Regulating pot by its potency
NEW YORK — As marijuana legalization spreads across U.S. states, so does a debate over whether to set pot policy by potency. Under a law signed last month, New York will tax recreational marijuana based on its amount of THC, the main intoxicating chemical in cannabis. Illinois imposed a potency-related tax when recreational pot sales began last year. Vermont is limiting THC content when its legal market opens as soon as next year, and limits or taxes have been broached in some other states and the U.S. Senate’s drug-control caucus. Supporters say such measures will protect public health by roping off, or at least discouraging, what they view as dangerously concentrated cannabis. “This is not your Woodstock weed,” says Kevin Sabet, the president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-legalization group that has been pressing for potency caps. “We need to put some limitations on the products being sold.” Opponents argue that THC limits could drive people to buy illegally, and amount to beginning to ban pot again over a concern that critics see as overblown. “It’s prohibitionism 2.0,” said Cristina Buccola, a cannabis business lawyer in New York. “Once they start putting caps on that, what don’t they put caps on?” THC levels have been increasing in recent decades — from 4% in 1995 to 12% in 2014 in marijuana seized by federal agents, for example. Cannabis concentrates sold in Colorado’s legal market average about 69% THC, and some top 90%.
Legislating in the nude
OTTAWA, Ontario — A Canadian Parliament member was caught stark naked in a virtual meeting of the House of Commons. William Amos, who has represented the Quebec district of Pontiac since 2015, appeared on the screens of his fellow lawmakers completely naked last week. The pandemic has meant many Canadian lawmakers participate in sessions via video conference instead of in person. A screenshot obtained by The Canadian Press shows Amos standing behind a desk between the Quebec and Canadian flags, his private parts hidden by what appears to be a mobile phone in one hand. “This was an unfortunate error,? Amos said in a statement sent by email. “`My video was accidentally turned on as I was changing into my work clothes after going for a jog. I sincerely apologize to my colleagues in the House of Commons for this unintentional distraction. Obviously, it was an honest mistake and it won’t happen again.” Claude DeBellefeuille, a legislator for the opposition Bloc Quebecois party, raised the incident in a point of order after question period, suggesting that parliamentary decorum requires male Parliament members to wear a jacket and tie — and a shirt, underwear and trousers. Speaker Anthony Rota later thanked DeBellefeuille for her “observations” and clarified that while he had not seen anything, he checked with technicians and confirmed they saw something. He reminded lawmakers to always be vigilant when they are near a camera and microphone.
Chadian president killed
N’DJAMENA, Chad — Chad’s president of three decades died of wounds suffered during a visit to front-line troops battling a shadowy rebel group as the insurgents vowed to take the capital in what could become a violent battle for control of the oil-rich Central African nation. The military quickly named President Idriss Deby Itno’s son as the country’s interim leader, capping a series of stunning announcements that came just hours after the 68-year-old Deby had been declared winner of an election that would have given him another six years in power. “Chad is not a monarchy. There can be no dynastic devolution of power in our country,” the rebels said in a statement late Tuesday, vowing to press their fight for the capital. “The forces of the Front for Change and Concord are heading toward N’Djamena at this very moment. With confidence, but above all with courage and determination.” The circumstances of Deby’s death remained murky and some observers immediately questioned the events leading up to Tuesday’s announcement, raising the question of whether the military handing over power to Deby’s son instead of following the constitutional provisions in place amounted to a coup. Others raised fears of violence in the days to come.
Nugent gets the virus
Rocker Ted Nugent is revealing he was in agony after testing positive for coronavirus — months after he said the virus was “not a real pandemic.” “I thought I was dying,” Nugent says in a Facebook live video posted Monday. “I literally could hardly crawl out of bed the last few days,” adding: “So I was officially tested positive for COVID-19 today.” In the video shot at his Michigan ranch, the “Cat Scratch Fever” singer repeatedly uses racist slurs to refer to COVID-19 and reiterates his previous stance that he wouldn’t be getting the vaccine because he claims wrongly that “nobody knows what’s in it.”
Barbecue tongs not sufficient
CORONA, Calif. — A Southern California man is recovering after he was bitten by a rattlesnake when he tried to pick up the poisonous reptile using barbecue tongs, authorities said. The man spotted the snake Saturday evening near his home in the Sycamore Creek community of Corona and was worried about it coming into contact with children, according to a statement from Riverside County Animal Services. When he tried to remove the rattler using the tongs, the snake struck and bit him on the hand, Animal Services spokesman John Welsh said. The man was treated at a hospital and later released. “He told me that he was feeling remarkably well,” Welsh said Tuesday. “He said he definitely felt that he had dodged a bullet.” After the man was taken away by ambulance, a crowd gathered as Animal Services Officer Mike McGee removed the snake. “Some of the children were saying, ‘bye, Mr. Snake,’ “ McGee said. The reptile was later euthanized. “We try to release rattlesnakes within one mile of where we remove it from, but it was highly likely this snake might end up in one of the adjacent homes again,” McGee said. “I didn’t believe a routine release would be safe this time.”
Distiller to make new whiskey
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The former top distiller at Jack Daniel’s announced on Tuesday that he and several partners are opening a new whiskey distillery near the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. Company Distilling will first open a 4,000-square-foot tasting room and restaurant in Townsend, Tennessee, former Jack Daniel’s master distiller Jeff Arnett and his partners said. A 20,000-square-foot main distillery in Alcoa and a tasting room in Thompson Station, closer to Nashville, will follow next year. Arnett is teaming up with former Tennessee Distillers Guild President Kris Tatum; construction businessman Corey Clayton; founder of H. Clark Distillery Heath Clark, and Clayton Homes CEO Kevin Clayton. The initiative is expected to include a $25 million investment and provide 50 to 60 jobs. Company Distilling’s locations will be geared toward the outdoors. The 31-acre main distillery location in Alcoa will include a tasting room, restaurant, brewery, retail store, a live music venue, cornhole, pickle ball courts, bonfire pits and open access to greenway trails. The Townsend location will be along the Little River with the Townsend Greenway in the front of the 13.5-acre property, offering access to cycling, running and nearby mountain biking and hiking trails.
Tubman’s father’s home found
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Archaeologists in Maryland say they believe they have found the homesite of famed abolitionist Harriet Tubman’s father. The homesite of Ben Ross was found on property acquired last year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an addition to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, officials said Tuesday. An archaeology team led by the State Highway Administration conducted research that led to the find. Archaeologist Julie Schablitsky described the finding as a connection to Tubman. “She would’ve spent time here as a child, but also she would’ve come back and been living here with her father in her teenage years, working alongside him,” Schablitsky said in a news release. “This was the opportunity she had to learn about how to navigate and survive in the wetlands and the woods. We believe this experience was able to benefit her when she began to move people to freedom.” Tubman was born Araminta Ross in March 1822 on the Thompson Farm near Cambridge, Maryland, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. She escaped from slavery to become a leading abolitionist who helped slaves escape through the Underground Railroad.
Apple unveils new products
SAN RA,MON, Calif. — Apple spruced up its product line at an event Tuesday while slipping in quiet notice of a software update, now due next week, designed to enhance the privacy of iPhone users at the expense of digital advertisers such as Facebook. Timing for the software upgrade trickled out during a series of announcements for new iPads, iMac computers and more during a pre-recorded event that sometimes seemed like a one-hour infomercial for Apple. Apple also unveiled a new subscription option for podcasts and a gadget called AirTags — coin-sized devices that can be attached to keys, backpacks, purses and other items to help people track them down via iPhone if they’re misplaced. The AirTags, due in stores April 30, will require the iPhone software update called iOS 14.5. That update will also include a new feature requiring apps to obtain explicit permission from users before tracking their activity and whereabouts. Apple said in a footnote to its AirTags announcement that the update will be released at some point next week.
Subaru recalls 875K vehicles
DETROIT — Subaru is recalling nearly 875,000 cars and SUVs in the U.S. because the engines can stall or a rear suspension part can fall off. The stalling recall covers more than 466,000 Crosstrek SUVs from 2018 and 2019 and Impreza cars from 2017 through 2019. The company says in government documents that a computer can power the ignition coil after the car is shut off. That can cause a short circuit. Dealers will update the software, replace ignition coils and if necessary install a new front exhaust pipe. The recall is to start May 28.
Obstructed views, lack of alerts
JUNEAU, Alaska — Obstructed views of the sky and problems with a system that alerts pilots to nearby planes were factors in a mid-air crash of Alaska sightseeing planes that killed six people two years ago, the National Transportation Safety Board has determined. The board on Tuesday approved the probable cause unanimously, determining that the planes’ structures, or a passenger, limited the pilots’ views before the crash. That prevented the pilots from seeing each other in the critical moments before the May 2019 crash. The board also cited a lack of alerts from the planes’ display systems while they were flying in a high-traffic area.
Soccer coach denied entry
A youth soccer club hoping to welcome its new coach from the United Kingdom to the U.S. has been caught up in a morass of bureaucracy deeper than any Louisiana bayou, according to a federal lawsuit recently filed by the team. The case involves a Louisiana soccer team, the coach it has recruited since 2018 and a presidential order aimed at curbing travel to stop the spread of COVID-19. It names the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in London as defendants. The State Department cited a Jan. 25 proclamation signed by President Joe Biden that bans certain travel from the U.K. due to COVID-19, and said the coach’s visa application could not proceed, the lawsuit states. But a lawyer for the Houma Terrebonne Soccer Association says the coach’s visa is a separate issue from the travel rules and should have been approved months ago. The travel restriction should not interfere with the issuance of a visa for coach Matthew Ferguson, she said. Ferguson is considered invaluable to the Louisiana team, said New Orleans lawyer Leah Spivey, who represents the coach and the soccer association.
Tennessee protesters arrested
KNOXVILLE, Tenn — Seven protesters demanding the release of police body camera video of a student’s fatal shooting at a Tennessee high school have been arrested.
Those charged were among dozens of demonstrators who filed into a Knox County Commission meeting Monday evening and raised their fists, news outlets reported. Most remained silent, but some were vocal in calling for authorities to release video from the April 12 shooting at Knoxville’s Austin-East Magnet High School that killed Anthony J. Thompson Jr., who was 17. The seven arrested were charged with a misdemeanor for interfering with a commission meeting by physical action or verbal utterance. District Attorney Charme Allen has declined to release the video even as pressure mounts, saying it could damage the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s probe into the shooting.
EU links J&J shot to rare clots
LONDON — The European Union’s drug regulatory agency said Tuesday that it found a “possible link” between Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine and extremely rare blood clots and recommended a warning be added to the label. But experts at the agency reiterated that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh the risks. The European Medicines Agency made its determination after examining a small number of clot cases in people vaccinated in the U.S. It said these problems should be considered “very rare side effects of the vaccine.” J&J immediately announced it will revise its label as requested and resume vaccine shipments to the EU, Norway and Iceland.