TIME Drugs

Washington State Marijuana Shops Caught Selling to Minors

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Four of 22 stores tested for compliance were caught selling weed to underage shoppers in state-run stings

Washington’s retail marijuana businesses got calls from the state liquor control board before the sting operations began, warning them and reminding them about best practices when it comes to keeping weed out of kids’ hands. But when the board sent 18- to 20-year-old operatives into the first batch of stores this month to see if shops would sell them weed, four of them still failed the test. According to the board’s report released Wednesday, that amounted to 18% of 22 operations.

“We’re always going to have the goal of 100% compliance, that’s what we want; [82%] is good, but it’s not great,” says State Senator Ann Rivers, who has continued to work on reforming the state’s retail and medical marijuana industries. “Many of these businesses have invested a lot of time and a lot of money. And it’s stunning to me that they’d be willing to risk their livelihood to do something so foolish.”

By the end of June, the state plans to conduct sting operations at each of the 138 retail marijuana shops reporting sales in Washington. “When the news is out,” the liquor control board’s Brian Smith says of these first numbers, “we’ll see a spike in compliance. That’s what happened on the alcohol side.” In the operations, the underage shoppers present their real IDs if asked but don’t offer an ID if they aren’t; if a store sells them marijuana, they complete the transaction and bring the contraband to officers waiting outside the shops.

Marijuana businesses in Washington that sell to minors face possible license suspensions and fines of up to $2,500. Businesses that fail three times in three years can lose their state-issued licenses, while the person who conducts the actual transaction faces a possible felony charge.

Reformers who wanted to legalize marijuana in Washington and Colorado—and who continue to pursue reform in other states—often argue that weed should be legal because it’s safer than alcohol. Regulations for alcohol, such as selling it only to adults ages 21 and older, have been used as scaffolding for nascent marijuana markets. Smith points out that similar sting operations conducted among liquor sellers in Washington always find slip-ups. Since 2012, monthly checks have found that an average of 85% of businesses, ranging from liquor shops to restaurants, don’t sell to minors.

In 2014, Colorado conducted similar stings among a sample of 20 retail marijuana shops in the state and found 100% compliance, but the vast majority of the state’s more than 250 shops were not tested. Since 2014, checks among liquor sellers in Colorado have found that an average of about 90% of businesses don’t sell alcohol to minors.

Smith chalks some failures up to “human error,” though drivers licenses for residents under age 21 are vertical rather than horizontal in the state. Many shops, he says, have someone stationed at the door and people working the register sometimes mistakenly assume that all shoppers’ IDs have been checked before they show up at the counter. “It’s early. This is a brand new industry that is finding it’s way,” Smith says. “There’s going to be some kinks initially.”

“Because this market is new, some business people don’t have all of their systems in place as much as we might like them to, so I’m going to cut them just the slightest bit of slack,” Rivers says. But she also emphasizes that “part of the expectation of the people of this state was that [a legal marijuana market] would be well taxed and very well regulated to keep it out of the hands of kids.”

While she’s neither thrilled nor deeply disappointed in these first results, Rivers says that attention shouldn’t just be focused on what happens in the stores: “The larger concern for me is people who are purchasing it legally because they’re the right age but then giving it to the underage people.”

A failure to follow the rules gives ammunition to those who did not want to legalize marijuana or who would like to see existing markets fold. But reform advocates point out that there is, at least, some oversight now occurring. “It’s always disappointing when there are isolated incidents of non-compliance, but it’s also a powerful example of how a legal, regulated market leads to more accountability and responsibility,” says Taylor West, spokesperson for the National Cannabis Industry Association. “Because you can certainly bet no one’s checking IDs in the criminal market, and a regulatory process incentivizes legal businesses to play by the rules.”

TIME LGBT

Oregon Becomes Third State to Ban Conversion Therapy on Minors

OR: Kate Brown Attends Oregon Statehood Day Event
Alex Milan Tracy—Sipa USA/AP Then Secretary of State Kate Brown, who is currently Governor, attends a Statehood Day celebration at the Oregon Historical Society, in Portland, Ore., on Feb. 14, 2015.

The Beaver State is the third to pass such a prohbition

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown made her state the third to outlaw the use of conversion therapy on minors on Monday, eliminating the controversial practice that President Barack Obama called to ban in early April. Oregon joins California, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., in prohibiting licensed therapists from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a child.

“We hope Oregon will prove to be just [one] of many states to ban this harmful and discredited practice that uses rejection, shame and psychological abuse,” said Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, which supports LGBT youth. Organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association and the American Psychiatric Association have all come out against the practice, also known as reparative therapy.

Oregon’s new law comes at a time when there is some movement in Washington responding to Obama’s call. On Tuesday, California Rep. Ted Lieu introduced a bill that would classify commercial conversion therapy—and advertising claims that promise changes to one’s sexual orientation or gender identity—as fraud. This could essentially ban the practice for all ages nationwide.

“The truth is that being LGBT cannot be and does not need to be cured,” said Lieu, who authored the California state ban on conversion therapy for minors. “It’s a dangerous scam, and the government must act to protect LGBT Americans from fraudsters who take their money and lie to them.”

In April, California Rep. Jackie Speier introduced a resolution calling on states to end the practice and said she was “also pursuing the possibility of a full federal ban of the practice.”

Opponents of the new state laws, who claim they are violations of free speech and the freedom of religion, have tried and so far failed to challenge them in court. In 2014, the Supreme Court declined to hear challenges to the California law. And earlier this month the Court declined to hear a challenge to the New Jersey law, leaving a ruling that upheld the ban as the final legal word on the matter.

Obama called for an end to the practice among minors in response to a petition started in honor of Leelah Alcorn, a transgender youth who walked into oncoming traffic and was killed. She left a suicide note detailing the trauma she experienced from conversion therapy pushed by her parents. The petition started on the White House’s website gained more than 120,000 signatures.

Oregon Gov. Brown, who took office in 2015, is the country’s first openly bisexual sitting governor. She signed the law with little publicity, issuing no press release on her website or tweet on her feed. But LGBT rights groups were happy to sound the trumpets. “We all owe them an enormous debt of gratitude,” the National Center for Lesbian Rights’ Samantha Ames said of lawmakers who pushed the bill, “one we can only repay by promising we will continue this fight until the day no child knows the devastation of being told they were born anything but perfect.”

TIME youth

Why Young People Don’t Want to Run For Office

TIME speaks with Jennifer Lawless, whose research on young Americans' political ambition is revealed in a new book

Will American politics face a brain drain? If current trends continue, it could soon.

Political science professors Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox asked more than 4,000 high school and college students if they would be interested in running for political office in America someday: 89% of them said “no.”

That finding is the crux of a new book based on their original research, Running From Office. In it, the authors argue that the dysfunction of Washington has turned the next generation off politics in historic fashion. Unless behaviors change, American University’s Lawless says, the country’s brightest stars are going to pursue just about anything but one of the 500,000 elected offices America needs filled each year.

Here is a lightly edited transcript of TIME’s interview with Lawless, in which she explains who’s to blame, what’s to be done and why she earnestly believes parents should be convincing their kids to become politicians.

It’s an old, old thing to lament the youth’s lack of interest in politics and a rancorous political climate. What is happening here that is new?

There are two dynamics. The first is that lamenting young people’s engagement has previously always stopped at their interest or their participation. [Researchers have] never actually considered whether they’re interested in running for office. The other is the young people that we’ve surveyed, who are high school and college students now, have grown up only amid the dysfunction that currently characterizes the political system. They have known nothing else. And this is really the first generation where that’s the case.

But is this a historic brand of dysfunction?

We know that polarization is stronger now than it’s been and it’s continued to increase. We know that effectiveness—if we measure that in legislative productivity—has been lower in the last several Congresses. And look at some of the high-profile examples of dysfunction that we’re not accustomed to seeing. The government shutdown is the most obvious one. Debates over raising the debt ceiling. The U.S. having its credit rating decreased. The constant worry over the course of the last year that there might be another government shutdown. That’s new to this generation. We saw dysfunction but not at the same level in the 1980s and 1990s.

Why do you think researchers haven’t looked at political ambition before?

I think there is this disconnect. Until we started doing the research, I didn’t know that the careers that young people identify as something they might be interested in during their teens often map onto what they’re going to do later in life … There was probably this sense that, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter. Young people are disengaged. They’re tuned out. When politics matters to them, they’ll care more.’ But what our data suggests that if they’re already writing this off now, there’s nothing to suggest that it’s going to come back onto their radar screen.

Do we have numbers from previous generations to compare the 89% statistic to?

We don’t know because polls of young people in previous generations generally don’t exist. We do, though, have data over time on young people’s interest in politics, whether they talk about politics with their families, whether they are talking about politics with their friends and whether they follow political news. We found that all of those things are predictors of whether you’re running for office. And the over-time data show declines on all of those indicators. Depending how you examine them, we see declines of 20% or 30%.

How long is this list of who or what is to blame for young people’s antipathy or apathy toward being in politics?

We’re not necessarily blaming young people. It’s that they live in an environment where they’re not particularly interested in politics because they find it argumentative and dysfunctional. But their parents agree. And their teachers agree. And the news media agree. So they get these constant reinforcing messages that this is not something that is fun or interesting or important or noble … The [other] set of players are the politicians themselves. They behave increasingly in unappealing ways and in ways that suggest that they’re not effective at their jobs.

Why should parents and teachers be pitching kids on politics when that’s not necessarily a message they believe in?

We think that letting young people know that this is a way that they can effect change—and that politics does not have to be the way they perceive it—is a message we want to send. At the end of the day, legislation is passed and policies are made by the government. And if you don’t have a seat at that table, even if you are highly effective in a behind-the-scenes kind of capacity, you’re not living up to the full potential of options you have. If people choose not to do that, that’s fine. But 13 to 17-year olds should not be writing that off as a future career option … If we had heard that 89% of young people said that under no circumstances would they ever become a lawyer or a doctor or a journalist or a teacher, there would probably be a national outcry.

What happens if kids don’t change their minds?

We have more than 500,000 elected offices in this country. … We’re not concerned that no one will run for them. We’re concerned that the candidates will be the type of people who aren’t interested in bringing about a better system.

What kind of people will still be attracted to political races, if not the best candidates?

The kind of people who are currently in office. People that actually do not think that government is a way to bring about positive change, people who are more interested in their own power than public policy, people that are antagonistic and confrontational and value partisanship over output.

When you’re talking to that jaded 16-year-old, how do you pitch them on this?

The first thing is to ask them what matters to them, and in almost every case what is most important to a high school student or a college student can be linked to a specific political issue. For high school students, it might be that they’re worried about whether they’re going to be able to afford college. For college students, it might be whether they’re worried about moving into their parents’ house when they graduate. For young women, it could be that they don’t have access to contraception.

So what should be done to remedy that situation?

We have a series of recommendations. One is linking political aptitude to the college admissions process, so people have to know something about current events and politics if they want to go to college. Another suggestion we have is some kind of national service program that would value political service. We’ve seen large programs like the Peace Corps, like Americorps, like Teach for America, where we have created incentives for young people to go out and improve communities. There’s no similar program for political service, which could create an incentive for young people to get involved in their communities as elected leaders.

How optimistic are you feeling right now about all the gridlock and bickering and disenchantment improving?

It’s funny because I’m an eternal pessimist but on this front, I believe in government. A lot. Maybe this is a little idealistic, but I think as people begin to realize that there are long term consequences to the dysfunction that we’re experiencing—that we might be turning off an entire generation or even discouraging adults right now who are well-qualified to run and lead—they’ll see there are opportunities for change.

TIME housing

Report Finds Airbnb May Contribute to San Francisco’s Housing Woes

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Fights over privacy and business continue to plague the popular home-sharing platform in the City by the Bay

A report released on Thursday found that about 15% of San Francisco’s vacant housing may have been removed from the market so it could be rented out on sharing economy platform Airbnb. This comes at a time when the company is waging legal battles in several cities—and when renting out one’s home for less than 30 days has just been banned in Santa Monica, Calif.

San Francisco Board Supervisor David Campos held a news conference Thursday, asserting that the report proves Airbnb is a “significant contributor to the housing shortage” that is pushing low- and middle-income families out of the city. While no one denies that the City by the Bay is in the midst of a housing crisis, the company and at least one economist believe that the report and that politician overstate the role that Airbnb plays.

The study was conducted by the city’s independent budget and legislative analyst’s office, at the progressive lawmaker’s request. Campos has proposed legislation that would change a new law that legalized short-term rentals in San Francisco. Residents at the moment are allowed to host Airbnb guests in their units for unlimited days per year and to rent them out 90 days per year when they’re not present. Campos’ proposal would limit all rentals, hosted or un-hosted, to 90 days per year.

“The Mission is a community in crisis,” Campos said of the neighborhood that has become ground zero for working-class activists protesting gentrification fueled by booming tech companies. “This practice is exacerbating an already terrible situation.”

Airbnb countered, as local loyalists have in city council hearings, that those struggling to make ends meet can benefit from the added income that sharing a home affords. “Home sharing is an economic lifeline for thousands of San Franciscans who depend on the extra income to stay in their homes,” Airbnb spokesperson Christopher Nulty said in a statement, responding to the report. “Supervisor Campos’ proposal would make it even harder for middle class families to stay in San Francisco and pay the bills.”

The report’s author admits that the attempts to quantify Airbnb’s impact are a best guess, relying on webscrapes and assumptions about residents’ behavior. Airbnb continues to guard data about their users and financial situation that would allow for more precision. Though the company is submitting monthly anonymized data to the city to prove that hosts are remitting hotel taxes, officials have said they need more data in order to effectively enforce limits on rentals.

“I think the bigger picture questions to focus on are: How can cities pass effective legislation in the absence of accurate data about Airbnb?” Karen Chapple, professor of city and regional planning at the University of California—Berkeley, writes in an email. “Would it not be in Airbnb’s interest to share its data openly and collaborate with cities in designing and implementing fair laws?”

Arun Sundararajan, an economist who reviewed the report, believes that Airbnb and its data are something of a red herring. While the site may lead to some units being taken off the market and to disturbances among neighbors who don’t like sharing their buildings with tourists, he says the housing options provided by Airbnb are likely drawing more tourists—and more revenue—to the city. The responsibility of Airbnb in yielding the current lack of housing in the city is “sort of like a rounding error when you compare it to the population growth in San Francisco and the number of units that are rent-controlled.”

As Airbnb stands firm on protecting users’ data and refusing to fork over the names and addresses for every booking, Nulty points out that these short-term rentals are contributing around $469 million in revenue to the local economy and that more than 80% of users in San Francisco share only the home in which they live.

“Any sort of creative disruption tends to have winners and losers,” Sundararajan says. “I just don’t see a scenario in this case where the losses are going to outweigh the wins.”

TIME Food

Why Consumers Don’t Trust ‘Organic’ Labels

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Photograph by Danny Kim for TIME; Gif by Mia Tramz for TIME

Survey finds many shoppers believe organic labels are just an excuse to charge more

Organic products are all over grocery store shelves and menus, but consumers don’t have much faith in the “o” word, according to a study from market research firm Mintel. More than half of shoppers say they believe that labeling something as organic is “an excuse to charge more,” and more than one-third say they believe “organic” is just marketing jargon “with no real value or definition.”

The word has, however, had a strict definition overseen by the federal government since 2002. Back then, fresh off the heels of public debate about the term, a report on Oregon shoppers found that just 7% had no trust in the label. “It’s about an erosion of confidence,” says Billy Roberts, an analyst with Mintel, which surveyed 2,002 U.S. adults for the new study. “It’s a question of whether the whole supply chain is delivering on an organic promise.”

Roberts says that highly visible food recalls, along with a perennial distrust of big corporations and the government, has led people to feel less certain about what they’re getting when they buy something at the local grocery store. The entrance of bigger players into the organic scene—companies such as Wal-Mart, Target and PepsiCo have all been expanding their selections in recent years—has also driven down prices, Roberts notes, “and those high prices were almost a certain reassurance to consumers that what they were buying was what had been promised to them.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture decides whether any company or farm can slap an “organic” label on their product and investigate every complaint that the word is being falsely used. “We have a robust system,” says Betsy Rakola, the USDA’s organic policy advisor. “There’s a lot of integrity behind the label. Anyone who wants to sell or market or label their product as organic has to follow the USDA regulations.”

Those regulations include rules that farmland must have been free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for at least three years, for example. Organic livestock has to eat 100% organic feed and have access to the outdoors. Facilities pursuing the label must be inspected and reviewed every year. Though Mintel found that many consumers believe organic products are healthier for them, Rakola says their oversight is about the production process. Farmers have to promote ecological balance and biodiversity; they have to enhance soil and water quality; they must conserve resources. “It’s about the process and how the food is grown,” she says. “That’s the assurance that the seal provides.”

Organic may also have lost credibility because of its close association with buzzwords that have little or no definition in the eyes of the government. Outside of meat and dairy products, the word “natural” has no concrete meaning in the marketplace—which has upset some consumers enough to sue companies like Tyson for claiming they sell “100 percent all-natural” chicken nuggets. So far as Rakola is aware, there is no standard at all for when people can use the word “artisanal,” even though it evokes an image of small-batch, hand-crafted, superior-quality products.

Clamor for uniformity—for the sake of consumers and for leveling the competitive playing field—led to “organic” getting its federal definition 13 years ago. Health concerns helped win “gluten-free” a standard that went into effect in 2014; while the presences of little gluten makes little difference for trendier dieters, the lack of assurance that new dishes or products were in fact gluten-free became a danger for those with actual allergies to gluten in recent years.

Should words like “natural” and “artisanal” have definitions too, so they can’t be bandied about? “It’s not for us to jump in and say what people need,” Rakola says, emphasizing that the USDA’s job is to respond to the public and to Congress.

The market research analyst sees a chance for businesses to get ahead in the meantime, using transparency and interactive elements to show shoppers more about how their products are made. That may also be a path to giving thousands of organic products more credence with the public. “Consumers are a little hesitant to purchase many of them because of lack of confidence,” Roberts says. “It’s an opportunity for manufacturers to reach consumers, establishing that trust that consumers are really looking for.”

TIME

Road Service Gets an On-Demand Makeover

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Tow trucks and phone apps are tapping data to give you a jump-start

The ice storm that hit Nashville this February was the worst in 20 years. Freezing rain glazed the roads, so when one of Michael Cunnyngham’s employees discovered he had a flat tire, there was already a long queue of auto-club members ahead of him who had put in calls for help. “They said they’d be there in an hour. Then it was two hours,” recalls Cunnyngham, who runs a tech company. “Then it was the end of the day. So I thought, There has to be some Uber for wreckers,” he says, referring to the popular ride-hailing app. His search results turned up Urgent.ly, a Virginia-based startup that indeed bills itself as the Uber of roadside assistance. He called the employee and told him to download the app. “I get a really happy message from him not more than a few minutes later saying somebody’s coming,” Cunnyngham says. Within 30 minutes, the tire was fixed. “You couldn’t ask for a better experience,” he says.

Roadside assistance is a $10 billion market in the U.S.–and now tech companies are revving to disrupt it, replacing call centers with dispatch algorithms designed to locate the best nearby vehicle that can help with a lockout or winch a car out of a ditch. Entrepreneurs like Urgent.ly CEO Chris Spanos believe that motorists need an on-demand alternative to paying for insurance plans they might not use or blindly calling tow companies in their time of need, with little way to tell if they’re being overcharged. “You should only pay for service when you need it,” he argues. But taking on an industry behemoth like AAA, which has 55 million members, is going to be a long haul–especially because AAA is mapping out innovations of its own.

Urgent.ly and its main competitor, the Santa Monica, Calif.–based Honk, both offer flat rates, promise quick response times and provide maps in their apps that show users where their rescuer is with real-time updates. These companies are positioning themselves as not just a snappy service for the smartphone crowd but also a new revenue stream for towing companies. While AAA, which is a not-for-profit corporation, says it does not release exact figures for how much its contractors get paid, tow-truck operators have said it’s in the neighborhood of $25 per call. Kwame Scott, owner of Scott’s Towing in Suitland, Md., says he makes about $75 if that same call comes through his Urgent.ly app. Like Uber, these startups are taking about a 25% cut and handing the rest over to the drivers. “If technology can get into towing, then, hey, swell. We’re in,” Scott says.

Honk CEO Corey Brundage says the company started getting a series of call-and-cancel orders last year that they traced to AAA employees. “We do mystery-shop to see how services compare,” says AAA spokesperson Yolanda Cade. She emphasizes that America’s famous motor club has been around for 100 years and responds to “more than 30″ million calls per year; members typically also receive travel discounts or other membership perks. AAA is a federation of 43 motor clubs around the country, which can customize what they offer. In late 2014, the Mid-Atlantic club started running RescueMeNow, a web-based on-demand service for nonmembers, which comes with a follow-up contact enticing users to join. The Southern California club has meanwhile been providing a “service tracker” that shows a real-time map in the AAA app. Some car manufacturers also offer roadside assistance as part of their warranties.

Silicon Valley investors and several national companies are betting on the new guard. Honk announced a $12 million fundraising round in March, soon after Urgent.ly announced that its app will be part of AT&T’s connected-car platform, AT&T Drive. Still, towing providers like Scott aren’t sure how revolutionary these apps will be. He says that while he might get $75 for a job placed through Urgent.ly, he’d get $100 if the customer called him directly. “It hasn’t become a major part of my business,” he says. “But it’s a nice addition.”


This appears in the May 11, 2015 issue of TIME.
TIME Alcohol

Teens Who Watch Boozy Movies Are More Likely to Drink, Study Finds

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Photograph by Danny Kim for TIME; Gif by Mia Tramz for TIME

There may be a dark side to Bridget Jones' cute coping sequences

Watching James Bond elegantly guzzle that martini may be having adverse effects on adolescents. A new study from the journal Pediatrics found that 15-year-olds who have watched more alcohol being consumed in films than their peers are more likely to have tried alcohol, more likely to binge drink and more likely to have alcohol-related problems.

“Alcohol is a drug and it has potentially adverse effects, not only for individuals but also for family and friends,” says lead author Andrea Waylen, a lecturer in social sciences at the University of Bristol. “It’s not very often that we see the adverse effects of alcohol portrayed—like vomiting, rotten hangovers,” she adds. “In my view, we don’t really get an accurate representation of what alcohol is like.”

The new paper used data from a longitudinal study in the United Kingdom that surveyed 5,163 15-year-olds on a wide variety of topics. They were asked about their drinking habits and whether they had seen a random selection of 50 popular films, from Bridget Jones’ Diary to Aviator. Waylen and her colleagues used those answers to quantify their exposure to drinking by adding up the minutes in each film that showed alcohol use. (The original study was done in the mid-2000s, when those movies were hot off the reel.)

After controlling for factors ranging from parents’ alcohol use to gender and social class, the researchers found that the kids who had been exposed to the most cinematic swilling were 20% more likely to have tried alcohol and 70% more likely to binge drink. They were more than twice as likely to have a drink more than once per week and to suffer from alcohol-related problems, such as encounters with the police or letting their drinking interfere with school and work.

The recommendation of Waylen and her colleagues is that film ratings take into account heavy drinking; such films, Waylen suggests, would then be more likely to be rated for adults only. In the study, she notes that between 1989 and 2008, 72% of the most popular box office films in the United Kingdom depicted drinking but only 6% were classified as adult only.

A review of top-grossing American films conducted in 2009 found that 49% of PG-13 rated films and 25% of PG-rated films showed more than two minutes of alcohol use. The study concluded that the current rating system was not adequate for parents trying to limit their kids’ exposure to drinking (or smoking, for that matter).

Similar studies conducted in the U.S. and Germany have found connections between kids watching boozing in film and then drinking in real life. Other studies have found similar associations for risky behavior like tobacco use, dangerous driving and early sex.

“My guess is that there needs to be a level of identification with the drinker in the film,” Waylen says. And she believes kids are more likely to identify with consuming characters “in films where alcohol use is made to look cool, get you friends, win the girl or boy.”

Her conclusion is that the officials rating movies need to take demure sips of wine and rowdy spring break chugging contests more seriously. “Adverse outcomes from alcohol use are a large societal public health problem,” the study concludes, “and rating films according to alcohol content may reduce problem-related alcohol use and associated harm in young people.”

TIME Barack Obama

See Obama’s 20-Year Evolution on LGBT Rights

  • 1996: Obama supports domestic partnerships and same-sex marriage—at least according to the paper trail 

    Then-Illinois State Senator Barack Obama, shown in a 1999 file photo.
    Chicago Tribune/MCT/Getty Images Then-Illinois State Senator Barack Obama, shown in a 1999 file photo.

    In one campaign questionnaire that Obama filled out when running for the Illinois state Senate, he states that he supports domestic partnerships and adding sexual orientation to the Human Rights Act, the state’s civil rights law. He also says that he supports affirmative action for gays and lesbians.

    In another questionnaire for Chicago LGBT newspaper Outlines, Obama says he supports same-sex marriage. In 2009, a copy of his typed responses was unearthed and printed in the Windy City Times. “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages,” reads the questionnaire bearing his signature at the bottom. Later, Obama aides will dispute that he actually filled out the questionnaire himself.

  • 1998: Obama is ‘undecided’ about same-sex marriage

    Barack Obama Windy City Times
    Windy City Times Windy City Times, Vol. 24, no. 17

    Seeking reelection in Illinois, Obama fills out another questionnaire for Outlines, which the Windy City Times published in 2009. This time he says he is “undecided” whether he supports legalizing same-sex marriage or repealing an Illinois law prohibiting it.

  • 2004: Obama supports civil unions and civil rights for gays and lesbians—but insists that marriage is not a basic civil right

    “Marriage is between a man and a woman,” Obama says in an interview on Chicago public television during his U.S. Senate campaign, adding, “but what I also believe is that we have an obligation to make sure that gays and lesbians have the rights of citizenship that afford them visitations to hospitals, that allow them to transfer property to each other, to make sure they’re not discriminated against on the job.”

    He says homosexuality is not a choice and “for the most part, it is innate.” Obama distinguishes marriage from other civil rights, saying, “We have a set of traditions in place that I think need to be preserved.”

  • 2004: Obama opposes the federal Defense of Marriage Act while running for a U.S. Senate seat in Illinois. He also opposes same-sex marriage

    Barack Obama, US Senate candidate for Illinois, is greeted by delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Boston on July, 2004.
    Robyn Beck—AFP/Getty Images Barack Obama, US Senate candidate for Illinois, is greeted by delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Boston on July, 2004.

    The Defense of Marriage Act, signed by Bill Clinton, allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages legally established in other states. It previously prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, until the Supreme Court ruled that provision unconstitutional in 2013.

  • 2006: Obama questions his own opposition to same-sex marriage

    Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope" is displayed at a bookstore in New York City on July 14, 2008.
    Chris Hondros—Getty Images Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope" is displayed at a bookstore in New York City on July 14, 2008.

    In his memoir The Audacity of Hope, Obama recounts a story of how a lesbian supporter called him up after he had said he opposed same-sex marriage in radio interview, citing his “religious traditions” as part of the reason. She had been hurt, feeling he suggested that she and people like here were “bad people.”

    He wrote: “And I was reminded that it is my obligation, not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided … that Jesus’ call to love one another might demand a different conclusion.”

  • 2007: During the Democratic primary, Obama reaffirms support of ‘strong civil unions’ that offer all the rights that come with opposite-sex marriage

    During an August debate sponsored by groups like the Human Rights Campaign, he also says, “individual denominations have the right to make their own decisions as to whether they recognize same sex couples. My denomination, United Church of Christ, does. Other denominations may make a different decision.”

    Obama implies that he personally sympathizes with LGBT people, saying, “When you’re a black guy named Barack Obama, you know what it’s like to be on the outside.”

  • 2008: As a presidential candidate, Obama pledges to repeal DOMA and ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ which banned the service of openly gay troops in the U.S. military

    Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama talks with Pastor Rick Warren during the Saddleback Forum in Lake Forrest, Calif. on Aug. 16, 2008.
    Alex Brandon—AP Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama talks with Pastor Rick Warren during the Saddleback Forum in Lake Forrest, Calif. on Aug. 16, 2008.

    He also says, repeatedly, that he is against gay marriage. “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian — for me — for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God’s in the mix,” he tells pastor Rick Warren at the Saddleback Presidential Forum in April.

  • 2009: Obama signs the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act

    President Barack Obama hugs James Byrd Jr.'s sister, Louvon Harris during a White House reception commemorating the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, in Washington on Oct. 28, 2009.
    Manuel Balce Ceneta—AP President Barack Obama hugs James Byrd Jr.'s sister, Louvon Harris during a White House reception commemorating the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, in Washington on Oct. 28, 2009.

    The hate crime law, which Congress had first introduced in 1997, gives the Justice Department jurisdiction over crimes of violence in which a perpetrator has selected a victim because of sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as many other characteristics.

  • October 2010: Obama starts ‘evolving’ on gay marriage

    At a Q&A session with progressive bloggers, Obama says that while he has been “unwilling to sign on to same-sex marriage,” times are changing and “attitudes evolve, including mine. And I think that it is an issue that I wrestle with and think about because I have a whole host of friends who are in gay partnerships. I have staff members who are in committed, monogamous relationships, who are raising children, who are wonderful parents.”

  • December 2010: Obama signs a bill repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

    President Barack Obama signs the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 into law at the Department of the Interior in Washington on Dec. 22, 2010.
    Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images President Barack Obama signs the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 into law at the Department of the Interior in Washington on Dec. 22, 2010.

    The same month, he reiterates at a press conference that his stance on same-sex marriage is “constantly evolving.” By July, the Commander-in-Chief formally certifies that the military is ready for the open service of lesbian, gay and bisexual troops. Open service for transgender troops remains verboten.

  • February 2011: Obama instructs the Justice Department to stop defending DOMA in court, saying that he believes it is unconstitutional

    “While both the wisdom and the legality of [DOMA] will continue to be the subject of both extensive litigation and public debate, this Administration will no longer assert its constitutionality in court,” Holder said in a statement.

  • May 2012: Obama becomes the first president to support same-sex marriage

    After Vice President Joe Biden announces his support for same-sex marriage, Obama is forced to move up a planned announcement of his change in position. In an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts, Obama says he has changed his mind. “At a certain point,” he said, “I’ve just concluded that — for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that — I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

  • July 2014: Obama signs an executive order protecting LGBT employees working for government contractors

    President Barack Obama holds hands with Edie Windsor after she introduced him during the Democratic National Committee LGBT Gala at Gotham Hall in New York City on June 17, 2014.
    Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images President Barack Obama holds hands with Edie Windsor after she introduced him during the Democratic National Committee LGBT Gala at Gotham Hall in New York City on June 17, 2014.

    The order applies to a group of workers that, at around 28 million, accounts for about one-fifth of the American workforce. “America’s federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people,” he says. The federal government, as well as the majority of states, do not have blanket prohibitions on LGBT discrimination.

  • December 2014: The Obama Administration interprets the Civil Rights Act as supportive of LGBT rights

    The Department of Education articulates a clear stance on gender identity, while the Department of Justice announces that all its attorneys will interpret the federal ban on sex discrimination to include discrimination against transgender Americans.

    “Under Title IX,” a memo from the Department of Education reads, a school “must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity in all aspects of the planning, implementation, enrollment, operation, and evaluation of single-sex classes.”

    “This important shift will ensure that the protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are extended to those who suffer discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status,” Attorney General Eric Holder said.

  • January 2015: Obama becomes the first president to use the word ‘transgender’ in a State of the Union address

    President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 20, 2015.
    Mandel Ngan—Pool/Getty Images President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 20, 2015.

    “As Americans, we respect human dignity,” he said. “That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.”

  • April 2015: Obama says that conversion therapy for minors should be banned

    US President Barack Obama makes his way to board Air Force One under a rainbow upon departure from Kingston, Jamaica on April 9, 2015.
    Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images US President Barack Obama makes his way to board Air Force One under a rainbow upon departure from Kingston, Jamaica on April 9, 2015.

    Conversion therapy attempts to “correct” homosexual or transgender feelings. Obama’s response comes after thousands signed a White House petition in honor of Leelah Alcorn, a transgender girl who committed suicide by walking into traffic after being forced to go through such sessions, according to notes she left. Two states, California and New Jersey, have outlawed the practice.

    Read Next: Meet the New Generation of Gender-Creative Kids

TIME Environment

California Drought Leads to Historic Toilet Policy

The California Energy Commission mandated on Tuesday that new toilets and faucets sold in California must conserve water

California officials working to combat the state’s four-year drought are taking aim at everyday practices that use billions of gallons of water each year: flushing toilets and running faucets.

The California Energy Commission took emergency action on Tuesday by mandating that all toilets, urinals and faucets sold in the state must conserve water. That means only low-flush toilets and low-flow sinks will be allowed for sale after Jan. 1, 2016, regardless of when they were manufactured. The mandate applies to both public places and private residences.

“We’re seeing serious dry spell here in California,” says Amber Beck, a spokesperson for the commission. “And we need to make sure we are not only saving water right now but in the coming years.” These regulations come less than a week after Governor Jerry Brown imposed the state’s first-ever mandatory water restrictions, aimed at cutting the state’s usage by 25%.

The commission’s action will set historic efficiency standards for appliances in the Golden State, which are much stricter than the voluntary standards laid out in the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense conservation program. As of 2016, all urinals sold in California can use only one pint of water or less per flush; the current standard is one gallon, while the EPA will put its WaterSense stamp of approval on any urinal that uses half a gallon or less.

The commission estimates that the new standards will save 10 billion gallons of water in the first year, and more than 100 billion gallons as old appliances are replaced by new ones over the coming years. As of January, there were more than 45 million faucets, 30 million toilets and 1 million urinals operating in California.

Read next: California’s Water Crisis by the Numbers

TIME LGBT

Missouri Town Repeals Protections for LGBT Residents

Courtesy of PROMO Signs hung at a business in Springfield, Mo., express support for upholding a local non-discrimination measure for LGBT residents, which was repealed on April 7, 2015.

Like recent political battles in Indiana and Arkansas, the fight pitted some religious groups against the LGBT community

Residents in Missouri’s third largest city narrowly voted Tuesday to repeal protections for LGBT residents that had been put in place six months before. The vote in Springfield drew passionate campaigners on both sides, pitting a group of socially-conservative Christians worried that their faith was being steamrolled against supporters of LGBT rights, echoing recent political battles over religious freedom restoration laws in Indiana and Arkansas.

“There’s absolutely disappointment. And there’s absolutely sadness,” says Stephanie Perkins, deputy director of PROMO, a statewide organization that promotes LGBT rights. The election was close and the side fighting to uphold the non-discrimination law was leading for a time, but in the end the law was repealed with 51% of the vote.

In October, Springfield city council voted 6-3 to approve a non-discrimination measure that had first been introduced more than two years earlier. That update to the city’s civil rights law made it illegal to discriminate against people in housing, employment or public accommodations because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

That means that in the hypothetical case of the baker who is asked to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, the baker would be in violation of the law if he or she refused based on disapproval of homosexual relationships. Advocates say the measure would also prevent more “life-altering” discrimination that often goes unreported without a law on the books that prohibits it. “People do get fired for being gay and transgender. People do get evicted from their homes. They do get denied services,” Perkins says. “That’s why these laws are important.” A report from the liberal think tank Center for American Progress puts numbers on these issues.

The organization spearheading the effort to repeal the law, Christians Uniting for Political Action, could not be reached for comment. A leader in their group, Calvin Morrow, previously published this statement articulating his support for repealing the law:

There are many people in Springfield who disagree with the homosexual lifestyle and yet treat everyone the same. If people leave Springfield because many disagree with their lifestyle, they will find those same people wherever they go … Christian businessmen all over the country are being sued for not participating in gay weddings. To serve those types of celebrations violates their consciences … Do we suspend free speech for Christians and use police powers to force compliance?

Lawsuits against such businesses are uncommon, but they resonate with the electorate in Springfield, a traditionally conservative and religious city in the Southwest part of the state. Headquarters for the Assemblies of God are located there, and churches are found on corner after corner. While many religiously motivated residents voted to repeal the law, some congregations came out in support of the measure. Morris has said that position “does not line up with doctrine.”

While those who campaigned to uphold the law were saddened by the results of the election, Perkins says that the experience was heartening overall. Nearly 200 local businesses came out in support the of law, while some evangelical congregations made it clear, for the first time, that they welcomed LGBT worshipers. “In Springfield, to stand up and say that out loud is scary,” says Perkins, who lives in the city.

A statewide non-discrimination measure similar to the now-defunct Springfield law is currently being considered in the Missouri legislature. Advocates like Perkins hope that people brought out to campaign in Springfield might be able to channel their support to that fight. “No one I’ve talked to have said they wanted to give up,” she says. “Yes there’s disappointment, but it’s nothing compared to the hope that has been created in this community.”

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