End of Road

endofroad

This is the last post that I am going to post on sites other than my own. www.pharmaciststeve.com 

@pharmaciststeve

https://www.facebook.com/pharmaciststeve

Those who read what I post on my web venues are free to copy, share on other sites.

I welcome comments and willing to post opinion pieces by those in the chronic pain community and/or advocates for chronic pain… anonymously if you wish.

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I made a post almost a month ago stating that I was going to be Changing directions

My initial time frame was going to be after the Presidential election in November to see if the chronic pain community and other that should be aligned with the chronic pain community would be able to create some political unity. While there has been some attempts.. just like all the White House and other petitions that have been created over the last year +…I have seen little evidence of a sizeable cohesion.

The bureaucrats and the bureaucracy – IMO – are acting like the “school yard bully” and the rule that prevails in “the wild”… the most aggressive “take out” the weakest in “the herd”. To them, every causality/kill is a VICTORY.

All of those who should be allies or defenders of this pt abuse… are seemingly quite content to turn a blind eye or stand on the sidelines watching it all happen.

Our legal system has declared both that “opiate abusers” are criminals and those who are disabled, unemployable, elderly, etc… their “lives” have “little value” when it comes to damages for their lives or quality of lives being harmed that there is no financial upside for an attorney to take a case on a contingency basis. Justice is not only blind.. but.. it discriminates against a large segment of our population.

I expect that my posts will start containing more editorializing and quite critical of many of the parts of our system and our “civilized society”… that are involved in numerous human rights violations.

By pulling back posting on other sites… these more critical posts will not offend administrators of other sites or some of their readers and I don’t have to defend what I post.

Remember… if you DO NOTHING… you GET NOTHING… and PASSIVE PTS… normally get POOR OUTCOMES.

 

 

Bureaucrats rationing access to a pt’s right to proven therapies ?

CO Patients Fight Against State Regulations on Medical Marijuana

nationalpainreport.com/co-patients-fight-against-state-regulations-on-medical-marijuana-8831523.html

Amid concerns about new medical marijuana regulations in Colorado, an alliance of healthcare professionals, researchers and patient advocacy groups are joining forces to defend their access to cannabis as a medicine.

“Most patients turn to medical marijuana out of desperation when traditional medications have failed to relieve their suffering. When they find relief, they learn their fight is really just beginning because of the stigma they now face in their community” said Stacey Linn, a founding member of the IMPACT Alliance and Executive Director of the CannAbility Foundation – known for helping pass Jack’s Law, which ensures medically fragile children have access to medical marijuana at school.

The IMPACT Alliance members believe new regulations on medical marijuana by the Department of Revenue’s Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) could restrict research and development on cannabis as medicine, and reduce outreach and education to patients.

The Marijuana Enforcement Division met with government regulators and other stakeholders to determine the fate of patients, but did not talk to patient groups for input on how the rules would impact them,” said Bridget Seritt of Cannabis Patient Rights Coalition.

“We ask that the MED hold final adoption until the patient voice is represented in this discussion.”

The alliance claims that the “Department of Public Health’s Board of Medical Examiners (BME) has begun pulling the licenses of physicians who are recommending a patient try medical marijuana for severe medical conditions that require extended plant counts.”

Michele Ross, Ph.D. and cannabinoid medicine expert says, “They used no scientific evidence or research to support the decision to pull these physician’s licenses, nor have they offered guidance on what plant counts they believe are appropriate for each condition so physicians have guidance moving forward.”

In an announcement, the alliance noted that the Department of Health issued a statement last year restricting physicians from recommending cannabis to more than 30% of their patients or potentially face action against their license.

“How do you make a doctor choose which 3 out of 10 cancer patients deserve access to cannabis treatment?” questioned Dr. Ross. “What is the scientific basis for this decision?”

The IMPACT Alliance believes chronically ill people should have the right to grow their own medicine without having elected officials disrupt the doctor-patient relationship. They note that the dispensary model can be unaffordable for many ill patients, so growing plants provides access to needed medicine.

“We are here to be a resource to policy makers. We want to work together to protect our communities and patients,” said Ms. Linn. “We are asking for inclusion, reason and compassion in this discussion.”

Fact or Fiction : Report: Clinton Foundation distributed ‘watered-down’ AIDS drugs to third world countries

Report: Clinton Foundation distributed ‘watered-down’ AIDS drugs to third world countries

www.worldtribune.com/report-clinton-foundation-distributed-watered-down-aids-drugs-to-third-world-countries/

The Clinton Foundation’s health initiative “likely increased” the risks of morbidity and mortality for HIV/AIDS patients in sub-Saharan Africa by distributing “watered-down” drugs, a report said.

A draft of a congressional report obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation cited the Clinton Foundation’s “decade-long relationship with a controversial Indian drug manufacturer called Ranbaxy,” which the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) used as one of its main distributors of HIV/AIDS drugs to third world countries.

Bill Clinton during a 2014 tour of India. /Getty Images
Bill Clinton during a 2014 tour of India. /Getty Images

The congressional report, titled,“The Clinton Foundation and The India Success Story,” was initiated by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican and vice-chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The report also cited the work of Dinesh Thakur, a former Ranbaxy employee “who became a star whistleblower, permitting the U.S. government to launch a landmark lawsuit against the Indian firm. The company was vulnerable to U.S. prosecution because it also sold its generic drugs on the U.S. market,” the Daily Caller noted.

Ranbaxy pleaded guilty in 2013 to seven criminal counts with intent to defraud and the introduction of adulterated drugs into interstate commerce. The Department of Justice levied a $500 million fine and forfeiture on the company.

“This is the largest false claims case ever prosecuted in the District of Maryland, and the nation’s largest financial penalty paid by a generic pharmaceutical company,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein when Ranbaxy pleaded guilty.

“When companies sell adulterated drugs, they undermine the integrity of the FDA’s approval process and may cause patients to take drugs that are substandard, ineffective, or unsafe,” said Stuart F. Delery, acting assistant attorney general for the civil division of the Department of Justice.

The Department of Justice stated in its final settlement, “alleged due to the company’s diluted drugs, it ‘subjected patients to increased risks of morbidity and mortality,’” according to the report.

“The question becomes, ‘how many people lost their lives, how many people found it was a false promise,’ ” asked Blackburn in an interview with the Daily Caller.

The congressional report also highlighted the “unseemly ties” between Bill Clinton and two Indian-Americans who have been investigated and sanctioned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“The most troubling revelations concern the Clinton Foundation’s vigorous promotion of Ranbaxy despite mounting evidence the Indian firm had persistently poor quality control and attempted to cover it up through either faulty or fraudulent reporting to the FDA,” the report said.

It is unclear at this juncture how many AIDS patients received the “watered-down” drugs.

“Substandard HIV medicines cause health problems for patients, perhaps even accelerating death from HIV-related infections,” Roger Bate, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute who researches substandard and counterfeit medicines, told the Daily Caller.

“CHAI was a part of the Clinton Foundation until 2010, when it spun off into a separate entity. The groups still have some overlapping board members and staff, and they continue to operate in close coordination. Bill Clinton, for example, is deeply involved with both organizations,” the Daily Caller report said.

The congressional report states that Bill Clinton may have relaxed quality standards in 2000 when he signed an executive order that “relaxed intellectual property policy standards,” promising the U.S. government “would not revoke or revise the intellectual property laws of any ‘sub-Saharan country’ relating to HIV/AIDS medicines or technologies.”

CHAI announced in October 2003 it was going to distribute generic, low-cost HIV drugs from four foreign drug manufacturers: Ranbaxy; Cipla of Mumbai, India; Matrix Labs of Hydrabad, India; Aspen Pharmacare of Johannesburg, South Africa.

CHAI’s endorsement also allowed Ranbaxy to manufacture HIV drugs that would be bought by the U.S. government under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief — a $15 billion initiative proposed by former President George W. Bush.

The flow of U.S. funds combined with Clinton’s endorsement allowed the four foreign drug manufactures to become “good acquisition targets,” according to the report.

The companies enjoyed great financial profits and they “exploded as they partnered with the Foundation for several years,” the report states.

Blackburn says the worst part of the story were the “false hopes” offered by the Clinton Foundation.

“You think about the emotional state of health care workers as they are dealing with these individuals and the emotional state of the patients. To me it’s disturbing and very sad,” she said.

A “Broken Congress” can fix a “Broken Pharmaceutical Market ” ?

One step closer to drug price controls

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2016/09/23/one-step-closer-drug-price-controls/90989836/

IMO.. if this bill passes.. all it will assure is that the cost of prescription medications will INCREASE 10% per YEAR… because that is the “trigger” to justify price increases to HHS. That will mean that prescription prices will DOUBLE every SEVEN YEARS. Since about 90% of prescriptions are paid for by an insurance company… I am sure that the pharmaceutical industry will be quite happy to have a 10% across the board  hike in prices.. regardless of what the rate of inflation is… in fact… it could cause the rate of inflation to take a UPTICK… as other companies seek to increase their profit by 10%.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the players in the pharmaceutical business, Mylan is a successful, midsized manufacturer of branded and generic drugs. One of their largest products is the EpiPen, which is an auto-injection device used to treat potentially fatal allergic reactions via a quick dose of the drug epinephrine.

The company and its CEO are under fire for a recent price increase of the product. Since Congress likes nothing more than to jump on the bandwagon of public outrage, the House of Representatives has entered the conversation of “outrageous” prescription drug pricing.

The national legislature doesn’t just intend to talk about how Americans are being gouged by big pharmaceutical corporations, but it intends to do what it does best: legislate the problem away.

The recently introduced Fair Accountability and Innovative Research Drug Pricing Act of 2016, otherwise known as the FAIR Drug Pricing Act, seeks to force drug-makers to rationalize any price increase over 10 percent to the Department of Health and Human Services at least 30 days prior to the effective date of said increase.

The bill requires manufacturers to file a report outlining costs associated with the research and development, manufacturing, and marketing of the drug as well as any associated net profits. HHS will then make public all of the information contained in the report. According to the legislation, failure to follow the federal government’s prescription will cost pharmaceutical companies $100,000 for each day filings are late.

Many of the public-relations wounds suffered by the pharmaceutical industry are self-inflicted — including Mylan’s current situation — but bringing the entire industry one step closer to government price controls through this legislation is not the answer. It’s clear that prescription drug pricing controls are exactly what many proponents of the bill ultimately seek. The Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing calls the legislation, “a first step in repairing the broken prescription market.”

If you price a product too far above the cost of production, you’re inviting competition to enter the market, thereby offering consumers a potentially lower-priced alternative. In the pharmaceutical industry this is often difficult, not because there aren’t competitors willing to jump in, but because the barriers to entry imposed by the Food and Drug Administration are so high. The lengthy drug-approval process, the regulations governing product production, and the exclusive product marketing rights are just a few of the obstacles.

Should the government take this first step with drug companies, it will only be a matter of time until it turns its sights on other villains who are perceived to be price gouging the American people. Oil companies and their “obscene profits” would be next on the list, followed shortly by the “outrageous rates” of energy and utility companies, and on it would go.

Enhancing competition within the pharmaceutical industry, as with any industry, is the fastest way to impact pricing disparities. Instead of a slippery slope to price controls, Congress should look to the FDA with a message of “heal thyself.” The situation with Mylan’s EpiPen is just one symptom of a much larger sickness based in Washington.

Richard Kocur is an assistant professor of business at Grove City College.

Indiana is number ONE AGAIN !!!

And in 2013 and 2014, authorities seized more meth labs in Indiana than in any other state.

Indiana police receive nearly $1M to fight illicit drugs

http://www.whas11.com/news/indiana-police-receive-nearly-1m-to-fight-illicit-drugs/324751708

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Indiana State Police has received nearly $1 million in federal funding to combat methamphetamine and heroin distribution and abuse.

The Indianapolis Star reports that the grant is part of a $12 million effort by the U.S. Department of Justice to curb the illicit drugs. Indiana received $350,000 from the department’s Anti-Heroin Task Force Program, and $600,000 from its Anti-Methamphetamine Program.

According to a Justice Department news release, state police will use the money “to address the significant increase in drug-related deaths in the state.”

There were 462 opioid-related deaths in Indiana in 2014, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. And in 2013 and 2014, authorities seized more meth labs in Indiana than in any other state.

Woman gets sick after drinking CVS nutritional shakes that expired in 2015

Woman-grandson-CVS shakes.JPGWoman gets sick after drinking CVS nutritional shakes that expired in 2015

http://wjla.com/features/7-on-your-side/woman-gets-sick-after-drinking-cvs-nutritional-shakes-that-expired-in-2015

Phyllis Quarles like a lot of seniors drinks CVS Pharmacies Liquid Nutritional Shakes for her health. After consuming a few new ones she says she got sick.

Quarles, 79, who lives in Arlington, says “Just nauseous and wanted to make me vomit.”

Grandson Donny Watkins checked the bottles and discovered something alarming.

Donnie Watkins says “That the bottles were over a year expired and they were on sale too.”

Watkins claims he bought the bottles on August 25 from the CVS on Columbia Pike in Arlington that turned out to have expiration dates of August 4 of last year.

Over in Alexandria, Watkins says the bottles purchased at this CVS on North Quaker show a Sept, 18, 2015 expiration date.

Both City’s Health Departments say the two stores have no violations of expired products in the past year.

Watkins says he spoke with CVS earlier this year and was assured all expired products were removed.

He returned to the CVS store in Arlington and claims he found the same product past its expiration date on store shelves.

Watkins says “They didn’t clear the shelves and the products were still expired.”

ABC 7 News Investigator Scott Taylor asked “So twice you found this?”

Watkins says “Yes.”

7 On Your Side reached out to CVS which emailed:

CVS Pharmacy has a clear product removal policy in place at all of its stores to help ensure that items are removed from store shelves before they reach their expiration dates. Any unintentional deviations from this policy that are brought to our attention are quickly rectified for customers.

We have apologized to our customer for the incidents at our stores in Arlington and Alexandria and we have requested copies of the documentation required to reimburse his grandmother for any related medical treatment. We have also followed up with our stores to reinforce adherence to our product removal procedures.

Donnie Watkins says CVS is now reaching out to him and his Grandmother.

He says “I’m very thankful you made some contact for us.”

We checked at the Arlington CVS and shelves are now stocked with current expiration dates on their Health Shake products.

 

45 Congressmen Ask DEA Not to Ban Kratom Next Week

45 Congressmen Ask DEA Not to Ban Kratom Next Week

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-09-23/45-congressmen-ask-dea-not-to-ban-kratom-next-week

A large and bipartisan contingent in Congress is asking the Obama administration to delay the sudden ban poised to take effect next week on possessing kratom, a Southeast Asian tree leaf product that supporters describe as a near-miraculous treatment for pain, depression and addiction to opiates and legal narcotics.

Reps. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., recruited 45 signers in the House of Representatives on Friday afternoon for two letters, which will be sent Monday to Chuck Rosenberg, acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan.

“This significant regulatory action was done without any opportunity for public comment from researchers, consumers and other stakeholders,” the lawmakers say in the letter to Rosenberg. “This hasty decision could have serious effects on consumer access and choice of an internationally recognized herbal supplement.”

The letter to Donovan asks him to overrule the DEA, which is invoking a rarely used emergency power with just 30 days notice, warning the action “will put a halt on federally funded research and innovation surrounding the treatment of individuals suffering from opioid and other addictions.”

Susan Ash, founder of the American Kratom Association consumer group, which organized a Sept. 13 protest at the White House, says she remains hopeful that the ban won’t go into effect for two compounds in kratom that would essentially ban the plant.

“I feel a lot of hope because the amount of congresspeople who are paying attention to this issue and the media and the public are really weighing in our favor – it’s finally coming to light who the average kratom consumer is,” Ash says.

Those users include recovering heroin, cocaine and alcohol addicts, fibromyalgia patients, and people with arthritis and cancer, according to a sampling of attendees at the White House protest. Some veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and people with depression say it has helped them, too.

AKA Executive Director Paul Pelosi Jr. says he believes the DEA has been surprised by a deluge of user pleas to keep kratom legal and that “I think everyone’s looking for a way to save face – like, ‘How can we come back from this?'”

Pelosi has tried kratom but does not regularly use it. He says he believes that between 4 million and 5 million Americans may be using kratom – an estimate higher than the hundred thousand or so others offer, which he bases on his understanding of industry sales figures.

“It’s pretty safe. It may be slightly addictive, but there’s no overdose or safety issue, so I think the DEA was unaware people use it in a kava shop, a cafe and that veterans use the leaf naturally,” he says. “It’s not just a couple of teens trying to get high. There’s limited party use for this.”

Indeed, preliminary scientific analysis shows that kratom, despite DEA concern about safety and anecdotal reports about dependence potential, could offer substantial harm reduction — particularly as accidental overdoses of opioids including legal painkillers and illegal drugs like heroin killed more than 28,000 in 2014 alone.

Andrew Kruegel, associate research scientist at Columbia University, says research has shown significant differences between the two about-to-be-banned compounds – mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine – and traditionally abused drugs that act on opioid receptors in the brain.

“Both mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine are partial agonists of the mu opioid receptor, and that is the same target that heroin, morphine and fentanyl bind to,” Kruegel says. “But the key thing from the science side is they activate this receptor in a different way. For one, they are partial agonists, which means they stimulate the receptor to a lower level … no matter how high you go with the dose.”

“In animal studies, both mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine produce almost no respiratory depression,” he adds. “Of course this hasn’t been rigorously studied in humans because there have been no clinical trials, but anecdotal evidence – which is quite substantial – suggests that people aren’t dying of respiratory depression.”

Kruegel says the reason for a lack of respiratory depression, a primary cause of death in heroin and other opioid overdoses, is that the compounds appear to be biased agonists that only trigger one opioid pathway – called the G protein pathway – and not another pathway associated with respiratory depression and constipation.

Kruegel says mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine preliminarily appear “similar in terms of pharmacology” to a drug called Oliceridine that currently is undergoing Food and Drug Administration-approved phase three trials in humans.

Columbia University researchers currently are scrambling to complete research for a paper on kratom’s effects on non-opioid receptors, and are busily boiling leaf matter in alcohol to extract the mitragynine and use chemical reactions to convert it into non-Schedule I analogs.

“We obviously can’t have kilograms of kratom around here when the ban goes into effect,” Kruegel says.

If the ban does go into effect, Kruegel says he would like to apply for a special Schedule I license to continue research, but he points out the hoops to jump through are onerous – as marijuana researchers have lamented for years – including installation of a safe that costs about $10,000.

Despite the backlash, the DEA’s knees aren’t buckling, though sympathetic statements one spokesman offered the Washington Post last week gave some advocates hope. “I want the kratom community to know that the DEA does hear them,” spokesman Melvin Patterson told the Post. “Our goal is to make sure this is available to all of them.”

With a week to go before the ban is scheduled to take effect, however, spokeswoman Barbara Carreno says she has received no indication there will be a reversal.

“It’s not that the DEA is unsympathetic to people who have chronic pain or who are addicted to opioids,” she says. “We are people just like everyone else who get in a car accidents and break our femurs and get cancer and have surgery and are in need of pain medicine. … It’s just that science says this is a problem and we need to keep people safe.”

Carreno says “the analysis we did showed there is enough of a public health problem with kratom” to justify it being placed in Schedule I on an emergency basis, a classification that would last two or three years until removal, permanent listing or scheduling in a lower ranking based on additional research.

“I have not been advised it’s being reconsidered, but we have not gotten the congressional letter,” Carreno says.

The DEA said in its notice last month that it believes 15 deaths in the U.S. were associated with kratom. The AKA disputes this and says it hired a toxicologist who reviewed the cases and found that there was no evidence to support the assertion and that most, if not all, of the deaths may have been tied to other drug use.

In addition to the congressional letter, lawyers for the AKA are sending the DEA their own letter on Monday, Ash says, though there are no immediate plans for a lawsuit.

The AKA has received an influx in donations, Ash says, and the Botanical Education Alliance industry group is also working to combat the ban.

Pelosi, son of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., says he’s a volunteer with AKA and that he focuses on the community-organizing aspect of advocacy, rather than lobbying members of Congress. His mother was not among the letter’s signers.

If the ban does take effect, it’s likely to wallop entrepreneurs who have invested hundreds of thousands – or millions – of dollars in the leaf matter, which generally is powderized for use in teas or pills.

Nu Wave Botanicals national sales manager Chris Kratom (a professional rather than legal surname) says he is winding down operations with a business partner. The men operate a warehouse in Utah and two in Texas, he says, and are shipping everything to one of the Texas locations to be cataloged.

Kratom, who primarily wholesales product sourced in Indonesia to other distributors, says he personally has more than $100,000 worth of product that he will be unable to sell. His partner has about $1 million worth of unsold kratom.

That puts the entrepreneurs in a pickle. Two other businesses with similarly large stockpiles are taking the product to Mexico or Canada, where the plant remains legal, Kratom has heard.

But Kratom, whose converts to the product include his Mormon father, currently is leaning toward turning over his supply to the DEA when the ban takes effect. He says he’s in contact with the local DEA office and that it’s his understanding his choices are to incinerate the supply or hand it over.

“I have a family and I don’t have an arrest record. … I’m going to keep it that way,” he says. “We want to work with the DEA so in case the hammer goes down on the 30th we have nothing to raid.”

Kratom says if he gives his product to the DEA he probably can write it off on his taxes and potentially get it back if the DEA decides to delay implementation of the ban. If he took it overseas, he says, he lacks the business connections to sell it and probably would have great difficulty repatriating it if the ban lapses.

“Rumor has it,” he say, “it doesn’t look like they’re actually going to do this on the 30th.”

Though the DEA says publicly it’s standing firm, Ash warns the stakes are high.

“A lot of people say they are scared to death of relapsing without [kratom],” she says. “And if this ban goes through there’s going to be an illicit black market, and who knows what people are going to be putting into this product, so deaths are going to increase by that in itself.”

senior citizen and his wife received flu shots three years ago with a needle at a CVS pharmacy that had been used on another customer, a lawsuit alleges

cvsextracareShocking lawsuit claims flu shot given with needle used on another customer

http://www.silive.com/eastshore/index.ssf/2016/09/lawsuit_flu_shot_given_with_ne.html

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A Midland Beach senior citizen and his wife received flu shots three years ago with a needle at a Dongan Hills pharmacy that had been used on another customer, a lawsuit alleges.

Egidio Rasile was told he and his spouse needed to have blood work performed because of the needle’s multiple use in the CVS Pharmacy at 1361 Hylan Blvd., alleges a civil complaint.

Rasile has sued CVS in state Supreme Court, St. George, and seeks unspecified monetary damages.

The complaint, filed last week, alleges he suffered “serious and permanent personal injuries and was required to seek medical treatment.”

The injuries are not specified.

Advance reports indicate Rasile is in his mid-80s.

According to the complaint, Rasile received the flu shot in the pharmacy on Sept. 14, 2013.

Three days later, on Sept. 17, the pharmacy contacted him.

He was advised “the needle used for him and his wife, Josephine Rasile, was used on another customer, and that blood work was necessary,” said the complaint.

The complaint provides no further details on the incident.

Rasile alleges CVS negligently administered the flu vaccine and failed to properly train staff.

The pharmacy also used “unsterilized and unsanitized needles, equipment and tools” and “improper equipment and tools” to administer the vaccination, alleges the complaint.

John M. O’Dowd Jr., Rasile’s lawyer, did not immediately return telephone messages seeking comment on the suit.

Mike DeAngelis, a CVS corporate spokesman, said the company had not been served with suit papers and was unable to comment on the allegations.

However, DeAngelis did say CVS has “stringent processes and procedures in place to ensure that vaccinations are administered safely and accurately.”

DEA official could not explain how the civil forfeitures had happened despite a policy against it

stagecoachWashington County got money from civil forfeitures after all

http://poststar.com/news/local/washington-county-got-money-from-civil-forfeitures-after-all/article_fac882ce-3ad1-5814-99ec-ac1ebdc26ff4.html

FORT EDWARD — In the past four years, Washington County has participated in seizing $515,581 from people who were not charged with a crime.

The program, called civil forfeiture, allows law enforcement to seize cash from people who are believed to be using the money illegally, even though there isn’t enough evidence to charge the person with a crime.

The procedure has been highly criticized after some high-profile cases in which law enforcement wrongly seized cash that had been earned legally. New Mexico banned the practice in 2015.

In Washington County, Hartford Supervisor Dana Haff began refusing this year to approve the monthly receipt of forfeiture money unless he was assured that it came only from criminal cases.

Washington County gets a share of the cash seized by the Capital Region Drug Enforcement task force, which generally seizes money that is believed to be used to buy and sell drugs. But task forces throughout the country have been under scrutiny in recent years for seizing cash from people who were never arrested. Those cases, called civil forfeiture, have been questioned by many politicians and activists.

Sheriff Jeff Murphy assured Haff that the office has never, during Murphy’s tenure, accepted money that was not tied to a criminal case. A spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Agency, which runs the task force that seizes cash for forfeiture cases, also said the DEA never engages in civil forfeitures.

But The Post-Star filed a Freedom of Information request with the federal government to get the details on every forfeiture for which some cash was shared with Washington County, from 2011 to 2014.

The Freedom of Information request showed that the county benefited financially from three civil forfeitures — in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Murphy did not return calls seeking comment on the news, and a DEA official could not explain how the civil forfeitures had happened despite a policy against it.

In total, Washington County received money from 34 forfeitures cases from 2011 to 2014. Washington County gets to keep only a tiny percentage of the total forfeited amount. In the three civil cases, out of the more than $500,000 seized, the county got to keep $5,242.21.

Haff was incensed by the information.

“This runs counter to what I was led to believe,” he said.

He is adamantly opposed to civil forfeiture, saying that every time law enforcement seizes property from someone, they should also charge that person with a crime.

“I don’t care if it’s one dollar, it’s not right,” he said. “I think it’s against the 4th, 5th and 8th Amendments. Charge ’em and let ’em have their day in court.”

Board of Supervisors Chairman and Argyle Supervisor Bob Henke defended the idea of civil forfeiture, which he used during his career as a state environmental conservation officer, mainly in cases of hunters shooting or trapping animals out of season. Civil forfeiture isn’t inherently wrong, he said, and can be used when it’s not clear who committed the crime.

“It isn’t necessarily indicative it was not criminal,” he said. “If you find a car full of heroin and cash, you’re not necessarily going to have a bad guy to arrest. But you’re not going to just leave it there.”

Henke is concerned by cases in other parts of the state, however, in which police seized cash after routine traffic stops, despite finding no evidence of drugs or other criminal acts.

“In a case where there’s a criminal act, I have no problem with forfeiture,” Henke said. “I think each case bears looking at individually.”

The Post-Star has filed a new Freedom of Information request with the DEA to get court documents on each civil forfeiture.

The Freedom of Information request already fulfilled by the DEA also showed that very few of Washington County’s forfeitures came from criminal forfeiture.

The vast majority were administrative forfeitures, a lesser-known program that allows law enforcement to quickly get approval to keep cash and other property that was seized. The approval comes within weeks, long before the owner faces his or her charges in court.

Owners cannot use a public defender to argue against the forfeiture of their cash. They must hire their own attorney, because property does not have the same rights as a person. Among the many legal rights that do not apply is the right to representation.

According to the federal government, any forfeiture of funds less than $500,000 in a criminal case should be seized as an administrative forfeiture.

If the person is later acquitted or a district attorney decides not to prosecute, the person can go back to court to try to get their property back. But the person must still prove that the property was obtained through “legitimate means,” according to the DEA.