The Norman Transcript

September 16, 2012

New challenges in war on drugs

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Darrell Weaver still remembers the first time he listened in on an illegal drug transaction. He was a rookie law enforcement agent and he couldn’t believe such things were going on in rural Oklahoma.

“My parents would have killed us if we were involved in something like that. I had no idea what was going on out there,” he said.

Friday marked 25 years since Weaver began as an agent with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. He chose police work after the 1984 bank robbery in Geronimo, Oklahoma where robbers killed four persons. “I knew from then on what I wanted to do,” he said.

Now the drug agency’s director, he said the issues agents face today are far different than those of 1987.

Today, the bureau battles the influence of Mexican drug cartels, prescription drug abuse, methamphetamine, synthetic drugs and, beginning Nov. 1, human trafficking.

Lawmakers gave his agency the authority to investigate human trafficking beginning this fall. Weaver told Norman Chamber of Commerce members it will become as big an issue as drug trafficking.

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Meanwhile, the agency tackles the prescription drug abuse problem head-on. Oklahoma leads the nation per capita in painkiller abuse. The state is also the ninth highest in overdose deaths, mostly from prescribed drugs, up 137 percent in a decade.

The state’s top “doctor shopper” was in McClain County, visiting 195 doctors and 105 pharmacies before being arrested.

Weaver’s agency oversees 17,000 “registrants” who have prescribing authority. “Way less than one percent ever have an issue with us,” he said.

Physicians and dentists are aided by the prescription monitoring database which allows them to check in real time whether someone is “doctor shopping.”

“Three hundred thousand Oklahomans have prescription drug problems,” he said. “It can sneak up on anybody. The drug issues are affecting all of Oklahoma.”

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When he began with the agency in 1987, drug cartels were mostly in Colombia, as portrayed in the popular “Miami Vice” television show. Today, second and third generation Mexican-Americans still have ties to super labs south of the border.

Infiltrating such gangs is hard. Wiretaps must be authorized by the chief justice of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

He said the FBI’s takedown of a Lexington horse ranch that was allegedly laundering drug money this year involved a well-known, violent sector.

“Trust me, they’re a very violent group and they’re right in our back yard.”

Andy Rieger 366-3543