05/27/18 Mary Lynn Mathre
Century of Lies
Mary Lynn Mathre
Patients Out Of Time
This week, we hear from Mary Lynn Mathre and Brandon Wyatt about veterans' issues and medical cannabis, plus more from my interview with Steve Bloom, editor-in-chief of Freedom Leaf Magazine.
CENTURY OF LIES
MAY 27, 2018
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.
The Patients Out of Time Twelfth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics was held in mid-May in Jersey City. The first day of that conference was devoted to public policy. One of the panels that I found most interesting involved veterans' issues. We're going to hear from part of that panel. In the interest of full disclosure, I do need to mention that I do website and social media work for Patients Out of Time.
We're about to hear Mary Lynn Mathre, the co-founder and president of Patients Out of Time, who's a military veteran, along with Brandon Wyatt, an attorney and medical cannabis advocate in Washington, DC, who is also a military veteran.
MARY LYNN MATHRE: -- well, it clearly elapsed. I mean, well, and that's the problem, the veterans were not appreciated for what they came back from. When you think of post-traumatic stress, and I'm kind of answering it, but I go about it in a different way, but when we think of post traumatic stress, it can happen to anyone. I think we all know that, whether you think of rape, a hurricane, a tornado, life's loss, et cetera.
But if you can picture a combat veteran, who, as you saw in the clip earlier, has nightmares of their buddies being blown up, of knowing that they just killed someone, of being wounded themselves. But then, the next day, you go do it again. The next day you go do it again. It -- it shatters whatever happens to you. So they're really screwed up with that.
They come back, and a lot just got kicked out of the service because of post traumatic stress symptoms. They were literally kicked out for -- dishonorable discharges. Sometimes it was just smoking pot, and yeah, so going back then, in that era, that was the Just Say No, you know, the war on drugs and all that, and they started the urine testing. They start that with veterans, just, years earlier, decades earlier, they started the LSD on veterans, experimenting with that, what it did.
Well, drug testing started on veteran -- on active duty, I should say, on active duty military.
BRANDON WYATT: So, let's -- let's drill another key point. One of the key points it that veterans a shared, similar experience, but we also had a shared similar law and regulation, which governed the country, that, when we left and went home, everybody in their fifty states abided by, but together, when we were a unit, was one law, UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice], which allowed to be their experimental code for a lot of policies that related to drug use, not only in testing, to see if you were using it, but testing to see if it worked.
So, that's where the key to listening to Mary Lynn from the nurse's side, and the balance from the lawyer's side, kind of comes in, because now you're talking about jurisdiction, who had jurisdiction and control of what the veterans did, and then what happened in the federal government as a result of the testing in the military, and then how can we use that leverage to break open the entire country for cannabis laws. It would be fun when we get there, but, go ahead, Mary Lynn, I'm sorry.
MARY LYNN MATHRE: But -- yeah, no, point well taken. And so we get to, as I was saying, with the stigma, so the Vietnam vet is really suffering, they're finding cannabis is helpful, but they will -- they're going to be very quiet about it, because they've already been, the stigma is very bad on them just for being a Vietnam vet.
So we fast forward to today, and certainly, Brandon, you can talk more about the veterans of today. There still are some vets who are unaware of the use of cannabis for post traumatic stress symptoms, because they go to the usual healthcare system in the VA -- yeah, and, so people can understand the VA system, when a veteran comes back, as veterans, we can go to the VA to get our healthcare. It's a federal facility, the physicians are under federal law.
And so, that basically means, as Brandon said, from state to state, these laws are happening with cannabis, but the vets are stuck under federal law. Now, what did happen, in 2010, Robert Petzel, the director of the VA at the time, made a decision, a directive, and he put the directive out, saying that if you are a veteran and you live in a state with a medical cannabis law, then -- and you go outside of the VA system and you get permission from a civilian doctor to use cannabis, then the VA should recognize that.
Well, in one sense, hallelujah, but a couple of things. Now, the vet has to go pay for their medical care, which they're not supposed to have to, they've got to go pay for that medical visit, they've got to go pay for their medicine now, which should not happen.
But two, what happens when you're, like my husband, in the state of Virginia, which won't allow that, or, CBD only, now, but, so it's -- these are the issues which I think lawyers get into a lot. And, what happens when they get sick and they're on their medicine, and it's okeh under the VA, but if they have to go into a VA hospital, now it's not okeh.
BRANDON WYATT: Well, let's go from it -- from a different way. So, in the sense of, generationally, as I've studied, and been able to be lectured and learned from Vietnam era veterans down, what we're able to see is a shift in government resources and funding based on their perception of if you were quote unquote from a good war era or a good soldier duty time. Okeh?
So you go through the whole war we've gone through, Grenada, we've gone through the first gulf war, and we develop a cadre of individuals who have disabilities. And I'll say that directly, and I'm from Fort Bragg, so I've worked in Washington, DC, great, but I grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, so I grew up around the young men and women that I'm speaking about, so I know them very, very well, they were my friends' parents, and my older neighbors.
So, in that regard, another issue that happened is, when they come back, they don't necessarily have a trust for the VA, from what Mary Lynn spoke about, they don't necessarily have a trust for the system, because prior to -- I guess you would say really when you get to the GI Bill, working very well at the end of the '80s, you had a pull back from using the VA systems because veterans would have their benefits, if they were not already reduced, reduced further if they were convicted or had any testing for drug crimes, if anything effected their benefits that way, especially in regards to cannabis.
For some of the other, harder drugs, maybe say heroin or things like that, I try not to scale them, but they are in scale harder drugs, they would not have the same kind of effect, but for cannabis, however, it seemed to be a big trigger.
So as we got down to my generation, I'm a second Iraq war veteran, I went over in 2003, which is crazy, to be thinking about it. So a recent sample of my peers, about 600 of them from Iraq and Afghanistan, found that fourteen percent of them had post traumatic stress disorder, 39 percent reported severe alcohol abuse, three percent reported drug abuse, in addition, axis one and axis two depression was identified as a major barrier to housing and employment.
And so, with these kind of figures, you're -- well, maybe you will ask, you'll say, well, who caused the injury. We're not pointing the blame, and in fact we're at duty to serve our country, but why should veterans that have fought for one country be treated differently from state to state?
Why would you -- why would you not understand that the symptoms and conditions that triggered this matter should not be handled differently. Now, in studying it, what we've outlined, as Mary Lynn has traveled across the country, and has taught me, is every state has a different flow, and the way their policy considerations affect individuals.
A quick case I'm going to touch on, not a veteran, but in New Jersey, is Barrett versus Robert Half. Robert Half is like a staffing placement company, especially for lawyers, so it's pretty interesting. So, Barrett versus Robert Half, and it's a case about the violation of New Jersey law against discrimination. You had an individual who was required to take mandatory drug testing, but he previously was a medical user of cannabis. He was terminated from his employment.
So, when you go into a situation similar with veterans, they are required to go to the VA to get healthcare, but when they go and they're drug tested, even randomly, we have a good friend Michael Krawitz, even randomly, that then affects their treatment profile. And then it affected the benefits received each month.
And then, if -- depending on if you were in certain states, and good folks in here like Doctor Burnett can let you know, that if you sign up for a card as a veteran or recipient of federal benefits, they may exempt you now as a holder of the card from owning a weapon, they may exempt you from receiving benefits, they may exempt you from receiving actual opioid medication that you may need in addition to cannabis, or other antibiotics, because of the feared impact.
And that kind of relates back to what you said, in 1985, Mary Lynn, is they're doing all this without any research.
MARY LYNN MATHRE: Yeah. It -- yeah, it's scary. And when you talk about that, I -- that's probably the biggest thing, hitting on weapons now. We have, as most people know, there is no treatment for post traumatic stress.
There's two antidepressants that are approved for the depression with post traumatic stress, but you've got, vets or anyone with post-traumatic stress, we don't like to say disorder, post traumatic stress symptoms being, obviously, nightmares or insomnia, not being able to sleep at all, depression, huge anxiety, when I say anger we probably -- it slips into rage really quickly. Very often they've been wounded so there's pain as well.
So, the VA medicates them. They give them an antidepressant for their depression, they give them an anti-anxiety medication for their anxiety, they give them an opioid for their pain, they give them a sleep medicine, they give them whatever else they need. You cannot take those medications and not have serious consequences.
Every antidepressant drug that's out there has a black box warning on the label that says, if you open the package insert, that says may cause suicidal or homicidal ideation.
BRANDON WYATT: Wait, that happened to me. Wait. But I had, I was in law school. Wait, I almost killed myself.
MARY LYNN MATHRE: Yeah.
BRANDON WYATT: They gave me all this cocktail of stuff, and I asked the math question, Mary Lynn --
MARY LYNN MATHRE: And Brandon could have a weapon.
BRANDON WYATT: If every -- I asked a question, and you remember, I asked it almost the first time we met, and it almost put you in tears. If they gave me five pills that all had a five to ten percent occurrence of suicidal thoughts or ideations, I had to take five, don't I have like 60, 65 percent chance then of wanting to kill myself?
MARY LYNN MATHRE: Well, it's not all of them that have that chance, but when you mix them all? And again, our healthcare professionals, we've all learned that we need random controlled trials. Double-blind, placebo controlled studies, that's when a drug gets FDA approved.
We have never had any -- any of those studies on poly-pharmacy, on when you mix five drugs. So you've got -- that's never happened, and we know from veterans saying I felt like I was going insane. Maybe they did feel homicidal. And when you bring up weapons, they could have their weapons, and frankly, a veterans -- in my mind, anyway, just being around them, is much safer with weapons because they know how to use them, they know what they can do. They're -- they know what to do.
But, now they get cannabis --
BRANDON WYATT: Let's clarify --
MARY LYNN MATHRE: -- but now they get cannabis --
BRANDON WYATT: -- if they didn't have an ID card, if they did not register for an ID card, they can have weapons, but if they did, you can't. So, let's just clarify.
MARY LYNN MATHRE: No, that's what I'm saying. But, if you're a cannabis patient, yeah. So if you're a cannabis patient, you cannot have a weapon. So, now the veteran gets off the medications that make them homicidal or suicidal, to go to a medication that helps them feel normal again, and we'll learn at the last session a little bit about why that happens, but, helps them normalize their system, feeling better, and they have to give up their weapon.
And, again, that's a security issue to the vet. They're not going to -- generally, a healthy vet is not going to be crazy out there with it. In fact, I want to -- here's a really sad story. Before our conference in 2012, six months before it, in Tucson, Arizona, there was an incident. It was a veteran, an Iraqi veteran. Hispanic. He's back home. DEA's going to do a drug bust. Somebody said that he's using cannabis, whatever.
So they did one of those pre-dawn drills. Well, veterans, the other thing about post traumatic stress is you're hypervigilant. He heard something. He know something was going on. He thought he was being burglarized, going to be burglarized. He put his wife and son in the bathroom. He was ready with his weapon, whoever was going to come and rob him. There's not a knock knock, can we see you, we've got a search warrant. There was a bust in that door, and sixty bullets later, what did we find?
Nobody could go in for a while, and I was thinking, oh, what are they going to do, plant drugs on him or something? But, those sixty bullets, I don't think all of them hit him [sic: police fired 71 rounds in this incident, and Jose Guerena was hit 22 times], but of course he was killed.
He still had the safety on his weapon. You know, when you think about it, vets are trained to kill. I mean, it's a sad story, but that's -- their warriors, they're trained to kill. Police are trained to serve and protect. And so we've got our police service now coming in, unannounced, to a veteran's home, guns blazing, without knowing what they're shooting at, and a dead vet.
BRANDON WYATT: Well, let's talk a little bit about how that, how these kind of stories, you may way, well, why would Mary Lynn tell us such a sad story, why does this matter? Because it happens in every state. It happens in every jurisdiction. It happened to my brothers in arms, it happens to my big brothers like Al, his brothers in arms, it happens in every state, so it's a cross-cleaving tie, it makes everything come together.
Now, when we look at equity laws, when you say, what do you mean, equity? Things that provide remediation. That's a big portion of the population that everyone should pay special attention to, because we taught ourselves as veterans, no matter if you're black, white, yadda yadda, we're all green, blue, some weird color that matches our uniform, at the same time. We're not girls or guys, we're soldiers or airmen or navalmen [sic: sailors], okeh?
And so, that gives us an ability to work together. We're a political bloc. Now, there's laws and different tools that veterans can open the door for, that relate to disability rights, relate to the rights of individuals to have public housing, rights of individuals to have reduced medication costs. One of the big reasons that you want to point out your veterans in that is because the laws that are shaped that way are favorable to politicians.
Call your politicians, talk with your politicians, make sure that they establish equity laws and programs that assist veterans, because by allowing us to open the door, you allow the door to be opened to help all disabled individuals have reductions on benefit rights, if it's, hey, the cannabis cost is too high, great, that's something that will be annexed.
When you look at countries like Canada, how they treat their veterans and what not, they all get a certain little stipend each month, I think it's around $175, for medication, not too much, but enough to keep the industry alive and going.
So we can start making a bridge between different laws, especially as it relates to interstate laws, by focusing on helping veterans. Why? Because we didn't fight for one state, we fought for all fifty states. So when we're down in DC, where I live, we can talk in the same language. All right?
So that's a big thing for New Jersey to bring forward, I'm proud of you guys. You guys passed an opioid disorder, I hate to say disorder, but opioid addiction disorder, about a month ago, for your bill. That's huge. One of the big things about veterans and opioids is, it was one of the highlights that they noticed because the VA spent so much money on the pills, and immediately there was a study done by individuals, like Doctor Sisley and her friends, that showed there was a correlation between suicides and the rate -- the amount of money spent on opioid medication for veterans.
So that's why many states started paying attention. So Mary Lynn, I want to let you close out a little bit, we talked about equity laws, but one of the big things we also talked about, or should have talked about, is to make sure we looked at the post-service to prison pipeline, like, but we didn't get there, but, anything you want to close out with today?
MARY LYNN MATHRE: Well, cripe, just even thinking, prison, that pipeline, uff-dah. I -- in closing, I think the big thing here is, veterans kind of epitomize, in many ways, the United States. What are they doing? They're defending the Constitution first. They're defending freedom in America. So to come back, as a veteran, and want to grow a plant? And be thrown in jail, to be kicked out of the service dishonorably, to lose your family because you can't take the medicine.
We have families break up because, if it's a male in the service, he needs that to keep his sanity, to be a good parent. The mother, the wife is sitting there going, but if anybody knows this, they will take my children away, our children away. It breaks up families all the time.
So, I guess that's it, with the veterans. It's just -- it's the epitome of what is wrong with this country. They go and risk their lives for, you know, for all of us, to come back and not be able to use a plant. Uff-dah.
BRANDON WYATT: And if you use the plant, different benefits and things are taken away, so, it's really great talking with you all. It's often hard to get veterans up on a panel to speak, so it's an honor to be educate a little bit with you all today. Please take the time to speak with veterans in your life. They're great advocates, and they often will provide you with some information that will help you tremendously in your push for cannabis rights and legislation.
If you have an issue talking with a senator or a councilman, take your local veteran in there with you. They're going to open that door, all right? Thank you all.
MARY LYNN MATHRE: Thank you.
DOUG MCVAY: That was Brandon Wyatt, an attorney and advocate in Washington, DC, an Mary Lynn Mathre, co-founder and president of Patients Out of Time. Both of them are veterans, and they appeared on a panel at the Patients Out of Time Twelfth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, speaking about veterans' issues and medical cannabis.
You're listening to Century of Lies. We're a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.
I ended up spending a few extra days on the east coast this year because of a travel snafu. I know, poor me, stuck in New York City. But, I had a good time, got together with some friends. One of those friends, Steve Bloom, and I took a food pilgrimage through the lower east side to one of my favorite spots ever, Yonah Schimmel's Knish Bakery.
After all that, we went back and sat and had a long interview. I'm bringing you portions of that interview through the next couple of weeks. We heard a little bit last week, about Steve and I and the Cannabis Action Network and Hemp Tour and those glory days back in the '80s. Now, let's hear about some of the work that Steve is doing currently.
Wow. Let's start with -- let's start with some of the fun stuff that you're doing now. Well, we just finished this great walk through New York, and it's -- it was like a blast from thirty years ago, walking into some of these places, and just the smells and the sounds, and going to Nine Bleecker Street, to the old YIPPIE! headquarters, and it's just been madness. It's just been madness.
It's been -- how did you get here, Steve?
STEVE BLOOM: Okeh, where?
DOUG MCVAY: Oh, well, to this -- to the exalted position that we find you in now, as publisher, editor, no, not publisher, you're the editor of -- yeah, let's talk, let's do the current, so that we -- so that people, I mean, people already know who you are but that's okeh, we'll, just in case they don't.
And, Freedom Leaf Magazine is -- full disclosure, I occasionally write for Freedom Leaf Magazine -- is a terrific publication that's one of the top in the marijuana media industry, field, as far as I'm concerned. I did mention I write for them, right? Yes.
So, how did that start? You're the, you were -- you are the first news editor? Then --
STEVE BLOOM: Well, I'm the editor in chief.
DOUG MCVAY: Editor in chief, sorry.
STEVE BLOOM: I started in the third issue. The first two issues came out the end of 2013, and Chris Goldstein, who's affiliated with NORML, Philly NORML, and does his own thing, works for Philly.com. He had gotten involved with Freedom Leaf, and he had contacted me about this new publication that he was working on, and asked me to write for it.
So, for the first two issues, I wrote articles. And in the second issue, when the second issue came out, it looked a little sloppy to me, and I got in touch with Chris and I gave him, like, a critique, you know, I sent him a note with, like, you should do this and that.
And he got back to me and he said, well, you know, maybe you should do it. You know, and I said, Chris, I don't want your job, that's not what I'm saying here, I'm just trying to give you a little advice on how to improve the magazine. He says, well, maybe you'd better do it.
DOUG MCVAY: It was less a, you think you're so smart you try it, it was more like, you know, you're so smart.
STEVE BLOOM: You know, I think Chris knew it really wasn't his thing to be the head of a magazine. He's a good reporter, and he's super knowledgeable about so many things, but it wasn't necessarily, you know, where he needed to be, and he needed a little help, and instead of, you know, me coming and coaching him, you know, he kind of felt like maybe better I just take it over.
So, I did leapfrog over Chris and became the editor in chief, and Chris stayed on as senior editor, and we worked together, you know, very closely for the next couple of years. So that's how I got involved.
Freedom Leaf is a cool little publication that deals with marijuana policy, politics, some science, some business, some culture, you know, we have our hand in whatever is happening, but the main focus is the policy changes in the US. Every issue we zero in on the latest and now it's Massachusetts going legal in July, and a lot of movement here in the New York area.
We've been following obviously very closely developments in California, Nevada, the new states, the old states, you know, that are even getting older by three, four, five years, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, your home state. So keeping an eye on what's going on domestically and internationally. Canada, we just did a report on that, looking around to cover world issues.
We have a new issue coming out with a lot of Mexico coverage. So there's just so much out there, you know, you just have to carve your own space, and I guess we have. You know, just sort of by the unique vision that I suppose I have, because I don't get too much direction, I have a lot of freedom to more or less do what I want, so it's my pallet every month to put together, you know, curate, you know, a new issue from start to finish, and we have, you know, people who write regularly, and we let NORML, and SSDP, and NCIA, and WomenGrow, and a few other organizations have their voice, and they write regular columns.
And then the rest of the magazine is, you know, whatever is in the news, you know, and just get good people to write about it. You know, that's the key, and then I'm also editing the website, FreedomLeaf.com, which you write for, and that's a little more up to date newsy. The magazine's a little more broader in terms of the overall focus of being feature-y. So, we try to make a distinction between the blog format that we feature online versus the print format of a magazine, which is a little bit of a different style of writing and look.
I had been an editor at High Times for many years, I got away from print publication, and it's fun to get back into it, because my heart is always in print. That's where I got my start, when I was younger, in high school and college. But I love the web, you know. When I left High Times, I started CelebStoner. I learned a lot early on. I know how to do basic coding, probably a lot of people don't even know how to do that, of course I learned a few years ago, when you had to know a few things, like today I had to fix a story, it needed some coding, and thank goodness I knew, you know, I remembered the basics. But still, basics help.
And -- and I started, you know, before I even really knew what a blog was, in 2006, and kind of had some training wheels to learn how to blog, and learn how to post articles, and put photos together up onto, you know, a website, and you know, learn the real basics of that, and that's evolved into CelebStoner. So I kind of wear two hats, I'm the editor in chief of Freedom Leaf, I'm the publisher of CelebStoner.
DOUG MCVAY: Well, the -- I love the idea that you have the activist kind of orientation, the sort of, I mean, the back page of your, of the issue I was just looking at is the events calendar. There's a big ad from SSDP, there's a big ad for Patients Out of Time. Anyway, the -- and I love that. I love that. It's a, I think it's -- especially because you're covering the politics, it's, I mean, the business is part of it, so you talk about some of those as well, but you still cover the social justice side and the politics side. I just, I think that's brilliant.
STEVE BLOOM: It's a must. That's my background, that's my interest, but we also want to cover the business too, because there's a whole new world out there, and it would be foolish to ignore it. So just like, you know, you have that big article in the new issue, you know, an interview with BioTrack THC's CEO Patrick Vo, you know, this is a world that, you know, people have to deal with now. You know, seed to sale tracking and all that is kind of technical, but important.
And so, you know, if we can break it down a little bit in the magazine too, in addition to talking about policy, why not? You know, there should be a little bit for everybody. We're not snubbing anybody and saying, oh, we don't want to cover business or we're not into the green rush, or we'll just, you know, pick our spots, and be very careful about what we cover.
DOUG MCVAY: I think it's -- you mentioned the international stuff. One of the things we were talking about earliier, of course, this newest edition has Vicente Fox, your interview with him. And there's a conference that you're going to be going down to down there as well, cannamex. So let's talk about Mexico for a minute.
STEVE BLOOM: Well, it's CannaMexico, the event which Vicente Fox's organization, Centro Fox, is putting on. It's north of Mexico City in Guanajuato, near the León area. It's an international summit, and it will be new to me, because I haven't been to Mexico for any event, I haven't been to Mexico in quite a few years, and certainly not for a cannabis event.
You know, Mexico's getting in a little late, but, last year they passed a medical marijuana law, it's very limited, only allows for CBD, and it allows for US companies to possibly import to Mexico, and so the door's open a little bit there, for business.
Fox, who I interviewed, would like to see a business begin in Mexico. There really isn't any type of, you know, legal marijuana industry to speak of, and Mexico's still wracked with, you know, tremendous violence, you know, that's due to, you know, the illegal drugs in many ways, and the cartels, who do that business, and, you know, cause a lot of mayhem and violence in the country.
He, you know, clearly sees the solution to curbing the violence is ending prohibition. He believes that marijuana should be legal as well as all other drugs, sort of the Portugal approach, or he mentions Portugal and Holland in his conversation, that that's where he wants things to be.
So, he has a big plan, at 75, to try and, you know, steer Mexico finally in the right direction, try to end the violence, and get Mexico in the middle of the industry that's evolving here in the US, and that this should be a place for Mexico, too.
DOUG MCVAY: That was part of an interview with Steve Bloom. He is the publisher of CelebStoner.com and editor in chief at Freedom Leaf Magazine. Again, full disclosure, I write for both of those. And that's it for this week. We'll have more from that interview with Steve Bloom, and more from the Patients Out of Time conference, in the next couple of weeks. For now, that's it.
Thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies. We're a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I’m your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.
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DOUG MCVAY: For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition: the century of lies. Drug Truth Network programs archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.