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Friday, May 29, 2015

Federal Employees Prohibited from Using Marijuana

While marijuana continues to grow in popularity around the country with regard to both medical and recreational use, there are some who cannot partake even if they live in one of those states. People working for the federal government living in D.C., the 23 medically approved states, or the four states where the drug has been legalized, are prohibited from using marijuana, The Washington Post reports. In the United States, there are roughly 4.1 million federal employees and military personnel.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released a new memo with regard to the use of marijuana for federal employees. The rules for federal employees remain the same, marijuana is still illegal federally and possessing or using it is a crime.

“Federal law on marijuana remains unchanged. Marijuana is categorized as a controlled substance under Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act,” OPM Director Katherine Archuleta wrote in a memo posted on the agency Web site. “Thus knowing or intentional marijuana possession is illegal, even if an individual has no intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense marijuana.”

“Heads of agencies are expected to advise their workforce that legislative changes by some states and the District of Columbia do not alter federal law, existing suitability criteria or Executive Branch policies regarding marijuana.”

Archuleta points out that states altering their laws with regard to marijuana: “have raised questions about whether Federal employees in these jurisdictions may use marijuana as provided for in state law.”

Rules regarding the use of any drug by federal employees goes back to Ronald Reagan's 1986 Executive Order; you can read an excerpt below:

“Executive Order 12564, Drug-Free Federal Workplace, mandates that (a) Federal employees are required to refrain from the use of illegal drugs; (b) the use of illegal drugs by Federal employees, whether on or off duty, is contrary to the efficiency of the service; and (c) persons who use illegal drugs are not suitable for Federal employment. The Executive Order emphasizes, however, that discipline is not required for employees who voluntarily seek counseling or rehabilitation and thereafter refrain from using illegal drugs.”

Federal employees who test positive for marijuana can face termination, according to the article. Archuleta notes that the federal government offers prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programs for employees.

Friday, May 22, 2015

New Fingerprint Test for Cocaine

A thumbprint may be all it takes to determine if someone has used cocaine. The test, which uses mass spectrometry, can distinguish whether cocaine was ingested, rather than just touched, Science Daily reports. The test is non-invasive and cannot be faked.

The novel test for determining cocaine use came from a team of researchers at the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NL), the National Physical Laboratory (UK), King's College London (UK) and Sheffield Hallam University (UK). Former tests were unable to determine whether or not an individual had taken the drug, or merely touched it, according to the article.

"When someone has taken cocaine, they excrete traces of benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine as they metabolise the drug, and these chemical indicators are present in fingerprint residue," said lead author Dr Melanie Bailey from the University of Surrey.

"For our part of the investigations, we sprayed a beam of solvent onto the fingerprint slide (a technique known as Desorption Electrospray Ionisation, or DESI) to determine if these substances were present. DESI has been used for a number of forensic applications, but no other studies have shown it to demonstrate drug use."

Methods of testing for drug use that do not involve bodily fluid could have a huge impact. Many argue that urine tests invade people's privacy, and blood examinations put the lab technicians at risk. Finger testing would be the best for both parties.

"The beauty of this method is that, not only is it non-invasive and more hygienic than testing blood or saliva, it can't be faked," added Dr Bailey. "By the very nature of the test, the identity of the subject is captured within the fingerprint ridge detail itself."

The findings were published in the journal Analyst.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Obama Appoints New DEA Director

Last month, the director of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Michele M. Leonhart, announced her retirement from the agency. Her retirement comes in the wake of an agency scandal and differences in opinion with President Obama regarding drug policy. She was criticized for her handling of the DEA agents in Colombia who participated in sex parties with prostitutes paid for by drug cartels, and she openly criticized Obama regarding his beliefs about marijuana.

In response, Obama has chosen Chuck Rosenberg, a senior F.B.I. official and former United States attorney, as the interim director of the DEA, The New York Times reports.

“Throughout his distinguished career in law enforcement and public service, Chuck has earned the trust and the praise of his colleagues at every level,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch in a news release. “He has proven himself as an exceptional leader, a skilled problem-solver, and a consummate public servant of unshakeable integrity. And he has demonstrated, time and again, his deep and unwavering commitment not only to the women and men who secure our nation, but to the fundamental values that animate their service. As Acting Administrator of the DEA, Chuck will play a vital role in the work of this Administration and this Department of Justice to pursue American priorities, protect American interests, and safeguard our way of life. I can think of no better individual to lead this storied agency, and I have no doubt that his tenure will be defined by the same commitment to honor and excellence that has guided him throughout his distinguished career. I congratulate him once again on this well-deserved appointment, and look forward to all that he will achieve in the days ahead.”

Rosenberg's resume is notable, and includes serving as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and the Southern District of Texas. He served as chief of staff to FBI Director James Comey for the last year and a half.

“Chuck Rosenberg is one of the finest people and public servants I have ever known,” said Director Comey in the news release. “His judgment, intelligence, humility, and passion for the mission will be sorely missed at FBI. I congratulate our friends at the Drug Enforcement Administration. This is good for the entire Department of Justice and the country.”

In the past, Mr. Rosenberg has been supported by both Republicans and Democrats, according to the article.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Teenagers Use E-Cigarettes to Perform Tricks

Mounting concerns about teenage e-cigarette use has prompted lawmakers and health experts to call for regulation of the popular devices. While research is limited, new findings suggest that the main reasons teenagers use e-cigarettes is for the fruity flavoring and the fact that users can perform tricks with the vapor, Reuters reports.

Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine asked 5,400 Connecticut teens to explain what they found “cool about e-cigarettes.”

“We expected the flavors were attractive,” said researcher Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin. “But smoke tricks were a surprise to us.”

Just as teenagers are keen on blowing smoke rings with traditional cigarettes, e-cigarette users can do more than create smoke rings, they can create funnels of smoke that look like tornadoes, according to the article. On some e-cigarettes the temperature can be increased which creates more vapor giving users the ability to take part in what are known as “cloud competitions.”

Local e-cigarette supply stores, known as “vape shops,” hold cloud competitions where adults can compete for money. In fact, there are now regional cloud competitions, where participants stand to win thousands of dollars, according to Reuters. While minors are not permitted to take part in the competitions, they are allowed to be members of the audience.

“Even if (teenagers) don’t attend these events they are exposed to a lot of these issues,” Krishnan-Sarin said.

Holding competitions where users can win a significant amount of money for using an addictive substance is clearly unethical. It is highly unlikely that impressionable teenagers are not enticed by such events.

A new report has found that more middle and high school teens are using e-cigarettes than traditional cigarettes. Data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) showed that e-cigarette use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Binge Drinking and Heavy Drinking On The Rise

Binge drinking in the United States is on the rise, the consumption of five or more alcoholic beverages (male), or four or more (female), over a 2-hour period. The practice of binge drinking has been known to lead to a number of health, social, and public safety issues. While binge drinking most commonly occurs among teenagers and young adults, it is a problem that affects all age groups.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington conducted an evaluation to track trends in alcohol use at the county level, Medical News Today reports. The researchers observed the rates of both binge drinking and heavy drinking throughout the United States.

Since 2005, heavy drinking has risen by 17.2% and binge drinking has increased by 8.9%, but the most interesting find was the rise in drinking among women. Between 2005 and 2012, binge drinking among women rose by 17.5 percent, compared to 4.9 percent among men.

"We are seeing some very alarming trends in alcohol overconsumption, especially among women," says Dr. Ali Mokdad, a lead author of the study and professor at IHME. "We also can't ignore the fact that in many US counties a quarter of the people, or more, are binge drinkers."

The researchers observed big differences in drinking rates from one county to another, according to the article.

"When you can map out what's happening county by county, over time, and for men and women separately, that's also when you can really pinpoint specific health needs and challenges - and then tailor health policies and programs accordingly," said IHME's Director Dr. Christopher Murray.

The researchers point out that the national rates of drinking any alcohol are unchanged, despite the increase in binge drinking and heavy drinking.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Public Health.
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