10/07/18 Farmer Tom Lauerman

Century of Lies
Tom Lauerman
Drug War Facts

This week on Century of Lies, live at the International Cannabis Business Conference 2018 in Portland, Oregon, we talk with Washington state cannabis cultivator Farmer Tom Lauerman; plus, Orsolya Feher from Students for Sensible Drug Policy addresses the recent Commission on Narcotic Drugs Intersessional Meeting in Vienna, Austria.

Audio file



OCTOBER 7, 2018

DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century Of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello, and welcome to Century of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of

First, let's look at domestic stuff, and the cannabis world. Had the chance to go to the International Cannabis Business Conference in Portland, Oregon, at the end of September. Met a lot of interesting folks there, a lot of good people. Got an interview with one gentleman, the man behind the brand of Farmer Tom. Let's listen.

I'm not in the studio, I'm here at the IC -- at the International Cannabis Business Conference. I'm speaking with Farmer Tom Lauerman. Mister Lauerman, you're -- well, you're not just a brand, you actually are a farmer. You've been doing this up in Washington state since the, since shortly after the passage of the, whatever it --


DOUG MCVAY: That's the one. I-502. Initiative? Measure? What are these things called? You've been doing this stuff up in Washington state since the passage of I-502, but you're a farmer.


DOUG MCVAY: So, tell me about yourself.

TOM LAUERMAN: Well, I'm out of San Diego, born and raised. I met my wife, who's part of the first collective garden in San Diego, in 1999. I've been, well, being raised in a border town and such, there's plenty of weed around, and, you know, when I smoked it, it was the missing link for me.

So, I, you know, I don't think my mom, being a professional while I was growing up, I didn't get breast fed that much, where you get your first introduction to cannabinoids, so, when I smoked it, I was -- wow, it made me feel amazing, and it seemed like the missing link for me.

So, I've been an avid cannabis smoker, and being in landscape construction, and construction my whole life, I had my hands in the dirt, planting plants, and then cannabis plants, and so forth. And then in landscape construction, you know, you learn how to do everything, so you're pretty well-equipped to be a farmer.

And that was kind of my goal, you know, I lived a lot in Mexico lobster fishing, I was a big surfer, lived off the coast, and I love to grow things on the other end, because it kept me really grounded. So, and then cannabis was always, you know, such an attribute to my life and my lifestyle, that it really enhanced it in such a way that I, you know, lived a pretty good life.

So, we've been -- we got raided in '99, at our collective, Shelter From The Storm in San Diego, where I got raided for 488 plants, me and Steve McWilliams got arrested, and they dropped the charges. Well, we were really active, we would go to the town council meeting with our pot plants and put them up there and tell them how safe cannabis was.

So, the mayor was horrified when they arrested us, and they didn't press charges, they gave us our grow equipment back, and we actually set up a grown in my friend Michael Bartelmo's living room, where he called the chief of police and asked permission, and he said, Michael, don't worry, we're not going to bust you.

So, that kind of threw me into advocacy for cannabis. Kind of throws you right in there after you get arrested and processed and all that stuff, you know. You either become an advocate or an activist, and I kind of like advocate better, because I'm all about the normalization of cannabis.

So, moving forward, after me and my wife got together, she saved my life that day, during the raid. She was spot-on, she called the media. So back in those days, the media wasn't on side. You were -- they were hijacking you, you were going away and nobody ever heard about you. But if you got the media involved, they told the story to the public, and then it was a different story.

So media's always been really key to me. I've worked with the Columbia [WA] newspaper over the year, when people weren't talking about cannabis so much, and brought them to my farm, you know, did things that, at the time, other people weren't doing.

So we've been here for fifteen years in Vancouver, Washington. I've worked and been a part of the medical scene there for a number of years. We worked with the Liquor Control Board to change some laws on concentrates. I'm teaching -- co-teaching a class at Clark College in Vancouver, Cannabis and Your Health. We're into our seventh semester now.

I do a summer intensive, how do growers do it, bringing your plants to harvest for highest yield, that type of stuff, which has been really interesting. I really love teaching, and the teaching aspect of it. So, you know, we grow vegetables, organic vegetables, we grow organic cannabis, similar to the way everybody's been doing it forever.

We had the chance in 2015 to educate seven agents from the CDC, Centers for Disease Control, NIOSH, on production and processing of cannabis on my farm. My farm's a secure location where federal agents can learn, touch, and study cannabis, and cannabis related activities, you know, such as labor and stuff like that.

So I think that's where the federal government felt comfortable enough getting into cannabis with the CDC and NIOSH. Well, NIOSH, they're the scientists. They do the reports, and then they send it over to OSHA and they write the laws. So I work with the scientists. Just super friendly, great people. I'm still in contact with them today, just amazing people.

You know, the civil servants, in all governments, if you've noticed, if you work with governments, they're some of the best people around. They're just like me and you. They're just doing their job.

So, fast forward, yeah, we got to educate them in 2015. Their report was published last year, April 3, so they, we got the federal government to use the word cannabis instead of marijuana, and then they also referred to me as an organic farm, and in the report said I grow organic cannabis. So those were things that I did.

I grew up in San Diego, you know, couple of things you're going to learn, being a surfer, is that if you hesitate for a second, you're seldom going to succeed. Second thing, living in San Diego, there's always somebody with more money. So if you have those two things in life, and you're going into the cannabis industry, you've got to be creative. You've got to do things that money can't buy.

Thus my working with the federal government, and being able to educate them, and the work we've done together. So, I've been pretty fortunate. I'm a big advocate for cannabis. I"m a big small farmers advocate. I want to make sure, you know, I'm really uptight about all these "doob tubes" out there, and these single use plastics, and, you know, we've kind of got -- got to get some environmental, recyclable aspects to these products.

I think there's a lot to be done to make cannabis better for all.

DOUG MCVAY: Right on. How's the -- well, you're up there in Vancouver so I've got to ask -- Vancouver, Washington, of course, so I've got to ask, how is the industry going up in Washington state these days?

TOM LAUERMAN: Oh, it's great. It's probably one of the better industries out there. They're getting a pretty decent price. You know, it's been -- there's a lot of mergers and stuff like that going on, and acquisitions, you know, it's kind of going down the corporate route, but, 70 to 90 percent of these businesses fail. Same thing's going to happen in Oregon, the same thing's going to happen in California and all these states.

So, yeah. So, there you go.

DOUG MCVAY: Yeah. Now, you're -- and you're, you've got a farm, an actual organic farm. You're also a brand, I mean, Farmer Tom is a -- you are your brand. It's -- how is that working out?

TOM LAUERMAN: It's worked out great. A guy named Joe Parsley found me in like, I think it was 2012, said, do you want to be the first guy to put his name and likeness on a cannabis product? I'm all, sure, you know. He branded, who was it, Carl ... who, what's his name? He was a famous -- he branded a bunch of people at Nike.

So, he saw me, and he says everybody thinks you're the guy, so, you know, when somebody asks you that, you kind of say yes, especially that early in the industry. You don't say a lot of no, you know what I mean?

And we just kind of -- we kind of ran with it. It's worked out really well for us, you know, because, you learn after a bunch of years, and looking at all the other agriculture around the world, that, you know, the farmer never makes the money.

So you've got to diverse [sic], you know, so for me, it was more education, more normalization of cannabis, more getting the good word out, you know, and for me, you know, it's been tough. We've had rough years, you know, especially with everything going on politically, and then me working with the federal government and stuff, you know, it's been a huge honor, you know, they did give me the golden ticket, which I'm really appreciative of, and -- yeah. We've got a pretty good life now, you know?

I mean, I work with a couple of ancillary businesses, some finance, I do a lot of consulting. We help small farmers, a lot of these new hemp farmers that are jumping on board, we kind of go out to their farm and lay them all out, and teach the farmer how to grow hemp, and, you know, so I'm working on a lot of different, smaller projects out there, because growing cannabis isn't -- isn't where the money is. You know?

There's still a huge part of the country that thinks, oh, I've got a few hundred thousand dollars or whatever, we're going to mortgage the house and we're going to go to Oregon and we're going to grow marijuana. My question has always been, to the five thousand people out there who told me this, I go: how are you going to do it?

They say, oh, we're going to grow the best weed ever. Do you know how many people told me they're going to grow the best weed ever? My god. You know? So it was better for me to go the branding route, and the advocacy route, and I've been able to, like, help the industry as it moves along, just be the voice of reason, somebody that's been around for a long time, you know, who cares about the environment, who cares about the worker, and make sure it's good for everyone.

DOUG MCVAY: Very cool. Your perspective -- I haven't asked anybody this this weekend, and I think your perspective would be, you're the right one to ask. Where do you see this all, in -- ten years from now, where do you see this industry?

TOM LAUERMAN: Well, same things that happened to the cut flower industry is going to happen to the cannabis industry. You remember, used to be from the Willamette Valley to the Tijuana border in Mexico? Cut flowers, we supplied the world, the United States, with cut flowers. Now it's not here anymore, all those businesses and jobs are gone. They're all in Colombia, Bolivia, tropics now, and you can guarantee that's where cannabis is going.

The only way Oregon and California are going to be able to stay alive through this whole deal is through craft cannabis. Oregon's going to need to loosen up their regulations so they allow tasting on site, and you can tour the farms. And we turn it into more of a tourist operation.

And what we really need to do is, content is king, as you know. We need to get some young person out there, with a film degree, and get out there and before all these old people die, who started growing cannabis way back in the day, and documenting their stories and documenting their children's stories, and getting the history behind it, and then put it out on the internet. I think between Eugene, the Applegate Valley, Williams area, and then Humboldt, there's a whole bunch of good stories, and that will really draw in the tourists.

They'll come in from around the world, if you give them content and show them, well, this is the bar, and this is the IPA that the farmers drank, and then when they were done they went out back and they smoked a joint. Well, hell, I want to go to that bar, I want to drink that IPA, and then I want to walk out back and smoke that joint.

So, I think there's -- there's so much value here. We've got to kind of think out of the box, and, you know, Oregon grows great cannabis, but, I don't think it's going to be cost effective, because in California right now, the investment money's coming in. They're averaging, the price of cannabis coming in per pound, at a hundred bucks. So, I mean, how do you really turn a light on for a hundred bucks? Or keep your employees employed?

It's only with these mega super operations that are really killing the small farmer already in California, and they're going to start to, you know, eat up Oregon, you know, but then, Oregon doesn't really have that big of a market compared to California. You know? I mean, there's a tourist market, but we need to, like, generate the market with the tourism driven cannabis industry, you know. People want to smoke cannabis, in their country it's probably still illegal, and what would they do for a vacation? They'd love to come out and do a weed tour. Just like wine people.

DOUG MCVAY: I was going to say, wine is exactly the model I'm thinking, because that's -- you can go out to the country, you go to the winery, you look at the grapes, see how they're grown, talk to the people, and you have your taste, maybe buy a few bottles, you drive back. Yes, you're driving ten, a hundred miles or more, but, you know, pretty much sober at the time you're doing it, you're just doing a taste and relaxing and then coming back. It's not --

Now, have you got that ability yet in Washington state, or are you still working on that?

TOM LAUERMAN: No, they're a long ways away from it in Washington state. They're really highly regulated. I mean, they don't even allow home grow up there at this point. So -- because they're afraid of the competition, but, that's kind of ridiculous. We're above the Forty-Fifth Parallel, which is outside of Salem, just south of where we are, and from there north, it's difficult to grow, especially this side of the Cascades.

We're on the wet side of the Cascades, where we get these early rains and all this stuff, and we're -- we have mold problems, blight problems, all these moisture driven problems, powdery mildew problems, that dryer regions don't have, further south, from like Eugene all the way through to California, you know, it's a lot dryer down there, their seasons are a lot longer than we have up here.

I think it's unfortunate that Washington doesn't have home grow, but I see them changing in the future. You know, they're making one point five million dollars a day in Washington state, on cannabis taxes alone, you know. This last year, at the 4/20, Inslee, who kicked and screamed and never wanted cannabis legal, just went to the world and said, Washington grows the best weed in the world! Yeah, as he's receiving, the state government's receiving one point five million dollars.

We know what they're doing with it. It's going into a slush fund, and it's going to fill their retirements. They lost their butts in 2008, and they've got to fill the coffers. It makes sense. We'll let them do that, you know, but let's, you know, give some respect and give a break to the people who brought you the show, because without us, and all these OGs that have been fighting for cannabis and cannabis regulations, you know, we can't be left behind. You know?

We brought them the show, we handed it to them on a silver platter, now they're saying, yeah, we don't need you anymore. We're the pros, we're here, we're going to take over. And, really, that's really unfair, and we're smart enough to know that, by taxing it at such a high rate, that they would be addicted to the money and that it would spread across the United States like wildfire because every state is in the same financial problems because of the 2008 crash.

Pretty simple. They need to refill their coffers, and cannabis will do it, and we're happy that it does it. You know what I mean? Because then maybe you'll have a different outlook on the people that brought you the show.

DOUG MCVAY: There you go. And, I can tell from the sound that people are trying to wrap up around us, so I should --

TOM LAUERMAN: Well it's good talking to you.

DOUG MCVAY: Well, before we go, any -- now, do you have a website for your farm, and also do you have any closing thoughts for my listeners?

TOM LAUERMAN: Well, you can find me on Facebook, at Instagram, @FarmerTomLauerman. You can find me on Twitter. You can just google me, go to my webpage,

Any final thoughts? If you have high aspirations to be a cannabis farmer and move to the west, I'd tell you to save your cash. At this point in time, if you don't have between twenty and fifty million dollars to throw at the wind, you have no business getting in the cannabis industry. That's a public service announcement from Farmer Tom.

DOUG MCVAY: Farmer Tom, thank you so much.

That was my interview with Farmer Tom Lauerman, he is a cannabis cultivator and educator up in Washington state. We met up at the International Cannabis Business Conference in Portland, Oregon, at the end of September.

You're listening to Century of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of

From the domestic to the international, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs held an intersessional meeting on September 25, 26, 27, and 28. They are going to be holding two more of those this year, and then of course the annual session of the CND, the big annual meeting where they release their report and talk about progress and all that kind of stuff, happens in March every year.

So all of these meetings are preparatory to that. They had thematic discussions on those days, and on the Twenty-Seventh of September they had discussions about some of the effected communities. We're going to hear a couple of presentations from that day. The first is from a person who represented the Vienna Non-Governmental Organizing [sic] Committee.

The Vienna NGO Committee is the group which basically coordinates the non-governmental organizations, the nonprofits, people like me and others who have been to these CND meetings, who are not national delegates, rather we work with nonprofits and NGOs in various countries, and we have been able to be inside those for roughly the last decade, and making more and more progress.

A representative from the Vienna Non-Governmental Organization Committee was allowed to speak on that last day, so here, from Students for Sensible Drug Policy, is Orsolya Feher.

ORSOLYA FEHER: Thank you. Let me begin by thanking the UNODC, the Commission, and the Civil Society Task Force for providing me this opportunity to speak to you on the issue of youth today.

I believe I was selected because my organization is a truly youth-led international nonprofit advocacy and education organization. We mobilize and empower young people to participate in the political processes that impact their lives. We base our activities and this speech today on our experiences being embedded in communities that are exposed to drugs and drug abuse. We have people in our network who are children, young adults, and teenagers.

My name is Orsolya, I am a fellow at Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and as political active -- politically active young person, I have been in these rooms for the past two years, and I have heard a lot of talk about including young people and protecting them, overcoming stigma, and protecting vulnerable communities.

This made me really confused because there's still a lot of excluding language going on here, and there's not much being done in including young people in discussions going on here, and in creating guidelines that are aimed at addressing them.

So, I am here to tell you that the reality is that however prohibited they are, drugs are not absent from our societies, hence this institution, and they are definitely not absent from the lives of young people, and hence the existence of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

And we have chapters on every continent on this earth, and we are the people who are exposed to drugs and drug abuse. So we gathered a number of intel and precious knowledge that we are happy to share with you.

It is a general rule that the less available something is, the more precious it is, and for young people, it is more exciting to be in the possession of this thing. So, this is why prohibition has not worked, and it has not worked for young people in the past sixty years. It's because we are cynical, we are cavalier, and we are curious.

But you want us to be curious, and you want your children to be curious and excited to learn for themselves about the world, and you want them to make mistakes in their pursuit of learning things.

And when it comes to sensitive issues such as drug use, we are all on the same page, that we don't want young people to make grave mistakes. So, this is why I am encouraging you to make efforts in equipping young people with the tools so that they are able to make choices that will protect them in the long term.

And I also want to call your attention to the 4F of the 2016 UNGASS Outcome Document, that stresses the importance of recognizing the specific needs of children and young people as well as the Twenty-Third section of the 2009 Political Declaration, that committed to work together with the youth in a range of settings.

We have found it extremely difficult to convey our experiences to the United Nations and its member states about the specific needs that we have uncovered in the past twenty years of our existence.

So, let me tell you what these are right now, and what we have been doing to implement age-appropriate, practical measures tailored to the specific needs and the culture and educational sectors to compliment available services that are provided by nation states.

So, we organize community events and educational activities, where the audience is empowered to engage. We screen documentary screenings, organize discussions with researchers on the latest findings about the various effects of substances, or on the state of the art of understanding of addiction and addiction treatment.

We are creating a learning environment that makes us feel empowered to think for ourselves, to ask uncomfortable questions, and to share difficult life experiences, so then we can decide for ourselves how to deal with these experiences.

As a result of this, we are all motivated to be competent and knowledgeable about the harms and possible benefits of consuming certain drugs, be it legal, illegal, or pharmaceutical.

We have also developed Just Say Know. It's a peer education program, and the significance of this is that it was put together by mental health professionals, doctors, addictionologists, researchers, together with students. So the curriculum combines basic knowledge and experience, that is based on science, and the actual experience of the people that it's aimed at.

Instead of teaching that the only acceptable strategy to respond to drugs is saying no, we are meeting young people where they are, in their understanding of the world, and we value their authentic experiences.

We build trust, and this is the foundation of open conversation, where we uncover the specific challenges that these young people face, and we help together with them to develop a strategy to stay safe and healthy, and we can support -- and we find out how we can support them as a community.

We also learned that we are not able to build this trust if we behave as we know better than them, if we keep information from them, and if we assume things about them. We will not be able to build this trust if they think that drug education begins and ends at the classroom. Young people are way too used to being told what to do, so if you engage them and talk about the facts and dangers about some mysterious, forbidden molecule, all you do is just awaken curiosity.

If we keep using stigmatizing language and label those who make choices that we don't agree with, if we preach sobriety as the only -- one and only way of staying safe, we will be excluding those who need our help the most, and we will not adhere to the UNODC's principle of leaving no one behind.

I think this logic actually should apply to policy making as well. If we are aiming to protect a certain group of people, before assuming that we know what's best for them, let's ask them. Let's talk to them about their daily lives, their struggles, their successes. Let's engage them in creating the systems that they will maneuver their lives in.

And this is the approach that will keep us, the youth, safe, healthy, and aware. This is what will keep us feeling that we are heard, that we have abilities to engage in nonjudgmental conversation, in places where we individuals are in focus and not some outdated ideology.

I am grateful for this opportunity today to be listened to by you, and put my community in the focus of the discussion, but I am only one of the thousand members of my organization, and SSDP is only one of the many global organizations that are led by youth and are engaged with people who are exposed to drugs and drug abuse.

Actually, we have formed a coalition. It's called Paradigma, and we have members all over the globe, and we are happy to engage in conversation with any member state, or any of the institutions that are empowered by the Conventions to make decisions.

We have developed a document that I've placed outside of this room that will hopefully aid the member states and the institutions in preparing for the High Level Ministerial Segment in March. So, I call your attention, all of the distinguished member States, INCB, WHO, and the CND, if you really want to align yourself with your promise that you made in 2016, that you want to create a better tomorrow for diverse youth, you should provide meaningful ways for us to share how we imagine this better tomorrow. Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Orsolya Feher from Students for Sensible Drug Policy, she was addressing the Commission on Narcotic Drugs on September Twenty-Seventh, speaking about effected communities in the war on drugs. She was there speaking to the CND officially as a representative of the Vienna Non-Governmental Organization Committee.

There will be two more sets of intersessional meetings in 2018, one in October, one in November. There will be a reconvened session of the Sixty-First Session of the CND -- I know, it's a bit complicated, eh? -- anyway, that happens in December, but then in March, in March of 2019, will be the next session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

That's when all the official decisions get made, the official reports get released, and we talk about the direction of the drug war. 2019 is a big year for the United Nations because they had a declaration ten years before, but really, 2030 and these Sustainable Development Goals are the really big goals, the really big targets, that most nations are looking for. We'll have more from the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in our next show.

For now, that's it. I want to thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies. We're a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at I’m your host Doug McVay, editor of

The executive producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs are available by podcast, the URLs to subscribe are on the network home page at

The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give it a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give its page a like and share it with friends. Remember: Knowledge is power.

Speaking of knowledge: The National Institute on Drug Abuse holds its annual propaganda exercise targeting young people in middle schools, junior high and high schools, and even some colleges, every January. This year it's January 22 through 29. it's their National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week.

Here's a fact, NIDA: That should be National Alcohol and Other Drugs Facts Week. The idea of making a distinction between alcohol on the one hand and other drugs on the other, as if alcohol were not a drug, is ridiculous, it's backward, it's counterproductive, and it's one of the reasons we have such a problem and such hypocritical drug policies in effect today. Remember, that's January 22 through 29, NIDA's National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, it's #DrugFacts.

You can follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts.

We'll be back in a week with thirty more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed war on drugs. For now, for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition: the century of lies. Drug Truth Network programs archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.