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Congress to Vote This Week on Bill to Legalize Cannabis, End Federal Prohibition

After months of debate and partisan stalling, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019 is set for a vote.

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After months of debate and partisan stalling, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019 is set for a vote before a full chamber of Congress by the end of this week.

The bipartisan bill sponsored by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has been touted as the most comprehensive federal cannabis reform legislation ever introduced and comes after over half a century of a failed “war on drugs” that fueled mass incarceration and other collateral damage for poor communities.

Late last week, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer advised the Congress that the MORE Act would be taken up by the House at some point between Wednesday evening and Friday.

In a September statement, Hoyer said that “The MORE Act remains a critical component of House Democrats’ plan for addressing systemic racism and advancing criminal justice reform.”

The bill has also gained the support of both liberals and libertarian-leaning conservatives who see the responsible use of cannabis as a personal right, as well as other Republicans who believe that it should be up to the states to regulate the dispensation of the plant without the interference or control of federal authorities.

The MORE Act comprehensively decriminalizes cannabis on a federal level by de-scheduling it from the Controlled Substances Act – where it is absurdly classified as a Schedule 1 drug “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” alongside heroin – and opens the door to states setting their own policies regulating the commerce and consumption of the plant.

A major highlight of the bill includes expungements of federal convictions for a number of federal convictions of low-level cannabis offenders, removing a barrier that bars access to voting, employment, professional licenses, housing, and even the ability to adopt a child. States would be incentivized to also follow suit.

The legislation would also provide for re-sentencing and block federal agencies from denying public benefits and security clearances over past cannabis convictions, while immigrants would no longer be denied citizenship over marijuana.

The MORE Act would also levy a 5% sales tax on commercial cannabis, and investing in grant programs addressing the needs of communities who have suffered serious negative impacts from the “War on Drugs,” especially those communities of color that have suffered disproportionate over-policing and mass incarceration.

Other provisions of the MORE Act include providing opportunities for cannabis businesses and expanding medical cannabis programs within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Cannabis has already been comprehensively legalized for recreational use in 15 states, and another 21 states have legalized medical use of marijuana through physician prescriptions.

A vote on the MORE Act had initially been set for September, but the vote was delayed as Congress wrangled over the passage of a coronavirus aid bill before moving on to addressing legalization.

The passage of the MORE Act could also be a boon for cash-strapped budgets across the country, which have seen tax revenue dry up amid the economic devastation wrought by the ongoing pandemic. The creation of a state-regulated cannabis market across the country is expected to create an up to $37 billion business within five years.

“Times have changed — marijuana should not be a crime,” Vice President-elect Harris said in a 2019 press release. “We need to start regulating marijuana, and expunge marijuana convictions from the records of millions of Americans so they can get on with their lives. As marijuana becomes legal across the country, we must make sure everyone — especially communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs — has a real opportunity to participate in this growing industry.”

However, while the House has offered clear bipartisan backing of the bill, GOP senators have been far less favorable toward the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blasted the bill on Twitter, remarking earlier this year on a study about diversity within the cannabis industry:  “This is their effort at coronavirus relief?”

In 2018, a study from Pew Research Center found that cannabis-related offenses comprised 40% of all 1.65 million total drug arrests in the U.S. that year.

However, another study by Pew in late 2019 found that two-thirds of respondents across the country support the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana.

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Animals

Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida

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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.

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Animals

Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son

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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.

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Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter

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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.

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