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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Utah Man Pleads Up Felony

When being sentenced in court most people are trying to get less time. Nobody ever wants to serve longer than they have to, why would they? A man from Utah who was charged with possession of heroin with intent to distribute is doing just that. Damon Conrow was sentenced Tuesday on a charge of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance after asking to "plead up" to a first-degree felony. The charge had been a second-degree felony, but Conrow wanted a longer sentence. Conrow believes that the more time he spends off the street, the better his chance at recovery is. The 25-year-old pleaded guilty in December to the charges, but, on Tuesday, 2nd District Judge Pamela Heffernan made a last ditch effort to allow Conrow one last chance to change his mind and withdrawing his plea - Conrow declined.

Conrow said to the AP that, "he'll soon be happier than he is now because he'll get off heroin. He said within about eight weeks of going to jail, he expects withdrawal symptoms to ease so he can start having normal sleeping patterns". Who knows maybe Conrow's decision will save his life, allowing him an opportunity to focus on recovery. The gift of twelve-step programs is that they can be found even behind iron bars and prison guards. The best place for Conrow is in a safe environment where he can focus on himself. Hopefully, Conrow will be able to find what so many other addicts and alcoholics find - peace of mind.

Conrow believes he needs more time in jail in order to lower the chance of relapse, why would the Judge stop him? However, it is a little surprising that the Judge didn't sentence him to a drug treatment facility? Treatment is the wiser choice for someone in the grips of their addiction. It will be interesting to see if Conrow's plan is a success.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bridging of Afghanistan with the European Drug Market

Tajikistan is a country that you might have to look at a map to locate, it's a small country situated on the Afghan northern border. A landlocked country, 90 percent of Tajikistan's surface is covered by mountains; with Kyrgyzstan to the North, China to the east, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the South, and Uzbekistan to the west. Tajikistan suffered severely from a bloody civil war from 1992-97, creating a vacuum where conditions were perfect for lawlessness to fester; a perfect trade route to export Afghan opium for heroin production around the world. The ultimate goal for drug traffickers in Afghanistan is to transport their drugs to Russia and then on to the Western European markets. Traffickers have found a better route than Tajikistan for moving their product - Iran has become the channel to move the world's heroin. Russia, with a population of 142 million, is a large market for Afghan heroin and is a key stop in the bridging of Afghanistan with the European drug market.

An increase in stability has developed in Northern Afghanistan, making it very difficult to smuggle drugs into Tajikistan finding alternative routes is the natural course when ever obstructed. "The amount of drugs seized (in Tajikistan) in 2009 is noticeably smaller than in 2008", said Rustam Nazarov to Reuters, who is the head of Tajikistan's state Drug Control Agency, adding that some 4.5 tons of illicit drugs were intercepted in 2009. Afghanistan produces more opium than any other country and the world has a vested interest in stopping the flow of traffic; Tajikistan claims that they seize two-thirds of the drugs moving through the country; however, the number is believed to be much lower - around one-tenth of all the opium being smuggled is seized.

The United States and several other NATO allies have been trying to urge Afghani farmers to grow other cash crops like wheat. A very difficult task when you factor how long the farmers in that region have been cultivating opium poppies. "Last year, the United States spent about $300 million on agriculture projects there and projected spending this year is more than $425 million, not including separate funds from U.S. military coffers handed out by troops in the field", reports Reuters. A lot of money but will it be enough to stop the flow?

At the end of the day you would think that one country is happier, Tajikistan; the less smuggling that occurs would create more stability. The new U.S. funded Tajik-Afghan bridge makes Tajikistan still a viable trafficking option even if the amount crossing the border is reduced, heroin will still find its way to Russia via Tajikistan. Unfortunately, the stability of the entire region is contingent upon Afghanistan and their opium production. "Unfortunately the drugs situation in our country and the region as a whole solely depends on the situation in Afghanistan," Nazarov said to Reuters. "Only when there is law and order in Afghanistan there will be law and order in our country."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Drugs were Found in the Hanger that Houses the Space Shuttle Discovery

Drugs Found Space Shuttle Discovery
Shocking news at NASA's hangers in Cape Canaveral, Florida at the Kennedy Space Center! If you can imagine just about anything, you can probably guess that it has been thought of before at NASA. Millions of instruments, thousands of people, and billions of ideas all floating around one place. One thing you may not think could be found at NASA would be illegal drugs; unfortunately, drugs were recently found in the hanger that houses the Space Shuttle Discovery. With a mission planned for March of this year, you have to wonder what is going on around NASA. Is it possible that there are people high on Cocaine working on the space shuttles?

The cocaine was found by a worker in a secure part of the hangar that is accessible by about 200 NASA employees and contractors, said NASA spokesman Allard Beutel. The bag contained a tiny amount of the illegal substance cocaine. “We do not tolerate the use of illegal substances for people who work on the orbiter,” said Robert Cabana, director of the Kennedy Space Center. That is comforting, but, you still have to wonder how cocaine could find its way into probably one of the most secure facilities in the world. NASA has and is drug testing and interviewing workers, as well as using drug-sniffing dogs to make sure that there are no other drugs that were "misplaced" by an employee. "Mr. Beutel said there was no problem with any of the Discovery’s hardware, nor was there any indication that any employees were under the influence while working in the facility", reported the Telegraph.

It is a fact of life that illegal drugs end up traveling with addicts to many jobs around the planet. Unfortunately, work is no deterrent when you are in the grips of your addiction; addicts have to get high on the job if they're going to make it through the work day without getting sick. When NASA identifies the source of the cocaine, I am confident that they NASA will suggest that the person(s) seek help and enter into treatment.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Drug-policy Office is Leading Efforts to Undermine the State's Constitutional Amendment

Undermine States Constitutional Amendment
We live in a beautiful country where we have the right to vote - a government for the people, by the people. Naturally, we all cannot agree on everything and some laws will be passed that go against what some people believe in. The United States has been debating the legitimacy of medical marijuana on a state and federal level; states have a right to make their own laws that do not coincide with federal laws and that is where the argument starts. The 10th Amendment - Powers of the States and People was ratified 12/15/1791, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people". Nowhere in the constitution does it say anything about marijuana, so states took it upon themselves to circumvent federal drug laws and exercise their individual powers. Since 1996 when medical marijuana was passed in California, federal drug agents have ignored the laws passed in the states that allow for medical marijuana.

In the last couple years public opinion about marijuana on a national level shifted and has become more accepting of the idea. President Obama has instructed the DEA to leave medical marijuana patients and growers alone as long as state laws were being adhered to. However, certain drug officials have not followed Obama's new mandate and are still pursuing legal patients. According to the Denver Post, "a Coloradan who works for the president's drug-policy office is leading efforts to undermine the state's constitutional amendment allowing cannabis for medical use. On the federal dime, Tom Gorman, director of the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, is lobbying state lawmakers to gut the Colorado law". This really isn't so much a surprise, as it is confusing! Here is a guy who is in fact violating the most sacred of American documents, the United States Constitution and nobody seems to care. It seems strange how people can trample on the constitution in order to wage personal wars without any punishment, setting aside one's beliefs about the legitimacy of medical marijuana, at what point does the constitution stop being important? The Denver Post said it best, "Whether for or against medical marijuana, you'll probably agree that government has no business paying functionaries to work in contradiction to its own policies".

People who break the law are required to pay for it; yet, people who break the law trying to enforce the law are left alone. Tom Gorman's beliefs are irrelevant when it comes to state and federal law; we live in a democracy where we can't always have our way. Whether or not medical marijuana is just or acceptable is a question for the people in their respective states, not for one man with passion; this is a republic of laws not people. If the Constitution is not upheld in this country than we are lost, it is the glue that holds America together.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Methamphetamine Cooking in Vehicles Back Seat

Methamphetamine Cooking Vehicle Back Seat

Police in Tennessee had an interesting New Year's Day when they found a man passed out in his car at a gas station in Murfreesboro. Not a big deal, unless, you have a batch of methamphetamine cooking in your vehicle's back seat. According to the AP, "Thirty-one-year-old Nathan Beasley is being held on a $15,000 bond on charges of driving under the influence, driving on a suspended license, reckless endangerment and manufacturing meth". What is more interesting is the reports that pretty much all meth is produced in Mexico now, but this case shows that not only are meth labs still in America - they are mobile. Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant and is produced in some of the worst locations often in neighborhoods where children are nearby. The chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine are very explosive and many severe injuries and deaths occur every year from explosions. Thinking about a meth lab at a gas station is unbelievable, to think what kind of catastrophe could have occurred if something went wrong.

The gas station was located 30 miles outside of Nashville, the attendant notified the Police Department because Beasley's car was sitting at the pump for almost an hour on New Year's Day. The police stated that the process of making meth was in progress. Due to the explosive nature of meth making ingredients, the Murfreesboro Assistant Fire Chief Allen Swader told The Daily News Journal that gas pumps were shut off as a precaution. Fortunately, everything went smoothly and nothing bad happened to anyone and that one more methamphetamine cook is going to be back in jail.

The United States has worked very hard to limit the availability of the chemicals needed to produce meth. Unfortunately, they are still many countries without the same restrictions that we have, allowing American drug chemists access to what they need. Major ingredients required for meth production are simple household medicines and chemicals, like Sudafed and Ether (starting fluid); the fact that these substances are easy to come across makes the drug hard to combat. It would be nice to think that meth labs are not all over the country, but, sadly that is not the case.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Johnson & Johnson Heiress Casey Johnson Was Found Dead

Johnson Johnson Heiress Dead
Another tragedy already this year, Johnson & Johnson heiress Casey Johnson was found dead by a maid at her Los Angeles home last Monday, January 4, 2010. It is still unclear what cut Johnson's life short at such a young age. Obviously, the media has gone wild with this news, especially since the announcement of Casey Johnson's engagement to Tila Tequila. In Casey's final days her behavior had become nothing short of erratic, partying out of control in NYC and LA, as well as neglecting bills that no heiress should even be concerned about affording. Her behavior caused her family to use tough love on Casey in order to help her turn her life around.

Casey Johnson suffered from diabetes, having to take insulin shots since she was very young. There have been many reports that claim that her diabetes may have had a part in her death. Unfortunately, the toxicology report may come back positive for substances which are the more likely cause of her death. District attorney’s spokeswoman Jane Robison said to the AP, "Johnson was recently arrested for investigation of stealing $22,000 in lingerie, mail, jewelry and other items from the Hollywood home of model friend Jasmine Lennard. She pleaded not guilty last month to burglary and receiving stolen property, and had a preliminary hearing scheduled on Feb. 2". Johnson was in a constant struggle to gain more fame and it was eating away at her, she turned to partying to forget about her problems.

We will have to wait for the toxicology report to be sure of the cause of the heiress' death. It is sad to see another young person like Casey losing their life, especially in the wake of the other celebrity deaths in the last year. We encourage you to watch the short video below:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The War on Drugs has Been a Total Failure

War Drugs Total Failure
The world is beginning to look at drugs in a new way; we rest at the precipice of a revolution in drug legislation. More countries than ever are in agreement that the war on drugs has been a total failure creating an unstoppable monster. There is no question as to whether or not drugs play a huge role in the destruction of lives; the way in which drug offenders are policed and treated like second class citizens plays an even more devastating part. The best defense against drug addiction is education and the best defense against traffickers is less demand. Heavy fines and imprisonment only throw fuel on an already out of control fire. The argument that drugs are bad for you and that punishment is the only solution is not holding as much water as it once did. Countries around the world are focusing less on policing drug use; more emphasis is being placed on regulation and education.

Basically, it works like this: the illegal nature of drugs has caused the price of drugs to increase to the point where an addict needs to be rich to afford their addiction, addicts are forced to commit criminal acts like robbery and prostitution in order to compensate for their lack of inheritance, addicts break the law while getting high and they break the law while acquiring the money to afford the high. It's a vicious circle that usually ends tragically; the war on drugs has created a vacuum that traps addicts into a life where the only option is death or jail. I read an interesting article by Chris Middendorp who writes for the Sydney Morning Herald. Dealing with the subject, he made a good point: this is not about morals or laws, but, the overall welfare of human beings that should be the focus. "In several Latin American countries and in mainland Europe, legislators have already brought about significant reforms in drug policy in recent times. This has not involved an open-slather legalisation of drugs, but the decriminalisation of personal possession and use. Most famously, in 2001 Portugal decriminalised all drugs - from heroin to cocaine - and, to many people's surprise, overall drug use actually fell. In Switzerland, giving addicts free heroin in supervised clinics has been deemed a success, with begging, prostitution, homelessness and burglary all dropping dramatically. A national referendum in 2008 voted overwhelmingly to retain the program, which began as a trial in 1994".

America is on the verge of joining the mindset that the drugs are not the problem - we are. If money that was spent on policing drugs was diverted towards regulation and education it would be a big step forward. Not to mention that that is the only way we will ever deal a severe blow upon the drug cartels. Obama realizes that the war on drugs has been a failure and that we need to handle this differently; this could change everything, for years the USA has set many trends worldwide as far as a zero tolerance on drugs goes. If the United States takes a different route than many other countries would follow.

Monday, January 4, 2010

President Dmitry Medvedev is Trying to Fight Back Against Alcoholism

The holidays are well known to be tough times for many people suffering from alcoholism. In Russia where alcoholism rates among men are through the roof causing a low life expectancy, the government is taking steps to curb the mass flow of alcohol. The minimum price on vodka was put into action in Russia on Friday. President Dmitry Medvedev is trying to fight back against alcoholism, the holidays in Russia are known for excessive drinking. The price of the cheapest vodka has nearly doubled and steps are being taken to triple the excise duty on beer as well as limit the places it can be sold. The Washington Post reported that, "in August, Medvedev ordered tough measures to curb alcohol abuse, saying he was shocked by official data showing the average Russian drank 18 liters (38 pints) of pure alcohol each year".

Medvedev is not the first Russian leader to tackle the alcohol question, alcohol has had an adverse effect on the country for generations. Former President Mikhail Gorbachev, the creator of Perestroika (restructuring) referring to the restructuring of the Soviet political and economic system, declared war on alcoholism in 1985. Gorbachev cut alcohol production as well as set up strict controls in order to cut public alcohol consumption. Unfortunately, very little success if any came of the alcohol reforms; people began to brew alcohol illegally, low quality moonshine type alcohol.

"The average monthly salary of 18,702 roubles ($651) would have bought 368 bottles of the cheapest vodka available before the New Year in an online supermarket, but 210 bottles now," according to the Washington Post. Hopefully, Medvedev has better success than Gorbachev, but, it is highly unlikely that better results will be seen. Alcoholics will find a way around the new restrictions and price increases. An increase in price will never deter an addict from getting what they need, for an alcoholic not drinking isn't an option. Drug and alcohol treatment is a much better deterrent against alcoholism than price increases and restrictions will ever be.

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