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Illinois is Going to Erase Marijuana Convictions From 770,000 Criminal Records

If you’ve ever been arrested for marijuana in Illinois, you can now breathe a sigh of relief.

Elias Marat

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Illinois Erasing Marijuana Convictions
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(TMU) — On Tuesday Illinois became the 11th state in the U.S. to make cannabis legal for recreational use, but the state’s new legalization bill will also grant relief to about 770,000 residents of the state with marijuana-related offenses on their criminal records.

The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which will come into effect in 2020, has been hailed for not only ending cannabis prohibition but for also including broad criminal justice reforms that seek to undo the damage done against those who have run afoul of the state’s prohibitionist policies.

The 610-page act allows anyone with convictions of up to 30 grams of cannabis to automatically receive clemency and have their pot convictions expunged from their criminal records. Anyone convicted of larger amounts ranging from 30 to 500 grams would have the ability to petition the court to have the charges lifted.

Expungement is the process whereby a judge seals a criminal record from view, or ‘erases’ it in the eyes of the law. Records with past convictions pulled up in criminal background checks can often bar people from accessing housing or jobs, placing them in a position of de facto second-class citizenship.

The bill also allow for those with cannabis convictions to be given expedited access to business licenses and access to loans, capital, and protection from fees that are often used to place barriers to entry for smaller businesses. And $12 million will be allocated to startup business in the cannabis industry as well as funding for job training programs related to the Illinois cannabis industry.

The state’s Department of Agriculture will also create programs to assist the entry of people into the legal cannabis industry, with priority given to low-income students and communities who were previously targeted by anti-drug laws.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker successfully campaigned last year on a platform that included strong support for legalizing recreational cannabis, arguing that an end to prohibitionist laws would be an economic boon to the state, generating $800 million to $1 billion of revenue per year, reports the Associated Press.

Pritzker has also blasted the harm caused by the war on drugs, especially in terms of its negative impact on communities of color.

While signing the legislation, Pritzker said:

“The war on cannabis has destroyed families, filled prisons with nonviolent offenders, and disproportionately disrupted black and brown communities.

Law enforcement across the nation has spent billions of dollars to enforce the criminalization of cannabis, yet its consumption remains widespread.”

Cannabis has been subject to prohibitionist laws since 1937, when the plant largely demonized and associated with Mexican immigrants amid rising racist and nativist attitudes supported by federal and local authorities and media outlets. During the 1970s, marijuana was depicted by authorities as a drug serving no medicinal purpose that was simply abused by delinquents seeking to get high.

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

During the signing ceremony, Pritzker cited a 2010 statistic from the ACLU noting that while black people comprise 15 percent of the state population, they disproportionately account for 60 percent of cannabis-possession arrests.

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.

In 1996, California became the first state to legalize cannabis for medical use, and over 34 states have since done the same. With Illinois’ passage of the new law, it joins ten other states along with Washington, D.C. that have freed the herb almost entirely for recreational purposes. 18 states have also decriminalized the plant, which still remains illegal under federal law.

Illinois joins Washington as the latest state offering clemency to marijuana offenders, with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signing a law granting those with cannabis convictions to vacate their sentences in the state.

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Cliffhanger: Mountain Biker Saved From “Imminent Death” After Falling Into Canyon

Elias Marat

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A Southern California mountain biker is likely counting his blessings after he was rescued from what authorities describe as “imminent death”” after falling from the side of a cliff in the Angeles National Forest.

The mountain biker, described as an older man, fell into the canyon at Mt. Wilson on Thursday morning and was dangling hundreds of feet above the ground before his fellow bikers, and eventually a special team from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, rescued him.

For some time the man dangled by a thin cord around his ankle that was tied to his bicycle while hanging on for dear life “like a cat,” Capt. Tom Giandomenico of the LASD special enforcement bureau told the Los Angeles Times.

“He knew he was in such a precarious situation. He was just scared to even rotate his head to look at us. He just didn’t want to move a muscle,” LASD Deputy Richard Thomsen told CBSLA.

Additionally, when the helicopter team arrived it wasn’t just a matter of simply hoisting the man to safety, as the air generated by the helicopter’s rotor would have sent the man plummeting to “imminent death,” Giandomenico added.

“Because he was head-down on the rock face there, that dropped probably a good 40 feet before it hit some soft dirt and a boulder,” Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Helbring said. “And beyond that was hundreds of feet down to the bottom of the canyon.”

Instead, one of the members of the special enforcement team composed of former SWAT officers devised a plan to rappel down to the man and move him to a ledge below, from which the two could be airlifted to safety.

However, due to a lack of boulders or trees, there was nothing to tie a rope to – and thus no way to rappel down to anything.

So instead, the special enforcement team used the man’s brother and another friend to be their anchor, a plan that ultimately succeeded.

Giandomenico called the rescue “one of the more significant, courageous maneuvers I’ve seen.”

“Heroic, in my opinion,” he added.

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Rare Creature Photographed Alive In The Wild For The First Time Ever

Elias Marat

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Advances in the methods used by researchers to watch wildlife have allowed for the photographing of a rare creature whose image had never been captured in the wild before.

Researchers in the West African nation of Togo were able to spot the rare Walter’s duiker, a rare species of petite African antelope, for the first time in the wild thanks to camera traps equipped with motion sensors.

In addition to the Walter’s duiker, the camera traps were also able to discover rare species of aardvarks and a mongoose, reports Gizmodo.

At a time when the extinction of entire species is becoming more common worldwide, such devices should help conservationists not only preserve creatures sought by bushmeat hunters but also spot rare animals whose presence is elusive for human observers. In the past, biologists were forced to rely on the same hunters for information.

“Camera traps are a game changer when it comes to biodiversity survey fieldwork,” said University of Oxford wildlife biologist Neil D’Cruze.

“I’ve spent weeks roughing it in tropical forests seemingly devoid of any large mammal species,” D’Cruze continued. “Yet when you fire up the laptop and stick in the memory card from camera traps that have been sitting there patiently during the entire trip—and see species that were there with you the entire time —it’s like being given a glimpse into a parallel world.”

The Walter’s duiker was discovered in 2010 when specimens of bushmeat were compared to other duiker specimens. The new images of the creature are the first to have been seen.

Rare species like Walter’s duiker are often not listed as “endangered” by groups like the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to a lack of data.

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Formerly Homeless Man Enjoys New Life In First 3D-Printed Home In US

Elias Marat

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A formerly homeless man is now enjoying his advanced years in a comfortable, entirely 3D-printed tiny home – the very first of its kind in the entire U.S.

Tim Shea, 70, has struggled for much of his life with substance abuse, addiction, and homelessness.

However, the previously unhoused man is now the first person to live in a 3D-printed tiny home, which is now being touted as a model of engineering and sustainability, reports Green Matters.

The 400-square-foot 3D-printed tiny home was printed by nonprofit New Story and construction technology company ICON in the Austin, Texas, area in March 2018 before Shea moved into the location in September.

In 2019, New Story and ICON have also printed a similar community of tiny homes in Mexico, hoping to make good on the use of the technology as a tool to provide homes to the extremely poor.

According to Shea, his new domicile has made all the difference in the world.

“When I found out I’d be the first person in America to move into a 3D-printed home, I thought it was pretty awesome,” Shea told NY Post. “The very people I used to run away from, I’m running to. If you’ve been on both sides of the fence, you know some people just need a little encouragement and support.”

From start to finish, the process of printing and assembling these homes takes only 48 hours and relies on only 70 to 80 percent of the raw building material that conventional housing requires.

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