Tentacles of Illegal Drugs Reach Deeply into Mariposa County

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“It’s everywhere!” That statement came from a law enforcement officer within the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office (MSO) in an exclusive interview with MariposaToday.com. The subject of the interview with the officer and Public Information Officer Kristie Mitchell was the presence of illegal and often lethal drugs obtainable in Mariposa County.

In 2021, the sheriff’s office made 170 drug-related arrests. The list of illicit drugs involved in those cases was extensive, including marijuana (illegal amounts or sales), fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine, PCP, and even psilocybin mushrooms. “Virtually everything that exists in the drug realm,” the officer explained.

(File Photo)

There is currently a nationwide focus on fentanyl and its often-deadly use. Last year, the sheriff’s office was involved in seven cases involving fentanyl.

The officer in the interview explained that all of Mariposa County’s deputies are equipped with Narcan, which is an opioid overdose treatment that can bring the victim back from the brink of death. “They either carry it in their vests, or in their vehicles,” he said.

Local law enforcement believes that fentanyl winds up in Mariposa County from the porous southern U.S. border and then is transported primarily from the central San Joaquin Valley.

Fentanyl is a synthetic heroine, an opiate like the often-abused prescription drug Oxycodone, sold under the brand names Roxicodone and OxyContin. It is primarily used by people addicted to opioids.

The principal drug of choice in the county is methamphetamine (meth).

In days gone by, it wasn’t uncommon for Mariposa County law enforcement to uncover meth labs almost every other week. That has changed. Today, a liquid form of meth is transported across the southern border, then through a chemical process employed by the cartels that control the delivery and sales of the life-wasting drug, it is then turned into ingestible “crystals.”

Mitchell explained that the existence of “meth labs” has significantly been reduced by regulations that have been put in place restricting access to the materials, like Sudafed, that were used in its manufacture.

The officer stated that drug use in the county is on the rise, typically driven by individuals that self-medicate. Some individuals who are addicted to illegal substances are able to hide or disguise the use, except to trained specialists.

Just like alcoholics are able to imbibe more alcohol with less effects than a non-drinker, addicts experience fewer effects of illicit drugs than someone who doesn’t use, but overdose cases by users is on the increase.

Mitchell added that during the pandemic, most subjects arrested for drug violations were booked and released due to mandates handed down from the state. The level of possession, applicable charges, and criminal history also contributed to those decisions.

Within the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office, a special unit with highly trained officers exists to combat illegal drug transport and use within the county.

(Watch for the upcoming story that will report of the disposition of the 159 drug-related cases referred to the Mariposa County District Attorney’s Office.)

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