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Neil Young faces US citizenship delay over marijuana use

The Canadian songwriter is pursuing dual citizenship in order to vote my conscience on Donald J Trump in the 2020 election

Neil Young is facing a delay in his application for US citizenship after honestly answering a question about his marijuana use.

In a letter to fans posted on his website, the Canadian songwriter said that he passed the test for citizenship, but that he has been called to take another test due to my use of marijuana and how some people who smoke it have a problem.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services added a policy in April 2019, proposed by Jeff Sessions during his period as attorney general, which states: An applicant who is involved in certain marijuana related activities may lack GMC (Good Moral Character) if found to have violated federal law, even if such activity is not unlawful under applicable state of foreign laws.

Sessions has supported the repeal of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment so that the justice department could prosecute suppliers of medical marijuana, despite President Trumps support for its legalisation.

Young wrote: I sincerely hope I have exhibited good moral character and will be able to vote my conscience on Donald J Trump and his fellow American candidates, (as yet un-named).

Young is widely known as a figurehead of the Los Angeles 1960s-70s Laurel Canyon scene. In October, he told the LA Times: Im still a Canadian; theres nothing that can take that away from me. But I live down here; I pay taxes down here; my beautiful family is all down here theyre all Americans, so I want to register my opinion.

Young has been critical of Trumps presidency, refusing him permission to use his 1989 hit Rockin in the Free World at campaign events, and criticising his stance on the November 2018 California wild fires, in which Young lost his home.

He recently told AP: I hope that people vote him out and I hope theres somebody reasonable to put back in there when they get rid of him.

Colorado, Youngs latest album with band Crazy Horse, was released in October.

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

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Is it OK to post about weed on your Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook?

420 BLAZEIT SEND TWETE !!!
Image: vicky leta / mashable art team

It’s 4/20 baby!!! It’s Saturday, you’re lit, brain perfectly calibrated to toasted, sparking your joy, blowing smoke rings so on point it feels criminal not to share on your Instagram story.

But something stops you from posting. And it probably sounds like the voice of your D.A.R.E. teacher yelling about how posting pictures of pot online can get you arrested and ruin your career.

“Even if you just post one picture, it comes back,” said Anjela, who is very much not a D.A.R.E. teacher. Preferring to keep her full name separate from her online weed-sona, she’s better known as Koala Puffs, a weedfluencer with over half a million Instagram followers. 

“You gotta be sure that’s where you wanna take your life before you post. Because you have to be able to take on the judgement that’s gonna come with expressing yourself.”

You’d think that in the year of our lord 2019 we’d have moved past the taboo of being 420 friendly on main. Cannabis decriminalization across the U.S. is at an all-time high, along with the general population’s support for further legalization.

Yet while many of us are passing the blunt (or at least not harshing people’s buzz) IRL, the stigma around talking openly about cannabis online remains. 

Elon Musk got the not-so-dank wake up call when he started posting vague (awful) 420 jokes on Twitter, culminating in a smoke sesh no one wanted or asked for that landed him and his company in hot water. Musk also drank alcohol on the same podcast, though, and no one cared two shits about that part.

And if Musk, a person with endless Fuck You Money and fame, doesn’t have enough privilege to protect himself from online pot-shaming, who among us mortals does? Not even weed influencers can post to Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or Facebook without facing repercussions that feel like we’re stuck in 1998.

The cost of a pot-sona 

In early 2018, YouTube went on what appeared to be a marijuana-based purge, deleting and giving strikes to swaths of weed influencers’ channels. Soon after, it started happening on Instagram. While both companies cited community and user policies about depicting, smoking, and selling drugs on their platforms, others theorized that the crackdown pertained more to advertisers’ trepidation after a litany of unrelated scandals from big names like Pewdiepie and Logan Paul. 

But by and large, the fear of being publicly weed-friendly on social media isn’t about getting banned. It relates to the unique stigma of making cannabis part of your online persona.

Koala Puffs said the nine months after she quit her corporate job to pursue cannabis influencing was the hardest in her life. Her family, friends, boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s family couldn’t get behind her pro-bud rebranding.

“Nobody changed their minds until I was 200,000 followers deep,” she said. But to this day her mom still thinks she’s just outgrowing a college phase.

“I 100 percent still experience stigma from within my family,” said Arend Richard, who went from 420 YouTuber to cannabis CEO after launching The Weedtube, a weed-friendly alternative to YouTube that’s releasing a new app Saturday in response to the crackdowns. Granted, the weed stigma in his family is only exacerbated by their larger difficulty in accepting another aspect of his identity as a gay man. 

“But I will say, if you want your family to not judge you for using cannabis, just start a cannabis company, and get it written up in Forbes,” he joked.

Since taking on the business side recently, though, even Richard went back and deleted over 200 posts from his Instagram. Because legitimate cannabis businessmen also need to avoid the stereotypes associated with the stoner label, which seems to stick like glue in an age when social media signifiers define so much of how other people perceive you.

Reefer gladness

Particularly, Richard doesn’t like to post himself in the actual act of smoking, even though a tutorial video teaching people how to smoke was what first began his path into cannabis influencing. That conscious curation is part of a larger shift in how people are expressing their cannabis use online.

“At first, over-consumption was kind of the game in the cannabis industry to get a following. You just did The Most,” said Richard. 

When total prohibition was the law of the land in America, seeing copious amounts of weed, bongs, and blunts was an exciting novelty. But now it’s possible for just about anyone with enough money in certain states. 

“We’re in the biggest change in trends for online cannabis communities right now, moving more toward positivity and less toward over-consumption,” said Richard.

Cannabis/beauty/wellness influencer and yoga instructor Brittany Tatiana (or sweettatas) quite literally embodies this positivity movement, by normalizing weed as a lifestyle choice on social media.

“We’re in the biggest change in trends for online cannabis communities right now.”

She got into weed influencing after a car accident left her with chronic pain. Unable to go back to her corporate job for six months, weed became her best alternative to the opioids doctors prescribed. At the time she’d already began dabbling with modeling and beauty influencing, building a following and doing promotion with a few brands.

But then she made the fateful decision to take the leap into letting her 420 flag fly. “I guarantee you I lost jobs and contracts because of it. Immediately,” she said.

“It’s been hard for me to represent my full self and not have people judge me based on what they see in one post,” Tatiana said. Straddling the more commercial beauty industry and the cannabis-friendly world is like walking a tight rope.

“It’s been a real battle with friends and brands. It’s a fine line to cross. So I just try to be conscious about what I post.”

Tatiana hesitates to post herself smoking too, for example. But overall, “it basically comes down to a day-to-day, case-by-case basis. Am I OK with how this post represents me? Do I believe in it? Would I want my younger self to post it? Is this true to who I am?”

She decides whether or not to post by thinking of her weed habits almost like a diet, or any other wellness lifestyle activity. Would she post a picture of a smoothie because it feels good and is part of her wellness regimen? Is that also the case for her marijuana-related post? 

“It comes down to choosing how you’re gonna show it, and what cannabis means to you,” she said.

But the risk is always there, especially since the stoner label seems to dominate any other way you define yourself. 

“I worry in general that it’ll put me in some sort of box that I don’t want to be in. Even though these days, it’s becoming a way bigger box.”

That caution should be part of everyday people’s process for posting 420-friendly stuff on personal social media channels, too — regardless of whether or not they live in legalized states like the influencers we talked to.

The legal case against legalized marijuana

Because any career development expert will warn you that companies do look at your social media before hiring. There have also been a few cases of people getting fired in legalized states like Colorado for using medical marijuana even when they’re not on the job.

A 2015 survey from the Society for Human Resource Management found that a vast majority (94 percent) of HR professionals with employees in legalized states still have formal policies against cannabis, with 73 percent in medical marijuana states and 82 percent in recreational states characterizing them as zero tolerance.

This strict approach might be showing signs of changing since 2015, though. More recent suggestions from the HR group advise companies to handle weed in the workplace with more nuance and care. 

It me.

Image: vicky leta / mashable art team

“We’ve yet to see robust employment protections be adopted across legal markets regarding an individual’s cannabis consumption,” said Justin Strekal, federal lobbyist at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. But there are some emerging cases, like a recent ruling in Massachusetts that sided with an employee suing his company for wrongful termination over medical marijuana.

Still, posting about weed is far more penalized in the workplace than, say, a post about happy hour with your coworkers.

When it comes to criminal persecution, aside from the occasional headline-worthy case, “there’s not an epidemic of law enforcement arresting individuals for posting about marijuana online,” said Strekal. 

“But that still doesn’t change the fact that it’s their legal right to arrest an individual for smoking cannabis, especially in criminalized jurisdictions. And if you post evidence publicly that could be used against you in a court of law, you are volunteering evidence against yourself,” he said. 

Even if the police aren’t out to get you, those kinds of posts can add fodder to other legal battles, like child custody. And looking at the racial divides for how marijuana is prosecuted in the real world, it’s likely that some of those biases translate into who’s more likely to get away with posting about weed, too.

The answer to whether or not it’s OK to be open about weed in your online persona depends on who you are.

“The application of law enforcement when it comes to cannabis is clearly racist. Full stop,” said Strekal, pointing to the ACLU’s famous report on how the war on marijuana is racially biased. The 2015 report found, “marijuana use is roughly equal among blacks and whites, yet blacks are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.”

That also tracks with the general demographics of 420-friendly influencers which, at a cursory glance, tend to be disproportionately white and often female. 

Largely, the answer to whether you should be open about weed through your online persona depends on who you are. Beyond profession, local marijuana rules, and your age, your IRL community is another major factor in determining whether or not it’s OK. Because, as Strekal pointed out, social media is mostly regulated by algorithms and abuse reports. 

“So the biggest question an individual needs to ask themselves is how are my friends going to respond to this? Is my social bubble going to report this as abuse to these platforms?”

Tatiana agreed, saying that, “If you live in a community of churchgoers, they won’t respond well. And it’s going to get around. So it’s really a question of who you are, what you’re willing to stand up for.”

Taking the hit, for a cause

Interestingly, though, despite all these risks, repercussions, and cautions, lots of people still do get 420 friendly on main anyway. Just search 420 on your preferred social media platform. You’ll find plenty of weed content.

Let the good vibes roll.

Image: vicky leta / mashable art team

And an overwhelming majority of those posts will be positive, much like what researchers found when they tracked attitudes towards marijuana on Twitter between 2013 and 2016. 

Anecdotally, it feels as if we all live under the hazy threat of social media leading to pot-shaming or worse in the real world. But statistically, positive social media chatter around bud just keeps getting danker.

That is the fundamental tension with cautioning people against sharing their weed consumption. While people should remain mindful of the repercussions, the truth is that fighting the stigma largely takes place in social spheres like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. At least that’s what some recent studies found, suggesting a link between positive social media and support for legalization.

Let’s be real

“People are making a point to be more open about it because they’re done with that shit. We can all see it for a lie now. And posting, like, ‘I’m smoking this joint,’ or ‘my mom takes CBD pills’ — that’s people taking back their power. That’s sending a message in and of itself,” Tatiana said.

As we all know, social media is never a perfect reflection of the world as it is. Like the #FOMO travel pics that dominate your Insta feed, posting is about creating a collective ideal.

Until marijuana is legalized on the federal level, no one can tell you it’s perfectly OK to be 420-friendly on main. At the same time, changing public perception by normalizing weed online just might be how we keep the wave of support for decriminalization and legalization alive.

Solving the issues around being weed-friendly online is a chicken and egg problem — or rather, a bud and the flower problem. Because in the world of social media, pretending we all don’t smoke weed is so damn tired — but wishing everyone on your feed a happy holidaze is totally wired.

Read more: http://mashable.com/

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Janelle Mone set to provide music for ‘Lady and the Tramp’

Image: Vanessa Carvalho / Getty Images

A family trip to Disney World came to a halt when a great-grandmother was arrested for carrying CBD oil, which her doctor recommended to ease her arthritis. 

Hester Burkhalter, 69, was arrested on Apr. 15 and charged with felony possession of hashish. The Tampa Bay Times reports that Burkhalter was stopped at a bag check just outside of Magic Kingdom that morning, and Disney security found her 1-ounce bottle of peppermint-flavored CBD tincture. In photos obtained by Orlando’s Fox 35, the bottle is labeled as 1000 mg of CBD and 0 mg of THC. 

“I have really bad arthritis in my legs, in my arms and in my shoulder,” Burkhalter told Fox 35. “I use it for the pain because it helps.”

According to the arrest report, the security guard who spotted the CBD oil notified a nearby police officer, who tested the tincture. He said the tincture tested positive for THC and arrested Burkhalter. Although she was carrying the letter of recommendation for CBD oil from her doctor, CBD is illegal in the state of Florida. She spent 12 hours in jail and was released on a $2,000 bail. The charges were later dropped. 

There are a handful of gray areas at play here.

One, the December 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp nationwide, classifying it as an agricultural commodity instead of a federally controlled substance. Hemp products, like the CBD oil added to burgers and sold by the bottle in the wellness section of grocery stores like Whole Foods, must contain less than 0.3 percent THC to be legally sold. (THC is the main psychoactive compound in weed that makes you feel high. CBD doesn’t.) 

But like the Miami Herald notes, hemp is still a no-no in Florida. Retailers sell CBD products, but a spokesman for the state’s Agriculture Commissioner stated that while the office hasn’t sent out any cease and desist letters, “the sale of CBD products is not currently legal in Florida until hemp legislation is passed.”

The police report, as seen in Fox 35’s video, shows the police officer used a presumptive test on Burkhalter’s CBD tincture. Presumptive tests can’t specify a substance, but indicate the possibility of its presence. In this case, the test turned red, which indicated that THC might have been present. While presumptive tests are cheaper and yield faster results, they can be inaccurate and give false positives. The FDA recommends using confirmatory testing, which is more costly and takes longer but can “obtain a confirmed analytical result” by identifying specific substances. 

This also isn’t the first time that a marijuana test detected THC in supposedly “pure” CBD oil. THC-free CBD, or CBD isolate, can be made in a lab, but there’s little to no regulation when it comes to what CBD manufacturers put in their products or how they label them. An investigation by WTHR in Indiana, a state where it’s legal to buy, sell, and possess CBD products, found that a patient taking hemp-derived CBD oil tested positive for marijuana during his employer’s drug test. The station sent a sample of the oil he took in lieu of multiple migraine medications to a lab, which certified that the oil had 0.018 percent THC — well below the legal limit. And in Georgia, where medical marijuana patients can register to legally use “low THC oil” to treat a variety of ailments, a woman taking CBD oil for anxiety failed a drug screening for a new job. She told WSB-TV that the ingredient label on the oil showed no THC, but a disclaimer on the company’s website stated that full-spectrum oil could test positive on drug screenings. It’s unclear how a full-spectrum product would have no THC as that is made from the whole hemp plant, meaning that there will be some traces of THC.

In a statement to Fox News, the Sheriff’s Office said their handling of Burkhalter was “a lawful arrest.”

“Possession of CBD oil is currently a felony under Florida State Statute and Deputies are responsible for enforcing Florida law,” the statement continued. “Although CBD oil is illegal without a prescription, our top drug enforcement priority and focus at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office is to get deadly drugs, like heroin and fentanyl, off the streets of our community.”

For Burkhalter, though, the family trip to Disney World was ruined. 

“We had planned on this trip for over two years and we saved up for it and we were real excited,” she told Fox 35. “I didn’t know what to think, I couldn’t understand it. I didn’t feel like I’d done nothing wrong.”

Read more: http://mashable.com/

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World Health Organization calls to reclassify weed

How will the 2020 presidential election shape marijuana legalization going forward?
Image: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

If there’s one thing that united Democrats and Republicans in the Reagan era (besides their unfortunate fixation with perms), it was their near universal hatred of weed. Everybody was a cop back then. Walter Mondale, the Democratic candidate for president in 1984, called for another “War on Drugs” — all drugs. Ronald Reagan, for his part, believed that marijuana was “probably the most dangerous drug in the United States.”

Fast forward to the 2020 election, when politicians have largely done an about-face, at least when it comes to weed. Politicians aren’t just campaigning for medical marijuana, they’re advocating for recreational marijuana to be legalized: explicitly, vocally, and on their campaign pages.

Were it not for the hundreds of thousands of people arrested for marijuana law violations every year, it’s almost like the past 40 years of aggressive anti-marijuana drug policy didn’t exist. 

Here’s what Daniel Mallinson, assistant professor of public policy and administration at Penn State Harrisburg, thinks of the tectonic political and cultural shift on marijuana legalization:

“It started in the liberal states. There was a big political shift there that has since shifted to more conservative, battleground states — specifically when it comes to medical marijuana,” Mallinson told Mashable in a phone interview. “Even the majority of Republicans now support some form of legalization. That’s a rapid political shift among individuals that’s now being captured in state policy and brought to the national level.”

Recreational marijuana is now legal in 10 states and Washington, DC, while medical marijuana is legal in 33. And the remarkable historical progress is only expected to grow.

Mallinson isn’t surprised to see Democratic candidates latching onto this issue:

“Democrats are all jostling to be the most progressive right now. At least the ones who have declared already,” Mallison said. “You have to check a box for marijuana legalization if you want to run in that space.” 

Will recreational marijuana legalization help candidates in the general election? Mallinson isn’t so sure. The current 2020 presidential candidates have a range of views on the issue, not all of them exactly alike. Here’s where each presidential candidate stands on legalized marijuana, and where they once stood — as much as they might try to deny it. 

2020 Democrats

Where the Democratic candidates stand on marijuana legalization

Amy Klobuchar

Blazin’ on through the snow: What’s Amy Klobuchar’s stance on marijuana?

Image: stephen maturen/Getty Images

Minnesota will be voting on recreational marijuana in 2019. Despite widespread public support, it’s unclear whether the bill will pass and where Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar will stand. The candidate from Minnesota is considered one of the more centrist of the pack. And her position on legalization is somewhat more muddled than that of her opponents. 

Klobuchar has signed onto the “Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act,” which protects states that have legalized marijuana from federal meddling. So has Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Unlike Warren, however, Klobuchar has not signed onto the Marijuana Justice Act, which would remove marijuana’s classification as a schedule 1 drug in the Federal Controlled Substances Act. 

Klobuchar has supported cannabis research in the past, especially as it applies to medical research. Although, its classification as a schedule 1 drug makes this nearly impossible. It’s much harder for scientists to obtain legal samples of the drug when it’s classified this way.

Her record on marijuana as Minnesota’s Attorney General is much more conservative. In 2016, she was given a “D” rating by NORML (the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws), indicating a “hard on drugs” stance. 

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders has one of the most progressive records on marijuana legalization in the Senate.

Image: win mcnamee/Getty Images

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders hails from one of the most liberal states in the country. In 2019, recreational marijuana was made legal in Vermont — not through a referendum, but through a vote in the state legislature. Vermont became the first state in the country to legalize marijuana using this route.

Sanders has long advocated for marijuana reform. In 1995, he co-sponsored a bill in the House that would authorize medical marijuana in cases of “life-threatening” and “sense-threatening” illness. In the decades following, Sanders became one of the most vocal advocates for marijuana reform. Four years ago, Sanders filed the first bill in the Senate to end cannabis prohibition. He has signed onto New Jersey Senator Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act and called for the de-scheduling of the drug.

Sanders has also demanded banking reform, hoping to make it easier for legal marijuana businesses to operate accounts. In 2016, Sanders became the first major presidential candidate from both parties to call for removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances. 

He is largely considered to be one of the most marijuana-friendly candidates running for president.

Cory Booker

Booker is one the most vocal advocates for marijuana legalization.

Image: scott olson/Getty Images

New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker is one of the more progressive candidates when it comes to marijuana reform. It helps that he comes from a progressive state. In November of of 2018, New Jersey’s state Senate and Assembly passed legislation easing the way for marijuana legalization. Governor Phil Murphy is now working with Senate President Stephen Sweeney to establish a more formal path for legalization and government regulation and taxation of the drug.

They should have Booker’s support. In 2017, Booker authored the Marijuana Reform Act, which had multiple, historic, and radical elements: expunging convictions for those prosecuted for marijuana-related offenses, punishing states for disproportionately targeting groups of people (historically, that’s people of color), and legalizing the drug on a federal level.

People who were serving federal sentences for marijuana-related offenses would be eligible for re-sentencing, presumably for a lighter sentence.

It was a transformational piece of legislation that could have improved the lives of millions of people. But it never made it out of the Senate, thanks to a secure Republican majority.

Every current Democratic presidential candidate who is also serving in the Senate has signed onto Booker’s legislation, with the exception of Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. 

Unlike other senators on this list, Booker has a strong record on legalization. As far back as 2012, Booker, then mayor of Newark, New Jersey, decried the drug wars, accusing the federal government of “pouring huge amounts of our public resources into this current effort that is bleeding our public treasury and unnecessarily undermining human potential.”

Elizabeth Warren

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren comes from a progressive, marijuana-friendly state, so it’s not surprising that she’s one of the most vocal advocates for legalization. In 2016, Massachusetts voted to legalize cannabis recreationally and in November of 2018, began selling cannabis to adults. 

Warren has taken her advocacy to a federal level. Along with Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, Warren is one of the lead sponsors of the STATES Act, which protects states in which marijuana is legal from federal interference. Cannabis is still illegal on the federal level.

She’s also signed onto multiple major drug policy reform bills, including the Marijuana Justice Act, a transformative piece of legislation that would financially punish states that fail to legalize marijuana and who disproportionately incarcerate or arrest people for marijuana-related offenses.

Because of the legal status of marijuana on the federal level, cannabis companies are often barred from using federally-backed banks. Like Sanders, Warren has supported cannabis-related banking legislation, designed to push the industry away from cash-only models and integrate it with the modern banking system, where it’s safer for businesses and will be better monitored. 

Warren might look like the model of marijuana reform now, but it wasn’t always that way. In her 2013 campaign against Republican Dan Winslow, she came at her opponent with this accusation: “He has a 100-percent ranking from the gun lobby and he’s for the legalization of marijuana. He wants us armed and stoned.”

Julián Castro

Julian Castro, a less well-known candidate, has a record as a strong progressive.

Image: Edward omelas/Getty Images

Democrat Julián Castro hails from Florida, where only medical marijuana is legal. Recreational marijuana legalization is a long way off — advocates are currently working to ease access to medical marijuana, which was only made legal in 2016.

Castro previously served in Obama’s White House as the Housing and Urban Development Secretary. Consequently, he doesn’t have a Congressional voting record on marijuana, making his views a bit harder to decipher.

Castro has previously made social media posts in support of at least partial legislation. Two years ago in a Facebook post, he discouraged the federal government from cracking down on recreational marijuana crimes.

Castro has also said he supported voters passing marijuana legalization laws by state

It’ll be interesting to see how Castro can distinguish himself in an already crowded Democratic field.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris has come a long way on marijuana legalization.

Image: chip somodevilla/Getty Images

Oh, California Senator Kamala Harris. Harris, who now admits she both smoked marijuana and inhaled it in the past, wasn’t always an advocate for legalization. Her home state, meanwhile, has been one of the drug’s most vocal advocates: a whopping 57.1 percent of voters voted yes on Proposition 64 in 2017 to legalize marijuana. 

It took until 2015 for the former attorney general to come out in support of medical marijuana. Back in 2014, she laughed in the face of a local news reporter who asked if she supported legalizing recreational marijuana. 

Harris has a new book in which she advocates for clearing the criminal records for people convicted of non-violent marijuana offenses, as well as for legalizing the drug.

The senator has come a long way from her earlier, more prosecutorial days, but it may not be enough to make some legalization advocates happy.

Kirsten Gillibrand 

Gillibrand has signed several key pieces of marijuana legalization.

Image: alex wong/Getty Images

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate. It’s easy for Gillibrand to hold this position, given her home state’s support for the drug (New York is poised to become the 11th state to legalize recreational cannabis). And while we personally don’t know if she’s ever smoked, Gillibrand has signed her name to several key pieces of marijuana reform legislation, including Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act.

She’e been outspoken about the effects of drug war policy and the racial inequities in the criminal justice system, even prior to announcing her candidacy.

After starting her career as a conservative, Blue Dog Democrat, Gillibrand has leaned hard to the left in recent years. I expect her to follow her party’s progressive wing on this issue in the years to come.

Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg could become America’s first openly gay president.

Image: alex wong/Getty Images

Pete Buttigieg is one of the least-known potential Democratic candidates on this list. As a result, the chances of him winning the nomination are slim. 

Buttigieg hasn’t spoken on a national stage about his views on marijuana legalization. However, he is largely considered a progressive in the city of South Bend, Indiana, where he serves as mayor. His home state of Indiana is far more conservative: Neither recreational marijuana nor medical marijuana are legal in the state, and progress on the issue has been slow. 

A representative from Buttigieg’s office told Mashable that the mayor supports legalization.

Tulsi Gabbard 

Gabbard has one of the most progressive records on marijuana in the House.

Image: Getty Images for Teen Vogue

Currently, the Hawaiian legislature is considering marijuana legalization. And, questionable views on Assad aside, Hawaiian Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is the one most progressive candidates when it comes to marijuana legislation. According to Marijuana Moment, she was lead sponsor on a bill that would require the government to research the effects of marijuana legalization on a state level. 

She has called on the federal government to decriminalize marijuana, encouraged the federal government to fund additional research on medical marijuana, publicly explored the relationship between opioid abuse and punitive marijuana laws,  and slammed former Attorney General Jeff Sessions for taking a regressive approach to drug policy.

Gabbard is one of the most visible advocates for legalized marijuana in the field, even if her presidential polling numbers are currently very low. 

2020 Independents and Republicans

Where the candidates outside the Democratic Party stand on marijuana legalization

Howard Schultz

Do you really want to know the CEO of Starbucks’ views on marijuana?

Image: santiago felipe/Getty Images

Howard Schultz comes from progressive roots: His home state of Washington was the first in the country to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. That being said, Pop-Tarts got more likes on Twitter than Starbucks CEO Schultz did when they announced that they were running for president, so I’m not entirely sure we need to be concerned with a Schultz presidency. Because Schultz has no political experience to speak of, his views on the marijuana issue are unclear. 

He is, however, the founder behind the Frappuccino, which is its own kind of intoxicant. So there’s that.

We have reached out to Schultz for comment and have not yet received a response.

 Donald Trump

President Trump’s official policy position on marijuana is:(*)#$@)$(*$&

Image: michael reynolds-pool/Getty Images

Prior to becoming elected, Trump said he believed marijuana legalization should be left up to the states. In New York, Trump’s liberal home state, Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to legalize the recreational drug (medical marijuana is already legal) and establish an Office of Cannabis Management.

Upon becoming president, however, Trump appointed Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Sessions proceed to lift a critical Obama-era marijuana policy that made it clear that the federal government would not intervene with states who had legalized marijuana. 

In 2017, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the Trump administration was considering strengthening anti-marijuana enforcement on a federal level.

It’s unclear whether the president will be a candidate in 2020, depending on his incarceration status, but it’s important to keep his political worldview (absolute ideological chaos) in mind.

Even if there’s a Democratic president in office, it’ll be hard to push comprehensive marijuana reform, depending on the partisan makeup of Congress. Still, it’s an exciting time for marijuana advocates. A record 6 in 10 Americans now support legalization, following a decade of steady progress on the issue. 

Change will happen — in fact, it’s already happening.

We’ll be updating this post as more candidates announce their runs for office

Read more: http://mashable.com/

adminWorld Health Organization calls to reclassify weed
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Is it OK to post about weed on your Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook?

420 BLAZEIT SEND TWETE !!!
Image: vicky leta / mashable art team

It’s 4/20 baby!!! It’s Saturday, you’re lit, brain perfectly calibrated to toasted, sparking your joy, blowing smoke rings so on point it feels criminal not to share on your Instagram story.

But something stops you from posting. And it probably sounds like the voice of your D.A.R.E. teacher yelling about how posting pictures of pot online can get you arrested and ruin your career.

“Even if you just post one picture, it comes back,” said Anjela, who is very much not a D.A.R.E. teacher. Preferring to keep her full name separate from her online weed-sona, she’s better known as Koala Puffs, a weedfluencer with over half a million Instagram followers. 

“You gotta be sure that’s where you wanna take your life before you post. Because you have to be able to take on the judgement that’s gonna come with expressing yourself.”

You’d think that in the year of our lord 2019 we’d have moved past the taboo of being 420 friendly on main. Cannabis decriminalization across the U.S. is at an all-time high, along with the general population’s support for further legalization.

Yet while many of us are passing the blunt (or at least not harshing people’s buzz) IRL, the stigma around talking openly about cannabis online remains. 

Elon Musk got the not-so-dank wake up call when he started posting vague (awful) 420 jokes on Twitter, culminating in a smoke sesh no one wanted or asked for that landed him and his company in hot water. Musk also drank alcohol on the same podcast, though, and no one cared two shits about that part.

And if Musk, a person with endless Fuck You Money and fame, doesn’t have enough privilege to protect himself from online pot-shaming, who among us mortals does? Not even weed influencers can post to Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or Facebook without facing repercussions that feel like we’re stuck in 1998.

The cost of a pot-sona 

In early 2018, YouTube went on what appeared to be a marijuana-based purge, deleting and giving strikes to swaths of weed influencers’ channels. Soon after, it started happening on Instagram. While both companies cited community and user policies about depicting, smoking, and selling drugs on their platforms, others theorized that the crackdown pertained more to advertisers’ trepidation after a litany of unrelated scandals from big names like Pewdiepie and Logan Paul. 

But by and large, the fear of being publicly weed-friendly on social media isn’t about getting banned. It relates to the unique stigma of making cannabis part of your online persona.

Koala Puffs said the nine months after she quit her corporate job to pursue cannabis influencing was the hardest in her life. Her family, friends, boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s family couldn’t get behind her pro-bud rebranding.

“Nobody changed their minds until I was 200,000 followers deep,” she said. But to this day her mom still thinks she’s just outgrowing a college phase.

“I 100 percent still experience stigma from within my family,” said Arend Richard, who went from 420 YouTuber to cannabis CEO after launching The Weedtube, a weed-friendly alternative to YouTube that’s releasing a new app Saturday in response to the crackdowns. Granted, the weed stigma in his family is only exacerbated by their larger difficulty in accepting another aspect of his identity as a gay man. 

“But I will say, if you want your family to not judge you for using cannabis, just start a cannabis company, and get it written up in Forbes,” he joked.

Since taking on the business side recently, though, even Richard went back and deleted over 200 posts from his Instagram. Because legitimate cannabis businessmen also need to avoid the stereotypes associated with the stoner label, which seems to stick like glue in an age when social media signifiers define so much of how other people perceive you.

Reefer gladness

Particularly, Richard doesn’t like to post himself in the actual act of smoking, even though a tutorial video teaching people how to smoke was what first began his path into cannabis influencing. That conscious curation is part of a larger shift in how people are expressing their cannabis use online.

“At first, over-consumption was kind of the game in the cannabis industry to get a following. You just did The Most,” said Richard. 

When total prohibition was the law of the land in America, seeing copious amounts of weed, bongs, and blunts was an exciting novelty. But now it’s possible for just about anyone with enough money in certain states. 

“We’re in the biggest change in trends for online cannabis communities right now, moving more toward positivity and less toward over-consumption,” said Richard.

Cannabis/beauty/wellness influencer and yoga instructor Brittany Tatiana (or sweettatas) quite literally embodies this positivity movement, by normalizing weed as a lifestyle choice on social media.

“We’re in the biggest change in trends for online cannabis communities right now.”

She got into weed influencing after a car accident left her with chronic pain. Unable to go back to her corporate job for six months, weed became her best alternative to the opioids doctors prescribed. At the time she’d already began dabbling with modeling and beauty influencing, building a following and doing promotion with a few brands.

But then she made the fateful decision to take the leap into letting her 420 flag fly. “I guarantee you I lost jobs and contracts because of it. Immediately,” she said.

“It’s been hard for me to represent my full self and not have people judge me based on what they see in one post,” Tatiana said. Straddling the more commercial beauty industry and the cannabis-friendly world is like walking a tight rope.

“It’s been a real battle with friends and brands. It’s a fine line to cross. So I just try to be conscious about what I post.”

Tatiana hesitates to post herself smoking too, for example. But overall, “it basically comes down to a day-to-day, case-by-case basis. Am I OK with how this post represents me? Do I believe in it? Would I want my younger self to post it? Is this true to who I am?”

She decides whether or not to post by thinking of her weed habits almost like a diet, or any other wellness lifestyle activity. Would she post a picture of a smoothie because it feels good and is part of her wellness regimen? Is that also the case for her marijuana-related post? 

“It comes down to choosing how you’re gonna show it, and what cannabis means to you,” she said.

But the risk is always there, especially since the stoner label seems to dominate any other way you define yourself. 

“I worry in general that it’ll put me in some sort of box that I don’t want to be in. Even though these days, it’s becoming a way bigger box.”

That caution should be part of everyday people’s process for posting 420-friendly stuff on personal social media channels, too — regardless of whether or not they live in legalized states like the influencers we talked to.

The legal case against legalized marijuana

Because any career development expert will warn you that companies do look at your social media before hiring. There have also been a few cases of people getting fired in legalized states like Colorado for using medical marijuana even when they’re not on the job.

A 2015 survey from the Society for Human Resource Management found that a vast majority (94 percent) of HR professionals with employees in legalized states still have formal policies against cannabis, with 73 percent in medical marijuana states and 82 percent in recreational states characterizing them as zero tolerance.

This strict approach might be showing signs of changing since 2015, though. More recent suggestions from the HR group advise companies to handle weed in the workplace with more nuance and care. 

It me.

Image: vicky leta / mashable art team

“We’ve yet to see robust employment protections be adopted across legal markets regarding an individual’s cannabis consumption,” said Justin Strekal, federal lobbyist at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. But there are some emerging cases, like a recent ruling in Massachusetts that sided with an employee suing his company for wrongful termination over medical marijuana.

Still, posting about weed is far more penalized in the workplace than, say, a post about happy hour with your coworkers.

When it comes to criminal persecution, aside from the occasional headline-worthy case, “there’s not an epidemic of law enforcement arresting individuals for posting about marijuana online,” said Strekal. 

“But that still doesn’t change the fact that it’s their legal right to arrest an individual for smoking cannabis, especially in criminalized jurisdictions. And if you post evidence publicly that could be used against you in a court of law, you are volunteering evidence against yourself,” he said. 

Even if the police aren’t out to get you, those kinds of posts can add fodder to other legal battles, like child custody. And looking at the racial divides for how marijuana is prosecuted in the real world, it’s likely that some of those biases translate into who’s more likely to get away with posting about weed, too.

The answer to whether or not it’s OK to be open about weed in your online persona depends on who you are.

“The application of law enforcement when it comes to cannabis is clearly racist. Full stop,” said Strekal, pointing to the ACLU’s famous report on how the war on marijuana is racially biased. The 2015 report found, “marijuana use is roughly equal among blacks and whites, yet blacks are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.”

That also tracks with the general demographics of 420-friendly influencers which, at a cursory glance, tend to be disproportionately white and often female. 

Largely, the answer to whether you should be open about weed through your online persona depends on who you are. Beyond profession, local marijuana rules, and your age, your IRL community is another major factor in determining whether or not it’s OK. Because, as Strekal pointed out, social media is mostly regulated by algorithms and abuse reports. 

“So the biggest question an individual needs to ask themselves is how are my friends going to respond to this? Is my social bubble going to report this as abuse to these platforms?”

Tatiana agreed, saying that, “If you live in a community of churchgoers, they won’t respond well. And it’s going to get around. So it’s really a question of who you are, what you’re willing to stand up for.”

Taking the hit, for a cause

Interestingly, though, despite all these risks, repercussions, and cautions, lots of people still do get 420 friendly on main anyway. Just search 420 on your preferred social media platform. You’ll find plenty of weed content.

Let the good vibes roll.

Image: vicky leta / mashable art team

And an overwhelming majority of those posts will be positive, much like what researchers found when they tracked attitudes towards marijuana on Twitter between 2013 and 2016. 

Anecdotally, it feels as if we all live under the hazy threat of social media leading to pot-shaming or worse in the real world. But statistically, positive social media chatter around bud just keeps getting danker.

That is the fundamental tension with cautioning people against sharing their weed consumption. While people should remain mindful of the repercussions, the truth is that fighting the stigma largely takes place in social spheres like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. At least that’s what some recent studies found, suggesting a link between positive social media and support for legalization.

Let’s be real

“People are making a point to be more open about it because they’re done with that shit. We can all see it for a lie now. And posting, like, ‘I’m smoking this joint,’ or ‘my mom takes CBD pills’ — that’s people taking back their power. That’s sending a message in and of itself,” Tatiana said.

As we all know, social media is never a perfect reflection of the world as it is. Like the #FOMO travel pics that dominate your Insta feed, posting is about creating a collective ideal.

Until marijuana is legalized on the federal level, no one can tell you it’s perfectly OK to be 420-friendly on main. At the same time, changing public perception by normalizing weed online just might be how we keep the wave of support for decriminalization and legalization alive.

Solving the issues around being weed-friendly online is a chicken and egg problem — or rather, a bud and the flower problem. Because in the world of social media, pretending we all don’t smoke weed is so damn tired — but wishing everyone on your feed a happy holidaze is totally wired.

Read more: http://mashable.com/

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Janelle Mone set to provide music for ‘Lady and the Tramp’

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A family trip to Disney World came to a halt when a great-grandmother was arrested for carrying CBD oil, which her doctor recommended to ease her arthritis. 

Hester Burkhalter, 69, was arrested on Apr. 15 and charged with felony possession of hashish. The Tampa Bay Times reports that Burkhalter was stopped at a bag check just outside of Magic Kingdom that morning, and Disney security found her 1-ounce bottle of peppermint-flavored CBD tincture. In photos obtained by Orlando’s Fox 35, the bottle is labeled as 1000 mg of CBD and 0 mg of THC. 

“I have really bad arthritis in my legs, in my arms and in my shoulder,” Burkhalter told Fox 35. “I use it for the pain because it helps.”

According to the arrest report, the security guard who spotted the CBD oil notified a nearby police officer, who tested the tincture. He said the tincture tested positive for THC and arrested Burkhalter. Although she was carrying the letter of recommendation for CBD oil from her doctor, CBD is illegal in the state of Florida. She spent 12 hours in jail and was released on a $2,000 bail. The charges were later dropped. 

There are a handful of gray areas at play here.

One, the December 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp nationwide, classifying it as an agricultural commodity instead of a federally controlled substance. Hemp products, like the CBD oil added to burgers and sold by the bottle in the wellness section of grocery stores like Whole Foods, must contain less than 0.3 percent THC to be legally sold. (THC is the main psychoactive compound in weed that makes you feel high. CBD doesn’t.) 

But like the Miami Herald notes, hemp is still a no-no in Florida. Retailers sell CBD products, but a spokesman for the state’s Agriculture Commissioner stated that while the office hasn’t sent out any cease and desist letters, “the sale of CBD products is not currently legal in Florida until hemp legislation is passed.”

The police report, as seen in Fox 35’s video, shows the police officer used a presumptive test on Burkhalter’s CBD tincture. Presumptive tests can’t specify a substance, but indicate the possibility of its presence. In this case, the test turned red, which indicated that THC might have been present. While presumptive tests are cheaper and yield faster results, they can be inaccurate and give false positives. The FDA recommends using confirmatory testing, which is more costly and takes longer but can “obtain a confirmed analytical result” by identifying specific substances. 

This also isn’t the first time that a marijuana test detected THC in supposedly “pure” CBD oil. THC-free CBD, or CBD isolate, can be made in a lab, but there’s little to no regulation when it comes to what CBD manufacturers put in their products or how they label them. An investigation by WTHR in Indiana, a state where it’s legal to buy, sell, and possess CBD products, found that a patient taking hemp-derived CBD oil tested positive for marijuana during his employer’s drug test. The station sent a sample of the oil he took in lieu of multiple migraine medications to a lab, which certified that the oil had 0.018 percent THC — well below the legal limit. And in Georgia, where medical marijuana patients can register to legally use “low THC oil” to treat a variety of ailments, a woman taking CBD oil for anxiety failed a drug screening for a new job. She told WSB-TV that the ingredient label on the oil showed no THC, but a disclaimer on the company’s website stated that full-spectrum oil could test positive on drug screenings. It’s unclear how a full-spectrum product would have no THC as that is made from the whole hemp plant, meaning that there will be some traces of THC.

In a statement to Fox News, the Sheriff’s Office said their handling of Burkhalter was “a lawful arrest.”

“Possession of CBD oil is currently a felony under Florida State Statute and Deputies are responsible for enforcing Florida law,” the statement continued. “Although CBD oil is illegal without a prescription, our top drug enforcement priority and focus at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office is to get deadly drugs, like heroin and fentanyl, off the streets of our community.”

For Burkhalter, though, the family trip to Disney World was ruined. 

“We had planned on this trip for over two years and we saved up for it and we were real excited,” she told Fox 35. “I didn’t know what to think, I couldn’t understand it. I didn’t feel like I’d done nothing wrong.”

Read more: http://mashable.com/

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World Health Organization calls to reclassify weed

How will the 2020 presidential election shape marijuana legalization going forward?
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If there’s one thing that united Democrats and Republicans in the Reagan era (besides their unfortunate fixation with perms), it was their near universal hatred of weed. Everybody was a cop back then. Walter Mondale, the Democratic candidate for president in 1984, called for another “War on Drugs” — all drugs. Ronald Reagan, for his part, believed that marijuana was “probably the most dangerous drug in the United States.”

Fast forward to the 2020 election, when politicians have largely done an about-face, at least when it comes to weed. Politicians aren’t just campaigning for medical marijuana, they’re advocating for recreational marijuana to be legalized: explicitly, vocally, and on their campaign pages.

Were it not for the hundreds of thousands of people arrested for marijuana law violations every year, it’s almost like the past 40 years of aggressive anti-marijuana drug policy didn’t exist. 

Here’s what Daniel Mallinson, assistant professor of public policy and administration at Penn State Harrisburg, thinks of the tectonic political and cultural shift on marijuana legalization:

“It started in the liberal states. There was a big political shift there that has since shifted to more conservative, battleground states — specifically when it comes to medical marijuana,” Mallinson told Mashable in a phone interview. “Even the majority of Republicans now support some form of legalization. That’s a rapid political shift among individuals that’s now being captured in state policy and brought to the national level.”

Recreational marijuana is now legal in 10 states and Washington, DC, while medical marijuana is legal in 33. And the remarkable historical progress is only expected to grow.

Mallinson isn’t surprised to see Democratic candidates latching onto this issue:

“Democrats are all jostling to be the most progressive right now. At least the ones who have declared already,” Mallison said. “You have to check a box for marijuana legalization if you want to run in that space.” 

Will recreational marijuana legalization help candidates in the general election? Mallinson isn’t so sure. The current 2020 presidential candidates have a range of views on the issue, not all of them exactly alike. Here’s where each presidential candidate stands on legalized marijuana, and where they once stood — as much as they might try to deny it. 

2020 Democrats

Where the Democratic candidates stand on marijuana legalization

Amy Klobuchar

Blazin’ on through the snow: What’s Amy Klobuchar’s stance on marijuana?

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Minnesota will be voting on recreational marijuana in 2019. Despite widespread public support, it’s unclear whether the bill will pass and where Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar will stand. The candidate from Minnesota is considered one of the more centrist of the pack. And her position on legalization is somewhat more muddled than that of her opponents. 

Klobuchar has signed onto the “Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act,” which protects states that have legalized marijuana from federal meddling. So has Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Unlike Warren, however, Klobuchar has not signed onto the Marijuana Justice Act, which would remove marijuana’s classification as a schedule 1 drug in the Federal Controlled Substances Act. 

Klobuchar has supported cannabis research in the past, especially as it applies to medical research. Although, its classification as a schedule 1 drug makes this nearly impossible. It’s much harder for scientists to obtain legal samples of the drug when it’s classified this way.

Her record on marijuana as Minnesota’s Attorney General is much more conservative. In 2016, she was given a “D” rating by NORML (the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws), indicating a “hard on drugs” stance. 

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders has one of the most progressive records on marijuana legalization in the Senate.

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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders hails from one of the most liberal states in the country. In 2019, recreational marijuana was made legal in Vermont — not through a referendum, but through a vote in the state legislature. Vermont became the first state in the country to legalize marijuana using this route.

Sanders has long advocated for marijuana reform. In 1995, he co-sponsored a bill in the House that would authorize medical marijuana in cases of “life-threatening” and “sense-threatening” illness. In the decades following, Sanders became one of the most vocal advocates for marijuana reform. Four years ago, Sanders filed the first bill in the Senate to end cannabis prohibition. He has signed onto New Jersey Senator Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act and called for the de-scheduling of the drug.

Sanders has also demanded banking reform, hoping to make it easier for legal marijuana businesses to operate accounts. In 2016, Sanders became the first major presidential candidate from both parties to call for removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances. 

He is largely considered to be one of the most marijuana-friendly candidates running for president.

Cory Booker

Booker is one the most vocal advocates for marijuana legalization.

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New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker is one of the more progressive candidates when it comes to marijuana reform. It helps that he comes from a progressive state. In November of of 2018, New Jersey’s state Senate and Assembly passed legislation easing the way for marijuana legalization. Governor Phil Murphy is now working with Senate President Stephen Sweeney to establish a more formal path for legalization and government regulation and taxation of the drug.

They should have Booker’s support. In 2017, Booker authored the Marijuana Reform Act, which had multiple, historic, and radical elements: expunging convictions for those prosecuted for marijuana-related offenses, punishing states for disproportionately targeting groups of people (historically, that’s people of color), and legalizing the drug on a federal level.

People who were serving federal sentences for marijuana-related offenses would be eligible for re-sentencing, presumably for a lighter sentence.

It was a transformational piece of legislation that could have improved the lives of millions of people. But it never made it out of the Senate, thanks to a secure Republican majority.

Every current Democratic presidential candidate who is also serving in the Senate has signed onto Booker’s legislation, with the exception of Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. 

Unlike other senators on this list, Booker has a strong record on legalization. As far back as 2012, Booker, then mayor of Newark, New Jersey, decried the drug wars, accusing the federal government of “pouring huge amounts of our public resources into this current effort that is bleeding our public treasury and unnecessarily undermining human potential.”

Elizabeth Warren

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren comes from a progressive, marijuana-friendly state, so it’s not surprising that she’s one of the most vocal advocates for legalization. In 2016, Massachusetts voted to legalize cannabis recreationally and in November of 2018, began selling cannabis to adults. 

Warren has taken her advocacy to a federal level. Along with Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, Warren is one of the lead sponsors of the STATES Act, which protects states in which marijuana is legal from federal interference. Cannabis is still illegal on the federal level.

She’s also signed onto multiple major drug policy reform bills, including the Marijuana Justice Act, a transformative piece of legislation that would financially punish states that fail to legalize marijuana and who disproportionately incarcerate or arrest people for marijuana-related offenses.

Because of the legal status of marijuana on the federal level, cannabis companies are often barred from using federally-backed banks. Like Sanders, Warren has supported cannabis-related banking legislation, designed to push the industry away from cash-only models and integrate it with the modern banking system, where it’s safer for businesses and will be better monitored. 

Warren might look like the model of marijuana reform now, but it wasn’t always that way. In her 2013 campaign against Republican Dan Winslow, she came at her opponent with this accusation: “He has a 100-percent ranking from the gun lobby and he’s for the legalization of marijuana. He wants us armed and stoned.”

Julián Castro

Julian Castro, a less well-known candidate, has a record as a strong progressive.

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Democrat Julián Castro hails from Florida, where only medical marijuana is legal. Recreational marijuana legalization is a long way off — advocates are currently working to ease access to medical marijuana, which was only made legal in 2016.

Castro previously served in Obama’s White House as the Housing and Urban Development Secretary. Consequently, he doesn’t have a Congressional voting record on marijuana, making his views a bit harder to decipher.

Castro has previously made social media posts in support of at least partial legislation. Two years ago in a Facebook post, he discouraged the federal government from cracking down on recreational marijuana crimes.

Castro has also said he supported voters passing marijuana legalization laws by state

It’ll be interesting to see how Castro can distinguish himself in an already crowded Democratic field.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris has come a long way on marijuana legalization.

Image: chip somodevilla/Getty Images

Oh, California Senator Kamala Harris. Harris, who now admits she both smoked marijuana and inhaled it in the past, wasn’t always an advocate for legalization. Her home state, meanwhile, has been one of the drug’s most vocal advocates: a whopping 57.1 percent of voters voted yes on Proposition 64 in 2017 to legalize marijuana. 

It took until 2015 for the former attorney general to come out in support of medical marijuana. Back in 2014, she laughed in the face of a local news reporter who asked if she supported legalizing recreational marijuana. 

Harris has a new book in which she advocates for clearing the criminal records for people convicted of non-violent marijuana offenses, as well as for legalizing the drug.

The senator has come a long way from her earlier, more prosecutorial days, but it may not be enough to make some legalization advocates happy.

Kirsten Gillibrand 

Gillibrand has signed several key pieces of marijuana legalization.

Image: alex wong/Getty Images

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate. It’s easy for Gillibrand to hold this position, given her home state’s support for the drug (New York is poised to become the 11th state to legalize recreational cannabis). And while we personally don’t know if she’s ever smoked, Gillibrand has signed her name to several key pieces of marijuana reform legislation, including Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act.

She’e been outspoken about the effects of drug war policy and the racial inequities in the criminal justice system, even prior to announcing her candidacy.

After starting her career as a conservative, Blue Dog Democrat, Gillibrand has leaned hard to the left in recent years. I expect her to follow her party’s progressive wing on this issue in the years to come.

Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg could become America’s first openly gay president.

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Pete Buttigieg is one of the least-known potential Democratic candidates on this list. As a result, the chances of him winning the nomination are slim. 

Buttigieg hasn’t spoken on a national stage about his views on marijuana legalization. However, he is largely considered a progressive in the city of South Bend, Indiana, where he serves as mayor. His home state of Indiana is far more conservative: Neither recreational marijuana nor medical marijuana are legal in the state, and progress on the issue has been slow. 

A representative from Buttigieg’s office told Mashable that the mayor supports legalization.

Tulsi Gabbard 

Gabbard has one of the most progressive records on marijuana in the House.

Image: Getty Images for Teen Vogue

Currently, the Hawaiian legislature is considering marijuana legalization. And, questionable views on Assad aside, Hawaiian Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is the one most progressive candidates when it comes to marijuana legislation. According to Marijuana Moment, she was lead sponsor on a bill that would require the government to research the effects of marijuana legalization on a state level. 

She has called on the federal government to decriminalize marijuana, encouraged the federal government to fund additional research on medical marijuana, publicly explored the relationship between opioid abuse and punitive marijuana laws,  and slammed former Attorney General Jeff Sessions for taking a regressive approach to drug policy.

Gabbard is one of the most visible advocates for legalized marijuana in the field, even if her presidential polling numbers are currently very low. 

2020 Independents and Republicans

Where the candidates outside the Democratic Party stand on marijuana legalization

Howard Schultz

Do you really want to know the CEO of Starbucks’ views on marijuana?

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Howard Schultz comes from progressive roots: His home state of Washington was the first in the country to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. That being said, Pop-Tarts got more likes on Twitter than Starbucks CEO Schultz did when they announced that they were running for president, so I’m not entirely sure we need to be concerned with a Schultz presidency. Because Schultz has no political experience to speak of, his views on the marijuana issue are unclear. 

He is, however, the founder behind the Frappuccino, which is its own kind of intoxicant. So there’s that.

We have reached out to Schultz for comment and have not yet received a response.

 Donald Trump

President Trump’s official policy position on marijuana is:(*)#$@)$(*$&

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Prior to becoming elected, Trump said he believed marijuana legalization should be left up to the states. In New York, Trump’s liberal home state, Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to legalize the recreational drug (medical marijuana is already legal) and establish an Office of Cannabis Management.

Upon becoming president, however, Trump appointed Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Sessions proceed to lift a critical Obama-era marijuana policy that made it clear that the federal government would not intervene with states who had legalized marijuana. 

In 2017, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the Trump administration was considering strengthening anti-marijuana enforcement on a federal level.

It’s unclear whether the president will be a candidate in 2020, depending on his incarceration status, but it’s important to keep his political worldview (absolute ideological chaos) in mind.

Even if there’s a Democratic president in office, it’ll be hard to push comprehensive marijuana reform, depending on the partisan makeup of Congress. Still, it’s an exciting time for marijuana advocates. A record 6 in 10 Americans now support legalization, following a decade of steady progress on the issue. 

Change will happen — in fact, it’s already happening.

We’ll be updating this post as more candidates announce their runs for office

Read more: http://mashable.com/

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Is it OK to post about weed on your Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook?

420 BLAZEIT SEND TWETE !!!
Image: vicky leta / mashable art team

It’s 4/20 baby!!! It’s Saturday, you’re lit, brain perfectly calibrated to toasted, sparking your joy, blowing smoke rings so on point it feels criminal not to share on your Instagram story.

But something stops you from posting. And it probably sounds like the voice of your D.A.R.E. teacher yelling about how posting pictures of pot online can get you arrested and ruin your career.

“Even if you just post one picture, it comes back,” said Anjela, who is very much not a D.A.R.E. teacher. Preferring to keep her full name separate from her online weed-sona, she’s better known as Koala Puffs, a weedfluencer with over half a million Instagram followers. 

“You gotta be sure that’s where you wanna take your life before you post. Because you have to be able to take on the judgement that’s gonna come with expressing yourself.”

You’d think that in the year of our lord 2019 we’d have moved past the taboo of being 420 friendly on main. Cannabis decriminalization across the U.S. is at an all-time high, along with the general population’s support for further legalization.

Yet while many of us are passing the blunt (or at least not harshing people’s buzz) IRL, the stigma around talking openly about cannabis online remains. 

Elon Musk got the not-so-dank wake up call when he started posting vague (awful) 420 jokes on Twitter, culminating in a smoke sesh no one wanted or asked for that landed him and his company in hot water. Musk also drank alcohol on the same podcast, though, and no one cared two shits about that part.

And if Musk, a person with endless Fuck You Money and fame, doesn’t have enough privilege to protect himself from online pot-shaming, who among us mortals does? Not even weed influencers can post to Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or Facebook without facing repercussions that feel like we’re stuck in 1998.

The cost of a pot-sona 

In early 2018, YouTube went on what appeared to be a marijuana-based purge, deleting and giving strikes to swaths of weed influencers’ channels. Soon after, it started happening on Instagram. While both companies cited community and user policies about depicting, smoking, and selling drugs on their platforms, others theorized that the crackdown pertained more to advertisers’ trepidation after a litany of unrelated scandals from big names like Pewdiepie and Logan Paul. 

But by and large, the fear of being publicly weed-friendly on social media isn’t about getting banned. It relates to the unique stigma of making cannabis part of your online persona.

Koala Puffs said the nine months after she quit her corporate job to pursue cannabis influencing was the hardest in her life. Her family, friends, boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s family couldn’t get behind her pro-bud rebranding.

“Nobody changed their minds until I was 200,000 followers deep,” she said. But to this day her mom still thinks she’s just outgrowing a college phase.

“I 100 percent still experience stigma from within my family,” said Arend Richard, who went from 420 YouTuber to cannabis CEO after launching The Weedtube, a weed-friendly alternative to YouTube that’s releasing a new app Saturday in response to the crackdowns. Granted, the weed stigma in his family is only exacerbated by their larger difficulty in accepting another aspect of his identity as a gay man. 

“But I will say, if you want your family to not judge you for using cannabis, just start a cannabis company, and get it written up in Forbes,” he joked.

Since taking on the business side recently, though, even Richard went back and deleted over 200 posts from his Instagram. Because legitimate cannabis businessmen also need to avoid the stereotypes associated with the stoner label, which seems to stick like glue in an age when social media signifiers define so much of how other people perceive you.

Reefer gladness

Particularly, Richard doesn’t like to post himself in the actual act of smoking, even though a tutorial video teaching people how to smoke was what first began his path into cannabis influencing. That conscious curation is part of a larger shift in how people are expressing their cannabis use online.

“At first, over-consumption was kind of the game in the cannabis industry to get a following. You just did The Most,” said Richard. 

When total prohibition was the law of the land in America, seeing copious amounts of weed, bongs, and blunts was an exciting novelty. But now it’s possible for just about anyone with enough money in certain states. 

“We’re in the biggest change in trends for online cannabis communities right now, moving more toward positivity and less toward over-consumption,” said Richard.

Cannabis/beauty/wellness influencer and yoga instructor Brittany Tatiana (or sweettatas) quite literally embodies this positivity movement, by normalizing weed as a lifestyle choice on social media.

“We’re in the biggest change in trends for online cannabis communities right now.”

She got into weed influencing after a car accident left her with chronic pain. Unable to go back to her corporate job for six months, weed became her best alternative to the opioids doctors prescribed. At the time she’d already began dabbling with modeling and beauty influencing, building a following and doing promotion with a few brands.

But then she made the fateful decision to take the leap into letting her 420 flag fly. “I guarantee you I lost jobs and contracts because of it. Immediately,” she said.

“It’s been hard for me to represent my full self and not have people judge me based on what they see in one post,” Tatiana said. Straddling the more commercial beauty industry and the cannabis-friendly world is like walking a tight rope.

“It’s been a real battle with friends and brands. It’s a fine line to cross. So I just try to be conscious about what I post.”

Tatiana hesitates to post herself smoking too, for example. But overall, “it basically comes down to a day-to-day, case-by-case basis. Am I OK with how this post represents me? Do I believe in it? Would I want my younger self to post it? Is this true to who I am?”

She decides whether or not to post by thinking of her weed habits almost like a diet, or any other wellness lifestyle activity. Would she post a picture of a smoothie because it feels good and is part of her wellness regimen? Is that also the case for her marijuana-related post? 

“It comes down to choosing how you’re gonna show it, and what cannabis means to you,” she said.

But the risk is always there, especially since the stoner label seems to dominate any other way you define yourself. 

“I worry in general that it’ll put me in some sort of box that I don’t want to be in. Even though these days, it’s becoming a way bigger box.”

That caution should be part of everyday people’s process for posting 420-friendly stuff on personal social media channels, too — regardless of whether or not they live in legalized states like the influencers we talked to.

The legal case against legalized marijuana

Because any career development expert will warn you that companies do look at your social media before hiring. There have also been a few cases of people getting fired in legalized states like Colorado for using medical marijuana even when they’re not on the job.

A 2015 survey from the Society for Human Resource Management found that a vast majority (94 percent) of HR professionals with employees in legalized states still have formal policies against cannabis, with 73 percent in medical marijuana states and 82 percent in recreational states characterizing them as zero tolerance.

This strict approach might be showing signs of changing since 2015, though. More recent suggestions from the HR group advise companies to handle weed in the workplace with more nuance and care. 

It me.

Image: vicky leta / mashable art team

“We’ve yet to see robust employment protections be adopted across legal markets regarding an individual’s cannabis consumption,” said Justin Strekal, federal lobbyist at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. But there are some emerging cases, like a recent ruling in Massachusetts that sided with an employee suing his company for wrongful termination over medical marijuana.

Still, posting about weed is far more penalized in the workplace than, say, a post about happy hour with your coworkers.

When it comes to criminal persecution, aside from the occasional headline-worthy case, “there’s not an epidemic of law enforcement arresting individuals for posting about marijuana online,” said Strekal. 

“But that still doesn’t change the fact that it’s their legal right to arrest an individual for smoking cannabis, especially in criminalized jurisdictions. And if you post evidence publicly that could be used against you in a court of law, you are volunteering evidence against yourself,” he said. 

Even if the police aren’t out to get you, those kinds of posts can add fodder to other legal battles, like child custody. And looking at the racial divides for how marijuana is prosecuted in the real world, it’s likely that some of those biases translate into who’s more likely to get away with posting about weed, too.

The answer to whether or not it’s OK to be open about weed in your online persona depends on who you are.

“The application of law enforcement when it comes to cannabis is clearly racist. Full stop,” said Strekal, pointing to the ACLU’s famous report on how the war on marijuana is racially biased. The 2015 report found, “marijuana use is roughly equal among blacks and whites, yet blacks are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.”

That also tracks with the general demographics of 420-friendly influencers which, at a cursory glance, tend to be disproportionately white and often female. 

Largely, the answer to whether you should be open about weed through your online persona depends on who you are. Beyond profession, local marijuana rules, and your age, your IRL community is another major factor in determining whether or not it’s OK. Because, as Strekal pointed out, social media is mostly regulated by algorithms and abuse reports. 

“So the biggest question an individual needs to ask themselves is how are my friends going to respond to this? Is my social bubble going to report this as abuse to these platforms?”

Tatiana agreed, saying that, “If you live in a community of churchgoers, they won’t respond well. And it’s going to get around. So it’s really a question of who you are, what you’re willing to stand up for.”

Taking the hit, for a cause

Interestingly, though, despite all these risks, repercussions, and cautions, lots of people still do get 420 friendly on main anyway. Just search 420 on your preferred social media platform. You’ll find plenty of weed content.

Let the good vibes roll.

Image: vicky leta / mashable art team

And an overwhelming majority of those posts will be positive, much like what researchers found when they tracked attitudes towards marijuana on Twitter between 2013 and 2016. 

Anecdotally, it feels as if we all live under the hazy threat of social media leading to pot-shaming or worse in the real world. But statistically, positive social media chatter around bud just keeps getting danker.

That is the fundamental tension with cautioning people against sharing their weed consumption. While people should remain mindful of the repercussions, the truth is that fighting the stigma largely takes place in social spheres like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. At least that’s what some recent studies found, suggesting a link between positive social media and support for legalization.

Let’s be real

“People are making a point to be more open about it because they’re done with that shit. We can all see it for a lie now. And posting, like, ‘I’m smoking this joint,’ or ‘my mom takes CBD pills’ — that’s people taking back their power. That’s sending a message in and of itself,” Tatiana said.

As we all know, social media is never a perfect reflection of the world as it is. Like the #FOMO travel pics that dominate your Insta feed, posting is about creating a collective ideal.

Until marijuana is legalized on the federal level, no one can tell you it’s perfectly OK to be 420-friendly on main. At the same time, changing public perception by normalizing weed online just might be how we keep the wave of support for decriminalization and legalization alive.

Solving the issues around being weed-friendly online is a chicken and egg problem — or rather, a bud and the flower problem. Because in the world of social media, pretending we all don’t smoke weed is so damn tired — but wishing everyone on your feed a happy holidaze is totally wired.

Read more: http://mashable.com/

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World Health Organization calls to reclassify weed

How will the 2020 presidential election shape marijuana legalization going forward?
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If there’s one thing that united Democrats and Republicans in the Reagan era (besides their unfortunate fixation with perms), it was their near universal hatred of weed. Everybody was a cop back then. Walter Mondale, the Democratic candidate for president in 1984, called for another “War on Drugs” — all drugs. Ronald Reagan, for his part, believed that marijuana was “probably the most dangerous drug in the United States.”

Fast forward to the 2020 election, when politicians have largely done an about-face, at least when it comes to weed. Politicians aren’t just campaigning for medical marijuana, they’re advocating for recreational marijuana to be legalized: explicitly, vocally, and on their campaign pages.

Were it not for the hundreds of thousands of people arrested for marijuana law violations every year, it’s almost like the past 40 years of aggressive anti-marijuana drug policy didn’t exist. 

Here’s what Daniel Mallinson, assistant professor of public policy and administration at Penn State Harrisburg, thinks of the tectonic political and cultural shift on marijuana legalization:

“It started in the liberal states. There was a big political shift there that has since shifted to more conservative, battleground states — specifically when it comes to medical marijuana,” Mallinson told Mashable in a phone interview. “Even the majority of Republicans now support some form of legalization. That’s a rapid political shift among individuals that’s now being captured in state policy and brought to the national level.”

Recreational marijuana is now legal in 10 states and Washington, DC, while medical marijuana is legal in 33. And the remarkable historical progress is only expected to grow.

Mallinson isn’t surprised to see Democratic candidates latching onto this issue:

“Democrats are all jostling to be the most progressive right now. At least the ones who have declared already,” Mallison said. “You have to check a box for marijuana legalization if you want to run in that space.” 

Will recreational marijuana legalization help candidates in the general election? Mallinson isn’t so sure. The current 2020 presidential candidates have a range of views on the issue, not all of them exactly alike. Here’s where each presidential candidate stands on legalized marijuana, and where they once stood — as much as they might try to deny it. 

2020 Democrats

Where the Democratic candidates stand on marijuana legalization

Amy Klobuchar

Blazin’ on through the snow: What’s Amy Klobuchar’s stance on marijuana?

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Minnesota will be voting on recreational marijuana in 2019. Despite widespread public support, it’s unclear whether the bill will pass and where Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar will stand. The candidate from Minnesota is considered one of the more centrist of the pack. And her position on legalization is somewhat more muddled than that of her opponents. 

Klobuchar has signed onto the “Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act,” which protects states that have legalized marijuana from federal meddling. So has Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Unlike Warren, however, Klobuchar has not signed onto the Marijuana Justice Act, which would remove marijuana’s classification as a schedule 1 drug in the Federal Controlled Substances Act. 

Klobuchar has supported cannabis research in the past, especially as it applies to medical research. Although, its classification as a schedule 1 drug makes this nearly impossible. It’s much harder for scientists to obtain legal samples of the drug when it’s classified this way.

Her record on marijuana as Minnesota’s Attorney General is much more conservative. In 2016, she was given a “D” rating by NORML (the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws), indicating a “hard on drugs” stance. 

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders has one of the most progressive records on marijuana legalization in the Senate.

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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders hails from one of the most liberal states in the country. In 2019, recreational marijuana was made legal in Vermont — not through a referendum, but through a vote in the state legislature. Vermont became the first state in the country to legalize marijuana using this route.

Sanders has long advocated for marijuana reform. In 1995, he co-sponsored a bill in the House that would authorize medical marijuana in cases of “life-threatening” and “sense-threatening” illness. In the decades following, Sanders became one of the most vocal advocates for marijuana reform. Four years ago, Sanders filed the first bill in the Senate to end cannabis prohibition. He has signed onto New Jersey Senator Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act and called for the de-scheduling of the drug.

Sanders has also demanded banking reform, hoping to make it easier for legal marijuana businesses to operate accounts. In 2016, Sanders became the first major presidential candidate from both parties to call for removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances. 

He is largely considered to be one of the most marijuana-friendly candidates running for president.

Cory Booker

Booker is one the most vocal advocates for marijuana legalization.

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New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker is one of the more progressive candidates when it comes to marijuana reform. It helps that he comes from a progressive state. In November of of 2018, New Jersey’s state Senate and Assembly passed legislation easing the way for marijuana legalization. Governor Phil Murphy is now working with Senate President Stephen Sweeney to establish a more formal path for legalization and government regulation and taxation of the drug.

They should have Booker’s support. In 2017, Booker authored the Marijuana Reform Act, which had multiple, historic, and radical elements: expunging convictions for those prosecuted for marijuana-related offenses, punishing states for disproportionately targeting groups of people (historically, that’s people of color), and legalizing the drug on a federal level.

People who were serving federal sentences for marijuana-related offenses would be eligible for re-sentencing, presumably for a lighter sentence.

It was a transformational piece of legislation that could have improved the lives of millions of people. But it never made it out of the Senate, thanks to a secure Republican majority.

Every current Democratic presidential candidate who is also serving in the Senate has signed onto Booker’s legislation, with the exception of Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. 

Unlike other senators on this list, Booker has a strong record on legalization. As far back as 2012, Booker, then mayor of Newark, New Jersey, decried the drug wars, accusing the federal government of “pouring huge amounts of our public resources into this current effort that is bleeding our public treasury and unnecessarily undermining human potential.”

Elizabeth Warren

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren comes from a progressive, marijuana-friendly state, so it’s not surprising that she’s one of the most vocal advocates for legalization. In 2016, Massachusetts voted to legalize cannabis recreationally and in November of 2018, began selling cannabis to adults. 

Warren has taken her advocacy to a federal level. Along with Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, Warren is one of the lead sponsors of the STATES Act, which protects states in which marijuana is legal from federal interference. Cannabis is still illegal on the federal level.

She’s also signed onto multiple major drug policy reform bills, including the Marijuana Justice Act, a transformative piece of legislation that would financially punish states that fail to legalize marijuana and who disproportionately incarcerate or arrest people for marijuana-related offenses.

Because of the legal status of marijuana on the federal level, cannabis companies are often barred from using federally-backed banks. Like Sanders, Warren has supported cannabis-related banking legislation, designed to push the industry away from cash-only models and integrate it with the modern banking system, where it’s safer for businesses and will be better monitored. 

Warren might look like the model of marijuana reform now, but it wasn’t always that way. In her 2013 campaign against Republican Dan Winslow, she came at her opponent with this accusation: “He has a 100-percent ranking from the gun lobby and he’s for the legalization of marijuana. He wants us armed and stoned.”

Julián Castro

Julian Castro, a less well-known candidate, has a record as a strong progressive.

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Democrat Julián Castro hails from Florida, where only medical marijuana is legal. Recreational marijuana legalization is a long way off — advocates are currently working to ease access to medical marijuana, which was only made legal in 2016.

Castro previously served in Obama’s White House as the Housing and Urban Development Secretary. Consequently, he doesn’t have a Congressional voting record on marijuana, making his views a bit harder to decipher.

Castro has previously made social media posts in support of at least partial legislation. Two years ago in a Facebook post, he discouraged the federal government from cracking down on recreational marijuana crimes.

Castro has also said he supported voters passing marijuana legalization laws by state

It’ll be interesting to see how Castro can distinguish himself in an already crowded Democratic field.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris has come a long way on marijuana legalization.

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Oh, California Senator Kamala Harris. Harris, who now admits she both smoked marijuana and inhaled it in the past, wasn’t always an advocate for legalization. Her home state, meanwhile, has been one of the drug’s most vocal advocates: a whopping 57.1 percent of voters voted yes on Proposition 64 in 2017 to legalize marijuana. 

It took until 2015 for the former attorney general to come out in support of medical marijuana. Back in 2014, she laughed in the face of a local news reporter who asked if she supported legalizing recreational marijuana. 

Harris has a new book in which she advocates for clearing the criminal records for people convicted of non-violent marijuana offenses, as well as for legalizing the drug.

The senator has come a long way from her earlier, more prosecutorial days, but it may not be enough to make some legalization advocates happy.

Kirsten Gillibrand 

Gillibrand has signed several key pieces of marijuana legalization.

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New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate. It’s easy for Gillibrand to hold this position, given her home state’s support for the drug (New York is poised to become the 11th state to legalize recreational cannabis). And while we personally don’t know if she’s ever smoked, Gillibrand has signed her name to several key pieces of marijuana reform legislation, including Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act.

She’e been outspoken about the effects of drug war policy and the racial inequities in the criminal justice system, even prior to announcing her candidacy.

After starting her career as a conservative, Blue Dog Democrat, Gillibrand has leaned hard to the left in recent years. I expect her to follow her party’s progressive wing on this issue in the years to come.

Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg could become America’s first openly gay president.

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Pete Buttigieg is one of the least-known potential Democratic candidates on this list. As a result, the chances of him winning the nomination are slim. 

Buttigieg hasn’t spoken on a national stage about his views on marijuana legalization. However, he is largely considered a progressive in the city of South Bend, Indiana, where he serves as mayor. His home state of Indiana is far more conservative: Neither recreational marijuana nor medical marijuana are legal in the state, and progress on the issue has been slow. 

A representative from Buttigieg’s office told Mashable that the mayor supports legalization.

Tulsi Gabbard 

Gabbard has one of the most progressive records on marijuana in the House.

Image: Getty Images for Teen Vogue

Currently, the Hawaiian legislature is considering marijuana legalization. And, questionable views on Assad aside, Hawaiian Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is the one most progressive candidates when it comes to marijuana legislation. According to Marijuana Moment, she was lead sponsor on a bill that would require the government to research the effects of marijuana legalization on a state level. 

She has called on the federal government to decriminalize marijuana, encouraged the federal government to fund additional research on medical marijuana, publicly explored the relationship between opioid abuse and punitive marijuana laws,  and slammed former Attorney General Jeff Sessions for taking a regressive approach to drug policy.

Gabbard is one of the most visible advocates for legalized marijuana in the field, even if her presidential polling numbers are currently very low. 

2020 Independents and Republicans

Where the candidates outside the Democratic Party stand on marijuana legalization

Howard Schultz

Do you really want to know the CEO of Starbucks’ views on marijuana?

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Howard Schultz comes from progressive roots: His home state of Washington was the first in the country to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. That being said, Pop-Tarts got more likes on Twitter than Starbucks CEO Schultz did when they announced that they were running for president, so I’m not entirely sure we need to be concerned with a Schultz presidency. Because Schultz has no political experience to speak of, his views on the marijuana issue are unclear. 

He is, however, the founder behind the Frappuccino, which is its own kind of intoxicant. So there’s that.

We have reached out to Schultz for comment and have not yet received a response.

 Donald Trump

President Trump’s official policy position on marijuana is:(*)#$@)$(*$&

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Prior to becoming elected, Trump said he believed marijuana legalization should be left up to the states. In New York, Trump’s liberal home state, Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to legalize the recreational drug (medical marijuana is already legal) and establish an Office of Cannabis Management.

Upon becoming president, however, Trump appointed Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Sessions proceed to lift a critical Obama-era marijuana policy that made it clear that the federal government would not intervene with states who had legalized marijuana. 

In 2017, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the Trump administration was considering strengthening anti-marijuana enforcement on a federal level.

It’s unclear whether the president will be a candidate in 2020, depending on his incarceration status, but it’s important to keep his political worldview (absolute ideological chaos) in mind.

Even if there’s a Democratic president in office, it’ll be hard to push comprehensive marijuana reform, depending on the partisan makeup of Congress. Still, it’s an exciting time for marijuana advocates. A record 6 in 10 Americans now support legalization, following a decade of steady progress on the issue. 

Change will happen — in fact, it’s already happening.

We’ll be updating this post as more candidates announce their runs for office

Read more: http://mashable.com/

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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.

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