Guests

08/10/22 Paul Armentano

Program
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date
Guest
Paul Armentano
Organization
NORML

Paul Armentano is Deputy Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Paul joins us for the half hour to discuss Russia sentence of 9 years behind bars for WNBA star Britteny Griner, CBD & THC snake oil, Senate bills in limbo, State politicians trying to circumvent cannabis votes, taxes, black market & more
+ DTN Editorial from Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High: EUPHORIA IS A BLESSING NOT A CRIME

Audio file

02/23/22 Paul Armentano

Program
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date
Guest
Paul Armentano
Organization
NORML

Paul Armentano has over two decades of experience working professionally in cannabis policy. He is the Deputy Director of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the nation’s oldest and largest cannabis reform advocacy organization. Discussion on cbd/hemp, synthetics, drug war hypocrisy.

Audio file

03/27/19 Paul Armentano

Program
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date
Guest
Paul Armentano
Organization
NORML

Paul Armentano of NORML re "marijuana psychosis", Jodi James of Florida Cannabis Action Network, Nurse Mary Lynn Mathre of Patients Out Of Time & NIDA Scientist Dr. Donald Tashkin on safety of marijuana

Audio file

CULTURAL BAGGAGE

MARCH 27, 2019

TRANSCRIPT

DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker, your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection, and the liars whose support for drug war empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels, and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent US gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.

Hi, folks, I am Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High, and this is a five star edition of Cultural Baggage. Please, listen up and share widely.

Well, friends, you may have seen the stories in papers and magazines around the country talking about how marijuana's suddenly become dangerous, it's become a means to lead to psychosis and other mental maladies, and here to help us straighten out this situation is the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Mister Paul Armentano. Hello, Paul.

PAUL ARMENTANO: Nice to speak with you, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Paul, it reaches back to the early days, when Anslinger said that marijuana leads to insanity, criminality, and death. How long will this rattle the cage, sir?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, you're correct, Dean, what's old is new again. America began its failed experiment with prohibition by claiming that marijuana made you crazy. Over the years, that narrative has changed to some degree. We've heard that marijuana makes you lazy, marijuana makes you apathetic, but now we're back to the claim once again that marijuana makes you crazy.

The bottom line is that there was no definitive evidence to support that claim now, and there remains no definitive evidence to support that claim now.

Well, here's the thing. People that express psychosis or psychotic symptoms, by and large, use all intoxicants at greater percentages than do people in the general population. So it is not surprising that many psychotics use cannabis. But that does not mean that the use of cannabis causes psychosis.

DEAN BECKER: Right. And as I, best I understand it, it is one of the favorite means of settling themselves for people with psychosis, that marijuana can calm some of the, I don't know, what's going on in their heads, right?

PAUL ARMENTANO: There's a number of reasons for this multidirectional association between cannabis and psychosis. As I mentioned, we know that psychotics tend to use all intoxicants at greater percentages than the general population.

In some of these cases, individuals suffering from psychotic symptoms may be turning to cannabis to try to mitigate some of those symptoms. In many other cases, it's very likely that those that are predisposed to psychosis are similarly predisposed to using cannabis.

The reason why I can sit here today and argue that there is very unlikely to be a direct causal relationship between the use of marijuana and psychosis in those who are not predisposed to the disease is by the simple fact that marijuana use has existed for decades, and that rates of marijuana use have ebbed and flowed over this time period, but we have not seen any parallel changes in rates of psychosis or psychiatric illness.

If marijuana was the direct cause of these conditions, we would see rates of psychosis rise and fall parallel to the use of marijuana among the public. That has never happened.

DEAN BECKER: Paul, I, what I really fear, or, I don't know, what gives me a concern, I'll put it that way, is that so many politicians are so quick to latch onto this, to use it as a tool to bludgeon the population for another year, another decade, for their use of the cannabis plant. Your response, please.

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, I admit that they will. After all, claiming marijuana made you crazy worked once before, and so there is clearly an appeal among some prohibitionists and among some in the public who may be ignorant to the science, that there is some validity to this claim.

Again, this is not to dismiss the fact that there are individuals struggling with these disorders who use cannabis. We know that's the case. But the question is whether otherwise healthy individuals who use cannabis will then suffer from these disorders, and again, the evidence does not support that theory.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I would imagine that you are a very busy fellow, that you have other magazines and newspapers contacting you in this regard, and I guess what I'm wanting to delve into is the fact that too often these stories just get quoted, just get, you know, put in the papers and magazines without that counter position from good folks like you. It's allowed to stand as if it were valid with no rebuttal to it. Your thought there, Paul.

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, it's unfortunate that oftentimes there's little context provided when the reporting on these stories takes place. Oftentimes the headlines are sensational, and in cases such as this particular study, there were serious caveats and limitations in the study that widely went unreported.

For instance, the authors of this study claimed that there was a specific relationship between greater likelihood of psychotic symptoms when individuals used more potent cannabis.

The authors of the study actually had no way to know whether that was the case or not because there was no cannabis in the study that was ever analytically tested.

In fact, subjects' commentary with regard to the cannabis they used was solely based on their own self-reporting of cannabis they obtained on the black market, therefore nobody, not the participants and not the researchers, had any idea as to the actual potency of any of the cannabis used in this study.

Yet, again, that basic fact largely went unreported in all of the coverage of this study.

DEAN BECKER: It reminds me of the way Great Britain, or at least the publications I see out of Great Britain, that tend to treat cannabis these days, that it has become all powerful, that skunk is on the market, and that it's going to kill your children.

And I guess that's, I don't, just another means of propaganda and hysteria. Right?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, again, it just -- it's largely due to sloppy reporting, and again, the fact that it's quite possible that many of the authors of the study when -- approached this study with their own individuals biases. And I think the study is written in a way that reflects that fact.

Again, this is in no way meant to indicate or infer that there are not potentially high risk populations who may be more likely to suffer an adverse reaction from using cannabis. Certainly there are, and I would argue that the data show that those individuals predisposed to certain psychiatric illnesses or those already suffering from psychosis are such a high risk population.

Ideally, in an environment where cannabis legally regulated and labeled, and we have evidence based education about cannabis, we can better identify those high risk subgroups and we can better target messaging to individuals in those groups so that they are aware of the potential risks and so that they are discouraged from using cannabis.

The unfortunate fact is that in the era of prohibition, we provide none of those safeguards, so that when there are potential high risk groups who may be more likely to suffer deleterious effects from cannabis, we have no way to target and message those individuals in any sort of persuasive manner.

DEAN BECKER: We need to regulate and control, isn't that the heart of it all?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Of course. If we are to even accept the prohibitionists' rhetoric at face value, that cannabis does pose potential harms to both the individual user and to society, then the rational response to that argument is to better regulate and control the substance accordingly so that we can better limit access and discourage abuse.

Prohibition of course accomplishes none of those goals.

DEAN BECKER: Well, once again, friends, we've been speaking with Mister Paul Armentano. He's the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and trust me, folks, Paul has spent thousands upon thousands of hours investigating this, getting to the heart of it, reading the scientific reports, and he can be trusted.

Paul, closing thoughts you might want to share with the listeners?

PAUL ARMENTANO: I would encourage folks who want to learn more about this study or more -- or learn more about this sort of complex relationship between cannabis and psychosis to visit the NORML website at NORML.org.

We have an indepth response to this study posted currently on the website, and we also have several white papers available on the NORML site that synthesizes decades of this literature, so that folks are going to be able to have a better understanding of what the science says and what the science does not say.

DEAN BECKER: During this time of eternal war, I find it my somber duty to report the death toll from the drug formerly known as marijuana is zero.

Well folks, we just heard from Mister Paul Armentano with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, fully disputing all the paranoia and delusions about psychosis with the use of cannabis, and, around the country, New Jersey, Georgia, are two of the states that are going legal this year.

A couple more states are kicking it around, Oklahoma just passed I think the best medical marijuana law that's ever existed, and today, we're going to get a chance to speak with a lady who's been working for cannabis reform since at least 1998, perhaps my oldest drug reformer friend, Ms. Jodi James. Hello, Jodi.

JODI JAMES: It's good to talk to you again, Dean, thank you very much for having me on your show.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Jodi, the paranoia, the reefer madness, the hysteria, it's still, it's like one of these diseases we're trying to get rid of, some people won't be inoculated and so forth. It just keeps coming back around, does it not?

JODI JAMES: Well, absolutely, and a new version of reefer madness. If you have not seen Talking To Your Kids About Pot, we had the author here in Tallahassee, and it was just astounding. Cannabis psychosis, terrorism. Yeah, that whole gamut, and that was what it kicked us back to.

But you know what? The good news is that bill that you were talking about that passed in Oklahoma? Four percent of the voters went to the polls that day in Oklahoma and they filled out one bubble, and one bubble only. They voted for the best marijuana, medical marijuana bill, in the country.

If we can start to harness that four percent, when we can teach politicians across the country that there is a four percent group of us, people like me, maybe people like you, and we're going to vote for the candidate that is in favor of removing cannabis from the war on drugs, ending the war on drugs in its complexity. When we can start to teach that to politicians, that that four percent exists, we win.

You know, in Florida, for anyone who was watching, we had several elections that took weeks, and went into recounts, and were actually decided by less than one percent. And you know, our new commissioner of agriculture won on weed, water, and weapons, that was her platform. And she just kept saying weed, water, and weapons, every time.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and I think even in Texas, here, you know, we may be among the last to, you know, get on board with any type of major legalization, but, the politicians, one on one, I went to the state house, I guess it's been a month ago, talked to, who was it, I went to I think it was 79 different offices, and I found not one word of objection, not one, all --

JODI JAMES: No, one on one, they get it.

DEAN BECKER: Well, they have to, because, well, look, you've read the studies, you've seen the reports, you've talked to the doctors, you've met the patients, you understand the truth of this, it's real as real gets.

And yet, they are clinging to ancient wives' tales, hysteria, you know, just prior centuries. It's embarrassing for them, from my perspective.

JODI JAMES: People always quote that the truth will set you free, and scripture actually goes the truth you know will set you free [sic https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/John%208:32]. And we're certainly getting to the point where enough people know.

Until we have -- I live in the home of Drug Free America, we still have the same no to pot people. And you know, since the, it was the, let's see, the city attorney for the city of Seattle, who said that if your state has not done medical marijuana, do both, marijuana, medical marijuana and recreational marijuana, lest you leave anyone outside the rule of law.

I think there's something to be said for that, but maybe medical marijuana is just too complicated, and Texas should go for a full on legalization. The criminal justice numbers are there.

The prohibition of cannabis makes no sense, and once you get past the federal designation of Schedule One, which again makes no sense in light of how many states with medical marijuana, and now many studies, once you can get past that, legalization is really the right answer.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I think about it like this, that here in Texas, we have, you know, Houston, I think Dallas, perhaps San Antonio, but some of the major cities have come up with this idea, let's make it a civil penalty. Let's no longer arrest people.

Here in Houston for under four ounces of marijuana, you get a ticket, you have to go take a class, and then they, it's off your record. It never hits the books at the police station, at the DA's office, anywhere. You no -- you do not have a black mark on your record.

And, that's kind of where they're hoping to go, for under two ounces, I think, this time out, but we do have the lieutenant and governor, who are, I don't know, descendants of Harry J. Anslinger, best way to put it.

JODI JAMES: Well, I'm certainly glad that Sessions is no longer there, and certainly, we see reports coming from the United Nations, the WHO. It makes our jobs easier, and you know what? I've got to tell you, the state of Florida has allocated a lot of money over the coming years to do good quality research on cannabis, and on the effects of people who are using cannabis.

We just got the right, affirmed our right to have cannabis in whole flowers, and they're going to do an awful lot of research on what that means to patients. So as more research comes out, the closer we are to winning.

DEAN BECKER: Well, was it last week, or early this week, that the ruling, or the understanding, came down that smoked marijuana will be allowed in the state of Florida, they were wanting to limit it to edibles, I guess, heretofore. But, and that we have our good friend, Cathy Jordan, to thank for that.

JODI JAMES: I'd say Cathy Jordan and Cannabis Action Network, but sure. You know, it's been a long time coming, our constitutional amendment passed in 2016, and just like they talk about in California that even after the passage of Prop 215, there was still many, many years and court decisions that helped shape what the program looked like prior to legalization in California.

Cathy, we had been in litigation, Cathy as the lead plaintiff, with an understanding that the constitutional amendment that we passed should have allowed patients to have access to all parts of the plant. Now, we still do not have home grow, so you cannot say you have access to all parts of the plant until I can take a seed and put it in the ground and provide for myself. So that's a hurdle that we're still jumping through.

But, there was a lower court ruling that said that the court believes that access to flower and the ability to smoke cannabis was part of the constitutional amendment, and with the leadership of our Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, we have moved forward. The legislature passed a bill, finished the legislation on the Thirteenth and the governor signed it on Monday.

Now, really all that did was repeal a ban on whole flower, but that's okeh. The first patient in the state of Florida was able to purchase cannabis flower legally today, in Tallahassee, and I'm waiting on my doctor to tell me I can be the next.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I tell you what, Jodi, it's music. It's a very gentle, pleasant sound that's coming out of Florida, especially to my ears here in Texas, where, you know, no matter how hard I try, they ignore me.

JODI JAMES: Too much competition, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Jodi, as we're wrapping it up here, I just want to say this, that even here in the state of Texas, we need to hear that music coming out of Florida, coming out of New Jersey and Georgia, and perhaps it will, you know, calm the beast that lies in our state legislature. Your closing thoughts, please.

JODI JAMES: Well, you know, momentum is with us, but it's not time to lay down your sword. The truth is certainly on our side, but until every last voice decides that it is time to raise their voice in objection, prohibition will continue.

We may be semi-legal here in Florida, but it's still illegal for some people in some ways, sometimes, and only if you obey, and certainly that was not what this particular plant was put on the earth for, it was put on the earth for all mankind, and women, if you want to be that person, to have, to enjoy, for our health and our well being.

So, the fight's not over, by any stretch of the imagination. We may have won this battle in Florida, certainly want to celebrate our victories, so like I told Cathy Jordan, excellent, pat yourself on the back and then get off your ass, there's more work to be done.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Permanent damage to the liver, eyes, bone marrow, heart and blood vessels, convulsions, impaired mental function, neurological damage, kidney damage, irregular heartbeats, unbearable stress, sudden sniffing death. Time's up! The answer: Lucy. Gasoline. There's a vending machine in your neighborhood.

There's going to be a major conference coming up, well, the first half of next month. Here to fill us in with some details, maybe entice us to get some tickets and to come to this event, is the director of Patients Out of Time, Nurse Mary Lynn Mathre. Hello, Mary Lynn.

MARY LYNN MATHRE, RN, MSN, CARN: Hi, Dean, how are you doing?

DEAN BECKER: I'm good. Am I right though, this is going to be one heck of a conference?

MARY LYNN MATHRE, RN, MSN, CARN: This is it. We'll say lucky thirteenth, The Thirteenth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, at the CAMLS Center in Tampa. CAMLS Center is a state of the art conference -- it's the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation.

But it's just a great venue in Tampa, with the University of South Florida doing the accreditation.

The theme for the event is Cannabis: Whole Plant Medicine for the Whole Person, and it's going to be April 11 through the 13.

DEAN BECKER: I was just doing some checking, airfares are really cheap right now, it's not too late to get involved and go to Tampa.

MARY LYNN MATHRE, RN, MSN, CARN: That's right. Tickets still available, 11th through the 13th, as I said. For any physicians, we've got a wonderful four hour, four credit course in the beginning, with cannabis clinicians Dustin Sulak and Deborah Malka, so it's really geared to new nurse practitioners, physicians who haven't worked with patients much with cannabis.

This is something to really help them feel comfortable in answering the questions for patients, and what they should do in following patients, how to make, you know, good, solid recommendations.

Then the main conference on the 12th and 13th. April 12 is the benefit dinner for Patients Out of Time, and that will be at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa. And right next to that is the American Victory, a World War Two ship. On the Twelfth, that particular day, we'll have a special event for veterans, trying to get veterans together on that ship, so, there's something for everybody.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Mary Lynn, is there a website where folks can learn more?

MARY LYNN MATHRE, RN, MSN, CARN: Thanks much, yes. Patients, as in hospital patients, sick patients, not as in let's have some patience, PatientsOutOfTime.org, or MedicalCannabis.com. But the easiest way for registration is just go to PatientsOutOfTime.org.

DEAN BECKER: To give you an example of the caliber of speakers that will be at this Patients Out of Time conference, I offer this from a prior year.

All right. Next up, we hear from Doctor Donald Tashkin, the UCLA lung specialist, and government scientist, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Here's his take regarding tobacco as opposed to medical cannabis.

DONALD TASHKIN, MD: You are at risk of developing COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This is manifested by an accelerated rate of loss of lung function over time as you grow older. We failed to find a similar relationship with marijuana.

So that was one finding. We are also interested in the, investigating the possibility that marijuana smoking might lead to lung cancer. Lung cancer is largely attributed, mainly attributable to tobacco smoking, and since marijuana and tobacco share similar ingredients, including a number of carcinogens, it's a reasonable hypothesis that smoking marijuana, at least heavily over a long period of time, could, if predisposed to the development of lung cancer, maybe not to the same extent as tobacco, but to a greater extent than if you didn't smoke any marijuana or tobacco at all.

So we did a very large study, which we call a case controlled study. In that study, we identified six hundred patients who were diagnosed with lung cancer, and an additional six hundred patients or so who were diagnosed with head and neck cancer, like throat cancer, lip cancer, tongue cancer, and over a thousand control subjects who did not have cancer.

And then we administered a detailed questionnaire to all these subjects, including questions about marijuana use and tobacco use, and family history of cancer, and other putative risk factors that could predispose to cancer.

And the results were entirely negative. If anything, the risk for developing lung cancer was slightly less in relation to marijuana than no marijuana, although not statistically significantly so, despite the fact that the study was designed as well as we could possibly design, and it included a large number of subjects, over a hundred of whom smoked marijuana heavily, both in the, among the cases and the controls.

I think we can say with some confidence that there just is no evidence that -- of an association between marijuana use and lung cancer.

DEAN BECKER: I am the Reverend Dean Becker of the Drug Truth Network, standing in the river of reform, baptizing drug warriors to the unvarnished truth. DrugTruth.net.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the show, I hope you'll share it widely, and once again I want to remind you that 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 stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. And we are all still tap dancin' on the edge of an abyss.

11/14/18 Paul Armentano

Program
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date
Guest
Paul Armentano
Organization
NORML

Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML joins guest co host Doug McVay and host Dean Becker for the full half hour to discuss election results for marijuana around the US

Audio file

CULTURAL BAGGAGE

NOVEMBER 14, 2018

TRANSCRIPT

DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker, your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection, and the liars whose support for drug war empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels, and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent US gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.

Well, hi, folks. This is Dean Becker. I'm in studio this week, glad you could be with us. We're starting something newer, bringing back something old, I don't know exactly how to say it. It was about five years ago that KPFT thought we had enough drug war news going on with six segments a week, but hell, they think we need to one more time bring back the Century of Lies program.

For the last five years, it's been being produced by my good friend, my buddy, the editor of Drug War Facts, a man who's been at this drug reform for years longer than I have, lives up there in Oregon, I'll let him tell us more details about the work he's doing up there, but we have him with us in studio -- excuse me, we have him on phone.

And in just a little bit we're going to bring in Mister Paul Armentano, he's the Deputy Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and we're going to talk about the new laws being voted on this past election cycle, et cetera.

Hopes to be a good show. We're going to be doing a total of one hour today, one half hour of Cultural Baggage, and one [half] hour of Century of Lies, featuring my guest, Mister Doug McVay. How are you doing, Doug?

DOUG MCVAY: Hey, Dean, good to hear from you. How are you doing?

DEAN BECKER: I'm good. I think this is a new adventure, I'm happy we're going to be cross-pollinating, so to speak, over the -- in the future. What's your thought?

DOUG MCVAY: I'm looking forward to it. Houston is a terrific market and KPFT is a tremendous station, so, getting back -- little sister gets to be on the big show with the flagship, that's pretty cool.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I thank you for that. I thank you for your ingenuity, your perseverance, your courage, your willingness to have handled Century of Lies over these past five years. It's not exactly a Herculean task, but some weeks it ain't that easy to hammer it together, is it?

DOUG MCVAY: It's a heck of an honor. I mean, it's -- I have doing drug policy work, as you've been saying, for quite a while. I started back in the '80s, in the Reagan era, and speaking out against drug war back in those days wasn't really quite as popular as it is these days, and there was, you know, outside of High Times, there was very little in terms of supportive media.

And that's all changed, which is terrific, and, you know --

DEAN BECKER: We've made a big difference.

DOUG MCVAY: Ideas are like pollen, you never know who's going to sneeze once they're in the air, right? And so getting things like this on the air, the work you've been doing for the past couple of decades, has, I think, helped a lot in moving all this forward.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and yours as well, and our friends in reform, all the various organizations that we stand in support of, aligned with. Well, I'll tell you what. We have, I don't know how else to put this, you have maintained a number of affiliates, sometimes not the same affiliates I have for Cultural Baggage, but we're still -- we have at least dozens of them out there, and some weeks a lot more than that, that carry our programs.

And it's pretty satisfying, just to know we're making some kind of difference. What do you think?

DOUG MCVAY: Well, like I say, ideas are like pollen, you never know who's going to sneeze once they're in the air, and that is -- that's Doctor Peter Schickele said that, and it's true. But, you know, radio is such a powerful medium, and there's -- there's a lot of stuff going on that people may not necessarily hear about, there's so much clutter out there in terms of news, so we get a chance to curate some of the most important stuff, the stuff that's at the top of our radar, and, you know, I think that -- I don't know, I just, like I say, it's an honor to be able to help inform people and talk about drug policy reform and the failed war on drugs.

DEAN BECKER: Real good. All right, friends, once again, that was Mister Doug McVay, my co-producer of Drug Truth Network programming. So, we're going to do kind of the normal stuff here. I'll be doing a Name That Drug later on. We have though a man who has his ear to the ground, a guy I depend on when you're talking new marijuana policy. We have with us the Deputy Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and we lost somebody, but we do have Paul with us. We'll be getting Doug back here in just a second. Hello, Mister Armentano?

PAUL ARMENTANO: I'm here, Dean. It's a pleasure to speak with you. Congratulations on this milestone.

DEAN BECKER: Well, thank you. It is nice, every once in a while, to carve out a new stepping stone, if you will, but, Paul, tell folks a little bit about NORML. I'm sure most folks know who and what you guys are, but, you guys are really making some progress in these last few years, are you not?

PAUL ARMENTANO: I certainly believe we are, and in many cases, it's been a long time coming. NORML's the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. We are the nation's oldest and largest grassroots consumer based advocacy organization for the responsible use of marijuana by adults.

We do not believe that adults who use marijuana in a responsible manner should face criminal or civil sanctions for that behavior.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Paul, I, you know, I mentioned earlier in the program that, you know, we're going to be focusing on some of the progress, some of the votes that happened just last week. And, I want to preface it with this -- no, we'll come to it later, the potential for the state of Texas. But, you had a recent piece in The Hill, talking about that progress. Do you want to go over that for us, please?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Sure. Well, very quickly, marijuana was among the winners of the midterm elections. The state of Michigan became the tenth state to legalize and regulate the adult use and retail sale of marijuana. Two additional states --

DEAN BECKER: Oh my. Well, okeh, folks, well, we're having a little trouble with the phone system at the moment. Please bear with us. I'll tell you what, let me put it to you this way. Today, I got a call from the Houston Chronicle, I'm not going to say who, I'm not going to cut into their storyline, but they called to get my opinion for the state of Texas to see what I think about some of the postings being put forward by some of the representatives, some posts put forward by Governor Abbott here, and the point I guess I tried to present is that yes, progress is being made, and they wanted to know why. Why is it happening now?

And I told them, it's happening now because we have rounded the corner, that people across the country, heck, around the world, they just legalized in Canada, just last month. They just legalized via a Supreme Court ruling earlier this month, or maybe just the end of last month, down in Mexico. And, I guess the point now is that, you know, people everywhere are beginning to realize that we've just been doing it wrong.

And, I guess we have Paul back, is that ... ? Well, Paul, I'm sorry we got you cut off there. If you would, please continue.

PAUL ARMENTANO: Sure. Well, I really want to emphasize the progress that was made at the state level. In four states, we saw governors elected who campaigned on a platform that at least in part included a pledge to legalize marijuana in their states.

We had two additional governors elected in states where marijuana is already legal, who were very prominent advocates of that policy change. So we now have seven sitting governors who are on record endorsing marijuana policy legalization.

We also saw, in Congress, the removal of several leading drug warriors. Pete Sessions from your neck of the woods, the chairman of the House Rules Committee; we saw Robert Goodlatte from Virginia, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, choose not to run for reelection.

We've seen the retiring of attorney general Jeff Sessions, and we have seen the incoming House Rules Committee chair publicly pledge that, as chair of that committee, come 2019, he is going to allow, for the first time in many years, his colleagues on the House floor to debate and vote on marijuana related amendments.

The final piece of information I'd add is that just on Friday, we saw GOP leader Mitch McConnell in the Senate publicly guarantee that when the new farm bill is finalized, before the end of this year, it will include provisions that for the first time amend the US Controlled Substances Act to legalize industrial hemp, and to allow states to become the primary regulators of allowing hemp commerce and retail sales.

So, we see a lot of future progress that looks like it is going to come to fruition in the fairly near future.

DEAN BECKER: And I keep seeing these -- keep seeing the postings that Trump is going to legalize it federally right after the midterms, and then others are saying ah, that's bogus. I don't --

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, could I just be clear on this? There is a rumor mill that exists with regard to this issue, and certainly at NORML we like to deal in reality. First of all, the president, no matter who the president is, is not going to change marijuana policy by the stroke of a pen.

The reality is that when and if we see changes in federal policy, at this level, it is going to be because legislation passes through both the House and the Senate, ends up on the president's desk, and the president ultimately signs that legislation.

As many of your listeners know, in this most recent Congress, we saw over 70 related -- bills related to marijuana policy reform. Many of those bills seek to deschedule cannabis, they remove it from the Controlled Substances Act, so that states can set their own marijuana policies unfettered by federal law.

If one of those bills gets to the president's desk, it is very likely that he may sign it. But even in that best case scenario, the president is not legalizing marijuana. What the president is doing [sic] is allowing states to set their own marijuana policies, and in such a scenario, if a state like Texas or Alabama wishes to continue to impose statewide marijuana prohibition, they certainly would be able to do so.

DEAN BECKER: Wow. Okeh. Well, let me ask you this, Paul, I don't know how much you got to hear, when the phones got switched around, I was talking about how the Houston Chronicle was talking to me about marijuana coming to Texas, how or why could that be possible, and I guess what I'm kind of curious about, we have this situation where, she found much interest in this situation where California has standards.

People have to take their marijuana in, get it, you know, certified as clean and whatever, pollen free, I don't know what all you guys have to do. But anyway, take a good look at to make sure it's safe to sell. And that many times, that stuff that fails to pass winds up getting exported to states like Texas, where there are no standards. What's your thought there, is that some dangerous stuff being sent out that's got a lot of pesticides? What could be in that stuff?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, one of the advantages of any legal regulatory framework is that such standards and testing and quality control exist. California's not unique in requiring lab testing and proper labeling and quality control and standardization of product in the marijuana market.

Such standards are required in every state that regulates marijuana commerce. Again, that is one of the primary advantages of moving this market from the underground, unregulated market to a legal, licensed market.

As for claims that marijuana that is rejected in states like California is then being exported elsewhere, that in my opinion is pure speculation. I have no idea if that is the case or not, or how prominent that phenomenon may or may not be.

Again, one of the disadvantages of an unregulated, underground market is that we can't speak with any certainty with regard to behaviors in that market, because it's underground, it's untaxed, it's unregulated, and it's occupied by criminal entrepreneurs. We have no idea to what extent black market marijuana may be being shipped from state to state.

DEAN BECKER: All right. I thank you for that. For those of you just tuning in, this is Cultural Baggage. I am Dean Becker. We're speaking with Mister Paul Armentano, he's Deputy Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, had a recent piece in The Hill newspaper. What was the title of that one, so folks can look it up, Paul?

PAUL ARMENTANO: If you go to TheHill.com, it's going to be titled under "Marijuana Was The Big Winner On Election Day."

DEAN BECKER: Fair enough. And, I think about it, Paul, we, I don't know how much, you know, we can discern about what's going on in Texas, but the fact of the matter is, I think there's already six bills being presented, if I've got the term right, to, so I guess others can either --

PAUL ARMENTANO: They've been prefiled.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you.

PAUL ARMENTANO: So, what that means is lawmakers have drafted legislation and when the session formally begins, in 2019, those will be among the first bills that are dropped in the hopper and assigned either House Bill numbers or Senate Bill numbers.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Have you had a chance to analyze them, make any determinations on them?

PAUL ARMENTANO: I've only had a chance to familiarize myself with the decriminalization bill that was introduced, that seeks to remove criminal penalties for the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana. That would be a significant change in the state of Texas, as Texas is among the nation's leaders in simple marijuana possession prosecutions.

Annually, I believe there's somewhere in the neighborhood of sixty to 70,000 simple marijuana possession arrests in Texas each year. I believe that is first in the United States.

DEAN BECKER: Well, it wouldn't surprise me, we seem to have been very gung ho about the idea. Do we have Doug back with us? Doug, I apologize for losing you there for a while, I don't know how much you've been able to hear, but do you have some thoughts you'd like to pose to Mister Armentano?

DOUG MCVAY: Just got on the thing, actually. I do, but it's less about some of the legislation and more about this WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence hearing that's going on this week. Do you have any thoughts?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Certainly we're aware of the WHO review. We submitted our own comments to be considered by the World Health Organization and we solicited over 10,000 comments from the public, which were also submitted to the WHO.

Certainly, I think in the larger scheme of things, it is productive to have these international agencies and organizations revisiting the marijuana criminalization issue.

Certainly, when we look internationally, when we see the trends of nations like Canada legalizing adult marijuana use, we see a number of nations like Australia regulating medical marijuana use, certainly within this environment, where we now have dozens of countries that have changed their marijuana policies, it is certainly high time that our international treaties, and that these international bodies, recognize the changing political and cultural consensus with regard to marijuana.

So certainly we encourage this World Health Organization review. I would not say I'm overly hopeful that there's going to be any significant policy reforms come out of this review, but certainly I'd like to see some.

DEAN BECKER: Well, isn't the whole point that, I'm trying to remember, I think it was leading up the year 2000, that every five years they had a five year plan, kind of like the way the Russians used to do for their takeover of the world plan, I guess, but, you know, every five years, and then they decided, well, we've got to quit doing this because every five years we just look like hammered dog doo because we never accomplished our goal. Your response there, please.

DOUG MCVAY: They changed it from five years to ten years. In 2009, they adopted a ten year -- the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, pardon me, heck the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, they have these targets for a political declaration that was announced in 2009, so next year we're supposed to in a drug free world.

DEAN BECKER: I look forward to it. Oh my, that ought to be something. Well, Paul, you know, you get calls from all over the country, are there, I don't know how to say this, I don't know how much analysis you've had a chance, but, I love what I'm hearing about the state of Oklahoma, that they came up with a medical marijuana plan that pretty much parallels what you guys did out there in California, get that doctor's recommendation for most any malady and you can grow your own, and I think they can even smoke wherever cigarettes can be smoked.

They've maybe outstepped what you guys did back when. What's your thought there, Paul?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, the Oklahoma campaign was a very grassroots campaign, and it speaks to ultimately the public consensus with regard to allowing medical marijuana access. Proponents of that campaign had virtually no money to advertise, to promote that campaign, once it reached the ballot, whereas opponents had hundreds of thousands of dollars, which they used to run prominent television ads and radio spots, campaigning against the initiative.

Nonetheless, the initiative won overwhelmingly. This is a very broad based patient centered initiative. You are correct that like in California, as well as a number of other states as well, Maine among them, there is no qualifying condition list. Rather, the law allows for a doctor to use his or her discretion to decide which patients cannabis would be best to treat.

And while in some ways that may sound like a radical idea, it really isn't. We entrust doctors every day to use their discretion with regard to prescribing thousands of different types of medications, most of which pose a far riskier side effect profile than does cannabis.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and that's, I think, the whole point. Part of what the Chronicle reporter was asking me today is kind of how does marijuana fall into the, I don't know, the level of dangerousness, and the heck of it is, I told her, we hear about these little kids that eat an edible and they're overdosed. Those kids wake, they may sleep for six, eight, twelve hours, but they're going to wake up, they will not OD from eating that edible, and it's just part of the continuing attempt at creating more reefer madness. Either one of you guys what do you think?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, you're correct, Dean, that THC is incapable of causing lethal overdose, which is a fairly unique statement to make about a controlled substance, or really any sort of therapeutic substance, and in some ways, almost anything we consume.

A human being can overdose and die on caffeine, a human being can overdose and die from sodium. If a person drinks too much water in one sitting they could shut down their internal organs and die. But again, that same person would be incapable of causing lethal overdose from the ingestion of cannabis, or from THC in particular.

That's why former DEA justice Francis Young, all the way back in 1988, said in his findings of fact in federal court, that marijuana is among the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.

DEAN BECKER: And yet, we have so many people that are postulating the opposite, who fail to allow a full and open discussion to counter their position, and that's what irks me the most, is that all these politicians, with their bully pulpit and their supposed information, their supposed references, very seldom encounter anybody who's allowed to, you know, go against what they're bringing forward, and that's what just keeps it going, that's what keeps frightening the parents into believing that, you know, marijuana leads to criminality, insanity, and death.

All right, so closing thoughts there, Paul Armentano?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, again, I think it is really important that we, those of us who care about this issue, gear up for 2019, both at the state level and at the federal level. I think we're seeing a confluence of events that perhaps with regard to marijuana policy reform, we've never seen before, and that these events bode very well for the prospects of the passage of significant legislative reforms in 2019, again, both at the state level and at the federal level.

So I really encourage folks to go to the NORML website, stay up to date on our legislative updates, stay up to date with what's going on on our blog, and be in touch regularly with your state, local, and federal officials to encourage them to move on this issue, because we are going to see an unprecedented volume of legislative proposals introduced, and I think we are going to see a number of significant reforms pass in 2019.

But that only happens when we act, and when all of us act.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you, Paul. Doug, you have thirty seconds, you got something you'd like to share?

DOUG MCVAY: Just, it's good to hear from Paul about some of the stuff that's been going on, but he's absolutely right, it's all about a constant effort, and, you know, each year is another year, a new year to make change happen, make reform happen.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Once again, that website for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is NORML.org.

We'll be back here in just a few seconds. It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Permanent damage to the liver, eyes, bone marrow, heart, and blood vessels, convulsions, impaired mental function, neurological damage, kidney damage, irregular heartbeats, unbearable stress, sudden sniffing death. Time's up! The answer: Lucy. Gasoline. There's a vending machine in your neighborhood.

Oh yeah. A lot of those kids up north Canada way, Alaska way, they ain't got any money but they can afford to buy a couple of ounces of gasoline, spend the afternoon with Lucy, lose their brains, lose their capabilities, lose their futures.

Because drugs are expensive. Why? Because of prohibition. Why? Because of fear. I don't know. Just, kids are going to get high on something, if it's spinning around in the front yard, they're going to get high, and we should make sure that, if they get ahold of something, it's the least dangerous scenario possible.

All right, friends, once again you're listening to Cultural Baggage. We were speaking there with Mister Paul Armentano of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

We have with us on line my friend, my associate, fellow producer of the Drug Truth Network, Mister Doug McVay. Doug's going to produce his Century of Lies show for us here in just a couple of minutes. But, what do you think of this scenario? Pretty cool, Doug?

DOUG MCVAY: It's, yeah, this is all right. I mean, like I say, I love listening to the -- love listening to Cultural Baggage and the guests, I don't usually get to do it in real time, so, it's a different experience. Doing the show live is a different experience, for that matter, as folks know, I pre-record, as you can probably tell, a lot of these, and edit my stammer out, so you get to hear me all fluent and stuff.

DEAN BECKER: You know, it's live, that's half the fun, what the heck. I mean, that's what I think makes it more entertaining for the listeners out there. I guess we're going to have to wrap it up here. We're going to be back shortly, at least on this station, and I hope on the station you're listening to here on the Drug Truth Network with Mister Doug McVay and Century of Lies. He's got some segments he'd like to share with us.

I guess I'm going to just wrap it up by saying once again that because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag, and I urge you to 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.

09/13/18 Paul Armentano

Program
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date
Guest
Paul Armentano
Organization
NORML

Paul Armentano, Deputy Dir of NORML re marijuana research, Big Marijuana, pricing, guns & weed, CBD & more + Willie Nelson & Beto O'Rourke Gig & Republican protests

Audio file

CULTURAL BAGGAGE

SEPTEMBER 13, 2018

TRANSCRIPT

DEAN BECKER: Republicans must now embrace the lie as their only means of salvation.

Hi folks, this is Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High. This is Cultural Baggage. We've got a great show lined up for you. When we close things out, I've got a great editorial I want to share with you, but first I've got this interview I conducted with a man who understands marijuana and can answer some questions that I keep getting from you folks via the internet.

I keep seeing news stories about CBD is good medicine, or it's illegal, it's, you know, not available on the market or it shouldn't be, all these kinds of things. Hear stories about guns and marijuana, they don't mix, and all kinds of rulings, and all kinds of things, and I thought, well, there's one guy who can help with most if not all of this. He's the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a man who knows his stuff, I want to welcome to the program Mister Paul Armentano. Hey, Paul, how are you doing?

PAUL ARMENTANO: I'm doing fine, Dean. It's good to speak with you.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. I saw a story today, don't know how true it is, talking about the federal government is trying to deny people the right to own a gun and use marijuana. Is that a news story or is that something that's just lingering awaft?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, it's an old story. The federal prohibition on the purchasing of firearms by individuals who use controlled substances that the federal government has deemed to be illicit goes back to a 1968 law. So, there is nothing new here. [sic: the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals issued a 3-0 decision on Aug 31, 2018, affirming a District Court's dismissal of a Second Amendment challenge to the law by a medical marijuana cardholder in Nevada.]

It is true that there are some instances where the courts have in recent years looked at this issue, and they have ruled broadly in favor of the federal government to the extent that they have said someone who is a lawful user of marijuana and is compliant with the laws of their state, they are still nonetheless prohibited from purchasing a firearm under the 1968 statute.

That statute defines an unlawful user of a firearm as any person who possesses or uses an illicit substance, and thus far, the courts have taken a broad interpretation of that statute. They've applied it to the state sponsored, or state sanctioned, use of marijuana, but again, this is not a new development. This is an issue that has been in play for decades.

This is a law that's been on the books federally for some fifty-some odd years, and ultimately the only way to change this scenario is to either amend the federal act of 1968, or to amend the federal scheduling of cannabis.

Unfortunately, there is no ability through the passage of a state law, to change this federal interpretation, because again, the law itself that is in play here is a federal statute.

DEAN BECKER: Well, that's, I don't know, it's kind of baffling. I saw some comment that it was because those who use marijuana might be considered to go towards violence, and I thought that was a preposterous notion. Your thought there, Paul.

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, again, that comes from the rationale of a federal court that decided on this issue some years ago, when the justices were reaching for a rational basis for why they should extend this broad interpretation of an unlawful user to include one who is compliant with the marijuana laws of their state.

It really appears they were grasping at straws, and one of those straws they grasped at was this notion that perhaps those that use marijuana would have a greater propensity toward violence, and therefore the federal law had a rational basis in restricting them from possessing a firearm.

But again, the federal law is not new, it's been on the books since 1968, it doesn't just apply to marijuana, it defines an unlawful user of -- as any person who uses any schedule one controlled substance, and therefore any such users would technically be prohibited from purchasing a firearm. That has simply been the federal law for decades.

DEAN BECKER: You know, last week I had Mister Dominic Holden on. He was, had a story he wrote up in BuzzFeed talking about how the White House has a couple of back channel committees, I guess, if you will, working to destroy the positive stories about cannabis. Any truth to that? What have you learned in that regard?

PAUL ARMENTANO: It's simply not surprising. I mean, the administration knows they've lost the battle for public opinion on this issue, and they are trying to retake the narrative, if you will. The downside of that is that the American public is going to believe what they see with their own eyes, and they see the success of marijuana legalization and regulation in the states that have moved forward with such a policy.

We know this, because we see polling data in those states finding that greater percentages of voters support the legalization of marijuana today than did just three, four, or five years ago, when these laws were initially voted into place. And we see those same trends on the national level.

The support among the public for legalization has only grown, as more jurisdictions have implemented legalization. A smear campaign, a refer -- going back to the days of reefer madness, or an attempt to do so by the Trump administration, simply isn't going to change that reality.

DEAN BECKER: No. Not even Jeff Sessions. I hear you, man. Let's see. I see a lot of folks, I hear from folks, actually, who have family members with epilepsy and or autism, and then a couple of other maladies, and they want to use CBD, they think that's legal, they think that it's available at some of the head shops or specialty stores, maybe, in their state, and I'm wanting your thought in that regard. Are there legitimate CBD medicines out there, and are they, you know, legal under federal and or state law? Your thought there, Mister Paul Armentano.

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, a majority of states today explicitly, through their state statute, regulate and legalize the use of whole plant cannabis. CBD is a constituent in whole plant cannabis, and if one resides in any of those states, they can use, under the state statute, CBD that is derived from whole plant cannabis if they are compliant with the medical marijuana laws of their state.

In addition, there are a number of states, about fifteen or sixteen additional states, that while they have not approved the use of whole plant cannabis, they have by statute carved out an exemption that says the use of CBD products, products in other words that contain CBD, that that behavior is exempt from the state criminal statutes. However generally those laws only apply to a narrow group of people, generally patients who suffer from pediatric epilepsy.

So that's the way the state statute works. Under federal law, CBD is clearly a schedule one controlled substance. That is the position that the US Drug Enforcement Administration takes, that is the FDA's position, that is the NIDA's position, that is the position of Congress. When we were involved in our federal court challenge, some years ago, before Judge Mueller, our argument was that the cannabis plant was improperly classified as a schedule one controlled substance and that there existed no rational basis for the government to maintain that position.

Judge Mueller, very clear in that case, defined the federal statute as not just prohibiting or outlawing the use of the cannabis plant, but also all of the organic constituents that naturally occur in that plant, like CBD.

That broad interpretation, that defines federal law as outlawing marijuana and all of the constituents in that plant, is the same broad position taken by DEA, Congress, and other federal regulators.

DEAN BECKER: Ah. Well, which puzzles me further still, because even in states like Texas, where we have this minimal ability for folks to use CBD provided by state approved growers, we have the CBD being sold in head shops and other specialty stores, and, which gives me great concern. I -- people ask me which one should I recommend, what should I give to my child or my relative? And I tell them, I don't know, because I don't understand it. I'm not a scientist, and I don't know if it's even legal, or if it's even CBD. It kind of --

PAUL ARMENTANO: Right. And that's a real vexing, serious question, that so many people are facing. Look, there's a number of studies, and the FDA has done this as well, where they've randomly tested the quality and potency of many of these products that are sold online or sold in headshops, that claim to be CBD dominant products, and unfortunately, when those products are tested, oftentimes it turns out that the level of CBD in the product does not match the advertising on the label. In some cases, these products contain far less CBD than advertised, in other cases they may possess no CBD at all.

In many cases, these products also contain THC, even though they're advertised as being THC-free. Unfortunately, this is a largely unregulated market. It's made, it's comprised of, in some times -- in some cases questionable players who are making very questionable claims.

It's definitely a buyer beware sort of environment, and that's unfortunate, but until there is some clarity at the federal level, that's largely the way this environment is going to be. Now, it is possible in a few short weeks we may have some clarity from the federal government. There is legislation pending in the final stages before lawmakers that for the first time may amend the Controlled Substances Act and make a distinction between the marijuana plant and the industrial hemp plant, and in fact this language would legalize industrial hemp and leave the regulation of industrial hemp largely up to the individual states.

We may have that legislative victory before the end of this month. That will potentially begin to bring some clarity to, and provide some answers to these questions.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh. Hang loose, couple of seconds we'll be right back with Mister Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Swelling of the tongue, decreased bone marrow, fever chills, infection, nervous system degeneration, confusion, loss of consciousness, fatigue, memory loss, muscle weakness, numbness, tingling, seizures, speech disturbance, cancer, and death. Time's up! The answer: Levamisol, a dog dewormer that has become America's number one cutting agent for cocaine.

During this time of eternal war, I find it my somber duty to report the death toll from the drug formerly known as marijuana is zero.

Again, folks, we're speaking with Mister Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Paul, a couple of weeks back I interviewed Debby Goldsberry, an associate of yours there at the Oaksterdam University, a fellow professor, and, I talked to her about Big Marijuana.

She's very concerned that, the way she told it, the Canadians have already legalized, they've already got, offered their stock, they have money in the bank with which they can come to America and buy up much of the dispensaries, much of the operations going on here. Your response, is Big Marijuana from Canada taking over?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, Canada clearly has the jump on the United States. They've had a legal, active, federally licensed medical cannabis market now going on several decades [sic: Canadian Medical Marijuana Access Regulations went into effect in 2001, following a Supreme Court ruling in 2000 that Canadians have a constitutional right to use cannabis as medicine].

They are going to be the first North American country to legalize and license an adult use recreational commercial market, beginning October 17. And because there are already many established players in Canada, that are well positioned to transition from the medical market to the recreational market, they are attracting venture capital and investments from all over the world, including investments from major commercial businesses in the United States.

So, I think what we're seeing is a situation where you have industries, you have venture capital, that want to invest in the cannabis market, and they are doing so in the country that right now has a viable market for those investments.

Right now, that's Canada, and that may be the case for the short term, it may be the case for the longer term. But certainly, were the United States to have a different legal environment at the federal level, those investments would be going to US companies and not Canadian companies.

DEAN BECKER: Man oh man. I tell you what, we've got to get ourselves in gear here in the US, find a reasonable solution to all these problems. Well, Paul, let me ask you this. I hear stories coming out of Oregon that they have over produced, that they have so much cannabis that the prices are falling through the floor, it's down to forty dollars an ounce for some outdoor grown, that, you know, they've proven my point, which I've said all along, that once it's truly legal nationwide, the price will really fall down to under a hundred dollars a pound for outdoor grown, good quality. Your though in that regard please, Paul.

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, obviously the economics of supply and demand are in play. If in the state of Oregon there is greater supply at the moment than there is demand, then obviously those prices are going to fall, and I've heard those same reports, that the price of cannabis flower in Oregon has fallen dramatically.

Whether that trend is going to hold long term is another story, and certainly that has not necessarily been the trend in some other jurisdictions where, because of any number of reasons, there may be, for one being more barriers to entry into the commercial cannabis market, when you see fewer licenses being handed out, when you see fewer licensed producers, you don't necessarily see that trend.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh. Well, Paul, I, you know, on Facebook, other social media, I see indications that some people who have been online, maybe on Youtube and Facebook and other outlets, that they're being shut down. Their sites are being destroyed, taken away, because they have mentioned marijuana or drugs in some other fashion. What's new, what's different? What's causing this?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, nothing's different. What we're seeing is that some of these companies, I know Facebook is apparently one of these parties, I'm not somebody who is nearly as social media savvy perhaps as other, but I'm certainly aware that Facebook's name has come up in this discussion, and some other carriers as well, that they're simply skittish. Again, there's nothing new under the sun here, other than arguably there are more entities that are seeking to use those sort of platforms to promote their activities.

And in response, some of these platforms have become skittish and said, no, we don't feel comfortable doing that. They apparently, if private companies have that sort of discretion, I can't speak to what their motivations are, but no, nothing new has changed, and none of these platforms are under any obligation to either censor these sort of posts or to allow them. It's solely up to their own discretion.

DEAN BECKER: Well, okeh, and again, what's new under the sun? Nobody knows for sure, I guess. Paul, got a question here from y'all's website, NORML.org, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws website, it's talking about in New York, that the Brooklyn DA intends to vacate thousands of past marijuana convictions.

And that ties in with a situation like here in Houston, our DA did everything she could to stop arresting people and giving them that record, and I think this is indicative of local politicians are seeing the truth of this, no matter what the state legislators or the feds are doing. Your thought in that regard, please.

PAUL ARMENTANO: Sure. District attorneys hold a whole lot of power, when it comes to deciding which cases to prosecute, which transgressions to prioritize, and how to deal with past convictions. And what we've seen from the DA in Brooklyn, and what we've seen from DAs in other jurisdictions around the country, like in San Diego, like in Seattle, like in San Francisco, like in Philadelphia, you have district attorneys who have made essentially a two-fold argument.

They've said, one, it doesn't make any sense to prosecute these low-level marijuana cases criminally, that it's a waste of resources and that it stigmatizes those who have to carry the burden of a criminal arrest. Two, they've said it makes no sense to go forward with these prosecutions, well then it equally makes no sense to continue to punish those who have a past conviction.

So the rationale that's being publicly stated by the DA in Brooklyn, as well as some of these other DAs around the country, is that they're not going to continue to prosecute these cases, that if police bring these cases to their offices they're simply going to drop them, and then on top of it, they're going to take steps to review the past criminal convictions for low-level offenders and they are going to vacate and expunge those past convictions so that they no longer deny those defendants the sort of economic and civil opportunities that they would otherwise, you know, suffer from, because of the stigma, the lasting stigma, of having a criminal record.

So I applaud the actions taken by these offices, and certainly I would encourage DAs in offices around the country to rethink their priorities, and to follow suit, as you mentioned, Dean. These are actions that are being taken at the discretion of the local DA offices. Oftentimes, these are actions that are being taken in some ways in a vacuum. They may not represent, in fact they may be inconsistent, with the positions of state lawmakers.

But again, the DAs hold that kind of power, and they can decide for themselves whether to prioritize or deprioritize prosecuting these low level offenses.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Paul, this brings to mind, I think, the recognition of the racial disparity involved in these marijuana arrests has also led to many of these DAs moving in that direction. Would you concur?

PAUL ARMENTANO: I most certainly think so. We know that in the case of the DA in Brooklyn, this was an issue that was specifically highlighted by that particular DA. It's similarly, the new DA in Philadelphia mentioned the racial disproportionately that we often see with regard to who is and who isn't arrested for these low-level offenses.

And certainly when one looks at the national data, for a variety of reasons, we tend to see this same consistent outcome, that despite the fact that those of varying races tend to use marijuana at fairly similar rates, we see that in particular young blacks and young Latinos tend to face the burden of arrest far more than any other demographic group.

Again, that data's fairly consistent throughout the country, and I think there's a recognition from some of these district attorneys that that is a problem, and really the only way to rectify that problem is to set aside these convictions altogether for everyone.

DEAN BECKER: Well, yes sir. I've got one more question for you. I'm sure you've heard of him, he's become a darling here in Texas, he's been on the Ellen show, he's going to be on Colbert here in a couple of days. US Congressman Beto O'Rourke, running for Ted Cruz's Senate seat, wrote a book calling for the end of the marijuana wars, to truly examine our war on drugs.

He's representative of a new crop, I guess, if you will, of legislators that are someday going to change this at the federal level. Your response there, please, Paul Armentano.

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, certainly NORML supports the Beto O'Rourke campaign. He has been endorsed by the NORML Political Action Committee, as have a number of other candidates that are running for office and some incumbents.

But certainly, we've known of Beto's leanings on this issue. We know about his reform efforts, going back many, many years, and clearly, we are of the opinion that he is right on this particular issue. He is sincere in his support for reforming marijuana laws, and we think that would be a priority of his, if he wins this election in November, and if he is elected to Congress.

DEAN BECKER: Well, there we go. I tell you what, friends, we've been speaking with the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Mister Paul Armentano. Paul, I want to offer you a chance at closing thoughts, something to motivate the listener to get involved, to help change this madness.

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, certainly, if any of your listeners want to learn more about marijuana policy reform or get involved in NORML, I encourage them to go to the NORML website at NORML.org. They can also find a local chapter in their region. We have a number of chapters in Texas, local chapters and a state affiliate, and we do have chapters around the country.

So, get involved. In many cases, the state legislative session has ended. Not in all states, but in most, but Congress remains in session, and this midterm election is going to be terribly important, as far as what direction and the prospects for marijuana reform in the not so distant future.

So definitely I encourage people to get involved. If you don't get involved, other people aren't going to get involved either, so it's up to each one of us to advocate for our own liberation on this issue.

DEAN BECKER: All right. As we're closing out today's show, a couple of things I want to share with you. I hope that next week we'll have Monique Tula. She's the president [sic: executive director] of the Harm Reduction Coalition. They're going to have a conference in New Orleans coming up soon, October 18 through 21.

Because I'm aware the story's basically going national, I want to talk about a situation where Beto O'Rourke, running for Ted Cruz's Senate seat, is getting a lot of respect and national coverage. Last week he was on the Ellen DeGeneres show. This week he was on Steven Colbert, and it was rather funny the way Steven treated Cruz, even though he bought a commercial during his show.

But what's really puzzling is what's going on here in Texas now, where Texans are now getting upset with, and quitting their support of Willie Nelson.

VOICE: Some Willie Nelson fans are seeing red after learning the country musician will be headlining a rally for Democratic Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke. Dozens of people weighed in on Willie's Facebook page on Wednesday after he shared a story about the upcoming rally in Austin.

While some people told Willie he needs to stay out of politics altogether, others threw insults at the music legend. Still, some others applauded Willie's contribution to the 2018 campaign. The event is set for September 29 at Austin's Auditorium Shores.

DEAN BECKER: That was courtesy ABC Houston. Since this announcement, folks have been upset and posting on Facebook, calling Willie a traitor, saying they will never buy his music, never appreciate him ever again, but I figure that's just a bunch of lies by folks in the Republican Party.

It has brought me to a conclusion. The fact of the matter is that Republicans must now, forever, lie. It's their only means of salvation. The main thing the Cruz supporters are upset about is a story that was written for an online magazine called Hot Air, which claimed the Beto campaign had asked the VFW to take down the flags before they held an event there.

So, I did a little bit of investigating. It turns out it's fairly easy to determine that the report was written by Karen Townsend. She's on the board of directors for United Republicans of Harris County and Memorial West RW PAC.

I just figure all this bears a strong resemblance, association, with the drug war, where those who made their bones through this policy cannot now easily back down, and once again I remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please, be careful.

05/17/18 Deborah Small

Program
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date
Guest
Deborah Small
Paul Armentano
Organization
Patients Out Of Time

Deborah Peterson Small speaks at Patients Out of Time Conf, Paul Armentano of NORML re drug war hypocrisy and lies, Jasmine Budnella of Vocal NY, Melissa Moore of Drug Policy Alliance in NY

Audio file

CULTURAL BAGGAGE

MAY 17, 2018

TRANSCRIPT

DEAN BECKER: I am the Reverend Dean Becker, keeper of the moral high ground in the drug war, for the world, and this is Cultural Baggage.

All right, shortened up the intro so I've got more time to talk to you folks. We've got a lot to report. Our Drug Truth Network website is up and running, very telephone friendly. Please give a look, give a listen, we're going to have pictures, I'm going to start a blog, starting this next week. It is going to be MoralHighGround.world. It's time, it is frickin' time.

My friend Doug McVay was up in New Jersey at the Patients Out of Time conference, got a lot of good stuff for all of us, and let's just give a listen.

DOUG MCVAY: Thanks, Dean.

Hello folks. I’m Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org and host of Century of Lies, the sister program to Cultural Baggage on the Drug Truth Network.

Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Patients Out of Time Twelfth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics in Jersey City, New Jersey. Full disclosure, I also have the honor of working with Patients Out of Time doing website maintenance and social media management.

At this year’s conference, the first day was devoted to a policy seminar titled Medical Cannabis in the States of Confusion. We had a lot of great speakers. One of my favorites was Deborah Peterson Small. Deb Small is a great friend of the program and a friend of mine. She’s an attorney, drug policy reformer, and social justice activist who is one of the smartest people I have ever met, an incredibly sharp mind, and she's an exceptionally good speaker.

She gave a few presentations at #Patients2018. One in particular that I think listeners will enjoy was at the end of that day. The title of that panel was Where Are We Going: Federal Descheduling and Reclaiming Medicine. Here’s Deb Small:

DEBORAH PETERSON SMALL: There's a difference between ending cannabis prohibition and achieving racial and economic justice. And even the way that we do it may not achieve racial and economic justice.

I'm a California cannabis consumer who feels screwed by Prop 64, which I worked to help get passed. All right? Seriously. And it hurts me. I worked for six years on the campaign to change the crack cocaine sentencing laws, because of the impact that it was having on black communities, but the whole idea behind changing that was that that was supposed to be the first step towards getting rid of mandatory minimums.

Well, we spent almost a decade getting the ratio changed from a hundred to one to eighteen to one. Still f******, but a victory. But do you think anybody is now really talking about getting rid of mandatory minimums? It's like, oh, that fight is over. You don't -- I mean, it's still alive, but the level of energy and everything is gone, and I have this, well, we can talk about that over dinner.

But, I can tell you in terms of funding, and where the resources are going, it is not focused on changing federal law around mandatory minimums. In fact, legislative reform, for me, it looks like we go through phases. When I first started this work, everyone was focused on reentry. How do we support people coming back home. Then, it was voter disenfranchisement, around 2000, and all the foundations got behind that.

Now, they're all around, oh, how can we influence prosecutors, and that's like the newest thing. But the bottom line is that poor people remain poor. The system finds other ways to over-police them, and use that as a way to keep them out. And this is the thing about, you know, we have this conversation about expungement and all of that, as if those laws are legitimate.

But the thing that I learned, from working in law firms, many of our clients who had been guilty of and convicted of white collar crimes, was that they got to come back and become traders again. They got to come back and make back all that money. The thing -- and those crimes that they committed caused a thousand times more damage to society than any of the drug crimes that we're talking about here today.

So, I really -- I want people to, like, look at this stuff proportionately. And when they hear people like me, and I come across sounding like an angry black woman, it's because I am angry. I'm angry because I've watched now four generations of my family be affected by the drug war. People that I've lost to addiction, to homicide, to homelessness, to mental illness, over b*******.

Because there's nothing inherent about these products that require the level of damage that we as a society seem to be willing to allow to be inflicted on people. And I'm tired of these incrementalist conversations that say that I should be happy that we're going to treat marijuana like medicine, which just means that the government has more ability to control my life, because anything that we medicalize in a system that is not committed to health becomes another tool for control.

Now, I am an advocate for health, but I'm very clear that in this particular system that we're in, this is not a system that cares about people's health. And it uses the health system as a way to control people.

And so we have to think about all of those things as we do our advocacy. Personally, I am a proud socialist. My ultimate fight is to bring down pernicious capitalism, because I believe that that is the ultimate ill, that all of the other things that we have to deal with stem from is the pursuit of profit over people.

And yet that's not a conversation that we have, and it worries me that even in the area of reform, of these horrible laws, what's motivating people to change the is the pursuit of profit, the ability to get more tax money, the ability to get more revenue. What that sounds to me is like the constant succubus, just sucking more and more resources, more and more stuff from people, that only benefits a few people.

So I hope that we can have a conversation about building collective power. How do we build collective power. Instead of having marijuana businesses, let's have marijuana collectives. Let's think about microfinancing. Let's look at the rest of the world for ways to improve economic equity. Not rely on the old models that we've had before, the ones that have not served us, and I'll just end with this last thing, which is not about drugs, but it is in a way.

Which is that, in the twenty-first century, we need to let go of our conversation about the middle class. There's only two classes of people in the world right now. There's the class of people who work for money, and the class of people whose money works for them. The majority of us belong to the class of people who work for money. If you work for money in our particular system, it doesn't matter whether you're getting paid $25,000 or $250,000, when your source of income goes, you're screwed.

If you have enough money that your money works for you, like the Trumps, and all the people who are in this administration, everything that we do is designed for you to keep that money, for it to grow, and for you to pass it on to your kids. We are creating a permanent aristocracy, a permanent plutocracy, inside of this frame that we're in, because we are not challenging economic distribution.

So please, as we go forward in our advocacy around this, let's have it come from a place that's increasing economic democracy, because ultimately you're not going to be able to preserve political democracy if you don't expand economic democracy. Thank you.

DEAN BECKER: All right, folks, that was Deborah Small, speaking at the Patients Out of Time conference up there in New Jersey. Thanks to Doug McVay we're going to have several programs, Cultural Baggage and Century of Lies will be featuring segments from that conference. We were the only outlet there allowing to use that stuff.

Again, go to DrugTruth.net, check it out, we've got a brand new site, we're still working on it. Going to do a big announcement next week, but it's in trial phase, it's working, as I said, we're going to have pictures from the conference, other additions, and it's really telephone friendly. I urge you to please, check it out.

Today, we're going to be speaking with the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Mister Paul Armentano. And Paul, I want to preface our discussion with this thought.

A few weeks back, I somewhat tongue in cheek and somewhat seriously declared myself to be administrator of the moral high ground in the drug war, because over the years, hell, over the decades, the top dogs, the administrators of the DEA, the ONDCP, the attorney general, governors, prosecutors, all kinds of folks, stepped forward as if they were knowing, as if they were fully informed, and declared this eternal madness to be necessary.

One such instance occurred lately, where you heard that the head of the ONDCP was talking out of another orifice, so to speak, and you had an opinion in The Hill. Tell us about that piece, would you please, sir?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Sure. Well, to clarify the issue we're talking about the acting director of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, Robert Patterson. And last week, he was asked to testify before members of Congress, and during his Congressional testimony, he was asked a number of times about marijuana and marijuana policy.

Specifically at one point he was asked whether the agency held an opinion with regard to whether the expanded medicalization of marijuana was playing either a positive or a negative role in American use and abuse of opioids.

To which Mister Patterson responded that he believed the passage and enactment of medical marijuana laws is exacerbating the use of opioids and is exacerbating the opioid crisis.

Now, that's a very unique opinion and position, because it runs contrary to virtually all of the available peer reviewed data on the subject, which in fact shows just the opposite, that legal marijuana access is directly associated with reductions in opioid use, abuse, hospitalizations, and mortality.

When the DEA's administrator was pressed on this issue, when he was asked to provide evidence in support of the agency's opinion, he acknowledged to Congress that he was aware of no scientific evidence supporting the DEA's position. He further argued that he was aware of no scientific evidence that conflicted with the notion that medicalization is actually mitigating the opioid abuse crisis.

So, here we have an instance where the acting director of the primary federal agency that addresses drugs and drug policy admits that he holds an opinion, that he represents an opinion of the agency, but acknowledged that he has no scientific evidence in support of that opinion, and in fact acknowledged that the evidence that is contrary to that opinion, the agency itself has no interest in even assessing that evidence.

And it really strikes to the heart of this drug policy issue, that we have an agency that is largely ideological, that is guiding drug policy, and my suggestion for members of Congress and others, we're moving forward, to simply pay no further deference to this agency, because they admit that they don't know what they're talking about.

DEAN BECKER: So true, and again, I think there's a parallel across the state, representatives and others, who, you know, if you're told in kindergarten that if you kiss a girl you're going to get cooties, well, you might never get laid, and I kind of draw a comparison there to this belief system that they learned in their youth or that was stamped in their brain, in their heart, when they were younger, and they refuse to even inquire or investigate the possibility that they were wrong? Correct?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, indeed, in fact at one point the DEA was asked specifically had the agency ever assessed the relationship between medical marijuana laws and opioid use. And Mister Patterson admitted that they had not. So again, it's not so much that the DEA holds a flat earth position, a position that runs contrary to the available science, but the DEA further admits that they have no interest in learning the truth on this issue. That is what he said under oath.

DEAN BECKER: That's just scary as hell, to be honest with you, because over the years they've gotten well over a hundred billion dollars, and if I dare say, the respect of police chiefs and prosecutors and lawmakers around the country, to believe what they believe, right?

PAUL ARMENTANO: They're lazy. They're so used to not getting pressed or prompted, to have to substantiate their positions, that when they are prompted in a situation like this, they have nothing to bring to the table. You know? I mean, they're just -- it's a lazy institution, that feels they don't even need to be prepared, because anything they say is going to be rubberstamped anyway.

The DEA is an artifact of a bygone era. They're the flat earthers in drug policy. And the fact is, in 2018, pundits, lawmakers, members of Congress, their staff, they need to view the DEA in this light. This is not an organization that has any credibility on drug policy, so it is not an organization that should be guiding drug policy in America in 2018.

They are out of step with both public opinion and also with scientific opinion, and the rapidly changing cultural status of marijuana in America.

DEAN BECKER: Well, some profound words from our good friend at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, their deputy director, Mister Paul Armentano. Their website: NORML.org.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, irregular pulse, skin discoloration, weakness, amnesia, agitation, loose stools, coughing, taste perversion, tremors, arrhythmia, cardiac failure, and death. Time's up! The answer, from Pfizer Laboratories: Caduet, for high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

All right, folks, thank you for being with us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. I am the Reverend Dean Becker, the owner of the moral high ground for the world and, you know, I think more and more folks are going to understand this to be true, and get behind this effort.

We've got some reports coming to you out of New York City.

JASMINE BUDNELLA: My name's Jasmine Budnella, drug policy coordinator at VOCAL New York.

DEAN BECKER: Now, there's been some shake-up, if you will, going on in New York, a recognition of the racial disparity in regards to the marijuana arrests, and an endorsement by your mayor, De Blasio, in support of safer consumption spaces, places where folks can inject drugs safely. Tell me about that support, that endorsement from the mayor, first off. It's in recognition of the work of VOCAL New York, Drug Policy, and many other good folks, right?

JASMINE BUDNELLA: Yeah, absolutely. So, we had quite a long fight with Mayor De Blasio on releasing a feasibility study that was commissioned in 2016, a hundred thousand dollars from city council commissioned this study to study the feasibility of supervised injecting facilities in New York City.

We had heard from the mayor in February that he would be releasing the study soon, and we launched a full-on campaign to get that study released as we're dying, in 2016 we lost 13 -- over thirteen hundred people to overdose. In 2018, or 2017, sorry, we lost over fourteen hundred people to overdose.

So, during this fight to get the study released, we were able to move the mayor into supporting this lifesaving intervention. And so now he's come out in support of them, but, in one of the stipulations to get this off the ground in New York City, is to have state approval. So, two weeks ago, city hall sends a letter to the governor's office, to Commissioner Zucker of the Health Department, to approve these sites.

We still have yet to hear anything of the approval, so now, now that the mayor's in support of lifesaving interventions, which is very critical right now, especially as we're losing so many people, we have changed our strategy now to really push the governor to stand with us and stand with the city of New York as well as the mayor of Ithaca, and other mayors across the country.

DEAN BECKER: This is wonderful news, Jasmine, and I, you know, San Francisco, Seattle, even my city of Houston, there are rumblings and mumblings about the need for these safe injection facilities, and we're going to need people at every level, mayors, governors, district attorneys, and other folks to get on board to make this happen, are we not?

JASMINE BUDNELLA: Yeah, absolutely. This is a group effort, right, the opiate crisis is impacting all communities right now, and it's very important that we all stand up to recognize that we have a strategy, one of many strategies, to save people's lives. These sites have been around for over thirty years, are well researched, are all over the world, and it's time that all of us as a community stand up to say we can't lose another person.

DEAN BECKER: Well, this is good news, certainly, and I understand there was a protest today as well, or a rally, to hope to convince Governor Cuomo?

JASMINE BUDNELLA: Yeah, absolutely. So, on May Second, we had a -- we performed civil disobedience in front of city hall, to really show the mayor we were -- we're very serious about saving lives, and the very next day, it was, his announcement, so as a community, we did really great. We had eleven people get arrested, as well as a councilmember with us.

And today, as we're shifting over to telling Governor Cuomo we need you to stand with us, we went to his office in New York City and held a rally with community members, from Drug Policy Alliance, Housing Works, Harm Reduction Coalition, and our community members, who are directly impacted by these issues, to raise our voices and say that we're not backing down until we -- we're able to prevent overdoses and keep people alive.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Again, we've been speaking with Jasmine Budnella of VOCAL-New York. Is there any closing thoughts, a website you might want to recommend?

JASMINE BUDNELLA: Just sending love and hugs to everybody as we continue this fight to save people's lives.

DEAN BECKER: Opening up a can of worms, and going fishing for truth, this is the Drug Truth Network. DrugTruth.net

MELISSA MOORE: I'm Melissa Moore, I'm the New York State Deputy Director for the Drug Policy Alliance, and the Drug Policy Alliance is a national organization working to end the harms of the war on drugs and drug use. So, we're working for evidence based solutions, and to end the damage caused by prohibition across the country.

DEAN BECKER: I'm aware that people are beginning to hold politicians' feet to the fire. For too long, many of them have stood and pronounced the need for this drug war as if it was god's will, but many of them have never delved into the facts, have never actually realized that they are off base, they're off track, and they're causing harm through their endorsement of these policies or their failure to recognize the failure of the policy. Am I right?

MELISSA MOORE: You know, the fact is that we've seen growing momentum across the country, from people saying that we're not going to accept the war on drugs anymore, that we know that prohibition has not been effective at reducing use or keeping people in communities safe, whatsoever, and that amid, in particular amid the overdose crisis right now, we need innovative solutions.

And we need to shift from the criminalization approach that completely hasn't worked and has brought so much damage onto communities, to a public health framework, and that's where solutions where safer consumption spaces, making sure that people have access to harm reduction programs that can provide syringe exchanges and naloxone to reverse overdoses and things like that make a lot of sense.

And then also legalizing marijuana and taxing and regulating it, so that we're no longer prohibiting the substance.

DEAN BECKER: Well, in your fair city of New York, you know, they've been saying they're cutting back on the number of marijuana arrests, that they're, you know, they have a gentler, kinder situation, but, for blacks and Latinos that has not been true. Am I right?

MELISSA MOORE: Exactly. What we know is that, although there has been somewhat of a drop in overall marijuana arrests in the last couple of years, that the racial disparities across the board remain exactly as they've been for the last thirty years. We know that 86 percent on average of the people arrested in New York City every single year for low level marijuana possession, which I should note was decriminalized in 1977, the vast majority of those people being arrested are black and Latino New Yorkers, even though we know that people use marijuana at roughly the same rate across racial and ethnic groups.

So this comes down to targeted policing, hypercriminalization of certain communities, and it's time for that to stop.

DEAN BECKER: Well, you had a great piece in the New York Daily News, you and Chris Alexander, title was Legalize And Tax Marijuana To Truly End The Disproportionate Arrests Of Blacks And Latino New Yorkers. And, you know, your fair city leads the nation for city arrests. My state of Texas leads the nation for state arrests of marijuana users, and it's way out of wack. It is focused on black and Latinos just way too often. Correct?

MELISSA MOORE: Right. We know that this is something that's systematically a problem across the country. Even in states that have legalized marijuana, enforcement still ends up being harshest on communities of color, so we know that just legalizing the plant doesn't necessarily legalize people who are often subject to hyper-policing, and extensive targeting, even though they've done nothing to deserve that whatsoever.

But nonetheless, we know that legalizing marijuana and ending prohibition does remove a significant tool that law enforcement can use as a justification for interactions with community members. So, it doesn't change the entire parameters that we're operating with within this country, but it does provide some significant ways forward for people to not be criminalized.

DEAN BECKER: Through your efforts and the efforts of Drug Policy Alliance and many others, the mayor, De Blasio, has now refocused and promised to change the situation, has he not?

MELISSA MOORE: He has, and this is due to many years of pressure from Drug Policy Alliance and our partners. Years and years of research, just last summer we published a report with the Marijuana Arrest Research Project that showed once again the extreme racial disparities in New York City, and Mayor De Blasio tried to refute it. He tried to debunk it, questioned our character, questioned the data, which had come from the state's own office of criminal justice services.

And now he's changed his story, when it's absolutely undeniable what the situation is in New York, and it's clear that he needs to take action or he'll be -- he'll suffer for it. We know that marijuana legalization is actually more popular than most politicians are at this point. So people are seeing that there's a need for a shift in this conversation.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Melissa, is there something I'm leaving out, something you think needs to be brought into this story, into this interview?

MELISSA MOORE: I think actually one of the most significant developments yesterday was the Manhattan DA, Cy Vance, and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, announcing that they were no longer going to prosecute low-level marijuana possession charges in their offices anymore. That, those two offices alone, two of the DAs out of the five boroughs of New York City, those offices account for about ten thousand arrests and potential prosecutions for low-level marijuana possession every single year.

So, those offices and the bold leadership of those district attorneys, saying in the interest of justice, we're no longer going to prosecute these cases, it's clear that these arrests are being carried out in a racially biased manner, no more will we participate in that, was huge, and we -- we're certainly hopeful that other district attorneys across the state of New York and in other parts of the country will follow that lead as well. It's definitely time to take action, and we don't have to wait for legalization in order for district attorneys and other people in positions of power within different agencies to take similar steps.

DEAN BECKER: You know, it's a sign that people are recognizing, I don't have a better word, the stupidity of this drug war that has never worked in any fashion.

All right, that was Melissa Moore, DrugPolicy.org, and she's absolutely right, yesterday's New York Times had a big story about this in the paper. Folks, it's time for you to get on board, it's time for you to help end this madness, and again, I remind you, because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag, and I urge you to please, be careful.

Drug Truth Network transcripts are stored at the James A. Baker III Institute, more than seven thousand radio programs are at DrugTruth.net, and we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.