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10/20/14 8:30am

Pennsylvania Gov. Blames Employee Drug Testing On Job Creation Woes

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Pennsylvania is currently 47th among U.S. states when it comes to job creation, but Gov. Tom Corbett thinks employee drug testing is the reason companies are not able to fill jobs.

Speaking to the PennLive editorial board last week in Harrisburg, Corbett said that companies can’t find employees who are able or willing to pass drug tests. The statement is similar to what he said in an April 2013 interview that made headlines, but he has mainly relied on anecdotal evidence from the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association (PMP) to back up his claim.

However, that organization refuted his statement after hiring a polling firm to survey 200 executives from manufacturing businesses throughout the state. Their findings concluded that “for most companies, drug testing did not lead to a large percentage of potential employees refusing to take a drug test or show up for a drug test."

A “small percentage” of applicants, 16% in total, failed their drug tests, while 19% refused to take one. The report did acknowledge that these numbers were still “a red flag and a real concern for employers.”

The drug concerns aren’t entirely surprising given that it’s easier and cheaper for young people in the state to buy heroin than a six-pack of beer. Small bags of heroin are being sold for as little as $5 to$10, which is contributing to the ongoing rise in overdose deaths each year throughout the state. State Representative Richard Marabito said there are about 766,000 residents with addiction problems, but only 52,000 are currently receiving treatment.

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania has listed several recommendations for correcting this problem in a report released last month. Among them are making it easier to prosecute dealers whose clients die of overdoses and instilling a “Good Samaritan” law so that those who seek help for overdose victims won’t face criminal charges.

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

10/20/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Oct. 20, 2014

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By Shawn Dwyer

the politics of weed

10/17/14 7:30pm

Will Hillary Clinton Push to Legalize Marijuana In 2016?

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The public’s stance on the legalization of marijuana has drastically changed since Secretary of State Hillary Clinton first entered politics, when only 16% of the public favored legalization. But now, more than 58% of Americans want the consumption of the drug legalized and many activists feel the 2016 elections will give their movement serious traction.

Clinton has previously denounced the legalization of marijuana, but more recently she’s warmed to the idea. But the future potential president wants to see what the research says before seriously considering legalizing the drug on a national level.

“I’m a big believer in acquiring evidence, and I think we should see what kind of results we get, both from medical marijuana and from recreational marijuana before we make any far-reaching conclusions,” Clinton said. “We need more studies. We need more evidence. And then we can proceed.”

It’s very possible the Democrats will nominate Clinton for president in 2016, but many marijuana activists fear she may be too pragmatic for their cause.

“She is so politically pragmatic,” said Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “If she has to find herself running against a conservative Republican in 2016, I am fearful, from my own view here, that she is going to tack more to the middle. And the middle in this issue tends to tack more to the conservative side.”

Marijuana activists expect a huge turnout of young people at the polls, and with nearly 70% of 18- to 29-year-old Americans in support of the legalization of marijuana, the odds are in their favor.

“There will certainly be even more on the ballot in 2016,” said Tamar Todd, director of marijuana law and policy and the Drug Policy Alliance. “More voters coming to the polls means more support for marijuana reform and in presidential election years, more voters turn out.”

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By Brent McCluskey

LSD

10/17/14 5:30pm

Researchers Still See Therapeutic Value in LSD

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Despite being classified as a Schedule I drug by the U.S. government, LSD has attracted renewed interest among researchers interested in exploring its therapeutic value.

Lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, was initially considered as treatment for a variety of conditions, ranging from repressed emotions to alcoholism and even as an analgesic for pain. An array of side effects, including its potential to produce impaired judgment, panic attacks, and exacerbate mental conditions like schizophrenia—as well as its popularity with the counterculture of the 1960s—led to a ban by the Food and Drug Administration in 1968 and classification as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. However, studies on possible therapeutic uses for LSD have continued in Europe for decades.

Two recent European studies underscore the continuing interest in medical applications for LSD. In September of this year, researchers at Imperial College London published their findings after conducting a study on the drug’s efficacy in hypnotherapy. Ten volunteers were given two injections—one containing a moderate dose of LSD, and the other a placebo—two weeks apart, and asked after each injection to relax and “think along” with descriptions of pleasant actions or locations. The volunteers who received the LSD injection reported that the experiences were 20% more “vivid” than those who received the placebo.

The second experiment, also published this year, was a double-blind study conducted by researchers in Switzerland, who were also given either a low dose of LSD or a placebo to determine the drug’s effect on anxiety related to the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness. Those who were injected with the drug showed a noticeable reduction in anxious feelings after just two sessions.

In both cases, the respective researchers saw no ill side effects in volunteers who received LSD. Further clinical testing will undoubtedly be required before any significant change to the drug’s legal or social standing can be effected.

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By Paul Gaita

hot water

10/17/14 3:30pm

Embattled Fiancée of Oregon Governor Accused of Buying Land for Pot Farm

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As Oregon’s Measure 91, which will allow adult residents to own and sell marijuana, seems poised to win by a slight margin in the November 4 elections, the re-election campaign of Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber drew an unplanned connection to the pot industry.

Kitzhaber's embattled fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, revealed that she had purchased property in 1997 allegedly with the intent to grow and harvest marijuana. In a statement to the media this week, Hayes explained that she had purchased the property in a remote section of Washington State with the intent of launching a “marijuana grow operation that never materialized.”

At the time Hayes alleged that she was in an “abusive relationship” with a “dangerous” man who purchased the property with her, but she was never “financially involved” with the intended farm. However, Patrick Siemion, who sold Hayes and the unidentified man the property, disputed the idea that the marijuana operation had never come to fruition.

“There was a very large pool table in the house, and it was covered with what people call a shake, when they trim plants,” he told CBS affiliate KOIN. “I went out into the outbuilding, and there was a full smorgasbord apparatus for drip irrigation, and marijuana specific fertilizers."

Hayes, a private energy consultant who became engaged to Kitzhaber in August 2014, has been the subject of numerous media and state inquiries since 2009. Chief among many of these concerns has been her firm’s receipt of various state contracts.

Earlier this month, the Williamette Week revealed that Hayes had married a teenaged Ethiopian immigrant for undisclosed reasons in July 1997, approximately four months before she purchased the property in Washington. She agreed to the marriage in order to receive $5,000 for school expenses. In her statement to the press this week, Hayes was quick to deny any connection between this marriage and the alleged marijuana operation.

Though media analysts predicted that the fallout from these twin incidents would have a deleterious effect on Kitzhaber’s campaign, recent polls show him maintaining a sizable lead against Republican candidate Dennis Richardson.

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By Paul Gaita

blowback

10/17/14 1:00pm

Joe Biden's Son Discharged From Navy for Testing Positive for Cocaine

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In a surprising, albeit dubiously timed revelation uncovered by The Wall Street Journal, Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden tested positive for cocaine in 2013 while working as a public affairs officer for the Navy. Biden was commissioned as an ensign in May 2013 and assigned as a public affairs officer in a Norfolk-based reserve unit. A month later, he tested positive for cocaine and the positive drug test led to Hunter Biden’s discharge from the Navy Reserve.

Commander Ryan Perry said that Hunter Biden’s discharge information was not releasable under the privacy act. CNN reported that Biden was most likely listed as an administrative discharge due to the nature of his offense, citing an unidentified source that claimed the Navy did not contact the vice president’s office regarding the matter. The vice president's office has refused to comment on the report of Hunter’s discharge.

Officially discharged from the Navy in February of 2014, Hunter released a statement at the time that touched upon the reasons for his dismissal. “It was the honor of my life to serve in the U.S. Navy, and I deeply regret and am embarrassed that my actions led to my administrative discharge. I respect the Navy’s decision. With the love and support of my family, I’m moving forward.” According to the report, Biden needed a waiver to join the Navy because of drug-related issues in his youth.

Hunter apparently joined up at age 43 to follow in his grandfathers' footsteps. The WSJ pointed out other possible motivators to Hunter's decision when they wrote, “The vice president and his wife, Jill Biden, speak regularly about the pride they take in being a military family, often referring to son Beau Biden's time in the Delaware Army National Guard and his yearlong deployment to Iraq.”

Vice President Biden made a prescient remark about his son's military career at a fundraiser in January of 2013 when he joked, "We have a lot of bad judgment in my family. My son, who is over 40, just joined the United States Navy."

Since being discharged, The Washington Post reported in May that Hunter had been installed as the head of legal at Ukraine’s largest private gas company. As the vice president’s youngest son, he tragically was in the car crash that claimed the life of his mother, Joe’s first wife, Neilia, in 1972. Hunter Biden has three kids with his wife Kathleen, and hopefully this scandal will not throw him off track and threaten his latest attempt to walk the straight and narrow.

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By John Lavitt

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