Synthetic marijuana products have been banned under Oklahoma and federal laws. In 2011, the Cherokee Nation Tax Commission alerted owners of tribally licensed smoke shops that they are not to sell synthetic marijuana products. COURTESY PHOTO

Synthetic marijuana barred in tribally licensed smoke shops

Synthetic marijuana products have been banned under Oklahoma and federal laws. In 2011, the Cherokee Nation Tax Commission alerted owners of tribally licensed smoke shops that they are not to sell synthetic marijuana products. COURTESY PHOTO
Synthetic marijuana products have been banned under Oklahoma and federal laws. In 2011, the Cherokee Nation Tax Commission alerted owners of tribally licensed smoke shops that they are not to sell synthetic marijuana products. COURTESY PHOTO
BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
12/08/2011 08:08 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Tax Commission recently sent out letters to owners of tribally licensed smoke shops to remind them of the illegality of selling synthetic marijuana.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, synthetic marijuana is a mixture of herbs and spices that is sprayed with a synthetic compound chemically similar to Tetrahydrocannabinol or more commonly known as THC, the ingredient in marijuana.

Two of the names these types of products are sold under are “K2” and “Spice.”

CN Tax Commission Administrator Sharon Swepston said a law change from the U.S. Department of Justice outlawing the sale of synthetic marijuana prompted the letter.

“You’re hearing on the news where these kids are getting ahold of it. I just wanted to make sure that we were all on the same page and this was just a reminder to them that we cannot sell it,” she said.

The Tax Commission letter states the “drugs are extremely dangerous with unpredictable results for the users, and have become increasingly popular with young adults and children because they have been poorly regulated and often widely available in convenience stores and head shops.”

On March 1, the DOJ through the DEA passed laws that made it illegal to sell, distribute or possess synthetic marijuana.

Swepston said the illegal substances are marketed as bath salts, potpourri and even plant food.

“There was some stuff being sold like a potpourri and they (smoke shop owners) actually called us when they started hearing (it in the news prior to the new law),” she said. “They called and said ‘we want to make sure this is OK.’ What I had them do was fax me all the information about the ingredients and all of that and then I in turn give it to the AG (attorney general) and let them look at it to make sure that it is legal to sell or not.”

The products considered illegal contain mephedrone, methylenedioxypyrovalerone or methylone. As of Oct. 21, merchandise having these ingredients has been deemed illegal to sell or possess in tribally licensed smoke shops.

The long-term effects of the synthetic marijuana are unknown, but the short-term effects are similar to marijuana highs.

“They’re buying it and then they’re smoking it because it gives them the same high that marijuana would, but it’s just a synthetic deal,” Swepston said. “It says on the package it’s ‘not for human consumption’ and all of that, but it doesn’t keep people from evidently doing that.”

She said the Tax Commission does routinely inspect tribally licensed smoke shops to ensure the shops are not selling synthetic marijuana products.

“They never know when we’re going to show up,” she said. “They are aware of the federal laws and now the Oklahoma law that banned the products that have these ingredients in them.”

Punishment for individuals caught with these synthetic marijuana substances consists of possible jail time and fines in the thousands of dollars.

jami-custer@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560



About the Author
Reporter

Jami Murphy graduated from Locust Grove High School in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2006 from Northeastern State University and began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007.

She said the Cherokee Phoenix has allowed her the opportunity to share valuable information with the Cherokee people on a daily basis. 

Jami married Michael Murphy in 2014. They have two sons, Caden and Austin. Together they have four children, including Johnny and Chase. They also have two grandchildren, Bentley and Baylea. 

She is a Cherokee Nation citizen and said working for the Cherokee Phoenix has meant a great deal to her. 

“My great-great-great-great grandfather, John Leaf Springston, worked for the paper long ago. It’s like coming full circle. I’ve learned so much about myself, the Cherokee people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Jami is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. You can follow her on Twitter @jamilynnmurphy or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jamimurphy2014.
jami-murphy@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560
Reporter Jami Murphy graduated from Locust Grove High School in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2006 from Northeastern State University and began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007. She said the Cherokee Phoenix has allowed her the opportunity to share valuable information with the Cherokee people on a daily basis. Jami married Michael Murphy in 2014. They have two sons, Caden and Austin. Together they have four children, including Johnny and Chase. They also have two grandchildren, Bentley and Baylea. She is a Cherokee Nation citizen and said working for the Cherokee Phoenix has meant a great deal to her. “My great-great-great-great grandfather, John Leaf Springston, worked for the paper long ago. It’s like coming full circle. I’ve learned so much about myself, the Cherokee people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.” Jami is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. You can follow her on Twitter @jamilynnmurphy or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jamimurphy2014.

Health

BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter – @cp_wchavez
09/27/2016 08:15 AM
<strong>This is Part 1 of a multiple-part series about the opioid epidemic.</strong> TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The United States is undergoing an opioid epidemic, and Oklahoma is near the top of a nationwide list for drug-poisoning deaths. Cherokee Nation’s Behavioral Health defines an opioid as an umbrella term for a natural or synthetic drug derived from or related to the opium poppy plant. Opioids attach to receptors in the central nervous system reducing pain signals to the brain. According to takeasprescribed.org, a website provided by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, in 2012 Oklahoma had the fifth-highest unintentional poisoning death rate in the nation (18.6 deaths per 100,000 population). Prescription painkillers were involved in nine out of 10 prescription drug-related deaths, with 460 opioid-involved deaths in 2012 alone. Anyone can be at risk of overdose if prescription drugs are not taken as directed and with a valid prescription, said Sam Bradshaw, CN Prevention “Partnership for Success” Project director, who is with a Behavioral Health group working against prescription drug abuse. Adults aged 35-54 had the highest death rate of any age group for prescription- and nonprescription-related overdoses, and men are more likely to die of an opioid-related overdose than women, according to takeasprescribed.org. “It’s a national epidemic. I think it’s really important to share that. It’s not just in northeast Oklahoma or a Cherokee problem. This is a national problem that is affecting our state and our 14-county Cherokee Nation service area,” Bradshaw said. He said when prescription drug abuse prevention is discussed, people in his field talk about opioids. Opioids are painkillers, and Bradshaw said many people live with chronic pain and need the painkillers. Commonly used opioids are oxycodone, morphine, codeine, heroin, fentanyl, methadone, opium Demerol, Percocet, Lortab and hydrocodone. “Now, there’s a whole bunch of different ones, but the most prescribed opioid is hydrocodone. The United States is the number one consumer of hydrocodone (99 percent) in the world,” he said. More overdose deaths involve hydrocodone or oxycodone than all illegal drugs and alcohol combined, said CN certified prevention specialist Coleman Cox, who educates people about opioid drug abuse in Wagoner County. National Vital Statistics System data from 2015 indicate that deaths in Oklahoma attributable to opioids have exceeded the national rate with rapid increases since 1999. In that period, death rates attributable to painkillers in at least half of the 14 counties in the CN’s jurisdiction exceed the state rate of 8.7 per 100,000. Those counties are Cherokee (13), McIntosh (11.6), Mayes (11.1), Muskogee (11.1), Rogers (8.9), Sequoyah (12.3) and Wagoner (12.5). Opioid overdose signs include no response to stimuli, shallow or stopped breathing, person can’t be woken up, unusual snoring or gurgling sounds, blue-grey lips or finger tips and floppy arms and legs. It is recommended to not assume a person is asleep if you cannot get a response from him or her and to not let a person at risk “sleep it off.” Also, with a suspected overdose, do not leave the person alone and do not give the person anything to eat or drink or induce vomiting. “People believe that medication that comes from a doctor is less harmful. So, what happens with that is that people become accidentally addicted,” Bradshaw said. “It is really important to say this is a non-discriminatory destroyer. It doesn’t matter what your economic background is, your social class doesn’t matter or race. It’s an equal opportunity destroyer. Anybody can get addicted.” Addiction sometimes occurs after a person has surgery and is prescribed an opioid painkiller, he added. Bradshaw said he is wary of how he talks about prescription painkiller addiction because he has had “some push back from people in chronic pain” that rely on prescribed painkillers to relieve their pain. “We are not trying to take them away from people who legitimately need these medications. We have to have a balanced approach. We recognize and know that there are people in chronic pain that need their pain medication,” he said. “They should not feel like they are being profiled as a drug addict to get what they need to survive. What we are tying to prevent is misuse and abuse and dependency of opioid painkillers.” He said painkillers should be used appropriately or “taken as prescribed.” Problems and addictions can occur when people take more than the amount prescribed. “If you can’t get through the day without it, you’re dependent. That’s what we see. The people that are overdosing and dying are usually dependent on them,” Bradshaw said. “They’re taking 10 to 40 to 50 Lortabs a day, and that’s not a stretch.” There is no single indicator for when opioid abuse became a problem, but the epidemic claimed 28,647 lives in 2014, a four-fold increase in opioid overdoses since 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To combat the epidemic, the CN received a $1 million Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant to strengthen drug misuse prevention efforts. A Department of Health and Human Services release states the grant program wants state and tribal entities to target prescription drug misuse, raise awareness about sharing medications and address the risks of overprescribing. It also seeks to raise community awareness and bring prescription drug misuse prevention activities and education to schools, communities, parents, prescribers and their patients.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
09/22/2016 05:30 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A recently released report states Oklahoma has the eighth-highest adult obesity rate in the nation. A report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation states almost 34 percent of adults in the state are obese. Louisiana is ranked No. 1, while West Virginia, Mississippi and Alabama tied for second place. Arkansas is ranked No. 6. The rankings are based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Adult obesity rates in Oklahoma remained stable since the last survey, The Oklahoman reports. Kansas and Kentucky saw their obesity rates increase. Richard Hamburg, Trust for America’s Health interim president and CEO, said “obesity remains one of the most significant epidemics our country has faced, contributing to millions of preventable illnesses and billions of dollars in avoidable health care costs.” According to the report, 17 percent of children in Oklahoman live in households that have limited access to adequate food and nutrition due to cost, proximity and other reasons. The report also said the 30 percent of high school students in the state reported drinking one or more cans of soda per day. To encourage fitness, 18 states, including Oklahoma, have set a minimum amount of time that elementary students must participate in physical education.
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/21/2016 05:00 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – The Claremore Indian Hospital will host an Affordable Care Act Outreach and Enrollment Fair from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 20, less than two weeks before the Nov. 1 open enrollment. “Nov. 1, 2016, will mark the beginning of the fourth Open Enrollment Period for the ACA Health Insurance Marketplace,” Sheila Dishno, patient benefit coordinator, said. “Even though members of federally recognized tribes have a special monthly enrollment status, it is important for American Indian and Alaska Native individuals and families to learn about their insurance options. Whether it’s purchasing insurance through the Marketplace or qualifying for SoonerCare, knowing that you have quality coverage provides peace of mind.” Dishno said people who attend the fair should bring their Social Security cards, pay stubs, W-2 forms or wage and tax statements, policy numbers for any current health insurance and information about any health insurance they or their families could get from an employer. Also Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Oklahoma will attend to assist patients with signing up for free-to-low-cost health insurance. The hospital is located at 101 S. Moore Ave. For more information, call 918-342-6240.
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/13/2016 12:00 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – The Claremore Indian Hospital on Sept. 29 will sponsor a U.S. Veterans Affairs Enrollment Fair to assist Native American veteran patients in applying for eligibility for health care services through the VA. The fair is slated for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in its Large Conference Room as benefit coordinators and representatives from the VA and Disabled American Veterans assist with application processing. To enroll, veterans must bring financial information such as income and resources and their DD-214 military discharge papers. If already enrolled, call 918-342-6507, 918-342-6240 or 918-342-6559 to update your file. Also, the VA now requires all veterans to complete a MEANS test yearly. Veterans who have not completed tests in the past year, can complete them at the fair. The hospital is located at 101 S. Moore Ave.
BY STAFF REPORTS
08/29/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s work creating healthier conditions for its citizens is now ranked among the best in the country, a first for any tribe. In late August, the CN Public Health received accreditation from the Public Health Accreditation Board. The PHAB serves as the national public health accrediting body. It is jointly supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It sets standards for the nation’s nearly 3,000 governmental public health departments to improve the quality of their services and performance. Fewer than 200 public health agencies nationally have earned the title in the past five years. The CN is the first tribe to now hold that honor. “The Cherokee Nation joins the growing ranks of accredited health departments in a strong commitment to their public health mission,” PHAB President and CEO Kaye Bender said. “The peer-review process provides valuable feedback to inform health departments of their strengths and areas for improvement, so that they can better protect and promote the health of the people they serve in their communities. Residents of a community served by a nationally accredited health department can be assured that their health department has demonstrated the capacity to protect and promote the health of that community.” The Public Health team has worked on initiatives such as Zika Virus preparedness planning, launching community walking groups, funding school community gardens, implementing a cancer tumor registry database and conducting research with universities on issues such as triggers for childhood asthma. It also pays entry fees to 5K races and operates a gym with certified public health trainers for CN citizens and employees for free to promote healthier lifestyles. Public Health agencies, including the CN’s, promote healthy behavior; preventing diseases and injuries; ensuring access to safe food, water, clean air and life-saving immunizations; and responding to public health emergencies. The Oklahoma Department of Health, Oklahoma City-County Health Department, Tulsa Health Department, Comanche County Health Department and the CN are the only accredited entities statewide. “Our congratulations to the Cherokee Nation for achieving national public health accreditation,” Dr. Terry Cline, Oklahoma State Department of Health commissioner and Health and Human Services secretary, said. “As the first tribal nation in the country to achieve this accreditation, the Cherokee Nation continues a long tradition of excellence and quality in protecting and promoting health, and they are to be commended for this outstanding accomplishment.” According to the PHAB, a University of Chicago study found that more than 90 percent of health departments accredited for one year indicated that accreditation helped them better identify strengths and weaknesses and more than 80 percent found they improved accountability to stakeholders, while half reported it helped improve their chances for competitive funding. “Receiving national accreditation through the PHAB is a testament to the years of quality work by our public health team at the Cherokee Nation,” Connie Davis, Public Health executive director, said. “This seal of approval allows us to further improve upon our work in public health and on epidemiological issues.” Officials said Public Health leaders spent the past four years working on the accreditation, which involves meeting or exceeding a rigorous, peer-reviewed set of standards. “Achieving accreditation means we at the Cherokee Nation are cognizant of the crucial role of public health in our communities and demonstrates our ability to be a mutually-beneficial partner for all citizens,” Lisa Pivec, Public Health senior director, said. “We believe it communicates our serious commitment to both improving health and delivering quality public health services to all.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
08/29/2016 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Oklahoma Hospital Association recently recognized Cherokee Nation’s W.W. Hastings Hospital for vaccinating the majority of its staff with flu shots this past flu season. The hospital is among 49 in the state to meet the association’s challenge goal of a 96 percent or higher vaccination rate of health care staff for the 2015-16 flu season. More than 800 members of the Hastings staff received the vaccine this past flu season. “Cherokee Nation’s health department and our talented staff that operates the hospital and clinics routinely go above and beyond for the wellness of our tribal citizens,” said Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. “Administration and promotion of the annual flu shot means we are being proactive in ensuring our immunization rates trend positively. That’s important because every year the influenza virus often targets our most vulnerable Cherokee people, including elders and children.” OHA officials said influenza is associated with 36,000 deaths per year and commended the recognized hospitals with certificates for working diligently to protect their patients with vaccinations. “These hospitals have stepped up in ensuring their patients are protected and a number are joining a trend of hospitals nationwide in instituting mandatory vaccination policies,” LaWanna Halstead, OHA vice president of quality and clinical initiatives, said. Hastings Hospital was also recognized recently for receiving four out of five stars from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This places Hastings in the top 4 percent of the more than 7,000 organizations it is compared with. The ratings come from patient satisfaction quality of inpatient care measures. Individuals can use Hospital Compare to compare more than 7,000 Medicare-certified hospitals across the country to compare the quality of care. “The W.W. Hastings Hospital health care providers and staff work tirelessly to ensure our patients receive the best health care possible,” Hastings Hospital CEO Brian Hail said. “Recognition of their efforts from organizations like the Oklahoma Hospital Association and high ratings from our patients on the Hospital Care system serve as validation of our staff’s dedication to first-class health care.” Hastings Hospital received more than 360,000 patient visits in fiscal year 2015. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/services/health" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org/services/health</a>.