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PROJECT TARGETS 'NARCO-TERRORISM,' 'CLUB DRUGS'

May 23, 2002 – Sen. Norma Pickard-Samuel joined other female legislators nationwide Thursday in publicizing a new initiative in the nation's war on drugs and terrorism.
Samuel is a member of the National Foundation of Women Legislators, which tapped her to lead the Virgin Islands in a new initiative aimed at fighting drug use and "narco-terrorism."
The effort, called "Shoulder to Shoulder," is pairing female legislators throughout the nation with federal Drug Enforcement Agency officers. In teams, they will focus on getting out two messages: the link between terrorism and drugs, and the dangers of so-called "club drugs" such as Ecstasy, Ketamine and GHB, or gamma hydroxybutryic acid.
Samuel said she believes drug use and dealing are factors in the recent violence in the territory. "It's all interconnected," she said.
The DEA's resident agent in charge locally, Charles Graham, joined Pickard-Samuel in discussing the initiative Thursday afternoon. He said much of the world's illegal drug product today comes from areas directly tied to known terrorist organizations. Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, known as the "Golden Crescent," supply much of the heroin, he said.
He also said the Colombian paramilitary FARC (an acronym in Spanish for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) is considered by the U.S. State Department to be the most dangerous international terrorist group in the Western Hemisphere.
Club drugs, while not directly linked to terrorist organizations, are posing increased danger because they are gaining popularity among teenagers, Graham said, and he believes they are affecting the Virgin Islands. "It's a problem," he said. In the case of Ecstasy, "There's a lot of money in it" for dealers, he added. The drug comes in the form of pills that sell for $25 to $35 in the territory, he said, with much of the local supply coming from Europe and down island.
Ecstasy, Graham said, acts as a hallucinogen and a stimulant often causing a rapid rise in body temperature and heart rate along with giving users a "touchy-feely" sensation. The drug is considered extremely dangerous.
Ketamine is used legally by veterinarians as a sedative for animals. When taken by humans, Graham said, the drug produces hallucinogenic effects similar to those experienced by phencyclidine (PCP) users. The drug has the potential to create brain lesions when taken in the dosages commonly found in illicit drugs sold in the club scene, he said.
GHB is a central nervous system depressant, causing effects similar to those of large quantities of alcohol. The drug has been used as a tool in sexual assaults as it frequently leaves the user helpless and unable to fight against sexual predators. Graham said. It can cause respiratory depression, coma and death.
Pickard-Samuel said the "Shoulder to Shoulder" initiative will begin with the formulation of a plan to reach children in the schools with what Graham called "demand-reduction" programs. "We have to address the drugs," the senator said.
Graham, joined by Lt. Thomas Villanueva, Police Department liaison to the DEA, said anti-drug programs have been in place within the school system for several years. Graham said agents will be talking to schools, after-school organizations and churches about drug problems in the territory. The DEA participates in the Weed and Seed programs in place on St. Thomas and St. Croix and is involved in mentoring outreach to youths.
Pickard-Samuel said drug intervention programs cannot wait until teen-agers have become offenders and entered the criminal justice system. She said she wants to start educating children about the dangers of drugs at the kindergarten level. "We want to educate the local people here," she said. "We want to try and get the children at a young age and teach the adults, too, so they can teach the children."

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