Vitamin E Acetate In Cannabis Products Possibly Causing Vape-Related Illnesses

New York officials may have found an answer for the mysterious rash of illnesses linked to vaping that has already claimed three lives in the United States. On Thursday, the state’s Department of Health announced that it had uncovered lab results that identified “very high levels” of vitamin E acetate in “nearly all” the cannabis products they had examined in relationship to the vaping illness. Authorities say vitamin E is now “a key focus” of the investigation going forward.

“It is really starting to look like this is a cannabis vaping issue and that it may not have anything to do with e-cigarettes,” Michael Siegel of Boston University, who is a tobacco expert and public health professor, told USA Today.

Across the county, over 215 vape users have been hospitalized for breathing problems, and there have been three reported deaths to date, one in Oregon, one in Illinois, and one in Indiana. The condition has often been misdiagnosed as pneumonia, and patients have complained of cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, fever and gastrointestinal distress such as nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, among other symptoms. In New York, those who had been hit with the lung condition were mainly between the ages of 17 and 30.

New York Department of Health officials said that vitamin E acetate had been identified in each sample of cannabis products submitted by affected individuals. The Food and Drug Administration had also identified vitamin E oil in many samples submitted by patients.

“No one substance, including vitamin E acetate, has been identified in all of the samples tested,” said FDA spokesperson Michael Felberbaum to CBS News. “Importantly, identifying any compounds that are present in the samples will be one piece of the puzzle but will not necessarily answer questions about causality,” Felberbaum said. “The results from the FDA’s laboratory analysis will be shared with the respective states to aid in their investigations and will help further inform the federal response.”

Indiana has seen 30 incidents of the illness, which, similar to New York, has affected mostly people between the ages of 16 and 29. A study conducted within the state between 2012 and 2018 found that vaping was up 387 percent in high school students.

On Friday, Indiana’s Health Commissioner Kris Box told vapers to proceed with caution when using cannabis products.

“The tragic loss of a Hoosier and rising number of vaping-related injuries are warnings that we cannot ignore,” she said. “While it is unclear what substances are causing injury, when you use these products with other chemicals, you may not know everything that you’re inhaling and the harm it can cause.”

Concern over vaping, which appears to be replacing smoking for many US residents and has seen soaring rates among teenagers, has led some jurisdictions to ban e-cigarettes. Michigan became the first state to prohibit the sale of flavored e-cigs. In June, San Francisco — home to the corporate headquarters of Juul, the leading e-cig producer — announced a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes. Juul has spent $4.3 million so far on a ballot measure to overturn the ban, and is on track to break records when it comes to political spending on such a measure in the city.

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From Psilocybin-Loving Psychologist To Modern Mystic: A Profile of Ram Dass

One of the country’s foremost self-help masters, Ram Dass is now 88 years old and in a wheelchair, still imparting wisdom while continuing to manage the dramatic after-effects of a massive stroke. Before Ram Dass concludes his journey as a human being on this earth, one of his devoted followers, Jamie Catto, wanted to immortalize him in a film. Becoming Nobody is Catto’s tribute to Ram Dass, capturing the essence of his spiritual teachings while offering a glimpse into his past.

Richard Alpert was born in 1931 to a Jewish family in Massachusetts. While religion wasn’t very compelling to him as a youth, he did exhibit an early interest in human nature, which eventually led to him earning a PhD in psychology from Stanford University. After Timothy Leary introduced him to psychedelics, Alpert went to India in 1967, where he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, aka Maharaj-ji. That’s when he became Ram Dass (“servant of God”), and a few years later in 1971, his bestseller Be Here Now was published, catapulting him onto a full-fledged career as 20th century American guru.

The film’s director, Catto first learned about Ram Dass in 1988, then met him on a retreat in the UK a few years later. What followed were interviews that paved the way for a face-to-face discussion in Becoming Nobody, which took place in 2015 in Ram Dass’ home in Maui. The one-on-one interview anchors the biographical documentary, which is interspersed with archive footage, including words of wisdom by Ram Dass himself, carefully culled from an array of scratchy black and white films and glitchy videos.

Becoming Nobody doesn’t go into the life story of Ram Dass much — it’s more like a highlight reel of all the teachings he espoused throughout the decades. Still, Ram Dass talks about his long road as a seeker, discussing the implications of the time when Timothy Leary gave him psilocybin in the 1960s. “It changed my life in the sense that it undercut the models I had of who I thought I was,” says Ram Dass in the film. The scary yet exhilarating experience led him to a deeper understanding of his true being — not of who he was, but that he simply was, period. Ram Dass attributes this, in large part, to meeting his guru. “See, a guru is your doorway to God. Your doorway to the beyond,” he says in the film. “A guru is a spiritual vehicle. An entrance-way. He’s a pure mirror. He isn’t anybody at all.”

From Psilocybin-Loving Psychologist To Modern Mystic: A Profile Of Ram Dass
Neem Karoli Baba, aka Maharaj-ji/ Courtesy Love Serve Remember Films and Google Empathy Lab

After Ram Dass started to grow out his beard and lecture cross-legged, he began to discover that life’s lessons are embedded in the multifarious paradoxes that present themselves along the journey, specifically the idea that sometimes, true transformation comes from not getting what you want. Similarly, for Ram Dass, life’s low points can be more interesting than its high ones, “because they’re showing you where you aren’t.” He believes that too many of us operate under a model of deprivation, and that the idea of not having enough needs to be surrendered if we are to find true enlightenment. He’s big on suffering as a valuable experience, and believes that humor and love are key. He also believes that the taboo of death is wrong.

“The appreciation of death and the spiritual journey after death is the prerequisite for living life joyfully now,” says Ram Dass in Becoming Nobody. “Death does not have to be treated as an enemy for you to delight in life. Keeping death present in your consciousness, as one of the greatest mysteries and as the moment of incredible transformation, imbues this moment with added richness and energy which otherwise is used up in denial. I encourage you to make peace with death, to see it as the culminating adventure of this adventure called life. It is not an error. It is not a failure. It is taking off a tight shoe, which you have worn well. But those that find the way in the morning can gladly die in the evening, it is said in the mystical literature.”

In a filmmaker’s statement, Catto says, “The intimacy and trust that Ram Dass cultivates through his unabashed realness is a notable contrast to a commodified Western spiritual culture so often laden with self-proclaimed gurus. Above all, I wanted to capture the profound love that radiates from this man’s heart; his humanity and authenticity will allow future generations to be transformed by his wonderfully irreverent yet deeply holy practice of humor and heart.”

In theaters today, Becoming Nobody is presented by Love Serve Remember Films with Google Empathy Lab.

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Flashback Friday: Learn Hypnotism At Home In Your Spare Time And Enslave The World

For this edition of Flashback Friday, we have John A. Keel’s 1981 article: “Hypnotism: Learn Animal Magnetism at Home in Your Spare Time and Enslave the World.”

As you read this literary masterpiece by a famous Pulitzer prize loser, you will begin to feel drowsy. Literary masterpieces often have that effect on scabrous readers, but in this case your drowsiness will be part of a sinister conspiracy to destroy your mind and render you an unwilling slave. Even as you read these words your brain is turning into oatmeal.

You say you’ve never been hypnotized and, in fact, you regard yourself as too strong-willed, with such a towering intellect that you never could be hypnotized? Despite your overbearing ego, chances are that you have been zapped into a hypnotic trance many times… and completely without your knowledge or permission.

A large percentage of people are very prone to suggestion, which is what hypnotism really is, and can be triggered into a hypnotic state by nothing more than telephone poles whizzing past as they ride in a speeding automobile. Music also has powerful hypnotic influence, particularly rock ‘n’ roll, and it is not unusual for disco dancers to lapse into a semitrance. The CIA and other noble national institutions have been experimenting with involuntary hypnosis for years and have turned out innumerable “Manchurian candidates” such as the famous model and radio personality, Candy Jones Nebel, and, possibly, Jack Ruby. Candy’s schizoid escapades as an unwilling zombie for the CIA came to light when she was hypnotized by the late Long John Nebel and her story was turned into a book by Donald Bain (The Control of Candy Jones, Playboy Press, 1976). Some experts think that Jack Ruby’s peculiar behavior on the day he shot Lee Harvey Oswald was triggered by a mysterious phone call he received before he headed for the Dallas police station, that he had been preconditioned to lapse into a trance and carry out orders.

Hypnotism is becoming a big business today, with professional hypnotists collecting fees for helping you to stop smoking, overcome a fear of flying, or have bigger and better orgasms. Modern psychiatrists use hypnotism routinely to cure amnesia and explore hidden parts of the mind. Many dentists have abandoned standard anesthesia for hypnotism. What was once considered to be nothing more than a stage entertainment has now become an important tool for medicine, the law, and even for flying-saucer investigators. Those who aren’t openly paying for the privilege of sleeping through the 20th century via hypnosis are being entranced in other ways. Some zonk out in the presence of fluorescent lights, while many millions ingest daily a mountain of pills that are known as “hypnotics” because they are sleep inducers. Sit in front of a flickering TV set long enough and they can sell you anything because of the patholesiac effect (impairment of willpower). Entire audiences have flipped in movie theaters when the flickering image on the screen pulsed at just the right frequency and produced mass hypnosis (a very rare phenomenon). Hypnosis was a curiosity in the last century, embraced by occultists and debated by science. Today it has become a part of our daily lives.

Anybody can learn and practice hypnosis. The cartoon image of the sinister hypnotist with blazing eyes, wearing a long cape, belongs to another age. You don’t need to look deep into your subject’s eyes to induce a hypnotic trance. There are, and always have been, a few people who are natural hypnotists and can entrance suggestible persons with nothing more than a glance. Usually, natural hypnotists also have highly developed psychic abilities. One famous Russian psychic was able to hand a railroad conductor a blank piece of paper and he would study it carefully and punch it, thinking it was a real ticket. Some show-business personalities, and a random few politicians, have also been gifted with this “animal magnetism.” Al Jolson had it, as did Adolf Hitler. If you have this ability yourself you are probably reading this article while riding in your private jet or fighting off naked starlets in the bedroom of your penthouse.

Basically, the hypnotized state is a form of sleeping while the body remains conscious. The mind transfers many of its normal functions, such as judgment, to the hypnotist. Patholesia, the loss of willpower, is one result. (In fact, an early word for hypnotist was pathetist.) While entranced, the subject may be handed an onion and the hypnotist will tell him that it is an apple. The subject will know that it is an onion but will take a bite of it just to please the hypnotist. To his surprise, he will find it tastes exactly like an apple. This type of reaction is common because a hypnotized subject often does not believe he or she is really hypnotized. The mind is operating on two levels. On one level, the subject thinks he (or she) is fully conscious and fully in control of the situation. He thinks he’s just “playing along” with the hypnotist. But on another, deeper level, the subject has surrendered most of the perceptive equipment of his body and all of the decision-making apparatus of his mind.

There are three stages of trance. The first is a form of shallow sleep in which the subject is convinced that he is really fully awake and in full control. The second stage is a deeper sleep in which the conscious mind is less active. And the third is a very deep sleep in which the subject is totally unconscious and completely under the control of the hypnotist.

Flashback Friday: Hypnotism
High Times/ Bruno Schmidt

For thousands of years hypnotism was a closely guarded secret of secret cults, exalted priesthoods, witches and warlocks, and oracles. The hideous assassin cults of the Far East used hypnosis (along with drugs) to brainwash the members into committing suicidal acts. While it is true that no hypnotized subject will do anything that is against his normal sense of morality, it is easy for the hypnotist to trick him. For example, the hypnotist could hand the subject a loaded pistol and say, “This is a harmless squirt gun. Let’s play a joke on good old Charlie. Go up to him and squirt him in the face.” Scratch good old Charlie.

In secret societies everywhere (from Africa to the American Indian tribes), hypnosis was induced through dancing and music. Heavy bass sounds, i.e., drums, together with flickering fires, would produce almost instant trance in many of the participants. They would then hallucinate and see gods and demons, or have prophetic visions. We rediscovered this in the 1960s, with hard rock and the pulsating psychedelic lights of discos. Young people, on their way home from discotheques, often had frightening encounters with giant hairy monsters, little people in silvery suits, gruesome birds and assorted chimera. Repeated exposure to this conditioning produced hallucinosis in some, making them susceptible to trance just by listening to the car radio. The result has been a library filled with books documenting a wide assortment of visions and hallucinations that seemed very real to the subjects—so real that they reported them to newspapers and police—but that were really excursions into the inner reaches of the entranced and baffled human mind. As styles of music changed, and the psychedelic light fad passed, the quantity of such reports diminished.

Since the pristine minds of the young are more open to suggestion than the tired, cynical brains of the mature, it was natural that the youth-oriented 1960s also became the age of hypnotism. The explosion of belief in the occult and reincarnation led millions to submit to hypnotism to explore their alleged past lives. One of the uneasy facts about hypnotism is that once you have been hypnotized you can be rehypnotized with little effort. You become a potential robot waiting for the right buttons to be pushed.

Flashback Friday: Hypnotism
High Times

There are several simple methods for testing someone’s suggestibility. One is the coin test. Here’s how it works. Ask your potential subject to extend his or her open hand. Place a coin in their palm while gazing steadily into their eyes. Never joke or clown around. You must always have a serious demeanor when you are experimenting with hypnosis. Slowly fold the subject’s fingers over the coin while giving him the following instructions:

“I want you to hold this coin as tightly as you possibly can. Hold it so tightly that no one could possibly remove it. Tighter. Your fingers are locking into place. You can feel them becoming rigid. They are locking tightly into place around the coin. You will not be able to open your hand until I tell you that you can. Your fingers are locking around that coin. You cannot open your hand. The muscles are frozen in place. You cannot open your hand.”

While saying the above, you should clench the subject’s hand in your own, squeezing it tightly. Now remove your hand and ask him to try to open his. If the subject is highly suggestible, he will be surprised to find that he cannot force his hand open. He is not in a hypnotic trance. He is fully conscious and aware, but you have suggested—convinced him—that he can’t open his hand. He won’t be able to unlock his fingers until you gently stroke his hand and tell him, “Now you can open your hand. You can feel the muscles in your fingers unlocking and you can open your hand.”

When you find someone who responds to the coin test, you know you have found a perfect subject for more elaborate hypnotic experiments. Experienced hypnotists can usually pick such people out of a large audience just from their general appearance and behavior. Hypnotism remained a forbidden secret of black magicians and witches until about 1772, when Friedrich Anton Mesmer, an Austrian physician, started to experiment with it. He developed a theory about the effect of magnetism on the human body, contending that numerous ailments could be cured by making passes with the hands and/or rubbing the affected parts of the body with the fingers while telling the patient that the pains were leaving. The technique became known as mesmerism and practitioners of the strange art called themselves magnetists. Mesmer and his followers actually did cure rheumatic pains, chronic headaches and other stubborn ailments of the nervous system. They were relearning things that had been known to primitive witch doctors and shamans for many centuries.

A wealthy Frenchman, the Marquis de Puységur, paid Mesmer 100 gold louis coins for a crash course in animal magnetism and quickly earned a place in history by hypnotizing a dull-witted peasant boy named Victor. He made many fascinating discoveries, most of which seemed utterly incredible in that far-off year of 1784. When “magnetized,” Victor’s IQ skyrocketed and he displayed phenomenal powers. Among other things, Victor was able to respond to unspoken commands. Puységur later wrote: “I have no need of speaking to him. When I think in his presence he seems to hear me and replies. When someone comes into the room Victor sees him only if I will him to, when Victor converses with him he says only what I will him to say, not exactly what I silently dictate but what the meaning requires….”

The Marquis de Puységur, and Victor, had discovered telepathy and extrasensory perception (ESP). Magnetists began to spring up all over Europe, performing miraculous medical cures and demonstrating such psychic wonders as clairvoyance-at-a-distance (the subject could describe events taking place miles away at that moment).

The establishment took a dim view of the growing fad and in 1785 the French government appointed a special commission of doctors and scientists to investigate the claims of the magnetists. It didn’t take the learned committee long to decide that Dr. Mesmer and his cohorts were a bunch of charlatans. Animal magnetism fell into disrepute and Mesmer plummeted into obscurity, where he remained for the last 30 years of his life.

The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars paralyzed further research in magnetism. Some of the magnetists fled Europe altogether, while others, including Puységur, languished in prison. But around 1815, the hypnotic experiments were resumed and by 1825, according to Prof. Clark Hull of Yale, all the major phenomena of hypnotism had been discovered and studied. Yet doctors who dared use hypnotic anesthesia in those days were drummed out of the medical societies. In one famous case in 1842, a surgeon was accused of fraudulent practice in England when he hypnotized a man and amputated his leg. Britain’s leading medical journal, the Lancet, soberly stated that the amputee was part of the fraud and had only pretended to be in a hypnotic trance while his leg was being sawed off!

Medical science flatly refused to recognize hypnotism for almost 200 years.

Phrenology—determining a person’s character by studying the bumps on his head—was a popular pseudo-science in the 1800s and traveling phrenologists were quick to recognize the possibilities of animal magnetism. By the 1840s, phrenomagnetists, as they called themselves, were attracting huge audiences all over the United States. They would read the bumps on your head and magnetize you for only ten cents a trance. Soon half the country was hypnotizing the other half.

One of the most famous hypnotists of all time was LaRoy Sunderland, a Methodist minister who apparently had great natural ability. Although he was only five feet tall, he had a resonant voice and powerful stage presence. While delivering a sermon in Dennis, Massachusetts, in 1824, 20 people in his congregation fell into a state of somnambulism and a magnetist was born.

In his book Pathetism, Sunderland expressed some surprisingly modern ideas. He knew that hypnotic trances were produced by the power of suggestion, and that the subject’s susceptibility was dependent on his or her belief in the magnetist’s reputation. So he made sure that he acquired one hell of a reputation. He merely had to walk into a restaurant and a dozen diners would fall over, their faces in their soup.

The phrenomagnetists did not regard Sunderland’s theories too kindly. They raged and railed at each other in public and in print, calling their competitors frauds and liars. When they had chance encounters in the street, fists flew and canes raised new bumps on heads.

Interestingly, the animal-magnetism fad of the 1840s served as a prelude to an even greater fad—spiritualism. The latter began in 1848 when two young girls, the Fox sisters, began communicating with the spirit world through mysterious rappings on doors and tables. But soon thousands of people were going into self-induced trances and producing all kinds of alleged spirit phenomena. The men and women who had sat in Sunderland’s audiences only a few years before were now adept at self-hypnosis. Religious fervor was running high in those days, with dozens of new religions appearing each year, and it was understandable that this fervor would spill over into the hypnotic sessions. The negative and positive hallucinations, discovered by the French experimenters earlier in the century, now became an integral part of the seance rooms. (A negative hallucination is not seeing something that is there; a positive hallucination is seeing something that is not there.)

The telepathic effect of hypnotism undoubtedly contributed to the growth of spiritualism. “Mediums” entranced at seances were able to pick up thoughts from the sitters. What Freud would later call hyperamnesia also played a part. Totally forgotten or emotionally blocked memories can be brought to the surface in a hypnotic trance. The unconscious mind can play wonderful tricks when the conscious mind is in the altered state of hypnosis. Elaborate fantasies are created and disgorged by the unconscious, drawing on all kinds of forgotten material—everything the subject has ever read or heard. So we have re-creations of heaven and hell, and other worlds, laced with just enough traces of our recognizable reality to make it all convincing. These confabulations, as they are called, form the basis for much of our folklore, religious beliefs, and the modern UFO mythos.

It is probable that the great spiritualism fad of the 1800s would not have sprung into existence if it had not been preceded by the nationwide animal-magnetism hysteria. Mr. Sunderland and his cohorts paved the way for a series of new belief systems.

Flashback Friday: Hypnotism
High Times/ Bruno Schmidt

A man named Ralph Slater became famous in the 1940s by hypnotizing people every week on a network radio program. He was an accomplished hypnotist and had to be very careful, otherwise thousands of people listening to him in their own homes would fall into a trance. He would select a group of suggestible subjects from his audience and hypnotize them before the show went on the air. While they were asleep, he would give them a post hypnotic suggestion. You can give a subject only one such suggestion at a time. For example, you might tell the subject: “Fifteen minutes after you wake up you will stand on a chair and crow like a rooster.” Then you bring the subject out of the trance. Fifteen minutes later he will suddenly have an uncontrollable urge to stand on a chair and crow like a rooster. He will be fully conscious and will have no idea why he is doing this. When Slater and other professional hypnotists entrance subjects before a performance, they leave them with a post hypnotic suggestion such as, “When I say the word bingo you will go to sleep instantly.” Later, during the performance, the hypnotist will turn to the fully awake subject and shout “Bingo,” and the person will go into an instant trance.

The key to hypnosis is the fact that the subject actually hypnotizes himself. You merely suggest that he wants to go to sleep. So you have to be something of an actor, posing as a deadly serious, authoritative figure. You have to convince the subject that you know what you’re doing and that he is in good hands. Assure him that there is no danger, and that you won’t make him do anything embarrassing, illegal or immoral. Winning the subject’s confidence is the first step.

Be sure that you are both comfortable. If you are sitting in a straight-backed kitchen chair, you could have a sore back and aching butt by the end of the session. The most direct method is to have the subject concentrate on a bright object such as a watch or ring, which you hold about a foot in front of his face and slightly above eye level. You want to produce the greatest possible strain on the eyes and eyelids. Contrary to all the movies you have seen, it is not necessary to swing the object back and forth. The subject must concentrate on it while you tell him how drowsy he is.

For the next ten minutes to an hour you must mindlessly repeat the suggestion that he is very tired, wants to sleep and is falling asleep. Your voice should be a dull monotone. (If you have a high squeaky voice, perhaps you should take up another line of work.) You are literally going to bore him into a stupor. Tell him how his eyes are getting heavier and he is going to sleep.

If you are dull enough, his eyelids will soon begin to flutter and he will settle back in his chair with a sigh. Tell him to relax his body completely and hope that he falls asleep before your hand holding the watch does. Once the subject has nodded off, you will want to test him before proceeding—to make sure he has really gone under. Your monologue can go something like this: “Nothing will wake you. Nothing can hurt you. You can open your eyes, but you will stay asleep. Now I am about to raise your arm, but you won’t wake up. Nothing will wake you.” Lift one of his arms straight up and rub it gently. “Your arm is becoming rigid. It is locking into place. You can’t lower it. Try it. See, you can’t lower your arm. You are sound asleep and you will do everything I tell you to do. But you will not wake up. You can’t wake up until I tell you.”

If the subject is really in a trance, he can hold his arm rigid for the next hour without wavering. Nor can you force the arm down. If he’s faking, you can tell in a short time. Once you are certain he is really asleep, you can lower the arm by saying, “Now the muscles in your arm are unlocking. Now you can lower it. Lower your arm.”

Your subject is now completely under your control. If you want to cure him of a bad habit like biting his nails, you just need to explain to him why nail biting is a rotten habit, then demand that he “promise, promise, promise, never to bite your nails again.” After he wakes up, he will never be a nail biter again. Unfortunately, amateur hypnotists with no knowledge of psychology can cause more harm than good. There may be a reason why the subject bites his nails and by making him give up that habit you may cause him to become a chain-smoker. If you order him to give up smoking, he may take to the bottle. Likewise, if he has been suffering a pain somewhere on his body, you can easily make the pain go away. But pain is a signal that something is wrong and, unless you are a trained doctor, you should not suppress that signal.

There are other more entertaining things you can do with a hypnotized subject. You can repeat the early experiments with telepathy. It is possible for you to merely think instructions to the subject (“Get up, close the door and open the window”) and he will silently carry out your mental commands.

Books on hypnotism are often sold on the premise that you can use it to have your way with the opposite sex. But, of course, if a woman trusts you enough to let you hypnotize her, she’s probably also a willing sex partner. However, a well-trained hypnotist can cure some cases of frigidity or impotence. It is not recommended that amateurs tamper with such delicate problems.

When you want to wake the subject up, you need only give a sharp command: “Wake up!” If that shouldn’t do it, tell him that you are going to count to ten and when you get to nine he will wake up completely. If he still doesn’t awaken, ask him what you must do to snap him out of it. Remember, he has really hypnotized himself and is now under his own control. He might tell you that he wishes to sleep for an hour. So let him sleep, and at the end of the allotted time order him to wake up.

If you plan to use the same subject for later experiments, give him a post hypnotic suggestion, telling him that when he hears a certain key word from you only he will go to sleep instantly. You can then hypnotize him over the telephone if you wish…just by repeating the magic word.

People who practice meditation have magic words of their own called mantras. Meditation is really a form of self-hypnosis and enjoyed great popularity a few years ago. The reason that it was so relaxing was that the mind was entering the alpha state, only a step away from total hypnosis. A computer expert who is into meditation uses as his mantra the old computer saying, “Garbage in, garbage out.” Repeat that phrase endlessly for several minutes and you are bound to slip into a state of altered consciousness.

Self-hypnosis is the ultimate high and, if nothing else, is a sure cure for insomniacs. If you want to brainwash yourself into believing, for example, that you are a superman capable of almost anything, you need only make a special tape recording to play while you are hypnotized. Leave the first 15 minutes of the tape blank, beginning your message with the usual admonition to “sleep…sleep…sleep…” Then say, “You are the world’s greatest human being, keen of intellect, superior in every way, capable of saving the human race from its own folly.” This tape will terminate your inferior manner and make you a leader of men. Or you can dictate a tape that will order you to stop biting your nails, or give up smoking. Rewind the tape to the beginning and relax in a high-backed chair so you can lean your head back comfortably. Hit the button on the tape recorder and relax while the blank part runs through. Let your muscles relax completely and close your eyes, turning your thoughts inward and concentrating on your breathing, mentally watching your inhaling and exhaling. This is called transfixion. After a few minutes you will experience a sinking sensation and will be powerless to move a muscle. Soon after that, you will drop into a hypnotic sleep. Then your taped message will begin. When you eventually wake up you will feel very refreshed and your mind will be invigorated. Incredible though it may seem, if you have other persons question you while you are asleep, you may prove to be clairvoyant, able to foretell future events in your own life, as well as incidents in the lives of others. No one understands exactly how this works, but apparently the human mind when in an altered state can make contact with a force field or intelligence that transcends space and time. The future already exists in another space-time continuum and when our minds are properly tuned we can perceive it. Hypnotism is a shortcut across the barriers of space and time, and self-hypnosis is a system for stimulating our latent psychic abilities.

In the 1960s and ’70s, hypnosis finally gained recognition and today a third of all American dental and medical schools offer courses in the subject. After two centuries of being ignored and scoffed at, hypnotism suddenly fell into the hands of the double-talking academicians. “Hypnotism is not a magical phenomenon—not a matter of simply making suggestions to change someone’s behavior,” Dr. Milton V. Kline, director of the Institute for Research in Hypnosis, said recently. “Rather, it’s a complex way of getting into a person’s ego functions, perceptions and physiological reactions. It requires careful evaluation of patients, their problems, and their total life situations. It is most effectively used by someone well trained in psychological and physiological processes.”

Have we really traveled very far since Anton Mesmer was branded a charlatan by his colleagues? In 1785 Tardy de Montravel wrote, “If the spirituality of the soul needs a fresh proof, magnetic somnambulism furnishes one such as even the most obstinate materialist can scarcely refuse to recognize.”

Flashback Friday: Hypnotism
High Times

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Groove To The Reissue Of A 1976 Electronic Music Album For Plants

Earlier this year, offbeat music freaks were delighted with the re-release of Mother Earth’s Plantasia, an utterly weird yet endearing electronic music album for plants, originally issued as a free vinyl giveaway for mattress shoppers and green thumbs alike. Now, on September 7, the Getty Center in Los Angeles is hosting an entire day inspired by the album, including talks on vegetarianism and 1970s horror films, as well as macramé workshops and plant aura photography. Exactly what kind of album could possibly inspire such a verdant spectacle?

Owner of the Brooklyn-based Sacred Bones Records, Caleb Braaten came upon Mort Garson’s Plantasia in the early aughts while working at Twist and Shout records in Denver, Colorado. At the time, Braaten was really into early electronic records, so when he encountered Plantasia, he “instantly fell in love with it.” From there, he set out to tracking down the rest of Garson’s oeuvre. “My love of the Mort Garson catalog got me searching for the rights holder. This is when I found his daughter, Day Darmet, and we started work on reissuing his records. Starting with, of course, Plantasia.”

Born in Canada in 1924, Mort Garson studied at Juilliard School of Music. After serving in the army during World War II, he worked as a session musician while writing a few hit songs, including the 1962 chart-topper, “Our Day Will Come.” It was during the 1960s that Garson discovered the Moog synthesizer and composed a concept album called The Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds, which featured a different track for each of the 12 astrological signs. (Eventually, he’d compose an entire album for each sign of the Zodiac.)

Garson’s Electronic Hair Pieces featured cover songs from the popular musical Hair, with liner notes by one of the Smothers Brothers, while The Wozard of Iz offered a trippy satire of The Wizard of Oz.” Garson also composed a black mass album under the name Lucifer, and scored the background music for Richard Burton’s narration of The Little Prince, which won a Grammy for Best Children’s Recording. Other highlights of Garson’s prolific and unusual career include composing the incidental music for the live broadcast of the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing, as well as coming up with a number of game-show theme songs.

Now, thanks to Sacred Bones Records, we have the reissue of Plantasia — a relic of the mid-’70s plant craze attributed to the book, The Secret Life of Plants, written by an occultist and a former agent working for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), Peter Tompkins, along with “former CIA agent/dowsing enthusiast” Christopher Bird. The book contends that plants are live beings that, like humans, respond to their surroundings, reacting to words, emotions, and yes, even music. Operating under that assumption, Garson put together a series of melodies specifically for plants. Originally, Plantasia was given away to anyone who bought a Simmons mattress from Sears as well as customers of the LA plant shop, Mother Earth.

The album spans a range of musical styles, from classical and big band to blues and folk. It starts off with the title track, “Plantasia,” which at first could be mistaken for a ring tone — alternating between otherworldly and downright spooky. “Symphony For A Spider Plant” follows, with staccato beats trickling over a web-like matrix of melodies for a quirky composition that manages to be nostalgic yet futuristic. With a lilting folk-like refrain, “Baby’s Tears Blues” sounds like one of the pre-programmed riffs that used to come with store-bought synths—or the soundtrack to an old-timey burlesque striptease.

Next comes the exotic and freaky “Ode To An African Violet,” which is not unlike a dental-office dirge, as if the ferry Charon was riding in across the River Styx had a live band playing. “Concerto For Philodendron And Pothos,” somewhat by contrast, takes the form of a classical piece performed by a full orchestra—if the entire philharmonic happened to be on acid.

While “Rhapsody In Green” may not be quite as iconic as a Gershwin melody, it’s sufficiently charming and does sound very… leafy. “Swingin Spathiphyllums” has a bossa nova-like feel to it, and “You Don’t Have To Walk A Begonia” sounds like the score of a sequence in a 1960s French comedy. The penultimate, medieval-sounding “A Mellow Mood For Maidenhair” is followed by “Music To Soothe The Savage Snake Plant,” which is like a fusion of all the other compositions into one impressive finale.

“My dad would be totally pleased to know that people are really interested in this music that had no popularity at the time,” Darmet told Sacred Bones. “He would be fascinated by the fact that people are finally understanding and appreciating this part of his musical career that he got no admiration for back then.”

“Ever Present: Mother Earth’s Plantasia” takes place at the Getty Center museum in Los Angeles on September 7, 2019 from 3–9pm. Admission is free.

The post Groove To The Reissue Of A 1976 Electronic Music Album For Plants appeared first on High Times.

Study Finds Smoking From A Pipe Can Expose You To More Germs Than A Toilet Seat

Let’s face it: we touch a lot of dirty things every day. 

Dirty items inside the home include bathroom hand towels and dog toys. Outside of the house, everything from shopping carts to ATMs can expose us to high concentrations of germs. And that doesn’t even cover everyday items like cell phones, cash, and computer keyboards—all of which have high germ exposure potential. 

The same can be said for items that go in our mouths, like fingernails and pens. Sharing drinks, toothbrushes, and food can also spell out germ city. 

And that bizarre five-second rule? Forget about it. 

Germs are everywhere. They’re unavoidable, but don’t freak out; they’re a totally normal part of living and your immune system will protect you from most of them. However, there’s a pressing germ concern unique to the cannabis community: group consumption of pipes and joints. 

A recent study conducted by Los Angeles-based Moose Labs found that cannabis pipes, vapes, and joints all have “an astounding level of bacteria.” It went on to state that it was difficult to find a neutral everyday item that matched its levels of bacteria. The analysis produced significantly higher-than-expected results. In all, the average cannabis pipe was found to have “almost one and a half times more bacteria than a public toilet seat.” 

The report concluded that each person should use a mouthpiece when consuming. The findings support using a product like a disposable or washable mouthpiece with a filter, like one that Moose Labs offers. This is a point the company’s co-founder Jay Rush said the study sought out to prove.

“It really is just absolutely horrifying,” Rush said about the findings. “I almost feel bad telling people, but would you rather be informed and upset or uninformed and blissfully ignorant?” 

Other experts in the field told High Times they recommended carrying a product like alcohol wipes when smoking a bong or pipe with a large group of people. 

Christopher Carrubba, MD explained why cannabis consumption devices can become so contaminated. He cited biofilm formation as the cause. “Marijuana itself can be a host to numerous bacterial and fungal organisms and contaminated bong water can similarly serve as a host for bacteria, candida, and other types of fungi,” he said.

“As these organisms grow, they secrete substances that allow them to cling to certain physical objects such as plastic or glass within a bong. The accumulation of these secretions leads to the formation of a biofilm that serves to protect these organisms and to facilitate their ongoing proliferation.” 

Dr. Carrubba went on to note that biofilms are resistant to standard cleaning solutions and antimicrobial agents: “Once a biofilm forms, bacterial and fungal contaminants may persist even after a basic washing of the bong.” 

He added that some of the more common microbial organisms and their potential risks include:

  • Aspergillosis — When burned, the fungal organism aspergillosis releases mycotoxins that can gather in bong water and be inhaled later on. This can potentially cause a cough or chest pain and can lead to pulmonary disease. 
  • Pseudomonas — This bacterial organism can cause acute pneumonia and sepsis. It is difficult to treat, often requiring antimicrobial therapy for long periods. 
  • Flavobacterium — This bacteria is found in sources of stagnant water like an unclean bong. An infection can lead to pulmonary symptoms and diarrhea. 
  • Streptococcus species — A common bacteria usually found on the skin and in the oral and respiratory tract. It is responsible for infections such as strep throat, pneumonia, ear infections and other unpleasant medical results. 
  • E. coli — E. coli can also be found in the cannabis plant, as well as human and animal feces. Exposure to E. coli can turn into symptoms, including diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. 

The Moose Labs study focuses on cannabis pipes, as the company did not receive enough materials to analyze joints and vaporizers as closely as the pipes. 

However, Rush noted that the unnamed joints and vaporizer provided in the test are products he uses personally. “I consider myself a relatively clean person,” Rush said. “And they both read significantly higher than anything else that we have tested for.” 

The results from Moose Labs found that both joints and vaporizers had close to four times more bacteria than a toilet seat.

The concerning data shows that cannabis consumption, especially in group settings, can create adverse effects. While drastic, Rush noted that global issues, such as the SARS virus, can go from one person to thousands across the world relatively quickly. If an infected person consumed cannabis in a group setting, the consequences could be dire.  

“Imagine if someone goes to one of these events where they have one of these viruses and a hundred other people put their mouth directly on [a pipe] and go out into the world. You’d have an epidemic like never before,” Rush explained.

Causing the next global health scare isn’t a likely outcome, but other uncomfortable conditions from sore throats to diarrhea are possible. While it may not always be the trendiest thing to do, carrying a mouthpiece or sanitary wipes will keep pieces cleaner. Using a few could help yourself and those around you. 

Those looking to protect themselves further may want to consider Dr. Carrubaa’s advice that includes cleaning the bong with boiling water after each use. Other measures include properly drying the bong after washing, a weekly cleaning with rubbing alcohol, and cleaning your hands before using your piece.

The post Study Finds Smoking From A Pipe Can Expose You To More Germs Than A Toilet Seat appeared first on High Times.

High Times Greats: Werner Herzog’s Strange Visions

Werner Herzog has the mind of a mystic and the soul of an eternal dreamer. In this 1985 High Times article by Robert Seidenberg, Germany’s leading avant-garde director talks about the noble loner, the destruction wrought by Western civilization and why “films are more important than life.”

They were ready to play ball. The sides were picked—cast and crew of Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas versus cast and crew of Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise. This game of softball at last fall’s Telluride Film Festival in Colorado would prove to be one of the festival’s fiercest competitions. To ensure a fair contest, Werner Herzog was asked to umpire. But Herzog—who, with Wenders and the late Rainer Werner Fassbinder, is West Germany’s most talented and best-known contemporary filmmaker—declined the invitation.

The 42-year-old director is an avid sports fan and agile athlete, but he confessed to an ignorance of the game’s rules. It was obvious, he said, that softball pits one person—the batter—against the opponent’s entire team. Consequently, and regardless of the rules, Herzog would have to side with the one. He could not officiate fairly.

Scruffy with 10 days’ beard growth, his rumpled hair standing on end, Herzog chuckled as he recounted this tale during a whirlwind promotional tour for his most recent film, Where the Green Ants Dream. But when I suggested that this anecdote provided the perfect taking-off point for a discussion of his work, he turned very serious and his deep-set melancholy eyes took on the expected intensity of a man who once claimed to have no understanding of irony.

Many of Herzog’s films—which total 14 features and 14 documentaries—concern an individual or group in conflict with a more powerful other. Invariably, the director sides with the underdog. Although Herzog insists that this theme not be overemphasized by critics (“because then the films couldn’t develop other dimensions“), he admits to its presence.

“Of course I have quite often in my films sided with lonesome people who have been in collision with certain other forces that are far superior to one single person,” the director explains, seated in the conference room of Orion Pictures’ Manhattan office. “The best example is The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser. The real title is Everyman for Himself and God Against All, and that gives some sort of hint of my attitude. It’s almost like a motto for my life and for my work.”

The Noble Underdog

Though seen as weirdos, misfits and cripples, the loners in Herzog’s pictures are actually the only ones with dignity; it is they who, when placed in extreme situations, speak of the human condition. In Woyzeck (1970) the title character is used and abused by all those around him—his wife, doctor and army officers. A general tells him “You lack morals. You lack virtue,” but in reality he is the only virtuous character, a mere victim of the amoral. In Stroszek (1977), the title character, misled by the hope for and promise of quick riches, remains disillusioned and helpless. And in Kaspar Hauser (1975), the title character comes to civilization untouched by any society or education, is “civilized,” corrupted and eventually murdered.

The new movie, Where the Green Ants Dream, features Australian aborigines whose land is exploited by a large mining operation. They have lived on the land for nearly 30,000 years, but in the miners’ eyes, the aborigines are simply impediments to progress. And the odds stack high against them in this clash of cultures.

“In Green Ants this other force—and let’s name it, it’s our Western civilization—is not beyond control, but it’s out of control,” says the filmmaker, carefully choosing the precise words. “It has gone completely out of control and those people who are in control, who do things all right and insist on the dignity of their existence, are the aborigines. And therefore the film has its sympathy on their side.”

The movie is about not only the aborigines’ loss of sacred sites, however. “It is just as much a film on us,” explains Herzog in well-pronounced English whose occasionally awkward constructions reveal his foreignness. “It’s only more visible over there what is going on almost everywhere in the world.” And it is this destruction of cultures by encroaching Western civilization that occupies the director’s mind these days.

“There are things that are just a tragedy that we have to be aware of,” he explains mournfully. “I mean, in enormous proportions everyone is screaming about the fact that lions might become extinct or the last eagle might die out, but it’s much worse to see that a whole culture and a whole tribe is dying out. I’ve seen one aborigine who was the last and final and definitive only surviving member of his clan and language group, so when he dies it’s as if the last—I don’t know—as if the last French-speaking people is dying away. And it will never be spoken and heard again on this Earth. It’s irrevocably lost.”

“And the young aborigines want to move into the cities. They want to have cowboy boots and appear like the heavy dudes with sunglasses, and they want to have transistor radios for the Hit Parade from the United States. And they will go away and they will only speak English. They will be of mixed blood quite soon and it will be gone. Or a tribe literally dies out like the last dinosaur or like the last mammoth. I mean, I say it just like that and we don’t even know what kind of disaster it means for the world.”

Hauling the Ship

Fear of another kind of destruction is what motivates Herzog’s filmmaking. He feels that our civilization is endangered—not by violence but by the extinction of meaningful images. In an attempt to replace worn-out images, he has consistently discovered and presented breathtaking visuals. “A striving, a trying to articulate new images is present in all my films,” he told a 1979 workshop in Chicago. “We live in a society that has no adequate images anymore and, if we don’t find adequate images and an adequate language for our civilization with which to express them, we will die out like the dinosaurs. It’s as simple as that. We have already recognized the problems like the energy shortage or the overpopulation of the world or the environment crisis, but I think it has not yet been understood widely enough that we also absolutely need new images.”

Paradoxically, in his quest for new and more powerful images, Herzog has practically ignored the sort of concern for civilization that he so often espouses in his words and work. He is a visionary filmmaker; he has said that he is simply articulating dreams, dreams that are all of ours as well as his. But in trying to achieve his visions—which embrace and celebrate humanity—temporarily, during production, he devalues humanity. He risks the lives of others and himself; seems to court disaster; sets up harrowing tasks for himself and his crew; and insists that all subsequent suffering is somehow beneficial.

This was most evident during the filming of Fitzcarraldo (1981), the feature which preceded Green Ants, and it has been wonderfully documented in Burden of Dreams, a film by Les Blank. Herzog’s Sisyphean tale revolves around an Irishman in the wilds of Peru who, in order to bring opera to an isolated Amazonian port town, has a plan that involves dragging an enormous steamer over a mountain from one river into another.

The film’s production was plagued by death, disease, injury and native hostility, much of which could probably have been avoided had not Herzog been such a stickler for authenticity and insisted on unnecessary deep-jungle locations. Against the protests of cast and crew, the director demanded that they actually recreate the fictional portage. The crew’s engineer quit the film, claiming that the hauling methods were insufficient and could result in injuries or deaths. Les Blank, a friend of Herzog’s, wrote in his journal, “I’m tired of it all and could care less if they move the stupid ship—or finish the fucking film.” Klaus Kinski, who plays Fitzcarraldo, said of Herzog, “This much idiot no one has ever been in the world! He could use a model—people don’t care as long as they see it on the screen. But he wants to pull a real ship.”

Nonetheless, Herzog persisted in what he referred to as “a story of a challenge of the impossible.” He became as obsessed with hauling the ship as his fictional character, and the film became as much about the filmmaker as about Fitzcarraldo. Eventually, with the help of hundreds of native Indians, Herzog did manage to pull the ship up the slope—without any injuries. But during other portions of the filmmaking there were disasters. A plane crash resulted in deaths and critical injuries, but Herzog, as seen in Burden of Dreams, seemed practically unfazed, stating, “These are the costs you have to pay.”

Risky Business

Virtually none of Herzog’s films have been without risk to the physical well-being of their participants. A decade before Fitzcarraldo, he was in the same Peruvian jungle shooting Aguirre, the Wrath of God, about a mutinous band of Spanish conquistadors—a monstrous physical ordeal which he later confessed was “an undertaking way above my means. There wasn’t a day without catastrophe.” Making his first feature, Signs of Life (1967), in Greece during the military coup d’etat, he threatened to shoot a police officer who wanted to prohibit the discharge of fireworks. Filming Fata Morgana (1970) in the Cameroons soon after an aborted coup, he and his cameraman were mistakenly arrested and held in a fetid jail for several weeks.

Herzog’s riskiest undertaking was unquestionably making the documentary La Soufriere (1977), a lovely study of the Soufriere volcano on the island of Guadeloupe before its presumed eruption. Luckily, while Herzog and two cameramen filmed the smoldering crater and the evacuated town, the volcano’s eruption was only partial. Had it been as predicted, the three men likely would not have survived. With this movie Herzog dramatically demonstrated, “Films are more important than life.”

Many of Herzog’s films are exceptional works. Their visual magnificence is undeniable; the passion of the undertaking is quite evident; and in most cases, a strong narrative supports, rather than overpowers, the feelings and thoughts evoked by the images. And Herzog continues to insist that all of this would be impossible without the troubles encountered during their creation.

“Often by confronting difficulties and details, you confront reality,” he explains. “Films are not made out of the minds of screenwriters. Disasters can be positive. The momentum of a disaster sometimes allows you to build up a beautiful scene.”

All films are difficult challenges for the director, including such quieter, calmer pictures as Land of Silence and Darkness (1973), a feature-length documentary of a deaf and blind woman who emerged after a 30-year depression to help others who were similarly afflicted. “It’s always a great strain to make films,” he says at the conclusion of I Am My Films, a 1979 film portrait of Herzog. “It can be measured in stress, sleepless nights and dollars. For 14 years I have been doing things not within my grasp. But if someone cannot take the strain and the humiliations, then that person probably can’t make films.”

Vampiress Isabelle Adjani stirs up a monk in Nosferatu the Vampire/ High Times

Walking the Borders

Werner Herzog was born Werner H. Stipetic in Munich, Germany in 1942. To escape the Allied bombing, his mother took the infant to the small village of Sachrang in the Bavarian Mountains, where Herzog grew up with his divorced mother and two brothers. He was 11 years old before he saw his first film.

“The first movies I saw were two documentaries screened at school,” recalls Herzog, who now lives in Munich with his wife and two children. “We saw one film with Eskimos building an igloo and the other one was pygmies weaving a liane bridge across a river. And I was very much amazed to see that. I tried to look behind the screen to see if the pygmies were behind it. And later on I saw some Tarzan and Zorro and Dr. Fu Manchu movies and a few films of artistic value, but in my case many things happened quite late and quite abruptly.”

Herzog grew up speaking only Bavarian dialect, not even knowing what oranges or bananas were. And as he explained after being slightly startled by a ringing phone, he didn’t make his first phone call until the family moved back to Munich when he was 15 years old. “I still have a hard time with the telephone,” he admits. “I have to use it, but I don’t like it very much. I’m always somehow cautious, always a little bit scared of it.”

“At the age of 14,” continues Herzog, “there were some very drastic and big changes in my life. That’s the time I could say I started to think independently. Many things that decided and still decide my life I started then… film-making and traveling. I wanted to go to Albania, for example, but you couldn’t enter it. There were no visas at that time. It was completely isolated and mysterious. It attracted me very strongly because it was still somehow medieval and mysterious. So I walked along the border from Greece and on the Yugoslavian-Albanian border until I reached the Adriatic coast.”

At this time he also had an intensive religious phase and converted to Catholicism “against the wild opposition of my entire family.” It was also then that he first decided to become a film director, and he began to write scripts at school and submit them to unsympathetic producers.

“I never had any choice about becoming a director,” he says. “It was always clear. And yet strangely enough I had absolutely no idea how film was being made. But I was never scared of just doing it.”

An Instinct for Cinema

Herzog came to cinema as if it were his mission in life. And from the beginning his films have been unique, carrying the indelible Herzog signature. His approach to directing is anything but typical. For example, he never lets an underling wield the clapper slate which is used to label each shot on the set. He handles it himself because he wants to be “the last one who breaks the line in between the actors and the camera and everyone behind.” He often employs nonprofessional actors like Australian aborigines, South American Indians, dwarfs and midgets. And just as he cannot explain why as a young man from a remote mountain village he “knew” that he would direct films, Herzog cannot explain how he coaches his actors or even why his films turn out the way they do. But he is certainly proud of his primitive, self-taught approach, an approach based more on instinct than learned-and-memorized technique.

“While shooting my first feature, the leading actor came to me and wanted to discuss the concept of the central character and his motivations,” recalls Herzog. “At the time I was 23 years old, by far the youngest around, and I said to him, ‘I don’t know what to say to you. Those things don’t interest me. Go to the Turkish fortress [a major location] and lick the stones for two days and you’ll know.” And he never came back again. He actually spent three or four days in the fortress just touching the stones, looking at things, and he was content with that. But had I ever been assistant to a director or had I been at film school I would have tried to explain to him the motivations of this character and I don’t know what other bullshit.”

His collaboration with Klaus Kinski, leading man in Woyzeck, Aguirre, Fitzcarraldo and Nosferatu, is similarly unorthodox. “When Kinski does a scene,” explains the director, “I tell him, ‘Klaus, the dialogue was all right. You were always in frame. You were good. It looks perfect and yet, I don’t know, something is missing and I can’t even name it.’ And then I say, ‘Let’s do it once more and this time you are going to turn the pig loose.’ And then all of a sudden he’s sensational, unprecedented in this world.”

“He knows that, for example, when you would normally call for a cut, I sense that there’s more inside of the man and he senses that I am going to run the camera. And all of a sudden there comes some additional things which have not been planned. There’s such a mutual trust in each other. I wait for something more and he knows I expect it from him. And some of the most beautiful things have been done in that way. But it’s very unusual. It looks probably quite strange when somebody professional comes on the set and looks at what I’m doing and how I’m doing it.”

To talk about Herzog is to talk about landscape. It is the overriding image in most of his films. In Signs of Life, three German soldiers on a Greek island are overcome by the geography and go mad. At the end of Nosferatu (1979), the phantom of the night rides off into the gloomy sky across a windswept desert. Heart of Glass (1976) ends with four men setting out from a rocky island in a tiny boat into a roaring sea surrounded by gulls. And the ravaged aboriginal land in Green Ants is an unforgettable sight, as are the Sahara dunes in Fata Morgana that resemble human forms.

“Landscape is quite an important element in almost all of my films,” elucidates Herzog. “Many of my films, including Aguirre, have started actually with a landscape and then a story somehow intruded into this locale. But I take landscape more seriously than many other people in filmmaking. It’s sometimes almost like a central character, and it can be stage-directed. The river in Aguirre is like a central character in the film, or the jungle is like a central character.”

Often the first shot of a Herzog film is a breathtaking landscape which immediately transports the viewer to another time and place. And that these locales are often shrouded in mist makes them dreamlike. Kaspar Hauser begins with a misty wind blowing waves in a field of grain. Heart of Glass begins with a man, head in hands, sitting on a hill as a thick fog rolls over the forest below. Fitzcarraldo begins with the mist-filled jungle. And the stunning opening sequence of Aguirre features a long train of uniformed conquistadors wending their way down a mountain wall along the banks of the Amazon River.

But, again, Herzog is without explanation. He does not know why so many of his pictures begin with fog-drenched landscapes. Instead, he makes a claim that he uses so often it must be believed. “I would say that I follow my instincts, basically,” he states. “I don’t rationalize. I don’t put things together like an architect. And then inexplicably sometimes the fruits fall into my lap and I don’t know how I deserve it. Like the courtroom scene in Green Ants with the mute. How the man comes in, just his kind of look, how he keeps staring at the judge and walks and walks and walks and walks. If you say it in words, it’s nothing. And if you see it on film, you never forget that image in your life, I think.”

“I know what I’m doing. I mean, I’m a craftsman and I’m planning things as well. But how does such a thing like that fall into my lap, I have no idea. Sometimes I know that there is a blessing on me.”

The post High Times Greats: Werner Herzog’s Strange Visions appeared first on High Times.

Cannabis And Mental Health: Dementia

A new case of dementia is diagnosed every three seconds.  

Dementia is an all too common syndrome that is not at all a normal part of aging, according to the World Health Organization. The WHO reports that 47 million people in the world had dementia as of 2015. Of those, 63% live in middle-to-low-income countries. The WHO expects this number to rise to 71% by 2050.

Dementia is a term that describes symptoms of a loss in specific functions in the body: communication, daily performance and memory. The syndrome, not a disease, is most commonly associated with the elderly with its likelihood increasing as a person ages. 

While some conflate dementia with Alzheimer’s disease, it is important to note the distinction that Alzheimer’s is a specific disease grouped under dementia. 

The damage caused by dementia often extends beyond the patient and into the lives of their  family members. While we attempted to contact families affected by dementia, none were able to provide High Times with their personal accounts.  However, one personal blog published their family’s story, outlining  some of the difficult decisions a family might have to make concerning their loved ones. 

“When Mom’s Alzheimer’s progressed to the point that she became combative and personal hygiene became an issue, my brother planned to put her in a nursing home, but I quit my job to look after her. I moved her to Portland with me and took over her care, to focus on the quality of her remaining life,” the post says.

The account went on to list the numerous medications the writer’s mother was on before switching to cannabis. They included five over-the-counter drugs and three inhalers, as well as medications for asthma, seizures, allergies, and other ailments.

In addition to personal blogs, treating dementia with cannabis garnered national attention is the case of the Spier family. Alexander Spier, the family patriarch, was a Holocaust survivor who became a business owner in the United States. The two years leading up to his death from Alzheimer’s-related conditions in 2017 were, predictably, painful for him and his family, and  involved episodes like leaving his nursing home twice, requiring Spier’s family to move him to Florida to a dedicated care facility. 

Today, the family operates the Spier Family Foundation, which offers support to several hospitals and their medical research efforts. 

Dr. Rahul Khare is a doctor working on such efforts. The founder and CEO of Innovative Express Care & Innovative Ketamine Care said his work includes studying the therapeutic uses of medical cannabis and CBD for several mental and physical conditions. 

The Chicago-based physician has used CBD, THC, and other compounds in the plant’s profile to address patients’ symptoms and conditions. He said that cannabis may be best suited to treating a patient’s aggressive behavior. Dr. Khare explained that, traditionally, a patient would be given a benzodiazepine, like Ativan or Valium, to address such behavior. The end result is a person who is out of commission for four to six hours.

Instead, the physician recommends a cannabis tincture in the gums or a nasal spray. “Patients are much more likely to be compliant when using cannabis due to the lower side effect profile than other drugs in managing these aggressive symptoms of dementia,” explained Dr. Khare.

In February 2019, a THC/CBD oral spray mentioned by Dr. Khare, Sativex, was part of the first major trial to determine the effects of cannabis on dementia patients. The drug had previously been approved for patients with multiple sclerosis.

Others believe cannabis can be a treatment option in cases where drugs are required if other methods fail to produce results. Dr. Krista Lanctôt is a University of Toronto professor and senior scientist with the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Research Program at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. In July 2018, she wrote how agitation issues should first be treated with non-drug solutions, though some conditions require medication, including cannabis. Dr. Lanctôt went on to compare standard medical solutions and cannabinoids. 

She wrote, “In fact, the medications that tend to be the most effective can sometimes lead to stroke, or even death. Cannabinoids, on the other hand, interact with the body differently, which means they could be safer and more effective overall for someone experiencing agitation.”

The doctor added, “Some of [the] effects [of cannabis] are even thought to help reduce brain cell death.”

While not enough to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, studies over the years have concluded that cannabis does have the potential to aid in addressing many adverse side effects brought on by dementia. This includes a 2019 open study which found that cannabis may improve the behaviors of dementia patients. A 2016 open study also found cannabis “significantly decreased” symptoms including delusions, aggression, irritability, sleep and apathy—resulting in lower levels of caregiver distress as well.

Despite the findings from individual studies, a positive association between cannabis and dementia treatment cannot be made at this time. While some doctors like Dr. Khare believe CBD can help calm a patient, and THC can act as a quick sedative, others worry about the patient’s overall cognition. Associate scientist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto Dr. Nathan Herrmann was one to think this.”There is good reason to be concerned that cannabinoids could make cognitive function worse, either by direct effects or by causing excessive sedation,” he once said.

Dr. Herrmann and his team cited a lack of studies, many pointing to little to no positive effects. The researchers aimed to provide further clarity with an analysis of their own. The findings from their first clinical trial using synthetic cannabinoids as an Alzheimer’s treatment were released in July 2018. The results stated that the drug Nabilone can help improve a patient’s symptoms. The team hopes to conduct a more extensive study to confirm its conclusions on agitation while determining if Nabilone can improve patients’ appetites and lower pain levels.  

As always, consult with a medical professional before treating dementia or any related conditions with cannabis.

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President Trump Announces State Grants To Fight Opioid Epidemic

President Trump announced on Wednesday that the federal government would award nearly $2 billion in grants to state and local governments to help fight the opioid epidemic. The funding to improve access to treatment and support a system to collect near real-time data on the nation’s ongoing drug overdose crisis was announced at a White House press conference on Wednesday afternoon by the president and Trump administration officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that more than $900 million in new funding for a cooperative agreement between states, territories, and localities will advance the understanding of the opioid abuse epidemic and improve prevention and response activities over three years. The CDC has released $301 million for the first year of grants.

The federal Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration will award another $932 million in State Opioid Response grants to all 50 states, according to HHS. By the end of the year, the agency will have awarded more than $9 billion dollars in grants to state and local governments to improve access to treatment and prevention services since 2017.

“These funds will be delivered to the communities where their help is most needed,” Trump said.

Addressing a National Epidemic

Over the last two decades, more than 400,000 lives have been lost to drug overdoses related to opioids. But the tide may be turning. Provisional counts show a 5% drop in overdose deaths from 2017 to 2018 and opioid overdose deaths went down by 2.8%, according to HHS data.

“Our country is seeing the first drop in overdose deaths in more than two decades, more Americans are getting treatment for addiction, and lives are being saved,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “At the same time, we are still far from declaring victory. We will continue executing on the Department’s 5-Point strategy for combating the opioid crisis, and laying the foundation for a healthcare system where every American can access the mental healthcare they need.”

The agency’s strategy to address the opioid epidemic includes better addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery services; better data, better pain management, better targeting of overdose-reversing drugs, and better research.

In October 2017, President Trump declared the nation’s opioid crisis a public health emergency and the following year the White House released the Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse. The three-part plan includes reducing demand and over-prescription, reducing the supply of illicit drugs, and improving access to evidence-based treatment and prevention services.

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From CannTrust To Canopy: Is There A Connection To Current Cannabis Scandals?

As Europe swooned under record-breaking heat this summer, the cannabis industry also found itself in a rather existential hot seat.

The complete meltdown at CannTrust has yet to reach a conclusion. Yes, a few  jobs have been lost. However, a greater question is in the room as criminal investigatory and financial regulatory agencies on both sides of the US-Canada border (plus in Europe) are getting involved.

As events have shown, there is a great, big, green elephant in the room that is now commanding attention. Beyond CannTrust, how widespread were these problematic practices? And who so far has watched, participated, if not profited, and so far, said nothing?

Who, What, Where?

The first name in the room? Canopy Growth.Canopy_Growth_Corporation_logo

Why the immediate association? Bruce Linton, according to news reports, was fired as CEO by his board the same day, July 3, 2019, that CannTrust received its first cease and desist notice from Health Canada.

Further, there is a remarkable similarity in not only problematic practices, but timing between the two companies. This may also indicate that Canopy’s board believed that Linton’s behaviour was uncomfortably close to executive misdeeds at CannTrust. Not to mention, this was not the first scandal that Linton had been anywhere close to around acquisition time. See the Mettrum pesticide debacle, that also broke right around the time Canopy purchased the company in late 2016 as well as the purchase of MedCann GmbH in Germany.

Reorg also appears to be underway in Europe as well. As of August, Paul Steckler has been brought in as “Managing Director Europe” and is now based in Frankfurt. Given the company’s history of “co-ceo’ing” Linton out the door, is more change to come?

What Went Down At Canopy?

Last year, Canopy announced its listing on the NYSE in May. To put this in context, this was two months after the first German cultivation bid went down to legal challenge. By August 15, 2018 with a new bid in the offing, the company had closed the second of its multi-billion dollar investments from Constellation.

Bruce Linton, former CEO of Canopy Growth
Photo: Youtube, TSX

Yet by late October, after Bruce Linton skipped a public markets conference in Frankfurt where many of the leading Canadian cannabis company execs showed up to lobby Jens Spahn (the health minister of Germany) about the bid if not matters relating to the Deutsche Börse, there were two ugly rumours afoot.

Video showing dead plants at Canopy’s BC facility surfaced. Worse, according to the chatter online at least, this was the second “crop failure” at the facility in British Columbia. Even more apparently damning? This all occurred during the same  time period that the second round of lawsuits against the reconstituted German cultivation bid surfaced.

Canopy in turn issued a statement that this destruction was not caused by company incompetence but rather a delay in licensing procedures from Health Canada. Despite lingering questions of course, about why a company would even start cultivation in an unlicensed space, not once but apparently twice.  And further, what was the real impact of the destruction on the company’s bottom line?

Seen within the context of other events, it certainly poses an interesting question, particularly, in hindsight.

Canopy, which made the finals in the first German cultivation bid, was dropped in the second round – and further, apparently right as the news hit about the BC facility. Further, no matter the real reason behind the same, Canopy clearly had an issue with accounting for crops right as Canadian recreational reform was coming online and right as the second German cultivation bid was delayed by further legal action last fall.

Has Nobody Seen This Coming?

In this case, the answer is that many people have seen the writing on the wall for some time. At least in Germany, the response in general has been caution. To put this in true international perspective, these events occurred against a backdrop of the first increase in product over the border with Holland via a first-of-its kind agreement between the German health ministry and Dutch authorities. Followed just before the CannTrust scandal hit, with the announcement that the amount would be raised a second time.

German health authorities, at least, seem doubtful that Canadian companies can provide enough regulated product. Even by import. The Deutsche Börse has put the entire public Canadian and American cannabis sector under special watch since last summer.

Common Territories

By the turn of 2019, Canopy had announced its expansion into the UK (after entering the Danish market itself early last year) and New York state.

And of course by April, the company unveiled plans to buy Acreage in the U.S.

Yet less than two weeks later, Canopy announced not new cultivation facilities in Europe, but plans to buy Bionorica, the established German manufacturer of dronabinol – the widely despised (at least by those who have only this option) synthetic that is in fact, prescribed to two thirds of Germany’s roughly 50,000 cannabis patients.

By August 2019, right after the Canopy Acreage deal was approved by shareholders, Canopy announced it had lost just over $1 billion in the last three months.

Or, to put this in perspective, 20% of the total investment from Constellation about one year ago.

What Happened At CannTrust And How Do Events Line Up?

The current scandal is not the first at CannTrust either. In November 2017, CannTrust was warned by Health Canada for changing its process for creating cannabis oil without submitting the required paperwork. By March of last year however, the company was able to successfully list on the Toronto stock exchange.

Peter Aceto arrived at CannTrust as the new CEO on October 1 last year along with new board member John Kaken at the end of the month. Several days later the company also announced that it too, like other major cannabis companies including Canopy, was talking to “beverage companies.” It was around this time that illegal growing at CannTrust apparently commenced. Six weeks later, the company announces its intent to also list on the NYSE. Two days later, both the CEO and chair of the board were notified of the grow and chose not to stop it.

Apparently, their decision was even unchanged after the video and resulting online outrage about the same over the destroyed crops at the Canopy facility in BC surfaced online.

On May 10, just over a week after the Bioronica purchase in Germany, the first inklings of a scandal began to hit CannTrust in Canada. A whisteblower inside the company quit after sending a mass email to all employees about his concerns. Four days later, the company announced the successful completion of their next round of financing, and further that they had raised 25.5 million more than they hoped.

Six weeks later, on June 14, Health Canada received its warning about discrepancies at CannTrust. The question is, why did it take so long?

Where Does This Get Interesting?

The strange thing about the comparisons between CannTrust and Canopy, beyond similarities of specific events and failings, is of course their timing. That also seems to have been apparent at least to board members at Canopy – if not a cause for alarm amongst shareholders themselves. One week after Health Canada received its complaint about CannTrust, shareholders voted to approve the Canopy-Acreage merger, on June 21.

Yet eight days after that, as Health Canada issued an order to cease distribution to CannTrust, the Canopy board fired Bruce Linton.

One day after that, the Danish recipient of CannTrust’s product, also announced that they were halting distribution in Europe. By the end of August, Danish authorities were raising alarms about yet another problem – namely that they do not trust CannTrust’s assurances about delivery of pesticide-free product.

Is this coincidence or something else?

If like Danish authorities did in late August 2019, calling for a systematic overhaul of their own budding cannabis ecosystem (where both Canadian companies operate), the patterns and similarities here may prove more than that. Sit tight for at least a fall of more questions, if not investigations.

Beyond one giant cannabis conspiracy theory, in other words, the problems, behaviour and response of top executives at some of the largest companies in the business appear to be generating widespread calls – from not only regulators, but from whistle blowers and management from within the industry itself – for some serious, regulatory and even internal company overhauls. Internationally.

And further on a fairly existential basis.


EDITOR’S NOTE: CIJ reached out to Canopy Growth’s European HQ for comment by email. None was returned.

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Legend Technical Services Accredited for Hemp Testing

According to a press release issued last week, the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) accredited Legend Technical Services to ISO/IEC 17025:2005 for industrial hemp testing. Legend Technical Services, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, is currently the only accredited cannabis testing in the state.

The lab is now accredited for medical cannabis testing as well as all industrial hemp testing for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. According to Carissa Prekker, business development specialist of Legend Technical Services, the accreditation allows them to greatly expand their testing suite. “Our A2LA accreditation has opened up many new opportunities for us to expand our testing capabilities, including industrial hemp”, says Prekker. “We pride ourselves in being the preferred testing laboratory for the Minnesota Industrial Hemp Pilot Program (IHPP) and for offering these services to other industrial hemp growers and processors. In doing so, we have built strong relationships throughout Minnesota with other hemp businesses.”

Trace McInturff, Vice President of Accreditation Services, says Legend Technical Services has been a customer of A2LA for ten years now. “As the only hemp testing laboratory recognized by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, we are proud they have chosen to expand their A2LA accreditation to include hemp testing,” says McInturff. “We are also very proud to add yet another state to the ever-growing list of states that are relying upon A2LA as their accreditation body”.

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