Stretching bar and nightclub opening times by just one hour significantly increases alcohol-related violence, according to research just published in the Addiction journal. Authors Ingeborg Rossow and Thor Norstrom report that over the past ten years many Norwegian cities have extended or restricted their closing hours by one or two hours. This offered scope for a "natural experiment," tracking the effect of these small changes on drunken violence. They found a one-hour bar extension increased violent assaults by 20 per year for every 100,000 of population—up 16%. The reverse also holds: one-hour-earlier closings were linked to significantly less violence. Booze-fueled bust-ups are also boosted by high intoxication levels, naturally, and by overcrowding. Initiatives like Toronto’s Safer Bars Program train staff to intervene before aggression gets out of hand. But the Norwegian research, which directly links police-reported assaults with changes to opening hours, suggests an easier, safer way to tackle the problem at source.
Urban alcohol-fueled violence is a growing global problem, especially in high income countries, says the World Health Organization. With a maximum closing time of 3am for "on-premises" alcohol sales, Norway’s licensing laws are slightly more liberal than in most US States. The UK, which introduced 24-hour drinking in 2005 in the hope of curbing a binge-drinking culture, sees around a million violent drunken crimes a year. This weekend, Australian police will tackle the problem through "Operation Unite," patrolling streets from 6pm-2am to crack down on "boozed up hooligans." The Norwegian findings provide powerful evidence to counter the alcohol industry's promotion of longer trading hours.
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- Sexy Pot Ads Provoke Debate Over Medical Marijuana Goals [The Sacramento Bee]
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- Mystic Holds "March of Skulls" for Mexico's Drug War Dead [LA Times]
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New Jersey officials seem confident that the state's perpetually stalled Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana act will finally sprout in 2012, allowing terminally ill patients safe, legal access to a substance that could give them some relief. But don't hold your breath: “The timetable for when each Alternative Treatment Center will meet all of the state requirements and obtain permits has many variables," NJ Department of Health spokeswoman Donna Leusner tells The Fix. "Chief among them is the municipal approval process that the Alternative Treatment Centers are confronting in the respective localities.” Translation: a whole lot of red tape. “The reality is that implementing a program to grow and dispense a controlled dangerous substance is complex with unique challenges,” concludes Leusner. The hazy statement reflects recent local tensions. Now that the kinks are cleared in the capital, some New Jersey residents, wary of having industrial grow sites in their backyards, are mounting fierce opposition, using township zoning laws to prevent state-sanctioned growers from obtaining building permits, and so preventing them from planting their first seeds. To date, only two of the six total authorized growers have signed leases for growing sites, and neither has yet been given the green light by the health department to commence planting. With the crop taking over four months to be ready to harvest, it seems questionable whether legal pot will be smoked at all in the Garden State next year. Ken Wolski, director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana—New Jersey, describes local resistance as "townsfolk with torches and pitchforks chasing them out of town."
A female London kindergarten teacher avoided jail after sexually assaulting a male airline steward during a flight from Johannesburg to Heathrow. South African national Katherine Goldberg, aged 25, had drunk a whole pint of her own whiskey on board, and claimed her offense was caused by mistaken identity due to "alcohol induced hallucinatory somnambulism." After causing disruption on her Virgin Atlantic flight, Goldberg was removed from her seat to the plane's kitchen, where a flight attendant tried to look after her. But she grabbed his genitalia through his pants and demanded sex. She was overheard saying, “Let me and you go somewhere,” and “You can touch me anywhere you want, I don't mind." Her victim pressed charges instead. In court, her lawyer argued, "In her complete alcoholic funk she was confusing him with her current boyfriend, Clayton, and Owen, a previous boyfriend." Goldberg was fined £1,500 plus an additional £250 in costs and ordered to carry out an 11-month community order and 80 hours of unpaid work. Recently, Israeli Rabbi Gavriel Bidany was jailed in New York for committing a similar, but sober, assault on a woman during a transatlantic flight. But the London judge decided to spare Goldberg, partly because a jail sentence would have ended her teaching career, and partly because she's been sober ever since—she realized she'd hit rock bottom on the plane, went to rehab and now attends five AA meetings a week.
The overenthusiasm of the police for busting pot smokers—compared to their relative unwillingness to tackle violent crime—is highlighted by a bleak Huffington Post article. It tells the story of Jessica Shaver, a young woman in Chicago. When a thug viciously beat her outside a bar, cops were reluctant to investigate, leaving her to track down the perpetrator herself. But the police still didn’t act; not until Chicago Alderman and Time Out Chicago reporter Joe Marino took up her cause did they reluctantly do their job. The Chicago PD showed much more enthusiasm back in April, when a SWAT team busted down Shaver's door with a battering ram and ripped her apartment apart searching for marijuana. She recalls: "It wasn't clear to us that they were cops at all. I had a flashback to my attack. I was just terrified. I peed myself...My [dog] ran off, and I was afraid they were going to shoot it. I asked if I could get it, and they said, 'We don't give a fuck about your dog.'" The raid resulted in no charges being filed.
Sadly, such disproportionate police action is nothing new. The policy of “asset foreclosure” gives cops a real incentive to focus on suspected drug users, rather than violent criminals: cold hard cash. Under current laws, if the cops even suspect that you've made money from drugs they can seize your car, your cash—even your home. The money goes straight back to the police department. Even if there's not enough evidence to charge you, you still have to go to court and prove you own your property legitimately, a process that can cost more than the property's worth. Way to incentivize the wrong priorities.
It's claimed you can now get as high as if you've taken ecstasy or cocaine, using just a pair of earphones and a downloadable audio file—teens are reported to be experimenting enthusiastically with "digital drugs," "sonic drugs," or "i-dosing," as it's variously known. The idea is to alter brain chemistry using calculated sound frequencies. It's not exactly new: casual listeners, rehabs and music therapists all know how much music changes moods. But i-dosing takes things a step further. I-Doser.com’s $16.95 starter pack of recreational "drugs" contains four files designed to "alter consciousness" like cocaine, opium, marijuana and peyote. Other sites sell files for just a dollar.
One user tells The Fix about "getting high, but somewhat queasy," on a binaural beat (a trippy combination of one frequency in one ear and a slightly different frequency in the other) designed to simulate the high of cocaine. But he says that I-Doser's "Opium" progresses, appropriately enough, "more smoothly." After a 15 minute "dose," he reports a "trance-like, spaced out quality" that ends with feeling "disoriented" when the music stops. Is he coming down? Scientists think not. "Saying it will induce specific recreational drug experiences, it’s really a hoax," says Dr. Daniyal Ibrahim, chief of toxicology at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, CT. "There is no logical basis to suggest that somehow listening to sound will simulate a neurochemical change.” But he and others worry that the druggy audio files could lead kids to try the real thing.