Friday, August 29, 2014

Why Take Marijuana (or Alcohol)? Researchers Want to Know

Maybe I'm just trying to make up for the bikini shot I posted last night (hey, it had pot leaves on it!) but I spent my Friday night wonkily reading results from some interesting research published in 1976, when marijuana was still spelled with an "h" (see above).

Researchers from Stanford University and the Veteran's Administration in Palo Alto put 220-item questionnaires into the mailboxes of an entering class of first-year law students and of medical students and house officers at the University hospital. The questionnaire asked respondents to rate each of 38 possible effects of marijuana or alcohol as a major reason to take it, a minor reason, not a reason, or having no effect. Forms were returned anonymously. The data gathered are based on the 51 respondents who used both marijuana and alcohol with a frequency of greater than once a month for some six-month period of their life. 

Ranked in order of the percentage who cited the effect as a major reason for taking the drug, marijuana’s top effect was “increases enjoyment of sights and sounds,” with 45% of respondents calling that a major reason for using it; this effect didn’t make the cut for alcohol users. The top reason for using alcohol was “increases my feeling of sociability,” which appears ninth in the rankings for marijuana.

Coming in at #2 for alcohol was “relieves anxiety or tension,” something not attributed to marijuana as a reason for use. For marijuana, “enables me to experience a different state of consciousness” was the #2 reason; for alcohol that was #6. “Makes me feel euphoric” earned large enough percentages to rank #3 on both lists.

The research was supported by a National Institute for Mental Health grant and the VA administration. It found that marijuana had several effects like, “enables me to think more creatively,” “enables me to get insight into myself,” and “provides philosophic or religious insights” which weren’t attributed to alcohol. "Marihuana is valued as a drug for experiencing and thinking about things in a new way," the authors wrote. "Since much of psychotherapy is based on helping people to achieve new perspectives and insights, marihuana might be considered as an aid for psychological problem solving and growth." 

While 17% of respondents said alcohol “makes me feel more attractive to others,” only 26% said alcohol “enhances sexual sensation” while 70% said marijuana did (as a major or minor reason). "When performance anxiety leads to male impotence or female frigidity, marihuana might enhance sexual sensation, permitting enough success to break out of the vicious circle of failure leading to anxiety leading to further failure." Take that, Viagra. (No bikini required.)  

Walton T. Roth
Jared R. Tinklenberg
Bert S. Kopell

Dept of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Stanford University
Veterans Administration Hospital
Palo Alto

Supported by a NIMH grant and the VA administration.

The Therapeutic Potential of Marijuana, 1976
Edited by Sidney Cohen and Richard C. Stillman
Plenum Medical Book Co, NY and London

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Beauty in a Bhang-Leaf Bikini

Dutch model and TV personality Sylvie van der Vaart (aka Sylvie Meis) has been spotted in a pot-leaf bikini (left).

Sylvie may have a medical reason to celebrate marijuana. According to Wikipedia, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and underwent surgery and chemotherapy. She reports she is now cancer free.

The bikini's fabric, with blue pot leaves, looks rather like the pot-leaf tie worn by Robin Williams on a 2012 TV appearance. 

"The world is changing… nicely," remarks cannabis historian Michael Aldrich.

Hempy Summer, everyone.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Stealing Beauty: Liv Tyler, Rachel Weisz, Jeremy Irons and Marijuana

Continuing in my series of B-movies on Netflix that have pot smoking in them, I viewed 1996's Stealing Beauty, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and starring Liv Tyler (right) as Lucy, a 19-year-old American virgin who travels to an artists' colony in Tuscany in search of her father and her future.

Lucy encounters just about every archetypical male, including the gentle, dying writer Alex (Jeremy Irons), who needs the healing energy she and the marijuana she has brought provide.

"Excuse me, but you wouldn't happen to have any more of that exotic brand of cigarette I've been smelling, would you?" is the way Alex introduces himself to Lucy. Broaching the subject of sex as they smoke, he muses, "Nothing is more transporting...except perhaps good grass."

About her mother, Lucy asks, "She helped you fix this place up?" "Well, with a lot of hash breaks," was the response (from Irons's wife Sinead Cusak as Diana, the Earth Mother archetype). Also smoking in the movie is the terrific actress Rachel Weisz (left), as the sophisticate counterpoint to Liv's innocent character Lucy.

I'd rather expected the worst, a kind of Last Tango in Paris meets Lolita. But perhaps because Tyler projects a kind of calm integrity in her roles, the film is elevated to a rare coming-of-age story for a woman with heart and soul. Lucy's final encounter with Alex (involving marijuana) is particularly touching.

Irons, of course, is superb. On the Craig Ferguson show in 2012, he confided that he gets ill when he drinks but smokes marijuana in a manner "rare, you know, Friday nights." Countered Ferguson, "There's one of those every week. It's not that rare."

Discussing his breakthrough role as Charles Ryder opposite the alcoholic Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited, Irons said of marijuana, "it suits me a lot better, and I think does me much less harm."

Ferguson is famously on all the wagons, but he was superb himself in Saving Grace (2000), a film he co-wrote starring Brenda Blethyn as an English widow who grows marijuana to save her home, doubtlessly the inspiration for TV's Weeds.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Emerald at the Emmys: Sarah Silverman Pulls Out Her Vape Pen and Takes Home a Statue for Writing

UPDATE 9/19: When Sharon Osbourne asked her to show her purse contents to 2019 Emmy watchersSilverman said, "Funny, I got in trouble a few years ago; now it's legal" as she showed she had two joints taped to the top (to keep them from getting smushed) plus a vape ("for emergiencies"). "I know people always think of me as a stoner, but I really just take a puff," Silverman said. "What's wrong with that, people?" a supportive Osbourne said, to which Sarah replied, "Absolutely nothing." 

Silverman lost in her Emmy category (for the now-cancelled Hulu series "I Love America") to the mostly mediocre SNL, but got the biggest laugh of the night by pretending to be asleep when the winner was called, and made news for calling out the Emmys and our culture for silencing comedians.

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

Five Tokin Women were up for Emmys, presented at an awards ceremony tonight. But it's Sarah Silverman who is now trending, after she won an Emmy for writing her Variety Special We Are Miracles - just after she showed off her vape pen on the red carpet, calling it "liquid marijuana." Silverman stood out in her long, green dress on a night when almost every actress wore red.

Silverman said afterwards she didn't "have a puff-a-roony" until after the event. But kicking off her shoes and speaking about molecules hurtling through space for her speech seemed the stoniest since Whoopi Goldberg accepter her Oscar. Fox News noticed what a stony night it was and Kate Rogers said Sarah seems to be aging in reverse (meaning looking younger all the time). "The magical properties of weed!" commented Gabrielle Karol. "Is high the new drunk?" asked host Diana Falzone. Now that 23 states have some kind of legalized pot, it seems so, replied Chris Kensler.

Former SNLer Amy Poehler was up for Outstanding Lead Actress in Parks and Recreation and told the best joke of the night: introducing Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey she said, "Please welcome two men who are menu items at marijuana dispensaries."

Jane Fonda, who recently won an AFI lifetime achievement award, was nominated as Outstanding Guest Actress for The Newsroom; Fonda's nomination reel contained a scene in which her character is stoned.

Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley also garnered two nominations, for Whoopi as Outstanding Narrator, and for Outstanding Documentary or Non-Fiction Special. Whoopi recently waxed rhapsodic about her cannabis vape pen in a Denver Post article. (She lost the narration prize to Jeremy Irons and the doc lost to PBS's JFK.)

COSMOS, co-produced by NORML board member Ann Druyan (pictured), was up for ten awards and won three. Druyan is the widow of Very Important Pothead Carl Sagan.

VIPs in the Male Category who were nominated include Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as actors in True Detective and Anthony Bordain for hosting The Taste. Bourdain's Parts Unknown won for Outstanding Informational Series and was up for five more awards. The Colbert Report received five nominations, including outstanding Variety Series, vying with Real Time with Bill Maher for that award (and winning). Seth MacFarlane was nominated for Outstanding Character Voiceover Performance for Family Guy; he was also a producer on COSMOS.

Also a winner is Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis and Barack Obama for Outstanding Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program.

Who says stoners don't contribute to our culture?

Allison Janney beat out Jane Fonda as Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for "Masters of Sex" and also took home an Emmy as Best Supporting Actress for "Mom." A little while back, someone wrote in that her mom smoked pot with Allison back in college.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus beat out Amy Poehler for best actress in a comedy series. See her searching for a bag of weed on her old Christine series.

Kathy Bates played a marijuana smoker in the 2011-12 series "Harry's Law," but had to play a witch in "American Horror Story: Coven" to win an Emmy. Another "Coven" winner was Jessica Lange, whose character apparently snorts coke. Bates, who also played Alice B. Toklas's lover Gertrude Stein on film, wore an outfit (right) that almost looked like it was decorated with big silver pot leaves. 

While reigning as People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive, Adam Levine gave a fistpump in support of marijuana legalization on the program.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Our Brave Betty: Lauren Bacall Leaves Us at 89

Lauren Bacall, the actress who stood up to that American witchunt known as McCarthyism at a time when communism and pot smoking were equated, has died at age 89.

I had occasion to post a picture of the 19-year-old actress, born Betty Bacall, on Very Important Pothead Hoagy Carmichael's page. She was equally amazing in this 2012 photo.

Among her roles, she played the working-class, cigarette-rolling girlfriend of Gary Cooper in 1950's "Bright Leaf," about the industrialization of tobacco farming in the south and worked with Marilyn Monroe in How to Marry a Millionaire. She appeared (as "Slim" again) in VIP Robert Altman's Pret-a-Porter (1994) won a Golden Globe for her powerful performance as Barbra Streisand's mother in The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996).

Of course, Bacall was famously married to Humphrey Bogart, he of "don't Bogart that joint" fame. I contend that reference is from The Big Sleep (pictured), in which Bogart is tied up and Bacall lights a cigarette for him that he dangles from his lips for what seems like forever, unable to use his hands to take it from his mouth.

Bacall told Terri Gross on Fresh Air in 1994 that director Howard Hawks was looking for an actress as insolent as Bogart for the 1944 film that became her debut, To Have and Have Not. Hawks found her in Bacall, but her career suffered when she agreed not to shoot on location after she married. After Bogart died when Bacall was 32, she went to Broadway and won Tony Awards for Applause (1970) and Woman of the Year (1981). In 2009, she was awarded an honorary Oscar.

According to her NYT obit, she and Bogart, "flew to Washington as part of a group known as the Committee  for the First Amendment, which also included Danny Kaye, John Garfield, Gene Kelly, John Huston, Ira Gershwin and Jane Wyatt. 'I am an outraged and angry citizen who feels that my basic civil liberties are being taken away from me,' Bogart said in a statement."

I just saw Bacall on CNN's The Sixties special, wondering how the country would find its soul after the RFK assassination. What a rare, wise woman. 

TCM will remember Bacall with a marathon on September 15 & 16.

Monday, August 11, 2014

RIP Robin Williams: The Craziest, Most Wonderful One

Robin Williams as Albert Einstein, creator of the nuclear bong. 
I must report here the extremely sad news that Robin Williams is dead, of an apparent suicide.

Williams liked to call himself "legalized insanity." He told a joke about Nixon and pot in "Good Morning Vietnam," and was the inspiration for Bob Rivers' parody song "What If God Smoked Cannabis" for his bit about God and the platypus. Noting that the act of creating causes an endorphin rush, he speculated about Einstein developing the nuclear bong ("When the smoke clears, everyone's happy and very hungry").

I always wanted to contact the Northern California resident and Comic Relief co-host about doing a benefit for marijuana reform; then I would realize that since he had problems with cocaine and alcohol, he thought he had to be "sober" at all times. As he noticed, being called to testify before the grand jury that investigated John Belushi's death pushed him in that direction.

Williams faking a toke. 
"When you clean up your act, you either get married or go to court," he joked recently on VIP Craig Ferguson's show, where he was wearing a pot leaf motif tie but said he couldn't smoke it because it made him laugh too much (which it seems like would have been a good thing for him).

In his latest riff on pot, Williams jokes about California wildfires being extra dangerous because, "Those parks are full of weed!" He says if they legalize it they're going to have to label it with a Surgeon General's warning saying, "This will make your music AWESOME!"

Taking a toke in "World's Greatest Dad" 
Williams smoked weed and ate pot brownies onscreen in 2009's "World's Greatest Dad" (to the tune of, "When I get high/This world's so nice"). In the film, written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, Williams's teenage son dies by autoerotic asphyxiation, and his father covers it up by writing his son's suicide note and making it look like a hanging. Only after the outpouring of sanctimonious grief that follows does the truth come out.

Asked by Time magazine in 2011, "Is addiction the price of fame, or is it the price of talent?" Williams replied, "It's the price of drugs, actually. Most of the time with drugs, if you're famous, they give them to you. It's good for business to say that they get you high."

Williams, who was set to reprise his role as Mrs. Doubtfire, starred in the "The Crazy Ones" on CBS, but the series was cancelled in May. Two of the more remarkable roles he left us with are in the Oscar-nominated movie "Awakenings," directed by Tokin' Woman Penny Marshall and based on a book by VIP Oliver Sacks, and "Moscow on the Hudson," directed by VIP Paul Mazursky. Williams said his voicing of the Genie in "Aladdin" was influenced by VIP Lord Buckley. In his youth, he worked at a busboy at Sausalito's Trident restaurant, owned by VIP Frank Werber. And don't get me started on Popeye

The Robin Williams Tunnel in Marin County, CA. 
A wise woman recently opined to me that the youth aren't feeling the spiritual effect of marijuana because of their preference for the less mind-expanding strains like the OGs; the couch-lock varieties Williams called "California catatonic." I've encountered a lot of younger men who were fed Ritalin in their youth and seem to need something like that to take the edge off. And it's too bad the father in the "World's Greatest Dad" felt he had to hide his marijuana use from his troubled son.

If anyone could be said to be hyperactive, it was the brilliant comedian Robin Williams. I couldn't help thinking: if he'd been able to puff a little Blue Dream now and then, perhaps he wouldn't have been so depressed. Our great loss.

VIP Barack Obama issued a statement on Williams' passing.

UPDATE: Turns out, Williams had early stage Parkinson's disease, something cannabis can be helpful with. The annual, huge 4/20 Festival at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is now being held at Robin Williams Meadow. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Ava Gardner and Ganga

A new book, Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations, reveals that the sultry star tried marijuana with co-star Robert Mitchum around 1951, when the two were filming My Forbidden Past.

"I adored him. He was outrageous," Gardner told Peter Evans about Mitchum. "On the set, in front of reporters, he'd call to his makeup man: 'Hey, bring me some of that good shit, man.' He didn't give a fuck.

"Out in the Valley working on location one day, he said, 'Sugar, have you ever tried this stuff?' He was smoking a joint. I said no, I never have. There was plenty around when I was with Artie [Shaw] but he wouldn't let me touch it. He said I got high enough on booze. Anyway, Bob said, 'I've got some really great shit, really great. I want you to try it.' So we went to this old van where they carried all the equipment. I smoked a couple of sticks. Bob taught me how. You take a little air with the hit, deep, deep down and you hold it and hold it and hold it....

"Anyhow, I didn't feel a goddamn thing, nothing whatsoever. Bob was flying. He was fine and dandy. On the way home we stopped at a bar—dry martinis were the thing in those days—and once I'd had a martini, I felt as if I was sitting two feet above the stool. Everything I reached for was a little off, a little to one side. It took the martini to bring on the feeling of the pot. Bob did his best to convert me to marijuana. I tried, but I never got into it." (Perhaps, like me, she thought she was supposed to feel tipsy after she first smoked, instead of being attuned to the subtle effect of an expanded consciousness.)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Macy Gray Gets Stoned

Macy Gray has brought her distinctive voice and style to a new single, "Stoned," now available on iTunes, from her forthcoming album "The Way."

Born Natalie McIntyre in September 1970 in Canton, Ohio, the 6-foot-tall black girl didn't fit in with her mainly white classmates at her Ohio prep school. She moved to Los Angeles and was a mother of three with a rocky marriage when she catapulted to fame on the strength of songs like "I Try," for which she won the Best Female Pop Vocal Grammy in 2001.

The singer admittedly didn't handle her fame well, indulging in excesses but denying rumors she used hard drugs. She told one interviewer that drugs play an important part in her creativity. "I think everybody needs a little oblivion. It is important to get out of your mind sometimes so you meet a different side of yourself. I have had some really incredible revelations on drugs but at the same time they can do horrible things to you, like make you have to spend a lot of money on rehab."

The "Stoned" video shows Gray smoking and giggling while looking at online pictures of other famous stoners, including Tokin Women Miley CyrusMartha Stewart, Marilyn MonroeMaya AngelouOprah Winfrey, Lady Gaga and Rhianna. And it looks like she's seen because the video picks up the Bob Marley and Bill Gates photos from their pages there:

Gray has been diagnosed as bipolar, a condition for which many report relief from cannabis, although studies show mixed results. A 2012 study found marijuana can improve cognitive functioning in those with bipolar disorders.

Gray covered The Toyes song "Smoke Two Joints" in 2012. In 2013 she was named in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by a security guard from Universal, alleging rampant marijuana use at the company's headquarters.

Starring recently in The Paperboy (2012) with Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey and Nicole Kidman, Gray also has a successful acting career. In Little Lake for first-time filmmaker Jasmin Sharon, she plays a "hippie psychic" who assists a young girl's coming of age.

Gray is touring in California starting at the end of August, then nationwide. Read more.

CelebStoner names Gray's "Stoned" video in its Top 10 Stoner Songs of All Time.

Amy Tan's Wild Past with Pot

Novelist Amy Tan on NPR's "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" spoke about the time, at the age of 16, she was arrested in Switzerland for marijuana. "Everybody smoked pot and hash over there," she said. "I thought it was legal."

To get out of jail, "I had to promise I would listen to my mother and always obey her," she said. Her mother promptly narced out Amy's 24-year-old boyfriend and "he and all my friends were arrested and deported." Still, she joked, she was relieved "because I really did want to break up with him."

Playing "Not My Job" on the show, Tan answered the first quiz question wrong, because, she reasoned, "A lot of people like to get high."

Of course, there were many jokes and a question about the New York Times's endorsement of marijuana legalization this week.

Friday, August 1, 2014

"Unstoppable" Ralph Nader Highlights Drug War Reform

Ralph Nader in Action at Berkeley Post Office Protest Photo:
Seemingly tireless consumer rights crusader Ralph Nader spoke on July 30 to a packed, appreciative house at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley that gave him three standing ovations. At the age of 80, Nader is showing no signs of slowing down, having appeared earlier in the day at a protest to save the Berkeley post office building from the rapacious clutches of Sen. Dianne Feinstein's developer husband.

Nader's new book Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State advocates for finding common ground between groups on issues, despite differing ideologies on others. It's a strategy that's worked for him in the past, starting with the "strange bedfellows" coalition of environmentalists and fiscal conservatives that halted Tennessee's Clinch River Breeder Reactor in 1982.

Opening with the Aldous Huxley quote, "Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored," Nader said we must smash the myths that control us and end the "divide and rule" strategy.  He argues for hiring full-time advocates to lead the charge, starting with auditing the defense department, ending corporate bailouts, tying the minimum wage to inflation, breaking up big banks, and reining in the "electronic child molesters" who bombard children with commercialized TV.

"It all starts with the quality of citizenry," he said, adding, "It's all about self respect and sharing credit. Seeking justice is a major source of human gratification." He noted the email campaign that halted a potential war with Syria as an example of the power of citizen action. He pointed to Eric Cantor's stunning defeat, despite being outspent by 27:1, and said the Koch brothers are losing in their push for a surtax for solar panels. "Money doesn't vote," he reminded the crowd, urging them to get out and knock on doors to get out the vote. "It's called work," he said.

Nader notes that both the left and the right have been critiquing the War on Drugs for years, from William F. Buckley, Jr. and Milton Friedman to Kurt Schmoke and Kevin Zeese. "The classification and prosecution of drug use as a crime has activated and corrupted law enforcement, encouraged a truly self-defeating form of big government, endangered urban neighborhoods and many thousands of lives, and drained billions of dollars a year from taxpayers," he writes. He notes that many of the reforms recently proposed by AG Eric Holder are similar to those enacted by Texas Governor Rick Perry, and that a dozen Democrats and Republicans joined forces on a bill to legalize the growing of industrial hemp in Congress.

Nader mentioned in his talk that 15 states have passed juvenile justice reforms with left-right support. That day, Rand Paul and Corey Booker introduced such reforms at the federal level, citing drug war issues. Nader said concern for our children is a unifying issue; 80 organizations have now called for an end to the drug war in order to protect children.
Ralph Nader is a big reason I'm an activist today, and  I got to meet him once, at a party at Tony Serra's law office. Prompted by CalNORML director Dale Gieringer to ask whether or not he favored marijuana legalization, Nader responded, "Not legalization. Regulation."

The unstoppable Nader guested HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher on August 1.

UPDATE: SF Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders asked Nader for his views on drug legalization.

NORML founder Keith Stroup writes in his new book that he worked for Nader and partied with Nader's Raiders back in the day.