01/09/15 Anthony Johnson

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Anthony Johnson of International Cannabis Business Conference, Jason Miller of Houston Norml re forthcoming cannabis conference in Houston, Drug Policy Alliance teleconference on national progress on legal cannabis

Audio file


JANUARY 9, 2015


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

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.

Hi, this is Dean Becker. You know, not only having a drive-time slot here at the mothership station of the Drug Truth Network but the progress that's going on around the country, even in Texas, is making me fairly happy these days, let's get to it, it's so exciting.

ANTHONY JOHNSON: Anthony Johnson, I'm the director of New Approach Oregon as well as the content director for the International Cannabis Business Conference, and I've been working to legalize and regulate marijuana here in Oregon for the last decade, and this past year, 2014, I was the chief petitioner for Measure 91 and chief spokesperson for the Yes On 91 campaign that finally ended, you know, cannabis prohibition here in Oregon.

DEAN BECKER: Well you know Anthony, what you have done, what many others are doing across these United States, to awaken and embolden their friends, their constituents, their allies, their politicians, is making a hell of a difference these days, is it not?

ANTHONY JOHNSON: You know I think so, I really think that state by state, even community by community, even person to person, we are making great advances all across the country. You are seeing it in polls, national polls, state polls, with individual, um, politicians and elected officials, and you can see that step by step the lies that have, uh, been waged against marijuana, you know it's reefer madness, slowly but surely the truth is laying out and I really think that, you know, two states and our nation's capitol legalizing cannabis in 2014, in an off-year election when it seemed like a really bad time to put a reform measure on the ballot, to have that type of success, to see good movement federally, and I really expect we're going to see at least four states legalize cannabis in 2016.

I think potentially we could see up to eight states legalize cannabis and to have a handful of more states to join, we're just going to see greater progress all across the country. And it's been a long time coming, and I really appreciate everybody that helped spread the truth about cannabis and about the ills and consequences of prohibition and have really put their work into this effort, because it's been a long time coming, and it's uh, prohibition has damaged too many lives and it's really exciting to see really the truth and really, you know, equality starting to win the day.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh, and Anthony, as you mentioned earlier, you are helping head up this conference, going to be basically a month from this interview, out there in San Francisco. Please tell us about it.

ANTHONY JOHNSON: Yeah. February 15th and 16th in San Francisco, the International Cannabis Business Conference is bringing together, both people from the marijuana business world, the cannabis industry, but also elected officials, activists, people like Dr., you know, Carl Hart, who's helping spread the truth about cannabis through just educating people about the science. You know, travel guru Rick Steves, who has traveled the world and has done a great job being a spokesperson for the cause, especially here in Oregon. Uh, Drug Policy Alliance Director Ethan Nadelmann, who is helping the cause all across the world, actually.

And kind of combining the science, common sense spokespeople, political activists, combining that with people who are doing good work in the industry, uh, like Oaksterdam University, Magnolia Wellness, Harborside, all kinds of dispensaries, operators who have been utilizing good business practices. We'll bring all those people together to really help people network, learn more about the industry in the states that are moving forward, but also give a broad-based, really, curriculum to, so people can understand that, when it comes to marijuana business and you want to be in the industry, you've got to be involved in politics and you've got to take into account voters, good neighbor practices, because you know there can be a backlash.

We want to be sensible about it, move forward in a responsible way, and really to speak the truth, and make sure we move forward with the cannabis industry in a way that keeps in mind that the most important thing is ending cannabis prohibition, stopping the harmful arrests and prosecutions and imprisonment we're seeing all across the country, but, to also know that we can create jobs, generate revenue, and it's all part of the big picture.

So the International Cannabis Business Conference, people can learn more at internationalcbc.com, and I'm really proud of the line-up and curriculum we helped put together, and I think it's really valuable for people who are in the industry, thinking about joining the industry, but also advocates that, uh, want to learn more about the ins and outs of both politics and industry in the states that are moving forward.

DEAN BECKER: All right, Anthony, good summary there. Now, one more time, the dates and where they can learn more.

ANTHONY JOHNSON: Yeah. February 15th and 16th in San Francisco, and it's www.internationalcbc.com, and of course you know do a google search for international cannabis business conference, you can check us out on facebook and twitter as well, and we do our best to, you know, keep everyone apprised of the ins and outs of the industry and just general cannabis news as well.

DEAN BECKER: I'd also like to make note of the fact that I will be in San Francisco, home of my birth, to attend this conference and reporting for you guys out there. Let's end this stupid drug war.

JASON MILLER: My name's Jason Miller, I'm the executive director of Houston NORML, that's the Houston chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws. We focus on marijuana policy and marijuana law reform, and we're a grassroots organization, 501(c)4 nonprofit organization that works to educate the public. Our goal is to, uh, reform the laws here in Texas so that responsible adults are no longer criminalized, prosecuted, for, uh, using cannabis.

DEAN BECKER: Now, Jason, the fact of the matter is over the last year or two, it seems to be escalating. Various states around the country are focusing on their laws, changing their laws, and uh, you guys as you say have a very similar approach, and there's something on the horizon that may help expedite that change. Tell us about it, please.

JASON MILLER: There's been a bill that was introduced a couple of weeks ago, it's HB507 in the Texas House, and that's the bill that will reduce the penalty for marijuana possession, anything under an ounce, to just a civil fine, so it's no longer a crime, it's a civil infraction, so there's no longer any criminal, criminal aspect to it, there's not going to be jail time or potential criminal record, anything like that, it would simply be a fine of no more than $100, and that would be a civil issue and no longer a criminal issue. So that's a good step for decriminalization that we believe is right for Texas, we believe it will free up law enforcement resources to actually focus on real crimes, and it will be good for the communities because people are no longer going to be hit with a criminal record for just having a small amount of marijuana.

DEAN BECKER: Now, in support of that bill you're talking about, there's going to be a gathering in February, not just of Houston NORML, but of folks from around the state. Tell us about that, please.

JASON MILLER: We're having an event February 5th, that's a Thursday night, and this event is Legalize Texas 2015. So, this is actually an educational event as well as social event and a fundraiser for Houston NORML, and this is going to have content on multiple different topics. So, part of what we're going to be talking about are the legislative efforts that are going on right now and when the legislative session this year is about to start, um, and House Bill 507 is, you know, an important, important bill because that's been introduced by a coalition of organizations including Houston NORML and many others across the state of Texas. That is something we're supportive of.

We're also going to be talking about potentially a medical marijuana bill being introduced, and even possibly a full legalization bill being introduced towards the end of the session. So we're going to be talking to people about how they can get involved, how they can talk to their legislators, we're also having a, starting the event with a discussion panel in which we're going to be talking about the local law enforcement policies and the ways that people are affected by marijuana prohibition here locally and the criminal aspect and criminal justice, um, and how that has to do with civil liberties as well.

So we have some experts that are going to be joining us. We have Kim Ogg, who is very much a local expert in criminal justice, she's a former chief felony prosecutor, former executive director of CrimeStoppers, and also the 2014 Democratic candidate for Harris County District Attorney, that's going to be joining us. And we have also Greg Gladden, who's the former president of the ACLU of Texas, and yourself, Mr. Dean Becker, is going to be on our panel as well starting things off.

And we're also going to have a short awards ceremony, we're going to be giving out some awards to some local activists here, and we're also going to have a discussion, a lot of people have been asking me about, in regards to getting educated on the industry, uh, things about the industry that's going to be coming to Texas after it's legalized and that's something that a lot of people want to learn about.

And then we'll be also be having a discussion with NORML, national NORML's executive director Allen St. Pierre, and myself, along with Shawn McAllister, who's the executive director of the Dallas-Ft. Worth chapter of NORML, we're going to have a discussion and our keynote speaker is Keith Stroup, who's the founder of NORML, founded the organization back in the early 70s, so he's going to be our keynote. And we'll have some live music at the end, and some socializing.

DEAN BECKER: Now, Jason, this is I think important to, not just educate, but to embolden people, that that chance is at hand and it's time to act to make it happen. Please share the website where folks can learn more about this forthcoming event and how they can get involved.

JASON MILLER: You can go to HoustonNORML.org and find more information there. And I agree with you, a big part of what we do as activists is activate other people and to allow them to utilize their skills to help out the cause in one way or another. So we all work together in this movement to eventually bring change, uh, because, you know, it's not going to legalize itself. We have to take some action and show our legislators and the communities that marijuana prohibition has been an absolute failure and we believe this is a natural plant that is far less harmful than alcohol, less addictive, and people should not be put in jail for making a choice that's an alternative that's, you know, safer than alcohol consumption. So it's a big problem. We spend and waste a lot of money, and people are very much excited to find out that some change is going to be coming to Texas, so we're working towards that.

DEAN BECKER: Time for today's helpful hint. Marijuana has been shown to be effective against epilepsy, post traumatic stress disorder, certain cancers, and even anorexia, among other maladies and conditions, but there's one physical condition where smoking a joint is not recommended: Famine. Yep, any time you are facing starvation, cannabis may not be the best medicine.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects. Yellow eyes, vomiting, black tarry stools, cloudy urine, fever with chills, sores ulcers or white spots on lips or mouth, unusual bleeding. Time's up! The answer: another FDA-approved product, acetaminophen.

Next up, we hear from the host of a recent Drug Policy Alliance teleconference, this is Sharda Sekaran.

SHARDA SEKARAN; Andrew Freidman, who's the marijuana policy coordinator for Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

ANDREW FREIDMAN: Thank you for having me, and, um, I am going to share the money that came but first of all for those on the phone, I'm actually the Director of Marijuana Coordination for the governor, which is a title that my mother's very proud of. So the first one that I would talk about is, between January and October, we've collected about 50.1 million dollars and that's total recreational and medical marijuana up to this date since legalizing recreational marijuana, which isn't insignificant but obviously not enough to solve our education gap needs or transportation needs or higher education.

The very first thing that we request money to go to is to pay for our regulatory structure, and so, that is our department of revenue having the enforcement division which tracks marijuana from seed to sale, that is making sure that the department of public health and environment has the ability to certify labs, for testing for safety and for homogeneity, that's making sure that all the various departments for public safety have everything that they need to directly implement anything for marijuana.

After that we have three goals. The first is youth prevention, making sure that we're doing everything we can to keep it out, recreational marijuana out of the hands of kids under 21. The second one is public safety, making sure that our streets are just as safe as they were before, making sure that no one is getting harmed, showing up in hospitals because of marijuana. And the third one is addiction services, making sure we're doing everything we can to make sure that marijuana isn't, uh, ruining people's lives by normal addiction, uh, consequences that you might see from alcohol or tobacco or anything else.

Specific on youth prevention, three areas that we're looking to fund this year, the first will always be data for us. We are expanding our Healthy Kids Colorado survey, with $789,000 in order to try to get a very full picture of lifetime use and thirty-day use of marijuana as well as getting cross-sections of the population, the LGBT community, at-risk communities, and that also measures other, other things such as alcohol use, tobacco use, bullying at school, a number of other things that go into that survey.

And then the second one would be health professionals in schools and communities, $6.7 million combined between our department of healthcare policy and finance and the department of education, and that's to provide healthcare professionals for at-risk kids, again having to have a nexus with marijuana but not having to be specifically about marijuana troubles.

And the third one is the Tony Grampsas, uh, grant system for $2 million, and this specializes in after-school programming in direct grant programming for at-risk students that really has been a really popular program here in Colorado.

SHARDA SEKARAN: We're going to go ahead with Matthew Kuehlhorn, who's with the One Voice Coalition and Community Thrive.

MATTHEW KUEHLHORN: Andrew, you know, referenced the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, which is a key piece for really establishing effective strategies and policies from what our students are reporting as their use. What I've done is created what I call a Colorado Youth Health Index, which is a really high level, um, number just to get a sense of how Colorado is, is playing in comparison with the national average, and in respect to past years.

So, this health index is simply an average of four student-reported non-use metrics, and what it does it takes the percentage of students reported not using alcohol, marijuana, and cigarettes in the past 30 days along with not using prescription drugs without a prescription in their lifetime, averages them up, and in 2013 the Colorado Youth Health Index was 81. Now looking back in 2011, the Colorado Youth Health Index, and I should say this is for our high school student population, in 2011 that number was 76.5. You want to see this number increase as it represents the number of students who are choosing not to use these substances, and I chose alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes and prescription drugs without a prescription because those are by far the four most commonly used substances by our youth.

And because of what we have in place with a network of community-based prevention programs and good collaborations among state governments, I am projecting that our 2017 number for the youth health index will be 85. And just to put this across the national, in 2013 Colorado's was 81, the national youth health index was 77, and in 2011 the national youth health index was 74.5. And then just use that as a high level number, to go and dig in a little bit further, again using the Colorado, the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, in 2011, 22 percent of high school students reported using marijuana once or twice in the past 30 days, 22 percent in 2011.

In 2013, that number went down to 20 percent, so you saw a slight decrease. Now it's important to note that, our most current data is from 2013. There is going to be some numbers coming out in the next couple of months from the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, most likely from local populations, that's going to have some information more that, that's going to be more current from 2014. The 2013 number's a great baseline, it was after Amendment 64 had been passed and adult use was legalized but before the real regulatory market and retail sales has occurred.

One of the things that we've seen in this Healthy Kids Survey and some other national surveys is the persistent decline in the perception of risk. And basically, students perceive marijuana use to be less risky than they did a few years back. And, what's interesting to note is, my experience in Gunnison County, we actually saw the opposite between 2012 and 2013. In 2013, students reported that there was more risk to using marijuana than they did in 2012.

And, in summary of my little presentation here, I think that perception of risk is really coming down to, um, the communities that are engaging in honest conversations around marijuana and finding real strategies that engage their students. And what I mean by that is, you know, we've been telling students for a while now that drugs are bad, and it's hard to do in a, in a post-prohibition environment, um, because now there's media sensationalizing marijuana specifically on all sides of this issue.

Certainly it's hard to say that marijuana's bad when there's a young child receiving some medical benefits on the news, and the message to students can be relatively confusing so obviously there's much work to continue doing, but at the end, um, I've had more parents come up to me and say, you know, now that marijuana's legal, I can have a more honest conversation about marijuana and other risky behaviors with my students than before, and I think that is something that is, um incredibly powerful and something that we can continue to build upon.

SHARDA SEKARAN: Our next speaker we're going to is Taylor West.

TAYLOR WEST: Thanks so much Sharda. I'm the deputy director as Sharda said of the National Cannabis Industry Association, which is the national trade association that represents businesses involved in the legal cannabis industry. I want to talk a little bit about how creating the legal industry creates better outcomes, even outside of the official regulatory policies.

A legal industry is an industry that's thinking about the long term. They are businesses that see the incredible opportunities in a legal industry but recognize that those only come about if you are maintaining strong relationships with your customers, with your community, the larger community that you're operating within, and uh with the regulators that you are dealing with in a legal system. This actually incentivizes all types of self-regulatory practices that add onto the mandatory regulated practices that are put in place by a legal system.

And we've seen that, NCIA has developed classes, training events with educational content, as have other businesses and organizations, all developed around the ideas of things like responsible selling practices, clear labeling and packaging practices, quality control and food safety, uh, and good community engagement with your neighbors, both residential and business, in the areas we're operating. These are things that are not only required by certain, uh, provisions in a regulatory system but are also simply required by a market that is operating above board, uh, and brought out of the underground criminal market.

Customers demand that you have better quality control, that your products are consistent, that they're clearly labeled so a customer isn't surprised by the experience that they're having. Um, these are things that the market is incentivizing in addition to the legal regulatory structures. The businesses themselves recognize that it's in their self-interest to abide by best practices. There really isn't a, a rational reason to endanger your legal license to sell cannabis by selling to minors when you have a large legal market to sell to.

And we've seen the results of that already borne out. In June, the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division took part in an action where they sent undercover minors out to attempt to buy marijuana at legal dispensaries. They sent them to 20 different businesses, and at all 20 those minors were turned away. This was a good example of how a legal regulatory system can work and gives these businesses every reason to operate the way that we as a community and society want them to. It also leads to increased transparency and traceability, where these businesses are operating above ground, they're, uh, working with inventory tracking systems that are mandated on a regulatory basis, but they're also, uh, tracking their product and tracing their funds in a way that allows, uh, for greater transparency and greater ability to assure that product isn't being diverted in ways that we don't want it to be.

We are now seeing an entire field of discussion emerging around some of these best practices and around innovation. So we see businesses looking at better ways to assure security for their product, security for their employees, and compliance with the rules that the state and local communities have set up. We see products being developed that allow for the inventory tracking and the kind of financial transparency that these businesses are being asked to maintain.

And an additional, um, benefit beyond just the specific compliance related things is that we're seeing a whole area of discussion around technology and innovation that leads to for example greater energy efficiency. Um, an energy footprint is a large part of any cultivation worry than dispensing operation, and now that these industries are out of the underground and operating in the sunlight, there is a greater opportunity to discuss how we can lower that energy footprint, how these businesses can put into effect technology that will really have a broader benefit beyond just the regulatory compliance issue.

So, I know Mike Elliott is going to talk a little more about the specifics of benefits here in Colorado, but I think it's important to recognize that, bringing this industry into the sunlight has broad benefits from a self-regulatory standpoint as well.

DEAN BECKER: Reality. Lies. Propaganda. Prohibition. Acquiescence. Inquisition. Information. Capitulation. Restoration. Truth. Reality.

All right friends, that's about it. I had a lot of fun building this show. It is my hope that gives you a kick in the butt, that it motivates you to write a letter to the editor, to call your congressman, to uh, to hug a cop, to do something to show that this drug war is an insane policy and it must be brought to an end. We'll have more for you next week and as always, I remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what is in that bag. Please be careful.

This is Dean Becker, thank you for being with us. I'm a contributing expert with the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. I'm a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and I'm author of To End The War On Drugs. Cultural Baggage is produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.