Sunday, March 12, 2023

More US Women Are Smoking Weed But They're Still Reluctant to Admit It

Multistate cannabis retailer MedMen decided to poll women for International Women's Day and Women's History Month this year. 

The survey, conducted online by The Harris Poll, found that more than one-third (37%) of American women aged 21+ consume cannabis, and more than one in four (28%) say they use cannabis once a month or more often. 

Two thirds (65%) of the women who answered that they use cannabis say there are people in their life that still do not know they use it, including their parents (26%), children (22%), and coworkers (21%). 

While 27% of female cannabis users cited "no concerns" regarding their cannabis use, 20% said their biggest concern is drug testing, which continues to happen nationwide by employers and doctors, despite some state laws protecting workers or medical marijuana patients. I don't know if the women were asked about concerns that their parental rights would also be interfered with for using cannabis. 

The top three reasons women said they use cannabis are to relieve anxiety (60%), to help them sleep (58%), and to relieve pain (53%). It's possible women still don't want to admit that they use cannabis recreationally.

“March is a meaningful time to celebrate women and create awareness around issues that matter to them,” said Karen Torres, Chief Product Officer at MedMen. “We know first-hand from our female-identifying employees and customers that women are increasingly turning to cannabis for their health and wellness needs. However, it’s clear that stigmas persist and inhibit us from sharing our experiences freely.” 

Friday, March 10, 2023

RIP Raphael Mechoulam, Discoverer of THC

Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam, who died on March 9 at the age of 92, was the perfect person to discover the main active component of cannabis—THC—in 1964. Small of stature, soft-spoken and plain-speaking, he was insatiably curious, with a little bit of a kindly, mischievous twinkle in his eye at all times. 

CBD (cannabidiol) had been isolated by Roger Adams in the 1930s and by Alexander Todd at about the same time, but the structure wasn’t known. A natural products chemist, Mechoulam and his team unraveled the structure of CBD, and isolated THC, along with several other cannabinoids. 

As illustrated in the film The Scientist, his first experiment with humans and cannabis involved his wife Dalia baking a cake containing THC, and a placebo cake without the special ingredient, which were fed to two groups of the couple's friends. All of the people who had the THC-laced cake were affected, in different ways: some got introspective, some got giggly, some anxious—effects that are familiar today but were then almost unknown. 

At the time, the mechanism of cannabinoid action in the body was not understood. After the cannabis receptor CB1 was discovered in the brain by (female) researcher Allyn Howlett in the 1980s, Mechoulam's team went looking for endogenous (natural in the body) compounds that activate those receptors, because, as he told an interviewer from the International League Against Epilepsy in 2019, "Receptors don’t exist because there’s a plant out there; receptors exist because we, through compounds made in our body, activate them." 

When his team identified an endogenous cannabinoid in 1992, they called it anandamide, based on the word “ananda” in Sanskrit, which means “supreme joy.” Author Michael Pollan, who describes the discovery of anandamide in his bestselling book The Botany of Desiresaid that Howlett and Mechoulam should be considered for the Nobel prize

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Women's History Month: Celebrating Tokin' Women Who Tell Our Stories

The theme of this year's Women's History Month is "Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories" and the photocollage of such women on the National Women's History Alliance website depicts at least two, and possibly three, Tokin' Women: Maya Angelou, Lillian Hellman, and Gertrude Stein

Maya Angelou, the first poet since Robert Frost to read a poem at a Presidential inauguration, wrote about her experiences with marijuana in Gather Together in My Name, the second installment of her autobiography after the acclaimed I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She recounted that after smoking grifa"I lost myself in a haze of sensual pleasure....The shapes and forms melted until I felt I was in a charcoal sketch, or a sepia watercolor." 

Playwright and author Lillian Hellman was reportedly a bit of a cougar in her later years, enjoying the company of young single men in New York in the mid-1970s "with a leaning towards the sort of outrageousness that produced the hearty Hellman belly laugh," sometimes induced by smoking marijuana. "Lil said she used mj when she was around people who used it. As in 'Whenever I'd be at a dinner with Gene Krupa...'" said journalist/activist Fred Gardner, who used to supply her in the 60s. 

Gertrude Stein co-hostessed a salon in Paris that fostered artists like Picasso. She also was a stream-of-consciousness writer who wrote "The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas" about her longtime lover, whose cookbook features a recipe for hashish fudge, "which anyone could whip up on a rainy day." An interesting character by the name of Jenny Reefer appears in "The Mother of Us All," a 1947 opera about the life and career of suffragette Susan B. Anthony for which Stein wrote the libretto. 

A disc depicting Enheduanna (second
from left) overseeing a ceremony.

Cannabis and storytelling have long been interwoven. Terence McKenna connects the expression "spinning a yarn" to hemp's dual purpose as a fiber and an intoxicant leading to flights of fancy in his book Food of the Gods. In Fitz Hugh Ludlow's influential 1857 book The Hasheesh Eater, he describes a hashish-induced vision of a crone knit of purple yarn. 

It's now come out that the first known storyteller was a priestess named Enheduanna, who was the subject of a "She Who Wrote" exhibition at the Morgan Library last year. Her poem, "The Exaltation of Inanna" was written around 2300 BCE to the goddess and "Queen of Heaven" known later as Ishtar.  

Below are more storytelling Tokin' Women we celebrate this month, by their era. Read more about these remarkable women by clicking on their names.  

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Tokin' Women and Others We Lost in February 2023


Jean Faut 
A pitcher for the South Bend Blue Sox, one of the teams that made up the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during and after World War II, Faut was the league's all-time ERA leader (1.23) after eight seasons, and was second in career wins (140). She also threw two no-hitters, as well as two perfect games – a feat no Major League Baseball pitcher ever matched. She also competed in tournaments of the Professional Women's Bowling Association. Among the jobs she held after her playing days was running the mosquito biology training program at the University of Notre Dame. Source. 

Simone Segouin (2/21)
Also known by her nom de guerre Nicole Minet, Segouin was a French Resistance fighter during World War II. Among her first acts of resistance was stealing a bicycle from a German patrol, which she then used to help carry messages. She went on to take part in large-scale or otherwise dangerous missions, such as capturing German troops, derailing trains, and acts of sabotage. On 14 July 2021, she was appointed a Knight of the Legion of Honor, France's highest order of merit. She died at age 97. 

Richard Belzer (2/19)
In a 2010 interview with AARP Magazine, Belzer described his character Munch on Law & Order as “Lenny Bruce with a badge.” Belzer served in the army, and worked as a truck driver, salesman, dockworker, reporter, and drug dealer before turning to stand-up comedy, doing his signature crowd-work warm-up for Saturday Night Live. An advocate for medical marijuana after using it to counteract the effects of radiation treatments for testicular cancer in 1985, Belzer was featured in High Times magazine in the '80s and '90s, where he said, "For God's sake, it's a plant. It's been around for thousands of years and been used in many forms. It's heartbreaking that anyone would deny someone the use of such a harmless substance." Interviewed by Hemp Times magazine in 1998, he sported a black hemp sweater and jacket, and shades, for his cover photo. In this video Munch signs off, after teaching his grandson an important lesson. 

Ellen Hovde (2/16)
Hovde was one of the directors of “Grey Gardens,” the groundbreaking 1975 movie that examined the lives of two reclusive women, relatives of Jackie Kennedy, that inspired both a Broadway musical and a 2009 HBO film starring Drew Barrymore. Hovde was an editor on “Gimme Shelter,” the documentary that captured a Rolling Stones tour (including the Altamont concert), and on "Gilda Live," a Gilda Radner concert film directed by Mike Nichols. She was a director on “Christo’s Valley Curtain,” the 1972 Oscar-nominated short documentary about an environmental art project from artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. In 1978 Hovde and collaborator Muffie Meyer formed Middlemarch Films (named no doubt for the George Eliot novel), which went on to make scores of documentary features and videos in various styles and on a wide range of subjects. One of those, a television mini-series about Benjamin Franklin, won an Emmy for outstanding nonfiction special in 2002. Hovde grew up in Pittsburgh and earned a degree in theater in 1947 at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. In 1950 she married Matthew Huxley, son of psychedelic author Aldous Huxley (The Doors of Perception), to whom she remained close until his death in 1963, sometimes reading books into a tape recorder for him as his eyesight began to fail. Source. 

Raquel Welch (2/15)
When Playboy in 1998 named the 100 sexiest female stars of the 20th century, Welch came in third — right after Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. This iconic poster of her in a deerskin bikini from One Million Years B.C. (1966) adorned at least a million teenagers' walls in the 60s and 70s. She won a Golden Globe for her comedic role in the 1973 adaptation of The Three Musketeers, written by Very Important Pothead Alexandre Dumas. I loved her for her inspiring and encouraging book Raquel: The Raquel Welch Total Beauty and Fitness Program (1984) which details in photographs her 28-pose yoga routine, which she teaches in this video

Huey "Piano" Smith (2/13)
Born in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans, he was influenced by the innovative Professor Longhair and became known for his shuffling right-handed break on the piano that influenced other players. In 1955, Smith became the piano player with Little Richard's first band in sessions for Specialty Records. In 1957, his band Huey "Piano" Smith and His Clowns recorded "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu," a song that's been covered by artists from Johnny Rivers to Deep Purple. "Li'l Liza Jane," a folk song Smith's band recorded in 1959, was performed by Nina Simone at Newport in 1960; Alison Krauss won a best-country-instrumental performance Grammy for her recording of it in 1989. Steve Huey of AllMusic noted that, "At the peak of his game, Smith epitomized New Orleans R&B at its most infectious and rollicking, as showcased on his classic signature tune, 'Don't You Just Know It.'"

Burt Bacharach (2/8)
Bacharach became Marlene Dietrich’s musical director in 1958 and toured with her for two years in the United States and Europe. He discovered Dionne Warwick, a gifted young gospel-trained singer from East Orange, N.J., singing backup at a recording session for the Drifters. A string of hits followed, among them “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” “Walk On By,” “Alfie,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” and “I'll Never Fall In Love Again.” Among the other artists who had hits with Bacharach's songs written with lyricist Hal David were Jackie DeShannon (“What the World Needs Now Is Love”), Dusty Springfield (“Wishin’ and Hopin’,” “The Look of Love”), Tom Jones (“What’s New Pussycat?”), The Carpenters ("Close to You), and B.J. Thomas ("Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head.") “The Songs of Bacharach & Costello,” a boxed set including Elvis Costello’s recordings of Bacharach songs and songs they collaborated on, is scheduled for release next month.

Jeff Blackburn (2/7)
Blackburn began practicing law in 1983 and spent his decades-long legal career representing underserved people, often for free, in criminal and civil rights cases around Texas. He was a major player in significant criminal justice reform after taking on the cases of 38 people in 2001 who were arrested on drug-related charges in Tulia. Over the next few years, during which he formed and led a national coalition of lawyers, his clients were exonerated in the largest mass pardon in US history. Blackburn went on to contribute to developing subsequent criminal justice reform legislation, and co-founded The Innocence Project of Texas

David Harris (2/6) 
Harris was a Vietnam War protester who was elected student body president on a platform focused on righting the unequal status of women at Stanford, and made national news when a group of pro-war Stanford students grabbed him and shaved him bald as punishment for his activism. A gifted orator, he toured with Joan Baez, and did 20 months in prison for refusing the draft, just after marrying her. In prison he led hunger strikes to improve conditions for inmates. When he got out in 1970, he began writing for Rolling Stone, starting with a profile of Ron Kovic, whose story was told in the movie Born on the Fourth of July. He also contributed to The New York Times Magazine and wrote several books, including, Our War: What We Did in Vietnam and What It Did to Us (1996) and My Country ’Tis of Thee: Reporting, Sallies and Other Confessions (2020), a collection of his newspaper and magazine articles. His son with Baez, Gabriel Harris, is a percussionist who studied with Baba Olatunji and his daughter Sophie Harris is a filmmaker. Source