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Is Congress Going to Legalize Hemp?

Politics makes strange bedfellows. And that couldn't be more true than the Republican Congress pushing to legalize hemp prior to losing its majority, with the charge being led by none other than Mitch McConnell.

The number of hate crimes reported in 2016 was already the most in the past five years. That trend sadly continued into 2017, with the FBI reporting a surge in hate crimes unseen since the wake of the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Especially troubling was the spike in anti-Semitic hate crimes, coupled with several incidents (like the murder of Heather Heyer during a white supremacist rally) that the FBI failed to classify as hate crimes.

The report brings up a lot of questions about hate crimes in general. Here are some of those, along with some answers:

Michigan, Missouri, and Utah all added their names to the list of states that have legalized marijuana, to some degree. While Missouri and Utah approved initiatives to allow medical marijuana, Michigan became the first Midwest state to legalize recreational marijuana use.

Not only that, but more local decriminalization measures were successful as well. Here's a look at 2018's "Green Wave."

When Can Voting Be a Crime?

Whether it's the midterms or the presidential election, the importance of election day can't be underestimated. There's always a lot riding on the votes that are cast. But you may have also heard a little about registration requirements, voter ID laws, and something called "illegal voting."

When is it actually illegal to cast a ballot, and when can voting be a crime? Here's what you need to know.

Back in March, Florida passed significant gun control legislation just a month after the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Part of that legislation, the ban on possession of bump stocks, went into effect on October 1.

"You could have purchased a bump stock a week ago, a year ago, or two years ago," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd told WFLA, "but possession of it after October 1 is a felony." The ban goes into effect despite multiple lawsuits trying to block its enforcement. "They're argument is that ... you're taking away our Second Amendment rights," Sheriff Judd said. "This is not a firearm."

Washington Becomes the Latest State to Abolish the Death Penalty

Washington became the latest state to outlaw the death penalty in the Washington Supreme Court ruling of State v Gregory, in furtherance of Governor Jay Inslee's vow in 2014 to never have another execution while he was in office.

The vote was unanimous, with five justices citing that the "death penalty is invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner." They added, "Given the manner in which it is imposed, the death penalty also fails to serve any legitimate penological goals." The eight individuals currently on death row will have their sentences changed to life in prison. Gregory is one of three African-American men currently on Washington's death row.

Recycling is a good thing. But people taking advantage of recycling centers to dump things like old furniture, used mattresses, and leftover paint and chemicals can ruin recycling for everyone, as Greensboro, South Carolina is learning. The city already temporarily closed one popular recycling drop-off location due to illegal dumping, and may close more if residents don't clean up their act, so to speak.

Many state statutes and city or county ordinances ban illegal dumping, but how much trouble can you really get in if you break those laws?

Last week California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill raising the minimum age to buy rifles and shotguns in the state to 21. The new law brings statutes regulating those firearms in line with state restrictions on handguns, which are also limited to those over 21.

Brown also signed other legislation that imposing a lifetime gun ownership ban for people convicted of domestic violence or deemed mentally dangerous, and increasing access to court orders that could disarm dangerous gun owners.

Violence Against Women Act Set to Expire

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), originally passed in 1994, is set to expire at the end of September. Thousands of women will be left vulnerable, and crisis centers will lose valuable funding, unless the House takes action. But time is of the essence, and there are only four working days left for the House to pass this bill.

To date, other bills are being prioritized, such as a new farm bill and a bill to fund the government to prevent a shut-down. However, with the November elections on the horizon, and many Republics fighting madly to keep their seats, it's likely both parties will work together quickly to pass an extension, whether in good conscience or good PR.

Consider the following quote from National Security Adviser and former United Nations ambassador John Bolton:

"We will respond against the ICC [International Criminal Court] and its personnel to the extent permitted by U.S. law. We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the United States. We will sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system, and we will prosecute them in the U.S. criminal system. We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans."

Those are pretty strong words. But the United States has for a long time had a strained relationship with the International Criminal Court. It was one of seven nations to vote against the Rome Statute creating the court (along with China, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Qatar, and Yemen), and while former President Bill Clinton later signed the statute, the treaty was never submitted to Congress.

And now, with news that the ICC will investigate alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, that relationship has gotten even worse. But could the court actually prosecute and punish American citizens?