This governor wants to make a big move in the War on Drugs before he leaves office.

Before he leaves office in January, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin wants to do something bold.

He called a meeting with his staff to discuss ideas, and they came up with a plan that will make the lives of thousands of Vermont prisoners and their families better — just in time for the holidays too.

Gov. Peter Shumlin. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.


Gov. Shumlin has decided to let people who are currently in prison for possessing small amounts of marijuana go home as soon as possible.

As part of Shumlin's initiative to introduce a "more sane" drug policy in his state, from now until Christmas, people in Vermont prisons who were convicted of carrying small amounts of marijuana will be able to apply for an official pardon. While the pardons themselves won’t go through until after the holidays, the opportunity to apply is an unexpected and potentially life-changing gift.

In 2013, Vermont passed a decriminalization law that brought the sentence for marijuana possession down to a $200 fine (in most cases) and would no longer result in a criminal record.

"We've got folks who got charged for an ounce or less of marijuana in a different era when we were running a failed war on drugs," the governor told WCAX. "Let's give those folks the opportunity to have a clean record."

Edward Harris, who spent time in jail for a minor drug possession, attends a rally outside Brooklyn Borough Hall. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

"There's some injustice in not having the new rules apply to those who are having their lives held back because of the old rules," Shumlin said.

This is just one more example of the nationwide tipping point we've reached regarding marijuana and the War on Drugs.

28 states and the District of Columbia have legalized it in some form — with eight of those legalizations occurring in 2016.

In a November 2016 interview with Bill Maher, President Obama noted that soon, having a federal law banning marijuana would make no sense. "You now have about a fifth of the country that’s operating under one set of laws, and four-fifths in another," the president said. "I think that we’re going to have to have a more serious conversation about how we are treating marijuana and our drug laws generally."

Shumlin meeting with Obama in 2014. Photo by Saul Loeb/Getty Images.

Many cite marijuana's medical benefits or the potential tax profit as reasons enough to legalize the drug, but one of the biggest reasons is the sheer number of people who are in prison because of it.

Hundreds of thousands of nonviolent drug offenders go to prison every year. 574,641 people were arrested for marijuana possession in 2015 alone, and it costs tens of thousands of dollars a year in taxpayer money to keep them there. Not to mention the fact that a disproportionate number of those prisoners are black and Latino.

In Vermont alone, Governor Shumlin's office is estimating there anywhere from 10,000 to 17,000 people currently serving time for low-level marijuana convictions who would now be eligible to apply for a pardon and go home with a clean record.

That's thousands of families who will be reunited and thousands of people who will be able to get jobs, start over, and not have their lives ruined by drug that is legal in more than half the country.

Lainey and baby goat Annie. Photo courtesy of Lainey Morse
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Oftentimes, the journey to our true calling is winding and unexpected. Take Lainey Morse, who went from office manager to creator of the viral trend, Goat Yoga, thanks to her natural affinity for goats and throwing parties.

Back in 2015, Lainey bought a farm in Oregon and got her first goats who she named Ansel and Adams. "Once I got them, I was obsessed," says Lainey. "It was hard to get me off the farm to go do anything else."

Right away, she noticed what a calming presence they had. "Even the way they chew their cud is relaxing to be around because it's very methodical," she says. Lainey was going through a divorce and dealing with a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis at the time, but even when things got particularly hard, the goats provided relief.

"I found it impossible to be stressed or depressed when I was with them."

She started inviting friends up to the farm for what she called "Goat Happy Hour." Soon, the word spread about Lainey's delightful, stress-relieving furry friends. At one point, she auctioned off a child's birthday party at her farm, and the mom asked if they could do yoga with the goats. And lo, the idea for goat yoga was born.

A baby goat on a yoga student. Photo courtesy of Lainey Morse

Goat yoga went viral so much so that by fall of 2016, Lainey was able to quit her office manager job at a remodeling company to manage her burgeoning goat yoga business full-time. Now she has 10 locations nationwide.

Lainey handles the backend management for all of her locations, and loves that side of the business too, even though it's less goat-related. "I still have my own personal Goat Happy Hour every single day so I still get to spend a lot of time with my goats," says Lainey. "I get the best of both worlds."

Lainey with her goat Fabio. Photo courtesy of Lainey Morse

Since COVID-19 hit, her locations have had to close temporarily. She hopes her yoga locations will be able to resume classes in the spring when the vaccine is more widely available. "I think people will need goat yoga more than ever before, because everyone has been through so much stress in 2020," says Lainey.

Major life changes like Lainey's can come around for any number of reasons. Even if they seem out of left field to some, it doesn't mean they're not the right moves for you. The new FOX series "Call Me Kat", which premieres Sunday, January 3rd after NFL and will continue on Thursday nights beginning January 7th, exemplifies that. The show is centered around Kat, a 39-year old single woman played by Mayim Bialik, who quit her math professor job and spent her life's savings to pursue her dreams to open a Cat Café in Louisville, Kentucky.

Jeff Harry started making similar moves when he was just 10-years-old, and kept making them throughout his life. After seeing the movie "Big,"Jeff knew he wanted to play with toys for a living, so he started writing toy companies asking for next steps. He finally got a response when he was a sophomore in high school — the company told him he needed to become a mechanical engineer first.

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Schieffer shared an emotional video on TikTok after she'd gone to the pharmacy to pick up her son's insulin and was smacked with a bill for $1000. "I couldn't pay for it," she says through tears in the video. "I now have to go in and tell my 9-year-old son I couldn't pay for it."

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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

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I wrestle with that thought, considering the conversation I recently had with Ben Lesser, a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor who was just a little younger than my son when he witnessed his first Nazi atrocity.

It was September of 1939 and the Blitzkrieg occupation of Poland had just begun. Ben, his parents, and his siblings were awakened in their Krakow apartment by Nazi soldiers who pistol-whipped them out of bed and ransacked their home. As the men with the shiny black boots filled burlap sacks with the Jewish family's valuables, a scream came from the apartment across the hall. Ben and his sister ran toward the cry.

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Nearly a year into the deadliest pandemic in a century, the U.S. is still battling not only the virus, but Americans living in denial of reality as well.

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The manager, to his credit, did what he could to calmly talk with these people while also making it clear that they were not going to enter the store without a mask.

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