All posts by Kurtis Lee

This Colorado city declined to allow pot sales. Now it’s having second thoughts

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – At the two malls in town you can buy key chains and Christmas ornaments shaped like marijuana leaves. Along a downtown shopping corridor, paintings of cannabis plants grace storefront windows.

Even Kmart stocks its shelves with T-shirts and mugs decorated with the signature green leaf and “Colorado est. 2012” — the year the state legalized recreational marijuana.

But that is the one pot product you can’t buy in Colorado Springs.

When Coloradans voted overwhelmingly to make non-medical marijuana legal, they left it up to cities whether to allow sales. Colorado Springs, home to five military bases and known for its conservative politics and religious values, blocked recreational cannabis sales. Now some in town want to change that, saying the state’s second largest city is missing out on sales taxes that are enriching cities across Colorado.

Similar debates are already happening in cities in California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada — states that passed legalization measures last year. Recently, the Los Angeles City Council, eager to pull in new tax revenue, crafted rules for recreational marijuana sales that will begin in January.

Read more at Los Angeles Times

‘Faith, family, football’ – How a community is healing after a cop killed a black teen

MESQUITE, Texas – Odell Edwards sat in a corner of the bleachers away from the other parents. He didn’t want to be a distraction.

He knew that if they spotted him, they would walk over solemnly, offer hugs, prayers, or recall his youngest son’s smile and athleticism. So he sat alone.

As Edwards scanned the brightly lit turf where the Mesquite High School football team would play their season opener, he paused to look at the new decal on the back of each player’s maroon helmet, white circles with two maroon letters: “JE.”

For his 15-year-old son, Jordan Edwards.

“Every day I think about him being gone way too soon,” Edwards said. “It would have been nice to see him out there on the field one more time.”

Jordan died in April when a police officer fired on a car filled with black teenagers as it pulled away from a house party. It was another case of an unarmed African American killed by a white officer. In Mesquite and other suburbs east of Dallas, the reactions echoed those after similar shootings elsewhere — anger, disbelief, resignation.

On the Mesquite football team — the Skeeters — coaches have become grief counselors of sorts. They try to honor Jordan’s memory while urging their players to focus on the future, both as athletes and young men. Since the shooting, Jordan’s teammates have become more wary. At least one turned to prayer.

Read more at Los Angeles Times

Las Vegas adds a new lure to its repertoire as Nevada legalizes pot. Here come the tourists

LAS VEGAS — Oscar Goodman has dealt with his share of complicated local issues — a mixture of gambling, prostitution and a lot of public drinking. But the former Las Vegas mayor never imagined the newest vice to arrive in the city: legal marijuana. He never imagined it, but he likes it.

“We in Las Vegas have always been on the cutting edge of all things necessary to make us the adult wonderland,” Goodman said, moments after becoming the first customer to make a purchase at Las Vegas ReLeaf, a dispensary owned by his son. “This is all a part of a lifestyle.”

On Saturday, Nevada officially joined four other states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — that allow people to purchase cannabis for recreational use. Goodman’s purchase was a $21 box of marijuana-infused coffee grounds.

Some in Nevada are skeptical about legalized pot. But supporters say the state’s booming year-round tourism industry will see even more of a boost. And legal pot sales will draw sizable tax revenue.

Read more at Los Angeles Times

Historically black colleges view Trump administration warily, but also with some optimism

Since taking office, President Trump has pledged “unwavering support” for the critical educational missions of historically black colleges and universities, invited leaders of those institutions to the White House and even dispatched his Education secretary to deliver her first commencement address of graduation season at one of the schools.

The moves, by a president who won just 8% of the black vote in November, have surprised and pleased some African American educators, who say Trump already has outpaced the steps taken by previous administrations, including that of the nation’s first black president.

While some leaders and groups associated with black colleges have welcomed the young administration’s overtures, others, notably students, remain wary of Trump and assail the White House as tone-deaf and insensitive. Those views were on display last week when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos delivered the commencement address at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla. As DeVos began to speak, students booed and turned their backs on her.

Read more at Los Angeles Times

Arkansas prepares to execute 8 men in 11 days: Justice, or an ‘assembly line of death’?

GOULD, Ark. — Patricia Washington sees a simple calculus: If you take someone’s life, you better be prepared to lose your own.

The death penalty is just, she believes — an unsurprising view in this rural town a short drive from the state prison that houses death row. Executions have come up a lot lately in conversations at Washington’s work, a tiny eatery tucked into an Exxon service station off Highway 65.

As she carried trays brimming with chicken tenders, fried okra and corn nuggets one recent morning, she reflected on some of her regulars — the prison guards.

“There’s a lot on their mind. You can see it in their eyes,” Washington said.

Starting the day after Easter, the state is scheduled to execute eight men in 11 days, and people in Gould and across Arkansas are wondering how so many executions will affect prison staffers and color perceptions of this Bible Belt state. Two men will die each day on April 17, 20, 24 and 27.

Read more at Los Angeles Times

Meet Indivisible, the young progressives leading the resistance to President Trump

The idea started with a public Google document.

In the weeks after Donald Trump won last year’s presidential election and Republicans kept control of Congress, Sarah Dohl, along with a handful of friends and former Capitol Hill colleagues, wanted Americans — mostly distraught Democrats — to know their voices could still be heard.

Not expecting much, they published online a 26-page document in mid-December, outlining a succinct idea: resist.

Its title, “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda,” quickly drew interest. George Takei, the actor who starred in the television series “Star Trek,” tweeted it to his 2.2 million followers. So, too, did former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who worked in the Clinton administration.

Read more at Los Angeles Times

From legalizing marijuana at the ballot box to legalizing it by legislation, lawmakers look to cash in

When Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure in November to legalize recreational marijuana, Josh Miller saw this as a sign that his time had finally arrived.

The Rhode Island state senator has a reputation among colleagues as a cannabis crusader — a battle that, so far, he’s lost. For the last three years, Miller introduced legislation to legalize recreational pot, and for the last three years, his efforts have died in committee hearing rooms.

But now, in a turnaround, some of Miller’s colleagues are signaling an interest in legalized weed — and raking in the tax dollars that come with it.

“We now have the wind at our backs,” said Miller, who introduced his latest pro-pot bill last week. “Seeing our next door neighbor legalize it should help us — a lot.”

Read more at Los Angeles Times

Other presidents have battled the press. But never like Trump

He’s not the first president to have issues with the press — Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln had complaints too — but President Trump has taken his battle with the media to new heights and made his complaints unusually public and caustic.

How that will play out is anybody’s guess, though there’s an adage about the power of journalism: Never pick fights with someone who buys ink by the barrel. That, however, was before Twitter and video made ink unnecessary for communicating with the public.

The president continued his attacks on the media at a Florida rally Saturday, saying he wanted to speak with supporters “without the filter” of the press.

“They don’t get it,” Trump said through whistles and applause from attendees inside a crammed airport hangar.

Though presidents have long complained about the media, none have gone as far as Trump in their public derision. Often he repeats the same words to describe the media — “dishonest,” “disgusting,” “fake.” To many, his words are nonsense, but to supporters, like those in Florida, they resonate.

Read more at Los Angeles Times

President Trump says it’s illegal to be registered to vote in two states — but he’s wrong

It was a forceful condemnation — a vow to wipe out a serious crime.

“I will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD, including those registered to vote in two states,” President Trump boomed on Twitter last week.

But Trump’s social media decree missed a crucial fact: It’s not illegal to be registered to vote in multiple states. It is, however, a felony to cast ballots in more than one state — yet it rarely happens.

Trump’s tweet storm about voter registration — and his unfounded claim that millions of illegal votes were cast for Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in November — has cast a spotlight on voting procedures nationwide. That spotlight has revealed some ironies.

Trump’s son-in-law and advisor, Jared Kushner, is registered in more than one state. The same is true for some of the president’s senior officials, including his pick to lead the Treasury Department, Steven Mnuchin, along with senior advisor Stephen K. Bannon and Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

Read more at Los Angeles Times

Here’s what Colorado’s governor has to tell other states about legalizing marijuana

CORONADO, Calif. – Four years ago, in the hours after Colorado became one of the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, Gov. John Hickenlooper sounded a cautionary, if humorous, note: “Don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.”

State voters overwhelmingly approved the measure, and Hickenlooper found himself wrestling with how to implement a law he had opposed.

Now, with other states passing similar measures, the Democrat has settled into an unexpected role — a kind of marijuana counselor to his peers. Governors call him up, he said, to ask for advice on pot.

“You don’t get to choose what your legacy is,” he said.

In the weeks before Californians voted to legalize recreational cannabis last month, Gov. Jerry Brown called Hickenlooper for consultation. Like Hickenlooper, Brown did not endorse the effort.

Read more at Los Angeles Times