01/31/10 - Matt Elrod

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Matt Elrod, Canadian reformer, computer guru for DrugSense.org & dozens of reform organizations, Full Spectrum Lab raided by DEA in Denver, Eric Sterling of Criminal Justice Policy Foundation on how we diminish drug war harms

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Transcript

Century of Lies, January 31, 2010

The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more, now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.

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Dean Becker: Alright my friends thank you for being with us on this edition of Century of Lies. Today we’re going to go north to Canada and we’re going to tune in with my good friend, my computer guru, the guy who makes many of the drug reform websites function and function well, Mr. Matt Elrod. Are you with us sir?

Matt Elrod: Good evening Dean.

Dean Becker: Thank you Matt. Thank you for being with us. Matt if you would gosh kind of give us a quick summary, because you do so many things, but give us a quick summary of what it is you do.

Matt Elrod: Well I guess I am primarily known as the webmaster of Drug Sense and the Media Awareness Project. That was one of my first reformats was for the Media Awareness Project News Clipping Archive. But I have since gone on to help a lot of other organizations.

As you mentioned, I help your, you keep your website working smoothly. And I help Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, various NORML chapters, November Coaltition, the list goes on. And yeah, that’s what I do from my log home in Victoria, British Colombia.

Dean Becker: Yeah I haven’t been to your place yet but I without having seen it I envy you. I wish I could at least go there on weekends once in a while. Sounds like a great place to live Matt.

I want to talk about gosh you and I have been following the news. You certainly longer than I, but the drug war news is getting better. But then again in Canada it’s kind of well portends to get worse. But give a summary if you will of the political climate up in Canada.

Matt Elrod: It is rather tragic because you may recall that under our previous administration a liberal government, we had flirted with the idea of cannabis decriminalization and other sort of progressive drug policies. And we sort of held back because we were terrified of the Bush administration.

In fact the decriminalization bill was vetted by the white house. Some of our people went down to DC and ran it past the Bush administration and came back with several amendments. So we weren’t really able to do anything.

And now it would appear the Obama administration is well perhaps not willing to invest political capitol in drug policy reform they do appear willing to look the other way. You know they certainly did when Mexico decriminalized and you know other progressive movement in South America they have been, they seem to be turning a blind eye.

So it’s rather tragic that now you have Obama we have a conservative government who are very retrograde. They’re attempting to crack down on drugs or at least making overtures to do that, in essence daring the opposition parties to try to get in their way.

And when the opposition parties raise any opposition for example scientific evidence, the conservative government accuses them of being soft on crime and being in favor of addicts preying on our children and so on and so forth. In a way it’s kind of reminiscent of what happened with with the American laws in the 1980s with all the politicians trying to one up each other and how tough they can be.

Dean Becker: Yeah Eric Sterling of Criminal Justice Policy Foundation talks about that. That they you know well my state doesn’t import trailer truck loads, we have got to lower the bar until they got down to five grams. Five sugar packets worth. We have got to be careful when we when we frame these drug laws, do we not?

Matt Elrod: Oh yes. And what the conservatives had proposed to do was to put in mandatory minimums for cultivating as few as one plant if for the purpose of trafficking. And then they later adjusted that up to five.

And then it went to our senate which was dominated by the opposition and the opposition made some very timid amendments to the bill moving that bar from five plants to two hundred which sounds reasonable except they left on a lot of extenuating circumstances, aggravating circumstances including growing it anywhere near kids or adolescents, having a weapon on the scene and presenting any kind of a hazard, a safety hazard.

And unfortunately you know jurisprudence has already established that growing a single plant poses a hazard to the community if for no other reason it’s a magnet for thieves. So you know the amendment didn’t really mean much but none the less the conservatives beat up on the opposition for what they called gutting the bill, you know for watering it down too much. But in reality it’s just more of a cosmetic tweak.

Dean Becker: Well good god yeah I you know I’m wearing today a hat that was given to me, kind of a stocking cap hat. It’s got I think the Canadian probably hockey team. It’s got a shark and a big C, forget what those guys are called. But it was given to me by Marc Emery. And by that I don’t mean he handed it over to me. He gave me his apartment and said I am moving out of there because the law is after me and I can’t afford it. Take anything you want.

Matt Elrod: Mhmm.

Dean Becker: And I found this hat. And I am wearing it tonight in his honor. What news can you tell us about Mr. Marc Emery, the prince of pot.

Matt Elrod: Well last I heard he was still at large enjoying an unknown number of days of freedom while he waits for our justice minister to sign the papers initiating his extradition to the United States. Your listeners probably know that he made a deal to serve five years in a US prison in exchange for basically the freedom of his co-accused Michele Rainey and Greg Williams.

And but we’re just waiting for this conservative justice minister to sign those extradition papers. Unfortunately don’t expect him to not. In fact I am not sure what he what he’s waiting for because that government is no friend of Marc Emery unfortunately.

Dean Becker: Right but then again it’s a hopeful sign, I won’t say it’s a sign of hope necessarily. But that you know maybe they don’t feel the mad rush to send you know Marc to a…

Matt Elrod: That may be. It seems that every time Marc ever got busted, and he’s been busted several times. It usually followed his getting some big publicity typically in the United States.

For example his his royal title the prince of pot as I recall it was originally thought up by the Seattle Post Intelligencer excuse me and then later popularized on CNN. And it was shortly after that program on CNN that one of his big busts came. And what they did was they took all of his inventory from his hemp shop. And so following on that he learned not to hang on to any material goods whatsoever and to give away everything he made as fast as he made it. Hence, you’re wearing his hat.

Dean Becker: Exactly and over the years as I understand it he’s given away some four million dollars plus in profits that he made for these various efforts to you know drug reform organizations and ballot initiatives and every way he could to overturn the horrors of this drug war.

Matt Elrod: Right well his his primary strategy was to what he called over grow the government through the seed bank.

Dean Becker: Right.

Matt Elrod: And you know to be like you know Johnny Appleseed and spread seed across the land. And he did that. But then he took the funds he made from that and funneled it right back in to as you say reform groups, individuals, legal challenges, state initiatives et cetera.

And this was no secret to the DEA. Her name’s Karen Tandy, was the head of the DEA at the time of this most recent bust. And she in a press release said as much that you know this will remove a large amount of funds from the drug policy reform community.

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Matt Elrod: So in that respect it was I think a blatantly political arrest and one reason why they seem less urgent about it now is because Marc is getting less publicity. And of course he’s out of the seed business.

Dean Becker: Yes he is. Alright. Once again we are speaking with Mr. Matt Elrod he of Drug Sense, my computer guru. You know kind of side a question here. If you ain’t got much on it that’s fine.

But we were informed recently that the James A Baker III Institute for policy studies based at Rice University is going to archive the our program, the Drug Truth Network programs, our audio and transcripts will be there. Have you had a chance to visit with their representative on how we’re going to make that move?

Matt Elrod: I am afraid I haven’t. That ball is in my court. But I am looking forward to working with their tech people down there and finding a way to set that up in a nice online archive that people can search and access. And of course it will be linked to and available from your website when we get that all set up and running.

Dean Becker: That’s right. We’ll be able to clean up some of our gigabytes of data and move it to a more prestigious location if you will. The winter Olympics are coming and you know I’ve got a thought deals with a summer Olympian Mr. Michael Phelps who got caught pictured smoking a bong and lost Kellogg’s as a sponsor.

And yet his career seems to be prospering. He is now working for Subway sandwiches on a ongoing basis. And they are going to hold the winter Olympics up there in Vansterdam if you will. Tell us a little bit about what you’ve heard about that situation.

Matt Elrod: Well as I understand it the Vancouver police have have basically said they don’t intend to change their law enforcement practices during the Olympic Games. And what their practice has been for over a decade now is sort of an unwritten lowest enforcement priority practice of of basically ignoring cannabis use if there are no other reasons to get involved. And they do have bigger problems on their hands what with no one of the biggest open drug scenes in the downtown east Vancouver.

So we expect that some of the Olympic tourists will take advantage of the cannabis friendly atmosphere of Vancouver and what they call the pot block which is a section of Vancouver where there are several cannabis friendly cafes, vapor lounges and so forth including Marc Emery’s store.

And some are even gearing for the Olympics, preparing special t-shirts and so forth to commemorate it. And you know I mentioned the downtown east side. I I there was an interesting case out of there I don’t know if you’re interested in learning about that about our supervised injection site.

Dean Becker: No go ahead, please.

Matt Elrod: You know one of the issues that Vancouver has had in preparing for the games is trying to clean up that rather festering sore of its open drug scene. And one of the things that they have done, instituted many years ago to do that was to set up a supervised consumption site or injection site called InSite. And that was set originally under our previous liberal government.

The conservative government has been really very much opposed to it and has tried to shut it down to the point where the people who run it had to take the government to court. And they won a lower court ruling in BC. That judge finding that our controlled drugs and substances act is unconstitutional if it interferes with Insite, the supervised injection site.

So they appealed that to the BC supreme court or court of appeal and that ruling recently came down and upheld the lower court ruling finding that our controlled drugs and substances act was unconstitutional and further that injection sites are health facilities and are therefore under the jurisdiction of provinces not the federal government.

So that was really good news. That means Insite is not only regained a reprieve but I suspect we’ll see other cities in Canada feel more comfortable about establishing their own injection sites including my own city of Victoria.

Dean Becker: Well that’s wonderful news because what has been the result? Has it been more people fixing, more people OD’ing? What the heck has it done?

Matt Elrod: Well in fact it’s the most exhaustively studied supervised injection site on the planet I believe. You know we took out lead from Europe. But being very skeptical there have been a lot of third party impartial peer review studies done on Insite published in all the major medical journals.

And each of them have pretty much come to the same conclusion which is what you might expect that supervised injection sites reduce the spread of HIV, reduce the spread of Hep C of course. They’ve had dozens and dozens of overdoses on the site that were not fatal due to intervention. So it clearly saves lives.

It hasn’t caused disorder or litter or any problem in the neighborhood. In fact polls of the business owners and you know residents of the community, while they were initially against the idea, have since come on board in support insite staying open. So it’s been you know for all intents a success.

It’s very small and it’s very modest and it’s barely scratching the surface of what needs to be done in east Vancouver. But none of the horrible effects the doomsayers said would come to pass have. And all of the benefits that all the harm reductionists expected have.

So it’s a bit of a vindication. And again maybe a sign that see more of them across Canada and hopefully down in the united states as well.

Dean Becker: You know Matt I got a copy of a story from you dealing with and I failed to copy down the paper it was from but it kind of parallels what goes on here where you know mom is using marijuana. Well we’re going to take her kids and her house and her car and her cash.

That’s playing out up there in well in a city nearby you. I cant find my notes. I’ve lost my notes. But there’s a story playing out up there dealing with a foster child. His life is mired in red tape because of a drug charge against his mother right.

Matt Elrod: That’s right. There’s a woman in Calgary, Alberta the adjacent province to mine in her mid thirties whose foster son is being held by Oregon, the Oregon social services.

And they’re refusing to return him to her mother or to his mother because she has a past conviction for growing medicinal cannabis without a permit and also because she’s a vocal cannabis law reform activist.

And its really rather bizarre because they’re asking her to submit to psychiatric exams and drug tests and so on and so forth before they will return her son to her who is a Canadian citizen. It’s really rather odd.

And further her extended family, her parents and one of her sisters have also offered to take her son until the Oregon social services are convinced that Lisa is a fit mother and yet they refuse to release him. And that yeah it’s just one example of how cannabis laws get in to the area of domestic law. You know and tend to mess up families.

And you’re absolutely right. It’s far too common that children are seized from families and become wards of the state because of a few cannabis plants in the basement.

Dean Becker: It is outrageous. Well Matt I am going to give you a chance catch a drink. I’ve got this little segment I am going to play and when I come back I’ll have a comment and then I want to get your response.

Matt Elrod: Alright.

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[song]

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Dean Becker: Alright, I don’t know if you heard Matt but Willie Nelson’s at it again. They found him with moonshine and marijuana up in Wilmington.

Matt Elrod: Oh no I hadn’t heard that.

Dean Becker: And yeah. They didn’t actually catch Willie. They caught a bunch of his band mates and such smoking in the parking lot. They busted them and then. But they treated them very kindly and didn’t… just ticketed them. But it turns out that Willie then suddenly came down sick and the concert didn’t happen. Is Willie, Willie tours in to Canada doesn’t he?

Matt Elrod: I believe he does, yeah.

Dean Becker: You know and I think they should pin a big, big Sherlock Holmes medal on whoever the cop was that busted these folks for discovering that the Willie Nelson crew smoked pot. Your thoughts.

Matt Elrod: Who would have guessed? oh and it’s funny because you know there are a lot of politicians and musicians who move back and forth across our border and theoretically shouldn’t be allowed to including your president.

But yeah that’s amazing and I recall the last time they busted him they couldn’t really bring themselves to you know put him away for hard time. And I don’t expect they’ll be that tough on his band mates either.

Dean Becker: No no you don’t want to slow down the tour bus, the Honeysuckle Express I think it’s called. It’s just plain crazy. Well folks we’re speaking with mr. Matt Elrod computer guru extraordinaire. Works with Drug Sense and MAP inc. and tell folks a little bit about MAP, Inc. I mean I have referred them to that location in the past but what is that about?

Matt Elrod: Well it’s the Media Awareness Project. It was originally founded in the mid nineties with the intent of making the media aware of the science and the evidence supporting drug policy reform.

Specifically the drug library dot org and other similar resources like [ ] that were online that you where all the major studies from Shaeffer and Lidane and LaGuardia support drug policy reform. And just to make the media aware of this so they would start to ask intelligent questions about about the drug war.

And our intent was to enlighten the media primarily through letters to the editor. Ad so what we began to do was just distribute drug policy related news clippings through a clipping service and encourage anyone who receives them to write a letter to the editor. And either praise reporting or correct bad reporting, protest you know drug war atrocities and so forth.

And it’s been really successful. I did a calculation a few years ago that somewhat over half of the progressive letters to the editor are published in Canadian press are in one way or another inspired by MAP or our volunteers. So I think we’re making a bit of a difference that way.

Dean Becker: Alright. Well Matt we’re going to have to wrap it up here in just a minute. But I want to thank you for all the good work you have done over the years for making my website look so good. I am looking forward to the time here hopefully before February is over where our archives are available through the James A Baker III institute for policy studies website.

You know I can’t think of a more prestigious place to store my archives. I mean we’re working with ambassador De[ ], professor Martin and his good folks. And Matt real quick the website for all that good information?

Matt Elrod: Well if you’re interested in drug policy news I recommend drug news one word dot org. That’s the media awareness clipping archives. If you’re interested in what drug sense does hosting and technical support check out drugsense.org. If you’re interesting in finding out what’s happening with Marc Emery be sure to check out his website cannabisculture.com. and I guess that will keep you busy.

Dean Becker: I’m sure it will. Matt I will be calling on you several times as this year unfolds. And thank you again for all the good work you do.

Matt Elrod: You’re welcome Dean. My pleasure. Bye bye.

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Betty Aldworth: My name is Betty Aldworth. I am the director of outreach at Full Spectrum Laboratories in Denver, Colorado. We provide safety and efficacy testing for the medical marijuana industry here in Colorado.

Dean Becker: Betty as I understand it Colorado now has hundreds of dispensaries and thousands of patients, hundreds if not thousands of doctors recommending medical marijuana and yet this past week the DEA came to your facility and took some of the samples that you had stored there, correct?

Betty Aldworth: That’s true, yes. We have a statement posted on our website that describes that in more detail and links to a number of articles that we believe were responsibly reported by The Westward, The AP and the Denver Post.

Organizations and companies like ours that are providing ancillary services to the industry are operating in a legal framework that is somewhat less clear. Although Full Spectrum Laboratories certainly did our best to insure that we were operating under appropriate laws and with the best advice that we could possibly find.

Dean Becker: You know this all runs contrary somehow to logic if you will. The government claims there is no standards for you know these quote illegal products and yet the community itself is trying to ascertain that there are no molds or fungus or other properties in this cannabis before it’s sold to the public. How do you see this situation?

Betty Aldworth: Well Dean, Full Spectrum Laboratories is not a political organization. We’re simply trying to provide a service to patients and caregivers here in Colorado to insure that the medicine they are either administering or using is as safe and effective it can be.

We want to make sure that there aren’t any molds or fungus present, that the pesticides or fungicides that are dangerous are not being used and that we can provide the cannabinoid profile such that patients are able medicate to specific their symptoms or specific to what best fits them.

Dean Becker: Once again we’ve been speaking with Betty Aldworth. She’s with Full Spectrum Laboratories up in Denver. Betty yours is not the only facility in America that endeavors to insure a quality product for the patients, am I correct?

Betty Aldworth: That’s true. There are a handful of other laboratories providing commercial testing yes.

Dean Becker: Betty if folks wanted to learn more about your facility, once again point them toward your website.

Betty Aldworth: Sure, our website is fullspectrumlaboratories.com

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The following message is brought to you by the US Ministry of Homeland Security.

[“Fa la la la la la” with fear sung instead of fa la la la la]
Never forget fear. And hatred! Or lies. Or deception. Big brother says the war of terror will last forever.

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Eric Sterling: This is what listeners should do. They should write to their state legislators and state senators and encourage them to do three things. They should support medical marijuana legislation in their state.

They should support marijuana decriminalization legislation in their state in order to save costs in a time of crisis.

And they should encourage them to ask the state financial authorities to study the benefits of taxing and regulating marijuana in their state in order to help pay for necessary state functions.

Dean Becker: Alright Eric as president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. You’re there in DC. Are these national politicians getting it at all? I understand Jim Webb’s bill has moved forward.

Eric Sterling: Senator Jim Webb of Virginia has introduced a bill that has been reported out of committee to study the American criminal justice system. This bill sets up a commission with people to be appointed by party leaders from different branches of the government. The entire question will be who gets appointed and how they interpret their mandate.

Senator Webb’s bill originally pointed out the problems of the war on drugs and put the war on drugs on the agenda. But in the course of getting this through the committee that language was taken out so that the mission of this commission is no longer explicitly to look at the war on drugs and its costs to the society.

That doesn’t mean it won’t be done but that’s no longer an explicit part of the mission. The ability of a commission to shape its agenda is very broad.

Dean Becker: Well once again we have been speaking with Mr. Eric Sterling president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation in Washington DC. Their website cjpf.org

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Prohibition’s filled the world with vice and crime
Its left a trail of death graft and slime
It cant stop what its meant to stop
Everybody knows this but the cops
Prohibition don’t prohibit worth a dime

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Dean Becker: Alright my friends I hope you have enjoyed this edition of Century of Lies. I want to thank Mr. Matt Elrod once again for all the fine work he does for the Drug Truth Network and basically for all of reform. You’d be amazed at the amount of work the man has done over the years, the groups he has worked with and the progress he has helped to create. Once again their website where you can learn more is drugsense, S-E-N-S-E, dot org. Please check it out.

You know I’m always preaching. I am always trying to motivate. I am always trying to kick you in the butt a little bit. I am always trying to make it where you do your part to help end the madness of drug war. Where you you know take control of your area.

You know like I am going to go to the city council this week. I am going to talk to them this Tuesday at 2 pm. I am going to read you my what I call the Drug Truth Network editorial. But it’s only about two minutes and thrity seconds. They’re giving me three you know but I want to make sure I can read it slowly and with feeling so that they can understand it you know what I mean. Because that’s what’s going to take to touch their hearts. Hope you’ll come down there and join me if you get the chance you know.

You guys are the answer. I need you to help. If you can do it I wish you would. Basically I want to remind you that there is no truth, no justice, no logic, no scientific fact, no medical data, no reason for this drug war to exist. We have indeed been duped. It’s my opinion the drug lords run both sides of this equation. And I would urge you to please check out our website which is endprohibition.org. do it for yourselves, do it for your children.

Prohibido istac evilesco.

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For the Drug Truth Network this is Dean Becker, asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition.

The Century of Lies

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston

Dean Becker Wants YOU to Call the Drug Czar