Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ellen's Neat, Sweet Tweet

Ellen DeGeneres has tweeted the following to her 24 million followers: 

At last check, the little Tweet that Could had 31.5K retweets and was favorited 44,300 times.

I've never heard Ellen say she's smoked pot but she sure can dance. And some of her bits: about forgetting where she put her car keys, or losing track of time, or spending a morning petting her cat instead of working -- well, they sound like she's had experiences like many other Mark Twain award recipients have (including Twain himself). She even voiced a forgetful fish in "Finding Nemo."

DeGeneres slipped in a mention of buying rolling papers in her 2000 special The Beginning, and did a funny bit about rolling papers when she was the first woman to host the Oscars in 2007. She will be hosting again this year on Sunday, March 2.

In September 2013, she interviewed Norwegian brothers Vegard and Bård Ylvisåke on her talk show about their intentionally terrible song "What Does the Fox Say?"

"I don't know a lot about Norway, but I'm gonna assume marijuana is legal there," DeGeneres joked, before finding out that "fox" in Norwegian is slang for the weed. "It all makes sense now," she said.

UPDATE 10/17 - Ellen has responded on air to a video titled, "Does Ellen Smoke Weed?" She said that the Ellen depicted from 20 years ago might have smoked,  and that one of her writers smokes, but says she doesn't.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Lila Leeds and Dirty Deeds

Lila Leeds was 20 years old when the actress was arrested with VIP Robert Mitchum for marijuana in 1948. While Mitchum's star power, and the money the studios had invested in him, carried him through the ordeal that followed, Leeds never recovered from the incident.

Under contract to MGM, Leeds appeared with Red Skelton in The Show Off (1946); one of of her bit parts was in Lana Turner's vehicle Green Dolphin Street, where she plays a Eurasian woman who drugs the leading man and rolls him. When the film was released, she wasn't even credited for her part.

"It left her shaken up, depressed," wrote Lee Server in Robert Mitchum: Baby I Don't Care. "She would spend long nights at the bop clubs in Hollywood, chasing her blues away. Lila had always been jazz-happy and she knew many of the local musicians. She smoked reefers with them in their dressing rooms and in the parking lots, even at the tables if the owners were cool."

"I smoked socially," Lila said. "The way some people take a drink. Pot doesn't affect me much--just makes me sleepy and relaxed."

Leeds vamping in "Lady in the Lake" (1946)
At the time of her arrest with Mitchum, Leeds was engaged to Turner's ex-husband Steven Crane. Their daughter Cheryl Crane's book Detour: A Hollywood Story says: "Dad knew that Lila had smoked pot ever since she tried it at a St. Louis party three years before with members of the Stan Kenton orchestra, and sometimes she overdid it....She was often stoned, and his friends cautioned Dad that she had a problem, but he knew pot was no enslaving 'devil's weed,' as it has been painted in the unintentionally hilarious 1936 cautionary film Reefer Madness."

After Leeds was arrested on August 31, 1948, Stephen Crane fled to Europe rather than become entangled in scandal. There he tried his hand at writing a gossip column titled, "Champagne and Vinegar." In his debut column he wrote about the Mitchum bust, saying, "Yet if Mitchum should come to Paris he could attend a small private jive club on the Left Bank where waiters come around to the tables and roll the marijuana cigarettes for you." No less than three Hollywood stars, he noted, were "seen entering" the place the previous week.

In a police deposition, Leeds accused her roomate Vicki Evans of being a police informer, and said that Mitchum was framed for the offense (Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sept. 27, 1949). Leeds said she and her roomate often smoked reefers together but Evans refused to smoke them on the day of the bust, and she was the one who let police in. Evans (real name: Florence Fidele of East End, Pittsburgh) denied the charge two days later in the same paper. Neither Evans nor bartender Robin Ford, who brought Mitchum to the scene of the arrest, were tried for the incident.

As a Eurasian in Green Dolphin Street (1947) 
Crane writes that Leeds was introduced to heroin by fellow inmates at LA County Jail, and it lead to addiction. Other than the awful Reefer Madness-style anti-drug film She Shoulda Said No (aka The Devil's Weed), Leeds never had another film role. She became so destitute that she hocked the three-carat diamond ring Stephen had given her for $750. In the '70s, she worked as a faith healer for addicts.

Leeds lives in four films TCM will be airing in the coming months:

Jennifer Lawrence resembles Lila; she's the perfect actress to play her in a long-overdue biopic. Personally I suspect Lana Turner might have had something to do with the arrest of her seven-years-younger rival (similar to a plotline in the 1997 movie LA Confidential).

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Ann Coulter Shows Her Lack of Humanity About "Potheads"

According to an interview last night with CNN's Piers Morgan, Ann Coulter's preferred country would be one where people smoke and work themselves to early deaths on tobacco. Her stated reasoning: not only do people "stay up all night working" hyped up on nicotine, they die young, saving Social Security costs.

In the contentious interview, Coulter also declared "alcohol is good for you"  and said everyone should have a glass or two every day. She admitted that she's drank before going on TV, which Morgan said perhaps explained a lot.

Coulter pulled out the "people don't drink alcohol to get drunk" argument, to which Morgan correctly replied, "Yes, they do," and  Coulter admitted "you might get a warm feeling" after drinking wine.

She then went with the "marijuana legalization is bad for commerce" argument, using as an example a lazy pool guy who was a "pothead," extrapolating from there to conclude that those who smoke pot can perform no useful tasks (like founding Apple or Microsoft).

Morgan's argument that no one's ever died of a cannabis overdose didn't fare well with the death-loving Coulter, who claimed young people are having early heart attacks because they're potheads, but "at least they'll save me money if they just go ahead and die." 

"How humane of you," was all Morgan could say.

 Watch the video below:

Perhaps Coulter is extra angry just now because Bill Maher publicly said he'd never slept with her on HBO's Real Time last week. While interviewing Republican Marlee Matlin about her marriage to Democrat James Carville, Maher said he couldn't get serious about dating a Republican for moral reasons.

If ever someone needed to learn how to relax and smoke a joint, it's Ann Coulter. Maybe then she'd find her lost humanity.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Little Leeway from the Washington Post

Following the Ruth Marcus I-smoked-pot-but-others-should-go-to-jail-for it column, the Washington Post has now published two opeds from its columnists in favor of marijuana legalization, one by E.J. Dionne Jr. and today's by the "mostly right of center" Kathleen Parker.

Dionne asserts he's not interested in smoking marijuana, partly because he fears it might lead him back to nicotine. Parker says she partied in her youth, and has given it up in favor of caffeine (she's a Starbucks gal).

Admitting that she once lied to her young children about her pot-smoking past, Parker now says, "The correct answer to all such questions is that any drug, including alcohol, is bad for children, hence a drinking age, even if many ignore it. Children’s brains aren’t fully formed, and they are not yet aware of the dangers that accompany impaired judgment. Mind-altering chemicals are bad for adults, too, if abused. But adults at least can make informed choices."

Parker takes pains to point out that Marcus's stance "isn’t hypocrisy, which I embrace in the service of civilization, so much as perspectives developed through maturity and experience." Her own perspective, as the parent of a three teenaged boys, lead her to support legalization, because, "I couldn’t imagine then or now that children might be labeled criminals for behaviors that mostly required parental attention."

Parker writes, "Regulate and tax the tar out of it, please, but let’s stop pretending that pot consumers are nefarious denizens of the underworld. Among those who enjoy a recreational smoke are the folks selling you a house, golfing on the ninth hole and probably an editor or two here and there."

Parker, known as a conservative columnist, showed how astute her thinking was when she called for fellow former puffer Sarah Palin to step down as VP nominee in 2008, calling her "clearly out of her league."

Meanwhile, Nancy Grace has gone off the deep end on this issue, raising a Reefer Madness-style specter of "people on pot that shoot each other, that stab each other, that strangle each other, that kill whole families — wipe out a whole family.”

As an example, she talked about the first pot case she saw as a prosecutor, with a “...gorgeous lady standing in the middle of the courtroom crying, and I didn’t understand what was going on. They said she was a stockbroker. She had got addicted to pot, ended up losing her job, wrecked her car, couldn’t make her house payments on her house, so her husband got custody of the children, and now she has no house, no car, no family, nothing.” Even if true, she didn't stab or strangle her family. And arguably, stockbrokers are the real criminals in our society.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Just In Time for the Stupor Bowl: Study Shows Alcohol, Not Marijuana, Related to Domestic Violence

Promoting the wrong Bud.
As the Super Bowl with its glorification of alcohol consumption approaches, NORML reports that men's consumption of alcohol, but not cannabis, is associated with intimate partner violence, according to survey data published this month in the journal Addictive Behaviors.

Investigators at the University of Tennessee and Florida State assessed whether alcohol intoxication and/or cannabis use by college-age men in a current dating relationship was associated with increased odds of physical, sexual, or psychological aggression toward their partner over a 90-day period. They reported: "On any alcohol use days, heavy alcohol use days (five or more standard drinks), and as the number of drinks increased on a given day, the odds of physical and sexual aggression perpetration increased. The odds of psychological aggression increased on heavy alcohol use days only." By contrast, authors determined that "marijuana use days did not increase the odds of any type of aggression."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 3 in 10 women and 1 in 10 men say they have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking (or a combination of these things) by an intimate partner. Furthermore, these estimates are low, the CDC says, since many people don't report the problem to police, friends, or relatives.

Add emotional abuse to the mix of physical and sexual assault, and 1 in 4 women and 1 in 3 teen girls will experience domestic violence in their lives, says Katie Ray-Jones, president of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, an anonymous service that handles some 22,000 calls each month, mostly from women. (Domestic violence victims are overwhelmingly female. Southworth estimates male victims account for between 5 to 15 percent of victims, some of whom are involved in same-sex relationships.)

The Stupor Bowl is awash with beer ads; FoxNews even celebrates the 18 best ones. Thanks to an exclusive sponsorship good through 2015, only Anheuser-Busch will be running ads again this year at the great grunt fest. The company hasn't described its plans for 2014 yet but in the last Super Bowl the brewer ran six ads spanning four and a half minutes, including one for Budweiser, two for Bud Light, two for Budweiser Black Crown and one for Beck's Sapphire.

I met one of the Bud Girls (pictured) at an event in the early 90s, and said to her, "You're promoting the wrong bud." I was surprised by her answer: "I agree with you."

"The Super Bowl does not cause domestic violence, and it doesn't increase domestic violence, but it does increase the public's awareness of the issue, which will help victims learn about help and resources," says Cindy Southworth, vice president of development and innovation at the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Dangerous enough: alcohol-related car crashes are 75% greater in California on Super Bowl Sunday than on other comparable Sundays in January and February, according to a 10-year analysis of fatal and injury crashes from 2002 to 2011 by the Automobile Club of Southern California.  

As Americans are slowly weaned off the # 1 cause of domestic violence - alcohol - an updated report by the University of Kentucky’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences finds marijuana’s CBD cannabinoid could reduce brain damage incurred through prolonged and heavy alcohol consumption. A revised report in the Journal of Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior noted; “transdermal delivery of cannabidiol attenuates binge alcohol-induced neurodegeneration in a rodent model of an alcohol use disorder.”

Meanwhile, in the wake of marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington, NFL's commissioner Roger Goodell left the door open for medical marijuana use by NFL players, saying "I don't know what's going to develop as far as the next opportunity for medicine to evolve and to help either deal with pain or help deal with injuries, but we will continue to support the evolution of medicine," even while it was noted that it's still against their collective bargaining agreement.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

My, Oh Maya

UPDATE 10/15: Angelou is included in the new book Tokin' Women: A 4000-Year Herstory.

Revered author Maya Angelou, the first poet since Robert Frost to read a poem at a Presidential inauguration, wrote about her experiences with marijuana in Gather Together in My Name, the second installment of her autobiography after the acclaimed I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. 

Angelou, who started life as Rita Johnson from Stamps, Arkansas, was raped at the age of 7, and had an illegitimate child in her teens. Working as a waitress to support her son in San Diego, 18-year-old Rita met two lesbian prostitutes who frequented the bar where she worked. One night, the women invited her to their house for dinner. Angelou recounts:

"Let's have a little grifa before dinner." Johnnie Mae gave an order, not an invitation. She turned to me. 
"You like grifa?"
"Yes. I smoke." The truth was I had smoked cigarettes for over a year, but never marijuana....I was prepared to refuse anything else they offered me, so I didn't feel I could very well refuse the pot....

I inhaled the smoke as casually as if the small brown cigarette I held were the conventional commercial kind.
"No. No. Don't waste the grifa. Hand it here....try it like this..." 
I opened my throat and kept my tongue flat so that the smoke found no obstacle in its passage from my lips to my throat....

The food was the best I'd ever tasted. Every morsel was an experience of sheer delight. I lost myself in a haze of sensual pleasure, enjoying not only the tastes but the feel of the food in my mouth, the smells, and the sound of my jaws chewing. 

"She's got a buzz. That's her third helping." 

...I decided to dance for my hostesses. The music dipped and swayed, pulling and pushing. I let my body rest on the sound and turned and bowed in the tiny room. The shapes and forms melted until I felt I was in a charcoal sketch, or a sepia watercolor. (pp. 52-55)

By the end of the evening Rita had arranged to rent the women's house, putting them to work for her as prostitutes, with her barganing for their services with cab drivers and taking a cut. Meanwhile, she read Dostoevsky and studied dance. Soon the arrangement turned sour and she had to flee back to Stamps, where drinking Sloe gin "numbed my brain" and she had to make herself sick to get rid of the poison.

Rita went back to the West Coast and tried joining the Army in San Francisco, but was turned down because the The California Labor school, where she'd studied dance and drama, was deemed a Communist organization. So she started waitressing again, and smoking pot.

Smoking grass eased the strain for me. I made a connection at a restaurant nearby. People called it Mary Jane, hash, grass, gauge, weed, pot, and I had absolutely no fear of using it. In the black ghetto of the forties, marijuana, cocaine, hop (opium) and heroin were only a little harder to obtain than rationed whiskey. Although my mother didn't use anything but Scotch (Black & White), she often sang a song popular in the thirties that at its worst didn't condemn grass, and at its best extolled its virtues.

"Dream about a reefer five foot long
Vitamin [sic] but not too strong
You'll be high but not for long
If you're a viper..."

I learned new postures and developed new dreams. From a natural stiffness I melted into a grinning tolerance. Walking on the streets became high adventure, eating my mother's huge dinners an opulent entertainment, and playing with my son was side-cracking hilarity. For the first time, life amused me. ...

I disciplined myself. One joint on Sunday and one on the morning of my day off. The weed always had an intense and immediate effect. Before the cigarette was smoked down to roach length, I had to smother my giggles. Just to see the falling folds of the curtains or the sway of a chair was enough to bring me to audible laughter. After an hour the hysteria of the high would abate and I could trust myself in public. (p. 154). 

After a brief stint dancing professionally, she met a married man who told her her, "It's gauge that's breaking my marriage....My silly dilly wife stopped letting me have any and she goes around laughing and giggling all the time." She flushed her pot for him and soon let him lead her into prostitution herself, where she was told if she was good she'd be given some "white girl" (cocaine) but, "They won't let you smoke hemp, though. They say it makes a 'ho too frisky. 'Hos get their heads bad and forget about tending to business."

At the close of the book, another man named Troubador shows her how he shot heroin, and makes her promise to keep her innocence. He gives her his clothes to sell so that she can escape and head back to her Mother's house.

In the following autobiographical installment, Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas, Rita is discovered while dancing at a strip club in San Francisco and develops a Calypso singing act, changing her name and eventually finding her way to activism with Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, as well as writing with the encouragement of James Baldwin and others.

Maya Angelou received over 50 honorary degrees and three Grammys. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Arts in 2000 and the Lincoln Medal in 2008.

PS: During the outpouring of tributes from everyone, including President Obama, after Angelou's death, I learned that she was the first African-American woman to operate a cable car in San Francisco (in her teens!) Cable cars use hemp fiber in the center of their steel cables. Another cannabis connection.

PPS: Angelou isn't the only revered US poet to sing the praises of pot. In his book of Haiku She Was Just 17, former poet laureate (2001-2003) Billy Collins wrote:

So many nicknames for you 
But none as lovely as 

NOW AVAILABLE: Tokin' Women: A 4000-Year Herstory.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Nancy Grace the Nattering Nay-Sayer

HLN host and former prosecutor Nancy Grace is back getting flack for yet another wild and scandalous statement. When asked by CNN's Brooke Baldwin about Colorado's new, hugely successful pot legalization law, Grace called it "a horrible idea."

Grace first raised the specter of stoned cab driver or airline pilots, and when Baldwin countered with the idea of responsible use in one's own home, she responded, "Your home, where you're supposed to be taking care of your children, or cooking on a gas stove or lighting a fireplace? Not a good idea."

“When I’m at work, I don’t want my babysitter high on pot,” Grace said. “The ones that are disagreeing are lethargic, sitting on the sofa eating chips. Pot, it makes you fat and lazy.” Grace, who claimed to have read "every shred of scientific data" ever written about the subject, must have missed the one that found pot smokers are skinnier and healthier than their counterparts. Ditto for Tina Brown, who Tweeted, " weed contributes to us being a fatter, dumber sleepier nation even less able to compete with China."

At least Grace pointed out that drivers should only be prosecuted if they're impaired, not if they happen to have metabolites in their urine or hair. But that didn't stop her from scare-mongering about driving at the outset of the interview. At the end of the segment, she accused Baldwin of being pro-pot because she interviewed a Colorado tour operator about his pot tours.

Grace is no stranger to hyperbole, and loves to sensationalize cases involving children and drugs. According to Wikipedia, the Supreme Court of Georgia twice commented on Grace's conduct as a prosecutor, once  in a 1994 heroin-trafficking case in which the Court declared a mistrial, saying that Grace had "exceeded the wide latitude of closing argument" by drawing comparisons to unrelated murder and rape cases. An episode of The Newsroom deals with the difficulty of presenting real news opposite the sensationalism of Grace's handling of the Casey Anthony case.

In September 2006, 22-year-old Melinda Duckett committed suicide following an interview conducted by Grace concerning the disappearance of Duckett's 2-year-old son Trenton. Toni Annette, dubbed the "vodka mom" by Grace, who brought a bottle of vodka onto her set in an attempt to mock Medrano following the death of her infant son, committed suicide by setting herself on fire after the interview.

On the lighter side, one website responded to Grace's latest rant with a VIP-heavy story titled, "Hi, Nancy Grace: Here Are Some ‘Fat and Lazy’ Pot Smokers Who Never Amounted to Anything." D Funk Time Michaels @darinlovesbacon tweeted, "As a fat and lazy person, I don't appreciate Nancy Grace accusing me of smoking pot."

Meanwhile a satirical news story claiming 37 died from overdoses on the first day of legalization in Colorado has made dupes out of millions, including Sweden's Chief Justice Minister, Beatrice Ask.

If Grace and Ask are concerned about crime (as they should be), they shouldn't miss the new study finding that states who've passed medical marijuana laws, and their neighboring states, have fewer assault and property crimes.

UPDATE 1/18/2014 - Grace has really gone off the deep end on this issue, raising a Reefer Madness-style specter of "people on pot that shoot each other, that stab each other, that strangle each other, that kill whole families — wipe out a whole family.”

As an example, she talked about the first pot case she saw as a prosecutor, with a “...gorgeous lady standing in the middle of the courtroom crying, and I didn’t understand what was going on. They said she was a stockbroker. She had got addicted to pot, ended up losing her job, wrecked her car, couldn’t make her house payments on her house, so her husband got custody of the children, and now she has no house, no car, no family, nothing.” Even if true, she didn't stab or strangle her family. And arguably, stockbrokers are the real criminals in our society.

The Young Turks showed an interesting mash up of Grace on the topic. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Marcus Misses the Mark on Marijuana

Among the list of journalists now admitting they've smoked pot is Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post, who also joins the ranks of hypocrites who nonetheless don't think it should be legal.

In Marcus's post-legalization column on the subject, she admits:

I have done my share of inhaling, though back in the age of bell-bottoms and polyester. Next time I’m in Colorado, I expect, I’ll check out some Bubba Kush. Why not? They used to warn about pot being a gateway drug, but the only gateway I’m apt to be heading through at this stage is the one to Lipitor. 

Yet she continues, "Still, widespread legalization is a bad idea, if an inevitable development" and goes on to quote chapter and verse from government propaganda straight from the ONDCP.

She writes:

I’m not arguing that marijuana is riskier than other, already legal substances, namely alcohol and tobacco. Indeed, pot is less addictive; an occasional joint strikes me as no worse than an occasional drink. If you had a choice of which of the three substances to ban, tobacco would have to top the list. Unlike pot and alcohol, tobacco has no socially redeeming value; used properly, it is a killer.

Yet she concludes: "On balance, society will not be better off with another legal mind-altering substance. In particular, our kids will not be better off with another legal mind-altering substance."

Oh, for heaven's sake. That old argument? Nothing about freedom to choose the less harmful substance? As though prohibition is working to keep teens away from pot.

Marcus, a Harvard law graduate from Philadelphia, is supposedly a liberal Democrat and has two teenage daughters. Write to Marcus at

P.S. Colbert took on Marcus and David Brooks on his first show of 2014. Favorite line: "I applaud Marcus and Brooks for taking a stand against legalizing the pot they smoked."

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Denver Does It!

Among other beautiful synchronicities, the city of Denver became the first in the country to legalize adult marijuana sales this morning, one day after what would have been the 70th birthday of VIP John Denver, a marijuana fan and author of "Rocky Mountain High," one of Colorado's official state songs.

The Mile-High City was the site of the first US arrest for marijuana after it was effectively made illegal across the country in 1937. Today, people from all over the country stood in line for hours in Denver to buy a legal high.