October 7, 2022

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President Joe Biden took a big step toward decriminalizing the possession of marijuana Thursday. He pardoned anyone convicted of a federal marijuana possession charge and urged state governors to follow his lead since, American Civil Liberties Union says, possession cases are nearly always prosecuted by states.

The timing is striking a month from the midterm elections. But the president stopped short of outright legalizing marijuana, which would require an act of Congress.

“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana,” Biden said. “It’s time that we right these wrongs.” He added, “There are thousands of people who were convicted for marijuana possession who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result. My pardon will remove this burden on them.”

Early estimates are that the president’s pardon affects 6,500 people convicted on federal charges of simple possession of marijuana from 1992 to 2021. But if states follow suit, it would be many times that number.

Biden also said, “I am asking the secretary of Health and Human Services and the attorney general to initiate the administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law. Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the classification meant for the most dangerous substances. This is the same schedule as for heroin and LSD, and even higher than the classification of fentanyl and methamphetamine — the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic.”

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws issued a statement that said:

Since 1965, nearly 29 million Americans have been arrested for marijuana-related violations — for activities that the majority of voters no longer believe ought to be a crime.

“Moving forward, the Administration must work collaboratively with Congressional leadership to repeal America’s failed marijuana criminalization laws. Nearly half of voters now agree that legalizing marijuana ought to be a priority for Congress, and such action can only be taken by descheduling cannabis and repealing it from the US Controlled Substances Act — thereby regulating it in a manner similar to alcohol. Congress should be inspired by the Administration’s actions today to act quickly and send legislation to the President’s desk that would help close this dark chapter of our history.”

NORML says almost half of all drug seizures in the U.S. last year involved marijuana:

Forty-five percent of drug seizure offenses in 2021 involved the confiscation of either cannabis or hashish, according to data provided by the National Incident-Based Reporting System and reported by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Specifically, the agency reported 885,509 crimes in 2021 involving the seizure of a controlled substance (NIBRS Table 32). Of these, 400,340 involved the seizure of cannabis. Marijuana was far and away the substance most likely to be confiscated in drug-related incidents.

Unlike in past years’ reports, it is unclear how many people were arrested by law enforcement in 2021 for marijuana-related violations. That is because national estimates, for the first time in over five decades, are no longer publicly available from the FBI. However, according to annual arrest statistics archived by NORML, police have made over 28 million cannabis-related arrests since 1965. Annual marijuana-related arrests peaked at over 800,000 per year in 2008 before steadily declining over the past decade.

Drug testing company DISA says, “Marijuana laws are changing at a rapid pace across all 50 states, making things a bit confusing at times. In order to keep up with the ever-changing laws, DISA has provided this interactive map for information on legalization, medical use, recreational use, and anything in between.”


Half of American adults have tried marijuana

One in 10 Americans say they smoke marijuana, and 49% say they have tried pot, according to Gallup polling.


Gallup’s surveys have tracked the steady increase in Americans supporting the legalization of marijuana. The most recent Gallup poling showed Americans still generally find marijuana to be less “morally acceptable” than alcohol, but the majority (65%) still have no moral problems with marijuana use.

Federal court overturns restrictive state gun laws

New York gun rights groups won a significant victory in a federal district court Thursday. The ruling holds national significance for any state or city government that wants to restrict whether people can carry a weapon in public.

On June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned New York’s ban against people who wanted to be able to carry a weapon in public unless they could prove they had a “proper cause” to carry the weapon. The state legislature responded July 1 by passing a new law that restricted guns in what the law described as “sensitive places,” including tourist areas, playgrounds, schools, athletic events, places that serve alcohol, government property, buses, trains, taxis, churches, homeless shelters and other gathering places, including Times Square. And it went much further. In order to be allowed to carry a gun in public, the new law included:

  1. a definition of the “good moral character” that is required to complete the license application or renewal process
  2. the requirement that the applicant provide a list of current and past social-media accounts, the names and contact information of family members, cohabitants, and at least four character references, and “such other information required by the licensing officer”
  3. a requirement that the applicant attend an in-person interview
  4. the requirement of 18 hours of in-person and “live-fire” firearm training in order to complete the license application or renewal process.

In short, the state used the Supreme Court’s ruling to impose new restrictions, which landed them back in federal court. And this time, Glenn T. Suddaby of the Northern District of New York wrote in a 53-page order:

Simply stated, instead of moving toward becoming a shall-issue jurisdiction, NewYork State has further entrenched itself as a shall-not-issue jurisdiction. And, by doing so, it has further reduced a first-class constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense (which, during the 19th and 18th centuries in America, generally came with an assumption that law-abiding responsible citizens were not a danger to themselves or others unless there was specific ground for a contrary finding) into a mere request (which is burdened with a presumption of dangerousness and the need to show “good moral character”).

The judge was especially critical of the portion of the New York law that requires people who want to carry a weapon in public to offer a list of character references:

Far more invasive and onerous than a demand for a list of character references, however, be a demand for the “names and contact information for the applicant’s current spouse, or domestic partner, any other adults residing in the applicant’s home, including any adult children of the applicant, and whether or not there are minors residing, full time or part time, in the applicant’s home.”

The judge said there is no legal foundation to require an applicant to provide the state with their social media accounts for the past three years. But the judge did not find the requirement for a person to undergo 18 hours of gun training to be too onerous, saying that provision could remain in the state law “for now.”

The judge says it seems constitutional to allow restrictions on gun in schools, from nursery schools to universities, and the restriction on guns in places where people are gathered to protest was allowed to stand. The judge rejected the restrictions on carrying guns in bars, athletic events and Times Square.

Overall, it is a significant setback for gun control advocates, who say they will immediately appeal the ruling.

Why is the US government stockpiling anti-radiation drugs?

The Telegraph points to the U.S. government’s purchase of more than a quarter of a billion dollars’ worth of a drug called Nplate, which is generally used to treat acute radiation syndrome — in other words, the poisoning that people might suffer in a nuclear attack.

The Department of Health and Human Services says the $290 million purchase from the drug company Amgen is not connected to new threats from Russia.

HHS says the purchase is part of its ongoing efforts to be prepared in case of a nuclear incident.

How to properly cut a grilled cheese

As a testament to how edgy people are these days, have you seen the outpouring of criticism that cookbook author Deb Perelman has gotten since posting a video on Instagram about how to make a great grilled cheese and tomato soup combo? The soup turned out fine, but the Washington Post’s Emily Heil explained what happened next:

And then … like a screech on a record player (or whatever the modern equivalent of that sound is), Perelman took the video in a very, very dark direction. She cut the sandwich … horizontally.

Here is some of the reaction:


And my favorite comment:


Heil said Perelman reasoned that the best way to cut anything is to make the shortest cut possible, so the sandwich ingredients stay put. Sounds right. But Heil emphatically explains the rules of sandwich civility that apparently some people did not understand:

There are a few absolute, ironclad rules that I think protect us from losing our tenuous hold on civilization and sliding into the chaotic abyss, and one of them is this: Sandwiches must be cut in half on the diagonal. End of story.

Popular Mechanics attempted to prove why diagonally cut sandwiches are better:

The triangle shape naturally encourages bigger bites, and I’ve divided the sandwich accordingly. In a triangle, we have one great middle bite, two okay side bites, then one bad bite with double crust.

(Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics)

ScienceFocus.com further explains:

Several studies have confirmed this phenomenon. It seems that triangles give you more sandwich filling per bite. A triangular sandwich has two 45° corners that allow you to bite much further towards the middle on your first two bites, where there is more filling.

But the horizontal cut results in more bites, and more of them are crusty. Popular Mechanics continued:

In a rectangular sandwich half, there’s one perfect middle bite. It’s surrounded by three okay bites that have one side of crust, then two corner bites that have double crust edges.

(Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics)

Heil, the Post’s expert, explains that if you feel so compelled to remain noncompliant with the diagonal cut, then please, consider the crust:

Perhaps people wouldn’t have gotten so unhinged if she had merely bisected it vertically, the way some people (who are wrong but possibly not deserving of being cast out of society) might do. But her cut went across the poor sandwich’s equator.

I grew up with horizontally cut sandwiches but my wife, a therapist, introduced me to the bliss of diagonal cuts. She explained that a diagonal cut can easily be cut once again to make small triangles that encourage one to eat more slowly. I never challenged that notion, but of course even a horizontal cut followed by a diagonal cut creates the same effect. Let me illustrate.


But notice that once again, the diagonal cut wins because divided into fourths, there is only one single crust side for each portion. Cut the horizonal into triangles and you will have two portions with two crust sides, which is less than optimal.

The Emory University student newspaper reported, “Though physically impossible, diagonal cuts create the illusion of a larger sandwich. Architect Kevin Harris claims that cutting sandwiches diagonally exposes the interior, thus stimulating all your senses.” BuzzFeed’s experts say vertically cut sandwiches may keep their structural integrity better in your lunch bag. (Really, you should look at their convincing graphics.)

But, in a Medium post, Aiden Baker pleas for a third option; the three-triangle approach, which may prove mathematically to have advantages. See if you can follow the calculation that works out to be: (X*X/3)*2 + (X*X/8)*2+(x/3*X/8)*2 = X²

With the midterm elections coming up, this might be just the kind of issue that we should be asking candidates about. Policy issues provide a clue to where a candidate stands, but ask them about how to properly cut a grilled cheese and you will stare into that candidate’s soul.

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
Al Tompkins

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