Patt Morrison

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Shrooms, Rx! And the countdown to saving Cahuenga Peak

Go ahead with the jokes. Make with the punchlines. But hallucinogens may find their way back into the medicine cabinet one of these days.

A conference this week in San Jose was on our program today. The conference is drawing serious researchers who are considering psilocybin, the psychoactive component in some mushrooms, could be used therapeutically to help treat depression and other ailments.

It's been almost 45 years since LSD was outlawed in California, so we tend to forget that it was crafted in a Swiss lab more than 70 years ago as a pharmaceutical, not a recreational drug. Psychiatrists and clinicians tested and prescribed it to people like Cary Grant. Aldous Huxley, who died in LA the same day JFK was assassinated, died with a dose of LSD in his system.

It was only after it began to be used recreationally in the 1960s -- with Timothy Leary as its most famous exponent, and Owsley Stanley its most famous ''chef'' -- that the crackdown began. Now, decades later, hallucinogens like psilocybin might be finding their way back into the pharmacopeia.

Wednesday noon is the deadline -- you could hear the digital clock ticking, virtually of course, as I talked to Sam Hodder of the Trust for Public Land about the fund-raising rush to save the 138 acres around the Hollywood Sign from development. Howard Hughes bought it decades ago, supposedly planning to build a house there for actress Ginger Rogers; there's a tree on the property that hikers still call the Ginger Rogers Tree.

The city of LA missed a chance to buy the land for a song some years back, and now the Chicago owner-developers say they'll sell for $12.5 million if the money shows up by noon Wednesday. The website to find out more is www.savehollywoodland.org.

Knowing how much Hollywood loves a Hollywood ending, I wouldn't be surprised if someone like James Cameron or Steven Spielberg steps in in the last reel -- like, 11:58 a.m. Wednesday -- with a big enough check to save the day.

And a footnote. Honestly, how could people put a smidgen of credence in the Twitter rumor that the Caltech campus was being evacuated because seismologists had predicted a big earthquake? Nobody can accurately predict earthquakes, and surely nobody can believe that someone among the 2,000 or so Caltech students wouldn't have spilled the beans. If it started out of ignorance, someone should have had the gumption to put a stop to it; if it started out of malice, it's the equivalent of yelling ''fire'' in that crowded theatre that isn't on fire.

-- Patt Morrison

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