04/17/15 President Obama

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Texas House on legal cannabis, Clinton and Christie on weed, Tenn fears meth oil, Ann Lee a force to be reckoned with, Obama on weed in Jamaica, Patients out of Time Conference on Cannabis

Audio file


APRIL 17, 2015


TX REPRESENTATIVE TODD HUNTER: Now to quote Chairman Dudnall, we're going to do the joint session.

DEAN BECKER: Speaking to the Texas Legislature, this is Representative David Simpson.

TX REPRESENTATIVE DAVID SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, thank you members. I'd like to just give an overview of the bill and then talk about the differences with the committee substitute. House Bill 2165 would repeal all marijuana offenses in the state of Texas. It would repeal marijuana prohibition. I introduced the bill to help those in the district that I serve access the plant, a natural plant that god made as a natural, inexpensive treatment for seizures, for PTSD, and for acute and chronic pain.

It started with a few people, some of which you'll get to hear about tonight, that you'll get to meet, and I'm thankful that they took the time to come. But I want to give you one example of a family that wasn't able to come. There's a 17-year-old girl in the district that suffers from seizures and the family is well-off, and they took their 17-year-old girl to the Mayo Clinic, to Cleveland Clinic, to MD Anderson. They tried all the pharmaceutical drugs to treat their daughter. In desperation they went to Colorado, and their daughter went two weeks without any seizures, when she normally has 20 to 30 a day.

So that family now is faced with uprooting themselves and moving to Colorado, losing their business, their clientele, or risking becoming a criminal. And I don't think they should face that decision, and that's one of the reasons why I've introduced this bill, so that they can use this plant responsibly to help treat their daughter, and they are not alone. There's others in the district, and I will not take time, I'm sure there'll be a number of witnesses that will speak to examples like those that I'm keenly aware of in House District Seven.

House Bill 2165 takes a limited government approach, a personal responsibility approach, an individual liberty approach to dealing with drugs and drug abuse. It does not expand government, nor does it create a registry of users. This is my medical bill. It enables responsible people to use the plant for good. Yes, there may be some people who abuse it. There are people who abuse alcohol, and tobacco. Well, we don't put them into prison unless they end up harming someone else.

DEAN BECKER: All right, folks, you are listening to Cultural Baggage on Pacifica Radio and the Drug Truth Network. Today we're tuning into various speakers in various locales talking about medical and recreational and legal marijuana. Next up, speaking in support of David Simpson's bill to truly legalize marijuana, is the mother of one Richard Lee, the guy who tried to legalize cannabis in California couple of years back. This is his mother, Ann Lee, testifying before the Texas Legislature.

ANN LEE: My name is Ann Lee. I am here on, representing RAMP. RAMP is Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, which my husband and I -- I'm sorry, today would have been our 64th anniversary, he died last month, he is with me tonight -- but, we started RAMP, he thought of the word RAMP, October of 2012. We were celebrating number 4 son's 50th birthday, that's why I remember that month and year so well.

Prohibition doesn't work. It didn't work with alcohol. With alcohol prohibition, it was easy for kids to get alcohol. A saloonkeeper did not have to have a license. What license does a drug dealer need to sell your kid marijuana? Abraham Lincoln said it very well: Prohibition makes a crime out of that which should not be a crime. Why is marijuana illegal? Do you know? Can you answer? Can you all answer questions? Why is marijuana illegal? I've given you a handout so you will know how it came about in 1937. It was very racist. Do you remember? Those damn Mexicans were coming across the border, smoking that stuff and taking our jobs?


ANN LEE: That is the law you're all supporting!

ABEL HERRERO: Here's what I need you to do please.

ANN LEE: Okeh. I'm sorry. I do get --

ABEL HERRERO: No, you're fine, and let me extend my condolences for your loss, is tell me for the record, you've already confirmed it, but I need it to come from you, specifically, what your position is with respect to House Bill 2165.

ANN LEE: I support entirely. For it.

ABEL HERRERO: Okeh, please proceed. Go ahead.

ANN LEE: Prohibition doesn't work. Why don't we learn that? Why didn't we learn that in alcohol? It does not work. It makes me cry, I am so angry at the evil, I say it's evil, that this law has done to this country. This is a beautiful country, but unfortunately, from day one, our flaw has been racism. I've said it out loud, people have scurried it, but we had racism in the Constitution, did we not? Did we not have Abe Lincoln, with the Emancipation Proclamation sort of baptized us with that? And then what happened in the south, my south. I"m from Louisiana. The Jim Crow laws, the segregation laws. When I was growing up, it was illegal for blacks and whites to go to school together. That was bad law. We do have such things as bad law, and this marijuana prohibition is simply bad law.

And we in Texas need to stand up for Texans. I resent the fact that our son had to move to Oakland, California. To California of all places. People have more freedom. We always, we're so much better than California, aren't we? But yet, they have to go to California. In California, they have more options, they have more choices, they can use the medicine that they and their doctors say is best for them, but they can't do it in Texas legally? Please, stand up for Texans.

We also need, I'm going to say it right now, everybody needs to get in touch with your congressman and our two senators to do something on the national level, but in here, we can do it here, we can help Texans. We can help Texans. And let's please, please, help Texans. Stand up for Texans. Stand up for their right to use the medicine that is best for them, and I am so proud of Simpson and what he has done, I'm so proud of Moody and what he has done. I've worked with Dutton for a long time, I've been up here before, this is not my first time on this thing, and I'll be back as long as it takes. Please put RAMP out of business. Thank you.

DEAN BECKER: I don't think I need to say this, but, Ann Lee is a force to be reckoned with. So what does the BBC think about all this?

BBC CORRESPONDENT ALASTAIR LEITHEAD: Sarah Amento and her family are running out of time. She has stage 4 cancer. The chemotherapy isn't working, and the doctors say there's nothing more they can do.

SARAH AMENTO: I watched women die every day. I watched children bury their moms, so I know what is in front of me, and I'm doing everything I can to prevent that. Left with no options, everybody speaks about cannabis oil. It's a natural option that the government's ignoring, and I want to live. I have to live.

ALASTAIR LEITHEAD: Cannabis has been used as a medicine for centuries. It's legal in half US states, and Britain's leading cancer research group is interested.

CANCER RESEARCH UK'S KAT ARNEY: Cannabinoids are certainly very interesting molecules, and there's a lot of research, there's hundreds of papers being published, looking at the chemical properties against cancer cells. Turning that into effective treatments is a long road and certainly it's not going to be the one cure for cancer, because nothing is.

STEFANIE LARUE: So this is how you're able to gauge what level of activity's going on in your body.

ALASTAIR LEITHEAD: Stefanie Larue says she has evidence, and it is backed up by her doctor.

STEFANIE LARUE: Cannabis works. No chemo, I only did cannabis, and the tumors are gone, and the scans I have is evidence and proof of that. Kind of like, what more do you need?

SARAH AMENTO: I squeeze out a very little, and now, and then I just -- I believe it's the best option, I've seen it work for others, and I'm hoping it will work for me.

ALASTAIR LEITHEAD: It is her only hope, but it is also unproven medicine. Alastair Leithead, BBC News.

DEAN BECKER: The following report comes to us out of Tennessee.

JOSEPH RASCH: I have family members, like my two grandparents, that, their symptoms would all be alleviated by imbibing medical cannabis in some form.

WKPT-TV'S ANNA KUSKIN: Rasch believes some of his friends and family members would be better off if they had legal access to cannabis oil to treat their medical conditions.

JOSEPH RASCH: Five to eight seizures a day.

ANNA KUSKIN: For patients like Rasch’s friend and co-founder of the Smokey Mountain Medical Marijuana Rally, Seth Green, cannabis helps keep his seizures under control. A new bill introduced by representative Jeremy Faison could make access to cannabidiol-containing oil a little easier for patients in Tennessee like Green, but Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus has concerns.

BARRY STAUBUS: My concern is, is that this bill might be a basis for full legalization of marijuana.

ANNA KUSKIN: And in the meantime, he says law enforcement would have to be re-trained to distinguish between illegal oils, like methamphentamine oil and CBD oil.

BARRY STAUBUS: It’s going to create some, I think, some problems for law enforcement, some training problems or issues. And it may increase the cost of chemical analysis.

ANNA KUSKIN: Still, it’s not as though it hasn’t been done before. More than 20 states already allow the use of medical marijuana and several more, including North Carolina and Alabama, already allow restricted use of CBD oil, which is low in THC. In Johnson City, Anna Kuskin, ABC-19 News.

DEAN BECKER: Methamphetamine oil? Boy, we've got a ways to go. Again, speaking to the Texas Legislature, this is Representative Moody.

TEXAS REPRESENTATIVE JOE MOODY: I've said from the beginning that this bill's about good government. Good government means laws that lead to smart, fair outcomes in a cost-effective way. That's not what we're doing right now when it comes to marijuana enforcement. I won't beat what's going to be a very dead horse by the end of our hearing today, I think there's broad agreement that the system costs way too much, and has seriously negative effects on people caught up in the criminal justice system, mostly young people.

Just for statistical purposes, there's about 70,000 arrests per year for marijuana possession, for Class B marijuana possesion, that's 6.56 percent of all arrests. As a percent of the total budget, that puts the price tag for marijuana enforcement roughly at $734 million every single year here in Texas.

We also haven't seen any deterrent effect on marijuana use. What we have seen is criminal justice resources at all levels put toward busting kids with joints at the expense of investigating much more serious crimes. HB507 is designed to change all that. What my bill does is make possession of a small amount of marijuana a civil issue instead of a crime. Police won't make arrests for it, they'll issue tickets telling the offender when and where to show up at a justice of the peace court. The marijuana can then be seized and eventually destroyed just like it is now.

In court, the offender will pay a fine, or if the judge allows it, take a drug education course or do community service instead. However it's resolved, there won't be a criminal conviction. Offenders will be punished appropriately, they get to stay in school, keep their apartments and licenses, and get jobs. With a civil penalty, our police officers will stay on the street, our jails will be less crowded, and our prosecutors will be able to spend more time working on serious cases. Our young people also will end up -- won't end up with crippling criminal records. Best of all, we'll save lots of money state-wide for our trouble.

Still I've heard concerns raised about changing the way we do things so it's worth addressing them as I lay this out. Some people worry that House Bill 507 will promote marijuana use. Keep in mind that selling marijuana will still be a crime. Possession of more than an ounce will still be a crime, and having a small amount will be illegal and fineable, even if it is civil, I think that is still a very clear message that we're sending as a legislature.

On top of that, there hasn't been a usage increase in other states that have rolled back criminal penalties. In fact even in Colorado, which has outright legalized marijuana, there's been a decrease in usage among young people. No state has seen more hard drug usage, so there's no gateway effect that we have to be concerned about. I have data I can share with the committee on these points so if people tell you differently, ask them to show you the studies that support what they're saying. If they can't, then they're just telling you what they wish the truth was. I think we all have a responsibility to base our decisions on what's verifiable and true, and not political rhetoric.

Others have worried that this is an unfunded mandate on our counties specifically. However the civil penalty system is a cost savings across the board that helps ease the burden the current system creates. It also fits into a framework that already exists, there's almost nothing new we have to build into the system to do this. Significant savings is what we've seen in other states that have moved to this, and it's what we'll see in Texas as well.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug ByIts Side Effects. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cirrhosis, psychosis and dementia. The number one contributor to domestic violence and deaths on American highways. Time’s up! The answer: Beer. Taxed, regulated and freely available in all non-Muslim countries.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the abolitionist's moment. War is over, if you want it. The drug war is over as well. It's just awaiting your approval. The evidence is overwhelming. The science, the ramifications, the injustice, the lost lives, the families fractured and forfeited. Judges handcuffed to inequity. Politicians trapped by the bones they made. The great wall of blue corrupted and inbred. All await your approval, your thoughts, your voice, before they will stop feeding their evil cornucopia, the lives of their fellow man. Please, do your part to end the madness of drug war. Visit EndProhibition.org. Do it for the children.

Next up, let's get the thoughts of a couple of presidential candidates.

HILLARY CLINTON: I have to say, I, I think we need to be very clear about the benefits of marijuana use for medicinal purposes. I don't think we've done enough research yet, although I think for people who are in extreme medical conditions and have anecdotal evidence that it works, there should be availability under appropriate circumstances, but I do think we need more research because we don't know how it interacts with other drugs, there's a lot we don't know. So on medicinal purposes.

On recreational, you know, states are the laboratories of democracy, we have at least two states that are experimenting with that right now. I want to wait and see what the evidence says.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN: Do you want to wait and try it? You said you've never smoked --

HILLARY CLINTON: Now, that, that, that, that -- I didn't do it when I was young, I'm not going to start now.

DEAN BECKER: As tough as that was to swallow, her inability to recognize the thousands of marijuana studies that have been put forward over the last 10 years, listen to this:

HUGH HEWITT: Right now, we've got the states of Colorado and Washington flaunting federal law by allowing people to sell dope legally. If you’re the president of the United States, are you going to enforce the federal drug laws in those states?

CHRIS CHRISTIE: Absolutely. I will crack down and not permit it. Marijuana is a gateway drug. We have an enormous addiction problem in this country. And we need to send very clear leadership from the White House on down through the federal law enforcement. Marijuana is an illegal drug under federal law, and the states should not be permitted to sell it and profit from it.

DEAN BECKER: After hearing that, I really don't think Chris Christie wants to be elected president of these United States.

JOE LYNN (SINGING): They nailed me for possession, lord they nailed him to a tree, but Jesus was a felon just like me.

DEAN BECKER: Recenty, President Barack Obama began an international tour. His first stop was in Jamaica, and here's a question that was put forward to him at an open, public venue.

JAMAICAN MAN: Yeah man. My question has to do and surrounds US policy as it regards the legalization, the decriminalization, of marijuana.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: How did I anticipate this question?

JAMAICAN MAN: Yes, and Mr. President, it really comes on the foreground of, we face economic challenges with the IMF etc., but we find realistically that the hemp industry, the marijuana industry, provides a highly feasible alternative to rise up out of poverty. So I am wanting to overstand and to understand, how US is visioning, how would you see Jamaica pushing forward in a decriminalization legalization emphasis on the hemp industry?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well. Let me, I do want to separate out what are serious issues in the United States and then how that relates to our foreign policy and our interactions with the region. There is the issue of legalization of marijuana, and then there is the issue of decriminalizing or dealing with the incarceration and in some cases devastation of communities as a consequence of nonviolent drug offenses. I am a very strong believer that the path that we have taken in the United States in the so-called war on drugs has been so heavy in emphasizing incarceration that it has been counterproductive.

You have young people who did not engage in violence, who get very long penalties, get placed in prison, and then are rendered economically unemployable, are almost pushed into then the underground economy, learn crime more effectively in prison, families are devastated, so it's been very unproductive. And what we're trying to do is to reform our criminal justice system, and the good news is there has actually been some interest on the part of unlikely allies like the evangelical community, or some otherwise very conservative Republicans because it's very expensive to incarcerate people, and a recognition that this may not be the best approach.

So that's one issue. There's then the second issue of legalizing marijuana, whether it's medical marijuana or recreational use. There are two states in the United States that have embarked on an experiment to decriminalize or legalize marijuana, Colorado and Washington state, and we will see how that experiment works its way through the process. Right now, that is not federal policy and I do not foresee any time soon Congress changing the law at a national basis, but I do think that if there are states that show that they are not suddenly a magnet for additional crime, that they have a strong enough public health infrastructure to push against the potential of increased addiction, then it's conceivable that that will spur on a national debate. But that is going to be some time off.

And then the third issue is, what will US international policy be? And we had some discussion with the CariCom countries about this. I know on paper, a lot of folks think, you know what, if we just legalized marijuana, then it will reduce the money flowing into the transnational drug trade, there'd be more revenues and jobs created. I have to tell you that it's not a silver bullet, because first of all, if you are legalizing marijuana, then how do you deal with other drugs, and where do you draw the line?

As is true in the global economy generally, if you have a bunch of small, medium-sized marijuana businesses scattered across the Caribbean and this is suddenly legal, if you think that big multinational companies are not going to suddenly come in, and market and try to control and profit from the trade, that's I think a very real scenario.

And so I think we have to have a conversation about this, but our current policy continues to be that, in the United States we need to decrease demand, we need to focus on a public health approach to decreasing demand, we have to stop the flow of guns and cash into the Caribbean and Central America and Latin America, and at the same time, I think the Caribbean and Latin America have to, Central America, have to cooperate with us to try to shrink the power of the transnational drug organizations that are vicious and hugely destructive.

And if we combine a public health perspective, a focus on not simply throwing every low-level person with possession into prison, but trying to get them treatment, we combine that with economic development and alternative opportunities for youth, then, I think we can strike the right balance. It may not, you know, comport with your, completely with your vision for the future, but I think that we could certainly have a smarter approach to it than we currently do.

DEAN BECKER: Today, we brought forward many of the positive thoughts that are being put forward, not just in the US but around the world. Today, we're lucky to have one of the founding members of Patients Out of Time, Mr. Al Byrne. Al, you know, as a former Lieutenant Commander in the Navy, working in support of Veterans for Medical Marijuana, is it as aggravating to you as it is to me that they keep saying there's not enough studies about medical marijuana?

AL BYRNE: Oh absolutely, it's frustrating, demoralizing, and of course they're completely wrong.

DEAN BECKER: To counter much of the naysayers, you and your lovely wife Mary Lynn Mathre and Patients Out of Time are bringing forward a conference that will focus on those studies that are out there, correct?

AL BYRNE: It's right. The conference is the ninth in the series, it's the Ninth National Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics. It will be held May 21, 22, and 23 in West Palm Beach, Florida. It's going to be held at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, which is a beautiful, modern facility. The faculty and other things that we have going on on the weekend will be at the Marriott Hotel in Palm Beach, which is literally right across the street from the Convention Center, and as always, Dean, this is an international conference in that not only do people attend from all over the world but the faculty's from all over the world. We have folks coming of course from the United States, we've got guys coming in here from Canada, from Israel, from all over the place.

And again, the conference on Friday and Saturday is accredited. That means that healthcare professionals that attend will get upwards of about 11 or 12 CMEs for their weekend, which is a lot of CMEs. We do a lot of serious work but we always have some serious fun, the reception Thursday night, which will be, the keynote speaker at that will be Lester Grinspoon, Dr. Grinspoon. During the course of the conference we'll also hear from Raphael Mechoulam of Israel, of course, very famous, the grandfather of medical cannabis. Dr. Andy Weil will speak to us.

DEAN BECKER: Al, as always, I will be there, we'll be reporting on it. If folks would like to learn more, they'd like to register, please point them where they need to go on the web.

AL BYRNE: Yeah, absolutely. It's www.medicalcannabis.com, give you complete rundown of agenda, speakers, times, money, parties, whatever you need to know.

DEAN BECKER: All right, y'all, this is Dean Becker, I want to thank you for listening to this edition of Cultural Baggage. I'm headed to New York City to attend the Drug Policy Alliance partners gathering, I should have a selection of interviews from reformers from around the country for you next week.

As usual, I remind you that, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful. To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Drug Truth Network archives are stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Policy Studies.

Tap dancin' on the edge of an abyss.