Wednesday, June 29, 2022

"Elvis" and Marijuana

The new Baz Lurman movie “Elvis” gives inklings into what the star might have become without the influence of his manipulative manager “Colonel Tom Parker” (not his real name or rank), and the forces that demonized the singer for moving his body too freely onstage to the music he made. 

Marijuana is mentioned in the film as Presley (Austin Butler in a pitch-perfect, career-making performance) begins to gain fame, and becomes fodder for the rumor mill for his too-exciting performances. “The press says I smoke marijuana,” he says, implying it's untrue. 

Just before that line is uttered, a still photo is shown of the real Elvis from a July 1, 1956 interview he did on the show "Hy Gardner Calling." On that program, New York Herald Tribune columnist Gardner asked Presley about his appearance that night on the Steve Allen show, something alluded to in the movie, with Allen requiring him to appear in a tuxedo and serenade a basset hound with “Hound Dog.” 

Gardner asked Presley if he'd ever performed in a tuxedo before, to which he replied, “It's the first time I've had one on.” During the interview where he denied a connection between rock and roll and juvenile delinquency, Elvis was asked about the rumor that he had once shot his mother. “That one takes the cake,” was the reply. 

Gardner then addressed another rumor, saying, “Several newspapers say that you smoke marijuana in order to work yourself into a frenzy while singing.” Elvis just laughed and said, “I don't know.” “You won't even bother answering that?” Gardner asked. No response. 

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Monterey Pop, Michelle Phillips, and Marijuana

Phillips performing at Monterey Pop.
This is the 55th Anniversary of the Monterey Pop festival, which preceded Woodstock by two years as an epic rock and roll and counterculture event. Marking the first major American appearances by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Who, and Ravi Shankar, it was also the first large-scale public appearance of Janis Joplin and the introduction of Otis Redding to a mass American audience. Also playing at the three-day charity event were The Mamas and the Papas, Jefferson AirplaneSimon and Garfunkel,  The Grateful Dead, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Canned Heat, Steve Miller and Laura Nyro, among others. 

The D.A. Pennebaker documentary Monterey Pop is currently viewable on HBO Max and other platforms. In 2018, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Instrumental in planning Monterey Pop were Cheech and Chong producer Lou Adler and Tokin' Woman Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, who has never shied away from controversy and speaking her mind about drug taking. 

Asked on Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect in 1996 during a program on which Timothy Leary was scheduled to appear near the end of his life, "What was wrong with the brown acid at Woodstock?" she sweetly replied, "I don't know, but I was at Monterey Pop, and there we had Sunshine Owsley acid, and there was nothing wrong with that at all." (Owsley was the famous LSD chemist nicknamed "Bear" and the reason for bear imagery on Grateful Dead posters.) Phillips mentioned Tokin' Woman Candy Barr as also going to prison for a joint, as did Leary. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

The Tonys Take a Toke

The (somewhat) gender-reversed Broadway revival of “Company” (shown) has won the 2022 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. Marianne Elliott also won for directing the show, and Patti LuPone and Matt Doyle took home acting Tonys for their roles in the play, which was the final Broadway production the legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim worked on before he died in November.

Sondheim's lyrics for "Gee, Officer Krupke" in 1957's West Side Story include the lines: "My grandma pushes tea," and "Dear kindly judge your honor / my parents treat me rough / with all the marijuana / they won't give me a puff." In "I'm Still Here" for the musical "Follies" he penned, "Reefers and vino, rest cures, religion and pills. And I'm here." 

The original 1970 production of "Company," a series of vignettes revolving around Bobby—a single character—and five couples who are his friends, contains a scene where Bobby gets his friends Jenny and David high. Uptight Jenny (Teri Ralston), who has never tried marijuana before, asks for another joint. She is discouraged by David, who tells Bobby that Jenny does not like marijuana, but partook it to show her love for him. 

Saturday, June 11, 2022

James Joyce's "Ulysses" at 100: Was Leopold Bloom a Stoner?

Joyce's sketch of Leopold Bloom, wth the line from Homer,
"Tell me, Muse, of that manyminded man, who wandered far and wide."

This year is the 100th anniversary of the publication of James Joyce's epic modern novel Ulysses, which was published in Paris by Sylvia Beach on February 2, 1922—Joyce's 40th birthday. 

Ulysses chronicles a day in the life—June 16, 1904—of the Dublin-based character Leopold Bloom, with parallels to the Homeric tale of the same name. "The novel's stream of consciousness technique, careful structuring, and experimental prose—replete with puns, parodies, and allusions—as well as its rich characterisation and broad humour have led it to be regarded as one of the greatest literary works in history; Joyce fans worldwide now celebrate 16 June as Bloomsday." According to Declan Kiberd, "Before Joyce, no writer of fiction had so foregrounded the process of thinking." [Wikipedia]

José Francisco Batiste Moreno in his astonishing paper Leopold Bloom's Tea-Pot presents evidence for Bloom, and Joyce, being influenced by hashish. In 1902, Joyce hung out with hashish-taking authors William Butler Yeats  and Arthur Symons in Paris, "a city once again overcome by the deliquescence of hemp; especially the colorful artistic life of Montmartre, that around the turn of the century was experiencing a new cycle of a true psychotropic revolution based on the green hempen pill."

In 1902, Joyce went to Paris with an introduction from hashish-taking author William Butler Yeatssome say to follow in the footsteps of Verlaine and Baudelaire (who also took hashish). Joyce reportedly spent time with Yeat’s party buddy Arthur Symons in "a city once again overcome by the deliquescence of hemp; especially the colorful artistic life of Montmartre, that around the turn of the century was experiencing a new cycle of a true psychotropic revolution based on the green hempen pill." The “Circe” chapter of Ulysses is said to "rework the visionary literature of Gérard de Nerval and Rimbaud," two more French hashish-takers. In Homer, the goddess/enchantress Circe turns men into pigs with a drug. Of nepenthe, the drug used in Homer by Helen to make soldiers banish the grief of battle, Joyce seems to have borrowed from Shelly's interpretation of it as a love potion. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Murdoch Media Blames Marijuana for Mass Shootings

In 2012 after the Sandy Hook school shooting, media mogul Rupert Murdoch tweeted, "When will politicians find courage to ban automatic weapons?" But now, ten years later, Murdoch's media outlets are busy pointing fingers of blame for the Uvalde, TX school shooting not on the AR-15-style guns the killer purchased legally days after he turned 18, but on marijuana. 

The trial balloon was a letter to the editor that was published in the Wall Street Journal on May 31:

Your editorial fails to mention one important factor: cannabis use. Cannabis, psychosis and violence are intimately related. With the legalization of cannabis, you can expect violent incidents to increase, regardless of the weapon of choice.

Gabe Syme, Phoenix

No Gabe Syme + Phoenix shows up in a Google search. Gabriel Syme is the name of the anarchist hero of the 1908 G.K. Chesterton novel The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare. The 2000 video game Deus Ex features several excerpts from the book. A Twitter account from "Hitler, North Dakota" @gabrielsyme08 has weird (mock?) White Supremacy posts and another with a bodybuilder and the line, "Time for another 200 mg of caffeine."

The same day as Syme's letter appeared in the WSJ, Laura Ingraham, who broadcasts on Fox News, asked on her show, "Why are people not talking about the pot psychosis / violent behavior connection?" Ingraham drew from a book by disgraced anti-vaxxer Alex Berenson to draw a connection between marijuana, mental illness and violence. She repeated a claim by Berenson that the New York Times had removed a reference to Uvalde shooter Salvadore Ramos being angry at his mother and grandmother for not letting him smoke weed. (The claim, supported by screenshots, seems to be true; the story had 13 different contributors and probably got updated as breaking news; I have not seen a response from NYT.)

The following day, Whoopi Goldberg called out conservatives' latest lame attempt to claim something other than assault weapons are to blame on The View. "It's not that people are smoking too much weed. You know that, Laura," Goldberg said. "People who smoke weed are not carrying AR-15s. They don't even know where they put them."

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Families Continue to Be "Torn Apart" By Parents' Marijuana Use

"The child welfare system operates surprisingly like its criminal counterpart. It is a $10 billion apparatus that monitors, controls and punishes families in the same Black communities systematically subjugated by police and prisons," writes Professor Dorothy Roberts in an In These Times excerpt of her new book, Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families—and How Abolition Can Build a Safer World. 

Prof. Roberts continues: 

State-level child protective services agencies investigate the families of 3.5 million children every year, with one in three children nationwide subject to investigation by the time they reach 18. Most Black children (54%) experience an investigation from child protective services (CPS) at some point while growing up. [For white children, it's 28.2%.]

Every year, CPS removes about 500,000 children from their homes—half though judicial proceedings and half through informal "safety plans." More than one in 10 Black and Native children in America will be forcibly separated from their parents and placed in foster care by their 18th birthday. 

In California, a pending bill, AB 2595 by Los Angeles Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, would require CPS to update its directives to instruct case workers to treat marijuana use by parents in the same way they do alcohol or prescription drugs. It is sponsored by the LA Dependency Lawyers, who represent approximately 20,000 parents on a daily basis. Attorney Brooke Huley of LADL, who testified for AB 2595, roughly estimates based on her 10 years' experience that at least 40% of those parents have had their custodial rights abridged in some form as a result of mere use of cannabis. 

"That would mean that about 8,000 of our current clients on any given day have been negatively impacted," Huley said, adding, "Approximately 20% of our clients have had their children removed or kept from their care as a result of cannabis use." (It's hard to pinpoint data due to confidentiality requirements for family courts.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Biden Administration Prefers Fatigued Truck Drivers Carrying Baby Formula to Off-The-Job Marijuana Smokers

Media outlets like High Times and Reason magazines are picking up on something I've been noticing: that the trucker shortage and all the supply chain problems it is causing happened just after the US instituted a National Clearinghouse on drug testing results for drivers, forcing thousands of drivers out of the profession due to off-the-job marijuana use. As the situation is affecting the baby formula supplies, the Biden administration's answer is to exempt drivers from safety requirements over how long they can drive or how much they must rest before getting on the road. 

Sunday, May 22, 2022

George Carlin's American Dream Featured Marijuana

The new Judd Apatow/Michael Bonfiglio documentary series "George Carlin's American Dream" on HBO tells us much about the comedian, including his love for marijuana.  

Carlin's mother Mary fled his violent, alcoholic father with his older brother Patrick when George was just a baby. He grew up a latchkey kid with a single working mother in what he calls "White Harlem" (Morningside Heights) in New York City, spending a lot of time alone. He watched Danny Kaye, Bob Hope and Red Skelton movies and emulated Kaye's facile facial and vocal expressions, while listening to comedians like Jack E. Leonard on the radio and deciding he wanted to be one. 

It could be said of Carlin, and our society, that the Catholic Church no longer letting the wheat in communion wafers go moldy with ergot (my theory, confirmed by others) led to seeking the promised transformative experience of First Communion in other drugs. When he didn't transform, he began to question all authority. "I think I saw religion as the first big betrayal," Carlin said. At Corpus Christi school he was told, "You will be in the state of grace, and you will feel God's presence. When none of that happened, I began to see that they were lying to me."  

Carlin began smoking pot when he was 13 and says he smoked daily from the age of 15, including before all his TV appearances. He quit school in 9th grade and left home at the age of 17, joining the Air Force and working as a DJ until being discharged for "showing a certain amount of disrespect for an NCO."

Lenny Bruce was an influence, and Carlin was in the audience when Bruce was arrested for obscenity, also going to jail when he refused to show his ID. He began his comedy career with a partner wearing a suit and tie and playing goofy characters, already telling stoner jokes. He went solo with characters like the stoned Hippie Dippie Weatherman. "Tomorrow's high is whenever I get up," was one of his jokes. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Backed by "Pothead Second Lady" Gisele, John Fetterman Wins Pennsylvania Primary for US Senate

John and Gisele Fetterman
Pennsylvania's pro-pot Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman has won the Democratic primary for a Senate seat by a resounding 59% of the vote against Conor Lamb, whose endorsements vastly outnumbered Fetterman's, and Malcolm Kenyatta, who did well with voters in Philadelphia.

Standing tall at 6-foot-8-inches, Fetterman jumped into the limelight as the forward-thinking mayor of Braddock, PA, a town once so grimy that when my father—who worked as an engineer for US Steel—did a plant visit there he would change his shirt the moment he hit the door to our home. 

Fetterman has flown a flag displaying cannabis leaves from the lieutenant governor’s office, alongside a rainbow-colored L.G.B.T.Q. banner. In 2019, he embarked on an adult-use cannabis listening tour in all 67 PA counties. In three months, the tour saw over 10,000 people turn out in person, mostly in favor of legalization. 

“John’s overwhelming victory in the primary should send a message to candidates of all political persuasions across the country. Legalization has the support of 7 in 10 Americans, including majorities of all political affiliations,” commented NORML PAC Executive Director Erik Altieri. "His victory sent a clear signal to the establishment: get on the right side of history or lose to someone with the courage of their convictions. ” 

Gisele in a NORML T-shirt,
with her son August. 
Fetterman's wife Gisele is a Brazilian beauty born in Rio de Janeiro who emigrated with her family as an undocumented immigrant at the age of 10 to escape violent crime in her community. A chronic pain sufferer due to a series of accidents, she has been a vocal medicinal marijuana patient who spoke about her journey with Montel Williams

Gisele wrote a fundraising pitch asking for $5 contributions on 4/19/22 with the headline "The 'Pothead Second Lady'" (something she is often called) saying: "John and I are deeply dedicated to the fight for full cannabis legalization. Legal cannabis has changed my life, and I know it can help so many others too. I hope my story of being helped by the plant can help other people understand it rather than fear it...In 2016, Pennsylvania legalized marijuana for medical use. I was one of the first people in line when the first dispensary opened. Today, legal cannabis is the medicine that keeps me pain-free."

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Woody Harrelson Does Right By Cannabis Farmers in California

Activist Cara Cordoni with Harrelson. 
Today in Los Angeles, the Emerald Cup Awards will be held, recognizing the fine cannabis grown by small outdoor farmers of California. One of the judges of the awards is actor/activist Woody Harrelson, and the event kicked off with the opening of The Woods, Harrelson's new West Hollywood pot shop. My Facebook feed lit up last night with photos of Emerald Triangle farmers taken with the affable star, who wore a "Sun+Earth Certified" cap.  

"We were surrounded by our friends from Humboldt and Mendocino including Tina from @moonmadefarms, @chrystalortiz, Aiyana of @humboldt_synchronicitrees, to name a few, activist and educator @luna_stower from the SF Bay, as well as wonderful LA movers and shakers, long time friends of Woody’s from the earliest days of his career, to his collaborators and enablers of his lifelong environmental activism. The room was buzzing with vitality," wrote activist Cara Cordoni. Also on hand was Nancy Birnbaum of Sensi Magazine, Tim Blake of The Emerald Cup, and Bill Maher, one of Harrelson's partners in The Woods who seems to have talked him into going back to smoking pot after he gave it up a few years back. 

Maher and Harrelson with his wife Laura Louie
at The Woods. Photo by Luna Stower.
“The bulk of what people want is indoor chem weed,” Harrelson told LA Weekly in April. “Now, we’re gonna carry that at The Woods because I don’t want to, certainly in the beginning, alienate any potential customers. But my dream is to promote and to help people see the sensibility in sun-drenched herb, because I feel like you want that sun energy.... Outdoor organic is amazing. That’s where all of us should be putting our sights. The outdoor organic herb should be the crème de la crème." 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

75 Years Ago: When Simone de Beauvoir Tried Marijuana in New York City

We are approaching the 75th anniversary the day when French author and feminist icon Simone de Beauvoir was taken to a party in New York City, at her request, to experience smoking marijuana. Beauvoir’s experiences in America lead directly to her writing The Second Sexan "eight-hundred-page encyclopedia of the folklore, customs, laws, history, religion, philosophy, anthropology, literature, economic systems, and received ideas," which remains an influential feminist treatise to this day. 

Beauvoir appears in a dream to Lisa Simpson in "Smoke on the Daughter" 

Born in 1908 and educated in a Catholic convent school in Paris, Simone de Beauvoir showed a high intelligence early in life. “Simone thinks like a man,” her father would boast. 

She was greatly influenced as a child by Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, and the March sisters. “They were poor and plainly dressed, just as she was. Like her, they were taught that the life of the mind was of higher value than rich food, dress and decoration," wrote Deidre Bair in Simone de Beauvoir: A Biography. George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss, where the tragic heroine Maggie Tulliver is “torn between her own happiness and what she perceived as her duty to others,” was also an influence. Both Alcott and Eliot wrote stories in which hashish was mentioned, as did Rudyard Kipling, another author whose books were widely available in French translation at the time. 

Beauvoir also witnessed her school friend ZaZa so constrained by her wealthy family's expectations for her to marry well that she mutilated herself in the leg with an axe rather than face another round of staid society parties. Meanwhile, ZaZa's cousin Jacques, a suitor to Simone, was free to visit the bohemian regions of the city, introducing her to a world at a time when, "not many bookish virgins with a particle in their surname got drunk with the hookers and drug addicts at Le Styx," wrote Judith Thurman in the introduction to a 2010 translation of The Second Sex. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

"Weed's Come a Long Way, Baby" Campaign to Premiere on 4/20

"Flower by Edie Parker" is launching an ad campaign on 4/20 based on the famous "You've Come a Long Way, Baby" ads for Virginia Slims cigarettes in the late 1960s and '70s. The ads are going up in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Boston and include the brand’s nickname, Weedie Parker, and models posting with twin packs of pre-rolls called Best Buds.

“These ads were so groundbreaking—the Virginia Slims woman was stylish and independent and bold. But in 2022, she doesn’t smoke cigarettes. She smokes flower,” Brett Heyman, founder of handbag-maker-turned-cannabis-company Edie Parker told Adweek

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Yes, Women Can Be "Hysterical" (In a Good Way)

With so much emphasis on comedy and comedians in the wake of the Chris Rock and Louis C.K. flaps, I decided to watch the HBO documentary Hysterical, following a group young female stand-up comedians, with cameos from established comics. The title is doubly apt: "Hysterical" can mean "very funny" but has also been used to denigrate women as having uncontrollable emotions (the root comes from the Greek hystera meaning uterus).  

I didn't understand why Chris Rock was needed at the Oscars, since comediennes Wanda Sykes and Amy Schumer were both hosts. Hysterical proves that women stand-ups can hold their on on the stage. The film is full of funny (dare I say, hysterical) stand-up moments from the women, who also tell amazing, and amusing, stories of the hurdles they still must jump to be heard. 

Filmmaker Andrea Nevins said some comics refused to appear in the documentary if a comment made by Jerry Lewis about women not being funny would be brought up. Lewis's statement, that he couldn't watch a woman "diminish her qualities" by doing stand up, is similar to arguments used to keep women out of politics, or even grant us the right to vote.

Margaret Cho for Cho-G
Nikki Glaser stood out to me in the film. She's been open about her marijuana use and how it helps her cope; she recently had a conversation about it with Chelsea Handler, also a pot fan. Margaret Cho, who loves pot so much she developed a strain called Cho-G, tells a tale in Hysterical about getting a call from the producer of her TV show telling her she was overweight. She manages to make funny the fact that she lost 30 pounds in two weeks, leading to an attack of kidney failure on the set. Crazy when you think about how it was rumored that Melissa McCarthy's sitcom was cancelled because she lost too much weight. 

Looking up Cho, I saw she has pinned a tweet about Rolling Stone putting her on their 2017 list of Top 50 Stand-Up Comedians. I checked out the list: there are only 11 women on it, and only one (Joan Rivers) in the top 30. Cho comes in at #48, with Sykes at #50, and Schumer at #43, just behind Phyllis Diller way down at #42. 

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Top 10 Quotes and Moments from the Oscars

1. "President Biden, bring Brittney Griner home." - Ben Proudfoot, director of The Queen of Basketball, holding up his Oscar for best short documentary film.  

2. "I'm the only sober one up here. Some things haven't changed in 30 years. You guys should have hooked me up." - Rosie Perez on her presenting reunion with White Men Can't Jump co-stars Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes, who joked about taking bong rips in the car on the way to the show.

3. "Documentaries make you feel smart, like you read a book or something, when all you really did was get high and watch Netflix." 
- Chris Rock before handing the Best Documentary award to Questlove for Summer of Soul. But not before Will Smith thought his wife needed a Big Strong Man to defend her against one of Chris's jokes, and responded with violence and profanity (censored from the feed I watched) in the low point of the night. No wonder Smith cried through his acceptance speech; he could use more getting high, watching Netflix and chilling in his life. Apparently the ayahuasca he tried in 2021 didn't last, or wasn't properly integrated. 

Saturday, March 26, 2022

"Garcia Hand Picked" Pot from Carolyn and Jerry's Daughters Goes on the Road

The daughters of cannabis queen Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Garcia and their progeny are traveling by trailer around the country with their brand, named "Garcia Hand Picked," featuring images of their famous father (or stepfather), Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia. The brand was created by the daughters Carolyn had with Jerry, Trixie and Annabelle, and her daughter Sunshine by another famous pot pioneer, Merry Prankster Ken Kesey. 

Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Garcia
with her daughters
When Kesey was arrested for pot in 1965, Carolyn told news reporters, “I’m not weeping with remorse.” (This was a rather radical statement for the time.) Soon afterwards, she was gifted with four marijuana seeds brought back from Vietnam by a veteran, and grew them so well that the resulting buds were considered too strong by some. Trained in science and interested in the then-unknown field of organic gardening, she began growing several other cannabis strains from seed, again doing so well that she was inundated with requests to share her secrets. 

Garcia decided to write what became a seminal book on marijuana cultivation, Primo Plant:Growing Sinsemilla Marijuana, first published in 1976. The book quickly became a bestseller, selling 50,000 copies in two years’ time and helping to start the trend of quality home-grown, seedless sinsemilla among the back-to-landers of her generation. 

“It has now become like the wine or brandy industry,” Garcia told in 2014. “There are a lot of very hip, smart, thoughtful people who have gotten into the production.” Among her leadership roles, she served on the advisory board to the Marijuana Policy Project, and helped shape the Women’s Visionary Council, a group that holds events across the country to highlight women’s research in entheogenics. 

Sunday, March 20, 2022

RIP "Sister Bobbie" Nelson

Bobbie Nelson, Willie's older sister who played keyboards in his band for nearly 50 years, passed away on March 10 at the age of 91. 

"When it came to pot smoking, I could never match Willie—literally no one can—but I did experience the benefits," Bobbie wrote in the 2020 book she and Willie co-authored Me and Sister Bobbie: True Tales of the Family Band. In the book, Willie writes: "Without my sister I'd never be where I am today. I've always needed her.....I would have run into ruin if it hadn't been for my first and best friend, Bobbie. If I was the sky, sister Bobbie was the earth. She grounded me. Two years older, she also protected me." 

The depression-baby siblings' parents broke up and left them with their grandparents when Bobbie was three years old and Willie only six months. After "Daddy" Nelson died when the kids were six and eight, Bobbie would take Willie and hide in the fields whenever the authorities came around, threatening to take them from their grandmother and separate them into foster homes. "Mama" Nelson traded eggs from her chickens for groceries, taught music, grew vegetables, and picked cotton and corn to support the children. The kids worked in the fields with her, and she taught them how to braid her hair. 

Friday, March 11, 2022

Was The Band's "The Weight" Written For a Drug-Dealing Woman?

Cathy Smith, Inspiration for "The Weight"? 

From a woman's perspective, the dreary, draggy song has always bugged me. Who was this Annie (or Fanny) who was so weak she needed some burden taken off of her? 

Take a load off Fanny
Take a load for free
Take a load off Fanny
And you put the load right on me 

Written by The Band member Robbie Robertson, "The Weight" has cryptic and poetic lyrics with many possible interpretations, and is admittedly about characters known to members of the group. "The story told in the song is about the guilt of relationships, not being able to give what’s being asked of you," Robertson has said. "In going through these catacombs of experience. you’re trying to do what’s right, but it seems that with all the places you have to go, it’s just not possible. In the song, all this is ‘the load'." 

Route from Toronto to Nazareth, PA
When I learned that the title of the song was "The Weight," I wondered if it was also about a drug deal. "Take a load" could refer to picking up a certain weight of pot or some drug from a woman named Fanny, who apparently didn't get paid for the risk she took in the venture, since the lyrics say, "take a load for free." 

The song takes biblical overtones to many with its first lines:
I pulled into Nazareth, I was feelin' about half past dead / I just need some place where I can lay my head....

However, Robertson says this was actually written about Nazareth, Pennsylvania, the home of Martin guitars. The town is a day's drive from the band's home base (Toronto, Canada) on the route to either Philadelphia or New York City. If the band was running weed to supplement their income, as so many musicians have, Nazareth might have been a stop on their trade route. In those days, it's likely they would have been carrying Mexican marijuana from the States across the border to Canada. 

The Staples Singers in "The Last Waltz"

In 2004 Rolling Stone ranked "The Weight" 41st on a list of 500 greatest songs of all time. The song is immortalized in the Martin Scorcese–directed film "The Last Waltz" with the Staples Singers on vocals. Mavis Staples told the New Yorker of the experience: 

I took it as Moses in the Bible, you know. I just make up my own vision to make the song feel good for me, and make it my own. We were in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Nazareth was on the same highway. But when we sang, “I pulled into Nazareth,” I took it as Nazareth in the Bible. You could ask those guys what the song was about and they’d say, “We don’t know.” I guess they didn’t want to go through a long explanation. My brother said, “Mavis, I know what the song is about. This song is about drugs."

"I loved The Band's music and thought 'The Weight' was a testament to the importance of underground drug dealing during that time," says NORML founder Keith Stroup. 

I picked up my bag, I went lookin' for a place to hide...

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Jack Kerouac at 100, By His Women

This Saturday, March 12 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jack Kerouac, the author whose landmark novels like On the Road defined a generation called “beat.” 

On Thursday, March 10 at 6 PM PST, City Light Bookstore in San Francisco will hold a virtual celebration of Kerouac and his work titled, Still Outside: Kerouac@100. [Watch a YouTube video of the event. Updates from it in brackets.]

Speaking at the event about Desolation Angels—the book that most delves into Kerouac's drug experiences during his travels to Mexico and Tangiers—will be Beat Generation scholar Ann Charters. A professor of American Literature at the University of Connecticut, Charters was the only biographer who interviewed Kerouac about the circumstances in which he wrote his books. She edited his posthumous poetry collection Scattered Poems.  

[Charters ended her presentation with a quote from Marcel Proust, one of Kerouac's favorite authors: “In reality every reader, while she is reading, is the reader of her own self. The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to permit her to discern what, without the book, she would perhaps never have seen in herself. The reader's recognition of her own self of what the book says is the proof of its truth.” She added, "And that's Kerouac."] 

Speaking on "How On the Road started a cultural revolution and the price Jack Kerouac paid for it," will be author Joyce Johnson, who dated the author during the time he wrote Desolation Angels and is fictionalized in the book as the character Alice Newman. 

Johnson met Kerouac at a time when, "just breaking away from home was an enormous struggle for a young woman," she told Fresh Air's Terry Gross in a 1983 interview upon publication of her book Minor Characters. "We were women who were attracted to men who exemplified freedom, but who would put women into more traditional roles; we weren't their comrades," she said. 

Sunday, March 6, 2022

South Dakota Lawmaker Calls Drug User a "Whore" on House Floor

South Dakota Rep. Steve Haugaard, formerly a Speaker of the House, called a woman who he said used marijuana and methamphetamine a "wrung-out whore" during a debate about a medical cannabis bill on the state house floor on Thursday.

According to account by the West Central Tribune, Haugaard rose to debate Senate Bill 26, to redefine the definition of "practitioner" under the state's medical cannabis bill, when he asked lawmakers if he could "tell a story": 

He talked about a family welfare check Sioux Falls police performed on a young mother Haugaard's family knows. Haugaard said the woman started "self-medicating" with marijuana because of her depression.

Then, he shared another example of a family he represented as an attorney whose daughter he knew as a "little teenage girl," and has now, in her 30s, fallen into drug addiction. Haugaard said the teenager used marijuana and then turned to methamphetamine. "She was a beautiful girl in her teens and a sweet kid," said Haugaard. "She is now kind of a wrung-out whore because she has prostituted herself for drugs."

Saturday, March 5, 2022

WNBA Player Brittney Griner Detained in Russia, Reportedly for Hashish Vape Cartridge

Sign a petition for Griner’s release addressed to various US officials.

60 Minutes mentioned Griner's plight in a segment about WNBA player (and Megan Rapinoe fiancée) Sue Bird, during a discussion about why WNBA players go to Russia. 

Former Pentagon official: Russia could use WNBA star Brittney Griner as 'high-profile hostage'
Griner is not the first U.S. citizen that Russia has held in custody as tensions between the two nations have escalated. Last August, a U.S. teacher [Marc Fogel] was arrested with marijuana and cannabis at a Moscow airport and accused of smuggling drugs into the country on a large scale.

Russia wouldn’t be a tantalizing option for America’s best women’s basketball players if they could earn more at home and be treated with the same professional respect as NBA players. It is damning that teams in oppressive countries such as Russia and China—another opportune marketplace for women’s basketball players—place a higher value on players such as Griner than the teams in her own country do.

"They're making her out to sound like a drug kingpin. I think that it is unlikely that Ms. Griner will get a fair trial," concludes Jonathan Franks, the campaign spokesman for Trevor Reed, who has been detained in Russia since August 2019. "I think that every time reporters repeat that narrative, we're doing some of the dirty work of the hostage takers for them. My attitude is Brittney Griner is innocent of any crimes until the world sees otherwise," adds American Iranian journalist Jason Rezaian, who was detained in an Iranian prison for 544 days in 2014.

The Nation: Brittney Griner is a Political Prisoner
Imagine if Kevin Durant [a marijuana fan] were being held in a Russian prison, waiting months for a trial, in the middle of a war. Every day we would have an update, even if it were just to say his name and ensure that he was still in people’s minds....Right now, there are only bad choices. But the starting point has to be the recognition that this is no longer about marijuana possession, if it ever was. There needs to be a recognition that Griner is in fact a political prisoner.

Ms Griner, a nine-year veteran of the league - is the "best of the best", said Melissa Isaacson, a sportswriter and professor at Northwestern University in the US state of Illinois. "She's every bit the Tom Brady of her sport," Ms Isaacson said. "You could argue very accurately that she is one of the best athletes in the world." Roughly half of WNBA players compete overseas in the off-season. For most, it's a way to augment their domestic income: WNBA players receive roughly five times more in Russia than they do in the US. "If she were Steph Curry or LeBron James, she wouldn't be over there at all because she'd be making enough money," said Tamryn Spruill, a sports journalist who is writing a book on the WNBA and Ms Griner's contributions to the league.

According to the New York Times, officials of the Russian Federal Customs Service announced today that they have detained a US basketball player after allegedly finding vape cartridges that contained hashish oil in her luggage at the Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow. 

The player has been identified as Brittney Griner, a seven-time W.N.B.A. All-Star center for the Phoenix Mercury who has played for the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg for several years. Griner, 31, won Olympic gold medals with the U.S. women’s national basketball team in 2016 and 2021. 

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Goodbye to Our Big, Beautiful Blonde: Sally Kellerman

Sally Kellerman, best known as "Hot Lips" Houlihan in the 1970 movie M*A*S*H, stood at 5' 10" tall and weighed a hefty 175 pounds with a "butch" haircut when she took a bit part in 1957's B-movie "Reform School Girls."

A graduate of Hollywood High who grew up in Long Beach and the San Fernando Valley, Kellerman took acting classes with the likes of Jack Nicholson, Robert Towne, Carol Eastman, and Shirley Knight before landing acting roles on TV shows, including an appearance in the "Star Trek" pilot, and in "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" (playing a girl who is captured by the musky smell of Maynard's hair tonic).

Kellerman used diet pills starting at the age of 18 (dexamyl spansules, which "made me feel like Felix the Cat on the inside. They burnt out my nervous system and eventually became a popular street drug.") Of her iconic shower scene in M*A*S*H, she wrote, "For someone like me, who had ridden the roller-coaster of pregnant women's urine, dexamyl capsules, apple diets, and  fruit fasts to always run back to cookies, brownies, and candy—the mainstays of my diet—getting naked was not at the top of any 'to-do' list." She recalled of her time working on the ensemble-style film with director and Very Important Pothead Robert Altman that, "After shooting, we'd smoke a little grass and some would have a drink. We'd all go to the dailies together." 

She appeared in other Altman films (Brewster McCloud, Ready to Wear), as well as playing Jodie Foster's mother in Little Foxes and Rodney Dangerfield's love interest in Back to School. She was superb in the 1972 movie version of Neil Simon's The Last of the Red Hot Lovers, and was acclaimed for her performance in the PBS Great Performances production of Big Blonde, based on a poignant Dorothy Parker short story.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Betty Sembler and Straight Inc.

Betty Sembler
Watching the documentary White Savior: Racism in The American Church tonight with its segment on the American Indian Boarding schools that separated native children from their families and stripped them of their heritage, I thought of Straight Inc., the discredited program that sought to reprogram marijuana-using teens in the US from 1976 to 1994. 

Straight Inc. co-founder Betty Sembler died this week, and her otherwise glowing obituaries briefly mention that the program "was shut down amid allegations of abuse and excessive force." 

Sembler, along with her husband Mel, was a high-profile antidrug crusader for decades. According to news accounts, Mel was a lifelong Democrat until he objected to Jimmy Carter's pro-legalization stance after one of the Semblers' sons began smoking marijuana. The Semblers made millions developing shopping centers in Florida, and fundraised so well for Republicans that George H.W. Bush named Mel ambassador to Australia, and George W. Bush made him ambassador to Italy. 

Reportedly, Betty was among those who suggested Nancy Reagan take on drugs as her pet cause, and Reagan gave her stamp of approval to Straight Inc., as did former NIDA head Robert DuPont. The program operated 43 centers in 18 states across the US over its 19-year run. Dubbed "warehouses" by participants, the ACLU called them "concentration camps for throwaway teens." 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

When Eartha Kitt Preached to Lady Bird on Pot

 A new New Yorker short documentary covers the 1968 White House luncheon at which Eartha Kitt took on both LBJ and Lady Bird Johnson over their policies on "delinquent" children and the Vietnam War.

The unique and thrilling performer who Orson Wells once called "the most exciting woman in the world" was, among her many accomplishments, James Dean's dance teacher, and she also taught kids in LA's Watts district, earning her an invitation to Lady Bird's "Women Doers" lunch on January 18, 1968.

During the question period, Kitt addressed the First Lady saying, "You are a mother too though you have had daughters and not sons. I am a mother and I know the feeling of having a baby come out of my guts. I have a baby and then you send him off to war. No wonder the kids rebel and take pot. And Mrs. Johnson, in case you don't understand the lingo, that's marijuana."  

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Tokin' Women Kristen Stewart and Kirsten Dunst Earn Oscar Nominations

Kristen Stewart as Diana Spencer
Kristen Stewart shares an important connection with Diana Spencer, the princess she portrays in the movie Spencer: Being hounded by paparazzi. 

On the day her breakthrough film Twilight was released, Stewart was photographed smoking a pot pipe. 

“You can google my name and one of the first things that comes up is images of me siting on my front porch smoking a pipe with my ex-boyfriend and my dog,” Stewart told Vanity Fair in 2012. “It was taken the day the movie came out. I was no one. I was a kid. I had just turned 18. In the tabloids the next day it was like I was a delinquent slimy idiot, whereas I’m kind of a weirdo, creative Valley Girl who smokes pot. Big deal. But that changed my daily life instantly. I didn’t go out in my underwear anymore.” 

Stewart went on to make more Twilight films and take other more interesting roles: She starred as Tokin' Woman Joan Jett in The Runaways (2010), and as the fictional wife of Neal Cassady, Marylou, in the 2012 film adaptation of Very Important Pothead Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Director Walter Salles learned that Stewart had "placed a copy of On the Road on the dashboard of her first car, that’s how much the book meant to her" and "was so passionate and insightful about the character that he never even auditioned her for the part."

Monday, February 7, 2022

Tammy Faye and Medical Marijuana

In The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Jessica Chastain transforms into the well known, and often ridiculed, TV evangelist Tammy Faye Bakker.  The film, now streaming on HBOMax and Hulu, is based on a 2000 documentary of the same name narrated by RuPaul. 

Tammy Faye LaValley left a "tiny, troubled home" and seven younger siblings in International Falls, MN to study at what was then North Central Bible College in Minneapolis, where she met her husband-to-be Jim Bakker. The two took off on an evangelism tour featuring Tammy Faye's singing and puppeteering, attracting the attention of  TV evangelists like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell who put them on the air, where they became popular, and profitable. 

Tammy's version of Christianity meant loving everyone, no matter their orientation. In 1985, she has raised the ire of the religious hierarchy around her when she sympathetically interviewed Steve Pieters, an openly gay church pastor living with AIDS. As depicted in the movie, Falwell (a terrificly terrible Vincent D'Onofrino) pitched a fit about it and told Jim his wife needed to be controlled. 

Sunday, January 23, 2022

REVIEW: Jean Smart Is No "Hack" on HBO Series

Jean Smart in "Hacks" on HBO
I'm catching up with HBO shows since managing to subscribe two minutes before the premiere of the 20th season of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher—and was rewarded with a funny and poignant New Rule about Senate Gary Candidate Chambers smoking weed in his campaign ad. 

Another reward: Catching Jean Smart's tour-de-force performance as the acerbic, veteran Las Vegas stand-up comic Deborah Vance in "Hacks." 

In the series, Deborah reluctantly hires the self-involved young writer Ava (Hannah Einbinder) as a joke writer. Ava is smart, sarcastic, and a somewhat stereotypical twenty-something. She sends a naked selfie to her ex, and takes Molly and cocaine to excess with a guy she meets, who encourages her to take a leap before tragically taking one of his own. It's established that Ava gets high when Deborah questions why she's been charged for three chicken parmesan dinners sent to Ava's hotel room in a single night. 

In Episode 6 ("New Eyes"), Deborah has an "eyelid refresh" at a spa/surgery center and takes Ava along for the weekend. Deborah, who pronounces that she doesn't like marijuana (saying, "Why would I want to take something that makes me feel lazy and hungry too?"),  agrees to take a cannabis gummy to deal with her pain when offered by Ava, who joins her. The two are soon laughing together and sharing insights about their lives, something women tend to do when they use cannabis together (but is rarely seen on TV or in films). 

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Tokin' Women and Others We Lost in 2022

Sadly, this page will be updated throughout 2022.

Jim Seals (6/6)

Seals and his musical partner, Dash Crofts, were still teenagers when they were asked to join an instrumental group, the Champs, which had had a No. 1 hit in 1958 with “Tequila.” By the mid-1960s they had tired of the band and of the loud, sometimes angry strains that were infusing the hard rock of the time. Adherents of the Baha’i faith, they sought to make a calmer brand of music, mixing folk, bluegrass, country and jazz influences and delivering their lyrics in close harmony. The result was hummable tunes like "Summer Breeze," "Hummingbird," "Diamond Girl," and "Get Closer." Source.

Sophie Freud (6/3)

Psychosociologist, educator, and author Freud was the granddaughter of Sigmund Freud, and a critic of psychoanalysis, aspects of which she described as "narcissistic indulgence." She wrote a book titled, Living in the Shadow of the Freud Family where she observed how all of her female relatives, including her mother and aunt Anna, were negatively impacted by Sigmund's harmful claims about women and their internal experiences. She was a feminist who pushed for women's rights in academia and fought against the presumption that a woman who became pregnant would be unable to continue with education or, in her case, professional social work activities. Source

Ray Liotta (5/26)

Liotta was memorable as Shoeless Joe in Field of Dreams and starred in movies like Something Wild and Dominick and Eugene before being forever known as the mobster in Goodfellas who endures craziest, most heart-pounding sequence of drug smuggling ever filmed. 

Bob Neuwirth (5/18)

"Like Kerouac had immortalized Neal Cassady in ‘On the Road,’ somebody should have immortalized Neuwirth. He was that kind of character," said Bob Dylan of his collaborator and promoter. Neuwirth taught Janis Joplin to play Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee" and was a co-writer on "Mercedes Benz." He was also instrumental in the career of Patti Smith, who said, " I think he immediately recognized something in me that I didn't even recognize in myself, and he took me under his wing."

Régine Zylberberg (5/1)
Abandoned in infancy by her unwed mother, Régine was left alone at age 12 when her Polish father was arrested by the Nazis in France. In 1957 she opened a basement nightclub in a Paris back street where she pioneered the dual-turntable discotheque. Chez Régine built an empire of 23 clubs in Europe, the Middle East and the Americas, including the swanky and popular Régine’s in Manhattan.

Kathy Boudin (5/1)
A member of the Weather Underground who was convicted of felony murder for her role in the 1981 Brink's robbery, Boudin won an International PEN prize for poetry she wrote in prison in 1999. She was released on parole in 2003 and became a criminal justice advocate and an adjunct professor at Columbia University. Boudin was a model for the title role in David Mamet's play The Anarchist (2012). Her son Chesa Boudin is the progressive District Attorney of San Francisco.

Naomi Judd (4/30)

Tragically, Judd took her own life the day before she and her daughter Wynonna were honored by the Country Music Hal of Fame. Judd, who worked as a nurse to support her family while building her musical career, suffered trauma from childhood sexual abuse and struggled with severe depression and anxiety. The week she died, studies were released finding that both cannabis and psilocybin are effective against depression. 

Judy Henske (4/27)

Henske was a powerful singer once dubbed "The Queen of the Beatniks." Known for her 6-foot-tall physique and her humorous patter onstage, her 1963 recording of "High Flying Bird" was influential on folk rock, and her 1969 album Farewell Aldebaran was an eclectic "fusion of folk music, psychedelia, and arty pop." Henske's relationship with Woody Allen partially inspired his pot-smoking character Annie Hall, who, like Henske, was from Chippewa Falls, WI. 

Orrin Hatch (4/23)

Hatch, a longtime Senator from Utah, was an advocate for loosening regulations on herbal supplements like ephedra. He wrote a forward to a booklet published for parents in 1998 by the Salt Lake Education Foundation that included "excessive preoccupation with social causes, race relations, environmental issues, etc." as a warning sign of marijuana use. Hatch "evolved" a bit on medical marijuana, after making a pun-filled speech about it upon introducing a research bill in 2017. Hatch told a group of women protesting Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court to "grow up."

Cynthia Plaster Caster (4/21)

Rock groupie extrordinaire Cynthia Albritton became known as "Plaster Caster" after she started making casts of rock stars' erect penises, starting with Jimi Hendrix. Ultimately she made 50 casts, and branched out into casting women's breasts. Doubtlessly an inspiration for The Banger Sisters, in which former groupies Susan Sarandon and Goldie Hahn look at pics they took of their conquests (after getting stoned), Albritton also inspired the character of "Juicy Lucy" in the 2017 TV series Good Girls Revolt.

Robert Morse (4/20)

The devilishly impish Morse, who won his first Tony award for "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," played Bert Cooper on Mad Men while in his 80s. In this scene, Bert appears after he dies to Don (who has been smoking pot and having visions in other episodes). Morse won a second Tony for portraying Truman Capote in "Tru." Maureen Arthur, who played Hedy La Rue in "How to Succeed," on Broadway and in film, died on 6/15. 

Patrick Carlin (4/17)

The older brother of, and influence on, comedian (and Very Important Pothead) George Carlin, Patrick was a marijuana fan who wrote the words to this ultimate pot poster. "My dear Uncle Patrick has moved onto the spirit world. He’s currently spinning tunes, smoking a jay w/my Aunt Marlane and shooting the shit w/ his brother," tweeted George's daughter Kelly, whose book, A Carlin Home Companion: Growing Up With George was published in 2015.

Liz Sheridan (4/14) 

Sheridan, known for her role as Jerry Seinfeld's mom on TV, wrote a book titled Dizzy & Jimmy about the time, as a young actress and dancer in NYC, she dated James Dean, whose marijuana use was confirmed by Ann Doran, the actress who played his mother in Rebel Without a Cause. Sheridan died two weeks after the death of Estelle Harris, the actress who played the mother of Seinfeld's sidekick George Costanza, as well as voicing Mrs. Potato Head in the Toy Story movies and playing "Easy Mary" on TV's "Night Court."

Madeleine Albright (3/23)
Our first female Secretary of State, Albright was a chief delegate to the United Nations and foreign policy advisor to Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to run for vice president. Born Maria Jana Korbelova in Prague just before the outbreak of World War II, she did not learn until she was nearly 60 that both of her parents were Jewish. In addition to Russian, she spoke Czech, French, German, Polish, and Serbo-Croatian, and her brooches, which were part of her diplomatic language, were displayed at the Museum of Art and Design in NYC. She clued Samantha Bee into speaking to female heads of state about sexism in this clip (above) and took flack for saying while Hillary Clinton was running for president, "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other." Her last book was, Fascism: A Warning (2018).

Adriana Hoffmann (3/20)
Chilean botanist, environmentalist, and author Hoffmann was Chile's Environment Minister in 2000 and 2001. She advocated for the sustainable management and protection of Chilean forests, leading opposition to illegal logging in her role as coordinator of Defensores del Bosque Chileno (Defenders of the Chilean Forest) since 1992. Hoffmann authored over a dozen books on the flora of Chile and 106 botanical names, mostly realignments of species and infraspecific taxa of cactus.

Don Young (3/18)
Rep. Young (R-AK) was one of just five GOP members of the House of Representatives to vote in favor of a bill to end marijuana prohibition in 2020, and was a Cannabis Caucus co-chair. First elected in 1973 during the Nixon administration, Young was in his 25th term and 49th year in Congress when he died at age 88. Born in California in 1933, he was drawn to Alaska as a young man by Very Important Pothead Jack London's book Call of the Wild.