Recently in Drugs Category

Some of the opposition to the charging policy restored by Jeff Sessions  --  which requires career federal prosecutors ordinarily to charge the most serious readily provable offense  --  has argued that these prosecutors will rebel at the loss of their "discretion," and will balk at following the policy in practice.

Of course, that is an empirical question, so I asked someone who would know. Specifically, I asked Larry Leiser, an AUSA for more than 20 years and President of the National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys. The question I posed to him in an email this afternoon was whether the great majority of AUSA's support Sessions' decision that federal prosecutors should charge the most serious readily provable offense, including offenses that would involve a mandatory minimum sentence if the defendant is convicted.

He gave a one word answer.  "Yes."

Full disclosure:  Larry has been a friend of mine for years, and I knew full well what his answer would be, as would anyone who understands that prosecutors do not spend their time trying to figure out ways to cut breaks to smack pushers.

Midazolam

| No Comments
One of the many controversies in the flurry of activity over the Arkansas execution of Ledell Lee was whether midazolam is a sufficient anesthetic for this purpose.  There is surprisingly little in the media reports this morning about whether it worked as intended in this case.  This story in USA Today does not mention the actual result, but the web page does have video of a television report by Marine Glisovic of KATV, a media witness to the execution.  From her report, it appears that the drugs worked as intended.

In my view, the States and the Federal Government should work to restore the supply of thiopental or pentobarbital as quickly as possible and eliminate the need for these more debatable alternatives.  Until that channel is open, though, midazolam appears to be effective when used correctly.


Alternative Execution Methods

| No Comments
Joseph Ax and Nate Raymond have this article for Reuters on states turning to other methods of execution as the supplies of lethal injection drugs dry up. Defense lawyers say they will challenge new methods.  So?  They are challenging the old methods.  The article quotes me:

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the nonprofit Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which supports capital punishment, said death penalty critics had pressured drug companies into cutting off the supply of drugs, thereby causing problematic executions when states turn to inferior drugs.

Scheidegger said he favors the use of nitrogen gas as an alternative if lethal injection drugs are unavailable, noting that it is used every day by veterinarians as a way of putting animals down painlessly.

"I don't think murderers deserve a painless death, frankly," Scheidegger said. "But as far as removing obstacles from getting these sentences carried out, I think that's the way to go.
Mr. Ax evidently misunderstood me in the second paragraph.  I said the states should turn to nitrogen if they can't get barbiturates such as pentobarbital, which is used by veterinarians every day for euthanasia.  The part about veterinarians refers to the pentobarbital, not the nitrogen.  Pentobarbital is the primary ingredient of Euthasol.

Another Note on Expiration Dates

| No Comments
Expiration2.jpg
Here is a bit of anecdotal evidence on drug shelf lives.

The picture on the left comes to us courtesy of retired DEA agent Fred Gregory.  In the 1960s, the DEA's responsibilities included checking pharmacy shelves for expired medications.  This bottle of medical heroin was "expired" over 30 years before it was pulled.  Analysis showed it to be 100% pure and potent nonetheless.

Expiration Date Follies

| 1 Comment
The reason Arkansas is trying to rush executions is that its batch of one of the execution drugs is nearing its "expiration date."  Does something magical happen to a bottle of a drug when that precise date arrives?   Does it turn into something else at the stroke of the clock, like Cinderella's coach turning into a pumpkin?

Of course not.  Drugs have a shelf life, and the "expiration date" is the manufacturer's very, very conservative estimate of how long we can be confident, without testing, that the purity and potency of the drug has not deteriorated below acceptable limits by the passage of time alone, as long as the drug has been stored under the proper conditions.

But throwing drugs away simply because that conservative estimate date has arrived is not always required, particularly if the drug is expensive or in short supply.  See this post from 2014 and the quote from Johns Hopkins.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Defense have an entire program to avoid the waste of throwing away good drugs.  It is called, logically enough, the Shelf Life Extension Program (SLEP).  Here is a PowerPoint on the program.  With testing, we can be confident that drugs will remain pure and potent beyond their nominal expiration dates, sometimes far beyond.
As has been reported on this blog and in many other places, crime across the cities of this country has been on a tear the last two years the likes of which we have not seen for decades.  After a generation of keeping our nerve and getting tough under Bill Clinton and George Bush, we decided that the real problem is thuggish police and overcrowded prisons.  So we started down the road of policing consent decrees and retroactively lowered sentences.

Liking the results?

But wait, it gets worse.  Lots worse.

Justice

| 1 Comment
Baby Justice never stood a chance.  He was born with methamphetamine in his system and found frozen to death under some bushes along a slough bank 19-days later at the hands of his high, meth-addicted mother.

Baby Justice is dead.  His mother is in jail for second-degree murder and his father, Frank Rees, who has a history of meth related arrests and supposedly thought that the baby's mother "was clean", was arrested yesterday for his role in Baby Justice's death.  The baby was found dead almost exactly two years ago.  His mother was convicted by a jury almost six months ago.  Evidence at the mother's trial established that the baby's father was administering meth to the mother both days before and after his birth.  This evidence is what led to Rees' arrest.  Rees, 31, is now facing felony charges of involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment, and administering methamphetamine.  Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig stated that "Under California law, when another individual's unlawful or reckless conduct in the face of known risks is a substantial factor that contributes to the death of another person, criminal liability may be established."

In a jailhouse interview yesterday, Rees said "I can almost guarantee you this is going to be thrown out, . . .  The DA should come here and give me an apology. I lost my son. I think I've been through enough."  Really?  Rees may not have physically taken the baby out to the slough that night, but he's been described as a "as a womanizing, meth-addicted, paranoid ex-convict who wielded intense control over [the baby's mother] first as her drug connection, then as the father of her child" and had dosed the baby's mother "with veterinary-size syringes of methamphetamine mixed with acetone in the days before their son's death."  Who should be apologizing to who here?

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/crime/article102222787.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/crime/article102222787.html#storylink=cpy

Rees' new girlfriend, who herself was arrested last month for possession of meth, just gave birth to Rees' 6th child.  This new baby girl was born two months premature and it is probably safe to say that meth is in her system as well.

Baby Justice stood no chance and now there is another baby struggling to survive.  Her mother most likely uses meth and her father is in jail facing manslaughter charges for his role in the death of the half-brother she will never meet.  The sad cycle continues.

Another Part of President Obama's "Legacy"

| 1 Comment
It goes way beyond merely skyrocketing violent crime in major cities over the last two years.

"Heroin overdose death rates increased by 26 percent from 2013 to 2014 and have more than tripled since 2010," says the January report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 47,000 people died from drug-overdose deaths in 2014 alone, including 28,647 from opioids and heroin overdoses. Nearly all of the heroin used in the U.S. is brought across the border by Mexican traffickers, who are nearly always illegal aliens.

The report states:

More persons died from drug overdoses in the United States in 2014 than during any previous year on record. From 2000 to 2014 nearly half a million persons in the United States have died from drug overdoses. In 2014, there were approximately one and a half times more drug overdose deaths in the United States than deaths from motor vehicle crashes. Opioids, primarily prescription pain relievers and heroin, are the main drugs associated with overdose deaths.

The article is here, and, I might immodestly add, quotes me extensively.



El Chapo in U.S. District Court

| No Comments
Nicole Hong reports for the WSJ:

Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, the Mexican drug lord who evaded U.S. authorities for years and built a billion-dollar narcotics empire, is expected to make his first appearance in a U.S. courtroom on Friday.

Mr. Guzmán, who successfully escaped twice from maximum-security prisons in Mexico, was extradited to the U.S. late Thursday. His arrival came as a surprise to many, even to U.S. officials, who said Friday that they didn't know he was coming until the day of the extradition.
*                *                *
As crime rises in may parts of the country, particularly in urban centers and states invested heavily in alternative sentencing, the call to end so called "mass incarceration" is still a high priority for the left as evidenced by this OpEd in the Sacramento Bee by Foon Rhee.  The author praises the outgoing President's embrace of sentencing reform and California's aggressive alternative sentencing policies, but he fears that that the incoming President will reverse this trend.  He suggests that on top of the tens of thousands of criminals already released early under these policies another 364,000 state and federal non-violent and drug offenders can be released without threatening public safety. 

The next day, a story buried in the same paper reported that drug overdose deaths have increased by 33% over the last five years, according to the CDC. A more thorough story on this issue was written by Michael Casey of CNS news.  A 2015 report by the Urban Institute found that 99% of drug offenders in federal prison were convicted of trafficking.  Anyone familiar with criminal trials understands that virtually all of the dealers got a plea bargain. 

In California, as a result of Proposition 47, which converted felony drug possession to a misdemeanor, drug arrests are down dramatically.  Under the state's Realignment law, most drug dealers do not go to prison anymore and users, if police even bother to arrest them, are cited and punished with a few hours in a local jail as reported in the Desert Sun. 

There has been much debate on this blog regarding whether drug dealers should be considered violent criminals.   Assessing the hundreds of thousands of lives destroyed by the illegal drugs they sell, I would say yes.  Mr. Rhee and others who think like him would likely disagree, as I am sure that they would be quick to deny any connection between the mass release of federal and state drug dealers and the increase in overdose deaths. 

Is the War on Drugs a Failure?

| 14 Comments
Academia, the Left, and libertarians relentlessly tell us that the War on Drugs is a failure.

I just came across this article, which begins:

According to a recent report released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), today's teens are actually better behaved than the generations which preceded them, relatively speaking.

According to the annual Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) fewer teens are having sex and using drugs or alcohol. In fact, today's teenagers actually have the lowest rates of ecstasy, heroin, and meth use on record.


I don't know the extent to which the criminalization of these dangerous drugs has contributed to the decrease in their use by young people, but I do know two things. First, attaching costs and risks to the use of X will reduce the use of X; and second, the law is a teacher as well as an instrument, and its lesson that drug use is bad is one we should preserve.

Katy Murphy of Bay Area News Group has this story on the latest Field Poll.  Both of the death penalty propositions are ahead by single digits in this poll, though 10% remain undecided on 66.  The marijuana and gun control initiatives appear to be headed for approval.

Once again, Field gave its respondents only the confusing ballot language on 66.  That would accurately gauge the votes of people who will vote without consulting anything else and those who have already gotten information from other sources and made up their minds.  It would not, however, reflect the votes of people who have not yet made up their minds on the "down ballot" questions and will consult external sources before doing so.  Other polls that tell people in simple terms that 66 will speed up enforcement of the death penalty show it doing far better, as I noted earlier.
A:  In a word, no.  Not close.

I want to follow up on Kent's post about the Gallup poll on sentencing, focusing specifically on drugs. My reason is that the sentencing reform proposals in Congress concentrate mainly on lowering drug sentences. This has also been the focus of the (liberal majority) Sentencing Commission in recent years. 

One of the things I often hear when I debate sentencing "reform" is that lowering sentences is the politically astute thing for Republicans to do.

That is simply false.

California Proposition Poll

| No Comments
SurveyUSA has this poll on California's ballot propositions, among other things.

"Proposition 62, which would end the death penalty in CA and replace it with life in prison, trails by 15 points today and is headed for defeat." If that sounds familiar, it's nearly identical to what the same poll found about two weeks ago, noted in this post.

"Proposition 63, which outlaws large-capacity magazines and requires background checks on ammo purchases, leads by more than 2:1 and will pass." 

"Proposition 64, which would legalize, regulate and tax recreational marijuana, is supported 52% to 41%. Caution advised."

And Proposition 66, which would streamline the death penalty and allow us to restart executions?  They didn't poll on it.  Again.

The pollsters note:

Polling ballot measures and citizen initiatives is an inexact science. In general, having nothing to do with California specifically and having nothing to do with 2016 uniquely, opposition to a ballot measure increases as Election Day approaches. Rarely does support for a ballot measure increase over time. It is likely that opposition to Propositions 56, 62, 63 and 64 will increase once early voting begins on 10/10/16. This may alter the calculus on recreational marijuana Proposition 64, which today has the most fragile advantage of those measures tested.
Susan Pinker has this article in the WSJ with the above title, reviewing the research.

In the previous post, I noted my rare agreement with Jerry Brown that a marijuana industry with legitimacy and mass marketing would produce an increase in consumption that will diminish us as a nation.  This is why.  We are already suffering from a decline in the ambition and work ethic that made us a great nation in the first place.  The last thing we need is a chemically induced steepening of our decline.

Monthly Archives