Editorial Roundup: Alabama

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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Jan. 14

The Gadsden Times on developments with a long-awaited interstate extension project:

With apologies to the Bard of Avon — and we’ll drop the part about the sweet fragrance — “What’s a road by any other name?”

Local officials hope a change in nomenclature will help the much-needed extension of Interstate 759 to U.S. Highway 431/278 (East Meighan Boulevard) finally become a reality, after decades of talk.

In the past, the project has been called just what we described, the Interstate 759 Extension. Problem is, interstates are federal highways, and as we’ve explained to those who are fed up with the daily congestion on East Meighan and keep yelling “fix this,” someone at City Hall can’t just call the Alabama Department of Transportation and say “mobilize the machinery” when a federal highway is involved, even if there’s sufficient funding for the project in the city’s vault. Countless hoops and hurdles must be negotiated, and bureaucratic boxes checked.

So late last year, a group of local mayors met with Curtis Vincent, ALDOT’s North Region engineer, and the decision was made to rename the project as the Eastern Connector. The objective is the same: Get through traffic off the busiest, most commercially developed stretch of East Meighan. However, the name change makes this a state and local project instead of a federal one, opening up potential state and local funding sources like the Rebuild Alabama Infrastructure Plan that draws money from last year’s state gasoline tax increase.

There’s one potential hiccup, though. ALDOT is awaiting the results of a survey that was done on the area, and Vincent indicated another much-needed addition to the area that already is under construction — the new science building for Gadsden State Community College’s Wallace Drive campus — seems to be in the proposed corridor for the extension project. GSCC officials say they knew preliminary plans for the extension would come through the campus, but were told the path would be moved. It seems like there was a little failure of communication, but it’s not an insurmountable obstacle; the corridor can be moved.

We think the bigger obstacle may be a familiar one — getting Gadsden and Etowah County noticed and in line for its fair share of funding, when so many other areas of the state have their hands up wanting cash for road or bridge projects that they contend are just as desperately needed as the extension here. (Some local folks probably would mention a certain bridge in Southside.)

Vincent advised the local mayors to marshal the community and “be vocal” to ensure they’re on the respective radars of state governmental and transportation officials.

We know people have spoken up for years — at length and with passion — about this need. The response on the federal level generally has been “it’s up to folks in Montgomery how the highway money you get from us is spent.”

“Being vocal” now needs to be focused solely in that direction, not toward Washington, D.C. Let’s hope the added volume will be productive.

Online: https://www.gadsdentimes.com/

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Jan. 12

Decatur Daily on the Alabama Attorney General's medical marijuana opinion:

State Sen. Tim Melson wasn't surprised when Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall came out against allowing marijuana use for medical purposes in Alabama.

“I was very much expecting it. What I was not expecting was the lack of outreach to address issues and concerns,” said Melson, R-Florence.

Melson sponsored expansive medical marijuana legislation that failed in the state Legislature last year and is chairman of a task force formed to recommend a draft medical marijuana bill for this year's legislative session, which begins Feb. 4.

Indeed, Marshall's stance isn't in itself surprising. What is surprising is how flimsy it is.

Marshall lays out his concerns in a letter to state lawmakers, and his primary concern is that allowing medical marijuana use would conflict with federal law.

“State laws that allow any use of marijuana, medical or recreational, are in direct conflict with duly-enacted and clearly-constitutional federal law," Marshall wrote. "Thus, state marijuana statutes enacted in violation of federal law are damaging to the rule of law itself — a costly precedent that I urge you to bear in mind."

If it's Marshall's position that the state of Alabama must bend the knee to federal law, this would be a first. Alabama, historically, has had no such qualms about challenging "clearly-constitutional federal law" when it comes to issues of civil rights. Indeed the state, and Marshall in his capacity as attorney general, are challenging the federal government right now, defending the nation's toughest abortion restrictions in a direct challenge to the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

The difference when it comes to medical marijuana — and even recreational marijuana use, which isn't an issue here — is the states have been given, if not explicit authority, tacit consent to experiment with loosed restrictions.

Marshall also worries about the health effects, drawing comparisons between marijuana and opioids.

“As with opioids, marijuana is an addictive drug,” he wrote. “Approximately one in 10 adult users of marijuana develops an addiction.”

The "one in 10" figure depends on a loose definition of addiction. One can become addicted to marijuana in the same sense one becomes "addicted" to any activity they enjoy, so we get a never-ending list of addictions, from "sex addiction" to "video game addiction" to "cellphone addiction." In the older, stricter sense of addiction, marijuana is not addictive, as, for example, heroin is, because users do not suffer withdrawal if deprived of it.

Marshall also claimed marijuana use does not help people quit opioids, which goes against what evidence we so far have.

“States with access to medical marijuana generally have much lower rates of prescription opioids,” according to a University of Alabama at Birmingham report released last year.

Melson said the attorney general's letter will not deter efforts in the state Legislature to pass meaningful medical marijuana legislation.

Medical marijuana is the norm in most states. It's time to stop making excuses and make it a reality here, too.

Online: https://www.decaturdaily.com/

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Jan. 11

The Cullman Times on quitting smoking in 2020:

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) 70 percent of smokers want to quit. If you are among them, and your resolution was to break the nicotine addiction in 2020, we want to encourage you to keep to your resolution. It’s a hard habit to break, but it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself and your loved ones.

Some facts from the CDC prove just how bad cigarette smoking is for you:

— Nearly one in five deaths in the United States is due to smoking.

— More than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died from smoking-related illnesses than have died in all four wars fought by the United States.

— Cigarette smoking increases the risk of death from heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.

Just this week, the American Cancer Society announced that the lung cancer death rate has dropped by 51 percent in the last decade. Yet lung cancer still accounts for more cancer deaths than breast, prostate and colorectal cancers combined. Not all lung cancer is caused by smoking, but not smoking, or giving it up, is a good place to start in preventing lung cancer. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, “Smoking cessation represents the single most important step that smokers can take to enhance the length and quality of their lives.”

It’s not easy to quit, but there are resources available. The American Cancer Society website and the CDC both offer tips and techniques to help you. Among them: build a support network, know the first few weeks are going to be the hardest as your body goes through nicotine withdrawal, ask your health care provider to recommend some of the medications approved by the FDA and have a plan in place, especially for those times when you’re most used to lighting up.

It can take many tries to quit, but it’s always worth the effort. When you get tempted, stop, take a deep breath and experience how good it feels to fill your lungs with clean air. And keep kicking butts.

Online: https://www.cullmantimes.com/