Sadly, that also means many films are leaving, including Bridget Jones’s Diary, The Jungle Book, and all of Phineas And Ferb.
See everything coco-ming and going in May (below)!
Coming May 1
27: Gone Too Soon A Life of Its Own: The Truth About Medical Marijuana Amelie Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures: Season 1 Beautiful Girls Darc God’s Own Country Hachi: A Dog’s Tale Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay Hellboy II: The Golden Army High School Musical 3: Senior Year John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous Live at Radio City (NETFLIX ORIGINAL) – A new stand-up special from John Mulaney. Mr. Woodcock My Perfect Romance Pocoyo & Cars Pocoyo & The Space Circus Queens of Comedy: Season 1 Reasonable Doubt Red Dragon Scream 2 Shrek Simon: Season 1 Sliding Doors Sometimes — NETFLIX FILM The Bourne Ultimatum The Carter Effect The Clapper The Reaping The Strange Name Movie Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V: Season 2
Coming May 2
Coming May 4
A Little Help with Carol Burnett — NETFLIX ORIGINAL Anon — NETFLIX FILM Busted!: Season 1 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL Dear White People: Volume 2 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL End Game — NETFLIX ORIGINAL Forgive Us Our Debts — NETFLIX FILM Kong: King of the Apes: Season 2 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL Lo más sencillo es complicarlo todo Manhunt — NETFLIX FILM My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Tina Fey — NETFLIX ORIGINAL No Estoy Loca The Rain: Season 1 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Coming May 5
Coming May 6
The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale (Streaming every Sunday – Season 1 Finale on May 13) — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Coming May 8
Desolation Hari Kondabolu: Warn Your Relatives — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Coming May 9
Coming May 11
Bill Nye Saves the World: Season 3 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL Evil Genius: the True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist — NETFLIX ORIGINAL Spirit Riding Free: Season 5 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL The Kissing Booth — NETFLIX FILM The Who Was? Show: Season 1 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Coming May 13
Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Coming May 14
The Phantom of the Opera
Coming May 15
Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce: Season 4 Grand Designs: Seasons 13 – 14 Only God Forgives The Game 365: Seasons 15 – 16
Coming May 16
89 Mamma Mia! The 40-Year-Old Virgin The Kingdom Wanted
Coming May 18
Cargo — NETFLIX FILM Catching Feelings — NETFLIX FILM Inspector Gadget: Season 4 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Coming May 19
Bridge to Terabithia Disney’s Scandal: Season 7 Small Town Crime
Coming May 20
Some Kind of Beautiful
Coming May 21
Señora Acero: Season 4
Coming May 22
Mob Psycho 100: Season 1 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL Shooter: Season 2 Terrace House: Opening New Doors: Part 2 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL Tig Notaro Happy To Be Here — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Coming May 23
Explained — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Coming May 24
Fauda: Season 2 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL Survivors Guide to Prison
Coming May 25
Ibiza — NETFLIX FILM Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life — NETFLIX ORIGINAL The Toys That Made Us: Season 2 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL Trollhunters: Part 3 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Coming May 26
Sara’s Notebook — NETFLIX FILM
Coming May 27
The Break with Michelle Wolf — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Coming May 29
Coming May 30
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 4 — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Coming May 31
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Howard Stern — NETFLIX ORIGINAL
Also In May
Arrow: Season 6 Dynasty: Season 1 Riverdale: Season 2 Supernatural: Season 1 The Flash: Season 4
Leaving May 1
Bridget Jones’s Diary Casper Chappie Charlotte’s Web Field of Dreams GoodFellas Ocean’s Eleven Sahara Silent Hill The Exorcism of Emily Rose The Hurt Locker To Rome With Love To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar
Leaving May 2
12 Dates of Christmas Beauty & the Briefcase Cadet Kelly Camp Rock Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam Cow Belles Cyberbully Disney’s The Cheetah Girls Disney’s The Cheetah Girls 2 Disney’s The Cheetah Girls: One World Frenemies Geek Charming Good Luck Charlie: It’s Christmas Hello Sister, Goodbye Life High School Musical High School Musical 2 Jump In! Lemonade Mouth Little Einsteins: Seasons 1 – 2 My Fake Fiancé Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension Phineas and Ferb: Seasons 1 – 4 Princess Protection Program Princess: A Modern Fairytale Read It and Weep Revenge of the Bridesmaids Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure Special Agent Oso: Seasons 1 – 2 StarStruck Teen Spirit The Secret Life of the American Teenager: Seasons 1 – 5 Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie
Buds, oils, tea, brownies, cookies, gummies, lollipops ― today, you can get THC in just about any form.
What a time to be alive.
Marijuana is legal in some capacity in 29 states and Washington, D.C. As long as you adhere to local laws, you don’t have to worry about the cops harshing your buzz. That is, unless you’re headed to the airport.
The rules surrounding domestic air travel and marijuana possession can seem confusing and contradictory. For example, if you bought weed legally in Colorado, can you take your leftovers home to another legal state like California? The answer might surprise you.
We talked to several experts in Los Angeles ― one of the largest weed-friendly U.S. cities and home to one of the busiest airports in the world ― about what you should know before attempting to fly with legally purchased marijuana.
The tangle of laws is “total chaos.”
On the federal level, marijuana is considered a controlled substance, just like cocaine or heroin. So even if marijuana is legalized in your state, it’s still technically illegal in the eyes of Uncle Sam.
And though airports are owned by the city, “the feds are authorized to operate it … so federal law prevails,” said criminal defense attorney Jonathan Mandel. “Once you enter security, federal law trumps state law.”
That means even if you purchased your weed legally, it becomes illegal as soon as you flash your boarding pass to a Transportation Security Administration agent.
“It is total chaos in terms of congruence between federal law and state law,” said Irán Hopkins, an attorney in the cannabis industry group at the national law firmAkerman. Not only are federal and state laws contradictory, she said, but rules surrounding the possession and use of marijuana vary across states and even airports.
But will you actually get in trouble?
The TSA’s primary job is to make sure another 9/11 never happens. Agents are more concerned about whether there’s a bomb in your shoe than a little weed in your bag.
“TSA’s focus is on terrorism and security threats to the aircraft and its passengers,” said TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers in a statement to HuffPost. “TSA’s screening procedures, which are governed by federal law, are focused on security and are designed to detect potential threats to aviation and passengers.”
In other words, they’re not looking for drugs. That’s the job of local law enforcement and federal drug agents. You’re likely to cause more of an uproar with the TSA by leaving a water bottle in your backpack.
That said, it doesn’t mean you’re in the clear.
“As has always been the case, if during the security screening process a TSA officer discovers an item that may violate the law, TSA refers the matter to law enforcement,” Dankers said. According to the TSA website, illegal items include marijuana and cannabis-infused products such as CBD oil.
Nor does the TSA take into account your originating and destination airports, Dankers added. So if you run into a particularly grouchy TSA agent or attempt to get through security with an egregious amount of weed, you will likely be handed over to airport police no matter where you’re coming from or going.
According to Dankers, however, what happens next is up to local law enforcement’s discretion.
When you get busted…
Once the police are involved, there are a number of possible outcomes. In some airports, such as McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas or Aspen-Pitkin County Airport in Colorado, where recreational use is legal, you might be asked to dump your marijuana in an “amnesty box” or simply toss it in the trash, according to Mandel.
In other cases, the officer might decide to allow you through security with your marijuana, especially if you have a prescription.
It’s pretty clear it’s an extremely low priority.Jonathan Mandel
Then again, you could be arrested.
“It is still illegal under federal law,” said Akerman attorney Michelle Lee Flores. Although local law enforcement might not pursue any charges, “there is a possibility to be arrested and prosecuted under federal law.”
Even so, it’s unlikely you’d be charged with a federal crime unless you attempt something especially brazen.
“Under California law, for example, it’s still a felony to transport for-sale marijuana out of state,” said Allison Margolin, one of the nation’s leading attorneys in cannabis law. “Usually, I can get the charge dismissed if I can persuade the DA that they were using it for personal use,” she said.
Cases that do make it to court are typically tried on the state level, according to Margolin. “Usually, it can be resolved relatively favorably for [the defendant],” she said.
In most cases, law enforcement simply isn’t interested in prosecuting travelers carrying small amounts of marijuana, according to Mandel.
“They’re not going to do anything unless there’s such huge poundage or money involved that they believe it’s … for profit rather than personal use,” he said. “It’s pretty clear it’s an extremely low priority.”
Bottom line: Carry at your own risk.
Even though catching travelers with marijuana is low on the TSA’s list of priorities, there’s no way to predict how TSA and local law enforcement will handle the situation.
“It’s really a risk assessment and an assumption of that risk by the passenger,” said Hopkins. “Our conservative advice is to be super careful and don’t expose yourself unnecessarily to breaking the law.”
If you do decide to take the risk of flying with legally purchased marijuana, the attorneys shared factors you should consider first.
You’ll want to lie low.
“Minimize anything that would get the attention of the TSA” while going through security, Flores said. That includes carrying bottled water, contact lens solution and other liquids. Don’t pack anything that could be considered a weapon. And it might go without saying, but being noticeably under the influence is another red flag.
Edibles are less obvious.
Rather than the plant or oils, edibles “would be harder to detect,” said Flores, since most products are discreetly packaged to look like everyday food items. Oils or other liquids will undoubtedly catch an agent’s eye, while marijuana in plant form will likely give off a scent.
Some moves could make you look like a dealer. That’s bad.
Many of the cases that end up in court do so because it appears the passenger intended to distribute. According to Margolin, you should avoid separating your stash into multiple packages or carrying a lot of cash. It’s also best if you’re carrying only a small amount of marijuana.
“The lowest amount [of marijuana] I’ve seen prosecuted is a pound,” she said, referring to airport arrests.
There are legal options too.
If you’re not interested in breaking the law but don’t want to travel without some form of relief, Margolin suggested talking to your doctor about Marinol, a drug containing synthetic (and therefore legal) THC.
“It’s a Schedule III drug and you can get it prescribed by a doctor,” Margolin said. “It’s like eating an edible, but it doesn’t have all the other cannabinoids.”
It’s best to stay quiet.
If you do find yourself in hot water, simply keep your mouth shut and cooperate.
“You should not try to talk your way out of the situation to the TSA, the police or anybody,” Margolin said. “There isn’t an actual defense for any interstate transportation.”
(CNN)To get away from the memories of war in Afghanistan — the violence, the unexpected danger, the rush of adrenaline and the hypervigilance that can come with post-traumatic stress disorder — Aaron Newsom started gardening.
Since World War II, generations of veterans have found healing in horticulture. Digging in the dirt did that for Newsom, but the Marine, who served in an attack helicopter squadron, wanted more. He wanted to share this healing feeling with service members who may never even touch a spade, and he had an idea.
In addition to the public gardening he was doing in Santa Cruz County, California, Newsom kept a secret garden in his home. “I grew medical cannabis for myself in my spare bedroom. I didn’t tell anyone for at least a year,” he said. “When I finally told my mom and dad, with my dad being so conservative, I thought they’d freak out, but they were both totally supportive, because I was growing it for the right reasons.”
Newsom, 35, felt that the plant was a good replacement for the opioids and other drugs the Department of Veterans Affairs doctors put him on for PTSD and severe arthritis. “On those drugs, it wasn’t the quality of life that I wanted,” Newsom said. “With medical cannabis, I had such great success. I could regulate myself and my hypervigilance, and I was able to get off those other pills.”
A friend he met through the nonprofit Farmer Veteran Coalition, fellow veteran Jason Sweatt, shared an enthusiasm for cannabis.When the two met Vietnam veterans hanging out at the VFW, it sparked an idea. Some of the veterans were disabled, and though they also felt that cannabis could helpdeal with their health issues, most had limited income.
“Cannabis is quite expensive, so we knew we could help them out: giving them what we grew,” Newsom said. “And then they told friends who were vets, who told their friends who were vets, and it grew from there.”
This is your brain on pain
In 2011, after Newsom had gone back to Cabrillo Collegeto finish a degree in horticulture science, he and Sweatt made their giveaway official, creating the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance. Today, members of the alliance grow marijuana, process it and sell it at the group’s successful dispensaries. Ten percent of everything it cultivates goes to its Veteran Compassion Program, which offers free weed to veteranswho have a doctors’ recommendation. (Doctors can only make a recommendation and aren’t allowed to prescribe cannabis or cannabis/hemp derived CBD products because they are illegal according to federal law.)
The alliance is working on its 12th California dispensary license. It says it’s been able to help about 800 vets through the giveaway program. It also employs them in positions such as cultivation, processing and sales; 95% of the veterans it’s hired are on service-connected disability.
Their group is part of a unique movement of vets who are trying to help themselves get through the challenges that come with going to war and living with the consequences.
In the absence of that option, counseling works for some. Doctors prescribe a mix of opioids and psychotropics for others. But the drugs don’t always work or, in some cases, make problems worse. Veterans are 10 times more likely to abuse opioids than the general population, according to former VA secretary Robert McDonald.
Roughly 20 veterans kill themselves each day, 2016 VA research found, and there’s emerging evidence of a link to chronic pain. Increasing doses of opioids was also tied to increased suicide risk for veterans, according toa study.
Many vets see medical marijuana as a viable option, and the science, while limited, is starting to show promise in combating nerve pain. Researchers are also looking into its impact on PTSD and chronic pain. But some vets don’t want to wait for clinical trials. About 22% now use cannabis to treat physical or mental conditions, according to a recent American Legion survey.
Vets also have to pay for it out of pocket, even in states like California where medical marijuana has been legal for more than two decades. At the federal level, it’s illegal and listed as a Schedule I drug, considered to have no medical value, meaning it’s not covered by veterans benefits or regular insurance.
In the absence of federal action, veterans in this grass-roots movement act with urgency.
“We all have friends or family who we have lost to suicide or opioid addiction and can’t wait for other help anymore,” said Seth Smith, a veteran and colleague of Newsom’s at the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance. “Vets are uniquely suited for this. We are accustomed to operating in the gray areas, and cannabis is a big gray area still, although it is starting to become more mainstream. “This is Santa Cruz, surf city. We are used to riding waves out here,” he said.
Other programs include Weed for Warriors and Hero Grown, which advocates for access and acceptance of medical marijuana. Hero Grown also does giveaways in Colorado and has a national program that ships hemp cannabidiol products to vets and first responders across the nation. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the active ingredients in marijuana and is increasingly thought to have wide-ranging health benefits. Veterans Cannabis Group provides free weed for vets and employs them as security for medical marijuana providers. Other foundations are raising money for clinical trials.
At the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance, visible proof of how welcome the mission is comes on the first Monday of every month, when more than a hundred people typically line up at theSanta Cruz Live Oak Grange No. 503, a local gathering hall. Showing proof of service, a doctor’s recommendation, and a valid California ID, each gets a voucher for free weed from the group’s dispensaries and a lot more.
The monthly meetings have become a fixture for veterans of the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam and even Korea and World War II. The alliance also brings in groups to talk about other services veterans may need, such as housing, employment assistance and health care.
Smith thinks their mission is vital. “We hope to keep (the marijuana efforts) all sustainable at least until the VA can prescribe it,” he said. “Everyone comes to find relief from everything from anxiety and depression, the PTSD, the lack of sleep and chronic pain, to get over opioid addiction. We’ve seen it all.”
After getting vouchers, veterans stay to talk about their wars, the challenges of everyday life and cannabis itself.
Jai Kadilak, who did tank duty in the Gulf War, has been attending meetings for the past three years. Cannabis has made him feel whole, he said, and the meeting brought back the familiar camaraderie of the war.
“I met a woman there who said her husband never leaves the house except for this one meeting, and they drive in from hours away,” Kadilak said.
Attendees share information unavailable at the VA. They talk about what marijuana strains work best to help sleep or to ease anxiety. There’s advice about edibles and cooking. One man turns cannabis juice into frozen cubes. Others talk about what to take if they don’t want to get high.
Kadilak feels that cannabis is a better optionthan the “mess of pills” or “combat cocktail” of antipsychotics and opioids the VA put him on when he returned from combat. “I didn’t feel good. I didn’t feel bad. It was like I was just existing,” he said.
Like a lot of guys he knew, Kadilak self-medicated with “quite a bit of beer on a daily basis,” which he knew was dangerous. “It really was rolling the dice with alcohol and pills, and it was a negative result,” he said. Now, as he advocates for compassionate use for other veterans, “there is no doubt about it: This is something that works, and it just can’t go away. It can’t.”
Growing up, Rosenfeld said, he was as clean-cut as it comes. A West Point grad, an MIT student and an Apache helicopter pilot, he felt like he accomplished a lot, but when he got back from Iraq, the transition to civilian life was challenging.
“You get used to operating at a certain level of intensity over there, with life or death decisions at every turn,” he said. “It’s hard to turn down the volume and live as a civilian sometimes.”
Rosenfeld said he had never touched cannabis before but felt that he had to do something.
“It’s like this thought carousel kept going around and around, and I couldn’t find any way to be present in the moment,” he said.
Cannabis brought calm. “I wouldn’t take an opioid, as the doctors recommended. I didn’t want to feel like a zombie, but cannabis, this brought me a sense of balance, a connectedness to nature and to my loved ones and to myself.”
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The Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance meetings have also brought him a connection to other vets who sometimes struggle with the stigma that comes with using marijuana.
“I think that is why SCVAhas done such a great job. Being in the group, they are essentially saying, ‘you don’t have to be ashamed or worried about using this. You can find a way to treat whatever you are experiencing in a peaceful, natural and healing way,’ ” Rosenfeld said. “For the veterans’ community that goes through so much, this is really beautiful, and I hope other people learn about it. It’s not just about smoking a joint on 4/20. It’s about accessing a way to heal.”
Everybody is searching for something. Paul Ashby’s search began with an unexpected phone call on July 8, 2017. It was a Saturday night in Townsend, Tennessee, a small town just outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. An affable Army vet with gray hair, a goatee, and wire-frame glasses, Paul worked as a concierge at a rustic event space called the Barn. He was dressed in his usual top hat and coattails that night, greeting guests who were attending a wedding.
Paul had lived in Townsend, off and on, since 1974. In 1990, he separated from his wife and moved with their 4-year-old son, Eric, into a mobile home, then a small hilltop house nearby. He turned the modest two-bedroom home into a hippie retreat, teaching himself to make artisan cheese and hanging a purple sign with his favorite quote by the front door (“There is no path to peace … The path IS peace”). He’d often take his son trekking through the nearby hills and rafting down the Little River.
Paul had raised Eric mostly on his own, struggling to relate to his son’s fascination with computer games and anime. Eric would carry his laptop a quarter mile down the hill to a telephone pole in an attempt to speed up his internet. “He’d be sitting down there at 1 o’clock in the morning,” Paul recalls.
Eric was grown now—31 years old—but still had that headstrong streak. He had recently developed a singular obsession: an epic treasure hunt in the Rocky Mountains devised by an enigmatic art mogul named Forrest Fenn. In 2016, Eric had moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to devote more time to the hunt, which involves deciphering the clues in a cryptic poem, and on June 28, 2017, he told friends he had solved Fenn’s puzzle and was going to retrieve the treasure. Paul didn’t know much about the treasure hunt, but he was happy to hear his son was out hiking and rafting as he had as a boy. That day, Eric posted on Facebook. “I hope today turns out to be the success I’ve hoped for,” he wrote. “Wish me luck.” Ten days later at the Barn, Paul received a call from an unknown number.
“Mr. Ashby?” said a young woman on the other end of the line.
“Yes?” Paul replied.
“Your son is dead. He fell out of a raft and drowned.”
Paul figured his son was up to some kind of joke. “Tell Eric now is not the time to be playing pranks,” Paul replied. “I’m in the middle of a wedding.”
“No, Mr. Ashby, you don’t understand,” the woman said. “Eric is dead.” Then she hung up.
Paul clutched his phone as the wedding party swirled around him in what felt like slow motion. He tried calling the number back but no one answered. When he dialed Eric’s phone, the call went straight to voicemail. Who was the unknown caller? Where was his son? And why would Eric risk his life for an eccentric old man’s game?
Forrest Fenn doesn’t own a watch, a cell phone, or a GPS. “I am not ready for the 21st century,” he told me. When I visited him one sunny afternoon last April, he didn’t seem to be much like a man for the 20th century either. He’s 87, with wispy white hair and inquisitive eyes. His favored outfit is blue jeans, a belt with an ornate turquoise buckle, and Hush Puppies shoes. He lives on a couple acres of land in a sprawling home on the Santa Fe Trail. American Indian artifacts and Western curios line his walls: buffalo skulls, arrowheads, moccasins, and original paintings by the masters of the frontier. “Ralph Lauren came here and tried to buy that headdress,” Fenn said, pointing to one in a feathered row hanging in his study. As with most of Fenn’s stories, it’s hard to know what to believe. As he admits in his self-published memoir, The Thrill of the Chase, “one of my natural instincts is to embellish just a little.”
Fenn grew up in Temple, Texas, and still carries the soft twang of the Lone Star State. Though his father was the headmaster of his grade school, he sometimes played hooky, hunting for arrowheads in nearby creek beds. “When the sun was out, the smell of freedom was more than I could resist,” he wrote in his memoir. He spent his summers working as a fishing guide in West Yellowstone, Montana, where his family had a cabin. After graduating from Temple High School in 1947 and marrying his high school sweetheart, Peggy Jean Proctor, he joined the Air Force. He flew hundreds of missions in Vietnam and was twice shot down, earning a Silver Star and Purple Heart.
Fenn returned home on Christmas Eve, 1968, and retired from the Air Force two years later. He had been interested in American Indian artifacts since childhood, and he decided to make himself into an art and antiques dealer. In 1972, using the $12,000 annual stipend he received as retirement pay, Fenn moved his family to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and bought an adobe home, where he turned the ground floor into a gallery. Fenn made up for his lack of experience with a showman’s streak. Noticing that competing galleries took out small black-and-white ads in local newspapers, he spent $3,000 on a full-page color notice in Architectural Digest.
His brash marketing methods worked, and wealthy collectors began visiting his gallery. “I’m a great schmoozer,” he told me. Before long he was among the top-selling art dealers in town, he claims, earning up to $1 million a year. He transformed his modest gallery into a lavish, two-acre homestead featuring three guest houses, a rapturous garden, and a pond containing two alligators named Elvis and Beowulf. Fenn says politicians and celebrities including former president Gerald Ford, Robert Redford, Cher, and Steve Martin made pilgrimages to Santa Fe to purchase his exotic goods and attend his legendary parties. Jackie Onassis once left behind a bottle of brandy, Fenn adds. He offered me a sip from what he claimed was the same 36-year-old bottle: “Shut your eyes and imagine you’re drinking it with her.”
In 1988, at the age of 58, Fenn was given a diagnosis of kidney cancer. Two years earlier, his 81-year-old father, William, was told he had pancreatic cancer, Fenn says. After 18 months, William killed himself by taking 50 sleeping pills, according to his son. “I respected him for having the courage to go out on his own terms,” Fenn recalls. After being racked by chemotherapy and an unsuccessful surgery to remove the cancer, he says, he was given a 20 percent chance of surviving three years. As Fenn tells the tale, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps—but with his own swashbuckling twist. He would fill a treasure chest with gold and jewels, he thought, and carry it to a special place in the Rockies. Then he would swallow a bottle of sleeping pills and die beside his riches. But first, he would write a poem containing clues to the treasure’s location. “Take the chest,” read an early draft of his poem, “but leave my bones.”
The “problem” with the plan, Fenn says, is that he recovered. Over the next several months, then years, he slowly grew stronger, and in 1993 he was declared cancer-free. After being homebound by his disease for years, Fenn was overcome with a renewed appreciation for nature and an urgent sense of purpose. “We need to get off the couch, out of the game room, and away from our electronic gadgets,” he says. He now saw his hunt as a way to entice people into the wild.
Late at night, alone in his artifact-laden study, he tweaked and revised his poem. Finally, in 2010, long after he first hatched the idea, he was satisfied. He acquired a 10- by 10-inch bronze treasure chest and filled it with emeralds, rubies, diamonds, and gold coins he’d collected over the years at gun shows and auctions. He added two gold nuggets from Alaska, “as large as chicken eggs,” he says, as well as an old Navajo bracelet with 22 prehistoric turquoise disc beads inlaid in silver.
One summer afternoon that year, Fenn drove into the Rockies—for how far and how long, he won’t say—with the chest and the treasure in the trunk of his sedan. He made two trips to his destination. First, he loaded the empty, approximately 20-pound bronze box into a backpack and lugged it into the mountains, breathing heavily. He stashed it in a spot dear to his heart. Then he returned with the gold and jewels and filled the chest. “I was entering into strange territory in my mind,” he recalls. He walked back to his car feeling giddy about what he’d done. “I said in a loud voice, ‘Forrest Fenn, did you really do that?’ ” he says. “No one was around, and I started laughing.”
In the fall of 2010, Fenn commenced the treasure hunt with the publication of The Thrill of the Chase, which includes his completed poem. The 24 lines contain nine clues to the chest’s location, “in the mountains somewhere north of Santa Fe,” he says.
Fenn originally printed just 1,000 copies of his memoir and stocked them at Collected Works, an indie bookstore in Santa Fe. In 2013, Hemispheres magazine ran a story on his treasure hunt. Soon after, the Today show aired a series on Fenn, and his slim, 150-page book became an overnight sensation. Thousands of buyers from as far as Italy and Ecuador flooded Collected Works’ website. (First prints of The Thrill of the Chase can now fetch more than $750 on Amazon.) Despite Fenn’s intent to lure people away from their devices, his hunt had all the ingredients—a cryptic puzzle, a tantalizing fortune, an intriguing mastermind—to go viral. News coverage followed, from national TV broadcasts and local newspapers throughout the Southwest. What started as one man’s quirky swan song became a real-life Ready Player One.
Fenn achieved Wonka-like status among the self-described Searchers, the online community that cropped up around his legend. Lovers of riddles and outdoor exploration converged to form a dedicated network of blogs, message boards, websites, and Facebook pages devoted to the hunt. Toby Younis, a retired digital media executive who cohosts a Fenn fanatic YouTube show, A Gypsy’s Kiss, says the internet helps them “crowdsolve” the puzzle. Searchers espouse theories in Fenn forums and detail their quests in YouTube testimonials. Dozens of Searchers meet in Santa Fe each June for Fennboree, an annual fanfest.
But despite the hive mind enthusiasm of the Searchers, others grapple with doubts about the truth of Fenn’s tale. They imagine an 80-year-old man—or even a young, healthy person—carrying a bronze chest across his back. What kind of terrain—steep, wooded, rocky—could he traverse without tripping over tree roots and stones? Though a handful of Fenn’s family and friends claim they saw him filling the chest, there’s no way to prove what was inside, let alone what it could be worth. And, barring its discovery, there is no way to prove that he actually hid it. Given the more than 100,000 square miles of mountains where the box could be located, it seems unlikely that even the most intrepid Searchers will find it anytime soon, if ever. Still, over the past eight years, the possibility that the bounty does exist has been enough to spur treasure hunters into the red canyons of the high desert and wild rivers of the Rockies.
Fenn claims he receives more than 100 “treasure emails” from eager seekers every day. He told me that 350,000 people have looked for the treasure, an estimate he bases on his always-full inbox. For devout Fennheads, the appeal isn’t just the money, it’s “matching wits with Forrest,” says 64-year-old Cynthia Meachum, who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Since retiring from her job as a semiconductor engineer in 2015, she’s devoted her life to looking for Fenn’s treasure, first in a remote valley near Taos, New Mexico, and now near Yellowstone National Park. The hunt tends to attract people with technical backgrounds, Meachum says. “We’re probably the most egotistical group of treasure hunters, because we all think, ‘I use logic every day in my job. I use flowcharts. I use schematics. How hard can this be?’ ” she muses. “Well, none of us have found it.”
Over the years, Fenn’s poem has inspired Talmudic interpretation. One Searcher on the website Fenn Clues posits that, based on the first line, “We are almost surely looking for a location that satisfies ‘alone.’ So, a Solitary Geyser or a Lone Indian Peak would fit the bill.” Other determinations are more arcane. A Searcher nicknamed the White Knight insists the “blaze” in the 13th line refers to a turtle-shaped tattoo on the chest of a character in Marvel’s illustrated version of the 1826 novel The Last of the Mohicans. How that translates to the modern-day landscape is unclear.
Since publishing his treasure riddle in 2010, Forrest Fenn has doled out about a dozen additional hints in interviews, books, and TV appearances.
Though Fenn occasionally stokes the frenzy with interviews, he regards online sleuthing as unnecessary. “There is no reason for anyone to use the internet or social media when going to search for the treasure,” Fenn told me. “All they need is a map, a plan, good health, and a buddy to go along for safety reasons.”
Perhaps inevitably, determined Searchers have disregarded his advice. In January 2016, Randy Bilyeu, a 54-year-old man from Broomfield, Colorado, disappeared with a raft while hunting for the treasure near Cochiti Lake in New Mexico. The news devastated the Searchers, who, for the first time, had lost one of their own. Bilyeu was embedded in the Fenn community: He was friendly with Dal Neitzel, who runs one of the most visited Fenn treasure websites, and he once met Fenn at a book signing in Santa Fe. Disturbed by the news, Fenn paid for a helicopter to carry a search party. Six months later, Bilyeu’s remains were found on the banks of the river.
In June 2017, Jeff Murphy, an alleged Searcher from Batavia, Illinois, died of an apparent fall near the 7,000-foot Turkey Pen Peak in Yellowstone National Park. The same month, Paris Wallace, a pastor from Grand Junction, Colorado, died near the Rio Grande. The deaths have only garnered more publicity for the treasure hunt, spurring stories by Nightline, The New York Times, CBS News, and others.
The Searchers aren’t the only ones at risk. Fenn and his family have found strangers digging in his backyard for the treasure, he says. One woman wandered up the driveway to pray. In April 2017, Fenn sought a restraining order against a 55-year-old Texan who showed up at his home taking photos.
Despite all this, Fenn insists it would be wrong to halt the hunt. “If I called off the search, what would I say to the 350,000 people who have had wonderful experiences hiking in the mountains with no ill effects except but a few mosquito bites?” he says. “An average of 12 people die each year at the Grand Canyon. There is a risk in nearly everything we do.”
After graduating from high school, Eric Ashby started cooking in restaurant kitchens around Townsend, nursing dreams of becoming a professional chef. With a wave of dark hair, mischievous eyes, and a ready laugh, he made friends easily. He never had much money, according to Heather Britt, a friend of his, but he didn’t seem to care about material things.
Then, in 2014, a motorcycle accident left Eric with a gangrenous leg. He told his dad that a doctor prescribed him oxycodone for the pain, and he got hooked. Though Eric fully recovered from the accident, “he couldn’t get away from the pills,” Paul recalls. Later, Eric took a swing at a plainclothes police officer who had pulled him over. He was convicted of assault and sentenced to seven years’ probation.
Eric first heard about Fenn’s treasure hunt in early 2016. He immediately geeked out over the riddle. As a child, Eric had immersed himself in fantasy books and sci-fi shows like The X-Files, and Fenn’s puzzle had a similar allure. Tempted by the mystery and still struggling to overcome his oxy habit, in April 2016 Eric moved to Colorado Springs, where he had some friends. He knew he was violating his probation but thought that if he stayed in Townsend he’d end up back in jail anyway.
The change of scenery was just what he needed. He kicked the pills, his friends say, and found a job as a server at Edelweiss, a kitschy German restaurant. He lived in his car for a while to save money and started dating Jamie Longworth, a local medical marijuana grower.
By early 2017 Eric had become consumed by Fenn’s treasure hunt, talking about it incessantly. He often stayed up late after waiting tables, smoking weed and compiling clues on his laptop. He tracked possible locations for the treasure on maps, homing in on Royal Gorge Park an hour away. Often he’d call Longworth to tell her how close he was to decoding Fenn’s clues. Eric wasn’t driven by money, she says. He enjoyed the intellectual puzzle of it all. “He was one of the smartest guys I ever met,” Longworth recalls. “He would say his goal in life was to be fascinated by a blade of grass.”
One day last spring, Eric met up with a group of friends and declared, “I know where Forrest Fenn’s treasure is,” says David Gambrell, who was there that day. According to Longworth, he believed the area where the “warm waters halt,” as the poem describes, was the Arkansas River. He connected another clue, “put in below the house of Brown,” to the home of a local physician, Dr. Brown, who had lived in the Gorge. And he deduced that the “blaze” Fenn cites referred to a fire that had happened nearby. When Eric described the precise location—nearly 60 miles southwest of Colorado Springs near Sunshine Falls, along the Arkansas River—Gambrell’s gut tightened. He urged Eric to take precautions. “Make sure somebody’s with you,” Gambrell told him. Eric replied that he’d already made a few trips to that area, but bad weather and high waters had prevented him from reaching his destination. When he told Longworth where he was headed, she urged him to reconsider. “I was completely convinced it was unsafe,” she recalls. “I didn’t want him going.” On June 28, Eric went anyway.
Ten days later, Paul received the anonymous call while he was greeting wedding guests. When he couldn’t reach his son, he called the Fremont County sheriff’s office in Colorado Springs. They told him there had been a reported drowning, but no body had been found, so they couldn’t identify the victim. A few days later, he was contacted by detective Sterling Jenkins, a stocky, goateed officer who specialized in marijuana enforcement. Jenkins couldn’t find a missing person report for Eric Ashby. It wasn’t unheard of for people to vanish in the rivers and mountains around Colorado Springs, but it was unusual for the disappearance not to be reported. Paul later told Jenkins that he believed his son had been out searching for Fenn’s treasure, but the detective had never heard of the hunt. “I didn’t know if it was an accident,” Jenkins says. “I didn’t know if it was foul play. It could be a hoax.” The detective vowed to find out what had happened.
Word of Eric’s disappearance soon spread across Searcher blogs and message boards. But unlike Bilyeu, who had attended Fenn book events and was immersed in the Searcher community, Eric was unknown to other treasure hunters. Though he had spent hours poring over their theories and tips, Eric wasn’t an active participant in Searcher forums. He rarely shared his hunches online, and he often went treasure hunting alone. As details about Eric’s checkered past emerged, some in the close-knit Searcher network viewed Eric’s disappearance with skepticism. One faction pushed to distance the Fenn community from Eric’s case, arguing that his rumored drug use would cast the hunt in a negative light. Others questioned whether Eric was looking for Fenn’s treasure at all when he went missing. When I asked Neitzel about Eric’s case, he bristled and refused to answer. “Let’s move on,” he said gruffly. Eric, they seemed to say, wasn’t one of them.
Without the aid of the Searchers, Eric’s friends and extended family dissected Fenn forums and Facebook pages for possible clues that might lead to him. “We called ourselves the Investigators,” recalls Britt, his friend from Townsend.
Lisa Albritton, Eric’s half-sister on his mother’s side, led the family’s efforts from her home in Largo, Florida. Though she and Eric had grown up in different states, she in Florida and he in Tennessee, the siblings were in touch often.
In truth, it didn’t take long to find out what had happened to Eric. Shortly after Paul received his mysterious phone call, Albritton went to Eric’s Facebook page and posted a query on the growing thread of comments from Eric’s concerned friends: “Does anybody know the names of the people my brother was with?” she wrote. “Please feel free to message me, add me, I don’t care I just need answers.”
A friend of Eric’s in Colorado Springs quickly replied with a profile picture of a smiling, twentysomething woman with shoulder-length blond hair, dark eyebrows, and a fashionably shredded pink shirt, along with a name: Becca Nies. “Can somebody tell me what role she plays in this?” Albritton replied. Longworth offered an answer: “She was with him, as well as her boyfriend Jimi Booker, when he ‘drowned,’ ” she posted. She then provided a screenshot of a Facebook message that Nies, who had worked with Eric at Edelweiss, had sent her on Saturday, July 8, just hours after Paul got his mystery call, and 10 days after Eric had gone missing.
Nies said that she was with Eric and three of her friends that day. “On wednesday june 28th,” Nies wrote, “we went on that treasure hunt. Eric drowned in the river unfortunately. Im sorry to tell you like this, you deserve to know.… Very sorry.”
“If I called off the search, what would I say to the 350,000 people who have had wonderful experiences hiking in the mountains with no ill effects except but a few mosquito bites?”
The note from Nies should have put an end to the sleuthing, but it only seemed to spark new clues and paths to investigate. “How does she know he drowned if he hasn’t been found?” one of Eric’s friends replied on the Facebook page. “Sounds like some bs to me,” offered another. The police weren’t giving any information, and Eric’s body had not been found. In that vacuum, and in the heated detective atmosphere of the treasure hunt, rumors flew: It was a fight that landed Eric in the water, a scheme to steal the treasure from Eric and leave him behind.
The most vexing question remained: If four people had watched a man disappear underwater, why did they wait 10 days to tell anyone? That delay stoked its own conspiracies. “Something strange is going on it seems like with no one wanting to talk to anyone!!” one Investigator posted. “They really aren’t gonna like it when a bunch of people from Tennessee show up on their door step!!!”
“Exactly!” Britt replied, “And that’s what it’s gonna take!”
That July, Albritton launched a GoFundMe page hoping to raise money to drive to Colorado. Eric’s family continued to check in with Jenkins, but as far as Albritton could tell, the sheriff’s office was making little progress. She pleaded for help in finding her brother. To her surprise, she received $3,500 from a single donor: Forrest Fenn. Word about Eric’s disappearance had spread across Searcher blogs and message boards, eventually reaching the Wizard of Oz himself in Santa Fe.
Albritton and a cousin made the drive from Florida to Colorado in four days. They arrived in Colorado Springs and checked in to a hotel. Days later, they went to Nies’ apartment. Eric’s red Mercury Cougar was still out front, where he left it the day he disappeared. Albritton cued up Facebook Live as she approached the car, video streaming—just in case anything happened. “We’re going in the car, and I’m just going to try to grab everything I can,” she narrated, her voice tense. In the back seat, Albritton found her brother’s backpack. Heart pounding, she grabbed it and sprinted back to their car.
Back at their hotel, Albritton dumped out the contents of Eric’s bag: some moldy sandwiches, two cell phones, and a notebook. When she flipped the book open, she found a handwritten contract between Eric, Nies, and her friends agreeing to share whatever treasure they might find—51 percent for Eric and 49 percent to be split among the others. Albritton held the contract with a shaky hand. “Eric Ashby will be the executor of the selling and distribution (documented) of assets regarding said Quest,” the contract read. There was nothing treacherous in the document itself, but stoked by the hours she’d spent unspooling conspiracy theories among Investigators online, her mind reeled: Had there been a plot to kill her brother and steal the treasure? She reported what she had found to the Colorado Springs detectives.
Alarmed, Paul flew to Colorado Springs to search for answers. He met with Jenkins, who took him out to the spot on the Arkansas River where Eric had last been seen. Jenkins told him that two photographers had been taking pictures of whitewater rafters that day and called 911 after witnessing a possible drowning. But there was no way of knowing if the person had been Eric—the victim was unidentified and no body had been found. The people who were with him had been questioned, but Jenkins had not yet reached any conclusions. Desperate and sleepless, Paul called his brother, an Army specialist, for advice. If no one else could find his son, then Paul wanted to search the rapids himself.
“Can we go get him out of the river?” he asked.
“Paul, don’t even bother,” his brother said, “If the river is ready, the river will give him back to you.”
On July 28, a body was discovered by a Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer several miles down the Arkansas River. A Fremont County coroner later identified the victim as Eric Ashby.
After several weeks of investigating—questioning Nies and her friends Jimi Booker and Anthony Mahone, as well as the two photographers who had witnessed the incident—Jenkins and his team pieced together what had happened that day in June. Eric had driven to Nies’ apartment, where the group drew up a handwritten contract. They set off toward the river in an old green Jaguar sedan, stopping along the way to buy a cheap, two-person raft. They wound along mountain roads to a parking lot near Royal Gorge Park, where a suspension bridge hovers nearly 1,000 feet above the Arkansas River.
Eric led the group a few hundred yards through piñon pines to the edge of Sunshine Falls, a churning, boulder-strewn section of the river. As they watched rafts of tourists careen by, Booker told Jenkins, the current roared higher and faster than they had expected. Sunshine Falls is known for violent Class IV-V rapids, powerful enough to hurl rafters into the choppy water. Eric, who said he had been to the same spot on previous excursions, assured the others that it was still passable. “When he saw the river, he seemed OK with it,” Booker told me on Facebook Messenger, but “he said he had almost died on this hunt before.” (Nies and Mahone did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this story.)
Eric told them he believed the treasure was on the other side of the river. He planned to float across in the raft, retrieve the box, and bring it back. Despite his insistence that he had plenty of experience whitewater rafting, Eric had taken no helmet or life vest. He tied one end of a rope around his body and gave the other end to his companions on the river’s shore. “We weren’t prepared,” Booker told me later. “We had seen whole teams of rafters ride by with maybe six or seven people on large rafts, and they were still having a hard time riding the current with a professional guiding them.”
“They’re absolutely negligent. A life was lost. People watched it happen.”
Midway across the river, Eric’s flimsy raft started pitching uncontrollably in the froth, and he fell into the rapids. (Nies and Booker told the sheriff’s office he jumped out of the raft.) The rope slipped free from his waist as he was swept away in the fast-moving current. He attempted to make it to the other side but plunged underwater. When he hit the next set of rapids, known as the Sledgehammer, he went under again. This time he emerged facedown. He was carried away by the current.
From their post a short way downstream, the photographers looked on in horror as the body floated by. They frantically called 911 for help. Booker claimed that he and his friends searched along the shore of the river for half an hour, but the water was too violent. They returned to their car and drove away without waiting for the police to arrive. One of the photographers later told the police that he was troubled by the witnesses’ behavior, given the circumstances. “He told me it appeared as though they were not concerned with the unknown male’s well-being and had not bothered to attempt to assist the individual when he was in the river,” deputy Jeffery Moore wrote in his report.
Booker told me they took off because they knew the photographers had already called for help and felt there was nothing they could do. “I felt so powerless that it kills me inside,” he wrote me, “because my natural instinct would have been to jump in that water, but I know I wouldn’t have made it.”
Nies told Jenkins that she knew Eric had left Tennessee while on probation and didn’t report his disappearance to the authorities because she didn’t want to get him in trouble with the law. She said she wasn’t sure whether Eric was dead or alive. But by not giving the sheriff’s office Eric’s name, no one—including his family and friends—had known what had happened to him. “They’re absolutely negligent,” Jenkins says. “A life was lost. People watched it happen.”
On a rainy weekend in March, I attended an event for Eric at the Barn in Townsend, where Paul still works as a concierge. Paul had his son’s body cremated and brought back to the hills of Tennessee. Pictures of Eric hiking and cooking lined a table alongside a box bearing his cremains. Local country singers performed ballads on the small stage.
Now Eric’s family wants to make sure such negligence doesn’t happen again. They’re working with Colorado and Tennessee legislators to pass Eric’s Law, a “duty to report” mandate that requires any witness who sees someone’s life in danger to notify 911. Paul hopes the law ensures that “no one walks away,” he says.
He originally blamed Fenn for Eric’s death. “I wanted to see him hung out to dry,” he says. He’s since made his peace. Jenkins places responsibility on the Searchers. “As an adult,” he says, “if you make a decision to look for this treasure, you need to be prepared.”
When I talked to Fenn, he had distanced himself from Eric’s death. “I told myself that he was on drugs and had nothing to do with the treasure,” Fenn says. He continues to encourage the treasure hunt. In a recent interview with a blog called Mysterious Writings, Fenn wrote that his “gut feeling is that someone will find it this summer.” In fact, he reveals, a Searcher recently came within 200 feet of it. “Someone told me exactly where they were,” he tells me, “and I knew they were close.” He declines to say more, wary of tipping off the Searcher. His prediction, of course, will likely only spur more Searchers to return to the wild.
With each new death, the stakes of the search grow higher. Fenn continues to urge his followers to avoid putting themselves in life-threatening situations. (After all, he cautions, he was already 80 years old when he hid the treasure; there’s no need to assume feats of endurance.) This summer, thousands will take to the Rockies’ tributaries and trails, racing to glimpse the glint of a bronze chest in the wilderness. If it is discovered, many Searchers admit, it won’t just be the lost fortune they’ll miss—it will be the lure of adventure, the misfit community, the promise of the unknown around every bend.
There is nothing Twitter progressives love more than a quality pro-weed troll coming from an older politician.
Take New York Gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, who recently added a $4.20 donation button to her website to express her support for legalized marijuana. Her opponent, Governor Cuomo, has taken the avoidant “let’s do more research” approach.
“We have to stop putting people of color in jail for something that white people do with impunity,” Nixon says in the video. “Eighty percent of the New Yorkers who are arrested for marijuana are black or Latino, despite the fact that whites and people of color use marijuana at roughly the same rates.”
In 2014, Governor Cuomo legalized medical marijuana in New York with extreme restrictions. When it comes to recreational marijuana, however, Cuomo calls it a gateway drug. He has proposed decriminalizing small amounts of the drug which… *elongated sigh.*
In March, Nixon first declared her support for legalization, arguing that doing so would raise millions in tax revenue and help the struggling agriculture industry.
According to the Pew Research Center, 61 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization, as does 100 percent of people who live in the apartment below me — my dudes, get another hobby.
Veterans to Farmers, a farming nonprofit, is helping veterans reintegrate into civilian life, connect with fellow vets and recover from PTSD, by training them to work in agriculture.
DENVER – An average of 20 veterans commit suicide each day—a statistic that weighs on the mind of Rich Murphy.
Murphy, 38, is executive director of Veterans to Farmers, an organization he joined after suffering a devastating injury and bout with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in December 2007. Murphy, who had escaped injury during a five-year deployment as a senior airman with the U.S. Air Force, was struck in his car at 70 mph by a driver who had fallen asleep at the wheel, leaving him with a horrible back injury.
“One of the number one reactions to PTSD is isolation. People just withdraw, out of fear or that they don’t fit in,” Murphy said. “I had a guy who did the program last year, his wife came up to me and gave me a hug and said, ‘thank you, he hasn’t left the house since winter.’ [Veterans to Farmers] is just opening the doorway for these men and women.”
After his accident, Murphy quit nursing school and found employment as a social worker. It was during a stint working for the city of Denver when he met veterans who he wished had gotten the care and intervention they needed much sooner.
A Marine Corps veteran by the name of Buck Adams had formed Veterans to Farmers in 2011, and Murphy met him in the fall of 2013. The following year, Murphy began to develop a curriculum for the VTF training program.
He also crisscrossed Colorado, telling everyone about the nascent non-profit’s merits, and forging partnerships with Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University. Murphy took over as executive director of the organization last year, when Buck stepped down.
Rich Murphy, left, discusses Veterans to Farmers at Rebel Farm in Denver, Colorado. At right, a plaque honoring U.S. military veterans at Chatfield Farms in Denver Botanic Gardens. (Christopher Carbone/Fox News)
Murphy recalled his full-circle moment: During the first two years of VTF, his veteran farmers sold fresh produce they’d grown to his previous clients at the Denver Human Services building—thanks to a grant that Denver Botanic Garden received to set up a food stand in the building.
VTF aims to fill the void between veterans’ skills and the more lackluster jobs the economy produces by training them to work in agriculture. As he explains it, there are also less tangible benefits.
“When you get 10 veterans in a greenhouse or out in the field and they start working on plants together, digging in the soil and growing things, you see therapy happen,” he said, noting traditional therapy is more of taboo word in the military.
Murphy gave Fox News a full tour of Rebel Farm, a hydroponic greenhouse where hundreds of pounds of greens and herbs are grown and harvested each month by former service members.
The persistent hum of fans and the sound of rock music filled the temperature-controlled, 15,000-square-foot space. Fellow veterans dutifully checked on the health of kale, arugula and Bok choy that will be harvested and sold primarily to restaurants.
“Eight weeks later, you have ten veterans that are all new friends who never would’ve talked to each other had they not been put in a space together. That’s the process,” said Murphy.
Fresh greens and herbs tended and grown by U.S. military vets at Rebel Farm in Denver, Colorado. (Christopher Carbone/Fox News)
Vets who participated in the program talked about the significance of its impact.
“Students form a bond very quickly,” Tara O’Brien, a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force who took the hydroponics course last year and is taking the soil course this year, told Fox News.
O’Brien, 41, said the type of teamwork and problem-solving skills that come naturally to military veterans are ideal for the country’s food production system, which is undergoing a transformation as consumers demand healthier options and the availability of organic produce increases.
“This bond is what we need among the farming community because it’s a unification of strategy and building something great together that far surpasses the need for competition and secrecy,” O’Brien, who traveled to over 30 countries during her time in the military, told Fox News. “To the core, these men and women are helpers and magnificent leaders and problem solvers—we need this in our food system.”
Marine Corps veteran Dominic Muranyi came across VTF after being unable to enroll in a booked up horticulture course at a community college in Fort Collins.
Muranyi took both courses, finding them to be “immeasurably helpful,” and he’s been working on Murphy’s family farm in Fort Collins, helping out with labor and miscellaneous—including the planned build out of Murphy’s new greenhouse this summer.
A portion of Chatfield Farms at Denver Botanic Gardens where Veterans to Farmers participants learn agriculture skills. (Christopher Carbone/Fox News)
“I was able to connect with some really awesome individuals who are all working toward something similar. You meet so many other veterans who have skill sets and knowledge you didn’t even know existed, then come to find out you need to know it!” Muranyi, 27, told Fox News.
The Marine Corps veteran, who’s known as the “quiet one” of the vets who have taken the courses, has been studying mycology (fungi). He likened the Veterans to Farmers experience to how some civilians may think about the military.
“When you are in the military, no one back home thinks, ‘Oh, I get to go to the movies, better thank a veteran.’ We do our job in silent professionalism and take comfort knowing it makes a difference,” Muranyi, who deployed to Cuba and Japan during his service, explained.
“It’s kind of the same thing as a farmer: How often do you go to the grocery store and look at what farm produced your food? But everyone is grateful to have something to eat. Instead of defending life, we provide life-sustaining food,” he said.
The Veterans to Farmers’ hydroponics course has been taught for the last three years at Rebel Farm’s sprawling greenhouse in southwest Denver, which is owned by Lauren Brettschneider and Jack Olson. During the course, veterans learn the ins and outs of controlled agriculture.
“How often do you go to the grocery store and look at what farm produced your food? But everyone is grateful to have something to eat. Instead of defending life, we provide life-sustaining food.”
– Dominik Muranyi, a Veterans to Farmers graduate
“Farming can be very soothing. You are growing something, creating,” said Brettschneider, who worked in the hospitality and telecom industries before turning her passion for farming into a business. “The class really inspires and motivates [the veterans].”
The seedlings are housed in tiny sponge-like cubes to preserve their structural integrity—but they live inside nutrient film technique (NTF) channels, which are long, white plastic tubes that sort of look like gutters on a house. There’s a little drip with a small hose that exposes the roots to oxygen and they’re able to absorb nutrients from the water. The entire system uses very little water and, because it’s indoors, the plants aren’t subjected to the elements and are less likely to have major pest infestations.
According to Murphy, the greenhouse is much easier on the environment in terms of water usage, a real concern during Denver’s dry, hot summers. It takes approximately 10 gallons of water to produce a head of lettuce outdoors, but inside the greenhouse it takes just one gallon.
Veterans who take the course at Denver Botanic Gardens’ Chatfield Farms work in a 7.5-acre, picture-perfect space with the Rocky Mountains as their backdrop and the bright, powerful Western sun as their balm while they learn everything about the day-to-day operation of an organic farm—planting, harvesting, crop rotations as well as licensing, recordkeeping, marketing and selling. The class runs for 10 weeks, and there are only two per year due to Denver’s 22-week outdoor growing season.
On a sun-kissed, windy day in late April, two landscaped areas that were built by veterans from the program—complete with a paved sections, winding paths, flower beds and a bench—were easy to find. In the growing area, several raised beds were prepped and covered for strawberries, which are a tough crop to grow anywhere because many different animals and pests love them. A red Norman Rockwell-looking barn on the property has hosted Veterans to Farmers events.
Jamie Wickler, farm education coordinator at Denver Botanic Gardens, is starting her fourth season teaching the veterans’ course at Chatfield. She said the biggest benefit for participants is a sense of community.
“This is a group that deeply cares about sustainable food production,” Wickler said. “Farming is hard work that they love, so to find other veterans and farmers that share that gives them a lot of encouragement and support.”
Military veterans, accustomed to the rigors of discipline, hard work and getting their hands dirty, are well-suited to agriculture careers.
Rich Murphy, at left, with a range of past and current participants in the Veterans to Farmers program at his home in Fort Collins, Colorado. (Christopher Carbone/Fox News)
“They can reconnect to their community in a capacity where it feels like they’re contributing, and that’s huge,” said Murphy. “When you give someone food and get to watch their eyes light up and you grew that. It’s a similar feeling to, ‘you honored our country, thank you for your service.’
Muranyi recently started working at Hazel Dell Mushrooms Farm in Fort Collins. He helps out at the farmer’s market and spends three days per week assisting with growing and harvesting shitake, lion’s mane and other mushrooms.
“I love the work and it’s given me an opportunity to learn more about fungi,” he said.
O’Brien, who was the first military journalist on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, said she wants to further her own agricultural education, find work in the industry and perhaps homestead on her own farm one day.
“Programs like VTF provide amazing opportunities for veterans to do what they are best at: creating, problem-solving, project managing and leading people in a direction that is holistically best for everyone involved,” she said.
The vets in the program take a survey about topics including mental health at the program’s beginning and end to measure its success, but Murphy said the most powerful feedback he gets is when vets pull him aside at the end to explain why it mattered so much to them.
“If you don’t ever become a farmer, that’s okay. But if you find three or four really good veteran friends and you hang out and talk about plants and maybe grow some tomatoes—that’s f—king awesome. That’s a win,” said Murphy.
Christopher Carbone is a reporter covering science, technology and national news for FoxNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @christocarbone.
NEW YORK (CNN)New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has told top brass at the city’s police department to stop arresting people who are caught smoking marijuana in public, according to a City Hall aide.
This weekend, the mayor told the NYPD to issue summonses for smoking pot in public, instead of making arrests.
The NYPD has already begun a working group to evaluate its marijuana enforcement procedures and present its recommendations within 30 days, at the mayor’s request. The mayor made it clear this weekend that ending public marijuana smoking arrests is one of the changes he wants.
Any changes to NYPD’s policy on smoking in public would not take effect until the end of the summer.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Phil Walzak told CNN that the 30-day working group is already underway, and that the issue is “certainly part of that review.”
“The working group is reviewing possession and public smoking of marijuana to ensure enforcement is consistent with the values of fairness and trust, while also promoting public safety and addressing community concerns,” Walzak said.
Manhattan to end prosecution
De Blasio’s call to end arrests comes after both the the mayor and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance made big announcements about marijuana enforcement on May 15.
The mayor publicly called on the NYPD to come up with a plan to make changes to its marijuana enforcement policies in the next month, and Vance said he would end prosecution of marijuana possession and smoking cases, starting August 1.
Under the current policy in Manhattan, people are arrested, fingerprinted and have to appear in court.
Last year, cops in Manhattan arrested people for smoking or possessing small amounts of marijuana a little more than 5,500 times. A disproportionate number of those arrested were minorities.
“The dual mission of the Manhattan DA’s office is a safer New York and a more equal justice system,” Vance said Tuesday. “The ongoing arrest and criminal prosecution of predominantly black and brown New Yorkers for smoking marijuana serves neither of these goals.”
Vance, a Democrat who is in his third term, said his office was discussing with New York City police and de Blasio what exceptions there should be to the policy.
New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said that, while the department doesn’t target minorities, “there are differences in arrest rates, and they have persisted going back many years, long before this current administration. We need an honest assessment about why they exist … “
O’Neill said NYPD officers should not make arrests that don’t impact public safety.
Under the DA’s new policy, people who violate the law would be issued summonses. The NYPD does this in cases where possession is the most serious charge a person would face, O’Neill said.
According to the New York State courts system, police officers issue a criminal court summons when certain laws have been violated. “Most people who receive a summons are not arrested and fingerprinted unless they fail to show identification,” its website says.
Marijuana is a Schedule I drug under federal law and is illegal. Some states, like New York, have decriminalized marijuana, making it a violation and not a crime to possess small amounts of cannabis.
Medical marijuana is legal under New York law, but cannot be smoked.
The first month of California’s legal recreational marijuana sales showed that weed is big business, despite local government’s reluctance to issue permits.
MedMen, a cannabis company that’s basically an Apple Store for pot products has dispensaries across Los Angeles, and found itself in an interesting position as one of the few places people could purchase marijuana in the most densely populated areas of Los Angeles when legalized sales began in California.
At MedMen’s West Hollywood location, customer traffic clocked in a 23,606 people in January alone. Revenue was up 200 percent, compared to December, and up 500 percent compared to the year before. Its Santa Ana location brought in 5,051 people, doubling December’s revenue.
Since recreational pot sales began on Jan. 1, Californians have been flocking to the few dispensaries that are allowed to sell to residents without medical cards. Proposition 64, which legalized recreational cannabis, lets local governments regulate sales.
Some cities in Los Angeles county have been resistant to recreational weed. Santa Monica, for example, has banned non-medical marijuana storefronts entirely. Long Beach issued a 180 day ban on recreational sales at the end of 2017, giving the city time to figure out regulations.
The city of Los Angeles set up framework for regulation, but businesses couldn’t apply for licenses until January 3. Vendors also had to apply for a separate license from the state-run Bureau of Cannabis Control.
The city of West Hollywood issued temporary permits for stores like MedMen. The California Bureau of Cannabis Cannabis Control issued only 47 temporary retail licenses, but they’ll expire by May 1.
The unique position helped set up MedMen to be a marijuana unicorn. Canadian investment firm Captor Capital invested $30 million in the company for just 3 percent, valuing the company at about $1 billion.
Cannabis is a notoriously finicky drug. Take the right amount and you get relaxation or euphoria, but take too much and it’s a long ride of paranoia. Which makes marijuana tricky for casual users, and potentially problematic for new users who want to use cannabis to treat ailments like pain.
It's difficult to quantify just how much of the drug you’re inhaling through a bong or vaporizer—especially because marijuana contains some 500 chemicals that interact in ways scientists are just beginning to understand. And really, how you end up feeling depends as much on your physiology and state of mind as it does on the plant.
But, some good news. For one, science only has more to learn about how marijuana works on the human body. And two, companies making cannabis devices are figuring out ways to tackle the dosing problem.
Take the Resolve One smart inhaler (formerly known as Breeze) for medical marijuana users who also happen to be data nerds, coming out in May. Think of it like the Keurig of cannabis: Insert a “Smart Pod” of marijuana and the device administers a precise blast of vapor. The device pairs with a smartphone app, where users begin by inputting their pain level. The inhaler calculates the right dose, followed by a drag. Ten minutes later, once the cannabis has kicked in, the app pings them to rate their pain again. This helps the user determine how effective the dose was.
And it helps Resolve One's maker, Resolve Digital Health, do the same: By gathering more and more data, it can build pain profiles. Some folks wake up in pain, for instance, while for others the pain builds throughout the day. So how might cannabis help mitigate these different experiences? How might the drug interact with other medications the person is taking? (Users are encouraged to log these in the Resolve One app.) How do other medical conditions factor into the pain problem? (You log these too.)
Resolve’s goal is to use data from Resolve One to help not only individual users, but to build a better understanding of how cannabis can treat pain. “I think patients of the future, and we're seeing it right now with cannabis patients, are data-empowered patients,” says Rob Adelson, president and CEO of Resolve. “They want information, they want to collect it, they want to share it, they want to compare it.”
Now, it’s clear that accumulating more and more data hasn’t cured cancer or helped humans figure out how to stop aging. But in the case of cannabis, scientists have so little detailed information about user responses that it makes sense to start looking. Especially because the effects of cannabis can vary wildly from user to user. Some people, for instance, can handle higher THC content than others without having a conniption. And how marijuana affects you can even vary based on how much food you’ve had that day, especially if you’re consuming edibles.
“It's going to take a long time for us to get to the level of knowledge that we all need to be at to understand how this plant works, specifically for very specific health conditions,” says Adelson. “But what we'll do is collect that data, and then put some of those insights and findings into clinical studies where we can go deeper into it.”
The uncertainty is especially challenging given how potent cannabis has become. One study found that THC levels have gone up three-fold since 1995, thanks to selective breeding. But patients may be more interested in high levels of CBD, the non-psychoactive component that could help treat ailments like epilepsy.
“Our focus is on mitigating the intoxicating effects of cannabis, which is a very different mindset than a lot of cannabis brands,” says Gunner Winston, CEO of Dosist, which makes dose pens. “A lot of people don't want to be intoxicated.”
The trick may be something called the entourage effect, the idea that the plant’s various compounds interact with one another to put a check on the psychoactive effects on THC. Specifically, you’d want a lot of CBD in there. Yet science hasn’t proved out this effect.
“I think the anecdotal mountain of evidence says that it does exist,” says Jeff Raber, CEO of the Werc Shop, a lab that tests cannabis. “But we don't know why or how or which ones are doing what.”
And that’s just when it comes to ingesting and inhaling cannabis. “We actually know very little about other modes of administration,” says UC San Diego researcher Igor Grant, who studies cannabis. “People talk about having skin patches and various kinds of gels. The work just hasn't been done to show whether that actually delivers the cannabis in the way that you would want in an effective dose.”
But as far as inhaled marijuana is concerned, companies like Resolve Digital Health and Dosist are starting to tackle the quantification problem, the former catering to patients and the later to a more general audience. And they’re betting that demand for a more predictable cannabis experience is only going up.
“People are asking for this,” says Winston of Dosist. “We can debate all day how much science has been done and should be done, but when you look across the country people are demanding cannabis for therapeutic purposes.”
Remember: Until there’s a fool-proof system for accurately dosing inhaled cannabis—and there may never will be—go low and slow. Your brain will thank you.
Inside the Lab That’s Making Sure Your Weed Is Safe
As cannabis use goes recreational in California, producers are facing a reckoning: They’ll either have to clean up their act, or get out of the legal market.
(CNN)The US Food and Drug Administration approved a cannabis-based drug for the first time, the agency said Monday.
Epidiolex was recommended for approval by an advisory committee in April, and the agency had until this week to make a decision.
The twice-daily oral solution is approved for use in patients 2 and older to treat two types of epileptic syndromes: Dravet syndrome, a rare genetic dysfunction of the brain that begins in the first year of life, and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a form of epilepsy with multiple types of seizures that begin in early childhood, usually between 3 and 5.
“This is an important medical advance,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a statement Monday. “Because of the adequate and well-controlled clinical studies that supported this approval, prescribers can have confidence in the drug’s uniform strength and consistent delivery.”
The drug is the “first pharmaceutical formulation of highly-purified, plant-based cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid lacking the high associated with marijuana, and the first in a new category of anti-epileptic drugs,” according to a statement Monday from GW Pharmaceuticals, the UK-based biopharmaceutical company that makes Epidiolex.
Cannabidiol is one of more than 80 active cannabinoid chemicals, yet unlike tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, it does not produce a high.
The FDA has approved synthetic versions of some cannabinoid chemicals found in the marijuana plant for other purposes, including cancer pain relief.
Justin Gover, chief executive officer of GW Pharmaceuticals, described the approval in the statement as “a historic milestone.” He added that the drug offers families “the first and only FDA-approved cannabidiol medicine to treat two severe, childhood-onset epilepsies.”
“These patients deserve and will soon have access to a cannabinoid medicine that has been thoroughly studied in clinical trials, manufactured to assure quality and consistency, and available by prescription under a physician’s care,” Gover said.
Epidiolex will become available in the fall, Gover told CNN. He would not give any information on cost, saying only that it will be discussed with insurance companies and announced later.
With Epidiolex meeting FDA standards, the drug will “finally be made available to the thousands that may benefit from it,” he said.
It’s an option for those patients who have not responded to other treatments to control seizures.According to the Epilepsy Foundation, up to one-third of Americans who have epilepsy have found no therapies that will control their seizures.
Shauna Garris, a pharmacist, pharmacy clinical specialist and adjunct assistant professor at the University of North Carolina’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy, said the drug is effective and works somewhere between “fairly” and “very well.” She has not used Epidiolex in her own clinical practice and was not involved in the development of the drug but said she’s not sure it will live up to “all of the hype” that has surrounded it.
There are side effects, the most common being sleepiness, Gover said. But Garris highlighted that many of the side effects occur when it is taken with other medications, which she said is a concern because most patients are on other medications.
There are likely to be drug interactions, she said, but “that’s not uncommon for antiepileptic medications,” and she noted that this could affect the effectiveness of the medication.
The European Medical Society is also considering approval of Epidiolex and is expected to announce a decision in the first quarter of next year, according to Gover.
A phase three clinical trial is underway for a third seizure-related condition called tuberous sclerosis complex, which begins in infancy and causes a sudden stiffening of the body, arms and legs, with the head bent forward. Glover said that if the results are positive, his company will apply for supplemental approval for this condition.
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In the meantime, it is possible that once on the market, Epidiolex could be prescribed for conditions other than the ones it’s approved for. This is called off-label use and is a common practice with many medications.
As part of the FDA’s review of the medication, the potential for abuse was assessed and found to be low to negative, according to Gover.
Still, this approval comes as the White House is said to be reconsidering federal prohibition of marijuana and as more and more states approve it for recreational and medicinal use.
Gover said the approval signals “validation of the science of cannabinoid medication.”