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5/07/12 11:45am

Grow Houses Move to Suburbia


Life imitates "Weeds"? Photo via

The economic crisis might not be bad news for everyone: it could mean rags-to-riches for California marijuana, as the state's pot growers are purchasing foreclosed homes in the suburbs and turning them into grow houses. Until recently, grow houses were predominantly located in low income commercial and rural areas, but due to the housing crisis, more and more grow houses are popping up in suburban middle-class, upper-middle-class and high-end neighborhoods. “[Growers] either buy [foreclosed homes] or rent them,” said Rusty Payne, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration. “They’re buying them in places like Northern California, where the real estate market’s really taken a turn for the worse.” Grow houses have been discovered in the older suburbs in Northern California, such a Vallejo, a town 25 miles north of San Francisco; and recently, more have been discovered in newer communities such Elk Grove, near the state's capitol Sacramento. More than 70 percent of all cannabis plants confiscated across the nation took place in California in 2010 (the last year stats were available) with authorities seizing 188,297 plants at 791 indoor grow houses. Because of the financial crisis, law enforcement officials say they lack the resources to prosecute grow houses—especially in California, where communities are generally tolerant of pot cultivation. “Ten years ago if there was a grow house, we’d seize all their equipment and lamps, and they would be prosecuted,” said Sgt. Jeff Bassett, with the Vallejo Police Department. “Now the chances of being caught, or of being prosecuted if you are, are substantially less than they were 10 years ago.”

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By Valerie Tejeda

Pregnancy and addiction

5/07/12 10:25am

How Doctors Fail Pregnant Addicts


This opiate-addicted newborn must undergo
methadone treatment. Photo via

An opiate-dependent baby is born every hour in the US. It's largely due to skyrocketing rates of prescription painkiller abuse, and costs up to $20 million in treatments annually, according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study's author, Marie J. Hayes, Ph.D., writes in an editorial that ran alongside the study that one big problem with treating drug addiction in pregnancy is the tendency of pregnant addicts to binge-and-withdraw—even when they’re in a maintenance program on methadone or buprenorphine. This forces the developing fetus to withdraw along with the mother, putting added stress on already delicate opiate-related neurological developments including learning, memory, emotion and cognition. Hayes also notes that pregnant women addicts prescribed buprenorphine—commonly known as Subutex or Suboxone—more often drop out of studies than women prescribed methadone, which suggests that bupe might not be the best treatment for pregnant women.

Yet general practitioners and OB-GYNs continue to hand bupe out to pregnant patients in the belief that the drug—which is less tightly controlled than methadone and can be prescribed in ordinary doctors’ offices—treats addiction. “In Maine, it is a daily happening; every physician struggles with opiate addiction in their pregnant population,” Hayes tells The Fix. “But opiate addiction is not an easy thing to manage by the seat of the pants. It’s not the kind of thing that you just give the mother buprenorphine and she’s all set. Because actually the addiction is not treated by the buprenorphine; only the [physical] dependence is treated... The real problem [in treating addiction] is psychiatric. So what doctors need to know is that the patients’ first referral should be for psychotherapy and social supports. And when you say that, everybody nods, but they don’t do it—they just give them the buprenorphine and send them on their way.”

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By Jennifer Matesa


5/07/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: May 7, 2012


The Sacred Heart of Jesus rehab in Peru
Photo via

By Bryan Le

celebrity rehab

5/04/12 4:50pm

Gaga Used Coke to Cope With Loneliness


Coke was not a "real" friend to Gaga. Photo via

Reigning queen of the "monsters" Lady Gaga has been forthcoming about her own personal demons, including self esteem issues, history of bullying and drug use—and this week she unveiled details of a cocaine problem that plagued her early 20s. In an interview on Lifetime talk show The Conversation with Amanda de Cadenet, Gaga said she turned to cocaine to cope with loneliness: "It was like the drug was my friend. I never did it with other people." But this "solution" to loneliness ultimately backfired, and she says of her drug use: "it's such a terrible way to fill that void, because it just adds to that void, because it's not real." The singer, who is now 26, says she began abusing cocaine at 19 and continued for a "long time." She recalls hitting a low point that resulted in her downing NyQuil in the shower to come down from a binge. Shortly after, she realized the drug was impeding her creative process, so she quit the "white devil" completely. "There's this perception and romanticism around drugs. That it's sexy," continues Gaga. "Or that it's artistic or that you're troubled and you're going to make great music when really, you're just a [bleeping] loser. I just stopped and focused 150 percent of my energy on my happiness."

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By May Wilkerson

Marijuana policy

5/04/12 3:56pm

Pelosi Speaks Out Amid Pot Policy Chaos


Pelosi was less cosy with Obama on MMJ
this week. Photo via

Confusion reigns in the wild and wacky world of drug policy this week. With the Obama administration seemingly doing its best to alienate its base in the run-up to the November election, by busting down the doors of state-sanctioned marijuana growers, US House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is finally speaking up. She released a statement on Wednesday criticizing the government's interference with medical marijuana laws in California and other states. Crucially, she pointed to the stark contrast between the administration's current actions and it’s previous written policy that “did not pursue individuals whose actions complied with state laws.”

This followed the spectacle of the Center for American Progress indulging in some jaw-dropping revisionism by giving Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske a virtual foot rub for his “transformative” approach to drug policy on Tuesday. The Drug Czar’s revolutionary “third way” seems to be more of the same, dressed up with some token nods toward progressives. As Mike Riggs succinctly puts it over at the Reason blog: "What’s the quickest way for the Obama administration to convince progressives that the war on drugs is over, even though it’s not? Step 1: Say that the drug war is over. Step 2: Convince the largest and most powerful progressive think tank in America to agree with you, invite you to their headquarters, praise you for having “transformed” drug policy in the United States, and pitch you softball questions. Step 3: Repeat step 1." The current confusion in the White House is enough to make you wonder exactly what's happening to all that confiscated Californian weed: a midnight hunt for Cheetos, anyone?

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By Tony O'Neill

drinking games

5/04/12 3:10pm

It's Raining Drunk "Possums" Down Under


Sober possums Photo via

It appears that New Zealand has a bit of a possum problem. Not only do possums outnumber people seven to one in the island country, but residents of Dunedin, a city on South Island, are falling out of trees as part of a drinking game modeled after the furry critters. Players of the game "possum"—believed to be mainly students from Otago University—follow two simple rules: 1) Sit in a tree, and 2) Drink alcohol until you fall out of it. Whether falling constitutes winning, or losing, is unspecified. The game has been around for at least four years, but Dunedin Gardens staff have noted that a recent rise in "possum" activity is causing some precipitation problems. In addition to the obvious dangers of falling people, Dunedin City council member Alan Matchett cautions, “What they drink has to come out again, so they do throw up and urinate from the trees.” And beyond the dangers to participants and unsuspecting passersby, the game raises a host of other concerns including food scraps, litter and potential damage to the trees, some of which “are classed as heritage trees and are more than 100 years old.” A spokesman from Otago University says that wannabe “possums” should take heed; previous culprits have been "required to clean up their litter and to meet with the proctor for disciplinary action."

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