shop Owner Rocky Pedersen Blames AR-15-Toting Robberies on Heroin Habit appeared first on True Crime Report.
Two economists found that as states expand access to Narcan, which can bring overdose victims “back to live,” some addicts might keep using drugs, figuring that they can be revived if they overdose. In the Midwest, more Narcan laws were associated with a 14-percent increase in opioid mortality.
With the opioid epidemic claiming more than 100 lives a day in the U.S., every state has a law expanding access to naloxone, known as Narcan. Naloxone is an opioid that is said to bring an overdose victim “back to life.” That led two economists to wonder, does the prospect of not dying from opioids make people more likely to use opioids? And are they more likely to, ultimately, die as a result? Jennifer Doleac of the University of Virginia and Anita Mukherjee of the University of Wisconsin looked at the time period before and after different naloxone-access laws were put into place, such as providing legal immunity to people who prescribed or administered the drug and allowing anyone to buy naloxone without a prescription, The Atlantic reports.
After naloxone-access laws take effect, arrests related to the possession and sale of opioids went up, as did opioid-related ER visits. Meanwhile—and most worryingly—there was no impact on the death rate. In the Midwest, the implementation of naloxone laws led to a 14 percent increase in opioid-related mortality. To Doleac, “anytime you make something less dangerous, people are going to do more of it.” The study suggests that heroin users figured they stood a good chance of being revived if they overdosed, so they kept on using. Public health officials were alarmed by Doleac and Mukherjee’s findings, suggesting they might lead cities and states to pull back from providing naloxone freely. Naloxone access is considered a pillar of “harm reduction,” the idea that if people can’t immediately be cured of addiction, as least drugs should be made less dangerous. Leana Wen, Baltimore’s health commissioner and an advocate for the expansion of access to naloxone, pointed out that just because the laws around naloxone changed doesn’t mean people were able to obtain it more easily right away.
Colorado prosecutors filed more than 15,200 felony drug cases in 2017, twice as many as they did in 2012, says a new report that has prompted renewed calls for sentencing reforms that send low-level drug offenders to treatment rather than prison. The state wants to reopen a prison that was closed in 2013.
Colorado prosecutors filed more than 15,200 felony drug cases in 2017, twice as many as they did in 2012, says a new report that has prompted renewed calls for sentencing reforms that send low-level drug offenders to treatment rather than prison, reports the Denver Post. The Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition found that 75 percent of felony drug filings last year were for simple possession. The increase in drug felony filings appears to have a disproportionate impact on women offenders. Rep. Leslie Herod of Denver and Rep. Pete Lee of Colorado Springs said the report likely would give ammunition to those opposed to efforts by corrections officials to reopen a closed prison in Cañon City. Lee chairs the House Judiciary Committee.
Herod, Lee and Rep. Cole Wist are pushing bipartisan legislation to encourage using community corrections beds to handle a projected surge in prison populations. Lee said he doubted legislators have “much appetite for increasing the number of prison beds in Colorado.” The new report showed that a 2013 law meant to prioritize treatment over incarceration for offenders charged with drug possession isn’t working as intended and more reforms are needed, Lee said. He said that the legislature “should revisit the state’s drug sentencing structure, come up with some new ideas for reaching that original goal, and redouble efforts to steer people struggling with addiction into treatment rather than prisons.” The Joint Budget Committee meets Wednesday to consider budget proposals from corrections officials. A bipartisan task force Gov. John Hickenlooper formed to study prison population projections also is scheduled to meet Wednesday. The Colorado Department of Corrections has submitted a budget request that called for reopening Centennial Correctional Facility-South in Cañon City, a prison designed for solitary confinement that the state closed in 2013.
Despite indications of a possible federal crackdown on marijuana, Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the Justice Department won’t take on “routine” pot cases and will continue to focus on gangs and conspiracies.
Federal prosecutors won’t take on small-time marijuana cases, despite the Justice Department’s decision to cancel an Obama-era policy that discouraged U.S. authorities from cracking down on the pot trade in states where the drug is legal, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Saturday, the Associated Press reports. Federal law enforcement lacks the resources to take on “routine cases” and will continue to focus on drug gangs and larger conspiracies, Sessions said. The Trump administration in January threw the expanding marijuana legalization movement into uncertainty by reversing the largely hands-off approach that prevailed during the Obama administration, saying federal prosecutors should instead handle marijuana cases however they see fit.
The Obama policy allowed the pot trade to flourish, with eight states legalizing marijuana for recreational use. “I am not going to tell Colorado or California or someone else that possession of marijuana is legal under United States law,” Sessions said, answering student questions after a speech at Georgetown’s law school. He added that federal prosecutors “haven’t been working small marijuana cases before, they are not going to be working them now.” Federal authorities have tried for years to tackle problems like illegal marijuana-growing operations on national parklands and gangs that peddle pot along with more harmful drugs. It remains to be seen whether prosecutors will seek to punish state-sanctioned pot businesses. Some have indicated they have no plans to do so. “Those are the kinds of things each one of those U.S. Attorneys will decide how to handle,” Sessions said.