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Britain’s Monkey Dust ‘epidemic’ will likely continue until the UK changes its regressive drugs laws

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Britain’s Monkey Dust ‘epidemic’

Police and emergency workers in the UK have warned addicts over the growing availability of a synthetic drug that seems to give users super-human strength and leaves them in a dangerous zombie-like state. Similar to PCP, the substance is said to have caused some users to jump off high buildings and others to rip the flesh from other people’s faces with their teeth. Monkey Dust, which gained notoriety under the moniker “Bath Salts” in the US several years ago, is the street name for Methylenedioxy-α-pyrrolidinohexiophenone (MDPHP), a synthetic cathinone stimulant. It can be bought for as little as £2 ($2.54) per dose on the streets of Britain, where it is reported to have left many users in a state of psychosis, roaming around towns and cities at night, throwing their bodies about the place while screaming and shouting incoherently.

In a statement issued last week, Staffordshire Police Chief Superintendent Jeff Moore said his force had recorded 950 incidents involving the drug over a three-month period, noting how the highly-unpredictable substance makes users difficult to deal with, and poses a risk to both addicts and those around them. Moore said people who take the drug can be affected by it for several days, and that emergency workers often struggle to provide them with treatment, due to the differing effect the substance can have on people. The police chief spoke out after the death of two drug users was linked to the consumption of Monkey Dust by West Mercia Police last month. Speaking with the BBC last week, North Staffordshire health worker Debbie Moores described the substance as one of the most harmful drugs she and her colleagues have ever encountered, noting: “The impact on agencies is huge and it takes us away from what we are supposed to be doing.”

While Monkey Dust is classified only as a Class B drug in the UK, suggesting it poses a similar threat to users as cannabis, and could be purchased legally until the introduction of the New Psychoactive Substances Act in 2016, it is known to reduce users’ perception of pain, remove inhibitions and cause vivid hallucinations and acute paranoia. Also referred to as “Cannibal Dust” and “Zombie Dust”, the drug causes users’ body temperatures to rise rapidly, and is said to make their perspiration smell of seafood. Police have described attempting to restrain Monkey Dust users as akin to trying to deal with the Incredible Hulk, noting how the drug appears to imbue those who take it with super-human strength. “People can remain in this state for two or three days, which is putting a significant strain on our resources, and that of our partners, such as the ambulance and the hospital,” Moore said.

The devastating effect the drug can have on people has been attracting high levels of media attention for years in the US, where its use has been widely documented from around the turn of the decade. In 2012, a naked man who was reported to have consumed Bath Salts was shot dead by police after ripping off a homeless man’s face with his teeth. Ronald Poppo lost an eye and most of his facial features when he was attacked by Rudy Eugene, during an attack witnesses described as looking like something out of a zombie film. In May of this year, police in Florida said they had arrested a woman who gouged her mother’s eyeballs out with glass shards before killing her while high on the drug. Camille Balla, 32, is said to have admitted murdering her mother when officers arrived at the property they shared. While Britain has yet to witness cases as depraved as these linked to the use of Monkey Dust, the fact that the substance appears to be growing in popularity in the UK only makes these types of incidents more likely.

Some drug workers have expressed the hope that the growing use of Monkey Dust across the UK is part of a passing fad, and that the drug’s increasing popularity will soon wane. This is unlikely. Much in the same way that other new psychoactive substances such as synthetic cannabinoids including Spice and Black Mamba have, Monkey Dust will likely grow in popularity among vulnerable groups such as the homeless and prisoners, who will remain attracted to it thanks its potency, low price and the ease with which it can be obtained. The sad truth of the matter is that these types of substances have become more attractive to many addicts than more traditional drugs such as heroin and cocaine. While curious casual users will likely soon realise that consuming Monkey Dust is not a good idea, those seeking oblivion will view it as an easy and cheap way to achieve their goal.

Unfortunately, substances such as these will likely remain popular all the while countries such as the UK refuse to ditch their regressive drugs policies. While the debate around legalising or at least decriminalising substances such as heroin and cocaine is extremely complex, dealing with addicts as individuals who require treatment rather than punishment, as countries such as Norway are doing, might go some way to ensuring these types of substances are unable to trap our most vulnerable citizens in a stranglehold from which some of them will be unable to escape.

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Californian regulators want to force legal cannabis stores to display QR codes containing licence info

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Californian regulators want to force legal cannabis stores to display QR codes

Regulators in the US state of California want licensed cannabis sellers to display QR codes that verify their legal status in a bid to help crack down on the illicit vaping products that are thought to have been behind an outbreak of lung injuries across America.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the California Bureau of Cannabis Control proposed new emergency legislation that would compel authorised cannabis traders to display QR codes containing information about their licensing status in their store windows, and to carry such codes while transporting or delivering the drug.

The proposed new rules are intended to help consumers confirm they are buying from reputable and fully licensed sources, and aid regulators and law enforcement agents as they attempt to guarantee safety levels in the legal cannabis market.

It is also hoped that the proposed new regulations would help educate cannabis buyers about the importance of purchasing supplies from licensed and regulated sources, and the dangers of buying bootleg products from traders that have not received approval from local authorities.

After scanning the codes using a smart device, cannabis buyers would be sent to the Bureau’s Online Licence Search, where they would be able to access information relating to the trader’s licence status, as well as details about a trader’s location so as buyers can be confident a retailer is not displaying counterfeit credentials.

Commenting on the proposed new rules, Bureau chief Lori Ajax said: “The proposed regulations will help consumers avoid purchasing cannabis goods from unlicensed businesses by providing a simple way to confirm licensure immediately before entering the premises or receiving a delivery.

“These requirements will also assist law enforcement in distinguishing between legal and illegal transportation of cannabis goods.”

In September last year, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said a major outbreak of serious lung injury among users of vaping products had been linked to counterfeit THC products.

After conducting interviews about ecigarette use with 86 patients in Illinois and Wisconsin who had suffered lung injuries, the agency found that 87% had used THC-containing vaping products, the majority of which were prefilled cartridges that had been obtained from informal sources.

In an update issued earlier this month, the CDC revealed that as of 14 January, it had received reports of a total of 2,668 cases or deaths linked to the use of vaping products from all 50 states.

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US border guards arrest 14-year-old boy with three packages of methamphetamine taped to his stomach

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14-year-old boy with three packages of methamphetamine

Customs officers in the US state of California have arrested a 14-year-old boy after discovering he had three bags of methamphetamine taped to his midriff under his clothing.

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said the boy was stopped at the State Route 94 checkpoint in a vehicle with three companions on Monday night.

After pulling over the car in which the four suspects were traveling, CBP officers searched the vehicle with the help of a sniffer dog, which gave its handlers a positive response, indicating there were drugs present.

Customs investigators then sent the vehicle and its four occupants for further inspection.

Agents conducting pat-downs on the four found three bags of suspected methamphetamine wrapped round the 14-year-old’s stomach before taking all of them inside the checkpoint.

In total, the packages taped to the boy’s torso were found to contain just over 1.5kgs of methamphetamine.

A more detailed search of the vehicle the four suspects were travelling in resulted in the discovery of three backpacks containing 49 plastic-wrapped packages in the back of the car that contained more than 23kgs of methamphetamine.

The drugs seized from the suspects and their vehicle had an estimated street value of some $102,000.

The driver of the car, who investigators identified as a 34-year-old male US citizen, was taken into custody with three juvenile males, including a 16-year-old US citizen and two Mexican nationals aged 14 and 16.

CBP said that its San Diego Sector has seized approximately 500kgs of methamphetamine since 1 October last year, which had a total estimated street value of $2,088,100.

In a statement, CBP said: “To prevent the illicit smuggling of humans, drugs, and other contraband, the US Border Patrol maintains a high level of vigilance on corridors of egress away from our nation’s borders.”

In a separate seizure last Friday, Californian customs workers took a man into custody after finding more than 90 packages of methamphetamine stashed in various parts of his car.

After flagging the man down in his Green Ford Explorer on Interstate 15 near Temecula, a border agent engaged him in conversation while a sniffer dog gave the vehicle the once over.

When the dog signalled that drugs were likely in the car, investigators conducted a detailed search, finding 96 packages containing nearly 46kgs of methamphetamine estimated to be worth some $191,900.

San Diego Chief Patrol Agent Douglas Harrison commented: “I am very proud of the dedication displayed by these agents.

“They are committed to protecting America and keeping dangerous narcotics like these from reaching our communities.”

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British pharmacist jailed for selling opiate painkillers, tranquillisers and cancer drugs to organised criminals

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British pharmacist jailed for selling opiate painkillers

A crooked British pharmacist has been handed a 28-month jail sentence after being convicted of supplying controlled drugs with an estimated street value of almost £280,500 ($366,557) to members of an organised crime network.

Jaspar Ojela, 56, from West Bromwich, purchased controlled opiate painkillers, tranquillisers and medications intended for the treatment of cancer from drug wholesalers in 2016 before selling them on to his underworld contacts.

Ojela pleaded guilty to supplying the drugs during a hearing at Wolverhampton Crown Court after he was caught in a successful operation conducted by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which regulates medication and medical devices in Britain.

The agency said cancer drugs are valuable to organised crime gangs as they are taken illicitly by bodybuilders to counteract the unwanted effects of other hormone medications.

An investigation was launched into Ojela after inspectors noticed that his pharmacy was buying suspiciously large quantities of controlled drugs that are popular on the black market, such as Diazepam, Zolpidem and Zopiclone.

Investigators were able to establish that Ojela illegally sold more than 200,000 doses of these drugs to his criminal contacts between February and September 2016.

When brought in by police for questioning, Ojela admitted that he had bought the medication with the intention of selling it on to organised criminals, and that he did so while knowing that he did not hold the necessary MHRA and Home Office licences.

Ojela’s defence barrister told the court he made less than £2,000 from the conspiracy and that he was at a “low ebb” when he agreed to participate in it.

The court was told that Ojela sold his criminal associates 213,000 pills for a total of just £5,600.

As well as pursuing his prosecution and jailing, the MHRA is also seeking to recover the proceeds of Ojela’s crimes, while the General Pharmaceutical Council is pursuing disciplinary proceedings against him.

In a statement, Mark Jackson, MHRA Head of Enforcement, commented: “It is a serious criminal offence to sell controlled drugs which are also prescription only medicines without a prescription.

“We work relentlessly with regulatory and law enforcement colleagues to identify and prosecute those involved.

“Those who sell medicines illegally are exploiting vulnerable people and have no regard for their health. Prescription-only medicines are potent and should only be taken under medical supervision.”

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