Sunday, May 20, 2018

Will Roseanne Try Medical Marijuana on Her Comeback Season Finale?

UPDATE 5/22 - The episode didn't touch medical marijuana; instead Roseanne is saved, Forrest Gump style, by a flood and federal disaster money. But TV guide predicts her pain problems will be part of the plot next season.

An AARP Magazine interview with Roseanne Barr and John Goodman, who play the TV couple Roseanne and Dan Connor again in this year's wildly watched comeback season, says that the show will have them "making sense of selfies, medical marijuana, rising health care costs and the growing divide between the superrich and the rest of us."

If the show does address cannabis this season, it must do so in its season finale, scheduled for this Tuesday at 8 PM on ABC. Last week's episode set it up perfectly, revealing that Roseanne has been stashing pain pills in secret to deal with a knee problem, for which she hopes to avoid expensive surgery.

Studies continue to pour in on almost a weekly basis showing that states with access to medical cannabis have less opiate use, abuse, and overdose than do states without access. But the US opioid commission has refused to consider cannabis, and government officials have begun pushing back, with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Elinore F. McCance-Katz recently disputing the notion that legal marijuana access reduces opioid issues. She instead touted her agency’s success in promoting MAT (medically assisted treatment, meaning methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine).

The opioid crisis has affected the cast of Roseanne: Glenn Quinn, who portrayed daughter Becky's love interest Mark, died of an accidental heroin overdose five years after the original series ended. And now 18-year-old Emma Kenney, who plays granddaughter Harris in the reboot, has checked into a treatment program for an undisclosed form of substance abuse.

In the original series, an episode called "A Stash from the Past" has Roseanne and Dan discovering and trying an old bag of pot, then deciding they had too many family responsibilities to use it again.  Meanwhile, her sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) has a revelation of her own.

If the reboot does address marijuana it's likely to be a boost to their ratings: the season premiere revealing Roseanne as a Trump supporter had a record 18 million viewers (27.3 million once all platforms were counted), but the show's ratings have slipped down to 10.3 million viewers.

Barr is a fan of medical marijuana who tried to start a cannabisbusiness in California. In her book Roseannearchy: Dispatches from the Nut Farmshe explains that her sincere and failed attempt to sing the National Anthem was fueled by prescribed psychiatric drugs (Prozac, Zoloft, Klonopin, and several others) and a lack of "a natural substance called THC." She calls cannabis the "Herb of the Goddess."

Her hilarious 2006 HBO special "Blonde and Bitchin'" contained the trenchant observation, "The War on Drugs is a war on poor people using street drugs waged by rich people on prescription drugs," a line she repeated while while running for US President (and Prime Minister of Israel) in 2012. In 2015, she said marijuana and hemp are, "The hope for the future."

The fictional Connor family lives in Illinois, which now has a medical marijuana program (although a very restrictive one: patients there must pass a criminal background check just to gain access to cannabis medicines).

A Roseanne episode addressing medical cannabis would be perfect timing, since this week in Washington, DC the medical cannabis advocacy group Americans for Safe Access is holding a conference on the theme, "End Pain, Not Lives," to highlight the potential of cannabis against the nation's opiate crisis.

It will also help put Roseanne back into the good graces of her buddy Bill Maher, who took down her misguided support of Trump. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Gayle King Outs Oprah, Plans to Try "A Marijuana Cigarette" with Amy Schumer

Gayle King, guesting on The Ellen Show, mimed smoking pot when the subject of Ellen's recent birthday party came up. Turns out the party smelled strongly like pot, and although Ellen said she doesn't like smoking it, she joked that her writers have it on hand. It had come out that Amy Schumer told King at the party that she wants to get her high, and King says she's planning to try it.

King also said she wasn't telling tales out of school when she told Ellen that Oprah "has smoked a little marijuana too."

In a separate interview on the show, Oprah herself declared Ellen's pot-infused party "the most fun I ever had. I don't even know what happened to me." I wonder if she got a contact high (at least).

Oprah told Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live in 2013 that she hadn't smoked since 1982, but would be willing to "hang out" with him after the show, because "I heard it's gotten better."

It's been reported that the cannabis-infused tea company Kikoko has been covered in O Magazine.

Watching Schumer's new film I Feel Pretty is as much fun as going to a party (though there is no pot smoking in it). Schumer picked out a pretty pink bong in a headshop window during her appearance on Jerry Seinfeld's Netflix show "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee."

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Miley Cyrus: Marijuana is My First and True Love

Miley Cyrus, who has famously taken a break from smoking weed, was asked about her hempen hiatus on Jimmy Kimmel's show last night. The exchange went like this:

Kimmel: "You are no longer smoking I understand."

Cyrus: "I want to be, but no."

Kimmel: "Now that it's legal here in California, you've decided...."

Cyrus: "That's the way I...I'm a rebel!"

Kimmel: "Why aren't you smoking anymore?"

Cyrus: "Because I am very focused on what I'm working on right now." (Apparently that's either on designing clothes and shoes for Converse, or being back together with Liam Hemsworth. You can hardly blame her for the latter.)

She raised her hand as though taking an oath when she added:  "I also think it's the most magical,'s my first and true love. It's just not for me right now at this time in my life, but I'm sure there will be a day I will happily indulge. "

Cyrus also talked about feeding her pig Doritos, and revealed that her Grandma unknowingly baked Snoop weed brownies (via CG) before the VMA awards last year. She says that her "favorite thing in the world" is to smoke pot and play UFC video games, adding, "It's not very productive." Apparently, the addictive thing in Cyrus's life was the video games.

Miley took a selfie with Kimmel's other guest, Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has been crafting a bill with Republican Sen. Cory Gardner to give states the power to fully legalize marijuana.

As another May Day present to potheads, California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who has assiduously refused to support even medical marijuana 22 years after her state voted to legalize it, has finally said she supports keeping the federal government out of California's business. The fact that she was unable to win her party's endorsement in her re-election campaign against the more progressive Kevin de Leon is considered to have been a factor in her sudden enlightenment. Had Feinstein made the announcement on April 1, it would have been more believable.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Barbara Graham: "Paying for a life of little sins"?

From the trailer for I Want to Live with Susan Hayward
Susan Hayward won the Best Actress Oscar in 1959 for her portrayal of Tokin' Woman Barbara Graham in I Want 
to Live.

The film opens in a jazz club, where two men smoke pot. Nelson Gidding's screenplay for the opening sequence reads:

silver gray whirling sinuously against a black background. As it diffuses and drifts out of frame, more smoke keeps coming. Simultaneously with a crash of modern jazz, a series of stylized shapes and forms appear and disappear....The music is the beat of the beat generation—real cool, cool jazz suggesting sex, speed, marijuana, hipsterism and other miscellaneous kicks. Synchronized with this music, the changing patterns of shape and form are also highly evocative of the fever and the drive, the loneliness and craving, the furies and tenderness—even the rebellion and religion—of BARBARA GRAHAM. 

Barbara Graham was born in Oakland, California, the child of a prostitute who never knew her father.  When Barbara was two years old, her mother—still in her teens—was sent to reform school. Barbara was raised by strangers and extended family members, and she started getting in trouble early. As a teen she was arrested for vagrancy and sent to the same reform school as her mother, the Ventura State School for Girls.

Barbara married more than once, but the marriages failed. Trading on her looks, she soon became a sex worker around navy bases, and for a time at Sally Stanford's famous brothel in San Francisco. When she met her husband Henry Graham in 1950, he introduced her to marijuana and possibly heroin (he was an addict, but she claimed she never was). The Grahams were arrested in 1951 on an unspecified narcotics charge. (Source: Kathleen A. Cairns, Proof of Guilt.)

Through her husband, Barbara met three men with whom she allegedly committed a robbery that turned into a murder. The men said they used her to gain entry into the Burbank home of an elderly woman, and afterwards they claimed she pistol-whipped the woman to death. It's possible they figured that Barbara, the mother of a toddler son, was unlikely to become only the third woman in California to be executed for the crime.

Graham with her son on the day of her execution.
The newspapers had a field day with the trial, focusing on the attractive young Graham and her past. "Buxom Barbara Graham is a woman of many sides, most of the lurid," bleated the San Francisco Chronicle. "Name it and Barbara seems to have done it....the record runs from charges of escape from reform school through prostitution, perjury, narcotics, and bad checks."

In prison for murder, Graham said she was "paying for a life of little sins." In the movie, a police interrogator calls her a "lousy hop-headed slut" and when a kinder priest visits her on death row, he asks, "Are those the hep-cat's pajamas?"

Barbara claimed she was not involved in the crime, but couldn't provide an alibi for her whereabouts on the night of the murder. In desperation, she fell prey to a fellow prisoner who befriended and flirted with her, and set her up with "friend" who would, for a price, provide her with a phony alibi. The two agreed on a story about them meeting that night for a tryst. It turned out the friend was an undercover cop wearing a wire, and her prison mate got herself released for setting Barbara up.

During the trial, Barbara told another story of her whereabouts that night. She said she came home to find herself locked out of her apartment, and a neighbor named Pitts climbed through her window to let her in. Graham said she gave Pitts some money "to buy something" for her, which she admitted was marijuana.

If that story was true, Graham was possibly unwilling to prove her innocence because she would have had to admit to buying pot. And as well as smearing her character, did an association between Graham and marijuana help convince the jury, and the public, that she could commit such a violent crime? We weren't that far from Reefer Madness and Hearst headlines like, "Hasheesh Goads Users to Blood Lust."

Barbara Graham was executed on June 3, 1955 in the gas chamber at San Quentin, just before her 32nd birthday. I Want to Live was remade in 1983 as a TV movie starring Lindsay Wagner.

Other jazz babies who were targeted for arrest in the 1940s included Lila LeedsAnita O'Day and June Eckstine.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Shalala Shuffle: Former HHS Chief "Evolves" on Marijuana

Former US Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala has become the latest Drug Warrior to "evolve" on marijuana.

Shalala, who is now running for a Congressional seat in Florida, tweeted on 4/20: "Decriminalizing marijuana shouldn't just be a policy priority — but a moral imperative." The tweet links to a page on her website where you can sign up for her campaign, and donate!

Yet, although Shalala once admitted to smoking pot in college in an interview with Diane Sawyer, as H&HS chief in 1996 she stood with Attorney General Janet Reno and Drug "Czar" Barry McCaffrey threatening to revoke doctors' licenses for recommending medical marijuana (a successful civil challenge later backed the government off). "Marijuana is illegal, dangerous, unhealthy and wrong," Shalala said at the time. "It's a one-way ticket to dead-end hopes and dreams."

Her own pot smoking didn't seem to have hurt Shalala's ambition. She also chaired the Children's Defense Fund before being appointed by Bill Clinton to the top H&HS post. After she served as president of Hunter College in New York City and in 1988, she was named chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the first woman ever to head a Big Ten school. She then became President of the University of Miami.

According to an article in the Miami Herald, as recently as 2013, Shalala was on record questioning her own party for its support of a medicinal marijuana market in Florida.

In a statement made last week, Shalala's campaign said the candidate remains worried about the effect of marijuana on children, but cited new research, public perception, and criminal justice statistics for her change in thinking on marijuana. The statement cited "strong evidence showing real medical benefits of marijuana when used properly," statistics showing states that have legalized medical marijuana have seen a drop in opioid deaths, and the overwhelming support for Amendment 2 in Florida two years ago.

"Donna's thinking and understanding of marijuana has evolved, just as the general population's perspective and the science has evolved," the statement said. "She believes that we must reschedule cannabis to allow the government and the scientific community to work together to thoroughly study its effects and potential benefits. And, we must decriminalize cannabis because for far too long we have witnessed families and lives being destroyed over marijuana, especially individuals of color. We must follow the science and look at the facts."

Commenting about Shalala's former stance against medical marijuana, former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders told Playboy magazine, "She has a Ph.D. in political science. That's the kind of science she practices." Let's hope, this time, she's practicing the real kind.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

SSRIs increasingly prescribed during pregnancy, without much study on their effects

Lead researcher Claudia Lugo-Candelas
Researchers from Columbia University, the Keck School of Medicine, and the Institute for the Developing Mind in Los Angeles, have published a new study on how infants' brains are affected when their mothers take SSRIs for depression during pregnancy. SSRIs include Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Luvox, Paxil and Zoloft, and are used by 1 in 10 adults in the US.

Excerpts from the study:

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) use among pregnant women is increasing, yet the association between prenatal SSRI exposure and fetal neurodevelopment is poorly understood.

A cohort study conducted at Columbia University Medical Center and New York State Psychiatric Institute included 98 infants: 16 with in utero SSRI exposure, 21 with in utero untreated maternal depression exposure, and 61 healthy controls. Our findings suggest that prenatal SSRI exposure has an association with fetal brain development, particularly in brain regions critical to emotional processing....To our knowledge, this is the first study to report increased volumes of the amygdala and insular cortex, as well as increased WM connection strength between these 2 regions, in prenatally SSRI-exposed infants.

Lugo-Candelas C, Cha J, Hong S, et al. Associations Between
Brain Structure and Connectivity in Infants and Exposure to
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors During Pregnancy. 

JAMA Pediatr. Published online April 09, 2018.
PMD = Prenatal Maternal Depression; HC = Healthy Control
The prescription of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications for pregnant women has accelerated over the past 30 years. To some extent, this rise may be attributable to increased awareness of the detrimental effects of untreated prenatal maternal depression (PMD) on women and children, along with early studies failing to document immediate effects of SSRI exposure in offspring (although later rodent studies document postpubertal alterations). However, little is known about the association between prenatal SSRI exposure and human fetal neurodevelopment. Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT]) plays a vital role in neurodevelopment.

In the fetal brain, 5-HT signaling affects cell proliferation, differentiation, neuronal migration, network formation, and synaptogenesis. Perinatal SSRI exposure in rodent studies is associated with delayed motor development, reduced pain sensitivity, disrupted thalamocortical organization, reduced dorsal raphe neuronal firing, reduced arborization of 5-HT neurons, and altered limbic and cortical circuit functioning.

Literature on prenatal SSRI exposure in humans is limited and mixed. Studies have most consistently reported that prenatal SSRI exposure is associated with a shorter gestational period, lower birth weight, lower Apgar scores, and neonatal abstinence syndrome....Consistent with animal studies, a recent national registry study (including 15 ,000 prenatally SSRI-exposed offspring) found increased rates of depression in early adolescence in youth with prenatal SSRI exposure.

Brain imaging provides a window into neurodevelopment, yet human infant and fetal imaging studies of prenatal SSRI exposure are scarce....
The study highlights the need for further research on the potential long-term behavioral and psychological outcomes of these neurodevelopmental changes.

One of the references the authors cite, a 2007 study titled, "Increasing use of antidepressants in pregnancy," says:

The proportion of pregnancies with antidepressant use increased from 5.7% of pregnancies in 1999 to 13.4% of pregnancies in 2003. The increase was mostly accounted for by increases in selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor exposures....There is an urgent need for further studies that better quantify the fetal consequences of exposure to antidepressants.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Cynthia Nixon Advances Marijuana Legalization in New York

Sex in the City star and New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon has stepped up her support of marijuana legalization, after news reports trumpeted her position, at first reporting she was behind it for financial reasons.

Nixon has now released a video articulating the human rights reasons for her position: her concern that people of color are disproportionately punished for marijuana.

She even tweeted after former prohibitionist John Boehner turned potrepreneur, "Now that public opinion has shifted on marijuana, rich white men like Boehner and companies like Monsanto are trying to cash in. We can’t let them rake in profits while thousands of people, mostly people of color, continue to sit in jail for possession and use."

And just in time for 4/20, she's asking supporters to chip in $4.20 a month for her campaign against sitting Governor Andrew Cuomo, who remains opposed to recreational pot.

Sex in the City was criticized for promoting alcohol use to young women, and co-star Kristin Davis has admitted that she is a recovering alcoholic. The show had some pot smoking in it, though not with Miranda (Nixon's character, a workaholic attorney who becomes a single mom until she marries her bartender boyfriend). Rather, it's sexy Samantha who is the procurer of the pot that Carrie (Sarah Jessica-Parker) is busted for after smoking on the streets of NYC.

Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is perhaps punished for her freewheeling ways by being the character to get breast cancer, but as a new Mother Jones exposé reveals, it's alcohol that is the link there.

Let's hope Nixon is sincere in her embracing of legalization, and will look deeper and harder into the issues for the greater solutions, including coming to grips with all of our so-called addictions (like to sex and alcohol).