Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford's Pot

 The year that won't quit tearing our hearts out has ended (I hope) by taking the multitalented Carrie Fisher from us at the age of 60. 

"You have the eyes of a doe and the balls of a samauri," Harrison Ford told Fisher during the filming of Star Wars. She finally revealed her three-month affair with Ford in her 2016 book, The Princess Diarist, where she wrote of "the brutal strength of Harrison's preferred strain of pot," adding, "After that, marijuana was no longer possible for me—it had such a powerful, all-consuming effect on me that I have never used the drug again."

Fisher's 2008 book Wishful Drinking reveals that she first tried smoking pot when she was 13, after renters at her family's Palm Springs house left behind a baggie. When her mother Debbie Reynolds found it, she said, "Dear, I thought instead of you going outside and smoking pot where you might get caught and get in trouble—I thought you and I might experiment with it together." But Reynolds promptly forgot about it so Fisher and her friend May tried it on their own in their backyard treehouse.

"And you've got to figure I enjoyed it, because I ended up experimenting with marijuana for the next six years until it suddenly—and I think rather rudely—turned on me," Fisher wrote. "Where at the onset it was all giggles and munchies and floating in a friendly have—it suddenly became creepy and dark and scary....This was when I was about nineteen, while I was filming Star Wars. (It ultimately turned out to be Harrison's pot that did me in.)"

"I'd rather smoke a doobie." 
Ford has never publicly admitted to smoking marijuana (although Bill Maher has challenged him to). According to the book Harrison Ford: Imperfect Hero by Garry Jenkins (Citadel Press, 1998), one day in the 1970s, Ford was in the UK, simultaneously giving an interview with Britian's Ritz magazine while he did a photo shoot for GQ at photographer David Bailey's studio. When Litchfield asked why Ford was rolling his own cigarettes, he responded, "You want a toke of this all-American reefer?"

"Can you work on this stuff?" Litchfield asked. "Nope. I can't even admit it exists," he replied, then went on to say he was smoking a strain of pot from Humboldt County, California. "This is not Cannabis indicta, [sic] or Cannabis sativa, this is Cannabis rutica," he said. "A real strong dope." 

There is no such thing as Cannabis rutica; Nicotiana rustica, however, is a hallucinogenic form of tobacco. A kif made with cannabis and nicotiana rustica is used by Moroccan fisherman to improve their night vision. N. rustica is the tobacco Columbus was introduced to by the Taino Awawak Indians of Hispaniola and Cuba in 1492, with the milder and modern form N. tabacum introduced to the Yucatan by the Spaniards around 1535. I have never heard of N. rustica being grown in Humboldt county, but it’s not impossible: seeds are available on the internet.

In college, Ford smoked a Calabash (Sherlock Holmes-style pipe) and often said he wanted to open a pipe shop. During his days doing bit parts as a "rent-a-hippie" at Universal Studios, Ford was often "seen sniffing from a small case he carried in his jeans....Turns out he was sniffing snuff." (Jenkins)

Fly, Thumbelina, fly.
Maybe his powerful mixture of pot and hallucinogenic tobacco was more than the 19-year-old Fisher could handle. She turned to hallucinogens and painkillers (a bad combination), and Reynolds enlisted Cary Grant to speak with her. 

Grant famously took LSD while it was still legal, and found the experience illuminating. Grant called Fisher and chatted about nothing in particular, she wrote.

She endured electroshock therapy during her life, having been diagnosed as bipolar. Heart disease is a potential side effect of electroconvulsive therapy.

Asked by Rolling Stone this year, "Are there any upsides to doing drugs?" Fisher replied, "Yes. Absolutely. I don't think I was ever suicidal, and that's probably because of drugs. I did have … do have this mood disorder, so it probably saves me from the most intense feelings from that. I was able to mute that stuff. And I loved LSD. That was fantastic." She added that she wished she'd never snorted heroin. Paul Simon's new biography says the couple participated in an ayahuasca ceremony in Brazil in the 80s.

Rolling Stone asked Fisher, "Do you fear death?" and her response was, "No. I fear dying." Our fearless Princess now has nothing at all to fear.

As Thumbelina in Fairie Tale Theatre, she sang: 

Don't cry for me while I be gone
Though it an eternity seems
While we be apart I'll follow my heart
And come to you in your dreams

UPDATE: Unbelievably now, to top it off, Fisher's daughter Billie Lourd has lost her grandmother too. Up in heaven, the untamable has now met the unsinkable: Debbie Reynolds. 

I read where Carrie said it was her voice that won her the Star Wars role, after Debbie insisted she travel to England to improve her vocal skills. Seeing the audition tapes for Leia I agree that's what put her on top. 

My favorite all-time movie is Singing in the Rain (pictured), where Reynolds' voice wins Gene Kelly's heart. And she shoulda had an Oscar for Mother, a movie that meant so much to me I wrote to filmmaker Albert Brooks to thank him for it. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

NIDA on Pregnancy: The Whole Truth?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) spin on pregnancy studies made news following a recent study finding a slight increase in self-reported marijuana use by pregnant women in the twelve-year period from 2002-2014. The National Survey of Drug Use and Health reports that in 2014, almost 4 percent of pregnant women said they'd recently used marijuana, up from 2.4 percent in 2002.

NIDA  director Nora Volkow commented on the study in an editorial published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association and it was picked up by major news outlets without any rebuttal, including Huffington Post, the Washington Post and USA Today (via AP).

Volkow writes, "Although the evidence for the effects of marijuana on human prenatal development is limited at this point, research does suggest that there is cause for concern. A recent review and meta-analysis found that infants of women who used marijuana during pregnancy were more likely to be anemic, have lower birth weight, and require placement in neonatal intensive care than infants of mothers who did not use marijuana. Studies have also shown links between prenatal marijuana exposure and impaired higher-order executive functions such as impulse control, visual memory, and attention during the school years."

Volkow cherry-picked studies to back up her assertions, citing a BMJ analysis that looked at 24 studies, and a 2011 NIDA-funded review from Texas Children's Hospital.

A glaring omission from Volkow's article was the recent study published in the journal Obstetrics & GynecologyMaternal Marijuana Use and Adverse Neonatal Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis, which found that the moderate use of cannabis during pregnancy is not an independent risk factor for adverse neonatal outcomes such as low birth weight.

As NORML reported, in that study, investigators at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis reviewed outcomes from more than two-dozen relevant case-control studies published between 1982 and 2015, and concluded: "[T]he results of this systematic review and meta-analysis suggest that the increased risk for adverse neonatal outcomes reported in women using marijuana in pregnancy is likely the result of coexisting use of tobacco and other cofounding factors and not attributable to marijuana use itself. Although these data do not imply that marijuana use during pregnancy should be encouraged or condoned, the lack of a significant association with adverse neonatal outcomes suggests that attention should be focused on aiding pregnant women with cessation of substances known to have adverse effects on the pregnancy such as tobacco."

Volkow does state, "One challenge is separating these effects from those of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, because many users of marijuana or K2/Spice also use other substances. In women who use drugs during pregnancy, there are often other confounding variables related to nutrition, prenatal care, and failure to disclose substance use because of concerns about adverse legal consequences."

However, she also cites a study she says found an association between prenatal cannabis exposure and increased frontal cortical thickness in children's brains. However, looking at that study from the Netherlands, mother of the 54 mother studied also used tobacco. Researchers concluded, "Prenatal cannabis exposure was not associated with global brain volumes, such as total brain volume, gray matter volume, or white matter volume."

A 2010 US Centers for Disease Control-sponsored population-based study determined, "Reported cannabis use does not seem to be associated with low birth weight or preterm birth." Volkow does not cite the CDC report in her article.

A seldom-cited study is Melanie Dreher's follow-up to her March of Dimes-funded Jamaican study finding that babies born to marijuana-smoking mothers performed BETTER on behavioral tests than their matched counterparts at age one month and no significant differences in developmental testing outcomes thereafter. NIDA refused to fund further follow ups to Dreher's studies.

Meanwhile, a study of 7,796 mothers published in JAMA Pediatrics concluded, “Children exposed prenatally to acetaminophen in the second and third trimesters are at increased risk of multiple behavioral difficulties, including hyperactivity and conduct problems,” and “Prenatal acetaminophen exposure at 32 weeks’ gestation was also associated with emotional problems.” Another recent study  showed that mothers taking the anti-anxiety drug pregabalin were six times more likely to have a pregnancy with a major defect in the central nervous system than the women who were not taking the drug.

An Israeli Health Ministry committee is expected to rule that instead of a blanket prohibition on cannabis use during pregnancy, each case should be examined on it own merits.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

2016 Tokey Awards

Tokin' Woman of the Year: Whoopi Goldberg
Whoopi Goldberg, who wrote a public love letter to her vape pen in the Denver Post in 2014, upped her level of commitment this year when she introduced her Whoopi & Maya cannabis product line, designed for women.

Her launch was covered in Vanity Fair, Marie Claire, and MSNBC. Goldberg told Stephen Colbert that her aim isn't to get people high, but rather to relieve women's menstrual cramps while boosting their productivity.

Whoopi admitted to a pot-smoking past while defending Michael Phelps over his bong incident in 2009 on The View. In 2011, TMX unearthed a video of her saying she'd smoked "the last of my homegrown" before accepting her 1991 Oscar for Ghost. She penned a second Post column that argued for more lenient marijuana laws in New York, and last August she keynoted at the Southern California Cannabis Conference and Expo. She's still bringing sanity to the public discourse, saying on The View the day after the November election that the marijuana votes will help children and others get the cannabis they need for medicine.

Outie of the Year
Lucy Lawless (aka Xena the Warrior Princess)

Mother of the Year
Madonna stands by son Rocco Ritchie after reported arrest

Greatest Ganja Gaffe
Chelsea Clinton Says Marijuana Causes Death
Best Performance
Sherry Glaser, Taking the High Road: Comic Confessions from Behind the Redwood Curtain at WomenGrow

Best Weed-Themed Movie
Mary Jane: A Musical Potumentary

Bad Moms
The Boss

Best Movie Moment
Blake Lively in Café Society: "Muggles made me feel sexy."

Best TV Moment
Moushumi singing Halsey's "New Americana" on The Voice. 

Top TV Show or Episode
Chelsea Handler: "Chelsea
Does Drugs
Mary + Jane

Best Online Video
College Humor, The Sinister Reason Weed is Illegal
Whohaha, Cannabis
Moms Club
Becca Williams, Women and Their Love Affair with Marijuana

Best Joke
Hillary Clinton at the Al Smith Dinner: "Donald wanted me drug tested before last night's debate. I'm so flattered Donald thought I used some kind of performance enhancer. Actually I did. It's called preparation."
Shelby Chong at the Warfield in SF on 4/23: "You know how marijuana gives you that munchees? that's why Tommy thinks I'm such a great cook."

Best Facebook Post
Peter Frampton on the DEA's Decision Not to Reschedule Marijuana

Best Book
David Bienenstock, How to Smoke Pot Properly
Sharon Letts, Humboldt Stories
Chrissie Hynde, Reckless
Rita Coolidge, Delta Lady
Rebecca Traister, All the Single Ladies

Best News Report: Business
Donna Tam, Marketplace: Why Aren't More Women in the Pot Business?
Freedom Leaf, Women Leading in the Laboratory
Scheherazade Daneshkhu and Lindsay Whipp, Financial Times, US Drinks Industry Ponders Effects of Cannabis Legalization

Best News Report: Health & Lifestyle
CBS This Morning: The Rise in Marijuana Use Among Seniors
Vice, What It's Like to Be a Trim Bitch on an Illegal Weed Farm
Bloom Farms, The New Girls Night Out
Crissy Van Meter, Kindland, What Men Say About Women Who Smoke Weed

Best Article: Politics & History
Cannabis Now: Women Legalizers Are Finally in the Majority
Bustle: Seven Women in History You Didn't Know Were Fans of Cannabis

Best Opinion Piece
Nikki Narduzzi: Why This Republican Woman Supports Pot Legalization 
Gretchen Burns Bergman: Mothers, Protect Your Families By Making Marijuana Legal In California
Tom Huth, New York Times: How Getting High Made Me a Better Caregiver
Freedom Leaf: An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton

Top Tweet
Margaret Cho describes Bill Maher's pot after taking a toke on HBO's Real Time.

Activism Awareness Award
Moms United to End the War on Drugs Protests at the United Nations
• Spark the Conversation: Proposition 64 Party Attracts Young Hollywood
• Central Florida NORML and Cannamoms Call Out Scare Tactics Around Marijuana Edibles and Halloween
Sister Act-ivists: Cannabis-growing 'nuns' campaign to save their crop
Marijuana Activists March with 51-Foot Joint During DNC
• Ophelia Chong: The Woman Changing the Face of Weed Through Stock Images

Medical Research Award
Maternal Marijuana Use and Adverse Neonatal Outcomes
New Study Suggests Cannabis Could Treat Cervical Cancer
Cannabis Fights Cartilage Loss in Osteoarthritis
Marijuana Use Not Associated with Liver Fibrosis in HIV/Hepatitis C Virus-connected Women
• Study: Women Who Smoke Pot are Smarter Than Those Who Don't

Best Human Justice Reporting
• Samantha Bee Full Frontal: Private Probation Companies Illegally Drug Test Women
The Daily Beast: Student Drug Informant Found With a Bullet in His Head and Rocks in His Backpack 
The Influence: 1.6 Million Students Go to Schools That Employ Cops But No Counselors
• Overlooked: Women and Jails in an Era of Reform
Women Are Landing in Local Jails At An Alarming Rate
• SSPD: Women and the War on Drugs

Most Fabulous Fashion Moment
Margot Robbie hosting SNL in Alexander Wang

Best Political Moment: International
Jamaican Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith tells UN to reschedule cannabis
Japan’s First Lady Touts Revival of Hemp Culture

Best Political Moment: National
AG Loretta Lynch Admits Marijuana is Not a Gateway Drug
• Feds: Marijuana Not to Blame for IQ Drop in Teens
• CDC: Young People Say Marijuana is Becoming Less Available
Elizabeth Warren Urges CDC to Look At Pot As Potential Fix to Prescription Painkiller Epidemic

Best Political Moment: State
Pennsylvania hires activist-mom to advocate for medical marijuana patients
Massachusetts Adopts FLCA's model language for parent-protective provisions

Top Politician
• Washington state's Rep. Suzan Delbene, sponsor of Smart Enforcement Act HR 3746, and the first woman to appear at a NORML legislative lobbying day
• Long Beach city councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, a Texas native who said she'd first tried marijuana when her mother, a medical user, gave it to her to help with her menstrual cramps at the State of Marijuana Conference on the Queen Mary in Long Beach
Flo Matheson, a 77-year-old candidate for Congress in Tennessee, who refused to apologize when 180 marijuana plants were found at her home.

Honorable mentions: Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI); Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Dina Titus (D-NV) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) who signed a letter asking for President Obama to remove barriers to medical marijuana research.

Most Shameful Moments
Authorities Raid 81-Year-Old's Garden to Seize One Marijuana Plant
No Minority or Women Applicants Granted Cannabis Licenses in Maryland
Missouri Woman Convicted of Possessing Pot for Her Dying Husband
Cannabis Policy "Disjointed" and Ruthless

Best Comic
Keith Knight, The Knight Life

Rest in Power
David Bowie
Guy Clark
Leonard Cohen
Patty Duke
Umberto Eco
Carrie Fisher
Glenn Frey
Merle Haggard
Tom Hayden
Paul Kantner
George Michael
Sonia Rykiel
Doris Roberts
Alan Thicke 
Gene Wilder

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Feelin' Groovy with Rhymin' Simon

"Simon and Garfunkel is poetry!" protests the teenage daughter (Zooey Deschanel) in the movie Almost Famous, as she flips over the Bookends album to the lyrics. Her mother/censor (Frances MacDormand) counters, "Honey, they're on pot."

As a teenager, I played that album over and over, and lapped up the lyrics like manna in the suburban cultural desert I lived in, scribbling, "Yes, Yes! I know exactly what he means!" in the margin.

For years I couldn't decide which was my favorite Paul Simon song: I'd always loved "Me and Julio," and often wondered just what he and his friend with the Spanish name were doing that day down by the schoolyard:

It was against the law
It was against the law
What your mama saw
It was against the law 

I also love "Late in the Evening," with the lyric:

Then I learned to play some lead guitar
I was underage in this funky bar
And I stepped outside and smoked myself a "J"
When I came back to the room
Everybody just seemed to move
And I turned my amp up loud and I began to play
And it was late in the evening
And I blew that room away

After I learned to play a little guitar, I discovered that the two are essentially the same song, with the bridge Simon whistles in "Julio" replaced with a horn section after he'd staffed up his band. I've also wondered just what made him feel so groovy, and with what product he was "Trying to Keep the Customer Satisfied" while the deputy sheriff chased him out of town.

Now a new biography, Homeward Bound by Peter Ames Carlin, chronicles Simon's life and work, and his marijuana use.

Starting as pop idols Tom and Jerry in their teens, by 1963 Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel reunited to become "stylish folksingers whose melancholic songs surveyed the internal geographics of post adolescent malaise, social disconnection, and the euphoria that grabs you when you're rapping with lampposts and feeling groovy," writes Carlin.

A gifted student who studied history and literature (Joyce, Updike, Wallace Stevens, Saul Bellow) at Queens College, Simon brought a professor to his feet in praise by reciting Chaucer. While president of his fraternity, he ended physical hazing in favor of "a Dostoyevskian panel of inquisitors who grilled the pledges on their beliefs, ethics, morals, and their philosophies." In college he met Carole King when she tutored him in math, and the two made music demos together.

While in college, Simon "smoked marijuana enthusiastically and often," Carlin writes. "Sometimes pot made him giggly; other times he became prankish and heedlessly sharp-tounged, much like his new hero Lenny Bruce."

After spring term ended at Queens in 1962, Simon "packed his acoustic guitar and a few other essentials and traveled to California."

Let us be lovers we'll marry our fortunes together
I've got some real estate here in my bag

He'd go to folk music shows and "introduce himself to the players and their friends and hang out for a while. If he was lucky, he would find a sofa to sleep on, and then they'd be up all night, drinking wine, smoking dope, and talking politics, poetry, songwriting, and anything else that seemed to matter."

"After a bit of mood-enhancing conviviality, they got to work," Carlin writes poetically of a songwriting session with Bruce Woodley of the Seekers. "In search of a good third chord, [Simon] fingered a diminished F-sharp, which jolted the tune into a new, if similarly relaxed progression through a misty northern California afternoon. The smoke in the air put them in a trippy mood, a tableau of finger-painted smiles, mind-bending sun breaks, and low-hanging puffs whispering why?" Woodley told Melody Maker a week or two later, "Paul Simon is getting into our groove now."

Soon, Simon's public image "was fast evolving from thoughtful young folkie to enlightened hippie oracle. His hair now bristled past his ears, and he took to wearing capes, psychedelic ties, and high-heeled black boots, the garb befitting a young man who had in just a few months become a leading voice of his generation—like Dylan."

Along with Michelle and John Philips of the Mamas and Papas and Cheech and Chong's eventual producer Lou Adler, Simon helped produce the Monterey Pop music festival that was a precursor to Woodstock. Sent to mediate the LA/SF musical rift at the Grateful Dead House on Ashby Street in San Francisco, Simon was invited "partake in an LSD ritual to make the rest of the evening really special. Paul begged off, but scooped up a handful of the tabs to take back to New York, where he could freak out by himself in the comfort of his high-rise apartment."

At the festival, "when Paul and Artie invited [Columbia president Goddard Lieberson] to get high with them in their hotel room, he accepted enthusiastically, an aficionado of the evil wog hemp since he'd starting hanging out with New York blues and jazz artists in the 1920s." Onstage, the duo giggled through "Feelin' Groovy" and ended their set with the "as-yet-unheard 'Punky's Dilemma,' capping the evening with its hip stoner's menagerie of self-aware cornflakes and stumblebum hippies." The song, with its "puckish vision of pot-head life in the midst of middle-class society," nearly fit into the breakthrough score of Mike Nichols' film The Graduate:

Wish I was a Kellogg's Cornflake
Floatin' in my bowl takin' movies
Relaxin' awhile, livin' in style...

By this time, Simon and Garfunkel were major recording stars and generational spokesmen. "Like so much of the New Generation's educated middle class, they loathed the war in Vietnam, reflexively questioned authority, and didn't hesitate to say they smoked marijuana, had experimented with LSD, and had had run-ins with the same authoritarian cops who hassled all the kids."

According to Carlin, Simon visited Brian Wilson in his "hashish-perfumed Arabian tent" and smoked joints with friends like Tommy Smothers at his vacation home in Stockbridge, New York (home to the famed Alice's Restaurant) and at a house he and Artie rented in LA on Blue Jay Way (of the famed George Harrison song).  To record his solo album in 1970, Simon traveled to Jamaica where "he was greeted with smiles and the traditional celebratory herb," and in the 80s he and former wife Carrie Fisher participated in an ayahuasca ceremony in Brazil.

I've never been able to confirm the rumor I heard that Steve Martin pantomimed rolling a joint to "Feelin' Groovy" at a Simon and Garfunkel concert. Martin did call getting high "feeling groovy" in the 2009 film "It's Complicated." In his banjo-playing persona, Martin tours with Simon's wife Edie Brickell.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

UN Nominee Nikki Haley on Marijuana

I guess Republicans might be OK if they're named Nikki.

Last year at the NORML Lobbying Day in DC, I met Nikki Narduzzi of Virginia NORML, who is also active in RAMP (Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition). She's a wonderful, dedicated young woman with a compelling personal story to tell about medical marijuana.

Now another Nikki—South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who signed a CBD legalization measure into law in 2014—has been tapped by Donald Trump as UN Ambassador.

Haley said in 2014 about legalizing marijuana, “We’ve tried to do some sentencing reform in the past and we’re in the process of analyzing whether that’s worked. For marijuana reform I’m not there. I know the legislators have stated-- there’s a bill coming through now that they’re starting to do, but I don’t get a sense from the people of South Carolina nor do I feel that at this point it’s a hot topic or something that is moving forward. We’re watching the other states do what they can which again I appreciate that states can make those decisions and while they are doing that in the best interest of them we have not seen that as a priority and in the best interest of South Carolina.”

In 2015, Haley signed a hemp cultivation bill into law.

According to the New York Times:

Haley, 44, supported Senator Marco Rubio of Florida during the Republican primaries, and she was a prominent and frequent critic of Mr. Trump early in his run.

Ms. Haley called out Mr. Trump in January when she gave the official Republican rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union address, and she later took him to task for his failure to condemn groups like the Ku Klux Klan.

In a follow-up interview on the “Today” show on NBC, Ms. Haley — the daughter of immigrants from India — said, “Mr. Trump has definitely contributed to what I think is just irresponsible talk.” 

The following month, she condemned Mr. Trump for not speaking out against white supremacy more forcefully. Ms. Haley drew on South Carolina’s experience last year with the murder of nine African-Americans in a Charleston church, saying that was exactly the kind of hate that Mr. Trump refused to repudiate.

“The K.K.K. came to South Carolina from out of state to protest on our Statehouse grounds,” she said at a rally in Georgia. “I will not stop until we fight a man that chooses not to disavow the K.K.K. That is not a part of our party. That is not who we are.”

Trump formerly called Haley, "weak, very weak on illegal immigration," despite the fact that in the South Carolina legislature she voted in favor of a law that requires all immigrants to carry documentation at all times proving that they are legally in the United States. The law was adopted, but is currently the subject of a lawsuit initiated by the United States Justice Department (Wikipedia).

Haley is the first woman to be nominated to a cabinet position by Trump. She is pro-life, and also voted for two separate bills that required a woman to first look at an ultrasound and then wait 24 hours before being permitted to have an abortion. [At the first 2023 Republican presidential candidate debate, Haley said she was personally pro-life, but called for stopping the demonization of women for having abortions.]

At age 12, Haley began helping with the bookkeeping at her mother's ladies' clothing shop. The Economist likened her to another shopkeeper's daughter, Margaret Thatcher, writing that Haley's girlhood job in her mother's shop gave her, "an extreme watchfulness about overheads and a sharp aversion to government intrusion."

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

George Eliot and The Lifted Veil

English author Mary Ann Evans, who was born on this day in 1819, wrote epic books like Middlemarch (1871) and The Mill on the Floss (1860) under the pen name George Eliot. Literary critic Harold Bloom placed Eliot among the greatest Western writers of all time; Middlemarch has been described as the greatest novel in the English language and Virginia Woolf called it, "one of the few English novels written for grown-up people." Conservative columnist George Will once put the book on a list of ten things he would take with him to another planet, along with Tokin' Woman Susan Sarandon.

Of Will Ladislaw, a character in Middlemarch, Eliot wrote, “The attitudes of receptivity are various, and Will had sincerely tried many of them. He was not excessively fond of wine, but he had several times taken too much, simply as an experiment in that form of ecstasy; he had fasted till he was faint, and then supped on lobster; he had made himself ill with doses of opium. Nothing greatly original had resulted from these measures; and the effects of the opium had convinced him that there was an entire dissimilarity between his constitution and De Quincey's [referring to the author of Confessions of an Opium Eater]."

In an earlier novel,  The Lifted Veil (1859), Eliot writes in first person as Latimer, a man having premonitions of his own death who is "cursed with an exceptional mental character....weary of incessant insight and foresight." A dreamy and sensitive sort of man who is not appreciated by himself or others for these qualities, he writes to the reader, "we have all a chance of meeting with some pity, some tenderness, some charity, when we are dead: it is the living only who cannot be forgiven....while the creative brain can still throb with the sense of injustice, with the yearning for brotherly recognition—make haste—oppress it with your ill-considered judgements, your trivial comparisons, your careless misrepresentations."
Latimer begins to have "moments of happy hallucination" from a newfound "abnormal sensibility" following an illness.* He faints after having a premonition of meeting Betrtha, a young woman who is always described as dressed in green leaves or jewels.  Eliot deftly works in hashish when describing Latimer's relationship with her:

"And she made me believe that she loved me. Without ever quitting her tone of badinage and playful superiority, she intoxicated me with the sense that I was necessary to her, that she was never at ease, unless I was near her, submitting to her playful tyranny.  It costs a woman so little effort to beset us in this way!  A half-repressed word, a moment’s unexpected silence, even an easy fit of petulance on our account, will serve us as hashish for a long while."**

Bronze statue of Eliot in her hometown of Nuneaton in Warwickshire,  

Eliot, who lived with a man out of wedlock, was a radical from an early age. She wrote in an early letter, "May I unceasingly aspire to unclothe all around me of its conventional, human, temporary dress, to look at it in its essence and in its relation to eternity." At the age of 25 she translated David Strauss’s Das Leben Jesu, a book that "deconstructed Christianity as historical myth." Later in life, she corresponded with Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, and wrote her own anti-slavery novel Romola (1862). 

In Middlemarch, the pious Nicholas Bulstrode robs a woman and her son of their inheritance, and kills a blackmailer who knew his past with an overdose of opium and alcohol. When Bulstrode is revealed to be a scoundrel, he protests, calling his accusers those "who have been spending their income on their own sensual enjoyments, while I have been devoting mine to advance the best objects with regard to this life and the next.” Mr. Hawley replies, “As to Christian or unchristian, I repudiate your canting palavering Christianity; and as to the way in which I spend my income, it is not my principle to maintain thieves and cheat offspring of their due inheritance in order to support religion and set myself up as a saintly Killjoy.”

In a second edition published 15 years after The Lifted Veil was first printed, Eliot adds an aphorism to begin the book, perhaps to answer criticism of it:

Give me no light, great Heaven, but such as turns
To energy of human fellowship;
No powers beyond the growing heritage
That makes completer manhood.

I won't ruin the ending of the book, but it has interesting, moralistic twist, as do the works of Eliot's contemporaries Robert Louis Stevenson and Louisa May Alcott

*After an illness, Latimer begins to have visions, and says, "I had often read of such effects—in works of fiction at least.  Nay; in genuine biographies I had read of the subtilizing or exalting influence of some diseases on the mental powers. Did not Novalis feel his inspiration intensified under the progress of consumption?"  Eliot is speaking of the 18th century mystic poet and philosopher who called himself Novalis. According to a review of Marcus Boon's book The Road of Excess: A History of Writers on Drugs by George Gessert: 

Novalis, who had tuberculosis and used opium medicinally, came to believe that sickness and opium, which arose from nature, could lead the soul beyond nature. "All sicknesses resemble sin in that they are transcendences," he wrote. He associated his own sickness with "excess sensibility," or extravagant soulfulness which, like opium, was a way of becoming God, hence a sin. However, sickness and opium use were also ways of perceiving the world anew. This interpretation of drug experience, as a material path that partakes of sin and death, but transforms perceptions, and can renew life, has been with us in one form or another ever since.  
During the 19th century many writers and artists experimented with opium, and after 1840 with hashish, and coca. Boon mentions Coleridge, Delacroix, Daumier, Sir Walter Scott, Poe, Baudelaire, Balzac, Alexandre Dumas, Rimbaud, Conrad Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Yeats, among many others. Opium and hashish not only tied romanticism to science, but spanned Europe and its colonies, infusing into Western consciousness molecules of the mysterious East. Records of opium and hashish dreams during this period are overrun with Orientalist imagery [a theme I have returned to many times in this blog].  
**Englishmen and women who traveled to the East in the mid-1800s brought back hashish for domestic consumption; tinctures were also available in pharmacies to treat a variety of illnesses. 
In “English Traits” (1856), Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “The young men have a rude health which runs into peccant humors. They drink brandy like water...They stoutly carry into every nook and corner of the earth their turbulent sense; leaving no lie uncontradicted; no pretension unexamined. They chew hasheesh....and measure their own strength by the terror they cause.”

Friday, November 18, 2016

AG appointee Jeff Sessions "Gaga" Over Marijuana Legalization

It's pretty frightening when a public official bases his opinion about marijuana on something Lady Gaga said. Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, who's been tapped as our new Attorney General, has a horrible record on marijuana and was deemed too racist to be a federal judge (in part because he'd joked that he thought the KKK was A-OK, until he found out they smoked marijuana).

Sessions also said in 2014 that marijuana can't be safer than alcohol because, "Lady Gaga says she's addicted to it."

He was referring to a statement made in 2013 by Gaga to a radio show, about smoking a lot of marijuana after she'd broken her hip onstage and was dealing with pain, anxiety and "coping." With weeks, Gaga had backpedaled on her statement, telling a talk show host she still loves to smoke pot, because it makes her feel like she's 17 again.

In 2012, 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." That year, both she and Rihanna dressed up as a pot fairy for Halloween (pictured).

In a 2011 60 Minutes interview, Gaga told Anderson Cooper: "I smoke a lot of pot when I write music. I'm not gonna sugarcoat it for '60 Minutes.' I drink a lot of whiskey and I smoke weed when I write." She added, "I don't do it a lot because it's not good for my voice." Sounds like she was able to practice moderation, unless she was suffering from the pain of a broken hip.

At a Congressional hearing in April, Sessions fretted that legalizing marijuana sends a dangerous message, and longed for the days of Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign. He said,  "I can't tell you how concerning it is for me, emotionally and personally, to see the possibility that we will reverse the progress that we've made.... It was the prevention movement that really was so positive, and it led to this decline. The creating of knowledge that this drug is dangerous, it cannot be played with, it is not funny, it's not something to laugh about, and trying to send that message with clarity, that good people don't smoke marijuana." (Ah, but great ones do.)

Reformers are quite worried about whether Sessions will make good on candidate Trump's promises to leave state marijuana laws alone. Coming in after 8 of 9 states passed ballot measure for marijuana law reform, and 80% of US voters favor medical marijuana, Sessions will be going against the will of the electorate if he chooses to start cracking down on state-legal enterprises.

As I write this, a standing-room-only session at the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine is discussing, "Cannabinoids for Pain: Science, Politics and Clinical Applications," including the requisite anti-pot propaganda and a researcher studying the molecular mechanisms of cannabinoid receptor activation in skin cells for induction of analgesia, and the role of endocannabinoids in postoperative pain. Every week, new studies are coming out about the efficacy and safety of cannabis for pain relief.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Society (JAMA) found that medical marijuana states have 25% fewer opioid overdose rates than do states without reform. Subsequent studies have found reductions in opioid use, abuse, and traffic fatalities related to opioids in medical marijuana states. Yet the new administration could roll back these reforms and leave pain patients, heroin addicts, and alcoholics without the safer alternative of cannabis.

Yet, Cal NORML continues to get complaints from patients at Kaiser Healthcare who are being kicked off their opioid pain medications because they are augmenting their therapy with marijuana. Kaiser Health News (a supposedly unaffiliated PR arm), has not reported on any of the positive studies about marijuana and opiates and instead just interviewed an anti-tobacco zealot opining that marijuana legalization will lead to more cigarette smoking.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

QE2 and the Holy Anointing Oil

There's quite a lot made of the anointing with oil of Queen Elizabeth in the series The Crown, now airing on Netflix. 

First, in Episode 4 ("Act of God") The Queen's grandmother Queen Mary tells her that the calling to monarchy "comes from the highest source, from God himself. That is why you're crowned in an Abbey, not a Government building; why you're anointed, not appointed."

The following episode ("Smoke and Mirrors") begins with a flashback to Elizabeth's childhood, rehearsing the anointing of her father George VI before his coronation. "When the holy oil touches me, I am transformed, brought into direct contact with the divine. Forever changed, bound to God," he tells her, "as kings, priests, and prophets were anointed."

The coronation re-enacts Elizabeth's 1953 ceremony, when, according to The Telegraph:

The Queen was now prepared for the religious and constitutional peak of the ceremony, the anointment, when she was consecrated as sovereign. The ritual was hidden from view, by a canopy held over the the Queen by four Knights of the Garter. Behind the canopy, the Archbishop anointed the Queen with holy oil on her hands, breast and head. The oil was made from a secret mixture of ambergris, civet, orange flowers, roses, jasmin, cinnamon and musk.... 

Meanwhile, the choir sang “Zadok the Priest” – the words, from the first Book of Kings, have been sung at every coronation since King Edgar’s in 973. The anointment ritual is even older, going back to King Solomon himself, supposedly anointed by Zadok in the 10th century BC.

Solomon is famous for having hundreds of incense burners at his great temple, possibly burning the exotic spices brought to him by the Queen of Sheba.

Exodus says: "The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 'Take also for yourself the finest of spices: of flowing myrrh five hundred shekels, and of fragrant cinnamon half as much, two hundred and fifty, and of fragrant cane two hundred and fifty. . .You shall make of these a holy anointing oil, a perfume mixture, the work of a perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil.'"

Some think the fragrant cane (kaneh bosm) was cannabis, mistranslated in modern bibles as calamus, and that it was also the incense burned in ancient times. 

In The Crown, Nathan is also mentioned as an anointer of Solomon by the archbishop, who seems to see a change in Elizabeth after she is anointed. Nathan was a court prophet to Solomon's father King David, who wore a robe of linen when he danced and howled.

"Who wants transparency when you can have magic?" says King Edward the Abdicator in The Crown. "Put her in a robe and anoint her with oil, and what do you have? A goddess."

Both Queen Elizabeth and her husband are related to Queen Victoria, who may have been prescribed cannabis for menstrual cramps. The Royal Family is known to take kava, a plant with psychedelic properties, on their South Sea visits.

UPDATE 2/14/2023: Sir Patrick Stewart was interviewed on The Colbert Show tonight. Stephen remarked on how young he looked at age 82, and asked, "When they knight you, does the queen anoint you with some oil that keeps you young?" Stewart replied, "It's very interesting you should say that, because I felt that something happened in that moment," It's a magical moment....maybe it was a little oil on her hand when we shook hands....and that immediately took 30 years off my age."

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Cannabis Policy “Disjointed” and Ruthless

I could almost title all my posts these days, “What a Weird Week It Was.”

Yesterday, I got to see a rehearsal for the new Netflix series Disjointed starring Kathy Bates, produced by Chuck Lorre (The Big Bang Theory, Mom, Mike & Molly) and co-written by show runner and former Daily Show head writer David Javerbaum. The venerable, versatile Bates, in another great look for her—long hair, oversized glasses and a mumu—plays Ruth, a former hippie radical working as the proprietress of a cannabis collective.

In the witty, charming and quite funny pilot, Ruth and her son, an MBA, do battle over the future of the business, with her wanting to keep it focused on healing and her son focused on profits. It’s a somewhat accurate depiction of what’s taking place in the cannabis industry today. I like that, unlike the heroine of Weeds, Ruth is a pot smoker herself, in it for more than the money.

I invited Yami Bolanos along to the taping, because she has run the PureLife Alternative Wellness Center in Los Angeles for 10 years, and is a founder of GLACA, the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance. Last year, she helped pass a bill in the California legislature to end the practice of denying organ transplants to medical marijuana patients (yes, you read that right).

Yami liked the show, but objected to the depiction of budtenders smoking marijuana on the job. “If a budtender did that at our collective, they wouldn’t have a job the next day,” she said. Indeed, the episode was directed by James Burrows of Cheers fame, but I notice none of the bartenders on that show were drinking on the job. People like to assume that if someone smokes pot, they do it all day every day, but that isn't true for most.

Another woman I invited to the taping—Chelsea Sutula of the Sespe Creek Collective in Ventura county—couldn't make it. Turns out, she had been raided the day before by 30 some members of the Ventura County Sheriffs department and Oxnard PD. All of the medicine at the collective was confiscated, as was all the money in Sutula’s business and personal bank accounts. Her pets were put into confinement and she was jailed for 18 hours, most of it without food, drinking water, or a place to sit down in a cold jail cell littered with soiled maxipads. Repeated requests to call her lawyer went unanswered.

Because cities in Ventura County won’t license cannabis collectives, Sutula registered for a more general business license, and is now being charged with fraud. Until the raid, she had been paying state tax to the tune of $16K monthly, local sales taxes, plus unemployment and worker’s compensation insurance for her 20 employees, all of whom are now out of a job and will be applying for unemployment benefits. And the collective's patients, many of whom relied on the high-CBD medicines that Sespe Creek specialized in, will now be without a supply.

Some think Sutula may have been targeted for her support of Proposition 64, the measure to legalize the recreational use of marijuana that will appear on the November 8 ballot in California. Local law enforcement officials oppose the measure, although one of them told her he expected some communities in the region would see the wisdom of licensing cannabis businesses in the wake of the vote. That the raid happened five days before the election may represent a last-ditch “smash and grab” by the cops before licensing finally happens in California.

Our cannabis policy is “disjointed” indeed when we can chuckle over the antics of a dispensary operator like Bates’s Ruth on television, while a real-life Ruth sits (or rather, stands) in jail for doing the very same thing. Netflix isn't the only network to join in on the trend: according to the Hollywood Reporter,  Amazon recently tapped Margaret Cho to star in Highland, HBO picked up six episodes of High Maintenance, and NBC is teaming with Adam and Naomi Scott to develop Buds.

My Godmother was named Ruth, so I happen to know that “Ruth” means “compassion,” which is why “ruthless” means what we all know it does: “having or showing no pity or compassion for others.” We need a lot more Ruth these days, and a lot less ruthlessness of the kind displayed this week in Ventura County.

Contribute to the Save Sespe Creek fund.


5/31/18 - All charges against Sutula have been dropped.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Goddess Isis, My Mom and Winona Ryder

Winonisis by Christopher T.
I was feeling kind of sad yesterday, partly because it was my mother's birthday, when I remembered that it is also Winona Ryder's birthday. Often I am cheered on this day by the morning radio news chirping something like, "It's 70 degrees in Los Angeles and Winona Ryder is 44 years old."

I realized too that it was the first day of the festival of Isis and Osiris, the Ancient Egyptian myth that was spun into the Mary and Jesus resurrection story in the bible. I'd connected my mother to the myth, but not, heretofore, Winona.

My mother's name was Inez, which we pronounced "I-nis" (a little like "I-sis"). When I was very young, I thought her name was "Icing," which is what I called the satin border sewn onto my baby blanket. I used to like to fall asleep fingering that soft, comforting strip of satin. I remember feeling the coolness of it the night I had a 104 degree temperature with the measles, and Mom stayed up all night rubbing me down with isopropyl alcohol while I hallucinated.

She'd hoped I would be born on her birthday, when I was due, but I took my sweet time and picked a birthday of my own a few days later, on the final day of Isis/Osiris saga. In that tale, Isis journeys to the underworld and brings her husband back from death so that they can conceive a son.

I have the great good fortune of knowing Ryder's parents as colleagues and mentors. In 1982, Michael Horowitz and Cynthia Palmer published the book Shaman Woman, Mainline Lady (aka Sisters of the Extreme), which first opened my eyes to the connection between cannabis and the female. It is on their giant shoulders that I stand, and they couldn't be more gracious, helpful or inspiring to me in my quest to uncover even more Shaman Women. Horowitz was also Timothy Leary's archivist, which is how Leary famously became Ryder's godfather.

Because we are in touch, they recommended I watch "Stranger Things" on Netflix, which in case you're aren't aware, is quite the phenomenon. In the last two nights' time I've managed to bingewatch all gripping episodes as a nod to Halloween/Samhain.

In it, Ryder's character's son is taken to the underworld and she must rescue him. That's so Isis.

I love that the show touches on MK-ULTRA, the CIA program that dosed unprepared participants with LSD to develop the sacrament as a weapon. The program, which was exposed in the Church Committee hearings, did much to unravel the peace movement of the 60s as well as, I discovered yesterday at the Oakland Museum, the Black Panthers.

Today, as a friend points out, it is very troubling that "ISIS" has become the known name of a terrorist group. Perhaps that is why President Obama more properly calls them ISIL.

More on Winona in How to Make an American Pot Party.