As America debates drug policy reforms and marijuana legalization, there's one aspect of the war on drugs that remains perplexingly contradictory: Some of the most dangerous drugs in the US are legal.
Toward the end of Prohibition, John D. Rockefeller Jr., the powerful businessman who supported the US ban on alcohol, admitted defeat. Seeing the effect Prohibition had on America, he concluded that the policy was doomed. So in the 1930s, he underwrote a study that laid out how to legalize alcohol while strictly regulating it. The study shapes alcohol policy to this day, as Garrett Peck explained for Reason.
It's been 25 years since four white Los Angeles police officers brutally beat Rodney King, an unarmed black man, as it was caught on video, sparking local riots and putting a spotlight on longstanding feelings of distrust toward law enforcement in minority communities. The video in particular has been credited with forcing cities to reconcile with — and sometimes reform — how they police minority neighborhoods.
In most states, it is legal for an employer to fire someone, a landlord to evict someone, and a business owner to deny service to someone — all because the person in question is gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer. Most Americans aren't okay with that. A new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that a majority of Americans in all 50 states think anti-LGBTQ discrimination should be illegal in the workplace, housing, and public accommodations (places that serve the public, such as restaurants and hotels):
At a speech in Harlem on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton will call for a $2 billion plan to help end punitive school policies that can push black children from schools to jails and prisons. The new $2 billion plan, which goes after the so-called "school-to-prison pipeline," will incentivize the hiring of "school climate support teams" — made up of social workers, behavioral health specialists, and education practitioners — to work with school staff to reorient and develop comprehensive reform plans for school discipline policies.
In an 8-1 decision on Tuesday, the US Supreme Court issued a mostly procedural ruling against Florida's death penalty system, ultimately requiring that the state change how it issues death sentences. The majority opinion, written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, came down to procedure. Florida law requires that a jury merely recommend whether a death sentence should be applied in a capital case, with the judge making the final decision on the sentence. The US Supreme Court, in a decision that overturned the Florida Supreme Court, ruled that this scheme violates the Sixth Amendment because it takes away the defendant's right to have his sentence based on a jury's verdict.
President Barack Obama has begun his final full year in office by taking new executive actions on guns. And as of the fourth day into that last full year in office, a new analysis by Vocativ shows that gun violence has killed at least 147 people in the US.
Jeb Bush's presidential run is going so badly that people don't even know if he's running. At least that's what the Google data says: With the fourth Republican debate tonight, the top Googled question about Bush is whether he's still running for president.
This November, Ohio will vote on whether to become the biggest state to fully legalize marijuana. But the measure is very different from what's come out of other legal pot states — and not in a good way, according to drug policy experts and legalization advocates. Ohio is already an unexpected candidate for full legalization compared with the four legal pot states. It isn't especially progressive like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington state, or libertarian like Alaska. It doesn't even have medical marijuana yet, although it was one of the states to decriminalize pot back in the 1970s.
Everyone knows Bernie Sanders is a liberal. But there's one issue the self-described "democratic socialist" isn't so liberal on: guns. Now, Sanders isn't — as some people have described him — a "gun nut," but he does have a mixed voting record on gun policy. As a former representative and now senator of the very liberal Vermont, Sanders has swung to the left on many issues, particularly the economy and health care. But guns are one issue his rural state, with its relatively high levels of gun ownership, is moderate on — since so many residents use firearms for hunting and sport.
The federal government is willfully ignorant about guns. When you don't know enough about something, your reaction is probably to research it — on Google, on Wikipedia, at the library. The federal government is supposed to respond in a similar way when it has questions about certain laws and policies. So if there's a public health crisis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is usually charged with looking into the matter by funding studies and research that look into the best policies to deal with the issue.
Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has no idea why the 14th Amendment happened. Huckabee told radio host Michael Medved that the Supreme Court's 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford decision, which denied citizenship to black Americans, is still the "law of the land" — in an attempt to show that it's okay for people to ignore Supreme Court rulings (particularly the June marriage equality decision) that they disagree with. "Michael, the Dred Scott decision of 1857 still remains to this day the law of the land, which says that black people aren't fully human," he said. "Does anybody still follow the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision?"
A Kentucky clerk on Tuesday refused to marry both opposite-sex and same-sex couples, citing "God's authority" and defying a US Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality. Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis's stance, which now flies in the face of multiple court decisions, could expose her to fines and jail time. But it also shows the lengths that those most religiously opposed to same-sex marriages are willing to go to fight for their beliefs, and has become ground zero for the broader battle against marriage equality.
How could US politicians possibly think it was a good idea to incarcerate millions of Americans starting in the 1980s, creating the system of mass incarceration we have today? It's a question that gets tossed around a lot nowadays, with varied answers — from claims it was an attempt to control the population to arguments that private prisons created a profit motive for locking up millions of Americans.
Nearly 10 years after Hurricane Katrina overran New Orleans, the city is still recovering from a disaster that was as much human-caused as natural. Katrina, which formed on August 23, 2005 and hit the Gulf Coast of the US on August 29, was a massive storm that was likely to wreak havoc in the region regardless of how the government reacted. But the government response was so wildly incompetent that it allowed the worst of the catastrophe to continue and sometimes created entirely new, unnecessary problems.
What policies can save police officers' lives? A new study suggests that limiting access to guns could help — a lot. The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, looked at federal data for firearm ownership and homicides of police officers across the US over 15 years. It found that states with more gun ownership had more cops killed in homicides: Every 10 percent increase in firearm ownership correlated with 10 additional officers killed in homicides over the 15-year study period.
A year after the police shooting of Michael Brown set off a wave of protests in Ferguson, Missouri, the Black Lives Matter movement that rose to prominence in the aftermath is winning. Americans are paying more attention to systemic racism in the criminal justice system. Democratic presidential candidates have had public appearances derailed when they fail to take a convincing stance on the issue. And cops have been charged and indicted for high-profile killings.
As the US debates drug policy reforms and marijuana legalization, there's one aspect of the war on drugs that remains perplexingly contradictory: some of the most dangerous drugs in the US are legal. Don't believe it? The available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows tobacco, alcohol, and opioid-based prescription painkillers were responsible for more direct deaths in one year than any other drug. The chart above compares those drug deaths with the best available data for cocaine, heroin, and marijuana deaths.
A gunman on Thursday night opened fire at a Lafayette, Louisiana, movie theater, reportedly killing three, including himself, and wounding nine others. The shooting came three days after the third anniversary of the spree shooting in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater that killed 12 and injured 70.
In a tweetstorm following his speech at the NAACP's 2015 national convention, President Barack Obama provided a different way to look at that cost by explaining what that $80 billion could go to: