08/30/15 Doug McVay

Century of Lies

This week in part two of our coverage of Seattle Hempfest, we talk with Bill Panzer, a criminal defense attorney from Oakland, CA; Kari Boiter, a criminal justice reform activist from Washington state; and John Conroy, an attorney from British Columbia, Canada.

Audio file


AUGUST 30, 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.

This week is part two of our Hempfest coverage. I was in Seattle earlier this month, speaking at Hempfest. I got some great interviews and other audio while I was there. Let's get right to it. First up: William Panzer is a criminal defense attorney in Oakland, California. He's been a legalization advocate and civil rights activist for many years. We spoke about the possibility of California legalizing in 2016.

DOUG MCVAY: Talking to Bill Panzer, he's an attorney of long-standing and one of the finest in the country. He's out of the bay area with offices in Oakland, California. Bill, we're here at Seattle Hempfest on Sunday. You're going to be speaking in a little while. I want to know what's happening down in -- I'd love to know what you're going to tell the crowd, but more importantly, because, you know, more importantly, to get to the point, I want to find out what is happening down in California. All eyes are on your state as we approach 2016.

WILLIAM PANZER: Well, California has two things going on right now that people need to keep an eye on. First of all for this year, 2015, in the legislature is a bill, AB266, Assembly Bill 266, that would regulate the medical cannabis industry in California, completely revamp it, put in regulations. That's still going through the senate right now, getting some changes in it, but there's some very encouraging things about that bill, there's some that aren't so encouraging, but it's the legislature finally doing something. That would be this year.

Now, for 2016, we expect to have a legalization, some type of legalization on the ballot. What I'm hoping, the one that I've seen, of what I've seen so far, what I think we're going to have, is actual repeal of prohibition. This won't be like some other laws, which leave the laws making it illegal in place and carve out narrow exceptions. This would actually repeal the criminal statutes against cannabis, being replaced by a regulatory system. It would allow for personal home non-commercial production up to a reasonable amount, that anyone could do without having to get a license or permit or pay money. There would be then levels of production, so that a mom-and-pop could economically make it work and make a living doing this, and would pay less taxes, less fees, than someone growing let's say more than 5,000 square feet. It will also regulate and protect medical cannabis. And, it looks like there's a good chance that there will be funding to put it on the ballot, and I'm hoping it will be the only one on the ballot. And that it will be great step ahead.

DOUG MCVAY: Now that is terrific news, that is really terrific news. The -- now I've got a train coming up behind me. Okeh, train's gone past. So, okeh, so the, so that initiative, and which one, what is the proper title and where do people find out about that one?

WILLIAM PANZER: Well, it hasn't been put in yet. Right now it's still in the process of being written, and there's a, it's being vetted by a law firm that does a lot of statutory work, and statutory construction, and writing this stuff, because we want to make sure that, not only that it says what we want it to say but it does what we want it to do, and that has to be worded in legalese. So, my understanding is that's going on right now. I'd imagine it would be filed within the next, like, month or two, I would suspect at the latest. And then it would be on the streets. I mean, the bottom line is it costs a million and a half dollars to put an initiative on the ballot in California, and I've heard that the funding is there for this one.

DOUG MCVAY: Okeh, now I know there are a few other initiative, initiatives that have been floated, that have been filed. Do any of them have the possibility of getting signatures, or are they, are any of them actually funded, or are these basically, have they been basically the equivalent of trial balloons?

WILLIAM PANZER: There's been several initiatives that have been on the ballot -- or, well, filed almost every year, every time there's been an election, the same ones, or revamped versions. But no one's had the money to actually put it on the street. I mean, there hasn't been a completely voluntary initiative make the ballot in California since the Amorphia legalization -- marijuana legalization initiative made the ballot in 1972. And that's the last time an all-volunteer one did. You need a little bit less signatures this year, because the last election was a low turnout. But you still need, I think it's maybe 450,000 valid signatures, something like that, and, you know, usually you need about twice that to make sure you have the valid signatures, two dollars a signature. It's about a million and a half to put it on the ballot.

And so anyone who came up with a million and a half could put anything on the ballot in California. But, it doesn't -- I haven't seen anybody with any money yet, and I haven't seen anything on the street getting signatures.

DOUG MCVAY: Says a lot. Now, you've got a senate race going on down there this election cycle, as I recall, Kamala Harris, the district attorney, is one of the possible candidates. Any thoughts about that one?

WILLIAM PANZER: Well, you know, I wish we could replace Diane Feinstein, but this would be I believe it's Boxer's seat. You know, Kamala Harris came out of San Francisco, she was district attorney in San Francisco, she's been attorney general, she's been, eh, fairly good on the issue, but you know, she is a politician, and I mean, certainly I think she would be an improvement over Boxer on cannabis issues, and then the next thing is we have to get rid of Feinstein because she's horrible on cannabis issues.

DOUG MCVAY: And on other issues, too. She's not, uh, she's not quite -- anyway. I'm nonprofit radio, I don't take positions. She's not up for election, so it's okeh. Let's see, any closing thoughts for the listeners? And by the way, I will ask, what are you going to tell folks, you're going to be speaking in a little while up at the McWilliams-Black Memorial Stage. What you going to be telling the folks?

WILLIAM PANZER: Honestly? I usually don't know until I get out there. I mean, sometimes I talk about how to deal with the police, how to avoid getting yourself in trouble, sometimes I kind of just do a rah-rah, freedom speech. Yesterday I, they asked me to stretch it because someone didn't show up, and so I actually almost did a comedy routine, you know, because I was talking about speaking truth to power, and how there are so many lies coming from the government, and so I talked about different things officers testify to. The guy was a supposed expert on cannabis in cases that I've done, where, I mean, they have no idea what they're talking about, they're pulling things out of their butts, and it's so ridiculous it's funny. I mean, I can do a comedy routine on it. So, you know, basically I get out there, you see how many people are out there, what the last person spoke on, what comes to me. I mean, you know, this is what I do for a living, so, it just, you know, it's kind of like Grateful Dead concerts, you know, no two are ever the same.

DOUG MCVAY: So, there we go. Now, any closing thoughts for my listeners?

WILLIAM PANZER: That was it.

DOUG MCVAY: Works for me.

WILLIAM PANZER: I would only say, anybody that listens to this, if you've never been to Hempfest in Seattle, it's well worth the trip. It's a wonderful event, the people who work here, the volunteers, really bust their butts and do great. And even, you know what, go on your computer, look them up and send them a donation. They're going to be losing money this year, especially with the rain-out on Friday. And it is a wonderful event.

DOUG MCVAY: Bill Panzer, thank you so much. That was Bill Panzer, criminal defense attorney in Oakland, California. You are listening to Century Of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

Now, let's hear from my friend Kari Boiter. She's a medical marijuana patient advocate and criminal justice reform activist in Washington state.

KARI BOITER: Well, we've been talking about the fact that, even though it is legal per se in Washington state, there's still a lot of persecution that's happening. People are losing their jobs and they're losing their children, and they're losing their livelihoods right now, with the attack that we've seen on medical marijuana. And so with all of that being said, there's a lot more work to do, and that means we have to do that together, because if we continue to fight about whether medical is better or recreational is better, or spiritual use is better, well then we're not actually going to get more rights for all of those users. So, working together is going to be really integral in this final push, you know, it's a marathon, not a sprint, so to get across that finish line, it's really going to take an effort from every single person in this movement, really in the same direction, not going opposite directions.

DOUG MCVAY: Right on. And you alluded to the panel that you and I were on together. Now, you were also talking earlier in the Fest about cannabigotry. Could you unpack that a little, and tell the listeners something about that, you know, the concept, sort of what you're trying to tell people?

KARI BOITER: Yeah, well, I think Seattle Hempfest, all of our stages are named for people who've faced cannabigotry and the Ric Smith Hemposium Stage -- Ric Smith was a very dear friend of mine, and he was denied an organ transplant because of his medical marijuana use, and they gave him a choice: Stop using medical marijuana, and get a new liver and new kidneys, or continue using it and do not get new kidneys and a liver, and the problem was, he would have died without using medical cannabis. It was saving his life. So, it was really a choice of death or death. And so, you know, we've just seen too much of that.

And just this year, we lost another really integral member of our core staff, Kevin Black, who had cancer and HIV, and, you know, he was also using cannabis for medical purposes, and it just -- to see these folks being able to sustain their life, with this plant, really brings it into scope, that this isn't just about a party, it isn't just about getting high, this is about living a better life. And, for a lot of people, you know, that's going to take ending prohibition on the federal level to really bring about the changes that we all want to see. We've seen people being prosecuted in federal courts, and even in state courts here in Washington, for marijuana, still, even when it's legal. And so, you know, until every single cannabis user can grow a plant in their back yard without fearing loss of their children or loss of their job, without worrying about if they're going to be able to get medical care denied in the future, then we really haven't won yet. We haven't legalized cannabis.

And it's about more than just that, it's about criminal justice reform in the broader sense. When one in three Americans are going through the criminal justice system that's meant for violent, you know, offenders, and those who do harm to society. I look at my neighbors, one on the left and one on the right, and I know that none of the three of us are criminal, and harming people, so that tells me things are a little off and we need to make some major reforms in sentencing, in prison, and the whole criminal justice, you know, system in a broader aspect.

DOUG MCVAY: Couldn't agree more. Now, let's get onto the last thing which you were just discussing, and that is the state of Washington state, which is something I know a lot of listeners are interested in. You've had major changes enacted just recently, and, yeah, what better chance to find out than now at Hempfest. So, yeah, tell me what's up up here.

KARI BOITER: You know, it's almost like the Twilight Zone. On one hand, you have the green rush and all the industry and all the people who are so excited about moving forward with making a business and creating opportunities for their employees, and on the other side, you have patients who can't find their medicine for $20 a gram, and that's something that we've had here in this state for years now. You know, we had people working together to provide medicine at a lower cost, so that more patients could get access to that, and that's gone now, because of legalization. And it wasn't that 502 did that, but as a result of 502 and the tax system that was implemented with it, we've seen, you know, some competitive business practices -- putting it nicely -- that have caused people to really look out for their own bottom line at any cost, and they're willing to sacrifice the needs of the patients and those who really made it possible for them to have a storefront, in order to make a couple more pennies a little bit faster.

And really, I think that there's enough money to go around for everybody. This is a new industry, it's just opening up, and if we can work together and make sure we're not losing our jobs and we're not losing our kids and we're not facing all this persecution, well then, that's more money for everybody. And there's nothing wrong with wanting to have a business and have a livelihood and raise your family and pay your bills through cannabis. That's actually I think what all of our goals are, right? We all want to be able to have a job in cannabis, but, you know, you can do that without sacrificing the rights of your neighbor in order to do that faster. There's going to be enough. This is a new industry, there's enough to go around, we don't need to sacrifice each other's rights in order to make a buck a little bit quicker.

DOUG MCVAY: Absolutely. Absolutely. You have such amazing energy, such a passion for these issues. We're really fortunate that you're doing all this, and for doing the work you're doing. Now, do you blog at all? Where, can people read some of the things that you say and all that?

KARI BOITER: They can find me on facebook, it's just my name, Kari Boiter. I'm an independent advocate patient who's just trying to make sure I still have my medicine in the future, and really, that I don't go to jail for possessing my medicine or sharing it with somebody who I know needs it and can't afford it. I just want to have more rights for everybody.

DOUG MCVAY: Terrific. Now, let's see, any closing thoughts for the listeners? I love putting people on the spot with that one. It's great.

KARI BOITER: Parting words would just be, let's not get ahead of ourselves, you know, it's really important to regulate this product, and even to put some money in the hands of our state and our federal government, because that's what's going to keep it legal and allow it move forward. But, we don't have the testing that's needed to make sure things are the safest they can possibly be, and we don't have the crops that we need to make sure there's no shortage, and we don't have all the stores open that we need, and so let's just keep moving the ball forward and getting more storefronts, more crops, more rights, instead of, you know, trying to divide ourselves and only protect our own rights. It's the rights of everybody that are important.

DOUG MCVAY: Absolutely. I've been speaking with Kari Boiter, she is a criminal justice reform activist and a medical marijuana patient advocate up here in Washington state. Kari, thank you so much.

KARI BOITER: Thank you, Doug.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Kari Boiter, a medical marijuana patient advocate and criminal justice reform activist in Washington. We spoke at Seattle Hempfest in mid-August. You're listening to Century Of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

Now, let's go north of the border to hear about what's been happening in Canada. John Conroy is a criminal defense attorney in British Columbia, he's been involved in some groundbreaking cases up there for several years, especially around medical marijuana issues. I spoke with him at Hempfest.

JOHN CONROY: Probably the most significant recent thing that's happened is the Supreme Court of Canada on June 8th heard -- decided a case that was heard on March 20th, so pretty quick decision by a unanimous court. Fifteen pages, which was short, on a case where the government had, in the medical marijuana access regulations program, since 2000, limited possession to dried marijuana. So you'd be medically authorized but you're limited to dried marijuana. Of course, the evidence is that smoking, and the doctors would be the first often to say is not good for you, and so what about the other forms? And it was a bit confusing, because, they talked about inhalation versus ingestion, which contemplated oral ingestion in the forms, and so there was confusion about what could you couldn't you do.

But anyway. Limitation was struck down by a judge originally in British Columbia, rising from Ted Smith's cannabis buyer's club, Owen Smith was the accused who was charged for making edibles and baked goods for the club. Went to the BC Court of Appeal, they split two to one, with the dissenting judge saying, well, why can't somebody just turn it into a different form anyway? With the other two upholding that this was a problematic issue, unreasonable limit, and so went to the Supreme Court of Canada and we got this unanimous decision. So, what people need to understand is, that was the first time the Supreme Court of Canada dealt with a medical marijuana issue. They had dealt with the issue of legalization, and whether that for recreational social uses, could be, could the existing Controlled Drugs and Substance Act, or back then Narcotic Control Act, be struck down. They said no, that was a matter for Parliament.

Well, when it came to medical, they had refused leave to appeal on all the area of decisions that had upheld that the government had to come up with a reasonable exemption for medical authorized users. And so, here you had the Supreme Court adopting those earlier cases, and saying that if you are medically authorized to possess cannabis for medical purposes in Canada, it's -- in any of its forms -- you can transform it into whatever you like. The government has responded by setting out a number of what we call Section 56 exemptions. Our Controlled Drugs and Substances Act has two purposes. One is public safety, and the other is public health. Section 56 gives the minister who's responsible for the Act the power to exempt persons or classes of persons or drugs from the provisions of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for a medical, scientific, or other purpose.

And so, the supervised injection site for example that exists in Vancouver, it's I think the only one in North America, is a Section 56 exemption, where people can go who've acquired their addictive drugs, their opiate drugs, from the black market, can go and administer or inject themselves under the supervision of a nurse, who will observe them in terms of potential overdoses, and the main thing that the site has done is reduce overdoses phenomenally. But anyway, there's an example of a Section 56 exemption.

We come back, in response to Smith, the government has given Section 56 exemptions, specifically trying to limit butane extraction in particular, and trying to limit some of the content it appears. It's not fully understood exactly what it meant. So, Smith is an endorsement from the highest court of the land that liberty includes not only the threat of imprisonment, physical restraint, it includes decisions of personal fundamental importance, which obviously includes medical decisions and choices as to methods of use of a particular substance approved by your physician in terms of how it best works for you, in terms of your medical situation. And that also includes security of the person. So, when your liberty and the security of your person are engaged in Canada, under our constitution, the question arises as to whether or not the conduct of the government is affecting and impairing or reducing liberty and the security of the person in manner that's inconsistent with what we call the principles of fundamental justice.

And so, in the Smith case, the government by prohibiting everything except dried marijuana, which involved at least in part smoking, which the doctors and the health care professionals say is not good for you, in precluding other methods which were more effective, was acting inconsistently with the purposes of the Act. They were not acting in the interest of public health by precluding access by patients. And so that's what is considered arbitrary, that's a violation of, that's a principle of fundamental justice. So the court, the highest court, accepted and ruled that the government acted arbitrarily in limiting medical-approved use to dried marijuana. They acted arbitrarily, affecting liberty and the security of the person. And so, as I say, the response has been these Section 56 exemptions, which are not regulations, but, so we'll see how that unfolds.

The Allard case is a case which awaits decision now. It was delayed because of the Smith case coming down, and submissions having been made back and forth about just what the impact of Smith is. But Allard is about preserving the right of a patient, a medically-approved person, to grow their own or have a true caregiver grow it for them. And, under the medical marijuana access regulations that came about back in early 2000 as a result of Parker, which was the Ontario case that said you have to create a medical authorization and exemption process, government.

DOUG MCVAY: Terry Parker.

JOHN CONROY: Terry Parker's case. The MMAR allowed you to grow for yourself or have a designated grower. And we challenged its provisions as being too restrictive over the years, and ultimately the government said, oh, you know, listened, and claimed, grossly exaggeratingly I might add, that there were all these problems with grow ops. It's not to say there aren't problems from smell, and things like that, people not doing things to make sure they don't affect their neighbors. But, so, the federal government decided to try and repeal, abolish the right to grow your own, or have a caregiver do so, and introduced a new licensing regulatory scheme, which requires people to go and buy from a licensed producer. And they'd only approved about 12 licensed producers at one point, we went to court and we got an injunction restraining the repeal to the extent, so that people could continue to grow their own, or have a caregiver do so for them, pending final decision of the court.

Unfortunately, the decision picked certain dates, that resulted in some people falling between the cracks, and we tried to vary that to, you know, allow people to change their licenses, for example if they've had a fire and they've got a new place, or they got divorced, or they've gone and gotten married, or you name it, there's an amazing number of examples of why people often need to move. But, unfortunately, they haven't been able to do so. And so we now know we'll win that part of the case dealing with the limitation to dried marijuana, and we challenged it in various acts and regulations, not just the medical marijuana access regs. But the big question will be the right to grow, or the right to have a caregiver do so for you. Many of these people are on disability incomes, they can't afford the licensed producers, and there's no medical scheme that will cover them, and we know, even with pharmaceuticals, how many people can't afford the pharmaceuticals, clog up the emergency departments because they can't afford to buy their drugs.

Here, we know at least some people, some patients, want to be able to grow their own, know they can grow it cheaply, know they can control the medicine, and what goes into it. That gives them in some cases greater security, and if they can do it, and do it in a way where it doesn't impact their neighbors, or subject to reasonable regulation to ensure they don't impact their neighbors, and that they're protected from grow rips and this sort of things, which shouldn't happen if there's a greater availability. You know, that's what ultimately we say should be happening.

DOUG MCVAY: John, thank you so much.


DOUG MCVAY: Good luck with everything.

JOHN CONROY: All right.

DOUG MCVAY: That was John Conroy, an attorney from British Columbia, Canada. We spoke at earlier this month at Seattle Hempfest.

And for now, that's all the time we have. Thank you for listening. This is Century Of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

Century Of Lies is heard at 420Radio.org on Mondays at 11am and 11pm, Saturdays at 4am, all times are pacific. We're 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.

If you work with a public, community, or college nonprofit radio station and you're interested in carrying this show or any of the fine programming from the Drug Truth Network, it's available for syndication and rebroadcast free of charge. Full-length, high definition copies of the audio files can be downloaded through the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network's audioport or directly from the Drug Truth Network, we're at DrugTruth.net.

Here's a shout-out to some of the stations out there carrying Century Of Lies, including: WERU 89.9 FM in Blue Hill, Maine; WIEC 102.7 FM in Eau Claire, Wisconsin; WGOT-LP 94.7 FM in Gainesville, Florida; KRFP 90.3 FM in Moscow, Idaho; Valley Free Radio WXOJ-LP 103.3 FM in Northampton, Massachusetts; KOWA-LP 106.5 FM in Olympia, Washington; and Free Radio Santa Cruz 101.3 fm in Santa Cruz California. To all of our listeners and supporters: Thank you.

Recordings of this show and past shows are available for free download from the website DrugTruth.net. While you're there, listen to our other programs and subscribe to our podcasts. Follow me on Twitter, I'm @DrugPolicyFacts and of course also @DougMcVay. The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, be sure to give its page a Like. Drug War Facts is on facebook too, please give it a like and share it with friends.

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!

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition: the century of lies. Drug Truth Network programs archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.