Tuesday, April 13, 2021

RIP Ramsey Clark, Mary Jeanne Kreek and Jean Langenheim

Recently portrayed as the man of uncommon integrity he was by Michael Keaton in the Aaron Sorkin/Netflix movie "The Trial of the Chicago 7, former US Attorney General and government official Ramsey Clark has died. 

Clark supervised the drafting of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968, and as AG opposed the death penalty and enforced antitrust laws. He "tussled with J. Edgar Hoover, settled land claims with Native American groups and accompanied Martin Luther King Jr. on his march to Selma."  He also helped start NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). 

Keith Stroup, who was a young lawyer when he started NORML, recalled in a New York Magazine article that he'd read Clark's book Crime in America. "I was amazed because here was this former Attorney General arguing that marijuana should be legalized. I’d never heard that from such a prominent public figure before," Stroup said. He met with Clark who reaffirmed his mission and helped make it happen, serving on the advisory board for NORML.

"It was terribly sad to learn of Ramsey Clark’s death," Stroup wrote to me in an email. "He was a friend and a personal political hero of mine, and someone who helped me get NORML off the ground in the early 1970’s. When I was uncertain, he reassured me that it was the right thing to do and he introduced me to Hugh Hefner and the Playboy Foundation, that largely funded NORML for our first decade. He was a brilliant man who fought every day for the common man. Ramsey Clark for my generation was the icon that we looked to to tell us how to move forward. He helped us end the Viet Nam War and to seek racial justice." 

Two prominent women scientists and unsung heroines have also recently passed and been added to Tokin' Woman's yearly In Memoriam post: Mary Jeanne Kreek and Jean Langenheim.

Kreek, a neurobiologist specializing in research into the biology of drug and alcohol addiction, developed the first laboratory techniques for measuring methadone and similar drugs in blood and tissues in the early 1970s. She was also involved in developing buprenorphine for heroin addiction, and was critical of the tight regulation of both methodone and buprenorphine in the US. 

Her obituary from Rockefeller University says:

In 1985, Kreek was one of the first to document that drugs of abuse significantly alter the expression of specific genes in certain brain regions, resulting in neurochemical and behavioral changes. After that, she went on to develop animal models for addiction and to identify many of the genes and biological pathways that act together and make someone more likely to become addicts. More recently, her lab identified more than 100 changes in the DNA code associated with addiction not only to opioids but also to cocaine, alcohol, and marijuana. She found that several of these changes were also associated with atypical responses to stress, potentially leading to an increased tendency to become addicted. Her work on the genetic changes linked to addiction has ongoing implications for developing new ways to recognize and treat addictions to a number of different substances.  

A plant ecologist and ethnobotanist, Langenheim was the first female faculty member in the natural sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz and became Chair of UCSC's biology department in 1973. Her early research helped determine the plant origins of amber and her book Plant Resins: Chemistry, Evolution, Ecology, and Ethnobotany, won the 2004 Mary W. Klinger Book Award from the Society for Economic Botany and discusses hashish as cannabis resin. 

An article from the Santa Cruz Sentinel says: 

For centuries, the paleontology community argued that all amber was produced by pine trees. Langenheim noticed indigenous people in Mexico were burning plant amber as incense, and that the incense smelled nothing like pine. Instead, its scent resembled that of a tropical flowering tree. Langenheim analyzed the chemical components of amber and resin from the tropical flowering tree that she collected from Mexico. She discovered that the amber makeup was similar to that of the resin. This finding launched Langenheim’s career; it led to a highly cited publication and a grant by the National Science Foundation. 

Also recently passed: Anne Beatts, an original SNL writer who is hilarious in this mock TV ad as a housewife on speed; G. Gordon Liddy, the Watergate mastermind and drug warrior who later went on the debate circuit with Timothy Leary; and actor George Segal, who toked onscreen with Barbara Streisand in "The Owl and the Pussycat." 

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