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Virginia Lawmakers Vote to Legalize Marijuana

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The new legislation will legalize marijuana for adult recreational use, but not until 2024.

What We Know:

  • On January 1st, 2024, sales of recreational marijuana will start in Virginia. The new law will also decriminalize possession of up to an oz. (28.3 grams) of marijuana. Virginia will become the first Southern state to legalize marijuana and is the latest of 15 total states that currently allow recreational use. Before Virginia, New Jersey was the last state to join the legalization club. It joins Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts as the only east coast states that legalize marijuana. The legislation is now waiting for Democratic Governor Ralph Northam’s signature, who supports legalization.
  • Northam’s spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, admits the state has taken an important step toward legalization. Only last year, Virginia has taken the first steps to legalization by making simple possession a civil penalty. The old law stated that minor possession could only be punishable by a fine of no more than $25.

“There’s still a lot of work ahead, but this bill will help to reinvest in our communities reduce inequities in our criminal justice system,” stated Yarmosky.

  • Yarmosky’s statement holds as the bill has plans to dedicate 30% of marijuana tax revenue to the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund. The largest portion of this revenue stream will go toward funding pre-k classrooms for at-risk kids. The bill will also include various stipulations such as help communities over-policed for marijuana crimes, fund scholarships, and low-or no-interest loans for qualified cannabis businesses.
  • The only question that remains is why the legislation was scheduled until 2024. It has been reported that the Senate wanted to move forward with legalizing marijuana possession this year, but House Democrats argued, “legalization without a legal market for marijuana could promote the growth of the black market.” It could also mean bad news for communities of color, who already have a tough time fairly navigating these laws. A study by the legislature’s research and watchdog agency found that in 2010-2019, black individuals’ average arrest rate for marijuana charges was 3.5x higher than white individuals’ arrest rate.

Lawmakers in Virginia are steadily and carefully creating new marijuana laws that also benefit communities previously wronged by outdated legislation.

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Crime

Derek Chauvin Found GUILTY on ALL Charges for the Murder of George Floyd

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BLACK NEWS ALERTS SPECIAL REPORT

The jury has reached a verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

WATCH THE VERDICT LIVE:

Feed courtesy of Washington Post

What We Know:

  • The verdict was read in open court with unanimous decisions on all three counts, none of which carry a charge of life in prison. The three counts are as follows:
    • Second-degree unintentional murder (also referred to as felony murder): Sentence up to 40 years in prison.
    • Third-degree murder: Sentence up to 25 years.
    • Second-degree manslaughter: Sentence up to 10 years.
  • The panel of seven women and five men began deliberating Monday after three weeks of witness testimony.
  • The third-degree murder charge had initially been dismissed, but it was reinstated after an appeals court ruling in an unrelated case established new grounds for it days before jury selection started.
  • Chauvin, who is white, knelt on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as Floyd, who was Black, was handcuffed and lying on the ground.
  • Prosecutors argued that Chauvin’s actions caused Floyd to die from low oxygen or asphyxia. The defense claimed that Floyd’s illegal drug use and a pre-existing heart condition were to blame and urged jurors not to rule out other theories, as well, including exposure to carbon monoxide.

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM – JUNE 03: Graffiti artist Akse spray paints a mural of George Floyd in Manchester’s northern quarter on June 03, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. The death of an African-American man, George Floyd, while in the custody of Minneapolis police has sparked protests across the United States, as well as demonstrations of solidarity in many countries around the world. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

  • During closing arguments, prosecutors sought to focus jurors’ attention on the 9 minutes, 29 seconds they say Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck, while Chauvin’s defense attorney told them that “the 9 minutes and 29 seconds ignores the previous 16 minutes and 59 seconds” of the interaction.
  • Prosecutors called 38 witnesses, including the teenager who recorded the widely seen bystander video that brought global attention to Floyd’s death. She and other bystanders who testified said they are haunted by Floyd’s death and that they wish they had done more to try to save his life. The defense called seven witnesses, two of whom were experts.
  • Chauvin had agreed to plead guilty to third-degree murder days after Floyd’s death, but William Barr, then the U.S. attorney general, rejected the deal because, officials said, he was worried that it was too early in the investigation and that it would be perceived as too lenient.

Floyd’s death touched off international protests against police brutality and racial injustice. The city of Minneapolis has spent months preparing for the trial and for the potential of unrest over the verdict.

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Education

Furman University Unveils Statue of its First Black Student

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Joseph Vaughn attended Furman University back in 1965.

What We Know:

  • A statue of Vaughn, the school’s first African-American student, was revealed on Friday, April 16th, 2021, in Greenville, SC. The statue was modeled after a photo of Vaughn walking up to the school’s library. Vaughn died in 1991 and served as president of the Greenville and Southeast NAACP student chapters. He graduated Cum Laude in 1968 before becoming a teacher in Greenville County.
  • He also served as the president of both the Greenville County Association of Teachers and the South Carolina Education Association. Qwameek Bethea, a senior student and president of Furman’s NAACP chapter was the one who convinced the university to build the statue. Vaughn was not originally welcomed by everyone on campus when he became a student. Vaughn allegedly found a noose hanging from his doorknob one morning shortly after he arrived.
  • The Vaughn statue was two years in the making and is part of a larger movement the University began in 2017. The Task Force on Slavery and Justice was created out of inspiration from an op-ed written in 2016. The piece was written by a student of the school and notably questioned the University’s legacy. Vaughn’s statue is one of a dozen recommendations the group proposed to the University for approval.
  • The school expanded its Joseph Vaughn scholarship for students in 2018 and renamed one of its dormitories after Clark Murphy, a black groundskeeper at the school, in 2020. Vaughn is the first person of color whose likeness is featured prominently on the Furman campus. The original unveiling of the statue was planned to be in January but was rescheduled due to high rates of coronavirus around the community at the time.

Members of Vaughn’s family showed up for the occasion as well, noting that Vaughn stood for “an instrument of change.”

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Headlines

Hester Ford, Oldest Living American, Dies at 115

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The North Carolina woman died peacefully in her Charlotte home Saturday, a family member confirmed.

What We Know:

  • According to the Gerontology Research Group, Hester Ford was 115 years and 245 days old at the time of her death. However, the family stated Ford was born on August 15th, 1904, which would’ve made her 116. Whichever age is correct, Ford was the oldest living American, having been confirmed as such in 2019.
  • Ford was born on a farm in Lancaster County, South Carolina. She married John Ford at age 14 and had the first of her 12 children the next year. The couple moved to Charlotte where she remained for the rest of her life. From her 12 children, Ford was granted 68 grandchildren, 125 great-grandchildren, and possibly more than 120 great-great-grandchildren.
  • In a statement, her great-granddaughter Tanisha Patterson-Powe called her grandmother a true innovator. “She never ‘fit into a one size fit all box’.” Patterson-Powe continued, saying “She never complained, never showed defeat or entertained a pity party.”

“She not only represented the advancement of our family but of the Black African American race and culture in our country. She was a reminder of how far we have come as people on this earth,” said Patterson-Powe.

  • When asked about her secret to a long life, Ford stated, “I just live right, all I know.” According to her family, Ford enjoyed a daily routine of eating half a banana, going outside for fresh air, and reclining while looking through photos or listing to gospel music.

According to the Gerontology Research Group, Thelma Sutcliffe of Nebraska, born in 1906, is now the oldest living American. The oldest living person on Earth however is Kane Tanaka of Japan who is 118.

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