Things That Matter

An Arizona Medical Marijuana Farm Turned The Sky Purple And People Were Left Wondering What Was Going On

A Navajo County medical marijuana farm in Snowflake, Arizona filled the sky with a strange purple haze that illuminated the horizon. Local residents took photos of the electric violet fog that enveloped them on an early Friday morning last week. 

Copperstate Farms is the largest medical marijuana wholesaler in Arizona, according to CNN. The farm has 40 acres of greenhouses (totaling the size of 30 football fields). The greenhouses use red and blue lights at night to boost the plants’ growth. Anyone who paid attention during the color theory section of art class knows red and blue make purple, but the lights don’t look like this every day in Navajo County. 

So why was the sky filled with a purple haze?

❄ The snow wasn't the only gift the skies had in store for us this morning. 💜This photo taken from Snowflake, AZ early…

Posted by Navajo County on Friday, January 10, 2020

“The purple lights are always there but don’t usually light up the sky like this,” Cara Smith, who took the viral photo at 6:30 AM on her way to work, told CNN. “It had snowed that morning and was still very foggy and cloudy.”

While the lights can sometimes look a little purple from afar, the weather conditions magnified the violet hue. According to KTLA, water droplets from a particularly low fog reflected the growth lights which made the purple color spread across the dark sky. 

“The snow wasn’t the only gift the skies had in store for us this morning. This photo taken from Snowflake, AZ early this morning showcased purple glow for miles! Huge shout out to resident Cara Smith for sharing her photo.
The purple glow is a result of LED grow lights from nearby medical marijuana farm Copperstate Farms and the snow clouds overhead,” the official Navajo County Facebook page wrote. 

Copperstate Farms has been growing crops for three years with 70 cannabis strains in production and another 40 in development. 

With more states legalizing marijuana, a purple haze could be coming to you.

While Arizona legalized medical use in 2010, it has struggled to legalize it for recreational use. In fact, in 2016 a ballot initiative to legalize it recreationally failed with 48.7 percent of the vote. Nevertheless, in just four short years the state has a new initiative on the ballot that is facing little opposition. 

“With over $1.6 million in funding, the political action committee formed to push the ballot initiative is the best-funded PAC in the state, according to campaign finance filings. What is surprising is the seeming lack of any opposition in a state that, just four years ago, narrowly struck down a similar bill,” according to the Phoenix New Times.

In 2016, Arizona may have suffered from a 6.4 million anti-cannabis movement but there is little resistance this time. There have been changing attitudes around marijuana use with 33 states making it medically legal and 11 making it recreationally legal. 

Here are the states we can expect expanded access to marijuana use from in 2020.

According to Newsweek, over a dozen states are posturing towards ballot initiatives for recreational cannabis use in 2020. States like these include Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, South Dakota, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, and North Dakota and Rhode Island. 

States in the beginning process are working to garner local and public support, while others, further along, are figuring out implementation processes. For example, Minnesota Democrats are trying to establish the best practices before drafting the bill. 

“It just is manifestly unfair to say ‘Okay, well, now that we think [marijuana] is good and we’re going to make money, let’s make it a corporate, whites-dominated industry,'” Minnesota state house majority leader Ryan Winkler told Newsweek. “We may not be able to stop that, but we’re going to try.”

Marijuana legalization has largely become a criminal justice issue with Black and Brown people incarcerated at much higher rates for usage despite racial groups using cannabis at the same rates. 

Illinois may be the model to follow, after passing a bill to legalize recreational use, the state plans to expunge criminal records for related low-level offenses. It has allocated $30 million in special low-interest loans so that communities, largely of color, affected the most by the so-called War on Drugs can lead the way as cannabis entrepreneurs. 

The City Of Phoenix Is Moving Forward With Plans To Open A Latino Cultural Center

Culture

The City Of Phoenix Is Moving Forward With Plans To Open A Latino Cultural Center

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After 17 years of hitting roadblocks and issues with location, Phoenix, Arizona looks like it will finally have its own Latino cultural center. This month, the Phoenix City Council took action on the issue and voted in favor of moving forward with the project that was originally approved for $1.4 million in bond funding by Phoenix voters in 2001. The location of the cultural center is tentatively planned to be at the North Building at Margaret T. Hance Park, near downtown Phoenix. 

While the city is moving forward with plans, there is still disagreement with some about the location of the cultural center and fulfilling the rest of the funding needs. According to the Phoenix New Times, “Organizers would need to raise sufficient funds for North Building renovations by the end of 2023. Current estimates put renovation costs at about $12 million.”

While there is a growing need for a space that represents and shows the visibility of Latinos in Phoenix, the city still has questions about whether this location will fit those needs. 

Phoenix has one of the fastest-growing Latino populations in the country and is expected to surpass 50 percent of the Arizona population by 2020. With a growing demographic, the Latino Cultural Center hopes to be a space that Latino artists can showcase the diversity and impact the population has had in America’s Southwest region. When it comes to programming,  the center would also have an “annual cultural festival” and a “community kitchen,” among other projects. But to accomplish this goal, the city has to fully support and agree on a location that meets these needs. 

As part of a study that was commissioned by the city of Phoenix, it recommends that the Latino Cultural Center be a “visible” presence in downtown Phoenix as well as being “on par and in company” with other nearby art and culture centers. 

City Councilman Carlos Garcia says that the location of this project is a huge roadblock to overcome since the currently proposed location lacks significance when it comes to the Latino community. 

“The Hance location kind of doesn’t allow us to grow from there. And it also doesn’t hold cultural significance, specifically to the Latino/Chicano from Phoenix,” Garcia said at the recent meeting concerning the center. “I had an artist call me about it and say, ‘Our communities were redlined and were not allowed north of whatever-Van Buren or the tracks-and so how can we set something up like where our communities weren’t even allowed.”

Despite some disagreements, Phoenix is ready to move forward with the project that it hopes it can get started on in the next few years. 

While there are still some questions about the location of the center, Councilwoman Thelda Williams said that this month’s vote was the most progress the project has made in becoming a reality. She said that only stalling the project even longer might hurt its long term viability. 

“For 17 years, we’ve been pursuing this,” Williams told AZ Central. “I know not everyone is happy with this building, but as you stated, doing this review and analysis of the building is truly going to be suitable. I wanted us to keep moving forward.”

As of now, there is $997,902 in available bond funding towards the center which means that the city would have to start a capital funding campaign to meet the financial needs for the project. This is where the city would need more people on board with the project if it is to keep moving forward, most importantly the support of the local Latino community which has voiced it has felt left out of the planning process. 

“It’s been in the works for so long that now everyone is disenfranchised,” Latina choreographer Liliana Gomez told Phoenix New Times. “People are feeling a little bit voiceless. If the center happens, I’ll be supportive. In the meantime, we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing.”

While the Hance Park location isn’t definitive, the city council has left it’s options open if another location or large sum donation is given to build the center somewhere else. Nonetheless, Phoenix is making progress on a project that has been years long overdue and is something that Latinos rightfully deserve. Councilmember Laura Pastor voiced this message at the city meeting and echoed the sentiment many have felt about the cultural center finally moving forward. 

“The city of Phoenix’s Latino arts and culture community is rich, vibrant and ever-evolving. This center will be a home for more than just art. It will encompass storytelling, cultural foods, music, programs, and festivals. Today’s vote is a vital step in the 18-year process to provide our City with the long-overdue Latino Cultural Center it deserves.”

READ: The Sexual Assault Charges Against An Illinois Principal Highlights One Of The Biggest Problems In Our Education System

Recreational Marijuana Will Soon Be Legal In Illinois But Immigrants Are Being Warned To Keep Away From It

Things That Matter

Recreational Marijuana Will Soon Be Legal In Illinois But Immigrants Are Being Warned To Keep Away From It

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This summer, Illinois became the first state to legalize recreational cannabis use through a state legislator when the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act was passed by Governor J.B. Pritzker in May. However, not everyone will be able to benefit from the new law. Advocates are warning immigrants to stay away from consuming or working in the marijuana industry because of small legality that could reflect poorly on their cases.

While states have been legalizing marijuana, it is still illegal federally. An immigrant, undocumented or otherwise, can freely use the herb in Illinois, but should they own up to it, they would be admitting to breaking federal law. Illinois is the 11th state in the U.S. to legalize recreational marijuana use and the new law will go into effect in January. 

Advocates want to protect immigrants from hurting their cases — as fair as the situation is.

Credit: Pixabay

“Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know about these consequences,” Mony Ruiz-Velasco, executive director of PASO West Suburban Action Project told the Chicago Tribune. “Just admitting use makes you a potential target for deportation. So you don’t have to have a criminal arrest or conviction, you just have to admit to use.” 

Ruis-Velasco is also warning immigrants who live in mixed-status households to stay away from the industry altogether. Even if a citizen in the household works in the industry, it could reflect poorly on an undocumented family member. 

The issue is not specific to Illinois immigrants either, states, where cannabis is legal, have been affected tremendously by the incompatibilities between the state and federal laws, along with the Trump administration’s hardline immigration policies. 

Immigrants around the country in states where marijuana is legal are seeing threats to their status.

Credit: Pixabay

“Even though the state legalizes it, under federal law, the immigration consequences of drug use (are) … extremely harsh,” Colorado attorney Aaron Hall said. “So we’ve seen people who purchase marijuana at the dispensary in good faith and later come back and it leads to the denial of permanent residency.”

Denver, Colorado mayor Michael Hancock even penned a letter pleading to U.S. Attorney General William Bar to ease the restrictions where state’s have legalized the substance.

“Denver understands the need for federal laws and regulations regarding citizenship and immigration, but we are seeing the heartbreaking effects that those federal laws and regulations are having on our residents,” Hancock wrote. “However, under current federal policy, lawful, permanent residents like Denver residents I have met with are being denied naturalization and may lose their legal status based on their lawful employment in the cannabis industry.”

ICE has remained strident about not making any concessions for immigrants caught in the unusual predicament. 

“ICE continues to pursue foreign-born nationals convicted of drug-related offenses by local and state law enforcement,” the agency told the Chicago Tribune

Kathleen Vannucci, an attorney who is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said she has already seen cases where immigrants were denied citizenship because they admitted to marijuana use or employment in the cannabis industry in states where it is legal. In Washington, immigrants have been denied on the basis that they have bad “moral character” which requires them to wait five years before applying for citizenship again. 

Some low-level cannabis workers can be accused of drug trafficking with the way the laws are written. ICE’s official marijuana policy, issued in April, makes its stance clear.

“The policy guidance also clarifies that an applicant (for citizenship) who is involved in certain marijuana-related activities may lack good moral character if found to have violated federal law, even if such activity has been decriminalized under applicable state laws,” the policy states. 

Advocates are trying to figure out the best course of action to protect immigrants, until then their advice is to stay away from the drug.

In April, when ICE’s marijuana policy was announced Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) began advising non-citizens to, “never leave the house carrying marijuana or paraphernalia, a medical marijuana card, or wearing clothing with marijuana imagery on it.” 

The organization also warned non-citizens to keep anything cannabis-related off of their phones and social media since those things might be monitored too. 

The legalization of marijuana is largely a way to resolve the criminal justice issues caused by the mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders. Moreover, nonwhites and whites use marijuana at roughly the same rates while the former group is incarcerated for the behavior far more frequently. Legalization’s new industry has also been shown to stimulate local economies by hundreds of millions of dollars. 

“I think that this is a complicated area of law as we have explained,” Ruiz-Velasco said. “I do think that there wasn’t enough information out there (when the legalization bill was being considered in Illinois). But we are trying to work with legislatures now and the government to try to make sure there is something that can be done to reduce the harm that will come.”