Darlington, MD — It is a travesty enough when the drug war lays waste to the rights and lives of entirely decent people who’ve harmed no one simply because they choose to ingest a substance deemed illegal by the state. However, because the drug war is such an immoral and barbaric practice, entirely innocent people are also swept up in the dragnet of tyranny and ignorance. Case in point: a couple in Maryland were raided by cops for posting photos of legal morel mushrooms they picked and ate.
On Friday, John Garrison and his girlfriend Hope went foraging the mountains for some morel mushrooms. Morels are known to those in the region as being the safest mushroom to hunt for as they are very easily identified due to their unique look. From mid April to mid May, lovers of nature and good food, like John and Hope will find them growing near trees or where there used to be trees.
Garrison was so excited that they had found a bunch of them, that he posted a photo on Facebook of he and Hope’s bounty along with his plans to “sautee them with brown sugar and cinnamon and see how that turns out.”
A great night of good food was set to follow an awesome day of hiking and foraging. That is, however, until the wheels of the police state drug war caught a whiff of the mushrooms.
Garrison made the post that they were about to saute the mushrooms at 9:09 pm. Only hours later as he and Hope sat back with full bellies, police showed up.
“We had just finished eating the Morels we found today and heard a knock on the door. A police officer and an RA were standing outside. We let them in and as soon as the police officer walked in he asked us why we were eating mushrooms and posting about it online. He thought he was on the biggest bust of his career thinking we were having a magic mushroom party before I explained to him that Morels are a native choice edible mushroom similar to truffles,” explained Garrison.
However, this cop—clearly unaware of the tasty morel and hell bent on busting kids for eating mushrooms—just knew he had caught himself a pair of hardened criminals who’d dare to expand their consciousness in the sanctity of their own home.
“He wasn’t convinced. So I rummaged through the trash to find a peice (sic) of a Morel so that he would have evidence that we weren’t taking psychedelic mushrooms. I showed him and he still wasn’t convinced that they weren’t magic mushrooms, Which was shocking to me because morels look nothing like a psychedelic psilocybin (sic) mushrooms and I figured a police officer would know what illegal drugs looked like. A second police officer showed up and I showed her the Morel and she immediately knew it was a Morel which was a relief. They processed our ID’s and eventually left. What an experience,” Garrison wrote on Facebook.
Indeed, it was a troublesome experience and, had anything made police fear for their lives during this interaction, things could have turned out a lot worse.
Equally as troubling as cops raiding your apartment over Facebook posts for legal mushrooms is how they found out about it in the first place. Were police simply trolling Facebook that night and saw Garrison’s post? Or, did some “good citizen” do their due diligence and “see something and say something”?
Either way, both of those scenarios are undesirable and facilitated by the state’s immoral and violent drug war. Until the dinosaurs in the prison industrial complex—who keep the drug war alive to reap massive profits off of persecuting people for victimless crimes—are exposed, this madness will continue and others will not be as luck as John and Hope.
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At the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, hundreds of thousands of African Muslims were forcibly brought to the United States to be enslaved. One of them, Omar Ibn Said, from Futa Toro, in modern-day Senegal, chronicled his journey and life under enslavement in a brief 15-page manuscript. “Wicked men took me by violence and sold me,” he wrote. “We sailed a month and a half on the great sea to the place called Charleston in the Christian land. I fell into the hands of a small, weak and wicked man, who feared not God at all.”
Omar Ibn Said converted to Christianity after he was forced from West Africa to the newly declared United States. His own autobiographical writings, however, provide evidence that he continued practicing Islam, as he had done in his homeland, until his death. “His outward conversion was a shield from punishment, one that enabled him to continue to observe Islam, his native faith,” writes critical theorist and legal scholar Khaled Beydoun in his new book, “American Islamophobia.”
Beydoun traces the beginnings of structural Islamophobia in the United States to Omar Ibn Said’s story, dispelling the pervading myth that it is a new phenomenon that came about only after 9/11 and intensified with the arrival of Trump to the political stage. He convincingly argues that throughout the existence of the United States, there has always been a legal framework in place that defines Islam and Muslim identity as incompatible with Americanness. Beydoun draws on the work of various theorists, including Edward Said and Kimberlé Crenshaw, to define Islamophobia as a structural phenomenon that is not simply rooted in acts of hate from private individuals and impacts Muslims occupying multiple identities, such as queer Muslims and black Muslims, in varying ways.
Khaled Beydoun, associate professor of law at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and senior affiliated faculty at the University of California, Berkeley Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project.
Photo: University of California Press
Much like other notable works on Islamophobia by scholars like Erik Love and Moustafa Bayoumi, Beydoun looks at the scope and impact of domestic “war on terror” legislation in how it racialized Muslims and transformed everyday life within Muslim communities. What he adds with “American Islamophobia” is the terminology and language to describe the demonization of Muslims from the state — and the necessary legal and historical context to understand the depth of structural Islamophobia and the tools needed to dismantle it.
The Intercept interviewed Khaled Beydoun about the experience of Muslim and Christian immigrants from the Middle East in the early 20th century, the roots of a media discourse that otherizes Muslims, and Trump’s continuation of a long heritage of systemic discrimination.
You begin your book by defining Islamophobia as rooted in state law and policy, and of course, there are instances of Islamophobia that happen in the form of hate crimes from everyday citizens. Can you walk through how these two forms of Islamophobia work together?
Fundamentally, I define it as the presumption that Islam is violent, inassimilable, and prone to terrorism. That presumption is effectively driven by law, by state policy. However, since Islamophobia has captured a lot of attention in the last couple of years, it’s been characterized as a form of animus or fear held by private individuals. It’s thought to be irrational, unleashed by individuals who are representative of society rather than what the state is doing, which exempts the state from any role with expanding or intensifying Islamophobia.
As a law scholar, I spend a lot of time thinking about Islamophobia and its precedent system, Orientalism. These stereotypes that are held widely by people, that are subscribed to by media pundits, scholars, and others, are derived from law and policy. That is their origin. I think one of the fundamental theses of the book is that it is state law and policy that is spearheading and disseminating these negative tropes. And the fundamental trope is tying Muslim identity to the possibility for terrorism.
Structural Islamophobia is basically how state policy like the Patriot Act, NSEERS, Countering Violent Extremism, the travel bans, even the “See Something, Say Something” campaign, are all central to advancing the war on terror, are built upon the foundational presumption that ties Muslim identity to the possibility of homegrown radicalization.
[NSEERS, the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, required tens of thousands of designated travelers from mostly Arab and Muslim-majority countries to be fingerprinted and interviewed upon entering the United States. The Countering Violent Extremism program gives federal grants to community organizations and law enforcement to monitor people espousing radical beliefs. The program has overwhelmingly focused on Muslims.]
“American Islamophobia: Understanding the Roots and Rise of Fear,” by Khaled Beydoun.
Photo: University of California Press
Private Islamophobia, which is the form that is widely covered and monopolizes broader definitions of Islamophobia, looks primarily at what private individuals are doing with regard to attacking, targeting, holding specific negative ideas of Muslims. We see this through the uptick in hate crimes, attacks on conspicuous or visible Muslims.
Dialectical Islamophobia is what ties the two together. It’s the idea that law and policy that forms structural Islamophobia are communicating really powerful messages to the people. If war on terror policies are effectively communicated — that Muslims are suspicious and close tabs need to be kept on them — that is effectively qualifying to the citizenry that these are bad, scary people. It’s endorsing these negative stereotypes that are widely held in society, which are disseminated from mass media and film. The dialectic is whereby state policy is endorsing and authorizing stereotypes of Muslims. During moments of crisis, the rhetoric that comes from people like Trump emboldens private Islamophobia.
In the book, you walk through the immigration cases of Muslim and Christian immigrants from the Middle East in the early 20th century. As a legal scholar, was there anything that surprised you in researching these past cases?
I initially read about these cases when I was in law school. I first encountered these cases, which are called the naturalization cases, through the experiences of non-Arabs and non-Muslims. I was reading what happened to South Asians and East Asians. There are two landmark Supreme Court cases that many people will read in law school: U.S. v. Thind, a case involving a Sikh individual seeking to become a naturalized citizen, and U.S. v. Ozawa, involving a Japanese resident of California.
I was reading these cases in the aftermath of 9/11. I quickly realized that much of the legal, scholarly attention on this era did not address what happened with Arabs and Muslims. It was primarily focused on what was going on with East Asians, South Asians, and Europeans. There was great work done on Jews and Italians seeking citizenship, and how Judaism and Catholicism pre-empted the possibility of immigrants from Europe who were Jewish and Catholic from becoming white. But there were very few Arab and Muslim law scholars. I wanted to try and fill that void.
It’s important to note from 1790 to 1952 there was a law in place called the Naturalization Act of 1790, which mandated whiteness as a prerequisite for citizenship. Which means if you were an immigrant from anywhere in the world and you wanted to become a naturalized citizen, you had to prove to a civil court judge that you were, in fact, white. This posed a dilemma not only for Muslims but anybody who came from “the Orient.” If you were a Christian coming from Lebanon or Syria, or an Egyptian Coptic Christian, Chaldean, or Assyrian coming from modern-day Iraq, even if you were a Jew coming from Morocco, you were presumed to be Muslim. Muslim identity was racialized and Orientalism was embraced by the courts. So you see Orientalism shift from this theoretical discourse into a legal phenomenon because it drove how civil court judges saw these immigrants from the region known as the Muslim world. Arab Christians effectively had to over-perform their Christian identity in order to persuade judges that they were not Muslims in order to be perceived to be white by law.
Religion was central to the formation of racial identity, and the cornerstone of whiteness is Christianity. So Christianity became the possible portal by which Arab Christians could become white. In 1915, the Dow v. United States case ruled that specifically Syrian Christians were white by law. However, Muslims, because Islam was constructed as the racial, civilizational antithesis of whiteness and American identity, could not become citizens.
Before 9/11, what would you say is the most significant turning point in terms of how mass media frames Islam and Muslims?
The imagery out of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis was really potent, and it modernized how we conceive of the Muslim threat today. It was a shift from how we thought about the images and ideas that were disseminated from classical Orientalism, which primarily depicted Muslims as savage and patriarchal but weren’t the kind of immediate national security threat in the way that we imagine them today.
The hostage crisis demonstrated the early stages of the development of the modern Muslim terrorist. You saw these turban-clad, beard-wearing Iranian men carrying rifles handling these ambassadors and statesmen who were largely white. And remember, it was around the clock coverage at the time. People came home and were watching for updates, it was on the front pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post. News anchors were building careers off of this. The ratings for coverage of the hostage crisis were through the roof.
It also had major political ramifications; Jimmy Carter lost the election because of his handling of the hostage crisis. The sheer scale of the event and that political moment led to the permeation of this male, Muslim, brown, bearded threat, which becomes the modern prototype for how we think about the Muslim terrorist. In addition to that, it had a major psychological impact in that American hegemony isn’t as strong as we might think. It was a moment of vulnerability, that these guys can really do harm if they want.
The second major moment is the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The immediate reporting from prominent, well-respected journalists in news stations like CNN and CBS reported it as a Muslim threat. There’s a tie to what happened and how the impact of 1979 was entrenched in media institutions. That was the reporting initially, but it turned out that the culprit, Timothy McVeigh, was a young white man conspiring with other young white men.
Ultimately, I don’t think the identity of the real culprit mattered because it demonstrated in the contemporary moment in 1995, regardless of what happens, the immediate presumptions were that suspects are going to be Muslims. Even when they’re not, the state response will be geared specifically toward Muslims, which demonstrates the early stages of structural Islamophobia as we know it today coming to the fore.
What do you make of the more recent contemporary and “liberal” depictions of the “good Muslim/bad Muslim” dichotomy that equates piousness as suspect, and non-practicing Muslims as the “acceptable” way of being Muslim?
You have a celebration of Muslim womanhood, especially the hijab in the commercial mainstream. For instance, Macy’s just adopted a line of conservative clothing including hijabs. Nike just made a Nike Pro Hijab. Mattel made a doll of Ibtihaj Muhammad, the Olympic fencer. This celebration of Muslim women appears to be progress. But we have to ask, What are they driven by? Are they driven by commercial interests? And why now? What about this moment makes it palatable or safe to express Muslim identity?
There’s a racial dimension, too. You don’t see black Muslims being celebrated in mainstream spaces. There’s a racial and a colorist dimension. There’s a commitment to not only almost stripping Muslim identity from its religious and conservative religious foundation, but also to whitewash it in some ways. To make it as palatable and alignable with whiteness as possible. So you see a celebration of fair-skinned Muslim women. You see a celebration of brown Muslim men in Hollywood who are generally quite intentional about distancing themselves from conservative expressions of Muslim identity. Which plays on the binary you brought up earlier — that these are individuals who are good Muslims who are keen on assimilating and who are veering toward American identity in ways that are distancing themselves from Muslim identity.
Can you elaborate on why black Muslims, despite being nearly a quarter of the American Muslim population, are rarely represented in media, pop culture depictions, and even within the Muslim community? How does anti-blackness factor into Islamophobia?
It’s important to start off with the idea that the formation of racial classifications in the United States is distinct. It’s distinct in the fact that blackness was shaped to be the direct opposite or the antithesis to whiteness. Blackness became synonymous with slavery. It was shaped to brand black bodies as property and not human beings. As I point out in the book, a large percentage of enslaved Africans in the antebellum South were in fact Muslims. They continued to practice Islam when they were bonded to slavery.
This is in the legal origins of why we don’t see black Muslim bodies today as legitimate or bonafide Muslims. Because blackness became an identity, became stripped from religion. Simultaneous to the construction of blackness as areligious chattel was the production of Muslim identity through the Orientalist lens of being narrowly Arab and Middle Eastern. Muslim identity was racialized, and black bodies were commodified. Those two constructions were irreconcilable. In order to be Muslim, you had to be Arab or Middle Eastern. So a black Muslim was an identity that was oxymoronic according to the legal construction of Muslim identity and black identity.
And these perceptions and frameworks continue today. Most Americans will only view black Muslims as part of the Nation of Islam, not as any other type of Muslim. It’s tied to that specific political designation and it comes from these formative constructions of black and Muslim identities.
When we talk today about anti-black racism, it functions in a dynamic way within the Muslim community and beyond the Muslim community. We know that anti-black racism is pervasive in Arab Muslim communities and South Asian Muslim communities. That’s tied to a number of things. When Arabs and South Asians come stateside, they want to become white, and early on, this was because whiteness was tied to citizenship. You had to effectively be acknowledged as white by a court to become a citizen, and what’s central to the inclusion into the white population is the performance of anti-black racism. There’s an overcompensation effect when it comes to communities like Arabs and South Asians who want to be white. So they might engage in anti-black racism at a clip higher than whites to prove to the white gatekeepers that they are part of this group.
When we look at the intersection of anti-black racism and Islamophobia, especially during this moment in America, it highlights the enhanced vulnerability black Muslim communities face. This intersection of racist, aggressive, violent policing in places like Philadelphia and Baltimore, where there’s a sizable African-American Muslim community, or Minneapolis, where there’s a large black Somali community, makes these communities face structural and state-sponsored Islamophobic programs while also facing the perils of police brutality and racial profiling.
What do you make of the Trump administration’s brash anti-Muslim rhetoric and policy, with regard to the Muslim ban, and targeting of undocumented immigrants from African Muslim-majority countries? Do you consider this to be a new phase of Islamophobia in America?
We’re definitely in a new phase of Islamophobia, which can be best characterized as a transparent, brazen, explicit unleashing of Islamophobia that is spearheaded by the likes of Donald Trump. He makes it very apparent by enacting the Muslim bans and saying things like “Islam hates us.” The words are new and the scale of the rhetoric is unprecedented in the modern era, but the underlying ideas and structural mechanisms are well in place. Trump is succeeding two presidents who were entirely invested to carrying forward the war on terror. The difference is he is escalating things and he’s being more honest about it. But he’s not establishing new structures. The Department of Homeland Security was created by President Bush. President Obama intensifies surveillance of Muslim communities with establishing the Countering Violent Extremism program in 2011.
Photo: Amr Alfiky/Reuters
The fundamental distinction between Trump and the preceding two presidents is the type narrative that is relayed to the public. George Bush was very much wed to the “clash of civilizations” binary that we are at war with Islam. He framed it as the good Muslim versus bad Muslim binary. To him, there are the terrorists and there are the “good Muslims” who enlisted with us and buy into the war on terror project. Obama engages in embracing tolerant, almost laudatory rhetoric toward Muslims. He gave that beautiful speech in Cairo months after he was elected. But then there’s a dissonance where the message sounds really good, but the policies he capitalizes on are still wed to the idea that Muslim identity is correlated to the prospect for radicalization. Countering Violent Extremism becomes the signature counterterror program that he establishes. Trump does away with all of that. He doesn’t even engage in the good Muslim/bad Muslim binary. To him, they’re all bad. He embraces a more hyperbolized form of the clash of civilizations. There are no good Muslims according to Trump. Perhaps the only good Muslims to him are in places like Saudi Arabia that have some sort of economic and political value.
What needs to be done to dismantle structural Islamophobia? Are you hopeful that it can be done?
We have to approach it the way we think about dismantling and diminishing other forms of racism. It’s important to tie Islamophobia to the broader project of white supremacy. You can see that correlation really closely in the Trump campaign itself. “Make America Great Again” is the covert appeal to restoring white supremacy. It’s tied to the idea that we need to prohibit the entry of Muslims and rebuff the expansion of Islam.
Even among Muslims, there’s a lot of misunderstanding as to what Islamophobia is. There isn’t an understanding, broadly speaking, that ties it to laws, policies, and state structures, so the first step is to acknowledge that. That’s the primary catalyst of Islamophobia. Then the second step is to think about real strategy that enables us to bring down these policies. Even more so, the fundamental tenet that enables these policies to work. We’ve got to defeat the idea that Muslim identity is correlative with terrorism. And honestly, we have all the evidence that enables us to do that. Look at who the most likely mass shooters are, and who poses the greatest demographic threat in the United States — it’s not Muslims. We have to arm ourselves with arguments that critique the policies that are currently in place. If we can do that, then we can disconnect what the state is doing from endorsing negative stereotypes that are held widely in society.
How we do that practically is another question, which is why we need critical Muslim representation, not tokenized representation in media, academia, and in every sphere of American society. And I think we are seeing the formative stages of an emerging Muslim American intellectual renaissance, juxtaposed with this moment of rife Islamophobia.
Top photo: People hold flowers during a vigil for Nabra Hassanen, a 17-year-old Muslim girl killed while walking to her mosque, in New York City on June 20, 2017.
On Friday night, President Trump ordered the U.S. military to conduct a bombing attack against the government of Syria without congressional authorization. How can this be constitutional, given the fact that Article I, Section 8 of America’s founding document declares that “The Congress shall have Power … To declare War”?
The deeply bizarre and alarming answer is that Trump almost certainly does have some purported legal justification provided to him by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel — but no one else, including Congress, can read it.
The Office of Legal Counsel is often called the Supreme Court of the executive branch, providing opinions on how the president and government agencies should interpret the law.
We know that Trump received a top secret OLC opinion justifying the previous U.S. strike on Syria on April 6, 2017. Friday’s bombing undoubtedly relied on the same memo or one with similar reasoning.
So while over 80 members of Congress wrote to Trump on Friday night stating that “engaging our military in Syria … without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution,” their action has no impact. The military will rely on the OLC’s opinion that, constitutionally speaking, Trump’s orders were perfectly fine. And it will be quite difficult for members of Congress to argue otherwise, since they don’t even know what the Trump administration’s precise rationale is.
It is not unprecedented for the OLC’s reasoning to be classified. Over 20 percent of its opinions between 1998 and 2013 have been secret.
However, these OLC memos were generally written on government actions that were themselves classified. One notorious example is the so-called “torture memos” produced by the OLC during the George W. Bush administration.
What makes Trump’s actions new, according to several legal experts I spoke with, is that previous presidents appear to have always made public their legal justification for any overt military action on a significant scale. No matter how shoddy their explanations were, this at least made debate possible.
The only reason the existence of the 2017 OLC memo on Syria is public knowledge is because the organization Protect Democracy filed a lawsuit to compel the Justice Department to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request that the OLC provide “the President’s legal authority to launch such a strike.”
The OLC refused — but did produce an index of relevant documents. The first on the list is key: As described by the OLC, it is a “Legal Memo” that “is currently classified TOP SECRET.”
Soon after the 2017 strikes, two prominent Democrats, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Rep. Adam Schiff from California, wrote to Trump and requested “a detailed analysis of the legal precedents and authorities supporting the action in Syria.” They have not received any response.
So what does the OLC’s secret memo say? Obviously it’s impossible to be certain, but it is possible to make educated guesses.
James Madison, the Constitution’s main architect, explained that the power to declare war must be “fully and exclusively vested” in Congress because history showed that “the executive is the department of power most distinguished by its propensity to war: hence it is the practice of all states, in proportion as they are free, to disarm this propensity of its influence.”
The Constitution did, to some degree, work to restrain this presidential tendency through World War II. Since then, however, both Republican and Democratic presidents have made concerted efforts to break the Constitution’s chains, using extremely strained interpretations of the Constitution itself.
In 1950 President Truman sent hundreds of thousands of troops to Korea to fight an extraordinarily brutal war without any authorization from Congress. Instead, his administration claimed he had the power to do this because Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution says that the president “shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.” Therefore, “the President’s power to send the Armed Forces outside the country is not dependent on Congressional authority.”
The Gulf of Tonkin resolution provided some degree of Congressional authorization for the Vietnam War. But then the U.S. began a secret military campaign against Vietnam’s neighbor, Cambodia. In 1970 William Rehnquist, later to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was head of the OLC. He provided the Nixon administration with an opinion stating that the Korean War “stands as a precedent for executive action in committing United States armed forces to extensive hostilities without any formal declaration of war by Congress.” Moreover, the U.S. had “in no sense gone to ‘war’ with Cambodia” and Nixon did not require any further authorization from Congress, given “the constitutional designation of the President as Commander in Chief.” The U.S. ended up dropping more bombs on Cambodia – which then had a population smaller than that of New York City — than we used during all of World War II.
This perspective on presidential power eventually become dogma for the U.S. hard right. Congress in fact did authorize the Gulf War in 1991, but Dick Cheney, who was then Secretary of Defense, believed that this was totally unnecessary, and indeed later claimed the George H.W. Bush administration had the power to go to war even if Congress had voted the resolution down. “We had the Truman precedent from the Korean crisis of 1950,” Cheney explained. “From a constitutional standpoint we had all the authority we needed.”
The OLC handed the George W. Bush administration a memo similar to that of Rehnquist’s three weeks after the 9/11 attacks. Thanks to Article II, it said, the Constitution establishes that “the Founders entrusted the President with the primary responsibility, and therefore the power, to use military force in situations of emergency.” Therefore the President did not need congressional authorization to attack “terrorist organizations or the States that harbor or support them, whether or not they can be linked to the specific terrorist incidents of September 11.”
After Trump ordered last year’s strike on Syria, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson explained that he’d done so “pursuant to his power under Article II of the Constitution as Commander in Chief,” without any authorization by Congress. Then last night, Secretary of Defense James Mattis stated that “the president has the authority under Article II of the Constitution to use military force overseas to defend important U.S. national interests,” and the bombing was therefore constitutional because “The United States has an important national interest in averting a worsening catastrophe in Syria, and specifically deterring the use and proliferation of chemical weapons.”
So the general outlines of Trump’s legal basis for Friday’s bombing are fairly clear. There also are truly extreme. As Jack Goldsmith, one of the heads of the OLC during the Bush administration, has said, it’s a perspective that “places no limit at all on the president’s ability to use significant military force unilaterally.”
That would be bad enough, of course, if everything were out in the open. But at least then it could be debated on specifics, rather than supposition. Instead, we have allowed the Constitution to be eviscerated to the point that not only does the president have nearly unlimited war powers, we can’t even say exactly why.
ROBERT Friedland, the boss of Ivanhoe Mines, a large Canadian firm that digs out copper and zinc in Africa, is not one for pessimism. In his speech to an annual mining industry jamboree, Mining Indaba, in Cape Town, his promises about the potential of the business were as copious as the ore bodies his firm mines. But amid the hyperbole about electric cars, Chinese consumers and the “most disruptive copper discovery in the world” there was a note of panic. Money, he warned, is “a coward”, and may be about to flee.
The cause of fear is a new mining code that was passed by parliament in the Democratic Republic of Congo on January 24th. Congo is Africa’s biggest copper producer; its reserves, mostly in the southern copper belt, are among the world’s richest. As important, it has emerged recently as the world’s leading producer of cobalt, a by-product of copper smelting that is used in batteries for electric cars. It also produces gold, zinc, tin and diamonds.
There’s big money in legal weed, and the federal government’s cut could be more than $ 5 billion a year from sales tax revenue alone.
So says a new study by New Frontier Data, a marijuana market research firm, which assumed a 15 percent retail sales tax. Add payroll tax deductions and business tax revenue from new jobs and enterprises, and the study says new revenue will total more than $ 138 billion. (That estimate is based on a 35 percent corporate tax rate, and the new tax law lowered the rate to 21 percent. No biggie.)
The study also estimated that if the federal government legalized pot, the marijuana industry could create more than a million new jobs over the next eight years.
Whether or not the numbers are exactly right, the study’s broad conclusions are intuitive. It should be obvious that bringing a portion of the drug trade out of the black market will create new legal jobs and new tax revenue. (The study suggests that 25 percent of the pot trade could remain in the black market even with full legalization, although lower taxes could reduce that.)
The economic arguments for legalization are not new, but the mainstream is finally catching on. Vermont is set to become the ninth state to legalize recreational marijuana, and the first to do so via the state legislature.
In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to fully legalize marijuana, via ballot initiatives. At the same time, for the first time since Gallup polled the question in 1969, a majority of Americans—58 percent—favored legalization. Today the number is 64 percent. In 1969, it was just 12 percent. The Trump administration, unfortunately, is moving in the other direction.
You may have heard: Legal weed is coming to the Golden State.
In November 2016, California passed Prop 64, or the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, making it legal for any adult over the magical age of 21 to possess or grow pot under certain amounts. Hippies cheered. And on January 1, pot shops in California are set to open their doors…sort of. Turns out, it’s complicated. Prop 64 allows cities and counties to set their own laws regarding weed, and many are passing legislation prohibiting dispensaries and outdoor grows.
Meanwhile, Silicon Valley venture capitalists are throwing their money at cannabis; the federal government says pot is still illegal; and licensed, small-scale pot cultivators across California are freaking out about the state’s newest set of cannabis regulations, which will allow Big Ag to jump into the market in January.
So, as you can see, a lot is happening in a relatively short amount of time, and you probably have questions about what legal pot will mean for California and the rest of the country. (After all, California currentlyships 80 percent of its weed out of state via the black market.)
For some ideas, here are questions our own staff has: Where will I be able to buy legal pot? Will a black market for weed still exist? As far as regulation goes, what side are Republicans on? And will there be cannabis ice cream?
What do you want to know? Fill out this form. We’ll get the answers.
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Does a river have rights? A coalition of US environmental groups thinks so. They have filed a lawsuit in Denver that says the Colorado river’s “right to exist, flourish, regenerate, be restored, and naturally evolve” has been violated by its namesake state.
The Colorado provides water to 36 million people in seven arid US states and north-west Mexico. Thanks to irrigation, it greens thousands of square kilometres. But the river, which is severely overused for agriculture
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