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legal pot

4/29/13 2:20pm

Legal Pot Dispensaries Are Prime Targets for Thieves

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After your greens. Photo via

Marijuana's high demand means it's pretty pricey, and dispensaries need the best security on the market to deter potential theft. With pot going for about $2,000 a pound, bud burglars can easily make $20,000 just by bagging what's on the counter. Typical dispensaries will employ "dozens of security cameras," motion detectors, infrared sensors, flood lights and sometimes even ceiling tripwires to prevent a thief from sawing through the roof. At most dispensaries, those entering must pass through three doors, show ID and present a verified doctor's note. But many security companies refuse to do business with dispensaries, even in states where state law permits medical or recreational use of the drug. The nation's largest security provider, ADT Security, says it won't "sell security services to businesses engaged in the marijuana industry because it is still illegal under federal law." Kevin Griffin, proprietor of West Coast Wellness, a pot dispensary in Seattle, says ADT cut off his business without warning. “They already knew what we were. We were completely transparent," says Griffin, "It's not fair to put us in a jam and not give us any time to prepare.”

The pot industry's high-security needs create an opportunity for specialized security start ups like Colorado's Canna Security to step in. The founder, Daniel Williams, says his company has witnessed a slew of pot heists straight out of the movies, from a group of teenagers ramming an Audi through a warehouse wall, to a thief sawing a hole in a dispensary roof and then getting trapped inside, to a pair of "ninjas" who stuck up a marijuana deliveryman in broad daylight. But Williams stresses that marijuana security is "no joke" and can result in major losses for these businesses. Still, Griffin says his own business faces just as much of a threat from the feds. “They're worse than criminals,” he says, fearing a federal shut down. “They have the right to walk through the front door and take whatever they want.”

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By Bryan Le

Americans with disabilities act

4/29/13 12:59pm

Fired Cop Claims Alcoholism as a Disability and Sues

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On the water now; should Servo have kept his
job? Photo via

A cop who was fired for driving drunk in an unmarked police car is suing the city of Gresham, Oregon for $6 million—claiming that his rights as an alcoholic under the Americans with Disabilities Act were violated. Jason Servo, 43, was arrested off-duty in September 2011 after driving into a ditch. He refused a breathalyzer or field sobriety tests, but the arresting officer testified that Servo was probably one of the 10 drunkest drivers he'd come across in nearly 15 years. Servo subsequently attended diversion and in-patient programs, where he was diagnosed as an alcoholic; he's now been sober for over two years. "There were times where I went home and I couldn't get crime scenes out of my head," says Servo, who was his department's lead firearms instructor. "I went to drinking for that and there are other officers that do the same thing." His lawsuit alleges that he was fired without due process in order to save money. "Just as with any type of disability or disease, they should have made some kind of effort to accommodate that, or some kind of effort to work with him, and not simply sever all ties," says one of Servo's attorneys.

The application of the Americans with Disabilities Act when it comes to firing addicted employees or awarding them benefits is highly controversial. “I am particularly worried about the ‘regarded as disability’ corner of ADA law," employment litigation lawyer Thomas Gies told The Fix in our recent report on this subject. "A plaintiff [could have a case] asserting that the employer’s refusal to let plaintiff continue in a [public] safety–sensitive job—airline pilots, bus drivers, the captain of a vessel like the Exxon Valdez—is unlawful because the employer's worry about a possible relapse amounts to ‘regarding’ the person as ‘disabled.’” But Bob Joondephexecutive director for Disability Rights Oregon, says: "The ADA has provisions in it, across the board, to not require employers to subject other people to unreasonable risk to accommodate a disability."

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By Will Godfrey

Smokin' Style

4/29/13 12:12pm

Pop Star Psy Smokes on the Sly

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Not always a "gentleman" Photo via

His song "Gangnam Style" became the most watched video in YouTube history, but when it comes to smoking, Psy shies away from international attention. The Korean pop star reportedly tried to hide his smoking habit while attending a pre-party for the White House Correspondents' Dinner this past weekend. A large bodyguard attempted to get in the way of any pictures of him lighting up while his handlers told photographers that "Psy doesn't want his picture taken while smoking a cigarette." One handler reportedly told a colleague that, "Scooter [Braun, Psy's manager] told me if this fucks up, I'm done." Washingtonian editor-at-large Carol Joynt also reported that the pop star's sole request for a hotel room was one where he would be allowed to smoke. His attempts to keep his habit under the radar haven't always been a success: Last year, Psy was snapped smoking a cigarette in front of a no-smoking sign after a show in Toronto. He was also arrested in 2001 for possession of marijuana and is notoriously touchy about the subject: When Australian radio station Fox FM tried to bring it up in an interview last October, he walked out and reportedly told producers that he would no longer do press with the network "or any affiliates."

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By McCarton Ackerman

big pharma

4/29/13 11:01am

Drugmaker Sued for Bribing Doctors With Hooters Visits

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Charge it to Novartis. Photo via

Prescription drugmaker Novartis AG was sued this week by the US government, for the second time, this time for allegedly bribing physicians into increasing prescriptions of the company's drugs. The drug maker is accused of coercing the doctors by taking them on outings to Hooters, on fishing trips, and offering pricey fees for speaking engagements. The lawsuit is seeking triple damages and civil penalties, claiming federal health care programs were forced to pay millions of dollars for kickback-tainted claims as a result. In a private False Claims Act lawsuit filed in 2011, the government also alleged that Novartis violated the Anti-Kickback Statute to increase sales of two of its hypertension drugs, Lotrel and Valturna, and its diabetes drug, Starlix. "Novartis corrupted the prescription drug dispensing process with multimillion-dollar 'incentive programs' that targeted doctors who, in exchange for illegal kickbacks, steered patients toward its drugs," said Manhattan US attorney Preet Bharara in a statement on Friday. "Novartis reaped dramatically increased profits on these drugs, and Medicare, Medicaid and other federal health-care programs were left holding the bag." Bharara's office also sued Novartis last week for allegedly paying kickbacks, disguised as rebates and discounts, to at least 20 pharmacies for switching patients to its immunosuppressant drug Myfortic.

Novartis said they are challenging both lawsuits and will defend themselves in court. "As a leading healthcare company, NPC is committed to high standards of ethical business conduct and regulatory compliance in the sale and marketing of our products," said Novartis spokeswoman Julie Masow in an e-mail. "The physician speaker programs targeted in yesterday's lawsuit are an accepted practice in the industry." She argued that the rebates and discounts cited by the government in the Myfortic case are "a customary, appropriate and legal practice" and the kickback lawsuit is "inconsistent with law and policy in this area." If Novartis loses, it would be another massive financial blow to the drug makers for illegal activity; earlier this week a jury ordered them to pay $2.1 million in a trial over Aredia and Zometa bone-strengthening drugs. In September 2010, Novartis paid $422.5 million over paying kickbacks and illegally promoting drugs for unapproved uses.

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

4/29/13 5:00am

Morning Roundup: April 29, 2013

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Monteith "looks great" after rehab. Photo via

By The Fix staff

prescription drugs

4/26/13 5:02pm

Saturday Is National Rx Drug Take-Back Day

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Time to toss 'em! Photo via

To combat the growing prescription drug epidemic in the US, and to ensure Rx drugs are disposed of properly, law enforcement and drug prevention groups across the country are participating in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day this Saturday. The anonymous, no-cost program will set up drop-off locations in hundreds of communities in every state (click here to find a site near you). More than 2 million pounds (1,018 tons) of unused prescription medications have been disposed of in the past five years' events. Everyday in the US 2,700 kids between the age of 12 and 17 are introduced to prescription pain killers, which have the highest overdose death rate of any drug. "Medication abuse often starts with teens stealing from the homes of family and friends," says Amy Tiemeier, assistant professor and director of professional affairs at St. Louis College of Pharmacy. "Those medications act as a gateway to narcotics like heroin or cocaine. Removing unwanted medications from your home helps protect not only your family, but the entire community." Flushing unused prescription drugs down the toilet is discouraged, as these drugs end up contaminating public water. But the longer prescription pills sit in a medicine cabinet, the chance of them being misused increases. Furthermore, "a few medications become toxic and can be very harmful if taken after they have expired," says Tiemeier. "If patients are concerned about medications falling into the wrong hands, lock it in a drawer or keep it with you at all time."

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By Ben Feuerherd

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