Bill Weinberg's blog

Paul Kantner, Jefferson Airplane's lead pilot, flies on...

Posted on January 29th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , , , , .

Paul KantnerPaul Kantner, co-founder of the Jefferson Airplane and a pioneer of the San Francisco music scene in the 1960s, died Jan. 28 at the age of 74. He had suffered a heart attack earlier in the week, according to his longtime publicist and friend, Cynthia Bowman. As singer, rhythm guitarist and song-writer as well as political visionary, Kantner guided the band from its folk-rock origins through its period as a pre-eminent symbol of the counterculture and youth rebellion, climaxing with the Monterey Pop festival that kicked off the 1967 "Summer of Love," its classic early-morning performance at the utopian-spirited Woodstock festival in August 1969—and that December's disastrous and violence-plagued Altamont Speedway free concert. The band had a rebirth in the 1970s, with a new line-up and more radio-friendly sound, as the Jefferson Starship, including fellow Airplane hold-overs Marty Balin and Grace Slick, Kantner's flamboyant and contentious lover. He continued to perform with various outfits in later years, including a re-formed version of the Starship and a briefly reunited Airplane in 1989. Kantner and his Airplane bandmates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. He continued to be a vocal advocate for political causes, from cannabis legalization to support for the Nicaraguan revolution during the 1980s. 

Internet rumor besmirches medical marijuana

Posted on January 16th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , .

Shadow WatchThere is no end to false Internet rumors concerning our favorite herb, and the latest was just called out by those dogged rumor-busters at Snopes. It seems that Britain's Sky News of Jan. 13 reported on a clinical trial of an experimental drug in France that went horribly wrong, leaving one brain-dead and another three with what could be permanent brain damage. A total of 90 were given then new painkiller compound manufactured by the Portuguese pharma firm BIAL in a test overseen by UK-based Biotrial. The original Sky News account (as quoted by Snopes) refered to the compound as "cannabis-based." Currently, it only says that French Health Minister Marisol Touraine "denied reports the drug was based on the compound found in cannabis." But it got around before the text was changed, popping up on e-mail lists and social media.

Was Chapo's overture to Hollywood fatal?

Posted on January 10th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , , .

ChapoThe story of the capture of Chapo Guzmán—Mexico's top fugitive drug lord—took a turn for the surreal Jan. 9 with the relevation that Hollywood heavy Sean Penn had interviewed the kingpin when he was on the lam last year for Rolling Stone magazine. In the account, Penn describes the complicated process of estabishing contact, with encrypted communications and such, before being flown from an unnamed location in central Mexico to a "jungle clearing" for some face time. We have to be a tad skeptical here. Chapo was tracked down by Mexican federales to a luxury condo in a Sinaloa seaport—nowhere near any jungle. Even if the meeting was arranged at a remote location, it was still likely to be in Chapo's northern stronghold state of Sinaloa—and the only real jungle in Mexico is in southern Chiapas state, hundreds of miles away. Taking some liberties for dramatic effect perhaps, Sean?

El Chapo re-capture: 'Mission Accomplished'?

Posted on January 9th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , .

MexicoMexican President Enrique Peña Nieto might have made a more auspicious choice of words in proudly announcing the recapture of fugitive drug lord Joaquin Guzmán Loera AKA "El Chapo" on Jan. 8. "Mission accomplished: we have him," the prez declared in Spanish on his Twitter account. El Chapo's escape from Mexico's top-security prison in July was a bitter humiliation for Peña Nieto and his government. The elusive Chapo had spent a decade and change as the country's most-wanted fugitive after his last escape from a Mexican prison, in 2001. The first time around, he allegedly used bribes to slip out in a laundry cart; the second time he slipped out through an elaborate tunnel that had been built from his shower block at Altiplano Prison to a nearby apartment. The Sinaloa Cartel kingpin taunted the world on social media as the second manhunt was carried out. So we have to ask: Was a nervous Peña Nieto unconsciously echoing the famously premature boast of George W. Bush after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003?

Florida cops snared in Venezuela money-laundering op

Posted on January 2nd, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

VenezuelaWell, this is a little funny. The US has been eager to find any evidence that the left-wing government of Venezuela is tainted by narco-trafficking. But now it looks like a Florida police force may have been co-opted by the Venezuelan narco-networks. Federal authorities now say that for two years starting in 2010, police in Bal Harbour, Miami-Dade County, funneled millions in drug money into the bank accounts of Venezuelans—including William Amaro Sánchez, now special assistant to President Nicolás Maduro. The supposed goal was to disrupt the networks. But this supposed undercover sting operation generated millions for a local police task force and never made a single arrest.

Syrian hashish harvest workers stranded in Lebanon

Posted on December 28th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

Middle EastWe noted a year ago that ISIS was burning the cannabis fields in its areas of control in Syria (even as reports mount that the entire "Islamic State" army is hyped up on speed). In Lebanon's hashish haertland of the Bekaa Valley, meanwhile, cannabis growers have been arming to defend their turf, crops and livelihood in case ISIS invades. Now, both Reuters and National Public Radio have run reports over the past week on the plight of seasonal migrant laborers who come from Syria to the Bekaa to help harvest cannabis and produce hashish—activities just winding down now. But those who have come this year from the Syrian province of Raqqa cannot return home. Raqqa is now controlled by ISIS, its eponymous provinicial capital the de facto capital of the "Islamic State." And if word got out that these migrant laborers had worked in the hashish industry, they'd be marked for death.

Tunisia Pirate Party adopts cannabis leaf logo

Posted on December 28th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , .

North AfricaTunisia, the first country to rise up and throw off its long dictatorship when revolution began to sweep the Arab world in 2011, is seen as the success story of the Arab Spring. With a new secular constitution, progressive forces have prevailed peacefully over an Islamist backlash. Rappers and feminist artists have become icons of the revolution. Now, Green Rush Daily reports that the Pirate Party of Tunisia has chosen to use the marijuana leaf as its identifying logo on the country’s ballot. It cites a write-up in Pirate Times, international organ of the movement, that "the Pirate Party of Tunisia has decided to participate in the next elections by highlighting the hemp symbol on its lists, which will attract the voters of those who support this cause."

Merrill Lynch mulls corporate cannabis

Posted on December 18th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , , .

Shadow WatchPhiladelphia Inquirer columnist Chris Goldstein got hold of a leaked 45-page internal equity report from high-finance titan Merrill Lynch, wealth management division of Bank of America, looking at the future prospects for America's cannabis industry. Goldstein wrote it up for his occassional series Philly420 Dec. 8 under the title "Merrill Lynch is bullish on marijuana." Goldstein finds: "Carefully researched, it was an interesting peek at how heavy hitters on Wall Street are starting to view the expanding industry."

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