WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 

Economic Effects

Following promises of miracles, Ohio’s weakening economy could hurt Gov. John Kasich’s re-election bid

0 Comments · Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Ohio’s weakening economy could damage Gov. John Kasich and other Ohio Republican incumbents’ chances of reelection in 2014.  
by German Lopez 07.24.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, LGBT, Economy at 09:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
david pepper

Morning News and Stuff

Gay marriage case becomes election issue, local jobs report mixed, mayoral primary nears

Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper is criticizing Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine for contesting the case that’s forcing the state to recognize the same-sex marriage of two Cincinnatians, one of who is currently sick with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a deadly neurodegenerative disease with no known cure, and expected to die soon. “Above all, an Attorney General takes an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution. This case is a truly sad example of constitutional rights being violated, and the deep and personal harms that result from constitutionally unequal treatment,” Pepper, a former Hamilton County commissioner and Cincinnati Council member, said in a statement. “I respectfully call upon Attorney General DeWine to recognize the clear constitutional wrongs taking place here. Allow this couple to spend their final weeks together in dignity.” The Cincinnati metropolitan area received a mixed jobs report in June, gaining some jobs over the year but not enough to match population trends. Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate hit 7.4 percent in June, up from 6.8 percent in May and the same as the year before. Although the jobs report was fairly negative, the area has received some good news as of late: Housing sales were up in June despite higher interest rates, and CNBC host Joe Kernen, a Western Hills native, in July 22 segment declared, “Cincinnati has successfully reinvented itself as a hub for innovation” and technology. Early voting for Cincinnati’s Sept. 10 mayoral primary begins Aug. 6. The candidates are Democrats Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley, Libertarian Jim Berns and Independent Queen Noble. The top two finishers will face each other again in the Nov. 5 election. Qualls and Cranley are perceived as the leading contenders in the race. University of Cincinnati’s police chief is stepping down. Angela Thi Bennett, one of Gov. John Kasich’s appointees to the Ohio Board of Education, is leaving the board to take a job at a charter school. The board is dominated by Kasich and Republican appointees. BRIDGES for a Just Community will shut down by early September. The nonprofit, which was founded as the Cincinnati chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, has promoted religious inclusion in the workplace, schools and broader communities since 1944. “Improving community attitudes toward diversity and inclusion, which are a direct result of BRIDGES’ work, coupled with increasing competition in providing services caused the organization to experience persistent financial challenges in recent years,” the organization said in a statement. Butler County Sheriff’s deputies arrested and charged two men for possessing 155 pounds of marijuana, valued at more than $155,000, in their vehicle at a traffic stop Sunday. Butler County Richard Jones is calling the case evidence that the Mexico-U.S. border isn’t secure. Talking Points Memo obtained the U.S. House Republicans’ political playbook for the congressional recess. One highlight: “Remarkably, the packet includes virtually no discussion of immigration reform — a major issue pending before the House after comprehensive legislation passed the Senate.” Here are 36 photos showing anti-gay Russians attacking LGBT activists. Researchers from Heptares Therapeutics, a drug company, have found the molecule responsible for stress, hopefully giving them the ability to create drugs that precisely fit into its structure.
 
 
by German Lopez 09.30.2013
Posted In: 2013 Election, News, Pensions, Health care at 09:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Early voting tomorrow, Obamacare enrollment to open, pension amendment cuts benefits

Have any questions for City Council candidates? Submit them here and CityBeat may ask your questions at this Saturday’s candidate forum. Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections begins tomorrow. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended. Tomorrow is also the first day of open enrollment at Obamacare’s online marketplaces, which can be found at www.healthcare.gov. At the marketplaces, an Ohio individual will be able to buy a middle-of-the-pack health insurance plan for as low as $145 a month after tax credits, while a family of four making $50,000 will be able to pay $282 a month for a similar plan, according to Congressional Budget Office numbers. Starting in 2014, most Americans — with exemptions for religious and economic reasons, the imprisoned and those living outside the country — will be required to buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty. Organizations from around the state and country will be working over the next six months to help insure as many Ohioans and Americans as possible, but some of those efforts have been obstructed by Republican legislators who oppose the president’s signature health care law, as CityBeat covered in further detail here. Meanwhile, the federal government is nearing a shutdown because of Republican opposition to Obamacare, including local Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup. A report from the conservative Buckeye Institute echoes claims made by both sides in Cincinnati’s pension debate: A tea party-backed amendment, if approved by voters, would reduce retirement benefits for new city employees by one-third. At the same time, the city’s unfunded pension liability might be $2.57 billion, or three times what officials currently estimate. The amendment would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system by forcing future city employees to contribute to and manage their own individual retirement accounts, which would imitate private 401k plans commonly seen in the private sector. Under the current system, the city pools pension funds and manages the public system through an independent board. The pension amendment is backed by tea party groups, some of who may reside outside Cincinnati and Ohio, and will appear on the ballot as Issue 4. To celebrate early voting, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who’s running for mayor against ex-Councilman John Cranley, will name her vice mayor today. Qualls is expected to select Councilman Wendell Young. Cranley and Qualls are both Democrats, but they’re heavily divided on the streetcar project and parking plan, both of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. The mayoral candidates mostly focused on the two issues in their first post-primary mayoral debate, which CityBeat covered here. Jeffrey Blackwell, Cincinnati’s new police chief, starts on the job today. He’s replacing former Police Chief James Craig, who left in June to take the top police job in his hometown of Detroit. The city has praised Blackwell for his 26 years at the Columbus Division of Police, where he reached out to youth and immigrants, advanced the use of technology, worked closely with community members and helped reduce operating costs. Cincinnati Councilwoman Pam Thomas today announced that she’s introducing a motion to hire a 40-member police recruit class. The motion addresses a drop in the amount of Cincinnati police officers in recent years: Staffing levels since the last recruit class have dropped by 15.2 percent, according to Thomas’ office. “Our police staffing levels are dangerously low,” Thomas said in a statement. “We cannot afford to sacrifice our public’s safety by not hiring this recruit class.” In this year’s budget, the city managed to prevent cutting public safety jobs by slashing other city services, including city parks. But Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan argues that Cincinnati’s public safety forces, which are proportionally larger than most comparable cities, need to be “rightsized” and reduced over time. The amount of local children and teens going to the hospital with a concussion massively increased between 2002 and 2011, and the number is expected to increase further because state law now requires medical clearance to continue playing sports after a concussion. Ohio gas prices are back below the national average. AdvancePierre Foods, Cincinnati's largest private company, got a new CEO. Earth may have stolen its moon from Venus.
 
 
by German Lopez 11.05.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Mayor, City Council at 04:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Officials Report Smooth Election Day

Turnout much higher than mayoral primary

Early reports from the Hamilton County Board of Elections indicate Election Day is proceeding with minimal problems and voter turnout is considerably better than it was for the Sept. 10 mayoral primary. “There’s always bumps in every election … but nothing highly unusual,” says Sally Krisel, deputy director of the board of elections. Countywide voter turnout was estimated at 20 percent around noon, with turnout in Cincinnati stronger than the rest of the county, according to Krisel. But she cautions that the numbers are still unclear and could completely change, particularly after work hours. Turnout is particularly strong in wards one, four and five, according to Krisel. That could be good news for mayoral candidate John Cranley, who handily won all three wards in the primary against opponents Roxanne Qualls, Jim Berns and Sandra “Queen” Noble. But since citywide voter turnout was an abysmal 5.74 percent in the primary election, it remains uncertain how much primary results will ultimately reflect on Tuesday’s election. Historically, Cincinnati’s mayoral primaries failed to predict the winner of the general election. Cranley obtained nearly 56 percent of the vote on Sept. 10, while Qualls got slightly more than 37 percent. Both candidates received enough support to advance to Tuesday’s ballot, but the Qualls campaign acknowledged the lopsided results were disappointing. To obtain the Election Day numbers, the county is for the first time tracking ballot usage. Krisel says the measure allows the county to gauge countywide voter turnout and whether more ballots are needed in different voting locations. Tuesday’s votes come in addition to 20,500 absentee and early voters across the county, about 90 percent of who already submitted ballots to the board of elections. Krisel claims that’s about half the amount of early voters from two years ago, but she says she doesn’t know whether that will reflect on the final turnout numbers. The election is the first time Cincinnati voters will elect City Council members for four-year terms, which means Tuesday’s results will effectively set the city’s agenda for the next four years. Voters are also deciding on a new mayor, the Cincinnati Public Schools board, two property tax levies for the local library and zoo, and a proposal that would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system for city employees. Polls will remain open until 7:30 p.m. To find out where to vote, visit the board of elections website. For more election coverage and CityBeat’s endorsements, go to the official election page here.
 
 
by German Lopez 11.06.2013
Posted In: News, Mayor, Streetcar at 04:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
john cranley

Mayor-Elect Explains Vision for First Term

Cranley promises to cancel streetcar project and shift city’s priorities

Mayor-elect John Cranley invited reporters to his home in Mt. Lookout on Wednesday to discuss his plan and priorities for his first term as mayor of Cincinnati. Cranley claims the invitation to his house represents the kind of accessible, transparent leadership he’ll take up when he begins his term on Dec. 1. Speaking on his immediate priorities, Cranley says he already contacted the nine newly elected council members and intends to build more collaboration with all sides of the aisle, which will include a mix of five Democrats, two Republicans, one Charterite and one Independent starting in December. One of Cranley’s top priorities is to cancel the $133 million streetcar project, which Cranley and six newly elected council members oppose. He also argues that the city should stop spending on ongoing construction for the project. “Seriously, look at who got elected yesterday. At some point, this is a democracy. We shouldn’t be agitating voters like this,” Cranley says. “Let’s not keep spending money when it looks like the clear majority and the clear mandate of yesterday’s election was going in a different direction.” But in response to recent reports that canceling the streetcar project could carry its own set of unknown costs, he says he will weigh the costs and benefits before making a final decision. If the cost of cancellation is too high, Cranley acknowledges he would pull back his opposition to the project. Canceling the streetcar project would also require an ordinance from City Council. Mike Moroski, who on Tuesday lost in his bid for a council seat, already announced on Twitter that he’s gathering petition signatures for a referendum to prevent the project’s cancellation. Cranley promises he won’t stop a referendum effort by placing an emergency clause on an ordinance that cancels the project, but he expressed doubt that a referendum would succeed. On the current city administration’s plan to lease the city’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, Cranley says he will work with fellow lawyers David Mann and Kevin Flynn, both of who won seats for council on Tuesday, to find a way to cancel the deal. But that could prove tricky with the lease agreement already signed by the city and Port Authority, especially as the Port works to sell bonds — perhaps before Cranley takes office — to finance the deal and the $85 million payment the city will receive as a result. Cranley also promises to make various development projects his top priority, particularly the interchange for Interstate 71 and Martin Luther King Drive. He says he will lobby White House officials to re-appropriate nearly $45 million in federal grant money for the streetcar project to the interchange project, even though the U.S. Department of Transportation told the city in a June 19 letter that it would take back nearly $41 million of its grant money if the streetcar project were canceled. Cranley vows he will also work with local businesses to leverage public and private dollars to spur investment in Cincinnati’s neighborhoods — similar to what the city did with Over-the-Rhine and downtown by working with 3CDC (Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation). “We want to have some big early wins,” Cranley says. “We want to get moving within a year on the Wasson Way bike trail, see significant progress at the old Swifton Commons and see Westwood Square developed.” He adds, “And we intend to reverse the one-trash-can policy, which I think is a horrible policy. … There have been several stories about illegal dumping that have resulted from that.” Cincinnati’s pension system and its $862-million-plus unfunded liability also remain a top concern for city officials. Cranley says he will tap Councilman Chris Smitherman to help bring costs in line, but no specifics on a plan were given.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.03.2014
Posted In: News, 2014 election, LGBT at 02:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
david pepper

Same-Sex Marriage Debate Reaches Attorney General Race

Pepper calls on DeWine to stop court battle against local gay couple

The debate over same-sex marriage came to the forefront of Ohio’s attorney general race after Democratic candidate David Pepper drew up an online petition calling on Attorney General Mike DeWine to drop a court battle against a local gay couple. Pepper’s petition is in direct response to the legal battle surrounding Cincinnatians Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, who legally married in Maryland last year and won legal recognition of their marriage in Arthur’s Ohio death certificate. (Arthur passed away after suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurological disease that causes muscles to rapidly deteriorate.) The case originally applied only to Obergefell and Arthur, but U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black on Dec. 23 cited equal protection grounds to force state officials to acknowledge gay marriages in all Ohio death certificates. With DeWine’s office acting as the attorneys in the case, the state intends to appeal the ruling. The attorney general’s office told CityBeat it’s up to the Ohio Department of Health, the plaintiff in the case, to decide whether to appeal the ruling. Citing attorney-client privilege, DeWine’s office declined to comment on whether DeWine offered legal advice for or against the appeal. But DeWine previously defended his intention to uphold Ohio’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, which voters approved in 2004. “Our job is to defend Ohio’s constitution and defend what voters have voted on,” he told WKSU Public Radio. In his petition, Pepper argues it’s DeWine’s duty to uphold the U.S. Constitution and protect the local couple’s court-established marriage rights. “What a waste of taxpayer dollars, and what a misuse of an office whose duty is to stand up to — not for — the unconstitutional treatment of Ohioans,” the petition reads. While DeWine and Pepper will face off in the upcoming November ballot, same-sex marriage could appear on the ballot as well — despite disagreement among LGBT groups on the timing.Pepper’s petition can be read and signed here.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.14.2014
Posted In: News, Health care, Education, Environment at 11:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
obamacare navigators

Morning News and Stuff

Obamacare misses target, state to investigate CPS staff, chemical spill forces local measures

In the third month of open enrollment, Obamacare failed to hit key demographic targets for young adults in Ohio and across the nation. White House officials say about about 39 percent of those who sign up for health insurance through HealthCare.gov and state-run marketplaces must be young adults. The idea is to get enough young, healthy enrollees to hold down costs as an older, sicker population signs up for health insurance made more easily available through Obamacare’s systems and regulations. But in December, only 19 percent of signups in Ohio and 24 percent of signups nationwide were young adults. The Ohio Department of Education will recalculate report card data and investigate whether to punish staff after Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) and six other Ohio school districts that scrubbed student attendance data. By manipulating the data, schools can appear to be performing better, but the actions obviously jeopardize the authenticity of Ohio’s school accountability system. CPS says its internal investigations found no evidence of deliberate manipulation and the data errors shouldn’t be enough to alter the school’s standing in state report cards. For CPS and the six other school districts, the issues began after the state auditor in 2012 launched an investigation into school data scrubbing.To avoid contamination from a W. Va. chemical spill, Cincinnati Water Works will shut down its water intake system along the Ohio River and instead rely on the water intake system at the groundwater treatment facility in Fairfield. Mayor John Cranley said the shutdown will last two days, or more than twice the roughly 20 hours required for the chemical slick to pass by. Consumers shouldn’t notice a difference, according to Water Works officials. In the coming weeks, the U.S. Coast Guard will decide whether to allow fracking wastewater to travel along the Ohio River and other federal waterways and how strictly regulated the shipments should be. Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of gallons of water are pumped underground to unlock oil and gas reserves, but the process produces a lot of wastewater as a result. CityBeat previously covered fracking and the controversy surrounding it in further detail here. With legislation repealing Ohio’s energy rules now stalled, Champaign County residents are challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s in-state renewable energy requirements in court. Supporters of the law claim the rules help foster a green energy sector in the state, while opponents argue the rules increase costs for businesses and consumers. CityBeat previously covered State Sen. Bill Seitz’s legislative attempts to repeal the rules here.Another tea party-backed candidate might challenge Gov. John Kasich in the Republican primary. The reveal comes just days after a tea party leader abruptly dropped his challenge against the incumbent governor.If state legislators approve, Gov. Kasich will hold his state of the state address this year at Medina, Ohio, on Feb. 24.Three judges will cover for Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter while she fights felony charges in court. State Rep. Pete Beck of Mason, who was indicted on 16 felony counts for alleged fraud and theft, is facing a primary challenger.Cincinnati repaved 130 lane miles of road in 2013, according to city officials.Duke Energy cut a check for the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority today to help redevelop Bond Hill and Queensgate.A blind student is suing Miami University for alleged discrimination that prevented her from completing coursework.One vote made the difference in 43 of Ohio’s 2013 elections, according to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.Ky. developers are still pursuing the Noah’s Ark theme park, despite troubles raising funds for the project.Today is the last day to vote for the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards.An infection can turn swarming locusts into solitary grasshoppers, a study found.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
 
 
by German Lopez 01.13.2014
Posted In: News, Health care, Barack Obama at 04:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
obamacarefail

Obamacare Misses Demographic Target in Ohio

State lags behind national average for enrolling young adults

In the third month of open enrollment, Obamacare failed to meet crucial demographic goals for young adults in Ohio and across the nation. Prior to the launch of HealthCare.gov, the Obama administration said it needs to enroll about 2.7 million young adults out of 7 million projected enrollees — nearly 39 percent of all signups — for the law to succeed.The reasoning: Because young adults tend to be healthier, they can keep premiums down as sicker, older people claim health insurance after the law opens up the health insurance market to more Americans.But the numbers released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Monday — the first time the agency provided demographic information — show the law missing the target both nationally and in Ohio.Roughly 19 percent of nearly 40,000 Ohioans who signed up for Obamacare were young adults between the ages of 18 and 34, according to the report. Not only does that fall below the 39 percent goal, but it also lags behind the national average of 24 percent.In defense of the demographic numbers, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote in a blog post Monday that enrollments are demographically on pace with the 2007 experience of Massachusett, where state officials implemented health care reforms and systems similar to Obamacare through Romneycare.Indeed, a report from The New Republic found just 22.6 percent of enrollees through the third month of Romneycare were young adults. That number rose to 31.7 percent by the end of the law’s first year.If Obamacare ends up at Massachusetts’ year-end rate, it will still fall behind goals established by the White House. Still, Obamacare would be in a considerably better place than it finds itself today. The disappointing demographic figure comes after months of technical issues snared HealthCare.gov’s launch. Most of the issues were fixed in December, which allowed Obamacare to report considerably better enrollment numbers by the end of the year. But the enrollment numbers — nearly 2.2 million selected a plan between Oct. 1 to Dec. 28 — still fall below the administration’s projections to enroll 3.3 million by the end of December.It’s also unclear how many of those signing up for Obamacare actually paid for their first premium, which is the final step to becoming enrolled in a health insurance plan. Given how Romneycare worked out in Massachusetts, it’s possible signups for Obamacare could pick up before open enrollment closes at the end of March. Based on previous statements from the White House, Obamacare’s success could depend on it.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.13.2014
Posted In: News, Transportation, Courts, 2014 election at 10:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

State fights for minor party restrictions, local judge disqualified, Oasis rail line draws critics

Ohio officials will appeal a court ruling that blocked tougher requirements on minor political parties and allows them to run in the 2014 primary and general elections under previous rules. The Republican-controlled Ohio legislature and Gov. John Kasich approved the stricter rules last year. Democrats and Libertarians argued the new law, which they labeled the John Kasich Re-election Protection Act, was put in place to protect Kasich from conservative electoral challengers upset with his support for the federally funded Medicaid expansion.The Ohio Supreme Court disqualified Hamilton County Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter Friday after she was indicted on eight felony charges for, among other accusations, backdating and forging court documents. The disqualification could further burden a court that’s already known for a large backlog of cases. It remains unclear how long Hunter’s case and disqualification will last and whether she’ll be replaced while the legal battle unfolds.Many streetcar supporters oppose the Oasis rail line and the rest of the Eastern Corridor project. Critics of the project point to a recent study that found the Oasis line would generate low economic development in seven of 10 planned stations. Instead of supporting the Oasis line, Cincinnatians for Progress says local officials should work to first establish a transit line — perhaps through a piece-by-piece approach of the defunct MetroMoves plan that voters rejected in 2002 — that could act as a central spine for a broader light rail network. Opposition to the Oasis line is also rooted in a general movement against the Eastern Corridor project, which some say would expand and rework roads and highways in a way that could damage and divide the East Side and eastern Hamilton County. Officials are taking feedback for the Eastern Corridor and Oasis rail line at EasternCorridor.org.Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, who might challenge Democratic gubernatorial Ed FitzGerald in the May primary, discussed the gubernatorial race in a nearly 40-minute interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer’s editorial board Friday. View the full interview here.The U.S. Supreme Court will hear whether groups have the right to sue in a local case that could have broader implications for free-speech rights and limitations. The legal fight between former Rep. Steve Driehaus and the Susan B. Anthony List could resolve whether political campaigns have the right to lie.As local and state officials work to address the opiate epidemic, a drug history scholar from the University of Cincinnati proposes alternatives to the failing war on drugs.One drug helps prevent opiate addicts from getting high.The Ohio Department of Health says flu activity in Ohio is now widespread.Ohio’s chief justice says it’s time to reform how judges are elected. It remains unclear exactly how Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor would reform the system, but she says she wants to uphold courts’ attempts at impartiality.Reminder: January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Find out more at HumanTrafficking.Ohio.gov.Ohio gas prices increased in time for the new workweek.Racism could accelerate aging among black men, according to a new study.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
 
 
by German Lopez 01.10.2014
Posted In: News, Drugs at 03:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
home grown

Drug History Scholar Touts Alternative to War on Drugs

UC professor suggests different approach to addressing opiate epidemic

Rises in heroin and prescription painkiller abuse have languished lawmakers in Ohio and across the country in the past year, with some calling it an epidemic and others blaming it for an increase in crimes and deaths.The issue has taken particular root in Ohio, where lawmakers have joined a chorus of advocates to prevent more drug abuse. On Thursday, Gov. John Kasich announced an initiative that encourages parents and schools to talk with their children about the dangers of drug abuse. In the Ohio legislature, lawmakers are hashing out harsher penalties and regulations in an attempt to prevent prescription painkiller and heroin abuse.But many of these ideas, while genuine in their effort to address the problem, fall under the same framework of the war on drugs, a policy that has largely failed in reducing the demand or supply of illicit drugs over the past few decades.Isaac Campos, a drug history professor at the University of Cincinnati and author of Home Grown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico’s War on Drugs, is highly critical of the war on drugs. He talked to CityBeat over the phone Friday. The interview, below, is edited for length and clarity. CityBeat: What do you make of the ongoing discussion about an opiate epidemic? Isaac Campos: From what I’ve read, there’s been a big increase in overdoses throughout the Midwest. The most interesting and plausible thing is that the Mexican distributors started distributing much higher-potency heroin as the crackdowns of cocaine and other things have had some effect. They moved into the heroin business and started distributing higher potency of heroin, which allows the people along the supply chain to make higher profits by cutting the heroin so they can get a lot more bang for their buck, basically. It also means users can get heroin for much cheaper than OxyContin or whatever they normally use. That’s No. 1. No. 2 is they can not only get it cheaper, but it tends to be much higher potency than what they got before and maybe what they’re used to. That’s the No. 1 cause of heroin doses: the lack of knowledge about the potency of the particular drug that somebody’s taking. So if the potencies are substantially higher, you’re very likely to get tons of overdoses. CB: The governor unveiled an initiative essentially asking parents and schools to more openly discuss drug use with students. And then the state legislature is considering strengthening rules on prescription painkillers. Based on what you know, do these kind of solutions work? IC: The thing about it is clearly the problem is a mini-balloon effect that always happens. In this case, you put pressure on prescription opiates, and that has led to being harder to get them. They’ve also changed the formula to make OxyContin less pleasurable for users. And so they made it less desirable to take the stuff that people were taking before, so what people have done is started taking something else. They’ve also made it more difficult for the drug distributors to make a profit with what they were distributing before, so they’ve changed to something else. I think the idea that students don’t know that heroin is dangerous is utterly preposterous. … I suppose it’s a good thing to tell students — if they are actually going to tell them the truth — that these potencies are unpredictable and could kill them. But I imagine they might not tell them that; they might just tell them, “Heroin is dangerous for you.” You’d have to be living under a rock to not know that. CB: As you alluded to, one study found cracking down on prescription painkillers might push people to use heroin. We’ve talked about the hydra effect before, in which one drug or dealer inevitably replaces a suppressed drug or dealer. Do you think this situation shows the same cause-and-effect?IC: Absolutely. The hydra effect is usually used in respect to dealers, but we’ve seen this before back in the 1930s. A lot of people were smoking opium. It was the fashionable thing to do — and smoking opium really isn’t that bad for you — but there was a crackdown on that. Also, when the Italian mafia took over the business, they decided to make it more profitable and squeeze out the smoking opium. So all these smoking opium users switched to morphine or heroin, which are more dangerous and harder to predict. So you end up getting more deaths because the really dangerous thing about heroin is you just don’t know what the dosage is. CB: Based on your research, what kind of solutions do you think would work? I know before we talked about Switzerland and the success they’ve had there with a maintenance-dose program.IC: I always thought the much smarter course of action is to allow opiate addicts to have safe doses of opiates while trying to get them help to stop using opiates if that’s what they want to do. Most of these addicts I’m sure would love to stop using at one point, but maybe they’re not ready yet. But they would be much better off knowing what they’re taking while they’re not ready yet than overdosing on the street and buying from black-market dealers. CB: Another aspect is how rarely officials go after the root of drug habits. It’s mostly more penalties, criminalization, imprisonment and attempts to cut supply. But there are huge socioeconomic problems surrounding drug use. What do you think they could be doing better in this regard? IC: One of the big problems is people don’t realize drug problems are complex, so addiction is not simply a biological issue. The disease model does not explain what addiction really is. Addiction is a social, cultural and psychological problem; it’s not simply a disease of the brain. I think that’s a big problem because that suggests the root of the problem is these drugs that hijack your brain, as some like to say, when really the problem is a much broader one that involves what’s going on in your life when you become a drug addict. Of course, that’s way too complicated for politicians to utter. … But addiction problems are real problems. People really do become addicted to drugs and it ends up being bad for their lives. But most of the bad things that happen to them are because the drugs are illegal. … We can’t really expect the government to figure out all these issues. But we could hope that the government would have a more rational policy, like, for example, what’s going on in Colorado and Washington, where they’re dealing with marijuana in a more rational way. CB: Switching subjects a bit, in the past year, Cincinnati saw a rise in local homicides and gun violence. Police say gang-related activity and drug trafficking is to blame. We’ve talked about this before, but do you think decriminalization or legalization could help put an end to this kind of violence? IC: Oh, yeah. I don’t know what percent of shootings and that sort of thing in Cincinnati are related to drugs, but they’re related to illicit drugs, not people taking drugs. Changing policy would have a big impact. You wouldn’t have these people fighting out this black-market turf over these drugs that are incredibly profitable because they’re illegal. It would also have a huge effect in not sending so many people to prison, which are essentially schools of crime that totally screw people up psychologically and are places where you’re breeding more violence. CB: Do you think that creates a vicious cycle in which people are moving in and out of prisons? IC: Absolutely. And not only the people who are actually going in and out of prison, but all the kids of the parents who are in prison who are growing out without their parents. I think it has a massive effect. There’s so many pernicious effects to this policy. It’s incredible. CB: Last time you and I talked about this, I mentioned that some war on drug supporters say gangs would just resort to selling other contraband if drugs were legalized. But you said, “How much easier is it to move two kilos of cocaine, which are worth $50,000 or so, across the U.S. border than it is to move $50,000 worth of assault rifles?” That stuck with me. Could you elaborate on that? IC: There’s no doubt that even if we legalized all drugs tomorrow, you’d still have these big criminal organizations that have been making a lot of money off them. But over the long-term — or medium- or short-term, even — they’d start feeling a really strong pinch from losing all this drug revenue. They’ll still try to make money, but they’re not going to sustain their operations without the incredible revenue stream that they’re getting from drugs. Ultimately, all those organization will be weakened. I mean, they’re so strong today because they can afford to arm themselves like an army and they can afford the kind of technology to thwart the high technology being directed at them. … Right now, they’re legitimate security threats to states. But they would never be that on just arms running, prostitution or that sort of thing.
 
 

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