The crusade to legalize medical marijuana in Minnesota has come up against tough resistance from law enforcement officials, who characterize marijuana as a harmful gateway drug. But this resistance may be wavering as lawmakers consider alterations to medical marijuana legislation this session.
The changes would see a narrowing of the bill to include marijuana consumption by pill or liquid, rather than through smoking/inhalation. The leaders of several law enforcement agencies have indicated tentative openness to this possible new approach. John Kingrey, Executive Director of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, stated that his organization would not be opposed to an extract “if you can distill some of [the 150 compounds in marijuana] and it does not include the THC component and if it is effective to treat certain illnesses…”
This willingness to accept a “purified” version of marijuana for medicinal use illustrates the assertions made by Jeremy Daw in an article that appeared on salon.com last month. In “The racist roots of America’s marijuana policy,” Daw argues that American drug policy is rooted in a medical/recreational dichotomy that has long privileged the narcotic preferences of white, middle-class patients (i.e. for morphine) while criminalizing those of immigrants (i.e. for opium).
According to Daw, the acceptance of drugs with single active ingredients and the rejection of those featuring uncertain chemistry marks a distinction that continues to inform drug policy – including debates over medical marijuana. This explains why we are seeing growing approval for cannabis extracts with “surprise—a known and reproducible chemistry featuring a single active ingredient,” and continued aversion toward the far more accessible and affordable herbal version. The “low-cost alternative to an expensive pharmaceutical system” remains criminalized in this scenario, which impacts “the medical options of needy patients.”
Changing the bill will not only increase the costs of medical marijuana – it will also likely limit the number of conditions for which it can be prescribed. For these reasons, the new approach may not sit well with some medical marijuana advocates.
But Governor Dayton has gone on record several times stating that he will not sign a medical marijuana bill into law in the absence of support from law enforcement, and there is a precedent to suggest he means it: Governor Pawlenty refused to sign a similar bill that passed in the House and Senate in 2009 largely because law enforcement officials opposed it.
Medical marijuana advocates could hold out in the hope that if the bill manages to pass in the Legislature, law enforcement officials might change their stance, or that Dayton may elect to disregard it if they don’t – but neither of these scenarios is likely. A compromise bill that proposes the legalization of a marijuana derivative for medical purposes may represent the only real chance for medical marijuana to be legalized in Minnesota this year – not least because it insulates us from having to confront the problematic roots and continued impacts of America’s drug policy.
Having dug ourselves out, and trudged through the snow, the Minnesota 2020 staff have collected the weekly list of links and blogs that they have enjoyed reading this week. Here, for your weekend reading pleasure. Happy Friday!
Evidence shows: Unions and collective bargaining reduce poverty (Rabble) -- Unions are good for the economy overall. Check out the chart that shows countries with large percentages of workers with collective bargaining rights have low poverty rates.
Available for a Limited Time Only (Slate) -- Stunning images of a visit to the ice caves on the edge of Lake Superior. The caves are not always accessible, nor are they always adorned with such amazing ice formations – it takes an extremely cold winter, and tourists are taking advantage of this one. There had to be an upside to the frigid temperatures!
Dance of Saturn's Aurora's (NASA) -- Most long-time Minnesotans have caught a glimpse of the northern lights, a.k.a. the aurora borealis. (The companion lights in the southern hemisphere are known as the aurora australis.) As it turns out, the same phenomenon occurs on other planets. This NASA article on Saturn’s auroras contains some neat video shot from the Hubble space telescope and the Cassini space probe.
Labor Regroups in South After VW Vote (New York Times) -- I am happy that VW will pursue, on its own, giving its workers representation at its plant in Tennessee.
2013 World Press Freedom Index: Dashed Hopes After Spring (Reporters without Borders) -- Freedom of the press and access to public information are rare.
Charles Fillmore Dies at 84, He Figured Out How Framing Works (RSN) -- George Lakoff, a colleague at the University of California at Berkeley, has written a brilliant obituary on St. Paul native Charles Fillmore, one of the world's greatest linguists.
Now There’s Another Reason Sitting Will Kill You (Time) -- This article is very informative and talks about the effects of sitting. This is very relevant because today our society is very sedentary. Articles like this raise awareness about the ill effects of this kind of practice and hopefully will make us all a little more active and healthy!
Every week, the Minnesota 2020 staff round up a collection of links, videos (and this week, books!) that they think you will enjoy. So, here's wishing you a happy Valentine's day, and if that's not your thing, please enjoy our non-love-themed list of links.
Minnesota’s Olympic Hockey Cradle (Pop. 1,781) (New York Times) -- Each reference to a former hockey great brings up yet another historical moment, era or event in U.S. hockey history and, of course, people from Warroad were in the middle of it. It tells you a lot about Gigi Marvin and her family.
The Most Unlikely State in America Is On Track to Eradicate Homelessness By 2015 (PolicyMic) -- Housing is an unbelievably powerful tool in the fight against so many ills -- from health and addiction, to education and employment. This made me very happy.
Della Wolf is B.C.'s 1st child with 3 parents on birth certificate (CBC News) -- A number of U.S. states (Delaware, Louisiana, Maine, Pennsylvania, California, and the District of Columbia) now allow parents to list more than two people on a child’s birth certificate. British Columbia is the only province in Canada that has enacted such legislation; this article offers a profile of the first Canadian family to go through the process.
The Little Girl from the 1981 LEGO Ad is All Grown Up, and She’s Got Something to Say (Women You Should Know) -- Who remembers playing with Lego's as a child - the simple red, blue, green, white, yellow and black blocks. Nothing gender specific about it. Boy how times have changed - and not for the better for our young girls.
Her Honor: Rosalie Wahl and the Minnesota Women’s Movement -- Rosalie Wahl was the first woman appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court. It's only one element in Wahl's rich and interesting life. MHS Press publishes this bio by Star Tribune editorial writer Lori Sturdevant in March.
Every Prince Hairstyle From 1978 to 2013, in One Chart (Slate) -- Prince makes everyone happy. 35 years of Prince's hairstyle's? How can that not lift up your day?
1001 Nights (Wisconsin Public Radio) -- "1001 Nights" are known in the West as the "Arabian Nights," although some of the stories were written in France during the 1800s. Was Scheherazade the first feminist? What was the impact of these tales on Arab, Persian, and Western culture? These subjects are explored in a recent podcast.
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert. -- Brand new book that looks at the mass extinction happening now, looking at already and potentially soon to be extinct species and looks at how our understanding of extinction has evolved over time. I assume it will make the point of how this largely human driven event will be a large part of our legacy as modern humans.
In 1966 I was in college living at home in East Meadow, NY on Long Island. East Meadow was part of the suburbia that surrounded NYC. Pete Seeger was scheduled to perform on Saturday night March 12th in the auditorium of my alma mater W. Tresper Clarke H.S.
The scheduled concert caused a great stir because Pete had once been a member of the Communist Party and had recently performed in the Soviet Union. He was being called a Communist just about the worst thing you could call someone in those days. The uproar resulted in the school district canceling the concert. Eventually he was allowed to perform a year later after a ruling by the New York State Court of Appeals.
The sad thing about this episode is that the uproar was the result of labeling Seeger with the code name Communist. I am certainly not an expert on Peter Seeger, but from everything I have seen or heard he loved people, promoted peace, and worked hard to protect the environment.
Yes, at one time he belonged to the Communist Party, but quit when he became more familiar with the reality of their policies. Yes, he performed concerts in the Soviet Union in the name of brotherhood and peace. So why was he labeled a Communist? Because, by using a label like that then many people are released from the need to think. They do not have to address what the person really stands for they just have to look at the label.
It is a new era and the label Communist is not used very often, but we have new ones to take its place. A few years ago I wrote a piece for the local newspaper that discussed the value of government infrastructure investment. I received a response from one individual accusing me of being a Socialist. The piece had nothing to do with Socialism and this individual obviously had no idea what the term meant, but someone had told him it was a derogatory label to use for someone who disagreed with him.
Similarly I have heard it used often to attack the Affordable Care Act, which again has nothing to do with socialism. It is not just the political right that is guilty of code names. Some progressives wrongly apply code words like extremists and Tea Party member in disagreements on particular economic issues. Progressives also use code words in heated debates on social issues, like abortion and marriage issues.
How can we solve any of our problems if we spend our time calling each other names? It's time we focuse on the facts and substance of issues.
Posted in News & Notes
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Happy Friday! Below, is your weekly round-up of links -- things our writers really enjoyed and thought you might too. Have more links to add? Add it in the comments. Tell us, "What's making you happy this week?"
Edison Graphic Design Students Wow Industry Professionals and Earn Internships & Scholarships (Thomas Edison High School) -- Minneapolis Public School students are getting a chance to develop digital media and marketing skills, show off their talents, and get real-world experience and connections.
About That Coke Ad (John Scalzi) -- I've been happy with many reactions to the conservative outcry over Coke's Super Bowl Ad (featuring "America the Beautiful" sung in several languages), but SF writer John Scalzi's take is one of my favorites.
After fire, Duluth Wendy's restaurant workers continue to get paid (Star Tribune) -- This restaurant owner had no obligation to pay his employees after a fire closed the restaurant, but he recognized the importance of retaining good employees, and that those good employees wouldn't be able to afford to stick around without paychecks.
Could There Be Swimming Pools or Gardens in Paris' Abandoned Metro Stations? (Smithsonian) -- Many cities have one or two abandoned subway stations; Paris has eleven. A mayoral candidate offers some suggestions (strikingly illustrated by a team of architects) as to how these “ghost stations” might be repurposed for various urban uses.
9 Reasons the U.S. Ended Up So Much More Car-Dependent Than Europe (The Atlantic)
A Very Brief History of Why Americans Hate Their Commutes (The Atlantic)
The Atlantic Cities, often an excellent source of news and commentary on mobility and access, has begun a long-term series it calls The Future of Transportation. Two early installments by university scholars help us understand how we get around in the United States today by looking at the history of transportation and its very different character in western Europe:
How Empowered Women Changed the World (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) -- Aabout women's empowerment and how empowering women will make our wold a better place to live.
New solar panels made with more common metals could be cheaper and more sustainable (ACS) -- Because its just cool - photo-voltaic shingles that use earth-abundant materials!
How Your Data Are Being Deeply Mined (The New York Review of Books) -- If you're not paying for that mobile phone app, you are the product.
In addition to surviving a long, cold month in the mid-west deep freeze, Hindsight readers were looking ahead to policy in 2014. Issues of inequality resonated on many levels, as did maps that helped visualize housing and poverty data.
Below, are ten of our most popular blogs this month:
- 50 Years of War: Poverty in MN (Jan 16)
- Teaching: Harder than Rocket Science (So Says a Rocket Scientist) (Dec 26)
- Address Bad Ed Policy and School-to-prison Pipeline (Jan 17)
- Stop the Crocodile Tears for MN’s Highest Income Households (Jan 9)
- Obama Calls Attention to Discriminatory Marijuana Enforcement (Jan 23)
- Expect Challenges for Minnesota’s New Teacher Evaluation System (Jan 2)
- Here’s an Interesting Story About Oil Riches (Jan 14)
- How a Conservative Uses Education Reform to Distract from Income Inequality (Jan 13)
- Uneven Recovery: MN Housing is Getting Unaffordable (Jan 23)
- Where the Oil Trains Run (Jan 28)
Posted in News & Notes
Like many Americans, I probably spent the past few days singing Pete Seeger's songs - better said, I probably spent the past few days singing songs Pete Seeger taught me. While he co-wrote "If I Had A Hammer," he's equally as famous for sharing hundreds of other folk songs on his albums and in his concerts. On the surface, these are simple songs - my four year old can pick out the melody and sing along with the lyrics. They're simple, but have powerful, deep, messages.
Pete Seeger played a concert at Knox College in 1978. Photo used by permission of Knox College.
I would venture to guess that few American musicians have had as substantive an impact on our political culture as Pete Seeger did. Wherever there was injustice, it seemed like Pete Seeger showed up to stand on the side of the marginalized and oppressed. And people listened.
Dave Zirin, the sports columnist for The Nation put it this way:
"Rest in Peace, Pete Seeger. Sang with Woody Guthrie, fought Hitler, marched with MLK, and was part of Occupy Wall Street?"
What a life.
What a life, indeed. In the 1950's, he also stood up to the House Unamerican Activities Committee and refused be intimidated by their bullying tactics. When asked, repeatedly, if he supported Communist causes, he replied:
I have sung for Americans of every political persuasion, and I am proud that I never refuse to sing to an audience, no matter what religion or color of their skin, or situation in life. I have sung in hobo jungles, and I have sung for the Rockefellers, and I am proud that I have never refused to sing for anybody. That is the only answer I can give along that line.
That answer got him sentenced for 10 years for contempt of Congress, though he was never forced to serve.
But beyond defending himself, Pete Seeger stood up against the type of intimidation that everyday Americans faced every day - on the job site, because of the color of their skin, because of the beliefs they held deeply.
As a guitar player and singer, I sing a lot of the songs Pete Seeger taught me. He popularized songs that inspired power and resistance - Woody Guthrie songs, Civil Rights songs, songs about people pushed down and people joining together and pushing back. They're songs that remind us that we're connected to one another.
His songs helped inspire so many of Minnesota's grassroots movements, whether we were standing on a picket line in northern Minnesota with striking workers, or calling on state legislators and corporations to pay fair wages, or more recently, defending homes against foreclosure, or working to close the pay equity gap. These movements have and are helping shape progressive policies that make this a great place to live, work, and raise a family.
A number of injustices remain in Minnesota. As we go about making Minnesota a great place for all of its residents, let's sing out. Let's sing together. Let's sing about freedom. Let's sing about justice. Let's sing about love between our brothers and our sisters, all over this land.
Atom Robinson is a community organizer an musician. He lives in Saint Paul.
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Transportation's New Wave (Transportationist) -- My favorite transportation curmudgeon, David M. Levinson at the University of Minnesota, reviews the second edition of "The Transportation Experience," a book he coauthored with William L. Garrison. As usual Prof DLev takes a fascinating, broad view of the history of motorized transportation and where it's going now.
Charts: Unemployment Benefits' Big Bang for the Buck (MotherJones) -- A simple little graph that drives home a very important point: spending on jobless benefits and food stamps has a much higher return on investment than tax cuts.
Driving to an early grave (The Economist) -- Traffic accidents are now killing more people than tb and malaria, and disproportionately impact prime working age people, making it costly to economic growth in countries that are already at an economic disadvantage.
Duracell: Trust Your Power (YouTube) -- I'm not a Seahawks fan, but this made me smile and got me pumped up. Nicely done.
Birth Control Isn't About Sex, Gov. Huckabee (MinnPost) -- In this excellent article Susan Perry reveals the inanity of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee's recent comments regarding women's sexuality and access to affordable contraception.
President Obama praises Punch Pizza for raising its minimum wage (StarTribune) -- Many workers in the food-service industry rely on public assistance to make ends meet. Punch Pizza, a small Twin Cities chain, has taken responsibility for its workers' well-being by raising its minimum wage to $10. In his State of the Union address, Obama implored other employers to step up in the same way.
Should Schools Teach Kids to Meditate? (The Atlantic) -- A former teacher’s perspective on the potential benefits of introducing meditation programs into the public education system. Existing programs have been shown to reduce stress, improve test scores, increase attendance, and contribute to student and teacher happiness.
Wage Against the Machine (The Daily Show) -- Samantha Bee digs into the human side of the minimum wage and introduces a cool new term: McWalMarxism.
Schell's Snowstorm wins gold medal from BTI (CityPage) -- Schell's Brewery of New Ulm, MN, is Minnesota's original craft brewer. Over a 150 years later, they're still in the game, still operating as a family business and still winning awards for well-brewed beer.
Half a century ago, plus a couple of years, I left my small town of Kerkhoven and arrived at what is now St. Cloud State University to start what educators, parents and friends insisted would be a transformative journey. Another freshman, from even smaller Merrifield, had already checked in to our dorm room.
Covering most of the space between beds, closets and desks was an ink-stained, monster early version of a mimeograph machine. Win Borden looked at me, looked at the machine, and said for explanation, “I intend to be politically active.”
By the next day dormitory officials had found a larger room in the older section of Shoemaker Hall to house Win, his machine, and an obliging roommate. And Win went on to pursue his objectives, academically and politically.
We linked up again three years later in the upstairs of a large house off campus. I had the cheap bed. At the foot of it was a miniature pool table where Win and the five or six other guys in the house or visitors would play pool during study breaks.
With strength of personality and intellect, Win brought together a number of bright young people who would become the next generation of Minnesota policy wonks and watchers.
Win died a week ago.
Old friends are now telling stories for our own peace of mind and for his children. Looking back, it occurs to me that at least four future members of the Minnesota Legislature- including Win - would be shooting pool or conferring in that house.
Several students became lawyers and at least one became a long-serving state judge. One would be a deputy Minnesota Secretary of State. Another would become a USDA official before, oh yes, he’s teaching at a state junior college these days.
Our intertwined circles of friends and acquaintances included lots of future educators – K-12 all over the state and college professors stretching from Montana to the Middle East.
Within a few short years, SCSU expanded its program offerings. Later incoming freshmen would interact with people who became executives of major Minnesota and U.S. corporations, a Federal Reserve bank official, at least one nationally recognized commodities market analyst, and the CEO of one of America’s largest banks. And this doesn’t even look at the huge number of journalists, broadcasters and meteorologists who bring Minnesotans and other Americans their news each day.
Years later, I was a proud father taking a daughter off to college at a West Coast school. The president told parents that no matter how great the school was, our sons and daughters would learn more from each other in the next four years than from faculty and classes.
That was a humble way of commenting on the transformative role academic settings play in the lives of students. It was true a half century ago at SCSU. It is undoubtedly true at every major public and private college and university in Minnesota today.
SCSU and all Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) institutions are now going through reorganization planning. When all is said and done, programs and faculty must be left in place to continue to attract students like Win Borden and the gang of future leaders who came to shoot pool with Win at the foot of my bed.
That is what makes higher education transformative for lucky students, me included. Now as MnSCU and SCSU consider their Charting the Future report, it's important they remember the strengths of their universities and colleges.
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Every week, the staff at Minnesota 2020 collect links to stories or sites that have resonated with them this week. It's always a great list and this week is no exception. Enjoy!
All Aboard: Why America's Second Rail Boom Has Plenty Of Room To Run (Forbes) — Despite new risks from gushers of crude oil moving by rail, the resurgence of America's railroads offers huge pluses for the economy. the environment and even public safety.
A Wage Hike Campaign from an Unlikely Source (NPR) -- Ron Unz is a nationally known conservative who is fighting to increase California's minimum wage for "very strong liberal and conservative reasons." According to Unz, "$250 billion a year in social welfare spending goes to workers who can't survive on their paychecks. What we're talking about is a massive system of hidden government subsidies to these low wage employers where they can shift the cost of their workforce over to the taxpayer."
Why housing costs keep rising in San Francisco (Medium) — Could Twin Cities housing soon be as unaffordable as San Francisco’s? Probably not. But if we don’t intentionally build more affordable housing units, low- and moderate-income residents might get priced out of city living.
Sneckdown: Using snow to design safer streets (BBC) — Snowy streets are often viewed solely as an impediment to driving; this article illustrates how they may actually present opportunities to increase pedestrian safety by allowing urban planners to study traffic and pedestrian patterns as they are traced in the snow.
Pink flamingos land in the middle of Portland Public Schools teacher contract fight (The Oregonian) — In the midst of a very serious labor conflict, it's nice to see some light-hearted protest tactics thrown into the mix. In Portland, a flock of pink lawn flamingos proclaimed: "Settle the flocking contract"
Published five years ago, "Home: Tom Arndt's Minnesota" captures the mid/late 20th century Minnesota that I carry in my heart and mind. I love this collection of Arndt's photography, proof that some Minnesota truths are eternal.
First issue of autism comic book released in York stores (York Dispatch) — A great little organization called Face Value Comics has experienced an overwhelming demand for their comic featuring a superhero with Autism.
Economist Statement on the Federal Minimum Wage (Economic Policy Institute) — The EPI brings a smile by initially signing up 75 of America's top economists in support of raising the federal minimum wage, in stages, to $10.10 by 2016. This brings concise intellectual support to everyone working on social justice and inequality issues at both state and national levels.
Top 10 Crazy Kitchen Tricks That Speed Up Your Cooking (Lifehacker) — It's an old post that I just stumbled on. My favorites are the super-fast pomegranate de-seeding and the soda trick.