Whatever happened to the ‘cannabis candidate’? | Bleader

Friday, April 20, 2018

Whatever happened to the ‘cannabis candidate’?

Posted By on 04.20.18 at 04:06 AM

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click to enlarge MARZENA ABRAHAMIK
  • Marzena Abrahamik

To me, Chicago congressional hopeful Benjamin Thomas Wolf—aka the "cannabis candidate"—seemed like someone I could get behind when he burst into the spotlight before last month's primaries.

The supposed FBI agent and Iraq veteran had posed in front of an American flag smoking a joint—and got national attention for his pro-pot views.

But after I met him and started digging, I learned that many of his claims were false. He was never an FBI agent, wasn't in the military and wasn't a professor at Roosevelt University.

More disturbingly, I also learned he was accused of abusing women.

Other media, too, found his claims to be lacking, and his brief celebrity started to unwind almost as quickly as it arrived. On March 7, after he was exposed in Politico, among other places, I forwarded some of the coverage to a campaign staffer I’d met after Wolf had invited me to visit his Ukrainian Village office the week before. “After learning of this, I am no longer with the campaign,” the staffer said, and asked me not to print his name.

The next day, Wolf posted a few updates to his social media pages. He posted a photo of a wolf to his Twitter page. “I care about people ... they want cannabis ... #VoteWolf,” he wrote.


Then his social media pages went dark. On March 10, Wolf appeared at a forum hosted by the Northcenter Chamber of Commerce. According to video of that event, the moderator asked Wolf to respond to news articles that had accused him of padding his resumé and of “escalating and abusive behavior” toward a former campaign intern. Other women had also made claims, but declined to be interviewed out of fear of retaliation. Wolf denied being abusive.

“There was a woman on our campaign staff who had to be removed because she was interested in having a relationship with me,” Wolf says in the video. “We explained to her that that was not appropriate.” 

When the forum ends, a man in the audience can be seen yelling at Wolf, “The first time I met you, you called me pathetic in front of my four-year-old. The second time I met you, you asked someone to physically assault me. Why should people vote for you?” 

Wolf doesn’t answer, and he heads toward the exit. “You’re a stain on this district, sir,” the man shouts.

click to enlarge Benjamin Wolf - FACEBOOK/BENJAMIN WOLF CAMPAIGN
  • Facebook/Benjamin Wolf campaign
  • Benjamin Wolf

Wolf doesn’t seem to have made any public appearances after that. He skipped a March 12 forum for Fifth District candidates hosted by the Wrightwood Neighbors Association, according to Robin Dusek, a local lawyer who had used Twitter to try to discredit Wolf. 

On March 19, after ten days of silence on social media, Wolf did put in some last requests for votes.

“Chicago. Cook County. DuPage County. Vote tomorrow for #cannabis!” one tweet read.

He didn’t post anything on Election Day. He later told me he spent election night at his Wicker Park loft with friends and family, watching the news, listening to music, and “enjoying a variety of cannabis products.” For some reason, I wasn’t invited.

Incumbent U.S. representative Michael Quigley won, with 63,000 votes, about 63 percent of the vote. Sameena Mustafa came in second, with 25 percent of the vote, and Wolf came in third, with more than 9 percent of vote—or about 9,500 votes.

According to property records, Wolf has since sold his Chicago apartment. On April 5, I talked to him for the first time since the election. He told me he was in Ohio with his family and that he had no hard plans to return to Chicago anytime soon. 

He said he was disappointed he didn’t win and blamed his loss partly on young people in the district who didn’t go to the polls on March 20. Less than 15 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds in the city voted in the primary, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners said. 

However, Wolf was rejected the same night voters in Cook County overwhelmingly voted in favor of an advisory referendum encouraging Illinois make recreational marijuana legal.


Wolf’s campaign office has been shuttered since March 20; he said he’d like to see it used as a cannabis dispensary. He may run for office again in the future, he said, but in the near term he might start “a hemp or cannabis farm” in southern Illinois so he can “commune with nature,” or travel. 

“I need to reconnect with relatives and fr
click to enlarge Hunter Stuart at Wolf's campaign office
  • Hunter Stuart at Wolf's campaign office
iends I’ve neglected,” he said. “I have dreams of going back overseas to work in human rights or of finding a project in Africa that’s a good fit.” 

He also mentioned returning to D.C. to “be a professor.” Wolf said he wasn’t in debt, and that he’d submitted his final FEC filing and closed his campaign account. 

As for me, I’ll think twice before cozying up to a candidate just because he or she smokes weed on camera. But honestly, I can’t say I wouldn’t volunteer for the next politician who demonstrates the strength of his or her convictions by publicly lighting up.


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