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Advocates applauded the recent actions of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner in trying to put an end to the years-long crackdown on access to medical marijuana in the city. Two days after announcing at a local chapter meeting of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) -- the country's largest medical marijuana grassroots advocacy group -- that he was going to direct city authorities to stop shutting down dispensaries, Mayor Filner delivered on that promise by sending letters yesterday to San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne and Neighborhood Code Compliance Director Kelly Broughton.
Calling on city authorities to "Stop the Crackdown on Marijuana Dispensaries," Mayor Filner directed them to "stop targeted code enforcement against marijuana dispensaries in the City of San Diego immediately," and "stop sending dispensary code enforcement cases to the City Attorney's Office for prosecution." San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith has worked hand-in-hand with District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy to shut down almost all of the dispensaries in the San Diego area.
Mayor Filner's letter is the result of a promise made Tuesday at a monthly chapter meeting of ASA members. As a guest of the meeting, Mayor Filner spoke to the group and laid out a 3-point plan. In addition to directing the city to stop unnecessary code enforcement, Mayor Filner said he would work with advocates to develop a regulatory ordinance for dispensaries. The mayor also promised to personally lobby the Obama Administration to address the issue of federal law.
For years, San Diego has resisted implementation of state medical marijuana law. Since 2006, Drug Enforcement Administration agents under both the Bush and Obama Administrations have conducted aggressive raids, shutting down hundreds of dispensaries over that time, often with the help of local officials. Finally, in 2009, the city empaneled a task force to make regulatory recommendations to the city council, many of which were ignored when a proposed ordinance was drafted and later passed in early 2011. To avoid what advocates called a de-facto ban on dispensaries, a referendum was passed to overturn the ordinance, which ultimately forced the city to rescind it.
"Now we've got a mayor who will work with us," said Eugene Davidovich, ASA San Diego Chapter Coordinator. "We're ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work on an ordinance that will finally bring the safe access to medical marijuana that our patients deserve." Local advocates will still have to contend with enforcement carried out by the county and federal governments, yet Mayor Filner's actions mark a promising shift for the city.
"The leadership of Mayor Filner is a ray of hope for San Diego patients after years of hostility from local and federal officials," said ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer. "Mayor Filner is the latest in a series of local officials to take a bold stand against federal intimidation." The Oakland City Council and the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors are both currently engaged in medical marijuana-related litigation against the Obama Administration.
Mayor Bob Filner's letter to Neighborhood Code Enforcement: https://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Filner_Letters.pdf
Americans for Safe Access is the nation's largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.
"No corner of America is safe if the Republicans blow up our economy, and that starts with Social Security," said Rep. Bill Pascrell.
A group of House Democrats on Tuesday began rolling out legislation to strengthen and expand Social Security as their Republican counterparts' debt ceiling brinkmanship threatens to disrupt the program's monthly payments, which keep millions of seniors and children across the U.S. out of poverty each year.
During a press conference, the Social Security 2100 Act's co-sponsors emphasized the potentially devastating impacts that a GOP-induced U.S. debt default would have on the nation's tens of millions of Social Security recipients, many of whom rely on the program for their sole source of income.
"Today, the entire American economy is teetering on the edge of destruction by a manufactured crisis. I don't think that's hyperbole," Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) said Tuesday. "No corner of America is safe if the Republicans blow up our economy, and that starts with Social Security."
The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has warned that a U.S. default could jeopardize Social Security payments by leaving the Treasury Department without the money to fulfill its obligations.
"While the Social Security trust funds held $2.852 trillion in U.S. government securities at the end of 2021, the Treasury Department must have cash to pay benefits when they are due," the group noted in a memo earlier this year. "Every month, the Treasury Department is required by law to make over $90 billion in payments to the 65 million retirees, disabled workers, widows, widowers, children, and spouses who receive Social Security benefits. The Treasury may not have enough incoming revenue to make those payments without the authority to cash in these securities."
"Absent the legal authority to borrow beyond the current ceiling," the group added, "Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other payments will not be made on time and in full unless Congress approves an increase in the debt limit."
Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), the lead author of the latest version of the Social Security 2100 Act, said during Tuesday's press conference that Social Security recipients are not "bargaining chips" and blasted Republican proposals to slash benefits.
"I think you have to give [former President Donald] Trump at least some credit for telling the Republicans, 'Are you crazy holding Social Security and Medicare hostage?'" Larson said, referring to Trump's criticism of the GOP's approach to the debt ceiling standoff earlier this year.
"They've kind of done the Michael Jackson moonwalk backwards trying to explain why all of their legislation, their study committee, that calls for 21% across-the-board cuts still remains out there in print," Larson added.
While it wouldn't directly target Social Security benefits, the debt ceiling bill that House Republicans passed late last month would slash funding for the Social Security Administration.
In contrast to Republican proposals, Larson's bill would increase benefits for all Social Security recipients by 2%—the first benefit enhancement in more than five decades—and adjust the current Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) to better reflect the impacts of inflation, according to a summary provided by the Connecticut Democrat's office.
The bill would fund benefit increases by applying the Social Security payroll tax to earnings above $400,000 and targeting a loophole that allows the rich to avoid the tax.
Watch the House Democrats' press conference:
The new bill comes as the Treasury Department is reportedly scrambling to find ways to keep making payments as the June 1 "X-date" nears and as Republicans continue to oppose a clean debt limit increase.
"Without additional borrowing, a fresh burst of tax revenue, or new ways to slow spending, the federal government expects to miss a payment for the first time in modern history in early June," The Washington Postreported Tuesday. "To put off the so-called 'X-date' when reserves run dry, Treasury officials have asked their counterparts at federal agencies about the flexibility of payments due before early June."
Outside advocacy groups, meanwhile, are increasingly sounding the alarm about the impact that a default could have on vulnerable seniors.
Retired Americans PAC, a political arm of the Alliance for Retired Americans, launched an ad campaign on Tuesday warning that "politicians in Congress are putting our Social Security benefits at risk," showing clips of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), and other Republican lawmakers.
"The Social Security payments that we've earned after a lifetime of work could be held up, hurting millions of seniors who depend on Social Security to cover the basics like food, gas, and prescriptions," the ad warns.
Richard Fiesta, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, said Tuesday that "seniors earned their Social Security benefits over a lifetime of work and rely on them to pay for food, prescriptions, and other necessities."
"Older Americans will not support any politician who jeopardizes their benefits for partisan games," he added.
"Today we said enough is enough of the anti-trans rhetoric and laws," said event co-organizer and ACLU attorney Chase Strangio.
Amid relentlessly rising attacks on the rights and even the very existence of transgender people in the United States, a group of trans students and their supporters on Monday held a prom on the National Mall within sight of the U.S. Capitol.
Around 150 youth from 16 states—along with parents, friends, and other allies—attended the first-ever Trans Prom, according toVice.
As Timereports, the event was organized by activists including students Libby Gonzales, age 13; Daniel Trujillo, 15; Grayson McFerrin, 12 ; and Hobbes Chukumba, 16.
"The Trans Prom is meant to emphasize the pride and joy and happiness that is within the trans community that cannot be broken," Chukumba, who's from New Jersey, told Time. "We're trying to show that trans people can and will continue to be brilliant and great. And really, it's meant to be a space that lets trans kids be kids."
\u201cYeah just hanging out at #transprom in a sea of new friends celebrating #transjoy. I love my job!\u201d— Kierra Johnson (@Kierra Johnson) 1684779367
The teens worked with co-organizers including Chase Strangio, the deputy director for transgender justice with the ACLU's LGBT & HIV Project, whom some attendees called their "trans-fairy godfather."
"These young people are here with the families and trans adults who love and care for them," Strangio was quoted by Democracy Now! "Today we are choosing to build on the legacies of our transcestors, embracing the possibilities of our futures, and refocusing our collective imagination on the freedom, beauty, and joy that we represent."
"Our joy is ours. You may not see it. You may not think it exists. You may try to take it away. But it is ours," he added. "And today, and every day, we celebrate, cultivate, and embrace it."
\u201cToday we said enough is enough of the anti-trans rhetoric and laws. We showed UP at the Capitol for #TransProm. Our joy is OURS.\u201d— Chase Strangio (@Chase Strangio) 1684795323
Guests on Monday entered the prom through a "tunnel of love" replete with the colors of the trans flag before being treated to live music, a drag performance by MC Stormie Daie, and decor inspired by the trans-led 1969 Stonewall revolt that catalyzed the nascent LGBTQ+ rights struggle in the United States and beyond.
Trujillo—who is from Arizona and says he's been an activist since age 9—toldVice that "Trans Prom is a big statement of what schools and public life would be like if trans people were celebrated and protected."
The organizers enjoyed the support of their parents. Stephen Chukumba, Hobbes' father, told Vice that he's trying to empower his son "to understand what's happening and to not feel defeated or not feel afraid."
"Because at the end of the day, the reality is that there have been marginalized people fighting for equality since the inception of this country," he added. "That's just a fact. And so those communities that have achieved any level of equality have done so by fighting tooth-and-nail."
\u201cThe \u2728\u2728vibes\u2728\u2728 at #TransProm at the U.S. Capitol.\n\nWhile state legislatures attack trans rights, young people celebrate being true to yourself.\u201d— Working Families Party \ud83d\udc3a (@Working Families Party \ud83d\udc3a) 1684769970
Lizette Trujillo, Daniel's mother, told Vice that "in a moment where they're trying to strip you of all of your rights and access to care and being able to participate in school sports like your peers, or being able to use your pronouns in the classroom, like it's transgressive to say, 'I'm going to be joyous regardless and I'm going to exist whether you want me to or not.'"
The idea for the prom was born when Daniel Trujillo and Gonzales—who met on a camping trip in 2019—were discussing their angst over the nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that Republicans have introduced in state legislatures so far this year.
"Having to sit through testimonies for people who are saying that I'm mentally ill, it's really hurtful and frustrating," Trujillo told Time. "My GPA dropped from going [to the state capitol] consistently, and it threw all of us into a really stressful space because my parents had to keep working [and then] drop what they were doing to drive to Phoenix."
According to a January survey by the Trevor Project, which focuses on preventing LGBTQ+ youth suicides, 86% of transgender and nonbinary youth said their mental health has been harmed by Republicans' anti-trans legislation and rhetoric.
"Even though I'm not directly struggling, I still feel overwhelmed by it every now and again," Hobbes Chukumba told Vice. "I feel the pain and the struggle that the rest have to go through, because that's what it means to be part of a community. It means [having] that connection."
The White House also announced actions to protect children online, winning praise for the administration's "continued commitment to creating a safer, less exploitative digital media environment for young people."
As U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on Tuesday issued an advisory calling attention to "the growing concerns about the effects of social media on youth mental health," the White House unveiled federal actions to better protect children online.
"The most common question parents ask me is, 'Is social media safe for my kids?'," Murthy said in a statement. "The answer is that we don't have enough evidence to say it's safe, and in fact, there is growing evidence that social media use is associated with harm to young people's mental health."
"Children are exposed to harmful content on social media, ranging from violent and sexual content to bullying and harassment. And for too many children, social media use is compromising their sleep and valuable in-person time with family and friends," he continued. "We are in the middle of a national youth mental health crisis, and I am concerned that social media is an important driver of that crisis—one that we must urgently address."
Up to 95% of youth ages 13-17 use social media, and over a third do so "almost constantly," Murthy's advisory notes. While most platforms require users to be at least 13 years old, nearly 40% of children ages 8-12 also report using social media.
\u201cChildren and Screens applauds @Surgeon_General\u2019s leadership in advocating for a safety-first, evidence-based approach to children and #SocialMedia, and remains committed to urging policymakers and tech to enact better protections for #youth on social platforms.\u201d— Children and Screens (@Children and Screens) 1684846635
"More research is needed to fully understand the impact of social media; however, the current body of evidence indicates that while social media may have benefits for some children and adolescents, there are ample indicators that social media can also have a profound risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents," the advisory warns.
"We must acknowledge the growing body of research about potential harms, increase our collective understanding of the risks associated with social media use, and urgently take action to create safe and healthy digital environments that minimize harm and safeguard children's and adolescents' mental health and well-being during critical stages of development," the document adds.
Along with detailing the benefits and pitfalls of young people using social media as well as the existing scientific research and which "critical questions remain unanswered," the advisory offers recommendations for policymakers, technology companies, researchers, parents and caregivers, and youth.
As The New York Timesreported Tuesday:
The advisory joins a growing number of calls for action around adolescents and social media, as experts probe what role it may play in the ongoing teen mental health crisis. Earlier this month, the American Psychological Association issued its first-ever social media guidance, recommending that parents closely monitor teens' usage and that tech companies reconsider features like endless scrolling and the "like" button.
The American Psychological Association was among top medical organizations that applauded Murthy's release, with Arthur Evans Jr., the group's CEO and executive vice president, saying that "we support the advisory's recommendations and pledge to work with the surgeon general's office to help build the healthy digital environment that our kids need and deserve."
The advisory was also welcomed by leaders at the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Public Health Association, and National Parent Teacher Association.
"Social media use by young people is pervasive," said Susan Polan associate executive director of public affairs and advocacy at the American Public Health Association. "It can help them, and all of us, live more connected lives—if, and only if, the appropriate oversight, regulation, and guardrails are applied."
"Now is the moment for policymakers, companies, and experts to come together and ensure social media is set up safety-first, to help young users grow and thrive," Polan added. "The surgeon general's advisory about the effects of social media on youth mental health issued today lays out a roadmap for us to do so, and it's critical that we undertake this collective effort with care and urgency to help today's youth."
\u201cA notice of public health risk that has, for many decades, been most commonly associated with tobacco use has now been issued for social media. \n\nSocial Media Can Be a \u2018Profound Risk\u2019 to Youth, Surgeon General Warns\nhttps://t.co/GsPrxrdXxs\u201d— Katie Day Good (@Katie Day Good) 1684852258
The White House on Tuesday announced actions at the departments of Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Justice "build upon" Murthy's advisory, including the creation of a task force as well as new regulations and resources.
President Joe Biden "has made tackling the mental health crisis a top priority, and he continues to call on Congress to pass legislation that would strengthen protections for children's privacy, health, and safety online," the White House said, noting that it is Mental Health Awareness Month.
"We applaud President Biden for today's executive actions and his continued commitment to creating a safer, less exploitative digital media environment for young people," said Josh Golin, executive director of the advocacy group Fairplay. "We are particularly excited by the plans to help schools use technology in ways that support students' learning and mental health."
"We urge Congress to follow the president's lead in putting the well-being of children ahead of Big Tech's profits by passing the Kids Online Safety Act and COPPA 2.0," Golin added, referring to bills also called KOSA and the Children and Teens' Online Privacy Protection Act.
Dozens of rights groups have expressed free speech and privacy concerns about KOSA along with three other bills backed by child safety advocates: the Cooper Davis Act, Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (EARN IT) Act, and Strengthening Transparency and Obligation to Protect Children Suffering from Abuse and Mistreatment (STOP CSAM) Act.
When COPPA 2.0 was reintroduced earlier this month, Fight for the Future director Evan Greer—who has sounded the alarm about the other legislation—said that "we think federal data privacy protections should cover EVERYONE, not just kids, but overall this is a bill that would do some good and it does not have the same censorship concerns as bills like KOSA."