01/10/16 Doug McVay

This week: we discuss new data on youth drug use, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin's support for marijuana legalization, and Maine Governor Paul LePage's racist comments about the drug war.

Century of Lies
Sunday, January 10, 2016
Doug McVay
Drug War Facts
Download: Audio icon COL011016.mp3



JANUARY 10, 2016


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.

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

And now, on with the show.

The Monitoring the Future Survey project released its annual report, or at least, the first results from their annual report. The Monitoring the Future project is conducted at the University of Michigan on behalf of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Students in public and private secondary schools across the contiguous 48 states are surveyed, some 40,000 young people are asked about their use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. According to the Monitoring the Future Survey, this year the use of both alcohol and cigarettes reached their lowest points since the study began in 1975.

In addition, the use of several other drugs, including MDMA, heroin, amphetamines, and synthetic cannabinoids, also showed a decline this year. Marijuana use, on the other hand, remained level. In the face of four states legalizing adult social use of marijuana, in the light of more than half the country having some form or other of medical marijuana, and the kind of cultural shift that we've seen regarding marijuana, the fact that young people -- 8th, 10th, and 12th graders -- that their use of marijuana is level, I think says something good about the way the changes have been enacted, and in fact, let's face it: the stigma of admitting that you use a substance is not constant. At the end of the Reagan era, the beginning of the first George Bush, there was a lot of fear of admitting that you were using any kind of drug, even marijuana use. Students, adults, everyone was in fear. The stigma declined somewhat during the Clinton years, and then on into the next Bush, and now, with the spread of medical marijuana laws, and the growth of the adult social use marijuana legalization, we've maybe seen a difference. A change.

Certainly, in terms of the perception of risk, there's been a big change. The percent of students who see regular marijuana use as carrying a great risk of harm, according to the Monitoring the Future Survey, has declined substantially since about 2005, and is still declining. Over the past 10 years, the percent seeing a great risk in regular marijuana use has fallen among 8th graders, from 74 percent to 58 percent; among 10th graders, from 66 percent to 43 percent; and among 12th graders, from 58 percent to 32 percent. Now, at one time, this perception of risk was seen as one of the big deterrents, and that was possibly one of the reasons why people felt okeh with the idea of scare tactics and exaggeration, because if we can just make people think these things are awful and they'll die if they think about them, then maybe they won't use them. But the reality is, that's not what happened. And now we're in a situation where the perception of risk is actually declining, and yet, use is remaining level. Maybe honesty works after all.

A copy of the report, and a lot of other great material, can be found at MonitoringTheFuture.org, and you can also find all that data, and a whole lot more, at the Drug War Facts website, DrugWarFacts.org.

Now, let's look at some governors, shall we? It's January after all, the State of the Union address will be held on January 12th, all of the various states have their State of the State addresses. Governor Peter Shumlin of Vermont made his State of the State address back on January 6th. Governor Shumlin expressed his support for legalizing adult use marijuana. He had a lot more to say. Let's give a listen to Governor Shumlin.

GOVERNOR PETER SHUMLIN: You all remember, it was a pretty lonely place when Vermont had the courage to acknowledge the terrible disease of opiate addiction that was threatening our quality of life and killing too many of our neighbors.

Today, there can’t be a state in the Union that hasn't joined us. Our innovation over the past two years is getting results. 65 percent more Vermonters are getting treatment. We're moving addicts into recovery instead of jail. By getting rescue kits to anyone who will take them, we have prevented hundreds and hundreds of overdose deaths. We've saved lives. Most importantly, we’ve removed the stigma that discriminates against our friends and family members struggling so hard against this terrible disease.

Recently I met Meghan Clodgo and Chelsea Mitchell, two young moms who are beating addiction to build a better future for their children. Chelsea became addicted, homeless, and alone, and her daughter was taken from her. Success meant fighting relapse with all of her might, falling, and crawling back up again. Megan had a college degree, worked in early childhood education, and began using opiates as an adult, an example of how easily things can get out of hand and how quickly someone can fall into the pit of addiction. With the help of our hub and spoke treatment system, and the Lund Center, Chelsea and Meghan are doing the hard work, they're doing the hard work to recover. Meghan and Chelsea are here today. Stand up. Thank you for your strength. Thank you for giving other addicts -- [applause]

I said two years ago that opiate addiction is the one thing that could destroy Vermont as we have known it. Today, we live almost daily with drug related violence. Whether it's dealers getting shot on Church Street, or people burning to death after being doused with gasoline, the horrors seem unimaginable. Unimaginable. We live with despair, crime, death, and small children neglected by the people who are supposed to love them the most. So much of this burden, so much of this burden, lands on the shoulders of our state’s social workers, who spend every day making difficult, tough, unfriendly choices, to protect and give hope to heroin’s most innocent victims, our most vulnerable children.

We will forever honor one of our very best: Lara Sobel, whose love and compassion for every child, every family, every Vermonter she touched shall be forever etched in our memory. Indeed, it's Lara’s commitment, her daughters, her husband, her family, give us the faith in our common humanity to keep pressing on, to continue our search for a smarter approach, as folks continue to become addicted faster than we can treat them. We’re honored to be joined today by Lara’s two daughters, Julia and Elahna, and her husband, Tim. Thank you. Stand up, if you would. We will never forget your mom.

To continue Lara’s legacy, let’s give her colleagues the support they need to do their job by approving my request to fund 35 new positions at the Department of Children and Families and help me take measures to ensure their safety in the workplace. Let's do that together.

We also, we also need to take two additional actions to deal with our addiction crisis.

First, in order to meet our goal of getting rid of the waiting list, we must continue to expand treatment.

In Franklin County, where approximately 250 folks have to travel to other hubs for treatment, my health department is working with the Northwest Medical Center to expand treatment options closer to home. In addition, we're also working with the hospital to increase access to Vivitrol, a drug that will block the effects of opiates for a full month to help addicts in the struggle to stay clean.

In Burlington, Health Commissioner Harry Chen is working with Mayor Weinberger, the UVM Medical Center, recovery providers, law enforcement, community leaders, to prevent addiction, reduce drug-related crime, and expand treatment options there.

Across the state, the Department of Children and Families is sending drug screeners out with our social workers into homes where substance abuse is a contributor to children who are being abused or neglected.

Statewide, parents with young children in the DCF system will be moved to the front of the line for treatment until our waiting lists are gone.

Second, let’s go after the source that led us into this mess in the first place. It’s difficult for me to find words that adequately express my frustration, but I can find the three letters that are at the root of the problem: FDA

In the 1990s, the FDA approved OxyContin, which lit the match that ignited America’s opiate and heroin addiction crisis, make no mistake about it. In 2010, we prescribed enough OxyContin to keep every adult in America high for an entire month. In 2012, we issued enough prescriptions to give every American adult their own personal bottle of pills.

On television, Americans now see commercials for drugs whose sole purpose, sole purpose, is to help relieve side effects from taking opiates. In other words, we now have FDA approved drugs to help you take more FDA approved opiates. A few years ago, the FDA approved Zohydro, which is OxyContin on steroids, against the recommendation of their own advisory committee. Just a few months ago, the FDA approved OxyContin for kids. You can’t make this stuff up.

The $11 billion a year opiate industry in America knows no shame. Compassionate pain management has been transformed by big pharma into drug promotion and profit. And until America is willing to have an honest conversation about the way we're dealing with pain, our challenges will continue, I assure you, unabated. In light of this, I ask you to help me implement the following.

First, we're putting an end to the system where doctors, dentists, healthcare providers, send patients home with 80, 90 pills in their pocket. I am proposing a new system, where a maximum of ten pills will be the limit for minor procedures. Let's be sensible. Now, we’re also looking at reasonable limits for more major procedures that provide pain relief without filling up our medicine cabinets with unused opiates. That’s just Vermont common sense. Let's get it done together.

Second, we're going to partner with local pharmacies and communities to expand drug take back programs, to get rid of Vermont’s most dangerous leftovers. That too is good common sense.

Third, we're partnering with neighboring states to upgrade the prescription monitoring system to prevent addicts from crossing state borders to go pill shopping. I ask for your support on all three of these actions.

Now, we also must continue the good progress that we’ve made reforming our criminal justice system. It shouldn’t surprise anybody that when we take people’s driver’s licenses for non-driver related offenses like underage tobacco purchases, that we end up with four times as many Vermonters with suspended driver’s licenses than we have enrolled in our State College System. Four times. That's right. Now, I want to recognize our innovative State’s Attorney, T.J. Donovan, who worked with us to create two driver restoration days in Chittenden and Windsor Counties. T.J., thank you for your good work, where are you hiding? Stand up. Thank you for being so innovative.

The stories. The stories that T.J. and I heard from lower income Vermonters standing in line for redemption made me ask this: Why are we creating a permanent economic disability and making it so difficult for people who want to improve their lives? I ask you to make driver restoration days unnecessary -- that's right, abolish them -- by passing legislation that ensures non-traffic related offenses don’t lead to Vermonters losing their ability to get to work and drop their kids at school. It's just common sense. Let's do it together.

The outdated War on Drugs has also failed. We all know that. And there is no greater example than our nation’s marijuana laws. That’s why Vermont took steps to change our criminal penalties and to institute a well-regulated medical marijuana system that now serves 2,400 Vermonters.

This careful approach shows that we know how to regulate marijuana thoughtfully and cautiously, avoiding the pitfalls that have caused other states to stumble where Vermont succeeded. So we've got a track record.

But the black market of drug dealers selling marijuana for recreational use is alive and well in our state, serving over 80,000 Vermonters who reported using marijuana just last year. 80,000. These illegal dealers could not care less how young their customers are, what’s in the products they sell, or what illegal drugs you buy from the rest of their stash while you're there, much less whether they pay taxes on their earnings. That’s why I will work with you to craft the right bill that thoughtfully and carefully eliminates the era of prohibition that is currently failing us so miserably. Miserably.

To do it right, we must do it deliberately, cautiously, step by step, and not go all out in one leap, as we legislate the lessons learned from the other states that went before us. I'll insist on five things before I’ll sign the bill.

First, a legal market must keep marijuana and other drugs out of the hands of underage kids, which the current system does not. Our new system must.

Second, the tax imposed must be low enough -- low enough -- to wipe out the black market and get rid of the illegal drug dealers.

Third, revenue from legalization must be used to expand addiction prevention programs statewide. That's right.

Fourth, we must strengthen law enforcement’s current capacity to improve our response to impaired drivers under the influence of marijuana who are already driving on Vermont’s roads right now.

And fifth, take a hard lesson learned from other states and ban the sale of edibles until other states figure out how to do that one right. Those are the five things that are good common sense.

Now, I understand that the Senate's going to go first, and I look forward to working with Senate Pro Tem John Campbell, with the Senate Leadership, Senator Sears, and the Senate Judiciary Committee to construct a sensible, cautious bill. We have a history of tackling difficult issues with respect and care, the Vermont way. I believe we have the capacity to take this next step and get marijuana legalization done right, the Vermont way. Let's do it together.

DOUG MCVAY: That again was Governor Peter Shumlin of Vermont, delivering his State of the State address on Wednesday, January 6th. Governor Shumlin's audio comes to us courtesy of Chittenden County's regional government access TV channel and the CCTV Center for Media and Democracy.

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.

Now from Vermont, we go a very short ways in New England to a nearby state, Maine. Also on January 6th, at a Bridgton town meeting, Governor Paul LePage answered a question. It started off bad and then went downhill. Let's just listen.

GOVERNOR PAUL LEPAGE: One of the biggest issues right now -- there are two issues. Two issues. Seventy five percent of the drug abuse in the state of Maine comes from prescription drugs. Twenty five percent started from illicit drugs. We are now in a point where over fifty percent of the drug problem is illicit drugs, because it's cheaper to go on to heroin than it is to take OxyContin. And, so what the -- some of the things that we have done, number one, I've got a bill in to the legislature right now to take the traffickers -- now, the traffickers, these aren't people that take drugs, these are guys of the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty, these type of guys that come from Connecticut and New York. They come up here, they sell their heroin, then they go back home. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue that we've got to deal with down the road.

We're going to make them very severe penalties. Number one. Number two, we have a new ten agents that are just coming in, we're working on getting them into the -- hired and into the system. So we're getting -- need more drug agents. We spend $77 million a year in treatment, $3 million in law enforcement for the drug, direct drug effort. Zero in education. So we have to do a lot more in educating our schools, starting in the middle grades, the mid-school.

We need to get after the drugs. We have to deal with this problem of drugs in the big picture. We cannot, will not succeed, dealing with it on a day to day, town to town, situation. We have to have a big picture. The big picture is, we need to have inpatient facilities to do those who are addicted, because if we throw them in jail, they serve their term, they come back and right back on the drug. We have to find a way to treatment for addicts.

Very big. I spent the day today with 13 doctors, and that's what we're trying to figure out, some dynamics of how we can do that. I have a bill that's going to be going up shortly. It's going to deal with it, with driving, using the drug courts as the big stick to force addicts to get treatment. We give them a choice: you can go to jail, or you can go to treatment.

We need to address treatment. But we need to have the ability to have a little bit of power over those who are addicted. First -- they have an addictive personality, so, if you're not, if you don't use a big stick or something to keep them in the program, they go away. And they go back to drugs, they relapse and relapse and relapse. So, we are working at a much higher level. We have the attorney general, who's working with the US Attorney through the recent summit we had. We're working with the New England states and the federal government now.

Now, I'll tell you what the biggest problem, and where communities can help. The biggest thing you can do for us is, if there are drug addicts, don't hide it. Let us know. We'll treat them. Because, if you hide it, it doesn't get better. And if you hide it, you're just creating a false market for those coming out of state into our state. We need your help to find them. We need to find the bad ones that are selling it, and we need to find those that are addicted, so that we can save their lives.

Now, opiate addiction, success rate's going to be in the 30 percentile, 35 percent. Heroin is horrible. It is horrible. The success rate in heroin is really bad. It's almost to the point where the generation that's addicted now is in serious, serious trouble to survive, and it's because of the strength of the heroin is not consistent, it's treated with other drugs that their bodies may never have experienced, so the overdosing is -- that's what happens. So we really have a community problem, a state problem, and we're trying to address it in three different ways.

I'll tell you, people are -- in the legislature, I constantly hear, The governor only wants, you know, law enforcement, law enforcement, law enforcement. No. I'm tired of seeing young people, tired of seeing my friends burying their kids. It's not the way it should be. So, I don't want to incarcerate drug addicts. This program I'm working on for a new facility is to have outpatient drug treatment, not methadone clinic where you run in, get your methadone, and run. You are under the auspices of law enforcement, and we can use our county jails, empty the county jails of nonviolent offenders, get them into treatment but have them have to report. Have them have to report. Have them report knowing that if they violate their, our compassion for them, that they're going to go to jail. But incarcerating them isn't the right way, because simply, you can get drugs in prison much quicker than you can on the street.

DOUG MCVAY: That again was Maine Governor Paul LePage, answering a question at a town meeting in Bridgton, Maine, on January 6th. That audio comes to us courtesy of Lake Region Television, a community access cable television station in the western Maine lake region.

And well, that's all the time we have. Thank you for listening. This has been 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.

You can follow me on twitter, I'm @DrugPolicyFacts and of course also @DougMcVay. You can follow the show on Facebook, give the Drug Truth Network page a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give it a like and share it with friends. We'll be back next week with another thirty minutes of news and information about the war on drugs 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.