Last night, hundreds of Washingtonians gathered under the Space Needle in Seattle to herald the moment recreational marijuana became legal, counting down New Year's-style to 12 am on December 6 before sparking up en masse. In a surreal scene, enthusiasts bluntly offered joints to reporters and blew smoke into news cameras. “I feel like a kid in a candy store!” said Hempfest volunteer Darby Hageman. “It's all becoming real now!” While the new law does prohibit public use, like with alcohol, the Seattle police department had standing orders to hold the citations and let the people party. But despite the festivities, state law still leaves pot in a legal limbo—it's ok to possess it, but growing or selling it remains technically a felony. “So I'm not sure where you're supposed to get it,” wonders King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg. “If you stumble across some on the street or it falls from the sky, then you can have it. Otherwise, you're part of a criminal chain of distribution.”
And that's before we get to the possibility of federal intervention, with the US Justice Department maintaining a poker face: “Regardless of any changes in state law, including the change that will go into effect on December 6 in Washington state, growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law,” states the US Attorney's Office. “Members of the public are also advised to remember that it remains against federal law to bring any amount of marijuana onto federal property, including all federal buildings, national parks and forests, military installations and courthouses.” Washington's pot smokers hope the feds will soon clarify. “We don't want to go and spend serious resources only to have it stopped by the federal government,” says Washington State Liquor Control spokesman Brian Smith. “It would sure help Washington state if they weighed in and made clear their expectations.” Perhaps Washington lawmakers wish their lives were as simple as that of Snoop Lion. He marked the occasion by stating on a Wednesday night Reddit chat that he currently smokes 81 blunts a day—or one every 10-15 minutes—aided by his eligibility for medical marijuana in California.
A war of words between singer LeAnn Rimes, her husband Eddie Cibrian and his ex-wife—Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Brandi Glanville—just plumbed new depths. In an open e-mail, Glanville accuses Rimes of being addicted to alcohol and prescription drugs, dubbing her "angelfish" because she "sings like an angel and drinks like a fish." That e-mail followed an interview with Glanville, published yesterday in Us Weekly, in which she said that Rimes has a "severe eating disorder"—and that Glanville's son got sick after swallowing one of the singer's laxatives. "Mason, my eldest, ate some of Le's candies and got extremely ill. And Le's candies are laxatives. Mason found it on the floor and thought it was a Skittle!" she said. "LeAnn has a severe eating disorder. She has [a laxative] in every purse." It all kicked off with a tweet last week in which Rimes referred to her stepsons—Glanville's biological sons—as "my boys." A furious Glanville tweeted back, "They are my boys, Eddie's boys and your stepsons...for now." Cibrian finally entered the fray with a public e-mail denying all of Glanville's accusations. "It is absolutely ridiculous that my ex-wife continues to put the personal lives of myself, LeAnn, our sons and my family on public display for the sake of her notoriety," he wrote. "She is fully capable and has the means of contacting myself and LeAnn privately...the fact she chooses not to should be pretty transparent. One day, when wine and narcissism are not consuming you, you will realize how fortunate the kids are to have LeAnn in their life." Rimes has previously said that she doesn't have an eating disorder, but she did undergo a 30-day treatment program for stress and anxiety last August. Cibrian and Glanville were married for nine years; he left her in 2009 due to his affair with Rimes, who was also married at the time.
In a breakthrough reminiscent of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, scientists have discovered a way to suppress memories—without erasing them entirely—that could help people recover from addiction and PTSD. Using lab rats, Western University researchers found that stimulating the "D1" dopamine receptor in a particular area of the brain can prevent the mind from recalling both reward-related memories and aversive ones. "One of the common problems associated with these disorders is the obtrusive recall of memories that are associated with the fearful, emotional experiences in PTSD patients," explains Steven Laviolette, an associate professor in the Departments of Anatomy and Cell Biology, and Psychiatry, who co-led the study. "And people suffering with addiction are often exposed to environmental cues that remind them of the rewarding effects of the drug. This can lead to drug relapse, one of the major problems with persistent addictions to drugs such as opiates." The findings could represent a major breakthrough. "There are presently no effective treatments for patients suffering from obtrusive memories associated with either PTSD or addiction," says study co-leader Nicole Lauzon, a PhD candidate at Western. "If we are able to block the recall of those memories, then potentially we have a target for drugs to treat these disorders." What makes these findings particularly exciting is that researchers were able to prevent individuals from spontaneously recalling memories, but without permanently altering the brain—leaving the original memories intact. Laviolette say, “We weren't inducing any form of brain damage or actually affecting the integrity of the original memories."
- Mexican President Says Army to Stay in Drug Fight [ABC News]
- Drugs and Politics Stoke Ireland Gang War [International Herald Tribune]
- Smoking May Worsen a Hangover [BBC]
- Majority of Americans Support Legalizing Marijuana [Chicago Tribune]
- How to Sell Marijuana Legally, in Four Inconvenient Steps [NPR]
- Actor Scott Evans Caught in Undercover Drug Deal [Huffington Post]
Transgender people are at a much higher risk for substance abuse and addiction, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress. But ignorance and incompetencies in health care and addiction treatment may prevent them from receiving adequate care. An estimated 30% of transgender people abuse substances, compared to just around 9% of the general population, according to a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) study. “The stress that comes from daily battles with discrimination and stigma is a principal driver of these higher rates of substance use, as transgender people turn to tobacco, alcohol, prescription drugs, and other substances as a way to cope with these challenges," says the report. Transgender people face disproportionate levels of stress, due to social prejudice and discriminatory laws, say advocates. This can result in increased anxiety, depression and isolation, leading many to self-medicate with illegal or prescription drugs, or alcohol. Also, many trans people find a safe space in the bar or club scene, again increasing exposure to alcohol and drugs.
Those who do seek treatment are often directed towards inadequate or ineffective services. Medical professionals are often uneducated in trans people's specific needs, and most in-patient drug rehab centers are segregated by gender—making them an unsafe, alienating space for this population. Even rehabs that market themselves as "trans-friendly" often refuse to provide crucial hormone therapy, misguidedly considering it an "elective drug." The mental health and medical fields have much to do to improve this situation—but certain changes are underway. The term "gender identity disorder" will soon be removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; advocates say that pathologizing trans identity like this contributes to stigmas and subsequent inadequacies in services. Plans to replace the term with "gender dysphoria" (emotional distress over one's gender) were approved this past Saturday. This could usher in more comprehensive and organized care for trans people, according to Jack Drescher, a member of the American Psychiatric Association and an advocate for trans rights. “We know there is a whole community of people out there who are not seeking medical attention and live between the two binary categories," he says. "We wanted to send the message that the therapist’s job isn’t to pathologize.”
Flat economy or no, alcohol sales in bars and restaurants are climbing. According to Technomic’s 2012 BarTAB (Trends in Adult Beverage) report, on-premises sales of spirits, wine and beer rose 4.9% in 2011, reaching $93.7 billion—and projections suggest that the trend will continue. “Rising consumer confidence in the economy—although it’s not back to pre-recession levels and is at risk due to the pending fiscal cliff—is bringing them back into restaurants and allowing them to order a glass of wine or beer or a cocktail,” Donna Hood Crecca, senior director at Technomic, tells The Fix. “That, coupled with the dining trend of exploration of flavorful adult beverages and learning about various expressions of spirits, styles of beer and the world of wine will contribute to the sales growth.” Beer is by far the most popular choice for bar and restaurant drinkers, according to the report—it accounts for over 80% of all drinks sold. Booze options also impact where consumers eat: one third of people say that alcohol selection and drinks programs influence their decision to visit an establishment.
So will this increase in on-premises sales see a corresponding rise in DUIs? Crecca thinks not: “Spending was up, but overall adult beverage volume decreased—so the trend is towards people spending more per drink, not necessarily drinking more per occasion,” she tells us. “They’re buying higher-end spirits and wine, craft beer and other premium beverages. These types of drinks pair well with food and are often consumed with food.” She believes that it's ultimately up to individual establishments to create a safe environment: “The risk of DUIs really comes from irresponsible service and consumption practices,” she says. “We see restaurant operators investing in training and other initiatives to prevent the overconsumption that can lead to driving offenses.”