TIME Drugs

Meth Seizures at U.S.-Mexico Border Set New Records

President Obama to Announce Executive Action on Undocumented Immigration Issue
Sandy Huffaker—Getty Images A car drives along the U.S. - Mexico border wall in Calexico, Calif. on Nov. 19, 2014.

Figures show a 300% increase in methamphetamine seizures at California ports of entry from fiscal years 2009 to 2014

Methamphetamine seizures along the California-Mexico border soared to new highs in the fiscal year 2014, as narcotics smuggling cartels sought to benefit from the cost advantages of producing the drug south of the frontier.

The San Diego field office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized 14,732 pounds of methamphetamine during the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports. That accounts for 63% of all seizures of the drug at U.S. ports of entry nationwide.

Authorities have found the drug strapped to pedestrians or hidden in food cans, as well as in liquid form, passed off as windshield washer fluid.

Read more at The San Diego Union-Tribune

TIME animals

There Will Be No Live-Possum Drop in Brasstown, N.C., This New Year’s Eve

Possum Drop in Brasstown, North Carolina
Erik S. Lesser—EPA A sign honoring the possums of Brasstown is seen during the 20th annual Possum Drop on New Year's Eve at Clay's Corner in Brasstown, North Carolina, Dec. 31, 2013.

The organizer will drop a dead one, instead

A North Carolina town will drop its tradition of dropping a live possum this New Year’s Eve.

Following an injunction won by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Clay Logan, of Brasstown, N.C., has decided not to use a live animal in his annual Possum Drop, the Charlotte Observer reports. Instead, the possum Logan will lower to the ground in a tinsel-decorated plexiglass cage this year will be roadkill or, perhaps, the main ingredient in a pot of possum stew.

PETA and Logan have been at loggerheads for more than a year over the event, an annual rite in this town of 240 people that includes a full evening of marsupial-themed activities. PETA has accused Logan of subjecting a shy animal to noise and confusion, while Logan has defended the tradition as “good clean family fun, a good old redneck good time” that doesn’t harm the tiny animal, who is released into the wild afterward.

It’s unclear if this battle will be dropped for good come 2015, however. The injunction just requires Logan to get a state permit to use a live possum, and Logan told the Associated Press that he simply didn’t have time to get one this year.

[Charlotte Observer]

TIME States

This Is How Many Americans Will Ring in the New Year

At the beginning of the new year, a baby will be born in the U.S. every 8 seconds

More than 320 million Americans will ring in the New Year, the United States Census Bureau said on Monday.

New projections released by the agency show the U.S. population is expected to hit 320,090,857 on Jan. 1, which is 2.33 million or .73%, more than New Year’s Day 2014.

“In January 2015, the U.S. is expected to experience a birth every eight seconds and one death every 12 seconds,” the bureau said in a statement. “Meanwhile, net international migration is expected to add one person to the U.S. population every 33 seconds.”

On a global level, an estimated 7,214,958,996 people will be alive to celebrate the New Year, up 77.3 million from last year.

See the real-time figures here:

TIME politics

The Man Who Would Be King… of Texas

General Map Of United States With Forts And Military Stations
Buyenlarge / Getty Images Map of the United States extending from the Atlantic coast through most of Texas showing military stations and forts, 1861. Illustration by Joseph Hutchins Colton.

Dec. 29, 1845: Texas becomes the 28th state in the Union

Texas has never been much of a joiner. When the United States officially annexed the Lone Star Republic on this day, Dec. 29, in 1845, it did so over some strident objections from inside and outside the state.

Northerners didn’t want Texas to join the Union because it did so as a slave state. Mexico objected because it still considered Texas a territory — and went to war with the U.S. within a year of the annexation. And while a majority of Texans favored statehood, one prominent politician stood in staunch opposition: the Republic’s second president, Mirabeau Lamar.

Lamar — with the apt middle name of Buonaparte — “had a dream of empire,” according to a 1928 TIME story. A Renaissance man known for his poetry and his talents for horseback riding, fencing and oil painting, he became an equally effective revolutionary in the fight for Texas’s independence from Mexico. As president, he was dogged in his determination to solidify the nascent Republic’s sovereignty and to establish trade with foreign powers. In fact, his nation-building efforts helped urge a divided U.S. Congress to pull the trigger on annexation, according to TIME, which explained:

He saw a cotton and mineral country without tariff restrictions, sending raw materials to England in exchange for manufactured products. England liked this and her agents began to talk turkey with Texans. The U. S. Congress, alarmed lest the “golden moment to obtain Texas” be lost, adopted in 1845 a resolution to annex Texas.

While Lamar was unhappy to see the end of his empire dreams, he eventually conceded that it was better for Texas — still under constant threat of Mexican aggression on one front, and at risk of becoming a British satellite on the other — to join forces with the U.S.

But that didn’t stop him from resenting the intrusion. Following annexation, when Lamar was sent to Laredo to set up a municipal government in the midst of the Mexican-American War, he wrote to his former vice president, complaining about President James K. Polk’s collusion with his old political rival, Sam Houston, in typically florid prose: “The post I occupy in this war is certainly a very petty and unsuitable one, but the President is determined to gratify his favorite — your ‘demented monster’ — in all his resentments. Polk is but a poor tool to the malice of that bloated mass of iniquity.”

Like the state that still uses the motto “Texas: It’s like a whole other country,” Lamar was larger than life, with ambitions for the young nation that he couldn’t quite pull off, despite his impressive powers of persuasion.

“Lamar had great personal charm, impulsive generosity, and oratorical gifts,” wrote Herbert Gambrell, the late Texas historian and author of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar: Troubadour and Crusader. “[But] his powerful imagination caused him to project a program greater than he or Texas could actualize.”

While Lamar’s friends “were almost fanatically devoted to him,” Gambrell noted, his detractors “declared him a better poet than politician.”

Read TIME’s 1928 story about Texan history and identity, here in the archives: Texas Magazines

TIME Drugs

Meet the Man Behind Oregon’s New Legal Pot Market

Michael Schoenholtz Rob Patridge is chair of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, the body that will oversee the creation of Oregon's market for recreational marijuana.

'We’ve been fortunate that we weren’t the pioneers'

When Oregon voters approved Measure 91 in the midterm elections, they became the latest to say that marijuana should be taxed and regulated like alcohol. Now comes the enormous job of actually bringing the legal marijuana market to life.

The task falls to Rob Patridge, the chair of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, and its four volunteer commissioners. The group will be busy ahead of the Jan. 5, 2016 deadline for accepting applications from Oregonians who want to grow, process and sell marijuana. TIME spoke to Patridge, a former Republican state lawmaker and the current district attorney of Klamath County — proud home of Crater Lake — about his thoughts on edibles, when the market will realistically open and whether lawsuits like this one are a threat to the commission’s work.

What is your general philosophy for developing Oregon’s pot market?

We’re going out in late January and doing what we’re calling a listening tour. We’re going to go throughout Oregon to talk to the communities, local government, law enforcement, educators, the treatment community, the people who are invested in growing marijuana and selling marijuana. We’re going to listen to the impacts it’s going to have on the community and try to define how we’re going to move forward to address that as we put together the rules.

What issues do you expect to come up on this listening tour?

There’s been a lot of interest in stuff that the legislature may or may not address [like possibly allowing a special election for local jurisdictions to opt out of allowing pot shops]. There are concerns related to edibles and local government is very interested in public safety issues, how it’s going to interact with criminal laws. The issues are large but we’re going to try to break them down so we can eat the elephant one bite at a time rather than trying to eat the whole thing.

Edibles are proving to be controversial. People are concerned about kids accidentally ingesting them, wondering whether certain types should be banned. What are your thoughts about how to approach the issue?

The concern has certainly been raised, and we’re going to be proceeding with caution. I know there’s some legislative interest related to edibles. The legislature could mandate types. So the jury’s going to be out for a while … We’re watching what Colorado and Washington are doing. We’ve been in direct contact with the other states. We’ve reached out to Alaska. And we’re going to take some of our commissioners and staff there to talk about implementation. I’m not one to not learn from other people’s lessons.

At this point, do you think there are certain types of edibles that shouldn’t be on the market?

I don’t know that [certain types] should or shouldn’t be on the market. It’s about how they’re used and what’s responsible from a packaging standpoint, how they get labeled, those types of things.

In general, how is the situation going to be different in Oregon than in Washington or Colorado?

First, we’re not starting from zero. We already have a system in place for medical. We also have the benefit of seeing what’s gone on in Washington and Colorado, which they didn’t. We’re not plying new ground. The Colorado model is probably a better fit, because of how their medical marijuana is regulated. It’s similar to what we do. We’ve been fortunate that we weren’t the pioneers, even if we are the Pioneer State. We’re fortunate to gain from their knowledge, and they’ve been very free about sharing it.

What is your timeline for when legal shops will open their doors and the state will start collecting tax revenue?

We’re really on a fairly tight timeline. What I’m calling the “home grow provisions” [personal cannabis growing and possession becoming legal] come into effect July 1, 2015. Beyond that, we’ve got a whole set of rules we’ve got to deal with. We’ve got to set up a whole seed-to-sale system. And if the legislature changes the playing field, we’re going to be continually looking at that. Best case scenario, last half of 2016 before we’d be up and running. We’re trying to be very up front. A lot of people thought that in January 2016 these retail locations would pop up and people would go purchase marijuana. And that’s just not going to be the case.

The attorneys general in Oklahoma and Nebraska are suing Colorado over marijuana legalization, saying it violates the Supremacy Clause. How does that shape your thoughts about the nature of the market you’re setting up?

There’s the potential for a lot of legal challenges for Measure 91. Until it’s declared one way or another, we have to stay with what current law is. Our job under current law is to implement, and the court can do what it may. If it’s looks like it’s a substantial enough issue—if a judge issues a stay or something else happens—obviously we would work with the legislature to decide whether we should continue to spend the state’s money, of if they’d want us to wait until there was a legal resolution.

Is legal pot good for Oregon?

It’s my job to implement it as the chair of the commission. Voters made that decision. And as I’ve told everybody, I try to be a consensus builder. That’s my job, to create a process that’s transparent, that engages everybody. That’s really our role, and I’m not taking a policy position as the chair. Certainly there are arguments on all sides. It’s so early.

TIME States

Florida Surpasses New York to Become 3rd Most Populous State

USA Florida Miami South Beach Spring Break Crowded Beach
Robert Clare—Getty Images

And North Dakota is the fastest-growing one

Florida has overtaken New York as the third most populous state in the country.

The Sunshine State added 293,000 new residents between July 1, 2013 and July 1 of this year, according to the U.S. Census bureau, reaching a total population of 19.9 million. New York added only 51,000 people during the same period, amounting to a total of 19.7 million.

North Dakota saw the fastest growth at an increase of 2.16%, while the overall U.S. population increased 0.75% to 318.9 million. California and Texas remain the first and second most populous states, with 38.8 million and 26.95 million, respectively.

TIME States

Florida Woman Slaps 72-Year-Old Who Denied Her Facebook Request

The alleged assailant has been charged with aggravated battery

Police arrested a Florida woman accused of slapping a 72-year-old woman who declined her friend request on Facebook.

Rachel Anne Hayes, 27, became upset when the 72-year-old said that her Facebook name was inappropriate and would only accept her friend request if she changed her name, according to the Tampa Bay Times. (What name she uses on the social media site has not been released by authorities.)

The two women began to argue over the matter, and Hayes eventually left the elderly woman’s home. But Hayes then returned, and when the two fought again outside her door, Hayes allegedly slapped the woman who turned down her friend request several times.

Police charged Hayes with aggravated battery on an elderly person, a felony.

[Tampa Bay Times]

Read next: Why a Facebook ‘Sympathize’ Button Is a Terrible Idea

TIME States

These States Produced the Most Peace Corps Volunteers in 2014

Vermont is "Peace Corps heaven"

Vermont produced the most Peace Corps volunteers per capita than any other state in 2014.

According USA Today, for every 100,000 Vermont residents there are 7.8 volunteers—more than any other state. The second largest proportion of volunteers comes from Washington, D.C., where there are 6.7 volunteers for every 100,000 residents.

Volunteers from the storied government organization travel to areas around the globe to serve communities in the most need.

USA Today reports Vermont has taken the spot three times in the past five years. “Vermont is the happy hunting ground for Peace Corps. It really is Peace Corps heaven,” Elizabeth Chamberlain, spokeswoman for Peace Corps Northeast Regional Recruitment Office, told USA Today.

California, however, tops the list of states that produce the most total volunteers. In 2014, 926 Peace Corps members came from California, followed by New York, Washington, Florida, and Texas.

[USA Today]

TIME Drugs

Texas Lawmaker Proposes Lower Marijuana Possession Penalties

File picture shows marijuana plants at a indoor cultivation in Montevideo
Andres Stapff—Reuters Marijuana plants are seen at a indoor cultivation.

A new bill would make the possession of up to one oz. punishable with a $100 ticket

On Monday, Texas State Rep. Joe Moody introduced a bill that would remove criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

“Our current marijuana policy in Texas just isn’t working,” Moody said in a statement. “We need a new approach that allows us to more effectively utilize our limited criminal justice resources. This legislation is a much-needed step in the right direction.”

Under current Texas law, possessing up to two oz. of weed can yield six months of jail time and a $2,000 penalty. Under the proposal, adults caught with up to one oz. would get a $100 ticket, similar to a parking violation. Larger amounts would still lead to criminal penalties. The measure would make Texas the 20th state plus the District of Columbia to remove the threat of jail time for the possession of small amounts of weed.

The bill is backed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the pro-legalization group that spearheaded the passage of Colorado’s historic legalization measure. The bill is also the first in a series that the MPP expects to be introduced in Texas this year, the next attempting to legalize medical marijuana and the third attempting to legalize recreational marijuana.

The latter two are long shots, and the first won’t be an easy sell to the Republican-controlled legislature. Texas Governor Rick Perry has said he opposes legalization. He has intimated that he supports decriminalizing weed, but has also said that the state has “kind of done that.” In 2007, Texas passed a measure giving local governments the power to respond to marijuana possession with a summons rather than an arrest, but few counties have adopted it and someone issued a summons may still end up in jail.

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, another pro-legalization group, says that Texas is in a tier of states that are the least likely to ease marijuana restrictions. These “third tier” states, he says, are ones in which “the legislature has never shown any want to move in this direction and/or there is an executive at the top who is going to oppose and veto any reforms.”

A poll commissioned by MPP in 2013 found that 61% of Texas residents would support a penalty reduction like the one Moody is proposing, while 58% would support the legalization of medical and recreational weed.

At a press conference on Monday, Moody was joined by representatives from other groups who support the bill, such as the ACLU of Texas and Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition. Support from such libertarian-leaning conservatives will be crucial in the heavily Republican state.

“Texas doesn’t seem to be ready for a full legal market,” acknowledges Heather Fazio, a representative for MPP in Texas. “That doesn’t mean that the conversation shouldn’t be happening.”

TIME Environment

Environmentalists Go to Battle Over Face Wash

Vials of microbeads alongside products that use such small, plastic spheres.
Photo courtesy of 5 Gyres Vials of microbeads alongside products that use such small, plastic spheres.

Environmentalists are hoping a landmark report about how much plastic is in the world's oceans will help get bans on small plastics passed

Face washes claiming to be “blackhead erasers” or “superfruit scrubs” may seem appealing for scrubbing your way to a fresh new face, but some of them also contain an ingredient that environmental advocates and lawmakers are trying to ban. Tiny, round bits of plastic known as microbeads, no bigger than a grain of couscous, may pose hazards in the natural world.

These little orbs, introduced to replace harsher exfoliants like pumice, are so small that after they’re washed down the sink or tub, they sneak through sifters at water treatment plants and end up in the ocean and other bodies of water. Once in the ocean, researchers have found, these plastics act like sponges for toxins, and can be accidentally ingested by fish, thus ending up in the food chain.

Several states considered bills to ban microbeads last session, but only Illinois passed a law, becoming the first state to do so. Now lawmakers in at least three states are gearing up for another go in 2015.

“We were outgunned,” says Stiv Wilson, associate director at 5 Gyres, a non-profit dedicated to fighting plastic pollution. In California, the industry group Personal Care Products Council—which represents companies like Johnson & Johnson and Clinique—lobbied members to oppose a bill that would have banned the use of microbeads, saying it was “overly aggressive and unrealistic.” The bill failed by one vote. The same state assemblyman who proposed that bill, Richard Bloom, plans to try again, with what Wilson says will be a “much broader coalition” of supporters.

5 Gyres has also been working with lawmakers in Hawaii and Vermont, and hopes to find sponsors in Ohio, Florida and Maryland. The group developed model legislation that states have used as the foundation for bead-banning bills and hopes that a new report published on Dec. 10 in journal PLOS ONE will bolster their cause.

Part of the problem in getting these bills passed is that microbeads, just one type of plastic ending up in the ocean, only became de rigueur among companies about a decade ago, so there’s little hard science showing their particular effects on the environment.

The new report, based on 24 expeditions from 2007 to 2013, produced the first global estimate of just how much plastic of all sizes is in the ocean—including microplastics. According to the investigation, there are more than 5 trillion pieces afloat at sea. “There’s 20 times the amount of plastic in the North Pacific as there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy,” Wilson says.

Many companies have voluntarily vowed to phase microbeads out of their products, including giants like Johnson & Johnson, L’Oréal and Proctor & Gamble. But environmentalists have continued to pursue legislative bans to make sure no companies slip through the cracks and to hold companies to a firm timeline. Wilson believes that just a few states need to pass bans for companies to entirely reformulate products, to avoid cumbersome distribution challenges.

“The fundamental question is going to be: do we wait to take this material out until we prove that this microbead causes harm?” Chelsea Rochman, a marine ecologist at the University of California, Davis, who specializes in microplastics research told TIME in an interview for a previous story. She’s currently working on research to find out more about how much of a threat microplastics pose to marine life.

“This is not rocket science,” Wilson says. “We’re running out of time. These policies need to be passed.”

Read next: Know What’s In Your Face Wash: Why Illinois Banned Microbeads

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