12/15/13 Doug McVay

Century of Lies

Century of Lies for December 15 2013, guest host Doug McVay, editor of Drug War Facts. This week's show features audio from the White House's drug policy conference, banking reforms for the US marijuana industry, and marijuana legalization news from Uruguay.

Audio file


Century of Lies / December 15, 2013


DEAN BECKER: This is Dean Becker up to my neck in writing my book, “End the Drug War for the Children”. This week Mr. Doug McVay is producing Century of Lies. This is one of the best shows of the year but he left out one thing... Prohibido istac evilesco!


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 guest host, Doug McVay, editor of http://drugwarfacts.org.

Century of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network and is brought to you through radio station KPFT in Houston, Texas. Find us on the web at http://www.drugtruth.net where you can find past programs and subscribe to our podcast. You can find me on Twitter where I’m @drugpolicyfacts and also @dougmcvay. Also find us find us on Facebook and give our pages a like.

First the news.

The nation of Uruguay is on the way toward legalizing marijuana. A bill to legalize and regulate which was endorsed and promoted by Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica has finally passed both houses of the national legislator. The Uruguayan Senate voted Tuesday, November 10th after 12 hours of debate approving the bill by 16 votes to 13.

The law will create a regulated system for distribution of marijuana within Uruguay. It will only be available to Uruguayan citizens above the age of 18 so put away your passports there will be no drug tourism there.

At the time of this recording the bill is still awaiting President Mujica’s signature so it’s not yet a done deal. The UN’s International Drug Control Board, as expected, is complaining the move is a violation of international law. President Mujica has said that he will sign the bill so, fingers crossed, by the end of the year we’ll see the beginning of the end of global prohibition.

Back here in the U.S. two states have legalized marijuana for adult social use and 20 states have legalized medical marijuana. It’s a growing multimillion dollar industry yet most businesses involved in it are, for the most part, unable to get bank accounts.

The Justice Department has said that it will ease up on prosecutions however banks are regulated by the Treasury Department. Cabinet agencies don’t like being told by other cabinet agencies what to do so getting Treasury onboard with legitimizing the marijuana industry is essential.

On Thursday, December 12th the Federal Bank Secrecy Bank Group met to discuss federal banking regulations and the marijuana industry. The Seattle Times reported in its blog that day that “On Thursday the Federal Bank Secrecy Advisory Group (BSAAG) will hold its first meeting since the DOJ watershed announcement in late August. The meeting is a chance for industry, regulators and law enforcement to have a frank discussion according to a Treasury Department spokesman.

“The meeting itself will be closed to the press and not subject to the Freedom of Information Act said the spokesman but marijuana will be on the agenda said Jennifer Shasky Calvery, director of the Federal Financial Crimes Enforcement Network in a speech last month to the American Bankers Association.

Calvery said her regulators already had started conversations with the DOJ.

“Given the timing of the meeting it is imperative that we have a good outcome” said U.S. Representative Denny Heck (D-WA) who has been pressuring the Treasury Department for a banking solution along with Ed Pelrmutter (D-CO).

“The group only meets a few times per year”, Heck said “and with Colorado and Washington on the brink of licensing pot businesses public safety may be at stake. Having a cash only pot industry is an open invitation to organized crime and tax avoidance and all matter of things which are not good for society.”

The Times further noted that, “The federal Treasury Department periodically updates regulations for the Banks Secrecy Act which requires banks to monitor money flowing through their institutions for violations of the Anti-money Laundering Law.

“As part of the updating Treasury’s Financial Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is required to convene at least twice per year a Bank Secrecy Advisory Group which brings together high level Treasury, Justice, federal and state regulators and industry participants to discuss the effectiveness of rules.

“The deliberations of BSAAG are kept confidential under federal law. The banking industry prefers that congress change the Controlled Substances Act which has classified marijuana as a dangerous drug along with heroin but Heck and others admit congressional action is unlikely for a while and not a priority as fewer than half the states allow even medical marijuana.

“Absent the new federal law the hope is that the group reassures bankers that they won’t be prosecuted for providing services to pot merchants. “It will be interesting to see how far down the road they get with establishing real guidelines.” Said Jim Peshoe, president and CEO of the Washington Bankers Association.”

On Monday, November 9th the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy held what it billed as its first Drug Policy Reform Conference. Some several of my fellow drug policy activists have objected to the Drug Czar’s attempt to appropriate the phrase “Drug Policy Reform.”

I say let them have it. It’s merely a euphemism and its arguably misleading as we use it - Legalization of some drugs, decriminalization of all drugs and drug users, supervised consumption facilities, clean syringe access, safe crack smoking kits, substitution on demand, heroin maintenance, amphetamine maintenance, an end to mandatory-minimums – we call those drug policy reform yet I think a lot of people not in the field would think of those as revolutionary changes not merely reforms.

The White House, on the other hand, is expanding treatment alternatives to incarceration, promoting the overdose remedy Naloxone, amending the mandatory-minimum sentencing laws – those are reforms.

So I say if the administration wants to embrace the concepts and the language of harm reduction and drug policy reform – great! Let them. It doesn’t mean we’ve won yet it does mean they realize that we are winning.

Now back to that ONDCP drug policy conference...It was very tightly choreographed, scripted and closely managed. The only advance notice that the thing was happening at all came in the form of an email announcement. The ONDCP website had nothing about the event until 2 days afterward. The webcast had some technical issues but most of it went out. The ONDCP said on their blog that they hope to make limited video from the event available eventually.

Fortunately I was able to capture the audio from their stream. The entire event went on for about 4 hours. I’ll play for you some of the best bits. If you want to listen to the whole conference you can. If you’re on Facebook you can go to the Drug War Facts page and give it a Like. There you’ll find a link to my sound files or you can check my feed on Twitter where I’m @drugpolicyfacts and you’ll find a link to those sound files there.

First let’s give a listen. Here’s part of Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske’s welcoming speech.


GIL KERLIKOWSKE: We’ve implemented “smart on crime” approaches instead of “tough on crime” policy. This past summer, for example, Attorney General Holder announced major changes to charging policies regarding offences.

We’ve also supported the expansion of drug courts which divert over 120,000 people into treatment instead of prison each year. You’ll hear more about that later on today. We’ve aggressively highlighted innovative solutions to drug overdose setting a goal to reduce overdose deaths in America over the next 5 years and promoting the life-saving drug Naloxone for first responders.

This fall we announced over 19 million dollars in drug free communities support programs, grants to 7 new coalitions and 19 new mentoring grantees across the country.

And, finally, we placed an historic focus on the role of recovery in America. There are millions of Americans in recovery from substance use disorder. We’ve implemented a series of reforms aimed at lifting the stigma associated with the disease of addiction and removing some of the barriers that people with substance use disorders face in receiving housing, employment and college aid.

That’s what drug policy reform looks like today and this is why we’re proud to be engaged with each one of you here this morning and today.

Let me close by asking all of you to take an opportunity during the conference to meet and learn from each other and, in particular, those outside your disciplines. When I first took office I made that commitment to the staff that we would do everything we can to break down silos – silos of not only those specialties but, you know, sometimes here in Washington we don’t like to call them silos we call them centers of excellence but that was just a term.

We’ll become a stronger and healthier nation when the people in our communities working to prevent drug abuse among young people are those involved in harm reduction team up with law enforcement to work together.

When the treatment community works in tandem with the criminal justice system, for example, we begin to find smarter ways to stop the revolving door of our criminal justice system. That’s the future of drug policy reform and I’m delighted that you’ve come here today to be a part of this.

So, again, I’ll look forward to being here all morning with you and into the afternoon and thank you so much for your attendance and really also thanking you for your contributions.


DOUG McVAY: The final panel – the one which most of us had been looking forward to because it was being moderated (and I use that word quite wrongly) by Patrick Kennedy, the recovering addict and former U.S. representative – the panel was supposed to be on ways to overcome stigma and address addiction but Kennedy had his own agenda.

Let’s give him a listen and you’ll hear what I mean.


PATRICK KENNEDY: Thank you very much. It’s an honor for me to be here with all of you this morning and I thank all of you for the work that you do in this field and I’m honored to be part of this.

I’d like to have Dr. John Kelley and Walter Ginter and Neil Calteneker – thank you for joining us for this final discussion, a panel on kind of “the elephant in the room” as we understand it in this world and that is the denial – the denial that is so pervasive that it keeps us as public policy people, treatment advocates, consumers from actually doing what Director Kerlikowske so eloquently pointed out at the beginning of this forum and that was to do what we know works.

We are held hostage by this thing called stigma. I can speak to it both as a person who struggled with addiction but also struggled with the secrecy that I used to try to hide this medical illness that we had denied...Medical experts from the National Institutes of Health also brief us about this morning.

So why was it that my illness an illness that I couldn’t tell anybody about? Why is it that my illness...and I might add, you know, you saw this title “anonymous people” – I’m not a very anonymous person in recovery.

When I got into recovery I’m also someone who has been to drug court so I appreciate all those who talked about their experience in drug court. I did have a year of uninterrupted sobriety thanks to the fact that I, too, was at the D.C. Superior Court going every week to be monitored.

But, ultimately, for my recovery it took me (as they say in the movement) having to change almost everything in my life before I was able to get really coming up on 3 years this February 22nd in sobriety.


I was afraid to ever talk about my sobriety date because it constantly changed because I could stop but I could never stay stopped. That is what we are here to talk about. This is a chronic illness.

Just to give you an anecdote about how big our problem is...I went with a new doctor because I moved to a new community to be with my wife and now I have three kids and I was starting with this new doctor closer to home and I would say, “I’m pretty well now.” There were several articles about my work in mental health and being in recovery and do you know that in my medical exam three weeks ago my doctor did not ask about my mental health and about my recovery.

Now no shame on that doctor. That doctor, as we’ve heard in earlier panels, is not in a system called health care which acknowledges this illness. What we hope to hear from this panel is what are some of the systemic things that we can do to help change this.

I think first and foremost (as you’ve heard from Pat Taylor and others) this is a multidimensional campaign just like my recovery is multidimensional. I have a physical allergy, a mental obsession and a spiritual malady so when all of you are talking about integrating the criminal justice system with the health care system with community support systems it is a necessity for those of us in recovery that everybody talk to each other.

I appreciate the fact that the White House has convened this. Director Kerlikowske I thank him for his leadership once again. I thank Michael and David for their leadership in ONDCP.

This panel is to discuss these issues of stigma and how do we address them because as we were charged to do at the beginning of this forum today knowledge drives what we do. What we need to talk about today is messaging also drives what we do in this country.

The knowledge that we are talking about today doesn’t equate the messaging that the people in this country are getting from what we are talking about today. So what I mean by that is even our good friends from Colorado could not talk about “the elephant in the room” which is that we are marching down the road towards changing the attitudes towards legalization of drugs and what is the impact of that change in attitudes...well I go back to our director of NIDA and his slide which shows that the perception of risk correlates to use rates so when the perception of risk is such that, “Oh, it’s no big deal.” Then, guess what?! More people use – especially those who are youngest and impressionable and for whom the messages we heard from all the panels before us are, ”Do as I say not as I do.” Which, of course, we know is not an effective message.

I was going to ask our expert doctor, “Don’t you think Uncle Sam needs an expert?”

In other words, we need some prevention policy when it comes to how’s a nation... collectively we address these subjects because if we’re going to follow the charge of ONDCP we need to do what our knowledge tells us works. If our knowledge says we don’t want to incarcerate people – amen because I don’t believe that that is the way out of this problem as was said all morning.

But if our knowledge also says that when we implicitly send messages through this movement towards legalization that more people are going to end up using thereby putting more people like myself who had a predisposition to becoming addicted then what are the implications of that policy and how do we “right size” that policy such that we’re not adding insult to injury by saying, “Oh, we’re not going to incarcerate anybody any longer but we’re going to adopt a public policy that’s going to lead more people to end up in the throes of addiction just because of the permissive environment we’re setting up whereby we de-risk the perception of harm towards drugs.” As you know I’m talking about marijuana.



DOUG McVAY: This is Century of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network. I’m your guest host, Doug McVay, editor of Drug War Facts.

I described this event as scripted and tightly choreographed, very closely managed and it was. The White House wanted to put on a showcase of programs that show a softer side of drug war and that almost managed if it weren’t for those pesky activists...sorry, Scooby Doo reference there (child of the ‘70s).

ONDCP did invite people from think tanks and non-profits to attend and although most of them were polite enough to avoid pointing out the obvious contradictions and lies and to pretend that the “emperor” was actually wearing clothes fortunately, however, there were a couple of attendees who spoke out.

In the Q & A session at the end of the first panel Lynn Paltrow of National Advocates for Pregnant Women took panelist to task over the treatment of pregnant drug using women even though simply using methadone in the context of drug treatment panelist had been touting methods of forcing people into treatment including the Sudden Intervention and Referral to Treatment Program (SPIRT).

SPIRT provides money to emergency rooms and community health clinics and the like in the return for which those entities drug test and ask questions about substance use with the view toward referring patients to treatment or possible criminal arrest. These aren’t patients who came in for assessment – they are simply people seeking medical care.

An obvious concern that has been raised by many is that people may not seek care even if they desperately need it when they fear arrest. So with that context in mind let’s listen to the exchange between Ms. Paltrow, Dr. Paul Seal from the Georgia SPIRT program and Michael Bonocelli from ONDCP.

I’ve got to say they did handle this one fairly well.


MICHAEL BOTTICELLI: I want to make sure that we have time for our audience members to ask questions so, please, if anybody has a question...
LYNN PALTROW: I’m Lynn Paltrow with National Advocacy for Pregnant Women and this is directed particularly to Dr. Seal.

Obviously identifying people and connecting them to treatment is a good thing but in South Carolina and Alabama the identification of a pregnant woman or new mother as having used illegal drugs, illicit drugs or alcohol can result in her immediate arrest.

In New Jersey the Division of Youth and Family Services and the appellate courts have taken the position that a pregnant woman in federally approved and recommended methadone treatment is a child abuser.

I’m wondering whether you’re linking the value of identification with the punitive and very counterproductive results that results from that identification.

PAUL SEAL: Thank you very much and that’s, I think, a very challenging issue. In Georgia we fortunately have not had to deal with those regulations and substance abuse in pregnant women is viewed as a health disorder and a medical disorder.

I think the women from many states are protected from that. I think that’s an issue where policy is very, very important and that we need to continue that policy discussion in the direction of treatment. For areas where that confusion exists try to educate policy makers and our political leaders in the same way that drug courts have moved us away from the direction of the overly intensive focus on interdiction with individuals who are using unhealthy substances. We need to use that same kind of approach with pregnant women and with her child.

I think that’s an ongoing national dialogue and I thank you for bringing it to our attention.

MICHAEL BOTTICELLI: Lynn, I will also say that that’s a particularly important area for us at ONDCP to work with both the federal and state level to move away from these punitive sanctions. How we work with child welfare systems and local law enforcement systems to make sure that anyone who is identified (particularly pregnant women) are given access to appropriate treatment and not referred to the criminal justice or the child welfare system so thank you for raising that.


DOUG McVAY: Alright, now finally at the end of the Stigma Panel with Patrick Kennedy they had time for a question and this is what happened. Recall that in Kennedy’s speech introducing the panel he talked about “the elephant in the room”. Now listen as Emany Walker of the Rebecca Project for Human Rights points that “elephant” out to him.


PATRICK KENNEDY: I’d like to take a few questions just to follow up....yes?

EMANY WALKER: I’m Emany Walker with Rebecca Projects for Human Rights. My question is about stigma and Dr. Pelton you’ve really made us think about this when you compared using term abuse with substance abuse disorder with one perpetuating and the other diminishing the stigma.

In our organization we do advocacy for women with maternal addiction. When I think about mothers and I think about stigma it takes me back to the question that Lynn Paltrow had.

Stigma is one thing. I always think about stigma being, “I don’t want to disclose or talk about my recovery or abuse because of what I think you may feel about me or how you may judge me” You know, the shame...that kind of thing.

Criminalization is a whole ‘nother level. I always think about the two when it comes to maternal addiction, for example, for pregnant women. I may not want to go in and tell my health care provider about my addiction because of stigma but I know that if I disclose if I go in and I’m tested and then I’m criminalized I’m not going to go in. I’m not going to get the health care that I need because I’m pregnant and a parenting woman. You get what I’m saying?

So, to me stigma is like one level and then stigma escalates when you connect criminalization with it.

[scattered applause]

PATRICK KENNEDY: And there’s the aspect in 42 CFR where if you’ve been in recovery your records are private which means if I get wheeled into a ER and they don’t know my medical background my life is in jeopardy because the attending physician doesn’t know my medical record of what meds I’m on.

We have a lot of issues to deal with as a community but the thing that I think we’ll come out of today on is I think that we can do it together if we keep this conversation going as we implement this new thing which Walter talked about as health care reform.

Maybe let’s start talking about the implications to all of this. I know the question is to you, Doctor.

DOCTOR KELLEY: I totally agree with you, absolutely, you know that...it’s stigma...stigma is driven largely, as I mentioned, as a misunderstanding about what we we’re are dealing with because people think, “Well, they caused it and they can control it and therefore should be punished.”

We know that that ideology, that approach has failed. That’s pretty clear. That’s why we’re here talking about reform and moving towards, hopefully...we’ve had a number of folks from criminal justice here today talking about why we need to do that and some very promising and aspiring programs.

People really need to understand the true nature of addiction. Once they understand it they’ll be more likely to view people suffering from these conditions with more compassion and opening the doors to things that are not just going to be more compassionate but also more effective.

FEMALE PANELIST: If I could, one more thing to add to that Dr. Kelley it’s also telling our stories. I think that’s really, really important and that’s something that the recovery community does and does well. We’re all about our stories. What we find...we had a project going before it got cut where we had people in the child welfare system who had their children taken away (much like Karen’s story) had their kids back and were working side by side with case managers in our child welfare agency and that not only helped engage some of the clients but it also worked to reduce the stigma among staff.

When they were working side by side as peers with people in recovery they started to get to know us in a whole different way and that made a huge difference. I think we have to listen to those stories.

I carry so many different stories with us. One of the things we do is a peer training program and the only reason I’m still in this business is because of those stories and the stories of hope. That’s one of the things that Many Faces One Voice helps with.

They had a thing on Facebook the other day that said, “Where has your recovery brought you?”

My recovery has brought me to the White House. That’s where it needs to be heard. We need to be telling our stories and there’s tens of thousands of stories of hope and of change and of this working.

Because of stigma we haven’t been able to tell our stories in the past and that’s changing and I really thank faces and groups that enable groups like mine to work on a local level.

PATRICK KENNEDY: Well, Neil and John thank you very much and I think it’s appropriate that we think today of the late, great Nelson Mandela who affected the world with his inspiration and who was taking on both institutional discrimination as well as prejudice and discrimination of the heart.

That is what we are here today to carry on. It is both a legal battle to end the obstacles but it’s also a cultural, more spiritual battle to end this bigotry that exists. It is often difficult to erase from our hearts even though we can begin to change it in our laws.

I thank all of you for being part of this today and I’ll turn it back to Dr. Kerlikowske.


DOUG McVAY: I’m guessing that Lynn Paltrow and Emany Walker won’t be invited back to an event like this. If only others in attendance had had a fraction of their courage to take the opportunity to stand up and speak truth directly to power this drug war would be over in a heartbeat.

Until then, well, stay tuned and stay active.

That’s it for this week. Thank you for listening. This has been Century of Lies.

You can find a recording of this show and past shows at the website http://drugtruth.net where you can also check out our other programs and subscribe to our podcasts.

You can follow me on Twitter where I’m @drugpolicyfacts and also @dougmcvay.

Also find us on Facebook and give our pages a like.

For the Drug Truth Network this is Doug McVay saying so long.

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 Pacifica Studios at KPFT, Houston.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org