Sunday, November 17, 2013

2 Broke Girls, West Wing and Jocelyn Elders: Things I learned...

Jennifer Coolidge finds relief in cannabis cupcakes on 2 Broke Girls.
Growing up, I loved to read the Sydney J. Harris newspaper column, "Things I learned while looking up other things." I learn a lot of things that way myself.

Posting my story Gossip Girls Having Sex in the City on the NORML Women's Alliance Facebook page, I asked readers the question: In what other TV shows do women smoke pot together? I got answers about Nurse Jackie (a pill popper who once made an apple bong for a patient); ladies "toking it regularly" in the Showtime series Shameless; Gemma Teller (Katy Segal) "lighting up on the regular" on Sons of Anarchy; and Weeds, where Nancy occasionally does smoke (but seems to prefer wine).

I checked out an episode of Shameless, where Emily Rossum is sent to the salt mines to support the family her alcoholic dad won't. Not exactly empowering. I also saw the first episode of Sons of Anarchy where Gemma plots to employ her son in meth and gun running, and enables his girlfriend to OD on heroin. Not a role model, in my book.

I did get a tip that CBS's 2 Broke Girls had an episode with pot, and found a clip on YouTube (complete with Portuguese subtitles) from the show's "And the High Holidays" episode featuring the always-amusing Jennifer Coolidge munching marijuana cupcakes for her menstrual cramps. The perpetually perky Caroline (Beth Behrs) has some revelations about reality as a result of her own marijuana munching, which could have been interesting if the writing was better on this show. (As Tokin Woman Joan Rivers pointed out recently, TV writing is terrible of late.)

I decided to Google Kat Denning, the brunette star of 2 Broke Girls because she seems like a cool pothead type, whose character really lights up when it's discovered marijuana plants are growing in the girls' closet. Turns out the actress claims she doesn't drink or smoke, because she's already "an idiot" who doesn't need a stimulant to show her true feelings. (It's kind of nice she's so evolved; reminds me of Anais Nin's comments after taking LSD: Americans need it to open them up, but she already lives there.)

In the comments on the page with Denning's revelations, kemperboyd wrote, "Well that kills my weird fantasy of smoking a bowl with Denning, Allison Janney, Rashida Jones and a few other cool ladies, talking feminism and pop culture." iladelphian responded, "My mom smoked with Allison Janney in college."

So I got my Google on with Allison Janney + marijuana and came up instead with a page about a plot line in West Wing about a Surgeon General played by Mary Kay Place (who smoked pot with William Hurt in 1983's The Big Chill). The episode, which has Place's character almost getting fired for seeming to favor marijuana legalization, was doubtlessly based on the true story of Jocelyn Elders, Clinton's Surgeon General who was forced out of office after publicly promoting masterbation, condoms and reasonable drug laws.

Elders appeared at a press conference during the Drug Policy Alliance conference in Santa Monica in 1995. I was there, and had my hand up throughout, but wasn't called on to ask my question. The organizers announced the appearance was over but Elders stopped them, pointing at me and saying, "I want to take her question." I asked whether or not she supported Proposition 215, the medical marijuana initiative that was on the ballot the following November. She responded that she did, and a clip of her response was used in campaign ads for the proposition, which became the first medical marijuana law in the country.

During the event, Elders said while in office she went on a trip and when she returned, every piece of information about the drug war had been removed from her office. She lamented the antics of the "little boys" of Washington and said there was no one in that town we could turn to for an intelligent response.

Of former Health and Human Services chief Donna Shalala, who stood with Janet Reno and Barry McCaffrey to threaten doctors recommending medical marijuana after Prop. 215 passed, Elders said later, "She studied political science. That's the kind of science she practices." Shalala admitted to Diane Sawyer that she smoked pot in college, but now believes, “Marijuana is illegal, dangerous, unhealthy and wrong. It’s a one-way ticket to dead-end hopes and dreams.” Except in her own case, it seems.

The US has been largely without a Surgeon General of late (but has plenty of political scientists making medical decisions for the nation). Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who turned Obama down for the post, has now successfully advanced the cause of medical marijuana: his show on the use of CBD-rich marijuana for childhood epilepsy has resulted in FDA approval for an imported plant tincture to help children in need.

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