Saturday, December 30, 2023

Censorship of Santa's Pipe from "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" Continues on Its 200th Anniversary

Thomas Nast, Harper's Weekly, 1/1/1881
"'Twas the Night Before Christmas," the beloved Clement Moore poem that was first published as "Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas" on December 23, 1823, celebrated its 200 anniversary this year.

Describing first seeing Santa Claus, Moore wrote: 

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, 
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; 
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, 
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack. 
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry! 
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! 
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, 
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow; 
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, 
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath

Those last two lines were edited out of a version of the poem published in 2012 by Canadian author Pamela McColl, an anti-smoking advocate who "believes that her non-smoking Santa will prevent new smokers." McColl spent $200,000 of her own money printing 55,500 copies in English, Spanish and French and hired an illustrator to redraw Santa without his pipe. 

“It’s denying access to the original voice of the author, and that’s censorship,” Deborah Caldwell-Stone of the American Library Association told the New York Post. She likened McColl’s alteration to an Alabama publisher’s controversial purging of “indecent” language in “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” The National Coalition Against Censorship said, "Readers of the new version will note Santa is still overweight, at least for now."

This year, McColl is back with a new book “'Twas The Night: The Art and History of the Classic Christmas Poem,” and is appearing at events to celebrate the bicentennial of the poem she altered.  (That book does contain the original, uncensored version of the poem, along with art work depicting Santa with his pipe. But when my nephew's public library offered a reading of the poem last month, it was the censored version.)

Friday, December 15, 2023

Chelsea Handler Named Tokin' Woman of the Year: Tokey Awards 2023

Winners: Write Here to claim your prize: A Tokin' Women book.

TOKIN' WOMAN OF THE YEAR - Chelsea Handler

I've wanted to make Chelsea Handler the Tokin' Woman of the Year for the past several years, but current events (Sha'Carri Richardson losing her Olympics slot for testing positive for marijuana, Britney Griner bring imprisoned in Russia for carrying it across the border, Kamala Harris being nominated for Vice President and talking about weed....) intervened. 

In Handler's 2019 book Life Will Be the Death of Me, she relates how after the Trump election she found that her rage at the political situation was exacerbated by alcohol, and so she began learning more about marijuana as a substitute, starting as an aid to meditation. 

"I think the world needs cannabis more than it's ever needed anything," she announced at an appearance that year at the Hall of Flowers trade show in Sonoma, CA. "Alcohol is not doing it.....if we want a kinder, softer and gentler place, then we have the answer."

"So many users aren't out because of shame," she lamented, adding, "But I have time to be here and be a New York Times #1 bestselling author...We need to highlight that cannabis can be used to function, to create, to contribute." 

Handler won a Tokey award in 2016 for her episode "Chelsea Does Drugs" in which she took ayahuasca on camera; in 2018 she took a Tokey for a Top Tweet. In 2021 she curated her favorite cannabis products into an "America is Back" kit for Inauguration Day, with the proceeds going to support Cage Free Repair, a cannabis reform nonprofit. This year she appeared in a 4/20 "Pardons to Progress" video urging action to free cannabis prisoners. 

She's continued to speak out across the country about her love for marijuana, so that, for example, an interview from Alabama where she appeared on her recent comedy tour begins, "Chelsea Handler is sitting on her sofa, smoking a joint and reading a book." She recently told Kind Magazine, "I just want to be a high vibe passing through this world so every time I leave an area, it's better." 

In this clip from The Tonight Show, Handler makes a case for women dominating the world, or at least late night talk shows, while wearing a necklace with an Amanita mushroom shape and an emerald green gemstone. She'll be touring Canada and the US starting in January 2024. 

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Tokin' Women and Others We Lost in 2023

Sadly, this page will be updated throughout 2023.

Ana Ofelia Murguía (12/31)
Known for voicing Grandmother Coco in the 2017 Pixar/Disney film Coco, Murguía was an acclaimed Mexican actress. In 2010 she appeared in Las Buenas Hierbas (The Good Herbs), where she plays an herb dealer with Alzheimer's. 

Tommy Smothers (12/26) 
The Smothers Brothers' groundbreaking television hour ushered in the topical comedy of Laugh In and Saturday Night Live, and so much more. David Bionculli's book Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour reveals that some of the comedy on the show was fueled by weed. Tommy said in the 2002 documentary Smothered that he and headwriter/"Classical Gas" composer Mason Williams would "sometimes torch a joint" while working on scripts. Singer Jennifer Warnes recalled one road trip on which she and Tom dropped acid, and Williams remembered mistakenly eating a batch of cast member Leigh French's "specially enhanced" brownies. During the trial that resulted in a settlement for breach of contract after the show was cancelled by CBS, French's skit where she played country singer "Kentucky Rose" who said, "I used to play bluegrass, but a couple of weeks ago I started smoking it" was entered into the court record.  Tommy testified at the 1968 trial of impresario and restauranteur Frank Werber who was accused of possession and cultivation of marijuana, saying he'd known Werber for years and "before he started smoking pot, he was a real a-hole." Smothers played the second guitar on John Lennon's song "Give Peace a Chance," performed at Lennon's honeymoon/war protest and mentioning Tommy in the lyric.

Alice Parker (12/24) 
Parker was a composer, arranger, conductor and teacher who authored over 500 pieces of music (operas, cantatas, choral suites, hymns) along with a wealth of arrangements based on folk songs and hymns. Her 1984 composition "Songs for Eve" is from an Archibald MacLeish poem; her "Echoes from the Hills" and "Heavenly Hurt," among others, are inspired by Emily Dickinson. In the 2020 documentary Alice: At Home With Alice Parker she tells how, when she was born in 1925 she was held up to the window for the neighbors to see on Christmas Eve. She died on that day at the age of 98. 

Ruth Seymour (12/22)
A broadcasting executive known for her innovative work in public radio, Seymour's first venture into radio came at KPFK in Los Angeles from 1961 to 1964. From 1971 to 1976, she worked as program director there. She was fired in 1976, after the FBI raided the station in search of a tape KPFK had aired from Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army, which the station manager refused to turn over. Seymour broadcast the raid live, as it occurred. She joined the staff of KCRW at Santa Monica College in 1977 as a consultant and was named manager a few months later, in 1978. She retired from there in February 2010 after having helped the station "transcend its basement location to shape the culture in Los Angeles," bringing programs to the station such as "Le Show" (hosted by Harry Shearer); "Left, Right & Center"; "Morning Becomes Eclectic"; and "Which Way L.A.?" In 1996, KCRW became the first station other than Chicago's WBEZ to air "This American Life." She also supported programs that brought literature to the radio, including airing radio dramas adaptations of Babbitt and Ulysses. Known in Washington, D.C. as a fierce defender of public broadcasting funding and issues such as licensing and royalties for streaming, in 1997 she received Amnesty International's Media Spotlight Award.  

Rose Ann Fuhrman (December 2023)
When few were covering the topic, Sonoma CA-based author Fuhrman wrote lively and accurate articles like “Cliffhanger in California” about Prop. 215, the 1996 initiative that made California the first state to legalize medical marijuana. When Prop. 215's spear-Head Dennis Peron died in 2018, she wrote on her Facebook page: "The passing of Dennis Peron feels like the closing of one chapter as another one struggles to write itself....A little less than 30 years ago I learned that marijuana prohibition was based on racist and other lies and had nothing to do with public safety. I hadn't given it much thought prior to that and had never tried it, automatically defaulting to the common view. Being a passionate advocate for justice, my new knowledge made activism for decriminalization or legalization inevitable.... I don't remember what led to my writing for Cannabis Canada (now Cannabis Culture) but a friend and neighbor took me to the original Cannabis Buyers' Club in San Francisco for a meeting, which was my access point. Intelligent, peaceful people who did (and many still do) great work."

Cari Beauchamp (12/14)
I had just written to Beauchamp after re-reading the Vanity Fair article she co-wrote with Judy Balaban about Hollywood's experimentation with LSD. I also picked up her book, Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Power of Women in Hollywood and found a couple of marijuana references there. Beauchamp was an award-winning author and historian who was a resident scholar at the Mary Pickford Foundation. She also wrote books about screenwriter Anita Loos (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) and Joseph P. Kennedy's influence on Hollywood, as well as editing and annotating Hollywood Secretary: Her Private Letters from Inside the Studios of the 1920s by Valeria Belletti. She wrote and co-produced a documentary film in 2000 based on Without Lying Down, also wrote the documentary film The Day My God Died about young girls of Nepal sold into sexual slavery, which played on PBS and was nominated for an Emmy in 2003. Before becoming a full-time writer in 1990, she worked as a private investigator and a campaign manager, and served as Press Secretary to California Governor Jerry Brown

Ryan O'Neal (12/8)
The cocaine/meth/alcohol monster got him, leading to accusations of abuse from his kids and spouses, but in the end his daughter Tatum, who remains the youngest actor to win an Oscar for "Paper Moon" in which she starred with her Dad, had nice things to say about him, as did co-stars Ali McGraw, Barbra Streisand and others. Born on 4/20/1941, O'Neal was married to Leigh Taylor-Young, who baked pot brownies in "I Love You Alice B. Toklas," and was with Farrah Fawcett when she died of cancer, an even sadder Love Story. 

Norman Lear (12/5)
Prolific screenwriter and producer Lear was most known for the breakthrough sitcom All In the Family. Its spinoff, Maude, was about a liberated woman (Bea Arthur) who, in one episode, protested a young man's marijuana arrest by scheming to get herself arrested too. Lear also produced One Day at a Time about a divorced woman living on her own with her two daughters, and its recent reboot with a Latina cast starring Rita Moreno (shown), which aired a thoughtful episode about cannabis. Lear filed a First Amendment lawsuit against TV's "family hour" censorship, and founded People for the American Way (PFAW), a progressive advocacy organization formed in reaction to the politics of the Christian right.

Sandra Day O’Connor (12/1)

The first woman to serve as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, O'Connor was born Sandra Day in El Paso, Texas, the daughter of a cattle rancher. In her youth, she participated in cattle roundups as the group's only female rider, latter calling it, "my first initiation into joining an all-men's club, something I did more than once in my life." Day enrolled at Stanford University  at the age of 16 and graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in economics in 1950. At Stanford Law School she served on the Stanford Law Review with future Supreme Court chief justice William Rehnquist, who proposed marriage to her (she declined). After graduating from law school, because of her gender, she could only find employment as a deputy county attorney in San Mateo, California after she offered to work for no salary and without an office. She eventually became a judge and an elected official in Arizona, serving as the first female majority leader of a state senate as the Republican leader in the Arizona Senate. While serving on the Supreme Court from 1981-2006, she was one of three co-authors of the lead opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which the Court upheld the right to have an abortion as established in Roe v. Wade, and argued in favor of President Obama naming a replacement for conservative justice Antonin Scalia (before the Senate scandalously held up Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland, until Trump could be elected and name Neil Gorsuch, assuring the Court's conservative majority).  She also joined the dissenting opinion in Gonzalez v Raich, in defense of state marijuana laws. After retiring, O'Connor succeeded Henry Kissinger (who died two days before her) as the Chancellor of the College of William & Mary. In 2003, she wrote a book titled The Majesty of the Law: Reflections of a Supreme Court Justice and in 2005,  a children's book, Chico: A True Story from the Childhood of the First Woman Supreme Court Justice, was named for her favorite horse. In 2009, Justice O'Connor was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.       

Shane MacGowan (12/30)

Born on Christmas Day in 1957, the "peerless and fearless" MacGowan was the co-founder, frontman and chief songwriter of the Pogues, which brilliantly and energetically combined punk rock with traditional Irish music and politics. In 1972, MacGowan was expelled from the school he was attending on a literary scholarship after being caught smoking pot in public, and at age 17, he spent six months in a psychiatric hospital due to drug addiction, where he was also diagnosed with acute situational anxiety. He struggled with drugs and alcohol throughout his life, and was dismissed from the Pogues for unprofessional behavior after missing concert dates, including opening for Bob Dylan. "Fairytale of New York," which MacGowan co-wrote and performed with Kirsty MacColl, remains a perennial Christmas favorite. Sadly, he died of complications from pneumonia at age 65 just as the Christmas season started this year. At the end of his life, “We used to go to Shane’s house and roll joints for him. We would watch Netflix with him,” said Andrew Hendy of Dundalk balladeers. "Shane will be remembered as one of music’s greatest lyricists. So many of his songs would be perfectly crafted poems, if that would not have deprived us of the opportunity to hear him sing them," said Ireland's President Michael Higgins in a statement. 

Clay Jones

Henry Kissinger (11/29)

Paul Sorvino brilliantly plays Kissinger in the Oliver Stone movie "Nixon," nailing indelibly the scene in which he prays on his knees with Nixon on the eve of impeachment. In the opera "Nixon In China" Kissinger is shown whipping Chinese workers into submission to the semiconductor. “People are a little shocked when he appears as the sadistic overlord,” director Peter Sellars told the New York Times. “But obviously he’s the man who’s responsible for Chile and for the secret bombing of Cambodia — the list of atrocities and acts of unspeakable violence is long. And that lurid stuff is behind the jolly and well-spoken diplomat. The surprise is, as always, no one is just one thing. That is one reason you make operatic characters.” My first political act, at the age of 14, was to campaign for George McGovern against Richard Nixon in 1971. After Tricky Dicky with Kissinger at his side won by a landslide, and bombed Cambodia by Christmas, I was disillusioned for decades. That Kissinger lived to be 100 while chewing on the cud of human misery just adds to the sickeningness of it all. 

Dale Spender (11/21)
Australian feminist scholar Spender was co-founder of Pandora Press, the first of the feminist imprints devoted solely to non-fiction, committed, according to the New York Times, to showing that "women were the mothers of the novel and that any other version of its origin is but a myth of male creation." Her book Man Made Language (1980), based on her PhD research, argues that in patriarchal societies men control language and it works in their favor, drawing parallels with how derogatory terms are used to maintain racism. She was a co-originator of the database WIKED (Women's International Knowledge Encyclopedia and Data) and associate editor of the Great Women Series (United Kingdom). Particularly concerned with intellectual property and the effects of new technologies, for nine years she was a director of Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) in Australia and for two years (2002–2004) she was the chair. Spender consistently dressed in purple clothes, a choice she initially made for its symbolic reference to the suffragettes.

Rosalynn Carter (11/19)
Asked by Katie Couric what was the most exciting moment in his life, winning the Nobel Peace Prize or being elected President, Jimmy Carter replied that it was when Rosalynn said she would marry him. The couple were married for 77 years, and the former president called her “my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished.” The eldest of four children born to a bus driver/farmer father and teacher/dressmaker mother, Rosalynn helped raise her younger brothers after her father died when she was 13. After helping Jimmy win the governorship of Georgia in 1970, she was appointed to the Governor's Commission to Improve Services for the Mentally and Emotionally Handicapped, and mental health became a lifelong cause. As the first of all First Ladies to have her own office in the White House, she attended Cabinet meetings and major briefings, served as the President’s personal emissary to Latin American countries, and led a delegation to Thailand in 1979 to address the problems of Cambodian and Laotian refugees. She was honored by the National Organization for Women with an Award of Merit for her vigorous support for the Equal Rights Amendment, and joined other First Ladies at the Houston conference celebrating the International Women's Year in 1977. In 1982, she co-founded The Carter Center in Atlanta to promote peace and human rights worldwide. Her autobiography, First Lady From Plains, was published in 1984. She and her husband contributed to the expansion of the nonprofit housing organization Habitat for Humanity, and they received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999. 

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Rosa Vertner's Hashish Dinner Party

Vertner depicted in A Woman of the Century
Jumping off from a CBS news report about cannabis dinner parties in Maryland, cannabis author Isaac Campos's recent Substack newsletter recalls a newspaper item describing such a party in the 1860s. At the center of the story was the poet Rosa Vertner, “in the hey day of her youth and beauty, and at her father’s magnificent home in Lexington, which was the resort of all the cultured and brilliant men who visited Kentucky.” 

According to Campos, on the occasion of Vertner’s wedding to Claude Johnston, Kentucky’s Secretary of State, “there was a grand dinner party to which thirty guests sat down,” among them various prominent citizens. 

As described in a news account: 

Mrs. Vertner Johnston conceived the idea of having [hashish] served as a cordial at the dinner party, thinking that its effect, of which she had but the vaguest idea, might entertain and amuse the guests. Everybody drank of the peculiar greenish liquid, and many who found the taste pleasant drank more than they had any idea of. Within an hour the laughter and wit was running high. Then the excitement began to grow. Handsome matrons and beautiful young girls snatched the floral pieces from the table and pelted with flowers and [fruit gravy] dignified statesmen and lawyers who stood upon the chairs grinning and gesticulating like mountebanks. The host and hostess were themselves as much under the influence of the insidious drug as any of their guests, and could do nothing to quell the excitement, which now raged fast and furious. 

Things went downhill from there, Campos writes. "Physicians were called in, various guests ended up laid out in death-like stupors, and so forth. But Vertner wound up with plenty of material for her poem “Hasheesh Visions.”

Saturday, November 18, 2023

"Leslie F*cking Jones" Is F*cking Dope

Leslie Jones is doing another bang-up job hosting The Daily Show this week, prompting me to check out her new book Leslie F*ing Jones on Audible, and it's even funnier than I expected. She reads the book in her energetic and no-nonsense, straight-ahead style like she's having a conversation with the listener.

"When Leslie Jones walks into a room, she's always out of breath and mad about something," writes Chris Rock in the book's foreword. Rock suggested Lorne Michaels give Jones a tryout when he was looking to add a Black woman to the cast of SNL in 2013. "She's too funny not to be everywhere, in every movie, on every TV show, with ten Netflix specials," Rock opines, adding she should also play a Marvel villain and Harriet Tubman. 

Jones writes in the introduction, "Some of the stories about my childhood are vague because a bitch is fifty-five and I've smoked a lot of weed." Her stories about weed all start with NOT using it, since it seems that was more unusual for her. When asked if she was would mind rooming with some Rastas, Jones writes, "OK with Rastas? I would never not have weed." 

Starting with the opening story about how she insisted on being paid as a headliner at clubs when male comics made excuses to put her on last so that they didn't have to follow her, the book is full of illuminating and empowering stories from her many years on the road. 

Monday, November 13, 2023

Albert Brooks's Moment of Marijuana Acceptance

The new Max documentary "Albert Brooks: Defending My Life" is directed by Brooks's highschool chum Rob Reiner and features interviews with comics like Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, Sarah Silverman and Nikki Glaser talking about Brooks's breakthrough "alternative" comedy and his enduring influence. At one point, Tiffany Haddish appreciatively says Brooks was, "The first dude I'd ever seen at least make a marijuana joke and, like, light it up on TV—and he was sitting next to Johnny Carson."

A clip is then shown of Brooks from his 7/25/1979 Tonight Show appearance where he pulls out what looks like a joint from his pocket and says, "You know Johnny, this is my 10th year on the show, and I brought something to celebrate." Carson explodes with laughter as Brooks lights the "joint" and hands it to Ed McMahon, who takes a hit before passing it to Johnny. 

Carson takes a whiff and pronounces it not to be marijuana (how he knew the smell is a good question). Brooks admits that the joint is "ersatz," saying, "I can prove it (takes a whiff). Look, I still got memory!" He then tells a story about being on the road in the late 60s or early 70s when, performing in Seattle, he was offered a hit of a joint by the road manager for the headliner. "I still remember it with some degree of fondness," Brooks recalled, pronouncing it "industrial marijuana," the strongest he'd ever smoked. He opined that it's good when either the comic or the audience is stoned because "if you're both straight there's a good chance for physical violence." Johnny added that 10 or 12 years earlier you couldn't even make a joke about marijuana on TV, because the networks wouldn't permit it. So this was another Moment in Marijuana Acceptance, courtesy of Mr. Brooks. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Of Melissa and Madonna, and Marijuana

UPDATE: Barbra Streisand's new memoir also mentions marijuana. Read more.

Melissa Etheridge, who is currently performing a one-woman show on Broadway, is out with a book, her second memoir titled "Talking to My Angels." She reads the audiobook, which features groovy guitar breaks and a performance of her book-title song. 

Etheridge, our 2015 Tokin' Woman of the Year, starts the book in Chapter 1 with a description of eating a "heroic" dose of cannabis via a batch of chocolate chip cookies baked by a girlfriend. She called it, "an experience that jump-started me into a wholly new way of living a daily practice that has helped me heal." 

"We were kicking back, listening to music, and enjoying the cookies. Then I began to feel a shift—not an earthquake. More like a slow inner spin. I began to laugh as the room slowly melted away and I felt keenly present....I'd enjoyed cannabis before, but this night was different. Something big was happening....

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Joan Baez: I Am a Noise

I expected the new documentary about Joan Baez, "I Am a Noise," co-produced by Tokin' Woman Patti Smith, to be a celebration of Baez's stellar career. 

That it is, but with an unexpected twist: Baez opens up in the film about how she has suffered from severe anxiety attacks all of her life, including when she burst on the international stage at the age of 18 as a voice from heaven, practically the new Virgin Mary.

Replete with footage of Baez's performances and actions as a folksinger and activist, the film also features excerpts from hours of audiotapes, home movies of her childhood, her drawings, and her diaries. 

Her connection with Bob Dylan, who supplied the protest songs that her voice demanded, is covered, including how deflated she felt when she was basically rebuffed by him while touring Europe, as documented in the 1967 film "Don't Look Back." 

As Baez tells it, she "couldn't" participate in the drug taking that the Boys in the Band were doing on the tour, and she was soon excluded in other ways. Since Dylan turned the Beatles onto marijuana, one wonders why he didn't do the same for Baez. Perhaps because she was a woman, she wasn't invited to the boys' pot parties.  

Friday, November 3, 2023

Frances Marion and Marijuana

After writing an obituary for Judy Balaban, who tried LSD back in the day when Cary Grant was doing it, and co-wrote an article interviewing Grant’s wife Betsy Drake and others for Vanity Fair in 2010, I looked up her co-author  Cari Beauchamp, a film historian currently at the Mary Pickford Foundation. 

Beauchamp’s book: “Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood” details Marion’s illustrious career during the years of the Fatty Arbunkle trial etc. and the coming of the Hays code.

After Marion (who was also a painter and sculptor) painted a portrait of actress Kitty Gordon showing off her much-admired back to promote Peg O’ My Heart, posters for the play were vandalized and leaflets signed by “Conscientious Citizens" went out shouting, “We must protect our innocent little children from seeing such pictures of half-nude women. And we keep them away from the evil influence of the nickelodeons and the lawless people who have forced themselves upon our beautiful city to make what they call movies. Only if we all unite can we drive them out.” Marion and a friend attended a meeting of the group, dubbing them “The Constipated Citizens.” (p. 27). 

Marijuana is mentioned twice in the book: 

Monday, October 30, 2023

RIP Judy Balaban: Early LSD Experimenter and Chronicler, and Human Rights Champion

"Her father was head of Paramount, she was one of Grace Kelly’s bridesmaids, and she shared an LSD experience with Cary Grant," ran the obituary in the Hollywood Reporter for Judy Balaban, who died on October 19 at the age of 91.  

Balaban was Hollywood Royalty in more ways than one: a member of the prominent Balaban family, she dated Montgomery Clift for six months in the 1950s when she was 18, and was married to Kelly's agent Jay Kanter—who made his client Marlon Brando best man at their wedding—when she was the youngest of six bridesmaids at Kelly's wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco. Balaban later married actors Tony Franciosa and Don Quine.

A 2010 article Balaban co-wrote with author and documentary filmmaker Cari Beauchamp for Vanity Fair documents the experiences of a group of Hollywood heavyweights who took LSD therapeutically in the late 1950s, among them Cary Grant and Balaban herself. 

Setting the stage for the article, she and Beauchamp wrote that at the time, "Almost everyone smoked carton-loads of regular cigarettes, but a 'joint' was a body part or a lower-class dive. If people were 'doing lines,' you’d have guessed they were writing screenplay dialogue or song lyrics. And if you mentioned 'acid,' you’d mean citrus juice or a stomach problem. Nobody in Hollywood—or almost anywhere else in the United States—had ever heard of LSD, lysergic acid diethylamide. Timothy Leary wouldn’t even pop his first mushroom until 1960. So it was very out of character that against this background a group of more than 100 Hollywood-establishment types began ingesting little azure pills that resembled cake decorations as an adjunct to psychotherapy." 

Balaban relates in the article that she didn’t know much about LSD when she started taking it, but, she laughingly says, “I figured if it was good enough for Cary Grant, it was good enough for me!” 

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Jimmy Buffett: A Pirate Dies at 76

Buffett in a pot-leaf-motif jacket with Jenny Lewis at a 2016 concert in Nashville.

UPDATE: Paul McCartney has posted about playing bass on Buffett's song, "My Gummy Just Kicked In," which was inspired by a phrase uttered by McCartney's wife Nancy. "Then the 60s came alive and she yelled 'Let's Rock!'"

Jimmy Buffett's Parrothead fans are more known for enjoying their margaritas than their marijuana, but Buffett, who died this week at 76, was a Pothead too who named his son for Bob Marley and launched a marijuana brand named "Coral Reefer" after his band in 2018.

In his autobiography A Pirate Looks at 50, Buffett describes himself as a hippie and tells tales of hanging out in various parts of the world (Key West, Cuba, Jamaica, Costa Rica, etc.) with drug smugglers and other interesting characters. 

In the beginning of the book where he writes about his traveling toolkit, he discusses backpacks and bags:

There has been a lot written about the good and the bad effects of the revolutionary sixties, but no one ever mentions the destigmatization of men carrying shoulder bags. Along with the emotional baggage of being a flower child, you had to carry around to the love-ins a lot of shit that just wouldn't fit in a wallet or the pockets of bell-bottom jeans. There were necessary items for the hip and infamous—rolling papers, pot, Richard Farina and Richard Brautigan paperbacks, bags of granola, extra headbands, bandanas, hash pipe, patchouli oil, fruit, and that damn Swiss Army knife. My bag of choice was a woven straw Guatemalan original that I bought at the local head shop in New Orleans. It definitely was cool, and served me well right up until the day I had some kind of a short circuit in my thinking patterns and decided that I had to get married and settle down. 

In his book, Buffett recounts that when he went to France in 1974 to write a soundtrack for a film about tarpon fishing, it was "with an incredible sense of wonder, two hundred bucks, and a Glad bag full of Colombian pot that I first set foot on French soil." 

Speaking of his song "Growing Older But Not Up," Buffett wrote, "I have carried my childish ways with me from altar boy to hippie, from hippie to husband and father. More than the music and the politics of the sixties, I think what made Woodstock the legendary event that it became was the fact that a whole generation was able to act like kids again. That's what I think happens at our [Coral Reefer Band] shows as well. They've always been known as  opportunities to escape for the evening and just has fun, but you should see what happens when it rains." 

Monday, August 28, 2023

75 Years Ago: The Pot Bust of Robert Mitchum and Lila Leeds

Leeds and Mitchum with their lawyers at their 1949 marijuana trial. 

On the evening of August 31, 1948, movie star Robert Mitchum went to visit 20-year-old starlet Lila Leeds at her bungalow at 8334 Ridpath Drive in Los Angeles. "Unbenownst to them, two officers, A.M. Barr and J.B. McKinnon of the Los Angeles Police Department's Narcotics Division, were hiding in the yard. The two had been conducting surveillance for eight months on members of the film industry and their hangers-on," writes George Eels in his biography of Mitchum. 

Mitchum frequented after-hours clubs in LA that served grass, according Eels. "His use of grass earned him membership in a group that considered themselves hip and scorned nonusers as square johns and janes....Yet even they were taken aback by Mitchum's increasing boldness. Never before had they seen a prominent star make himself such a high-visibility risk, strutting around as he did in a straw Stetson and cowboy boots, with a reefer tucked behind each ear or carrying a package of cigarettes in which the regular ones were alternated with hand-rolled joints." 

"When Mitchum arrived [at Leed's house], he flopped on the sofa and tossed a pack of cigarettes onto the coffee table," Eels continues. "Barr claimed Leeds picked it up and looked inside. 'Oh, you've got brown ones and white ones too,' she said, 'I want some of the white ones.' She took two joints from the pack, lit them and gave one to Mitchum." Barr and McKinnon were let inside by Leeds's roommate and made their high-profile arrests. 

Mitchum poses for cameras in jail. 
At L.A. County Jail, the laid-back actor, who had just turned 31, greeted newspaper reporters and photographers with, "Yes, boys, I was smoking a marijuana cigarette when they came in," adding, "I knew I'd get caught sooner or later." When the booking officer asked his occupation, Mitchum replied, "Former actor." Sergeant Barr chilled Hollywood with his statement, "We're going to clean the dope and the narcotics users out of Hollywood! And we don't care who we're going to have to arrest." Mitchum, meanwhile, was stripped and shackled, and left stark naked to be questioned by a psychiatrist. The next morning he cancelled a speaking engagement scheduled for the steps of City Hall to celebrate National Youth Day. 

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Republican Candidates Fall Over Each Other on Fentanyl

Candidates at the first Republican presidential debate (sans Trump) were falling all over each other to say they would fix the fentanyl problem by toughening up border enforcement and even going over to Mexico to take out cartels. DeSantis said he'll shoot and kill anyone bringing fentanyl across the border; also on Day 1 in office he'll use US Special Forces across the Mexican border to go after fentanyl labs. "Would I treat cartels as foreign terrorists organizations? You bet I would." Pence also said he will "hunt down and destroy" drug cartels, and Tim Scott mentioned fentanyl too. 

Former DEA chief and Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson was a surprising voice of reason, talking about how he negotiated with then-Mexican-president Vicente Fox over drugs. He called for education and treatment, as others have. Hutchinson was also the only candidate who didn’t raise their hand when asked if they would support “the elephant not in the room” for the nomination should he be criminally convicted. He pointed out that Trump might not be constitutionally eligible to take office, and Christie, who said he raised his hand reluctantly, then said, “We need to stop normalizing Donald Trump’s conduct. It’s beneath the office of the Presidency.”

Saturday, August 19, 2023

"The Ranch" and the Reefer


In my continuing series, "Streaming Shows I Catch Up With That Turn Out to Feature Weed," I've been watching The Ranch (2016-2020) on Netflix. I got sucked in by the theme song "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," sung by Lucas Nelson in duet with Shooter Jennings, whose dads Willie and Waylon won a Grammy with their hit version of the Ed & Patsy Bruce song in 1978. 

Set on a Colorado cattle ranch, the show stars its co-producer Ashton Kutcher, who played the dumb jock Michael Kelso on That '70s Show. Here he plays Colt, a prodigal son who returns to work at his family's ranch after his spotty semi-pro football career ends. Kutcher said that growing up in Iowa, the show he most related to was Roseanne, about "the ideals and beliefs and values" of a small-town family, "and that's what we set out to make a show about." 

Also starring as Colt's brother Rooster is Danny Masterson, who played the smart-ass pot dealer Hyde on That '70s Show. Their characters are (somewhat) grown-up versions of their sitcom ones in this show with a lot of heart and humor, featuring guest spots from Fez (Wilmer Valderrama, here playing a Mexican worker who gets deported after the boys get into a bar fight), Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp as Colt's wine guzzling, Xanax-popping mother-in-law), and Red (Kurtwood Smith, playing a neighbor with cancer who talks about how strong his medical pot is).  Another recurring character is the family lawyer played by Martin Mull, who expresses a fondness for magic mushrooms. 

The Ranch is soaked in alcohol, with the characters guzzling Budweisers and whiskey throughout, and Debra Winger co-starring as the boys' mother Maggie who runs a bar in their small town. Marijuana is first mentioned in the series, which has been praised for its country music soundtrack, when Maggie sings along to Ashley Monroe's "Bring Me Weed Instead of Roses" while waiting for her estranged husband Beau (Sam Elliott) to come visit her (Season 1, Episode 10).

Explaining why she suddenly left Beau, Maggie tells him, "Next thing you know I'm ordering two beef and cheddars and and a Jamocha shake at an Arby's in Utah. I skipped the part where I smoked a joint in the parking lot....I needed to go somewhere and figure out what I wanted to do with my life." She tries to convince him to spend time traveling with her, but Beau, a no-nonsense rancher who loves steak and his Ford, and says things like, "I'll visit Mt. Rushmore when they put Ronald Reagan on it," can't be budged from his ranch. 

Monday, August 14, 2023

Barbie: War and Pink


The Barbie movie starts out cleverly with a 2001: A Space Odyssey spoof, showing the origin of the doll as a baby doll so that girls could play at being mothers. As Helen Mirren points out in the narration, this wasn't always fun. "Just ask your own mother." Coming in like a monolith is Margot Robbie as the original Barbie doll in her iconic black-and-white swimsuit and high heels (to match her high-heeled feet), whereupon the girls see their future as stylish and in-command women.  

We then travel to Barbie Land, where all the Barbies live in pink plastic houses, while running the show in all professions, including the President and all the Supreme Court justices, as well as doctor, lawyer, and astronaut. Robbie as "Stereotypical Barbie" travels around in her pink car prettily applauding her sisters' successes. Meanwhile, Ken (Ryan Gosling) and the other Kens exist purposelessly while "beaching" (hanging out on the beach). 

A moment of self-realization leads Barbie, Inanna-like, through a portal to the Real World, and when Ken comes along, he quickly discovers that gender roles are reversed there. Meanwhile, Barbie discovers she hasn't been the empowering role model to girls she'd thought she was, and hooks up with working mother Gloria (America Ferrera, much slimmed down and prettied up from her "Ugly Betty" days) and her daughter Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt) to travel back to Barbie Land and set things right. Except that once they return, Ken has turned it into a patriarchal nightmare, with the Barbies relinquishing their power positions to become good little girlfriends mooning over their Kens while they all play guitar and sing Matchbox 20's song, "I wanna push you around." Meanwhile Will Farrell as the Mattel CEO tries to scold Barbie back into her box and Barbie Land by calling her a Jezebel, and she has a Proustian flashback.  

It's a lot like life. Girls play with Barbies and imagine they'll grow up to have perfect, empowered lives like their dolls do, with great wardrobes. Then we often realize it's easier to get boys' attention by ditching all that and being attentive to male needs. 

In the movie, Ferrara's character recites a monologue about the tightrope modern women must walk, and she and Robbie's character capture and deprogram her fellow Barbies with Gloria's help. Just before a vote on matriarchy vs. patriarchy, they distract the Kens by sparking their jealousy and setting them at war against each other while they win the vote.

It's a lot like our history (or herstory, as I like to say). As Joseph Campbell put it, "There can be no doubt that in the very earliest ages of human history, the magical force and wonder of the female was no less a marvel than the universe itself; and this gave to woman a prodigious power, which it has been one of the chief concerns of the masculine part of the population to break, control, and employ to its own ends." So while women were thought to be the sole creators of life we were indeed everything, until men figured out they had something to do with paternity and took over, waging war over Helen of Troy and such.  

The problem I have with Barbie is that its solution is a war among men—something we've had quite enough of already—and switching back to putting only one sex in charge. (I guess that the Lysistrata anti-war technique wouldn't have worked in Barbie Land since they don't have genitals there.) It seems filmmaker Greta Gerwig's research didn't include reading Riane Eisler's The Chalice and the Blade, where she makes a case for a partnership model of power sharing between the sexes going forward. At least Barbie apologizes to Ken for negating him in the end, saying, "Every night didn't have to be girl's night." And at least the "war" is fought with beach toys instead of real weapons. 

Monday, August 7, 2023

Celebrating Marijuana-Using Lefties on Left Handers Day

"I write with my left hand," opens a 2022 collection of essays titled A Left-Handed Woman by Judith Thurman, the award-winning biographer of Tokin' Woman Isak Dinesen. Thurman continues, "Left-handedness used to be considered a malign aberration ('sinister' is Latin for 'left'), and in the generations before mine, schoolchildren were routinely 'switched.' Enforced conformity, especially, perhaps, when it selects an inborn trait to repress or persecute, breeds intolerance for difference of all kinds. Singled out for bullying or conversion, a child internalized the message that she isn't 'right'.” 

Eudora Welty, whose novel The Optimist's Daughter won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973, wrote in One Writer's Beginnings, "I'd been born left-handed, but the habit was broken when I entered first grade." Her father "had insisted. He pointed out that everything in life had been made for the convenience of right-handed people, because they were the majority, and he often used 'what the majority wants' as a criterion for what was for the best." Her mother was also born left-handed, but "she had been broken of it when she was young," causing her to develop a stutter. 

There may be a connection between being left handed and enjoying marijuana; reportedly a joint was called a "left-handed cigarette" in 1920's jive talk.
 The first use of the term may have been in Bertha Muzzy (B.M.) Bower's 1922 book, The Trail of the White Mule, and it's made its way into podcastssong lyrics and current novels like Daisy Chains by Samantha Evergreen, containing this exchange: "You know she liked a good left-handed cigarette." "That's because she was actually left-handed." 

I've personally gathered thousands of signatures on pro-pot petitions, and I've noticed a preponderance of left-handed signatories, much more than the 10-12% of us in the general population today. It could be that being left handed brands us early on as different, providing an incentive to try something that was and often remains countercultural: using cannabis. The "enforced conformity" against cannabis users comes in the form of criminalization, ridicule, and drug testing

Or maybe it's brain differences. According to a 1995 paper in the American Journal of Psychology, left-handed males are better at "divergent thinking," and the greater their "sinistrality," the greater their divergence. (Funny that females didn't feel free to diverge.) Research conducted at the Illinois Research Consortium in 2008 found that right-handed people process information using analysis, while left-handed people do it using synthesis, solving a problem by looking at the whole and trying to use pattern-matching. Experiments on multi-tasking performance showed that when given two tasks to simultaneously complete, left-handers outperformed right-handers. However, when instructed to focus on one task at a time, right-handers completed the tasks more quickly. While left-handers showed more accurate memories of events, right-handers displayed better factual memory.

In 2021, the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and the Donders Institute in Nijmegen investigated brain image and genetic data of 3,062 left-handers and 28,802 right-handers. Left-handedness was associated with differences in brain asymmetry in areas related to working memory, language, hand control and vision. As MPI’s Clyde Francks explains, “Hemispheric specialisation is important for language and other cognitive functions. Various psychiatric traits involve increased rates of left-handedness, including autism, schizophrenia and intellectual disability – although of course most left-handed people do not have these.” Marijuana use can trigger schizophrenia in those predisposed to it. 

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Jeeter's Dwayne Wade Heading to NBA Hall of Fame, with Alan Iverson Inducting

A teaser tweet (post?) from 13-time NBA All-Star Dwayne Wade's cannabis partner Jeeter hints at a special offering to celebrate Wade's induction into the NBA Hall of Fame next weekend. 

Playing mostly with the Miami Heat, Wade won three NBA championships and was the 2006 Finals MVP. Widely regarded as one of the greatest shooting guards in NBA history, he is Miami's all-time leader in points, games, assists, steals, shots made, and shots taken. 

Wade's limited edition line with Jeeter, the So Cal company that's said to be the top pre-roll seller in the country, was announced in December 2021. He has also started a wine company, and moved to California from Florida in part to support his trans daughter Zaya. He and his wife, actress Gabrielle Union, picked up the President's Award at the NAACP Image Awards this year, something Michelle Obama tweeted out.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Tokin' Women and Others We Lost in July 2023

Angus Cloud (7/31)

Cloud, a native of Oakland, CA, was recruited into acting after being spotted on a NYC street by the director of the HBO drama Euphoria, in which played a "kindhearted" drug dealer to teenagers. At the end of season 2, Cloud's character was wounded and arrested. The coroner determined that Cloud accidentally overdosed on meth, cocaine, fentanyl and benzodiazepines.    

Paul Rubens (7/30)
The unique comic talent that brought us the delightful "Pee-wee's Playhouse" also appeared in Cheech and Chong movies. He died after a six-year battle with cancer.  

Patricia Ann Goldman (7/26)
A progressive Republican, Goldman began working in government as a senior at Goucher College in 1964, and led poverty and workforce programs for the US Chamber of Commerce from 1967 to 1971. She was appointed by Jimmy Carter and re-appointed by Ronald Reagan to the National Transportation Safety Board, where she served from 1979 to 1988, most of that time as vice chair. She was one of the few Republicans present at the founding meeting of the National Women's Political Caucus in 1971, and at the 1976 Republican National Convention she helped NWPC secure the continued endorsement of the Equal Rights Amendment and tried to prevent the party platform from opposing Roe v. Wade. In 1995, she became the president of the WISH List, a political action committee raising funds for female Republican candidates in favor of abortion rights. After surviving ovarian cancer, in 1997 she co-founded and was the president of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. "I don't think a Republican feminist is an oxymoron," she said.  

Sinead O'Connor (7/25)
I'd just read and written about O'Connor's 2021 book Rememberings, in which she talks about her use of weed and its effect on her music. I nearly heard her perform live when I spotted her name (misspelled) on the marquee at San Francisco's August Hall while attending ICBC 2020, but the show was sold out. I swore I wouldn't let that happen again. But now I've lost my chance; we all have. She had a lot to heal from in her life, and has died at age 56 of as-yet-unknown causes. 

Tony Bennett (7/21)
The beloved, iconic crooner refused to record gimmicky songs and instead devoted himself to The Great American Songbook, bringing it to new generations starting with duets with Elvis Costello and k.d. lang on MTV's Unplugged. Recording this Grammy-winning duet with Amy Winehouse, Bennett calmed her down by bringing up Dinah Washington, noticing her influence on Winehouse's singing. Bennett was a lifelong liberal Democrat who participated in the Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights march in 1965; Viola Liuzzo, a volunteer from Michigan who drove him to the airport after the march was murdered later that day by members of the Ku Klux Klan. Source. As reported by CelebStoner, Bennett used marijuana and other drugs, and spoke up for drug legalization days after Whitney Houston died, mentioning Winehouse and Michael Jackson also. “I witnessed that in Amsterdam,” he said. “It’s legal, and as a result there’s no panic in the streets. There’s no deals, there’s no ‘Meet me at the corner and I’ll give you something.’ You’re always afraid you’re going to get arrested. You have to hide. Why do that?” 

Sunday, July 30, 2023

And Just Like That, Charlotte's Brownie Munching Leads to a Revelation

Kristin Davis enjoys a brownie in "And Just Like That"
The sequel to Sex in the City, "And Just Like That" continues on Max, with a Valentine's Day–themed Season 2, Episode 7 that reunites Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) with her ex Adain, and has goodie two-shoes Charlotte (Kristin Davis) inadvertently eating a pot brownie that her daughter's friend has baked. 

Unaware that she's ingested cannabis, Charlotte ends up in the hospital emergency room after feeling strange and reporting symptoms like, "I can feel the blood in my mouth." An unconcerned ER physician assures her she's not having a stroke and instead reports, "You do have a pretty significant amount of THC in your bloodstream," adding that's he's seeing the situation a lot because, "People in your age group haven't quite learned how to navigate the power of a gummy." He tells her she can go home and sleep it off. 

It's true: A recent UC San Diego study of California hospital data found a 1,804% increase in cannabis-related emergency room visits among people older than 65 from 2005 to 2019. “I see patients later, and they said: ‘I used a gummy, and nothing happened.’ And they don’t know much about the doses,” study author Benjamin Han said. “So then they say: ‘I took a lot more and then, two hours later, my heart is racing — I’m so anxious I don’t know what’s going on!’ And they end up in the emergency department.” Edibles remain the main cause of cannabis overdoses for all age groups. 

In Charlotte's case, she benefits from the experience, telling her husband that she had a revelation during her ambulance ride that she needed to take a job she'd been offered at an art gallery, instead of trying to live her dreams through their daughters. "I've got to get back to me," she says. "And it's not just the pot talking." 

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Bruce Lee: How Green Was the Green Hornet?

Many, like Very Important Pothead Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, have been paying tribute to Bruce Lee on the 50th anniversary of his death. The Chinese-American martial artist and movie star smashed as many racial barriers and stereotypes as he did opponents, and another myth he smashed was that of the weak, do-nothing cannabis consumer. 

According to the biography Bruce Lee: A Life by Matthew Polly, it was Steve McQueen who turned Lee onto marijuana. "It quickly became his drug of choice – Puff the Magic Dragon," Polly writes. "After a training session with one of his celebrity clients, Bruce would light a blunt and talk philosophy," listen to music and "have a ball," James Coburn recalled. "Blowing Gold was one of his favorite things." 

"It was different and scary," Bruce said of his first experience getting stoned. "I was feeling pretty high when Steve gave me a cup of hot tea. As I placed the cup to my lips, it felt like a river gushing into my mouth. It was weird. Everything was so exaggerated. Even the damn noise from my slurping was so loud it sounded like splashing waves. When I got into my car and started to go, the street seemed like it was moving real fast toward me. The white centerline just flew at me and so did the telephone poles. You just noticed everything more sharply. You become aware of everything. To me it was artificial 'awareness.' But, you know, this is what we are trying to reach in martial arts, the 'awareness,' but in a more natural way."

Polly theorizes that "beyond its consciousness-raising appeal, Bruce's fondness for cannabis—at first he used marijuana and then later switched to hash—may have involved an element of self-medication. 'Never Sits Still' was a nickname and he had been hyperactive and impulsive since his childhood. Marijuana and hash seem to have served as a kind of chill pill." 


After a near fatal cerebral edema caused him to collapse on a Hong Kong movie set on May 10, 1973, Lee was examined by neurosurgeon Dr. Peter Wu. During the examination, Lee admitted that he had eaten hash immediately before the episode, and Wu advised him not to take it again. "It's harmless," Bruce scoffed. "Steve McQueen introduced me to it. Steve McQueen would not take it if there was anything dangerous about it." He refused diagnostic tests, saying he would get treated in the US. 

"In 1973, Hong Kong had very little experience with marijuana," writes Polly. "It was conceived of as an evil Western hippie drug. Research since then has proven that cannabis does not cause cerebral edema or lead to death." He quotes Dr. Daniel Friedman, a neurologist at NYU Langone Medical Center. "There are no receptors for THC in the brainstem, the part of the brain that maintains breathing and heart rate," said Dr. Friedman, "which is why it is very near impossible to die directly from a THC overdose unlike heroin or barbiturates."