Author: Justin Mckibben
Deaths due to drugs like fentanyl and other synthetic opioids continue to rise at a devastating pace in America. Despite the implementation of a special opioid commission to tackle the opioid crisis head-on, and even after the President of the United States issued a public health emergency concerning this ongoing issue, drugs like fentanyl are still finding their way into the country.
So how is it that these dangerous drugs are still getting across our borders?
Mailing Law Loophole
Much of the current flow of fentanyl into America is said to be connected to a major loophole in mail security. As it stands, every day up to one million packages overall get into the US without being screened.
Under the current laws, most international packages must include some general information, such as:
- Information on the sender
- The packages destination
- Contents of the package
These seemingly simple details can, in fact, help authorities track and detect packages containing illicit substances. However, these are not bulletproof methods of detections.
A big part of the problem is a loophole that exists within our current system. According to Alex Wolff, of the bipartisan coalition Americans for Securing All Packages,
“Due to a loophole in the global postal system, packages sent via private couriers (like UPS or FedEx) are required to have the advance electronic data used by law enforcement to screen and stop dangerous material, while packages shipped via foreign postal services are not.”
Wolff explains that when materials are sent through certain channels from outside the country, they are sent without the necessary security data that law enforcement agencies require in order to screen and stop dangerous packages.
Considering that fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are expected to be produced primarily in China, much of the drug is being shipped through this international loophole right into the United States. Thus, law enforcement is essentially flying blind in their efforts to catch a lot of the drug as it slips into the country.
The STOP Act
In an effort to put an end to this exploitation of the mailing system, the Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act was introduced to the Senate and House of Representatives in February of 2017. It is currently listed as H.R. 1057, as introduced by Republican Representative Patrick J. Tiberi of Ohio. This bipartisan and bicameral legislation could be a huge step forward. Sponsors for the bill include:
- Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman
- Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson
- New Hampshire Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte
Each of these officials represents a state that has been hit hard by the opioid crisis. Surprisingly, almost a year later there has been no further action by Congress to pursue this bill.
Still, Alex Wolff remains optimistic that Congress will act soon to push the bill forward. Now the STOP Act also has the support of:
- The National Council of State Legislators
- Fraternal Order of Police
- The American Medical Association
To clarify, there are a few other prominent “STOP” Acts in the past, including:
TheSober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act (STOP Act) of 2006
This was America’s first comprehensive legislation on underage drinking.
The Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention (STOP) Act of 2017
This was a law for North Carolina aimed at curbing the misuse and abuse of opioids.
Putting a STOP to Fentanyl Shipping
Whether having tracking information on international packages seems like a big deal or not, most experts take it very seriously. According to former assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security Juliette Kayyem, who is a lecturer on international security at the Harvard Kennedy School,
“You have the demand problem, the public health problem of making sure people cannot be addicted, but on the supply-chain issue, one of the loopholes is clearly the postal system,”
True, not very many drug distributors write “fragile fentanyl shipment: Handle with care” on their postage. However, Kayyem says that collecting data from senders, even those who are less likely to be truthful is important for law enforcement to be able to stop drugs like fentanyl from coming into the country. Kayyem states that even if someone from another country is shipping things in and lies about what is in the package, that lie itself becomes a means to get them in the long run.
Should this bill be pushed into action? Is this enough, or should there be a way to impose even more strict regulations on international mailing to put a stop to the exploitation of the mailing system? Is this the best way to curb fentanyl use and overdose?
In the past few years, overdose deaths due to synthetic opioids like fentanyl have skyrocketed. Over 20,145 people died from synthetic opioids other than methadone in 2016. But the opioid crisis isn’t just about preventing the drug from coming into the US. We also need to support effective addiction treatment options. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
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Author: Justin Mckibben
The War on Drugs in America has always found its common enemy in the ranks of the Mexican cartels, which has made those borders profoundly dangerous, and the states they exist in have been flooded with drugs and violence. To this day Mexican cartels continue to procure billions of dollars through the trafficking and distribution of illegal goods to and from the United States, including:
- Even crude oil
While these massive criminal empires keep pushing their influence with underground smuggling, the cartels’ control of the marijuana trade appears to be on the decline, and some say that the shift in pot policy reform is putting a dent in the pockets of Mexican drug lords.
Reports from the Front Lines
The front lines in the war on cartel smuggling is definitely the border between the United States and Mexico, where the states California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas see a lot of violence and crime. This time last year there were several reports of heated skirmishes between U.S. federal forces and cartel gunmen, and firefights are just a symptom in the areas where drug smuggling with the primary concern.
Ever since the reforms on drug policy, specifically concerning marijuana legalization, started taking place in various states across America both the U.S. Border Patrol and the Mexican military have reported a steady decrease in marijuana seizures over the last three years.
- There was 2.5 million pounds of marijuana seized in 2011
- Only 1.9 million pounds of marijuana seized in 2014
And we use the word ‘only’ loosely, because even though it is nearly half of what was confiscated the previous year, it is still millions of pounds being pulled into our borders.
The drop in sales seems to also have created a ripple effect across the Mexican crime industry. Not only are there being less arrests made for marijuana, but homicide numbers have actually dropped from 23,000 in 2011 to 15,649 in 2014.
Words from the Advocates
Security analysts have tried to attribute the noted decline in marijuana seizures and murders to the work done by the area law enforcements. These analysts gave the credit to other factors for this change, including the captures or deaths of many of the most violent members of the cartel.
Then on the other end, in America the drug-reform advocates refer all these changes back to the rise in legal marijuana. Basically by making marijuana growth, production and distribution legal in several states officials have drastically decreased the demand for the supply that these gangs are producing and bringing to the borders. Marijuana Majority chairman Tom Angell stated in a recent interview:
“It is no surprise to me that marijuana consumers choose to buy their product from a legal, tax-paying business as opposed to a black market product that is not tested or regulated,”
So making marijuana more available to the public seems to have taken some power out of the hands of the dealers.
Medical and recreational marijuana use has been legalized in 4 states and the District of Columbia so far, but many of the advocates are confident that this trend will only continue to grow and evolving into a future with legal marijuana predominant in both the United States and Mexico.
Reaching for Reforms
With several other states looking into reforming their own drug policies on marijuana, including legislatures and supporters in swing-states, marijuana legalization is sure to be a hot-button issue in the coming presidential election. So some stats on the borders progress may be one more reason to consider the change.
Even former Mexican President Vicente Fox has been drawn into the debate in support of marijuana reform and developing a work force behind it to take power away from the cartels, even pushing for ex-Microsoft executive Jamen Shively’s plan to create a national marijuana brand supplied by Mexican sources with cheap labor fueling the development.
With a plan like that the United Nations would need to approve any changes to international drug policies, but in the eyes of pot policy reform advocates it would be well worth the work to create a new strategy that takes power away from these deadly and corrupt cartels and supports the legal American marijuana trade. As the legal marijuana business in America flourishes, perhaps the cartels will be starved of a few of their resources.
Drug policy and reform are changing the game for the cartel, but for those suffering from issues with drug addiction the change has to come from the choice to get help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Notorious “Biggie” A.K.A. “Fat Boy” Arrested
Hiding your drugs in your belly fold- it’s so stupid it just might work, right? 42-year-old Christopher Mitchell (a.k.a. “Fat Boy” a.k.a. “Biggie”) is a central Florida resident who weighs in at about 450 pounds thought this was the best strategy, and now he is now facing multiple charges after sheriff’s deputies have reported he allegedly hid cocaine and 23 grams of marijuana under his “stomach fat.”
A deputy for the Volusia County sheriff’s office stopped a vehicle on Friday June 13th after the officer said he noticed that the passenger of the vehicle wasn’t wearing a seat-belt. Mr. Mitchell was said to have told the deputy that he was unable to wear a seat-belt due to his size. The deputy says he requested a drug-detecting dog because Mitchell, and the driver of the vehicle 38 year-old Keithian Roberts, appeared nervous.
Upon having the drug-detecting dog inspect the vehicle the dog indicated there were drugs somewhere inside. The suspects are truly criminal masterminds, as it is reported they tried to hide the smell of the drugs with carpet freshener and scented dryer sheets, however the drug dog was not fooled.
Officials related to the case claim they also found a handgun and $7,000 in cash in the vehicle, in addition to the drugs that we found. Christopher Mitchell and the driver were promptly arrested following the search.
The driver was arrested and charged with possession of cocaine, and Mitchell was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and for not wearing a seat belt.
According to his notorious arrest record Mitchell was convicted in 2002 for conspiracy to traffic cocaine, but records indicate he has gained about 200 pounds since then, probably beefing up for this big job!
Hail Marry Heroin Throw Falls Short
Some smugglers are a little bit more clever, but still not very effective. Authorities in Jackson, Michigan reported a man tried to throw a football loaded with drugs and cellphones into the yard of a state prison. The Detroit Free Press and the Jackson Citizen-Patriot news reported that the football contained heroin, marijuana, tobacco, three cellphones and chargers, but the hail marry was quickly intercepted.
State Trooper Toby Baker says the attempt to smuggle the contraband into the prison on Sunday was just short of a touch down, with the football landing between two fences instead of the yard where prisoners exercise.
An officer at the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility saw the man who threw the football, and officers caught up with him and immediately arrested 22 year-old Christen D. Moore. Moore was arraigned the following Tuesday in the Jackson District Court on contraband charges and sentenced to be jailed on a $50,000 bond until the probable-cause hearing scheduled for June 30 could decide his sentencing. More than likely he will be sitting the bench for a few seasons.
Canada’s “Cannabix Breathalyzer”
Kal Malhi, a retired Canadian Mountie officer has revolutionized a new and innovative Breathalyzer designed to detect marijuana on the breath of suspects considered to be under the influence. Soon this may prove to be a powerful weapon in the war on drugging and driving.
Malhi was inspired to construct a more effective Breathalyzer specifically for detection of marijuana after coming across a Swedish study about breath testing technology. The Langley man then partnered with Vancouver’s Dr. Raj Attariwala and Florida’s own Dr. Bruce Goldberger to shape the “Cannabix Breathalyzer” project into a reality. According to Malhi it is an important issue because drivers don’t believe the will get caught for smoking and driving.
Police currently use saliva, blood, and urine samples to test drivers suspected of being under the influence of marijuana, but the tests are unreliable because the THC in marijuana can show up in a person’s system for several days. To truly determine if a person was actually high when they were driving is made extremely difficult to pin-point based on that information.
“People are becoming very afraid to drink and drive nowadays because they feel that they will get caught and charged, but they’re not afraid to drug and drive because they don’t feel that law enforcement will do anything about it,” said Malhi when interviewed about the invention.
Malhi has a patent pending, and it’s estimated the “Cannabix Breathalyzer” could potentially detect if the driver has used marijuana down to within the previous two hours, but still has to be tested in the field before being approved for official use.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
image via en.wikipedia.org
George Jung, the inspiration behind Johnny Depp’s character in Ted Demme’s 2001 film, Blow, has been released from behind bars after practically completing his 20-year prison sentence.
Jung is credited with being the first to establish a major pipeline from Colombia to the United States, essentially creating the American cocaine market in the 1970s and ’80s. Jung, nicknamed “Boston George,” was one of the biggest players in the cocaine trade and was believed to be responsible for nearly 90% of the coke in America at the time.
Initially, George Jung was in the business of transporting marijuana from the west coast to Amherst, Mass. once he learned of the demand for it back east. He then realized that getting pot down in Mexico and smuggling it into the States was way more lucrative.
After a turn of events that resulted in Jung getting caught smuggling pot, he was sent to federal prison in Danbury, Conn. but only ended up doing a short stint there. What’s more important is that this would be a major factor in how he was to eventually become such a high profile drug smuggler. Danbury is where Jung was to meet his future cocaine connect as well as learn quite a lot about drug smuggling and money laundering.
In an interview he gave with Frontline back in 2000, Jung said “You could more or less learn anything you wanted to learn in there in reference to illicit activities. It was basically a school. My bunk mate was Carlos Lehder, he said he was from Colombia and he spoke excellent English.” Lehder was to become a Colombian drug lord and founder of the Medellin Cartel.
Jung went on to describe how their partnership was hatched.
“Carlos and I spent close to a year together, working and planning every day…Carlos never ceased, never stopped. He was like a student is, constantly pumping people’s brains about money laundering, about this, about that. About automobiles, about airplanes, about boats. In fact there was a guy in there for smuggling with boats and he spent hours and hours with him learning navigation, and there was a president of a bank in there and he pumped him constantly about the banking system in America and how one can launder money, and he kept files and files on everything. He kept notes constantly.”
At the height of his success as a cocaine dealer, Jung’s lifestyle could put to shame that of even the most famous of Hollywood stars.
“I was a guy who had a lot of money and unlimited access to cocaine and even if I looked like Bela Lugosi I still had the most beautiful women on the planet because everybody at that time, especially women, were in love with cocaine and of course in love with the money — the access to the automobiles, the clothes, the dinners, the lifestyle. Basically I was no different than a rock star or a movie star. I was a coke star.”
It all came crashing down when Jung was sentenced back in 1994 for 60 years in prison.
Even from behind bars, Jung’s celebrity thrived. Besides being the focus of a major motion picture, he has also been featured in a number of true crime programs for television as well as in the documentary Cocaine Cowboys, which details the Medellin Cartel. And whenever Blow is aired on television, Jung’s name becomes a popular internet search item.
Originally scheduled to be released from the Federal Correctional Facility in Fort Dix, New Jersey on Thanksgiving Day 2014, Jung was released early and placed at a halfway house somewhere on the west coast of the U.S.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, the leader of one of Mexico’s most violent drug-trafficking cartels, was taken into custody Monday by Mexican officials — a capture made possible with the help of U.S. intelligence.
Trevino Morales was better known – and feared – by his nickname, “Z-40,” a play on police radio code for a commander, was the head of the Zetas drug cartel, a group renowned for torturing and killing anyone who stood in its way. He was captured in a dawn raid this morning when a helicopter carrying Mexican Marines dropped in front of his pick-up truck on a country road near Nuevo Laredo, a city bordering Texas.
Inside Trevino Morales’ car, authorities found $2 million in cash and eight rifles, according to Eduardo Sanchez Hernandez, spokesman for Mexico’s interior secretary.
The Zetas have run their enormous turf with almost unbelievable brutality since the founders, a corps of Special Forces defectors who went to work for drug traffickers, splintered off into their own cartel in 2010 and spread across Mexico.
Since the beginning, the Zetas have been responsible for some of the most horrific cruelty in the Mexican drug wars, including forced recruitment, human trafficking, kidnappings, and more.
In 2011, woman who angered the Zetas by blogging about crime and violence on a Nuevo Laredo website was found decapitated, her head placed atop a computer keyboard, with a message warning fellow bloggers about speaking out.
That same year, federal officials discovered 193 bodied buried in San Fernando. Most of the victims were migrants kidnapped off buses and killed by the Zetas, in some cases for refusing to become drug mules. Morales is charged with ordering those murders.
The Zetas are renowned for their violence, but Morales had a taste for killing that set him apart.
Some of Morales’ more horrific crimes include:
Killing those who betrayed him in a barbaric human barbecue known as a “cook-out”.
Ordering enemies to be scalped alive and whole villages of men, women and children butchered.
Promoting the sick phenomenon of “Mexigore” – making phone videos of beheadings, hangings, human spit-roasts and hacksaw dismemberment to be used as underworld propaganda.
The arrest is particularly satisfying for the United States, since many of Morales’ allegedly orchestrated several homicides within US borders. His gang was also believed to be responsible for the slayings of U.S. ICE Agent Jaime Zapata in 2011 and American citizen David Hartley in 2010 on Falcon Lake, which straddles the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as coordinating a slaughtering carried out by US citizens on the streets of Laredo.
In an interview with Univision Tuesday, President Barack Obama praised the Mexican government and promised to continue supporting the fight against drug traffickers.
“We have to continue doing our part here in the United States to reduce demand, reduce the flow of guns and cash down south,” Obama said. “That’s the kind of cooperation that I think President Pena Nieto is looking for.”
For the group most terrorized by Trevino Morales, Central American migrants who were kidnapped, beaten and extorted by the tens of thousands, the arrest “will certainly be a relief,” said the Rev. Alejandro Solalinde.
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