DC is on a fast track to decriminalizing pot possession

It took nearly 15 years after voters approved medical marijuana for it to become available in the District of Columbia, but the next major change to pot laws in the nation’s capital is on the fast track.

The D.C. Council is poised to approve a bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot, and Democratic Mayor Vincent Gray announced last month that he supports it. He could sign the bill into law as early as January.

Some activists want the city to go further by legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana as Colorado and Washington state do, and they’re considering a ballot initiative if the council doesn’t take that step.

It’s a big change from a year ago, when there was no medical marijuana in the capital and elected officials weren’t talking about relaxing recreational pot laws. Now, there are three tightly regulated marijuana dispensaries in the city, although there aren’t many patients yet.

City leaders have long been cautious about pot, in part because Congress has the final say on what’s legal in the district. But with 17 states having some form of decriminalization and the Justice Department taking a hands-off approach to legalization in Colorado and Washington state, city leaders think Congress won’t be interested in fighting that battle…

Anyone want to place any bets about Congressional Republicans tolerating a progressive step in their own backyard?

The new sense of urgency has been fueled in part by two studies released this year that found large racial disparities in marijuana arrests in the city. Blacks were eight times more likely to be arrested than whites in the district in 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union found, and 91 percent of those arrested that year were black. About half of the city’s 632,000 residents are African-American.

And that’s the rest of the reason I wouldn’t be surprised if Congressional Republicans decide to get in the way.

Most Americans don’t realize or recall that the District of Columbia is a Southern city. That means the neo-Confederates in Congress feel they have every right in the world to supervise the lives of Black folks.

I hope I’m wrong. I would love to be wrong. Since Obama’s election, you can’t miss very often by assuming whatever decision would be racist or reactionary, that’s the Republican choice.

Pic of the Day

deflating duck
Click to enlarge

A giant yellow duck on display in Taiwan became a high-profile victim of Thursday’s earthquake after it deflated before exploding during an attempt to reinflate it…

One of my favorite photo topics…we’ve done this duck a couple of times. He’ll need reanimation, now.

Babies Can Learn Music in the Womb

A new study suggests that babies can learn a melody they hear while still in the womb, and recognize it after they are born.

For the study, published online last week by PLOS One, Finnish researchers divided 24 pregnant women into two groups. Five times a week, the “learning group” played a CD that included a one-minute rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” which the unborn children heard an average of 170 times before birth. The control group did not hear the recording.

Then the scientists did EEG tests on the children at birth and again at 4 months as they listened to the original tune and a version in which several notes were altered.

The learning group had a larger response to the melody than the control group did, and the difference was still apparent at 4 months. And the amplitude of response to the changed melody correlated with the number of times the infants were exposed to the original melody in utero.

The lead author, Eino Partanen, a researcher at the University of Helsinki, urged parents not to make too much of the finding. “A baby can be relaxed and soothed by melodies it hears before birth,” he said. “But there is no evidence that it will get your baby into Harvard.”

Or Berklee College of Music – which makes more sense.

Maybe that’s why I love Chopin as much as my mom did.

Beaver fells tree — causes traffic jam near Borensberg, Sweden

Police in Sweden said a beaver was evidently responsible for a felled tree resulting in a lengthy traffic jam. Fredrik Kliman of the Ostergotland police said the tree was reported blocking a road near Borensberg and officers determined it was brought down by a beaver…

“No one saw the tree fall, but we got a message about the delay and sent a patrol to check on the situation,” Kliman told the TT news agency. “One of the policemen said that it was crystal clear that it was a beaver that chewed down the tree.”

Kliman said public employees were called to clear away the tree and police decided not to pursue the culprit.

We’re not going to be hunting the beaver today, we have other things to do,” he said.

Good for you, dude.