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More prosecutions in Minnesota for prescription drug crime

When most people hear the term "drug crime," what typically comes to mind are drugs such as marijuana, LSD, methamphetamine or heroin. These illegal drugs are often identified as Schedule 1 drugs, taking their name from the federal Controlled Substance Act (CSA). These drugs are considered very dangerous and within the federal statutes, have no currently accepted medical use.

And a great number of federal drug prosecutions are carried out involving these drugs. But a growing number of federal prosecutions involve legal drugs that are obtained by illegal means.

A conference is being held this month at the University of Minnesota to look at crimes involving prescription opiates and other opiate-based drugs. As the Star Tribune story points out, the severity of the public health concern is due to the significant number of deaths attributed to drug overdoses. In 2013, they report that 507 people in Minnesota died from these overdoses, compared with 374 motor vehicle fatalities in the same year.

And while Schedule 1 drugs like heroin have caused 91 overdose deaths in Minnesota in 2013, 200 died from prescription drug overdoses.

Federal prosecutions of cases involving prescription drugs may look very different from illegal drug cases involving cartels and heavily armed drug dealers. Some of those prosecuted in the last year include a pharmacy employee from Burnsville, who used the office computer to alter drug shipment records to facilitate her stealing of 67,000 doses of various drugs.

Other cases involved a Bloomington paramedic stealing liquid morphine and a Pelican Rapids doctor who wrote fake prescriptions for hydrocodone and oxycodone to family members and then collected more than 1,700 pills himself.

The causes behind these cases are a varied as the people charged. Some may suffer a substance abuse problem of their own, or be attempting to raise quick and easy money to deal with debts or other financial problems.

No matter the cause, federal prosecution can lead to severe penalties. Anyone facing these charges should discuss their situation with an attorney. The law is complex and the sentences can be long, and if you are being interviewed by federal law enforcement investigating any issues related to drugs, you should not be speaking with them alone.

Source: startribune.com, "Experts seeking solutions to surge in painkiller-related crime," David Chanen, July 30, 2015

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