Monday, July 13, 2020

Women Increasingly Find Marijuana Smoking "Morally Acceptable"

Women aren't buying into the propaganda anymore.
According to the latest Gallup poll, 70% of Americans say that it is morally acceptable for adults to smoke marijuana, an increase of five percentage points since Gallup last posed the question in 2019.

The jump is attributable to a change in women's perception. In 2019, 62% of women said they thought smoking marijuana was acceptable, compared to 69% of men. This year, 70% of women and said they approve, an increase of 8%, while the same 69% of men were in approval.

By contrast, drinking alcohol is now OK with 88% of men and 84% of women. On other issues, 90% of the public think birth control is morally acceptable, with 93% of women approving, compared to 86% of men; 47% of women and 42% of men approve of abortion; and 71% of women and 61% of men say having a baby outside of marriage is OK. On the death penalty, 62% of men currently approve and only 47% of women do.

Polls have persistently shown that women use marijuana and support its legalization around 10% less commonly than men, but that gap is narrowing. In February, Gallup found that 12% of adults self-identify as cannabis consumers, with men (15 percent) more likely than women (9 percent) to acknowledge partaking, a difference of only 6%. In October 2019, 69% of men and 64% of women told pollsters they were in favor of marijuana legalization, with only a 5% difference. Since overall 80% of Millennials (born 1980-2000) and only 40% of Traditionalists (born in 1945 or earlier) are in support of legalization, these trends are likely to continue, and we can look for more women to respond positively to those questions in the future.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Trump Clemency Grantee Alice Marie Johnson Responds to Stone Commutation

Longtime, tremendously hard-working prisoner advocate Amy Povah of the Cando Clemency Foundation clued me into this story on her Facebook page. Please support her and other groups working for prison reform.

Roger can get Stoned with his Richard Nixon bong while
thousands of nonviolent drug offenders wait for clemency. 
The vile Roger Stone* is getting a pass for perjury and other crimes, in part because he could be at risk for COVID-19 if he goes to prison. Meanwhile, thousands of at-risk, nonviolent prisoners remain behind bars with outrageously long sentences, and Trump is talking about withholding federal education funds if schools decide they'd rather not confine students and teachers in an unsafe space this fall.

I agree with Adam Schiff: "With Trump there are now two systems of justice in America: One for Trump's criminal friends and one for everyone else." (NPR missed the "criminal" when they reported that this morning.) Kamala Harris tweeted, "Trump commutes the prison sentence of Roger Stone while the officers that killed Breonna Taylor are still free. The two systems of justice in this country must end."

Johnson's case was highlighted at the 2019 State of the Union speech.
Trump made a public spectacle in 2019 of granting clemency to Alice Marie Johnson, a black grandmother who had served almost 22 years for a first-time, nonviolent drug crime until she was advocated for by Kim Kardashian. On her reality show, Kim is shown meeting about Johnson with Trump, who only wants to talk about her suck-up husband Kanye West.

Johnson, who appeared in a SuperBowl ad to tout Trump's criminal justice record, responded to Stone's commutation diplomatically in the Washington Post.  Stone “is not one that I have personally advocated for, but that there’s movement on clemency makes me hopeful that there will be more,” Johnson said. “The people I am advocating for have spent years in prison and have proven that they rehabilitated themselves."

They include a number of women and people of color serving long sentences for drug crimes. Two of the women, LaShonda Hall and Lenora Logan, are inmates with whom Johnson served time. Another is one of Johnson’s co-defendants, Curtis McDonald, who is 70 and was quarantined with COVID-19 when they spoke last month. Roughly 13,500 inmates who have sought clemency are in limbo, according to the Justice Department’s website.

Breonna Taylor was a 26-year-old African-American EMT who was shot and killed by Louisville police executing a no-knock drug warrant on March 13. No drugs were found, and police initially said no one was hurt. Michael Thompson, a 68-year-old diabetic black man, remains in prison in Michigan for selling three pounds of weed in 1994, and black disabled veteran Sean Worsley was just given a 60-month prison sentence in Georgia for medical marijuana.

West gives Trump a MAGA hug. 
West said he was throwing his (MAGA?) hat into the presidential race this week, a move almost surely meant to draw black votes away from Biden. Meanwhile, his sneaky sneaker company Yeazy unforgivably sucked up $2-5 million in "forgivable" PPP loans (which was only revealed after a dozen media outlets sued to have the loan money accounted for). Yeezy reportedly made $1.5 million last year; Kim & Kanye are both billionaires and he plans to build a second luxury home in Montana. He's also planning to grow hemp in the state, with God doing the driving.

Michael Cohen, President Trump's former personal attorney, was taken back into federal custody Thursday after refusing the terms of his home confinement. One of those conditions, according to a copy of the agreement obtained by CBS News, called for "No engagement of any kind with the media, including print, tv, film, books, or any other form of media/news." Cohen has reportedly finished a draft of a book about his life and time working for Trump. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and attorney Michael Avenatti have also been released to home confinement due to fears of the coronavirus. 

*If you don't know who this turkey is, watch "Get Me Roger Stone" on Netflix. Stone actually tried to get into the cannabis industry and was set to appear at a cannabis event in LA in 2017, but the industry rallied to boycott the show until he was uninvited.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Johnny Depp Admits to Initiating His Daughter with Marijuana

Lily-Rose and Johnny Depp
Lawyers for the UK tabloid The Sun are trying to smear Johnny Depp as a bad parent who "encouraged" his 13-year-old daughter to smoke marijuana during a trial brought about by Depp's $50-million libel suit against the publication for calling the actor a "wife-beater." His former wife Amber Heard has alleged that Depp was abusive during their 15-month marriage, which he has denied, claiming that he was the victim of domestic violence in their relationship.

Asked about his own cannabis use during his marriage to Heard, Depp said it was "very helpful with regard to anxiety, sleep, sense of well-being, calmness," according to Metro UK. He was then asked by attorney Sasha Wass if that was why he "encouraged" his daughter Lily-Rose Depp to try weed when she was 13.  Depp replied that he never encouraged his daughter to try cannabis, but told her if she wanted to try it to come to him instead of trying it elsewhere.

"My daughter was 13 years old and, as we all know, at 11, 12, 13 years old, when you go to high school parties you are approached by people who will want to give you drink because they’re drinking," Depp said on the stand. "They are doing cocaine at 12 and 13, they are smoking marijuana at 12 and 13, they are taking ecstasy at 12 and 13. You don’t want your 13-year-old going into some paranoid tailspin and I knew that the marijuana I had myself, that I smoke myself, is trustworthy, is a good quality and I was bound and determined not to have her try any drugs out there in the world because it’s too dangerous."

Depp with Paradis and their children. 
"Please do me the honor of coming to me when you are ready, when you really feel you are ready, because I don’t want your first experience in this world to be with people you don’t know, taking things you don’t know that I can’t trust, so it’s a safety issue," Depp said he told his daughter. He recalled how Lily-Rose later came to him and said she was "ready" and he consulted with her mother Vanessa Paradis, with whom he had a 14-year relationship and two children.

When his daughter emailed afterwards to say, "I love weed," Depp replied, "Don’t be loving it too much just yet" and added: "So proud of you for being so responsible." Studies show that the human brain is still developing into our 20s, and smoking too much marijuana  in the teen years can be harmful.

Depp has good reason to want to warn his children away from unknown or hard drugs, or alcohol. His friend River Phoenix died of “Acute Multiple Drug Intoxication” at the age of 23 outside The Viper Room in Hollywood, in 1993 when the club was owned by Depp. The three-time Oscar nominee said in a 2008 interview that he had "poisoned" himself with alcohol "for years" and announced he quit drinking in 2013. Apparently he went "California sober" because a Rolling Stone interviewer said in 2018 Depp smoked hashish in his presence.

Wass also asked Depp if it was true that he "found drugs and alcohol" early in his life, BBC reports. Depp answered, "My mother used to ask me to go and get her 'nerve pills' and I think I was around the age of 11 that it dawned on me that 'nerve pills' were calming her nerves, so I brought her her nerve pills and I took one and that began [my drug use]." Sounds like he shared the less harmful drug with his daughter.

Lily-Rose Depp, now 21, has won several acting awards, including best actress at the 2019 Los Angeles Film Awards. She had a successful modeling career, conquered anorexia, and acts in both English and French. She appears to smoke a joint with Natalie Portman in a bathtub in the 2016 film Planetarium, and she's appearing in the "opioid crisis thriller" Dreamland in 2020.

Modern spiritual leaders and scientists have lamented the loss of adolescent initiation rights in our society. Ram Dass wrote, "Sadly, a first psychedelic experience is much more likely to happen at a noisy party somewhere than in a sacred setting filled with reminders of spirit. And that’s a big missed opportunity, for us as a society." Robert Carhart-Harris of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London is currently recruiting participants in a clinical trial studying psilocybin therapy for anorexia, as is the Johns Hopkins Psychedelic Research Center. The spiritual bereftness of our rites of passage and our society arguably leads to a disconnectedness with each other and with nature that could have profound effects not just on individuals, but even on the future of our planet.

Other actors whose parents initiated them into cannabis, or got high with them, include Matt Damon and Mark-Paul Gosselaar. Recovering addict/actor Dax Shepard recently said he will tell his daughters, "to do shrooms and to smoke pot and to drink and to just don't do cocaine or opioids."

Paul McCartney announced he was giving up marijuana in 2012 during a child-custody battle with his second wife Heather Mills. Expected to testify next week in support of Depp are Paradis and his other ex Winona Ryder, who smoked pot on film with her elders in How to Make an American Quilt.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Hear Hugh Downs on Hemp

Hugh Downs with Barbara Walters in 1969.NBC Newswire
Today we hear
the sad news that Hugh Downs has passed away at the age of 99.

Born in Akron, Ohio on Valentine's Day in 1921, Downs served in the Army and began his career in broadcasting as a radio announcer in Lima, Ohio. Downs helped establish the enduring “Tonight Show” franchise in 1957 when he joined the show as Jack Parr's announcer and sidekick. He hosted the game show “Concentration” from 1958 to 1969, was a “Today” show anchor for nine years from 1962 to 1971, and cohosted ABC’s “20/20” with Barbara Walters from 1978-1999, when he retired.

On his ABC News radio broadcast in November 1990, Downs read in his velvety voice a 20-minute story about hemp, at a time when activists (like me) couldn't even get the word "hemp" in the newspaper (they would always change it to "marijuana"). A cassette tape of Downs's commentary produced by documentarians known as "She Who Remembers" became part of hemp activists' toolkit in LA and beyond, when education happened one-on-one with handmade and xeroxed flyers, cheap hemp cloth and twine imported from China or Eastern Europe, hemp seed sold as bird seed, and our bible: Jack Herer's book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes: Hemp and the Marijuana Conspiracy.

To have the hemp story told by one of the most beloved and trusted voices in broadcasting was powerful indeed. LBJ said after Walter Cronkite began to criticize the Vietnam War, it
was lost; the same could be said of Downs and the War on Hemp, and Drugs.

As part of a compilation tape of drug war stories called "Seeds," Downs's hemp broadcast was widely distributed, says Tim Perkins, sound engineer and partner to the dearly departed Genie Erstad of "She Who Remembers," who recorded every hemp rally and political event in LA in the early 1990s. "Seeds" also has a commentary by Downs about the militarization of the drug war (something that continues today); interviews with medical marijuana pioneers Robert Randall and Elvy Musikka; psychedelic explorer Terence McKenna; plus music from Jello Biafra, Amy Sorrell, and others. "'Seeds' went all around the world," Perkins says. "We got phone calls and and letters from all over telling us of the tape, and those who were copying and spreading it everywhere." Perkins is continuing to document the marijuana movement as part of the 420 Archive at UC Berkeley.

Also departed this week, at the age of 98, was Carl Reiner, who among his many accomplishments took a pothead (John Denver) and made him see god in the delightful 1977 movie "Oh, God."

Friday, June 26, 2020

Paltrow Power Puffs in "The Politician"

Gwyneth Paltrow Plays a Candidate Who Definitely Does Inhale in The Politician
Taking a break from weightier and fascinating shows like Who Killed Malcolm X, The Two Killings of Sam Cooke, and Who Shot the Sheriff on Netflix, I've been watching Season 2 of The Politician, starring the talented Ben Platt (Dear Evan Hansen) in the title role as the ambitious young candidate Payton Hobart, this time up against seasoned state Senator Dede Standish played by Judith Light ("Who's the Boss?") at her brittle best, and Bette Midler as her wily campaign manager for an extra comedic cherry on top. 

Paton's mother Georgina, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, is coming into her power this season, with Paltrow perfectly spoofing the public perception of her as an entitled Hollywood princess for whom everything comes too easily. Georgina languidly smokes from a hookah in one scene as she mounts a Marianne Williams–style campaign for California's Governor, during which she proposes seceding from the union, arguing that, "Most of our federal tax dollars go out of state to people who think that we are pot-smoking, Satan-worshipping abortion doctors or something." Elsewhere, she utters lines like, "Sorry sweetheart, I don't remember young people, it's a tic I have," and "I'm going to get stoned and have a bath."

The young people, meanwhile, seem to prefer edibles. Payton's girlfriend Alice (Julia Schlaepfer) brings him a variety of treats, including marijuana gummies, to comfort him after a hard day (right).

And a first date for campaign staffer McAfee (Laura Dreyfuss) goes like this:
She: "Not a serial killer, right?
He: "Nope. You?"
She: "No. Good. Would you like a glass of wine?"
He: "That would be great. Um, I brought edibles. You want one?"
She: "Yes, thank you."

The series depicts seedy politics as its absurd worst, with subtle digs at Trumpism, and women often calling the shots. I love that when Dede is tapped a possible VP candidate, it's called making "herstory" (since the title of my book is Tokin' Women: A 4000-Year Herstory).

Lisa Kudrow inexplicably imprisoned in Space Force.
I tried watching Steve Carrell in Space Force, but couldn't get over the fact that his wife, played by the stoner "Friend" Lisa Kudrow, is suddenly in prison with no explanation given. Because women are so minor? Paltrow is co-producing The Politician, which seems to be what a woman has to do to get a good role these days. It doesn't hurt that series co-creator Ryan Murphy ("the most powerful man in television") set her up with her new husband and their creative partner Brad Falchuk.

Paltrow vaped her way through a cover shoot for her magazine "Goop" in 2017, and told Howard Stern in 2018 that she smokes weed "'s legal now in California." Good for Gwyneth for showing in her art and her life that a woman can be powerful on pot. Now, if we can truly get a woman elected President we can start to clean up our planetary messes.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

RIP Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Marijuana Reform Pioneer

Dr. Grinspoon's pioneering book, from
back when "marijuana" was spelled with an "h"
Dr. Lester Grinspoon, a pioneering advocate for marijuana reform, has passed away one day after his 92nd birthday, aka "Lester Grinspoon day."

A Harvard professor, Dr. Grinspoon "started out investigating what he expected to be the dangers of marijuana and ended up writing the classic Marihuana Reconsidered (1971), a scholarly debunking of then-current myths about the herb's supposed evils," writes Cal NORML's Dale Gieringer.  "Lester became an influential force for enlightenment in the 1970s decrim movement and was one of NORML's earliest supporters. Later, he published Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine, about the medical benefits of marijuana, which he had witnessed first hand through his son Danny's struggle with cancer chemotherapy."

As well as his many accomplishments, Dr. Grinspoon’s work inspired my VeryImportantPotheads website (which spun off into this blog), starting with a stirring speech he gave at the April 2001 NORML conference “outing” himself as a marijuana user, saying, "I was 44 years old in 1972 when I experienced my first marijuana high. Because I found it both useful and benign, I have used it ever since.” As High Times reported, "He called for people in the business, academic and professional worlds to come out of the closet regarding marijuana. To that end, he's pursuing what he calls the 'Uses of Marijuana Project' (, an ethnographic exercise on how pot has enhanced users' lives."

As told by Dr. Frank Lucido, after Lester's admission at the conference, he was reported to the Massachusetts Medical Board by Calvina Fay, a notorious anti-drug zealot, who headed the Drug Free America Foundation. Her letter to the Board asked, "Doesn’t Dr. Grinspoon's use of an illegal drug put his patients in danger and doesn't this in some manner violate the laws and code of ethics that govern the conduct of physicians in the state of Massachusetts?" Lester wrote back, saying the attack was merely political, and since the complaint had not come from a patient, the Board should dismiss it (and it did).

Sagan's 1985 book in which he
envisions a legal cannabis shop
A 2018 Boston Globe profile says that while teaching at Harvard, Grinspoon's anti–Vietnam war activism led to a lifelong friendship with fellow professor Carl Sagan, who would later become "perhaps the most popular scientist in the United States as the host of television shows such as 'Cosmos,'" and "was a prolific but closeted pot-smoker." 

“When I saw him smoking for the first time, I said, ‘Carl, you musn’t do that! That’s a very dangerous drug,’ ” Grinspoon recalled. “He took another puff and said, ‘Here, Lester, have some, you’ll love it and it’s harmless.’ I was absolutely astonished.

Grinspoon published Sagan's essay about his marijuana use under the pseudonym "Mr. X" in  Marihuana Reconsidered. In it, Sagan says marijuana inspired some of his intellectual work. "I can remember one occasion, taking a shower with my wife while high, in which I had an idea on the origins and invalidities of racism in terms of gaussian distribution curves,'' he wrote, adding that pot enhanced his experience of food, particularly potatoes, music and sex.

After Sagan's death, his identity was revealed and ultimately, Grinspoon's “Marijuana Uses” website published other first-hand accounts of marijuana use, plus articles about people like VIP Alan Ginsberg. In the introduction to the blog, Grinspoon wrote:

Every age has its peculiar folly, and if Charles Mackay, the author of the mid-19th century classic, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, were alive today he would surely see “canabinophobia” as a popular delusion along with the “tulipmania” and “witch hunts” of earlier ages. I believe that we are now at the cusp of this particular popular delusion which to date has been responsible for the arrest of about 20 million US citizens. I also believe that future historians will look at this epic and recognize it as another instance of the “madness of crowds.” Millions of marijuana users have already arrived at this understanding. 

Dr. Lester Grinspoon with his wife of 66 years, Betsy. 
Lester once miffed a Congressional questioner who wanted to know if he had ever smoked pot. He replied (something like), I will answer that, if first will you tell me whether answering in the affirmative will make me more or less of an expert in your eyes.

At the 2009 NORML conference via Skype, Grinspoon, then 81, was asked whether or not he had tried the strain of cannabis newly named for him. He replied that he hadn't, but would like to. He said his son flew to Amsterdam to try it and pronounced it great, and that he’s received emails from all over praising it, despite its high price ($17/gram). "If any of you have some..." he ventured.

Grinspoon spoke about what a "wonderful, safe, hangover-free recreational drug [cannabis] is." Not only can it enhance sexual and culinary experiences, it can "catalyze new ideas, insights, emotional intimacy, and spiritual depth," qualities more experienced users appreciate, while younger ones go for the sociability and fun cannabis provides. Grinspoon said his friend and VIP Carl Sagan was a daily smoker.

John Lennon during his deportation case over a hashish bust. 
Recalling being a witness at John Lennon's deportation trial—ostensibly over a hashish bust in England—Grinspoon said he got Lennon off by clarifying that hashish, which was illegal in England, was different than marijuana, which was illegal in the U.S. See Dr. Grinspoon on Meeting John Lennon and His First High at NORMLcon 2011. 

In a 2007 article for the Boston Globe titled, “Marijuana Gains Wonder Drug Status,” Grinspoon wrote, "A new study in the journal Neurology is being hailed as unassailable proof that marijuana is a valuable medicine. It is a sad commentary on the state of modern medicine — and US drug policy — that we still need 'proof' of something that medicine has known for 5,000 years.”

The Australian rock band "Grinspoon" was named for Lester, and Oaksterdam University's logo (left) is based on Harvard's as an homage to him.

Researcher Sebastian Marincolo writes that Lester was the first doctor to recommend medical marijuana to parents of autistic children several years ago. Marincolo recounts visiting with the Grinspoons like this: "We then moved on and used his Volcano, and then Lester and Betsy invited me to a lovely dinner."

His son Peter Grinspoon MD tweeted today, "Word has it that he and Carl Sagan are already back at it, discussing & debating the role of cannabinoids in human consciousness…"

Monday, June 22, 2020

50 Years Ago: Barbara Streisand Turns On The Owl

In the 1970 film The Owl and the Pussycat, Barbra Streisand plays Doris, a struggling model/actress living in New York who turns a few tricks to get by. When nerdy would-be writer and bookstore clerk Felix (George Segal) reports her activities to their landlord, she confronts him and rocks his world.

Leading up to the film's climax, Doris pulls out a joint and says, “Now I’m going to make you happy. It’s gonna put you in a very good mood.” Felix resists, telling her he’ll do it only after she whispers a bribe into his ear, announcing he was doing so to demonstrate that, “I have a certain free will, I am not a square person, and I am if I wish to be, perfectly hep.” She replies, “I’m hip you’re hep.”

They crash in a big way involving a bathtub and unexpected guests, leading to the breakup of his engagement and an amusing revelation about the hypocrisy of it all. He marches away afterwards, and she follows, saying, "You’re just depressed now because you’re not used to smoking grass. And you got very high, and now you’ve come down real hard. That could be very depressing, see what I mean? "

"Listen, the first time I got stoned, I came down so hard I didn’t feel like a human being afterwards," Doris continues. "I felt like some kind of cockroach or something.”

"Kafka,” Felix replies, thinking of The Metamorphosis, the Kafka novella in which the main character Gregor wakes up one day as a cockroach.

The movie is rather Kaskaesque: like many of Kafka's works, it features a passive, intellectual character and another active, more libidinal one (like Gregor's younger sister Grete who goes through her own metamorphosis). What spurred the sudden revelation that made Gregor realize he was nothing but an insect has caused more than a few to wonder what Kafka was smoking, and draw parallels between the War on Drugs and The Trial.

Kafka became ill and lived on a pension from his job at an insurance company for 10 years before he died of tuberculosis at age 40. He is quoted as saying, "My peers, lately, have found companionship through means of intoxication—it makes them sociable. I, however, cannot force myself to use drugs to cheat on my loneliness—it is all that I have—and when the drugs and alcohol dissipate, will be all that my peers have as well." He did, however, drink beer and wine, and what drugs he may have turned to in order to deal with his illness and insomnia are unknown (much like Nietzsche).

The Owl and the Pussycat screenplay, written by Buck Henry, was based on a stage play by Bill Manhoff. In the original Broadway production (1964–65), the "Owl" was played by white actor Alan Alda and the "Pussycat" by black actress/singer Diana Sands, and "many subsequent productions followed this precedent." (Wikipedia). It could be time for a remake.

The title seems to have come from the poem by Edward Lear (1812-1888):
The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea 
In a beautiful pea-green boat...
They sailed away, for a year and a day, 
To the land where the Bong-Tree grows...

Also see: Streisand Smoked With Sellers, But Not with Seth