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300-Page Marijuana Legalization Bill Would Heal Illinois Communities Broken by Drug War

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Lawmakers in Illinois are dead serious about ensuring the legalization of marijuana for adult use. With only five weeks remaining in the legislative session, the majority-Democrat group of pro-pot politicos hopes to release their full 300-page draft legislation within the week.

This time, however, the highly-anticipated law would go a great distance in terms of enshrining social justice aspects of marijuana legalization that often go by the wayside in other locales where cannabis prohibition has ended.

The legislation, drafted by state Rep. Kelly Cassidy and Sen. Heather Steans, was written in a way “that centers equity and inclusion in the industry, that centers restoration of records and social justice components and restoration of communities,” Cassidy told the Chicago Sun-Times. The proposed law already has the support of Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

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 charges of marijuana possession than did their white counterparts.

The proposed law would ensure that all misdemeanor pot convictions would be expunged from criminal records, while those with cannabis convictions would be allowed to work in the industry while firms in the industry would be expected to achieve diversity hiring goals.

The legislation would also grant support to minority-owned businesses by offering technical assistance and access to loans, capital, and protection from fees that are often used to place barriers to entry to smaller businesses. Cannabis licensing categories would also protect “craft” grow operations and those companies that process and transport the plant.

Cassidy explained:

“I’ve said for a long time that other states that have tried this have tended to try with a solution, but that presumes there’s a singular barrier to minority engagement in the industry … And that’s simply not the case. These conversations have been about the best way to set up sort of a buffet of responses to the array of problems.”

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 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.

The law faces opposition from a range of special interests groups, including the Catholic Conference of Illinois, the Illinois Chiefs of Police Association, and the Illinois Drug Enforcement Officers Association. The Illinois Chapter of the NAACP has also tagged along with anti-legalization force to chip away at support for the law in the state’s legislative black caucus.

Last month, Vermont-based ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s, marked April 20—a day traditionally celebrated by cannabis users—with a call for lawmakers to expunge “everybody’s cannabis convictions.”

The company took aim at the disparity between the large number of white people who are making money from the legal marijuana industry versus the significant numbers of black people who continue to face arrest for the possession and usage of the pant.

In a video posted to Twitter, the company said:

“It’s hard to celebrate 4/20 when so many people of color are still being arrested for pot.”

If successfully passed, the Illinois law will hopefully become a model of anti-prohibitionist legislation for other states to follow.

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Health

Biden to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Citing Health Impact on Youth and Black People

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The Biden administration is reportedly planning to propose an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes, a product that has long been targeted by anti-smoking advocates and critics who claim that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black people in the U.S.

On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the administration could announce a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as soon as this week.

Roughly 85 percent of Black smokers use such menthol brands as Newport and Kool, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Research has also found that menthol cigarettes are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than unflavored tobacco products, along with other small cigars popular with young people and African Americans.

Civil rights advocates claim that the decision should be greeted by Black communities and people of color who have been marketed to by what they describe as the predatory tobacco industry.

Black smokers generally smoke far less than white smokers, but suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths due to tobacco-linked diseases like heart attack, stroke, and other causes.

Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also greeted the move to cut out products that appeal to children and young adults.

“Menthol cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of youth smoking in the United States,” he said. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars used by so many kids will do more in the long run to reduce tobacco-related disease than any action the federal government has ever taken.”

However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU) has opposed the move, citing the likelihood that such an action could lead to criminal penalties arising from the enforcement of a ban hitting communities of color hardest.

In a letter to administration officials, the ACLU and other groups including the Drug Policy Alliance said that while the ban is “no doubt well-intentioned” it would also have “serious racial justice implications.”

“Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter explained. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”

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Pollution Is Making Human Penises Shrink and Causing a Collapse of Fertility, Scientists Say

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With many still scoffing at the idea of rampant pollution posing a threat to humanity, a new study could drastically change the conversation: the chemicals across our environment could be the cause of shrinking human penises.

According to a new book by Dr. Shanna H. Swan, conditions in the modern world are quickly altering the reproductive development of humans and posing a threat to our future as a species.

The argument is laid out in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.

The book discusses how pollution is not only leading to skyrocketing erectile dysfunction rates and fertility decline, but also an expansion in the number of babies born with small penises.

While it may seem like good fodder for jokes, the research could portend a grim future for humanity’s ability to survive.

Swan co-authored a study in 2017 that found sperm counts had precipitously fallen in Western countries by 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In her latest book, Swan blames chemicals for this crisis in the making.

“Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” she wrote in the new book.

“In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” she also wrote, noting that men could have only half the sperm count of their grandfathers.

Swan blames the disruption on phthalates, the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing that also have an impact on how the crucial hormone endocrine is produced

However, experts note that the proper implementation of pollution reduction measures could help humanity prevent the collapse of human fertility.

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Visualizing The World’s Deadliest Pandemics By Population Impact

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Humanity has been battling against disease for centuries.

And while most contagious outbreaks have never reached full-blown pandemic status, Visual Capitalist’s Carmen Ang notes that there have been several times throughout history when a disease has caused mass devastation.

Here’s a look at the world’s deadliest pandemics to date, viewed from the lens of the impact they had on the global population at the time.

Editor’s note: The above graphic was created in response to a popular request from users after viewing our popular history of pandemics infographic initially released a year ago.

Death Toll, by Percent of Population

In the mid-1300s, a plague known as the Black Death claimed the lives of roughly 200 million people – more than 50% of the global population at that time.

Here’s how the death toll by population stacks up for other significant pandemics, including COVID-19 so far.

The specific cause of the Black Death is still up for debate. Many experts claim the 14th-century pandemic was caused by a bubonic plague, meaning there was no human-to-human transmission, while others argue it was possibly pneumonic.

Interestingly, the plague still exists today – however, it’s significantly less deadly, thanks to modern antibiotics.

History Repeats, But at Least We Keep Learning

While we clearly haven’t eradicated infection diseases from our lives entirely, we’ve at least come a long way in our understanding of what causes illness in the first place.

In ancient times, people believed gods and spirits caused diseases and widespread destruction. But by the 19th century, a scientist named Louis Pasteur (based on findings by Robert Koch) discovered germ theory – the idea that small organisms caused disease.

What will we discover next, and how will it impact our response to disease in the future?

Like this? Check out the full-length article The History of Pandemics

Republished from ZH with permission.

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