OC Register:"Cut taxes on the legal marijuana market, pass AB1948"

California’s legal marijuana industry has struggled under the burden of a common set of problems facing businesses of all kinds in the state: high taxation and too much government red tape.

With the approval of Proposition 64 in 2016, Californians made clear that they wanted to end the farce of criminalizing marijuana-related offenses and they wanted to allow a legal market for recreational marijuana to operate.

Unfortunately, high taxes, a slow-moving permitting process and local government resistance has stifled the ability of the legal market to better get off the ground.

Estimates  from Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics suggest that black market sales of marijuana continue to make up the vast majority of marijuana sales in the state. Surveys of consumers have suggested that one factor keeping marijuana consumers away is the high rate of taxes.

Further, according to the United Cannabis Business Association, there are nearly three times as many unlicensed marijuana dispensaries and delivery services as there are licensed ones.

This reflects both the high demand for marijuana products and a clear mismatch for the government’s ability to entice more operators into joining the fully legal market.

While there are certainly many areas on the taxation and regulatory side to better facilitate participation in the legal market, one easy one is a bipartisan legislative effort from Asm. Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, and Asm. Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, to temporarily lower taxes on the legal industry in an effort to better enable it to succeed.

The proposal, Assembly Bill 1948, has been offered before, but Bonta and Lackey, with backing from state Treasurer Fiona Ma, are giving it another go.

“We must lower and simplify the taxes on cannabis if the regulated cannabis industry in California is to survive, let alone thrive,” said Bonta.

He’s right. Who knew that high and complicated taxes made it hard for businesses to thrive in California?

By keeping the status quo, the state is holding back the potential of those willing to abide by the law and participate in the legal market.

We hope the Legislature approves AB1948 to give the legal market a better chance at being successful.

Source:Orange County Register Editorial https://tinyurl.com/wx5293r

HRW:"Chinese Government Poses Global Threat to Human Rights"

(New York) – The Chinese government is carrying out an intense attack on the global system for defending human rights, Kenneth Roth, executive director at Human Rights Watch, said today in releasing Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2020. Decades of progress that have allowed people around the world to speak freely, live without fear of arbitrary imprisonment and torture, and enjoy other human rights are at risk, Roth said.

At home, the Chinese government has created a vast surveillance state in its efforts to achieve total social control. It is now increasingly using its economic and diplomatic clout to fend off global efforts abroad to hold it to account for its repression. To preserve the international human rights system as a meaningful check on repression, governments should band together to counter Beijing’s attacks.

“Beijing has long suppressed domestic critics,” Roth said. “Now the Chinese government is trying to extend that censorship to the rest of the world. To protect everyone’s future, governments need to act together to resist Beijing’s assault on the international human rights system.”

In the 652-page World Report 2020, its 30th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in nearly 100 countries. Roth noted many other threats to human rights around the world, including in Syria and Yemen, where government forces from Syria, Russia, and the Saudi-led coalition blatantly disregard the international rules designed to spare civilians, including the prohibitions against attacking civilians and bombing hospitals.

An inhospitable terrain for human rights is aiding the Chinese government’s attack. A growing number of governments that previously could be relied on at least some of the time to promote human rights in their foreign policy now have leaders, such as United States President Donald Trump, who are unwilling to do so. And the autocratic populists who gain office by demonizing minorities and keep power by eliminating independent journalists, judges, and activists bridle at the same body of international human rights law that the Chinese government undermines.

Full Commentary by Human Rights Watch and announcement of new report @ https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/01/14/chinese-government-poses-global-threat-human-rights

Silent Surge: Over 18,000 American Troops Deployed In Middle East

The U.S. escalation occurred days before the airstrike that killed Iran’s Quds Force General Qasem Soleimani.

Soldiers of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment conduct a breaching training operation, at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, March 20, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Charles Highland) (Photo Credit: SFC Charles Highland)

JANUARY 3, 2020|

2:16 PMBARBARA BOLAND

Approximately 4,750 American troops are slated to deploy this week to Kuwait, a traditional U.S. staging ground for conflict in the Middle East. They will join the 14,000 American troops already deployed to U.S. Central Command on a mission to confront Iran’s malign behavior in the region, Pentagon officials confirmed.

The U.S. escalation of troop forces came Tuesday evening, two days before the U.S. airstrike in Iraq that killed General Qasem Soleimani, leader of the Quds Force division of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

“At the direction of the Commander in Chief, I have authorized the deployment of an infantry battalion from the Immediate Response Force (IRF) of the 82nd Airborne Division to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in response to recent events in Iraq,” said Secretary of Defense Mark Esper in a written statement Tuesday evening. “Approximately 750 soldiers will deploy to the region immediately, and additional forces from the IRF are prepared to deploy over the next several days.”

The deployment of thousands of U.S. troops to the volatile region and Trump’s decision to order the killing of Iranian General Qassim Suleimani has increased fears that a hot war will break out. Global stock market futures fell, and oil prices spiked on the news.

Analysts disagree on the effect the airstrikes and U.S. deployments will have, however.

“Let’s be clear, while the United States and Iran have been locked in a cycle of confrontation for four decades, neither side has been prepared to engage in full-scale and direct conflict with the other. And yet that is a step that may very well follow from these actions — if cooler heads don’t quickly prevail,” said Chris Preble, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute.

Jim Antle, editor in chief of The American Conservative, writes that “such a war isn’t inevitable.”

Killing Soleimani may have the desired effect of crippling future Iranian attacks. But, “our continued, if reduced, occupation of Iraq is the main thing exposing Americans to risk of harm at Iranian hands. It remains to be seen how much that calculus now changes.”

The quiet buildup of thousands of American troops and military assets in the region significantly increases the number of targets for Iran to choose from, should it choose to counter-strike.

Source:Barbara Boland @ The American Conservative https://www.theamericanconservative.com/state-of-the-union/silent-surge-over-18000-american-troops-deployed-in-middle-east/