Tyler Shanafelter’s Mother Urges Law to Strengthen Fentanyl Dealer Sentencing

On Monday, Laura Shanafelter joined lawmakers at the Harrisburg Capitol’s East Wing Rotunda to urge passage of legislation named after her late son to strengthen sentences for fentanyl dealers.

Called “Tyler’s Law,” the measure sponsored by state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Gettysburg) would impose a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years on any fentanyl pusher who facilitated a sale resulting in someone’s death. The senator has lamented that these dealers often get sentences of only a few years in cases when investigation even occurs.

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Arizona Overdose Deaths Skyrocket in 2020

Spilled pill bottle on table top with a spoon underneath

New data released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show Arizonans turned to fatal doses of painkillers and other drugs amid the COVID-19 pandemic at a much higher rate than in other years. 

Overdose deaths in Arizona increased 33% to 2,743 from February 2020 to April 2021. Overdoses across the country increased 34% over the same time period. The change is a sharp uptick from years prior. From January 2015 to January 2020, the overdose death rate increased by 18%. 

According to CDC data, synthetic opioids such as Fentanyl accounted for nearly two-thirds of overdose deaths. Fentanyl is multiple times more potent than typical painkillers such as Oxycontin. The powerful opioid has become a popular drug to manufacture for the black market to smuggle across the southern border into California and Arizona, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

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Illegal immigration, Drug Seizures Spike in July

New federal reporting shows illegal immigration has continued to grow worse as the Biden administration increasingly takes heat for the crisis at the southern border.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection released new immigration data that shows border agents encountered 212,672 undocumented migrants attempting to enter the country illegally in July, the highest number in more than two decades.

“The situation at the border is one of the toughest challenges we face,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said. “It is complicated, changing, and involves vulnerable people at a time of a global pandemic.”

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Abbott Calls for Biden to Label Mexican Cartels as Terrorist Organizations as Texas Ranchers Fend off Criminals

Greg Abbott

Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris asking them to designate Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations.

The cartels are bringing terror into Texas communities, Abbott said in his fourth letter to the administration about the border crisis.

The cartels “smuggle narcotics and weapons into the United States to fund their illegal enterprises,” Abbott writes. “They force women and children into human and sex trafficking – enriching themselves on the misery and enslavement of immigrants. They murder innocent people, including women and children. These Mexican drug cartels are foreign terrorist organizations, and it is time for the federal government to designate them as such.”

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Breast Cancer Drug Shows Promise, Boosts Survival Rates by 30 Percent

  A new form of drug drastically improves survival rates of pre-menopausal women with the most common type of breast cancer, researchers said on Saturday, citing the results of an international clinical trial. The findings, presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, showed that the addition of cell-cycle inhibitor ribociclib increased survival rates to 70 percent after 3½ years. The mortality rate was 29 percent less than when patients were randomly assigned a placebo. Lead author Sara Hurvitz told told AFP the study focused on hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, which accounts for two-thirds of all breast cancer cases among younger women and is generally treated by therapies that block estrogen production. “You actually can get synergy, or a better response, better cancer kill, by adding one of these cell-cycle inhibitors” on top of the hormone suppression, Hurvitz said. The drug works by inhibiting the activity of cancer-cell promoting enzymes known as cyclin-dependent 4/6 kinases. The treatment is less toxic than traditional chemotherapy because it more selectively targets cancerous cells, blocking their ability to multiply. An estimated 268,000 new cases of breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S. in…

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Report: Obama Administration Failed To Declare Fentanyl a National Emergency After Multiple Warnings

A groundbreaking report by the Washington Post has revealed that from 2013 to 2017, the Obama administration ignored, downplayed, or failed to act on multiple warnings that synthetic opioid deaths were becoming an epidemic in the country. In the most startling instance, 11 opioid medical experts pressed the administration to declare Fentanyl a national public health emergency in 2016. This would permit a “laserlike” focus that would greatly blunt the damage done to the nation. The administration reviewed their concerns and then decided not to act. According to the report: Between 2013 and 2017, more than 67,000 people died of synthetic-opioid-related overdoses — exceeding the number of U.S. military personnel killed during the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. The number of deaths, the vast majority from fentanyl, has risen sharply each year. In 2017, synthetic opioids were to blame for 28,869 out of the overall 47,600 opioid overdoses, a 46.4 percent increase over the previous year, when fentanyl became the leading cause of overdose deaths in America for the first time. Not until the final days of his administration did the White House finally declare fentanyl to be a national crisis, yet no legislation came as a result. Former Drug Czar,…

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Recreational Marijuana Bill Dies in Minnesota Senate Committee

The Minnesota State Senate Judiciary Committee overwhelmingly voted to kill a bill that would have legalized recreational marijuana throughout the state Monday. Senate Bill, SF 619, would have made it legal for individuals “21 years of age or older to cultivate, consume, use, and possess cannabis, cannabis products, and cannabis accessories,” as well as modify several other laws to accommodate the legislation. The bill was authored and sponsored by State Senators Melisa Franzen (49, DFL), Scott M. Jensen (47, R), Foung Hawj (67, DFL), and Minority Whip Ann H. Rest (45, DFL). After being introduced on January 28th, the bill was immediately referred to Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee. After due consideration, the Committee voted not only to reject the bill but refused to send it to another committee or authorize any form of study on effects of it. Both of these maneuvers are common legislative procedures used to keep bills alive by buying them more time without bringing them to a vote.  This effectively killed the bill and ensured it would not be revisited for some time. The nine-member committee voted 6-3, along party lines, against it. Governor Tim Walz, in an interview with MPRNews, expressed his disappointment with the…

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First Medicinal Marijuana Processor To Open in Ohio

Friday, Ohio’s state Commerce Department awarded the first medicinal marijuana processor its certificate of operation. This processor will allow medicinal marijuana to be processed, refined, and distilled into cannabis-infused products. These products include: ​oil, wax, ointment, salve, tincture, capsule, suppository, dermal patch, cartridge or other product containing medical cannabis concentrate, or usable cannabis that has been processed so that the dried leaves and flowers are integrated into other material.​ The move is a major step forward for advocates who wish to see the ubiquitous use of cannabis adopted in the Buckeye State. The process of earning this certificate from the state of Ohio is very competitive. Per the rules outlined the Ohio Medicinal Marijuana control program. “The Department received 104 processor applications. From these, the Department is authorized to award up to 40 provisional licenses.” In addition, the cost of operations is shockingly high. It costs $10,000 to apply for the initial certificate. If approved, the actual certificate costs an additional $90,000. Furthermore, to continue operations at a plant, there is an annual fee of $100,000. While these fees may seem high, relative to other business fees, one of the most appealing arguments to marijuana legalization was the idea that the drug would be taxed heavily and…

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An Ohio Medical Examiner Issued a Public Health Warning After Multiple Opioid Deaths Were Traced to Powerful Animal Sedatives

Dr. Thomas Gilson, the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner, issued a Public Health Warning Thursday for the entire county. It stated that, after testing opioids seized at multiple crime scenes, the Cuyahoga County Regional Forensic Science Laboratory had discovered a “significant increase” in the presence of carfentanil, a synthetic opioid that is both extremely potent and deeply unsafe for use by humans. According to the Preliminary 2018 Drug Overdose Death Statistics, Cuyahoga County suffered “24 carfentanil-related deaths in 2018.” Though alarming, this is a “significant reduction from the 191 carfentanil-related deaths in 2017.” Carfentanil is the most potent opioid currently available for commercial use, and of the most potent ever developed. It is officially sold under the commercial title of Wildnil. The main use for the drug is sedating large animals, including “ungulates, elephants, and rhinoceros.” It is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more powerful then fentanyl. “The re-appearance of carfentanil in the local illicit drug supply is alarming,” Gilson said. “This is a very lethal drug and anyone using illicit or diverted drugs needs to be aware of the possibility of being exposed to it…Having another person in the vicinity to call 911 and/or administer naloxone can be…

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Ohio Sells 42 Pounds of Medicinal Marijuana in First Weeks of Legal Sales

Ohio sold $330,000 of medicinal marijuana in 12 days. According to the Marijuana Business Daily, that’s almost double the sales rate of, both, Hawaii and Massachusetts when they legalized the drug. These strong numbers are made all the more impressive by the fact that Ohio marijuana prices are almost five times more expensive than if bought illegally and that only four locations are currently open and selling in Ohio. While it’s too early to say what is driving these strong numbers, Ohio’s complicated relationship with other drugs might be a major motivating factor. Of Ohio, Hawaii, and Massachusetts, Ohio, by far, has the highest opioid prescription rate as well as the highest opioid overdose death rate. While many Ohioans may be concerned that marijuana legalization is simply victims of drug addiction switching from one drug to another, it actually has positive implications for the future of the Buckeye State. Marijuana use does carry side effects, however, these effects are far less severe than opioid abuse. Furthermore, a heroin user is 19 times more likely to have started out by abusing an opioid prescription. Marijuana is somewhat more complicated. While historically it has been considered a “gateway drug,” new reports and insights reveal that…

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Ohio Medical Board Tightens Rules for Opioid Prescriptions

Long overdue limits on opioid prescriptions are finally being introduced to the Buckeye State. As of Wednesday, the State Medical Board of Ohio has enacted new requirements that must be met for the prescribing and continuing use of opioids. The rules will affect both short term and long term prescriptions. How stringent the rules are depend on the current dosage. MED or “Morphine Equivalent Daily Dose” is the unit of measurement by which all opioids are measured for effectiveness. For prescriptions of up to 50 MED: prescribers are required to re-evaluate the status of the patient’s underlying condition causing pain, assess functioning, look for signs of prescription misuse, consider consultation with a specialist and obtain written informed consent from the patient. For up to 80 MED, prescribers will do all of the above and consider prescribing naloxone, a drug that functions as an incredibly effective treatment for opioid overdoses. Though it can be administered in a myriad of ways, naloxone is most commonly prescribed as a nasal spray. Lastly, for prescriptions of 120 MED and above, “there must be a recommendation from a board-certified pain medicine physician or board certified hospice and palliative care physician that is based upon a face-to-face visit…

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With Legal Marijuana Sales Imminent in Ohio, Demand Skyrockets

In as early as the coming days, the first legal marijuana dispensary will open for business in Ohio. Fifty-six sites have received approval for sale and several others are only waiting to receive the product before beginning distribution. However, many Ohioans are concerned that, even with legal certification, they won’t be able to obtain marijuana anytime soon. An estimated 3.5 million Ohioans have medical conditions that would permit the use of the controversial drug. In addition, more than 350 doctors are now qualified to approve marijuana prescriptions across the state. There a plethora of conditions that qualify for marijuana use ranging from chronic pain and PTSD to AIDS and most forms of cancer. In spite of this, only a fraction will be able to obtain marijuana following the first sales. In a recent interview Ohio Department of Commerce Senior Policy Advisor Mark Hamlin revealed that, though there will be product available soon, “we know the initial product will be very small.” In addition, he conceded that supply will absolutely not reach initial demand. The 56 dispensaries that have been approved are not equally distributed throughout the state. Some Ohioans will have to drive as much as three and a half hours just to reach…

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Ohio Federal Judge Clears Way for Massive Opioid Lawsuit

A massive lawsuit by 1,500 counties, cities, townships, and other communities nationwide, against the opioid industry has been permitted to move forward by a federal judge in Ohio. Over the past two years, local and state governments in Mississippi, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Nevada, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, Illinois, New York, Washington, and California have all filed separate suits against the various manufacturers, distributors, and sellers comprising the opioid industry. These local governments allege that the “defendants have contributed to the addiction of millions of Americans to these prescription opioids and to the foreseeable result that many of those addicted would turn to street drugs.” In the past year, the majority of these cases were folded into one giant multidistrict litigation that has been consolidated in the Ohio federal courts. The defendants in this case include the three largest drug wholesalers in America: AmerisourceBergen, McKesson, and Cardinal Health. These three entities are commonly referred to as the “Big Three,” accounting for “about 85 percent to 90 percent of all revenues from drug distribution in the United States.” United States District Judge Dan A. Polster of the Northern District of Ohio rejected Wednesday a Motion to Dismiss by the…

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Potential ‘El Chapo’ Jurors Excused for Safety Fears

Reuters   The pool of potential jurors for the U.S. drug trafficking trial of accused Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman continued to shrink on Tuesday, with two people who expressed fears about their safety and one self-described “fan” of the defendant cut from the running. A total of 10 potential jurors were excused from the case during the second day of jury selection in federal court in Brooklyn, New York. Guzman, 61, watched from a table in the courtroom with his lawyers, wearing a dark suit and tie in place of the open-collared dress shirt he sported Monday. Guzman formerly led the Sinaloa Cartel, based in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, which became one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in the world. He was extradited to the United States from Mexico on Jan. 19, 2017, after escaping twice from Mexican prisons before being captured again. A total of 27 people have so far been dismissed as potential jurors, out of nearly 60 who have been questioned. The 12 jurors and six alternate jurors eventually chosen will remain anonymous and be escorted to and from court by armed federal marshals during the trial, which is expected to…

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