10/13/13 Sunil Aggarwal

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Dr. Sunil Aggarwal re latest advances in medical marijuana + George Carlin & John Stewart, Doug McVay report on Krokodil the deadly new drug

Audio file


Cultural Baggage / October 13, 2013



DEAN BECKER: Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

“It’s not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally Un-American.”

“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”
“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”

DEAN BECKER: My Name is Dean Becker. I don’t condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on Eternal Drug War.


DEAN BECKER: Hello my friends. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. I am Dean Becker, your host/engineer today. Here in just a little bit we hope to bring in our guest, Dr. Sunil Aggarwal. We’re going to talk to him extensively about the science of that coming forward about the use of the cannabis plant and some other drug war news.

I want to point out that we are in pledge drive at this time. We need your support. Last week we fell right on our face – damn near broke our nose. I got a little bit of a bone to pick here. I know there are millionares out there who have benfitted in the last few years through the improvement of our nation’s drug laws and I would ask them to pick up the phone and call us right now. You can afford, with one pledge, to help us meet our goal. It’s not that substantial and we would really love to hear from you in this regard.

Until we can get our guest on air I’m going to play this segment. This would be a good time for you to give us a call, please – as if you wouldn’t recognize who’s speaking. It’s George Carlin and John Stewart.


JOHN STEWART: People who deal in content that’s on the edge as you do often live a life that is similarly on the edge and a lot of those people go off the rails and we lose them and their talent. You’ve been able to not do that and been able to pull it in.

GEORGE CARLIN: You gotta have luck in this world. Part of it is your genetic makeup – that’s luck – and what you do with it is also genetic because hard work is genetic. The desire to do hard work, the willingness to be determined and not be turned aside – that’s all genetic too.

It can be altered a little, reinforced but some of the people who had so much edgy promise and died young...Lenny Bruce, Sam Kinison, Andy Kaufman in his way...Freddie Prince, John Belushi, Bill Hicks...of course Bill had a natural disorder of his own and I think so did Andy but it’s not always behavior.

I think there’s a degree of luck and intellect involved in giving up things that hurt you. The drug and alcohol thing seems to me comes down to this...Drugs and these things are wonderful. They’re wonderful when you try them first. There not around for all these millinea for no reason.

First time – mostly pleasure, very little pain – maybe a hangover. As you increase and keep using whatever it is the pleasure part decreases and the pain part (the price you pay) increases until the balance is completely the other way and it’s almost all pain and hardly any pleasure. At that point you would hope that the intellect says, “Oh, this doesn’t work anymore. I’m going to die.”

You need to have people around you who can help you and you need something to live for. You have to have something to look forward to to bring you out of ...because, you know, a lot of people don’t have a lot to live for and they’re sort of stuck in ...

JOHN STEWART: Was there ever any fear that by giving up the drugs you would lose a bit of the genius?

GEORGE CARLIN: That has been a kanard for a long time that most of this creativity comes from being wacky and I’m sure there is a lot of truth in that as far as just being plain old wacky. Where the drugs are concerned and alcohol they do seem to open a window for you. They do seem to broaden the vistas at first.

The thing you have to do is learn when ... It’s like all these great writers who became drinkers. I find like with pot ...I’m not a big drug user anymore but I have always a joint somewhere near me.

[audience laughter]

It might be hidden. I hardly touch it – maybe once a month – that would be frequent for me but when I’m writing something and I write perfectly straight, perfectly sober about 6,7, 8, 9 pages and I’m really pouring it out the next day ...one hit is all I need now, one hit and it’s punch up time.

[audience laughter]

Time to get this thing going. And you do find with that sort of judicious use there’s some value in it but most of the things we use don’t let you leave them alone – they don’t. Pot does – thank goodness for that.


DEAN BECKER: Alright, George Carlin, always good to hear from the master. We’re having a little difficulty reaching our guest. Hopefully, maybe he called into the pledge line and left his number – I would hope so. In the meantime it is pledge time. We need your support.

We’ve been doing this...today we’re starting our 13th year of reporting on this drug war. Vast improvements over that time. A lot of people stepping forward who never did before including the U.S. Attorney General and his deputy, a lot of U.S. senators and congressmen and many others who have spoken this truth knowing that it will help their career rather than hinder them.

Therefore I would ask you to show your support for what we have done, what we have been a part of. Folks, we need to hear from you. Please show your support for what we do.


DOUG McVAY: A drug which was first used in Russia has become news in the US.

Krokodil is an opiate drug synthesized from codeine. Krokodil is reported to be relatively easy to produce. Here's an overly simplified explanation: Codeine is extracted from painkiller tablets using solvents like gasoline and strong alkalis. That's mixed with acidified water, allowed to set and separate, then the powder residue is treated with more harsh, toxic chemicals and refined. The goal is to create what's called Desomorphine, which is an opiate that is reportedly shorter-acting than heroin yet more powerful and with a higher toxicity. If these cooks were consistently successful in creating real, pure desomorphine, this would be a different discussion.

Krokodil is a relatively new phenomenon. Fortunately, there are some reputable sources which discuss it, as revealed in a new article in the International Journal of Drug Policy by Jean-Paul Grund, Alisher Latypov, and Magdalena Harris, titled "Breaking worse: The emergence of krokodil and excessive injuries among people who inject drugs in Eurasia ."

According to the authors, quote:

"Krokodil, a homemade injectable opioid, gained its moniker from the excessive harms associated with its use, such as ulcerations, amputations and discolored scale-like skin. While a relatively new phenomenon, krokodil use is prevalent in Russia and the Ukraine, with at least 100,000 and around 20,000 people respectively estimated to have injected the drug in 2011."

End quote. They found that, quote:

"Krokodil production emerged in an atypical homemade drug production and injecting risk environment that predates the fall of communism. Made from codeine, the active ingredient is reportedly desomorphine, but given the rudimentary 'laboratory' conditions the solution injected may include various opioid alkaloids as well as high concentrations of processing chemicals, responsible for the localized and systemic injuries reported here. Links between health care and law enforcement, stigma and maltreatment by medical providers are likely to thwart users seeking timely medical help. "

End quote. Among their conclusions, the authors urge that, quote:

"A comprehensive response to the emergence of krokodil and associated harms should focus both on the substance itself and its rudimentary production methods, as well as on its micro and macro risk environments that of the on-going syndemic of drug injecting, HIV, HCV, TB and STIs in the region and the recent upheaval in local and international heroin supply. The feasibility of harm reduction strategies for people who inject krokodil may depend more on political will than on the practical implementation of interventions. The legal status of opioid substitution treatment in Russia is a case in point. "

End quote. You can find more information about Russian drug policy and about Krokodil at Drug War Facts dot org.

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay with Common Sense for Drug Policy and Drug War Facts.


DEAN BECKER: Alright, thank you Doug. We have been ignorant in our drug war policies over the decades, over basically this last century. We’re going to be right back. We do have our guest, Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, right after this message.


It’s time to play: "Name That Drug - By It’s Side Effects!"

Agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, face chomping, lip eating, brain slurping, ecstasy, suicide, zombieism….


Time’s up! The answer according to law enforcement from some crazy-ass chemist somewhere – methedrone, otherwise known as bath salts.


DEAN BECKER: There’s a lot of crazy drugs out there. I do want to bring in our guest now. He is Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, board member of Americans for Safe Access and a resident physician at a large academic medical center in New York City.

How are you doing, Sunil?

SUNIL AGGARWAL: Hey Dean. I’m doing great. How about yourself this weekend?

DEAN BECKER: Ah, just frazziled. Trying to raise money, trying to be my own engineer. You know how it goes.

Tell the folks about what you’ve been doing. You’ve been probably busier than me during the last 10 years delving into this drug war especially medical marijuana right?

SUNIL AGGARWAL: That’s right. I’m a product of the American government’s funding actually. After I graduated from college I got a National Institute of Health training grant to complete a MD and PhD degree. They wanted to train physician scientist to help bridge the gap between research and clinical practice in the U.S. so they let some of us who had an aptitude for science and wanted to help people to get these kind of positions.

I went to the University of Washington and decided to do my research on cannabis, medical marijuana because I saw there was a huge gap between the science and the clinical practice and also I was very much interested in the fact that people were getting very severely hurt because of the way our society has treated this substance...cannabis/marijuana to be so dangerous that it can’t be safely used under medical supervision, that it’s so high-potential for abuse, all those things.

I really wanted to look into it using a scientific perspective, studying actual patients, reviewing medical records. The last few years I completed up that research. I studied about 176 medical marijuana patients. I brought my research to the American Medical Association and encouraged them to change their position on the drug.

There’s been some successes. There’s been more research published. I’m pretty happy about that but I’m still up against a position where the government does not recognize the medical value – at least not in the way that we want it. That’s a whole other story.

Right now I’m in physical medicine rehab training and I’m going to be doing a training ultimately at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. Hopefully by the time I’m done I’ll be able to continue to raise the flag for scientific sanity to basically improve health by recognizing that marijuana/cannabis can be safely used as a medicine and should be and, in fact, if we are really smart about it we can potentially develop a whole new form of medicine.

DEAN BECKER: Dr. Sunil, I don’t know if you ever were able to hear the beginning of the show but I was talking about the unfolding or the disintegration of the mechanism of this drug war, how it’s beginning to be recognized here and there. I talked about Eric Holder and his deputy, the senate hearings of recent times...people are beginning to broach this subject and I think it’s in recognition of the good work of folks like you.

SUNIL AGGARWAL: That’s fantastic. I’m just standing on the shoulders of people before me as well. If it hadn’t been for mentors and folks who let me explore the questions that interested me, that allowed me to ask difficult questions, that let me study human subjects I wouldn’t be able to have done much of this.

Frankly, I had friends in college who helped me to challenge my own views. I’m from Oklahoma, the “bible belt” where we were taught that marijuana was very bad and it will destroy your brain, stay away from them, not to mention they’ll throw you in jail for a long time especially if you’re a minority.

It was only because people in my college said, “Hey, are you really sure about that? Check it out.”

So, OK, try something new and you find out, my goodness, it wasn’t true. There is positive ways you can actually use this. Why have we been told so much lies for so long?

In fact it turns out there is a whole new signaling system in the brain and nervous system that we discovered by researching this substance. So that’s what happens when we get these ridiculous prohibitions. We decide to stay, as you said, ignorant.

Now we have a situation where (and this is something I shared with you last week) essentially the government has said, “Alright, there is a medical value in cannabis but we want to make sure that it is controlled in the way that we want it to be controlled.”

That is to say through international/multinational pharmaceutical companies who will bring it into this country in an extraction form that they can then test and have it at your local drug store – very much different than the model that your listeners will probably imagine which is about local production in the state of Texas or the state of Oklahoma or the state of Michigan having marijuana produced locally to develop local medicine systems that people can cheaply afford and also maximize the genetic variety of cannabis that is available...no, no, it’s all about the other approach - a few types available, sold at high profit that you can’t reproduce yourself.

That’s unfortunately what’s happening. Now all these companies have gotten to a point ... of course they’re traded on Wall Street, they’ve teamed up with the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world like Bayer. I’m not saying the work of developing pharmaceuticals doesn’t reach a lot of people but it can be a very expensive model and very much out of the control of local people.

They’ve been approved in 20+ countries but because people discovered... Dr. Sanjay Gupta (and I know you aired him) he showed that cannabis can help to stop seizures in children with severe seizure disorders. That’s not a big surprise for those of us who have been studying the science of cannabis - actually the western literature first described it in 1838, the use of cannabis to stop seizures and severe spasms/convulsions.

Dr. Gupta...maybe he didn’t get that training in school because he went to neurosurgery training and all that science had been taken out of the curriculum. When he saw it again in Colorado – thanks to local cannabis medical systems that set up there by people who decided that we needed to develop different strains to help children out with certain other types of cannabinoids in them – that’s how it was able to work out and this girl was able to go from death’s door to having a life riding horses and increasing her knowledge and do all the normal things a little girl should as opposed to suffering from a disorder.

DEAN BECKER: Let me interrupt here right quick.

Again, we’re speaking with Dr. Sunil Aggarwal. I got a couple of points I want to include in what you were just saying there but I also want to alert the listeners that we are in pledge drive, we would love to hear from you. If you like the flow of information, the truth that you get from this program.

Let’s see if Robin has anything to say. Robin, are you there?

ROBIN: Yes, we have some people to thank out here.

DEAN BECKER: Wonderful. Give us a summary, please.

ROBIN: Thank Douglas from Portland, Oregon. Andrew Bend’s father from Winchester has called in his pledge. We’d like to thank Daniel and Randall who have donated to Cultural Bagged. We’re off to a pretty good start.

DEAN BECKER: Better than last week. I want to thank each and every one of you. I was rather depressed this whole week.

We do have with us Dr. Sunil Aggarwal. Dr. Aggarwal was talking about the corporate-ization of the marijuana industry. I was thinking about the control of the flow. It’s kind of like the “Monsanto-ing” of marijuana – what do you think?

SUNIL AGGARWAL: Well, yeah. Monsanto was all about, “If you end up getting our seeds accidentally in your garden you have to start paying us.”

This is more like, “We’re not even going to give you access to the seeds. We’re going to give you something that we’ve produced from the seeds. We won’t allow you to do it. In fact, if you start trying to get into the seed business we’ll take you to jail but our friends in high places....we’ll let them have access to massive seed libraries and let them produce in their greenhouses and we’ll just get the final product after they have cleaned it up and extracted.”

At a huge markup, I might add.

DEAN BECKER: Tell us about that Sativex. What’s the cost on that sprayer?

SUNIL AGGARWAL: It depends on what country you are in. We don’t have a price point here in the U.S. yet.

What happened is after the show on CNN came out showing that children with severe seizure disorders could benefit from cannabis extractions this company which is the only big player in town is getting cannabis extractions into countries and got flooded with requests because they are also trying to conduct a clinical trial with cannabis extraction in children which is wonderful. I’m glad to see that but instead of helping other people in states where they don’t have programs developed and produce their own cannabis medicines like the girl in the video was able to do instead the company said, “We’ll sell you our extract if you can get your doctor to agree to it. We’ll ship you our extract straight from the UK. It will be free for the first three months to see if it works and after that it’ll be a couple thousand dollars a month.”

I can’t remember how many few thousands of dollars but it was something that people would really not generally be able to afford unless they are wealthy or have some kind of insurance offset.

Then they released a second memo saying, “We won’t mention a price. We’ll just work that out later on because we’re not supposed to make money off of this thing just yet because it is unapproved, etc., etc.”

The point is it’s already begun. You can now buy cannabis extract if your doctor and a local hospital that your child goes to in any of the 50 states...if they have a severe disorder like this they can write to the company, the Gervase Foundation in which a charity is set up to support these kind of children who have severe seizure disorders, they release the memo to everybody explaining how to do this.

That’s wonderful to be able to have access to cannabis medicines to help people with severe neurological disorders who near the end of their pharmaceutical rope but it’s not right that only one private company can sell it to you from thousands of miles away when it could so much more cheaply be produced right here.

That’s what I’m calling the pharmaceuticalization, the corportatization of medical marijuana. That’s a term that was coined by Dr. Grinspoon who was a professor at Harvard and has been one of the sort of “grandfathers” of this movement.

It’s amazing that today we can see that happening. It’s no longer a question of whether or not marijuana is medically useful. I think the government has said, “Yeah, it is but we’re not going to let you take care of your own health. We’re going to make sure you get it through our corporate partners.”

DEAN BECKER: Let me interject this thought that in that same CNN report with Sanjay Gupta they showed the Stanley brothers who had this high CBD product. They couldn’t hardly sell it. Nobody wanted it because it didn’t prevent pain but they found that it did work for that little girl and for 40 or more other children with that syndrome up there in Colorado and they gave it away because the extracts of the CBD was otherwise basically worthless. Your thought there, Dr. Aggarwal?

SUNIL AGGARWAL: I think there are going to be uses of CBD extract that people still haven’t discovered yet. I think for preventative medicine – wow – we’ve shown that the leading cause of blindness in the United States which is diabetic retinopathy can be prevented with CBD doses in animal studies but I have a strong feeling that it would work out in humans as well.

CBD is a very interesting compound. It’s neuro-protective. It’s not psychoactive. It can also be potentially be helpful for pain syndromes as well.

In order to get these kinds of cannabis medicines around you have to have a large genetic pool. It’s like everybody is interested in different species of dogs but if your dog pound locally or your dog store where you buy pets only has a certain type of species of dog then you’re not going to be able to find that pet around and you won’t have the kind of animal that you want.

The same things with cannabis. There’s more genetic diversion in cannabis than there is with the species of dogs so it’s all about being able to share the strains from around the world and experiment. Luckily this company got a head start because they bought the entire see library that was collected for many years in Amsterdam by two Americans actually who had fled the country (one botanists, one chemist) who fled the country because they were fugitives a little bit.

They were able to build a massive library from seeds around the world and then they sold it to the company so they got a nice head start. I think the Stanley brothers were able to find something in their local environment and research out...they were probably reading about something that would be worth looking into and ...it just so happened those were 5 guys from Oklahoma actually. They were born and raised and they came out to Colorado and have really made a huge difference in people’s lives.

Josh Stanley told me that they wanted to see themselves as the Salvation Army of medical marijuana. They wanted to have a much more charity-based approach. That’s what’s possible with plant medicines. We can focus on the healing value rather than lining the pockets of our venture capital investors or our shareholders which is the other model.

DEAN BECKER: We are running out of time. I want to give you a chance to point folks to a website you might recommend.

SUNIL AGGARWAL: Your listeners can go to http://cannabinergy.com and they can look at more of my videos and papers and links to other sites.

I appreciate you having me, Dean, and good luck with the pledge drive.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you Dr. Sunil Aggarwal.

Folks I urge you to check out his website. A lot of information there that we all could learn from, benefit from.

I want to now go out to pledge central and see if Robin has some thoughts to share.

ROBIN: I was just telling you that the phones have been a little quiet since that flurry we had at the begging of the half hour but it’s still not too late for you to make your call, to make your pledge. It’s only 90 seconds max and it goes a long way to keeping Cultural Baggage floating and KPFT afloat also.

DEAN BECKER: You know these plans are beneficial. They educate people who heretofore had been drug warriors, who had felt it necessary to kick you in the head and take your stuff. We got to stop that. We got to turn this back to the real America – the one where people still have rights and liberties that haven’t been squashed or stymied by the theory of eternal drug war.

I want to thank Dr. Sunil Aggarwal for his fine points he made. I want to recommend that you visit his site, educated yourself, embolden your efforts, step up to the plate and inform your politicians that your no longer going to take the BS, that the time of eternal drug war is over and that it is time to do something else.


DEAN BECKER: I want to send semi-apologies to all the affiliate stations that are carrying this show. I’ve never before done a pitch to your listeners for my shows but we really could use the help from people all across North America this time to meet our goal. To do it go to http://kpft.org – select “Donate Now”, select “What card type”, select “Cultural Baggage” from that dropdown menu, select the amount you wish to pledge – any amount is wonderful – and then you have to indicate how you want to pay by “one time payment”, “monthly withdrawals” or spread it over a year.

I urge you to please show your support for what we do here.

As always I remind you that because of prohibition you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please, be careful.


DEAN BECKER: To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.

Drug Truth Network archives are stored at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Policy Studies.

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org