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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | U.S. House approves federal marijuana legalization … Endangered tree species that grizzlies rely on could see new protections soon … Two out of five transit riders in Utah say they won’t return after the pandemic.
An Oregon doctor who advised patients not to wear masks and didn’t wear one at his office had his license suspended by the Oregon Medical Board. A state order requires health care workers to wear masks while working. In its decision, the board said Dr. Steven LaTulippe not only didn’t advise people to wear masks, but actively discouraged the practice, which repeated studies has found is effective in reducing transmission of Covid-19. LaTuilippe told patients that masks increase “the body’s carbon dioxide content through rebreathing of gas trapped behind a mask,” information that is incorrect, the board wrote. He also wrongly told elderly patients that they could suffer far more serious medical conditions if they wore masks. The doctor has gone public with his beliefs. At a rally for President Trump last month, LaTulippe told people to “take off the mask of shame” and touted his practice for eschewing face coverings. The board decision means LaTulippe, who didn't return calls seeking comment from KGW and the Washington Post, currently isn’t allowed to practice medicine in the state. [KGW-TV; Washington Post]
MARIJUANA | The U.S. House last week passed legislation that would remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act. The legislation to decriminalize marijuana and expunge nonviolent federal marijuana convictions passed largely along party lines and marked the first time a chamber of Congress has passed a cannabis legalization bill. All but six Democrats voted in favor, along with five Republicans and one independent. The measure would also institute a 5% tax on the drug to fund a grant program directed toward communities most affected by law enforcement efforts around illegal marijuana. The cosponsor of the legislation, Oregon Democrat Rep. Earl Blumenauer, said "it is the right thing to do. For too long, the war on drugs has targeted young people, especially Black people, and rejected the advice of experts.” The Bill is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate. Some Republican members of the House criticized Democrats for taking up a bill unlikely to gain traction in the other chamber and for focusing on drug legalization instead of coronavirus relief efforts. "Come on man—families are losing their livelihoods, people are hurting," said Rep. Pete Stauber, a Republican from Minnesota. [New York Times; NBC News; NPR]
ENDANGERED TREE | The Whitebark pine, a tree that can grow at elevations up to 12,000 feet, has been endangered by climate change, beetles and disease, posing a problem for grizzly bears in the West who rely on it as a food source. Last week, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed adding the tree as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. “Whitebark pine survives at high elevations already, so there is little remaining habitat in many areas for the species to migrate to higher elevations in response to warmer temperatures,” the proposal reads. Environmentalists celebrated the proposal, but said more can still be done to protect the tree’s habitats in states like Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.“This is the federal government admitting that climate change is killing off a widely distributed tree, and we know that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are many species threatened,” said Rebecca Riley, legal director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. [Associated Press]
TRANSIT LEVELS | About two out of every five people who stopped riding the Utah Transit Authority during the pandemic say they are unlikely to return even after the pandemic abates. Ridership is down 57% compared to pre-Covid levels. Of those who stopped riding public transit, 55% said they work from home now, 48% said they are now driving a personal vehicle, and 42% said they were concerned about the safety of riding during the pandemic. Passengers said they want to see more cleaning and limited passenger loads for social distancing. UTA Executive Director Carolyn Gonot said the survey would “help us figure out what we need to do to have people feel comfortable about taking transit again, and also look at what the forces are that are keeping them away.” [Salt Lake Tribune]
FORMER LANDFILL | Jersey City will transform a former Superfund site and landfill into a 12-acre park. The site, next to the Hackensack River, was a dumping site for industrial waste for decades and began a landfill in 1985. The city acquired the property in 2014. “Skyway Park is the latest step in expanding our parks infrastructure and bringing further investment to the city’s west side,” Mayor Steven Fulop said in a statement. [Jersey Digs]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor at Route Fifty and Laura Maggi is the managing editor.