- Associated Press - Monday, January 14, 2019

Des Moines Register. January 11, 2019

Beauty schools may be biggest scam in higher education

A recent New York Times investigation underscores what the Des Moines Register editorial board has been saying for years: Attending an Iowa cosmetology school may be a huge and expensive mistake.

The Times interviewed Tracy Lozana, who borrowed $21,000 to cover tuition and supplies at a beauty school near Des Moines. After graduating and obtaining the required state license to legally cut hair in this state, the young mother got a job at Great Clips, where she earned $9 per hour.

Thirteen years later - after also working at Pizza Hut and relying on food stamps - she still owes more than $8,000.

The story is familiar. It is one a Register editorial writer has heard repeatedly from young Iowa women who dreamed of “doing hair” for a living. They are among the victims of this state’s cosmetology laws, which the Iowa Legislature needs to reform.

In this state, anyone who so much as touches the hair on someone else’s head must obtain a state license. That requires 2,100 hours of education and training under Iowa law. With no community colleges offering cosmetology education here, people who want to work in the beauty industry head to for-profit schools.

A 2013 Register editorial investigation into these businesses found the average cost of attendance ranged from about $20,000 to more than $30,000 to complete programs that run about 14 months - more than the cost of attending a community college for two years.

Once enrolled, students become unpaid laborers who work for months providing haircuts, facials and manicures to customers. Students interviewed by the Register also reported spending their time sweeping floors, cleaning bathrooms and standing around waiting for customers to visit. Some said they were pressured to sell shampoo and other products.

Money flows to the school from every direction. It collects tuition from students, payments from the federal government for education loans and grants, and money from customers for beauty services.

If you’re a business, it doesn’t get any better than this.

If you’re a student, it is not such a good deal. A spokesperson for Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said last week the office has received an average of about one complaint per month over the last two years about La’ James International College, which offers cosmetology classes.

It has been more than 50 years since Clyde Kenyon, a former director of the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Barbering Division, observed what remains true today: Barber and cosmetology schools are the only business where “people pay you to work for nothing.”

Lawmakers can abolish cosmetology licensing, and the industry can offer certification and training. They could also dramatically reduce Iowa’s ridiculously high 2,100-hour training requirement. No state mandates more hours, and most require significantly less. New York requires 1,000, and it’s doubtful people in the Big Apple are suffering any more bad haircuts than people here.

Iowa has many arcane licensing laws that thwart business growth, make it more difficult for people to find work, limit competition and hurt our economy. A state license should not be required to interpret sign language or fit hearing aids. But the worst of all licensing laws are the ones related to cosmetology.

They neither protect public safety nor ensure students receive a quality education. Instead, they force students - frequently young women who are poor enough to obtain Pell grants - into slave labor at beauty schools. And the ones who actually do graduate will be lucky if they earn enough to pay off their student loan debt.


Quad-City Times. January 7, 2019.

Iowa should fix medical marijuana law

The Iowa Legislature’s tepid entry into the medical marijuana field is so typically Iowa.

It is overly cautious and, we suspect, likely to be marginally effective as it now stands.

Since 2014, the legislature has taken baby steps to make cannabidiol available to Iowans.

First, it was legalized for people with epilepsy. The law also limited THC content to 3 percent. THC is the ingredient in marijuana that provides the “high.”

However, there were no provisions in the 2014 law to manufacture or sell CBD. It took three years to fix that flaw.

In 2017, the legislature consented to expand the list of conditions and allow it to be manufactured at two locations and dispensed at five sites. One of those sites is in Davenport.

But, you may have noticed - how could you not? - that CBD is being sold in a lot of places. It is available in grocery stores, vape shops and a host of other outlets.

The state of Iowa has made clear that there are only five legal sites for distribution, but what also is equally clear is that the legislature is not keeping up with the public.

The demand for CBD is exploding in an age of anxiety, and because of the fear of the real damage that’s been done by opioids and other drugs.

We understand, somewhat, the caution that is being exhibited. There is, as a New York Times writer put it, “a paucity of data” about CBD’s efficacy. But much of that is because research is limited to cannabis being a Schedule 1 drug.

Still, we believe there are obvious flaws in the state’s law that could be corrected immediately.

The easiest, it seems to us, has to do with the limited number of dispensaries. Five dispensaries for the entire state is just bewildering. In fact, the second largest city in the state, Cedar Rapids, does not have a state-licensed outlet.

Waterloo is the closest site. Where is the logic in that?

If lawmakers believe this is a product worth providing to people, why make it difficult for them to get it?

That Iowa’s limited number of dispensaries is unworkable is further evident by the uneven prosecution across the state of non-licensed facilities. It’s time the legislature fixed this.

The trickier issue is the limit on THC content.

The eight-person board overseeing the state CBD program voted unanimously last November against recommending to the legislature that the limit be raised.

“I’d like to get another year or two under our belts and see how people respond with the current THC cap,” Lonny Miller, a physician and board member from Creston, told the Des Moines Register.

The board did expand the list of acceptable conditions to include severe pediatric autism, but not some others, like ADHD, PTSD and bi-polar disorder.

In Illinois, a much longer list of conditions qualify a person to get medical cannabis.

The Iowa board’s THC decision likely will make it harder for the Legislature to lift the limit, though Iowa Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said he plans to re-introduce legislation in the coming session to expand medical marijuana.

Lucas Nelson, general manager of MedPharm, the state-contracted grower, told the Register the state THC limit made no sense - and that people could just buy more product if they wanted higher levels. That would be a more expensive proposition, but also one that could provide greater relief. He suggested setting a cap on the amount of THC that individuals could take in, say, a month.

That would seem to us more effective than what’s on the books now.

States across the country have, for years, been moving to provide relief to people through more permissive medical marijuana laws. But Iowa is taking things slowly.

We see in this some parallels to the state’s treatment of gambling, where betting and cruising regulations were first put on casinos - only to see them abandoned when it was clear, as it was to many in the beginning, that such wagering would expand across the country.

Such commercial and competitive concerns are now at the heart of how the state should respond to the newly legalized production of industrial hemp, which was enabled by the 2018 farm bill.

It seems lawmakers will have to take up this matter to position the state for what probably will be a fast-growing industry. It also would be a good move to fix the law that started off flawed nearly five years ago and has only marginally improved since then.


Dubuque Telegraph-Herald. January 9, 2019

Parents, wise up about ‘vaping’

When it comes to teenagers and “vaping,” the everyday term for use of electronic cigarettes, most parents don’t know what they don’t know.

The practice is defined - yes, vape is now a Merriam-Webster dictionary entry - as the inhalation of vapor through the mouth from a usually battery-operated electronic device (such as an electronic cigarette) that heats up and vaporizes a liquid or solid.

Because it produces quickly dissipating vapor instead of the smoke associated with ignited tobacco, vaping is promoted by manufacturers as a safer and less obtrusive - meaning easier to hide from adults - practice than smoking. Nonetheless, vaping still delivers nicotine, one of the most addictive drugs around, in substantial quantities. It has other chemical components that also are not conducive for health.

Vaping among teens is skyrocketing, and officials at the Food and Drug Administration are sounding the alarm.

Several weeks ago, they reported that the practice has jumped almost 80 percent among high schoolers and 50 percent among middle schoolers - in just one year. An estimated 3.6 million teens use e-cigarettes, the agency said. This, while teen use of other drugs is declining. The FDA notes that manufacturers flavor their products, making them more palatable for children, and it wants regulations against that. A public hearing on the problem is set for Friday, Jan. 18, at FDA headquarters in suburban Washington.

Parents need to learn more about this health hazard. A good place to start is the FDA’s website on the issue, https://bit.ly/2J74S1x.

However, to their credit, officials in the Western Dubuque School District, who point to surveys and citations indicating spiking vaping among their students, are not sitting back. They have acted proactively and scheduled brief information sessions for parents, the second series of which will complement parent-teacher conferences tonight at Cascade High School.

Presented through Hillcrest Family Services, the sessions should help parents get up to speed on the side-effects of vaping, the devices - some are made to resemble pens or flash drives - and how teens are most likely to acquire them.

Similarly, vaping devices were included in a recent “Hidden in Plain Sight” presentation for parents at Wahlert High School concerning drug concealment and use.

Though it does not involve putting a match to a cigarette, vaping is associated with many of the health hazards of smoking, not the least of which is nicotine addiction. The sudden rise in vaping is alarming, regardless of the user’s age, but especially so among our teens.

The need for parental awareness is crucial, and it’s positive that school officials are taking that message to parents.


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