Saturday, October 7, 2017

Why Does Jerry Brown Keep Insulting Potheads?

Linda Ronstadt with Brown in 1978. 
Once more, as he had in 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown has insulted (and then kinda praised) potheads, this time in a Rolling Stone interview, where he said when asked about California's new law legalizing marijuana: 

"It's a bold experiment! We don't know how many people will be stoned, how long. Is it going to reduce the influence of criminals and cartels? Or is it going to lead to just another - you know: There they go! [Droops his head back on the couch, pretends to be a stoner.] 'Well, I'm gonna have another joint; don't worry about climate change.' [Makes huge inhaling noise as he pantomimes smoking a doobie.] 'It's all great…' [Colorado Gov. John] Hickenlooper says it's working pretty good. He has more experience. I would say the devotion and the zeal of the marijuana people is extraordinary. And far exceeds the mainline church community's, as I encounter it."

Is this more distancing by Brown from his "Governor Moonbeam" image? As Jessica Mitford recorded in a letter on April 23, 1992, SF Chronicle columnist Herb Caen joked that while Bill Clinton claimed he didn't inhale, Jerry Brown had never exhaled.

In 1992, I had just learned about the hemp/marijuana connection, from a guy who'd taken me to a Brown campaign event for our first date. Inspired by what I heard, I decided to delve back into politics, both as a hemp activist (for environmental reasons) and as a volunteer for Brown's presidential campaign. Far from being a lazy so-and-so who didn't care about important issues, I was working around the clock: at my paying job, as well as on my two non-paying political causes.

Brown's campaign was going well, until suddenly on April 9 the lead story on the ABC Evening News showed two different men with their faces and voices obscured alleging that pot smoking went on in Brown's house while he was Governor and dating Linda Ronstadt.

My fellow hemp/Brown activists and I tried advising his staff that he ought to make light of the accusations, but instead he issued a blistering response, calling them "false, malicious and absurd" and "part of the Gong Show of presidential politics."

He'd allowed himself to be put on the defensive, and never recovered. Clinton emerged as the front runner, and Brown had to reinvent his career, first as Mayor of Oakland and California Attorney General before being reelected as Governor.

Does Brown blame marijuana for the demise of his 1992 campaign? At least he now acknowledges that cannabis activists are a committed bunch, although he thinks we're too stoned all the time to care about important issues like global warming. I've been a cannabis activist ever since and would like nothing better than for its persecution to end so that I could work on other causes, like voting rights or environmental issues.

I'd warrant that marijuana smokers are in general more aware and active in greater causes than are, say, beer or wine enthusiasts. In fact a booklet published for parents in 1998 by the Salt Lake Education Foundation, featuring a forward by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, included "excessive preoccupation with social causes, race relations, environmental issues, etc." as a warning sign of marijuana use. Interestingly enough, Hatch has now introduced a sweeping medical marijuana research bill.

To his credit, Brown signed the bill to decriminalize marijuana in California in 1976 during his first term. Recently, he signed a bill legalizing hemp farming in California (but only after it was amended to only make it legal once the feds did). He also approved a bill ending the practice of kicking medical marijuana patients off organ transplant lists in 2015. But in California, people can still lose their jobs for using marijuana, even with a doctor's recommendation, and cannabis-using patients are routinely kicked off their prescription medications, forced instead onto more dangerous opiate drugs.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Penny Marshall on Pot

Marshall as Laverne (to Cindy Williams's Shirley)
UPDATE 10/10/17: Kathy Bates, promoting her Netflix series "Disjointed" on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, described smoking some of Bill Maher's too-strong pot at a birthday party for Marshall. No word on whether or not Marshall smoked it too. 

Penny Marshall's 2012 memoir My Mother was Nuts tells how she became a TV star, married Rob Reiner, motorcycled across Europe with Art Garfunkel, became a film director....and smoked pot.

After appearing in musical theatre in her youth, Marshall decided to move to Los Angeles with some fellow cast members. She writes:

"On the night before we left,  Bill, Randy, and I went to the drive-in and saw The Trip, director Roger Corman's movie abut a TV director who takes LSD and goes on a mind-bending journey. Bill lit up a joint, and I smoked pot for the first time. It didn't even make me hungry."

Marshall says she liked Reiner because he "wore pajamas and didn't do drugs. His wild days were behind him." But after they married, "our house becomes a hangout for comedy's elite," naming Albert Brooks, Jerry Belson, Billy Crystal, Richard Dreyfuss, and Charles Grodin, among others.

"These were the pot-smoking years, and a lot of it was smoked at our house," she writes. "I cleaned the seeds and stems in a shoebox top. It was a skill, and I was good at it." Women weren't invited into the club. Belson would interrupt Brooks's comedy routines to say, "Can we take a break and smoke a joint?" and Brooks would get the munchies so badly he would eat Marshall's daughter's brown bag lunch meant for school the next day.

She mentions smoking cigarettes frequently, a habit she started while still in junior high. While working with Steven Speilberg, "I tried to get a Quaalude in him. They were my drug of choice. I constantly joked about wanting to know what he would be like if he relaxed."

Once, she flushed a bag of heroin down the toilet when her friend John Belushi offered it to her. "I had tried heroin once. It made me carsick," she wrote. "Artie [Garfunkel] didn't like it either, thank God. When others were chipping on the weekends, he way my ally in not doing it, and I will always be grateful to him for giving me the wherewithal to keep saying no. I wish John had done the same."

Marshall became one of the most successful female film directors ever, starting with directing Whoopi Goldberg in Jumpin' Jack Flash (1986), followed by Big with Tom Hanks, and Oliver Sacks's Awakenings with Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro. I thought it was brilliant that for Big she had the actor who played Hanks's younger self act out all the scenes so that Hanks could see what a boy looked like in them; it was also interesting to learn that DeNiro almost played his role.

I particularly enjoyed her description of directing A League of Their Own, the first women's baseball movie. She tells how she cast and re-cast the film, getting Madonna to try out on the baseball field, and standing her ground to keep the ending with the "old women" of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, for whom she says she made the movie. League was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2012. The film celebrated its 25th anniversary on July 1 (with a new Blu-ray edition).

After surviving lung cancer that metastasized to her brain, Marshall gained weight and turned to her friend Carrie Fisher, then a spokeswoman for Jenny Craig. "Thirty years earlier we had dropped acid," she writes. "Now we were microwaving our Jenny meals. What had we become?"

Up next from Marshall: Between the Pipes, the story Manon Rhéaume, the only woman to play for the NHL, and the story of Dennis Rodman, due out in 2018.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Hugh Hefner: Drug War Foe

Gloria Steinem in her Playboy Bunny costume, 1963
I  must say I'm conflicted over whether or not to mourn Hugh Hefner's death.

As a feminist, I can't say he was a hero of mine. I read Gloria Steinem's undercover description of what it was like to be a Playboy Bunny, and it wasn't pretty. On the other hand, he supported a woman's right to choose. 

Hefner stood up for the First Amendment in more ways than the obvious one: publishing an interview with Malcom X lead to his first obscenity trial. He also helped get NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) off the ground with a donation and editorial support, and later held fundraisers for the Marijuana Policy Project at the Playboy mansion (hostessed in 2009 by Adrienne Curry and Fairuza Balk).

It was also in Playboy where former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders commented about then-Health and Human Secretary Donna Shalala's indefensible stance against medical marijuana, saying, "She has a Ph.D. in political science. That's the kind of science she practices." Bill Gates outed himself as an LSD user in Playboy, and Rush Limbaugh told the magazine in 1993 he smoked pot only twice in his life and it made him nauseous. (Others dispute the claim.)

I recently viewed the Amazon biopic series on Hefner, produced by Playboy Enterprises. It surprised me by revealing that his first girlfriend cheated on him with another man, devastating him and causing him to question monogamy. (So he acted as Shahryar did?) Episode 6 addresses Playboy's commitment to civil liberties, heightened by the hiring of editor Arthur Kretchmer, who's interviewed recalling, "Some of us were smoking dope." (Meanwhile, Hef was downing prescription Dexedrine to keep up with his grueling schedule.)

Episode 8 details the unjust drug arrest of Hef's close friend and associate Bobbie Arnstein, who committed suicide after receiving a 15-year prison sentence. Hefner was in genuine tears when he read a statement condemning the US Government for hounding Bobbie to death. But it's also thought that she was troubled over an inferiority complex heightened by constant comparison with the Bunny Brigade.

Of course Hefner owed his success to the women who willingly graced the pages of Playboy over the years. The Marilyn Monroe estate's Twitter feed reminded us that she helped launch Playboy, by appearing on its first cover. Inside was that classic, exuberant nude of her, taken years earlier and purchased by Hef from a calendar publisher for $800.

The early centerfolds were quite beautiful, I thought, but I can't look at them today: each one has the same, unnatural body (no hips and oversized boobs; worse, little or no pubic hair). The biopic also reveals how competition from other girlie magazines forced Playboy into rancher realms.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Goop on Gwyneth: She's a Vaper

On the heels of the news that Olivia Newton-John uses medical marijuana, another blonde icon, actress Gwyneth Paltrow, vaped her way through a cover shoot for the premiere issue of her new magazine Goop, while chatting about the medicinal use of cannabis.

“What’s really interesting to see, with all the legalization of marijuana happening, is how there’s evidence that it can be helpful in a medicinal sense for people,” she said. “That it can really be an alternative pain management system, and, in some cases, helpful for depression.

After saying, “Oh, I’ve tried it, and yes, I inhaled!” she sang the praises of her hmbldt brand vape pen, which is “apparently very tailored in terms of its balance of THC and CBD. So, there’s one that’s for arousal, there’s one that’s for calm, there’s one that’s for pain relief, there’s one for sleep. And you don’t, like when you were a teenager, smoke pot and get blazed out of your mind.”

She also spoke about the “complete opioid epidemic. And then we are as a culture, very resistant to more natural options….So, we’re just at this very interesting, I think, paradigm shift, because, we can tell that culturally people are so fascinated, and they want to try ways to take control over their health and well-being. They want to be the steward of their own ship.”

Famous (and often ridiculed) for her ultraclean lifestyle, Paltrow is the daughter of the also-luminous Blythe Danner, who starred in 2015's I’ll See You in My Dreams, featuring a pot party followed by a munchie run with Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place and June Squibb (pictured).

In a career that has spanned Jane Austin to Austin Powers, Paltrow won a much-deserved Oscar for her role in Shakespeare in Love, in which she played a woman pretending to be a man in order to appear on stage, a nice twist. She has authored two cookbooks and just opened a Goop store.

Gwyneth admitting to marijuana use will no doubt spawn jokes along the lines of, “This explains why she named her daughter Apple.” With more and more revelations like hers, it won’t be long before marijuana is as American as Apple Pie.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Queen Caroline Murat and the Treason of Images

Caroline Bonaparte was born in 1782, some 13 years after her brother Napoleon. At the age of 17, she married Napoleon's General Joachim Murat, a dashing, charismatic soldier.

Murat had commanded the cavalry during the French Egyptian expedition of 1798 under Napoleon. It was during the French occupation of Egypt that many of the soldiers—including, I contend, Alexandre Dumas's father—discovered hashish and brought it back to France.

In 1808, the Murats were made King and Queen of Naples and in 1814, Joachim signed a treaty with Austria in an attempt to save their throne, an act Napoleon regarded as treason.

This is the same year that Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres painted his very interesting portrait of Caroline Murat (above). Unlike earlier portraits that depict her as a dewey, maternal creature, Ingres dresses her in a serious black dress and hat, the plume of which mimics the smoke emitting from an image of Mt. Vesuvius(?) erupting in the background. Her gaze is forceful, knowing. She stands at a table, almost an altar, on which Egyptian imagery sits.

Also in 1814, Ingres scandalized the art world with his painting La Grande Odalisque, which was commissioned by Caroline. Nearly every art historian writes about how the painting broke with Ingres's formal realism by elongating the body of the nude. No one else seems to have noticed the striking resemblance of the model to Caroline: the same knowing eyes; the pert, upturned mouth; the glowing skin for which she was reputed.

If the painting was thought to be modeled on the Queen of Naples, painted the same year that she and her husband betrayed her brother, that would have been quite the scandal indeed. Adding to that are the hints in Caroline's portrait pointing to smoke and Egypt. Napoleon himself was an early prohibitionist about hashish; perhaps like the Vietnam war generals of late he discovered it made his men too peaceful.

Odalisques were harem girls, often depicted holding a hookah in the mid 1800s (e.g. Delacroix's Women of Algiers). Tucked away at the feet of the woman in Ingres's painting is a pipe holding what well may have been hashish, and what looks like an incense burner emitting smoke. She is holding a fan, the handle of which looks like the mouthpiece of a hookah. Indeed, her elongated body could be said to resemble a pipe, with emphasis on the bowl (buttocks).

It makes me wonder if Magritte's 1929 painting "La trahison des images" references Ingres's Odalisque when it declares, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe." Why, of all objects, did Magritte choose to paint a pipe? Of course, it works as a surrealistic statement ("This is not a pipe; it's a painting of a pipe"); but does the treason (trahison) in the image perhaps refer to Mme. Murat's treason? Une pipe is also slang for a prostitute; was Caroline being disparaged by either painting, or both? (Because as we know the surest and easiest way to disparage a woman is to call her a whore.) Or was the fact that Ingres painted a pipe at his model's feet scandalous?

Historically, French paintings often had political intent. I remember my high school French teacher impressing upon me what a sensation Jacques-Louis David's painting The Death of Marat caused in 1793. Ingres studied with David, and the model's pose in his Odialisque is similar to David's Portrait of Madame Récamier.

Caroline was related to Tokin' Woman Violette Murat; actor Rene Auberjonois (Father Mulcahy in M*A*S*H) is a direct descendant.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Nevada To Launch Campaign Against Pre-Natal Marijuana Use

The state of Nevada has decided, based on the news that 4% of pregnant women now admit to using marijuana, to launch a public-relations campaign to "highlight the potential harm the drug can do to a fetus."

Oddly, the Sheldon Adelson-owned Las Vegas Review Journal article announcing the campaign cites as its rationale a 17-year-old study, which found that "6-year-olds born to a mother who had smoked one joint or more daily in the first trimester displayed less ability to comprehend concepts in reading and listening — and by age 10 they had lower reading, math and spelling scores than their peers. It also found that children exposed to marijuana’s major psychoactive element — tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC — in the womb were more impulsive and less able to focus their attention than other 10-year-olds."

The study they cite looked at women "of low socioeconomic status. At the first interview, the median family income was $350 per month...At 10 years postpartum [from 1994 through 1997], the median family income was $1245 per month. Sixty-two percent of the women worked and/or studied outside of the home and, on average, they had 12.2 years of education."

Researchers found that "women who used one or more joints of marijuana per day during the first trimester were significantly more likely to be single, African-American, more hostile, drink more alcohol, and use more illicit drugs (other than marijuana) than were women who did not use marijuana during the first trimester....These same factors characterized moderate to heavy marijuana users at the third trimester of pregnancy. In addition, third trimester moderate to heavy users had significantly less education and smoked more cigarettes than abstainers."

The study concluded that, "The correlations between prenatal marijuana use and the covariates included in the analytical models were low to moderate. At 10 years, the variables with the highest correlations with prenatal marijuana use were work/school status, maternal custody of the child, and current use [not use while pregnant] of marijuana and cocaine. ...Other variables that significantly predicted more problems on the SNAP subscales included male gender, African-American race, more child hospitalizations over the past year, more siblings, poorer environment as assessed by the HOME-SF, more maternal hostility and depression, less maternal coping ability, and current maternal cigarette smoking. In addition, children who were not in maternal custody and children exposed to alcohol during the first trimester of pregnancy had more peer problems."

So it seems this is one of the many studies that were found not to properly adjust for confounding factors, as described in an October 2016 study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, "Maternal Marijuana Use and Adverse Neonatal Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis," which found that the moderate use of cannabis during pregnancy is not an independent risk factor for adverse neonatal outcomes such as low birth weight.  Read more.

From: Katrina Mark, Mishka Terplan, Cannabis and pregnancy:
Maternal child health implications during a period of 
drug policy liberalization, Preventive Medicine (2016)
The Nevada article also claims, "Research on the effects of marijuana use during pregnancy is scant."   However, a May 2017 review of the literature—"Cannabis and pregnancy: Maternal child health implications during a period of drug policy liberalization"—published in the journal Preventive Medicine concluded, "There is ample evidence concerning the health effects of cannabis during pregnancy," noting that over 800 human studies have been performed yearly on the topic since 2000. Read more.

To its credit, the Review-Journal does mention Melanie Dreher's 1994 study on Jamaican mothers which concluded that marijuana-using mothers gave birth to developmentally superior babies. The article adds: "Dreher’s study made little impression on the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Both advise against marijuana use during pregnancy because of the studies linking it to cognitive impairment and academic underachievement. Both organizations also recommend that mothers with THC in their systems do not breastfeed."

Absent in all of these analyses is the conclusion Dreher made that the relative acceptance of marijuana in Jamaican society had much to do with her results. One can only hope that acceptance of cannabis in the US will ultimately lead to similar results.

But meanwhile, NIDA refused to fund a follow-up study on Dreher's results and Nevada's powerful alcohol distributors are battling to control the marijuana market. So don't expect a public awareness campaign on the dangers of using alcohol, or tobacco, while pregnant anytime soon, even though studies suggest those substances have a much greater effect on fetal health than cannabis.

Also see: NORML's Fact Sheet on Maternal Marijuana Use

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Psychedelic Pioneers Peggy Hitchcock and Susi Ramstein

Peggy Hitchcock in Dying to Know
The new documentary Dying to Knownow on Netflix, interviews Margaret "Peggy" Mellon Hitchcock, heiress to the Gulf Oil fortune, about her involvement with LSD.

Hitchcock heard that Professors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert were looking for research subjects while at Harvard, and she volunteered to try the then-legal experimental drug. "It really confirmed a lot of things that I had hoped were true, that I had sort of glimpsed at various times in my life, that there was a larger reality than what my everyday, humdrum experiences were," she says.

Along with her brothers Billy and Tommy, Peggy made their Millbrook estate in upper New York available to Leary and Alpert (aka Ram Dass) after Alpert was kicked out of Harvard for giving psilocybin to an undergraduate student.

"As an intimate friend to both Leary and Alpert, Peggy was instrumental in establishing a communal living and research community in Millbrook, NY once Leary and Alpert left Harvard. Peggy convinced her brothers to allow the two professors to live and conduct their unfettered and continued research into the effect of psychedelic substances on the personalities of willing participants," reads her bio on the movie's website.

It's especially interesting because Peggy is the great grandniece of former US Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, and her mother Margaret's first husband may be at the source of the persistent and unverified rumor that a niece of Mellon's married Harry Anslinger, the first US drug czar.

Anslinger was married to the former Martha Denniston (1886-1961). There are no Dennistons in the Mellon family tree, but Harry Alexander Laughlin (1838-1922), son of James Laughlin of Jones & Laughlin Steel Co., married an Alice B. Denniston on 9/10/1860. (A later relative was James Laughlin IV, publisher of New Directions who was influenced by Gertrude Stein.)

Peggy's mother Margaret Mellon (1901–1998) was married to an Alexander Laughlin Jr. on 6/21/1924. Attending the wedding were both sitting Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon and Miss Alice Denniston Laughlin, "wearing a frock of gold crepe and a hat of brown straw," along with her grandmother Mrs. James B. Laughlin (the former Alice B. Denniston), "in white crepe with satin thread embroidery and a hat of orchid straw," according to the Pittsburgh Daily Post. So Anslinger apparently married into Pittsburgh society, if not directly into the Mellon family.*

Margaret was widowed and subsequently married polo player Tommy Hitchcock (the model for Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby) on 12/15/1928, and Andrew was at that wedding too. Whether or not she was a model for Daisy Buchanan, thought to be based on Fitzgerald's wife Zelda, is unknown. It must have been quite the family scandal when the Hitchcock kids sided against the drug war.

Narrated by Robert Redford, Dying to Know is produced and directed by Gay Dillingham, and also interviews researcher Joan Halifax, who along with Stan Grof pioneered psychedelic therapy for terminal cancer patients in 1967. Andrew Weil is interviewed in the film saying of those studies, "A guided psychedelic experience in a dying person often enabled that person to drastically cut doses of opiates for pain relief, which kept consciousness clear, and often greatly facilitated communication with family and friends and made the dying process easier."

This is the second psychedelic documentary produced by a woman of late: Connie Littlefield wrote and co-directed The Sunshine Makers about LSD chemists Nicholas Sand and Tim Scully, also viewable on Netflix.

And finally, it turns out Albert Hofmann wasn't alone on the bicycle ride that marked the first LSD trip on April 19, 1943: he was accompanied by his lab assistant, 21-year-old Susi Ramstein, who on June 12 of that year became the first woman to take LSD. According to Erowid.org, "She initially took a 100 mics—a higher dose than either Albert's co-worker Ernst Rothlin or his supervisor Arthur Stoll had tried—and she had a good experience. And although everyone working with Albert took acid at least once, Susi tried it two more times in order to help out with establishing some standards for the medical use of LSD."

Hats off to these female psychedelic pioneers, and the women who document their contributions.

*Researcher and activist Doug McVay has another connection: Thomas Mellon, Andrew's father, married Sarah Jane Negley (b. 1817) in 1843. Union Trust was established by Thomas's son Andrew W. Mellon in 1889. Samuel Philip Gerst was an assistant treasurer at Union Trust, worked there 43 years. Gerst's sister Sarah Margaret (b. 1874) married Edward C. Negley. Martha Kind Denniston Leet Anslinger's mother was Florence Gerst (b. 1861).