Marijuana: Devil’s Lettuce or Miracle Crop?

Although a lot went wrong in 2016, progress was most definitely made for the legalization of marijuana. Four states, including California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada all legalized recreational imgres-1marijuana usage. Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota, and Montana all legalized medical usage of the drug. Although progress has been made, there is still a lot of stigma around using marijuana both recreationally and medically. There are many benefits to legalizing marijuana including economic, civil, and medical purposes. These benefits can be seen in states that have already legalized the drug like Colorado and Washington. The Justice Department, however, has stated that there will be “a greater enforcement of federal laws,” which one can assume means a greater enforcement of federal marijuana laws. Because of this, I feel it is necessary to bring up the benefits of marijuana and why, as a country, we would be better off if the drug was legal across the board.

To start, I would like to call your attention to the economic benefits of having marijuana being legal in your state. According to the Marijuana Policy group, legal marijuana activity in Colorado, in 2015 alone, generated $2.39 billion. Not only does legal marijuana stimulate economic activity, but it also creates jobs. In Colorado that same year the marijuana industry created 18,005 full-time equivalent positions. According to this study, the industry is projected to grow 11.5% through 2020. Even considering the possibility that the industry could shrink in each state when it is eventually legalized across the country, there is still a lot of room to grow in the next 3 years. Legalizing marijuana has huge economic potential, but the list of benefits doesn’t stop there.

To compound this economic benefit, the civil benefit of not sending people to prison for possession and intent to sell charges would save the tax payers money and put less people behind bars. According to the Vera Institute of Justice the average cost per prisoner per state is $31,286. According to drugpolicy.org , in 2015 643,121 people were arrested on marijuana law violations; of those arrests 89% of them were on possession charges alone. To do some simple math that means we as a country spend about $20,120,683,606 on incarceration for marijuana charges. America also currently has the highest incarceration rate in the world of about 1 in every 111 adults , or 2,224,400 people. Not only would the legalization of the drug lower the cost of prisons, it would also award more personal freedom to each and every American.

Lastly, the medical benefits of marijuana are also great in number. According to Business Insider, marijuana has potential to treat glaucoma, alleviate harm to lungs after smoking tobacco, epileptic seizures, anxiety, and even slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. It can also help with dieting by increasing your metabolism. It has been shown to spur creative activity and even help cancer patients with their appetite. These are only a few of the cases marijuana has been shown to help prevent, slow, or heal. The complete list of benefits of marijuana, in a medical sense, have yet to be seen and will become present when medical marijuana is legalized in all 50 states.

Legalizing marijuana in all 50 states would create a multitude of benefits for our nation. Legalization would lead to an economic boom, creating huge gains in our GDP, tax dollars for funding our government, and new jobs across the nation. Legalization would help with the ridiculously high incarceration rate in the United States. It also wraps back around to helping economically by reducing the amount of money we spend on incarceration. Lastly, the innumerable potential and proven benefits in the medical field would have an immeasurable impact on the United States medical industry. As an after thought, it is rather hypocritical of the President to enforce federal law on some issues while leaving decisions up to the states on other issues; an infamous example being the Trump administration’s rollback on transgender rights. The President is simply using the selective application of state’s rights to push his own personal, misguided agenda, and it is frankly disgusting and disappointing.

Why the “Muslim Ban 2.0” is Entirely Unconstitutional

The Free Exercise and Establishment Clause are both clauses within the First Amendment in the Constitutional Bill of Rights that pertain to the freedom of religion. The Establishment Clause proceeds the Free Exercise Clause. The Establishment Clause states that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion”. The Free Exercise Clause states that “[Congress shall make no law…] prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” These clauses state what we refer to as the freedom of religion established in the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Donald Trump’s immigration ban, which was turned out in January as an executive order, is arguably unconstitutional due to First Amendment freedom of religion clauses. While no ruling has been handed down on the constitutionality of the ban, the 9th circuit appellate court ruled on a restraining order, essentially preventing the ban from being enforced as of yet.

Regardless of one’s views on the actions of the siting president, and regardless of how one views the interpretation of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses, in my opinion and interpretation, Trump’s ban violates these clauses and is therefore unconstitutional.

While many would argue that constitutional freedoms do not apply to non-US citizens, and while I will contend that legally this is true, morally I believe that is a very misguided excuse to promote hate based ideals. Anyway, I would argue that while constitutional freedoms do not directly apply to non-US citizens; many court rulings based on American soldiers’ violations of rights in the middle east and in Guantanamo Bay Cuba have said that, while every constitutional freedom does not extend to non-citizens, certain freedoms and rights do apply. Freedom of religion I would contend is part of this list. Like freedom of speech, freedom of religion is a reason to seek asylum in the US as a refugee. Therefore, I contend that freedom of religion extends to all people of the world, since our laws recognize it in all contexts, no matter the legal context.

Since I have now established my basis for extending the freedom of religion to all people, I will prove why in my opinion the ban is unconstitutional:

Due to the Establishment Clause cited above, I contend the ban violates this clause because, by targeting a religion in an indirect way, the executive order is essentially establishing a state religion. By banning immigration from 6 Muslim majority countries, the government, whether intentionally or not (based on Trump’s rhetoric it is), is declaring a sentiment that Islam is somehow opposed by the government. Now I understand that this is fairly obscure. I will also contend that the ban is on countries not people in a religion. However, technicalities aside, the ban is directed to Muslims not to countries. Based on the rhetoric of Trump and his administration, his people have a strong anti-Islam stance that is bigoted and hateful. This ban comes directly out of that intent and thus has some standing regardless of how the ban is phrased. While I will state that intent is not a reason to declare an act illegal or unconstitutional, intent is a major factor in the courts to determine the validity of an act of law and therefore has certain standing. With this said, by the Trump administration directly opposing Islam, the administration and his ban give stance that Islam is not acceptable in America. His ban through intent and practice gives legal validity to his opposition to Islam. The government, by directly opposing and not accepting a religion, is establishing a state religion in its own way. By elevating and supporting all other religions over Islam and by declaring Islam and Muslims dangerous, the government establishes that a religion, i.e. Islam, is inferior to other religions and that the USA will accept a superior religion. This is directly establishing a type of religion that is permissible in the USA. This, although obscure, is establishing religion and therefore is in direct violation of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment and thus makes the entire ban unconstitutional.

However, whether one takes this as an “in addition” or as a “conversely”, the ban also violates the Free Exercise Clause. As with my explanation above, after establishing a basis for constitutional freedoms and rights applying to non-citizens, an argument against the ban can be supported based on a violation of this clause. By restricting who is allowed to enter and become citizens of the USA based on their religion, the Trump administration is limiting the free exercise of religion in the country. This again can be supported by intent since he has stated that he wants to make a Muslim registry. As with above, there is slight validity due to his intent and because of that, his desire to require a religious group to join a registry and be monitored, he restricts not only the freedoms of the people, but he also restricts the way Muslims could practice their religion. Now in regards to his ban, he is limiting the way people can practice religion in the USA by saying that if you are Muslim you cannot enter the USA and become a citizen. This is in direct violation of the Free Exercise and thus deems the ban unconstitutional.

In regards to the two arguments I present above, I contend that the ban is unconstitutional and thus cannot be upheld or enforced. However, if these arguments do not convince you based on whatever objection one may have, direct discrimination against a group of people based on nationality is also illegal and unconstitutional due to the 14th amendment. Thus I contend that no matter one’s argument, support of this ban is misguided, bigoted, and immoral. And despite my personal views against the ban, it is by no means legal, let alone constitutional, and should be opposed simply because one must exercise their right to oppose tyranny.

To Do List: Imprison Flynn, Impeach Trump

Imagine an alternate universe where the most inexperienced candidate in US history lost the 2016 presidential election and the most qualified candidate in US history triumphed. It’s now less than a month after her inauguration, and President Hillary Clinton’s National Security Advisor resigns. The terms of his resignation are riddled with treasonous acts such as discussing the prospect of dropping US sanctions on Russia with Russian officials before being appointed to a position of such authority. The Logan Act, established in 1799, imposes a fine and/or imprisonment for any citizens who act on behalf of the US government without authorization, like this former National Security Advisor did.

Imagine the day following his resignation. Headlines such as “Crooked Hillary’s Crooked Administration” would flood the news following a national outcry for not only the imprisonment of the former National Security Advisor, but for the impeachment and imprisonment of President Clinton. Sadly Hillary is not our President, but on the bright side this scenario of having our country put at risk was completely hypothetical, right? WRONG. Now back to reality.

The reality is that President Trump’s National Security Advisor did commit these treasonous acts and he did resign. His name is Michael Flynn, a retired US Army Lieutenant General, and he should be imprisoned for his actions against our government. President Obama was implementing sanctions against Russia for the DNC hacking and other alleged forms of tampering with the 2016 elections. While our government was taking one action, private-citizen Michael Flynn thought it was in his best interest to call the Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, and illegally discuss a contradictory actions. The call has been made public along with his resignation letter so, less than a month into the Trump administration, it is easy to piece together the not very mystifying puzzle that is Flynn’s treasonous actions. An investigation into Flynn’s communication will be conducted, but the investigation shouldn’t end there. The American people need to know exactly when and what Donald Trump knew of these conversations, either before or after being sworn in, and if Flynn acted alone or committed treason due to given instructions. The ambiguity surrounding the Trump administration’s relationship with the Kremlin is extremely unnerving and what is even more disconcerting is Capitol Hill’s hesitance to investigate and resolve any potential conflicts. These conflicts did not start with Michael Flynn’s phone call and they will not end with his resignation; further actions must be taken immediately, and it seems that republicans don’t have the audacity to fight against such controversies.

In a speech Michael Flynn gave while campaigning for Donald Trump he said that “if I [Flynn] did a tenth of what [Hillary Clinton] did, I [Flynn] would be in jail.” Well here we are. Michael Flynn has done much more than a tenth of whatever he thinks Hillary did; he has broken the Logan Act and committed treason. The only logical conclusion, as stated in Flynn’s own words, is jail.

Para Todos los Latinos Viviendo en los EEUU Bajo el Presidente Trump

Yo sé bien que cada uno de los latinos que están viviendo en los EEUU bajo la presidencia de Donald Trump, está padeciendo un montón de ataques de los gringos y de otros en los EEUU. Especialmente, yo quiero decir que los mexicanos están sufriendo más que otros latinos a causa del muro que construirá Donald Trump. Pero también yo quiero pedir perdón de todos los latinos que son confundidos por mexicano sólo porque tienen la piel morena.

Primeramente, quiero que todos sepan que cada latino es aceptado en los EEUU. Aunque parezca que los estadounidenses no quieran que los latinos y especialmente los mexicanos estén en el país, sin embargo yo les quiero decir que ese grupo es una minoría en los EEUU. La mayoría de las personas los ven como ciudadanos tal como cada gringo. También hay sentimientos de temor a causa del muro que Trump quiere construir. Pero también, quiero darles mi creencia de que él no podrá construirlo.

Primeramente, él no podrá ser capaz de pagar para el muro.

En seguido, no hay ninguna manera en que los ciudadanos de los EEUU participen en construir ese muro.

También, el racísmo que cada uno de los latinos afrontan por las racistas en los EEUU es completamente pátetico. La mayoría de esas personas son gringos que no se han ido de sus comunidades por un solo ratico. Ellos pasan toda la vida sin la diversidad del mundo. Todos de ellos son blancos y gringos y no tienen la educación ni la experiencia para saber que los negros o los latinos son exactamente como ellos, seres humanos.

Somos humanos. Somos hermanos. Somos todos juntos. No tengan miedo. Aunque no tengan una tarjeta verde, ustedes son tal estadounidense como yo como él que se siente enfrente de ustedes. Todos de nosotros necesitan juntarnos como latinos para combatir el racísmo y las acciones que algunas personas, incluso el presidente Trump, quizás hagan en los EEUU. No vamos a quedarnos mudos ni no vamos a aguantar la opresión ya.

2020 Prospects

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There is nothing more comforting for frightened Democrats than knowing President Trump will be up for reelection in 4 years. Before we introduce our fantasy league of potential presidential candidates for 2020, we need to clear the air about who should not run in 2020.

As much as I supported Secretary Clinton in the primaries and the general election, she should absolutely not run in 2020. The Democrats suffered losses across the board, highlighting the imperative need for change within the party. Hillary Clinton represents the establishment Democratic party, and many disgruntled voters felt that it became a party no longer for the average American. However, Hillary Clinton is a trailblazer for women and many liberal issues that had never before stood on the Democratic platform. Hopefully her hard work in the 2016 election, and her entire life, opens the doors for progressive Democrats and creating a government that resembles it constituents in the near future.

Senator Bernie Sanders brought that change to the Democratic party that the Clinton establishment failed to spark. Additionally, Sanders excited millions of young adults and introduced them into the political process. But after the convention, those same young adults did not show up in large enough numbers to vote for the would-have-been first female president. While I believe Senator Sanders is too old to run again, especially 4 years later when he will be nearly 80 years old, I think his voice and his progressive platform would serve the party well for a younger Democratic candidate to champion.

The last two names that have floated around for potential presidential candidates in 2020 that I disagree with are Michelle Obama and Joe Biden. While I love them both (I mean who doesn’t love them), they would not be my first choice. Biden will be very old as well, and while he does have that ability to reach young voters like Sanders, he is too closely associated with the Obama administration. I firmly believe that 2020 needs to be a clean start for the party and that we should aim for a completely fresh administration. I am a huge fan of Michelle Obama, but I would want to see her get elected experience before she runs for the highest office. Perhaps the former First Lady will be groomed for the presidency for a future election, and I would be ecstatic to see her grace and intelligence enter the Oval Office. However, we need a Democrat who is prepared to take on Trump in 2020 and is ready to right the ship that his administration has already begun to sink after only 10 days in office. Here is our top 5 list of Democrats we would be thrilled to see run in 2020.

  • Elizabeth Warren
  • The senior US Senator from Massachusetts is currently one of the most high-profile Democrats and is a vocal advocate for progressive issues on Capitol Hill. She made our list because she is the younger and academic voice to Bernie Sanders, someone who could rejuvenate the Democratic party. Before being elected to the Senate, Warren was a decorated law professor at Harvard University and a published author. She is perhaps one of the most intelligent sitting senators based on her academic record, and she was also rumored to be on Clinton’s VP shortlist in 2016.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand
  • The junior US Senator from New York is my personal favorite for a 2020 run. While serving in the US House, she had a fairly moderate voting record. That changed when she was appointed to the Senate to take Hillary Clinton’s seat when Clinton was nominated for Secretary of State. She has voted against confirming nearly all of Trump’s nominations and has championed progressive legislation in the Senate.
  • Cory Booker
  • The junior US Senator from New Jersey is another one of the most high-profile Democrats currently. He recently made headlines for being the first sitting senator to question another sitting senator, Jeff Sessions, at his confirmation hearing for Attorney General. He is ambitious and unwavering in his beliefs. He was elected to the US Senate in 2012 and was previously mayor of Newark for 6 years. He has attended Stanford University, University of Oxford, and Yale Law School. He was also rumored to be on Clinton’s VP shortlist in 2016.
  • Kamala Harris
  • The junior US Senator from California was just elected to the Senate in 2016 and has showed immediate star-power. While she will have only been in the Senate for 4 years, Obama was in the same position when he ran for President. Her prior jobs include her being twice elected and serving as the Attorney General of California. The progressive is the first Indian-American and second black woman elected to the US Senate.
  • Tammy Duckworth
  • The junior US Senator from Illinois has many accolades and personal attributes that make her a great option to run, despite her being recently elected to the Senate in 2016. Previously, she served two terms in the US House of Representatives and before that she did state-sponsored work for veterans. This is fitting because Duckworth served in the US Army for the Iraq War where she traumatically lost both of her legs. Not letting anything hold her back, the second Asian-American woman elected to the US Senate is an energetic and passionate American hero.

It just happens to be that all of our top 5 picks are senators. Not only are they all experienced and capable of handling the presidency, but they reflect what America really looks like through what could be the most diverse primary in US history. It will be interesting to see in upcoming years how their actions reflect a possible presidential run.