Monday, October 29, 2012

Disaster movie scene featuring cannabis

As Sandy pounded my home office in Southern New Hampshire this week, I was imagining how cannabis might play in a disaster movie.  

Disasters happen, and shit like what Sandy did to the East coast is happening all over the world and with increasing frequency.  In fact, for a time last week The Hurricane Story competed for media attention with news of a huge quake in Canada, and the tsunami scare in Hawaii that followed.  No doubt about it; we are in the midst of a perfect storm that we ourselves have helped to create: 

High-pressure environmental abuse of the industrial revolution meets geologic cycle from hell.  Killer storms, tornadoes, massive quakes and tsunamis, heat waves, droughts, plagues, extinctions…and cooperation.
Imagine the scene.

It's late at night. The city is in ruins. Out of the debris a community of survivors emerges with that spirit of cooperation we call upon when the pain is shared: it comes on fast in the wake of crushed and broken fellow citizens--all in deep shock from seeing how quickly, how easily the earth can wipe away what we spend lifetimes and countless resources building up.  

In this scene communications are down. Relief boats and planes are not on the way. These survivors are on their own, many in desperate need of pain relief, medicinal compresses, stress relief, sleep… What can they do?  Empty the drug stores?  Sure, but how sustainable is that?

One of the leaders jumps up on the hood of a crumpled Dodge, barking orders in the soft somber rain:

Listen up!  Raid the liquor stores and gather all the dry weed you can.  We’ll meet by the blackened Exxon sign…there’s a wholesale bakery nearby with a generator we can use…No; it’s not a party.  We’re gonna make some serious medicine…
The liquor people finally arrive pushing shopping carts brimming with high-proof spirits.  With so much damage on the shelves the order took awhile to fill.  Being a progressive city, the weed gatherers had an easier time of it—finding dry green aplenty in the ruins of local dispensaries.  Some are rolling and filling pipes for people who find relief with that, while the rest crumble the majority of their haul onto sheet pans for baking.  

Outside under a tarp the organizers have set up a massive cauldron worthy of a Far Side toon.  The lightly baked green from the oven area is brought outside and added to the vat of simmering alcohol.[1]   

One of the organizers explains the process to an inquisitive new arrival;

Heating the weed a bit first is called decarboxilation—decarb—it releases the active components.  Boiling in alcohol is the extraction step.  After thirty minutes or so we’ll strain it and then start to boil it down—all the way down to a sticky paste by the time we’re done…
After it's strained, people line up to begin taking a share of the non-toxic elixir. The first ones to fill their dropper bottles and canning jars will get the weakest medicine.  Like a maple syrup boil, the mixture darkens and thickens as the liquid is reduced.  And very much like maple syrup, the color changes are sweet.  

After an hour or so the bubbling cauldron is yielding Green Dragon tincture, a Dionysian remedy from an ancient time (solid dose; 10-15 drops).  When the alcohol has been completely evaporated, the resulting emerald green paste/oil/tar (possibly the stickiest stuff on the planet) can be dabbed onto a cracker, toked for fast relief, or reconstituted with honey or syrup for use in drinks and cooking. 

That first day of making cannabis medicine goes well, and people continue to arrive with donations of edibles, spirits and weed for processing.  The day after the first awful night is behind them. In the dim light of the fading sun on the second day away from the event that changed everything forever, thousands of people are suffering less because of a medicine they made together as a community while they waited for word from the outside world...

In the future, disaster relief, when help isn't coming, may take a village and depend on cannabis.  That's just a theory, of course.  But the scene would look pretty good on film.

Related article: Lights, Camera, Cannabis!

[1] Alcohol of course is flammable.  The vat is outside on the loading dock to avoid build-up of fumes.  So as not to add to the fires ravaging their city, assume the medicine makers can heat this vessel electrically or with rocks heated in a street bonfire.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My Grinspoon Moment

Dr. Lester Grinspoon

Sometimes a single meeting can change your life.  Such was the case for me when, in the early summer of 2005, I met with Dr. Lester Grinspoon.   

For readers who may not be familiar with the work of this cannabis movement icon, Dr. Grinspoon is the famed Harvard psychologist who wrote Marijuana Reconsidered, the very first prohibition-era text on the true medicinal nature of cannabis.[1] 

His book was published at the height of Nixon’s escalation of two major US wars; Vietnam and the war on drugs.  Originally intended to be a warning to stoners he saw protesting around Harvard Square, Dr. Grinspoon instead learned and reported the truth about this ancient herb—an act that cost him professionally as colleagues quickly distanced themselves from his ‘pro-pot’ findings. 

In one sense cannabis is truly addictive because people who learn the ancient medicinal truth about it can’t shut up.  Lester Grinspoon has spent his life in the field; and his appreciation and awe of the plant has only deepened over time.  In 2007 he wrote: 

It is a sad commentary on the state of modern medicine -- and US drug policy -- that we still need "proof" of something that medicine has known for 5,000 years…If marijuana were a new discovery rather than a well-known substance carrying cultural and political baggage, it would be hailed as a wonder drug.[2]
Lester didn’t know my father personally, but they had been classmates at Harvard Medical School.  When I called for an interview, he asked if I was Stephen’s son. 

Stephen E. Hedberg, MD.  Brilliant surgeon at Mass General Hospital in Boston.  Heir apparent to his mentor Dr. Claude Welch, Chief of Surgery.  Endoscopy pioneer.  A Buckley conservative opposed to the war on drugs.  Skeet shooter at The Country Club in Brookline, sporting the vest pin; If they take away our guns, how can we shoot liberals? 

Dead at 54 from hepatitis contracted after cutting himself on a patient’s shattered bone.  At the time of his death, he was fighting a lonely battle against insurance giant Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Dukakis Administration[3] in an effort to prove that the healthcare system was being manipulated for profits and threatening to wreck the doctor/patient relationship he cherished. 

Being around the age my father was when he died, and looking just like him (minus six inches and 50+ pounds), I wasn’t surprised Lester remarked on the resemblance as he invited me into his home office in Wellesley.  We had a good chat about the advocacy possibilities for his popular website,[4] and as I was heading out, I confided that I was a lifelong headache sufferer.

“My doctor tells me I’m killing myself with too many pain meds…I’ve started taking a hit of weed along with Aleve or Excedrin.  It seems to help…”

Lester chuckled, “Throw away the pain pills and learn how to make cannabis tincture!”

He had a call coming in so I thanked him and left; excited because I already knew how to make tincture!  I had been a tiny-plot outdoor grower for years but never a heavy consumer, so after a few seasons I had a bunch of dried old buds from previous grows.  I decided to try a simple extraction; bake the green material at about 280 degrees for a few minutes.  Place in canning jar and fill with grain alcohol to cover plus 10 percent more.  Agitate daily for ten days.  Strain.  Cannabis tincture.

To be sure, I didn’t know I was making medicine, much less a remedy for migraines.  I used it for feature film outings.  I was married with children, and even though my wife didn’t completely object to marijuana, she was not about to let me blaze away in the parking lot of local theaters.  A 40-drop dose before we left the house would kick in just as the movie got underway, and the effect would last through the credits and well beyond.  She never knew, and probably attributed my euphoric responses to my love of big screen movies, and to the fact that as new parents we didn’t get out much.

The first time I tried my concoction for a migraine, however, I wretched violently.  I couldn’t handle the alcohol content.  With a gentle boil I reduced the ‘menstrum’ by more than half, and swapped the jar for a tinted dropper vial.  The result was a stealthy, sexy, deep emerald green extract that was kick-ass at 15 drops.  Green dragon tincture; ancient medicine.

I was hooked.  I got online and it didn’t take me long to discover that In 1839, Dr. William B. O'Shaughnessy, a British physician at the Medical College of Calcutta, published On the preparations of the Indian Hemp or Gunjah.  Suddenly cannabis tincture was all the rage.  Queen Victoria used it for relief of PMS. Her personal physician, J. R. Reynolds, studied cannabis himself and declared it "by far the most useful of drugs" in treating "painful maladies."

Dr. William Osler, founder of John Hopkins University and author of Principles and Practices of Medicine, noted that cannabis tincture is “the most satisfactory” treatment for migraines. That discovery pissed me off, and in 2009 I called a local paper to have them write a story about my offer to teach patients how to make their own tincture in the privacy of their own lives.[5]

Instead of opening doors, they all slammed shut.  Stoner neighbors fretted about having a noisy loose cannon in their midst, and Yankee friends and family, some closet tokers among them, were quick and brutal; 
Sit down.  Shut up.  Laws are made to be followed, not broken… If you don’t like the law, work within the system to change it…
At Babson College, where I was working at the time writing teaching cases about bright ideas and inventive entrepreneurs, professors would squirm and smirk like red-faced schoolgirls at the very mention of the emerging enterprise frontier that must not be named.

Until just recently, parental commitments moored me in the Great Prohibition state of New Hampshire, so I have dealt with this aggressive social shunning for years.  Possibly the most telling example of the deeply entrenched insanity is that Yankee pot-parents, former progressives who still enjoy weed in the shadows, keep silent on the issue as uniformed DARE officers visit the schools and lie to their children about the dangers of cannabis.  Some of those parents buy into the social contract so completely that when their children ask about their experience with marijuana, they dutifully lie, duck and dodge.

Since everyone including local lawmen now knew what I was all about, I couldn’t risk even a small grow.   What little tincture I managed to acquire came from showing legal patients how to make their own (mostly down in Rhode Island, currently New England’s freest state).  While vaporizing also helps lighten up my headache days, I have recently developed tinnitus so I can’t blaze at all.  Needless to say, with my daughters now grown up and getting out, I’m heading for a free state where I can begin to more fully explore extracts and edibles. 

Dr. Grinspoon has been a legend for decades.  He’s also a really nice and genuine guy with a deep passion for telling the world the medicinal truth about cannabis.  I look forward to seeing him every year at Freedom Fest on the Boston Common.  He always smiles and greets me warmly with the same words;  My gosh, for a moment there I thought Dr. Hedberg had returned…

[1] Harvard University Press, 1971, reprinted with updates, 1994
[3] Michael Dukakis served as Governor of Massachusetts from 1975 to 1979 and from 1983 to 1991.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Moving to Boulder in mid-December

Artist/musician/writer with a mind for business seeks work in the Boulder/Denver area cannabis trades advancing the cause of freedom.  Part-time and single project work is fine.

Communications, education, consulting, marketing, product development, speaking/keynotes, press releases.  My card...

Here's the card I'll be handing out at film festivals all over Colorado in 2013...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Stoners! Unite Us! Unite the Fans!

Recreational cannabis fans listen up.  There’s a war on in case you haven’t noticed, and thanks to the internet we're the first generation of cannabis consumers with the power to end the insanity and restore our right to choose.  How?  By using that device in your hand to quietly search for, discover, and share the medicinal truth.

Start the search with names like Shona Banda, David Trippett, Cashy Hyde, and Rick Simpson.  Every fan of the world’s favorite forbidden flower ought to be familiar with the work of these patients and pioneers, and be able to share those stories of cannabis healing with friends and family members who are ready to hear it.  On the political front, these names can be used to politely reveal, on camera, that our leaders are either full of shit like Obama, or taken in by the system like Romney.  

On the economic front, cannabis represents a clear and present danger to the bottom lines of some of the most powerful industries on earth, including energy, liquor, textiles, drugs, chemicals, paper, prisons, and Federal agencies.  After a reign of nearly eighty years, prohibitionists are well-practiced in the art of deception and delay.  Many of them still believe they can keep cannabis—from medicine to enterprise—out of the mainstream or at least under strict control.

This week, for example, our government is pretending to review cannabis for reclassification.  It’s a cruel sham, much like when Nixon asked for the report and then tore up the report.  Even if they do decide to reschedule (while claiming to be shocked that pot might be medicine), you can bet they’ll fight tooth and nail to hold back the flood of research and reveals that will surely follow.  

The whole charade is exposed by a seven digit number; patent 6,630,507, filed in 2003 and owned by OUR government.  It’s entitled Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants.  Nuff said.  On the faith front, the lie runs so deep that Christians obediently ignore the Words of their Father.  Genesis 1:29. Cannabis is ours. God said.

Caught by surprise by favorable patient-use studies coming out of free states, the communication revolution, and by the rise of stealthy home cultivation for personal use, industrialists, with mighty assistance from Washington, are now scrambling as quietly as possible to deal themselves in and claim their share.  As usual, their share will be as much as they get using every means at their disposal, including our military.

It’s the freedom fight of the century, and we’re up against a regime that has managed to convince the world, with guns at the ready and big media on their side, that we smoke with tobacco, party with booze, and heal with pills.  Not in cannabis country we don’t.  Not all the time, anyway.

420 fans!  Closet tokers!  Marijuana moms!  Stiletto stoners!  Join the revolution, and by all means stick to the shadows.  Search, explore and share the medicinal truth in the privacy of your own lives.  And name names.  Because as the truth comes out, the walls come down.