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Monday, October 31, 2011

More Prescription Drug Arrests in Florida

The war against the prescription drug epidemic in Florida wages on, with more and more people being arrested for illegal distribution of such drugs - including doctors and pharmacists. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder went to Tampa, Florida to report the arrest of 22 people in Central Florida on charges of illegal prescription drug distribution; among the arrested were five doctors and two pharmacists. With the help of the new drug database as well as stricter enforcement policies, the days of illegally obtaining prescription narcotics may be slowly coming to an end.

Between 2005 and 2010, oxycodone-related deaths in Florida increased by 345 percent, according to Holder in his speech. Last year, there was an estimated 53 million oxycodone pills sold to medical practitioners in the United States, it is unbelievable to think that more than 85 percent were bought in Florida.

Drug tourism is a major problem in Florida, people travel across state lines into Florida to buy prescription narcotics with ease, only to travel to another state to sell them. On top of the 22 arrests, there were another fifteen people were indicted in a conspiracy to illegally obtain controlled substances and transport them to Kentucky, according to the Associated Press.

“The days of easily acquiring these drugs from corrupt doctors and pharmacists is coming to an end,” Holder said. He announced a Drug Enforcement Administration Tactical Diversion Squad is being created in Orlando to shut down:
  • “pill mills”
  • prescription forgery rings
  • illegal online pharmacies

These squads are already operating in 40 cities, including Tampa and Miami and should be quite effective in curbing the raging epidemic. Florida, as well as number of other states, needs to be vigilant if they are ever going to have a significant impact regarding this problem. We need to better educate people as to the dangers associated with prescription narcotics because many people believe that they are safer than illegal drugs - which is simply not the case.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Washington Votes On Alcohol Privatization

In every state in the country alcohol is big business which requires a lot of oversight and control laws. Often times the state will control the distribution of liquor, to be dispensed in state owned liquor stores and by doing so the price of liquor is strictly controlled; in turn this helps control the amount of consumption as well. In the state of Washington a new bill is being voted on that would privatize liquor sales the same way beer and wine is sold. The alcohol watchdog group, Alcohol Justice, is strongly opposed to the new bill.

Ballots were sent by mail last week, and must be returned by November 8 and if it is passed this could generate a lot of revenue for the state. Meanwhile, alcohol distributors would take huge financial hits which have prompted them to vote against it. Naturally, behind the new bill is a huge corporation which stands to make millions if the proposed measure I-1183 is passed. Costco has spent millions of dollars on a campaign to pass the measure, which led to the collection of more than 360,000 signatures to help put it on the ballot.

Alcohol Justice says I-1183 will authorize five times as many alcohol retailers, this will lead to a jump in consumption and problem drinking. Alcohol Justice sited a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who made a recommendation against any the further privatization of alcohol sales in settings with current government control of retail sales. With any luck enough people will vote against the new measure.

“This finding is based on strong evidence that privatization results in increased per capita alcohol consumption, a well-established proxy for excessive consumption,” the CDC noted in the report.

The article notes Washington Governor Chris Gregoire opposes the measure.

Wall Street Journal

Monday, October 24, 2011

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries are Closing

A number of medical marijuana dispensaries have begun closing their doors in response to a mandate given to landlords of such facilities by the federal government. The government has chosen to go after landlords rather than dispensary owners themselves to put a stop to all of this. Many of the 38 clinics in central California have closed because landlords were given two weeks to evict them, according to the Associated Press.

Four U.S. attorneys said they would prosecute landlords who rent their buildings to operators of medical marijuana dispensaries, threatened with criminal charges or seizure of their assets.

“What we are seeing is a wholesale violation of both federal and state law by some people involved in the industry,” Thom Mrozek, a spokesman with the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, told the AP. “There are huge amounts of money going into this industry. It’s our position that this goes way beyond simply paying rent and cultivating marijuana.”

The U.S. Justice Department stated that medical marijuana dispensaries and licensed growers are not immune from prosecution for violation of federal drug and money-laundering laws.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote a policy memo to federal prosecutors that states, “Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law.”

The moves being made are not surprising; the federal government has worked tirelessly to find a way to stop the movement, what better way than to outlaw the renting of office space for marijuana related businesses.The attorneys said they suspect these dispensaries of using the state’s medical marijuana law to profit from large-scale drug sales. They said they are also focusing on properties used to grow marijuana.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

American Support For Marijuana Legalization

Marijuana is a hot button topic in America; there are a number of people who would like to see the drug legalized. However, there has been little scientific data to support the cause which is why the California Medical Association (CMA) is asking for the Obama administration to stop the prohibition which has gone on in this country for over 70 years. The CMA believes that lifting the ban will allow for more research to be conducted, shedding light on the medical properties of the substance.

A new poll conducted by Gallup has shown that half of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, up from 46 percent last year.

Among adults under age 30, who have deemed themselves as liberals, 60 percent support of legalization, according to Reuters. Surprisingly, 31 percent of Americans over age 65 said they support legalization of marijuana as well.

The first Gallup poll that asked about Americans to give their thoughts on the subject, in 1969, found 12 percent of Americans favored legalizing marijuana. Support for legalization passed 30 percent in 2000, and 40 percent in 2009.

55 percent of men and 46 percent of women in the new poll backed legalization.

Medical marijuana has had a lot of influence on people regarding their thoughts about the drug. Typically, the drug is not associated with violent crimes making it more acceptable in the public’s eye.

Monday, October 17, 2011

California Medical Association Supports Legalization

A big leap has occurred this week regarding the legalization of marijuana in the state of California, a cause that now has the support of the California Medical Association (CMA). The policy was adopted by the CMA at its annual meeting on Friday; the association represents more than 35,000 doctors. The CMA is the first major medical organization to support marijuana legalization, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The way it works now has many doctors uncomfortable with recommending a drug for medical use when the federal government still deems the drug illegal. Furthermore, it is quite difficult to conduct testing on the drug in order to determine its medical values. The CMA would like the Obama administration to legalize the drug so that such testing can be conducted. The association hopes that marijuana can be monitored the same way big tobacco has been for years.

The CMA released a statement, stating that it advocates the regulation of medical marijuana “to allow for wider clinical research, accountable and quality controlled production of the substance and proper public awareness.” They also support the legalization of recreational marijuana use so states can regulate it for purity and safety.

Not everyone shares the CMA’s sentiments regarding legalization, John Lovell, spokesman for the California Police Chiefs Association, responded to the proposal, “Given everything that we know about the physiological impacts of marijuana — how it affects young brains, the number of accidents associated with driving under the influence — it’s just an unbelievably irresponsible position.”

It is easy to support both arguments on this subject, and this will most likely be debated for years to come. The drug certainly has medical properties, but, it also has addictive properties as well as effects on the brain. It seems unlikely that the federal government will heed the call form the CMA considering that it just announced that dispensaries and growers in medical marijuana states are not immune to punishment just because the state they are in allows it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Binge Drinking Takes Another Life

Young adults who binge drink frequently should be concerned about how dangerous it can be as well as fatal. Drinking on its own is harmful to one’s health, but drinking excessively in a short amount of time has proven time and again to be fatal for a number of people. As was the case for 21 year-old Lydia Clark, a Drake University student, who died after an apparent night of binge drinking on her birthday.

According to Clark’s friends, she had consumed approximately 16 shots that night but did not appear to be dangerously intoxicated; Clark started drinking at about 9:30 p.m. on Friday and continued for about six hours, offered Ivey Bruton, a Junior at Kansas State University and childhood friend who was with Clark when she died.

Clark had an undiagnosed heart condition that contributed to her death, according to her father who spoke with the Register.

According to KCCI, Drake University released a statement on Clark's death:

"It is with sadness that Drake University confirms that Lydia Clark, from Meriden, Kansas, passed away on Saturday afternoon at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines. Lydia was a junior international relations and rhetoric major. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her."

The Iowa State Daily published an editorial, inspired by Clark’s tragic passing.

"We are neither condemning nor condoning that level of alcohol consumption or passing judgment on her in any way, but this event is a tragedy that should serve as a reminder of the highest magnitude to students of all classes and ages that, when taken in too much excess, alcohol is not merely intoxicating, but deadly," the paper's editorial board wrote.

Monday, October 10, 2011

California Medical Marijuana Under Fire

In 1996 California became the first state to allow a medical marijuana program to provide sick patients with cannabis. As a result, what seemed like overnight, the marijuana industry became big business “over the table”. There are people who feel that medical marijuana helps them more than any other prescription drug and in that manner medical marijuana programs are a good thing and a step towards ending the prohibition. However, as individuals starting making more and more money on distributing marijuana it has caused federal officials to step in. While California may have been the model that other states followed in implementing their own medical marijuana programs, every state is different and has their own rules and regulations regarding the distribution of the product - with a lot more oversight than California.

The New York Times reports that the United States attorneys in California have told dozens of marijuana dispensaries to close their doors or face criminal and civil action. Last Friday, four U.S. attorneys stated that they would prosecute landlords who rent space to operators of medical marijuana dispensaries. They claim that such dispensaries are using the state’s medical marijuana law to profit from large-scale drug sales, worth tens of millions of dollars’ and the drug is crossing state lines which is illegal.

The attorneys will not be focusing on individual patients, they are focusing on commercial operations. “Large commercial operations cloak their money-making activities in the guise of helping sick people when they are in fact helping themselves,” said Benjamin B. Wagner, the U.S. attorney in Sacramento. “Our interest is in enforcing federal criminal law, not prosecuting seriously ill sick people and those who are caring for them.”

Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote a policy memo to federal prosecutors that states, “Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law.”

Unfortunately, the federal government may be biting off more than they can chew, with 15 states actively allowing medical marijuana programs it may be hard to crack down, let alone single out California. What’s more, there are more people requiring medical marijuana than there are growers, let alone distributors; closing down dispensaries might force the market to go back underground opening the doors for cartels and gangs to come back into the picture.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Drunk Driving Remains High With Young Adults

Drunk driving continues to be a huge dilemma across the United States, a problem that constantly needs to be addressed by law makers and police officers. While the number of drunk driving incidents have been dropping overall, drunk driving amongst young adults continues to stay high - especially with young men, binge-drinkers, and people who do not wear seat belts, according to a report conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Drunk driving is a public health problem with far-reaching effects,” Linda C. Degutis, Dr.P.H., M.S.N., Director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in a news release. “Drunk drivers, who have delayed reaction times and reflexes, put even the most responsible drivers and pedestrians in harm’s way.”

There were an estimated 112 million drunk-driving incidents in 2010, or an average of 300,000 per day, according to HealthDay. Drunk driving accounts for almost 11,000 traffic fatalities annually, about one-third of the total.

The CDC found:
  • Men account for 81 percent of drunk drivers.
  • Men ages 21 to 34 make up 11 percent of the population, they account for 32 percent of drunk drivers.
  • 85 percent of adults who admitted to drinking and driving said they binge drink.
  • People who reported not wearing a seat belt were four times as likely to be involved in a drunk driving incident.
The recession may play a part in the overall drop of drunk driving incidents, with more people drinking at home rather than driving to bars or restaurants, according to CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden. In an attempt to reduce drunk driving rates even more the CDC recommended:
  • sobriety checkpoints
  • keeping the minimum drinking age at 21 in all states
  • requiring convicted drunk drivers to use ignition interlocks

Monday, October 3, 2011

Unused Medication Dilemma

Every year millions of Americans are prescribed medications for a whole host of problems; pain management, anti-anxiety, and anti-depression are some of the most common reasons people are prescribed medications today. With more people turning to prescription medications than ever, there has been a concern in a number of states regarding disposal of unused medications. Unused medications often end up in the wrong hands fueling people's addiction, sometimes sold and other times stolen by teenagers rummaging through their parents medicine cabinet. In an attempt to cut back on such activities, certain states have formed medication disposal programs. Such programs have proven to be an effective solution to the growing home stock piles of unused prescription medications. Unfortunately, these programs are quite costly, especially for states that have environmental protection laws in place which force states to send medications out of state for proper disposal.

Maine is a state with strict environmental laws which costs the state a lot of money slated for collecting unused medications which is being diverted to pay for the cost of outsourcing the job of disposal. In order to slash costs, Maine is experimenting with composting prescription medications so that they are safe to send to the landfill or be used for other purposes. Maine officials hope composting will be an inexpensive solution to disposing of medications, according to the Morning Sentinel. The article points out that Maine rounds up more unused medications per resident than any other state in the country. It is frightening to think that in a low population state like Maine, prescription drug use is extremely high.

State officials plan to try a number of composting ideas by putting the unused drugs into bins which will be monitored as the drugs break down. If the plan is successful, state officials will be able to safely dispose of the drugs. A number of people who are uninformed about prescription drug disposal programs will often flush unused drugs down the toilet which is terrible for the water supply. Hopefully, state disposal programs will work hard to keep their citizens informed about disposal programs so that unused medications end up in the right hands and the right place.

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