04/22/16 Carl Hart

Prof Carl Hart, Pat O'Hare, Michael Seibert and Atty Harry Levine at Columbia Univ in NYC + Nurse Mary Lynn Mathre and Mathew Deleo at Patients Out of Time Conf in Baltimore

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Friday, April 22, 2016
Carl Hart



APRIL 22, 2016


DEAN BECKER: Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

DR. G. ALAN ROBISON: It is not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally un-American.

CROWD: No more! Drug war! No More! Drug War! No More! Drug War!

DEAN BECKER: My name is Dean Becker. I don't condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison, and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.

As always, we've got a great show lined up for you. We have reports from Baltimore, where I attended the Patients Out of Time medical cannabis gathering, with scientists and doctors from around the world reporting on the good news about the cannabis plant. We've got reports from Columbia University in New York City, where I attended a major gathering on the prejudice of the drug war. So we begin our coverage from Columbia University with Professor Carl Hart, author of High Price.

DR. CARL HART: We would be naive to think that politicians are going to solve this problem, in part because politicians do what the population want them to do, otherwise they won't be in office. In our population, in the United States, it's comfortable arresting black and brown people for drugs. I mean, that's just who we are. And if we don't own it, I mean, like, here, we are saying that we know our drug policies, it's racist. Drug policies are not racist. Policies are simple policies. I mean, it's the carrying out of the policies, the application of the policies, that are -- that lead to racial discrimination. Not racial bias, not racial disparities. Not -- we oftentimes, we like to soften the blow. It's racial discrimination. Racial disparity is like, black people like to smoke Newports more than white people. That's racial disparity. That's not racial discrimination. Racial discrimination is what is going on.

And we know it. And at -- but, one of the things that I think that it's very important that the mayor just said, is that, as we think about our country, and our predilection for racial discrimination, it's not limited to the drug war. And in fact, the Obama administration said the drug war is over. He said that a long time ago. They have learned to co-opt the language of the progressive, that's what they do. And, when you look at the actions of these administrations, even administrations we voted for, they have fucked us. Administrations that we voted for. And we are ambivalent about criticizing those administrations because there's a black face. Don't be ambivalent, because my children pay the price. Your children will pay the price. So don't be ambivalent for criticizing those folks who are continuing to participate in the subjugation of my children. It doesn't matter what face they have.

As we move forward, we need to understand that it's not about the drug war. It's about American racism that has been exported abroad. Brothers and sisters from Brazil, they understand this. Throughout the world, they understand this. And so, as we have this conversation also, I want to make sure that we are careful. We oftentimes talk about drug users. But the drug users that we're talking about are the pathological drug users. I'm a drug user. I'm not a pathological drug user, I go to work, I take care of my bills, I do all the rest of those sorts of things. But when you are talking about drug users, you are talking about that person that you can feel good about helping, and you feel good about yourself.

But that's not the -- that's not the majority of drug users, the majority of drug users look like me, not that I'm black, but they have a job. They have a job, they take care of their responsibilities. That's the majority of the drug users. And so, please, do not simply frame this issue to focus on just the pathological people. They need our help, of course, but that's not the drug user. I'm the drug user.

DEAN BECKER: Carl's thoughts kind of echo what I was discussing last week with Maia Szalavitz, author of Unbroken Brain. Next up, from Columbia University:

PAT O'HARE: My name is Pat O'Hare, and I'm, I was the founding director of what's now called Harm Reduction International. I was the founder of the harm reduction conferences, the international conferences, which we started in Liverpool in 1990, and I was the founder, one of the founders of the International Journal of Drug Policy.

DEAN BECKER: Sir. Now, we're here in New York City, the Drug Policy Alliance gathering. There's such a profound focus on this drug war now, with the UNGASS starting here in a day or two. Around the world, I think more and more officials are beginning to understand the futility of this, following this same path. Your thoughts.

PAT O'HARE: I completely agree with you. I -- unfortunately, I think the UNGASS is going to come to nothing at all. However, it's the activity around the UNGASS that's been quite important.


PAT O'HARE: It's kind of galvanized people into some kind of action. You know, and, I mean, now, President Santos of Colombia, who I actually met a year or so ago, spoke to, he is saying we have to regulate the drugs, we have to bring them under control, because the thing is just a total mess. He's on the front page of the Observer today, and people don't think that you are crazy now, when you say these things. There's been a remarkable shift in that. I mean, when I first started, people thought we were crazy, they thought we had two heads, you know? But not now. You talk, I talk to the cab driver on the way up here about this, he said, yeah, that's exactly what we should do. So, yeah. It's changing.

DEAN BECKER: Yes it is. And today -- or, it was actually yesterday's Guardian newspaper, featured the new chief of police for the nation is going to put forward the idea it's time to set up safe injection sites, provide free cocaine and heroin, and to destroy the black market and in essence much of the criminality that's associated with the drug war. Your response, sir.

PAT O'HARE: It's so significant. That, I mean, I only find this news out -- you told me this news two minutes ago. This is so significant, that he would be appointed, outspoken as he is, he will be appointed. And it just shows you the progress. I feel it in my bones now, to be honest, I feel it in my bones that it will change. Sometime, and I still believe it will be in my lifetime, it's going to change. And things will be different.

DEAN BECKER: Yes sir. And, you know, there are many, I don't know, shall we say factions or examples of harm reduction now, many organizations that have kind of stepped forward in your footsteps, trying to undo the harms of this drug war. How does that make you feel, sir?

PAT O'HARE: Oh, well, I'm very proud of what we did. We -- and it wasn't me on my own, I had plenty of colleagues, some of them more important than I was, who did things that I wasn't there for at the time, but I'm very proud of it because we're privileged, actually, we're privileged, because we do what we do with a passion, and we've made a difference in the world. We have made a difference. We are creating social history. We are.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed. I don't know if you got to hear this morning's proceedings, but Dr. Carl Hart was bringing forward the idea that those of us who are, or have been, drug users, need to 'fess up, need to admit that despite that use, whether it's current or past, that we have gone on to have productive lives and that it did not ruin us for the future.

PAT O'HARE: Well, the last three presidents of the US is proof of that. One of the things that Carl always says, this is for, this will be the breakthrough, when people realize that drug use is not wrong.


PAT O'HARE: That will be -- that will be the real breakthrough. Because, you know, even a country like Portugal, which has done a great thing, and, you know, there'd be no people put in jail, no people fined for possession of drugs, but the whole thing still is based on the premise that drug use is wrong. So there's an administrative sanction, and that -- that's just, you go to a meeting with someone, that's all. But, it's still there, people think drug use is wrong. Cigarette and tobacco are not wrong, you know what I mean, but illegal drugs, it's wrong. And once we get over that one, I mean, we realize that it's just a part of life, and always has been. That's when we make real, real progress.

DEAN BECKER: Another interview recorded at Columbia University, New York City.

MICHAEL SIEVER: Hi, I'm Michael Siever, I'm with the San Francisco Drug Users Union.

DEAN BECKER: Michael, we're here in New York, DPA gathering. There's some very profound statements being put forward, more bold I think than in years past. Your response to that thought, please.

MICHAEL SIEVER: No, I think that conversation has gotten a lot deeper, and gone to more kind of important root causes of a lot of these issues. And I think we're now really looking at what folks are now calling intersectionality. We used to call it multi-issue, but, you know, looking at how the war on drugs is connected to racism, it's connected to economic inequities in this country, and how all of these things are intertwined, you know, with capitalism, and, that none of this -- we all, I think, want to intend to kind of think of things somewhat simplistically, and I think this conference is really trying to pull people away from simplistic notions and look at the broader picture.

DEAN BECKER: And, it is the, jeez, the corruption that's kind of woven throughout every aspect, every interpretation of this, I think, that complicates the full understanding, and maybe the ability of some people to actually move forward, and do something about it. Your thought, there.

MICHAEL SIEVER: Well, I mean, I think, you know, again, all of these words, it's important to kind of define. I mean, corruption, depending on how you mean that, you know, in a lot of ways --

DEAN BECKER: It diverts more.

MICHAEL SIEVER: Yeah. I mean, our system is, you know, shot through with corruption at every level, and, you know, whether it's the corruption of money and politics, and how, you know, because we're sort of all caught up in the presidential political circus. You know, or the money involved in the drug trade, and by drug trade I mean both legal and illegal drug trade, and, you know, who profits from what, you know, and I think when, even when you look at that, you have to look at not only, you know, who's profiting in a very obvious direct way, but, you know, how much our police department budgets are depending on the war on drugs. And, I mean, so these things are all interconnected, and you really have to look at a broader picture, rather than just the easy kind of slogans that are, you know, good to say when you're marching down the street, but, also often have to be sort of simplistic.

DEAN BECKER: Well, you know, the San Francisco Drug Users Union was, if not the first, among the first to step forward here in the United States, I think, and to kind of prove a point, that it can make a difference. And it's kind of expanded, and morphed around the country now. Not exactly a similar position perhaps, in each city, but certainly a very positive reach by each of those cities to do something very important: saving lives. Right?

MICHAEL SIEVER: Yeah, I mean, I think, well, one, I mean, I won't claim that we're the first and only, or, you know, certainly not the first and certainly not the only organization that is comprised, it's composed of drug users who are advocating for themselves. But, you know, there are different, different organizations throughout the country and throughout North America, and throughout the world, you know, but, we and all of us, you know, are committed to trying to make lives safer and easier for people who do drugs, and that includes everyone, you know, whether they inject drugs or whether they do, you know, what we like to call hard drugs, or whether they do recreational drugs, or what we call party drugs.

I mean, all of these things are interconnected, and you know, like, one of those things that got talked about a couple of times today was that, you know, we're not just talking about heroin and cocaine, or methamphetamine or the ones that get all the attention in the media. There's another whole side of this, the party drugs, and raves, and electronic dance music. I mean, drugs are woven throughout our entire culture in ways that we don't always think about, and it's important to -- again, to kind of broaden your perspective.

DEAN BECKER: Right. And, I don't know, I kept hearing kind of the thought of Carl Hart and many others echoed a similar thought, that it's time to, you know, admit we're drug users and we're not the problem.

MICHAEL SIEVER: No, but part of it, you know, I'm sort of reminded of Harvey Milk's call in terms of gay liberation around, you know, that everyone needs to come out, that that will change the world once people are out. I mean, I think everyone needs to come out also as drug users.

DEAN BECKER: And one more interview this week from Columbia University.

DR. HARRY LEVINE: Hi, my name is Harry Levine, I'm a -- my straight job is, I'm a professor at the City University of New York, but I've been writing about and agitating about the drug war for most of my career, and focusing on policing and the criminal justice system, low level offenses in particular. I drew attention to, with one of the speakers today, Deborah Small, about the huge numbers of arrests for possession of marijuana both in New York City, which arrested more people for possessing marijuana than any place on earth, and throughout the United States, 700,000 arrests a year, many places in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, there were more people arrested for possessing marijuana than for any other crime whatsoever.

And, for the whole range of policing issues, and people talk about, you know, what should we do and what's the alternatives, and what places have good policies, and so on, and I basically have a simple answer to that question, which is that what you want, is that low income people, poor people, and especially black and Latino people, people of color, should be treated by the police, and by the criminal justice system, the same way that upper middle class white people are. It's that straightforward. Upper middle class white people everywhere are by and large, they're not stopped by the police, they're not searched, they aren't frisked. They're not given tickets for possessing a drug or anything else. They're not arrested. They're not booked. They're not jailed. They're not prosecuted. They're not imprisoned. And they don't have criminal records.

And that's all that should be done for everyone, so that, in, essentially what we have here is that police departments, and much of the criminal justice system has been, the staff of it has been integrated over the last 25 or 30 years. But the policies and the practices of what they do remain very racially segregated. And that, essentially, the policing needs to become the same for everyone, and that that they're not going to be arresting upper middle class white people and doing any of those things to them, then that's what should be done for everyone, that, that at that -- and that's the simple demand for the criminal justice system. And again, this is not something to be given, it's something that has to be won, and the people have to speak up for it.

The #BlackLivesMatter Movement is really a kind of remarkable resurgence of this, your organization LEAP has really done wonderful things around that as well, and that, I think the tide of history is with us, and that, it's a fight, and it's a battle, but it's one that we're winning and we can win.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Difficulty breathing. Swelling of your face. Fever. Sore throat. Headache. Vomiting. Severe blistering. Bruising, tingling, numbness, pain, weakness, bleeding, dark urine, clay colored stools, jaundice, and death. Time's up! The answer: Nuvigil! A medication that promotes wakefulness.

All right, and we have just enough time for a couple of interviews from the Patients Out of Time medical marijuana conference in Baltimore.

Okeh, I'm lucky, I ran into her in the hallway, the executive director, or co-director, President, of Patients Out of Time, Nurse Mary Lynn Mathre, and hopefully we'll have a few minutes to talk about this great conference. Hi, Mary Lynn, how are you doing?

MARY LYNN MATHRE: I'm doing great, so glad to be here.

DEAN BECKER: Well, it's good to have you back on Cultural Baggage, and I've got to say this: I'm just blown away by the -- look, I stay up on this good, very closely, but I'm blown away by what I'm learning in just these few hours I've been here. Tell us who's at this conference, please.

MARY LYNN MATHRE: Oh, my goodness, we are so glad. Finally got Manuel Guzman from Spain. We have Roger Pertwee, who came from Scotland. Tamas Biro from Hungary, Mark Ware from Canada, and of course Ethan Russo, John McPartland, Dustin Sulak. Who did I miss? Folks from the United States, great researchers, clinicians. We had, I think, this conference, again, we always bring the researchers, the clinicians, and the patients together, and probably the most impactful part of it today, throughout the whole weekend for me, has been the patient panel, talking about the consequences -- the legal consequences that they've endured. People just literally, they were almost silent for their presentation.

And a lot of that, I think, was -- the point there is to try to help clinicians understand, your silence only lets this continue. Patients are getting locked up, separated from their families, total, totally wrong, totally harmful, totally against any kind of healthcare practice. So it needs -- everybody needs to wake up and stop this now.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and, I think, Mary Lynn, from my perspective, that truth is, as I say, it's expanding. People are aware of this, and through their silence, they're standing as prohibitionists. They're standing as in support of this. It's not a big leap to hurdle anymore, and people will accept you on the other side, on every side. It's time to just speak up, isn't it?

MARY LYNN MATHRE: I think it is. It's a safer environment now. You know, just a couple of years ago, in southern Colorado, you know, you think of Colorado being legal, but down in Pueblo, Colorado, where they had their state fair, it's very conservative, and we had a booth. An educational booth for cannabis, and people would walk by and they'd see it and quickly avert their eyes, like, uh oh, I don't see that, I don't want to talk about it. But a nurse stopped by, who was a patient, using it and helping other patients, and he did part-time care, and he was telling me how he was basically told that if he was very loud about that, he would lose his job. So he was very scared, and he looked down the hall and he saw a nurse colleague, and got really worried about being there. End result was, we got to talking, and found out that the other nurse, her husband was a patient. And I said, you know, probably so many of your colleagues use it, but you're all afraid to open your mouth.

But it is. With the opioid epidemic, it's a huge window that's been opened to us, because that's getting in the press, they clearly are dangerous when used -- I mean, you can easily overdose on opiates, and most pain patients, if they get to use cannabis, they significantly decrease or drop their use of opiates. It's such a big safety factor, since you cannot overdose on cannabis. So that is like, to the government and everybody, it's like, you know, when you want to talk about looking at all options, then let's look at this old option that's been there, been around, tried and true forever. And as I said in the conference, there's, nowadays we depend on evidence based practice. We want those studies. And everybody says, well, cannabis didn't go through them. Well, neither did aspirin. It was grandfathered in way back when, and cannabis way back when, before the Marihuana Tax Act, we had products that were approved by the Pure Food and Drug Act of June 30, 1906. They were approved. Cannabis was taken out of that for no medical reason. That was all political, racism, greed, etc.

And so if we look at that, we know that it's been tried and true, so instead of just evidence based practice, cannabis comes with practice based evidence. It has been used for years and years by thousands and thousands, and tens of thousands, and millions and probably billions of patients over the years. So we know it. Practice over years tells us something, and it tells us that people get better and they're not suffering because of it. It should be, it just should be available today. It needs to be taken completely out of the Controlled Substances Act.

DEAN BECKER: I'm a retired accountant, and I -- numbers, you know they interest me. I got to thinking, if there's only ten million pot smokers in the world, and they've been smoking for a hundred years, and how many tokes per day -- well, literally, it's in the tens of trillions of times people have imbibed or ingested cannabis. And yet, any evidence put forward is still considered anecdotal. I don't know, I find that a preposterous notion.

MARY LYNN MATHRE: You're exactly right. And as I just said earlier in my talk, the average number of patient exposures to a new drug, when they're trying to get approval? The average number of exposures is 1,500. So fifteen hundred patient exposures and they deem a drug safe. And we find out, of course, when it's started being used by hundreds of thousands, that's when we find the real problems. Again, yeah, trillions. Trillion patient exposures, more than that, I'm sure. We would know by now, and yeah, you know, one anecdotal thing might mean nothing, but when you get it into numbers like that, it is overwhelming. And when you have an organization such as NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, that's spent decades trying to find the harms, it's been an ironic circle.

NIDA focused all its study on the harms, and in all of this study, it really kind of helped lead to the study of the endocannabinoid system, which we thought, oh my goodness, this is the thing that keeps us all healthy, helps regulate our health. Ooh, so, you know, that window's cracking a little bit. That NIDA cannot -- even though their "on drug abuse," you know, they need to look at it because it can be "on drug abuse" and looking at cannabis as that exit drug instead of the gateway drug. So it would fit right into their studies. Let's look at it and how it can be used to treat substance abuse.

DEAN BECKER: Well, there you have it. Mary Lynn Mathre, the president of Patients Out of Time. Heads up, is it American Cannabis Nurses Association? And just a lady who knows this down to the nth degree, who cohorts with the experts from around the world. A lady we ought to pay a little bit of attention to. Mary Lynn, some closing thoughts, perhaps a website you might want to share?

MARY LYNN MATHRE: Thank you. Yeah, please, look for us on PatientsOutOfTime.org or MedicalCannabis.com. Nurses out there, the AmericanCannabisNursesAssociation.org.

MATTHEW DELL'OLIO: Hi, my name is Matthew Dell'Olio, I'm with the Compassionate Care Advisers, and we're the exclusive licensee of the Marijuana Doctors platform. What we do is we assist patients to find doctors that have, that will certify them for medical cannabis as a treatment in states where it's legal. We are only in the medicinal space, and we provide a one-stop turnkey solution that gives doctors the ability to connect with patients, all HIPAA-compliant, and then we also provide value added services by advising the doctors on where they actually have to go to get registered if necessary, if there's any educational material that they need or courses.

DEAN BECKER: Which state or states do you perform these services in?

MATTHEW DELL'OLIO: We perform these services in all the states that it's legal. Well, Dean, all we can do is give guidance, as we do on our site, as to what the qualifications are for that state. We don't advise anyone to break any laws. We believe that this is medicine that should be treated and used propertly, so we're very highly advocates, advocating what's going on here, and we're really just trying to give education to both patient and doctor, to know there is a source. There's a source that they can go to, there's someone to talk to, to get advice, and there's resources where they can get direction on what they can do according to their state legislation.

So, what typically happens, we have the number one online -- number one tool for online search for the medical cannabis industry, to find a doctor. So if you type in medical marijuana doctor, just about anywhere in the United States, we put the doctor on the front page to give them relevance. That all being said, once a patient sees that, they'll click on the link, they'll go to one of the tabs, and they'll click on find a doctor. They'll look at the state that they're in, and it will show what doctors that we already have that are certified in that state, and are certifying patients under their state's cannabis laws.

Well, I'd also like to mention that they can call our 800 line, on our site, at any point in time. Go to MarijuanaDoctors.com, okeh. I'm one of the co-founders of Compassionate Care Advisers. We have the exclusive license to market, sell, and advertise Marijuana Doctors. And what I would tell your listeners is, once you go to our site, if you're in a state that's, that it is legal, what you can do is call our 800 line, we have operators around the clock that will intake all your information, they'll get an understanding of your situation, and then we'll try to refer you to a doctor that can help meet your needs.

DEAN BECKER: Very good.

MATTHEW DELL'OLIO: Thank you for your time, Dean, and, you know, we've got to keep on fighting for this cause, and make sure that it's available to everyone who truly needs it.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you for joining us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. Next week, we'll have some coverage from the UNGASS, or maybe we'll have some UN-coverage from the UNGASS at the United Nations because, truth be told, not a hell of a lot happened, but there's the indications that changes are afoot, and that maybe, in 2019, we'll make some progress towards ending the drug war at the international, global level. But the Global Commission on Drugs has some thoughts to share as well. Hope to share that with you next week here on Cultural Baggage. As always, I remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.

To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Drug Truth Network archives are stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.

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