Glass and Hash in the Pacific North West: The Story of Stormin NormanRead More
by Samuel Farley, @THC_Samuel
Stormin Norman has made a name for himself in the glass art community over the last few years. Norman grew up in Seattle, Washington, where cannabis is a part of the culture of the city. For Norman, the introduction came in high school, and the more he got into cannabis, the more curious he became about the utensils used to consume the plant. “Pipes are a tool that go along with cannabis, so I just became more aware of the culture when I first started smoking,” says Norman. In his early 20s, Norman stepped into his first high-end glass studio at Puffin Glass Studios, a shop formerly operating in North Seattle. “I went into the shop and they had local work from people like Scott Deppe and Quave, and the Deppe pipe had a spinning tetrahedral with some skulls and it was so beyond anything I had ever imagined that someone would take the time to make. I was used to seeing spoons and beakers, and then I walked into that shop and saw those pieces and it totally changed my perspective,” reflects Norman. “It was a wild experience.”
Portal collab with @takaomiyake for the #alljapanshow 🇯🇵 This piece was started in Japan and finished in Seattle. I had a lot of fun in Japan during my trip in March, it's really cool to be able to bridge a cultural gap with glass. #storminnormanglass #takaomiyake #hellafuckingdotsman #alljapanshow2017 #portalsandshit #siennabrown #porknipple #areyoudoneyet #whyareyoudoingitlikethat #konichiwabitches #Arigato
It was around this time that Norman was bored with his production job and decided to start learning how to blow glass. His first time on the torch was with friend and fellow artist, Scoz Glass. The experience solidified that glass blowing was something Norman wanted to take seriously, and Stormin Norman officially began the craft in December of 2014. “I worked at Seven Point Studios that was started by Nate Dizzle and he taught me a lot and taught me the basics, and then Kevin Quave moved into the studio space and I learned from him and it built from there. It was basically learning bits and pieces from everyone I was around and had the chance to work with, and it was a natural progression once I got into the work. I got introduced to Quave early on when he was starting Quave Club Banger and really had the chance to learn when it was a small room with like four people working in it. I really had the chance to be a fly on the wall and that’s when I was introduced to Elbo, Joe P, WJC and some other artists in the industry,” he recalls.
Although new to the craft of making glass pipes, Norman was committed to learning and progressing as quickly as he could. “I was still working my regular job at the time and would work my normal eight-hour day and then go to Seven Point and blow glass till they closed the studio. I was basically making marbles, little trinkets and I was never really working for someone. I had some money saved up and eventually I quit my job because you can't have a job and blow glass as much as you need to. You need to put in that eight to ten hours a day to see the progression you want,” says Norman. After putting in time on the torch making art and off the torch building relationships, he started to see serious improvement in his work. “I didn't have many skills when I started so I was selling whatever I could make. After my first trip to the Burning Man festival with a bunch of friends from the culture I came back with a new drive and and had a lot of new inspiration and worked even harder and tried to push my limits to see what I could do and what I could make,” says Norman.
At the time, around mid-2014, many artists were making bubblers, banger hangers and other simple functionals, and the recycler had become a very popular functional design. Norman wanted to make something new, something different and after trial and error he ended up with his first Orbuculum, a crystal ball design that has become one of his signatures. “I draw a lot and sometimes it just helps lead me to new ideas, and a lot don't have any function but it helps lead me to new concepts that end up working. The first orb was really tricky; I messed up the first one and then I realized it was going to be really hard to get my sculptures to look like the drawings I sketched up, and it naturally progressed into the first Orbuculum around December of 2015,” says Norman.
As the career of Stormin Norman has continued to expand, he continues to take inspiration from his friends. “WJC and Quave have been good friends and the most recent large inspirations for my work, and it’s fun to have mentors and people you can build off of. It’s all been building, the hash is getting better, the glass is getting better and the community is continuing to build itself among all of that, and I'm looking forward to pushing the boundaries and making more intricate work. I want to travel more and spread this culture to other places around the world. We are onto something. Making the best hash and best glass in the world is exciting to be a part of and we have to spread that,” he says.
Artwork by Stormin Norman has been featured in some of the largest glass art shows to date, including Heaterz, Wook Show, Intrinsic and the recent All Japan Show in downtown Denver. Glass pipes and other work crafted by Stormin Norman can be viewed on his Instagram page at @Stormin__Norman and can be purchased at various galleries across the country. ♦
Cannabis Friendly Airbnb: Travel and Enjoy Your Cannabis Too!Read More
by Maggie Jay, @travelncannabis
Maybe you’ve heard it from friends time and again, or maybe it’s happened to you: you are finally in your hotel room, enjoying your first joint when there’s a banging at the door. Someone has complained about the smell and their weed-sniffing security has sniffed themselves to your hotel room door. Whether you just get a warning or you must pay their ridiculous fine, your high has been blown.
So many people have decided to avoid the hotel hassle altogether and have started booking their accommodations through Airbnb. This creative company has an abundance of options when it comes to fun and unique accommodations for travelers of all types.
We did a bit of digging and came up with a few cannabis-friendly options for canna-travelers in four of the major cities that have legalized recreational cannabis. These places are either marked as “Smoking allowed,” or we have personally contacted them to ask if it is “420 friendly.” (Just a side note, of the 15 or so accounts we did contact, only one said no. So, it never hurts to ask about a place you want to stay, just to be confident before you book.)
Check out these options for cannabis-friendly Airbnbs in Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver and Las Vegas. ♦
Your Own Space: Hot Tub in Nature in the Midst of the City, $120 nightly
This listing is more of a bed and breakfast style accommodation. With an emphasis on higher consciousness, which includes cannabis, I can feel the relaxing vibes from 1,000 miles away. Taking one of the complementary pipes for a dip in the outdoor, saltwater hot tub sounds like a perfect end to a day in Seattle. Book here.
Splurge or Share: A Cottage Fit for a Fairy King from $202 nightly
Just outside of Seattle, in Redmond, Washington sits what the host calls a “cobbage” (half cabin, half cottage). This bright and airy cobbage has a great veggie garden, free for guests to use, and it’s right on the water. See coyotes, owls and hawks in this remote-ish location while taking the paddle boat out for a spin. Book here.
Your Own Space: Shimmy Your Way into this ‘60s Pop Art from $150 nightly
Colorful with a well-thought-out design, this one to two person studio is bitchin’! The walls and floors are a fun site and the little patio is adorable. The owner is also the designer and she has two of these far-out studios. The neighborhood of Silverlake has a great hipster scene, with tons of restaurants within walking distance. Book here. This place must be some kind of special because it’s booked through November!
Splurge or Share: Downtown High Rise Starting at $324 nightly
I love the city life. And this drop dead gorgeous two-bedroom, two-bath gives you just that. Enjoy the nightlife of this bustling town, or just watch it all from the amazing views of this 36th floor condo. This listing comes with two parking spaces, making your vacation even simpler. Bring your friends along because this place houses seven! Book here.
Budget-Friendly Option: Decked Out Bedroom in DTC area from $35 nightly
This private bedroom reminds me of a cushy hotel room. Wrap up in the provided robe, grab some munchies from your munchie drawer and get ready for chill mode. This shared space is meant for one or two and smoking is allowed on the patio. Book here.
Your Own Space: Get Ritzy in the Ritz Carlton Building from $150 nightly
Another downtown stunner, this one-bedroom is in the same building as the Ritz Carlton right in downtown Denver. Enjoy shopping, nightlife, museums and more at this location. Enjoy a sunset toke on the lovely balcony to express your freedom in this great state. Book here.
Splurge or Share: Ultra Sheek Uptown Apartment with a Hot Tub from $199 nightly
Stay in this well-appointed mansion on the edge of Denver’s Capitol Hill and even throw a party. So many Airbnb hosts frown upon get-togethers, but this host encourages it. Have up to 50 people over for an evening (there’s only room for eight overnight guests) of fun on the oversized outdoor space. Or, you can just scoot on over to the pub next door, also owned by the host, and hang there in the evenings. Book here.
Your Own Space: Quiet Surrender Just Outside of the City from $108 nightly
Stay in the guest house right off the pool area and enjoy nightly BBQ and a dip in the cool waters. Wake and bake in the garden, watching the fish in the coy pond. Then take off for sightseeing and shows in the evenings. Great for up to five, this is a quiet solution to the bustling sounds of the Vegas Strip. Book here.
Splurge or Share: Bathtub with Views of the Palms from $400 nightly
Stay at Mario Andretti’s high rise right on the strip. This laid-out crib is perfect for the Vegas party animal. Have a girl’s weekend in this dope pad and blow some O’s on the wrap around balcony. Then, after a long night out, take a break at the spa downstairs, or plan a day at the pool on the sixth floor. Book here.
Forever Furniture: Classically Modern Designs in HempRead More
by Amanda Pampuro
Can sustainable furniture save the world? Against all odds, Resin Rose LLC believes that’s the first step. Beginning in a state hell-bent on prohibition, diving headfirst into a market saturated with cheap, mass-produced furniture, the husband-wife duo is creating custom forever furniture with sturdy steel frames and sustainable hardwoods, all upholstered in hemp.
When they first set up shop in Austin, Texas circa 2014, the humble artisans found their first roadblock in explaining to local furniture dealers their pieces weren’t supposed to be smoked.
“We were making this furniture because it was what we believed in, and we couldn’t sell it to save our life,” laughed Rosemary Neary. “All the furniture places all around town, what they said was, ‘Well, who’s going to smoke it?’”
With a formal background in fashion design, Neary has been involved in cannabis activism through NORML for many years. She first met Resin Galvao at Austin’s Yellow Jacket Social Club and knew immediately they were in for a wild ride.
“First of all, he had a real mullet at the time because he was living in Chile, [and] he superimposed his mullet face onto an ‘80’s Jordache ad. I had just gotten off work and he was like, ‘So, what do you do?’ and I was like, ‘Hold on bud, let me just get a drink.’ And he was like, ‘Well, I used to model for Jordache,’ and throws this picture in my face. Then he proceeded to show me an entire calendar of himself in a speedo with this same mullet, and I’m like, ‘You gotta be kidding me. Who are you?!’” Neary recalled, adding lovingly, “We’ve been together, laughing and traveling ever since. We pretty much packed a bag and went on a long road trip after that, and that was it.”
Described by Neary as a spatial genius, Resin Galvao first learned how to crochet from his mom. While touring with the Grateful Dead, Galvao was known for hitchhiking with a sewing machine, a cooler, a lawn chair, and a sign calling out “Let’s Carpool.” Galvao made a living at rest stops sewing and selling hemp hats with custom embroidery, and hiding stash pockets in clothing.
“I was known for having all the best stash pockets,” he said. “I had like 15 stash pockets all over my clothes and they were super hidden.”
While selling his wares on tour with Phish, Galvao met EnviroTextiles founder Barbara Filippone from whom he still sources hemp fabric.
In Lake Tahoe, Galvao apprenticed under Dave Nuoffer at Al’s Upholstery Shop before launching Green Foot Furniture in Austin in 2009, where he milled pallets into high-end furniture. Here, training and trade came together and Galvao made his first hemp couch.
Today, Neary and Galvao can be found on the shores of Lake Tahoe in Truckee, California, where they run upholstery services as the Tufted Door and create original sustainable furniture as Resin Rose LLC.
Though their mission is pure and their products come with a 25-year guarantee, they’ve still found that “forever furniture” simply isn’t really in fashion.
“Most furniture is made in India or China, and it’s made for pennies,” said Galvao. “It’s really hard to break through into the industry because of all the competition and how cheaply stuff is made. It’s hard to get people to understand how dangerous [cheap fire retardant is], or how clean what we’re making is, and what they’re paying for is the cleanliness and the strength of it.”
Resin Rose products are built to be heirlooms, passed down from one generation to the next.
“Everything [else] is meant to break and fall apart so you buy more. That’s the consumer culture,” Neary said, taking a jab at fiberboard kingpins like Ikea.
“There’s just no more room for that stuff, the population is growing and growing. You have to be more responsible and we’re trying to do our part,” Neary continued. “It disgusts me a little bit — you just go around on trash pickup day and every single neighborhood is filled with mattresses and couches, and it’s toxic.”
“We could have made our furniture out of any material, but we couldn't stand behind it,” Galvao said of his choice to use only hemp fabrics. “We believe in it and it’s very satisfying, being responsible like that.”
The couple’s latest design is a completely modular set made to evolve with its owners. At its core, the Resin Rose line is a steel frame sandwiched into sheets of wood, with slots for arms and custom cushions.
“Basically, it can be a couch, it can be a chair, it can be an ottoman, it can be a sectional, it could be a chaise, it could be anything,” Galvao explained.
Neary and Galvao have filled their home with furniture of their own design and making, and share it all with their American bulldogs Marsha Mellow and Barbarella.
In addition to making furniture, Neary and Galvao teach upholstery classes on Tuesdays at the Truckee Roundhouse makerspace. Neary notes that their teaching styles compliment each other — after Galvao likes to launch into a project like a mad scientist throwing around jargon and supplies, Neary slows down and shows techniques step by deliberate step. The couple love to share their knowledge and watch what others in their community are able to create.
By sharing their knowledge and creating lasting products, these two couch potatoes just might have what it takes to save the world — one living room at a time. ♦
Twist Again: Chris Webby, Cannabis and a Career in Hip-HopRead More
by Samuel Farley, @thcsamuel
Christian Webster, better known as Chris Webby, is a rapper, environmentalist and cannabis enthusiast from Norwalk, Connecticut. At 28 years old, Webby has already gained a reputation in the world of hip-hop for witty lines, a passion for cannabis and a love for the environment.
Webby wrote his first raps as a sixth grader. It immediately called to him and he soon knew that it was something he wanted to pursue as a career. Not long after, in the eighth grade, he was first introduced to cannabis. Looking back, Webby says he believes it may have been too early for him to begin consuming the plant, contributing to his existing attention — a topic he broaches in his music. But for a teenage Webby, the ramifications weren’t as manifest, and he continued to partake. Eventually, after his second time getting busted, he made a stand with his parents who, despite being cannabis consumers themselves, disapproved of their teenage son’s usage. He told them that cannabis was something he cared deeply about, and that it would continue to be a part of his life. “I am an only child, so I had some leeway so I knew the penalty wouldn't be too severe,” says Webby with a grin.
His relationship with the plant continued through high school, spurring him to develop his entrepreneurial skill set. “I sold a little weed on the side and I worked at a Mexican restaurant, and people would hit me up and I would put weed in the chip bags and would slide them chips and salsa with their weed,” Webby recalls with a laugh.
Graduating from a stoned high schooler crafting raps and battling others at parties, he briefly attended Hofstra University in New York, but left at the age of 20 to pursue his rap career full time. Webby has been in the hip-hop arena for nearly 10 years. In that time, his relationship with cannabis has changed slightly. “I run an independent business, I have to be sharp. I use cannabis now, in my twenties, more as a reward system compared to when I was younger,” he says. “Weed is with me but I also treat it with respect and take what I have to get accomplished into consideration with my consumption. When there’s business to be done and phone calls to be made, I’ll save my smoke sessions for later in the day. When I’m in the studio it’s a different story though. That part of the job often benefits from a solid high, at least in my experience.”
“I’ve had experiences with the right strain. Sometimes I smoke weed in the studio and it puts rocket boosters on me and I work at a higher capacity. I think it’s deeper than indica and sativa and really the full combo of what is in a strain. I’ve loved AK-47 specifically since I was younger,” says Webby. Preferring sativa strains over heavy indica flowers, he admits he is still learning about the nuances of the plant, including terpenes and the new technology legal states have brought to the marketplace. “When you're raised out east, we know and hear the names and know about some of the strains, but it’s not something we are exposed to in terms of having real options. It’s always been what the dealer has, because it’s been the only option. I’ve become a lot more knowledgeable now that I can come to Colorado and California so frequently on tour, and I learn more and more each time but back home it’s still different. The fact that we have an option now in legal states, where we can ask the right questions. And now it’s to the point where you can pick and choose through flower, edibles, oils, pens, and that is an amazing thing. It redefines everything,” says Webby.
But while the legal market is something special, it’s not the only source of weed for Webby. In the course of cross-country tours multiple times a year, including to states that do not have legal cannabis, he often finds fans more than willing to provide him with cannabis. “Weed always finds a way. There’s good weed everywhere and my fans are awesome enough to bring it to me,” says Webby.
But at this point in his career Webby’s tours frequently bring him to legal adult-use states, like Colorado, where he spent 4/20 weekend and filmed his recent “Twist Again” music video with cannabis enthusiast The Dabbing Granny. “It was a crazy journey and it’s been gradual,” says Webby. A recent highlight was opening for Tech N9ne, one of the most successful independent rappers in the world, on a countrywide tour. He has also collaborated with Tech N9ne on songs and has worked with B-Real of the legendary rap group Cypress Hill. “People are starting to realize that it’s not easy to last this long in this industry and to maintain and stay relevant for this long,” mentions Webby. With a career spanning 13 projects and an outpouring of singles in 2017, he’s more excited for the future than ever before and pouring that energy into his current projects. “I wanted to reactivate my fan base, while at the same make music that will transcend beyond that and connect with new fans,” he says.
No matter how successful Webby may get, and how broad an audience he may reach, his passion for environmentalism still seeps into his music through songs such as “Stand Up“ and “Questionnaire”.
“I’ve been conscious and extremely zealous about environmental issues for my entire life. I've always felt connected to nature, it’s important. It’s the world we live in and other things live here too, there’s a way to live in harmony with nature and we just don't do it. I think we have a duty to leave the planet a little better than when we got here. Not everyone is a hip-hop artist and has this platform so that is kind of my superpower and that’s what I try to do. I linked with the organization 1% for The Planet, so moving forward I will be donating one percent of my income to environmental causes. Everyone can afford to care a little bit and I think it’s important,” says Webby. “Becoming a part of the environmentalist movement is really my calling and my platform is allowing me to get to a point where I can really do something about it. It’s always been the duty of musicians and people with a voice to use it for something other than their own personal gain. Of course I want the money, but at the same time, everyone has to stand for something.” ♦
ANSLINGER MADNESS!Read More
80 years ago, Harry J. Anslinger engineered America's marijuana prohibition. Noted authors – and a distant relative – weigh-in on his reefer madness legacy.
By Gregory Daurer
Eighty years ago this October, the very first convictions under America's brand-new, federal law against marijuana took place in Denver, Colorado. On October 8, 1937, a week after the law went into effect, Judge J. Foster Symes sentenced two men to federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas: Samuel R. Caldwell, 58, received four years for dealing the drug and Moses Baca, 26, got 18 months for possession. Allegedly, Baca had tried to kill his wife while under the influence.
“I consider marijuana the worst of all narcotics — far worse than the use of morphine or cocaine,” said Judge Symes, as noted within the Denver Post. “Under the influence men become beasts, just as was the case with Baca.”
Sitting in the courtroom that day as a spectator was the very man who had urged Congress to prohibit marijuana, through his testimony accusing marijuana of leading to ghastly crimes: Harry J. Anslinger, who was appointed the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930.
Anslinger chimed in to the Post, “Marijuana has become [the country's] greatest problem ...We, too, consider marijuana the worst of all narcotics.” Quite a stretch but, after all, this was the same man who had authored the propagandistic article about marijuana entitled “Assassin of Youth.”
Within Anslinger's reefer madness horror show, marijuana was so scary that if Frankenstein came face to face with it “he would drop dead of fright.” Anslinger was especially fond of telling the story of a young man in Tampa who had killed his family with an axe, while supposedly under the influence of marijuana. And he publicized racist quotes from the likes of newspaper editor Floyd Baskette of Alamosa, Colorado: “I wish I could show you what a small marihuana cigaret [sic] can do to one of our degenerate Spanish-speaking residents ... who are low mentally because of social and racial conditions.”
Larry “Ratso” Sloman, whose book “Reefer Madness: The History of Marijuana in America” was first published in 1979, weighs in anew on his onetime research subject: “Ah, old Harry. He was one of the first purveyors of 'fake news' when he developed a gore file and publicized inaccurate stories that 'chronicled' horrific crimes due to the pernicious influence of reefer. He was a racist and a misanthrope and demonized Mexican and black users of Maryjane. And, ironically, he wasn’t even a true believer — his 'moral' diatribes against weed came from a totally cynical position of self-interest. He was a consummate bureaucrat who modified his Bureau of Narcotic’s message about marijuana (and other drugs) when it suited his needs and enhanced his operating budget. In the end he was a wannabe J. Edgar Hoover who made a lot of peoples' lives miserable.”
(Sloman, for whom Anslinger remains a contemptible figure, knows about larger-than-life characters: The former High Times editor has written about traveling on the road with Bob Dylan, co-authored autobiographies of Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and boxer Mike Tyson, and crafted song lyrics for John Cale and Rick Derringer.)
Whether or not Anslinger was a true believer; whether he campaigned to make marijuana illegal in order to prop up his agency or in order to surreptitiously make hemp illegal on behalf of competing industrial interests (as has been alleged by the late author Jack Herer in his book “The Emperor Wears No Clothes”) — or both; whether he held virulently racist views — all continue to be the subject of discussion.
Anslinger is reviled by many: One YouTube video depicts an individual urinating and defecating on his simple, flat gravestone, located in Pennsylvania.
But he's still celebrated by the likes of Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, whose contempt citation involving racial targeting was recently pardoned by President Donald Trump. Arpaio, a former agent with the Federal Bureau of Narcotics under Anslinger, told author Johann Hari, “When you go back to Anslinger — you got a good guy here!” (Over the years, Hari and other authors have explored what they consider to be Anslinger's racist underpinnings, in addition to wrongheaded policies.)
But there's also one Denver woman who celebrates Anslinger's spirit, even though she's ashamed of what he did to institute marijuana prohibition. She cheerily refers to him as her “Uncle Harry."
In one of his books, Anslinger describes a formative experience that led to his prohibitionist thinking. When Harry was 12, he was visiting a neighboring farmer. The farmer's bedridden wife began howling in pain. The farmer urged Harry to drive a team of horses to a drug store to pick up a medicine. When the husband administered the drug to his wife, she immediately stopped her wailing. Anslinger writes, “I never forgot those screams. Nor did I forget that the morphine she required was sold to a twelve-year-old boy, no questions asked.” (Despite being readily available, presumably Anslinger never availed himself of any morphine as a youth. Which makes one question whether prohibition is in fact what keeps young people off of harmful substances, rather than, for instance, education or common sense.)
As a young adult, Anslinger began working as an investigator on the Pennsylvania Railroad, rooting out fraud.
Then, employed by the Treasury Department, Anslinger fought bootleggers during alcohol prohibition. Later, he changed his tune on the wisdom of those policies: “The law must fit the facts. Prohibition will never succeed through the promulgation of a mere law observance program if the American people regard it as obnoxious.” In his senior years, one of his co-authors noted that Anslinger enjoyed a “good martini.”
Anslinger lasted 32 years in his position of power, working for both Republican and Democratic administrations, and through challenges to his position. Early in his career, he got into hot water by referring, within an official government document, to an informant as a “ginger-colored n----r.” Despite a US senator from Anslinger's home state of Pennsylvania screaming for his removal, the commissioner kept his job. Over the years he was supported by a variety of civic groups, as well as pharmaceutical companies to which he granted the sole rights to manufacture narcotics.
One of his most noted — and controversial — achievements was ushering in marijuana prohibition via the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. (Although the act was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1969, cannabis was quickly made illegal again during Nixon's War on Drugs.)
It's safe to say that Anslinger prevented research into medical cannabis, and saw that it was removed from the nation's pharmacopeia, during his 30-plus year career. “It is too unpredictable to be a good servant of medicine,” claimed Anslinger. However, that doesn't mean that he was against all types of marijuana research: During WWII, Anslinger, closely tied to intelligence agencies, allowed his agents to dose unsuspecting subjects, in order to find out whether a super-potent form of cannabis could be used as a truth serum, something that might possibly loosen the lips of enemy spies.
He authored two books after his retirement, “The Protectors” and “The Murderers”. In the latter, Anslinger wrote, “From the start I have thrown the full efforts of the Bureau not against minor characters trapped in their weakness and despair but against the sources — major violators, the big hoods, the top-drawer importers and wholesalers in the international traffic and on the national syndicated crime scene.”
Yet despite claiming to only be targeting big-time traffickers, his agency spied-on, harassed and incarcerated petty users — among them noted musicians, actors, and athletes. In his book Chasing the Scream, author Johann Hari documents how Anslinger's agents hounded the great jazz singer and heroin addict Billie Holiday to her death — quite literally, on her death bed. Yet Anslinger let a white socialite, who was addicted to a narcotic, off the hook because she came from, as he wrote, “one of the nation's most honored families.”
The commissioner wasn't just publicly incensed about people using dope, he received publicity for his agency's campaign against the doping of racehorses, as well.
Whether traffickers targeted two-legged or four-legged users, Anslinger faced off against them. Anslinger detailed his agency's battles against the Italian mafia, which the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover refused to acknowledge even existed. But changing political times led to shifting targets: First he stated that the major drug runners were Italians, then during World War II they were agents of Imperial Japan, and then during the Cold War they were the Red Chinese — a charge that many international diplomats found laughable.
Did marijuana users graduate to heroin? Not on your life, he testified in the '30s. But, within 15 years, Anslinger changed his tune on that, endorsing what's been called the “gateway” hypothesis.
Whether or not one relatively benign substance actually led to the more dangerous one, Anslinger made sure that marijuana users and dealers received the same mandatory minimum penalties as users and sellers of heroin, through his support of the Boggs Act in 1951.
Anslinger died in 1975. Towards the end of his life he was on drugs himself; due to a weakened heart, he was medicated with morphine (the same drug that had had eased the screams of that farmer's wife when he was 12, as “Chasing the Scream” author Hari has noted).
Even after his death, his legacy of prohibitionist drug policies lives on globally.
Have you heard of the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which still remain in place, making it legally difficult for any country to enact sensible drug policies?
For that, you can thank Harry J. Anslinger, who was a major arm-twisting lobbyist on its behalf.
Like Larry “Ratso” Sloman, author Alexandra Chasin also sees contemporary parallels to Anslinger and his policies.
Chasin says, “I think [US Attorney General] Jeff Sessions is the re-animation of Harry Anslinger, because he has the same kind of Manichean world view that is very black and white, in which everything related to black market drugs is bad and in which, in particular, the black market in drugs is populated by people of color, people coming across borders.”
Chasin — a literary studies professor, self-described on her website as a “language engineer, revisionist writer, and cultural worker” — is the author of the book “Assassin of Youth: A Kaleidoscopic History of Harry J. Anslinger's War on Drugs”. Within it, she points out how America's drug war — which Anslinger was largely responsible for — overwhelmingly targets people of color. Chasin writes, “Rather than solving social problems, drug policy and law have, in effect, constructed criminality along identity lines, turning a criminal justice system into an administrative mechanism for racist and classist social control.”
So were Anslinger's policies driven by racist beliefs he personally held?
Whether consciously or unconsciously, Chasin believes they were: from Anslinger collecting press clippings in his “gore file” documenting crimes supposedly committed by African-Americans and Latinos under the influence of cannabis to his bureau's harassment of African-American jazz singer Billie Holiday, as but two examples.
In his later writing, Anslinger would say that his bureau had hired more individuals of different racial and ethnic backgrounds than any other federal agency, and that although there were, for instance, Italian or African-American individuals involved in notorious crimes, those ethnic or racial groups included good, honest people. Chasin believes that was Anslinger changing his style to fit the times, couching his animus. “[He was] looking to present a different persona,” says Chasin.
According to Chasin, Anslinger believed that immigrants and people of color were using drugs to destroy the fabric “of what he imagined to be an intact, white, homogenous society” — with marijuana being a particular weapon of choice.
Asked if there's anything about Harry J. Anslinger that she admires, Chasin takes a long pause to mull that question over.
Ultimately, her answer is no: “I would say that he's not really a figure that I admire.”
Mary Carniglia sees something to admire in Harry J. Anslinger: “I've got a feeling that he was a stand-up guy. That he was a man of the people. That he was really somebody to be reckoned with. He could be intimidating, physically and energy-wise, because he knew he was standing up for what was right.”
But that doesn't mean that Carniglia approves of the federal prohibition against marijuana, which Anslinger championed.
“I'm just a huge weed snob,” she says. “Golden Goat is my favorite.”
Carniglia's not just a “weed snob,” she's related to Harry J. Anslinger. Harry's older brother, Robert Jr., was Carniglia's great-grandfather; her mother was an Anslinger. Mary was about three years old when Harry died in 1975, and she thinks there might still be a family photo somewhere of him holding her as a baby. She refers to the onetime commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics as “Uncle Harry.”
Carniglia says she was smoking a joint with a cousin when she learned about her late relative's historical ties to marijuana prohibition.
“You know the reason this is illegal is because of Uncle Harry,” her cousin informed her.
“What are you talking about?!” asked Carniglia. “Uncle Harry?!”
Carniglia admits, “It was pretty crummy to find out that [cannabis] was illegal because of the bullhorn of my uncle. That's embarrassing.”
She speculates, “I think he really felt like he was doing something that was going to keep people safe, somehow. People always say racism, and I can't believe that ... I didn't get that growing up from any of my family.”
Unlike authors Sloman, Hari, and Chasin — who in no way suggest that marijuana prohibition was tied to hemp's competition with synthetics or with timber interests — Carniglia does believe there was a conspiracy involving hemp, just like Jack Herer alleges in his book. She says, “And the only thing I know [Harry J. Anslinger] waffled on was the whole hemp thing, because he didn't want anything to do with getting rid of hemp. He thought that was a ridiculous idea. They told him, 'You have to!'”
Who told him that?
“Well, the people with the money. The people that gave him the job. The people that were telling him what his directives were.”
Would that have been the head of the Treasury Department, Andrew Mellon, who it's said was related by marriage to Anslinger, and one of the reasons Anslinger got his job? (Contrary to what's been written in several books, Carniglia adamantly disputes there was ever any family connection between Mellon and Anslinger.)
“It may have been,” she replies, before conspiratorially adding, “But I feel like it was Rockefeller.”
One thing Carniglia knows for certain is that the Anslingers never had much money. Harry J. Anslinger spent his last days in a modest house he'd purchased in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania.
From the Great Beyond, Carniglia envisions her uncle letting out a huge sigh over the “global impact of not just cannabis being taken out of medicine but of hemp being taken out of the world ... All his work his whole life had been for nothing. I felt his deflated spirit.”
Carniglia, who grew up in California and New Mexico, moved from the East Coast to Colorado in 2014 in order to get a job in the cannabis industry. She presently works at an office which connects patients seeking medical marijuana recommendations with a doctor. Carniglia often fields calls from sick and dying people, their relatives and parents of ill children who inquire about relocating to Colorado. She gives them information, advice and, perhaps, even hope.
Carniglia says she personally uses cannabis to treat PTSD, and she's personally experienced how the war on drugs adversely affects people: Carniglia says she once found herself in a compromising position with a police officer who agreed to accept the $80 bribe she discreetly offered in place of charging her with possession of a small amount of marijuana, rather than insisting on any sexual favors from her.
As for her Uncle Harry's legacy — being the man who engineered federal marijuana prohibition 80 years ago — she expresses a desire to help right the policies he brought about.
Carniglia says, “I feel a moral obligation to unscrew-up what he screwed-up.” ♦
The Legend of 420: Denver's Hollyweed Premiere EventRead More
photos and article by Ben Owens
Times are changing, especially in areas with legal cannabis. The world premiere of the documentary, “The Legend of 420” came to Colorado — affectionately referred to as #Hollyweed — on the last day of September, 2017. Produced and directed by Peter Spirer, the movie features stories from prominent cannabis activists and celebrities. Spirer, who was nominated for an Academy Award for the documentary “Blood Ties,” showcases the changing views on cannabis through interviews with Tommy Chong, Melissa Etheridge, Michael Des Barres, “Bong Appetite” host Abdullah Saeed, activist Amy Dawn-Hilterbran, and many more. Millennium Grown hosted the premiere to an RSVP-only crowd at Denver’s Cultivated Synergy.
Attendees gathered outside begging around 4:20 p.m. and were greeted, ID’d and given wristbands that provided access to an on-site consumption bus, an empanada food truck, as well as the main event. The screening began a couple of hours later, giving guests a chance to meet and greet with many of the featured interviewees. Hosts Sean Savoy and Stevie Kaye dressed to impress, in cannabis attire fit for the formal “green carpet” event. The event was a definitive nod to the film industry and high class premieres with a Colorado cannabis twist. "It was such an incredible world premiere event. Truly, Denver is Hollyweed now,” Hilterbran remarked.
Following the screening at Cultivated Synergy, select guests were invited to a private afterparty at Herban Space, above the Herban Underground. There, they enjoyed conversation, a green room, and infused food and drink offerings. High Times cannabis chef Jarod Farina offered infused appetizers and small plates throughout the evening, including bruschetta with infused balsamic vinaigrette on toast, infused sweet and sour pineapple chicken bites, and infused teriyaki tri tip with pureed mashed potatoes served on crackers. Additionally, Andrew Mieure of Top Shelf Budtending crafted cannabis-infused mocktails such as the “canna caramel apple” drink, which is made by mixing organic apple cider, cinnamon, and caramel with Stillwater’s water-soluble Ripple THC, and features a rim coated in a caramel, brown sugar mixture and lightly accented by Moonshine Haze terpenes from 14er Boulder.
Thanks to the likes of Johnny Magar, professional joint roller, many in attendance were privileged to smoke a stack of $100 bills — or at least a lookalike stack of bills. Magar brought multiple creative rollings, including a gold-coated necktie blunt that he wore all evening. Hilterbran was very proud of everyone involved, including the people who attended the premiere. "Working with such amazing people ... it was absolutely a dream for me. But it was the 420 people watching that world premiere, surrounded by glitz, glam and the freedom to consume — cheering, sometimes crying ... I knew right then, we had accomplished something substantial. I couldn't be more proud, and certainly couldn't have done it without my team."
Another notable attendee, Bobby West, commonly known as Uncle Stoner from his videos and USA Squash Off competitions, was very impressed with the event and movie. "A legendary evening filled with cannabis education and friends ... I'm looking forward to part two,” West fondly summarized.
After a night of many laughs, ashtrays full of artistic blunts and joints, and plenty of dabs, the evening was a big success both for those involved as well as the cannabis community at large. Events like these showcase the professionalism and perseverance that are so prevalent in Colorado’s cannabis industry and the national cannabis industry at large. The documentary is a must-see and is available on iTunes and Amazon Video. Fire up your favorite cannabis device, and enjoy “The Legend of 420” with a few buds. ♦
Fluff, Fluff, Pass: Review of ‘Disjointed’Read More
by Amanda Pampuro
Don’t get me wrong, pizza rolls will always have a special place in my heart right next to the TV show “Recess” and tie-dyed 8-ball Pogs. If you’re a Denverite,you know what I’m talking about — the giant pizza rolls were screened on the commuter rail and RTD buses with slogans like “better when baked” and “it’s high time for pizza rolls.” I’m sure dozens of other “hip” frozen food companies are re-evaluating marketing strategies in other legal states as I write this, because those dumb stoned kids sure are suckers, right?
Ask anyone in the industry and they’ll tell you one of the greatest challenges is fighting drug war era stereotypes that paint the cannabis consumer as a patchouli-scented couch potato incapable of feeding himself. In this vein, the first season of Netflix’s 2017 stoner comedy show “Disjointed” blows smoke and ogles the animals in the zoo.
Following the passage of Prop 64, “Disjointed” imagines what recreational cannabis will look like in California as lifelong activist Ruth Whitefeather Feldman (Kathy Bates) opens her own strip mall dispensary. The store is managed by Ruth’s son Travis (Aaron Moten) fresh from an MBA program and is populated by LA misfits. Playing the role of Mr. N.I.M.B.Y. is black-belt Tae-Kwon-Doug (Michael Trucco), and Tara Sands makes an appearance as an overtly desperate housewife.
In between strange encounters over the counter and awkwardly placed vlogs, the show addresses questions everyone in the industry is asking — what does it mean to sell out? How do you bridge generational gaps? How much is too much? How do you “come out” to a family member? Is there a middle ground for prohibitionists and stoners?
Instead of being the subject of contemplation however, these questions are mainly set ups for flat punch lines. When one considers the legacy of the show’s creator, sitcom king pin Chuck Lorre, it isn’t all that shocking that Disjointed is offensive in all the same ways as “The Big Bang Theory”.
The show isn’t an entire flop — just the live actions parts. Each episode features a psychedelic representation of a PTSD episode animated through the eyes of Carter (Tone Bell), a veteran suffering the condition. According to Stash Media, Dave Hughes, creator of Adult Swim’s “Off the Air,” gathered a dozen different animators to create ten pieces of visual mastery. In one scene, Carter has a flashback as he opens the fridge and ends up imagining stop motion bacon and eggs battle over a chocolate cake. In another episode, Carter’s psychologist asks him how he’s been doing, and the screen dissolves into visions of all the things he is unable to put into words.
The generation of legal weed needs its own manifesto to stand by, but “Disjointed” is not it. It is far away from the freedom of “On the Road” (1957) and too campy to be “Fear and Loathing” (1971). It lacks the simplicity of “Dude Where’s My Car” (2000), and the coming of age honesty of “Dazed and Confused” (1993). Even “Wilfred” (2014) managed to incorporate cannabis as a central component without letting it overpower the plot.
If “Disjointed” ran on cable TV, the laugh track and cut scenes would be status quo, but because it came with that red and white stamp, I had pretty high expectations. Between “Orange is the New Black” (2013-present) and “Making a Murderer” (2015), Netflix has proven it can produce content that is equal parts entertaining and critical of the institutions it examines. Unfortunately, “Disjointed” is an exception to the rule. Instead of satisfying my hunger for honest content portraying the highs and lows of a budding industry, the series burnt my palate like a plate of pizza rolls eaten too soon out of the microwave. ♦
Freshly Squeezed: The Story of Lyons GlassRead More
by Samuel Farley @THC_Samuel
Sam Lyons, better known as Lyons Glass, grew up in a relaxed Vermont household surrounded by a cannabis friendly circle. He was introduced to cannabis by his older sister at the age of 15, around the same time he was introduced to glass blowing. Their father had rented out space on their property to a young couple who happened to be glass artists and he would sometimes watch them work. Almost immediately, he decided that he wanted to be a pipe maker. Sam’s mother was an artist and encouraged his artistic exploration despite his lack of knowledge about the glass world beforehand, and she paid for his first glass blowing class at Snow Farm, an art school in northern Massachusetts. As a naïve 10th grader guided solely by the desire to make pipes, he didn't yet understand the difference between lamp working (the process of making pipes over a torch) and glassblowing (hot shop, soft glass manipulation in a kiln that includes large-scale, non-functional work like vases, plates and more old-school Italian style glass art.)
At 16, he took a class led by artist Peter Muller, who is now well known in the glass circuit for his VooDoo Doll work. The class was a traditional art class and was not geared specifically toward learning how to craft pipes. “I was bummed because I wanted to make pipes and Peter got that, he must have thought, ‘This young little stoner must have signed up for the wrong class.’ It was a four-day course, it was a place where we could spend the week and take the full class. I actually still have some of the work I made at that first class. Peter had this cool assistant and on the final day without anyone else knowing Peter and his assistant said that when the other students had left that they would teach me how to make something that rhymes with wrong, and I busted out with a giant smile because he was going to teach me how to make a pipe,” recalls Lyons with a smile. At the end of that session, they had made a basic tube that Lyons smoked out of with Muller’s assistant.
During that period, he also met artist Joe Peters who was making pendants at the time.
Shortly after completing the class, his mom helped him sign up for an art grant program and he was able to purchase his first torch, which he set up in his mom’s pottery studio. He had a basic top-loading kiln that only had three settings and he would bounce back and forth between two to dial in the correct temperature. “I mostly ended up just breaking things,” says Lyons. Eventually, he found a pair of local artists who were into bead making. They taught him how to make spoon bowls and some other basic skills, allowing him to start making actual functional pieces. “There was no understanding at all, I still remember those days,” Lyons reflects. “I would just pour glass and fill a tube and try to make a bong bigger than I could hold and I would look down and just have it cobweb thing you couldn't even smoke out of.”
As a high school student, Lyons wasn’t as focused on producing functional work, just dabbling in the basic skills with his home torch. “I was just messing around and I had the joy of learning. I wasn't selling any pieces or anything, but sometimes I would try to make a pipe for a friend or something like that. I used to sell weed and at one point decided to really shift my focus from selling weed to blowing glass,” Lyons explains. He would take classes and watch live demos when he could, including one particular demonstration led by Muller and Peters, who were making a non-functional sculpture. To this day, Lyons recalls this demonstration fondly as a moment he recognizes as foundational in his passion for glass art.
After high school, he decided to invest in improving his prospects as a glass artist by signing up for college classes. Through a series of lucky events, he ended up being the last person, student number 23, to be allowed into a scientific glassblowing school program at Salem Community College in New Jersey, a school that specializes in scientific glassblowing. It was the first time he had glassblowing friends and people to bounce ideas off of. He flourished in the friendly environment.
“I really had the chance to learn any techniques I wanted from my teachers and had the chance to learn about the pipe scene from the other students, so it was the best of both worlds,” Lyons explains.
But that optimism turned sour during his last semester when his apartment was raided, and he was arrested on cannabis-related charges. The ordeal prompted him to drop out of the program. Although he didn't graduate, he felt he had all of the knowledge necessary to pursue a career in glass blowing. He decided to move back to Vermont, where he built a studio in the same barn on his parents’ property where he first had been introduced to glass blowing as a teenager.
“I got really lucky with some of the people and the timing of when I met some people that really helped my career. While I was still in college my teacher took us to an unofficial field trip to a trade show and it was filled with work by Elbo, Slinger, Laceface and other incredible artists,” he says. A good friend of his was working as an assistant to Elbo at the time, and he propositioned the artist to hire Lyons when he was ready to move on.
At that trade show, Lyons witnessed the premier of “Degenerate Art,” the first film about the glass pipe industry put together by glass legend Slinger. “To see everyone’s reaction to the film and to see Slinger’s reaction to the film, it was palpable, I could feel how real it was and I had a good vantage point of my skill level at the time, (around 2011) and where I wanted to go. And it really motivated me in huge ways and I told myself I could make it in the pipe industry. I told myself I could get better and develop my art and really make a living making pipes,” says Lyons.
But technical skill and passion isn’t enough to make a mark in the world of functional glass, and Lyons found himself listless in his early forays into the world of professional glass blowing.
“Before I discovered my citrus theme I had a hard time making things. I didn't know what to make, I didn't have any style yet, I had some skill but no style. I soaked up everything that happened and all of the experiences at school like a sponge and tried to learn as much as I could from my friends and teachers and stored it and got ready to apply it later,” he recalls of his early days.
During that time around 2012, Elbo moved back to Massachusetts, and Lyons made good on his earlier connection, becoming Elbo’s assistant. Lyons worked with Elbo for about a year making pickle pipes and other preparation work, providing him the opportunity to learn about the process of sculpting, themes and business. “Elbo taught me a lot about glass and a lot about the game, and would basically try to tell me to always keep going and keep hustling,” says Lyons.
After the yearlong apprenticeship, Elbo moved to Philadelphia, and Lyons was reintroduced to Peters. Peters and Lyons hit it off well and Lyons started working for him, a jump Lyons still recognizes as very lucky. “I was absolutely pumped and I was very fortunate to have things happen the way they did. I definitely consider myself blessed, I was more of a craftsman before the process of being able to work with other artists and through that process I found myself as an artist,” he explains.
During the summer of 2013, Peters taught Lyons everything he knew about working with color, and in 2015, Lyons followed him to Colorado, where Peters founded Dreamlab Glass. “The first year of working for Joe was slow and really revolved around my strengths. And as time went on, I began to help out with millies and that’s when I really started to learn how to make millies, and had the chance to go through the wins and mistakes and see his process. I got my juice concept from watching Joe work on his honeycombs. I actually offered the idea to Joe first when I first thought of the idea and Joe told me to go for it and pursue the idea as my own and I began developing the citrus theme and style,” says Lyons. “Citrus became my thing, and it lines up with the colors I love and the weed I like to smoke and a huge tip of the hat to Joe Peters for teaching me the things he did.”
Soon, Lyons had found his signature. “When I figured out the juicer it became my tube shape that developed after stopping my work with Joe and Dreamlab around the summer of 2016. I really branched out on my own and continued to develop the juicer and I wanted to make something that was technical, functional and beautiful, so the juicer was something I really wanted to be my solo signature piece,” explains Lyons. “I think it combines all of my different backgrounds with everything I have learned from everyone while also developing new things on my own as I’ve gotten better as an artist.”
Currently, Lyons calls the Denver studio known as The Portal home, and he continues to be known for his citrus theme as well as for his juicer pieces. “In my career I'm excited to say that I'm finally feeling some stability within my business and work and trying to expand with new themes and new things within my work. And that is exciting to me; branching out and getting back to seeing what new ideas I can come up with,” says Lyons. “In terms of the industry, I am just excited to see it grow and see more studios pop up, see more cool glass community gatherings and everything happening in the industry. There’s some real weight and camaraderie within the movement and it’s cool — it’s global, it’s one big family.”
Work by Lyons Glass is available for viewing on his social media page and in person at Purple Haze in Denver and other galleries across Colorado. ♦
Absinthe, Cannabis and Prohibition: Is it the green thing?Read More
by John Garvey
It’s enchanting—watching the green liquor cloud as ice melt drips into the glass. The spirit has a highly distinct, botanical flavor profile that a beer drinker may struggle to describe, but not to appreciate. Absinthe is, in a word, peculiar.
Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe the color green triggers some puritanical impulse, or the drink’s association with artists and oddballs claiming it’s a creative stimulant makes people in high places feel threatened. Whatever the case, the stigma against absinthe has outlasted its prohibition and the arguments behind it. The same can be said of another green substance that has often inspired art.
Some episodes in history read like pure satire. People with liberal views on cannabis take a curious delight in recounting prohibitionists’ more bizarre claims: “pot can make you gay,” the Gateway Theory, the looming stoned bunnies pandemic (remember that one?)—even the racist undertones (and overtones) of the war on drugs.
Absinthe and cannabis are comrades who long ago ran afoul of powerful interests and, to a lesser extent, the public. The historical parallels between the vilification of absinthe and that of cannabis are too many to count.
It’s almost too ludicrous to make you mad.
The Green Fairy descends upon hapless mortals
“Absinthe, like most botanical liqueurs , began as medicine,” notes Stephen Gould, proprietor of Golden Moon Distillery in Golden, CO.
The botanical trio that makes absinthe what it is — grand wormwood, sweet fennel and green anise — was first documented in an ancient Egyptian medical text called Eber’s Papyrus in 1550 B.C. The combination of herbs was believed to have medicinal qualities and was used for millennia. Absinthe as it is known today, however, was first sold commercially in France and Switzerland around 1800.
In the 1840s, absinthe was marketed as an antimalarial for French troops campaigning in northern Africa. It quickly became popular back home. “People wanted to drink the drink of the troops,” explains Gould.
Gould is one of the world’s preeminent absinthe distillers and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the drink’s history. He’s taught absinthe production at the London Craft Distilling Expo, developed around a dozen absinthe formulas being used commercially, and won international recognition for his own product, REDUX.
“People regularly ask if all the bad things that they've heard about it are true,” he states. “And of course the answer is no. Most of them are propaganda. What is potentially unhealthy about absinthe is that it contains alcohol.”
As the spirit’s popularity grew, it became known colloquially as la fée verte (“the green fairy”). It would never overtake France’s wine culture, although by the turn of the 19th century it would be popular enough to be seen as a threat by the wine industry.
One thing that falls by the wayside in nearly every absinthe-related discussion is how palatable and versatile quality absinthe is. Gould points out that Harry Craddock’s esteemed Savoy Cocktail Book had 106 recipes with absinthe listed as an ingredient. It continued to be requested in highbrow lounges for decades after being banned in the U.S., and bartenders valued it for its flexibility.
As testimony to absinthe’s cultural relevance, the French happy hour in the late 19th and early 20th Century was dubbed l’heure verte—“the green hour.” Why was it absent from American and European bars for so long? What brought about its re-emergence?
Reefer Absinthe Madness: Absinthism
In France, absinthe had become a household name by the 1880s. Its cultural profile was growing, and with that, a backlash that seems unsurprising in hindsight.
“Absinthe makes one crazy and criminal, provokes epilepsy and tuberculosis, and has killed thousands of French people. It makes a ferocious beast of man, a martyr of woman, and a degenerate of the infant, it disorganizes and ruins the family and menaces the future of the country.” - Petition by the French Legue National Contre L’Alcoolisme, which gathered 400,000 signatures in 1907.
Grand wormwood, absinthe’s best known ingredient, contains the terpene thujone, which may trigger seizures. Thujone’s presence in the finished product was the main scientific and legal basis for banning absinthe. Only in the early 2000s was it proven that, legally speaking, absinthe contains less than 10 parts per million of it.
Dr. Valentin Magnan (“a pivotal figure in the historical classification of mental diseases”) conducted a series of animal experiments with alcohol, absinthe and wormwood. The methods wouldn't have cleared the bar of modern scientific inquiry, but he concluded that absinthe caused problems distinct from those stemming from alcohol abuse. These included epileptic seizures, auditory and visual hallucinations and fits of violence. The disease absinthism, which may have been concocted by the French wine industry, now had apparent validation.
Magnan was an earnest researcher, but his biases are clear. In one critic's words, "his effectiveness was limited by his preoccupation with the so-called 'degeneration' of the French race and by his unbending conviction that alcohol was the prime cause of most mental disorders." Magnan deserves more respect than the crackpots that came up with the gateway theory of cannabis, but his conclusions about absinthe were alarmist and misplaced. Nonetheless, they offered convincing testimony against la fée verte.
At this point, however, absinthe was generating 50 million francs a year in tax revenue. Much for this reason, the French anti-absinthe movement floundered for several more years. Even after absinthe bans were passed in Belgium in 1905, Switzerland in 1910, the U.S. in 1912 and most other countries, it endured in France.
By 1914 the French authorities were getting skittish. Germany’s military might was building and the German birth rate was much higher than France’s, which had fallen in previous decades. France legitimately had an epidemic of alcoholism, but absinthe was singled out as uniquely dangerous. More than wine, more than beer, more even than other spirits, absinthe was believed to imperil France’s national defense. In the run up to WWI, generals used their enhanced wartime powers to ban absinthe in individual provinces like Nice. Finally, the minister of the interior, Louis Malvy, single-handedly forbade the sale of absinthe nationwide.
The Chamber of Deputies, in March 1915, voted overwhelmingly to ban the production, shipment and sale of absinthe. The law went into effect almost immediately. Absinthe wasn’t mourned long. More than 1.3 million Frenchmen, 1.8 million Germans and countless others died on battlefields in The War to End All Wars.
Absinthe and Cannabis
Racial and cultural biases played an important role in anti-absinthe sentiment. For instance, absinthe’s association with bohemian culture contributed to its vilification, much as the association between cannabis and jazz, Chicano, and subsequently hippie culture was used to frighten Americans regarding cannabis. Racism wasn’t front-and-center in the anti-absinthe movement as it was in anti-cannabis circles. (Harry Anslinger, the first head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, argued that “the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.”) Still, anti-semitism played a role, according to the delightful book “Absinthe: History in a Bottle,” by Conrad Barnaby III.
Edouard Drumont, “the premier anti-Semitic intellectual of the day,” derided absinthe as a clandestine “tool of the Jews” in his newspaper La Libre Parole. Arthur and Edmond Veil-Picard, who were half-Jewish, had in 1906 purchased a controlling interest in the Pernod Fils Company. (Pernod Fils was the most popular brand of absinthe at the time and the benchmark others were judged by.)
Barnaby writes that “In 1898, absinthe and anti-Semitism met in a bizarre fashion — over an absinthe bottle. A lesser known manufacturer at Mondbeliard (in the Doubs Valley) labeled his bottles ‘Absinthe Anti-Juive’ (Anti-Jewish) with the sub-legend ‘France aux Francais’ (France for the French). Its success is undocumented, but the story indicates the factionalism and insecurity France suffered at the time.”
For better or worse, the pseudo-science outlasted those specific racial biases. Enduring perceptions that absinthe is a hallucinogen, an epileptic or otherwise scary continue to annoy bartenders and connoisseurs. “It just amazes me that hundred-plus-year-old propaganda is still being used to vilify a product that is actually really an amazing product,” says Gould.
It is puzzling how hell-bent people were on distinguishing absinthe from other alcoholic drinks in terms of its potential for harm. Many who didn’t necessarily identify with the temperance movement were virulently opposed to the green fairy. The lack of scientific validity, logic or intellectual honesty in their arguments can only be compared to the war on cannabis. Anti-absinthe and anti-“marihuana” propaganda posters even bear dated, stylistic similarities.
Debriefing (ooh la la!)
“The first stage is like ordinary drinking, the second when you begin to see monstrous and cruel things, but if you can persevere you will enter in upon the third stage where you see things that you want to see, wonderful curious things.” - Oscar Wilde, describing the effects of absinthe
Remarks like Wilde's make it impossible to completely discount all of absinthe’s unusual properties, but were these the musings of artists in love with a trendy spirit or did they have substance? Did absinthe influence Van Gogh's perception of color, play a role in catalyzing impressionism, inspire Paul Verlaine and Alfred de Musset to write poetry dripping with excellence?
Going by current evidence, absinthe's effects are no more distinct from other spirits than beer's effects are to wine or tequila. Perhaps the drink's herbal backbone makes it a creative stimulant. But does tequila really make people belligerent or is that a self-fulfilling prophecy based on anecdotes and stereotypes?
At any rate, absinthe doesn't make people hallucinate or have seizures. The best scientific and medical evidence used to vilify absinthe wouldn't measure up to modern scientific methods.
Absinthe was legalized throughout the E.U. and U.S. in 2005 and 2007, respectively. Yet it still bears both a stigma and an allure stemming from a century-old propaganda campaign.
Much like Colorado’s finest. ♦
I am the Green Fairy
My robe is the color of despair
I have nothing in common with the fairies of the past
What I need is blood, red and hot, the palpitating flesh of my victims
Alone, I will kill France, the Present is dead, Vive the Future…
But me, I kill the future and in the family I destroy the love of country, courage, honor,
I am the purveyor of hell, penitentiaries, hospitals
Who am I finally? I am the instigator of crime
I am ruin and sorrow
I am shame
I am dishonor
I am death
I am absinthe
- Poem taught to, and recited by, French schoolchildren, circa 1900.