Dr. Thomas Rodenberg, a South Florida doctor was sentenced to 18 years incarceration for his part in a pill mill scheme in 2012.
Rodenberg was convicted of racketeering, trafficking oxycodone, conspiracy to traffic oxycodone, delivery of oxycodone, alprazolam, methadone, and hydrocodone. Rodenberg was arrested along with 10 other individuals in the Pompano Beach Medical facility.
“I thank the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Broward Sheriff’s Office for their outstanding collaboration in helping bring this dangerous drug dealer to justice” said Attorney General Pam Bondi. She also stated prescription pill deaths are in decline because of law enforcement collaboration.
Florida has successfully closed many pill mills in the state, but the unfortunate consequence is drug dealers selling more black tar or Colombian brown heroin. Senior vice president of the drug treatment nonprofit WestCare Foundation said, “the new drug of choice is heroin because the market changed.”
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Since Amendment 64 passed in Colorado and Washington won the pot vote, making recreational consumption of marijuana legal, there is much speculation about possible “weed tourism.”
The new laws state that anyone over the age of 21 can legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana. People can also grow up to six plants in their homes, with 3 harvesting at the same time. The harvested marijuana can amount to over an ounce in one’s home but they can only carry an ounce on their person outside of their homes.
Although these state laws have passed, federal law still trumps state law with respect to possession of a controlled substance according to the Controlled Substance Act. However, officials speculate that the feds will likely concede to Washington and Colorado state law, much like they have with medical marijuana laws. It is still largely unknown how this will actually play out once both states make the laws official or how it will impinge upon the drug laws and crime in other states.
According to the laws, you don’t have to be a resident of Washington or Colorado to purchase and consume marijuana. However, once they leave the state, consumers must adhere to local state laws. Many speculate that this will create an influx of “weed tourists” much like Amsterdam has seen.
This may create problems for neighboring states if tourist attempt to transit lower cost weed across state lines. Florida has experienced a similar issue with an influx of people going to pain clinics over the past decade to get prescription drugs. The main interstate that runs through Florida, known as “OxyContin highway,” has required heavy patrolling for opportunistic drug dealers who bring prescription drugs to nearby states like Arkansas and Kentucky.
It is unknown how these new laws and potential weed tourism will impact daily life writ large – will people be subject to weed smoke in public areas? Will there be designated weed-smoking areas? Will more people develop marijuana dependence similar to the rise in alcoholics after prohibition ended? Will groups like Marijuana Anonymous increase in numbers? There are many unknowns and it will be interesting to see how this plays out among federal and state law and if it develops into a real drug tourism problem like Florida has seen over the last decade.
|Surveillance footage of customers waiting in chairs outside a “pill mill” shot by the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office|
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) reported last week that oxycodone related deaths were down 17.7% last year compared to the previous year. Florida is known for a higher rate of overdoses from prescription pain medications compared to other states because it’s previously lenient laws on pain clinics otherwise known as “pill mills” throughout Florida.
Prescription pill abuse in Florida has soared in the last decade, with addicts going as far as buying, selling and trading MRIs which are then used to easily obtain medication at pain clinics throughout the state. People from all over the US, especially from inland states like Kentucky and Arkansas would flood to Florida’s pain clinics in order to bring home copious amounts of pain medication. Pain clinicians were known for giving out a larger than normal amount of pills that would sell for upwards of $30 each.
Recent crackdowns on pain clinics and doctors throughout Florida may account for the decrease in the number of oxycodone related deaths. General prescription related deaths were also down with a 6.3 percent decrease, from 2,710 in 2010 to 2,539 in 2011, according to data obtained from examiner’s offices throughout the state. FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey stated, “The decrease in prescription drug deaths represents the dedication of law enforcement and shows we are moving in the right direction,” but asserted, “the numbers are promising, but we have much work ahead.”
And such work will require a combined effort between law enforcement, cracking down on “pill mills” and making addiction treatment in Florida accessible to those who suffer from prescription pill addiction. Since May 2011, special teams assembled by Governor Rick Scott have made 3,390 prescription drug related arrests. Of those arrested were 61 doctors and that have closed down 254 clinics and seized 785,295 pharmaceutical pills.
“Within two years of establishing our prescription drug abuse efforts, Florida has seen a decrease in prescription drug deaths for the first time in nearly a decade,” Attorney General Pam Bondi said. Limiting the availability of prescription drugs combined with reputable Florida drug treatment programs for prescription pill addicts will hopefully continue this decline in prescription related deaths.