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On this week's day-after-4/20 special edition weekly Independent comics page: Jen Sorenson looks at the phenomenon that is Ted Cruz; The K Chronicles makes a surprising yet welcome discovery; This Modern World examines yet more primary-election phenomena; and Red Meat finds someone sleeping naked in the yard yet again.

Published in Comics

Boy, this has been an ugly election cycle. The candidates and their supporters have been dragging some pretty dark parts of our society into the spotlight, and it has not been pretty.

But for me, there is at least one shining green light to be seen: Both parties appear ready to be getting ready to accept cannabis into our “legitimate” society in one form or another—although there are still some fairly stark differences in their stances.

So, with the California primary coming up in June, let’s look at where the remaining presidential candidates stand on cannabis.

The Red Team

A Republican administration is generally viewed as a setback to the legalization movement. But even the Red Team is getting on board with a wider acceptance of cannabis.

GOP front-runner Donald Trump is typically vague regarding marijuana, and has changed his publicly stated views on legalization several times over the years. In 1990, he said that all drugs should be legalized and regulated to end the failed War on Drugs. Now that he’s the GOP Golden Boy (Orange Boy?), he’s hedging his bets regarding legalization for recreational use. In a recent interview with Bill O’Reilly, when pressed on the issue, the closest Trump would come to supporting legalization was to say that “there are some good things about” it. However, Trump did not hesitate to assert his complete support of medical marijuana.

Running a distant second in the GOP race is Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. At the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference, Cruz said he was opposed to legalization for adult recreational use. But earlier this year, he said he would not roll back the laws enacted in Colorado and Washington, so he appears to be softening a little on the topic. He told radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt: “When it comes to a question of legalizing marijuana, I don’t support legalizing marijuana. If it were on the ballot in the state of Texas, I would vote no. But I also believe that’s a legitimate question for the states to make a determination. And the citizens of Colorado and Washington state have come to a different conclusion.” Cruz also says states should regulate medicinal use without federal interference: “I think it is appropriate for the federal government to recognize that the citizens of those states have made that decision.”

The GOP’s longest lasting also-ran, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, has been completely opposed to cannabis, even for medical use. But even he appears to be loosening up a little. While still generally opposed to legalizing marijuana for recreational use, he said at a town hall in Hollis, N.H., “Medical marijuana, I think we can look at it.” Kasich, who has admitted using marijuana himself several times, recently discussed the topic on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. While he opposes incarceration in favor of treatment for drug-abusers across the board, he explained his opposition to legalization thusly: “The problem with marijuana is this: We don't want to tell our kids, ‘Don’t do drugs, but by the way, this drug’s OK.’”

Colbert fired back with a wry: “Isn't that what alcohol is?”

You can watch the exchange here.

The Blue Team

A Democratic White House is the great green hope for the legalization movement, with Bernie Sanders being wholly in favor of a complete end to the War on Drugs, and Hillary Clinton now stating 100 percent support for medical cannabis.

Clinton’s position is in an evolutionary phase. In 2011, she opposed complete legalization in favor of decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. But on March 24 of this year, she told Jimmy Kimmel: “I think what the states are doing right now needs to be supported, and I absolutely support all the states that are moving toward medical marijuana, moving toward—absolutely—legalizing it for recreational use.” She continued: “Let’s take it off … Schedule I and put it on a lower schedule so that we can actually do research about it.”

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is the only candidate to receive an “A” rating from the Marijuana Policy Project. Sanders has long expressed support for allowing states to make decisions regarding cannabis legalization, even going so far as to say that he, personally, would vote in favor of legalization in his state. On a national level, he staunchly supports marijuana decriminalization and medicinal use.

While other issues in the election cycle are causing wide rifts, it appears that marijuana’s time has come at last. It’s a new day for cannabis, America!

In Other News

• With California barreling toward expected legalization, the county of Los Angeles is giving itself a time-out, of sorts, to figure out how to handle cultivation in unincorporated areas. The county has banned dispensaries from operating on county land since 2011, and has temporarily banned all cultivation—even by patients. The current ban is in place for 45 days to let the county assess the best way to approach cultivation, including environmental impacts and possible criminal activity. Coupled with the long-standing ban on dispensaries, the ban leaves few options for patient access. The ban can be extended for a year if deemed necessary by the county Board of Supervisors.

• On the lighter side, pizza-delivery app Push for Pizza has teamed with Nikolas Gregory Studio in Queens, N.Y., to produce a pizza box than can be used to make a pot pipe. The brain-child of 25-year-old Nikolas Gregory, the box features a perforated cutout that serves as the body of the pipe. And, y’know that miniature plastic table thing that supports the middle of the box? Well, they’re making it a ceramic bowl that slides into the cardboard body from the box top.

Genius!

Published in Cannabis in the CV

On this week's spritely Independent comics page: The K Chronicles is embarrassed by North Carolina; Jen Sorenson examines shell companies; This Modern World bitches about Bernie; and Red Meat's cowboys deal with a sorting issue.

Published in Comics

On this week's yuuuuge Independent comics page: Jen Sorenson examines what happens when Barack Obama nominates a fern to the U.S. Supreme Court; The K Chronicles bemoans those who bemoan the success of certain performers; This Modern World offers more notes regarding the never-ending slog to Election Day; and Red Meat learns a valuable Easter lesson.

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On this week's touching and inspirational Independent comics page: The K Chronicles shares an email that someone sent to a fellow cartoonist; This Modern World peruses at The Incredible Trump comics book; Jen Sorenson examines presidential candidates' Elvis scores; and Red Meat ponders love and boats.

Published in Comics

On this week's unseasonably warm Independent comics page: This Modern World has just one regret; Jen Sorenson finds business as usual in the new normal; The K Chronicles takes a look at Team Trump; and Red Meat gets a response from God Himself.

Published in Comics

On this week's Supreme Court-laden Independent comics page: The K Chronicles wonders which line was said by a petulant child, and which line was said by a GOP presidential candidate; This Modern World quizzes the pundits about the death of Antonin Scalia; Jen Sorenson examines the latest Obama scandal; and Red Meet agrees that it's always darkest before the dawn.

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On this week's cranky Independent comics page: Red Meat feels lonely; Jen Sorenson looks at the true damage a Hillary-Bernie brawl could cause; The K Chronicles thinks we should #arrestgovsnyder; and This Modern World asks some primary-related questions.

Published in Comics

The “protest pit” outside of the Republican Presidential Debate at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, N.H., on Saturday evening was a fenced-in area in a field about a quarter mile down the road from the main entrance to the campus.

Bumper to bumper traffic ran in front of the pit—odd, given that NH State Police were letting few cars on the campus. Most were told to turn around. No one that Republican leadership didn’t want in was getting anywhere near the Carr Center, where the debate was taking place.

Powerful lights shone down on the scene from one side—lending it an eerie cast. Behind the fence facing the road were a couple hundred supporters for a few of the Republican candidates. But that was just the first layer: Behind them were about 500 activists with the Fight for 15 campaign—organized and bankrolled with $30 million as of last August by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Union leaders had bused in SEIU staff and members; student activists; and allies from other unions and immigrant organizations from around the region—at least 13 busloads from southern New England overall, according to the campaign’s registration form for the event. It was a respectable showing, if not the “massive crowd of underpaid workers” that SEIU’s press release had promised.

So there they were. Supporters of a $15 an hour federal minimum wage, a fairly diverse group, standing in a snowy field on a back road, enthusiastically waving banners—some quite creative, cylindrical and glowing from within like Japanese lanterns—and periodically trading chants with the mostly white right-wing activists in front of them.

Their presence was part of the tactic to raise the profile of the Fight for $15 campaign by protesting presidential debates and other high-profile events like the Super Bowl in recent months. That makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense is why SEIU pulled out 500 people onto a chilly windswept hill in suburban New Hampshire to protest for a laudable reform that their chosen presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, absolutely does not support.

Clinton, like Barack Obama, has come out in favor of a $12 an hour minimum wage. Bernie Sanders, the only candidate whose politics are in line with labor unions like SEIU, is also the only candidate who publicly supports the Fight for $15 campaign’s main goal—a $15 an hour minimum wage. That’s barely a living wage at all in many parts of the country, and hardly the huge ask that opponents make it out to be, especially given the wage freeze imposed on most Americans by corporations and our political duopoly since the 1970s.

Yet the leaders of the 1.9 million member SEIU backed Clinton last November, joining the heads of a number of other large American unions in supporting the candidate with a proven record of pushing policies completely antithetical to union demands. They have already pumped millions to Clinton super PACs over the heads of their largely voiceless members.

In response, a coalition of progressive unions and activist union members has formed Labor for Bernie to win as many union endorsements for Sanders as possible, even as Sanders has amassed a $75 million warchest from mostly small donations—without the truckloads of cash that labor unions have traditionally lavished on Democratic candidates over the past few decades.

With Sanders doing very well in the NH polls and possibly capable of staying in the race all the way to this summer’s Democratic National Convention, it appears SEIU leadership made a serious miscalculation this election. The fallout from that miscalculation is already playing out in the very state where they organized the standout for their Fight for $15 campaign over the weekend, and where a key primary is taking place today.

Two New Hampshire SEIU locals—560 (Dartmouth College workers) and 1984 (NH State Employees’ Association)—broke ranks with SEIU leadership last fall and backed Sanders for president. Both locals were present in Goffstown on Saturday.

Whether Bernie Sanders wins the nomination and election or not, current SEIU leadership—and the leadership of every union marching in lockstep with the worst elements of the Democratic Party—is going to face increasing pressure from its rank-and-file members to stop supporting pro-corporate anti-labor candidates like Clinton. Likely culminating in major grassroots insurgent campaigns aimed at removing union leaders perceived as sellouts—as has happened on many occasions in labor history. It remains to be seen whether such internal reforms will happen before the major unions collapse under the death of a thousand cuts being inflicted on them by their traditional political enemies and their erstwhile allies alike.

SEIU and less democratic unions like it could forestall the looming civil war in their own ranks—and increase the American labor movement’s chance of survival—by learning from the more democratic practices of the 700,000 member Communication Workers of America (CWA)—whose leadership stepped aside last year and let their members directly decide: a) If they should endorse any candidates for POTUS, and b) Which candidate they should endorse.

CWA members, some 30 percent of whom are Republicans, voted to back Sanders in December.

Jason Pramas is the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism’s network director. He has been a member of three SEIU locals (925, 285 and 888) over the past 18 years, and helped lead a successful union drive with SEIU Local 509 last year—at the cost of his job.

Copyright 2016 Jason Pramas. Licensed for use by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and media outlets in its network.

This report was produced by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and is part of their “Manchester Divided” coverage of the madness leading up to the 100th New Hampshire presidential primary.

Published in Politics

There has been a relentless stream of town halls, meet-and-greets, panel discussions and rallies in New Hampshire in advance of the Jan. 9 primary—but we were probably at the only event where “Party in the USA” blared from the speakers as the crowd filed into their seats.

We were definitely at the only happening hosted by Trevor Noah.

A disembodied voice asked us to kindly turn off our cell phones, though the request was blatantly ignored by a crowd full of people who were furiously Snapchatting the scene as Noah and correspondents from The Daily Show—Jessica Williams, Ronny Chieng and Hasan Minhaj —took to the stage. It was an off-air event, after all, so how else would we prove to friends that we were there?

Podium Pandemonium was “a debate about debates,” and the festivities found Fusion’s Alicia Menendez, DNC Vice Chairwoman Donna Brazile, Howard Dean, New Yorker correspondent Ryan Lizza and MSNBC’s Michael Steele attempting to answer questions about our modern political process. While there were jokes—Noah opened by thanking “all of the college kids we lured with free pot,” and “all four” of the black people in the audience for showing up—there wound up being a surprisingly substantive discussion wrapped up in a shiny Comedy Central package.

“That is what a debate needs: a good amount of laughter and honesty,” Noah said, almost too earnestly for someone standing at a podium.

Because they’re not campaigning, these panelists were likely among the most honest, candid people making appearances in the Granite State this week. Brazile wanted to get one thing out of the way up front: From a campaign worker perspective, debates are awful. There are too many; they’re a bear to prepare for; and candidates don’t like them—they prefer town halls and one-on-ones.

Too bad, says Dean. “Politics is a substitute for war,” the former Vermont governor and presidential hopeful said. “We used to kill each other over succession of power and the distribution of resources, and debates are the modern equivalent of throwing gladiators in the ring.”

Dean may have missed the memo about this being a humorous debate, but he was right that everybody following along at home is always hoping for a moment comparable to “You’re no Jack Kennedy.” They’re spectacles that exist at the intersection of entertainment and politics—much like, dare we say, an evening with The Daily Show.

Still, there’s plenty we could fix, and the panel had a few ideas. Why, for example, can’t we fact-check candidates? Asking a question, getting an answer, and moving on seems silly in an age when we can access endless information at any time. There’s more accountability during NFL games, where at least there’s a review of calls made on the field.

As for the number of debates: Dean thinks the endless debate cycle is part of the reason Romney lost in 2012, as the Republican had to move to the right with each subsequent faceoff.

They also discussed questions in debates culled from Twitter and Facebook, most of which seem canned and pre-decided: Pathetic, pandering, toothless attempts to appeal to young people, who for some reason rarely ask about things like student debt? All of which raised the meta question of why the people in New Hampshire speaking most thoughtfully about reforming the debate process were doing so at the behest of comedians.

There was some progress in deciding what a better debate might look like: two candidates, one hour, no moderator—a real discussion of the issues. If we’re going to have moderators, said Brazile, we need more diversity, but added that what’s most valuable about debates are the candid moments, and the chance to see politicians as they are, having conversations.

“What you just described,” said Noah, “was Twitter.”

This report was produced by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and is part of their “Manchester Divided” coverage of the madness leading up to the 100th New Hampshire presidential primary.

Published in Politics

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