General

Cannabis becomes legal in Canada

Country becomes second and largest with legal national marijuana marketplace

The Canadian government is ready to pardon those with a cannabis possession record of 30 grams or less as the country becomes the worlds second and largest country with a legal national marijuana marketplace.

A federal official said Canada would pardon people with convictions for possessing up to 30 grams of marijuana, the new legal threshold, with a formal announcement due later on Wednesday.

The use of medical marijuana has been legal in Canada since 2001 and Justin Trudeaus government has spent two years working toward expanding that to include recreational marijuana. The goal is to better reflect societys changing opinion about marijuana and bring black market operators into a regulated system.

Uruguay was the first country to legalise marijuana, in 2013.

Legalisation began at midnight with shops in Canadas eastern-most provinces the first to sell the drug.

I am living my dream. Teenage Tom Clarke is loving what I am doing with my life right now, said Tom Clarke, 43, whose shop in Newfoundland began business as soon as legally possible.

Clarke has been dealing marijuana illegally in Canada for 30 years. He wrote in his high-school yearbook that his dream was to open a cafe in Amsterdam, the Dutch city where people have legally smoked weed in coffee shops since the 1970s.

At least 111 legal pot shops are planning to open across the country of 37 million people on the first day, according to an Associated Press survey of the provinces.

No stores will open in Ontario, which includes Toronto. The most populous province is working on its regulations and does not expect any stores to open until next spring.

Canadians everywhere will be able to order marijuana products through websites run by provinces or private retailers and have it delivered to their homes by mail.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

adminCannabis becomes legal in Canada
read more

A Deadly Hunt for Hidden Treasure Spawns an Online Mystery

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?

Part of Forrest Fenn’s art collection.

Daymon Gardner

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.”

Paul Ashby in the former bedroom of his son, Eric, at his home in Townsend, Tennessee.

Daymon Gardner

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.

Eric Ashby

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.

Paul Ashby holds a copy of the contract drawn up by his son on the day he disappeared. The document stipulates that Eric will split the treasure among those hunting with him, should it be found.

Daymon Gardner

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 the Arkansas River near Sunshine Falls—where Eric was last seen—the rapids are unpredictable.

Daymon Gardner

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.


David Kushner’s latest book, Rise of the Dungeon Master, is based on his profile of Dungeons & Dragons cocreator Gary Gygax in issue 16.03.

This article appears in the August issue. Subscribe now.

Listen to this story, and other WIRED features, on the Audm app.


More Great WIRED Stories

Read more: http://www.wired.com/

adminA Deadly Hunt for Hidden Treasure Spawns an Online Mystery
read more

Here’s Where You Can Legally Consume Marijuana In The US In 2018

The United States is gradually becoming the land of the red, white, and green.

Nine states and Washington, DC, have legalized marijuana for recreational use for adults over the age of 21. Medical marijuana is legal in another 30 states after voters in Oklahoma approved a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana in June. 

Support for the drug reached new highs in 2018. A Gallup poll showed that 64% of Americans favor legalization, and even a majority of Republicans back it.

Legal marijuana sales exploded to $9.7 billion in North America in 2017, according to a report from Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics. That represents a 33% increase over 2016, shattering previous expectations about how quickly the marijuana industry could grow in the face of federal prohibition. By 2022, Arcview expects global spending on legal cannabis to hit $32 billion by 2022, representing a 22% growth rate over the four-year period. 

Here’s a summary of where Americans can legally light up — no doctor’s letter required — in 2018.

Alaska

Adults 21 and over can light up in Alaska. In early 2015, the northernmost US state made it legal for residents to use, possess, and transport up to an ounce of marijuana — roughly a sandwich bag full — for recreational use. The first pot shop opened for business in late 2016.

Alaska has pounced on the opportunity to make its recreational pot shops a destination for tourists. More than two million people visit Alaska annually and spend $2 billion.

California

It was the first state to legalize medical marijuana back in 1996. California became even more pot-friendly in 2016 when it made it legal to use and carry up to an ounce of marijuana.

The law also permits adults 21 and over to buy up to eight grams of marijuana concentrates, which are found in edibles, and grow no more than six marijuana plants per household.

But not all Californians can legally smoke marijuana, depending on where they live. Many cities in the Central Valley, including Fresno and Bakersfield, have moved to ban recreational sales.

Colorado

In Colorado, there are more marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks and McDonalds locations combined. The state joined Washington in becoming the first two states to fully legalize the drug in 2012.

Residents and tourists over the age of 21 can buy up to one ounce of marijuana or eight grams of concentrates. Some Colorado counties and cities have passed more restrictive laws.

Maine

A ballot initiative gave Mainers the right to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, more than double the limit in most other states. But that doesn’t mean residents can buy the drug.

Lawmakers in Maine reached an agreement in May to make the legalization bill law, though Gov. Paul LePage remains an opponent of marijuana legalization. Marijuana dispensaries are expected to open within the state by 2019, The Portland Press Herald reports. 

De Canna Obscura

 

Massachusetts

In 2016, Massachusetts gave residents the green light to carry and use an ounce of marijuana and grow up to 12 plants in their homes. But the future of the state’s legal market is hazy.

Lawmakers delayed the opening of pot shops to July 2018, instead of the January 2018 date that voters approved in the election. Until then, there will be no sales of recreational weed.

Nevada

Residents and tourists who are 21 and over can buy an ounce of marijuana or one-eighth of an ounce of edibles or concentrates in Nevada — while supplies last. Less than two weeks after sales of recreational weed began on July 1, 2017, many stores ran out of marijuana to sell.

The state has earned nearly $20 million in marijuana tax revenue since the market launched. 

There’s bad news if you want to grow your own bud, though. Nevada residents must live 25 miles outside the nearest dispensary in order to be eligible for a grower’s license.

Oregon

Oregonians have enjoyed the right to carry an ounce of weed and grow up to four plants at home since 2015. It’s also legal to give edibles as a gift, as long as they’re ingested in private.

Sales have exploded since legalization. In 2017, the state paid out $85 million in marijuana tax revenue to fund schools, public health initiatives, state police, and local government. 

Vermont

Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through the legislature, rather than a ballot initiative, when Republic Governor Phil Scott signed a bill into law on January 22.

Adults in the Green Mountain State will be able to carry up to an ounce of marijuana and grow no more than two plants for recreational use. The new law goes into effect in July. But the bill is limited in scope. It doesn’t establish a legal market for the production and sale of the drug.

Washington

Dispensaries in Washington have raked in over $1 billion in non-medical marijuana sales since the drug was legalized for recreational use in 2012.

The state allows people to carry up to an ounce of marijuana, but they must require the drug for medicinal purposes in order to be eligible for a grower’s license. So you can smoke it, but not grow it if you’re toking for fun.

Washington, DC

Residents in the nation’s capital voted overwhelmingly to legalize nonmedical marijuana in November 2014.

The bill took effect in 2015, allowing people to possess two ounces or less of marijuana and “gift” up to an ounce, if neither money nor goods or services are exchanged.

Ryland zweifel/Shutterstock

Read the original article on Business Insider. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Copyright 2018.

Read next on Business Insider: This map shows every state that has legalized marijuana

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com

adminHere’s Where You Can Legally Consume Marijuana In The US In 2018
read more

Maine investigates restaurant that gave lobsters marijuana

Restaurant owner says blowing smoke over lobsters is meant to lessen their suffering before they are dropped in boiling water

State health inspectors are investigating a Maine restaurant that tried to mellow out lobsters with marijuana before killing them to be served, cracked and eaten.

The Portland Press Herald reported that Charlottes Legendary Lobster Pound in Southwest Harbor remains open but has stopped allowing customers to request meat from lobsters sedated with marijuana.

Owner Charlotte Gill is a state-licensed medical marijuana caregiver. She said on Friday she hoped to resume sales of smoked lobster meat by mid-October, a move meant to lessen the suffering of her lobsters before they are dropped in boiling water.

It is unknown whether pot smoke calms lobsters or has any effect on their meat.

A Maine Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman, Emily Spencer, would not say if the state had asked Gill to halt such sales.

But Gill told the Press Herald that after being contacted by the state, and upon reviewing its present laws and codes applicable to this arena, and then making a few minor adjustments to our procedure, we are completely confident that we will be able to proceed as planned.

I imagine we will still have a push back from the state on our hands, she said, but we are confident that we will be able to field any issues they may have with us, and do it with grace.

These are important issues and ones that can also benefit not only the lobster, but the industry as well. Truly we are not trying to go against [the states] wishes and would love to work with them in order for us all to make this world a kinder place.

Spencer said it would be up to the Maine Medical Marijuana Program to determine if Gill was using cannabis appropriately. A program spokesman, David Heidrich, told the newspaper he could not confirm if it was investigating the lobster restaurant.

But he added: Medical marijuana may only be grown for and provided to persons with a marijuana recommendation from a qualified medical provider. Lobsters are not people.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

adminMaine investigates restaurant that gave lobsters marijuana
read more

Olivia Newton-John Diagnosed With Cancer For 3rd Time

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Olivia Newton-John says she has been diagnosed with cancer for the third time in three decades.

The four-time Grammy winner, who will turn 70 on Sept. 26, told Australian news program “Sunday Night” doctors found a tumor in her lower back in 2017.

Newton-John says she’s “treating it naturally and doing really well.” The “Grease” star says for pain, she is taking cannabis oil, made from marijuana her husband grows in California. She has undergone radiation treatments and has cut sugar out of her diet.

She said, “I believe I will win over it.”

She said she hopes her native Australia will legalize medical marijuana.

Newton-John was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, undergoing a partial mastectomy and reconstruction. She was diagnosed with breast cancer again in 2013.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

adminOlivia Newton-John Diagnosed With Cancer For 3rd Time
read more

How a farming nonprofit helps veterans reintegrate into civilian life and recover from PTSD

An average of 20 veterans commit suicide each year—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 corporal 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 2013 and Murphy met him in the fall of that year after his wife became aware of the program. The following year, Murphy began to develop a curriculum for the VTF training program. He also crisscrossed Colorado, telling everyone about the nascent nonprofit’s merits, and forging partnerships with Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University.

In 2017, after he’d spent many hours as an instructor, Murphy took over as executive director of the organization when Buck stepped down.

Rich Murphy, left, discusses Veterans to Farmers at Rebel Farm in Denver, Colorado. At right, a plague honoring U.S. military veterans at Chatfield Farms in Denver Botanic Gardens.  (Christopher Carbone/Fox News)

Murphy recalled a 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 ten 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 that 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,” Murphy, whose father, uncle and grandparents also served in the military, said. “We see a lot of veterans maintain those friendships afterwards.”

Vets who participated in the program talked about the significance of its impact.

Fresh greens and herbs tended and grown by U.S. military vets at Rebel Farm in Denver, Colorado.  (Christopher Carbone/Fox News)

“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 Veterans to Farmers 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.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: CAN VETERANS GROW THEIR OWN MEDICINE?

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, which takes place four times a year and runs for eight weeks, veterans learn the ins and outs of controlled agriculture.

“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].”

“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

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. This 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 his fourth season teaching the veterans’ course at Chatfield. He 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.

“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.’

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)

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 global affairs, technology and national news for FoxNews.com. He can be reached at christopher.carbone@foxnews.com or on Twitter @christocarbone.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/

adminHow a farming nonprofit helps veterans reintegrate into civilian life and recover from PTSD
read more

Mormon church backs deal to legalize medical marijuana in Utah

Ranking global leader Jack Gerard said they were thrilled to be part of effort to alleviate human pain and suffering

The Mormon church joined lawmakers, the governor and advocates to back a deal on Thursday that would legalize medical marijuana in conservative Utah after months of fierce debate.

The compromise comes as people prepare to vote in November on an insurgent medical marijuana ballot initiative that held its ground despite opposition from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Utah governor, Gary Herbert, said he would call lawmakers into a special session after the midterm election to pass the compromise into law regardless of how the initiative fared. If it passes, it will be revised under the terms of the deal. It if fails, the legislature would consider a law under the new framework.

The agreement in such a conservative state underscores the nations changing attitude toward marijuana. Medical use is now legal in more than 30 states and is also on the November ballot in Missouri. So-called recreational marijuana goes before voters in Michigan and North Dakota. If passed, it will be a first for a midwestern state.

Sign up for the US morning briefing

The Utah-based faith had opposed the ballot proposal over fears it could lead to more broad use, but its ranking global leader, Jack Gerard, said leaders were thrilled to be a part of the effort to alleviate human pain and suffering.

Though it still must go to a vote, the deal has the key backing of both the church and leaders of the Republican-dominated state legislature, who said the regulations in the hard-won agreement had their seal of approval. Unlike the ballot initiative, the compromise wont allow people to grow their own marijuana if they live too far from a dispensary. It also doesnt allow certain types of edible marijuana that could appeal to children, like cookies and brownies.

I will do everything in my power to ensure this compromise passes in the special session, said the Utah senate president, Wayne Niederhauser.

Medical marijuana advocates are backing the deal to avoid wrangling and uncertainty that could continue if the ballot initiative passes.

There will be medical cannabis here in our day in Utah, said the advocate DJ Schanz. The two sides agreed to scale back media campaigns supporting and opposing the ballot measure known as Proposition 2.

Not all medical marijuana advocates were convinced: Christine Stenquist with the group Truce said she remained skeptical about the deal and urged continued support for the ballot proposal.

Smoking marijuana would not be allowed under the ballot proposal. It instead allows edible forms, lotions or electronic cigarettes.

While the church opposed the ballot measure, leaders also made their first-ever public statement supporting the use of medical marijuana if prescribed by a doctor and dispensed by a pharmacy. The churchs positions carry outsized sway in its home state.

The faith had long frowned upon medical marijuana use because of a key church health code called the Word of Wisdom, which prohibits coffee as well as alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

adminMormon church backs deal to legalize medical marijuana in Utah
read more

My Son Pioneered an Epilepsy Drug Derived From Marijuana. An FDA Panel Just Approved It

Yesterday morning a tall, lanky 16-year-old boy in a red polo shirt stood at a podium in front of a roomful of doctors, scientists, and regulators and told them about how a drug they were considering for approval had changed his life. “I had seizures for 10 years,” he said. “My parents tell me there were times I had seizures 100 times a day.” Now, he said, he has been seizure free for nearly two and a half years.

“I can understand what goes on at school,” he said. “And I can have adventures that never would have been possible before.” He told them about how seizure freedom enabled him to study to be a Bar Mitzvah in 2016. He told them about a school trip he’d just taken without his parents to South Africa—12,000 miles from home. And he said that he hoped to become a neurologist one day so that he could help other people with epilepsy. The audience, despite being told not to applaud speakers until the end, clapped anyway.

About an hour later, after about a dozen parents of epileptic children spoke of their struggles with the disease, the Food and Drug Administration panel of scientists and doctors voted 13-0 to recommend approval. The FDA is expected to render a final decision on the drug, Epidiolex, by June. One of the panelists John Mendelson, an addiction treatment executive and a UCSF professor said, “This is clearly a breakthrough drug for an awful disease.”

The whole event, which I watched on a live stream from my home office in Berkeley, was one of the thrills of my life. Sam is my son. He and my wife Evelyn both testified because Sam was the first person in the US to take Epidiolex back in December 2012. After trying more than two dozen medications, a crazy sounding diet, and corticosteroids that made Sam look like a cancer patient, Epidiolex—which didn’t even have a name when Sam tried it—was truly our last option to help him.

The author’s son, Sam Vogelstein, testified Thursday in Washington DC before the FDA’s advisory committee.

Evelyn Nussenbaum

I should mention that Epidiolex is derived from cannabis. Its active ingredient is cannabidiol, aka CBD, which is a chemical in the plant that doesn’t make you high.

The manufacturer, GW Pharmaceuticals, knew little about epilepsy back then. But Sam’s response was so extraordinary, their executives decided they needed to learn more about the disease, and quickly embarked on clinical trials. Sam actually tried the medicine in London under a doctor’s supervision. Such a trial in the UK was straightforward, whereas conducting it in the US would have been impossible because of our cannabis laws. Since then nearly 1,800 patients have tried it at US hospitals, with about 40 to 50 percent seeing greater than 50 percent reductions in seizures. That sounds small until you consider that admission to the trials required patients to have exhausted all other medicinal options. Officially, Epidiolex will be approved only to treat two of the most severe types of epilepsy, Dravet and Lennox Gastaut syndromes. But doctors will likely have the flexibility to prescribe it for other epilepsies too. Many epilepsy drugs are prescribed this way, known as off label. (Many patients, including Sam, are on more than one drug.)

The pending approval of Epidiolex isn’t just a big deal for me and my family. It’s a big deal for 3 million people in the US who have epilepsy, and, if approved elsewhere, 73 million people worldwide. Epilepsy affects about one percent of the world’s population, more than Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis combined. And yet for all humanities’ scientific prowess, only about two-thirds of people who take epilepsy medicines become seizure free. The imminent approval of a medication that might shrink the number of unresponsive patients is a major, even historic, development.

It’s also a big deal for cannabis research and by extension the cannabis legalization discussion. Epidiolex will be the first FDA approved drug derived from a cannabis plant. It can’t get anyone high because the manufacturer extracts all the THC during production.

To manufacture CBD, GW maintains tens of thousands of cannabis plants in hothouses all over the UK. It extracts the CBD from the plants in a lab, ending up with a 100 milliliter bottle of strawberry flavored sesame oil that it ships to the US.

A common refrain from cannabis opponents has long been that there is no scientific evidence that anything associated with cannabis can be medicine. And that’s been true because regulators and police worldwide make studying illegal substances like cannabis nearly impossible.

But to get this far in the FDA approval process, GW had to marshal the same scientific evidence of safety and efficacy that every other drug manufacturer must present. It created a medicine that was consistent from dose to dose, bottle to bottle, and batch to batch. It conducted all the required placebo controlled trials, administered by doctors in hospital settings. And those doctors published peer reviewed research in top medical journals like the New England Journal of Medicine. “It’s an honor to be participating in a (cannabis) decision based on science instead of politics," said panelist Mark Green, professor of neurology and anesthesiology at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York, after the vote.

Indeed, it doesn’t require too much imagination to see how Epidiolex’s pending approval forces a public reckoning on how we think about cannabis nationally. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made no secret of his virulent opposition to the legalization of cannabis in any form. He has said that “good people do not smoke marijuana.” Yet, assuming Epidiolex gets formal FDA approval, he will have to weigh in through his supervision of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

At the moment, CBD is a Schedule 1 drug like cannabis. Its medical use—except in the specially approved trials that proved its effectiveness—is not allowed. The DEA must reschedule it before it can be sold. Technically, the DEA could refuse. But it would have to explain how it—a police agency—was in a better position to make that call than the FDA, an agency of scientists and doctors. An explanation would also be needed for neurologists, and the parents of millions of very sick children. The DEA can’t delay its decision either. By law it must rule within 90 days.

All that maneuvering would be moot, of course, if Congress decides to pass a law legalizing cannabis entirely, as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer proposed last night. He is not the first senator to propose such a law, but he is by far the most influential to do it. “If smoking marijuana doesn’t hurt anybody else, why shouldn’t we allow people to do it and not make it criminal" he told Vice News.

By now you are probably wondering what a family from California like us was thinking when it traveled to the UK to have their kid try a drug derived from a cannabis plant. Remarkably, that’s where you had to go to get pharmaceutical grade CBD back then. We tried to procure it from artisanal producers here for six months. Everything we tried turned out to be ineffective and sometimes fraudulent. Getting the CBD out of cannabis plant is complicated, expensive, and time consuming.

The artisanal CBD market is more robust today. There are some good, reliable preparations that are helping epilepsy patients who could not get into the GW trials. Hopefully they will force GW to keep Epidiolex affordable. But many parents have told me that in a perfect world they'd just go to the pharmacy to treat their kids' seizures. They have complicated lives, but simple needs. They want the same experience they get when they fill a penicillin prescription: a cure.

All of this made yesterday one of the best days in Sam's young life. Other parents thanked him for speaking for all the kids who were too sick to speak for themselves, and he felt like he was part of something bigger than himself. “And when I suggested that we made a good team as speakers," Evelyn said, “he said with a big grin, ‘You set ’em up. And I knock ’em down.’ ”

Read more: http://www.wired.com/

adminMy Son Pioneered an Epilepsy Drug Derived From Marijuana. An FDA Panel Just Approved It
read more

Jeff Sessions Will Lose the GOPs Battle Over Weed

In the year-and-a-bit since Donald Trump took office, Americans have witnessed a neck-wrenching 180-degree turn on an array of policy topics. One of the biggest has been with regard to drugs.

Between anti-marijuana moves by Trumps attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and apparent interest by the administration in making passing a drug test a condition for receiving food stamps in states that request it, Trump and key figures in his administration seem eager to jump back to a time in history when drug use that has become more or less accepted in society is again disqualifying and indeed criminal. And where Trump goes, the GOP often follows.

But is the Trump administration truly set on achieving this? Those of us watching drug policy debates in the era of Trump are feeling a little (OK, a lot of) whiplash.

The direction in which Sessions wants to take the country is clear. So too are Republicans views with regard to food stamps and drug testing.

With Trump, things are a bit murkier. He generally cultivated an anti-drug message with his death penalty for heroin dealers chat. Hes pushed that message in other ways too, such as the little noticed controversy in February, when Israel put the brakes on a plan to export marijuana to the U.S., apparently because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didnt want to piss off Trump. Trump also claims never to have smoked pot, something that some pot advocates view as inherently likely to predispose him against cannabis.

But during the campaign, Trump was pot-neutral. He exclaimed that he was for letting states decide their own pot and medical marijuana policies. And just weeks ago, he voiced support for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO)s bill codifying states rights with regard to pot. Reportedly, his campaign manager is making that position a selling point to Colorado voters ahead of 2020.

Outside of Trump, the GOP itself seems to be in the midst of an evolution on pot. Or, at least, a process of self-discovery. Gardner was so adamant that states rights on the matter be respected that he threatened to hold up any nominees to the Department of Justice until Sessions and Trump backed down. Weve also learned that John Boehner is joining the board of a cannabis companya pretty big turnaround for a former speaker of the House known more for his love of wine than weed.

So what the heck is going on with the GOP and pot? The short answer is: a lot. But though much of it seems contradictory, there is still an obvious, ultimate direction. The GOP will, in the end, follow Gardner and Boehners path, even if that feels like an Olympic gymnast-level flip-flop for a lot of voters.

It used to be that the only pro-decriminalization or pro-legalization Republicans were Libertarians who voted GOP because they wanted tax cuts and a tiny bit more fiscal restraint (with the exception, perhaps, of some prominent figures at National Review who always took a surprisingly pro-decriminalization line on marijuana).

More recently, however, the pro-decriminalization ranks have been joined by the Koch brothers, especially Charles Koch, who champions criminal justice reform and sees issues like pot decriminalization and mandatory minimums reform as obviously related.

There are also Republicans from states where marijuana laws have been liberalized, leading to a booming new sector of the economy.

Gardner is one such figure. But more Gardners are on the way. While Sessions may believe the War on Drugs has failed because it has been prosecuted with insufficient zeal, youve got a whole raft of states represented by Republican officeholders who manifestly believe that the anti-pot aspect of it, at least, is stupid.

Its certainly economically unhelpful. Nine states have fully legalized recreational pot (including Alaska, a deep red state, and Colorado, Nevada, and Mainepurplish ones with GOP elected officials). Twenty-nine states have legalized medical marijuana (including the magenta-ish states of North Dakota, Arkansas, Montana, and West Virginia, and swing state New Hampshire).

Rank-and-file Republican voters are becoming much more opposed to the War on Weed too, according to an October 2017 Gallup poll. Maybe thats because veterans (who Republicans love to champion) claim marijuana helps them with physical and psychological battlefield injuries. Maybe its because of claims that legalization could help combat the opioid epidemic, which is ravaging Republican areas. Maybe its because Republicans are hearing from unlikely marijuana advocates like Michelle Malkin.

Or maybe its because Republicans still tend to consider themselves pro-business, and the pot business is growingfast. According to a report last year from Arcview Market Research, across North America, legal pot sales in 2017 were on pace to hit $9.7 billion. Thats 33 percent growth against the previous yearevidence of a booming market. Many Republicans may oppose pot use personally. But basically all Republicans love making and keeping money.

Whatever it is, the reality is this: The ranks of pro-legalization Republicans, like plants on weed farms, will continue to grow over time, while those sharing Sessions views will shrink and shrivel and decline. Thats a good thing, in terms of achieving limited government goals, and expanding personal libertysomething todays GOP could do with getting back to focusing on.

The debate may seem muddied now. But its heading in a very clear direction.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com

adminJeff Sessions Will Lose the GOPs Battle Over Weed
read more

New Study Counters Findings That Medical Marijuana Can Manage Chronic Pain And Reduce Opioid Use

A wealth of recent studies has suggested that cannabis products are not only effective for alleviating the types of debilitating chronic pain experienced by tens of millons people worldwide, but that access to these plant-derived medicines may also reduce the amounts of opioid drugs people take. Given that opioid dependency – and death by overdose – has reached epidemic-level prevalence, many in the scientific community see marijuana as a possible lifeline out of the crisis

But a large new investigation published today in The Lancet contradicts past research by finding that people with persistent non-cancer-related pain who used cannabis had no improvement in pain scores or increase in opioid discontinuation compared with those who do not, over a four-year period. 

The authors, led Dr Gabrielle Campbell at the University of New South Wales’ National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, recruited 1,514 adults from across Australia who were prescribed opioids (including fentanyl, morphine, oxycodone, buprenorphine, methadone, and hydromorphone) for more than six weeks to treat pain lasting longer than 3 months. Subjects were surveyed about a variety of lifestyle and psychological factors, pain scores, pain self-efficacy (which gauges people’s perceived ability to perform activities while in pain), and past and current cannabis use at the study onset, then once a year for four years (2012 to 2016). At each visit, the authors confirmed whether or not subjects were still taking an opioid. 

Fentanyl, the infamously addictive synthetic opioid that is up to 100 times more potent than morphine. Wikimedia Commons

Surprisingly, their analysis revealed that people who were using cannabis at any level of frequency reported higher pain severity scores, worse pain self-efficacy, and worse pain interference (the degree to which pain is interfering with daily activities) than those not using cannabis at years two, three, and four. Greater generalized anxiety disorder scores were significantly higher in cannabis users at all study points. 

Even after adjusting for multiple factors such as age, baseline pain, and opioid dose strength, the authors found no association between cannabis use during the past year and reduced opioid use the following year. They note that a greater proportion of those who never reported using cannabis had discontinued opioids at the end of the four years compared with those who did (21 percent vs 9 percent), but this comparison must be taken with a grain of salt as it did not reach statistical significance. 

“To our knowledge, this is one of the longest, in-depth, prospective studies of a community cohort of people with chronic non-cancer pain, examining the effects of cannabis use on pain and prescribed opioid use,” the team wrote. 

Of course, this research cannot provide the definitive answer about the benefits – or lack thereof – associated with medical marijuana due to several key limitations. Firstly, as Dr Campbell’s team concedes themselves, it is possible that the individuals who sought out marijuana were more distressed by their pain and had higher rates of anxiety in the first place, though it is puzzling that these individuals did not appear to improve over time while using it. 

Secondly, the study was conducted prior to Australia’s legalization of medical marijuana, meaning that the subjects who were taking it had to turn to illicit sources and likely did not have access to products specially designed for pain treatment such as high-CBD tinctures and edibles. These people were thus unable to create a structured pain management plan with a medical provider, which could have led to significant differences in outcomes. 

This study is sure to incite a fierce debate among the proponents and opponents of medical cannabis, and given the dire need for pain-managing drugs that don’t cause dependency (it is now estimated that more than 115 people die from opioid overdose every day in the US alone), both scientists and activists will continue pushing for more research.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com

adminNew Study Counters Findings That Medical Marijuana Can Manage Chronic Pain And Reduce Opioid Use
read more