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Legal Marijuana Coming to New Jersey and Virginia?

Legal Marijuana Coming to New Jersey and Virginia?

Author: Justin Mckibben

The elections held this past Tuesday may not have directly addressed the status of marijuana, but voters in multiple states did elect officials who are adamant about making legal marijuana more available.

Next Year in New Jersey

One of those states is New Jersey, who’s outgoing governor is Chris Christie, chairman of the White House commission on opioids.

Last week Democrat Phil Murphy, who made legal marijuana one of the cornerstones of his campaign, won the state over. This creates a radical change for the state. For years Chris Christie has blocked attempts to legalize cannabis, and even maintains his opposition to it while fighting to help the country get a grip on the opioid epidemic.

Phil Murphy has been pretty open about his support for marijuana legalization. According to Forbes, Murphy even talked about it during his primary night victory speech saying,

“The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana,”

“And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.”

Apparently, it isn’t just Murphy in the state that is looking forward to pushing this legislation along. The Democratically-controlled state Senate is expecting to bring up legal marijuana as early as next year. In regards to the topic, earlier this year Senate President Stephen Sweeney said,

“We are going to have a new governor in January 2018. As soon as the governor gets situated we are all here and we intend to move quickly on it.”

Voters in Virginia

Voters in the Commonwealth of Virginia also elected an official who advocates for loosening restrictions on marijuana. Current lieutenant governor Ralph Northam is in favor of decriminalizing marijuana possession. While it may not be as liberal a stance as Murphy, it is still a big step in a lot of people’s minds. Northam writes,

“We need to change sentencing laws that disproportionately hurt people of color. One of the best ways to do this is to decriminalize marijuana. African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Virginia.”

But it isn’t just about the individuals. Northam also points out the resources going to this issue. He has written to the Virginia State Crime Commission as part of its review of the effects of marijuana decriminalization.

“Virginia spends $67 million on marijuana enforcement—enough to open up another 13,000 pre-K spots for children,”

Again, not that he is pushing for complete legalization, but to stop stiff penalties for those with small amounts of marijuana. Northam also advocates for research into the medicinal uses of marijuana. According to Richmond Times-Dispatch, he has stated,

“As a doctor, I like to make the point to people, over 100 of the medicines that we use on a daily basis come from plants,” he said in an interview Monday. “So I think we need to be open-minded about using marijuana for medical purposes.”

He isn’t alone in Virginia either. Even the Republican state Senate leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. questioned whether or not small amounts of marijuana should remain a crime.

Marijuana in More Areas

But it isn’t just these two offices that indicate there may be more change coming for marijuana policy. In other areas around the country, there are other notable shifts that may dramatically impact marijuana policy.

  • Athens, Ohio

77% of voters in the college town eliminated fines and court costs for possessing or growing up to 200 grams of marijuana.

  • Wayne County, Michigan

In an area that includes Detroit, voters now allow cannabis businesses to operate in more areas and to stay open longer. Michigan is expected to have a marijuana legalization bill on the 2018 ballot.

  • Philadelphia

Lawrence Krasner won the election for District Attorney. Krasner has been outspoken about the benefits of marijuana reform. According to Krasner,

“One of the things we see in other jurisdictions is that, where marijuana is readily available, there’s a 25% reduction in opiate/opioid overdose deaths.”

“So if Philadelphia is looking at 500 opiate/opioid overdose deaths a year, a district attorney, by choosing not to enforce against marijuana usage, can potentially save 125 lives. That’s what a district attorney should exercise his or her discretion to do.”

It seems between lightening the punishments for possession, expanding programs for legal marijuana, and electing officials that will advocate for its use, marijuana may have already seen some real change this November.

What to Remember about Legal Marijuana

It is important to note for anyone who has a history of substance use disorder that the legal status of a substance does not make it safer. You could argue that marijuana is much safer than opioids like prescription drugs or heroin. While marijuana is not as lethal concerning overdose deaths, it still should not ignore the risks.

Marijuana reform has the potential for some positive and negative outcomes. Ultimately voters will have to consider weighing the pros and cons of reform. Either way, it is important to remember that any substance, legal or not, can be addictive. While marijuana may become more accepted on a legal level, it is still unhealthy to abuse this drug. If you find yourself abusing this or any drug it is very important that you seek safe and effective treatment resources.

Because drug abuse is always destructive, marijuana abuse is no exception. If you or someone you love are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please seek help. Regardless of whether a drug is legalized or not, losing control of your use can lead to something much worse. We want to help. You are not alone. Call toll-free now. 

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Sheriff in Ohio Refusing to Use Narcan to Prevent Overdose Deaths

Sheriff in Ohio Refusing to Use Narcan to Prevent Overdose Deaths

Author: Justin Mckibben

Ohio has been a major epicenter of the overdose outbreak. In 2014, Ohio was #2 of states with the most overdose deaths.  Since then, Ohio has topped the list for heroin overdose deaths in the country, and remains in the top 3 states with the highest overdose death rates, both overall AND per capita. In fact, the overdose capitol of America is actually Montgomery County, Ohio, with over 365 opioid-related deaths in the first 5 months of 2017.

So with Ohio being one of the states hit the hardest by the ravishes of the opioid epidemic and the overdose crisis, you would think that Ohio officials would be more apt to adopting progressive and preventative measures for saving lives. In some areas, yes. However, in others… not so much.

Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones says his deputies won’t carry Narcan, despite its effectiveness reversing the effects opioid and heroin overdoses.

Butler County Overdose Deaths

Making this a much more controversial issue, drug overdose is killing more people than any other cause in Butler County. According to a statement by Dr. Lisa Mannix’s office, in the first 4 months of 2017 the coroner investigated 175 deaths, and 96 of them were lethal drug overdoses.

The month of April was especially deadly for drug users in the area. According to Mannix, her office-

“- has never seen that many deaths of any kind in a single month.”

In just those 30 days, 30 people died from drug overdose. According to the coroner’s office, 83% of the overdose deaths involved illegal opiate substances. This includes the now infamous synthetic opioids such as:

If this deadly trend continues, the coroners office expects those rates will see a 50% increase from the total overdose deaths in 2016.

The Sheriff Says “I Don’t Do Narcan”

He’s Jones just happens to be the only sheriff in Southwest Ohio whose department does not use the opioid overdose antidote Narcan, or the generic Naloxone. And apparently, he has no intention of starting anytime soon.

Jones was asked about the lack of Narcan use by his police department shortly after the now controversial comments made by a Middletown city councilman suggesting a policy to refuse giving a response to overdose calls. According to the sheriff, local residents and even social workers often ask him why law enforcement continue to revive people who overdose multiple times. His response was simple; his deputies don’t. When interviewed and asked about it, Jones stated:

“I don’t do Narcan.”

Yes… let that just sink in for a second.

This is a man who has the job description of ‘protect and serve’ but when it comes to addicts, he would prefer to do neither.

So what was his justification?

Jones went on to rationalize his opinion by, according to the original report, ‘talking about babies he has seen born addicted to heroin in his jail and mothers who teach their teenage children how to use heroin so they can shoot the mom up.’ When the reporter pressed on about the lack of Narcan in his department, Jones stated:

“They never carried it. Nor will they. That’s my stance.”

The sheriff went on trying to validate his rationale by claiming safety was the primary priority. He argued that people revived from an overdose are often violent and are almost never happy to see the police.

So in short, it sounds like this sheriff would let sick and suffering men and women, even teens, die from overdose rather than save their lives… because they might be upset or aggressive?

What Do You Do?

As expanded access programs to provide Narcan to first responders have become more popular it seems some have gone on to debate how long should tax payer money do to saving lives, and how many times should someone be revived.

This is a tough conversation to have. For some there is no easy answer. Those who are more focus on being monetarily minded and conservative will typically argue that resources should not go to repeatedly paying to save addicts from death. But is it fair for anyone to decide whether someone should die or not simply because they are addicted to drugs? Are we really willing to let people die to boost the government’s budget?

However, for some of us the answer is easy- you cannot put a price on a life. Struggling with substance use disorder does not diminish the value of a person. It should go without saying that if the resources exist to prevent death from overdose, than we should use it. Narcan may not be the cure to addiction, but it might keep just enough people alive long enough to find help and make a difference in the world.

Thankfully, this isn’t how all of Ohio is handling the opioid overdose outbreak in their state. Sheriff’s deputies in surrounding counties carry the opioid overdose antidote, including:

  • Warren County
  • Clermont County
  • Hamilton County

Other expanded access programs in Ohio are going strong and saving a lot of people, but of course the next step to solving the issue is helping to establish sources of effective treatment.

Drug addiction treatment can be the decisive variable that allows for these overdose victims and others suffering with substance use disorder to get a new chance at life. Holistic healing with innovative and personalized recovery programs has the potential not to just save a life, but transform lives. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

5 Year Old Saves Parents from Heroin Overdose Death

5 Year Old Saves Parents from Heroin Overdose Death

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

In late 2016 we talked about a story that had flooded every social media outlet with angry comments and distraught families of addicts. An image had surfaced from East Liverpool, Ohio that showed a horrifying depiction of two parents overdosed in the front seat of a vehicle pulled over on the side of the road, with a child sitting strapped into a car seat in the back. People berated the parents, while demanding the child be taken from them. Others argued that the photo was insensitive to the suffering and helplessness of addiction. The event was used by news outlets everywhere as a focal point for the bigger conversation about the devastation of the opioid epidemic in America.

So while in this case there is no photo to be shared and ranted about, the story of one quick-thinking 5-year-old boy is still a startling dose of reality.

Kids in the Crossfire

This time the child in the story ending up being the only reason his parents are still alive. According to the reports in relation to the story, the young boy rescued his mom and dad who had overdosed on heroin. Around 5 a.m. on Thursday morning the child knocked on the door to his step-grandfather’s house in Middletown, Ohio. He had walked two blocks, barefoot. Initial reports state the little boy told the relative that his parents were dead.

The young child’s step-grandfather Kenneth Currey told reporters,

“When I walked up the steps and seen him laying in the bathroom floor and her in the hallway, I immediately called 911 because I knew what was up,”

While the step-grandfather was describing the incident to the 911 dispatchers, he tried to comfort the young boy. But it was not just the one child either. There was also the boy’s 3-month-old infant sister, who was still strapped into her car seat in the car outside. Likely, the little boy saved his little sister from a great deal of risk as well.

The Aftermath

The station reported that when cops arrived, they found the parents lying unconscious on the floor. The young man, Lee Johnson, was given Narcan. Soon after the overdose antidote was administered, Johnson admitted to using heroin, according to the report. He was placed in cuffs and put into the back of a police cruiser.

The station stated that the mother, Chelsie Marshall, had to be rushed to a nearby hospital to be revived. She did not come back as easily. It took a total of 14 Narcan doses to revive Marshall.

Both parents are facing charges, including:

  • 2 counts of endangering children (each)
  • 1 count of disorderly conduct with heroin (each)

The children were brought to the Middletown Police Department. There the heroic young boy who saved not only his parents, but his little sister and himself, received a badge for his bravery. The two children have since been taken to live with other family members.

The step-grandfather Kenneth Currey said,

“I’m very proud of the boy, very proud of him, but it’s just, tragedy,”

The Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw knows very well that this situation could have indeed brought a much different result, and issued a wake-up call to the community.

“Parents, wake up,”

“People that are doing this, you’re not just hurting you, you’re hurting your families and your kids. I mean, this could’ve turned out really bad for two children that don’t deserve it.”

He isn’t wrong.

At the same time, we should also use instances like this as an opportunity to show how important it is that people get the treatment they need, and that families support one another in getting that help before it is too late. We should give those still using the hard truth, but at the same time we should show support and compassion, while encouraging family members to protect each other and try to help those who struggle.

Addiction is killing our families every day. We would like to offer you the FREE GIFT of a checklist to help decipher if you are helping or hurting a loved one who is struggling with addiction.

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What the step-grandfather said is absolutely true, this is indeed a tragedy. Parents of all ages die every day from drug overdose. Every day children are suffering along with their mothers and fathers in the grips of addiction, and every day some little kids lose their parents due to addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Charging Overdose Victims with Crime for Needing Naloxone

Charging Overdose Victims with Crime for Needing Naloxone

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

Overdose victims are the people most obviously struggling with the opiate epidemic. So many have come so close to death that to be revived might be the only second chance they think they get. As the overdose outbreak has grown into such a prominent problem, more has been done to increase access to life-saving resources. Policies are now in place help those who are on the verge of a lethal dose. More is being done to help survivors get treatment. The concept of addiction has finally started to be more understand as something that impacts all walks of life and that it is not a moral failing, but a serious, chronic disorder. Yet, even as compassion and education have taken on more meaning in the fight against drug addiction, there are still some who think punishing addicts and overdose victims is somehow an answer.

It is one thing to argue the idea of charging drug dealers with murder in connection to overdoses. Even that is a controversial topic. But now officials in some areas are supporting a plan that further persecutes people who have suffered from an opiate overdose is a very dangerous development.

Should police be issuing charges to overdose victims who need to be revived with naloxone?

What is Naloxone?

Naloxone, also known by its generic name Narcan, is the antidote medication used to reverses an opioid overdose. It works by neutralizing the opioids and reviving the respiratory system. This medication has become one of the primary resources in fighting the overdose outbreak that has devastated the nation, and over recent years access to the drug has expanded a great deal. Naloxone has been around in ambulances and hospitals for decades to reverse overdose, but the demand for solutions to the rising death rates has made it more mainstream.

Naloxone has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and all over the country new programs have been put in place to make the drug more available. Now you can acquire a naloxone kit from pharmacies in many states, some without prescriptions. Community programs have developed to distribute the drug to the public in some areas where the issue is most prevalent.

Many areas have distributed naloxone to their police departments as well as other first responders, while providing training courses to both the public servants and the community. With some many people in America fighting addiction and losing their lives, it makes sense that more people be prepared to help.

Making Overdosing a Crime

In some states people who overdose are facing some new consequences. While government officials say they are trying everything they can to help people, all it really seems to be doing is further inhibiting the people who most desperately need the help.

Essentially, what officials in some areas have done is emphasized on making overdosing a crime. More specifically, charging people who have to be revived by police or medics with naloxone with inducing panic.

The charge is a misdemeanor, so it isn’t exactly as damaging as other charges often associated with drugs. However, the offense is technically still punishable with fines and jail time. Police are partnering with prosecutors to go on the attack against addiction, but is this the right plan of action?

Washington, Ohio Overdose Victims

One area with a policy like this is Washington, Ohio. Police in this part of the Buckeye State just started the new strategy in February. So far at least seven people who were revived during an overdose through naloxone have been charged with inducing panic.

In this area the offense can entitle someone to up to 180 days in jail and a one-thousand dollar fine. The City Attorney Mark Pitsick claims,

“It gives us the ability to keep an eye on them, to offer them assistance and to know who has overdosed. Sometimes we can’t even track who has overdosed.”

What some may find troubling is the vocabulary Pitsick uses to describe the situation. Saying thing like “keep an eye on them” is already a bit unsettling for some. One of the problems with this whole idea is exactly that; no one wants the police to have to “keep an eye on them”, especially addicts. Therefore, one has to wonder if people will avoid contacting emergency services in the event of an overdose.

How many people will suddenly be even more afraid to reach out for help? How many people are going to be too afraid of adding a charge to their name, paying a fine or even going to jail that they take their chances without naloxone and end up dead?

Is it right to use the legal system this way to keep tabs on people who ask for help?

Not All Bad

One thing the city officials do want to adamantly announce is that people who call 9-1-1 to report an overdose, or the people who may be with the overdose victims, will not be charged. This might make the policy a little easier to handle. At least this means the people who are around someone on the edge of dying could act in the individuals best interest without fear of personally being charged. Pitsick defended his stance saying,

“Service. Follow up. Just them understanding that people do care. We are here to help. We are not here to put them in jail,”

Still, the fact overdose victims are likely to receive charges may deter someone from calling for help for them, no matter how illogical to some that may seem. It is a sad truth that actually happens quite often already. People have allowed others to overdose and even die out of fear of legal repercussions. Would creating a standard of charging people for needing medical resuscitation make it better, or worse? The reality is it will not prevent addicts from using.

While the intention may be good, to try and take a stance against overdose rates, the strategy may be counterproductive. Personally, my opinion is this only pushes people away from wanting help. It inspires fear and feelings of guilt, not hope. It promotes stigma and turns people who are already struggling against the system they were hoping would help them.

Overdose death is not to be underestimated anymore. People every day lose their life to the fight against addiction. But there is help out there for those who are willing to take action. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Why Offensive Stigma on Store Signs Sparks Outrage in Ohio

Why Offensive Stigma on Store Signs Sparks Outrage in Ohio

Author: Justin Mckibben

As much as I love where I come from, Columbus, Ohio has been through a lot recently. Ohio in general has seen some of the worst addiction and overdose rates in its history, and the state was actually sited as being #1 in opioid overdose deaths in the country. So of course there are very strong opinions about the devastation caused by substance abuse. Having grown up in Columbus, it is sad to see how the community is suffering. It is even more disturbing to see how some are reacting. When I came across this headline and saw the comments being made, not just by the store but from people in support of their remarks, it disturbed me deeply.

Now many across the state are in an uproar about the controversy that has been brought on by one convenience store in Columbus, Ohio. The owners posted hand-written messages around the store that are appallingly indifferent to the pain of the people in their neighborhood.

The signs of stigma…

West Broad Street in Columbus is a side of town I’m pretty familiar with, especially while in active addiction, so I’m sure that plenty of people have seen these signs. The Save Way Mini Mart on West Broad Street displayed the two notes that they hoped would dismay customers from stealing, but some patrons have found it insulting and offensive.

One sign, near the front door, says:

“Keep bags up front. Don’t stink! Take showers. Take care of your kids. Stay sober don’t OD. Nothing is free.”

The second sign was placed above a shelf holding cases of tin foil. Some will use tin foil to cook whatever substance, often heroin but not exclusively, before smoking or injecting it. This one states:

“Attention junkies, go ahead and steal a piece of foil to get high. Just please make sure you OD. Thank you.”

Yes, let this all sink in for a moment. Not just the fact that the word “junkie” is so destructive, but the content that follows is callous.

First thing is first, this is inexplicably ignorant to the reality that is shaking the world right now. With more people across America than ever being hopelessly addicted to drugs and alcohol, and higher rates of overdose deaths than ever in our nation’s history, how can people still believe these kinds of stigma?

According to WSYX/WTTE, a local news source, the store’s management would not speak on camera, but they told the news station they meant no offense, but also said the signs will not be taken down.

Really, no offense?

What is wrong with this picture…

This is wrong on so many levels, and I can’t believe I actually have to explain to some people why, but just in case I’ll give it a shot.

These signs insinuate statements that are so incredibly wrong on so many levels. To sum it up, these signs say:

  • All addicts stink/don’t shower
  • All addicts don’t take care of their children
  • All addicts are thieves
  • If you are an addict, you deserve to overdose (OD)

These are all equally as stigmatic and offensive, but that last part is just disgusting. The amount of indifference toward those in pain must be pretty intense for someone to willfully wish overdose onto someone else. To mock the despair and hardship of some while essentially telling them, and promoting to others, the idea that addicts deserve to overdose. Shrugging off the death of people who battle an insidious illness every day because they are “junkies” is repulsive.

Beyond that, the fact is these signs ignore what statistics have been telling us about addiction being more than just something impacting a certain demographic. These stereotypes are a huge part of the reason why it is taking us so long as a society to move forward.

Not all addicts are homeless! Not all addicts are absentee parents! Not all addicts are poor! Addiction touches the CEOs and stock brokers the same way it touches the unemployed and criminal. When we make such harsh generalizations of people who need our compassion we marginalize people who already often feel chastised, misunderstood or hopeless.

To those who comment…

Now as I said, when I first saw this story, the signs themselves we incredibly shameful, but the comments it received in support of this message and ridiculing addicts only compounded the issue. People who say that people ‘choose’ to be addicts and that they ‘choose’ to do drugs and ruin their lives.

It is baffling how some people still insist addiction is a choice. Even when the medical community recognizes it as a medical condition, people adamantly deny that it is a disease; when many regard it as a brain disorder, consisting of various psychological and physical factors. Yet people still go on about how it is the addicts fault because they chose that life.

Sure, people choose to do drugs, but we don’t choose to become addicted. That isn’t up to use. How many people drink and do drugs in their lifetime and don’t become addicts? More than anyone will ever know. A lot of you have probably had your share of experiments. So count yourself lucky, you didn’t have to walk the path many of us do. Stop being self-righteous; try being grateful.

The stigma is killing us…

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently estimates that 91 Americans are dying of an opioid overdose every day! A true tragedy is that many people struggling with drug addiction never seek help because of the judgment they could face. They prolong their suffering as a result of blatant and baseless stigma, which can have a lasting impact. People are actually dying every day because stigma can discourage people from seeking help.

How many parents avoid getting help because of people who think addiction makes them horrible caregivers, or neglectful and absent? How many families are torn apart because the fear of how it looks to the world to be an addict? How many have died before they could get treatment?

Some people want to treat actions like this as no big deal. This writer thinks this is a pretty big problem. To suggest that a heroin addict, or any addict, deserves to overdose, or even die, for stealing tin foil… is insanely irresponsible and inconsiderate to the wellbeing of not just the afflicted individual, but the community.

Don’t let the stigma block you or your loved ones off from the solution. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help. You are no alone.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

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