Thursday, December 20, 2018

2018 Tokey Awards


We've got to give this year's honor to former First Lady Michelle Obama who, in her new memoir, candidly wrote about smoking pot with a high school boyfriend in his car (where they also fooled around).

Asked by Robin Roberts of ABC's 20/20 why she didn't leave out the marijuana mention, Obama replied, "That was what I did. It's part of the 'Becoming' story....Why would I hide that from the next generation?"

Obviously her youthful dalliance with weed didn't turn Michelle into a worthless pothead. It may even have encouraged her interest in organic fruits and vegetables.


Other famous women who outed themselves this year include Kristen Bell, who said on the podcast WTF with Mark Aaron, “I like my vape pen quite a bit," adding that it doesn't bother her sober hubby Dax Shepard when she uses it occasionally. Her admission stirred some controversy, leading to Shepard tweeting in support.

Charlize Theron, while promoting her marijuana-themed movie Gringo, told E! Magazine, "I was a wake-and-baker for most of my life" and said to Jimmy Kimmel that she had "a good solid eight years on the marijuana." Now, she and her mom share edibles they use for sleep.

Fran Drescher, who wrote about her battle with ovarian cancer in Cancer Schmancer, keynoted a medical marijuana conference in Portland this year. Not only did cannabis help with her own recovery, she reports her father is using it to deal with his Parkinson's disease.

Gayle King, guesting on The Ellen Show, mimed smoking pot while talking about Ellen's recent birthday party, where Amy Schumer told King that she wants to get her high. King says she's planning to try it, and that her friend Oprah Winfrey "has smoked a little marijuana too." In a separate interview on Ellen, Oprah declared the pot-infused birthday party "the most fun I ever had. I don't even know what happened to me." I wonder if she got a contact high (at least).

In other outings, Liz Phair talked about smoking weed with Joe Rogan. Miley Cyrus promised she'd be back to smoking someday, and now says her mom got her back to smokingCarly Simon said she uses CBD oil on her knee, and Toni Braxton embraced CBD as a treatment for lupus. Chelsea Handler,  Kathy Ireland and Gwynneth Paltrow announced cannabis products or brands, as did Estée Lauder.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Mary Todd Lincoln, A Hemp Farmer's Daughter

Last week, the Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington, Kentucky celebrated the 200th birthday of our former first lady. It's fitting that the celebration came as Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell signed off on language for a farm bill that will legalize hemp cultivation in the US, should President Trump choose to sign it.

Mary Todd was a Southern Belle from a prominent, founding family of Fayette county, Kentucky. According to the Kentucky Office in Lexington:

Hemp was introduced at an early date [in Fayette]. Nathan Burrowes, a county resident, invented a machine for cleaning it [in 1796]. The soil produced fine hemp and in 1870 the county grew 4.3 million pounds. The crop declined in the 1890s because of increased demand for tobacco and competition from imported hemp from the Philippines. In 1941, when the federal government saw a possible shortage of manila rope from the Philippines, farmers were encouraged to grow hemp once again for use in World War II. The crop declined again in 1945.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Film Review: "Weed the People"

Weed the People, the Ricki Lake–produced film about the journey parents and their children with cancer are taking with cannabis, could be the best documentary I've seen on marijuana, possibly because it's a film made by women and largely depicting women.

The film follows several children undergoing cancer therapy, who are able to stop using powerful opiate painkillers and sometimes see their tumors shrink while using cannabinoids. The intimate stories of the families are exceptionally powerful, and the film goes further to interview doctors, researchers, and activists, presenting a historical perspective on the war on marijuana that has put patients in jeopardy by the illegality of cannabis, and the roadblocks to research on its uses in the US.

One mother summed it up well when she said, "I just find it staggering to accept that with the billions of dollars spend on cancer research, that the medicine we're relying on is made is somebody's kitchen."

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Michelle Obama Writes About Using Marijuana in New Memoir

Michelle Obama's memoir Becoming, released today, contains a passage about her high school days when she and a boyfriend named David “fooled around and smoked pot in his car.”

Asked by Robin Roberts of ABC's 20/20 why she didn't leave out the marijuana mention, Obama replied, "That was what I did. It's part of the 'Becoming' story....Why would I hide that from the next generation?"

Obviously her youthful dalliance with weed didn't turn Michelle into a worthless pothead. She graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law School, and met her future husband Barack Obama when he interned for her at a law firm.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

RIP Cassie Gaines, One of Lynyrd Skynyrd's Honkettes

The Honkettes: JoJo Billingsley, Cassie Gaines and Leslie Hawkins
A new documentary is out on Lynyrd Skynyrd, the rockin' Southern Rock band that lost its singer/songwriter Ronnie Van Zant along with band members Cassie & Steve Gaines in a tragic plane crash on this date in 1977.

Lynyrd Skynyrd: If I Leave Here Tomorrow interviews surviving members of the band and reveals how Cassie and her fellow Honkettes classed up the group as its back-up singers.

Cassie Gaines joined the band in 1975 and later recommended her younger brother Steve join in as a guitarist. She was mentioned in stories recounted in the film as the band member who always had marijuana, and it was said of Steve that he "was no farmer, but he could grow some bud." When the band opened for the Rolling Stones, Very Important Pothead Jack Nicholson smelled Cassie's weed and asked if he could take a toke.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Of Beer, Boofing and Bar Mitzvahs: How We're Failing Our Young Men and Women

The Kavanaugh showdown this week raised questions to many about our culture and how it fails to instruct boys on how to treat women. Instead, as the book Raising Cain notes, we're letting boys figure it out for themselves, to everyone's detriment.

Cain is, of course, the evil older son of Adam and Eve, who was jealous of his younger brother, the kind and good Abel. Growing up, I had a Cain and Abel in my neighborhood. One day when I was about five years old, the elder brother pinned me to the floor and pulled my underwear down, despite my crying and pleading. Sadistically, he demanded I stop crying, then start again. He wouldn't let me up until I promised not to tell anyone. I never did, until the incident popped out of my subconscious in my college years (with the aid of my blessed plant teachers).

Like Dr. Ford, I don't remember how I got to his house, or how I got home. But I do have a very clear memory of what happened to me. And I remember the sick feeling I got when I heard that my former neighbor, who by then had moved away, was implicated in the death of his younger brother. I might have saved him, I thought, had I the words to talk about something that was never talked about in those days. Years later I volunteered at a rape crisis hotline and almost all of my calls were about incidents that had happened years earlier, but the caller was just then able to start grappling with it. We must talk about these things so that we can end them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Kristen Bell: "Weed Rules"

UPDATE 10/20: Bell appears in a kooky new commercial for her CBD skincare line. One benefit not mentioned: a recent study found CBD is protective against UV rays. 

I guess there's a reason Kristen Bell played Mary Lane in "Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical" (2005).

The talented actress said on the podcast WTF with Mark Aaron“I like my vape pen quite a bit," adding that it doesn't bother her sober husband when she uses it occasionally. "Weed rules. Weed's my drug of choice, for sure.”

The 38-year-old mother continued, “I can’t do it around my kids, which is a phenomenal amount of hours each week. Once a week, if I’m exhausted and we’re about to sit down and watch 60 Minutes, why not?”

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Finding Your Feet (and a Phatty)

Celia Imrie and Timothy Spall share a joint in British bohemia in Finding Your Feet. 
More news reports are coming out about how baby boomers (aka seniors) are turning back to marijuana, whether for medical or recreational reasons. And popular culture continues to follow suit.

The 2017 British film Finding Your Feet features actresses Celia Imrie (Kingdom, Nanny McPhee) and Imelda Stanton (Vera Drake, Harry Potter) as senior citizens Bif and Saundra, who join a dance troupe and re-discover life, and love.

Bourgeois Saundra shows up at her bohemian sister Bif's doorstep after leaving her cheating husband. Bif lives in the projects, rides a bike, is politically active, and smokes pot with her handyman/dealer friend Charlie (Timothy Spall).

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Minuscule Amounts of THC Found in Breast Milk - Is it Harmful?

The headlines are reading, "THC Found in Breast Milk!" but like previous studies, a new study in the journal Pediatrics found THC in breast milk only at the nanogram level (on average, 9.5 ng/mL). Since an adult dose of cannabis is 10 mg, and babies take in about 750 mL daily, this level is about 1,000 times less. The most THC found was 323 ng/mL, 30 times less than an adult dose.   

An oral absorption level of 6% was used to calculate plasma concentration in infants by the authors, who confirmed that blood levels in infants would be 0.040 ng/mL, or ~1000 times less than an adult dose. Still, they worried about accumulation in infants exposed daily. Using cannabis less often, and using methods other than inhaling, reduced levels in milk. 

"The question is, does it matter? ... Is it possible that even low levels in breast milk may have an effect on a child's neurodevelopment? And we don't know the answer to that," study author Christina Chambers of UCSD told CNN

The authors hope to follow up with neurobehavioral testing on the infants to help determine whether these levels of THC in breast milk are safe. (Too bad that NIDA refused to fund a follow-up study on Melanie Dreher's Jamaican study on marijuana-using mothers and their children.) 

The study was funded by NIH and The Gerber Foundation. Gerber makes infant formulas "inspired by breast milk." The US recently attempted to derail an international resolution supporting breast feeding at the behest of infant formula manufacturers.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Women's Equality Day Honors The Struggle for Our Right to Vote

On Women's Equality Day, we celebrate suffragists Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul.

It was once said in Washington that there were two signs of spring: the return of Congress to the nation’s capital and the sight of Susan B. Anthony’s red shawl as she also returned to lobby congressmen. I got to see the shawl (pictured) at the Smithsonian, just before NORML's annual Lobby Day in DC this year.

Born in 1820 into a Quaker family committed to social equality, Anthony collected anti-slavery petitions at the age of 17, and in 1856 became the New York state agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society. In 1866, she and Elizabeth Cady Stanton initiated the American Equal Rights Association, which campaigned for equal rights for both women and African Americans. They went on to publish a women's rights newspaper called The Revolution and co-founded the National Woman Suffrage Association. Source.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Of Harold and Maude, and Hal

Maude turns on Harold
It's probably no accident that Cameron Diaz's favorite movie as the title character in There's Something About Mary (1998) is Harold and Maude (1971), since Mary and Ted (Ben Stiller) smoke a joint together after they reunite. In Harold and Maude, Ruth Gordon (as Maude) plays an 80-year-old woman who turns a young Harold (Bud Cort) onto marijuana, enabling him to finally open up to someone about the source of his strange behavior, and learn to love life.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Yellow Journalism Pisses on American Icon Annie "Get Your Gun" Oakley

Annie Oakley as "The Western Girl"
An episode of PBS's "American Experience" reveals that Annie Oakley, the first female American superstar who was born on this day in 1860, was smeared by William Randolph Hearst's Chicago newspaper as being in jail and destitute after stealing a pair of man's pants to buy cocaine.

AP picked up the story and it ran in dozens of newspapers before it was revealed that the person arrested was a burlesque dancer posing as Oakley. Annie got her (legal) guns and sued 55 newspapers—the largest libel suit ever—even though most had printed retractions or apologies. She won 54 of the cases, including a $27,000 suit against Hearst, but the six-year struggle lost her money and career opportunities in the end.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Amazing Grace Jones Caught on Film in "Bloodlight and Bami"

Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, currently in theaters and on Amazon Prime, captures the extraordinary artist that Jones is. No staid talking head-style documentary, this film is a visual statement worthy of its inspiration.

Filmmaker Sophie Finnes followed Jones for a decade, to Jamaica visiting family, on tour in Paris and New York, and to the recording studio for her 2008 album Hurricane. Concert footage of Jones's always-remarkable performances illuminate her story, particularly her poignant autobiographical lyrics.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Trump Administration Officials Try To Thwart Breast-Feeding Resolution

A front-page New York Times exposé by Andrew Jacobs reveals that the US used thuggish tactics in an attempt to derail an international resolution supporting breast feeding in Geneva this spring, no doubt at the behest of infant formula manufacturers.

"A resolution to encourage breast-feeding was expected to be approved quickly and easily by the hundreds of government delegates who gathered this spring in Geneva for the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly," the article begins. "Based on decades of research, the resolution says that mother’s milk is healthiest for children and countries should strive to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes."

"Then the United States delegation, embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers, upended the deliberations. American officials sought to water down the resolution by removing language that called on governments to 'protect, promote and support breast-feeding' and another passage that called on policymakers to restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say can have deleterious effects on young children.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Candy Barr: Drug War Victim

The erotic dancer known as Candy Barr was born on this date in 1935 as Juanita Dale Slusher in Edna, Texas. After her mother died when she was nine, she was ignored by a new stepmother and sexually abused by a neighbor and a babysitter. She ran away and took various jobs, eventually developing her striptease act and trademark costume—10-gallon hat, pasties, "scanty panties," a pair of six-shooters and cowboy boots.

Barr tried stage acting, but her legitimate career was derailed in 1957, when she was arrested for having a little less than four-fifths of an ounce of marijuana concealed in her bra. She maintained that she was framed by police and was only holding the pot for a friend, possibly an informant.

"We think we can convince a jury that a woman with her reputation, a woman who has done the things she has done, should go to prison," Assistant Dallas County District Attorney Bill Alexander told the Dallas Morning News after Barr's arrest. "She may be cute," Alexander told the jury in his closing argument, "but under the evidence, she's soiled and dirty."

Barr was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison. "I always wanted a brick house of my own, and it looks like I am going to have one," she told an assembled crowd and news media when she walked into Goree Farm for Women in Huntsville, Texas, in December 1959.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

New Archeological Finds Point to Ancient Cannabis Use, Despite Prejudice of Some Scholars

“For as long as there has been civilization, there have been mind-altering drugs,” begins an article in the 4/20/18(!) edition of Science magazine.

Alcohol was fermented at least 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, the article continues, and psychoactive drugs “were an important part of culture. But the Near East had seemed curiously drug-free—until recently. Now, new techniques for analyzing residues in excavated jars and identifying tiny amounts of plant material suggest that ancient Near Easterners indulged in a range of psychoactive substances."

Australian archeologist David Collard, who has found signs of ritual opium use on Cyprus dating back more than 3000 years, was interviewed for the article, and said that some senior researchers consider the topic “unworthy of scholarly attention.” He told Science, “The archeology of the ancient Near East is traditionally conservative.”

By Einsamer Schütze [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0
(], from Wikimedia Commons
The Yamnaya people, who traveled from Central Asia around 3000 BCE “and left their genes in most living Europeans and South Asians,” appear to have carried cannabis, which originates in East and Central Asia, to Europe and the Middle East.” They also brought with them the wheel and possibly Indo-European languages.

The Yamnaya were part of the "corded ware culture," so named because of the cord patterns in their pottery, and possibly pointing to the use of hemp for rope.

In 2016, a team from the German Archeological Institute and the Free University, both in Berlin, found residues and botanical remains of cannabis at Yamnaya sites across Eurasia. Digs in the Caucasus have uncovered braziers containing seeds and charred remains of cannabis dating to about 3000 BCE.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Feds Squash Doctor Training on Cannabis for Pain

As reported by the Associated Press, The American Academy of Pain Medicine has cancelled its plans for a webinar in July aimed at training doctors on the use of cannabis instead of opiates for pain. The cancellation followed "a request from the U.S. government agency that provided the funding." The agency was the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“We cannot speak to the reason that SAMHSA has asked that we not proceed with this webinar, but the webinar will no longer take place,” AAPM spokeswoman Megan Drumm said in an email to AP.

Scheduled speakers for the course, titled "Opioid Prescribing Amidst Changing Cannabis Laws,” were pain doctors from the University of Texas and the University of California, San Diego. They planned to cover how to select patients for medical cannabis, appropriate products and doses, and how to “wean opioids in patients on chronic opioid therapy,” according to the course description.

A study released in March concluded that only 9% of medical schools are teaching students about cannabis as a medicine.  “I’m not surprised by the findings,” commented Mark Steven Wallace, MD, chair of the Division of Pain Medicine at UC San Diego Health and one of the speakers scheduled for the now-cancelled webinar. Dr. Wallace said there is an opportunity for experiential learning on the topic at pain clinics like his, where medical cannabis is recommended “every day.”

Dr. Wallace has observed that some chronic pain patients arrive at the clinic after having tried and responded negatively to medical marijuana. “Quite often that’s because they have not been using the right formulation or have been using too high a dose,” he said. “We find that a low dose of a strain that combines THC [tetrahydrocannabinol] with CBD [cannabidiol] is most effective, but you won’t find that mentioned in the literature or taught in the classroom.” 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Juno/Hera and the Asterion Plant

Juno by Rembrandt (1665)
The month of June is named for the Roman Goddess Juno, known as Hera in Greek mythology.

Hera's devotees wove garlands made from the asterion plant to adorn her statues as an "offer to divinity," according to the historian Pausanias. Asterion ("little star") was one of the ancient names for cannabis, according to the first century C.E. Greek physician Dioscorides, writes scholar Maugerite Rigoglioso in The Cult of Divine Birth in Ancient Greece. 

While others (Kerenyi) have identified the asterion as "a sort of aster," Rigoglioso counters that the aster's dominant feature, the flower, is not mentioned by Pausanias in describing the asterion plant. In History of Pre-Clusian Botany in Its Relation to Aster botanist Edward Sandford Burgess writes that cannabis sativa was among the plants known as "asterion" to the Greeks "from the division of its somewhat radiate leaves." Pausanias called it "suitable for use in purification" and Dioscordes said it was called "sacred herb" in this context. The asterion was "twined to create garlands in accord with the widespread use of cannabis for rope-making in the Greek and Roman worlds," (Butrica 2002, "The Medical use of cannabis among the Greeks and Romans," Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics 2(2): 51-70).

Writings at least as early as the 5th century BCE indicate that the Greeks knew cannabis to be a substance capable of engendering a non-ordinary state of consciousness. The Greek god Dionysis is known today as an alcoholic, but some modern scholars (e.g. Jonathon Ott and Brian Muraresku) think what we call Greek wines used alcohol mainly to make tinctures of psychoactive plants. Some of these infusions are thought to contain hemp, dubbed "potammaugis" by Democritus (c.a. 460 b.c.) and possibly why we call it "pot" to this day.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Will Roseanne Try Medical Marijuana on Her Comeback Season Finale?

UPDATE 9/18 - Roseanne now says her namesake character will be killed off with an opiate overdose on the spinoff "The Conners." That would be fitting since the 14 states with the highest number of painkiller prescriptions per person all went for Trump, who won 80% of the states that have the biggest heroin problem.

Oh, and Elon Musk has also done some Ambien tweeting

UPDATE 5/29 - The series has been cancelled by ABC after Barr sent an offensive tweet. She now says she was "Ambien tweeting" and didn't know the target of her tweet was African-American.

The FDA-approved language on bottles of Ambien says it can cause "Abnormal thinking, behavioral changes and complex behaviors: May include 'sleep-driving' and hallucinations." Too bad she didn't use Ambien like Tiger Woods did. At least she didn't crash her car on Ambien, like Patrick Kennedy did (yes, the same one who is now an anti-marijuana campaigner).

UPDATE 5/22 - The episode didn't touch medical marijuana; instead Roseanne is saved, Forrest Gump style, by a flood and federal disaster money. But TV guide predicts her pain problems will be part of the plot next season.

An AARP Magazine interview with Roseanne Barr and John Goodman, who play the TV couple Roseanne and Dan Connor again in this year's wildly watched comeback season, says that the show will have them "making sense of selfies, medical marijuana, rising health care costs and the growing divide between the superrich and the rest of us."

If the show does address cannabis this season, it must do so in its season finale, scheduled for this Tuesday at 8 PM on ABC. Last week's episode set it up perfectly, revealing that Roseanne has been stashing pain pills in secret to deal with a knee problem, for which she hopes to avoid expensive surgery.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Gayle King Outs Oprah, Plans to Try "A Marijuana Cigarette" with Amy Schumer

Gayle King, guesting on The Ellen Show, mimed smoking pot when the subject of Ellen's recent birthday party came up. Turns out the party smelled strongly like pot, and although Ellen said she doesn't like smoking it, she joked that her writers have it on hand. It had come out that Amy Schumer told King at the party that she wants to get her high, and King says she's planning to try it.

King also said she wasn't telling tales out of school when she told Ellen that Oprah "has smoked a little marijuana too."

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Miley Cyrus: Marijuana is My First and True Love

UPDATE 12/18: Miley now says her mom got her back into smoking, and that she does it once in a while (but not while working). 

Miley Cyrus, who has famously taken a break from smoking weed, was asked about her hempen hiatus on Jimmy Kimmel's show last night. The exchange went like this:

Kimmel: "You are no longer smoking I understand."

Cyrus: "I want to be, but no."

Kimmel: "Now that it's legal here in California, you've decided...."

Cyrus: "That's the way I...I'm a rebel!"

Kimmel: "Why aren't you smoking anymore?"

Cyrus: "Because I am very focused on what I'm working on right now." (Apparently that's either on designing clothes and shoes for Converse, or being back together with Liam Hemsworth. You can hardly blame her for the latter.)

She raised her hand as though taking an oath when she added:  "I also think it's the most magical,'s my first and true love. It's just not for me right now at this time in my life, but I'm sure there will be a day I will happily indulge. "

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Barbara Graham: "Paying for a life of little sins"?

From the trailer for I Want to Live with Susan Hayward
Susan Hayward won the Best Actress Oscar in 1959 for her portrayal of Tokin' Woman Barbara Graham in I Want 
to Live.

The film opens in a jazz club, where two men smoke pot. Nelson Gidding's screenplay for the opening sequence reads:

silver gray whirling sinuously against a black background. As it diffuses and drifts out of frame, more smoke keeps coming. Simultaneously with a crash of modern jazz, a series of stylized shapes and forms appear and disappear....The music is the beat of the beat generation—real cool, cool jazz suggesting sex, speed, marijuana, hipsterism and other miscellaneous kicks. Synchronized with this music, the changing patterns of shape and form are also highly evocative of the fever and the drive, the loneliness and craving, the furies and tenderness—even the rebellion and religion—of BARBARA GRAHAM. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Shalala Shuffle: Former HHS Chief "Evolves" on Marijuana

Former US Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala has become the latest Drug Warrior to "evolve" on marijuana.

Shalala, who is now running for a Congressional seat in Florida, tweeted on 4/20: "Decriminalizing marijuana shouldn't just be a policy priority — but a moral imperative." The tweet links to a page on her website where you can sign up for her campaign, and donate!

Yet, although Shalala once admitted to smoking pot in college in an interview with Diane Sawyer, as H&HS chief in 1996 she stood with Attorney General Janet Reno and Drug "Czar" Barry McCaffrey threatening to revoke doctors' licenses for recommending medical marijuana (a successful civil challenge later backed the government off). "Marijuana is illegal, dangerous, unhealthy and wrong," Shalala said at the time. "It's a one-way ticket to dead-end hopes and dreams."

Saturday, April 14, 2018

SSRIs increasingly prescribed during pregnancy, without much study on their effects

Lead researcher Claudia Lugo-Candelas
Researchers from Columbia University, the Keck School of Medicine, and the Institute for the Developing Mind in Los Angeles, have published a new study on how infants' brains are affected when their mothers take SSRIs for depression during pregnancy. SSRIs include Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Luvox, Paxil and Zoloft, and are used by 1 in 10 adults in the US.

Excerpts from the study:

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) use among pregnant women is increasing, yet the association between prenatal SSRI exposure and fetal neurodevelopment is poorly understood.

A cohort study conducted at Columbia University Medical Center and New York State Psychiatric Institute included 98 infants: 16 with in utero SSRI exposure, 21 with in utero untreated maternal depression exposure, and 61 healthy controls. Our findings suggest that prenatal SSRI exposure has an association with fetal brain development, particularly in brain regions critical to emotional processing....To our knowledge, this is the first study to report increased volumes of the amygdala and insular cortex, as well as increased WM connection strength between these 2 regions, in prenatally SSRI-exposed infants.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Cynthia Nixon Advances Marijuana Legalization in New York

Sex in the City star and New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon has stepped up her support of marijuana legalization, after news reports trumpeted her position, at first reporting she was behind it for financial reasons.

Nixon has now released a video articulating the human rights reasons for her position: her concern that people of color are disproportionately punished for marijuana.

She even tweeted after former prohibitionist John Boehner turned potrepreneur, "Now that public opinion has shifted on marijuana, rich white men like Boehner and companies like Monsanto are trying to cash in. We can’t let them rake in profits while thousands of people, mostly people of color, continue to sit in jail for possession and use."

And just in time for 4/20, she's asking supporters to chip in $4.20 a month for her campaign against sitting Governor Andrew Cuomo, who remains opposed to recreational pot.

Nixon (in earmuffs) in Tanner '88.
It's possible Nixon got bit with the political bug when she played the daughter of a politician in Tanner 88, director Robert Altman's breakthrough TV series written by Garry Trudeau ("Doonesbury").  In it, Nixon tells her dad, "There are so many pot growers in this state you wouldn't believe it." He then comes out in favor of legalization. 

Sex in the City was criticized for promoting alcohol use to young women, and co-star Kristin Davis (Charlotte) has admitted that she is a recovering alcoholic. The show had some pot smoking in it, though not with Miranda (Nixon's character, a workaholic attorney and single mom). Rather, it's sexy Samantha (Kim Cattrall) who is the procurer of the pot that Carrie (Sarah Jessica-Parker) is busted for after smoking on the streets of NYC. Samantha is perhaps punished for her freewheeling ways by being the character to get breast cancer, but as a new Mother Jones exposé reveals, it's alcohol that is the link there.

Let's hope Nixon is sincere in her embracing of legalization, and will look deeper and harder into the issues for the greater solutions, including coming to grips with all of our so-called addictions (like to sex and alcohol).

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Lily Tomlin as Good Grandma Ganja

Lily Tomlin chillin' with silver fox Sam Elliott in Grandma
Almost as surprising as when I expected "Private Benjamin Goes to Kabul" from Tina Fey and instead got the excellent Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, I finally watched Grandma (2015) with Lily Tomlin, and it's the best movie I've seen in a while.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Lily fan. I laughed at her in "Laugh-In," and can
still recite much of the "Sister Boogie Woman" bit from her Modern Scream album (on which she tells a great pot joke). And I saw her emerge as an actress in that
single, unforgettable scene in Nashville where she listens to Keith Carradine singing "I'm Easy."

I think I was afraid Tomlin's Grandma would be a little too much like her character in Netflix's "Grace and Frankie," where she's ridiculed and made to look ridiculous by the alcoholic Jane Fonda character. But no, in Grandma, Lily as the feminist poetess Elle is back in all her power, signified by the "Violet" tattoo she wears on her arm (the name of the character she played in 9-5, wherein she smoked pot with Jane).

Nat Wolff (Stuck in Love, Peace Love and 
Misunderstandingproves no match for Grandma
This Grandma isn't just there for her kids: she's living her own life, falling in love (with Judy Greer as Olivia), and dealing with her anger issues and her past, even while confronting her granddaughter's crisis pregnancy. Elle is still alive and kicking, like when she takes down her granddaughter's asshole boyfriend, who wears a huge pot leaf on his hockey jersey. Afterwards, she steals his stash.

Elle makes good use of her find in the next scene with Sam Elliot: two old friends (and flames) who share a joint for old times' sake. It's a great scene, as are the ones Tomlin plays with Greer and Marcia Gay Harden as her equally angry, caffeine-chugging daughter.

There's no discussion about pot with the granddaughter (as there was with Lily
and her son in 9-5). It's just a part of Elle's life, and not something that rules or defines her.

With appearances by John Cho (Harold and Kumar), Lauren Tom (Joy Luck Club), Missy Doty (Shameless), and Judy Geeson (To Sir with Love),  the film even has a bit of a poem by Tokin' Woman Anne Waldman, plus a final appearance by Elizabeth Peña (La Bamba), who died of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 55 in 2014. (One more reason to be more like Frankie than Grace.)

Grandma was filmed in 19 days at a cost $600,000, and made $8.7 million. The film was named among the top ten independent films of 2015 by the National Board of Review, and Tomlin was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her performance.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Un-Debunking the Queen Vic Myth about Marijuana

Queen Victoria with five of her nine children
Several authors of late (e.g. James H. Mills in Cannabis Britannicahave sought to debunk the persistent reports than Queen Victoria used cannabis to treat menstrual cramps.

The rumor started when it was discovered that John Russell Reynolds, M.D. wrote an article published in The Lancet in 1890 extolling the virtues of cannabis for cramps and other ailments, while credited as "Physician in Ordinary to Her Majesty's Household."

Cannabis researcher Ethan Russo, M.D., co-editor of Women and Cannabis, wrote in that book that Reynolds was Victoria's "personal physician" and that "it has been widely acknowledged" that she received monthly doses of cannabis for menstrual discomfort throughout her adult life. However, Russo now concurs with Mills's assertion that we have no proof of this.

Reynolds was appointed as physician to the Queen's household in 1878, when she was 59 years old, likely past the age when she would have experienced menstrual cramps. Further, his appointment did not make him Queen Vic's personal physician, but rather one of at least 200 physicians, apothecaries and other attendants in her "medical household," to treat her staff of over 800 persons at her 12 residences. However, she often consulted with various members of her medical staff, and also physicians who were not part of the household. (A. M. Cooke, Queen Victoria's Medical HouseholdMed Hist. 1982 Jul; 26(3): 307–320.)

Famous for her prudishness, Victoria never hired a female physician and was appalled that female medical students performed dissection alongside their male counterparts. Yet, she was surprisingly experimental when it came to her own medical care. She was an early adopter of chloroform for childbirth, using it in 1853 while giving birth to her eighth child, and again in 1857 for her final childbirth, "despite opposition from members of the clergy, who considered it against biblical teaching, and members of the medical profession, who thought it dangerous." (Wikipedia)

The physician who gave the Queen chloroform for each of these births was John Snow, an eminent epidemiologist and pioneer in anesthesia, who "does not appear to have had any appointment to the Medical Household" (Cooke). So Victoria is known to have consulted with a specialist outside of her household for a relatively unknown treatment.

It's possible, then, that Reynolds also treated the Queen while not yet one of her official physicians, when she was a younger woman. He was certainly prominent enough to have caught her attention:

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Voice and The Vipers*

UPDATE: On the Semifinals show that took the number of contestants down from eight to four, Jackie Foster performed a rockin' cover of Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again," complete with ample fog machine–made smoke. Afterwards, host Carson Daly joked through the smoke, "This is legal now here, I think." Here was the coaches' reaction (right).

I've become a fan of TV's The Voice, since being introduced to Halsey's song "The New Americana" by contestant Moushumi on the 2016 season:

We are the new Americana
High on legal marijuana...

This year, the show's 14th season, features the addition Kelly Clarkson as a coach, along with returning coaches Alicia Keys, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton.

And I've found a marijuana connection to all four of them.

First and foremost, Adam Levine sparked headlines like "World’s Biggest Killjoy Sues Universal Over Adam Levine’s Alleged Weed Habit" in 2013, after a security guard at Universal Studios, where The Voice is filmed, filed a lawsuit alleging that Macy Gray and others including Levine "began visiting the premises with drugs in hand and oftentimes offering drugs to [her].”

The plaintiff claimed that her complaints to management were met with “a blind eye,” including an incident when she smelled marijuana smoke coming from a recording studio. Her manager allegedly responded, “It’s Adam Levine. You know from Maroon 5 … He can do whatever he wants …" Ah, to be a musician.

Also in 2013, Levine was named People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive, joining the ranks of other pulchritudinous partakers Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, George Clooney, Matthew McConaughey, Pierce Bronson, Harrison Ford and JFK Jr. 

As part of Maroon 5, Levine has won three Grammy Awards, two Billboard Music Awards, two American Music Awards, an MTV Video Music Award and a World Music Award. The winners of the first, fifth and ninth seasons of The Voice were on Levine's team. What a lazy pothead he is (not).

Country Singer Blake Shelton, Levine's nemesis on the show, somewhat surprisingly recorded "Ready to Roll" in 2011. The song is full of references to smoking pot:

We gonna burn all afternoon 
like it's something to smoke 
We gotta whole lot of 
nothing to do 
and nowhere to go 
So baby I don't know about you 
but I'm ready to roll 

No other word on whether or not Shelton has been on Willie Nelson's bus, or if he's a true Oakie from Muskogee, but he did say one singer's blind audition this season made him feel like he was "riding a unicorn." He's coached five winners on The Voice.

Kelly Clarkson, the OG vocal contest winner on American Idol in 2002, told USA Weekend magazine five years later that she ate a marijuana cookie while in Amsterdam. "It is legal there, and it is not legal here [in the US]," she noted.

"I don't ever do anything illegal here," Clarkson added. "I wouldn't do anything that would cause holes in your brain or your nasal cavity. Call me Texan, but I don't think of marijuana like that." Shortly thereafter, Blender magazine's profile of Clarkson presented her as a bit of a rebel, documenting her rift with 74-year-old BMG Chairman/CEO Clive Davis. "I can't stand it when people put out the same record over and over again," Clarkson told Blender. "Life is too short to be a pushover." Spoken like a true pothead.

Clarkson has sold over 25 million albums and 36 million singles worldwide and scored a total of over 100 number ones on the Billboard charts. She's won three Grammy Awards, three MTV Video Music Awards, four American Music Awards, and two Academy of Country Music Awards. In 2012, she sang the National Anthem at the Super Bowl.

The stellar singer recently revealed that she was hospitalized during a "horrible" pregnancy due to severe nausea and vomiting. It's likely she suffered from hyperemis gravidarum (HG), a debilitating ailment that afflicts 1-2% of pregnant women globally, including Princess Kate. Since cannabis is the safest and most effective anti-emetic known to man, with a non-oral delivery system (smoking) that offers immediate relief, it would make sense to study it as a remedy for mothers with severe morning sickness. Maybe now that it's legal in many states of the US, Clarkson will consider trying it again, for medicinal or recreational purposes.

Finally, Alicia Keys, who coached the winner on her last appearance on the The Voice two years ago, is so spectacularly soulful she probably doesn't need any herbal assistance to fly high.
Not so, perhaps, her fans. In the 2006 "Drug Testing" episode on TV's The Office, Michael (Steve Carell) attends an Alicia Keys concert and sheepishly admits, "I think I might have gotten
high accidentally by a girl with
a lip ring."

*A viper, for you cats and kitties who don't know, was slang for a pot smoker in the Roaring 20s. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Hey Hollywood: How About an "Inclusion Rider" for Weed?

Frances McDormand
Picking up her second Best Actress Oscar, Frances McDormand left us with two words "Inclusion Rider." I wonder: how about an Inclusion Rider for marijuana fans?

Because so many industries needlessly and pointlessly drug test their employees, it's left to Silicon Valley and Hollywood to hire cannabis consumers, while benefiting from the extra creativity that pot provides. So we ought to be sure that every movie has a requisite number of staffers who enjoy their joints.

Also, in the same way that ethnic and disabled activists are advocating for depictions of them in movies to be authentic, so we must demand that Tokin' Women be played by actress who really know how to act stoned.

Miley Cyrus
Despite once appearing on the cover of High Times and outing herself as a pot smoker, McDormand has never played a good Tokin' Woman role. She did smoke in the dismal Laurel Canyon (were she wasn't much of a role model); I liked her better in Almost Famous where she convinced her 15-year-old son not to smoke pot (which was appropriate for a kid his age).

My casting suggestion: McDormand could play a post-comeback jazz singer and marijuana fan Anita O'DayMiley Cyrus could act, and sing, as the younger O'Day. Don't they all look alike?

Anita O'Day

Of course we have had some matching casting to date. Meryl Streep was spot-on as Isak Dinesen in Out of Africa, and she even toked up while playing Karen Silkwood. Kathy Bates nailed Gertrude Stein in Midnight in Paris (although there was no partaking of any pot brownies made by her lover Alice B. Toklas).

Bette Midler won accolades on stage portraying a pot-puffing Sue Mengers, and the next thing you knew, she was cast as Dolly on Broadway. But Nicole Kidman as Gertrude Bell and Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith suffered from bad scripts (with no marijuana mentions).

At the Oscars, McDormand had all the female nominees stand up and enjoined everyone present to enable them to tell their stories. I have a few that could be told (with casting suggestions): Susan Sarandon could play a bitchin' Tallulah Bankhead, for example. And how about Jennifer Lawrence as Lila Leeds, the actress she resembles who was arrested with Robert Mitchum for marijuana in 1948.

Jennifer Lawrence
Lila Leeds

Saturday, March 10, 2018

An "Inspired" Oscars Ceremony

As expected (and deserved), Frances McDormand picked up the Best Actress Oscar on Sunday night for her performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It's McDormand's second Oscar; she has also won two Emmys and a Tony.

In May 2003, McDormand appeared on the cover of High Times magazine holding a joint. "I'm a recreational pot-smoker," she said, revealing she first smoked marijuana as a 17-year-old freshman at Bethany College in West Virginia in 1975. She told interviewer Steve Bloom (now of, "There has never been enough of a distinction between marijuana and other drugs. It's a human rights issue, a censorship issue, and a choice issue."

As with the Golden Globes, also nominated for Best Actress were Meryl Streep, who's smoked pot in more than one movie, and Margot Robbie, who appeared in a pot-leaf-motif skirt on "Saturday Night Live" and smoked pot onscreen with Tina Fey in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

Earning the first-ever Original Screenplay Oscar given to an African-American was Jordan Peele, who has now said he used marijuana for inspiration while writing his award-winning script for Get Out.

Peele also said that Whoopi Goldberg's 1991 speech, made when she picked up an Oscar for Ghost, was a "huge inspiration" to him.  Turns out, Goldberg was "inspired" herself when she made the speech. TMZ aired a tape of her describing how she smoked "a wonderful joint" before the ceremony. "It was the last of my homegrown, and honey, when they called my name..."

Greta Gerwig, only the fifth woman to ever be nominated as Best Director, was also nominated for writing the screenplay for Lady Bird. The film has a pot-smoking scene, followed by the munchees and giggling, with the terrific Beanie Feldstein from Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. Also nominated for best screenplay were Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani for The Big Sick, which has a subtle scene with a pot pipe.

To thank the movie-going public, Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel took a contingent of actors including Wonder Woman Gal Gadot across the street to the iconic Chinese Theatre to surprise an audience watching Oprah Winfrey in A Wrinkle in Time.

Kimmel immediately announced, "There is a strong aroma of marijuana in this theatre."

"It's true," said Gadot. "Not that I know how it smells, but it's true."

Kimmel then continued, "I notice you don't have any snacks, and especially considering the smell in this theatre...." before bringing in a stream of celebrities to distribute snacks to an appreciative (and apparently stoned) audience.

Ah, the movies. Where both the film makers and the watchers are inspired.

And this just in: Oscars goodie bags had the ultimate swag: free marijuana

Of Madonna and Rosanna, and Marijuana

Ten years ago today, Madonna grabbed headlines away from her fellow Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame inductees by using her acceptance speech to reveal she took ecstasy and smoked grass on her way to the top. The admissions came on March 10, 2008 at New York's Waldorf-Astoria hotel.

After accepting her award from Justin Timberlake, Madonna announced, "The night I met Michael Rosenblatt, who signed me to Sire Records, I jammed my demo tape into his hand, we both did a tab of ecstasy and then we danced the night away." She then recalled the night she met long-term publicist Liz Rosenberg, saying: "We smoked a joint together." Ah, drugs, you're so wonderful for bonding.

After pulling a joint out of her boot (pictured above) in the 1985 movie Desperately Seeking Susan (now on Amazon Prime), Madonna's character turns on a philandering, money-grubbing suburban spa salesman (played by Mark Blum). After smoking, he muses, "What's it all about? There's more to life than making money....You know how all time comes from a single point in the universe?" Ah, pot, you're so wonderful for philosophizing.

On a March 31, 1994 edition of The Late Show with David Letterman, Madonna asked Dave whether he had ever smoked "Endo" (meaning, presumably, marijuana grown in Mendocino county, California). In 2009 she said to Dave about her high-jinks that night (when she also used the f-word 13 times), "I think it may have had something to do with the joint I smoked before I came on." And she intelligently and compassionately handled her son's arrest for marijuana in 2016, saying, "I love my son very much. I will do whatever I can to give him the support that he needs."

Rumor has it that Rosanna Arquette, who played the suburban housewife Roberta in Desperately Seeking Susan (of whom it is said, "She's so straight she's never even smoked a joint"), hoped to play the wild child Susan instead. Arquette got her turn to be wild in the 2011 film Peace Love and Misunderstanding (now on Netflix), where she tokes it up and howls at the moon, wearing a big old pot-leaf necklace (pictured).

The next movie that should be made available on some platform is the excellent 2005 rockumentary Arquette directed and co-produced, All We Are Saying. With an all-star cast that includes Joni Mitchell, Chrissie Hynde, Macy Gray, Patti Smith and a lot of great men too like Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson, it could only have been made by the woman who inspired the rock anthem "Rosanna."