+
More

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.

Nature

Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave that’s been closed for 70 years

You can only access the cave from the basement of the home and it’s open for business.

This Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave.

Have you ever seen something in a movie or online and thought, "That's totally fake," only to find out it's absolutely a real thing? That's sort of how this house in Pennsylvania comes across. It just seems too fantastical to be real, and yet somehow it actually exists.

The home sits between Greencastle and Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, and houses a pretty unique public secret. There's a cave in the basement. Not a man cave or a basement that makes you feel like you're in a cave, but an actual cave that you can't get to unless you go through the house.

Turns out the cave was discovered in the 1830s on the land of John Coffey, according to Uncovering PA, but the story of how it was found is unclear. People would climb down into the cave to explore occasionally until the land was leased about 100 years later and a small structure was built over the cave opening.

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

This company makes it easier than ever to enjoy guilt-free fairly traded coffee

Thanks to Lifeboost, good coffee can be good for everyone.

Unsplash

Lifeboost coffee

Americans love coffee. Like, we really, seriously, truly love it. According to one recent survey, 75 percent of U.S. adults drink coffee at least occasionally, while 53 percent—about 110 million people—drink it every single day. For some, coffee is an essential part of their morning ritual. For others, it’s something they enjoy when they hit the proverbial wall in the late afternoon. But either way, millions of people use coffee to boost energy, focus, and productivity.


Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Buffy Sainte-Marie shares what led to her openly breastfeeding on 'Sesame Street' in 1977

The way she explained to Big Bird what she was doing is still an all-time great example.

"Sesame Street" taught kids about life in addition to letters and numbers.

In 1977, singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie did something revolutionary: She fed her baby on Sesame Street.

The Indigenous Canadian-Ameican singer-songwriter wasn't doing anything millions of other mothers hadn't done—she was simply feeding her baby. But the fact that she was breastfeeding him was significant since breastfeeding in the United States hit an all-time low in 1971 and was just starting to make a comeback. The fact that she did it openly on a children's television program was even more notable, since "What if children see?" has been a key pearl clutch for people who criticize breastfeeding in public.

But the most remarkable thing about the "Sesame Street" segment was the lovely interchange between Big Bird and Sainte-Marie when he asked her what she was doing.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Linda Ronstadt's 1970's ballad is a chart-topping hit once again thanks to 'The Last of Us'

The iconic 70s song "Long, Long Time" was an integral part of an unforgettable episode that fans are calling a masterpiece.

Linda Ronstadt (left), Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett (right)

HBO’s emotional third episode of the zombie series “The Last Of Us” became an instant favorite among fans, thanks in no small part to Linda Ronstadt’s late 1970s ballad, “Long, Long Time.”

Using the song as the episode’s title, “Long, Long Time,” moves away from the show’s main plot to instead focus on a heartbreakingly beautiful love story between Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett), from its endearing start all the way to its bittersweet end.

The song makes its first appearance during the initial stages of Bill and Frank’s romance as they play the tune on the piano, just before they share their first kiss.

We see their entire lives together play out—one of closeness, devotion, and savoring homegrown strawberries—until they meet their end. The song then plays on the radio, bringing the bottle episode to a poignant close.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

34-year-old man is learning to read on TikTok in series of motivational videos

His reading skills have improved so much that he plans to read 100 books this year.

@oliverspeaks1/TikTok

Oliver James is the biggest star on BookTok.

With over 125,000 followers, 34-year-old Oliver James is a star in the BookTok community. And it all started with a very simple goal: Learn to read.

For most kids, school is a place where they can develop a relationship with learning in a safe environment. For James, school was the opposite. Growing up with learning and behavior disabilities subjected him to abusive teaching practices in special education, which, of course, did nothing to help.

"The special education system at the time was more focused on behavioral than educating," he told Good Morning America. "So they spent a lotta time restraining us, a lotta time disciplining us, a lotta times putting us in positions to kinda shape us to just not act out in class."

Keep ReadingShow less
via Pexels

A couple celebrates while packing their home.

One of the topics that we like to highlight on Upworthy is people who are redefining what it means to be in a relationship. Recently, we’ve shared the stories of platonic life partners, moms who work together as part of a “mommune” and a polyamorous family with four equally-committed parents.

A growing number of people are reevaluating traditional relationships and entering lifestyles that work for them instead of trying to fit into preexisting roles. It makes sense because the more lifestyle options that are available, the greater chance we have to be happy.

A recent trend in unconventional relationships is married couples "living apart together," or LATs as they are known among mental health professionals.

Actress Helena Bonham Carter and director Tim Burton, actress Gwyneth Paltrow and producer Brad Falchuk, and photographer Annie Leibovitz and activist Susan Sontag are all high-profile couples who’ve embraced the LAT lifestyle.

Keep ReadingShow less