6,000 drug convictions tossed out because lab tech snorted all the drugs
Test the drugs? Or snort them?
That's the choice for the folks who test drugs for criminal cases, who determine whether the pills that the cops found in your pocket were molly or vitamins.
One chemist made her choice. For eight years, a lab tech in Amherst, Massachusetts, sniffed cocaine, dosed LSD, smoked crack and snorted methamphetamine she stole from her job. Sonja Farak, an employee of the state Department of Public Health at the time, even made her own crack cocaine in the lab, using supplies from her employer. Like Walter White without the cancer.
She'd even testify in court while fucked up on drugs, helping jail others for getting high while she herself was obliterated.
A report from the Massachusetts Attorney General lays out just what Farak did, and it's pretty fiendish. Mostly, she would use the drugs she was testing and replace what she used with counterfeit drugs. Note that she was still, technically, testing the drugs, only she was using her own brain as lab equipment.
The first drug she stole from the lab was meth. "I felt amazing," she told the Attorney General's office. Over the next four years, she was tweaking every day, often many times a day. None of her co-workers noticed. They said she seemed to be doing an excellent job.
When the lab started running out of meth, she moved on to ketamine, MDMA, LSD, and coke, before settling on crack as her go-to drug, smoking it 10 or 12 times a day. "Smoking at work, smoking in the lab, smoking at home," she said, "smoking and driving."
In 2013, a co-worker noticed some samples of cocaine she was testing were actually part cocaine and part filler, and called the authorities. Farak was arrested and, in 2014, she pled guilty. She got 18 months in jail.
This story has a happy ending. Last week, a judge dismissed more than 6,000 convictions obtained using test results from Farak. In other words, because she decided to get so high for so long, thousands of other people who also like drugs will see their lives improve — a lot. Their records will be wiped clean. They can now qualify for public housing, get student loans and travel to Canada — which drug felons often can't.
Farak's is not an isolated case. A lot of people who work around drugs do it because they love the stuff. Pharmacists have told us how often they steal Xanax from work, we read about nurses stealing fentanyl and doctors stealing drugs and treating patients while high. Cops use drugs, lawyers and judges get twisted, and the wardens in the prisons get fucked up. Even presidents do drugs.
Which doesn't make what Farak did okay. It just makes her human.
Correction: The article has been updated to correctly identify Sonja Farak as an employee of the Department of Public Health. The now-closed state crime lab Farak worked in was only located on the UMass Amherst campus, but was operated by the DPH.