[Canniseur: For fans of Action Bronson. His new, collaborative effort, includes various anecdotes, recipes, drawings and musings on the subject of cannabis.]
In his new book, “Stoned Beyond Belief,” rapper Action Bronson offers a vivid mishmash of stories and recipes.
Action Bronson, the hip-hop artist, cookbook author and former host of VICE’s “F*ck, That’s Delicious,” is no stranger to hyperbole and his new book, “Stoned Beyond Belief,” stays the course. Like every artistic medium the New York City native, now in his mid-30s, has tackled, Bronson brings his affinity for cannabis, as well as his blunt speaking style and crass sense of humor, to the project.
What sets “Stoned Beyond Belief” — which Bronson created in collaboration with the New York food writer Rachel Wharton — apart from the rest of his work isn’t so much the subject material as the format: a non-linear splattering of his various anecdotes, recipes, drawings and musings on the subject of cannabis.
What it lacks in substance it makes up for with its sensationalist, visual-heavy layout and Bronson’s own earnest nature.
“Stoned Beyond Belief” is basically a funhouse in book form. The color, font, size and layout of the text change from page to page. Essays bump up against cartoons that bump up against sumptuous, full-page photos that bump up against interviews. This messy style is nonetheless engaging, and if Bronson is attempting to capture the disorienting effects of being stoned, he’s not too far off the mark.
The book’s strongest moments are its wonderful anecdotes, stuffed in between the less inspiring stuff. Years of traveling the world as a pseudo-celebrity have resulted in a lion’s share of tall tales, and Bronson relays these hilarious, absurd accounts with a delightful eye for detail. In one passage, he describes his first interaction with a dealer (he calls him a “shaman”) in South Africa: “He was a guy on a motorcycle, wearing a f*cking earring and a tank top. We were all on mushrooms, and when we went into his house, we started cracking up, because he had a giant folding fan on the wall, as if it was art, and The Simpsons figurines in a fish tank.”
At another point, Bronson spins an affectionate tale about introducing his mom, a hardcore stoner herself, to a high-potency oil that knocked her out of commission for two days straight; the accompanying comic, drawn by Johnny Sampson, makes it all the more endearing.
Throughout all of these anecdotes, Bronson maintains a sort of neutral objectivity about his own fame: He seems neither entitled nor surprised when, blissfully stoned and eating a gyro in Paris, “a girl stops by and pulls out three passion- fruits from her bag and tells me, I brought these for you, they’re from the Ivory Coast. First of all, I was floored by the gesture; it was beautiful, it was amazing.” Later, he spends an evening in the company of his pro sports heroes, gobbling blunts as — he mentions offhand — Ariana Grande performed in the next room over.
The only thing that Action Bronson loves as much (well, almost as much) as weed is food, and “Stoned Beyond Belief” is also interspersed with various recipes and odes to his favorite cures for the munchies. The most interesting food anecdotes shine light into Bronson’s past. His family can trace their roots to Armenia, and those traditional foods come with stories of their own.
When recalling his grandmother’s bread, for instance, he writes, “my grandmother would also always serve it with pindjur, or roasted red peppers and tomatoes crushed with garlic, salt, and parsley. She would cook for all of us, and then just bread and pindjur would be her meal.” At the other end of the spectrum, I’d probably be just as happy not knowing how Action Bronson makes a grilled cheese sandwich (although the accompanying gargantuan, gooey grilled cheese image alone may inspire you to fire one up on the stove).
In the book, we also see a self-deprecating side of Action Bronson that’s as intriguing as it is surprising: as much as he loves smoking weed, he also goes out of his way to describe his longing for pot as a “sickness” and himself as a near-addict.
“There could not be a situation where I could be left out in the cold without weed,” he writes at the beginning of the book, in a passage where he recounts his younger years when he would regularly scam friends and strangers alike in order to feed his weed lust. “I liked weed so much, I decided to give everything else up and go chase my dreams,” he continues. “My real dreams: smoking weed every day.”
But he also appreciates the plant as much as he loves it. Although “Stoned Beyond Belief” isn’t exactly a narrative masterpiece, there is a parallel to be found between Bronson’s personal evolution with cannabis and its own radical shift from underground crop to a heavyweight, almost-mainstream industry. Bronson has been there to see it all.
Like a lot of coffee table books, “Stoned Beyond Belief” contains a lot of fluff. But that doesn’t take away from its honesty, or the fun that Bronson had in bringing it to life.
“When it’s not done in the budget, then it is, in my opinion, harder to do as a standalone bill because it’s now just marijuana with a capital ‘M,’” Cuomo said, echoing state Sen. Diane Savino’sremarks earlier this weekthat legislators who represent conservative parts of the state may not be able to afford to support an adult-use bill that’s not tucked inside a budget.
Opting Out: Not a Concern
When Lehrer asked Cuomo about the New York counties that have already announced preemptive plansto ban cannabis sales, the governor argued they won’t follow through (although California’s track record, for one,tells a different story).
“I don’t think it’s determinative,” Cuomo said. “It does make a difference on the statewide revenues, and it will cost those municipalities, localities that opt out because then they would not get the local share of the revenues.”
“For us, [recreational] marijuana is a relatively new issue,” the governor pointed out, apparently in reference to the bumpy road the legislation has taken. “It really started with my proposal this year, but [legislators] have signaled that they need more time to talk about it,” he added, likely nodding to pushback that the billdoesn’t sufficiently address questions of diversity and equity.
Cuomo: ‘We’ll Get It Done This Year’
Despite these roadblocks, Cuomo insisted that he thinks the bill will pass by June, during the current legislative session. “I believe we’ll get it done this year,” he said.
“I said from Day One that the marijuana issue was going to be controversial,” Cuomo acknowledged. Although the path forward for legal cannabis in New York remains unclear, on this point the governor was indisputably correct.
Photo Credit: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo shakes hands with a moderator as opponent Democratic New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon prepares before a gubernatorial debate in August, 2018. (Craig Ruttle/AP)
[Editor’s Note: There was a time when only negative news about cannabis could be published. One ‘study’ purported that male sperm counts were reduced by cannabis use. Turns out it might not have been true at all.]
There is a long-held and widespread belief that cannabis lowers a man’s sperm count; a quick Google search will reveal studies claiming a correlation between THC and reduced sperm numbers, or between consuming cannabis and lower sperm concentrations. Yet a recent study from Harvard’s research team reveals substantial and compelling evidence that points to a contrary conclusion.
If you’re a bit surprised to hear that consuming pot may actually raise a man’s sperm count, you aren’t alone. In fact, even the research team from Harvard that released a study earlier this month — in the medical journal Human Reproduction— were a bit incredulous of their discovery.
“We spent a good two months redoing everything, making sure that there wasn’t any error in the data,” co-author Dr. Jorge Chavarro, an associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard, said in a press release. “We were very, very surprised about this.”
An Elevated Data Set
To gather their data, the team at Harvard tested 662 men between 2000 and 2017 who were already enrolled at the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center. They collected a total of 1,143 semen samples from this group. In total, 365 of the participants reported having ever smoked pot, and those men provided the researchers with samples containing “significantly higher sperm concentration” than their abstaining peers.
The difference was significant. Researchers found an average of 63 million sperm per milliliter of semen for cannabis smokers, compared to the participants who had never taken a hit, whose sperm count averaged 45 million sperm per milliliter of semen.
The Harvard team was unable to provide much of an explanation for their data, but they did suggest a correlation between smoking cannabis and higher testosterone levels (shh, no one tell Dan Bilzerian).
Dr. Feiby Nassan, one of the authors of the study, pointed out that men with higher testosterone levels are more likely to engage in risky behavior — like, say, consuming an illegal substance — which could help explain the team’s findings. In the same press release, she postulated that “the relations we see between cannabis smoking, sperm counts and testosterone levels are because men with higher testosterone, within normal levels, have higher sperm counts and are more likely to smoke cannabis.”
A Scientific No Man’s Land
The number of participants who admitted to having smoked may, however, have been skewed by the fact that cannabis consumption was still illegal in Massachusetts at the time the study was conducted, and further complicated by the fact that only one in five participants who said they have consumed pot admitted to still doing so. Even though the Harvard study provided some substantial evidence in support of a connection between cannabis consumption and higher sperm counts, it also highlights the lack of research being conducted on cannabis, and the necessity of investing more resources into scientific research to ensure definitive data and more concrete explanations.
After all, the scientists claiming that cannabis reduced a man’s sperm count used, seemingly, equally sound data.
“These unexpected findings from our study highlight that we know too little about the reproductive health effects of cannabis and, in fact, of the health effects in general, to make strong statements about the impact of cannabis on health, with the possible exception of mental health,” lead researcher Chavarro said in the release. “We know a lot less than we think we know.”
[Editor’s Note: Israel leads the world in cannabis research. Their research in cannabis and autism are no exception.]
A recent study conducted by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and Soroka University Medical Center has concluded that medical cannabis can be a safe and significant treatment option for many symptoms of autism spectrum disorders in patients ages 18 and under. These symptoms include seizures, tics, depression, restlessness and even “rage attacks.”
In fact, the study, which monitored just under 200 Israelis under the age of 18, revealed remarkable information even Alex Berenson might have trouble disputing: Over 80 percent of the participants who were treated for six months showed either significant or moderate improvement, according to Lihi Bar-Lev Schleider of the BGU-Soroka Clinical Cannabis Research Institute. Less than 10 percent of participants experienced no noticeable effect from cannabis. And how many reported negative effects? A big ol’ zero.
A Legacy of Medical Research
Israel has a far more substantial history of cannabis research than the United States. In 1964, Israeli doctor Ralphael Mechoulam and his team of researchers changed the course of cannabis history by identifying the THC molecule, and the country has paved the way for cannabis research ever since.
Their progress hasn’t slowed; In 2014, for instance, Israel officially sanctioned medical cannabis to treat pediatric epilepsy. There are currently over 35,000 patients approved for medical cannabis use in Israel, and nearly half receive cannabis through the preeminent organization Tikkun Olam.
Yet when it comes to autism, the researchers from BGU and Soroka University recognized that “there is a significant lack of knowledge regarding the safety profile and the specific symptoms that are most likely to improve under cannabis treatment.”
Autism was of particular concern to the Israeli team because recent reports have shown a significant increase in autism rates in the past three decades; according to the Center for Disease Control, in the United States, roughly one in every 68 children in the U.S. has autism, (though other sources have suggested that this data primarily reflects changing criteria for defining the condition.)
An Array of Relief
To complete their study, 188 participants — with an average age of 13 years, and 14 patients under the age of 5 — were given three daily doses of a CBD oil that contained trace amounts of THC. Beyond the general improvement statistics, mentioned above, other observations were equally compelling; As the team wrote, “behavioural outbreaks were improved in 61 percent of patients, communication problems in 47 percent, anxiety in 39 percent, stress in 33 percent and disruptive behaviour in 33 percent of the patients.”
This data also translated to other positive and concrete changes in the participants’ quality of life. For instance, before starting treatment, 42 percent of parents said their children generally displayed a positive mood; after six months of treatment, that number rose to 63.5 percent. Participants’ ability to dress and bathe themselves independently also improved, from 26.4 percent to 43 percent. Additionally, parents who described their children as sleeping well rose from 3 percent to nearly 25 percent. Most impressively, at the beginning of the study none of the parents reported that their children were able to concentrate; after the six-month study that number rose to 14 percent.
The CBD treatment also resulted in over a third of the patients lowering their intake of antipsychotics, antidepressants, sedatives and more.
The researchers made no attempts to cover up the side effects of the treatment, but those effects, which appeared only in a handful of several participants — sleepiness, not liking the taste and smell of the oil, restlessness, reflux and lack of appetite — seem almost laughably benign, especially in the face of such a resounding success.
Hopefully this study will serve to move cannabis research forward, both in Israel and across the world; it is only the tip of the iceberg.
TELL US, what other medical cannabis research would you like to see conducted?
[Editor’s Note: Cannabis as installation art at MOMA sparks a discussion on diversity and advocacy within the cannabis industry.]
Earlier this month, a trendy crowd squeezed into a makeshift gallery at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), to see cannabis make its debut on the modern art stage. The timing of the event couldn’t have been more apt, as New York legislators are currently crafting a bill that would legalize an adult-use market in the state.
The artistic appreciation of cannabis is grounded, for some, in the Japanese art of flower arranging known as Ikebana.
At MOMA’s PS1 satellite in Queens, there was little political talk. Instead, real-live hemp plants—courtesy of the upstate New York farm Hudson Hemp—with the addition of various flowers, ferns and fruits, had been arranged into a series of vibrant, living sculptures.
As they arrived at the event, called “Hothouse,” visitors crowded around the half-dozen pieces, each displayed on a white pedestal, and snapped photos. While the arrangements were sensational, even glamorous, the event also worked to normalize cannabis and frame the plant in a refreshing, aesthetic context.
‘Hothouse’: Cannabis Plants as Art
The display was accompanied by a panel discussion, featuring five acclaimed cannabis advocates: Anja Charbonneau, the Editor in Chief and Creative Director of Broccoli magazine (who will be on the Leafly podcast “The Hash” on Feb. 17); the floral arranger and writer Amy Merrick, who crafted the pieces on display; Alice Grandoit, a designer and cannabis grower; and Mennlay Golokeh Aggrey, a cannabis grower and author of The Art of Weed Butter.The event was moderated by Georgia Frances King, Ideas Editor at Quartz.
As they arrived at the event, called ‘Hothouse,’ visitors crowded around the half-dozen pieces, each displayed on a white pedestal, and snapped photos.
The panelists shared a love of plants, but their perspectives and experiences differed. The conversation focused less on cannabis’ effects than its beauty, and the lessons learned from a lifetime of plant tending.
Merrick and Grandoit mentioned that appreciation of cannabis is grounded in the Japanese art of flower arranging known as Ikebana—a tradition that dates back to the 7th Century. Merrick studied Ikebana in Japan where, she said, “it’s this super macho thing over there.”
I Call This One Consuela
Grandoit told the crowd she treats her plants like children, giving them names and playing them music. When King asked her to name the nearest floral arrangements, she settled on “Consuela,” with a giggle.
“They’re so delicate,” Aggrey observed of cannabis plants. “It’s so important to see them bloom and turn into big girls.”
Cannabis Reveals You to You
Aggrey, who lives in Mexico City, also pointed out that beautiful plants can serve more practical purposes as well. In Mexico as in the United States, flowers play a part in funereal rites. The gorgeous displays behind her hinted at an unspoken question: Why not incorporate cannabis plants as well?
“It has a way of showing you things about yourself,” she said, as the standing-room-only crowd nodded. “The more you know, the less you know.”
It’s. A. Plant.
For John Gilstrap, the co-founder and vice president of Hudson Hemp, “Hothouse” served to “mitigate some of the stigma around the plant.”
“Seeing it intermingle with other flowers we all know—like birds of paradise, and fruits and vegetables—shows that it’s natural, like all these other plants.” Remarking on the crowd, he added: “[An event like this] brings people out of the shadows.”
When it came time for the audience to ask questions, many focused on notions of diversity and advocacy in the industry.
“Corporate responsibility is trendy [right now],” Charbonneau told the crowd. “Everyone’s trying to be good. Everyone’s super engaged,” she said. “There’s power in community.”
As “Hothouse” demonstrated with exuberance and style, that community is already alive and thriving in New York City.