05/15/16 Doug McVay

Century of Lies

We speak with California NORML's Dale Gieringer, and Portland NORML's Scott Gordon, plus we hear from author and marijuana expert Robert C. Clarke.

Audio file


MAY 15, 2016


DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century Of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello, and welcome to Century Of Lies. Century Of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

Last week I was at the Global Marijuana March event here in Portland, Oregon. Got a quick interview with the new director of Portland NORML, Scott Gordon, otherwise known as Urb Thrasher. Let's give that a listen.

DOUG MCVAY: Urb Thrasher, master of ceremonies at the Global Marijuana March in Portland, Oregon. That was a good show today, congratulations.

SCOTT GORDON: Thank you so much, real excited to be here at the 17th annual Global Cannabis March. We've been marching for quite a while now, doing this thing every year, and here we are again in 2016. We legalized in 2014, and still have a lot of work to do within the community to get what we implemented through Measure 91 kind of implemented how we want, and how we voted for, and how we expected it to be. So we're out here marching for freedom, renter rights, and employment rights, and indoor safe air act rights, and just certain things that we need to continue on.

DOUG MCVAY: Right on. I've got to say, good crowd, good crowd. Now, do you, do we have some more events coming up during the year, do you work with Hempstalk at all? What's going to be happening in the rest of this, the rest of this season?

SCOTT GORDON: I do, I work with Hempstalk, I'm on core staff there, and we're real excited to get that event going again in September, and you can look for that on the Hempstalk.org website. And also, @HempstalkPDX on the Twitter. And looking forward to that event. We have Seattle Hempfest that we're going to be going up to in August, and I'm now the new executive director for Portland NORML, and we're going to start kind of getting involved in the community. You know, consumers are a base out there that I'm not sure is represented enough, and so we're going to get out there and start supporting these causes that are so dear to us.

DOUG MCVAY: Right on. Portland NORML, you guys have meetings? What's up with that?

SCOTT GORDON: Portland NORML has recently gone through a little bit of a restructure change, recently, added two new board members, Trista Okel and Lindsey Rinehart, and so we're now up to seven board members again, and today was actually like a little bit of a relaunch for Portland NORML. And we're going to start getting our monthly meetings and kind of get everything going, it's taken us a little -- a month. Transition isn't easy a lot of times, and so, real excited to get them on board now and have our board of directors back to seven, so we have a full kind of team together, and start getting out there and start representing consumers, and the issues that we all fight. You know, Schedule One, and it's just terrible, it's a travesty, so we want to support that. We'd love to support Earl Blumenauer and some of the causes they have.

We had mayoral candidate Ted Wheeler here earlier, talking about banking issues, and so that's real important for our cannabis businesses, entrepreneurs, to be involved with banking. We want the same fairness of banking that other businesses have. So, a lot of issues still to work with.

DOUG MCVAY: Fantastic. I didn't -- I wasn't here for Wheeler, it's great to see that, and he's one of the leading mayoral candidates in the city. Saw Jesse Sponberg, one of the other candidates, had a booth, and of course Jenifer Valley is running for Clackamas County Commissioner. Do you see more of the politicians coming out and giving support for folks?

SCOTT GORDON: I really do, and as you mentioned, we also, to add to who you mentioned, we also had Representative Tobias Read, who was instrumental in writing the Oregon banking cannabis act, and so he is now also up for Ted Wheeler's position, of treasurer, he's secretary of treasury or something like that.

DOUG MCVAY: State Treasurer.

SCOTT GORDON: There you go. And so, he is now running for that, and he actually followed Ted Wheeler right here on the stage. And so, toay we've actually had three, four candidates running for offices, here supporting this cause, and there's a couple more people that I don't really want to mention because they didn't make it, but they were so close, and they wanted to come, we almost had an unbelievable keynote speaker. And so, we do have some major kind of support coming. And they see this system, they know we're legalized, and they know here, especially in Portland as it was passed over 70 percent, and so, it's definitely an overwhelming support and Ted Wheeler definitely expressed that fact.

DOUG MCVAY: Terrific. I know you've got to get -- you're MC, you've got to go master some ceremonies. But, any closing thoughts for the listener, and where do people find out more, do the website thing.

SCOTT GORDON: Yeah, thank you so much. We're at PortlandNORML.org, and you can also find us on Twitter, @PortlandNORML as well. And you can also find me at 420radio.org, also. And yeah, you know, we've just got to keep fighting, basically the big message here, and why we're here, is, we've just got to keep fighting to end the drug war. The drug war is the main culprit of all this, and why we're here. Schedule Two is a direct cousin of the main culprit -- I mean Schedule One, excuse me, is the main culprit of this, and so these are things that, not only here in Oregon we've got to change, but nationally we've got to continue to just change, and so we strive, and we keep going.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Portland NORML's Scott Gordon, a.k.a. Urb Thrasher, at the Global Marijuana March event in Portland, Oregon.

Last week we heard an interview I got with Robert C. Clarke at the Willamette Week Cultivation Classic. He delivered the keynote address at that event, here it is:

ROBERT C. CLARKE: I'm going to -- I'm not going to take much of your time today, because I want to get on with what's going on right here in front of us. But I will say that I've seen the celebration of cannabis evolve for a long time, and I first started going to events in the early 1980s, and to a tent event in Mendocino or Sonoma County back in those days. First of all, it was only in the autumn, because people only grew in the summer, you know, the outdoor months, we didn't really have an indoor growing culture then. So it was a, truly a Thanksgiving sort of harvest festival. But you were loaded into vans, at a Safeway parking lot or some neutral spot, and the vans had blocked out windows. And you couldn't see who the driver was, and you were taken to some beautiful, remote piece of property, some fantastic places over the years. And you met people you'd never met, limited size groups, hundred people maybe, all catered. Beautiful.

And that grew. We took this idea to Amsterdam years ago. The High Times magazine people picked up on the whole idea, they made a cannabis cup out of it. Lot of fun. Became really commercialized, went through three decades of becoming something way beyond the control of our cannabis culture, and that's bigger now than ever. These guys have left Amsterdam, they're persona non grata at this point. They've moved back to America, they have events all over America, they're huge. They're impersonal. They're very commercial. And that's needed as well, I'm sure. But what we have here, in my mind, is the return more to the roots. More to the basic idea of why we come together to celebrate cannabis. And, it'll be fun, everybody enjoy yourselves. But, this, now, at this point, from this juncture onward, we have a responsibility of what we're doing as well. Especially at these kind of events. We have an opportunity now to determine the course of events for our future.

Oregon, as Jeremy pointed out, is a great experimental ground for things to go on. I'm a Californian, the land of chaos, I have no idea what's going to happen there. It's beyond anyone's control or even imagination at this point. Here, you have a really good experiment, and you're trying to do things differently, and that's why we're here today. This kind of event can move us on into the future. We can determine what is quality cannabis. We can determine how it's grown, how the regulations that eventually come should be based. They could be based on the reality that we bring to the table. And, if we don't continue being active here, I'm a bit preaching to the choir here in Oregon, but if people nationwide and worldwide don't become more proactive with the changes that are going on around them, regardless of whether they participate or not, people will likely not get an outcome that they are comfortable with.

So, we really have to try our best to establish what we want to see in the future. And right here we're doing it. These, the samples that have been turned in have been grown in ways that are friendly to the earth. They are analyzed. In the future, they could even be identified genetically as to whether the samples that are entered are what were said were entered. We can use science to our advantage. And really make progress that will make sense to us, and hopefully sense to others who really do establish the rules that we live under. Okeh? So, don't be afraid of science. Embrace science. And get on with establishing what we want to see, and party down. This is a great day, so celebrate! Don't forget to celebrate!

DOUG MCVAY: That was Robert C. Clarke, speaking at the Willamette Week Cultivation Classic. The event was really well run, it was a lot of fun, there was a smoking section, and several of the vendors were giving out free samples. Unfortunately, the city of Portland's Office of Neighborhood Initiatives has decided that the city should no longer permit anyone to hold events where people are able to smoke, and where vendors can give away free samples to people of legal age. They claim that charging an entry fee is the equivalent of selling weed without the proper license – even though none of the vendors who gave away samples were getting a piece of that fee. The Office of Neighborhood Initiatives also insists that if members of the public have to pay an admission fee to enter an event, that makes it a public space, and state law forbids people from using marijuana in public. The Cultivation Classic was the first event of its kind in Oregon, and it may be the last to be held in the city of Portland -- at least for a while.

You're listening to Century of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

Last month I was in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs. While there, I ran into my good friend and colleague Dale Gierenger, from California NORML. Here's that interview.

You're Dale Gierenger, the head of California NORML. And there are two different things I want to talk about. We're here in New York, at the UNGASS, sitting just outside enjoying the weather because it's perfect. And I'm not allowed to bring my recording equipment inside because I'm with an NGO. But it seems that security has issues with more than just NGO people bringing in camera equipment. There's -- Dale, you have with you a copy of a newsletter. It's called The Post-Prohibition Times. Now, can you -- oh wow, look at the names on there. Fernando Cardoso, Ernesto Zedillo -- look at all those great names.

DALE GIERENGER: Illustrious people from around the world who have signed this statement calling on the UN to end the drug war. Let's see, Fernando Enrique Cardoso, the former president of Brazil, Ernesto Zedillo, former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico. And today, by the way, the actual president of Mexico, Enrico Pena Nieto, addressed the General Assembly and said that they haven't been doing enough to work past the strictures of the existing treaty system. But anyhow, there's, like, 7 pages of heavy-duty signatories here on this treatise that was being handed out by a battery of avid young SSDPers, I think, to all comers at the United Nations this morning. And, practically nobody could approach the UN without getting one of these in their hands. Then, as they got to the security checkpoint, everyone was told, sorry, you cannot bring this into the UN. Fortunately, being the inveterate smuggler that I am, I saw what was happening and managed to secrete it into my pack, which was not searched there but subsequently, and everything was copacetic. And frankly, once I got inside, there was no problem as long as one could find a seat in the galleries in the General Assembly, which requires getting there on time, or early.

But I did. And, it's interesting to watch the proceedings there, as it's interesting to watch molasses flow. Not, not. Actually, all of the business occurred right at the beginning, when it was moved without objection that the document prepared beforehand by UNODC and the highers-up would be approve unanimously without objection. Then, afterwards, various spokespeople from the different nations could express their sentiments upon this document, that everybody had without objection approved. And there were some good statements there. A lot of statements against the death penalty, in particular, beginning with the Swiss on that, and the Norwegians put in a word for harm reduction. And when that word harm reduction came up, the galleries, all of us in the peanut gallery, applauded. And there were even a couple of mentions of cannabis. The minister from Jamaica talked about the need to respect traditional values regarding cannabis, that really did get applause. And President Nieto talked about the need to allow medicinal and research use of cannabis, and also to decriminalize use in general. And there was a lot of that.

The only sour note from our standpoint was the representative from Indonesia, who spoke for himself, and for Singapore, and China, and Pakistan, and most of the middle eastern countries, and Brunei, and a bunch of other such nations, who made it very clear that there should be no talk about this death penalty stuff, this was up to the individual nations, they found it very fitting to have the death penalty. That got hisses. And, there was the delegate from China, who said in no cases should they be countenancing any legalization of narcotics. Now, it's interesting, that's how the translation said, legalization of narcotics, and I don't know whether the subtleties of the word "narcotics" got -- I mean, you know, to you and me, the drugs we're most concerned with are actually not narcotics, but I think in the minds of the Chinese, they're, not having seen their character, I would nonetheless hazard that they were including other things as well.

So, anyhow, the show goes on, and nothing is going to happen to the international treaties for maybe another three years. But, that's the progress of international politics.

DOUG MCVAY: And just to back up a moment, the document which was written earlier and to which they agreed earlier, or yesterday. Just to clarify that was the outcome document for the UNGASS, the outcome document.

DALE GIERENGER: Right. Right, everybody agrees to the outcome. Right, yes. So, they can comment on the outcome. It's like getting your prix fixe menu, and then you say, well, you know, I with there's been more foie gras on this, but okeh, I'll eat it. You know.

DOUG MCVAY: And so they presented something and the rest of us have to eat it. Yeah, I've just -- outcome is one of those things that brings to mind, to me at least, something you have after something. To me, outcome implies, I don't know, an outcome, as opposed to -- well, anyway. And so, yeah, again, at least I'm not the only one who was told by security --

DALE GIERENGER: Documents come from on high by divine revelation from the upper ministries of the International Narcotics Control Board and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

DOUG MCVAY: What a bloody farce. So, you've been inside, terribly boring.

DALE GIERENGER: It's a lovely building, it's worth taking the tour. Actually, I just took the tour, en francais, because it was the most convenient thing to do, to do the English tour I had to wait another hour, and I thought it was time to brush up on my French. Very nice tour, got to see -- yeah, there's good artwork in there, and lots of ambitious, good-meaning goals. You know, eliminating land mines, and, you know, addressing the issue of global warming, things like that. Yeah.

DOUG MCVAY: So, just, let's shift gears for a moment while I think of another question about UNGASS, frankly, but, you're from California, and so --


DOUG MCVAY: You know, there's the obvious question, which I'll go ahead and ask: What's going to happen this November?

DALE GIERENGER: Marijuana's going to be legal in California as of midnight November 8th, 9th, this year, I'm confident that Californians are going to approve the so-called Adult Use for Marijuana Act initiative. Which has not actually qualified for the ballot yet because they're finalizing the signature campaign, which doesn't really end until about the end of this month, and then it all has to go to the secretary of state to be validated. But, it's like shooting fish in a barrel if you have the bucks to do it, and everybody expects it to be on the ballot. You know, the polling is very favorable everywhere, you know, on the order of 60 percent, so I don't see any problem with it.

DOUG MCVAY: Technically, they can -- if they do fall short, they have another month or two after that to collect signatures, don't they, or do they?

DALE GIERENGER: No. No, no no. If you're short, well, what you really try to do is you try to have 110 percent of your valid signatures. If you don't -- because they do a random sampling of the ballots, and if you, if it looks like you're on target for 110 percent, they give you the green light. If you're under 110 percent, but over, like, 95 percent or something, then they give you the long count, which means they count every single ballot and when that happens, that can delay you past this election cycle entirely, and in fact the next election cycle for ballot initiatives in California is not for another two years. So, or -- so, anyhow. But, I don't think that that's going to happen, it's going to be on the ballot and it will pass.

DOUG MCVAY: Fantastic. Fantastic.

DALE GIERENGER: But, you know, legalization is already happening in California, as everybody is starting to prepare for state regulation of medical marijuana, which is there in -- a huge industry there, I mean, we've got literally tens of thousands of people currently operating under this very loose framework of Prop 215, who are going to have to get state licenses if they're going to continue. And the state licensing regime is just getting underway, and it won't be until January First, 2018, that we will have the state licensing for medical marijuana in effect, and if this adult use initiative passes, we will also have state licensing for adult use starting in 2018. And again, depending also on local governments, because local governments have total power to opt out of anything, including medical, in California, under -- we're not totally happy about that, but that's the way it is.

DOUG MCVAY: And, well, and that, what you just said, we're not happy about it, so it's not like, okeh, we've done it, we're done now. This is an on -- basically, this is a process, right?

DALE GIERENGER: It is. And there are things that are -- this initiative was not totally satisfactory to all -- everybody on our side. It's a very long and wordy initiative, it's, like, 62 pages with lots of little provisions in it. So, you know, it isn't just that you can have six plants, but it's only six plants per residence. And it has to be in a locked area, and if you have more than one ounce of marijuana from those plants, that has to be locked and out of public view. And yadda yadda yadda, there are all of these ifs and ands. We were also, I think, upset that it really didn't do anything to secure rights for medical patients, which have been eroded by court decisions in California. But that's going to continue to be the case, that local governments can deny medical marijuana access, basically. So we're going to be fighting that for a long time, and then there's the issue of drug testing in the workplace.

DOUG MCVAY: Okeh, so the UNGASS, you're going to be -- the outcome document's already done, asking you what we're going to -- what do you think will actually, concrete, after this, what happens?

DALE GIERENGER: Wait another three years, and, I think 2019 is the next big review, and hope at some point the UN allows there to be a review of the actual treaties, because here we have these treaties, which are getting long in the tooth at this point. I mean, you know, we have, the basic underlying treaty, the Single Convention treaty, dates from 1961. But then there were, I guess, three subsequent treaties, on psychotropic substances, and I've forgotten the names of the other two, which happened in the 70s and 80s, the last one was in '87. The last one was the nastiest one, because it required signatory nations to criminalize the possession of drugs, which is, you know, totally gratuitous, and which there is widespread resistance to, and which people are preaching against criminalization in there, but here they have this treaty that commits the nations to doing that. But, nobody seems to want to rock the boat and actually change the treaties, and, you know, it's now over 25 years since they've done this, it's, the time is overdue.

I think it's going to take leadership by the United States to do it. Everybody thinks it will take leadership by the United States. But, whether that will happen is a dubious issue, you know?

DOUG MCVAY: Has anyone -- you mentioned that some of the people have mentioned harm reduction, that they've talked about the need -- have any of the delegates spoken directly to the need to either replace or renegotiate or at least -- or somehow amend the current conventions? Have they thrown that down?

DALE GIERENGER: You know, that would be impolitic and unpolite to talk about that, although I think the best was President Nieto, saying that the existing system really was inadequate, which would imply that there has to be some sort of new treaty. But, nobody actually said we need to change the treaty, no. And believe me, there was active discussion about, would there be a proposal, a serious proposal to suggest that, a losing proposal, mind you, from the floor, because it would certainly be voted down by the vast majority of delegates, who are still very prohibitionist. I mean, like, almost every country in Asia, and every country in Africa, to begin with, and, you know, eastern Europe, the Russians. So, it would be a tall order, but at least to suggest it, to propose it. And, I think, that was decided earlier this year in Vienna, that there would be no discussion of that. Instead, everybody would unanimously agree to accept the outcome.

DOUG MCVAY: Accept the outcome before it started. Dale, give me your website, before I start ranting about these people. Any final thoughts, and the website where people can find out stuff.

DALE GIERENGER: Yeah, the website for California NORML is www.CANORML.org, CANORML.org. We have a full analysis of the many complexities of the pending Adult Use of Marijuana Act, and a full analysis of the many complexities of the Medical Marijuana Regulation Act, that is now in effect, for people to follow. And don't hold your breath for change at the United Nations. I will say, this is a wonderful time for me. April 20th, tomorrow, is my birthday, it's my 70th birthday, and it's time for me to retire. I'm, my goal, you know, was to legalize marijuana in California. And it looks like that's going to happen here, in my 70th year, so I can declare victory in that, and I'm going to devote my retirement to legalizing LSD.

DOUG MCVAY: So you're picking a nice, easy retirement. That's good, that's smart.

DALE GIERENGER: Keep me going for a while.

DOUG MCVAY: Thank you, Dale. That's brilliant.

DALE GIERENGER: My pleasure.

DOUG MCVAY: That was an interview with California NORML director Dale Gierenger, I caught up with him in New York City at the UN General Assembly Special Session on drugs.

And well, that's it for today. Thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century Of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org. The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, please give its page a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give it a like and share it with friends. You can follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts.

We'll be back next week with thirty minutes of news and information about 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.