WATCH LIVE – Vancouver City Council votes on drug decriminalization today

At 9:30 a.m. today, Mayor Kennedy Stewart will be proposing a groundbreaking motion to the Vancouver City Council and a formal vote will ensue. Announced last Wednesday, Nov. 18th, the Mayor is hoping to make Vancouver the first Canadian city to decriminalize drug possession. This is said to be a response to the opiate crisis, […]

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A History of Eating Cannabis: A Taste Test That Led to Religion

During the Stone Age, humans began exploring their surroundings and figuring out how to survive, forming crude communities along fresh water sources and experimenting with eating the plants and animals they encountered. These humans would have had a hard time ignoring the cannabis plant, its pungent flowers dripping with resin, and ethnobotanists believe it was one of the very first plants they explored. The cavepeople tasted cannabis’s fresh green leaves, bitter flowers and nutty seeds. The thick sap coating the flowers, rich with THC, stuck to their fingers. When they licked it off, they discovered the plant’s ability to intoxicate. They were the first in a long line of hash eaters to come.

Today we understand that it was the cannabinoids in the sticky resin of those plants that got those early humans high by activating special human receptors that enhance the expression of FOXP2, a gene that facilitates speech and language development. For our ancestors, there was only an understanding that this plant could take their minds to new places and open up untapped avenues of thought. It gave them good ideas. Researchers Geoffrey Guy and John McPartland theorized that as cannabis coevolved alongside humans, it was primarily responsible for what historians call “the great leap,” the time when we began making tools, weapons and art, and working together in collectives.

(PHOTO Bruce Wolf)

Ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes’s theory is that ingesting those cannabis plants led early humans to invent religion. “Primitive man, trying all sorts of plant materials as food, must have known the ecstatic hallucinatory effects of hemp, an intoxication introducing him to another-worldly plane leading to religious beliefs,” Schultes and Albert Hofmann wrote in “Plants of the Gods” in 1979. “Thus, the plant early was viewed as a special gift of the gods, a sacred medium for communion with the spirit world.” Though it was seemingly discovered by accident, Robert C. Clarke and Mark D. Merlin wrote that the female cannabis flowers’ ability “to exude large amounts of readily apparent and easily collected psychoactive resin” was the plant’s “most evolutionary significant trait.”

Though valued for its nutritious seeds, cannabis’s psychoactive qualities may well have been the magic bond that motivated early humans to begin putting crops in the ground and continue to plant cannabis wherever they went. After observing that early African Pygmies learned to cultivate cannabis because they considered it an important tool for keeping the hunters soothed and amused during the long hours they spent stalking meat and fish, scientist and author Carl Sagan famously suggested it would be “wryly interesting if in human history the cultivation of marijuana led generally to the invention of agriculture, and thereby to civilization.” Sagan went on to observe: “The marijuana-intoxicated Pygmy, poised patiently for an hour with his fishing spear aloft, is earnestly burlesqued by the beer-sodden riflemen, protectively camouflaged in red plaid, who, stumbling through the nearby woods, terrorize American suburbs each Thanksgiving.”

As hunter-gatherers moved from place to place in search of food, they left behind campsites of rich compost where wild cannabis seeds germinated and flourished. Later, a vast, wandering Stone Age religio-complex of tribes seeking new lands and new consciousness brought cannabis, which they used as a spiritual tool, as they traveled farther and wider. Cannabis, Schultes wrote, “developed together with man as a multi-purpose economic plant: the source of a fibre, a narcotic, a medicine, an oil, and an edible fruit.”

As soon as they could figure out how to do so, humans domesticated cannabis and began breeding it to enhance useful traits such as elongated bast fibers, large seeds with high oil content and sometimes, copious narcotic resin. “Under the pressures of selection for these characters,” Schultes wrote, “cannabis began to reveal characters and combinations of characters not found in wild or presumed wild populations, a phenomenon that has occurred in every plant domesticated by man.”

Excerpted from the book “Pot in Pans: A History of Eating Cannabis” by Robyn Griggs Lawrence. Used by permission of the publisher Rowman & Littlefield. All rights reserved.

Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE

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Marijuana fueled Colombian drug trade before cocaine was king

The big idea

Long before Pablo Escobar’s Medellín cartel got rich supplying Americans with cocaine in the 1980s, Colombia was already the United States’ main source of illicit drugs – specifically, marijuana. That’s the takeaway of my new book “Marijuana Boom.”

This debunks the popular notion of Escobar as the pioneer of Colombian drug trafficking. Rather, it was some of Colombia’s most marginalized people who changed the course of their nation.

Back in the 1970s, peasant farmers from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta – a remote and mountainous region of Colombia’s Caribbean coast – began shifting from banana, cotton and coffee production to marijuana cultivation. When this population again pivoted to growing coca leaf for processing into cocaine in the 1980s, they set Colombia on a course to become the illicit drug capital of the Americas.

Why it matters

This research upends other old tropes about the drug trade, including the idea that it’s inherently violent.

Colombia’s marijuana economy operated relatively peacefully until the Colombian and U.S. governments in 1978 launched a militarized campaign to eradicate marijuana crops and increase drug interdictions. Traffickers retaliated, giving rise to the now familiar “war on drugs”-style dynamic of escalating conflict.

My research also disproves the long-held academic consensus that illegal drug markets emerge in remote areas where the state has insufficient presence.

I find Colombia’s marijuana boom was actually an unintended consequence of state-led efforts to economically develop Colombia. Throughout the 20th century, Colombia worked to build its banana export sector, create a cotton belt to supply Colombian textile factories and to redistribute land. By the 1970s, Colombia was expanding international trade, particularly with the U.S.

These changes made some rural Colombians rich but, my research shows, impoverished peasant farmers in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. People who’d grown legal commodity crops saw opportunity in exporting an illegal one to the United States: marijuana.

What still isn’t known

My book recounts how and why people in northern Colombia used their farming experience to grow and export marijuana. But it doesn’t detail their next transition, from marijuana to cocaine.

In southern Colombia, academics have documented how Pablo Escobar’s generation of traffickers financed new settlers to grow coca leaf, the base ingredient in cocaine, in the 1980s. We just don’t know how cocaine simultaneously supplanted marijuana as the staple drug crop of the peasant economy up north.

How I do my work

This began as a personal quest to understand the country of my childhood. My father is from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta area, where marijuana once boomed.

Some of my research was archival, conducted in Colombia and the U.S. But much of it was done on the ground. I began collecting testimonials in northern Colombia in the early 2000s, during Colombia’s 52-year armed conflict. Paramilitary forces controlled the area. The war ended in 2016. But armed groups, including cartels, still operate there.

To stay safe while studying an industry that uses cash and violence to keep its affairs clandestine, I relied on friends and family, who helped me establish contacts and identify information sources. I also kept my questions focused on the defunct marijuana business – not the active cocaine trade.

This focus helped me avoid reproducing what historian Luis Astorga calls “the mythology of the narcotrafficker.” There are no Pablo Escobars in my book – just everyday Colombians who seized on their country’s growing commercial ties to the world’s largest drug market – the United States – to launch a global business.


By Lina Britto, Assistant Professor of History, Northwestern University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Featured image by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Growing Pot is Your Patriotic Duty

Clammy mists clung bitterly to the rolling hills of a brisk autumn morning, but the panting grower ignored them as he hurried on. His employer, one of the top cannabis growers in the region, would be devastated by the news the man so hurriedly carried that crisp fall morning, but he was also a man who should not be kept waiting. In an unfortunate turn of events, this dutiful gardener had learned that an unaccounted male plant had popped off, pollinating an entire field of sinsemilla in the process. This grower didn’t think his employer would be pleased.

It’s a scene that could have occurred countless times in the U.S., in any state or during any year. This particular occasion, however, would prove historic. Indeed, modern historians know about the incident because of the personal diary of the man’s employer, a very imminent farmer of his time, written in 1765: the diary of George Washington.

These days, standard history textbooks no longer mention that the man who would go on to become the first president of the United States began his career as a “gentleman” farmer of some of Virginia Colony’s top cash crops, including cannabis. The fact is hardly controversial; Washington wrote extensively about his cannabis crop in his own handwriting – especially in the period before the Revolutionary War when his career was primarily focused on cash crop agriculture. The entry dated Aug. 7, 1765, in which the future president bemoans the fact that he began to “separate the male and female plants… rather too late” has been the focus of much debate.

Not much doubt exists as to what kind of “male and female plants” Washington referred to, because the same journal includes another entry later that same August in which he reflects that he had “pull[ed] up the [male] hemp. Was too late for the blossom hemp by three weeks or a month.” Rather, the controversy is over what strain of cannabis the Founding Father was trying to grow, what exactly he meant by “hemp” and “blossom hemp,” and above all why he was so bummed out that he hadn’t pulled his males in time.

An 1800’s photograph shows workers harvesting a hemp field, when industrial hemp was thriving in the United States.

Some historians acknowledge that Washington grew cannabis but maintain that he exclusively grew pure Sativa strains imported from northern or eastern Europe — a variety which, even in the 18th Century, would have yielded strong fibers but very little medical effect. To make their case, they point out that the economy of Virginia Colony, in general, was dominated by the cultivation of cannabis strains for industrial purposes like rope, sails and textiles. And indeed, Washington’s own agricultural records from Mount Vernon confirm that the production of industrial hemp was a core pillar of his operations.

But some historians go further than that, pointing to entries in Washington’s records that seemingly cannot be explained by the standard narrative. One provocative clue — Washington’s oblique reference to “blossom hemp” — stands out in particular. The curious reference, so incongruous in a time in which the majority of hemp farmers concerned themselves exclusively with the plant’s fibers, begs the question of what interest Washington could have had in his plants’ flowers. It could be that the future president was breeding for seed, as many farmers of his time did. But if that is the case, why did he bemoan the fact that he separated his males and females “too late”? Such an entry suggests the opposite of the seed theory — that in fact, George Washington was trying to grow sinsemilla.

Thus, while many have claimed that Washington’s only interest in “hemp” was for its valuable fibers, the historical record suggests he, like many early Americans, took a broader view. In fact, the first president apparently saw the plant’s diversity of uses as one of its most valuable virtues.

An Incomplete Independence

The point was quickly proved, because only a few years later the fledgling colonies began using the power of hemp in their war for independence from the British Crown. Hemp textiles provided clothing and outfitting for Colonial troops; hemp sails helped American privateers run the British blockade designed to starve Washington’s army of needed supplies. Tradition holds that even the first American flag, used to rally those troops against foreign occupiers, was woven from hemp. Thus, the cannabis cultivation of George Washington and so many others transformed from a vital economic activity to an urgently patriotic act.

Nor was Washington alone among the Founding Fathers in his admiration for the crop.

“When President Thomas Jefferson wrote (March 16, 1791) that hemp ‘is of first necessity to the commerce and marine, in other words to the wealth and protection of the country,’ his words were prescient,” says Chris Conrad, author of “Hemp: Lifeline to the Future.”

Conrad, who also edited the seminal hemp history “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” and curated museums on hemp history in both Oakland, Calif. and Amsterdam, has devoted a significant portion of his career to understanding the prodigious plant’s past, yet his greatest concern today is for the hemp industry’s future. And not without good reason: almost 225 years after Jefferson’s famous words, the American hemp industry is suppressed and true American independence remains elusive.

The first century of the nation’s history saw vast economic expansion, but it came at the expense of slavery — wages stolen, not earned. The second century, too, was characterized by astonishing financial growth (punctuated by regular financial crises) — but these gains, taken at gunpoint from indigenous tribes and global empire, were likewise ill-gotten. Over the past 50 years, the American economy has been strong — but at the cost of massive imports of oil from the Middle East, unsustainable environmental practices and mounting household bills which threaten to squeeze the American dream out of reach.

“It’s been very strange working on behalf of hemp reform over the past 25 years,” says Conrad. “It begins with a legal conundrum because industrial hemp is not a drug, it’s agriculture — a farm crop — and the laws against hemp are irrational and anti-American, in the sense that they are designed to favor and corporations that are environmentally destructive over sustainability for the nation or designed to generate corporate profits from criminal policies which suppress personal freedom — or both. Unfortunately, many of the environmental and social harms that I predicted in ‘Hemp: Lifeline to the Future’ — desertification, water pollution, atmospheric contamination, loss of topsoil — have continued unabated as family farms and small businesses have suffered to subsidize the industries that have flourished thanks to the Drug War. We should have made the transition back to a healthy hemp economy decades ago, yet this year is the first time that Congress has even authorized research crops here in the U.S., let alone the kind of national and international hemp development policies that are critical to restoring our economy and society to a pro-survival and pro-citizenry stance.”

Faced with an unfinished battle for independence, suppressed under the thumb of a government opposed to freedom, a select few Americans have taken up the same weapon that our Founding Fathers used: cannabis.

“I believe America’s economic problems started,” says Ryan Loflin, “as soon as we outlawed hemp farming. We stopped one of the greatest economic booms before it ever happened.”

Loflin, a clean-cut father of two from Crested Butte, Colo., espouses a view held by millions of Americans — and yet very few have gone so far as he has to put their money where their mouth is. In June of 2013, he crossed the principal Rubicon of his life and sowed 60 acres of his family alfalfa farm with industrial hemp  — enough to make him, under outdated federal laws, a felonious kingpin trafficking in a Schedule I crop. The harvest came in last October — the first large industrial hemp harvest in the United States since 1958, when the last Wisconsin farm folded under federal persecution.

Loflin typifies the word “patriot” in one of its oldest senses: just as the patriots who pillaged crates of overtaxed tea at the historic Boston Tea Party risked the consequences of defying unjust laws to make a political point, so did Loflin plant his fields of cannabis in defiance of indefensible clauses in the federal Controlled Substances Act which still, as of this printing, prohibit the cultivation of industrial hemp by private individuals. The latest farm bill, signed by President Obama in 2013, allows universities to grow industrial hemp, but only for research purposes.

Even though not a single one of his plants is capable of causing any high, federal law would still subject him to extreme prison sentences under archaic sentencing guidelines based on the number of cannabis plants, regardless of variety. Indeed, the DEA has occasionally destroyed up to 500 million plants of the variety ruderalis — AKA “ditchweed” — in a single year, as a convenient way to inflate its numbers in Congressional reports. The fact that such sentencing guidelines defy all common sense don’t shield Loflin from the threat of arrest and imprisonment, however. The only thing doing that is the heretofore unwillingness of the federal justice system to file charges. And that could change tomorrow.

Yet Loflin, who has yet to face any charges for his actions, sees the risk to his freedom as minor compared to the criminal hoodwinking of the American people that led to the prohibition of industrial hemp, an event which he calls “not an accident. A small, very greedy, wealthy group of Americans filled their pockets instead of helping our country.”

The historical record agrees with Loflin’s assessment. Although American public opinion was thoroughly against intoxicating strains of cannabis — swayed by propaganda films like “Reefer Madness” and the reliably racist talking points of the nation’s first drug czar, Harry Anslinger — no outcry by the American people was ever raised against any U.S. variety of industrial hemp. It already grew in countless innocuous acres in states like Kentucky and Wisconsin and became so intertwined with the U.S. economy that it came to be known as Cannabis Americana. Indeed, as a late-1930s Popular Mechanics article made famous by historian Jack Herer points out, hemp was on the verge of becoming the next “billion-dollar crop,” already responsible at such an early date for over 25,000 industrial and consumer products. Yet the best was still to come, as early experiments at the Ford Motor Company showed that the domestic automotive industry could work hand in hand with small family farms, sourcing industrial hemp to make both the chassis and even the fuel of a new “hemp car” built out of renewable products which literally spring from the ground.

Against a backdrop of such economic promise, the actions of Loflin’s “small, very greedy” group stand out as especially suspicious. Transcripts of meetings called by Anslinger to hash out the details of the new federal Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 clearly show that the group was aware that their proposed language would criminalize an industry which made many useful products; nevertheless, Anslinger was adamant that no cultivation of any variety of cannabis could be allowed. Despite strenuous objections from industry and the American Medical Association, Congress passed the Act in an 11th-hour session, bringing over 300 years of continuous American hemp farming to a violent, crashing halt.

Cannabis may be an annual plant, but the industry is perennial. Despite the best efforts of Anslinger and his ilk, farmers like Loflin have kept one of the most quintessentially American activities alive, by sowing the industrial strains favored by Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Ryan Loflin could do nothing else.

Finally, a Sustainable Future

Despite the brave efforts of these patriots, the United States is falling behind. The U.S. market for hemp products is one of the largest in the world, but American hemp production lags far behind that of China and Canada, the world’s top two producers. Although hemp ethanol presents the opportunity to wean American cars off Middle Eastern oil, the U.S. still lags far behind Brazil in the production of such fossil fuel-free alternatives. And even though American schools lead the world in most medical research, in the realm of medical cannabis research the U.S. has far to go before it catches up with the pioneering work of Great Britain-based GW Pharmaceuticals and Israel’s medical cannabis research program, which has produced more patents for medical marijuana than any other institute on Earth.

Clearly, we have work to do. To complete, finally, the long struggle for independence for which our Founding Fathers fought and died, all Americans must rally around the effort to rebuild the industry which proved so vital in building the country in the first place: cannabis. Just as hemp provided the sailcloth and rope necessary to facilitate trade between the early colonies in the 18th century, so can it fulfill the same function today – by replacing the nation’s dependent relationship on foreign petroleum producers with ethanol from the homegrown annual harvest. Just as tincture from Cannabis Americana provided early Americans with the medicines they needed from their nation’s own heartland, so can the hybrid strains of today stave off the nation’s coming health crisis by helping to prevent crippling diseases like diabetes, arthritis and cancer. From paper to textiles to high-grade industrial lubricants, cannabis can provide thousands of products America needs – but only if the American people make it happen.

“My concern,” says Conrad, “is the timidity with which the government’s roll out of hemp agriculture will seek to slow down mass production and progress rather than stimulate growth. It’s taken 20 years since the states first began to pass laws enabling hemp cultivation, and here we are with the federal government just now catching up to allow research crops. In the meantime, continued reliance on the old economy of fossil fuels and non-sustainable agriculture has continued to degrade the environment. What we need is a large scale industrial development project along the lines of the Manhattan Project or the Space Race in the race to put society back on a sustainable footing.”

A black and white image of a bundle of dried hemp fibers.

Photo Arby Reed

Conrad cautions against any unplanned, headlong rush to pre-prohibition days.

“The initial roll-out of product development,” he prescribes, “should be the seedlines for the changing climate and economic projects that require the least processing from field to finished product — such as genetic development, seeds and seed oil products, soil remediation and other horticultural uses, hempcrete, onsite pulping and extrusion equipment for prototype products, maybe through 3-D printers, and so on. You don’t want to get bogged down in transportation and large-scale production until the production levels soar and economy of scale kicks in. That way we can intelligently develop the crops and products side by side for maximum economic and environmental benefit. Remember that the hemp industries have essentially been robbed of almost 80 years of engineering and commercial development. They need to be reintroduced and to grow in a planned but organic process.”

That, in a hempseed, is Ryan Loflin’s plan. At the end of another hard day working to revive the seed-line that changed the world history — Cannabis Americana — Loflin turns back toward home.

“For me,” he explains, “being a patriot means standing up for what you believe in and fighting for a greater cause. We can get our country back on track, and put thousands of Americans back to work. Hemp farming will do this. I believe it is our only way.”

His gaze sweeps his hemp fields, bending with the weight of new seeds, past the wind turbine turning humming rapid swirls against a vermillion sunset and toward an uncertain future.

Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE

TELL US, would you think industrial hemp can help restore our economy?

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Wednesday, June 17, 2020 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

Marijuana Today Daily Headlines
Wednesday, June 17, 2020 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

// Chart: Adult-use marijuana sales show resiliency in May despite pandemic (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Library Of Congress Highlights Racist News Coverage Used To Justify Criminalizing Marijuana A Century Ago (Marijuana Moment)

// Recovery from losses damage during protests will take weeks for many cannabis businesses (Marijuana Business Daily)


These headlines are brought to you by Curaleaf, one of the leading vertically-integrated cannabis operators in the U.S. With legal medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivation sites, and processing facilities all over the United States, Curaleaf has served more than 165,000 medical cannabis patients and looks forward to helping many more long into the future. Swing over to Curaleaf.com to learn more about this very cool company!


// Aurora Cannabis’ $80 Million Mistake (Nasdaq (Motley Fool))

// Aurora Cannabis president stepping down this month (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Vireo Health Trims Losses As Revenues Rise (Green Market Report)

// Canadian Cannabis Retailer Fire & Flower Quarterly Revenue Increases 142% to $23.1 Million (New Cannabis Ventures)

// United Nations body to meet again this month to discuss WHO cannabis recommendations (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Ohio Marijuana Activists Plan Supreme Court Appeal After Federal Judges Deny Electronic Signature Case (Marijuana Moment)

// Louisiana Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Expansion Into Law (Marijuana Moment)


Check out our other projects:Marijuana Today— Our flagship title, a weekly podcast examining the world of marijuana business and activism with some of the smartest people in the industry and movement. • Marijuana Media Connect— A service that connects industry insiders in the legal marijuana industry with journalists, bloggers, and writers in need of expert sources for their stories.

Love these headlines? Love our podcast? Support our work with a financial contribution and become a patron.

Photo: Oregon Department of Agriculture/Flickr

Wednesday, June 17, 2020 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

Marijuana Today Daily Headlines
Wednesday, June 17, 2020 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

// Chart: Adult-use marijuana sales show resiliency in May despite pandemic (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Library Of Congress Highlights Racist News Coverage Used To Justify Criminalizing Marijuana A Century Ago (Marijuana Moment)

// Recovery from losses damage during protests will take weeks for many cannabis businesses (Marijuana Business Daily)


These headlines are brought to you by Curaleaf, one of the leading vertically-integrated cannabis operators in the U.S. With legal medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivation sites, and processing facilities all over the United States, Curaleaf has served more than 165,000 medical cannabis patients and looks forward to helping many more long into the future. Swing over to Curaleaf.com to learn more about this very cool company!


// Aurora Cannabis’ $80 Million Mistake (Nasdaq (Motley Fool))

// Aurora Cannabis president stepping down this month (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Vireo Health Trims Losses As Revenues Rise (Green Market Report)

// Canadian Cannabis Retailer Fire & Flower Quarterly Revenue Increases 142% to $23.1 Million (New Cannabis Ventures)

// United Nations body to meet again this month to discuss WHO cannabis recommendations (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Ohio Marijuana Activists Plan Supreme Court Appeal After Federal Judges Deny Electronic Signature Case (Marijuana Moment)

// Louisiana Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Expansion Into Law (Marijuana Moment)


Check out our other projects:Marijuana Today— Our flagship title, a weekly podcast examining the world of marijuana business and activism with some of the smartest people in the industry and movement. • Marijuana Media Connect— A service that connects industry insiders in the legal marijuana industry with journalists, bloggers, and writers in need of expert sources for their stories.

Love these headlines? Love our podcast? Support our work with a financial contribution and become a patron.

Photo: Oregon Department of Agriculture/Flickr

Pliny the Elder: Ancient Pioneer of Medical Marijuana

It’s rare when news headlines concern someone who died nearly 2,000 years ago, but that’s what happened last month, when a scientific team in Italy reported results of their study finding that the skull in a Rome museum really is that of Pliny the Elder, the immortal naturalist of the ancient Roman world. 

As the New York Times reported, the skull had been sitting for decades in the Museo Storico Nazionale Dell’Arte Sanitaria, or National Historical Museum of Medical Arts, described as a “treasure trove of medical curiosities.” It had been unearthed in an excavation in 1900 on the shore of the Bay of Naples near the ruins of Pompeii, along with some Roman-era jewelry and regalia. As Pliny was killed in the 79 CE eruption of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii, and was said to have met his death on that fabled shoreline, there was inevitably speculation. 

The landowner who discovered the skull seems to have leveraged it for personal notoriety as the man who found the remains of Pliny. After changing hands a few times, it wound up in the museum some 70 years ago, It was first plugged as “Pliny the Elder’s skull,” then, less ambitiously, as “skull from the excavations of Pompeii and attributed to Pliny.”

The forensic study, which was launched in 2017, used DNA sequencing and an analysis of cranial shape to determine that the skull fits what we know from history about Pliny’s general profile. Andrea Cionci, leader of the study, dubbed Project Pliny, told the Times: “It is very likely that the skull is Pliny, but we cannot have 100% security. We have many coincidences in favor, and no contrary data.” 

The identity of the skull remains a matter of some controversy. The Times ironically quoted a line from Pliny himself: “In these matters, the only certainty is that nothing is certain.” 

There is, however, a greater degree of certainty about Pliny’s role as one of history’s first scholars to document the medicinal properties of the cannabis plant. 

Admiral, Adventurer, Naturalist

Gaius Plinius Secundus, born around 23 CE, led military campaigns for Imperial Rome in Germany before being assigned as a naval admiral in the Bay of Naples to fight piracy. In between such adventures he wrote his classic work, “Naturalis Historia,” or Natural History (sometimes rendered in the plural as “Naturae Historiae”).  

“Natural History” was, in the words of one historian, a “compendium of ancient knowledge and misinformation.” Amid a massive 37-volume review of flora and fauna from across what was for Rome the known world are such fanciful creations as griffins and cyclopes. But it was the first such compendium of its kind in the Western world and became the standard reference work throughout the Middle Ages.  

And his intellectual curiosity seems to have played a role in his demise. This episode was recorded in letters by his nephew and adopted son, who witnessed it and survived. This was Pliny the Younger, then 17, who would go on to become a statesman, serving as governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor (contemporary Turkey). 

From his command post on the Bay of Naples, he witnessed a giant cloud rising from Mount Vesuvius.  

“Having seen the cloud, Pliny the Elder decided he wanted to get closer to it to investigate,” Daisy Dunn, author of the Pliny biography “The Shadow of Vesuvius,” told the New York Times. “He was, after all, author of a 37-volume book of natural history.” 

But as his ship crossed the bay toward Pompeii, it became clear that many were trapped on the shore as lava descended on the city from the volcano and ash rained down from the sky. According to another work on Pliny — “Indagine sulla Scomparsa di un Ammiraglio,” or “Inquiry on the Death of an Admiral,” by military historian Flavio Russo — what began as a personal investigation of a natural phenomenon became “the oldest natural disaster relief operation.” 

It was, alas, in vain. By the time his craft had reached the stricken shore, Pliny the Elder had asphyxiated to death on the toxic fumes.  

The Pharmacopeia of Cannabis 

Despite the dubious or fantastical elements of his work, Pliny has had a huge influence. As Daily Beast notes, some have speculated that he even helped inspire Charles Darwin, a member of the Plinian Society, to develop Darwin’s theory of inheritable traits. 

Pliney’s influence on the pharmacopeia of cannabis has only recently come to be recognized, and may also be considerable. 

There are numerous references in “Natural History” to what English translators have rendered as “hemp.” Pliny clearly makes note of its industrial applications, calling it “a plant remarkably useful for making ropes.”

The footnotes for the hemp references in the most authoritative translation by British scholar John Bostock, published in 1856, read: “The Cannabis sativa of Linnæus.” This is a reference to Carl Linnaeus, the 18th century Swedish botanist known as the father of modern taxonomy, who invented the system of plant classification still in use today.

Given that the Latin word for hemp is cannabis, there is little controversy here. 

The likely references to medicinal and ecstasy-inducing (“recreational,” in contemporary parlance) use of the plant are somewhat more ambiguous. 

In his book “Cannabis and the Soma Solution,” the Canadian chronicler of ancient cannabis use Chris Bennett notes that Pliny cited references in an earlier work by the Greek philosopher Democritus (c. 460 – c. 370 BCE), himself the central figure in development of the atomic theory of the universe (dramatically vindicated by science in the 20th century). 

The lost earlier work by Democritus made note of an herb called theangelis that “grows upon Mount Libanus in Syria” (contemporary Lebanon), and “at Babylon and Susa in Persia.” Democritus, in a passage quoted by Pliny, wrote: “An infusion of it imparts powers of divination to the Magi.” The Magi, of course, were the sages and priests of the ancient Persian religion, Zoroastrianism.

Pliny also noted Democritus’ reference to geolotophyllis, “a plant found in Bactriana” (contemporary Afghanistan) and “on the banks of the Borysthenes” (the Dnieper River, in contemporary Russia and Ukraine). “Taken internally with myrrh and wine, all sorts of visionary forms present themselves, excite the most immoderate laughter.”

As Bennett notes, Bostock’s footnotes for both these esoteric terms identified them as “Indian hemp, cannabis sativa.”

Christian Rätsch in his “Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants” lists theangelis and geolotophyllis in his section “Psychoactive Plants That Have Not Yet Been Identified.” However, Pliny’s geographic references are in line with what we know about the origin of the cannabis plant in Central Asia (the Tibetan plateau, by the most recent research), and its diffusion from there across the steppes to Europe and the Middle East.

This makes Pliny one of the earliest writers to mention cannabis use. Earlier ones include the Greek historian Herodotus, who noted its use by the Scythians, and the herbal compendiums in India’s Athrava Veda and the Pen Ts’ao of the legendary Chinese emperor Shen Nung (c. 2800 BCE).

On a less esoteric tip, Pliny also noted that an infusion of cannabis root boiled in water “eases cramped joints, gout too, and similar violent pain.” He also recommended hemp seed oil as a treatment for ear infections (“worms”). This was noted in the December 2017 edition of the peer-reviewed quarterly journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, in an article entitled “Cannabis Roots: A Traditional Therapy with Future Potential for Treating Inflammation and Pain.” The article, written by a team led by Vancouver physician and cannabis therapeutics practitioner Natasha R. Ryz, stated: “In the first century, Pliny the Elder described in ‘Natural Histories’ that a decoction of the root in water could be used to relieve stiffness in the joints, gout and related conditions. By the 17th century, various herbalists were recommending cannabis root to treat inflammation, joint pain, gout, and other conditions.”Although the plant’s root contains few cannabinoids, this points to a link between Pliny and the later medicinal use of cannabis tinctures and the like in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This tradition came to an abrupt halt in the United States with federal prohibition in 1937, and has only been rediscovered since the emergence of the medical marijuana movement a little more than a generation ago.

The works of Pliny the Elder certainly demonstrate that cannabis use is not some recent innovation, but deeply rooted in human culture.

TELL US, are you surprised that cannabis was used in ancient times?

The post Pliny the Elder: Ancient Pioneer of Medical Marijuana appeared first on Cannabis Now.

From the Playboy Mansion to Cannabis Radio, Paxton Quigley is Still Making Waves

Like most cannabis users in the 1970s, Paxton Quigley knew it was wise to be discreet about her cannabis consumption as she moved through several successful careers in academia, research, investigative journalism, and acting.

Then she took a job where she came face-to-face with one of the most famous names in marijuana, Keith Stroup, founder of NORML, who was visiting the most famous person in the adult entertainment industry, Hugh Hefner.

No, Quigley was not a Playboy Bunny. And Stroup was not at the Playboy Mansion for the usual reasons that gentlemen visit there.

Quigley had been hired by the company’s CEO, Christie Hefner, as Corporate Director of Community Relations with the goal of promoting the “positive side” of Playboy and the Playboy Foundation.

The year was 1980 – the beginning of two terms of President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy’s disastrous “just say no” policy. Thankfully, Hugh Hefner countered the First Lady’s misleading propaganda by just saying “yes” to cannabis. 

Quigley became aware of her employer’s pro-weed stance her first day on the job when she shared a blunt with Hugh Hefner, Christie, and the actor James Caan. She also knew she’d just landed a “job made in heaven.”

Soon thereafter she was organizing massive fundraisers for Hefner’s and Playboy’s various philanthropic activities, including NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

“Many of today’s cannabis consumers may not know that in 1971, the Playboy Foundation had quietly provided NORML with an initial $5,000 then soon became its primary funder throughout the 1970’s, giving the organization $100,000 a year for seven years,” Quigley told High Times.

And it wasn’t just about the money nor the centerfolds.

The first balanced media coverage about the War on Drugs was done by Playboy magazine and it continues today.

“By focusing attention in Playboy magazine on some of the most egregious victims of the war against marijuana smokers, [Hefner] helped us convince millions of Americans that marijuana prohibition was a misguided and destructive public policy,” Stroup said when Hefner passed away in September 2017 at the age of 91.

Paxton (standing), Christie Hefner, ACLU’S Stanley Sheinbaum, and Hugh Hefner; Courtesy of Paxton Quigley

Fast forward through years of writing and publishing books, lecturing about women’s self-defense issues, and hosting a variety of TV and radio shows, Quigley decided it was time to get back into the struggle.

“I decided to use my media experience to spread the word about cannabis,” she said.

Cannabis Healing with Paxton Quigley radio was born in June 2018.

On her weekly 15-minute radio show, Quigley interviews a wide variety of people in the cannabis space—physicians, researchers, athletes, advocates, attorneys, parents of autistic children, and others in the industry. Of course, Keith Stroup was one of Quigley’s first guests on her show.

“We’re all about sharing cannabis stories, helping small companies get their products known and raising awareness about legalization, policy and pot prisoners through such guests as Amy Povah, who founded a non-profit that advocates for non-violent drug offenders,” Quigley said.  

Cannabis information also includes such basics as growing one’s own weed at home. That topic was taken care of by HIGH TIMES senior cultivation editor Danny Danko in Quigley’s December 2018 broadcast.

How To Tune In With Paxton Quigley

Heard every Friday on California-based radio network Livin’ the Good Life where Quigley’s entire archive is available, the show goes out to millions of households on 83 AM and FM radio stations in the U.S. and Canada, plus 216 Digital Talk Radio stations and podcasts throughout the world.Although a quicker way to keep up with Quigley’s lively interviews, or be the subject of one, is to check out her Facebook page or LinkedIn account where she posts her guests’ interviews.

The post From the Playboy Mansion to Cannabis Radio, Paxton Quigley is Still Making Waves appeared first on High Times.

Flashback Friday: A History Of Pinball

Learn about the history of pinball in this High Times print piece from July, 1979.


Bagatelle, a popular game in the 19th century, is the granddaddy of pinball. Bagatelle is similar to pool, in that you use a cue stick to shoot balls into scoring holes. In 1871 a game called Improvements in Bagatelle was introduced, which featured a spring-powered plunger, bells, gates and metal pins spread about the playing field to confuse the ball’s downward progress. Imitations soon followed, although none were particularly commercially successful.

In the late 1920s electricity was added. The electric lights and bells defined modern pinball. Most games weren’t pinball as it is known and played today; they were coin-operated novelty machines employing metal balls through a maze of pins and lanes and into scoring holes. When Harry Williams invented such a pin-ball game in 1931, called Advance, he added mechanical gates, metal arches (as opposed to wooden arches) and the first tilt mechanism.

During the late ’20s and early ’30s coin-operated amusement machines enjoyed increasing popularity, and the demand for better games was outstripping the supply. In 1933 the game Jigsaw provided a metal puzzle that was completed by dropping balls into the proper holes. Williams invented the electric kick-out hole in the game Contact. Soon kick-out holes rang bells and the play fields became more attractive. Small-time manufacturers proliferated. Then a new gimmick was introduced, “pay-out pinball,” combining the fun of old-time pinball with the potential profits of slot machines. The price for this thrill jumped from one penny to five cents.

Public opinion turned against pinball, and soon it was enjoying more popularity than ever. It was a forbidden fruit, like dope, crime, racketeering, speakeasies and booze. Humphrey Bogart played a gangster who forced merchants to rent his pinball machines in the 1936 crime film Bullets or Ballots, but Edward G. Robinson caught up with the son of a gun.

While technology improved the play of pinball, public outrage gave pinball manufacturers a king-size pain in the neck. In 1941, New York City prohibited pinball. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia made the front pages as he led his antipinball campaign, smashing pinball machines with a sledgehammer, charging that pinball corrupted moral fiber and caused juvenile delinquency by encouraging gambling. To top things off, the war created a shortage in materials. The industry was in trouble.

In 1947, D. Gottlieb & Son introduced flippers in a machine called Humpty Dumpty. Pinball entered a new era as it became a respectable game of skill. Then Bally introduced bingo pinball—still popular today—which awarded free games or money for lining up the proper numbers on a game board devoid of flippers. The playing field resembled a bingo card. By 1956 a federal-court decision ruled that bingo pinball machines were in effect slot machines and must be controlled by gambling laws.

Soon, new refinements included add-a-ball, almost extinct today, where a player added as many free balls as he could to his game. Then the free ball was offered, then free games. The movie Tommy came out, the first rock opera, all about a pinball wizard. Then, in 1976, New York City lifted its ban on pinball. Pinball, like rock ‘n’ roll, is here to stay.

The post Flashback Friday: A History Of Pinball appeared first on High Times.