FRANKFORT, Ky. — Lewis County Sheriff Johnny Bivens spoke in Frankfort, Ky. in front of the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday, urging legislation for House Bill 4 against the synthetic drug Flakka, which has plagued the Tristate area.
The synthetic drug known as Flakka, has been called by many as the The Devil’s drug, and Lewis County Sheriff Bivens had the opportunity to expound upon the drug’s detriment to the House Judiciary Committee, something that he has been looking forward to since the drug had infiltrated Lewis County, Ky. and other areas in the Tristate.
“I gave a testimony in front of the House Judiciary Committee in Frankfort yesterday in support of House Bill 4 that has been proposed by Representative Rock Adkins,” Bivens said. “Basically, in speaking to them I gave them some examples of the drug and what experiences we’ve had, and what experiences we’ve had in Lewis County, southern Ohio, Greenup County, and places where we have seen it. At the end of the day, I feel that the punishment should be in the same structure and category as methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, because I don’t think that there is any difference.”
The effects of Flakka when used can be so horrific, according to Bivens, that the person or persons using it appears to be completely deranged.
“It is the worse drug that I have ever witnessed, because of the effects of it. When people use the drug they become completely dangerous, they go into people’s homes unannounced, thinking that somebody is chasing them, it is just crazy,” he said.
As a result of the extreme effects that Flakka has on it’s users, law enforcement must increase their use of force to apprehend the culprit.
“We we respond, we have to increase our use of force, because they always think that someone is trying to kill them,” he said. “The biggest issue is that Flakka was a class B misdemeanor, and it was a class a misdemeanor to sell it, regardless of the amount. You could fill up a truck load of Flakka in Kentucky, and it is a misdemeanor. So it is a misdemeanor at the State level. There is a handful of states that adopted the federal law, but unfortunately, Kentucky wasn’t one of them.”
He said his objective is to see that there punishment for the use and distribution of Flakka is increased.
“What I am doing with it is this, I didn’t think that the punishment for the use of the drug was severe enough here, and I made it my goal to see this through, and see if we could get some legislation passed to put it in the same category as these other drugs, or make the punishment stiffer, because what we were seeing is the proper punishment was not in place, so there was no deterrent whatsoever for the people using the drug, or even selling it. They would do their few days in jail, and then get out With the punishment the way it was, it was not a deterrent at all to get these people to participate in treatment.”
As Flakka flooded into Lewis County in 2014, the resources of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Department were being exhausted.
“Starting in 2014, in about a six month period, it was exhausting our resources, we only have myself, and three full time deputies, and we were responding to a handful of calls each day in regard to people who were abusing this drug,” he said. “A handful is not many, but it takes a unified response, because if you take them into custody, and take them to jail, the jail is probably not going to take them because they are so damn crazy, when they are on the drug. You have to take them to a medical facility and sit with them, and wait until they are cleared. It just exhausts your resources.”
Reportedly, the drug has been sold for as high as 500 per gram, according to Bivens.
“It was the most popular drug here for months. We seized five pounds of it, and that is a lot. We were seeing the average price was $250 a gram, and we have seen it go as high as 400, or 500, and that makes for a very large profit,” he said. “It is more addictive than meth, cocaine, and even the distributors of it were becoming addicted to it. We were seeing it traded for sexual favors, it is just horrible.”
Flakka is believed to be coming from China, and making it’s way into the United States, according to Bivens.
“It is coming from China. Folks are ordering it online, and they go out here and recruit people to supply them with an address or somewhere they can deliver it to, and there name is not on anything,” he said. “And the bad thing is, the people from there know what they are doing. They will discreetly label it as something else, because they are making a ton of money too.”
There have been incidences where Flakka has been transported without detection through postal services and even airports, something the Sheriff is extremely concerned about.
“It really concerns me that this drug was coming through postal services, airports, and places like that, and very seldom did it ever get pulled,” he said. “We did have some seizures from JFK Airport, with some packages that were coming here, but it was pretty common to becoming in through the postal services actually there in Portsmouth, Ohio.
In 2015, 30 arrests were made in connection to the use and or distribution of Flakka in Lewis County.
“We made about 30 arrests last year as a result of people either possessing this drug, or committing crimes as a result of being under the influence of it,” he said. “The numbers have gone up since then. I would say now that is probably closer to 45 arrests that we have made.”
There have been deaths reported in the Tristate area as a result of the drug Flakka.
“I am aware of one which was a lady from Boyd County. Her family is from Portsmouth, and I have really advocated for them, and unfortunately, we will probably never be able to prove where she got the drug,’ he said. “Again, this isn’t even something that happened in Lewis County, but when they saw us put the information out about this drug they contacted our office, and we still stay in touch. So there have been some deaths from this drug, in the Tristate area, there is no doubt about that.”
He said he is very hopeful that House Bill 4 will pass through the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Every committee member of the House that was present voted in favor of the Bill, and it will now go to the Senate Judiciary Committee,” he said. “I think that the Bill has Bipartisan support, and I think that it is going to happen.”
Representative Rocky Adkins (left), and Lewis Co., Ky. Sheriff Johnny Bivens (right) testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday regarding House Bill 4.
Reach Portia Williams at 740-353-3101, ext. 1929, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.