Authorities say they have arrested a deputy for her alleged role in a
marijuanaselling business following a month-long investigation. St.
Lucie County sheriff 's deputies said an anonymous tipster told them
deputy Heather Tucker, 27, was involved in drug activity.
Authorities searched the apartment she was staying at with her
boyfriend and another couple Friday and said they found felony
amounts of marijuana, packaging materials and other items typically
associated with the sale and distribution of marijuana.
Tucker was charged with marijuana possession of more than 20 grams,
marijuana possession with intent to sell and possessing drug equipment.
[continues 56 words]
Civil Citations Can Replace Criminal Arrest, County Says
Pot smokers busted by cops in Broward County with a joint or a baggy
of marijuana could walk away with a civil fine and a clean criminal record.
Broward commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to create a lighter
penalty for small-time possessors of marijuana. The county can't
decriminalize an illegal drug, and police officers still have the
option to treat the offense as a misdemeanor crime.
But commissioners lamented the lives they say have been ruined by
arrest or jailing on what they consider a minor infraction. Twenty
states have decriminalized marijuana under certain circumstances, and
voters in Broward overwhelmingly supported legalization of medical
marijuana when it hit the Florida ballot, but failed, last year.
[continues 829 words]
Prosecutions Are Up, but Formulas Change Quicker Than the Drug Code Can
TAMPA - Synthetic marijuana and other drugs continue to bedevil
authorities, who say some progress is being made in the battle
against unregulated chemicals that are landing teenagers and young
adults in emergency rooms with horrifying reactions.
Although prosecutions mount, authorities say local law enforcement is
frustrated by drug sellers who make minor changes in chemical
formulations to get around the law, staying just out of reach of
police. Once a substance is specifically listed as illegal, a new
formula is created.
[continues 1387 words]
The liberal media has demonized mandatory minimum drug sentences,
referring to them as punishment for 'nonviolent' crimes. What about
the violence that illegal narcotics have done to a large segment of
our population? Comparing the cost of incarcerating drug offenders
with the cost of drug damage would be instructive.
Mandatory minimum sentences played a major role in reducing the flow
of illegal drugs into Florida and the rest of the country. We seem to
have lost that bit of history.
I spent seven years interviewing federal drug prisoners for
intelligence on successful drug smuggling. The information was
obtained at little cost. None of these inmates would have cooperated
were it not for their attempts to reduce sentences.
Charles M . Fuss Jr., St. Pete Beach
Florida Gov. Rick Scott is going to have to think outside the drug
war box if he wants to reduce heroin overdose deaths. Groundbreaking
research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association
shows that states with open medical marijuana access have a 25
percent lower opioid overdose death rate than marijuana prohibition
states. This research finding has huge implications for states like
Florida that are grappling with prescription narcotic and heroin
The substitution effect was documented by California physicians long
before the JAMA research. Legal marijuana access is correlated with a
reduction in opioid and alcohol abuse. The marijuana plant is
incapable of causing an overdose death. Not even aspirin can make the
same claim, much less alcohol or prescription narcotics. The phrase
'if it saves one life' has been used to justify all manner of drug
war abuses. Legal marijuana access has the potential to save
thousands of lives.
Robert Sharpe, Common Sense for Drug Policy, Washington, D.C.
A surge in heroin use in Hillsborough County and throughout Florida
underscores the need for increased state funding for substance abuse
treatment and mental health services. Gov. Rick Scott has wisely
recognized that Florida is not doing enough to help people addicted
to drugs and living with mental illness, and the Legislature next
year should follow his lead and invest more money in these critical services.
Heroin deaths in Florida reached an all-time high in 2014 of 447
people, according to a report released last week by state medical
examiners. Hillsborough County recorded 22 heroin-related deaths in
2014, up from just three a year earlier. Officials have already
linked 18 Hillsborough deaths to heroin in the first half of this
year. Public health officials across the country say law
enforcement's crackdown on doctor shopping, pill mills and the opioid
drug oxycodone has prompted the addicted to look for an alternative.
Increasingly, drug users are turning to heroin, a relatively
inexpensive opioid that is easy to obtain as drug cartels from Mexico
find ways to produce a more potent product and smuggle it north,
according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The spike in
heroin deaths highlights an enormous gap in the care offerings for
drug addicts, a problem Florida would be smart to quickly address.
[continues 216 words]
Why Is Unclear, But The Surge Comes As Prescription Drug Deaths Drop
Heroin deaths are on the rise across the Tampa Bay region - but
they're exploding in Hillsborough County.
Heroin has killed four times as many people in Hillsborough in the
past two years as it did in all of the previous four years combined.
Data from the Hillsborough Medical Examiner's Department reflects a
dramatic increase in fatalities attributed to the drug, which has
seen a resurgence statewide and nationally following a crackdown on
the prescription drug abuse epidemic.
[continues 956 words]
A jury did not believe a Miami-Dade man who insisted he grew 15
marijuana plants inside his home only to help ease the suffering of
his cancer-stricken wife.
The six-member jury on Friday night convicted Ricardo Varona of
trafficking more than 25 pounds of marijuana and operating a
marijuana growhouse. Taken into custody to await sentencing, Varona
faces a mandatory minimum of three years in prison.
Varona, 43, was the second South Florida man in the past six months
to claim "medical neccesity" in operating a marijuana growhouse.
Unlike in the Varona case, a Broward jury in March acquitted
50-year-old Jesse Teplicki, who admitted he grew 46 plants to battle
years of nausea and fatigue.
[continues 381 words]
Supporters of a movement to legalize marijuana for medical use in
Florida reached an important milestone last week, gaining enough
valid petition signatures to prompt a Florida Supreme Court review of
the ballot language.
This was expected after the effort fell just shy of winning enough
votes in 2014 and the Legislature refused to take up the issue this
year. It should be clearer than ever to legislators that they have
one more chance to pass legislation that legalizes medical marijuana
or voters likely will do it themselves next year by amending the
[continues 277 words]
Kudos to columnist John Romano for acknowledging that it is long past
time to correct Florida's 'ill-advised anti-marijuana crusade.'
No other state routinely punishes minor marijuana infractions more
severely than Florida. Under state law, marijuana possession of 20
grams or less (about two-thirds of an ounce) is a criminal misdemeanor
punishable by up to one year imprisonment and a $1,000 fine.
Marijuana possession over 20 grams, as well as the cultivation of even a
single pot plant, are defined by law as felony offenses - punishable by
up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Annually, an estimated
60,000 Floridians are arrested for possessing marijuana, the
third-highest total of any state.
[continues 73 words]
Petitions will hit the streets soon for a proposed constitutional
amendment that would fully legalize marijuana use, possession and
cultivation by adults in Florida.
A political-action committee called Floridians For Freedom,
associated with a longtime marijuana-advocacy group called the
Florida Cannabis Action Network, said Tuesday that it had received
state approval to begin seeking signatures to get their measure on
the November 2016 ballot.
The measure is distinct from another amendment drive run by United
For Care and led by Orlando lawyer John Morgan because Morgan's group
wants to legalize marijuana for medical purposes only. Floridians For
Freedom wants it legalized for all uses, including recreation.
[continues 191 words]
A new federal program that reduces drug offenders' long sentences
should cut costs and improve the judicial system. But the exercise
requires close monitoring. No one should forget the culprits were
sent to prison for grave crimes.
The drug trade, after all, kills thousands each year - users and
those killed in the violent street crimes related to drugs.
Illegal drugs' devastating damage to society should not be minimized
as federal officials ease sentencing practices.
But, as the Tribune's Elaine Silvestrini found, the Justice
Department's Smart on Crime Initiative looks to be a reasonable way
to reduce inordinately long sentences without giving criminals a pass.
[continues 546 words]
When I was 13 years old, I decided to never touch drugs or alcohol
due to my family's history of addiction. And I stuck to it.
But if I trust author Johann Hari's recent TED Talk, "Everything you
know about addiction is wrong," I should feel free to experiment. In
the talk, Hari argues that the sole root of and cure for addiction is
human connection, but there are some dangerous flaws in his argument.
Hari's thesis is that there is no physical component to addiction,
only a psychological one that is specifically an attempt to fill the
void of human connection. The evidence he provides to illustrate
this, though, is a study on lab rats that showed they would not drink
cocaine water if they had friends, Portugal's decriminalizing of all
drugs, and a professor who proposed calling addiction "bonding."
[continues 472 words]
As America entered the 21st century, Florida became the home of
retirees, tourists and prescription drug abusers. Law enforcement
officials referred to Interstate 75 as the 'Oxy Express,' as people
flooded into Florida to take advantage of the state's easy access to drugs.
'Florida was ground zero for pill mills,' said Assistant U.S.
Attorney Simon Gaugush.
During a six-month period in 2010 at just one pill mill in Tampa,
1,906 patients from 23 states made 4,715 visits. Doctors at this one
facility wrote prescriptions for 1 million oxycodone pills.
[continues 2762 words]
Staff Researches Idea for a Much-Reduced Penalty for Small Amounts.
WEST PALM BEACH - Palm Beach County is considering making possession
of a small amount of marijuana a civil infraction - the equivalent of
a traffic ticket - rather than a criminal offense.
But a number of issues need to be worked out in order for this
approach to receive broad-based support or at least acceptance from
law enforcement and the criminal justice system stakeholders,"
Assistant County Administrator Jon Van Arnam wrote in a memo Aug. 14.
[continues 426 words]
TAMPA - On Nov. 1, 120 federal drug offenders sentenced in Tampa will
be released from prison as part of a rollback of federal drug penalties.
Among the prisoners tasting freedom will be Lucas Lopez, 86, and his
son, Benito, 47, Miami commercial fishermen who have served 22 years
of their 30-year sentences after being convicted of conspiracy to
distribute more than 5 kilos of cocaine in Tampa.
For both men, it was their first conviction. Neither had any
disciplinary issues in 22 years behind bars, according to their
lawyer, Conrad Kahn of the Federal Public Defender's office.
[continues 1547 words]
In response to "Hepatitis cases exploding in U.S." (Nation & World,
Aug. 8): Twenty years ago that headline could have been written in
Switzerland. An AIDS epidemic was out of control. The Swiss were so
desperate they tried something radical: They allowed hardA-core
addicts to register with the state to receive clean heroin. It was
controversial at first, but in 2008 the public voted to include
"heroin-assisted treatment" as a normal part of their national health
system. They also made methadone freely available as a pharmaceutical.
The proA-gram pays for itself in improved public health and safety. It
also enables addicts to hold jobs and pay taxes. The average age at
registration as an addict is slowly rising, indicating that kids are
not becoming addicted, and the number of addicts needing her-oin has
stabilized at about 1,300, in a population about the same as Florida.
[continues 56 words]
Hallandale Officials Likely to Approve $100 Civil Fine
HALLANDALE BEACH - Gone to pot? Get caught in Hallandale Beach with
up to 20 grams of marijuana, and you may be looking at a $100 civil
fine instead of criminal charges.
Following the lead of Miami Beach and Miami-Dade County, Hallandale
Beach city commissioners are expected to give initial approval to the
new law Wednesday night.
City Commissioner Keith London won quick support from his colleagues
after pitching the idea in June. Should the measure pass, Hallandale
Beach might be the first city in Broward County to pass such a measure.
[continues 282 words]
A new poll finds that two-thirds of likely Florida voters are willing
to vote yes for medical marijuana legalization.
The survey, done by St. Pete Polls, finds majority support for
medical marijuana in every market of the state. Overall, 68.2 percent
of those surveyed say "yes" when asked: "If the new medical marijuana
initiative makes it on to the ballot this year will you vote for it?"
"No," got 25.3 percent, and just 6.5 percent said they were undecided.
[continues 187 words]
There is a destination where you're about five times more likely to
be incarcerated than the rest of the world. It's got only 4 percent
of the planet's population but claims more than 20 percent of the
world's population behind bars. It's not Syria, and it's not Cuba.
That place is the United States of America.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that the number of prisoners
in the United States has increased more than seven times during this
author's almost 50 years. Two million people in America live behind
the walls. America imprisons at an astounding rate of 716 of every
100,000 people. The Prison Policy Initiative ranks Florida 10th in
the U.S., imprisoning people at a rate of 891 people per 100,000.
Florida's "lock 'em up" rate ranks well above authoritarian regimes
such as Cuba, Rwanda and the Russian Federation. In 1970, the Florida
Department of Corrections imprisoned just 8,793. Thirty years later,
the number has multiplied more than 11 times to greater than 100,000
men and women in state prisons.
[continues 236 words]