Pubdate: Tue, 15 Jun 2004
Source: AlterNet (US Web)
Copyright: 2004 Independent Media Institute
Author:   Ellen Komp, AlterNet
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Popular)


What do Rodney Dangerfield, Michelle Phillips, Bill Maher, Jesse
Ventura, Frances McDormand and Jennifer Aniston have in common?
They've come clean about pot and they want others to as well.

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield's new autobiography, It's Not Easy Being Me: A
Lifetime of No Respect But Plenty of Sex and Drugs (HarperCollins), contains
surprising news: he smokes marijuana. Dangerfield, 82, says he's been
smoking pot for nearly 50 years, joking, "I was a hippie long before hippies
were born."

Dangerfield's neglectful parents left him with little self esteem, and
he admirably channeled his despair into his act. The ugly, unloved kid
had quite a full life, and his book is full of interesting anecdotes,
interspersed with hilarious jokes. His first "I don't get no respect"
joke was "I used to play hide and seek. They wouldn't even look for
me." As well as giving us 50 years of great jokes, Dangerfield has
helped foster the success of countless young comics, by hosting an HBO
comedy showcase and running a comedy club in New York City.

Dangerfield tells of drinking heavily to counter his depression, but
had better results with marijuana. He writes, "Booze is the real
culprit in our society. Booze is traffic accidents, booze is wife
beating. In my life I've seen many doctors and psychiatrists, and all
of them have told me that I'm better off with pot than with booze."
Dangerfield now has a doctor's recommendation from a California
physician to use marijuana medicinally for high blood pressure and
pain. He cautions against smoking on the job, however, saying his
comic timing is off while "high" and he does not perform under
marijuana's influence.

Dangerfield's admissions are part of a wave of revelations that is
being compared to the gay movement's "outing", a strategy that
ultimately helped gays achieve greater civil rights. The Marijuana
Policy Project (MPP) has launched a campaign to enlist VIPs to their
cause with an advisory board that includes Michelle Phillips, Bill
Maher, Jesse Ventura, Dr. Andrew Weil, and former US Surgeon General
Jocelyn Elders. tells stars' stories and
issues "Outie" awards to celebs who come clean. Another site -- encourages ordinary folks to come out, too.

Academy Award-winning actress Frances McDormand and Emmy winner
Jennifer Aniston have come "out," McDormand to High Times magazine and
Aniston to Rolling Stone and the foreign press. Arnold Schwarzenegger
admitted he smoked pot in the 1970s just before winning the
governorship of California. The National Organization for the Reform
of Marijuana Laws (NORML) recently ran ads quoting New York City mayor
Michael Bloomberg saying of marijuana smoking, "You bet I did. And I
enjoyed it."

Talk show host and former Navy intelligence officer Montel Williams
devotes a full chapter to medical marijuana in his new autobiography,
"Climbing Higher" (New American Library). Williams, who suffers from
multiple sclerosis, uses marijuana for medicinal purposes. When
interviewed after marijuana was found in his bag at a Detroit airport
in November 2003, Williams made no apologies. "I think it's time for a
change," he said. "I hope to inspire others to take a stand." Williams
said he uses marijuana to ease pain and depression, in lieu of
pharmaceutical drugs. "Oxycontin and Vicodin are extremely addictive.
Percocet didn't work. Marijuana is the best tool for me," he said.

Basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was similarly outed in 1999, when
marijuana was discovered in his bag at a Toronto airport. He was
merely fined when he said he uses marijuana to alleviate the nausea
associated with migraine headaches that have bothered him for years.
Former NBA star and Senator Bill Bradley admitted to smoking pot on a
pundit show during his run for the 2000 Democratic presidential
nomination, prompting Sam Donaldson to out himself also. At the time,
Bradley was running against admitted pot smoker Al Gore. John Kerry
also inhaled.

More surprising is the fact that Newt Gingrich smoked pot, and
introduced a bill to ease federal restrictions on medical marijuana in
1981. On March 19, 1982 he wrote in the Journal of the American
Medical Association, "We believe licensed physicians are competent to
employ marijuana, and patients have a right to obtain marijuana
legally, under medical supervision, from a regulated source. Federal
policies do not reflect a factual or balanced assessment of
marijuana's use as a medicant."

Out With The Old

Celebrities coming out for marijuana decriminalization, based on their
own experiences, is nothing new and it isn't just entertainment
figures and politicians who have spoken out.

Anthropologist Margaret Mead testified before Congress in favor of the
legalization of marijuana in 1969, and she told Newsweek that she had
tried it once herself. Noted scientists Richard Feynman and Carl Sagan
used pot, and Sagan said it inspired some of his work.

Paul McCartney helped pay for a 1967 advertisement in the London Times
that called for legalization of pot possession, release of all
prisoners on possession charges and government research into
marijuana's medical uses. "I think we could decrimalize marijuana, and
I'd like to see a really unbised medical report on it," he said after
being deported from Japan for bringing nearly half a pound of
marijuana into Tokyo for a Band on the Run concert tour in 1980. (John
Lennon told a Paris newspaper that their band smoked pot at Buckingham
Palace before being decorated by the queen in 1965.)

Village Voice jazz critic Gary Giddins discovered that Louis Armstrong's
manager suppressed parts of the 1954 autobiography Satchmo: My Life in New
Orleans that dealt with marijuana. Armstrong planned to publish a sequel
which he said he would call "Gage"--slang for marijuana. Giddins also
"outed" Bing Crosby in the biography Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams,
(2001, Little Brown & Co.), writing that Crosby smoked it before it became
illegal and surprised interviewers in the 1960s and 1970s by suggesting it
be decriminalized. Bing's eldest son, Gary, told Giddins that Bing advised
him to use marijuana instead of drinking. Gary recalled, "there were other
times when marijuana was mentioned and he'd get a smile on his face. He'd
kind of think about it and there'd be that little smile."

Alcohol and Tobacco Backlash?

Acclaimed film director Robert Altman has been on record as a
marijuana smoker for over a decade. A review of Altman's movie "The
Player" in the New York Times, April 5 1992, quotes him saying, "I was
a heavy drinker, but the alcohol affected my heart rather than my
liver. So I stopped. And I miss it. I really like that kind of life. I
smoke grass now. I say that to everybody, because marijuana should be
legalized. It's ridiculous that it isn't. If at the end of the day I
feel like smoking a joint I do it. It changes the perception of what
I've been through all day." Altman serves on NORML's advisory board.

TV star Larry Hagman comes to similar conclusions in his
autobiography, Hello Darlin': Tall (and Absolutely True) Tales About
My Life. Hagman writes, "Why that stuff should be illegal is beyond
me. It's so benign compared to alcohol. When you come right down to
it, alcohol destroys your body and makes you do violent things. With
grass you sit back and enjoy life."

Willie Nelson told Country Music Television's Inside Fame program, "I
used to smoke three, four packs of cigarettes a day. I used to drink
as much whiskey and beer as anybody in the world. I would have been
dead if it hadn't been for pot, because when I started smoking pot I
quit smoking cigarettes and drinking." While adding that he doesn't
encourage drug use by young people, he said that marijuana is the best
vice in dealing with stress. "The highest killer on the planet is
stress, and so many people medicate themselves in one way or another,"
said Nelson. "But the best medicine for stress, if you have to take
something, is pot."

With so many stars saying that marijuana is more beneficial to them
than are than pharmaceuticals, alcohol and tobacco, one wonders
whether those industries are behind the movement to keep pot illegal.
Companies like Phillip Morris and Johnson & Johnson are known to be
major contributors to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, the
group that once ran the fried egg "This is your brain on drugs" ads
and admitted it used a brain scan of a coma victim to falsely depict a
drug user's brain. The group is now headed by former drug "czar" Bill
Bennett, a former chain smoker who acknowledged last year his
compulsive gambling cost him $8 million, but wouldn't admit it was an
addiction. Our federal government is still spending millions on rabid
anti-marijuana ads, despite studies showing they have little effect.

Former US Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala
admitted to smoking pot in college in an interview with Diane Sawyer
before her appointment. Later, she stood with Attorney General Janet
Reno and Drug "Czar" Barry McCaffrey, threatening to revoke doctors'
licenses for recommending medical marijuana (a successful civil
challenge later backed the government off). "Marijuana is illegal,
dangerous, unhealthy and wrong," Shalala said. "It's a one-way ticket
to dead-end hopes and dreams." But her indulgence doesn't seem to have
dead-ended Shalala.

Aniston, in her Rolling Stone interview, said, "I wouldn't call myself
a pothead. I enjoy it once in a while. Everything in moderation."
Aniston also drew a line between marijuana and harder drugs. Those are
reasonable messages young people should be hearing from someone they
admire and trust, but they won't hear them in our zero tolerance
school programs, or in government-sponsored drug education programs,
which preach abstinence as the only option.

Some claim that smoking pot was all right in the 1970s, but believe
that marijuana is much stronger now, a "fact" not backed up by the
government's own studies. Nothing has changed about pot in the last 30
years but the political climate. And it looks like that's changing

When the news of Dangerfield's marijuana use first broke in August
2002 (when he surprised nurses by lighting a joint in a hospital
bathroom), his publicist Kevin Sasaki said his office was flooded by
calls - all of them positive - after the story hit the stands.
"Everyone wanted to tell him, 'You go!' He's become a hero of sorts,"
Sasaki said. With 80 million admitted pot smokers in the US alone,
Dangerfield was suddenly reaching an untapped fan base. He got my respect.

Ellen Komp manages the website --

Sources for this story appear there. 
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