Meteor fireball seen in skies above Fredericksburg, Virginia



Fredericksburg-area residents reported that an object from outer space tore through the sky Tuesday, just before midnight, leaving in its wake a sonic boom heard by residents from Culpeper to Colonial Beach.

The meteor was “the brightest and most amazing fireball I’ve ever seen, in person or in any videos,” wrote Chase K. of Dahlgren in his report to the American Meteor Society. The night sky appeared like a giant lightning strike and it was almost as bright as daylight when the primarily red and orange fireball was seen, he said.

He didn’t notice any sound, but an observer who identified himself as William G. of Colonial Beach wrote in his report to the society that there was a loud boom and “ground shake similar to a military artillery round.”

Before readers remind us that we’re surrounded by military bases, those in the vicinity of the reports say Tuesday night was business as usual. Fort A.P. Hill has issued an aviation noise alert through Friday for low-flying aircraft training, but nothing from the Army post was in the air at the time in question, said Michael Meisberger, public affairs specialist.

He said the next statement in hushed tones.

“From what I understand, it may have been a meteor,” he said. “I can’t tell you if it’s real or if it was somebody’s imagination, [but] that’s what I heard.”

Operators in the 911 center in King George County felt the earth move and got lots of calls from residents who said the same, said Sheriff Steve Dempsey. There were no reports of explosions, fires or other disasters that might cause that kind of noise.

“Everybody felt it, but had no idea where it came from,” Dempsey said.

Facebook posts were filled with descriptions and possible answers, ranging from alien invasions to thunderclaps.

Alyssa Anne Halderman posted that she “heard a loud boom here in Caroline Pines [in Caroline County] and the house shook.”

Dan Dunmire heard it in Fredericksburg, and the noise scared Mandie Hartford in King George, who immediately checked the baby monitor to see if the noise had awakened her twins.

Michele Spears thought she had imagined it.

“I felt whatever it was and there seemed to be a faint rumble,” the King George woman posted on the King George – Westmoreland General Forum page. “My dog and I just stared at each other, waiting for more, but nothing happened, so I chalked it up to thunder and went to sleep.”

Mike Hankey, operations manager for the American Meteor Society, said he received 10 reports from residents in North Carolina and Virginia about the fireball. Two reported sounds with their sighting, and two saw meteor fragments.

“Occasionally large fireball meteors can produce sonic booms and rumbling sounds,” Hankey wrote in an email. “Often times this means the object penetrated deep enough into the atmosphere to survive and possibly leave meteorites, but not always.”

Several thousand meteors of fireball magnitude burst through the Earth’s atmosphere every day, according to the Meteor Society website, but simply aren’t seen.

Most take place over oceans or uninhabited regions, and many are masked by daylight. Those that happen at night have smaller chances of being seen because there aren’t people out looking for them.

“They’re not uncommon,” said David Abbou, a Stafford County resident and member of the Rappahannock Astronomy Club who writes an astronomy column for the newspaper.

In 1992, he was living in Dale City when he saw a bright light flashing from the window. It was a clear night, so he knew it wasn’t lightning.

News reports confirmed his assumption that it was a fireball meteor. Because it was a pleasant Friday evening, lots of people were out and saw it, he said.

“The coolest part was it landed on an unoccupied car in Peekskill, N.Y.,” he said.

The car’s owner might have had a different opinion on that meteor matter.

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MS-13 gang members kill man, burn his body in car trunk in Virginia

FOTMPolice arrested four MS-13 gang members for allegedly murdering a man, dumping his body in the trunk of his car, and setting it on fire at Veterans Park in Woodbridge, Va.

Manuel Enrique Robles Lopez, 21; Erick Alexander Contreras Navarro, 23; Denis Ludwin Espinal Alvares, 19; and a 17-year-old boy were arrested in March. All four were charged in the murder of 25-year-old Santos Arquimidis Sorto Amaya.

Lopez is charged with murder-accessory after the fact, Navarro and Alvares are both charged with murder, and the teen boy is charged with murder, according to Prince William County Police.

Investigators say Amaya was abducted by the gang members in front of his home on March 13. The victim was leaving for work when the incident occurred.

On March 14, Amaya’s family called police to report him missing after they didn’t hear from him.

According to Prince William County Police, Amaya was shot multiple times. The victim’s body was placed in the trunk of his car. The gang members then burned the car with his body inside the vehicle at the park.

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West Virginia Coal Baron Won't Stop Saying 'China People' in His Senate Ad

Republican West Virginia Senate candidate Don Blankenship’s latest political ad has stirred controversy for its use of terms like “China people” and references to Sen. Mitch McConnell as “cocaine Mitch” and his “China family.”

Blankenship, who is vying the chance to challenge West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin in November, is already known across his state. He spent a year in federal prison for mine safety violations following the 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine that killed 29 miners. Blankenship was CEO of Massey Energy, the company that owned the mine.

“Swamp captain Mitch McConnell has created millions of jobs for China people, while doing so, Mitch has gotten rich,” Blankenship monotones in the ad. “In fact, his China family has given him tens of millions of dollars. Mitch’s swamp people are now running false negative ads about me. They are also childishly calling me despicable and mentally ill. The war to drain the swamp and create jobs for West Virginia people has begun. I will beat Joe Manchin and ditch cocaine Mitch for he sake of the kids.”

He’s defended his use of the phrase “China people” to news outlets saying the term was not racist.

“There’s no mention of race. I’ve never used a race word,” Blankenship said in an interview where he added races are “Negro, white Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian.”

In an explanation Blankenship gave for the ad on his campaign website, the candidate says that McConnell’s father-in-law “founded and owns a large Chinese shipping company” and claimed he has given McConnell and his wife millions of dollars. As for the “cocaine Mitch” reference, Blankenship is referencing an article from the Nation that claims that McConnell’s in-law’s company was found with drugs on one of its ships.

However, the shipping company is actually American and based in New York, the Washington Post notes. James S. C. Chao, McConnell’s father-in-law and owner of the Foremost Group (the shipping company in question), is Chinese. The Post also notes that there’s no record of the McConnell getting millions from his in-laws and no charges were filed for any drugs allegedly found on board a ship.

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West Virginia teacher strike headed for a 9th day

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Striking teachers in West Virginia delivered yet another message to lawmakers Monday by packing the state Capitol to capacity, the eighth school day of the walkout.

The show of support by thousands didn’t immediately sway the lawmakers, who failed to agree on a 5 percent pay raise that would end the strike, forcing districts to cancel school again Tuesday. The governor, union leaders and the House of Delegates agreed to the pay raise for the teachers, among the lowest paid in the nation, but the Senate offered only a 4 percent increase.

However, a conference committee of House and Senate members met twice Monday, adjourning until Tuesday morning after Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns said his chamber’s leadership was offering “a compromise position.” He noted it was only preliminary. Details were not publicly disclosed.

Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, and Ferns, R-Ohio, said earlier that they remained skeptical that revised, higher revenue figures from Gov. Jim Justice to support the higher pay raises were legitimate. Blair suggested that schools reopen while the Legislature tries to work on the bills, prompting groans from the audience.

Ghent Elementary second-grade teacher April Smith attended the meeting and was disheartened.

“I don’t see them coming to an agreement, especially to satisfy everyone,” she said.

The committee’s initial inaction prompted schools statewide to close again Tuesday, the ninth day of canceled classes.

The Capitol was closed Monday after 5,000 people entered, posing security concerns. It was reopened an hour later, and teachers vented their frustration over the lack of progress. Their strike, in one of the poorest states in the country, has disrupted the education system’s 277,000 students and 35,000 employees, forcing working parents to scramble for child care. And children who rely on meals at school were at risk of going hungry.

In a state with a 17.9 percent poverty rate, teachers, bus drivers and other volunteers are collecting food for students who rely on free breakfasts and lunches. Teachers shared stories of donating their time, money or food. At least two GoFundMe pages have been launched in support of the walkout.

“It does make you feel good because we are helping them,” said Ann Osburn, a special education teacher at Buckhannon Academy. “I think we’re reaching as many as we can.”

Rachel Stringer, as a stay-at-home mom from Cross Lanes, said her biggest challenge has been making sure her children don’t forget what they’ve learned this school year. Despite the long layoff, Stringer supports the teachers.

“They deserve to be paid,” she said. “They deserve to be able to have insurance.”

Many teachers said they’d rather be in the classroom but believe they’ve come too far to back down.

“We feel like we’re under attack constantly,” said Cody Thompson, a social studies and civics teacher at Elkins High School. “Eventually, whenever you’re pushed into a corner, you’ve got to push back.”

The teacher walkout over pay and benefits shuttered classrooms Feb. 22. Since then, angry teachers have gone to the Capitol to press legislators to raise their pay after four years without an increase.

The walkout began after Justice signed a 2 percent pay raise for next year. After an initial round of protests, the House of Delegates later approved a 5 percent increase.

Then on Saturday, the state Senate approved a 4 percent raise, prompting angry union leaders to vow to stay out indefinitely. The House wouldn’t agree to the Senate’s move, sending the bill to the conference committee.

To make ends meet for themselves, many of these teachers have side jobs.

Kristie Skidmore, an elementary school reading specialist, has a clothing shop at her home.

“You’re looking at people here who every day care about other people, other families. People’s kids,” Skidmore said. “But at the end of the day, now we’re forced to be able to figure out how to care for our own families.”

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West Virginia Governor Tells Striking Teachers To Get Back In The Classroom

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) told his state’s striking teachers they “need to be back in the classroom” as he spoke at a series of town halls on Monday.

Speaking and taking questions in Wheeling, Martinsburg and Morgantown throughout the day, Justice urged the state’s educators to end their strike Tuesday and promised he’d establish a task force in the next seven to 10 days to look into some of their concerns.

“I love you … but I’m not happy with you. You should be appreciative of where you are,” Justice said to teachers in Wheeling.

“You need to be back in the classroom,” he said. “The kids need to be back in the classroom.”

The comments come days after Justice faced criticisms that he’s missing in action at the state Capitol. His administration has denied a Freedom of Information Act request to view his calendars and appointment books.

The teachers will continue their strike on Tuesday, despite Justice’s request, union leaders announced at a Monday rally at the Capitol.

West Virginia’s 20,000 teachers have been on strike since Thursday, after Justice offered them a 2 percent pay increase starting this summer, followed by 1 percent increases in 2020 and 2021. But the teachers, who ranked 48th in teacher pay across the U.S. in 2016, say that’s not enough to cover their rising costs of living. Many teachers have reported that they’ve had to take second jobs and yet still live paycheck-to-paycheck with their current salaries. 

Another major concern is that premiums for the state’s employee health plan will rise next year if the state doesn’t fill a $39 million shortfall.

“In West Virginia, we know they weren’t known for having high salaries, but they were known for good health insurance,” Don Scalise, a government and history teacher at Cabell Midland High School, told HuffPost last week. “That used to be something to attract people. Now that’s eroding.”

Justice said at the town halls Monday that his task force would try to address the insurance issue.

He also said he’d like to hold a special session to look into raising the severance tax on oil and gas producers in the state by 2.5 percent, something both sides agree could cover better pay and benefits for teachers, he said. That higher tax could be added as a condition in a bill currently moving through the state’s legislature.

Justice also caught flak for his choice of opening words during the town hall at Spring Mills High School in Martinsburg.

“OK, everybody. Nobody’s going to shoot at me or anything, are you?” he asked the crowd, just over a week after a gunman killed 17 students and adults at a high school in Parkland, Florida. 

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

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West Virginia Teachers Are Making Sure Their Students Get Fed While They're On Strike

Once it became clear West Virginia schools would close for a statewide teacher walkout this week, staffers from Nitro High School came up with a plan to keep hungry students fed while school was out.

The school normally puts out backpacks of free food on Fridays for students to take home for the weekend, leaving them in a few discreet spots so kids in need can grab them without embarrassment. This week, teachers and administrators increased the number of packs and left them out on Wednesday, so kids could make it through the strike on Thursday and Friday, then on through the weekend, without hunger pangs.

“Even when we know a big snow is coming, we [make sure] those kids will get those backpacks,” said Megan Meadows, a counselor at the school, which is in Kanawha County.

The teachers would have caught state officials off guard if they’d walked off the job with little notice. Instead, they announced their two-day walkout five days ahead of time ― in part so that undernourished students wouldn’t be left in the lurch. Roughly 1 child in 4 in the state lives in poverty, one of the highest rates in the country.

“One the reasons that we didn’t just go out overnight was to give people time to plan, to think about this food issue, and to also allow parents time to sort out what they would do with their children for two days,” said Kym Randolph, spokeswoman for the West Virginia Education Association, one of the unions leading the two-day strike. “We tried to make allowances so that no one would go hungry.”

As ABC7 reported, teachers and volunteers filled a gymnasium in Martinsburg ahead of the strike, packing donations from local food pantries to give to students on Wednesday.

“For a lot of our children, the meals they get at school are the only meals they get for the day,” Christine Campbell, president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, told HuffPost.

Teachers and other public employees in all of West Virginia’s 55 counties are taking part in the walkout. Teachers have not seen an across-the-board raise since 2014, and rising health care costs mean that some teachers have actually seen their take-home pay go down. They are demanding salary raises and a fix to the state’s public employee health insurance fund so premiums don’t continue to rise.

For a lot of our children, the meals they get at school are the only meals they get for the day. Christine Campbell, president, American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia

Only three states in the country have lower teacher pay than West Virginia, according to the National Education Association. HuffPost recently spoke to one elementary school teacher who needs to work at Hardee’s on the weekends to cover her family’s bills.

Public-sector employees in West Virginia don’t have the same collective bargaining rights that workers do in most other states. The state’s two teachers unions cannot bargain directly over wages, but instead must lobby the state legislature to pass legislation regarding wages and benefits. They also do not have the explicit right to strike, although they have done so before, most recently in 1990. West Virginia’s attorney general declared this week that any walkouts would be illegal, but as of Thursday night, the state had not filed for a court injunction to order teachers back to work, according to Randolph.

Teachers plan to return to work Monday, but it’s possible the unions will continue with isolated rolling strikes, with certain counties having to shut down schools periodically if teachers’ demands aren’t met. That, in turn, would mean more meal planning.

In addition to packing food bags, Nitro High School staff also collaborated with Cross Lanes Baptist Church to host pizza lunches at the school and the church on Thursday and Friday during the closure. Some students ended up coming out to the church to help feed other students. Members of the church took pizza out to the teachers who were on picket lines.

“We want to make sure the kids are not hungry, and the teachers are appreciated,” said Brandon Carter, associate pastor at the church. “We’re not in the political fray. They’ve made a decision they need to make for their livelihoods. We’re not concerned with that. We’re just letting them know we care about them and support them.”

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

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Autopsy confirms Virginia woman was mauled to death by her own pit bulls

An autopsy has confirmed that a Virginia woman believed to have been mauled to death by her own pit bulls in December did indeed die from “trauma due to mauling by animals.”

Goochland County Sheriff Jim Agnew said on Tuesday that the investigation into the death of 22-year-old Bethany Lynn Stephens has been closed in light of her autopsy results. 

“The medical examiner’s report substantiated what we observed,” said Sheriff Agnew. “I hope that the family can get some peace now. There are going to be those who aren’t going to believe and pick apart all the things that we’ve done, and that’s their prerogative, but unless somebody steps forward with some really strong evidence, we’ve closed this.”

Stephens was found dead in the woods in Goochland County, Virginia, by her father on Dec. 14 at around 8 p.m.

After failing to hear from his daughter that night, the concerned parent called 911 and then went looking for her in an area where she often walked her two dogs, Pac-Man and Tonka.

Stephens’s father eventually discovered his daughter’s mangled body, which he said was being aggressively “guarded” by the two pit bulls.

Sheriff Agnew said that once officers arrived at the scene, they spent over an hour trying to capture the large pit bulls, which were believed to both weigh as much as their 5-foot-1, 125-pound owner.

Stephens’ body was then taken to a medical examiner’s office, where the gruesome details of the attack came to light. 

“The first traumatic injury to her was to her throat and face,” Sheriff Agnew said after reviewing the medical examiner’s initial report. “It appears she was taken to the ground, lost consciousness, and the dogs then mauled her to death.”

“The victim had defensive wounds on her hands and arms trying to keep the dogs away from her, which would be consistent with being attacked while she was still alive.”

The medical examiner’s final report, released on Feb. 20, confirmed their initial beliefs. 

“Overall, the combination of wounds is consistent with the mauling by an animal or animals, possibly dogs,” the report says. “Additionally, there was evidence of extensive postmortem animal predation at the face, torso and arms.”

The report says no drugs or alcohol were found in Stephens’ system and that there was no evidence of a gunshot, strangulation or any other kind of attack.

“Stephens was not raped, and this was not a homicide,” the report declares. 

The Sheriff’s Office said one of the dogs had a history of aggression and had snapped at a previous owner. Both animals were euthanized with the permission of Stephens’ family following the attack. 

“It was an absolutely grisly mauling,” Sheriff Agnew said. “In my 40 years of law enforcement, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I hope I never see anything like it again.”

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Virginia State Senator Richard Black: Mueller indicted 13 Russians to drag probe out and keep his position (VIDEO)



By indicting Russian nationals and entities for meddling in the 2016 US election, FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller seeks to drag the probe out for his own gain, Virginia State Senator Richard Black told RT.

Thirteen Russian individuals and three entities, were accused of attempting to advance the presidential bid of Donald Trump and tarnish the reputation of Hillary Clinton with the ultimate goal to “spread distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.” However, none of the activities described in the indictment were able to sway the vote, US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told media.

According to Black, the lackluster outcome of the ever-widening investigation invokes suspicion that although Mueller knows there’s nothing substantial to uncover, he and his team will continue feeding the media headline-grabbers to keep his rather lucrative job.

“To a certain extent, I think, Robert Muller is struggling to keep alive his position of a special counsel. The special counsel has already earned 7 million dollars. When you become a special counsel, you have an open checkbook for the US Treasury and you are guaranteed to become a mega-millionaire if you simply can drag out the proceedings,” Black told RT.

I suspect that this is just a case of dragging out the proceedings, throwing some indictments on some silly things – not registering as a foreign agent – that typically is not prosecuted, but they are prosecuting it in this case because they are running out of ideas.

The latest twist of the Russia probe saga, which has so far failed to provide any proof of Trump’s collusion with Moscow, indicates that “there is simply nothing there to go after,” Black said. He noted that since both sides appear to agree that the alleged meddling could not have changed the outcome of the election, the probe is essentially “irrelevant.”

The record of US intelligence, which is no stranger to providing “completely fabricated” intel, does not lend much credibility to the “intelligence assessments” over the Kremlin’s alleged role in the election, Black said.

I’m not really impressed, I want facts; I don’t want some generalized conclusions from these intelligence agencies,” he said, noting that if he were Trump, he would ask them to “show precisely” what evidence they have in their hands.

Back believes that what is really on the agenda is to rein in Trump so he will not oppose the hawks in their pursuit of hostile foreign policy towards Russia.

“One of the things they wanted to do is to undermine Donald Trump and to keep him constantly on the defensive against Russia so he cannot do the rational thing, which is to reduce the tensions with Russia, to draw back from the Russian borders,” he said, noting that the “deep state” seeks confrontation with Russia as it allows them to “sell weapons and increase the size of the military.”

Speaking about the claims that Russia-linked operatives spent $100,000 on Facebook ads to promote divisive social and political issues to stir up American voters, Black compared it with throwing a penny to a beggar,” arguing that by “creating chaos” in the election, nobody could have achieved anything, “no matter who they are.”

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North Atlantic right whale discovered dead off Virginia coast, 1st in 2018

At least 18 North Atlantic right whales have now died in Canadian and U.S. last year and this winter.


Another North Atlantic right whale has been found dead, the first to be recorded in 2018 and the 18th since last year.

The whale was reportedly found off the coast of Virginia on Jan. 22.

Jennifer Goebel, a spokesperson for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), confirmed the information to Global News on Thursday.

According to NOAA, the remains of the whale appeared to be wrapped in a fishing line.

Based on past experience with entangled whales the NOAA believe the whale was alive and swimming when it encountered the line.

Canada implements new restrictions

The discovery of the whale comes only two days after the federal fisheries minister announced four measures aimed at protecting right whales from entanglement in fishing gear.

“Protecting Canada’s endangered whales from further harm is a responsibility that weighs heavily on all of us,” Dominic LeBlanc said Tuesday in Moncton.

LeBlanc said four new rules for the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence snow crab fishery will greatly reduce the amount of rope that can be left floating on the surface when crab pots are set – to no more than 3.7 metres.

“In addition, no rope attaching a crab trap to a primary buoy can remain floating on the surface of the water after the crab trap has been set,” he said.

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Just Say No To Jeffie Sessions: Virginia To Decriminalize Cannabis ~ Nullifies Federal Meddling In State Laws

RICHMOND, Va. (Jan. 8, 2017) – A bill introduced in the Virginia Senate would decriminalize marijuana possession. Passage into law would take a step toward nullifying federal cannabis prohibition in effect in the state.

Introduced by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), Senate Bill 111 (SB111) would make marijuana possession “subject to a civil penalty of no more than $50, upon a second violation is subject to a civil penalty of no more than $100, and upon a third or subsequent violation is subject to a civil penalty of no more than $250.”

  1. Cannabis The Most Medicinal Plant on the Planet: Nicknamed Marijuana!

There could be additional penalties levied at the discretion of the court for marijuana possession offenses. SB111 allows a court to “deprive the person so penalized of the privilege to drive or operate a motor vehicle, engine, or train in the Commonwealth for a period of six months from the date of such judgment.”

However, despite the possible consequences for simple possession, passage of SB111 would chip away at marijuana prohibition in the Old Dominion State.

“We cannot continue to hide behind a fear of a plant in our criminal code,” Sen. Ebbin said in a Washington Post report.

Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as SB111 remain perfectly constitutional, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.

Nullifying Federal Meddling In State Laws


Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the feds maintain complete prohibition of cannabis. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

Decriminalization of marijuana in Virginia would remove a layer of laws prohibiting the possession of marijuana, but federal prohibition will remain on the books.

FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By mostly ending state prohibition, Virginia essentially sweeps away most of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

Passage of SB111 would begin to erode federal prohibition and that the first step toward nullifying it in practice in the state.


Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalized recreational cannabis, with California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joining them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization were passed in those states last November.

  1. Judge Rules Montana Marijuana Dispensaries To Re-Open Immediately: “Folks Are Speaking With Their Votes.”
  2. The Federal Government Lacks Any Constitutional Authority To Regulate Cannabis: State Of Washington Protects Citizens Freedom To Use Cannabis As THEY See Fit.

With more than two-dozen states allowing cannabis for medical use as well, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition anymore.

“The lesson here is pretty straightforward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.


  1. Marijuana Prohibition Is Unjust, Unscientific, & Unconstitutional.

SB111 was referred to the Senate Courts of Justice Committee where it will need to pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.

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