06/01/14 Doug McVay
Century of Lies
Doug McVay report: This week: the House of Representatives tries to block DEA raids on state-legal medical cannabis facilities, and New York's State Senate tries to address heroin use.
Century of Lies June 1, 2014
DEAN BECKER: 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.
DOUG McVAY: Hello and welcome to Century of Lies. I'm your guest host, Doug McVay, editor of Drug War Facts dot org. Century of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network, and is brought to you through the Pacifica network's radio station KPFT-fm in Houston, Texas. Find us on the web at drug truth dot net, where you can find past programs and you can subscribe to our podcasts. You can follow me on twitter, where I'm at drug policy facts, and also at doug mcvay. The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, be sure to give its page a Like, you can find Drug War Facts on facebook as well, please give it a like and share it with friends.
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Now, let's get to the news.
On Thursday of last week, the House of Representatives approved an amendment to a bill, which prevents the Justice Department from going after state-legal medical cannabis providers. The amendment to the 2015 Commerce, Justice, and Science Spending passed on a roll-call vote with 219 in favor and 189 opposed. A total of 170 Democrats voted yes along with 49 Republicans. The no’s were primarily GOP, with 172 voting against joined by 17 Democrats. 23 members didn't vote - 12 Ds and 11 Rs.
Following are a few of those voices from the debate. The amendment had been introduced by Representative Dana Rohrbacher, Republican of California. He'll be the last voice you hear, we'll start with Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Democrat of Oregon, he's followed by Sam Farr, Democratic Congressman from California, and then it goes from there.
EARL BLUMENAUER: Thank you. I appreciate the gentleman’s courtesy. I’m listening to our friends from the other side of the aisle in opposition here and the notion about the camel’s nose. This train has already left the station.
18 years ago the state of California voters approved medical marijuana. We now have 22 states that are doing so. My good friend from Georgia is right. I mean there are a million Americans now with the legal right...medical marijuana is prescribed by a physician.
The problem is the federal government is getting in the way. The federal government makes it harder for doctors and researchers to be able to do what I think my friend from Louisiana wants than it is for parents. This amendment is important to get the federal government out of the way, let this process work going forward where we can have respect for states’ rights and something that makes a huge difference to hundreds of thousands of people around the country now and more in the future.
I thank the gentleman.
REP PENNSYLANIA: I’d like to yield a similar amount of time to the gentleman from California, Mr. Farr.
SAM FARR: Thank you very much.
I supported this amendment as a co-author of this amendment. I point out that this is 6 Democrats and 6 Republicans who are authoring this. There’s 33 states ’s 33 states – 3 of which have just passed laws and the governors have indicated they’ll sign them.
This is essentially saying, “Look if you are following state law, you are a legal resident doing your business under state law the feds can’t come in and bust you and bust the doctors and the patient.”
More than half the states so you don’t have to have an opinion about marijuana. This doesn’t change any laws. This doesn’t affect one law. Just list the states that have already legalized it through medical - only for medical purposes, only medical purposes – and says the federal government in those places you can’t bust people.
It seems to me a practical, reasonable amendment in this time and age.
REP PENNSYLANIA: I want to offer, too, an opportunity for the gentle lady, Mrs. Titus.
DINA TITUS: Thank you. For the District of Columbia and 22 states including Nevada with laws in place allowing the legal use of some form of marijuana for medical purposes this common sense amendment simply ensures that patients do not have to live in fear when following the laws of their states and the recommendations of their doctors. Physicians in those states will not be prosecuted for prescribing the substance and local businesses will not be shut down for dispensing the same. I urge you vote in favor.
REP PENNSYLANIA: Finally...I know the gentleman from Virginia...I’ll allow him to close. He’s at somewhat of a disadvantage so I want to yield the remaining amount of my time to the gentle lady from Oakland, Congresswoman Lee.
BARBARA LEE: Thank you very much Mr. Chairman. I want to thank the gentleman for yielding and just say that I rise in strong support of this bipartisan amendment which I am proud to co-sponsor along with my colleagues.
This amendment will provide much needed clarity to patients and businesses in my home state of California and 31 other jurisdictions that provide safe and legal access to medicine. We should allow for the implementation of the will of the voters to comply with state laws rather than undermining our democracy.
In states with medical marijuana laws patients face uncertainty regarding their treatment. Small business owners who have invested millions creating jobs and revenue have no assurances for the future.
It’s past time for the Justice Department to stop its unwanted persecution of medical marijuana and put its resources where they are needed.
In states with medical marijuana laws people with Multiple Sclerosis and glaucoma, HIV/AIDS and other medical issues continue to face uncertainty when it comes to accessing the medicine they need to provide some relief so it’s time to pass this. It is time to give these patients the relief they need. This is the humanitarian thing to do. It’s the democratic thing to do and I hope this body will vote for it and pass it on a bipartisan basis.
REP PENNSYLANIA: I will yield back at this time. Thank you.
FRANK WOLF: The gentleman yields back. For what purpose does the gentleman from Virginia seek recognition?
REP PENNSYLANIA: To correct the records. I yield to the gentleman from Maryland, Dr. Harris, for 2 and 1/ 2 minutes.
FRANK WOLF: You may not yield blocks of time. The gentleman may yield.
REP PENNSYLANIA: I yield to Dr. Harris.
FRANK WOLF: The gentleman from Maryland is recognized.
ANDY HARRIS: Thank you very much. Mr. Chairman marijuana is neither safe nor legal. Let’s get it straight. The Controlled Substances Act makes marijuana in the United States illegal because it’s not safe and, Mr. Chairman, there is more and more evidence every day that it is not safe.
The effect on the brain...the developing brains of teenagers and young adults is becoming more and more clear. The effect as the doctor from Louisiana has talked about – the effect on mood. It is not safe and Mr. Chairman this is not a medicine. This would be like me as a physician saying, “I think you need penicillin. Go chew on some mold.”
Of course I wouldn’t do that. I write for 250 mgs of peninsula, Q6 hours for 10 days. I don’t write chew on a mold a couple times a day. Nobody writes a prescription to smoke a couple of cigarettes and cure your epilepsy but that’s what we are being asked to do.
Mr. Chairman, worse than that, this blurs the line in those states that have gone beyond medical marijuana. For instance, in Colorado under Amendment 64 a person can grow as many plants...I’m sorry...6 plants under the new law for general use but if it’s medical marijuana you can grow as many plants as you want as long as you can prove you have medicinal use so how is the DEA going to enforce anything when this amendment they are prohibited from going into that person’s house growing as many plants as they want because that’s legal under the medical marijuana part of the law not under the new law.
Mr. Chairman, this not the right place for this. The Ogden memorandum from this administration clearly states that the Department of Justice does not prioritize prosecution for medical marijuana - clearly states it. They don’t do it. This is a problem...this is a solution in search of a problem that opens many other doors to the dangers of marijuana.
I yield back.
REP PENNSYLANIA: I yield the balance of my time to Dr. Fleming from Louisiana.
FRANK WOLF: The gentleman is recognized.
JOHN FLEMING: May I inquire as to how much time is left?
FRANK WOLF: 2 and 1/2 minutes.
JOHN FLEMING: I thank my friend Mr. Wolf and I thank you Mr. Chairman.
Look, first of all, let’s be clear. Marijuana is an addicting substance. It’s Schedule I. It’s against federal law. It’s passed that way under the CSA in 1970 and what this amendment would do is it wouldn’t change the law it would just make it difficult if not impossible for the DEA and the Department of Justice to enforce the law.
Now members on my side have been criticizing President Obama for selective enforcement of “Obama Care” and for immigration and other laws like that so now we’re going to start going down the road of selective enforcement for our drug policy.
Now, medicinal marijuana – what is it exactly? Folks I can tell you it is nothing more than the end run around the laws against the legalization of marijuana. There is nothing medical or medicinal about it. It is not accepted by physicians. Oh, somebody claims it may do something for glaucoma perhaps. Well, maybe it will or maybe it won’t but there are a lot more drugs that do a much better job than that and they are much safer but the most important thing I want everybody to know, Mr. Chairman, today is the fact that marijuana is highly addicting.
It is the most common diagnosis for addiction in admissions to rehab centers for young people. Why in the world do we want to take away drug enforcement and leave our young people out there vulnerable.
Yes you say it can only be used by adults. Well, if it’s sitting around on shelves at home the kids are going to get into it. We’re already hearing about Colorado with fourth graders dealing with it. We hear about more pot poisonings in the emergency room. If you look at other places that have gone down this road like Alaska they retracted from their legalization so I don’t think we should accept this at all that this is history in the making and that we’re never going to go back.
Look at Amsterdam. They have put a lot more restrictions back in...even in that very, very liberal nation so for that and for many reasons I would just say tonight from a legal standpoint it is...this amendment would not be constitutional. Our laws are currently constitutional. It was found so in 2005 by the Supreme Court and this is an extremely dangerous drug for our children and future adults an d future generations.
With that I yield to the remainder of my time.
FRANK WOLF: The gentleman’s time has expired. The gentleman from California is recognized for 30 seconds.
SAM FARR: Is this the close of the debate?
FRANK WOLF: The gentleman is correct.
SAM FARR: This is the most incredible debate we’ve had. Over half the states have already gone through every argument that was presented and decided against what you just heard. There are doctors at every one of those states that participated in a long debate over this and found exactly the opposite of what we’ve heard today.
Some people are suffering and if a doctor feels that he needs to prescribe something to alleviate that suffering it is immoral for this government to get in the way and that is what is happening.
The state governments have recognized that a doctor has a right to treat his patient anyway...
FRANK WOLF: The gentleman’s time has expired.
SAM FARR: ...and so did our founding fathers. I ask for support for my amendment.
DOUG McVAY: In that segment you also heard Representatives Chakah Fattah, Democrat of Pennsylvania, Dina Titus, Democrat of Nevada, Barbara Lee, Democrat of California, Chairman Frank Wolf, Republican of Virginia, Andy Harris, Republican of Maryland, and John Fleming, Republican of Louisiana.
The Senate will come up with its own version of a spending bill for the Justice Department, and in the end the whole thing will have to be reconciled by a conference committee, so there's a long way to go. Yet still, this is a significant event, and activists should be proud.
Next up, we're in a New York state of mind.
In 1973, the then-Governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller, introduced a package of legal changes which became known as the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Ditching the idea of treatment and rehabilitation, the Rockefeller laws were draconian. The Sentencing Project's Marc Maurer, in his 1999 book The Race To Incarcerate, puts it this way, quote: "In 1973, the New York state legislature passed the so-called Rockefeller Drug Laws after the drug issue was given a high profile by Governor Nelson Rockefeller. At the time, these laws were the harshest in the nation, calling for mandatory prison terms for various narcotics offenses along with limits on plea bargaining. They have been described as policies that 'set the stage in nearly every state for legislation in the following decades for new presumptive sentencing laws for drug crimes." End quote. The Rockefeller laws were also largely to blame for New York's overcrowded correctional system.
Fast forward to May 2014. The New York State Senate's Joint Heroin Addiction Task Force issues its final report. Among its pages are 25 separate pieces of legislation which many in the task force want to see passed by the end of the session - in mid-June. Thirteen of those bills are directed to law enforcement. Some bills allow for enhanced penalties, one reallocates forfeited funds, one directs the state to look into converting closed prisons into in-patient treatment facilities, one sets limits on pain prescriptions. There are also education bills, and legislation to expand availability of naloxone
Rather than have me explain it, let's hear it straight from the horse's mouth. Here's state Senator Kathleen Marchione, a Republican from New York's 43rd District, audio courtesy of the NY State Senate:
KATHLEEN MARCHIONE: We held a forum at Hudson Valley Community College. We had an overflow audience. At that point I recognized how important having this forum was. There was 220 seats and we overflowed into an additional room with an additional 50 people. Listening to the concerns that people had and recognizing and learning from them that heroin addiction is almost epidemic in New York State.
One out of 4 people who try heroin and opioids becomes addicted. Those statistics are alarming to me so we’ve held the forum. We are going to be holding Narcan training. We are in the process of doing that now and getting those dates on the calendar. Just today I met with a couple of gentleman from my district who had run a program in the 1990s about going into schools and education and also law enforcement using the canine force. We are looking at that. We are going to have further conversation.
Anything that I can do to cooperate with the people that I want to cooperate with and that we need to cooperate with to have a holistic approach is what we are going to be doing in the 43 rd district.
FEMALE SENATOR: So you mentioned Narcan training. Narcan is sort of a miracle drug, an opioid antagonist that basically brings people back if they are overdosing before they die. Talk about your part of the bill that addresses this.
KATHLEEN MARCHIONE: We have a bill in that state. Not only will the Narcan be in the bag that you get once you have training but there should be some instructions with it – how to use it, important telephone numbers for the next step. That information is critical for the person who is actually administering it to say, “What do I do now? Who do I call? What do I do and in what order should I do it in?”
Hopefully they familiarize themselves with that handout that’s with the Narcan in advance of ever having to use it.
You call that a miracle drug and we are absolutely finding that it is a miracle drug. The Columbia County Sheriff called me the other day. He was part of our forum. He has had training on Narcan. He has administered it twice and saved two lives.
The second time that he administered they told him the person had died. There was nothing they could do and he said, “Administer Narcan. Let’s try it.” and it revived the individual and he saved a life so Narcan is very important and we have to make sure we get it in the hands of as many people as we can.
I think there are charities for that because they actually come out and put the training on.
FEMALE SENATOR: What we’ve found is a lot of people who decided that they do need help and they hit rock bottom. Then they go for help and their insurance coverage is not accepting the plan that they need to get the treatment that they need. How are you addressing that?
KATHLEEN MARCHIONE: There’s a bill put in my Senator Seward. The bill will look at what’s an appropriate amount of help that you need, how long do you need in-patient treatment and that should be left to the medical professional not the insurance company. There is some provisions in that bill that will allow a medical professional to determine how much time is necessary for that addict to be able to become well.
That’s not happening now and that’s, I think, a very important if not the most important part of what we are doing here – to be able to get help for people at the right amount. Now what’s happening is you have to fail in out-patient before you can looked at for in-patient and I just think that puts people further down the road and requires much more treatment after they get so captured and addicted.
FEMALE SENATOR: So it’s important that we address this on many levels with honesty.
KATHLEEN MARCHIONE: Oh, absolutely. If someone is saying, “It’s not in my school.” or “It’s not in my town.” They are going to burying their head in the sand and they shouldn’t do it.
Since our last forum the supervisor from the town of Waterford had had a couple of people come and join our forum and listen and he has just hit it head on. He said one meeting in his community with 100 people present. He is looking at teachers there and working together. That’s what I would like to see is for us to come together. As a senator I can’t do it all but I could try to get to the towns and cities and ask what could they do within their own areas to help the problem.
I think it’s an approach that requires mental health facilitators and recovery specialists, law enforcement, education is critical. All of those elements combined is how we can address this issue long term.
You know, we heard the sheriff say, “When this drug goes another one comes.” That’s the sad reality of what we are dealing with but we need to address what’s in front of us now.
DOUG McVAY: Now, let's hear part of the Joint Task Force's news conference on the release of the report:
PHILIP BOYLE: In the report in the 25 pieces of legislation is extremely comprehensive dealing with the areas of preventing heroin use by our young people and old people, treatment - a big area that we heard from almost every forum was the lack of treatment and the lack of coverage for those people ready to beat their addiction to get off the heroin and they can’t get insurance coverage for the treatment they need. This legislation I believe is going to go a long way towards remedying that situation.
Finally, of course, is the area of law enforcement. We need to give our law enforcement officials and prosecutors the tools they need to put drug dealers away for a very long time. There’s no worse drug dealers than those cartels and local people who are using or people who are addicted to opioids and using that to make money for themselves and destroying the lives of New Yorkers at the same time.
At this time I’d like to introduce our task force co-chair, Senator Carlucci.
DAVID CARLUCCI: Good afternoon. It’s an absolute honor and a privilege to be here with so many of my colleagues teaming up and focusing like a laser on this horrible problem that’s plagued New York State and the rest of our nation.
Like Senator Boyle talked about we’ve had 17 hearings around this state – over 50 hours of testimony from people who have lived through it, from parents that have lost their children, to people recovering living with addiction. We’ve got to get real about this issue that addiction has to be treated just like any other disease, that we can’t allow insurance companies to continue to deny coverage that is desperately needed, that we can’t sit back and let people go without treatment.
This package we really believe will save lives in New York State and we’re so thankful to the people who have come out who have shared their stories. We know it is not easy. Unfortunately we see the trend is continuing that young people are continuing to die all across this state and that’s why “enough is enough”.
We’ve said that we’ve got to do something about this and it’s not going to be just one piece of legislation that’s going to be a silver bullet to solve it but that’s why we have over 2 dozen pieces of legislation from almost every area of the state to say we’ve got to break down the silos in state government, that we can’t have it as a separate mental health issue or a Department of Health. We’ve got to work together to solve this problem.
I want to thank my colleagues for focusing on this issue and we know by passing this legislation we will save lives.
PHILIP BOYLE:: Thank you, Senator, and as Senator Carlucci said this does have a mental health aspect to it. A lot of people know that addiction comes with cohabitity, with mental health issues and we also mentioned the law enforcement aspect. With that we also have our other vice chair of the task force, the chairman of the codes committee, Senator Mike Azoia.
MIKE AZOIA: Thank you Senator Boyle. Let me emphasize that thanks for your significant attention to this very important problem. These hearings took a lot of time, they took a lot of effort and thanks to you and your staff and all the members who are here today and many members who are not here helped make this task force an extremely worthwhile endeavor.
The bottom line education that I received through this task force is that opiate addiction and heroin addiction is no longer a problem that is small and isolated in some of our big cities, inner cities. It is a problem that is pervasive in our suburbs, in our small cities and in our rural areas, a problem that is escalating in a dramatic proportion throughout this decade, a problem that is a multi-billion dollar problem, a problem that is hoisted among the taxpayers where we have found during the discussions during the task force and the input that we took. Some of the cases are in the hundreds of millions of dollars of range in terms of organized crime being involved in taking Medicaid dollars and using those fraudulently to obtain Medicaid cards to actually bilk the system by hundreds of millions of dollars and in so doing thrust a large amount of very serious narcotic onto the streets of our communities.
Our law enforcement measures were developed under the guide of Chairman Boyle who said from the outset of these deliberations that our keystones are going to be prevention, treatment and then appropriate prosecution. Those are the elements of the task force. These measures are just not to increase penalties although some of our proposals do. Where we see the prosecution element marrying with the treatment element is a proposal that the task force is recommending.
It takes those assets that are seized and puts more into the use of treatment of those who are engulfed in this problem – in effect, having the solution to the problem not only taking the unscrupulous off our streets but putting more treatment dollars that are obtained from those forfeitures so that our treatment which is extremely demanded upon...it’s very expensive. It’s extremely difficult to obtain across our state but we believe that with these infusions of forfeiture dollars this is will help the program a long way.
Other proposals I just want to outline...we want to have stricter penalties in the crime aspects of it for those major drug traffickers. We want to look at the possibilities of expanding the Oasis involvement. Our New York State government has a great system of drug treatment within state government but it is a small and not given the appropriate resource. One of our proposals will be to study how we can integrate facilities that may be closed across the state with utilizing more funds to Oasis to have available all across our state.
A number of other proposals regarding our crime measures are listed. We’ve taken them very seriously. These measures will be enacted by our senate in the upcoming days and I just, again, want to thank Senator Boyle, Senator Carlucci and all those who have been so helpful in making this an excellent task force, one that I believe has identified the problem appropriately and suggested specific legislative solutions to help get this problem better resolved across our state.
DOUG McVAY: Back in 1973, the Rockefeller laws were a game-changer, along with Nixon he led the way into the drug war. 41 years later, they have the opportunity to move in a different direction yet the New York legislature is not changing any games. They are doing some things better, like trying to expand access to Naloxone, but mostly they're tinkering around the edges and doing more of the same. More is needed. Other countries have had success with supervised injecting facilities, and with heroin assisted treatment - heroin maintenance. The US government and individual states need to be more open to innovative approaches such as these.
That's it for this week. I'm Doug McVay and this was Century of Lies. Thank you for listening. You can find a recording of this show and past shows at the website drug truth dot net, where you can check out our other programs and subscribe to our podcasts. Follow me on Twitter, where I'm @ Drug Policy Facts. The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, be sure to give its page a Like, you can find Drug War Facts on facebook as well, please give it a like and share it with friends. Spread the word. Remember: Knowledge is power.
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The Century of Lies.
This show produced at Pacifica Studios at KPFT, Houston.
Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org