CHICAGO –Even though she is fully vaccinated, Barbara Creed can’t yet visit her grandchildren in Texas. Creed is among thousands for whom the vaccine is less effective because she has received an organ transplant. The 67-year-old Oak Park, Illinois, resident has watched the state reopen with some trepidation, as mask mandates for the unvaccinated are on an honor system and the delta variant of the virus circulates in Illinois. People such as Creed with compromised immune systems rely on others to be vaccinated for full protection against the virus. But the country’s march toward herd immunity ...
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President Joe Biden in a major action on Thursday announced he is pardoning thousands of Americans convicted of simple possession of marijuana, which is being seen as a major move toward federal decriminalization. Fox News is calling it a “blunt move” and “REEFER MADNESS,” and it is currently the right wing website‘s top story:
“As I’ve said before, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” President Biden announced, as Axios reported. “Today, I’m taking steps to end our failed approach.”
“I’m pardoning all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession. There are thousands of people who were previously convicted of simple possession who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result. My pardon will remove this burden,” the President declared in an unexpected move.
He added he is also “calling on governors to pardon simple state marijuana possession offenses. Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely for possessing marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either.”
That move is expected to receive pushback from many GOP governors and lawmakers, despite support by a majority of Republican voters for cannabis legalization. In April the House of Representatives passed legislation to decriminalize marijuana. It passed 220-204, with just three Republicans voting for it and two Democrats voting against.
“We classify marijuana at the same level as heroin – and more serious than fentanyl,” Biden continued. “It makes no sense. I’m asking @SecBecerra and the Attorney General to initiate the process of reviewing how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.”
“Sending people to jail for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives – for conduct that is legal in many states. That’s before you address the clear racial disparities around prosecution and conviction. Today, we begin to right these wrongs,” Biden said.
Democratic nominee for governor of Texas, Beto O’Rourke, since at least 2019 has supported marijuana legalization. He has repeatedly stated this position as he did here in February.
Immediately after Biden’s announcement O’Rourke once again reiterated his support for legalization..
“When I’m governor, we will finally legalize marijuana in Texas and expunge the records of those arrested for marijuana possession,” said the Democrat running against Republican Greg Abbott.
A Justice Department spokesperson said the DOJ “will expeditiously administer the President’s proclamation, which pardons individuals who engaged in simple possession of marijuana, restoring political, civil, and other rights to those convicted of that offense.”
Unlike his predecessor’s pardons, President Biden will arrange the pardons through the Office of the Pardon Attorney.
Slate senior writer Mark Joseph Stern called the President’s announcement “the first step to rescheduling or descheduling marijuana on the federal level. HUGE deal. It’s a tectonic shift in federal drug policy.”
On Thursday, The Daily Beast reported that Mark Rissi of Hiawatha, Iowa has been arrested after calling in a death threat to the Maricopa County, Arizona Board of Supervisors over conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election being stolen.
"In the messages, he allegedly threatened to hang officials for the 'theft of the 2020 election,'" reported Ellie Quinlan Houghtaling. "The 64-year-old Iowa man could face up to ten years for threatening officials over state lines, and faces an additional count for making a threatening call, which could carry with it another two years behind bars."
“Hello ... I am glad that you are standing up for democracy and want to place your hand on the Bible and say that the election was honest and fair,” said Rissi in the call, which he placed on September 27. “I really appreciate that. When we come to lynch your stupid lying Commie [expletive], you’ll remember that you lied on the [expletive] Bible, you piece of [expletive]. You’re gonna die, you piece of [expletive]. We’re going to hang you. We’re going to hang you.”
There is no evidence of any sort that the 2020 election was stolen, and arguments that the result was illegitimate have been rejected in dozens of courts.
Arizona is a key focus of far-right conspiracy theorists, as Biden only carried the state by fewer than 11,000 votes. Republicans in the state Senate commissioned a controversial private "audit" of the results that found no misconduct and led to a flurry of litigation over the auditors' transparency. Republicans have nominated a slate of election deniers for key races, including former news anchor Kari Lake for governor and state Sen. Mark Finchem for secretary of state.
Threats and harassment against election officials have grown common since the 2020 election; in Gillespie County, Texas, the entire election staff of the county ended up resigning over the abuse.
As GOP lawmakers continue to antagonize the Biden administration over its immigration policies, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, warned Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that his handling of the southern border could be “grounds for impeachment.”
Cruz, along with U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, sent a letter to Mayorkas on Tuesday blasting him for “gross dereliction of duty” and citing record-high numbers of crossings at the southern border.
“These astronomically high numbers are due in no small part to the political decision to rescind a number of President Trump’s policies that were stemming the flow of illegal aliens and illicit drugs across the southern border,” Cruz and Graham’s letter said. “Withdrawing the Remain in Mexico policy, ending Title 42 expulsions, terminating border wall construction contracts, and countless other decisions, coupled with your own lax border policies, act as ‘pull’ factors that have encouraged millions of aliens to undertake the dangerous journey to the U.S.-Mexico border.”
The letter is not the first time Cruz has sparred with Mayorkas, who has been a consistent target of conservative ire over immigration. He has repeatedly floated the idea of impeaching him on his podcast.
The Republican senators also said Mayorkas was responsible for the worsening of the opioid epidemic as DHS has “ceded control of our southern border to the cartels.”
DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Texas has put forward $4 billion to fund Operation Lone Star, which Gov. Greg Abbott launched in March 2021 to ramp up security along the Texas-Mexico border. Abbott has made border security the centerpiece of his reelection campaign and has torched Biden administration officials for the increase in migrant crossings. But despite his efforts, the number of migrants that officials encounter at the southern border is higher today than it was before the start of Operation Lone Star program.
The tough posture toward the DHS secretary comes as Republicans prep for possible control over the House and Senate after the midterm elections. While any legislative wins are unlikely with President Joe Biden in the White House, one source of leverage Republicans could gain is control over congressional oversight.
Cruz previewed what his party would do with a majority in the Senate — which he described as 60% likely — in an appearance at The Texas Tribune Festival in September.
“You’ll have real oversight,” Cruz said in front of a crowd in Austin. “Senate Judiciary Committee — we haven’t had a single hearing on the chaos at the southern border. One of the first things that is likely to happen is I think the House will impeach Alejandro Mayorkas.”
While he admitted the Senate would never be able to convict Mayorkas, he said the value in the impeachment would be having “an extensive trial on his absolute dereliction of duty to put these facts before the American people.”
It was not the first time a Republican has put out the trial balloon for Mayorkas’ impeachment. More than a dozen GOP lawmakers have already lined up behind the idea of impeachment, according to CNN.