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Medical marijuana

3/02/12 5:18pm

NYC Inches Towards Medical Marijuana

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New York could ape California's progressive
policies. Photo via

While states like Colorado and California have steamed ahead with progressive marijuana policies, New York seems stuck behind. This week however, the New York City Council resoundingly passed a resolution calling on the state legislature to pass two bills to legalize medicinal pot use.The resolution was sponsored by Danny Dromm (Democrat, Jackson Heights), who has some serious progressive credentials, recently making the news as an outspoken critic of Republican Peter King’s anti-Muslim crusade. A few politicians, like Republican Vincent Ignizio and Democrat Vincent Gentile, sat the vote out. But it still passed by a massive 44-3 margin. The loudest dissenting voice belonged to Democrat Peter F. Vallone Jr., who represents Astoria. Vallone—who recently helped to shut down a proposed graffiti art exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum on the basis that it would "encourage criminality"—called the proposed measure a “prescription for disaster.”He went on to speculate that if medical marijuana were legalized it would end up being “sold near schools.” This assertion was countered by Dromm, who pointed out that the current law criminalizes cancer patients and others with serious illnesses who could benefit from MMJ. The vote is encouraging, but supporters can't celebrate just yet. The medical marijuana bills might still be doomed to languish in Albany, where clearing the Republican-controlled Senate won't be easy. The Marijuana Policy Project is encouraging supporters to sign its petition, urging New York lawmakers to pass an effective MMJ law.

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By Tony O'Neill

Four Loko

3/02/12 4:40pm

Four Loko Under Fire—Again

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Critics claim Four Loko's packaging appeals
to teens. Photo via

The much frowned-upon alcoholic beverage Four Loko is currently under review again for how it presents itself and its alcohol content. The Federal Trade Commission is weighing further action—especially now that many members of the public and health professionals have joined a campaign to write in and sway its hand. The FTC has said that Four Loko is implied to have the same amount of alcohol as two beers—but at 12% alcohol in a super-sized can, it's really closer to four or five. Four Loko brokered a deal with the FTC last year to switch to a resealable can—displaying a warning that one full serving is as alcohol-heavy as four beers—to dissuade drinkers from downing the lot at one sitting.

The FTC then asked for public comments on this settlement—and got them. Over 200 critics have written to say it's not enough, and that the product's fruity flavors and colorful packaging—neon-colored camouflage print described by the New York Times as “what an army of Teletubbies would wear into battle”—are a clear attempt to entice underage drinkers. Four Loko's founders previously told The Fix that the colorful design was “so it would pop off the shelf,” rather than to tempt teenagers. “We never had a conversation where we said we want people under 21 to drink our product,” said Jaisen Freeman, one of the drink's creators. “We don’t win in those scenarios.”

In 2010, the FDA neutered the drink's caffeine content after Four Loko-fueled alcohol poisonings piled up: “We were looking at $25 million in inventory [to be destroyed]," Four Loko's founders told us last year. The FTC might soon send them back to the drawing board again. Many of the comments recently received by the FTC want Four Loko to lower its alcohol content—or even an outright ban, although the FTC has no such authority. The final decision on whether to approve or alter the current settlement is expected in the next two months.

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By Bryan Le

quitting smoking

3/02/12 3:06pm

Despite Bloomberg, Asian New Yorkers Smoke On

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While smoking rates of other populations
have fallen, Asian New Yorkers stay at a
steady 17%. Photo via

Though most of New York's population is smoke-free, many of the city's Asian residents are still unable to kick the habit. Mayor Bloomberg's media blitz against smoking has helped to drop smoking rates in other groups—from 20.8-12.5% among blacks, and 23.8-15.6% among whites—but Asians' 17% rate hasn't budged. Why? “It's a largely accepted part of our culture,” says one Chinese-American woman interviewed by the New York Times. Nearly 70% of men in China and South Korea smoke. Cigarettes are smoked over business dinners and given as gifts to friends on holidays. And if younger generations of Asian New Yorkers have a problem with smoking, they can't exactly make their parents or grandparents stop. Asking elders to stop smoking is seen as disrespectful, not helpful, says Dr. Donna Shelly, a researcher who has studied New York Asian smoking habits. The New York Health Department is reacting to the problem with targeted Chinese-language ads, Chinese speakers manning the phones at 311, and smoking-related cancer ads on ethnic news channels.

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By Bryan Le

drug treatment

3/02/12 1:39pm

Chris Christie: Mandatory Rehab For Criminals

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Chris Christie hopes to reduce reconviction
rates through treatment. Photo via

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced yesterday that he hopes to have a mandatory drug treatment program for nonviolent offenders in the state within a year. The treatment is an expansion of Christie's successful Drug Court program, which he says has only reached a fraction of non-violent addicts who may be able to participate—because it's currently voluntary. Legislative components include better identification of eligible drug-addicted non-violent offenders and court-ordered clinical assessments to determine suitability for drug court. The proposed budget allocates $2.5 million to the program; the inpatient treatment is projected to cost half what it does to house inmates in the state prison system. "In the long run, it will help us financially," said Christie. "No question as a state it will help us, but that's not the only reason to do it. It will also help us because it will make us a better society. It will reclaim families." An October 2010 Drug Court report showed that 16% of drug court graduates are re-arrested and 8% are reconvicted—compared to a re-arrest rate of 54% and a reconviction rate of 43% for drug offenders released from prison. According to Republican State Senator Christopher "Kip" Bateman, it costs about $343 million a year to house the state’s 7,000 nonviolent drug offenders.

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By McCarton Ackerman

Celebrity Roundup

3/02/12 12:20pm

Celebrity Roundup: March 2, 2012

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Kim Kardashian: Talk to the hand Photo via

Relations between celebutante Kim Kardashian and actress Demi Moore have been tense ever since a 2008 Twitter feud (seriously). But Moore’s recent scandal hasn’t garnered her any sympathy with Kamp Kardashian: at Elton John’s post-Academy Awards party last Sunday, Kardashian reportedly requested that the DJ spin Devo’s song “Whip It,” to be played, she said, “in Demi’s honor.” The story rings false to us, though; is Kim really that clever?

If you tuned into any talk show this week, you probably saw Lindsay Lohan plugging tomorrow night’s Saturday Night Live, which the troubled starlet will be hosting. But in her weeklong press tour, where she spoke separately to Matt Lauer and Jimmy Fallon about how eager she is to get back to work and how she’s refocused her priorities, details of her alleged sobriety remain nebulous; in fact, Jane Velez Mitchell took Lohan to task for her cagey response to questions about her sobriety date.

Earlier this week, RadarOnline reported that Tatum O’Neal, who has struggled with addiction for much of her adult life (including a much-publicized 2008 arrest for cocaine possession), has returned to rehab following a cocaine relapse. But O’Neal’s attorney tells GossipCop that the coke story is false; instead, he says, O’Neal “had back surgery and went to a treatment facility to supervise her use of painkillers prescribed by her doctor until she no longer needs any pain medication.”

Brad Goreski, celebrity stylist and star of Bravo series It’s a Brad, Brad World, may be the dapperest guy on TV, but in his new book, Born to Be Brad, he explains that things weren’t always so bright. In college, he says, he drank too much and used pot, ecstasy, and cocaine, so much so that he says he’s fortunate not to be dead. “I didn’t recognize myself,” he writes. And not because his bowtie was askew.

Celebrity Rehab vet Rodney King was arrested for a DUI last summer in Riverside County, but he’s getting off with just a slap on the wrist; he was sentenced this week to 20 days of house arrest and a 9-month alcohol education program. Should that fail to stick, well, there’s always Celebrity Rehab Season 6.

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By Sam Lansky

Dr. Feelgoods

3/02/12 11:28am

LA Pain Doc Charged in Three Murders

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Dr. Tseng could faces three murder counts
and 21 other felony charges. Photo via

An LA doctor was charged yesterday with the murders of three healthy young men who fatally overdosed on prescription drugs. Dr. Hsui-Ying "Lisa" Tseng, dubbed “Dr Feelgood” by prosecutors, allegedly wrote up thousands of prescriptions of methadone, Xanax, oxycodone and other drugs to patients who didn't need them. She was arrested after a long investigation by drug enforcement agents—who worked undercover as patients to obtain prescriptions from Tseng. The Osteopathic Medical Board of California has affidavits showing many young men coming to Tseng’s storefront office claiming to have back, neck and wrist pain. Investigators say she did a minor exam, then gave them drugs. Back in 2010, the DEA suspended Tseng's license to write prescriptions after she wrote more than 27,000 'scrips over a three-year period from January 2007. "I was really strict with my patients, and I followed the guidelines," she claimed in a 2010 interview with the Los Angeles Times. "If my patient decides to take a month's supply in a day, then there's nothing I can do about that." The doctor is charged with the 2009 deaths of Vu Nguyen, 29, Steven Ogle, 25, and Arizona State University student Joseph Rovero III, 21. In addition to the murder charges, Tseng faces another 21 felony counts for prescribing meds either fraudulently or without significant merit. The doctor could face 45 years to life in state prison if convicted.

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By Valerie Tejeda

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