07/26/09 - Paul Armentano

Paul Armentano of NORML takes listener calls in the first 1 hour Drug Truth Network call in show in more than 6 years. Paul is co-author of a new book: "Marijuana is Safer, So Why are We Driving People to Drink?"

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Guest: 
Paul Armentano
Organization: 
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)
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Century of Lies, July 19, 2009

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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(screams of terror amongst rattling chains and then, the dreaded slice of the guillotine)

‘It’s time… to face… the Inquisition.’

Indeed it is. Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. It’s your first chance to ‘Face the Inquisition’ with our guest, Mr. Paul Armentano. He of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, norml.org. Mr. Paul Armentano, the co-author of a brand new book, “Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?” Paul, are you with us?

Mr. Paul Armentano: Yes I am, Dean.

Dean Becker: OK, and Paul, we do have our first caller and I want to alert the folks out there listening, this is your chance to call in, talk to Paul, the expert. Our number (713) 526-5738 locally, or you could call 1-877-9-420 420 toll free. Call 1-877-9-420 420 and we do have our first caller, right now on line. Howard, you have a question for Mr. Armentano?

Howard: No, Sir. I’d just like to add to what he said earlier.* For the people out there that may not believe about this patent that the US government has, I’d like to give you the patent number and tell you how you can view it for yourself online, on the government website.

Dean Becker: Go ahead, Sir.

Howard: OK, first of all the patent number, I’ll give people time to get their pen and paper. The Health and Human Services, aren’t they the one’s that scheduled marijuana?

Dean Becker: Paul?

Mr. Paul Armentano: No, not really. Marijuana is a Schedule I drug because it was designated that way by Congress in 1970, under the US Federal Control Substance Act. Now there are ways individuals can appeal that decision and you have to file an administrative petition to do so. In fact, NORML did so prominently in the early 1970’s and actually had a favorable decision on this issue in 1988. However, because it is an administrative ruling, it does not hold any legal weight.

So even though an individual can petition to reschedule marijuana, even if in fact they receive a favorable ruling from an Administrative Law Judge, the agency itself, in this case the DEA, does not have to abide by that ruling. But marijuana could in fact be rescheduled, if the United States Congress elected to do so or if DEA and HHS both agreed, that marijuana no longer fit’s the definition of a Schedule I drug.

Dean Becker: Caller, quickly if you will, that number of that Patent?

Howard: OK, it’s 6630507. The patent office website is uspto.gov.

Dean Becker: Alright. Thank you, Howard, so much and thank you for being the first caller here on the Drug Truth Network “Face the Inquisition”. We thank you for your call.

Howard: Yes, Sir. Thank you. Bye.

Dean Becker: Bye, bye.

OK, we’re speaking with Mr. Paul Armentano, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Our number here locally is (713) 526-5738 or you could call anywhere in North America toll free by dialing 1-877-9-420 420. We have several lines open. Come on folks, get on board. Eric, you’re with us on Century of Lies.

Eric: Hey Dean, this is Eric Redhead from Montgomery County. How’s it going?

Dean Becker: I’m good. Good to hear from you Eric. What’s on your mind?

Eric: Hey, I just had a question, a couple things. You had talked, your guest had talked about the last third of his book, talking about what people could do and I was just curious if he could just expound a little bit about what’s in that last third, man? What’s the grass root effort, man? How do we rattle to shake the bushes out here, so to speak?

Dean Becker: Paul?

Mr. Paul Armentano: Well, one of the ways you can do so is simply, as I mentioned earlier, just beginning the conversation, but beginning it with as many people as possible. We understand, those of us that work in Drug Law Reform, that we’re out-gunned, we’re out-funded and we’re out-numbered by the Federal Government and the only way we’re ultimately going to win this battle, is if all of us begin talking to others and spreading this message and then those people that they talk to, talk to more people and it goes on and on like that.

We’re going to win this battle, because of all of us engaging in multiple conversations; because the facts and the science and the common sense is on our side. But many individuals have simply not thought about this issue, until we bring it to their attention. So we really stress beginning these conversations at the dinner table; with your local City Council; with your local Legislators; with your local Editorial Board, by writing letter’s to the Editor and getting on board that way, as well as by joining a local and national Drug Law Reform organization.

Those are some of the easy ways you can get involved and of course there are many, many other’s which we literally outline in about seventy-five to a hundred pages. That‘s, in my mind, one of the most important aspects of this book, is not just informing, but getting people to be pro-active and making a difference in their local community.

Dean Becker: Alright.

Eric: Right on. In closing real quick, can you say the name of the book again and where would you pick it up?

Mr. Paul Armentano: Sure, it’s called, “Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?” There is a website set up at www.marijuanaissafer.com, where individuals can download the introduction for the book. They can also order the book there, from the publisher. They can read advance praise of the book and you can order the book also on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, places like that. You can actually pre-order the book now, right from Amazon. So if you go to amazon.com, type in Marijuana is Safer. You can place your order now and it should be shipping within the next ten days to fourteen days.

Dean Becker: Alright Eric, thank you for your call.

Eric: Hey, save the world, Dean. Thanks, man.

Dean Becker: I’m doing what I can. Thank you, just the same, Eric.

We’re speaking with Mr. Paul Armentano, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and I want to kind of underscore what you just said, Paul. Because this book is like a Long Bow with a good hemp string and a full quiver of arrows. It could set you to work, if you’re so inclined and I think many folks are inclined.

Let’s go ahead and go to our next caller. Bill, you’re with us on Century of Lies.

Bill: Hey, I would really like to sign up for a petition of whatever, to get my congress people to take away penalties for marijuana.

Dean Becker: Yes, Sir.

Bill: But don’t you get put on a list, or something like that?

Dean Becker: Well Bill, if there was a list, where do you think I would be? I’m right here in the gulag city of planet Earth and I stand forth everyday and I challenge every politician that will allow it, and I’m still standing. I think it is possible. I think that you could do something. If you would, turn your radio down for us, Bill. But I guess the point I’m trying to make is, it is possible. If I’m on a list, it can’t be that bad and I don’t think that for you, contacting your officials, that it would stand against you. Your thought’s, Paul? What do you think?

Mr. Paul Armentano: Well, I would argue that it is inherent that people contact their local, federal and state officials. You know we hear this time and time again, when those of us who lobby on this issue meet with political representative and they say, you know, ’Privately, I might support this, but publicly, I’m just not convinced that there’s a large enough body of support in my district. I’m concerned that my constituents don’t support marijuana law reform.’

The reason they hold that false belief is because they don’t hear from enough people in their district. They don’t receive enough phone calls, they don’t receive enough letters from individuals telling them, ‘Hey, I want to see the penalties for marijuana to end.’ ‘I believe that people should have the legal option to make the rational and safer choice to use marijuana vs. alcohol and not face arrest, jail and criminal penalties.’

So it is incumbent upon people who are passionate about this issue, to come forward to write their local officials, their state officials and their federal officials and tell them that it is time to change these draconian and outdated laws and certainly Dean, I’m like you. If there is such a list out there, and I don’t believe there is, my name would be at the top of this list.

Dean Becker: {chuckling} It would, Paul. It’d be there with a big blue star or something, next to it. OK, Bill. Thank you for your call. I want to alert folks, we do have several lines open again, now. Our local number is (713) 526-5738 and if you’re out there on the net, you can call anywhere in North America, toll free, at 1-877-9-420 420. We’d love to hear from you. There is great discussion going on here.

Paul, I tell you what, while we have a minute here I want to, once again, remind folks of the forthcoming schedule for the NORML Conference.

Mr. Paul Armentano: Yes, people can; if their interested in attending the NORML Conference, it will be our 38th annual conference taking place in downtown San Fransciso in September, from the 24th to the 26th. They can see the agaenda, the list of speakers; they can register for the conference. They can do all of those things, if they simply go to www.norml.org, and I know I sound like I’m tooting my own horn here, but this is the conference you do not want to miss.

Two thousand and nine has been such a pivotal year for marijuana law reform and this conference is going to be such a pivotal conference for those of us who work in this field and those activists, those individuals, who at the grass roots level are passionate and concerned about this issue. This is going to be the conference you really don’t want to miss; to hear some great speakers, to network with other activists’ and also to have a lot of fun.

Dean Becker: Indeed, it is always a lot of fun. I’ve been, in my promotions, calling it Smoky, San Francisco. Because it is, indeed.

I believe Penny is our next caller. Let’s go ahead and put her on here. Penny?

Penny: Yeah.

Dean Becker: You’re with us here, on Century of Lies. Do you have a question or a concern?

Penny: I hear you. I have two questions. Number one, I am interested in knowing if he is in favor of outlawing alcohol and is it true that the government, in the 60’s, spent millions of dollars researching the negative effects of marijuana and then quit funding this research, because they weren’t getting the results they were looking for?

Mr. Paul Armentano: Well, to answer both questions: No, I would not be in favor of outlawing the use of alcohol. Prohibition, particularly the prohibition of alcohol, was a grand failure on a number of level’s and that’s why that policy was repealed. I would certainly not advocate going back to it.

The second question is a bit more complex. You’ll hear time and time again, that there’s not enough research about marijuana, that we need to have more pre-clinical and clinical study of marijuana. The reality is, if you’re doing meta-analysis, or you type in the word marijuana or cannabis on a scientific search engine like Pub-Med, you will find more than seventeen thousand published studies in the scientific literature, referring to the cannabis plant.

It is not hyperbole to say that marijuana is the most studied plant on planet Earth. This isn’t a matter of, ’We need more research.’ This isn’t a matter of, ’We just don’t know enough about marijuana.” We know more about marijuana, then probably ninety-nine percent of the substances we inject into our bodies everyday.

Now it is true, that because much of the research that goes on pertaining to the use of marijuana or pertaining to marijuana itself, it’s funded by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse. In fact, I believe they fund about eighty-five percent of the research that is performed on all drugs on the entire planet, not just in the United States of America. Clearly, they do have a bias. Clearly, they do ideally look for research that is going to find harms in marijuana.

But it would not be true to say that the Federal Government will not fund research, if it’s looking for the theraputic potential of marijuana. In fact, over the last three or four years, there’s been about a dozen studies that were funded and completed, in the state of California, that were assessing clinical medical value of inhaled cannabis. Those studies were very favorable. They were published in journals and they were funded by the US Government. So it does happen.

Dean Becker: Penny, I want to thank you for that call. Apparently we lost you, but we do appreciate you being the first female to call in on the Drug Truth hour situation, here.

We’re speaking with Mr. Paul Arnemtano of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and co-author of a brand new book, “Marijuana is Safer: So Why are we Driving People to Drink?” Let’s go ahead and take Josh on line three. You’re on the air.

Josh: Yes, Hello. Thanks for taking my call, Dean.

Dean Becker: Yes, Sir.

Josh: I’ve been a commercial driver for about twelve years and I’m so much on y’all’s side on this, but of course I can’t; there’s no way, we have random’s and I would lose my job if I were to smoke. But the thing about it is, man, at least you can drive on that crap. I mean you drink and drive whatever, that’s the problem. Actually alcohol’s a lot worse than... I don’t know, I’m kind of rambling on there, but…

Dean Becker: But you’re making a fine point, because there‘re, I think, many people across America are kind of ‘boxed in’ by their circumstance. They can’t speak up at work, because to do so would…

Josh: Correct, correct, correct.

Dean Becker: …perhaps jeopardize their job. Paul, your thoughts?

Mr. Paul Armentano: You know, we talk about this in the book. It’s not just our criminal laws that coerce people to drink, when they might otherwise use marijuana. It’s the culture in this country itself; in drug testing, random drug testing, like this caller faces; like Federal employee’s face is a part of that culture and you hear this time and time again. Individuals that, because they face random drug testing in the work place, they tend to refrain from the use of marijuana and they substitute that ’would-be’ use of marijuana with alcohol.

It is ironic to me that employer’s basically tell their employee’s implicitly, ’Look, you can get drunk as a skunk on Friday night, on Saturday night, on Sunday night. You can show up to work hung-over on Monday, but just don’t use marijuana in your off-time. Because if you do that, I’m sorry, we’re going to have to fire you.’

It is ironic to me that this is a culture that calls the hour when people get off work, the time from five to six, ’Happy Hour’ and the assumption is, what are you going to do during ‘happy hour’? You’re going to drink. In fact, we’re going to make drinking so appealing, we’re even going to lower our prices on alcohol during that periods of time. Because that is the culture that we promote in this country.

Josh: So you get in a wreck and then they… your DWI, right then and there and then, for instance for me, I don’t have a license, I don’t have a job. I don’t have… my livelihood’s over and that is a drag.

Dean Becker: Josh look, it’s going to take those incremental steps that are outlined in his book, “Marijuana is Safer” that tell you how to go about changing the mindset of your bosses, your family, your neighbors. There’s lots of good steps within that book to do just that. Josh, thank you for your call.

Josh: I bought it, I bought it. I got the book and I haven’t read it yet, but I just bought the book. I heard the PSA the other day about it.

Dean Becker: Well, thank you, Josh. I appreciate it. OK, we’re doing well here. We’ve got Steve online. Let’s hear from Steve. What’s your concerns?

Steve: OK, I can definitely relate to the topic of the book, cause I brewed ten gallons of beer in my backyard today. {chuckling} But it’s funny, because people talk about writing to their congressman. There’s three separate bills going through Congress right now, dealing with pot. One’s for medical patients, one’s for responsible adults smoking or driven to penalties, another has to do with Industrial Hemp. None of those really appear to be going anywhere, yet there’s another bill out there to change the IRS tax codes or use the tax on beer to pre 1991 levels. It’s already made it to the Senate. Pretty much a definite statement on our culture right there, short of printing out a NORML poster and put it on the local bulletin board. What else can we do?

Dean Becker: Well, write those letters, that’s the main thing. Steve, we thank you for your call. You know, I just want to throw a thought into this conversation. We hear the willingness out there, don’t we Paul? The awareness of so many people. But wondering, how do they go about it? But I want to again stress, this book has the bullets, it has the quiver full of arrows, to help you do your part. Let’s go to Don. Line two, you’re on the air.

Don: Hi there.

Dean Becker: Hello, Don. You’re on the air.

Don: Thank you. I have three questions, I hope I can remember them. I was about to write them down while I was listening to you here.

Dean Becker: Well, make ‘em quick.

Don: Regarding the research, you talked about eighty-five percent of the marijuana research being funded by the government and I must confess, I was one of those who had believed that it was being suppressed. I would like to hear more commentary about, ‘Why is this and what’s being funded?’, in terms of research. My second question is…

Dean Becker: Do you have your radio on, Don?

Don: No.

Dean Becker: OK.

Don: …on a cell phone.

Dean Becker: OK, but quickly. Just the one question about the research. Just sum it up for us, we’re running out of time.

Don: The bias’s; the comment’s about bias‘, but also I was curious about… people say that the effects of marijuana on driving are less than alcohol and I want to know if there’re any studies which substantiate that.

Dean Becker: Don, I tell you what, we’ve got more caller’s. Let’s leave it at that and one question at a time for Paul Armentano.

Mr. Paul Armentano: That’s a good question. I actually have written quite extensively on the subject of marijuana and it’s impact on driving and the caller is correct that there are several studies, both actual on-road studies and studies that were performed with individuals using a driving simulator and when you compare and contrast the acute effects of marijuana on driving vs. those of alcohol, they are quite different.

Typically what you see with marijuana is, people tend to be aware of their impairment and they try to compensate for it, by driving more slowly, by allowing more headway with the vehicle in front of them and this is quite different than you see with alcohol, where people tend to drive more recklessly or more aggressively.

All of that said, that is not to imply that a person who is operating a vehicle under the influence of marijuana, is a safe driver. They are statistically and objectively a safer driver than one who is under the influence of alcohol. Even one who is not above the legal limit to drink and drive. But, they are not a safe driver. They do have an elevated risk of an accident compared to someone who has not smoked marijuana or drank alcohol at all. So I want to be very clear about that point.

Dean Becker: Alright, thank you and Paul, we have one more caller. We’re going to cut off the phone lines after this. Let’s go ahead to Sharon. You’re on the air.

Sharon: Hi, guys! I am really glad to hear this is going on, but I am calling basically just to bring to light or hopefully start some discussion about the economic viewpoint of it all. Not only do we have; we’re supporting so many people in jail who are there strictly for marijuana violations, which costs us a lot of money and the simple fact that, if we did the various different things with the cannabis plant, not just medicinally but otherwise, and just simply did more with it economically, this country would be so much stronger in so many ways. How do you think it’s the best approach to do this with the government, locally or otherwise?

Dean Becker: Alright Sharon, thank you much. Paul, your response?

Mr. Paul Armentano: Once again, a good question. In state, in local communities, they’re hurting right now. It’s a downturn in the economy. I live in California. Right now there is a bill in California to tax and regulate the sale of marijuana to those over age twenty-one and an Economic Assessment that was just recently put out by the California State Board of Equalization and Taxation, estimated that, ‘Were that bill to pass, that taxing the sale of marijuana, in the state of California, could raise about one point four billion dollars.

As I noted earlier, just last week Oakland became the first city in the country, to pass a retail sales tax on the sale of marijuana. It is estimated that that will bring in about three hundred thousand dollars per year, in new tax revenue, to the city of Oakland. So you can approach this issue on the micro-level, on the local level, like they’ve done in Oakland or you can approach it at the state level, like they’ve also done in California, by trying to introduce legislation to tax and regulate marijuana, similar to alcohol.

When we’re talking about national numbers, I’ve seen statistics showing that anywhere from thirty billion dollars a year to even larger amount, could be raised if we were simply to regulate and tax and legalize marijuana and those numbers aren’t even accounting for judicial and law enforcement savings that would occur, if police simply shifted their focus and shifted their priorities from marijuana to enforcing more serious criminal offenses.

Dean Becker: Paul, thank you so much for being with us. We kind of… well, we didn’t fumble, we didn’t stumble, we just had a few glitches along the way. I think we had a pretty good first Drug Truth Network hour and I want to thank you. I look forward to seeing you in September at the NORML Conference, out there in San Francisco. Paul, any website’s you’d like to share, as we go?

Mr. Paul Armentano: Sure I would. Certainly, you know, so many people called and they said, ‘How do I get involved in this issue?’ ’How do I make a difference?’ Obviously I would encourage people to contact and join the organization that I work for, NORML (The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and they can do that by going to www.norml.org and at the same token, I would encourage people to pick up a copy of “Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?” and they can learn everything they need to know about that book and how to order it by going to www.marijuanaissafer.com.

Dean Becker: Alright, Paul. Thank you so much, my friend. We’ll be in touch soon for another report. OK?

Mr. Paul Armentano: Thank you, Dean. I’ll come back anytime.

Dean Becker: OK. I want to just kind of wrap up a couple of things. We only had one or two calls from outside this area code. Here’s hoping the server’s are up and running, the buffer’s are buffering better next week and that we’re able to get more folks from around the country. But, you have been part of the first one hour Drug Truth Network program here, so to speak, the two parter; Cultural Baggage followed by Century of Lies.

We’re going to share a little bit here with you from AP. Let’s go ahead and share that with the audience.
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Marines who raided a bazaar in a Taliban stronghold in Helmand Province last weekend, were left with an unusual problem, how to get rid of four thousand bags of opium poppies and explosives seized during the raid. First, they tried to burn it, but that failed. Next, they considered bombing it, but the Air Force declined.

So the Marines hauled the sacks out into the desert and waged an all out campaign to destroy them with their own weaponry. They blasted the pile with fourteen shoulder fired missiles, lobed several mortars at it and finally blew it up with C-4 explosives.

It took a full day and surely mystified Afghan herdsmen encamped in the area, where there had been no significant presence of Afghan or Coalition forces. Perhaps it counts as target practice.
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(Sounds of rockets being shot at the confiscated goods.)

unknown: What happened?

Marine: We shot fourteen rockets at it and now we’re going to pull back a little bit and drop some mortars on it.
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Dean Becker: There you go. There’s your tax dollars at work. Blowing up drugs in the desert. Fireworks forever.

I want to thank Paul Armentano for his fine input and for the great book and I want to invite all the network listener’s; all sixty-four affiliates, to join us next Sunday at 6:30PM Central time. Listen to kpft.org. You can join in by calling our toll free number 1-877-9-420 420. Our guest will be Professor Arthur Benavie. Author of, “Drugs: America’s Holy War”.

…and in closing, I state that there is no truth, justice, logic, scientific fact, medical data. No reason for this Drug War to exist. Please visit our website endprohibition.org.

Prohibido istac evilesco.

For the Drug Truth Network this is Dean Becker, asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston

*(On the Cultural Baggage half, of this one hour interview.)

Transcript provided by: C. Assenberg of www.marijuanafactorfiction.org