Little Known Cannabis Facts – Show 67

Welcome back to Weeducated! It’s time for Little Known Cannabis Facts and I know it’s been forever since the last one, but we’re still continuing with our History of Cannabis Timeline. I want to do a quick recap because it’s been forever since our last one. We started this all the way back in 10,000 BC. We’ve talked about cannabis and the cavemen, the Scythian, the Egyptians, the assassins. We’ve talked about the first drug laws in the world and in America. We’ve talked about how for most of human history cannabis has been recognized as a beneficial and even necessary plant for humanity. It’s only within the last couple hundred years that we’ve treated it as the devil. There are some incredibly fascinating and important facts that anyone who considers themselves a cannabis advocate should know. If you haven’t heard the history to this point, I HIGHLY recommend going back and listening to the older episodes. You can hear all of them by going to lkf.weeducated.com.

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But, I digress. So, moving on….If you do somehow possess the memory of an elephant and remember the last episode, we left off in the 1930’s and 1940’s in America. We talked all about Harry Anslinger (the then head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics) and his campaign against musicians and even Hollywood. If you’ve been a fan of the show for a while now, you know Anslinger was a real peach.

Ok, I might have lied about part of that. He sucked. He sucked so hard. He singlehandedly did more to demonize marijuana than anyone else in American History. He rose up through the ranks via customs and eventually landed the director role for the newly formed FBN. His tenure in this role was largely defined by his approach to drug users. The whole idea that drug users should be “punished” originated with him and his office. Oh, side note, that old show, the untouchables? In real life, those were his agents. Zealots on a mission to eradicate the scourge of drugs and alcohol and their users. Anyway, Anslinger created policies and media campaigns against marijuana based on anecdotal information, bad science and a sense of self preservation. You see, his entire department and thus, his position of power, was all dependent on the “drug war”. We didn’t call it that back then, but that’s certainly where it originated.

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Now, he did this in the face of medical science. It might surprise you to know that originally in this country the American Medical Association OPPOSED the first legislation banning cannabis. Several states outlawed cannabis as part of their general poison laws and surprisingly, the AMA stood against these laws. Their stance was that cannabis was an incredibly helpful and useful plant with many positive qualities.

Now this is where we’re going to pick up this time. As I said, Anslinger never let a silly thing like Science stand in the way of his agenda and the 1950’s were no different. Also, let me set this up a bit….the 1950’s were riddled with crime, mostly of the organized variety. And unlike earlier in the century, most drug addiction wasn’t accidental. And a lot of the addiction was to heroin. AND we were smack dab in the middle of the Korean War and the cold war. Damn those commies. So Anslinger, true to form, capitalized on the fear associated with these issues.

Well, at least after the medical community stuffed him, that is. So here’s how it went…

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There was a new law proposal for the books, the Boggs Act. The Boggs act is where our current iteration of drug policy comes from. We started with a “war on drugs” and when that didn’t work well enough, we made harsher penalties and more extreme punishments. Enter the Boggs Act. It basically QUADRUPLED the penalties for drug possession and use (btw this is where the crazy shit like death penalties for cannabis originates). And of course, before its passage, there were hearings.

Ok, so anyone familiar with Anslinger knows he’s famous for lots of bullshit quotes, but one in particular, stands out. Here goes…”Marijuana, in its users, causes criminality, insanity and death.” He spouted this EVERYWHERE. It was submitted into evidence by him during the hearings for the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act, the country’s first anti-marijuana law. And he used it over and over and over after that. In newspaper columns, in radio addresses, everywhere.

Here’s where things get interesting. So as part of the hearings for the Boggs Act, a doctor who ran one of the government’s narcotic rehabilitation facilities testifies and tosses Anslinger’s argument on its ass. He basically gets up on the stand and says, Ya…marijuana? Actually we KNOW it doesn’t cause criminality, insanity or death. Oh…and it’s also not addictive. We know that too.

So what’s Anslinger to do? He’s already been bitten by his own words once (ahem, insanity defense- if you don’t know what I’m talking about listen to past episodes. And believe me, it’s worth it..a government official even turns into a BAT because of cannabis). Anyway, so what is he to do? The whole argument he’s been making for years was just completely destroyed by a DOCTOR..a professional…someone you can trust. Well, this is Anslinger we’re talking about here so it barely even phased him. In fact, this one act…this one lie, has been perpetuated for the better part of seventy years. And it’s one of the most common misconceptions about cannabis today. The gateway theory.

That’s right. Anslinger is such a smooth operator, he gets up there and agrees with the doc… ok ok ok, maybe it doesn’t cause insanity and death, but I personally believe it has something in it that causes criminality…I’ve seen it. And maybe it isn’t addictive, but it is “the certain first step on the road to heroin addiction”. The end.

Yup. No science. Nothing to back this claim up..Nope. He doesn’t explain or back that up in any way. Just blatant uneducated opinion spouted as fact. Personal opinion presented as fact. And what’s wrong with that, after all? Who doesn’t want personal self-preserving opinions to shape our nation’s law and policies?

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*sigh* Ok, well that’s where I’m going to leave off but there’s more to this story. In fact, next time we’re going to be talking about how Anslinger capitalizes on the Cold War to further his anti-marijuana agenda. Yikes!

As always, all sources and references can be found by going to lkf.weeducated.com. Stick with us, we’ll be right back!

By rubylexi • March 5, 2015 • 12:00 am • Leave a comment

Little Known Cannabis Facts – Show 61

For this episode of  Little Known Cannabis Facts, we ease back into the History of Cannabis Timeline with an overview of what happened to cannabis in the 1950’s in America. There were basically three major things that happened in the fifties. The government censors all drug references in movies, print, etc. and even disallows studies and publications in professional journals. We also talk about the origination of the stubborn gateway theory. We also talk about the birth of our current approach to drug enforcement. This is the period where we developed the “drug War” approach with harsh penalties and punishment of addiction, rather than treatment. We also discuss the feud that took place between Anslinger and a well-known Psychologist (the Canadians eventually help out too).

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By rubylexi • January 21, 2015 • 12:00 am • Leave a comment

Little Known Cannabis Facts – Show 60

In Little Known Cannabis Facts, we’re still breaking from the History of Cannabis Timeline with a great discussion and breakdown on the differences in the various vape pens and cartridges available on the cannabis market today.

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All Vape Pen Oils Are Not Created Equal

http://www.marijuana.com/news/2015/01/all-vape-pen-oils-are-not-created-equal/

Vaporizer pens are all the rage these days. Sarah Silverman flashed one on the red carpet (“This is my liquid pot,” she quipped). Whoopi Goldberg wrote a gushy love letter to hers, affectionately nicknaming it “Sippy.” Snoop Dogg has his own proprietary model, which comes cloaked in a map of his old Long Beach ‘hood. The Oxford English Dictionary recently crowned “vape” its Word of the Year.

It seems that everywhere you turn someone is sucking on a sleek, sexy, subversive little wand. People are vaping cannabis oil on the street, in restaurants, movie theaters, airplanes, even sporting events. You feel like you’re getting away with something sneaky when you vape in public. Being a stoner has never been so easy. Read more….

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By rubylexi • January 14, 2015 • 12:00 am • Leave a comment

Little Known Cannabis Facts – Show 59

In Little Known Cannabis Facts, we take a break from history to talk about the most influential marijuana consumers of last year. It’s a surprising and sometimes hilarious look at our culture and those who influence it.

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most influential marijuana users     mattdamon     sarahpalin

By rubylexi • January 6, 2015 • 4:08 pm • Leave a comment

Little Known Cannabis Facts – Show 58

So we talked last time about the La Guardia Report and how Anslinger successfully squashed it’s findings. Well, he also targeted jazz musicians and there are even loose reports online for a so-called “Gore File” which contained all the evidence he was compiling on those he was trying to prosecute. I want to read an excerpt for you from The History of the Non-Medical Use of Drugs in the United States, by Charles Whitebread, Professor of Law, USC Law School. The original speech was given during a speech to the California Judges Association for the 1995 annual conference.
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After national marijuana prohibition was passed, Commissioner Anslinger found out, or got reports, that certain people were violating the national marijuana prohibition and using marijuana and, unfortunately for them, they fell into an identifiable occupational group. Who were flouting the marijuana prohibition? Jazz musicians. And so, in 1947, Commissioner Anslinger sent out a letter, I quote it verbatim, “Dear Agent So-and-so, Please prepare all cases in your jurisdiction involving musicians in violation of the marijuana laws. We will have a great national round-up arrest of all such persons on a single day. I will let you know what day.”
That letter went out on, I think, October 24, 1947. The responses by the resident agents were all in the file. My favorite — at the bottom line, there wasn’t a single resident agent who didn’t have reservations about this idea — came from the Hollywood agent. This is the exact letter of the FBN agent in charge in Hollywood.
“Dear Commissioner Anslinger,
I have your letter of October 24. Please be advised that the musical community here in Hollywood are unionized and very tight we have been unable to get an informant inside it. So, at the present time, we have no cases involving musicians in violation of the marihuana laws.”
For the next year and a half, Commissioner Anslinger got those kinds of letters. He never acknowledged any of the problems that the agents said they were having with this idea and always wrote them back the same letter.
“Dear Agent so-and-so,
Glad to hear you are working hard to give effect to my directive of October 24, 1947. We will (and he always underlined the word ‘will’) have a great national round-up arrest of musicians in violation of the marijuana laws all on a single day. Don’t worry, I will let you know what day.”
This went on — and, of course, you know that some jazz musicians were, in fact, arrested in the late 40’s — this all went on until it ended just the way it began — with something that Anslinger said. I don’t see anybody in here really old enough to appreciate this point, but Commissioner Anslinger was testifying before a Senate Committee in 1948. He was saying, “I need more agents.” And, of course, the Senators asked him why.
“Because there are people out there violating the marijuana laws.”
Well, you know what the Senators asked — “Who?”
And in a moment that every Government employee should avoid like the plague, Anslinger first said, “Musicians.” But then he looked up at that Senate committee and he gave them a little piece of his heart and said the single line which provoked the most response in this country’s history about the non-medical use of drugs. Anslinger said, “And I don’t mean good musicians, I mean jazz musicians.”
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In addition, he also focused on movie stars knowing that it would be a huge media storm if he were to bust a famous movie star….In 1948, he did just that when he arrested Robert Mitchum. Mitchum was arrested in his home with three others for conspiracy to possess and possession. At this point in time, marijuana was so negatively viewed that during the arrest, he listed his occupation as ‘former actor’. Mitchum maintained he was framed despite being convicted. In 1949, the LA DA ordered a reinvestigation into his claims of blackmail and enough evidence was turned up that his conviction was dismissed in 1951. All of this actually fueled his career as he was seen as a rebel or a tough guy outsider.
Undeterred, Anslinger pushed his agenda even harder and put all kinds of pressure on studio executives to remove any sort of marijuana from films. Although he couldn’t directly censor them, the Mitchum affair made them quite wary and many of them self-censored. Anslinger also tried to have the passports of any convicted jazz musicians cancelled, though the US Treasury squashed this plan. He ruthlessly pursued anyone associated with cannabis and stretched his authority to unbelievably undemocratic proportions. Throughout this, many in the Jazz community flouted their cannabis use through their music and popularity. In 1943, Fats Waller released a disc that included a song primarily about reefer. It was subtle enough to escape scrutiny but many on the colored community and the armed forces had a great laugh at Anslinger’s expense. That’s actually where I’m going to leave off but we’ll pick up next time by talking about how Anslinger regained his status and got back at the Jazz musicians and all other cannabis users. In fact, this next stunt was so successful, we’re still arguing over it today. This, despite the fact that in true Anslinger fashion, he didn’t have a shred of evidence to back up his claims…..
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As always, sources can be found by going to topics.weeducated.com or for Little Known Facts, lkf.weeducated.com. We’ll be right back with product review.
By rubylexi • December 10, 2014 • 12:00 am • Leave a comment

Little Known Cannabis Facts – Show 57

Welcome back to Weeducated! It’s time for Little Known Cannabis Facts, WOOHOO!
We’re still continuing our History of Cannabis Timeline and if you remember last time, we left off with more from the Jazz scene in New York in the 30’s and 40’s. We talked about the vipers and even the origin of the term ‘hip’. We’re going to jump right back into this time with one of the most unfortunate things to ever take place in America’s History.
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I think that lots of us in this day and age think about corporations and those huge special interest groups as untouchable. As almost impossible to influence. But that wasn’t always the case. Where we are right now in our Cannabis History really marks the beginning of America’s corruption. Remember, we started out a group of free individuals who were trying to escape tyranny, high taxes and an unjust government system. And for a while, we managed it. We were free. But this period in history marks our decline. We made some very important decisions during this time period and unfortunately, we chose the wrong fork in the road. And we’re still paying the price for those choices.
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What the hell am I talking about? I’m talking about social responsibility. In the 30’s and 40’s, we took a big turn away from Hemp and other renewable energy sources. And we’ve talked about this in the past. But what we haven’t talked about is the perversion of science that takes place during this period of history. The blatant use of ‘science’ to support specific corporate or social agendas. It was during this time that the first scientist stretched the ‘truth’ or cherry-picked facts about a particular topic in order to sway public opinion. This isn’t opinion. This is historical fact.
I’m going to detour for a moment to talk about unleaded gas. We all see it every time we fill up. UNleaded gasoline. I doubt many of us have ever wondered about the UN part of unleaded gas. Well, it’s UNleaded because gasoline used to be leaded with a particular kind of lead that also happened to be fat soluble. It was an incredibly cheap additive which  helped to prevent knocking. So why is our gasoline UNleaded these days?
Well, because lead is deadly. When they first started to produce this type of lead, there were reports in the papers about workers going insane or hallucinating and even dying. The problem was, this additive was very inexpensive and helped to produce a more desirable and thus more profitable kind of gasoline. Oh, and we were putting it in paint too. The lead made colors cheaper and also made the paint more durable. So what are these masters of industry to do? They’ve developed this incredible additive that has so many potential uses but now people are dying!
Well they did what any self-preserving greedy SOB would do. They hired a scientist to reassure the public. And so he did. As the medical spokesperson for the Ethyl corporation and other industries reliant on lead, Dr. Robert Kehoe repeatedly denounced the ‘naysayers’ and repeatedly proclaimed the safety of lead. He masterfully shifted the burden of proof to the concerned scientists, saying, “Show me the evidence”. This assured that either those concerned would drop the matter entirely or that it would take years and years of research to prove the danger of lead. In either case, the profits wouldn’t be affected for a long time so it was considered a win. It was so successful and so broad-reaching there were even these terrific little bits of propaganda….
So what the hell does this have to do with Marijuana Prohibition and Cannabis History? I tell you this to provide you undeniable and undisputed proof of where we were in this formative period of our country’s history. So that you can arm yourself with the necessary proof that our response to science in this period of time was flawed.
How was it flawed in relation to cannabis? Well, I want to tell you about another man. This man was the mayor of New York from 1934 to 1945. He was actually an incredibly rational man and had some really cool thoughts about the world. As mayor of New York, he saw it as his duty to research this “marijuana menace”. In fact here’s his foreword to the report he ultimately commissioned:
As Mayor of the City of New York, it is my duty to foresee and take steps to prevent the development of hazards to the health, safety, and welfare of our citizens. When rumors were recently circulated concerning the smoking of marihuana by large segments of our population and even by school children, I sought advice from The New York Academy of Medicine, as is my custom when confronted with problems of medical import. On the Academy’s recommendation I appointed a special committee to make a thorough sociological and scientific investigation, and secured funds from three Foundations with which to finance these studies.
 
And study they did. There was both a medical and psychological aspect to the study and each aspect was headed by a different scientist. They reviewed the history of the plant and existing knowledge about cannabis and developed many questions for their study based on this history. So what did they find?
  1. Marihuana is used extensively in the Borough of Manhattan but the problem is not as acute as it is reported to be in other sections of the United States.
  2. The introduction of marihuana into this area is recent as compared to other localities.
  3. The cost of marihuana is low and therefore within the purchasing power of most persons.
  4. The distribution and use of marihuana is centered in Harlem.
  5. The majority of marihuana smokers are Negroes and Latin-Americans.
  6. The consensus among marihuana smokers is that the use of the drug creates a definite feeling of adequacy.
  7. The practice of smoking marihuana does not lead to addiction in the medical sense of the word.
  8. The sale and distribution of marihuana is not under the control of any single organized group.
  9. The use of marihuana does not lead to morphine or heroin or cocaine addiction and no effort is made to create a market for these narcotics by stimulating the practice of marihuana smoking.
  10. Marihuana is not the determining factor in the commission of major crimes.
  11. Marihuana smoking is not widespread among school children.
  12. Juvenile delinquency is not associated with the practice of smoking marihuana.
  13. The publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marihuana smoking in New York City is unfounded.
So what’s the big deal? These are positive findings and should have led to more study on marijuana as it obviously wasn’t the devil that everyone had been led to believe. So what happened? Anslinger happened. He not only refuted the study as ‘non-science’ he commissioned his own reports to refute this one. He buried this report and got a hold of as many copies as he could. As a result, his campaign against marijuana gained even more steam and following. It was even MORE dangerous to use marijuana after he released his own report. And as the lead story above points out, this isn’t isolated.
As a country we took a dramatic turn in this period of our history, toward personal preservation at the cost of the common good. My hope is that someday we look back on this stage and we learn from our overarching mistakes. That we can stand up and say “No More!” to those who would manipulate us with our fears and our ignorance. That the truth of a thing is more important that how that truth might impact the individual. I’m going to leave off there this time, but as always, check outlkf.weeducated.com for sources. Also, the La Guardia Report contains some incredibly fascinating info so I highly encourage you to go check it out. We’ll be right back with product review!
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By rubylexi • November 26, 2014 • 12:00 am • Leave a comment

Little Known Cannabis Facts – Show 56

Welcome back to Weeducated! It is time for Little Known Cannabis Facts. We’re still continuing with our History of Cannabis Timeline and if you remember last show, we talked about an incredible man by the name of Mezz Mezrow. We talked about how he was a musician and musical financier although that isn’t why he was famous. He was most well known for selling marijuana. And as we discussed last time, “Mezz” eventually came to mean quality or top-notch marijuana. We also talked about how he became an incidental black-rights’ activist. He immersed himself in black culture, specifically the jazz scene and even lived in Harlem in a time when it was exclusively black. And that’s where we’re going to pick up this time….In New York during the thirties.

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As we’ve talked about in past shows, a man by the name of Harry Anslinger (the then head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics) did more to fuel negative marijuana propaganda than probably anyone else in world history. However, his attention to New York, at least with regards to marijuana prohibition, was somewhat non-existent. This was due to the fact that New York didn’t have the same marijuana usage rates as a lot of the southern or western states. Most attribute this to the lack of immigrants from Mexico and other places where marijuana use was incredibly common. However, this changed during the Depression. By 1931, there were over 300,000 black immigrants. Most flocked to Harlem from southern states or the Caribbean, looking for work. Many were unable to find work, and they turned to drugs and even jazz for a happy release from the misery they found themselves living in, day to day. While some turned to heroin or opium, the vast majority found solace in an old friend called marijuana.

Cannabis in the 1940's New York

This migration and integration continued until New York replaced New Orleans and Chicago as the hub for jazz. Even Mezz Mezrow moved there to be closer to the action. While he started out in the Bronx, he was drawn to Harlem. He even talks about it in the book we talked about last time, “Really the Blues”:

Right from the start I was surrounded by a lot of wonderful friends, the first gang of vipers in Harlem….Before I knew it, I had to write to our connection for a large supply because everybody I knew wanted some….Overnight I was the most popular man in Harlem. That mellow Mexican leaf really started something in Harlem-a whole new language, almost a new culture.

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Given that his marijuana was superior to the alternatives of that time, it’s really no surprise that he rose to fame for dealing. But he wasn’t a “pusher”. He only sold to acquaintances, not always making a profit and he didn’t advocate its use. In his own words:

Even during the years when I sold the stuff, I never “pushed” it like a salesman pushes vacuum cleaners or Fuller brushes. I had it for anyone who came asking, if he was a friend of mine. I didn’t promote it anywhere, and I never gave it to kids….I sold it to grown-up friends of mine who had got to using it on their own, just like I did; it was a family affair, not any high-pressure business.

He stuck with his casual sales relationship despite (as we talked about last time) the mob pressuring him to increase his output for profit. And as we’ve talked about before, this just made him more loved. It became an underground thing….a ‘hip’ thing. Which as we’ve talked about before is where the term ‘hip’ or ‘hipster’ originated (though hip originated in the opium dens. to be ‘on the hip’ meant laid out on your side by opium). To be ‘hip’ was to be ‘in the know’, ‘wide awake’, to be ‘wise to the jive’. In fact Mezz wrote about that too. He talks about jive as:

A private affair, a secret inner-circle code cooked up partly to mystify the outsiders, while it brings those in the know closer together because they alone have the key to the puzzle. The hipster’s lingo is a private kind of folk-poetry, meant for the ears of the brethren alone.

And thus a community was born. As we’ve talked about on previous episodes, marijuana “tea pads” were born during this time. These were the cannabis equivalent of the speakeasies, smoke-easies, if you will. Most were apartments where the tenant would charge for admission at the door. These eventually led to the famous “rent parties” of Harlem. They were never intended to be serious business ventures, but rather were a means to get the rent paid and provide a safe place to enjoy ‘gage’. 

One of the most well-known tea pads was Kaisers. And just like the speakeasies of the time, it was reached through a series of basements. The entrance in one building but the actual tea pad was under another further down the street. Joints were served on trays, music was played from a jukebox and the best part? No alcohol was served. It was a place that wholly celebrated and embraced what we’d now call the stoner culture. Multi-racial but like-minded clientele came together. In these exclusive clubs, people from all walks of life talked, listened to music, smoked and enjoyed their secret society together. 

cannabis history

This community gave rise to many songs and much music was born from this community, later known as the vipers. Much music was written under the influence of ‘tea’, while others blatantly discussed marijuana in open terms. As we talked about a few shows ago, Louis Armstrong had a strong relationship with marijuana but he was far from the only one. Bessie Smith wrote ‘Gimme a Reefer’. Fats Waller wrote several, including ‘Viper Drag’. And probably one of the most famous ‘Reefer Man’ by Cab Calloway. For many in this community it was about much more than marijuana or even music. It was an identity. Most of the immigrants were already sub-class citizens in the eyes of the racist majorities. But for the first time since they became displaced, they had a home. They had a culture that was uniquely their own. They remained outcast, but this time it was of their own choosing.

Sadly, this open celebration of cannabis, music and culture wasn’t to last. After the passage of the 1937 Marijuana tax act, lyrics became more subtle, vipers more reserved. While songs continued to be written, sometimes with humor (‘Who put the Benzedrine in Mrs. Murphy’s Ovaltine?’) many came out against marijuana. By the end of the decade, music about marijuana had all but disappeared. 

However, don’t let that depress you. The 1937 Marijuana Tax Act did impact the vipers and it certainly impacted usage of marijuana, but it also fueled some amazing progress. I’m going to leave off there but next time we’ll be talking about that progress, including some of the first scientific evidence that marijuana wasn’t the harmful, addictive ‘drug’ we’d been led to believe.

By rubylexi • November 12, 2014 • 12:00 am • Leave a comment

Little Known Cannabis Facts – Show 55

We’re still continuing with our History of Cannabis Timeline. If you remember last time, we read a personally recorded memoir from Louis Armstrong and his relationship with ‘gage’ as it was called back then. This time we’ll be talking about a really influential guy, who also happened to be the manager for the great Satchmo for a brief period, by the name of Melton Mesirow or as he was better known, Mezz Mezrow.
So who was he? Well it’s kinda tough to sum him up. He was a musician and financier for jazz, a free thinker, an accidental black rights activist, oh…and a pot dealer. Actually he was probably more famous for selling marijuana than for almost anything else. Mezz was born on in 1899 in Chicago. He learned to play the saxophone in the reformatory school he landed in at the age of 16 after lifting a car with some friends. The Potomac Reformatory was also where he became acquainted with Jim Crow and Negro blues. Playing music in Chicago clubs after his release, Mezzrow was introduced to “tea” (marijuana) and also “hop” (opium). His 1946 autobiography Really the Blues, co-written with Barnard Wolfe, draws a definite distinction between the two.
 
We talk all the time about how important cannabis has been to many people as part of their creative process. I want to read a really great excerpt that really details how it can.
 
Mounting the bandstand after his first stick of tea, Mezzrow writes,
 
“The first thing I noticed was that I began to hear my saxophone as though it was inside my head…Then I began to feel the vibrations of the reed much more pronounced against my lip…I found I was slurring much better and putting just the right feeling into my phases–I was really coming on. All the notes came easing out of my horn like they’d already been made up, greased and stuffed into the bell, so all I had to do was blow a little and send them on their way, one right after the other, never missing, never behind time, all without an ounce of effort. . . I began to feel happy and sure of myself. With my loaded horn I could take all the fist-swinging, evil things in the world and bring them together in perfect harmony, spreading peace and joy and relaxation to all the keyed-up and punchy people everywhere. I began to preach my millenniums on my horn, leading all the sinners to glory.”
 
Mezz, “a sociable type,” befriended and played with the likes of Bix Beiderbecke and VIPs Bessie Smith and VIP Louis Armstrong. He says he smoked weed with many of his musician friends, but does not name them in the book. Mezz mentored VIP Gene Krupa, teaching him to tune his drums like Louis’s drummers; talked Fats Waller into playing blues just before Fats cut “Ain’t Misbehaving”; did some arranging for Louis and convinced him to tour Europe, where he was a huge hit. In Paris, Mezz taught jazz to concert musicians who knew no Jim Crow prejudice.
 
Mezzrow ended up in New York in 1939 where he was responsible for spreading Armstrong’s tunes to jukeboxes all over Harlem. Word soon spread that the white boy had the best golden leaf “muta,” due to Mezz’s Mexican connection, and he started selling it to his many friends, at a time when a Prince Albert can full cost $2. In Really the Blues the authors offer a jive-speak interaction with several customers, translated in the Appendix into boring old English. It begins,
 
FIRST CAT: Hey there, Poppa Mezz, is you anywhere? 
ME: Man I’m down with it, stickin’ like a honky. 
FIRST CAT: Lay a trey on me, old man. 
ME: Got to do it, slot.
 
Mezz describes “acres of marijuana” being smoked at the Lafayette Theatre in Harlem, with performers lighting up as well as the audience. The kids in Harlem dressed sharp like Louis and Mezz, and the slogan in their circle of Vipers was, “Light up and be somebody.” Mezz wrote,
 
“Us vipers began to know that we had a gang of things in common…We were on another plane in another sphere compared to the musicians who were bottle babies, always hitting the jug and then coming up brawling after they got loaded. We like things to be easy and relaxed, mellow and mild, not loud or loutish, and the scowling chin-out tension of the lushhounds with their false courage didn’t appeal to us. Besides, the lushies didn’t even play good music–their tones came hard and evil, not natural, soft and soulful…We members of the viper school were for making music that was real foxy, all lit up with inspiration and her mammy.”
 
Mezzrow soon attracted the attention of New York racketeers, who pressured him to expand his business and cut him in. But neither Mezz nor his supplier were interested in going big time. Mezz writes, “Soon I was getting visits from Dutch Schultz’s boys and Vincent ‘Babyface’ Coll’s boys every day in the week. With each day they got less good-natured about it. Each day their voices got harder, and their demands more insistent.”
 
cannabis history 471934 mezzrow_6
 
In 1940 Mezzrow was arrested at Flushing Meadows, Long Island carrying 40 joints (only 30 of which made it to court for evidence). A lieutenant from the narcotics squad tried unsuccessfully to get Mezz to stool on other Harlem pot peddlers, and he was sentenced to 1-3 years in Rikers Island.
After noticing that some inmates from Rikers and Hart Island were being shipped to King’s County Hospital and being given all the reefer they wanted to smoke so that doctors could study its effects, Mezz wrote a legal writ and got a release hearing in the summer of 1942. He argued that he was being held for a substance doctors couldn’t find was harmful, and was told by the judge, “The only trouble is, if I let you go you’ll get right out with all the rest of your people and re-elect Roosevelt.”
 
There’s another thing that was really awesome about Mezz and that was his color blindness. You have to remember that this was a time in which it was perfectly acceptable to think less of a person because of their skin color. More than that, if you didn’t think less of ‘others’ you would often be criticized. Well, Mezz didn’t care. He lived in Harlem for a time which was exclusively black. Oh and when he was in prison, he actually petitioned to be part of the ‘negro’ population because he felt that’s where he belonged. He even ended up having a child with a black woman. Now, I know that may not seem like much these days, but you have to remember, this was in the FORTIES! 

 

By rubylexi • October 15, 2014 • 1:00 pm • Leave a comment

Little Known Cannabis Facts – Show 53

The History of Cannabis Timeline – Louis Armstrong’s Personal Story About Marijuana

This episode of little known cannabis facts, we continue with the History of Cannabis Timeline and I think this one’s pretty special. In the year before his death in 1971, Louis Armstrong collaborated with his biographers, Max Jones and John Chilton, by sending them tape recorded interviews and letters written in his own inimitable style. This episode, I’ll be reading from the link above where Louis talks about his life as a marijuana smoker; telling about the 1931 incident in which he was busted in LA; explaining his idiosyncratic approach to gastrointestinal hygiene; and making a disingenuous claim to have quit smoking.

play marijuana talk radio

Satchmo: My Life As A Viper

“Speaking of 1931 – we did call ourselves Vipers, which could have been anybody from all walks of life that smoked and respected gage. That was our cute little name for marijuana, and it was a misdemeanor in those days. Much different from the pressure and charges the law lays on a guy who smokes pot – a later name for the same thing which is cute to hear nowadays. We always looked at pot as a sort of medicine, a cheap drunk and with much better thoughts than one that’s full of liquor. But with the penalties that came, I for one had to put it down though the respect for it (gage) will stay with me forever. I have every reason to say these words and am proud to say them. From experience.

Now I’ll relate a few incidents from the West Coast in California when Vic Berton (the top drummer then in all Hollywood) and I got busted together. It was during our intermission at this big night club which were packed and jammed every night with all sorts of my fans, including movie stars. Anyway, while Vic and I were blasting this joint – having lots of laughs and feeling good enjoying each other’s company. We were standing in his great big lot in front of some cars. Just then two big healthy Dicks (detectives) came from behind a car nonchalantly – and said to us, we’ll take the roach boys. (Hmm).

Vic and I said nothing. So one Dick stayed with me until I went into the Club and did my last show, he enjoyed it too. Because when he and I were on our way down to the police station we had a heart to heart talk. First words that he said to me were, Armstrong I am a big fan of yours and so is my family. We catch your program every night over the radio. In fact, nobody goes to bed in our family until your program’s over. And they’re all great – which I was glad to hear, especially coming from him. Ho Ho. Then I confidentially told him since you and your family are my fans they’d be awfully sad if anything drastic would happen to me, the same as the other thousands of my fans. So please don’t hit me in my `chops’, when he said to me, why, I wouldn’t think of anything like that. That’s all I wanted to hear. Immediately I said, OK let’s ride. I also told him – after all I’m no criminal. I respect everybody and they respect me. And I never let ’em down musically. Hell, he said, you ain’t doing any more ‘n’ anybody’s doing. It’s when they get caught is when they’re found out.

Then this Dick confidentially told me, he said, Armstrong, this wouldn’t have happened if that band leader – he probably smoked marijuana himself – who’s playing just up the road from you, and the big name that he’s supposed to have, didn’t get jealous because you are doing bigger business than him. So he dropped a nickel on you (meaning) he dropped a nickel into the telephone and called us and stoolpigeon on you. They sent me and my partner to come up for the assignment, and when we found out that you was the one we must nab (arrest) it broke our hearts. They told me, you must understand we can get you six months for a roach (meaning) the stub of a joint of gage. That’s when they laughed when I pulled my whiskers and said to them, `Ooh no, don’t do me no favor such as that.’ I was so relaxed on the way down to the station until I forgot I was being busted.

When we reached the police headquarters there were several officers, including the man at the desk, sitting around. And the minute we came through the door they all recognized me right away. They too had been diggin’ my music nightly over the radio. Oh boy, were those guys glad to see me. They gave me one look (with glee) and said, what’ ta’ hell are you doing here this time of night away from the club? So we yakity yakity while I was being booked. That’s one reason why we appreciated pot, as y’all calls it now. The warmth it always brought forth from the other person – especially the ones that lit up a good stick of that `shuzzit’ or gage, nice names. Now, when it came to summing it up, the difference between the vipers and those using dope and all other kinds of drastic stuff, one could easily see who were actually dope addicts. First place they were never clean, and they stays dirty-grimey all the time. Show most addicts a bucket of water and they’ll run like hell to keep it from touching them. But a viper would gladly welcome a good bath, clean underwear and top clothes – stay fresh and on the ball.

We didn’t do much drinking lush. When we did we always figured that pot would cut liquor any time. And being c like we were we would take, a good laxative (of some kind) and keep our stomachs cleaned out, because that good stuff we were smoking gave you an appetite. And drinking makes you eat like a dog. A good cleaned out stomach makes one feel like any human deserves to feel, and I’ve always been physic minded. Mayann (Mother) used to tell me and Mama Lucy (my sister) always stay physic minded. You may not get rich but you won’t ever have those terrible ailments such as cancer etc. And she would go out by the railroad tracks and pick a lot of peppers, grasses, dandelions, etc. and she’d bring it home and boil that stuff and give us kids a big dose of it. And my gawd – we’d make sprints to the toilet and afterwards feel `oh so good’, all cleaned out ‘n’ stuff.

LouisArmstrong_joint

Every time I’d `light up’ with a cat (viper) I’d mention laxatives and was happy to know that everybody got the message. Because for a while we were drinking Abalena Water. It came from a well in Abilene, Texas. We drank that well dry, so had to get another kind of physic. So we started taking Pluto Water, which was great. Then here come this book – a health book written by Gaylord Hauser. When I read down to the part where he recommended some `herbs’ – herbal laxatives – I said to myself, `erbs, – Hmmm, these herbs reminds me of the same as what my mother picked down by the tracks in New Orleans.’ Right away I went to the Health Store and bought myself a box of Swiss Kriss and took a big tablespoonful – make sure and see if it worked me the same as the other laxatives. Yes it did. Wow! I said to myself, yes indeed, this is what I need from now on – and forsake all others.

But back to the time I was busted on the coast. I spent nine days in the Downtown Los Angeles City Jail, in a cell with two guys who were already sentenced to 40 or 45 years for something else. Robbery, pickpocket, or whatever they were in for, didn’t make any difference to me, and they cared less as to what I was in for. The most important thing was we were so very glad to see each other. Because it was a week ago I was blowing some good shuzzit with both of those characters. We reminisced about the good ol’ beautiful moments we used to have during those miniature golf days. We’d go walking around, hit the ball, take a drag, have lots of laughs, and cut out.

Anyway, one night real late – those two cats started fighting amongst themselves over something, and the first words they said to me was, move out of the way `Pops’, we don’t’ want to hurt them chops. And they fought their asses off until the jail keeper came and stopped them. One of them bit the other’s finger off. They were intelligent, highly educated guys too. And they loved Pops’ horn. It was actually a drag to me when I had to leave them in their cell and go to trial. They also expressed sadness. So we finally said goodbye.

As we walked through the cellblocks, where prisoners of many many nationalities were locked up, they looked up and saw me walking with this great big deputy sheriff and (en mass) they hollered Louie Armstrong over ‘n’ over. They also hollered sing Old Rockin’ Chair, etc. etc., and I smiled and said, “Fellers, I don’t have time right now, nothing but to concentrate on what I am gonna tell this judge.” They all laughed and cheered, saying Good luck Louie. On the way to court we stopped at the clothes room to pick up the suit I went in there with. The man handed me my suit, which was torned all through the lining, looking for some stuff I guess, stronger than pot. Referring to me, he said, Why this man is no `Heeb’ (their word when talking about dope fiends).

So I got to trial. Everybody were there – which takes in my boss, manager and a whole gang of lawyers – and I said to myself that I was straight. Meantime the Chicago papers were all on the stands, with big headlines saying Louis Armstrong will have to serve six months for marijuana, and things like that. The judge gave me a suspended sentence and I went to work that night – wailed just like nothing happened. What strucked me funny though – I laughed real loud when several movie stars came up to the bandstand while we played a dance set. and told me, when they heard about me getting caught with marijuana they thought marijuana was a chick. Woo boy – that really fractured me! Every night I would run across those same detectives who arrested me, glad as ever to see me, and me back on the mound blowing again.

Now I’m back in the club, and everything’s running along very smoothly when one night the washroom boy comes up to the bandstand and says there is a white boy in the washroom who wants to see me in there. I asked who it was, and he said, I don’t know but he just came up from the south and he has a large croaker sack (meaning Burlap bag) full of something that he said is especially for you. (Hmm). I went into the men’s room and there was this fine ofay musician (a good one) who’s father was big judge down south, so you can easily see he was well off. He led me to the corner and showed me this sack. It was full of gage in the rough-dirty looking and had to be cleaned.

He said “Louis this muta (one of the names lots of the Ears used) came from out of the back yard where the chickens trampled all over it, so it should be well seasoned.” He and I went to the hotel over on Central Avenue, rolled up our sleeves, cleaned it real beautifully and rolled up one a piece. We dragged on down halfway to a “roach” and he was right. When we got on down there we could taste the cackling, the crowing and the other things those chickens did. Beautiful.

We finished at the club with a big closing night, and a big farewell celebration from everybody. With a promise to return, which I did a year later, I left the coast – arriving home in Chicago on a Sunday morning. Had a sleep up into the afternoon, then had my supper while listening to some of my records. Lil was out visiting some place. The door bell rang. I went to the door and found one guy standing there, pointing towards four other youngsters getting out of the car. I said Boys, I’m very glad to see you. It’s been a long long time. The minute they came in they told me, “Pops, we came to serenade you.” Those boys pulled out their guitars, ukes etc. and wailed awhile with a perfect beat which lifted me up just beautifully. Then they put up their instruments, one cat pulled out a big `bomber’ – lit it – took two drags and looked straight into my eyes as he passed it to me, saying, “Pops, we all feel you could use this stick after all you’ve been through.” I said, “Aw boys, Y’all didn’t have to do this, reaching for that joint at the same time.” Each of them pulled out a stick a piece and started blowing and talking about a lot of interesting things.

That moment helped me to forget a heap of ungodly things. Made me have the right frame of mind for my opening day at the theatre on the South Side, which was really something else. After all, the vipers and fans in Chicago thought I was actually serving time from the incident on the coast with my boy, Vic Berton, whom I still think is the greatest drummer of all times. So the theatre was packed to the rafters. They came to hear what their boy Louis had to say, and when I was introduced you can imagine the house coming down with thunderous applause which lasted for a whole gang of minutes. Made my heart flutter with happiness.

Soooo, when they quieted down I said Yea, you thought I was. But I wasn’t. And that did it. Such yells . . . Dipper, Satchelmouth, etc, we’re glad to see you back. We went into our show and every tune was a gasser. We did three shows a day, each one packed ‘n’ jammed. After two weeks in Chicago I formed a band and went on the road, playing theatres in different cities and towns.

One stop was the Royal Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland, located in a poor negro neighborhood. The people were so poor until they couldn’t afford to buy hard coal. When we arrived in the town it was as cold as a well-digger’s you-know-what. Freezing. Well, I heard about these people who were too poor to get coal to keep themselves and their kids warm, so I bought some for them. Yass I did. Went to the coal yard, ordered a ton of coal and had the company to deliver it to the Lobby of the Royal Theatre. Then I had all of the folks who needed coal, to help themselves, it made them very happy. And they made it their business to come backstage and thank me personally – of course it all caused me to stick out my chest with pride. I came up through life the hard way just like those folks.

As we always used to say, gage is more of a medicine than a dope. But with all the riggermaroo going on, no one can do anything about it. After all, the vipers during my haydays are way up there in age – too old to suffer those drastic penalties. So we had to put it down. But if we all get as old as Methuselah our memories will always be of lots of beauty and warmth from gage. Well, that was my life and I don’t feel ashamed at all. Mary Warner, honey, you sure was good and I enjoyed you ‘heep much’. But the price got a little too high to pay (law wise). At first you was a ‘misdemeanor’. But as the years rolled on you lost your misdo and got meanor and meanor. (Jailhousely speaking). Sooo “Bye Bye, I’ll have to put you down, Dearest.”

[signed] `Soul Foodly, Satchmo’.

Gage, tea, muggles, reefers, and a dozen more names for marijuana, were common parlance among jazz musicians and friends who were ‘Vipers.’ This word has a period ring today, but was much used (as was tea) in some jazz circles during the `30s. It found its way into quite a few tune titles, among them Mezzrow’s “Sendin’ The Vipers,” Snuff Smith’s “If You’re a Viper” and Fats Waller’s “Viper’s Drag.” The rest of the marijuana-smokers’ jargon infiltrated respectable society by way of record labels and catalogues and music publishers’ lists. “Golden Leaf Strut,” “Muggles,” “Texas Tea Party,” “Chant of the Weed,” “Song of the Vipers” and “Smokin’ Reefers” are random examples of `celebratory’ recordings made in the `20s and `30s.

Louis was caught with some stuff and sentenced in March 1931. He never recounted the story of this affair until shortly before his death in 1971, when he agreed to ‘tell it like it wuz’. This was that story.

[From “Louis: The Louis Armstrong Story, 1900-1971” by Max Jones and John Chilton. Little, Brown and Company, Boston/Toronto 1971. – L.O.C. Catalog No: 76-175031]

By rubylexi • September 27, 2014 • 9:38 am • Leave a comment

Little Known Cannabis Facts – Show 52

This episode of Little Known Cannabis Facts is probably one of the coolest ones we’ve done. While this is definitely the shortest post I’ve written for this segment, the content is amazing. So what are we talking about this time? Well, I’ll tell ya. Remember Dr. Munch? The pharmacologist from Temple University who stretched the truth to crazy extremes during the passage of the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act? Well, I found an interview with him, done years later in 1978 by Larry Sloman, author of the popular book “Reefer Madness: A History of Marijuana”. In it we hear some insanely infuriating things, like admitting he got most of his facts from Anslinger and that they were just guessing with a lot of the negativity they spread about cannabis. While it may make you crazy angry to read it, it’s too good to pass up. Check it out!

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Reefer Madness: A History of Marijuana

By rubylexi • August 19, 2014 • 1:14 pm • Leave a comment
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