Another Very Important Pothead, Lillian Hellman, Medical Marijuana User

by Fred Gardner, January 15, 2011

This is to nominate Lillian Hellman, the playwright, for inclusion on VeryImportantPotheads.com . The site is run by the highly competent Ellen Komp, whose biographical notes blend scholarship and gossip.

I took a class from Hellman in 1961, a few years before Dashiell Hammett and then LH herself enjoyed a surge in public esteem and book sales. I was going on 20 when we met, she was 56, and I learned a lot from her in the years ahead. She provided real support -her Peugeot station wagon and some money- when friends and I started the first GI coffeehouse near Fort Jackson in '67.

When I split with the classy left at the end of the '60s, LH disapproved and we distanced politically. By 1971 she was the queen of the liberals in New York and I was leafleting in the San Francisco financial district like a Holy Roller.

Once she called when she was in town and I went to see her at the Huntington for a drink. Her glaucoma was really bad and I asked if she'd heard that marijuana reduces intraocular pressure. I wound up getting her some Mendocino sinsemilla. She wrote me a few times thereafter asking about my friends who made the green shirts, and I helped her out.

Nora Ephron's book “I Remember Nothing” contains a chapter about Hellman in which she writes about Lillian's cigarette smoking, “Because she could barely see, the question of whether the perilously ever-lengthening ash would ever make it to the ashtray without landing in her lap and setting her on fire provided added suspense to every minute spent with her.” That's what made me remember our drink in the Huntington -the only time I ever saw Lillian frail and old.

When I knew her she looked like a diminutive Nina Totenberg under a very similar crown of lacquered brown hair.

At the end of the Carter era, 1978 or '79, I heard about the federal government launching an “investigational new drug program” and notified Miss Hellman that enrolling might enable her to use marijuana legally. She was very interested, but before I could look into the details she wrote or called to say that if it was known that she smoked marijuana, it would be held against her, prevent her from being taken seriously as a political journalist. She'd been writing non-fiction pieces for Look and other magazines and didn't want to get pot-baited by the looming antagonists.

Nora Ephron also had a falling out with Hellman but never stopped liking something about her. She was sharp, she saw beneath the surface of what was happening. To this day I find myself remembering things she said. And how many people do you meet in life whose insights and lines really stay with you? Here's one: “People always have the fanciest reasons for what they do.”

The Autumn Garden

While we're plugging websites and dropping left-celeb names… SeedsofChange.com  is offering “The Paul Robeson tomato. Heirloom 8-10 oz. (85-90 days). A rare 'black' slicer with red flesh. Rated 'Best of Show' at the Carmel TomatoFest, it has received rave reviews for its earthy flavor with the perfect acid/sweet balance. Pack of 50 @ $3.29.”

Calling All Thieves

“A map marking what are supposed to be secret locations of 60 warehouses and other buildings where medical marijuana is grown in Boulder has accidentally been made public by the city,” reports Heath Urie of the Daily Camera January 6. “Boulder officials say an oversight led them to publish the map on the city's Web site, bouldercolorado.gov, on Dec. 29 as part of an agenda briefing sent to the Boulder City Council. The map shows the locations of the 60 cultivation centers, 45 dispensaries and 12 product manufacturing sites that have applied for a medical marijuana business license from the city.”

The incompetence epidemic is so virulent and widespread nowadays that you never know whether to attribute an episode like this to political hostility or viral incompetence.

Urie's a good reporter, one of a wave who've made marijuana their beat recently. He interviewed Dustin Shroyer, a dispensary owner who declined to express any negativity, let alone outrage, towards the city government that had just put him in real jeopardy. “It's very important to let them work the bugs out of their system,” he said. “Hopefully, they'll just grow from that and learn from it.” It's pathetic how the potrepreneurs kiss bureaucratic butt -but understandable.

(Fred Gardner is the editor of O'Shaughnessy's, the journal of cannabis in clinical practice. Email: Fred@plebesite.com .)

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