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legalize it

10/14/14 1:00pm

New York Times Declares Support for Marijuana Legalization

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In light of the coming November general election, The New York Times editorial board declared its support for the legalization of recreational marijuana, which will be considered by voters next month in Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia.

Published last week, the editorial called the federal ban on marijuana “misguided” and summed up the consequences of the war on marijuana in one sentence: “Decades of arresting people for buying, selling and using marijuana have hurt more than helped society, and minority communities have been disproportionately affected by the harsh criminal penalties of prohibition.”

The editorial board cited not only the social benefits of legalizing “a drug that is far less dangerous than alcohol,” such as ending “the injustice of arrests and convictions that have devastated communities,” but also the fiscal benefits such as having a new source of tax revenue. “This year, from January to June, Colorado collected about $18.9 million,” the board wrote.

Since Congress “shows no sign of budging,” the board said the better strategy is for states to take the lead on marijuana legalization, as Washington and Colorado succeeded in doing in 2012, when voters in both states approved recreational marijuana.

This November, voters in Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia—where medical marijuana is already legal—will decide whether to legalize the drug for recreational use in their own jurisdictions. The board summarized the ballot measures that will be presented to voters in these jurisdictions on November 4.

In Alaska, Ballot Measure 2 would allow the cultivation, use, purchase, and possession of up to one ounce and up to six marijuana plants for those 21 and older. Initial oversight would be under the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, but the legislature would be able to establish a marijuana control board at any time. The plant would be taxed at $50 per ounce wholesale. Localities would be able to ban marijuana establishments but not prohibit private possession and home cultivation in the state, where current policies allow Alaskans to possess small amounts of marijuana in their homes.

Oregon’s Measure 91 would allow adults 21 or older to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana, purchase up to one ounce, and grow up to four marijuana plants in their household. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission would have the authority to regulate marijuana as it does alcohol. Tax rates have been initially set at $35 per ounce for flowers and $10 per ounce for leaves. The Oregonian noted that the proposed tax rates are low enough to compete with black market prices. If taxed too heavily, people would have an incentive to keep buying marijuana on the black market. Tax revenue from marijuana sales would be distributed to schools, mental health and addiction services, and local law enforcement.

The Oregonian editorialized in August that the measure would “be worth supporting for reasons of honesty and convenience alone,” as almost 65,000 Oregonians have the easily accessible medical marijuana cards. “Recreational marijuana is all but legal in Oregon now and has been for years,” The Oregonian editorial board wrote. “Measure 91, which deserves Oregonians’ support, would eliminate the charade and give adults freer access to an intoxicant that should not have been prohibited in the first place.”

In the District of Columbia, Initiative 71 would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to two ounces for personal use and grow up to six plants at home. The law would repeal all criminal and civil penalties for personal possession of the drug.

A recent NBC4/Washington Post/Marist poll found support among Washington, D.C. voters for the measure at 65%. However, unlike the other initiatives, a mechanism for regulating retail sales of marijuana would not be established because “the District of Columbia Home Rule Act does not allow a tax to be imposed by referendum,” the board explained.

“[T]he sky over Colorado has not fallen, and prohibition has proved to be a complete failure,” the board wrote in response to detractors of legalization who fear the worst outcomes from freeing the weed. In 2016, even more states are expected to consider legalization, most likely including California, Arizona, Nevada, Montana, Maine, and Massachusetts.

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By Victoria Kim

News

10/14/14 10:30am

Home Visits Reduce Depression, Drug Use In Pregnant Teens

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A new study centered on American Indian communities in the Southwest has found that home visits for pregnant teenagers significantly decreased their overall drug use and depression.

Researchers at The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health conducted the project with 322 pregnant teenagers in four American Indian communities. They all received optimized standard care, including referrals to local services and transportation to prenatal, as well as well-baby clinic visits.

Half of the participants, however, also received 63 in-home education sessions known as Family Spirit. The visits occurred weekly through the last trimester of pregnancy and then gradually tapered off until the child turned three, addressing issues such as the benefits of breastfeeding and creating sleep schedules.

The teens that entered the program had high rates of substance abuse at around 84%, but the study concluded that those in the Family Spirit program were less likely to use illegal drugs and exhibit depression or behavior problems. Their children also had higher rates of meeting emotional and behavioral milestones than those in the control group, as well as better eating and sleeping patterns. The findings were published in the latest issue of the Journal of American Psychiatry.

“For years in public health we have been working on immunizations and other medical interventions to set the course for the health of disadvantaged children, and we have turned the tide,” said the study’s lead author, Allison Barlow, M.P.H., Ph.D., associate director of the Center for American Indian Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Now the burden is in multi-generational behavioral health problems, the substance abuse, depression, and domestic violence that are transferred from parents to children. This intervention can help us break that cycle of despair.”

Barlow believes the key to continuing the success of the program is boosting the population of local community health workers. With Family Spirit now eligible for federal funding after being approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as an evidence-based program, the program could ultimately create jobs and boost the workforce in some of these often-struggling communities.

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By McCarton Ackerman

molly overdose

10/14/14 8:30am

Austin Music Festival Mourns Latest Molly-Related Death

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The latest Molly-related overdose death at a music festival made its way to the Austin City Limits Music Festival, where 21-year-old Jessica Hunter took a fatal overdose of the drug.

The incident took place on Oct. 5, when police were flagged down by Hunter’s friends. Her body was described as rigid with her hands and feet flailing. She was transported to Seton Medical Center and eventually died on Oct. 8. Her friends also took the same drug and suffered adverse reactions, though not as severe.

Hunter was a student at Texas State University in San Marcos. Her mother, Debra, said she will begin to visit schools and share her story in order to help create awareness of the dangers of drug use.

The death of Hunter occurred despite the best efforts of music festivals across the country to prevent drug-related tragedies from happening. New York City’s Electronic Zoo, which canceled the final day of its 2013 festival when two concertgoers died from a mixture of Molly and other unregulated stimulants, employed additional pat-downs, and other measures for drug screening this year. Tennessee’s Bonnaroo Festival also took extra precautions on site.

A major electronic dance music festival known as the Electric Daisy Carnival has also had several Molly-related tragedies over the years. The festival was originally held in Los Angeles, but relocated to Las Vegas in 2011 after a 15-year-old girl died from an MDMA overdose. Two people died from Molly-related complications at the 2012 edition of the event, but after the festival added extra measures such as medical stations staffed with professionals, there were no deaths in the 2013 edition of EDC.

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

10/14/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Oct. 14, 2014

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Don't leave in the sun. Photo via

By Shawn Dwyer

decline and fall

10/13/14 7:30pm

Was Adolf Hitler High on Crystal Meth During World War II?

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Hitler with morphine addict Hermann Goering.
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As compiled by American intelligence officials, a World War II dossier has revealed that Adolph Hitler regularly took powerful injections of crystal methamphetamine. Beyond the abuse of the illegal stimulant, the 47-page account counted an additional 74 different medications taken by the Nazi dictator. The report has been exposed in a Channel 4 British documentary called Hitler’s Hidden Drug Habit that will air this Sunday October 19th.

Although the intelligence records laid bare the history of Hitler’s extensive drug abuse, they also dispelled the enduring myth that the dictator only had one testicle. The famous singsong joke, “Hitler has only got one ball – the other is in the Albert Hall” was a widespread British morale-booster during the Second World War. The report of Hitler not being a monorchid, the medical term for being born with one testicle, is based on interviews with Hitler’s physician Dr. Theodor Morell. An entry from November 1945 based on Dr. Morell’s medical records said: “His sexual organs showed no indication of abnormality.”

According to the documentary, it is believed that Hitler took crystal meth before meeting with Italian leader Benito Mussolini in the summer of 1943. Before Hitler left to confront Italy's declining dictator, Dr. Morell wrote in his diary: “Fuehrer…Looking very pale and exceptionally jumpy: facing a vital conference with the Duce in Italy tomorrow.” During that notorious meeting, a sickly and stressed-out Fuhrer, high on crystal meth, is reported to have ranted and raved for two straight hours at his distressed Fascist ally.

Known as "Reichsmaster of injections" by the Nazis, Dr. Morell prescribed Hitler a motley array of prescription drugs. Despite complaints from his inner circle, Hitler made Dr. Morell his personal physician. It is believed the methamphetamine Hitler abused might have contributed to negative impressions of the Fuhrer by his top generals as the war progressed. One of those generals, Heinz Guderian, described the Fuhrer’s amphetamine-like side effects when he wrote that, “It was no longer his left hand but the whole of his left side of his body that trembled...He walked awkwardly, stooped more than ever and his gestures were both jerky and slow.” 

An excessive hypochondriac, Hitler reportedly received nine injections of a drug called Vitamultin that contained methamphetamine during his final days in his Berlin bunker. Dr. Morell also gave Hitler barbiturate tranquilizers for insomnia, morphine for headaches, and bulls’ semen to boost his testosterone and sexual performance. Bill Panagopoulos, an American collector who discovered the dossier, clearly stated, “Morell was a quack and a fraud and a snake oil salesman…He should not have been practicing medicine anywhere outside a veterinary clinic.”

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By John Lavitt

gaming addiction

10/13/14 5:30pm

Are Teen Gaming Addicts Physically Healthier?

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A new study conducted by a doctoral student has shown that teens involved in heavy gaming may be physically healthier and less obese than their peers.

Researcher Chennan Liu examined more than 10,800 teens in the United States, and found that the long-term consequences of heavy gaming were both positive and negative. Liu conducted her research as part of her doctoral degree and presented part of her findings earlier in the year at the 18th annual conference of the Society for Social Work and Research, which was held in San Antonio this past January.

"Youth who played computer/video games between 21 and 42 hours each week reported better general health and were more likely to have a healthier body mass index five years later," said Liu of the School of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“Perhaps the excitement of gaming burns more energy than sedentary behavior like watching TV. Video gaming requires physical interaction with the controller, while watching TV enables a person to have their hands free to eat or drink,” she added.

Drawn from data collected from 1994-2002 by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Liu's study examined the long-term impact of heavy gaming on both mental and physical health, and compared that to high school completion rates. She divided heavy gamers into those who played 21 hours a week, 35 hours a week, and 42 hours a week.

Ironically, those who played at least 35 hours a week were 22% less likely to smoke marijuana, and while rates of pot smoking increased for those playing 42 hours a week, their numbers were still 14% lower than moderate or infrequent gamers.

On the flipside, however, Liu found that the heaviest gamers—those who played 42 hours a week—were 22% more likely to experience depression in adulthood. Liu speculated that spending six hours a day in front of a computer or console may lead teens to become more socially isolated and unable to communicate with others.

"The mix of beneficial and adverse effects that this research found suggests that parents may want to regulate their children’s gaming behavior, perhaps limiting it to three hours a day to reduce the likelihood of negative consequences,” Liu concluded.

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By Shawn Dwyer

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