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Very Real

The Crash and Burn of Illinois’s “Cannabis Candidate”

Benjamin Thomas Wolf, pro-pot, pro-gun control, seemed like a perfect candidate — until he wasn’t.

By Jennifer Boeder

Editor’s note. Yesterday, we noticed a comment made by the subject of this blog post, published on March 19. The subject, Benjamin Thomas Wolf, who has been dubbed the “Cannibis Candidate” in his run for congress, expressed his displeasure with the post, and said “you clearly didn’t talk with me or the campaign staff.”

Upon reading this comment we looked further into our own reporting. We reached out to Wolf’s campaign for comment before publishing our article, and realize now, regretfully, we failed to include a response sent by a member of his campaign. For this, we apologize. The full response, sent via email on March 17, is below:

“Benjamin served in the FBI as a National Security Investigator from 1999-2003. He worked on the most sensitive espionage, terrorism and counter-intelligence investigations in the nation. He then became a United Sates Diplomat and Special Agent with the US Department of State from 2003-2013. During his time with the State Department, he served multiple times in Iraq, helping establish the American Embassy and protect Americans serving in harms way. He lived in Africa where he raised his children for over 4 years and was awarded multiple commendations for his work. (His bio is available on the website as well as photos of him overseas and in Iraq.) Mr. Wolf has since been the President of a non-profit, and adjust professor at East West university and Roosevelt University, and now a candidate for the United States Congress. He has had a full life of service. Regarding the other issue, Mr. Wolf and his family have been bothered and harassed by a former campaign staffer ([name omitted by Oxygen]) and since then there have been 4 police reports against her, and a judge issued an emergency restraining order against her for the safety of Mr. Wolf and his children. We can provide case numbers and copies of the emergency restraining orders.”

Here is the original article.

Pro-pot voters in Illinois' 5th Congressional District were rallying around Benjamin Thomas Wolf. He’d released a campaign ad in which he smoked a joint in front of an American flag. The media had dubbed him “the cannabis candidate.” But after shocking new revelations about Wolf’s past, his run for office may be going up in smoke.

Wolf is one of three challengers to popular incumbent Rep. Mike Quigley in the Democratic primary. As a little-known underdog, his incendiary strategy seemed to be working: the pot-smoking ad garnered national media headlines. In another ad, he brandished an AR-15 (he is pro-gun control and wants assault weapons banned) and his campaign advertised on Pornhub in an effort to reach younger voters. But then several women came forward with stories of abuse, and citizen journalists who dug further into Wolf’s past found his accomplishments were often greatly exaggerated and sometimes totally invented. (Oxygen has reached out to the Wolf campaign for comment, and will update if we receive a response.)

Wolf claimed in various campaign materials to be a former FBI agent (he isn’t) and a professor of human rights (he wasn’t) an Iraq veteran (he isn't) and the president of a fair housing association (he isn't). He refers frequently to having “served tours” in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he’s never served in the military, and many active duty service members and veterans say he’s misleading voters by using those terms. (In response to the accusations of “stolen valor,” Wolf told Politico that he did not lie about his military credentials: “People in the military get upset when I say I served in Iraq. The military doesn't have a patent on the word 'served'.”)

Wolf was, however, banned from the DePaul University campus as a result of complaints against him. He doxxed an ex-girlfriend on social media. The Women’s March of Chicago banned Wolf from their Facebook page after other women expressed concern about his behavior. Pornhub pulled his ads from their site.

On March 10, the cannabis magazine Herb published a damning interview in which Wolf seems woefully ignorant about his supposed signature issue. When asked how many grams of flower and concentrate he would allow people to carry if he was elected, Wolf replied: “How many grams would I allow? You know what? That’s a great question. I don’t know the specifics of it. I’ll have to learn more about that.” When asked how he would support minorities and those hit hardest by the War on Drugs, Wolf replied: “You know I think it — gosh — a really big question. We do a lot of outreach with various communities here in Chicago, you know, it’s a big city, it’s a diverse city, culturally diverse, racially diverse.” Herb titled the interview “Voters, Beware: We Interviewed the ‘Cannabis Candidate’ And He’s Full Of It,” noting disdainfully “For someone who has made cannabis a central part of his platform, we expected a plan.”

It looks like Wolf’s “plan” was to overwhelm the public with truth-adjacent claims (i.e., he worked for the FBI but he was not a special agent) and hope no one in the media did their homework. Like our president, he might have thought a confabulated resume and his past treatment of women would pose no problems for his election helps. But it looks like Wolf was wrong.

(Screenshot: A Wolf For Congress campaign ad on Pornhub)