11/24/13 Doug McVay

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Doug McVay reports: Medical marijuana facilities raided in Denver and Boulder, CO.
Discussion about marijuana reform from DPA Reform conference in CO last month featuring Graham Boyd, Rob Kampia, Neill Franklin, and others. Drug testing report released by Quest Diagnostics. New National Drug Treat Assessment from DEA

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Transcript

Century of Lies November 24, 2013

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DEAN BECKER: 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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DOUG McVAY: Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. I’m your guest host this week, Doug McVay, editor of http://drugwarfacts.org.

Century of Lies is brought to you by the Drug Truth Network online at http://drugtruth.net.

On Thursday, November 21s t according to the Office of the U.S. Attorney in Colorado, “The Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations the Denver Police Department and state and local law enforcement are today executing a lawfully obtained search warrants and seizure warrants. One important note although we cannot at this time discuss the substance of this pending investigation the operation underway today comports with the department’s recent guidance regarding marijuana enforcement matters.

“As this is an ongoing investigation no additional information will be made available.”

They followed this up later with this brief updated statement, “While the investigation is ongoing there are strong indications that more than one of the 8 federal prosecution priorities identified in the Department of Justice’s August guidance memo are potentially indicated.”

Indications of potential indications. Aside from the list of businesses which have been raided nothing is really known for certain about why these raids are carried out or what anybody has done and this reporter will not be speculating.

Here’s why. First, this is America. Here we presume a person is innocent until they are proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Second, about that Justice Department advisory memo from August 2013 about cannabis enforcement which we’re being reassured is being followed to the letter the final paragraph is a series of caveats and it closes with this sentence, “Finally nothing in here precludes investigation or prosecution even in the absence of any one of the factors listed above in particular circumstances where investigation and prosecution otherwise serves an important federal interest.”

So no indications of potential implications of anything are really required. This is the bottom line; legal patients in Colorado now have less access to medical cannabis than they did before these raids. That is the injustice.

That last story really puts this next piece into context. Last month at the Drug Policy Alliance’s International Reform conference in Denver, Colorado one of the most well attended panels was at the end of the day Saturday on the question, “What happens next with marijuana?”

The panel featured serious heavy weights: Graham Boyd, formerly head of the ACLU’s Drug Law Project and currently council to movement funder and insurance magnet Peter Lewis; Ezekiel Edwards, director of the Criminal Law Reform Project of the American Civil Liberties Union; retired police major Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition; Seattle city attorney Peter Holms; Rob Kampia, the executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project and Rob MacCoun, a professor of Law and Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and noted authority on drug policy.

The discussion was moderated by the Drug Policy Alliance’s executive director, Ethan Nadelmann.

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ETHAN NADELMANN: Let me start off by saying this, Gallop Polls show 58%, public and private polls are showing incredible support. We used to say if you’re not up around 58% don’t bother doing a ballot initiative although Washington and Colorado taught us that actually you can do that. Rob Kampia had been telling us that beforehand as well.

Rob MacCoun, do you think that some of this stuff actually might be a little more vulnerable and that we should be careful about getting too confident about this stuff? Say a little something about that.

ROB MacCOUN: My job is to bum you all out. The change of public opinion has been remarkable and I think it’s real. One note of caution...between 1980 and 1990 baby boomer for legalizing marijuana dropped in half. It dropped from about 42% to actually under 20%. What comes up can go down. I think there’s some risk that the same thing could happen now.

I would speculate what happened between 1980 and 1990 1979 was the peak year for marijuana use in terms of number of marijuana users and so it might have been a reaction to that.

It may be that the baby boomers all became young parents around that time. There were a lot of baby boomers who were parents and their opinions have rebounded now that their kids are older. I don’t know.

Just a note of caution that it’s not sort of inexorable historical determinism that public opinion will always believe in an upward direction here.

ETHAN NADELMANN: Anyone else want to comment on Rob’s thoughts about that?

ROB KAMPIA: I actually agree with that. With regard to public opinion in polling recently I’m happier than a Slinky on an escalator but these numbers do go up, they do go down. In the 1970s people said marijuana legalization is just around the corner. We heard this from a whole bunch of people and then it wasn’t around the corner when Nancy Reagan got elected President, apparently.

So that didn’t really work out very well. We also see other social movements where the support for abolishing the death penalty was quite high in the 70s and then it dropped after that. We could probably talk about other social issues.

I think the main thing that we need to do in our movement is to manage expectations. If we’re all walking around thinking that legalization is inevitable then that’s a recipe for disaster. Not only does that mean we might not get enough funding to do legalization in certain states but it also might mean that we get sloppy with our drafting. So we need to manage our expectations.

I think the number for legalization really is nearly 58. It’s probably in the mid-50s and that’s reason to be optimistic but we still have a ways to go.

SPEAKER: I agree with everything that Rob just said and want to add to it a bit more. The support for legalization or really for taxation/regulation and legalization has increased by about 10% in the last 12 months in multiple states and to a similar degree nationally.

I can’t think of any other social issue that has moved that far that quickly in the space of one year. Thinking about why that could be true, you know, Nancy Reagan started talking about marijuana as bad and you could not avoid hearing that day-in, day-out all the way up until November 2012.

If you look at the media coverage and just pay attention to what’s kind of out on the air right now that anti-marijuana voice essentially disappeared 11 months ago. There’s a different atmosphere that we’re living in right now one of the promise of good things to come in Colorado and Washington and yet the system hasn’t been set up so nothing potentially bad has happened either.

A discourse that is one-sided about marijuana and this 10 point increase. Where’s is the 10 point increase? It’s actually hugely disproportionately among older people and among moderately conservative people; i.e. people who aren’t very familiar with marijuana and generally don’t like it very much.

If you look at that group of people and the shift of their opinion it tracks their belief that if you tax, regulate and legalize marijuana it will make it harder for children to have access to it. That’s one of the key messages that we have in Washington and Colorado.

That message is actually spontaneously sinking in with the American public in this sort of one-sided conversation. I ask myself what happens as we move to the 2016 Presidential election. There are going to be candidates that want to be President who will differ with other candidates. That’s just what they do.

Someone is going to start talking about marijuana as being a bad thing – I think. I think that is likely to reemerge and in Washington and Colorado there will be a regulated system that I think will be successful on many fronts but a few things are going to go wrong and there’s going to be a traffic accident where somebody dies maybe a school bus runs it off the road. There’ll be some disaster that happens. It could happen anywhere but if it happens in Washington or Colorado and there’s momentum around that there’s vulnerability.

I think what Rob and Rob are saying is exactly right and I think it’s really based on drilling down to where public opinion is and looking at how the political process is going to unfold.

I am excited about the future but at the same time I have some worries. I think we do have to manage expectations and we also have to make sure when drafting for the next few rounds of legalization we don’t suddenly think, “We could just get everything we want.”

Because if we reach too far and fall short we’ll be very disappointed. I think we still have to be cautious in the same way that we were in Washington and Colorado.

ETHAN NADELMANN: I was just remembering following up on Rob MacCoun’s point I think that polling they used to ask college freshmen, “What do you think about legalizing marijuana?” and it peaked in 1979 at 51% and by 1989, 10 years later, it had dropped to about 18%.

So understand that things can shift. We saw outside the marijuana area when we were doing the ballot initiatives on treatment instead of incarceration and we went overwhelmingly in California in 2000 and then 9/11 happened.

9/11 basically flew the country’s consciousness. People got very security minded. Power shifted in Washington so this notion that we have the momentum is inevitable...sometimes, you know, we use a line at DPA, “Legalizing marijuana is just a matter of time.”

I say, “Wait a second. Let’s not get too cocky, too overconfident.”

We’ll come back to this issue about what all this means for ballot initiatives in coming years but I want to back up on a couple of things. The first one is that (and, Zeke, this is going to go to you first) the stickiness of marijuana prohibition. Then you look at marijuana arrests which are half the drug arrests in the country...they’ve come down a little bit but I don’t think they’ve come down 10% and it looks like the cops just keep doing their thing.

Do you think that this arrest stuff and all this other stuff is going to following on a similar line with the ending marijuana prohibition support by the public or not?

EZEKIEL EDWARDS: I’m glad you asked because this shifts it a little bit from marijuana to criminal justice and racial justice work which is...our project at the ACLU does both. We care a lot about drug law reform. Graham used direct the project. He did an amazing job creating that project. We also care a tremendous about racial justice.

One of the things that the report found is racial disparities in every corner of the country – small and large, rural and urban, 50% black population, 2% black population, rich counties, poor counties – the racial disparities were staggering. There were also 8 million arrests (marijuana arrests) between 2001 and 2010 – blacks were 4 times as more likely to be arrested and in some states 8 times more likely.

We found this strange kind of paradigm where you had public policy and marijuana laws and medical marijuana laws and public polling in a positive direction and yet the same ‘ol happening in the streets and in black communities.

I think one of my greatest concerns as a racial justice advocate is exactly that. Many of you will know this but if you look at history of the criminalization of the black communities obviously you had slavery. After that there’s a book called, “Slavery by Another Name” which is a very worthwhile book to read which is about the criminalization of southern blacks after the end of slavery until World War II where basically black activity was criminalized – low-level offences, vagrancy – people were arrested and then they were put into indentured servitude essentially, involuntary servitude, forced into coal mines.

That lasted for years. Then we had Jim Crow. Then we had the drug war. Eventually I think the drug war is going to end. I think that marijuana policy is going to go into the right direction. I think legalization is going to take control. I think you’re going to see more medical marijuana and I think that’s a beautiful thing.

But my question is what is that going to mean for criminal justice in this country and what is it going to mean for people of color because the same police and the same prosecutors (no offence to the prosecutors on the panel to whom I have the greatest respect for) but they enforced slavery, they enforced the criminalization after slavery, they enforced Jim Crow and the enforced the drug war so there is a culture change that has to happen that I’m not sure runs kind of parallel with marijuana legalization.

We support legalization. We are against prohibition of all drugs. We were hoping that the marijuana report would do something where it would bring communities together – racial justice communities, drug law reform communities – for sustainable reform not just on marijuana but for police practices, for incarceration.

I hope it does that but my fear is that marijuana policy will march ahead in a positive direction but nothing is going to change as nothing really has in so many ways for 300 years in terms of state control of poor communities and communities of color.

ETHAN NADELMANN: Let me pull back a second and ask you and Neill to comment. What I’m curious about is when you look at public opinion polls as best I can tell (and sometimes the polls are not quite or big enough to be highly reliable) but that essentially what you tend to see is that whites and blacks are fairly similar on the issue of legalization with Latinos lagging behind especially older Latinos.

The question is how much did the reports on this information start influencing say older African-Americans and Latinos. I want to see if you are contacting that world, Neill, because you and I have been out there facing leadership of faith communities, African-American leadership....I’m curious about how you’re feeling that as well.

NEILL FRANKLIN: Certainly I’m not in any way going to take credit for starting to move the black community in a certain direction but I will say that one of the great things about the report because it had a drug law reform angle and racial justice angle is it got a whole variety of support.

Lt. Governor Newsome tweeted about it. I had a twitter conversation with Russell Simmons the day it came out. The NAACP of South Carolina held a press conference challenging the Charleston police department on their arrest policies. Melissa Ethridge wrote a CNN blog on marijuana legalization and medical marijuana.

We have seen the black community...

ETHAN NADELMANN: Keep going on the NAACP...other things....some people in the NAACP chapters in the medical marijuana initiative states were already coming out. Are you seeing more residence in the south or surprising places aside from North Carolina...

NEILL FRANKLIN: Yes, and I was also thrilled was it got tremendous media coverage and we thought the coverage was really going to be from a drug law reform angle but, in fact, it was largely from a racial justice angle and that’s what everybody was citing – the statistics. There were over one hundred articles in local newspapers calling out their counties and states on the disparity.

Black clergy and black congressmen have been coming out citing the report. Our affiliates in Washington, D.C. (which is a heavily black community) and in Maryland in Baltimore (a heavily black community) have been pushing with legislators there decriminalization bills on the eve or afterwards that the report came out. We’ve seen policy changes and leaders like Russell Simmons has a huge following (2 million people on Twitter) coming out and citing the report and so I think it’s actually done a great job to show that marijuana legalization is not just about drug rights even though it is. It’s not just about Colorado. It’s about the African-American community.

ETHAN NADELMANN: Well, that’s something I should say. Russell Simmons has been out there for a while on this issue. He’s been on the honorary board of the Drug Policy Alliance. He’s not been great on marijuana so this is good. But, Neill, more broadly...

NEILL FRANKLIN: This is a great point and I caution comparing what you’re seeing today, with this movement today with 1970s and 1979. The reason being is it really is this marijuana issue is a lynch pin to criminal justice issue as Zeke was saying.

The makeup of the movement today is not just (as you put it Ethan) those people who like drugs. It involved the people who hate drugs and the people who don’t give a damn about drugs. I wish that Alice Huffman was here because going back to 2010 with Prop 19 Alice Huffman from the NAACP at the state conference came out.

She saw the data that was put for here regarding arrests of blacks in California and she said it was her duty as the leader of the NAACP in California it was her duty to support that measure, to start talking about this issue and do what she could.

LEAP did not exist in 1970. When we found out that Alice Huffman was coming out to support this that’s when we contacted Alice Huffman to give her support regarding this issue because we knew she was going to catch it and she did from certain black pastors and ministers in California so we gave her support.

As things move forward Alice Huffman set up a criminal justice meeting with Ben Jealous and the other state conference leaders up in Chicago in the Winter of 2011.

ETHAN NADELMANN: And you all know that Ben Jealous has been the head of the NAACP for many years stepping down shortly but when he took over the job some years ago he announced that criminal justice reform was going to be a priority of his and who “gets it” on the marijuana issue as well.

NEILL FRANKLIN: In that room, as many people know, in the NAACP the black church makes up a good portion, foundation of the NAACP and there were many black ministers up in Chicago. From there began this conversation and the data being shared and so on and the Samuel DeWitt conference eventually came into it.

There’s someone else I want to point out. I’m sorry I’m going to put you on the spot but Rosemary Lidel from Colorado/Wyoming/Montana NAACP state conference leader. These leaders coming out and then the ACLU report comes out and that’s what we were waiting for.

It has this “one stop shop” resource for data in every state across this country and we’ve been using it very well.

Now people are feeling safe to come out with the data. I’ll end with this. Not just the NAACP coming onboard, not just the black church, not just the criminal justice issue and the Latino community is going to come onboard. They are coming onboard.

It’s completely different picture today than it was back in the 1970s. I’m going to tell you right now, yes, we have a lot of work to do. We are going to continue to push as we have. Momentum is important, extremely important but this is going to happen. There is no doubt about it.

ETHAN NADELMANN: I hear you.

[applause]

Pete Holmes who is here on his own right and because we asked him to accept one of the awards on the behalf of Alison Holcomb tonight. Pete, let me ask you this.

First, on the law enforcement side of things I still look at...people say, “Who is opposing marijuana reform?” The first people I think of are the police chiefs, the cops, law enforcement, prosecutors but what happened in Washington State with the former U.S. Attorneys and a range of others...can you just explain a little more about how and why that happened?

PETER HOLMES: It’s the domino effect. Having a sitting prosecutor sign on and bring on a couple of former federal prosecutors all helped to empower others who were already in kind. I think who couldn’t deny the data but needed to be safer, have a safer space in which they could speak out in public.

I mentioned at the panel yesterday that WASPIC which is our association of sheriffs and police chiefs although they published a paper against 502 that was after a motion had been brought to the whole body asking for a secret ballot on whether or not to oppose 502 or not.

Sometimes you have to give them anonymity, sometimes you have to give them their space and there is strength in numbers. It is growing. It’s the domino effect.

ETHAN NADELMANN: Do you think...I mean I don’t know about these networks but here good chance Oregon will be on the ballot in 2014, good chance Alaska will be on the ballot in 2014...are there types of relationships where law enforcement in those states could be affected by conversations by people who came out in Washington?

PETER HOLMES: You bet. I’ve been coordinating with Neill. We’ve been talking about taking this on the road. I know that Alison and others have been talking to other states and trying to explain what happened here, what the rationale was behind it.

I’m the only elected city attorney in Washington so I spoke two weeks ago to the Washington State Association of Municipal Attorneys. It was trying to sell to appointed city attorneys why they should encourage their cities not to impose moratoria, not to try to undo 502 by local zoning rules.

There were some really excellent conversations there because our job was to give fodder for the electives back to their jurisdictions, back in their municipalities about why this is a smart approach. This is going to help your communities and if you think you’re going to ban marijuana in your town by outlawing 502 licensing than you’ve missed what’s been going on for the last 80 years.

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DOUG McVAY: 25 years ago the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 was signed in to law. The Reagan drug war had already been raging for years and in order to better coordinate efforts this act established the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Another of the laws enacted as part of the 1988 bill was the Federal Drug-Free Workplace Act.

To celebrate drug testing company, Quest Diagnostics, released its annual drug testing index. According to Quest,

“The positivity rate for the Combined U.S. Workforce declined 74%, from 13.6% in 1988 to 3.5% in 2012.

“The positivity rate for the Federally Mandated, Safety Sensitive Workforce declined by 38%, from 2.6% in 1992 to 1.6% in 2012.

“The positivity rate for the U.S. General Workforce declined by 60%, from 10.3% in 1992 to 4.1% in 2012.

“Despite the declines in overall drug use, the DTI analysis also found that the positivity rate for certain segments of drugs has increased.

“Positivity rates for amphetamines, including amphetamine and methamphetamine, has nearly tripled (196% higher) in the combined U.S. workforce and, in 2012, were at the highest level since 1997. The positivity rate for amphetamine itself, including prescription medications such as Adderall®, has more than doubled in the last 10 years.

“Positivity rates for prescription opiates, which include the drugs hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone and oxymorphone, have also increased steadily over the last decade – more than doubling for hydrocodone and hydromorphone and up 71% for oxycodone – reflective of national prescribing trends.”

So though positivity rates have declined overall among workers subjected to drug tests there appear to have been increases in use of amphetamines and opiates - that is uppers to stay awake in order to be able to work double shifts and pain killers in order to work in spite of injuries and muscle strain.

This year’s report was accompanied by another piece of research – a report on marijuana and prescription drugs. According to Quest, “Test results are provided to physicians using our proprietary medMATCH reporting method. Using this service a physician submits a test order for a patient that specifies the medications prescribed for the patient and other illicit drugs indicated for testing.

“Consistent results are those which indicate that only the prescribed drugs for the patient was detected. Inconsistent results suggests the patient misused their medication in one of three ways: by not using the prescribed drug, using other drugs instead or combining the prescribed drug with other drugs.”

Among their findings in 2012 about 60% of patients didn’t use their prescription drugs as indicated by their doctors. That’s similar to 2011 when 63% had so-called inconsistent results.

Among patients with inconsistent results about 1 in 4 showed positive for marijuana. 45% of patients who were positive for marijuana were positive for other non-prescribed drugs compared with 36% of non-marijuana users.

Quest concluded, “In light of our findings healthcare providers and policy makers may consider taking additional measures to educate patients in the dangers of prescription drug misuse and monitor for patient compliance.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration released a new report recently. The National Drug Threat Assessment for 2013 contains few surprises. Really the only surprise is seeing a new NDTA. Formally that report had been issued by the National Drug Intelligence Center however that agency was closed back in 2012 and its basic duties were taken up by the DEA.

“The trafficking and abuse of illicit drugs continue to constitute a dynamic and challenging threat to the United States. CPD abuse continues to be the nation’s fastest growing drug problem. Rates of CPD abuse remain high, with individuals abusing CPDs at a higher prevalence rate than any illicit drug except marijuana. Pain relievers are the most common type of CPDs taken illicitly and are the CPDs most commonly involved in overdose incidents.

The availability of heroin continued to increase in 2012, likely due to high levels of heroin production in Mexico and Mexican traffickers expanding into white powder heroin markets in the eastern and midwest United States. Further, some metropolitan areas saw a recent increase in heroin overdose deaths. Law enforcement and treatment officials throughout the country are also reporting that many prescription opioid users have turned to heroin as a cheaper and/or more easily obtained alternative to prescription drugs.

The trend of lower cocaine availability in the United States that began in 2007 continued in 2012. Moreover, reporting from several metropolitan areas including Chicago, Houston, St. Louis, Phoenix, and Baltimore indicated sporadic interruptions in cocaine availability in the spring of 2012. The decline in cocaine availability occurring in various areas throughout some domestic drug markets may be the aggregate result of various factors including counterdrug efforts, conflict between and within Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) in Mexico, and continued reductions in cocaine production rates in Colombia.

Methamphetamine availability is likely increasing because of sustained production in Mexico—the primary foreign source for the US market—and ongoing small-scale domestic production. Marijuana availability appears to be increasing because of sustained high levels of production in Mexico— the primary foreign source of the US marijuana supply—and increased domestic cannabis cultivation.

The abuse of synthetic designer drugs has emerged as a serious problem in the United States. The abuse of synthetic cannabinoids, such as “K2” and “Spice,” and synthetic cathinones, such as “bath salts,” rapidly increased over the past few years, causing severe consequences to abusers. State legislation and national scheduling of these drugs have helped to mitigate the threat.”

Thanks for listening. This has been Century of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network online at http://drugtruth.net where you can also find an archive of past shows. You can also subscribe to our podcasts.

This is Doug McVay, editor of http://drugwarfacts.org saying so long.

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DEAN BECKER: For the Drug Truth Network this is Dean Becker asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition – the Century of Lies.

Drug Truth Network programs archived at the James A. Baker, III Institute of for Policy Studies.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org