- Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older.
- Experts have said the law contains one of the most comprehensive criminal justice reforms compared to other states that have legalized marijuana.
- Once in effect, the law will expunge the criminal records of nearly 770,000 people previously charged with buying or possessing 30 grams of marijuana or less.
- It also includes a social equity program that will provide grants and loans to people in communities impacted by the war on drugs and give them priority for obtaining business licenses to operate cannabis stores.
Illinois became the 11th state to legalize marijuana Tuesday when Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a bill that will make the sale of cannabis legal and implement sweeping criminal justice reform.
The bill is set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, and will allow Illinois residents 21 and over to buy and possess up to 30 grams (1 ounce) of recreational marijuana. Non-residents visiting the state will be allowed to purchase up to 15 grams.
Once in effect, the law will also automatically expunge the criminal records of around 770,000 people convicted of purchasing or possessing 30 grams of marijuana or less. Those convicted of buying or possessing 30 to 500 grams can petition a court to have their charges expunged.
The expungement provision is one of several in the bill targeted towards communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.
“In the past 50 years, the war on cannabis has destroyed families, filled prisons with nonviolent offenders and disproportionately disrupted black and brown communities,” Pritzker said at the bill signing.
“Studies have shown time and time again that black and white people tend to use cannabis at the same rates, but black people are far more likely to be arrested for possession,” he continued. “Today we are giving hundreds of thousands of people the chance at a better life.”
Social Equity Program
In addition to the expungements, the new law also includes a social equity program that will give grants and loans to individuals in communities affected by the war on drugs who want to start a cannabis business.
The program will also give preference to minorities who apply for businesses licenses. Heather Steans, the main Illinois state senator who sponsored the bill, predicted that at least 20% of licenses will go to people of color, according to Rolling Stone.
Additionally, the social equity program mandates that 25% of tax revenue from marijuana sales will go to redeveloping and reinvesting in communities that have been hurt by the war on drugs.
Law enforcement organizations expressed concern over the bill throughout the legislative process.
Police have argued that enforcing driving under the influence laws will be difficult as the technology for testing marijuana impairment needs to be developed more.
While the legalization bill was being debated in the state’s legislature, law enforcement lobbyists successfully killed a measure that would have allowed adults over 21 to grow up to five marijuana plants for personal use.
Police again argued that enforcement would be difficult, and as a result, the bill was amended so only medical marijuana users can grow plants at home.
However, law enforcement was not the only group that opposed the legalization or specific parts of it. According to Dan Linn, the executive director of Illinois NORML, the drug testing industry, as well as anti-drug groups and some religious organizations also fought against the bill.
Illinois now joins Washington, D.C. and 10 other states that have already legalized marijuana.
However, the state’s new law is a landmark in several ways. Illinois is the first state to legalize the sale of marijuana through its legislature rather than through a ballot initiative.
Illinois’ social equity program also represents one of the most comprehensive criminal justice reforms among states that have legalized marijuana.
Other states where cannabis is legal now have similar provisions, but those provisions were implemented separately after the states had already passed legalization.
Just last month Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a law that will allow misdemeanor marijuana convictions given before the drug was legalized to be vacated. The move came nearly seven years after the state voted to legalize marijuana.
In February, San Francisco became the first city in the U.S. to clear all eligible marijuana convictions when officials announced that they would dismiss 9,362 charges dating back to 1975. Again, the move came more than two years after California legalized marijuana.
Illinois’ new legalization law, by contrast, is the first one that mandates such extensive expungement from the start.
See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (The Associated Press) (CNN)
UPS Has Located Missing Package That Tucker Carlson Says Contains Damning Information About Biden Family
- On Wednesday night, Fox News host Tucker Carlson said that documents containing damning information about the Biden family went missing while being delivered via a national carrier which has since been identified as UPS.
- Carlson said the company conducted a thorough search for those documents, which included interviews with employees and inspections of planes and trucks. Still, the package remained lost.
- On Thursday, UPS provided an update and said they have located the package and are working on delivering it to Carlson. It is unclear when exactly he will receive it.
Tucker Carlson’s Mail Goes Missing
UPS said Thursday that it has located a package that went missing on its way to Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who claims the package has damning information about the Biden family.
Carlson made headlines on Wednesday night after spending a portion of his show discussing the trials and tribulations of his mail delivery saga. He claims a source gave him a collection of documents with authentic incriminating information about the Bidens, but he did not detail the accusations in them. Carlson was in Los Angeles to conduct an interview and asked a producer to overnight the documents to him from New York.
“So Monday afternoon this week he shipped those documents overnight to California with a large national carrier brand, a brand name company that we’ve used and you’ve used with never a single problem,” he continued. “But the Biden documents never arrived in Los Angeles. Tuesday morning we received word from the shipping company that our package had been opened and the contents were missing. The documents had disappeared.”
Carlson told the story as though he were the first person in recorded history to ever have issues with mail delivery. Questions about why there were apparently no copies of these documents, or why they weren’t sent using any of the modern technology the twentieth century has to offer aside, he was visibly upset that they were not in his hands.
UPS Locates Package
UPS confirmed to numerous outlets that it was the company Carlson was using to deliver the documents. During his show, Carlson said that the company had engaged in a thorough search for the contents of the package, including scouring trucks and planes and interviewing every employee who touched the package. By the time he went to broadcast, that search showed no promise.
“They found nothing. Those documents have vanished,” Carlson claimed. “As of tonight, the company has no idea and no working theory about what happened to this trove of materials.”
While Carlson seemed to suggest that something nefarious happened to the documents, like interception from mail scanning liberals or getting lost in the Bermuda Triangle, Carlson will be getting that package after all. Lucky enough for the Fox News host, UPS confirmed to numerous outlets that the package was found and will be on its way soon.
“After an extensive search, we have found the contents of the package and are arranging for its return,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “UPS will always focus first on our customers, and will never stop working to solve issues and make things right.”
It is unclear when exactly those documents will get to Carlson or why they were subject to such delay. All eyes are now on Carlson though, as he promised the world damning information about the Bidens in that package. Carlson has not yet commented on the documents being found or what he plans to do upon receiving them.
See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (The Wrap) (The Daily Beast)
Millions of Mail-in Ballots Have Still Not Been Returned as USPS Delays Continue
- Current data shows that millions of absentee ballots sent to voters have yet to be returned, and with mail delays continuing, many Americans are now unable to mail in their ballots and still be sure their vote counts.
- While officials and the USPS are warning people not to send in ballots less than a week before their state’s deadline, there have been some mixed messages.
- A postmaster in Michigan directly contradicted the Secretary of State and told voters it was still safe to mail in their ballot. In Texas, a county administrator admitted that many absentee ballots have not even been delivered to those who requested them yet.
- At the same time, the USPS is reporting incredibly alarming delays, with some key battleground states reporting on-time mail delivery rates lower than 60%.
Millions of Votes Yet to Be Cast
With less than a week until the election, nearly 40 million of the 90 million mail-in ballots that American voters have requested have not yet been returned, according to data reported Thursday by the U.S. Elections Project, a nonpartisan vote tracking site.
The number of unreturned ballots are especially high in several key swing states like Florida, where over 1.7 million requested ballots have not yet been sent back. Nearly 1 million requested ballots in Pennsylvania have also not been returned.
While experts say it is possible that many people who requested ballots have since decided to vote in person instead, these numbers are still significant because for many of those millions who have not yet returned their ballot, their options are now much more limited.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has warned that voters should mail in their ballots a full week ahead of the deadline for counting set by their state in order to ensure that their vote will be counted.
In other words, if you live in one of the roughly 30 states that require ballots to be received by Election Day and have not yet voted, it is too late to safely mail in your ballot. To ensure your vote is counted, vote in person or use a ballot drop box if your state offers them. For more information on how to vote in your state, go to vote.org.
The USPS and many election officials have been issuing these same warnings, but there are still mixed messages being sent in some key states.
For example, on Tuesday, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson warned voters that it was too late for them to safely rely on the Postal Service. The next day, however, Grand Rapids Postmaster William Rowe contradicted the state’s top election official and encouraged voters to trust the Postal Service.
Rowe said that he himself mailed his own ballot the same day he received it, which was a day later than the USPS recommendation. Notably, the fact that he received his ballot less than a week before the deadline to mail it in is also something that is cause for alarm.
If the city’s postmaster did not get his ballot until then, how many others also did not get their ballots until a week before the election? That concern is also not just limited to Grand Rapids or Michigan. Plenty of voters all over the country have not yet received their mail-in ballots, and in some places, that is not an accident.
In Texas, election officials have outright said mail-in ballots are still being sent to voters through the end of this week, even though their votes will not be counted unless they are postmarked by Election Day and arrive no later than Nov. 4.
In an interview with the Texas Tribune, Jacque Callanen, the elections administrator in Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, said that some voters might not even get their ballots until Halloween. Callanen even acknowledged that this is a “tight window,” for many voters adding, “We’re pushing it. But that’s how it works.”
For many voters “that’s just how it works” is an entirely unacceptable argument, especially in a state like Texas, which limits absentee requests to people who are genuinely limited in their ability to vote in-person like the elderly, people with disabilities, and overseas voters.
On top of that, the delay in getting voters their absentee ballots is also troubling because the USPS is still experiencing slow-downs as a result of the changes that Postmaster Louis DeJoy implemented over the summer.
According to The Washington Post, before DeJoy took office in June, the USPS delivered upward of 90% of first-class mail on time. After DeJoy implemented his so-called “cost-cutting” measures in July, those numbers plummeted, and they still remain alarmingly low, even after many of the policies were rolled back.
DeJoy, for his part, has promised to make election mail his main priority and supply additional resources, but the current data seems to indicate that he has not followed through at all.
The agency has repeatedly missed its goal to have more than 95% of first-class mail delivered within five days. In fact, according to USPS data filed in court as part of a lawsuit and accessed by The Post, as of Tuesday, exactly one week before the election, the office reported that only 69.8% of mail was on time nationally.
That is just the national average. Key postal districts in many swing states failed to reach even that mark. According to The Post, 17 postal districts that represent 10 battleground states reported the average on-time delivery rate for first-class mail was just 64%. That is nearly 30% lower than the delivery rate at the beginning of this year.
In some areas, the Postal Service reported that delivery rates fell below 60%, with one of the most extreme examples being the Philadelphia Metro postal district, where only 43% of Tuesday’s mail was delivered on time.
According to the Los Angeles Times in certain parts of the country, on-time delivery rates have dropped to levels lower than July, “when millions of Americans went days, even weeks, without mail.”
In an attempt to address these concerning numbers, Federal Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the District of Columbia on Tuesday ordered DeJoy to boost mail services in the week before the election. Under the order, the postmaster is required to increase the number of late mail trips and extra deliveries, in order to ensure election mail is on time.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Los Angeles Times) (The Texas Tribune)
Texas Supreme Court Sides With Gov. Abbott’s Order Limiting Counties to One Ballot Drop Box Each
- The Texas Supreme Court sided with Governor Greg Abbott’s order limiting counties to just one ballot drop off box each, arguing that the state has provided voters with plenty of options for the 2020 election.
- Also in Texas, a judge ruled against Abbott’s choice to exclude polling locations from the list of places where mask-wearing is mandatory. The judge agreed with critics, who said this discriminates against Black and Latino Texans who are more likely to be harmed by the pandemic.
- In other election news, the USPS was ordered to rescind rules limiting mail collection, with a judge saying late and extra trips should be performed to the maximum extent to ensure on-time election deliveries.
Texas Supreme Court Sides with Abbott
The Texas Supreme Court sided with Governor Greg Abbott on Tuesday, ruling in favor of his order that limited counties to just one absentee ballot drop-off location each.
Abbott’s order was criticized by Democrats and others who said restricting the number of places voters can drop their ballots off, especially in the midst of a worsening pandemic, amounts to voter suppression.
A judge initially overturned Abbott’s order, saying the limit could confuse voters. Shortly after, a federal judge halted their decision and sided with Abbott.
The state’s Supreme Court concluded that the order “provides Texas voters more ways to vote in the November 3 election than does the Election Code. It does not disenfranchise anyone.”
While the plaintiffs argued that it will require some voters to travel for a longer period of time, the court said that these voters do have other voting options, including sending their ballot via post. The court acknowledged that some fear the United States Postal Service may not deliver their ballot on time, but said that risk is “small.”
“In any event, the Constitution does not require a state to ‘afford every voter multiple infallible ways to vote,’ nor would it be possible for a state to foresee and eliminate every possible contingency that might prevent a given voter from casting a ballot,” the court said.
The stakes in Texas are growing as polling between President Donald Trump and his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, are getting tighter. The Cook Political Report moved Texas to its list of toss-up states on Wednesday morning, joining the likes of Florida and Georgia.
Judge Rules in Favor of Mask Wearing at Polls
This was not the only election-related decision handed out in Texas on Tuesday. A federal judge ruled that voters in the state should have to wear masks at polling locations, despite Abbott’s mandate making an exception for them.
Abbott’s decision to not include polling places on the list of locations where mask wearing is mandatory left a lot of voters in the state feeling uneasy, especially Black and Latino voters. Throughout the country, Black and Latino communities have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
In Texas, according to the Texas Tribune, Hispanic Texans made up almost 49% of COVID-19 deaths in the state as of July 30, despite being just under 40% of the population. Black Texans made up 14% of deaths, despite being around 12% of the population. Meanwhile, white Texans have been dying from the disease at a lower rate.
Because of this, Abbott’s exception was challenged for discriminating against Black and Latino voters. The judge agreed and said that the clause that provided the exception “violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because it creates a discriminatory burden on Black and Latino voters..
“For this reason, exemption 8 is invalid and void,” the judge wrote.
Other Election News
Other states have also seen significant rulings when it comes to voting. In Michigan, a judge struck down the Secretary of State’s ban on open carry at the polls on Election Day. The judge argued that Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson did not follow the proper procedure to create an administrative rule when enacting the ban, which the judge believes should be necessary in this case. Benson already plans to overturn it.
“As the state’s chief elections officer, I have the sworn duty to protect every voter and their right to cast the ballot free from intimidation and harassment,” she said to the Detroit Free Press. “I will continue to protect that right in Michigan.”
In South Carolina, a federal judge ruled that ballots in the state cannot be thrown out over mismatched signatures, claiming that the state does not have a consistent process for matching signatures. According to the Washington Post, the judge said that some counties had already disqualified ballots on signature issues without organization. He said that this is “obviously a significant burden” on voting rights.
On a federal level, a judge made a decision in hopes of getting more absentee ballots delivered and counted for the election. Judge Emmet Sullivan of the District Court for the District of Columbia ordered that as of Wednesday morning, the USPS must reverse its limitations on mail collection, which were enacted by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, an ardent supporter of President Trump. Those limitations went in place over the summer and limited late or extra trips, significantly slowing down down mail delivery time. These mail lags prompted Sullivan to order that they be rescinded.
“USPS personnel are instructed to perform late and extra trips to the maximum extent necessary to increase on-time mail deliveries, particularly for Election Mail,” Sullivan wrote.
“To be clear, late and extra trips should be performed to the same or greater degree than they were performed prior to July 2020 when doing so would increase on-time mail deliveries. Any prior communication that is inconsistent with this instruction should be disregarded.”