The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics held a public forum titled “Current Oklahoma Drug Threats” last week at Southern Tech.
Approximately 13 community members were in attendance from area agencies and the public. The discussion included OBN’s reports on methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin as well as prescription drug diversion and marijuana.
Along with the information reported in the OBN’s Drug Threat Assessment, agents distributed three documents, “Methamphetamine,” “Facts about medical marijuana,” and “State Question 788: Medical marijuana in Oklahoma.”
When discussing information in the annual report, which is available online at OBN.gov, agents gave statistical information specific to Oklahoma. When asked about the information presented on their handouts, however, OBN agents, including Research Director Angie Woodrow, were not able to indicate where citations came from while some claims were not cited at all.
While agents presented documented figures for overdose, death, and health issues due to other drugs, including methamphetamine, heroin, and crack cocaine, no research was presented with the same numbers for marijuana.
“Nothing in meth is meant to be in the human body,” said Chief Agent Mel Woodrow. Woodrow said meth lab busts are down, but the number of individuals using the substance is higher than it’s ever been.
Beau Ratke, agent in charge with the Rural Diversion group, said the Bureau’s efforts to combat the opiod epidemic through controlling diversion, or use of prescription medications for illicit use, is making some headway, but the drug market is still gaining. One substance, Fentanyl, is gaining popularity after particularly lethal epidemics on the East Coast. While the substance’s therapeutic uses for pain are legitimate, it becomes deadly when combined with heroin or pressed into counterfeit pills since the amount required to overdose is about the same as a single grain of salt. Crack cocaine, which is the product of laboratory conversion of sodium formula cocaine to a smokeable format, is often found in Ardmore, said Chief Agent Craig Williams.
“As you get better at combating diversion,” Williams said, “heroin is the natural fill for that because it is an opiate high that is very difficult for somebody to get off of.”
Williams also discussed marijuana, specifically with regard to medical marijuana. Williams said there is no standard dose due to the substance not being a regulated drug. While he said the CBD derivative of cannabis “potentially has medical value,” Williams said strains of the plant today have been cultivated to contain an average of 15 percent more THC, the psychoactive component, making it much more potent than it was in the past, “not that [he thinks] it was okay back then.”
The information distributed by the agents contained statements that marijuana is not recognized by the medical community as legitimate medicine and that marijuana is linked to negative health outcomes.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse report last revised in April 2017 said while the Federal Drug Administration has not approved marijuana itself as medicine, it has approved two medications which contain cannabinoid chemicals in pill form. NIDA reported in that same document that there is a link between the legalization of medical marijuana and a decrease in deaths from opiod overdoses.
OBN’s handouts also referenced HIDTA reports from 2017. HIDTAs or high intensity drug trafficking areas, are places where law enforcement can be provided additional assistance to combat drug trafficking from the DEA. The additional $250 million budget is geared toward facilitation of cooperation between agencies, including sharing and utilizing intelligence to bolster the effectiveness of enforcement strategies in those areas. Three areas in Oklahoma are labeled as HIDTAs, none of which include Carter County or surrounding counties. OBN’s handout utilized information from HIDTA reports from Colorado and Washington, both states where medical marijuana is legal, to state that traffic deaths are on the rise due to cannabis use in those states.