Thursday, December 27, 2012

First Pot Peace Candidate Had Reason in His Family

Teresa and George McGovern after he won
the Massachusetts Democratic Primary
I haven't had a chance in this busy election season to stop and reflect about the death this year of George McGovern. Among those who worked on Mr. McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign were Warren Beatty, Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Gary Hart. And, I'm proud to say, me.

My first political act, at the age of 13, was to campaign for McGovern. When Nixon won by a landslide, I was so disheartened about the cynicism of the neighbors I'd canvassed and the country I lived in that I didn't get involved in politics again until I found out about hemp in 1991.

Now I see that the laws against marijuana had a damaging effect on a member of McGovern's family.

According to Wikipedia:

In July 1968, George McGovern's daughter Teresa was arrested in Rapid City, SD on marijuana possession charges. Based on a recently enacted strict state drugs law, Terry now faced a minimum five-year prison sentence if found guilty. At the time McGovern was in the running for the Democratic nomination for president.

McGovern denounced as "police brutality" the Chicago police tactics against demonstrators at the convention in August and ended up supporting Hubert Humphrey's nomination that year. Again, Wikipedia:

McGovern returned to his Senate reelection race. While South Dakota voters sympathized with McGovern over his daughter's arrest, he initially suffered a substantial drop in popularity over the events in Chicago. 

McGovern won the Democratic nomination four years later in 1972, when he famously became tagged with the label "amnesty, abortion and acid," supposedly reflecting his positions. McGovern favored the decriminalization of marijuana (but didn't say the same for LSD). Ever since, McGovernism has come to mean the embracing of progressive social policies that make liberals easy targets for conservatives. See SF Gate's Obituary.

Teresa was 19 when her pot bust happened. The effect it may have had on her life is unknown. For one thing, it might have sent her to more damaging substances, like alcohol.

McGovern writes, "Embarrassed by her Rapid City marijuana arrest, Terry decided not to return to Dakota Wesleyan that fall." Instead she enrolled at the University of Dakota, which was "then a place where heavy drinking and pot smoking were common, and Terry steadily increased her intake of alcohol with some limited use of marijuana and amphetamines." In February 1988, she began occasional use of marijuana, calling it a "pot addiction."

In December 1994, at the age of 45, Teresa fell into a snowbank while heavily intoxicated with alcohol, and died of hypothermia.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Classics and Cannabis

VIP Bob Hope was perhaps the most beloved American entertainer with the most longevity, best known for entertaining US troops abroad and for his Christmas TV shows.

Tonight, TCM aired Hope's 1951 movie "The Lemon Drop Kid" in which he and Marilyn Maxwell sing "Silver Bells," a song written for the film. Based on a Damon Runyan story, the movie has Hope rounding up New York's petty crooks to dress as Santas and collect money for a phony charity.

While singing the song about 56 minutes into the movie, Hope is clowning around just after it's established a policeman can't shut him down because he's licensed. He stops to sniff a big meerschaum pipe smoked by a street corner Santa, after which he acts goofy, whistling and flapping his wings. (The tune is actually introduced by William Frawley as "Gloomy," who sings, "chunk it in/chunk it in/or Santy will give you a Mickey.")

Hope joked about pot on radio broadcasts in the 1940s and while entertaining troops in Vietnam in the 1970s. "I hear you guys are interested in gardening here," he quipped. "Our security officer said a lot of you guys are growing your own grass." Poignantly, he added that "instead of taking it away from the soldiers, we ought to give it to the negotiators in Paris." The jokes were censored from Hope's 1970 Christmas special (so much for Peace on Earth).

Hope, who admitted to trying pot in a Rolling Stone interview in 1980, gave a nod to his "Road" movie co-star Bing Crosby at the end of The Lemon Drop Kid. Crosby, whose recording of "White Christmas" is the best-selling single ever, was also a VIP.

Another beloved Christmas film, "The Man Who Came to Dinner" (1942), edits out a scene from the 1939 play by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman where absinthe is mentioned. In the film, Sheldon Whiteside, played by Monty Woolley, is the unwanted guest of staid Ohio industrialist Ernest Stanley over the Christmas holidays.

The original play has this scene:

JOHN (manservant): And Sarah has something for you, Mr. Whiteside. Made it special. 

WHITESIDE: She has? Where is she? My Souffle Queen! 

SARAH (cook): (Proudly entering with a tray on which reposes her latest delicacy) Here I am, Mr. Whiteside. 

WHITESIDE: She walks in beauty like the night, and in those deft hands there is the art of Michelangelo. Let me taste the new creation. (...swallows at a gulp one of Sarah's not so little cakes. An ecstatic expression comes over his face) Poetry! Sheer poetry! 

SARAH: (beaming) I put a touch of absinthe in the dough. Do you like it? 

WHITESIDE: (rapturously) Ambrosia!

Interestingly, the word "counterfeiting" in the play's line, "If that's for the Stanleys, tell them they've been arrested for counterfeiting," was changed to "dealing dope" in the film. Mr. Stanley brags of building ball bearings for the war effort, which is what the real Ohio industrialist Henry Timken did. Timken's son Harold H. ("Henry") also grew hemp in Imperial Valley, California in 1917.

Woolley also appeared in the Christmas movie "The Bishop's Wife" (1947), in which he plays a professor  who describes to the Bishop (David Niven) the never-emptying bottle of sherry that the angel (Cary Grant) bestows upon him thusly: "It warms. It stimulates, It inspires. But no matter how much you drink, it never's something you can't explain with all your Ecclesiastical knowledge." 

In his latest brilliant column on marijuana, VIP Andrew Sullivan skewers David Frum and NIDA for their backwards words and policies. He writes,

"The whole point of marijuana use is to disrupt settled ways of thinking and feeling, to offer a respite, like alcohol, from the deadliness of doing. But for reasons we don't quite yet understand, marijuana, like other essentially harmless drugs in moderation, can prompt imaginative breakthroughs, creative serendipity, deeper personal understanding, and greater social empathy and connection. People need these things and have always sought refuge in them, especially at this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere."

True, even at the movies.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

High Lily, High Lily

My favorite line from Lily Tomlin's masterful album "Modern Scream" comes from this mock question:

Interviewer: "Lily, is it true you have a drug problem?"
Lily: "Yes, it's so hard to get good grass these days."

As one of the two "tokin' women" honoring George Carlin when he posthumously won the Mark Twain Prize,  she opened with, "I flatter myself to think that George and I somehow drank from the same comedy fountain. Or should I say 'inhaled'? Or perhaps I shouldn't."

Lily inhaled on screen with Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda in the  1980 movie "9 to 5," at a pot party that bonded the characters in a deliciously wicked plot to improve their workplace conditions. (It's true: pot leads to communism.) Tomlin's "Tasteful Lady" is a great send-up of the kind of "Mothers Against Everything" that would put the clampdown on cannabis.

Yet I had never heard Tomlin fully "out" herself as a pot smoker until the October issue of Culture Magazine, whose cover is graced with Lily rocking a black bowler hat.

Asked if she's an advocate for marijuana legalization, Tomlin replied, "Yes, yes. Of course."

She said she doesn't have a doctor's recommendation, and asked, "Can you get me one?...I have to rely on the kindness of strangers. I don't use everyday. I'm not that fresh and hip." To the question, does she have any favorite of cannabis strains, Tomlin replied, "I wish I was that sophisticated."

At 72, Tomlin is back on TV as the mother of Reba McEntire in the upcoming ABC sitcom Malibu. She'll appear onstage on January 19, 2013 at the Sunset Cultural Center in Carmel, CA.

In May, Tomlin and longtime writing/life partner Jane Wagner were honored by Sen. Barbara Boxer. Maybe the two should have a toke, and a talk. UPDATE: Maybe they did

UPDATE 9/14: Tomlin will receive a 2014 Kennedy Center Honor. The gala will be broadcast on December 30. (Many other Very Important Potheads have received the Honor.) She and Jane Fonda will co-star in the new Netflix series Grace and Frankie.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tales of Two Tokin' Women: Fiona Apple and Lady Gaga

UPDATE 10/15: The Texas sheriff that arrested Apple 

Fiona Apple was caught on Wednesday with small amounts of marijuana and hashish in Sierra Blanca, Texas, making her the first woman to be nabbed in the same border town where Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg and Armie Hammer were also arrested by the US Border Patrol. (Hammer was reportedly carrying baked goods from his wife's bakedery.)

 Apple was arrested and jailed, and spoke about her experience at her Houston concert. It's about time someone spoke up about what a violating experience being jailed is. Apple's arrest is potentially much more serious than the others who got their wrists slapped, since hash possession reportedly can bring a 3-10 year sentence in Texas, even though it's just concentrated cannabis.

There is possibly no other artist who digs as deep as Apple does, with undeniable talent and honesty. She is back on the musical scene after a 7-year hiatis, with her presciently titled new album The Idler Wheel Is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw, And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. We wish all the best to the extraordinary machine that she is. She'll be in New Orleans on Monday night, and touring the East Coast thereafter.

Apple's arrest blunted my enthusiasm about the news that Lady Gaga lit up a joint onstage at her concert in Amsterdam, declaring weed "wondrous." She was quoted as telling The Sun newspaper: "I want you to know it has totally changed my life and I’ve really cut down on drinking."

One commenter wrote: "Good now she won't end up like Amy." (Gaga has famously gained 25 pounds, possibly due to the munchees and healthier habits.) Another wrote: "Good on you Lady Gaga. Makes me want to reach for one. Unfortunately it is totally acceptable for celeb's to indulge in whatever their desire, but not for regular folks like us. LoL." They're right, and I'm not laughing about it.

Tickets for Gaga's Born this Way Ball on Feb. 22 at Madison Square Garden go on sale on Sept. 28. Since she has 29 million Twitter followers, we think they're likely to sell out.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Where Are the Top Female Marijuana Users?

Maya Angelou
The Marijuana Policy Project has released a list of Top 50 Most Influential Marijuana Users, chosen by vote from 200 candidates (and augmented by MPP's 13 "automatic qualifiers").

Only five women make the list. Sarah Palin comes in at number 14, and poet Maya Angelou is number 21. Angelina Jolie is 24th on the list, even though she said she doesn't like pot's effects. Jennifer Aniston shows up at number 38 and Whoopi Goldberg at 44. Lady Gaga missed the cut, coming in at #52.

The maleness of the list could be a reflection of MPP's membership, or of their own selection of the 200 nominees. High Times's readership is almost exclusively young males, and groups like NORML have traditionally been male-heavy (although the NORML Women's Alliance is working to change that).

NORML board member Greta Gaines made some waves recently when she published an article titled "Why Are No Women Celebrity Stoners Willing to Come Out of the Greenhouse." Gaines got a few things wrong, dissing Melissa Etheridge as a mere medical marijuana advocate, and failing to recognize that women like Aniston, Sarah Silverman, Cameron Diaz, Kirsten Dunst and others have spoken publicly about their marijuana use. But if the MPP list is a reflection of public perception, her point is one that needs to be made.

Most are aware that women had a role in bringing about alcohol prohibition, but many don't know that they also helped bring it down. Pauline Morton Sabin was one important player who was highlighted in Ken Burns's PBS series "Prohibition." A panel at the national NORML conference on Saturday, October 6 will explore women's role in ending America's prohibitions. An NWA Luncheon will follow. Read more and register.

See a round-up of prominent female cannabis connoisseurs, now and then.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ayn Rand on Drugs

Ayn Rand
After saying that Ayn Rand was required reading for all his interns and his biggest influence for getting into politics, House Speaker Paul Ryan has now said he enjoyed Rand's novels but rejects her atheistic philosophy.

That's too bad, because Rand opposed drug prohibition, although she called taking drugs "suicide" and said marijuana "destroys the mind." At least, so says a web search.

According to the book Ayn Rand Answers by Robert Mayhew (Penguin, 2005) as quoted by, Rand said,

"I do not approve of any government controls over consumption, so all restrictions on drugs should be removed (except, of course, on the sale to minors). The government has no right to tell an adult what to do with his own health and life. That places a much greater moral responsibility on the individual; but adults should be free to kill themselves in any way they want.

"I would fight for your legal right to use marijuana; I would fight you to the death that you morally should not do it, because it destroys the mind. What the government should do is protect citizens from the criminal consequences of those who take drugs. But drugs would be much cheaper if it weren't for government."

Rand can be heard on tape saying, "I think drugs should be sold openly because it is an individual's right to commit suicide if he wants to...If drugs were sold legally, that would put that whole underworld and all the drug addicts as pushers out of business."

The Daily Kos quotes Wikipedia quoting Jennifer Burns's book Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right (Oxford University Press, 2009) with this tasty nugget: "While completing her second novel (The Fountainhead), Rand began taking the prescription amphetamine Benzedrine to fight fatigue. ... Her continued use of it for several decades also may have contributed to volatile mood swings observed by her associates in later years."

The Rand Watch blog explored the theme for a 2010 story, "Was Ayn Rand a Drug Addict?, which says,

"In addition to her indisputable addiction to nicotine (she was a chain smoker) there’s no question that Ayn Rand was a habitual consumer of amphetamines starting in 1942, when she was prescribed Benzedrine for weight loss (a common medical practice in that era) and discovered that it gave her the energy to put in the long hours needed to finish the first of her two major novels, The Fountainhead. Rand liked the boost that 'speed' gave her, and from that time until at least 1972 – a period of 30 years – she continued to use amphetamines, moving on to Dexedrine and Dexamyl."

Judging from the way they spun their lies in convention speech after speech, Republicans will have no trouble spinning away Ryan's admiration for that godless speed freak Ayn Rand with her wild ideas on everything but the economic policies that favor his tax bracket.

Me and Morello (2019)
Rand also said, "I am certainly in favor of abortion...I'd like to express my indignation at the idea of confusing a living human being with an embryo...The idea of some bitches---and I don't apologize for that--trying to prescribe to all other women what they should do with their lives is disgusting. And they call it a right to life!" I'm guessing the GOP won't be adopting that moral stance either.

Burns appeared on The Colbert Report on August 29 and called Rand's writings "the gateway drug" for the New Right. Burns said the last thing Rand wrote was a denunciation of Ronald Reagan. Too bad Ayn's not around to give her opinion on Ryan. Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, a band who Ryan says he admires, has written an eloquent response in Rolling Stone. Wait until everyone from AC/DC to Led Zepplin have their say.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Phyllis Diller: She Inspired Comics and Cannabis

The world is mourning Phyllis Diller, who broke the gender barrier in stand-up comedy as a 37-year-old housewife and inspired new generations of female comics everywhere.

It's doubtful that Diller smoked pot. Born in 1917, she was from what George Will called "the Falstaff generation." She joked that for her health she drank a lot of water "and a lot of gin." In her New York Times obituary she is quoted about doing stand-up, "I don't want to sound like a doper, but it's a high."

Googling her name plus "marijuana" gives a surprising result: a strain of cannabis named "Phyllis Diller" is for sale at the Medical Marijuana Relief Clinic in Sherman Oaks. A sativa strain, I'm guessing it got its name because it resembles the shaggy hairstyle famously sported by Diller.  

The torch has been passed to a new generation. Diller was remembered by her friend and protegée Joan Rivers on CBS This Morning. Rivers smoked marijuana on her reality show earlier this year and said back in the day she smoked it with Betty White, George Carlin, Woody Allen and Bill Cosby.

Another "domestic goddess" comedienne who admired Diller is Roseanne Barr. Barr was roasted on Comedy Central on Saturday, and joked that Obama could pry her medical marijuana out of her cold, dead hands. She had the last laugh as she ended her bit by singing, very well, lines from the National Anthem. Barr says in her book Roseannarchy that giving up the "herb of the goddess" in favor of pharmaceutical drugs contributed to her famously blowing the song. She is the Peace and Freedom party nominee for President in 2012, on a ticket with VP nominee Cindy Sheehan.

Among those "Tweeting" their admiration for Diller yesterday were VIPs Barbra Streisand, Whoopi Goldberg. and Bill Maher.