Members of Parliament in economically-troubled Spain will no longer get a cheaper deal on happy hour cocktails. In response to public outrage, discounted liquor—part paid for by public funds—will be taken off the menu at bars and restaurants at the Spanish Parliament, a commission has ruled unanimously. Beer, wine, and coffee will continue to be sold at a discount. The scandal emerged last week when it was reported that prices at the Parliament's nine restaurants were as low as half of what neighboring establishments charge. Politicians could enjoy a gin and tonic for €3.45 ($4.54) which is half of its cost at a regular bar. Spain's suffering economy has forced the government to raise taxes and cut public spending on schools and hospitals to stabilize the budget, and the recent liquor scandal has only added more fuel to Spaniards' discontent with the government. "There's no money for school lunches, but there is for gin," wrote Maite Estrada Salvador in a letter to El Pais last week. Spanish politicians are considered one of the country's "four worst problems," along with the economy, unemployment, and general corruption and fraud, according to a recent poll. Another survey shows their disapproval rating at 93%. "[This scandal] makes citizens upset, and they are right, so the leadership has decided to change it," says Alfonso Alonso, leader of the ruling People's Party in Parliament.
Cincinnati mayoral hopeful Jim Berns tried to woo potential voters by promising them "nice plants about six weeks from harvest," while remaining "coy" about the type of plant he would be distributing. The Libertarian candidate is running on a pro-pot platform, calling for legalization of the drug in Ohio. About 30 college-aged supporters showed up at his Wednesday event, and dozens more reportedly lined up at a city park to receive their plants. But instead of marijuana, they received potted tomato plants, in addition to fliers promoting Berns' campaign for legalization. "We support people deciding themselves to smoke marijuana," the 65-year-old told the Daily News. Berns previously ran for a seat in the US House of Representatives in 2010, but did not give out any shrubs during that campaign. He lost to Republican Steve Chabot, getting 1.5% of the vote.
- Coffee Shop Chaos as Dutch City Flouts Drug Ban [France 24]
- One for The Road? The Hidden Risks of Roadside Alcohol Availability [Guardian]
- DEA Charges Four With Trafficking Heroin From Africa [Washington Times]
- Stephen Fry Reveals 'Close Run' Vodka and Pills Suicide Attempt [Metro News]
- Drunk Climbs Up on 66-Feet Bridge and Falls Asleep In Serbia [Huffington Post]
- The Women Who Dated Men With Eating Disorders [New York Magazine]
- California Woman Killed by Drunk Driver Hours After Being Proposed To [Daily Mail]
- Lindsey Vonn Gets Drug Tested on the Red Carpet [USA Today]
Colorado's booksellers have joined marijuana magazines in protesting a new provision in the state's new marijuana legislation, which would regulate pot-themed magazines like pornography. Though not restricting their sales, the provision requires these publications to be placed behind the counter in stores where people under 21 are allowed to enter. It was added after parents complained about them being visible to children. Last week, three pot publications—The Daily Doobie, The Hemp Connoisseur and High Times magazine—filed their own lawsuit attempting to block the provision. And now, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a separate federal lawsuit on behalf of various booksellers across the state. Several landmark marijuana legalization measures were signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper last week, making Colorado the world's first legal, taxed and regulated recreational pot market. It's also the first state to restrict the display of pot magazines, which critics argue is illogical and contrary to the "spirit" of legalizing pot. "Images of other legal drugs alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceuticals—abound in the public sphere, as do magazines that write about and depict their use," writes RT Carriero in The Daily Doobie. "Relegating High Times (and the Daily Doobie) to the back shelf, therefore, violates the spirit of 64 when Cigar Aficionado and Wine Spectator are perfectly visible at Barnes & Noble." First Amendment attorney Chris Beall argues that the provision is a breach of rights: "If the legislature is able to restrict the distribution of magazines about marijuana, what else will it choose to restrict?"
A clinic in London reports that most patients being treated for the long-term health effects of club drugs and "legal highs" aren't teens and 20-somethings as you might expect, but adults in their thirties. According to the Club Drug Clinic—a free NHS service specialized in treating substance abuse among "adult clubbers and LGBT people"—the average age of people admitted for treatment is 30 to 35. “Many users aren’t stereotypical teenage revellers, but older people with jobs and responsibilities," says Dr. Owen Bowden-Jones, who founded the clinic in response to rising use and abuse of "legal highs" and so-called club drugs like the "big four"—ketamine, mephedrone, GHB/GBL, and methamphetamine. The clinic's doctors are concerned that their older clients are more "experienced partiers" who started out in the heyday of house music and are now feeling the long-term impact of their drug use. “These are people who have used club drugs recreationally, often without a problem, for years," says Bowden-Jones. "Slowly their problems have escalated to the point they have run into significant difficulty. The harms we are now seeing, you wouldn’t normally associate with club drugs." One of the most severe side effects is "ketamine bladder"—which causes pain and frequent urination and has sent three patients to surgery. Since the club drug clinic first opened in 2011, about 800 people have been referred, with 500 receiving treatment—currently about 50 per month. Demand is so high that the service opened a second location, also in London.
People visiting their loved ones in prison is a major source for drugs getting inside. But now video chatting services, like Skype, have become an increasingly popular way for prisoners to communicate with the outside world. Some correctional officers believe prisons could ultimately eliminate the need for person-to-person visitor interactions—and curb the flow of drugs inside—by implementing "virtual visitation" on a wider scale. "Virtual visitation is a new concept that is spreading across the country," a correctional officer tells The Fix. "Inmates and their families would register for the web-based video visitation program and pay per minute like they do on the telephone and email services. It could eventually replace in person visitation." Prisoners aren't so keen on the idea, as they feel it is taking away one more of the "little freedoms" that they enjoy in the rigid prison environment. "It sounds lame to me," one prisoner tells The Fix. "I want to hold my wife's hand and have my daughter sit on my lap when I see them. Being in prison I need the human interaction and touch of my loved ones to strengthen my family ties." He says communicating through a computer is comparable to "talking on the phone or being behind the glass" and should not be used in lower or middle-security prisons. Still, the prisoner does agree that virtual visitation could prevent drugs from getting smuggled in. "Less drugs would definitely be coming in," he says, "But staff just needs to do their job and stop being lazy."