Changing the Face of Cannabis

All Contents Copyright 2009

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Another Censored Poster?
Because of a Tragically Censored Plant
By Ellen Komp,, 6/2/2009

When the film "Humboldt County" was released last year, its poster was amended after MPAA censors objected to the lit "joint" depicted -- instead an unlit one was substituted. The poster for the new film "Shrink" starring Kevin Spacey has been released, and although reportedly Spacey plays a "pothead" psychotherapist in the film, the paraphernalia shown on the poster includes a wine bottle and several barely unidentifiable objects one can only imagine once included a pot pipe and a lighter.

This is the least of the censorship that goes on around the well-known weed, which has been used since the dawn of mankind in spiritual practices of the kind our soulless society sorely needs.

Bette Midler imbibed pot in shamanic style as Mel Gibson's psychotherapist in "What Women Want" (2000), but you won't see that part of the scene on TNT, where it is censored. Midler returned to turn Meg Ryan onto pot in "The Women" (2008), but you'll have to watch the deleted scenes on the DVD to hear Ryan saying "I'm really stoned." After this scene, her character finds her way to her center.

In a 2006 episode of Showtime's erstwhile series "Huff," Angelica Houston passes a joint to Huff, her BMW-driving psychotherapist colleague (Hank Azaria), before guiding him on an MDMA/Ecstacy trip/therapy session. Subplots had Oliver Platt messing up his life at a coke/meth party, Huff's mother Blythe Danner DUIed, a brother on pharmaceutical psychoactives, and a wife trying the opium of the masses (religion). Showtime cancelled the series before Danner could pick up her Emmy for the role.

Spacey played a middle-aged man who rediscovers life after smoking pot in "American Beauty" (1999), but true to Hollywood form, he paid for his sins. At a premiere of "Saving Grace" (2000), the delightful film by Craig Ferguson about a British widow (Brenda Blethlyn) who grows cannabis to save her home, Ferguson was asked if he was pressured to present marijuana in a negative light in the film. "Oh yes," he replied, "some wanted my character to die in the end." The crowd gasped, since this would have been so incongruous with the tone of the film and the likeable character he played.

Spacey's shrink is one of a string of mass media psychotherapists who smoke the leaves of the Tree of Knowledge. In last year's "The Wackness," Ben Kingley lights a bong and has his own mid-life renewal while trading his psychoanalysis services to Luke Shapiro ("Drake and Josh") for pot. (Kingsley also puffed a hookah as the Indian major/caterpillar in the 1999 version of "Alice in Wonderland.")

In 1955, Drs. Timothy Leary and Frank Barron collaborated on a study of 150 psychoneurotic patients presenting themselves for treatment. About a third of those in therapy got better, a third saw no change, and a third got worse: the same ratio as those who had no therapy at all. Then Leary discovered psychedelics, conducted the Harvard Divinity School experiments (which proved entheogens can cause profound spiritual awakenings) and reduced prison recidivism and alcoholism through LSD therapy.

In the 1972 movie "Harold and Maude," it is only after Maude turns Harold onto pot that he is able to share the source of his strange behavior, and learn to love life. Dr. William C. Woodward of the AMA testified at the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act hearings that John Stuart Mill wrote cannabis hemp could unlock past memories, doubtlessly helpful in psychotherapy. Despite Woodward's objections, the US effectively made marijuana (and hemp) illegal, driving underground a potentially useful psychiatric tool.

Olympian Michael Phelps, who helped push the legalization issue to the forefront when he admitted to smoking a bong earlier this year, was a childhood sufferer of attention deficit disorder, something cannabis is thought to be helpful in alleviating. Mixed martial arts fighter Nick Diaz spoke candidly about his medical use of marijuana for ADD just before knocking out opponent Frank Shamrock in a key bout in April. Diaz had been prescribed psychotropic drugs as a child for his ADD, but prefers pot. "I'm more consistent about everything being a cannabis user,"he said .

Meanwhile, Hollywood is churning out "bromances" with pot-puffing characters who use the weed mostly to slack off. In "Knocked Up" (2007), Seth Rogen's character puts aside the weed to become a responsible father, but in his next film, "Pineapple Express" (2008), he's back to hanging out with his buddies and abandoning his girlfriend. Showtime has put its money behind "Weeds," with its promiscuous, poor-parenting, pot-dealing lead character (to premiere its fifth season on June 8). Edward Norton, who has made a career playing schizophrenic characters, sums up our schizophrenic approach to the drug issue when he stars as a pot dealer and his straight brother in the upcoming Leaves of Grass. "Shrink" is getting rave reviews, no word on whether or not the film will illuminate the issue or merely cash in on it.