Monthly Archives: September 2010

The Good News and the Bad News About Prescription ‘Take Back’

I have some good news and bad news about the government’s efforts to take back prescription drugs.

First, the bad news: while the national Prescription Drug Take Back Day was declared, in many communities, a success, the same can’t be said for Kitsap. We weren’t able to find any locations in Kitsap County that was taking back medications last Saturday. And following a scary incident at Mountain View Middle School last week, drop locations surely seem appropriate here.

Now, the good news: on Tuesday, the Bainbridge Island Police Department announced it would be establish a permanent take-back program, so residents can bring their unused prescription drugs in anytime, Monday through Friday, to the police station near the ferry terminal.

Here’s the word from Bainbridge Police Chief Jon Fehlman:

“Medicines save lives and treat illnesses,” he said in a press release. “But, expired or left-over drugs need to be handled safely and disposed of properly to prevent harm to people and our environment. Storing unneeded drugs increases the risk of accidental poisonings and drug abuse. Medications that are flushed into septic systems or wastewater treatment facilities can end up in surface or ground waters, potentially impacting aquatic organisms. Disposal of medications in the trash is not secure, especially for narcotics like OxyContin, and does not guarantee that medications won’t get into the environment.”

“Community demand for a safe and secure way to dispose of medicines is high,” he added. “This service gives citizens a way to dispose of legally prescribed controlled substances like OxyContin and Ritalin safely and securely.”

To my knowledge, they are the first police agency in the county to take on the program. Call the Bainbridge Police Department at (360) 842-5211 for more information.

Kitsap’s Boat Motors Have Become a Favorite Target for Thieves

You’d think that outboard motors had wings in this county, the way they seem to fly off the backs of boats and vanish without a trace.

In total, 71 such motors were reported stolen in the county between October 2009 and this month, according to Scott Wilson, Kitsap County Sheriff’s spokesman. And that number doesn’t even include ones taken on Bainbridge, nor in the cities of Poulsbo, Port Orchard and Bremerton.

There appears to be a concentration of thefts in South Kitsap, though the motors have disappeared just about everywhere in the county.

Kitsap County Sheriff’s Detective Phil Doremus has been monitoring such thefts and says he’s seen an uptick since the beginning of the year. It’s doubtful that it’s one person or even a single group of individuals taking the motors, he said.

There’s been some arrests and prosecutions in boat motor theft cases, he said, but the crooks often get in and out before owners have even noticed the motors are gone.

So why would thieves target boat motors? It’s not rocket science. As any boat owner would tell you, the things aren’t cheap, and prices can get into the thousands of dollars quickly. Stealing the motor is also a so-called “opportunity crime,” which is basically a way of saying they’re looking for the path of least resistance — an unlocked door or an open window, for instance — to carry out the crime.

In many cases, they’re not even looking for giant, 100+ horsepower motors, but rather for a small outboard motor that can be carried by one, or perhaps two people.

So what can be done about this?

First, for those looking to buy a motor: Doremus does not recommend craigslist, a place where thieves have been able to pawn their stolen goods. If you do go shopping there, he says it’s imperative to check the boat motor’s serial number with your local law enforcement agency. That way, police can check if the motor’s stolen.

Thieves will use a fake name and buy a temporary cell phone to post with the craigslist ad so they can’t be traced back to the theft, Doremus said.

For those who already own such a motor: Dormeus says the best practice is not letting the crooks know you have a boat or motor in the first place, by locking it in a garage. He said some criminal opportunists will drive around the county looking for boats, write down an address with one, and then return after dark to take it. They might also loiter at boat ramps and then follow the owners home to find out where the boat is stored, he said.

Have you experienced a boat motor theft this year? I’d like to hear from you. Please feel free to drop a note below.

Inslee: Safe Disposal Needed in Wake of Bremerton Pill Taking Students

Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, weighed in today following an incident Tuesday at Mountain View Middle School in which nine students were taken to the hospital for taking prescription pills.

“This week, nine middle school students in Bremerton were hospitalized after popping prescription pills some of the students brought from home,” Inslee said in a release. “Our communities need all the options available to them to combat this problem.”

The timing of the incident coincides with the passage of the Safe Drug Disposal Act by the U.S. House of Representatives, a bill aimed at allowing for prescription pill disposal sites without police involvement — which is currently illegal under federal law.

Inslee is a sponsor of the bill.

Unused prescription pills can get into the water supply and also fall into nefarious hands to be sold or abused. The state legislature has even taken aim with some proposed laws that failed to pass this past session.
Such drug overdoses recently surpassed car crashes as the no. 1 cause of death in Washington.
Also coincidentally, Saturday is National “Take-Back” day. Drop sites around the country will be available for anyone who wishes to turn in unused prescription drugs.

This is an alarm our newspaper first sounded in 2008 in a project called “A Bitter Pill.”

Here’s the full press release from Inslee’s office:

“This afternoon, the House of Representatives passed Rep. Jay Inslee’s (WA-01) Safe Drug Disposal Act, H.R. 5809, by unanimous consent.  This important bipartisan legislation will break down barriers preventing communities from starting comprehensive and all inclusive drug take-back programs in accordance with Drug Enforcement Agency guidelines.  Drug take-back programs provide communities with a safe, legal option for disposing unwanted or unneeded prescription medication.

“Passing the Safe Drug Disposal Act is a big win for Washington families,” said Rep. Inslee.  “Prescription drug abuse is a growing plague in our communities.  This week, nine middle school students in Bremerton were hospitalized after popping prescription pills some of the students brought from home.  Our communities need all the options available to them to combat this problem.  The Safe Drug Disposal Act will give them a common sense option to easily and safely get rid of leftover prescription medication.”

Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem in Washington state and around the country.  Between 1999 and 2006, the number of fatal poisonings involving prescription drugs more than tripled across the United States.  Prescription drug overdoses have now surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of accidental deaths in Washington state.  Three in five teens say prescription pain relievers are easy to get from parents’ medicine cabinets and over half of prescription drug abusers get the medicines from a friend or relative.

“Drug overdoses are now the #1 cause of accidental death in Washington State.
In many areas, including Snohomish County, prescription drugs are involved in a majority of overdoses,” said John Gahagan, Vice-Chair of the Science and Management of Addictions (SAMA) Foundation. Mr. Gahagan’s son, Sean, died of a prescription drug overdose. “Whether left unused in medicine cabinets, tossed in the garbage or flushed down the toilet, these drugs represent a danger to the health of our youth and the health of our environment.   Rep. Inslee’s bill is a critical step in support of efforts to ensure that unneeded controlled substances are securely collected from homes and disposed of safely.”

The Safe Drug Disposal Act would allow local agencies and organizations to set-up and run safe drug disposal efforts, like drop-off boxes and mail-in programs, in accordance with future DEA regulations.  Groups, authorized by the Attorney General would be able to accept controlled substances for the purpose of disposal.  The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) would be able to issue rules regarding drug take back programs. The bill also calls for a new public awareness campaign to educate citizens about the dangers of prescription drugs.

Until now, there has been no safe way for consumers to dispose of unwanted prescription drugs.  Under current law, consumers are prohibited from giving unneeded, unused or expired drugs to anyone besides law enforcement.

Rep. Inslee worked with many local, regional and national organizations to craft the language of the Safe Drug Disposal Act.  In Washington state, local agencies and community groups like Group Health and Bartell Drugs have tackled this problem head-on and developed successful pilot safe drug disposal programs.  Bartell Drugs provided the first take-back locations in Washington’s pioneering Unwanted Medicine Return program and continues to expand locations at its stores in King , Pierce and Snohomish counties.

“Bartell’s understands the need for the safe and environmentally sound disposal of prescription drugs,” said George D. Bartell, Chairman and CEO of family-owned, Seattle-based Bartell Drugs. “The Safe Drug Disposal Act will play an important role in safeguarding our environment, reducing abuse and saving lives.  We heartily applaud Representative Inslee’s efforts behind this bill.”

Hauge Responds to the ‘Narrative’ About Gun Club Lawsuit

On Sunday, Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge wrote what he called “my response to the ‘narrative’ that has been created about recent actions by my office.” He posted a five-point post to his Facebook page.

On Sunday, we ran two pieces about the county’s lawsuit against the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club, which you can read here and here. Also, here’s a link to our overall coverage of the suit. And some of the points he makes were already addressed in a previous story.

Here’s Hauge’s post:

Please consider this my response to the “narrative” that has been created about recent actions by my office.  I am responsible for those actions and it is fair that I be judged on them.  However, the basis for that judgment should be fact—not a construct created to further a political agenda.

Fact One:  I am not anti-gun.  No one has asked me about this directly.  The truth is that I own many firearms, mostly handguns, and have shot them regularly since I was a child.  I hunt occasionally and practice with my handguns as often as I can.  Usually I use the indoor range at “The Marksman” in Puyallup.

Fact Two: I have no personal grudge against Marcus Carter.  Indeed, before we learned he was manufacturing machine guns I regularly assisted him in his firearm safety classes.  I taught the lesson about firearms and the law.  In those classes, I tried to make this one point above all: The constitution of the State of Washington unambiguously grants its citizens the right to bear arms in defense of themselves and their homes; however, that right carries with it great responsibilities.  The statutes of the State of Washington spell out the rules for the possession and use of firearms.  My office will support lawful use and respond immediately and firmly to unlawful use.

Fact Three:  My office has not repeatedly prosecuted Mr. Carter.  There is one pending action.  Twice Kitsap County Superior Court judges, using different reasons, have prevented us from taking the case to a jury.  Twice, the next higher court, the Court of Appeals, has said they were wrong and sent the case back for trial.  There is nothing extraordinary about our office appealing a ruling of the superior court.  Judges can make mistakes, and an appeal is the mechanism to correct their errors.  We are pursuing this not because I hate guns, but because machine guns are inherently dangerous and we think the law is clear.  A local judge has blocked the trial yet again on a new theory raised just before trial.  We have again appealed and expect the case to be sent back for trial sometime this year.  But appellate courts keep their own schedule; that’s why it’s taken so long.  We will pursue this prosecution.  There is no question that Mr. Carter manufactured and possessed a machine gun.  The reports are part of the public record.  There is a video tape of the weapon firing on full auto that no news agency has ever asked to see.  My office cannot ignore this clear violation of the law.  To do so would be to effectively authorize the manufacture and possession of machine guns in our community.  If that is to be the rule, it should be established by the legislature or the courts.  Thus far, the court that counts, the Court of Appeals, has agreed with us.

Fact Four:  Our goal has never been to close the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club.  Our position is set forth in a letter we sent to the club in May of this year.   We’ve provided more than one copy of this letter to every local news  outlet, but no one has seen fit to print it.  It is posted on our portion of the County’s website ( Complaint, beginning on pg. 72).  It is an attachment to the core document in this suit, the Complaint.  In summary our position has been that we have credible information that the Club may have violated variety of permitting, zoning, and environmental laws.  It is our job to address those concerns.  We have asked the Club’s cooperation in resolving these issues but received no helpful response.  Very recently, credible information came to us that there may be significant safety concerns.  By all reports, the range officers at the club do an outstanding job.  Every shooter is made to follow appropriate procedures.  But the day-to-day operation of the ranges is not the issue.  The concerns arise from the layout of the ranges themselves.  There are standards in the shooting industry to address these issues.  They exist to ensure peaceful co-existence of gun clubs with their neighbors.  The Club’s facilities have expanded beyond those that existed when it was “grandfathered” into the current zoning code.  This expansion makes those industry standards relevant.  Like the machine gun case, my office would be giving its approval to what might well be law violations affecting public safety if we ignored this situation.

Fact Five:  The land use action concerning the club did not spring up just in time for me to use it in a political campaign.  The dialog between the regulatory agencies, the Club, and the surrounding property owners has been going on for years (The Mount Document, photos 1994-2009 pgs 20, 67, 71 and 73).  It was filed now because the Club leadership has refused to engage in that dialog in any kind of constructive manner.   Indeed, it is just as reasonable to assume that the Club orchestrated this crisis to coincide with the upcoming election.  As I’ve said before, I certainly recognize that I’m not doing my reelection campaign any good by filing this action now.

Prosecutors do not—and should not—have the authority pick and choose among the laws they are sworn to enforce.  We do indeed have to make choices about how to expend our resources, but those choices should be guided by principle.  I have been advised that the politically expedient thing to do would be to look the other way and in effect authorize the manufacture of machine guns and the violation of our community’s environmental and zoning protections.  Certainly that’s the consensus in the blogosphere.  But that’s not how it works.  The prosecutor’s first duty is not to hew to any party line or even to get reelected.  The prosecutor’s job is to enforce the law as best they can.  That’s all I’m trying to do.

Russ Hauge

Tahuya Travel Company Continues Alaska Airlines Frequent Flyer Miles Fight

Consumer or airline: who owns frequent flyer miles?

That’s a question Brad Carey, owner of Tahuya-based Carey travel, has been asking for a long time now.

And Carey’s fight isn’t over yet. He wrote an email recently to say that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments from both he and Alaska Airlines in late August.

A U.S. District Court Judge ruled in 2009 that Carey isn’t allowed to buy and sell airline miles, because the airlines ban the practice under no uncertain terms in their user agreements.

Each side had 15 minutes to make an argument before three judges, who then get to ask some questions.

The court hasn’t yet made a ruling, but Carey is optimistic.

“We are confident we will receive a favorable ruling several months later,” he said.

I’ll keep you posted.