02/13/11 Matt Elrod

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Matt Elrod of DrugSense re failure of mandatory minimums to gain traction in Canada + Matt McCauley's speech to Wash state legis & Fox TV report on Colorado marijuana laws

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Transcript

Cultural Baggage / February 13, 2011

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Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

“It’s not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally Un-American.”

“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”
“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”

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My Name is Dean Becker. I don’t condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on Eternal Drug War.

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Alright, this is indeed Cultural Baggage. Thank you for being with us. Here in just a moment, we’re going to bring in our guest, Mister Matt Elrod. He’s of Map Inc. and DrugSense and computer guru extraordinaire. Okay and let’s go ahead and bring in –on our guest, Mister Matt Elrod. How’re you doing, sir?

Matt Elrod: I’m good, Dean. How are you?

Dean Becker: I’m good, Matt. It seems as if it’s two steps forward and three steps back and five steps forward and two steps back, insofar as understanding and rearranging the deck chairs on this Drug War sinking ship. Your thoughts, sir?

Matt Elrod: (Laughs) Agreed. I don’t know if you heard the news out of Canada this week but I guess the last time we spoke we were dreading a bill introduced by our government that would post mandatory minimum sentences for various drug offences, including small scale cultivation for the purposes.

I’m delighted to say that our largest opposition party the Liberal Party has announced that they are not going to support it, even though they had before.

So, all Canadian drug policy reformers are kind of breathing a sigh of relief. You’re right. It’s the aversion of something very, very bad as opposed to something good.

Dean Becker: Right.

Matt Elrod: Yeah but you take your victories as you get them.

Dean Becker: Yeah and there have been quite a few stories, you know, we’ve got several we’re going to include on the 420 Drug War News this week. I don’t know if we’ll have all of them on this show but there’s a gentleman up in Michigan, a broadcaster if you will, that pretty much sounded like a member of LEAP [Law Enforcement Against Prohibition] with a fairly lengthy five and a half minute commentary about the failure, the absolute undeniable failure of this Drug War it’s beginning to gather that focus a bit more isn’t it?

Matt Elrod: I think it is you know Law Enforcement Against Prohibition probably have to do very little active recruiting these days. I mean, all they have to do is keep their eyes on the papers for various people in law enforcement coming out on their own.

Maybe LEAP is giving them some courage to do that but LEAP could recruit speakers just by keeping an eye on the papers for people who are in law enforcement coming out against the Drug War and joining their ranks. It does seem like the tide is turning and there has been a bit of a critical balanced reached.

Dean Becker: Yeah, Matt, I don’t know if you heard it. I’ve got one of these bumper PSAs I do: “I am the Reverend Dean Becker standing in the river of reform. Baptizing drug warriors in the river of reform.” Right?

Matt Elrod: Right.

Dean Becker: That kind of rang true last week. I got a call and I’m not even going to say what state he’s from. A state trooper called me and said that he a has had back injuries in his near twenty year career and he just wanted to talk to somebody and he knew that I was – my middle name is indeed Discretion and that he could talk to me.

He talked about the fact that he no longer is using the pain killers and the opiates that had been prescribed for him and he is now using medical marijuana and found in to be an absolute boon without many of the side effects that he otherwise had to endure and again he is going to retire in two years and then he will speak for LEAP. You know?

Matt Elrod: Right.

Dean Becker: And that’s kind of the conundrum, the box we’re in that so many people – their jobs depend on going along to get along, don’t they?

Matt Elrod: You’re right, I know very few active police officers are coming out, that’s true, they usually wait until they are retired but I know that the motivation of a lot of the LEAP speakers is a sense of remorse and guilt for having participated in the Drug War to begin with.

I can only imagine what it must feel like to have been active and arresting peaceful nonviolent cannabis users for a career only to determine that medical marijuana is the only thing that can give you some quality of life. That must be very hard for them to grapple with

Dean Becker: I’m sure it is. You know, I’m one of the first – within the first dozen speakers for LEAP. When I first met Jack Cole some eight, maybe nine years ago, he dang near cried when he talked about his remorse.

Matt Elrod: Yeah. Yeah.

Dean Becker: For the thousands of people that he sent to prison because they dared to smoke a joint or share a line with him.

Matt Elrod: Yeah, you can sense that it is painful for him to talk about it and every single time that he stood up, he would relate that moment, the ah-ha when he realized what he had been involved with and at that moment he decided, “Okay, I’ve got to try to make amends and try to make a difference here.”

He has of course done it. I think we all owe give Jack a great deal of gratitude for having founded LEAP. It is one of the most effective and now visible reform organizations in North America, I think.

Dean Becker: Yeah and it brings to mind that, as I indicated, that one broadcast commentary out of Michigan that the gentleman gets it. In fact, he got a lot of his information from discussions Jack Cole of LEAP but the movement is moving more and more towards more truthful, more full examinations of this policy both within the print and broadcast media and that’s where you guys at Map Inc. and DrugSense come in, is in capturing making available all of these news stories, right?

Matt Elrod: Right. Well, it has been sort of a slow drip, drip, drip, over the last fifteen years of evidence and logic and reason and compassion, again and again and again. It’s finally, I think, starting to build up and as I said before, we’ve reached a critical balancing point.

In the case of, for example, the opposition of the mandatory minimums in Canada, there were letters from church organizations. There was recently a letter signed by health professionals and academics and people from all professional walks of life protesting against it.

It’s easy to be cynical about these things and I think the Liberal Party, who are standing in the way of the bill now, saw which way the wind was blowing and realized that it made political sense to come out against these draconian drug laws.

They are beginning, I think, to feel enough safety in numbers to stand up to what is really just political gamesmanship on the part of the tough on crime crowd.

Dean Becker: Yeah. Yeah and you know, it’s almost Canada. There’s a situation going on in Montana, where there was in ‘04 or ‘06 that the people voted, I think, 62% in favor of medical marijuana and things had gone rather swimmingly for the last five or more years.

Now their House, State legislature has voted to overturn the will of the people and that’s going to be heading to the Senate but just today, there was a poll in the newspaper up there. Maybe it was the Billings Gazette? I don’t know.

One of their papers asking should the House overturn the medical marijuana bill? Thus far it’s 85% say, “No, leave it alone” and 15% are in agreement. So, these politicians are cutting probably their throats if they were to turn overturn this. Your thoughts, Matt Elrod?

Matt Elrod: You’re absolutely right. It’s amazing, really, that more politicians don’t see the political support for cannabis reform, especially with medical marijuana. I mean, how could any politician be so foolish as to step forward and try to fight medical or safe access to medical marijuana in this state it stuns and amazes me just how out of touch they can be. Yet, we just saw Mubarak leave Egypt it’s a classic example, isn’t it?

Dean Becker: Yeah. It took quite a push to get him out.

Matt Elrod: It really did. It’s just how out of touch he had become with his own people. I am afraid that our politicians are the same way that, you know, they lag two or three steps behind of the popular opinion.

But the good news is that popular opinion has been pulling in our direction for so long that I think they are finally coming around but they are still some holdouts – Drug War holdouts, reminiscent of the Japanese samurai on the island still fighting the Second World War and not realizing it’s over.

Dean Becker: Yeah, it’s 1952, give it up.

Matt Elrod: (Laughs) Yeah.

Dean Becker: Once again, we are speaking with mister Matt Elrod of DrugSense and Map Inc. Well Matt, I want to ask you, you know, the politicians are starting to get this as well.

I saw today that former – the head of Mexico was trying to reiterate the fact that it’s time to legalize these drugs to certainly, at least, bring forth the discussion. A couple of weeks back, Obama said as much in response to a YouTube video.

The one who doesn’t seem to get it at all is Hilary Clinton, who said that we can’t end the Drug War because there’s too much money in it. Your response to all that mess?

Matt Elrod: Well, that is so frustrating, when they have, you know, the reasons they give for perpetuating the Drug War are the reasons that we give for ending it. (laughs) You know, that they can see the same data and say, “Well, with all that money and all that corruption we have to keep it going.” I don’t know, maybe she is privy to something that we’re not.

I often kind of wondered if when they brief politicians – high level politicians upon taking office, if they let them know, “Look, if we ended the Drug War we’d have a final collapse because what’s keeping half the banks going is laundered money.” You know, maybe that’s what she meant. It just seemed really naïve.

Obama’s video response on YouTube, I have to say I was disappointed. I know it was an improvement over his last response where he was asked if cannabis could be legalized, I think the question was framed, “Would cannabis legalization be good for the economy?” and he essentially said no with a snicker.

At least this time, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition got the number one question in the virtual town hall with a bullet and the question wasn’t limited to just cannabis. It was in a time that we completely rethought the Drug War.

His response was that – the same response we’ve heard from politicians for a long, long time and that was to pay lip service to reemphasis from criminal justice approaches to public health approaches.

Again that’s not the least bit controversial. They’ve been saying that for ages and I think nobody would disagree with it. The problem is, will we he actually – will we see that manifested in policy, instead of just lip service?

Dean Becker: You know, Matt, we were talking about the broadcasters and everybody is starting to get it a little bit more but it is seeping into nearly every television, not just news but entertainment, in music and etcetera, in particular in reference to the use of marijuana. Here is a recent slice I took from Family Feud. We’ll be back in a couple of minutes.

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(Family Feud music and crowd applause)

Host (Steve Harvey): Alright, guys here we go. We got the top six answers up on the board. Name something that gets passed around.

(Buzzer sound)

Host: Chris.

Chris: A joint.

Host: A joint?

(Laughter from the audience, followed by audience applause and cheer.)

Host: (Laughs a few times loudly)

(Audience applause and cheering still continues.)

Host: Yeah. Now, Chris. I don’t know what hundred people you thought we were talking to at some nice little mall across good ‘ol America but I’m pretty sure that they didn’t tell the survey people, “Hey, an illegal drug.”

(Audience laughs)

Host: Let’s turn around and see how many weedheads are out there with Chris. A joint!

Gameboard: Ding! (Signals to reveal answer)

(Audience screams and cheers with applause)

Chris: Hey!

Host: This is when you know we’re going to hell. (joking)

(Audience laughs)

Host: Okay, Tracy. Only four answers top it, so.

Tracy: The collection plate at church.

(Audience applause and laughs)

Chris: Now she’s got the halo and I got the horns. (Laughs.)

Host: I like the way you tried to stop us from going to hell. “You Mister you evil boy passing around the little thing with the funny smell.” (joking) Looking for some saving here! Church plate!

Gameboard: Ding! (Signals to reveal answer)

Host: Oh!

(Audience applause and laughs)

Host: (covering the microphone for effect) It’s less than the joint. This is not good.

(Audience laughs)

Host: I’m just going to – you just go over there. They’re going to play this.

Chris: Yes, we are.

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Dean Becker: Alright, once again that was Family Feud. I think Steve Harvey is the latest host on there. By the way the number of “pass around things” for the joint was only eight but for the church it was only six and you heard that crowd reaction. Matt, what was your response to that Family Feud clip?

Matt Elrod: Well, that’s what I did notice about it was the crowd reaction and it seemed like the crowd reacted with twice as much enthusiasm for the joint than as the church plate. (Laughs)

Dean Becker: Yeah and well, I think that it kind of proves a point that Americans love marijuana but they are just afraid saying it. It’s just—

Matt Elrod: Unless, they’re in a crowd.

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Matt Elrod: If you go to any major music event or concert, there’s that familiar smell in the air, when people get together in numbers where they feel safe. Again, I can’t help but think of Egypt. They say what really tipped the balance there was the social media and how it worked was everybody became aware, “Hey, I’m not alone.”

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Matt Elrod: There are lots of people that feel the way I do and it was that sense or lack of isolation that I think or I have been told that made a big difference in Egypt. I think we see that same thing in drug policy reform is that people are kind of looking around and realizing, “Wow, we’re actually a majority.”

Dean Becker: Yeah and you know. You’ve been doing this longer than me but I’ve been at this more than ten years. The act of matter is, the louder I speak up, the safer I feel about this. I think more and more folks will begin to realize that as well. Your thought?

Matt Elrod: Yeah at the beginning that being an internet guru, as you described me, my footprint is all over the web. If – I now and again get emails from people saying will you take my posting down from this forum or that forum because I am on the job hunt or I am looking for a date and I don’t want – whenever I Google my name something about pot comes up. That’s an ongoing problem.

For me there’s no going back. If you Google my name, it is pretty clear that I pretty much said my piece and I am not taking it back. (Laughs)

Dean Becker: (Laughs) No.

Matt Elrod: And maybe there is some safety in because maybe – Well, I have a couple of thoughts on it. One is that that the police probably don’t think I would do anything or be stupid enough to do anything really illegal because I am so obvious, right?

Dean Becker: Right.

Matt Elrod: I can’t be a drug kingpin because if I was, I’d be keeping my mouth shut for one thing.

Dean Becker: Right.

Matt Elrod: (Laughs) And the other is that I’m reminded of our friend Mark Emory who’s birthday is today, by the way.

Dean Becker: Happy birthday, Mark.

Matt Elrod: He’s spending his birthday in prison.

Dean Becker: Man.

Matt Elrod: His bust was so visible that he made himself a Cause Celeb just by being busted and that maybe is something else that protects us more vocal and visible activists is the fact that when we get busted, everybody on the planet knows about it within the inside of an hour.

Dean Becker: Yeah and I know that the fact that there are now hundreds of marijuana seed dispensers operating openly, here in the United States.

Matt Elrod: Yeah what set Mark apart was the activism and as Karen Tandy then Head of the DEA, put it they knew full well that he was funding activism. So nonetheless, I personally think that was an extremely bad PR move for them. But what do you do when your opponent isn’t smart? It’s a hard thing defend against. (Laughs)

Dean Becker: Yeah, against ignorance.

Matt Elrod: Yeah, it’s not irresponsibility. It’s stupidity. (Laughs)

Dean Becker: Yeah, stupid can go anywhere that’s right. (Laughs)

Matt Elrod: That’s right. (Laughs)

Dean Becker: Alright, once again we’re speaking with Mister Matt Elrod Map Inc. and DrugSense. Matt, I think about the fact, I was talking earlier and that Family Feud piece showed it. It’s becoming more openly discussed. It’s a little subtext within a lot of shows I’m not going to say the majority, but many of the shows that are on television now have little references to it, mostly subtle and short instances but they do include it. It is, if not embraced, at least noticed.

Matt Elrod: Yes.

Dean Becker: Go ahead.

Matt Elrod: Yeah, I’ve seen a couple of stories that have just come out in the last week of various personalities in entertainment coming out and saying that endogenic use for example is transformative for them that they got into their career after an LSD trip and others are talking about smoking pot on the set of … oh, what’s the program I’m thinking of?

Dean Becker: I know, I think I saw that too but yeah it’s indicative of the fact that it’s not something that we should be afraid of and the fear is kind of evaporating away from the situation.

Matt Elrod: Well, also it really highlights the contrast between on the one hand people who kind of kind of snicker and laugh and feel very comfortable about, you know, people whose relatives, loves ones and friends who are cannabis users will kind of laugh and at the same time the police are out there ruining these people’s lives and putting them away and spending public resources to make their lives miserable.

It is just that hypocrisy is just getting more and more blatant and more and more difficult to look at. It is one thing to snicker and laugh as Obama did when he was answered the cannabis question, “I don’t know what this says about the online community. Ha ha-ha ha-ha.”

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Matt Elrod: And that’s all very funny and Cheech and Chong are hilarious. We can all get a good laugh at the pot reference press like to use so much, like “Up in Smoke” this and “Gone to Pot” that and you know but it’s not funny when you’re being busted or when you’re saddled with a criminal record that prevents you from traveling or getting work. It is that contrast which is just starting to become almost painful to watch, for me anyway.

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Matt Elrod: The contrast between the snickers and laughs on one hand and the actual damage that’s being done on the other.

Dean Becker: That’s exactly right. Well Matt, I guess we’re going to have to wrap it up here. I got – things are at least better in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada they maybe they’re not going to ratchet up mandatory minimums and such, right?

Matt Elrod: Yeah spring is just starting to spring up in Victoria. We’re always the first people in Canada to see it. There’s a sense of spring in the air and a sense of relief and optimism that democracy works, even if it’s a cynical democracy, at least it is working.

Dean Becker: Okay alright, Matt Elrod, as I said, a computer guru extraordinaire at Map Inc. and DrugSense. Oh and point them to your website.

Matt Elrod: If you are interested in checking out the latest drug news, you can just go to drugnews.org and if you’re interested in what DrugSense does and we do a lot of stuff for a lot of different organizations online, go to drugsense.org.

Dean Becker: Alright Matt Elrod, thank you so much.

Matt Elrod: Thank you, Dean.

Dean Becker: Alright. Bye, bye.

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(Game show music)

It’s time to play: Name That Drug By Its Side Effects.

Upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, headache, diarrhea, constipation, drowsiness, dizziness, stomach pains, swelling of the hands or feet, unexplained weight gain, tinnitus, liver disease and death.

(Gong)

Time’s up!

This medicine, supplied by dozens of pharmaceutical houses is named: Ibuprofen.

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Dean Becker: The following testimony is before the Washington State Legislature in support of a medical marijuana bill.

Matthew McCally: Good morning, Chairman Hearst, members of Committee, fellow panelists and members of the attending publican press, thank you for giving your time over to this most important of issues.

My name is Matthew McCally. I am here today, representing LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. LEAP is the fourth largest drug policy reform group in the United States of America. It is one of the largest internationally. It is the only group whose core members are officers – former and current, officers of the police, of the courts, of probation and parole and of corrections. All of our members are united in urging passage of [Bill] 1550.

I first thought of addressing the committee as a student of history and pointing out the obvious and all too numerous often as a parallels between alcohol prohibition and drug prohibition but I see that work has already been done for me.

So, I will simply draw a further parallel, one which may have escaped this committee but is of particular interest to its members as the guardians of the good name and the honor of the various departments of police within the state and that is that all the major police corruption scandals that have broken out in the United States since the beginning of the war on drugs, whether it be los Angeles or New York, New Orleans or Philadelphia, in Houston or in Cleveland. They have all begun as drug scandals, that is the money and the influence that first corrupted the police came from the huge profit that flow from the sale of illegal drugs.

Of course, chief among those illegal drugs would be marijuana, since it is by far the most commonly use illicit drug in the United Stets of America. That having been said, I think that it is more to the committee’s benefit that I testify as a former probation officer.

I worked for several years in the King County district courts system and I wonder if for all the committee’s knowledge and experience with the criminal justice system here in the state, if you can realize the tremendous frustration that I had back in the day when I was a serving probation officer and that my fellow probation and parole, community and corrections officers have in current day and that is that there is never enough space for the genuinely evil people in society, the child molesters, the pimps who exploit teenagers and others of their ilk.

How in good conscious can members of this committee or your fellow legislatures put nonviolent, non-fraudulent individuals in jail for nothing worse than a bad habit, a vice, while such people are allowed to go free or to serve sentences shorter than what might otherwise might be the case?

Again, the answer to this horrible injustice is the passage of [Bill] 1550 both out of committee and hopefully, at some time in the near future, by the House and the Legislature as a whole.

Chairman Hearst: Thank you sir.

Matthew McCally: Thank you for your time and I’ll take questions if you are so inclined.

Chairman Hearst: Thank you for your testimony.

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The following segment comes to us courtesy of Colorado Springs, Fox 21:

News Announcer: Medical marijuana has been called a miracle drug for patients with several heath conditions but for one Sierra High School student it’s causing some major trouble.

Let’s check the facts first on this story. The student uses medical marijuana by throat lozenges to help with a medical condition called Myoclonus Diaphragmatic Flutter. Now, the move has gotten him in trouble but the school officials say they’re just following the law by keeping the student off campus while under the influence of the lozenges. Fox 21’s Sade Malloy, she spoke with the Sierra High School student and school officials. She joins us now with the latest. Sade?

Sade Malloy: Now, we’re not naming the Sierra High School student but his dad’s name is Shan Moore and he’s upset about how his son is being singled out. A frustrated father is fighting for his son’s medical marijuana.

Shan Moore: We finally found something that worked for a rescue medication for him.

Sade Malloy: Shan Moore’s son, who we have disguised, has an extremely rare medical called Myoclonus Diaphragmatic Flutter, which attacks his entire upper body and causes him to have seizure-like spasms in his diaphragm.

So, at the beginning of every attack, Shan’s son takes a 10mg marijuana throat lozenge but last Friday as Shan was meeting his son with his prescription, he got a phone call.

Shan Moore: I get a phone call from my mother that the school had called and said he cannot return to school because he's going to be under the influence of THC.

Shan Moore’s Son: All my friends are like, getting their education and growing up to actually be something, and I kind of felt like I wasn't going to amount to anything.

Sade Malloy: Sierra High School officials say this is a non-issue and that they are following state protocol that states that, “A patient or primary caregiver shall not possess medical marijuana or otherwise engage in the use of medical marijuana in or on the grounds of a school or in a bus."

Even though the Sierra High School student takes his medical marijuana off campus, school officials said if a student looks to be impaired or disruptive, they will address the behavior and then respond.

Sade Malloy: So, would you say that the medical marijuana is working for your son?

Shan Moore: I would say that it is a miracle drug for him.

Sade Malloy: But it’s a drug that is not recognized by Colorado school officials. Now, a protest is being planned by supporters of Coloradoans for Cannabis Patient Rights and a Denver lawyer is looking into a changing the stature that says you can’t have medical marijuana on school campuses. Rachel?

Rachel: That is an interesting story. Thank you, Sade.

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Dean Becker: Alright my friends, again Matt Elrod, DrugSense and drugnews.org. Please check it out, educate yourself, embolden yourself and dare to do something.

Contact your elected officials, your law enforcement officials and let them know that you know the truth and that you know that they know the truth and it’s time to end this madness.

Well, I guess that’s about it for this week. I will close it out with as always I remind you that because of prohibition, you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please be careful.

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To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.

Drug Truth Network programs are stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Policy Studies.

Transcript provided by: Ayn Morgan of www.eigengraupress.com

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