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  • Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval

    In this week’s Metro Times we took a look at the state legislature’s role in Detroit’s ongoing bankruptcy — in particular, how it must approve a $350 million pledge for the so-called “grand bargain” to remain intact. And, with last night’s announcement of a significant deal between the city and Detroit’s pension boards and retiree groups, the ball is Lansing’s court now. The new deal, first reported by the Freep, would cut general employees monthly pension checks by 4.5 percent and eliminate their cost-of-living increases. Police and fire retirees would see no cuts to monthly checks, while their cost-of-living increases would be reduced from 2.25 percent to 1 percent. Under the original offer, police and fire retirees cuts were as high as 14 percent, with general retirees as high as 34 percent, that is, if the groups rejected the “grand bargain,” an $816 million proposal funded by foundations, the state, and the DIA to shore up pensions. The sweeter deal for pensions, though, it must be noted, entirely relies on the state legislature approving $350 million for Detroit’s bankruptcy.  And while this broke after Metro Times went to press, that was the focal point of this week’s News Hits column — so, it’s worth repeating: The […]

    The post Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday

    This Saturday, April 19, is Record Store Day, and there is plenty going on in metro Detroit and Michigan. Of special interest to us is Chiodos’ 7” single “R2ME2/Let Me Get You A Towel,” Mayer Hawthorne & Shintaro Skamoto’s 7” “Wine Glass Woman/In a Phantom,” Chuck Inglish & Action Bronson’s 7” “Game Time,” Chuck Inglish & Chance the Rapper’s 7” “Glam,” Chuck Inglish & Chromeo’s 7” “Legs,” Chuck Inglish, Mac Miller & Ab-Soul’s 7” “Easily,” James Williamson’s 7” “Open Up and Bleed/Gimme Some Skin,” Black Milk’s 12” “Glitches in the Break,” Mayer Hawthorne’s 10” “Jaded Inc.,” Wayne Kramer & the Lexington Arts Ensemble’s 12” “Lexington,” and best of all, Ray Parker Jr.’s 10” “Ghostbusters.” We wrote about James Williamson’s release this week. Go shop. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Margaret Doll Rod to play EP release show in May

    Margaret Doll Rod will celebrate the release of her new EP, Margaret, with a show at PJ’s Lager House on Saturday, May 10. A statement reads, “The EP contains 3 new original songs and one Chrome Cranks cover with Italian actress Asia Argento singing background vocals. Margaret moved to Italy after the end of the Demolition Doll Rods where she still lives touring and performing festivals in Europe. The Dollrods were a Garage Rock force for over 20 years, opening for Iggy, Jon Spencer, The Scientist, The Monks and The Cramps. Margaret was the front person and principal songwriter for The Dollrods. Her chief musical foil was Danny Kroha, who joined the Demolition Doll Rods after the now legendary Gories called it quits. Margaret’s sister, Christine, on drums, rounded out the legendary trio. Margaret will do a special performance in the round that night with a 360 degree revolving stage and special guest DJ Adam Stanfel.” The bill will also feature the Stomp Rockets and the Volcanos. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Margaret Doll Rod to play EP release show in May appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Music review roundup

    Send CDs, vinyl, cassettes, demos and 8-tracks to Brett Callwood, Metro Times, 1200 Woodward Heights, Ferndale MI 48220. Email MP3s and streaming links to bcallwood@metrotimes.com. Ricky Rat’s Tokyo Pop/Glitter People (New Fortune) 7” single highlights all that’s great about the Trash Brats guitarist, but also his limitations. The man can write a bubblegum rock ’n’ roll song to match anyone in the city and most beyond. He’s also a killer guitarist, ripping out one throwaway riff after another with reckless abandon. He’s a machine. On his own though, without Trash Brats frontman Brian McCarty, his voice doesn’t have enough strength to do the songs justice. Not that you need to have the greatest voice in the world to sing this stuff – you don’t need to be able to perform vocal gymnastics – but you do have to be able to wail the tunes out. Both of the songs on this single are great, but you can’t help but wonder how much better they would sound with McCarty or somebody similar talking the mic. Still, as they are the songs are great fun. We’re just being picky. The Paper Sound’s Trajectories is a dense, atypically dark Americana-tinged album, unrelenting and […]

    The post City Slang: Music review roundup appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit launches website to auction city-owned homes

    “Neighbors wanted.” That’s the message on the homepage of buildingdetroit.org, a new website launched by the City of Detroit today to auction off city-owned homes to prospective buyers who pledge to fix them up and move in. “We are moving aggressively to take these abandoned homes and get families living in them again,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement today. “There are a lot of people who would love to move into many of our neighborhoods. Knowing that other people are going to be buying and fixing up the other vacant homes at the same time will make it a lot easier for them to make that commitment.” The website to facilitate the auctions went live this afternoon. The first auction is scheduled to take place Monday, May 5. Officials said in a news release that one home will be auctioned per day, Monday through Friday. Fifteen homes are available for sale on the site, a dozen of which are in the East English Village neighborhood. Any Michigan resident, company, or organization that can do business in the state can bid, according to the website. Properties will be for sale for only one day, with bidding taking place from 8 […]

    The post Detroit launches website to auction city-owned homes appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes

    In case you haven’t heard, two of the biggest names in film, Steven Spielberg and John Williams, are collaborating to put on a benefit concert for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra this summer. In case you wanted to go- well, you’re too damn late. The DSO says tickets to the June 14 concert were snapped up in a record-breaking 15 minutes after they went on sale at 9 a.m. today. The DSO has since released this statement to fans who didn’t snag seats: Our apologies to everyone who was unable to buy tickets this morning for our historic benefit concert featuring John Williams and Steven Spielberg. Despite increasing our phone and internet system capacity for the day, a surge of hundreds of ticket buyers purchased tickets in a matter of minutes, filling the phone lines and temporarily maxing out our web servers. After a one-hour pre-sale made available to donors and subscribers at 8am, we released additional seats at 9am to the general public, including seats available for as low as $30. All seats sold out immediately. The concert program seems nothing short of top notch: Williams will conduct the orchestra as it performs some of his most iconic tunes, such […]

    The post Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

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Higher Ground

On smoking and driving

When is a person 'too high to drive'?

It should have been easy to see that driving under the influence was going to come up when voters gave the thumbs up to medical marijuana in Michigan. Marijuana is an intoxicant that has some effects similar to alcohol and opiates. It would seem to be a good thing for medical marijuana patients to not drive while under the influence of the medication. That's a matter of public safety, and not just because police have been reported to lay in wait near compassion centers where marijuana smoking takes place in order to arrest drivers suspected of intoxication. Other patients have been charged with DUI after having been stopped for other traffic violations and divulging that they were medical marijuana patients.

"There are some things you don't need to tell, don't have to and shouldn't," says Brandy Zink, a spokesperson for the Michigan Chapter of Americans for Safe Access, a pro-medical marijuana organization.

Hmm, maybe a variant on the old Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy for gays in the military is pertinent to the medical marijuana patient.

Zink notes that the odor of marijuana in your vehicle is probable cause for police to suspect intoxication, and the presence of marijuana might give police a clue. Either of those things could lead to a blood or urine test to figure out if you've ingested marijuana. Bad behavior might qualify you for closer scrutiny too.

This is way more complicated than it sounds and prompts a lot of questions that have not been answered on the legal tip. For instance, police test drunk-driving suspects for alcohol, the intoxicating ingredient in beer, wine and distilled spirits, in their blood. A blood alcohol content of .08 or higher makes you a drunk driver in Michigan. When it comes to marijuana, a legal limit for the presence of THC hasn't been established. What's more, the majority of marijuana tests are for metabolites created from marijuana as the body processes it; they mostly do not test for THC, the part of marijuana that gets you high. While some tests do identify the THC level, most tests are for 11-COOH-THC (also known by several other names), a byproduct metabolite that does not get you high but stays in the body much longer than the psychoactive ingredient.

Under the prohibition-zero tolerance approach, police need only prove the presence of these metabolites to establish that someone had used marijuana. This is fairly new territory. For law enforcement in the past, the focus was on arresting users for possession, not for impaired driving.

In June, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that, for registered medical marijuana patients, the presence of byproduct metabolites was not proof of intoxication at the time of citation — although there have been cases where police have charged drivers with medical marijuana cards for the presence of marijuana metabolites other than THC in their bloodstream since then. None of them have made it to trial.

Still, how does ingesting marijuana affect driving? In the past, there was no reason to figure out a level where legal impairment begins. Now medical marijuana patients want to know: How long do I have to wait before I can drive?

There is no established level of THC at which you are legally impaired for the purpose of driving. However, there are lots of opinions by experts and others involved. Attorney Matt Abel, of Cannabis Counsel TLC, says that THC, the substance in marijuana that gets you high, is out of your bloodstream in "four to six hours, although that doesn't mean someone has to wait that amount of time before they drive."

That seems based on the alcohol model where there is an established legal level. Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and expert witness on marijuana science issues, begs to differ. Armentano says THC intoxication for smoked marijuana has "about a two-hour window. If administered orally, we could be talking as long as four hours. This is a subject that has been studied. I'm taking calls on this subject every day now."

Armentano has also studied up on motor impairment caused by marijuana. "Acute intoxication from marijuana that could adversely affect motor skills lasts about 60 minutes. A study published just this past year on psychomotor impairment said that experienced users of the drug really didn't perform differently after they used marijuana."

Indeed, a study published this past fall in the journal Psychopharmacology, titled "Tolerance and cross-tolerance to neurocognitive effects of THC and alcohol in heavy cannabis users," reported: "In conclusion, the present study generally confirms that heavy cannabis users develop tolerance to the impairing effects of THC on neurocognitive task performance. Yet, heavy cannabis users did not develop cross-tolerance to the impairing effects of alcohol, and the presence of the latter even selectively potentiated THC effects on measures of divided attention."

Basically, they found that while drivers who smoked marijuana did not perform that badly on driving tests, adding alcohol to the mix was really bad. Nobody is saying that it's OK to drive while impaired by marijuana. However, when compared to alcohol use, the harms were much less. Or as Abel puts it, "marijuana is way safer than alcohol."

A 2007 research report from the Society for the Study of Addiction, "Developing limits for driving under cannabis," suggests a THC level of 7 to 10 nanograms per milliliter, which is analogous to .08 percent blood alcohol content in terms of driving impairment.

But that just addresses the high. There are actually some 400 different chemicals in marijuana, and indications that some of them are useful in treating some 30 different ailments. This prompts a few more questions from Abel: "What gives you the munchies? What relieves spasm? What causes short-term memory loss?"

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