Illinois Officially Becomes the 11th State to Legalize Adult-Use Weed
June 26, 2019

Illinois Officially Becomes the 11th State to Legalize Adult-Use Weed

While the Land of Lincoln isn’t the first state to go legal, it’s the first to ensure social justice came with the total package.

Last year, JB Pritzker ran for the Illinois governor’s office on a promise to legalize weed. On Tuesday, June 25, he made that promise a reality by signing HB 1438 into law.

Illinois is now the 11th state to legalize cultivation, sales, and possession of recreational, or adult-use, cannabis. But it’s the first state to do so through its legislature rather than ballot question left to the voters. (Technically, Vermont is the first to legalize through its legislature, but only for possession, not sales.)

More importantly, Illinois is the first state to guarantee social justice and equity in its legalization program, as well. 

“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,” Gov. Pritzker said during a press conference. “Criminalization offers nothing but pain, disruption, and injustice. The legislators and activists standing with me today have heard you.”

So just how did Illinois accomplish what Colorado, California, Oregon, Alaska, Michigan, Washington, and other weed-legal states failed to do with their legalization bills?

One of the bill’s lead sponsors was Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), who already carved her niche among the state’s progressives by championing Illinois’s 2013 marriage equality law and a recent expansion of women’s reproductive rights

Getting weed legalized through the Illinois legislature wasn’t some accident, either. “That was the whole game plan from day one,” Cassidy told MERRY JANE over the phone. “When you have a [voter approved] ballot initiative, you only get a paragraph [of bill text] to work with.” 

By going the legislature route, Cassidy got to sit down with other lawmakers, state agencies, attorneys, and activists to craft the legalization bill from scratch. That meant hours upon hours of impassioned debate, negotiation, and education, not to mention multiple line-item strikes and revisions as the bill was arduously, but ultimately, fleshed out.

“It was one of the first truly collaborative processes I’ve been a part of. We cried together, we laughed together, and we worked our asses off. I don’t think it was easier,” she said regarding legalizing cannabis through the legislature, “but the end result was better.”

How did Illinois’s weed bill turn out “better” than the previous ten states’? HB 1428 includes the usual rules that have become standard by now: no selling to kids, keeping organized crime away from licensed weed profits, potency limits, and strict packaging rules. But while other weed-legal jurisdictions – like California – have approved programs for social equity or expungements, those were post-hoc moves. Illinois lawmakers ensured social justice came with the total package, instead of just another inconvenient afterthought following legalization. 

Under the expungement portion of the bill, Illinois must clear criminal records for the state’s 770,000 low-level weed offenders. That’s good news for residents who’ve struggled to find jobs, housing, or loans because they were convicted of victimless cannabis crimes.

“The mechanics of expungement were a serious concern,” Chris Lindsey, the Senior Legislative Counsel at the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), told MERRY JANE during a phone call. MPP is responsible for pushing legalization in several states, such as Colorado and Maine, and Lindsey worked closely with Illinois’s legislators, activists, and state agencies to ensure HB 1438 made it to Gov. Pritzker’s desk. 

“How do you set this up so there’s a feasible way for the state to do what you want? It’s very tricky….There are all these different counties. The [criminal] records don’t go into a massive database where someone can just hit ‘undo,’” he said.

To begin expungements, state officials will need to dig up old court orders, find the records, then remove the records, county-by-county. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen eventually.

“It’s very much a hand-held process,” Lindsey continued. “Getting those pieces to fit together, figuring out how we define what equity means, what benefits are available to people who fall into the equity applicant category…. Basically, how do we ensure it’s fair for everybody else?”

Under the social equity sections of the bill, prospective canna-business owners who live in “Disproportionately Impacted Areas” – in other words, low-income neighborhoods that are often targeted by police patrols – get bumped to the front of the line for the state’s much-coveted cannabis licensing. 

Social equity applicants can also qualify if they have prior weed arrests or convictions, or if they belong to a family that was “impacted” by the drug war. 

“Social equity is certainly the hallmark of this legislation,” Lindsey added.

While it’s going to take time to implement the bill’s social justice provisions, launching legal weed sales is on a tight deadline. By law, the program must be up and running by January 2020. The legislature officially approved legalization on May 31, and although the governor said then that he’d sign the bill as soon as he possibly could, it took nearly a month for HB 1438 to receive his signature. 

Why did the signing take so long? According to Rep. Cassidy, the governor joked that he wanted to hold off on signing it until “Snoop comes to the State Fair.” 

Uncle Snoop is set to perform in Illinois in August, so it’s probably best that Pritzker didn’t wait. 

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Beverly Hills becomes first U.S. city to ban tobacco sales
June 11, 2019

Beverly Hills becomes first U.S. city to ban tobacco sales

The Beverly Hills City Council on Tuesday unanimously voted to make it the first U.S. city to ban the sale of cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products.

The ban applies to gas stations, pharmacies, convenience and grocery stores, but includes exemptions for hotels and three local cigar lounges. It is set to take effect beginning in 2021.

"Allowing tobacco products to be sold in the city increases access to these harmful and dangerous products and does not promote the city's image as a healthy city," the ordinance reads, CNBC reported. 

Local business owners opposed the measure, arguing it would harm sales and could force employee layoffs. Meanwhile public health advocates argued that the benefits to public health outweigh the negative impact a ban could have on retail sales. 

Council Member Lili Bosse said the ban aligns with Beverly Hills' image as a healthy city, according to CNBC. 

"I thought this was just truly a landmark moment for our city, for our community," she said, according to the report.

Thomas Briant, executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, said the ban unfairly penalizes local gas stations and convenience stores.

Tobacco products make up more than a third of convenience stores' in-store sales, he said. "When you remove those in-store sales, the profitability is no longer there," he told CBS News. "We believe this will cause convenience stores in Beverly Hills to layoff employees and likely close their doors."

He said the ordinance will force consumers to buy their tobacco products in neighboring towns and cities, where they will also purchase their gasoline, beverages and snacks. "It's going to further reduce sales at convenience stores and that's why you will likely see them close," he said. 

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report


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11,000-year-old Spiritualized Deer Masks Whisper Tales Of A Forgotten World
June 08, 2019

11,000-year-old Spiritualized Deer Masks Whisper Tales Of A Forgotten World

Deer skulls with carved eyeholes dating to 11,000 years ago have been discovered at Star Carr Mesolithic archaeological site about five miles (8.0 km) south of Scarborough in North Yorkshire, England.

Often referred to as the most important Mesolithic site in Great Britain, Star Carr was occupied during the early Mesolithic archaeological period and the site was preserved because Lake Flixton, where the skulls were discovered, was filled in with peat; which fortunately prevented the organic materials from oxidizing and rotting.

Three of the 33 deer skull head-pieces, as well as tools, weapons, and jewelry are currently on display in the Li Ka Shing Gallery at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Downing Street, Cambridge. The exhibition is called “ A Survival Story – Prehistoric Life at Star Carr ” and the exhibition curator Dr. Jody Joy told reporters at Haaretz, “This was a time before farming, before pottery, before metalworking – but the people who made their homes there returned to the same place for hundreds of years.”

One of the three Mesolithic deer skull headdresses from the new exhibition.

One of the three Mesolithic deer skull headdresses from the new exhibition. (Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology )

11,000 years ago, ambient temperatures were rising, and the Ice Age retreated - causing ocean levels to rise. Archaeologists have unearthed profound amounts of hunting tools and weapons including “227 antler points used to hunt and fish” which is thought to be way in excess to what a small community would require. Further supporting the idea that Star Carr was not just a transit camp for nomadic hunter-gatherer-fishers, archaeologists involved in the Star Carr archaeology project found evidence of “Mesolithic-era wooden walkways and jetties into the lake” which are “the earliest-known examples of carpentry in Europe.”

Mesolithic Hunting Rituals

Archaeologists have a tendency to associate non-utile pre-agricultural artifacts to religion, but the Cambridge archaeologists involved at Star Carr raised the postulation that the deer headdresses “may have been items of camouflage worn while hunting.” While the visual of 30 plus hunters creeping through a woodland dressed as deer sets one’s imagination on fire, Dr Joy told reporters that “part of the antlers were removed… One suspects the deer wouldn’t have been fooled!”

To better understand why ancient people made such elaborate sacred objects, we must adopt a different world view and consider ‘animism.' Imagine for a moment a reality in which every material object and phenomena has an unseen life force; where material and spiritual realms are simply different parts of ‘one thing.’ In that world, free of pre-scientific reasoning, our forebears projected concepts of soul, spirit, and sentience onto fern and fauna, light and shadows, thunder, wind, rain and sunshine.

17th century drawing of a Tungus shaman wearing antlers.

17th century drawing of a Tungus shaman wearing antlers. ( Public Domain )

To enhance hunting and fishing success, pre and post hunting rituals aimed at focusing and unifying the appropriate natural elements must have developed way back in pre-history, probably when we first developed superstitious thinking. Rituals are, after-all, the amplified and systemized big sisters of “touching wood” and “not walking under ladders!”

To gain insights into the original beliefs which led to the creation of spiritual tools like ancient masks, and to achieve a deeper understanding of ancient hunting rituals, archaeologists and anthropologists often study the rituals of modern-day hunter gatherers. According to a 2015 research paper published by NCBI, Mayan peasant-hunters across the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, particularly the X-Pichil community, still carry out a hunting ritual – Loojil Ts’oon, Loj Ts’oon  or Carbine Ceremony.

These Mexican hunters believe they are “granted access to game by the gods and the Lords of the Animals” and they perceive that their rituals “renew the divine permission for hunting in order to continue deserving the gift of prey after a period of hunt.” According to Rufino Chuc , a hunter from X-Pichil, performing the  Loojil Ts’oon  ritual “legitimizes killing an animal" for a structure has been created for the “social, moral and emotional impact of the kill, ensuring the hunter is acting correctly before, during, and after the hunt.”

Ceremonial deposit, where most of the acts of the Loojil Ts’oon ritual occur.

Ceremonial deposit, where most of the acts of the Loojil Ts’oon ritual occur. ( Dídac Santos-Fita; X-Pichil community, Quintana Roo, 2011 )

It can be concluded that hunting rituals are rooted in the profound belief that humans cannot live without making and ‘maintaining’ associations between the natural and supernatural elements of nature and our destiny. Today, all this is bagged up as a concept - “animism” - but this often shunned way of looking at the world was the natural software humans were born with, and it lasted hundreds of thousands of years before being crushed by the rise of organized religions.

This meteoric culture shift brought worshipping from the deepest recesses of caves to polished altars in holy buildings, and with every block of stone raised towards heaven, ancient indigenous peoples’ supernatural and spiritual perspectives were buried a little deeper.

All this considered, the deer masks discovered at Star Carr are not only rare and awe-inspiring artifacts from the Mesolithic, but they are priceless relics from a lost paradigm in human history, icons of a forgotten world view.

Deer antler headdress from the Scarborough Collections.

Deer antler headdress from the Scarborough Collections. ( Scarborough Museums Trust/ David Chalmers )

Top Image: One of the three Mesolithic deer skull headdresses from the new Star Carr exhibition at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Source:  Josh Murfitt / MAA

By Ashley Cowie

González Y. Lo animal en la cosmovisión mexica o mesoamericana. In: González Y, editor.  Animales y plantas en la cosmovisión mesoamericana . Plaza y Valdés: CONACULTA, INAH; 2001. pp. 107–22.

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