Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Tokin' Women and Others We Lost in 2023

Sadly, this page will be updated throughout 2023.

Tina Turner (5/25)
"We don't need another hero, we need more heroines like you," said Oprah Winfrey at the 2005 ceremony featuring Queen LatifahMelissa Etheridge and Beyoncé bestowing Turner with a Kennedy Center Honor. The singing and dancing powerhouse and Queen of Rock and Roll survived a physically abusive relationship with her husband and musical partner Ike Turner before escaping with 36 cents in her pocket and divorcing him in 1978. She gave up all the couple's assets in her divorce settlement so that she could continue to use her stage name launched a solo career. A series of 1980s monster hits like the empowering "Better Be Good to Me" followed, along with a film career and a lucrative modeling contract for Hanes pantyhose after a poll revealed she had the most-admired legs in the US.  Like her fellow dancing/singing phenomenon Josephine Baker, Turner was wildly popular in Europe and expatriated to France, then Switzerland. A devout Buddhist, Tina the Acid Queen believed she was the reincarnation of the Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut, who was associated with Seshat, Goddess of Knowledge and Cannabis. Her biography I, Tina says that although the Ikettes were known to sneak an occasional joint, she only tried weed once, but let Ike give her Benzedrine to get through lengthy recording sessions, and they recorded a song called "Contact High." This performance (above) was recorded in 2009, the year she turned 70. We can't wait for her next incarnation.

Kathryn Jones Harrison (5/21)
Harrison was one of five Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon tribal members who testified before the U.S. House of Representatives on Oct. 18, 1983, in support of restoring the tribe to federal recognition, which had been terminated 29 years earlier in 1954. After the tribe was restored, she served on Tribal Council from 1984 to 2001, becoming the first woman to serve as tribal chair, all while raising 10 children. Harrison received honorary degrees from Portland State University, the University of Portland, and Willamette University. Her name, which honored her her great-great-aunt Molalla Kate, is inscribed on the Wall of Honor at the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and grade school in Corvallis, Oregon was named for her in 2022.  She walked on at the age of 99. Source. 

Gloria Molina (5/14)
The oldest of 10 children, Molina became a breadwinner to her family after her father died, working as a legal secretary while in college, where she became involved in politics. Shortly after, as chair of the Comisión Femenil Mexicana Nacional, she sat next to a tearful Dolores Madrigal at a news conference in 1975 announcing a class-action lawsuit alleging that L.A. County-USC Medical Center had coerced Mexican American women into sterilizations (pictured). She also headed Latino outreach in California for former President Carter, and joined his administration’s Office of Presidential Personnel, tasked with diversifying the ranks of thousands of commission seats. In 1982, Molina became the first Latina elected to the California state assembly. In 1986, she was the first Latina to be elected to the L.A. City Council. And in 1991, she was the first Latina to become an L.A. County Supervisor who served the people of East L.A., Pico-Union and the San Gabriel Valley for 23 years. In that capacity, she voted in favor of allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in LA County in 2006. Molina also quilted, founding the East L.A. Stitchers and frequently knitting with the group until her announcement of terminal cancer three years before her death. Source

Grace Bumbry (5/7)
Bumbry, a "barrier-shattering mezzo-soprano whose vast vocal range and transcendent stage presence made her a towering figure in opera and one of its first, and biggest, Black stars." Source. Growing up in St. Louis in an era of segregation, Bumbry came of age at a time when "African American singers were a rare sight on the opera stage, despite breakthroughs by luminaries like Leontyne Price and Marian Anderson." She performed in Verdi’s “Aida” at the Paris Opera in 1960 when she was at 23, and was acclaimed as "The Black Venus" when she portrayed Venus in a modernized version of Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” at the storied Bayreuth Festival the following year. Here she performs as Carmen

Gordon Lightfoot (5/1)
Canadian singer/songwriter Lightfoot saw US acts like Judy Collins and Peter, Paul and Mary make hits with songs he wrote like "Early Mornin' Rain" until he got airplay himself with his haunting "If You Could Read My Mind." His song "Sundown" was inspired by his then-girlfriend Cathy Smith, also the inspiration for The Band's song "The Weight." She sings backup on this song, titled "High and Dry."

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.

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. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Positive Cannabis Test Strips US Longjumper 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.

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