Monday, June 30, 2014

Julie Christie Joins Fellow Brits in Calling for Drug Peace

Actress Julie Christie, who portrayed the iconic Lara in Dr. Zhivago and was once Warren Beatty's favorite leading lady, has signed an open letter to UK Prime Minister David Cameron calling for his administration to review their drug policy in advance of a special UN meeting in 2016 on the topic. 

The letter's June 26 release coincided with a worldwide protest in 100 cities.

Baroness Molly Meacher, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform, said in the press release from the human rights group Release that organized the effort: “The UN Office on Drugs and Crime recognizes that drug addiction is a health problem and not a crime. I urge the UK Government to heed the UN position and to decriminalise the possession and use of drugs. This policy has been shown to work and to reduce drug addiction among young people.” (See Meacher on video.)

Other prominent women adding their signature to the letter are:

• Green Party leader Caroline Lucas

• Franstine Jones, the first woman to head the UK's National Black Police Association

• Welsh-born actress Carys Eleri Evans, who's been active in advocating granting the Welsh language official status in the UK

• Baroness Afshar of Heslington, a Muslim activist and professor

• Baroness Lister of Burtersett (CBE), a prominent member of Parliament and Professor of Social Policy.

• BBC Journalist and HIV activist Louise Hulland

• Professor of Comparative Politics Julia Buxton

• Prosecutor Nicola Hill, President of the London Criminal Courts Soliticors' Assn.

• Barrister Kathryn Cronin, Joint Head of Garden Court Chambers

• Barrister Amber Marks, who has conducted research about the use of sniffer dogs in criminal cases and is the daughter of notorious ex-smuggler Howard Marks

• Solicitor Karen Todner, managing director of one of the the largest criminal defense firms in the country

• Author and journalist Candida Lycett Green

• Dr. Polly Taylor, one of several academics who quit her government post in protest in 2010 when Prof. David Nutt was  fired from his chairmanship of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, after he published data about the relative harms of cannabis, alcohol and other drugs. Nutt also signed the letter, as did Sting, Russell Brand, and Richard Branson

Not all of UK's women are so enlightened. In February 2009 Nutt was criticised by then-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith for stating Ecstasy was statistically no more dangerous than an addiction to horse-riding. Smith has admitted to a youthful dalliance with pot.

Actress Jean Simmons (OBE) was a signatory on a similar 2005 letter addressed to Tony Blair. American women and men sent a letter to President Obama in 2013 calling for an end to the War on Drugs.

Pussy Riot bravely joined the protest in Russia

Read more.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Feds Drag Feet on Cannabis Studies While States Legalize It and Comics Joke About It

I just caught a 2006 Saturday Night Live episode in which Seth Myers reads a story about a study finding cell phones don't cause cancer.

"Yee haw!" shouts a giggling Amy Poehler, who proceeds to put her cell phone in her mouth, attempting to light it with a cigarette lighter.

In case there was any question about which non-cancer-causing substance Poehler was celebrating, the story that followed was about a 125-year-old Indian woman named Fulla Nayak, who claimed that smoking cannabis every day was her secret to long life.

A headline on the latest NORML press release might have been, "Yet Another Study Shows Marijuana Smoking Not Associated With Increased Risk Of Lung Cancer." NORML 's Paul Armentano reports that an international team of investigators from Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States recently analyzed data from six case-control studies involving over 5,000 subjects from around the world. Authors concluded, “Results from our pooled analyses provide little evidence for an increased risk of lung cancer among habitual or long-term cannabis smokers.”

Brooke Baldwin of CNN, who so fully exposed Nancy Grace's mania about marijuana, has posted another good interview, this time with Sanjay Gupta focusing on why research isn't being done on medical cannabis in the US. The issue came to the forefront on Friday when NIDA chief Nora Volkow admitted to a congressional committee that it was easier to study heroin in this country than it is to get an approved protocol for marijuana. However headlines that the FDA is considering rescheduling cannabis at the behest of the DEA are rather overblown, since they are only doing so as required by yet another rescheduling lawsuit.

Now that 23 states have legalized medical marijuana, and Washington state is about to follow Colorado with legal recreational pot stores on July 8, few seem to be waiting for more government studies before they indulge. Case in point: Actress Aubrey Plaza from Poehler's new show Parks and Recreation appeared on Getting Doug with High in March. The show, in which comic Doug Benson brings people on to get high with him, held a special live event at Largo in LA last night with Tokin Woman Sarah Silverman, Ngaio Bealum and others. Benson's 2007 film Super High Me rather proved the point that marijuana's purported harms are overblown.

Meanwhile, it's no laughing matter that Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres has died at the age of 54 from salivary gland cancer, brought on by chewing tobacco (a legal substance).

Monday, June 23, 2014

Jack Benny's Mary: Living Stoned

Mary Livingstone in 1940.
Jack Benny's beloved wife Mary Livingstone (née Sadie Marks), who he often mentioned in his act, was apparently a fan of Mary Jane.

According to Henry Bushkin's biography of his friend Johnny Carson, Livingstone attended Ronald Reagan's first inauguration in 1981, and afterwards at a party for Carson at an Italian restaurand, she lit up "a joint of marijuana" and passed the "fat doobie" to Janet De Cordova, wife of NBC executive Fred De Cordova.

The story lends some credence to the tale told in Kitty Kelley's biography of Nancy Reagan in which Alfred Bloomingdale passed around a joint at a dinner party attended by "the Jack Bennys and the George Burnses" as well as then-Governor Reagan and Nancy. Kelley tried twenty years later to verify the story with Janet DeCordova, but she (lied and?) said it hadn't happened at any dinner party she attended. She and Mary were at a second pot-fueled dinner party, according to Joan Benny, Jack and Mary's daughter.

Born June 23, 1905 in Seattle and raised in Vancouver, Sadie Marks's father was a Jewish immigrant from Romania whose family name had been Markovich (Wikipedia). She first met Benny (né Benjamin Kubelsky) when Zeppo Marx invited him to a Passover seder at her home when she was 14. At the age of 17, she moved to Los Angeles and took a job at the May Company department store, where Benny courted her (as replayed on Benny's TV show years later). She married him in 1927 and appeared with him on the vaudeville stage, proving to be a natural comedienne.

After Benny started performing on radio in 1932, Sadie was brought in as a last-minute replacement to play a character named Mary Livingstone for a single episode. As legend has it, NBC received so much fan mail that the character became a regular feature on the Benny show. "Livingstone soon displayed her own sharp wit and pinpoint comic timing, often used to puncture Benny's on-air ego, and she became a major part of the show." (Wiki). She became so well known as Mary that she legally changed her name to match her character's.

It makes you wish that Mary had co-starred with Benny in the original movie To Be or Not to Be, as Anne Bancroft did with husband Mel Brooks in the 1983 remake. Instead Carole Lombard starred opposite Benny, just before the plane crash that ended her life.

Like Bob Hope, Benny reportedly told a few pot jokes and admitted to trying it. True to the racist nature of our drug laws, it was the son of the actor who played Benny's black valet Rochester who was popped for pot in 1952.

Mary Livingstone died on June 30, 1983 at the age of 78, hours after receiving a visit from Nancy Reagan.

BTW, the Pope is no Nancy Reagan, says the Seattle Times.

Thanks to the well-read Louisa May All-Pot for this tip.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Susan Sarandon On "Ancient Herbal Tripping Drugs"

I just got a dream assignment: writing a profile of Susan Sarandon for CelebStoner, where she has been voted Top Stoner. 

There was much to include, from Sarandon's impressive career, her activism, and her honesty about her own drug use. She was celebrated here on International Women's Day for her contributions to a safer and saner policy for all. 

Below she speaks of taking "ancient herbal tripping drugs, vines and things" on Letterman of late:  

Saradon's new movie Tammy came in #2 in the box office over the 4th of July weekend at $21.2M, behind Transformers at $36.4M. Sarandon plays a drunk in this one, instead of a pothead, as did Barbra Streisand in the movie she made with Seth Rogen (The Guilt Trip). Seems when pot smokers step out of their type casting, they like to play drunks. Jeff "The Dude" Bridges even got an Oscar (and nearly every other award) for his walk on the watery side in Crazy Heart

When will a pothead role win an Oscar again? (It hasn't happened since Annie Hall I don't think...and that movie got Best Picture, Writing and Directing too.) 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hillary Open to State Experiments with Marijuana Legalization - But Not To Her Own Past?

The presumed Democratic front-runner for the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, claimed she would be  "committing radical candor" when asked by CNN's Christiane Amanpour about marijuana legalization tonight.

But Clinton gave stale old answers to the question. On medical marijuana, she went for the fall-back "we need more research" position (despite thousands of existing studies). To her credit, she did call the states "laboratories of democracy" on full legalization, but again said she wanted to study the results rather than embrace them.

Amanpour wins the Tokin Woman prize for being the first to ask Hillary if she'd smoked herself, as I've been calling for. Clinton claimed she hadn't smoked it in her youth and wouldn't be smoking it now.

But was that a candid answer?

At least three biographies of Clinton say she enjoyed pot during her college days, when she dressed like a hippie (heck, she named her daughter for a Joni Mitchell song). Her former boyfriend David Rupert told Gail Sheehy (in Hillary's Choice) that the couple joined a protest march on Washington where, "'Some of us were inhaling,' he says with a you-know-what-I-mean smirk. The obvious question is, did Hillary inhale too? 'I don't have to go there,' says Rupert, 'but you can read between the lines.'"

According to Edward Klein (in The Truth About Hillary), she met Bill at a commune called Cozy Beach where Ken Kesey's Magic Bus riders were said to be regular visitors. "During their remaining time at Yale, Bill and Hillary often grooved the night away at Cozy Beach, spinning the latest Jefferson Airplane platters and eating hashish brownies." (Source: Horn, Rebels in White Gloves.) Maybe this is why Bill could correctly state he didn't inhale -- unless inhaling brownies counts. 

On a 2011 Real Time with Bill Maher episode Merle Haggard said Clinton came onto Willie Nelson's tour bus, adding, "And I think she inhaled."

Clinton may have more questions to answer leading up to 2016, when California and other states are expecting to have a legalization measure on the ballot, following what looks like a successful "laboratory experiment" in Colorado. She should know how damaging a marijuana bust can be to a young person: like me, she worked for George McGovern's 1972 presidental campaign; his daughter Teresa's life was derailed by a pot bust in 1968. Evidence enough?

Read more about Hillary and marijuana, including her ties to pharmaceutical companies.

Also see: Hillary's Uninspiring Drug Reform Plan from her 2008 campaign.

UPDATE July 2014: Biography Calls Hillary an Enthusiastic Pothead

UPDATE April 2015: Clinton announces Presidential candidacy, with "tepid for a Democrat" stance on legalization.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

"Meme Queen" Susan Blackmore on Cannabis

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

I just got clued in (by the erudite Alec Dixon of SC Labs) that VIP Susan Blackmore is even cooler than I knew. A well-known psychologist and author of the bestselling book The Meme Machine, Blackmore now has over 600,000 views for her TedTalk on "Memes and Temes."

Dr. 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. . . . 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."

Blackmore has recently published Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction and is a patron of the UK Drug Policy Reform organization Transform. See a collection of her writing in support of drug legalization.

Naturally, I had to make a meme for Blackmore.