The 3 States Best Positioned to Legalize Marijuana in 2018

Next year should see more legal marijuana states and also the first state to legalize it at the statehouse.


Election Day 2016 was a big day for marijuana. Voters in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada all supported successful legalization initiatives, doubling the number of states to have done so since 2012 and more than quadrupling the percentage of the national population that now lives in legal marijuana states.

Marijuana momentum was high, national polling kept seeing support go up and up, and 2017 was expected to see even more states jump on the weed bandwagon. That didn’t happen.

There are two main reasons 2017 was a dud for pot legalization: First, it’s an off-off-year election year, and there were no legalization initiatives on the ballot. Second, it’s tough to get a marijuana legalization bill through a state legislature and signed by a governor. In fact, it’s so tough it hasn’t happened yet.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen next year. Several states where legislative efforts were stalled last year are poised to get over the top in the coming legislative sessions, and it looks like a legalization initiative will be on the ballot in at least one state—maybe more.

There are other states where legalization is getting serious attention, such as Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island, but they all have governors who are not interested in going down that path, and that means a successful legalization bill faces the higher hurdle of winning with veto-proof majorities. Similarly, there are other states where legalization initiatives are afoot, such as Arizona, North Dakota and Ohio, but none of those have even completed signature gathering, and all would face an uphill fight. Still, we could be pleasantly surprised.

Barring pleasant surprises, here are the three states that have the best shot at legalizing pot in 2018.

1. Michigan

Michigan voters shouldn’t have to wait on the state legislature to act because it looks very likely that a legalization initiative will qualify for the ballot next year. The Michigan Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has already completed a petition campaign and handed in more than 365,000 raw signatures last month for its legalization initiative. It hasn’t officially qualified for the ballot yet, but it only needs 250,000 valid voter signatures to do so, meaning it has a rather substantial cushion.

If the measure makes the ballot, it should win. There is the little matter of actually campaigning to pass the initiative, which should require a million or two dollars for TV ad buys and other get-out-the-vote efforts, but with the Marijuana Policy Project on board and some deep-pocketed local interests as well, the money should be there.

The voters already are there: Polling has shown majority support for legalization for several years now, always trending up, and most recently hitting 58% in a May Marketing Resource Group poll.

2. New Jersey

Outgoing Gov. Chris Christie (R) was a huge obstacle to passage of marijuana legalization, but he’s on his way out the door, and his replacement, Gov.-Elect Phil Murphy (D), has vowed to legalize marijuana within 100 days of taking office next month.

Legislators anticipating Christie’s exit filed legalization bills earlier this year, Senate Bill 3195 and companion measure Assembly Bill 4872. State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) has also made promises, vowing to pass the bill within the first three months of the Murphy administration, and hearings are set for both houses between January and March.

But it’s not a done deal. There is some opposition in the legislature, and marijuana legalization foes will certainly mobilize to defeat it at the statehouse. It will also be the first time the legislature seriously considers legalization. Still, legalization has some key political players backing it. Other legislators might want to listen to their constituents: A September Quinnipiac poll had support for legalization at 59%.

3. Vermont

A marijuana legalization bill actually passed the legislature last year—a national first—only to be vetoed by Gov. Phil Scott (D) over concerns around drugged driving and youth use. Legislators then amended the bill to assuage Scott’s concerns and managed to get the amended bill through the Senate, only to see House Republicans refuse to let it come to a vote during the truncated summer session.

But that measure, House Bill 511, will still be alive in the second year of the biennial session, and Gov. Scott has said he is still willing to sign the bill. House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D) is also on board, and the rump Republicans won’t be able to block action next year.

Johnson said she will be ready for a vote in early January and expects the bill to pass then. Vermont would then become the first state to free the weed through the legislative process. 

 

 

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Police Shoot a Lot More People Than Previously Known

A new investigation reveals that the number of people being shot—and shot at—by police is troubling.


In major metropolitan areas around the country over the last half-decade, police have shot—and shot at—people in numbers dramatically higher than previous tallies suggest. A new Vice News investigation finds that between 2010-2016, cops in the 50 largest police departments in the country shot more than 3,630 people, nearly double some previous estimates. Of the 4,381 people cops fired upon in that period—including the 700 people they shot at and missed—two-thirds survived those shootings.

Absent a comprehensive federal database of police shootings, the Vice report offers the most complete picture of fatal and nonfatal police shootings available.

The data analysis also found that police shot black people “more often and at higher rates than any other race,” and “two and a half times more often than white people.” Vice found that cops shot no fewer than 1,664 black people in the period studied, comprising “55 percent of the total and more than double the share of the black population in these communities.” Twenty percent of the African Americans tallied were shot following “relatively innocuous pedestrian or traffic stops,” which was true for just 16 percent of whites shot by police. Those figures are of particular importance considering that studies find black drivers are more likely to be stopped by cops based on less evidence, less likely than their white peers to be spoken to respectfully during those stops, and more likely to be ticketed and arrested than white drivers.  

While police narratives of shootings studied by Vice suggest the majority of blacks shot by cops were themselves involved in shootings or robberies, the proliferation of cell phone and body camera footage that contradicts police versions of events brings the trustworthiness of those numbers into question. Many videos made public after the fact have illustrated that shootings initially described by police as being self-defensive were in fact extrajudicial executions of African Americans. Unquestionably, some shootings of black citizens result from actual crimes being committed. But the demonstrated fallibility of police accounts shows that in a disturbing number of cases, police officers “shoot first and come up with reasons later.” The Vice News investigation finds that a significant number of people (20 percent) shot by police were unarmed. Among those, 44 percent were African American.

“It is a complex picture, but what’s clear is that black people are more likely to be unarmed, and that more of these sort of low-level incidents escalate to shootings,” Samuel Sinyangwe, data analyst and co-founder of police reform organization Campaign Zero, told Vice.

America’s problems with gun violence across the board are reflected in its police shooting figures. A 2015 assessment found that 1 out of every 13 people killed by guns every year is killed by police. As the Washington Post notes, that’s roughly one killing “every 9 hours, or 2.5 shootings per day.” Undoubtedly, based on the number of unarmed victims, not every shooting is the result of justifiable safety fears by officers. But few cops are held accountable even for the most extreme mistakes in the field. An investigation by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review last year found that between 1995 and 2015, “[f]ederal prosecutors declined to pursue civil rights allegations against law enforcement officers 96 percent of the time.” It’s notoriously difficult to secure a conviction against cops even in unequivocal cases of police abuse.

“There doesn’t have to be a gun involved. We see these cases where somebody has a cell phone or somebody makes the wrong move,” Bruce Franks Jr., a Missouri activist who went from Ferguson protester to state senator, told Vice. “There’s a million reasons they give so it ends up being justified.”

One of the few positive trends in the numbers Vice examined is a 20 percent downturn in police shootings since 2014, the result of Obama-era reforms in response to Department of Justice recommendations. Of the 10 cities that saw the largest drops in police shootings, seven complied with changes proposed by the federal government.

Cities that voluntarily adopted DOJ-recommended reforms saw a 32 percent decline in officer-involved shootings in the first year. The police departments that were forced to take on reforms through binding agreements with the DOJ saw a 25 percent decline that year, including Baltimore, whose agreement began this year. In Chicago, shootings by cops dropped by more than 50 percent after McDonald’s death, an incident that prompted a DOJ investigation and a package of recommended reforms.

That downturn is likely to end. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has characterized the DOJ’s work with local police departments as “federal intrusion,” and ordered a review of all reform agreements aimed at curbing civil rights violations and police abuses. “It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies,” Sessions stated in a two-page memo issued earlier this year.

The Vice investigation of the country’s 50 largest police departments was met with some resistance by the forces being scrutinized. Just 47 departments ultimately responded to Vice’s stats request with numbers that offered enough data for proper examination. “Many [law enforcement departments] fought hard to keep the information secret,” Vice claims, “and some responded to our requests only under threat of legal action.”

Despite dozens of high-profile police killings in recent years, the FBI still doesn’t mandate that local police departments around the country report to a centralized data-keeping mechanism. Just 35 of the 18,000 local police departments in the U.S. participate in the Police Data Initiative, an Obama administration program to increase transparency around policing that will likely also be diminished under the Trump administration and the Sessions DOJ. Yet, this is critical information about the state of justice and civil rights in this country.

“We should know about how often it happens, if for no other reason than to simply understand the phenomenon,” David Klinger, an ex-LAPD officer and professor of criminal justice, told Vice. “How often is it that police are putting bullets in people’s bodies or trying to put bullets in people’s bodies?”

[h/t Vice News]

 

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Republicans Just Made It a Lot Harder for Restaurant Workers to Fight Big Chains

The ruling also makes it more difficult for employees to unionize.


On Thursday, the National Labor Relations Board, led by Trump appointee Philip A. Miscimarra, undid an Obama-era ruling that protected workers, including subcontractors, from labor law violations. In an unsurprising move, all three Republicans on the Board voted together to undo the rule, while the two Democrats opposed them.

“Frankly, it’s shocking,” Wilma B. Liebman, a former Democrat chairwoman of the Board, told the Times of the decision.

Back in 2015, the Board heard the case of an Iowa construction company, whose subcontractors went on strike to protest unsafe conditions and low wages and benefits. Those workers were fired in retaliation.

A local judge ruled the firings illegal, leading the National Labor Relations Board to declare in 2015 that the old joint-employer rule was “increasingly out of step with changing economic circumstances, particularly the recent dramatic growth in contingent employment relationships.” They then changed the law so that a company would be responsible for illegal practices at all levels, including those that affect sub-contractors and employees at franchises.

This week the Board reversed that earlier decision, and the consequences for the fast-food industry could prove dire. For example, the person who makes your sandwiches at your local Subway could now be considered the responsibility of their direct franchise owner— not the Subway Group corporation itself. Now, if that sandwich maker and their coworkers protested an unfair practice at their location, it would be that much easier for the store owner to fire them, without consequence from the corporate higher-ups. The rule effectively protects corporations against any kind of legal action from lower-level employees.

As the Times describes, the vote is politically motivated, as corporations have been lobbying Republicans to reverse the Obama-era worker protection since it was enacted.

At its most fundamental level, the ruling highlights deep differences in philosophy between most Democratic and Republican members of the labor board. During the Obama administration, the board majority believed that the changing structure of the economy — in which employers have steadily pushed workers outside their firms and into a throng of contractors, franchises and staffing agencies — required updating doctrine to stay true to the intent of labor law…

By contrast, the ruling Thursday from the Republican-led board argued that its predecessors had been guilty of “upending decades of labor law precedent and probably centuries of precedent in corporate law” with no mandate from Congress to do so.

It’s worth noting that the National Labor Relations Board was created in 1935 by President Roosevelt with the express intent of protecting American workers from being taken advantage of by their employers. But today’s Republican-dominated Board wants to slow the pace of progress, despite that fact that more corporations are increasingly trying to shirk responsibility for their workers by labelling them as contractors.

The Times also explains that the reversal endangers workers who want to join a union:

The reversal could also affect the ability to unionize in the first place. A company is free to fire a contractor or end a franchise arrangement if it suspects that workers are on the verge of unionizing. But there could be legal liability for doing so if the company is a joint employer of workers with the contractor or franchisee.

This isn’t the only Obama-era worker protection that could be reversed under this Republican-majority labor board. Also on the chopping block are “rulings that made it easier for smaller groups of workers within a company to unionize, that gave workers access to a company’s email network for organizing purposes, and that conferred a federally protected right to unionize on graduate students at private universities.”

H/T The New York Times

   

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Trump Praises Putin and Rants Incoherently About the FBI from White House Lawn

The president was all over the place during an impromptu press conference Friday.


President Donald Trump delivered an angry rant on the White House lawn in front of reporters on Friday in which he ranted about both the Department of Justice and the FBI.

When reporters stopped Trump on the White House lawn Friday morning to ask him questions, the president angrily ranted about the FBI in the wake of text messages that revealed an FBI agent who was part of Robert Mueller’s investigation called Trump an “idiot.”

“You have a lot of angry people,” Trump said of the FBI. “It’s a very sad thing to watch, I will tell you that. I am going today on behalf of the FBI, their new building, and when everybody — not me, everybody, the level of anger, and what they have been witnessing with respect to the FBI, it’s certainly very sad.”

The president then fumed about accusations that his campaign colluded with Russian intelligence officials during the 2016 presidential election.

“There’s been no collusion, that has been proven,” the president falsely asserted, as there has not been any definitive proof that Trump’s campaign did not collude with Russia yet. “The Senate and the House, my worst enemies, they walk out and say, ‘There is no collusion but we will continue to look.’ They are spending millions and millions of dollars and there’s absolutely no collusion.”

While Trump had angry words to say about the FBI and members of Congress, he did have warm words for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The call with Vladimir Putin, it was great,” Trump said. “He said very nice things about what I have done for the country in terms of the economy, and he said also some negative things in terms elsewhere, but the primary point was to talk about North Korea, because we would love to have his help on North Korea.”

Finally, Trump said that he was still not sure about whether he would issue a pardon for disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who recently pled guilty to lying to the FBI.

“I don’t want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet,” he said. “We will see what happens.”

 

 

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Small Farmers Voted for Trump in 2016—Now They’re Taking Him to Court

A new lawsuit aims to preserve an Obama-era protection from predatory tariffs.


For decades now, the Republican Party and people speaking into microphones for the Republican Party have relied on the onerous mythology that somehow conservative politicians believe in farmers and small business more than the liberal “cultural elites” and “city slickers.” Like all Republican Party platforms, this is just a lie to dress their true worship of the golden calf of big business in a populist and racially charged American flag. On the campaign trail Trump promised to protect small farmers from predatory tariffs and general big business overreach, and since becoming president, Trump has staffed the USDA with the same incompetence that he’s staffed the rest of our government departments with. To add insult to injury, Trump’s administration made sure to do away with important Obama-era protections for small farmers.

Obama-era rules that had yet to take effect would have given smaller farmers more power to set the terms of their deals with massive meat companies, empowering the growers to sue and better define abusive practices by processors and distributors under federal law. Trump’s Agriculture Department killed two of the proposed rules, one of which would have taken effect in October.

Major agribusinesses like Cargill and Butterball fought the rules, saying they would lead to endless litigation between farmers and global food companies.

Trump’s deregulatory strike — lauded by big business — has consequences, even for the mom-and-pop turkey farmers who raise free-range, antibiotic-free turkeys that have seen increasing demand as Americans become more socially conscious about the production of their foods.

Now, as NPR reports, those small farmers are getting together and launching a lawsuit to protect themselves from extinction in the new Republican utopia.

The suit, filed on behalf of OCM by the Capitol Hill legal watchdog Democracy Forward, charges U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and his agency with “arbitrary and capricious” behavior in rolling back those two rules. One of them would have made it easier for individual farmers to sue for anti-competitive behavior.

Many of the farmers affected by the rollback supported Donald Trump for president, who promised to look after their interests. Now, the disillusionment is setting in.

West Virginia poultry farmer Mike Weaver voted for Trump, but says the feeling now among small farmers and ranchers is, “Where’s the support that you promised us? We voted for you because you were going to make things right, and it’s not happening.”

It’s hard to not just shake your head and say “I told you so” to the people who voted for a billionaire pig real estate developer of casinos and hotels. What the Republican “base” needs to realize is that you can’t have your bigoted cake and eat it too. You either get your racism and are continually screwed by the rich, or you join ranks with those people you are afraid of but have considerably more in common with. Those are the two choices and they keep making the wrong one.

Poultry farmer Weaver, who also serves as president of the Contract Poultry Growers of the Virginias, says he’s one of “the lucky few” who can speak freely. He came to poultry growing after a career as a special agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is not dependent on his farm income to survive.

Few of his fellow small contract poultry farmers — 71 percent of whom, he points, out, “live beneath the federal poverty level” — enjoy that luxury. “I’ve had guys in tears on the phone, telling me, ‘My farm has been in the family for five generations, and I’m about to lose it,’ ” Weaver says.

Weaver is selling his farm. 

 

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What’s It Gonna Be, White America? Will You Side with Roy Moore or Those Who Oppose Him?

The Alabama election has forced the country to make a moral choice.


“What Shall We Do With the White People?” is one of my favorite essays. Written in 1860 by an African-American school teacher and activist named William Wilson (aka “Ethiop”), it is a brilliant response to white supremacy and a white American society that projected pathology and inferiority onto black people as a means of legitimating slavery and all the exploitation, rape, murder and other abuse it entailed.

I read “What Shall We Do With the White People?” several times a year. It always makes me laugh. It also helps me make sense of the social and political insanity of this society, which for all its many positive social changes over the decades and centuries remains fundamentally organized to protect white privilege and the power of white people as a group.

As I watched tens of millions of white Americans elect a racist, sexist con man — not to mention a carnival barker, professional liar, proud ignoramus and possible traitor — as president of the United States, I thought back to the themes and questions of Ethiop’s essay.

This week, as I watched Tuesday night’s tight election contest between Roy Moore and Doug Jones in Alabama, I wondered again what we shall do with the white people.

As the world now knows, former U.S. attorney Jones, a Democrat, defeated former Alabama Supreme Court justice Moore, largely because of overwhelming support from the black community (especially black women). It was not a landslide victory. Jones won by about 20,000 votes out of 1.3 million cast, a margin of 1.5 percent.

Moore, who is by the preponderance of the evidence an adult sexual predator who targeted underage girls, won a majority among every category of white voter in Alabama. This was even true among college-educated white women.

Roy Moore, a man who wants to take away women’s right to vote as well as control over their own bodies, won the votes of white women by a huge margin, 63 percent to 34 percent.

Roy Moore, a man who can reasonably be described as a Christian fascist — a man who does not respect the U.S. Constitution and has spoken affectionately about the era of slavery, won every demographic of white voters by a large margin.

Roy Moore, a man whose apparent “godly” and “family values” include being a likely sexual predator and an unapologetic racist, won the self-described white evangelical vote by an overwhelming margin. This of course is no surprise.

Like Donald Trump, Roy Moore is not an aberration or outlier within today’s Republican Party and broader conservative movement. The problem for Republican leaders is that both men are simply tactless and unapologetic in their racism, sexism, misogyny and bigotry. Republican voters (and the right-wing political machine) do not find such values abhorrent. They may prefer, however, that such values and beliefs are expressed more politely, through dog whistles and other cues that offer a veil of not-very-plausible deniability. It makes perfect sense that Trump embraced Moore’s candidacy, despite the president’s effort to walk back his endorsement after the fact.

Sociologist Michael Kimmel explained the toxic allure of sexism and racism for white Republican voters to me by email: “I think that the tradition which Moore represents is one of ‘everyone knowing their place.’ That is, women in the kitchen and black people subservient to whites. And in that sense, ‘making American great again’ is returning to that imagined era.”

Of course, with Roy Moore, as with Trump, there is an obvious double standard that is one of the grossest examples of white privilege in recent memory. If a black man running for Senate were repeatedly accused of molesting young girls he would at the very least be run out of public life, and quite likely thrown in prison.

Moreover, imagine a scenario where a majority of black people in a given election had voted for a likely serial sexual abuser and pedophile. Both the right-wing and mainstream media would be hysterical, with wall-to-wall coverage and commentary. We would hear about the black community’s “pathological” behavior and its “bad culture.”

If black Christians cited scripture to make excuses for a man who by all accounts and preyed on underage girls for decades, sober people on television would call for a “national discussion” about whether the “black church” was a public menace. On cue, right-wing bloviators would issue poisonous rhetorical questions: Where are the black fathers? Where are the black leaders? Where do black people learn such values?

But because whiteness is by definition excluded from critical interrogation, these realities will be avoided by too many people.

Several days ago, I spoke be email with a friend who is a mentor to me. Although he would be quick to minimize his role in changing history, he is a brave and heroic person. In 1961, along with dozens of others, he helped black Americans in the Jim Crow South register to vote. My friend also risked his life to defend black Americans’ human rights. Our conversations often revolve around an existential question: “What kind of white person do you want to be?” Because he is a philosopher and historian, my friend knows this is one of the most important (and unresolved) questions about the relationship between race and democracy in the United States.

Under Donald Trump this question resonates even more, in ways both familiar and new.

While watching the Alabama special election and reviewing the exit-poll data, I realized that such an existential question need not be directly asked for the answer to be apparent.

Tens of millions of white people voted for Donald Trump. Hundreds of thousands voted for Roy Moore. What kind of white people do they want to be? I think we know the answer. There are no good people who voted for Donald Trump and continue to support him. And there most certainly are no good people who voted for Roy Moore last Tuesday.

 

 

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Trump’s Popularity Is Plummeting Among Fox News Viewers

A new poll finds his net favorability has dropped from 90 to 58 percent since June.


Trump’s Popularity Is Plummeting Among Fox News Fans

President Donald Trump loves Fox News, but fans of the conservative-leaning network are starting to like him a lot less. In June, 90 percent of respondents in a Suffolk University poll who said they trust Fox over other news networks viewed Trump favorably, but by October, approval had fallen to 74 percent and plummeted to 58…

 

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