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.