Bath Salts; What is Really Going on Here? UPDATE: Synthetic Drug Crackdown & “Debtors Prison”

7 Aug

'Spice' -- a designer synthetic cannabinoid.

I missed this press release from justice.gov/dea published on July 26,2012 “DEA NEWS: Nationwide Synthetic Drug Takedown: 19 million packets of synthetic drugs seized and $36 million in cash .” In a Time Times article from July 7, 2012 called “Woman Gives Birth, Smokes Bath Salts, Violence Ensues; What is Really Going on Here?” I proposed that the news was reporting more “zombie attacks” caused by bath salts(that sometimes ended up not being associated with bath salts at all) in an effort to increase public support to ban the substances, which would then increase funding to fight the drug war. Bath salts are one of the synthetic drugs that were targeted by the recent DEA nationwide crackdown known as “Operation Log Jam.” Here are some facts from the press release :

  • This was the “First ever nationwide law enforcement action against the synthetic designer drug industry”
  • 90 people were arrested
  • Five million packets of finished designer drugs were seized.
  • $36 million dollars in cash was seized (Who says the drug war isn’t a way for government to make money?)
  • Since July 26, 2012, 4.8 million packets of synthetic cannabinoids have been seized
  • Since July 26, 2012 products to produce 13.6 million packets of synthetic cannabinoids (ex. K2, Spice) have been seized
  • Since July 26, 2012 167,000 packets of synthetic cathinones (ex. bath salts) have been seized
  • Since July 26, 2012 products to produce 392, 000 packets of synthetic cathinones have been seized
  • 2010, poison centers nationwide responded to approximately 3,200 calls related to synthetic cathinones and synthetic cannabinoids
  • 2011, poison centers nationwide responded to approximately 13,000 calls related to synthetic cathinones and synthetic cannabinoids, with 60% of the patients being 25 years of age or younger

Excerpts from DEA press release:

“Although tremendous progress has been made in legislating and scheduling these dangerous substances, this enforcement action has disrupted the entire illegal industry, from manufacturers to retailers,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “Together with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, we are committed to targeting these new and emerging drugs with every scientific, legislative, and investigative tool at our disposal.”

While many of the designer drugs being marketed today that were seized as part of Operation Log Jam are not specifically prohibited in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986 (AEA) allows these drugs to be treated as controlled substances if they are proven to be chemically and/or pharmacologically similar to a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance.  A number of cases that are part of Operation Log Jam will be prosecuted federally under this analogue provision, which specifically exists to combat these new and emerging designer drugs.

“DEA has used its emergency scheduling authority to combat both synthetic cathinones (the so-called bath salts like Ivory Wave, etc.) and synthetic cannabinoids (the so-called incense products like K2, Spice, etc.), temporarily placing several of these dangerous chemicals into Schedule I of the CSA. Congress has also acted, permanently placing 26 substances into Schedule I of the CSA.

While the DEA is supported by the above mentioned federal laws, a new one was signed by the president on July 9, 2012. The law is part of S. 3187: Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act  and places synthetic drugs in the Schedule I class, and would extend the amount of time allotted for the temporary scheduling of a substance as a schedule I drug to two years with a one year extension, in comparison to current law stipulating one year with a sixth month extension for temporary scheduling. It would also put “Unless specifically exempted or unless listed in another schedule, any material, compound, mixture, or preparation which contains any quantity of cannabimimetic agents, or which contains their salts, isomers, and salts of isomers…” in the schedule I class.

‘(A) The term ‘cannabimimetic agents’ means any substance that is a cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1 receptor) agonist as demonstrated by binding studies and functional assays within any of the following structural classes:

‘(i) 2-(3-hydroxycyclohexyl)phenol with substitution at the 5-position of the phenolic ring by alkyl or alkenyl, whether or not substituted on the cyclohexyl ring to any extent.

‘(ii) 3-(1-naphthoyl)indole or 3-(1-naphthylmethane)indole by substitution at the nitrogen atom of the indole ring, whether or not further substituted on the indole ring to any extent, whether or not substituted on the naphthoyl or naphthyl ring to any extent.

See the  rest of the substances that will be prohibited here. Honestly, I have no knowledge of chemistry, but perhaps someone else does. If you are a chemistry nerd (‘nerd’ is a good thing), please take a look and let me know if you see anything interesting.

English: "Spice gold" smoking blend

English: “Spice gold” smoking blend (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Armed with more reasons to lock up the American people, would you believe government is raising probation fees as a way to generate revenue? I found a document from 2011 reviewing the implementation of increased probation fees in Massachusetts for the years 2009-2010.

Statewide Survey of the Implementation of the Increased Administrative Probation Fee at District Courts

“The Chief Justice’s memorandum also discussed the need for increased revenue collection because of budget cuts:

‘The courts will be required to collect an additional $10 million in retained revenues above the $43 million in FY 09 … Clearly we must continue to be diligent in our collection efforts.'”

Now this couldn’t possibly be a bad thing, could it?

A New York Times article from July 2, 2012 tells the story of  31 year old Gina Ray. Ms. Ray was fined $179 three years ago for speeding, but didn’t show up for her court date,which resulted in her license being revoked.  She was pulled over again while driving without a valid drivers license, and because she was unable to pay the $1,500 dollars in accrued fees for her initial unpaid $179 speeding ticket, she was handed over to a private probation company, put in jail, and charged another fee for each day she was imprisoned. Gina Ray has been put in jail three times because of that speeding ticket, and still owes $3, 170, with a large amount of it going to the probation company. Lisa W. Borden is a partner  at a large law firm in Birmingham, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, and is highly familiar with this issue. Ms. Borden said:

“With so many towns economically strapped, there is growing pressure on the courts to bring in money rather than mete out justice,” 

“The companies they hire are aggressive. Those arrested are not told about the right to counsel or asked whether they are indigent or offered an alternative to fines and jail. There are real constitutional issues at stake.”

Make sure to read the rest of the article for more on the disturbing reality of the eroding “justice” system in the U.S.A.

Poor Land in Jail as Companies Add Huge Fees for Probation (New York Times)

Debtors’ prison 2.0: More people getting thrown in jail for being too poor to pay fines (msnbc)

In a report from 2010 by Alicia Bannon, Mitali Nagrecha, Rebekah Dille called Criminal Justice Debt: A Barrier to Reentry, it was found that:

    • “Fees, while often small in isolation, regularly total hundreds and even thousands of dollars of debt.
    • “Inability to pay leads to more fees and an endless cycle of debt.
    • “Although “debtors’ prison” is illegal in all states, reincarcerating individuals for failure to pay debt is, in fact, common in some – and in all states new paths back to prison are emerging for those who owe criminal justice debt.
    • “As states increasingly structure their budgets around fee revenue, they only look at one side of the ledger.
    • “Criminal justice debt significantly hobbles a person’s chances to reenter society successfully after a conviction.
    • “Overdependence on fee revenue compromises the traditional functions of courts and cor­rectional agencies.”

Wake up, America. We are turning into the United Prison Corporations of America.

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