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Medical Marijuana

9/04/12 2:08pm

AR Will Be First Southern State to Vote on Medical Pot

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Will other southern states follow suit? Photo via

This fall, Arkansas voters will be the first in the South to take on the issue of medical marijuana. “This is an issue that hasn't been ready for primetime yet in the South,” says Jill Harris, managing director of Drug Policy Action. “It may be that it's starting to be, and that's a good thing." Many of the state’s elected officials and law enforcement agencies oppose the idea, including Governor Mike Beebe, who is expressing concerns about federal marijuana laws, along with the cost of regulating dispensaries. "Those are serious questions, and a lot of that is unanswerable because you don't know how many dispensing places are going to apply or going to be granted," he says. In addition, one of the state’s conservative groups, the Coalition to Preserve Arkansas Values, has already filed a lawsuit to remove the proposal from the election ballot, arguing that it is misleading to voters. "By introducing more addictive substances into society, it is a family values issue," says Jerry Cox, president of the Family Council Action Committee of Arkansas, part of the coalition attempting to block the proposal.

But despite the resistance, marijuana advocates are determined to hold their own. "Arkansas voters are savvy and compassionate," says Christopher Kell, spokesperson for Arkansans for Compassionate Care (ACC), the group advocating for the proposal. Kell tells The Fix that the lawsuit is a "nuisance," but as the group worked with the Attorney General's office to get the measure approved, they are not worried about its legality. He also says that public support is very strong in the state, and believes telling the stories of patients with cancer, PTSD and other illnesses will influence voters to support the measure. "I think once you tell the story and put a face to it, the numbers go up significantly," he says. "I think that our chances of passing are very strong." ACC gathered more than 100,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot, and say they will answer the lawsuit in court. While past efforts to get medical marijuana on the ballot in Arkansas have been unsuccessful, two cities have managed to approve referendums allowing police to consider arrests for small amounts of pot as low priority. Arkansas is not the only state with medical marijuana in the spotlight this fall—Massachusetts voters are also expected to vote on medical marijuana, and a measure may end up on North Dakota's ballot. "I hope that all the other states will follow our lead," Kell says. "This is not about recreational use, it's a matter of compassion and it's about caring for patients who are suffering."

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By Chrisanne Grise

scary godmother

9/04/12 1:11pm

"Cocaine Godmother" Killed in Colombia

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Blanco in the US in 2004. Photo via

In an example of "what goes around, comes around," notorious drug trafficker Griselda Blanco, who brought the concept of assassination by motorcyle to Miami in the '70s and '80s, was assassinated by men on motorcycles yesterday while leaving a butcher's shop in Medellin, Colombia. She was 69 years old. Known as the "Cocaine Godmother," she was one of the first people in Colombia to have drugs trafficked to the US and was known for her fiery temper. Colombian authorities suspect that she ordered at least 250 killings. Blanco was also known as one of the most eccentric drug traffickers of all time, even naming her son Michael Corleone after the character from The Godfather. According to the Miami Herald, "She even had a Medellin lingerie shop custom design bras and girdles with special pockets to hold cocaine, a tool used by her drug mules flying to Miami." Blanco spent two decades in a US jail after being convicted on trafficking charges and was deported back to Colombia afterwards in 2004, where she kept a low profile up until her death.

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By McCarton Ackerman

prenatal smoking

9/04/12 11:57am

Mom's Prenatal Smoking Linked to Kid's Obesity

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Yet another reason not to light up. Photo via

Many people smoke in order to keep their weight down, but a new study shows that doing so during pregnancy can actually cause an increased risk of obesity in their children. In the study, Zdenka Pausova, MD of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and her colleagues interviewed 379 teens between the ages of 13-19, 180 of whom had been exposed to prenatal maternal smoking that amounted to 11 cigarettes per day on average during all three trimesters. The findings showed that children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy had a higher body fat percentage and fat intake in adolescence than the offspring of nonsmokers. "Prenatal exposure to maternal cigarette smoking is a well-established risk factor for obesity, but the underlying mechanisms are not known," wrote Pausova. It appears that part of this switch in genetics may have to do with subtle changes in the brain's reward mechanisms. Offspring of smokers had an overall lower volume in the amygdala, which is part of the brain's reward processing system, which means the prenatal exposure to smoking might promote obesity by enhancing dietary preferences for fatty foods.

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By McCarton Ackerman

beer glasses

9/04/12 11:01am

Can the Shape of a Glass Slow Your Drinking?

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Drinking time is slowed by almost 60% with a
straight glass. Photo via

If you’re trying to slow down your drinking, opt for a straight glass instead of a curved one, a new study suggests. "People often talk of 'pacing themselves' when drinking alcohol as a means of controlling levels of drunkenness, and I think the important point to take from our research is that the ability to pace effectively may be compromised when drinking from certain types of glasses," says Dr. Angela Attwood, a researcher at England's University of Bristol. For the study, published in the journal Plos ONE, 159 social drinkers between the ages of 10 and 40 who did not have a history of alcoholism were asked to drink a non-alcoholic drink or a lager, from either a curved glass or a straight glass. The researchers found that on average, it took those drinking beer out of a curved glass seven minutes to finish their drink, while those drinking out of the straight glass finished in 11 minutes; the straight glass slowed drinking speed by up to 60%. For those consuming non-alcoholic drinks, however, the glass shape did not make a difference in drinking speed. Participants were also asked whether the curvy glasses or straight glasses were less or more than half full, and those drinking from the straight glasses were more likely to answer correctly. The researchers believe that people have a more difficult time pacing themselves when drinking from a curvy glass, due to it’s irregular shape. “Due to the personal and societal harms associated with heavy bouts of drinking, there has been a lot of recent interest in alcohol control strategies,” Attwood wrote in the press release. “While many people drink alcohol responsibly, it is not difficult to have 'one too many' and become intoxicated. Because of the negative effects alcohol has on decision making and control of behavior, this opens us up to a number of risks.”

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By Valerie Tejeda

Headlines

9/04/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: September 4, 2012

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Miss Southern Illinois lives with fetal alcohol
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By Chrisanne Grise

drugs and music

8/31/12 4:18pm

Why Stevie Wonder Stayed Off Drugs

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Wonder says he's made it this far by staying
clean. Photo via

Soul legend Stevie Wonder, reflecting upon his career in an interview with The Guardian, says he owes his health and success to the fact that he stayed off drugs—after trying marijuana once and hating it. Asked how he's managed to stay on top while his “revolutionary soul peers” fell out of the spotlight, Wonder denies he's anything special. "First of all," he says, "I'm no better than the next person. But I've never had a desire to do drugs. When I was 21 I smoked marijuana, and I didn't like the way it made me feel. When I woke up the next morning I felt like I'd lost part of my brain." The revelation may disappoint fans of the Stevie Wonder medical marijuana strain, who likely wouldn't list “sensation of partial brain-loss” as a side effect.

Still, his lack of any kind drug habit spared him a fate like those of many younger performers, such as Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse. Wonder says he's sad for what was lost and what could have been: "It's been a heartbreak—obviously I knew Michael. I knew Whitney, too. And I understand Amy came to my concert in England a couple of years ago. I was thinking about us doing a duet—an old Marvin and Mary Wells song called 'Once Upon A Time.' It would have been amazing." Wonder also provoked a bit of outrage with his answer to a question about rising soul star Frank Ocean's sexuality, saying, "I think honestly, some people who think they're gay, they're confused. People can misconstrue closeness for love. People can feel connected, they bond. I'm not saying all [gay people are confused]. Some people have a desire to be with the same sex. But that's them."

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By Bryan Le

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