Thursday, December 27, 2012


Tokin Woman is proud to bestow 

the following “Tokey” Awards for 2012, 

in recognition of the achievement, 

courage and compassion of the awardees. 

Andrew Sullivan
The Daily Beast


"Breaking the Taboo"

Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom"

"Toke" and "Mary Jane the Musical"

VIDEO OF THE YEAR: What if Obama Called a Real Marijuana User?


Federal Policy Goes to the Dogs Over the Vapor Room SF

Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand

Too High to Fail


Phyllis Diller

Larry Hagman

Special recognition to: Cannabis Culture and the Smell the Truth blog for supporting original journalism in 2012.

First Pot Peace Candidate Had Reason in His Family

Teresa and George McGovern after he won
the Massachusetts Democratic Primary
I haven't had a chance in this busy election season to stop and reflect about the death this year of George McGovern. Among those who worked on Mr. McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign were Warren Beatty, Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Gary Hart. And, I'm proud to say, me.

My first political act, at the age of 13, was to campaign for McGovern. When Nixon won by a landslide, I was so disheartened about the cynicism of the neighbors I'd canvassed and the country I lived in that I didn't get involved in politics again until I found out about hemp in 1991.

Now I see that the laws against marijuana had a damaging effect on a member of McGovern's family.

According to Wikipedia:

In July 1968, George McGovern's daughter Teresa was arrested in Rapid City, SD on marijuana possession charges. Based on a recently enacted strict state drugs law, Terry now faced a minimum five-year prison sentence if found guilty. At the time McGovern was in the running for the Democratic nomination for president.

McGovern denounced as "police brutality" the Chicago police tactics against demonstrators at the convention in August and ended up supporting Hubert Humphrey's nomination that year. Again, Wikipedia:

McGovern returned to his Senate reelection race. While South Dakota voters sympathized with McGovern over his daughter's arrest, he initially suffered a substantial drop in popularity over the events in Chicago. 

McGovern won the Democratic nomination four years later in 1972, when he famously became tagged with the label "amnesty, abortion and acid," supposedly reflecting his positions. McGovern favored the decriminalization of marijuana (but didn't say the same for LSD). Ever since, McGovernism has come to mean the embracing of progressive social policies that make liberals easy targets for conservatives. See SF Gate's Obituary.

Teresa was 19 when her pot bust happened. The effect it may have had on her life is unknown. For one thing, it might have sent her to more damaging substances, like alcohol.

McGovern writes, "Embarrassed by her Rapid City marijuana arrest, Terry decided not to return to Dakota Wesleyan that fall." Instead she enrolled at the University of Dakota, which was "then a place where heavy drinking and pot smoking were common, and Terry steadily increased her intake of alcohol with some limited use of marijuana and amphetamines." In February 1988, she began occasional use of marijuana, calling it a "pot addiction."

In December 1994, at the age of 45, Teresa fell into a snowbank while heavily intoxicated with alcohol, and died of hypothermia.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Classics and Cannabis

VIP Bob Hope was perhaps the most beloved American entertainer with the most longevity, best known for entertaining US troops abroad and for his Christmas TV shows.

Tonight, TCM aired Hope's 1951 movie "The Lemon Drop Kid" in which he and Marilyn Maxwell sing "Silver Bells," a song written for the film. Based on a Damon Runyan story, the movie has Hope rounding up New York's petty crooks to dress as Santas and collect money for a phony charity.

While singing the song about 56 minutes into the movie, Hope is clowning around just after it's established a policeman can't shut him down because he's licensed. He stops to sniff a big meerschaum pipe smoked by a street corner Santa, after which he acts goofy, whistling and flapping his wings. (The tune is actually introduced by William Frawley as "Gloomy," who sings, "chunk it in/chunk it in/or Santy will give you a Mickey.")

Hope joked about pot on radio broadcasts in the 1940s and while entertaining troops in Vietnam in the 1970s. "I hear you guys are interested in gardening here," he quipped. "Our security officer said a lot of you guys are growing your own grass." Poignantly, he added that "instead of taking it away from the soldiers, we ought to give it to the negotiators in Paris." The jokes were censored from Hope's 1970 Christmas special (so much for Peace on Earth).

Hope, who admitted to trying pot in a Rolling Stone interview in 1980, gave a nod to his "Road" movie co-star Bing Crosby at the end of The Lemon Drop Kid. Crosby, whose recording of "White Christmas" is the best-selling single ever, was also a VIP.

Another beloved Christmas film, "The Man Who Came to Dinner" (1942), edits out a scene from the 1939 play by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman where absinthe is mentioned. In the film, Sheldon Whiteside, played by Monty Woolley, is the unwanted guest of staid Ohio industrialist Ernest Stanley over the Christmas holidays.

The original play has this scene:

JOHN (manservant): And Sarah has something for you, Mr. Whiteside. Made it special. 

WHITESIDE: She has? Where is she? My Souffle Queen! 

SARAH (cook): (Proudly entering with a tray on which reposes her latest delicacy) Here I am, Mr. Whiteside. 

WHITESIDE: She walks in beauty like the night, and in those deft hands there is the art of Michelangelo. Let me taste the new creation. (...swallows at a gulp one of Sarah's not so little cakes. An ecstatic expression comes over his face) Poetry! Sheer poetry! 

SARAH: (beaming) I put a touch of absinthe in the dough. Do you like it? 

WHITESIDE: (rapturously) Ambrosia!

Interestingly, the word "counterfeiting" in the play's line, "If that's for the Stanleys, tell them they've been arrested for counterfeiting," was changed to "dealing dope" in the film. Mr. Stanley brags of building ball bearings for the war effort, which is what the real Ohio industrialist Henry Timken did. Timken's son Harold H. ("Henry") also grew hemp in Imperial Valley, California in 1917.

Woolley also appeared in the Christmas movie "The Bishop's Wife" (1947), in which he plays a professor  who describes to the Bishop (David Niven) the never-emptying bottle of sherry that the angel (Cary Grant) bestows upon him thusly: "It warms. It stimulates, It inspires. But no matter how much you drink, it never's something you can't explain with all your Ecclesiastical knowledge." 

In his latest brilliant column on marijuana, VIP Andrew Sullivan skewers David Frum and NIDA for their backwards words and policies. He writes,

"The whole point of marijuana use is to disrupt settled ways of thinking and feeling, to offer a respite, like alcohol, from the deadliness of doing. But for reasons we don't quite yet understand, marijuana, like other essentially harmless drugs in moderation, can prompt imaginative breakthroughs, creative serendipity, deeper personal understanding, and greater social empathy and connection. People need these things and have always sought refuge in them, especially at this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere."

True, even at the movies.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

High Lily, High Lily

My favorite line from Lily Tomlin's masterful album "Modern Scream" comes from this mock question:

Interviewer: "Lily, is it true you have a drug problem?"
Lily: "Yes, it's so hard to get good grass these days."

As one of the two "tokin' women" honoring George Carlin when he posthumously won the Mark Twain Prize,  she opened with, "I flatter myself to think that George and I somehow drank from the same comedy fountain. Or should I say 'inhaled'? Or perhaps I shouldn't."

Lily inhaled on screen with Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda in the  1980 movie "9 to 5," at a pot party that bonded the characters in a deliciously wicked plot to improve their workplace conditions. (It's true: pot leads to communism.) Tomlin's "Tasteful Lady" is a great send-up of the kind of "Mothers Against Everything" that would put the clampdown on cannabis.

Yet I had never heard Tomlin fully "out" herself as a pot smoker until the October issue of Culture Magazine, whose cover is graced with Lily rocking a black bowler hat.

Asked if she's an advocate for marijuana legalization, Tomlin replied, "Yes, yes. Of course."

She said she doesn't have a doctor's recommendation, and asked, "Can you get me one?...I have to rely on the kindness of strangers. I don't use everyday. I'm not that fresh and hip." To the question, does she have any favorite of cannabis strains, Tomlin replied, "I wish I was that sophisticated."

At 72, Tomlin is back on TV as the mother of Reba McEntire in the upcoming ABC sitcom Malibu. She'll appear onstage on January 19, 2013 at the Sunset Cultural Center in Carmel, CA.

In May, Tomlin and longtime writing/life partner Jane Wagner were honored by Sen. Barbara Boxer. Maybe the two should have a toke, and a talk. UPDATE: Maybe they did

UPDATE 9/14: Tomlin will receive a 2014 Kennedy Center Honor. The gala will be broadcast on December 30. (Many other Very Important Potheads have received the Honor.) She and Jane Fonda will co-star in the new Netflix series Grace and Frankie.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tales of Two Tokin' Women: Fiona Apple and Lady Gaga

UPDATE 10/15: The Texas sheriff that arrested Apple 

Fiona Apple was caught on Wednesday with small amounts of marijuana and hashish in Sierra Blanca, Texas, making her the first woman to be nabbed in the same border town where Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg and Armie Hammer were also arrested by the US Border Patrol. (Hammer was reportedly carrying baked goods from his wife's bakedery.)

 Apple was arrested and jailed, and spoke about her experience at her Houston concert. It's about time someone spoke up about what a violating experience being jailed is. Apple's arrest is potentially much more serious than the others who got their wrists slapped, since hash possession reportedly can bring a 3-10 year sentence in Texas, even though it's just concentrated cannabis.

There is possibly no other artist who digs as deep as Apple does, with undeniable talent and honesty. She is back on the musical scene after a 7-year hiatis, with her presciently titled new album The Idler Wheel Is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw, And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. We wish all the best to the extraordinary machine that she is. She'll be in New Orleans on Monday night, and touring the East Coast thereafter.

Apple's arrest blunted my enthusiasm about the news that Lady Gaga lit up a joint onstage at her concert in Amsterdam, 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."

One commenter wrote: "Good now she won't end up like Amy." (Gaga has famously gained 25 pounds, possibly due to the munchees and healthier habits.) Another wrote: "Good on you Lady Gaga. Makes me want to reach for one. Unfortunately it is totally acceptable for celeb's to indulge in whatever their desire, but not for regular folks like us. LoL." They're right, and I'm not laughing about it.

Tickets for Gaga's Born this Way Ball on Feb. 22 at Madison Square Garden go on sale on Sept. 28. Since she has 29 million Twitter followers, we think they're likely to sell out.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Where Are the Top Female Marijuana Users?

Maya Angelou
The Marijuana Policy Project has released a list of Top 50 Most Influential Marijuana Users, chosen by vote from 200 candidates (and augmented by MPP's 13 "automatic qualifiers").

Only five women make the list. Sarah Palin comes in at number 14, and poet Maya Angelou is number 21. Angelina Jolie is 24th on the list, even though she said she doesn't like pot's effects. Jennifer Aniston shows up at number 38 and Whoopi Goldberg at 44. Lady Gaga missed the cut, coming in at #52.

The maleness of the list could be a reflection of MPP's membership, or of their own selection of the 200 nominees. High Times's readership is almost exclusively young males, and groups like NORML have traditionally been male-heavy (although the NORML Women's Alliance is working to change that).

NORML board member Greta Gaines made some waves recently when she published an article titled "Why Are No Women Celebrity Stoners Willing to Come Out of the Greenhouse." Gaines got a few things wrong, dissing Melissa Etheridge as a mere medical marijuana advocate, and failing to recognize that women like Aniston, Sarah Silverman, Cameron Diaz, Kirsten Dunst and others have spoken publicly about their marijuana use. But if the MPP list is a reflection of public perception, her point is one that needs to be made.

Most are aware that women had a role in bringing about alcohol prohibition, but many don't know that they also helped bring it down. Pauline Morton Sabin was one important player who was highlighted in Ken Burns's PBS series "Prohibition." A panel at the national NORML conference on Saturday, October 6 will explore women's role in ending America's prohibitions. An NWA Luncheon will follow. Read more and register.

See a round-up of prominent female cannabis connoisseurs, now and then.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ayn Rand on Drugs

Ayn Rand
After saying that Ayn Rand was required reading for all his interns and his biggest influence for getting into politics, House Speaker Paul Ryan has now said he enjoyed Rand's novels but rejects her atheistic philosophy.

That's too bad, because Rand opposed drug prohibition, although she called taking drugs "suicide" and said marijuana "destroys the mind." At least, so says a web search.

According to the book Ayn Rand Answers by Robert Mayhew (Penguin, 2005) as quoted by, Rand said,

"I do not approve of any government controls over consumption, so all restrictions on drugs should be removed (except, of course, on the sale to minors). The government has no right to tell an adult what to do with his own health and life. That places a much greater moral responsibility on the individual; but adults should be free to kill themselves in any way they want.

"I would fight for your legal right to use marijuana; I would fight you to the death that you morally should not do it, because it destroys the mind. What the government should do is protect citizens from the criminal consequences of those who take drugs. But drugs would be much cheaper if it weren't for government."

Rand can be heard on tape saying, "I think drugs should be sold openly because it is an individual's right to commit suicide if he wants to...If drugs were sold legally, that would put that whole underworld and all the drug addicts as pushers out of business."

The Daily Kos quotes Wikipedia quoting Jennifer Burns's book Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right (Oxford University Press, 2009) with this tasty nugget: "While completing her second novel (The Fountainhead), Rand began taking the prescription amphetamine Benzedrine to fight fatigue. ... Her continued use of it for several decades also may have contributed to volatile mood swings observed by her associates in later years."

The Rand Watch blog explored the theme for a 2010 story, "Was Ayn Rand a Drug Addict?, which says,

"In addition to her indisputable addiction to nicotine (she was a chain smoker) there’s no question that Ayn Rand was a habitual consumer of amphetamines starting in 1942, when she was prescribed Benzedrine for weight loss (a common medical practice in that era) and discovered that it gave her the energy to put in the long hours needed to finish the first of her two major novels, The Fountainhead. Rand liked the boost that 'speed' gave her, and from that time until at least 1972 – a period of 30 years – she continued to use amphetamines, moving on to Dexedrine and Dexamyl."

Judging from the way they spun their lies in convention speech after speech, Republicans will have no trouble spinning away Ryan's admiration for that godless speed freak Ayn Rand with her wild ideas on everything but the economic policies that favor his tax bracket.

Me and Morello (2019)
Rand also said, "I am certainly in favor of abortion...I'd like to express my indignation at the idea of confusing a living human being with an embryo...The idea of some bitches---and I don't apologize for that--trying to prescribe to all other women what they should do with their lives is disgusting. And they call it a right to life!" I'm guessing the GOP won't be adopting that moral stance either.

Burns appeared on The Colbert Report on August 29 and called Rand's writings "the gateway drug" for the New Right. Burns said the last thing Rand wrote was a denunciation of Ronald Reagan. Too bad Ayn's not around to give her opinion on Ryan. Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, a band who Ryan says he admires, has written an eloquent response in Rolling Stone. Wait until everyone from AC/DC to Led Zepplin have their say.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Phyllis Diller: She Inspired Comics and Cannabis

The world is mourning Phyllis Diller, who broke the gender barrier in stand-up comedy as a 37-year-old housewife and inspired new generations of female comics everywhere.

It's doubtful that Diller smoked pot. Born in 1917, she was from what George Will called "the Falstaff generation." She joked that for her health she drank a lot of water "and a lot of gin." In her New York Times obituary she is quoted about doing stand-up, "I don't want to sound like a doper, but it's a high."

Googling her name plus "marijuana" gives a surprising result: a strain of cannabis named "Phyllis Diller" is for sale at the Medical Marijuana Relief Clinic in Sherman Oaks. A sativa strain, I'm guessing it got its name because it resembles the shaggy hairstyle famously sported by Diller.  

The torch has been passed to a new generation. Diller was remembered by her friend and protegée Joan Rivers on CBS This Morning. Rivers smoked marijuana on her reality show earlier this year and said back in the day she smoked it with Betty White, George Carlin, Woody Allen and Bill Cosby.

Another "domestic goddess" comedienne who admired Diller is Roseanne Barr. Barr was roasted on Comedy Central on Saturday, and joked that Obama could pry her medical marijuana out of her cold, dead hands. She had the last laugh as she ended her bit by singing, very well, lines from the National Anthem. Barr says in her book Roseannarchy that giving up the "herb of the goddess" in favor of pharmaceutical drugs contributed to her famously blowing the song. She is the Peace and Freedom party nominee for President in 2012, on a ticket with VP nominee Cindy Sheehan.

Among those "Tweeting" their admiration for Diller yesterday were VIPs Barbra Streisand, Whoopi Goldberg. and Bill Maher.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Another "High" Profile Parental Rights Case

Ross and his Gold.
Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati is the latest "high" profile divorce case to see accusations of parental marijuana smoking. It's something that's happening to mothers and fathers everywhere, even possibly Paul McCartney.

This case is something special, however. Rebagliati won the first-ever Olympic gold medal in snowboarding, in 1998, and nearly lost his medal after testing positive for marijuana just afterwards. He kept his prize after claiming he'd been a victim of secondhand smoke at a send-off party in Whistler.

Now Rebagliati's ex-wife is claiming she has found marijuana residue on their son's hair, alleging he was also exposed to second-hand smoke during visits to his father. Whether or not this test is valid, or if it would even harm the boy if it's true, is unknown. They've just found out that baby shampoo can give a positive test for marijuana, for one thing.

Ross was charming and well spoken on Jay Leno's show after the Games. He told Jay his reaction to hearing he tested positive was, "Holy smokes!" He admitted to smoking until April of 1997, but said he quit to follow the Olympic rules. Leno joked, "So unlike Bill Clinton, who said he smoked but didn't inhale, you inhaled but didn't smoke."

Ross laughed about the jokes he was made the butt of (Jay called him Ross Nickel Bag-Liati), but you've got to wonder what it's been like for him, after all he's accomplished, to have the stigma of being a "pothead" following him around. According to Wikipedia, he won a libel suit against producers of a TV series that defamed him. He couldn't even attend Mitt Romney's Salt Lake City Olympic Games due to a law denying entry into the so-called "land of the free" to any known drug user. (Amy Winehouse was denied entry for a US music festival for the same reason.)

Rebagliati now admits to smoking pot for aching joints, but not daily. It's not inconceivable that his joints would now ache. Many current and former athletes have presented themselves to California doctors for pain relief, and one author even thinks it could save the NFL.

As more parents speak out and stand up for their rights, the tide is turning towards reason, rather than breaking up families over a little marijuana use. The New York Times recently ran an article titled Pot for Parenting written by a San Francisco art gallery owner who finds himself a better father after smoking his medical marijuana. And a California court recently ruled that a father's medical marijuana use was not sufficient reason to infringe on his parental rights. 

Let's all stand up for parents everywhere who use marijuana responsibly.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Lisa Marie Pothead?

Lisa Marie Presley, the only child of Elvis, is back in the US with a new CD, Storm and Grace, said to be her best.  When asked by a journalist on her publicity tour, “Is there something you haven’t done that you’d like to do?" Presley replied, “One day, I would like to become a hippie and go off the grid and never be seen or heard from again. Just become a big pothead, you know?”

The 44-year-old mother of four has been living in England, but came back to LA when she heard that T-Bone Burnett wanted to produce her. She has reportedly left the church of Scientology; perhaps she's found a new religion?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cops & Moms Week of Action for Mother’s Day

NORML Women’s Alliance, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and other Reform Organizations Team Up for “Cops & Moms Week of Action”

Washington DC- Mothers from around the country will join with law enforcement and students at the National Press Club on May 2nd in honor of Mother’s Day. The press conference will launch a new coalition of national organizations that will represent mothers, police and students that seek to finally end the disastrous drug war. The NORML Women’s AllianceLaw Enforcement Against Prohibition,Student for Sensible Drug Policy and others will share powerful stories of losing loved ones to the criminal justice system, and the social repercussions of prohibition.  The coalition will unveil the “Mom’s Bill of Rights” and highlight a series of activities around the country timed to Mother’s Day.


                           Moms United to End the War on Drugs Bill of Rights

Mothers, parents and families are leading the charge to end the violence, mass incarceration and overdose deaths that are a result of current punitive and discriminatory drug policies. We are building a movement to stop the stigmatization and criminalization of people who use drugs or who are addicted to drugs. We urgently call for health-oriented strategies and widespread drug policy reform in order to stop the irresponsible waste of dollars and resources, and the devastating loss of lives and liberty.

We declare and assert these basic rights for all mothers:

1.     We have the right to nurture our offspring, and to advocate for their care and safety.

2.     We have the right to be free from the shame and stigma caused by negative labels encumbering our children who suffer from addictive disorders and the parents who raise them.

3.     We have the parental right to policies and practices that recognize addiction as a disease in need of treatment, rather than a willful behavior to be criminalized.

4.     We have the right to be represented by informed policymakers who work to reduce the barriers to education, housing and employment opportunities that our sons and daughters encounter after they have been arrested for drug possession.

5.     We have the right to honest, accurate, safety-first drug education in our schools, rather than scare tactics.

6.     We have the right to respectful, nondiscriminatory harm reduction strategies that honestly address and treat the chronic relapsing disease of addiction, and to policies that are informed by and consistent with scientific research, compassion and reason.

7.     We have the right to life-saving overdose prevention and intervention strategies, which should not be impeded or pre-empted by criminal justice policies of arrest and incarceration.

8.     We have the constitutional right to protect our homes and families from the unreasonable search and seizure tactics of drug “warriors”.

       9.  We have the right to communities where our children can live, learn and play without fear of drug war violence.
      10. We have the right to have our roles as parents protected and supported, rather than disregarded  
            and terminated by incarceration for nonviolent drug offenses.

      11. We have the right to protect the future of all our children from a drug war which is waged
            predominantly against families, as well as communities of color and poverty.

     12. We have the right to speak out publicly to end the war on drugs, which has become a war waged
           against our own families and communities, in order to protect the futures of our children.

 Endorsed by: A New PATH, Mothers Against Teen Violence, Broken No More, GRASP, St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Happy Birthday Isak Dinesen, a Modern Scheherazade

Meryl Streep played her on film; Timothy Leary, Aldous Huxley, Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe courted her; she flew in planes and hunted lions with Denys Finch Hatton in 1930s Africa, and was a bestselling author.

Born on April 17, 1885, Isak Dinesen (aka Baroness Karen von Blixen) was the Danish author of "Out of Africa" and many, many stories, some of which have been made into film (e.g. "Babette's Feast").

According to Isak Dinesen, The Life of a Storyteller by Judith Thurman, Dinesen and Finch Hatton were great fans of Baudelaire, and "Friends remember that Denys and Tania 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.) In another of her tales, "The Monkey," an old abbess drugs her dinner guests with a love potion, leading to an evening of "exalted lewdness" (Thurman). 

Streep as Dinesen in the film "Out of Africa"
with Robert Redford as Finch Hatton.
Dinesen wrote to her mother from Africa in 1924, "The greater part of humanity needs excitement, some slight intoxication, pleasure, and danger too. I think that if it were in my power to do anything at all for humanity, I myself would like to amuse them. I think it is wonderful that such delightful peacable people as you exist; but there is need for more than this, and I shall allow myself to make use of Shakespeare's words: 'Dost thou think, because thou are virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale? Yes, by St. Anne, and ginger shall be hot I' the mouth too."

Dinesen died in 1962, but her stories live on. Orson Wells, a fan of Dinesen's who planned to make a series of films from her stories, directed a 1968 film starring Jeanne Moreau based on Dinesen's "The Immortal Story." "Babette's Feast," a film based on another of her short stories, won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1987. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

VIPs Laura Nyro and Donovan Inducted Into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Sandwiched between Guns N’ Roses, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Beastie Boys as Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees yesterday were Very Important Potheads Laura Nyro (pictured right), the revered and "mercurial" songwriter of "Stoned Soul Picnic" and other hits, and Donovan, the first British rock star to be popped for pot.

At the ceremony, VIP Bette Midler wiped back tears as she inducted Nyro, who died of cancer in 1997.

“She was the very essence of New York City,” Midler said, “Not in a gritty, real sense, but in a passionate, romantic, ethereal way. She would take ordinary people in the most ordinary situations and spin them into heroic figures.” She called Nyro an artist for whom "love was the main thing."

Nyro is the only modern influence Joni Mitchell acknowledges, and she's inspired a host of others. The Fifth Dimension, Blood Sweat & Tears, Three Dog Night, and VIP Barbra Streisand all had hits with her songs. Elton John and Elvis Costello discussed Nyro's significant influence on both of them during the premiere episode of Costello's interview show Spectacle on the Sundance channel. Read more about Laura Nyro.

Donovan's early "Green" philosophy was taken from the "hallucinogenic shamanism of the Celts" for whom Mother Earth is a Goddess, according to The Autobiography of Donovan (2005, St. Martin's Press). By his account, the documentary "A Boy Called Donovan" which aired in January 1966 nationwide in Britain, showed his "beatnick" lifestyle and attracted the interest of the newly formed Drug Squad, who made the singer their first high-profile arrest for hashish. To this day, he is labeled a "criminal" on US Visas and needs a "waiver" to enter the US.

“I thank you for this bright green laurel resting now upon my brow,” Donovan said upon accepting his induction. “I thank you, goddess, and I thank you, muses, and I thank my fellow artists all.”

Of course, the Beastie Boys broke the reefer/radio sound barrier on "Licensed To Ill," with lyric, "I got friends in high places that are keeping me high." Countless rap tributes to the weed followed.

Billie Joe Armstrong of the pot-loving band Green Day introduced Guns N’ Roses, and Kid Rock (who sang of "Smoking funny things") was one of the musicians who played tribute to the inductees. It's a good bet there are more marijuana lovers among them.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

RIP Mike Wallace

Mike Wallace, who fronted 60 Minutes and helped bring investigative reporting to TV news, has died. Wallace's breakthrough piece on marijuana in 1968 helped open the debate on legalization at a time when the "drug" was "sometimes used in desserts."

"Marijuana is a scare word in our society," Wallace said, revealing he encountered many who refused to discuss the subject. "An increasing number of people are questioning custom and convention," he reported, "and they are willing to defy the law."

In the story, Wallace comments that marijuana use has moved "from the GI to the career girl." He interviews one woman who worked at a national magazine saying she smokes pot simply because she enjoys it. "It's not Soma from a Brave New World," she says, adding that the frenetic pace of modern life almost makes it necessary to smoke pot.

Wallace asked one medical expert, Dr. Brill, whether or not marijuana was more dangerous than alcohol. He replied, that was unknown. Brill called the old "reefer madness" myths a "gross exaggeration," while stressing that marijuana was not harmless. Dr. James Goddard, who was publicly flogged for saying alcohol was more harmful than marijuana, was shown in a congressional hearing where he opined that marijuana users were rebelling against society in ways similar to the youth of the 1920s who used alcohol in violation of the Volstead act.

Henry Giordano, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, argues in the same hearing, "You have to have a possession penalty or we can't control the traffickers." Giordano's agency was soon merged with the Bureau of Drug Abuse Control to form the BNDD, precursor of the DEA. As Douglas Valentine details in his book The Strength of the Pack, the agency has been rife with corruption since its inception.

Wallace went to Phoenix House in New York City, where, it was claimed, 398 of 400 addicts of heroin and other drugs started with marijuana. But there is no direct causative link, the story stressed, and marijuana is not physically addicting. "It is the personality of the user, not the drug itself, that leads to harder drugs," Wallace reported. The segment aired results of Dr. Leo Hollister's clinical experiment, dosing subjects with liquid THC. "I'm in a Bronicelli [sic] painting," the subject said, grinning. Dr. Stanley Yolles of the Institutes of Mental Health admitted there was only "a little" evidence marijuana was harmful, while stressing the need for further study.

In May 1999, The History Channel aired, "The 20th Century with Mike Wallace; Drugs, the Enemy Within," another well researched piece.

Another beloved US broadcaster, Walter Cronkite, called for legalization. As dramatized in the movie The Insider, 60 Minutes squashed an expose on the tobacco industry, leading to the now-better show, Frontline.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

NORML Women's Alliance Calls for Grand Jury Investigation in to Child Custody Policy

The NORML Women's Alliance has been putting boots on the ground across the country, bringing women together to fundraise, strategize, and raise consciousness about how marijuana prohibition is affecting families.

Now, the local NWA group in Butte county California, in alliance with the national office and Butte County residents, has called for the Grand Jury of Butte to investigate the County Children Services Division, including a financial audit.

The Press Release from NWA links to a video I've been calling "Hear This and Weep," recorded the day medical marijuana grower Daisy Bram's two children, aged 15 months and three weeks, were taken away from her. The children were held by Butte County CPS for more than four months.

A few days after NWA filed its grand jury request on March 9, Daisy had charges re-filed against her. Tamara Lujan, NORML Women’s Alliance Community Leader for Butte County, said, "We can come to no other conclusion except this is a retaliatory measure, from the Butte County DA’s office.” Butte has an extraordinarily high rate of permanent removal of children, according to a report from the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.

Women (and men) can join the NORML Women's Alliance by entering their email addresses at, where information about forming a local affiliate can also be found. NWA members in California can join California NORML and get their quarterly newsletter for $15.

Friday, February 24, 2012

McCartney in "High" Profile Child Custody Case?

"At 69, Paul McCartney Swears Off Marijuana" the headlines ran. McCartney told Rolling Stone he'd given up the weed because of his 8-year-old daughter with Heather Mills, who he divorced just after she said she wouldn't tolerate his toking.

McCartney has just remarried, and he and Mills are back in divorce court. Although no journalist thought to ask, I'll bet Mills brought up the marijuana matter over child custody. Why do I think so? Because not a week goes by that I don't hear from a mother or father involved in a custody battle whose spouse brings up their pot use to get some leverage for themselves.

The revelation is key because McCartney has been about the highest (ha) profile proponent of marijuana legalization for decades. He helped pay for a July 24, 1967 advertisement in the London Times that called for legalization of pot possession, release of all prisoners on possession charges and government research into marijuana's medical uses. (Other signatories included VIPs John Lennon and Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA.) He told RS he's still for legalization, and is "a bit surprised" that it hasn't happened yet.

So perhaps by making this public statement McCartney's parental rights will be protected, but what of countless others who aren't so lucky? What effect the breaking up of families has on the children we're all supposed to be fighting this drug war about is unknown.

Meanwhile, Redbook magazine has an article in its current issue titled, "Pot Parents" that explains, through experts and parents, that those who are accustomed to the effects of smoking are no more dangerous to their children, even in an emergency, than parents who think nothing of having a beer while babysitting. Charles Sophy, medical director of the County of Los Angeles Department of Children, told Redbook, "Every day he sees parents who have underestimated the repercussions of smoking pot — in rare cases, he's seen children sent to live with relatives."

Hear this and weep.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Smoking a Super Bowl

UPDATE: Clarkson has revealed that she was hospitalized during her "horrible" pregnancy due to severe nausea and vomiting. It's likely the star suffered from hyperemis gravidarum (HG), a debilitating ailment characterized by severe nausea and vomiting, malnutrition, and weight loss during pregnancy 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 consider it a remedy for mothers with severe morning sickness.

Not only did Superbowl XLVI feature the first female Very Important Pothead halftime performer, it also had original American Idol and Tokin Woman Kelly Clarkson belt out the National Anthem. Clarkson came through like a champ, winning favorable reviews over Christine Aguilera's performance last year, when she muffed the lyrics.

In 2007, Clarkson told USA Weekend magazine that she ate a marijuana cookie in Amsterdam. "It is legal there, and it is not legal here," she (somewhat erroneously) said. "I don't ever do anything illegal here," Clarkson added. "I have never smoked anything in my life. I've never tried any drugs. 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 August 2007 profile of Clarkson presented her as a bit of a rebel, documenting the Grammy winner's 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."

Advertised during the Super show (with spots that cost upwards of $3 million) was Anjelica Houston's new series Smash, involving the creation of a Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe, premiering tomorrow on NBC. In a 2006 episode of Showtime's excellent series "Huff," Houston passes a joint to Huff, her psychotherapist colleague Hank Azaria, before guiding him on an MDMA/Ecstacy trip/therapy session.

Anjelica is the daughter of legendary film director John Houston. According to Lee Server in the Robert Mitchum biography, Baby I Don't Care, the elder Houston delighted Mitchum with tales of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, during the filming of 1957's Heaven Knows Mr. Allison. Anjelica said of the classic 1948 film, shot in Mexico, "they were all smoking grass down there, high as a clouds for most of the picture." Marlon Brando said in his book Songs My Mother Taught Me that John "did a lot of heavy pot smoking" while filming Reflections In a Golden Eye, and got Brando high before filming a scene. But what we really want to know is, did Bogart bogart the joint?

In other Super spots, the Pepsi and Coke wars continue, with Coke's offering using the tagline, "Open happiness." Of course, the original forumulation for Coca Cola contained cocaine and the company reportedly still imports coca leaves for flavoring. Red Bull Coca, available in the US, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, Italy, Russia and the UK, also contains "decocainized" coca leaf. Germany found traces of cocaine in the product (0.13 micrograms per can) and banned it in six states.

Budweiser premiered a nostalgic spot starting with a celebration of the end of alcohol prohibition and ending with the line, "Delivering great times since 1876." It was followed by an ad for Doritos, a product often associated with another kind of bud. Budweiser got double coverage when GE ran a spot highlighting the fact that their refrigerators keep beer cold (refrigeration not required for marijuana buds).

Howard Stern was featured in an ad promoting him joining NBC's "America's Got Talent." Stern admitted to youthful pot smoking in his book Private Parts and righteously has said he won't endorse any presidental candidate who isn't for legalization.

In a memorable spot, David Beckham models his tatoos and underwear to The Animals' song "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood." In Eric Burdon's autobiography of the same name, The Animals' singer writes of visiting Mazatlan where, "I went into a rap about how the Mexicans had given the world two precious things--marijuana and beautiful women. The crowd loved it, but I don't imagine the Mexican authorities did." Burdon relates that he smelled his "first magical whiff of marijuana" with none other than Jack Teagarden at a Louis Armstrong concert. Teagarden was Benny Goodman's trombonist and inspiration for the song, "Texas Tea Party."

An ad for the new movie "G.I. Joe" begins, "In the immortal words of Jay-Z, 'Whatever deity may guide my life, oh Lord, don't let me die tonight.'" Jay-Z is so associated with the holy herb that days after his daughter was born, a strain named for her started appearing at LA cannabis clubs. The original 1945 G.I. Joe movie won an Oscar nomination for its hot young star, Very Important Pothead Robert Mitchum.

VIP Madonna made her halftime show entrance pulled by a legion of gladiators, like Elizabeth Taylor in "Cleopatra" (both probable pot smokers). It ended with "Like a Prayer" and the words "World Peace."

Betty White made a re-appearance in an ad, two years after the 80-year-old hit with the "You're playing like Betty White" Snickers ad. White was just outed by Joan Rivers as having smoked with her back in the day, when "we had fun." White's character on "Hot in Cleveland," which just won her another SAG award, smoked pot until it was explained away in Season 2.

And they call us the counterculture. Seems to me, we're a driving force. And that's just the first half of the game. Don't get me started about how the Giant Patriots who founded the US were all hemp farmers.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

NIDA Kills Marijuana and Pregnancy Follow-up Study

Culture magazine published an interview this month with Melanie Dreher, the researcher whose 1994 March of Dimes-funded study found that Jamaican mothers who used marijuana bore developmentally superior babies.

A follow up study conducted when the children were 5 years old again showed no negative impacts of marijuana; in fact, they seemed to excel. But no further follow ups could win approval from the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dreher reveals. No polydrug abuse was seen in the mothers and very little tobacco or alcohol.

Now dean of nursing at Rush University with degrees in nursing, anthropology and philosophy, plus a Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University, Dr. Dreher told Culture, "March of Dimes was supportive, but it was clear that NIDA was not interested in continuing to fund a study that didn’t produce negative results. I was told not to resubmit. We missed an opportunity to follow the study through adolescence and through adulthood.”

In Dreher's original study, nineteen of the 24 Jamaican mothers reported that cannabis increased their appetites throughout the prenatal period and/or relieved the nausea of pregnancy. Fifteen reported using it to relieve fatigue and provide rest during pregnancy.

The study tested 24 Jamaican newborns exposed to marijuana prenatally and 20 nonexposed babies from socioeconomically matched mothers. At one month, the children of marijuana-using mothers scored markedly higher on autonomic stability, reflexes, and general irritability. Babies born to the heaviest smokers, those who smoked every day, at least 21 joints weekly, scored significantly higher in 10 of the 14 characteristics measured, including quality of alertness, robustness, regulatory capacity, and orientation.

It took three years to publish the study in the US; in fact the five-year study was published first. When the NAS Institute of Medicine conducted its $1-million taxpayer-funded study on cannabis as medicine in the wake of Prop. 215, it amended the Dreher study to say the newborns born to marijuana-smoking mothers were equal, not superior. The study has been omitted from other overviews of the topic.

In a recent talk, Dreher lamented the "terrible arrogance and ethnocentrism" that refuses to accept data from other countries, even Europe and Canada. She spoke about the academic world, where "tenure is often more important than truth." Her employers get letters from irate ex-Marines, for example, demanding she be fired.

She also pointed to a 1989 article in the Lancet "Bias Against The Null Hypothesis: The Reproductive Hazards of Cocaine" which found that the rate of acceptance of articles finding negative consequence of cocaine was 57%, versus 11% (only one) for articles that didn't, even though the latter were methodologically superior. Comparing that to the situation with marijuana, Dreher said, "If we looked at all of the literature that hasn't been published, we might find a very different story."

"We have a lot of red herrings," Dreher concluded. She wonders why there are variances within the exposed group, theorizing it could be because of the "impoverished conditions in which women must raise children," looking for cheapest and most available substance to relieve their symptoms and give them the energy to work. Rather than measuring so-called "executive function" in 9-12 year olds, she thinks we should look at a broader picture, including school performance, leadership skills, and the use of tobacco, alcohol and other substances. "We need research on the quality of life -- and how marijuana enhances it," she said.

Dreher did return to Jamaica and found 40 of the children she studied, who now have children of their own and are doing quite well.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of reports from California tell of children being taken from homes of parents who cultivate medical marijuana under state law. Hear this and weep.

If you're as angry about this as I am, write to your Congressional representatives about this outrage.

Also see: NIDA and Pregnancy: The Whole Truth?