Monday, December 15, 2014

2014 Tokey Awards

Tokin Woman is proud to bestow 

the following “Tokey” Awards for 2014, 

in recognition of the achievement, 

courage and compassion of the awardees 

(and in a few cases, the lack of enlightenment).

Get Out-est Gals: Tokin Women of the Year

Best Reporting
Sabrina Rubin Erdely, Rolling Stone 
Nanette Asimov, San Francisco Chronicle 

August 8, 2014 - USPS Issues Janis Joplin Stamp

Phattest Film Award
Life of Crime with Jennifer Aniston 
The One I Love with Elisabeth Moss 
The Culture High 

Mother of the Year  
Jared Leto’s Mom 

Book of the Year Award
Barbara Ehrenreich Living With A Wild God 
Tom Robbins Tibetan Peach Pie
Ralph Nader Unstoppable 
Alyson Martin and Nushin Rashidian A New Leaf 
Doug Fine Hemp Bound

Top Tweet
Susan Sarandon on Prop. 47:

Most Informative Website

Video of the Year

Weediest Wardrobe

Admission of the Year

Shameless Lack of Compassion Award

A Latte Levity Award

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Emily's Garden

A page from Emily Dickinson's Herbarium showing a Cannabis plant.
Born today in 1830, Emily Dickinson is widely regarded, along with Walt Whitman, as the premier American poet. A great many of the 1,775 poems she left behind have ethereal themes: Ecstasy, heaven, sacrament, spice, the East, death, magic, fairies, flowers and bees were among her favorite subjects. Her Blake-like vision into the minutest detail of nature and her preoccupation with Ecstatic realms may have been, I propose, inspired by the partaking of ancient plant teachers, today called psychedelics.

Quite the rebel, Dickinson boldly rejected Christianity as a girl, and wrote poems like:
Possible photo of Dickinson circa 1859

Forbidden Fruit a flavor has
That lawful Orchards mocks --
How luscious lies within the Pod
The Pea that Duty locks --

It's quite possible that she was content with her life of seclusion because she was having daily mystical experiences, aided by psychotropic plants she grew in her garden, or found in the woods. She wrote of the white dresses she wore as ceremonial garb, rather than the misinterpretation of bridal dress that moderns impose. She wrote:

Witchcraft was hung, in history
But History and I
Find all the Witchcraft that we need

Around us, every Day— 

Considering that she was not far, in time or distance, from the Salem Witch Trials, this was quite a bold statement to make, and possibly one of the chief reasons she scarcely published during her lifetime.

Dickinson was a master gardener and woodswoman, familiar with all the local flora and fauna, and some exotic ones as well that she grew in a greenhouse. By the 1840s Amherst graduates were at work in foreign missions in Syria, Turkey, India, China, Africa, and the South Seas, bringing back artifacts and rare plants. Emily wrote in a letter: “My flowers are near and foreign, and I have but to cross the floor to stand in the Spice Isles.” 

In Dickinson's Herbarium, a cannabis plant is pasted into the book with her own hand (above). She didn't label the plant (or several others), but the Harvard academics who have now published a facsimile edition supplied the identification.

In a poem that mentions "hempen hands," she wrote:

A cartoon drawn by Dickinson. Text says:
"Life is but a Strife
'Tis a bubble
'Tis a dream
And man is but a little boat
Which paddles down the stream"
I started Early -- Took my Dog --
And visited the Sea --
The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me --
And Frigates -- in the Upper Floor
Extended Hempen Hands --
Presuming Me to be a Mouse --
Aground -- upon the Sands

But no Man moved Me -- till the Tide
Went past my simple Shoe --
And past my Apron -- and my Belt
And past my Bodice -- too --

And made as He would eat me up --
As wholly as a Dew
Upon a Dandelion’s Sleeve --
And then -- I started -- too --

And He -- He followed -- close behind --
I felt His Silver Heel
Upon my Ankle -- Then my Shoes
Would overflow with Pearl

Until We met the Solid Town --
No One He seemed to know --
And bowing -- with a Mighty look--
At me -- The Sea withdrew-- 

Although I can find no mention of Dickinson ever setting foot upon a boat, the Sea seemed to symbolize a giving over to wildness in her poems. 

She wrote: 

Exultation is the going
Of an inland soul to sea,
Past the houses -- past the headlands --
Into deep Eternity --

Bred as we, among the mountains
Can the sailor understand
The divine intoxication
Of the first league out from land?
Excerpted from the forthcoming Emily Dickinson's Divine Intoxication, from Evangelista Sista Press. A draft review copy is posted at

Monday, December 1, 2014

Elizabeth Moss Plays A Pothead in Love

Mark Duplass and Elizabeth Moss toking together in The One I Love.
Despite being a fan of Elizabeth Moss's acting (especially when she smokes pot on Mad Men), I didn't see her movie The One I Love in theaters, because it looked like a dreary lets-work-on-our-relationship chick flick. I had no idea how trippy the film would get after the couple's psychologist (Ted Danson) sends them on a retreat and Moss's character Sophie brings along a bag of pot.

After the troubled pair tokes up, other sides of them emerge: his sheds his eyeglasses, exercises more, and wears his hair a little shaggier--and she likes it. Her less "bitchy" alter ego doesn't mind cooking him bacon, wears sexier clothes, and is totally cool with everything he does, or doesn't do.

In an interesting twist, rather than deal with this duplicity in reality, the filmmakers split the characters and their doubles in a Twilight Zone–style scenario, so that when they're seeing their ideal mates, they're actually cheating on their "true" ones. They at first put the strangeness down to a "bad pot and wine night," confirming it was their adulterants that took them out of themselves.

One wonders about the basis for this conceit from writer/producer Justin Lader. Do couples feel like they're in an alternate reality if they get high together? Are they disappointed in life after the buzz wears off? Is there no way to reconcile the two aspects of themselves?

Sophie (Moss) pulls out the pot.
Something Sophie has complained about for three years is her husband Eric's ruining of a magic show by revealing the source of the tricks. She badly needs some magic in her life, and only after Eric can let go of his calculating mind can he project that for her. But when his rational mind takes over, he is only interested in exposing the mystery she would rather explore.

Rather than, "My wife doesn't understand me," married men sometimes tell me, "My wife won't get high with me." It's difficult to depict on film, but the cosmic connection made between two beings whilst high is something that can be beautiful, bonding, and sexy. And it can be hard to come down from that to the more prosaic planet, especially in a world where getting high is denigrated instead of celebrated.

This film could explore some of those nuances, but instead it degrades into a not-so-thrilling thriller, albeit one with an interesting twist at the end.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Bohemian Babes and Hashish

Ada Clare, the Queen of the Bohemians
A new book, Rebel Souls: Walt Whitman and Americans First Bohemians by Justin Martin contains a fascinating cast of characters who hung out at Pfaff’s bar in NYC in the mid 1800s. Among them were Fitz Hugh Ludlow, author of The Hasheesh Eater (1857) and Ada Clare, an actress and writer crowned “Queen of the Bohemians.”

Clare wrote this in The New York Saturday Press, January 1860:

"The February number of Harper's Magazine publishes a story by [fellow Bohemian] Fitz James O'Brien, which attracts much notice. The story 'Mother of Pearl,' opens with an exquisitely beautiful chapter on pearl-fishing, but it seems to me that the crisis of the story is a little uninteresting. The drug called hasheesh has become too well domesticated to assist in a crisis now. It is on too good terms with the digestion. Let us have some drug more awful and mystic to round off our harrowing climaxes—buckwheat for instance : it is time that the buckwheat-cake-eater should come forth and soliloquize."

In the Fitz O’Brien story she cites it is a female who takes the hasheesh, and commits murder. Clare rightly dismisses this as poppycock.

An acolyte of Clare’s, actress/poet Dora Shaw was apparently inspired by Ludlow’s writings to try hashish on July 4, 1859 with novelist Marie Stevens Case, who recorded the event in The New York Saturday Press (7/16/59).

"It promised to be a gloomy day to us; all our friends were out of town, and we had nothing to interests us in the wide city round," the story begins. Planning to sleep during the day of the Fourth and later visit a friend to see the fireworks from her roof, Dora suggests they take opium in order to sleep through the day's "crackers and guns," but Marie suggests instead they try Hascheesh. “Good!” exclaimed Dora. “Where can we get it? I’ve heard of that; it gives one exquisite dreams and fantastic visions—the real becomes the unreal, and the dream is the actual—every moment seems an age of ecstasy.”

Procuring the green powder from a gentleman friend, the ladies took a careful dose, but then added to it after they felt no effect: Dora doubled, and Marie tripled her dose. Marie writes:

"Dora, who is always witty, was especially happy on this occasion, and we remained convulsed until laughter seemed the most boundless and exquisite pleasure in the world. Just then some one tapped at the door for Dora, and I went to excuse her. I remember I did not open the door, but stood with my face close to it, and answered the questioner. A painful sense at length came over me. This person seemed to question me forever. I answered mechanically—in fact I was fast becoming a sphinx—my head expanded to the size of the room, and I thought I was an oracle doomed to respond through all Eternity.

"The wicked laugh of Dora, and her soft arms about me, recalled me partially to the fact that I was answering imaginary questions; but the phantasy would not leave me, and I implored my friend to spare me from laughing—'Do you not see,' I cried, 'that I am stone....and if you make me laugh, I shall be scattered to the four winds.' My words had no effect: she laughed, and instantly I felt a convulsion in my frame—a deafening explosion followed and I flew asunder in all directions. Then I heard at the explosion of the fragments—a myriad of sounds succeeded each other, until I was reduced to a most impalpable powder, and caught by the breeze I was wafted away into space. Still was my consciousness preserved, and a circum-folding sense of joy and perfect peace possessed me."

Presently, Marie writes, "my eye rested on some Egyptian vases in the room, and I led Dora to the place where they stood. Over them hung a picture of Cleopatra dying, and we remained transfixed before it. The diadem of Egypt sat proudly upon the brow of the queen, and there seemed a living agony in her face. She moved, breathed, and spoke. As we looked upon her in her gorgeous robes of State, the whole scene changed, and we were in Egypt. We passed through all the suffering of the unfortunate Queen—the poison of the asp curdled our blood also, and our difficult and painful breathing died on the air with hers. After a while, we returned to life, and Dora, shutting her eyes, turned the picture to the wall—no longer a picture to us, but the place, the time, the living reality."

Marie then imagines that mummies tended to she and Dora, one of whom she determines to be a mathematician (Seshat?), but who Dora informs her was a Quaker friend of hers. Feeling as though years had passed, the women are surprised to discover that their adventures lasted only two hours, so they dress and go to watch the fireworks. "The effect of the hascheesh was still upon us a little," Marie wrote, "and the rockets seemed the most astonishing and gorgeous things in the universe."

Adah Isaacs Menken in her "nude girl on a horse" routine
Could this be the first recorded occurrence of women taking hasheesh in the US? Since Clare famously had a child out of wedlock, was she perhaps the first mother to fear involvement of child protective services over the use of cannabis, and so made light of it?

Marie Stevens Case went on to marry “social radical” Edward Howland and live with him in various utopian communities in France, Mexico, New Jersey and Alabama. Her best-known work, Papa's Own Girl (1874), is a novel about an American father and daughter living in a fictional intentional community in New England.

Another Bohemian actress, Adah Isaacs Menken (pictured) has been called the Marilyn Monroe of her day. She had a famous affair in Paris with Very Important Pothead Alexandre Dumas.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Please Let Princess Kate Smoke Pot

It must be rough when your only job is to make babies and look good in public, and you suffer from hyperemis gravidarum (HG), a debilitating ailment characterized by severe nausea and vomiting, malnutrition, and weight loss during pregnancy that afflicts 1-2% of pregnant women globally.

Princess Kate is again dealing with HG during her second pregnancy, and it's speculated that the Royal Family is pressuring her to appear in public nonetheless. She's reportedly looking thin, and tired, which can't be good for the baby.

Since cannabis is the safest and most effective anti-emetic known to man, with a non-oral delivery system (smoking) that offers immediate relief, it would make sense to consider it a remedy for mothers with severe morning sickness. Male cannabis researchers and doctors almost always issue a blanket proscription against using cannabis while pregnant, and there are some studies in rats that indicate low birth weight can be a problem for cannabis-using mothers (as it can for mothers who have HG). But a marijuana and pregnancy study funded by the March of Dimes and published in the journal Pediatrics in 1994 found that the children of marijuana-smoking mothers in Jamaica actually did better on behavioral tests than did the children of nonsmoking mothers.

Graduate student Wei-Ni Lin Curry, herself an HG survivor, collected stories from women with HG who found relief with cannabis in her paper "Hyperemesis Gravidarum and Clinical Cannabis: To Eat or Not to Eat" published in the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics and the book Women and Cannabis: Medicine, Science and Sociology (Haworth Press, 2002). Curry's Taiwanese obstetrician told her that "since ancient times the Chinese have used cannabis to treat HG," and recent studies have found that only small amounts of THC cross over the placental barrier to the fetus. (Dreher, Cannabis and Pregnancy, 1997, p. 160.) "I am in disbelief at how our government has kept such valuable medicine from so many ailing women," Curry concludes. "If I had not experienced the cannabis myself, I would not have believed its truly effective and gentle therapeutic powers."

Most recently, survey data collected by the directors of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society (The VICS) and the BC Compassion Club and published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice reported that cannabis is therapeutic in the treatment of both morning sickness and HG. Of the 84 women who responded to the anonymous questionnaire, 36 said that they had used cannabis intermittently during their pregnancy to treat symptoms of vomiting, nausea, and appetite loss. Of these, 92 percent said that cannabis was “extremely effective” or “effective” in combating their symptoms.

Doctors currently prescribe several prescription anti-emetics for HG, none of which have the long history of safety that cannabis has. In the 1950s, doctors in Europe prescribed the untested drug thalidomide for morning sickness, leading to the horror of "thalidomide babies" born with severely deformed hands and feet. In the US, Dr. Frances Kelsey of the FDA would not permit thalidomide into the US, and although the existing system worked, the situation lead President Kennedy to call for a stronger FDA that ironically today is helping to prevent cannabis from being marketed, or even studied.

Women need to demand more research not only into the use of marijuana during pregnancy and breastfeeding, but also for PMS and cancer, particularly breast cancer. (PMS is joked about, but it’s actually quite serious: The suicide rate among menstruating women is significantly higher during PMS than at other times in their cycle, so we’re talking life and death.) The US government has known since the 70s that cannabis has anti-tumor effects, and recent studies confirm it specifically targets breast cancer cells. 

It’s a scandal that these studies haven’t been followed up on, and that even a princess must endure a difficult condition that might be safely and effectively remedied with marijuana. Considering that Queen Victoria's physician praised the use of cannabis for menstrual cramps and other ailments, and the UK has pioneered cannabis-based medicines from GW Pharmaceuticals, we think it's high time that the royal family follow Prince Charles's lead and open the door to the acceptance of cannabis as a medicine.

Meanwhile, you can donate to the Hyperemesis Education and Research Foundation or MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) to sponsor research on HG or cannabis.

UPDATE 12/2: The Family Law & Cannabis Alliance reports an uptick in the number of child endangerment cases involving marijuana in Colorado since legalization. Hear more. 

UPDATE 12/8: Kate & William met with BeyoncĂ© and Jay-Z in New York. She seemed to start feeling better after that. 

UPDATE 12/15: I just discovered that Tokin' Woman Harriet Martineau is Kate's great great great great grandmother.  

UPDATE 3/21: Case Reports: Cannabis Inhalation Reduces Symptoms of Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Also see:
NIDA Kills Marijuana and Pregnancy Follow-up Study

Sex Differences in Pain Relief with Cannabis

Why No Cure for Severe Morning Sickness?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Karen Silkwood, Mike Nichols and Marijuana

UPDATE 10/15: Silkwood is included in the new book Tokin' Women: A 4000-Year Herstory.

When Mike Nichols, who directed the 1983 movie Silkwood, died days after the 40th anniversary of the death of Karen Silkwood, I decided to look up the connection between Karen and cannabis.

I've noted that in the movie, Karen (played by Meryl Streep) shares a joint with her boyfriend (Kurt Russell) and roommate (Cher) in the same car where she dies after suspiciously going off the road into a ditch. A manilla envelope carrying documents about corruption at the Kerr-McGee plutonium processing plant where she worked were never found afterwards, but investigators did find two marijuana cigarettes in the pocket of her coat.

Karen's death at the age of 28 led to a national discussion into nuclear plant safety, the ultimate closure of the Oklahoma plant where she worked, and a million-dollar settlement in a lawsuit brought by her family against Kerr-McGee.

Mike Nichols made his start as part of a breakthrough comedy duo with Elaine May. "To me, a moral issue is always so much more interesting than a real issue," is a line from their watercooler conversation sketch.

Mendocino-based performance artist extraordinaire Sherry Glaser recalls meeting Nichols while he was directing Whoopi Goldberg's one-woman Broadway show in the 1980s. "I got a ride from him to her birthday party. He asked if I'd be offended if he smoked a joint on the way," Glaser recalls. "He was a wonderfully funny man."

Nichols took an Oscar for directing The Graduate and, as he did with Cher, boosted Melanie Griffiths's acting career with Working Girl. His films include Gilda Live, starring Gilda Radner, and Birdcage with Robin Williams; he directed Philip Seymour Hoffman on Broadway in Death of a Salesman in 2012. He was married to TV newscaster Diane Sawyer.

Silkwood helped immortalize the courageous Karen Silkwood. Did her pot smoking make her more attuned to the greater issues around her, as so often happens with the cannabis-initiated? (Or as John Stewart seemed to say, being high makes you open to the message.) If so, it's one more reason why marijuana is considered dangerous to the status quo, and why it's so important for all of us to get past the cruel prejudice against it.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Story of Lurae Horse: A US Vet Denied Medication Over Medical Marijuana Use

As the US prepares to honor its veterans on Veteran’s Day, California NORML has been receiving phone calls and emails from vets who are being told by their VA doctors that they must choose between their prescription pain medications or their medical marijuana.

Lurae Horse served in Air Force as airplane mechanic in Panama during the Grenada conflict. An Oglala Lakota Sioux, she joined up at the age of 17, and was raped three times during her service, but didn't report it because she was told she would be discharged. Later, a domestic violence incident left her with brain trauma and an inner ear problem, causing severe vertigo.

One of the side effects of THC is vertigo, but since it seems to spin her in the opposite direction, a neurologist figured out that synthetic THC pills called Marinol, which are prescribable under Schedule II, work for her. “If I have 30 mg of THC everyday, I can function,” Horse said. "Otherwise, I’m in a wheelchair: I instantly throw up and cannot walk.”

Three VA hospitals—in Kansas, South Dakota, and Wyoming—were prescribing her Marinol, Horse says. But when she moved to Long Beach, California in April, the VA there wouldn’t prescribe her Marinol, so she went on medical marijuana instead.

Horse was labeled a “drug addict” in her VA file, and taken off the opiate pain medication Norco by a nurse practitioner at the VA about a month ago. Since she was only on a low dose of Norco, she is able to control the pain she suffers from arthritis and a rotator cuff injury by using the right strains of marijuana, augmented with occasional steroid shots in her shoulder.

She’s more worried about the latest VA pronouncement that she must be “weaned off” her prescription Xanax. She suffers from panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, she says. Without her anti-anxiety meds, Horse says she couldn’t ride buses, or make her doctor appointments. She says her therapist is against the idea of taking her off her medication, but her patient advocate insists it's VA policy. "Month to month I worry, am I going to get my pills or not?” Horse said.

The VA issued a directive in January 2011 stating that patients in pain control treatment who are participating in state marijuana programs “must not be denied VHA services,” adding that “decisions to modify treatment plans in those situations need to be made by individual providers in partnership with their patients.”

This would seem to leave the matter to individual doctors; however many patients in Southern California are reporting that their doctors are making them choose between their prescription drugs or their medical marijuana, claiming that this is VA policy.

Horse says the VA is targeting other medical marijuana patients she has spoken to. Her broader concern is, "They’re going to end up taking somebody’s anxiety medication away, and someone’s going to go really crazy. Not the brightest thing they can do…take them off their meds to keep them calm.”

"I’m Native American; it’s my job to fight the government. I will fight them to my last breath," said Lurae, who is related to the Native American warrior Crazy Horse.

California NORML and Veterans for Cannabis Access are calling for the VA to educate their doctors and bureaucrats about VA's policy on medical marijuana, and conduct a safety study on the use of cannabis with opioid pain relievers.  Read more.