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legalization of Marijuana

11/07/12 3:44pm

What Next for the Pot Campaigners Who Lost?


More than just a pipe dream
Photo via

Marijuana legalization initiatives passed in Washington and Colorado yesterday—but not in Oregon, where only 45% of voters were in favor (according to the latest updates). Measure 80, which was considered the most "radical" of the three states' initiatives, would have repealed Oregon's pot laws outright, allowing private harvesting and distribution under the control of a commission. It had been lagging in the polls, which many attributed to a lack of funding due to its late arrival on the ballot in July. "If we'd had a million dollars, we would've won," Paul Stanford, the chief petitioner and author of Measure 80, tells The Fix. (The Washington and Colorado campaigns raised several million each, whereas Oregon's only raised half a mil). Stanford says advocates will continue to push the legislature to pass a bill in the next year, adding that the now-Democratic control of the House will work in their favor, as will the state's pot-friendly history (it was the first state to decriminalize it in 1973). He also believes that legalization in neighboring Washington will help—since people will now be able to buy weed legally one state over: "Our legislature doesn't want us crossing the border [to purchase pot]. They'd rather see us spend our tax money here." Whether a bill passes within two years, or shows up again on the ballot in 2014, Stanford is sure of one thing: "I'm going to keep going until we win. I'm an optimist."

Down in Arkansas, a bill for medical marijuana burned out as well—but not without a fight. A proposal to make AR the first southern state to legalize MMJ was rejected by 52% of voters. Chris Kell, the campaign strategist for Arkansans for Compassionate Care, tells The Fix that the narrow loss was due to the "onslaught of propaganda and misinformation that the opposition put out there"—specifically the Arkansas Family Council. "Their whole campaign claimed this was a back door to full legalization—but that's completely false." Despite the outcome, the fact that the issue made the ballot at all—and lost only narrowly—in the conservative state represents significant progress for the MMJ movement. "It almost passed. It was a close election," an Arkansas judge tells The Fix. "And the polls indicated that the people are compassionate and are inclined to want to allow suffering people that opportunity [to use medical pot]." He cites the measure's "grow-your-own provision" (to allow people to grow six plants on their own property if they live more than five miles from a dispensary) as one reason the measure failed: "That's too much for folks to handle. And who's going to go out and count how many plants?" But he says rumor has it the provision will be removed before MMJ returns to the ballot in two years, and if it does, "I predict it will pass overwhelmingly next time."

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By May Wilkerson

academic doping

11/07/12 2:49pm

Should Students Be Tested for Brain Drugs?


Pills on the mind Photo via

It's no secret that college students have long used prescription drugs like Ritalin for late-night study sessions. Now the widespread use of these "cognitive enhancers" in academia is leading to calls for UK universities to consider random drug testing to prevent some from obtaining an unfair advantage. Drugs like Ritalin (meant to treat ADHD) and modafinil (meant to treat sleep disorders) are taken by students to keep themselves alert and active in the period leading up to exams. Professor Barbara Sahakian, a psychiatrist at Cambridge University, says that up to 16% of US students and 10% of UK students have admitted using performance-enhancing drugs to improve their academic results. “People are starting to think about drug testing," she says. "Some of the students who don’t use cognitive enhancers may demand it because they are concerned about cheating. Some admissions tutors are also concerned about it.” In the US, drug testing in schools has already taken place at some private academies in the Atlanta area. Rx drug abuse in academia isn't limited to students; senior academics have also admitted to using cognitive enhancers on a regular basis, for reasons ranging from improving mental performance to avoiding jet lag. "The head of one laboratory in the US said that all of his staff are on modafinil and that in the future there will be a clear division between those who use modafinil and those who don’t,” adds Sahakian. The one positive with this abuse of cognitive enhancers is that they don't produce mood changes or a high, and don't lead to any obvious physical dependence. But Sahakian warns that the effects of long-term use are still largely unknown.

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By McCarton Ackerman

crystal meth

11/07/12 1:58pm

Meth May Fight the Flu


Rest, drink OJ...and take lots of meth?
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Crystal meth use can cause multiple nasty health consequences—such as irregular heartbeats and tooth loss—but a new study suggests it may offer one health benefit: fighting the flu. A group of scientists from the National Health Research Institutes in Taiwan reports that certain meth properties may actually reduce flu viruses in a dose-dependent manner—meaning a higher amount of meth results in lower amounts of the virus being reproduced. "We report the first evidence that meth significantly reduces, rather than increases, virus propagation and the susceptibility to influenza infection in the human lung epithelial cell line," reads the study, which was led by Yun-Hsiang Chen and published in the journal PLoS ONE. The researchers took cultures of human lung epithelial cells, exposed them to various concentrations of meth and then infected them with an H1N1 strain of human influenza A. They found that 30-48 hours after infection, the meth-treated cells had a much lower concentration of the virus than the control group. And while the researchers certainly don't condone using meth as a home remedy for the flu, they believe the study could lead to the discovery of safer remedies. They write: "This finding strongly encourages future work to investigate whether other compounds, structurally similar to meth, can inhibit influenza A virus production and be used to prevent or alleviate influenza A virus infection."

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By McCarton Ackerman

election 2012

11/07/12 12:46pm

Was ABC's Diane Sawyer Drunk on Election Night?


Election coverage can indeed be tiring.
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The election may have had us all abuzz, but ABC anchor Diane Sawyer's slurred words and ramblings during last night's coverage have left some wondering if she was buzzed with more than just the American spirit. "And Diane Sawyer declares tonight's winner is... Chardonnay!" tweets They Might Be Giants. "I'll have what Diane Sawyer is having," Josh Groban jokes. Brian Stelter of the New York Times offers some more sober speculation: "Diane Sawyer's name is trending. Many people saying she seems drunk on air. Alternative theory: she gets this way when she's really tired." Sawyer is in good company: newly re-elected VP Joe Biden attracted similar accusations during and after his debate performance last month. We'll just leave it to readers to decide from the footage—and vote in yet another poll [below}.

What do you think?

<a href="" title="Was Diane Sawyer drunk on election night, or just exhausted?">Was Diane Sawyer drunk on election night, or just exhausted?</a>

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By Bryan Le

secondhand smoke

11/07/12 10:58am

China's Women Constantly Inhale Smoke


The scale of China's smoke problem is
unprecedented. Photo via

An alarming amount of women in China are exposed to secondhand smoke, according to a new report, with serious health implications for this generation and the next. Over half of women of reproductive age in the world's most populous nation are exposed to second-hand smoke in the workplace, and almost two-thirds in their homes. The findings, released yesterday, were taken from a survey conducted in China back in 2010 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in China, the US, and the World Health Organization. "There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke," says Michael O'Leary, a WHO representative in China. "Creating 100% smoke-free environments is the only way to protect people from the harmful effects of second-hand tobacco smoke. Tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure in reproductive-aged women can cause adverse reproductive health outcomes, such as pregnancy complications, fetal growth restriction, preterm delivery, stillbirths, and infant death." A quarter of China's 1.3 billion citizens are smokers—more than the entire US population—and nearly 100,000 people die from second-hand smoke alone each year. China is currently developing a plan for tobacco-free public spaces throughout the country.

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By Valerie Tejeda


11/07/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: November 7th, 2012


It's hard to ignore the drunk elephants in
the room. Photo via

By Bryan Le


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