05/22/15 Mary Jane Borden

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Mary Jane Borden of Ohio Rights Group, Heather Fazio of Texans for Responsible Marijuana, Keith Saunders of MassCann & 9 year old Alexis Bortell

Audio file


MAY 22, 2015


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

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: It is not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally un-American.

CROWD: No more! Drug war! No More! Drug War! No More! Drug War!

DEAN BECKER: My name is Dean Becker. I don't condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison, and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.

Hello folks, this is Dean Becker. Thank you for joining us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. We're on Pacifica Radio, and the Drug Truth Network. We've got a great show lined up for you today. We're going to show some of the progress on the marijuana laws, but we're also going to talk about the hypocrisy that's just creeping back into this situation.

Well, longtime listeners to the Drug Truth Network will probably recognize the voice of our next guest. She reported for us for a few years. She's now in Ohio, trying to help them with their efforts to legalize medical marijuana. I want to introduce Mary Jane Borden. Mary Jane, here in Texas we gave it a shot but it looks like they're not going to do much with our legislature this year. But things are still ongoing in Ohio, right?

MARY JANE BORDEN: Well, there's always something happening in Ohio. Ohio's a busy state on the political front, and cannabis is no exception to that. You know, we've been at trying to legalize some form of cannabis in Ohio for the patients, for the medical therapeutic purposes, for easily 15 years now, and not gaining too much traction, although I tell you, times are totally, very very interesting here in Ohio

DEAN BECKER: You have a couple of proposals, couple of situations that just may develop. Tell us what's going on.

MARY JANE BORDEN: Well, first of all I want to tell you about the group that I co-founded in 2013, the Ohio Rights Group. We at the time composed what we call the Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment, and it was certified for statewide signature gathering by the Ohio Attorney General in May of 2013. So, we've been hard at work since then trying to get this 305,000 approximate signatures, valid signatures of registered Ohio voters that would be necessary to place that amendment before the voters and be passed by the voters.

There's been any number of polls in Ohio concerning the medical and therapeutic uses of cannabis, and it's overwhelmingly in favor of this issue. The Quinnipiac poll, both last year and then this year, find the support for medical marijuana exceeds, well exceeds 80 percent. And, so you get in the ballot initiative business, we know that points shave off because of this and because of that, but with the benchmark in Ohio of only 50 percent of the vote required to pass a constitutional amendment, we think it's a pretty sure bet that the Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment would pass, if, when it gets to the ballot.

And that's the challenge for us, is getting it to the ballot. We, the fundraising, we have 150,000 raw signatures, we feel, we have been on about every single newspaper, radio station, television station in Ohio over the last two years. We've developed an amazing following of both volunteers in terms of, well in the tens of thousands, we have like 15,000 facebook likes, we are, we're doing really very very well, and so we're proud of our work, but the problem is that, so far it's been an all-volunteer effort, and there are certain things that, we could probably collect all 305,000 plus signatures by volunteers but there are costs to any campaign.

And so, that's the, getting those major dollars is proven to be difficult, very difficult for us, to be honest with you. So, it does, first of all, the Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment, of which I am very proud, it, very basically it focuses on getting to the sick, dying, and disabled in our state seven basic rights to utilize this plant as medicine, and once you figure that if the media are now discovering this amazing endocannabinoid system, each of us as human beings shares, it controls so much of our human functioning, that raising the use of cannabis to the level of a civil right is an obvious bridge. I mean, we are tuned to using this as medicine as human beings, and we should all have the right to use it and grow it to suit our therapeutic needs.

As you well know Dean, there's been some interesting dynamics that have happened because we've had the passage of now four, of what we're going to call full legal, I would prefer maybe adult use as the correct term for that, but irrespective, we've had four full legal adult use measures pass in the last four, three or so years. So we now have Colorado, we have of course in Washington, and Oregon and Alaska, and of course the same thing, it's somewhat close, with the District of Columbia.

And we, when we wrote the OCRA in 2013, we kind of wrote it with what I call the Peter Lewis model, because it, and it sounds like it's so much past tense but it's only been a few years back that we had Peter with us, but what Peter would do with a ballot initiative is, I felt, was first you come up with a really good, you know, ballot language or proposal, you come up with a business plan, and you have polling that exceeds 60 percent. That was Peter's recipe for ballot initiative, and once you, if you have this recipe, if you have those benchmarks, then Peter was able to give you through MPP or through other entities a substantial amount of money, and Peter was instrumental, we'll all acknowledge, in the passage of Michigan, and the passage of Massachusetts and the passage of I believe Montana's an example, you know, a number of different states can say thank you to Peter Lewis for helping them get these ballot initiatives to the ballot and passed by voters.

But, when Peter gave you money, he never, at least I never heard him ever say I want something in return. The return I'd say to him was to the success of moving the ball forward, of getting these states in the win column, getting these states, medicine to the sick, dying, disabled, and that was what was important. But unfortunately, Peter died in 2013, and as I said, we've had the passage of these other amendments, so all of a sudden, within the last year or so, the whole metaphor switched. It's now pay to play, and by that we mean that it seems like it's not the people running, paying for these ballot initiatives who are believers in the cause, believers in the social change, and really the total, the benefits to the economy that will come so much from social change.

They're there to see what's in it for me, you know, where's the buck I can make, and so now, they're, in Ohio we've got this, two kind of, well, troubling and in some ways a little quirky which is saying it nicely, ballot initiatives that are based upon return on investment to the people who put their money into both passing it and at the end of the day create what we want to call, I'll be frank here, I call it a monopoly, and I'll tell you in a minute why I call it a monopoly, but it's the curse of monopolization essentially of cannabis in Ohio under the umbrella of, in the case of what we're going to call Responsible Ohio, ten, merely ten, only ten corporations that will be allowed to grow marijuana in the state of Ohio. No one else will be allowed to grow but these ten.

And each of the ten is a numbered LLC, yes it is, it has a number, it's 796-something or other, that actually stands for, believe it or not this is true, stands for pot boss one, pot boss two, pot boss three, and so forth up to number nine, and each of these numbered LLCs then translate into a corporation that then gives money to the ballot initiative to put it on the ballot and pay for it, and then once the measure is passed, presumably passed, then as I say by being the only places where cannabis can be grown in Ohio, will solely profit from the growing.

And, it is monetizing, if you will, making the Ohio constitution an investment vehicle instead of what its original intent is to be, is the organizing document. It's kind of like your bylaws in an organization, that you know, sets up your structure, sets up, you know, who's running your organization, but rarely in your bylaws do you see that it's going to, we're going to go out on Tuesday afternoon and buy pizza for everybody, that we're all going to eat at the church on the corner, and that may sound facetious, but essentially that's the kind of things that are getting put in our constitution, to not just, not profit you know, the guy who's hungry at the church, but profit just these very, very wealthy individuals who are putting, each of them, each of these numbered LLCs puts in $4 million. So when you multiply that times nine, you know, you're getting almost $40 million, $36 million.

And that's what's, what they're cash cow is out there, that's supposedly both paying for the initiative and then also setting up the grow establishments for these people to profit on once it passes. I know it sounds pretty arcane, but that's what's going on.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Mary Jane, this is just another case of the rich getting richer, kind of like how, you know, it's working across the board in so many ways, not just with cannabis these days, and I'm sure to you, this is sand in your eyes, so to speak, this is an affront to the dignity, the purpose that you have been striving for for well over a decade now. Your response.

MARY JANE BORDEN: Well, yes it is. I think that it's where, and it's almost kind of this wild west mentality, and I believe that there are some really, you know, we who are the patients of Ohio, and be honest with people, we depend on people are below the surface, essentially, to get our medicine, and, but I think many of these people have been serving us in an honorable sort of way, and I think that those people who have been the bedrock really of Ohio and Ohio reform, even the advocacy part of it as well, you know, deserve a seat at the table. And I think our perspective would prove very valuable to those who are coming new to the fore, to understand what, how the ground game works.

What's amazing to me is, these people didn't have any understanding of the ground game whatsoever, so they get up in front of this, 50 people, and the guy who wrote the amendment says, I don't know anything about cannabis, I don't think about cannabis policy, I just wrote this amendment about it. And we're going, what? You know? Can you imagine any marketer getting in front of his customers, really his core people, and saying, I don't know anything about your business, I don't know anything about your product, but I've got this great idea and I'm just going to shove it down your throat. You know? And that's almost exactly what happened. And you should have heard the gasps in the room, you mean you know nothing about this industry, about the plant, you know nothing about the policy issues, but you feel qualified to change our life, you feel qualified to dominate this industry in perpetuity because of the amendment that you would put into the constitution?

You know, it's appalling. It's this new class of, kind of almost a newby to it that they're seeing dollar signs and writing their language, ballot language based upon dollar signs and strictly upon polling, rather than on what is good public policy. Now, we've lived this, you know, bad public policy, we've lived a monopoly for, you know, how many decades, Dean, you can go count back 40 years to the Controlled Substances Act, you could count it back to the 1930s, you know, when cannabis was taken out of the pharmacopoeia, and even further probably to the Harrison Narcotics Act at the beginning of the last century, where in medicine and the plant has been dominated by a monopoly.

And if you want to look a monopoly, the federal government has, essentially has a monopoly because they have one growing site at the University of Mississippi that grows all of the marijuana that's either for use for research purposes or by the four compassionate IND patients. And ask them how they think the quality of their medicine is. I think you're seeing it now in Washington, where a lot of the medical programs are getting, you know, pushed aside for these full legal, and even in their business plan, I've read the Responsible Ohio business plan, they're saying that if we get this going here, if we pass this amendment here, we're taking it to the next state and the next state and the next state, and all these people who were in on the ground game, this is how they're selling it. If you're on the ground floor of our amendment, you know, you're going to profit from these other states as they roll it out. So we've got a Responsible Michigan, yes we do, we have a whole thing that's looking at Ohio, saying if it passes in Ohio, we're running it here in Michigan in 2016.

You know, there's been, I think there was one in Arizona, I think there's a move, similar move afoot in Rhode Island. I can say, we've seen what's happened with Washington, their decimation of their medical program. I shudder at the idea that this trend starts in Ohio and what I even shudder at more is that it would spawn this as I said from the Ohio Rights Group.

DEAN BECKER: I see this as just trading one cartel for another, so to speak. Maybe with less violence, but certainly with an economic incentive that does not bode well for the community, right?

MARY JANE BORDEN: And here's one thing, and you've got to understand the layout of Ohio, okeh, for this because, you know, Ohio's most famous probably for its big cities like Cleveland and Toledo, which all line Lake Erie, it's very industrial. You come down to Columbus, which is right in the center of the state, and then the other big city in Ohio is Cincinnati. Now, the rest of the Ohio, there's this giant swath that goes down the eastern side and then down into the deep southern side, that's much like Appalachia, it's very rural, a little more remote, and so the way they have these, because remember there's only ten, going to be 10 growing facilities, that's the whole state, and so you're going to have the ten that's just going to go, Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, that's it. All right?

But, this more remote areas of the state, which is the southern part of Ohio, has no distribution, no production facilities allowed, no production at all, none. To distribute there, and they won't be able -- allowed to grow anything down there, in the south at all. And so what's going to happen to those people down in southern Ohio there, they're just going to be left out, which leaves a major slice of patients of Ohio, southern Ohio out, and say well, you're irrelevant, you don't deserve medicine? Or are they going to, you know, maybe continue to do what they've always done, they're very self-sufficient people down there, very independent people, so they're going to continue to be criminals? And so what are you going to do, you going down there and arrest the southern Ohio people because they, they're doing what they need to do? Or else you're going, the northern Ohio people are going to be treated differently because they have access to this?

First of all, I think that we have to motivate our legislators to act, because this is putting constitutional amendments, they're getting out of control, and I think, that the fact that I'm saying this as the author of actually three amendments, I think that what I'm seeing now, the trends going, that we have to find a way to keep the initiative process going, because it's vital that the public, the people be able to amend constitutions, but we have to find ways of keeping people from monetizing it, keeping it from being an investment vehicle, and then secondarily to that we're going to have our legislators move to create the programs that maybe they should have been doing all along. I think this has gotten out of control because the legis -- there's been so much legislative intransigence on cannabis, both on the local level and the state level, and on the national level.

It's high time that cannabis was either rescheduled or de-scheduled, it's high time that the regulation was turned over to the states, it's high time that the states acted in the best interests of the people, the 80 percent of Ohioans as an example who want this as medicine. And I think that's, that should serve as a wake-up call, that we can't allow the rich and the privileged to dominate this industry. It needs to be an industry of the people, by the people, and for the people.

DEAN BECKER: All right, and once again folks, we've been speaking with Mary Jane Borden out of Ohio. Mary Jane, please, a website for the folks to learn more.

MARY JANE BORDEN: OhioRightsGroup.org, OhioRightsGroup.org, and on Facebook, we're also the Ohio Rights Group.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects.

ALEX TREBECK: a 2009 study recommended treating heroin addicts with Diacetyl Morphine, the active ingredient in this.

DEAN BECKER: The time's up, the answer, from a recent edition of Jeopardy:


KAREN: What is heroin?


HEATHER FAZIO: My name is Heather Fazio, I'm the Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project.

DEAN BECKER: Heather, around the US, there are legislatures that are considering all kinds of marijuana laws. We had a situation in Texas where we had 11, I think it was, dealing with marijuana or hemp. What's been the result?

HEATHER FAZIO: Marijuana law reform is sweeping the nation and in Texas that is no different. It has been a really exciting legislative session this year, with support all across the state and working with a broad coalition called Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, which brings together groups that span the political spectrum. And a lot of work has been done to reform marijuana laws, whether it's reducing penalties for simple possession, or working to bring safe and legal access to medical marijuana to Texas patients.

The most recent and exciting news is that Texas took a historic step last night, Monday night, acknowledging that cannabis is medicine. Now, while it's quite a limited program, only allowing access for those with intractable epilepsy, it is a huge step in the right direction, although I do have to say that we have a major concern about the language in the bill. The language requires doctors to prescribe cannabis, and the reason this presents a problem is that it is federally illegal for a doctor to do so. In the 23 medical marijuana states that are functioning across the country, we have doctors recommending medical marijuana, and this is because a prescription would jeopardize the doctor's registration with the DEA, and also makes them vulnerable to criminal charges.

DEAN BECKER: The impetus is there, as you say, at least it does reference the medical benefits of cannabis, it's a step for Texas. I like to think that the good folks at RAMP, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, gave it a little bit more impetus as well. Your thoughts?

HEATHER FAZIO: RAMP has been a tremendous partner for us, and a great asset to the movement here in Texas. John Baucum and Zoe Russell have been the boots on the ground, and of course the founder Ann Lee has done a tremendous job over the years, drawing attention to this very important issue. This is a conservative issue, this is a limited government issue, this is a pro-life issue, when it comes to medical marijuana, and even keeping people out of jail and keeping people on the right track for their lives, when it comes to criminal penalties for the simple possession of marijuana.

DEAN BECKER: Well Heather, I want to thank you for your fine efforts, and I know you will continue to persevere. Your website, please.

HEATHER FAZIO: Our coalition website is TexasMarijuanaPolicy.org, that's TexasMarijuanaPolicy.org.

KEITH SAUNDERS, PHD: This is Dr. Keith Saunders, and I am a director of the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, otherwise known as MassCann.

DEAN BECKER: You know, today I've heard that up in Montana they're trying to choke the marijuana laws to death, and in Ohio there's big corporations trying to eliminate the personal growers there. Washington and Colorado, they're also trying to limit marijuana access, and, tell me, what is it like there in Massachusetts, what's going on with you guys?

KEITH SAUNDERS: Well, Massachusetts is one of those states that followed Arizona's hardship cultivation laws when we enacted our medical marijuana law, which basically says that cultivation is to be centralized and controlled through state agencies and then dispensary operating organizations, and to minimize the amount of cultivation that might be done by patients or their caregivers. In fact, under Massachusetts law, if one is a registered patient and one does not qualify for hardship, you have to go to a dispensary or have a dispensary deliver to you in order to qualify for medical cannabis once the dispensaries are open.

Also, in Massachusetts law, under it, caregivers are only allowed one patient. Patients are allowed up to two caregivers, but each caregiver is only allowed to have one patient. So there is a strict regulation, in fact, the caregiver-patient relationship has to be registered with the state before it itself is legally binding. So, there are some severe restrictions as to participation and access in the medicinal cannabis program, especially when it comes to patient and caregiver cultivation.

DEAN BECKER: I'm sure you heard what happened in Texas. We passed a CBD-only law for epilepsy, which required physicians to write a prescription, in essence nullifying the law. Do these politicians do these things on purpose to limit and in essence maintain the black market? Your response, there.

KEITH SAUNDERS: Well, I strongly feel that they, they think that they're able to eliminate the black market if they just make the penalties hard enough and they criminalize long enough and for, you know, for whatever reasons they can put forward. And realistically, we know that that's not the case, that's not what we're going to get from this thing. We're going to get a different type of model of a black market, as you said.

So, we have the CBD-only laws that are passing, and so it is definitely a political means by which representatives and legislators in these states, who have been staunchly anti-cannabis for every reason, are now able to comport with the will of the majority of the voters, they know that the majority of people in Georgia, Utah, or Florida support the idea of medicinal cannabis, and so for that reason, they do make these CBD-only laws because they're psycho-phobic, they're afraid of people altering their consciousness, and by CBD not being psychoactive, they're now able to say, here we've created a medical marijuana law, and in essence, they try to take away the momentum.

If you recall, when Proposition 19 was up for consideration in California, is when Arnold Schwarzenegger modified California's decriminalization law, sort of as a way taking some of the wind out of their sails, and, you know, giving that middle ground and saying, Hey, we're going to do something, it might not be the full thing, but for those people who are not committed one way or another, it definitely looks like we've done something positive, and obviously from the point of view of patients and activists and reformers, it's not nearly enough and it definitely, you know, there's a bit of disingenuousness there. There's more or less a cynical using of the cause of medical cannabis to sort of try to halt the political momentum that's growing.

DEAN BECKER: Well stated, there. Friends, we've been speaking with Mr. Keith Saunders, with MassCann, and he's describing the nature of the beast, if you will. Things are changing, but we've got to convince these politicians to take a larger step, do we not? Keith, closing thoughts, a website?

KEITH SAUNDERS: The closing thoughts are, yes, it's going to be the people united that are going to make this thing happen, we have a lot of support for medicinal. Medicinal, there is a gap however for those who support legalization obviously on a state by state basis, some states are far ahead of the game, some states are sort of just caught up in the middle, and others much like Texas are sort of dragging along as the politicians sort of put up fronts and make it look like something's happening when obviously things are not. But the, the thing that we need to do is in those states where you have initiatives, we need to put initiatives on the ballot that create the policies that work, unfortunately Massachusetts did not have a very good policy as it was outlined in the legislation that was voted on for medicinal because we are just getting our first dispensaries up and running now, two and a half years after that vote.

So, you know, it takes careful consideration, looking and learning at what happens in those states, understanding that we are in a period of some degree of backlash, greater restrictions and control on personal grow, on patient grow, on caregiver grow, greater restrictions on how people can access medicine in medicinal states. At the same time we have some promise in Oregon, we have promise in Alaska, Washington, Colorado, and even DC. So all in all, I think it's hopeful, it's an ongoing thing, it's a social movement, nobody wins or loses, it's always just movement. And so you just try to keep the movement going in your own direction, and if anybody's interested in learning more about the stuff that I'm doing, they can go to MassCann, MASSCANN.org, and find out what's happening here in Massachusetts.

DEAN BECKER: All right, and here to close us out, courtesy of WFAA, are the thoughts of a nine-year-old Texan who had to move to Colorado because of her health. This is just a snippet from their most recent story about young Alexis.

JASON WHITELY: It is a rite of passage that has passed her by for too long. It wasn't safe for Alexis Bortell to ride a bicycle in Texas. But in Colorado --

ALEXIS BORTELL: And it actually turns out to be real fun.

JASON WHITELY: She finally can.

ALEXIS BORTELL: There's a big difference, because in Colorado I've had a decrease of seizures, and in Texas I had them about every day.

JASON WHITELY: Do you ever feel different or weird when you take the oils?

ALEXIS BORTELL: No, it just makes me happy sometimes. A little bit hungry.

JASON WHITELY: Twice a day, mom fills a syringe, and Alexis holds her nose.

DEAN BORTELL: We're not seeing symptom reduction, we're seeing elimination.

JASON WHITELY: Seizures have gone from once a day in Texas to once a month in Colorado.

DEAN BECKER: Going to change my outro slightly. Because of prohibition, most of us don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.