05/11/14 Michael Skolnik

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Michael Skolnik, political director for Russell Simmons + Cannabis Therapeutics report with Alice O'Leary Randall, Jodi James, Dr. Robert Melamede and Tristan Risevor of M.A.M.A. & KPOV radio

Audio file


Cultural Baggage / May 11, 2014


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: Thank you for joining us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. Great show lined up for you. We’ve got the top guy with Russell Simons, you know, the rap-hundred millionaire who I sent a copy of my new book to him, To End the War On Drugs: A Guide for Politicians, the Press and Public, in hopes that they would have some interest. We’ve got some great interviews from the Patients Out of Time conference just held in Portland, Oregon. It’s the Cannabis Therapeutics Convention. Doug McVay has much more from the session on this week’s and for several week’s Century of Lies programs.

First up our interview with Michael Skolnik.


DEAN BECKER: Tell us a little bit about Michael Skolnik and the work you do.

MICHAEL SKOLNIK: I have been working with Russell Simmons for the past 5 years. I made a film about Russell. My previous career was as a film maker. I made a film about Russell and many involved in the fight to end the Rockefeller drug war here in New York State many years ago which included Drug Policy Alliance and Mothers of the Disappeared and many advocates who have been doing this work for decades and families, of course, who have been affected and destroyed by these drug laws here in New York.

I am now the political director to Russell Simmons and also the editor-in-chief and president of a website that Russell owns called Global Grind (http://globalgrind.com)

DEAN BECKER: The fact of the matter is you are a young man with many talents, a lot of great contacts apparently and just this past week you had a chance to sit down with our president, Barack Obama, correct?

MICHAEL SKOLNIK: I did have a chance to see him, yes.

DEAN BECKER: The email I saw indicated that he is not going to back down from the stance he has taken. That is he is going to try to undo some of the harms of this drug war, correct?

MICHAEL SKOLNIK: As I’m sure many of your listeners and folks who read your work are compassionate about this issue for a very long time. I think we all recognize...you know, we are hearing it more and more from politicians, from celebrities, from advocates, from families that this drug war has been a horrible and just horrendous failure to this country and should never have been waged in the first place.

The president and the attorney general share that commitment. The president in 2007 said the drug war had failed and we had hoped over the course of the beginning of his presidency that he would address many of the issues that have affected communities across this country in relation to the drug war but I think there were some other things he was distracted by – priorities and health care – but we have been incredibly impressed and certainly have been encouraged by the past 12 to 18 months of the actions the president has taken and the attorney general.

I had a chance to speak to the president this week in person at the Whitehouse and he assured me that his work is certainly not done on this issue. He is committed more than ever to do more. I think whatever he said to me is sort of meaningless in terms of what his actions are but I think many of us in this fight have been impressed during the past year by his actions and what the administration has done. We certainly want him and congress to do more but we’re definitely chipping away at this the way that we are supposed to.

DEAN BECKER: Back in early March I completed my book, “To End the War On Drugs”. I sent a copy to the president and one to our attorney general, Eric Holder. Eric Holder liked it so much he sent it to the DEA and told them to send me a thank you letter and to let me know they were reading the book as well. Times are changing are they not, sir?

MICHAEL SKOLNIK: I think times are definitely changing. I think when you hear people – Republicans, Democrats – across the country say that we have to do something different. You see a cultural shift on marijuana – certainly from medical and to legalization. Now you are seeing for medicinal purposes in terms of the serious seizures and things that children are going through. You are seeing some very conservative states, some very conservative governors...We just saw Rick Scott in Florida come out in favor of this. So you see a cultural shift in marijuana.

You see the Tea Party members and Libertarians come out in favor of reform of mandatory minimum sentencing of crack/powder...Look at Rupert Murdoch - an article just posted yesterday. He was at the Kentucky Derby with Rand Paul and conversing about the drug war and even Rupert Murdoch said people who were arrested for crack cocaine shouldn’t do more than 6 months in jail.

I think the times are definitely changing and the president has shown leadership. I think Eric Holder has shown great leadership on this issue and I hope that in my lifetime - and I’m young so I got some years ahead of me – but I hope in my lifetime that we can see a real shift in incarceration in this country where we no longer are the number one in...I think Ethan Nadelmann from the Drug Policy Alliance says it better than I do, “Let’s be mediocre in incarcerating people. Let’s not be the best in the world in how we incarcerate people or poor for that matter.”

I hope that we are heading that way. It seems we are but we got to keep pushing. We got to keep pushing our friends. We got to keep pushing folks who haven’t seen the light yet. It seems that they are listening and acting on it.

DEAN BECKER: Friends, we are speaking with Mr. Michael Skolnik.

Michael, your movies have also helped turned the tide I think. There have been almost an avalanche of movies dealing with the subject of drug war over the last 3 to 5 years and that has begun to awaken people to the truth on this matter as well hasn’t it?

MICHAEL SKOLNIK: I have a one-year-old kid and I was in the park on Sunday and flying a kite and a woman had her child flying a kite and we got to talking and it turns out that she’s a film maker and knew my work and wanted me to come meet with her about a new film she’s doing on the “Three Strikes Law” in California.

“The House I Live In”, Eugene Jarecki’s film, that Russell was one of the executive producers of...the film we made in 2007 called “Lockdown USA”...there’s been a lot of films that humanize. You see families that have been devastated by these horrific and unjust and antiquated and many times racist drug laws across this country that have locked up black and brown people at the highest number in the world. You see people who are non-violent offenders, many of them first time, many of them users...

We talk often that the prison system has done so well in this country. If you put so many users in prison who are addicted to drugs or have an addiction problem they go to prison and become criminals and have to learn how to survive in prison with real criminals. They come back out on the street with criminal behavior and destroy the fabric of the black community – the Latino community as well.

We’ve used the prisons in this country as ways to train people who are using drugs to become criminals and destroy communities when they come out. That’s not the way this country was built. That’s not the way this country should move forward and certainly these films that have been made have something which sheds a light on people – not just laws but people, American citizens, folks who were raised and born in this country who have been utterly destroyed by a horrific system that Michelle Alexander calls “The New Jim Crow” and I certainly would agree with her that it is a system that was built to lock up people and put them away for a long time.

DEAN BECKER: I’ve been working at this now for about 20 years. I’ve done everything humanly possible that a poor boy can do here and I guess my thoughts are that the people that know this truth that you are talking about that’s being presented in these movies, that’s being presented all over the networks these days we need their help. We need them to stand up, speak up and talk to their elected officials, tell them that it is OK, that they know the truth and these politicians know the truth and it’s OK to move from this point we’re at right now. Am I right?

MICHAEL SKOLNIK: I think you are semi-right and as a young man I would applaud and thank you and your colleagues and your comrades and the folks who have been at this fight for decades plus. This is a 40+ war that was waged from the 70s on. I just lost my uncle 2 weeks ago who throughout many years of his life was a heavy user of heavy drugs. His body in his 60s just fell apart. In my own family I certainly have seen the devastation of drugs.

I don’t think there is a person in America who would tell me that Philip Seymour Hoffman should have been in prison. Everyone knew that perhaps he needed help after he died. I think the consensus would be that he needed help and needed to go to rehab and deal with his addiction problem to heroin. I don’t think anyone in this country and say that that great actor and say prison is the answer. If prison isn’t the answer for him than prison isn’t the answer for anyone who’s using drugs. They should go to rehab first. We should have a compassionate approach to those who are addicted and have a disease of using drugs.

At the same time I think we all should look at addiction and drug use and not just everyone who uses drugs is addicted to drugs. There are many recreational users across this country who are not addicted to drugs who use it on a recreational basis and we should assess that as well. I think we have to keep pushing and not think of it as a right/left issue or as Republicans or Democrats are on the wrong side or the right side. There are many Republicans who are fantastic on this issue. There are many Democrats who have been bad. There are many Democrats who have been great and Republicans who have been bad.

We find our allies. We find those who understand. We find people like Rand Paul who might believe, who are willing to go to bat for their party and look at reforming mandatory minimums. We find great attorney generals like Eric Holder who are willing to put their legacy on the line to go at this issue and chip away at it one law at a time. We have to support them and hold them up and appreciate them and keep pushing them to do the right thing.

I see light at the end of the tunnel. I see the past 2 years folks who I speak to on the ground who have been doing this for a long time see a change that is happening but I also say for me when I got to see the president...you know, I could say anything that I wanted to say. I could talk about my kid. I could talk about sports. I could talk about health care but I chose to talk about this issue because this issue I feel in rooms like that doesn’t often get represented and I always wanted to make sure whenever I have an audience of any president - whether Bush or Clinton or Obama – that I would be able to share the stories of those who couldn’t be in the room and couldn’t share their stories with the president.

For that brief amount of time that I spoke to him and his commitment that he gave me and his thanks to the folks who are doing the work. I think we got to keep going and we have allies in the Whitehouse, an allies in the Department of Justice. For the first time in a long time we have folks who see this issue the same way that we do.

DEAN BECKER: Once again we’ve been speaking with Mr. Michael Skolnik. He’s the political director for Mr. Russell Simmons. He’s the president of Global Grind (http://globalgrind.com)


(Game show music)

DEAN BECKER: It’s time to play: Name That Drug by Its Side Effects.

Responsible for countless overdose deaths, uncounted diseases, international graft, greed and corruption, stilled science and events, unchristian moral postulations of fiction as fact.


Time’s up!

The answer: and this Drug is the United States’ immoral, improper, bigoted, unscientific and plain F-ing evil addiction to Drug War.

All approved by the FDA, absolved by that American Medical Association and persecuted by Congress and the cops and in abeyance to the needs of the bankers, the pharmaceutical houses and the international drug cartels.

$550 billion a year can be very addicting.


ALICE O'LEARY RANDALL: My name is Alice O'Leary Randall. I’m a medical marijuana pioneer. My husband was the first individual in the country to gain legal access to federal supplies of marijuana to treat his glaucoma. That was in 1976. I’ve been at this issue for quite a while.

DEAN BECKER: He was the first of what was hopefully going to be many people afforded that opportunity to use medical marijuana but it was shut down. At this point I think we’ve got just 4 folks that are now approved through that program. Is that right?

ALICE O'LEARY RANDALL: That’s correct. The Compassionate IND program which was how Robert received the marijuana at its peak I think there were about 15 people who were receiving supplies of marijuana from the government. The program was shut down in 1992 after there was a huge demand made on the program by primarily AIDS patients who were seeking legal access to federal supplies of marijuana to treat the nausea, vomiting and wasting that is associated with AIDS.

The Bush, Sr. administration shut the program down. The 15 people who were getting it at that time were “grandfathered” into it. They received it. There has been various attrition over the years like my husband died in 2001. Today I believe there are only 4 still in the program receiving federal supplies.

DEAN BECKER: Miss O’Leary, the fact is you have been observing, seeing this situation unfold for almost 40 years now. What is your thought? What have we done to this point? What do we still need to do?

ALICE O'LEARY RANDALL: Needless to say it’s amazing right now. I’ve just come from a week in Colorado (Denver) where medical and recreational users can get marijuana legally. The situation is not ideal I don’t think. First of all there’s only 22/21 states depending on how you’re counting. I don’t believe in medical care by geography. I think everybody should be able to get the medical care that they need and if it happens to include cannabis they should be able to get cannabis in whatever state they are in.

That being said we’ve clearly come a long way. I think the genie is way out of the bottle at this point. That is not to say that the federal government won’t try to clamp down on it again. They are always capable of doing that but I certainly hope that they won’t. I think as a movement we have got to push for rescheduling as soon as possible. It needs to be out of Schedule I so that that big club of the federal government is lifted from the heads of patients, care providers and researchers.


JODI JAMES: Hi. My name is Jodi James. I’m the executive director of the Florida Cannabis Action Network. I am from the sunny shores of Florida.

DEAN BECKER: I hear that they are going to allow for some sort of cannabis oil but very limited distribution and access. What is your thought? Are the Florida legislators trying to circumvent your efforts?

JODI JAMES: My effort is to protect the whole plant and to get the whole plant into the hands of people. Are they trying to circumvent it? Well, maybe but what I know is that at the end of the day we are going to have 100,000 people who are going to have access to this medicine that didn’t have access before and while my heart is in protecting the plant, making sure that everyone has access I also recognize that these 100,000 people need it now and I’m not willing to sacrifice my desires today for their health and wellbeing.

DEAN BECKER: Well stated. I’m a non-incrementalist. You know that but I understand that...my gosh, the stories that Dr. Gupta did – the kids with Dravet syndrome and they came to life. They began to live and thrive and to deny anybody access is preposterous.

Tell us about your efforts in Florida. What is going to happen?

JODI JAMES: The Florida House of Representatives used the word endocannabinoid system in a debate on the floor. Of course they couldn’t pronounce it but they were talking about it. They know in Florida that if you get the right constituents and cannabinoids that you are killing cancer. They know it. They are accountable now and you know what happens when people are accountable. They stand up or they get really angry.

So we have a few but we passed 111 – 7 in the House of Representatives and 36 – 3 in the Senate. It’s a really tight program but it’s going to provide a form of cannabis that is able to be repeated, regulated, measured doses and for someone who is truly, truly sickened and dying having access to something that they can trust is important.

From my heart I want to have the plant. I will always want to have the plant. It is between me and my maker. We’ve spoken before about the spirituality of this, the healing of it. I never want cannabis...in my perfect world cannabis is not a last resort – it is a first choice – but until we regulate and control cannabis for adults we’re not going to have that conversation. You are always going to have a gatekeeper so when we treat it like spinach Cannabis Action Network is done. Between now and then can we celebrate my friend Kelly?

Because Kelly doesn’t have a seizure medicine that works and when they cut her brain they told us they’d get her off the phenobarbital but she’s not off and it’s been 4 years and she still has seizures. She carries an extra 100 pounds because of the medication. She has a stutter disorder because she can’t even complete a thought because the meds are so high.

So let’s celebrate Kelly. When I went to the Florida legislature 3 years ago 2 people in the state of Florida had access to medicine – Elvy Musikka and Irv Rosenfeld. When we went last year Kathy Jordon received medical necessity during the session and then there were 3 - and now there is several hundred thousand. Hallelujah, baby.

The truth is out there and if we keep speaking the truth to power we win.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. We’ve got to just shame the ignorance of these politicians. That will help solve this solution.

JODI JAMES: And there’s a lot happening in Florida. Right now we are going to make another 100,000 people into patients. Come November 2nd or 4th (whatever that Tuesday is) we are going to vote on Proposition 2 in Florida which is going to open the program to a broader spectrum of cannabinoids and also make it available for a larger constituency, more people will have access. It’s a very exciting time in Florida.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, you guys have the additional hurdle of having to get is it a 60% majority rather than just a majority. Am I right?

JODI JAMES: God bless you, Dean. You are absolutely right. The last poll has us coming in at 88%.

DEAN BECKER: [laughing] Thank you, Jodi.

JODI JAMES: When you work well it works.

DEAN BECKER: Once again we’ve been speaking with Miss Jodi James. Please, share your website and some closing thoughts with the listeners.

JODI JAMES: Thanks. Our website is http://www.flcan.org


ROBERT MELAMEDE: Most people know me as Dr. Bob. My name is Robert Melamede. I’m a professor at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. I’m also founder and president of Cannabis Science.

DEAN BECKER: There’s something happening here isn’t there, my friend?

ROBERT MELAMEDE: Oh, yeah. I think we’ve reached a critical level where people, especially the many patients that have been using medical cannabis, understand its medicinal value and it is all supported by peer-reviewed scientific evidence. What you really do see is a mutual confirmation of how really significant modulating your endocannabinoid system is.

DEAN BECKER: You were, if the not the pioneer, one of the pioneers talking about that endocannabinoid system, how it impacts nearly every cell in our body and how it was necessary to modulate and control that interaction.

ROBERT MELAMEDE: The reality is that our endocannabinoid system does regulate all of our body systems - your immune system, digestive, cardiovascular, bones, skin – all of that is homeostatic ally kept in balance by the endocannabinoid system. It’s really a global master regulator of our lives.

DEAN BECKER: I even heard there was a Florida legislator just last week who was trying to say endocannabinoid right there during a hearing.

This truth is known now. This truth just needs to be recognized. How in the hell are we going to do that?

ROBERT MELAMEDE: The people are going to do it. It all ultimately comes down to the people. What’s happened is the people are beginning to reach a critical level so whenever they have an opportunity to voice their voice here in the land of the free what you see is a demand for this improved access which continues the march forward to improve access and availability everywhere because people are demanding it. They know it works. They’ve seen it with their friends, their families or themselves and once you experience the benefits whether or not there’s a FDA trial that’s approved it or not it doesn’t matter because you’ve experienced and you know.

We don’t have FDA trials showing you that shooting a bullet through your head is going to cause death. We just don’t need that level in so many cases because people are able to do it themselves. Actually that’s what my company is about – trying to get some cannabis medicines through the FDA so people can go to a pharmacy and if that is what their direction is and be able to access it through health care.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, been talking with Dr. Robert Melamede of Cannabis Science. Website, Dr. Bob?

ROBERT MELAMEDE: The website is http://cannabisscience.com and most of my personal work is found all over YouTube. I’ve got about 30 YouTubes out there which provide my perspective of science which is a little different than most others but I think quite well verified through my teachings.

DEAN BECKER: And so says that Florida legislator.


TRISTAN RISEVOR: I’m Tristan Risevor. I’m one of the co-host on KPOV’s West Coast Master Co-op. I’m on there with Dru West, the west coast author of “Secrets of the West Coast Masters”. My daytime job is I am the clinic manager for Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse Clinic in Bend, Oregon.

MAMA came in to be back in the Reagan administration era as more or less a counterpoint to the Nancy Reagan “Just Say No”. We took what we call the harm reduction approach to drug education so that’s really where MAMA came to be.

Over the years as medical marijuana became an alternative to a lot of pharmaceutical drugs we found ourselves in a place where we could use our knowledge and educational background to help people access the Oregon medical marijuana program. Over the years we’ve helped thousands of folks register throughout the state of Oregon and that’s one of our main focuses right now - just getting folks legal in the state of Oregon and other states that can be.

Anybody from any state in the nation can come to Oregon and get an Oregon medical marijuana card and we also serve folks from all over the world and all over the country with that service as well.

DEAN BECKER: It seems ludicrous, preposterous that people should have to travel to get a medical benefit. I think I heard someone mention, “We don’t want to have geographical medicine.”

Your thought there, sir?

TRISTAN RISEVOR: It’s just ridiculous that, frankly, a border makes a person legal in one state and not in the other. Here we’re lucky on the west coast since all the states are pretty loose but there really isn’t any reciprocity here on the west coast so my Oregon card doesn’t do any good in the state of Washington or California.

So sadly people can’t really travel with the medicine that might do them good without threat of bad things that might happen to them from a legal standpoint. It really is just ridiculous. Hopefully at some point and time we can get some standard where the federal government can just let the states decide.

DEAN BECKER: There’s a lot of progress, a lot of profit to be made, right?

TRISTAN RISEVOR: Absolutely and that’s one of the things I’ve enjoyed watching the most of over the past 4 years is the entrepreneurial spirit. That’s the American way right now and now that people are actually able to embrace some of these new ideas and we look at how many people are being employed in the little side industries - even myself working at a health care facility basically dealing with medical marijuana. I make my living and other folks working with us making our livings doing that as well.

It’s expanding our economy – more people are employed – and the benefit on top of all that is the people that need the help the most, the patients, are getting access to available medicines that are doing wonders for them out there.

We’ve been playing the 4:20 Drug War News here on my show for years. I’ve loved it. I used to play it during my mainstream news cast – the Drive Time @ 5. I thank you and people loved it.

When I first started playing it we had a couple complaints like once or twice and then we never had another complaint again until I didn’t play it one day. Someone called up and said, “Hey, you didn’t play the 4:20 Drug War News.” After that I never have done it again. Dean, I just wanted to thank you that made it easier for me to get that content out which made it easier for me to do my show now which is where we’re teaching people how to grow marijuana on the air, legally here in the state of Oregon.

They call up with their grow questions. We love it. It’s been great. We have our Cascadia Lab Screen of the Week where we get to try out, describe and have the chemical analysis. People are embracing it.

One of the things we found out is we bring in more revenue to our little radio station than virtually any other show. I want to thank you for that. It has made it a lot easier for our community to have this conversation which has made our community a very marijuana-friendly community for the patients out there.

DEAN BECKER: Point them to a website where they can learn more.

TRISTAN RISEVOR: Go ahead and check us out at http://westcoastmasters.com. You can find links to our radio station, MAMA who I work with if you need to get an Oregon medical marijuana card.


DEAN BECKER: To hear great extracts from the panels at the Cannabis Therapeutics Convention please check out this week’s Century of Lies program.

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.

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