07/31/15 Steve Downing

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Steve Downing, LEAP speaker & network producer re release of " With Justice and Dignity: A Caravan for Peace" + Duluth NEWS reporter John Lundy re legal cannabis in Minn, Earth & Fire Erowid & Wa Rep Roger Goodman re synthetic drugs ++ "War On Us" by Mendo Dope

Audio file


JULY 31, 2015


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

DR. G. ALAN ROBISON: 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.

Hi, this is Dean Becker. Thank you for joining us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. A bit later we'll hear about a report of marijuana use in Minnesota for Dravet Syndrome, we'll hear a report about synthetic drugs and what's the dang deal there, but first:

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition's long-awaited documentary film, With Justice and Dignity: A Caravan for Peace, is now available online. Between August 12 and September 12, 2012, some of LEAP's most dedicated speakers accompanied Mexican poet Javier Sicilia's Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity from the Mexican border through 27 cities to Washington, DC, representing the 70,000 murdered and tens of thousands disappeared in Mexico since 2006.

LEAP and 110 mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters of the dead and disappeared and other victims of the war on drugs took on this mission, to create a dialogue with the American public. And with the release of this video presentation, we have the opportunity to learn more about this desperate situation and what we can do about it, and here to better inform us about this video and that effort is one of the producers of this video, Mr. Steve Downing. Hello, sir.

STEVE DOWNING: Dean, how are you doing?

DEAN BECKER: I'm good, Steve. Now, folks should know that besides being a former Deputy Police Chief of Los Angeles, you have a lot of experience in Hollywood in producing great programs such as McGyver and others over the years as well. Correct, sir?

STEVE DOWNING: That's correct, yes. After I retired from the police department, I was kind of also a writer during those years, and once I retired I started producing a variety of television programs.

DEAN BECKER: Now, this should give the listeners an understanding that this is a powerful video. Please kind of summarize what's contained therein, Steve.

STEVE DOWNING: Well, as you well know, Dean, because you were the single guy who made the entire trip from the border to Washington, it was a very heart-felt experience, spending day after day with these very, very brave people who were undertaking to educate the people of the United States as to the harms this drug war brings to them in Mexico, and the harm there is, is ferocious compared to what we see here in the states, even with our gang shootings and the violence that takes place, especially in our major cities.

So, the caravan itself, we took along a videographer, a journalist by the name of Sam Sabzehzar, who is the director and producer of this film. And we shot a lot of footage, and then when it was done, we came upon a plan of how to make it a little work to tell a story, to tell the various stories of the people as well as the cause of the harms brought by the drug war. And we did that by asking people like you, Dean, and myself and Diane Goldstein and Judge Jim Gray and Major Neill Franklin and our founder, Jack Cole, by asking them to recall and recollect their experiences on the caravan, and in that way, and how those experiences extended to the war on drugs and what memories it evoked to them.

And that ended up providing the glue to make this documentary. And so, then Sam and I spent really a couple of years gluing it together on Sam's laptop. We had help with our post-production expenses from a fundraiser with Andy Covell, and may I take this opportunity to thank all of those people who did contribute toward making this film through the IndieGoGo crowd fundraiser program. We just all appreciate that so much, and now we have this film, and we have many things going on in this country that we need to deliver speakers to, we need to continue our education, and if your listening audience will go and either rent or buy that film and watch it, it will certainly contribute to keeping our organization vital and keeping our speakers out there on the street doing the job.

DEAN BECKER: Steve, the fact of the matter is over the years, you know, I've given well over a hundred presentations on behalf of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, but amongst our members, it has been thousands upon thousands of such presentations that truly educate, inspire, and motivate people to re-examine and perhaps change this drug war. Am I right?

STEVE DOWNING: You're absolutely right, and beyond that, you know, the speaking engagements, we're also in the various capitols across this country, giving testimony to support reform legislation in the various arenas that we, where we can help and where we can lend a law enforcement voice to proposals and legislation across the country.

DEAN BECKER: You know, Steve, in the last week or so I've begun an effort that is going to be a continual effort, and that is kind of a local and national effort. I'm trying to get my local district attorney to come on the airwaves and to clarify the need for drug war. At the same time, I'm going after the head of the Office of National Drug Control, our drug czar Michael Botticelli to do the same thing, because for years, these two actors in particular, or their predecessors, have absolutely refused to defend this drug war, to go on the airway to clarify the need for an eternal war on certain plant products. Your thoughts in that regard, Mr. Steve Downing.

STEVE DOWNING: Well, I think that the reason that they're probably not going on air to answer your questions is because your questions can't be answered, Dean. There is no defense, the drug war is a failure. They know it, but they benefit from the largess of the drug war. There is just too much money involved for these people to want to do anything other than keep the status quo. If you look across the country, asset seizure is completely out of control, but it's money that is going directly into law enforcement coffers, district attorneys, prosecutors, their coffers, and they're using the money, some of them say they're using it legitimately to continue the fight, the local drug war, but it's, if they are, it's continuing to fight a losing fight.

And in so many, so many ways, this money has corrupted them, both in the legal fashion and in the illegal fashion, and we see horrible abuses across our country because of this drug war, and it is absolutely, absolutely corrupted our law enforcement and prosecutorial institutions.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed it has. Well, once again friends, we've been speaking with the former Deputy Police Chief of Los Angeles, a longtime video producer for network TV, and my friend, Mr. Steve Downing. Any closing thoughts for the listeners, Steve?

STEVE DOWNING: My only thought is that I would urge you to see our film, because I think that we paint a true picture of what this drug war has done to others and in a other country, and by viewing this film you will also help us continue our mission to educate the people as to the harms of the drug war, and help us end the prohibition of drugs in this country.

DEAN BECKER: All right, friends, there you have it. Once again, Mr. Steve Downing, and by the way, you can access that website through our website, LEAP.CC. Please, check it out.

The following clip was taken from the Caravan video. It features retired Superior Court Judge James P. Gray, followed by Director of LEAP Neill Franklin, our founder of LEAP Jack Cole, the producer of the video Mr. Steve Downing, we just heard, and former Lieutenant Diane Goldstein.

JUDGE JAMES GRAY: Javier Sicilia is a man of letters, but he's also an enormous man of heart. He put down his pen but then spoke his poetry to us as a victim of the war on drugs.

NEILL FRANKLIN: He started with leading caravans for peace within Mexico. Then they decided to do one from Mexico to Washington, DC. Our board chair and co-founder, Jack Cole, met with an organization called Global Exchange. Global Exchange was planning to do this caravan for peace, so we decided, why not accompany two busloads of families who have been devastated by the drug war. We saw it as an opportunity to educate people of the United States, to help them understand that it is the violence of the drug war, not drugs, that threatens the security of both the United States and Mexico.

The Caravan for Peace and Justice carried 110 of the people that were left behind by government and cartel violence. Each of them grieved the loss of loved ones disappeared or murdered by the ferocity of the drug war, and each had a story to tell.

JACK COLE: We needed the people in the United States to hear their stories. We needed people here in this country to understand the harms we are doing. Nothing could have been more important to me than getting these people here to testify to what actually had happened to them.

STEVE DOWNING: And to expose the harm in personal terms to the Mexican people that the drug habit of the American people and the insistence of prohibition by the American government has imposed on our neighbors to the south.

DIANE GOLDSTEIN: I think that LEAP, as an organization, is the most critical voice. We've seen both sides of it. We've seen our failures. We have the ability to change the viewpoints of Americans by humanizing victims. We have a moral obligation to recognize their pain and their suffering, and to help end a failed policy.

DEAN BECKER: It’s time to play: Name That Drug by Its Side Effects. Loss of personal freedom, family and possessions. Ineligible for government funding, education, licensing, housing or employment. Loss of aggressive mindset in a dangerous world. This drug’s peaceful, easy feeling may be habit forming. Time's up! The answer: Doobie, jimmy, joint, reefer, spliff, jibber, jay, biffa, jazz, blunt, steege, greener, cracker, hogger, bone, carrot, maryjane, marijuana, cannabis sativa. Made by God. Prohibited by man.

Recently, the Drug Policy Alliance sponsored a teleconference featuring many experts in regards to the synthetic drugs.

EARTH EROWID: Hi. I'm Earth.

FIRE EROWID: And I'm Fire.

EARTH EROWID: We're the co-founders of Erowid Center, a nonprofit that operates Erowid.org as well as EcstasyData.org, which is an anonymous drug analysis service.

FIRE EROWID: For 20 years, we've been working to create a foundation of accurate information about psychoactive plants, chemicals, technologies, and practices, on which cultural, legal, and health reform can be built.

EARTH EROWID: We're very focused on terminology, and in order to have a useful dialogue and reduce misunderstanding, we think it's important that accurate and non-misleading terminology be used, and inaccurate terms be debunked.

FIRE EROWID: The biggest terminology problem that we've seen in the last couple of years has been the use of the phrase "synthetic drugs" without a clear definition of what types of drugs we're talking about.

EARTH EROWID: Synthetic drugs is a term that's used to imply scary new street drugs. But the word synthetic has an actual English meaning, which isn't related to how the phrase is being used.

FIRE EROWID: Synthetic means anything created by a chemist in a lab. Most of the time though, that's not a helpful distinction. Nearly all pharmaceuticals are synthetic, and it's really useless to write an article about synthetic drugs where the reader doesn't know if the drugs in question are cannabinoids, opioids, stimulants, or sedatives, and it matters.

EARTH EROWID: The phrase "synthetic drugs" is nearly guaranteed to confuse and mislead just about everybody, from reporters to users to policymakers and even experts. If there's one thing we'd like you to remember from what we say today, it's to not use the phrase "synthetic drugs" -- unless you're talking about nearly every pharmaceutical or over the counter drug developed in the last 50 years, including ibuprofen and the cholesterol-lowering medications.

FIRE EROWID: We suggest using the phrase "New Psychoactive Substances," abbreviated to NPS, as a phrase that encompasses all mind-altering drugs and plants that are used recreationally, and which have been available publicly for less than about 20 years. In Europe, NPS is becoming somewhat standard as a term.

EARTH EROWID: Erowid also uses the term "research chemical," because it also communicates how little is known about the chemical -- new chemicals, and that there's a lab rat level of risk for those who ingest them.

FIRE EROWID: The underlying reason why so many new drugs are being manufactured, distributed, and tried by people around the world, is that people are looking for a legal replacement for different types of drug effects.

EARTH EROWID: Many of these replacement drugs flow by so quickly that they aren't -- they don't even have time to acquire common or slang names, and so for many recent examples, we're left talking with -- talking about them with just complex chemical names.

FIRE EROWID: Okeh, so on to a whirlwind tour of classes of new psychoactive substances.

EARTH EROWID: One of the big classes is replacement cannabinoids. And these are chemicals that are similar in chemical structure and effect to cannabis. Sometimes found as pure powders, and sometimes as waxy solids, and other times they're deposited on herbal blends designed to be smoked like cannabis.

FIRE EROWID: Synthetic cannabinoids is the preferred phrase for new cannabis-like chemicals, but try not to use the term "synthetic cannabis." Whether it's in the form of an herbal blend or straight chemicals, these aren't cannabis. The phrase "synthetic cannabinoids" differentiates the chemicals from those found in the cannabis plant itself.

EARTH EROWID: For those who want to really be technically accurate, the correct phrase is actually "new synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists," since not all of this of drugs are technically cannabinoids in structure. And there are dozens of these.

FIRE EROWID: The first to hit the market in about 2006 or so were two called JWH-O18 and HU210, both of which were found in the products Spice and K-2. More recent examples include things like 5-fluoro AB-Pinaca and FUB-PB22, and they all have names like that.

EARTH EROWID: But, unlike natural cannabis, several of these synthetic cannabinoids have been associated with death and extremely serious medical conditions and addiction.

FIRE EROWID: Let's see. So, the second category is replacement euphoric stimulants and empathogens. These are chemicals that have stimulant or euphoric effects, somewhere in the range of MDMA, methamphetamine, or cocaine. New euphoric stimulants is a good phrase to encompass this group. The best-known of these are the cathinones, from the last seven years, methedrone and methylone. Methylone has been big in Britain, very big. MDPV is the name of the chemical that was known as "bath salts." It's not around quite as much anymore, and the most recently in the news is alpha-PBP, which is the one that's being called Flakka.

EARTH EROWID: There's also stimulant chemicals related to Ritalin, or methylphenidate, and recent examples of those are ethylphenidate and 3,4-CTMP. The third category is replacement psychedelics. These are chemical that have effects similar to classic psychedelics like LSD or psilocybin, the chemical found in magic mushrooms. The best-known recent examples are the NBOMe class, and there are several of those, and this year's is a 1-P-LSD.

FIRE EROWID: These are all being distributed on blotter, leading many people who think they're buying LSD or acid to instead be getting a new research chemical, and unlike LSD or psilocybin, which are associated with roughly zero deaths related to the pharmacological effects of the drug itself, the NBOMes have been linked to about 20 deaths in the past two years.

EARTH EROWID: There are also replacement disassociatives, and these are chemicals that effect similar to disassociatives like PCP or ketamine, and newly available disassociatives is a also a reasonable phrase to use to refer to these.

FIRE EROWID: Now, best known recent examples of these, for PCP-like chemicals, there's 3-MEO-PCP and 4-MEO-PCP. And then for ketamine-like variants, there's methoxetamine, also called MXE, which has been one of the most popular, as well as MXP and diphenidine.

EARTH EROWID: There are also replacement sedatives, and these are chemicals that effect similar to benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax. Newly available sedatives is a good phrase to use for these, and recent examples include etizalam and flunitrazepam.

FIRE EROWID: Now, the final category is replacement opioids. These are chemicals with effects similar to opiates like heroin, oxycodone, opium, or fentanyl, and recent examples include AH-7921 and U47700, among dozens of others. And there are also some fentanyl analogs: acetyl fentayl and butyl fentanyl.

EARTH EROWID: One major harm to society in policy evolution is that people just don't know what drugs they've tried anymore, with replacements thoroughly mixed into the supply line. There's no way to actually survey people anymore to ask them what they're using because every class of unapproved drug now is entangled with dozens of new psychoactive substances.

FIRE EROWID: Most people simply want a stimulant or a psychedelic or a cannabis-like substance, and they're willing to try something completely untested if it's legal. That's about it. I just wanted to add at the end here that if you email info@erowid.org we can also send the text of this, of what we've just said, so that you can see the chemical names and terminology in writing.

DEAN BECKER: After the Eroiwds and others spoke, they opened up the microphone for questions, and here's mine to the panel:

I guess there's going to be a continual march of new synthetics coming forward, there's nothing we can do about that. And I guess my question revolves around, under the current circumstance, drugs like cocaine, meth, etc. are made by untrained chemists, nobody knows for sure what's in that bag, and I guess, my question revolves around, if we could make, you know, actual drugs like meth and cocaine available with a known quality, would that slow the march of these new synthetics and what is the danger of involved in recognizing these original drugs, making them available with a known quality and quantity, and how does that compare to these synthetics if they were known and truly regulated?

First to answer my question was Washington State Representative Roger Goodman:

ROGER GOODMAN: I think you really have to consider this category by category. The cannabis is now regulated, there's going to be more and more, you know, rationally regulated both domestically and internationally, and that certainly inhibits any more dangerous substitutes from being needed, because it's, you know, packaged and labeled and consumers believe it's safe. Opiates I think should also be re-medicalized, both prohibited opiates, similar type of thing, I think we could manage that.

The stimulants are the big challenge, because it's a cultural phenomenon, at least in the Anglo-American world, which is a stimulant society, and we don't have a lot of self-control. And I know a lot of stimulant misuse has to do with social dislocation and so forth, but regulating the stimulants is tough, however, the bottom line is we should be providing safe products so these, they need to regulated in any event, but proper labeling and packaging of all the categories I believe yes would inhibit substitutes from being cooked up in, you know, less than professional circumstances.

JOHN LUNDY: My name's John Lundy, I'm a reporter for the Duluth News-Tribune in northeastern Minnesota, and I specialize in healthcare reporting.

DEAN BECKER: Well, John, I'm looking at one of your recent stories here, about a Hibbing couple who have used medical marijuana for their daughter. Would you tell us, fill us in on that story, please.

JOHN LUNDY: Yeah, it's new in Minnesota. Minnesota's medical marijuana law just took effect on July First. I think Minnesota's maybe the 26th state with -- now I'm not sure about that, but, compared to some other states, it's a very restrictive law that, very highly regulated, there's only certain conditions for which people can obtain it, and it can only be obtained from one of two companies which were certified by the state health department. In the case of this couple, their daughter was diagnosed very early in life with Dravet Syndrome, which is a catastrophic form of epilepsy, and they learned over time of some successful stories in Colorado of treating this syndrome with medical marijuana, and so they were part of the campaign in Minnesota, very publicly part of the campaign for medical marijuana, with a bill in the legislature last year.

And so they were able to get their first doses for their daughter, Amelia, who's nine years old now, just last week, although the law started on July First, the company they were buying from didn't have this particular formula available on July First, so they had to wait until last Thursday. They gave their daughter her first doses on Friday, and they say that she had been suffering 30 to 80 seizures per day, drop seizures where the person just kind of loses control of his or her body and falls to the ground. In that first day on Friday, when she took the doses, they said she had no seizures at all, and it's, the other day I guess, Monday afternoon, when I talked to them, she had only experienced a total of two seizures, they were very excited about the early changes they're seeing.

DEAN BECKER: Well, seems to me, John, you know, we hear the government say this is all anecdotal, and, you know, it doesn't work for everybody, and that may well be true, but the same is true for nearly all medicines as well, isn't it?

JOHN LUNDY: Well, I, that would be getting into the realm of opinion and that would probably be beyond the scope of what I'm reporting. I'm certainly, this certainly is one instance, and so it would certainly be anecdotal, and I don't know that it's really all that well studied. There certainly are other cases that have been documented of similar results, and this couple was desperate, they'd tried everything they could try, and short of actually moving to another state, and so they're very excited about getting to try this, and so far so good.

DEAN BECKER: All right, well real good. Once again folks, we've been speaking with Mr. John Lundy of the Duluth News-Tribune, and you can check out the story at DuluthNewsTribune.com.

As I mentioned in my interview with Steve Downing, I am trying to get our local district attorney, Devon Anderson, to come on the show and clarify the need for eternal drug war. Also going after our drug czar, Michael Botticelli, to do the same thing. I'm not going to share their emails or their phone numbers this week, because they're both telling me they're working on making this arrangement, even though several weeks have already gone by for this request.

I guess I'm going to close it out now with a song from Mendo Dope: War on Us. And per usual, I want to remind you that, because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.

OLD E: I see for those who can't, and I speak for those who won't.
Y'all got to open up your eyes and look what's going on out here.
This ain't no war on drugs, it's a war on us.
It's time we fight back. Check it out, yo.

These days, the law's so corrupt, can't even trust the cops,
Got to watch over your back, there's so many who tryin' to cop.
Come raiding spots without a warrant, cutting down their crops.
Think it's time we pay attention, this abuse it needs to stop.

I'm a farmer, I work the land, just living it day to day.
If this was happening to you, what would you say.
I stand up for myself and lead the people on the right path,

Speak against the system, this harassment, I'ma fight back, it's like that.
Some couldn't see the truth, so I'm here to reveal it.
You can feel it. Just close your eyes and listen.
But still, it can't be stopped unless we all play our positions,
And speak for those who're locked up, doing time for false convictions.

Ganja's that I'm twisting is a gift from up above,
How is a natural herb that heals labeled a schedule one drug?
This war is on us.
They taking out my people, I'll man the front line until this marijuana's legal.

This ain't no war on drugs, it's a war on us.
System is corrupted so there's no more trust,
Politicians tell you lies, police put you in cuffs.
Evil system taking over, fighting back is a must.

This ain't no war on drugs, it's a war on us.
System is corrupted so there's no more trust.
Politicians tell you lies, police put you in cuffs,
Evil system taking over, fighting back is a must.