LNP/LancasterOnline. August 2, 2023

Editorial: Laws on THC strains are confusing and likely being exploited. The laws must be made clearer.

Sunday’s “Lancaster Watchdog” column asked an important question: Did county District Attorney Heather Adams have the law on her side when she ordered the seizure of gummies, oils, vapes and other products that contained the Delta 8 and Delta 10 varieties of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive chemical compound in marijuana and hemp?

Fully grasping the complexities raised by this question would seem to require a degree in agricultural chemistry.

Clarity is needed, not at least because as a Holtwood hemp grower told the “Lancaster Watchdog,” the THC seizures harm the image of hemp growers. His business processes CBD, or cannabidiol, a chemical compound found in hemp that does not have psychoactive — that is, mind-affecting — properties.

Let’s break down Panyard’s reporting in the “Watchdog” column.

— The Delta 9 strain of THC “is the kind most commonly found in marijuana, which has legal medicinal uses in Pennsylvania, and hemp, a plant similar to marijuana that has lower THC levels and a variety of industrial uses including the manufacturing of food and textiles.”

Both the federal Farm Bill and Pennsylvania’s Farm Bill define hemp as a plant in the cannabis family that has a Delta 9 THC content of 0.3% or less.

Delta 8 and Delta 10 are usually produced synthetically, generally manufactured from hemp.

— While legalized in neighboring states, recreational marijuana remains illegal in Pennsylvania. And, in fact, buying and selling marijuana has been illegal in the United States since 1971 under the federal Controlled Substances Act. It is classified as a Schedule I substance, which means, according to the federal government, it has a high potential for abuse.

The Delta 8 and Delta 9 THC strains are specifically listed as Schedule I substances.

— “When legislators revised the federal Farm Bill in 2018 (it gets revamped every five years), they distinguished hemp from marijuana. The revision made hemp legal to produce and sell and defined it as a plant in the marijuana family that has a Delta 9 THC content of 0.3% or less.”

The law legalized all parts of the hemp plant, including seeds, acids, derivatives, extracts and isomers — chemical variants of THC — like Delta 8 and Delta 10.

— So the Farm Bill and the Controlled Substances Act contradict each other. And in the absence of clarity, states have been deciding whether to allow individual THC strains.

Therein lies the confusion.

“Because the law makes no mention of Delta 8 or Delta 10, producers of those THC strains maintain they are legal,” the “Lancaster Watchdog” noted. “But state police insist Delta 8 and Delta 10 have been illegal in Pennsylvania for decades.”

According to the state Controlled Substances, Drugs, Device and Cosmetic Act, THC varieties “Delta 1, 3, 4 and 6” — each designating a THC strain with psychoactive properties — are illegal.

Deb Calhoun, director of the Scientific Services Division of the Pennsylvania State Police, said that the state’s controlled substances act simply used different terms for the exact same chemical compounds. “Delta 6”? That’s Delta 8. And “Delta 3 and Delta 4”? Those are now known as Delta 10.

How are people supposed to know that?

We’re not defending the sales of products containing these substances. We’re sure that the lack of legal clarity is being exploited by some THC product makers. And we find it sketchy that some of these products — including knockoff versions of Nerds Rope candy and Cookie Crisp cereal — are so blatantly marketed to children. As DA Adams noted, calls to poison control increased in Pennsylvania last year because of children ingesting THC products. Students in five Lancaster County school districts have been caught with Delta 8 and Delta 10 products.

Targeting kids in the marketing of THC products is reckless and inexcusable.

But we can understand why business owners might be confused (and not only those who have gotten high on their own supply).

So we’re left with a few more questions.

— Why hasn’t the Pennsylvania Legislature made the law on THC strains and products clearer? Why hasn’t Congress? If children are being sickened by these products, it ought to be a legislative priority.

— Why isn’t there more concern about the marketing of THC products — as well as alcohol and tobacco products — to kids?

— Why aren’t the brands being co-opted by THC edible makers defending their brands more rigorously?

“Ruffles” potato chips laced with illegal forms of THC were among the products seized by the Lancaster County Drug Task Force. A Frito-Lay spokesperson told an NBC affiliate in Tampa, Florida, that “Frito-Lay does not manufacture edible cannabis snack products and any packaging containing THC claims is not associated with our company or brands. We continue to pursue entities selling products which create consumer confusion by illegally infringing on our trademarks and packaging design.”

That was in 2021.

The LNP/LancasterOnline Editorial Board has argued consistently against the legalization of recreational marijuana, but in favor of its decriminalization (and in strong support of medical marijuana). We don’t believe lives should be ruined by incarceration over possession of small amounts of weed, but we also don’t believe making it freely available is a good idea.

Whatever happens on that score, lawmakers must clear up the confusion over the legality of certain THC strains and products — and the sooner, the better.


Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. August 6, 2023

Editorial: Pennsylvania lawmakers can fix filing fee problem

Now is the time to get a divorce in Pennsylvania.

Because of a failure of the state Legislature to pass legislation, a surcharge on court filings has lapsed. The $21.25 fee can’t be charged because the law authorizing it expired Aug. 1. Lawmakers haven’t passed new legislation that would pick up where the old law left off.

That means all manner of official documents that have to be recorded in the state are subject to de facto sale price.

It is unlikely anyone is going to buy a house, get a mortgage or file a lawsuit just to take advantage of a discount that amounts to the cost of a couple of footlong subs. The lack of surcharge will be a happy surprise to most people who benefit from it.

But there will be a cost to all Pennsylvanians.

The surcharge amounted to $48 million in 2022. That breaks down to roughly $4 million a month, or about $1 million a week.

Even easy things involving Harrisburg have a tendency to take time. Timelines never seem to mean much to Harrisburg, as evidenced by the fact the budget was due by June 30 and only passed on Thursday, 34 days late.

That begs the question: How long will it take for new legislation to be passed? Once that happens, how much money will have been lost? How will that shortfall be made up?

Then there’s the issue of how complicated this is for the county offices that have to collect the money. Some fees won’t be collected. Others will be refunded, according to Westmoreland County Prothonotary Gina O’Barto, but Westmoreland County Recorder of Deeds Frank Schiefer says sorting that out is the state’s job.

“I don’t know why they don’t just make the fee permanent. We know they are not going to reduce it,” he said.

He has a point, and this is the perfect time to address it.

The Legislature has to pass a new law anyway. When they do, they should take steps to prevent future lapses and make the process less confusing, which will save time, money and headaches.

Unless you are trying to save $20 on your divorce.


Uniontown Herald-Standard. August 5, 2023

Editorial: Climate change could make Rust Belt a desirable place to live again

Toledo, Ohio, has been a punchline — or, a punching bag, if you will — in the half-century since singer-songwriter John Denver released “Saturday Night in Toledo, Ohio,” an allegedly humorous but pretty bilious ditty about how the city is Nowheresville, with nothing to see, nothing to do, a place where you sit in the park and “watch the grass die.”

People who are from Toledo, or who have visited for a day or two, will acknowledge that the city has had its share of problems in the post-industrial age, and it will never rival Paris or London for cultural amenities or metropolitan bustle. But it has a decent minor league baseball team, a top-drawer museum for a city its size, a world-class zoo, a top-notch library system and inviting metroparks.

Toledo, like other Rust Belt communities, has seen its population decline in recent decades. Parts of town that were once thriving residential areas are now blighted. It could be, however, as the planet warms up due to climate change, Toledo and places like it could see people migrating back to them.

Consider this: One of the fastest-growing locations in America is Maricopa County, Arizona, and its county seat is Phoenix. Almost 1 million additional people have moved there in the last decade. And the high temperature in Phoenix has been over 100 just about every day for weeks now. Some days it has rocketed past the 110 mark. The brutal heat has been accompanied by a drought. According to the Weather Channel’s forecast, the week ahead promises no relief: 115 degrees on Sunday, 113 on Monday, 113 on Tuesday, 111 on Wednesday, 110 on Thursday and 111 on Friday. There’s barely a drop of rain forecast, either.

Who wants to live like that?

Some experts believe millions of people around the world may have to leave their homes and move to milder climates in the decades ahead to escape the heat, the flooding and other extreme weather events springing from climate change. A wealthy nation like the United States would be better positioned to deal with it than poorer countries, but places that are hot now could end up being even hotter and some coastal areas could end up under water.

In 2020, NBC News reported that Buffalo, N.Y., another much-maligned Rust Belt city like Toledo, could be one of “a narrow band” of northern U.S. cities that would be well-positioned when it comes to climate change because of its access to fresh water from the Great Lakes, sea-level elevation, and colder weather that will become more temperate. NBC reported that some Buffalo officials have already talked about the city being a “climate refuge” in the years ahead.

Of course, no one who is rooting for the success of places like Toledo or Buffalo should be rooting for the planet to boil. We can — and should — reduce our emissions so we can make the earth habitable for our children and grandchildren. But the punishing temperatures in Phoenix should make people think again about cities like Toledo.


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. August 7, 2023

Editorial: Expedite synagogue shooter’s death penalty appeals

Now that Pittsburgh synagogue shooter Robert Bowers has been sentenced to death, there’s no reason to further delay the administration of justice. The Department of Justice and the federal courts should take every step possible to expedite the appeals.

Further, the convicted murderer and his legal team, having failed in their desperate attempt to convince a Western Pennsylvania jury to spare him, should decline to make unnecessary appeals. There is no question of his guilt, and the jury convincingly rejected the proposed mitigating factors, while the defendant showed no remorse. Finally, there is no sign whatsoever of the kind of prosecutorial misconduct that would throw the conviction and sentence into doubt.

Further litigation will only waste time and money, and will further prolong the healing process for the victims’ families and community.

The appeals process in federal death penalty cases is more efficient than in state capital cases. First, there is an automatic appeal to the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, in this case the Third Circuit. At this trial, the defense can re-raise any arguments related to material in the record from the original trial, including disputing decisions made by the judge.

After this, the defense may seek a writ of habeas corpus, which would allow a second appeal not limited to the original trial record. At this trial, new information such as evidence of juror misconduct, or other evidence that had been rejected at the original trial, may be presented. This is usually the last best opportunity for a person sentenced to death to have the conviction or sentence overturned.

The final resort is to petition the Supreme Court of the United States, which only accepts about half a dozen death penalty appeals each year.

The robust death penalty appeals process exists to minimize the possibility of a false conviction, but in this case there is no doubt as to the defendant’s guilt. After an exhaustive process, including weeks of testimony, a jury of his peers found him culpable.

Further, the defense already pursued every possible stratagem, including causing years of delays, to avoid the death sentence. They all failed. Spending years relitigating these matters will not enhance the administration of justice.

Due to the Department of Justice’s decision to pursue the death penalty, followed by innumerable delay tactics by the shooter’s defense team, it has taken nearly five years to complete merely the first step in the process — conviction and sentencing. These excruciating years have denied victims’ families and the wider community a measure of closure. Now, the system — including the shooter’s defense team — can do right by those who carry the wounds of October 27, 2018, by expediting the appeals.


Scranton Times-Tribune. August 8, 2023

Editorial: Preclude recess until budget passes

The state Senate ended a needless 34-day delay in passing the state budget when Majority Leader Kim Ward, a Westmoreland County Republican, interrupted the chamber’s unduly long summer recess Wednesday.

Ward reconvened the chamber, which already had passed the budget, to enable Lt. Gov. Austin Davis, the Senate president, to sign it and send it to Gov. Josh Shapiro to sign it into law.

Shapiro did so, thus releasing most of the budget’s $45.5 billion to schools, social service networks and a wide array of state and local government agencies.

The delay occurred due to a dispute between the Republican Senate and the Democratic House and governor over a controversial $100 million scholarship program providing public money to private schools. The Republican Senate majority claimed Shapiro had agreed to it, but Shapiro said the Senate should not have approved it without reaching an agreement with the Democratic-majority House, which opposed it. The House passed the budget only after Shapiro promised to line-item veto the scholarship program, and the Senate left town without authorizing Davis to sign the budget even though it had passed both houses.

Even now both houses remain recessed — the Senate until Sept. 18 and the House until Sept. 26 — even though several hundred millions of dollars approved in the budget can’t be distributed until the Legislature passes required fiscal code bills.

Among those appropriations are $100 million in “level-up” funding for the state’s poorest school districts, hundreds of millions of dollars in in-state university tuition assistance for Penn State, Temple and Lincoln universities and the University of Pittsburgh; restoration of $100 million for adult mental health services, and more.

Pennsylvania has an allegedly full-time legislature, which the government can prove in direct legislative costs of more than $350 million a year, but not so much in terms of legislative productivity.

To prevent needless budget delays beyond the July 1 beginning of the fiscal year, and to ensure the passage of related budget-enabling legislation, both legislative houses should adopt rules precluding any recess until they pass and implement the budget.



Por favor ingrese su comentario!
Por favor ingrese su nombre aquí