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10/17/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Oct. 17, 2014

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By Shawn Dwyer

marijuana wax

10/16/14 7:30pm

From California to Texas, DEA Cracks Down On Marijuana Wax

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According to reports, the Drug Enforcement Administration is cracking down on makers and dealers of a potent new distilled THC product called marijuana wax.

Named “Operation Shattered Dreams,” a series of DEA drug raids earlier this year in California focused on busting marijuana wax makers and distributors. Despite the efforts of the DEA, marijuana wax continues to grow in popularity across the country with alternative descriptive names like honey and butter.

Wax is a distillation of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. The concentrated drug is so potent that a single hit will keep a person high for more than a day. A user named Ashley described what marijuana wax looks like and its extreme potency. "If you had a cinnamon candle that was brown and you light it, and dripped the wax on the table. The little wax right there. That's what it looks like…I would take the hit and find myself coughing for seven minutes straight. I think I'm done and cough some more."

Easy to hide in plain sight, marijuana wax looks as ordinary as lip balm. The combination of marijuana wax being simple to conceal and so powerful means that it is spreading quickly across the country. In Colorado, marijuana wax is legal and can be found for sale in in recreational marijuana dispensaries. A three-day contest in Denver called the X-Cup is designed to determine who can make the most potent batch of marijuana wax.

Marijuana wax is made by heating up the marijuana plant. It's a process involving butane, a highly flammable gas, which extracts the THC. A quick search online reveals tutorials for making marijuana wax, but none of them reveal the extreme dangers involved. "He ended up burning his arm off, like all his skin was off," Ashley said when describing how her boyfriend tried to make wax. "He had to go to the hospital and everything...something went wrong."

From California to Texas, the popularity of marijuana wax is spreading like wildfire with users unaware of the dangers involved. Special Agent Wendell Campbell with the Houston division of the Drug Enforcement Agency reflected on the growing problem. "This is actually a national issue, but it's hitting Houston hard," Campbell said. "They're getting that THC content up to 50, 60, 80, sometimes 90 percent as opposed to the traditional 13 percent."

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By John Lavitt

porn and religion

10/16/14 5:30pm

Christian Men Watch Just as Much Porn as Non-Christian Men

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People like pornography, whether one sees it as an unhealthy vice or a harmless outlet. Various international studies have shown porn consumption rates are at 50% to 99% among men, and 30% to 86% among women, according to Gert Martin Hald, PhD, and colleagues in The APA Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology.

Approximately two-thirds of U.S. men view porn at least once a month—also not surprising. However, a 2014 survey has revealed that Christian men are viewing porn at the same rate as the national average.

The national survey, which was conducted by the Barna Group and commissioned by Proven Men Ministries, a group dedicated to helping men “suffering through sexual sin,” revealed that 21% of Christian men either believe or are unsure that they are addicted to pornography, as compared to roughly 10% of non-Christian men.

Proven Men Ministries is just one resource for men seeking support for problems related to addiction to pornography, as the religious community is experiencing a rising demand for porn addiction treatment. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints recently expanded its online support for the problem, including the website OvercomingPornography.org, which is available in a multitude of languages from Japanese to Russian.

“What we are seeing can almost be described as epidemic,” said Joel Hesch, founder of Proven Men Ministries.

According to Patrick Means, author of Men’s Secret Wars, 63% of pastors struggle with sexual addiction or sexual compulsion. Ministers are much more vulnerable to sexual temptation, according to Christian writer Jeff Fisher, because they are in a place of power, are often isolated, unaccountable for their actions, and have few people they can confide their deepest struggles.

“Viewing porn can quickly turn into a very real addiction,” Hesch said. “Just like drug or alcohol use, what starts off as a seemingly innocent or fun act can quickly spiral out of control. If left unchecked, it will consume your time, energy, and resources. Once hooked, it’s hard to break loose.”

Addiction to porn has no official diagnosis in the American Psychiatric Association’s mental health bible, the DSM-5, but like Hesch, many believe it is real.

Meanwhile, the national survey found that 18% of all men, or 21 million men, either think they are addicted or are unsure if they are addicted to porn.

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By Victoria Kim

hep c cure

10/16/14 3:30pm

Expensive New Hep-C Drug from Gilead Approved By FDA

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Gilead Sciences has won FDA approval for a new combination hepatitis C treatment drug called Harvoni. Harvoni is a combination of sofosbuvir, the active ingredient in Sovaldi, and a new medicine from Gilead called ledipasvir, which is not available as a stand-alone product.

The two drugs attack the virus in different ways. Although the new drug promises to cure most hepatitis C patients without requiring other medicines, the close to six-figure cost of the treatment will exacerbate tensions between the drug companies and the health insurers over spiraling prices.

The cost of the treatment is a staggering $94,500 for the most typical patients, who will be treated for 12 weeks. Still, the new single orange pill needs to be taken just once a day and will cure most patients. American citizens with hepatitis C who cannot convince their insurance carriers to cover the new treatment will certainly be angry to be placed in a dangerous holding pattern due to expense.

Gilead Sciences recorded the biggest drug launch in history with Sovaldi this past year, making the company a lightning rod for critics of drug prices. Sovaldi alone costs $84,000 for a typical course, but it must be combined with other therapies that have definite side effects. The new drug regimen has very limited side effects, particularly in comparison to past treatments for HCV like pegylated interferon and ribavirin. Wall Street analysts estimate the company racked up roughly $9 billion in sales since the launch earlier this year.

Tensions between insurers and pharmaceutical companies have risen as the drug makers have increased prices repeatedly and then priced new drugs higher than the older therapies. Steven Miller, chief medical officer at Express Scripts, a pharmacy-benefits manager, explained that, “If pharma continues to price based on what the market will bear, I promise you it’s not sustainable.”

To control costs, insurers have been trying to restrict the use of Sovaldi to sicker patients, keeping many out in the cold. Harvoni can be taken without the injections that Sovaldi is supposed to be taken with. The injections can cause bad side effects like depression, fatigue, and headaches. In clinical trials, Harvoni performed better than regimens containing Sovaldi, curing a slightly higher percentage of patients.

Donald Jensen, director of the University of Chicago’s Center for Liver Diseases, who has done clinical-trial research for Gilead and other pharmaceutical companies, expressed his excitement about the approval of Harvoni. “To get an even better cure rate without the injections and with therapy as short as eight to 12 weeks is clearly revolutionary,” he said.

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By John Lavitt

bad trip

10/16/14 1:00pm

Man on 'Bad Trip' Terrorizes Small Town, Goes to McDonald's

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A Washington man is facing 14 criminal charges, including robbery, burglary, kidnapping, theft of a firearm, criminal trespassing, and vehicle prowling, after what he alleged was a “bad trip” on acid caused him to black out for a week.

The crime spree, which lasted from September 26 to October 3, started in Roy, Wash., where police became aware of the suspect, 23-year-old George Jacobson, after receiving two calls from residents in the town.

Jacobson’s first victim, Sherman Deach, discovered the suspect in his barn clutching a single black boot. Jacobson ran from Deach when he threatened to sic his dogs on him. Jacobson then broke into a neighboring house within a half hour, where he was discovered by his second victim, Nikki Foster, in her kitchen.

Jacobson allegedly drew a gun he had found in the family’s back bedroom. He demanded food and water, so Foster made him a sandwich. While he ate, Jacobson told Foster he was on a “spiritual journey” and that his “boot contained jewels.”

Eventually, Foster and her husband, who arrived later, were able to persuade the suspect to leave. They drove him to the end of the driveway and warned him not to come back. Only later did they discover that their gun was missing, police said.

Jacobson was not heard from again until the morning of October 3, when a witness discovered him rummaging through a car, in which he left a stash of stolen knives when he became spooked and ran off. Later, he was found in the home of Sally Andrews, “holding both her wallet and her breath mints,” according to Vocativ, which obtained court documents that “offer a vivid snapshot of the carnage.”

Jacobson stole Andrews’ car, crashed it into a ditch, and abandoned it. His next stop was the home of Robert Sheets. Gun drawn, Jacobson demanded a fresh pair of clothes, wearing nothing but a pair of red shorts himself. Sheets complied. Jacobson then asked him for a ride home to Rainier, about eight miles away.

On the way, the suspect insisted they make a quick stop at McDonald’s, where the two men got soft drinks at the drive-thru. Sheets dropped Jacobson off in Rainier, where he was picked up soon after by police. Police said Jacobson was clearly high and sporting a fresh scar in the middle of his forehead when he was arrested.

In police custody, Jacobson admitted he “prefers meth,” but was on a “bad trip” after taking acid about a week before. He had been blacking out ever since.

Jacobson is currently being held in the Pierce County Jail on a bond of $1 million.

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By Victoria Kim

religion and AA

10/16/14 10:30am

Atheist Inmate Receives $2 Million Settlement Over Forced 12-Step Drug Rehab

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Barry Hazle. Photo via

An atheist and former inmate has received a nearly $2 million settlement after being sent back to jail for refusing to participate in a 12-step treatment program.

Barry Hazle, 46, was sentenced to probation for drug possession in 2004 and then ordered to prison in 2006 after violating his probation by using methamphetamine. He was released on parole a year later and then ordered to complete a 90-day inpatient treatment program.

Despite requesting a secular treatment program, he was sent to a 12-step program modeled after AA. After objecting to the religiously based 12-step regimen, he was deemed in violation of his probation and sent back to prison for 100 days.

But after two federal court rulings, Hazle has officially settled with the state of California and its contractor, WestCare California, for $1.95 million over wrongful incarceration in violation of his religious liberty. Money was not Hazle's main objective in bringing the suit. "I just want to make sure that somebody else doesn’t have to go through this kind of thing," he explained.

“[The treatment program] told me, 'Anything can be your higher power. Fake it till you make it,’” said Hazle. “I have to become powerful to overcome problems in my life...A higher power, to me, is a fiction."

The state’s Department of Correction and Rehabilitation has attempted to respect religious views by ordering agents to refer paroled drug and alcohol offenders to nonreligious treatment programs if they objected to the higher power elements of a 12-step program. However, an August 2013 ruling in this case showed that WestCare never received the order and didn’t understand what made an “alternative non-religious program."

A federal judge had ruled in 2010 that Hazle’s rights were violated, but declined to offer financial compensation. It was only last year that the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a retrial after ruling that he in fact was entitled to compensation for loss of liberty.

Hazle admitted to relapses in his struggles to stay clean over the years, but said he is “no longer a user” and is “committed to [my] recovery.”

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By McCarton Ackerman

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