Infant Survived Potential Kidnapping, Car Crash While Dad Bought Xanax

The father of a nine-month old baby girl who went missing overnight this past July is facing multiple felony charges because police say he was inside his dealer’s house buying drugs when his car, left running with his baby inside, went missing out of the driveway.

According to the Parrish Police Department, 9-month-old Harlow Freeman was first reported missing on Monday, July 10 by her father, 30-year-old Madison Jo Rilee Freeman of Jasper, Alabama. 

“On July 10th, 2023, the Parrish Police Department was notified of a 9-month-old child that was left inside of a vehicle located at 311 Crest Avenue in Parrish. The father, Jo Rilee Freeman, reported to officers that he left the child inside the running vehicle while he went inside to visit his friends,” said the Parrish Police Department in a Facebook post. 

Police said the results of their months-long investigation revealed Freeman had lied about what he had been doing inside the house and he had actually been inside purchasing a prescription anxiety medication called Xanax, which is often abused for its extremely sedative and tranquilizing effects.

“The investigation has revealed the father, Jo Rilee Freeman, drove to 311 Crest Avenue and was conducting a drug transaction with Rodney Thomas while inside the residence,” Parrish Police said. “The father was made aware while he was inside the residence that his car was no longer in the driveway. He drove around for several minutes looking for his car then notified the police. A handgun and other narcotics were recovered from the residence.”   

An AMBER alert was issued and according to Police Chief Danny Woodard, over 100 law enforcement units arrived to help find Harlow within 30 minutes of the alert.

“The child was located inside the vehicle 12 hours later. The vehicle was approximately 80 yards down a steep embankment across the street from the house completely covered in kudzu,” Parrish Police said.

What happened to little Harlow between the time her father went into his suspected dealer’s house and the time she was found the next morning is still relatively unclear. The vehicle was found just across the street down a steep ravine the next morning, shrouded from view by thick patches of vines.  Parrish Police have said they do not have a suspect in custody for the suspected kidnapping or car theft. 

“It was impossible to see,” Chief Woodard said about the location of the vehicle. “The area was searched multiple times through the night.”

Harlow was dehydrated but ok when they found her, according to police. In a stroke of blind luck for the infant, a rear window of the vehicle had been broken in a previous and completely unrelated incident so the baby had plenty of fresh air overnight. She was taken to the hospital to be evaluated but was in “good” condition when Chief Woodard gave a press conference update to the situation in July.

“Considering the situation this was the best case scenario for us to find the child alive and well, dehydrated, but going to [have] a 100 percent recovery.” Chief Woodard said. 

I found a lot of speculation saying the Dad forgot to apply the parking brake and the vehicle rolled into the ravine backwards but I also found plenty of speculation saying that didn’t happen and Chief Woodard has given few details other than to say that “Anything is possible, and everything is being evaluated.” Police also said they received many reports of the vehicle in question leaving the area at a high rate of speed.

Warrants were issued and subsequent arrests made for Madison Jo Rilee Freeman and his alleged dealer, Rodney Thomas as well as a third person, 19-year-old Mason Chappel whose involvement in the case was not immediately clear. 

Freeman was charged with conspiracy to commit a controlled substance crime and endangering the welfare of a child. Thomas was charged with conspiracy to commit a controlled substance crime and unlawful possession of a controlled substance. He also had six grams of meth and assorted prescription pills on him when he was arrested. Chappel was charged with interfering with governmental operations. A call to the Parrish Police Department to inquire who Chappel is and what he had to do with this case was not returned in time for publication.

“I would like to thank all the agencies and the Walker County District Attorney’s for the many hours of hard work that went into this investigation. While we are still seeking answers to this case the investigation will continue,” Chief Woodard said.

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Pot Odor Does Not Justify Probable Cause for Vehicle Searches, Minnesota Court Affirms

If Minnesota police search a vehicle solely based upon the smell of pot, they can’t justify searching a vehicle, even if there is evidence found of other alleged crimes. Even after appealing a lower court decision to suppress the evidence—twice—the Minnesota Supreme Court agreed, and the dismissal of his charges stands.

In a ruling filed regarding a case the State of Minnesota Court of Appeals on Sept. 13, the Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed that cannabis odor does not constitute probable cause to search a vehicle under the state’s automobile exception to the warrant requirement.

The case has been ongoing for two years. On July 5, 2021, just before 10 p.m., a Litchfield police officer stopped a car for an obscure local law: the light bar mounted on the vehicle’s grill had more auxiliary driving lights than are permitted under Minnesota law. The officer asked the driver, Adam Lloyd Torgerson, for his license and registration. Torgerson, his wife, and his child were present in the vehicle. The officer stated that he smelled pot and asked Torgerson if there was any reason for the odor, which he initially denied. But cops found a lot more than just pot.

A backup officer was called in. The couple denied possessing any pot, but Torgerson admitted to smoking weed in the past. The second officer stated that the weed odor gave them probable cause to search the vehicle and ordered them to exit the vehicle. The first officer searched the vehicle and found a film canister, three pipes, and a small plastic bag in the center console. The plastic bag contained a white powder and the film canister contained meth, which was confirmed in a field test.

Torgenson was charged with possession of meth pipe in the presence of a minor and fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance after the unwarranted search of Torgerson’s vehicle. 

Police Aren’t Allowed to Do That, Multiple Courts Rule

But the search had one major problem—cops weren’t searching for a meth pipe. They only searched his car because they could smell pot, and the meth and paraphernalia were a surprise for everyone. Still, they had no grounds to search the vehicle. The man’s charges were later dismissed after the district court determined the odor of cannabis alone was insufficient basis for probable cause to search the vehicle, regardless of whatever other drug paraphernalia they found. 

The state appealed the case, but the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s decision. The case was appealed a second time, this time to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which agreed with the lower court’s ruling. 

 “This search was justified only by the odor of marijuana emanating from the vehicle,” the Minnesota Supreme Court decision reads. “Torgerson moved to suppress the evidence found during the search, arguing that the odor of marijuana, alone, is insufficient to create the requisite probable cause to search a vehicle under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement. The district court granted Torgerson’s motion, suppressed the evidence, and dismissed the complaint. The State appealed. The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s suppression order. Because we conclude that the odor of marijuana emanating from a vehicle, alone, is insufficient to create the requisite probable cause to search a vehicle under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement, we affirm.”

It amounts to basic human rights that apply—regardless of whether or not a person is addicted to drugs.

Other States do Precisely the Same Regarding Pot Odor as Probably Cause

An Illinois judge ruled in 2021 that the odor of cannabis is not sufficient grounds for police to search a vehicle without a warrant during a traffic stop.

Daniel J. Dalton, Associate Judge of the 14th Judicial Circuit, issued a ruling in response to a motion to suppress evidence in the case of Vincent Molina, a medical cannabis patient arrested for cannabis possession last year.

In that case, Molina was arrested despite the decriminalization of small amounts of cannabis in Illinois in 2019 with the passage of the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. 

In some states, the issue of probable cause and cannabis was defined through bills.

Last April, the Maryland House of Delegates approved a bill that reduces the penalties for public cannabis consumption and bars police from using the odor of cannabis as the basis for the search of an individual or auto. Under Maryland’s House Bill 1071, law enforcement officers would be prohibited from using the odor of raw or burnt cannabis as probable cause to search a person or vehicle. 

The rulings represent the rights of citizens when they are pulled over by police, even if there are hard drugs involved.

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Kern County, California Cops Shut Down Seven Unlicensed Dispensaries

Seven unlicensed dispensaries in Rosamond, California were shut down by Kern County Sheriff’s office deputies Wednesday, reports the Sierra Sun Times. The dispensaries were stocked with quality pot, offered loyalty programs, and offered raffles and other promotional items. They appear to be almost indistinguishable from legal dispensaries in nearby communities that allow retail stores.

While home growing is allowed in Kern County, dispensaries are not permitted to open in most towns and communities. The latest sting reflects the constant battle to contain illegal businesses that ignore the county’s strict stance on cannabis.

“Kern County Sheriff’s Office officials report that on September 6, 2023, at approximately 7:45 p.m., the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, Kern County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (KC-HIDTA), along with Investigators from the Kern County District Attorney’s Office, executed search warrants on seven illegal marijuana dispensaries operating in the community of Rosamond,” the department posted on Facebook.

The post continues, “Wardens from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife/Cannabis Enforcement Program (CEP), detectives from California Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) and officers from the Kern County Probation Department also assisted in the execution of the search warrants and arrests of numerous subjects found to be involved in operating the illegal marijuana dispensaries.”

The photos show great bargains, such as two grams for $15 or four grams for $30. Cheap shake bags are also visible in the photos.

Per usual with Facebook posts about cannabis busts, it wasn’t entirely well-received by the public. “Lame waste of county resources,” one commenter said. Another wrote, “unlicensed so Bakersfield isn’t getting their cut, that’s why they were busted.” The post also contained seven photos of the inside of the dispensaries as well as a weapon that was found on one of the suspects.

Officers List Busted Dispensaries and Suspects

All seven dispensaries were found to be in violation of County and State Health and Safety Code ordinances and laws as a result of the investigation. Investigators from the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) assisted detectives from the sheriff’s office in the overall operation. The following dispensaries were found to be in violation for the illicit sales of cannabis and cannabis products:

  • Lights Out Wellness on 1739 Poplar Street
  • Wicked Weed on 2763 Sierra Hwy
  • The Location on 2613 Diamond Street
  • Mr. 5 Gramz on 2665 Diamond Street
  • AV Wellness on 2689 Sierra Hwy
  • Plum Tree Collective on 2873 Sierra Hwy
  • CBD Plus on 2753 Diamond

Sheriff deputies found numerous building code violations at all seven locations. Based on the violations, the businesses were deemed unsafe for occupancy and posted by Kern County Code Compliance.

Officers listed the suspects who were arrested with various charges of allegedly breaking the law, and booked into the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, Central Receiving Facility or Mojave jail. Police listed 17 individuals, along with their ages and specific charges they received during the wave of raids. At least two of those individuals had outstanding warrants.

Kern County’s Continual Buzzkill

Not all communities in California accept cannabis, especially inland communities. Cannabis retail stores are not legal in most areas of Kern County, California Cannabis Information explains. Pursuant to Cannabis Ordinance, Section 19.08. 55, the local law explicitly bans commercial medicinal and adult-use cannabis businesses within the county—with the exception of California City and Arvin.

Neighbors in the area generally don’t like cannabis coming into their communities. In 2018, 52.38% of Kern County residents voted against Prop. 64, legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis in California. The county routinely cracks down on illegal cannabis activity, as well as hot hemp and other illegal operations.

A few years ago, Kern County officials found 10 million cannabis plants deemed too hot to be hemp with an estimated value of over $1 billion. On October 25, 2019 law enforcement descended on the fields. The growers claimed to be growing non-psychoactive hemp. They were, in fact, raising marijuana plants that clocked in at over the .3% THC content allowed under California law.

After a tip was sent to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office in 2019, police found hot hemp about 11 fields sprawling out over 459 acres in the small town of Arvin. An investigation was launched in collaboration with the FBI and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that resulted in the October 25 search warrants.

“Preliminary testing showed the levels of THC in these fields were well over the legal limit for industrial hemp production and were in fact cannabis,” announced the Kern County Sheriff’s Office in a Facebook post. “The investigation is ongoing.”

California law does allow for THC content over .3% if the hemp is being grown for research purposes.

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Woman Arrested Smuggling Cannabis Internationally Thought She Had Handbags in Her Suitcase

A woman arrested in Dublin, Ireland for cannabis smuggling allegedly told the authorities she did not break any laws intentionally as she thought she was merely transporting a suitcase full of handbags.

According to a report by the Irish Examiner, Yejieda Johnson, a 26-year-old London woman, was arrested at Dublin Airport over the weekend with 37 kilograms of cannabis and charged with unlawful importation and possession of drugs/having them for sale or supply. 

Irish authorities, known as the “Garda Síochána” estimated the street value of the cannabis to be around €740,000 or just under $800k USD (though anyone with access to a calculator or 4th grade math skills can figure out the bulk price on all that is probably closer to $80k even in Europe).

According to the Examiner, Garda Tom McLoughlin appeared in court to advocate against bail for Johnson. McLoughlin alleged that Johnson had been “caught in the act” of a “very deliberate attempt to conceal 37 kg of cannabis.” McLoughlin stated during cross-examination that Johnson insisted she had been carrying handbags and “never touched” any cannabis. 

McLoughlin went on to claim that Johnson was a “clear and immediate flight risk,” due to her lack of an Irish home address or family connections in the area. Johnson allegedly departed from John F. Kennedy airport in New York City and was supposed to get a connecting flight from Dublin to her home in London on Saturday.

The Examiner Report went on to indicate that Johnson maintained her innocence to the court, pleading for bail. Johnson told the court she had lived in London all her life and currently lived with family members. She told the court she was a mother of one and had previously worked in a hotel spa and coffee shop though she was unemployed at the time of the hearing. She swore to the court she would return to Ireland and prove her innocence. 

“I have no reason not to come back, I’m innocent,” Johnson said. “I didn’t know what was in those cases. I will not run off or anything like that. I’m innocent, I’m not a criminal.”

According to another report in Sunday World, defense barrister Karl Monahan argued for bail, saying that Johnson could wait in Irish prison for up to two years before her actual trial began. He also argued the street value and exact nature of the drugs had yet to be officially established, which could explain the wildly high figure mentioned above (I did the math and even dimed out at $10 a gram it’s only $367k).

Oddly enough, another woman flying from Amsterdam to Dublin was also arrested at Dublin Airport the same day with a suitcase containing 10 kilograms of ketamine. Authorities did not indicate that there was any reason to believe the incidents were related, but they did indicate the ketamine had a street value of €600,000 which actually might be kind of low if you sold it by the gram, but I digress.

The following quote was given to the Irish Mirror by a Garda spokesperson:

“Gardaí arrested two women on Saturday 2nd September 2023 as part of two separate seizures made by Revenue officers at Dublin Airport. The seizures comprised 37kgs of herbal cannabis, worth an estimated €740,000, and approximately 10kgs of suspected ketamine worth €600,000. Two women in their 20s were arrested by Gardaí and later detained. They have since been charged with regards to these separate seizures, and appeared before the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin this morning, Monday, 4th September 2023.”

A spokesperson for Revenue also told the Irish Mirror “The illicit drugs were discovered when Revenue officers stopped and searched the baggage of passengers who had disembarked flights from New York and Amsterdam.”

Yejieda Johnson was ultimately granted bail for €1,000 plus an additional €10,000 surety. She would also be required to leave her London address, phone number and other such assurances that she would return to Ireland for trial. She was remanded back into Irish custody until she appears again in court on September 11.

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Half a Million Fentanyl Pills Disguised as Oxycodone Confiscated by San Bernardino Sheriff’s Office in One Week

Last week was busy for the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, who reported Monday that they confiscated over 500,000 fentanyl tablets that were disguised as ”M30” oxycodone pills. One of the primary reasons people overdose on fentanyl is because they think they are taking a less powerful opioid, typically disguised as an oxycodone or hydrocodone pill.

In one bust, a person at a clothing store was allegedly selling a lot more than just clothes: At 10:56 p.m. Friday, police in Hesperia, California served two search warrants at The House of Drip, a clothing store after officers caught wind of a drug operation taking place there. Officers from the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department suspect that M30 fentanyl pills, as well as cannabis, were being sold at the business.

“Lenin Martinez Arevalo, 29, of Hesperia, was arrested and booked into jail on suspicion of possessing or purchasing drugs for sale, transportation/sales of drugs, and possessing drugs for sale,” the Daily Press in Victorville reports.

Police said they found more than 4,000 fentanyl pills, cannabis, 227 boxes of THC resin, 35 boxes of psilocybin-infused chocolate, and $1,300 in cash while searching the House of Drip.

M30 fentanyl pills are particularly dangerous because they are designed to mimic the look of prescription oxycodone pills, or to a lesser extent—Adderall, Xanax, and other drugs.

A Bigger Problem in San Bernardino County

This was just a fraction of the total number of fentanyl pills the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Gangs/Narcotics Division scooped up last week. They confiscated over half a million fentanyl tablets.

“Last week, the San Bernardino CountySheriff’s Department Gangs/Narcotics Division seized over 115 pounds of fentanyl pills, equivalent to roughly 517,500 tablets. These pills are counterfeit pharmaceuticals containing fentanyl.

Last October, the San Bernardino County Health Department issued a health advisory to spread awareness to the dangers of fentanyl due to a huge uptick in overdose deaths in the county.

In 2021, there were 354 fentanyl overdose deaths in San Bernardino County.

Local health officials launched a campaign to raise awareness due to an unprecedented rise in fentanyl overdoses and poisonings in San Bernardino County. In June, San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health officials stated that the campaign will carry out through the year, with the slogan “Fentanyl Doesn’t Care. But We Do.”

“There is a misperception that fentanyl only affects drug addicts when in reality, it’s affecting a broad segment of our community,” Board of Supervisors Chair Dawn Rowe told the Daily Press last summer “This campaign will help shed light on the reality of the fentanyl crisis and help us save lives.”

The health department joined the “Stop the Void and the INTO LIGHT Project” to develop a media campaign targeting geographic areas in San Bernardino County that are prone to a high rate of fentanyl overdoses, with special consideration for young adults and “at-risk underserved communities.”

DEA’s Battle with Fake M30 Pills

San Bernardino County is just one region in California, but the problem stretches across all of the U.S. Data shows that in 2021, nearly 70,000 people in the U.S. died of drug overdoses involving fentanyl and fake opioid prescriptions.

“​​Counterfeit pills are nearly identical to actual prescription medications,” the DEA says in a Drug Fact Sheet. “The majority of counterfeit pills resemble oxycodone 30mg pills (M30s), but can also mimic hydrocodone, alprazolam (Xanax), Adderall, and other medications. There are indications that drug trafficking organizations are specifically targeting kids and teens by creating counterfeit pills in a variety of shapes and bright colors to appeal to that age group. Counterfeit M30 pills can vary in color from white to blue. The best way to avoid counterfeit medication is to take only medications prescribed by a licensed medical professional and dispensed by a registered pharmacist.”

As little as 2 mg of fentanyl can be deadly enough to stop breathing, and death is swift. That means taking just one counterfeit pill can result in death, especially if the person does not have a tolerance. On the other hand, 30 mg of oxycodone is maximum strength, which is strong but less likely to cause death than a smaller amount of fentanyl.

“Distributors in the United States are selling counterfeit pills on social media, appealing to a younger audience that use these apps,” the DEA continues. “Minors and young adults experimenting, as well as regular substance users, believe they are buying authentic oxycodone, Adderall, Xanax, or other medicines, but are unwittingly purchasing counterfeit pills that contain lethal amounts of drugs, usually fentanyl and methamphetamine.”

Fentanyl is around 100 times stronger than morphine, and 50 times stronger than heroin. And how widespread is the problem? Twenty-six percent of tablets tested in a DEA laboratory contained a lethal dose of fentanyl, the agency says. 

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The Summer of Busts

Though the Summer of 2023 has been flush with great musical events, from jam band farewells to EDM gatherings, there has also been the unfortunate reality of drug-related police activity resulting in numerous arrests and large amounts of party favors confiscated. 

Much of this article will be centered around one particular locale where some of the drug busts—along with one tragic mass shooting—took place: the idyllic Gorge Amphitheatre in Grant County, Washington, a legendary venue situated on the banks of the Columbia River in the eastern part of the state. 

The Gorge was the site of the most recent music event spoiled by drug arrests: the Bass Canyon Music Festival, a celebration of EDM (electronic dance music), which took place over the weekend of August 18-20. The Grant Co Sheriff’s Department arrested 13 people while confiscating $20,000 worth of goodies, including cocaine, LSD and ketamine, along with cannabis. Even though weed has been legal in Washington for over a decade, it’s still against the law to sell it without a license.    

The Grant Co Sheriff’s Dept. conducted 14 different investigations in total, their heightened response prompted by an earlier shooting on the same concert grounds in June—more on that story to follow. 

In their official statement to the media, the Sheriff’s Dept. seemed to be rationalizing their overzealous operation, by stating that the concert grounds can hold up to 25,000 people, the same population as nearby small towns.  Yet, modern music festivals have always been about those sorts of cramped conditions, and the vast majority go off smoothly without any overbearing police presence being necessary. 

Similar drug raids were also conducted on the East Coast, including at the Elements Festival in Long Pond, situated in Pennsylvania’s Monroe County. A self-described “car camping” electronic music festival that occurred over the weekend of August 11-14, 11 people in all were arrested, charged with selling various substances to festival attendees.  

According to reports, the increased police scrutiny this year was prompted by overdoses at the Elements Fest the previous year, in 2022. Yet once again, the Sheriff’s Dept’s claims raise the issue that the priority should be ensuring people are offered proper medical services, along with taking safe substances in the first place. Because no matter how big or small of a law enforcement presence there actually is, people are going to take drugs at festivals and concerts, because most of the dealers don’t get caught.

It was an actual shooting—not only overdoses—at the Beyond Wonderland EDM Festival held at the Gorge on Saturday, June 17 that made national headlines. Two people were horrifically shot to death, with two others wounded—including the gunman’s own girlfriend, causing permanent injuries to her. The festival’s Sunday schedule was promptly canceled in wake of the mass shooting.  

It’s worth noting that the two murder victims were a same-sex female couple engaged to be married; they were walking together when Kelly shot them to death. A male who tried to help the victims, as well as the suspect’s aforementioned girlfriend, were wounded by gunfire. The accused gunman, 26-year old James Kelly, who was captured on the festival grounds, is an active-duty soldier stationed in Washington state. It has yet to be revealed whether or not the shootings were politically motivated. Kelly has claimed it was a bad “mushroom trip” that caused him to shoot down his fellow concertgoers, which the corporate media were quick to exploit in their coverage of the shooting. As told to police, during one of the concert performances, a tripping Kelly was filled with thoughts of the world coming to an end, and so he rushed back to his tent, where his gun was waiting to be fired indiscriminately.

The Wonderland incident provided all the justification required for an intricately coordinated multi-agency operation to conduct over-the-top drug activity during the popular jam band Dead and Company’s farewell tour stop to the Gorge on July 7 and 8. 

Mutually involved in the Dead & Co. busts were the Interagency Narcotics Enforcement Team (INET), Grant County Sheriff’s Office, Moses Lake Police Department Street Crimes Unit, as well as Homeland Security Investigations, meaning the US government was involved as well.  

Various substances with a combined estimated street value of over $200,000 were seized, including over 28,000 grams of weed, dabs and edibles, as well as coke, shrooms, molly and acid. In all, 13 people were arrested on drug felony charges.

Posting on their Facebook page July 12, the Grant County Sheriff’s Office issued an official statement regarding the bust, making no apologies for the arrests and seizures:

“The Gorge Amphitheater encourages law enforcement pro-activity at their concerts which are known to have an illegal drug culture based on the number of overdoses and incidents experienced over the years.”  The statement also referenced the recent EDM festival shooting. 

However, the Sheriff’s Dept failed to address the primary problem of the Wonderland incident, which wasn’t the mushrooms, but the firearm that was illegally brought onto the concert grounds, which as stated in the venue’s official rules, is prohibited. While it’s true that psychedelic mushrooms were prohibited too, that substance cannot be used as a weapon to impulsively kill innocent people. Law enforcement did not provide a statement regarding an apparent plan in place to prevent future gun violence at the Gorge, solely focusing on the drugs.

The arrests and seizures at the Gorge were not the first time during the two-month Dead & Co. summer tour that big busts at one of their gigs made the news. When the band performed at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (aka SPAC), located in upstate New York, on June 17 and 18, local law enforcement was in full force. So full in fact, that the New York State Park Police reported those two D&C shows were among the busiest they’ve ever experienced in terms of drug busts, as well as some actual, violent crime they had to deal with at the venue. The Park Police seized LSD, cocaine, mushrooms, ketamine, meth, weighing equipment and even black-market “packaging”.  Additionally, 54 tanks of nitrous oxide were seized, along with arresting over 30 individuals, as well as confiscating $33,000 in cold hard cash from one luckless drug dealer. 

Concerts by Phish, the biggest jam band outside of Dead & Co., also experienced unwanted—and perhaps unwarranted—treatment by law enforcement. As reported by Phish fans on Reddit, accompanied by photos that provided visual confirmation of the claim, a circulating memo revealed that a federal/local law enforcement joint endeavor was targeting a pair of Phish shows to be held in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania in late July.   

In a memo shared far and wide on the web, the document carried the heading of “Washington County Sheriff’s Office” with an added note “Internal Dissemination Only.” The subject read: “Joint County Task Enforcement Operation ‘Phish in a Barrel’” with the next line indicating the operation was to be conducted at “Star Lake Amphitheatre July 21-22, 2023”, a concert venue outside of Pittsburgh. 

The memo listed the “chain of command” of the various agencies purported to be involved with this operation in hierarchical order, designated by phonetics: “Ops Alpha” was Dept. of Homeland Security, “Ops Bravo” was Washington Co Sheriff’s and “Ops Charlie” was the notorious Drug Enforcement Administration, just to throw an extra scare into any who believed this printed chicanery.  

The memo designated Highway 22 as the “primary checkpoint”, with Highway 18 as the “secondary” checkpoint in which anti-drug units with colorful nicknames like “Team Wolverine” and “Team Badger” would crack down on any would-be partying Phish fans. Perhaps using a code name based on an actual animal-based Phish song such as “Ocelot” or “Possum” might’ve been too obvious. 

Despite the memo seeming quite intentionally comical in hindsight, this document was strongly believed by the Phish and wider jam band communities for a period of time leading up to those concerts. 

So much so that Washington Co Sheriff Tony Andronas felt obligated to post on his Facebook page that “Phish in a Barrel” was indeed a hoax, and in fact, a similar prank had been played on the Virginia State Police in 2018. In that case, as with this most recent one, none of the perpetrators were identified.

Despite the hoax, it turns out the Washington County Sheriff’s Department still made their presence felt in the most unwelcome way at those Phish shows, as officers were actually on the Star Lake “lawn” (the general admission area behind the seats), as visually documented on social media. This time it was no hoax/prank, as photos posted on Reddit revealed the cops were disturbing and disrupting concertgoers’ good times, writing tickets for those merely smoking weed on the lawn. 

With paranoia over the “Phish in a Barrel” hoax being so widespread, in conjunction with all of the excessive actual busts from coast-to-coast, this demonstrates that law enforcement continues to prioritize drug enforcement over public safety at festivals and concerts—so let the attendee beware.

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Son of Infamous Jimmy Chagra Arrested in Texas on Drug Charges

Infamous (and now deceased) El Paso drug trafficker Jimmy Chagra’s son, 44-year-old Jamiel Alexander Chagra Nichols, was arrested for allegedly selling cocaine, fentanyl, and LSD. Some of his clients included Fort Bliss soldiers, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) officials said. 

The El Paso Times reports that the special agents arrested Nichols on Friday, August 18. It’s currently estimated that five Texans die every day, on average, from a fentanyl overdose. In April of this year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott launched a $10 million effort, the “One Pill Kills” campaign, to combat the fentanyl crisis, including sending overdose-reversing meds (Narcan) to all 254 counties. 

The news of Nichols’ arrest comes after authorities allegedly found over 21,900 dosages of LSD at his El Paso home during a multi-agency drug investigation, DPS officials said. The search warrant that led to the drug seizure and Nichols’s arrest was carried out by the Fentanyl Overdose Response Team of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in El Paso, who paired up with Texas DPS special agents. His arrest was a long time in the making, resulting from a six-month-long investigation, although due to his ancestry, it’s safe to assume that Nichols has been on the government’s list for some time. 

Jamiel Alexander Chagra Nichols, courtesy El Paso County Sheriff’s Office

According to El Paso County Jail records, Nichols now faces four state counts of manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance. Nichols was released from jail Monday on a total surety bond of $28,000.  

Nichols’s notorious father is Jamiel Alexander “Jimmy” Chagra, who made a name for himself as El Paso’s most wanted drug trafficker of the 1970s. Las Vegas City Life once described him as “the undisputed marijuana kingpin of the Western world” (he also dealt heavily in cocaine). 

The son of a rug merchant family, Chagra originally worked as a carpet salesman before breaking into the drug smuggling trade in 1969. He trafficked drugs from both Mexico and Columbia using planes and boats (which still happens; recently, the feds seized 223 pounds of cocaine and arrested two people headed toward Long Beach from Columbia). 

Chagra was also known for his epic, high-stakes gambling, which, by all accounts, he not only loved but used to launder money earned through drug trafficking. Before his arrest, he was estimated to be worth approximately $100 million ($500 million today). Charga’s downfall can be marked to November 21, 1978, when Assistant U.S. Attorney James Kerr was shot near his home by two men who fired 19 bullets at his car. Kerr lived; his only injuries sustained were some minor glass cuts, but law enforcement was officially ready to get Chagra senior. 

In February 1979, the OG Chagra was arrested on trafficking charges. He’d appear before Judge John Wood, nicknamed “Maximum John” due to his reputation for giving out the maximum sentence on drug crimes. Chagra faced a possible life sentence. He attempted to bribe Maximum John. It didn’t work. So, he arranged to have him assassinated, eventually admitting to hiring, of all people, hitman Charles Harrelson, who, in this ongoing father-son story, is dad to actor and cannabis lover Woody Harrelson (whose new cannabis lounge, The Woods, located in West Hollywood, California, is now open for business).

LSD found during a search of Nichols’ home in El Paso, courtesy Texas Department of Public Safety

On May 29, 1979, Wood was murdered. He was shot in the back outside his home and died as a result, making him the first federal judge to die from an assassination in more than a century. Chagra went to court on his drug charges and was found guilty in August 1979 and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Harrelson (senior) was also eventually caught and convicted of being the gunman, thanks to Chagra talking about the assassination when his brother, Joe Chagra, visited him in prison after the feds bugged the rooms of the Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, where Chagra resided. 

Joe Chagra allegedly tried for a plea deal for his involvement and served six and a half years in prison of his ten-year sentence. He was released but died from injuries sustained in a car accident in 1996. 

Jimmy Chagra’s wife, Elizabeth, also went to prison for 30 years for delivering the payout money. Charles Harrelson was slapped with two consecutive life terms plus five more years. And Chagra was acquitted of Wood’s murder but found guilty of obstructing justice and conspiring to smuggle drugs. Due to health reasons, he was released on December 9, 2003, with rumors circulating that he was placed in the Witness Protection Program. He died from cancer on July 25, 2008, in a trailer camp in Mesa, Arizona.

While the family’s story is already juicy enough for a major studio to turn it into a mini-series, as for how the current generation’s stories end, we’ll have to continue covering the Nichols case for the latest in the Chagra epic drama. 

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Oklahoma Sheriff Auctions Off Seized Pot Farm

An illegal pot farm is up for grabs on an auctioning website, and law enforcement officers from a sheriff’s office in Oklahoma are the ones selling it. After a surge in both legal and illegal cannabis operations, seized assets are left behind in the aftermath.

The Johnston County Sheriff’s Office in Tishomingo, Oklahoma posted the seized farm on, a Maryland-based auction website, featuring a 19.24-acre lot near Coleman. Bids will be available from Sept. 11 to Sept. 13 at an online auction. 

Other seized items are up from grabs as well. The list of seized assets include grow lights, light controllers, HVAC systems, wall fans, water pumps, refrigerators, etc.

The opening bid is $755,006, and a single $25,035.00 deposit, including a $35 nonrefundable processing fee, is required to participate. Deposits must be received here by Bid4Assets no later than the end of day on Wednesday, September 6. 

“We’re looking to find buyers who will take ownership of this property and use it responsibly, which was certainly not happening under the previous owners,” Johnston County Sheriff Gary Dodd said in a statement. “Let it be known throughout the county that if you use your farm to grow illegally, we will seize it and we will sell it.”

The bid comes with the following disclaimers: “Johnston County Sheriff’s Office retains the right to reject any and all bids for any reason. Johnston County Sheriff’s Office may withdraw this property from the auction at any time before or during the sale. Johnston County Sheriff’s Office reserves the right to cancel the sale of a property at any time prior to the issuance of the deed.”

Local and state law enforcement agents periodically raid illegal grow operations, seizing millions of dollars’ worth of illegal cannabis. At one farm near Coleman, authorities reportedly seized about 20,000 illegally grown cannabis plants valued at over $30 million. 

The Oklahoman reports that in a news release, Bid4Assets said it “collaborated” with sheriffs and attorneys to pass legislation allowing foreclosure auctions to be conducted online.

On May 25, 2022, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Senate Bill 976, spearheaded by Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt.

Oklahoma’s black market for cannabis has been a major issue.

In 2021, a senior senator from Oklahoma sought millions of dollars in federal funds to battle illegal cannabis growing operations in the state.

Sen. James Inhofe, a Republican, asked for $4 million in federal funds to help Oklahoma drug law enforcement agents fight illegal operations, according to local television station KFOR.

The illicit operations have frustrated the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. KFOR reports that the bureau’s director, Donnie Anderson, has expressed worry if international drug organizations and cartels could move into Oklahoma to take advantage of medical cannabis.

As Anderson and other state officials see it, those organizations and cartels are procuring a legitimate medical cannabis license that they use to cultivate, and then are selling the product to surrounding states where pot prohibition is still in place.

Oklahoma’s Oversupply of Cannabis

Oklahoma voters legalized the use and sale of medical cannabis when they approved State Question 788 in 2018, a ballot measure that created the most loosely regulated legal cannabis market in the nation. 

Fox 23 reported that Oklahoma produces 32 times the amount of cannabis it actually needs. The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) published a study demonstrating that Oklahoma produces a lot more cannabis than consumers can handle. 

“The study found the supply-and-demand ratio in Oklahoma is 64 grams of regulated medical cannabis supplied for every 1 gram of demand for a licensed patient,” the study reads. “The study states a ratio of 2 grams of supply for every 1 gram of demand is a healthy market, putting Oklahoma’s functional supply-and-demand ratio at 32:1.”

In May 2022, Oklahoma lawmakers passed House Bill 3208, which put a two-year pause on issuing new licenses for medical cannabis businesses. At the time, Mark Woodward, public information officer for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics (OBN), said the state approved over 2,200 medical cannabis dispensaries, making oversight of the businesses by state regulators a big logistical challenge.

“That’s a tremendous amount of dispensaries,” Woodward told KTUL in Tulsa. “It’s more than California, Oregon, Alaska, Washington, Nevada and New Mexico combined.”

A few things are being done to help control the market.

Oklahoma lawmakers passed a dozen bills last year that are designed to tighten regulations on the state’s medical cannabis industry, including a requirement that new dispensaries and cultivation operations be located at least 1,000 ft. from schools.

Last March, Oklahoma voters rejected a state question that would have allowed for adult-use cannabis, following a rash of opposition from faith leaders, law enforcement, and prosecutors.

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Shroom Shop Raided in Ontario, Canada

Another location of a psilocybin mushroom dispensary chain in Canada was raided by police, about a month after its earlier location was raided. Psilocybin advocates in Canada remain undeterred however, with no plans to back down.

CTV News in London reports that on Aug. 17, St. Thomas Police Service (STPS) officers in Ontario in Canada executed a warrant on the FunGuyz (pronounced fungi’s) magic mushroom shop. It was not their first rodeo with law enforcement raids.

STPS released a press release on Aug. 18. “A 39-year-old London resident has been arrested after a swift response from the St. Thomas Police Service (STPS)  regarding community concerns about the open sale of psilocybin, commonly known as magic mushrooms, at a newly opened business in the city.”

The store sold products like psilocybin-infused edibles and microdoses of mushrooms. At other FunGuyz locations, for instance, shrooms were sold in 7-, 14-, or 28-gram bags of dried mushrooms labeled by the strains Golden Teachers, Blue Meanies, African Pyramid, Amazonian, Penis Envy, and so on. Microdose psilocybin options for most of the strains of shrooms are available as well in 50, 100, or 200 micrograms. They also sell psilocybin-infused gummies, chocolate, tea, and other products.

“Our street crimes unit did arrest a 39-year-old London resident with possession of a controlled substance for trafficking purposes,” said STPS Corporate Communications Director Samantha Wakefield. “The individual was an employee of the establishment here.”

STPS officers said neighborhood community members raised concerns, however the police were already aware of the operation.

Local reports indicate that FunGuyz locations have played cat and mouse with law enforcement, frequently reopening for business. It’s the second location in two months to be targeted. Police at the St. Thomas raid identified various strains of mushrooms inside the store and seized 7,150 grams of psilocybin with an estimated street value of $71,504.

The owner, who wished to remain anonymous, told CTV News, “We like charges because we’re just going to do a constitutional challenge with everyone that gets charged.”

FunGuyz vs. Canadian Police

Locations in other provinces also face closure thanks to ongoing law enforcement actions. A FunGuyz location in Montreal, Quebec was raided by police last July.

CTV News reported that several police officers descended on the FunGuyz shop hours after the company opened their first location in the province of Quebec in Montreal’s Sainte-Marie district. The shop was raided during its opening day, so day one of sales was likely not a secret. Four people were arrested, police say, and their investigation into the shroom dispensary is ongoing.

“We’re just getting started and we hope that the word gets out,” Edgar Gorbans told CTV News Windsor. As of July, FunGuyz runs 11 other stores in Ontario, plans to open more in Quebec, and has locations close to Detroit, Michigan.

“We’re dealing with people in active addiction who have very little in the way of impulse control, have very little in their ability to say no,” said Director Don Trepanier. “When we have uncontrolled access to these substances, then it becomes a problem.”

The Transformation of Psilocybin in Canada

Psilocybin is prohibited in Canada under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). The drug has been an illegal controlled substance since 1975. Despite the status of psilocybin, the government concedes that medical properties probably do exist.

Canada’s former health minister used her authority to grant a limited number of legal exemptions for psilocybin, but that was mainly only given to people with terminal illness and treatment-resistant depression.

“There is increasing interest in the potential therapeutic uses of magic mushrooms and of psilocybin, one of the active ingredients in magic mushrooms,” the Government of Canada states. “While clinical trials with psilocybin have shown promising results, at this time, there are no approved therapeutic products containing psilocybin in Canada or elsewhere. Clinical trials are the most appropriate and effective way to advance research with unapproved drugs such as psilocybin while protecting the health and safety of patients.”

The production, sale, and possession of psilocybin remains illegal in Canada. There are over 200 species of psilocybin mushrooms, and officials don’t want people taking the risk into their own hands, given that similar varieties are potentially poisonous.

Store operators, however, often don’t care and commonly open up shop in broad daylight anyways. Advocates in Canada have been pushing the envelope with psilocybin dispensaries operating in the gray area. Canadian advocate Dana Larsen, for instance, opened up an online psilocybin dispensary and storefront locations, four in Vancouver at one point.

Psilocybin mushrooms are being studied for the treatment of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, trauma, alcoholism, irritable bowel syndrome, and other medical conditions. There are efforts to decriminalize psilocybin and other psychedelics in Colorado, Washington, Massachusetts, and cities throughout California. Many people visit the dispensaries to get microdoses to treat various conditions.

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India: Man Dies in Police Custody After MDMA Arrest, Officers Suspended

Dear reader, we regret to inform you that the war on drugs has needlessly claimed another life, this time in southwest India where a man was arrested for MDMA possession shortly before dying in police custody.

Several different Indian news outlets have reported that Thamir Jiffri, age 30, was arrested in the early morning hours of August 1 in Tanur, a town of about 50,000 people in Kerala, India. He was arrested with four others for drug possession charges and died around 4:30 in the morning from what police said was a drug overdose.

The problem is police testimony directly conflicts with both accusations from the victim’s family as well as the post mortem examination. Jiffri’s family has publicly alleged that Thamir was not in fact arrested in Tanur on August 1 as police have attested. The family has accused the police of coming into their home in nearby Chelari, about a 20 minute drive to the northeast, the previous evening, beating Thamir in front of them and arresting him. 

A public outcry followed Jiffri’s death. The following is a statement made by Indian Union Muslim League leader N. Samsudheen, a member of 15th Kerala Legislative Assembly:

“Jiffri was taken to the police quarters and subjected to third-degree torture. The postmortem report revealed that 21 wounds were inflicted on his body. This in itself is a proof of the kind of torture he was subjected to. Although Jiffri was taken into custody from his place at Chelari, the police claimed that he was arrested from under the railway bridge at Tanur. It has now also been revealed that he was sodomized in police custody.” 

Eight police officers were suspended following Jiffri’s death. Samsudheen has publicly demanded the Malappuram Superintendent of Police be suspended as well. 

“We raised the issue in the assembly. Regrettably, the government is yet to take appropriate action against the SP. We suspect the possibility of the SP’s involvement or knowledge in the custodial torture. To facilitate an unhindered investigation by the CBI, we firmly demand the removal of Malappuram SP,” Samsudheen said.

The postmortem examination referenced above also showed that two packets of a crystalline substance were found in Jiffri’s abdomen, though tracking down much more detail than that has proven difficult from my desk in California. 

All of this information has been put together from about 10 different articles in Indian/East Asian news outlets, almost none of which fully agree with each other on every detail surrounding this case. To that end, about half of them spell Thamir’s name “Tamir Jiffri” or “Tamir/Thamir Geoffrey.” I don’t know if this is because accurate information is hard to come by in certain parts of the world or because online translators take certain auto-programmed liberties which can often lead to errors. It could be any number of things.

What I DO know is a young man appears to have been arrested either at his home or in a nearby town with some MDMA on him, a drug very near and dear to my own heart. That young man was dead hours later and a postmortem examination showed he took one hell of a beating before he died. All the police involved have been suspended and Jiffri’s family and local representatives have been demanding action be taken ever since.

It is also worth mentioning here that India has some extremely stringent laws regarding drug possession and use. Possession of small quantities of drugs in India is punishable by six months imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. Large amounts get you 10-20 years and habitual offenders are eligible for the death penalty. This is small beer compared to a country like Singapore where 15 people have been executed in the last year for drug use, but still a terrifying reality for anyone who wants to eat or sell a bit of Molly in India.

Thamir Jiffri’s family, Kerala Police, Malappuram Police and any of the journalists who wrote the articles I referenced did not return my attempts to contact them. Nonetheless, limited details of this terribly tragic situation have made their way all the way from Kerala, India to the West Coast of America, where pretty soon we’ll be paying exorbitant prices for some guy named Indica to doll us out two points of MDMA from his silly little doctor’s office in Palo Alto. At the risk of editorializing a bit, we mustn’t let stories like Thamir’s go untold as we fight to end the drug war in America because overseas they get executed, put into work camps, or allegedly beaten to death in police stations. 

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