08/21/15 Leonard Pitts

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Leonard Pitts, syndicated columnist/author re police conducting vaginal searches in public, Dr. Sue Sisley at Hempfest, Canadian Senator Larry Campbell & Dan Humiston re Sep Cannabis Conf in LA

Audio file


AUGUST 21, 2015


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.

Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. This is Dean Becker, and I've got some great guests lined up for you. We'll hear from a syndicated columnist, Leonard Pitts, we'll get a report from Hempfest featuring our own Doug McVay, we'll get thoughts on the drug war from Canadian Senator Larry Campbell, and a preview of a forthcoming conference in Los Angeles about cannabis. I'll be attending.

Folks, we feel privileged today to have with us a syndicated columnist whose latest article, best I know, is titled up "More Than An Invasion Of Privacy." And I want to welcome back to Cultural Baggage Mr. Leonard Pitts. Hello, sir.

LEONARD PITTS: Hi, how are you?

DEAN BECKER: Thank you sir. Now, this article is homed in on my neighborhood, it's homed in on Houston, Harris County, and what went on here this summer. Please if you will sir, summarize this article for my listeners.

LEONARD PITTS: Well, I really felt the chase of the young woman, 21 years old, named Charnesia Corley, who was stopped by a sheriff, a Harris County sheriff's deputy, who said that he smelled marijuana in her car. She'd been stopped on a traffic violation, and proceeded to take her out, searched the car, didn't find anything, called two female deputies and they proceeded to perform a body cavity search. They searched her genital area, let's say, invasively, looking for marijuana, which to me is, could not be more, you know, of a betrayal of the Fourth Amendment. You know, if they'd set and tried to think what would betray the Fourth Amendment, they couldn't have done anything better or worse than this.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. And again, this was done in a store parking lot. This was not --

LEONARD PITTS: Exactly. It was a Texaco parking lot.

DEAN BECKER: And this is not a lone example, is it, sir?

LEONARD PITTS: No, that's what surprised me when I started doing the research. The Washington Post has documented a number of these cases, and not just in Texas, there's I believe two or three others in Texas, there's a couple in Florida, there's, there was a few in Milwaukee, at least one in Chicago, and on and on and on. This is apparently something that's been going on for a while, but I guess we in news media are just, you know, just getting a handle on it.

DEAN BECKER: Yes sir. Now, this, you know, happened in Houston, as I say, my home town. We have a law on the books that says it's no longer even necessary to arrest anybody for under four ounces, which is a fairly fat sack of weed. But they continue to do so, because they can. Your response to that, sir.

LEONARD PITTS: My response is that they should not be able to, and I realize that that's, you know, I mean, that's pretty obvious, but I think that because they can means that we the people, or I guess in this case you guys the people there in Houston have not risen up and said, Hey, wait a minute. I think that there is in this country, it's become more and more obvious to me over the last couple of years, there is a problem with our policing, with overly militarized police, with police who have no respect for fundamental human, civil rights rather, of the people that they deal with, and with this trend toward over policing. And I think that we've really got to get a handle on it.

I think the problem with it is that every time that you talk about, we need to rein in the police, people want to interpret that as disrespect of the police or not liking the police. I've got no problem with any police officer doing his or her job, you know, in the proper manner. I don't think anybody who's not breaking the law has a problem with the cops. But I do have a profound problem with the idea of cops stopping some woman on suspicion, that's the word that they keep saying, on suspicion of marijuana possession, and searching her vagina in a public place for pot. That is just insane, that, you know, it's hard to imagine that happening, you know, I would flinch if that happened in, let's say, communist China. But in a country that has a Fourth Amendment that says, you know, the public, you shall be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures. That kind of thing is unthinkable.

DEAN BECKER: Yes sir. And I think it's representative of this gradual process that over the last hundred years those who have purported the need for drug war have also demanded a continual diminution of our rights and freedoms in the name of drug war. Your response, Mr. Pitts.

LEONARD PITTS: I think it's their fault. I think it's also our fault, as American people, because, let's face it, we have the ultimate say-so, when we go to the ballot box. But I think what has happened with the drug war and frankly with other things, you know, the war on terror's sort of the same thing, is, when they make us, if they can get us to be scared enough, then they can get us to one, either vote away our rights, or look the other way as our rights are eroded. And that's, you know, that's what's happened with the drug war.

We've been, you know, we were made to be so terrified, so frightened of what drugs can do, that we, you know, sort of look the other way or shrug as fundamental American rights, the rights that separate us from a police state, have been just sort of eroded into nothing. It's not just this woman Charnesia Corley, it was also, and I've written about this also, there's this process that they can use now where they can seize your cash money out of your car without ever charging you with anything, much less proving that you did anything. But they can seize your money and you've got to prove that you had a right to that money.

And to do that, you've got to hire an attorney. So let's say, if all they seize, if they seize $75,000 and you've got to pay an attorney $5,000 to get it back, and you're netting $70,000 even though you did nothing wrong, but what's really crazy is let's say they seize $4,000. Then it's literally not worth it for you to go and get your money back, and they can just take your money, and it amazes me that people are not more outraged when things like this happen in this country.

DEAN BECKER: Yes sir. And, you know, even like in the Ferguson and many other cities around the country, the, how do I say this, they police the poor people, fine them, hold them, you know, charge them interest when they can't pay, sometimes throw them in jail, and in many cases it's how these municipalities are surviving. Your response, sir.

LEONARD PITTS: My response is that I would tend to agree. Again, it's a matter of the fact that we have come to look the other way, and we have adopted this sort of childish belief that any questioning of the police represents disloyalty to the police, or antipathy toward the police, and that's just crazy. You can question an institution without having, you know, any issue with its fundamental mission. And we really have to get past this idea that asking questions is somehow disloyal, or is somehow wrong. Asking questions, I would submit, is your responsibility as a thinking person in a democracy.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. Well, folks, once again we're speaking with Mr. Leonard Pitts, syndicated columnist based at the Miami Herald, and a man after my own heart. Sir, this summer you've also done a couple of other great pieces: "A Justice System Worthy Of The Name." You want to summarize that for the listeners, please?

LEONARD PITTS: Well, that was a piece that I did, oh, my goodness, I guess two or three months ago, just talking about the fact that, as far as I'm concerned, if a justice system, if the words "justice system" are supposed to mean a system for the production of justice, then I don't think that we really have one. You know, when you look at, particularly at how we've had sort of this mass incarceration and this racially stratified, you know, court system, where, you know, an African-American who commits a given crime and a white person commits the same crime and has the same record, you know, the African-American is up to I believe it's 48 times more likely, according to one study, to end up incarcerated. It's, that's not justice. You know?

That's something else. That's the use of the justice system as a means of racial control, but it is not justice. So, you know, that was essentially the core of that column, the fact that, you know, we pretend that we've got a justice system but what we have is something far afield from that.

DEAN BECKER: Right, and that kind of ties in with another one you had: "Police Brutality - Not Just A Black Problem." When we witness these crimes against blacks, we tend to think that that's the extreme. But it is carried out against whites, perhaps not to the same degree or whatever, but it's just an example, a glaring example, of the failure of our justice system to act righteously. Correct?

LEONARD PITTS: Yeah, it is. I think that, you know, when I wrote that column about it not being just a black problem, I was moved by a letter from a reader who alerted me to a chase of a friend of his, a white kid who was yelling at cops and acting belligerent on the streets of Atlantic City, and, you know, they took him down to the sidewalk. I believe it was three or four cops on top of them. Arguably they were right, arguably they were wrong, you can't hear the video, there's no audio so there's no telling about that. But, the thing that sort of sealed it for me is, after they've got him down they release a dog on him. And, you know, you have four guys on top of this guy, four or five guys on top of this young man, you don't need a dog to bite him on the head or neck. You know?

And again, this is a white kid, so this is a problem that, you know, African-Americans have borne the brunt, have sort of been the spear-tip of it, but I think that, you know, all of us, frankly, we ignore it at our own peril. You know, I'm reminded of the famous quote, and I can't do it verbatim, but I believe it's Martin Niemöller, first they came for the Catholics, and I was not one, first they came for this, and I was not one, and finally they came for me and there was no one left to speak up. And that's, you know, kind of what it's beginning to look like with regard to the American injustice system.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed, I agree with you sir. Now, there was another one you did back in June, that, not drug-related, but it was, I'll get to why I think it pertains. "What Do You Think Of The Death Penalty Now, Justice Scalia?" And fill us in on that one, and I'll come back to my reason why I think it applies.

LEONARD PITTS: That must be my favorite column of the year, just, you know, in terms of personal favorite. It was an open letter to Associate Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court. Justice Scalia used the murder, the really horrific murder of an 11-year-old girl back in 1983 as his justification for the death penalty. He talked about this man who had killed this child by stuffing her panties down her throat, and he wrote how enviable a quiet death by lethal injection compared with that. So, you know, this case is his justification for the death penalty.

But we come, you know, all of these years later, I believe he wrote this back in the '90s, we come in 2015, and we find out that the man that was convicted of this crime, the man that he was referring to, didn't commit the crime. The man was actually just set free on DNA evidence. So, my question to Justice Scalia was, you know, if the crime, when he thought that this man was guilty of the crime, when the man was convicted of the crime, if he thought that this symbolized the reason why we need a death penalty, what does it symbolize now? Now that we know that, you know, the wrong man was on death penalty for I believe it was 30 years or more. You know, obviously it symbolizes the fact that human, any human system is just prone to error, and into making mistakes, and therefore human systems should not be allowed to, you know, impose death penalties on people because you have no way of ensuring that in every situation, in every circumstance, you're going to put the guilty to death.

DEAN BECKER: Exactly right. And the correlation I was reaching towards deals with this, it's people believing what they think to be true without ever delving into the facts involved, and by that I mean, those who believe it's, you know, drugs are so bad, it's worthwhile to empower terrorists, cartels, and gangs, even though we've never even stopped one child from getting their hands on drugs. It's just, it's been handed down, like from their granddaddies, it's just something they believe without actually investigating why. Your response, Mr. Pitts.

LEONARD PITTS: One of my favorite statistics comes from LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, that over the 40-some years, 42 years I guess it is now, of the, since Richard Nixon declared the war on drugs, drug use in this country has risen by 2800 percent. That just is phenomenal. That's a phenomenal number. Drug addiction has remained, according to LEAP, since 19 I believe '03 or thereabouts, drug addiction has been 3 percent of the population, pretty steadfastly, for well over a hundred years. Drug use in the last 42 years since we decided we were going to cut it out, going to stop it, has risen by 2800 percent.

DEAN BECKER: It's an amazing war, this prohibition.


DEAN BECKER: No logic attached to it. Well, I tell you what, Mr. Pitts, I do appreciate it, I'm hoping we can do this again soon, and please keep up the good work. Is there a closing thought, a website you might want to share with the listeners?

LEONARD PITTS: Well, you can find me at MiamiHerald.com, or LeonardPittsJr.com, and I guess I shouldn't miss the opportunity to plug my new novel, "Grant Park", which is coming out in October.

DEAN BECKER: The DEA's the joker, the FDA's the joke,
The joke is on the USA so why not take a poke?

It’s time to play, Name that Drug by its Side Effects. Runny nose, a sudden decrease in blood pressure, dizziness, fainting, severe injury, diminished semen production, ejaculatory problems, prolonged and harmful erections leading to the inability to have an erection. Time’s up. The answer, from Boeringer Ingelheim Laboratories: Flowmax! It’s all urine.

Filing a report from the Seattle Hempfest, this is Drug Truth Network reporter Doug McVay.

DOUG MCVAY: I'm speaking with Dr. Sue Sisley.

SUE SISLEY, MD: Well, you know, I'm a physician in Scottsdale, Arizona. I've been taking care of military veterans for about 20 years, and I finally got tired of pummeling them with, you know, relentless amounts of medication that didn't help them, caused them to be zombies. Veterans are here at Hempfest kind of revolting against this, you know, first of all the epidemic of veteran suicide and the fact that the government doesn't seem to be doing anything to try to uncover new treatments for PTSD, and our study is a perfect example of that. The fact is that we submitted this study design to the FDA back in 2010, this is a randomized controlled trial looking at whole plant marijuana for treatment of PTSD, and we've been, you know, here we are five years later, in spite of having FDA approval since early 2011, we're still unable to implement this study due to relentless, you know, piles of government red tape that keep thwarting this study.

Right now, our final obstacle is what we call the NIDA monopoly, the DEA monopoly, that the DEA has only licensed one grower in the country to provide marijuana study drug for any of this type of research, and here we are, 17 months of waiting for marijuana, and we can't get any of the strains that we've requested, the proper phenotypes of marijuana. We can't get it in a timely manner, so we're arguing that NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is in violation of the Controlled Substances Act. It's time for the DEA to finally start licensing other growers. There's tons of expert growers around the country who could have had marijuana grown to spec for us within three months. And yet, we have to wait for this gigantic government bureaucracy.

And the other abomination is, NIDA doesn't even bother to turn over their drug master files, so I can't even get access to information about the study drug that I'm administering to these patients, these poor volunteers have no idea what the, all the, you know, various cannabinoid profiles, terpine profiles, what conditions the plant was grown under, whether there was pesticides or not. So I think that we all should be outraged at the fact that NIDA accepts $68 million in taxpayer money to perpetuate this failed monopoly.

We're the only randomized controlled trial in the world looking at whole plant marijuana for PTSD, so that's why this study has been suppressed for so long, because it's a big threat to all the opponents of marijuana that realize that this data could actually get published in peer-reviewed medical journals, and could possibly influence the thinking of the medical community. That's a big threat to, you know, pharmaceutical companies and private prisons that, any data that might legitimize marijuana as medicine has to be thwarted, and that's why our study's been in limbo so long.

But we're hoping, the good news is we're hoping, you know, we've accepted all these sub-standard strains from NIDA in order to get our study underway, because otherwise we'll never be able to get started, so we should be receiving marijuana from the federal government within the next few months, and then we'll be able to start screening military veterans, so we want your listeners to keep an eye out for that because we'll hopefully be publicizing an 800 number where vets can voluntarily call in and be screened to see if they're eligible to enroll in the study. But, we're splitting the protocol between two sites, so there's Scottsdale, Arizona, and then there's Johns Hopkins University.

Many of these vets are actively using cannabis to manage their PTSD, and the fact that they're willing to go on government, you know, federal government marijuana in order to help advance the science, it's a sacrifice beyond belief, because first of all, they could be randomized into placebo, which would mean that they might be off marijuana then for up to 9 weeks. That's, you know, they have to be clean before they enter the study so they have to be free from marijuana for a month prior, and then could be on placebo for five or more weeks, so that's one thing.

Now, a lot of people argue that all the marijuana from NIDA is probably placebo, so that's a different issue. But we're stuck with this marijuana, and that's why it's really important for people in this movement to recognize that one of their main, we need everybody to devote a big chunk of energy into ending the DEA monopoly, and whenever you get a chance to talk to people at the federal level -- Congressman, US Senators -- if they can help us talk to these folks and tell them that this NIDA monopoly is a failure and needs to be eliminated. So, if they go on my facebook page, the veterans set up a page called Sue Sisley MD Official Page, and if they like that page there'll be frequent updates on where the study is at, and also MAPS.org. MAPS, my nonprofit sponsor is also going to be providing regular updates on their site.

DOUG MCVAY: I want to find out about the organization that you've got, that you're talking about there, 22 Too Many.

SUE SISLEY: Nonprofit organization, starting with Washington state veterans, but eventually they'll be hopefully expanding around the country, creating new chapters. But, their whole goal is building awareness about the epidemic of veteran suicide, trying to educate folks about the fact that they're not just, the 22 veterans a day that kill themselves in this county, that's more veterans than we lose in active duty. The sad thing is, that's the data that came out of the VA system, but the truth is that that number is very, a very low estimate, and the fact is that there are only, that you know, under half the states actually reported for that data, some of the big states we're missing, like Washington and Texas, and also, we know, even in my own practice, I've lost hundreds of veterans over my 20 years of caring for these guys and most, almost all of them were labeled accidents.

So that's part of why that number is so low, because typically the governments don't do the level of investigation required to label something a suicide, they don't do, you know, psychological autopsies on these deaths, so what happens, it's easier to just label them an accident. So this is a true public health crisis and why isn't the government acting? Why aren't they acknowledging the potential benefits of marijuana for PTSD? And why aren't they demanding research? I think that's what's stunning is that studies like this should be expedited, and instead they're, you know, thwarted at every turn. But the government should be, you know, fast-tracking research like this, and instead they're doing whatever they can to stonewall it.

DEAN BECKER: The website to learn more is twenty22many.org.

LARRY CAMPBELL: My name is Larry Campbell, and I'm a senator for the province of British Columbia. The issue I'd like to address today is the legalization of marijuana. I think that marijuana could be the next miracle drug. People want to know why I support this idea. There's a number of reasons. The first reason is, I believe that legalization and regulating of marijuana will help keep it out of the hands of our teenagers. The second reason is, from the medical point of view. One of the difficulties with that is of course is that because it's illegal we can't do any research on it, so we don't really have great data. All we know is that it helps children who are having seizures, it helps people in pain, but we really don't know why yet, and by legalizing it, we can actually get into full research.

There is a lot of revenue that's going into the black market, into gangs, that's never seen by Canadians. And I believe that by taxing marijuana, we can take that money and put it directly into healthcare, preferably into addictions. Fourthly, why are we sending people to jail? Why are we giving people records for, really, what is quite an innocuous weed? I think that marijuana could be the next miracle drug. I believe it could be to our generation what aspirin was to the early 1900s. If you agree with my opinion, go to PressReader channel and show your support.

DEAN BECKER: You know, I'm going to be traveling next month, going to Los Angeles for a very important conference, and here to tell us more about it is the president of the International Cannabis Association, Mr. Dan Humiston. Hello, Dan.

DAN HUMISTON: Hi Dean, how are you?

DEAN BECKER: I'm good. Dan, you know, the fact of the matter is, this is a rather major event, I was looking at the list of speakers, and it is a who's who.

DAN HUMISTON: Yeah. This is a blockbuster. We have, let's see, Cannabis World Congress Business Exposition at the Los Angeles Convention Center September 16, 17, and 18th. And it is going to be, could be one of the biggest show, certainly the biggest show we've ever done. Probably one of the biggest shows ever, at least for the educational conference. I believe there's, we're closing in on 70 different sessions, educational sessions, covering a wide range of topics, just really exciting stuff and just some dynamic speakers, some of the people that are really, have created this industry and are the same people that are moving the industry forward are going to be participating at this event.

It's almost like you've got to be there if you're in the industry. Big part of what we do, trying to bring together the different groups, the cannabis industry to the business community, that's -- that was, that's always been our mandate, to try to help bridge that gap, so that the cannabis industry can work with the business community, and the business community can embrace this juggernaut of an industry that's just on the verge of exploding. You have a number of investors looking for the next Google or the next Apple, that they can get, that they could be a part of, catch it at the ground floor, just sort of taking off. It's an exciting time, and it's, this is an exciting event.

DEAN BECKER: Please tell folks again where this is going to be, when it's going to be, and how they can get involved.

DAN HUMISTON: Sure. It's the, the show is the Cannabis World Congress Business Exposition, September 16th, 17th, and 18th, and it's in Los Angeles, in the Los Angeles Convention Center. We've taken over one of the big halls, the convention center, and to get involved, the easiest way is just go to our website, http://www.cwcbexpo.com/, and read everything about it, look at all our speakers, read about all the opportunities that are going to be there, the exhibitors that are going to be there, the companies that are going to be participating, and register.

DEAN BECKER: There will be a special speaker at this event, tell us who's coming.

DAN HUMISTON: We have some great news, we have actually two really high-profile keynote speakers that are going to be there. Melissa Etheridge is the announced, on Monday, Melissa Etheridge is going to be one of our keynote speakers, we're so excited. She's a cancer survivor, I don't know if you're aware of this, and is a huge advocate because, you know, part of her recovery took, was involved, cannabis was involved in her recovery. So she is a, you know, she not only talks the talk, she walks the walk.

And then, George Zimmer, the founder of Men's Wearhouse. You're going to love the way you look, I guarantee it, you know that guy. He's one of our other speakers, and he's an advocate. Now here's a multi-, maybe a billionaire, and he's taking time out of his busy day to come down and share his thoughts about the opportunities with cannabis and, so it's just very exciting. In addition to that, we have a number of former professional athletes going to be speaking about sports pain management, and then we have Ethan Nadelmann, who is really, really, right out there in the forefront, just a real good line-up, and covers the spectrum from advocates to businesspeople, to, you know, everything in between.

DEAN BECKER: All right, folks, once again we were speaking with Mr. Dan Humiston, he's president of the International Cannabis Association and Dan, one more time, please, that website.


DEAN BECKER: Again 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. Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacifica Radio Network. Archives are permanently stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. And we are all still tap-dancing on the edge of an abyss.