Saturday, December 31, 2011

Oklahoma mother sentenced to 10 years for $31 marijuana transaction

Because of $31 in marijuana sales, Patricia Marilyn Spottedcrow is now serving 10 years in prison, has been taken away from her four young children and husband, and has ended her work in nursing homes.

Read more here and here.


Patricia Spottedcrow
ODOC# 622641
Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center
P.O. Box 315
Taft, OK 74463-0315

UPDATE: The Bittersweet Victory of Patricia Spottedcrow’s Release

Thursday, December 22, 2011

From Actress to Activist: Heather Donahue's Journey

Editor's note: It's rare that Tokin Woman crosses paths with People magazine. But here's a case in point. (With, undoubtedly, more to follow.)

Heather Donahue correctly predicts in her new book “Growgirl” that the words “Blair Witch Project” will appear on the cover, over her objections. The actress that will forever be linked to that 1999 indie flick afterwards appeared in some mainstream films and television shows, but decided to leave LA for a country life, one that ultimately included marijuana farming in a place she calls “Nuggetown.” She has now emerged as a new, strong female voice for reason and sanity in our marijuana laws. Her wickedly funny, inspired and insightful book “Growgirl: How My Life After the Blair Witch Project Went to Pot” will be released on January 5. (Read more.)

I’ve been kinda stalking Heather since I saw a hilarious video of her reading from Growgirl on YouTube last year. She spoke at Humboldt Hempfest in November, and came to a NORML Women’s Alliance fundraiser in San Francisco, where she kindly agreed to answer some questions for Cannabis Culture.

Q: Is this the first book you've written?

A: This is the first publishable book I've written. Don't ask about that "learning novel" I spent seven years on. Or the "learning screenplays" or the short stories. They're at home in a nice, dark drawer.

Q: How did you learn to be such an astute observer of human behavior? And your own emotions? What is your educational background?

A: That's nice of you to say. My educational background is public school followed by a four-year dose of Theater training at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia. I think my theater training and time spent as an actress helped me to slip into other skins smoothly. I also have a long-standing (if irregular) meditation practice, which has helped on the observational front. Also, I was sort of born creepy. When I was a kid, my mom would sometimes get angry and I would just stare at her, just sort of taking it in an observing her. It was, um, disturbing. And of course everything's clearer with the passage of time, my own motivations and those of others, the protagonist of the memoir is generally a wiser, warmer, and more insightful person than the writer herself, except on her best day.

Q: At what point did you decide to write about your experience as a pot grower? What was your aim?

A: I was originally going to write a memoir about my attempt to morph from a city girl into a country girl, but most of my homesteading experiments were not, shall we say, wildly successful. Except for the raising of my dog. That went well. It took about six months into my first draft of Growgirl to even type the word "pot" or "marijuana". The paranoia I experienced as a grower was pretty entrenched by that point. I really wrestled with writing a memoir. I considered just calling it an autobiographical novel at first, but I felt like my story was one that should be shared. It's not all ballers growing pot. There are a lot of pretty normal people who've taken to growing as a way to weather this economy and try to carve out a sustainable life with some semblance of autonomy, often in beautiful places that don't have many other jobs available.

Q: When did you first smoke marijuana? Was it a positive experience?

A: I was in high school and a co-worker at Sneaker Express gave me a joint. I shared it with friends and we laughed our asses off. I felt totally at home in my body, which was rare in those awkward teen years.

Q: I love that in the book your mother praised your courage, and that you were able to tell your parents what you were up to. Had they talked to you about cannabis or drugs while you were growing up?

A: My parents have always been supporters of anything my brother or sister or I have taken on. I don't remember a specific conversation about drugs, but we always knew we could go to them with questions about pretty much anything and not be judged. Consequently, none of else felt a big urge to rebel via sex or drugs. I find it kind of funny that I tried later and my heart just wasn't in it. I make a crappy rebel. I make a good independent lady, but a terrible rebel.

Q: You got into marijuana growing through a guy, but refused to be his "pot wife," growing your own instead. Did you encounter any other women who were similarly independent in the trade?

A: Yes. But they tend to be less visible, and more aware of how they're seen in the broader community. I think this might be due to a stronger self-preservation instinct, and that they often have more to lose. When in Nuggettown's coffee shop, it isn't too hard to guess who the grow guys are, and not just when they buy a latte with a $100 bill, but there's just a certain look. Women I knew who grew, avoided having that look. Pot wives had it, but not growgirls. I'm generalizing here, obviously, but a game of Spot the Grower can be good fun.

Q: You explain well the pitfalls of an underground culture: the inability to express yourself publicly; the spoiling of children around too-easy cash; the "gaming" of the medical law. You've expressed concern about the marijuana trade becoming corporatized, asking in your Huffington Post blog, "Is there a middle path?" What would be your ideal world in which pot was legal?

A: Well there's a loaded question. A few things first, I would not suggest that it's too-easy cash. I would suggest that it's very flowy cash, that it comes with a generous dash of Carpe Diem. The medical system is so widely open to interpretation and local amendments that it is almost designed like a game--if you're willing to take the risk, then you may have the reward. This helps keep the price up. From the side of getting a doctor's recommendation, am I gaming the system because I got mine for $50 and a claim of PMS? Or am I getting my uninsured self some relief? Is pursuit of wellness a legitimate medical use? Are the laughs brought by smoking a health-enhancing stress reducer, or does smoking to giggle fall strictly under recreational use? Is feeling great a matter of health or recreation? These are blurry lines worthy of exploration, as long as we make sure that deeply ill patients still have safe access no matter how those sorts of debates shape up.

There are so many ways that you could look at the medical marijuana world and see gaming. It's harder to imagine a way of looking at it that seems entirely forthright. It's this slipperiness that has allowed it to become such a large industry, and the only one I see out there whose wealth is still primarily distributed at the mom-and-pop level. There should be some very conscious consideration around that as we progress toward legalization. I have big concerns that legalization will bring corporatization. I think, in some ways, the way the business is evolving now is ideal. It's the federal illegality that's keeping in the hands of regular people. This industry bloomed when Obama insisted he wouldn't prosecute anyone compliant with state law. The industry bloomed, but the prices dropped. It could be argued that the prices dropped to fair levels, and in some cases, made energy-sucking indoor grows less appealing. Hopefully Obama will go back to honoring his promise, and this will drive technologies like LED growlights forward, encouraging the development of a truly green industry.

Marijuana legislation should be left to the states. Take some of the DEA budget and put it into healthcare, or repurpose it to fund studies that will figure out why cannabis is so effective on epilepsy. Use Federal money for something that benefits citizens rather than oppresses them, as the enforcement of prohibition does.

Q: What was it like marketing the book to a publisher? Did your Hollywood agent help? Did you encounter derision, moralizing?

A: I didn't have a Hollywood agent anymore by the time I was working on the proposal for this book. I sent out query letters to about five different agents who I thought might be a good fit, and that's how I found my agent Mollie Glick. She shopped the proposal to editors who seemed to like it. I didn't encounter any moralizing directly. I got more derision from random people who can't understand why I would never leave acting, and that deciding to grow pot was somehow a bottoming out. I don't see it that way at all. For me, it was about taking my story back, seeing what else I might become. I left acting and started growing pot because I wanted to create a life I loved in a beautiful place.

Q: What's it been like doing public appearances about the book?

A: I had some idea of what I was getting into by writing this book. It's controversial material, I get that. Oddly, it's controversial on both sides. Some people in the marijuana world don't like how I've written about it. And anti-drug people think I'm glamorizing badness. What can you do? I just hope people on both sides will read it and see that at heart it's a story about a woman trying to find her place in the world. And that the cannabusiness is not all ballers and kingpins, it's a lot of regular people trying to keep the middle class dream alive.

Q: Are you in touch with any of your former community in Nuggetown? What do they think of the book?

A: Willa's read it. She and I are still besties. Ed's read it. But for the most part, I'm not in touch with the people that I've written about. By and large they're not so enthusiastic about it. I understand this. I chose to write a book. They didn't. This is why everyone's been disguised and most characters are composites.

Q: Is there interest in making the book into a movie?

A: I think there's a ton that could be mined in the grower world for a series. A little bit Weeds, a little bit Northern Exposure, a little bit Big Love.

Q: Other than promoting the book, what are you up to these days? Where do you think you're headed? Are you interested in making more films, as an actress or otherwise? Or will you again leave that question up to the universe?

A: Getting Growgirl out into the world is more than a full time job right now. I have several other book ideas in mind, and it's getting to be time to choose. In the broader scheme of things, I have no idea where I'm headed. I still have no Plan B. What I do have, what being a grower gave me, was a fair level of comfort in uncertainty. I love films, but I wouldn't want to be in front of the camera again. I love writing because I can do it anytime anywhere. What I liked least about acting was the permission required. I don't want to go back to a job where I need permission to do my thing. At the risk of sounding like a hippie, I'm open to what comes.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

My Mother-in-Law’s One High Day

My Mother-in-Law’s One High Day
Published: December 9, 2011
The New York Times

WHEN my mother-in-law was in the final, harrowing throes of pancreatic cancer, she had only one good day, and that was the day she smoked pot. Read story.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Veggie VIPs Rock US Postage Stamps; Madonna First Female VIP to Rock Superbowl

Several VIPs (that's Very Important Potheads) will grace US Postage Stamps as part of a new series honoring "vegetarian icons" picked by PETA. McCartney (again) joins Woody Harrelson (natch), Chrissie Hynde, Natalie Portman and Pythagoras on the stamps, which are due to go on sale later this month.

It's just been announced that Hynde will open a vegan restaurant in Los Angeles along with Ellen DeGeneris, another of the 20 vegetarians to get a stamp. (Ellen's never admitted to smoking it, but joked about it when she hosted the Oscars in 2007.) Hynde's "Legalise Me" is the theme song in the new VIP video.

It's a good bet some of the other top vegetarians also toked. Pamela Anderson wrote a letter to Obama in 2008 in favor of legalization. Joan Jett covered the trippy 60s song "Crimson and Clover" and thought pot-puffing actress Kristen Stewart did a great job portraying her in a 2010 biopic. Leo Tolstoy explored the use of hashish and other intoxicants in his 1890 temperance essay "Why People Become Intoxicated," but his conclusions seem based on his experiences with wine and tobacco.

Lots of other cannabis connoisseurs have been honored with postage stamps, including Bessie Smith, Bob Hope, and Mark Twain, whose stamp came out this year. Also given a stamp in 2011 was pioneering African-American writer and filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, in whose 1931 film "The Exile" VIP Louise Cook appeared.

And it's been announced that Madonna will appear at this year's Superbowl halftime show on Feb. 5.

As well as turning a suburban spa salesman onto pot in her 1985 movie "Desperately Seeking Susan," the world's most successful female musician admitted to smoking pot and taking Ecstasy in March 2008 upon her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Material Girl (worth an estimated $325 million) is far from the only pot lover who's appeared at America's biggest sports fest. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers rocked the stadium in 2008. At Superbowl 2005, Paul Mc Cartney played "Get Back" with the lyric, "Jo Jo left his home in Tucson Arizona, for some California grass." In 2004, Willie Nelson played along with country singer Toby Keith, he of the famed tune, "I'll Never Smoke Weed With Willie Again."

At least one member of last year's halftime act, The Black Eyed Peas, is a known pot smoker: rapper Taboo (né Jaime Luis Gomez) was arrested near LA in March 2007 after marijuana was found in his car. The Peas just appeared at the nation's tree-lighting ceremony along with Kermit the "It's Not Easy Being Green" Frog and President Obama.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Football and Father Fixations

Having graduated from Penn State (now derisively called State Penn) in 1980, I chimed in on a listserve with several dozen of my sorority sisters from the 70s, who still get together for Homecoming games.

Rather than address the fundamental issues at hand, the messages were all about damage control. Almost immediately after the news hit, one woman, who works in public relations at another University, suggested all give donations to anti-child-abuse organizations in the name of Penn State. Another posted a story about current matriculates from our chapter handing out blue ribbons, the color of child abuse victims and one of PSU’s colors, before the game. One alum sent flowers to the chapter.

My pleas to reevaluate our nation’s fixation with seeing a piece of pigskin move down a patch of land fell on deaf ears. I wrote in that every time I tell people I went to Penn State, all they want to hear about is the football team and Paterno. Is that all an educational institution is supposed to be about? I asked. Is the welfare of children really secondary to who wins the game?

I brought up Noam Chomsky’s book “Manufacturing Consent," theorizing that the elites in society need to have their consent manufactured for government policies, but the vast majority just need to get distracted. Sports, which doubles as "an exercise in radical jingoism," is one of the distractions. But everyone watched the game anyway. Rah.

A week later, Paterno’s son leaked the news that his father had a treatable form of lung cancer. This prompted my sisters to suggest we all write letters of support to our “Italian grandfather.” Missed was the news that Pennsylvania Rep. Louise Williams Bishop (pictured) had just introduced a bill requiring anyone with knowledge of a sex crime against children to report it to the police, not just a supervisor.

In a press conference announcing the bill, Bishop outed herself as a childhood sexual abuse victim. Inspired by her courage, I did the same on the listserve. Like the victims Bishop spoke of in her announcement, I too have struggled with earning a living, and while reconciling my past, I missed out on marriage and family too.

Just like the Catholic church scandal, to me what was worse than the abuse itself was the fact that those in positions of authority allowed it to continue, increasing the victim count. The beloved Paterno is almost certainly guilty of this.

I asked my sisters to think on this quote by Arthur Rimbaud: "He who is legend in his own time is ruled by that legend. It may begin in absolute innocence. But, to cover up flaws and maintain the myth of Divine power, one has to call on desperate measures."

How many innocents had their lives ruined by Paterno's desperate measures? I asked. How many in the Catholic church? And how many women propped up these pathetic patriarchal institutions, and continue to do so? Why? Because we think a Santa Claus/Yahweh/father figure will save us from our own mortality? By winning a football game?

I volunteered at a rape crisis center as part of my healing, and the calls were very often from those who were just starting to deal with abuse they had suffered as children. It can scar a life. I asked my sisters to write their letters of support to their elected representatives in support of Bishop's bill, which has been opposed by the Catholic church.

I am, as Al Green sings, “blessed in the service of my savior”: the plant teachers who opened my mind to a childhood memory I had suppressed in my subconscious mind. Maybe if my sisters weren’t drinking their brains out at football games every week and were instead using something more enlightening for recreation, they would understand. Marijuana is Safer.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Lively NORML Life

I got to see the documentary "A NORML Life" at a NORML Women's Alliance event in San Francisco last night. It's a terrific film that should be widely seen by reformers and others.

Rod Pitman, the film's director, was working on a movie about The Doors when he attended a 2008 NORML conference in Berkeley at which Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek spoke. The film has some fine snippets of Manzarek extolling the consciousness-expanding properties of pot, and the DVD contains a bonus interview with Manzerek.

Canadian activist Jodie Emery, whose husband Marc is serving time in a US federal prison for selling marijuana seeds over the internet, is one of the interviewees. In her poignant segment, Emery points out that Marc's actions were aimed at bringing back homegrown marijuana instead of cartel-grown.

Elvy Musikka, one of four federal patients who receives marijuana from the US government, is also powerful in her interview, as is her driver "Big Mike" and the little-but-mighty Ohio activist Tonya Davis (pictured).

In the film, Sabrina Fendrick describes how the new NORML Women's Alliance sprang from an article titled "Stiletto Stoners" in Marie Claire. NORML director Allen St. Pierre explains well the organization's challenge: end prohibition while still offering assistance to its victims. He likened it to trying to build a boat while already in the water.

California Drs. Frank Lucido and Christine Paoletti did a fine job explaining the scientific basis for marijuana's medical uses, and Kentuckian Gatewood Galbraith got some of the biggest laughs with his cogent analyses. Other "high" lights include musician Tim Pate, "Toke of the Town" journalist Steve Elliott and CalNORML Attorney Bill Panzer.

The film ends with a message from NORML founder Keith Stroup about folks coming "out" as pot smokers, and working with their elected officials to lift federal prohibition, allowing states to make their own laws, just as happened with alcohol.

The DVD is available at and the distributor Cinema Libre is in negotiations with Netflix. Pitman asked all in the room to go viral with the film through all their social networks, etc. He has produced a companion film, "Hempsters: Plant the Seed," narrated by Woody Harrelson and featuring Willie Nelson, Ralph Nader, and others.

If you are interested in "A NORML Life" for promotional partnerships, events, festivals and conferences, call (206) 697-2374 or email HeartBrain Media's Stephanie Bishop: Stephanie (at) heartbrainmedia (dot) com.

To request a screener for review, or to arrange an interview, contact Cassie Brewer: cbrewer (at) cinemalibrestudio (dot) com

See other information about Grassroots distribution of the film.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Girl's Got Camerones

Cameron Diaz and Phyllis Smith in Bad Teacher
Tokin' Woman Cameron Diaz lights up more than the screen in Bad Teacher (2011), a raunchy but charming comedy a bit in the style of There's Something About Mary (1998), in which Diaz tokes with Ben Stiller as they reunite onscreen. 

Diaz carries the film as a shallow but smart gold-digging woman who's teaching school (as little as she can) while saving for a boob job. When she's caught by a student smoking a "medicinal" pipe in the school parking lot, she couldn't care less. But she takes an interest in a co-worker played by Phyllis Smith ("The Office"), encouraging her to smoke a doobie; next thing you know she's happily groping a cowboy in a bar. 

Casting her former boy toy Justin Timberlake as a nerdy pantswetter who parodies himself singing a love song in pitch-perfect style, her other love interest is played by Jason Segel, who's the stoner in "Freaks and Geeks" and, as Marshall in "How I Met Your Mother," bonds with Ted over "sandwiches" in the “How I Met Everyone Else” episode. 

The film handles marijuana in irony, moderation and jubilation, with a dash of heart, and soul.

Diaz told George Lopez she "had to have" bought pot from Snoop Dogg while both were in high school in Long Beach.

Best note in the new Harold and Kumar 3-D Christmas extravaganga: when Danneel Harris (Vanessa) tells Kumar not to stop smoking. The actress told High Times in 2008 she smokes pot; neither John Cho (Harold) or Kal Penn (Kumar) partake (so they say).