11/01/22 Matt Elrod
Tris Tristone of High Desert Pure discuses changes and comparisons of Washngton State drug laws to those of Texas and elsewhere PLUS Matt Elrod, computer guru and drug reformer extraordinaire..
Tris Tristone of High Desert Pure discuses changes and comparisons of Washngton State drug laws to those of Texas and elsewhere PLUS Matt Elrod, computer guru and drug reformer extraordinaire..
Matt Elrod has for decades been a backbone of online drug reform. Based in the Canadian wilderness he still manages to coordinate, update and design websites for many strong players in drug reform. Matt and DTN host Becker kick drug war logic in the teeth. Matt's description of himself: "Reclusive Canadian audiophile, poetic naturalist, drug policy reform activist, library cataloguer, programmer and webmaster. Born to be mild." Not to be missed.
Jay Hall, Houston Police Lt. (retired after 24 years) author of OpEd in Houston Chronicle: Texas’ two U.S. senators are undermining the state’s role as a leader in revamping overly harsh sentencing laws and reducing mass incarceration. + Matt Elrod Canadian Drug Reformer re US propaganda role in perpetuating eternal war.
OCTOBER 10, 2018
DEAN BECKER: What will it take to motivate?
No time for an intro, this is Cultural Baggage, I'm Dean Becker, your host. Let's get to it.
Well folks, after retiring as a lieutenant from the Houston Police Department with 24 years of service, Jay Hall acquired his PhD in organizational behavior, management, and leadership. He's now a speaker with my band of brothers, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, LEAP. We're a nonprofit group of police, judges, prosecutors, and other criminal justice professionals who use their expertise to advance drug policy and criminal justice solutions.
And with that, I want to welcome Mister Jay -- Doctor John Jay Hall, he's author of an op-ed that was in Sunday's Chronicle, it was titled Losing Leadership On Criminal Justice Reform. With that, I want to introduce Jay. How are you doing?
JAY HALL: Thank you, thank you. You are so kind and generous, Dean. How have you been doing?
DEAN BECKER: Oh, I'm good for a -- I just turned 70-year-old man, but I've, I'm --
JAY HALL: You get out of here.
DEAN BECKER: Still trying, but, this talks about waffling, I think might be a good word to use, in respect to attitudes and the goings on of certain perspectives. It -- mostly you're talking about two senators, Texas senators, Cruz and Cornyn, who, a couple of years ago, were for drug reform, they were talking about the need for change, and they seem to have backed up on that thought. Fill us in on what's in this op-ed, there, Jay.
JAY HALL: First of all, I'd like to commend both senators for the work that they have done, and also I would like to commend Senator John Whitmire, because, through his architecture, Texas has become a leader in criminal justice reform, as you know, during that period, 2007, he instituted some financial strategies which put management on the front end, management on the front end and also providing some services for ex-offenders to help them re-enter society.
And those things were very beneficial in addressing the mass incarceration issue. My concern has always been, and I look at it from several perspectives, one as a black man, also, and we know there's a disproportionate number of blacks within the criminal justice system.
We also, when we look at it from the standpoint of the disproportionate number of blacks for minor drug offenses, nonviolent, and also, you know, from an academic standpoint, I look at basically the complexity of the problem. I look at the contextual framework, so basically when you brought up the issue of waffling, I looked at the laws and I looked at some of the positions taken prior to the op-ed, of course.
And I would have to say that Senator Cornyn has done a remarkable job at championing criminal justice reform. On the other hand, his colleague has seemed to have waffled, and when I look at the context of behavior, it appears that, you know, doing -- let me give you a little background, a little history.
Senator Cornyn, he chaired, he sponsored the federal prison reform act. That was in 2013.
DEAN BECKER: Yes sir.
JAY HALL: In 2015, he supported the sentencing reform and corrections act, during Obama's administration. During the same year, 2015, Senator Cruz, there was a smarter sentencing act, and Senator Cruz was in favor of that for some of the provisions that dealt black males and nonviolent drug infractions, he was in favor of that.
The waffling came about in 2015 also, when the sentencing reform bill was being approved, he decided that he was not in favor of that. And this was at the same time, contextually, that I believe that he want -- he was a nominee for president.
So, basically, his position changed based on, which I believe, in my opinion, was because he wanted to run for the highest office. Now, here's the concern. Criminal justice reform has, both parties have always made decisions on what policies they would follow based on whether or not they would be viewed as tough on crime or soft on crime.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah.
JAY HALL: And so, Senator Cruz appears to vote against sentencing reform policies, because he wanted to run for president. Now, we go a little bit further down the road, and we look at 2018. During 2018, this was the period of time that we were trying to get the First Step program.
DEAN BECKER: Yes sir.
JAY HALL: Where we were making, reforming and making some positive changes for prison reform. So in 2018, whereas Senator Cornyn was in favor of that bill, Senator Cruz still was opposed to it. Senator Cornyn was being praised by activists, and the work that he was doing to merge and compromise both bills.
So, what I was doing is, I had to, when we do any type of analysis, we need two people. So this is how Senator Cornyn became part of the op-ed, I had to look at two people.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah.
JAY HALL: When, for the most part, and that said, Senator Cornyn has done a stellar job. But, I had to look at what he was doing in terms of criminal justice reform with both the sentencing reform act and also the ex-offenders reform act, the prisoners reform act.
So -- go ahead, I'm sorry.
DEAN BECKER: No, let me interrupt you here just a second, Jay. I want to underscore a couple of things. One is your thoughts about the Texas senator, not the US senator, John Whitmire. I think I was at the conference, I think I saw his moment of change, it was about 2007, there was a conference here in town, and there were these folks on stage giving their presentations, sharing their thoughts, and opening their hearts.
And I saw Senator Whitmire cry. I saw him go onstage, I saw him embrace the speakers, I saw his mind change, if you will. And, that's what we have to do going forward, to change the mindset of all these senators, of all these representatives, because what you and I do with LEAP is to show, is to expose the fraud and misdirection of this. How it so severely impacts racially, but it focuses on people of color, it focuses on poor people, and it has wrought hell on those communities over the decades. Has it not, Jay?
JAY HALL: Yes, it has, and this is -- this is why I, as I say, I keep beating the drum, because we have to take a look at not only what we are trying to do, but we also have to look at what I refer to for maintenance of the systemic conditions that create these -- that drive these forces of deviant behavior.
DEAN BECKER: Yes sir.
JAY HALL: And so, I don't believe that if we provide people with a fair shot, that they just want to find themselves in prison. I think if we take a look at it, and the work that I'm doing on other projects, one of the things that I want to bring out is that we have, because of the systemic conditions, they have done studies at the -- to look at the various elevated cortisone levels of children in poverty stricken neighborhoods, and situations of domestic violence.
DEAN BECKER: And, --
JAY HALL: And --
DEAN BECKER: Even with that cop car driving by, or what happened down the street yesterday, it's still -- it makes an impact, it's lasting, is it not?
JAY HALL: It's -- exactly. It becomes hard wired in these young people's minds, that this is all that I have to look forward to, and it has -- it changes the architecture of the brain based on the depression that it creates.
And so we are seeing that young people, two, three, four years old, are not, do not have the same cognitive development that they should have if they were not in those type of environments.
DEAN BECKER: Yes sir.
JAY HALL: So this thing has very far reaching implications, and we may look at one aspect of it, and so I'm saying there's a much bigger picture, and for law enforcement, we have numerous programs, numerous programs, but most of those programs are on the back end. Now that doesn't mean that we're not doing and making progress, but we can do more.
And so I'm trying to look at it from the standpoint, we need an early intervention so that we can give these young kids a better future than what we -- what they are inheriting right now.
DEAN BECKER: Oh my lord, yes. Yes, yes. I, look, Jay, I tell you what, man, we're not going to be able to get to your other document. I want to invite you to come back and see us real soon. I want to talk --
JAY HALL: Okeh.
DEAN BECKER: I want to talk about your new document, exploring new frontiers in policing: systemic conditions, neuroscience, and officer involved shooting.
Folks, this is Lieutenant Doctor John Jay Hall, 24 years experience, got a PhD in organizational behavior. He's a man we should listen to, and, you know, Jay, I'm proud of the fact that over the decades now, I've been on air, I've been able to make friends with the past three police chiefs, the past four sheriffs, the past four district attorneys, and I've helped, oh, move their mindset a bit, an inch at a time.
But, we are much better off in this city than we were fifteen, twenty years ago. Am I right?
JAY HALL: Yes sir, two hundred percent. Two hundred percent, and we're going to keep on moving forward. We want to be the model for the whole country and we can do it because we have the right people in the right places.
DEAN BECKER: To learn more about Law Enforcement Action Partnership, please visit LEAP.cc.
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All right, now to switch gears, basically, we're going to go up to Canada and see what's going on up that way, and maybe get their perspective on what's going on down here. Let's speak with my good friend, the cannabis and computer guru, Mister Matt Elrod.
Matt, you know, a couple of things that have really disturbed me lately, is, a couple of weeks back, Donald Trump went to the UN, and I don't know, kind of declared himself king of the drug war again, declared the need for a war on drugs, and then, just yesterday or the day before, he went before a gathering of police chiefs and once again declared a war on drugs.
He asked for people to start doing stop and frisk. He asked for people to really ratchet up this drug war, claimed it to be so necessary. What's your response to those couple of thoughts there, Matt?
MATT ELROD: Yeah, disappointingly, our Prime Minister Trudeau and the Canadian government signed on to a unilateral declaration from the Trump administration that they wanted to wrap up the drug war.
And, there's been speculation as to why they did that, given that Canada is leading the way in harm reduction, and this Canadian administration is leading the way in harm reduction and of course cannabis legalization on the seventeenth of this month.
There's been speculation that they did that because they were smack dab in the middle of renegotiating NAFTA and they didn't want to rock the boat.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah.
MATT ELROD: You know, or spend political capital on resisting it. One op-ed I read in defense of this capitulation on our part was that, well, they were really just signing onto the status quo, and who among us would object to trying to stem the tide of illicit drugs?
Of course, my response to that is that supply side interdiction has always been counterproductive, but, you know, it -- we are a very, very small country. You are our very greatest trading partner, and we do have to kind of pussyfoot around, and I think that's sort of what happened there.
As to Trump's motivation, I mean, he -- he is, as you point out, all about polarizing the populace, and tribalism, and, you know, right down to his idea of building a wall to keep drugs out of the United States, you know, my response to that is, well why not create a drug-free prison first as a proof of concept?
DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Yeah. He's apparently never heard of ladders or catapults, or, you know --
MATT ELROD: Tunnels.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah, tunnels.
MATT ELROD: Drones.
DEAN BECKER: Any of those things. Slingshots. But, but --
MATT ELROD: Well, yeah, and the fact is, you know, in Canada, and you guys are following us in this regard, our opiate supply, illicit opiate supply, has been almost entirely supplanted by fentanyl, and most of that is arriving by mail. It's not coming through the borders, so, and, you know, in Canada, anyway, the postal service can only search packages that are over a certain size, and so it's trivial to send fentanyl and carfentanyl and other highly potent synthetic opioids through the mail undetected.
It's a fool's errand.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah, a couple of weeks back, I did some studying and made the determination, you take one gram of carfentanyl, the elephant tranquilizer, folks have seen sugar packets, you know, and that's a gram. That's a gram, and you can take that one gram of carfentanyl and if you mix it properly, which is really the problem with the stuff, but if you mix it properly it turns out to be the equivalent of five kilograms of heroin.
And, this is what's killing people. I close the show with the thought, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. And, that's been true, but it's becoming a more deadly problem, a situation, is it not?
MATT ELROD: It is. It's an ironclad rule, you know, of prohibition, that under prohibition, drugs tend to become more potent, and further ingestion methods tend to become more deadly.
So, you know, we go from smoking opium to injecting fentanyl, and we go from beer and wine to spirits and moonshine, you know, under alcohol prohibition, and even cannabis, you know, they talk about the weed of Woodstock, that was relatively weak and that's true, that on average it was, even though there were more potent forms, but the dabs of today, and the oils and the extracts, these are all an inevitable consequence of prohibition, and if you, you know, attempt to stop the supply, then it inevitably gets smaller and more potent and more deadly.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah. And less likely to be found and to stop the supply side in the first place. A fool's errand, as you said. Well, as you mentioned, here in just, what, about a week? You guys are going legal, or somewhere near legal, are you not?
MATT ELROD: Yeah, a week from this Wednesday, on the Seventeenth, cannabis will be legal in Canada. There are a lot of critics of it, some are calling it prohibition two point oh. The Emerys for example, Marc and Jody, point out that there are countless new laws and regulations associated with legalization, where prohibition only required I think about eight laws.
So, legalization as it turns out requires a lot more, you know, stipulation about what one can and cannot do. But, I think at the end of the day, it's a good tentative first step by a G-7 nation. We will be allowed to possess up to thirty grams in public, more than that in the privacy of our homes. Most jurisdictions will allow consumers to grow up to four plants at home.
It's, as you might imagine, a bit of a mess in terms our readiness. British Columbia, I'm told, will only have one operating retail outlet on the Seventeenth.
DEAN BECKER: Wow. British Columbia? Wow.
MATT ELROD: Yeah. And further, it's in the Okanagan, it's not even in Vancouver or Victoria. I don't think that will stop cannabis consumers from celebrating on that day with a joint, but --
DEAN BECKER: No. And, there, look, the black market is not going to go away. As long as there's a profit to be made, it will exist. Am I right?
MATT ELROD: Well, you know, it's often -- it's a straw man argument that prohibitionists will make, that oh, you know, legalization has not eliminated or completely rid us of the black market.
And, I don't think any realistic drug law reformer argues that it will. You know, we do have a black market in alcohol, we do have a black market for tobacco, which tends to grow and shrink relative to the taxes, the sin taxes we apply to tobacco.
All of that said, you know, what we're seeing in the states is that in those states that have legalized, the black market has been displaced between fifty and 85 percent, depending on which study you look at, and further in the United States, because you haven't legalized nationally, the legal states are exporting to the prohibitionist states, because they're still providing price supports, to cannabis.
In Canada, it kind of remains to be seen just how much of the black market will be displaced, but I expect it will probably be more than fifty percent. Polls show that most cannabis consumers would rather buy their cannabis from a brightly lit, regulated retail outlet than in an alley. Right? Or even from their buddy down the street.
So, you know, the legal market has the advantage of an economy of scale that the black market does not have. So, yeah, you know, obviously we're not going to entirely eliminate the black market, but I think we can expect it to be significantly displaced.
And I think any displacement is an improvement.
DEAN BECKER: Well now, I dabble in the stock market, and usually lose. There was a situation a few weeks back, one of your major cannabis companies there in Canada went on the US stock market, Tilray was the company. They, I think they initially offered their stock at twenty dollars per, or somewhere near that, I don't know if I caught it at the exact beginning.
But over that following week to ten days, it escalated to, I think it hit a peak of three hundred, before it tapered back down, and last I saw it was somewhere around a hundred and twenty, thirty. But, you know, there's opportunity available for those who are savvy. I'm not recommending this, because I wound up losing a little bit, because I'm stupid at the stock market.
But, it's an indication that this is international, in essence, the impact of these legal producers, and it's going to have an impact worldwide for, well, for the rest of our lives. Your thought there, Matt Elrod.
MATT ELROD: Well, no doubt. The -- yes, I mean, US investors are looking at the Canadian licensed producers, federal legalization in Canada has created a lot of economic momentum.
You know, we've had -- Lucy has snatched away the football so many times that I was kind of holding my breath, as it were, to see if legalization would really come to pass, you know. There was a time, for example, in the 1970s, when cannabis law reformers were very optimistic, with states decriminalizing and so forth.
And then the pendulum swung back, with the anti-cannabis hysterical parent groups and so forth. So I was cautiously optimistic about legalization, but at this point, there is so much economic momentum, there is so much money invested, and in Canada, the provinces and the municipalities, and everybody concerned, has invested a lot of time and effort into this, and I can't see us turning back at this point. I think there's just too much momentum.
And that momentum is just going to build and grow, and eventually, the economic forces, you know, pushing for cannabis law reform, are going to be, I think, irresistible in your country as well.
DEAN BECKER: No, I agree with you. The one other thought I wanted to talk about, you mentioned the countless number of new laws now that it's legalized, and I'm -- tell me if I'm wrong, that the police forces are getting additional funds, additional forces, and special investigators, to look for the black market, as if they weren't doing that in the first place. Is that right?
MATT ELROD: That's true, and all along, the police, researchers, educators, municipalities, everybody and their cousin has said, okeh, we'll go along with your legalization, but what's in it for us? We need some money here.
So the Liberal government has been liberally handing out money to all of these special interests to get them on board with legalization, and of course the police are no exception. They surely realize that a big chunk of their budget has been dedicated to cannabis prohibition, and, so I think this is sort of a compensation to them for that.
They claim that they're going to need a lot more money to cope with the carnage on the highways and, you know, inspecting and policing where people may partake and where they may not, and so on and so forth.
Though still, I think, at the end of the day, the total amount of money that we've spent on cannabis prohibition will still far exceed what the police are being given in these sort of compensatory packages.
DEAN BECKER: Right.
MATT ELROD: And also I think they will soon realize that they really didn't need any extra funds to enforce new cannabis regulations.
DEAN BECKER: Next to that thought they present is this one as well, is that, well, you don't want these drugs legal so your kids can get ahold of them, when the truth is, high schools here in the US is the number one place to find drugs.
MATT ELROD: People have often said, you know, as an adult, if you're looking to score dope, find a teenager, you know? For christ's sake.
DEAN BECKER: All right, buddy.
MATT ELROD: All right.
DEAN BECKER: Thank you, Matt.
MATT ELROD: Take care.
DEAN BECKER: All right, bud.
Well, that's about it for today. I wanted to let you know there's more with Matt Elrod that will be appearing on the next batch of 420 reports, but the following is a Drug Truth Network editorial.
Conscientious Objectors to Drug War. I submit my objection to the injustice of our nation's drug policy, especially the incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders. I state that my belief and actions henceforth in regards to the control of supposedly controlled substances will align with common sense, modern science, truth, and reality itself.
Via modern science and reporting it is now easy to discern that the war on drugs is a failure of immense proportion, a century of horrible lies and misfiring propaganda, and that the majority of the harms ascribed to drug war are actually caused and exacerbated by the mechanism of the drug war itself.
In recognizing the truth of this matter, I seek to be recognized as embracing rationality and common sense. I therefore state that my conscience compels me to commit to ending the war on drugs.
As a conscientious objector to drug war, I am logically compelled to reach out to others, to humanity, to join in this conscientious objection to this irrational war on plants and plant products via an embrace of one or more of the following reasons to end this eternal assault on human dignity and life.
The preceding was sent to fifty of my best friends, the most recognized drug reformers in the US and Europe. Starting next week on the website Objectors.Info, you will be able to read the full Conscientious Objectors to Drug War Manifesto, featuring those reasons, from those same leading drug reformers.
Again I remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please, be careful.
Drug Truth Network archives 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.
Mason Tvert goes back to work for Marijuana Policy Project, Matt Elrod Canadian drug reformer, Dr. Melanie Dreher re long term use of cannabis
MAY 24, 2018
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 the Reverend Dean Becker. Thank you for being with us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. Today we've got three great interviews, from around the US and up into Canada, talking about this stupid drug war. Let's just get started, what do you say?
It seems like just yesterday I met this young fellow. I think I was in Seattle, maybe it was San Francisco, but we were near some boats and I was talking to this young fellow about marijuana laws, about the drug war in general, and damn if he didn't just take off like a rocket, joined forces with some other drug reformers, and helped to swing the cat so to speak in Colorado, and move things around the US.
He's with us right now, I want to welcome, now with the Marijuana Policy Project, Mister Mason Tvert. Hey, Mason, how you doing?
MASON TVERT: I'm great, Dean, thanks for having me.
DEAN BECKER: Well, it does seem like just yesterday that you got your foot in the water and, hell, you really got things moving there in Colorado. First off, just tell us how are things in Colorado. Is it full of people ODing on weed, what's going on up there?
MASON TVERT: Things are quite lovely. It's, you know, really just business as usual for the state, and adults are simply able to purchase cannabis legally, like they are able to purchase alcohol. It's really not much different for the typical person.
Of course it's created tens of thousands of jobs, so it's certainly changed the lives of a lot of people in that way, and it's generating, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue that's been benefiting state programs at our schools and providing other services that were needed, and, you know, it's really, you know, marijuana was here already, it's not as if it was, you know, dropped into the state the day it became legal. So not much is different, with the exception that it's now a legal, regulated product.
DEAN BECKER: Now, you know, I mentioned early on there that you were involved with many different organizations, heck, you even co-wrote a book, what was it? Marijuana Is Safer, So Why Are We Driving People To Drink? Was that the right title.
MASON TVERT: Correct. Yep.
DEAN BECKER: And that, it kind of generated a wave, a recognition, that the old, you know, the lies, the propaganda, the reefer madness, is losing its luster, very few politicians are leaning in that direction these days. Right?
MASON TVERT: Absolutely. I think that the more people hear about cannabis, the more they learn about it, the more that they see and hear, you know, other people that they know and respect supporting an end to prohibition, the more likely they are to support an end to marijuana prohibition.
You know, a lot of people only heard negative things about marijuana for most of their lives, and it was really just a matter of exposing them to the debate, and letting them hear the other side, letting them see the facts, and once that became pervasive enough, we now have just seen support for prohibition crumble, and there's a desire for a more sensible approach.
DEAN BECKER: Well, even at the federal level, McConnell, Boehner, some of these die-hard, well, no longer die-hard prohibitionists are coming forward and changing the equation as well. Right?
MASON TVERT: Yeah, you know, it's really becoming an industry, much like other industries, and people are going to be seeing these opportunities. This is perhaps the fastest growing industry in the country, the legal marijuana industry, and there are people in, you know, looking into it, and examining the opportunities, and recognizing that there are big opportunities, and that it would be foolish to not get involved out of fear of marijuana in general, and a prohibitionist mindset.
It's, you know, being looked at like any other business opportunity, with potential risks and potential benefits. And it's not surprising that we're seeing former elected officials deciding to get involved in this, as well as current elected officials recognizing that there's really nothing to fear politically if they get supportive.
DEAN BECKER: I think it's actually a vote getter, if they just want to dig down to the bottom of it.
MASON TVERT: Yeah, potentially, I would say that it probably depends on, you know, what office they're running for, where, and, you know, the general makeup of the race, but, it's certainly not something that seems to be hurting anyone politically. It also certainly does seem to have benefits for a whole lot of candidates.
I mean, it's moving toward the point, we're not there yet, but moving toward the point, like, with alcohol. I mean, could you imagine being supportive of a candidate who said they thought alcohol should be illegal, or even a candidate who said they'd never drank alcohol before, or thought it was bad to drink alcohol. I mean, that would be very difficult for a lot of voters to relate to, and, you know, we're going to sooner or later see that type of situation with cannabis as well.
DEAN BECKER: Well, and you know, at the state level, we have a lot of voter referendums, people trying, some states have two or more, as I understand it, we have a situation where many of the state politicians are trying to circumvent or pre-empt these referendums, try to legalize it where the, in a fashion that suits the legislature better than it does the citizenry.
It's a real bundle of energy insofar as people trying to change the marijuana laws at this point, right?
MASON TVERT: Absolutely. I mean, you know, we've always seen lawmakers with a lot of disdain for the ballot initiative process. They don't like the idea of not having that control. But unfortunately, a lot of lawmakers have not been proactive on this issue, so it has resulted in citizens taking it up and moving it forward through ballot measures.
And, you know, if it -- it's great that that's forcing a lot of lawmakers to take it more seriously and consider passing these types of measures, and if they pass measures that are, you know, poorly written or way too restrictive, then they can expect to see efforts to change those laws, through ballot initiatives, and it's really a, quite frankly, I think a great aspect of the, you know, the democratic process in this country, at least in those states that have a ballot initiative process.
DEAN BECKER: You know, it was just over a year ago, my city of Houston came up with a, what they call the Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program, that under four ounces of weed would not result in an arrest or jailing, none of that, they'll just write you a ticket, and whenever possible at the local level I think a lot of local officials, district attorneys, and in the case of New York City, the mayor, are trying to change the perspective, trying to change the number of arrests, trying to do away with much of that reefer madness. Your thought there too, please.
MASON TVERT: Yeah, I think that we are reaching a point where, you know, they can't ignore this anymore, I mean, the number of arrests taking place in a city like New York, the extreme disproportionate impact on communities of color, it's just not something that people are ignoring, the media's not ignoring, and as a result elected officials can't ignore it, and they're having to at least do something about it, and measures like the one in Houston are certainly a great step, and will make people realize that you don't have to arrest and, you know, seriously punish every single individual who gets caught with a small amount of marijuana.
But, there's obviously still room for improvement. We shouldn't see any punishment associated with simple possession of marijuana, this is at least a big step toward recognizing that.
DEAN BECKER: All right, friends, once again we've been speaking with Mister Mason Tvert, now aligned with the Marijuana Policy Project. Mason, what am I leaving out, what would you like to share with the listeners?
MASON TVERT: Well, I think there's, you know, a lot of progress has been made, but there's still a lot of work to be done, and, you know, even in states, whether it's like Colorado or California or Washington, where marijuana's now legal for adults, there's still efforts to paint these systems as being horrific and causing so many problems, when they are not in fact problematic.
We need to make sure that the facts are getting out there. And then of course there's a lot of places where we still need to see changes made, and it's going to be an ongoing battle that's not really going to end at any point. It's going to be, just like with alcohol, constant discussions and debates and fights over certain policy issues to make these laws reflect the facts, and make them more sensible.
DEAN BECKER: All right. Once again, that was Mister Mason Tvert, Marijuana Policy Project, their website, MPP.org.
We're going to shift countries right now. We're going to go north, going to Canada, up in BC, going to talk to my computer guru and to a long time friend, associate, fellow drug reformer, for well over a decade now, and my friend, Mister Matt Elrod. Hey, Matt, how you doing?
MATT ELROD: I'm good, Dean.
DEAN BECKER: Thank you for being with us. You know, Matt, it seems the dam is cracking, you know, there's certainly fissures showing up here and there in the US, we just heard some great thoughts coming out of the UK, and Canada's fixing to legalize this summer, I guess, is the word, cannabis, and there's a reexamination of the whole of the drug war up there as well. Am I right?
MATT ELROD: Absolutely. Yeah, as you mentioned, Canada's got a legalization bill going through the Senate right now, and a companion bill to strengthen drugged driving laws, to allay fears about carnage on our highways when we legalize cannabis.
And, you're right, right on the weight -- on the heels of that, there's a lot of talk in Canada about at least decriminalizing all illicit drugs, in light of the opiate overdose crisis we're facing. And, you know, the voices for -- calling for that are growing louder, the opposition parties in Canada, or at least two of them, have been calling for that. So, it's hopeful.
DEAN BECKER: You know, all the hoopla and the reefer madness that still lingers somehow, that gives the cops and the prosecutors this idea that they -- they really need to crack down on cannabis drivers, when, I think the truth be told there haven't -- hasn't been that many cannabis caused wrecks in the first place, it's just this inherent built-in fear of what might happen. Am I right?
MATT ELROD: Yes, and you know, fear stems from ignorance, and that's what we're facing, is just a lot of ignorance about cannabis. And there's also some deliberate misleading going on from groups like Smart Approaches to Marijuana. Three of the senators who are currently studying our legalization bill made a trip last month, I believe it was, down to Washington to meet with Jeff Sessions, and with Smart Approaches to Marijuana, to get some tips on how to fight legalization.
And they came back with a stack of SAM reports, I guess you could call them reports, SAM propaganda, that makes the case, or attempts to make the case, that cannabis related accidents have doubled in Washington state and Colorado. Now you and I know that what has really gone up is the number of fatally injured motorists who are testing positive, whether or not that caused their accident, whether or not they were impaired when they had the accident, and this is largely due to testing going up, by drivers who are tested more frequently now.
I think where before, if a fatally injured driver tested positive for alcohol, they wouldn't bother doing the cannabis test, because they had their culprit, whereas now they do. So for all those reasons, you know, what we're seeing is an increase in the number of reported so-called cannabis related fatalities.
And this is being deliberately twisted and used to mislead some of the fearful and the ignorant.
DEAN BECKER: That's the hell of it, isn't, leading the fearful and the ignorant, that's been the, I don't know, the cause, and the solution to all of life's problems. Drugs, I guess.
MATT ELROD: You know, it's sometimes difficult to tell who's delusional and who's dishonest.
DEAN BECKER: Right.
MATT ELROD: And for that reason, I try to give such people the benefit of the doubt and think, okeh, this person's just uninformed, but at root I know that there are people like, you know, Kevin Sabet and others who deliberately mislead the public, who know better.
DEAN BECKER: Right.
MATT ELROD: And, and I think some of our senators fall into both camps. Some of them are sincerely ignorant, and understandably fearful, while others are ideologically opposed to the legalization, sometimes for partisan reasons, they just don't want Trudeau to succeed in this endeavor.
And -- or, or maybe they're fighting a culture war, maybe a pothead stole their girlfriend in high school, you know, which is often the case.
DEAN BECKER: Well, and I, of late, I've really come to the conclusion that it's alcohol versus marijuana, and other drugs, but, about a hundred years ago, the alcoholics lost their moral standing, if you will, here in the US, when we had that first prohibition, but then they kind of gained back and meantime they had passed the Harrison Narcotics law [sic: Act], and other anti-drug laws, and it just seems the alcoholics have the upper hand and they're just not going to let go. Your response to that, Matt.
MATT ELROD: Yeah, it's a tough one. I mean, the records show, so, historical record shows that Anslinger et al. wrapped the war on drugs with the end of alcohol prohibition, they had all these drug agents, you know, that they had to keep busy, and, you know, there are a lot of vested interests in drug prohibition, so it's clear that there was a transfer there.
It's also clear that there's the racial element to the roots of drug prohibition in both our countries. And, I think some of that still remains. Certainly, systemically we see that's the way the law is enforced. So ....
DEAN BECKER: Well, here's hoping that you guys get it straightened out, and that the cops and the prosecutors don't take over the whole industry and they let some good folks like Marc and Jodie Emery get involved, after all the hard work they've done. But, the good news is that the Drug Truth Network has a new website design, new ease. Tell folks what's going on with our site, please.
MATT ELROD: Yeah, we've finally gotten you upgraded to a newer version of the content management system running at DrugTruth.net, and this version is much more mobile-friendly. That's, I think, the biggest plus at all, because we were certainly starting to lose people who've become accustomed to surfing on their phones and their personal devices.
So, that's good. While we were at it we decluttered it a bit, I think, made it a little easier to surf around and find what you're looking for. We've added the ability for you to attach images to individual programs, which I think will be helpful for your listeners, to see who they're hearing. And, I particularly like -- you've always had this functionality, but the ability to search the entire website by guest or organization.
In particular because I'm a vain man, and I can see that, with just a couple clicks, all the interviews you've done with me. So similarly, you know, any guest you've had, or any organization they to, NORML, what have you, can link to directly the programs that they've been featured in.
DEAN BECKER: Well, this is all good news, and, you know, and the heck of it is, dear listeners, I worked towards this, Matt has worked towards this, is to educate and to embolden you to do your part to end this stupid god damned drug war.
MATT ELROD: Amen.
DEAN BECKER: Amen.
BILL MAHER: We have this fantasy that our interests and the interests of the super rich are the same, like somehow the rich will eventually get so full that they'll explode. And the candy will rain down on the rest of us. Like there's some kind of pinata of benevolence.
But here's the thing about a pinata. It doesn't open on its own. You have to beat it with a stick.
DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Euphoria, drowsiness, nausea, confusion, constipation, sedation, unconsciousness, coma, tolerance, addiction, respiratory arrest, and death. Time's up! This drug, 80 times stronger than morphine and heroin, is available via schedule two prescription: Fentanyl. For major pain.
All right, as promised last week, we have some more interviews and speeches coming out of the Patients Out of Time conference, which happened just a week and a half ago up there in New Jersey. This is all thanks to Doug McVay, who produces our other half hour program, Century of Lies. But, well, let's just get to it.
MELANIE DREHER, PHD, RN, FAAN: This is really my personal odyssey, from being a scientist to being an activist.
DEAN BECKER: This is Doctor Melanie Dreher.
MELANIE DREHER, PHD, RN, FAAN: And, I think that it's something that many scientists go through, so let me just share with you some of this. Nineteen Sixty-Nine, the summer that Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, and 400,000 of my very best friends were at Woodstock, New York, I was on a mountain top in Jamaica, in a journey of discovery.
I was sent there by my major professor at Columbia University to find out about cannabis. Now, I have to tell you, at that point I had never smoked anything, not even a cigarette. I had never done field work before, although I was a graduate student in anthropology, and I knew nothing about Jamaica. So, I was obviously exquisitely qualified to undertake that study.
And, I was at that time, I was helping my professor, who had just been funded to do a study of the chronic use of marijuana. At that time, all the research had been focused on what happens to you when you smoke, the acute effects of smoking, and no one had really looked at, well, what happens to people after they smoke for years, on a daily or weekly basis.
So that was my job, was to just find out about cannabis use in Jamaica. He had done his field work there, and he knew that it was used. So, I, on that mountain top in that small community, I discovered, and it was the summer of discovery, that cannabis was not only a substance that was smoked and used recreationally, but it had religious connotations among the Rastafarians, in fact it was their sacrament, is their sacrament.
And then of course this rich medicinal use. And that time, and still, herbal medicine is an important part of the Jamaica folks pharmacopoeia, but, as they showed me this bush and that bush, and another leaf, and a tree, they would say, but ganja, which is the Indian word, marijuana, ganja, that is the king of it.
And -- meaning that it was a substance that had so many uses, and could be used in so many ways. Topically, as an edible, cooked in soup, smoked.
And so, I went back with my little report for the summer, and then the next year I went to recruit the sample of men who were going to be in a study of chronic use, the impact of chronic use, a medical anthropological study, and at that point, I very much realized, and this has stayed with me the rest of the time, that -- the rest of my career -- that in fact cannabis really depends, as our -- previous speakers have said, on set and setting.
It's really important to understand the context before you can interpret the results of your research. So, we found, for example, that all of our cannabis users, compared to our non-users, were significantly psych -- on every psychological test, better adjusted.
And, but then when we looked at, when I shared my experience with recruiting, it was very easy to recruit cannabis users. I could hardly find any non-users. So you know that the people who were not using it are already a little weird. You know, there's something different about them, they're not part of normal male social life, so there we go.
And, so, again, it was not -- all we could say with that study is that probably cannabis doesn't do any harm. Then, I went back, and studied the amotivational syndrome. We all know what that was, but in Jamaica, men were using cannabis to work harder. And it was actually distributed to cane workers, who, as a little coffee break to get, sit down, have a smoke, get up and cut more cane, load more cane, sugar cane.
And while I was there I also of course started working with women, and when I first went, very few women smoked. They drank the tea and men were the smokers, men claimed that women didn't have the brains to smoke, so, they had to stay away from those psychoactive properties, but, women were preparing teas, and poultices, and infusions, other infusions, for their children, to keep them smarter, and healthier.
And, really? You're making marijuana tea for your children, three times a day? Yes, miss, it really helps them in school. Well, let's see, so I got funded to do a little study of children, and, comparing the children who drank tea on a regular basis and other children who didn't drink tea. And again, we found out, tea drinkers did significantly better in their studies than the children who didn't drink tea.
But, it had to be put in the context of parents who were willing to share their precious store of cannabis with their children were also the mothers and fathers who made sure their children had pencils and paper and clean uniforms, and went to school on a regular basis.
But it was associated with good parenting, and not bad parenting. And while I was looking at children, I was looking more at women and women who were smoking during pregnancy, and at that time, the United States was still reeling with the thalidomide crisis of the 1960s, very interested in the teratogenic effects of cannabis. And, I though, okeh, this is the time to do a study of the impact of marijuana during pregnancy.
And we tested these neonates, we used standard measures, we had thirty exposed neonates and thirty non-exposed neonates, and once again, the results were counter-intuitive, and our exposed neonates did significantly better on every dimension of the Brazelton neonatal scale than the non-exposed infants. So, here we were, and this became one of my first challenges about the social and political realities of cannabis use. It was very hard to get that study published.
We did get it published in Pediatrics, finally, but it brought to fore the editorial bias that exists in most journals, and has actually been cited, a wonderful article in Lancet in 1989 actually evaluated various studies on not just cannabis, but other drug studies, studies of substances as well, and found that the more positive your findings are, in other words, that actually negative, that cannabis does not have cocaine does not have a bad effect or as serious effect as we thought it would have, the less likely you are to get published.
And, that editorial bias has continued to exist, in my own profession, which is nursing, as well as anthropology.
DEAN BECKER: To dream the American dream,
To lie still and hope
With both of your eyes closed.
The nightmare that surrounds you
Just to try, try to reach
The American dream
All right, I apologize, that was me singing, but it's designed to get your attention, to think about this American dream, this dream of an eternal war on drugs, where the number of deaths increases every day, the number of diseases, where the amount of violence, where the expenditure of trillions of dollars just continues and continues on.
Kind of recapping the show, our new web page, designed by Matt Elrod, is up and ready, that's at DrugTruth.net. It's phone friendly, as I understand it we already have an increased number of listenership. You know, share it with your friends, your family, your relatives, 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.