With support for Florida's Amendment 2 at an all time high, legalization advocates are anticipating the numerous changes that will occur once the law is in place. One of those could be the elimination of the state's so-called bong ban, which currently prohibits the sale of pipes and other devices used to smoke marijuana.
As it stands, Florida has outlawed various drug paraphernalia that includes "metal, wooden, acrylic, glass, stone, plastic, or ceramic pipes." But according to Ben Pollara, campaign manager for United for Care, the Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative contains language that says the "medical use" of marijuana includes "related supplies."
Jon Mills, one of the drafters of the amendment's language and a former University of Florida Levin College of Law dean, said that he expects the legislature to go back and define which devices would be considered legal paraphernalia and what would not. “But certainly, if you were arrested for having drug paraphernalia and were using marijuana medically, you'd make the argument your device was included,” Mills said.
A review process by the legislature would take some doing, since the state has taken great care to outlaw a wide range of devices that could potentially be used to consume drugs. Among the items banned for smoking weed are bongs—the sale of which is a first-degree misdemeanor—as well as "anything made from 'briar, meerschaum, clay, or corn cob.'" Even balloons and duct tape are illegal if used for doing drugs.
But state Rep. Darryl Rouson, a Democrat from St. Petersburg, said that Amendment 2 could potentially eliminate such bans if the items are used for medical purposes. “If legitimate medical users choose to use a banned device as a delivery system, then, yes, the amendment allows it,” he said.
The Obama administration has recently made an attempt to help put a stop to widespread prescription drug abuse by restricting prescriptions of some of the most common narcotic painkillers.
It was confirmed last Thursday by the Drug Enforcement Administration that hydrocodone combination drugs such as Vicodin would be reclassified. The new change will go into effect at the beginning of October.
Such drugs will now be put in the category for medical substances that have the highest potential for harm, which means that users can now only obtain 90-day prescriptions before receiving a new batch. Prescriptions for hydrocodone combination drugs can currently cover a 180-day period and can be refilled up to five times.
Although hydrocodone has been labeled as a Schedule II drug for decades, the combination drugs have been mired in the Schedule III category. The new change also means that patients will need to have a written prescription to pick up drugs and doctors can no longer phone orders in for patients.
"Almost seven million Americans abuse controlled-substance prescription medications, including opioid painkillers, resulting in more deaths from prescription drug overdoses than auto accidents," said DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart in a statement. "Today's action recognizes that these products are some of the most addictive and potentially dangerous prescription medications available.”
A report released this May by the National Institute of Drug Abuse confirmed that more than 100 people in the U.S. die each day from prescription drug overdoses, making them more deadly than car accidents, guns, and suicides. With more than five million Americans abusing painkillers each year, the U.S. is responsible for 75% of global drug use.
The problem has even extended to senior citizens, with emergency room visits related to misuse of medication doubling between 2007-2011 for those over the age of 55. “There's this growing group of seniors, they have pain, they have anxiety…and a lot of (doctors) have one thing in their tool box—a prescription pad,” said Mel Pohl, director of the Las Vegas Recovery Center. "The doctor wants to make their life better, so they start on the meds.”
A new and powerful drug that is 15 times stronger than heroin has made its way onto streets and resulted in a wave of emergency room visits across the country.
Acetyl fentanyl is a relative of the painkiller fentanyl, but it’s being mixed into street drugs that are marketed as heroin. It’s not recognized as having any medicinal benefits in the U.S. and is not regulated in any way, which has led to users being able to easily obtain it. It’s classified as not being fit for human consumption, but has managed to remain legal by the package being labeled as “not for human consumption.”
The opiate is typically used intravenously and taken as a substitute for heroin. However, many users are unaware that what they are injecting isn’t actually heroin.
“A patient may report heroin use and have symptoms consistent with heroin overdose, but an emergency physician may find that the standard dose of antidote—naloxone—doesn't work,” said scientist John Stogner, from the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of North Carolina. “Larger or additional doses are necessary when acetyl fentanyl is responsible. It's never good to lose time between overdose and treatment.”
Numerous people throughout the Northeast have died over the last year from overdosing on fentanyl-laced heroin, which is 100 times more powerful than morphine and typically only given in extreme cases like end-of-stage cancer patients. Dealers have been marketing the drug across the country with names like “Bud Light” and “Income Tax.”
The Drug Enforcement Administration warned local authorities last January about the “killer heroin,” but also urged them to exercise caution when handling it because fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin.
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"I don't enjoy what I do, but I do it because I have a gambling problem," said Shaun Nixon, a 34-year-old notorious serial scammer currently serving his fourth sentence for ticket fraud since 2007.
Nixon has reportedly ripped off hundreds, maybe thousands of people using his notorious Craigslist ticket scams. In a long con he’s been using for over a decade, Nixon would post hot items like concert tickets to sites. Unknowing buyers would then send money for in-demand items such as a One Direction concert or Toronto Leafs tickets, and never hear from Nixon again.
Nixon and his arsenal of aliases like Shaun Michael, Adam Carson, and Ryan Robertson became so infamous for his crimes that an entire consumer watchdog website, Shaun Nixon Scam, was launched featuring complaints from spurned concertgoers and sport fans who fell victim to his schemes.
“I was shocked—I didn’t think anyone would be crazy enough to do that,” Nixon said of the rush he got after successfully conning his first victim. “I got carried away...It spiraled from there."
Nixon said in a recent interview from the Maplehurst Correctional Complex that the reason he continues using the con is the “desperation” caused by his gambling addiction, which dates back to his first visit to Casino Rama in 2004. He said that he was pursuing help for the addiction so that he can end his cycle of re-offending. He also claimed that he is being transferred to another institution in order to receive counseling, though a spokesperson for the province’s Ministry of Corrections would not confirm Nixon’s transfer.
Dr. Jeffrey Derevensky, professor of psychiatry at McGill University and a gambling expert, said many people who are addicted to gambling do “whatever it takes” in order to get the funds to keep gambling.
“Obviously this individual is creative, but not creative enough not to get caught, in order to keep fueling his need to go back to the casino,” Derevensky said.
“This isn’t the way I want to be,” Nixon said. He was sentenced to two-years in prison on July 3, after pleading guilty to multiple charges, including defrauding the public and breach of probation. Peel police alleged that Nixon’s scam transactions ranged from $500 to $2,000. Nixon has also served time for the scheme in 2007, 2011, and 2012.
Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are fighting a new battle on the homefront against prescription drug addiction, as many VA doctors seem all-too-willing to prescribe away their pain and struggles.
On average, servicemen and women are prescribed narcotic painkillers three times more often than their civilian counterparts. Given the trauma experienced overseas, this figure does not seem all that surprising. Despite the chronic pain and the nightmare of PTSD, many veterans are choosing to stop taking the pills against the medical advice of their doctors.
After serving in the Air Force for 15 years, Nancy Bryant found herself plagued by a storm of prescription medications: Cymbalta, Maxalt, Trazodone, Tizanidine, Dicyclomine, Hydrocodone, and more. During a bout with the stomach flu at the beginning of the year, Bryant couldn’t keep any food or medications down. She was shocked to realize how different she felt when the drugs began clearing her system.
After feeling a sense of freedom from prescription drugs, Bryant decided to quit on her own. As she told NPR in a recent story, “I just scrape my name off all the pill bottles and throw them all away…After a few days of that—those medications clearing my system—I just realized, wow, I felt like a totally different person," she said.
Many civilian doctors are not surprised when veterans make such choices on their own after being subject to the VA overprescribing and misprescribing drugs. Dr. Richard Friedman, director of the Psychopharmacology Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College commented on this dangerous approach by the VA.
"They're using psych drugs off label—way, way, way off label," he said. "Obviously, they are not using them to treat the major disorders for which these drugs are designed…They were in a different situation, where they had unprecedented levels of stress in a group of otherwise healthy people…I think they resorted to psychopharmacology as a means to keep people in active duty."
Although the Pentagon has claimed to have instituted safeguards to prevent overprescribing and off-label usage of pharmaceutical drugs, a study by the Institute of Medicine concluded that the VA and the Pentagon has done a poor job tracking what happens when they treat PTSD with drugs. As the head of the Opioid Safety Initiative at the VA, Gavin West said, "We've undertaken a psychopharmacologic safety initiative, where we're looking across the board at more safe and more effective use of medications."
Given the conflicting information, freedom to decide their pharmaceutical fate should be in the hands of the veterans. Until the VA stops trying to prescribe away the traumatic consequences of the recent wars, servicemen and women need to be supported in their efforts to find their own path to long-term recovery and happiness.