What are the Legal Penalties for “Sippin on Sizzurp”?

“Sippin’ on Some Sizzurp” Can Leave You Sittin’ in a Cell
Sizzurp is one of a number of slang terms used for a potent prescription strength cough syrup. Other names for the drug include purple drank, lean, and purple jelly, among others. There are also several potential drug combinations that, when mixed together, can produce a variation of sizzurp. But, the most popular recreational use combination is codeine and the prescription antihistamine promethazine because it’s considered to be the most potent. Regardless of the drug combination, however, sizzurp is a controlled substance and, unless it’s been prescribed to you, sizzurp is illegal. It’s also illegal to drive while under the influence of sizzurp, even if you have a prescription.

Sizzurp Drug Classification
Separate from promethazine, codeine is classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a schedule II drug, though when combined with other drugs it can fall anywhere between a schedule I and a schedule V drug on the DEA schedule list. Prescription cough syrups are currently classified as schedule V drugs. However, depending on the amount of codeine in the drug combination, the sizzurp could be classified as high as a schedule III drug. This is important because the higher the schedule number the more serious the illegal possession charges.

Sizzurp and the Law
Since there aren’t any laws that currently exist to distinguish the use of sizzurp from any other controlled substance, federal and state sentencing guidelines for the cough syrup would fall in line with the federally mandated drug schedules. Since sizzurp is a controlled substance, you will be arrested and charged with a DUI if you’re caught driving under the influence of it. What happens to you from that point is going to depend on several factors. These include:

Valid prescription: If you have a valid prescription, you will not be charged with any laws related to illegal possession of a controlled substance. If you don’t have a prescription, and the bottle is in your possession, you will be charged based on the content of the syrup. The higher the codeine content the more serious the charges.

Level of Intoxication: If you appear to be slightly drowsy to the officer who stopped you, but you have a valid prescription for the drug, it’s not unheard of that you could be released without formal charges (though you may be required to call someone to pick you up). However, if you appear to be inebriated (slurred speech, inability to pass sobriety tests), you will be charged with a DUI regardless of whether or not you have a valid prescription.

Reason for Stop: If you are pulled over by the police because they suspect you are driving while impaired, you could face charges relevant to the outcome of the investigation. However, if you were involved in an at-fault accident and you are found to have been driving under the influence of sizzurp, you will face additional, more serious charges, just as you would for being under the influence of any other controlled substance. Those charges will be dependent upon property damage and whether or not your actions resulted in injury or death to others.

Each state differs related to DUI/DWI laws. If you are under the influence of sizzurp while you’re driving, you will face criminal charges just as you would for being under the influence of any other controlled substance. Additionally, just as with any other controlled substance, you will face even more severe charges if you don’t have a prescription for the cough syrup.

Horrific Truth behind the movie “Puncture” – Inadequate Needle Safety in the US

It is not a very well-kept secret that medicine is big business and that money and corporate influence play a significant role in to what medications, treatments and equipment reach patients and healthcare workers. This reality was highlighted in the 2011 movie Puncture. Puncture details how control over the market for needles contributed to the death of a nurse.

The Movie
The screenplay for Puncture was written by attorney Paul Danziger, who along with attorney Michael Weiss, brought a lawsuit against needle manufacturers. The problem of needle manufacturer monopolistic activities was brought to light after a nurse named Vicky was stuck by a contaminated needle while caring for a patient. As a result of the needle prick, Vicky contracted HIV. She eventually died from AIDs. Saddened by her predicament, Jeffrey Dancort, a friend of Vicky’s and an inventor, designed a needle with built in safety features that would substantially cut down on the number of accidental needle pricks. While healthcare workers were eager to use safer needles, Dancort encountered significant roadblocks in attempting to bring the needle to market. This led Dancort to tell his story to Danziger and Weiss.

Puncture details the story of how Vicky’s needle prick and Dancort’s desire to prevent this from happening again led to the discovery by Danziger and Weiss of a conspiracy involving a needle manufacturer and its distributor to monopolize the medical needle market. Danziger and Weiss agreed to take Dancort’s case and sued the needle manufacturer that blocked him from entering the marketplace. Along the way they discovered that only manufacturers who were willing and able to buy their way into the distribution channels could get their products into the hands of hospitals and healthcare workers.

Hospitals purchase equipment and goods through group purchasing organizations (GPOs). In theory this allows several hospitals to pool their buying power and take advantage of savings that the bulk purchasing would provide. Ironically, another goal of GPOs is to promote quality healthcare. However, GPOs and manufacturers often enter into long-term exclusive agreements that have financial repercussions if the GPO purchases products from another manufacturer. Thus, even if a hospital wanted to purchase the safer needle at the same price, the GPO refused to sell it because of the agreement it had with the current needle supplier.

After several dramatic twists and turns and with the help of a third attorney, Mark Lanier, the lawsuit was eventually settled for over $100 million.

The Reality
The problem of healthcare workers getting injured by needle sticks is a significant one. Each year there are 800,000 accidental needle stick injuries in hospitals. Over 1,000 healthcare workers who are stuck contract HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases. Worldwide the statistics are even more shocking. Because hospitals purchase medical devices through GPOs, legislative intervention has been necessary to help get safer needles into the hands of healthcare workers. In 2000, President Clinton signed the Needle-Stick Safety and Prevention Act which requires the use of safer needles. As a result, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued rules requiring hospitals and other employers to “identify, evaluate, and implement the use of safer medical devices.” On a local level several states including California have enacted laws with similar requirements. Such legislative intervention is sure to have an impact on the number of needle sticks as well as healthcare worker illnesses and deaths from needle sticks. But how much of an impact?

Despite the federal and local government attempts to get safer needles into the hands of healthcare workers, hospitals may be able to continue to use needles that are arguably not very safe. OSHA’s rules do not specify which needles are safer as it has a policy of not endorsing specific products. Furthermore, an employer can circumvent the requirement of using safer needles if such needles are not readily available in the market. Could an employer skirt OSHA’s requirements by either arguing that the needles that is uses are safe, or by arguing that because a particular needle is the only one its GPO offers, it is the only one available in the marketplace?

Blackfish: Sea World v. OSHA

Workplace safety has been a cause of concern in the United States for over a century. Such concern has led to a slew of federal and local workplace safety regulations. The Railroad Safety Appliance Act helped significantly reduce the number of worker injuries in the railroad industry. Coal mine worker fatalities averaged over 2,000 a year in the early 1900s, leading to the passage of the Federal Coal Mine Safety Act of 1952, the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. Activism over children working in factories resulted in passage of the Keating–Owen Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. The most well-known set of regulations related to labor is the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 that was designed to ensure that employers provide employees with an environment free from hazards.

Animals Work for Food
However, in the entertainment industry, “work” is also performed by animals. While considered by most as property, many animals routinely perform and in some instances get “paid” to do so. Indeed, the entertainment industry relies heavily on animals for revenue. Zoos, circuses, carnivals, aquariums, theme parks, television and movies all regularly feature animals. Even though there is a history of maltreatment and accidental injury and death to animals who work, there are very few laws in place to protect animals, and certainly none as comprehensive as OSHA. The only federal law that addresses the treatment of animals that are exhibited to the public is the Animal Welfare Act of 1966. The Animal Welfare Act requires that minimum standards of care and treatment be provided for animals that are bred for commercial sale, used in research, transported commercially, or exhibited to the public. States also have animal welfare laws. For example, 41 states make certain types of animal cruelty felonies. Six states, however, exempt exhibited animals from their animal cruelty rules. Most laws focus on animal safety during transport. Others are concerned with making sure that worldwide animal populations are maintained.

Blackfish Documentary
Blackfish, a documentary released at the Sundance Film Festival in January, 2013 and recently shown on CNN documents the poor treatment of Tilikum, a dolphin, at Orlando’s Sea World. According to filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite and animal rights advocates such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, dolphins in captivity at Sea World suffer from boredom and stress. They are simply too large, too socially aware, and too intelligent to thrive in captivity. In other words, these dolphins go “stir crazy” in captivity. They become aggressive. According to Cowperthwaite, Tilikum’s aggression led to the 2010 killing of his trainer Sea World employee Dawn Brancheau as well as the deaths of two other people. In the aftermath of Brancheau’s death OSHA stepped in. But OSHA is charged with ensuring the safety of people. Thus, it stepped in out of concern for the safety of Sea World employees, not out of concern for the health and safety of Tilikum and other whales.

Nonetheless, Brancheau’s death and Blackfish have had an impact. They have brought the conversation about how exhibit animals should be treated out of the meeting rooms of scientists and animal advocacy groups into elementary school classrooms and the homes of consumers across the country. Many believe that Sea World and similar businesses should change how they treat dolphins. Children and celebrities are refusing to patronize Sea World until it changes it policies. Perhaps if there were regulations in place that looked at animal health and safety in a similar way that legislators have looked at the safety of workers, animals might be treated vastly differently. Indeed, there are some dolphin experts who would produce evidence to support the position that dolphins should not be kept in captivity at all.

Sea World vehemently disagrees with the conclusions reached in Blackfish about the treatment of dolphins at Sea World. Regardless of who is right– Sea World or Cowperthwaite–wouldn’t a set of OSHA-like regulations for exhibit animals at least force the scientific community to look at the research and come to a consensus on how to best treat animals in captivity?