Colorado May Not Be As 420 Friendly As We Thought

Despite the massive amount of revenue to the state and for that matter federal government the legalization of marijuana could bring, Colorado is re-considering its legalization of marijuana. As people tens of thousands of people from all walks of life descended on Denver Colorado on April 20,2013, no one expected that the celebration would be cut short. After the Boston Marathon bombing, police focused on crowd security and were not as concerned about the yearly pot event billed as the largest April 20 celebration.  The festival the previous year brought 50,000 people together and were hoping to bring more people since it is the first celebration since Colorado and Washington voted to legalize recreational use Associated Press reports. Even with legalization, open and public use is illegal, but authorities look the other way as the 420 friendly participants celebrate at a park at the base of the state Capitol and music keeps the crowd entertained well past 4:20. Both states are waiting for federal response to votes and want to set up commercial pit sales limited only to medicinal marijuana right now. The celebration drew many marijuana activists from out of state.

However the day was marred by a shooting during the rally that wounded two people and Denver police last Monday had yet to arrest anyone in connection with incident but did interview a man wanted in connection causing the event to be canceled for security reasons. The man seen in a YouTube video was believed to be an accomplice to the primary shooter last Saturday according to police spokesman Sonny Jackson. Police urged people to watch the video showing a man in brown and wearing a white checkered shirt walking away from the scene. Jackson said last Monday the man came in voluntarily and spoke to detectives then left later that day. Police received numerous tips based on videos and photos provided by revelers and encouraged the public to keep sending them around the time of 5p.m. when the shooting occurred. Still unknown is the primary shooter but the man was wearing a blue hat, gray sweatshirt and black pants at the rally and it is not known whether it is gang related or not Associated Press reports. The shooting happened last Saturday at the end of the outdoor celebration when the crowd became panicked after shots were heard leaving a man and woman with non-life threatening gunshot wounds and a juvenile grazed by a  bullet which was treated at a nearby hospital. Organizers canceled a Sunday event after the shooting and it remains unclear if the shooting would affect future events.

This last Friday, backers of the Amendment 64 announced a news conference for the morning at the State Capitol to denounce what they are saying is an effort by anti-legalization group’s effort to repeal Colorado’s recreational marijuana legislation Huff Post reports. Mason Tvert, former co-director of the Amendment 64 campaign ans communication director of the Marijuana Policy Project, states that “numerous Colorado state lawmakers are considering supporting a strategic maneuver to repeal Amendment 64 floated by anti-marijuana group Smart Colorado.” According to Huff Post, Tvert believes lawmakers are considering putting the secret measure before Colorado voters on November 2013 if voters don’t pass a separate measure on marijuana taxes which is on the same ballot. Tvert, according to his statement, commented,”We are surprised that legislators are even taking this proposal seriously. Placing such a measure on the ballot would amount to extortion of the voters. They will be told that they must vote for whatever taxes the legislators choose in order to prevent the repeal of the constitutional amendment they just approved.” Any effort to repeal the law may be more difficult as the measure is part of the state constitution which requires the lawmakers to prove a repeal would be constitutional. Two thirds majority of the House and Senate would be needed to place the repeal on the ballot and with less than two weeks left on the legislative calendar this year makes it almost impossible to do.

 

Tvert commented the two ballots would be included in the same resolution, while lawmakers have not commented yet. The House Finance Committee did pass House Bill 1318 7-6 last Thursday which wants 15 percent excise tax and 15 percent special sales tax on marijuana in the state according to Huff Post. The Associated Press’s Kristen Wyatt reported that some state lawmakers fear voters could reject one or both tax proposals leaving the state to foot the bill for enforcing pot sales. Although HB-1318 passed, it did so with a narrow margin in committee while the same is true of HB-1317 which lays out the regulatory structure for recreational sales in the state with a vote of 6-5. According to a Public Policy Poll, Huff Post reports that backers of Amendment 64 have confirmed that 77 percent of the voters support a 10 percent sales tax in addition to the 15 percent excise tax with only 18 percent opposed. The poll polled 900 registered voters from April15-16. The taxes if passed would yield $90.9 million according to the Colorado Futures Center, but backers of the amendment were told by state officials that the cost to enforce the recreational regulations would be no greater than $30 million meaning lawmakers could lower the tax rates to 10 percent and still come out ahead at $60 million. Tvert said on Friday, “If legislators are concerned that a special sales tax will not pass, they should consider reducing the tax rate to 10% instead of embracing the nuclear option proposed by anti-marijuana advocates.”

Smart Colorado the Huff Post reports describes their vocal opposition to marijuana legalization on their website as:

 

We are citizens from every county and corner of the state. We have banded together as individuals and organizations to form this nonpartisan, broad-based alliance dedicated to a responsible and reasonable approach to marijuana policy.Using reputable science and sound principles of public health and safety, we advocate for smart policies that decrease marijuana use and its harm to our people, communities, businesses and healthcare system.

Smart Colorado puts the public’s interests ahead of the interests of the marijuana industry.

The actual Amendment 64 passed last November limits sale, possession and growing of the drug for recreational purposes legal for adults 21 and over. A64 states:

Adults can possess up to an ounce of pot, can grow as many as six marijuana plants at home (with only three flowering at any given time), but that home-grown marijuana can only be for personal use and cannot be sold, however, adults can gift one another up to an ounce of pot.

 

The Aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing

Deval Patrick Boston Marathon

The capture of the second suspect for many closed the first chapter in the mystery surrounding the Boston Marathon Bombing last Monday, but now many not just the government want answers to why and how. As the lone survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing lies in a heavily guarded room recovering from injuries, no one knows what the 19 year old will say or when as on Sunday he was in serious condition after being pulled bloodied and wounded from a tarp covered boat in a Watertown backyard. One thing is for sure, the American Civil Liberties Union and the federal public defender raised concern over the plan to interrogate Dzhokhar Tsarnaev without reading his Miranda Rights. The capture came on Friday night hours after his 26 year old brother Tamerlan died in a gun battle with police. The U.S. official said an elite interrogation team will be used without reading him his rights invoking the exception because of immediate danger to the public such as bombs planted and ready to go off. ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero called the legal exception in this case as non-compliant with the rule since the rule states that continued threat to public safety and OT an open ended exception to Miranda rights which guarantees the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. The Massachusetts’ federal public defender’s office said they would represent him once charged, however a lawyer should be give as soon as possible because of issues regarding possible interrogation.

As of right now, no charges have been brought against Tsarnaev as it is unclear what charges will be filed according to Huff Post. The twin bombing injured 180 and killed three which can carry the most serious charge of a possible death sentence because the use of a weapon of mass destruction to kill people, however Massachusetts does not have a death penalty. According to the Associated Press, President Barack Obama said there are many unanswered question about the bombing including whether the brothers had help and to delay judgement about the motives behind it. Gov. Deval Patrick said on Saturday that Tsarnaev is unable to communicate at this time as he is still recovering at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center where 11 victims were treated.

The all day manhunt on Friday lead police in Boston to a Watertown neighborhood and left the city for much of the day at a standstill. The break came when a homeowner spotted blood on his boat and pulled back the tarp to see a bloody Tsarnaev hiding inside. After some gunfire, he was seized, taken into custody in an ambulance and to where he currently resides to treat injuries suffered during the battle. During the night, Tsarnaev brothers killed an MIT police officer, severely wounded another lawman and took part in a shootout and car chase hurling explosives at the police reports AP. The explosives were similar to the ones used at the Boston Marathon attack according to authorities who recovered a pressure cooker lid embedded in a car down the street. Watertown Police Chief Edward Deveau also confirmed that the suspects tossed two grenades before Tamerlan ran out of ammo and police tackled him. But while handcuffed, officers had to dive out of the way as Dzhokhar drove at them in a carjacked Mercedes, while the SUV dragged Tamerlan’s body down the block. Police were able to track the escaped suspect by a blood trail left after abandoning the Mercedes.

Investigators cannot offer a motive for the Boston attack at this time, however interviews with officials and those who knew the brothers has painted a picture of the older brother as someone embittered with the U.S. becoming increasingly radical in his Muslim faith and influential over his brother. According to AP, the Russian FSB intelligence service told the FBI in 2011 that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a follower of radical Islam two law enforcement officials confirmed Saturday. In an FBI news release, a foreign government possibly Russia said Tamerlan Tsarnaev appeared to be a strong believer and his ideology drastically changed since 2010 as he prepared to leave the U.S. for a region in Russia to join an unspecified group. In response, the FBI interviewed the older brothers and relatives finding no domestic or foreign terrorism activity in phone records, online, his travels or his associations. An uncle of the brothers confirmed a falling out with Tamerlan over increased commitment to Islam and spoke to the fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger brother, has had his life wasted by his older brother and was used for his brother’s benefit not his own. A neighbor of the older brother in Cambridge said that Tamerlan had strong political views about the U.S. quoting Tamerlan as sating the U.S. uses the Bible as “an excuse for invading other countries” AP reports. As of Saturday, 50 people remain hospitalized and three in critical condition.

Some lawmakers have criticized the FBI for not placing Tsarnaev under watch after questioning him over radical beliefs. According to Huff Post, on Sunday Sen. Lindsey Graham of, R-S.C., felt the ball had been dropped while Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. said the FBI repeatedly overlooked possible links to terrorist activity among a subset of Muslims in America. A mosque in Cambridge, Mass. confirmed Saturday that the Tsarnaev brothers infrequently attend services at the center that was a 10 minute walk from their apartment. According to a statement released by the Islamic Center of Boston, “In their visits, they never exhibited any violent sentiments or behavior. Otherwise they would have been immediately reported to the FBI. After we learned of their identities, we encouraged anyone who knew them in our congregation to immediate report to law enforcement, which has taken place.” The Los Angeles Times reports that Tamerlan was kicked out of the mosque three months ago after becoming argumentative with the imam leading the service who praised Martin Luther King Jr. Becoming enraged, Tamerlan shouted, “you cannot mention this guy because he’s not a Muslim!” There were no more incidence after that. The statement released by the center also  said, “Right now, our focus will remain on grieving for the victims and their families, praying for a speedy recovery for the injured, and offering what support we can to all in need.” The investigation of course is ongoing into the motivation for the crime.

As the week came to a close, some of Boston resumed some normalcy with tension still running high and another race pays tribute to the fallen and injured. On Saturday, Governor Patrick of Massachusetts and dozens of local and state police appeared at the first home game for the Boston Red Sox since the bombing on Monday. While at home the streets of Boston began to buzz with life again, thousands of runners participating in the London Marathon on Sunday paid tribute to those killed and injured in the Boston Marathon six days earlier. According to the Associated Press, participants paused for a moment of silence in the beginning wearing black ribbons o their chest in solidarity while two runners finished carrying a banner “For Boston.”  As Valerie Bloomfield, a 40 year old participant from France, put it,”It means that runners are stronger than bombers.” The London Marathon is the first major international marathon since the bombing on Monday and some 35,000 runners took part in the race that drew tens of thousands of spectators turning up to show their solidarity and strength with no fear. Authorities in London boosted security by 40 percent adding in extra surveillance to be safe. Many who were present when the bombs exploded in Boston were determined to run in the London Marathon this year. Yet some did show apprehension and anxiety on Sunday as some feared a copy cat bombing might happen telling friends and family not to come.

As the race began, a moment of silence was given to the city of Boston and many showed support for the bruised city. Many in the crowd wore Boston t-shirts as half a dozen police officers mingled and chatted with the runners. Before the race began, announcer Geoff Wightman announced over the loudspeaker that a moment of silence would be given for the city of Boston as running is a global sport that united people in every continent in a spirit of friendship. During the moment of silence, only the buzz of helicopters and beeping trucks could be heard AP reports. Security was on high alert but not intrusive to the race as marathon staff, officials and journalist were bag checked before the race in response to the Boston attack. Marathon organizers plan to donate money to a Boston fund set up for victims, while in Germany 15,000 runners participated in the Hamburg Marathon wearing armbands with the slogan “Run for Boston.”

Meanwhile back in Boston some groups fear retaliation in the form of hate crimes, while the city braces for a very large bill. In the days after the bombing, the region’s Muslim community has condemned the violence and distanced themselves from the suspects. It is unclear if the possible motives were related to politics, religion or difficulty assimilating after immigrating to the United States nearly a decade ago. The Muslim community faces a hard questions now: Do they accept the men as Muslim despite the allegations against them? If so, will Tamerlan get an Islamic burial? Mosques and Islamic groups fear retaliation if associated with the brother after friends and family identified them as Muslim and their interest in Islamic Chechen insurgency groups according to social accounts. Disagreement about whether to bury Tamerlan as a Muslims have arisen among mosques in the Boston area with the Islamic Institute of Boston claiming the brother does not deserve a Muslim burial and the other Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center saying the brother should be buried according to his religious traditions. No funeral has been set as the body is in the possession of law enforcement for forensic experts, medical examiners and investigators to inspect for more details about his death and actions. Several organizations have released statement appealing for restraint and understanding after the identities of the bombing suspects were publicized and reveled to be of Chechen descent, AP reports. As for the amount of money lost because of the bombing, the numbers are only estimates. Due to closed streets and the increase in state resources used for the manhunt, the estimated bill according to Jim Duffley, chief regional economist at research firm IHS, could be between $250 and $333 million per day for the shutdown Business Week reports. The Washington Post’s WonkBlog according to Huff Post took a shot at calculating the cost and put their estimates closer to a billion dollars a day but the effects could be smaller than that more like a major blizzard.

Cheers and Prayers Erupt Nationwide As the Boston Manhunt Ends Friday

Friday night ended with the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wanted in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing Monday according to Boston Police Department. According to the Associated Press, authorities say the suspect, along with his slain 26 year old brother, killed an MIT police officer, severely wounded another lawman and hurled explosives at police in a car chase and gun battle. Law enforcement responded to gunfire around 7 p.m. in Watertown, Mass. an hour after lifting the lockdown on the area where Tsarnaev, 19, was hiding in a small boat. Police cornered the suspect not so far from the shootout the previous night that killed his brother and accomplice, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The AP reports the suspects were identified as ethnic ChenChen brothers living in Dagestan neighboring Chechnya in Southern Russia, but had moved to the U.S. a decade ago living in Cambridge, Mass.

David Henneberry was not trying to be a hero when he spotted the 19 year old suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, near his boat following a shootout earlier on Friday. Henneberry tipped off police leading to the capture of the suspect Friday night. Speaking to the “Today” show, family spokesman Robert Duffy described how his stepfather came across the wanted suspect in his 20 foot boat in the backyard. Duffy explained that his mother and David stepped into the backyard to get some air after the ban was lifted and noticed the tarp over the boat was flapping in the wind. He decided to take a closer look at saw the retention strips were cut not worn, so he decided to take a closer look inside the boat noticing a small amount of blood. He knew something was wrong, backing off, and calling the police. The family was moved to a safe location while the police investigated the tip  leaving the family with no way to communicate with their family that they were safe.

Soon after the suspect was taken by ambulance to be treated for his wounds, the streets of Watertown erupted with cheers as the manhunt ended with the suspect alive. According to Huff Post, residents were relieved to see the heavily armed ambulance headed east on Mount Auburn Street even though it was unclear who was inside, but the sense of danger was over. A Justice Department Official, according to Huff Post, says the Boston Marathon suspect will not be read his Miranda rights as the government was invoking a public safety exception. Two officials came forward saying the 19 year old will be questioned by a special interrogation team for high value suspects. The public safety rule allows law enforcement to engage in a limited and focused interrogation of a suspect and allows the government to introduce the statement into evidence in court. The rule may be used when police officers find objectively reasonable need to protect the police or public from immediate danger.

Within the few minutes of the news reaching stadiums, televisions and radios around the country, people began to cheer and shout in elation as the bombing suspect was captured alive. When the news finally sunk in about the second bomber being captured in Watertown, the town and crowds around the country cheered with excitement as police radios echoed the words “suspect in custody.” Sports fans rejoiced after learning Friday night of the capture at stadiums around the country. New York’s Citi Field, home of the Mets, saw fans jump to their feet and cheer at the news during the game with the Washington Nationals chanting “USA!USA!” and similar reactions in Houston, Cincinnati and at the St. Louis Blues’ home game against the Dallas Stars. In Watertown, church bells rang as crowds lined the streets with teenagers waving flags, cars honking, and loud cheers as emergency vehicles went by. Hundreds of people marched down Commonwealth Avenue, chanting “USA” and singing the Red Sox Anthem “Sweet Caroline” heading toward Boston Common as the police blocked off traffic to accommodate the impromptu parade. Fans in Arlington, Texas, Anaheim, California, and San Fransisco Giants sang along with the Rangers, Angels and Giants  to the tune also between innings breaks. In Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, where an 8 year old boy killed in the bombing lived, people set off fireworks in celebration on Friday night.

As people continue to celebrate the capture of the second bomber, many in Boston and around the country are praying not only for the victims of the bombing but for the suspects as well even echoing this sentiment in social media. Prayers for the victims can be seen on twitter, but prayers of another kind are being posted, according to Huff Post, for Tsarnaev. Reverend Manny Alvarez, a preist for the Archdiocese of Miami, tweeted shortly after the arrest that, “A wise young lady just reminded me that as we pray for everyone in Boston, we must pray for this 19 year old too…because we’re Catholic.” CatholicOmnia tweeted from their twitter account: “We also need to remember to pray for the suspect, because we are Catholic. He is also a child of God, after all.” @OpenlyCatholic wrote,”While you’re praying for the suspect, also keep the petitions to heaven going for all the victims of the #BostonBombers , alive and dead.” Besides the clear religiously connected prayers, many other people offered up their elation over the capture even offering up prayers for the suspect as well. In a sleepy town in Kyrgyzstan, where the two brothers lived previously, former neighbors were greeted with shock and disbelief as they recall a quiet family that was never in trouble and two decent, obedient boys.

Tensions Rise as the Manhunt Leaves Boston A Ghost Town

As the manhunt continues for the second suspect, Boston remains more of a ghost town rather than bustling metropolis. Mass transit to and from Boston has come to a stand still on Friday as police conduct a massive manhunt for the remaining suspect in Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing with the exception of air travel through Logan International Airport. Authorities have indefinitely suspended mass transit taking to twitter to inform people to “Go/ stay home.” As the manhunt stretched into the afternoon, Amtrak stopped all trained between New York and Boston as well as intercity bus lines  to the area. Passengers were allowed a refund or rebook for travel at a later date, while airline allowed customers to change plans without fees. In, Somerville, populations 75, 000, authorities told people to stay inside and lock their doors. The city went on lockdown Friday while the police continue their search for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing. Photos like the one above appeared online demonstrating the eery ghost town that is now Boston.

The hunt for 19 year old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev piked up late Thursday night after the shooting at MIT, while the other Boston suspect identified as his 26 year old brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after a police shootout. Sean Collier, a 26 year old Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer, was shot and killed on Thursday night during a confrontation with the two suspects. Officers responded to a disturbance when multiple shots were fired according to Middlesex Acting District Attorney Michael Pelgro and Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas. Collier was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. According to the Associated Press, the two suspects not only killed the officer, but injured a transit officer in a firefight and threw explosive devices at police during their getaway attempt in a long night of violence leaving one of the suspects dead and the other at large on Friday. The authorities classify the 19 year old as a dangerous terrorist and according to the Associated Press comes from the Russian region near Chechnya, a region plagued with Islamic insurgency stemming from separatist wars.

On Friday at 3:15, according to eye witnesses, more than a dozen police cars were speeding to the UMass Dartmouth campus about an hour south of Boston adding to the strong police presences at the school where one suspect, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, was a registered student. The authorities evacuated the campus Friday afternoon and announced the campus would be closed on Saturday after the manhunt for one of the suspects consumed the school. Students report seeing Tsarnaev on campus this week after Monday’s bombing as a result UMass Dartmouth announced the relocating of students to a nearby high school where transportation to and accommodations would be made.

The family of both men have spoken out for the two suspect brothers in disbelief condemning the police for such quick action without cause. Anzor Tsarnev, the father of Dzhokar and Tamerlan Tsarnev, said according to Lifenews.ru, “My children were simply framed, they [the police] should have simply waited. I am worried for the second.” When asked if his children had seen guns, he responded, “My children in their eye have never seen guns, if only on television. We went to America because of the political system.” Maret Tsarnev, the aunt of the two brothers, revealed the elder brother killed by police last night has a young child. Defending both young men to the Canadian Press on Friday, she said, “I do not believe these two boys have done that act of atrocity killing those people on the street and I will not believe that until, until I get evidence.”

In many cases when these acts of atrocities occur, the increase in hate crimes is likely to follow against groups believed to be involved. Muslim, Sikh, South Asian and Arab Americans tried to head off the backlash  that comes after such an act of terrorism by releasing a statement on Friday asking the country not to scapegoat innocent people. The collective statement read as follows:

Our thoughts and condolences continue to be with the victims of the Boston Marathon attacks. We are grateful to the brave first responders and law enforcement officers, who endangered their own lives in pursuit of the suspects and to keep the people of Boston safe.This is a time for us to come together as Americans during a sad and difficult moment. As information continues to emerge, we urge the media and the public to refrain from scapegoating or turning against our fellow Americans based on their racial, ethnic, religious or immigrant identity.

Incidences of violence against such groups has already occurred with a Muslim woman being attacked in the Boston area on Wednesday. The woman wearing a hijab was attacked by a man shouting that Muslims had perpetrated the twin bombing killing three people and wounding 170 Monday. Heba Abolaban, a Palestinian doctor who came to the United States from Syria, said she was punched in the shoulder in Malden, Mass. by a man who shouted “F*** you Muslims!” and “You are involved in the Boston explosions” according to the Malden Patch. The man a white male in his 30s shouted at the woman for two minutes before leaving the Patch reports. Polis Cheif Kevin Molis stated to the Boston Globe that, “No investigative strategy will be overlooked in order to determine who’s responsible for this. This is something that as a city and as a police department we take seriously.” While conservative commentators, like Glenn Beck, speculate Monday’s attack was perpetrated by Middle Easterners, the nationalities of the marathon bombers were still not know as of Thursday afternoon. However, the FBI on Thursday released photos of the suspects and enlisted the public’s help to track them down leading us to the manhunt in progress now.