Three Years, Man! Toke Of The Town Born On This Day In 2009
Three years ago today -- actually, three years ago tonight
, at 7:08 p.m. Pacific time -- my THC-stained fingers hit the "Post" button for the first-ever story on Toke of the Town.
good thing about a free marketplace of ideas is," I wrote, in the first
sentence ever to appear on this site, "despite the best efforts of
prohibitionists and their fear-mongering propaganda, the truth
More than 3,600
stories later -- and with hundreds of joints, medibles, and bongloads
littering my path -- I'm still loving this gig, and judging by
pageviews, so are close to half a million of you every month.
didn't just happen. If it hadn't been for what was then
called Village Voice Media's then-social media talent scout, John
Boitnott, spotting my personal blog Reality Catcher
the front page of what was then social news-sharing site Digg, I
wouldn't have had the chance, starting early in 2009, to write "Chronic City
." That was a twice-weekly cannabis column for S.F. Weekly's online blog, "The Snitch."
if it hadn't been for Boitnoitt and Bill Jensen, then in charge of
VVM's web presence worldwide, that well-received column would not have
opened the door for Toke of the Town about six months later.
still clearly remember the three-way call between Boitnott, Jensen and
myself that resulted in this website coming to life. John admirably
presented to Bill the case for my being editor of the thing, and Jensen
bravely agreed to give me the chance.
"Just get me pageviews," was Jensen's only directive. Well, that definitely happened, and here we still are.
didn't mention it to readers at the time, back when Toke fired up in
2009, but I was facing some significant health challenges. In fact, I'd
just undergone the second of three intestinal surgeries when the site
started, and was wearing an ileostomy bag (which, thankfully, I was able
to get rid of, after a few months).
High Points and Big Hits From Our Third Year
doesn't work in the cannabis journalism business without happening
across lots of memorable stories -- so memorable, in fact, that they
even overcome that short-term memory challenge with which we're supposed
to be faced. Wait, what was I talking about?
almost impossible to predict what will click with an online audience.
For instance, one of the biggest hits of December 2011, the first month
's third year online, was a story about my Xmas present from my 86-year-old mother
in Alabama -- a weed piggy bank. "Thanks for the assistance in financial planning, Mom!" I wrote.
The one got more than 13,000 views from StumbleUpon alone, which certainly made Mom happy.
Another story that gots lots of exposure that month was 'Sweden Legalizes Cannabis' Story Is Just A Hoax
which debunked some misinformation coming from the site JustePaste.It,
which had claimed "Sweden legalizes and regulates cannabis." The
original, inaccurate story had already gone viral on the Web, so good
thing the debunking story did, as well.
One of the biggest stories of January 2012 was Marijuana Improves Mental Sharpness In Middle-Aged Men: Study
, which detailed new scientific evidence that, far from causing any damage, smoking cannabis actually appears to improve
functioning among middle-aged men. British researchers looked at a
large sample of 8,992 who "used drugs," mostly marijuana, at age 42 and
then again at age 50. Surprise, surprise! Those who used illegal drugs
did just as well -- or slightly better! -- than the chaps who had never
"used drugs" at all.
Another January story which reached a lot of readers was Why Snoop Dogg's Marijuana Bust Is No Joke
Northern California Correspondent, Jack Rikess. Jack spoke from the
personal experience of having been on the road (in his former life as a
stand-up comedian) and seeing those unwelcome reds, blues and yellows in
his rearview mirror.
Also popular, for understandable reasons, was Pot Smoking Not Linked To Breathing Problems; May Help Lungs
which detailed a 20-year study finding no decline in lung function for
occasional cannabis smokers. In fact, the study found that lung
function, for most marijuana smokers, improves over time.
One researcher speculated that might come from the practice of "deep-lunging" hits to maximize their intoxicating effects.
Former health education teacher, nurse, and NYPD cop Ron Marczyk's "Worth Repeating" column is always popular with Toke
but he really shined in January, garnering more than 12,000-plus
StumbleUpon views and 1,500 Facebook shares for his excellent piece Worth Repeating: Marijuana Treats Anxiety and Depression
The salutary benefits of medical marijuana
continued to be revealed in a February story, Medical Marijuana Reduces Suicides: Study
which got almost 6,000 Stumbles and more than 400 Facebook shares. The
study, "High On Life? Medical Marijuana
Laws and Suicide," used
state-level data to estimate the effect of legalizing medical marijuana
on suicide rates. It was found that passage of a medicinal cannabis law
is associated with an almost 5 percent reduction in the total suicide
rate, an 11 percent reduction in the suicide rate of 20- through
29-year-old males, and a 9 percent reduction in the suicide rate of 30-
through 39-year-old males.
Another February story which made a powerful point to lots of viewers was 100 Die From Tylenol Overdose Each Year. Marijuana = Zero
Acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol) can destroy your liver, even when
taken at the recommended dosages, after months or years or use. After
taking from eight to 24 extra-strength Tylenol at once, acute liver
toxicity sets in. One hundred people die from acetaminophen overdoses
every year in the United States. About half of these are intentional
(suicides), and the other half are accidents, often by people who don't
realize Tylenol is added to almost every prescription pain pill.
The unstoppable Ron Marczyk in February hit big for the second month in a row with Worth Repeating: Marijuana and the Psychology of Optimal Experience
"As counterintuitive as it sounds, the 'high' or 'feel good' buzz from
marijuana is an actual 'therapeutic effect' that heals the brain,
produces homeostasis and prevents many neurodegenerative conditions,"
One of March's biggest stories was Five Things You May 'Know' About Marijuana That Aren't True
which examined certain "cultural perceptions" around cannabis that are
just plain wrong. Unfortunately, many members of the general public
still subscribe to beliefs about marijuana that have been scientifically
disproven for years or even for decades.
British police proved they can be just as dumb as their American counterparts in another popular March story, Brit Police Claim Odor Of Cannabis Plants Causes Cancer
After a "drugs factory" what a local newspaper chose to call a pot
patch) was raided, local yokel police passed on a dire admonition to a
wide-eyed public: The odor of cannabis supposedly had "carcinogenic
properties." "Of course, that's complete horse shit, and anybody who'd
believe it either hasn't looked into the subject or is a damn fool... or
likely both of the above, in the case of most police officers," I
offered. (Under intense public ridicule, the hapless cops apologized for their ridiculous claim
just a few days later.)
Bad news from Canada got a lot of views in March with Canada Passes Harsh Mandatory Sentences For Marijuana
The Harper Conservatives passed the controversial Bill C-10, the
so-called omnibus crime bill or "Safe Streets and Communities Act,"
which includes harsh mandatory minimums for minor marijuana offenses and
makes it more difficult to get a pardon.
Czar Gil Kerlikowske stuck his foot in his mouth in April when trying to
respond to a petition sent to the White House supporting the
legalization of industrial hemp (Drug Czar Claims Hemp Fiber Contains THC
In his "response," Gil revealed either a stunning ignorance about hemp,
or a shocking propensity to tell a whopper. The amount of THC found in
industrial hemp -- even in the flowers -- is so minute as to be
meaningless, since the trichomes contain a preponderance of CBD instead.
A Marijuana Bud A Day Keeps The Stroke Away
featured a TV news report on the work of Dr. Dave Allen, who said that
marijuana is a better alternative than aspirin to reduce the likelihood
and severity of strokes. "Eating a bud a day will keep the stroke away,"
Dr. Allen said. "No other medicine made by man can help in this
Less than a week after federal agents raided the cannabis training center, Richard Lee Quits After Pot Raid; Turning Over Oaksterdam
reached more than 7,000 Stumble shares. Lee, 49, decided after 20 years it was time for others to take over.
The online activist organization Anonymous' announcement of Phase 1 of OpCannabis
-- its effort to educate the public and work on behalf of cannabis
legalization worldwide -- got shared almost 10,000 times on Facebook, as
well as garnering more than 1,400 StumbleUpon views and 550 Tweets.
The incredible Ron Marczyk for the third month in a row, reached thousands of readers with Worth Repeating: Meet Your Marijuana Brain Module
Marczyk explained, in the piece, that medical marijuana
treats so many
human illnesses so well due to its stimulation of the body's own
endocannabinoid system (ECS). "Together, there is nothing more natural
than medical marijuana
and how it works in the human body," former
health teacher Marczyk wrote.
The biggest story of April, and one of the biggest for 2012, was Auto Insurance Site Says Marijuana Users Are Safer Drivers.
20-year study concluded that cannabis smokers may actually be getting a
bad rap, and that they may actually have fewer accidents than other
drivers. The auto insurance site which performed the study said it
"seeks to dispel the thought that 'driving while stoned' is dangerous."
The story got more than 15,000 Facebook shares, 445 Tweets, and 2,700
Yet more great news about cannabis hit in May with the story Study Confirms: Marijuana Helps With Multiple Sclerosis
Researchers at the University of California San Diego found that
smoking marijuana cuts spasticity and pain that's resistant to
conventional treatments in patients with MS, although it does impact
continuing parade of positive studies regarding the medicinal effects
of cannabis are perhaps starting to have a major impact on popular
support for the herb, as shown by the May story Poll Shows 74% of Americans Support Medical Marijuana
The national poll revealed the unpopularity of the Obama
Administration's interference in
states. Only 15
percent of voters nationwide expressed support for using federal
resources to arrest and prosecute those who are acting in compliance
with their state medical marijuana
unjust muzzling of Robert Platshorn, the longest serving marijuana
prisoner in U.S. history, also came to light in June with the story Feds Move To Silence Platshorn, Derail The Silver Tour
When he got out of prison five years ago, Platshorn didn't take the
easy way out and opt for a quiet retirement; instead, he took up the
cause of medical marijuana
, launching The Silver Tour
bring the good news about cannabis to senior citizens. Now the federal
government is trying to silence him, ordering travel restrictions and
forbidding him to associate with fellow Silver director, federal medical
marijuana patient Irv Rosenfeld
A macabre story from the United Arab Emirates, Two Men Sentenced To Death For 3/4 Ounce Marijuana
shook up a lot of readers in June. A 19-year-old Syrian and a
21-year-old British man were sentenced to death in the U.A.E. for
allegedly selling marijuana to an undercover policeman. The Briton's
mother collapsed outside the courtroom after the verdict was announced,
whereupon the Syrian's mother tried to comfort her.
Readers were definitely excited in late June about the story Chicago Decriminalizes Marijuana With Overwhelming 43-2 Vote
The Chicago City council's measure was backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel;
the third-largest city in the U.S. can now issue a written citation for
possession of 15 grams or less of cannabis, rather than making an
arrest. People who are caught with under half an ounce are now subject
to fines between $250 and $500, instead of being taken to jail. The
story got more than 16,000 Facebook shares, 460 tweets, and 1,400
How Marijuana Affects Memory: It's Not The Neurons
was the first big hit of July. It turns out getting mice stoned can
result in important scientific discoveries. Research published in Cell
magazine revealed how marijuana impairs working memory, the short-term memory we use to hold on to and process thoughts.
Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein, with her platform of full
legalization for marijuana, proved to be quite popular with Toke
readers, as the exclusive interview 'They Should Not Be Allowed To Impede Access To Marijuana'
was shared almost 3,000 times on Facebook and got more than 1,300 Stumbles.
Readers were equally pumped about legalization intiatives. The story Marijuana Legalization Makes Oregon Ballot
got shared more than 1,900 times on Facebook; unfortunately, the
initiative itself failed in Oregon (although measures passed in Colorado
The parade of positive findings about cannabis continued with the July story Marijuana Linked To Better Brain Function In Bipolar Patients
Results from a new study indicated that bipolar patients with a history
of marijuana use have better neurocognitive function than those who had
never indulged. The story proved popular on both Facebook (with 2,600
shares) and StumbleUpon (with 3,100 Stumbles).
You guessed it -- Ron Marczyk lengthened his incredible winning streak by another month in July with Worth Repeating: Big Pharma Takeover Of Med Marijuana In 2013
Marczyk discussed the growing body of evidence which indicates the
federal government could shut down the medical marijuana industry,
handing over the profits to Big Pharma by letting them offer synthetic
versions of cannabinoids instead of organic, herbal cannabis.
Marijuana Doesn't Belong On Schedule I
an infographic, was the first big hit of August. The erroneous and
nonsensical federal classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug
doesn't just defy all scientific evidence; it's emblematic of all that's
insane with marijuana policy in the U.S.
Michigan patient Barb Brisson's personal story, Here's Why We Fight For Medical Marijuana
touched readers in August with the touching account of how Barb was
able to reconnect with her grandson after switching from harsh,
addictive pharmaceuticals to organic, natural cannabis.
Team Vendetta Takes Down Drug Task Force Site
chronicling the continuing efforts of the Anonymous online activist
collective Team Vendetta against the War On Marijuana, resonated with
readers in September. After police held a 75-year-old woman at gunpoint
and killed her dog, the disgusting, terroristic tactics of wanna-be
Rambos on local drug task forces left almost everyone sickened, and
spurred Team Vendetta to action. They took down the website of the Wayne
County Narcotics Enforcement Team, posting online the personal
information of the top three men in charge.
When a widely respected federal judge calls for marijuana legalization, it makes headlines and attracts readers. The story Federal Judge Calls For Marijuana Legalization
did exactly that, garnering 3,800 Facebook shares, 8,400 Stumbles and
200 Tweets as it detailed Judge Richard A. Posner's support for
As editor of Toke of the Town,
no stranger to controversy, since I have no problem speaking my mind
and don't particularly care if I piss folks off. That, predictably, is
what happened with the September story Elliott Recommends Pregnant Mothers Smoke Marijuana
which included a video excerpt from my speech at Hempstalk 2012, a
cannabis legalization rally in Portland. The scientific research tells
us that toking mothers have babies that are just as healthy, with birth
weights just as normal, as babies born of non-toking mothers; science
also tells us that these infants have lower
mortality rates than babies born of mothers who didn't do any "drugs" at all.
When cannabis activist Maggie Slighte, also known as Gma Maggic 420
, made her Toke of the Town
writing debut in September, she did so in a big way. Maggie's article Medical Marijuana: What's Wrong With Euphoria, Anyway?
connected strongly with readers, being shared on Facebook more than
1,000 times and getting more than 2,200 StumbleUpon shares. Slighte's
thesis was that if the worst "side effect" of medical marijuana is
euphoria, then we as citizens have the right to the pursuit of happiness
-- and that always gets a big thumbs up from us!
October's first smash hit story came from none other than the estimable Mr. Ron Marczyk with Worth Repeating: A Marijuana Debate Question For Gov. Romney
Marczyk dared to ask the Governor: "Would you support your wife's
decision to use medical marijuana if prescribed by her physician and she
believed it would help treat her medical condition?" No response, of
course, from the timorous Governor.
The power of social media to effect positive change was highlighted by the story Facebook Protest Results In Removal Of Anti-Marijuana Billboard
An Oregon anti-legalization billboard depicting a stereotypical "drug
addict" which read "What is good about marijuana? Nothing," came down
after protesters organized on Facebook and vented their unhappiness to
both the anti-drug group responsible for the message, and the billboard
company renting them the space.
The Drug War has many human tragedies, and among the saddest we saw this year was the story Marijuana Inmate With Allergy Dies After Being Given Oatmeal
Michael Saffioti, 22, had, upon his mother's advice, turned himself in
to the police after missing a court date, but he was dead after just one
night in the Snohomish County Jail in Washington state.
Speaking of horrifying stories, another disheartening tale of senseless police brutality was the biggest story of October. Police Chase Down, Kill 3 Fleeing Dogs In Marijuana Raid
got more than 28,000 StumbleUpon shares and more than 780 Facebook
shares. James Woods of Detroit was forced into a corner while the cops
shot three of his dogs, reportedly as two of the animals ran to get away
(the third was caged, and was shot in the face at close range, with a
shotgun). Don't you just love cops?
Dr. Jill Stein -- a politician who is quite remarkable in the fact that she actually tells the truth
about marijuana -- was the subject of another well-received story in October. 'Marijuana Is Not Dangerous At All'
detailed the sensible cannabis positions of the Green Party Presidential nominee.
Sharon Letts connected bigtime with readers in October with the piece Cannabis Cures Cancer: Look At Me, I'm Cancer Free!
This is a wonderful and inspiring story of how Sharon beat back breast
cancer by ingesting raw cannabis and taking Nternal oil at night. After
just a few weeks of this therapy, the mass found in her breast during
both a mammogram and a subsequent ultrasound was nowhere to be found
brings us full circle back to this month, November 2012, and when we're
talking about biggest stories of the year, there were three slam-dunks
in that regard. I'm talking, of course, about the passage of "tax and
regulate" legalization initiatives in Colorado and Washington state, and
Massachusetts voters' approval of medical marijuana.
Mass. is on the East Coast and has earlier poll closings, the first of
these stories to come down the pike on the night of November 6 was Medical Marijuana States Welcome Massachusetts
MA became the 18th medical marijuana state in the U.S., as voters,
well, MASSively approved the initiative by 63 percent to 37 percent,
unequivocal landslide numbers equalling those of marijuana's previous
biggest victory in Michigan.
Marijuana Legalized In Colorado: Voters Flex Their Power
was the second huge story of the month (and of the night). The Rocky
Mountain High State became the first in the history of the U.S. to
legalize marijuana, with 53 percent of voters approving Amendment 64.
Under the new law, cannabis will be treated more like alcohol and less
like an illegal drug.
It didn't take Washington voters long to join the party. Washington Becomes 2nd State In One Day To Legalize Marijuana
detailed how Evergreen State voters approved a plan to tax and regulate
marijuana, including a controversial DUI provision that many experts
say is unsupported by science in instituting a five nanogram per
milliliter (5 ng/ml) cutoff point beyond which you are automatically
considered guilty. (Drivers had previously enjoyed the right to defend
themselves in court, since law enforcement had previously been required
to prove actual impairment.)
The federal Drug
Enforcement Administration didn't waste any time before it showed its
complete contempt for the democratic process; DEA Says It Will Ignore Marijuana Legalization
came out the next day after the vote and got more than 3,800 Facebook shares, 1,200 Stumbles and 275 Tweets.
marijuana consumers in Washington obviously had lots of questions about
the upcoming legalization scheme, although pot won't actually be
available in state-licensed stores until at least December 2013. That
curiosity made State of Washington Estimates Legal Pot Will Be $12 A Gram
another of November's biggest stories.
inspiring story of a young man in Texas who refuses to bow down before
unjust marijuana laws also got a lot of attention this month. Update: Brave Student Won't Cop A Plea In Marijuana Case
as of November 23, had almost 3,000 Facebook shares. Zacahariah Walker,
23, has rejected his state's final offer of 60 days in jail; his case
is set to go to court sometime in February 2013.
buzz around marijuana legalization just keeps the big stories comin',
which makes me laugh when I remember some clueless folks claiming I
opposed I-502 because it would supposedly somehow be "bad for business."
Shit, I opposed that piece of legislation because it sucked, even
though doing so was against my own economic interests. Meanwhile, the
fact that it passed means that stories like Cops Release Guide: How To Smoke Marijuana Legally In Seattle
harvest a big bongload of pagehits.
tragic death of four-year-old medical marijuana patient Cash Hyde
brought an outpouring of grief and emotion from the MMJ community; the
story R.I.P. Cash Hyde: Police Force Way Into Grieving Family's Home
provided a focus for that sorrow and for the outrage surrounding the
shoddy, classless way in which law enforcement treated the
grief-stricken family in their darkest hour.
Finally, and to end the round-up on a very positive note, Irv Rosenfeld got the spotlight in Federal Medical Marijuana Patient Marks 30 Years Of Safe Use
On November 20, Irv celebrated 30 years of receiving 10 to 12 joints a
day from the federal government; each month, he gets a tin of 300
government-manufactured ready-rolls from the federal pot farm in Oxford,
For a summary of Toke of the Town's second year, click here: "Two Years Tokin': Toke of the Town Born On This Day In 2009"
If you dug Toke of the Town in 2012, stay tuned in the coming months for lots of heady surprises -- you're gonna love it!