08/21/16 Rick Steves

This week we come to you live from Seattle Hempfest! We hear from travel guru Rick Steves, Hempfest honchos Vivian McPeak and John Davis, reformer and hemp advocate Joy Beckerman, plus activist and entrepreneur Alison Draisin.

Century of Lies
Sunday, August 21, 2016
Rick Steves
Travel Guru
Download: Audio icon col082116.mp3



AUGUST 21, 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. And this week, we're coming to you this week live from Seattle Hempfest! Yay!

I'm backstage at Hempfest Hemposium, it's the VIP party Friday night, and I'm speaking with -- I can hardly believe it, I'm speaking with Rick Steves himself. Wow. I watch you on TV every week, this is just weird, but you're on the board of directors of NORML so you're absolutely someone I should be interviewing. Still, it's a bloody honor.

RICK STEVES: Thank you. Nice to be here with you.

DOUG MCVAY: So, tell me what you've got planned for NORML.

RICK STEVES: Oh, I just -- I've got a sort of patience, every two years, contribute as I can to whatever states are going through the legalization process, so four years ago it was Washington, two years ago it was Oregon, this year, California looks solid and got plenty of big players, money, and it's polling really well, so I thought I'd do my little effort in Massachusetts and Maine, so I'm going over there in October. And basically, it's just raising awareness of people who are frightened about pot. I don't want to talk to the choir, I want to talk to people who think this is a dangerous thing, and I can explain to them, if I have 20 minutes of people's time, that this is not a pro-pot thing, this is a smart law thing, this is a public safety thing, this is a pro-civil liberties thing. This is respect for a law and order thing, this is a state's right thing. There's a lot of ways you can frame it, and then reasonable people can actually, even if they don't want to smoke pot themselves, they can say yeah, we should stop locking up pot smokers in our state.

DOUG MCVAY: We're looking at, what is it, 5 legalization initiatives on the ballot coming up, one or two of them might be in trouble, one or two of them might make it. Where do you think we're going to be after this general election, oh what a terrible question to ask.

RICK STEVES: Well, I think -- the two states I'm working in are polling at about 55 percent, that's Massachusetts and Maine. But the big player of course is California, and everybody I know is thinking California's pretty much in the bag, and I think it's in the bag because it has a smart law. It's not a pro-pot law, it's a pro-public safety, a smart policy law, that's embraced by people that are outside of the marijuana community. And when you do that, then you get people who are skeptics, that really are disinclined to support this, to realize that this is stupid prohibition, and just like alcohol. When they finally legalized alcohol after prohibition, people weren't saying booze is good. There's just a recognition that the law was causing more problem than the drug alcohol they were trying to protect people from. And today, that's what's happening in the United States, is they're realizing that we have a very wrong minded law based on lies that's counterproductive and expensive, and rich white guys aren't getting arrested, it's poor black people that are getting arrested and that's just wrong.

DOUG MCVAY: You've been coming here to Hempfest for the last several years, I've got so many pictures of you speaking. The -- It's having tough times, some people are asking the question of, why should Hempfest continue?

RICK STEVES: Well, you know, I got involved in this kind of after my first visit to Hempfest, and I realized, all these freaks deserve their day in the sun. I mean, there's a hundred thousand people out there at Hempfest, and they are just as legit as people that are not so pierced and tattooed and dreadlocked. There's a lot of people that wouldn't want these crazy people here to go home with their daughter, but, you've got to get over that and realize that we're all Americans here, and we're all law -- we should be law-abiding citizens, as long as we are, we've got our rights, and Hempfest is a celebration of freedom and tolerance, regardless of what you think about the characters that fill this place up. And for me, that's like waving the flag, it's a beautiful thing.

The reality is, it's a free event, and most people don't really -- there's a disconnect that, if you value this, you need to kick a few dollars into the can as you come. And that's my whole frustration with the drug policy reform movement. You've got 80,000 people in jail today in our country, you've got 800,000 people arrested every year, and then you've got all sorts of people pissed off in their own living rooms that we have these stupid laws, but they don't do anything to change it, they just yell at the TV or whatever. If you could spend fifty bucks a year and join NORML or an organization like that, you'd be making a difference, and if all the pot smokers did that, this war on marijuana would be over tomorrow.

DOUG MCVAY: Rick, thank you so much, oh my gosh. Again, I'm speaking with Rick Steves, the travel expert, the -- you're the dude, I mean --

RICK STEVES: Oh, thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: and the dude abides.

RICK STEVES: Well, you know, I've been lucky that I've been able to travel so much, because I can bring that European sensibility to this whole issue, to the discussion here in the United States. I always make a point that it's not pro-marijuana, it's pro-civil liberties. Marijuana is a drug, it can be abused, it's not necessarily good for you, but if you're an adult, and you want to enjoy it recreationally, and if you're not going to hurt anybody or break anything, it's just common sense. That is a civil liberty, and I've got a right to do that as an American, and I think that's something we can all embrace.

DOUG MCVAY: Rick, thank you so much for your time.

RICK STEVES: You are welcome.

GARY [Seeley Stage, Seattle Hempfest]: All right. Alison Draisin's coming out next. We've got a few speakers. The bong has been turned, it looks like. That's right. For bongasaurus, we're getting ready for 4:20, you guys, I bet -- all you guys out there better start huddling up here soon, because it's going to be fun. So, I mean, come on up here, come right up here to the stage, don't be shy. Come on up here.

Okeh, Alison Draisin's coming up here. She's the CEO of Etta Lew Edibles. That's right, oh my gosh, the edibles. I'll tell you, I've always got to be careful about edibles. I mean, they are so delicious, and so nutritious, but often, so over the top, I don't know what I'm doing sometimes. But really, please, give a big hand for Alison Draisin, come on, you guys!

ALISON DRAISIN: Hi! Happy Hempfest, happy 25th anniversary of the Hempfest! It's so good to see all you guys out on a Friday afternoon, chilling out on the grass. Welcome. So, today, I want to talk a little bit about products. You know, Gary was just talking about edibles, and certain things that can make you uncomfortable if you eat too much of. So they have this thing called terpenes, and terpenes are in all plants. And they're also in the cannabis plant. And there are certain terpenes that help to create kind of an antidote for the THC. It's like when you get too high, and a lot of people don't know this, but Ethan Russo wrote an article for the British Journal of Pharmacology, where he talked about the use of limonene, and pinene, as antidotes for THC. And so you can find, limonene is orange peels, orange juice, lemonade. Pinene is pistachios and pine nuts, and if you ever get too high, you can keep these on hand and they totally work. I've had to drink lemon juice concentrate before in a pinch, totally works.

So, there are antidotes, and a lot of people don't talk about it, so make sure that when you leave here today, and you go on social media, that you let everyone know about these antidotes.

I also want to talk about products. Out on the market in Washington, you have recreational products, and you don't always know what you're eating. And I'm sure -- eating, or smoking, and I'm sure a lot of you probably buy bottled water, or you go to the Whole Paycheck place, Whole Foods, or you buy organic, or you're eating foods where you actually care about what you put in your body. Non-GMO, all that good stuff. And I want you to also think about that when you're buying your cannabis. Talk to your budtender, or grow your own. Talk to your budtenders about what pesticides are in your product. Where did they come from? There are a lot of really great pesticide free companies that are in the recreational market, and I would seek those out.

There's also some really yucky players on the market, and I know that one of the biggest contenders that I personally have issues with are the vape pen cartridges. I love vape pen cartridges, but I also want to make sure that the vape pen cartridges that I use are actually one hundred percent oil that's made in a healthy way, and that is filled with good terpenes. So, a lot of times what I find is, on the market, there's a lot of additives in these cartridges, like, propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin. It's kind of like cutting cocaine, you are just adding an additive to make your oil go further. So, something I would highly recommend that you check out, wherever you go and you get your hash oil or your cartridges, is that you make sure that it's additive free. If it's organic non-GMO and healthily sourced, locally sourced, that's even better. But making sure that it doesn't have additives is really, really important, because, like I said, you wouldn't eat s***** food, or hopefully you don't eat s***** good, so that then you wouldn't want to have s****** pot medicine.

Also today, I want to talk about someone named Larry Kirk. LK, he used to be on one of these corners throughout Hempfest, and he was a dear, wonderful friend of mine, who passed away from cancer. Whenever I come up on the Seeley Stage, I always want to pay homage to him, because he was a legend in the cannabis community, and a huge cannabis activist that helped us pave the way to get to where we are. And so, just take a moment while you're out here enjoying the stage just to say a prayer, to Larry, who's up there doing dabs for us. LK!

Also, lastly, I would like to say that Hempfest is run, it's a free protestival, and I want you to consider making any sort of donation in any of the bins that you see throughout the park, and have a great time and enjoy yourselves. Have a great weekend, thanks, guys!

VIVIAN MCPEAK: The guy that works with me is John Davis, right here, the Vice President of Seattle Events, a nonprofit corporation, producer of Seattle Hempfest, my warrior brother. I'm going to give him the mic right now.

JOHN DAVIS: Hey! Thank you! Thanks for coming down. This is a special time in each Hempfest. Even though we're kind of at a point of crunchy because we've been doing this actually, now, this is my eighth day, because I started last Friday. But, this is a real great highlight for me, because we get to talk about what's gone on before, and the freedom that we've achieved, and not just the freedom that we've achieved, but how we've achieved it. When we started out, god, this is my 22nd year of Hempfest. Thank you. Crazy, right? But, like, you know I know a lot of people, and people are like, you know that guy? And I'm like, yeah, because 22 years ago there was like a dozen people. You know?

And really, there was not that many people, and the struggle was hard. It was hard. The forces that were would find ways to take you out if you were an activist, they would find a way to make your life hurt, they would find a way to make it financially hard for you. And there have been people this entire time that have been fighting that, and have been struggling, and now, this is my honor to recognize those people that have been fighting, not when it's safe, although welcome everybody to this movement, but for those people that have been fighting from when it wasn't safe, and to honor their struggle, and to really say, hey, look, this was not a party, this entire time. This has been hard work, this has been sacrifice. I've watched those people sacrifice, I've watched the hard work they've done, often without appreciation. And we at some point decided at Hempfest that this was the perfect place to start to show our appreciation.

Now, I want to turn the mic back to Vivian. Thank you.

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Before we get to the meat of this, I have to make a confession. You know, there's a lot of details when it comes to throwing an event like Seattle Hempfest, more details than you can possibly imagine. Trust me. And, every once in a while, believe it or not, and it's not because we're stoners, every once in a while a couple of details slip through your fingers. So, we had two beautiful awards made, they're so cool, but we're not going to have the exact same photo opp we usually do because the awards were not picked up today.

VOICE FROM CROWD: That's the minor detail?

VIVIAN MCPEAK: That's the minor detail. But that's not going to stop us from doing this important ceremony here we have to do, and we will get the awards, and they will go to the proper places. We have a few people tonight, there's so many people in this movement, so many people, then we have so people in our own group that give their life and their soul to this cause and to this event, and they get absolutely no fanfare whatsoever. But we have the opportunity to honor two very special people tonight, and we're so thankful and proud to be able to do that.

People who have risked so much, put so much on the line, given so much, been so eloquent at it, been so effective at it, and had such class and panache and style, and integrity, that it was a slam dunk for our board of directors, it was a slam dunk to figure out who to give these awards to. And we have the Seattle Hempfest Award for Excellence in Cannabis Activism, and we're about -- we don't have the awards unfortunately with us tonight, but the awards aren't as important as the honor. Fortunately, we're going to give both to them.

I don't know if you know, but we've made some inroads with industrial hemp here in Washington state. We had some legislation pass, and there's going to be hemp growing here in Washington state. Until about two months ago, I had dreadlocks, and when I first met the person I'm going to bring out, in 1995 at the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, she had dreadlocks. Unlike me, she's a tremendously beautiful goddess. She is the founder and the president of Hemp Ace International. She is the driving force behind the legislation that passed. She is a tremendous, brilliant, articulate, warrior for cannabis in all of its forms. She is an absolutely wonderful person through and through, deep down on the heart level, my beautiful rainbow warrior sister, to get the cannabis -- the Regional Award for Excellence in Cannabis Activism from the Seattle Events nonprofit corporation board of directors, Seattle Hempfest, I want to bring up my sister, Joy Beckerman. Joy. Joy, I know I can trust you to say a few words of wisdom.


We legalized industrial hemp in the state of Washington three years after we legalized marijuana. I could tell you all about how to get involved, how to follow your heart, but the truth is that we wouldn't have done what we would have done if we knew better, if we were scared, we did crazy s***, and you have to let your spirit drive you, you have to let your conviction drive you. You have to move beyond that fear, and allow -- there's no way that Vivian could pull this stuff off without the amazing sister Sharon Whitson, or without his incredible goddess of many many moons, Kanti Selig.

I have to say that, when I opened up the first hemp store in the state of New York in the early '90s, of course there was -- you won't believe this, but people came from the west coast to sell us weed in New York. And anyway, and so the hippies would come, sell their weed, and they would make their way into the hemp store, and they would say to me, have you heard of Vivian McPeak, or the Peace Heathens? Because he's doing this thing in Seattle called the Seattle Hempfest. And this was 1995, and you were already on your fourth Hempfest by then. But boy, did I know, and boy did my tribe know, that this girl Joy, you've got to meet this guy, Vivian, like, you need to hook up, because you're doing a Hempfest, they were so small, they were so tiny, if Rick Cusick is here, Rick Cusick remembers our Hempfest up in upstate New York in the '90s.

But the point is, the tribe, the tribe works together, the tribe doesn't even know each other, like animals and plants can communicate across continents, so do we, we know each other when we see each other, seek each other, be inspired by one another, be there for one another, on the true, human level. If we have no peace, it is because we forgot that we belong to one another.

We have a tremendous propensity in the cannabis community to character assassinate, to mercilessly judge each other, to not forgive each other, to not give each other the benefit of the doubt, and I'm telling you, it is not the path to the healing of the nations. Please, refrain. No matter how justified you feel in that moment of emotion for that social media post, it always reflects worse on the poster than it ever does on the subject of your post, no matter how much you think that they deserve some type of public shaming. It is always a shame on ourselves. Please remember that, my tribe, let's love each other, let's heal that thing up, let's donate to Seattle Hempfest because, I tell you now, we wouldn't be here without them. Thank you.

VIVIAN MCPEAK: We're not done. We're not done. We have another absolutely amazing person. John?

JOHN DAVIS: Thank you. You know, this is, well, one of these great dilemmas to be in, Vivian and I were talking about, you know, who to honor, and it's like, with two people of the caliber we're honoring tonight, it's an either way win. But, it's my honor tonight to give an award to someone that has really gone the extra mile in -- he is someone that is in the public eye, and he was in the public eye back in the day. Not where we are today, but back in the day. He had his company, his reputation, everything on the line, and he put it on the line to say, you know what, this is stupid, like, I've been all over the world, and I can judge stupidity, and I can judge culture, and this American prohibition culture is absolutely ridiculous. And the magnitude of that really, you wouldn't know unless you were back there, and fighting the way back there.

And I remember this person, they put together an infomercial. And I was watching that, it was great that they were putting together this infomercial, and then they're trying to get it on the air. Jeez, what year was that? It was a while ago. Anyways, they produced their own infomercial, and then they tried to get it shown anywhere. Anywhere. And of course, back then, the TV networks and everything, even late at night, where you can show god knows what. No, you can't have an informational thing that simply talks about cannabis policy. Not about cannabis, but about cannabis policy, and about wise cannabis policy.

This person, and deep kudos and respect for that. This person has continued to fight to normalize, to educate, a very, very articulate spokesman, very very wise, widely respected, and world known. Let's give a hand to Rick Steves!

RICK STEVES: Thank you very much. So nice to be here, and it is interesting to think back over all these years, it used to be kind of dicey, and it's almost boring now, it's not like -- so, the edge is a little gone but that's what we're all about, we're trying to normalize recreational marijuana use. That's -- you know, I've been, you know I'm a travel writer, and for me, high is a place. I feel very strong, I wonder, why do I care about this so much? And I'm all about being able to go places. And, if our government says we can't go someplace, they better have a good reason. And there's conceivable reasons where they could keep people from some places but there's no defensible reason that we can't go to that place called high every once in a while if we want to. That's a civil liberty.

Now, I've been saying this for 10 years, and we've come a long way. Obviously, we've got four states, five states in the can right now, or what we've got, and we're going to -- this year we're going to legalize in four or five more states. It's an incremental thing, and, if you feel like it's getting easier in Seattle, I want to remind you, we are sort of the vanguard, and there are 200 million people in this country that can get arrested for smoking pot. That's not right, and we're doing a huge service for the United States, here in Washington state, to be a leader in this, and I'm proud of that. I'm proud of the work Vivian and all the Hempfest people have done, and I think that's something to celebrate. And I think we should be mindful of that.

Now, we have a lot of work yet to go, there's a lot of people that are really regressive about this, and we all know all the reasons, it's a stupid law, it's a racist law, it's a law that demoralizes law enforcement, it's a law that violates our civil liberties. And four or five years ago, we were operating on hunches. I'm going to Massachusetts and I'm going to Maine in October, I'm going to spend a week there, giving lectures and getting on as much media as I can. Those two states are polling at 55 percent right now, it looks really good. California is polling even higher than that, and we might even get Arizona and Nevada on board this year.

So we're going to have a snowball, and in so many ways, that snowball started with a nice little tight ball right here in Seattle, and now this thing is going all over the United States. And, if you're like me, and an internationalist, you would know that we have laws that we have inflicted on the rest of the world, forcing nations to sign a law that promises they will all wage trade sanctions on any country that dares legalize marijuana. Because of the United States. Now that we've got so many states legalizing, our country doesn't have the standing to assert that law on other countries, so there are global ramifications of what we're doing, which is very exciting.

What I was talking about, four years ago we had hunches, we had common sense. I strongly believed that, yes, people smoke pot, and if you legalize, more people will not smoke pot, they will just do it legally, instead of doing it in secret, and that has panned out. There's not a reservoir of decent people that would love to ruin their lives smoking pot if only it was legal. People who smoke pot, smoke pot, whether it's legal or not, and the laws have borne that out. There's no society on earth where there's any correlation between how many people smoke pot and how strict the laws are. In Europe, the Dutch are famous for being progressive with their marijuana laws, and by all estimates, the Dutch smoke less than the European average, and they smoke less than Americans do. There's no correlation between how loose the laws are and how many people are going to enjoy marijuana.

A lot of people also are worried about that whole gateway effect, you've probably heard of that. My European friends have been thinking out of the box for a long time, and my European friends tell me that the only thing gateway about marijuana is, when it's illegal you've got to buy it from a criminal on the street who's got a vested interest in selling you something more profitable and more addictive. It is the illegality of marijuana that makes it, if it is a gateway drug, a gateway drug, and legalizing it overcomes that.

Anybody that knows how to help kids and young people, and people who are inclined to be taken over by drugs, the best way to control drugs is not to make it illegal, but to tax and regulate it. So we are making smart law, we are public policy law, we're laws that all sorts of mainstream organizations can embrace, and I am excited to be able to promote that as I try to go around the country and raise awareness of this.

DOUG MCVAY: And well, that's all the time we have today. Thank you for joining us. You've been listening to Century Of Lies, we're a production of the Drug Truth Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org. 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.