Sunday, December 27, 2020

Tokin' Women and Other Luminaries We Lost in 2020

Dawn Wells (12/30)
Wells, the perky and petite brunette who played Mary Ann on TV's Gilligan's Island, was caught with a stash box and several half-smoked doobies in her car in 2007. Wells claimed the pot was not hers, but she was rumored to be the person who mailed a package of pot to Bob Denver (Gilligan) at his West Virginia home. Wells died at age 82 due to complications of COVID. 

Patricia Ann Steward (12/30)
Known as "The Duchess of Hemp," Steward was an activist, entrepreneur, and compatriot of Jack Herer (The Emperor Wears No Clothes: Hemp and the Marijuana Conspiracy). We corresponded after John Prine died this year, with her reminiscing about smoking pot with Prine at the club she owned in Arizona.

K.T. Oslin (12/21)
Oslin made music history by becoming the first middle-aged woman to rise to stardom in Nashville. She was 45 years old when she scored a hit with “80’s Ladies” in 1987. The song made her the first female songwriter in history to win the CMA’s Song of the Year prize, and she was the CMA Female Vocalist of the Year in 1988. (Source.)

We were the girls of the 50's.
Stoned rock and rollers in the 60's.
Hunny, more than our names got changed
As the 70's slipped on by.
Now we're 80's ladies.
There ain't been much these ladies ain't tried.


David Lander (12/4)
Lander, who made us laugh as Squiggy on "Laverne and Shirley," was an MS sufferer and advocate for medical marijuana. Lander said he and his partner Michael McKean (Lenny) created their characters for the show while high.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Tokey Awards 2020

Tokin' Woman of the Year: Kamala Harris

“I’m America’s cool aunt. A fun aunt. I call that a funt. The kind of funt that will give you weed but then arrest you for having weed," said Maya Rudolph in her Emmy-winning portrayal of Kamala Harris on Saturday Night Live
Although VP-elect Harris's record and rhetoric on marijuana wasn't good while she was a prosecutor, she has championed reform in the Senate, where she sponsored the MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement Act).  Harris, like others, has figured out that the drug war is steeped in racism, and so it's a human rights issue for all. And she knows that it's now cool to say you smoked it. 

During her Presidential campaign, Harris said on a radio talk show she was “absolutely in favor of legalizing marijuana,” harkening to her half-Jamaican heritage and citing the mass incarceration resulting from cannabis prohibition, particularly of young black men. And she admitted she smoked weed when she was in college. When asked if she might start smoking again, she replied, “I think it gives a lot of people joy, and we need more joy in the world.”
Harris has managed to straddle her tough-prosecutor past with her "funt" persona. She's advocated for arresting the police who shot and killed Breonna Taylor in a botched drug raid, and noted at a Judiciary Committee hearing on Prison Safety and the Coronavirus that 70% of those in US prisons are black and brown people, and while Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen qualified for home detention due to COVID concerns, 62-year-old Fidel Torres died of COVID-19 in a federal prison while serving the final two years of his 20-year sentence for a marijuana offense. She has also been a strong advocate for voting rights, so important in this year's election, and beyond. 
The first woman, the first black, and the first person of Asian descent to be elected Vice President, Harris is sure to make herstory. She's reiterated the Biden/Harris pledge to decriminalize marijuana since the election, and in the recent BET documentary "Smoke." Biden is a longtime drug warrior who will have to be pushed beyond his treatment-instead position. We hope the Californian Harris will help give him a nudge into the present day, where a supermajority of Americans favor cannabis legalization.  

Monday, November 9, 2020

RIP: Literary Lioness Diane di Prima

Di Prima reads from her first book,
"This Kind of Bird Flies Backwards" in 1959

The prolific Beat poet and teacher Diane di Prima was the mother 
of five children and became a Lioness of Letters at a time when poets mostly belonged to boys' clubs. She died on October 25 at the age
of 86.

In an often-repeated anecdote from her 2001 memoir Recollections of My Life as a Woman: The New York Years, Di Prima recalls being at a "boozy, marijuana-filled party one night in New York" with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, and when she announced she needed to leave at 11:30 p.m. to relieve her babysitter, Kerouac shouted, “DI PRIMA, UNLESS YOU FORGET ABOUT YOUR BABYSITTER, YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO BE A WRITER." 

She wrote of her decision to pursue a career in poetry, "The things I now leave behind... leaving the quiet unquestioned living and dying, the simple one-love-and-marriage, children, material pleasures, easy securities. I am leaving the houses I will never own. Dishwashers. Carpets. Dull respect of dull neighbors. None of this matters really. I have already seen it all for the prison it is."

The actress who played Don Draper's Greenwich Village girlfriend in TV's "Mad Men" read Di Prima's Memoirs of a Beatnik (1969) in preparation for the role. As quoted in Sisters of the Extreme, Di Prima wrote in Memoirs: "As far as we knew, there was only a small handful of us—perhaps forty or fifty in the City (NY)—who knew what we knew; who raced about in Levis and work shirts, smoked dope, dug the new jazz, and spoke a bastardization of the Black argot.....Our chief concern was to keep our integrity...and to keep our cool."

In her epic poem Loba she wrote, seemingly to the goddess Parvati

They call me drunkard, though I drink no liquor
I drink her nectar only; my mind reels
I sit day and night at the feet of Shiva's consort
High, not dulled with the wines of earth.  
The cosmic egg floats on the elixir of her Joy.
She delivers the low-born, I shall not leave her side. 
Virtue, ignorance, action, wisdom—these drugs delude
But when you drink Her wine, you are out of tune
And the Divine Bard loves you: she takes you on her lap.
Why do I regret
hours in pastel gardens where scented drugs
might have sharpened our senses?

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Raiders Sign Player Who Quit over NFL's Marijuana Policy

The Las Vegas Raiders have signed former Dallas Cowboy David Irving, 27, who announced he was quitting the NFL last year in opposition to the league's drug policy, "particularly in regard to marijuana," reported ESPN. 

Irving was suspended indefinitely for violating NFL's substance abuse policy in 2019, and now is back under "provisional" reinstatement, while he is being tested for COVID.  In March, the NFL's level of THC triggering a positive test was increased fourfold from 35 to 150 ng/ml, among other policy reforms negotiated by the NFL Players Association. 

On Instagram, where he announced his resignation from football, Irving calls himself an "NFL Player turned Cannabis Activist." He told Sports Illustrated in February, "I've been smoking since I was in middle school. Always had a 3.0 GPA. Never had any trouble with the law."  He added that cannabis could help the NFL with its CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) problem. 

"I know the perception people have of me is that I'm some sort of gangsta, homeless pothead," Irving told SI. "But I gave up football for a bigger cause. I want to change the bias toward marijuana. I want to educate America that it's not a drug, it's medicine."

Abbie Hoffman: Steal This Urine Test

There's a great scene in the new Aaron Sorkin / Netflix movie "The Trial of the Chicago 7" where Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne) of Students for a Democratic Society says to Yippie! Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), "My problem is that for the next 50 years, when people think of progressive politics, they’re going to think of you and your idiot followers, passing out daisies to soldiers or trying to levitate the Pentagon. So they’re not gonna think of equality or justice; they’re not gonna think of education or poverty or progress. They’re gonna think of a bunch of stoned, lost, disrespectful, foul-mouthed, lawless losers. And so we’ll lose elections." 

I know this to be true because I campaigned for Hayden when he ran for Governor of California in 1994. I would talk to young people, saying, "You know Tom Hayden, the Chicago 7?" Only when I said, "with Abbie Hoffman" did the bells of recognition ring. (Hayden lost that election, and Abbie remains enduringly popular.) 

The credits of the movie mention Hoffman's bestseller "Steal This Book" but not its 1987 sequel, "Steal This Urine Test" in which he blows the lid off the bogus urine testing industry that discriminates against marijuana smokers by detecting inactive metabolites that can stay in the body for weeks after use. 

Hoffman wrote of NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) chief Dr. Robert DuPont's evolution from a somewhat liberal scientist to a zealot-like proponent of urine testing:  

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Why Red Ribbon Week is a Fraud

Students with photos of Kiki Camarena. 
This October 23-31, schoolkids across the US will participate in "Red Ribbon Week," an anti-drug education campaign that pressures students to sign an anti-drug pledge. The event began in honor of DEA agent Kiki Camarena, who was kidnapped, brutally tortured, and murdered in Mexico by drug cartel operatives in 1985, at the height of former first lady Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" to drugs campaign. 

However since Camarena's death, more and more allegations have surfaced connecting the CIA and the DEA to his murder. Former cartel employees told USA Today that a DEA official and CIA operative participated in meetings with the cartel where Camarena's abduction was discussed. 

The must-see new Amazon documentary series "The Last Narc" interviews Camarena's widow, former DEA agent Hector Barilles who was assigned to investigate Camarena's murder, the US prosecutor of his killers, and two Mexican policemen who were assigned to protect drug lords involved in the crime, revealing the layers of corruption involved.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Kendall Jenner Would Like To Buy the World a Toke

Jenner in the green Calvin Klein gown
she wore to the 2015 Met Gala.
Kendall Jenner, who got flack for her appearance in a 2017 ad wherein she offers a policeman a Pepsi at a mock Black Lives Matter protest, was outed as a cannabis consumer on the podcast "Sibling Revelry" with Kate Hudson and her brother Oliver.

Asked towards the end of the show by Oliver, "If there was a stoner [in your family] who would it be?" Jenner's sister Kourtney Kardashian was quick with her reply: "Kendall."

"I am a stoner," the 24-year-old model and businesswoman agreed. "No one knows that, so that’s the first time I’ve ever really said anything out there." A horsewoman, Kendall also said she "would love to be the second Olympian Jenner" as a Grand Prix hunter/jumper.  She also spoke about her struggles with anxiety and panic attacks (which cannabis probably helps her with). In May, she posted a sweet tweet checking in about people's mental health during COVID.

A 2014 "Keeping up with the Kardashians" episode shows mama Kris and her mother M.J. munching medicinal gummy bears and giggling. In 2015, Kourtney's husband Scott Disick entered a facility in Costa Rica that uses the psychedelic plant Iboga in its treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. Kim Kardashian, who reportedly got married and made a sex tape on Ecstasy, advocated for the release of nonviolent drug offender Alice Johnson (winning her a 2018 Tokey Award; her CBD-themed baby shower earned her a 2019 Tokey).

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Republicans Slam Democrats' Support For (or Prosecutions For) Marijuana

Cissie Graham Lynch speaking at the RNC. 
The Republicans have put forth two women in the first two nights of its convention to lambaste Democrats over their marijuana policies. 

Last night, cancer survivor Natalie Harper praised the administration's FDA "Right to Try" reform act, affording incurably ill patients access to developmental drugs, then went onto claim that Democrats' healthcare plan is "a right to marijuana, opioids and the right to die with dignity."

Tonight, Cissie Graham Lynch, Billy Graham’s granddaughter, included among her indictments of the Democrats the banning of church services due to COVID, while declaring marijuana shops essential during the pandemic. “Even during the pandemic, we saw how quickly life can change," she said, "Some Democrat leaders tried to ban church services while marijuana shops and abortion clinics were declared essential."

A few speakers later, anti-abortion advocate Abby Johnson stated that, "Margaret Sanger was a racist who believed in eugenics," adding that Planned Parenthood clinics where "infant corpses are pieced back together” are predominately in minority communities.

Ironically, Republicans have been attacking former California AG Kamala Harris over her past record of marijuana convictions ever since her Vice Presidential nomination. Former New York Mayor and Trump acolyte/attorney Rudy Guiliani tweeted about it, which was especially ironic since under Guiliani's reign in NYC, the number of marijuana arrests soared, a result of his "stop and frisk" policies that largely rounded up people of color. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Tokin' Woman Kamala Harris Gets VP Nod

Harris talking pot on "The Breakfast Club"

Presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden has named California Senator Kamala Harris as his Vice Presidential pick. 

During her Presidential campaign, Harris said on a radio talk show she was “absolutely in favor of legalizing marijuana,” harkening to her half-Jamaican heritage and citing the mass incarceration resulting from cannabis prohibition, particularly of young black men. Harris admitted she smoked weed when she was in college, and when asked if she might start smoking again, said, “I think it gives a lot of people joy, and we need more joy in the world.”

California  NORML notes, "As San Francisco’s District Attorney and California’s Attorney General, Harris upheld California’s medical marijuana law. Since being elected to the Senate, she has come on strong for federal marijuana law reform as the Senate sponsor of the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, enabling states to set their own marijuana policies and reinvesting funds in communities of color that have been impacted by laws against marijuana." 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Hillary Clinton Tweets that Maureen Dowd May Have Had "Too Much Pot Brownie"

In response to New York Times columnist Maureen Down claiming there hadn't been a male/female major Presidential ticket in 36 years, Hillary Clinton tweeted:

The Times has corrected Dowd's column, and their tweet, to reflect that no male presidential candidate had selected a woman VP candidate since Walter Mondale picked Geraldine Ferraro in 1984.

Clinton's tweet refers to the column written by Dowd in 2014 after she overdosed on a pot brownie she bought at a Colorado marijuana store (without reading its warning label). "Sitting in my hotel room in Denver, I nibbled off the end and then, when nothing happened, nibbled some more," she wrote. "What could go wrong with a bite or two?"

NORML's director Erik Alteri took umbrage at Clinton's tweet, and I understand his frustration with lame "stupid stoner" jokes. But note that the tweet actually warns about taking "too much" pot brownie, a message of moderation in keeping with NORML's "low and slow" advice on edibles. 

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Ina Coolbrith: A Bittersweet Life

Ina Coolbrith at age 30
Though she consorted with fellow writer Mark Twain, and was an influence on Jack London—both of whom tried hashish—it's doubtful Ina Coolbrith ever got the chance. Her duties to her family and others scarcely allowed her time to pursue her literary career, much less indulge in exotic pleasures.

Born into a Mormon family that was exiled and traveled by wagon train to California, her biography Ina Coolbrith: The Bittersweet Song of California's First Poet Laureate by Aleta George details the hardship she and many women of the time endured.

Fleeing an early abusive marriage in Los Angeles, Coolbrith and her family moved to San Francisco in 1862. When she wasn't busy taking care of her mother and siblings and their household, she was supporting them by working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week at the Oakland Free Library, where she was librarian. Her hours were so long that she usually stayed on a cot in the basement, eventually moving to Oakland.  

The hardest part of her arduous life was not finding the time to write, and watching her compatriots like Twain and Joaquin Miller (whom she named) have successful writing careers. She even cared for Miller's daughter while he went off and laid a wreath of California laurel she had made at Lord Byron's grave, something she longed to do. Miller read aloud Ina's poem to Byron as he placed her wreath: 

O winds, that ripple the long grass!
O winds, that kiss the jeweled sea!
Grow still and lingering as you pass
About this laurel tree.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Kerry Washington & Girlfriends Light Little Fires Everywhere

Kerry Washington plays an artist who finds inspiration in weed in Little Fire Everywhere 

I hadn't realized it, but I spent National Girlfriend Day yesterday binge watching Hulu's Little Fires Everywhere, the female-produced adaptation of the acclaimed Celeste Ng novel about race, class, motherhood and more. 

Set in the "planned community" of Shaker Heights, Ohio where Wu lived growing up, the series was co-produced by her and by series stars Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon, among others, including Lynn Shelton, the beloved actress/writer/director/producer who died unexpectedly in May at the age of 54 from acute myeloid leukemia.

Unlike the book, the series shows Washington's character Mia, an artist and single mother, smoking a marijuana pipe in her studio, and in her car before starting one of her menial jobs. Washington tweeted in answer to the question, "What was the most fun thing to bring to life on screen?" like this: 

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Marijuana-Smoking Musicians Alanis Morissette and Liz Phair Go Inward

Singer-songwriters Alanis Morissette and Liz Phair were set to tour together this summer; instead a dual interview with them was published today in the LA Times. 

The two breakthrough artists made headlines and trended on Twitter by opening up about being female in a male-dominated rock world back in the day. They also talked about how songwriting helped them navigate life, and not feel "insane."

"Not many people can sit with themselves and go inward and investigate," Phair observed. "A lot of people avoid it. But the pandemic has certainly forced people to do that."

"But for introverts and empaths, the internal world is heaven. It’s rich," Morissette replied.

Phair puffs on The Joe Rogan Experience
Phair has spoken out in favor of marijuana legalization since 1993, and smoked pot with Joe Rogan on his podcast in 2018.
"I was never much into alcohol. I prefer marijuana," she said. "Marijuana is like shining a flashlight onto your unconscious." Morissette told High Times magazine in 2009, "As an artist, there's a sweet jump-starting quality to [marijuana] for me...So if ever I need some clarity... it's a quick way for me to get to it."

Thursday, July 23, 2020

George Lopez to Willie Nelson: Can Someone Be Too High?

George Lopez interviews Willie Nelson on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
It was "Lopez Tonight" all over again as George Lopez, who got lots of stars like Cameron Diaz to "out" their marijuana use as the first Mexican-American talk show host, guest hosted on Jimmy Kimmel's show tonight and interviewed Very Important Pothead Willie Nelson.

"Cannabis is so widely accepted now—marijuana—is it shocking to you, how well it's being received?" Lopez asked. "No, I always knew that people would realize its benefits, and I think now that it's legal medicinally in 30 states and a lot of states recreationally, it's on the way, and I think it's a good thing," was the response.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Beecham House and Bhang

NOTE: I tried not to include "spoilers" but you might want to watch the series before reading too much of this!

The Empress  (Tisca Chopra) and her hookah in Beecham House.
Beecham House, the current PBS Masterpiece* series from female director/producer and force of nature Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham, etc.) presents an Indian, and a female, point of view of the British occupation of India. The sets and costumes are spectacular, and the acting is top notch. And yes, there are drugs.

Set on the cusp of the 19th century in Delhi just before the British ruled in that region, we're first introduced to hookah smoking by Daniel Beecham, the bad brother of the British protagonist, who is enjoying himself in a brothel, exhaling smoke like a devil while ominous music plays at the end of Episode 1.

It was likely hemp in the hookah. The extensive Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report, completed in 1894 by the British,was over 3,000 pages long, and detailed the many traditional religious practices of India regarding cannabis, concluding that the use of hemp was common among Indian people and that, at least in moderate doses, it had little or no detrimental physical or moral effects on them or their society.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Women Increasingly Find Marijuana Smoking "Morally Acceptable"

Women aren't buying into the propaganda anymore.
UPDATE 11/20: The newest Gallup poll has 69% of men and 66% of women supporting legalization, only a three-point difference. 

According to the latest Gallup poll, 70% of Americans say that it is morally acceptable for adults to smoke marijuana, an increase of five percentage points since Gallup last posed the question in 2019.

The jump is attributable to a change in women's perception. In 2019, 62% of women said they thought smoking marijuana was acceptable, compared to 69% of men. This year, 70% of women and said they approve, an increase of 8%, while the same 69% of men were in approval.

By contrast, drinking alcohol is now OK with 88% of men and 84% of women. On other issues, 90% of the public think birth control is morally acceptable, with 93% of women approving, compared to 86% of men; 47% of women and 42% of men approve of abortion; and 71% of women and 61% of men say having a baby outside of marriage is OK. On the death penalty, 62% of men currently approve and only 47% of women do.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Trump Clemency Grantee Alice Marie Johnson Responds to Stone Commutation

Longtime, tremendously hard-working prisoner advocate Amy Povah of the Cando Clemency Foundation clued me into this story on her Facebook page. Please support her and other groups working for prison reform.

Roger can get Stoned with his Richard Nixon bong while
thousands of nonviolent drug offenders wait for clemency. 
The vile Roger Stone* is getting a pass for perjury and other crimes, in part because he could be at risk for COVID-19 if he goes to prison. Meanwhile, thousands of at-risk, nonviolent prisoners remain behind bars with outrageously long sentences, and Trump is talking about withholding federal education funds if schools decide they'd rather not confine students and teachers in an unsafe space this fall.

I agree with Adam Schiff: "With Trump there are now two systems of justice in America: One for Trump's criminal friends and one for everyone else." (NPR missed the "criminal" when they reported that this morning.) Kamala Harris tweeted, "Trump commutes the prison sentence of Roger Stone while the officers that killed Breonna Taylor are still free. The two systems of justice in this country must end."

Johnson's case was highlighted at the 2019 State of the Union speech.
Trump made a public spectacle in 2019 of granting clemency to Alice Marie Johnson, a black grandmother who had served almost 22 years for a first-time, nonviolent drug crime until she was advocated for by Kim Kardashian. On her reality show, Kim is shown meeting about Johnson with Trump, who only wants to talk about her suck-up husband Kanye West.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Johnny Depp Admits to Initiating His Daughter with Marijuana

Lily-Rose and Johnny Depp
Lawyers for the UK tabloid The Sun are trying to smear Johnny Depp as a bad parent who "encouraged" his 13-year-old daughter to smoke marijuana during a trial brought about by Depp's $50-million libel suit against the publication for calling the actor a "wife-beater." His former wife Amber Heard has alleged that Depp was abusive during their 15-month marriage, which he has denied, claiming that he was the victim of domestic violence in their relationship.

Asked about his own cannabis use during his marriage to Heard, Depp said it was "very helpful with regard to anxiety, sleep, sense of well-being, calmness," according to Metro UK. He was then asked by attorney Sasha Wass if that was why he "encouraged" his daughter Lily-Rose Depp to try weed when she was 13.  Depp replied that he never encouraged his daughter to try cannabis, but told her if she wanted to try it to come to him instead of trying it elsewhere.

"My daughter was 13 years old and, as we all know, at 11, 12, 13 years old, when you go to high school parties you are approached by people who will want to give you drink because they’re drinking," Depp said on the stand. "They are doing cocaine at 12 and 13, they are smoking marijuana at 12 and 13, they are taking ecstasy at 12 and 13. You don’t want your 13-year-old going into some paranoid tailspin and I knew that the marijuana I had myself, that I smoke myself, is trustworthy, is a good quality and I was bound and determined not to have her try any drugs out there in the world because it’s too dangerous."

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Hear Hugh Downs on Hemp

Hugh Downs with Barbara Walters in 1969.NBC Newswire
Today we hear
the sad news that Hugh Downs has passed away at the age of 99.

Born in Akron on Valentine's Day in 1921, Downs served in the Army and began his career in broadcasting as a radio announcer in Lima, Ohio. Downs helped establish the enduring “Tonight Show” franchise in 1957 when he joined the show as Jack Parr's announcer and sidekick. He hosted the game show “Concentration” from 1958 to 1969, was a “Today” show anchor for nine years from 1962 to 1971, and cohosted ABC’s “20/20” with Barbara Walters from 1978-1999, when he retired.

On his ABC News radio broadcast in November 1990, Downs read in his velvety voice a 20-minute story about hemp, at a time when activists (like me) couldn't even get the word "hemp" in the newspaper (they would always change it to "marijuana"). A cassette tape of Downs's commentary produced by documentarians known as "She Who Remembers" became part of hemp activists' toolkit in LA and beyond, when education happened one-on-one with handmade and xeroxed flyers, cheap hemp cloth and twine imported from China or Eastern Europe, hemp seed sold as bird seed, and our bible: Jack Herer's book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes: Hemp and the Marijuana Conspiracy.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Paltrow Power Puffs in "The Politician"

Gwyneth Paltrow Plays a Candidate Who Definitely Does Inhale in The Politician
Taking a break from weightier and fascinating shows like Who Killed Malcolm X, The Two Killings of Sam Cooke, and Who Shot the Sheriff on Netflix, I've been watching Season 2 of The Politician, starring the talented Ben Platt (Dear Evan Hansen) in the title role as the ambitious young candidate Payton Hobart, this time up against seasoned state Senator Dede Standish played by Judith Light ("Who's the Boss?") at her brittle best, and Bette Midler as her wily campaign manager for an extra comedic cherry on top. 

Paton's mother Georgina, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, is coming into her power this season, with Paltrow perfectly spoofing the public perception of her as an entitled Hollywood princess for whom everything comes too easily. Georgina languidly smokes from a hookah in one scene as she mounts a Marianne Williams–style campaign for California's Governor, during which she proposes seceding from the union, arguing that, "Most of our federal tax dollars go out of state to people who think that we are pot-smoking, Satan-worshipping abortion doctors or something." Elsewhere, she utters lines like, "Sorry sweetheart, I don't remember young people, it's a tic I have," and "I'm going to get stoned and have a bath."

Thursday, June 25, 2020

RIP Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Marijuana Reform Pioneer

Dr. Grinspoon's pioneering book, from
back when "marijuana" was spelled with an "h"
Dr. Lester Grinspoon, a pioneering advocate for marijuana reform, has passed away one day after his 92nd birthday, aka "Lester Grinspoon day."

A Harvard professor, Dr. Grinspoon "started out investigating what he expected to be the dangers of marijuana and ended up writing the classic Marihuana Reconsidered (1971), a scholarly debunking of then-current myths about the herb's supposed evils," writes Cal NORML's Dale Gieringer.  "Lester became an influential force for enlightenment in the 1970s decrim movement and was one of NORML's earliest supporters. Later, he published Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine, about the medical benefits of marijuana, which he had witnessed first hand through his son Danny's struggle with cancer chemotherapy."

As well as his many accomplishments, Dr. Grinspoon’s work inspired my VeryImportantPotheads website (which spun off into this blog), starting with a stirring speech he gave at the April 2001 NORML conference “outing” himself as a marijuana user, saying, "I was 44 years old in 1972 when I experienced my first marijuana high. Because I found it both useful and benign, I have used it ever since.” As High Times reported, "He called for people in the business, academic and professional worlds to come out of the closet regarding marijuana. To that end, he's pursuing what he calls the 'Uses of Marijuana Project' (, an ethnographic exercise on how pot has enhanced users' lives."

Monday, June 22, 2020

50 Years Ago: Barbara Streisand Turns On The Owl

In the 1970 film The Owl and the Pussycat, Barbra Streisand plays Doris, a struggling model/actress living in New York who turns a few tricks to get by. When nerdy would-be writer and bookstore clerk Felix (George Segal) reports her activities to their landlord, she confronts him and rocks his world.

Leading up to the film's climax, Doris pulls out a joint and says, “Now I’m going to make you happy. It’s gonna put you in a very good mood.” Felix resists, telling her he’ll do it only after she whispers a bribe into his ear, announcing he was doing so to demonstrate that, “I have a certain free will, I am not a square person, and I am if I wish to be, perfectly hep.” She replies, “I’m hip you’re hep.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Michelle Alexander: The New Jim Crow

I watched Michelle Alexander's 2010 book The New Jim Crow change the debate about drug policy and racism in the US. This year, on its 10th anniversary, we have a chance for a greater transformation. 

At the time when the book was first published, much of the African-American community and its leaders were lock-step in line with the drug war. But Alexander made her case so well for the role of the War on Drugs in the mass incarceration and marginalization of people of color that today leaders like Rep. Karen Bass (chair of the Congressional Black Caucus) and Sen. Kamala Harris (California's former DA) have joined to advance police reform at the federal level (though some say it doesn't go far enough.)

As Alexander lays it out, "When the gains and goals of the Civil Rights Movement began to require real sacrifices on the part of white Americans, conservative politicians found they could mobilize white racial resentment by vowing to crack down on crime....Beginning in the 1970s, researchers found that racial attitudes—not crime rates of likelihood of victimization—are an important determinant of white support for 'getting tough on crime' and antiwelfare measures. The War on Drugs, cloaked in race-neutral language, offered whites opposed to racial reform a unique opportunity to express their hostility toward blacks and black progress, without being exposed to the charge of racism."

Ronald Reagan and his successor George Bush, Sr. helped convince the US population that drugs were the most significant problem in the country through policy pronouncements, rather than facts. "The results were immediate," Alexander writes. "As law enforcement budgets exploded, so did prison and jail populations. In 1991, the Sentencing Project reported that the number of people behind bars in the US was unprecedented in world history, and that one fourth of young African American men were now under the control of the criminal justice system."

Saturday, June 6, 2020

"Killer Mike": Nixon-style Villainizing of Hippies & Blacks over Marijuana at Play Today

Rapper and Atlanta-based activist Michael "Killer Mike" Render lit up Real Time with Bill Maher last night, and not just with his million-dollar smile. At one point, he brandished a joint for the cameras.

Maher, noting that both he and Mike “love our pot,” mentioned that AG Barr has employed the DEA on protesters. "I just want to say to some of these protesters: if someone offers you a joint, that might be a narc,” he said.

Mike responded, “The most ironic thing about that is, when Nixon declared the drug war, he declared it on hippies and on blacks. What they’re essentially doing is a new version of that, because hippies were just progressive white people at the time—shouts out to Ben & Jerry. They were people that were progressive enough to say right is right and wrong is wrong and white’s not always right, we’re gonna side with what’s right. And of course black people were pushing the line."

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Cannabis Used to "Stimulate Ecstasy" Found at Ancient Shrine - To The Goddess Asherah?

Two altars found at the Arad shrine on display at The Israel Museum. 
An altar at a Judahite shrine dating to the 8th century B.C. was used to burn cannabis for ecstatic effect, researchers Eran Arie, Baruch Rosen and Dvory Namdar report. The discovery was made by performing a chemical analysis of residue found on the smaller of two limestone altars found at the entrance to the "Holy of Holies"(the inner sanctum) at the Arad shrine in Southern Israel. The second, larger altar was used to burn frankincense, a widely traded incense that was highly valued at the time (as was, presumably, cannabis). Fifty similar altars have been found in the southern Levant.

The shrine as discovered in 1963.
"It seems feasible to suggest that the use of cannabis on the Arad altar had a deliberate psychoactive role," the researchers state, writing in the Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University. "The frequent use of hallucinogenic materials for cultic purposes in the Ancient Near East and beyond is well known and goes back as early as prehistoric periods (e.g., Rudgley 1995; Merlin 2003; Guerra-Doce 2015*)....These psychoactive ingredients were destined to stimulate ecstasy as part of cultic ceremonies. As shown in this study, 8th century Judah may now be added to the places where these rituals took place." This is some 200 years after the fabled Temple of Solomon with its many incense burners.

The discovery lends credence to Polish anthropologist Dr. Sula Benet's 1936 doctoral thesis ''Hashish in Folk Customs and Beliefs,'' which theorized that the biblical incense kaneh bosm, meaning "aromatic cane" was cannabis, mistranslated as "calamus" in the modern bibles. "Taking into account the matriarchal element of Semitic culture, one is led to believe, that Asia Minor was the original point of expansion for both the society based on the Matriarchal circle and the mass use of hashish," Benet wrote.

Ke(d)eshet, the Egyptian goddess related to Asherah,
standing on a lion. (British Museum.)
"Previous scholars have theorized that the two altars were devoted to two deities who were worshipped at the shrine, possibly a divine couple," Arie, Rosen and Namdarwrite. In other shrines where two incense altars were found together, "the same conclusion about multiple deities worshipped has been drawn."

Shards of pottery with the name "Yahweh" have been found at the shrine; his consort was the Goddess Asherah, to whom incense was burned, described (and decried) in the Hebrew Scriptures. "Inscriptions from two locations in southern Palestine seem to indicate that she was also worshiped as the consort of Yahweh." ( Pictorial evidence has also been found.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Watch How Phyllis Schlafly Waged War on Women in "Mrs. America"

Tracey Ullman as Betty Friedan debates Cate
Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly in Mrs. America
The FX/Hulu series Mrs. America is an eye-opening, skillfully produced and acted story of the women who advanced womens' rights in the 1970s, and the woman who took them down: Phyllis Schlafly.

I had thought Schlafly was just a wing-nut like the anti-gay Anita Bryant, with a single cause: the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment. But in fact, she was a foreign policy expert whose influential book, A Choice Not an Echo is thought to have been instrumental in Barry Goldwater winning the California primary and Republican nomination for president in 1964. A shrewd political strategist, Schlafly parlayed her STOP ERA campaign into enough political power to swing the Republican party so far to the right that it embraced Ronald Reagan and his "Just Say No" wife Nancy and so much more, all the way up to Trump, whom Schlafly supported before she died in 2016.

Portrayed impeccably (as always) by Cate Blanchett, who co-produced the series, we watch Schlafly forming alliances with rabid anti-abortion, anti-gay hate groups whose drivers turn out to be KKK members; finding out that her eldest son is gay and lecturing him about controlling his impulses; crossing swords with fellow Republican Jill Ruckelshaus (Elizabeth Banks) and the ultra liberal Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman); and getting a pie thrown in her face just like Bryant did.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Tommy Chong Bong Song, Johnny Cash, and Me

Hear the Tommy Chong Bong Song.
It was September 2003, and Tommy Chong was being sent to prison for selling bongs.

I'd written so many articles about people being caught up in our unconscionable war against a plant over the years, I just couldn't bring myself to write one more. There were so many injustices involved, including the fact that Chong was targeted because of the irreverent Cheech and Chong movies he'd made, in a country that is supposed to revere freedom of speech.

So I decided to write a song instead.

Because the "Operation Pipe Dreams" that took Chong down involved 1200 officers in raids of head shops and distributors across the country, leading to 55 arrests, the lyric began:

While the terrorists were knocking on our front door
Twelve hundred policemen didn't have much more
To do than round up 55 in their dragnet
For sellin' a giggle on the internet
We can't find Bin Laden and we're stuck in Iraq
But we've got Tommy Chong under key and lock 

Tommy Chong, Tommy Chong
Servin' nine months in prison for selling bongs
To you I sing this song 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Of Jean Seberg, and Jeanne d'Arc

I thought it was a little over the top that the opening scene of the Amazon film Seberg showed actress Jean Seberg being burned at the stake while playing Joan of Arc. But after watching the movie, starring Kristen Stewart in the title role, I realized it was perfectly appropriate.

Jean Seberg was a 17-year-old girl from a small town in Iowa when she was entered in an international talent search to find someone to play Joan of Arc. Director Otto Preminger cast Jean after reportedly testing 18,000 young women for the title role in the 1957 film St. Joan, with a screenplay by Graham Greene from the George Bernard Shaw play of the same name.

Seberg was badly burned filming the scene where Joan is put to death, but she later said the emotional scars she endured were worse. Those she got from the critics and from working with Preminger, who was notoriously abusive to his actresses. (Robert Mitchum once slapped Preminger on the set, after he demanded repeated takes of Mitchum slapping actress Jean Simmons.) Seberg went on to become a darling of the French avant garde cinema for her role in Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless, and also starred in Hollywood pictures, like Paint Your Wagon and Airport.

Jean as Jeanne
Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc) was also 17 when she announced her calling to fight the English invaders in France. Among the many accusations against her were that she danced as a child at a "fairy tree" at Domrémy, and that she used mandrake and other "witching herbs." The two saints who spoke to her were St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Margaret the Virgin. Some modern scholars think that the legend of Catherine was based on the life and murder of the Greek philosopher Hypatia, (with reversed roles of Christians and pagans). As Saint Marina, St. Margaret is associated with the sea, and possibly the goddess Aphrodite.

Like Jeanne before her, Jean stood up for causes she believed in, namely the Black Panther Party, which was funding schools and meal programs, as well as engaging in more militant rhetoric and activity. Dialog from Seberg about the violent mistreatment of blacks by police echo in protests of today over those ongoing abuses.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Something to Watch if You're "Bored to Death"

From the opening credits of "Bored to Death"
I was feeling a little, well, bored to death while sheltering at home, so it seemed like the kiss of Kismet when I noticed that Amazon Prime is running the 2009-2011 HBO Series Bored to Death through 5/21.

I knew I would like it right away when, in the cartoon-drawn opening credits, Ted Danson's character George hands a joint to Jason Schwartzman playing Jonathan, an insecure writer who tries his hand at being an "unlicensed" private detective after reading too many Raymond Chandler novels.

The show almost has social distancing
down (with Olivia Thirlby).
In the pilot episode Jonathan loses his girlfriend (Olivia Thirlby, from The Wackness) because he won't stop drinking and smoking pot. He cuts down to white wine, but smokes in almost every episode with his friends George, a womanizing magazine publisher, and Ray, an infantile cartoonist played by the always-funny Zach Galifianakis, who's probably most famous for lighting up a joint on Real Time with Bill Maher.

Jonathan hilariously captures his prey with kindness, acting more as a psychotherapist than a detective much of the time. But as the series evolves he finds his courage, as does Ray, whose spoofy cartoon character "Super Ray" gains his powers when his huge penis touches a subway rail. (Yes, we're in New York City.) Ray and George bond over some weed-fueled revelations while they wait for Jonathan on a stake out, leading to more madcap adventures.

Jonathan (Jason Schwartzman) and Stella (Jenny Slate) on a date. 
One of the girls gets to have her ganja fun when Jonathan meets the pro-pot Stella played by comedienne Jenny Slate. "She's beautiful, she's Jewish, and she's got a great vaporizer," he says after Stella invites him over to try her new Volcano vaporizer.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Mothering and Marijuana

UPDATE: Finn has responded to her critics in a second oped: "MY KIDS WATCH ME DRINK WINE. PRETTY OFTEN. IS THAT A PROBLEM?"

The website of a mother who objected to legal cannabis in the LA Times. (Accessed 4/13/20.)

While we're all homebound during the COVID crisis, the usual "Mommy Needs Her Wine" memes have proliferated, with lines like, "Can anyone recommend a good breakfast wine?" and the ominous prediction, "You think it's bad now? In 20 years our country will be run by kids who were home schooled by day drinkers." There's even a Facebook group, "Mommy Needs Vodka." But mothers who use cannabis haven't reached this level of acceptance, despite a new study finding that 16 percent of moms say they are using cannabis to cope with COVID, compared to 11 percent of fathers.

Meanwhile, the LA Times has seen fit to publish for 4/20 an op-ed from a mother irate about the presence of cannabis clubs and billboards around Los Angeles. The author Robin Finn, a “Writer/Coach/Inner Peace Enthusiast,” displayed at the top of her website (at the time) a picture of herself with a glass of wine in her hand with the headline, "Be right there. I'm working...." apparently shirking her parental duties to do some drinking. Finn, who has a public health degree, is addressing our current crisis with weighty articles like, “What is the proper footwear for a Global Pandemic?” “Why A Global Pandemic is not a Good Time to give up Your Anxiety Medication” and “This is Not About Coronavirus. It’s About Tits.”

Ms. Finn frets about her kids becoming drug addicts if they try marijuana, as I'm sure a lot of parents do. She mentions the movie Beautiful Boy, in which a father (played by Steve Carrell) admits to his drug-addicted son that he used drugs in his past, but fails to take the opportunity to discuss the important differences between hard drugs and marijuana, or the value of moderation.

Jennifer Connelly talking with her son (Nat Wolff) in "Stuck in Love"
This is strikingly different from movies like 9-5, Peace Love & Misunderstanding and Stuck in Love where mothers or grandmothers are able to talk to teens about these important distinctions.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Review: "Grass is Greener" from Netflix

The Netflix marijuana documentary “Grass is Greener” is a milestone in the form, told from the perspective of the African-American community that has been so hard hit by the War on Drugs.

Directed and narrated by Frederick Brathwaite, better known as “Fab 5 Freddie” who DJed a hip hop show on MTV, the film features interviews with Snoop Dog, Damian Marley, B Real, Killer Mike, and others, as well as women like Reggae artist Jah 9.

With awesome graphics, music, and archival materials throughout, it starts with the history of cannabis use and prohibition in the US, interviewing pioneer authors Larry "Ratso" Sloman and Steve Hagar, along with Criminal Justice Professor Baz Dreisinger.

The connection between marijuana and music is made right away, starting in New Orleans with the story of Louis Armstrong, and interviewing old-time musicians who have used cannabis for 60 or 70 years. Mezz Mezzrow, the Jewish jazz clarinetist who supplied Harlem with "reefers" back in the day is compared to the modern Mezz, a dealer named Branson who has been extolled in dozens of rap songs.

Everything from the 1944 Laguardia Report, to Nixon's burying of the 1972 Shafer Commission report and subsequent racist comments made by him and his aide John Ehrlichman, and Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign to the rise of pro-legalization Reggae artists Bob Marley and Peter Tosh are given their due.

These are familiar themes, but where "Grass is Greener" departs and breaks ground is where it goes from there, starting with examples of Hip Hop songs that warned against hard drug use, and Snoop's admission that, as a cocaine dealer, he grew distressed at watching the damage that drug caused. Weed, however,  was "fly" and he made it his mission to turn the world onto the better drug. Soon Cypress Hill was smoking weed on SNL, Dr. Dre released his CD "The Chronic," and there was no putting the ganja genie back in the bottle.