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House Passes Bill Decriminalizing Marijuana at Federal Level in Historic Vote

In a vote rich with historic importance, the House of Representatives has just voted to decriminalize cannabis.

Elias Marat

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In a vote rich with historic importance, the House of Representatives has just voted to decriminalize marijuana, finally siding with most Americans who have rejected prohibitionist policies and approve of the legalization of the plant.

On Friday, the House voted by 228-164 to pass the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019, marking the first time that either chamber of the bicameral Congress has put decriminalization to the vote.

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.

However, the approval of the bill is largely a symbolic victory for marijuana legalization and criminal justice reform advocates, with Senate Republicans appearing firm in their stance that they won’t approve of the measure.

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?”

Democrats, on the other hand, have said that the move to legalize weed will be a boon for local budgets and will end the historic injustice of the so-called “war on drugs,” which has negatively impacted poor communities of color in a disproportionate manner. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in  a September statement that “The MORE Act remains a critical component of House Democrats’ plan for addressing systemic racism and advancing criminal justice reform.”

Voters in various states have also largely approved the legalization of medical or recreational marijuana across the country, with voters in four states – Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota – voting to legalize in the 2020 election. 15 states now allow the recreational use of the plant, while 38 states allow medical marijuana.

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

The MORE Act had the support of both liberals and libertarian-leaning conservatives in the House 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.

“We’re not rushing to legalize marijuana. The American people have already done that,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (OR-D), one of the chief architects of the bill, prior to the House floor vote on Friday morning. “We’re here because Congress has failed to deal with a disastrous war on drugs and do its part for the over 15 million marijuana users in every one of your districts … It’s time for Congress to step up and do its part. We need to catch up with the rest of the American people.”

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.

“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.”

The MORE Act would comprehensively decriminalize 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 range 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.

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.

The vote comes after the United Nations, for the first time, recognized the medicinal value of cannabis, voting Wednesday to remove the plant from a list of dangerous drugs and clearing the way for the widespread research and medical use of marijuana and medications based on the plant.

Bizarre

Video Showing UFOs Swarming Navy Warship is Real, Pentagon Confirms

Elias Marat

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Late last month, reports emerged that a number of U.S. Navy guided missile destroyers sailing off the coast near Los Angeles encountered a swarm of strange unidentified flying objects or drones in 2019. While Navy investigators looked into the strange incident, no explanation has since been given.

However, new footage has been leaked to documentary filmmaker Jeremy Corbell that shows the strange flying objects swarming above one of the ships, and the Pentagon has confirmed that the videos are authentic.

“I can confirm that the referenced photos and videos were taken by Navy personnel,” a Department of Defense spokesperson told Futurism.

In the brief footage, which appears to have been recorded with night vision cameras, triangular or pyramid-shaped objects can be seen hovering above the deck of a Navy destroyer.

According to Corbell, the Pentagon has gone to great lengths to disavow any connection to the swarming UAVs.

“This was taken on deployment from the USS Russell,” Corbell told Mystery Wire. “It shows what they described as vehicles. And they made a great distinction. They made sure in this classified briefing, they made a great distinction that this is not something that we own either a black project, this is not something of a foreign military, that these were behaving in ways that we did not expect.

“And that they were you know shaped non aerodynamically,” he added. “Like pyramids, these are flying pyramids!”

The video, as well as a number of photos from the incident, have all been gathered by the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force, a group tasked with investigating encounters between the different service branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and a number of unidentified flying objects.

While officials have been baffled by the unknown flying objects, in recent years the Pentagon has been more vocal about past encounters, which they describe as having been frequent. Officials have also discouraged the use of the acronym “UFOs,” instead opting to describe them as unidentified aerial phenomena or UAPs.

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Bizarre

Prince Philip Joke About Reincarnating as Deadly Virus to ‘Solve Overpopulation’ Resurfaces

Elias Marat

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The Friday announcement of the death of Prince Philip elicited a range of reactions on social media, with some users eulogizing the late royal while others used the occasion to heap mockery upon the British monarchy.

However, others also shared an old quote from the Prince Philip where he bizarrely suggested that after he died, his wish would be that he is reincarnated as a deadly virus in order to help solve the so-called problem of overpopulation.

The decidedly anti-social quote was taken from a 2009 article published by The Guardian that listed out a number of controversial and generally distasteful quotes from the Queen’s husband on various subjects.

The full quote read: “In the event that I am reincarnated, I would like to return as a deadly virus, to contribute something to solving overpopulation.”

Tweeting a screenshot of the quote, user Riya said: “WHAT THE F*CK.”

While others replied to the misanthropic quote with a reference to the ongoing pandemic:

The Daily Express notes that the quote originates from a joking comment about deadly viruses that the prince made in a 1988 interview with Deutsche Press-Agentur. The quote was also widely shared during the initial outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Buckingham Palace announced the death of Prince Philip, royal consort to Queen Elizabeth II, on Friday morning.

“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,” the announcement read. “His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.”

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Animals

As Marine Life Flees the Equator, Global Mass Extinction is Imminent: Scientists

Elias Marat

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The waters surrounding the equator are one of the most biodiverse areas in the globe, with the tropical area rich in marine life including rare sea turtles, whale sharks, manta rays, and other creatures.

However, rampant rises in temperate have led to a mass exodus of marine species from the sensitive region – with grave implications for life on earth.

While ecologists have long seen the thriving biodiversity of equatorial species holding constant in the past few centuries, a new study by Australian researchers published in The Conversation has found that warming global temperatures are now hitting the equator hard, potentially leading to an unprecedented mass extinction event.

The researchers from the Universities of Auckland, Queensland, and the Sunshine Coast found that as waters surrounding the equator continue to heat up, the ecosystem is being disrupted and forcing species to flee toward the cooler water of the South and North Pole.

The massive changes in marine ecosystems that this entails will have a grave impact not only on ocean life – essentially becoming invasive species in their new homes –  but also on the human livelihoods that depend on it.

“When the same thing happened 252 million years ago, 90 percent of all marine species died,” the researchers wrote.

To see where marine life is headed, the researchers tracked the distribution of about 49,000 different species to see what their trajectory was. The global distribution of ocean life typically resembles a bell curve, with far fewer species near the poles and more near the equator.

However, the vast alteration of the curve is already in motion as creatures flee to the poles, according to a study they published in the journal PNAS.

These changes augur major disruptions to global ecosystem as marine life scrambles in a chaotic fight for food, space, and resources – with a mass die-off and extinction of creatures likely resulting.

The research underscores the dire need for human societies to control rampant climate change before the biodiversity and ecological health of the planet is pushed past the point of no return.

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