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The Racial Impact of Marijuana Laws
One aspect of making additional marijuana laws that are often overlooked in rural, or less urban areas is the racial impact they have on society. The enforcement of marijuana laws generates some of the justice system’s starkest racial disparities. “The War on Marijuana in Black and White,” a landmark report from the ACLU, details the staggering racial bias and financial waste of our country’s counterproductive fight against a drug widely considered less harmful than alcohol. The excuse that marijuana is a gateway drug is a widely debunked theory. *In the United States, between 2001 and 2010, a black person was almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person was, despite approximately equal rates of use. That needs to be repeated... despite approximately equal rates of use. In some states and counties, blacks are 8, 10, or even 15 times more likely to be arrested, mainly because of the concentration of law enforcement in lower-income or poor areas. Lower-income people, regardless of ethnicity, are more likely to be financially devastated by the disparate enforcement of such laws. They are less likely to afford bail. That, in turn, means that someone living from paycheck to paycheck who cannot afford to pay a small bail faces losing employment, housing, even their families as they wait the average 3 months of incarceration before even having a court hearing. The main purpose of bail is to ensure appearance in court and protect society. Not many people would argue that the average marijuana users are dangerous. However, holding someone on bail has another unlawful purpose; revenue. One of the reasons that some in law enforcement favor the laws is just for that reason; to continue the revenue flow from incarceration. Many jurisdictions depend on that revenue as a large portion of their budget. That is wrong. That is not how our justice system should work. *Marijuana Law Reform ACLU
Submitted by Gerald Hampton, a Wicomico County Resident
A Letter From the Chair
I love walking down the boardwalk in Ocean City and admiring the hive of activity during the busy beach season. Seeing folks from all walks of life enjoying our Eastern Shore of life brings joy to my heart.
One way to continue supporting Ocean City tourism is to bring new jobs to the Lower Shore. Offshore wind developers are required to open two new operations and maintenance facilities in the Ocean City area, which means more jobs, more worker income, more local tax revenue, and more commerce for Ocean City businesses.
But as Mayor Meehan wails against the offshore wind developers over the height of their proposed turbines, he is doing a disservice to the residents of Ocean City. Like Las Vegas, the tourism capital of the world can attest, a recession can be a downright disaster for an area that relies so heavily on tourism. Las Vegas saw almost three million fewer visitors between 2007 – 2009 during the Great Recession. Residents lost homes, businesses were shattered, and families were decimated. Offshore wind will provide lower shore residents more job stability when the state and national economy inevitably cool off.
Ocean City has spent hundreds of thousands of tax dollars hiring hotshot attorneys and lobbyists to derail an industry that economists say will support an estimated 25,000 jobs in Maryland with more than $1.5 billion in worker and business income over the next twenty years.
Imagine if that money had been spent making safety improvements for bikes and pedestrians on Coastal Highway or combating the H20i car festival that frustrates residents and visitors each year.
Concerns about offshore wind and tourism are not supported by facts. Block Island in Rhode Island presents a lesson for Ocean City. The tourism-dependent island is home to the nation’s first offshore wind farm, and like Ocean City, some were concerned about the effect on tourism. Not only was tourism not impacted, it actually increased. The University of Rhode Island examined AirBnB data and found that occupancy rates increased 19 percent and added an extra $349 in revenue for owners. Block Island is proving that tourism and offshore wind can co-exist. Perhaps the mayor can use some of the money he is spending on lobbyists to visit block island and see the positive impacts for himself.
Economic opportunities like this come around once in a lifetime. We have an opportunity to help build a new American industry that will benefit Ocean City and the entire region. Our elected officials should stop, examine the situation and ask themselves if they want to go on the record as being against job creation for their own constituents. I certainly hope they think twice for the sake of our economy.
Patients' rights under attack
It was likely only a matter of time before Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis spoke up regarding the use of medical cannabis. For an elected official sworn to uphold the law, he doesn't always seem to understand the potential impacts of the proposals he is making. In seeking to limit the use of medical cannabis in public, he is in flagrant violation of the state Constitution and completely disregards the opinions of medical professionals who have prescribed this medication in the best interests of their patients.
See the news story link below City Councilwoman Michele Gregory's heartfelt plea to use common sense and empathy to uphold patients' rights in our community.
Dear Council President and Members,
First and foremost, I would like to thank you for taking the time to hear my story and for the opportunity to provide you with an alternative view of the proposed legislation. I sincerely appreciate the fact you allowed me to speak, even though the public comments had closed.
As I explained to you in my remarks, our journey to using medical cannabis was not an easy one. Even now, it isn't a magical cure. What it does allow, however, is a quality of life that was previously impossible. And despite the immense rarity of my son's condition, there are many like him, young and old, who use cannabis as a medical treatment, whether for epilepsy or easing the symptoms of cancer treatments or any other number of ailments. I hope you take this into consideration when debating this regressive legislation, and decide that the right of our counties citizens to a better quality of life is greater than the need for more penalties for the few who break what is already the law.
Another point I would like you to consider is the costliness of enforcement of this proposed law. Yes, it may occasionally lead to catching a few "bad guys", but overall I would wager that it will be time and resource-consuming more than beneficial. Most medical cannabis patients are law-abiding citizens like my own family, ones that would be overwhelmingly unfairly targeted by this law. Those resources could be better put to use in the fight against other more serious issues and crimes. As the Sheriff and State's Attorney admitted, any of the scenarios and anecdata they presented would clearly be covered by existing laws. I urge you to consider the overall cost, not just to the taxpayer, but to patients who have fought for their right to access medical treatment that will be hindered if you pass this legislation. Consider the health and safety of those who rely upon cannabis for a better quality of life.
I urge you to do the right thing and to not take away their right to prescribed treatment. Thank you again for your patience and willingness to listen.
Salisbury City Council, District 4
Democracy is a verb
In November of last year, I had the great privilege and honor to volunteer to be a judge in what is called a “Project Soapbox” event organized by The Mikva Challenge (https://mikvachallenge.org/). Held in a 10th-grade classroom at the E.L. Haynes public charter school in NW DC, it was an intense and inspiring hour with around 25 African- & Hispanic-American students led by an engaged history/civics teacher at the school. The slogan of the Mikva Challenge is “Democracy is a verb.” In other words, democracy is an activity, not a static concept.
I became involved in the Mikva Challenge via a way back volunteer connection with then-Congressman Abner Mikva as an HS student in the suburbs of Chicago during the ‘70s, so I have come full circle. The MC’s mission is to create interpersonal connections between youth and adult leaders and allow them to make civic decisions together. The driving principle is that democracy is strongest when people of all ages come together to make their community better. The organization provides youth with the opportunities they need to participate in civics, and its “Action Civics” youth leadership curriculum provides materials and professional development to teachers. Action Civics is a unique student-focused, project-based, an experiential practice that can transform classrooms, schools, and whole communities. It aims to see more youth participating in civics, along with teachers and adults who are better trained to promote it in their institutions. This in turn leads to empowered, informed, and active youth who promote a just and equitable society. It also gives teachers the knowledge and confidence to implement a youth-centered pedagogy and civics curriculum, as well as adults who are more inclined to include youth in civic processes.
Project Soapbox is called “a public speaking competition that calls young people to speak out on issues that affect them and their communities.” The students identify an issue that they are passionate about and create a two-minute speech, which they stand up and deliver to their teacher and peers. The speeches ideally include researched evidence about the issue as well as a call to action for listeners, and the volunteer external judges must score each speech in real time based on how well the students meet these and other content/rhetorical benchmarks. I tried to do my best as a fresh mentor. Most of the subject matter was deeply troubling and indicative of these kids' tough personal lives. E.g. black-on-black gun violence. Online bullying. Over incarceration of people of color for drug convictions. Alienation due to phone dependency. The stigma of having ADHD. Being the single child of a single mother. Etc. In other words, it was a true mirror of the real world in which so many American children live, especially on the border of poverty. But it was also a very inspiring experience. The students are given a chance to express their deepest concerns and at the same time propose things that should happen in this world that they imagine will improve it. They’re literally given a soapbox to stand on and express their greatest fears and dreams for a better society. And they’re given immediate support to take their vision into the world with greater self-respect as more empowered, articulate citizens. It is said that “these powerful speeches have a lasting, transformative impact on classrooms, schools, and communities” -- having heard and judged them first hand, I can’t imagine that they don’t.
Every day, thanks to the Mikva Challenge, all over the country teachers are helping their students learn democracy by doing democracy. I encourage Maryland teachers living and working beyond the DC Metro area to get involved, as well as like-minded volunteer adults to become a youth mentor and/or attend one of the Mikva’s events. Visit https://mikvachallenge.org/get-involved/ for more info and to sign up. Remember, democracy is a verb!
Now I'll get off my own two-minute soapbox.
Frank X. White
Silver Spring, MD
Debunking Talking Points Against Single Payer Healthcare
Each bullet below is the tried and true talking point developed by PR firms for the healthcare industry to be used to sow FUD — Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt about Single Payer (SP) proposals such as National Improved Medicare for All. Following each bulleted line is the rest of the story so you won’t be deceived by the naked lie.
Industry myth about Medicare For All and the truth that disproves them:
1. Medicare For All is “Government-run health care.”
* SP would only control payments and be able to negotiate prices. Care would continue to be as today, delivered by private, public and non-profit entities.
2. Medicare For All is “Socialized medicine.”
* As proposed in Medicare For All, only the payment system will be made public. Care providers will continue to work for private groups as today. Providers would not be employed by the government.
3. We need to build on what’s working/ fix what’s broken
* What’s working? The ACA never achieved universal coverage. It implemented a private healthcare tax rewarding insurers that delay and deny care and create paperwork that creates costs, not value.
4. Single-Payer Systems cause massive wait times just look at Canada.
* Canadian wait times are a myth. We have waiting in the US and care is rationed by the ability to pay instead of the urgency of care.
5. Medicare For All would be a Middle-class tax hike
* Yes, there will be a tax to cover much lower costs. It would replace deductions for premiums. There would be no out-of-pocket copays or deductibles.
6. We need “Free market solutions.”
* Healthcare is not amenable to a free market. Their is no “shopping” for healthcare. Doctors are highly trained, but still don’t know all the answers. Everyone is different and patients prefer to trust a primary care doctor to make a referral to a specialist they trust, not hand you a list of doctors to “shop”
7. Medicare For All would “Abolish, ban, or take away your private insurance.”
* Few like their insurance or even know how inadequate it is until they need to use it. About 30% of employers change plans annually, so employees are at risk of losing providers because of changes in networks. Medicare for All would be comprehensive coverage, better than any employer plan today.
8. We need to start over from scratch
* There is no need to start from scratch to fix healthcare financing. Medicare has existed for over 50 years. The system can be expanded to cover everyone.
9 Medicare For All would be “Disruptive.”
* Another FUD word to scare people into maintaining the status quo instead of the healthier more cost effective option of Single Payer.
* Provisions cover cost of retraining and extended unemployment. 95% will be employed within two years.
10. Our healthcare system offers “Choice and competition.”
* our current system offers neither. Your employer chooses plans and the insurer chooses providers in plans. About 30% of employer plans change annually so employees risk having to switch doctors under the new plan. Single Payer would maximize choice by eliminating narrow networks of providers. There would be no instances where a hospital system would not accept coverage through an insurance company. Every provider would be part of the public payment plan.
* If you’ve ever tried to shop for a service, you know prices are difficult if not impossible to obtain. Who has time for that anyway?
11. We need to Strengthen, protect, or “build on” the ACA
* Life expectancy in the US has actually declined since the ACA was passed. Clearly, it did not help improve community health, it just boosted insurance company profits.
12. One-size-fits-all health plan
* Another FUD phrase. Insurance companies design coverages to eliminate services. After shopping for a private plan, you may find that something you need is not covered. Single Payer will cover all medically necessary care including dental, hearing and eye care.
Offshore wind will bring jobs to Salisbury
(This article was originally published on DelmarvaNow.com)
Maryland’s Public Service Commission recently sought public comments on an issue that directly impacts Salisbury: offshore wind energy.
Salisbury is poised to be a central location for jobs serving the offshore wind projects under development off Maryland’s coast. The two projects, US Wind and Ørsted’s Skipjack Wind Farm, are expected to create 9,700 new jobs in Maryland in addition to creating enough clean energy for tens of thousands of homes.
Salisbury should welcome the opportunity to attract “green-collar” energy jobs - good-paying jobs that also contribute to a cleaner, greener energy future in Maryland.
Maryland has required that operations and maintenance jobs for those turbines be located on the Lower Shore. As a newly-elected City Councilwoman for District 4, I will take all appropriate steps to help our city attract these jobs.
I encourage the Maryland Public Service Commission and state policymakers to let offshore wind jobs move forward without delay. Advancing clean energy is more than just a statewide environmental priority – it’s also an economic priority for Salisbury.
Salisbury City Council District 4
Offshore wind is the wave of the future
The Lower Shore Progressive Caucus was proud to take the lead on a coalition of local leaders appealing to Rep. Andy Harris to change his position on offshore wind projects. Many thanks to Mayor Jacob Day of Salisbury, Josh Hastings, and Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes for signing on and supporting these initiatives which will benefit the Lower Shore economically and ecologically.
Read our letter to Rep. Harris below.
Dear Representative Harris:
As you are keenly aware, the Eastern Shore has long struggled to attract new industry and bring about greater economic growth. We want to see an Eastern Shore economy built from rural strengths that is not just strong, but one that is thriving and with an eye towards innovation, opportunity, and global awareness.
It’s no secret that the Eastern Shore’s economy has been affected by industries leaving, policies that restrict our H2-B/J-1 visa workers, a trade war that hurts our agricultural sector, the 2008 financial meltdown, and more. What’s left is a region dealing with higher rates of poverty, less opportunity, and residents that are struggling to get by.
For the greater part of a decade, our region has been working towards an opportunity to bring both jobs and economic growth through off-shore wind.
We know you have been opposed to this project in the past, but we are asking you to step back and support the bigger picture. This project allows the Eastern Shore an opportunity to become industry leaders in an industry that is clearly a strong part of the future clean energy mix. Today Europe has more than 80 offshore wind projects producing over 11,000 megawatts of clean energy. These projects prove that claims that the offshore wind project is a “defense risk” are wrong. The truth is that offshore wind developers and the U.S. military have worked in tandem with our NATO allies in the North Sea alongside offshore wind turbines for decades.
The construction of offshore wind and future green energy projects across the Eastern Shore would allow for the birth of a modern clean energy economy that will produce thousands of skilled, family-supporting jobs across our entire region. According to the Public Service Commission, this first offshore wind project alone would bring $1.8 billion of in-state spending as well as 9,700 direct and indirect jobs. Keeping in mind that the U.S. industry is just beginning to develop this tremendous untapped offshore wind resource, this presents an opportunity for the Eastern Shore and all of Maryland to put our businesses and our workers at the forefront of this imminent American industry.
With this in mind, this coalition of elected officials, organizations, and active constituents from across Maryland’s First Congressional District, is urging you to publicly take a stand for the Eastern Shore wind project. Please put the Eastern Shore before partisan politics and fully support prioritizing off-shore wind energy. We eagerly wait for your response and appreciate your service.
Chair, Lower Shore Progressive Caucus
Kent and Queen Anne's Indivisible
Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes
Speaker Pro Tem: Maryland House of Delegates
The Maryland Legislative Coalition
Mayor of Salisbury
Chesapeake Climate Action Network
Wicomico County Council District 4
Pocomoke City Council District 4
Candidate, Salisbury City Council District 4
Maya Rockeymoore Cummings: Democrats will fight for the ShoreThe Eastern Shore is Maryland’s breadbasket, producing much of the state’s top export commodities such as poultry, soybeans, wheat, corn, and vegetables. Because every dollar of exported goods produces another $1.30 in additional business activity, the Eastern Shore’s agriculture exports have a multiplier effect that stimulates jobs and increases income and local purchasing power.
That is why Trump’s trade war and its heavy use of tariffs must be understood as a direct threat to Eastern Shore. It is well known that tariffs hurt the well being of farmers, workers, and the local and state economy by reducing production, income, and jobs. Unfortunately, the $30 billion bailout program that Trump created to fix a trade war that he started is not an adequate substitute for greater economic certainty, hard work and the ability to freely access markets abroad.
But it’s not just Trump erratic policies. Rep. Andy Harris, the Eastern Shore’s only Congressional Representative in the U.S. Congress, voted against the Farm Bill which is the foundation of America’s ag policy and vital to Eastern Shore farmers.
Maryland Democrats understand and value the role of our state’s agricultural industries. That’s why U.S. Senators Cardin and Van Hollen and every Democratic member of the U.S House delegation voted for the Farm Bill. It’s why our newest Anne Arundel County Executive is a farmer.
It’s also why Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly are working hard to support farmers. From boosting the amount of locally grown food procured by Maryland institutions (HB 305/SB 608) and promoting agritourism (HB 693/SB 99) to boosting the consumption of healthy foods by matching purchases made by Marylanders using federal nutrition assistance programs (HB 84/SB483), these legislators know that Eastern Shore products are essential for the well being of the state and the world.
Maya Rockeymoore Cummings
Chair, Maryland Democratic Party
Wicomico NAACP stands with Pittsville
Wicomico NAACP stands with Pittsville
President, Wicomico NAACP
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been enraged to hear of the water crisis in Pittsville. Not only have residents had to deal with unclean water, but a lack of transparency and accountability within town government has also made matters worse.
The crisis began in mid-April when Pittsville’s water started to turn yellow. From the beginning, the town was slow to respond to the issue. The town council contacted the Maryland Department of the Environment but then didn’t follow up, leading MDE to falsely believe the issue was corrected. Town officials waited almost a month to begin handing out water to residents. In addition, the delay in circulating information left residents unsettled, which created rumors leading to more confusion and panic.
Since first releasing information, the Council and Town officials have all told different accounts, and the story continues to change. Some officials have blamed old pipes and chemicals that were past their expiration date. The Council blamed the former water manager and former staff. The Council President indicated that it was the fault of the last few water managers. These conflicting stories have once again confused residents and destroyed any remaining credibility with town officials.
After a long few months, the Pittsville Water Crisis appears to be finally coming to a close. However, the Wicomico NAACP wants to assure Pittsville residents that they have our full support in the fight for clean water and transparency in government and that we will continue to push for accountability in local government.
State Senate Mary Beth Carozza talks a big game but fails to deliver.
Senator Carozza likes to talk a big game, yet it seems as though her mouth is writing checks she can’t cash. Of the 18 bills Senator Carozza introduced, only 4 bills passed--less than 23%--and we must demand better from our Senator.
The bills she did manage to pass aren’t helping to advance the Shore. SB0338 allows the sale of alcohol closer to children, churches, and public libraries. Maryland Matters points out that one of her top bills–giving the Ocean City Convention Center extra financing to fund expansion and renovation--barely passed on the last day of the session. That’s the kind of bill that former state Senator James N. Mathias (D) would have passed with ease. She has failed to address the Shore’s biggest priorities; namely, the opioid crisis and young people fleeing the Shore in search of better prospects. The Senator also brags about her proposed amendment to the minimum wage bill that would ensure Shore workers were paid less than the rest of Maryland, yet exempted herself from lower pay if it had passed. What might be the worst of it all are her attempts to take credit for the successes of Paul Pinsky while pitting our farming community and local environmental advocates against each other for political gain instead of putting forth policies that help small farmers better adapt to greener practices.
Though the Senator likes to say she had a productive session, reality is often disappointing, and the reality is, Senator Carozza failed the Shore in 2019.