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4/23/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: April 23, 2012


A Houston judge ordered public humiliation.
Photo via

By The Fix staff

Sexuality and addiction

4/20/12 4:57pm

Queer, Sober and Proud


This year's theme is Love.

One momentous Friday night last June, hundreds of revelersmany in superhero-garbdanced under disco balls at a gallery in Chelsea, amped up only on red bulls, soda and adrenaline. Suddenly the music stopped and an announcement was made: gay marriage had passed in New York. "Everyone was crying and hugging each other," Christian Parker, one of the event's organizers, tells The Fix.

Four years ago, he and four sober buddies founded NYC Queer and Sober because of the sparse options for sober people during pride. There was one sober dance, with 20-30 people, and it "felt like a middle school dance" says Christian, who recalls thinking, "This is too depressing. I'm a young gay man and I like to have fun, but I also like my sobriety." Now, his organization runs an annual pride weekend for the sober community, with soaring attendance. Last year, the weekend was superhero-themed. The main dance party, at a Chelsea gallery with walls painted by a famous cartoonist, attracted more than 500 attendees and included a "Mr. Sobriety" pageant. This year, to celebrate the anniversary of gay marriage passing, the theme is Love.

Pride is a climatic time for the LGBT community, and people flock from around the globe to partake in hundreds of New York events at all hours of day and night, peaking with a parade down Fifth Avenue. But most pride activities center on drinking and drug useand for a recovering addict, "compare and despair" can lead to relapse. So NYC Queer and Sober aims to keep people engaged by vibrant, hip, high-energy sober events, with a focus on the young. "People are getting sober younger," explains Christian. "We have to keep them interested." NYC Queer and Sober has grown in the four years since it began, and now puts on events year-round, including a recent Oscars party. The movement is "taking off in a way that we never expected," says Christian. This year's Pride begins with an "Opening Ball" on June 22 and ends with a "Closing Cruise" on June 24.

Register before May 15th for a cheaper deal on tickets.


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By May Wilkerson


4/20/12 4:20pm

420 Festival: A Gateway Gathering?


Pot meets electronica and ecstasy.
Photo via

Today's the day when stoners take to parks to enjoy the grass and celebrate the counterculture. But in recent years, April 20 has also heralded the 420 Festival, a massive 10,000-plus all-night rave and carnival, seemingly a far cry from the laid-back, sometimes political gatherings that previously characterized the day. The festival combines raver culture (and drugs) with stoner culture in a way that has some critics worried.

Parties where thousands dance to electronic music all night have long been associated with ecstasy, a drug that's been linked to hospitalizations and deaths through dehydration and overheating, as well as poisonings through contaminating substances in dodgy pills. Ecstasy, or MDMA, causes the brain to release a huge amount of serotonin and depletes the supply in the process, resulting in a big high followed by a big low. “Taking MDMA on a frequent pattern can lead to depression and a 'need' for other resources to feel better,” Trinka Porratta, a private drug consultant, tells The Fix. “It can also lead to boredom with MDMA and thus they move on to a variety of related tryptamines, phenethylamines or other exotic drugs for new highs and new experiences.” As a result, critics argue, regular pot-smokers who attend the 420 Festival to celebrate marijuana may sample a variety of other substances there for the first time.

The reverse may also be true: ravers drawn to the event by the music get into marijuana culture, and sources complain to The Fix that ravers are being "indoctrinated" into pro-medical marijuana politics while high on a cocktail of drugs. But pot isn't necessarily new to ravers: “Marijuana is one of the things that might help level out, or slow down, the rollercoaster of [MDMA's] side effects. Not everyone experiences "ecstasy" when taking MDMA," says Porratta. "Some have panic attacks, soaring heart rate, etc., and feel very scared. It would not be unlikely marijuana would be one of the things they would resort to for relief from that agitation." The fifth annual 420 Festival takes place tomorrow, Saturday, April 21, in San Bernardino County, California.

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By Bryan Le

alcohol in movies

4/20/12 3:37pm

Bollywood Films Lead Indian Kids to Drink


Real action heroes drink tea. Photo via

Bollywood has a huge influence on India's culture; a new study shows it's also influencing drinking among children there. Research presented at the World Congress of Cardiology in Dubai showed that while 10% of Indian students aged 12-16 had tried alcohol, students who were most exposed to alcohol use in Bollywood films were 2.78 times more likely to have tried it, compared to those who were least exposed. Even when adjustments were made for aspects such as demographic variables and social influences, students most exposed to the alcohol use in these films were 1.49 times likelier to drink. "These results show that exposure to alcohol use depictions in Bollywood films is directly associated with alcohol use among young people in India," says Dr. GP Nazar of Health Related Information Dissemination Against Youth. "While alcohol advertising is banned in all Indian media and scenes that justify or glorify drinking are not allowed in Bollywood films, there is no dedicated health legislation that prohibits the depiction of alcohol in these films and there is a clear need for an immediate alcohol control policy." But findings such as these aren't limited to Bollywooda similar study involving Western films showed that kids most exposed to alcohol in movies are twice as likely to drink as opposed to kids least exposed to it. The average age of first alcohol consumption in India today is 19drastically down from 28 in the 1990s.

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By McCarton Ackerman


4/20/12 2:58pm

Hemp to Get You High—in Vodka Form


"Purgatory" for those who like their weed in
liquid form. Photo via

A new booze variant aims to kill two birds with one stoner this 4/20: hemp seed vodka. The Alaska Distillerya Wasilla-based company previously known for making smoked-salmon flavored vodkahas introduced "Purgatory"the first vodka distilled with hemp seeds, just in time for the High Holy Day. Created by the Alaska Distillery’s resident “mad scientist” and chief executive officer, Toby Foster, the spirit is expected to become a best seller, if not the best seller for the distillery. “To compete in the alcohol industry these days, you have to be innovative and you have to bring in new products and you have to be imaginative,” says Foster, “this product right here lends itself to all three things.” And it certainly is imaginative. Even in countries where the production of hemp seeds is not banned, manufacturers don’t distill with hemp seeds—they simply add them to the bottles. But Purgatory is distilled with hemp seeds that have been sterilized, so there will be no getting high from the beverage. In fact, a sample from each batch must be tested by federal regulators to make sure there are no traces of THC. The Hemp Industries Association hopes that Purgatory will serve as an example that quality products can be made from hemp, and that it should be once again legal to grow and process the plant in the US. The Alaska Distillery hopes to make a fast buck from the novelty value.

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By Fionna Agomuoh

Addiction TV

4/20/12 1:46pm

Video: TV Dramas Match Real US Drug Use


I guess you could say when it comes to
prime time TV... reality shows. Photo via

Looks like you can believe at least some of the things you see on TV, research finds. When it comes to the war on drugs, substance abusers and dealers, shows like CSI: Miami and Law and Order play it close to reality by reflecting public opinion on the war on drugs and avoiding stereotypes about drug users and distributors. Researchers Johanna Blakley and Sheena Nahm at the Norman Lear Center at USC analyzed 49 hours of ten top-rated TV series with storylines on terrorism and drugs in 2010. Their findings showed that drug users were never arrested in storylines about the war on drugs, and that the drug suspects were presented as morally ambiguous or even heroic in some cases. And despite the predominance of minorities in prison for drug-related offenses, 65% of drug suspects in these TV shows were found to be white—accurately reflecting the fact that the vast majority of drug users (and likely offenders) in the US are white. Prescription drug abuse and methamphetamines were also featured three times more often in these shows than marijuana use. The full Primetime War On Drugs and Terror report can be found here. Here's a short video featuring the report's findings.

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By McCarton Ackerman


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