Is the new push to ban TikTok for real?

“The constitutional law here appears straightforward: Congress can’t outright ban TikTok or any social media platform unless it can prove that it poses legitimate and serious privacy and national security concerns that can’t be addressed by any other means. The bar for such a justification is necessarily very high in order to protect Americans’ First Amendment rights, Krishnan said.”

“members of Congress have not provided concrete proof for their claims about Chinese digital espionage and seem to have little interest in offering any transparency: Before the committee voted to advance the bill Thursday, lawmakers had a closed-door classified briefing on national security concerns associated with TikTok.”

Ohio bans gender-affirming care and restricts transgender athletes

“Ohio has banned gender-affirming care for minors and restricted transgender women’s and girls’ participation on sports teams, a move that has families of transgender children scrambling over how best to care for them.”

“The new law bans gender-affirming surgeries and hormone therapies, and restricts mental health care for transgender individuals under 18.”

One Texas case shows why women can’t rely on legal exceptions to abortion bans

“The Texas Supreme Court has ruled against Kate Cox, a 31-year-old woman who sought an abortion in the state. Previously, Cox argued that the lethal condition impacting her fetus and health risks she’d face during the pregnancy meant she qualified for the exemptions outlined in Texas’s abortion ban. The court decision, which comes after Cox left Texas to obtain an abortion, sets a disturbing new precedent in a state that already has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country.
It’s a notable ruling because it further narrows what Texas law considers medical exceptions to its abortion ban, and could have implications for other states with similar policies. Currently, abortion is broadly banned in the state, and there are limited exceptions for conditions that endanger the life of the mother or that cause “substantial impairment” of bodily functions. Given how opaque the law is, it was not clear exactly what those exceptions entailed, and though the court didn’t explicitly clarify that ambiguity in its ruling, its decision suggests that health challenges like those Cox faced — including risks to future pregnancies — don’t qualify for the exemption.

“Some difficulties in pregnancy … even serious ones, do not pose the heightened risks to the mother the exception encompasses,” the court concluded, noting that Cox’s doctor hadn’t effectively affirmed that the complications she could face — including threats to future fertility — reached the threshold for an exception to the ban.

The justices also maintained existing uncertainty when it came to providers’ prerogative to conduct abortions in the state. Some providers have refrained from giving abortion care due to fear of legal consequences: Medical professionals found in violation of Texas’s abortion law can face up to 99 years in prison as well as large fines, while those who are found to have aided in providing abortion access can face civil suits.

The court ruled that the decision about whether a condition constituted a medical emergency, and thus qualified for an exemption, should be left up to physicians and not the courts. “Under the law, it is a doctor who must decide that a woman is suffering from a life-threatening condition during a pregnancy, raising the necessity for an abortion to save her life or to prevent impairment of a major bodily function,” the decision reads. The court didn’t resolve the legal tension inherent in the fact that Cox’s doctor felt an abortion was warranted in her case while the court said it was not.”

Infographic: Florida’s Public School Book Bans

“No state banned more books than Florida in the most recent school year, according to free expression nonprofit PEN America. Over 40 percent of school book bans in the U.S. happened in Florida, though a slight majority of Florida school districts had no bans at all. Justifications for the challenges vary, but scenes depicting nonconsensual sex are a common motivator.
PEN America’s definition of a “book ban” is admittedly broad, and all these books remain available for purchase from private sellers, but most challenges against books still end up hindering free speech and open debate. Combined, 1,098 different books were banned in Florida in the 2021–2022 and 2022–2023 school years.”

The ‘Monster’ Isn’t the Drug, It’s the Prohibition

“People who disapprove of drugs want to end their use, but consumers have never demonstrated a willingness to comply. Sellers always arise to meet their demand. Drug innovation to evade prohibitionists, and making cocktails of those drugs, is inherently more dangerous than legal markets.”

“Singer attributes endless innovation in ever-stronger drugs and the rise in resulting overdoses to the competition between prohibitionists and illicit suppliers to outwit one another.
“The iron law of prohibition — ‘the harder the law enforcement, the harder the drug’—means we can expect more potent and dangerous forms of drugs to continue to arise,” he adds.

If you blend “more potent and dangerous forms of drugs” in “polysubstance use” (or just speedball it) you’re going to add risks on top of risks. The results can be tragic, but they’re less the result of drugs than they are of restrictions and prohibitions that inevitably drive consumers to seek intoxicants from illegal suppliers.”

“”Like opioids, which originally came from the poppy, meth started out as a plant-based product, derived from the herb ephedra. Now, both drugs can be produced in bulk synthetically and cheaply. They each pack a potentially lethal, addictive wallop far stronger than their precursors,” Hoffman wrote.

Why grow a crop in a field, which can be targeted for destruction by prohibitionists, when you can synthesize the active ingredients in a hidden laboratory that’s difficult to find and can be moved if necessary? And if you’re going to synthesize it, why not find ways to make it more concentrated so that large numbers of doses can be moved in compact shipments? You can always cut it at the distribution end and sell it in lower-concentration doses.

Unfortunately, illicit laboratories aren’t always as reliable as aboveboard ones and underground chemists aren’t necessarily as competent or diligent. When somebody screws up or just doesn’t care, it’s much harder to hold a criminal network to account than it is to go after a corporation that has a mailing address and a reputation to maintain. The end result, for the drug trade, is illness and death from intoxicants of unknown purity and potency, if the formulation was even safe to begin with.”

“People have always wanted to alter their consciousness in ways great and small. They will continue to want to get high no matter how much disapproval their activities draw from sober scolds. The only question is whether those getting high will acquire their intoxicants of choice from legal, responsible suppliers who have to maintain their brands and explain themselves in court, or from illegal suppliers who meet demand by any means necessary.”

Texas Supreme Court rules against woman who sought abortion hours after she says she’ll travel out of state

“”If Kate can’t get an abortion in Texas, who can? Kate’s case is proof that exceptions don’t work, and it’s dangerous to be pregnant in any state with an abortion ban,” Duane said.”

How Many Abortions Did the Post-Roe Bans Prevent?

“The researchers used birth data, by age and race, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2005 through June 2023. They used a statistical method that compared states with similar trends in births before the Dobbs decision to estimate how much a ban changed the expected birthrate. This increased their certainty that the change was because of the policy and not other factors.
They found that births increased 2.3%, on average, in states with bans relative to states where abortion remained legal.

The analysis showed that the increased births were disproportionately among women in their 20s and Black and Hispanic women, which researchers said could be because these groups tend to be poorer, making it harder to travel. They are also the demographic groups that have tended to be more likely to seek abortions.”

“The researchers said these trends could change as more birth data becomes available. The women giving birth in the first half of the year would have already been pregnant when abortion bans began, or they became pregnant soon after. Since the data ended, there have been new restrictions on abortion in some places, and access has expanded in others.

Births could decline. New shield laws aim to legally protect providers who mail abortion pills to states with bans, and people might be changing their behaviors around sex and contraception in response to bans. Or births could increase as more states restrict abortion; some of this might depend on the outcome of a case to restrict the mailing of one of the two abortion pills.

“The abortion landscape continues evolving,” Pineda-Torres said. “People are adjusting, providers are adjusting, laws are adjusting.””

Ohio becomes 24th state to embrace weed legalization

“The new law allows adults over 21 to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow up to six plants. The measure creates a Division of Cannabis Control, which is responsible for setting up and regulating the adult-use cannabis market.”

Some Drug Warriors Just Won’t Concede Defeat

“”If policymakers double down on the same prohibitionist policies they have employed for over 50 years, deaths from illicit drug overdoses will continue to rise. Doing the same thing repeatedly, with even more vigor this time, will not yield a different result,” Singer told lawmakers. “Prohibition makes the black market dangerous because people who buy drugs on the black market can never be sure of the drug’s purity, dosage, or even if it is the drug they think they are buying.”
Singer recommends ending drug prohibition to allow for a legal market that deals in products of known dosage and purity. A legal market won’t stop people from getting high, but it will end the escalation between punitive law enforcement on the one hand and drug innovation and potency on the other.

Short of legalization, the Arizona surgeon suggests lawmakers focus on eliminating laws that stand in the way of harm reduction, such as those that criminalize drug paraphernalia (driving users to share needles and diseases) and bar the distribution of drug test strips (rendering it difficult to identify drugs). Making naloxone available over-the-counter was a good step towards reducing deaths since it reverses the effects of opioid overdoses. That’s an approach that gets law enforcement out of the way rather than doubling down on failure.”

Did Drug Decriminalization Cause a ‘Catastrophe’ in Oregon?

“It is important to keep in mind that Oregon’s Measure 110 did nothing to address the supply of illegal drugs, which remain just as iffy and potentially deadly as they were before the initiative was approved. Decriminalization was limited to drug users, and it was based on the premise that people should not be arrested merely for consuming forbidden intoxicants. This distinction between drug users and drug suppliers is similar to the policy enacted during Prohibition, when bootleggers were treated as criminals but drinkers were not.
Measure 110 changed low-level drug possession from a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $6,250, to a Class E violation, punishable by a $100 fine. Drug users who receive citations can avoid the fine by agreeing to undergo a “health assessment” that is supposed to “prioritize the self-identified needs of the client.” That assessment might result in a treatment referral, but participation is voluntary.

Despite the limited nature of Oregon’s reform, which was not designed to reduce the hazards posed by the highly variable and unpredictable composition of black-market drugs, Stephens thinks the fact that drug-related deaths continued to rise in Oregon shows that decriminalization has failed. “In 2019 there were 280 unintentional opioid overdose deaths in Oregon,” he writes. “In 2021 there were 745.”

Stephens neglects to mention that drug-related deaths rose nationwide during that period, from about 71,000 in 2019 to more than 107,000 in 2021. The number of deaths involving opioids rose from about 50,000 to about 81,000—a 62 percent increase.

To be sure, the increase in Oregon that Stephens notes was much larger. But how does it compare to trends in other jurisdictions that did not decriminalize drug use?

Between 2019 and 2021, Oregon’s age-adjusted opioid overdose death rate rose from 7.6 to 18.1 per 100,000 residents. California saw a similar increase: from 7.9 to 17.8. In Washington, the rate likewise nearly doubled, from 10.5 to 20.5. And even in 2021, Oregon’s rate was lower than the national rate (24.7) and much lower than the rates in states such as Connecticut (38.3), Delaware (48.1), Kentucky (44.8), Maine (42.4), Maryland (38.5), Tennessee (45.5), Vermont (37.4), and West Virginia (77.2). On its face, this does not look like evidence that decriminalization is responsible for Oregon’s continuing rise in opioid-related deaths.*

While Measure 110 does not seem to have caused an increase in drug-related deaths, it manifestly did not prevent that increase.”

“a heavy drug user who steals to support his habit is not immune from criminal penalties. It also means the government can justifiably regulate what drug users do in public, where their actions might offend, incommode, or alarm people who have an equal right to use sidewalks, parks, and other taxpayer-funded facilities. Although Stephens implies otherwise, eliminating criminal penalties for drug possession does not require tolerating public drug use, defecation, or blowjobs.”