Alcohol is a notorious instigator of bad decision-making, so hitting the bottle before heading to the polls should be discouraged. But in two states—South Carolina and Kentucky—it's actually illegal to sell and serve alcoholic beverages on Election Day. The laws originate from Prohibition era, when swapping drinks for votes was a fairly common practice used to sway already-swaying voters. Seventy-nine years after Prohibition was repealed, these two states have maintained the restrictions, though not without resistance—especially since, for many, drinking is a solution for election-induced stress and anxiety. “The Election Day sales ban is a relic of the Prohibition era when saloons sometimes served as polling stations,” says Ben Jenkins, vice president of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. “Repealing the ban would provide consumers with much-needed convenience—whether they’re celebrating election returns or mourning them.” Kentucky Democratic Representative Arnold Simpson has tried to end the ban no less than five times, claiming it is now unnecessary since bribing voters with alcohol is a thing of the past. Also, the law costs the state $4.5 million in liquor store, restaurant and bar sales every year. Since 2008, five other states—Indiana, Delaware, Utah, Idaho and West Virginia—have lifted similar bans on Election Day drinking.
Anheuser-Busch InBev, the makers of Budweiser, have asked for their product's logo to be removed from Flight because the film (about an alcoholic airline pilot) is tarnishing their image. The film has already created a stir for its provocative, realistic portrayal of an addict, played by Denzel Washington, who is seen downing multiple beers (and other alcohol as well)—including while driving, and prior to operating an airplane. "We would never condone the misuse of our products, and have a long history of promoting responsible drinking and preventing drunk driving," said Rob McCarthy, vice president of Budweiser. "We have asked the studio to obscure the Budweiser trademark in current digital copies of the movie and on all subsequent adaptations of the film." But experts say the company's efforts may be in vain. While product placement has become common practice in the movie industry, experts say that trademark laws do not protect companies' rights to displace their products from the screen. "[Trademark laws] don't exist to give companies the right to control and censor movies and TV shows that might happen to include real-world items," said Daniel Nazer, a resident fellow at Stanford Law School's Fair Use Project. "It is the case that often filmmakers get paid by companies to include their products. I think that's sort of led to a culture where they expect they'll have control. That's not a right the trademark law gives them."
Sister Mary Anne Rapp may have said her fair share of Hail Marys over the last few years, but she's now facing judgment day in court. The Buffalo-based nun, who had worked in the area for the last 50 years, is facing grand larceny charges after reportedly stealing $128,000 from St. Mary and St. Mark congregations and using the money to fund her gambling addiction. Kevin Keenan, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, says the thefts took place from 2006-2010—but a new pastor, who conducted a routine audit, noticed irregularities and turned them over to a county prosecutor. Rapp was placed on leave from her position as pastoral associate in February 2011 and fired that April. Once she was removed from her position, she agreed to get help for her addiction and spent 9.5 months at an inpatient facility. She has since been abstinent from gambling. "These are smaller parishes in a rural part of the diocese," says Keenan. "Regardless of the size (of the church), this would be a significant amount of money for any parish." The Sisters of St. Francis, of which Rapp is a member, say they do not condone her actions but continue to pray for her while she battles addiction. Rapp, who was expected to plead not guilty at an initial court appearance last night, isn't the first holy roller with a casino problem: earlier this year, a Las Vegas priest swindled over $650,000 from his parish to support his gambling addiction.
As well as the small matter of the presidential election, today sees Colorado, Oregon and Washington vote on groundbreaking initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana possession and use at the state level for the first time. (Meanwhile, Massachusetts, Montana and Arkansas residents are voting on various medical marijuana initiatives, and Californian voters are deciding whether to reform that state's "three strikes" law, which directly impacts many incarcerated addicts.) In the last few days The Fix has reported on campaign progress in Washington, where a yes vote seems the most likely; Oregon, where polls say that voters are likely to say no; and Colorado, which may be the closest battle of the three. Follow the links to find out what else activists and residents are telling us.
It's well-known that a cocaine overdose is dangerous business, but a new study shows the drug can also boost the long-term risks of both heart attack and stroke. The Australian study, which was recently presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions, was the first to document the party drug's long-term effects on the heart. Researchers looked at the MRI's of 20 recreational users who reported taking cocaine at least once a month for the past year and compared those MRI's to 20 non-users. They found that cocaine users showed an increase in aortic stiffening of 30 to 35%, higher systolic blood pressure, and an 18% greater thickness of the heart's left ventricle wall—all symptoms associated with a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Although the study did not examine overall heart attacks among users, lead researcher Gemma Figtree concluded that cocaine was "the perfect heart attack drug." Figtree also expressed concern that there was a population of cocaine users who, "despite being well-educated professionals ... have no knowledge of the health consequences of regularly using cocaine."
Faced with a largely resounding silence on drug and addiction matters from both candidates during the presidential campaign, The Fix recently published its best estimate of what Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are likely to do, if elected, about a range of important issues in our sphere. The questions we hypothetically posed to the pair covered the disease model of addiction, the addiction epidemic among soliders and veterans, drug-related incarceration and the War on Drugs, and—of course—marijuana legalization. If, improbably, you're still hesitating over which way to vote—or if drug and addiction policies are important to you—check out our guide to the candidates here.