11 Men Arrested In “Operation Skin Deep”

During an undercover police investigation dubbed “Operation Skin Deep,” cops arrested 11 suspected drug dealers from New Jersey for operating an online drugs cartel. Their leader was a 31-year-old Lake Hopatcong man called Christopher Castelluzzo. He had earlier been charged with hatching a murder plan against two men after a drugs dispute went wrong, according to court statements.

Attorney General John Hoffman says that the investigation, Operation Skin Deep, was initially meant to be secretive, only targeting cocaine traffickers in Atlantic City. But with time it was discovered that the gang was using the web to sell drugs, as well as regular postal service for distribution of cocaine and other designer drugs.

What started out as a simple operation targeting a single metropolis only, later evolved into a wider investigation reaching far off places like northern New Jersey. Cops dismantled an online mail-order drugs ring that used to make huge profits. Division of Criminal Justice director, Elie Honig, mentioned that by following certain leads they broke down this crime syndicate and established a solid first-degree racketeering charge against the main culprits. One of the narcotics they were caught selling is ethylone, also popularly known as “M” and having similar effects as ecstasy.

It’s alleged that these 11 culprits employed cyber-age tactics to move their drugs across the city, all in a bid to avoid detection by authorities. Nevertheless, cops still maintain that they were typical drug peddlers capable of committing heinous violent crimes in real-life situation, as evidenced by the murder conspiracy charges set against them. Officers seized an estimated $1.2 million from a ring member’s trunk, making it one of the largest ever cash bust in state history. It speaks volumes on the massive illegal profits they were reaping while selling drugs.

If Castelluzzo is found guilty and convicted, he faces a prison sentence of up to 25 yrs. His oldest drugs crime partner was Jose A. Garcia-Hernandez (51) and youngest accomplice Christian Collado (27), amongst others such as an unidentified male only known as “Dre.” All culprits are New Jersey residents.

The drugs cash was found in Shazad Khan’s (32) car trunk back in 2015, marking the biggest ever narcotics money seizure to be made in New Jersey history. Two of the men charged in this case were arrested by police in a parking lot just off Union Turnpike, North Bergen. The takedown occurred on April 24th. Officers found bundles of notes wrapped with duct tape inside a suspect’s car. They went ahead to conduct a house search and found approximately $250,000 in cash, as well as jewelry, gold bars and quarter kilograms of cocaine. In addition, there were several rounds of ammunition, drugs testing kit, firearm silencers, packaging materials and many other related gears.

Castelluzzo was charged alongside Atwell for the murder conspiracy, Atwell was also apparently responsible for running marketing promotions on behalf of their drugs empire, including tracking and managing gross receipts, expenses and dealing directly with customers. As well as keeping an inventory of all drugs being sold. Yet another third conspirator, Aldo T. Lapaix (28), from Absecon, allegedly helped buy narcotics for the cartel to sell and oversaw packaging logistics also. They would transfer classified computer files to Lapaix consisting of customer order lists, individual screen-names, addresses and even the amount/type of narcotics required. Lapaix and his associates named in the conspiracy would then weigh and package drugs, formulate tracking information and mail respective orders.

31-year-old Christopher was charged with first-degree conspiracy to assassinate for an exposed plot to eliminate a former associate, together with that man’s bodyguard in an altercation over drugs, this despite the plan not being executed after all.

During investigation other outsiders from various regions apart from New Jersey were also arrested, specifically Jose Ruvalcaba (28) of California and Jamaal Johnson (30) from Maryland. They have directly been connected to Castelluzzo’s drugs network. Official indictments against the ringleader were first obtained on Thursday 3rd March, though it wasn’t announced until Monday since detectives are still putting together pieces of the case by seeking out several defendants who largely remain anonymous. A ruling is yet to be made concerning the case, though chances are high that Castelluzzo will be convicted considering the magnitude of his crimes.

New UK Drug Law To Ban Smart Drugs

Smart Drugs are drugs or supplements that are used to improve a person’s mental capacity and function. Also referred to as nootropics, they are said to improve memory, mental cognition, increase focus and improve concentration. However, there is no scientific consensus as to the effectiveness or side effects of smart drugs because of lack of long term data.

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Currently in the UK, there is a battle brewing between British transhumanists and the law makers. It has been legal to sell, possess and use many of these smart drugs. The transhumanists in the UK are up in arms because a new UK drug law will automatically affect most nootropics when put into effect in April. This is not surprising since most users of smart drugs are transhumanists and college students. The Psychoactive Substance Act passed in January this year seeks to curb the use of unregulated legal substances that supposedly affect people’s mental states.

In an online petition, they have appealed to the government to exempt nootropics from the ban. To many this comes down as mainly a classification conundrum. There are many smart drugs out there like Modafinil that is considered safe by Food and Drug Administration all over the world. It can therefore be argued that enhancing your cognitive abilities and recreational use of psychoactive substances are two different things.

In a separate statement by the Transhumanist Party UK, they argued that by enforcing this prohibition the government will cause a significant reduction in the life quality of persons employing smart drugs. They also voiced their concerns that such a ban will be detrimental to the productivity and creativity of the country as a whole. Adding to that, a much similar a ban was attempted in the United States with vitamins with unforeseen detrimental effects.

Studies on smart drugs currently are not of much help. Some show that in healthy users the drug proves beneficial to mental faculties. While others reveal that they can eventually cause lack of motivation in constant users. However, such drugs are not available on prescription since they are not a treatment for any medical condition. The new law aims to tackle this issue because most users get their doses from overseas markets. This is not openly prohibited or regulated therefore many users may end up with doctored substances in the name of smart drugs.

Transhumanists also say that the ban will not reduce its usage in the UK. There has been a significant increase in sales from sites that deal with smart drugs. This trend shows that smart drug users are obviously stockpiling before the law takes effect. With this observation, they have pointed out that the ban will lead to people purchasing the drugs from darknet markets.

Darknet markets or cryptomarkets are commercial websites on the dark web that deal in licit and illicit products and services. It is only logical that since smart drug usage is not going to reduce, the immediate avenue of choice will be darknet markets.

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Time and again it has proven nearly impossible to regulate the internet. As with most products purchased through darknet sites, the user can never know whether what they are consuming is genuine or even the actual ordered product. As such, the lobbyists against the law claim that more harmful substances may be available in the market as replacements and substitutes for smart drugs in the UK.

Since consumers always find new ways of getting their doses, the fretting from the British transhumanists should not be taken lightly. The laws while a step in the right direction, are too vague and will encounter difficulties in enforcement. Furthermore, shady people will always use legal loopholes to get the smart drugs to their customers.

This will eventually lead to users being at a disadvantage because now they will be dosing on potentially dangerous substances while at the same time being liable to legal prosecution. Work is now cut out to the transhumanists to prove that using smart drugs for mental enhancement is a beneficial viable activity. This is no short term endeavor and in the meantime the law looks set to being in effect come April.

Florida Medical Marijuana Will Be On 2016 Ballot

A decision on the proposed amendment to the constitution as regards the permission to use and distribute marijuana for therapeutic purposes, as authorized/directed by a physician, will be taken by Floridians this November. United for Care, the proposer of the amendment, have been instrumental in collecting nearly 683,000 signatures required for placing the proposal on the November 2016 ballot, according to the Division of Elections in Florida.

images (4)The ballot measure would appear as Amendment 2 before the voters and would be referred to as “Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Conditions.” If the amendment is passed qualified patients would be able to possess as well as obtain marijuana from facilities licensed by the state. According to a poll, 62 percent of the voters in Florida have said that they would support the amendment’s passage. The Florida law requires that at least 60 percent of the voters should support the amendment in order to make it a law.

Organizers said that growing support from the public and a better voter turnout because of the presidential election this year should enable the passage of the measure. It was in 2014 that the Floridians voted on medical marijuana for the last time. The measure failed to make the 60 percent approval mark for ensuring a constitutional amendment by just 2.4 percent.

The group spearheading the amendment drive and putting the issue on the ballot, United for Care, said that it has collected as many as 692,981 signatures of certified voters. This is approximately 10,000 more than what it could collect for the same purpose in 2014. Ben Pollara, the organizer of the signature campaign for United for Care said that the fact that more than 60 percent of the voters of Florida will accord approval for truly implementing a medical marijuana laws gives a good feeling.

In 2014, when the proposal for amending the marijuana law mustered the support of only 57.6 percent of voters, Pollara had said that the most of the Floridians supported the need to legalize medical use of marijuana and that lawmakers would pass a bill to approve the same.

However, the Legislature did not show any kind of enthusiasm on the issue. In this connection, it should be noted that the lawmakers did accord approval for the use of marijuana that does not cause euphoria for the treatment of seizures. However, the product is not available even now to those that are in need of it because of the problems faced by the state in establishing regulations for overseeing the production and distribution of medical marijuana. According to Pollara, the prevailing law has not been of any use to anyone and hence the issue is being brought back on the ballot.

John Morgan, a personal injury lawyer, has spent over $6 million during the period 2014 to 2016 on efforts to ensure legalization of use of marijuana for medical purposes. According to him, he has been inspired by his brother, a quadriplegic who makes use of marijuana for controlling muscle spasms, to take the campaign forward. The Orlando trial lawyer noted that the language used in the proposal is stronger compared to the one use in 2014 and that anti-drug crusaders, including Pam Bondi, cannot challenge it this time.

download (2)Pollard noted that though millions of dollars was spent to oppose the medical marijuana bill in 2014, the proponents could muster nearly 58 percent support. He also expressed confidence that since more voters in Florida approve of the medical use of marijuana now and more voters are likely to turn out for the presidential election in November the amendment will be passed and turned into a law even if campaigns are mounted against the effort.

He also noted that there is no need to respond to everything that the opposing parties say. All that the proponents have to do is get the message across to people that marijuana provides a great deal of relief to sick people who endure a lot of suffering. Voters in Florida will decide in favor of the new initiative to use marijuana for medical purposes as the Division of Elections of the state has certified that the sponsors of the initiative have collected sufficient valid signatures for putting the proposition on the November 2016 ballot.

Colombian Government Set To Legalize Medical Marijuana

President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia signed in late 2015, a decree that will legalize and regulate medical marijuana. This action is however a shift away from the country’s policy of preventing production of drug crops. In doing this, the president said it puts Colombia in the midst of countries that are leading in exploiting natural resource for disease interventions. The medical world uses marijuana to reign over ailments like Crohn’s disease, HIV symptoms, nausea and seizures.

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While announcing the decree in an address televised nationally, President Santos said that growing, processing, importing and exporting cannabis and its derivatives would now be legal as long as the said products serve scientific or medical use. Responsible state agencies such as the health ministry as such, will grant licenses for cannabis seeds and plants.

Though marijuana production mainly falls in the legally grey area, President Santos says the government will remain steadfast in the fight against illegal drug production. This action is not entirely strange; Colombia passed a law in 1986 that allow manufacture, export and sale of marijuana for medicinal and scientific purposes. Until this decree however, no formal regulation was really in place.

Essentially, this law now demands that anyone who wishes to grow marijuana must seek a license from the National Narcotics Council.

Though plagued by effects of decades-long drug trade and ensuing related violence, Colombia now joins a league of Latin American countries that have laws and policies decriminalizing and or legalizing use of marijuana. Residents of these countries and US states such as Colorado, Washington and Oregon can now easily access cannabis for medicinal use. Uruguay in fact, is several steps ahead with functional laws that fully legalize production, sale and even recreational use.

President Santos highlighted that this action does not stand in the way of Colombia’s commitment to drug control. The country is a close collaborator of the US in the fight against drug trafficking. It is the world’s leading cocaine producer followed closely by another South American counterpart, Peru, and, both the US and Colombia believe that the financial might of the former and the latter’s military power will help the South American coke powerhouse shed this title.

Colombia also plans to offer incentives to help with the fight against drug crop production. For instance, coca growers who cease production will get land from the government. Under the decree, entrepreneurs who seek to manufacture drugs using marijuana will get permits from the ministry of health. The same government agency will be responsible for granting permits to traders who want to export the drug and its derivatives to countries where marijuana use is legal.

Marijuana Could Become A 35 Billion Market By 2020 If Legalized Nationwide
The decree seems to emanate from Colombia’s quest to increase public access to locally made drugs that are also safe and of high quality. Legalizing marijuana as such provides an opportunity for the country to promote scientific research. The push to make marijuana use legal seems to engulf the entire South America; Chile’s congress is deliberating on making it legal. Even Mexico, which has prohibitionist marijuana laws, is initiating a national debate early 2016 that will overhaul these.

Colombia decriminalized marijuana possession in 2012 as long as it is less than 20 grams. It also is legal to grow up to 20 plants of cannabis though consumption in public remains illegal. Medical marijuana is however, already available, albeit on a small scale. Pharmaceutical companies and health professionals condemn this new decree saying that it will make the process of buying, selling and manufacturing drugs a lot easier.

If such a situation is true, then Colombia is diving into a sad situation considering that illegal drugs fuel horrific violence in the country. Over the past five decades, more than 220,000 have lost their lives because of conflicts between the government forces and leftist guerrillas.

Guardian Australia Joins Global Drug Survey

Guardian Australia is partnering with the Global Drug Survey, as part of a global effort to gather information and evidence about drug use, related attitudes and treatment. The partnership seeks to contract thousands of Australians in what is dubbed the most comprehensive study of drug-use habits in the world.

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In 2014, more than 4,000 Australians joined hands with more than 100,000 people from different countries to take part in the survey. The survey was founded in 2011, by Adam Winstock – a top consultant addictions psychiatrist.

For the first time ever, the Global Survey is joining hands with Guardian Australia this year. The results of the survey are expected to provide a clear picture of how drugs are being used in Australia and the people that are using them. The results of the survey are also going to be compared with those that are taken in other countries around the world.

Adam, who has previously worked in Australia and the United Kingdom, said the results had given an insight into some of the places where people get their drugs; the drugs that are becoming very popular, the drugs that are commonly linked with emergency medical treatment; and common attitudes towards drug use.

Adam also added that the survey also provided researchers with concrete evidence that could be used against government statements, which could at times skew a drugs-issue scale. He noted that while ice (crystal meth) is still a matter of public health concern and is clogging up emergency resources in Australia, it allows governments to keep on saying, “Here is a huge problem, and we have the ability to make it better.”

Marijuana PlantAdam said, “In short, the only statements you ever come across in the news is that drugs are causing disasters and chaos, and this has therefore become a way of political parties to ‘act’ tough and grandstanding.”

A national ice taskforce was launched in April by the federal government. And, while the use of methamphetamine has remained unchanged at about 2 percent of the population, the survey indicates users are by far favoring ice (the most potent form). Its potency means that users are more likely to harm themselves as well as other people. However, the research indicates that a far bigger proportion of the population has problems with cannabis, alcohol, and prescription medicines.

There are some people who used drugs but never ended up being addicts and others who wanted more info about the drugs they used. Adam noted that hearing from this group was important in understanding the drug interaction among most Australians.

The survey is independent and not in any way funded by the government. It is totally about offering evidence as well as information meant to be of benefit to the public.

The 2015 survey brought to light the number of people buying drugs online via the “darknet” – an online network that requires special software in order to access.

Over 11,750 respondents claimed to have bought drugs online, and 2,938 of those said they did so in the year 2014. The data showed a year-on-year rise, and consumers reported it is a safer and better way to purchase drugs than on the streets.

The darknet isn’t going away soon, and its appeal to Australians is very huge. In fact, most people started purchasing drugs online than ever before in 2014, despite the closure of Silk Road in 2013.

Silk Road was the first major and most popular online drugs website, but was closed down in October 2013 by the FBI. Following its closure, Ross Ulbricht (its creator), was sentenced to life imprisonment in May 2015 for his role in the website. The FBI claimed that over 100,000 people had used the website to purchase drugs.

The survey also pointed out the harm brought about by “designer drugs” – synthetic products produced as substitutes to drugs like LSD and cannabis and which aim to emulate their effects.

According to the researchers taking part in the survey, the best argument for Australia drug law reforms may be the existence of synthetic drugs. The survey found that synthetic cannabis products are more likely to cause people to seek emergency medical treatment compared to any other drug. Actually, 65% of those who attempted to stop using drugs reported withdrawal symptoms according to the research.