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Kratom, Greenline, U of M

DEA backs of kratom, the Greenline may expand westward, U of M gets a new board.

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Kratom, Cohen, and the Liberal Redneck

Kratom won't (yet) be listed alongside illegal drugs like heroin and LSD, and at least two Tennesseans — Memphis Rep. Steve Cohen and Trae Crowder (aka the Liberal Redneck) — are happy about that.

Kratom is a drug derived from the leaves of a tropical tree and is usually taken as a powder or drunk in a tea. Some say the drug can help with depression, anxiety, and opioid addiction.

It is banned in Tennessee and a handful of other states. Kratom was slated to be outlawed nationally by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and listed on the Schedule I list, alongside heroin and other drugs, at the end of September. But the DEA has backed down on the move after a public backlash. A public comment period will extend to December.

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Cohen said the DEA's scheduling decisions can be misguided, and pointed to marijuana as evidence.

"When marijuana was placed on Schedule I, it was supposed to be temporary until the science was in. That was 1970," Cohen said. "The science has been in for a long time, and keeping marijuana on Schedule I — with heroin and LSD — is ludicrous."

Crowder, the Knoxville comedian, tweeted last week, "I can't believe the DEA has listened to the people." Crowder's character, the Liberal Redneck, ranted against the DEA's Schedule I decision in a September YouTube video called "Talkin Bout Drugs."

"It's the only tea I fuck with that you can't get at a chicken buffet," Crowder said.

Greenline bridge expands west

Design planning was set to begin this week for a new bridge over Tillman that would connect the Shelby Farms Greenline to Flicker.

The project would also establish a new Greenline trailhead on Flicker under the Union Avenue viaduct. The expansion could lay the groundwork for the Greenline to one day connect to the Memphis Fairgrounds.

Napoleon Opens

Hotel Napoleon began booking guests last week in the renovated building that once housed the Memphis Press-Scimitar. The 36,500 square-foot boutique hotel includes 56 rooms and two suites and is located at 179 Madison.

Haslam names U of M board

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam named eight members to the first, local board of trustees for the University of Memphis (U of M).

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The move will allow the university board to appoint the school's president, set tuition, and make other key operational decisions. Memphis is now one of six public universities under the Tennessee Board of Regents that operate with its own independent board.

The board members are Douglas Edwards, senior advisor at BBH Capital Partners; Marvin Ellison, CEO of J.C. Penney Company, Inc.; Alan Graf, chief financial officer for FedEx Corp.; Cato Johnson, senior vice president of public policy and regulatory affairs for Methodist Healthcare; Brad Martin, former interim president of the U of M and retired chairman and CEO of Saks Inc.; David North, CEO for Sedgwick Claims Management Services; Carol Roberts, chief financial officer for International Paper Co.; and Susan Springfield, chief credit officer for First Horizon National Corporation.

Memphis is energy burdened

Across the country, low-income households pay proportionately more than the average household in energy costs, and that divide is the greatest right here in Memphis.

That's according to an April report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

The average Memphis household pays about 6 percent of its annual income on energy costs, according to ACEEE. But low-income households here pay an average of 13 percent, and some of them pay more than 25 percent of their annual income on energy costs.

"It's unacceptable to me to see our poorest citizens paying upwards of 25 percent of their paychecks each month just on their utility bill," said council member Patrice Robinson.

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