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The DEA just wrote a letter to Congress about marijuana. It's a big deal.

What might change if the DEA 'reschedules' marijuana.

The DEA just wrote a letter to Congress about marijuana. It's a big deal.

The way state governments treat marijuana has changed a lot over the past decade.

In fact, states with more relaxed marijuana laws now outnumber states with stricter policies. In many states, governments have decriminalized marijuana, legalized the use of the compounds in marijuana for medical purposes, and even legalized weed altogether.

This gives a pretty good look at which states have decriminalized and legalized marijuana, or passed medical marijuana laws. Map from April 2016 via NORML, used with permission.


If you just look at our drug laws on the federal (not the state) level, you won’t see those changes.

According to the federal government, marijuana is still completely illegal. The Drug Enforcement Agency even categorizes marijuana as a Schedule I drug, part of the group of controlled substances that the DEA deems most dangerous.

But the DEA just sent a letter to Congress suggesting that the winds of change are blowing.

Lawmakers and activist groups have been asking the DEA to assign marijuana to a different schedule group for a while, and according to the new letter, they're about to act on that request.

"[The] DEA understands the widespread interest in the prompt resolution of these petitions and hopes to release its determination in the first half of 2016," the letter stamped April 4, 2016, reads.

Something tells me this plant isn't as dangerous as the DEA thinks it is. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

"But ... wait," you may be thinking. "We're in the first half of 2016." If a federal change happens, it's happening soon. Here's what you need to know about what the new rules could mean:

A lot of people disagree with drug scheduling because it seems pretty random.

Back in the 1970s, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, which created five classifications for drugs based on their potential for abuse, medical usefulness, and potential safety. According to the DEA, drugs that belong in Schedule I are the ones you definitely don't want to mess with. Schedule I substances supposedly have a high potential for abuse, no "currently accepted medical use," and are generally unsafe.

But here's the big problem: Lots of people disagree with the way the DEA and the FDA scheduled drugs in the '70s. Heroin, which is in Schedule I, was behind more than 17,000 fatal overdoses last year while marijuana hasn't caused a single fatal overdose in, well, recorded history. However, they're both in the same scheduling category.

Also, given that doctors in many states now prescribe cannabis and its chemical compounds to treat conditions like depression, arthritis, and epilepsy, there are plenty of reasons to take marijuana off the mega danger zone list.

Why does rescheduling matter that much?

One word: research.

It's really, really, really, REALLY hard to research marijuana if you're a scientist in the United States because the government heavily restricts research on Schedule I drugs. It's kind of a catch-22: We don't have many clinical trials involving marijuana, so we have limited knowledge about its medical uses and abuse potential, and it stays in Schedule I.

But according to the letter, "We [the DEA] support research on marijuana and its components that complies with applicable laws and regulations to advance our understanding about the health risks and potential therapeutic benefits of medications using marijuana or its components or derivatives."

Bottom line, rescheduling marijuana means that we would know a lot more about that little green plant, what it does, and how to use it safely. Which is important, since people in lots of states have started using the substance more freely in recent years.

Rescheduling marijuana could also mean big changes for our criminal justice system, too.

Photo via A7nubis/Wikimedia Commons.

Even if the DEA reschedules marijuana, that doesn't mean the government is going to fully decriminalize it any time soon. Thousands of people (and disproportionately people of color) are arrested for marijuana possession each year — often outpacing arrests for violent crimes.

Rescheduling could also put us closer to the FDA approving marijuana as a "safe and effective drug" with legal uses, though. Ultimately, criminal justice reform is going to take some time ... and a lot more cooperation from Congress. But this is a good start.

No matter what happens with the schedule, though, this conversation is important for a lot of reasons.

The DEA might end up keeping marijuana in the category of drugs that are even more dangerous than cocaine, meth, and steroids, but it's important that they're at least having real, nuanced discussions about cannabis. This whole thing proves that we’re moving forward, which is a good progress by any standard.

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


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Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

President Trump has exited the White House as the first president in 100 years to not have a pet. President Biden is bringing the presidential pets tradition back, but with a special "first" of his own.

Champ and Major, the Bidens' German shepherds have officially moved into the White House, with Major being the first rescue dog to live there. The Bidens adopted the now 3-year-old good boy from the Delaware Humane Association in 2018.

Anyone who's ever moved with a pet knows that transitions can be tenuous. New sights, smells, and sounds, in addition to the change in routine, can be stressful for animals. And when you're a human who is not only moving into a new home, but also starting a new job as the president of the Untied States, you might need a little time to adjust right along with your pets.

That's why the Biden family took some time to fully transition their two dogs into the White House this week. Though the president and first lady moved in on January 20, the first doggos didn't officially move in until five days later, after a gradual introduction to the building and grounds to get them used to their new home.

They sure do look happy to be with their people in The People's House now, though.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

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Two weeks ago, we watched a pro-Trump mob storm the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overthrow the results of a U.S. election and keep Donald Trump in power. And among those insurrectionists were well-known adherents of QAnon, nearly every image of the crowd shows people wearing Q gear or carrying Q flags, and some of the more frightening elements we saw tie directly into QAnon beliefs.

Since hints of it first started showing up in social media comments several years ago, I've been intrigued—and endlessly frustrated—by the phenomenon of QAnon. At first, it was just a few fringey whacko conspiracy theorists I could easily roll my eyes at and ignore, but as I started seeing elements of it show up more and more frequently from more and more people, alarm bells started ringing.

Holy crap, there are a lot of people who actually believe this stuff.

Eventually, it got personal. A QAnon adherent on Twitter kept commenting on my tweets, pushing bizarro Q ideas on many of my posts. The account didn't use a real name, but the profile was classic QAnon, complete with the #WWG1WGA. ("Where we go one, we go all"—a QAnon rallying cry.) I thought it might be a bot, so I blocked them. Later, I discovered that it was actually one of my own extended family members.

Holy crap, I actually know people who actually believe this stuff.

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Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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