NC LEGISLATURE PASSES BILL ALLOWING GOVERNMENT FUNDING FOR NEEDLE EXCHANGES: The Opioid Epidemic Response Act, which passed the state Senate, was ratified by the House this week and now goes to Gov. Roy Cooper, will allow syringe exchanges to use state funding. It also will decriminalize drug-testing equipment and reduce restrictions for prescribing buprenorphine, a drug used to treat opioid addiction. Jesse Bennett is the statewide overdose-prevention coordinator for the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, a nonprofit that works on issues like injection drug use through activities like advocacy and connecting people to the care they need. In the three years since syringe exchanges became legal, Bennett said they have gone from distributing a few thousand syringes a year to nearly a million. And the syringes are one of the most expensive pieces of the job. “That’s where we’re we struggle the most,” Bennett said. He said they have to be conservative with how many they can give out at times. “It’s scary sometimes, especially when you have hepatitis or HIV outbreaks,” Bennett said.
NC FARM ACT IN JEOPARDY OVER QUESTIONS ABOUT SMOKABLE HEMP: Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, and Rep. Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin, who have shepherded agriculture legislation through the legislature together for years, couldn't even agree Thursday on what the latest version of the bill would do, and both sides have refused to back the other's preferred language on smokable hemp. Smokable hemp has CBD, which many people believe has a range of medicinal qualities, but only miniscule amounts of THC, which produces marijuana's characteristic high. The problem is that smokable hemp looks and smells like marijuana, and police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors around the state have said that, if the legislature keeps smokable hemp legal, marijuana might as well be legal as well. Law enforcement isn't just worried about it being harder to enforce marijuana laws but about losing probable cause for searches based on the smell of marijuana smoke, or when a drug dog keys in on a vehicle.
UNC SYSTEM SCHOOLS GEARING UP FOR ALCOHOL SALES AT SPORTING EVENTS: N.C. State University football fans are one step closer to watching a Wolfpack game at Carter-Finley Stadium with beer in hand. That’s also the case for Tar Heel fans in Kenan Stadium. And alcohol may soon flow at UNC Charlotte and East Carolina University sporting events, too. With a unanimous vote by its Board of Trustees on Wednesday, N.C. State joined UNC-Chapel Hill in revising its alcohol policy to include the sale of alcohol at campus stadiums and arenas. UNCC is giving selling beer and wine to the general public at athletic events a one-year trial, and ECU’s Board of Trustees is meeting to discuss the options and vote on Friday. Of all UNC System schools, UNC Pembroke is the only university that has said no to alcohol sales. While its leaders say they support the universities’ right to choose, they don’t want to bring more alcohol into their athletic events.
TRUMP PRAISES RIGHT-WING NUTTERS DURING SOCIAL MEDIA "SUMMIT.": President Donald Trump used a White House conference Thursday to applaud far-right social media provocateurs even as he conceded that some of them are extreme in their views. Trump, who has weaponized social media to eviscerate opponents and promote himself, led a "social media summit" of like-minded critics of Big Tech, excluding representatives from the very platforms he exploits. The president used the event to air grievances over his treatment by Big Tech, but also to praise some of the most caustic voices on the right, who help energize Trump's political base. "Some of you guys are out there," he told them. "I mean it's genius, but it's bad." Trump singled out for praise James O'Keefe, the right-wing activist whose Project Veritas organization once tried to plant a false story in The Washington Post. In May 2010, O'Keefe and three others pleaded guilty in federal court to a misdemeanor in a scheme in which they posed as telephone repairmen in Sen. Mary Landrieu's New Orleans district office.
NATO MEMBER TURKEY TAKES DELIVERY OF RUSSIAN ANTI-AIRCRAFT MISSILES: Turkey has begun taking delivery of Russia’s S-400 air-defense system, the Turkish Defense Ministry said Friday, completing a deal that has threatened its standing in the NATO alliance and is likely to trigger sanctions from the United States. The first components for the system arrived Friday at Murted Air Base in Ankara, the Turkish capital, the ministry said in a statement. Turkish television stations broadcast footage of the delivery throughout the morning as Russian cargo planes arrived at the base and equipment was offloaded. The purchase underscored President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasing willingness to coordinate with Russia and risked a new crisis in relations between Turkey and the United States. The Trump administration had given mixed signals about how exactly it might respond if Turkey went through with the deal. American officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, had warned of dire repercussions, including canceling sales of U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets to Ankara and the imposition of sanctions under a 2017 law on cooperation with adversaries.