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.