Credit: Pixabay. Without long-term memory, none of us would be functional human beings. In order to make sense of the world, our memory employs all sorts of reference points, anchors if you will. For instance, one very important building block is the memory of places.
Three years after federal legislation removed the marijuana extract known as delta-8 THC from the nation's list of controlled substances, Texas health officials have put it on its own list of illegal drugs, sending a shockwave through the growing CBD retail industry across the state and making the substance, essentially, illegal.
Christine Perez, who manages the popular Austin CBD store Lazydaze+Coffeeshop, had no idea about the change until she saw the Texas Department of State Health Services notice on the agency's website on Oct. 15.
"I was very confused, as well as a bunch of other companies. It's like, 'What is going on?'" Perez said. "I really have no idea why [the state] would try to ban it, or the timing of it. We didn't hear anything about it from the state."
It was easy to miss.
As The Dallas Morning News reported this week, the state health agency placed a notice in the rule change publication, the Texas Register. The notice said delta-8 remained a controlled drug in Texas. Both the federal government and states can differ on what is a controlled substance by keeping separate lists. Still, word failed to get out to CBD stores that anything containing the substance, like candy or tincture oil, would be illegal to sell in Texas.
It became the top product for many dispensaries in Texas, as users say it produced the "high" effect of marijuana. The variant became popular after the 2018 Farm Bill changed the definition of "lawful marijuana extracts" and included any extract that has lower than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), including delta-8. THC is the active psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, responsible for the user's high.
But last week, DSHS announced it had classified delta-8 as a Schedule I controlled substance, a category reserved for drugs that have no accepted medical use, such as heroin and LSD.
It's not the first time this debate over whether delta-8 was or was not a controlled substance in Texas has come up. As the DMN previously reported, Stephen Pahl, the Texas health department's associate commissioner for consumer protection, informed lawmakers during this year's regular legislative session that state law allows Health and Human Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt to object to federal drug schedules, including delta-8. Lawmakers had considered a bill making delta-8 illegal, but it failed to move forward after health officials informed them it had already been listed as a controlled substance by the state.
From the state's point of view, last week's announcement was merely a clarification.
"DSHS posted the clarification below on our website in response to recent requests from hemp growers who said that there was confusion in the industry about what was allowed in consumable hemp products," said Lara Anton, a DSHS spokesperson.
But to retailers, the notice seemed arbitrary and unfair.
"This is really out of nowhere. It's not based on science, it's not based on any real threat to Texans," Rick Trojan III, a board member of the Hemp Industries Association, said. "The whole thing is confusing for everyone involved. It sounds like DSHS doesn't even understand why they know what they're doing."
Trojan said he had not heard any "hemp grower" confused over the law.
Until that notice a week ago, several stores claimed the state had done nothing to notify them that delta-8 was illegal.
Lit Smoke & Vape, a CBD store in Allen, says it will not stop selling delta-8 until it is forced to.
Other stores, like Your CBD in Mesquite, did not know about the new guidance when asked by The Texas Tribune. An hour later, the company pulled delta-8 from shelves.
"It's still on our shelves until it's legally decided that it's illegal," a manager at Lit Smoke & Vape said. "Those people don't have any authority over the law. So until the law states that it's illegal then, no, we will continue to sell it. They tried to ban CBD two years ago and they got sued and it fell through. So it's going to happen again."
Last May, the Texas Legislature attempted to make delta-8 illegal, but the issued failed.
Multiple companies, including CBD American Shaman, have vowed to take legal action against the state.
In the meantime, many companies are wondering how the state will enforce the new guidance.
"DSHS can take enforcement action against licensees who sell consumable hemp products containing controlled substances. DSHS doesn't regulate possession of controlled substances," a DSHS spokesperson said.
Still, Trojan believes enforcement will be difficult.
"I have heard some sheriffs won't enforce. I have heard stores will be able to sell what they have," Trojan said.
The plaster statue of Thomas Jefferson that looms over the New York City Council Chamber will be removed by year's end, following a vote by a city commission Monday. The council did the right thing after a 20-year campaign by its Black, Latino and Asian Caucus. This decision is an opportunity to commission a sculpture that celebrates the Jeffersonian ideals of liberty and democracy without idolizing the slaveholder himself.
Throughout the meeting to decide the statue's fate, its defenders kept returning to a theme: The statue doesn't honor Jefferson the man, it honors his great ideas, like universal human equality, religious freedom and a democracy free of autocrats, aristocrats and theocrats. As historian Sean Wilentz pointed out in a written statement opposing removal, these ideas are still radical today and continue to inspire liberation movements, including civil rights and feminism.
One of the greatest contributions of Jefferson and his fellow Enlightenment thinkers was discrediting monarchy, the ridiculous notion that some people are chosen by God to rule because they have magic blood. Idolizing a monarch with a statue makes sense if you believe in the divine right of kings. It makes a lot less sense to build statues of leaders whom we know are flawed citizens like ourselves.
There's no rule saying that public statuary must consist of the stony likenesses of dead heroes. Lots of great art uses idealized figures and abstract motifs to educate and inspire. History has to deal with people in full. Art has no such limitations. It can abstract away the flawed figure to express the higher ideals they ultimately failed to embody.
The council members who want to relocate the statue believe passionately in liberty and democracy. They argue, persuasively, that the likeness of a slaveholder is an inappropriate symbol of those ideals.
Even the statue's most ardent champions scarcely tried to defend the man. How could they? Jefferson owned over 600 people and consigned some of his own children to slavery, children he conceived with his wife's enslaved half-sister, whom he started raping when she was just 14. The man knew slavery was wrong, but kept on owning people and selling children, despite his contemporaries, including the Marquis de Lafayette, urging him to free the people he held in bondage.
Four council members of color testified. They said they felt degraded and dispirited by the enormous plaster statue. It has grown even more imposing over the years. Its 7-foot likeness on a 5-foot pedestal casts a pall over the chamber. Its pedestal was actually raised several years ago when art restorers warned that he was vulnerable to damage. Co-chair of the Black Latino and Asian Caucus — I. Daneek Miller — testified that Jefferson's "domineering presence" feels like "psychological warfare" to legislators of color, who comprise the council' majority.
If the purpose of public art is to inspire, it matters whether it is having the desired effect on its audience. If a supposed monument to liberty is making legislators feel less-than, it has outlived its usefulness.
Pro-statue speakers said they found it ironic that a democratic government is now using the tools that Jefferson helped to create to remove his likeness. That's exactly what's happening, and that's great.
We have outgrown Jefferson's likeness, just as we've outgrown the idea that kings and white people have magic blood entitling them to rule.
Let's replace the statue of the flawed man with a statue that celebrates the brilliant and radical ideas he promoted: Democracy, equality and religious freedom. Let's talk about how we want to express them artistically in 2021. Let's install a plaque explaining to future generations why replaced Jefferson's likeness with something new.
President Joe Biden made an impassioned plea in his birthplace of Scranton on Wednesday for massive spending on US infrastructure and social safety nets, as his Democratic party continued to feud over the price tag.
"America is still the largest economy … but we risk losing our edge as a nation," Biden said, describing the gap between US modernization of its infrastructure compared to competitors. "We haven't passed an infrastructure bill for decades."
The two bills under debate -- one for repairing infrastructure and another to fund childcare and other social spending -- will "breathe new life into the economy," Biden said in his speech at a museum for trolley trains in the blue collar Pennsylvania town where he spent part of his childhood.
The bills remain stuck in Congress, where Democrats control both houses with razor-thin majorities but are divided between themselves on the cost and scope of Biden's proposals.
There were positive signals on Wednesday, but no solid deal, with two key senators still holding back.
Biden showed his frustration, almost shouting in mid-speech: "This is the United States of America, damn it. What are we doing?"
But in an address filled with emotional references to his family's humble roots and connections to the working class, he predicted a happy ending for the two bills.
"This has been declared dead on arrival from the moment I introduced it, but I think we're going to surprise them," he said.
Still working on it
At stake are a $1.2 trillion bill for improving creaking US bridges, roads and railways and an even bigger splurge on childcare and other areas that Biden says will provide historic help to struggling ordinary Americans.
The main bone of contention is the size of the second package, with an initial figure endorsed by Biden of $3.5 trillion clearly dead.
The White House is now indicating it would settle for something between $1.9 and $2.2 trillion, while a leading moderate Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin, wants as little as $1.5 trillion. The ultimate top line may fall somewhere between.
That means making significant cuts to Biden's priorities in areas like expanding free education and clean energy.
Senator Chuck Schumer, who heads the Democrats' tiny majority in the Senate, fueled expectations that a deal may be imminent.
"We are getting closer to an agreement. We want to finalize a deal by the end of this week," he said Wednesday.
"Everyone is going to have to compromise if we are to find that legislative sweet spot that we can all get behind," Schumer said.
But with Manchin and another reluctant Democratic senator, Kyrsten Sinema, still not on board, the White House remained cautious.
"We've made a lot of progress but we still have work to do," Biden's senior adviser Cedric Richmond told CNN.
Biden's Scranton speech was meant to remind his party that he beat Donald Trump last year in part by wooing blue collar workers.
"Both these bills were all that I talked about. But guess what? Eighty one million people voted for me. More people voted than any time in American history and their voices deserve to be heard," he said.
Midterm legislative elections in just over a year could see the Democrats lose their majorities in one or both chambers to the Republicans, meaning Biden's spending plans are unlikely to get a second chance.
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