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Drug Headlines across the U.S. November 5 Edition

A group of House Democrats will unveil a plan today to give Hurricane Katrina victims with prior drug convictions access to federal benefits such as food stamps, public housing and student loans.The Elimination of Barriers for Katrina Victims Act would suspend for three years the restrictions that prevent drug offenders from getting federal assistance. The bill applies to residents of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas.

"The bill does not affirm or support acts of crime, (but) it should not be labeled or stigmatized," said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, one of the sponsors. "These are individuals who have lost everything and to a great extent are victims."Barring some displaced residents from federal aid opportunities, she said, "only fosters a cycle of poverty."

Supporters predicted the legislation would help thousands of displaced residents but conceded that the bill faces a tough fight in Congress. http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/nation/3419046

Every day, six people die in Florida from lethal doses of prescription drugs, the state's drug czar said Friday. Jim McDonough, director of the Florida Office of Drug Control, told about 100 people at a 2005 Red Ribbon luncheon at Daytona Beach Community College that improper use of prescription drugs, primarily pain pills, is the main drug problem the state is facing.

He said prescription-drug death rates now exceed the combined total of heroine and cocaine deaths. "The addict finds a more attractive high off prescription drugs, but he's also getting a more fatal high," McDonough said prior to the luncheon.The issue is so urgent, he said, his office will push again next spring for legislation that would put a computer network system in place for doctors and pharmacists to see what prescription drugs people are already receiving when they come in for a prescription.

 The system would prevent people from going to multiple doctors and pharmacies to get multiple prescriptions. Similar systems are in place in two dozen other states, he said. The program would cost about $3 million and primarily be paid for through federal dollars, he said.                             http://www.news-journalonline.com/NewsJournalOnline/News/Florida/03FloridaSTAT001102905.htm

Tammaria Gehring is more than eight months pregnant. Until Sept. 22, when she was locked up in the Salt Lake County Jail, the 30-year-old mother of two was living in a motel room and using methamphetamine. Were it not for a judge who personally lobbied Salt Lake County Sheriff Aaron Kennard to book her - against Kennard's strict policy not to book pregnant women - Gehring would still be out, possibly doing drugs, despite a felony drug charge and violations of her pre-sentencing release.

Those in the criminal justice system who handle cases such as this say there is little they can do to stop pregnant women from using drugs and risking the health of the unborn children. Third District Judge Terry Christiansen said he cannot court order inpatient drug treatment programs for such women until they have been sentenced. Even when they test positive for drugs, a violation the terms of their pre-sentencing release, the judge can't get them jailed because the sheriff will turn them away.

While jails are revolving doors for drug addicts, the Salt Lake County jail refused to let Gehring in the door on more than one occasion when it found out she was pregnant and at high risk for complications. Kennard said pregnant women who abuse drugs are a legal and financial liability to the jail. "She was not [initially] admitted because of medical reasons," Kennard said. "Being a high-risk pregnancy, this is not something the jail is prepared to handle."

The sheriff said a high-risk pregnancy that ends badly could "bankrupt" the county. "It's not my responsibility to medically take care of everyone."
But the judge did not want Gehring to walk. Two lives were at stake.


THE OAKLAND TRIBUNE                                                                                                                         

About 50 medical marijuana activists rallied under Wednesday's leaden skies near the United Nations Plaza farmers market, wielding a bullhorn and picket signs to demand that federal officials act on a formal request to loosen the drug's ban. This weekend, "Guru of Ganja" Ed Rosenthal of Oakland hosted a "Wonders of Cannabis" festival in Golden Gate Park featuring joint-rolling contests and an appearance by comedian and noted stoner Tommy Chong.

Mixed messages, some drug policy experts say sadly. "Sometimes I think cannabis activists are their own worst enemies," said University of California, Berkeley public policy professor Robert MacCoun. "They rely too heavily on a 1960s countercultural playbook, but it's precisely that kind of association that inflames opponents." Rosenthal insists McCoun and other critics miss the point: The Bay Area supports medical marijuana, and the ease with which the region has assimilated it should be a model for the rest of the nation.

"It's not like we're trying to be far out, we're just appealing to a rainbow," he said. "Marijuana is the one issue that crosses gender, age, ethnic and political lines ... There's only one group that's opposed to marijuana and that's the criminal justice system. It's fat in the budget for them and they don't want to lose it." Part of the festival's proceeds benefits Green Aid, a medical marijuana legal defense and education fund that's defraying legal costs for defendants including Rosenthal himself, as he appeals his 2003 federal conviction and one-day jail sentence for growing marijuana. http://www.insidebayarea.com/oaklandtribune/localnews/ci_3166724

THE DENVER POST                                                                                                                                                                     

Denver residents Tuesday voted to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, but the state attorney general said the vote was irrelevant because state law will still be enforced.  The measure passed 54 percent to 46 percent. "It just goes to show the voters of Denver are fed up with a law that prohibits adults from making a rational, safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol," said Mason Tvert, executive director of Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation, or SAFER.

The measure will change the city's ordinance to make it legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana in the city. Denver follows the city of Oakland, which last year voted to make marijuana possession its lowest enforcement priority and required the city to develop a plan for licensing and taxing the sale, use and cultivation of marijuana for private use. Voters in Telluride Tuesday defeated a similar measure. http://www.denverpost.com/localpolitics/ci_3173687

SANTA CRUZ SENTENEL                                                                                                                              
STATE TO TAX MEDICAL MARIJUANA DISPENSARIES                                                                             

The state approved a policy this week that opens the door for medical marijuana distributors to collect and pay state sales tax. The policy, while requiring marijuana retailers to feed state coffers just like department stores or any other California retailer, also considers their unique fear of being targeted by federal authorities because of legal questions surrounding their product.

While California approved medical marijuana in 1996, it remains illegal under federal law. Under the new policy passed by the state Board of Equalization, businesses can get what is known as a sellers permit, allowing them to collect sales tax, without indicating whether their merchandise is lawful to sell.

Like the federal government, the state Board of Equalization considers any kind of marijuana sale to be unlawful. "We didn't want to inadvertently be in the position of putting medicinal marijuana dealers in a trouble spot," said board member Betty T. Yee of San Francisco. http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2005/October/27/local/stories/01local.htm

OVERDOSE CAUSED DEATH OF MINEAPPOLIS GIRL, 11                                                                                              
As police announced Friday that a cocaine overdose caused the death of an 11-year-old girl found off of a south Minneapolis street, Indian and community leaders implored people with information about the death to come forward. "We are investigating this as if it were a homicide," Police Chief William McManus told several hundred people gathered at an outdoor memorial service for Sidney Mahkuk. "An 11-year-old girl doesn't wind up dead of her own volition on a sidewalk at 2:30 in the morning."

A few feet away from McManus, on the boulevard outside 2531 Columbus Av. S., a memorial of flowers, stuffed animals, eagle feathers and notes was spread over the spot where Sidney's body was found two weeks ago tomorrow. Capt. Rich Stanek said police met with Sidney's family Friday to discuss the results of toxicology tests that showed she died of a cocaine overdose. He said there was no measurement, as there is with alcohol, to tell how much cocaine she ingested. But it was lethal.

"I don't know of anybody else that young to die of a drug overdose," said Stanek, who heads the homicide and criminal investigation unit. Stanek said police have received information from Sidney's family and others, which investigators have aggressively pursued since she was found Oct. 23. "We will not stop until we find out who is responsible for the death of Sidney Mahkuk," Stanek said. "That's what we have pledged to the family." http://www.startribune.com/dynamic/mobile_story.php?story=5709248

Thanks to Arizona H.I.D.T.A., Demand-Reduction Program: Drug-Free Workplaces, Communities and Schools for this information: 
Drug Courts: An Effective Strategy for Communities Facing Methamphetamine

From the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), drug courts can be used effectively for methamphetamine-addicted offenders.  The BJA report offers recommendations for drug courts on addressing the meth-using population such as:

    •  Strategies should include random, unannounced home visits and drug testing, using probation and law enforcement officers who are trained in detecting methamphetamine laboratories and use for intensive supervision and monitoring
    •  Increase frequency of status hearing for the first 90 days
    •  Set short-term abstinence goals
    •  Ensure longer periods of treatment that are relevant to the meth users
    •  Use cognitive-behavioral treatment modalities, including treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders
    •  Provide service coordination and comprehensive case management, as well as after-care services
    •  Provide on-going support meetings for those discharged

Full report: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/pdf/MethDrugCourts.pdf

Study Finds Significant Financial Benefits of Providing Substance Abuse Treatment:
From researchers at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine and School of Public Health led by
Susan Ettner, Ph.D..  The California Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP) provided primary support for the study.  The research team used data from 2,567 clients in 43 treatment programs in 13 California counties during 2000 and 2001, through the California Treatment Outcome Project (CalTOP).  The overview of findings comes from SAPRP’s media release on the study results.

    •   $1 spent on substance abuse treatment generates $7 in benefits for society
    •  Average cost of treatment is $1,583
    •  Monetary benefits of $11,487 are gained through reduced medical expenses, reduced costs of crime and increased employment earnings
    •  Treatment costs of clients who began with outpatient care totaled $838 compared to $2,791 for those who began in residential care
    •  Reductions were seen in hospital inpatient, emergency room and mental health services costs, but only the $223 reduction in emergency room costs was statistically significant
    •  Reduction in the cost of victimization and other criminal activities averaged $5,676
    •  No significant changes were seen related to unemployment or disability costs. However, welfare payments increased slightly, perhaps due to increased referrals to public aid programs 

[Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP). Study published in Health Services Research journal, Online publication date: 20-Oct-2005.  Overview of findings at http://www.saprp.org/

December 14 and 15, 2005  9 am - 4 pm both days                                                                                                                                        
Ken Dickinson and John Kriger

This event will provide comprehensive information about one of the most difficult drugs: methamphetamine. Methamphetamine manufacturing and use has far reaching consequences: it presents safety and health issues for children in the homes of users and manufacturers, health risks to neighborhoods, and a multitude of treatment and intervention issues. Day one includes in-depth presentation about the effects and metabolism of methamphetamine. In day two, participants will review methods of intervention and treatment. You must attend both days.

12 contact hours toward CADC certification being applied for.

THIS IS RESERVED SEATING ONLY: YOU MUST PRE-REGISTER TO ATTEND! Contact Cyndi at 609 777-0748. Directions to the location will be sent as confirmation of your registration. If you have special need, or accommodation issues, please provide that information when you call to register.

About the presenters: Ken Dickinson and John Kriger have presented vital information to thousands of parents, teachers, law enforcement officers and preventionists and counselors nationally and internationally for over 20 years. Both presenters have a background in the treatment of individuals with co-occurring mental illness.  

Ken is a registered pharmacist with an extensive background in addiction recovery and treatment. He is a uniquely gifted presenter and a nationally recognized expert on addictions, presenting at the Utah and NJ summer schools of addiction studies, and other venues. He is an instructor at Drexel University and is a consultant to the Major League Philadelphia Phillies.

John is a nationally recognized trainer, licensed addictions counselor & prevention specialist providing services for numerous state, national and international agencies and private organizations. His clients include: The Drug Enforcement Administration, The National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws, Rutgers Univ. School of Alcohol Studies and School of Social Work, the Bermuda Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, The NJ, Tenn. and Iowa National Guard, numerous school districts and other organizations.