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Mail-in voting haunts some in Pa.’s GOP primary

Plus, the concerns and consequences of a cannabis conundrum.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
August 6, 2021
Cannabis conundrums, mail votes, the grind, safe at work, legal dispute, cult claims, and what an Amish study revealed about summertime blues. It's Friday.
Weeks after Spotlight PA reported on murky guidance that wrongly prevented at least one person in Pennsylvania from accessing addiction treatment, with disastrous results, the federal agency responsible has moved to clarify the rule governing billions of dollars in related aid.

Specifically, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has eliminated language that prohibited grant recipients from providing federal funding "to any individual who or organization that provides or permits marijuana use for the purposes of treating substance use or mental disorders."

In Pennsylvania, the guidance was incorrectly applied to medical marijuana card-holder Tyler Cordeiro, of Bucks County, who was denied funding for opioid addiction treatment he couldn't otherwise afford, his family said.

Tyler died weeks later from a drug overdose.

THE CONTEXT: Almost three years after making opioid use disorder a qualifying medical marijuana condition, Pennsylvania remains an outlier in that sense, and the debate about cannabis' efficacy as an addiction treatment continues, Spotlight PA reports.

Despite a lack of scientific evidence, Pennsylvania officials see medical marijuana as another tool in their response to a raging opioid epidemic in a state with one of the highest drug overdose death rates in the country. 

But a much larger tool in the state's kit — a disaster declaration that widened access to the prescription drug monitoring program and made it easier and faster to get treatment — likely won't be renewed by Republicans in Harrisburg, the Capital-Star reports.

This comes after the state GOP successfully lobbied voters to curb the governor's ability to extend such declarations himself

Caucus leaders have said they may be able to address the same issues as the opioid disaster declaration with regular legislation, but that remains to be seen.
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"The labor movement, the AFL-CIO, and the nation lost a legend today."

—The AFL-CIO union announcing the death of President Richard Trumka, who rose from Pa. coal mines to lead one of the world's largest labor groups

VACCINE UPDATE: COVID-19 cases are rising nationwide, along with vaccinations. On Thursday, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said 864,000 doses were administered in the prior 24-hour period, the highest total since July 3. For vaccine providers, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
Fishing in Harrisburg and probably hoping to land one like this. Thanks to photog @yatsko for sharing. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
MAIL VOTES: The GOP-backed expansion of Pennsylvania's mail-in voting law in 2019 is factoring into next year's Republican primary for Pennsylvania governor, with past support being wielded like a scarlet letter or a cudgel. Capital-Star says it's unclear if the tactic will work, but support for no-excuse mail-in ballots among Republican voters is low.

ALL WORK: Temple library workers say the university's sick-leave policy causes employees to go to work sick and in pain, including Latanya Jenkins, who died of cancer in April, The Inquirer reports. The university says the policy is meant to maintain staffing levels, but workers say it forces people to choose between their health and their career.

OFFICE CASE: After PublicSource reported that some Allegheny County employees didn't feel safe being called back to the office without mask or vaccine mandates in place, officials announced new hires would be required to be vaccinated, while existing unvaccinated employees will face a mask mandate and virus testing at least once a week.

LEGAL TERMS: Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is defending an opioid lawsuit settlement that's under fire from two district attorneys who say the payout is low and slow. Shapiro says the state's $1 billion share will help people living with addiction, but taking the money means forfeiting a great deal of legal recourse, WITF reports.
'CULT' STORY: Former MOVE children are alleging widespread abuse within the Black liberation group, which regained prominence this spring amid a search for human remains from a 1985 city-led bombing of its Philadelphia home. According to Billy Penn, the allegations include coercive sex, child marriages, death threats, and mind control.
SUMMER BLUES: A New York Times piece about summertime seasonal affective disorder includes a stop in Lancaster County, where a study of Old Order Amish fed a burgeoning scientific belief that the pollen count and pollen sensitivity might also be affecting our moods

FLY AWAY: The neighborhood kids rounded up the puppy and Wiffle ball bats to scour Associated Press reporter Mark Scolforo's backyard for the dreaded spotted lanternfly, which led Mark to ask Twitter how much he should tip. The answer? Spare absolutely no expense.

PET LAND: The York County SPCA can safely house about 240 animals, but it's currently housing about 323, York Daily Record reports, leading to desperate callouts for staff and adopters. The SPCA's executive director said the numbers ballooned suddenly this summer, "like a switch was flipped."

HIGH NOTE: Opera singer Marian Anderson will soon be immortalized with a statue outside Philadelphia's Academy of Music, the first freestanding work of art in the city honoring a specific Black woman, per WHYY. The project is 25 years in the making and finally moving ahead. 

BEER BUZZ: Pittsburgh is the "surprising city that may be leading the world in brewery diversity and inclusion," according to Forbes. The article notes that groups like the Pittsburgh Brewery Diversity Council, an ad-hoc group launched last year, are a big part of the reason why.
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