Advocates led by Americans for Safe Access are set to go before the US Court of Appeal next week, in an attempt to change the government’s classification of marijuana. Among them is a 49-year-old Air Force veteran named Michael Krawitz. He was seriously injured while on active duty and left suffering chronic pain and a permanent disability. His condition was helped by a medical marijuana prescription he recieved while abroad—but when the Department of Veteran Affairs found out about it they denied him further treatment. Stories like Krawitz’s aren't unusual. But while the Controlled Substances Act classifies marijuana as a drug with “no medicinal value,” numerous medical organizations beg to differ: the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Nurses Association, the Federation of American Scientists and the American Academy of Family Physicians all share beliefs that patients should have access to MMJ, that pot should be reclassified, or both. And with 56% of Americans supporting legalization, the federal government is losing allies—although both presidential candidates can console themselves that they share each other's unwillingness to discuss reform.
This court case will mark the first time in 20 years that US courts have evaluated the therapeutic value of marijuana. "Medical marijuana patients are finally getting their day in court," says Joe Elford, chief counsel with Americans for Safe Access. "This is a rare opportunity for patients to confront politically motivated decision-making with scientific evidence of marijuana's medical efficacy." Opening arguments for Americans for Safe Access vs. the DEA will be heard on October 16—just a few weeks before the elections. “The time has come to address medical marijuana as a public health issue," says ASA’s executive director Steph Sherer, "and for the federal government to prioritize science over politics.”
More than three decades after Buck Owens and Ringo Starr famously sang about how to Act Naturally, Saturday night in La Jolla, CA saw a celebration of living that way. The 12th annual fundraising gala for Natural High honored young people who move beyond just saying "no" to alcohol and drugs—and say "yes" to their natural high. It was about finding joy in embracing life, naturally: from singing to surfing, reading to racing, dancing to drawing. The Natural High movement (which featured on The Fix a year ago) grew out of the tragedy of founder Jon Sundt's life: he lost his two brothers to addiction, sucked in by peer pressure to see drugs as "cool." Natural High's signature DVD series features young celebs living very cool lives—on natural highs, not drugs. It's distributed free to every middle and high school in the US, with a companion curriculum for teachers and counselors, and reached some 6 million young people last year. Five DVDs have so far been produced, spotlighting celebrities from skateboard maestro Tony Hawk to actress and model Lauren Conrad, of Laguna Beach fame.
"Soul" surfer Bethany Hamilton will feature in Number Six of this series—and she was guest of honor Saturday night. Hamilton continues to say "no" to drugs and "yes" to soaring the waves—even after a tiger shark took her left arm. More than 400 guests at the Hilton hotel at Torrey Pines reached deep in their pockets, raising some $300,000 (after expenses) to bring the Natural High program to America's schools again this year, louder than ever. They also celebrated Teachers of the Year carrying the Natural High message: Justin Prati of Columbus, Ohio and Shannon Garcia of Rancho Buena, CA. Why act naturally when you can live it?
Drug dealers in Scotland have taken to injecting dogs with heroin to make them more aggressive: one dog rescue center reports that 40% of the dogs it takes in have been given illegal drugs. Ian Robb, who runs the Angus Dog Shelter in Forfar, says dealers commonly drug dogs and train them to specifically attack police officers. “Dealers go out and buy a fake uniform and teach the dogs to attack someone wearing it,” he explains. When cops raid the dealers’ homes, the dogs will go for them. “In some cases it’s cannabis but in most it’s heroin, which has a devastating effect on an animal.” Dog psychologist and trainer Lesley Connelly warns that “a dog on heroin will run around, leap up the walls and will be completely manic. If you attempt to approach it you will get bitten." Dogs that are given marijuana, meanwhile, tend to be frightened and shaking. In one recent case, two Staffordshire bull terriers were repeatedly injected with heroin by their owners, and had to be put down because they were “bouncing off the walls.” In Scotland's housing projects, "Staffies" are often bred and sold by addicts to fund their habits, and have acquired an unfair reputation as a result. In many cases, however, these “drug hounds” can survive after being rescued and going through detox. "Love and routine" are key, says Connelly. She stresses that animals shouldn't be blamed for their owners’ mistakes: “Dogs haven’t changed over the years; man has.”
This won't be the last supposedly joyous occasion ruined by alcohol. One man died from a heart attack after a frenzied mass brawl broke out between an estimated 75-100 guests from two wedding receptions at Philadelphia's Sheraton Mission Hotel at 2 am yesterday morning. The whole thing was caught on tape by a hotel guest who was awoken by the commotion. "Did they just deck the bride?" asks the cameraman above the screaming. Despite at least one of the brides' involvement in the fight, it was later confirmed that neither was injured. Police eventually charged into the reception area with nightsticks and pulled guests off each other. One man was subdued with a Taser. Amid the chaos, a 57-year-old male, the uncle of one of the brides, was found unconscious following a heart attack. He was taken to the hospital and pronounced dead less than an hour later. It's unclear what started the fracas, but police Lt. Ray Evers says "there was an issue with a lot of alcohol fueling the fight." One guest was arrested for assaulting an officer and another two were cited for disorderly conduct.
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez won his fourth presidential election last night—earning another six-years in charge by capturing 54.4% of the vote against 44.9% for his opponent, Henrique Capriles. The victory inspired wild celebrations in Caracas, but it remains to be seen how his re-election will impact the drug traffickers that plague Venezuela. Despite Chavez' government recently purchasing millions in radar and other anti-trafficking gear from China, his administration has often been accused of being soft on drug trafficking. President Barack Obama said that the country is "failing to meet its obligation" to address the issue: 24% of the cocaine shipped out of South America—over 200 tons—passes through Venezuela, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. The amount of cocaine seized in the country has decreased from 58 tons in 2005 to 28 tons last year. That said, Chavez's socialism and his ambivalence towards relations with the US don't help his stateside press: just last May, journalist Dan Rather announced that Chavez, who has had cancer, would die "in a couple of months at most."
Mothers, not fathers, primarily influence their children’s future drinking habits, a new study claims. Researchers from the UK's Demos policy think-tank examined the drinking patterns of 18,000 people across three decades. They found that 16-year-olds' drinking habits were mostly influenced by their peers, rather than their parents. But by the age of 34, a person's likelihood of being a binge drinker was found to line up with the amount they reported their mother drank as a child. Each step that a mother's reported drinking rose on a four point scale—never, sometimes, often or always—correlated with a 30% increase in the adult offspring's chances of binge drinking. “What we found really interesting was this delayed effect; the impact of what teenagers perceived about their mothers' drinking habits doesn't show an impact at the time, but decades later,” says Jonathan Birdwell, head of Demos' Citizens Program. The study found no correlation between fathers' drinking habits and those of their adult children. Researchers note that fathers were more likely to drink outside the home, while mothers were more likely to drink at home, and be seen by their children, which may account for their greater influence. Birdwell says that the relative "cultural acceptability" of male drinking might also partly explain why fathers' drinking had less influence.