OUR CRUCIAL SPRING CAMPAIGN IS NOW UNDERWAY
Please donate now to keep the mission and independent journalism of Common Dreams strong.
To donate by check, phone, or other method, see our More Ways to Give page.
Bruce Mirken, MPP director of communications, 202-215-4205 or 415-668-6403
In a major setback to medical marijuana research, the Drug Enforcement Administration has rejected the decision of Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner and blocked a medical marijuana research project at the University of Massachusetts Amherst -- a project considered vital if marijuana is ever to be an FDA-approved medicine. The DEA's ruling, dated Jan. 7, was only released today.
"It's no surprise that an administration that has rejected science again and again has, as one of its final acts, blocked a critical research project," said Aaron Houston, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. "With the new administration publicly committed to respecting scientific research and valuing data over dogma, this final act of desperation isn't surprising, but the true victims are the millions of patients who might benefit."
Professor Lyle Craker had applied for permission to cultivate marijuana for use in medical research. At present, marijuana for research can only be obtained through the National Institute on Drug Abuse -- a government monopoly that does not exist for any other Schedule I drug. Because NIDA's marijuana is of notoriously poor quality and has only been inconsistently available to researchers, scientists and advocates consider Dr. Craker's project essential to the advancement of medical marijuana research.
The long and difficult process of seeking approval culminated on Feb. 12, 2007, in a ruling by Judge Bittner that Craker should be allowed to proceed. But such administrative law judge rulings are not binding on the DEA. In the nearly two years since the ruling, several small, pilot studies have shown marijuana to safely and effectively relieve nerve pain that afflicts millions suffering from HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other conditions, making more advanced research -- including strains custom-tailored for various conditions, which was one of the goals of Craker and his colleagues -- vital.
"Once again, science has taken a back seat to ideology in the Bush administration, with research that could benefit millions needlessly stalled," Houston said. "They can delay progress, but they cannot stop it."
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is the number one organization in the U.S. legalizing cannabis. We passed 13 medical cannabis laws in the past 15 years, and we ran winning campaigns in eight of the 11 legalization states. No organization in the movement has changed as many cannabis laws, impacted as many patients and consumers, created as many new markets, or done more to end cannabis prohibition in the U.S. than MPP.
"Today's decisions should be commended for recognizing that the rules we apply to the internet should foster free expression, not suppress it," said the deputy director of ACLU's National Security Project.
Civil liberties advocates on Thursday praised the U.S. Supreme Court for a pair of unanimous rulings that they say uphold the right to free speech on online platforms.
The high court's decisions in Twitter v. Taamneh and Gonzalez v. Google represent "a win for free expression on the internet," the ACLU tweeted.
Alongside its partners, the ACLU "filed amicus briefs in both cases urging the court to ensure online platforms are free to promote, demote, and recommend content without legal risk in order to protect political discourse, cultural development, and intellectual activity," the group noted in a statement.
"Free speech online lives to fight another day," said Patrick Toomey, deputy director of ACLU's National Security Project. "Twitter and other apps are home to an immense amount of protected speech, and it would be devastating if those platforms resorted to censorship to avoid a deluge of lawsuits over their users' posts. Today's decisions should be commended for recognizing that the rules we apply to the internet should foster free expression, not suppress it."
According to ACLU's statement:
In Twitter v. Taamneh, the plaintiffs claimed that Twitter was liable for allegedly "aiding and abetting" an attack in Istanbul by ISIS because Twitter failed to adequately block or remove content promoting terrorism — even though it had no specific knowledge that any particular post furthered a terrorist act. The court held that hosting, displaying, and recommending videos, without more, is not aiding and abetting terrorism.
As the ACLU's amicus brief in Twitter v. Taamneh explained, if the Supreme Court allowed the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' startlingly broad interpretation of the Anti-Terrorism Act to stand, online intermediaries—like internet service providers, social media platforms, publishers, and other content distributors—would be forced to suppress the First Amendment-protected speech of many of their users. The brief explained that, given the vast scale of speech occurring on platforms like Twitter every day, online intermediaries would be compelled to use blunt content moderation tools that over-restrict speech by barring certain topics, speakers, or types of content in order to avoid claims that they went too far in making that information available to an interested audience. Even today, platforms frequently take down content mistakenly identified as offensive or forbidden, for example, by confusing a post about a landmark mosque with one about a terrorist group.
In Gonzalez v. Google, the court noted that in light of its decision in Twitter v. Taamneh, "little if any" of the plaintiffs' case remained viable. It was therefore unnecessary to address the question of whether Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act immunized the platform's recommendation algorithms. The court remanded the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to determine whether any part of the plaintiffs' argument could move forward in light of the Twitter ruling.
David Greene, director of civil liberties at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), also welcomed the court's rulings in both cases.
EFF is "pleased that the court found that an online service cannot be liable for terrorist attacks merely because their services are generally used by terrorist organizations the same way they are used by millions of organizations around the globe," Greene said in a statement.
He added that EFF is "pleased that the court did not address or weaken Section 230, which remains an essential part of the architecture of the modern internet and will continue to enable user access to online platforms."
Section 230 is a federal liability shield that generally prevents social media and other websites from facing defamation lawsuits or being held accountable for third-party content generated by users or paid advertisers. The immunity provision has come under increased scrutiny from many members of Congress in both major parties.
One countervailing opinion about the court's decision to not reexamine Section 230 came from the Real Facebook Oversight Board, a coalition of researchers and advocates who seek to counter the harms associated with the profit-maximizing algorithms used by Facebook and Instagram, both of which are now owned by Meta.
"Meta wasn't on trial today in the Supreme Court, but their rapacious business model was," the group said in a statement. "In no surprise, the extremist U.S. Supreme Court chose profit over privacy and safety. More than ever, U.S. lawmakers must act to pass sweeping, meaningful regulation of Big Tech—before more users are harmed or worse by hate speech that platforms won't and can't stop."
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), however, echoed the assessment shared by the ACLU and EFF, calling the court's decision to leave Section 230 untouched "good news."
"Despite being unfairly scapegoated for everything wrong with the internet, Section 230 remains vitally important to protecting online speech," argued Wyden, who co-wrote the 1996 statute with former Rep. Chris Cox (R-Calif.). "My focus remains helping end abusive practices by tech companies while protecting freedom of information online."
According toPolitico, the high court's decisions "mark a major win for the tech industry, which has argued that narrowing Section 230 could be disastrous for the internet if platforms could be sued over content-moderation decisions. But the resolution leaves the door open to future showdowns—potentially in Congress—over the breadth of the legal protection the internet firms enjoy."
"Will you be the president who helped put an end to the plastic pollution crisis, or someone who let it spiral further out of control?"
Actors known for their environmental advocacy—including Jane Fonda, Jason Momoa, Joaquin Phoenix, Susan Sarandon, and Laura Dern—joined Greenpeace USA on Thursday in an open letter to U.S. President Joe Biden urging his administration to "protect the planet from plastic pollution" and slash carbon emissions "by supporting a strong global plastics treaty."
"We appreciate your leadership in securing a global oceans treaty that creates a path to protecting 30% of our oceans by 2030," the letter's signers told Biden. "Winning the treaty was truly a historic moment, one of the greatest environmental achievements in history."
"We're calling on President Biden to put aside fossil fuel and plastics industry interests and lead us on the path that prioritizes human health, biodiversity, and our communities."
"At the end of May, delegates from around the world will convene in Paris for the second round of negotiations on a global plastics treaty," the letter continues, referring to talks hosted by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
"While you have signaled support for this treaty, the U.S. position is not yet strong enough," the letter argues. "Currently, the U.S. is not calling for a cap on plastic production—which is the only real way to stop plastic pollution. In 2021, the U.S. only recycled a mere 5% of plastics produced."
\u201cDozens of public figures have joined Greenpeace USA in calling on @POTUS to support an ambitious, legally binding Global #PlasticsTreaty that caps plastics production and supports solutions like refill & reuse! \ud83d\udc4f\n\nThank you for lending your voices \ud83d\udd3d https://t.co/qc5IOkuYsX\u201d— Greenpeace USA (@Greenpeace USA) 1684427402
The letter continues:
Plastics are polluting and harmful at every stage of their life cycle—from extraction to disposal. Ninety-nine percent of plastics come from fossil fuels; cutting plastic production will make a significant dent in carbon emissions. There are communities living next to refineries and petrochemical facilities who are bearing the combined brunt of the climate and plastic crises. People living near these facilities—overwhelmingly people of color—face higher rates of cancer, asthma, and adverse birth outcomes.
"President Biden, you have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help our climate, our oceans, and our communities this year by supporting a strong and ambitious global plastics treaty," the signers asserted. "The decision you make on this critical issue will help define your legacy—will you be the president who helped put an end to the plastic pollution crisis, or someone who let it spiral further out of control? We're calling on you to do the right thing."
Other actors who signed the letter include Rosana Arquette, Alec Baldwin, Ed Begley, Ted Danson, Piper Perabo, Kyra Sedgwick, William Shatner, and Shailene Woodley.
\u201cPLASTIC IS EVERYWHERE \ud83d\udc40 \n\nWe need a Global Plastics Treaty Now! \n\u26a0\ufe0fSign the petition >> https://t.co/HYJelSJO2i\u201d— Greenpeace USA (@Greenpeace USA) 1683904641
Greenpeace is proposing a seven-point plan for the global plastics treaty:
"Many environmental groups and frontline communities are disappointed with the U.S.' current position on the treaty, as it does not call for a cap on plastic production and instead focuses on recycling," Greenpeace USA senior plastics campaigner Lisa Ramsden said in a statement.
"Recycling will never solve the plastic waste problem," Ramsden added. "We must stop plastic waste at its source, and we're calling on President Biden to put aside fossil fuel and plastics industry interests and lead us on the path that prioritizes human health, biodiversity, and our communities."
On Tuesday, UNEP published a report contending that global plastic pollution can be reduced by 80% by 2040 if countries and corporations enact major changes using existing technologies. However, the report was criticized by some environmentalists for promoting the burning of plastic waste.
\u201cThe exclusion of civil society from the plastics treaty negotiations is unprecedented in multilateral negotiations. Goes against the grain of participatory democratic principles that the @UNEP is supposed to uphold!#PlasticsTreaty @third_pole @BBCWorld @LeFigaro_News @lemondelive\u201d— Dharmesh Shah #PlasticsTreaty (@Dharmesh Shah #PlasticsTreaty) 1684285907
UNEP has also come under fire in recent days for issuing just one pass per organization attending the Global Plastics Treaty negotiations in Paris.
"A lifetime appointment to the federal bench is perhaps the most privileged seat in our country," said one economic justice advocate. "It shouldn't be handed out like a party favor."
Advocates for workers' rights and economic justice were among those applauding on Thursday as Michael Delaney, the former attorney general of New Hampshire, asked U.S. President Joe Biden to withdraw his nomination to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, following outcry from progressives regarding his record and his positions on issues including regulation and abortion rights.
Delaney's request came a day after eight progressive groups wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee and asked the panel to block Delaney's nomination.
"Mr. Delaney’s record in private practice, as deputy attorney general for the state of New Hampshire, and as a volunteer member of the New England Legal Foundation's (NELF) board of directors demonstrates a hostility to victims' rights, reproductive rights, employee rights, and government regulation that is unsuitable for the lifetime appointment for which he is being considered," wrote the groups, including Demand Progress, the American Economic Liberties Project (AELP), the Revolving Door Project, and the National Employment Law Project.
Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, who both represent New Hampshire, had been pushing their colleagues to support Delaney's confirmation. Unanimous support from all Democrats on the Judiciary Committee is needed to bring the nomination to the Senate floor for a vote, and some members had been hesitant to back Delaney.
"His nomination for a lifetime appointment to a federal appellate court in an age where these groups are under sustained courtroom attacks does not meet the moment."
Democratic lawmakers and rights advocates have particularly objected to Delaney's work defending St. Paul's School when a student filed a civil suit alleging a sexual assault by a classmate.
The elite boarding school requested that the survivor only be given anonymity in the case if she and her legal team met certain terms. The survivor, Chessy Prout,
came forward after the school made the request, and she and her family lobbied aggressively against Delaney's nomination.
"I know Michael Delaney," wrote Prout in The Boston Globe after Delaney's nomination was announced. "After what he did, he doesn't deserve to be a judge."
Delaney has also been under fire since his nomination for signing a brief that defending an abortion restriction in New Hampshire and for his connection to NELF, whose stated mission champions "individual economic liberties, traditional property rights, properly limited government, and inclusive economic growth" as well as "vigorous advocacy of free market principles."
The group filed an amicus brief in 2021 in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, arguing that the EPA's ability to impose emissions regulations to fight the climate crisis should be curtailed.
The eight groups that wrote to the committee on Wednesday focused on Delaney's position on monopoly power. In his response to a question from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) during his confirmation hearings, they noted, Delaney said a threshold of 80% to 95% of market share qualified as a monopolization claim—denoting what Katherine Van Dyck, senior legal counsel at AELP, said was "a firm allegiance to corporate power, and an animosity toward efforts to hold corporations accountable."
As the groups wrote, "This suggests that Mr. Delaney could set a threshold of 80% or more if seated on the 1st Circuit, a position that is inconsistent with federal jurisprudence where a threshold market share is not even a mandatory element of monopolization claims."
"Granting Mr. Delaney a seat on the 1st Circuit would be a gift to opponents of the so-called 'administrative state' and a boon to corporate power," the groups added. "It would pose serious threats to the rights of some of the most disadvantaged members of our economy, from women who cannot obtain reproductive health services to underpaid and overworked laborers. His nomination for a lifetime appointment to a federal appellate court in an age where these groups are under sustained courtroom attacks does not meet the moment."
The withdrawal of Delaney's nomination, said Van Dyck on Thursday, represents "a big win for the rights of many."
\u201cA lifetime appointment to the federal bench is perhaps the most privileged seat in our country. It shouldn't be handed out like a party favor. This was the right result, and I'm confident that we can find a better nominee for the 1st Circ.\u201d— Katie Van Dyck (@Katie Van Dyck) 1684425981
"This was the right result, and I'm confident that we can find a better nominee for the 1st Circuit," Van Dyck added.