U.S. Customs and Border Protection (U.S. Government Work)/flickr

From Texas Standard:

It's been called the checkpoint of the stars: Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg and Fiona Apple have all been snagged at the Sierra Blanca Border Patrol checkpoint.

Musicians and other celebrities have been booked and charged for marijuana possession by Hudspeth County Sheriff Arvin West. But West now seems to be saying his days of cracking down on every joint and baggie may be over.

NPR Southwest Correspondent John Burnett just returned to Austin from West Texas, where he checked out that checkpoint.

"I wasn't holding. They passed me right through," Burnett says, for the record.

But what if Burnett had been carrying a personal amount of marijuana?

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon

San Antonio native Nina Diaz first began performing at the age of 13. By the time she was 18, her all-girl, indie rock trio, Girl In a Coma, was signed to Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records.

Now, at age 26, Diaz embarks on a new path as a solo artist in addition to her Girl in a Coma duties – a project which will be released later this year. But, for the first time in her musical career, she is sober.

Texas Standard host David Brown spoke with Diaz about her musical and personal journey, opening up on the moment she realized she needed to get clean, why she has chosen to let the public in on her struggles and how sobriety has affected her songwriting.


One challenge many homeless people face is fighting addiction. And that battle could get tougher for some, as an Austin nonprofit that helps people recover from addiction has closed its detox facility – meaning new hurdles for the homeless and uninsured who need detox services.

This month, nonprofit Austin Recovery closed its detox facility. The detox process isn't pretty – in fact, it can be rather dangerous. Patients needed to be monitored around-the-clock by highly trained medical staff, just as if they were in a hospital setting.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

It's a pretty uneventful morning at the corner of 12th and Chicon. Buses are running smoothly and on time. There's even a new art gallery in the area.

But there was a time – not too long ago – when prostitution, drugs, and other illegal activities were going down in the open, in the middle of the day.

There were times a few years back when the emergency room at SUNY Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse looked like a scene from a zombie movie. Dr. Ross Sullivan, a physician there, recalls one afternoon when staff wheeled in a man with dilated pupils who was covered in sweat.

"The patient was screaming obscenities, and anybody he would pass, he was threatening and saying he was going to kill them," Sullivan recalls.

Police suspected the patient had taken "bath salts," the notorious synthetic stimulants that were ravaging scores of American communities at the time.


Can more than 1.5 million Texas veterans change the minds of state lawmakers opposed to legalizing medical marijuana?

William Martin, director of the Drug Policy Program at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, poses that question in the June issue of Texas Monthly. In his article “War Without End,” Martin talks with veterans using pot to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

"The story that’s most illustrative is a woman who uses the name Myst," Martin says. 

Another month, another apocalyptic news report of some weird substance that kids are abusing in pursuit of a high.

The most recent example is "beezin'," which supposedly involves smearing Burt's Bee's lip balm on one's eyelids. The tingling allegedly heightens the sensation of being drunk or high, according to the Oklahoma Fox News affiliate that first declared this a "viral trend."

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Addiction affects nearly 23 million Americans, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Yet only about 10 percent of those affected are receiving treatment.

Addiction comes at a high price to society. It's estimated that drug and alcohol abuse costs the United States around $500 billion a year in health care spending, lost productivity and crime. But perhaps the friends and families of those struggling with addiction can best attest to the emotional, psychological and social toll of the illness.

One American family knows the struggle addiction brings all too well. 

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday that the Obama administration is formulating new rules that would give it, and the president, far more latitude to pardon or reduce the sentences of thousands of drug offenders serving long federal prison sentences.

The move comes amid a broad national reconsideration of mandatory minimum sentences approved by Congress in 1986, when America's big cities were in the grip of a crack cocaine-fueled crime wave.

DPS 2014 Texas Gang Threat Assessment

The Texas Department of Public Safety released its annual report on criminal gang activity in Texas this week.

This year’s Texas Gang Threat Assessment found that gangs continue to pose a substantial threat to public safety. Central Texas is home to some of the most established gangs in the state. The report estimates that with more than 4,600 gangs, overall gang membership in this state is more than 100,000.

The Sinaloa Cartel, headquartered on Mexico's northern Pacific Coast, is constantly exploring new ways to launder its gargantuan profits. The State Department reports that Mexican trafficking organizations earn between $19 and $29 billion every year from selling marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines on the streets of American cities.

The international drug trade goes in two directions: Narcotics go north and money goes south. All the drug profits made on the streets of U.S. cities like Chicago and Atlanta and Dallas are funneled down to ports of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border where they're smuggled back into Mexico. In 2012, one federal agency alone, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, seized $411 million in cash hidden in vehicles, mostly heading south.

One of the world's most powerful drug lords has been captured. Mexico's head of the Sinaloa drug cartel, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, was arrested in an operation that Mexican officials say involved the cooperation of U.S. authorities.

Guzman has been on the run for years and his capture puts an end to one of the longest and most profitable careers in the drug world. That capture began as the sun rose up over the hotel-lined beaches of Mazatlan early Saturday morning.

The pain reliever acetaminophen is easy on the stomach. But at high doses, the drug can be hell on the liver.

Now the Food and Drug Administration is asking doctors to refrain from prescribing drugs that contain high doses of acetaminophen to minimize the risk of liver damage.

Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in nonprescription Tylenol. But it's also inside quite a few prescription pain pills, including Vicodin and Percocet.

A new poll released this week shows Texans strongly support reforming how the state punishes non-violent drug offenses. The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Effective Justice polled over 1,000 people about how Texas currently punishes non-violent drug offenders with prison time vs. drug rehab and probation.  

When a heroin epidemic swept through North Texas in the 1990s, it left at least two dozen young people dead. Then the drug seemed to go into hibernation.

Now the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says it’s seeing an alarming number of women from affluent Dallas suburbs buying heroin. And, for many, the addiction begins with prescription pain pills.

KUT News

According to a new report, the number of prescriptions veterans received for powerful opiates has surged since the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Central Texas veterans' prescriptions have jumped by nearly 340 percent, leading to increased risk of abuse, drug overdose and death, according to a report from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the agency charged with helping veterans recover from war [the Department of Veterans Affairs]instead masks their pain with potent drugs, feeding addictions and contributing to a fatal overdose rate among VA patients that is nearly double the national average.


The man behind Silk Road – a site on the hidden “deep web” where users can buy drugs – has been arrested. And he appears to have Austin ties.

The FBI arrested Ross William Ulbricht this morning, accusing him of multiple offenses in connection with running Silk Road.

As they walk through the front door, visitors to the Hudspeth County Sheriff's Office in Sierra Blanca, Texas, get punched by the overpowering odor of marijuana.


U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents are making so many drug busts near the border that local officials are struggling to pay for prosecuting them, the Center for Investigative Reporting found out. We spoke with CIR reporter G.W. Schulz about what they discovered in Hudspeth County, Texas.