Talk show host Montel Williams has become the public face of pot in Washington DC. He's part of a nonprofit group—the Abatin Wellness Center—that's seeking licenses from the District to run dispensary and cultivation facilities for medical marijuana. Williams also fronts a dispensary of the same name that opened earlier this year in Sacramento. The TV personality has multiple sclerosis—he uses medical marijuana and is a big believer in its benefits. The District shares its nonprofit model with other states, such as California—of course—and Maine, which jumped into the game recently, with a group involving former NBA star Cuttino Mobley proposing a deal to open its own marijuana dispensary this week. Colorado, on the other hand, took the Golden State model and—in the words of Denver city attorney David Broadwell—"put it on steroids," by operating the only commercial medical marijuana market in the US. Or at least the only legal one. The city of Denver took $3.5 million in marijuana sales and tax revenues plus a six-figure sum in local licensing fees from 300 marijuana stores and businesses last year. Back in DC, lawyer Frederick D. Cooke Jr., representing Abatin, says of Williams, “He is not the managing director or the driving guy. But he is certainly at a level more involved than being a face of the organization... He does stuff that makes the organization go.” It's a long way from DC to Denver. But with Montel Williams on board, medical marijuana just got a whole lot more visible—right under the eyes of our nation's politicians.
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Smokers feeling persecuted in these post-smoking ban days may soon suffer further at the hands of our health-conscious leaders: Federally-mandated labels featuring graphic images, including smoke billowing from a hole in someone's throat; rotting, diseased gums; and a full-color, roughly sewn-up, post-autopsy corpse. The images, reminiscent of the Faces of Death movies, will occupy the top half of the front and back of every cigarette pack sold in the US, along with death-predicting slogans. The law will take effect in October—unless tobacco companies get their way. Four of them—including giants Lorillard and R.J. Reynolds—are suing the government. They claim it's an unconstitutional way to spread an anti-smoking message: “The notion that the government can require those who manufacture a lawful product to emblazon half of its package with pictures and words admittedly drafted to persuade the public not to purchase that product cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny,” argues Lorillard attorney Floyd Abrams. It’s too early to say how this will end, but last year a Kentucky federal judge named Joseph McKinley Jr. largely rejected the industry’s free-speech challenge to federal law. Government officials say the US will have 213,000 fewer smokers one year after the law's introduction. And Justice Department attorney Alisa B. Klein wrote that restrictions are needed, as tobacco companies’ imagery "...seeks to distract potential users from the fact that tobacco products are lethal and addictive, and to suggest that tobacco is a harmless indulgence akin to designer clothing and perfume." But you don't need to be a fan of Big Tobacco to dislike the ghastly, full-color surgery pictures that the New York Health Department recently plastered on what seems like every bus stop and subway car in the city.
Now there are two more reasons to drink vodka: Compassion and patriotism. Hollywood superstar Bruce Willis demonstrated a Sixth Sense for business when he became part-owner of Polish vodka brand Sobieski back in 2009—receiving a 3.3% stake worth $4 million at the time as compensation for his work as global spokesman. Now he's spearheading a promotion that supports Fisher House, a foundation helping injured members of the US military and their families. As the Die Hard icon announced on video, from September 1st on, a percentage of the profits from every bottle of Sobierski sold in the US for a year—and a minimum of $250,000—will go to the charity. Of course, non-drinkers can feel free to donate the price of one of the super-cheap brand's bottles—as little as $14—direct if they choose. Bruce Willis is not alone among A-listers in his efforts to promote hard liquor—rapper P. Diddy sings the praises of upmarket rival Ciroc. You can see one of Willis's previous commercial appearances below.
Camera phones have been used in a recent experiment to check up on the prescribed pill-popping of meth-addicts. Researchers for the American Society of Addiction Medicine provided 20 patients with camera-equipped cell-phones. The participants were asked to snap themselves with modafinil capsule in hand every time they were about to take a dose of the drug, which is used to treat meth-dependence. They then had to email the photo to the research center. The results of this approach were compared with two other patient compliance methods: Medication Event Monitoring Systems (MEMS)—a system that detects when a pill bottle is opened using an attached electronic recording device—and the simple practice of counting pills at each health visit. At fist glance, the results suggest that technology doesn't always mean "advanced": pill-counting showed a 95% compliance rate, MEMS showed 94%, and camera phones just 77%. But of course, there are always factors in play that can skew such outcomes. The researchers believe the cell phone approach underestimates adherence, while the MEMS method inflates its score compliance rate: "MEMS overestimation could be explained by subjects opening the bottle without taking a pill, while the photograph underestimation could be explained by subjects failing to send a photograph.” It's not exactly rocket-science, but overall the study, due to appear in September's Journal of Addiction Medicine, deems the new approach successful: “Camera-equipped cell phones provide a useful and cost-effective approach for monitoring compliance with recommended treatment.” Just as long as users don't join the growing ranks of cell phone addicts reported elsewhere.
Outstanding cornerback Cliff Harris of the Oregon Ducks college team was caught driving at 118 mph at 4:30 am in a car that stank of marijuana back in June—but star-struck state troopers told the 20-year-old that he "nailed" the impairment test. The vehicle also contained quarterback Darron Thomas and two other men. Dashboard footage just released by state police shows an officer approaching the vehicle and asking a series of questions, as the fug within hits his nostrils. "Who's got the marijuana in the car?" receives the unpromising answer, "We smoked it all." "I don't know if I believe that," the cop retorts. He later says to one of the vehicle's four occupants, "I can tell you've been smoking," and "I smelled the marijuana strong." At 5:30 on the video Harris gets out of the car, which was rented by his girlfriend. He admits smoking pot, but only "a long time ago," and is required to follow a pen with his eyes before executing an elaborate small-step routine. "You're very athletic," says the approving officer, who acknowledges that he got the moves "spot-on." Since the car also didn't appear out of control, Harris escaped with just a speeding ticket—and a $1600 fine, which his family later paid. But he'll also have to sit out his team's first game of the new season as a result of the incident. "There's no more marijuana in this car?" inquires the trooper at the end of the tape. "So if I search it I'm not going to find anything?" He seems satisfied with the answer, "No."