Illinois is poised to become the 11th U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana after lawmakers voted on Friday to legalize the plant. Governor J.B. Pritzker assured Illinoisans he would sign the bill that would also automatically expunge criminal records of prior convictions of minor pot possession.
This will have a transformational impact on our state, creating opportunity in the communities that need it most and giving so many a second chance. I applaud bipartisan members of the General Assembly for their vote on this legislation.
— Governor JB Pritzker (@GovPritzker) May 31, 2019
Steve Hawkins, executive director for the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project, said:
“Illinois is on the brink of replacing a shameful, destructive policy with the most far-reaching cannabis law ever enacted.”
Pritzker, Illinois’ billionaire governor, took office in January of this year after campaigning on the legalization of marijuana, among other things. His office didn’t give a timeline for when he might sign bill into law, but he tweeted his intentions soon after the bill’s approval.
In the interest of equity and criminal justice reform, I look forward to signing this monumental legislation.
— Governor JB Pritzker (@GovPritzker) May 31, 2019
The measure, passed by the House of Representatives on Friday, will allow for the purchase and possession of cannabis beginning in 2020. The bill was approved by the Senate on Wednesday and is expected to bring in an estimated $170 million thanks to the sale of producer licenses in an effort to combat Illinois’ chronic budget shortfalls. In fact, the states credit rating has fallen to just one level above junk-grade, rendering Illinois the lowest rated state in the U.S. Consumers will pay up to 34.75% tax on cannabis purchases, depending on the potency of the product.
The new system, that will go into effect on January 1, 2020, will allow adults to buy and posses up to 30 grams of cannabis in addition to small amounts of highly concentrated extracts and edibles. Non-residents will be able to buy half the amount of residents.
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 in April.
In a tweet, Pritzker said, “This will have a transformational impact on our state, creating opportunity in the communities that need it most and giving so many a second chance.”
Prior convictions for possession of cannabis up to 30 grams will be dealt with through a clemency process, while the state’s attorney or an individual can request that the court vacate convictions for possession of 30 to 500 grams. An estimated 770,000 minor cannabis-related cases will be expunged.
According to USA Today, “Any tax money left over after would be used to support drug-treatment and enforcement programs, improve mental health counseling access, and bolster the state’s general fund.”
In 1996, California became the first state to legalize marijuana for medical use, with over 30 states following suit. Ten states including Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon, Nevada, Vermont and Washington, and the District of Columbia have freed the herb, allowing adults to partake in the recreational use of cannabis. Cannabis remains illegal under U.S. federal law.
Illinois is the second state to legalize recreational cannabis through the legislature and the first state to legalize sales of cannabis in this way. While Vermont also legalized the herb via legislature, the state currently prohibits commercial sales. Other states have tackled legalization via ballot initiatives.
Supporters say the new measure will create jobs across the state, highlighting the preference given to members of minority groups who seek to get business licenses.
Detractors have gone to unique lengths to attempt to stop the approval of the measure, including State Rep. Anthony DeLuca, who took out a frying pan and an egg in an attempt to make a point as lawmakers debated the bill.
“You see this? This is your brain. There it is folks. This is your brain on drugs,” he said as he cracked an egg into a frying pan in front of his colleagues.
DeLuca’s attempt to harken back to the marketing strategy of the 1980s was met with some laughter and little applause.
The remarks following DeLuca’s stunt took the opposite tone with State Rep. Bob Morgan calling it “nonsense,” a waste of eggs, and “a ridiculous point that was outdated for 30 years.” Ultimately, the Illinois House passed the bill 66 to 47.
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.