Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Shalala Shuffle: Former HHS Chief "Evolves" on Marijuana

Former US Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala has become the latest Drug Warrior to "evolve" on marijuana.

Shalala, who is now running for a Congressional seat in Florida, tweeted on 4/20: "Decriminalizing marijuana shouldn't just be a policy priority — but a moral imperative." The tweet links to a page on her website where you can sign up for her campaign, and donate!

Yet, although Shalala once admitted to smoking pot in college in an interview with Diane Sawyer, as H&HS chief in 1996 she stood with Attorney General Janet Reno and Drug "Czar" Barry McCaffrey threatening to revoke doctors' licenses for recommending medical marijuana (a successful civil challenge later backed the government off). "Marijuana is illegal, dangerous, unhealthy and wrong," Shalala said at the time. "It's a one-way ticket to dead-end hopes and dreams."

Her own pot smoking didn't seem to have hurt Shalala's ambition. She also chaired the Children's Defense Fund before being appointed by Bill Clinton to the top H&HS post. After she served as president of Hunter College in New York City and in 1988, she was named chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the first woman ever to head a Big Ten school. She then became President of the University of Miami.

According to an article in the Miami Herald, as recently as 2013, Shalala was on record questioning her own party for its support of a medicinal marijuana market in Florida.

In a statement made last week, Shalala's campaign said the candidate remains worried about the effect of marijuana on children, but cited new research, public perception, and criminal justice statistics for her change in thinking on marijuana. The statement cited "strong evidence showing real medical benefits of marijuana when used properly," statistics showing states that have legalized medical marijuana have seen a drop in opioid deaths, and the overwhelming support for Amendment 2 in Florida two years ago.

"Donna's thinking and understanding of marijuana has evolved, just as the general population's perspective and the science has evolved," the statement said. "She believes that we must reschedule cannabis to allow the government and the scientific community to work together to thoroughly study its effects and potential benefits. And, we must decriminalize cannabis because for far too long we have witnessed families and lives being destroyed over marijuana, especially individuals of color. We must follow the science and look at the facts."

Commenting about Shalala's former stance against medical marijuana, former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders told Playboy magazine, "She has a Ph.D. in political science. That's the kind of science she practices." Let's hope, this time, she's practicing the real kind.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

SSRIs increasingly prescribed during pregnancy, without much study on their effects

Lead researcher Claudia Lugo-Candelas
Researchers from Columbia University, the Keck School of Medicine, and the Institute for the Developing Mind in Los Angeles, have published a new study on how infants' brains are affected when their mothers take SSRIs for depression during pregnancy. SSRIs include Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Luvox, Paxil and Zoloft, and are used by 1 in 10 adults in the US.

Excerpts from the study:

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) use among pregnant women is increasing, yet the association between prenatal SSRI exposure and fetal neurodevelopment is poorly understood.

A cohort study conducted at Columbia University Medical Center and New York State Psychiatric Institute included 98 infants: 16 with in utero SSRI exposure, 21 with in utero untreated maternal depression exposure, and 61 healthy controls. Our findings suggest that prenatal SSRI exposure has an association with fetal brain development, particularly in brain regions critical to emotional processing....To our knowledge, this is the first study to report increased volumes of the amygdala and insular cortex, as well as increased WM connection strength between these 2 regions, in prenatally SSRI-exposed infants.

Lugo-Candelas C, Cha J, Hong S, et al. Associations Between
Brain Structure and Connectivity in Infants and Exposure to
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors During Pregnancy. 

JAMA Pediatr. Published online April 09, 2018.
PMD = Prenatal Maternal Depression; HC = Healthy Control
The prescription of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications for pregnant women has accelerated over the past 30 years. To some extent, this rise may be attributable to increased awareness of the detrimental effects of untreated prenatal maternal depression (PMD) on women and children, along with early studies failing to document immediate effects of SSRI exposure in offspring (although later rodent studies document postpubertal alterations). However, little is known about the association between prenatal SSRI exposure and human fetal neurodevelopment. Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT]) plays a vital role in neurodevelopment.

In the fetal brain, 5-HT signaling affects cell proliferation, differentiation, neuronal migration, network formation, and synaptogenesis. Perinatal SSRI exposure in rodent studies is associated with delayed motor development, reduced pain sensitivity, disrupted thalamocortical organization, reduced dorsal raphe neuronal firing, reduced arborization of 5-HT neurons, and altered limbic and cortical circuit functioning.

Literature on prenatal SSRI exposure in humans is limited and mixed. Studies have most consistently reported that prenatal SSRI exposure is associated with a shorter gestational period, lower birth weight, lower Apgar scores, and neonatal abstinence syndrome....Consistent with animal studies, a recent national registry study (including 15 ,000 prenatally SSRI-exposed offspring) found increased rates of depression in early adolescence in youth with prenatal SSRI exposure.

Brain imaging provides a window into neurodevelopment, yet human infant and fetal imaging studies of prenatal SSRI exposure are scarce....
The study highlights the need for further research on the potential long-term behavioral and psychological outcomes of these neurodevelopmental changes.

One of the references the authors cite, a 2007 study titled, "Increasing use of antidepressants in pregnancy," says:

The proportion of pregnancies with antidepressant use increased from 5.7% of pregnancies in 1999 to 13.4% of pregnancies in 2003. The increase was mostly accounted for by increases in selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor exposures....There is an urgent need for further studies that better quantify the fetal consequences of exposure to antidepressants.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Cynthia Nixon Advances Marijuana Legalization in New York

Sex in the City star and New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon has stepped up her support of marijuana legalization, after news reports trumpeted her position, at first reporting she was behind it for financial reasons.

Nixon has now released a video articulating the human rights reasons for her position: her concern that people of color are disproportionately punished for marijuana.

She even tweeted after former prohibitionist John Boehner turned potrepreneur, "Now that public opinion has shifted on marijuana, rich white men like Boehner and companies like Monsanto are trying to cash in. We can’t let them rake in profits while thousands of people, mostly people of color, continue to sit in jail for possession and use."

And just in time for 4/20, she's asking supporters to chip in $4.20 a month for her campaign against sitting Governor Andrew Cuomo, who remains opposed to recreational pot.

Sex in the City was criticized for promoting alcohol use to young women, and co-star Kristin Davis has admitted that she is a recovering alcoholic. The show had some pot smoking in it, though not with Miranda (Nixon's character, a workaholic attorney who becomes a single mom until she marries her bartender boyfriend). Rather, it's sexy Samantha who is the procurer of the pot that Carrie (Sarah Jessica-Parker) is busted for after smoking on the streets of NYC.

Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is perhaps punished for her freewheeling ways by being the character to get breast cancer, but as a new Mother Jones exposé reveals, it's alcohol that is the link there.

Let's hope Nixon is sincere in her embracing of legalization, and will look deeper and harder into the issues for the greater solutions, including coming to grips with all of our so-called addictions (like to sex and alcohol).

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Lily Tomlin as Good Grandma Ganja

Lily Tomlin chillin' with silver fox Sam Elliott in Grandma
Almost as surprising as when I expected "Private Benjamin Goes to Kabul" from Tina Fey and instead got the excellent Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, I finally got around to watching Grandma (2015) with Lily Tomlin, and it's the best movie I've seen in a while.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Lily fan. I laughed at her in "Laugh-In," and can
still recite much of the "Sister Boogie Woman" bit from her Modern Scream album (on which she tells a great pot joke). And I saw her emerge as an actress in that
single, unforgettable scene in Nashville where she listens to Keith Carradine singing "I'm Easy."

I think I was afraid Tomlin's Grandma would be a little too much like her character in Netflix's "Grace and Frankie," where she's ridiculed and made to look ridiculous by the alcoholic Jane Fonda character. But no, in Grandma, Lily as the feminist poetess Elle is back in all her power, signified by the "Violet" tattoo she wears on her arm (the name of the character she played in 9-5, wherein she smoked pot with Jane).

Nat Wolff (Stuck in Love) proves no match for Grandma
This Grandma isn't just there for her kids: she's living her own life, falling in love (with Judy Greer as Olivia), and dealing with her anger issues and her past, even while confronting her granddaughter's crisis pregnancy. Elle is still alive and kicking, like when she takes down her granddaughter's asshole boyfriend, who wears a huge pot leaf on his hockey jersey. Afterwards, she steals his stash.

Elle makes good use of her find in the next scene with Sam Elliot: two old friends (and flames) who share a joint for old times' sake. It's a great scene, as are the ones Tomlin plays with Greer and Marcia Gay Harden as her equally angry, caffeine-chugging daughter.

There's no discussion about pot with the granddaughter (as there was with Lily
and her son in 9-5). It's just a part of Elle's life, and not something that rules or defines her.

With appearances by John Cho (Harold and Kumar), Lauren Tom (Joy Luck Club), Missy Doty (Shameless), and Judy Geeson (To Sir with Love),  the film even has a bit of a poem by Tokin' Woman Anne Waldman, plus a final appearance by Elizabeth Peña (La Bamba), who died of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 55 in 2014. (One more reason to be more like Frankie than Grace.)

Grandma was filmed in 19 days at a cost $600,000, and made $8.7 million. The film was named among the top ten independent films of 2015 by the National Board of Review, and Tomlin was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her performance.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Un-Debunking the Queen Vic Myth?

Queen Victoria with five of her nine children
Several authors of late (e.g. James H. Mills in Cannabis Britannicahave sought to debunk the persistent reports than Queen Victoria used cannabis to treat menstrual cramps.

The rumor started when it was discovered that John Russell Reynolds, M.D. wrote an article published in The Lancet in 1890 extolling the virtues of cannabis for cramps and other ailments, while credited as "Physician in Ordinary to Her Majesty's Household."

Cannabis researcher Ethan Russo, M.D., co-editor of Women and Cannabis, wrote in that book that Reynolds was Victoria's "personal physician" and that "it has been widely acknowledged" that she received monthly doses of cannabis for menstrual discomfort throughout her adult life. However, Russo now concurs with Mills's assertion that we have no proof of this.

Reynolds was appointed as physician to the Queen's household in 1878, when she was 59 years old, well past the age when she would have experienced menstrual cramps. Further, his appointment did not make him Queen Vic's personal physician, but rather one of at least 200 physicians, apothecaries and other attendants in her "medical household," to treat her staff of over 800 persons at her 12 residences. However, she often consulted with various members of her medical staff, and also physicians who were not part of the household. (A. M. Cooke, Queen Victoria's Medical HouseholdMed Hist. 1982 Jul; 26(3): 307–320.)

Famous for her prudishness, Victoria never hired a female physician and was appalled that female medical students performed dissection alongside their male counterparts. Yet, she was surprisingly experimental when it came to her own medical care. She was an early adopter of chloroform for childbirth, using it in 1853 while giving birth to her eighth child, and again in 1857 for her final childbirth, "despite opposition from members of the clergy, who considered it against biblical teaching, and members of the medical profession, who thought it dangerous." (Wikipedia)

The physician who gave the Queen chloroform for each of these births was John Snow, an eminent epidemiologist and pioneer in anesthesia, who "does not appear to have had any appointment to the Medical Household" (Cooke). So Victoria consulted with an outside specialist for a relatively unknown treatment.

It's possible, then, that Reynolds also treated the Queen while not yet one of her official physicians, possibly when she was a younger woman. He was certainly prominent enough to have caught her attention:

John Russell Reynolds (Yale University Library) 
Sir John Russell Reynolds was an eminent and highly influential physician in the Victorian era who held the Presidencies of the Royal College of Physicians of London, and of the British Medical Association. He was the protégée of the great experimental physiologist, Marshall Hall, who discovered the reflex arc, and succeeded to Hall’s clinical practice in London. Reynolds’ thought and clinical activities linked the emerging British neurology of the first half of the 19th century with its blossoming, particularly in London, from 1860 onwards. In his writings Reynolds was the first English author to apply the approach to classification of neurological disorders that is still often used, though now in modified form. 

(M. J. Eadie, The neurological legacy of John Russell Reynolds, Journal of Clinical Neuroscience, April 2007)

In his now-famous Lancet article, Reynolds writes that in 1848, a lecturer at medical school spoke of the potential of Indian hemp in medicine, but found it too variable in dosage to avoid toxic effects. Seven years later, Reynolds recounts, he made a connection with Peter Squire, the pharmacist who also supplied W. B. O'Shaughnessy, the physician who brought cannabis to the West. Squire was able to provide Reynolds with a reliable tincture of Indian hemp, with which he began experimenting in 1855 when Victoria, born in 1819, was only 36.

Reynolds recounts his experiments of over 30 years, describing carefully where he found cannabis useful and where he did not. He writes, "In senile insomnia, with wandering; where an elderly person, probably with brain-softening, in the 'delirium form' (Durand-Fardel) is fidgety at night, goes to bed, gets up again, and fusses over his clothes and hid drawers; thinks that he has some appointment to keep, and must dress himself and go out to keep it; but may be quite rational during the day, with its stimuli and real occupations. In this class of case I have found nothing comparable in utility to a moderate dose of Indian hemp—viz., one quarter to one-third of a grain of the extract, given at bedtime. It has been absolutely successful for months, and indeed years, without any increase of the dose."

By contrast, "In alcoholic delirium it is very uncertain; but has very occasionally been useful. In melancholia it is sometimes of service in converting the depression into exaltation; but I have long since discontinued its use, except when the case has merged into that of senile degeneration. In mania I have found it worse than useless, whether that malady has been chronic or acute...."

Reynolds continues, "In almost all painful maladies I have found Indian hemp by far the most useful of drugs....it is a most valuable medicine in the nocturnal cramps of old and gouty people; it in some cases relieves spasmodic asthma, and is of great service in cases of simple spasmodic dysmenorrhoea [menstrual cramps]."

Even in her youth Victoria barely had time to menstruate: she bore 9 children in 18 years. The Queen reportedly hated being pregnant and suffered from postpartum depression and "hysteria." I think it's likely, if Reynolds did use cannabis to treat Victoria, he may have done so for nervous disorders later in her life.

Reynolds "devoted himself from an early period to the study of nervous diseases" and began publishing on the topic in 1855, with Diagnosis of Diseases of the Brain, Spinal Cord, and Nerves. He "was often consulted in difficult cases of nervous disease." (Wikipedia)

He wrote, "Indian hemp, when pure and administered carefully, is one of the most valuable medicines we possess," 12 years after he joined the Queen's household medical staff.

If Victoria used Indian hemp late in her life, it might help explain her attachment to an Indian servant in her last years, as depicted in the movie Victoria and Abdul. Maybe he brought more than curry with him to England.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Voice and The Vipers

I've become a fan of TV's The Voice, since being introduced to Halsey's song "The New Americana" by contestant Moushumi on the 2016 season:

We are the new Americana
High on legal marijuana...

This year, the show's 14th season, features the addition Kelly Clarkson as a coach, along with returning coaches Alicia Keys, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton.

And I've found a marijuana connection to all four of them.

First and I suppose foremost, Adam Levine sparked headlines like "World’s Biggest Killjoy Sues Universal Over Adam Levine’s Alleged Weed Habit" in 2013, after a security guard at Universal Studios, where The Voice is filmed, filed a lawsuit alleging that Macy Gray and others including Levine "began visiting the premises with drugs in hand and oftentimes offering drugs to [her].”

The plaintiff claimed that her complaints to management were met with “a blind eye,” including an incident when she smelled marijuana smoke coming from a recording studio. Her manager allegedly responded, “It’s Adam Levine. You know from Maroon 5 … He can do whatever he wants …" Ah, to be a musician.

Also in 2013, Levine was named People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive, joining the ranks of other pulchritudinous partakers Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, George Clooney, Matthew McConaughey, Pierce Bronson, Harrison Ford and JFK Jr. 

As part of Maroon 5, Levine has won three Grammy Awards, two Billboard Music Awards, two American Music Awards, an MTV Video Music Award and a World Music Award. The winners of the first, fifth and ninth seasons of The Voice were on Levine's team. What a lazy pothead he is (not).

Country Singer Blake Shelton, Levine's nemesis on the show, somewhat surprisingly recorded "Ready to Roll" in 2011. The song is full of references to smoking pot:

We gonna burn all afternoon 
like it's something to smoke 
We gotta whole lot of 
nothing to do 
and nowhere to go 
So baby I don't know about you 
but I'm ready to roll 

No other word on whether or not Shelton has been on Willie Nelson's bus, or if he's a true Oakie from Muskogee, but he did say one singer's blind audition this season made him feel like he was "riding a unicorn." He's coached five winners on The Voice.

Kelly Clarkson, the OG vocal contest winner on American Idol in 2002, told USA Weekend magazine five years later that she ate a marijuana cookie while in Amsterdam. "It is legal there, and it is not legal here [in the US]," she noted.

"I don't ever do anything illegal here," Clarkson added. "I wouldn't do anything that would cause holes in your brain or your nasal cavity. Call me Texan, but I don't think of marijuana like that." Shortly thereafter, Blender magazine's profile of Clarkson presented her as a bit of a rebel, documenting her rift with 74-year-old BMG Chairman/CEO Clive Davis. "I can't stand it when people put out the same record over and over again," Clarkson told Blender. "Life is too short to be a pushover." Spoken like a true pothead.

Clarkson has sold over 25 million albums and 36 million singles worldwide and scored a total of over 100 number ones on the Billboard charts. She's won three Grammy Awards, three MTV Video Music Awards, four American Music Awards, and two Academy of Country Music Awards. In 2012, she sang the National Anthem at the Super Bowl.

The stellar singer recently revealed that she was hospitalized during a "horrible" pregnancy due to severe nausea and vomiting. It's likely she suffered from hyperemis gravidarum (HG), a debilitating ailment that afflicts 1-2% of pregnant women globally, including Princess Kate. Since cannabis is the safest and most effective anti-emetic known to man, with a non-oral delivery system (smoking) that offers immediate relief, it would make sense to study it as a remedy for mothers with severe morning sickness. Maybe now that it's legal in many states of the US, Clarkson will consider trying it again, for medicinal or recreational purposes.

Finally, Alicia Keys, who coached the winner on her last appearance on the The Voice two years ago, is so spectacularly soulful she probably doesn't need any herbal assistance to fly high. Not so, perhaps, her fans. In the 2006 "Drug Testing" episode on TV's The Office, Michael attends an Alicia Keys concert and says, "I think I might have gotten
high accidentally by a girl with
a lip ring."

A viper, for you cats and kitties who don't know, was slang for a pot smoker in the Roaring 20s. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Hey Hollywood: How About an "Inclusion Rider" for Weed?

Frances McDormand
Picking up her second Best Actress Oscar, Frances McDormand left us with two words "Inclusion Rider." I wonder: how about an Inclusion Rider for marijuana fans?

Because so many industries needlessly and pointlessly drug test their employees, it's left to Silicon Valley and Hollywood to hire cannabis consumers, while benefiting from the extra creativity that pot provides. So we ought to be sure that every movie has a requisite number of staffers who enjoy their joints.

Also, in the same way that ethnic and disabled activists are advocating for depictions of them in movies to be authentic, so we must demand that Tokin' Women be played by actress who really know how to act stoned.


Miley Cyrus
Despite once appearing on the cover of High Times and outing herself as a pot smoker, McDormand has never played a good Tokin' Woman role. She did smoke in the dismal Laurel Canyon (were she wasn't much of a role model); I liked her better in Almost Famous where she convinced her 15-year-old son not to smoke pot (which was appropriate for a kid his age).

My casting suggestion: McDormand could play a post-comeback jazz singer and marijuana fan Anita O'DayMiley Cyrus could act, and sing, as the younger O'Day. Don't they all look alike?

Anita O'Day

Of course we have had some matching casting to date. Meryl Streep was spot-on as Isak Dinesen in Out of Africa, and she even toked up while playing Karen Silkwood. Kathy Bates nailed Gertrude Stein in Midnight in Paris (although there was no partaking of any pot brownies made by her lover Alice B. Toklas).

Bette Midler won accolades on stage portraying a pot-puffing Sue Mengers, and the next thing you knew, she was cast as Dolly on Broadway. But Nicole Kidman as Gertrude Bell and Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith suffered from bad scripts (with no marijuana mentions).

At the Oscars, McDormand had all the female nominees stand up and enjoined everyone present to enable them to tell their stories. I have a few that could be told (with casting suggestions): Susan Sarandon could play a bitchin' Tallulah Bankhead, for example. And how about Jennifer Lawrence as Lila Leeds, the actress she resembles who was arrested with Robert Mitchum for marijuana in 1948.

Jennifer Lawrence
Lila Leeds

Saturday, March 10, 2018

An "Inspired" Oscars Ceremony

As expected (and deserved), Frances McDormand picked up the Best Actress Oscar on Sunday night for her performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It's McDormand's second Oscar; she has also won two Emmys and a Tony.

In May 2003, McDormand appeared on the cover of High Times magazine holding a joint. "I'm a recreational pot-smoker," she said, revealing she first smoked marijuana as a 17-year-old freshman at Bethany College in West Virginia in 1975. She told interviewer Steve Bloom (now of CelebStoner.com), "There has never been enough of a distinction between marijuana and other drugs. It's a human rights issue, a censorship issue, and a choice issue."

As with the Golden Globes, also nominated for Best Actress were Meryl Streep, who's smoked pot in more than one movie, and Margot Robbie, who appeared in a pot-leaf-motif skirt on "Saturday Night Live" and smoked pot onscreen with Tina Fey in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

Earning the first-ever Original Screenplay Oscar given to an African-American was Jordan Peele, who has now said he used marijuana for inspiration while writing his award-winning script for Get Out.


Peele also said that Whoopi Goldberg's 1991 speech, made when she picked up an Oscar for Ghost, was a "huge inspiration" to him.  Turns out, Goldberg was "inspired" herself when she made the speech. TMZ aired a tape of her describing how she smoked "a wonderful joint" before the ceremony. "It was the last of my homegrown, and honey, when they called my name..."

Greta Gerwig, only the fifth woman to ever be nominated as Best Director, was also nominated for writing the screenplay for Lady Bird. The film has a pot-smoking scene, followed by the munchees and giggling, with the terrific Beanie Feldstein from Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. Also nominated for best screenplay were Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani for The Big Sick, which has a subtle scene with a pot pipe.

To thank the movie-going public, Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel took a contingent of actors including Wonder Woman Gal Gadot across the street to the iconic Chinese Theatre to surprise an audience watching Oprah Winfrey in A Wrinkle in Time.

Kimmel immediately announced, "There is a strong aroma of marijuana in this theatre."

"It's true," said Gadot. "Not that I know how it smells, but it's true."

Kimmel then continued, "I notice you don't have any snacks, and especially considering the smell in this theatre...." before bringing in a stream of celebrities to distribute snacks to an appreciative (and apparently stoned) audience.

Ah, the movies. Where both the film makers and the watchers are inspired.

And this just in: Oscars goodie bags had the ultimate swag: free marijuana

Of Madonna and Rosanna, and Marijuana

Ten years ago today, Madonna grabbed headlines away from her fellow Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame inductees by using her acceptance speech to reveal she took ecstasy and smoked grass on her way to the top. The admissions came on March 10, 2008 at New York's Waldorf-Astoria hotel.

After accepting her award from Justin Timberlake, Madonna announced, "The night I met Michael Rosenblatt, who signed me to Sire Records, I jammed my demo tape into his hand, we both did a tab of ecstasy and then we danced the night away." She then recalled the night she met long-term publicist Liz Rosenberg, saying: "We smoked a joint together." Ah, drugs, you're so wonderful for bonding.

After pulling a joint out of her boot (pictured above) in the 1985 movie Desperately Seeking Susan (now on Amazon Prime), Madonna's character turns on a philandering, money-grubbing suburban spa salesman. After smoking, the guy muses, "What's it all about? There's more to life than making money....All time comes from a single point in the universe." Ah, pot, you're so wonderful for philosophizing.

On a March 31, 1994 edition of The Late Show with David Letterman, Madonna asked Dave whether he had ever smoked "Endo" (meaning, presumably, marijuana grown in Mendocino county, California). In 2009 she said to Dave about her high-jinks that night (when she also used the f-word 13 times), "I think it may have had something to do with the joint I smoked before I came on." And she intelligently and compassionately handled her son's arrest for marijuana in 2016, saying, "I love my son very much. I will do whatever I can to give him the support that he needs."

Rumor has it that Rosanna Arquette, who played the suburban housewife Roberta in Desperately Seeking Susan (of whom it is said, "She's so straight she's never even smoked a joint"), hoped to play with wild child Susan instead. Arquette got her turn to be wild in the 2011 film Peace Love and Misunderstanding (now on Netflix), where she tokes it up and howls at the moon, wearing a big old pot-leaf necklace (pictured).

The next movie that should be made available on some platform is the excellent 2005 rockumentary Arquette directed and co-produced, All We Are Saying. With an all-star cast that includes Joni Mitchell, Chrissie Hynde, Macy Gray, Patti Smith and a lot of great men too like Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson, it could only have been made by the woman who inspired the rock anthem "Rosanna." 




Wednesday, March 7, 2018

International Tokin' Women's Day

In honor of International Women's Day, here are some herstorical Tokin' Women from around the globe. Click on their names to read more, or order the book Tokin' Women: A 4000-Year Herstory.

EGYPT - Seshat

Seshat was the ancient Egyptian goddess of mathematics, creative thought, knowledge, books and writing. Often depicted in coronation ceremonies wearing a leopard-skin garment, Seshat's emblem is a seven-pointed leaf in her headdress. She wore it while performing the "stretching the cord" ceremony before building the Great Pyramids, with a rope made from hemp. It is perhaps hemp's psychoactive effect that is acknowledged in the saying that, "Seshat opens the door of heaven for you."

INDIA - Parvati

Parvati is the Hindu mother goddess of love, fertility and devotion. Maha Shivarati, the holiday when Nepal relaxes its laws to allow the partaking of the holy ganga, celebrates the day that Shiva married Parvati. By one legend, the goddess saved
her marriage by giving Shiva some ganga to smoke, after which the two invented tantric yoga.

CHINA - Magu

Magu is a Taoist xian ("inspired sage," "ecstatic") whose name means Hemp Maiden or Goddess. Her harvest festival, when cannabis is traditionally gathered, celebrates the time “when the world was green.” Magu was also goddess of Shandong's sacred Mount Tai, where cannabis "was supposed to be gathered on the seventh day of the seventh month," wrote Joseph Needham in Science and Civilization in China (1959). Needham wrote, “there is much reason for thinking that the ancient Taoists experimented systematically with hallucinogenic smokes…at all events the incense-burner remained the centre of changes and transformations.”

NORWAY  - Viking Volvas

In 1903, near the Oseberg Farm in Norway, a Viking ship built around 820 AD was discovered containing the remains of two women, along with two cows, fifteen horses, six dogs, several ornately carved sleighs and beds, plus tapestries, clothing, and kitchen implements, and—it was discovered in 2007—a small leather pouch containing cannabis seeds. One or both of the women, whose ages have been estimated at 50 and 70, may have been a Völva (“priestess” or “seeress”).

The discovery is similar to 2500-year-old mummy known as the "Ice Princess," whose elaborately tatooed body was buried with six saddled horses and other acoutrements including a container of cannabis in the Altai mountains, along the trade routes where where Russia, China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan come together.

FRANCE - Marie Laurencin

Marie Laurençin's painting Les Invités is a record of an infamous 1908 dinner party where hashish pills were taken at Azon's restaurant in Paris. Laurençin's self portrait is upper left, with knowing eyes, flanked by Picasso and Apollinaire.

Laurençin was named chevalier of the Légion d'honneur in 1937 and in 1983, the Marie Laurençin Museum in Nagano-Ken, Japan was inaugurated to celebrate the centenary of her birth.

SERBIA - Djuka Tesla

In Nikola Tesla's autobiography My Inventions, he describes fashioning "of a kind of pop-gun which comprised a hollow tube, a piston, and two plugs of hemp. The art consisted in selecting a tube of the proper taper from the hollow stalks." Tesla wrote that mother Georgina (aka Djuka) "invented and constructed all kinds of tools and devices and wove the finest designs from thread which was spun by her. She even planted the seeds, raised the plants and separated the fibers herself."


IRELAND - Maud Gonne

Irish revolutionary Maud Gonne took hashish with William Butler Yeats in Paris in 1894. "I have to thank you for the dream drug which I have not tried as yet being very busy & having need of all my energy & activity for the moment but I mean to try it soon," Gonne later wrote to Yeats.

On Easter 1900, Gonne founded the Daughters of Ireland, a revolutionary women's society for Irish nationalist women who, like herself, were considered unwelcome in male-dominated societies. In 1918, after the Irish Free State was established and Yeats named a Senator and a Nobel laureate, Gonne was arrested in Dublin and imprisoned in England for six months. She participated in a hunger strike while incarcerated, and used her experiences to further publicize the scandalous prison conditions.

DENMARK - Isak Dinesen

Danish author Isak Dinesen was portrayed by Meryl Streep in Out of Africa, with Robert Redford as her love interest Denys Finch Hatton. She and Denys "liked to experiment with the sensations hashish, opium, or miraa could give them. Denys arranged the cushions on the floor before the fire and reclined there, playing his guitar. Tania sat 'cross-legged like Scheherazade herself' and told him stories."(Miraa is kava, an indigenous African herb that has a mild hallucinogenic effect. Dinesen refers to it in her story "The Dreamers" by its other name, murungu.)


UNITED STATES - Bessie Smith

Blues diva Bessie Smith smoked and sang about "reefers" throughout her career. In 1933, she recorded "Gimmie a Pigfoot," featuring Benny Goodman and Jack Teagarden, for John Hammond's Okeh record label. In the last verse she sings, "Gimmie a Reefer."

Smith "was more than merely famous, she was a living symbol of personal freedom: she did what she liked; she spoke her mind, no matter how outrageous her opinion; she flouted bourgeois norms and engaged in alcohol, drugs, and recreational sex," wrote Buzzy Jackson in A Bad Woman Feeling Good.

SCOTLAND - Annie Ross

In 1952, jazz singer Annie Ross penned and sang scat-style lyrics to saxophonist Wardell Gray's composition "Twisted" and it became an underground hit, later covered by Joni Mitchell and Bette Midler.

According to Sassy: The Life of Sarah Vaughan by Leslie Gourse, "As a very young woman, Annie, like Sassy, had enormous energy for a life in the fast lane; together they stayed up all night, drinking and smoking. Sassy liked marijuana and cocaine. Later Annie would switch to herbal tea, but in the 1950s, she too liked to get high."

At the age of 81, Ross sang "Twisted" at the 2011 MAC Awards, where she was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. A documentary about Ross's life, titled No One But Me, premiered at the Glasgow Film Festival in 2012.  She is reportedly working on her autobiography and still singing.

Order the book Tokin' Women: A 4000-Year Herstory.

Monday, March 5, 2018

NRA TV Calls Marijuana “A Prostitute of Sorts”

Marijuana makes an appearance in an exposé of NRA TV by John Oliver.

Beginning at 13:57, an NRA TV "news" report that sounds more like an infomercial proclaims:

Hidden beneath the dense canopy of trees is a prostitute of sorts.
Those who profit by selling her will stop at nothing to exploit her.

Sold and promoted for her 
non-addictive, even medicinal advantages, what lies behind 
the veil of this seductress is far different that what she first appears to be.

She is a harlot, and her name is Mary Jane.

This in a segment that revealed what Oliver called "gun porn" and documented the shocking way the NRA and the gun industry are urging women to become “Armed and Fabulous,” including promoting purses with special “conceal and carry” pouches and airing a program called "Love at First Shot" that encourages women to take their first shot from a gun, using an AR-15 in the episode shown.

 

Of course, possibly as far back as Jezebel or even Ishtar, marijuana has been long and assiduously associated with leading women down the road to sin, allowing modern drug warriors to use titillating images of females to gain attention for their self-serving campaigns (witness below). It seems now the plant itself is a victim of what Oliver points out is "slut shaming."






Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Charlize Theron: I Really Appreciated Marijuana

UPDATE March 8: On the Jimmy Kimmel show last night, Theron said she had "a good solid eight years on the marijuana," and that now, after having a conversation with her mother about both of them getting off of sleeping pills and trying "a sleeping strain" instead, her mom showed up with some edibles. "So, I got some blueberry-covered chocolate ones, but if you want it faster acting ones, you can go for the mints," mom said. Asked how she slept after taking them, Theron enthused. "It totally works, it's amazing!" I'm thinking the brand involved is Kiva. 

In an interview with E! magazine to promote her new film Gringo, Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron said of herself and marijuana, "Oh god, yes! I was a wake-and-baker for most of my life."


"Do you remember your first time?" E!'s Sibley Scoles asked. "Yeah, I was older," Theron replied. "But I really appreciated marijuana way more than alcohol or anything else. My chemistry was really good with it when I was younger."

In her early thirties, she quit after, "I just became boring on it." But now she says, "I'm open to retrying it again because now there's all these different strains and you can be specific with it. And I'm actually really interested because I have really bad insomnia, and I'd much rather get off sleeping pills and figure out a strain that helps me sleep better. So when I have a moment, I'm actually doing that with my mom. My mom has really bad sleep too." It's no wonder.

A photo of Theron smoking pot out of an apple was published in the National Inquirer in 2002. At the time, her publicist had no comment. But times have, apparently, changed.

Since Theron turned 30 in 2005, this means she must have made many of her best films during the years she enjoyed marijuana. She starred in five films in 2000 alone: Reindeer GamesThe YardsThe Legend of Bagger Vance, Men of Honor, and Sweet November, and also appeared in The Cider House Rules, Mighty Joe Young, That Thing You Do, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, and Monster (2003), for which she won the Best Actress Oscar.

In 2007, the South African–born actress founded The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, to support African youth in the fight against HIV/AIDS. In 2008, she was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace.

In 2013, Theron shone at the Oscar ceremony where she danced with Seth MacFarlane and rescued a security guard who had a seizure on the red carpet. In 2016, Time magazine named her in the annual Time 100 most influential people list. She's currently receiving rave reviews for her "fearless performance as a woman snowed under by motherhood" in Tully.

Gringo, which opens in theaters on March 9,  is a dark comedy wherein Theron and co-star David Oyelowo try to sell a weed pill to Mexican drug lords. It also co-stars Amanda Seyfried, who played a bong-smoking lawyer in Ted 2 (2015) and thinks marijuana is a "wonderful thing."


Watch the E! interview. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Annie Ross: Twisted and Terrific

Born into a Scottish vaudevillian family, Annie Ross was known as "Scotland's Shirley Temple" as a child performer. An aunt, actress Ella Logan, bought Annie her first record—Ella Fitzgerald's "A Tisket, A Tasket"—and at the age of four she knew she wanted to be a jazz singer.

In 1952, she penned and sang scat-style lyrics to saxophonist Wardell Gray's composition "Twisted" and it was an underground hit, resulting in her winning Down Beat magazine's New Star award.

My analyst told me
That I was right out of my head
But I said dear doctor
I think that it's you instead
'Cause I have got a thing that's unique and new
It proves that I'll have the last laugh on you
Because instead of one head, I've got two. 

See Annie performing "Twisted" on Hugh Hefner's "After Dark." 

Ross was interviewed for the book Sassy: The Life of Sarah Vaughan by Leslie Gourse, which says, "As a very young woman, Annie, like Sassy, had enormous energy for a life in the fast lane; together they stayed up all night, drinking and smoking. Sassy liked marijuana and cocaine. Later Annie would switch to herbal tea, but in the 1950s, she too liked to get high."

Ross performed with Louis Armstrong and idolized Billie Holiday, about whom she spoke on a recent BBC interview. She recorded seven popular albums with the vocal group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross between 1957 and 1962. During that time, she descended into heroin, and had an affair with Lenny Bruce. According to Jet magazine (11/6/69), she was arrested for drugs, as was Anita O'Day.

She also had an acting career, appearing in Robert Altman's Short Cuts (1993) and providing vocals for other actresses.

"Twisted" has been covered by a myriad of artists, including Bette Midler and Joni Mitchell (complete with a cameo from Cheech & Chong). In 1996, Ross recorded "Marajuana," the Arthur Johnston/Sam Coslow song first performed in the 1930s by Gertrude Michael and also covered by Midler.

At the age of 81, Ross sang "Twisted" at the 2011 MAC Awards, where she was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. A documentary about Ross's life, titled No One But Me, premiered at the Glasgow Film Festival in 2012.  She is reportedly working on her autobiography and still singing. See Annie's website.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

10 Years After: Pot-Puffing Professor Tells Her Truth

On January 6, 2008, the Dallas Morning News picked up Cal State Long Beach professor and novelist Diana Wagman’s column: What my cancer taught me about marijuana, subtitled Why I – and a surprising number my friends – smoke pot. 

Among other things learned during chemotherapy treatment, like that eyelashes really do have a purpose and how wonderfully helpful her friends are, Wagman wrote, “What really shocked me was how many of my old, dear, married, parenting, job-holding friends smoke pot. …People I never expected dropped by to deliver joints and buds and private stash. … The poets and musicians were not a surprise, but lawyers? CEOs? Republicans?” 

Pain was the #1 reason Wagman’s 40- and 50-something friends still get high, she wrote, adding, “We're all beginning to fall apart, and a couple of tokes really take the edge off the sciatica, rotator cuff injuries, irritable bowel syndrome and migraines.” 

Wagman’s oncologist told her pot’s antinauseant properties were discovered 25 years ago, and that patients seem to like it today “because they would rather support a farm in Humboldt County than a huge pharmaceutical conglomerate.” When modern medicine’s anti-nausea drugs didn’t work for Wagman she lit up, finding it helped “a lot” but shocking her 15-year-old DARE-educated daughter. 

“I had come full circle in my life,” Wagman wrote. “The next time I had a toke, I stood in my bathroom with the fan on, blowing smoke out the window, but instead of my parents, I was scared my kids would find out I was smoking dope again.”

Wagman hasn't slowed down in the last decade, recently publishing her first young adult novel, Extraordinary October, “complete with trolls, fairies, intolerance, talking dogs...

Visit Wagman's Website

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Nikola Tesla, His Mother, and Hemp

Someone tweeted out this meme (right) and, not being one to spread false information when there is so much verifiable hempen history (and herstory) to be found, I did a little digging.

In Tesla's autobiography My Inventions, he wrote of taking apart the clocks of his grandfather as a boy. "Shortly there after I went into the manufacture of a kind of pop-gun which comprised a hollow tube, a piston, and two plugs of hemp," he wrote. "The art consisted in selecting a tube of the proper taper from the hollow stalks." Hemp does indeed have hollow stalks, so it seems the young Nikola was familiar with the plant.

A bag made by Tesla's mother
(Source: http://www.teslasociety.com)
Tesla called his mother Georgina-Djuka "a woman of genius and particularly excelling in the powers of intuition." He wrote, "My mother descended from one of the oldest families in the country and a line of inventors....she invented and constructed all kinds of tools and devices and wove the finest designs from thread which was spun by her. She even planted the seeds, raised the plants and separated the fibers herself....When she was past sixty, her fingers were still nimble enough to tie three knots in an eyelash."

It is quite probable that the seeds Djuka planted were hemp. Nikola was born in 1856 in a mountainous Serbian village in what was then part of the Austrian empire and is now in Croatia. Some of my ancestors happen to have lived during that time in a similar village only 200 km away, and I have confirmed that the national costume of the Gottschee people, as they were called, was made from hemp.

According to Gottschee and Its People (John Kikel, 1947):

Being separated from the mother country [Germany], the Gottscheer developed his own national dress. He obtained wool from the sheep which he raised himself, and the hemp which he planted, supplied him with the yarn from which he spun his own linen, which was known as ‘Konig.’ On Sundays and holidays, the men wore linen trousers that went just above the shoes, a jacked made of coarse material and a broad-rimmed large black hat.

The women’s apparel was very colorful and picturesque. They wore snow-white pleated linen aprons and, around their middle, they wore a bright red or brightly embroidered belt with long fringes hanging down their backs. Around their shoulders, they wore a colorful shawl. There was always a great deal of competition amongst the women as to who would have the prettiest dress when they made their next “Kirchgang” since they all made their own dresses . . . Until the latter part of the 19th century, this type of national dress predominated. 

Hemp is still grown and processed throughout Eastern Europe.

Djuka and Nikola didn't necessarily make rope and paper from it, but quite likely she spun and wove the hemp she grew and processed, and her young son played with the stalks and fibers. One can only speculate as to whether Djuka's "genius" and intuition, and that of her son, were enhanced by hemp.