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Calls for national unity turns into blame games after Congressional shooting

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WASHINGTON — It didn’t take long for Washington’s post-shooting talk of unity to begin fraying.

As a top Republican, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, lay in critical condition at a local hospital Thursday, some Republicans on the far right suggested that vitriolic rhetoric on the left could be to blame for the attack that put him there.

“How dare they say such a thing? How dare they?” retorted Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, pointing to a year of venomous attacks by Republicans including President Donald Trump.

A day earlier, a man with a rifle and a handgun wounded Scalise and others at a baseball practice in a park in nearby Alexandria, Virginia. The attacker, who was shot by Scalise’s security detail and later died, was an Illinois man whose social media postings showed anger at Trump and the Republicans.

Trump and others in both parties called for unity — or at least a drastic cooling of rhetorical attacks. But barbed comments weren’t long in coming.

“The center of America is disappearing, and the violence is incited by the leading cultural voices of the Left,” GOP Rep. Steve King of Iowa said over Twitter.

Republican Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania rose on the House floor to issue a call to “replace the hateful rhetoric and resistance with respect,” a comment seemingly aimed at an anti-Trump “Resist” movement.

“The comments made by my Republican colleagues are outrageous,” declared Pelosi, the Democratic leader from California.

Pelosi pointed out that she herself has faced verbal attacks and threats aplenty, including phone calls to her home she blamed on ads critical of her that are airing now in a Georgia House district where a hard-fought special election will take place next week. She accused Republicans of “sanctimony” for suggesting Democrats are the ones to blame.

Pelosi and other Democrats charged that Trump himself bears responsibility for the virulent state of political discourse — and some said for Wednesday’s attack as well, given his embrace of aggressive rhetoric on the campaign trail and the outbreaks of violence at some of his rallies.

“I think that the president contributed to this significantly,” said Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 House Democrat. Clyburn charged that Trump “is allowed to hide behind political correctness to say all kinds of things about people, and I’m a little bit sick and tired of people saying anything they want to say about anyone they want to say it about.”

At least one Republican shared the view that Trump bore some responsibility for the shootings.

“I would argue that the president is at least — is partially — again, not in any way totally but partially to blame for demons that have been unleashed,” said South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford in an interview on MSNBC.

The finger-pointing came even as lawmakers on both sides called for unity, comity and a more civil political discourse. And the exchanges seemed to encapsulate some realities about the state of the nation’s politics.

Democrats remain deeply upset about Trump’s win and by his presidency, and frustrated over how to channel the energies of a restive and angry base. Convinced that Trump and his Republican allies are largely to blame for the nation’s acrimonious political discourse, many bridle over any suggestion to the contrary.

For their part, some Republicans seem taken aback by an intensity on the left that threatens to overwhelm them in the 2018 midterm elections. Tired of being in a defensive crouch as Trump comes under attack from Democrats and the media for breeching political norms, some jumped at the opportunity to turn the tables and contend that Democrats, too, are part of the problem.

“I can show you messages and stuff that were much worse than this guy’s Facebook posts,” said Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Texas, referring to the assailant in Wednesday’s shooting. “Oh my gosh, mild compared to what they put on TV yesterday.”

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said he was physically attacked at a town hall event several weeks back. But unlike some other Republicans he was reluctant to assign blame for what happened on Wednesday.

“I’ve obviously noticed a very different tone, but I don’t think it’s helpful” to blame one side or the other, Cramer said. “I’m trying to focus at least myself on internalizing, what can I do better.”

Cramer’s comments echoed others by House members of both parties Thursday. For even as they blamed one another, a large number gave lip service, at least, to a need to assume personal responsibility to try to reduce acrimony on Capitol Hill and around the country. Many seemed genuinely saddened to have reached a point where partisanship has overwhelmed politics, bringing routine legislating to a virtual standstill and all but eliminating any hope for significant bipartisan accomplishments.

As they prepared for a bipartisan baseball game Thursday night that promised at least a brief lull in the political mud fight, some said they hoped the good feeling would last past the final inning.

“I would quote the late, great Michael Jackson,” said Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., a close friend of Scalise’s and the pitcher on the Democrats’ team. “If you want to make a change, start with the man in the mirror.”

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US & World

Here’s how the Canadian legalization of marijuana is so much different from the United States

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Mail-order weed? You betcha!

With marijuana legalization across Canada on the horizon, the industry is shaping up to look different from the way it does in nine U.S. states that have legalized adult recreational use of the drug. Age limits, government involvement in distribution and sales, and access to banking are some big discrepancies.

And yes, Canadians will be able to order cannabis online and have it delivered through the mail — something that’s illegal in the United States.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday that marijuana will be legal nationwide on Oct. 17. In the meantime, Canada’s provinces and cities are working out issues concerning how cannabis will be regulated.

Here’s what to expect:

GOVERNMENT-RUN STORES

It’s up to the provinces and territories to determine how to handle distribution, and they’re taking a variety of approaches.

Ontario plans to open up to 150 stores run by its Liquor Control Board — a model of public ownership that is unusual in the U.S. The tiny Washington state town of North Bonneville has one city-owned pot shop.

British Columbia is planning for a mix of public and privately owned stores, while Newfoundland and Saskatchewan will have only private pot shops. In some remote areas where stand-alone marijuana stores might not be economically feasible, including in the Northwest Territories, cannabis could be sold at existing liquor stores.

Just like U.S. states with legal pot, the provinces also differ on home-growing, with many allowing up to four plants and others, including Quebec, barring it.

And rather than a minimum age of 21, as U.S. states have set, Canada’s federal minimum age to use marijuana will be 18, with most provinces adding an additional year.

The varying approaches make the provinces something of a laboratory for determining the best ways to legalize, said Matt Gray, founder and chief executive of Herb, a Toronto-based news and social media platform for the pot industry.

“It’s this amazing case study for countries globally to see the amazing benefits that legalizing cannabis can have on things like the economy, eradicating the black market and getting cannabis out of the hands of minors,” he said.

PRICING AND TAXES

Whether run by the government or private entities, the stores will obtain their marijuana from federally licensed growers. Officials also will set a minimum price.

Canada’s finance ministers have pegged it at about $10 per gram, but the Yukon minister in charge of marijuana says the government hopes to displace more of the illegal market by setting the base at $8.

The government wants to tax legal marijuana at either $1 per gram or one-tenth of a product’s price, whichever is greater, plus federal and provincial sales taxes. It’s likely to be less than the taxes imposed in the states.

Washington state’s tax rate is 37 percent, plus state and local sales taxes. In California, licensed pot businesses are blaming total tax rates that can approach 50 percent for driving people back into the black market.

The Canadian government agreed to give provinces and territories 75 percent of the tax revenue.

BANKING

Canada’s cannabis businesses have a massive advantage over their American counterparts: access to banks.

Because the drug is still illegal under U.S. law, major banks have been loath to do business with the industry, even in legal marijuana states.

U.S. Treasury Department data show a slow increase in the number of banks and credit unions maintaining accounts for marijuana businesses, with 411 reporting such accounts last spring.

But many of those institutions don’t provide full-service banking, making it tough for businesses to get loans.

“The major Canadian banks were slow to warm to this,” said Chris Barry, a Seattle-based marijuana business attorney who handles industry transactions in both countries for the law firm Dorsey and Whitney.

He said smaller independent banks, investment banks and brokerage firms got the work started.

“That has pretty much dissolved as a problem,” Barry said. “The majors are coming around to participate in the market.”

THE PRODUCTS

Some consumers are disappointed that store shelves will only stock dried flower, oils and seeds when sales begin — no edibles. The government has said it needs about another year to develop regulations for edibles.

There’s also a labeling issue: Health Canada has dictated large warning labels on otherwise plain packages, with strict restrictions on font sizes, styles and colors. The idea is to discourage misuse and to avoid appealing to youths, but it also leaves very little room for company logos or branding.

“It looks like each bag is housing radioactive waste,” said Chris Clay, owner of Warmland Cannabis Centre, a medical marijuana dispensary on Vancouver Island. “It’s a tiny logo with this huge warning label. It doesn’t leave much room for craft growers that want to differentiate themselves.”

And that, Clay said, is one of many things that will make it difficult for mom-and-pop growers to thrive. Giant cannabis companies have been entering deals to supply marijuana to the provinces.

While micro-producers are allowed, Clay is worried that by the time rules are released, “all the contracts are going to be scooped up.”

POT BY POST

While getting marijuana by mail may be a novel concept in the U.S., it’s nothing new in Canada. Its postal service has been shipping medical marijuana to authorized patients since 2013.

“Many of our processes are in place today for medicinal cannabis and will continue for any regulated product sent through Canada Post from licensed distributors,” Canada Post said in a written statement.

The agency requires proof of age upon delivery and won’t leave the package in your mailbox or on your doorstep if you’re not home.

___

Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.

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Colorado

Some parents worry new drug approval could shift States’ attitudes on medicinal cannabis

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Some American parents who for years have used cannabis to treat severe forms of epilepsy in their children are feeling more cautious than celebratory as U.S. regulators near a decision on whether to approve the first drug derived from the marijuana plant.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to issue a decision by the end of the month on the drug Epidiolex, made by GW Pharmaceuticals. It’s a purified form of cannabidiol — a component of cannabis that doesn’t get users high — to treat Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes in kids. Both forms of epilepsy are rare.

Cannabidiol’s effect on a variety of health conditions is frequently touted, but there is still little evidence to back up advocates’ personal experiences. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has long categorized cannabis as a Schedule I drug, a category with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” That strictly limits research on potential medical uses for cannabis or the chemicals in it, including cannabidiol, or CBD.

But for years, parents desperate to find anything to help their children have turned to the marijuana-based products made legal by a growing number of states.

Meagan Patrick is among the parents using CBD to treat symptoms in their children. She moved from Maine to Colorado in 2014 so she could legally get CBD for her now-5-year-old daughter, Addelyn, who was born with a brain malformation that causes seizures.

“My child was dying, and we needed to do something,” Patrick said.

As for the potential approval of a pharmaceutical based on CBD, she said fear is her first reaction.

“I want to make sure that her right to continue using what works for her is protected, first and foremost. That’s my job as her mom,” Patrick said.

Advocates like Patrick became particularly concerned when GW Pharmaceuticals’ U.S. commercial business, Greenwich Biosciences, began quietly lobbying to change states’ legal definition of marijuana, beginning in 2017 with proposals in Nebraska and South Dakota.

Some worried the company’s attempt to ensure its product could be legally prescribed and sold by pharmacies would have a side effect: curtailing medical marijuana programs already operating in more than two dozen states.

The proposals generally sought to remove CBD from states’ legal definition of marijuana, allowing it to be prescribed by doctors and supplied by pharmacies. But the change only applies to products that have FDA approval.

Neither Nebraska nor South Dakota allows medical use of marijuana, and activists accused the company of trying to shut down future access to products containing cannabidiol but lacking FDA approval.

Britain-based GW Pharmaceuticals never intended for the changes to affect other marijuana products, but they are necessary to allow Epidiolex to be sold in pharmacies if approved, spokesman Stephen Schultz said.

He would not discuss other places where the company will seek changes to state law. The Associated Press confirmed that lobbyists representing Greenwich Biosciences backed legislation in California and Colorado this year.

“As a company, we understand there’s a significant business building up,” Schultz said. “All we want to do is make sure our product is accessible.”

Industry lobbyists in those states said they take company officials at their word, but they still insisted on protective language ensuring that recreational or medical marijuana, cannabidiol, hemp and other products derived from cannabis plants won’t be affected by the changes sought by GW Pharmaceuticals.

Patrick Goggin, an attorney who focuses on industrial hemp issues in California, said the company would run into trouble if it tried to “lock up access” to marijuana-derived products beyond FDA-approved drugs.

“People need to have options and choices,” he said. “That’s the battle here.”

Legal experts say the changes are logical. Some states’ laws specifically prohibit any product derived from the marijuana plant from being sold in pharmacies. The FDA has approved synthetic versions of another cannabis ingredient for medical purposes but has never approved marijuana or hemp for any medical use.

A panel of FDA advisers in April unanimously recommended the agency approve Epidiolex for the treatment of severe seizures in children with epilepsy, conditions that are otherwise difficult to treat. It’s not clear why CBD reduces seizures in some patients, but the panel based its recommendation on three studies showing significant reduction in children with two forms of epilepsy.

Denver-based attorney Christian Sederberg, who worked on the GW Pharmaceuticals-backed legislation in Colorado on behalf of the marijuana industry, said all forms of marijuana can exist together.

“The future of the industry is showing itself here,” Sederberg said. “There’s going to be the pharmaceutical lane, the nutraceutical (food-as-medicine) lane, the adult-use lane. This shows how that’s all coming together.”

Alex and Jenny Inman said they won’t switch to Epidiolex if it becomes available, though their son Lukas has Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

Alex, an information technology professional, and Jenny, a preschool teacher, said it took some at-home experimentation to find the right combination of doctor-prescribed medication, CBD and THC — the component that gives marijuana users a high — that seemed to help Lukas with his seizures.

“What makes me a little bit nervous about this is that there’s sort of a psyche amongst patients that, ‘Here’s this pill, and this pill will solve things,’ right? It works differently for different people,” Alex Inman said.

The Inmans moved from Maryland to Colorado in 2015 after doctors recommended a second brain surgery for Lukas’ seizures. The couple and other parents and advocates for CBD said children respond differently to a variety of strains.

The Realm of Caring Foundation, an organization co-founded by Paige Figi, whose daughter Charlotte’s name is attached to the CBD oil Charlotte’s Web, said it maintains a registry of about 46,000 people worldwide who use CBD.

For Heather Jackson, who said her son Zaki, now 15, benefited from CBD and who co-founded the foundation, Epidiolex’s approval means insurers will begin paying for treatment with a cannabis-derived product.

“That might be a nice option for some families who, you know, really want to receive a prescription who are going to only listen to the person in the white coat,” Jackson said.

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News

Mass uncertainty – White House unclear how it plans to reunite separated children

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Trump administration officials say they have no clear plan yet on how to reunite the thousands of children separated from their families at the border since the implementation of a zero-tolerance policy in which anyone caught entering the U.S. illegally is criminally prosecuted.

“This policy is relatively new,” said Steven Wagner, an acting assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services “We’re still working through the experience of reunifying kids with their parents after adjudication.”

Federal officials say there are some methods parents can use to try to find their children: hotlines to call and an email address for those seeking information. But advocates say it’s not that simple.

In a courtroom near the Rio Grande, lawyer Efren Olivares and his team with the Texas Civil Rights Project frantically scribble down children’s names, birthdates and other details from handcuffed men and women waiting for court to begin. There are sometimes 80 of them in the same hearing.

The Texas Civil Rights Project works to document the separations in the hopes of helping them reunite with the children.

They have one hour to collect as much information as they can before the hearing begins. The immigrants plead guilty to illegally entering the U.S., and they are typically sent either to jail or directly to an immigration detention center. At this point, lawyers with the civil rights group often lose access to the detainees.

“If we don’t get that information, then there’s no way of knowing that child was separated,” Olivares said. “No one else but the government will know that the separation happened if we don’t document it there.”

Olivares has documented more than 300 cases of adults who have been separated from a child. Most are parents, but some are older siblings, aunts, uncles or grandparents. Some are illiterate and don’t know how to spell the children’s names.

More than 2,000 minors have been separated from their families since early May. The children are put into the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with the aim of keeping them as close to their parents as possible and reuniting the family after the case goes through the courts, said Wagner.

But it’s not clear that’s working.

According to Olivares, the agency is generally “very willing to help,” often helping to find a child even if there’s a misspelling in the group’s records. But if a child has been transferred out of a government shelter — including if the child has been deported — agency representatives won’t give any information.

“Sometimes the parent gives us contact information for a relative,” Olivares said. “If they have the phone number right and the phone number is working … we call that number and sometimes we’re able to locate that relative and ask them what they know.”

In May, the Department of Justice adopted the zero-tolerance policy in which anyone caught entering the U.S. illegally is criminally prosecuted. Children can’t be jailed with their parents. Instead, after the adult is charged, children are held briefly by Homeland Security officials before being transferred to Health and Human Services, which operates more than 100 shelters for minors in 17 states.

The department has set up new facilities to manage the influx of children, and Wagner said they were prepared to expand as more children come into custody.

The children are classified as unaccompanied minors, a legal term generally used for children who cross the border alone and have a possible sponsor in the U.S. willing to care for them. Most of the more than 10,000 children in shelters under HHS care came to the U.S. alone and are waiting to be placed with family members living in the U.S.

But these children are different — they arrived with their families.

“They should just give the kids back to their parents. This isn’t difficult,” said Lee Gelernt of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Gelernt represents a Brazilian asylum seeker in a closely watched lawsuit that seeks a nationwide halt to family separation. The woman, identified as Mrs. C in court documents, was split from her son for nearly a year after entering the country illegally in August near Santa Teresa, New Mexico.

On Tuesday, Olivares’ team had seven people left to interview with five minutes left. They took down just the names, dates of birth, and countries of origin of the children.

“One woman (said), ‘What about me, what about me?'” Olivares said a few hours later. “She wanted to give us information because she realized what we were trying to do.”

___

Associated Press writer Elliot Spagat contributed to this report.

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