iNPLACENEWS Blog Has MOVED

September 14, 2008

Hey everyone!  From all the staff to all the readers of our blog and the watchers of our live news programming broadcasted live over the internet directly to your desktop, we want to thank you for all your support and participatiion.  We have relocated our blog to iNPLACENEWS.COM.  There you will find all our blogs, including the old posts, your comments you made, the place to download our free desktop player and all of the current news from around the world.  Stay up-to-date on all the current events by watching our broadcasts, reading our blogs, and watching videos-on-demand.  Again, go to iNPLACENEWS.COM for all the newest blogs and the older posts you love to go back to read.  Thank you again for your time, support, and participation.

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Amsterdam’s Weed Shops Face New Challenge

June 28, 2008


This city’s famed marijuana bars have weathered many challenges over the years and are still smoking. But now they face an unwelcome blast of fresh air: On July 1, the Netherlands will be one of the last European countries to ban smoking in bars and restaurants in compliance with EU law.

The Health Ministry says the ban will apply to cafes that sell marijuana, known as coffee shops. But this being Holland, which for centuries has experimented with social liberalism, there’s a loophole: The ban covers tobacco but not marijuana, which is technically illegal anyway.

But that still leaves coffee shops and their customers in a bind. Dutch and other European marijuana users traditionally smoke pot in fat, cone-shaped joints mixed with tobacco.

“It’s the world upside down: In other countries they look for the marijuana in the cigarette. Here they look for the cigarette in the marijuana,” said Jason den Enting, manager of coffee shop Dampkring.

Shops are scrambling to adapt. One alternative is “vaporizer” machines, which incinerate weed smokelessly. Another is to replace tobacco with herbs like coltsfoot, a common plant that looks like a dandelion and that smokers describe as tasting a bit like oregano.

But most shops are just planning to increase their sales of hash brownies and pure weed – and are hoping the law isn’t enforced.

Michael Veling, owner of the 4-20 Cafe and a board member of the Cannabis Retailers’ Union, said he expected a small decline in sales as smokers are forced to separate their nicotine addiction from their marijuana habit.

But he expects the long-term effects to be minimal. “It’s absurd to say that coffee shops will go bankrupt in the second week of July. Nonsense,” he said.

Veling is instructing his staff to send tobacco smokers outside, but he doesn’t expect all coffee shops to do the same. He said some owners will ignore the ban – and will probably get away with it, at least for a while.

But “if obeying the smoking ban becomes a condition of renewing your business license, just watch how fast it will happen,” he said. “That’s the way things work.”

Chris Krikken, spokesman for the Food and Wares Authority, charged with enforcing the ban, said his agency won’t be targeting coffee shops in particular.

“For the first month we’ll just be gathering information about compliance in a wide range of hospitality businesses. Depending on what we find, we may focus more squarely on a sector that’s lagging,” he said.

But he said individual businesses caught allowing customers to smoke will be warned and definitely checked again. “Repeat offenders will face escalating fines,” he said.

Marijuana possession is illegal in the Netherlands, but smokers are not prosecuted for holding up to 5 grams. Around 750 cafes – half of them in Amsterdam – are licensed to have up to 500 grams in stock at any one time.

The Dutch “tolerance” policy recognizes that some people will smoke pot regardless of laws, so it might as well happen in an orderly way. Critics complain this encourages substance abuse.

But cannabis abuse in Holland ranks somewhere in the middle compared to other nations and is lower than in the U.S., France and England, according to statistics compiled by the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime.

At the same time, the levels of THC – the main active chemical in marijuana – have soared in the past decade and are now at 16 percent in Dutch weed.

The U.S. government sounded the alarm earlier this month because THC in American marijuana has doubled to 9.6 percent since 1983, and it warned of recent scientific findings linking the drug to mental problems.

The Dutch government, currently led by a conservative coalition with a religious bent, is slowly squeezing back the number of coffee shops by not renewing licenses when shops close.

Growers are arrested, leaving coffee shop owners struggling to obtain their main product.

“The rules are being set to pester us out of business one by one, slowly but surely,” said Richard van Velthoven, manager at The Greenhouse, who said he feared being shut down for tobacco violations.

“I’ve taken the cigarette machines out, I’m putting Coltsfoot on the tables, I’ve bought extra vaporizers, the staff is watching out – what more can I do?” he said.

German tourist Lars Schmit said lamented the possible end of an era.

Without coffee shops, he said, “a little bit of Amsterdam will die.”

Originally found @ AssociatedPress.com

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Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Should Menthol Be Illegal in Cigarettes?

June 17, 2008

Is menthol a flavor that should be banned from cigarettes? That’s a tricky question, according to the American Medical Association whose members on Tuesday found themselves opposing some government health heavyweights.

Menthol flavoring would not be banned under a bill before Congress that gives control of tobacco products to the Food and Drug Administration. The bill would ban flavor additives such as mint, clove and vanilla, which appeal to young people.

Menthol is preferred by more than 75 percent of black smokers, according to government estimates. Fewer than 25 percent of whites smoke it.

“If we’re banning things such as clove and peppermint, then we should ban menthol,” said Dr. Louis Sullivan, health secretary from 1989 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush and one of seven former health secretaries who sent a letter to lawmakers voicing opposition to the menthol exemption. “If it doesn’t happen, this bill will be discriminatory against African-Americans.”

Normally, the nation’s largest organization of doctors probably would agree. But in this case, the AMA president and many delegates support the menthol exemption pushed by the cigarette industry. The AMA voted Tuesday to refer the decision on menthol to its board, effectively silencing the doctors who wanted the organization to speak out against the exemption.

The reason is that the menthol exemption helped congressional leaders reach a bipartisan compromise on legislation that would put cigarettes under government regulation. Supporters say it would give the FDA authority to reduce harmful ingredients in cigarettes, require new health warnings and bar misleading labels such as “light” and “mild.”

Dr. Ron Davis, a preventive medicine specialist who is wrapping up his one-year term as president, said removing the menthol exemption from the bill might derail the legislation.

And while other flavor additives are aimed at luring young smokers, menthol is different, he said. Banning it would merely drive mature black smokers to other brands, said Davis. “It would change the entire political dynamic.”

Menthol cigarettes such as Kool were marketed during the 1960s in advertising campaigns targeting urban blacks, according to the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network. That group withdrew its support from the tobacco control bill last month over the menthol exemption and found allies in the former health secretaries.

The exemption harms the black community, said Robert McCaffree of the American College of Chest Physicians, the group that introduced the AMA proposal. He noted that cigarette maker Philip Morris USA supports the bill and the exemption.

William S. Robinson, executive director of the African American Tobacco Prevention Network, said the group believes a superior tobacco control bill could be crafted without the support of Philip Morris, which makes several menthol brands.
“We understand from an industry perspective why menthol is off the table,” Robinson said. “We think part of it is because menthol represents almost 30 percent of the $70 billion U.S. cigarette market.”

Philip Morris spokesman Bill Phelps said the bill would give the FDA authority to remove ingredients that are determined harmful to health.

“Based on our scientific judgment, menthol does not increase the inherent hazards of smoking,” Phelps said.

Originally found @ AssociatedPress.com

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Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.