03/04/08 - Phil Smith

Phil Smith of StopTheDrugWar.org discusses empowerment of criminals through the drug laws + Al Byrne of Patients Out of Time re med marijuana convention

Century of Lies
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Phil Smith
Stop The Drug War
Download: Audio icon COL_030408.mp3


Century of Lies, March 5, 2008

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.

Dean Becker: Hello my friends. Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. I’m glad you could be with us and we do have with us online Mr. Phil Smith. Are you with us Phil?

Phil Smith: How are you, Dean?

Dean Becker: Good to have you with us. Phil, if you will, for those who are just tuning in for the first time, what kind of work do you do, Sir?

Phil Smith: I’m the editor and main writer of the Drug War Chronicle which is the online publication of the Drug Reform Coordination Network. Find us online at www.StopTheDrugWar.org.

Dean Becker: Phil, you tour the nation and in fact the world investigating some of these stories, do you not?

Phil Smith: That is correct.

Dean Becker: You made a tour to Afghanistan, it’s what, been about a year and a half ago?

Phil Smith: In October, 2005.

Dean Becker: It hasn’t changed much over there, has it?

Phil Smith: Well, except for the worse. There’s more opium production now then when I was there in 2005. 2005 was a record year, 2006 was a record year, 2007 was a record year. It looks like 2008 is going to be another record year.

Dean Becker: Yeah, record years for who? That’s the real question here. I understand that, I think it was Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Drugs and Crime office, was quoted as saying it was a $4 billion dollar per year industry in Afghanistan. That’s what they took in over there and that the farmers only made about one billion of that amount. Who’s getting the other three billion?

Phil Smith: Well, that’s a good question. Some of it is undoubtedly flowing to people like the Taliban and Al-Qaeda which buys them lots of shiny new weapons and things like that. Some of it is flowing into people who are part of the Afghanistan government. When I was in Kabul you could see all these nice new mansions rising on the outskirts of the city and opium is just about the only industry in the country.

Seriously it accounts for about half of the gross national product so the farmers are getting some share of it, rebels, Taliban folks are getting part of it, corrupt functionaries in the Afghan government are getting part of it, and of course, drug traders between Afghanistan and Europe are profiting as well.

Dean Becker: And yet it continues to be ignored for the most part by politicians at any level, certainly in the United States, right?

Phil Smith: Well, it’s a very difficult problem for the U.S. and NATO in Afghanistan. They have a real fundamental contradiction. It’s like they can have their drug war or they can have their war on the Taliban, but if they try to prosecute both at the same time it just gets worse and worse.

If they go after the opium planting farmers, the millions of Afghans who are dependent on the poppy for a living, if they destroy their crops they just push them into the waiting arms of the Taliban.

The Taliban is running around handing out flyers with cell phone numbers saying ‘is the government trying to eradicate your crops? Give us a call.’ So, on the one hand if we attempt an aggressive eradication campaign we drive the population into the hands of our foes.

On the other hand, if we do nothing we see a huge opium crop that seemingly gets bigger every year. It’s a real conundrum for the west. No one has a good answer for it.

Dean Becker: It is the LEAP mentality, you know, let’s destroy the Talibans’ cash cow by making drugs legal, controlling and actually making it possible for adults to use them responsibly.

Phil Smith: Well, there actually is a proposal to legitimize the Afghan opium crop to bring it into the legitimate medicinal market. In many parts of the world people in pain are not able to afford opioid pain medications which are the best pain killers there are.

And so there is some argument about how much of a global shortage of opiod pain relievers there are, but clearly there is some shortage. The European defense and drug issue think tank the Senlis Council has proposed, as I said, licensing Afghan farmers to grow opium and diverting it from the black market into the licit medicinal market.

Dean Becker: I want to talk about the need for free and independent media. The fact is that’s what you and I both do, is try to give a, I’m not going to say a balance, to give an open discussion to this problem. To bring forward solutions that, as I said earlier, never get coverage in the main media, never get the focus of the politicians.

Let’s talk about the free and independent media of Stop the Drug War and of the Chronicle, the articles you write. You guys have been at it for how long?

Phil Smith: Since 1994. My boss, Dave Borden, is really one of the pioneers of using the internet for political activism. He helped create some of the first email drug policy reform lists back a decade ago. And we’ve been at it ever since. We just keep growing and growing.

Dean Becker: That’s the bonus out of all of this. It may be that we’re underpaid or not paid, in my case, and under-recognized but the recognition grows and the awareness that there is substance, there is some validity to what we’ve been bringing forward.

Phil Smith: Just as you see the blogosphere having an impact on the Presidential campaign, the new media of which you and I are both part is having an impact on the more traditional media. It’s making the more traditional media take a second look at some issues and it is also providing an alternative.

People don’t have to read the New York Times, although I encourage them to do so, to find out about drug policy or they don’t have to read the Houston Chronicle although I encourage them to do so. They can come to Stop The Drug War dot org and read the Drug War Chronicle. They can go to the Drug Truth Network. What we are doing is providing more information resources for people and that’s a good thing.

Dean Becker: Indeed it is. Phil, we’re going to be back in one minute.

It’s time to play Who Wants to be a Billionaire.

From the Mexican Gulf Cartel we have Mr. Anonymous. From the top Colombian cartels we have Mr. Unknown. In order to win this railroad car packed with hundred dollar bills all you have to do is connive, corrupt sufficient numbers of officials and kill enough of your allies and friends to claim these ‘dead presidents.’

There are no rules, no laws, and no way the government can ever stop your efforts. Ready?


(Sounds of warfare)

Everyone’s a winner!


We do have with us Mr. Phil Smith from Stop the Drug War. Phil, you have done for us, over the years, numerous corrupt cop stories of the week and it goes on and on. I was talking last week about the fact that, if we could take all the corrupt cops and have them all busted on one day, the drug war would be over.

Phil Smith: (laughter) That would be one big bust.

Dean Becker: Yeah it would, it would be enormous. But I guess that the point is that it continues. Just yesterday we had a settlement here in Houston, $1.7 million for the Harris County Sheriffs, I don’t know, Harris County anyway’s paying it, because the Sheriffs violated the rights of people during a drug bust. They took their film and their cameras and charged them with resisting arrest. It just goes on and on, does it not?

Phil Smith: That’s going to be an entry in my Corrupt Cop feature this week. Last week I had a story out of Brownsville where you had a guy who was a court bailiff in Cameron County, well, he got arrested for selling cocaine and selling high powered weapons to Mexico’s Gulf Cartel.

Dean Becker: A two way trade there, yeah.

Phil Smith: The old export/import I guess.

Dean Becker: Making plenty of money I’m sure.

Phil Smith: And that’s just one of the stories that I did last week. I did four stories last week. I do four or five or six every week without fail. Those are hundreds of cases every year of law enforcement officials corrupted by the drug war and of course they don’t even address things like the systemic corruption that is the drug war.

Dean Becker: The ‘testalying’ in court...

Phil Smith: Yeah, all of that stuff.

Dean Becker: We do have with us via telephone from, is it North Dakota?

Phil Smith: South Dakota.

Dean Becker: South Dakota, Mr. Phil Smith. Phil, we played that track a while ago ‘Who Wants to be a Billionaire?’ and that game goes on still, does it not?

Phil Smith: Everyday.

Dean Becker: Everyday. Now, you’re planning a trip to Mexico here in the next month or two, is that right?

Phil Smith: In April. I was down on the border, in Reynosa down on the lower Rio Grande valley a few weeks ago. I was down there looking at the situation on the ground where the Mexican president Calderone had called in the troops into Reynosa and other cities along the border there.

Because of the violence associated with drug prohibition you’ve got those cartels that are rich off prohibition and they are well armed. They include former members of the Mexican police and security forces and some of them are very nasty folks. They’ve attacked police and soldiers in Reynosa.

There are hundreds of people that have died already this year in prohibition-related violence in Mexico. So yeah, I was down on the border for a week checking it out. Had some issues with the Mexican government regarding my vehicle so instead of driving into Mexico I had to turn around an come back north and I will fly to Mexico City in April and spend a week in Mexico City talking to various politicians, experts and activists there.

And then I hope to either go to Guerrero to talk with opium farmers there, Afghanistan isn’t the only place where they’re growing the poppy, or to Sianola to talk with marijuana producers there. Sianola would be especially interesting and it’s sort of, well, it’s home of one of the cartels.

It’s traditionally been a drug producing and drug trafficking state in Mexico for decades now. It is also home to the shrine to Jesus Malverde, the patron saint of drug traffickers. He’s not officially recognized by the Catholic Church but a lot of people pay attention to him down there. I think I’ll go visit his shrine and check that out.

Dean Becker: And I think it important that we realize that this ongoing real war in Mexico has killed hundreds of people, I think it was a thousand plus last year, right?

Phil Smith: Nearly two thousand last year. About two thousand the year before that. The violence has increased in the last two and a half years, since the last time a Mexican President unleashed an offensive against the traffickers.
This happens every few years. For about 25 years Mexico’s cartels have grown obscenely wealthy trafficking Colombian cocaine to supply the insatiable appetite here in the North and every once in a while the Mexican government gets upset and attempts to go on the offensive against the cartels and it seems to always lead to more violence.

You would think they would try something different eventually but they haven’t reached that point yet.

Dean Becker: This war in Mexico, as you say, was kind of ramped up via the wishes of the new President and, as you say, they do that every-time one is elected. And they do it to garner favor with the United States.

Another situation that’s developing, I think in the last day or two, the nation of Jamaica is once again starting to indicate they might legalize marijuana and I can’t help but think this is just a blackmail ploy in order to get more funding from the United States. What’s your thoughts about those parameters?

Phil Smith: There’s real sentiment in Jamaica to legalize marijuana. They had a commission back in, I think it was 2003, that basically concluded that’s what should be done.

At that point there were very ominous statements coming out of the U.S. embassy in Kingston warning about cuts in development aid and things like that if Jamaica had the nerve to actually decide on its own marijuana policy. And at that point the Jamaican government backed off.

Now, whether at this point they are merely doing this as a maneuver I don’t know. As I said, there is real sentiment in Jamaica to legalize it. There are a lot of Rastafarians there who smoke it as a sacrament. It seems to be fairly widely culturally accepted there.

So I don’t know if this is a ploy or if it really reflects the sentiments of the Jamaican people. I suspect, sadly, that nothing is going to happen, that the status quo will remain the same for the foreseeable future in Jamaica because of the looming presence of the United States stopping them from making any kind of reforms like that.

Dean Becker: Alright. Once again, we’re talking with Mr. Phil Smith of DRCnet.org is one of your organizations, right?

Phil Smith: It’s drcnet.org.

Dean Becker: And the other is...

Phil Smith: Stop The Drug War dot org.

Dean Becker: ...and look folks. If you’re a long time listener you understand the drug war’s a hoax, a fraud, a failure. And to change this it’s going to necessitate you getting a little more educated, a little more emboldened to participate in helping to make that change happen.

Phil, I’ll tell you what. We’re going to be back in touch with you over the coming months, certainly try to follow your trek into Mexico and get some live reports from you while you’re down there...

Phil Smith: I’d love to do that, Dean.

Dean Becker: ...and maybe one day I’ll get the courage to go down there with you but it just scares the bejeebers out of me.

Phil Smith. Well, as I always said, in the 1980s I was reporting on the various wars in Central America and people always said ‘aren’t you scared to go down there?’ And my retort was ‘at least I’m not going to Houston.’

Dean Becker: (laughter) Alright, with that we’re going to let you go for now. Phil, we thank you so much for the work you do, Sir.

Phil Smith: Thank you.

Dean Becker: Alright, Sir. Bye-bye.

Dean Becker: Alright and now for something completely different.

Al Byrne: My name is Al Byrne. I’m the cofounder of an organization called Patients Out Of Time, an educational charity that is chartered to educate doctors, nurses and the U.S. public about therapeutic cannabis use.

Dean Becker: Well, Al, there’s a very powerful get-together, a convention if you will, coming up early next month.

Al Byrne: I appreciate the description. Yeah, I think it is a powerful meeting. This will be the fifth National Conference of Cannabis Therapeutics that deals with clinical issues. So what we tend to attract are patients, doctors, nurses that are in actual practice of medicine with various ailments that cannabis seems to alleviate the problems of.

And, in what we’ve done now, again this is the fifth time, we’ve assembled an international cast of characters, if you will, people that are researchers and scientists that specialize in cannabis research.

We have some coming from the Netherlands, from Spain, from Canada, from, of course, the United States and they’re going to discuss their research about how, for instance, Dr. Guzman coming from Spain has discovered that the injection of a cannabis tincture into certain types of brain tumors shrinks the tumors to non-existence. That’s pretty interesting science.

And we need to all hear that and understand that’s it is out there and not be so centered on only U.S. science. The conference tends to bring together folks of that caliber and then we mix it up with actual honest to God people, patients who use the cannabis as a therapeutic substance for all sorts of things, from emotional uses to post-polio to the more well known uses as an anti-emetic and so on.

I think it is powerful in that our sponsorship has been of the class A act. For instance, this conference is cosponsored by the California Nurses Association and the School of Medicine of the University of California at San Francisco.

In addition, the medical doctors and nurses and other professionals that would attend this conference will be awarded continuing education credits for their attendance. Meaning that for nurses, the American Nurses Association has blessed our work with the ability to give college level courses, if you will, or professional level courses to nurses and the American Medical Association has done the same, has said our work is equal to the continuing education credentials necessary for a medical doctor.

And their statements of fact in an accredited body of their peers will stand in direct conflict with the position of the United States government that cannabis is not a medicine.

Dean Becker: Al, we have over the years felt rather frustrated, I suppose, by the fact that the government agents go around the country saying ‘there is no legitimate scientific use. It has no backing by the medical establishment’ but just within the past two weeks the American Academy of Physicians, some 124,000 member strong, kind of gave them a slap across the face, did they not?

Al Byrne: They sure did. They said that the American government has not read the IOM report, the Institute of Medicine’s report that the federal government asked for in 1982 and again in the latter 90s which said the same thing that the College of Physicians said: that cannabis is indeed medicine, people who use it or help people use it like doctors and nurses prescribing it for certain illnesses should not be treated as criminals, they should treated as professional health care people who are trying their best to alleviate a problem.

The federal government is totally out of line here with science, with research, with other countries in the world. Totally out of line.

Dean Becker: I was rather astounded to see that one of the doctors that will be addressing this gathering is Dr. Donald Tashkin, the man who set out a couple years ago to prove just how dangerous marijuana was, how it was a respiratory threat, and came to some startling conclusions in quite the opposite direction, right?

Al Byrne: Right. Dr. Tashkin is actually the Medical Director of the Pulmonary Function Laboratory. He’s a professor of medicine at the University of California in Los Angeles. And, as such, over a two-decade period he has studied a number of people, in the thousands of people, I don’t want to give out the number, it would be wrong, but it’s in the thousands of people.

And you’re right. He was funded by the United States Government who is notorious for only funding research, during the period of time that we’re talking about, that showed that cannabis might have a negative effect on the human system, in this case the pulmonary system, the lungs. Dr. Tashkin’s research over these two decades has shown exactly the opposite. He will present this at the conference and we have him as a keynote speaker.

When I started in this endeavor decades ago, yeah, I thought it was pretty good stuff, cannabis. But I had no idea how good it really was. And the science and the research continually supports the notion that this is not only a very, very powerful effective medicine, it is also the safest medicine one person could ever take.

So that combination, those two facts right there are overwhelming any of the government positions. In fact, there’s a lot of myths about marijuana but I think maybe one of the biggest myths is that the United States government has ever said a true thing about medical marijuana.

Dean: How true that is. Now where is this conference going to be?

Al Byrne: It’s going to be at a conference grounds called Asilomar which is on, in Pacific Grove, California. It will be held just in about a month, Dean, it will be April 4 and 5, 2008. That is Asilomar, Pacific Grove which is on the Monterey Peninsula.

There are different prices for doctors, for nurses, and for others which are patients and students and stuff. Not really an expensive trip. The information, all of it, faculty, agenda, how to get a room, how to get there is at www.MedicalCannabis.com. I hope you’d at least all check in on that web page, even if you don’t intend to come to the conference. There’s some very good information there.

Dean: I will be attending that event and I want to recommend it to folks that you learn so much, that, as you said, you said you knew for years that it was good but you didn’t know how good the positive effects of cannabis could be.

Al Byrne: Yeah. You’re right. I think the big word there is ‘learn’ that you used. We have a mission to be an educational corporation and that’s what we try to do. When people leave this conference that’s the word they use, ‘I feel so good and I learned so much.’ So we’re going to push on with this. We’ve expect, probably, well over 450 attendees.

Dean Becker: Alright. One thing that we didn’t address that I think folks should know about. You have worked over the years, I guess now over the decades, with the Compassionate Use Act patients. Tell the folks about that group. There’s only five left now, as I understand, but who are they?

Al Byrne: The Investigational New Drug program for cannabis, the patients that have been involved in that program are on our leadership. They’re on our board of directors. Actually the remaining patients that are left alive are Barbara Douglass, Irv Rosenfeld, George McMahon, and Elvy Musikka. Unfortunately, the fifth of these patients who is left alive, Corrine Millet passed in the fall of last year.

Corrine was a founding member of our organization (Patients Out Of Time). She was a founding director and forever she will stand up in my memory in the movie we made that included all these wonderful patients called ‘Marijuana is Medicine’ sitting there and looking at the camera and saying ‘you know, I’m just not afraid of a plant.’

But the remaining patients carry on. Irv and Elvy will be at the conference. They will be addressing the conference. I would like to point out to your listeners that this conference will be videotaped. And it will be available on Google video as are the videos of other presentations from other conferences and we hope you will look at these videos that we’re going to make in Monterey and the ones we have already made in previous conferences and let everyone know they’re there.

When the government says ‘there is no science’ about cannabis and pregnancy you can go to Google and search Patients Out Of Time and see Dean Dreher of Rush University, a PHD and a R.N., addressing her studies over thirty years of cannabis and pregnancy.

When you hear the government say that ‘there is no use for cannabis’ for children with ADD or ADHD you can go to Google, search Patients Out Of Time and see Christopher Largen express his use of cannabis as a two-year old. You can hear Dr. David Bearman talk about his studies on that subject. It’s all there, folks. The federal government probably hasn’t been to our website but maybe after tonight, Dean, they’ll go.

Dean Becker: One more time, give them your website so folks can educate themselves in this regard.

Al Byrne: Www.MedicalCannabis.Com. Go there, read what we’ve done, what we want to do, check out the wonderful organizations that we link to and then go out and do something. I want to let the folks know that this conference, they can also find the details at MedicalCannabis.Com, is closing fast.

If you want to go you better sign up and register very quickly. I think we’re going to be sold out and the numbers going to be large so we’re going to be sold out, so please, if you have an interest in this, get involved. If you think your doctor or nurse should go then tell them about it and tell them they’ve go to register very quickly or it’s going to be another two years before this event can come again.

Thanks a lot for your help. Please spread the word on what we do. MedicalCannabis.Com. It’s all there, all the information is there.

Dean Becker: I want to thank Al Byrne for that excellent discussion and you listeners can bet we’ll be carrying audio from this conference next month. Be sure to tune into this week’s Cultural Baggage when our guest will be Catherine Austin Fitts. We’ll be talking about the economics of this drug war.

The pledge drive is soon over at the mothership. We’ll be back to regular programming again soon. And always I remind you that there is no truth, justice, logic, scientific fact, no medical data, in fact no reason for this drug war to exist. We’ve been duped. The drug lords run both sides of this equation. Please do your part to help end this madness. Visit our website, EndProhibition.org.

Prohibido istac evilesco.

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition, The Century of Lies. This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.

Transcript provided by Gee-Whiz Transcripts. Email: glenncg@zoominternet.net