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Drug laws

10/01/12 12:00pm

Prop. 36 Could Rescue Cali's 3-Strike Addicts

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Prop. 36 brings hope for imprisoned addicts.
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Proposition 36, seeking to overhaul California's draconian "three strikes and you're out" law—which requires third-time offenders to serve mandatory prison sentences of 25 years to life—will appear on a state ballot next month. And most of the people who would be directly affected are addicts. Californians now overwhelmingly believe—by a margin of more than three to one—that the system should change, a new poll reveals. A recent comprehensive review of inmate reports by California Watch and the San Francisco Chronicle  shows that a large majority of third-strike convicts are addicts: 70% of them show a high need for substance treatment. It found that the state imposes especially lengthy sentences on felons with substance abuse problems, who haven't necessarily committed violent offenses and pose no greater public safety threat than non-three-strikes inmates.

Many corrections system officials believe that rehabilitation services like substance abuse treatment and cognitive behavioral therapy should be the MO, rather than longer prison sentences. “Consider second- and third-strikers… we’re not providing nearly enough rehabilitation… so how are they going to get better?” says California corrections secretary Matt Cate. The study also offers compelling evidence that early substance abuse treatment can prevent some repeat offenders from becoming third-strikers. "If they came in once or twice and you treated their substance abuse, the likelihood of them being a third-striker goes down substantially," says Daryl Kroner, a criminology professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and former prison psychologist. The three-strike law was enacted in 1994 and has since locked up 8,800 people for 25 years to life. Under the proposed changes, life terms for drug offenders and other nonviolent criminals would end—they'd instead be treated as if they had only one previous strike, which calls for double the standard prison term for their most recent crime. Inmates already serving 25 to life for drug and other nonviolent crimes could also get sentence reductions, if a judge deems them not to be a safety threat.

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By McCarton Ackerman

Recovery events

10/01/12 11:05am

Vancouver's Addicts Rally for Recovery

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The recovery rally was held at the Vancouver
Art Gallery on Sunday. Photo via

The Vancouver Art Gallery was chock-full of hundreds of recovering addicts and their families and allies on Sunday afternoon, rallying to show support for addicts who have not yet received treatment and to push the government for more substance abuse programs. As part of Canada's first ever Recovery Day, recovering addicts shared their personal stories with the crowd, many of whom donned sweaters that said “sober” and some carrying posters reading “recovery saved my life.” “The message is: recovery works,” said rally organizer David Berner. “If you or someone in your family is in a disaster of addiction and alcoholism, get yourself to a program because millions of people are cleaning up.” The rates of teen drug use in British Columbia are alarming, much like in the US, with statistics suggesting that young people who struggle with substance abuse are first experimenting with drugs and alcohol as early as 11 years old. “Youth addicted to drugs... are disproportionately likely to commit crimes. From my personal research and my time in policing of 31 years, this is quite evident and it continues to be a significant problem that we are not addressing,” said former Solicitor General Kash Heed who is a strong proponent of implementing recovery programs for youth. “The monetary value of saving one high-risk youth from a lifetime of crime puts the number [up to] $2.6 million to $4.4 million." Statistics show young people who remain in treatment for longer than four months have an 80% chance of staying off drugs in the future.

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By Valerie Tejeda

Headlines

10/01/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: October 1, 2012

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By The Fix staff

drug nostalgia

9/28/12 5:01pm

Cocaine for Snowblindness—and Other Antarctic Remedies

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Chilling out after hitting (geographic)
bottom. Photo via

Before Facebook existed, those in search of adventure were known to strike out for the South Pole—but their carry-on bags may have included some items not unfamiliar to a modern-day drug user, according to Gavin Francis, a modern Antarctic enthusiast and writer. In his piece in the most recent issue of Granta, Francis writes that the men of Ernest Shackleton's 1907–1909 Nimrod expedition brought along an array of now-illicit drugs—not for recreational purposes, but for first aid. They cleared “snowblindness” by dripping cocaine into their eyes, stopped diarrhea with “chalk ground up with opium,” and cured colic (better known today as gallstones) with a “tincture of cannabis” mixed with a “tincture of chili pepper.”

Unsurprisingly, the effectiveness of these remedies was limited. Whisky, which they brought along for warmth, didn't protect the explorers from the harsh weather; one injured adventurer even went to his death by walking outside so his handicap wouldn't slow down his team. And when scientific curiosity alone wasn't enough to keep them trudging through the snow, they'd pop a “Forced March”—a pill made of blended cocaine and caffeine taken hourly. The only antidotes they stowed that are considered remotely medical today were aspirin and morphine. But despite carrying a smorgasbord of substances, documentation suggests they were rarely tempted to overdo it—in fact, they erred on the side of abstinence, even when it proved painful. In 1912, Robert Falcon Scott, commander of the doomed British expedition to the South Pole, refused morphine before starving and freezing to death in his tent. “[M]ust be near the end,” he wrote in his journal shortly before he died. “Have decided it shall be natural.”

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By Bryan Le

presidential Election

9/28/12 3:52pm

Pro-Pot Roseanne Barr Runs for President

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Barr is for life, liberty and the pursuit of pot.
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Comedian and former sitcom star Roseanne Barr is running for president on the California-based Peace and Freedom Party ticket—and, unlike her higher-profile opponents, President Obama and Governor Romney, she's not waffling on drug policy. "Marijuana should be totally legal," the 59-year-old Barr said during an impassioned speech at Oaksterdam University, in Oakland, Calif., last night. She added, "We live in a free country, so it should be legal to smoke marijuana and drink." Currently working as a macadamia-nut farmer in Hawaii, Barr said she has a medical pot prescription for glaucoma, and has smoked pot for most of her life. During her speech, she allied herself with medical-marijuana advocates who have criticized the Obama administration's crackdown on pot dispensaries in states where they are legal; she also called legalizing marijuana the "way to end the drug wars and stop the monopoly of the subsidized prison systems." As the crowd chanted her name, some wielding posters with slogans like "Yes We Cannabis," Barr thanked them for "breaking through" the two-party system's "mind-control programming," and credited weed for encouraging free thought and helping people to "remember what is important."

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By May Wilkerson

Culture Flash

9/28/12 3:06pm

Reel Recovery Film Festival Kicks Off in NYC

If you’re itching for a cultural “moment” in sobriety, or if you’re merely a drooling fan of the sometimes haunting, sometimes vile, sometimes exhilarating genre of “Addiction Cinema," the New York edition of the Reel Recovery Film Festival starts today and it’s loaded with great movies. Kicking off with screenings of a documentary about troubled poet and musician Gil-Scott Heron and the drunkard’s classic, On The Bowery, the festival will then feature a discussion of the film with Robert Downey Sr

Founded in Los Angeles four years ago by native Leonard Buschel, the brains behind Writers in Treatment, the Reel Recovery Film Festival comes to New York for the first time this year, and the screenings all take place at the Quad Cinemas on 13th Street in Manhattan. Every screening will be followed by a talk with a filmmaker or a clinician. 

“The purpose of this festival, besides showing great films,” says Buschel, "is to help remove the stigma of addiction, but also to bring treatment professionals together. You look at the clientele and there’s a lot of clinicians, a lot of sober people, and about 10 or 20% are just attracted to these films. I call them 'on the cusp.' In psychology, it’s hard to look directly at your problem, but if you look at a reflection of it you can actually process it.”

The highlights from the seven-day festival include the documentary, Death of an Addict; the Danish english-language film, Love Addict, about co-dependency and, naturally, love addiction; a whole day devoted to women and addiction (Lipstick and Liquor, My Name Was Bess). There will also be a host of high-profile films, such as the cocaine classic Less Than Zero and last year’s demonic cult hit, Shame.

There will also be an evening of sober comedians and a round-table discussing trying to be creative after you get sober, hosted by William Cope Moyers, and including the New York TimesDavid Carr, Fix columnist Maia Szalavitz, Laurie Dhue, Maer Roshan and others.  

For tickets and more information, visit reelrecoveryfilmfestival.org.

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By Mike Guy

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