Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bruce Lee and Marijuana: The Last Days of the Dragon

"We have more faith in what we imitate than in what we create." 

                                                                          - Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee died forty years ago today, but his legend has survived to near mythical proportions. Simply put Bruce Lee is one of the most important persons and Pop culture icons that ever lived. A man destined by fate to bridge the gaps between East and West. To celebrate his extraordinary life a new exhibit in Hong Kong opened this weekend, displaying rare images and items. Among these are a poem written along the banks of Lake Washington, sketches, photographs and writings ranging from deep philosophical lamentations to Nostradamus-like foresight of  how to develop gloves for future MMA sports leagues like the UFC. When Bruce Lee tragically died before the premiere of Enter the Dragon it sent shockwaves throughout the world. The film itself was a huge success and pretty much every teenage boy in America had a poster of Bruce Lee on his wall and a pair of nunchuks. Most of the times the chuks were homemade. Bruce Lee even Helped give another legend a break, when he introduced the world to karate champion Chuck Norris in Return of the Dragon. There wasn't any time for Chuck Norris jokes while Bruce and Chuck were fighting to the death in the ruins of the Roman coliseum. The fight was epic and paved the way for a lengthy career for "Walker, Texas Ranger". 

Bruce Lee also helped launch Jim Kelly's career. Kelly made his debut in Enter the Dragon, and as a cool brother wiTh an awesome afro, comedic acting chops and mad kung fu skills he quickly became an idol amongst the black youth. Kelly continued to make movies and used his fame and money by helping out and providing services to poverty stricken troubled teens of the inner city. Like Chuck Norris, Kelly's life was turned around by Karate.

While Bruce didn't get to enjoy the success of Enter the Dragon, future generations have rightfully hailed it as the greatest martial arts film ever made. Bruce was already filming his follow up to Dragon, a dream project he had total control over called Game of Death. While working on this film Lee mysteriously died from a sudden brain aneurism. The news of his death was shocking. It was hard to believe that the fittest man on the planet, he had only 1% body fat, could just collapse and die in the snap of a finger. Rumors began flying that Bruce was killed by the Chinese mafia, ancient curses, jealous lovers, allergic reactions or even a deadly batch of Nepalese Hash. Yes, the most shocking details to emerge from the death of Bruce Lee were the traces of Marijuana found in his stomach. Bruce Lee was many things. Father. Fighter. Philosopher. Teacher. Stoner?

These are the last days of Bruce Lee...
Before we talk about the day that Bruce Lee sadly passed away (Friday, July 20th, 1973), we must first take a look at what happened a couple of months earlier on May 10th, 1973. The same symptoms existed on both days i.e. brain edema (swelling of the brain). But on May 10th, they rushed Bruce straight to Baptist hospital and this is what saved Bruce's life as he was very close to death. As you will discover, the chain of events were certainly different on that fateful day, July 20th. Also, please note that Equagesic was not present on May 10th but cannabis indeed was but only a small quantity. Bruce Lee was the King of Hong Kong by this time. Every movie producer wanted Bruce Lee. He totally dominated the Mandarin film industry and other movies simply didn't get a look in on making huge amounts of money unless it starred Bruce Lee. Gung Fu masters didn't like Bruce because of his outspoken opinions on traditional martial arts and for passing on their secrets to Westerners. There was motive all round for someone or a group of people to take the life of Bruce Lee. It has been reported that the Triads were after the signature of Bruce Lee but he wouldn't join them or pay any money to them. So Bruce had enemies from all sides and was planning on moving back to the U.S. to live and make movies. But could the King of Hong Kong pack his bags and leave so easily? 

On May 10th, 1973, Bruce was in the studios of Golden Harvest at Hammer Hill Road where he was working in the dubbing room. It was extremely hot and humid in the studios that day and the fans were turned off because of the recording. Bruce excused himself and went to a nearby rest room. After twenty minutes, one of the studio employees went to see where Bruce was and on entering saw Bruce groping around on the floor pretending to find his glasses. Later, Bruce admitted to Dr. Peter Woo that he had chewed some Hashish leaves in the rest room and promptly fainted. When Bruce finally came back to the dubbing room, he again collapsed, where he vomited and his body began convulsing. Immediately, several men ran to Raymond Chow's office and informed him of Bruce's frightening condition. Instead of phoning an ambulance straight away, Chow phoned Dr. Charles Langford at Baptist hospital. Dr. Langford instructed Chow to transport Bruce to Baptist at once. Dr. Langford explains, "Lee was brought in by several men from his studio. He was suffering from high fever and was unconscious and unresponsive in the emergency room. First there were breathing noises, then they stopped. There was a series of convulsions. Three other doctors were summoned, including a neurosurgeon, Dr. Peter Woo. Lee was going through muscle contraction and relaxation. The entire body was involved in this motion, but the upper limbs gave us the most difficulty because he was very strong and was difficult to control. After the failure of Lee to respond for a period, and after waiting for the neurosurgeon to examine him, we gave him MANNITOL to reduce the swelling of the brain which we had detected. It took us one and a half hours to make Lee conscious. After Lee was revived, his eyes were moving to the right and left in a circular motion and his speech was slurred.

Mannitol is rarely used solely for the treatment of cerebral edema. Rather, it is an osmotic diuretic used primarily in barbiturate overdoses and to flush out the system of a potentially lethal excess of sodium, which many poisons can cause to collect in the victim's kidneys. It is this excess sodium buildup that produces the cerebral edema and convulsions, and it is for this reason that Dr. Langford administered Mannitol to Bruce Lee, specifically because Bruce was showing signs that he had been poisoned!

Two weeks later, Bruce traveled to the US to undergo a series of tests. On May 25th, he was examined by Dr. Harold L. Karpman. Although Bruce only weighed 125 pounds, Karpman found that Bruce was in superb physical health. Karpman then referred Bruce to a neurologist, Dr. David Reisbord. Working in collaboration with a team of colleagues at UCLA Medical Center, Reisbord came up with the final impression that Bruce had a convulsive disorder, grandmal, idiopathic. This simply said that Bruce was prone to generalized body convulsions whose cause was unknown. After Bruce was prescribed the drug Dilantin, a commonly used medication for the management of epilepsy, Dr. Reisbord gave Bruce a clean bill of health.

July 20th, 1973 - The Official Story

His wife Linda said that she left their Cumberland Road home and Bruce at around 1pm to have lunch with her good friend Rebu Hui. Linda said that Bruce told her that Raymond Chow was calling over at 2pm to go over "The Game of Death" script. Later, Bruce was going to dine with George Lazenby to ask him to appear in the movie. At around 2pm, Raymond arrived at Cumberland Road and around 4pm he and Bruce left to drive to Betty Ting Pei's flat at 67 Beacon Hill Road which is less than a mile away from Cumberland Road. At the flat, Raymond, Bruce and Betty went over the script details. Linda returned home at around 4pm presumably having just missed Bruce's and Raymond's departure. At around 7.30pm Bruce complained of a headache while still at Betty's flat and she gave him a single tablet of Equagesic and then Bruce went in to the bedroom to lie down. Ten minutes later, Raymond left to meet with George Lazenby at the Miramar Hotel. At around 9pm, Raymond phoned Betty asking why she and Bruce hadn't joined them for their dinner engagement. Betty then informed Raymond that she couldn't awaken Bruce. Concerned, Raymond returned to the flat at around 9.30pm. Although Bruce seemed to be sleeping peacefully, Raymond couldn't awaken him either. Worried, he phoned Betty's personal doctor, Chu Pho-hwye, whose line was busy. Finally after repeated attempts, they got through and Chu came over. Dr. Chu tried but couldn't awaken Bruce so someone called an ambulance and Bruce was rushed to Queen's Elizabeth Hospital. At around 10pm Raymond called Linda and told her to go to Queen's Elizabeth Hospital. Fifteen minutes later Bruce arrived by ambulance. Despite frantic attempts by a team of doctors to revive Bruce, Raymond Chow finally announced at around 11.30pm to the reporters that Bruce Lee was dead.

After the mourning Bruce was flown to America. Where he was buried in Seattle's Lakeview cemetery. Legendary actors Steve Mcqueen and James Coburn were some of his pallbearers. 

Just before the plane left Kai Tak Airport Linda told the following to the press.

"However the investigation is not yet closed to the death of my husband, I wish the press and the people of Hong Kong would stop speculating over the cause of death of my husband. I haven’t any suspicions than that Bruce has died naturally. I don’t blame myself or anybody else for that matter for his death. Our destination is unpredictable. The only irrelevant thing here is that Bruce has died and he will never return. He lives on in our memories and through his films. Please remember Bruce because of his talent, his art and the magic he gave us all. For those of you who knew him better, his words and thoughts will always be with us and will have influence on us for the rest of our lives. I know, that the people of Hong Kong loved Bruce and are very proud of him because of what he has achieved, he had managed to get worldwide attention for Hong Kong. That’s why I’m begging you to please leave him to rest in peace and do not disturb his soul. These are my personal feelings and wishes and that of my closest friends. I would appreciate it if you would listen to me and respect our wishes".


On September 3rd, 1973, the inquest opened at Tsunwan before Coroner Egbert Tung. Linda said she left Cumberland Road and Bruce at about 12.30pm, and that her husband was fine and in a happy state. Linda said that he was meeting Raymond Chow to discuss a new film and then would be be having dinner later on and would not be coming home for dinner. At approximately 2pm, Chow called at Lee's Cumberland Road home, where the two men discussed the extensively re-written Game of Death script, before leaving for Betty's apartment to offer her a part in the movie. They arrived at about 4pm and talked for several hours over soft drinks before Lee complained of a headache. Betty gave him a prescription pain killing tablet called Equagesic and shortly after he went to bed.

At 7.30pm, Chow left the apartment to keep a dinner appointment with George Lazenby at the Miramar Hotel. Chow said that Bruce would see me in the restaurant and then went to the bedroom. I went to the washroom and after that I left. Chow said that Bruce took the tablet about half an hour after he complained of a headache (6.30pm?). During the evening Betty attempted twice to wake the sleeping Lee but failed to provoke any response. She telephoned Chow who returned to the apartment at around 9.30pm. To Chow, Lee appeared to be 'sleeping soundly', but even slaps to the face could not bring him to. Betty telephoned Dr. Chu who examined Lee and immediately called for an ambulance to take him to Queens Elizabeth Hospital.

On September 17th, his wife Linda took the stand and confirmed that her husband had taken cannabis but only occasionally and that there had been no after-effects. Dr. Ronald Lam testified that New Zealand lab tests had found only minute amounts of cannabis in Lee's stomach and intestine. Professor Ronald Teare of London University's Forensic Medicine Department, argued that he considered the cannabis found in Lee's body 'about as significant as if i had been told Lee had taken a cup of tea or coffee'. Dr. R.R. Lycette of the Queens Elizabeth Hospital suggested that hypersensitivity to Equagesic or Doloxene (prescribed after he injured his back in 1970) had triggered the seizure, causing Lee's brain to swell from a normal weight of 1,400 grammes to 1,575 grammes. Professor Teare supported the theory. Lee, he declared had died from 'acute cerebral edema (brain swelling), due to hypersensitivity to either meprobanate or aspirin or a combination of the two found in Equagesic.

On September 24th, 1973, Mr. Egbert Tung delivered a verdict of "Death by Misadventure."


  • The Star had reported on the day after Bruce's death (July 21st) that Raymond Chow said, "I rushed around to his home and it was decided he (Bruce) should go to hospital." That's funny because Bruce was at Betty's flat! Chow denied saying this at the inquest to a chorus of boos from the packed press benches.

  • On July 24th, The Star reported that Lee had died at Betty's flat and not at his home. Betty said, "On Friday night when he died i was not at home - i had gone out with my mother. I last met him several months ago when we came across each other in the street." Total lies!

  • In early August, police were called to investigate a suspicious brown paper parcel bearing the Chinese label: "Betty Ting knows the cause of Bruce Lee's death."
  •  Betty Ting Pei is a Taiwanese actress who was allegedly playing a leading role in "The Game of Death." Bruce was first introduced to Betty by Raymond Chow in the Summer of 1972 when he was working on "The Way of the Dragon." Within days, Bruce was quoted in the press as having said to Linda that Betty was "the one shining light on an otherwise dull film set," a highly unlikely remark in my opinion as Bruce was having a lot of fun on the making of "The Way of the Dragon." Bruce was further quoted, "Betty quite makes my day. She's a revelation with her cleverness." The fact of the matter is that Betty never had a part in "The Game of Death." Betty was Bruce's mistress. 

A few months before Bruce died, he tried to end the affair but only resumed it after Betty had tried to take her own life and was admitted to hospital. Friends of Betty who Felix Dennis talked to back in 1974 (author of "King of Kung Fu") openly confirmed that there was a romantic liaison between Bruce and Betty. Betty's neighbour informed the Hong Kong reporters that Bruce had been a regular weekly visitor to her apartment for months prior to his death.

Raymond Chow worked for Run Run Shaw until they had a bad parting of ways. Chow then formed his own film production company, "Golden Harvest" and signed Bruce Lee to a two picture deal ("The Big Boss" and "Fist of Fury"). Chow's and Lee's working relationship was far from easy after having co-formed "Concord Productions" for whom Bruce had made "The Way of the Dragon" and the unfinished "Game of Death." When the Golden Harvest fan magazine ran an article on the Chow/Lee relationship. Bruce responded angrily, "The article puts forth a notion that I am a brainless child who relies solely on Raymond. But I am not....instead I am my own boss and I have as much brains as others."

It is a well known fact that on the set of "Enter the Dragon" they were always arguing and George Lazenby has admitted near the end that Bruce couldn't stand the sight of Raymond Chow, never mind talk to him. Shortly before Bruce died, he wrote a letter to Run Run Shaw (Chow's worst enemy and main rival) to confirm that he had reserved three months (Sep-Nov 1973) to film a period picture for Shaw Bros. Chow would of been enraged at this proposal.

Bruce was also getting scripts sent from Warner Brothers. Chow could sense that he would be losing his greatest asset. Bruce allegedly punched him a few days before his death over the accounts of their "Concord Productions" film company. There has been talk that Bruce was taking Raymond Chow to court to end their partnership. Jackie Chan and other Bruce Lee stuntmen have confirmed that Bruce told them he was taking them to the U.S. where he would be working and setting up a new film company.

Apart from Bruce, the only person present on May 10th and July 20th was Raymond Chow. Why did Chow tell the press that Bruce was a very sick man months before his death when infact Bruce had had a full physical examination in May 1973 and was told that he had the body of an 18 year old. Chow also claimed that Bruce collapsed at his home in Cumberland Road until the press found out otherwise. He said on the night of July 20th, Bruce seemed to be 'sleeping soundly' and looked fine. So how come photos of Bruce in the morgue showed Bruce's face to be really badly swollen. From Dr. Chu's accounts, Bruce was already dead at this time so therefore he would of been looking like this but of course Chow claimed otherwise. Why are there so many lies from this man? What has he got to hide? Did he have a motive? Of course he had plenty. Did he have an opportunity? Many.

Others that had motives were the triads who had been trying to sign Bruce to a contract but he flatly refused their proposals. Other film producers as Bruce was monopolizing the whole Far East film Industry. Chinese Gung Fu masters who felt that Bruce was given all their secrets away to the West but I doubt this as many other Chinese had been teaching their art to Westerners.


  • Poison - Walk into any hospital emergency room and tell the attending physician that someone is exhibiting symptoms of cerebral edema and kidney failure, and immediately that physician will notify the Poison Control Centre. The reason he will do this is that cerebral edema combined with acute renal failure is a common sign of poisoning. See MANNITOL above. This would explain Bruce's May 10th mysterious blood urea nitrogen (BUN) test. On May 25th, nothing was found wrong with Bruce's health as explained above. Late Kenpo Grandmaster Ed Parker must have known this when shortly after Bruce's death he was quoted as saying, "Many of us do not know the inner thinking and secrets of the Chinese herbalists. They have herbs for medicine and they have ones we've never heard of for poison. I believe it was foul play that killed Bruce Lee."

  • Triad Gang Killing - At the public funeral which took place in Hong Kong on Wednesday, 25th July, 1973, Bruce face was heavily made up with make-up. Still the left hand side of Bruce face seemed to badly bruised. So was Bruce beaten to death and his body then dumped at Betty's flat. Remember the suspicious brown paper parcel bearing the Chinese label: "Betty Ting knows the cause of Bruce Lee's death." It says that she knows the cause but it doesn't say she knows who were the killers.

  • Hashish Fatal Reaction - Bruce was known to be using a strong unrefined Hashish from Nepal. Dr. Wu had conducted research which resulted in numerous cases of users in Nepal suffering from the effects of this drug. The doctors believe this was the cause of the brain edema and Bruce's death. Take a look at George Tan's documentary "Death by Misadventure" for further details.

Bruce Lee  never smoked marijuana, he only ate edibles. Which is probably the best and healthiest way to ingest cannabis.His widow Linda admitted in court that Bruce Lee frequently used marijuana as an alternative painkiller.

When the media first reported that Marijuana was in Bruce's system they quickly demonized it as the culprit of Bruce's sudden death. Of course, science has proven that it is impossible to die from weed so that theory quickly failed. A new theory proposed by Chicago Doctor James Filkins in 2006 suggests that Bruce died from an epileptic condition first recognized more than 20 years after his death. 

Bruce Lee historian and pal David Tadman detailed Bruce's experience with marijuana in a rare interview from 1983.

Q: I' m somewhat sketchy on the dates but can you tell me what year Bruce started using the hash/cannabis? I'm interested because they found it in his stomach at the autopsy. In your opinion was the death drug related?
DT: Bruce was introduced to Cannabis / hash in and around 1968-69 through a few people by the names of James Coburn, Steve McQueen and one other who I wont mention because he is a friend of mine and was an old student and friend of Bruce Lee's. To me, if Bruce were doing those types of drugs in 68-69, he would not pass away from those same drugs in 1973. Actually, that would make him the first ever who had passed away from those particular drugs. At least, that is what the Dr. report said. Now, that does not mean he could not overdose with those particular drugs, but that would be hard if it was at your own hands so to speak. I think you would actually fall asleep on cannabis before you, yourself, could take a lethal dose.

2/ Was the cerebral edema caused by an allergic reaction to a certain hash rather than from an equagesic tablet which he had taken for years and not on May 10th either when he had his first brain edema?

DT: I will state my belief and say that any edema was not caused by cannabis or pill. I believe something else caused the swelling.

3/ Was Bruce Lee's dramatic weight loss from 1972 to his death caused by using a bad form of Nepalese hash? Dr Peter Wu said that it was the only possible reason for his May 10th collapse and had apparently told Bruce to stop using it.

DT: My belief is that Bruce did not have any reaction to at least these following drugs, cannabis and or Hashish in any form. He was doing these drugs since the late 60's and obviously knew his limitations. He was also eating hashish brownies, so he knew the outcome of that form of use a swell. Let me just say if a doctor from the UK or United States said the cause of death was because of the use of these drugs, then I would have to agree, but the simple truth is, there has not been one professional doctor that is the head of any department here in the U.S. or European countries that claim Bruce's death was related to any drugs relating to the ones mentioned above. That does not mean that any certain foreign substance / chemical could have been added to what Bruce ingested without his knowledge. People take drugs all the time that have been laced with another foreign substance that gives them a reaction and the end result is either death or bad reaction that leaves them in the hospital emergency room. Lets just remember that Bruce was only sick in Hong Kong and not here in the U.S. He almost dies once and came here for a check up to the top doctor of neurology at UCLA, he happened to be Paul Heller's doctor, the producer of ETD. They found no cause for Bruce's almost passing a month previous when he was editing. I am sorry, but if you go into a coma and almost die and are very sick, and for week can't talk, or talk with a slur like you had a stroke, then when you come back to the States to be checked out by a top doctor and have numerous test and blood tests on top of that, and there is nothing found, then that means something is happening to you in the other place you live. If the cause of you passing out and almost passing away were serious then for sure they would have found something physically wrong with Bruce here at the top clinic located at UCLA at that time. Sorry to ramble on, but those are my feelings and according to the papers I have, those are the facts.

 "Be water my friend." ...


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