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October 06, 2022
What A Day
Puff Puff Pardon

In This Episode

  • President Biden announced Thursday he will pardon federal marijuana convictions. The order will impact a few thousand people, since most cannabis convictions happen at the state level, but it will also revisit how cannabis is classified with other drugs under federal law.
  • As Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russia continues to gain ground, there are now signs of growing discontent from prominent Russian officials and supporters of the war.
  • And in headlines: a mass shooting at a daycare center in Thailand left at least 36 people dead, a high ranking member of the Proud Boys pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection, and Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse is expected to resign from Congress.


Show Notes:


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For a transcript of this episode, please visit crooked.com/whataday




Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, October 7th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi. And this is What A Day, the podcast that’s recorded from under a mountain of large decorative pumpkins. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Not just pumpkins, though, squashes and other autumn gourds as well. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, listen, whatever they are. There are way too many of them. I can barely move. Someone, please get me out of here. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Soon and very soon, please. And thank you. [music break] On today’s show, Brittney Griner’s wife said she’s worried about how the WNBA star is coping in Russian prison. Plus, a new report suggests that getting your COVID booster now could save tens of thousands of lives. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But first, President Biden announced Thursday that he will pardon everyone convicted on federal marijuana possession charges. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, and it’s a significant move that could have wide ranging implications. But before we get into the specifics, let’s take a listen to a bit of the announcement: 


[clip of President Joe Biden] As I said, when I ran for president, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana. It’s already legal in many states, and criminal records for marijuana possession have led to needless barriers to employment, to housing, and educational opportunities. And that’s before you address the racial disparities around who suffers the consequences. Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. So this pardon is for folks who were convicted on federal charges of simple possession of the drug formerly known as Miss Mary Jane. Right? Simple possession means that these folks had a fairly small amount of weed on them well below the threshold of intent to sell in the eyes of the law. The pardon will impact about 6500 people who were convicted between 1992 and 2021, along with thousands of others convicted of marijuana possession in Washington, D.C.. And as of Thursday, the federal government stopped charging anyone with simple possession. Individuals convicted of possession under federal law will now be able to apply for a pardon certificate from the Justice Department to use when they apply for a job, housing or college. You know, some of those simple things that we take for granted as folks who don’t have these convictions. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It’s very difficult, right. If you do have a conviction to get any of these kind of like basic needs. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And now they’ll be able to do that a little bit more easier. Senior officials, however, did stress that no one is currently serving time in federal prison solely for simple possession of marijuana. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Got it. Okay. So this is obviously really good news, but this is just for people who were convicted on federal charges. How does this announcement impact those who were convicted on the state level? 


Tre’vell Anderson: So it unfortunately doesn’t directly impact those folks. That little thing called states rights prevents it. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Hmm. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That said, President Biden did include in his order a call for governors nationwide to follow suit and similarly issue pardons for state marijuana convictions. Now, we know that is a tall order, considering the ways Republicans and Democrats differ on so many issues. But a number of states have already taken various steps to decriminalize reefer, as my granny would call it. And in fact, more and more cities and states are legalizing weed, both medicinally and recreationally. It’s fully legal for adult use in about 19 states and in Washington, D.C. We should note that the amount of convictions under state laws does vastly outnumber those charged under federal laws. So the direct reach of Biden’s action is fairly limited right now. But he also said that his administration would review where marijuana stands on the federal drug schedule, which is the scale that the government uses to classify drugs based on its acceptable medical use and its potential for abuse or dependency. Pot is currently a Schedule one drug, the same level as heroin and LSD, for example, which Biden says, quote, “Makes no sense”. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, definitely does not make any sense. And kudos to Biden because I think he is probably in the minority of people in his age group that feel that way. [laughter] It doesn’t really seem like a popular opinion among them, but love this for him. Love this for us. You mentioned that this announcement could have wide ranging impact. What did you mean by that? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Experts are saying that the biggest takeaway from all of this is that it could lead to federal decriminalization, which would be huge, especially since ganja has been a key driver of the mass criminalization of Black and Brown folks. Congress, however, would have to make that decision, and based on Biden’s caveat in his announcement that the government still needs, quote, “important limitations on trafficking, marketing and underage sales of marijuana”. Some people aren’t celebrating just yet, especially because the, quote unquote “crime” of simple possession is almost entirely prosecuted by the states, whereas the federal government is more likely to prosecute for marijuana trafficking crimes. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Got it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Udi Ofer, who is the ACLU’s former deputy national political director, told The New York Times, quote, “This is an important political statement. It’s an important value statement. It’s progress. But this is a drop in the ocean of injustice”. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That is very helpful context to have. We also have an update for all of you about Ukraine’s ongoing counter offensive against Russia, specifically into the regions that Russia illegally annexed last week. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. So tell us what’s happening there now. 


Priyanka Aribindi: So things are not looking good for Russia. So according to a senior Ukrainian military official, Ukraine is recapturing territory very quickly. Their forces have retaken around 120 settlements in the past two weeks as they advance in Kharkiv, Donetsk and Kherson. They have broken through Russian lines on two fronts and have forced some Russian forces to retreat to the south. But as they’ve retaken territory in some cases, they have also found what retreating Russian troops have left behind. So in an area of Kharkiv recaptured early last month, Ukrainian police now say that they’ve recovered 534 bodies of civilians, including 226 women and 19 children. Most of the bodies were found in a mass burial site shortly after that area was liberated. They also found 22 locations that they believe were used by the Russians as torture chambers. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You know, now, since they’ve been retreating, we’re finally getting a look into the extent of some of the destruction that Russia has left behind. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m assuming that Ukraine’s success so far is not what Russia wanted to see. How have they been reacting to this progress? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, definitely not what they wanted to see. Within Russia, there has been even more public criticism of the war effort lately. That’s not just coming from civilians protesting or people complaining on the Internet. Some high ranking Russian officials themselves are starting to speak up. So on Thursday, a Russian official who was assigned in Kherson suggested that the Russian defense minister, who happens to be a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, should consider killing himself because of the Russian army’s repeated failures. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Wow. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Probably not something I would say about a friend of a murderous dictator. [laugh] But also worth noting that it’s basically illegal in Russia to publicly criticized the invasion at all. Anyone who spreads, quote, “false information” about what they’re calling the special operation in Ukraine could face up to 15 years in prison. This has been the case for months and months now. So um not looking great for the people who do speak out. 


Tre’vell Anderson: At all. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And aside from that mounting criticism, thousands of men are still fleeing Russia to avoid being sent to the front lines. No one wants to fight in this war, including two men who literally sailed from Russia to a small Alaskan island in order to seek asylum in the U.S. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Wow. Okay. Interesting. Okay. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Crazy. In like a tiny little boat, just set sail. And were like, we’ll end up there. It’ll be fine. And then they did, which is amazing. Happy for them, but still [laughing] crazy. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. So things are definitely not going well– 


Priyanka Aribindi: No. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –In Russia. But as all of this has been happening, I’ve also been seeing more headlines about the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear plant. Can you explain the update there? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So Russia is still targeting the plant. Earlier this week, the Kremlin announced that it would nationalize it and put it under Russian control. The plant is located in one of the four regions that Putin attempted to annex. The region itself is called Zaporizhzhia. But the director of the UN’s nuclear watchdog said that the agency does not recognize Russia’s claim to the plant and they still view it as a Ukrainian facility. They’re also calling for a safe zone around the plant to prevent a nuclear accident, which is still a very real possibility at this point. On Thursday morning, seven Russian rockets hit residential buildings near the facility, killing at least two people. I don’t know about you, but that’s just a bit too close for comfort, in my opinion. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. You know, we shouldn’t be playing around with the nuclear weapons, you know– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –Like this. 


Priyanka Aribindi: No. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I would not want to do that, for all of us. 


Priyanka Aribindi: This continues to be very concerning. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this and we’ll have more very soon. But that is the latest for now. [music break] Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Some devastating news from Thailand, where a mass shooting has left at least 36 people dead. Now, we won’t get into too many details, but this story may be disturbing to some listeners, so skip ahead by a minute if you’d like. Thai authorities said Thursday a recently fired police officer armed with a handgun and a knife stormed a daycare center in a rural part of that country. At least 24 of the victims were preschool aged children. The gunman later killed his wife and their three year old son before taking his own life. Thailand has some of the highest rates of gun ownership and gun related homicides in Asia, but it’s still far lower compared to the United States. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Really devastating. A Russian court this week set an appeal hearing for Brittney Griner later this month. But her wife, Cherelle, said in an interview on Thursday that she is worried about her condition in prison. Cherelle Griner told CBS that she’s only spoken to Brittney twice since the WNBA star was detained back in February. She said that after their first call, Britney sounded relatively okay, but described their second conversation as, quote, “the most disturbing call I’d ever experienced”. 


[clip of Cherelle Griner] You could hear it like you could hear that she was not okay. You know if you think about just a person suffering and when they have suffered to a max like you could hear that like she was at the max that day and I’m like god. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Brittney Griner was sentenced to more than nine years in prison after pleading guilty to drug charges. As a reminder, Russian police found a small amount of cannabis oil and vape cartridges that were inside her luggage after she landed at a moscow area airport. 


Tre’vell Anderson: This continues to be an absurd story. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Please get her home. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, please get her home as soon as possible. We already know the COVID vaccines can drastically decrease your chances of getting seriously ill or even dying. But the latest booster shot could save as many as 90,000 lives by the end of the year. That’s according to a new analysis from the Commonwealth Fund and Yale School of Public Health. The booster could also keep hundreds of thousands of people from ending up in the hospital this winter. And experts are worried we may see another big surge in COVID cases as the weather cools down. Of course, this all depends on whether people will actually get the shot and get it soon like I did. The Omicron specific booster has been available since August, but so far less than 4% of eligible Americans have received it, which is a statistic we probably shouldn’t talk too much about because Omicron might hear us. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, listen. Think back to last year. You don’t want to miss out on Christmas. You don’t want to spend January, like, boarded up in your apartment, really sick and miserable. Please get your shots if you can as soon as you can. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. 


Priyanka Aribindi: If you’ve been thinking about it, do not delay. When it comes to the federal offenses that they’ve committed, most proud boys suddenly become shame boys. But on Thursday, a former top lieutenant in the organization went in the complete opposite direction by proudly standing up and pleading guilty to seditious conspiracy in relation to the January 6th insurrection. Jeremy Bertino’s guilty plea could come with an over five year sentence, and it’s a huge boon for prosecutors who will now have his cooperation as they build cases against the four other proud boys sedition defendants. Those not so proud boys pleaded not guilty, and prosecutors allege that they helped plan the Capitol riots. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse has his sights set on the presidency. That is the presidency of the University of Florida. Thank the Lord. The Republican lawmaker reportedly plans to leave office by the end of the year as he was announced Thursday as the sole finalist for the role at UF. That means the clock starts now for Florida frats to start planning Animal House style pranks and hijinks to drive Sasse insane. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Do it, please. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Nebraska’s Republican Governor Pete Ricketts will by law, make the call to appoint someone to replace the senator for the remainder of his term. And since governmental procedures for replacing people are famously fair and logical, that appointee could very well be Ricketts himself. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Great. Just great. Love that. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You know, I don’t make the rules. Priyanka. Unfortunately. 


Priyanka Aribindi: He does, he does apparently. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. [laughing] After that, the seat will be up for a special election in 2024. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Listen, I was sorry for the people of Nebraska, and I was already sorry for the people of Florida. So, I mean. I don’t know. These poor students. My condolences go out to you. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Maybe he will become a college president, a university president and like his thoughts on like things will change. Right? He won’t be a Republican anymore. He’ll be super progressive. He– Priyanka is giving me faces. 


Priyanka Aribindi: He he’s going to Florida. [laughter] Like, I know he’s going to a college, but he’s going to Florida. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It is still Florida, unfortunately. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. I mean, I guess the upside is that we can now start referring to Ben Sasse as Florida man so. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laughing] That is the upside. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That’s just another angle. [laughing]


Tre’vell Anderson: And those are the headlines we’ll be back after some ads with a moment of reflection on the man who is quickly becoming the least credible Republican candidate for Senate in a very crowded field, Herschel Walker. [AD BREAK]


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Friday WAD squad. And for today’s temp check, we are discussing the latest updates from the party of family values. We have talked a lot this week about the revelation that Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker covered the cost of his ex-girlfriend’s abortion. A normally commendable thing to do if he didn’t support banning the procedure nationwide in almost every single case. The latest update here is a report from The Daily Beast which broke the original story saying that the ex-girlfriend in question is actually the mother of one of Walker’s four children making the candidates continued claims that he doesn’t know her identity truly impossible to believe. Posting through this whole process is Christian Walker, Herschel’s conservative influencer son. On Wednesday night, after condemning Walker’s campaign, he tweeted, quote, “Wear a condom. Damn”. So, Tre’vell, what is your take on this truly surprising October surprise? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay, so a couple of things. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Mm. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m still stuck on the fact that Christian Walker’s dad is Herschel. Okay. Still processing that. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Still processing. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You know it’s just I blocked Christian on social media a while ago because he’s absurd and unserious. Okay. And now I know where he gets it from. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I was living in a beautiful world and I never came into contact with his content, so I was like living my life feeling great. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Love that for you. I will note. I am so glad that Christian is advocating for safe sex. You know, that’s important. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes important. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That is a message that we can all get behind, you know, wearing condoms and whatnot. Um. Last but not least, you know, [laughing] I just think that– 


Priyanka Aribindi: What? 


Tre’vell Anderson: This entire ordeal, this entire saga, who is writing this? What writer’s room came up with this for the end of 2022 for us to deal with? I would like to have a conversation with them. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I don’t know, but I like it. This is a different direction than the normal October surprise. I’m okay with it. I loved that first the article came out and it was like he paid for his ex-girlfriend’s abortion. I don’t know this woman. And actually, it’s the mother of your child. [laughter] You definitely know who she is, it’s like. It is crazy. It is unhinged. No one can vote for this man, please. Like he can’t even handle his own personal affairs. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely, it’s a mess. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely no. That’s a bare minimum. Anyways, this is all wild and nuts. It’s really delivered in term of an October surprise. But just like that, we have checked our temps. If you want to help support people seeking abortions in this country, you can make a donation to our Fuck Bans Action Plan, which you can now find at the HerschelWalkerAbortionFund.com. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Love that for us. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Love that for us. [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review, send thoughts and prayers to the University of Florida and tell your friends to listen. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading and not just a very specific kind of tweet from Christian Walker like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


[spoken together] And we did it Joe. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Puff, puff pass. You know, shout out to– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh my god. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –The 420 celebrators out there. We see you. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Am I going to be the 800,000,000th person to repeat dank Brandon on [?] media? Might be. Might be.


Tre’vell Anderson: Probably. It’s cool though. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s fine. It’s still funny. [laughter] [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.