Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Positive Cannabis Test Strips US Long Jumper Tara Davis-Woodhall of National Title

PHOTO: Patrick Smith
Another black woman track star has been penalized over a positive cannabis test. 

US long jumper Tara Davis-Woodhall has been stripped of her recent national indoor title and hit with a one-month suspension after a positive test for cannabis, the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) announced yesterday.  

According to the agency's statement, Davis-Woodhall, 23, tested positive for 11-nor-9-carboxy-tetrahydrocannabinol (Carboxy-THC), an inactive urinary metabolite of the psychoactive chemical Δ9-THC, above the urinary Decision Limit of 180 ng/mL. Her urine sample was collected at the 2023 USATF Indoor Championships in Albuquerque New Mexico on February 17, 2023, the same day she had won the title with a jump of 6.99 meters.

Inactive metabolites can be detected in the urine days or months after use, and apparently Davis-Woodhall's use was deemed "out-of-competition," meaning she had only a one-month suspension, but had to forfeit all titles she won on and subsequent to February 17. 

Despite public outcry over the 2021 suspension from the US Olympic team of champion sprinter and Tokin' Woman of the Year Sha'Carri Richardson, cannabis remains prohibited in-competition under the United States Olympic Committee National Anti-Doping Policies and the World Athletics Anti-Doping Rules. 

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Mary Lou Williams: Rolling 'Em

On my way to the art show in Pittsburgh, PA highlighting the Russian imprisonment of schoolteacher Marc Fogel over marijuana, I happened to spot this sign honoring the American Federation of Musicians, with Tokin' Woman Mary Lou Williams getting top billing. 

The stunning 2015 documentary Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band, now viewable on Kanopy via your local public library, presents the huge talent, prominence, and lack of acceptance of this pioneer jazz pianist, arranger and composer. 

Born Mary Elfrieda Scruggs in Atlanta, Mary Lou Williams grew up in Pittsburgh, where she taught herself to play the piano at the age of four and began playing publicly two years later, to much acclaim and popularity. In 1924 she began touring on the Orpheum Circuit and the following year she played with Duke Ellington and the Washingtonians. 

In 1930 Williams traveled to Chicago and cut her first solo record, "Drag 'Em" and "Night Life," which was a national success. Soon she was playing solo gigs and working as a freelance writer arranger for such noteworthy names as Earl Hines and Tommy Dorsey. 

In 1937 she wrote "Roll 'Em” (1937) for Very Important Pothead Benny Goodman, which was recorded for Goodman’s “When Buddhah Smiles” LP, featuring Fletcher Henderson and VIP Gene Krupa on drums. All told, she wrote more than 350 compositions. 

The documentary says Williams broke up with her first husband over her infidelity, but Morning Glory, a biography of Williams by Linda Dahl (University of California Press, 1999), says it was over "the taste she had acquired for marijuana." Dahl wrote, "Kansas City was a major railroad hub of the nation, distributing drugs along with corn and wheat, so it was easily available in the nightclubs there." Unable to handle liquor, pot "agreed with her." 

John said Mary Lou had been turned onto reefer by a fellow bandmate in the Clouds of Joy, a group that recorded Earl Thompson's song about reefer, "All the Jive Is Gone" in 1936. Williams "found marijuana calming, useful for reflecting and relaxing at times" (Dahl). By 1941 Mary had developed a lifestyle that disdained alcohol and developed "a taste for gambling, marijuana, and men." 

Making the transition from stride piano to bebop, Williams played regularly at the famous Café Society in New York City, started a weekly radio show called "Mary Lou Williams's Piano Workshop" on WNEW, and began mentoring and collaborating with many younger bebop musicians, most notably Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk

Barney Josephson fired her for smoking pot one night at Café Uptown, even though as Doc Cheatham put it, "everyone in that group smoked pot. They had a little room off the bandstand and some, including Mary Lou and Billie [Holiday], would smoke pot in there. They would put me outside the door in a chair smoking a pipe that would cover the fumes of the pot." 

Monday, April 3, 2023

Artists “Make a Marc” to Bring Marc Fogel Home from Russian Prison for Pot

Portraits of Marc Fogel by Sasha Phillips, Tom Mosser and others at the 4/1 "Make a Marc" Show 

Nearly 100 artists contributed works to a well attended “Make a Marc” art show in Pittsburgh on April 1 to bring attention to the case of Marc Fogel, a 61-year-old high school history teacher from Oakmont, PA who is serving a 14-year sentence in Russia for bringing ½ oz. of medical marijuana into that country in August 2021.

In attendance were family and friends of Fogel, including his 94-year-old mother; his attorney Aleksandra “Sasha” Phillips; faculty from the University of Pittsburgh Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies; and Field Representative Robbie Matesic of Sen. Bob Casey’s office, who read a statement from the Senator about his ongoing commitment to bringing Fogel home, calling him “a passionate and talented educator and a devoted husband and father.”

Marc’s sister Lisa Hyland said the family speaks to the US State Department weekly and they tell her every week how many letters have been received in support of Fogel’s release. Supporters are asked to write to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken asking for Fogel to be designated as “wrongfully detained” in the way that WNBA star Brittney Griner was designated after she was imprisoned for bringing cannabis vape pens into Russia, before her release in a prisoner swap late last year. You can also Sign a petition to Free Marc Fogel.

The event happened just as Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gerhkovich was detained in Russia on espionage charges, leading the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review to publish an editorial titled, “Reporter arrested in Russia should remind White House of Marc Fogel." Last month, the Best Documentary Oscar went to “Navalny” about the imprisoned rival to President Putin.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Tokin' Women and Others We Lost in March 2023


Virginia Norwood (3/27)
Norwood's school guidance counselor suggested that she become a librarian, advice that she ignored. Instead she applied to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she was one of about a dozen women in her entering class. She became an aerospace pioneer who invented the scanner that has been used to map and study the earth from space for than 50 years, and is known as the Mother of the Lansat. Relying on her invention, the United States Geological Survey's Landsat satellites orbit the earth every 99 minutes and have captured a complete image of the planet every 16 days since 1972. These images have provided powerful visual evidence of climate change, deforestation and other shifts affecting the planet’s well-being. She died at the age of 96 at her home in Topanga, CA. 

Keith Reid (3/23)
In the 1991 movie "The Commitments," a  young Irish keyboard player is caught by a priest playing the Bach-inspired opening chords to Procol Harum's iconic "A Whiter Shade of Pale" on the church organ (above). A discussion about the song's enigmatic lyrics ensues. Those lyrics were written by Reid, a founding member of the band who did not sing or play an instrument, and wrote his songs as poems. His father, who was fluent in six languages, had been a lawyer in Vienna but was among more than 6,000 Jews arrested there in November 1938, and fled to England upon his release. During the 1990s, Reid wrote for Annie Lennox, Willie NelsonHeart and many others, and released two albums by The Keith Reid Project, including this song with vocals by Maya Sazell.  

Gloria Dea (3/18)
Gloria Metzner began working as a magician at the age of 7 alongside her father, a paint salesman and part-time musician. Interviewed by The Oakland Tribune when she was 11, she said she had an arsenal of 50 tricks and was adding more. She is now thought to be the first magician who ever performed in Las Vegas, under her stage name Gloria Dea in 1941. Along the way, she developed dancing, modeling and acting skills, and appeared in some films, including Ed Wood's “Plan 9 From Outer Space." By the time her 100th birthday arrived last August, David Copperfield had proclaimed a Gloria Dea Day, she was given a “Key to the Las Vegas Strip,” and magicians of all stripes turned up for her birthday party. Source.

Charity Scott (3/18)
Scott was among the earliest lawyers to apply antitrust law to hospitals. This experience was an inspiration to develop programs on health care law after her switch to academia at George State University, where she introduced many innovations into the teaching of law, including the incorporation of techniques from improv comedy in the legal classroom and designing courses on mindfulness and the law. GSU's health care law program is notable for community involvement with hospitals and with Georgia Legal Services through a clinic called The Health Law Partnership (HeLP) founded in 2007, and for the academic Center for Law, Health and Society.

Pat Schroeder (3/13)
In 1972 Schroeder became the first woman from Colorado elected to Congress, where she served 12 terms. One of her biggest legislative victories was a family leave bill in 1993; she was also instrumental in laws that protected women from being fired because they had become pregnant, and that expanded roles for women in the military. When one congressman asked how she could be a House member and the mother of two small children at the same time, she replied, "I have a brain and a uterus, and I use both." She once chided Pentagon officials that if they were women, they would always be pregnant, because they never said "No.″ In 1998 she published, "24 Years of Housework...and the Place Is Still a Mess: My Life in Politics," which chronicled the frustration she experienced with the men who dominated Washington.  Source. 

Israeli researcher Mechoulam was the first to discover the main active component of cannabis—THC—in 1964. He also isolated other cannabinoids, and worked our the structure of CBD (cannabidiol). After the cannabis receptor CB1 was discovered in the brain by (female) researcher Allyn Howlett in the 1980s, Mechoulam's team identified an endogenous cannabinoid that binds to it and 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 Desirehas said that Howlett and Mechoulam should be considered for the Nobel prizeRead more. 

Robert Blake (3/9)
Blake began performing at 2, when his abusive father would take him and his brother and sister to New Jersey parks to dance for money. By age 5 he was a regular in the “Our Gang” film comedies (pictured) and went on to a career in film (In Cold Blood) and television ("Baretta"). He was acquitted in 2005 of killing Bonny Lee Bakley, whom he married after a one-night stand left her pregnant with his child. She had nine former husbands and a dozen aliases, and was on probation for fraud. At the trial, author and UCLA professor Ron Siegel (Intoxication) testified that the use of meth and cocaine by the former stuntmen who testified that Blake hired them to shoot Bakley could have made them delusional. (Others said it was Christian Brando who ordered the killing.) The trial and subsequent civil suit left Blake bankrupt. I met him at a Hollywood party in 1999 where everyone was ignoring little, non-famous me until he looked at me and said in his tough-guy Baretta accent, "So, what do you do for a buck?" When I said I was an activist he said he'd done some marching himself. Reportedly, he took an eight-year break from acting, supporting union leader Cesar Chavez and opposing nuclear energy.

Traute Lafrenz (3/6)
Lafrenz was the last known survivor of the White Rose, a group of students who resisted the Nazi regime in Germany during World War II. Born in Hamburg, Lafrenz moved to Munich to study medicine. Arrested by the Gestapo in 1943, she was freed by American troops in April 1945, during the final days of the war. She emigrated to the United States, completed her medical training in San Francisco, and headed a school in Chicago before retiring in South Carolina. On her 100th birthday Lafrenz was awarded Germany's Order of Merit, citing her as one of the few who, "in the face of the crimes of national socialism, had the courage to listen to the voice of her conscience and rebel against the dictatorship and the genocide of the Jews. She is a heroine of freedom and humanity." Source.

Judy Heumann (3/4)
The "mother of the disability rights movement,"  Heumann lost her ability to walk at age 2 after contracting polio. She grew up to become an activist who, through protests and legal actions, helped secure legislation protecting the rights of the disabled, including the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Rehabilitation Act. She was featured in the Oscar-nominated 2020 documentary, "Crip Camp," which highlighted Camp Jened, a summer camp in New York's Catskills for people with disabilities, where Heumann was a counselor. Source. 


David Lindley (3/3)
Lindley was a founding member of the 1960s psychedelic band Kaleidoscope and also founded the rock band El Rayo-X. He scored and composed music for film, and worked as a musical director and instrumentalist with many other performers including Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt, Dolly Parton, Warren Zevon, David Grisman, and Curtis Mayfield. Lindley mastered such a wide variety of instruments that Acoustic Guitar magazine referred to him not as a multi-instrumentalist but instead as a "maxi-instrumentalist." On stage, Lindley was known for his humor, and for wearing garishly colored polyester shirts with clashing pants, gaining the nickname the Prince of Polyester. He often played in Humboldt County, CA, part of the pot-growing Emerald Triangle. May he cruise his Mercury straight to heaven. 

Orrin Bolton (3/2)
When I petitioned for the 1992 Colorado Hemp Initiative at a Michael Bolton concert, it was a bust: everyone was drunk and rude. Apparently, I had the wrong Bolton. I learn now from CelebStoner that Orrin was a marijuana legalization advocate, a board member of Connecticut NORML, and a musician as well. His more famous sibling tweeted, "My brother, my mentor, my introduction to my love of music. We've shared songs, sports, long hair and the stage. Forever the traveler, I know your music guides you into your next journey. RIP." Here Orrin sings his song "Freedom" about the weed.