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movie puffs

9/11/14 3:30pm

Kevin Smith's New Movie Promoted with Tie-In Marijuana

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Kevin Smith is directing a new movie, and indie film studio A24 is using branded pot to promote it.

A Los Angeles-based medical marijuana dispensary is stocking two strains, Mr. Tusk and White Walrus, to create buzz for Tusk, Smith's new horror-comedy which stars Justin Long as a podcaster who starts slowly turning into a Walrus.

“White Walrus, I’m told, is more mellow and uplifting,” said Graham Retzik, an A24 marketing strategist. Mr. Tusk is supposedly more intense. “The two are surprisingly complex, in keeping with the spirit of the film."

The film company, which has been involved in other films about youthful, drug-fueled debauchery like The Bling Ring and Spring Breakers, hopes that the ploy can help Tusk stand out from the 400 or so films that will also be premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday.

Using marijuana to promote a work of Kevin Smith is also a good move, considering his fans have loved his films featuring Jay and Silent Bob, a pair of low-grade pot dealers. Not to mention Smith's own public love for the sweet leaf.

Retzik said that while movie names have been used to sell cannabis, like Pineapple Express, this is the first time he's aware of that pot has been used to sell a movie. However, Tusk itself does not feature any scenes of pot smoking.

Smith said that he himself has not been able to try his movie's weed, as he's been busy in California prepping to bring his movie to the Toronto International Film Festival. He reportedly he is "dying" to get his hands on it.

“This movie was born in a blaze, and will be released in a blaze,” he said.

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By Bryan Le

the brain & addiction

9/11/14 1:00pm

Neural Plasticity Highlighted By Brain’s Response to Addiction

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Although addiction has genetic, epigenetic, and environmental influences, it cannot be solely defined by any of these approaches. A new research article has showed how addiction is best described as an example of neural plasticity in the form of the brain’s ability to change and adapt to external stimuli. In other words, addiction is not just a patterned response; instead, the very process of becoming addicted actually rewires and changes the neural patterns of the addict’s brain.

Neuroscientist George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in Bethesda, illustrated the concept well. “A lot of people think addiction is what happens when someone finds a drug to be the most rewarding thing they’ve ever experienced," Koob said. "But drug abuse is not just feeling good about drugs. Your brain is changed when you misuse drugs. It is changed in ways that perpetuate the problem.”

Such changes occur on both a physical and a mental level. Triggers are a neural response to sense stimuli. When an addict smells an odor associated with the addiction, they begin craving. Many addicts mention how the act of scoring would result in a need to go to the bathroom. By knowing the drug was coming, the brain reacted by fostering an almost physical purge of the body to clear the way.

Addiction also changes how the brain processes other rewards like money or sweets or sex, decreasing their relative value when compared to the power of the addiction. The neural plasticity adjusts and creates a hierarchy in terms of what is needed.

Once addiction takes over, connections between brain cells and between different areas of the brain strengthen and weaken.  The very act of taking the drug results in an immediate shift in the brain through neural plasticity.

“[There is] a whole series of plastic changes to those receptors, to the brain cells that connect with them," Koob said. "The more you do it, the more it becomes ingrained and permanent.”

The best explanation for addiction is that the brain is adapting to a new environment through neural plasticity. Such an adaptation takes place on many levels and impacts many behaviors, whether it is learning, reward, or emotional processing. As a result, in order to treat addiction effectively, it must be addressed from a multitude of angles and perspectives.

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By John Lavitt

makes sense

9/11/14 10:30am

Chicago-Based Uber and Lyft Drivers Will Now Be Drug Tested

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Chicago drivers for ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft will now be required to undergo drug tests in order to remain behind the wheel, but the impetus for this new measure is an incident hundreds of miles away that may not have even involved drugs.

Atlanta Police are currently investigating a report that an Uber driver pulled a gun on a valet attendant who asked him to move his car forward. There is currently no evidence that drugs played a role in the incident, but it was enough for South Side Alderman Roderick Sawyer to forbid ride-sharing companies throughout Chicago from hiring a driver that has not passed a drug test administered by a company authorized by City Hall.

The city’s ride-sharing ordinance originally called for drug testing, but that portion was removed before City Council approved the ordinance on May 28. “We want to make sure our constituents are safe and have a safe ride,” said Sawyer. “It’s just a common-sense approach.”

All drivers would need to drug tested annually and a positive test would result in being prohibited from operating a ride-sharing vehicle for at least one year. They would also need to pass a drug test before being rehired. Any company who hired a driver who tested positive or didn’t follow the protocol would face daily fines of $500-1,000. However, the mandate has a two-tiered system which will prevent part-time drivers from having to be tested annually.

Last month, Uber announced that it would be begin a trial program for delivering drug store products directly to the homes of customers. The trial is currently only limited to specific neighborhoods within Washington, D.C., but they are hoping to expand it in the coming months.

“We're in the business of delivering cars in five minutes. And once you can deliver cars in five minutes, there's a lot of things you can deliver in five minutes," said Uber founder Travis Kalanick last December. The company is currently worth $18 billion.

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By McCarton Ackerman

friendly neighborhood dealer

9/11/14 8:30am

Robin Hood Drug Dealer Dies, Receives Praise From Law Enforcement

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Everyone's favorite dealer. Photo via

One of the most prolific drug dealers in the history of Louisville, Ken., passed away after a battle with cancer, but oddly left a positive impact on many people in the city.

Reggie Rice, known as “Double R,” died last Sunday at the age of 41. He was the largest drug distributor in Louisville from the mid-‘90s to the mid-2000s. But despite his highly illegal activity, even police and prosecutors looked back on him fondly.

"If he had been selling Mary Kay, he would have been driving the pink Cadillac," said former chief narcotics prosecutor Shane Young. "As far as dope dealers go, he was a very honest guy. He didn't stiff anyone; he didn't snitch. He was not your typical dealer. He was well-spoken and courteous."

Rice was known for taking money from his drug deals to send teenagers to college or buy them necessary clothing like shoes. In turn, they would tip him off about police raids. Circuit Judge McKay Chauvin said that while Rice “wrecked havoc on the community,” he “wasn’t necessarily evil” and believed that “people who knew him thought well of him.”

He also had a reputation for not snitching to police when his drug deals went horribly wrong. He refused to talk to police about a man who shot him in the buttocks or a separate incident in which two men tied him up and stole $10,000 worth of jewelry. Rice also remained mum in refusing to reveal any other dealers when he faced drug trafficking charges in 2005 that could have seen him sentenced to life in prison; he managed to dodge any jail time in the incident.

Chauvin said he “would rather serve 10 years in prison than testify against someone,” but was not above violence when necessary. He hired heavies to do his dirty work when necessary, including a man named Ricky Kelly, who is currently awaiting the outcome of a pending murder charge.

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

9/11/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Sept. 11, 2014

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Cute and loaded with cocaine.
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By Shawn Dwyer

opiate addiction

9/10/14 7:30pm

Virginia AG Determined to Tackle Opiate Addiction Problem

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Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced a plan to tackle heroin and prescription drug abuse during an address to the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police on Monday. Herring’s plan calls for better prevention efforts and more effective prosecutions.

According to the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, more than 800 Virginians died from drug overdoses in 2012. The number of fatal heroin overdoses nearly doubled between 2011 and 2013.

“People really need to understand that the nature of this problem has changed,” Chief Howard Hall of the Roanoke County Police Department told WDBJ7. “The typical heroin user has changed. It’s affecting young people, it’s affecting people at every level of our society.”

Herring’s plan includes working with law enforcement and prosecutors to create a Good Samaritan policy, which would provide “limited immunity” from prosecution for minor offenses for those who witness an overdose. Similar policies have been enacted in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Fear of prosecution often deters people, who are often addicts themselves, from calling for help in the event of an overdose.

The attorney general also wants more accountability, from heroin dealers to medical professionals. According to Herring, current laws in Virginia make it difficult to prosecute dealers whose drugs lead to an overdose. He promised that his office will “aggressively” take action against medical professionals including doctors, pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians, who make it easier for Virginians to obtain prescription drugs.

Improving prevention by way of better education and training is also a large part of Herring’s plan. Law enforcement will be provided with new training materials on how to properly handle an overdose situation.

Last but not least, the attorney general’s office will examine the state’s Naloxone pilot project and decide whether to expand it in Virginia. Naloxone is a medication that reverses opiate drug overdose, temporarily blocking the opiate effects and allowing a person to breathe again long enough for help to arrive. Police departments across the country have equipped officers with the drug.

State law enforcement leaders, prosecutors, and health professionals will gather on October 2 in Charlottesville for a day long summit to discuss strategies on tackling this problem.

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By Victoria Kim

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