02/24/17 Mary Lynn Mathre

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Nurse Mary Lynn Mathre re cannabis medicine, forthcoming conference in Berkeley Ca + Jag Davies of DPA re Psychedelics Help Reduce Opioid Addiction & Marc Emery reports on cannabis bust in Canada

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FEBRUARY 24, 2017


DEAN BECKER: Hi, friends. This is Dean Becker. I want to thank you for joining us today on this edition of Cultural Baggage. We'll hear today from Nurse Mary Lynn Mathre about marijuana laws and a forthcoming conference. We'll hear from Jag Davies of the Drug Policy Alliance about the need for psychedelics to help prevent troubles with the opioid crisis. And again we hope to motivate you, encourage you, to do your part to end the madness of an eternal war on drugs.

You know, it seems every day you hear the stories of people getting busted in the US, and in Canada, and it just seems that there's this lingering reefer madness, this belief that somehow this plant can be a threat to our society. And yet, more and more people are beginning to realize that that is in fact madness, and beginning to speak boldly in legislative sessions and in the papers, and any and everywhere possible. And one of those who has been doing this for a long time, has been educating, and emboldening other people to do just that, to speak this truth, is one of the directors of Patients Out of Time. I'm proud to welcome her to the show today, Nurse Mary Lynn Mathre. How're you doing?

MARY LYNN MATHRE, RN, MSN, CARN: You've been speaking the truth for many years as well, and --

DEAN BECKER: Well, I like to think I've made a little bit of difference here in Houston, where we're no longer going to arrest people for under four ounces of marijuana. But let's talk about this overall bailiwick, this situation, that just continues despite overwhelming and continuing supply of information that marijuana is not the threat it was once purported to be.

MARY LYNN MATHRE: You know, you're exactly right, and years back, in 1995 when we started Patients Out of Time, people had a great difficulty just saying the word cannabis, or even marijuana, out loud, you know, they'd look around to see who was nearby, who would hear them talking about it. So at least today, with, you know, what, 42 states or so with either a medical cannabis or a CBD-only type law, people are talking about it all over, and at least it's in open discussion.

Years ago, I used to kind of think, what a shame, you know, the marijuana prohibition, the cannabis prohibition, you know. Maybe it was just ignorance. And I think there still is a lot of ignorance out there. But frankly, I think the prohibition is a crime. I mean, this is such a beneficial plant, the idea that somehow, we've all just accepted the fact that the government has the right to prohibit a plant, that's -- I just, I don't see any sense of it, and it just is amazing that that has happened, and that it continues, has continued for decades.

DEAN BECKER: Well, a prime example, just yesterday or today, a state representative in Texas was talking about, oh, we can't allow for medical marijuana, it's a stalking horse, it's a means that leads to recreational and we just can't allow it. What a, oh, I don't even know the words, that just seems evil to me, that we're going to prohibit patients who need it from getting it because others might get it, when the black market is supplying people's needs already.

MARY LYNN MATHRE: You know, and I think a lot of that, just like he's saying, he's probably basing it on -- well, he is, he's basing it on the marijuana prohibition, you know, without any knowledge, probably, of the fact that cannabis as a plant has been around throughout the world for centuries, but marijuana was our, you know, the name the Mexicans used for the plant that started the whole reefer madness back in the 1930s, that started the Marihuana Tax Act. That was all, you know, based on lies, ignorance, racism. And yet, if people don't go back in history to find out about this wonderful plant, they've based it on, literally, reefer madness. It's crazy stories about cannabis.

For, you know, those out there in the audience who have seen the film Reefer Madness, you understand. But if someone has not seen that film, I would urge, you know, anybody to go check Youtube or something and look up Reefer Madness.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. That was national --

MARY LYNN MATHRE: It's like a comedy, today.

DEAN BECKER: It was national distribution, it had horror stories in front of the theaters, big banners I should say, you know, warning of the threat of this new drug, marijuana. People didn't realize they were talking about the very same medicine that was in their medicine cabinet, called cannabis. But that marijuana, well, was the key, wasn't it?

MARY LYNN MATHRE: Just the fact that Anslinger, back then, you know, he needed a job for his guys. Harry Anslinger, head of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, alcohol prohibition goes away, oh my goodness, what are my men going to do? What are we going to do, we need a job. You know, and it's created a jobs program that to an extent is alive today, with the DEA, you know they don't want to see marijuana legal. That's -- I don't know how many DEA agents are working because of their work to try to, you know, end the scourge of marijuana, catch anyone who grows it, sells it.

DEAN BECKER: Well, you know, my guest for next week is Alexandra Chasen, she's author of this new book, Assassin Of Youth, A Kaleidoscopic History Of Harry J. Anslinger's War On Drugs. And I'm about halfway through, but she's talking about how each one of the drug czars is kind of a clone of Harry J. Anslinger, able to speak that BS, able to repeat the reefer madness, with a straight face, and to stand there as an authority, as if his knowledge made this all so necessary. Your thought, there.

MARY LYNN MATHRE: I think, yeah, it -- I think we all -- you know, it's just amazing that they do stand there with authority, and maintain that. You know, it's like NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, to have that job, you are basically obliged to believe that all the drugs of abuse that are illegal are innately bad, and that's your job, to continue to find how bad they are, through research. And it's kind of the same with the DEA in that, they've just got this mantra, well if it's in the schedule one, it's a bad drug, no discussion.

And, you know, nothing should ever be like that. We need to question anything and everything, and clearly the new science on the endocannabinoid system should have broken that wide open. I mean, all -- you know, years before, we didn't know, we didn't know anything about the fact that we actually make cannabinoids, just like in the cannabis plant. We didn't know we had this signalling system that was so important to maintaining health, to regaining health after we've been attacked by some kind of stress, whether it be a physical injury, pollution, poor food, you know, whatever it is that is an assault to the human body, it's the endocannabinoid system that helps put it back in balance.

And cannabis is a plant that offers the same kind of cannabinoids that we make, that we probably need when our body is overly stressed. And we've prohibited that plant. And these people in these bureaucracies, it's just like they're blindsided, they don't want to look at the science.

Now there's a nurse practitioner in New Mexico, Bryan Krumm, he's a psychiatric nurse practitioner, and he's been taking care of many, many patients with -- using cannabis, especially for post-traumatic stress, and other mental health disorders, and he's created a new diagnosis, and it's very appropriate for these bureaucrats. He calls it the marijuana delusional disorder. You have to call it marijuana, because they're stuck in this delusion that marijuana is innately bad, dangerous, you know, killer weed. All the terrible things we can think about it. And they just cannot openly, objectively look at the science to see that they're wrong. They're just stuck in this delusion.

DEAN BECKER: Oh, exactly. You know, I want to bring up something. You know, there are those people at NIDA and the DEA, and, you know, highway patrol, people who speak with quote "authority," but one gentleman I met at one of the Patients Out of Time conferences, a NIDA scientist, Doctor Donald Tashkin, who has focused on marijuana for I think his whole career, and he gave me an interview, and he stated that it's not addictive, it doesn't lead to hard drugs, there are indications it may help benefit those with certain maladies, and that it doesn't lead to lung cancer like tobacco.

A very knowledgeable gentleman who spoke at your conference, which brings to mind the fact that later this spring, you guys are having another great conference with many of these same experts, doctors, scientists, presenting information that will help move this ball forward. Let's talk about that conference.

MARY LYNN MATHRE: Yeah, you're right. This, coming up May 18th to the 20th, will be The Eleventh National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics. It's going to be held at the Doubletree at the Berkeley Marina in Berkeley, California, and will bring a lot of the experts.

And yes, Donald Tashkin, I mean, he literally has been, for decades, the leading authority on the pulmonary effects of cannabis, especially smoking it, and he, as a scientist, starting out just assuming that, I think as most people did, well you can't smoke something, that can't be good for you. You know, and his research, I think the government loved it initially, because he was the one that first said something like one marijuana cigarette is the equivalent of four tobacco cigarettes in the amount of tar and toxins that it has.

And so he clearly believed he was going to find terrible studies, but when he did his long term studies on people who used cannabis, who used cannabis and tobacco, who used only tobacco, or who didn't smoke anything at all, he really surprised himself, you know. The findings were just contrary to what he thought. He did not see lung cancer with the cannabis smokers, he did not see chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He saw mild bronchitis, but that was it from the smoke. And his only, you know, conclusion was, well, you know, he doesn't think the smoke is good for you, but the cannabinoids that are in the smoke must be doing some kind of healing on the lungs at the same time so as not to cause the damage.

So, yes, at our conferences, the conference coming this spring in Berkeley, we try to bring the best researchers out there to let us know what their research is: good, bad, and indifferent. You know, research is research, and we just want to find out. If there's anything negative to cannabis, what is it? What do patients need to know to be safe about its use? You know, and if it's positive, clearly, healthcare practitioners need to know why it's good for you, you know, how do I use it, what should I use it for, when do I recommend it. All of those questions.

DEAN BECKER: And, Mary Lynn, you know, they call it anecdotal, but there are millions of people here in these United States that are benefiting from some use of cannabis, whether it be lotions, ointments, edibles, smoking, et cetera. You know, we hear about the kids with epilepsy, the Dravet's syndrome, and that catches everybody's attention. But it's old people, it's little kids, it's people with all kinds of maladies that are finding that it does in fact benefit them.

And yet, I guess, these millions of quote "anecdotal" occurrences can't be tied together somehow to make an attack, to the affront from the drug warriors. What is your thought there?

MARY LYNN MATHRE: Yeah, you know, anecdotal reports, an anecdotal report here or there, you know, scientists are right, it doesn't prove anything. But, when we're talking about cannabis and its use for centuries, yeah, exactly, it's not one or two anecdotals about a particular problem, it's thousands, millions, you know, just countless individuals over time.

And there's something that I try to remind a lot of clinicians, that in today's world, we depend on evidence based practice. And basically, they're talking about double-blind, placebo-controlled, studies. The patient doesn't know what they're getting, the scientist doesn't know what the patient's getting. Double blind, that's what that means. And that there's somebody getting a placebo and somebody's getting the test drug. So we use that as -- to help show that there's no bias in doing research. And that's good, it is effective, it's a good way to do research. The problem with cannabis is because of its prohibition and its placement in Schedule One, and even the fact that it's in Schedule One, it's even more difficult to do research on cannabis than it has been to do other drugs in Schedule One.

But the, you know, because of those difficulties, we haven't done a lot of the studies. But, in addition to, or different from, evidence-based practice, there's something called practice-based evidence. And after centuries of use, and using it for helping with seizure control, helping with pain control, helping with sleep, healthcare practitioners have seen over the course of their lifetimes how it has been helpful for patients, with countless anecdotal reports. And so there really is something to practice-based evidence. When you see something over and over and over, and you see it for long term use, you see that it doesn't cause long term problems, it does have benefits, there's something to that. And we need to, you know, go back to that. That's the old medicine.

You know, aspirin never had double-blind placebo-controlled studies. We found it was helpful, we've used it for centuries [sic: ML was actually referring to the main ingredient in aspirin, salicylic acid, which is derived from willow bark, has been used for centuries, and is still a widely used medicinal herb with a better safety profile than manufactured aspirin, which was invented by Bayer in the 1890s]. Okeh, well, here's cannabis. It's helpful, we've used it for centuries. It only got taken out of the pharmacopoeia by legislation, back with the Marihuana Tax Act, that was based on lies.

And we just haven't corrected that error. But yeah, you know, I mean, docs today, sometimes what they'll use, they don't like to call -- when they think that it's helpful, they call it a case report. When they don't like it, they call it an anecdotal example.

DEAN BECKER: Sure. Well, Mary Lynn, a couple of weeks back I had, I think one of your board of directors, Doctor David Bearman, on, and he was talking about, well, his new book, Drugs Are Not The Devil's Tools, but he was talking about what you were just referencing, and that is, for, as long as they had pharmacopoeias, marijuana, I should say cannabis, was listed for all its wonderful benefits, and then about 1937, 1940, it was taken out of the pharmacopoeia. As you say, it was comparable to aspirin, it had been used for centuries [sic: see above].

MARY LYNN MATHRE: Yeah. It's one of those things that, when someone wants to make up a lie, they repeat it over and over and over enough, you know, then people accept it as truth. And I think that's just what we have to look at with the marijuana prohibition. It has been written in laws, and in so many things, you know, all of us have grown up in school only learning about marijuana, gateway drug. Drug of abuse. It's been drilled in our head, and the fact that it's come from the federal government, you know, that goes back to Sanjay Gupta, the CNN doctor who for years criticized cannabis and dismissed patients who said it was helpful, and then when he finally looked at the science, he said I've been duped by the federal government.

And it's like, yes you have. We all have. We've been duped for decades, believing that this is this dangerous drug.

DEAN BECKER: It's a real outrage, abomination, I'm looking for the right word. I tell you what, Mary Lynn, we're going to have to wrap it up here soon, but once again, I am going to come to this conference there in Berkeley, beautiful Berkeley in May, should be a wonderful environment as well.

But, can you give us a couple of the folks who may be attending and remind folks when it is, and how they can get involved?

MARY LYNN MATHRE: Yes, please. Folks out there, please go to MedicalCannabis.com, or PatientsOutOfTime.org, and you'll see information about the conference. The theme for The Eleventh National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics is "Cannabis: Protecting Patients and Reducing Harm." So we're really focusing on its safety, and how it can be used especially in many hard to treat illnesses, such as seizure disorders, cancers, and complex neurological disorders where the victims sometimes just give up, and cannabis being introduced to these patients literally starts the healing process.

But, we've got, Esther Shohami is coming from Israel, she's one of Doctor Mechoulam's lead researchers on traumatic brain injuries. Sean McAllister in California's been doing research on cancer, using cannabis to help fight cancer. Bonnie Goldstein, one of the leading researchers on looking at especially children with seizure disorders. Ethan Russo, Daniele Piomelli, Juan Sanchez-Ramos, Greg Gerdeman from Florida, Donald Abrams from California. We're actually highlighting a lot of the research that has been done in California. Once they passed Prop 215 back in 1996, they got a Center for Medical Cannabis Research, and it's done some really wonderful clinical trials.

This is an opportunity primarily geared for healthcare professionals. It is an accredited conference, meaning that they'll get continuing medical education credits or continuing contact hours for nursing education. But patients and family members are certainly welcome to come as well. We feature researchers, clinicians, and patients, to kind of give the whole story about cannabis, how it can protect patients and reduce harm.

So I certainly hope to see everyone there!

DEAN BECKER: Again, that was Nurse Mary Lynn Mathre, the website MedicalCannabis.com.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, headache, diarrhea, constipation, drowsiness, dizziness, stomach pain, swelling of the hands or feet, unexplained weight gain, tinnitus, liver disease, and death. Time's up! This medicine, supplied by dozens of pharmaceutical houses, is named ibuprofen.

For quite some time now, I've been focusing on marijuana and the need to change our laws in that regard, but I don't want to overlook or forget another true crisis that's coming across the nation, and that is the opioid crisis. Here to talk about it, a gentleman who used to work for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, and who now works for the Drug Policy Alliance, Mister Jag Davies. Hello, sir.

JAG DAVIES: Hi, thanks for having me, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Jag, it's, it is a crisis, kind of an avoidance of truth and fact, and the reality before our eyes, that this is just getting worse, is it not?

JAG DAVIES: Uh huh. Yeah, overdose deaths have about quintupled over the past 20 years, and they just keep going up every year. And a lot of that is linked to the use of opioids. But it's also directly linked to drug prohibition. You know, most, most overdose deaths, it's really important to emphasize, are not from any one single drug, that most of them are poly-drug overdoses, so from combining alcohol or prescription drugs with other substances, and of course all the adulterated material in the illicit opioid market is really making things a lot worse.

You know, people are mistakenly taking fentanyl or other, more potent opioids, and that's really because of drug prohibition. People don't have access to a legal, regulated supply. And then, the good thing is that there is somewhat of a political consensus that's emerged over the past few years to address the overdose epidemic. DPA has worked in dozens of states to pass laws making naloxone, the overdose antidote, more accessible, and also passing 911 Good Samaritan laws so that people aren't scared to call for help when they witness an overdose.

But, it's still, you know, barely making a dent, to be honest. And I think one of the things that hasn't been explored as much is, you know, basically maintenance therapies. You know, we know that methadone and buprenorphine are very useful for reducing problematic opioid use. But now we have some, you know, a lot of reports coming out about people using substances like Kratom to reduce their opioid use. There's been a lot of studies about marijuana and how states with access to medical marijuana have much lower overdose rates.

And now, this new study that just came out, that's really interesting, that shows that people who have used psychedelics are much less likely to go on to develop opioid dependence or addiction.

DEAN BECKER: You know, we have fooled ourselves into believing these psychedelics are dangerous and deadly, when in fact they can be of benefit. Right?

JAG DAVIES: Yeah, I mean, of course, any substance can -- has risks, and needs to be taken with precautions. But, yeah, I mean there are studies that have come out over the past few years looking at the general population, showing that people who've used psychedelics are less likely to end up developing mental health problems, and less likely to end up committing violence.

And then, another strain of research that's really interesting is the work that MAPS is doing, looking specifically at psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy to treat a range of different conditions. There's been successful studies that have come out the past few years looking at psychedelics being used in therapy to treat PTSD, end of life anxiety, also substance use problems. And so it's quite likely, or at least possible, that within the next decade, the FDA will approve MDMA or psilocybin, or other psychedelics as a legal prescription medicine that can be used in a supervised setting as part of a long-term psychotherapy practice.

But what's so interesting about this new study that's come out is that it's looking at the general population, it's looking at people who use psychedelics outside of any sort of medical supervised context. It's very inspiring and hopeful that psychedelics could get approved for their therapeutic uses in the next few years, which is why, you know, I think it's very important to also advocate for ending the criminalization of people who use psychedelics, so that the millions of people who use them and have found benefit from them are able to do so without fear of arrest.

DEAN BECKER: Well, there you go, friends, some sound thought and advice from Mister Jag Davies of the Drug Policy Alliance. I, what caught my attention, he had an article published, Psychedelics Help Reduce Opioid Addiction According To New Study, and you can find that on the Drug Policy Alliance website, DrugPolicy.org.

The following segment features Marc Emery, Canada's Prince of Pot, talking about an ongoing police bust in Brantford.

MARC EMERY: Now, what I don't get is, they don't have a warrant, but they can stop the owner, or the management, from going into this business. Right? Here's this junior Norbert the Narc here, and, I feel sorry for them, really, them dweeby people. Right? Like cops, really?

So, we're at the Brantford Cannabis Culture, which has been sealed off, probably illegally since there's no warrant. And apparently they came in last night just on a routine walk-around and were just thunderstruck that there was marijuana -- I'm shocked, shocked! Marijuana's being sold in Brantford. Brantford's been selling marijuana for 50, 60 years, but now it's just transparently open. Right? That's the deal, right? It's not like they don't know marijuana's being sold in Brantford. They probably don't give a shit at all.

But, you know, you have a shop in the middle of town here, a nice shop. This place was a dump before, it was like disreputable and ugly, and the landlord had already told me it was in horrible kind of repair and condition.

We shouldn't have to be patient. You guys owe us an apology, you fascists! They are. They are bad people, enforcing a bad law, and the politicians at every level -- federal, provincial, and municipal -- know this is a bad law, know it's completely unjustifiable, and if you go interview any one of them they'll never give you one good reason why marijuana's illegal or why we should be punished. Not a one. Because there isn't a one.

This is safer than every other commodity that's sold on the streets in Brantford, It's safer than cars that go twice the speed limit. It's safer than everything at Shopper's Drug Mart. It's safer than everything at the liquor store. It's safer than everything in a variety store with sugars and fats to get your kids fat and addicted and the sodas that rot their teeth. This is the safest product available in Brantford, up til they closed it.

It is not warranted, they have no warrant, and also, the public supports this. And marijuana's being sold and marijuana's completely safe, and does not require this kind of police mentality to enforce it. It's not plutonium. It's a plant that's grown by Canadians, for Canadians, and it's one of the few Canadian industries left in this country. This opened Sunday, so it was open til last night. Three days. This is not going to deter anybody. I can't wait to go to jail to prove to them how tough we are, and how weak they are, because we're going to win this.

DEAN BECKER: In closing, I must urge you to pick up the phone, write a letter, visit your elected representatives, and alert them to the fact this drug war just ain't working. Again I remind you, because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag. Please, please be careful.

To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacifica Radio Network. Archives are permanently stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. And we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.

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