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They’re called Legal Highs, drugs that mimic illegal substances like marijuana and cocaine, but are just chemically different enough to pass through customs on their way from labs in China and India. Now they’re causing a rash of overdoses in cities across the country. Guest host Barbara Bogaev explores what to do when legal drugs are more dangerous than the illicit ones they’re replacing.

Also, the Justice Department will open an investigation into the Baltimore Police Department. On today's Talking Point, a Starbucks program that help its employees pay for college. Has it paid off for baristas or does the hype outweigh the results?

Photo: Lance Cpl. Damany S. Coleman/USMC

DOJ to Investigate Baltimore Police 6 MIN, 30 SEC

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced today the launch of a sweeping investigation of the Baltimore Police Department for "excessive force, including deadly force, unlawful seizures and discriminatory policing." The probe follows the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, and criminal charges filed against six officers. Baltimore officials had asked for a federal review and Lynch said today one was needed to fix a "serious erosion of public trust." Gloria Browne-Marshall is a professor of Constitutional Law at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and author of Race, Law and American Society: 1607-Present.

Gloria Browne-Marshall, John Jay College of Criminal Justice (@gbrownemarshall)

Race, Law, and American Society

Gloria J. Browne-Marshall

Legal Highs with Lethal Consequences 34 MIN, 7 SEC

They call them "legal highs" or, in the acronym driven drug lingo, NPS. Novel psychoactive substances are drugs that mimic the highs of banned substances like marijuana or cocaine, but their chemistry has been tinkered with just enough that they fall through the cracks of international drug control laws. Since about 2009 they've been flooding the market, with at times deadly results. Last month, New York, Mississippi and Alabama issued health alerts after a rash of overdoses, and police in Tuscaloosa, Alabama declared a public health crisis when one person died and two dozen were hospitalized after taking an NPS known on the street as "Spice." How can we stop the arms race in legal highs? Would legalization of marijuana and other recreational drugs end up safer for all?

Nicola Davison, freelance reporter (@nicola_davison)
Mark Ryan, Louisiana Poison Center (@AAPCC)
Danny Kushlick, Transform (@DannyTransform)
Maia Szalavitz, neuroscience journalist (@maiasz)

Davison on Chinese labs churning out NPS for the West
American Association of Poison Control Centers' alert on synthetic marijuana
Transform on ending the war on drugs, winning the global drug policy debate

The Upwardly Mobile Barista 9 MIN, 24 SEC

Last summer, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz made headlines with a big promise: he announced his company would team up with Arizona State University to help Starbucks employees finish college. Starbucks got a ton of press from the announcement, but has the program lived up to its many vaulted promises of giving baristas access to the American dream? Does it have anything new to offer to the debate about how best to support people who struggle to pay for college and often fail to graduate? Journalist Amanda Ripley wrote about "The Upwardly Mobile Barista" in this month's Atlantic magazine.

Amanda Ripley, journalist and author (@amandaripley)

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