Kirstie Alley says the Church of Scientology saved her from an addiction to cocaine that almost killed her years ago. The former Cheers star reveals that her sometimes multi-day drug binges started a few years prior to her career as a Hollywood actress, when her marriage to Bob Alley began to crumble. "I thought I was going to overdose almost every time," she tells Entertainment Tonight. "I kept going for that feeling of being extroverted and that would last for sixty seconds. And then I was going to die for thirty minutes, and then the second I wasn't going to die I went 'boom,' I'd do it again." The 61-year-old is now sober and says her clean living was inspired by Scientology—particularly L. Ron Hubbard's book Dianetics. “I sat there with cocaine on this mirror and I was reading Dianetics and doing cocaine at the same time,” she recalls. "Somehow I got through it and I thought this is either the world's biggest scam or, I thought, this is how I'm going to get rid of this hideous compulsion.” Although the method seems to have worked for Alley, Scientology's rehab program, Narconon, has been under investigation in the past for its detox process—which some have claimed is even life-threatening. “When I was at Narconon, people were taken away in ambulances and had to spend days in the hospital,” said David Love, a client at Narconon Trois-Rivieres from December 2008 to May 2009, who was interviewed exclusively by The Fix. “People have died in the Quebec facility.”
- Canadians Want to Legalize Marijuana, Too [Washington Post]
- Brazil Credits Strong Tobacco Control Policies For Saving More Than 400,000 Lives [RedOrbit]
- Medical Marijuana Law Passes in Massachusetts [CBS News]
- Meth Heads Are Robbing People's Graves [Vice]
- Tommy Chong talks Obama, Internet and smoking with The Beatles [TBO]
- "Too Drunk To Be Guilty" Convict Sent to Prison [CBC News]
Voters in Washington and Colorado made history last night by voting for their states to become the first to regulate marijuana like alcohol. Washingtonians did so more decisively, as was predicted, passing I-502 with flying colors, with 55% for and 45% against. But Colorado's Amendment 64, which had faced a tighter battle, got through fairly comfortably too, with 53.3% for and 46.7% opposed. Now anyone over 21 will be entitled by those states' laws to possess an ounce of pot without fear of arrest—Coloradans will also be able grow up to six plants for personal use. Somewhat overshadowed by these groundbreaking results, Massachusetts also become the 18th state to permit medical marijuana, approving its own measure by a resounding 63-37% margin.
While many see these votes as cause for celebration, obstacles still lie ahead: “The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will,” said Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper last night. “This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.” The US Justice Department has meanwhile released a curt statement, noting that federal marijuana laws “remain unchanged.” But decriminalization activists say they aren't fazed by the feds. After all, the Prohibition era—a parallel advocates often draw upon—saw the beginnings of its end at the state level; Montana stopped enforcing Prohibition seven years before the federal government did the same. And Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes asserts that the feds “have no plans, except to talk.”
Betty Aldworth, of Colorado's Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, thinks it's only logical that the federal government will leave pot smokers in Colorado and Washington alone. Coloradans in particular have little to fear, because if local police stop enforcing marijuana laws, no one else will either: “The DEA here in Colorado and officers of the federal government have said on multiple occasions that they have neither the time nor the resources to invest in pursuing individuals for marijuana,” she tells The Fix. And she expects the state's efforts to set up an adult marijuana retail system will also go unhindered. “The government has allowed Colorado to develop medical marijuana centers here,” she tells us. “And we anticipate the federal government will be interested in moving marijuana off the streets—the only way to do that is to move it behind the counter.”
Marijuana legalization initiatives passed in Washington and Colorado yesterday—but not in Oregon, where only 45% of voters were in favor (according to the latest updates). Measure 80, which was considered the most "radical" of the three states' initiatives, would have repealed Oregon's pot laws outright, allowing private harvesting and distribution under the control of a commission. It had been lagging in the polls, which many attributed to a lack of funding due to its late arrival on the ballot in July. "If we'd had a million dollars, we would've won," Paul Stanford, the chief petitioner and author of Measure 80, tells The Fix. (The Washington and Colorado campaigns raised several million each, whereas Oregon's only raised half a mil). Stanford says advocates will continue to push the legislature to pass a bill in the next year, adding that the now-Democratic control of the House will work in their favor, as will the state's pot-friendly history (it was the first state to decriminalize it in 1973). He also believes that legalization in neighboring Washington will help—since people will now be able to buy weed legally one state over: "Our legislature doesn't want us crossing the border [to purchase pot]. They'd rather see us spend our tax money here." Whether a bill passes within two years, or shows up again on the ballot in 2014, Stanford is sure of one thing: "I'm going to keep going until we win. I'm an optimist."
Down in Arkansas, a bill for medical marijuana burned out as well—but not without a fight. A proposal to make AR the first southern state to legalize MMJ was rejected by 52% of voters. Chris Kell, the campaign strategist for Arkansans for Compassionate Care, tells The Fix that the narrow loss was due to the "onslaught of propaganda and misinformation that the opposition put out there"—specifically the Arkansas Family Council. "Their whole campaign claimed this was a back door to full legalization—but that's completely false." Despite the outcome, the fact that the issue made the ballot at all—and lost only narrowly—in the conservative state represents significant progress for the MMJ movement. "It almost passed. It was a close election," an Arkansas judge tells The Fix. "And the polls indicated that the people are compassionate and are inclined to want to allow suffering people that opportunity [to use medical pot]." He cites the measure's "grow-your-own provision" (to allow people to grow six plants on their own property if they live more than five miles from a dispensary) as one reason the measure failed: "That's too much for folks to handle. And who's going to go out and count how many plants?" But he says rumor has it the provision will be removed before MMJ returns to the ballot in two years, and if it does, "I predict it will pass overwhelmingly next time."
It's no secret that college students have long used prescription drugs like Ritalin for late-night study sessions. Now the widespread use of these "cognitive enhancers" in academia is leading to calls for UK universities to consider random drug testing to prevent some from obtaining an unfair advantage. Drugs like Ritalin (meant to treat ADHD) and modafinil (meant to treat sleep disorders) are taken by students to keep themselves alert and active in the period leading up to exams. Professor Barbara Sahakian, a psychiatrist at Cambridge University, says that up to 16% of US students and 10% of UK students have admitted using performance-enhancing drugs to improve their academic results. “People are starting to think about drug testing," she says. "Some of the students who don’t use cognitive enhancers may demand it because they are concerned about cheating. Some admissions tutors are also concerned about it.” In the US, drug testing in schools has already taken place at some private academies in the Atlanta area. Rx drug abuse in academia isn't limited to students; senior academics have also admitted to using cognitive enhancers on a regular basis, for reasons ranging from improving mental performance to avoiding jet lag. "The head of one laboratory in the US said that all of his staff are on modafinil and that in the future there will be a clear division between those who use modafinil and those who don’t,” adds Sahakian. The one positive with this abuse of cognitive enhancers is that they don't produce mood changes or a high, and don't lead to any obvious physical dependence. But Sahakian warns that the effects of long-term use are still largely unknown.
Crystal meth use can cause multiple nasty health consequences—such as irregular heartbeats and tooth loss—but a new study suggests it may offer one health benefit: fighting the flu. A group of scientists from the National Health Research Institutes in Taiwan reports that certain meth properties may actually reduce flu viruses in a dose-dependent manner—meaning a higher amount of meth results in lower amounts of the virus being reproduced. "We report the first evidence that meth significantly reduces, rather than increases, virus propagation and the susceptibility to influenza infection in the human lung epithelial cell line," reads the study, which was led by Yun-Hsiang Chen and published in the journal PLoS ONE. The researchers took cultures of human lung epithelial cells, exposed them to various concentrations of meth and then infected them with an H1N1 strain of human influenza A. They found that 30-48 hours after infection, the meth-treated cells had a much lower concentration of the virus than the control group. And while the researchers certainly don't condone using meth as a home remedy for the flu, they believe the study could lead to the discovery of safer remedies. They write: "This finding strongly encourages future work to investigate whether other compounds, structurally similar to meth, can inhibit influenza A virus production and be used to prevent or alleviate influenza A virus infection."