VERY IMPORTANT POTHEADS Debunking Myths About Marijuana

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12/04/06 - RIP VIP ROBERT ALTMAN
Director and VIP Robert Altman, who died on November 20 at the age of 81, revealed at the Academy Awards in March that he had a heart transplant a decade ago but kept it a secret in order to keep working. In a November 23 article in the Los Angeles Times, Garrison Keillor wrote that when he saw Altman ten days earlier, he was "tickled pink" that he'd gotten financing for a new picture and was in pre-production. Their collaboration film "A Prairie Home Companion" has an all-star cast (Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, Lily Tomlin, etc.) because "everyone wanted to work for him." While "captain of the ship" Altman didn't mind being talked back to. "If you and I agreed about everything, than one of us is unnecessary," he said. We will miss the necessary voice of the brave Mr. Altman.

LEGALIZATION ADVOCATE MILTON FRIEDMAN DEPARTS
Milton Friedman, 1976 Nobel Laureate in economics who died on November 16, wrote in an Open Letter to then-drug czar Bill Bennett originally published in The Wall Street Journal on September 7, 1989:

"In Oliver Cromwell's eloquent words, 'I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken' about the course you and President Bush [I] urge us to adopt to fight drugs. The path you propose of more police, more jails, use of the military in foreign countries, harsh penalties for drug users, and a whole panoply of repressive measures can only make a bad situation worse. The drug war cannot be won by those tactics without undermining the human liberty and individual freedom that you and I cherish....

"Alcohol and tobacco cause many more deaths in users than do drugs. Decriminalization would not prevent us from treating drugs as we now treat alcohol and tobacco: prohibiting sales of drugs to minors, outlawing the advertising of drugs and similar measures. Such measures could be enforced, while outright prohibition cannot be...."

In a 1972 article, "Prohibition and Drugs," Friedman wrote,

"Had drugs been decriminalized 17 years ago, 'crack' would never have been invented (it was invented because the high cost of illegal drugs made it profitable to provide a cheaper version) and there would today be far fewer addicts. The lives of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of innocent victims would have been saved, and not only in the U.S. The ghettos of our major cities would not be drug-and-crime-infested no-man's lands. Fewer people would be in jails, and fewer jails would have been built. Colombia, Bolivia and Peru would not be suffering from narco-terror, and we would not be distorting our foreign policy because of narco-terror...."

"Dr. Friedman was a lifetime dues-paying member of MPP and a strong advocate for ending marijuana prohibition," Rob Kampia, executive of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a news release. Friedman was one of 500 economists to endorse an MPP-commissioned Harvard report that estimated ending marijuana prohibition would save taxpayers $7.7 billion a year while generating $6.2 billion in tax revenue with a system to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol, according to MPP. See the study and Friedman's letter.

TENACIOUS FLICK "MORE THAN HALF BAKED"
No one, not even James Bond, can top the Happy Feet of penguins at the box office these days, but the Jack Black/Kyle Gass film about stoner rock and rollers is tenaciously holding its position in the top 20 after two weeks in the theatres.

A November 22 review by San Francisco Chronicle critic Peter Hartlaub begins, "Most stoner cinema happens accidentally. It's doubtful that Sid and Marty Krofft set out to make 'H.R. Pufnstuf' appeal to young male slackers who are totally baked on marijuana. And Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' was someone's political statement long before it became a midnight movie pothead staple. Tenacious D in 'The Pick of Destiny,' on the other hand, announces its intentions boldly, with a short 'THC: The audience Is Baking' cartoon at the beginning of the movie -- spoofing those THX sound system ads .... The finished product is passable entertainment for sober audiences but comic gold for anyone who is currently stoned, has been stoned in the past or spends a lot of time around stoned people." That's you, dear readers, so buy your tickets now and support freedom of expression.

GREEN NOT ACCEPTABLE IN DARTS
The first victim of the new anti-cannabis policy of the Darts Regulation Authority is Robbie Green, aka "Kong" (soon to be "Bong.") Green, 32, has been suspended from competition for eight weeks and is ordered to repay prize money plus a £2000 fine after his urine tested positive for cannabinoids on June 11. Dart competitions only introduced drug testing this year and Green's was only the eighth test of a darts player by anti-doping agency UK Sport.

Thank goodness the world is safe from dart-throwing cannabis smokers. Apparently, however, drunken darters are encouraged: Green's positive pot test happened at the Budweiser UK Open Darts Championship. Green reached the quarter-finals at the Open, the best performance of his career.

VH1 TO AIR CHONG DOC
VH1 will expand its popular documentary series "VH1 Rock Docs" to include five new high-end feature-length programs in the coming months, starting with "The Return of Courtney Love" in December. (Love interviewed VIP in January 2004, confirming on air what was revealed in the Kurt Cobain diaries published after his death: that he repeatedly went back to using heroin to quell the severe stomach pain he suffered from. Love said, "Yes that was true and I used to say, Kurt let's just smoke [pot] instead."

Included in the VH1 series will be "a/k/a Tommy Chong," named Best Documentary at the US Comedy Arts Festival, 2006. With full access to Tommy, his wife and family during his trial and imprisonment for selling bongs in 2003, the film also interviews Jay Leno, Bill Maher, George Thorogood and Cheech Marin, and has footage of Jesse Ventura and Geraldo Rivera, as well as copious clips of Cheech and Chong films and early photos of Tommy's life. Of the film, Michael Moore said, "The real stoners in this excellent documentary are the administration officials drunk with power and out of control, and a nation of otherwise good people who've been given the worst drug of all -- fear." Alan Dershowitz adds, "Who could have known that Tommy Chong would turn out to be a great teacher of civil liberties and constitutional law, but his outrageous prosecution should be an object lesson for all who cherish our basic rights. This film is both fun and educational."

Other documentaries the VH1 series will delve into the Air Guitar World Championships and the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s, co-produced by Perry Films of "The Drug Years." Connect with VH1.

MAINE TOWNS TO COME OUT OF THE (GROW) CLOSET?
Following successes at the ballot box in Santa Monica, Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara in the November 7 California election, Maine is set to become the latest state to try passing local initiatives to make adult marijuana use the lowest law enforcement priority, reports the Drug War Chronicle (www.stopthedrugwar.org). A state group with affiliations with the Marijuana Policy Project, the Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative (MMPI), has submitted petitions to officials in five western Maine towns, and is already set to go to the polls in Sumner. Town meetings in Farmington, Paris, West Paris and Athens, where petitions have been delivered to local officials, may also consider the initiatives next year. A clever ad asks Mainers, "Isn't it time we came out of the (grow) closet?"

PUT THE POT IN THE COCONUT
FALFURRIAS, TX - Border Patrol agents found two tons of marijuana hidden in a cargo of limes on December 1. The driver was arrested. No word on what happened to the limes.

CALL CENTERS IN INDIA BREED SEX, DRUGS AND ROCK 'N' ROLL
A November 13 Reuters story by Jonathan Allen reports that India's young call center workers, who mostly work overnight, are embracing Western values. "Call centres have been a powerful catalyst for a blossoming youth culture in India by giving large numbers of young Indians the financial means to live away from the disapproving glares of their elders and to enjoy cafes, malls and bars that did not exist a generation ago," Allen reports. Their paychecks of up to 20,000 rupees ($450) a month are ten times higher than the national average monthly salary. An estimated 415,000 people work in call centers outsourced to India from the West, handling everything from utility payments to credit card bills.

Allen visited call centers where employees worked to "headbanger" rock music. He wrote, "Exact numbers are hard to get, but chats with call centre workers suggest a small minority swallow illegal Ecstasy pills and go out raving. Smoking cannabis during cigarette breaks is fairly common among male employees. And, naturally, not everyone believes that abstaining from premarital sex is sacrosanct."

ATF CHIEF RESIGNS AMID ETHICS INVESTIGATION
The former chief of our goofy agency Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which regulates two of the world's most dangerous drugs along with guns and bombs, was blasted in a 157-page DOJ report in October. Dan Eggen of the Washington Post writes that Carl Truscott, who previously served as head of President Bush's security detail at the Secret Service as well as the ATF, authorized hundreds of thousands of dollars of questionable expenditures on a new ATF headquarters, personal security and other items, and violated ethics rules by ordering 20 employees to help his nephew prepare a high school video project. Truscott also took several questionable trips with excessive numbers of ATF agents, including a $37,000 journey to London in September 2005 accompanied by eight other ATF employees, according to the report. He also ordered two female administrative staffers to prepare meals for visiting guests and required one to announce, "Lunch is served."

These and other findings by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine followed Truscott's abrupt resignation in August amid growing questions about his conduct. Fine concluded Truscott frequently broke regulations or exercised poor judgment in making decisions that had a serious impact on the ATF's operational budget, at a time when the agency was considering cutbacks in vehicles, bulletproof vests and other basics. In a Sept. 25 letter, Truscott disputed the findings in the report.

STUDIES SAY POT HELPS COCAINE ADDICTS; LSD DOES SAME FOR ALCOHOLICS
Cocaine dependent patients are more likely to complete drug treatment if they use cannabis intermittently, according to clinical trial data published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. (Source: www.norml.org; "Concurrent cannabis use during treatment for comorbid ADHD and cocaine dependence: Effects on outcome.")

A separate follow-up study conducted 40 years after alcoholics were given a single dose of LSD shows "dramatic" results. Erika Dyck, professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Alberta, said: "The LSD somehow gave these people experiences that psychologically took them outside of themselves and allowed them to see their own unhealthy behaviour more objectively, and then determine to change it.... I was surprised at ... how powerful they said the experience was for them - some even felt the experience saved their lives." The research was carried out in Saskatchewan where Humphry Osmond and his fellow British psychiatrist John Smythies. In one study, two-thirds of the alcoholics stopped drinking for at least 18 months after receiving one dose of LSD, compared to 25 per cent who stopped after group therapy and 12 per cent after individual therapy.

US CRIMINAL JUSTICE POPULATION TOPS SEVEN MILLION
A record seven million citizens, approximately one out of every 32 American adults, is either incarcerated, on probation, or on parole, according to statistics released by the US Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 2.2 million Americans are behind bars and more than 4.1 million Americans are on probation. Nearly 800,000 citizens are on parole.

The report states that the incarceration of drug offenders is primarily responsible for the record growth of America's prison population, noting that from 1995 to 2003, federal drug inmates accounted for almost 50 percent of the total federal prison population growth. Drug offenders also represent the largest source of jail population growth, up nearly 40 percent since 1996. Among state prisoners, approximately 21 percent are behind bars for drug violations. In October, the BJS released data indicating that nearly one in eight drug prisoners in America are behind bars for marijuana-related offenses. See http://www.norml.org//index.cfm?Group_ID=7071

SOLDIERS IN IRAQ AT RISK FOR DRUG ABUSE
A December 3 article in the Philadelphia Inquierer by Anne Usher says that US soldiers in Iraq are using anything they can get their hands on to deal with stress, including alcohol, hashish, pills, Listerine, and Dust-Off (canned compressed air used to clean computers). Prescription medications are generously handed out by medics, soldiers reported.
"It's out there, without a doubt," said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Wood, the senior enlisted man in Afghanistan.

Officially, only 1.8 percent of military personnel are reported to have used marijuana, compared with an estimated 16 percent of civilian American men ages 18 to 25. But veterans' support groups report that thousands of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are seeking treatment for substance abuse, and that repeated deployments are taking a toll.

The military's zero-tolerance policy means soldiers who abuse drugs or alcohol tend to do it in solitude. "Guys try to lock themselves in a room or a port-a-potty, or they'll hide it in regular rolled cigarettes laced with opium," said former Army sniper Garett Reppenhagen, 31, who served in Iraq through May 2004 with the 263d Armored Battalion of the First Armored Division.

At the peak of drug use near the end of the Vietnam War only 10 percent of soldiers were seeing combat, in contrast with the violence experienced by nearly all soldiers in Iraq. Soldiers in Vietnam also had in-country R&R in Saigon.

HOME DELIVERY THRIVES IN NYC
A November 7 AP story by Tom Hays reports that an untold number of otherwise law-abiding professionals in New York are still having their pot delivered to their homes, despite a high-profile bust of the Cartoon Network delivery business last year. "It's certainly been the trend in the past 10 years in urban areas that are becoming gentrified," said Ric Curtis, an anthropology professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who specializes in the drug culture. Customers pay up to $60 for two grams of home-delivered marijuana. Authorities conceded the home delivery trade will probably survive because of the high demand for pot.

POTHEAD ROYAL WEDS AT VATICAN
The November marriage of Lord Nicholas Windsor, 36, youngest child of the Duke and Duchess of Kent, to Paola Doimi de Frankopan, 37, is thought to be the first British royal marriage to take place at the Vatican since the Reformation. Apparently Windsor was an early rebel: at the age of 18, he was "cautioned" for possessing cannabis after being searched by police in St James's Park, just outside Buckingham Palace.

NEW RULES IN PAPERBACK, ON WEB
Just in time for Christmas, Bill Maher's New Rules is available in paperback. Transcripts of the latest Rules can be found at: http://www.hbo.com/billmaher/new_rules/20060922.html

10/05/06 - VIP OF THE MONTH: WILLIE NELSON
VIP Willie Nelson, the iconic singer/songwriter who was chosen to sing "God Bless America" at the post-9/11 concert, is currently on the "Warped Tour" in a biodeisel bus running on his own brand of BioWillie fuel. The Farm Aid co-founder is touring with CSNY, Pearl Jam, Bonnie Raitt, Bon Jovi, and Dave Matthews in 50 buses and 18 trucks.

Seems that good news has been somewhat overshadowed by the silly news that on September 18 Willie's bus was stopped by police in Louisiana who found 1 1/2 lbs of pot and 2/10 of a pound of mushrooms. Since all five of the bus's occupants claimed ownership of the "drugs," all were charged with misdemeanors and sent on their way.

The road stop was probably random, although one wonders whether Nelson's support of pro-legalization Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Freidman and California Lt. Gov. candidate/medical marijuana activist Lynnette Shaw may have been motivating factors. Freidman told a University of Houston audience he'd spoken to Willie, who said "Thank goodness they only found a bag of pot. If it had been spinach, I'd be dead." (BTW, it turns out the E. coli bacteria in that tainted organic spinach originated in grain fed beef, the real culprit.)

HYPOCRITE OF THE MONTH: ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER
On September 30, former pot smoker VIP Arnold Schwarznegger, shown here smoking hemp at the end of his 1975 film "Pumping Iron," vetoed legislation that would have made the cultivation of cannabis hemp with a miniscule amount of THC legal in California for industrial purposes, writing in his veto message of the "needs in this state for the eradication and prevention of drug production."

In the excellent film "a/k/a Tommy Chong," praised by filmmaker Michael Moore and attorney Alan Dershowitz, Chong's weightlifting guru revealed that in the good old days he used to smoke with both Chong and Schwarzenegger. Hey, let's run Tommy Chong as a write-in candidate for California's governor this November. His bumper sticker: Can't We All Just Get a Bong?

EVO MORALES TO UN: "GREEN IS GOOD"
Two days after Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez's "el Diablo" speech at the UN, Bolivian president Evo Morales held up a coca leaf during his September 19 UN speech. "Coca leaves are not cocaine. Coca leaves are green and cocaine is white," Morales said. "Here in the United States when people meet they share coffee; at home in the Andes highlands is coca tea," he added. "Coca, which grows extensively in Bolivia and Peru, is deeply ingrained in indigenous culture and is used to mitigate hunger, to counterbalance effects of altitude, as medicine and in ritual burials. (He also told Amy Goodman of Democracy Now it is a part of ceremonial betrothals.)

The Bolivian president recalled that the higher priests of the Catholic Church use to celebrate mass with Mariani wine and now "Coca Cola has surpassed Mariani wine." (The wine formulated by Italian chemist Angelo Mariani was an energizing alcoholic drink made out of wine and macerated coca leaves, and fancied by Ulysses S. Grant, six presidents of France, a president of Argentina, royalty throughout Europe and Asia, and three popes, as well as Frederic Bartholdi, the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty.)

"They've preached all over the world that coca is cocaine, and it's not. They've satanized a Basic ingredient of our culture," Morales said. "They've spent millions in eradication and fumigation, and what have they achieved? Nothing."He criticized the US's "certification" system, denying poor countries aid unless they signed on to the drug war, as "humiliating" and said if there was to be a certification system, it should be done by the UN and not the US. "Certification must not become a re-colonization instrument of our peoples," Morales said.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Christy McCampbell said she had "very serious concerns" about Morales' coca policy and said that the U.S. would review Bolivia's drug policies again in six months' time. Without significant change in the Morales' program, Bolivia could face decertification - the loss of some $100 million in U.S. government aid in the fight against narco-trafficking.

Meanwhile, Bill Weinberg of Indian County Today reports that on the day before his speech Morales met with tribal leaders, including Alex White Plume, tribal chairman and a traditional leader of the Oglala Lakota Nation at Pine Ridge. White Plume has lead his tribe's attempts to grow hemp at Pine Ridge since 2000. The group unanimously agreed to petition the Vatican to rescind the Papal Bull of 1493 which declaring native peoples as heathen and savages and on the 20-year effort for a UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, see www.ailanyc.org. It is facing strong opposition from the United States, Canada and Australia.

Pro-Pot Mexican Nader Costs Obrador Election?
In his August 16 article "Down and Delirious in Mexico City," LA Weekly writer Daniel Hernandez reveals that Patricia Mercado, a socialist feminist who ran for president of Mexico on a platform to legalize marijuana and increase rights for Mexico's gays and indigenous Indians, won more than 2 million votes from López Obrador, who "lost" the race by less than 244,000 votes.

Mercado attended a May rally in Mexico City held after president Vicente Fox vetoed a drug decriminalization bill (see VIP Blog 5/1 MEXICO SAYS SI! TO DRUGS; US SAYS NADA). "Decriminalization does not create more users . . . we have to decriminalize the discussion of decriminalization," she said. Mercado declined 500 puffing protesters' invitation to "Light up! Light up!" at the rally. Earlier, she told reporters she had tried smoking pot one time and fell asleep. She said she did not like it and never did it again.

While Obrador alienated some liberals by refusing to take a stand on abortion and gay marriage, calling for a public referendum instead, Mercado stood for abortion rights and took Catholic bishops who distributed pamphlets against her campaign to court.

"Yeah, sure, she's the Ralph Nader," said Francisco Goldman of the artsy/liberal Condesa district of Mexico City, comparing Mexico's election to the 2000 U.S. presidential election, when Green Party candidate Nader took votes from VIP Al Gore. While the poor voted for Obrador, the liberal elite liked Mercado, according to the article, and would have cast more votes for her if it hadn't meant a vote for Calderón.

During the 2000 campaign, I attended a party for Nader at Tony Serra's San Francisco law office, where I asked Nader if he supported marijuana legalization. "Not legalization. Regulation," he said.

High Fashion Hemp
Hot new fashion house Proenza Schoulter made news in New York on Sept. 11 with its Spring 2007 runway collection of silk, cashmere, rubberized linen, and hemp.

FashionWire Daily, which wrote of Proenza Schouler's winning combination of "downtown cool and ladylike aesthetic" and their "steady advance into upper firmament of fashion," reported that seconds before their NYC show began, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher and Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham were ushered into the front row. "Fantastic," was Moore's view of the collection, while Beckham told FWD, "I loved it, these guys are so inventive."

In tones of teal, tea, olive and gray, the collection featured high-waisted "pencil minis," flared coats with elbow-length sleeves, and flared skirts, belted high. According to the ecogroovy http://fiftyrx3.blogspot.com/, dopey Simon Doonan of Barney's said on Full Frontal Fashion (of WE.tv) on 9/18, "if you get tired of it you can roll it up and smoke it." (If I had a joint for every person who asked me that when I told them I was wearing hemp, I could have the party of the century.)

Opponents of Russian Orthodox Culture Demand Legalization
Moscow, September 6, Interfax - Russian Radicals, a social movement that organized on Tuesday a rally against teaching Basic Orthodox Culture in schools, seeks legalization of marijuana. "The so-called light drugs should be legalized and put under the control of the state which should take this trade from the drug traffickers, get it out from the black market, that is, take the marijuana traffic from school toilets," Nikolay Khramov, secretary of the movement, said in a talk with an Interfax reporter during the rally. In his opinion, the so-called light drugs should be made subject to the same regulating norms as those existing today "for much more dangerous substances as compared to cannabis, such as vodka and tobacco." Commenting on the teaching of Basic Orthodox Culture in Russian schools, he stated that "religion in any of its form cannot be taught in public school or financed from public funds, whether federal or regional. It should be taught in private or church schools where parents are willing to pay for it."

DRINKING YOUR WAY TO SUCCESS
Drinkers of alcohol earn 10 to 14 percent more money at their jobs than nondrinkers and men who drink socially, visiting a bar at least once a month, bring home an additional 7 percent in pay, according to a new Reason Foundation report by economists Bethany Peters, Ph.D., and Edward Stringham, Ph.D. "Social drinking builds social capital," said Stringham, an economics professor at San Jose State University. "Social drinkers are networking, building relationships, and adding contacts to their Blackberries that result in bigger paychecks." The full report, Why Drinkers Earn More Money Than Nondrinkers, is available online at http://www.reason.org/pb44.pdf.

SMOKING YOUR WAY TO JAIL, OR HEALTH
Police arrested an estimated 786,545 persons for marijuana violations in 2005, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's annual Uniform Crime Report. The total is the highest ever recorded by the FBI, and comprised 42.6 percent of all drug arrests in the United States.

"These numbers belie the myth that police do not target and arrest minor marijuana offenders," said NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre, who noted that at current rates, a marijuana smoker is arrested every 40 seconds in America. Of those charged with marijuana violations, approximately 88 percent some 696,074 Americans were charged with possession only. In past years, roughly 30 percent of those arrested were age 19 or younger.

Annual marijuana arrests have more than doubled since the early 1990s. Over 8 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges in the past decade. During this same time, arrests for cocaine and heroin have declined sharply. The total number of marijuana arrests in the U.S. for 2005 far exceeded the total number of arrests in the U.S. for all violent crimes combined, including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Enforcing marijuana prohibition costs taxpayers between $10 billion and $12 billion annually. Some 94 million Americans acknowledge having used marijuana during their lives.

See NORML's report: "Crimes of Indiscretion: Marijuana Arrests in the United States,"

NORML's new report: "Emerging Clinical Applications For Cannabis & Cannabinoids: A Review of the Recent Scientific Literature, 2000 - 2006" reviews over 120+ recently published studies on the medical use of cannabis and cannabinoids for 15 specific disease indications, and argues that rather than only provide symptomatic relief, cannabinoids may moderate the progression of various life-threatening diseases, in particular autoimmune disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, as well as neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig's disease).

The 34 page report (which includes more than 150 citations to source material) covers fifteen specific disease indications:

Alzheimer's Disease
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Diabetes Mellitus
Dystonia
Fibromyalgia
Gastrointestinal Disorders
Gliomas
Hepatitis C
Hypertension
Incontinence
Osteoporosis
Pruritis
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Sleep Apnea
Tourette's Syndrome

Also, a new study from the University of California, San Francisco, just published in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, suggests that medical marijuana boosts the success of treatment for the hepatitis C virus (HCV). While extensive research has shown that marijuana can provide symptom relief, this is believed to be the first published study linking marijuana to improved cure rates for a life-threatening illness.

See: Sylvestre DL, Clements BJ and Malibu Y. Cannabis use improves retention and virological outcomes in patients treated for hepatitis C. European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 2006, 18:1057-1063. Fischer B et al. Treatment for hepatitis C virus and cannabis use in illicit drug user patients: implications and questions. European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 2006, 18:1039-1042.

8/31/06 - COLORADO MARIJUANA FARMER KILLED IN TASER BLAST
According information released so far, undercover police spotted 22-year-old Ryan Wilson near a small patch of marijuana plants on August 4. He ran. A Lafayette, CO police officer caught up and discharged an X26 Taser. Ryan immediately began convulsing and died within an hour. He was the fifth person to die in Colorado following a Taser blast since 2002. See http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/speak_out/article/0,2777,DRMN_23970_4928089,00.html

On August 16, the Colorado Secretary of State's office announced that a statewide initiative that seeks to eliminate all criminal and civil penalties for the possession of cannabis by adults has been certified to appear on the November 2006 ballot. Sponsored by Safer Alternatives For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), the measure would amend state statutes to make the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis legal in Colorado for those age 21 or older. Last year, voters in Denver passed a similar municipal initiative by 54 percent. For more information, visit: http://www.saferchoice.org. To listen to an interview with SAFER's Mason Tvert, please download the August 14, 2006 edition of the NORML Audiostash.

WHO LET THE DOG BACK IN?
Jim Hightower, the conscience of America, highlighted an August 12 Washington Post article "Ashcroft Finds Private Sector Niche" on his daily radio commentary last week. "Mad Dog" John Ashcroft, Bush's former attorney general (and medical marijuana hater), "maniacally pushed for greater surveillance of the American people, demanding fat budgets and high-tech monitoring programs for federal intelligence operatives," says Hightower. Now Ashcroft is cashing in on the "Security-Industrial Complex" he helped create. After leaving the AG's office last year, Ashcroft moved just six blocks away to lobby for "high-tech corporations eager to sell spy goodies to the feds." ChoicePoint Inc., the firm exposed by journalist Greg Palast that collects and sells private data and monkeys in elections, came right out and said it hired Ashcroft because he can connect them with "the right people within the agencies." Hightower also clued me in to the latest monthly price tag of the Iraq war: $8 billion, vs. less than $1 billion on the "war on terror." If your station doesn't air Jim, demand they do!

NEW YORKER: CLUELESS AGAIN
Just as in its 6/26 review of a new Timothy Leary biography (see below), the New Yorker has again concluded that those who think taking psychedelics leads to a spiritual experience are only getting what they look for. In an August 21 review of VIP Walter Benjamin's "On Hashish," Adam Kirsch writes, "If Benjamin discovered a mystic language in his hashish trance, it is because he so fervently wanted to discover it." Benjamin's attempts to unite the right-brain sense of connection to the divine with the left brain's meager attempts to describe the experience in language are pooh-poohed by Kirsch, especially when hashish is used as a catalyst.

Benjamin theorizes that "God makes things knowable in their names," but discovers, "We stretch out our arms full of love, eager to embrace what we have in mind. Scarcely have we touched it, however, than it disilusions us completely. The object of our attention suddenly fades at the touch of language." Of Benjamin's initial description of his hashish experience, "Boundless goodwill. Falling away of neurotic-obsessive anxiety complexes," Kirsch summarizes, "He felt mellow." He blasts Benjamin's interpretation of Marcel Proust for lacking the usual earmarks of literary criticism: biographical background, information about plot and character, and (yawn) literary-historical comparisons. Instead, Benjamin dares to describe the experience of reading Proust, presenting him as "a collector of charged images, momentary glimpses that open up passages to the buried life." Sounds like an accurate description of Proust to me.

In his last major essay, "Theses on the Philosopy of History, (1940)" Benjamin concludes that even in our darkest hour every second is "the small gateway in time through which the Messiah might enter." The New Yorker intones, however, that Benjamin's vision "is a poem of a longing that no world, and Benjamin's least of all, could possibly satisfy." I would substitute, "the New Yorker's least of all."

(By the way, in his monumental novel, ň la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time, aka Remembrance of Things Past), Proust writes of various qualities of sleep, mentioning those of datura, belladona, opium, valerian and "chanvre indien" (indian hemp).

ANNIVERSARIES
Fifty years ago, on August 29, 1956, Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, took LSD (then legal) under a doctor's supervision. He enthusiastically explored LSD's clinical use to treat alcoholism until the organization he founded objected. Wilson was dosed with the hallucinogen belladona at Towns Hospital in 1933, leading to the revelation that enabled him to quit drinking. In his autobiography "Pass It On," Wilson's description of the experience sounds psychedelic: "Suddenly, my room blazed with an indescribably white light. I was seized with an ecstasy beyond description."

On the evening of August 31, 1948, actor Robert Mitchum was arrested for marijuana in Los Angeles. Read about VIP Mitchum.

EMPTY-V
Even with Jack Black as host, I couldn't stand to watch much of the hugely overblown MTV awards ceremony on August 31, where the most biting social commentary was Pink's "Stupid Girls" video and the once (briefly) political Kanye West appeared in a YSL T-shirt to praise a video "filmmaker" whose art told West "what shoes to buy." But I did catch VIP Sarah Silverman demonstrating the true danger of pot smoking: instead of working, you might end up building a human pyramid with five semi-nude guys. Horrors!

MAHER-I-JUANA
The August 10 Rolling Stone issue with the marijuana-like scent strip advertising the return of Showtime's Weeds (see below) also treated readers to a profile of VIP Bill Maher that began at a head shop in Venice, CA. Bill looked at a vaporizer, and mentioned he'd given a Volcano to an unnamed studio exec with respiratory problems, before settling on an assortment of pipes. It was revealed in the interview that Maher has eight file cabinets at his home and works into the wee hours of the morning writing, more evidence pot smoking doesn't halt productivity.

Real Time, Maher's HBO show, was back on August 25 and during the New Rules segment he asked, although airport "security" still hasn't figured out how to check for liquid explosives, "just tell me where I can hide my weed. Because I used to put it in my hair gel." If this is a hint of the season to come, it seems the lid's off for another great season. What other show but Real Time could go so far as to joke that Pluto being downgraded to a nonplanet may be a Republican redistricting ploy?

HUFF AWARDED, CANCELLED
Blythe Danner, in accepting an Emmy for her work on Huff, said, "I guess I have to thank Showtime, even though they cancelled us." Rather than support this truly intelligent show with a pot-smoking protagonist, Showtime has put its money behind Weeds, with its ditsy, promiscuous, poor-parenting, pot-dealing lead character. But she's OK, I guess, because she doesn't actually smoke pot. Only in America. Danner will return to the Off-Broadway stage in the Roundabout Theatre Company's production of the Tennessee Williams play "Suddenly, Last Summer." Like we need another one of those.

KATE AND CHRIS CALL IT QUITS?
It seems the six-year marriage between Kate Hudson and Chris Robinson of the pot-loving Black Crowes is about to end. According to People magazine, Hudson told Barbara Walters that she had given up smoking pot but that her husband "continued to indulge." Real life on the road also didn't appeal to Hudson, who hit the big time playing a rock-and-roll groupie in "Almost Famous." A scan of the tabloid section reveals that Hudson and "Me and Dupree" co-star Owen Wilson may be an item.

We're not too worried about Robinson finding female companionship. He once appeared on Howard Stern's talk show with a British model/girlfriend in tow, who Howard was fawning over (as he does). He asked her, "What do you see in this guy [Robinson]?" She leaned into the mike and said in a crisp, clear voice, "He had the best marijuana I'd ever smoked." "Nothing's changed!" pronounced Stern.

THIS IS YOUR SUMMER CAMP ON DRUGS
The New York Times reported on July 16 that summer camp counselors are busy dispensing pharmaceuticals to their campers, causing Arianna Huffington to rewrite Alan Sherman's "Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda" this way:

Hello Druggist, Hello MD,
Here I am at Camp Poison Ivy
Camp is very amusin',
And they say we'll all have fun if we take our Wellbutrin.

Huffington writes that according to one trade group representing 2,600 camps and 3 million campers, roughly a quarter of the kids at its camps are taking regular doses of psychopharmacologic drugs such as Ritalin, Concerta, and Straterra (ADD/ADHD), Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft (anxiety and depression), and Clonidine, Lexapro, and Risperdal (mood disorders).

Also see Huffington's Will the Karr Debacle Lead the Media Addicts to Rehab? Don't Count on It

THESE ARE YOUR COLLEGE KIDS ON DRUGS
A study published in February in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that in 2002, more than 7 million Americans used bootleg prescription stimulants, and 1.6 million of those users were of student age.

Total sales of so-called "smart drugs" have increased by more than 300 percent in only four years, topping $3.6 billion last year, according to IMS Health, a pharmaceutical information company. They include Adderall, which was originally aimed at people with attention-deficit disorder, and Provigil, which was aimed at narcoleptics, who fall asleep uncontrollably. Adderall sales are up 3,135.6 percent over the same period. Provigil is up 359.7 percent.

Washington Post reporter Joel Garreau, in a June 11 story on the subject, said the drugs can be purchased on many campuses for as little as $3 to $5 per pill, though they are often obtained free from friends with legitimate prescriptions. They are used to give grades a boost in today's highly competitive student environment.

Such brand-name prescription drugs "were around in high school, but they really exploded in my third and fourth years" of college, says Katie Garrett, a 2005 University of Virginia graduate. "I'm a varsity athlete in crew," says Katharine Malone, a George Washington University junior. "So we're pretty careful about what we put in our bodies. So among my personal friends, I'd say the use is only like 50 or 60 percent."

The annual Partnership for a Drug-Free America attitude-tracking study issued in may reported that among kids of middle school and high school age, 2.25 million are using stimulants such as Ritalin without a prescription. That's about one in 10 of the 22 million students in those grades. In another study of college students, almost 90 percent of business majors reported at least occasional use of "smart pills" at crunch times such as final exams. Garreau warns Strattera can result in fatal liver failure and may increase thoughts of suicide in young people. For a while last year, Canada pulled a form of Adderall from its markets as a result of sudden unexplained deaths in children with cardiac abnormalities. Provigil can decrease the effectiveness of birth control.

Garreau interviewed Eric R. Kandel, who shared the 2000 Nobel Prize in medicine for shis research on the physiological basis of memory storage in neurons. Kandel was appalled that healthy college kids were taking the kinds of drugs he was developing. "This is just like Barry Bonds and steroids. Exactly what you want to discourage," Kandel said.

COURT NEWS
Danuel and Mary Quaintance of Pima, AZ got their three days in federal court on August 21-23 in Albuquerque to present a spiritual defense to marijuana charges (see below). According to Scott Sandlin of the Arizona journal, U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera heard testimony from a Berkeley-trained anthropologist, a Zoroastrian priest and the Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate in Arizona, who is the former sheriff in the county where the Quaintances live and is also a Mormon.

Deborah Pruitt, a cultural anthropologist and college professor in Oakland, Calif., who conducted doctoral work with Rastafarians in Jamaica, testified as the defense expert. She distinguished "experiential" religions from faith-based religions that rely on institutionalized doctrine passed down through specialists. Christian pentecostals, Sufi trance dancers as well as participants in the peyote rituals of the Native American Church or UDV members share characteristics of religions that rely on direct experience to make contact with spirits or deities, she said. The use of psychoactive substances in religion is not unusual in regions of the world where they occur, she said. In those religions, the plants are typically referred to as teachers and healers.

Marc Robert, attorney for Danuel Quaintance, will make the case that Quaintance is "a spiritual man who has followed his religious beliefs and practices at great personal risk." Danuel Quaintance founded the Church of Cognizance in 1991 and registered it as a religious organization in Arizona in 1994. Herrera said she would accept written arguments before deciding whether to dismiss charges. If she finds that the Quaintances are sincere religious practitioners, prosecutors will be required to show that there is "compelling government interest" in burdening religion by barring use of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. The Quaintances are free on bond and conditions that include not using cannabis while the case is pending. (Dan Quaintance told me they could have continued to use cannabis had they been able to pay a higher bond.)

Meanwhile, Nashville songwriter Hal Bynum, 71, and his wife Jan were in court on August 16 to face charges of growing 250 marijuana plants in their fittingly named Green Hills home (see below). Just days after their arrest in May, Jan Bynum, 48, said that the marijuana was being grown to help fund the Blue Scarf society, an anti-Islamic awareness group and part of The World Encounter Institute. Bynum's website says his book and music proceeds are donated to that non-profit corporation, which is "dedicated to defending the values of western civilization . . . and the defense of the Constitution of the United States of America." A photo on www.halbynum.com shows Hal and Rebecca Bynum at a G.W. Bush 2001 inaguaral ball.

In court, the Bynum's challenged the search of their garbage following an anonymous tip. The couple claimed the garbage cans were on their property, but police said it was on the street when they pawed through it, finding marijuana and mail with the Bynum's names. This scenerio is quite common in drug cases, and it seems the Bynums could direct their efforts toward defending our Constitution here at home. Judge Dan Eisenstein bound the case over to a grand jury for possible trial and the Bynums are free on bond.

(10/8/06 update - A previous report here that Jan Bynum's daughter was involved in a missing person's case was incorrect. Apparently that was another Jan Bynum. My apologies to both Bynum families.)

CHILD ACTORS ALL SMOKE POT
In a story that got 351 Google hits and lots of stupid jokes ("I see handcuffs"), Haley Joel Osment, who earned an Oscar nomination for seeing dead people in "The Sixth Sense" with Bruce Willis, was DUIed at twice the legal limit of blood alcohol plus pot in his car. Osment was charged on August 17 with misdemeanor DUI after he flipped his 1995 Saturn near Los Angeles last month. Osment, 18, suffered a broken rib and a shoulder injury in the 1 a.m. July 20 single-car crash. If convicted, he faces up to six months in county jail, but could also get probation. The real crime in Hollywood? Driving a 1995 Saturn.

MARIJUANA V. HEMP IN CALIFORNIA

While pro-low-THC hemp forces in California continue to press their case for a bill that will (possibly) legalize hemp in California, voters in Orange County will have a choice between pro-hemp Republican Chuck DeVore and pro-marijuana Democrat Michael Glover in November. DeVore is the hawkish, anti-immigrant Republican who joined San Francisco Mark Leno to co-sponsor hemp legislation in California that now sits on VIP Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk.

Challenging DeVore is Michael Glover, who pushed a bill through the Kansas House that would have applied a maximum $100 fine to the first two possessions of an ounce or less of marijuana twenty-nine years ago. During the legislative battle, Glover gave an interview in which he said he smoked marijuana regularly. It was like his cocktail, he said, adding that he knew of a dealer in Lawrence. The admission of illegality probably killed the bill, Glover says now. He issued a public apology on the floor of the House, but the attorney general, then Curt Schneider, launched an investigation into Glover, and the marijuana bill died in the Senate on a 17-19 vote.

Two years later, Glover left the Legislature to start practicing law, including stints as a prosecutor and assistant city attorney in Lawrence. He moved to California about 20 years ago. Because California has term limits, Glover told the Lawrence Kansas Journal World he has more legislative experience than everyone serving in the Assembly. "Every issue you deal with in California, you have dealt with in Kansas," he said.

John Solbach, a Lawrence lawyer and former legislator who served with Glover, said Glover was an effective representative. "He was well-liked. He got along with people from both parties," Solbach said.

Glover said reducing marijuana penalties hasn't become an issue in his current campaign, but he still believes it is ridiculous to send people to jail for possession of small amounts of the drug in their homes. "We're still back in the Dark Ages when it comes to marijuana," he said.

8/16/06 - WEEDS GROWS AGAIN ON SHOWTIME
The Showtime series "Weeds" premiered its second season this week, and promotion for the event has been quite (cough, cough) creative. Ads on Showtime use the theme from the old Patty Duke Show, replacing "but they're cousins" with "but she's Nancy." A web banner ad on the LA Times website promised the show would "Put the herb in suburb." The network is also passing out "Weeds"-themed brownies at major transportation hubs and events in Los Angeles, New York and Boston. But the truly inspired promotion is the scent strip in the new Rolling Stone magazine that "communicates the spirit of the show."

According to a 8/6 NY Times article by Kyle Pope, Showtime is spending $1.6 million to produce each episode of "Weeds," about a dollar per viewer, and it's helping to grow the network. The show's single mom/pot dealer will face off with her DEA boyfriend in the new season, and we're hoping for the best. (Did you ever notice that the chords in the chorus of the Youngbloods song "Get Together" ("Come on people now, smile on each other, everybody get together, try to love one another right now") are D-E-A? And the verse is A-G.)

SILENT BOB SPEAKS
I kept wondering who was that fresh, funky and fully intelligent guy sitting in Roger Ebert's chair this weekend. Turns out it was none other than director Kevin Smith aka Silent Bob of the Bluntman and Chronic flicks. Both Smith and Roper called the movie "Half Nelson" a "masterpiece," do check it out. Of Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center" both said the only moment that was "Stonesque" was when someone hallucinated he saw Jesus with a waterbottle. Turns out that was a true story (and kind of "stonedesque" too).

TOMMY CHONG TALKS
Could you do book signings all week in California, jet to Detroit to appear in a play for the weekend, and still win at NPR's Wait, Wait Don't Tell me by phone on Thursday night? Neither could Tommy Chong, but he was damn funny. This guy gets so much press I even saw someone try to counter his (and thus, pot's) enduring popularity by writing that he was forgotten. I forgot who that was though (see, sometimes memory loss is a good thing.) Wait, Wait guest host Luke Burbank promoed Tommy's appearance at the top of the show, to warm applause from the audience. Burbank quipped that although Chong's appearance would be by telephone, there was at least a 50% chance they would get a contact high. (Try it yourself )

Upon introducing Chong for the "Not My Job" segment that usually features people like newscaster Brian Williams, Burbank said, "No one's had more fun not having a job than our next guest...who once single-handedly kept the Dorito company in business." When asked how he'd ended up in prison, Chong replied, "just a stroke of luck." Of prison, he said he was 66 when incarcerated and "needed the rest." Noting that there were a lot of Republicans inside, he said that the guards were admonished not to have their pictures taken with him.

When a panelist asked whether or not his prison time served as a deterrent to his behavior, Chong replied, "Oh yeah, the first thing I did was take my face off the bongs." Burbank asked whether his old albums were funny, or did they just seem so because everyone was high? Chong said that he couldn't answer, since he had never listened to them straight. Chong failed to win a Carl Kasell answering machine phone message for a woman in Riverside, California by guessing only one of three horrible things director M. Knight Shamalon did, according to a new book "The Man Who Heard Voices." Chong seemed genuinely surprised at the inhumanity of the correct answers, so arguably smoking the kind has made Tommy too kind.

BTW, Luke's relative(?) Luther Burbank, the celebrated botanist, wrote in 1914: [T]he hemp plant (Cannabis sativa)...is cultivated in this country exclusively for the fiber, its seed being almost altogether neglected. Yet the seed of this plant is prized in other countries for its oil, and its neglect here illustrates the principle of wasteful use of agricultural resources. See source.

NASCAR FLICK RACES TO A $37-MILLION OPENING WEEKEND
Best Larry King show ever: Will Farrell and John C. Reilly of "Talladega Nights" appearing in character on Saturday's show, describing how their fictional characters moved from shopping cart repo men to NASCAR drivers. To the question, "You guys are clean drivers?" Reilly replied, "I shower before every race." Right-wing evangelicals have already blasted this movie, so you know it's good. Recent History Channel shows have revealed that NASCAR grew out of the great tradition of moonshiners outrunning the law in the deep South.

One of the most celebrated was Robert Glenn "Junior" Johnson, a NASCAR champion credited with inventing the "bootleg turn," in which a whiskey hauler jammed the car into second gear and gave the steering wheel a mighty tug to the left. If successful, the car spun 180 degrees, stayed on the road, and charged off in the opposite direction. Johnson was arrested at his father's still in 1956 and served 11 months in prison, returning to racing and bootlegging afterwards. Tom Wolfe's essay "The Last American Hero Is Junior Johnson. Yes!," was published in the March 1965, Esquire magazine. See "Reflections on Automotive History" by Bill Vance.

According to a NASCAR press release, current NASCAR racer Jimmie Johnson got his first "acting" gig as an escaping rum runner in the 2004 super-flashy in-your-face film IMAX NASCAR 3-D.

RUSH LIMBAUGH IN TROUBLE AGAIN?
An American identified only as R.L. was jailed in Dubai and sentenced to four years in jail for possessing 17 grams of marijuana. A customs inspector at Dubai airport reportedly found two wrappers containing 8.55 grams of marijuana in R.L.'s left sock. Another 8.56 grams was found in his right sock. R.L. said it was for personal use.

IF YOU MUST KNOW, I DON'T SMOKE (NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT)
An August 6 New York Times article by Mireya Navarro, "If You Must Know, I'm Straight" says,

"To issue 'the denial' in 2006, do the following:
Step 1: State emphatically what it is you are not.
Step 2: Scoff at the rumor with good humor.
Step 3: Note, for the record, your true feelings about the rumor: not that there's anything wrong with that.
Or, skip steps 1 through 3 and opt for evasion with the nondenial denial: 'I don't want to talk about my private life.'"

Navarro is talking about the "Gay Rumor," which is becoming increasingly common. In addition to the perennial suspect Tom Cruise, actors like Jake Gyllenhaal and Marcia Cross of "Desperate Housewives" have had to assert their heterosexuality, Navarro reports, along with Oprah Winfrey, the "Superman Returns" star Brandon Routh and Michael Strahan, the New York Giants defensive end [whose wife made the accusation during divorce proceedings). When a conservative Christian leader deemed a children's video starring SpongeBob SquarePants pro-homosexual, Dan Martinsen, a spokesman for Nickelodeon, replied, "He's a sponge, for crying out loud."

"For every one coming out, we have five denials," said Michelangelo Signorile, the gay author and Sirius Satellite Radio talk show host famous for pioneering the outing of prominent people as homosexuals in the late 1980's. "The media is more willing to ask the question, because being gay has become a more publicly acknowledged fact of life," said Larry Gross, director of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California and author of "Up From Invisibility: Lesbians, Gay Men and the Media in America" (2001, Columbia University Press).

"At least there's no longer the presumption that everyone is straight," said Laura Grindstaff, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Davis. After his recent drunken-driving arrest and anti-Semitic outburst in Malibu, entertainment journalists dredged up other controversial remarks of his, including the following quote from a 1992 interview with the Spanish newspaper "El Pais." "Do I sound like a homosexual? Do I talk like them? Do I move like them? I think not." Wrong approach, said Neil G. Giuliano, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or Glaad. "Building ourselves up by putting another class of people down is never a good thing."

[Now read this story again, substituting the Marijuana Rumor for the Gay one.]

OF HEZBOLLAH AND HASH
An August 6 article by Tyler Hicks in The New York Times was accompanied by a photo of Hezbollah supporter Haider Fayadh smoking a waterpipe. Hezbollah members are "invisible but omnipresent, providing essential services that the Lebanese government through years of war was incapable of offering," Hicks writes. "They cover medical bills, offer health insurance, pay school fees and make seed money available for small businesses." Hezbollah's help for Mr. Fayadh came in the form of a canceled electricity bill. Some months ago, a bill amounting to thousands of dollars came for his cafe. He could not pay it. "Hezbollah intervened for me to get the price down," he said. "They said, 'This is insulting for the people.' " The bill came from Beirut.

"The deep attachment to Hezbollah here has its roots in recent Lebanese history," wrote Hicks. "In the Israeli invasion in 1982, Shiites across the south welcomed the Israelis, because they had come to fight the Palestinians, who had made their lives difficult for years. But as the occupation dragged on, Israelis came to be hated by the Shiites here, a feeling that is now passed on to small children growing up in the Lebanese south." The area being pounded with artillery a week ago was the Bekaa valley, once the home of Lebanese hash. I don't condone violence and support the UN ceasefire, but I'm not so sure I accept the "drugrunners = terrorists" equation I often read. In fact, it's possible the crusade-like war on drugs and the actual crusades are linked.

According to Ernest Abel in Marijuana: The First 12,000 Years, cannabis has been popular in the Arab world for centuries because it is able to thrive in hot climates. Haydar, the Persian founder of the Sufis, reportedly discovered hashish in 1155 A.D. and made his disciples promise under oath not to reveal the secret plant to anyone but Sufis (the poor, who wore wool or Suf instead of cotton.) Abel calls the Sufis the Hippies of the Arab world. "The Sufis rankled the religious establishment because their mystical philosophy taught that divine truth and communion with God had to be experienced directly. One of the means by which the Sufi achieved this communion was to partake hashish as an act of worship. As with the hippies in the 1960s, the Sufis were 'dropouts' who rejected the dominant economic system in favor of communal living and sharing of material goods." See more on marijuana and Muslims and read about VIP Sir Richard Francis Burton, one of the first Europeans to travel to Mecca.

7/28/06 - Quote of the Month:
"News is not meant to be thrown about like dung-cakes, but used sparingly -- like bhang." --Rudyard Kipling, from Kim

HEMP IS HAPPENING
In 2007, California farmers could be the first American farmers in 50 years to grow industrial hemp under state law. If AB 1147, the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act, becomes law this year, the dream will become a reality. We're in the home stretch! AB 1147 has successfully made it through the general Assembly and a series of tough committee hearings. Between now and the end of August, AB 1147 will see votes on both the Senate and Assembly floors. If it passes both, Governor Schwarzenegger will then have until September 30 to seal the deal with his signature. Take action

ARIZONANS FIGHT FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
According to a July 9 article in the Arizona Star, the Pima, AZ-based Church of Cognizance, which has quietly used cannabis as its sacrament since 1991, has drawn the attention of federal authorities. Church founders Dan and Mary Quaintance, who say they smoked, ate or drank marijuana daily as a way of becoming more spiritually enlightened, have been charged with possessing 172 pounds of "their leafy green sacrament." With added conspiracy charges, the Quaintances face up to 40 years each in prison in a case they call religious persecution. The couple was scheduled to go on trial in Las Cruces, N.M., on July 18, but defense lawyers asked for a delay.

"They have a bona fide religion and the only marijuana they utilize is for the practice of their religion," said Mary Quaintance's attorney, Mario A. Esparza. "Our Constitution in the United States guarantees that freedom of religion, and the Quaintances are being punished for the very thing the Constitution stands for. They did not distribute to anyone outside of the church and they never profited from it.

The Church of Cognizance, which leaders say has 72 monasteries located in members' homes nationwide, has a simple motto: "With good thoughts, good words and good deeds, we honor marijuana; as the teacher, the provider, the protector."

"It makes you better at what you do, enhances who you are. It is the most beautiful plant on Earth," said Mary Quaintance, 51, a homemaker from Northern California who married Dan in 1973, when she was 18. They met while Mary worked as nurse's aide in Chico, California, and rented a room from Dan's parents. Dan Quaintance, who grew up in the United Methodist faith and once was president of his church youth group, says finding marijuana helped him finish high school, later kick a heroin addiction and get through acute pancreatitis.

The Quaintances were arrested Feb. 22 in Lordsburg, N.M., just seven days before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a small religious group based in Santa Fe that combines Christianity and American Indian practices could use hallucinogenic tea in its ceremonies. The tea, called hoasca, contains dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, known for its hallucinogenic properties. A variety of religious groups representing millions of members filed briefs supporting O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal, or UDV, and its use of hoasca -- among them the Arizona Civil Liberties Union, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals and the Union for Reform Judaism. Some supporters likened banning the tea to a federal ban on sacramental wine. The U.S. Constitution contains no legally recognizable definition of religion, but courts still can apply a test of sincerity, said Jeremy Gunn, director of the Freedom of Religion and Belief program for the American Civil Liberties Union, which supported the UDV church.

Graham County Sheriff Frank Hughes says that in his 10 years on the job, he's never had a complaint about the Quaintances, who live in a small rectangular home in the sparsely populated rural community of Pima, about 90 miles northeast of Tucson. He filed a "declaration of religious sentiment" on behalf of the Church of Cognizance with the Graham County Recorder's Office in 1994, though Dan, his family and other members say the church dates to 1991. Services at the Church of Cognizance aren't scheduled. According to the Quaintances, members call the monasteries and arrange a worship time, which typically includes using marijuana and listening to sermons by fellow cognoscenti that talk about peaceful existence.

The complaint against the couple, which was amended, includes two other defendants -- Timothy Jason Kripner, 23, of Tucson and Joseph Allen Butts, 48, of California. The revised complaint raised the stakes in the case, adding conspiracy charges and more than 220 pounds of marijuana. Dan Quaintance says Kripner and Butts are both certified couriers for the church.

In a bizarre development, Rustom Kevala, the president of the Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America, was so deeply offended by the Quaintances' claims that he contacted the U.S. District Attorney's Office in New Mexico to see if he can help in the case. Dan Quaintance told a Courier reporter earlier this month he looked into the history of the marijuana plant, which he refers to as haoma. "Archaeology has shown a correlation between cannabis and the Tree of Life in the Bible," Quaintance said. Kevala said, "There is absolutely no factual evidence that haoma plant belonged to genus Canna (Cannabis). It is pure speculation." There are about 20,000 Zoroastrians living in North America today, Kevala said, and while he said there are some who believe the biblical Tree of Life may be herbs growing in the Himalayas, there has never been the belief that the herbs are marijuana.

RESEARCHERS FIND MUSHROOMS MAGIC

Excerpted from an article by Ron Winslow ron.winslow@wsj.com

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University found that psilocybin, a substance in certain mushrooms, induced powerful, mind-altering experiences among a group of well-educated, middle-age men and women. In the carefully controlled study, mushroom episodes generally led to positive changes in attitude and behavior among the 36 volunteer participants and that the changes appeared to last at least two months.

Participants cited feelings of intense joy, "distance from ordinary reality," and feelings of peace and harmony after taking the drug. Two-thirds described the effects psilocybin as among the five most meaningful experiences of their lives. But in 30% of the cases, the drug provoked harrowing experiences dominated by fear and paranoia. While these episodes were managed by trained monitors at the sessions where the drugs were taken, researchers cautioned that in less-controlled settings, such responses could trigger panic or other reactions that might put people in danger.

A report on the study, among the first to systematically assess the effects of hallucinogenic substances in 40 years, was published online on July 11 by the journal Psychopharmacology. An accompanying editorial and commentaries from three prominent neuroscientists and a psychiatrist praise the study and argue that further research into such agents has the potential to unlock secrets of consciousness and lead to new therapeutic strategies for depression, addiction and other ailments.

In one of the commentaries, Charles R. Schuster, a neuroscientist and former head of the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA), called the report a "landmark paper." He also expressed hope that it "renews interest in a fascinating and potentially useful class of psychotropic agents." NIDA, which co-sponsored the study as part of its support for research into drugs of abuse, also warned against eating psilocybin mushrooms. They "act on serotonin receptors in the brain to profoundly distort a person's perception of reality," the institute said, possibly triggering psychosis, paranoia and anxiety.

One of the last influential studies on the subject was the Good Friday Experiment in 1962 in which 20 [Harvard] seminary students were given either psilocybin or nicotinic acid during a religious service. The 10 who got psilocybin reported intense spiritual experiences with positive benefits; one follow-up study suggested those effects lasted 25 years. See: http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB115258280486902994-lMyQjAxMDE2NTEyMTUx ODEyWj.html

FRENCH SAY "NON!" TO JOINT CONTEST ENTRY
French police said on July 25 they had thwarted an attempt by a group of marijuana smokers to roll the world's longest joint by seizing a work-in-progress measuring 80cm in length. "At some point, these young people had wanted to craft a joint of 1.12m to beat the world record in the discipline and get it officially registered," said a police officer in eastern France. During an investigation targeting a group of four smokers in the eastern Vosges area of France, police discovered the giant joint containing 70g of marijuana resin. It had reportedly not been finished because of a lack of tobacco. One of the smokers of adult age is to appear before a court charged with drug use on Oct. 19.

LET'S START CALLING THEM "BELGIAN FRIES"
On July 27, Draw Up Your Plant, an association of cannabis consumers based in Antwerp, Belgium, requested the city of Antwerpen to allow the group a site for a cannabis plantation with one plant for each member, as is allowed by federal drug policy there. The group said it would keep local officials informed of its activities, and no trafficking would take place. Draw Up Your Plant said in a statement, "At least half a million people in Belgium live without legal security. They are forced to break the law to obtain cannabis for their personal consumption. They risk heavy penalties to maintain prohibited the use of a substance with which a large majority of them do not have major problems."

HATCH HELPS HIP HOPPER WITH DUBAI DRUG CHARGE

Senator Orrin Hatch, Lionel Richie, Quincy Jones and others teamed up to secure the July 4 release of music producer Dallas Austin, 35, who was imprisoned for nearly a month in Dubai on drug charges. Before he was pardoned, Austin was sentenced to four years in prison for carrying drugs with him when he entered the country on May 19 to attend a birthday celebration for model Naomi Campbell. Austin is a leading figure in the pop music world who has worked with artists including Gwen Stefani, Michael Jackson, Pink, TLC and Richie.

On July 1, Austin pleaded guilty to possessing 1.26 grams of cocaine and, by some reports, capsules of Ecstasy. A pardon by the ruler of Dubai, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, came four hours after the plea, but was not executed until after the sentencing a few days later.

Senator Hatch made numerous phone calls on Austin's behalf to the ambassador and consul of the United Arab Emirates embassy in Washington - Dubai is one of the seven emirates - and served as an intermediary for Austin's representatives, the producer's lawyers said. The senator declined to be interviewed or to confirm details of his efforts on Mr. Austin's behalf, but he issued a statement acknowledging his involvement and said he was asked by Austin's lawyers to help.

A spokesman for Mr. Hatch said that the senator was a proponent of rehabilitation for drug offenders, and that he had worked to revise federal sentencing guidelines regarding cocaine, and, through legislation in 2005, had advocated treatment for nonviolent offenders and the easing of restrictions on medication to treat heroin addiction.

Hatch, a semiprofessional songwriter, is influential in Dubai because of his support for the United Arab Emirates-based company DP World in the controversy earlier this year over its contract to manage important American ports. Richie reportedly enjoys a cult status throughout much of the Arab world and had performed twice this year in Dubai, where he has met various senior government officials.

The Dubai government gave no reason for the pardon. "In an issue like this it is not unusual," said Lt. General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, head of Dubai Police, who said he was speaking in general terms and could not discuss the case in detail. "It is preferable to me that a foreigner who is caught in something like this be returned home rather than be kept here in prison for four years, costing us lots of resources." Mr. Tamim noted, however, that Mr. Austin had technically been deported and would most likely not be allowed to return to Dubai.

WONDER-FUL FIREWORKS SHOW
On July 4, the Capital Concert in Washington DC sponsored by Lockheed Martin and aired on public television, featured Stevie Wonder playing "Superstition" and other tunes during the fireworks display.

Thirty-five years ago, on December 10, 1971, Wonder performed at the John Sinclair Freedom Rally in Ann Arbor, MI. Also on the bill, in his first American performance since the break up of the Beatles, was VIP John Lennon with Yoko Ono. The Michigan native Wonder, then aged 21, came on at 2:30 AM and said, "This is to any undercover agents in the crowd" and played "Somebody's Watching You." Two days later, an appellate court freed Sinclair, a Michigan pro-pot activist who was sentenced to 12 1/2 years for possession of a single marijuana joint. Later a FOIA investigation revealed FBI agents were taking down every word.

Source: Stand and Be Counted by David Crosby and David Bender

PSEUDO SPORTS NEWS
Two professional wrestlers, Rob Szatowski (aka Rob Van Dam or RVD) and Terry Brunk (aka Sabu) have been arrested for pot and prescription painkillers, jeopardizing their careers just when RVD is vying for the VVWE title.

According to The Torch (www.pwtorch.com), although marijuana is not screened for as part of WWE's random drug testing, it is on the banned substance list. The official WWE policy states that alcohol and marijuana will be tested only if "reasonable cause" exists to do so. Reasonable causes, according to the WWE, include red or droopy eyes, slurred speech, stumbling, hyperactivity, repeated disappearances at events, tardiness, chronic forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, mental confusion, paranoia, presence of abnormal thoughts or ideas, violent tendencies (HA!), extreme mood swings, deteriorating personal hygiene, or being turned in by another wrestler (hmm...). WWE reserves the right to dismiss any "Talent" who is arrested or convicted of a drug crime, but dismissal is not required.

A July 4 Torch guest editorial by Randy Rowles of DuBois, Pa points out that RVD and Sabu were merely in possession of pot and other painkillers, and their job requires the ability to endure pain. Rowles says marijuana use is part of RVD's character: "WWE sells RVD as a character who has made reference to marijuana use, and with the transition to ECW, RVD's scripted promos have almost all included reference to marijuana use. Now, could the WWE possibly fire Rob Szatowski for possession of marijuana? Could you even imagine Tommy Chong getting fired from a stoner comedy because he got arrested in real life for possession of marijuana?"

PAINTER PLEAS
Christopher Seekings, 26, the Winsted CT man who painted hemp leaves on his High Street house to protest a pot cultivation charge, made a plea agreement that includes painting his house to remove the offending leaves on June 30. Seekins represented himself in court, maintaining the plants police found at his house were for research. He accepted a plea deal that carried a suspended two-year jail sentence and three years of probation, pleading guilty to one count of cultivating marijuana. Bantam Superior Court Judge Heidi G. Winslow ordered the contraband police found in his house to be destroyed including he plants, a variety of smoking pipes, rolling papers and marijuana seedlings.

WHERE IS THE WAR ON OBESITY?
The first major study to look at an association between obesity and psychiatric conditions has found a definite link. A study involving 9000 people found people who are obese have a 25% higher risk of developing disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder and panic disorder. Researchers from Group Health Center for Health Studies found that the link is strongest among Caucasians, people with more education and those with higher incomes - the risk there is 44% higher, when compared to people of normal weight. The study has been published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, July issue.

Whether obesity is the cause or the result of the disorders was not determined, but researchers speculate it works both ways. It was also found that obese people are 25% less likely to have a substance abuse disorder at some time during their lives when compared to people of normal weight. The average American has a 30% chance of being obese, and a depressed person has a 40% chance, researchers said. About 20% of US people suffer from depression at some time in their lives, and the figure is 28% for obese people.

$145 BILLION PENALTY VS. BIG TOBACCO IS DISMISSED
On July 6, the Florida Supreme Court's dismissed a $145 billion punitive damage award against the tobacco industry, in one of the last remaining personal-injury class-action cases against tobacco companies. The court said an estimated 300,000 to 700,000 Floridians made ill by smoking and part of the suit will have one year to sue as individuals. Shares of the two largest companies named in the suit -- Altria, the parent of Phillip Morris, and Reynolds American, which owns R.J. Reynolds -- were up sharply. Altria closed up $4.43, or 6 percent, at $77.76 and Reynolds American closed up $4.59, or 4 percent, at $118.95. The ruling is perhaps most important for Altria, which is preparing to spin off its Kraft Foods unit. The company has said that the long-running lawsuit was one of the major litigation hurdles the company needed to clear before it could restructure.

COMMON PAINKILLER CAN CAUSE LIVER DAMAGE
A study published in the July 5 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that acetaminophen, the painkiller in Tylenol, can cause liver damage in healthy adults who take high doses. In the study, 106 participants took four grams of Tylenol - equivalent to eight extra-strength Tylenol tablets - with or without an opiod painkiller each day for two weeks. Placebo pills were given to 39 others who showed no signs of liver damage, but nearly 40 percent of people in all the other groups had abnormal test results. "I would urge the public not to exceed four grams a day. This is a drug that has a rather narrow safety window," Dr. Neil Kaplowitz of the University of Southern California, one of the study's authors, told AP. Heavy drinkers should take no more than two grams daily, Kaplowitz said.

Researchers had been hired by the drug company Purdue Pharma LP, maker of the prescription painkiller OxyContin, to find out why abnormal liver tests were showing up in people testing a combination drug containing the acetaminophen and the opiate hydrocodone. Purdue Pharma stopped its hydrocodone study early (!) because of the abnormal liver tests and researcher were surprised to discover that acetaminophen alone was the culprit. Each week, one in five U.S. adults uses acetaminophen for pain or fever, a 2002 survey found, making it more popular than aspirin or ibuprofen. Acetaminophen is included in numerous over-the-counter and prescription medications, making overdose possible as people unwittingly combine drugs. Overdoses of acetaminophen are the leading cause of acute liver failure. Other painkillers have their own side effects, such as internal bleeding and stomach irritation (except for cannabis).

LIMBAUGH WALKS AND TALKS--BUT WHO IS LISTENING?
As the news broke that Kenny Lay was found dead at his home in Aspen, it was reported that Rush Limbaugh would also avoid jail time after being caught with a bottle of Viagra prescribed to someone else. Limbaugh, who had his "doctor shopping" charge deferred for 18 months provided he is not re-arrested, was questioned for three hours by Florida customs on June 26 about the vagrant Viagra bottle. Now, according to a filing by the prosecutor's office, Dr. Steve Strumwasser, Limbaugh's psychiatrist, said he "agreed to have his name on the label in an effort to avoid potentially embarrassing publicity for the suspect." (A strategy that seems to have backfired.)

Under Florida law, it isn't illegal for a physician to prescribe medication in a third party's name if all parties are aware and the doctor documents it correctly, said Mike Edmondson, a spokesman for the state attorney in Palm Beach County. However, ABC news reported that the case has been forwarded to prosecutors in Miami-Dade County, to the state Department of Professional Regulation and to the Department of Health to determine if the doctor breached ethics.

On his radio show, Limbaugh attempted to deflect attention from himself by joking that he tried to convince airport security his luggage had been mixed up with Bob Dole's, and even brought up (pun intended) Bill Clinton by saying Viagara could be found in the candy dishes at the Clinton White House. But Limbaugh and fellow blustering fool Bill O'Leilley will need more than a pill to bolster their flaccid ratings: the latest polls show both their audiences are down by 10-13%, while people tune in to more edifying and entertaining shows like MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

7/1/06 - JUST IN TIME FOR SUMMER: THC ICED TEA
C-Ice Swiss Cannabis Ice Tea is now hitting the shelves at UK health food stores. The chilled black tea contains 5% hemp flower syrup and a 0.0015% THC. It comes in individual cardboard orange "cans" decorated with cannabis leaves and the slogan "fantastic natural feeling." Produced by an Austrian company and using hemp grown in Switzerland, the product is already available on the Continent and in South Africa.

WAIT, WAIT DON'T SMELL ME
The NPR quiz show "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" quizzed contestants about a St. Paul man who showed up for his community-service assignment with a bag of pot in his pocket. His job? Working at the police department's dog training school. Needless to say he was nabbed.

When I searched for this story on the web, I first found this one instead: A retired St. Paul police officer was charged on June 9 with possessing and intending to distribute about 22 pounds of cocaine and 13 pounds of methamphetamine. Clemmie Tucker, 55, allegedly posed as another police officer to pick up the package containing the drugs at a bus depot, and made a threatening gesture at a security guard who tried to stop him. Which leads me to the VIP quiz of the month:

WHEN DANCING IS OUTLAWED, ONLY OUTLAWS WILL DANCE
Reuters reported on June 23 that according to Chinese newspapers, Beijing has banned disco and other dance music in private rooms of nightclubs and karaoke bars in an effort to curb the flood of illegal drugs into the capital's entertainment venues. "Because many drug takers regularly dance and go crazy to upbeat 'disco' music in private rooms, police have specially requested karaoke machines not have this music," the Beijing Times newspaper said. The Beijing News said police were planning random urine tests for employees at Beijing's clubs, citing employees' "addiction" as a major source of drug trafficking.

NEW YORKER LEERY OF LEARY
In an issue where one of the comics depicts a psychiatrist saying to his patient, "If you're happy and you know it, stick with your dosage," The New Yorker magazine's Louis Menand lampoons LSD and the new Robert Greenfield biography of its apostle Timothy Leary in its 6/26 issue. As though writing an anthropological study of an ancient unfathomable tribe, Menand writes with amazement, "What purpose, divine or adaptive, [LSD] might serve was once the subject of a learned debate that engaged scientists, government officials, psychiatrists, intellectuals, and a few gold-plated egomaniacs." (Leary being the latter.) "It may seem like quackery now," Menand writes, "but ...between 1949 and 1959 a thousand papers on LSD were published in professional journals."

Although the article mentions the profoundly positive experiences people like Aldous Huxley, Clare Boothe Luce and Cary Grant had with psychedelics, Menand never entertains the notion that there might be something to their observations other than self-delusion. He conveniently concludes at the article's end that the LSD experience is "completely suggestible....If they expect that the secret of the universe will be revealed to them, then that's what they will find. An illusion, no doubt, but it's as close as we're likely to get." In the New Yorker, anyway.

Elsewhere in the magazine, in a commentary about the inability of older people to hear high-pitched cellphone ring tones, Menand quotes George Eliot from Middlemarch: "If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity." Menand seems content to wallow in his. But shooting LSD's flawed messenger hasn't killed the message in those who have heard the grass growing.

MORE MESSENGER SHOOTING IN NYC
The New York Times, who also blasted the Leary book, ran an article on June 25 titled, "Another Kennedy Living Dangerously." Rather than focus on the facts in Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s Rolling Stone article "Was the 2004 Election Stolen?" the article takes aim at RFK Jr.'s life, including his 1983 arrest for heroin possession in South Dakota.

The NYT Magazine on the same date carried an article titled "An Anti-Addiction Pill?" by Benoit Denizet-Lewis that revealed NIDA and NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) are studying, or financing studies on, more than 200 addiction medications, most of which work on the dopamine receptor system in the brain. (See http://www.veryimportantpotheads.com/site/farleysghost.htm ) The article mentions an interesting study by Bruce Alexander at Simon Fraser comparing relative interest in a sweet morphine-laced solution in rats housed in a cage versus a park-like environment. Those in "Rat Park" barely touched the stuff, while their depressed brothers lapped it up. A 2003 study at the Wake Forest School of Medicine found dominant monkeys in social groups developed more dopamine receptors and therefore took significantly less cocaine when offered than did their more nervous subordinates.

The article also notes that gamblers' brains are a whole lot like those of drug addicts: they need to place bigger and bigger bets to get their thrills and exhibit withdrawl symptoms like drug users when they don't get their "fix." Ha, ha Bill Bennett (who is looking like he weighs 300 lbs. these days but I'm sure would say he is not addicted to food either).

William C. Moyers, the son of journalist Bill Moyers and a recovery advocate, said at a conference recently, "I was born with what I like to call a hole in my soul...A pain that came from the reality that I just wasn't good enough. That I wasn't deserving enough....For us addicts, recovery is more than just taking a pill or maybe getting a shot. ...Recovery is also about the spirit, about dealing with that hole in the soul."

TOMMY CHONG DOCUMENTARY OPENS IN BOSTON
a/k/a Tommy Chong is now playing at the Brattle in Boston, see http://www.brattlefilm.org/brattlefilm/index.html

TEN THINGS TONY KNOWS
Tony Newman of Drug Policy Alliance writes a heartfelt personal piece, "Ten Things I Know About Drugs" at http://www.alternet.org/drugreporter/36942/

Have a Happy Independence Day and remember, only 17 ounces of "Safe and Sane" fireworks (those with a Fire Marshall's seal on them) are permissible in California.

6/19/06 - HOME de POT
According to a June 14 CNN report, a plumber in Tewskbury, MA discovered two 50-pound bricks of marijuana inside a bathroom vanity purchased from Home Depot in early June. The story notes that similar incidents have occurred in other parts of the state, including another vanity in nearby Southwick containing three kilograms of cocaine along with about 40 pounds of marijuana. Tewksbury and Southwick police, working with the DEA, searched about 12 Massachusetts Home Depot stores and reportedly discovered other vanities with similar stashes. All of the vanities were shipped from the same Texas location, and distributed through a single Massachusetts warehouse, so the official theory is that either they arrived "when [the intended recipient] was off duty or the packages were marked wrong."

The real crime: Home Depot's stock value has fallen 12 percent, at the same time that the stock of rival Lowe's has risen 173 percent, according to http://www.jimhightower.com/. Meanwhile, Home Depot's board of directors has lavished $245 million in pay on CEO and Bush buddy Bob Nardelli during the past five years, including stock giveaways of nearly $180 million, multimillion-dollar bonuses for poor performance, use of the corporate jet for personal trips, a new Mercedes every three years, and a $10 million "loan" that he won't ever have to repay. A shareholder watchdog group that tracks excessive CEO pay has ranked Home Depot among its top 11 "Pay For Failure Companies" and a group of shareholders tried confronting him on the subject in late May.

TOMMY CHONG DOCUMENTARY TO BE DISTRIBUTED THROUGH ACTIVISTS
Michael Moore reportedly telephoned fellow filmmaker Josh Gilbert after he saw Gilbert's documentary "a/k/a Tommy Chong" at the Film Forum in NYC. Moore, who's no stoner, told Gilbert, "everyone in America should see this film." Meanwhile, Gilbert turned down a $1.5 million distribution deal because it wouldn't have covered his expenses; he's opting instead to distribute it though house parties at activists' homes throughout the summer. The film has already toured film fests and gathered plenty of press, with Roger Ebert referring to the "entrapment" of Chong. More press reports and info can be found at www.akatommychong.com.

Mark Hemingway of the New York Sun wrote, "It's not often that a film amuses and outrages at the same time, but 'A.K.A. Tommy Chong' strikes that balance nicely. . . .If nothing else, 'A.K.A. Tommy Chong' shows yet again that law enforcement's failure to grasp the real threats to public safety is as terrifying as any danger the country faces. Thankfully the film makes you laugh along way - otherwise it would merely be depressing rather than a call to arms."

Chris Cabin of Filmcritic.com wrote, "The most sincere and entertaining moments are watching Chong, a true one-of-a-kind. An extremely laid-back, gentle man, Chong seems more like a crazy but endearing uncle than the half-witted stoner we watched in Lou Adler's famed pot movie. He talks sensibly and seems like a real family man, who just happens to like having a jay every once in awhile. . . So, why did the government seem so full-steam about arresting Tommy Chong? The consensus seems to be that the government wanted to put the aging counter-culture in their place, stating that Cheech & Chong put the druggie lifestyle into favorable light. Perhaps, but as Chong points out, Up in Smoke was quite critical of the life of people who just constantly got high and did nothing but looked for more drugs."

KJ Doughton of Filmthreat.com wrote, "Leave the Visine and wrapping papers at home for 'A/K/A Tommy Chong,' a surprisingly clear-eyed, sober account of what it's liked to be embraced by a culture, while loathed by the Powers That Be."

You can rate the film yourself here: http://movies2.nytimes.com/2006/06/14/movies/14chon.html

Gilbert, by the way, joins the VIP list for this exchange with Jennifer Merin of the New York Press:

"Do you smoke pot?"
"Oh, yeah."
"Is it important to you?"
"Yes, it is."
"Why?"
"Because I hate Prozac, and I can't function on mushrooms."

HOW NOT TO STAY MARRIED TO A ROCK 'N ROLLER
The reports of Paul McCartney's death were, once more, exaggerated (See "She Buried Paul," 2/2/06, below). McCartney and wife/killjoy Heather Mills have officially split, within months after the news went out that Mills would not allow her husband to smoke pot. The British tabloids responded to the couple's divorce action by printing 16 pornographic photos of the suddenly virtuous Mills, which she said were taken for a German sex education film. One paper alleged that when Mills was in her twenties, she had sex for hire with arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, who paid her more than $11,000 for her services, and that she charged a Saudi prince $9,000 to join him and another woman in a three-way. Mills says she will sue for libel. McCartney reportedly told the News of the World, "The signs [of Mills's past] were there all the time, I was just too much in love to read them." The cutest Beatle turned 64 on Father's Day, and it's sad Linda is no longer around to need and feed him. Our suggestion for Paul's next date: his fan VIP Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders. Now that would be a power couple.


GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER PLUGS NICOTINE-LADEN JAPANESE ENERGY DRINK?
A recent report about US actors raking in huge fees for appearing in Japanese TV ads claimed an Arnold Schwarzenegger ad promotes a Japanese energy drink laden with nicotine. Schwarzenegger, who also appeared on the cover of Cigar Afficionado magazine and accepted ads for steroids in his muscle-building magazine, is running for re-election in November as California's governator. Although he's admitted to smoking pot in his youth, so far he's done nothing to advance the use of nonharmful drugs.

REDNECK GOES GREEN
Larry the "Git 'er Done" Cable Guy, now voicing the tow truck in Pixar's "Cars," reportedly tells a joke in his stand-up special along the lines of, "Millions of dollars later, they can't find Osama Bin Laden, but they can find 10 marijuana plants in my 1000 acres."

WITH IT WISCONSIN
A new ordinance in La Crosse County gives law enforcement the option of fining those found with small amounts of marijuana, instead of charging them with a misdemeanor. The June 15 vote by the county board enacting the ordinance was 15 to 12 and followed nearly two hours of debate, according to the Associated Press. District Attorney Scott Horne argued against the ordinance, saying it sends the wrong message to the community and removes the emphasis on education and asssessment. But the county's drug court judge, John Perlich, says the amount of time spent on low-risk offenders isn't worth it for taxpayers. La Crosse County Sheriff Michael Weissenberger sided with the district attorney but Board Chairman Steve Doyle agreed with the judge, saying the ordinance will help create a more effective law enforcement system by redirecting resources to where they're needed most.

CALIFORNIA DREAMIN'
A measure put forth by Santa Monicans for Sensible Marijuana Policy (with paid petitioner help) has qualified for the November ballot. The advisory initiative would make investigations, citations, arrests, property seizures, and prosecutions for adult marijuana offenses the city's lowest law enforcement priority and support changes in state and federal laws that call for taxation and regulation for adult use of marijuana. In Seattle, a similar measure passed in 2003 led to a 75% reduction in marijuana arrests by repealing a city statute.

On May 25th, a slightly toothier initiative made the ballot in Santa Cruz. "Voters in Santa Cruz are tired of the failed and immoral federal war on drugs," said Andrea Tischler, chair of Santa Cruz Citizens for Sensible Marijuana Policy. "Let's move to a more reasonable marijuana policy, and make sure that our police and courts are not wasting their time and resources arresting and prosecuting nonviolent marijuana offenders." The committee pointed to the results of a poll conducted in November which found that 82% of Santa Cruz voters are opposed to criminalizing people who use marijuana. Initiative drives were also held in West Hollywood and Santa Barbara, coordinated by consultants Mikki Norris and Chris Conrad, who were brought in for the last six weeks of the 1996 Prop. 215 campaign as volunteer coordinators and worked on Oakland's successful Measure Z campaign in 2004, which has yet to show an effect on policy. Read more at http://www.taxandregulate.org/.

STARS AND STRIPES STORY STIFLED?
I tried looking up a June 16 story titled, "Airman admits to smoking hashish while on duty" in Stars and Stripes, but was given an "exemption occurred" error instead. All I got was "... He testified to smoking hashish - a form of marijuana - while patrolling a base housing area in January 2005 and guarding a section of Kapaun Air Station ..."

ROMANCING THE STONED
"Romancing the Stone," the 1980 movie from which the two best lines are Kathleen Turner noting, "I went to college" and Michael Douglas remarking, "Now that's what I call a campfire" is one of the selections available free on DVD for those purchasing five specially marked packages of Kellogg's cereals by the end of year (while supplies last). Happy munching.

6/15/06 - TOMMY CHONG BONG SONG PLAYS NYC
Word is the Tommy Chong Bong Song was the song on New Yorkers' lips after they viewed the documentary "a/k/a Tommy Chong," which opened its theatrical release at Manhattan's Film Forum on June 14, playing through the 27th. If you want to hear the song on the air, call you favorite station or DJ and tell them they can find it at http://www.veryimportantpotheads.com/tcbs2.mp3

Initial reports about the film or Chong's new book The I Chong, Meditations from the Joint were fairly well squashed by the overreported story of Cheech repeating his reasons why he won't be teaming with Chong for another movie (apparently people keep asking him this). Google was swamped with pick ups on the non-story, and (I swear to goddess) the News Alert about Chong's wretched straight-to-DVD film "Evil Bong" came marked with a double chile pepper.

DRUG YEARS ON TV
The first installment of "The Drug Years" (see below, 5/1 entry) aired last night on VH1 at 9 PM and it's well worth a view, despite the lack of a single female interviewee (they couldn't find Grace Slick?). Peter Coyote said it best, "We wanted to be who we were and then create a culture that had space for us." It seems the party's over as tonight the bringdown will begin in tonight's installment of the 4-part series, so it you missed part one, see it next week on Sundance (subscribe if necessary).

WRITE NOW!TM
As Karl Rove walks, all the newspapers in the San Francisco Bay area are about to merge, and Congress works to tax the Internet in more ways than one, our selected officials are also working to kill PBS and NPR again, as soon as today. Go to: http://civic.moveon.org/publicbroadcasting/?id=8011-2993726-FgqVuk0d47FyvMCBpsnEzQ&t=2

JOINTS FOR KENNEDY

A new book, John F. Kennedy: A Biography by Michael O'Brien (St. Martin's Press, NYC) describes briefly an affair JFK had with Mary Pinchot Meyer, the former wife of CIA agent Cord Meyer and sister of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee's wife Tony. It says, "On the evening of July 16, 1962, according to [Washington Post executive] Jim Truitt, Kennedy and Mary Meyer smoked marijuana together. The White House was hosting a conference on narcotics in two months, and Kennedy joked about it to Mary. (Truitt claimed he himself provided Mary with the pot.) The president smoked three of the six joints Mary brought to him. At first he felt no effects. Then he closed his eyes and refused a fourth joint. 'Suppose the Russians did something now,' he said. Kennedy allegedly told Mary that the pot 'Isn't like cocaine,' and informed her that he would get her some cocaine."

O'Brien notes that during her affair with Kennedy, Meyer visited Timothy Leary, a fact confirmed in Robert Greenfield's fairly comprehensive new book, Timothy Leary: A Biography (2006, Harcourt), published on the 10th anniversary of Leary's death. Leary wrote in Flashbacks that Meyer told him she wanted to run an LSD session with a famous public figure, and after Meyer was found murdered in October 1964, Leary theorized it was JFK and that she'd recorded the event in her diary, which was never found.

BRANSON NO DRUG VIRGIN
Virgin Airlines owner Richard Branson recounts trying pot and LSD in his book, Losing My Virginity, but says he's done drugs only "rarely." In one instance, he took a joint so as not to appear ungrateful to the host that proffered it, and found out the next day that Dire Straits signed with another label. Bummer, man.

DRUG WAR WACO
Stephen Amidon's Salon.com review of Dean Kuipers' new book, Burning Rainbow Farm: How a Stoner Utopia Went up in Smoke, begins:
"Ever since Richard Nixon ordered an 'all-out war, on all fronts' against narcotics over a 1972 Oval Office cocktail with H.R. Haldeman, the drug menace has been swept from the land. One need only look at the millions of POWs we have taken in daring raids on such hotbeds of enemy activity as Detroit, East St. Louis, Ill., and Newark, N.J. Or the 10-year prison sentence handed down to enemy propagandist (and MC5 manager) John Sinclair for selling not one, but two joints. Or the imprisonment of comedian Tommy Chong for engraving his countenance on glass bongs -- a man who, as his prosecutor pointed out in her closing arguments, 'was a bad example because he made fun of drugs and cops in his movies.' You'd have to be smoking something to worry that a government that conducted these campaigns will falter in securing us from Islamic terrorists." Read more at http://www.salon.com/books/review/2006/06/13/kuipers/index_np.html

"LUCILLE" WRITER BUSTED
Hal Bynum, who co-wrote Kenny Rodger's song "Lucille" as well as other country hits, was charged with growing marijuana and possessing hallucinogenic mushrooms on June 3 in Nashville. The 71-year-old Bynum and his wife Jan, 48, turned themselves in to police and were released after posting bail. The Bynums are scheduled to appear back in court later this month. Acting on a tip, police said they searched the couple's home and found 256 pot plants, 7.5 pounds of harvested marijuana, 14 grams of hallucinogenic mushrooms, growing lamps and other drug paraphernalia including scales, rolling papers, and tanks of CO-2. A 1998 Cadillac Deville and $5,000 in cash were seized from the home.

In a bizarre twist, CBS News Affiliate WTVF-TV reported Jan Bynum is a member of the Blue Scarf Society, a group which is opposed to what it calls the political ideology of Islam, arguing that it is hostile to Western civilization. WTVF-TV quoted the Bynums as saying that they were selling drugs to raise money for an awareness campaign against terrorist organizations. (Makes ya kinda wish Lucille had never left him, or that crop in the field.)

Some of Bynum's best-known songs include "There Ain't No Good Chain Gang," for Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, "Papa Was a Good Man," sung by Johnny Cash, "Chains," sung by Patty Loveless, "Nobody's Fool," sung by Jim Reeves, and "The Old, Old House," recorded by many artists including George Jones. Bynum's fourth album as a solo artist, "An American Prayer," was first released in the spring of 2003 shortly before the beginning of the Iraq war. In the title cut, Bynum "prays our Father will never let us forget who we are as Americans." His book "The Promise" is a look at the music business.

NO SUCH THING AS BAD PUBLICITY, SAYS GEORGE MICHAEL
The Indo-Asian News Service reported on May 31 that George Michael is happy that he's been in the tabloids lately because it is helping him promote his new single, "An easier affair." According to Contactmusic.com, Michael was arrested for possessing marijuana earlier this year and was also accused of hitting three vehicles while driving to his home in London. Michael said, "In all honesty it does me good. I take crap for a couple of weeks but it promotes my new single. I hate to say it, but it's true. I don't want to do regular promotion, so it does me good."

MAHER RULES ON DVD
HBO must have listened to fans' pleas to issue a compilation CD of the "New Rules" segment from HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, the source of Maher's successful book of the same name. So buy one, already or ask your local library or video store to get one.
(You can also see video of Maher's June 8 monologue from the Amazon Fishbowl at this link.
Also available: Weeds Season I )

UNDERCOVER ABC AGENTS BUST BREWERY
William Brand, a staff writer at http://www.insidebayarea.com reports that undercover investigators from the Alcohol Beverage Control Board began attending Thursday night Undercover Ale beer tastings at the Lagunitas Brewing in Petaluma, CA after the owner began advertising the events, which began at 4:20 pm, under the head line "420." Although owner Tony Magee admits a few people out of approximately 70 beer drinkers might have toked at the events, ABC investigators were unable, in eight weeks' time, to get anyone to sell them pot. "People kept trying to give them some," Magee said. On St. Patrick's Day, 2005, the ABC gave up and cited three people, including one Lagunitas worker, two for possession of marijuana, one for possession for sale. ABC spokesman John Carr says he isn't sure, but Magee says charges were dropped against all three. The ABC suspended Lagunitas license to sell beer for 20 days and placed the company on one year's probation, ending Nov. 18. See more at http://www.beernewsletter.com and http://www.insidebayarea.com/beerblog.

THE ELECTRIC KOOL-AID MEDICINE TEST
Hallucinogen researcher Charles Grob says psychedelic drugs have the potential to alter modern medicine.
Go to: http://www.alternet.org/story/36346

HEMP FOR VICTORY, NBA STYLE
Counterpuncher Fred Gardner, who had the "pot doesn't cause lung cancer" story months before it became "news," makes a plea for Hemp for Victory, NBA style in his weekly column.

MARINOL TO GET COMPETITION IN US
IACM via BBSNews 2006-05-29 -- Seventeen years after it was withdrawn from U.S. markets Nabilone, a synthetic derivative of THC, is going back on sale as a prescription treatment for nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, its manufacturer said on 16 May. Nabilone is marketed under the trade name Cesamet by Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, a company based in Costa Mesa, California. Valeant bought the drug from Eli Lilly in 2004 and currently sells it in Canada.

STEAMED AT STANLEY STEAMER
Stanley Steamer carpet cleaner (hey, that rhymes) wins the Schwag Ad of the month for touting its policy of requiring its workers to take a drug test and pass a background check (in that order). All because some CEO is pissed the carpet guy got his wife high (I'm only guessing there). I predict the campaign will backfire, playing on a public fear I didn't have until I saw the commercial. If we go down this slippery slope, pretty soon pool guys will have to piss test too, and you know where they'll put theirs.

BERN, BABY BERN
IACM via BBSNews 2006-05-29 -- The city council of the Swiss capital Bern decided to start a pilot project on the controlled sale of cannabis, although the federal government and the canton oppose it. It is intended that in the project cannabis will be allowed to be sold if certain rules are followed, such as prohibition of advertisement, no sale to minors and maximum amount of sale per day. A measure in support of a controlled sale of cannabis failed last year in the Swiss Parliament.

"BUT I COULD HAVE TOLD YOU, VINCENT
THIS WORLD WAS NEVER MEANT FOR ONE AS BEAUTIFUL AS YOU"
--Don McLean, STARRY STARRY NIGHT
I'm saddened to report a that a man as beautiful, giving and talented as Vince Welnick could somehow feel so underappreciated as to join Gary Webb and Spaulding Gray in an early exit. I met Vince when he bought a wildly patterned hemp shirt from me before a Grateful Dead Shoreline show in 1993, and I felt the glow of his bright light the moment he stooped to enter the booth. He later appeared as a special, surprise guest at a remarkable Zero concert to benefit the Cannabis Action Network. That all three luminaries may have taken such a sad step due to financial pressures is beyond madness. Let's end it now.

5/17/06 - SUBDUDES ROCK!!
If you want to hear some great summer party music, check out the Subdudes hit song "Papa Dukie and the Mud People" from their new CD "Behind the Levee" (produced by Keb' Mo)'. The 'dudes will be playing the Strawberry Festival in Yosemite Memorial Day weekend.

END STUPIDITY IN ADVERTISING
Are you tired of your tax money being used to pay for those stupid anti-marijuana commercials? Especially since a new study by two researchers at Texas State University-San Marcos finds that 18- to 19-year-old college students who view the TV ads develop more positive attitudes towards marijuana than those who do not. Read and Take Action.

GARFUNKEL SINGS (SORT OF)
Instead of a second $100 fine for possessing a small amount of marijuana in Woodstock, NY in August 2005, VIP Art Garfunkel was sentenced to community service: speaking to students at two local high schools about maintaining a healthy lifestyle, according to Ulster County District Attorney Donald A. Williams. Garfunkel spoke to 75-100 selected students each at Rondout Valley and Onteora high schools in late March, Williams said. "He was sincere, thoughtful and impressive," Williams said of Garfunkel's Onteora speech, which the prosecutor attended. "He spoke for more than an hour at Onteora, with a question-and-answer period, and then spent some time with individual students."

The singer had been pulled over for running a stop sign at state Routes 212 and 375. It was the second time in less than two years that Garfunkel, a Manhattan resident, was busted for having pot in Ulster County. In January 2004, he was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana when police found the drug in his jacket pocket after the limo he was riding in was pulled over for speeding on state Route 28 in Hurley. Garfunkel pleaded guilty in that case and paid a $100 fine. Back in the 80s, while the INS was attempting to deport John Lennon, ostensibly over an old marijuana bust in England, Garfunkel said, "If John Lennon is deported, I'm leaving too... with my musicians... and my marijuana."

MODERATION A-OK FOR ALCOHOL, TOBACCO, OPIATES AND GAMBLING
A May 7 NY Times article by Benedict Carey titled "Between Addiction and Abstinence" notes that Rep. Patrick Kennedy is seeking treatment for his prescription drug "addiction" at a time when the field is undergoing a transformation. "Once akin to exorcists, committed to casting out the demons altogether, those who work with addictive behavior of all kinds are now trying less dogmatic approaches -- ones that allow for moderate use as a bridge to abstinence," the article states. It sites a government-financed study of 1400 chronic, heavy drinkers that considered reducing the number of drinks to 14 per week for men, 11 per week for women a "good clinical outcome." Dr. Edward Nunes, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, told the Times, "The fact is that these moderate measures are becoming more and more accepted in judging treatments."

The openness to moderate use is likely to increase, Carey concludes, driven by changes in pharmaceutical treatments. The latest treatment for opiate addiction, bupenorphine, is a substitute drug, like methadone. The drug naltrexone, which seems to "numb the brain to the euphoria from drinking or gambling binges," is more likely to reduce the consumption than shut it down altogether. And the nicotine patch is an admission that smokers need their drug temporarily or perhaps indefinitely. Dr. Alan Marlatt, director of the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington, said many drug addicts can't get treatment for their underlying, or resultant, depression and anxiousness because therapists insist they give up their drug habit first. So therapists are meeting people where they live. "The idea is to reduce the consequences of the heavy use, and work from there," said Marlatt. Sounds like Harm Reduction to me.

DUMAS REDUX
Not only does the Simon and Schuster 2004 Pocket Books edition of Alexandre Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo omit 41 chapters of the masterpiece, excluding the Sinbad the Sailor chapter and many other mentions of hashish without calling itself an abridged edition, but the complete 117-chapter 1996 Random House edition of the book spells it "hatchis," no doubt leaving young readers with the impression it is some imaginary drug. And has anyone else noticed that the provider of the "purest and most unadulterated hashish of Alexandria," whom Sinbad calls "the celebrated maker, the only man, the man to whom there should be build a palace, inscribed with these words, 'A grateful world to the dealer in happiness' " is called Abou-Gor (sounds like Abu Girab to me). See the full excerpts while the internet still exists.


5/13/06 - HUFF PUFFS!
In 1955, Drs. Timothy Leary and Frank Barron collaborated on a study of 150 psychoneurotic patients presenting themselves for treatment. About a third of those in therapy got better, a third saw no change, and a third got worse: the same ratio as those who had no therapy at all. Then Leary discovered psychedelics, conducted the Harvard Divinity School experiments (which proved entheogens can cause profound spiritual awakenings) and reduced prison recidivism and alcoholism through LSD therapy.

Now Showtime's Huff, a BMW-driving psychotherapist played by the prodigiously talented Hank Azaria, is being challenged by his colleague, played by Angelica Houston, to consider MDMA/Ecstasy therapy while they share phatties in her office. This show, produced by Azaria, is the smartest, hippest, most meaningful TV in years. Subplots have Oliver Platt messing up his life at a coke/meth party, Blythe Danner DUIed, a brother on pharmaceutical psychoactives, and a wife trying the opium of the masses (religion). Don't miss this Sunday's new episode.

EX-BERKELEY SERGEANT WON'T GO TO JAIL FOR DRUG THEFTS
A May 13 article by Henry K. Lee of the San Francisco Chronicle reveals that Cary Kent, a former sergeant on the Berkeley police narcotics squad who stole heroin and methamphetamine from the department's evidence locker and used the drugs himself, was sentenced to one year in jail but won't serve a minute of it behind bars. Instead, Alameda County Superior Court Judge C. Don Clay ruled that the 54-year-old former officer can do his time in a work furlough program or home detention with electronic monitoring. The judge received several letters of commendation for Kent, including one from Louis Freeh, who was director of the FBI at the time, thanking Kent for his help cracking bank robberies.

Kent, a narcotics and robbery inspector who spent nearly 20 years on the force, pleaded guilty April 14 to grand theft, possession of heroin and possession of methamphetamine after an investigation revealed he had tampered with scores of evidence envelopes he'd taken from the drug investigation unit's evidence locker. He retired in March rather than face an internal affairs inquiry and is receiving drug treatment. Court documents said Kent tampered with as many as 286 evidence envelopes in cases dating to 1998. A random analysis of 25 envelopes revealed that 14 grams of heroin were missing, and investigators found Kent's fingerprints on a pillbox and a piece of plastic inside two envelopes, court records show. In one case, the drugs had been replaced with a Rite Aid analgesic, the records state. At least two pending cases were dismissed because of the evidence tampering.

LUCKY LINSDAY
When the Today Show's Matt Lauer interviewed Lindsay Lohan about her notorious Vanity Fair interview, he asked her about her "substance abuse problem." She calmly responded that the article didn't say that about her. Grinning like a schoolboy in an interview setting that had him sitting close enough to droll over her, he said, "well, it talked about some experimentation going on." (Since when did experimentation become abuse?) Lohan, in total control of the fawning Lauer, waved him off without any of the usual "I have an illness" crap, moving on to her serious problem -- an eating disorder. Makes ya wonder if Hayley Mills (who starred in the original version of "The Parent Trap" that made Lohan a star) would have had to endure this kind of treatment if she became a star today. Lohan is getting rave reviews for her role in Robert Altman's "A Prairie Home Companion" and the romantic comedy "Just My Luck" (both coming soon).

YELLOW JOURNALISM PISSES ON AMERICAN ICON
An episode of PBS's "American Experience" reveals Annie Oakley, the first female American superstar, was smeared by William Randolph Hearst's Chicago newspaper as being in jail and destitute after stealing a pair of man's pants to buy cocaine. AP picked up the story and it ran in dozens of newspapers before it was revealed that the person arrested was a burlesque dancer posing as Oakley. Annie got her (legal) guns and sued 55 newspapers, the largest libel suit ever, even though most had printed retractions or apologies. She won 54 of the cases, including a $27,000 suit against Hearst, but the six-year struggle lost her money in the end. Hearst, of course, was instrumental in the smear campaign against marijuana in the 1930s.

Oakley was born in Greenville, Ohio in 1860 to a Quaker family with five children. Her father died when she was six and she was sent to a poorhouse, then to a family she called "the wolves" as a servant. When the "wolf" mother locked her out of the house in the snow for falling asleep while darning, Oakley looked up at the moon and prayed for help. She ran home and learned to shoot, and never missed, aided by keen eyesight, athleticism, balance and possibly divine intervention. At the age of 15, she fed her family by hunting, selling hampers full of quail to local stores. When neighbors arranged a shooting contest between Oakley and Frank Butler, a professional shooter, she won the contest and his heart. Butler became her husband and, in an unheard of move at the time, took a backseat to her rising star. Oakley joined Bill Cody's Wild West Show where Chief Sitting Bull recognized her gift and gave her her Indian name "Little Sure Shot." She demanded to be paid like a man and though Cody tried replacing her with a younger, less talented, and less expensive act, Annie prevailed. Annie Oakley died on November 3, 1926 at the age of 66. More at www.pbs.org

FAUX JOURNALISM TELLS THE TRUTH
What did Stephen Colbert follow his acclaimed White House Correspondents' Dinner speech with on his next show? The Word was "drug-crazed sex crime" as what Colbert suggested in his tongue-in-cheek way was we want to see from stars like George Clooney, not "hey kid, wanna get morally high?" In his interview with William Bastone of The Smoking Gun (the site that blew the lid off James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces"), Colbert noted that Oprah, who had endorsed the book, tore Frey a new &*hole, which he needed since he'd pulled the book out of his first one.

BILL WILL BE BACK
Be sure to catch Bill Maher's season finale, now airing on HBO, from the very beginning where Bill tries to break a record held by Woody Harrelson. The good word is, Real Time will be back this fall, starting August 25. Have a great summer, everyone, and don't forget to vote on June 6.

5/7/06 - OF KENNEDY, GOSS AND RUSH
In a story that nearly eclipsed the scandal-related retirement of CIA director Porter Goss, Rep. Patrick Kennedy's run-in with the DC police resulted in a confession of prescription drug addiction by Kennedy. Somewhat surprisingly, the drug in question was the sleep aid Ambien, taken in combination with anti-nauseant Phenergan.

According to a report by Robert Pear and Carl Hulse in the New York Times (5/6), "The Food and Drug Administration said [on 5/5] that it had been reviewing the side effects of Ambien since March. The widely prescribed sleep aid has been showing up as a factor in traffic accidents and traffic arrests around the country. In some accidents, drivers said they had no recollection of leaving home or driving after use of the drug." That's what Kennedy, who was driving in the wrong lane without his lights on, is saying happened to him.

Prescribing information says that Ambien and other sleep medicines known as sedative hypnotics can cause abnormal thinking, strange behavior and hallucinations. Some patients have said they experienced a "high" after taking Ambien in high doses or in combination with other drugs. Dr. Gregg D. Jacobs, a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts told the Times that the sleep aid has a potential for abuse in patients with a history of substance abuse, who "can experience a reduction in anxiety and a euphoric feeling if they take enough Ambien." Kennedy suffers from depression and bipolar disorder and was treated last December for pain pill addiction at the Mayo Clinic, where he will now return. Funny, all Kennedy's ailments could be treated herbally in a more safe and sane society, especially since DC voted to legalize medical marijuana (before Congress overturned the voters).

The same issue of the Times had an op-ed by John Tierney about Rush Limbaugh titled, "A Taste of His Own Medicine." Tierney compared the Limbaugh case to that to Richard Paey, a fellow Floridian who is serving a 25-year sentence for, like Limbaugh, obtaining too many prescription pills. The difference, besides Limbaugh's ability to pay millions of dollars in legal fees, is that Paey refused to admit he was an addict, arguing that he needed the pills for pain. Under-medication for pain is a hugh problem in this country, mainly because of the bone-headed drug war that Limbaugh loves. Tierney writes Limbaugh "has portrayed himself as the victim of a politically opportunistic prosecutor determined to bag a high-profiile trophy...but that's standard operating procedure in the drug war supported by Limbaugh and his fellow conservatives. Drug agents and prosecutors are desperate for headlines because they have so little else to show for their work. The drug war costs $35 billion per year and has yet to demonstrate any clear long-term effects -- precisely the kind of government boondoggle that conservatives like Limbaugh ought to view skeptically." Megadittos to that.

Next door, Maureen Dowd's column points out that Kennedy's car accident happened just a block or two from Goss's Capitol Hill townhouse. "Coincidence? Hard to tell, in the Foggo of war," she writes.

A new study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that distracted drivers were involved in nearly eight out of 10 collisions or near-crashes, and that the risk of a crash increases almost threefold when a driver is dialing a cell phone. Should they, like Kennedy, be charged with failing to give "full time and attention" to operating their vehicles? Not according to Lt. Col. Jim Champagne, chairman of the Governors Highway Safety Administration. He said, "I urge legislatiors not to intrerpret these results a a need for new legislative initiative. It is simply not good public policy to pass laws addressing every type of driver behavior." Unless there's politicial hay to be made, apparently. Since my father warned me about the same distraction factor some thirty years ago when he taught me to drive, I wonder why this study was even necessary. Just remember what your uncle Deano, Dean Martin, once said, "Don't drive after drinking. Don't even putt."

DRUG WAR INTERFERES WITH FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
The San Francisco Chronicle and two of its reporters were suponaed on 5/5 to testify about leaked grand-jury testimony used in articles linking Barry Bonds and other athletes to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. The Chronicle will challenge the suponeas in court even as the Bush administration moves to target other reporters. In the case that resulted in Judith Miller of the New York Times serving 85 days in jail for refusing to divulge her source in the Valerie Plame outing, the federal appeals court in Washington cited a 1972 Supreme Court decision, Branzburg v. Hayes, in which a reporter was ordered to testify about witnessing the production of illegal drugs. Thus the famous "drug war exemption to the Constitution" spreads and the Bush administration's major victory in the war on drugs will be giving baseball a black eye.

5/1/06 -VIP OF THE MONTH: ALLEN GINSBERG
This year is the 50th anniversary of "Howl," the Allen Ginsberg poem that ignited the Beat movement when Lawrence Ferlingetti of the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco published it. In 1965 Ginsberg published the "First Manifesto to End the Bringdown," where he wrote (while smoking pot), "I must begin by explaining something that I have said in public for many years: that I occasionally use marijuana in preference to alcohol, and have for several decades." Read more.

MEXICO SAYS SI! TO DRUGS; US SAYS NADA
What a Cinco de Maya this should be. Mexico's congress voted on April 28 to legalize up to one kilogram of Peyote; small amounts (5 g) of marijuana and opium; and personal use amounts of heroin, cocaine, LSD, psilocybin, MDMA and others. President Vicente Fox's office indicated he would sign the bill, which would increase penalties for trafficking and for possession near schools or by government employees. (May 4 update: it seems the US has strong-armed Harvard-educated Mexican President Vicente Fox, formerly the president of Coca-Cola for Mexico and Central America, into vetoing the measure, for now at least. There we go, exporting democracy again.)

WHAT'S THE RUSH?
Tho
ugh he received 2,000 pain pills prescribed by four doctors in six months' time, and he's on record saying drug users should be "convicted and sent up," Rush Limbaugh was booked in and out of jail on April 27 faster than you can say, "maggothead." A few days earlier, Limbaugh had tried to be the sole commentator who picked up on the story that the administration that doesn't think global warming exists has ruled marijuana nonmedical, or so says the FDA at the urging of "Mean Mark" Souder (R-IN). Jabbah the Hut, er I mean Rush the Lush, blustered, "This ought to be a setback to the maggot-infested dopers." And name-calling reaches a new low.

Despite what even Lou Dobbs called a "deal you could only get in Palm Springs," Rush whined that he was unfairly targeted due to his celebrity, something you didn't hear the class act Tommy Chong do, even though he was imprisoned for nine months without even possessing a drug.

The cover of the National Examiner screamed on 4/26/94: "Rush Limbaugh's Wild Double Life Exposed! He dodged draft - He smoked pot - He's henpecked" (as though being a henpecked draft dodger is a wild life). Limbaugh has said he smoked marijuana only twice in his life and it made him nauseous. Disc jockey Randy Raley remembered seeing Rush pot-smoking up a storm at a Sacramento party in 1978. "If that was sick, give me some of that," Raley said.

Far and away the best commentary on the FDA issue was on Bill Maher's Real Time, two weeks running. The current one has guests George Clooney, Barney Frank and Ian McKellen, plus Bill's not-to-be-missed audition tapes for White House press secretary (introduced by the joke, "Mike McCurry resigned. He said he wanted to spend more time looking sweaty and uncomfortable with his family.") If you like this show, you'd better tell HBO at www.hbo.com. They're rumored to be moving more towards episodic shows with markets in DVDs.

FDA-APPROVED DRUG NEWS
While the FDA was denouncing medical marijuana on April 20, a Texas jury denounced the pharmaceutical company Merck in the case of a 71-year-old man who died in 2001 after taking the prescription painkiller Vioxx for less than a month. The jury awarded Leonel Garza's family $7 million in compensatory damages for mental anguish and personal loss and $25 million in punitive damages, but the latter will be cut to no more than $750,000 because of a cap imposed by Texas law. Merck immediately said it would appeal the decision. It withdrew the $2.5 billion-a-year drug in September 2004 after it said a study found that use of Vioxx for more than 18 months doubled the risk of stroke and heart attack. Merck faces thousands more Vioxx cases and so far has refused to settle any out of court.

WEEDS NOT WELCOME IN FRANCE
On April 3, French customs agents confiscated T-shirts and hats bearing cannabis leaves that promoted the Showtime TV series "Weeds." French customs officials made a surprise visit to the Lionsgate booth at the MIPTV market in Cannes, and confiscated five boxes of apparel. One slogan on the garments read: "Weeds -- High on Season 2." Lionsgate, the company that produces "Weeds," was asked to provide authorities with a script and an episode to see, along with a letter saying the garments do not promote drug use. "Weeds" has been cleared in France on Canal Plus but has not aired. The series is garnering strong ratings in the U.K. and Israel, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Showtime is now airing repeats of Season 1, with Season 2 coming this summer.

To counter this sad news from the country that gave us the Statue of Liberty, I add to the VIP list two of the famous French members of "Le Club des Haschishins" (1844-1860): Alexandre Dumas (The Three Musketeers; The Count of Monte Cristo) and Victor Hugo (Les Miserables; Notre-Dame de Paris).


MORE DRUGS ON TV

(Apologies to anyone who watched the South Park "Million Little Fibers" episode I near-endorsed last issue. It turned out to be full of the adolescent-boy humor that so pervades our so-called culture. . . .much funnier was PBS's "The Office" episode in which a joint is found in the office parking lot. In a rather insincere (and of course nonsensical) anti-drugs lecture, the boss gets little traction with the argument, "Sure, Cheech & Chong are funny -- but imagine how funny they'd be if they didn't smoke pot." Also loved Ziggy Marley voicing a rasta-style jellyfish in "A Shark's Tale," now on TV for everyone to see.)

VH1 and Sundance Channel have announced thay are teaming to produce the documentary series, "The Drug Years," a four-part look at the rise of illicit drug use and its cultural impact in the second half of the twentieth century. The series debuts on VH1 on June 12 at 9:00pm e/p and encores on Sundance Channel beginning June 16th at 8:00pm e/p.

Spanning the 1950s to the present, "The Drug Years" will feature dozens of exclusive interviews with actors, musicians, journalists, policy advocates, former drug smugglers, and former drug enforcement agents. Notable interviews include Peter Coyote, Jackson Browne, Ray Manzarek from The Doors, Ice-T, Liz Phair, Juliette Lewis, Rob Thomas, Tommy Chong, Common, Richard Belzer, Richard Lewis, Chuck D., Russel Simmons, B-Real, John Mellencamp and Henry Rollins. The writer/consulting producer is Martin Torgoff; the documentary is based on his book, "Can't Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age." Producer/directors Hart Perry and Dana Heinz Perry produced the Peabody Award-winning "John Hammond: From Bessie Smith to Bruce Springsteen" as well as many other films and music videos. Hart Perry claims to be the youngest cameraman on the Academy Award-winning film "Woodstock".

The episode lineup for "The Drug Years" is:
VH1: June 12 at 9:00pm e/p Sundance Channel: June 16th at 8:00pm e/p
Episode 1: Break on Through (1950s-1967) The role played by drugs in the rejection of conformist America, a revolt championed by artistic and social subcultures including the Beats and the Hippies. The rise of marijuana use as a cultural and political statement, the advent of LSD, and other psychedelics, hailed by Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey, and embraced by free-thinkers, musicians and young people eager to expand their consciousness.

VH1: June 13 at 9:00pm e/p Sundance Channel: June 16th at 8:45pm e/p
Episode 2: Feed Your Head (1967-1971) Drugs are now part of the schism between traditional America and the youth-fueled sociopolitical rebellions of the era, including the antiwar movement and the sexual revolution. Pot and LSD have arrived in films and on television, and the psychedelic generation expresses its idealism at Woodstock. By 1971, however, the psychedelic era has been eclipsed by death, darkness and Richard Nixon.

VH1: June 14 at 9:00pm e/p Sundance Channel: June 17th at 8:00pm e/p
Episode 3: Teenage Wasteland (1972-1979) The Nixon administration continues its battles against the drug culture, linking it to political subversion. But drugs are part of the mainstream landscape and a rite of passage for 70s teens. Pot is more popular than ever, with swashbuckling smugglers, the popularity of High Times magazine, and a new era of drug humor by comedians like George Carlin and the hugely popular stoner duo Cheech & Chong. Cocaine becomes the glamour drug, beloved by celebrities, and spoofed by Woody Allen.

VH1: June 15 at 9:00pm e/p Sundance Channel: June 17th at 8:45pm e/p
Episode 4: Just Say No (1980-present) As cocaine culture peaks, the pendulum begins its swing back to a more censorious perspective on drugs. High-profile casualties in sports and entertainment, not to mention the arrival of crack, contribute to the momentum for the Reagan administration's stepped-up drug war. Rap artists and producers deal with the devastating impact of the crack epidemic. Twelve-step programs are everywhere, but drugs aren't going away, and new favorites arrive with new eras: Ecstasy, Oxycontin, methamphetamine.

BACK TO THE DAYS OF JOHN SINCLAIR
The war on drugs reached another pinnacle of cruelty when 18-year-old Mitchell Lawrence was sentenced to two years in jail in Massachusetts for selling a teaspoonful of marijuana to an undercover police officer for $20. See http://www.alternet.org/story/34814/ and if you want to know who John Sinclair is, read the new page on VIP John Lennon.

HUNTING AND CANNABINOIDS

UC Berkeley professor Michael Pollan, author of The Botany of Desire, which tracks the relationship between man and four plants, including cannabis, is on a speaking tour to promote his new book, The Omnivore's Dilemma. As part of his study of man's relationship to food, Pollan recently hunted wild pig in the forests of Northern California, and likened the experience to a cannaboinoid moment in an article in the New York Times Magazine (March 26).

Pollan talks about standing still in the woods, breathing quietly through his mouth, achieving a state that "felt very much like meditation, though it took no mental effort of exercise to achieve that kind of head-emptying presence. The simple act of looking and listening, tuning my senses to the forest frequencies of Pig, occupied every quadrant of mental space and anchored me to the present. I must have lost track of time, because the 20 minutes flashed by. Ordinarily my body would have rebelled at being asked to hold a crouch this long, but I felt no need to change position or even to shift my weight." Pollan reflected that this mental state, "which I quite liked, in many ways resembled the one induced by marijuana, the way your senses feel heightened and the mind seems to forget everything outside the scope of its present focus, including physical discomfort and the passing of time."

Pollan speculates, "Could it be that the [brain's] cannabinoid network is precisely the sort of adaptation that natural selection would favor in the evolution of a creature who survives by hunting? A brain chemical that sharpens the senses, narrows your mental focus, allows you to forget everything extraneous to the task at hand (including physical discomfort and the passage of time) and makes you hungry would seem to be the perfect pharmacological tool for Man the Hunter. All at once it provides the motive, the reward and the optimal mind-set for hunting. I would not be the least bit surprised to discover that what I was feeling in the woods that morning, crouching against a tree, avidly surveying that forest grove, was a tide of anandaminde [the body's natural cannabinoid] washing over my brain." Perhaps had our vice president enjoyed a doobie instead of a beer while quail hunting in Texas his friend would have fared better. Let's bring in Ted Nugent for a scientific study.

MORE SCIENCE
K. Kaufmann of The Desert Sun reports Riverside County District 3 Supervisor Jeff Stone went into the fourth annual National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics in Santa Barbara last month skeptical but open-minded about the medical value of marijuana. But after two days of presentations by doctors and academic researchers, and talking with patients who use medical cannabis to relieve a range of symptoms, Stone changed his mind. The pharmacist, who previously opposed the licensing of dispensaries in the county, volunteered at the April 11 board meeting to work with county staff on an ordinance to allow them. "There is medical value to cannabis," said Stone. "(We are) going to come up with a plan that ensures we have legitimate purveyors of medical marijuana."

The discoverer of both THC and anandamide, Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam, was interviewed recently saying endocannabinoids are now generally accepted to be neuroprotective agents. One of the synthetic compounds (HU-211) from Dr. Mechoulam's lab has completed phase 2 clinical trials against head trauma with evidence of a neuroprotective effect. Mechoulam thinks the same mechanism that makes cannabinoids neuroprotective probably accounts for their anti-cancer properties.

Some new anticancer cannabinoid compounds that work on an enzyme called topoisomerase have shown promise in Mechoulam's lab, and although known compounds of this sort cause damage to the heart, so far his research has uncovered no such damage in animals. Cannabidiol, a nonpsychoactive compound plentiful in marijuana, is anti-inflammatory and useful against rheumatoid arthritis. A CB-2 receptor agonist has shown promise for treating digestive system disorders, and a newly discovered receptor seems to effect vasodilatation. Mechoulam's lab has found cannabinoids effective in fighting chronic hiccups, Tourettes Syndrome, neuropathic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and nausea in children undergoing chemotherapy. One compound was found to be "pretty good" for prevention of cognition-lowering after heart surgery.

Companies such as G.W. Pharmaceuticals in the United Kingdom and Sanofi in France as well as Smith, Kline & Beecham, Pfizer and Merck are busy researching new medications based on compounds found in the cannabis plant, Mechoulam said. Cannabinoid antagonists are being studied for use in nicotine withdrawal as well as weight reduction. Speaking of working with scientists in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Spain, and Italy and others who have joined the rapidly growing field, Mechoulam said, "Though one always hears about competition between scientists, I haven't seen it that much in this field. We are a large group that is working without really competing, and we are exchanging information all the time. So it's a pleasure to be working in such a field. Maybe it has something to do with ananda ("bliss" in Sanskrit)." See http://www.smart-publications.com/articles/MOM-mechoulam.php

NOT JUST PLAYING GAMES?
A controversial new academic study has suggested that playing violent video games can lead young men to believe it is acceptable to smoke marijuana and drink alcohol, according to research conducted by Dr. Sonya Brady at the University of California, San Francisco and Professor Karen Matthews at the University of Pittsburgh. Their study set out to test the effects of media violence exposure on young men aged eighteen to twenty-one years of age (no female gamers were included in the study). They claim that their results indicate that violent video games may play a role in the development of negative attitudes and behaviors related to health.

The study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, suggests that violent video games negatively affect a player's blood pressure and lead to uncooperative behavior, permissive attitudes toward violence, alcohol and marijuana use (other drugs are not mentioned), sexual activity without condom use and hostile social information processing. Men randomly assigned to play Grand Theft Auto III exhibited greater increases in these reactions and behaviors in comparison with men randomly assigned to play The Simpsons: Hit & Run. The study suggests that although those with a violent upbringing may become more physiologically aroused by media violence exposure, all youth appear to be at risk for potentially negative outcomes. Source: http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=8866

DRUG COMPANIES "INVENTING" DISEASES
Disease-mongering promotes non-existent diseases and exaggerates mild problems to boost profits, the Public Library of Science Medicine in Australia reported. Researchers at Newcastle University said firms were putting healthy people at risk by medicalizing conditions such as menopause. But the pharmaceutical industry denied it invented diseases. Researchers also said that risk factors like high cholesterol and osteoporosis were being presented as diseases - and rare conditions such as restless leg condition and mild problems of irritable bowel syndrome were exaggerated. The researchers called on doctors, patients and support groups to be aware of the marketing tactics of the pharmaceutical industry and for more research into the way in which conditions are presented. Story from BBC NEWS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/health/4898488.stm

GMT SPECIAL FAVORS FOR SPECIAL INTERESTS
Molly Ivins, AlterNet In another example of Congress' corporate shilling, the House just repealed more than 200 food safety protections -- with nary a public hearing. http://www.alternet.org/columnists/story/34807/

THE REAL THING IS BACK
As cannabis-laced and -flavored consumables are being taken off the market in the US, an April 12 Los Angeles Times story said Indians in the remote mountain village of Inza in Southern Columbia are marketing a carbonated, citrus-flavored drink called Coca-Sek that contains an extract of boiled coca leaves. It's believed to be the first such drink since the original Coca-Cola dropped cocaine from its formula in 1905.

The 4,000 indigenous families in the region typically grow several coca plants on their farms for personal use, a right guaranteed by Colombian law. For six years, the Nasa have been quietly selling coca-flavored cookies, aromatic teas, wines and ointments at informal sidewalk stalls and in health food stores. But the launch of Coca-Sek has ignited controversy in a country where Washington has spent $4 billion since 1999 combating the drug trade and terrorism. The Nasa are producing about 8,000 bottles of Coca-Sek a week, up from 3,000 initially. They think they can easily market double that number if they can penetrate Colombia's urban markets. By the end of the year, the Nasa hope to sell Coca-Sek nationwide, targeting the same consumers who drink Gatorade or Red Bull, both highly popular with Colombians.

"Bolivian President Evo Morales, an indigenous coca grower, says he will end coca eradication efforts in Bolivia and promotes coca-based yogurt, soap, bread and tea. He is appealing to the United Nations to drop the coca plant's designation as a poisonous substance, which would open the way to exports," the article stated, adding, "In Peru, a state-owned monopoly called Enaco was formed to create a legitimate market for coca leaves and channel them into the production of toothpaste, topical ointments to treat arthritis, tea and energizer drinks such as Coca-Sek. Nationalist candidate Ollanta Humala, who led Peru's presidential vote Sunday, promised to push for legalization of coca if elected." The Nasa community pays $15 for each 30-pound bag of coca leaves. Each bag makes enough syrup to produce 300 bottles of Coca-Sek. That price tops the $12 a bag paid by local drug traffickers.

Proponents claim Coca-Sek delivers various vitamins and minerals, including calcium, potassium and magnesium, found in the coca leaf. Jim Bauml, senior biologist at the Los Angeles County Arboretum, said, "There is literature out there that shows there is a tremendous nutritive value in the leaf itself. How much of that is released by chewing or other extraction methods isn't clear, but it's there potentially." "The law perfectly recognizes that coca is important to their religious ceremonies," said one official, who asked not to be identified, citing the political sensitivity of the issue. "But it doesn't talk about commercial ends, and that's a confusion that needs to be clarified." AndrŽs D'Alessandro of The Times' Buenos Aires Bureau and special correspondent Adriana Leon in Lima, Peru contributed to the report by Chris Kraul.

Also see: COCA? NO, COCA Shellis Glendinning, AlterNet
A journey to Bolivia to explore the mystery of coca -- and hatch a plan to bring it to the United States -- has an unexpected conclusion.

LA COCA: AN INDIGENOUS PERSPECTIVE J. Carlos Escalera L?, AlterNet
A Bolivian farmer explains the sacred relationship that exists between coca and his people.

4/1/06 - CONDY COCA
No, it's not an April Fool's joke. On March 12, Evo Morales, the coca farmer just elected president of Bolivia, gifted Condeleeza Rice with an Andean guitar with a coca-leaf inlay after their 25-minute meeting. Rice told Morales, "I'm a musician you know," and strummed the instrument. The AP reported, "It was unclear whether she immediately realized what adorned it." A senior State Department official who attended the meeting said, "The gift was well received. We will just have to check with our customs to see what rules apply. We certainly hope we can bring it back (to Washington)."

The incident prompted an admission from a Miami Herald writer.

AMERICANS FAVOR LEGAL POT
Nearly one out of two Americans support amending federal law "to let states legally regulate and tax marijuana the way they do liquor and gambling," according to a national poll of 1,004 likely voters by Zogby International and commissioned by the NORML Foundation. Forty-six percent of respondents -- including a majority of those polled on the East (53 percent) and West (55 percent) oasts -- say they support allowing states to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. Forty-nine percent of respondents were opposed.

Nearly two-thirds of 18-29 year-olds (65 percent) and half of 50-64 year-olds think federal law should be amended to allow states the option to regulate marijuana, while majorities of 30-49 year-olds (58 percent) and seniors 65 and older (52 percent) oppose such a change. Nearly 70 percent of respondents who identified themselves as Jewish, and nearly 60 percent of respondents who said they were non-religious believe that states should regulate cannabis, while only 48 percent of Catholics and 38 percent of Protestants support such a policy. No Rastas were polled, apparently. A previous Zogby poll of 1,024 likely voters found that 61 percent of respondents opposed arresting and jailing non-violent marijuana consumers.

MARCH MADNESS MANGLES PRODUCTIVITY
A 2003 study by a Chicago research firm estimates lost productivity in the US at $1.4 billion during the three weeks of the NCAA basketball tournament, dubbed "March Madness," and some estimate the figure is now $3.8 billion. Lost productivity is an argument often made by Drug Warriors to justify their own salaries, but you don't see them coming after the menace of basketball.

A MILLION LITTLE DOLLARS
According to the New York Times (March 12), James Frey has made an estimated $5.8 million on his "memoir" "A Million Little Pieces" and its sequel "My Friend Leonard," $1.5 million of it since he admitted it's not a memoir but a rejected novel re-cast as truth. His publishers, Doubleday and Anchor Books have raked in $35 million on "Pieces" and estimated sales to bookstores of " Leonard" are at $4.4 million. The Times continues to list both books on their nonfiction bestseller lists with the disclaimer, "Both author and publisher acknowledge that this book contains numerous fabrications."

"Leonard" dropped from 8th to 13th on the hardcover list, where it has appeared for 21 weeks; the paperback "Pieces" was still #2, after 23 weeks on the list. The good news is that something actually worth reading, the paperback edition of John Perkins's "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" (Plume, $14) was at #6 after 8 weeks on the list. Debuting at #15 is a new memoir, "Smashed," by Koren Zailckas, wherein "a young woman remembers her excessive drinking throughout high school and college."

ALTMAN AWARDED

VIP Robert Altman, five times nominated for a Best Director Academy Award, was given a lifetime achievement award at this year's Oscar ceremony. Atlman's splendid collaboration with dancer/actress Neve Campbell in "The Company" was tragically overlooked, but his "Gosford Park" won every award except the Oscar, perhaps because its characters incessantly smoke cigarettes. For more on the connections between movies and tobacco smoking, see SmokeFreeMovies.

That's why "Thank You for Smoking," a film based on the wickedly hilarious novel by VIP Christopher Buckley about lobbyists for the tobacco, gun and alcohol industries, is even more amazingly un-PC. It's hitting the theatres and not to be missed, I'm sure. See more at www.foxsearchlight.com

AMERICAN CHILDREN GET ANTI-PSYCHOTICS

The annual number of children prescribed anti-psychotic drugs jumped fivefold between 1995 and 2002, to an estimated 2.5 million, the AP reported on March 17. More than half of the prescriptions were for attention deficit and other non-psychotic conditions, according to researchers who analyzed data on youngsters age 13 on average who were involved in annual national health surveys. The surveys involved prescriptions given during 119,752 doctor visits. The increasing use of anti-psychotics since the mid-1990s corresponds with the introduction of costly and heavily marketed medications such as Zyprexa and Risperdal. The packaging information for both says their safety and effectiveness in children have not been established.

THE IRONY OF IT ALL

The Canadian journal Macleans recently ran an article about parents who get stoned with their kids. Eighteen-year-old "Tom" confessed in the article that "it was a little weird" seeing his parents stoned, but when he shared a joint with his hard-working, middle-class parents, "I had an amazing, fantastic connection with my dad, and it was a good experience for all of us. . . .It kind of felt like a rite of passage." Noting that today's parents did a lot more than inhaling pot in the 60s, the article said, "Families have changed since the days of 'Father Knows Best'."

Maybe not. Billy Gray, who played the all-American son "Bud" from 1954-1960 on the series, was arrested in 1962 for possession of marijuana. Sadly, the small bust (for seed and resin) nearly ruined his career, especially when the gateway drug theory was applied by the rumor mill. "I got busted for grass, and they said I was a heroin addict," Gray told SF Weekly in 1997. Rumors were repeated as truth after Gray starred in "City Life," a 1996 film where he played a drug dealer. He sued film critic Leonard Maltin, winning an undisclosed financial settlement and a public retraction.

The mom on "Father Knows Best" was Jane Wyatt, first wife of Ronald Reagan, whose administration assured the meth epidemic would happen by siding with the pharmaceutical industry against regulation of ephedrine, meth's main ingredient. On its recent program "The Meth Epidemic," PBS's Frontline interviewed Gene Haislip, formerly #3 man at the DEA, who brought Quaalude use under control by negotiating with foreign producers of the raw ingredients used to make the drug. Haislip wanted to do the same thing with methamphetamine, until higher ups made it clear he needed to acquiesce to Big Pharma's demands. There are now an estimated 1.5 million people hooked on meth in the US, and in some parts of the country, 60-80% of prisoners are meth addicts. More on the program can be found at www.pbs.org. It was produced in association with the Oregonian and their series "Unnecessary Epidemic"

I just watched "What the Bleep Do We Know" again, and I think showing it at drug treatment programs would be a great idea because of its explanation of addiction and the brain, as well as its overall philosophical discussion. See www.whatthebleep.com

MARIJUANA AFFECTS MEMORY IN DRUG ADDICTS

While the US launched a fresh Iraqi offensive and the DEA busted cannabis distributors in Riverside and Oakland, this missive hit the news: "Long-Term Marijuana Use Affects Thinking," according to a March 14 study in the journal Neurology. Several paragraphs later, this news: "The study involved people ages 17 to 49 in a drug abuse treatment program in Athens, Greece. Twenty were long-term users, 20 shorter-term users and 24 control subjects." Those who'd admitted to using other drugs for more than three months were excluded from the small study, where participants were asked to (yawn) repeat a list of words and other meaningless tasks.

The New York Times wrote (3/21), "Dr. Messinis acknowledged that the results might have differed with marijuana users from the general population." Before the tests were performed, all participants had to abstain from marijuana for at least 24 hours. Mitch Earleywine, university professor and author of Understanding Marijuana, told the D'Alliance blog: "Although the study was of a pretty good size and methodology, because 'heavy' users were tested a mere 24 hours after the last time they used marijuana, the results might be more influenced by the residual effects of the marijuana high than some permanent effect on the heavy user's brain." The researchers noted they are planning to conduct further studies on the heavy users a month after last use to see if brain function was reduced in the longer term. I wish we could forget that we're at war and the DEA keeps raiding peaceful pot providers.

Researchers using functional magnetic resonance imagining (fMRI) to detect brain changes concluded that frequent cannabis use is not associated with cognitive deficits in memory or attention. Their trial data will be published in the forthcoming issue of the journal Psychopharmacology. Previous trials and a 2003 meta-analysis published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society came to the same conclusions, according to NORML.

The following story had more hits (69) than the memory study above (54) on Google:
NEIGHBORS UPSET OVER POT PAINTINGS
Chris Seekins decided to protest hemp prohibition when he painted his house on 24 High Street in Winsted, CT with hemp leaves. "Hemp fiber is 10 times as strong as cotton," said Seekins. "You can make plastics out of hemp." Neighbors weren't excited about Seekins message but they all recognized his right to do it. "It's just a means of being civilly disobedient, that's how I look at it," said neighbor Ron Sturm. One police official said, "It comes down to the first amendment and while not everyone may like what he has to say it's his property and he does have the right to say it." Seekins was arrested last year for growing and cultivating almost 100 cannabis plants. He says they were hemp plants, not marijuana, and is fighting the matter in court.

SPEAKING OF HEMP
Agriculture commissioners from four states met with Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials in February to explore acceptable rules on industrial hemp farming. Led by North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson, agriculture commissioners from Massachusetts, West Virginia and Wisconsin met with DEA officials, including Joseph Rannazzisi (Deputy Assistant Administrator), Robert C. Gleason (Deputy Chief Counsel) and Eric Akres (Chief of Congressional Affairs). "We were told by DEA that growers, processors and importers of hemp seed would each have to be separately licensed, and that DEA would need to establish quotas for the production and processing of industrial hemp," Johnson said.

Currently seven states (Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia) have passed pro-hemp farming laws, and California and Vermont are considering them. Sales of hemp foods in 2004/2005 grew by 50% over the previous 12-month period. U.S. retail sales of hemp products are estimated to now be $250 to $300 million per year. There are more than 2.5 million cars on U.S. roads that contain hemp composites. Hemp cultivation in Canada exceeds 24,000 acres per year, while European farmers now grow more than 40,000 acres. See http://www.VoteHemp.com.

Houses built from hemp have been found to use less energy, create less waste and take less fuel to heat than conventionally constructed homes, says Rolf B. Priesnitz in an articled titled "Hemp For Houses" and a new book, Building With Hemp by Steve Allin.

FUN & PHILANTHROPY AT THE DPA COMEDY BENEFIT IN L.A.
All are invited to join the Drug Policy Alliance on Monday, April 10 to mock, amuse and rock the way to ending the war on drugs at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles. The event honors drug policy reform leaders Jodie Evans, Arianna Huffington, and Max Palevsky and will be hosted by Bruce Vilanch. Generously providing the entertainment will be: Andy Dick (and his band, The Bitches of the Century); Jason Flom - Chairman and CEO of Virgin Records US; Beth Lapides – the performance artist who once campaigned to make "First Lady" an elected office; Comedian Taylor Negron & Musician Jill Sobule. More information including how to register can be found here.

3/5/06 - JOAN DANGERFIELD, MONTEL WILLIAMS TO APPEAR AT MEDICAL MARIJAUANA CONFERENCE
Joan Dangerfield, VIP Rodney Dangerfield's widow, will appear at the Fourth National Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, April 6-8 at Santa Barbara City College. Dr. David Bearman tells us her talk will be preceded by a tape of Dangerfield telling four marijuana stories on Jay Leno's Tonight Show. Also attending (and filming) will be VIP Montel Williams, as well as researcher Melanie Dreher (who wrote the Pediatrics study on marijuana-smoking mothers in Jamaica) and other experts from Israel, the UK, Canada, and the US. For registration or more information contact: Patients Out of Time 434-263-4484 or http://www.medicalcannabis.com/conference.htm. Sponsors include the California Nurses Association and CMEs are available.

ALCOHOL MAKERS TARGET YOUNG WOMEN
A February 15th article in the Wall Street Journal by Deborah Ball and Vanessa O'Connell titled, "As Young Women Drink More Alcohol, Sales, Concerns Rise," said that both British and American women between legal drinking age and 24 drank 33% more in 2004 than in 1999. Some of this is thought to be the influence of HBO's "Sex in the City" and the Bridget Jones movies, in which the young female characters drink heavily. The article stated, "The world's largest drinks companies, hungry for new sources of revenue in a business that is growing just 1% or so a year overall, have recognized the trend."

Eighty-one new versions of pre-mixed bottled drinks have debuted in the UK in the past two years, including a diet version of Bacardi Breezers. Pastel-colored Cocktails by Jenn, from Constellation Brands, has 17% alcohol and comes in bottles with metal charms shaped like high-heeled shoes, purses, and diamond rings. Chronic liver disease deaths in the UK are up from 29 in 1970 to 288 in the year 2000 among women aged 24-44. Other health problems and crimes against and by women are also up.

According to the WSJ, the US alcohol industry is after "echo boomers" aged 10-27, 40 million of whom will reach drinking age in the next 10 years. Of one alcoholic diet drink, Kim Cattral (Samantha from "Sex in the City") coos on US TV, "Now you can have it all." Anheuser Busch will unveil its "Peels" brand fruit juice beverages this month, and invited editors at women's magazines for a free manicure and facials at a Manhattan spa, where the drinks were sampled. According to Drinks Business Review, "Peels" will be targeted at women over 30 under the tagline 'Be Juicy'.

But what story did the US press pick up on? "More girls than boys smoke and pop pills," the conclusion of the ONDCP's 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. According to the ONDCP, girls aged 12-17 have caught up with their male counterparts in illicit drug and alcohol use and have surpassed boys in cigarette and prescription drug use. An estimated 1,500,000 girls started using alcohol in 2004 (v. 1,285,000 boys); 730,000 started smoking cigarettes and 675,000 started smoking pot (v. 565,000 and 577,000 for boys). Numbers were not readily available for prescription drug abuse but to further alarm, the report warned that substance abuse often goes hand-in-hand with risky sexual behavior, leading to SDTs or pregnancy.

IT'S HEMPENIN'
Hempzels, hand-twisted pretzels made with hempseed flour in Lancaster, Pennslyvania (home of the hemp-covered Conestoga wagons), were named "Best Pretzel" at the 2005 Atlantic City Gourmet Food Show. The Hempzel company, which is registered with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, has been in business since 1998 and has recently added handcrafted horseradish, hemp and honey mustard and hempseed vegan baklava to its product line, along with 100% organic whole hempseed seasoned in sea salt. A nutritional analysis reveals a single 284-calorie serving of the seed provides 10.3 g of omega-6 fatty acids and 3.6 g of omega-3, along with 107% of the daily requirement of magnesium, 50% of needed iron, and 72% of Vitamin E, among other goodies. See www.hempzels.com

The San Francisco Chronicle, in a March 3 article titled, "Imagine A Year Without Local Salmon" said last year's wild salmon catch was down by 160,000 fish and federal regulators may ban catching salmon along 700 miles of coastline from Monterey to the Oregon border in an attempt to restore spawning stocks. Consumers are increasingly aware of the abundance of healthful omega fatty acids in wild v. farmed salmon, the article stated. Perhaps that's why fiscally prudent Orange County Republican Rep. Chuck DeVore has signed on as a co-sponsor to AB1147 (Leno) a bill to legalize hemp farming in California. 

And I finally tracked down this story, from July 20, 2005 (BBC):

Farmers in Liechtenstein have been banned from keeping their cows calm by feeding them hemp
"Hemp is good for cows because it is serves as a very small tranquiliser," says hemp farmer Jean-Pierre Egger. "Many of the cows are stressed nowadays. If they eat hemp, they calm down. Now, a milk cow which is calm produces better milk. That is a fact." It also might produce milk with omega 3s and hard-to-find GLA, a substance found in hempseed and human mothers' milk.

VIP QUIZ: Who wrote an article titled, "Why I Support the Drug Policy Alliance, and So Should You?"

a.      Milton Friedman
b.     Tommy Chong
c.      William F. Buckley
d.     Walter Cronkite

(answer at: http://www.drugpolicy.org/library/cronkite022306.cfm)

RIP AL LEWIS
I had just mentioned "Grandpa Munster" Al Lewis on the VIP page of "Grandpa Walton" (VIP Will Geer) when the sad news hit that Lewis had died. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! aired a wonderful interview with Lewis, a longtime activist and bon vivant. Although he campaigned for reform of the Rockefeller Drug laws during his Green Party run for governor or NY, I can't find any admission of pot use in print, except possibly at: http://www.usenet.com/newsgroups/talk.politics.drugs/msg17265.html

POTHEADS CONTRIBUTE TO OLYMPIC CEREMONIES, WORLD PEACE
If you're planning the Olympic ceremonies and you need to put up a US woman to match the beauty of Sophia Loren, who do you choose? Why, Susan Sarandon of course. In the Opening Ceremonies for the 2006 Winter Olympics on February 10 in Turin, Italy, Sarandon carried in the Olympic flag along with Loren and six other female activists or athletes. She looked great, as even Falstafian columnist George Will once noted, putting her on a list of 10 things he would take to another planet. (Her response was great: "I'm happy Mr. Will's body isn't as conservative as his head.")

In an interview about "Light Sleeper," in which she played a cocaine dealer, Sarandon told Robert Scheer of the Los Angeles Times (8/30/92), "Cocaine didn't interest me. Not at all. I'm way way back in the early pot, and mushrooms, organic, not all these chemical things that split you and do horrible things. They're too antisocial. The only thing political about ["Light Sleeper"] is that usually in the films and news, drugs are always connected with people of color. You never see rich, white, upwardly mobile people. In this movie, that's who I, the drug queen, sell to." Sarandon and partner Tim Robbins appeared at the 2000 Shadow Convention in support of the Drug Policy Alliance.

At the Olympic ceremony, Yoko Ono introduced Peter Gabriel, who sang her late husband John Lennon's peace anthem "Imagine." Before his death in 1980, the US tried to deport Lennon because of a marijuana arrest. Italy, which a few years ago let its marijuana offenders out of prison, re-tightened its marijuana laws just before the Olympics. But that didn't stop the Olympic committee from blasting a Doobie Brothers song during the Opening Ceremony's Parade of Nations.

BOB SEGER SAID IT ALL: KKKKKK-KATMANDU!
KATMANDU, Nepal (AP): Hundreds of Hindu holy men, devotees and tourists smoked marijuana near a temple in Nepal's capital on Sunday as part of festival celebrating the Hindu god Shiva. Ash-smeared holy men wearing loin cloths shared marijuana cigarettes with locals -- and even some tourists -- in a forested area near Pashupatinath temple, on the eastern edge of Katmandu. More than 150,000 devotees were expected Sunday, February 26 to visit the temple, one of the holiest shrines for Hindus.

2/2/06 - A Million Little Lies: The Drug War Exception to the Truth
The bestselling book A Million Little Pieces, which purports to be the true confessions of a recovered heroin addict, still tops the New York Times nonfiction paperback bestseller list, where it has appeared for the past 17 weeks. But a six-week investigation by The Smoking Gun using police reports, court records, interviews with law enforcement personnel and other sources reveals that the book's author James Frey "wholly fabricated or wildly embellished details of his purported criminal career, jail terms, and status as an outlaw." Read more including a mention of February's outie of the month, Robert Louis Stevenson.

She Buried Paul
Paul McCartney got one great album out in between wives: "Run Devil, Run." Then apparently he got tired of running. The World Entertainment News Network said on January 23 that before marrying him in 2002, Heather Mills demanded Paul give up smoking pot, reportedly an everyday habit with his former wife Linda. "I could not have him lying to our child about not taking drugs and then going for a sneaky puff," she said. Will she want him to lie about his past?

 On January 13, 1980 McCartney was jailed in Tokyo after customs agents found marijuana in his luggage, an event thought to be the inspiration for Wings' album "Band on the Run." Exactly four years later, he was arrested for marijuana possession in Barbados. British tabloids and a Paris newspaper quote John Lennon saying the Beatles smoked pot in Buckingham Palace's bathroom before being decorated by the Queen.

Prosecuting Potheads
-After his estranged wife Donna told police that she had found some marijuana in her husband's sock drawer, former Manchester, NH city prosecutor Kenneth Bernard pleaded guilty to a charge of possessing marijuana in Sullivan County Superior Court on January 11. He was fined $250 with no jail time or other conditions.

-The South Carolina Supreme Court reinstated the law license of Robert Lee Newton Jr., a former prosecutor who was found growing marijuana in his home in September 2003. Newton was suspended from the bar for one year.

-Santa Clara County prosecutor Ed Fernandez, who was charged last month with possessing a small amount of marijuana, went back to work on January 30 and has been assigned to handle restitution cases. ``He made a bad personal choice that has never interfered with his ability to be an outstanding lawyer,'' his boss said. ``He is coming back to be part of this office, and he will contribute as he always has.''

I hope in future these offices will be as understanding with all the marijuana cases they try.

If You Can't Beat 'em, Join 'em
The government of Sinapore, once known for paddling lawbreakers, is "working hard to rebrand the city-state's staid image" according to a Jan. 1 New York Times article by Jennifer Gampell. Licensing hours for night spots were extended to 3 A.M. in 2003 and nonstop in designated areas. The Ministry of Sound, the "mother of the London rave scene" is scheduled to open an outpost soon on the city's Clarke Quay, joining a Parisian topless revue called Crazy Horse.

Forget the Topless Shots, Show Us the Pot-Smoking Ones
Now that Angelina Jolie is officially carrying a Pitt in her stomach, my theory has been at least half proven: it wasn't Brad's pot smoking that made he and Jennifer Aniston non-parental, as the tabloids speculated. (Jen even went so far as to make a movie, "The Good Girl," with this premise.) More likely, Jen was unable to conceive because she's so skinny, a problem La Plus Jolie doesn't seem to have.

Aniston and photographer Peter Brandt are in court over topless photographs Brant took of Jen in her backyard. In a Notice of Demrurer obtained by Jossip.com, Brandt claims that some of the photos he took depict Aniston and boyfriend Vince Vaughn smoking pot together. The accusations are in Brandt's court filings of Jan. 3.

US News (and World Retort)
-The Alaska Senate has a bill that would re-criminalize home use of marijuana, overturning a 1975 Alaska Supreme Court ruling based on the state's constutional right to privacy. Backed by Governor Frank Murkowski, the bill would make possession of less than 4 oz. of marijuana a misdemeanor, and more than that a felony. Now combined with legislation to curb meth labs and list steroids as controlled substances, the measure must still pass the House of Representatives.

A 1990 voter referendum criminalized possession of marijuana in Alaska, after which our original drug "czar," Bill Bennett, resigned, declaring the drug war won. In 2003, the Alaska Court of Appeals reversed that vote. Since then, according to the AP, Murkowski's Department of Law has been trying to overturn the courts' decision.

-New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has made a medical-marijuana bill one of his legislative priorities for 2006, the New Mexican reported Jan. 19. "After speaking with many seriously ill New Mexicans, I have decided to include this bill on my call," said Richardson. "This issue is too important, and there are too many New Mexicans suffering to delay this issue any further." The Senate Public Affairs Committee unanimously passed the bill.ÊIt must clear two more committees before it reaches the full Senate for a vote.

-The Australian Greens have backed away from a courageous proposal to study the option of supplying drug users with ecstasy and marijuana. Party leader Bob Brown said the decision came after talking to unspecified "drug experts". The new drugs policy, endorsed by the party's national conference in Hobart, says criminal sanctions for personal drug use should be dropped in favor of rehabilitation and harm minimization (ho hum).

-Organizers of the International Highlife Hemp Fair in Amsterdam expected 15,000-20,000 attendees for a growers' trade show that opened Jan. 22, featured grow equipment, bongs, grinders, rolling paper, reflective film, hemp-fabric apparel and how-to marijuana growing videos. Police were present but made no arrests. Arjan Roskam, who says he has hosted celebrities such as 50 Cent and Eminem in his Amsterdam coffee shops, was selling his prize-winning plant seeds for 100 euros ($121) each.

-The Times of India reports that after a series of suicides by debt-ridden farmers in Maharashtra, those in Vidarbha region are trying to sell off their kidneys or seeking permission to cultivate marijuana to repay debts caused by crop failures. Farmers from Naigaon in Dhamangaon taluka of Amravati district are seeking licences for cultivating marijuna and running illicit liquor dens to cover their agricultural production cost, according to sources. They have threatened to commit mass suicide if their demands are not met. 

Ga Ga at the Globes
For her performance as a pot-dealing suburban housewife in Showtime's "Weeds," Mary Louise Parker beat all four Desperate Housewives for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globe awards on January 16. When asked by E! TV what she thought when she first heard of "Weeds," Parker replied that she'd wanted to do something "twisted." The HBO miniseries "Empire Falls" earned Golden Globes for Best Miniseries or Movie and Best Supporting Actor for Paul Newman. No one asked what he was smoking on that ladder.

On the red carpet Parker, 41, told the LA Daily News, "I'm really in favor of legalizing marijuana. I don't think it's that controversial." She added, "I thought people would be more offended by ["Weeds"] than they are. I'm surprised they weren't." (But searching "Mary Louise Parker" and "legalize" gave no results on Google's search engine. This news came from a UK source when "legalise" was entered. Don't be evil, Google, this isn't China--or is it?)

Worth Renting
"Why don't you smoke pot, it smells better," Lee Majors says to a teenager smoking a cigarette in an elevator in the movie "Agency" (1980). Starring a post "Winds of War" Robert Mitchum with a strong performance as the dastardly head of an ad agency gone bad, it's much more thrilling than the new King Kong.

Smoking, But Not Impaired
Reggie Williams, a wide receiver with the Jacksonville Jaguars who was stopped on January 9 for failing to stop for a stop sign was cited for having marijuana in his car. The Jaguars' top draft pick in 2004 was told by police they smelled marijuana in his vehicle when he was stopped. They found two marijuana "cigarettes" under the driver's seat and a small bag of loose marijuana in the center console of the SUV. Police said a field sobriety test was given to Williams and he was found not to be impaired before he was released to the custody of his brother, who drove him home. Williams was also cited for running a red light, turning left from a center lane and unknowingly driving on a suspended or revoked driver's license. Source: News4Jax.com.

Parent of the Month Award
A Leawood, Kansas man called police after his wife overheard their teenage son on the phone on January 10, apparently arranging to have marijuana delivered to his house. Police said another teenager drove to the boy's house gave the boy marijuana, and they stopped the car as it left and found another small quantity of pot. Both young men were taken into custody for drug possession. The teen in the car was released to his parents, but his customer went to the juvenile detention center at the request of his parents. Source: Benita Y. Williams/The Star

TV on Drugs
-Upon receiving the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center, Steve Martin said, "If [Saturday Night Live producer] Lorne Michaels had told me I'd receive this award one year after him, I'd have said, 'Let me have a hit of that.'"

-Jay Leno to Kevin Eubanks, "Try to time your drugs to the monologue -- you don't want to peak too soon

-I finally saw an informative pharmaceutical ad, for Zetia (anti-cholesterol), in which a doctor is making the rounds with residents and they actually explain how the drug works. Shocking! But much better is the brilliant spoof "The Drugs I Need" at http://www.jibjab.com

The Family Stone(d)
Destined to become a classic Christmas movie, "The Family Stone," now in theaters, seems to say that pot smoking can even help the uptight find happiness. Of course, the Stone's matriarch Diane Keaton, who turned 60 on Jan. 5, has smoked on film, in "Annie Hall" (1977) and 1982's "Shoot the Moon" (while singing a Beatles song in the bathtub). Also featuring Craig T. Nelson's first pot-smoking role since "Poltergeist" (1982) and set in pot-friendly New England, it's worth a view.

Drug War Victim of the Month: Candy Barr
Candy Barr, the 1950s Dallas nightclub stripper who danced in a cowboy hat and boots and hung out with Jack Ruby, died on January 2 at the age of 70. Barr tried stage acting, but her legitimate career was derailed in 1957, when she was arrested for having a little less than four-fifths of an ounce of marijuana concealed in her bra. She was sentenced to 15 years but later paroled. Read more.

Czech It Out!
By law, Czechs can possess "no amount larger than a small amount" of pot, and  Jeffrey Fleishman of the LA Times got the groovy assignment of covering the situation on the ground for an article published on January 24. After the Velvet Revolution ended Communist rule of Czechoslovakia in 1989, Fleishman writes, "the scent of pot became a symbol of freedom, moving beyond the counterculture into an increasingly liberal mainstream." An estimated 12 tons of marijuana are smoked each year in the country of 10.2 million people.

      "There's seven profiles of marijuana smokers: computer programmers, environmental activists, university students, teenagers, villagers in Moravia who now smoke joints instead of drinking plum brandy, reggae music listeners and 80-year-old ladies buying marijuana for their husbands who have Parkinson's and other illnesses," a local drug counselor said.

Locals told Fleishman their home-grown marijuana is often too strong for visitors. The Times reporter did not report any personal observations, but Golden Globe nominee Heath Ledger called it "some of the most psychedelic marijuana I've ever smoked" while he was filming "The Brother Grimm" in Prague last year.

Pigs Still at the Trough
It took a murder investigation to bring lobbyist Jack Abramoff's backroom dealings to the fore, and it's a fine time to re-read Arianna Huffington's "Pigs at the Trough" (2003). In excerpt:

"Can we expect to see undercover 'narc-accountants' infiltrating what's left of the Big Four accounting firms? Middle-of-the-night no-knock raids on companies that restate their earnings by billions of dollars? Confiscation of an executive's entire assets simply on the suspicion of fraud? Will corporate cops get to emulate their drug-fighting counterparts and be allowed to keep a percentage of the money they confiscate? I bet that would do wonders to change the reluctance to target corporate corruption....The average sentence for even the biggest white-collar crooks is less than 36 months; nonviolent, first-time federal drug offenders are sent away for over 64 months on average. So much for letting the punishment fit the crime. The bitter truth is that, unlike the majority of nonviolent drug cases, corporate malfeasance is not a victimless crime. Not with tens of thousands of laid-off workers, $630 billion lost from corporate pension plans, and more than $9 trillion in shareholder assets wiped out in the scandal-fueled stock market swoon."

Keep up with Arianna at http://www.huffingtonpost.com

When we let them down, kids get high
Kimball C. Pier, a Lake Tahoe, CA drug and alcohol counselor, wrote an interesting piece in the Jan. 29 San Francisco Chronicle subtitled, "In a world in which they don't feel valued, teens escape with drugs." She writes,

"My work as a drug treatment counselor is mostly with people who really don't want to be in drug treatment but whose only other option is jail. Most are not sailing along on the pink cloud of newly discovered sobriety, especially the young ones because, they tell me, life sucks hard and getting high is way better. They make no secret of missing their drugs.

"They are honest about how they feel about lives, their futures and George W. Bush. I am deeply worried about what I hear. Teenagers are good barometers of this nation's overall state of mind. Like many adults who listen to CNN, they feel like they have no voice and no place in this world. They have no sense of being essential to the reversal of decay in this country's values system because, 'It seems beyond saving,' as one young woman told me."

Once more, we're treating the symptoms, not the causes. See the full article.

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