Sunday, October 19, 2014

Siberian Princess / Shaman Used Cannabis; Had Cancer?

Scientists are claiming that the 2500-year-old mummy known as the "Ice Princess," whose elaborately tatooed body was buried with six saddled horses and other acoutrements including a container of cannabis, had breast cancer.

The Siberian woman's frozen remains were discovered in 1993 by archaeologist Natalia Polosmak high in the Altai Mountains. She was apparently a high priestess of the Pazyryk people, who were closely related to the Sythians, a tribe that inhaled cannabis smoke ritually, as described by the Greek historian Herodotus in 440BCE.

Now a team of Russian scientists say MRI technology has found evidence of breast cancer, the bone infection osteomyelitis, and injuries consistent with a fall -- perhaps from a horse, in the Ice Princess. Polosmak wrote in a recent issue of the journal Science First Hand: “It is likely that for this sick woman, the regular inhalation of cannabis smoke was a necessity.”

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Stoner Babes in Chains (with Chocolate!)

I call them my Popeye moments: "That's all I can stands, and I can't stands no more." So I stuff some spinach in my pipe and start to write.

After an OK start, Elle magazine's "Pot Week" quickly took a nosedive into vapidity, with scintillating (not) stories about how to give yourself a cannabis facial or find pot-leaf-motif accessories, or hempy cosmetics. At least it was nice they were promoting some pot-friendly businesses, I consoled myself.

But the capper came today, with a story titled, "High Fashion: Pairing Artisanal Pot Chocolates With Fall's Best Looks." Because, ladies, you wouldn't want the chocolate you eat not to match your designer duds. How gauche would that be? The piece pictured a Claire Danes-look alike in a fetching frock splashed with color, just like the chic chocolates next to her.

Coincidentally, I caught Danes tonight smoking a joint in the 1999 film Brokedown Palace. She puffs her pot in a Thai prison, where two American women played by her and Kate Beckinsale are sent for being tricked (or coerced) into smuggling heroin.

It made me think of Mollie Fry, the California MD who's serving time in federal prison for growing 30 some marijuana plants a year for three years (aggregated to 100 plants so that she got a five year mandatory minimum sentence). Fry, who is in her 60s, recently did a stint in solitary confinement because she dared to give some medical advice to a fellow prisoner.

It's no accident that the creator of "Weeds" followed it with "Orange is the New Black." California just released statistics showing that 1513 women were arrested on marijuana felonies in 2013, and 1240 saw misdemeanor charges (those figures don't count the number of tickets given for the infraction of less than an ounce). But California's female attorney general Kamala Harris doesn't seem to care, giggling when the subject of legalization was brought up and reaching to the lame argument that we have to be worried about second-hand marijuana smoke.

Nationwide, 61% of women prisoners are mothers of young children and one half of all inmates held in federal prisons are nonviolent drug offenders (Harper's Index, June & July 2014; US Dept. of Justice).  Last I checked, there were still California counties who shackle women prisoners while they are giving birth, despite a new state law outlawing the practice.

Danes is now playing a schizophrenic CIA agent involved with the President in Homeland. In real life, the White House outed CIA agent Valerie Plame for political purposes, endangering her and the people she worked with. A new round of Gary Webb-bashing has accompanied the release of a film about the reporter, Kill The Messenger, detailing his series for the San Jose Mercury News about the CIA's complicity in importing crack cocaine into South Central Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, NORML Women's Alliance leader Cheri Sicard is holding a Bingo Night fundraiser for Paul Free, who is one of several prisoners unjustly serving life sentences for marijuana "crimes." Because another thing that sucks is how many of our men are in prison.

As we munch our designer chocolates and watch our fantasy TV shows, let's take a moment for a reality check (not a Reality TV check). Hey, I hear the new style at the Milan fashion shows is Bohemian, with flat heels, and fewer fancy gowns. If the fashion world can gain some sanity, maybe we all can.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Melissa Etheridge To Market Marijuana-Infused Wine

Tokin Woman Melissa Etheridge moved the medical marijuana issue forward in 2005 when she told Dateline NBC she used it for chemotherapy. The rocker went further in 2010, appearing at a press event in favor of California's effort to legalize the weed for all adults. “I don’t want to look like a criminal to my children anymore," she said. "I want them to know this is a choice that you make as a responsible adult.”

Etheridge donated proceeds from a 2011 film she made about breast cancer to the medical marijuana movement, and she won a 2013 Tokey Award for penning the oped, "Pot Got Me Through" for CNN.

It is fitting then that Etheridge is joining the ranks of female marijuana entrepreneurs, as celebrated by this week.

The singer told Bloomberg News that she is working on a cannabis-infused wine that "tastes amazing." She called the venture "a huge opportunity" and said she looks forward to "bringing this to a world in a not scary way, not a drug, outlaw way...this is an American business that really needs a lot of help."

Thursday, October 9, 2014's "Pot Week" has acknowledged marijuana's move to the  mainstream by dubbing this "Pot Week".

It's accompanied by a slide show titled, From Annie Hall to Miley: A Visual History of the Stoner Babe.

Opening with Tokin Woman Maya Angelou, it moves through Annie Hall, 9 to 5, Oprah Winfrey, Roseanne Barr, Saving Grace, Sex in the City, Jennifer Aniston, Lady Gaga, Martha Stewart, Mad Men, Susan Sarandon, Rhianna and Miley Cyrus.

It adds a few I haven't covered, like Bridget Fonda in Jackie Brown (pictured), Lindsay Weir from Freeks and Geeks, Stephanie from The Wackness, Kristina Braverman from Parenthood and the gals from High Maintenance and Broad City.

The site followed with a second slide show, highlighting their 13 Most Powerful Women in the Cannabis Industry.

The week of features follows this weekend's New York Times style section story highlighting the female pot entrepreneurs in Colorado. “We’re weeding out the stoners,” said Olivia Mannix, the 25-year-old co-founder of a start-up called Cannabrand, an advertising agency devoted exclusively to marketing marijuana. “We want to show the world that normal, professional, successful people consume cannabis.”

It has been announced that pot researcher Dr. Julie Holland will team with Diablo Cody (Juno) and Oprah Winfrey on an HBO comedy based on Holland's new book Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You’re Taking, the Sex You’re Not Having, The Sleep You’re Missing and What’s Really Making You Crazy. The book examines “the pros and cons of the drugs people are being offered as well as some surprising and highly effective natural therapies.”

(Thanks to Steve Bloom of CelebStoner for the tips.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Naomi Klein Changes Everything

We're lucky that the smartest woman on the planet has turned her eye, and her pen, to fixing the planet. Naomi Klein calls her new book This Changes Everything the sequel to her 2007 blockbuster The Shock Doctrine, which presaged the economic meltdown of 2008.

At a standing-room-only event in Berkeley last night, Klein began by describing how reading a book about finding a moose to her 2-year-old son made her wonder whether he would ever see a moose, and sent her researching her new book. While The Shock Doctrine talked about the "disaster capitalists" who take advantage of events like Hurricane Katrina to assert their elitist agendas, we now need "disaster collectivism" to fix the climate change that is destroying our habitat, she said.

"We're past the point where radical changes aren't needed," Klein told the crowd. Greenhouse gas emissions are up 61% since our government started negotiating to end emissions; cutting emissions 8-10% per year "is not compatible with endless growth." Yet because of global trade agreements, Germany and the EU took Canada to court against their solar industry tax credits, and the US has similarly challenged China and India's alternative energy industries. Meanwhile, governments have been selling off sectors like energy and transportation that are needed to set things right. "We have allowed trade to trump the planet," she said.

Klein pointed to the halting of oil pipelines as successful resistance, but added, "It isn't enough to resist; you need your own strategy." Germany, she said, is phasing out nuclear energy with wind and solar energy cooperatives. Communities like Boulder, Colorado have fought to take back local energy grids and move to renewable sources in the "remunicipalization" movement. Investors, notably the Rockefeller foundation heirs to the Standard Oil fortune, are divesting themselves of oil stocks.

But we must do more, Klein says. We need a "polluter pays" model that funnels the profits from the oil industry into renewables. Pointing out that renewable energy industries generate 6-8 times as many jobs as do oil industries, she noted that adding jobs will help end the "industrialized racism" of the prison industry.

A sustainable industry model with economic and planetary justice?
It made me think about marijuana legalization, and how the industry is already moving towards a centralized, energy-sucking, indoor "warehouse weed" cultivation model. Illinois just made $5 million on non-refundable licensing applications for the 60 dispensaries and 21 medical marijuana grow sites it will allow in a pilot program; licenses will cost $200K each. In Pennsylvania, a proposal from the legislature would allow only 65 grower licenses with $50,000 application fees. A Maryland advisory board is recommending licensing fees of over $125K for only 15 licensed growers. If the cottage industry in California and elsewhere wants to keep any kind of economic and planetary justice in the marijuana market, it will have to learn how to model itself in agricultural coops or the kind of collectivism that Klein is talking about.

Environmentalists can't do all this on their own, Klein said. "We need a massive, serious social movement." She brought up members of Movement Generation's Justice and Ecology Project, whose motto is:

Liberate the Soil
Undam the Rivers
Free the People
Unplug the Empire

Sounds good to me.

The Berkeley event was a fundraiser for KPFK radio, which plans to air the talk in the future. Keep up with Naomi at She'll be in Los Angeles tonight and in Santa Rosa on Oct. 17 & 18 (Bioneers Conference).  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sex Differences In Pain Relief with Cannabis

Photos by Larry Utley of a bipolar woman experiencing pain relief with cannabis.
Her face is shown pre-treatment (left) and at 30 and 60 seconds after smoking.

Less than 10% of neurological and pharmacological research is conducted on females in the US, says Dr. Rebecca Craft of Washington State University. Her lab is working to help correct that imbalance, by studying the effects of THC on male and female rats.

Craft's lab took healthy rats, 10 males and 10 females, and dosed them every 15 minutes with THC. At each dosage level, researchers did two tests for acute pain: putting the rats’ tails in 122-degree water and measuring how quickly they pulled their tails out; and applying pressure to their paws and measuring at what level of pressure they retracted their paws. As expected, the analgesic effect of THC increased at higher levels in both sexes, but to a greater extent in females.

Researchers then did a nine-day experiment, injecting the rats twice daily with THC in an amount determined to produce 80% of maximal analgesia (a lesser amount for females). The pain experiments were then repeated, in order to study to what extent tolerance to THC’s pain-relieving effects had taken place. It took more THC to show a pain-relieving response in rats that had received chronic doses, and this effect was also more pronounced in females.

Taken together with a recent study showing that women using cannabis daily reported a higher incidence of “abuse related effects” than men,  Dr. Craft’s work has been reported as being cautionary for women using cannabis medicinally. However Dr. Craft says that it’s hard to relate results, or doses, between acute pain studies in rodents and chronic pain in humans. For example, the opposite effect is found for morphine: male rats are more susceptible to its acute effects and develop greater tolerance, but the same sex difference has not been found in humans.

It’s been theorized that the hormone estradiol in menstruating females is responsible for the observed differences in cannabinoid effects, possibly through the mechanism of beta-arrestin2, an intracellular signaling molecule that interacts with the CB1 cannabinoid receptor in the brain. But some studies Craft’s lab has been working on indicate that sex hormones aren’t responsible for sex differences in tolerance to THC’s pain-relieving effects, although they may have a role in its sedative effects. Also, in rats a different enzyme metabolizes THC into its main active metabolite 11-OH-THC in males and females, but in humans, the enzyme is the same for both sexes.

Dr. Rebecca Craft of WSU
Dr. Craft’s next study will be working with a chronic pain model in rats, mimicking the inflammatory pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Chronic pain models in rodents have also been developed for neuropathic pain of the type experienced by chemotherapy patients and diabetes sufferers.

The work is important: women are more likely to present with chronic pain issues, for diseases like fibromyalgia, IBS, MS and migraine as well as the depression that comes with pain. A new study shows women find cannabis more effective than other pain-treatment modalities.

More human research is needed, Dr. Craft stresses, and also more research on females in both human and animal studies. The NIH has recently announced it will require sex-balancing in upcoming studies. Craft is encouraged by NIDA’s recent pronouncement that the agency will be providing more cannabis for research. Her work is funded by a NIDA grant.

Pointing to these developments, and to the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana that is happening across the US, Craft predicts, “We will see an explosion of information in the coming decades.”

Saturday, September 20, 2014

RIP Polly Bergen

Actress, activist and businesswoman Polly Bergen has died at 84. 

Bergen played an enlightened mother who bakes pot brownies for her cancer-stricken daughter on Desperate Housewives. During Episode 3, Season 4 of Desperate Housewives ("The Game"), Lynette (played by Felicity Huffman) gets seriously stoned on her mom Stella's baked goods. Spongebob Squarepants epiphanies, charades and platitudes follow. The show originally aired on October 14, 2007.

Not quite the square she often played, Bergen experimented with LSD along with Cary Grant and Esther Williams, as an aid to psychotherapy back when it was legal. 

According to film critic Rex Reed, Bergen was a women's rights advocate. “She and Gloria Steinem teamed up to raise money and educate people as to the needs of women,” Reed told the LA Times. “She went many times to the White House and spoke before the Senate and at other other functions. She encouraged people to vote -- that was important to her.” She knocked on doors for Hillary Clinton, and Planned Parenthood was a cause particularly close to her heart. Bergen had three adopted children. 

The brunette beauty is known for her role as a wife terrorized by Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear; she later appeared as Mitchum's wife in the miniseries "War and Remembrance." She was the first woman to play a US President, in 1964's Kisses for My President. When Geena Davis portrayed a woman president in the 2005 TV drama "Commander in Chief," Bergen was cast as her mother.

Bergen suffered from emphysema due to heavy cigarette smoking, which interfered with her singing career. She wrote books about beauty and fashion, and started a cosmetic company that she later sold to FabergĂ©. 

(I misreported here that Bergen played Johnny Depp's grandmother in Cry Baby. Instead, she played the square grandmother who gets corrupted by the "evil influences" of her town. Apologies to Susan Tyrrell, who played Ramona Ricketts so well.)