December 2012 Archives

Ocean City Heroin Use Skyrockets

December 27, 2012

659428_x.jpgThe entire state of Maryland has experienced an uptick in heroin use over the last couple years. But no city or county has seen such a dramatic rise as Ocean City. Law enforcement reported a 550 percent increase in heroin use in the city from 2011 to 2012. If the reports are accurate, more than 5 times as many people used the drug this year compared to last year. In response local cops, Worcester County Police, and Maryland State Police recently initiated a drug suppression operation entitled Operation Smackdown. A variety of drugs such as cocaine and marijuana were also targeted in the operation, but most of the arrests were for possession or sale of heroin.

The joint drug suppression operation yielded nearly 100 bags of heroin and indictments against more than 20 defendants on felony charges. One of the defendants that was arrested for possession with intent to distribute was found with over 60 bags that were packaged for sale. Many of these defendants are already in custody and facing bail as high as $300,000, while some of the suspects are still at large. Police have reported that most of the suspects are from Worcester County cities Berlin and Ocean City, but some also hail from Wicomico County and even neighboring Delaware. Cops used various tactics to carry out the large drug bust including search warrants, undercover buy operations, and surveillance. As is the norm for operations such as this, police undoubtedly employed at least one or even more defendants that were working for the state in exchange for leniency from the law. Typically a defendant that is arrested or under investigation for a drug offense will be given an opportunity to "work" with police in exchange for the cops agreeing not to submit the case to the State's Attorney, or to submit lesser charges. These agreements are never set in stone, and all defendants should be weary of giving up their constitutional rights and placing themselves in danger by working undercover.

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Prescription Drug Abuse Down, But Heroin Use Rising

December 19, 2012

1394618_pills_out_of_bottle.jpgThe war on prescription drug abuse has been effective in decreasing the availability of commonly abused pills such as oxycodone and other narcotics. But as an unintended consequence, heroin use in Maryland has actually been on the rise. More people are using heroin, and state officials are reporting a significant jump in the number of deaths attributed to heroin overdoses in 2012. In fact, in the first half of 2012 heroin related overdoses increased 41 percent, with 205 deaths reported from January to July of this year compared to 145 in 2011 over the same time frame. There could be a wide variety of reasons for the jump in overdoses, which according to state officials signals a definite jump in use of the drug, but the leading factor is likely a recent crackdown on pill mills.

Pill mills have become a booming business over the past decade in dozens of states across the country. Most of the states affected lack actual legislation or strict medical board rules to control the amount of narcotics that are prescribed and purchased. Although there are thousands of legitimate pain clinics across the country with well trained and respected physicians, there are also some clinics who's sole purpose is to rake in huge amounts of money with absolutely no motivation to care for their patients. These clinics are often owned by businessmen with no medical training, and sometimes employ doctors by the month. These doctors are been paid as much as $100,000 per month to simply write prescriptions all day, many times after speaking with their patients for less than 5 minutes. The prescriptions allow the patients to buy powerful narcotic painkillers such as oxycodone by the hundreds. Many of the patients are addicts themselves, and others simply use the pain clinics to obtain a cheap supply of the drugs to sell for a profit. It is not unreasonable for one person to walk out of a pill mill with a prescription for 300 oxycodone pills that sell for ten times more on the street than what it costs to buy in the pharmacy.

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Medical Marijuana Supporters Prepare For 2013 Legislative Session

December 12, 2012

48715_marijuana_plants_growing_outdo.jpgThe Maryland Legislature is scheduled to begin its 2013 legislative session next month, and marijuana is one issue that is sure to be hotly debated. Medical marijuana supporters and personal use advocates alike hope that this year's session makes more progress in the fight for decriminalization. Toward the end of last year's legislative session, the head of the state's department of health went on record saying that he would not support decriminalization as long as federal law continued to define pot as an illegal controlled substance. The department head cited concerns that his state employees could be subject to federal prosecution under the controlled substances act and there would be nothing the state could do to protect them. The head of any state agency has a duty to protect his or her employees, but the broader issue is also that state lawmakers want to protect their constituents as well. It would certainly not look good for Annapolis if Maryland citizens were being prosecuted federally for following a law that their own delegates supported and eventually passed. But supporters of marijuana decriminalization have hope that this year will be different based on two influential votes on this past Election Day.

As readers of this blog and those who have been following national drug laws are aware, Colorado and Washington State voted to decriminalize personal marijuana use. Both states, and close to 20 others including Washington D.C. already had medical marijuana laws on the books, but this past election took the movement to new heights. Local advocates back here in Maryland are now optimistic that the legislature will consider the Colorado and Washington laws in crafting their own legislation. Obviously we cannot expect that Annapolis will jump on board with personal use decriminalization, but medical marijuana laws in this year's session are a distinct possibility. There is no official word from the Governor's office to date that would indicate which way O'Malley is leaning, and his future political aspirations could play into his decision to support a medical use law. A politician with greater aspirations is likely to be more conservative in his or her final years. For now though, lobbyists, grass roots advocates, and users have some reason for optimism.

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Feds Crack Down On Shipping Marijuana To Maryland

December 6, 2012

thirteen-bags-of-marijuana-found-in-taxi-cab.jpgVarious states have recently been modifying and in some cases eradicating criminal penalties for marijuana possession and manufacturing. As a result law enforcement has seen an uptick in shipping the drug from a state where it is legal to a state that has yet to join the legalization party. Despite recent modifications in the controlled dangerous substance laws, marijuana continues to be illegal under state law, and thus local and federal law enforcement have focused a great deal of attention on intercepting packaged drugs headed toward Maryland. Recently a large number of federal search warrants were unsealed in Baltimore, allowing the public to take a look inside the process and procedure of apprehending suspects that take delivery of packaged drugs.

Mailing drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and ecstasy from state to state is not a new method of drug distribution. Drug traffickers and even personal users have been utilizing the mail for decades as a seemingly safer alternative to transporting drugs via car or plane. But now that some states have legalized marijuana for medical use, and even for non-medical personal use, shipping pot by mail has taken off. The mail trend likely gained popularity when California legalized marijuana cultivation for medical use over ten years ago. This immediately caused the price of pot to drop 3 or 4 times below its traditional street value, and the current street value in many East Coast states such as Maryland. Nowadays you can purchase a pound of high quality pot for as little as $1,000 in California, whereas throughout the Midwest and along the East Coast a pound still goes for over $3,000. Personal users and dealers alike can do the simple math and figure out the benefits of getting their supply from the West Coast. And with ramped up airport security as well as K9 patrols along the interstate highways, not to mention the price of gas, it simply pays for some people to take the risk of mailing their stash.

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