Biden pardons federal marijuana convictions, fatalities in Las Vegas stabbings: 5 Things podcast

On today's episode of the 5 Things podcast: Biden pardons those with federal marijuana possession convictions

The move applies to thousands of Americans. Plus, money reporter Medora Lee looks at the growing rate of seniors in poverty, several are dead after a Las Vegas stabbing, USA TODAY Sports' Brent Schrotenboer explains how college football coaches are guaranteed more money than ever and the Major League Baseball postseason is here.

Podcasts: True crime, in-depth interviews and more USA TODAY podcasts right here.

Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

Taylor Wilson:

Good morning. I'm Taylor Wilson and this is 5 Things you need to know Friday, the 7th of October, 2022. Today, Biden's marijuana pardons, plus how some seniors are falling into poverty, and more.

Here are some of the top headlines:

  1. President Joe Biden said yesterday that the risk of nuclear armageddon is at the highest level since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Russian officials have mentioned the possibility of tactical nuclear weapons after massive setbacks in the country's invasion of Ukraine.

  2. The death toll is now 36 in the deadliest shooting rampage in the history of Thailand. At least 24 of those killed were children.

  3. And Prince Harry is joining in on a lawsuit against the publisher of British tabloid, the Daily Mail. He, Elton John and others say associated newspapers have illegally breached celebrities' privacy by bugging their cars and homes and more.

President Joe Biden, yesterday, announced that he's pardoning those with federal convictions of simple marijuana possession. The historic move could help some 6,500 people. And while the majority of convictions happen at the state level, Biden is also urging governors to pardon those offenders. In his video announcement, the president said too many lives had been upended, and that policy has disproportionately affected Black and brown people.

President 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. While white, Black and brown people use marijuana and similar rates, Black and brown people are arrested, prosecuted and convicted at disproportionately higher rates.

Taylor Wilson:

Biden is also asking the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to review how the drug should be scheduled under federal law. The Justice Department will begin issuing pardon certificates in the coming days. And pardons will apply to those under the District of Columbia's drug laws, which cover thousands more people. They do not apply, though, to anyone who, at the time of their offense, was not in the country legally. The president's pardon also blocks future federal prosecutions for simple marijuana possession.

Marijuana is a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. The classification meant for the most dangerous substances. It's used mostly to classify drugs with no currently accepted medical use and high potential for abuse. Other Schedule I drugs include heroin and LSD, while fentanyl and methamphetamines are Schedule II. Congress, over the years, has created dozens of mandatory minimum sentencing laws that are often especially serious for repeat offenders, including even life without parole behind bars for a third offense in some cases.

More than 540,000 people were arrested for marijuana-related offenses in 2019, according to the FBI. But mostly for state offenses. In April, the House voted to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level, but the Senate has not considered the legislation.

A million more seniors fell into poverty last year, the only age group to see a rise. And analysts say it's only going to get worse as inflation takes off. Money reporter Medora Lee and producer PJ Elliott have more.

Medora Lee:

So this is really interesting. A lot of people talked about how the child poverty rate had dropped to a record-low 5.2% last year. But not a lot of people talked about the seniors. That poverty rate actually rose to 10.3% from 8.9% in 2020. And that's the highest level since 2002. That's about a million more seniors, who are aged 65 years and older who fell into poverty during that time. And that is pretty alarming because that's the only age group that saw an increase in poverty last year.

PJ Elliott:

Well, why did it jump?

Medora Lee:

I think a lot of it has to do in part with inflation. They get their senior citizen Social Security benefits adjusted for inflation, but inflation has just been rampant and outpacing their increases.

Also, when Social Security was first started, it was based on the idea that this Social Security was going to supplement retirement savings and pension benefits. And you can see now that pensions are becoming a thing of the past. People are just having more 401(k)s, and so that hasn't really kept up. So a lot of seniors have fallen behind.

PJ Elliott:

Is there anything that can be done to help them out?

Medora Lee:

Some people have suggested that in the short-term, they can increase some more of their benefits by increasing the eligibility for SNAP or what's also known as food stamps for seniors, temporarily, or expand rental subsidies. Seniors spend a lot on housing, so that would help. And so maybe some extra Medicare help because they also spend a lot on healthcare.

In the longer-term, they might want to start looking at adjusting the measure that they use to determine their increase in Social Security benefits. Right now, it's based on a subset of the Consumer Price Index. The problem with that is that it isn't exactly reflective of what seniors spend on. They use the subset, and it reflects what everybody spends on.

And so maybe they want to try to look at a more tailored subset of the Consumer Price Index. And people are suggesting a Consumer Price Index for the elderly that has a bigger weighting for the things that they actually spend on, things like housing and healthcare. And then there's also other organizations that have come up with the Elderly Care Index. And so some people have been advocating for that. But that's something that maybe the government needs to look at.

Taylor Wilson:

For Medora's full story, you can find a link in today's episode description.

A suspect is in custody after stabbing and killing two people and injuring six others on the Las Vegas Strip. Police said victims were a combination of locals and tourists and three were in critical condition. Police said the attacker was a man in his 30s who does not appear to be a Vegas resident. It's not clear what sparked the attack, though it appears unprovoked. Witness, Ty Tucker.

Ty Tucker:

I just remember seeing a guy drop, and then being like, "Okay, that's bad." And I don't know if he got... I literally thought he got shot first, but I didn't hear a shot or anything. And I hear the screaming, and then I just couldn't keep track of what was happening. It was so fast.

Taylor Wilson:

Police say the suspect was taken into custody within minutes by security guards in the area. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, a local government agency in charge of promotion said in a statement, "All indications are that this was an isolated incident perpetrated by one individual."

A total of five college football coaches have been fired so far this season. But despite the turnover and the millions of dollars it costs the schools to buy out the contracts, coaches are guaranteed more money than ever. PJ Elliott spoke with sports reporter, Brent Schrotenboer to find out why colleges are willing to give out these types of contracts.

Brent Schrotenboer:

Well, the biggest reason is coaches' compensation keeps going up because of the market. These schools are getting more money than ever in revenue from their TV and media rights contracts. They've got more money to spend on their cash cow, which is football. And because the price of labor, which is players, is capped at the cost of attendance for college, by rule, that leaves a lot of money to spend for these schools on coaches. And the market just keeps going up, and there's pressure to keep up with the competition. And therefore, the market just keeps spiraling up. And every school always thinks if they just pay enough money and get the right coach they can, one day, be the next Alabama.

PJ Elliott:

Is there any sense from these athletic directors and university presidents that it's not a great look when it comes to the bigger picture? That while the money may be coming from two different pots, these schools are spending millions of dollars to fire these coaches, all while students are paying tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition to attend these schools? Or are they just oblivious and don't care about the aesthetics of it?

Brent Schrotenboer:

Well, they are sensitive to the perception that they're wasting all this money. And so as you mentioned, every time a coach gets fired and has owed $10 million or $15 million in a buyout, the school always says, "Well, it's not coming from student money, it's not coming from taxpayer money."

Well, money is fungible. At these public schools, they do rely on public funds. And in one sense, they do have a lot of money. And I think that's why there's been such an uprising to make sure that the players get more money. In recent years, there's been a revolution in that regard, I think, because of the aesthetics or the perception of it that everybody is making so much money including, and especially, the coaches that we've got to start paying the players, too, or let them have some of it.

PJ Elliott:

Brent, the last question I have for you is about the school boosters. How much of a factor do they play when it comes to these coaches and their contracts?

Brent Schrotenboer:

They're a big factor. I talked to one near the end of last year where Michigan State was having a good season. They started the season 8-0, they finished 11-2. Last November, they gave their coach, Mel Tucker, a 10-year, $95 million contract. One reason they were able to afford that was because of boosters.

I talked to one of those boosters, and I asked him about the risk involved like, "Don't you see a risk?" And he essentially said, "There's no risk at all. We're not hiring somebody to go 10 and two every year; we're hiring a leader of men." And he said, "I know this guy and I'm confident it'll work out and that there are risks." He acknowledged there are risks involved, but there's a risk in everything. "If you worry about every single risk," he said, "You're not going to get very far in life." And this is a successful businessman; he's a billionaire, I think. His name is Matt Ishbia, and he's a former player at Michigan State in basketball. So it's not like he's stupid or naive by any stretch. He knows sports and he knows business, but that was his approach and reason for committing to help pay for some of that contract.

Taylor Wilson:

The Major League Baseball postseason is here. First up is the Wild Card round beginning today, and there's a new format. USA TODAY Sports' Steve Gardner explains.

Steve Gardner:

Yeah. MLB has a new Wild Card format for this year. Gone is the one game and done situation. It's now best of three. And this year and going forward, those Wild Card games will all be played at the higher-seeded teams' home park. So there's a definite advantage to finishing higher in the standings. It's going to make for a test of depth. And the team with the best depth over those three games will probably prevail. The series I'm looking forward to the most is probably the Mets hosting the San Diego Padres. Two teams who've been all in on making it to the playoffs and going deep with their moves this season. And one of them is going to have an early exit.

Taylor Wilson:

In addition to that, Padres-Mets series and the No. 4 vs. 5 series in the National League, the Philadelphia Phillies will take on the St. Louis Cardinals in the 3 vs. 6 series. The winner of that series gets the defending champion Atlanta Braves in the next round, while the other series winner will play the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Meanwhile, over in the American League, the No. 3 Cleveland Guardians will play No. 6 Tampa Bay Rays. And the No. 4 Toronto Blue Jays take on the 5 seed Seattle Mariners, back in the playoffs for the first time since 2001. Action begins today at noon Eastern Time with games all weekend on the ESPN networks. And be sure to stay with USA TODAY Sports for all the latest.

And you can find new episodes of 5 Things every morning right here on your podcast app of choice. Thanks to PJ Elliott for his great work on the show, and I'm back tomorrow with more of 5 Things from USA TODAY.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden pardons federal weed convictions, MLB Wild Card guide: 5 Things podcast