There is a great deal of effort going on in Montgomery to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. So much effort, in fact, that a review of the draft legislation indicates that the Republican majority may well be asked very soon to throw out every conservative principle that each of them ran on in order to “get the bill passed”. I could write for days on the draft Cannabis Commission Bill and not even talk about Marijuana. It is that bad. The people of Alabama would do well to take a lesson from Homer about the dangers of dragging a Trojan Horse in the gates.
You all know the story: legend has it that after ten years of war the Trojans believed that they had achieved final victory over their Greek enemies when the dawn light revealed a large wooden horse that had been left outside the gates of Troy. Convinced that it was a wonderful thing, an homage to the Gods left by their defeated foes, the citizens of Troy opened wide their impregnable gates and pulled it into the city. Troy sealed its own fate by bringing in that giant vessel which in actual fact contained Greek commandos who opened the gates from the inside in the dark of night and destroyed the great city from within.
The Alabama Policy Institute has reviewed two drafts of the legislation being developed by the Cannabis Study Commission. It is understood that there may be a more recent draft, but when we asked for an update we were told that the Commission would no longer allow them to be reviewed by the public. A red flag if ever there was one.
The drafts that were reviewed and are availableon the API website are evidence of one of the most prolific forms of trojan horse legislation we’ve seen to date. This trojan horse bill that has been described as purely about palliative care and medicinal relief does everything wrong to allegedly try to do something right.
This trojan horse bill carries the dark forces of growing government, raising taxes, denying the right to due process, and defeating home rule, to name a few.
The legislation grows government by standing up an entire new public commission whose members will be highly compensated. The new “Cannabis Commission” will then be allowed to hire full time employees in untold numbers because the bill places no cap on the growth of the Commission.
The Commission will also have full time investigators who will operate independently of other law enforcement and are specifically given the right to search and seize Alabama citizens and their property “without a warrant”. That’s right, warrantless search and seizure is specifically written into the bill.
It doesn’t stop there. Despite the fact that Alabama does not tax prescription medications, the legislation states that medical marijuana will be taxed at nine percent by the state and up to two percent by the local government. Prescriptions have historically been left alone by taxing authorities in Alabama, but the new Cannabis Commission will tax them at over twice the amount of any other sales tax. And where will the money go? To the Cannabis Commission of course. Along with all other revenues gained from the incredibly large licensing fees and penalties that the Commission is unilaterally allowed to levy.
It just gets worse from there. Parents may have to pay the services of a licensed “Caregiver” to administer the medication to their child. Not the doctor, not the pharmacist, but the newly formed role of “Caregiver” who has been approved by the Commission.
Despite being made legal in the legislation, pharmacists will not be allowed to dispense medical cannabis because it has not been approved by the FDA. Thus communities across the state will see the new phenomenon of “Dispensaries” that will dispense medication without pharmacological oversight.
And what happens if your community doesn’t want a pot farm? The most recent draft of the legislation specifically bans the right of local communities to opt out of the marijuana farming industry. If your local leaders are concerned about the security risks of a marijuana farm they will have no say in the matter if the current version of the bill is passed.
I could keep going, but I will stop there. For now. I just typed over 700 words and never once had to discuss the efficacy of marijuana as a form of medicine. The bill being floated is so bad that legislators don’t even have to debate its ultimate aim.
They can spend all session debating its other content. It’s as if they thought of every non-conservative principle of governance and crammed them all into one bill.
To be sure, if this bill passes it will have major impacts on employers, law enforcement, farmers, insurance companies, and others. Marijuana is not FDA approved and is still considered a controlled substance illegally possessed under federal law.
But the proponents of medical marijuana are not content to go with the usual form of trial, research and approval. They want it now and are determined, according to this bill, to get it at any cost. If they would go through the established processes of amending the law at the federal level, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. But of course, that would have a negative impact on their for-profit cannabis industry. Darn.
The legislature has a big job. Their role is key to the functions of our state governance. But if the State House and Senate pass this trojan horse bill, it will truly be said that the legislature went to pot.
Phil Williams, API Director of Policy Strategy, is a former State Senator from Gadsden. For updates, follow him on Twitter at @SenPhilWilliams and visit alabamapolicy.org.
Opinion | On the Nov. 3 ballot, vote “no” on proposed Amendment 1
On Nov. 3, 2020, all Alabama voters should vote “no” on proposed Amendment 1. Vote no on Amendment 1 because it could allow state law changes to disenfranchise citizens whom the Legislature does not want to vote. Because Amendment 1 has no practical purpose and because it opens the door to mischief, all voters are urged to vote no.
Currently, the Alabama Constitution provides that “Every citizen of the United States…” has the right to vote in the county where the voter resides. Amendment 1 would delete the word “every” before citizen and replace it with “only a” citizen.
In Alabama, the only United States citizens who cannot vote today are most citizens who have been convicted of a felony of moral turpitude. These felonies are specifically identified in Ala. Code 17-3-30.1.
Without Amendment 1, the Alabama Constitution now says who can vote: every citizen. If voters approve Amendment 1, the Alabama Constitution would only identify a group who cannot vote. With Amendment 1, we, the citizens of the United States in Alabama, thus would lose the state constitutional protection of our voting rights.
In Alabama, no individual who is not a United States citizens can vote in a governmental election. So, Amendment 1 has no impact on non-citizens in Alabama.
Perhaps the purpose of Amendment 1 could be to drive voter turnout of those who mistakenly fear non-citizens can vote. The only other purpose for Amendment 1 would be allowing future Alabama state legislation to disenfranchise groups of Alabama citizens whom a majority of the legislature does not want to vote.
In 2020, the ballots in Florida and Colorado have similar amendments on the ballots. As in Alabama, Citizens Voters, Inc., claims it is responsible for putting these amendments on the ballots in those states. While Citizens Voters’ name sounds like it is a good nonprofit, as a 501(c)(4), it has secret political donors. One cannot know who funds Citizen Voters and thus who is behind pushing these amendments with more than $8 million in dark money.
According to Citizen Voter’s website, the stated reason for Amendment 1 is that some cities in several other states allow non-citizens to vote. My understanding is that such measures are rare and only apply to voting for local school boards.
And why would a local government’s deciding that non-citizens can vote for local school boards be a state constitutional problem? Isn’t the good government practice to allow local control of local issues? And again, this issue does not even exist in Alabama.
The bigger question, which makes Amendment 1’s danger plain to see, is why eliminate the language protecting “every” citizen’s right to vote? For example, Amendment 1 could have proposed “Every citizen and only a citizen” instead of deleting “every” when adding “only a” citizen. Why not leave the “every” citizen language in the Alabama Constitution?
Amendment 1 could allow Alabama new state legislation to disenfranchise some Alabama citizens. Such a change would probably violate federal law. But Alabama has often had voting laws that violated federal law until a lawsuit forced the state of Alabama not to enforce the illegal state voting law.
The most recent similar law in Alabama might be 2011’s HB56, the anti-immigrant law. Both HB56 and Amendment 1 are Alabama state laws that out-of-state interests pushed on us. And HB56 has been largely blocked by federal courts after expensive lawsuits.
Alabama’s Nov. 3, 2020, ballot will have six constitutional amendments. On almost all ballots, Amendment 1 will be at the bottom right on the first page (front) of the ballot or will be at the top left on the second page (back) of the ballot.
Let’s keep in our state constitution our protection of every voters’ right to vote.
Based on Amendment 1’s having no practical benefit and its opening many opportunities for mischief, all Alabama voters are strongly urged to vote “no” on Amendment 1.
Opinion | Amendment 4 is an opportunity to clean up the Alabama Constitution
The 1901 but current Alabama Constitution has been amended about 950 times, making it by far the world’s longest constitution. The amendments have riddled the Constitution with redundancies while maintaining language and provisions — for example, poll taxes — that reflect the racist intent of those who originally wrote it.
A recompilation will bring order to the amendments and remove obsolete language. While much of this language is no longer valid, the language is still in the document and has been noted and used by other states when competing with Alabama for economic growth opportunities.
The need for recompilation and cleaning of Alabama’s Constitution has been long recognized.
In 2019, the Legislature unanimously adopted legislation, Amendment 4, to provide for its recompilation. Amendment 4 on the Nov. 3 general election ballot will allow the non-partisan Legislative Reference Service to draft a recompiled and cleaned version of the Constitution for submission to the Legislature.
While Amendment 4 prohibits any substantive changes in the Constitution, the LRS will remove duplication, delete no longer legal provisions and racist language, thereby making our Constitution far more easily understood by all Alabama citizens.
Upon approval by the Legislature, the recompiled Constitution will be presented to Alabama voters in November 2022 for ratification.
Amendment 4 authorizes a non-partisan, broadly supported, non-controversial recompilation and much-needed, overdue cleaning up of our Constitution.
On Nov. 3, 2020, vote “Yes” on Amendment 4 so the work can begin.
Opinion | Auburn Student Center named for Harold Melton, first Auburn SGA president of color
The year 1987 was a quiet one for elections across America but not at Auburn. That was the year Harold Melton, a student in international studies and Spanish, launched and won a campaign to become the first African American president of the Auburn Student Government Association, winning with more than 65 percent of the vote.
This was just the first of many important roles Harold Melton would play at Auburn and in an extraordinarily successful legal career in his home state of Georgia, where his colleagues on the Georgia Supreme Court elected him as chief justice.
Last week, the Auburn Board of Trustees unanimously named the Auburn student center for Justice Melton, the first building on campus that honors a person of color. The decision was reached as part of a larger effort to demonstrate Auburn’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
In June, Auburn named two task forces to study diversity and inclusion issues. We co-chair the task force for the Auburn Board with our work taking place concurrently with that of a campus-based task force organized by President Jay Gogue. Other members of the Board task force are retired Army general Lloyd Austin, bank president Bob Dumas, former principal and educator Sarah B. Newton and Alabama Power executive Quentin P. Riggins.
These groups are embarking on a process that offers all Auburn stakeholders a voice, seeking input from students, faculty, staff, alumni, elected officials and more. It will include a fact-based review of Auburn’s past and present, and we will provide specific recommendations for the future.
We are committed to making real progress based on solid facts. Unlike other universities in the state, Auburn has a presence in all 67 counties through the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Our review has included not only our campuses in Auburn and Montgomery but all properties across our state. To date, we have found no monuments or statues recognizing the history that has divided our country. We will continue our fact-finding mission with input from the academic and research community.
Our university and leadership are committed to doing the right thing, for the right reasons, at the right time. We believe now is the right time, and we are already seeing results.
In addition to naming the student center for the Honorable Harold Melton, we have taken steps to highlight the significant role played by Harold Franklin, the student who integrated Auburn. We are working to enhance the historical marker that pays tribute to Mr. Franklin, and we are raising its visibility in campus tours as we pay homage to his contributions as our first African American student. Last month, we awarded Mr. Franklin, now 86 and with a Ph.D., a long-overdue master’s degree for the studies he completed at Auburn so many years ago.
We likewise endorsed a student-led initiative creating the National Pan-Hellenic Council Legacy Plaza, which will recognize the contributions of Black Greek organizations and African American culture on our campus.
In the coming months, Auburn men and women will work together to promote inclusion to further enhance our student experience and build on our strength through diversity. The results of this work will be seen and felt throughout the institution in how we recruit our students, provide scholarships and other financial support and ensure a culture of inclusion in all walks of university life.
Our goal is to identify and implement substantive steps that will make a real difference at Auburn, impact our communities and stand the test of time.
Naming the student center for Justice Melton is but one example. In response to this decision, he said, “Auburn University has already given me everything I ever could have hoped for in a university and more. This honor is beyond my furthest imagination.”
Our job as leaders at Auburn is more than honoring the Harold Meltons and Harold Franklins who played a significant role in the history of our university. It is also to create an inclusive environment that serves our student body and to establish a lasting legacy where all members of the Auburn Family reach their fullest potential in their careers and in life.
Opinion | Alabama lags behind the nation in Census participation with deadline nearing
The United States Census is starting to wind down around the country with a Sept. 30 deadline for the national population to be completed. However, a United States District Court has recently ruled that the date may be extended another 30 days to allow more time for the census to take place.
Regardless of the deadline, Alabama has work to do when it comes to the census.
To date, the national average for participation around the country has been almost 65 percent for the census.
Unfortunately, Alabama residents are providing data to the census at a lower percentage, around some 61 percent of the state population.
There is already concern among state leaders that if that number does not reach above 70 percent, then the state will lose a seat in Congress, a vote in the electoral college and millions of federal dollars that come to the state every year.
The percentage of participation has varied widely around the state, from a high of 76 percent in Shelby County to a low of 36 percent in neighboring Coosa County.
State leaders are making a final push to request Alabama residents fill out the census in the last month before it is closed.
We will find out later this fall if Alabama passes the national average of participation in the census compared to other states to retain both its future representation and share of federal dollars.
In the meantime, Alabamians need to fill out their census forms.
The state is depending on it.