- Will "Marijuana Tourism" Light Up Voters? [USA Today]
- Lieutenant to "Chapo" Guzman Arrested in Mexico [Huffington Post]
- Jim Beam Didn’t Get Putin Memo as Whiskey Eyes Russians [Bloomberg]
- More Than a Ton of Cocaine Seized in Venezuela [ABC]
- Mythbusters to test science of Breaking Bad [Mother Nature Network]
- Vodka Fire Sparked By Sunlight In Burnsville, Minn. Liquor Store [Huffington Post]
The campaign over Colorado's Amendment 64—which seeks to regulate pot like alcohol—may be a closer-run thing than the equivalent races in Washington (where a yes vote looks likely) and Oregon (where the yes campaign seems to be struggling). Colorado's latest poll puts support for its initiative at 53% (up from 47% back in August), with 43% opposed. The pro-legalization Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol can also boast a sizable fundraising edge: they've raised over $3 million, while their opponents at the anti-legalization organization Smart Colorado have pulled in only $433,000.
But supporters worry that the numbers shown by the polls could collapse when it comes to actually casting votes. Anh, a 24-year-old student in Colorado, is one of them: “I think marijuana usage should not be a crime, but am doubtful it will pass—never has passed and never will,” she tells The Fix. “Actually, when the baby boomers die, then it will pass.” With "Vote No" endorsements coming from 42 (out of 64) of the state's county sheriffs, plenty of figures in local government and the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police, there may just be grounds for her pessimism. As with anti-legalization groups in Oregon and Washington, Smart Colorado didn't respond to The Fix's request for comment.
Meanwhile Mason Tvert, the co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, thinks that record-breaking national support for legalization (polls have put it as high as 59%) and the large donations to his cause show that a turning point has been reached. “In Colorado and nationwide, people are becoming increasingly fed up with the failed policy of marijuana prohibition. They recognize the harm that it is causing on a daily basis and sense the urgency to end it,” he tells The Fix. “Support for ending marijuana prohibition increases every year, and it has or will soon reach a point where change is inevitable.” Amendment 64's supporters variously want to expand civil liberties, prevent underage access, deny criminals drug profits, free up law enforcement and generate tax revenue. But big endorsements from the NAACP and the ACLU came for reasons of equality: A recent report shows that despite whites being the keenest potheads in Colorado, blacks and Latinos are much more likely to be arrested for marijuana-related reasons.
Colorado seems to be serving as a proxy for the national marijuana-policy battle. Most of the money backing both sides on Amendment 64 has come from out-of-state—with 89% and 51%, respectively, of the pro and anti totals donated by nationwide advocacy and interest groups. “People around the country who support marijuana policy reform recognize the importance of these state-based efforts and want to be a part of sparking that broader change,” says Tvert. “Those who want to maintain marijuana prohibition recognize it, as well, which is why they pour money into opposing these efforts and preventing change from spreading.” Celebrity endorsements from the likes of Morgan Freeman and Pat Robertson may have shaken things up, but as Tvert says, the fate of Amendment 64 isn't up to them: "Ultimately, the voters of Colorado are going to decide."
A top executive for Heineken has been seriously pushing the envelope when it comes to promoting his product. Alexis Nasard, Heineken's chief commercial officer, actually waxed lyrical about the health benefits of beer on CNBC, extolling it as a better choice than wine, spirits—or even milk. "There is everything healthy about beer," says Nasard. “Beer has much less calories than many things you can think about… Beer has fewer calories than a glass of milk. The other thing is beer is one of the few drinks that is purely natural; it is water, hops, barley and yeast, which is quite healthy." According to the UK's Beer Education Trust, he may just have a point about overall calorie intake: a half-pint of 3.8% bitter pale ale for example has 85 calories, compared to 128 in an equivalent amount of orange juice. But before you start dumping Heineken in your morning cereal or your gym bottle, Nasard clarifies that he isn't encouraging binge drinking—naturally. "All the benefits of beer—health, social and psychological—are only enjoyed when beer is drunk in moderation and preferably with a low-alcohol content,” he explains. Heineken has recently embarked on a major popularity drive, shelling out $45 million to get James Bond to down the Dutch drink in Skyfall. So far it seems to be working: with the exception of Western Europe, third-quarter sales shot up.
In a move sure to send shockwaves through the recovery community, Hazelden has announced that it will offer buprenorphine (Suboxone) maintenance for patients addicted to heroin and prescription painkillers. That’s right: the pioneer of abstinence-based treatment, which put the "Minnesota" in the Minnesota Model of treatment used by most private programs nationwide, will now offer medication-assisted care—in some cases, indefinitely. The change, as reported today in Time, comes as a result of the epidemic in opiate-based prescription drug abuse, which over the past decade has flooded the renowned rehab with a new breed of patients with new needs (in 2001, only 19% of its adult patients, and 15% of adolescents and young adults, were addicted to heroin or prescription pain relievers; by 2011, the numbers had increased to 30% and 41%, respectively):
“This is a huge shift for our culture and organization,” said Dr. Marvin Seppala, Hazelden’s chief medical officer, who pushed for the new practice. As the program’s first adolescent patient, and someone who has been in recovery from multiple drug addictions for 37 years, Seppala is keenly aware of how dramatic this decision is for the organization, which once debated whether or not coffee was acceptable in recovery. “We believe it’s the responsible thing to do,” he says.
Driving the need for change is the sobering reality of how patients addicted to prescription pain relievers fare once they leave the Hazelden program.…Within days of leaving a residential treatment facility, most were relapsing—and at least half a dozen have died from overdoses in recent years. It was time, Seppala argued, for a radical change.
Although the World Health Organization, the Institute on Medicine, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the nation's "drug czar" have all determined that maintenance medications like methadone and Suboxone are the best hope for people addicted to opioids, Minnesota Model programs like Hazelden and Betty Ford have limited their use to short-term detox. Meanwhile, on the Minnesota model-based Celebrity Rehab, Dr. Drew has popularized an extremely negative—and completely unscientific—view of these treatments, claiming that methadone “takes your soul away”; one of his counselors called Suboxone “the root of all evil.” At least two of the patients that Celeb Rehab put through its harsh, nearly cold-turkey withdrawal have since died opioid-related deaths, including Alice in Chains bassist Mike Starr and actor Jeff Conaway. Research shows that such grim outcomes are often preventable: maintenance cuts mortality in people addicted to opioids by at least 50%. That’s why every scientific group that has examined the data has come down in favor of it.
Hazelden’s embrace of maintenance is likely to spur soul-searching in the recovery movement. Hard questions, which have mostly been ignored by the abstinence-only establishment, will now demand answers. Can maintenance really be integrated into a 12-step-based program? Will people on Suboxone or methadone—which, after all, can cause a high in people who aren't tolerant to the drugs—genuinely be seen as “recovering,” just like people who are drug-free? What will such people do in community-based 12-step groups that have traditionally viewed maintenance as being just “substituting one drug for another?” And will Hazelden “lose its soul” by making this change?
Robert Pattinson has seems to have moved on from the Twilight cheating scandal involving his on-off girlfriend Kristen Stewart last summer, and now he's focusing once again on his nicotine addiction. Pattinson previously attempted to kick cigarettes with the aid of toothpicks earlier this year, but started smoking again this past August when the stress from the scandal reportedly became too much for him. Now he apparently has Leonardo DiCaprio to thank for going cold turkey again, after his fellow actor introduced him to electronic cigarettes. He was seen puffing away on the fake smokes over the weekend at the LA premiere for Stewart's latest film, On The Road. And Stewart, a smoker herself, has also kicked the habit in an effort to stand by her man. "She has been trying to be as supportive as she can of Rob's decision to quit," says a friend of hers. "Kristen and Rob used to smoke cigarettes together all the time but they know how crappy it made them feel. Kristen doesn't like smoking that electronic cigarette, so she just altogether quit."
Marijuana fans may go on about how something so "natural" can't possibly be bad for your health, but what about Mother Nature's? In medical marijuana-puffing California, environmental health officials have had to clean up more than a ton of marijuana grow soil found dumped on the bank of the Eel River in Humboldt County. That might not sound serious, but the soil used in pot cultivation tends to be high in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium fertilizers (NPK), which can wreak eco-havoc if they percolate into rivers. “It's bad for the rivers because it starves the river of oxygen, harms river organisms and can cause fish die-off,” says Melissa Martel, director of Humboldt County's Division of Environmental Health. “It can also stimulate blue-green algae blooms during certain times of the year in creeks or slower-moving bodies of water.” The 30 large bags of grow soil that were discovered have been taken to a landscaping materials company to be reused. “The best management method for spent soil is reuse. Growing vegetable crops in this high-nutrient soil, or mixing it with other soil, may result in high yields,” says Martel. ”When something is dumped inappropriately, it costs agencies and property owners time, resources and money." Pot plants need NPK fertilizers throughout their adult stages. With the battle over marijuana legalization very much in the balance, some growers may want to nurture their PR more carefully.