Category Archives: States Rights

Five Years After Snowden, Michigan Set to Be First State to Impede NSA’s Warrantless Surveillance

On the heels of the fifth anniversary of whistleblower Edward Snowden’s disclosure of classified National Security Agency (NSA) documents to journalists, one state legislature has recently taken steps to hold the government agency accountable for its warrantless surveillance programs by making it illegal for state and local governments, including law enforcement and public utilities, to support the NSA’s warrantless spying on American citizens.

According to Michigan’s Fourth Amendment Rights Protection Act, also known as Public Act 71 of 2018, state and local governments can only assist or provide support to the federal government’s collection of data if there is a search warrant or the informed consent of the targeted party. The bill is set to take effect in just a few weeks on June 17th.

While the NSA has no publicly disclosed facility in the state, the bill’s proponents have asserted that it sends a clear message to the federal government regarding the lack of popularity for its warrantless wiretapping of millions of Americans in violation of the legal protections granted to them by the Constitution.

“It hangs up a sign on Michigan’s door saying, ‘No violation of the Fourth Amendment, look elsewhere’,” said Republican state Rep. Martin Howrylak, the bill’s author, according to the Washington Examiner. “Democrats as well as Republicans would certainly stand very strong in our position on what this law means.”

“This new law guarantees no state resources will be used to help the federal government execute mass warrantless surveillance programs that violate the Fourth Amendment protections enshrined in the U.S. Constitution,” Howrylak said soon after the bill was first passed earlier this year in March.

“Michigan will not assist the federal government with any data collection unless it is consistent with the constitution,” he added.

The Michigan law seeking to condemn the NSA’s most controversial program is not the first of its kind. However, it is the first to have been passed successfully without having been  subsequently watered down. For instance, in 2014, state lawmakers in Maryland sought to shut off power and water to NSA headquarters but many of its sponsors dropped their support of the bill after a powerful political backlash. A similar bill was floated in Utah’s state legislature at the same time, but went nowhere after it was rejected by the state’s governor.

“It hangs up a sign on Michigan’s door saying, ‘No violation of the Fourth Amendment, look elsewhere.'”

The only state to have passed a bill similar to Michigan’s is California, which passed the Fourth Amendment Protection Act in 2014. However, that piece of legislation protects the Fourth Amendment in name only as it bans local assistance “in response to a request from a federal agency” and “if the state has actual knowledge that the request constitutes an illegal or unconstitutional collection.”

Despite the efforts being made by state legislatures to restore the Fourth Amendment, such efforts have been largely absent at the national level in recent years. Earlier this year, in January, Congress voted to extend the government’s warrantless surveillance of American citizens for another six years. However, Congress’ reauthorization of the program was more than a mere extension of the program as it actually helped expand the NSA’s authority by codifying some of the more controversial aspects of the program, suggesting that interest in protecting and restoring the Constitution is largely found at the state and local levels of government.

Vermont Becomes First State To Approve Imported Canadian Prescription Drugs

Vermont is the first state in the country to approve a program commissioning the importation of prescription drugs from Canada with the passage of a bill approved by the House and Senate and signed into law May 16 by Republican Governor Phil Scott.

As several other US states have been working on similar bills, Vermont was the first state to sign such legislation into law. The bill was reportedly based upon legislation previously drafted by National Academy for State Health Policy; the organization estimated that the cost of prescription drugs in Canada are about 30 percent lower.

The bipartisan bill, which had unanimous support in the Senate and a 141-2 vote in the House, calls for the development of a “wholesale prescription drug importation program” that meets the following conditions:

(1) designate a State agency that shall either become a licensed drug wholesaler or contract with a licensed drug wholesaler in order to seek federal certification and approval to import safe prescription drugs and provide significant prescription drug cost savings to Vermont consumers;

(2) use Canadian prescription drug suppliers regulated under the laws of Canada or of one or more Canadian provinces, or both;

(3) ensure that only prescription drugs meeting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s safety, effectiveness, and other standards shall be imported by or on behalf of the State;

(4) import only those prescription drugs expected to generate substantial savings for Vermont consumers;

(5) ensure that the program complies with the tracking and tracing requirements of 21 U.S.C. §§ 360eee and 360eee-1 to the extent feasible and practical prior to imported drugs coming into the possession of the State
wholesaler and that it complies fully after imported drugs are in the possession of the State wholesaler;

(6) prohibit the distribution, dispensing, or sale of imported products outside Vermont’s borders;

(7) recommend a charge per prescription or another method of support to ensure that the program is funded adequately in a manner that does not jeopardize significant consumer savings; and

(8) include a robust audit function.

During his campaign, President Donald Trump advocated for the ability for Americans to purchase prescription drugs from other countries including Canada; he has appeared to abandon this idea, illustrated by a recent address given by Trump on May 11 discussing his “American Patients First” plan to seek lower drug prices. The speech did not make any mention of allowing the purchase of imported drugs and focused instead on giving “private entities more tools to negotiate better deals on behalf of consumers, insurers and employers,” according to a report from the New York Times.

While the Trump administration has not publicly commented specifically on the bill’s enactment, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar described importing drugs from other countries as a “gimmick” on Monday.

“The United States has the safest regulatory system in the world. The last thing we need is open borders for unsafe drugs in search of savings that cannot be safely achieved,” Azar said according to Politico. “You can’t improve competition and choice in our drug markets with gimmicks like these — you have to boost competition and price transparency.”

Azar also argued that “Canada simply doesn’t have enough drugs to sell them to us for less money, and drug companies won’t sell Canada or Europe more just to have them imported here.” He claimed that the FDA also has concerns that there is no “effective way to ensure drugs coming from Canada really are coming from Canada, rather than being routed from a counterfeit factory in China.”

Azar was the president of the U.S. division of global pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly & Co. from 2012 to 2017.

The law was met with opposition from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, (PhRMA) as spokeswoman Caitlin Carroll called promotion of the Vermont legislation “highly irresponsible” and warned of an increase in counterfeit drugs.

An amendment put forth by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) last January sought to allow for the purchase of drugs from Canada, but failed in a 46-52 vote. In February 2017, Sanders and Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act “to help lower the rising cost of prescription drugs by allowing Americans to import safe, low-cost medicine from Canada and other advanced countries.”

Vermont’s new law is subject to federal approval, as it specifies that Vermont’s importation program must be developed by the Secretary of Human Services, and submitted to the House Committees on Health Care and on Ways and Means and the Senate Committees on Health and Welfare and on Finance, by January 1, 2019. A subsequent formal request would need to be submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services by July 1, 2019 for certification.

Judge Napolitano: Bradley, Call Your Bookie

In 1992, Congress passed a statute authored by then-Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey, who was a former Princeton University and New York Knicks basketball superstar, prohibiting the states from authorizing sports betting. At that time, gambling in Atlantic City was flourishing, and notwithstanding one of its own senators’ efforts to keep gambling away from competitive sports, the state of New Jersey wanted to duplicate Las Vegas’ success with sports betting.

When Bradley’s legislation grandfathered the state of Nevada, legislators in New Jersey came up with an idea to get around the federal legislation that would permit Atlantic City casinos to compete with those in Las Vegas by repealing all laws about sports betting, thereby escaping the federal prohibition on “authorizing” sports betting. It would be up to the casinos to set up their own betting parlors for college and professional sports, and in so doing, they could increase their own bottom lines and thus the state’s tax revenues.
When major professional sports leagues and the NCAA challenged this, a federal district court in Newark read the ‘thou shalt not authorize’ language to mean ‘thou shalt not permit under any circumstances.’ That ruling was upheld by a federal appeals court in Philadelphia, and New Jersey appealed its case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in its favor earlier this week.

Get ready to call your bookie.

The Supreme Court decision reinforces the anti-commandeering jurisprudence of the 10th Amendment, which was dormant from the New Deal era to the mid-1990s. Recall that the states formed the federal government, not the other way around. When they did so, they delegated certain areas of governmental authority to the feds, and as new states were added to the Union, they did the same.

The 10th Amendment is the constitutional recognition of the truism that the legislative powers that the states did not delegate to Congress they retained for themselves.
The anti-commandeering jurisprudence prohibits Congress from telling the states how to govern or legislate or spend their tax dollars in any governmental areas not delegated to the Congress. This congressional practice was condemned in a case called Printz v. United States, in which Congress had ordered state law enforcement officials to establish certain gun registration protocols consistent with congressional standards and made state legislatures pay for the enforcement of the protocols.

The Supreme Court, through the late Justice Antonin Scalia, characterized this federal legislation as “commandeering” — taking the discretion away from — state officials and legislatures. The Supreme Court’s sports gambling decision this week followed the rationale of the Printz case and characterized the federal legislation that prohibited the states from permitting sports gambling as commandeering their legislative processes.
The reason that federal commandeering of state legislative processes is unconstitutional — Justice Samuel Alito’s sports betting opinion likened commandeering to having a federal agent on the floor of each state legislature give a thumbs-up or -down to proposed legislation — is that it flies in the face of the Guarantee Clause of the Constitution.
That clause guarantees a representative form of government in each state. A representative form of government requires that the representatives in the government be free to vote their consciences and not be prohibited or restrained from doing so because of a federal command.

Did Bill Bradley make a mistake?

I am a longtime fan and friend of Sen. Bradley’s, notwithstanding our general ideological differences over the constitutional role of government in our lives. Bradley is smart, fair and open-minded, and I miss him in the public forum. Yet he ought to have known that the legislation he authored was unconstitutional, and he ought to have known that Congress could have outlawed sports betting had it chosen to do so.

Had Congress made sports betting criminal — which it has not yet done — the sports gambling case this week would have been moot. Congress undoubtedly has the power under the Commerce Clause to prohibit any item from interstate commerce that it wishes, and it could have done so to communications that further sports betting. But of course, federal laws cost the feds money to enforce, and Congress did not want to foot that bill — hence Bradley’s scheme of transferring the cost of preventing sports betting to the states.
If Congress had outlawed sports betting, such a law would not have implicated the anti-commandeering jurisprudence because it would have been a restraint on individual personal behavior and not a restraint on the discretion of state law enforcement or elected state representatives.

What are the unintended consequences of this ruling?

All of this bodes well for the independence of the states in the areas where they are free to govern. There, they can be laboratories of democracy, dependent upon the public sentiment of their voters and the freely exercised consciences of their state representatives.

In an odd couplet, however, it also helps the sanctuary city movement, insofar as that movement purports to require that state and local law enforcement agencies not actively enforce federal immigration laws or policies because compelling them to do so would violate anti-commandeering jurisprudence. The commandeering would consist of removing the discretion of state and local law enforcement as to the disposition of law enforcement resources and the discretion of state legislatures as to how state tax revenue is spent.
And all of this underscores the wisdom of the Framers, who created a federal union that, even after the Civil War, is still subject to the sovereignty of the states. The beauty of the Union is that no two states are alike and we can all get ourselves to states where the laws are more to our liking. Ronald Reagan once whimsically captured these constitutional values when he argued that only in America can you vote with your feet.

Oklahoma Senate Passes Constitutional Carry Bill

Oklahoma City, OK – The Oklahoma Senate passed concealed carry, or “constitutional carry,” legislation that would allow Oklahoma residents who are 21 and older, as well as military personnel 18 and older and legally eligible to own a firearm, to concealed carry their gun. The passage of Senate Bill 1212 would remove the current requirement of obtaining a concealed carry permit in order to carry a concealed firearm for self-defense and follows the Oklahoma House approving the legislation in a 59-28 vote on April 25.

The Senate passed the legislation by a 33-9 vote, according to a report by The Hill. Tulsa World reported that state Sen. Nathan Dahm (R), the author of the bill, said the legislation would have no effect on locations that have banned firearms such as governmental buildings and schools, and that “the bill would still require a background check currently required to purchase a firearm.” The Norman Transcript notes that “under current law, Oklahomans who are legally able to purchase a firearm are required to attend an eight-hour training course, undergo an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) background check, and be fingerprinted and photographed if they’re not already in the state system.”

A report from the Associated Press noted that “A background check would still be required before a person could purchase a firearm and handguns would remain prohibited in places where they are currently banned, including elementary schools, colleges, universities and government buildings. The bill also excludes anyone prohibited by state or federal law from owning a weapon as well as those convicted of assault and battery, domestic abuse, violating a protective order or drug crimes.” The AP also referred to a statement from Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation that announced the bill would remove “the training requirement for carrying a firearm as well as an extensive background check process that includes mental health and court records.”

Breitbart reported that “State Sen. Kevin Matthews (D-11) opposed the legislation, arguing that people should be required to obtain a permit for a gun, similar to obtaining a license to drive a car. Dahm refuted Matthews “by pointing out that the Second Amendment protects a constitutional right to bear arms, not a constitutional right to drive cars.”

Currently, there are twelve states that have passed legislation to abolish permitting requirements to concealed carry a firearm, including Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming, and West Virginia. Breitbart reports that the majority of Montana and Arkansas recognize constitutional carry as well.

According to a report by Breitbart News:

FBI figures published by the NRA show that Alaska’s handgun murder rate “declined after the state enacted permitless carry in 2003.” Moreover, in the years since Alaska’s permit requirement was abolished “handgun murders have declined as a percentage of the total number of murders.”

A drop in handgun murders also took place in Arizona after that state abolished its concealed carry permit requirement in 2010. And in Wyoming–which abolished its permit requirement in 2011–handgun murders have declined as well.

The bill to eliminate carry permits is now at the desk of Republican Gov. Mary Fallin. Tulsa World reported that “Fallin, a Second Amendment supporter, signed legislation to allow open carry of firearms but has previously vetoed gun bills.”

Memphis Lawmakers Propose Seceding from Tennessee Over Civil War Statue Dispute

After the Tennessee General Assembly voted last Tuesday to strip Memphis of $250,000 worth of funding for an upcoming bicentennial celebration over its decision to remove Confederate Civil War monuments located in the city, state Representative Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) called for the city to secede from the State of Tennessee.

“We are in what I consider an abusive relationship with the State of Tennessee. Maybe it’s time for a conversation about secession. Create a new state, maybe West Tennessee,” Rep. Parkinson told WREG-TV.

He added, “Maybe if the conversation [about secession] is being had, maybe it’ll wake those individuals up who have been taking Davidson and Shelby County for granted.”

“It’s very interesting but yes, it can be done,” said Memphis City Council Chairman Berlin Boyd according to WBIR-TV. “If we became our own state we could control our overall destiny, we could create a state income tax… You have to think about, would we want to be the size of Rhode Island? Or would it be more impactful of a larger portion of West Tennessee?”

While critics have said that separating from the state would completely disconnect the city from funds it receives from state tax coffers, such as the $517 million in funding it received this year for Shelby County schools, Chairman Boyd suggested that a newly-created state could raise its own revenues by legalizing marijuana or allowing casinos.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said that he opposes secession from the state but called the General Assembly’s effort to punish Memphis for removing the Civil War monuments “a little bit of a stick in the eye.”

“We are different in many ways from the rest of the state, and I say that in a very positive way, and I think that we’ve just got to resolve to continue going forward and push the message that we are a very progressive, very growing, very vibrant community that needs the state’s help,” Mayor Luttrell added.

City Council Member Worth Morgan said he opposes the measure and told WMC Action News 5, “I think seceding from the State of Tennessee is an impossible and stupid idea and any time spent researching it is probably a waste.”

While it is legally possible that Memphis could secede from Tennessee, to do so would first require that a majority of Memphis voters approve the concept in a referendum, then the Tennessee General Assembly and U.S. Congress would have to pass legislation allowing it.

Rhodes College Political Science professor Stephen Wirls said that it is unlikely that the state would approve secession. “If they allowed Memphis to go they’re basically inviting every other part of Tennessee that has beef with the state,” he said.

SC Bill Would Convene Legislature to Consider Secession If Feds Seize Guns

Republican state representatives in South Carolina introduced a bill on Thursday that would convene the state’s legislature to consider secession from the U.S. government in the event that federal officials began seizing lawfully-purchased firearms in the state.

The bill summary for H 5217, which was introduced by state Reps. Mike Pitts (R-District 14), Jonathan Hill (R-District 8), and Ashley Trantham (R-District 28), reads, “A bill to amend the code of laws of South Carolina, 1976, by adding Article 11 to Chapter 31, Title 23 so as to provide that the General Assembly shall convene to consider whether to secede from the United States based upon the federal government’s unconstitutional violation of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution if the federal government confiscates legally purchased firearms in this state.”

The introduction of the bill comes amid a nationwide debate over school security and gun laws that was sparked by the deadly February 14 mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. that left 17 dead and 17 wounded.

Gun control activists have called for new restrictions on firearms, such as bans or age limits on tactical rifles and expanded background checks, while supporters of gun rights have advocated for the elimination of gun-free zones in schools through measures including allowing some teachers or faculty members to carry firearms. In a New York Times op ed, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said that he believes that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution should be repealed, calling the amendment protecting gun rights a “relic of the 18th century.”

Bill author Rep. Mike Pitts said that it was the increasing chorus of demands for new gun restrictions that inspired him to pen the legislation and not former Justice John Paul Stevens’ comments on the Second Amendment.

Rep. Pitts, who claims that he is not “promoting secession,” said according to Fox News, “Without a Bill of Rights, our nation is not what it is. I see a lot of stuff where people even talk about totally repealing the Second Amendment, which separates us from the entire rest of the world.”

According to The Hill, the bill was assigned on Thursday to the House Judiciary Committee.

The measure is reportedly being considered primarily symbolic and unlikely to pass during this session, as it would have to gain swift traction in order to be transferred to the state’s Senate by the session’s April 10 deadline. As of press time, with that deadline fast approaching, the bill has yet to be introduced in the Senate.

Judge Upholds MA AR-15 Ban: “Not Within Scope of Personal Right to Bear Arms”

Boston, MA— A lawsuit challenging Massachusetts’ ban on assault weapons was dismissed by a federal judge on April 5, who asserted in his ruling that military-style rifles and high-capacity magazines, banned by the state in 1998, are “not within the scope of the personal right to ‘bear Arms’ under the Second Amendment.”

“The AR-15 and its analogs, along with large capacity magazines, are simply not weapons within the original meaning of the individual constitutional right to ‘bear arms,’” U.S. District Judge William Young wrote in the decision.

Young said in his ruling that the features of a military-style rifle are “designed and intended to be particularly suitable for combat rather than sporting applications,” and that Massachusetts was within its rights to enact a ban through elected representatives.

“In the absence of federal legislation, Massachusetts is free to ban these weapons and large capacity magazines. Other states are equally free to leave them unregulated and available to their law-abiding citizens,” Young wrote. “These policy matters are simply not of constitutional moment. Americans are not afraid of bumptious, raucous, and robust debate about these matters. We call it democracy.”

The Hill reported that the lawsuit dismissed by Young was filed by the Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts, which claimed the ban infringed on Second Amendment rights. The group asserted in its complaint that the term “assault weapons” is non-technical and “entirely fabricated” to politicize the most popular types of guns in the United States.

“Healey unilaterally decreed that thousands of Massachusetts residents are suddenly criminals simply for having exercised their Second Amendment rights,” the complaint said, in reference to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who expanded in 2016 the definition of “copies or duplicates” of AR-15s and other semiautomatic rifles that are prohibited under the state’s 1998 assault-weapon ban.

In a statement, the National Rifle Association (NRA) criticized the decision.

“Like all law-abiding Massachusetts gun owners, the NRA was extremely disappointed that the court upheld Massachusetts’s ban on many of the most popular firearms in America,” the group said.

In his decision, Young, who Bloomberg reports was nominated by former President Ronald Reagan, quoted the late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion for the Supreme Court in a critical 2008 decision that overturned Washington’s ban on hand guns, but also warned of potential limitations.

“Weapons that are most useful in military service — M-16 rifles and the like” aren’t protected by the Second Amendment and “may be banned,” Young quoted Scalia as saying, referring to the automatic rifle popular with the military. The AR-15 is similar to an M-16, Young said, equating the military fully automatic firearm with a civilian semi-automatic.

In addition, Young also rejected attempts by the gun-rights group to challenge the ban on the grounds that AR-15s are extremely popular and widely owned within the United States.

“The AR-15’s present day popularity is not constitutionally material,” Young said.

Gun Rights Advocates Sue After Ill. Town Ordinance Bans “Assault” Rifles

Deerfield, IL— Framed as a response to the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the Deerfield Village Board passed a ban April 2 on semiautomatic “assault” rifles and high capacity ammunition magazines.

“We hope that our local decision helps spur state and national leaders to take steps to make our communities safer,” said Mayor Harriet Rosenthal. According to The Chicago Tribune, Deerfield’s definition of an “assault weapon” includes “semiautomatic rifles that have a fixed magazine with a capacity to accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition, shotguns with a revolving cylinder,” and “semiautomatic pistols and rifles that can accept large-capacity magazines. ”

In turn, gun rights advocates on April 5 sued the village— which is about 25 miles outside of Chicago— over the ban, while Alan M. Gottlieb, founder of The Second Amendment Foundation, claimed the ordinance “flies in the face of state law.” The Second Amendment Foundation sued Deerfield Village, along with the Illinois State Rifle Association and a Deerfield resident.

Rosenthal claimed that state law allowed for the updating of the village’s existing ordinance, which gave guidance on transportation and storage of “assault-style” weapons and defined specific models of firearms the rules were applicable to. Despite Rosenthal’s explanation, the lawsuit accuses the village of violating state law.

Although state law allows for amendments to previous ordinances, the lawsuit argues that the sweeping ban under the auspices of an ordinance amendment goes too far. John Boch, president of the Illinois-based gun rights advocacy group Guns Save Life, also said he would be filing a lawsuit.

[Also Read: Under 21 ‘Assault Weapon’ Ban Requiring Gun Surrender Clears Illinois Senate]

“We are going to fight this ordinance, which clearly violates our member’s constitutional rights, and with the help of the NRA, I believe we can secure a victory for law-abiding gun owners in and around Deerfield,” he said.

Rather than simply updating an ordinance, critics contend the new amendment goes much further, particularly with the village’s claim that possession of specified weapons in Deerfield is not “reasonably necessary” to protect an individual’s right to self-defense.

Furthermore, firearm owners are required by law to transfer high-capacity magazines and “assault” rifles out of the village, modify them so they comply with ordinance standards, or surrender them to law enforcement.

According to a report by The Washington Times:

The Supreme Court in 2008 ruled that Americans have a constitutional right to keep a handgun in their home for self-protection, and extended those rights to the states in 2010.

But the high court has declined since then to weigh in on lower court rulings upholding other similar bans on specific semiautomatic weapons — including an ordinance from Highland Park, another Illinois town that Deerfield says it modeled its rules on.

Gun-rights groups pointed to Deerfield’s new language that specifically allows police to confiscate the banned weapons as particularly concerning…

A divided Seventh Circuit appeals court panel upheld the Highland Park ordinance in 2015, saying it didn’t want to try to fill in what the Supreme Court rulings had arguably left open as to whether constitutional protections include a right to own certain semiautomatic weapons.

In December 2015, the Supreme Court declined to reconsider the case.

The ordinance goes into effect on June 13, 2018 – with residents facing fines of up to $1,000 per day for failure to comply within 60 days – and reportedly gives police the authority to confiscate and destroy weapons and magazines, although the village says it will not have police conduct “door to door” compliance checks.

“While the village is trying to disguise this as an amendment to an existing ordinance, it is, in fact, a new law that entirely bans possession of legally owned semi-auto firearms, with no exception for guns previously owned, or any provision for self-defense,” Mr. Gottlieb said.

“This certainly puts the lie to claims by anti-gunners that ‘nobody is coming to take your guns,’” Gottlieb said.

Tenn. Medical Pot Decriminalization Bill Passes Criminal Justice Committee

A significantly-amended reworking of the Medical Cannabis Only bill HB 1749 passed the Tennessee House Criminal Justice Committee on Wednesday by a vote of 9-2. The bill decriminalizes the possession of medical marijuana by individuals with qualified medical conditions and a doctor’s prescription, but falls short of providing access to the medication in-state.

Truth in Media reported last month that the more robust original version of the bill had passed the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee with Republican Speaker Beth Harwell’s tying vote.

The qualifying medical conditions under the bill include cancer, HIV and AIDS, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, Alzheimer’s disease, severe arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, or chronic or debilitating diseases.

While the original version of the bill would have provided a legal marketplace for medical pot, bill sponsor Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) stripped the bill of language related to marijuana access and focused on decriminalization due to fears that he would not get the votes needed to pass the Criminal Justice Committee. “You’re always working to meet the needs of the individual committee that you’re in,” he told The Tennessean. Faison also complained that medical pot opponents in the state are “stuck in Reefer Madness.”

While speaking on behalf of the decriminalization bill at Wednesday’s committee meeting, Rep. Faison argued, “We have Tennesseans who are illegally alive today, and they’re doing well, but they’re breaking the law. My question is why would we want to have the law be able to arrest these type of individuals or put them in jail or give them a criminal record when they’re fighting to stay alive?”

Reps. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville), Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis), Andrew Farmer (R-Sevierville), Jim Coley (R-Bartlett), Mary Littleton (R-Dickson), Michael Curcio (R-Dickson), Micah Van Huss (R-Jonesborough), and Tilman Goins (R-Morristown) voted in favor of the bill.

Reps. William Lamberth (R-Cottontown) and Paul Sherrell (R-Sparta) voted against the measure.

Lawrenceburg mother Andrea Houser testified at the committee that she needs THC-activated cannabis oil to deal with epilepsy and that alternative pharmaceutical drugs used to treat it had given her 19 kidney stones. “Because of cannabis, I felt normal again. I stopped because I didn’t want to break the law – but my seizures came back… It’s not fun when you’re having a seizure, biting your tongue and choking on blood in front of your kids,” she said according to Fox 13.

“I would rather be illegally alive than legally dead,” she added.

Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Tracy Trott testified against the bill and said that it would lead to an increase in impaired drivers. “Once you start down this slope, it is very difficult to stop the ball from rolling,” he said according to The Tennessean.

The Knox County Democratic Party issued a tweet criticizing the bill for not going far enough. “By removing all language that referred to the creation of a safe, transparent and accountable business and regulatory model for medical cannabis from his own bill, GOP Rep Jeremy Faison gives TN a choice: Leave to get a prescription or break the law by buying on the black market,” it read.

According to Fox 17, the bill now moves on to the House Health Committee.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) said that the Tennessee Senate will delay considering the bill until it passes through committees in the House.

Mitch McConnell Announces Bill to Legalize Hemp Nationwide

Washington, D.C.— Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced he will introduce a new bill on Monday that would legalize hemp, a non-psychoactive relative of marijuana, as an agricultural product. The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY).

In addition to legalization, the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 would remove the product from the federal government’s schedule of controlled substances, while also authorizing it to be sold as an agricultural commodity.

“Hemp has played a foundational role in Kentucky’s agriculture heritage, and I believe that it can be an important part of our future,” McConnell said in a statement. “It’s now time to take the final step and make this a legal crop,” McConnell said, according to an Associated Press report. Kentucky is currently conducting a pilot program through the Department of Agriculture to grow the plant.

Industrial hemp is a specific variety of cannabis plant grown for industrial and commercial uses of its fiber which contains almost no THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis that alters an individual’s mental state upon ingestion. Its fibers can be used to make numerous products including rope, cloth and paper, while the oil can be used in cosmetics, food, paper and numerous other products.

[RELATED: Alaska Legislature Passes Bill Legalizing Industrial Hemp Production]

In fact, industrial hemp has the potential to replace many of the fossil fuel-based products currently used, as it can be utilized in a reported 25,000 products— perhaps indicating why a substance that has no psychoactive value is treated as a controlled substance by the U.S. federal government.

As a report, entitled Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) notes, “hemp is also from the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa, as marijuana. As a result, production in the United States is restricted due to hemp’s association with marijuana, and the U.S. market is largely dependent on imports…”

The legislation would also allow states to make their own laws regarding industrial hemp production by removing federal restrictions, while the Department of Agriculture would provide oversight over states’ production programs, as well as issue competitive grants to researchers developing uses and cultivation methods for the crop.

According to a report by the Washington Post:

McConnell has been an advocate of hemp cultivation for at least four years. In 2014, he backed a provision in that year’s farm bill to allow for a hemp cultivation pilot program in his home state, and the following year he sponsored a hemp legalization bill introduced by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Paul has played a central role in persuading McConnell to become a proponent for the hemp industry.

With McConnell now a lead sponsor and significant bipartisan support secured for hemp legalization, the effort could find new success this year — although McConnell announced no immediate plans to bring the measure to the Senate floor.

Under 21 ‘Assault Weapon’ Ban Requiring Gun Surrender Clears Illinois Senate

The Illinois State Senate passed HB 1465 on Wednesday, a bill banning the sale of certain types of semi-automatic weapons to individuals under age 21. The bill would also make owning such a weapon below that age a Class 3 felony for a first offense and a Class 2 felony for a second offense.

The bill deviates from the traditional military definition of assault rifle, requiring the weapon to be capable of selective fire options like three round bursts and fully-automatic, and instead defines it as any semi-automatic rifle or pistol with a belt or magazine fed system capable of more than 10 rounds or featuring a folding stock or the ability to accept tactical attachments such as scopes. The definition also includes some .50 caliber rifles. Those individuals currently owning the weapons would be required to surrender them within 90 days.

According to WAND-TV, the bill passed by a vote of 33 to 22. It previously passed the House, but must go back to the House for reconciliation after lawmakers added an amendment that would allow individuals who owned such weapons prior to the passage of the law to use that fact as an affirmative defense when facing felony charges under the legislation.

[RELATED: Seattle Police Achieve State’s First “Red Flag Law” Gun Seizure]

The amendment was added to attract Republican votes to the bill, but Mahomet Republican state Sen. Chapin Rose told that the amendment would not necessarily protect owners of the weapons from facing felony charges if they do not surrender them. He believes the bill should have exempted current owners of the weapons from facing charges, rather than just offering them an affirmative defense while under arrest.

“Never mind the fact that you’re an innocent person and you’re in shackles and have been taken to jail and booked and your mugshot is now on TV,” said Sen. Rose.

The Illinois State Senate also passed HB 1467 on Wednesday, which bans bump stocks and trigger cranks in the state, and added an amendment to that bill allowing localities to ban what it defines as assault weapons, potentially creating different gun laws on a town-by-town basis in the state.

In addition, the Illinois House of Representatives recently passed HB 1468, which would impose a 72-hour waiting period on purchases of items defined as assault weapons under the bill. The Senate has yet to vote on the measure.

The Illinois General Assembly is controlled by a Democratic majority. Illinois Republican Governor Bruce Rauner recently vetoed a bill that would have required gun retailers to be licensed by the state, claiming that to be “unnecessary, burdensome regulation.”

Gubernatorial vetoes can be overturned by a three-fifths majority vote in both houses of the Illinois General Assembly.

Colorado Senate Passes Bill Allowing Concealed Carry Without a Permit

Denver, CO— Legislation to carry a concealed handgun without a permit in the State of Colorado passed the state senate on Thursday in a party-line vote. Currently, Colorado allows residents to open carry without a permit, but advocates of SB18-097 believe legal gun owners should be allowed to conceal carry their firearm without having to pay licensing fees to the state or FBI.

“The idea behind constitutional carry is that you should be able to carry a concealed handgun without applying for government permission or paying an expensive fee, if you are otherwise legally able to carry a firearm,” bill co-sponsor Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton, said in a statement last month.

Colorado law currently prohibits gun registration in the state, but relies on local Sheriff’s offices to issue concealed-carry permits. The Denver Sheriff’s Department, for example, requires people to complete an information packet and numerous other documents, and to provide deputies a handgun training certificate verifying the individual has firearm training. Additionally, the person applying must have a valid Colorado identification and pay a $152 fee for the permit in Denver.

Current Colorado law classifies to knowingly carry a concealed weapon without a permit as a class 2 misdemeanor. The proposed legislation would allow anyone age 21 and over, with a legal gun, to be able to conceal their gun in public without having taken a training class or obtaining a permit, but the permit process would remain intact as to allow conceal-carry in other states with Colorado reciprocity laws.

[RELATED: Reality Check: Trump Did Not Make It Easier for Severely Mentally Ill People To Buy Guns]

Under the proposed law, conceal-carriers would be required to operate under the same rules as permit holders – which disallows individuals from carrying concealed firearms on public K-12 school grounds unless specifically permitted to do so.

Between January 2015 and December 2017, at least 627 cases involved a conviction for a person carrying a concealed weapon without a permit, according to a fiscal statement by the legislative counsel staff. The report states that 51,030 concealed carry permits were processed in 2017: 12,293 renewals and 38,737 new applications.

New concealed carry permits cost $39.50, with $10 going to the FBI and $29.50 going toward the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, while permit renewals cost $13, according to the fiscal impact statement and the state.

The bill now moves to the House, where a similar measure was immediately voted down in a Democrat-controlled House committee after it passed the Senate last year.

Wyoming Legislature Passes Bill Making Gold, Silver Legal Tender

The Wyoming State Senate passed the Wyoming Legal Tender Act (House Bill 103) last Wednesday by a vote of 25-5. The bill had previously passed the state’s House of Representatives by a vote of 44-14.

After the House reconciles differences in amendments with the Senate version of the bill, it moves on to Republican Wyoming Governor Matt Mead’s desk for consideration.

If signed into law, the bill would recognize gold and silver as legal tender for payment of debt and taxes in the state and would remove the state’s ability to tax the sale of gold and silver specie.

Former U.S. Congressman from Texas Ron Paul said in a statement on the passage of the bill, “Passage of the Wyoming Legal Tender Act is the latest sign that dissatisfaction with the Federal Reserve’s money monopoly— and the movement to change our fiat currency system led by my Campaign for Liberty— is alive and growing. This bill would not have passed through the legislature without the hard work of Wyoming Campaign for Liberty state coordinator Cathy Ide and all of the dedicated activists who made sure the Wyoming legislature knew the people wanted them to restore their legal right to use real money instead of Federal Reserve notes. Governor Mead should listen to the people and sign this bill into law without delay.”

“As the economy slides into another Fed-created downturn, I predict the movement to pass state legal tender laws will grow. My Campaign for Liberty group is ready to help pass these laws in as many states as possible,” added Congressman Paul. His Campaign for Liberty is currently mobilizing grassroots activists to press Wyoming citizens to contact Governor Mead in support of the bill.

According to NewsCenter1, GOP State Rep. Roy Edwards described why legislators want to remove the tax on specie, saying, “Imagine going to the grocery store and asking the clerk for change for a $20 bill and being charged 80-cents in tax [on the change]. That’s what we’re doing in Wyoming by charging sales taxes on precious metals and we’re taking steps to change that.”

Constitutional tender expert Professor William Greene told the Tenth Amendment Center, “Over time, as residents of the state use both Federal Reserve notes and silver and gold coins, the fact that the coins hold their value more than Federal Reserve notes do will lead to a ‘reverse Gresham’s Law’ effect, where good money (gold and silver coins) will drive out bad money (Federal Reserve notes). As this happens, a cascade of events can begin to occur, including the flow of real wealth toward the state’s treasury, an influx of banking business from outside of the state – as people in other states carry out their desire to bank with sound money – and an eventual outcry against the use of Federal Reserve notes for any transactions.”

If the bill were to become law, Wyoming would join a handful of other states who have passed various measures to encourage the use of gold and silver as legal tender, including Utah, Arizona, and Texas.

Alaska Legislature Passes Bill Legalizing Industrial Hemp Production

Anchorage, AK –  Legislation to legalize the production of industrial hemp has passed both the Alaska Senate and House and now awaits the signature of the Gov. Bill Walker.

If signed into law, Senate Bill 6 would legalize the “regulation and production” of hemp, and would allow for individuals to register for a pilot program to grow industrial hemp. Additionally, the bill specifically denotes that “industrial hemp is not included in the definition of “marijuana,” and clarifies that adding industrial hemp to a food product does not create an “adulterated food product.”

The legislation reads:

An Act relating to the regulation and production of industrial hemp; relating to industrial hemp pilot programs; providing that industrial hemp is not included in the definition of ‘marijuana’; providing that cannabidiol oil is not included in the definition of ‘hashish oil’; clarifying that adding industrial hemp to food does not create an adulterated food product, and providing for an effective date.

Hemp, also called industrial hemp, is a specific variety of cannabis plant grown for industrial and commercial uses of its fiber, which contain almost no THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis that alters an individual’s mental state upon ingestion.

Industrial hemp has the potential to replace many of the currently used fossil fuel-based products as it can be used in a reported 25,000 products— perhaps explaining why a substance that has no psychoactive value is treated as a controlled substance by the U.S. federal government.

As a report, entitled Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) notes, “hemp is also from the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa, as marijuana. As a result, production in the United States is restricted due to hemp’s association with marijuana, and the U.S. market is largely dependent on imports…”

The CRS report specifies:

Under current U.S. drug policy, all cannabis varieties—including industrial hemp—are considered Schedule I controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA),1 and DEA continues to control and regulate hemp production.

“It was time to remove hemp from the marijuana statutes,” Republican Sen. Shelley Hughes said. “There’s no psychoactive impact from hemp. If you were to smoke acres and acres and acres of hemp, all you would get would be a sore throat and a cough.”

Alaska Public Media (APM) reported that Hughes introduced the bill more than a year ago after adapting legislation originally written by former Sen. Johnny Ellis, after she was approached by local farmers who wanted to grow hemp to use for livestock feed and bedding.

[RELATED: Jeff Sessions Wages War on Cannabis]

Alaska residents include Ember Haynes and her husband, who would like to grow hemp for use in products they make and sell such as balms, salves and other natural body products, in addition to growing hemp to supplement livestock feed. Currently, the couple must import hemp.

“I just want to use Alaska hemp,” Haynes told APM. “It’s been frustrating for us, just because our business is entirely made up of products that we wild-craft or grow ourselves. And so, the hemp seed oil, that would just change everything for us, to have it completely Alaska-grown and made herbs and plants in our products.”

Resident Jack Bennett told KTVA that he planned to build the first hemp home in Alaska and touted hemp’s value for lowering energy costs. “With hemp as a 100 percent natural insulation material, you are saving a minimal of 50 percent— up to 70 percent— in your energy savings annually,” said Bennett, according to KTVA.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that currently, at least 34 states have passed legislation related to industrial hemp. In 2017, 15 states—Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, North Dakota, Nevada, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming—passed legislation establishing new licensing requirements and programs for hemp. At least 27 states have passed laws creating or allowing for the establishment of industrial hemp research or pilot programs.

While many state governments have moved to pass state legislation to legalize the growing of industrial hemp crops amidst the continued federal prohibition, the Congressional Research Service noted that the U.S is the “only developed nation that hasn’t developed an industrial hemp crop for economic purposes.”

While, in contrast, “farmers in more than 30 countries worldwide grow industrial hemp commercially for fiber, seed, and oil for use in a variety of industrial and consumer products, including food.”

Stores Reopened, Charges Dropped After TN Raid on Legal CBD Gummies

Rutherford County, Tenn. District Attorney Jennings Jones announced Wednesday that his office is dropping all charges, ranging from public nuisance violations to felony drug charges, against the 23 stores and shopkeepers that had been targeted in “Operation: Candy Crush.”

Truth in Media reported last month that Rutherford County Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh had launched the county-wide raid, shuttering stores and issuing indictments to those selling non-THC hemp cannabidiol (CBD) gummies, despite the fact that such products had been legalized in Tennessee in 2014.

The Tennessean notes that Judge Royce Taylor had ordered that the stores be reopened just days after the raid.

According to NewsChannel5, District Attorney Jones’ statement read, “[Two assistants from the District Attorney’s office] made TBI officials aware of our concerns that several lab reports they had issued declared that edible products that had been purchased by police officers contained a substance called cannabidiol and listed that substance as a Schedule VI controlled substance.”

The statement continued, “It now appears that the TBI lab reports, if they had been accurately written, should have stated that their findings were ‘inconclusive’ as to whether cannabidiol is a controlled substance. The cannabidiol substance detected by the TBI lab in the edible candies is identical in composition to the same extract from hemp products, which are distinct under the law from marijuana products.”

Jones said that the TBI would be returning the stores’ property to them.

The products seized by police were commercially-available CBD gummies with packaging indicating that they were derived from hemp.

Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Lisa Marchesoni shifted blame for the raid in an email to The Tennessean, saying, “The Sheriff’s Office was acting on orders of the court. When an indictment or court order comes to the Sheriff’s Office, we are required to serve the documents.”

Local store owner Stacey Hamilton said, “From the moment I found out what they were doing, I knew I had committed no crime… This has caused an enormous cost to all the store owners. I don’t think they’ll apologize in nearly as public a way as they condemned us as drug dealers.”

The store owners targeted in the county-wide raid now plan to file civil suits.

In the initial press conference announcing the raid last month, detectives seemed unaware of the nature of the products that they had seized. When a reporter asked Smyrna Police Chief Kevin Arnold what the products are used for, he said, “It’s used to get high.”

“No, it’s not. It doesn’t have THC in it,” a reporter said.

“Then why are they buying it?” Chief Arnold replied.

When the reporter explained that it is used as a medicinal product and that it is legal, Chief Arnold said, “We’ll check on that.”

Characterizing Tennessee laws on hemp-derived CBD products, Tennessee Hemp Industries Assocation president Joe Kirkpatrick said in a post on Facebook, “All Industrial Hemp products, including cannabidiol (CBD) are fully legal in Tennessee without a prescription.”

New Hampshire House Passes Bill to Prohibit Police Sobriety Checkpoints

On February 22nd, New Hampshire’s House of Representatives passed HB 1283, a Republican-led bill that would prohibit police from conducting sobriety checkpoints in the state. The bill’s text consists simply of the following: “Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, no law enforcement officer or agency shall establish or conduct sobriety checkpoints.”

The bill was prefiled back in November 2017 ahead of the 2018 legislative session. The House vote follows the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee’s 12-8 recommendation to go forward with the legislation; the next step for HB 1283 is a vote in the state Senate.

According to the House Record of February 16th, the committee’s majority provided the following statement:

Presently, sobriety checkpoints are already limited and require a court order.
While no one wants to see an increase in DWI, sobriety checkpoints are not a solution to decrease DWI arrests. The committee heard testimony on how ineffective sobriety checkpoints are. The testimony by a state trooper showed that less than 1% of drivers who are stopped at a checkpoint were charged with DWI. Some places even discounted sobriety checkpoints due to the rate being even lower. The testimony revealed this number is lower than the amount of arrests police would have made if they were out on patrol looking
for people suspected of DWI. The trooper testified checkpoints have gone down in recent years and the state would still be able to use grants to increase patrols. There was further concern that DWI checkpoints invade a driver’s right to be free from unlawful seizures. The majority feels checkpoints can lead to a worsening of public/police relations as many people will be upset after being stopped and detained without any evidence of
them doing anything wrong. Additionally the officers involved are paid overtime which makes a flawed practice even more expensive. In order to increase DWI arrests while increasing our liberty, sobriety checkpoints should be abolished.

The committee’s minority provided a statement as well:

The minority of the committee believes that sobriety checkpoints are one of the many tools that police departments have at their disposal. The circumstances under which a sobriety checkpoint can be conducted are highly regulated. While the number of sobriety checkpoints being held has gone down in recent years, the minority of the committee believes that the decision to conduct them should remain with the police departments. If the police believe that the test is another way to keep drunk drivers off the road, the elected representatives of the people should not prohibit the police from using that tool to protect us on the road from drunk drivers.

State Police Captain John Marasco opposed the bill, saying that “the main function behind the sobriety check point is to make sure that we prevent tragedy on the roadways,” according to a report from NECN.

Brian Stone, a prime sponsor of HB 1283, wrote last year regarding police sobriety checkpoints:

I’m of the opinion that they infringe on our rights, are costly, worsen police public relations, are too broad with minimal effect, and that there are better options to address DUI that law enforcement may use that are proven to be more effective and less costly.

The Concord Monitor examined the constitutionality of sobriety checkpoints in New Hampshire in a 2017 article, and noted that according to their review of two years’ worth of police report data, “on average, sobriety checkpoints result in just as many arrests for crimes unrelated to drivers’ blood-alcohol content,” and the revelation of this data “could expose the law to a challenge.”

The Monitor reported that about 85,000 drivers have been stopped at a sobriety checkpoint in New Hampshire over the last decade, and the percentage of drivers accused of drunk driving has not been more than 1 percent since 2006. According to Staff Sgt. Charles Johnston, “the number of fatal car crashes statewide— and the proportion related to alcohol consumption— have ‘remained relatively constant each year’ despite efforts to educate drivers and prosecute offenders.”

Medical Pot Bill Clears TN House Subcommittee with GOP Speaker’s Support

Tennessee’s proposed Medical Cannabis Only bill, House Bill 1749, cleared the state’s House Criminal Justice Subcommittee with a vote of 4-3 on Tuesday after Republican House Speaker and gubernatorial candidate Beth Harwell cast a tie-breaking vote in favor of the bill.

The bill would legalize the use of non-smokable, marijuana-derived medical cannabis products containing THC for individuals with qualified medical conditions ranging from schizophrenia, chronic pain, and PTSD to cancer and HIV. The bill would not legalize the sale and possession of marijuana flower for smoking purposes.

According to The Tennessean, Reps. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), Sherry Jones (D-Nashville), and Tilman Goins (R-Morristown) joined Harwell in supporting the measure, and Reps. Micah Van Huss (R-Jonesborough), William Lamberth (R-Cottontown), and Michael Curcio (R-Dickson) cast no vote.

Speaker Harwell told WGNS, “I believe it is time for us to take action on the state level with regards to medical marijuana. I am in favor of this legislation, which does not allow for the smoking of medical marijuana— I am not in favor of that approach. However, the federal government continues to be a roadblock for legitimate research or medical uses of medical cannabis, but other states have enacted laws to help patients, and Tennessee should do the same.”

She added, “States that have enacted a medical cannabis program have seen a decrease in opioid use. While I don’t see this as a cure-all for the opioid epidemic, I do see a true medical cannabis program, such as is being proposed, as another tool for the medical community in this fight.”

[RELATED: In CBD-Legal Tennessee, Cops Raid Shops Selling Non-THC CBD Gummies]

Though Harwell had opposed medical marijuana in the past, she announced in 2017 according to The Associated Press that she had changed her position on the issue after her sister who lives in Colorado claimed to have been able to discontinue opiate medications for back pain after switching to medical marijuana.

The Medical Cannabis Only bill was originally introduced by Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) in the House and Sen. Dr. Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville) in the Senate. The bill also boasts Chairman of the House Health Subcommittee Dr. Bryan Terry (R-Murfreesboro) as a co-sponsor.

“Adding a non-opioid modality, such as cannabis extracts, to the arsenal of treatment options for pain can certainly be beneficial in the war on opioid abuse, but there are other conditions that the bill addresses like Crohn’s Disease and seizure disorders which can help Tennesseans. Cannabis oils are not a panacea, but for some patients it can make all the difference in their quality of life. As opposed to the unknown of recreational or pseudo-medical cannabis, this bill is structured with the patient and true medical therapies in mind,” Dr. Terry told WGNS.

Tennessee Department of Health’s chief medical officer David Reagan claimed that marijuana is addictive and leads to impaired judgment. “We do not support the passage of House bill 1749,” he told The Tennessean.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation official Tommy Farmer claimed that passing the bill could cause the state to lose federal funding for law enforcement, though this has not happened to other states that have legalized medical marijuana.

The bill now moves on to face a vote before the full House Criminal Justice Committee at an as-yet unscheduled date in the future. The bill has not yet been scheduled for a subcomittee vote in the Senate.

School Shooting Survivor Says Armed Teacher Could Have “Stopped the Threat”

Parkland, Florida— While a number of students at Stoneman Douglas High School have called for stricter gun control following the deadly school shooting, 17-year-old Stoneman student Colton Haab told Fox News that he believes football coach Aaron Feis, who was reportedly killed while shielding students from gunfire, would have been able to neutralize the threat had he been allowed to carry his firearm on school grounds.

“If Coach Feis had had his firearm in school that day, I believe that he most likely could’ve stopped the threat,” Haab told Fox News. Haab is a Junior ROTC member who has been revered for shielding and directing as many as 70 kids to safety during the shooting.

Assistant football coach Feis was remembered by students and staff alike as a “hero” for turning himself into a human shield in order to save the lives of others.

“He died the same way he lived— he put himself second,” school spokesperson Denise Lehtio said. “He was a very kind soul, a very nice man. He died a hero.”

Haab explained that he saw Feis, who was reportedly a trained security guard in addition to being an assistant football coach, run toward the sound of the gunshots, only to later learn that Feis was killed as he tried to shield students from gunfire.

In an interview with Fox News, Haab said:

“I believe if we did bring firearms on campus to teachers that are willing to carry their firearm on school campuses—and they got their correct training for it—I think that would be a big beneficial factor for school safety. Because if Coach Feis had had his firearm in school that day, I believe that he most likely could’ve stopped the threat.”

An article from CNN reported that Haab, who is a member of the school’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC), jumped into action upon hearing gunshots and directed around 70 students into a classroom where they proceeded to use bulletproof Kevlar mats from the JROTC’s marksmanship program to act as protection in case found by the gunman.

“We lined [the students] up into the wall and along the back of the wall…and from there I was standing with my first sergeant and I said, ‘these are kevlar, these are bulletproof material,’” Haab said. “We started moving the kevlar sheets forward.”

The Florida school shooting has reignited a wide-ranging debate as to how to most effectively stop the school shooting phenomena, with some in favor of stricter gun control laws while others support armed guards or allowing trained teachers to carry firearms on school grounds.

Haab recently told local reporters that he backed out of attending a CNN town hall focused on the Stoneman Douglas school shooting, claiming that his own prepared commentary was proposed by CNN to be replaced with “scripted” material.

Justice Thomas Ravages SCOTUS’s Refusal to Hear Challenge to CA 10-Day Waiting Period

Washington, D.C.— The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a Second Amendment challenge to California’s 10-day waiting period on gun sales, continuing a nearly decade-long pattern of refusing to wade into the contentious debate on gun control. The court’s refusal to hear the case leaves the waiting period in California and other jurisdictions in place unfettered. Justice Clarence Thomas issued a dissent over the Court’s refusal to hear the case.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition from plaintiffs Jeff Silvester and Brandon Combs to hear the case. Second Amendment proponents argued that California’s 10-day waiting period, especially for individuals who have already passed a background check and legally own firearms, amounted to a violation of the right to keep and bear arms.

The last major precedent-setting firearms rulings came in 2008 and 2010, when ordinances in Washington, D.C. and Chicago that prohibited the private possession of handguns as violations of 2nd Amendment were struck down, and ruled that Americans have a right to have guns at home for self-defense.

Justice Thomas said the court’s record of failing to intervene in gun cases amounted to treating the Second Amendment as a “disfavored” constitutional right, noting that his fellow justices regularly hear cases involving unreasonable search and seizure, abortion and free speech rights, but haven’t reviewed an important gun rights case in eight-plus years.

In his dissent, Thomas wrote that the reversal by 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is “symptomatic of the lower courts’ general failure to afford the Second Amendment the respect due an enumerated constitutional right.”

“If a lower court treated another right so cavalierly,” Thomas wrote, “I have little doubt that this Court would intervene. But as evidenced by our continued inaction in this area, the Second Amendment is a disfavored right in this Court.”

“The Court would take these cases because abortion, speech, and the Fourth Amendment are three of its favored rights,” Thomas wrote. “The right to keep and bear arms is apparently this Court’s constitutional orphan. And the lower courts seem to have gotten the message.”

The Washington Examiner reported that a California district court initially ruled in favor of Silvester and Combs, two lawful California gun owners who, along with two nonprofits, challenged the law. But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s ruling, which effectively kept the waiting period in place. In upholding the restrictions, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said “the 2nd Amendment does not preserve or protect a right of a member of the general public to carry concealed firearms in public.”

“In the Ninth Circuit, it seems, rights that have no basis in the Constitution receive greater protection than the Second Amendment, which is enumerated in our text,” Thomas surmised.

“Let Doctors Decide” Cannabis Oil Bill Passes 40-0 in VA Senate

Richmond, VA – A unanimous 40-0 vote in the Virginia Senate on Monday saw the passage of a “Let Doctors Decide” bill, officially known as the Joint Commission on Health Care bill SB 726, which allows Virginia doctors to recommend the use of THC-A oil or cannabidiol oil – commonly referred to as CBD oil – as a treatment option for diagnosed conditions.

With companion legislation HB 1251 in the Virginia House of Delegates passing with a unanimous vote on Friday, and since both bills are identical, the bills will “crossover” to the opposite house for a vote, then head to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam, also a doctor, who has previously voiced support for Let Doctors Decide medical marijuana laws in the Commonwealth.

“I finally decided that I needed to advocate for the physicians being the decision makers,” Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, a doctor who introduced the Senate bill, told the Staunton News Leader. “We, physicians, are the ones that follow the literature and know which treatments are best for different conditions. The literature on medical cannabis is going to be evolving rapidly now, and because of this, it is not a decision that should be in the hands of the legislature. Instead, it should be with physicians.”

Sen. Dunnavant, who is a licensed physician in Virginia, said that she “always thought of it helping my patients that have breast cancer.” Many Virginians suffering from a plethora of conditions— including cancer, PTSD, Crohn’s disease and MS— lobbied for this reform, as current law allows Virginians to possess cannabis oil solely for the treatment of severe epilepsy.

“Honestly, until this week, I’ve always thought of it helping my patients that have breast cancer, especially the young ones that have children and have so many things to get done, but feel so terrible as they go through chemotherapy,” Sen. Dunnavant continued. “After this week, I won’t be able to forget Tamra Netzel, the patient and my constituent with multiple sclerosis that testified on behalf of this bill in committee. My niece also has MS and having the opportunity to help others in similar situations means a lot to me.”

[RELATED: Truth in Media: Feds Say Cannabis Is Not Medicine While Holding The Patent on Cannabis as Medicine]

Delegate Benjamin L. Cline, who introduced the House bill, explained both the medical benefits of CBD/THC-A oil and the foresight in giving doctors the ability to “make recommendation based on the most up to date research and data.”

“CBD/THC-A oil has been proven to effectively and safely help patients address symptoms of intractable epilepsy and manage pain,” Cline told the Staunton News Leader. “By expanding the ability to recommend CBD/THC-A oil, we are giving doctors the freedom to make a recommendation based on the most up to date research and data, just as they do for any other medication they prescribe.”

Additionally, Jenn Michelle Pedini, both a cancer survivor and the executive director of Virginia NORML, addressed the significant impact of medical cannabis laws on Virginia’s growing opiate epidemic.

“Medical cannabis laws have demonstrated significant impact on the opiate crisis,” Pedini told the News Leader. “States with such laws see on average a 25% reduction in opioid fatalities. We are losing three Virginians every day to opioid overdose. It’s time to give doctors in the Commonwealth the ability to utilize this powerful tool in mitigating addiction and overdose.”

If Gov. Ralph Northam signs the bill into law, Virginia could serve as an exemplary model of a state with a limited medical marijuana program embracing an expansive reform.