04/26/15 Doug McVay

Century of Lies

This week: we talk with Anthony Taylor of Compassionate Oregon about the implementation of that state's adult use marijuana program, and we hear from Yesid Reyes Alvarado, the Colombian delegate to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

Audio file


APRIL 26, 2015


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 and is supported by the generosity of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and of listeners like you. And now, on with the show.

Loyal listeners may recall that I live in Oregon. The state of Oregon passed an adult use marijuana legalization initiative, ballot measure 91, in November of 2014. The state legislature has over the past few months been working on implementation of the new law. Oregon has had legal medical marijuana since 1998, yet the legally regulated program for licensing dispensaries was only set up in 2012. Legislators in Oregon are working to reconcile the two separate programs. Some would say reconcile, some would say combine. I'd say that combine is probably more accurate.

Members of the legislative committee on implementing measure 91 all pledged to support and preserve the medical program at the beginning of the session, yet there is no doubt that the program will change. The questions are, to what degree will it be changed, and what protections will patients have going forward?

There are several people at the state legislature lobbying for various interests. I was fortunate enough to get a phone interview with one of those lobbyists, who is also a long-time marijuana reform activist and a good friend. Anthony Taylor is the director of a group called Compassionate Oregon.

I remember you taking me to the state legislature once in 1985, right after I arrived in Portland after the, for the Oregon Marijuana Initiative, the campaign that we actually got it on the ballot. You took me down to Salem, I think it was on the very day when the infamous Coors Law passed, the non-pasteurized beer law, along with the brew pub legislation. I say infamous, it's what really kicked off that whole revolution in Oregon craft beer. It was a, I mean, for the, for aficionados of that, that was one of the biggest days in beer history. Certainly, people like the McMenamins here -- wow, it's huge.`

ANTHONY TAYLOR: Well, let's hope that this session can be the same kick-off for cannabis in Oregon's economy and for the future.

DOUG MCVAY: I'm, you know, it's a, it's certainly a propitious time. Now, the state legislature has a, is part-time, this is their long session. A couple of days ago they passed the deadline where if bills had not advanced, then they were dead, but that doesn't count for bills that might be in one of two of the, of the legislature's committees, and one of those committees is the Joint Committee on Implementing Measure 91, so everything is still in play for that. I know that you do a lot of, you're on both medical and adult use, so let's talk for a minute about the adult use thing, and then we'll, we'll slide over to medical because there are some things happening, probably, maybe some things happening there. But what's happening at the legislature?

ANTHONY TAYLOR: Well, I think this whole week has been a lot of meetings amongst members trying to find a path through this minefield we call the cannabis landscape, and really trying to mold a piece of legislation that will allow most parties in the discussions to walk away with a little bit of something.

DOUG MCVAY: Now, do you think that, I know they were talking about giving local authorities, the state -- sorry the city and county governments more control, the possibility of banning, the possibility of taxes. Do those have any legs, I mean, obviously, nothing's dead until the session has ended in some respects. But do you think those things have a chance of moving forward at all?

ANTHONY TAYLOR: Well, I think that cities and counties are still going to be, you know, key players in the whole discussion, however I think that the state is going to take the position that while you may regulate in time, place, manner, you may not regulate in a manner that is so restrictive as to implement a, you know, an implied ban kind of thing. So, I think that's what's going to happen, and I think very, uh -- now as far as what portion of the revenue they get, I think they might still be allowed to implement some level of local tax, but you know, nothing over about three percent, so, now, as you said, everything's still in play until the end of the session.

And we've got a couple months left, so we've got to make the best of it, and try and mold this program so that it starts, you know, to be the foundation of what's going to come over the next, you know, four or five sessions frankly, because it's going to take that long to get all this stuff worked through and implemented in a manner that, you know, takes into account public safety but also access for patients, continued access for patients, and you know, the opening up of the adult recreational use market.

DOUG MCVAY: Now, the, one of the members of this joint committee, he's actually the head of, the Republican Minority member in the Senate, Ted Feriolli, has floated the idea of starting retail sales early. The OLCC, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, sorry, has talked about postponing their, they're not going to be issuing permits sometime who knows when in 2016. So Feriolli is talking about the possibility of having the legally registered dispensaries open their doors to people over 21 just, you know, to begin to get the ball rolling for adult use sales. Do you think that has any chance of moving forward?

ANTHONY TAYLOR: I think it's, I think it's a little, it's probably 40/60, if it moves forward at all. It's a tricky situation for the legislature to deal with because it would have to happen rather quickly and address a whole lot of issues that I'm not sure they're willing to tackle. It does create a, you know, a really gray area for all those people that now can possess, you know, cannabis at home legally, and for those who want to get, you know, plants started, so -- I know they're still talking about it. The other part is that there would have to be fee type of situation evolve, like that, there would have to be some sorts of limits on the amount and frequency that an adult use consumer could purchase, and there would be a failsafe in place so that dispensaries were not allowed to fall below certain level of inventory, so they're still able to meet the needs of their patients.

DOUG MCVAY: Just in case the adult use people come in and basically buy everything off the top shelf, and then leave the patients, who might be struggling, to get the dregs. Now -- gosh -- there, switching over to the medical for just a moment, because I know you're, like I say, you're on, you're active on all these areas and all these fronts. Do you think, what kind of changes are we looking at as far as the medical program is concerned? I know that there was discussion about, possibly limiting the program to Oregon residents. The fact that it, the fact that we currently have an exception to allow, out-of-state residents can become patients in the state of Oregon is maybe not as widely known, but that is currently the way the law seems to, seems to read. What kind of changes do you think we're looking at, and in particular, do you think -- I was just talking to someone about that earlier today, who's in fact from the east coast who's an Oregon patient, and they're wondering whether they'll need to, whether they'll be able to re-apply next year.

ANTHONY TAYLOR: Well, I think it is an item up for discussion, and I think -- I think the program is going to look a little bit different, coming out of this session, and that may be one of the changes, and it's unfortunate for patients, but politics is politics, you know. So we'll grab whatever we can out of it. I'm a little disappointed that there hasn't been more attention given to medical marijuana patients, and the medical marijuana program this session, but, you know, the legislators came right out of the chute deciding that they needed to address all the problems that needed to be fixed with the medical program as it pertains to leakage in an attempt to meet the Cole memo, and didn't really focus, I thought, what was the task at hand, which was implementing Measure 91.

And, then, I think there were a couple opportunities missed along the line where we could have probably reached a little larger consensus which would have allowed the committee to move forward to some -- you know, it's a tricky job this session has in front of it and this committee has been tasked with specifically. And, we think things are moving a little bit slowly, but I think next week is going to be a pivotal week in the whole discussion. I know that they're going to have hearings again, and they're going to be talking about the Senate Bill 844, the OLCC Oregon Liquor Control Commission's technical fix bill that addresses labeling and testing and packaging and a whole number of things, and then we're going to see something from the committee that will be a blend of Senate Bill 936 and House Bill 3400, trying to put some kind of sideboards around the medical marijuana program to address leakage problems.

DOUG MCVAY: I suppose things -- I mean, I know that, you know, the farm down in southern Oregon, the medical grow down in Southern Oregon that's become a, just sort of a -- I guess it must be true, they certainly talk about it a lot, the one example that, that helps drive some of these things, the farm where there are dozens, you know, a bunch of plants being grown and all of them are being grown for California patients. So, on the one hand, well, is it leakage if they're a patient and they have to get their marijuana outside of the state? I mean, I guess if you think of it that way, maybe, technically, it is.

And they just passed a law down in Georgia allowing patients to have medical cannabis oil, CBD oil. The problem is they've got no, they've made no provision for anyone to manufacture or grow any cannabis down there in Georgia, so to get it, you have to get it from out of state. What kind of thing is that? I mean, in Georgia, they're actually encouraging the idea of leakage from one of the legal states. It's just, it's madness.

ANTHONY TAYLOR: Well, they did that same thing in, they did the same thing in Utah, they passed a CBD oil bill and told them that if they wanted to get it, they needed to go to Colorado or so, you know, this whole states versus federal thing I think is going to come to a head around CBD oil and how you get them. And then, as the rest of the states begin to legalize, you know, the feds are going to have to step up and address the whole interstate situation and, you know, even before that, they're going to have to step up and deal with the banking problems that, and the, you know, the tax issues at the federal level.

But, once they do that, and if they do that and get that straightened out, then, you know, that will allow the industry that's been built around all this to, you know, to grow, and that will help everybody.

DOUG MCVAY: Now, of course, the situation here in Oregon will continue to evolve, as I said, they've reached I guess it's a midway point in the legislature's session for this year, so they've got some time left where they'll be meeting, and, you know, when the legislature's in session, no one is safe, as they say. But, the situation as far as the medical and the adult use program is concerned is going to continue evolve, to evolve over the next -- well, how long now? Month, two months, when are they trying to adjourn?

ANTHONY TAYLOR: Well, they're allowed to be in session officially until July 11th, but they, you know, they try and get out of there by the Fourth of July, so we'll see what happens. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't, sometimes it stretches on into July, but, yeah, it's, they're, since this committee has not in one, two, three months of being in, you know, in session, hasn't passed out any bills, it makes some of us very nervous as to what, you know, might actually happen because they feel they're running out of time and once they get everybody to agree on something, will they be able to get it through the House or the Senate.

And so, it's going to be fast and furious here for the next couple of months, right on through the end of the session, and, you know, and on top of all of that, the OLCC is forming their rules advisory committee, and they're just about ready to release who's going to be on that committee, and so, you've got a rules advisory committee and a legislature running neck and neck, and the legislature will want to try and rein in or allow OLCC latitude. It's just, you know, still up in the air, and as I said earlier, I think next week is going to be a pivotal point, and we're going to see a lot of movement on a number of fronts. They've almost got the labs and testing situation squared out, so they've got language to get ready for that, and it's going to be an exciting couple of weeks for sure.

DOUG MCVAY: Well, you're my, you're one of my favorite sources, as far as I'm concerned you're one of the best sources for a good, you know, good, honest, independent understanding of what's going on down there. How do people follow what you're up to, do you have a website, are you on twitter? Give us some of that social media and web stuff.

ANTHONY TAYLOR: I am way too old to even grasp the idea of Twitter. But, you can find us and like us on facebook at Compassionate Oregon's facebook page, and you can take a look at our website, CompassionateOregon.com, and get in touch with us of any of the board members via the website, so, that's my scoop electronically, or, what do they call it? Social media wise.

DOUG MCVAY: My guest has been Anthony Taylor, he is the director of Compassionate Oregon, that's CompassionateOregon.org on the web. Longtime activist in the marijuana reform movement, and a good friend. Anthony, thank you so much for your time today.

ANTHONY TAYLOR: Thanks, it's been a pleasure.

DOUG MCVAY: That was an interview I held with Anthony Taylor, he's the director of Compassionate Oregon and has been lobbying at the Oregon Legislature this session as the state hammers out rules and regulations for its newly established adult use marijuana program. You're listening to Century Of Lies, I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

We have some time left, so let's go back to last month's Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting. Last week in our interview with Betty Aldworth from Students for Sensible Drug Policy, we talked about the CND meeting and progress at the international level. She mentioned the speech given by the Colombian delegate Yesid Reyes Alvarado, Colombia's Minister of Justice for Justice and Law, at the opening plenary of the CND. We haven't used that audio yet, so without further ado, here is a portion of that speech, rather the official UN translation of his speech into English.

Well, we have some time left, so let's go back to last month's Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting. Last week in our interview with Betty Aldworth from Students for Sensible Drug Policy, we talked about the CND meeting and progress at the international level. She mentioned the speech given by the Colombian delegate Yesid Reyes Alvarado, Colombia's Minister of Justice for Justice and Law, at the opening plenary of the CND. We haven't used that audio yet, so without further ado, here's a portion of that speech, rather the official UN translation of his speech into English.

YESID REYES ALVARADO [translation provided by UN]: At this point in time the international community has recognized the fact that we have significantly reduced production and trafficking in this substance, and that we have dismantled, thanks to our efforts and dedication, very powerful drug cartels. These major challenges that, thanks to the result of relentless efforts of the Colombian state to prevent cocaine from reaching desination markets. To that end, we not only have sacrificed economically, we've also done so in human terms. This is not a rhetorical statement, since in order to achieve those results, many Colombians have given up their lives.

But the complex world of drugs is also dynamic in nature and that's why policies to counter it must likewise be capable of adapting. While the country made remarkable headway in terms of halting drugs from moving beyond our borders, domestic supply and demand has grown, making this an additional huge problem for public health and the very safety of Colombian citizens. This alarming upsurge in psychoactive substances, some of them emerging or synthetic, how they are distributed, has a measurable impact on local environments via small-scale trafficking, and how these substances are adulterated to form dangerous combinations become a serious threat to user health.

We witness with grave concern how domestic demand is increasing while we note a trend to lower ages of onset of use. Therefore, it is necessary to give recognition to the fact that the problem of drugs in Colombia has shifted in terms of dimension and make-up. We cannot continue to rely on a single, monochromatic approach that focuses on supply reduction for cocaine beyond our borders. Our country is facing a much more complex challenge because on our territory we have marketing and consumption of a variety of psychoactive substances.

On the latter issue, consumption, synthetic drugs come in from other parts of the world and feed consumption on a growing scale among our young people. At this point, when we're giving thought to the issue, after four decades of head-on confrontation with crime syndicates and countless campaigns to counter drug supply, we need to train our attention on the adverse impact that the illegal drug economy still has on many territories where the presence of the state is haphazard and incomplete.

Despite our efforts, the drug market continues to be one of the main sources of income for groups living on the sidelines of the law, particularly for criminal organizations resorting to violence and corruption, in a context featuring protracted armed conflict and the influence of a multiplicity of different criminal networks, the resources of the state have been largely devoted to law enforcement measures, while actions intended to bring about prevention of consumption and demand reduction came second.

In cyber terms, the ability to adapt to state measures shown by the drug market has proved to be swifter and more flexible than our efforts to counter them. The failing ability to adapt is obvious from the emphasis on priority use of criminal sanctions. Though possession of illicit drugs for personal use and consumption are not criminalized in Colombia, small-scale trafficking and cultivation have been subject to criminal sanctions, meaning that the treatment of the weakest links of the chain matches the methods of the large criminal organizations that operate them for their own profit. Some 23,000 people are in prison for such conduct, costing $138 million annually. This could be put to better use for prevention purposes and adoption of alternative measures to address the shortcomings, both economic and social, in our most challenged territories.

Colombia's efforts to combat illicit drugs has enabled notable progress in terms of countering large cartels and reducing drug supply, but the appearance of new challenges is such that the Colombian government is convinced that there is a need to take forward a frank, transparent, evidence-based thought process on what we have done so far and especially what needs to be done in future. At the domestic level the national government is spearheading dialogue with various sectors of society based on local realities. In the international context, the 2016 UNGASS is a unique occasion to give in-depth consideration to how we deal with problems in a shifting global drug situation, so that, starting from there, and new realities, we pinpoint remedial action for current policies to set goals and hone indicators to guide our endeavors.

In this context, may I point to four lessons learned that we would like to share with you for them to be considered as input in the context of this thought process. The first lesson is that law enforcement efforts to stem the illegal drugs is an imperfect tool. The issue must be addressed in a full-fledged measure, tracing, identifying the weaker spots of our territories and social context. From this perspective, criminal legislation which is the most drastic form of social response should be the method of last resort to counter drugs, and the weakest links in the trafficking chain, rather which should be set aside to address conduct that causes the greatest harm to society.

This means that in the area of drugs, the criminal sanctions should apply to crime ring leaders. That does not include for example couriers of, or small-scale farmers, often compelled to do so for reasons of economic deprivation. We need to bear in mind the fact that in many cases human couriers and micro-traffickers are instrumentalized by criminal networks due to gender, social exclusion, or in fact their own substance dependence. That's why we need to re-assess the criminalization of such conduct, and study alternative measures that have a demonstrated better likelihood of success.

But at the very heart of such considerations, and related policies, we must find respect for human rights as the linchpin of any policy relating to drugs. Colombia is hugely concerned about the fate of dozens of Colombian nationals that are found in penitentiaries scattered throughout the world, sentenced to life imprisonment or to capital punishment for drug related offenses. Such measures are disproportionate and inhumane, but in addition, this is why Colombia issues a plea for criminal sanctions to be the exception, not the rule, reserved for the top-notch players in the complex world of drugs. For this to be so, regulations intended to foil the various activities that make up the drug trafficking chain are required.

The true dilemma is not so much tougher or weaker drug policies. In truth, we need to establish and find the most clever manner to dismantle criminal networks, and this will not be possible taking the low-level elements into custody. The long and bumpy track record of criminal law shows that this is not the single, nor the only, or best, response to all social evils.

The second lesson is that drug consumption must be approached from the public health perspective. This means that we need to emphasize prevention.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Yesid Reyes Alvarado, the Colombian government's Minister for Justice and Law, speaking at the opening plenary session of the UN's Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which held its annual meeting last month. The meeting was in preparation for the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs which will be held in New York in April of next year.

And that's all the time we have this week. Thank you for listening. This is Century Of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org. Century Of Lies is heard on 420Radio.org on Mondays at 11am and 11pm, and Saturdays at 4am, all times are pacific. We're heard on time4hemp.com on Wednesdays between 1 and 2pm pacific along with our sister program Cultural Baggage. And we're on The Detour Talk Network at thedetour.us on Tuesdays at 8:30pm.

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