Thursday, May 11, 2023

Jewish American Heritage Month and Marijuana

President Biden has proclaimed May 2023 as Jewish American Heritage Month, calling upon all  Americans to "learn more about the heritage and contributions of Jewish Americans."

So being a patriotic (actually, more matriartic) American, I looked at my list of cannabis connoisseurs at, as well as this blog, and came up with an impressive list of Jewish Americans who have contributed to society while taking the THC molecule that was discovered by Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam.  

Maybe it's true that the Burning Bush that spoke to Moses was cannabis or his anointing oil contained it, because President Richard Nixon (strangely) observed to his Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman on May 26, 1971, "You know, it's a funny thing, every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob? What is the matter with them? I suppose it is because most of them are psychiatrists."

As revealed by Boston Globe writer Dan Abrams, Nixon had been briefed that morning on the book Marihuana Reconsidered by Jewish psychiatrist Dr. Lester Grinspoon, a Harvard professor. The landmark book "helped launch the contemporary movement to legalize the drug, lending Ivy League credibility to a cause more associated with hippie counterculture than serious medical research," wrote Abrams. 

But psychiatrists are not the only Jewish Americans associated with marijuana. 

Monday, May 1, 2023

Tokin' Women and Others We Lost in April 2023

Tangaraju Suppiah (4/26)
Suppiah, aged 46, was executed by hanging in Singapore after being found guilty of "aiding and abetting" the smuggling of 1 kg (35 oz.) of cannabis. Human rights activists, the United Nations, and Richard Branson protested the death sentence, especially since no drugs were found in Suppiah's possession. Singapore is one of 35 countries and territories in the world that sentence people to death for drug crimes, according to Harm Reduction International (HRI). Last year Singapore hanged 11 people, all on drug charges - including an intellectually impaired man convicted of trafficking three tablespoons of heroin. Singapore's neighbor Malaysia abolished mandatory death penalties earlier this month, saying it was not an effective deterrent to crime. Neighboring Thailand has decriminalized cannabis, and is encouraging its trade. Source. 

UPDATE: Three weeks after Suppiah's killing, an unnamed 37-year-old man was executed after his last-ditch bid to reopen his case was dismissed by the court Tuesday without a hearing, said activist Kokila Annamalai of the Transformative Justice Collective, which advocates for abolishing the death penalty in Singapore. The man, who was not named as his family has asked for privacy, had been imprisoned for seven years and convicted in 2019 for trafficking around 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) of cannabis, she said. “If we don’t come together to stop it, we fear that this killing spree will continue in the weeks and months to come,” she said. Some 600 prisoners are on death row in the city-state, mostly for drug-related offenses, she added.

Harry Belafonte (4/25)
Singer, actor, and activist Belafonte brought Island music to the mainland with songs like "Day-O" and "Jamaican Farewell." He appeared in the film "Carmen Jones," an all-black remake of the opera "Carmen," in which a soldier is lead astray by a Gypsy drug smuggler. Belafonte was an ally of Martin Luther King and major figure in the civil rights movement, remaining active in various causes all his life. In the 1980s, he helped organize a cultural boycott of South Africa as well as the Live Aid concert, and became UNICEF’s good-will ambassador. In 2002, he accused Secretary of State Colin L. Powell of abandoning his principles to “come into the house of the master.” He called George Bush “the greatest terrorist in the world,” the Koch brothers "white supremacists," and Donald Trump “feckless and immature.” In 2014, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave him its Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in recognition of his lifelong fight for civil rights and other causes. Source.

Emily Meggett (4/21)
Meggett, who never once used a cookbook or recipe, shot to national fame last year when she published her own cookbook at the age of 89. Gullah Geechee Home Cooking: Recipes From the Matriarch of Edisto Island, her first and only publication, went on to become a New York Times bestseller. Meggett was born on the South Carolina island of Edisto, and lived there for her entire life. A descendant of the Gullah-Geechee people, she learned to cook from her grandmother and spent half a century cooking in the vacation homes of wealthy white families, with her side door was always open to feed friends and family. "A lot of times, we has a treasure in our head. And we will die and go to heaven, and take that treasury with us,” Meggett told WFAE back in 2022. “And why can't we just share it with somebody else here?" Source. 

Salma Khadra Jayyusi (4/20)
Palestinian poet, writer, translator and anthologist Jayyusi was the founder and director of the Project of Translation from Arabic (PROTA), which aims to provide translation of Arabic literature into English. In 1960, she published her first poetry collection, Return from the Dreamy Fountain and 1970, she received her PhD on Arabic literature from the University of London. She went on to teach at universities across the Middle East and the US, and publish and translate several books and anthologies. In "April Woman," she wrote to her son:
And I gave you
love's ecstasy
the will to conquer
passionate devotion
and the enchantment of the spirit
in the presence of holy fire.

Ahmad Jamal (4/16)
Miles Davis once said, “All my inspiration comes from Ahmad Jamal.” Born Frederick Russell Jones in Pittsburgh, Jamal began playing piano at the age of three and "made a lasting mark on jazz with a stately approach that honored what he called the spaces in the music" with an output of albums that "was as prodigious as his light-fingered style was economical." (Source.) Awards bestowed on Jamal included the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master award, a lifetime achievement Grammy, and induction into France’s Order of Arts and Letters. 

Norm Kent (4/13)
As well as being a prominent LGBTQ activist and longtime board member and board chair for NORML, Kent was the attorney who got Elvy Musikka off on a marijuana charge in Florida in 1988 due to her glaucoma. The judge ruled her pot garden was a “medical necessity” and found her not guilty in a case that made headlines internationally. Afterwards, Musikka became one of a handful of people and the only woman supplied with federally-grown marijuana for her for medical needs under the IND program. Here is Norm in his signature fedora with me in my hemp hat at a 2016 NORML conference.

Mary Quant (4/13) 
"I think I always knew that what I wanted to do was to make clothes....clothes that would be fun to wear," wrote the influential fashion designer in her autobiography Quant by Quant. Saddened and embarrassed by the ornate and formal clothes she was made to wear as a child, she started her revolt at the age of six by cutting up her aunt's colorful bedspread with nail scissors to make a dress from it. Encouraged to sew for economic reasons, she invented her own school uniform. Admiring the short-skirted costume of a girl who took tap dancing lessons lead to her later being crowned the Mother of the Mini Skirt in the early 1960s in London. An international fashion empire ensued and when I look at pictures of her clothes, I realize how much they influenced what we all wore in the '70s. 

Megan Terry (4/12)
Terry was a prolific feminist playwright and a founding member of the Open Theater group and the Women’s Theater Council. While supporting herself by working as an actress in television serials, she wrote plays like "The Magic Realist" (1960), which explored the inequity of a capitalistic economic power structure on individuals, families, and criminal justice, and "Ex-Miss Copper Queen on a Set of Pills," the story of an ex-beauty queen who has begun working as a prostitute to support her drug addiction. Terry's “Viet Rock: A Folk War Movie” (1966) was both the first rock musical and the first play addressing the Vietnam war. “Approaching Simone” (1970), about Simone Weil, the French activist philosopher, won the Obie Award for best Off Broadway play. By the end of her career, she had written 70 plays.

Blair Tindall

Oboist Tindall's book Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs and Classical Music blew the lid off the classical music world, and the Amazon series based on it won the Golden Globe in 2016 for best television series, comedy or musical. Two female members of the orchestra (shown) bond over a pipe in the series, where the drummer (natch) is the peddler. Tindall earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the Manhattan School of Music and played in the pit orchestras of “Miss Saigon” and “Les MisĂ©rables.” After earning a masters in journalism at Stanford, she wrote for various newspapers, pieces like Better Playing Through Chemistry and Psychedelic Palo Alto. She her fiancĂ©, the photographer Chris Sattlberger, planned to marry on May 1. Tindall died at the age of 63 of cardiovascular disease.

Jessica Burstein (4/11)
Burstein was the first female photographer hired by a network TV station, something for which she credited affirmative action. In the 1990s she photographed often-unwilling celebrities as the official (and unpaid) photographer at Elaine's, the posh and popular Manhattan night spot, and later became the staff photographer for "Law and Order." Born with a "wandering eye," she underwent surgery and treatment at the age of 8. Given a Brownie camera as a therapeutic tool, she began photographing obsessively, influenced by Life magazine, Margaret Bourke-White and the Vietnam war resistance. She joined a group called "The Concerned Photographers," realizing she could make a difference with her camera, and was also a labor leader, serving as executive board of the New York chapter of the International Cinematographer's Guild. Shown: Self portrait with Arthur Ashe.

Al Jaffee (4/10)
One of my favorite features of Mad magazine was the Jaffee's Fold-In that appeared at the back, in which the reader would fold the page to answer a riddle. Jaffee, who also wrote the "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions" feature for the magazine, worked for Mad for 65 years, retiring at the age of 99 a few years before he died this year at age 102. This was the final Fold-In he drew.

Jane LaTour (4/3) 
LaTour was an American labor activist, educator, and journalist who advocated union democracy and documented the role of women in traditionally male-dominated trades. She was the author of Sisters in the Brotherhoods: Working Women Organizing for Equality in New York City. A two-time recipient of the Mary Heaton Vorse Award for labor journalism, she was an associate editor for Public Employee Press, the publication of District 37 of AFSCME, and contributed to numerous other publications. For many years, she was the director of the Women's Project for the Association for Union Democracy, and served on the boards of the New York Labor History Association and the Women's Press Collective. 

Alicia Shepard (4/1)

A writer and media observer who served as ombudsman of NPR, Shepard examined the lives of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in a book about the legacy of the Watergate investigation, and chronicled her adventure sailing across the South Pacific with her infant son in tow. She spent the early years of her career as a general-assignment reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, and freelanced over the years for publications including The Washington Post, the New York TimesUSA Today and Washingtonian magazine. She later taught journalism at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and media ethics at the University of Arkansas.  Source.