TIME Drugs

Rocky Mountain High: Colorado Symphony Unrolls ‘Classical Cannabis’ Series

Denver Marijuana Celebration
Partygoers dance and smoke pot on the first of two days at the annual 4/20 marijuana festival in Denver on April 19, 2014 Brennan Linsley—AP

In a bid to attract a new and younger listenership, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra (CSO) is staging special summer concerts at which the audience will be encouraged to roll up and toke on the state’s now legal marijuana

In a bid to attract a new and younger listenership, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra (CSO) is staging a summer classical-music series in Denver at which the audience will be encouraged to toke up on the state’s now legal weed while enjoying the orchestra’s beautiful repertoire.

Billed as “Classically Cannabis: The High Note Series,” the program is being sponsored by a number of companies hailing from the state’s burgeoning, four-month-old marijuana industry.

Organizers point out, however, that pot will not be sold at the shows, which are strictly Bring Your Own Cannabis.

Promoters are hoping the BYOC events will give a financial boost to an orchestra that has been long plagued by financial setbacks.

“Part of our goal is to bring in a younger audience and a more diverse audience, and I would suggest that the patrons of the cannabis industry are both younger and more diverse than the patrons of the symphony orchestra,” CSO executive director Jerry Kern told the Denver Post.

However, some classical-music fans are not quite as convinced that bud and Beethoven make appropriate bedfellows.

“I know that the symphony needs new sponsors, and they are trying to go after a younger group,” local-event organizer Judith Inman told the Associated Press. “I just don’t think this is the way to go about it.”

Maybe not. But then again, marijuana has often been used to make very long, complex pieces of music more palatable. Just ask any Grateful Dead fan.

TIME States

Lone Mississippi Abortion Clinic Fights Closure

The Jackson Women's Health Organization is fighting a Mississippi law that would shutter the state's last standing abortion clinic

The operators of Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic appeared in federal court Monday to fight a 2012 state law that would force its closure—which would make Mississippi the first state in the 41 years since Roe v. Wade to not have an abortion provider.

Jackson Women’s Health Organization is challenging HB 1390, which stipulates that all physicians in the state who perform abortions have admitting privileges at hospitals. Although doctors at the bright-pink colored clinic have repeatedly applied for privileges, they have been denied for reasons ranging from religion to desire to avoid controversy.

“Some we received no response from, but the ones that we did, they made reference to the fact that because the care we provide is related to abortion, they felt it might be disruptive to the internal politics, as well as the external politics, for the hospital,” Dr. Willie Parker, a plaintiff in the case, told NPR. Parker files to Jackson from Chicago every week to be one of two doctors to perform the abortions.

A different three-judge panel in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a similar law in Texas last year, causing one-third of its clinics to close.

Lawyers on both sides have been arguing about the constitutionality of the law.

“Women across the state will be plunged back into the dark days of back-alley procedures that Roe was supposed to end,” Julie Rikelmann, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights fighting on behalf of the clinic, said in a statement. “This is a blatant violation of women’s constitutional rights and an imminent danger to their health and well-being.”

“It seems to me you’ve got a steep hill to climb when you say the only clinic in the state is closing,” Judge E. Grady Jolly told attorney Paul Barnes of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, the Associated Press reports. But Barnes told the three-judge panel that while the Supreme Court says the constitution allows for the right to an abortion, it doesn’t allow for the right on an unsafe one.

[AP]

TIME States

Minneapolis to Celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day On Columbus Day

The city will commemorate the country's indigenous natives on the second Monday in October, the same day as Columbus Day, in order to honor the "more accurate historical record" of Columbus's 1492 discovery

The Minneapolis City Council unanimously voted on Friday to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day on the same date as Columbus Day in the future.

The federal, state and city governments will continue to recognize Columbus Day on the second Monday in October, according to the resolution, but now the city will also recognize Indigenous Peoples Day on the same day.

Christopher Columbus is frequently credited with discovering America, though his arrival to what is now Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 1492 — Columbus never landed on present-day continental United States — led to the enslavement and extermination of millions of native Taino people.

Plans for a holiday dedicated to celebrating indigenous people began in 1977, when a United Nations delegation of native nations first proposed the idea.

“For me, it’s been almost 50 years that we’ve been talking about this pirate [Columbus],” civil rights activist Clyde Bellecourt told Al Jazeera America.

Minneapolis is the first city in the state to officially recognize an alternative to Columbus Day.

TIME States

Another States Moves to Criminalize ‘Revenge Porn’

Annmarie Chiarini, Jon Cardin, Danielle Keats Citron
In this Oct. 30, 2013 photo (from left), anti-revenge-porn campaigner Annmarie Chiarini, University of Maryland law professor Danielle Keats Citron and state Rep. Jon Cardin, D-Baltimore County, are silhouetted during a news conference to announce a bill that would criminalize revenge porn in Baltimore. Chiarini got behind the cause after an ex-boyfriend took to the Internet to post nude images that she shared with him privately over the course of their relationship. After California and New Jersey passed laws outlawing revenge porn, an increasing number of states looking to follow suit. Patrick Semansky—ASSOCIATED PRESS

Colorado joins some two dozen other states working on legislation that would criminalize the nonconsensual online publication of sexual photos of a person specifically to humiliate or blackmail them

The ranks of states seeking to criminalize “revenge porn” has grown now that Colorado has embarked on the same path.

A bipartisan proposal from Colorado lawmakers sailed through the House Judiciary Committee with an 11-0 vote this week, setting the stage for a debate in front of the House, Reuters reports. Revenge porn refers to the posting of sexual images of a person online without their consent, in order to humiliate or blackmail that individual — often after a divorce or painful break-up. At least two dozen other states are currently working on legislation that would criminalize the practice.

In accordance with Colorado’s proposed law, publishing revenge porn would be categorized as a class-one misdemeanor.

“I’m pleased that Colorado is taking steps to protect victims of cyber crime,” said Republican Representative Amy Stephens, who sponsored the bill.

Last year, California became the first state to pass legislation that criminalizes revenge porn. New Jersey has since followed suit.

[Reuters]

TIME States

The Nevada Ranch Rebellion Takes a Racist Turn

Rancher Cliven Bundy poses at his home in Bunkerville, Nevada, April 11, 2014.
Rancher Cliven Bundy poses at his home in Bunkerville, Nevada, April 11, 2014. Jim Urquhart—Reuters

Cliven Bundy became an overnight icon for his refusal to pay the government to graze his cattle herd on public land in Nevada, but that stance lauded by some conservative media is becoming overshadowed by his recent pro-slavery comments

It doesn’t take much to mint an icon in this political climate. Cliven Bundy became one nearly overnight. The story of Bundy’s battle against federal bureaucrats fit neatly into a resonant narrative: the defiant land-owner taking a stand against government overreach.

As word of Bundy’s refusal to pay the federal government to graze his herd on public land spread, more than 1,000 armed sympathizers descended on his Nevada ranch in the desert outside of Las Vegas. When the U.S. Bureau of Land Management abandoned its effort to seize Bundy’s cattle, the rancher, 68, was celebrated as a hero in certain right-wing circles. Supporters compared the Battle of Bunkerville, Nev., to the American Revolution; there was even a hashtag, #AmericanSpring. With his ten-gallon hat and gruff rhetoric, Bundy was an irresistible symbol of a certain frontier ideal.

The reality was much different. Bundy’s herd of cattle has been illegally grazing on federal land for more than 20 years. He owes the government more than $1 million, which he refuses to pay because, he says, he does not recognize federal authority to collect it. While some conservative media outlets rushed to canonize Bundy, the vast majority of elected Republicans steered clear of the standoff, perhaps because the facts suggested Bundy was less a patriot than a deadbeat.

Or worse. Speaking to supporters on Saturday, Bundy digressed into a discussion of race. “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” Bundy said, according to Adam Nagourney of the New York Times:

Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

These remarks will surely dim Bundy’s spotlight. The few national politicians who flocked to his cause have already denounced the remarks. Nevada Senator Dean Heller, who had praised Bundy’s supporters as “patriots,” released a statement Thursday morning calling his views on race “appalling.” Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who said Bundy’s case raised a “legitimate constitutional question” about federal authority, called his remarks offensive. “I wholeheartedly disagree with him,” Paul said.

Conservative media and political outfits which had promoted Bundy’s cause fell silent. Fox News ignored the remarks, though journalist Greta Van Susteren, who has featured the story, released a statement condemning Bundy’s remarks. Americans for Prosperity’s Nevada branch, which also latched onto the ranch rebellion, condemned Bundy’s comments in a statement to TIME. “I think most people would agree that spending over a million dollars to chase ‘trespass cattle’ in the Nevada desert is a poor use of tax dollars,” says spokesman Zachary Moyle. “It’s important to note that our opposition to wasteful government spending in no way lends support to offensive remarks made by Mr. Bundy or anyone else.”

Calls to Bundy’s ranch and to a mobile phone belonging to his family went unanswered Thursday. Craig Leff, a spokesman for the BLM, told TIME the agency will “continue to pursue this matter administratively and judicially.” The Battle of Bunkerville is over. Now the backlash has begun.

This story was updated at 5:35 p.m. on April 24 to include comments from Americans for Prosperity

TIME Crime

Wisconsin Inks Bill to Prevent Parents From ‘Giving Away’ Adopted Children

Wisconsin Governor Mellencamp
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker answers questions from reporters on April 16, 2014, in Madison, Wis. Scott Bauer—AP

Wisconsin has passed a first-in-the-nation law that prevents parents from handing over custody of their adopted children without judicial approval

Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill into law on Wednesday aimed at limiting private custody transfers of their unwanted adopted children following a disturbing report that detailed the unregulated trade of adopted minors in the state.

The legislation is a national first and was launched following a five-part Reuters investigation into the practice of “re-homing children.”

According to the news outlet’s expose, hundreds of parents were using social media sites to advertise their adopted children and were then handing them over to strangers found through the Internet.

Without proper safeguards in place, numerous children were being given to abusive adults, and in one disturbing instance a mother handed over her nine-year-old adopted son in a motel parking lot to a pedophile hours after posting a notice about the child on a Yahoo message board.

“With virtually no oversight, children could literally be traded from home to home. In Wisconsin, that is now against the law. Hopefully citizens of the country will follow our lead,” said Republican state Rep. Joel Kleefisch, who sponsored the legislation.

In accordance with the new law, parents seeking to transfer the custody of their children must receive judicial approval first. Those who fail to comply with the new regulation can face up to nine months in jail or be fined $10,000.

[Reuters]

TIME States

Judge Stays Ohio Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black agreed to stay his ruling that the state recognize same-sex marriages from out-of-state, citing the potential for confusion and high legal costs as Ohio appeals the order

A federal judge in Ohio stayed his ruling that the state must recognize out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples, though he carved out an exception for the four couples that originally filed suit against the state.

District Court Judge Timothy Black said he issued the stay for the benefit of the public because the state is planning to appeal his original decision, the Columbus Dispatch reports. “The federal appeals court needs to rule, as does the United States Supreme Court,” Black said, citing the potential for confusion and high legal costs if same-sex couples were to act on his ruling.

The state asked Black to stay his decision to avoid “premature” reactions from same-sex couples, such as traveling to other states to get married. The four couples’ attorneys argued the decision caused unnecessary harm because three of the couples are expecting children and want to name both parents on birth certificates. In Wednesday’s decision, Black said the state must recognize the marriages of the four couples that filed suit against the state. Three of the couples are Ohio residents and one couple lives in New York.

Judges have acted similarly in several cases where state bans on same-sex marriage and recognition of same-sex marriage have been challenged.

[Columbus Dispatch]

TIME Health Care

Arizona Approves Surprise Inspections of Abortion Clinics

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer makes a statement saying she vetoed the controversial SB1062 bill at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. On Tuesday, she signed a bill allowing snap inspections of the state's abortion clinics Samantha Sais —Reuters

A new piece of legislation signed by Arizona’s Republican Governor will allow health officials to conduct surprise inspections of the state’s nine abortion clinics

Health officials will be able to inspect Arizona’s abortion clinics without warrants after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed a bill into law Tuesday.

The new law nullifies previous measures that required judges to approve any potential inspection of the state’s nine registered abortion clinics.

“This legislation will ensure that the Arizona Department of Health Services has the authority to appropriately protect the health and safety of all patients,” said the Governor’s spokesman Andrew Wilder, according to Reuters.

Pro-choice advocates said the Republican Governor’s decision as part of her sustained attack on women’s health.

“[Brewer] has been hostile to women’s health care, including abortion and family planning, since the day she took office,” the president of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, Bryan Howard, said in a statement following the passage of the bill.

Arizona joins ten other states that allow for similar snap inspections of abortion facilities.

[Reuters]

TIME States

The Armed Rebellion on a Nevada Cattle Ranch Could Be Just the Start

Protesters gathered at the Bureau of Land Management's base camp, where cattle that were seized from rancher Cliven Bundy was being held, near Bunkerville, Nevada, April 12, 2014.
Protesters gathered at the Bureau of Land Management's base camp, where cattle seized from rancher Cliven Bundy was being held, near Bunkerville, Nevada, April 12, 2014. Jim Urquhart—Reuters

The Feds may have set a troubling precedent by allowing a Nevada rancher and his band of armed followers to win a standoff with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The rancher refused to pay more than $1 million in fines for letting his cows graze on government land

It could have been a catastrophe. For several days last week, hundreds of angry protesters faced off with federal workers on an arid ranch near Bunkerville, Nev. Militiamen squatted among the sagebrush and crouched on a highway overpass, cradling guns and issuing barely veiled threats at the government officials massed behind makeshift barricades. The specter of a violent standoff hung over the high desert.

The hair-trigger tension seemed at odds with the arcane origins of the dispute. Twenty years ago, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decided to clear privately owned cattle off this patch of public land to protect the endangered Mojave Desert tortoise. Dozens of ranchers left. Cliven Bundy stayed.

Rancher Cliven Bundy poses at his home in Bunkerville, Nevada, April 11, 2014.
Rancher Cliven Bundy poses at his home in Bunkerville, Nevada, April 11, 2014. Jim Urquhart—Reuters

Bundy, 68, has refused to recognize federal authority over the land, or to pay the feds for allowing his cattle to graze there. Those accumulated fees and fines now total more than $1 million, according to the government. Armed with fresh court orders, the government moved last week to impound a few hundred of the rancher’s cows.

Bundy balked, and the far right-wing media sounded a clarion call for his cause, casting the standoff as a flashpoint in a broader struggle against federal oppression. A cavalry of patriots arrived, bearing weapons and a seemingly bottomless grudge against the government.

On April 12, BLM retreated, abandoning the round-up amid “serious concerns” over the safety of federal employees. The cattle “gather is over,” BLM spokesman Craig Leff says. No shots were fired; no blood was spilled. Bundy declared victory in the Battle of Bunkerville. His supporters festooned a nearby bridge with a hand-lettered sign reading: “The West Has Now Been Won!”

For the government, it is not yet clear what was lost. The decision to de-escalate the situation was a wise one, according to officials familiar with the perils posed by such confrontation. “There was no need to have a Ruby Ridge,” says Patrick Shea, a Utah lawyer and former national director of BLM, invoking the bloody 1992 siege at a remote Idaho cabin, which became a rallying cry for the far right. Shea praises BLM’s new director, Neil Kornze, for defusing the conflict and skirting the specter of violence. There are plenty of ways for the government to recoup the money Bundy owes, Shea says, from placing liens on his property to collecting proceeds when the cattle go to slaughter. When you have been waiting a generation to resolve a dispute, what’s another few weeks?

But prudence may also set a dangerous precedent. Having backed down from one recalcitrant rancher, what does BLM do the next time another refuses to abide by the law? “After 20 years and multiple court orders to remove the trespass cattle, Mr. Bundy owes the American taxpayers in excess of $1 million,” Kornze said in a statement. “The bureau will continue to work to resolve the matter administratively and judicially.” A BLM spokesman would not say what those remedies might be, and declined to make officials available to explain how the agency may treat similar situations in the future.

The government’s legal case against Bundy is strong. It has been winning courtroom battles against the rancher since 1998, and over the past two years has obtained court orders requiring Bundy to remove his cattle from public lands. This month’s roundup was a long-threatened last resort, and Bundy’s success in spurning it could spark copycat rebellions.

“I’m very concerned about that, as I’m sure others are,” says Bob Abbey, a former BLM director and state director for Nevada. Nearly all ranchers whose animals graze on public land are in compliance with federal statutes, Abbey says. But “there always is a chance that someone else may look at what happened with Mr. Bundy and decided to take a similar route.”

Especially since Bundy has become something of a folk hero for people who resent federal control of the old American frontier. The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of land, including about 60% of the territory across a swath of 12 Western states. About 85% of the land in Nevada is managed by the feds.

Bundy, whose ancestors have inhabited the disputed land since the 19th century, rejects this arrangement. The rancher, whose family did not respond to multiple interview requests from TIME, says he does not recognize federal authority over Nevada’s public land. “I abide by all state laws,” he said in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times. “But I abide by almost zero federal laws.” He has warned that the impoundment of his cattle would spark a “range war,” and said in a court deposition that he would attempt to block a federal incursion, using “whatever it takes.”

Likeminded libertarians in the West have resurrected the spirit of the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion, a 1970s-era movement to transfer control of federal lands to the states. Demar Dahl, an Elko County, Nev., commissioner and longtime friend of Bundy, says the rancher is willing to pay the back fees he owes (though both dispute the amount) to the county or to the state, but not the federal government. “He says the federal government doesn’t have the authority to collect the fees,” Dahl says. “You can call him bullheaded. He’s a strong and moral person. He decides what needs to be done and how, and where he stands.”

To Bundy’s supporters, the legal proceedings are nothing but a land grab. And some of them believe government invoked the protection of the desert tortoise as a pretext. This line of thinking holds that Nevada Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader whose former aide, Kornze, now runs the BLM, wants to requisition the land so that his son and Chinese investors can build a lucrative solar farm. At the same time, the left sees in the resistance the ubiquitous hand of the Koch brothers, whose main political outfit, Americans for Prosperity, has rallied support for Bundy.

While the protesters have mostly dispersed, the standoff “isn’t over,” Reid declared Monday. And local officials know just how close they crept to a cataclysmic incident. “That was as close to a catastrophe as I think we’re ever going to see happen,” Dahl says.

The high drama seemed to stoke a sense of theatrics in the protesters. At a press conference on April 14, they invoked battles against the British and shouted quotes from the Scottish revolutionary William Wallace, memorialized in the Hollywood blockbuster Braveheart. The men who rode to Bundy’s defense got to play the hero in the movies of their minds; the threat is that the next climax doesn’t have a peaceful ending.

Bundy “would probably rather be a martyr than a profitable rancher,” says Shea, the former BLM director. “Eventually, you have to draw the line. We go through these sad episodes where fanaticism has to be brought under legal control. And inevitably, somebody is killed.”

TIME States

Minnesota To Hike Minimum Wage To $9.50 By 2016

With the governor’s signature Monday, the state will go from having one of the lowest minimum wage rates in the country to one of the highest

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed legislation Monday that will boost the state’s minimum wage to $9.50 by 2016, among the highest rates in the United States.

The bill was passed by the state legislature with only Democratic votes Thursday. Under the new law, Minnesota’s current minimum wage of $6.15 per hour, one of the lowest in the country, will rise by more than $3 gradually over the next few years, after which it will be tied to inflation, the Associated Press reports.

The minimum wage doesn’t affect smaller employers with gross sales under $500,000, though they too will have to pay employees at least $7.25 per hour by 2016. The law includes exceptions for teenagers and for people being trained into new positions. In all, roughly 325,000 people are expected to see a wage increase as a result of the law.

Minnesota joins states including Connecticut and Maryland in passing minimum wage legislation, as the effort to increase the federal minimum wage—currently $7.25 per hour—remains stalled in Congress.

[AP]

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