A Pot Topic
April 4, 2022
Some Good News
- US to issue gender neutral passports, take steps to combat anti- transgender laws (Reuters)
- Washington OKs 1st statewide missing Indigenous people alert (AP)
“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” – Mark Twain
A Pot Topic
It’s difficult to remember much that happened before Will Smith slapped Chris Rock and Russia invaded Ukraine. But legislation approved by the U.S. House Friday does remind us that Democrats finally got a wish they’ve worked on for a while. Passing by a vote of 220 to 204, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act would remove marijuana from the federal list of scheduled substances, so that growing, selling, or possessing it would no longer carry criminal penalties. The government could offer loans to cannabis businesses and tax cannabis products, with part of the revenue going to assist those “adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.” Finally, it would allow some marijuana convictions to be erased.
The same bill passed the House in 2020 by a vote of 228 to 164, symbolizing a landmark retreat in America’s decades-long war on drugs. It was the first time either chamber had voted on the issue of federally decriminalizing cannabis, despite polls showing the majority of Americans approved liberalizing marijuana laws, 36 states had medical marijuana programs, and 15 states had legalized recreational cannabis to some degree. Nevertheless, political skittishness caused the 2020 bill to stall in the GOP-controlled Senate. The same fate could befall the MORE act that passed Friday because it’s subject to the Senate filibuster, meaning it needs 10 GOP votes to pass even if all Democrats support it. Plus, President Biden is no fan of totally legalizing marijuana.
Opponents may argue it’s a slippery slope to loosening other drug laws, and perhaps they’d point to Oregon’s pioneer program as evidence. In 2020, Oregon voters approved a ballot measure making personal-use possession of controlled substances like heroin, LSD, methamphetamine, and oxycodone a Class E “violation,” instead of a felony or misdemeanor. It carries a maximum $100 fine, which can be waived if the person calls a hotline for a health assessment that can lead to addiction counseling and other services. The new approach took effect in February 2021. But in the year since, only 1% of people receiving citations for possessing controlled substances called the hotline for help, and visits to emergency rooms and urgent care centers for opioid overdoses, as well as unintentional opioid overdose deaths, have been on the rise. (Axios, ABC)
Just Say Nopium
- Afghanistan has been the world’s biggest opium producer. The U.N. estimated the country’s opium production at its height in 2017 as being worth $1.4 billion. When the Taliban was seeking international legitimacy in 2000 it banned poppy growing, but changed its stance after facing a popular backlash.
- Now that the Taliban is back in power, and the country’s economic situation continues worsening, farmers in south-eastern provinces have once again turned to growing poppies – the turn-around is faster and much more lucrative than, say, growing wheat. The Taliban is also back to banning the cultivation of narcotics, per an order of Supreme Leader Haibatullah Akhundzada.
- On Sunday, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior announced at a news conference in Kabul: “If anyone violates the decree, the crop will be destroyed immediately and the violator will be treated according to the Sharia law.” We don’t know what that is exactly, but we’re certain it’s not good. (Reuters)
Parlia-Bent The Rules
- Last week it was Tunisia’s president dissolving parliament. This week, it’s Pakistan’s president. On Sunday, President Arif Alvi moved to dissolve Pakistan’s National Assembly, or law-making lower house of Parliament, after Prime Minister Imran Khan made the request and stepped aside in order to avoid a no-confidence vote.
- Khan is a cricket star-turned-conservative Islamic leader, and his political opponents were ready to vote him out. Instead, Parliament’s deputy speaker threw out the no-confidence resolution after Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry accused opponents of colluding with a foreign power (meaning the U.S.) to stage a “regime change.”
- Khan’s opponents called the decision to throw out their no-confidence resolution illegal and vowed to go to the Supreme Court. Pakistan’s constitution calls for the establishment of an interim government, supposedly with input from the opposition, and new elections to be held within 90 days. But the battle between Khan and his opposition has mired the nation in political turmoil. (WaPo ($), Politico, AP News)
Additional World News
- Ukrainian forces retake Kyiv region after Russian troops attack Odessa (Axios)
- Hungary’s pro-Putin PM Orban claims victory in national vote (ABC)
- Israeli forces kill three Palestinians in occupied West Bank (Al Jazeera)
- At least 14 killed, including 7 children, after floods in landslides in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state (CNN)
- India starts supplying rice to Sri Lanka in first major food aid (Reuters)
- Kim Jong Un’s sister enraged by Seoul’s preemptive strike comments (NBC)
- Former UN prosecutor calls for international arrest warrant for Putin (Axios)
Dawning Of A New Sarah
- She’s BAAAAACK. In her first public office campaign since 2008, former Alaska governor and GOP vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin announced Friday that she was running for the seat vacated when Don Young (R-AK) died last month. “I would be honored to represent the men and women of Alaska in Congress, just as Representative Young did for 49 years,” Palin wrote in a statement.
- Palin went on to explain, “America is at a tipping point. As I’ve watched the far left destroy the country, I knew I had to step up and join the fight.” Palin’s announcement was on April Fool’s Day, but apparently, she wasn’t joking. When the filing deadline passed Friday night, she officially became one of 51 candidates on the ballot for the special election.
- After Palin and running mate John McCain lost to Barack Obama, she tried making a reality TV show which went bust, as did her internet subscription video channel. Palin was last in the news for going maskless in New York and then for losing a high-profile lawsuit against the New York Times. (NBC, Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Guardian)
Not Mending Defenses
- Presidential budget proposals are generally viewed as reflecting the chief’s policy priorities. So when President Biden released his annual budget proposal last week, progressives were shocked to see he proposes spending $813 billion for national defense in the coming year. If approved, it would be the largest defense budget in American history.
- Hours after the White House announced its budget proposal, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who were devastated when not all Democrats supported Biden’s Build Back Better plan, released a statement attacking Biden’s plan to increase defense spending. They argue that the U.S. already spends far too much on its military and needs to invest more in domestic programs.
- Now that he’s proposing a bigger defense budget to help deal with Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, Biden’s still being criticized by Republicans and many Americans for not being tough enough in his response. The president of Public Citizen says the problem’s a political challenge, not an actual budgetary one, as our much bigger military budget clearly didn’t deter Russia from invading Ukraine. (Guardian, New Yorker)
Additional USA News
- Blunt says Jackson will make history, but he won’t vote for her (Politico)
- States look for solutions as US fentanyl deaths keep rising (AP)
- The number of Ukrainians seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border is growing by the day (CNN)
- New proof of life video surfaces showing American kidnapped in Afghanistan 2 years ago (CNN)
- US, Philippines Hold One of Their Largest-Ever Military Exercises (WSJ, $)
- California snowpack is critically low, signaling another year of devastating drought (CNN)
- Unpicking of Trump-era asylum curbs primes partisan powder keg (Guardian)
Not Throwing Away His Shot
- Well, there’s certainly something to be said for this entrepreneurial spirit. A 60-year-old German man allegedly had himself vaccinated 90 times with various Covid-19 vaccines so he could sell forged vaccination cards with real vaccine batch numbers to people not wanting to get vaccinated themselves.
- The man, who shall remain nameless per German privacy rules, is from the eastern city of Magdeburg. He is said to have visited vaccination centers in the state of Saxony over a period of months.
- Police were finally able to arrest him when he showed up at a vaccination site for the second day in a row. He wasn’t detained but he’s under investigation for unauthorized issuance of vaccination cards and document forgery. There’s no word yet on whether he’s had any adverse reaction from receiving 90 Covid vaccine shots – other than his arrest, of course. (AP)
- America’s oldest national park ranger retires at age 100 (CNN)
- Delving into the 1950 Census, searchers find rich links to the past. (WaPo, $)
- Yale Museum Surrenders Items as Part of Art Looting Investigation (NYT, $)
- Ramadan kicks off in much of Middle East amid soaring prices (AP)
- Ikea will pay you to get its old furniture back (CNN)
- Lithuanian documentary maker Kvedaravicius killed in Ukraine’s Mariupol (Reuters)
- Administration finalizes rule to raise fuel standards for new cars, light trucks by 2026 (WaPo, $)