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Medical marijuana helps Las Vegas veterans

Veterans recently joined a tour of a local dispensary and testing lab to tell their stories of how medical marijuana has improved their lives since they left the military.

The tour was hosted by the Las Vegas Medical Marijuana Association, which was formed to promote the medical marijuana industry in Nevada. The association recognizes the use of cannabis to treat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other ailments.

“Marijuana changed my whole life,” said Cristina Alfonso-Zea, an Army veteran who uses medical marijuana to treat PTSD. “From the time I left the military, I attempted suicide every year.”

She said she first turned to alcohol, synthetic marijuana and other drugs to cope.

“After a while, opiates don’t work,” she said.

Now Alfonso-Zea holds a weekly group discussion for veterans at Oasis Medical Cannabis clinic to educate them about the benefits of medical marijuana. The clinic works to improve community quality of life, spread knowledge, choose quality over profit and help every individual patient, according to their website.

Pot offers Alfonso-Zea and other veterans, like Top Gun Commander Shane Terry, the relief they need.

Terry is a medical marijuana patient who uses the substance to help with chronic pain caused by an injury he suffered in combat.

While some veterans try multiple pharmaceutical drugs such as anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication, mood stabilizers and narcotics before turning to cannabis, Terry avoids all pharmaceutical drugs, even Tylenol.

He uses marijuana at bedtime to relieve his neck pain and help him sleep.

“Twenty-two veterans a day commit suicide,” Terry said. “And about 10 percent of your veteran community suffers from substance abuse.”

The owners of Silver Sage Wellness, the dispensary explored on the tour, pride themselves on offering relief for patients such as Alfonso-Zea and Terry. Owners Pam and Jim Blasco got into the business to help their two disabled sons.

“There’s the special-needs community and the PTSD with the vets who are sitting there suffering through, and we as a society have just kind of gone by it,” Jim Blasco said. “It’s time to start addressing it.”

Seth Holycross, an Army veteran, helps grow marijuana for the Silver Sage dispensary. He also is a patient who uses the plant to treat his PTSD.

Holycross tried therapy, sleeping pills, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication before turning to cannabis.

“They would make me sick,” he said of the drugs. “I couldn’t get out of bed at times. I would miss work because of it. I just had to get away from that stuff.”

Holycross said he prefers a more natural treatment.

Nevada has some of the strictest testing laws of any state, according to Savino Sguera, director of DB Labs, the first lab certified by the state to test marijuana.

DB Labs is an independent analytical testing laboratory specializing in organic, inorganic and microbiological analyses, according to their website. They were founded in 2014 in response to the growing demand for quality analytical services. 

The lab tests for heavy metals, pesticides and other potentially harmful substances that could be found in marijuana. Organizations can submit samples of their marijuana plants for testing and get results in just one to three days.

The medical marijuana industry is growing as more and more states recognize its medical use and legalize it on state levels. The drug is still illegal according to the federal government and is ranked a schedule one drug meaning it currently has no “accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. “Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”

The DEA still makes these claims, despite studies that have proven marijuana to be safer than alcohol and tobacco. The other schedule one drugs include heroin, LSD, ecstasy, methaqualone, and peyote. The DEA considered marijuana to be more dangerous and addictive than schedule two drugs, which include cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone and oxycodone.



The High Roller: Experience Vegas from a new perspective

The ever-changing Las Vegas skyline gained a major addition just over two years ago, giving tourists and locals alike the opportunity to see the world famous Las Vegas Strip in a whole new way.

The High Roller, the world’s tallest observation wheel, opened March 31, 2014 by lighting up the center of the Strip with its multicolored dancing lights.

The wheel sits at the end of The Linq Promenade, a shopping, dining and entertainment district between the Linq and Flamingo hotels, according to

The observation wheel has a 520-foot diameter and gained its world-record status by beating out the London Eye’s 394-foot diameter and the Singapore Flyer’s 492-foot diameter.

The appropriately named, High Roller, runs parallel to the Las Vegas Strip and gives riders a unique and affordable view of the Las Vegas valley.

When you hop aboard one of the 28 glass-enclosed cabins, which fit up to 40 people, your 30-minute adventure begins. And that adventure could include unlimited alcohol for that 30 minutes if you select that package.

The Happy Half Hour package includes open bar for everyone in the pod. The open bar package features specialty Las Vegas and High Roller themed beverages, drinks made-to-order, and a celebratory shot at the very top.


The wheel’s light display is constantly changing colors and has been used to highlight special events and holidays. The wheel turned bright green during this year’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Everyone within viewing range of the week should expect it to be red, white and blue for the Fourth of July next week.

Although it is still fairly new compared to other Las Vegas attractions, the High Roller has made its mark as the centerpiece of the Las Vegas Strip and will continue to draw tourists and locals to the Linq Promenade and the High Roller.

For pricing and packages, check out

Blogging is the new black

Blogging is the new-age journalist’s best friend, and everyone is doing it. But where should a blogging newbie start? This blogging site, WordPress, is great, but there are other options out there.

Weebly is just one of those great options for the newest up-and-coming blogger, looking to make their mark in the blogging/journalism world.

The following video tutorial gives a brief overview of how to make a blog using in just five minutes! It really is that easy.

Weebly is great for blogs because of its drag and drop style customization tools and its user-friendly interface. And the website isn’t just for blogs, it can be used for websites and online stores.

According to their website, “millions around the world use Weebly to start their own business, sell online, showcase their achievements and communicate with visitors in a thoughtful and meaningful way. Designed with the first-time business owner in mind, Weebly gives everyone the freedom to build a high-quality site that works brilliantly across any device.”

There is even an upgraded version that can do more than the demonstration of the free version.

Some of Weebly’s features that weren’t mentioned in the video include the ability to add slideshows, maps, widgets, documents, surveys, feed readers, and so much more.

The Weebly home page tracks site statistics like how many visitors and views the page has.

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The blogger can also use the blog settings to customize blog comments, add a password to protect the blog, and other useful adjustments.

The ability to add pages and subpages gives the blogger the option to create a site that draws readers in further and further.

Weebly is a simple website builder that can do extremely complex things. I would definitely recommend Weebly to a first-time blogger looking to have the ultimate customization experience.

The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada


The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada is located in downtown Las Vegas near Maryland Parkway and Lewis Avenue.

According to The Center’s website, they are a “community-based organization, [that] supports and promotes activities directed at furthering the well-being, positive image, and human rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community, its allies, and low to moderate income residents in Southern Nevada.”

John Klai and Jon Sparer are a gay couple who work in architecture and helped design and build The Center.
John Klai and Jon Sparer are a gay couple who work in architecture and helped design and build The Center.

The Center offers group activities, resources, a cafe, a library and more to the LGBTQ community and its allies.

The youth center currently offers Comprehensive Sex Education classes to Vegas-area teens ages 13 to 18 for no charge over the course of six to eight weeks. Youth Resource Specialist AJ Holly Huth said The Center’s youth will be putting on a production based on the Stonewall Riots, called The Night We Stood Together. The 1969 riots at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan, New York, are considered the most important event leading to the gay liberation movement. The riots took place in a time where gay Americans had to face an anti-gay legal system.

The Center held a memorial service after the LGBTQ-targeted shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub, in Orlando. Forty-nine people were killed. “The response from Metro was unbelievable,” Huth said about the service. “It’s nice to see that the police are now our protectors instead of harassers,” she added.

Over half of their menu has vegan and vegetarian options.
Over half of their menu has vegan and vegetarian options.

One of The Center’s most well-known attributes is The Bronze Cafe, located in the lobby. It is independently owned and operated by Chef Peter Bastien and serves a variety of food.

The Center also has a lending library with thousands of books and hundreds of DVDs. Materials will be lent to anyone with an ID for up to two weeks for free. Although the majority of the material is LGBTQ in nature, they also offer a variety of mainstream works, both contemporary and classic in nature.

The lending library is named after Democratic state senator representing District 7, David R. Parks.

I chose this topic because The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada is an important part of the Las Vegas community and serves many purposes for the LGBTQ members, especially with the recent violence in Orlando. All I had to do to take photos was ask permission, which was happily granted.

To take these photos, I used the latest Apple technology on the iPhone SE 12 megapixel iSight camera. The camera is equip with auto image stabilization, a backside illumination sensor, 2.2 aperture, and autofocus with Focus Pixels.

Check out the rest of the photos from The Center on my Flickr page.

Twitter: A paradise for multimedia journalists

Before I started working in the news business, I mostly used Twitter to see what people were up to and keep up with the trends. Now, Twitter is my primary source for gathering and sharing news – mostly breaking news. Luckily for me, I was able to get my Twitter account verified through my work which allowed me to gain a following of other people in the news business or who enjoy my stories and want to read my articles regularly.

I use Twitter professionally by tweeting bits of breaking news in real time. I usually tease an upcoming article with more details to keep readers interested and in-the-know. Then, I’ll write a brief or full length article and share it on twitter by writing an interesting tweet and link to the article.

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I also use Twitter in my profession to keep up with trending news by keeping up with a Twitter list that a former co-worker of mine created. The list follows local and national reporters, news organizations, government agencies, politicians, etc. Having a resource like a Twitter list allows me to keep up with breaking and trending news and to read articles from other outlets.

Twitter also allows me to find sources and conduct interviews. If I was looking to do a story on this week’s Electric Daisy Carnival, all I would have to do is search Twitter for #EDCLV and I have access to attendees who I can contact via direct message for comments, photos, videos, etc.

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A tool that many journalists, including myself, use to track information on Twitter is TweetDeck. This site allows the user to “organize and build custom timelines, keep track of lists, searches, activity and more—all in one interface,” the site says. TweetDeck is constantly updated and easily customizable to show you exactly what you want to see.

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Twitter is no longer just a way to tell your friends what you had for breakfast or to keep up on what your celebrity crush is doing. Twitter is also a network of professionals and one of the leading social media sites for breaking news. Its uses and abilities are limitless.


Blog themes are more important than you think

The more I explore the functions of WordPress, the more I learn how important each element of a blog is. Cohesiveness and functionality can make or break a blog.

Like the article Five Principles to Design By says, great design is invisible. The theme I chose is just customizable enough to be aesthetically pleasing and easy to use.

I initially chose the theme Freak just because the name drew me in. Then when I saw the preview and customization options and thought it perfectly suited what I imagined.

I changed the main photo to something that was lighter in color than the stock photo, more inviting and relates to the message I am trying to convey. I think the mood of my theme is clean and functional but not too intimidating.

I included some photos to add color and diversity, but not so many that the page is cluttered. I also altered the background color to a light brown to match the main photo and the photo of me. I changed the color of the quote that I added to a blue match the tones in my dress.

I chose blues and brown because they’re earthy, calming colors, and that’s the kind of feel I want my blog to have. The article How Colour Theory Can Help Your Blog discusses the psychology of colour and and importance of harmony between them.

I chose a thin but legible text, which I think conveys a level of sophistication that matches the rest of my blog. I like that I could easily add my social media accounts giving my blog visitors other ways to see and contact me.

I’m sure I have a long way to go in designing my blog, but I feel like I have a good start and there are other areas of the customize tool that I plan on utilizing.

Journalists enhance stories with Web 2.0 technology

In a world that revolves around technology, most companies and professions are being forced to change with the times. This is no different for people, like myself, who work in the news business. Reporters are expected to report, obviously, but in order to be trusted and respected sources of news, they are expected to do much more than that.

Multimedia news is growing and people in the business need to grow with it. Stories are not just written, printed in the paper, and delivered to people’s doors anymore. The number of ways people consume news is infinite, and a good journalist should have the drive and desire to get their stories out on as many platforms as possible.

Using social media to tease and link to stories helps reporters build a following and readership. Using photos, videos, data, charts, maps, soundbites, etc. keep the reader interested and engaged and allows for more stimulation than black ink on a page or screen does.

Some news organizations have begun to master the multimedia world. The New York Times did just that with their recent piece on the Memorial Day killings in Chicago. In my opinion, this article is an exemplary of extraordinary multimedia use. The online article includes video compilations of footage from the scenes of the crime, photos with amazing quality and composition, a timeline-like arrangement of photos and videos, scanner audio, social media posts from victims just before their death, statistics and maps and anything else they could do to add an extra element to the story. This article is an excellent piece of journalism an an example of why more journalists should want to learn all of the skills that go into creating a masterpiece like it.

The Wall Street Journal created a video about the importance of journalism organizations adapting to the use of mobile devices to consume media. Employees of well-known media organizations give testimony to the importance of creating an experience for readers beyond just words on their devices.

Journalism has changed. The world has changed. Journalists who plan on being successful in this ever-changing business need to be able to adapt.


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