12/22/13 Robert Clarke

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Christmas show with Robert Clarke co-author Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany, Tony Newman with Top 10 Drug Stories of 2013, Richard Lee of Oaksterdam re Xmas day toy giveaway at Houston jail

Audio file


Cultural Baggage / December 22, 2013


DEAN BECKER: Hi, this is Dean Becker. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. Let’s get to it.


DEAN BECKER: The awareness of the potential of the cannabis plant is becoming widely known, shared by politicians, doctors and scientists but we have a new book that’s on the scene now, “Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany.” It’s co-authored by Mark Murray and our guest today, Mr. Robert Clarke. How are you, sir?

ROBERT CLARKE: I’m good. How are you today?

DEAN BECKER: I’m good. This is not your first book, your first delving into the botany of the cannabis plant, correct?

ROBERT CLARKE: Correct. I’ve written two books. “Marijuana Botany” is the one best known for studying the botanical aspects of the cannabis plant. It came out in 1981. In 1998 “Hashish” which was a book about the history and production of traditional hashish.

DEAN BECKER: If you don’t mind I’m going to call you Rob. This plant has been more and more recognized for its potential over past decades going back to the fact that prior to its prohibition it was known as cannabis not marijuana and was a widely used medicine, correct?

ROBERT CLARKE: Absolutely – widely used medicinally and much in the same ways that it’s being rediscovered today and also as a really important food and fiber crop. The edible seeds have a very high protein content, high essential fatty acid content and really strong fibers used for industrial and clothing uses for millieum.

DEAN BECKER: The first chapter deals with the early human contact and usage of the plant. Do you want to talk about the beginning there?

ROBERT CLARKE: Of course this is pre-history. We have a lot of historical records but beyond historical record is mostly hypothesizing what would be the first contacts with humans where they would have found cannabis and what they would have used it for.

We feel, as most scientists do, that cannabis, as a group, way prehistorically, before the modern humans probably had origins in central Asia somewhere. This makes geographical sense and environmental sense if you look at the paleoarchiology the models for how the earth was in previous epics. From there the plants spread. This could have been at the hands of man but we have no records of this. It is just too long ago.

Since the holist scene began we have a fairly continuous record of humans all across Eurasia of cannabis for many uses, many purposes.

DEAN BECKER: Let’s talk about the many purposes. I hear people talk about cannabis has 25,000 uses, viewed as food, fiber, fuel, textiles, on down the line. What are your thoughts? Are there 25,000 uses?

ROBERT CLARKE: That seems like an expanded number to me but there is no reason to exaggerate. There are dozens and dozens of even classes of use for cannabis. It is tremendous.

There is no other plant that I can think of that gives you both food and fiber. You could look at palms and bamboos and those all qualify and linen but there is no other plant that also gives you the psychoactive components and the medicinal components that cannabis so it’s really an “all arounder” and its uses for food are almost limitless. It’s present day uses are finding all kinds of uses for high protein, easily digestible protein for people with challenged digestive systems.

There’s all kinds of fatty acid uses and body care products and dietary products. These are things we lack as we lose our fisheries. We need to be able to use hemp and other products – linseed oil as well – for these kind of uses. It is important for our future.

DEAN BECKER: Once again we are speaking with Mr. Robert Clarke. He is co-author of a great new book, “Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany.”

Rob, we have in the United States kind of awakened to the medical potential. It seems in the last few years politicians and scientists are beginning to speak more boldly of its potential use, right?

ROBERT CLARKE: Absolutely true. We are entering an era of good science, better science trying to show the efficacy of modern cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are compounds produced only by the cannabis plant. These cannabinoids (THC and CBD) are the two primary ones of interest. They are being used in a wide variety of indications – both in prescription medicines by large companies like GW Pharmaceuticals who are starting to have their different forms of cannabinoid drugs and also, of course, in the lay community where people are using medical cannabinoids for several hundred different indications.

So, yeah, it’s sweeping the field now. It’s mostly still anecdotal evidence. It comes from people being healed miraculously sometimes using cannabis – the anti-cancer claims – and it ranges all the way from that sort of evidence which is strong evidence although difficult to document all the way through to clinical trials being done by pharmaceutical companies. It runs the whole gamut.

You are seeing more and more science. We are out of the ‘60s and ‘70s of trying to demonize cannabis. If it had any effect at all it has simply backfired. Some of that science was applicable but for more enlightened reasons.

DEAN BECKER: You have experience in Amsterdam dealing with the seed strains and the development of the...I don’t know...what are there – 10,000, 100,000 strains these days?

ROBERT CLARKE: It’s impossible to count and is subject to exaggeration but there are many, many strains of cannabis just if you want to look at what is considered the medical and recreational side at the moment. This doesn’t include all the traditional land raised varieties maintained by local farmers.

It’s largely a reshuffling of the deck but from these basic building blocks you’re seeing all kinds of novel varieties pop up. They are not new in terms of new genetics coming into the variety very often. They are not new from overseas but they are mixing of the genetics that have been on the scene for over 20 years.

DEAN BECKER: I’ve heard it said that the indica plant is kind of a “downer” and the Sativa is more of an “upper” and there’s a third type, ruderalis, and maybe more. What is you thought there? Is indica always a downer and Sativa always an upper?

ROBERT CLARKE: This brings up a key message that Mark and I have in our new book. It’s “Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany”. The Ethnobotany is the study of people and plants and how we’ve affected the plant but more of how it has affected us.

The evolution of the plant more stems back, as I was mentioning before, in the times before human contact even. What we see today is a little bit different picture than we saw 10 years ago. I and everyone else basically have looked at the diversity of cannabis worldwide as being three different species. That still holds.

Cannabis ruderalis which is difficult to document but a logical predecessor, ancestor to Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa which are the two other species that we recognize. It was divided basically. You had Cannabis sativa which was almost all the cannabis in the world. The European fiber varieties are sativas and people also consider the narrow leafed drug varies – those coming from India – to be examples of sativa. This is largely based on the form of the plant – just gross morphology. It’s heights and bushiness and leaf shape and seed form.

Indica was considered a smaller group and that was the drug varieties from Afghanistan and Pakistan. They are broad leaved and smell different...obviously quite different than what came to be called satvias.

To recap most of the world was cannabis sativa and you had this different drug type in Afghanistan called indica. That’s not the way it is we don’t think anymore. We look at the modern taxonomic statues and chemical compounds that plants produce to organize our taxonomies rather than just how they look.

We find that of must interest that cannabis sativa is really a very small species. It has a subspecies that’s the wild type but not really a ruderalis and often confused with ruderalis and that cannabis sativa is only really European fiber and seed varieties, low drug varieties. They escaped to other places like the Midwest of America but those are sativas.

The rest of the world...in 90% of the world’s cannabis is cannabis indica. Indica has three subspecies. You have cannabis subspecies indica which are the narrow leaf drug varieties that hale originally from India, the Indian sub-continent, hence the name indica. These are what we euphemistically or incorrectly now called sativa. They are the narrow leafed drug varieties. They are actually the type specimen of indica as Lamark described it in the 18th century.

We’re back to basics here. There’s two species here. One of them is afghanica – the indica from Afghanistan and that is what we now call indica but it’s really the broad leaf drug type indica. The other one is the subspecies geninsas which is all the Asian hemp which spreads from central Asia across most of northern China and Korea and Japan.

All three of these subspecies of indica all have the potential to produce THC. That’s their key difference and that’s why throughout history these varieties have been relied on for drug use. Whether a culture chose to use drugs or when, in time, it chose to use cannabis for different reasons – there are different cultural parameters to that and a lot of the book is that as well.

Tachronomially we know focused on cannabis indica is the vast majority of cannabis in the world. It’s very diverse. It’s been used for a number of different uses. Sativa is really only eastern European hemp used for fiber and seed.

DEAN BECKER: We got just a couple minutes left here and I want to address a concern of mine. I know back about 30 years ago there was stuff circulating called Panama Red. There was this other stuff called Thai Stick. I kind of miss those two types. Have they been kind of usurped or just co-mingled with everything else at this point?

ROBERT CLARKE: Yes. If those varieties were used in early breeding back in the ‘70s, yes, those genes for those unique varieties are still there but they are not in the combinations that you would now look at something and say it’s Panama Red. It might be included in a haze variety but there is certainly no more Panama Red.

Thai Stick is the same way. Thai weed is still grown in Thailand but very little of it is of good enough quality to even export. If Panama has any cannabis anymore it’s news to me. The reason is the cultures that support these local varieties – they are called land races. Land races means that they are local varieties maintained by local farmers under the selective pressure of those local farmers. If a Panamanian had a special variety that he kept best seeds from every year and he kept it up and kept it going that could have been Panama Red. Without that farmer, without that community that’s going to disappear.

All over the world in all kinds of native crop plants...it’s not just cannabis. This is a common phenomenon. It’s the same kind of thing in Thailand. In the case of cannabis it’s a matter of scale, of volume and commercial greed that basically superseded the small farmer who kept everything going and that stuff disappeared really quickly.

DEAN BECKER: Friends, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Robert Clarke. He’s co-author of the book, “Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany.”

Robert, the fact of the matter is this book is not a light read. This is a scientific journal to inform the user, to inform the public in general, right?

ROBERT CLARKE: That’s exactly right. It took us 17 years to put this together – not by intent but simply because there’s so much information when we started and so much new information. If you look in the citations – there are 800 citations – you’ll see that many of them are from the 21st century. We have a lot of new, pertinent information and this book serves as a reference book. It’s dense. You’re right. It’s 365,000 words.

In a way it’s more than any single person wants to know about the plant. Very few people read it cover to cover but it’s chalk full of information. It’s got a couple hundred illustrations. It really is a wealth of information for those who just want it at their fingertips.

DEAN BECKER: Is there a website or a place where folks can learn more?

ROBERT CLARKE: The easiest way to get it is the University of California Press Publication but, to be honest, the best way to get it is to order from good ‘ol Amazon.com and they’ll mail it to you for free.

DEAN BECKER: I wish you great luck with that and hopefully we can inform the public and move to a more rational approach that much sooner.


(Game show music)

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

Yellow eyes, vomiting, black tarry stools, cloudy urine, fever with chills, sores, ulcers or white spots on lips and mouth and unusual bleeding.


Time’s up!

The answer: Another FDA approved product, Acetaminophen.


DEAN BECKER: In October of this year the DPA held a major conference in Denver. One of the speakers during the opening plenary – I can’t remember exactly who – talked about this being the end of the beginning. I now have online Mr. Tony Newman of the Drug Policy Alliance who has a great new article posted out there on Huffington Post, “The Beginning of the End: The Top Ten Drug Stories of 2013.”

Tony, fill us in, please.

TONY NEWMAN: Dean, thanks for having me and what an amazing year it has been for everyone who wants to end this failed, disastrous War on Drugs. We have so much more momentum happening. It’s really exciting.

We’ll start right from the top. I think everyone knows the biggest news is that Washington and Colorado have legalized marijuana – the first two states, political jurisdictions of anyone in the world to legalize marijuana but the mystery was always how was the Obama administration and how will Attorney General Holder respond to it.

The biggest story of 2013 was when the White House gave a big green light for Colorado and Washington to move forward with their attempts to legalize marijuana.

The second big story of 2013 is now we have 58% of Americans supporting ending marijuana prohibition, legalizing marijuana. This is red states, blue states...all across the country – Democrats, Republicans – 58% of Americans (well over a majority) and an incredible jump in the last 10 years. This is something that the momentum is building and I think we will continue to see it rise.

The third biggest story of the year is Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize marijuana. President Mujica of Uruguay led the way and now we are starting to see the move from the rhetoric about the need to end the War on Drugs coming from Latin America to countries actually implementing successful strategies - huge story in Uruguay.

Number 4,Attorney General Eric Holder Slams U.S. Mass Incarceration and Mandatory Minimums...Here we have the leading law enforcer in the United States going down to Colombia. He gave a speech and he basically sounded like he was drug policy reformer...We have 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the prisoners, all of the racial disparities, mandatory minimums are causing so much harm and that he is going to advise all his state attorney generals to not charge people that will trigger for mandatory minimums.

Huge breakthrough. The proof is in the pudding but to have the attorney general speaking out against mandatory, speaking out against over incarceration is a huge story.

Number 5 story of the year - Superstar-studded coalition sent a letter to President Obama saying let's tackle mass incarceration and failed drug war. These were the A-list celebrities – Will Smith, Scarlett Johansson, Ron Howard, Demi Moore, Eva Longoria, Mark Wahlberg, Harry Belafonte – all of them saying, “President Obama, do something about criminal justice reform. Do something about mass incarceration.”

That story generated worldwide press from the entertainment pages to the news pages.

Number 6 - New Zealand Becomes First Country in the World to Legally Regulate New Synthetic Drugs. We’re all getting used to seeing this coverage - there’s a new drug, Spice, marijuana spice, K2, the crocodile, bath salts – all these news drugs that come. New Zealand did a revolutionary approach. Instead of trying to ban these things that the scientists keep tweaking a little bit so they can get outside the ban they said, “Look, instead of doing this ‘cat and mouse’ thing let’s put the onus on the creators of this. Have them take it and prove that they can make it in a healthy form and instead of trying to ban it let’s bring it above fold and into the open and try to make these things safe.”

New Zealand became the first country in the world to say we’re going to try to legally regulate these drugs instead of this “cat and mouse” of banning everything.

Story number 7 - ACLU Report Finds Overwhelming Racial Bias in Marijuana Arrests all across the country, every single city, every single county has this impact. For a long time it’s been anecdotal or we know in different states- in New York we know it is racist when it comes to enforcement and marijuana arrests.

The ACLU was so brilliant. They looked at every single state so every single local media market can look and see the same thing, a systemic problem. It gave an opportunity for everyone to speak out against the racism that comes with the drug war and that trying to end marijuana prohibition is not only about wanting to get high. It’s about this is a racial justice issue and we need to end marijuana prohibition.

Story number 8 - The Incredible Impact Of Dr. Sanjay Gupta's Medical Marijuana Special. Before his hour-long special he wrote an OPED on CNN’s website basically apologizing for not supporting medical marijuana in the past. He said basically, “I didn’t look into this enough. I just took the line from the government. Once I did look into it it is indisputable the benefits of medical marijuana.”

His OPED made big news. His hour CNN special was one of the most popular TV shows that CNN has ever produced. It had an incredible impact all the way up to President Obama being asked about this special.

Story number 9 - World Leaders Speak Out: Stop 'War on Drugs'. We saw Kofi Annan, the former head of the UN, and former president of Brazil, Henrique Cardoso, come out slamming the War on Drugs. It is part of this larger trend of global leaders, presidents of Brazil, Mexico and Colombia speaking out.

We had President Mujica, as I just mentioned, of Uruguay legalizing marijuana. We have the current president of Colombia, President Santos, talking against the War on Drugs. We have former military general who is now the president Guatemala speaking out against the War on Drugs.

We see world leaders and not just former presidents but current presidents saying, “No more drug war.”

Story number 10 – With all this progress, there has been so much incredible news out this year from state and countries legalizing marijuana to the public (58%) supporting legalizing marijuana to people speaking out, Attorney General Holder in the U.S. to world leaders speaking out – all this stuff is happening but the War on Drugs is still grinding on.

We cannot let up our fight. There is still 700,000 people arrested every year on marijuana possession charges. We still have an overdose epidemic. We still have way too many people – 500,000 people – locked up behind bars on a drug charge. There’s still too much death in Mexico that’s due from prohibition-related violence.

With the momentum we have to double our efforts. We have to continue to speak out. We have to continue to join organizations. We have to continue to push on our elected officials. If the people lead the leaders will follow.

There has been momentum. We will continue to fight but the fight is not over.

DEAN BECKER: Tony, share your website and some closing thoughts, please.

TONY NEWMAN: Please join our movement. Go to the http://drugpolicy.org website. There are so many amazing groups. There’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), the Marijuana Policy Project, Michelle Alexander for Breaking the Chains. There’s so many people doing this kind of work.

Get involved. No more drug war. The time is now.


DEAN BECKER: Well, it’s the Christmas season. A lot of folks think about the past year, what have they done, what might they do for next year. I’m proud to say there is a group in Houston called End Mass Incarceration Houston and they are part of a growing national network of similar organizations.

Christmas Day, December 25th, we’re going to be at the jail, 1200 Baker Street, handing toys to the children who just visited their mother or father in the jail.

I’m proud to say former Houstonian, the founder of Oaksterdam University, my friend, Mr. Richard Lee will be there with us and he’s with us right now for this discussion.

Richard, what’s your thought in that regard?

RICHARD LEE: It is something to remember during the holidays – all the people who are unjustly incarcerated. Obama just pardoned 8 drug ( I think it was crack ) prisoners but there are so many more and there are so many cannabis prisoners who should be let out – people who were arrested during the latest medical marijuana counter-offensive that a lot of the U.S. attorneys launched in the last year or two...Matt Davies just got sentenced to 5 years for running a dispensary here in California. So many others and we’re trying to remember them on Christmas – people who won’t be with their families.

You didn’t say what time we’re going to be there.

DEAN BECKER: We’ll be there from 4 to 6 p.m. – just a couple hours. Have your Christmas dinner, maybe a quick nap and then come to the jail. I think it will feel even more important than opening that present.

RICHARD LEE: This will be during visiting hours for the prisoners. We’ll have toys for their children.

DEAN BECKER: More and more politicians, scientists, newspapers, any and everybody you can think of are starting to talk of the positive benefits of cannabis and the need to stop locking up so many people for so little reason.

RICHARD LEE: It is criminal how they’ve kept it illegal all this time especially when you see more and more medical research showing the benefits of cannabis. I just saw a thing about GW Pharmaceuticals, the British company that grows cannabis in the UK, is working on permission to get their cannabinoid-based medicines here in the U.S.

They were just showing up more promising research for curing cancer, that cannabinoids have anti-tumor properties. Wouldn’t that be an insane crime if they kept the cure for cancer illegal all these years.

DEAN BECKER: Again, I can’t help but bring up...when I see these videos of these little kids that are benefitting, that have that Dravet Syndrome that can now have a life...

RICHARD LEE: Right, that’s one of GW’s new drugs is Epilep Dialex...something like that. It’s a CBD high cannabinoid formula. It’s really a miracle for these families whose kids have these really bad seizures and nothing else works for them. Many of them are having to move to Colorado and other states where it is legal because they can’t get it where they are. It’s a crime that they are having to do that.

DEAN BECKER: Richard, I know you are going to be in town on Christmas Day. We’re going to gather down at the jail, 1200 Baker Street. We’re going to be there from 4 to 6 p.m. handing out toys to the little kids who just visited their mom or dad there in the jail, handing out information to the parents on joining up with us to end mass incarceration.

Your thoughts in that regard, Mr. Richard Lee?

RICHARD LEE: I talk about during my classes at Oaksterdam University the prisoners who are locked up. A couple of guys I know who got 20 years and they are not due to be released until 2028. I like to think about them to keep working hard to end cannabis prohibition so we can get them out of prison before 2028.


DEAN BECKER: Thank you for joining us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. I hope to see you at the jail, 1200 Baker Street, Christmas Day from 4 to 6 p.m.

As always, I remind you, 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.

This show produced at the Pacifica Studios of KPFT Houston.

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.

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