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drug testing

7/02/13 4:24pm

Poppy Seed Bagel Case Leads to Drug Policy Changes

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A poppyseed bagel set off a false positive.
Photo via

A Pennsylvania woman who lost custody of her newborn baby when a poppy seed bagel set off a positive test for opiates has settled her lawsuit. Elizabeth Mort was given a routine drug test at Jameson Hospital when she was admitted to give birth in 2010. When she tested positive, Lawrence County Children and Youth Services (LCCYS) took away her baby for five days, until they had determined that there was no other evidence of drug use by the mother. Mort argued that that the trace opiates in her system were from a poppy seed bagel she had eaten the day before giving birth, and says that she was never consulted before her baby was taken from her home.

The American Civil Liberties Union, who filed her case, announced today that Jameson Hospital and Lawrence County Children and Youth Services will pay $143,500 in the settlements and will enact policy changes to prevent future mothers from losing their children over false positives. The hospital will no longer report positive maternal drug tests unless the child also tests positive. ACLU attorney Sara Rose pointed out that the hospital's limit for flagging a drug sample as positive is extremely low at 300 nanogram/mL—compared to the federal screening standard of 2,000 nanogram/mL. “Its pretty clear that 300 (n/mL) is low enough that if you’ve ingested food containing poppy seeds that you could have a positive test result,” said Rose. In accordance with the settlement, LCCYS has also changed its policies and will now only seek a court order for custody of a child after the discussing the situation with the parents. “I am happy that the changes made by CYS and the hospital will prevent similar situations to others in the future,” said Mort. Her daughter, Isabella, is now three years old.

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By May Wilkerson

booze violations

7/02/13 3:13pm

Are NY Liquor Inspectors Boozing Extra on the Job?

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When does "inspecting" cross the line into
"drinking?" Photo via

Are New York's State Liquor Authority inspectors enjoying their jobs a little too much? While investigating restaurants suspected of violating liquor laws, these officials are racking up quite a tab, according to newly released records of their purchases. The agents, who pose as regular patrons and often go in pairs in order to be seated, are supposed to order the least expensive item on the menu and limit themselves to one drink every 40 minutes. But records show one bill amounted to $73 at the Bowery Hotel for a glass of wine, a $14 drink of Veev Acai and two pasta entrees. Another $65 bill included a glass of red wine, a martini and two chicken entrees. And two agents in Long Island spent 54$ on six bud lights. An agency insider claims inspectors use the term “fucking the duck” to jokingly describe the technique of boozing on the taxpayer's dollar. “It seems like the employees are taking advantage of the need to enforce the law by enriching themselves with free food and drink beyond what’s required,” says Dick Dadey, executive director of the Citizens Union. In total, about ten NY inspectors have spent $3,481 while patronizing 35,000 suspect restaurants, clubs and bars over the past three years. But agency spokesman William Crowley argues that this is money well spent, and it's small change compared to the $246,750 in fines the agents have collected from violations.

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By Bryan Le

drug war

7/02/13 2:11pm

Drug Cartels Murder Mexican Politicians Before Elections

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Killings have decreased under President
Nieto, but not stopped. Photo via

Running for political office in Mexico can be a life-threatening feat. At least four candidates and politicians have been killed ahead of this Sunday's elections in Mexican states, as drug cartels seek to gain influence over local officials. Politicians murdered in the last month include a party leader in Oaxaca, mayoral candidates in Veracruz and Chihuahua states and a campaign manager in Sinaloa. “Political assassinations won’t end anytime soon,” says Jorge Chabat, a political science professor at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching, a Mexico City-based university. “It’s very probable organized crime groups are trying to prevent some people from gaining office, either because they think they’ll act against their group’s interests, or because they think they’re aligned with a rival gang.” Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio told reporters last week that the government will "thoroughly investigate" the killings and "seek out solutions and clarifications." Pre-election murders aren't a novel concept in Mexico; in 2010, gunmen killed at least 10 standing mayors and shot dead Rodolfo Torre Cantu, the leading gubernatorial candidate in Tamaulipas state. Despite this, the Interior Ministry reported last April that drug war killings dropped 14% in the first four months of new Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's administration, compared to the same period a year later.

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By McCarton Ackerman

crime and punishment

7/02/13 12:42pm

Pot-Dealing Suburban Mom Free on $500,000 Bail

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Sanderlin on her way out of jail.
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Andrea Sanderlin, the NY suburban mom charged with running a major marijuana ring, was released yesterday on $500,000 bail after being locked up since May. A random circle of friends ranging from an MTA engineer to a hair stylist went to bat in court for Sanderlin and while Judge Steven Gold granted the bail, he was skeptical about their ties to the suburban mom. "She doesn't know these people," said Gold. "She knows people that know these people." The judge ordered Sanderlin's family until tomorrow to sign on the bail deal or it would be rescinded. Last month, the 45-year-old mother-of-two was charged with running a massive grow-house out of a warehouse in Queens, where agents found 3,000 weed plants with a street value of over $3 million. She had allegedly been running a marijuana business under the name "Fantastic Enterprises, Inc." A US District court filing also claims that federal agents recovered $6,000 in cash and books on money laundering and growing pot when they raided her home in the ritzy Westchester town of Scarsdale, in addition to $7,900 in cash from Sanderlin's nanny. 

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By McCarton Ackerman

medical marijuana

7/02/13 12:02pm

Medical Marijuana Is Deemed Kosher

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Rabbi Zalmanovic blesses MMJ. Photo via

God smiles upon Jews' marijuana use, as long as it's medical, according to a religious ruling by a prominent orthodox rabbi. Rabbi Efraim Zalmanovich, from the Israeli town of Mazkeret Batya, declared that marijuana is kosher if it is prescribed to cure a disease or alleviate pain and suffering. However, smoking pot solely to get high or to experience a "similar feeling solely for pleasure" is forbidden. "Taking drugs to escape this world in any excessive way is certainly forbidden," said Rabbi Zalmanovich, who has also written extensively about alcoholism and Judaism. "However, if the drug is administered to relieve pain, then the person giving it is performing a mitzvah [a good deed commanded by faith]." The new ruling was meant to clarify a recent comment by a representative of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, who told an Israeli cannabis magazine that “If you smoke [pot], there is no problem whatsoever.” More than 11,000 Israelis are currently prescribed medical marijuana to treat pre approved health ailments including Parkinson’s Disease, cancer, ALS and Multiple Sclerosis, according to the Israeli Health Ministry. Israel distributes more legal marijuana per capita than any other European country—approximately 880 pounds of cannabis per month, compared to only 330 pounds per year in The Netherlands.

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By May Wilkerson

Molly

7/02/13 11:11am

Tainted Molly Devastates Seattle Music Festival

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"They don't even know what they're taking."
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A 21-year-old man died and many more were hospitalized after reportedly overdosing on a tainted batch of "Molly" at the Paradiso Festival in Washington this weekend. Overdose victims thought they were taking ecstasy—which contains MDMA, or "Molly"—but instead they got a more potent mix containing cocaine, LSD and meth, according to Sarina Fahrner, chief nurse at nearby hospital Quincy Valley Medical Center. She said there were more than 100 overdose patients throughout the weekend-long event. "When you have cocaine and LSD and meth all mixed together, it just does terrible things to your body," said Fahrner. "Your heart doesn't tolerate it very well, your breathing does not tolerate it very well." 25,000 people attended the sold-out electronic music event at the Gorge Amphitheatre, a venue which is seeing increasing drug use. "What we're seeing this year is much higher acuity—more severe—in the drug use," said Michele Wurl, a spokeswoman for the Quincy Valley Medical Center. “They don't even know what they're taking." An autopsy was scheduled yesterday for the man who died, and three people remain hospitalized in serious condition. Around 23 people were arrested at the festival for charges including possession or delivery of controlled substances, according to the sheriff’s office.

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By Chrisanne Grise

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