Monday, December 28, 2015

2015 Tokey Awards

TOKIN’ WOMAN OF THE YEAR – Melissa Etheridge
Since coming out as a medical marijuana user during her bout with breast cancer in 2005, Etheridge has gone further, advocating for full legalization, in part because
“I don’t want to look like a criminal to my kids anymore.” The singer and advocate has now joined the growing ranks of female potrepreneurs with her delicious cannabis-infused wine, announced in late 2014.

This year Etheridge opened the Americans for Safe Access conference in DC and keynoted the Cannabis World Conference in LA, and she rocked out the Concert for Social Justice in LA with renditions of Brandy Clark’s “Get High” and Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up.”

For her courage, her vision, and her creativity, Tokin’ Woman is proud to bestow this year’s Tokin' Woman of the Year award to Melissa Etheridge.


SPORTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR
Mixed martial artist and former UFC bantamweight titleholder Ronda Rousey made headlines
this year when she questioned the suspension of fellow fighter Nick Diaz because he tested positive for pot. Rousey has since clarified that she is not against testing for performance-enhancing drugs, which she has undergone since her teens, before becoming the first US woman to win an Olympic medal in judo in 2008.

In 2015, Rousey was the third most searched person on Google and she had film roles in Entourage and Furious 7. After defending her UFC title in five different bouts, she lost of Holly Holm in November. A rematch with Holm is scheduled for July 9, 2016.


TOP POLITICIAN
Kirsten Gillibrand, the stellar senator from New York, is a co-soponsor of the CARERS act, the best medical marijuana bill in DC. She’s been a firebrand in favor of the availability of medical marijuana for patients in her state, and the country.

Honorable Mentions:
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown,who signed legislation in June allowing those with past marijuana possession convictions to have their criminal records expunged.


 

ACTIVISTS OF THE YEAR

Cristina Barbuto – fought for employment rights in Massachusetts

Yami Bolonos – campaigned for Organ Transplant Bill in California

Linda Horan – won patients rights in New Hampshire

Theresa Nightingale, Pittsburgh NORML – fought for decriminalization in her city

Lynnette Shaw - won court ruling against federal interference in medical marijuana

 
BEST REPORTING
Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes takes this prize for bringing to the mainstream a story that others have covered in the past few years: the US government recruiting undercover informants in the drug war over petty marijuana offenses, often with disastrous results. Stahl focused on college students, but this has been happening even in high schools.

Honorable mentions 
 
Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post 
 
Jacob Sullum, Forbes
 
Matt Ferner, Huffington Post
 
Jon Gettman, Pot Matters
 

BEST COMMENTARY 
Diane Goldstein, Ladybug
 
Amy Povah, CAN-DO Foundation
 
Lea Grover, Good Housekeeping
 
Ian Millhiser, Think Progress
 

BEST SPEECH
Mikki Norris on The Drug War at The Emerald Cup  

BEST AWARENESS CAMPAIGN
#comingoutgreen, Green Flower Media
 
Cannabis is Safer than CPS, The NACC Child Law Blog
  


MOVIE OF THE YEAR
Marijuana-using women showed up in a lot of films this year, with largely predictable results (the munchees, giggling); however the actresses playing them weren’t always so expected.

Accomplished actress and mother of Gwynneth Paltrow Blythe Danner starred in I’ll See You in My Dreams, featuring a pot party with June Squibb, Rhea Perlman and Mary Kay Place. Meryl Streep, playing a rock and roll mama, shared a joint with her family in Ricki and the Flash, and Lily Tomlin knew what to do with a baggie in Grandmother. Kristin Stewart played a pot-puffing girlfriend in American Ultra, and Amanda Seyfried fired up a bong while playing a lawyer in Ted 2.

But it was writer/director/star Helen Hunt’s movie Ride (pictured) that takes the top prize in 2015. In it, Hunt learns to surf, smoke pot, and enjoy life, while playing a high-powered editor and mother. Read more. 

OUTING OF THE YEAR 
When Oregon TV news anchor Cyd Maurer was fired this year after a post-fender-bender drug test revealed that she smoked marijuana, it highlighted the injustice of employment drug testing and of the prohibition on pot. Maurer, 25, released a video explaining how she was fired by a corporate attorney who never met her, coming out as a “normal and responsible marijuana user” whose only stereotyping has been as “an overachieving goody-goody.” She’s now started a website, http://askmeaboutmarijuana.com/ to keep the dialogue going.

Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart were interviewed for Culture magazine, and Joan Jett toked up for High Times photographers and spoke about the time Miley Cyrus came to her hotel room and she was smoking.

Whoopi Goldberg and Rosie Perez defended marijuana legalization on The View; Molly Ringwald and Kelly Clarkson came out for legalization, and Olivia Wilde spoke about "...that unfortunate semester in high school when I simultaneously discovered Krispy Kreme and pot" in People magazine.

Susan Sarandon told High Times “the world would be a better place” if marijuana were legal and Roseanne Barr said she is using marijuana to treat macular degeneration and glaucoma. Jane Fonda admitted at the age of 77 that she still enjoys pot “every now and then” and Chelsea Handler tweeted a picture of her medical marijuana card in February, writing: "I'm a legal marijuaner. Just in time for my 40th bday tomorrow. Now I just need to get a lighter." 



TV SHOW OF THE YEAR  

Honorable Mentions: 
  
Modern Family, The Big Guns

Broad City, Kelly Ripa Gets Ripped


BOOKS OF THE YEAR
Johann Hari, Chasing the Scream
 
Susan Cheever, Drinking in America



COMEDY MOMENT OF THE YEAR  
There were so many of these this year it’s hard to name them all. Jennifer Aniston did a funny “lipflip” with Jimmy Fallon in January, announcing she was backing the Seattle Seahawks
in the Superbowl because “We got the weed, man.” 

In March, President Obama joked at a Gridiron Club appearance, “I’m not saying I’m any funnier. 
I’m saying weed is now legal in DC.” Garrison Keillor chimed in from Seattle a few months later with, “They’ve legalized marijuana here…it doesn't cure a cold, but it gives you insight into it.” 

Lily Tomlin opened a mock medical marijuana dispensary on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Ellen Degeneres reported on a Yelp review of the Buds and Roses dispensary in LA.

But my top three moments were these: 

 

 

BEST CANNABIS RESEARCH STUDY 
Deborah Malka, MD - Cannabis Therapeutic Use in the Elderly 

Honorable mentions:  
 
 
 
 

NOTABLE GOVERNMENT NEWS 
The National Cancer Institute, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, finally updated its website to admit that cannabinoids have anti-tumor effects in pre-clinical studies. Read more.
 
 
 


BEST PRODUCT  
 

BEST EVENT
 
Honorable mentions: 
The Emerald Cup, Santa Rosa, CA


 

A FOND GOODBYE TO:  
Elizabeth Bing, Founder of Lamaze International

Cilla Black, singer 

Betsy Drake, actress and author


Cynthia Robinson, trumpeter and singer 

Oliver Sacks, scientist and author

John Trudell, activist and musician

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Stuck on "Stuck in Love"

Another gem discovered on Netflix: Stuck in Love, the 2012 debut by writer/director Josh Boone, starring Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Connelly as parents in a literary family that exchanges John Cheever books and Raymond Carver quotes as they navigate their own emotions.

Nat Wolff plays Rusty, the sensitive student who, when forced to read a poem he wrote called "High School" before his class, declares "it was written under the influence of cannabis":

In the sea of desks 
There's talk of bags and games
and long pipes that leak dreams
with the strike of a match
and there's a loudness to the whispers I hear.... 

When Rusty is accused of being stoned at Thanksgiving dinner, his mother takes him into the kitchen for a heart-to-heart where she tells him, "Pot, and nothing else, ever." When he says, "You don't have to worry about me," she correctly replies, "Yes, I do. It's my job." It's the most intelligent mother-son discussion about weed since Lily Tomlin's in 9-5.

Rusty bribes his way into a cool kids' party with a bag of weed, where he's possibly saved from hard drugs by his mother's admonishment.  His sister Samantha (Lily Collins) is much more self-destructive with her drug of choice (meaningless sex, the theory of which she tempers after sneaking out to the roof to share a bowl her brother). Rusty's smoking is woven seamlessly into the story, with his father only reigning him in when he's partying (with alcohol) nightly.

Stephen King, who once declared pot should be legal so that Maine could benefit from a legal cottage industry, figures in the plot.











Monday, December 7, 2015

What "Trumbo" Doesn't Tell You

Helen Mirren and Bryan Cranston in Trumbo
I just saw Trumbo, the new film about blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, and it's as remarkable as everyone's been saying it is. However there are a few things about it that would, I think, bother Dalton.

Steve Martin wrote in an October 2007 article in the New Yorker that he saw Trumbo “sorting the seeds and stems from a brick of pot” during the 1970s while he was dating Trumbo's daughter Mitzi. However, although it's acceptable for Bryan Cranston to play a meth manufacturer (in "Breaking Bad"), and pop benzedrines playing Trumbo in the film, for some reason it was deemed necessary to omit Trumbo's time in Mexico and the marijuana he smoked there, and afterwards.

It seems likely Trumbo came up with the concept for the film that won him his second Oscar (under a pseudonym), The Brave One, while in Mexico. With this achievement, Trumbo began to break the blacklist using only his mightier-than-the-sword pen.

Marijuana and communism were, in Trumbo's time, linked in the public's mind, and in popular culture. Hollywood touched on it in 1957's Sweet Smell of Success, in which Tony Curtis plays a swarmy PR flack who tries to smear a jazz guitarist as a pot-smoking commie. Curtis was notable as a slave/bard in Spartacus, the Trumbo film that broke the blacklist for good, fittingly so, since it's the story of a Thracian slave who takes on the Roman Empire. (Thrace was next to Scythia, where people ritualistically inhaled cannabis fumes, as recorded by Herodotus.)

Moments in Trumbo pay homage to Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Gregory Peck, Lucille Ball, and Tokin' Man James Garner, all of whom stood up for the Hollywood 10. It's cool that Kirk Douglas is a hero in the film, since it's Hanukkah and he appears in Adam Sandler's Hanukkah song (something else that's been censored, changing the line, "smoke your marijuanikka" to "don't smoke marijuanikka" in mainstream media. His newest version #4 of the song, however, shows Sandler's still smokin.)

The composite character played by Louis C.K. in Trumbo seems to steal a line from Tokin' Woman Lillian Hellman, who was blacklisted after telling the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1950: "To hurt innocent people whom I knew many years ago in order to save myself is, to me, inhuman and indecent and dishonorable. I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions."

John Wayne, who's featured in Trumbo as a flack for HUAC, produced a film about the controversial committee called Big Jim McClain that was released under the title Marijuana in Europe (the plot having been changed from Wayne fighting communism to knocking out marijuana instead). Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and of course Joseph McCarthy are the other villains. But it's Helen Mirren as Hedda Hopper who stands out. Hopper was accused of "pocketbook morality" when she took a fairly mild stand against Robert Mitchum after he was arrested for marijuana in 1948. At the time, the studios had $5 million invested in Mitchum.

In the film, when Trumbo's daughter asks her father if she is a Communist too, he asks her what she would do if her mother packed her favorite lunch and a classmate was without something to eat. "Share it," was the reply. That kind of empathy, which seems a lot more "Christian" than what passes for it today in this country, is often reported after smoking marijuana.

"I've learned that total adjustment to society is as bad as maladjustment," Trumbo wrote in The Sandpiper. "That principled disobedience of unjust law is more Christian, more truly law-abiding, than unprincipled respect. That only freedom can tame the wild, rebellious, palpitating heart of man."

Read more about VIP Dalton Trumbo.




Monday, November 30, 2015

Ben Franklin's Hempen Kite String

It seems that among hemp's many benefits to mankind, it helped Ben Franklin prove that there is electricity in the atmosphere.

For in his famous experiment where he flew a kite in a 1752 lightning storm, Franklin fashioned the kite's string from hemp twine, since he knew that when wet, hemp conducts electricity. He added a nonconducting silk string to serve as a ground, but by one account couldn't resist touching the hemp string himself and getting a shock after he "watched the lightning raise the hairs on the hemp kite string."  

In Poor Richard’s Almanac, Franklin wrote in 1742:

"As honest Hodge the Farmer, sow’d his Field,
Chear’d with the Hope of future Gain ’twould yield,
Two upstart Jacks in Office, proud and vain,
Come riding by, and thus insult the Swain.
You drudge, and sweat, and labour here, Old Boy,
But we the Fruit of your hard Toil enjoy.
Belike you may, quoth Hodge, and but your Due,
For, Gentlemen, ’tis Hemp I’m sowing now."

Which may have meant that Hodge would also enjoy the fruits of his labor because it was smokeable hemp, but more probably just meant it was a profitable crop. Our Founding Fathers were much concerned with the profitability of the hemp crop, grown mainly for fiber.

Franklin also wrote in 1739:
"Hemp will grow faster than the Children of this Age, and some will find there’s but too much on’t."

Peter Collinson (1694–1768), who "was one of the most important persons" in Franklin's life, was a English horticulturalist who "urged his American correspondents to cultivate flax, hemp, silk, and grapes."

There’s an early hemp processing machine idea in a 1763 letter to Franklin from Alexander Small. But as late as 1837, both the US and the UK were relying on slaves to do the back-breaking work of processing hemp, as in this 1837 UK cartoon, wherein slaves lament, "Beating this here hemp is worser than breaking stones. Lord ha’ mercy on us poor."

Under the UK's New Poor Laws, paupers were required to work from 4 in the morning until 10 at night, and ironically could told to “go to the hemp” (be hanged, though not around the neck).

Oliver Twist was also published in 1837. In it, one of Oliver’s jobs is to pick hemp oakum.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Tokin' Woman Goes to Jamaica and DC

Cup attendees from Puerto Rico.
The first High Times Jamaican World Cannabis Cup was well worth attending (and I was lucky enough to do so).

Held at a park right on the beach steps away from the swanky Sandals/Beaches complex in Negril, the event featured exhibitor booths under canopies, which worked against the afternoon rains that came nearly every day. On sunny Saturday, attendance hit its peak with people from Kingston and other parts of the island in attendance, as well as folks from all over the US, Central America and Europe.  

NORML had a booth and was able to re-invigorate its Jamaica chapter at the event, with NORML founder Keith Stroup and Jamaica NORML founder Paul Chang attending, and new volunteers Linda Jackson, Linda Browne and Sharifah wo-maning the booth where many attendees signed up to stay in touch.

The event came as Jamaica has legalized possession of two ounces of ganja for all, as well as a religious exception for Rastafaris, and is expected to issue regulations for sales. It was held under the religious exemption as a Rasta Rootzfest, and Jamaican Minister of Justice Marc Golding, who has been a proponent of religious freedom, spoke at the opening ceremonies.  

Someone finds another use for
Tokin’ Women at the event.
People were walking around the event with sticks of herb in their back pockets, or in baskets, obviously for sale. On the second day, signs appeared on the booths saying, “No Token, No Herb.” The idea was to purchase tokens in the manner of drink tickets from an official booth, in denominations of $5, $10, or $20 and exchange these for herb, also sold at a booth in the section that also sold Ital foods. No alcohol except for Ethiopian wine was sold at the event, and a mellow time was had by all.

I brought promotional copies of my new book Tokin’ Women: A 4000-Year Herstory and was interviewed on IrieFM  by famed DJ Mutabaruka, who informed me that the Rastas sing about the Queen of Sheba bringing ganja to Solomon, a conclusion I also reached. I also got to meet Charlo Greene, the Alaska newscaster who famously quit on the air in order to work for marijuana legalization in her state. We’ve been in touch, and I plan to add her to the final first edition of Tokin’ Women.

At night the program was filled with the sounds of The Mighty Diamonds, Tarrus and more, and during the day, a high-level program was held with Jamaican government officials talking about the future of ganja laws. High Times cultivation editor Kyle Kushman, who got married at 4:20 on Thursday at the event, was rhapsodic about the possibilities of bringing more modern agricultural techniques to the island, known for its ganja tourism.

Miss High Times stops by
the NORML booth.
The winners of the World High Times Cup were mostly from the US and Amsterdam, with the Jamaican Cup winners from Orange Hill in Westmoreland, and the St. Bess /Elizabeth and St. Ann regions.

Charles Nesson, an attorney and professor from Harvard Law School, was also presented with an award. Nesson defended Daniel Ellsberg in the Pentagon Papers case, brought suit on NORML’s behalf in Massachusetts, and told Salon he is “interested in advancing Justice in Jamaica…as well as national drug policy.” Nesson called Jamaica a testing ground for regulation in California, because of its large community of outlaw growers.

At the Drug Policy Alliance conference in Washington, DC immediately following the cup, doctoral student Vicki Hanson from the University of West Indies in Kingston spoke on a panel titled, “Ensuring Inclusion, Repairing Damage: Diversity, Equity and the Marijuana Industry” about the need for land reform for farmers in a nation where much of the ganja comes from guerilla grows on public lands. Hanson was chosen to speak at the closing plenary at the conference, which hosted 1500 attendees from 71 countries. DPA's Ethan Nadelmann said we must remember “the farmers and peasants the world over who have lost their livelihood because the plant they were growing was deemed illegal….and we must hold accountable some of those people who justified and allowed those policies to stay in place.”

Big ups to all who put these great events together and hope to see you all in Jamaica next year, and in Atlanta in 2017 for the next DPA conference.



(P.S. Rumors that Rihanna was at the Cup promoting a new brand of cannabis remain unconfirmed. I didn't see her.)


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Drinking in America, From the Pilgrims to Today


It grabbed me from the first line: "The pilgrims landed the Mayflower at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, on a cold November day in 1620 because they were running out of beer." Thus begins the new book by Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History.

Cheever, the daughter of novelist (and drinker) John Cheever, brings a brisk, novelistic style and fresh attitude to her histories, weaving fascinating, little-known tidbits into interesting, readable volumes like American Bloomsbury and Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography.

Here again, as in My Name is Bill (about Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous), Cheever tackles Americans' love of alcohol. She makes clear at the outset that our ancestors relied heavily on beer due to unhealthy water found on sea voyages and elsewhere. Beer was served at the first Thanksgiving table, since "the Pilgrims' first barley crop had born fermentable fruit." By 1635, Plymouth had begun granting licenses to make and sell liquor, and public drunkenness had become unlawful. Puritain elder Increase Mather explained the dichotomy this way, "Drink is in itself a good Creature of God, and to be received with thankfulness, but the abuse of drink is from Satan."

It's no mystery why voters want a president with whom they can enjoy a beer. George Washington, Cheever writes, lost his first election for the Virginia Assembly in 1755, but two years later "he delivered 144 gallons of rum, punch, cider, and wine to the polling places distributed by election volunteers who urged the voters to drink up.... Most elections featured vats and barrels of free liquor as well as the candidate in hand to drink along with his constituency." Two of Abigail and John Adams's sons and two of their grandsons died of alcoholism and Jefferson wrote that he wished Americans would stick with beer and eschew whiskey "that now kills one third of our citizens and ruins their families." Liquor was given to slaves to help keep them docile. 

"The American Revolution was instigated and carried on with energy provided by rum made from Caribbean molasses and with Caribbean distilling techniques," Cheever continues in a subsequent chapter.  Of the revolt against Washington's drive to enforce a tax on home-brewed whiskey, she adds, "The eighteenth century in America, beginning with the Whiskey Rebellion, was all about whiskey."

In a chapter titled, "Johnny Appleseed, The American Dionysius," Cheever picks up on Michael Pollan's observation that the beloved seed-sower was popular because he was bringing the possibility of alcoholic hard cider, not apples for eating, to the prairies. (As well as wine grapes, god-of-excess Dionysius was the patron of cultivated trees and the discoverer of the apple.)

To hint at motivations and explain events throughout the tale, Cheever adds her own insights, such as, "Alcoholics are inspired liars, and soon enough in an alcoholic family no one knows exactly what is true and what is not true." She delves into the stories of famous prohibitionists like P.T. Barnum and Walt Whitman, and her chapter on Ulysses S. Grant and the civil war brings the reader up to the present state of affairs concerning alcohol and armies. The failure of prohibition, and the effects of alcohol on Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon are touched on, as is the news (to me) that the Secret Service agents guarding JFK the day he died were hungover from an alcoholic binge the night before.

Cheever's tone isn't moralistic, and she acknowledges throughout the positive effects alcohol may had had on our history, such as inspiring writers and generals. She ends the book with a series of tantalizing "what ifs" had teetotalers had their way instead of drinkers.

It's important that marijuana reformers understand how deep the connection to alcohol runs in our country, and Drinking in America is, in that regard and many others, an illuminating and enjoyable read.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Girls on Ganga in "Grandma's Boy"

Netflix has done it again:
found a little-known film with a surprising amount of pot smoking in it.
This one is 2006's Grandma's Boy starring Linda Cardellini of Freaks and Geeks,
the short-lived but acclaimed TV series
that was NBC's more thoughtful answer to  
That 70's Show.

In Grandma's Boy, Cardellini plays Samantha, a project manager at a video game company dealing with a bunch of geeky guys, including a pothead game tester named Alex who's living with his grandmother (Doris Roberts from Everybody Loves Raymond). Significantly, Alex isn't apologetic about his pot use. He admits he wasn't much of an accountant, but he shreds at his new job, especially after smoking a phattie. Samantha turns out to be a smoker herself, and she's soon the life of the party.

Most surprising (and delightful), Alex's grandma and her friends have their fun when they accidentally drink some tea made with his stash. Shirley Jones, in her dancingest role since Pepe (1960), gets in on the fun and makes out with a grateful geek. (Note the interesting "flower vase" in the shot at right.)

The film, directed by Nicholaus Goossen (of Trevor Moore's "High in Church") makes it until the final scene without a single negative reference, and then it's not too bad. No one has to quit smoking pot to get the girl, because the women are all cool too. Too bad Roberts couldn't smoke on Raymond because Peter Boyle, who played her husband, was a pot smoker (and was the best man at John Lennon and Yoko Ono's wedding).

Freaks and Geeks is also on Netflix. The series that launched Seth Rogen and James Franco put out mixed messages on pot, no doubt under the heavy hand of the censors. Cardellini's character Lindsay, a smart girl looking to be bad, tries smoking in her bedroom and gets a look of self awareness on her face for an instant, but just then her Dad knocks on the door and sends her babysitting, and she gets paranoid. In the season finale, her guidance counselor (an old hippie radical from Berkeley) turns her on to the Grateful Dead and she has to choose between a summer filled with academics or fun.

Cardellini was also seen as Velma in the Scooby Doo movie, in Brokeback Mountain, and recently as Don Draper's neighbor/lover in Mad Men. She's in the new Avenger's movie, too.

Busy Phillips, who played Kim in Freaks and Geeks, appeared on the wine-soaked ABC/TBS series Cougar Town. Its finale earlier this year was titled "Mary Jane's Last Dance," wherein everyone says "What?" to weed when Chick (for Chico?) brings it up.