03/12/17 Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III

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This week: the New Hampshire legislature is considering a bill to allow legal syringe exchanges in the state, plus we listen to current Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III talk nonsense about drugs.

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TRANSCRIPT

CENTURY OF LIES

MARCH 12, 2017

TRANSCRIPT

DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century Of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello, and welcome to Century Of Lies. Century Of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

The state of New Hampshire is considering legislation to allow needle exchanges in that state. The New Hampshire State Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bill, Senate Bill 234, on February 21st. Here's some audio from that hearing, starting with the bill's sponsor, Republican State Senator James Gray.

NH STATE SENATOR JAMES GRAY: Thank you. For the record, my name is James Gray. I represent Senate District 6, which is Alton, Barnstead, Gilmanton, Rochester, Farmington, and New Durham. In moving to the Senate, one of the first news articles I heard after I was elected was James Vara, interview with WMUR, that said the thing that he needed most was a needle exchange bill.

I had a conversation with the president of Frisbie Memorial Hospital, expecting to talk about all kinds of things. What he wanted to to talk about was a needle exchange bill.

Talked to several police officers and said, well, why did you guys oppose last year? Well, says we don't like the thing about decriminalizing the small amounts of trace narcotics that are left in. Then I asked, I said, well, do you ever charge anybody about that? With that? And he said no.

So, that's what's brought me here today, in fact. I took over the sponsorship of this bill, so that it would go forward. The difference between this and the first bill that we introduced in the House was the criminalization of small amounts, and we've got plenty of people back there to talk to you, so unless you have any questions, I'm going to go sit down.

NH STATE SENATOR JEB BRADLEY: I do have one question,

JAMES GRAY: Yes sir.

JEB BRADLEY: So, as I recall, Representative Hannon's bill from last year decriminalized trace amounts.

JAMES GRAY: Correct.

JEB BRADLEY: You have taken that provision out of this bill?

JAMES GRAY: No. That is in this bill. It is not -- it was not in the House bill, as originally submitted, and that's why I wanted this bill also to go forward.

JEB BRADLEY: So, trace amounts decriminalized, small amounts not.

JAMES GRAY: Uh huh.

JEB BRADLEY: Okeh. Thank you. Representative Hannon.

FORMER NH REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPH HANNON, MD: Thank you Mister Chair, thank you Senators. Thank you Senator Gray, I really appreciate this. I was the original sponsor of the bill last year in the House, that passed the House by over three to one. When we got to the Senate, it became a study commission, which I chaired this past fall, and we had a very diverse group of people who came from all areas, law enforcement, public health, medical profession, recovery people, pharmacy.

And, there was no consensus on one particular piece of language because of time, we couldn't get to a specific bill to vote on, but there was unanimous -- not unanimous, but there was a large, a majority support that we need to do something about this, we need to have a syringe exchange program and we need to be supportive of that in New Hampshire.

There was also a vote that we decided, due to political reasons, we shouldn't be funding the program -- the needles in the program, much like the federal government does not pay for syringes, but they do now, they have lifted the ban as of a year and a half -- a little over a year ago, where they're allowed to fund programs at the federal level. We're not asking for that in this legislation. The only thing that is costing anything in this bill is a very basic amount of oversight, through the Department of Health and Human Services, that will be basically reporting criteria.

So, if someone has an exchange, they will have to report the number of syringes they get, the number they're giving out, referrals to treatment, for rehabilitation treatment, or even referrals to STD testing, or other medical treatment.

So, there are -- the three main things this does is it allows that to happen, allows there to be some oversight in the state. It doesn't have to necessarily be a state sanctioned exchange, so there just has to be a reporting requirement, if you do start this and you're allowed to do it, then you basically have to send in notice that these are the -- this is how much information you're getting. It's not biographical, because we know that that doesn't really help, it keeps people away. If people have to register to be in a program, they're less, much less likely to want to be in that program. I'm sure other people will speak to that, so I'll move on from that.

The other thing it does is, right now, the current law only allows, and some of you may remember Representative Cynthia Kane, many years ago, in 2001 I believe, she passed the most recent syringe legislation that we have to deal with the problem back then, which was allowing up to ten syringe-- needles to be sold in a pharmacy without a prescription.

There was no forcing the pharmacies to do that, and that's a good thing, but it also is a negative thing because most pharmacies don't do that. You'll hear testimony in my county that it doesn't even happen at all, they have to go somewhere else to get their syringes. Most pharmacists that I've spoken with don't want to deal with it. You know, some will say, oh, we can do this, why don't we increase the number to 30 or a hundred, let us take care of it. But the bottom line is, they don't want that clientele in their pharmacies. And so there hasn't been any opposition that I've run into from the Pharmacy Board or any of the pharmacists about this whatsoever.

This would open up the sale to anybody who wants to sell it. One of the arguments was that, oh, this could be sold in Walmart or a gas station, then. Well, it could, and a drug dealer could even sell them with their heroin, but that would probably be the one good thing that the drug dealer will be doing that day, is preventing a disease. They're already selling the drugs. The gas station, the Walmart, they're not very likely to do this if at all, because the pharmacies don't want to do it. I'm sure that the other stores in the state are not going to want to do this.

So basically, allowing it to be opened up to other individuals to dispense and sell them for people over 18, this does not have anything to do with children, it's, under 18 they must have a prescription from a -- from someone who can prescribe them. But, it basically will make it easier for people to get clean syringes.

All the medical organizations that we've, you know, heard from, from the study commission, they were vastly in support. The CDC, the Department of Health and Human Services at the federal level, the World Health Organization, many of the different medical societies, from the psychiatric society, there's a long list in the report. I'll spare you all the details. But it's an extensive list of support. The medical community support is overwhelming.

There is no downside to doing this. It does not increase drug usage. It does not increase new users. The main argument against it is that it encourages people to use heroin, and we don't want to enable them. All of the research over the last 20 years is to the contrary. It does not increase new users, and it does not increase usage. If anything, we see usage go down, there are studies that show that people are even more likely to get into treatment because this is a very easy way that we can get people that are not coming forward to be able to be helped.

These are people that are pushed underground. They're afraid to get help, and rightfully so, we're going to lock them in jail for up to seven years for a first-time offense for a non-usable amount in the tip of a syringe that is not going to get them high. That's actually unconstitutional, according to our laws. We have to have laws that the punishment fits the crime in this state, so that alone is something that needs to be addressed and this does that.

I understand that this may take away a small tool of law enforcement in that area, but we've also -- we've heard Senator Gray and many people I've spoken with have said they don't arrest people for this. They might need it to get a search warrant, or they might need it for something else, but they're not arresting people.

There's a long list of things they can arrest people for. This is something that will save lives. HIV, hepatitis C, there are huge problems, and -- I'm trying to wrap this up because there's several other people that will speak, but -- there was a huge outbreak, I'm sure many of you are aware, in Indiana, southwest -- in Indiana, in 2015, there were 190-plus cases of HIV, new cases, in a town of about 4,000 people. A town very similar to over 200 towns we have in New Hampshire.

That can happen here. And it will happen here. This isn't the first time I've said it. It's an epidemic that is going to explode at some point unless we act, and what we have to do is be preventive, and not wait until it happens. When they reacted, now-Vice President Pence was against the idea at the time, of having syringe exchanges in the state. After they had this outbreak, the CDC got involved, they had several new cases, thirty cases, 50 cases, 80, they were getting 22 new cases a week of HIV in this small town. That's a half a percent a week in the town.

They initiated an emergency order, they basically allowed it on an emergency basis temporarily to deal with the problem. It slowed it down. The CDC and the Department of Health there spent over $250 million on this small outbreak. Well, actually the largest outbreak in the country, but in this small town they spent that much money.

Lifetime costs are over half a billion dollars to take care of these people. So if you hear anything about money, this might cost thirty, forty thousand dollars in our budget, that's a budget year, I understand, but we're talking the cost of one patient with hepatitis C, to treat one patient with hepatitis C costs between fifty and a hundred and fifty thousand dollars per treatment, per year. If they get it again, they have to be retreated.

The incidence of people that are using IV drugs is between 60 and 80 percent, give or take, that contract hepatitis C. And many of those people are on our state expanded Medicaid, more programs. We're going to be paying for that. You're going to hear testimony from someone who has first hand experience with that.

HIV has a cost of about $600,000 lifetime or more, for contracting, for one case of HIV. Our numbers are fortunately very low in this state, and it's because we're a rural state, and people think it's not going to happen here. They thought the same thing in Indiana.

And I don't want to wait any longer. I don't think any of us can. We have to do something. And we have to do it now.

PERSEPHANIE LESPERANCE: My name is Persephanie Lesperance. I'm 27 years old, from Dover, New Hampshire, and I'm a person in long term recovery. What that means to me is that I haven't used a drink or a drug in over 16 months.

NH STATE SENATOR JEB BRADLEY: Congratulations.

PERSEPHANIE LESPERANCE: Thank you. I appreciate that.

You know, I'm here today, I've never done this before so I'm really nervous, but, I'm here today because I want to share my relevant testimony with you, in my experience as -- with syringes. In 2013, I started using intravenously. This isn't where my use started, but it ultimately evolved into that. It actually wasn't all of six months before I had actually -- let me start over. I didn't ever share needles. I had a lot of fear behind that, in that community it's -- you don't want to, you know, hepatitis C is a thing, and you definitely do not want to have to suffer from this, this is a life sentence, basically. That was my understanding, that this is something I'd suffer with for the rest of my life.

So I didn't share needles. But that theory was proved wrong to me when I was incarcerated and tested for hepatitis C, and it came back positive. I wasn't under the understanding that if I shared, there was no education behind it, no, I didn't understand that if I shared what they call "the works," or the water that we used to actually mix the drugs, whatever it was, that, that bacteria of that blood borne disease was in these other, these other things that we used, you know, other than the syringe. And those things were shared amongst me and my friends, and that's how I actually contracted hepatitis C.

But I didn't understand that, like, I didn't know that then. And so I was confused, and thinking that I could leave from there and now that I had hepatitis C I could go and share my syringes with somebody else, because, like, what else am I supposed to do, you know, now I'm stuck with this. Not, in the back of my mind, thinking that I could contract HIV, again, I'm not educated, I'm just really vulnerable, off the streets, using, and not thinking about the consequences at that time.

Clean syringes were very hard for me to come by. I would, as you've heard in other testimonies, I would travel to Massachusetts. I am from Stratford County, I can testify to the fact that there are absolutely no pharmacies that are willing to sell syringes. I, at the time would travel to Portsmouth, there was one, as you also heard. There's one in Portsmouth that would sell them, ten at a time.

In the idealistic -- what would be ideal is using one syringe every time I used. I used over ten times a day, so I injected over ten times a day. I would get a ten pack of syringes from the pharmacy in Massachusetts, bring it home, and I wouldn't go back for another week, so I would try to use the same syringe every day. In one day, one syringe one day, I'm using that syringe ten to fifteen times in a day.

Of course, like they said, you hear about hepatitis C, or HIV, but I was giving myself abscesses just from, like, the bacteria of myself, using the same syringe, over and over again, and going into the hospital. The, you know, they told me that if I waited one more day it would have reached my heart and I could have died. And those things didn't, you know, really resonate with me then, you know.

The education about it, like, it wasn't laid out to me in a way, it was just like, hey, just don't do this. I can also say today, and I sit here and this is like walking through a lot of fears. I am definitely guilty in the past of disposing of my syringes improperly. Not -- today, I know how dangerous that is. But the fear of incarceration, because I've been in and out of the system for about six, seven years of my life now, and I'm only 27, you know, and it was just constant, like, drug, you know, drug offenses, over and over and over again.

So the fear of being caught with a syringe, and possibly being prosecuted for a possession charge, even an empty syringe. I've been caught in Massachusetts, like, I don't know if this is relevant at all, but being caught in Massachusetts, I was caught with over, like, five used syringes, and they just threw them away in the trash and continued on with, you know, the rest of my, you know, charges.

The truth of the matter is, is, I can drive up and down 495, going into Massachusetts and part of New Hampshire, when the spring time comes, all you can see on the side of the road is nothing but litter of used syringes. It's sad, and to see that is really eye-opening, from somebody, I actively used, and it just blows my mind.

This bill not only promotes healthier options for IV users, it opens the door of to better education, prevention, and treatment, which in my opinion is key in trying to combat this epidemic, because a lot of people just don't know. I did not know. Today I know a lot more, and I try to get more and more educated, because I'd like to be an advocate. I like to speak for people who suffer from the same exact disorder that I did.

In 2016, the New Hampshire Medicaid system paid for my hepatitis C treatment, the Harvoni, and I am more than grateful. Today, I don't actually suffer from hepatitis C. And that, that's amazing, but, I do look at my bills. It was a $90,000 treatment, you know, and I was just blown away. Very grateful, but I just think about what prevention could have done. You know, if I had been more educated, or some sort of prevention would have done, what like money that could save for us, really.

If it wasn't for the support of my recovery community, in Stratford County, I would have never, ever thought like recovery was possible for me, but the connection with these people, that I meet, was just, it just shows me that, like, communities recover together. Right? I can't read from the paper, it's not doing it for me. But, our community recovers together. We support each other, right? So, I see it work in communities every day. You know, I'm now -- I work in the field, and I work with people, and I volunteer, and I do the best that I can to give back, because, like, I, that's all I can do, just one person.

But I think, like, if our state started to realize that, like, we need to do this together. What's more important, incarceration or people's lives? When it comes down to it, like, a residual amount in a syringe, in my opinion, in my opinion, from somebody who actively used a drug, I don't believe, I'm not a hundred percent sure, honestly I don't believe that the residual amount of a drug is as dangerous as the disease that's probably still sitting in that syringe. I weigh the pros and the cons of that, you know.

I'm a lot of things today, and, like, an active IV user isn't one of them, and, like, that's great, you know, like, I'm a daughter, I'm a granddaughter, I'm a sister, I'm an employee, I'm a voter, I am a recovery coach, I'm a volunteer, and I'm an advocate, and after reading this bill, like, I see hope for a brighter future for New Hampshire.

And preventing can not only save us money, but I believe that it will save lives, too, which is very important. So thank you guys.

DOUG MCVAY: That was from a hearing before the New Hampshire State Senate Judiciary Committee, they were discussing Senate Bill 234, relative to hypodermic syringes and needles containing residual amounts of controlled drugs and authorizing the operation of syringe exchange programs in New Hampshire. The bill is sponsored by State Senator James Gray, a Republican from Rochester, New Hampshire, and State Senator David Watters, a Democrat from Dover, New Hampshire. The audio comes to us courtesy of the New Hampshire General Court, which is that state's legislature.

You're listening to Century of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.Net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

In New Hampshire, the biggest objection to Senate Bill 234 is that some in law enforcement want to make sure that they can arrest anyone who has a dirty needle. The point of a needle exchange is that people bring in their used syringes to be safely discarded, and get clean ones in return. Yes they will have traces of drug left, they will also have traces of blood, and possibly traces of disease.

Needle and syringe service programs are key components of comprehensive harm reduction programs. They are vital public health interventions. Years of research and experience on the ground prove beyond any doubt that syringe exchanges reduce the transmission of disease. Syringe exchanges reduce mortality and morbidity related to drug use. Syringe exchanges bring drug users into contact with the health care system. They make it more likely that drug users will enter treatment, they improve public safety, they improve public health, and improve the community, and they save lives.

Unfortunately there are still people out there who just don't care about any of that. They don't care about public health, or the health of drug users. There are people who still think that any drug use is a sign of weakness and moral failure, and that disease related to drug use is just a punishment from god.

See, that's where prohibition really comes from, that's where it's rooted. It's madness. That madness is why people get diseases and need expensive health care, and they can transmit those diseases so more people get sick, and more people die. And it's all because some jerk with an attitude wants to prove his moral superiority by being able to throw people that they don't like in jail for no real crime at all.

Well, speaking of jerks with with an inflated and horribly unjustified sense of their own moral superiority, let's turn now to another jerk. This is a jerk who thinks the world would be a much better place if we could just turn the clocks back to the days of Jim Crow and segregation and legal police violence against non-whites, a jerk who think that civil rights laws unduly hamper the police, a jerk who, at the time of this recording, is still the Attorney General of the United States of America: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.

J. Beauregard spoke recently at the winter meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General. During that speech he talked about how wonderful things were back in 1950s Alabama, in the small town where he grew up, where people didn't have to lock their doors, where the police and the sheriff enforced Jim Crow laws and segregation and kept blacks down and made sure they didn't vote and couldn't go to decent schools.

I should clarify that he left that last part out, from all indications he just didn't pay attention to any of that back then.

Well, at the end of his speech to the state attorneys general, he took questions from some of them. The current attorney general from Florida, Pam Bondi, asked about the drug war. That audio comes to us courtesy of C-SPAN.

PAM BONDI: The one thing, General, that I can tell, I know I can speak for all 56 of us on, is this war on drugs. And thank you for talking about that, thank you for your commitment to that, and as you know, it's not the old drugs, the cocaine, it's the new heroin in a pill form, it's fentanyl, it's carfentanyl, it's the things they're mixing together and putting in Xanax pills and Adderall pills, it's -- we're fighting a new war, and thank you for being our partner on that, and we all look forward to working with you on that, because it's killing our kids, it's killing our citizens, every day, and I know you, and I know how tough you're going to be on that, so thank you.

JEFFERSON BEAUREGARD SESSIONS III: Thank you. Thank you, Pam. The, you know, the deaths now, what, 120 a day from overdose? Heroin deaths have tripled in just, what four or five years. Tripled. Heroin overdose deaths, and fentanyl is a part of that, which I'm learning from law enforcement, it's worse of a problem than I understood. So we'll continue to work on it.

My view is that crime does follow drugs, in the 70s, in the 80s, we saw so many lives destroyed by drug abuse, and I think the drugs today are more powerful, they're more addictive, and they can destroy even more lives, young people have their lives destroyed.

I, as you know, am dubious about marijuana. If states, I get -- can pass whatever laws they choose, but I'm not sure we're going to be a better, healthier nation that, if we have marijuana being sold at every corner grocery store. I just don't think that's going to be good for us, and we'll have to work our way through that.

I see a line in the Washington Post today, that I remember from the 80s. This one was, if you smoke, you know, marijuana is a cure for opiate abuse. Give me a break. I mean, you know, this is the kind of argument that's been made out there, to just, almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana, or even its benefits. I doubt that's true. Maybe science will prove I'm wrong, but at this point in time, you and I have a responsibility to use our best judgement, that which we've learned over a period of years, and speak truth as best we can.

My best view is that we don't need to be legalizing marijuana, and we need to crack down more effectively on heroin, and fentanyl, and other drugs, and part of the federal leadership will be drug distribution networks, cartels, that threaten the very governments of nations to our south, and less money that they extract out of America that sent to their organizations, the less power and less danger they present to their governments and their people, and fewer people that are addicted.

I was shocked. Is Mike DeWine here?

OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL MIKE DEWINE: Right here.

JEFFERSON BEAUREGARD SESSIONS III: Hey, Mike DeWine. This is -- we sat by each other on the Senate Judiciary Committee for ten years, and he's a great guy, and he was just telling me not long ago about the amount of, the cheapness of heroin in Ohio. I was really surprised how available it is.

The New England Journal of Medicine -- yes we have a big prescription drug problem, and I'm telling you, we can do better about that, and anything I'm, if I have any ability to do something about it, we're going to reduce the availability of prescription drugs. That's, in some ways, easier, I think.

But, the heroin thing, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, says that the problem we're seeing is more availability, lower price, and higher purity. And that's pretty much a law enforcement failure. More availability, higher purity, and lower price. And that translates into more drug abuse, more heroin abuse, if we don't watch it.

DOUG MCVAY: That again was Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, a man who will one day be the unemployed former attorney general of the United States.

While we have a minute left, I want to tell you about something that's coming up next week. The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs is holding its annual meeting starting on Monday March 13. The meeting takes place in Vienna, Austria, at the UN Center there. A number of people from nongovernmental organizations, including policy reform and harm reduction advocates, will be there. Sadly I will not be among them, I just don't have the funding, international travel is kind of expensive. I will however be listening to the live webcast of the first three days, listening and recording.

The Commission has a live webcast of the main proceedings on the first three days only. There are side events, but those don't get webcast. There is no archive made available so the only way to watch and listen to the proceedings of the CND is to either be there, or tune into the live webcast and hope that the internet connection in Vienna doesn't go down temporarily.

There is a written summary of the CND meetings that's online at CNDBlog.org, which is helpful, but it's just a summary written by reform advocates. It's not an official record. The CND Blog is produced by the International Drug Policy Consortium. Now, the IDPC Youtube channel has some great video and audio from these meetings, as well as other stuff.

My friends at the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, with their Drug Reporter project, also do tremendous work getting video of meetings on drug policy, including the CND, and getting interviews with people. They also have a Youtube channel, dear listener, and I highly recommend subscribing to both it and the IDPC's. And of course, keep listening to Century Of Lies.

And that's it for this week. Thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century Of Lies. We're a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org. The executive producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programming is also available via podcast, the URLs to subcribe are on the network home page at DrugTruth.net.

The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give its page a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give it a like and share it with friends. Remember: knowledge is power. You can follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts.

We'll be back next week with thirty minutes of news and information about the drug war and this Century Of Lies. For now, for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay 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 for Public Policy.

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