Friday, December 16, 2005

Our laces tied together

Unless we untangle prohibition, we are going to continue to trip up young people.

Yesterday, students and parents in Douglas County, Colorado, were taught this lesson - the hard way. Eight Mountain Vista High School students were caught smoking marijuana, only to be informed by police that their stash was laced with heroin. Trace amounts of heroin were found in a field test of the pot, and further testing is being conducted. It is likely that the teens knew nothing of the "secret ingredient", so we must wonder how it became tainted. I see two possibilities:

1. The heroin was intentionally introduced by a dealer to make the pot more addictive so that the customers would come back for more. (Currently, this is the sheriff office's theory.)
-OR-
2. Somewhere along the process, the marijuana was handled "on the same equipment" as heroin (just as milk chocolate M&Ms can potentially contain traces of peanuts).

The former scenario seems less plausible than the latter (for simple cost-benefit reasons that I won't get into here), but either option leads us to the same conclusion: If marijuana was a regulated substance, its distribution would never share proximity with heroin in the first place.

After all, could you imagine Starbucks trying to get away with "accidentally" lacing their lattes?

Two states away, in Nevada, The Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana is working to pass the "Regulation of Marijuana Amendment", a law that will make marijuana a regulated commodity - just like alcohol or coffee. And as with alcohol, persons under 21 will be turned away at the counter.

Personally, I have qualms with setting 21 as an age limit for the legal consumption of any substance. But it's clear that this policy is much more sensible than the one that currently forces marijuana to mingle in the company of more dangerous black market drugs. Once passed, this sensible drug policy will likely spread to other states, including Colorado. Perhaps, then, when these eight Mountain Vista students are old enough to have teenagers of their own, they will know that if their kids do get their hands on marijuana, at least it will be heroin-free--a guarantee that mom and pop didn't have in the Olde Days of Prohibition.

12 comments:

Jonathan Perri said...

Micah,
Heres what i found most disturbing and possibly untrue in the article:
"The sheriff's office says lacing marijuana with heroin is not an uncommon tactic used by drug dealers."
>> Not Uncommon?? As someone who has seen many bags of marijuana, and knows many other individuals who have also seen many bags of marijuana, I have never come across marijuana that was laced with ANYTHING! Nor could you convince me that this would be a good idea for any "drug dealer" to execute.
I would like to know specifically how many bags of marijuana laced with heroin have been found in Douglas County or in the United States for that matter. If anyone knows, please tell me!

daksya said...

When the Nevada initiative passes, hopefully, the state will honor it. After the Raich ruling, it is uncertain how much effect the ballot will have.

Micah Daigle said...

Jon: Agreed.

I would note, however, that it's possible you have never come across laced marijuana because your status as an upper-middle class college student has always supplied you with a relatively clean market. I would suspect that inner city marijuana is sold more frequently with other drugs, though I could be entirely wrong (I also haven't looked into where this particular High School was located). Some food for thought, at least.

As I said, though, the chances of dealers intentionally lacing marijuana seems slim... here's why:

If it is laced with a very small amount, it would not be enough to "hook" someone, and would go to waste. In fact, the reason why heroin is injected or snorted is because smoking the drug is a very ineffective method of consumption. If a seller were to lace marijuana with a large enough amount of heroin to create a strong addiction, I suspect that that much heroin could be sold for much more money than a bag of marijuana.

However, it is possible to conceive of a desperate drug vendor trying to get rid of bad pot by lacing it with some mid-grade heroin that he has lying around in order to make the marijuana seem higher in potency. Unlikely, but possible.

Daksya: Yes, once the initiative passes there will definitely be a long battle ahead of us to actually get the state (not to mention the feds) to honor it. However, even if the legislation doesn't effectively establish a legitimate market and protect users from arrest, it DOES send a clear message, and fosters public support (much like the Denver initiative). The effect could be socially psychosomatic.

Kris said...

It's not unfathomable that marijuana transported from Mexico could have come in contact with heroin. With that said, the heroin in the Western states is, by and large, tar heroin from Mexico. While smoking tar heroin by heating indirectly actually is an effective method of delivery, direct burning with marijuana would burn the diacetylmorphine at too high of a temperature and would have no affect. To deliberately "lace" marijuana with heroin would be a waste of heroin (from the "evil drug dealer's perspective"), and would be on par with lacing marijuana with LSD or mushrooms- nil effect if smoked. Of course, having anything "unregulated" mixed with cannabis is not desirable, but let's get the facts straight.

And, really, marijuana doesn't need to be laced with anything to keep people coming back, regardless of variety or origin. IT SELLS ITSELF. This kind of hyperbole is along the lines of "drug dealers prey on kids." If anything, kids prey on drug dealers, when you really think about it. I suppose the statement is a stretch, but there is some truth to it.

Micah Daigle said...

Thanks for clarifying the smoked-heroin problem, Kris. And good point about the Mexican marijuana. The only thing I have to add is that some not-so-bright drug vendors may not be as knowledgeable about the ineffectiveness of lacing marijuana with heroin, and may try it anyway. Again, unlikely, but possible. After seeing this story, anything's possible.

And as for kids preying on drug dealers, I get your point, as strange as it sounds. We've all seen the (overly-dramatized) scene in the movie Traffic when the rich suburban white kids use daddy's allowance to buy drugs from poor inner-city dealers who are just trying to get by. It happens everyday.

kaptinemo said...

Given that the very pinnacle of the DrugWarrior hierarchy has been given carte blanche to lie in the course of its' duties as permitted by the GAO, I see this merely as a very transparent attempt by law enforcement to engage in more scare tactics. After all, if the people at the top can lie, why can't they?

This is what happens when an entire generation is victimized by deliberate fraud and psychological manipulation courtesy of its' government: no confidence in government whatsoever and an expectation that everything it says is a falsehood.

You reap what you sow, DrugWarriors; enjoy the bitter harvest.

jackl2400 said...

First, regarding "heroin contamination", one has to be skeptical of this claim. Keep in mind that controlled substances can be detected down to the parts per trillion level, so "trace amounts" of controlled substances can be found on many common objects.

It is well-known that most currency, $20 bills in particular, have detectable amounts of cocaine from being once used as straws and then contaminating thousands of bills once they pass through a bank's currency counting machines and transfer cocaine to the rubber belts in those machines.

Therefore, the mj may not have really been 'laced with heroin' in any harmful amound as implied, nor a health risk. At the very small detection limits, the person or furniture of a marijuana dealer may have had trace amounts of heroin or many other things which could end up on a baggie or bud. Big deal.

As to your skepticism regarding 21 yo "majority" laws, I'm totally with you. I came of age during a more enlightened, pre-Reagan/D.A.R.E. era where 18 was the drinking age. You were even expected at my school to show up on Fridays for school-sponsored wine/beer/cheese parties with your professors in the lounge. You were also expected to be able to socially consume alcohol at the "pleasant buzz" level without making a total spectacle of yourself (analogous to adult "cocktail party" that you have to go to for business). Traditions like that were part of the socialization of alcohol as something that could be enjoyed by adults in some other, more civilized setting than Animal House, Girls Gone Wild, Homecoming, football game-day tailgating, etc.

Yes, there was a drunk driving/inexperienced driving problem with both kids and adults back in the day. But an earlier, more realistic lawful exposure to the difficult to dose drug alcohol by college kids back in the day seems preferable to the prohibition of alcohol among that age group which IMHO has led to much more problematic drinking by college-aged kids (binge drinking, blacking out, toxic or unhealhy drinking patterns, etc.).

Also, many universities seem overly nanny-statish, loco parentis about the whole drugs/alchohol thing, where a formerly tolerated or even hallmark college experience (frats) are now grounds for expulsion. High schools, yeah, OK, they're community institutions, but since when did "keeping kids totally stone sober from all substances at all times until age 21" become almost a part of an academic morality honor code at a lot of universities?

Not to say that there weren't excesses, but like the 21 y.o. drinking age, the solution seems too Draconian and overly broad, creating its own set of problems by its lack of practicality or realism.

rachelrachel said...

While smoking tar heroin by heating indirectly actually is an effective method of delivery, direct burning with marijuana would burn the diacetylmorphine at too high of a temperature and would have no affect.

Do you have any documentation to back up that assertion?

A quick web search turned up this from a scientific journal, one of the "good guys":

link

Of the 15 named women users on the list provided by one women user, nine women were injecting and six were using by 'cocktail' (heroin mixed with cannabis) or 'joint' (heroin mixed with tobacco). The user who provided the list, a 'cocktail' user who had never injected, expressed shock at the high proportion of injectors on her list. Like most users, she perceived injecting to be more harmful than other modes of administration.

Here' s another one, looks like somebody who knows his stuff:

SMOKING IN CIGARETTES – Just like smoking a joint, some people smoke heroin by mixing it with tobacco. I have met someone before who used this way thinking that it didn’t make him a junkie, as he was more civilized and didn’t use foil or inject! But it produces the same effects and side-effects, and is just as addictive. It can also be smoked with cannabis or cocaine powder/or residue from a crack cocaine pipe.

Do some web-searching and you'll find this is not an unheard-of practice.

rachelrachel said...

The heroin was intentionally introduced by a dealer to make the pot more addictive so that the customers would come back for more. (Currently, this is the sheriff office's theory.)

In the linked article, there's not a word that has the sheriff saying that the reason the heroin was added was to make the pot more addictive. I'm not sure where you got that.

FWIW, I've run into pot that's been added with all kinds of stuff: mescaline, PCP, etc. It sells for a higher price. If anybody around here has not, it might be because of the crowd you're running around with.

I can easily imagine some entrepreneur adding a little smack to his pot, calling it "treated with opium," and then selling it to happy customers who wouldn't dream of touching heroin.

I'm older than most of you, and I'm sure the drug culture has changed since I was your age, but it would greatly surprise me if there weren't still pockets where this sort of thing goes on.

Anonymous said...

You were even expected at my school to show up on Fridays for school-sponsored wine/beer/cheese parties with your professors in the lounge. You were also expected to be able to socially consume alcohol at the "pleasant buzz" level without making a total spectacle of yourself (analogous to adult "cocktail party" that you have to go to for business).

This is one custom that we should be glad to have gotten rid of. There's one thing to use coercion to keep people from drinking, but to have an official body pressuring an individual to take a drink is unconscionable, regardless of the age of the person.

It would be better if we got rid of the "cocktail parties."

As for the cut-off age, I suppose we have to draw the line somewhere, but we still have that double standard where underage drinking is bad, but once you hit a certain age it suddenly becomes a desirable thing to do.

It would be better to say: when you get old enough, you can decide whether to drink, while pointing out that the stuff is bad for your health.

Over the last few decades, consumption of alcohol has been going down fairly steadily. It's hard to know how much of it has been due to a change in the policies.

rachelrachel said...

Sorry.

I was the last "anonymous."

Kris said...

Not to go on and on about MOI of heroin, but my point was that heroin in Colorado is likely tar, which can't be smoked at a high temperature (ie in a cigarette, on pot, etc.). I don't know what kind of heroin they have in Kenya, but apparently it isn't tar. As for the second study, it refers to heroin that can be snorted like speed, which obviously is not referring to tar. Whereas both powder and tar can be heated on foil, only powder can be actually "smoked" on tobacco, etc. Any documentation I have regarding MOI is, unfortunately, a bit more accurate and grisly than observational internet essays.

All of that is barely relevant to the topic at hand, but clarification is part of education.

Full circle, my point was that based on that notion, it was unlikely that the introduction of the diacetylmorphine into the marijuana was either deliberate or of any real consequence.