06/17/12 Julie Netherland

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Julie Netherland of Drug Policy Alliance + Dr. Perry Kendall BC Health Minister & Doug McVay's report: "Mexico in the cross roads"

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Transcript

Cultural Baggage / June 17, 2012

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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!”

DEAN BECKER: 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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DEAN BECKER: Hello my friends. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. I am Dean Becker. Here in just a moment we’re going to bring in our guest, Julie Netherland. She’s of the Drug Policy Alliance. There’s a lot we’re going to talk about.

You know, normally I don’t say what city I’m in or what day it is but it’s a beautiful day here in….I’ll just say the gulag filling station of planet earth and it’s Father’s Day. I want to send out an appeal to all you dads out there – all you dads who know much if not all of the truth about this drug war and who are really doing anything to change the status quo. It’s time for you to step up to the plate. It’s time for you to talk to your school officials, your boss, your minister, your doctor – hell, your congressman, your senator, your president. It’s time to end this madness – setting our children up for a lifetime of failure through the mechanics of this drug war. Please, do your part.

You know, if you care for your kids, until they turn 17 it’s supposed to protect them but once they turn 17 they just become meat for the drug war grinder. Do your part dads. Come on.

With that I want to welcome my guest, Julie Netherland. How are you?

JULIE NETHERLAND: I’m great. Thanks for having me on the show.

DEAN BECKER: Julie, pronounce your last name for me and I’ll get it right.

JULIE NETHERLAND: Netherland – just like the country.

DEAN BECKER: Julie, tell us what you do at Drug Policy Alliance.

JULIE NETHERLAND: I’m the Deputy State Director for New York Policy office. The Drug Policy Alliance, as you may know, is the nation’s leading organization promoting alternatives to the current drug policy.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, and Julie, a week ago basically the New York legislature, the assembly, was debating marijuana law and I was capturing a lot of that and I was mistaken assuming that they had passed the thing and that, you know, New York was going to be the 18th state but I’m told the senate is very much Republican or very much in opposition. Is that true?

JULIE NETHERLAND: That’s correct. We’re hoping the senate will take this up and do the right thing. As you said the medical marijuana bill here passed the assembly 91 to 52 and we’re hoping the senate will take it up. There’s only a week left in our legislative session so if they don’t pass it this year we will be working over the summer and be back next year and hope that they’ll pass it in the next legislative session.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Julie, again, I’ll probably take some of those clips and share it with the listeners next week. It’s just been real busy. I wasn’t able to do it. But, the fact of the matter is there is a real glaring disparity in the awareness of the truth about cannabis in particular.

Some people still cling to one hundred year old superstitions as if it were their momma’s milk and others like the gentleman (I don’t have his name in front of me) who knew a great deal about it and was able to refute and rebut and overturn all of these objections and, yet, politicians still kept bringing it up even after that truth was presented. Your response, Julie Netherland.

JULIE NETHERLAND: Well I think that’s right. The gentleman you’re speaking about is our bill sponsor, Richard Godfrey and he’s been a real champion on this issue. He’s introduced this bill for 15 years and he still hasn’t given up. But, you’re right. What we saw were a lot of old fashioned, I would say even ridiculous arguments from the opposition clearly not recognizing that there’s a really solid science these days on how therapeutic medical marijuana is and, as importantly, how safe it is.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, you know I’ve been to I think 4 of the Patients Out of Time conferences, cannabis therapeutics gatherings, and it’s amazing the caliber of science, the caliber of investigation, the amount of studies and effort that has gone into determining these positive factors where people get their continuing education credits, where doctors and nurses better their ability to treat their patients and yet the government just keeps ignoring it. Again, Julie, what do you think?

JULIE NETHERLAND: I think, again, you’re right. One of the things that’s happening, of course, is more and more states are passing these laws so that patients who are suffering can find some relief from this medicine that we know to be safe and effective. This is no longer sort of a fringe movement. This is 17 states, as you say, and the District of Colombia (that’s our neighbor) and New Jersey and Connecticut.

You know, back in 1999 the Institute of Medicine published a report saying that cannabis was a safe and therapeutic medicine. So for people to keep putting their heads in the sand and pretending that the science isn’t there is really unfair to patients and health care providers.

If I may I want to tell you about a doctor that we’re working with who is a young doctor. He’s done a lot of research. He’s really bright. He moved to New York to finish his residency from Washington State where he had treated patients with medical marijuana. Now he’s talking about having to move out of the state of New York if this law doesn’t pass. So we’re not only hurting patients we’re going to lose some of the best and brightest doctors who know that this is a medicine that should be available to their patients.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, Julie, I see it as one of logic and common sense. Me and my engineer, Mr. Duffy, were talking earlier about the fact that if you think of this situation as a scale of justice – people on one side of the scale and people on the other – and that more and more people are stepping from prohibition over to regulation/taxation/control every day. People of every caliber – Joe Citizen on up to District Attorneys. Astounding just a couple days ago Rahm Emanuel the mayor of Chicago, Obama’s good buddy and compadre, came out in favor of decriminalizing marijuana as well. It’s changing is it not?

JULIE NETHERLAND: Well, I certainly think it is and I think you’re right. I think people are fed up with the criminalization of people, young people and people of color primarily here in New York City. They understand that this is a relatively safe substance and to saddle folks with a criminal record for using it makes no sense whatsoever.

And, you know, in the case of medical marijuana, the bill that I’ve been working on we’ve got folks who are really access to this medication and aren’t willing to break the law to get it. So we’re left with this horrible choice of “Do I break the law or do I continue to suffer with my symptoms?”

We’ve been working with a great gentleman who has MS. He’s an attorney. He has a public position in city government and he wants to try medical marijuana but he can’t jeopardize his legal career or put his employer in a difficult position so there he is left to suffer. That’s just not right.

DEAN BECKER: No, it’s not. Friends, we’re speaking with Julie Netherland. She’s with the Drug Policy Alliance.

Now, Julie, talking about that variance in perception, that inability of somebody who knows something to be true and yet, because of social norms or whatever, is unable to speak that which they know to be true. That has been a large component of this drug war. It has been the glue that has helped hold it all together. Your response, please, Julie.

JULIE NETHERLAND: I think one of the things we need to do and certainly this is true when trying to work on medical marijuana is we’ve got to, you know, it’s clear that the science is on our side and the logic is on our side. I think one of the things we can do a better job of and what we’re working on in New York is really putting a human fae on the issue.

We’ve been going around the state and talking to patients and health care providers and trying to get their personal stories and having them sit down with their elected officials face to face. I think it’s a much harder thing for an elected official to sit there with someone who’s clearly suffering and deny them access to this really safe and therapeutic medication. That’s a really different thing than to have this kind of abstract argument that you saw that we had in our state assembly.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed, indeed. Julie, you know, the fact of the matter is that Lynn Paltrow, Pregnant Mothers Against Drug War or something. I’m sorry I can’t remember the exact title of her group. But they talk about the fact that mothers are arrested, convicted, sentenced to jail for endangering the life of their baby – doing cocaine or somehow drug related. I just learned lately that they’ve determined that many of the positive tests on babies for cannabis are due to the fact that use Johnson & Johnson baby soap. I wonder how often this hysteria has devoured people’s opportunity, their potential. Your response, Julie.

JULIE NETHERLAND: I think situations like that are a real shame and we know that literally tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of folks are caught up on these kinds of accusations, or charges or sometimes it’s just hysteria and stigma for no good reason. We certainly are facing that in our struggle for medical marijuana in New York State. We’re just going to keep coming back with the science and with the stories until the legislature hears us that this is a safe medication. It can be appropriately regulated. Isn’t that a better way to handle marijuana than on the unregulated black market?!

DEAN BECKER: The fact of the matter is that this change in perception, this change in law, this change in ability of patients to get their necessary cannabis medicines is incremental, hell, some would say glacial in its movement but the fact of the matter is in Rhode Island they have changed things again. I think for the better. The governor signed a bill there that…do you want to tell the folks more about that bill?

JULIE NETHERLAND: I’m not familiar with the Rhode Island bill.

DEAN BECKER: I think it was lowering the penalty to a fine rather than accounting for jail time. The fact of the matter is we have in these United States the ability to, I think, very soon make radical changes. We have, lord of mercy, we have such a situation in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Africa, as well as the 30,000+ gangs here in these United States were criminals are thriving because of our “belief in this drug war.” Your response, Julie.

JULIE NETHERLAND: I think you’re right. I do think the tide is turning. You mentioned Father’s Day at the top of your show and I was just out on the streets today with 40 and 50,000 people for a silent march here in New York City that was aimed at trying to stop some of the policing practices in New York City which revolve largely around stopping young, mostly black and Latino men and often resulting in marijuana possession charges. We’re working very hard to put an end to those racially biased arrests here in New York City.

To see that that many people taking time out of their Sunday on a Father’s Day to march down 5th Avenue to say, “You know what?! This drug war is not working. We need a different approach to policing” is encouraging. And I think you’re right. The tide is turning.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed. Let’s hope so. We did have a situation when Carter was president and the Schafer report had come out a few years before and everybody had a bright smile thinking, “Yes, we’re on the way. This will end soon.” But, the fact of the matter is we can’t back down. We can’t slow down. We’ve got to keep pushing until we have this well in hand. Do we not, Julie?

JULIE NETHERLAND: I absolutely agree. It’s interesting to me. I think the medical marijuana bill that we’re working on is a really good example where there is support but there is still real resistance. The idea that you could have people with HIV/AIDS, with cancer, with MS, with chronic pain and epilepsy basically begging our elected officials to access this safe, therapeutic medicine and have that denied I just find outrageous.

If it doesn’t pass this year we’ll be out next year mobilizing around it. Eventually I think people are going to realize that this is not just the logical thing, the right thing and supported by science but it’s the humane thing. I think that’s true for a lot of the changes we’re talking about in transforming the drug war.

DEAN BECKER: Another thing that me and my engineer were talking about before the show is that Rahm Emanuel coming out for decrimin weed, Mayor Bloomberg in New York calling for decrim on weed. I’m right here in the fourth largest city in America and our mayor is very, I won’t demonize her, she’s not liberal. She’s a good person. She’s has the opportunity to speak her mind here. I think even in the state of Texas we’re smart enough here. Hell, they did a poll. 76% of Texans are for medical marijuana. I mean it’s a winner not a loser. Go ahead, Julie.

JULIE NETHERLAND: That’s absolutely right. Our politicians are really behind the public on this issue. In New York it’s as high as high as 71, 72%. It’s across all age groups. It’s upstate, downstate, suburban, rural, Republican, Democrat, conservative. The idea that politicians are somehow still afraid that this is going to hurt them is just dead wrong.

DEAN BECKER: Julie, are you aware of Robert Platshorn? The gentleman in Florida that does the Silver Tour?

JULIE NETHERLAND: I’ve heard of him but I’m not that familiar with his work.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Robert wrote a book after serving 30 years in the federal pen for smuggling weed called “The Black Tuna Diaries.” What he and Irvin Rosenfeld, one of the four federally-supplied medical marijuana patients, do is go to retirement homes, nursing homes and educate these old folks to the truth about cannabis. It’s often said that that’s the cohort that’s most against change, that’s most unwilling to vote for change. I’ve also heard it said it’s those that are of child-rearing age.

In any case to educate those seniors I suggest we play them a copy of “Reefer Madness” and then they can see what it was they began believing in and I think that would change their mind in a hurry. Your thought, Julie.

JULIE NETHERLAND: I think that’s a great idea. One thing I will say about older folks is I think we’re going to see a shift especially around medical marijuana with the aging of the Baby Boomers. Let’s face it. They are going to face a lot of chronic medical conditions that could be alleviated by the use of medical marijuana.

I talked to a woman the other day in Brooklyn. She is 91-years-old, has spinal stenosis which is a really painful spinal condition and she attributed her use of marijuana to keeping her active, rested and alert. She says it helps her sleep at night. It helps her get up in the morning when she’s stiff and sore.

I totally agree with you that seniors are an important constituency. I think the resistance among seniors is not nearly as great as we’re led to believe. And, as I said, I think as we start to see the Baby Boomers age we’re going to see a real shift in attitudes and opinions.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Julie, we’ve got under 3 minutes. I wanted to bring up something I just learned about. I hope it’s OK to go public with this. It is my understanding that the Drug Policy Alliance, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, NAACP, a bunch of ministers and others as well as Javier Sacio are going to do a tour across America - beginning in San Diego, take about a month to go to most of the major cities in America up through Chicago, down through New England and into Washington, D.C. all calling for an end to this madness of drug war. What have you heard?

JULIE NETHERLAND: That’s sounds right. I think you got that right. We’re hoping that will draw more attention and get more allies on our side. Like you said at the top of the hour – growing consensus, movement and outrage at what the drug war has done to this country and to other countries.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed. I am embarrassed. I am ashamed for what we have done to Mexico and Central America. Also we can pretend that America knows how to overcome the law of supply and demand. It is outrageous and I want no part, no blame for it.

Julie, I guess we’re going to have to close it out here soon. Tell us, once again, what you do for the Drug Policy Alliance and how people can get involved in what you do.

JULIE NETHERLAND: I am the Deputy State Director for New York Policy office. You can google Drug Policy Alliance, go to drugpolicy.org. There’s lots of ways to get involved.

I wanted to just say one thing that’s going on in New York that we could really use some help with. As you mentioned Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo came out suggesting that we decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in public view and help with some of these racist marijuana arrests. We got to keep the pressure on so if you live in New York State and you’re listening we need calls into the Governor’s office and into your assembly and senate as well. We can make that happen.

DEAN BECKER: Julie, I have some trepidation about the whole thing that unless you stop “stop and frisk” that stop and frisking is going to keep going no matter what that law is.

JULIE NETHERLAND: I think that’s right but listen. There’s 50,000 people a year that are facing a criminal record for possession of small amounts of marijuana and that’s just no way to start out our young people.

DEAN BECKER: No, indeed it’s not. Well, Julie, one more time. Please share DPA’s website.

JULIE NETHERLAND: It’s http://drugpolicy.org

DEAN BECKER: http://drugpoicy.org Please, friends, get in touch with them. If you’ve been thinking this drug war is a fiasco and you needed to do something – well, now’s the time to do something.

Thank you, Julie.

JULIE NETHERLAND: Thank you.

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It’s time to play: "Name That Drug - By It’s Side Effects!"

Difficulty breathing, a sense of foreboding, swollen lips, itchy tongue, tightness in chest, wheezing, voice change, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, unsteadiness, fatigue, rapid heartbeat, chills, loss of consciousness, coma and death.

(((gong)))

Time's Up! The answer: Peanut Butter!

It’s not a drug, but it certainly proves the point. It kills about a hundred people each year, here in America.

Marijuana however, the one drug that’s never killed anybody, is illegal.

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PERRY KENDALL: My name is Perry Kendall. I’m a physician. I am the Provincial Health Minister which means I am the senior public health physician for the province of British Columbia.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. You had stated that under a regulated marketplace that the use of ecstasy would be a whole lot safer if not completely safe under a doctor’s supervision. Is that not true, sir?

PERRY KENDALL: My position is somewhat more nuance than that. There is currently research going on looking at using MDMA as an adjunct to psychotherapy particularly in people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I think that’s happening both in the U.S. and in Canada. MDMA was quite widely used in the 1970s in psychiatric and in couples therapy. So that’s a strictly medical use.

I was hypothesizing that if one had a regulated regime for a variety of currently illegal psychoactive substances that, at least hypothetically, provision of a pure form of those substances under strict regulatory controls may offer fewer harms than the current access to drugs of unknown quantity and unknown quality on the black market which is clearly associated with the risk of overdose.

In British Columbia in an average year over the past five years we have had a number of deaths related where ecstasy was indicated as an issue and those have been ranging from a 12 year to a high of 23. And ecstasy was associated with all of those deaths. In some cases the deaths were due to motor vehicle accidents or falls or other injuries from somebody being intoxicated.

We have, however, had a number of deaths in Alberta and in B.C. within the last 6 to 9 months which were due to a contaminant in the ecstasy which basically was an overdose of ecstasy and death resulted from raising the body temperature to a level that is tissue damaging and, in some cases, lethal.

DEAN BECKER: Sir, this is reminiscent of the situation we had here in the United States back during the time of alcohol prohibition where people didn’t know what they were buying- alcohol being made by untrained chemists so to speak. This is a road to ruin, is it not?

PERRY KENDALL: Well, certainly, if you ban a substance but there’s still a market for it and there’s still people willing to supply that market what you are likely to get is a backstreet chemist producing substances of unknown quantity and unknown purity. There is certainly a risk. As long as people go on consuming that substance you will see problems.

What I was actually advocating for is that we step back and look at the effectiveness of current regime of prohibition and criminalization to determine if it is, in f act, achieving what we want it to achieve which is less or no drug use, less harmful drug use where there is harmful drug use and doesn’t put billions of dollars of profits into the hands of criminal organizations.

I suspect that there may be ways of doing it better.

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[sollem music]

During this time of eternal war I find it my somber duty to report the death toll from the drug formerly known as marijuana is 0.

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DOUG McVAY: Mexico at the crossroads.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon was interviewed in the Wall Street Journal last week. According to President Calderon, drug violence in Mexico is on the decline.

That's not the impression you get from reading news stories of atrocities like in the ongoing gang war between the Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel or the recent execution of a news reporter. Yet it appears to be true.

The Justice in Mexico Project of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego reported last month that according to the Mexican media organization Grupo Reforma, the number of drug-related killings in Mexico is on the decline. According to TBI's May 2012 report, quote:

“There were 4,346 such killings in Mexico during 2012 as of May 25, an 18% decrease over the same period from last year. Although the current reporting period saw an increase of 7% over the previous four weeks, there continues to be an overall downward trend in narco-violence for 2012, with weekly averages of 201 for the current reporting period, as compared with 206 for all of 2012 thus far. By comparison, there was an average of 238 ejecuciones per week in 2011.” End quote.

Violent crime is a regional problem. Some perspective: According to a UN study last year comparing international homicide rates, in 2010 Mexico's homicide rate was 18.1 per 100,000 population. The US overall had a homicide rate of 5 per 100,000 that year. Brazil's homicide rate in 2010 was 22.7, Guatemala's was 41.4, and Honduras had a rate of 82.1.

In his interview, President Calderon joined other regional leaders in calling for the US to seriously consider legalization of drugs such as marijuana. Calderon told the Journal, quote:

“The U.S., and not just President Obama, but its congress, its society, needs to look at alternatives that reduce the cash flow to these criminal groups. Until that debate or analysis of alternatives happens, the path for many of our countries will continue to be one of sadness.” End quote.

Mexico is in the midst of a presidential election. Constitutional term limits bar Calderon from running again. All the parties have pledged to reduce crime. The leading candidate, Enrique Pena Nieto, represents the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI ­ the notorious, massively corrupt organization which ruled Mexico for decades. Nieto, playing on the country's understandable fear of the cartels, has promised to bring in recently-retired Colombian national police chief Oscar Naranjo to fight the traffickers.

According to the UN, Colombia's homicide rate in 2010 was nearly twice as high as Mexico's, at 33.4 per 100,000 population.

For the Drug Truth Network this is Doug McVay with Common Sense for Drug Policy.

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DEAN BECKER: Bluff and bluster behind the bully pulpit. Cops, DAs and judges proclaim who is the culprit – drugs and crime like peanut butter and jelly.

“Most wanted” cops blare it from the telly. Congress can create only treason and terror and if you disagree you surely are in error.

W. is a walking billboard for success after drugs. Take 5 and we’ll give you 20. Guilty until proven rich.

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Kicking in the door
Kicking in the door
We shall bring salvation
Kicking in the door

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DEAN BECKER: Alright. How many of you have been “saved” by someone kicking in your door?

Well there’s a lot of cops and DAs who think they have done just that to more than 40 million of our fellow American citizens. Yep, the drug war it’s such a positive and boon for the world. I urge you to do your part to bring it to an end. Please, show your support for what we do. Visit our website which is http://endprohibition.org. You know, you can make a difference. You really can.

The fact of the matter is we were talking earlier about the pendulum swinging, the justice scales are swaying. It’s time to get on the right side of this issue. I urge all you cops and politicians, all you, I don’t know, people who think this is a good thing, that the drug war is a benefit to reexamine your mind, to reformulate your opinion because it is changing. It will change soon and it would be great to be on the right side of this issue.

Please, do your part. 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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DEAN BECKER: 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.

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.
Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org