12/16/16 Robert Hoban

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

The Good, Bad & Ugly drug war with Atty Robert Hoban on DEA's CBD ruling, Eric Sterling of CJPF in DC, Nurse Mary Lynn Mathre re petition to Obama, Jodie Emery re Canada's legalization, Israeli cannabis scientist Lumir Hanus speaks to Texas Medical Center

Audio file


DECEMBER 16, 2016


DEAN BECKER: Hi, friends, this is Dean Becker. Thank you for being with us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. Today, we're going to look at the good, the bad, and the ugly in this drug war. Going to be a great show, please stay with us on Cultural Baggage.

More good than bad, it turns out Canada's moving closer to legalizing marijuana, the Texas Medical Center's scientists want to become the world's leading experts on medical cannabis, Patients Out of Time is petitioning the Obama administration to remove cannabis from Schedule One of the Controlled Substances Act. The bad: The DEA wants to rob epileptic children of the one medicine that stops their seizure. And the ugly: President Duterte of the Philippines is now making evening tours and personally murdering drug suspects. Let's get started.

Recently, a recommendation was presented to the Canadian government to allow people to carry up to 30 grams of marijuana, to grow four plants at home, and other conditions. We learn more from this report from Canada's CBC.

CBC HOST: Jodie Emery is owner of Cannabis Culture and a longtime activist in British Columbia, and she joins us from Vancouver.

JODIE EMERY: I'm pleasantly surprised, I'm actually quite shocked that they've offered a few very positive recommendations. I'm just hoping that the liberal government will actually accept those recommendations, but that remains to be seen.

While I understand the federal government can't really dictate how big all the gardens can be, there are a lot of details that provinces and other areas need to deal with. My main concern however is that the government still talks about marijuana being harmful or a threat to people's safety in some way, which isn't true, and in fact, it just continues to let the government and the police work towards continuing enforcement, with the money being spent going after growers who are not legal. And I also worry about all of the young people who are still facing criminal records and are still being arrested every day, so across this country, prohibition is still in effect, and many Canadians are still getting records that will prevent them from traveling and getting jobs.

So that's my biggest issue right now, not so much about the production, or how much you can grow. It's the fact that many Canadians who have suffered under prohibition are still going to suffer right now and for years to come until this becomes an actual law.

DEAN BECKER: Earlier this week, Vyripharm Biopharmaceuticals hosted a conference at the prestigious Texas Medical Center, featuring scientists from Israel, Baylor College of Medicine, and Texas Children's Hospital. Following his presentation at the Texas Medical Center, I got a chance to speak with Israeli scientist and professor Lumír Hanuš.

I'm wondering if you might share your thoughts. We have in these United States many recalcitrant prohibitionists, if you will. Our own governor, Abbott, has indicated he doesn't like medical marijuana and he reluctantly signed the limited bill for epileptic children. What would you say to people like Governor Abbott, or others who are so obtrusive to progress?

LUMÍR HANUŠ: I would say this. In 1937, Mister Anslinger came with false statement, that cannabis is very dangerous, and it's not true. Because what I know, many drugs for treatment in United States were based on cannabis before. Cannabis was legal, every time, so we just go back to that time, and when it was legal in the United States, and in the rest of the world, there was no huge amount of users, recreational users, you know. It became interesting only when it was prohibited, because what is prohibited, this is interesting. Make it legal, and you can be sure that it will be like with alcohol or cigarettes. Not everybody's alcoholics, not everybody's a cigarette smoker.

And, if they prohibit alcohol or cigarettes, and hundred percent allow cannabis, whole world will be healthier, because cigarettes, and alcohol, these are real drugs, because there is physical dependence. On cannabis, is no physical dependence. So, this is the truth. So, there can be only danger, as I mentioned, like with legal medical drugs, that, if somebody is mentally ill, so for this person it's not cannabis. Of course. This can be the only danger. For healthy person, is no danger. Only as I mentioned overdosing, but it's not life threatening, and when it's over influence of this overdosing, so patients -- person is okeh, hundred percent. There is no danger.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Fever, anxiety, nausea, delayed ejaculation, shakiness, profuse sweating, decreased appetite, bedwetting, suicidality, and death. Time's up! The answer: Zoloft, from Pfizer Incorporate. For depression.

Well, we've been delving into the good, the bad, and the ugly about the drug war, but some of the good is potentially very good, and here to fill us in is one of the directors of Patients Out of Time, Nurse Mary Lynn Mathre. Mary Lynn, you guys have a petition that may help change the marijuana situation. Please, tell us about it.

MARY LYNN MATHRE: Given the fact that there's more than 22 suicides a day by veterans, and 78 deaths a day by opioid addiction -- opioid overdoses, you know, state by state, we now have, what 28 states with medical cannabis laws. A bunch more with CBD-only, and we've got 8 legal states. This is a step by step, and it's just it's going so slow that Patients Out of Time launched, on the White House website, a petition to de-schedule cannabis. We're asking President Obama to use his executive power to have the Attorney General take it out of Schedule One.

Schedule One is the forbidden category, where it's been, with heroin and other drugs, and to be there, it has to meet three criteria: not safe for medical use, highly addictive, and no medical value. And I think the nation knows that it doesn't meet any of the criteria. It's an herb, it's an herbal medicine, it's been around forever and ever, and it's only since the United States started the prohibition back in 1937, with the Marihuana Tax Act, based on nothing except, you know, greed and myth, and racism, but we're stuck with it today, and it's just state by state passing laws, and every day we get calls from patients: I need cannabis, where can I get it? People having to move to get it. If they finally get their medicine, they have to, you know, they can't travel. How do you bring their daughter with some medicine across the state into another state that doesn't have a law?

So the answer is to recognize it as an herb, as it has been throughout history, and change it. So, this is a call out for folks to visit our website, PatientsOutOfTime.org, and then right on the front page, opening page, we'll have a link to the White House petition. And it's as simple as just clicking on the link, signing the petition, they'll send you an email back just to validate that that was you, and you're okeh. We need to get 100,000 signers for President Obama and his administration to take a look at it before they'll even answer us. So, we've got work to do, but I'm certainly glad that you're here to help get this word out.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and certainly, and if I may share, earlier this week, at the Texas Medical Center, they had an Israeli scientist, doctors from the Texas Children's, Baylor College of Medicine, talking about the need for the Texas Medical Center, the world's largest medical center, to become the world's leader in cannabis medicine. And yet just this same week, the Drug Enforcement Administration is now trying to take away the ability of children to use CBD, an extract from the cannabis plant, making it just as illegal as marijuana itself. We do have to stand up and stand tall, don't we?

MARY LYNN MATHRE: I think that's it exactly. You know, I think this election kind of told us, you know, things are happening here, and they can get scary out there at times, and it's time for us to just say, hey, enough is enough. This slow progression, every state has a different law. Patients are confused. Healthcare practitioners are confused. And it is an herb. The American Herbal Pharmacoepia put out a monograph, gosh, now, several years ago, in 2014, talking about cannabis as an herb, how you should cultivate it, how you make products from it, and that's what I want the public to know, that this is an herb. That means people can grow it. But if patients need medicine, it means that they will be able to find it easily. They'll be able to find it, it will be labeled, it will be quality controlled, we'll know what we get. Right now, patients are doing the best they can, finding it wherever they can, paying an extreme amount. It's atrocious.

So, I urge everyone, not only to sign it, but go through your contact list and get everyone you know to sign it

DEAN BECKER: Exactly. Well, friends, we've been speaking with Nurse Mary Lynn Mathre. She's one of the directors of PatientsOutofTime.org. I urge you, please, go online, link up and sign that petition, and force the president to speak logically about medical cannabis. Mary Lynn tells me that the votes have to be tallied by January Ninth, so there's no time for you to wait around.

It boils down to this, you know, Canada's outlining how they're going to legalize, Mexico may do the same with medical, you know, we've got Duterte in the Philippines, and now we've got the DEA wanting to rob children of the one medicine that stops their epileptic seizures. We're speaking with Mister Robert Hoban of the HLG, Hoban Law Group, the nation's premier cannabusiness firm. Sir, what is going on?

ROBERT HOBAN: Well, there's a lot going on, and I appreciate you asking, and thanks for your time this morning. The DEA had come out just yesterday through a publication known as the Federal Register with a final rule. What this rule does, is it creates a new drug code for marijuana extract, quote unquote marijuana extract. So, what are the implications of this? I mean, that's ultimately what everyone's been wrestling with, they're trying to get their arms around.

At its basic level, the drug code is simply an administrative coding function that allows DEA registrants to identify certain drugs that they may or may not be using in their research or the treatment of individuals, for example, hospitals, institutions of higher learning, other private party DEA registrants like pharmaceutical companies. So, on its most basic level, it's a simple administrative function.

But, the problem in practice is that, and we've dealt with this personally and professionally through our law firm on behalf of clients, so many government agencies, both at the state and local level, look to this coding system as gospel, as it pertains to what's a controlled substance or what's not. And this definition purports to say that any cannabinoids from a marijuana plant are unlawful. That's a problem, because cannabinoids are not controlled substances per se. And that's where, as you alluded to earlier, this could present some problems with people obtaining cannabinoid or hemp extracts for a variety of wellness conditions or just for day to day use.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, Robert, I see the media, I see scientists, my god, we had a seminar at the Texas Medical Center, wanting to be the world's leader in cannabinoid medicine just this week. We've got politicians stepping forward, Democrat, Republican, both recognizing that these cannabinoids are of benefit. They've seen the evidence. It's really puzzling, sir.

ROBERT HOBAN: And that's partly the problem, because if there's evidence to suggest that there's a naturally occurring substance that helps people with a variety of physical ailments, conditions, etc., then what does that tell you? That tells you there's money to be made on that product, and if there's money to be made on that product, and it has to do with medical conditions, physical ailments, who wants to achieve most of that money? Pharmaceutical companies, and that right there is seemingly the basis for this description and for this effort.

If you look at the language in this Federal Register, which is relatively simple, and does talk about receiving comments from pharmaceutical company representatives, so I do see that this is potentially a step towards wrestling, wrangling control over cannabinoids generally, so that the DEA can in turn work with the FDA, who in turn will work with private pharmaceutical companies, to sort of seize control over all cannabinoids. And that's a problem, because not everybody wants to use a pharmacological based medicine produced by a pharmaceutical company with the, you know, laundry list of side effects that you always see on these bottles and in these commercials.

But rather they'd prefer to use it in its natural state, and frankly at levels that are far less potent than a concentrated pharmaceutical drug. And that's really the problem, that's the bigger picture.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and that brings to mind that, I don't know, there are umpteen thousand strains of marijuana, each one having a select number of properties and abilities, if you will. And, you know, sometimes people search for quite some time before they find the right strain or combination that works effectively for them. And I guess, yeah, what you're saying, this could limit it to just a few products with not much selection or potential for releaf. Right?

ROBERT HOBAN: Dean, the sky's not fallen. But this is a slippery slope, and it's a slippery slope because, when you've had certain hemp constituent products being imported to this country for years, and frankly, more so in recent years, exports of hemp derived cannabinoid products, CBD for example, being shipped to countries in Latin America and around the world, outside of the US, from the US, to provide low cost effective medicine for people that, you know, don't have the kind of money and resources that we do here in the US. That's a problem, and this is where the problem really comes into play.

The agencies, for example Customs and Border Patrol, would look at this drug code list and would say, it's on the list, therefore it's an unlawful substance and, you know, it should either be seized or, you know, we've got a problem here. And the answer to the question is not so simple, because cannabinoids in and of themselves are not controlled substances.

And there's a variety of ways to obtain and achieve cannabinoids without violating federal law, and this definition opens up the door for all of those products to be seized, whether in interstate commerce, at the US border, for, you know, transporting across the United States for a variety of reasons under our farm bill, under this guise of marijuana extract. And that's going to keep people from obtaining what they need, and people want to do the right thing. But when they make these things so difficult, it really makes it difficult for people to obtain the relief that they see happening out there in a legal means.

DEAN BECKER: And, the one other thing I think this does is, gives justification, or however you want to put it, to at least some law enforcement agencies to say, hey, the DEA ruled this, so we're going to enforce it, no matter what other laws may or may not be in place.

ROBERT HOBAN: That's exactly it. And that is the primary significance of all of this. This register action did not schedule, you know, put on the schedule a new substance. It didn't do something that, you know, reflects the scheduling of a substance from one to two, or two to one, or adding something new. Instead it merely created a drug code, but as you just articulated, gosh, the practical implications of doing that range far and wide and are going to prevent not only patients from obtaining what they need, individuals from obtaining wellness products, but also will interrupt the flow of commerce in this burgeoning hemp industry.

The hemp industry has great potential to literally save the United States on both an agricultural and industrial front, and to get there, the industry needs to get beyond simple cannabinoid extracts. The only way that's only going to occur is if cannabinoid extracts can be allowed to exist in the current environment for the foreseeable future if not beyond, so that this industry can become capitalized. Once it's capitalized, you're going to see hemp products of every sort fill so many needs across this country, and really solve a lot of our economic problems. But to focus in on something that's non-psychoactive, that actually helps people, that the DEA has no per se control over, is problematic, because it stifles that development.

DEAN BECKER: Well, there you have it, my friends. The truth, from Mister Robert Hoban, from the Hoban Law Group. They are the nation's premier cannabusiness firm. Robert, I want to thank you. Closing thoughts, maybe a website you want to share?

ROBERT HOBAN: Sure. Thank you Dean, by the way, it's my pleasure to speak with you this morning, and our website is www.Hoban.law. And thank you very much.

DEAN BECKER: Part of the good, bad, and ugly is the situation in Washington, DC. Here to help us all understand and help me from being so damned flummoxed is the director of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, my friend, Mister Eric Sterling.

ERIC STERLING: Your feelings of being flummoxed are perfectly appropriate, because this, you know, Trump is almost impossible to read, and we don't know what his appointees are going to do. They've got a lot of fights that they want to make. You know, you can look at a guy like Jeff Sessions, if it were completely up to Jeff Sessions, he'd shut down, you know, legal adult marijuana, he'd shut down medical marijuana, and, you know, he'd sort of brush his hands together and say, that's that.

Even if he doesn't do anything with the Cole Memoranda, there are going to be US Attorneys that are going to be appointed, you know, around the country. US Attorneys are going to be nominated by Trump, they're going to be largely suggested by the Republican leadership in the state, or the district, they're going to be confirmed by a Republican controlled Judiciary Committee. When they take office, you know, they could be like US Attorneys under the Obama administration, they said yeah, well we saw the Ogden Memorandum, but we're still going to go after people.

But the other piece of it that may be, you know, that, they'll say, you know, medical marijuana is gone, legal marijuana, that's, you know, the public wants that. We're not going to try to fight that fight anymore. That's another possibility.

DEAN BECKER: And I guess, what throws me a lot is this embrace that this president-elect has of the policies of President Duterte, down in the Philippines, who has admitted to going out on the city streets and killing drug users, and Trump stands with him. Your thought there, please.

ERIC STERLING: This is equally shocking. There are a lot of, you know, there are 180 world leaders around the earth, how is it that so early in this administration, he picks this guy, you know, to make nice with? Is it only because of the challenge of being across the South China Sea? It's certainly, you know, disturbing, it is absolutely, certainly disturbing, and therefore leaves, you know, not be able to understand, to predict with any kind of knowledge or comfort what's going to happen. Do you give people sort of the benefit of the doubt? Well, you know, there is a whole record of unpredictable stuff with this guy. You never know from, you know, is what he's saying today different than what he said, you know, a month ago? Just, you know, so impossible to sort of know.

I don't want to predict, I guess, I guess I don't want to predict bad news.

DEAN BECKER: You know, I can't help but think back just a few weeks back, when we got four more states legalizing marijuana, and others legalizing medical, and, you know, the progress being made, and I guess what I'm leery of, or most flummoxed by, the juxtaposition of positive versus potential negative, and it's just scaring me and I think a lot of folks. Your closing thoughts in that regard, please.

ERIC STERLING: Well, certainly, everybody has a good basis to be scared about what the Trump administration offers. And yet, we do need to be optimistic and realistic based upon what the American people are saying they want when they have a chance to vote on these matters. You know, states that went for Trump -- Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota. These states, you know, voted for medical marijuana. That is not lost upon President-elect Trump and his advisers. I think we have not talked about what the implications are for the states where these programs are now underway, where the states have made significant investments of their own efforts, and their citizens have built businesses, and there's now, you know, a well-regulated industry that is operating that employs thousands of people and pays, raises millions and millions of dollars in taxes.

Should the federal government attempt to shut this down, there will be lawsuits, and I could certainly envision the states arguing that after the, after Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution was ratified, giving Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce, the Tenth Amendment was adopted and ratified, reserving powers to the states. And quite plausibly the regulation of cannabis within a state is one of those powers, and the regulation and the practice of medicine is one of those powers. And we would see set up potentially a very important Constitutional debate about state versus federal power, in which in the Supreme Court, the conservatives are much more likely to be supporting the Tenth Amendment.

You know, we remember back to the Raich case in 2003, the Justices who sided with Raich were the conservatives, you know, Rehnquist, O'Connor, and Justice Thomas, who's still on the Court. It is assumable that the, that a conservative majority on the Court might back states defending their medical cannabis programs on a Tenth Amendment basis.

DEAN BECKER: All right, folks, there you have it, Mister Eric Sterling, the director of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. Their website: CJPF.org.

That's about all I can crowd into half an hour. Trying to make sense of these senseless drug laws, and I urge you please, go to PatientsOutOfTime.org and link to the petition to our President to change these stupid laws.

Please be sure to join us in the coming weeks, when we'll interview the newly installed police chief of Houston, and Dr. David Bearman, author of Drugs Are Not The Devil's Tools, and check out the more than 6,000 shows available on our website, DrugTruth.net. And as always, I remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag, please be careful.