Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Film Review: "Weed the People"

Weed the People, the Ricki Lake–produced film about the journey parents and their children with cancer are taking with cannabis, could be the best documentary I've seen on marijuana, possibly because it's a film made by women and largely depicting women.

The film follows several children undergoing cancer therapy, who are able to stop using powerful opiate painkillers and sometimes see their tumors shrink while using cannabinoids. The intimate stories of the families are exceptionally powerful, and the film goes further to interview doctors, researchers, and activists, presenting a historical perspective on the war on marijuana that has put patients in jeopardy by the illegality of cannabis, and the roadblocks to research on its uses in the US.

One mother summed it up well when she said, "I just find it staggering to accept that with the billions of dollars spend on cancer research, that the medicine we're relying on is made is somebody's kitchen."

Gordon (right) with a patient and his mother in the film.  
Central to the film is the work of Mara Gordon of Aunt Zelda's, a California cannabis cooperative that also advances research on cannabis's medical uses at Harvard University and in Australia. Gordon and her partner have been helping pediatric cancer patients augment their cancer therapy with high-concentration cannabis oils in a hands-on fashion, and gathering data on the results. Gordon also works closely with doctors, who are depicted in the film as accepting their patients' "alternative therapy." One doctor went from skepticism to joining Aunt Zelda's advisory board after seeing the effects of cannabis on his young patient.

Dr. Bonni Goldstein, who has treated 300 children with cannabis, explains in the film that cannabinoids have anti-tumor properties in a test tube, causing apoptosis (cell death) of cancers, but there are few human studies on their effects. Dr. Donald Abrams, a UCSF oncologist, talks about the long history of cannabis in medicine.

The film interviews many of the top minds in the field, including

• Ethan Nadelmann and Amanda Reiman (Drug Policy Alliance)
• Alice O'Leary, the "first lady of medical marijuana" whose husband Bob successfully sued the government to access to his medicine in the 1970s
• Doctors Sunil Aggarwal and Raphael Mechoulam, the Israeli researcher who isolated THC from cannabis

Directed by Abby Epstein, Weed the People was the winner of the Audience Choice award at the Nashville Film Festival.

Catch a Weed the People screening or host one.

Another film, From Shock to Awe, about veterans' use of cannabis and ayahuasca to treat PTSD, is now in theaters. Host a screening of From Shock to Awe.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Michelle Obama Writes About Using Marijuana in New Memoir

Michelle Obama's memoir Becoming, released today, contains a passage about her high school days when she and a boyfriend named David “fooled around and smoked pot in his car.”

Asked by Robin Roberts of ABC's 20/20 why she didn't leave out the marijuana mention, Obama replied, "That was what I did. It's part of the 'Becoming' story....Why would I hide that from the next generation?"

Obviously her youthful dalliance with weed didn't turn Michelle into a worthless pothead. She graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law School, and met her future husband Barack Obama when he interned for her at a law firm.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

RIP Cassie Gaines, One of Lynyrd Skynyrd's Honkettes

The Honkettes: JoJo Billingsley, Cassie Gaines and Leslie Hawkins
A new documentary is out on Lynyrd Skynyrd, the rockin' Southern Rock band that lost its singer/songwriter Ronnie Van Zant along with band members Cassie & Steve Gaines in a tragic plane crash on this date in 1977.

Lynyrd Skynyrd: If I Leave Here Tomorrow interviews surviving members of the band and reveals how Cassie and her fellow Honkettes classed up the group when they joined as back-up singers.

Cassie Gaines joined the band in 1975 and later recommended her younger brother Steve join in as a guitarist. She was mentioned in stories recounted in the film as the band member who always had marijuana, and it was said of her brother Steve that he "was no farmer, but he could grow some bud." When the band opened for The Rolling Stones, Very Important Pothead Jack Nicholson smelled Cassie's weed and asked if he could take a toke.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Of Beer, Boofing and Bar Mitzvahs: How We're Failing Our Young Men and Women

The Kavanaugh showdown this week raised questions to many about our culture and how it fails to instruct boys on how to treat women. Instead, as the book Raising Cain notes, we're letting boys figure it out for themselves, to everyone's detriment.

Cain is, of course, the evil older son of Adam and Eve, who was jealous of his younger brother, the kind and good Abel. Growing up, I had a Cain and Abel in my neighborhood. One day when I was about five years old, the elder brother pinned me to the floor and pulled my underwear down, despite my crying and pleading. Sadistically, he demanded I stop crying, then start again. He wouldn't let me up until I promised not to tell anyone. I never did, until the incident popped out of my subconscious in my college years (with the aid of my blessed plant teachers).

Like Dr. Ford, I don't remember how I got to his house, or how I got home. But I do have a very clear memory of what happened to me. And I remember the sick feeling I got when I heard that my former neighbor, who by then had moved away, was implicated in the death of his younger brother. I might have saved him, I thought, had I the words to talk about something that was never talked about in those days. Years later I volunteered at a rape crisis hotline and almost all of my calls were about incidents that had happened years earlier, but the caller was just then able to start grappling with it. We must talk about these things so that we can end them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Kristen Bell: "Weed Rules"

I guess there's a reason Kristen Bell played Mary Lane in "Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical" (2005).

The talented actress said on the podcast WTF with Mark Aaron“I like my vape pen quite a bit," adding that it doesn't bother her sober husband when she uses it occasionally. "Weed rules. Weed's my drug of choice, for sure.”

The 38-year-old mother continued, “I can’t do it around my kids, which is a phenomenal amount of hours each week. Once a week, if I’m exhausted and we’re about to sit down and watch 60 Minutes, why not?”

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Finding Your Feet (and a Phatty)

Celia Imrie and Timothy Spall share a joint in British bohemia in Finding Your Feet. 
More news reports are coming out about how baby boomers (aka seniors) are turning back to marijuana, whether for medical or recreational reasons. And popular culture continues to follow suit.

The 2017 British film Finding Your Feet features actresses Celia Imrie (Kingdom, Nanny McPhee) and Imelda Stanton (Vera Drake, Harry Potter) as senior citizens Bif and Saundra, who join a dance troupe and re-discover life, and love.

Bourgeois Saundra shows up at her bohemian sister Bif's doorstep after leaving her cheating husband. Bif lives in the projects, rides a bike, is politically active, and smokes pot with her handyman/dealer friend Charlie (Timothy Spall).

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Minuscule Amounts of THC Found in Breast Milk - Is it Harmful?

The headlines are reading, "THC Found in Breast Milk!" but like previous studies, a new study in the journal Pediatrics found THC in breast milk only at the nanogram level (on average, 9.5 ng/mL). Since an adult dose of cannabis is 10 mg, and babies take in about 750 mL daily, this level is about 1,000 times less. The most THC found was 323 ng/mL, 30 times less than an adult dose.   

An oral absorption level of 6% was used to calculate plasma concentration in infants by the authors, who confirmed that blood levels in infants would be 0.040 ng/mL, or ~1000 times less than an adult dose. Still, they worried about accumulation in infants exposed daily. Using cannabis less often, and using methods other than inhaling, reduced levels in milk. 

"The question is, does it matter? ... Is it possible that even low levels in breast milk may have an effect on a child's neurodevelopment? And we don't know the answer to that," study author Christina Chambers of UCSD told CNN


The authors hope to follow up with neurobehavioral testing on the infants to help determine whether these levels of THC in breast milk are safe. (Too bad that NIDA refused to fund a follow-up study on Melanie Dreher's Jamaican study on marijuana-using mothers and their children.) 

The study was funded by NIH and The Gerber Foundation. Gerber makes infant formulas "inspired by breast milk." The US recently attempted to derail an international resolution supporting breast feeding at the behest of infant formula manufacturers.