Thursday, July 29, 2021

Dr. Susan Blackmore: 70 Years Conscious

Today is the 70th birthday of psychologist and meme queen Dr. Susan Blackmore, author of the bestselling book The Meme Machine, who has over 900,000 views on her TedTalk on "Memes and Temes."

Blackmore appeared at the 2005 Cheltenham Science Festival to discuss whether drugs can teach us anything about ourselves. A version of her talk was published in the Daily Telegraph on May 21 of that year. In it, she says,

"Some people may smoke dope just to relax or have fun, but for me the reason goes deeper. In fact, I can honestly say that without cannabis, most of my scientific research would never have been done and most of my books on psychology and evolution would not have been written. . . . 

From the Oakland Museum "Altered State" exhibit
"Some evenings, after a long day at my desk, I'll slip into the bath, light a candle and a spliff, and let the ideas flow - that lecture I have to give to 500 people next week, that article I'm writing for New Scientist, those tricky last words of a book I've been working on for months. This is the time when the sentences seem to write themselves. Or I might sit out in my greenhouse on a summer evening among my tomatoes and peach trees, struggling with questions about free will or the nature of the universe, and find that a smoke gives me new ways of thinking about them." [Sounds similar to Carl Sagan's experience.]

"In just about every human society there has ever been, people have used dangerous drugs – but most have developed rituals that bring an element of control or safety to the experience," Blackmore continued. "In more primitive societies, it is shamans and healers who control the use of dangerous drugs, choose appropriate settings in which to take them and teach people how to appreciate the visions and insights that they can bring. In our own society, criminals control all drug sales. This means that users have no way of knowing exactly what they are buying and no-one to teach them how to use these dangerous tools. . .

"It's an old metaphor, but people often liken the task to climbing a mountain. The drugs can take you up in a helicopter to see what's there, but you can't stay. In the end, you have to climb the mountain yourself – the hard way. Even so, by giving you that first glimpse, the drugs may provide the inspiration to keep climbing."

In a 2019 lecture she gave on "The Science of Out of Body Experiences," Blackmore spoke about being a fan of psychologist William James, who used nitrous oxide to expand his consciousness, saying, "Freud came along and ruined everything....we'd have got to spirituality and psychology much quicker." In 2020, Scientific American interviewed her for an article titled, "How to Be a Mystical Skeptic." Her website has links explaining, "Why I support the legalization of drugs and Anyone’s Child – families against the War on drugs."

Writing to wish her a Happy Birthday via her Facebook page, I got this response from her assistant: "Susan Blackmore is taking an extended sabbatical due to ill health and will only gradually return to work in 2021." We wish this exceptional Tokin' Woman a speedy and full recovery, and many more years of consciousness.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Judy Chicago's "The Flowering"

Feminist artist Judy Chicago has been in the news lately, having published the latest installment of her autobiography, The Flowering at the age of 82. 

Chicago's 1979 work The Dinner Party turned the male-dominated art world upside down, setting the table for 39 prominent and mythical women with vulva-inspired ceramic plates and elaborately embroidered place settings. “Women had embedded in houses for centuries and had quilted, sewed, baked, cooked, decorated and nested their creative energies away,” Chicago wrote in her 2006 book Through the Flower. “What would happen, we wondered, if women took those same homemaking activities and carried them to fantasy proportions?” 

Chicago "reclaimed the feminine in the midst of our male-dominated art world" and "paved the way for subsequent generations of female artists," wrote Lucy Koto Olive in The Brooklyn Rail, adding, "The Dinner Party brought psychedelia and feminist ideas together in a bizarre, monumental manner. The many detailed settings, the symbolic triangular shape of the table, and the use of the vagina aim to grasp and elevate the universal feminine experience. In its totality and repeated attention to patterns and shapes, the psychedelic is strongly present in this work," Olive wrote. 

When The Dinner Party opened at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, "no one had ever seen anything like it," wrote Sasha Weiss in the New York Times.  "It was theatrical, audacious and definitively feminist: a work of stark symbolism and detailed scholarship, of elaborate ceramics and needlework that also nodded to the traditional amateurism of those forms, a communal project that was the realization of one woman’s uncompromisingly grand vision, inviting both awe and identification. It caused an immediate sensation."

Weiss interviewed Chicago for her 2018 article, describing here like this: "Her lipstick was purple, her curly hair dyed a reddish-pink, with tinted glasses to match, giving her a dreamy, psychedelic look."  

The 39 women symbolically seated at Chicago's table include the goddess Ishtar, who begins my book Tokin' Women. Also represented are Hildegarde von Bingen, who kept the flame alive in the Dark Ages; Emily Dickinson and Margaret Sanger.

Among the 998 Goddesses, rulers, healers, artists, and persecuted women named in The Heritage Floor on which the dinner party sits are:

-Kore (Persephone), who, with her mother Demeter, was a goddess of the ancient Greek Eleusinian mysteries, with their drug kykeon.  

- Circe, who used a drug to turn men to swine, and Helen of Troy, whose drug nepenthe soothed soldiers in Homer's tales. 

- The goddesses Hera and Juno and an Amazon woman.

- The Biblical Makeda (Queen of Sheba), Jezebel, and Maacah, the daughter of the Biblical King David's son Absalom, who was removed her royal position by her grandson King Asa because she built an obscene memorial to the goddess Asherah

- Military commander Joan of Arc, sociologist Harriet Martineau, spiritualist Helena Blavatsky, and anthropologist Margaret Mead.

- Authors George Eliot, Isak Dinesen and Simone de Beauvoir,  and author/art patron/salon hostess Gertrude Stein.

- Artist Frida Kahlo, jazz musician Mary Lou Williams, and dancer Josephine Baker

Womens' herstories had been long buried before Chicago helped smash through the centuries of silence with her powerful work. While—the artist points out—penis symbols are everywhere (sky scrapers, obelisks), she took so much criticism for depicting women's reproductive parts that she became suicidal. 

Seen by over 100,000 people in the three months it was first on display, The Dinner Party was bashed by critics as mere political rhetoric. A Los Angeles Times art critic cruelly called it “a lumbering mishmash of sleaze and cheese.” A tour of the show was canceled, with minimal explanation. Cancelled for a showing at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the installation has now found a permanent home there, thanks to an endowment by Elizabeth Sackler (somewhat controversially, since the Sackler family has been criticized for its role in the opioid epidemic). 

Chicago was a teacher of studio classes on feminist art, the first of their kind, at Fresno State College and CalArts in Valencia. "She pushed her students to create work based on consciousness-raising sessions in which they investigated their experiences as women, including being harassed by men," writes Weiss. Sadly, something that remains current.

Rita Marley at 75

Tokin' Woman Rita Marley turns 75 today. A tribute concert happening at 2 PM PDT will feature her fellow I Threes members Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt.

Born to a musical family in Jamaica, Alpharita “Rita” Anderson began singing at weddings at an early age, and later sang lead in her girl group The Soulettes, known as “The Supremes of the Caribbean.” At the age of 19, she married Bob Marley and had four children with him, as well as helping to raise several of the children he had with other women. Along with Griffiths and Mowatt, Rita formed the I Threes and sang backup for Bob on the tours that brought reggae music to the world. 

When Rita first began to embrace Rastafarianism and ganja smoking, neither were well accepted in Jamaica. “My Aunty began to worry, my God, is Rita smoking that stuff, that terrible stuff that would make you go crazy and put you in prison,” Rita wrote in her autobiography No Woman No Cry. “I had started smoking a little herb….I liked smoking for the way it made me feel—cooled out and meditative….” 

After meeting with Rasta elders, she writes, “The whole thing seemed intelligent to me; it wasn’t just about smoking herb, it was more a philosophy that carried a history with it. That’s what really pulled my interest, the powerful history that hadn’t been taught to me in school.” 

Rita’s 1981 hit song “One Draw” was controversial because it was set in a school, and make Tokin' Woman's list of Top 10 Rock & Reggae Songs by Women. In March 2014, she released “One Draw” for the first time in a digital format, saying, “Marijuana is a herb which helps produce the serenity and insight, it is a healing herb when used properly. . . . I support legislation of Marijuana, as Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to mankind and I know this because I have my one draw occasionally.” 

Upon the announcement of worldwide cannabis brand Marley Natural in November 2014, Rita said, “My husband believed ‘the herb’ was a natural and positive part of life, and he felt it was important to the world. He looked forward to this day.”

Rita is considered an expert on Jamaican food; Ital dishes are sold at the Queen of Sheba restaurant at the Bob Marley Museum in Trench Town. Rita and Bob's daughter Cedella is a cannabis cookbook author and was included in the 2019 "We Are Mary Jane" exhibit at the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum in Barcelona.  

CelebStoner reports that Rita has had health issues and uses the functional mushrooms products offered by the new Marley One company. "She sampled every single one," Cedella says. "She was the taste tester. She’s very excited about Marley One, I must say.”

The Rita Marley Foundation will give three scholarships to young women this year: one to a nursing student; one who has experienced a teenage pregnancy; and one heading towards a nontraditional career like firefighting. 

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Amy Schumer Joins NAPW's Brief In Support of Arizona Mother's Use of Medical Marijuana to Treat HG

National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) has asked the Arizona Court of Appeals to accept their amicus brief on behalf of 45 leading health organizations, doctors, ethicists, scientific and medical experts, and advocates—including comedienne Amy Schumer—in support of Lindsay R., a mother found guilty of civil child neglect because she used medical marijuana while pregnant and suffering from acute hyperemesis gravidarum.

Hyperemis gravidarum (HG), a debilitating ailment characterized by severe nausea and vomiting, malnutrition, and weight loss during pregnancy, afflicts 1–2% of pregnant women globally and is the most common cause of hospitalization in the US during the first half of pregnancy, second only to preterm labor for pregnancy overall. As well as Schumer—who documented regarding her own HG journey in the HBO Max series, Expecting Amycelebrities who experienced HG during pregnancy include Kelly Clarkson and Princess Kate

According to a press release from NAPW, Lindsay R.’s HG was so severe that she was hospitalized twice. Although she was a qualifying patient under Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act, a lower court found that Lindsay R. committed civil child neglect for her use of medical marijuana during her pregnancy and placed her on Arizona’s Central Registry for the next 25 years. The Central Registry, maintained by Arizona's Department of Child Safety, lists people with substantiated reports of child abuse or neglect. Placement on the registry creates barriers to employment in childcare, child welfare, and health care services, limiting Lindsay’s job opportunities for the rest of her working life. 

The lower court ignored the severity of HG, says NAPW, and relied on junk science about prenatal exposure to marijuana to find that Lindsay’s use of medical marijuana while pregnant constituted child neglect. The State characterizes her use as selfish behavior that wrongfully “prioritiz[ed] her own needs over those of her child.” 

As NAPW’s brief explains and Expecting Amy documents, HG is a devastating condition that can pose significant risks to the pregnant woman and her future child. Peer-reviewed scientific research does not support the conclusion that prenatal exposure to marijuana causes harm or creates risks of harm different or greater than exposure to many substances as well as medications prescribed to pregnant women. As the more than 40 amici organizations and experts explain in the brief, children are not protected by equating medical marijuana use with child neglect and penalizing their parents. 

Friday, July 2, 2021

Track Star Sha'Carri Richardson Banned from Olympic Race Over Marijuana Test

Send a message to WADA and USADA to tell them to revise their policies to be in compliance with the shifting legal and cultural standing of cannabis. 
This story has been updated. 

American sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson apologized to her agent, her family, her sponsors and her fans on The Today Show after the US Anti-Doping Agency announced she had tested positive for marijuana. Richardson will be suspended from competing for 30 days and will miss the 100 meter race at the upcoming Olympics. She will also miss the 4X100 meter relay taking place following her suspension after US Track and Field did not name Richardson to the US team, even while saying marijuana punishments "should be reevaluated."

Richardson rose to fame in 2019 as a Louisiana State University freshman when she broke the 100m record at the NCAA championships with a speed of 10.75 seconds. She won the 100m Olympic Trials on June 19 on Eugene, Oregon with a time of 10.86 seconds and ran to the stands to hug the grandmother who raised her just afterwards. That performance has now been disqualified, and she will be replaced by the fourth-place finisher. 

In an interview on NBC, Richardson said she was "blinded by emotions" after she found out that her biological mother had died when a reporter asked her about it days before her trial, and turned to marijuana to cope from the "triggering" and "nerve-shocking" news. "Who are you or who am I to tell you how to cope when you're dealing with a pain you never experienced before?" a contrite Richardson said. 

Former First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted an interview with Richardson where she mentions her mother's death after winning her race, applauding her "grace and grit" and adding, "Can't wait to see what you do in Tokyo!" Obama admitted in her memoir that she smoked pot in her youth. She's been silent since Richardson's suspension, and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who made excuses for the Biden administration firing employees over past marijuana use earlier this year, said when asked about Richardson on Friday, July 2, “this was an independent decision made by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and not a decision that would be made by the U.S. government," adding, "that Richardson “is an inspiring young woman who has gone through a lot personally—and she also happens to be one of the fastest women in the world.” After Richardson wasn't named to the US Olympic team so that she could compete in the 4X100 meter relay, Psaki said, "It does stink."

On Saturday 7/3, President Biden was asked if he thought the ban was fair and said, "The rules are the rules....whether they should remain the rules is a different issue," adding he “was really proud of [Richardson] and the way she responded” to the controversy. Biden didn't take a follow-up question about Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and other congressmembers writing to WADA and USADA asking them to reconsider their decision. In a series of Tweets, Ocasio-Cortez said, "Even the medical director of @wada_ama, whose U.S. arm issued the suspension, has said there is no evidence that marijuana is performance enhancing. Not to mention, marijuana is legal in Oregon where Ms. Richardson was when she used it," and, "Major league baseball, hockey and football all have removed penalties for marijuana use. It's time for the IOC and@usantidoping to do the same. #LetShaCarriRun."

Today's Savannah Guthrie noted while interviewing Richardson, "I should mention, you were in Oregon, it's legal in Oregon, but it was against the rules of your sport and you have acknowledged that." The Olympic trials took place at the new Hayward Stadium in Eugene, also known as "TrackTown USA" for its long history of producing champions, and Nike (which is sticking with Richardson). The Oregon college town is also replete with legal marijuana stores, and billboards advertising them. Richardson would have had no trouble scoring a state-legal stash there. 

The incident is emblematic of drug testing in the US: despite 18 states + D.C. legalizing recreational marijuana, we're disqualifying some of our best and brightest workers over a peccadillo, and an exercise in freedom of choice that has no effect on job performance. The news comes just after Connecticut became the fifth state to protect the employment rights of recreational marijuana users while legalizing marijuana, pointing out in its law that a positive marijuana test "shall not be construed, without other evidence, as proof that such individual is under the influence of cannabis." Twenty states protect medical marijuana users' employment rights. 

Also of late, the California State Personnel Board ruled that an employee can't be fired for using marijuana off the job; the US House Appropriations Committee adopted a report that urges federal agencies to reconsider policies that result in the firing of employees who use marijuana legally in accordance with state law; and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas issued an opinion stating that the federal laws against marijuana "strains basic principles of federalism and conceals traps for the unwary."

Not only is the NFL no longer suspending players who test positive for marijuana, it is funding research into its use for pain management. The NBA has stopped doing random testing for marijuana, and cannabinoids were taken off the MLB's drugs of abuse list in 2019. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) which governs the Olympics relaxed its rules on CBD in 2019, but THC remains prohibited as a "substance of abuse" (not a performance enhancer). Alcohol was removed from the WADA list of banned substances in 2018. 

Richardson with her Grandmother in Eugene.
Olympians Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt have admitted to smoking marijuana. Things have loosened up so much that Bill Maher just made a joke that now that skateboarding is an Olympic sport, drug testing should be implemented to make sure skaters are on pot (the first-ever gold medalist in snowboarding, Ross Rebagliati, tested positive for pot after winning his medal in 1998 and briefly had it revoked). 

A message on Richardson's official Twitter account says simply, "I am human." With 91% of Americans in favor of medical marijuana legalization, and 60% in favor of adult recreational legalization, she represents us humans well.

Send a message to WADA and USADA to tell them to revise their policies to be in compliance with the shifting legal and cultural standing of cannabis. 

Monday, June 28, 2021

REVIEW: "A Rainy Day in New York"


Elle Fanning puffing pot in "A Rainy Day in New York"
With mixed feelings I watched the 2019 Woody Allen movie A Rainy Day in New York, which Amazon has now decided to run after being sued by Allen for failing to release it, turning over the distribution rights to him, and settling the case.  

Formerly, I'd never missed a Woody Allen movie, and used to joke that I knew more about his psyche than my own. Even as—it is now abundantly clear—there was something creepy about his character falling for a 17-year-old girl in Manhattan, the scene where he compares her face to Cezanne's pears speaks to a sensibility that few filmmakers can convey. 

Rainy Day has a moment like that when Timothée Chalamet as Gatsby Welles—a kind of Allenesque Holden Calfield named for the fictional New Yorker (and pot dealer?) The Great Gatsby—suffers a setback in romance and declares, "I need a drink. I need a cigarette. What I really need is a Berlin ballad." (Cue soundtrack, and the next joke—Waiter (incredulous): "You want a double?" "It's OK, I won't be operating any farm machinery.") 

Gatsby is romancing his fellow snooty-college student Ashleigh Enright (Elle Fanning), a Tucson beauty queen and film buff who scores an interview in Manhattan with a top director for their college paper.  Back with Ashleigh on his home turf, he encounters Chan (Selena Gomez), a tough New York gal who makes fun of his girlfriend saying, "I'd give you an Arizona lunch but we're all out of beef jerky." 

Meanwhile Ashleigh, dressed more like a junior high school girl than a college student in sweaters and short pleated skirts, is charming the pants (sometimes literally) off of the film director (Liev Schreiber), his screenwriter (Jude Law), and a heartthrob actor (Diego Luna). She guzzles wine and daintily (pinky up) puffs on a joint as she muses, "How can you say no?" about going to bed with actor so that she'll have a story to tell her grandchildren. In the next scene she takes off her schoolgirl clothes to reveal her scanty panties and bra, mimicking the nude in a restaurant mural shown behind her when she confesses, "Alcohol plays havoc on my cerebral neurons. I become loose, uninhibited, passionate, aggressive, wicked. Absurd!"

It's not the first time Allen has depicted a woman smoking pot on film. He first did it in "Annie Hall," where Diane Keaton plays a ditzy/sexy pot smoker who likes to puff before she makes love in the 1977 film that swept the Oscars (Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Writing). Allen had Blake Lively saying, "Muggles made me feel sexy" in Café Society (2016), a film starring pot-lovers Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg (who also paired, and smoked, in Adventureland (2009) and American Ultra (2015)). And Mia Farrow puffs an opium pipe and takes some magical herbs in Alice (1990). 

Fanning delivers an ample and amusing performance, but her unsophisticated character isn't allowed to be a match for Chalamet's, as Chan (meaning: snow) is. After Ashleigh misattributes a Cole Porter lyric to Shakespeare, missing by several centuries, Gatsby jumps out of the Hansom cab they're New Yorkily riding in and splits to find Chan in the rain, under a clock chiming, "Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie." 

Fanning's Christmas present from Kate Hudson.
The film opens with Very Important Pothead Bing Crosby crooning, "I Got Lucky in the Rain," and mentions the 1947 Jane Greer and Robert Mitchum movie Out of the Past. Greer, who was one of the only actresses who would work with Mitchum after his 1948 bust for marijuana, said that during the filming of The Big Steal in Mexico locals were constantly trying to foist joints on him. 

Joan Rivers said in 2012 that back in the day she smoked pot with Allen, Betty White, George Carlin and Bill Cosby. "We had fun." But Allen never smokes himself on film, nor do his stand-ins. Just his women, who get sexier when they smoke. 
Meanwhile, Page 6 reports that last Christmas Kate Hudson "sent bottles of her King St. Vodka to pals including Kris Jenner, Molly Sims and Elle Fanning — along with cans of tonic water that’s spiked with a microdose of cannabis. The cranberry and sage flavored 'social tonic' is made by Cann." I took some Cann cans to a party recently, and all the ladies liked it. And none of them took off their clothes. 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Tokin' Woman Suspended from Twitter over "Cruella Coulter" Hashtag

As reported on in MarijuanaMoment, conservative columnist Ann Coulter tweeted this week, "Pot makes you retarded," with a link to a study finding that smoking pot in young adulthood can cause people to remember one less number out of 15 when tested decades later.

Via my Tokin' Woman Twitter account, I responded that the study was misrepresented in Coulter's tweet, adding #CruellaCoulter, an existing hashtag (used before 2018, when Twitter began to clamp down on offensive tweets). Twitter responded by suspending my account for 12 hours, reinstating it only after I'd removed my tweet. 

I then reported Coulter's tweet to Twitter, calling it offensive not only to pot smokers but also to intellectually disabled persons, who aren't called "retarded" any longer in polite (some would say "woke") society. But her Tweet remains, with lots of interesting replies from folks pointing out that alcohol is the true brain-cell killer, and using themselves as examples of highly functional "potheads."  

Ordinarily I don't resort to name-calling on Twitter or elsewhere, but I made an exception for Coulter after she did the same for cannabis consumers, not the first time she's called us the R word.  She posted a similar Tweet in December 2020, and at a 2017 Politicon event, said marijuana is "destroying the country" and "makes people retarded."  She also claimed that "nobody goes to prison for [pot] possession" and that a study exists finding that blacks are 10 times as likely to lie about using marijuana than whites (she could not produce the study). 

Coulter also made much of widely discredited author Alex Berenson's 2019 book on marijuana, repeating wild claims about a connection between cannabis and schizophrenia in an article that began, "I think I’ll direct a series of low-budget movies with names like 'Tobacco Madness,' 'Gun Madness' and 'White Male Madness'... my films will be so silly that, in the future, they will anathematize any untoward remarks about smokers, gun-owners or white men." In her own version of "Reefer Madness," a follow-up column repeated Berenson's claims that marijuana smoking leads to gruesome crimes. 

Pot smokers aren't the only "retards" in Coulter's venomous mind. She once wrote, "reporters [in 'bush league' cities] have all the venom of the big-city newspapers, combined with retard-level IQs." She's described Sen. Jim Jeffords as a "half wit," and said, "environmentalists can be dismissed as stupid girls who like birds."  Trading on her looks, she appears in a slinky dress on the cover of her 2008 book, If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans. 

A junior lawyer on Paula Jones's case against Bill Clinton, Coulter spun the scandal into a career as a pundit, starting with her 1988 book calling for Clinton's impeachment. Her subsequent book Slander accuses liberals of calling conservatives names. This from a woman who called the 9/11 widows "witches" and "harpies," referred to Muslims as "ragheads," and called Al Gore a "total fag" and Katie Couric "the affable Eva Braun of morning television."

Of activist Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in the Iraq war, Coulter wrote, "The only sort of authority Cindy Sheehan has is the uncanny ability to demonstrate, by example, what body types should avoid wearing shorts in public." Coulter is particularly hard on anti-war protesters, calling those who were "idealistically rioting on collage campuses in the 1970s" the "Worst Generation."  

As Susan Estrich wrote in her 2006 book Soulless: Ann Coulter and the Right-Wing Church of Hate, Coulter has also called for harm against her opponents, saying we need "somebody to put rat poisoning in [liberal Supreme Court] Justice Stevens' creme brulee," and that she couldn't decide whether the appropriate punishment for President Clinton was "impeachment or assassination." Estrich counted at least a dozen times where Coulter suggested death for an opponent. 

Why does Twitter, and other media outlets, have different rules for Coulter than they do for the rest of us? Why does she get away with hate speech, and name calling? "She knows exactly what she is doing," Estrich says, "And she is scary as hell because of it." 

You can visit Coulter's Tweet and complain to Twitter about it. When I did, several other Tweets from Coulter I could add to my complaint popped up, along with suggestions that I block or mute Coulter for my comfort level. Tempting, tempting...meanwhile, it's ironic that smoking pot is probably exactly what she needs to turn her from Cruel to Compassionate.