Saturday, January 23, 2021

Women of New Administration To Lead on Marijuana Reform?

As Kamala Devi Harris,  our reigning Tokin' Woman of the Year, was sworn in as our first female Vice President, it was a banner week for progressive females. 

Pennsylvania's top health official Dr. Rachel Levine was announced as the Biden/Harris administration's pick for assistant secretary of health. Levine, a pediatrician, would become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Levine has earned praise for her handling of the COVID crisis, and for managing the roll out of legal medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh NORML director Patrick Nightingale commented, "Dr. Levine has worked hard to implement and steward Pennsylvania's highly regulated medical cannabis program. She readily accepted the recommendations of the Advisory Board, adding flower and multiple qualifying conditions resulting in greater product choices for patients and expanding PA's patient population. Dr. Levine made sure that Pennsylvania adapted to the challenges posed by the pandemic by expanding the monthly purchase amount allowed under PA law, allowing telemed for new patients and recertifications, authorizing curbside delivery for dispensaries and eliminating the five-patient limit for caregivers."

Levine has also been open to the notion, supported by science, that cannabis could play a role in alleviating the opioid epidemic. This is in sharp contrast to former Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Elinore McCance-Katz, who resigned her post on January 7. In 2018, McCance-Katz called research showing medical marijuana states have fewer opioid overdoses "flawed." Instead, she touted her agency’s success in promoting MAT (medically assisted treatment, meaning methadone, naltrexone, or buprenorphine) for opioid abuse, something also advanced by our new Acting Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Regina LaBelle. (No word on LaBelle's opinion of marijuana. NORML lobbied for the Biden/Harris administration to eliminate the ONDCP.)

Singing the National Anthem at the Inauguration was Lady Gaga, who lit up a joint onstage at her concert in Amsterdam in 2012, declaring weed "wondrous." She was quoted as telling The Sun newspaper: "I want you to know it has totally changed my life and I’ve really cut down on drinking." That year, she dressed as a pot fairy for Halloween.

In 2013 Gaga said on a radio show that she'd been smoking smoking a lot of marijuana after she'd broken her hip onstage and was dealing with pain, anxiety and "coping." She called herself "addicted" to weed but with weeks, she backpedaled on her statement, telling a talk show host she still loves to smoke pot, because it makes her feel like she's 17 again. 

Making a big splash in her strong national debut at Wednesday's ceremony was National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman reading her poem "The Hill We Climb." It was reminiscent of Maya Angelou's reading of her poem "The Pulse of the Morning" at the 1993 Clinton inauguration. Angelou wrote about her use of marijuana in the sequel to her book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

With a 50-50 Senate, Harris could break a tie on a bill to end federal marijuana prohibition in the coming Congressional session. She is the Senate sponsor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which passed the House in December in a historic vote. However, the Republicans could still filibuster the process

Devi, BTW, is the name for "Goddess" in Hindu mythology. One of the names of the Goddess is Parvati, who legend has it discovered ganga and shared it with her consort, Shiva. In her Durga form, Devi rides in on her lion and conquers evil. May the Goddess rule the day. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Fran Lebowitz: "No Light Happiness for Me"

Voted her class's Top Wit in 9th grade (the last year she graduated school), Fran Lebowitz was afraid to take the award home because her mother had told her, "Don't be funny around boys. They don't like it." The Martin Scorsese-directed Netflix documentary series "Pretend It's a City" captures Lebowitz's caustic brilliance and is a welcome antidote to last week's sad shenanigans from another New Yorker of a stinkier stripe.

Lebowitz's 1978 book Metropolitan Life was a collection of hilarious essays with titles like, "Success Without College" and "A Few Words on A Few Words." She worked as a cab driver, a housecleaner, and a street vendor, but refused to waitress, saying those jobs went to women who were required to sleep with their boss. Shifting to writing for Andy Warhol's "Interview" magazine and other outlets, she appeared as a judge on the TV series "Law & Order" and in Scorsese's film The Wolf of Wall Street.

"Pretend It's a City" features interviews with Lebowitz by Scorsese, Alec Baldwin, and Spike Lee, all of whom she cracks up (I guess boys do like her humor). She is also interviewed by actress Olivia Wilde, who in 2015 spoke to People magazine about "that unfortunate semester in high school when I simultaneously discovered Krispy Kreme and pot."

A longtime, devoted cigarette smoker, Lebowitz once told David Letterman, "I have two main activities in life: smoking and plotting revenge." She rants in "Pretend It's a City" about the "wellness" craze and parents who won't allow their kids to have sugar. 

"We now live in an era where cigarettes are horrible for you," Lebowitz observes in Episode 5 of the series. "Now, marijuana's good for you. Marijuana used to be a horrible thing that would lead to a life of desperate degradation. Now it's a wonderful thing! It's curative. It's...they put it in jelly beans! Or a gummy bear, or whatever you call it. Now of course they won't let children have real lollypops but the mother has a lollypop with marijuana." 

"I smoked marijuana when I was young," she continues. "I didn't particularly like it. I didn't like the smell of it. Of course now, people don't smoke it as much. I mean they smoke it but they also take these other things, these candies or whatever. I never really....that's not the feeling I was ever seeking, was that feeling of kind of light happiness, okay? That's not for me. No light happiness for me." 

"But I will tell you in case anyone's interested," she continues with a warning about overindulgence, "I do have friends who are around my age or even older who I know to have been daily marijuana smokers for 50 years, and these are not the most acute people on the planet. Let me assure you that there is an aggregate effect. Because I knew them maybe when they started, okay? So they're not like, dangerous people, but they're maybe not the people you would consult anymore."

Her conclusion: "So if I was in charge I would say, 'Marijuana. People like it. It's fun. Let them have it. What do I care?'" Her interviewer (Scorsese) then takes five so she can have a smoke (a cigarette, no doubt). 

Episode 6 begins with Lebowitz finding nonsensical the phrase "guilty pleasure," saying, "I have no guilty pleasures because pleasure never makes me feel guilty...Pleasure, to me, especially the older I get, the more I think, 'Any fun you can have, friend, go ahead.'"

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

"Party Girl" Turns 25

Parker Posey in "Party Girl"
The recent 25th anniversary of the 1995 Indie film "Party Girl" earned a write-up in Vogue magazine for its influence on fashion. Parker Posey stars in the titular role, wearing a funky mix of designer duds and thrift-store trash, and enjoying marijuana. 

The opening scene has Posey as her character Mary smoking a joint and collecting entry fees to an illegal rave she's throwing, leading to her arrest. When her librarian godmother Judy (Sasha von Scherler) bails her out, Mary goes to work at the library to pay back her debt, but without much interest in learning about being a librarian. 

That is, until she smokes pot at the library one night and is inspired to learn the Dewey Decimal System, which she soon uses to organize her DJ roommate's records. Meanwhile, she romances falafel cart owner Mustafa, who shows up at the library for help with getting a teaching certificate, leading to a sexual encounter that costs Mary her job. It becomes apparent that Judy is envious of Mary's lifestyle, partying with friends and finding love. 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Tokin' Women and Other Luminaries We Lost in 2020

Dawn Wells (12/30)
Wells, the perky and petite brunette who played Mary Ann on TV's Gilligan's Island, was caught with a stash box and several half-smoked doobies in her car in 2007. Wells claimed the pot was not hers, but she was rumored to be the person who mailed a package of pot to Bob Denver (Gilligan) at his West Virginia home. Wells died at age 82 due to complications of COVID. 

Patricia Ann Steward (12/30)
Known as "The Duchess of Hemp," Steward was an activist, entrepreneur, and compatriot of Jack Herer (The Emperor Wears No Clothes: Hemp and the Marijuana Conspiracy). We corresponded after John Prine died this year, with her reminiscing about smoking pot with Prine at the club she owned in Arizona.

K.T. Oslin (12/21)
Oslin made music history by becoming the first middle-aged woman to rise to stardom in Nashville. She was 45 years old when she scored a hit with “80’s Ladies” in 1987. The song made her the first female songwriter in history to win the CMA’s Song of the Year prize, and she was the CMA Female Vocalist of the Year in 1988. (Source.)

We were the girls of the 50's.
Stoned rock and rollers in the 60's.
Hunny, more than our names got changed
As the 70's slipped on by.
Now we're 80's ladies.
There ain't been much these ladies ain't tried.


David Lander (12/4)
Lander, who made us laugh as Squiggy on "Laverne and Shirley," was an MS sufferer and advocate for medical marijuana. Lander said he and his partner Michael McKean (Lenny) created their characters for the show while high.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Tokey Awards 2020

Tokin' Woman of the Year: Kamala Harris

“I’m America’s cool aunt. A fun aunt. I call that a funt. The kind of funt that will give you weed but then arrest you for having weed," said Maya Rudolph in her Emmy-winning portrayal of Kamala Harris on Saturday Night Live
Although VP-elect Harris's record and rhetoric on marijuana wasn't good while she was a prosecutor, she has championed reform in the Senate, where she sponsored the MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement Act).  Harris, like others, has figured out that the drug war is steeped in racism, and so it's a human rights issue for all. And she knows that it's now cool to say you smoked it. 

During her Presidential campaign, Harris said on a radio talk show she was “absolutely in favor of legalizing marijuana,” harkening to her half-Jamaican heritage and citing the mass incarceration resulting from cannabis prohibition, particularly of young black men. And she admitted she smoked weed when she was in college. When asked if she might start smoking again, she replied, “I think it gives a lot of people joy, and we need more joy in the world.”
Harris has managed to straddle her tough-prosecutor past with her "funt" persona. She's advocated for arresting the police who shot and killed Breonna Taylor in a botched drug raid, and noted at a Judiciary Committee hearing on Prison Safety and the Coronavirus that 70% of those in US prisons are black and brown people, and while Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen qualified for home detention due to COVID concerns, 62-year-old Fidel Torres died of COVID-19 in a federal prison while serving the final two years of his 20-year sentence for a marijuana offense. She has also been a strong advocate for voting rights, so important in this year's election, and beyond. 
The first woman, the first black, and the first person of Asian descent to be elected Vice President, Harris is sure to make herstory. She's reiterated the Biden/Harris pledge to decriminalize marijuana since the election, and in the recent BET documentary "Smoke." Biden is a longtime drug warrior who will have to be pushed beyond his treatment-instead position. We hope the Californian Harris will help give him a nudge into the present day, where a supermajority of Americans favor cannabis legalization.  

Monday, November 9, 2020

RIP: Literary Lioness Diane di Prima

Di Prima reads from her first book,
"This Kind of Bird Flies Backwards" in 1959

The prolific Beat poet and teacher Diane di Prima was the mother 
of five children and a Lioness of Letters at a time when poets were mostly boys' clubs (and the Beats certainly were). She died on October 25 at the age
of 86.

In an often-repeated anecdote from her 2001 memoir Recollections of My Life as a Woman: The New York Years, Di Prima recalls being at a "boozy, marijuana-filled party one night in New York" with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, and when she announced she needed to leave at 11:30 p.m. to relieve her babysitter, Kerouac shouted, “DI PRIMA, UNLESS YOU FORGET ABOUT YOUR BABYSITTER, YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO BE A WRITER." 

She wrote of her decision to pursue a career in poetry, "The things I now leave behind... leaving the quiet unquestioned living and dying, the simple one-love-and-marriage, children, material pleasures, easy securities. I am leaving the houses I will never own. Dishwashers. Carpets. Dull respect of dull neighbors. None of this matters really. I have already seen it all for the prison it is."

As quoted in Sisters of the Extreme, di Prima wrote in Memoirs of a Beatnik (1969): "As far as we knew, there was only a small handful of us—perhaps forty or fifty in the City (NY)—who knew what we knew; who raced about in Levis and work shirts, smoked dope, dug the new jazz, and spoke a bastardization of the Black argot.....Our chief concern was to keep our integrity...and to keep our cool."

In her epic poem Loba she wrote, seemingly to the goddess Parvati

They call me drunkard, though I drink no liquor
I drink her nectar only; my mind reels
I sit day and night at the feet of Shiva's consort
High, not dulled with the wines of earth.  
The cosmic egg floats on the elixir of her Joy.
She delivers the low-born, I shall not leave her side. 
Virtue, ignorance, action, wisdom—these drugs delude
But when you drink Her wine, you are out of tune
And the Divine Bard loves you: she takes you on her lap.
Why do I regret
hours in pastel gardens where scented drugs
might have sharpened our senses?

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Raiders Sign Player Who Quit over NFL's Marijuana Policy

The Las Vegas Raiders have signed former Dallas Cowboy David Irving, 27, who announced he was quitting the NFL last year in opposition to the league's drug policy, "particularly in regard to marijuana," reported ESPN. 

Irving was suspended indefinitely for violating NFL's substance abuse policy in 2019, and now is back under "provisional" reinstatement, while he is being tested for COVID.  In March, the NFL's level of THC triggering a positive test was increased fourfold from 35 to 150 ng/ml, among other policy reforms negotiated by the NFL Players Association. 

On Instagram, where he announced his resignation from football, Irving calls himself an "NFL Player turned Cannabis Activist." He told Sports Illustrated in February, "I've been smoking since I was in middle school. Always had a 3.0 GPA. Never had any trouble with the law."  He added that cannabis could help the NFL with its CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) problem. 

"I know the perception people have of me is that I'm some sort of gangsta, homeless pothead," Irving told SI. "But I gave up football for a bigger cause. I want to change the bias toward marijuana. I want to educate America that it's not a drug, it's medicine."