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8/15/14 3:30pm

Anti-Medical Marijuana Ad Says Pot Leads to Date Rape

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An online ad from a Florida-based campaign that opposes a medical marijuana initiative suggested that easier access to pot could lead to date rape. The organizers of VoteNo2.org want to strike down the Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative 2, which would legalize medical marijuana to qualified patients or personal caregivers if voters approve it on the November ballot.

The group’s latest advertising campaign, launched on their Twitter account, showed an image of a woman and man, arm in arm, with what appears to be a pot cookie poking out of the man’s back pocket. The ad copy reads, “Will the new face of date rape look like a cookie?”

Javi Correoso, a spokesperson for VoteNo2, says that the ad is representative of what could “potentially” happen if marijuana is made legal. “These are products that are very dangerous,” said Correoso. “They are a lot more powerful than smoking a joint, and they can lead to various serious situations and circumstances.”

Response from the pro-legalization movement in Florida focused on refuting the claims made by the site’s campaign. “There has been no incidence of date rape with the pot that [users] are smoking currently,” said Dr. Jorge Bordenave of Larkin Community Hospital and a legal medical marijuana supporter. United for Care campaign manager Ben Pollara added, “I think it’s just extraordinarily insensitive to everybody. I was dumbfounded when I saw [it].”

But VoteNo2 organizers appear unmoved by such claims. “Amendment 2…has so many loopholes that it allows marijuana to be used for non-medical reasons, such as pot cookies and pot smoking,” said Correoso. VoteNo2.org is an offshoot of Drug Free Florida, an anti-pot group chaired by Carlton Turner, former drug czar for President Ronald Reagan.

The site previously released an eight-minute ad called 'The Devil is in the Details' which insinuated Amendment 2 would allow individuals to exploit the law and buy pot legally for any claim. But as Pollara noted, “In its wording, the amendment specifically says, ‘Nothing in this section authorizes the use of medical marijuana by anyone other than a qualifying patient.’”

A poll by Quinnipac University in May showed that 88% of Florida voters support the amendment.

Check out 'The Devil is in the Details' here:

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By Paul Gaita

brick wall

8/15/14 1:00pm

Medical Pot Researchers Wrestle with Federal Restrictions

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Dr. Sisley with Sanjay Gupta. Photo via

The medical use of marijuana is allowed in almost half of the states in the U.S. as well as the District of Columbia, yet obstacles to researching weed have grown harder to overcome than ever before.

For researchers like Dr. Sue Sisley, who sought federal approval to study marijuana’s effect on military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, the process of obtaining the drug legally involved going through the Food and Drug Administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is the only legal source of marijuana for federally sanctioned research.

A major obstacle to marijuana research is drug scheduling, a result of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug, in the same category as heroin, LSD, peyote, and ecstasy. Schedule I drugs are considered to have no accepted medical use in the U.S. and a high potential for abuse, and are thus subject to tight restrictions on scientific research.

Proponents of moving marijuana to a less restrictive category say this could reduce obstacles to research. In 2011, Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Washington’s governor at the time, Christine O. Gregoire, filed a petition asking the federal government to place marijuana in a lower category. The petition is still pending with the DEA.

“It defies logic in this day and age that marijuana is still in Schedule I alongside heroin and LSD when there is so much testimony to what relief medical marijuana can bring,” Chafee said in an interview.

More than one million people are thought to use marijuana to cope with ailments ranging from cancer to seizures to hepatitis C and chronic pain.

Progress might seem slow-going, but a growing number of elected state officials, medical experts, and members of Congress have started calling for easing the cumbersome rules involved in studying medical marijuana.

In May, the DEA established new rules to increase the government’s production of marijuana for study this year from 21,000 grams to 650,000 grams.

In June, a letter signed by 30 members of Congress called the tight restrictions on marijuana research “unnecessary” saying that research “has often been hampered by federal barriers.”

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By Victoria Kim

soul treatment

8/15/14 10:30am

Kevin LeVar Records Sophomore Album In Rehab Center

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Gospel singer Kevin LeVar took a different approach for recording his second studio album. Instead of hitting a fancy recording studio or recording a live album from a theater, he chose to work out of a Los Angeles-based rehab called The Dream Center.

The Dream Center is where former drug dealers, prostitutes, and gang bangers have sought refuge to get clean. Destiny! Live at the Dream Center…and More features many of these people providing vocals on the album, which LeVar believes helped fulfill the goal of the album.

"I felt the Dream Center would be the perfect place because I felt the Lord telling me, you know this record is for the Josephs. This is for the one that the people have overlooked, the one that they've thrown away,” he said. "So we went to The Dream Center and we had 50 or 60 of those precious men and women piled into the studio. They're the ones singing the chorus on 'Born To Be Great.'"

While LeVar’s previous album was considered a worship record that targeted churchgoers, he wanted his sophomore effort to have more of a universal message and appeal.

"My purpose for this record is really to go well outside of the four walls of the church because the Gospel needs to be preached to those that don't know Jesus yet," he said. "So Gospel music needs to be sung to those that have never heard the Gospel, that don't have a relationship with Jesus yet," he said. "I think with this particular record you can do that, whereas the first record was really to the church."

Some of his other efforts are also relatable to those who are in recovery. He created an initiative in 2011 called the “Forgive to Live” campaign, whose goal it was to inspire one million acts of forgiveness. He partnered with the Cancer Treatment Centers of America for the project and spoke about the health benefits of forgiveness.

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By McCarton Ackerman

synthetic drugs

8/15/14 8:30am

Minnesota Teen Pleads Guilty To Murder In Overdose Death

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Cole Matenaer. Photo via

A Minnesota teenager could potentially spend the next eight years behind bars after pleading guilty to the overdose death of a 17-year-old girl.

Five teenagers have been charged with third-degree murder in the death of Tara Fitzgerald, but 19-year-old Cole Alexander Matenaer has been the first to plead guilty. No plea deal was agreed upon beforehand, which means that he is not guaranteed a reduced sentence in exchange for the guilty plea.

Matenaer said in court last week that he wanted “to make amends for what I did.” His other friends, 19-year-old Alexander Lee Claussen, and 17-year-olds Sydney Clair Johnson, Alistair Curtis Berg, and Brian Phillip Norlander, have not entered their pleas.

“We’re sending that message that the suppliers are going to be held fully to account,” said Washington County Attorney Pete Orput. “There's a big lesson to be had out of this…this isn't harmless. Handing out drugs to each other isn't harmless. This isn't a bag of weed...Nobody's dying from that stuff."

Fitzgerald was found unresponsive at her home on Jan. 11 and pronounced dead that evening at a nearby hospital. An autopsy revealed that the cause of death was a synthetic form of LSD known as N-Bomb. Orput said that Claussen supplied the drugs to the other defendants, who then sold it, and Norlander gave the drug to Fitzgerald. Videos later found on Fitzgerald’s cell phone allegedly showed her and another friend under the influence of the drug.

The Drug Enforcement Administration reported that N-Bomb was responsible for at least 19 deaths between March 2012 and November 2013, with at least three more deaths related to the drug being reported since then. The DEA declared it as a Schedule I drug last November, putting it in the same category as crack cocaine and heroin.

Johnson, Berg, and Norlander also face additional charges for the alleged sale of dangerous drugs to someone under the age of 18.

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

8/15/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Aug. 15, 2014

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By Shawn Dwyer

harsh sentence

8/14/14 7:30pm

19-Year-Old Faces Life in Prison for Pot Brownies

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A nineteen-year-old man in Texas is facing life in prison on charges of selling brownies made with marijuana and hash oil. Jacob Lavoro was arrested in April after a neighbor complained about the smell of smoke coming from his apartment.

Lavoro was charged with having nearly one and a half pounds of drugs with the intent to sell, a first-degree felony that carries a punishment of 10 years to life in prison.

“I’m scared. Very scared,” said Lavoro. “I’m 19 years old and I still have my whole life ahead of me. Take that into account, and I can do more good than evil.”

According to an arrest affidavit, officers confiscated hash oil in a container, $1,600, and what appeared to be a client list. Following a lab test, it has been confirmed that 145 grams of hash oil were in the jar and just 2.5 grams of THC in the brownies.

Lavoro’s attorney, Jack Holmes, wants the charges reduced to a second-degree felony, which would reduce the punishment to two to 20 years or probation.

The office of the District Attorney has offered Lavoro a plea deal to a reduced felony charge that would involve no jail time if he stayed out of trouble. First Assistant D.A. Mark Brunner claimed prosecutors are not intending to lock up Lavoro in prison for life. But Holmes rejected the offer, worried that prosecutors would be overzealous if Lavoro missed so much as a mandatory meeting.

Holmes is prepared to argue in a key hearing that the charges should be dropped altogether based on whether the search of Lavoro’s apartment was lawful. Holmes said police officers entered the apartment without justification, although the police claim Lavoro’s girlfriend allowed them inside. “That’s going to be a very important hearing because if the judge rules in our favor, the case is over,” Holmes said.

Holmes, a former police officer, said the smell of marijuana would have been enough justification for a search if Lavoro was in a vehicle, but that is not the case for a residence. “They just bowed their way in because they thought they smelled marijuana in the apartment…they had permission right then based on the law, and they’re wrong about that,” Holmes said.

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By Victoria Kim

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