Don’t believe the hype

Baltimore Authorities and Media Lie about Drugs Stolen from Pharmacies

June 9, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

Federal, state, and local authorities have unleashed a vicious counter-insurgency campaign to vilify the beautiful and righteous Baltimore rebellion, set middle class people against those at the bottom of society who were on the front lines of the rebellion, slap heavy federal charges with potentially long prison sentences on those involved in the uprising, and send a message broadly, and especially to those on the bottom, that if you dare to stand up against the brutal occupying police, they will use all means at their disposal to try to crush you. They also have in mind, and are out to prevent, the possibility of a “long, hot summer” in Baltimore as well as elsewhere.

During May, in the month after the Baltimore uprising, there was a big spike in the number of murders in the city, with 43 killed in total. (Baltimore Sun, May 31, 2015) It was the highest rate of murders in Baltimore since 1972. (CNN, June 4, 2015) The police have put forward very little evidence about who they believe were involved in these murders, despite the fact that they have 300 cameras around the city watching people all the time.

Now the authorities claim to have figured out that the spike in murders is due to the city being “swamped” in prescription drugs stolen from pharmacies during the rebellion in April. In other words, the youth who rose up against the murdering police are responsible and need to be caught and punished! Local authorities have declared an emergency. Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said, “Collectively, we’ll return this city back to normalcy,” and, “This is an all hands on deck—all hands, every single resource, every single body, every single personnel on the streets of Baltimore.” (Baltimore Brew, June 4, 2015)

Outright Lies and Distortions

Using the excuse that controlled substances, that is, prescription drugs, were stolen, nearly every federal agency with law enforcement powers has been brought in to Baltimore to go after those involved in the rebellion, and especially the youth. For example, the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) has been brought in to investigate fires at the pharmacies, and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) to investigate who stole the drugs. The hysteria was ramped up even more on June 3, when authorities declared a potential danger of identity theft for people who had their personal information on stolen prescriptions.

But the authorities’ claims are outright lies or distortions of partial truths. Police Commissioner Batts told the media there were more than 175,000 units, or doses, of prescription drugs taken from 27 pharmacies and two methadone clinics. He said, “There’s enough narcotics on the streets of Baltimore to keep it intoxicated for a year,” and, “That amount of drugs has thrown off the balance on the streets of Baltimore.” (Baltimore Sun, June 4, 2015) Gary Tuggs, the DEA agent in charge in Baltimore, put this “theory” forward: “I think that part of it’s connected to turf battles between gangs and independent drug dealers. You also have a new source, a new inventory of drugs on the street that people have to sell.... They’re selling to a limited number of people, so they’re vying for that customer base.” (CBS Baltimore, June 3, 2015)

Let’s take apart their story.

First, it should be noted that almost all mainstream media outlets in Baltimore have repeated everything the cops and other authorities have said as the absolute truth, without questioning any of it. And these stories are being repeated all over the media nationwide to portray protesters as drug dealers and murderers. (Questions were raised by Baltimore’s The City Paper and the Baltimore Spectator, and we thank them for helping us to understand the situation.)

The authorities say 175,000 doses were stolen, enough to keep the city high for a year. They use the word “narcotics” to describe the prescription drugs, conjuring a picture of a city soaked in things like heroin and cocaine, even though the prescription drugs can be medication your dentist gives you when you have a root canal, or your doctor provides when you break a bone or have chronic pain.

And notice that they say doses or units, not 175,000 different prescriptions. (DEA agent Tuggs says the number could go higher, to as much as 200,000 doses.) One doesn’t need to understand exactly how all these drugs work or what they do at different dose levels to recognize that 200,000 doses, even of the strongest variety, is not enough to keep the entire adult population of the city of Baltimore high for a year. Do the math. Two hundred thousand doses over 365 days amounts to only 548 doses per day. This would be enough drugs to keep a little more than 500 people “high” for part of a day. Even if we’re talking about the strongest prescription drugs—and in many cases we’re not—it’s still only 548 doses a day.

The mainstream media has never questioned this ridiculous claim that enough drugs were stolen to keep the entire city high for a year—an obvious lie that should and does cast doubt on the entire story by the DEA and Baltimore Police Department.

Where Is the Evidence?

What this effort to induce hysteria and paint the protesters as monsters takes advantage of are the misconceptions and biases many people have about prescription pain medication. In the last few years, for example, the authorities have been criminalizing people who are prescribed these drugs for legitimate reasons by their doctors.

Second, we have no way of knowing whether the number is valid at all. The authorities cite no basis for it. How did they come up with 175,000 or 200,000? No evidence is given.

Third, how do we really know that all 27 pharmacies were actually broken into and that prescription drugs were actually stolen from all of them? That sounds like a large number for a moderately sized city like Baltimore, and for the limited number of neighborhoods in which the break-ins reportedly occurred. And there’s also the fact that these drugs are supposed to be locked in safes! According to various press accounts, Rite Aid closed five stores after the rebellion and CVS said eight of its stores were targeted. (Mass Market Retailers, April 29, 2015) An article that came out a few days after the uprising said that five other pharmacies were broken into, for a total of 18. (Baltimore Sun, May 8, 2015)

Where are the other nine? The number 27 was not used until a few days ago, in the Baltimore Sun, and until then, there had been no mention of two methadone clinics having been targeted.

Here are some things we do know:

There has been a major clampdown by federal and state authorities resulting in changes in the distribution of these types of prescriptions. Pharmacies are only allowed to stock certain amounts, they must be locked inside a safe or other device, and only certain employees are allowed to access them. A person needs a written prescription for the drug in question (no phone calls from doctors permitted), and there is a limit on how much can be prescribed each month. No refills are allowed. Some people have had difficulty filling prescriptions because of these restrictions, even terminal cancer patients. And the more powerful the drug, the stricter the restriction.

The pharmacies most affected by the rebellion in Baltimore were national chains like Rite Aid and CVS. Their prescriptions are computerized, and pharmacies that dispense drugs in Maryland must report each prescription within three days online, electronically. There are no customers’ names and other personal information lying around, except for those prescriptions that have already been filled and are waiting to be picked up, so the “identity theft problem” is being way overblown. Yes, there were pharmacies targeted and some prescriptions were no doubt stolen, but the authorities are lying big time about the extent of this. (For example, we could find only one news report of a safe stolen from a pharmacy.) And there is, of course, no mention that some of the drugs taken were things like medication for the epidemic of diabetes that especially poor people are forced to endure under this system.

The Drug Enforcement Agency is now releasing photos of 70 people they claim were involved in the prescription drug thefts. But the majority of these photos show people standing in front of pharmacies, not breaking into them. And in an effort to bolster snitching, they are offering a $2,000 reward for information.

It’s unclear who or what combination of forces and factors may be responsible for the increase in murders in Baltimore during May. But it is clear that the police and other law enforcement authorities are just plain lying about any connection between those murders and the theft of some prescription drugs during the rebellion. And, yes, the question needs to be raised: What role are the police and other authorities themselves playing in this spike of deaths? They and the system they enforce stand to gain quite a bit if their lies are swallowed by people, if they can create divisions among the people, and if they can succeed in suppressing protest and rebellion.

So there’s a lot at stake in exposing and responding strongly to their efforts to turn upside down right with wrong. We can’t fall for the hype and get played by a system trying to justify brutal police murder and brutality and stem the growing tide of opposition against it.



Volunteers Needed... for and Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.



"The film brings you up close inside Cornel West's and Bob Avakian's dialogue: the passion, the audacity, the science, the morality, the revolutionary substance. Two courageous voices modeling a morality that refuses to accept injustice – pouring heart and soul into standing together challenging all of us to fight for a world worthy of humanity."

Andy Zee,
co-director of the film


BA Speaks

"No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that."

BAsics 1:13

Do you know anyone else—any person or organization—that has managed to bring forth an actual PLAN for a radically different society, in all its dimensions, and a CONSTITUTION to codify all this? — A different world IS possible — Check out and order online the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).

What Humanity Needs

At the beginning of 2012, an in-depth interview with Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, was conducted over a period of several days by A. Brooks, a younger generation revolutionary who has been inspired by the leadership and body of work of Bob Avakian and the new synthesis of communism this has brought forward.

Special Issue

People need the truth about the communist revolution. The REAL truth. At a time when people are rising up in many places all over the world and seeking out ways forward, THIS alternative is ruled out of order. At a time when even more people are agonizing over and raising big questions about the future, THIS alternative is constantly slandered and maligned and lied about, while those who defend it are given no space to reply.

Contains Interview with Raymond Lotta, Timeline of The REAL History of Communist Revolution, and more...