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New Senate Bill Would Legalize Marijuana Nationwide and Erase Possession Charges

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A group of Democrats are hoping that they can roll back the war on drugs with a new federal marijuana legalization bill.

Dubbed the Marijuana Justice Act of 2019, the bill would see marijuana finally removed from the federal list of controlled substances, legalizing the plant on a nationwide level and removing a range of obstacles from vendors and purveyors across the United States.

The bill would also expunge the criminal records of anyone who had been charged with possession while also calling for anyone currently incarcerated for the offense to petition for an immediate re-sentencing. Those convicted under prohibition laws would also be provided job training and resources under the act.

The bill was introduced by New Jersey Democratic senator and presidential hopeful Cory Booker and Democratic California Representatives Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna. Booker’s presidential competitors Sens. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Elizabeth Warren have also co-sponsored the bill.

https://twitter.com/SenSanders/status/1101171170005708802

Supporters of the bill have cited the disproportionate impact of cannabis prohibitionist laws on historically oppressed nationalities and communities across the United States, leading to the prosecution and jailing of largely nonviolent cannabis users.

In her statement on the bill published by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), Lee said:

“In addition to incentivizing states to legalize marijuana, the Marijuana Justice Act seeks to repair some of the damage marijuana prohibition has done to this country’s most vulnerable communities. For those communities that have been economically and socially disenfranchised by overcriminalization and cyclical incarceration, this legislation provides funding to programs focused on youth development, citizen re-entry, job training, health education, and funding for community resources such as public libraries and community centers.“

Booker similarly derided the war on drugs, tweeting:

 “The failed War on Drugs has really been a war on people—disproportionately criminalizing poor people, people of color & people with mental illness. I’m reintroducing the #MarijuanaJustice Act to begin reversing our failed federal drug policies.”

Booker has long enjoyed a record of fighting to reform marijuana laws, having introduced a version of the Marijuana Justice Act in 2017. He has promised that federal legalization will be a major focus of his campaign along with criminal justice reform, which he has remarked “means changing our drugs laws. Ending prohibition against marijuana.”

https://twitter.com/CoryBooker/status/1101286454511181824

According to studies by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), there were over eight million marijuana-related offenses in the U.S. between 2001 and 2010 – 88 percent of which were for possession.

The ACLU also found that black people are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than white people, despite both groups using the plant at similar rates.

In 1996, California became the first state to legalize cannabis for medical use, and over than 30 states have since done the same. Ten states along with Washington, D.C. have freed the herb almost entirely, allowing adults over 21 to partake in the recreational use of cannabis. However, cannabis remains illegal under U.S. federal law.

A 2018 report by the Drug Policy Alliance found that even in states where marijuana had been legalized, people of color still faced a far greater rate of arrests on marijuana possession charges than their white counterparts.

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center also found that 62 percent of U.S. residents, including 74 percent of millennials, favor an end to the prohibition of cannabis.

In a statement, NORML Political Director Justin Strekal hailed the Marijuana Justice Act, commenting:

“The ongoing enforcement of cannabis prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes legitimate scientific research into the plant’s medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of color.

Communities of color have disproportionately suffered for decades because of our racist enforcement of marijuana laws and that must be addressed in the age of legalization through policies such as the Marijuana Justice Act.

It is time for federal lawmakers to acknowledge this reality. It is time to stop ceding control of the marijuana market to untaxed criminal enterprises, and for lawmakers to amend federal law in a manner that comports with available science, public opinion, and the rapidly changing cultural status of cannabis.”

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Awesome New Infrared Goggles Could Help Blind People ‘See’ Surroundings

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People who are blind or deal with low vision face a unique number of challenges in their daily lives, ranging from accessing published material to holding a job or living on one’s own.

However, emerging infrared technology under research could help the blind and visually impaired navigate the world around them using a pair of innovative goggles.

In new research recently published and yet to be peer-reviewed, Manuel Zahn and Armaghan Ahmad Khan at Germany’s Technical University of Munich explored how their 3D camera and haptic feedback armband can assist people with low vision.

“Even in the present era, visually impaired people face a constant challenge of navigation,” the pair wrote. “The most common tool available to them is the cane. Although the cane allows good detection of objects in the user’s immediate vicinity, it lacks the ability to detect obstacles further away.”

The two students’ design deploys two infrared cameras placed in a 3D-printed goggles prototype to get a stereoscopic view that is transformed by a small computer into a map of the user’s surroundings. The infrared gear also works in the dark. The armband then uses 25 actuators arranged in a grid that vibrates when users come close to objects while also assisting them in their orientation. As users walk near obstacles, the vibration intensity of the actuators increases.

In tests, subjects enjoyed roughly 98 percent accuracy while getting through obstacle pathways, with all five participants completing the course in their first run. After two additional runs, the volunteers were able to navigate the obstacles more rapidly.

Zahn and Khan frequently cited Microsoft’s Kinect motion detection system for the Xbox in their study, but the pair are confident that their own setup will be far smaller, cheaper and less conspicuous than the gaming device.

The new headset could offer an interesting opportunity for blind and partially sighted people to clear the myriad obstacles they face when performing regular tasks or navigating the world around them.

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Toddler Goes On $2000 Furniture-Shopping Spree On Mom’s Phone

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A New Jersey mom learned that keeping your browser open may not be the best idea as children, and even infants, become increasingly tech savvy.

Madhu Kumar was browsing Walmart’s furniture selection on their website and had added some items to her shopping cart but never checked out. She was shocked and confused when she started to receive a steady stream of packages from the big-box retailer.

Madhu immediately turned to her husband and two older children to find out who ordered the packages.

“I need one or two, why would we need four?” Madhu asked.

As it turned out, her toddler Ayaansh Kumar – who, at 22 months old, was barely learning to count – had gone on a $2,000 shopping spree while playing on his mother’s phone.

“It is really hard to believe that he has done this, but that’s what happened,” Ayaansh’s dad, Pramod Kumar, told NBC New York.

Among the packages were some that could barely be squeezed through the family’s front door at their home in Monmouth Junction.

Purchases included accent chairs, flower stands and a range of other household items that arrived throughout the week.

“He’s so little, he’s so cute, we were laughing that he ordered all this stuff,” his mom remarked.

From birth, young Ayaansh had observantly watched his family members engage in a range of activities from home – including shopping, attending classes, and going to school. And as it the case for many kids of his generation, he knows the basics of operating a smartphone.

The parents are still waiting for all of the boxes to arrive so that they can return them to their local Walmart. The retailer has already told the Kumars that they are eligible for a refund, but the parents plan to save at least a few items to remind them of their son’s first e-commerce adventure.

“Moving forward, we will put tough passcodes or face recognition so when he picks up the phone he finds it in locked condition,” his father said.

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