04/12/15 Jeff Anderson

Century of Lies

Doug McVay Reports: This week: We talk with Jeff Anderson of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 555, and the activist and federal medical marijuana patient Elvy Musikka

Audio file


APRIL 12, 2015


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 host, Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org. Century of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network and is supported by the generosity of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and of listeners like you.

And now, on with the show.

Recently, I attended the Oregon Hemp Convention in Portland, Oregon. I saw a lot of friends while I was there and got some good interviews. First up: Jeff Anderson is the secretary-treasurer of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 555, located in the Portland area. Local 555 is working to organize workers in the burgeoning cannabis industry. I'll let him tell you about it.

JEFF ANDERSON: Well, United Food and Commercial Workers on the national level is organizing the cannabis industry, from seed to sale, whether it's grows, dispensaries, recreation, transportation, security, edibles, everything. United Food and Commercial Workers 555 is the Oregon-based local, we have 20,000 members in our union today, and we anticipate we'll have two or three thousand in the cannabis industry alone over the next 3 to 55 years.

We've already signed contracts in the state with employers that are opening medical dispensaries as well as grows, we've already signed our first security contract, it hopes to be able to become the company that not only provides camera security and infrastructure but also transportation for money and for cannabis products.

So, we're in the middle of creating what we believe to be a middle class wage job, as opposed to what I call the convenience store model, low wage high turnover occupation. We've got a lot, we enjoy a lot of support in the state capitol in addressing that vision. We're very active in the implementation committee at the Oregon legislature. We're active in the Oregon Liquor Control in terms of advancing our issues for what's called a merit-based application system, so that future applications are guaranteed, they're capitalized, they have a business plan, they give back to the community, with additional points on environment and, uh, safety as well as labor.

Because the federal government does not recognize the industry, that means the National Labor Relations Act, that provides workers protections on a federal law, do not apply in Oregon in this industry, so we're advancing what's called "labor peace," which provides a state law that provides cannabis worker protections, and we already have it being drafted we hope into the bill on the implementation of Measure 91 at the state capitol, so a lot of organizing going on and it's like in some cases flying blind in the dark, but on other cases we have a lot of employers coming to us that want our help.

DOUG MCVAY: Now that's fantastic, having a state bill for labor protection would be a terrific thing. How's your reception been -- and I'm going to get back to that in a second, but while I'm, uh, yeah, order -- how's the reception been here at the expo to your, to the union and to your efforts?

JEFF ANDERSON: Well, two weeks ago we were at the business conference in the Hilton and it was received very well. We had a number of people coming to us asking about organization, that they're -- a lot of the employers that make up the dispensary and cannabis industry at large tend to be very pro-worker, so they understand that we can bring some value by creating apprenticeships, creating hiring halls, and so it's been really interesting. First initial reaction, a lot of people at this conference, because it's not just growers it's the general public coming in, is that, oh my god there's a union? In cannabis, really?

So it's kind of a, whoa, kind of a nod and a wink, but then people come back and start asking us more questions, and it makes sense. And we're the union that represents the food, grocery, retailing industry. We also have 2,500 members in healthcare and dispensaries, pharmacy technicians. We're also the union that has agricultural processing, Foster Farms, Hillmead, different employers in Oregon, so it's a natural that we are the union from seed to sale.

DOUG MCVAY: So, yeah, you don't have a lot of companies trying to adopt union avoidance strategies, the HR people taking over? You're actually getting, you're getting more of a welcoming embrace?

JEFF ANDERSON: We are getting a welcoming embrace because they see us as having a lot of political clout at the federal level as well as the state level, something that this industry really doesn't have. If you go to the capitol today, just on the implementation interim committee on ballot measure 91, the house and senate committee, there's over 18 contract lobbyists lobbying different aspects of the industry there at the capitol, when we're carrying the interest of virtually all of them at the same time.

DOUG MCVAY: Very good. Now, the, back to the bill you mentioned, it's still in the drafting stage so hasn't quite got out of legislative counsel, you still have, but you've got, you've got some support, you don't have to name names, but you do have some support in Salem on it, yeah?

JEFF ANDERSON: Well, it -- our union has very good working relationships with the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate, and the governor -- the past governor and the future governor, I'm known Senator Brown -- er, Governor Brown, I'm known Governor Brown, that's kind of a nice feel, I've known her for over 30 years, she's a good friend of mine.

On the Oregon liquor control, OLCC, Steve Marks, I couldn't have asked to know somebody better, I've known him for 25 years, so we're in pretty good shape, and as far as the interim working committee, Ann -- Representative Ann Lininger and Senator Ginny Burdick are good friends of UFCW Local 555. Ginny, Senator Burdick has been a good friend for a lot of years in the Senate, and we were also very supportive and helpful for Representative Lininger when she was a Clackamas County Commissioner. So we're involved pretty much with the majorities of that committee.

DOUG MCVAY: Well, that's terrific. Jeff, I just wish you luck, you're doing good work, thank you very much.

JEFF ANDERSON: Thank you, I appreciate the time.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Jeff Anderson, Secretary-treasurer of Local 555 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. They're working to make sure that workers in the cannabis industry have a voice in their future, and to see that jobs in the industry can provide a decent living with all the rights, privileges, and protections that workers in this country should expect.

This is Century Of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

Let's go back to the Hemp Convention once again. I ran into my good friend Elvy Mussika while I was there. I've known Elvy ever since she became a legal federal medical marijuana patient in the late 1980s, I was working at national NORML at the time. She has been a good friend and an inspiration ever since. Here's Elvy:

ELVY MUSIKKA: I have been doing nothing but celebrating the fact that I've been a medical marijuana patient for 40 years. It was in '75 that a doctor gave me a ticket on a roller-coaster ride to a sit-com life that has nowhere near come to an end. And, when he said if you don't smoke marijuana you'll go blind, complete change of life, had to find out all the good things and get to join all of you. You kept me on the road, we went out with a, with the young people, what were you all, 18 to 25, the majority of you? Really young, and we visited the whole country, and got to meet all the different organizations that work with all the different universities, and it just became a real good life. Real exciting life.

DOUG MCVAY: Things are going good up here in Oregon for you now?

ELVY MUSIKKA: Yes, not only that, but the fact that we made it totally legal for an adult to be able to choose a wiser bud really thrills me. And of course, we did that in Alaska as well, and Florida didn't quite make it and that's kind of sad but next year I think a lot of states are going to join the bandwagon. I think we're on our way up, and to quit now would be incredibly disastrous, but because there's been millions of us working against all odds and got it this far, I know you're not going to let it go now.

DOUG MCVAY: Ah, you're a brave symbol to a lot of people. I remember when I was, I remember when I was back in NORML and that reporter called to say that there was about to be another federal marijuana patient, and the, you know, I mean, that was, I mean it was, it was huge, and yeah, and you know, getting to work with you out on the road was fantastic. Once people finally, you know -- oh heck. You helped convince my grandma --

ELVY MUSIKKA: I met your grandma, that's right.

DOUG MCVAY: -- that all this marijuana lark was actually okeh, and for that, frankly Elvy, I just can't thank you enough.

ELVY MUSIKKA: Thank you, but it's you, we're all just parts of a puzzle, and it's all the parts you put in that made all this happen, the sacrifices, I think about you regularly. I mean, you kids would dare go under those cars and fix them so we could stay on the road, you went out and found t-shirts and bumper stickers and buttons so we could eat while we were on the road, you were phenomenal, and you taught me so much of what I enjoy about life today, thank you so much for being you. All of you.

DOUG MCVAY: Now, you, are you doing any lobbying with the legislature this year, are you staying background, or are you talking to those folks direct?

ELVY MUSIKKA: I'm hoping to do some legislature, I have been over in Salem and I'm going there tomorrow with all of you, and I have been in other parts of the country where it's going back in time at least 20 years, like Georgia, we just did a big rally and there are at least 5 states that really want to go medical, so I assume I will be working back in Florida a bit there too. Because we've got it here now, but we've still got to be vigilant and make sure they don't mess up our laws with a bunch of ridiculous restrictions, and, you know, accommodations to the wrong people.

DOUG MCVAY: It's just, back in those days, I remember we got -- we got flack for taking you out on the road, and you were getting a lot of grief from some of the folks, oh, it's dangerous, oh, what would happen, and I, you know, I think having you out there and talking to people, and -- yeah.

ELVY MUSIKKA: It made a big difference, I think. I saw sometimes when I'd take a break and I'd come back and the kids were being looked down upon, and then I'd come in, an older woman, you know, and it was just a different attitude of a reception, but it was all our work all together that made any and all of this happen, and I can't -- this is the year that I've really thought about it all way more than I usually do, but it's with a very joyful, grateful attitude, because I mean, come on, the whole western part of the country is legal medically, almost half, 24 states, I mean, we are almost there, and we're not going to let it go now.

DOUG MCVAY: Okeh, now, I know that you love it out here in the west coast, but, if -- when, not if -- when your old home state of Florida finally goes full legal, do you think you might maybe -- are you still going to stay out here out west?

ELVY MUSIKKA: Ha ha ha. There's no way that I would think of anywhere else as home anymore. I am definitely an Oregonian. I love it here, there is no going back, just like when you elected the first state, 26 years ago -- no, not even that, what, 20, 15? Nineteen years ago when California went legal, it was the light of a brand new day, breaking through the dark night of ignorance. We could never go back to that again. I'm not going back to live in Florida, I'm sorry, I'll go visit there, I'll help with that initiative, see if they need the help and I think they do, but other than that, no. Yeah, I still go to pick up my medicine there, I have beautiful friends that I love there now, I hope they do get it through, but it would just be medical and it would be so restricted anyway that, probably would make New Jersey look good, so I find Florida very difficult to work with. Very difficult. That's why I left. Nothing was happening anymore. We tried to put it on the ballot then, we never even got the funding for that.

DOUG MCVAY: Then they got the sham law that passed, and I still think that had a lot to do with the initiative not making it through, I mean, it's like, oh, but we already have medical sort of, don't we?

ELVY MUSIKKA: That's part of the miseducation, and I'm so glad that I'm here to disprove that whole bunch of bologna, because, as you know, for 37 years I was using marijuana for, to maintain my left eye, which is all that was left by the time I became public. And, 3 years ago, as they did once in a while anywhere, they sent me some hemp. Hemp is nice to wear, this is hemp, but it doesn't do a thing for my glaucoma, and I didn't pay attention, I concentrated it thinking that would make it all right, but nothing from nothing leaves nothing, I ended up losing part of my optic nerve, after maintaining that sight in that eye for 37 years. That really hurt, and I mean when I lived in California for those five years, my sight got so much better. Everything got better, I was able to quit that nasty habit that would have killed me, nicotine. Remember how much I smoked? That was over once I had total access to really good pot.

And then, when I went to get a placard for, for people who drive me around, when we need to park somewhere without doing something, and the man said to me after giving me a test, he says well, I have good news for you and bad news. Well give me the bad first, and he goes well, I can't give you a placard, but that's the good news: you're no longer legally blind in that eye, your sight is now 20/160. I never in my entire life had ever enjoyed that, as you know I was born with congenital cataracts and my sight was always limited, but for the last 20, 30 years with the marijuana, what happened is that I was improving constantly, til it was no longer legally blind and all that work, down to hell because the government was trying to prove to all of you, and I'm one of the guinea pigs they used, that 2 percent THC is okeh. Well it wasn't, it cost you the taxpayers another 30, 40 thousand dollars for me to have surgeries to blind me even further. So no, it has not been good for me.

But, the good news here is, that again, I am hoping to have the opportunity to show the world that there is nothing like marijuana. I'm going to restore that optic nerve, you watch me do it. If I got that eye from 20/400 to 20/160 once before, then I am going to get at least that 20/200 back because I'm going to be taking the Simpson oil at night for my insomnia, the very highly concentrated oil, and in the morning I can take leaf, roll leaves in my shakes that won't even let me get high but it will definitely be doing the healing, and we're going to get that eye back. Some of it has already come back, it's a very slow process.

DOUG MCVAY: Elvy, you are my hero, you're an inspiration. Bless you and thank you so much.

ELVY MUSIKKA: Thank you, Doug McVay, you certainly stay in my thoughts and I loved meeting your family in Iowa, and touring with you was one of the sweetest things that's ever happened in my life. I learned more from all of you than from all the schools I went to before.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Elvy Mussika, my good friend who's also a medical cannabis patient and legalization activist. You're listening to Century Of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

We have a little bit of time left, so let's close out with some audio from Dr. Donald Abrams. Dr. Abrams is a cancer and integrative medicine specialist at the University of California at San Francisco Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Mount Zion. Abrams provides integrative medicine consultations for cancer patients and has completed research in complementary and alternative therapies including mind-body treatments, botanical therapies, medical use of marijuana and traditional Chinese medicine herbal therapies.

In addition to his role at the Osher center, he's chief of Hematology and Oncology at San Francisco General Hospital. Abrams, who has been in the forefront of HIV/AIDS research and treatment, stepped down from the HIV Clinic at San Francisco General Hospital in August 2006 to devote more time to integrative medicine and oncology. Dr. Abrams works closely with the organization Patients Out of Time, and he was a featured speaker at their conference last year in Portland, Oregon. He spoke about the use of cannabis in cancer treatment, here's part of that presentation.

DONALD ABRAMS, MD: And, these are just some of the symptoms that we run across every day in patients with malignant disease: weight loss, cachexia, early satiety, anorexia or loss of appetite, pain, anxiety, depression, and nausea and vomiting. And all of us in the room can appreciate the fact that there is one medicine basically that can address all of those symptoms.

So, looking at each one of these individually, we've heard this morning about the reward system and the endocannabinoids and cannabinoids and appetite, and we know that, I believe it was the work of Ester Fride, the late Ester Fride, that anandamide in low concentrations in mice leads to potent enhancement of appetite. And the CB1 receptors as mentioned are involved in the limbic system and related to the reward aspects of eating. CB1 knockout mice, mice that don't have a CB1 receptor, eat less than wild-type litter mates.

So, that led, another important point is that, mother's milk is also high in the other endocannabinoid, 2AG. So this led to basically most pharmaceutical companies developing antagonists to the CB1 receptor as weight loss products, and we again heard this morning the fate of Rimonabant, that yes in fact in clinical trials it did lead to significant weight loss in the patients, but once it was released in Europe as a drug for treatment of obesity, too many patients got severely depressed, and in fact too many patients committed suicide, that led ultimately to the removal of the drug from the market.

So, with regards to nausea and vomiting, I was actually in medical school and in my training to be an oncologist in the 70s, which was a bit of a different decade although I think it's, we're coming back to the same consciousness perhaps, things do recycle. And in the 70s, even though we've made a lot of advances in chemotherapy, two malignancies that effect younger adults, Hodgkin's Disease and testicular cancer, were treated with the same drugs essentially that we use today. And in the 70s, we didn't have the potent anti-emetics that we have today, and in the 70s more people were using cannabis recreationally perhaps than we have today in some states.

So, patients told us that, you know, cannabis is actually better than these prescription drugs that you're giving me for the nausea and vomiting from these chemotherapeutic agents, which in general were quite emetogenic. And in randomized studies, oral THC was better than placebo and equivalent or superior to our standard of care at the time. As mentioned earlier, Dronabinol was approved originally for chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting back in 1986, and smoked THC appeared to be superior to oral, certainly from what we heard, you know, from our patients.

If we lined up today cannabis as an anti-emetic, there are other, more potent agents that we have in our toolbox, however for some patients, cannabis works best, and for some patients they don't like the side effects of the anti-emetics that we prescribe. Rick Doblin, who got me into this whole field in the first place, that's another story, when he was a youth, conducted a survey of oncologists. Ricks is the founder of MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies, and now has a PhD from the Harvard School of Government. And he originally surveyed a thousand members of the American Society of Clinical Oncology with regards to their recommendations or use of Tetrahydrocannabinol, and found that 44 percent had recommended cannabis to at least one patient that they were treating, and most of those oncologists back 20 years ago believed that cannabis was more effective than Dronabinol.

So, this is just an email I got from one of my patients. Hi Dr. Abrams, I'm contacting you to see about getting an extension on the medical marijuana letter you issued me last year, which expired on March 21st. Although I did not use it until my last five sessions of chemo, me getting over the stigma of its use, it did what no other drug could do: completely solve the severe nausea I had. This is a 42 year old with metastatic colorectal cancer. It allowed me to play with my children, attend their sports and school functions, and just function very normally in day to day activities. I cannot thank you enough for giving me that option. I'm currently on a chemo vacation after a clean scan, and the only time I use medical marijuana now is when I have trouble sleeping. I would like to continue to use it for that purpose instead of relying on pharmaceutical options.

So, these are the sort of patients that I see, the testimonials that I receive from people who are benefiting from cannabis, and with regards to an anti-emetic or anti-nausea drug, cannabis is the only anti-nausea drug that also increases appetite. The other anti-nausea drugs that we use do not increase appetite.

Now we've already heard quite a bit about cannabinoids in pain, and we know that the CB1 receptor, like the opioid receptor, is found in areas of the brain that modulate noxious stimuli and that the CB1 and CB2 agonists also have peripheral analgesic actions. As well, the cannabinoids and some of the other components of the plant may also exert anti-inflammatory effects. And as, has previously been mentioned, the analgesic effects are not blocked by opiate antagonists.

Intravenous THC is very potent but also very psychoactive, and in a cancer trial, 20 milligrams of just oral THC was found to be comparable to about 120 milligrams of codeine, but again with marked psychological effects. Cannabinoids have been effective in a rat model of neuropathic pain, and again rats, how do they tell us they have neuropathic pain? This is the so-called rat tail flick model, where the rat's tail is put on a hot plate and how long it can stay there, the longer it can stay in response to a pharmacologic intervention suggests that that agent may be useful in peripheral neuropathy.

So, the study that we did back quite some time ago, which was supported in part by funds from the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, was a study in patients with HIV-related peripheral neuropathy, as a number of people have already alluded to today. Neuropathy is something that, for which we don't really have good treatment, gabapentin, an anti-convulsant, is most widely used. The opiates are generally ineffective, and in addition to the animal model we had anecdotal reports of the efficacy of cannabis. So this led us to conduct a study that was published in 2007 in the journal Neurology, looking at cannabis and patients with HIV-associated sensory neuropathy.

We first studied 16 patients to see if it would work, and when we did see that it would work, we were able to calculate the sample size for a follow-on placebo-controlled trial. I worked on this study with colleagues from the pain clinical research center at UCSF, and they felt that we should, as well as measuring the patients' chronic neuropathic pain, also do an experimental pain model as a subjective, more objective, anchor of their pain. So what we did, we heated their forearm with a thermode to 40 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes, and then applied capsaicin creme, capsaicin is the active ingredient in chili peppers. And this creates an area of so-called hypoesthesia, or hyper-sensitivity, and allodynia, or weird feeling, around that rectangle that we map out using a brush and a piece of foam, with the person looking in another direction, so it's much less subjective than just asking how was your neuropathic pain right now.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Dr. Donald Abrams, a cancer and integrative medicine specialist from the University of California at San Francisco, speaking at the Patients Out of Time conference in Portland, Oregon, in 2014. Patients Out of Time is holding its 2015 conference in Florida this year. In addition to their fine work on the medical side, they also plan to once again have a legal seminar at this year's conference. You can find out more and register by going to their website at medicalcannabis.com.

And that's all the time we have this week. Thank you for listening. This is Century Of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org. Century Of Lies is heard on 420Radio.org on Mondays at 11 am and 11 pm, and Saturdays at 4 am, all times are pacific. We are heard on time4hemp.com on Wednesdays between 1 and 2pm pacific along with our sister program Cultural Baggage. And we're on The Detour Talk Network at thedetour.us on Tuesdays at 8:30pm.

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We'll be back next week with more news and commentary on the drug war and this Century Of Lies. For now, for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

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