While attitudes toward marijuana have been rapidly changing in the United States, it looks as though Russia is still clinging to Reefer Madness-style propaganda.
Viktor Ivanov, the head of Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service, has flatly rejected any possibility of legalizing marijuana in the motherland. Ivanov cited the long debunked notion that pot serves as a gateway drug to more hardcore substances. "Marijuana users have a 50 or 60 times higher risk of switching to heroin. There is one step from dope to heroin,” he said in an interview with the Interfax news agency. Ivanov went on to proclaim that those who smoke pot will later suffer from depression, dissatisfaction with life, and even schizophrenia.
Going further, Ivanov also cast doubt on methadone programs and harm reduction techniques like clean needle exchanges, despite their proven ability to increase safety and even prompt addicts to seek treatment. “If we want to hand out syringes we should do it in places with addicts, to prevent the spreading of diseases,” he said. “If there are no addicts why would we give syringes to the people? Who would approve of people handing out syringes near his own home?”
While Russia makes no distinction between soft and hard drugs when prosecuting dealers, the country has not criminalized addiction and estimates that some 8.5 million Russians use drugs.
A British drug addict who spent over $45,000 per year on his heroin and crack cocaine addiction had a judge grant his wish of a prison sentence as a last-resort attempt to get clean. Christopher Harbourne, 27, was sentenced to 32 months in jail after pleading guilty to robbing the home of his ex-girlfriend. His first burglary came at age 13 and he has racked up 18 pages of convictions ever since.
His attorney, Richard Gibbs, blamed Harbourne’s drug addiction for many of his previous offenses. “He was rattling. He’s been using large quantities of crack and heroin, between four and 16 bags a day,” said Gibbs. "He recognizes that addiction has led him to a range of offenses over a period of time. He sold a phone for £40 ($66 US) to a street dealer almost immediately." But Judge Alan Parker was less sympathetic to Harbourne’s “truly lamentable history,” telling him that “you have thieved your way through the last decade.”
Harbourne's case was reminiscent of a more famous incident involving Teen Mom star Amber Portwood. In June 2012, Portwood was sentenced to five years in prison after she told a judge she would prefer her original sentence over court-ordered drug rehab. Portwood had failed a drug test in December 2011 while on probation for possession of drugs, but told the judge she hated her mandatory drug rehab program and had been using throughout it. She also argued that she needed prison in order to truly get clean.
Although some initially suspected ulterior motives, Portwood was released from Rockville Correctional Facility in Indiana last December after serving just 17 months of her sentence. The early release was due to good behavior, time served, and the completion of two prison courses. Portwood also managed to get her GED while behind bars.
After last Saturday’s arrest of infamous drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, federal prosecutors announced yesterday that they will seek his extradition to the United States.
Guzman, the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, faces charges in eight districts throughout the U.S., including New York and Chicago; the Chicago Crime Commission named him their "Public Enemy No. 1" last February due to his responsibility for the bulk of narcotics flooding the city. But Mexican officials want to keep Guzman in custody over concerns about his transfer to the U.S. due to his 2001 escape from a Mexican prison inside a laundry truck.
Guzman’s capture was the end result of a year long investigation between U.S. and Mexican officials. The U.S. placed a $5 million bounty on his head after the Sinaloa Cartel smuggled billions of dollars worth of drugs into the U.S. including methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana. In recent years, he had even become a major narcotics trafficker throughout Europe and Asia.
But while Guzman’s capture is being viewed as “symbolically important,” officials in both the U.S. and Mexico envision that the drug war is far from over. The Sinaloa Cartel will likely appoint someone else to replace him and there is a chance that drug war violence will increase as cartels vie for power in Guzman’s absence. The drug war has already claimed at least 60,000 lives throughout Mexico, most of which occurred when former president Felipe Calderon was in power.
Guzman was able to bribe his way out of a Mexican prison 13 years ago, but authorities have made it clear there is no chance of that happening again. "He's locked up in the most reliable prison we have in Mexico and certainly once bitten twice shy,” said Eduardo Medina Mora, Mexico's ambassador to the United States. "We will take our precautions in this case."
- Miley Cyrus Snatches Beer From Audience, Chugs It On Stage [TMZ]
- Australian TV Presenter Grant Denyer Denies Charges Of Drug Addiction [Daily Mail]
- Texas Substitute Teacher Arrested After Showing Up To Elementary School Drunk [Daily News]
- Washington To Face Yet Another Price Hike For Booze [KSTW]
- Experts Say Arrest Of Drug Kingpin 'El Chapo' Won't Stop Flood Of Drugs [NBC News]
- Majority In Ohio Just Fine With Medical Marijuana [Daily Record]
- Three British Clubbers In 'Serious' Condition After Taking Fake MDMA [London24]
- Could California's Water Crisis Turn Into A Beer Crisis? [Think Progress]
Dr. Tomasito Virey, 59, of Manhasset, N.Y. was found dead of a suspected overdose on the very same day that Astramed was busted by federal agents for running one of the biggest illegal painkiller dispensaries in the northeast. Virey's death went previously unreported and was revealed to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
On February 4, Virey was found in the bedroom of a relative’s home in Amherst, N.Y. as authorities were making over two dozen arrests at Astramed, a primary care clinic in Bronx, N.Y. Astramed was the target of a federal investigation that uncovered one of the largest pill mill schemes in the northeast, according to one of the authorities involved in the bust. The clinic was alleged to have sold some 31,500 phony painkiller prescriptions to drug dealers, which were then used to purchase around 5.5 million Oxycodone pills in and around New York.
According to Capt. Enzio Villalta of the Amherst Police Department, prescription drugs were found in the home where Virey died. Police are still awaiting toxicology reports to determine whether his death was accidental or suicide.
Virey’s death came at an odd time in the investigation. Though authorities weren’t planning on arresting him, Virey was contacted by federal agents prior to the February 4 sweep while previously being the subject of an NBC affiliate’s report about suspicions that Astramed was a pill mill. According to the states Department of Health records, Virey had written some 3,200 prescriptions for painkillers, more than any other doctor in the state. In the NBC report, he naturally declined to admit that he was dispensing Oxycodone illegally. "Once I see the patient is addicted, I refer them for detoxification, like rehab,” Virey said at the time.
In 2012, Virey turned over the operations of Astramed to another doctor in order to shake off the bad publicity.
Former chef to the Kim family, Kenji Fujimoto, now in exile, has recently revealed that the current dictator of North Korea had a decadent upbringing unlike any other.
As boys, Kim Jong-Un and his brother were pampered and showered with gifts. The chef also claims that while North Koreans starved, he was sent to Japan to buy fish and also to Peking to import Big Macs for the Kim family. But the strangeness does not end there.
“Jong-un learned to drive when he was seven. They put a little box beneath his feet to help him reach the pedals and someone gave him instruction," said Fujimoto. "The first car he got was a Mercedes-Benz, and he has owned Mercedes ever since. I’d say he has more than ten now – all bulletproof.”
But it wasn't anything goes for Kim and his brother. The former head chef says that Kim Jong-Un would sneak away from his father, Kim Jong-Il, for a secret smoke. "He’d ask me to wait downstairs for him, he’d come in his Mercedes and we’d go up a little hill and smoke at the car park there," said Fujimoto. "One, maybe two cigarettes. Yves Saint Laurent was his favorite brand."
The dictator was also an avid drinker, Fujimoto revealed. Even as a young teenager, Jong-un consumed a lot of Russia’s finest vodka, sometimes drinking a whole bottle by himself. According to Fujimoto, he now prefers Bordeaux red wine – a favorite of his father's.
While he has been forgiven by Jong-Un for his "betrayal" after defecting to Japan, Fujimoto still fears reprisal. "Jong-un might take back what he said about forgetting my betrayal and do what he did to Jang Song Thaek," he said. "Make me disappear, as if I never existed.”