Despite controversy surrounding a recent anti-smoking campaign from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, new numbers show the graphic ads seems be working. The Tips from Former Smokers campaign, which launched last March and ran until mid-June, featured roughly a dozen ex-smokers offering personal testimony on the devastating health consequences of their long-term tobacco use. Participants were featured in 30-second televised PSA's, radio commercials and web and print ads. "Everything that's happened to me has come from the fact that I smoked cigarettes," said campaign participant Terrie Hall, who developed throat cancer and had her larynx removed as a result of smoking. She now requires mechanical assistance to speak and breathes through an opening in her neck, which the videos frankly depicted. "That means that every day I have to put in my teeth, I have to put in a talking device in my neck, I have to wear a wig. That's how I get ready for my day." The national online portal smokefree.gov had roughly 120,000 visitors to its site from March-June in 2011, but that number increased to 630,000 people during the same time frame of the campaign. That's a 428 percent jump overall. The CDC's 1-800-QUIT-NOW information line had 158,000 callers from March-June 2011, which rose 132 percent during the same time frame this year with 365,000 callers. "[We wanted to give] a voice and a strong sense of humanity to people who have been the victims," said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. "Not helpless, pathetic victims, but people who want their stories told about what's been happening over the last 50 years, and who don't want to see this happen to anybody else."
Marijuana may be legal in Colorado and Washington now, but it will remain very much forbidden for pro baseball and football players. While the feds may well refrain from arresting pot smokers in the two states, a league official at MLB has made it clear that marijuana, unlike alcohol, will remain under the list of prohibited "drugs of abuse" in its current policy. Under this policy, testing positive for any of these drugs results in a 50-game suspension on the first offense. Several MLB players have been benched for a positive pot result in recent years including Tampa Bay Rays prospect Tim Beckham, who received the 50-game suspension last May. Tim Lincecum was also benched in 2009 after being arrested in Washington for marijuana, although the MLB technically didn't have the grounds to authorize the suspension because it was a civil matter and Lincecum had never tested positive for any illicit drugs. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello also reaffirmed pro football's stance on pot yesterday morning by stating that: "The NFL's policy is collectively bargained and will continue to apply in the same manner it has for decades. Marijuana remains prohibited under the NFL substance abuse program."
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."