09/30/18 Joseph Stovall II

This week on Century of Lies, live from the International Cannabis Business Conference in Portland, Oregon, we talk about the cannabis industry and social justice with Joseph Stovall II, an attorney and cannabis consultant from Maryland. Plus, we hear a presentation from Vinay Saldanha of UNAIDS at the a Commission on Narcotic Drugs intersessional meeting that was held in Vienna on September 25.

Century of Lies
Sunday, September 30, 2018
Joseph Stovall II
Drug War Facts
Download: Audio icon col093018.mp3




SEPTEMBER 30, 2018

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.

VIVIAN MCPEAK: It gives me great pleasure to say, Doug McVay!

DOUG MCVAY: Hello, and welcome to Century of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

Well folks, it’s been a busy week. Heck, it’s been a busy month so far and no sign of letting up. I attended the International Cannabis Business Conference on Friday September 28 and got some great interviews that I’m going to share with you over the next couple of shows. We’ll get to one of those in the second half of today’s program.

Right now, we’re going to hear about human rights and dignity, harm reduction, and the international fight against AIDS.

The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs holds its annual sessions every March. They also hold meetings between sessions, where they hold thematic discussions and to some extent at least review progress. They just held one of those intersessional meetings from September 25 through 28 this year.

During their discussion of demand reduction and related measures on the first day, the CND heard from Vinay Saldanha from UNAIDS, he’s the Director of the Regional Support Team for Eastern Europe and Central Asia for UNAIDS. Let’s give him a listen.

VINAY SALDANHA: Thank you Madame Chair, honorable delegates, member states, and partners. As we prepare for the ministerial segment of the upcoming Commission on Narcotic Drugs in March 2019, this meeting is a precious opportunity to take stock of successes and progress since the 2009 political declaration.

And today, we must also take stock of the massive challenges that remain and express concern about regress in several areas.

UNAIDS is honored to be part of this discussion, and our mandate is to united eleven UN organizations, including centrally UNODC, for a coordinated, coherent, and fast track global response to AIDS.

Our vision, endorsed by member states and reflected in the 2030 Agenda, is to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. The world has been responding to AIDS for over thirty years, but the SDG goal to end the AIDS epidemic, once and for all, requires a new sense of urgency to end AIDS by 2030 and at the same time ensure that no one is left behind.

If we're really going to end the AIDS epidemic, which means ending new HIV infections, ending AIDS related deaths, and ending discrimination, we must prioritize our focus on people who use drugs as a key population that is still being left behind.

What we have learned so far is that to end the AIDS epidemic, we must also address underlying factors of vulnerability and see health within the broader context of social inclusion, justice, and human rights.

So the most effective AIDS responses, those that have been able to significantly reduce new HIV infections, have acted in parallel, scaling up evidence based HIV prevention and treatment, and at the same time using HIV as an entry point to end social exclusion, marginalization, poverty, and inequities in access to life saving services.

We recognize that this forum allows for discussion far beyond AIDS to address the world drug problem, and we note efforts to ensure consistency between this meeting in Vienna and yesterday's meeting on the world drug problem at the UN General Assembly in New York.

UNAIDS recognizes the overarching purpose of drug control is first and foremost to ensure the health, well being, and security of all individuals while respecting their human rights at all times.

Distinguished delegates, people who use and inject drugs are amongst the groups at highest risk of exposure to HIV, but remain marginalized and out of reach of health and social services.

Unfortunately, the latest global statistics show little improvement. Ten point six million people worldwide inject drugs, of whom one in eight, or 1.3 million, are already living with HIV and more than half, 5.6 million, are living with hepatitis C. A total of one million people are living with both hepatitis C and HIV, in other words, more than 80 percent of people who inject drugs and who are living with HIV, are living with a co-infection.

According to UNODC's 2017 World Drugs Report, annually we have 220,000 deaths due to hepatitis C, every year, and 60,000 AIDS related deaths amongst people who inject drugs. Each of these infections are preventable.

All of these deaths are avoidable, and the evidence for prioritizing people who use drugs is clear. As a community, they are twenty-two times more likely to be infected with HIV than people in the general population.

And while we are seeing a number of new -- the number of new HIV infections consistently going down in many populations, globally, incidence amongst people who use drugs continues to increase.

Global new HIV infections amongst people who inject drugs rose by 33 percent from 2011 to 2015, particularly in regions and places where harm reduction programs are not in place, or not being implemented at scale.

The evidence on harm reduction is overwhelming. Harm reduction works. It works as treatment, and as prevention. It improves the health and social well being of people and societies. To put it in the simplest of terms, harm reduction saves lives and makes communities safer, too.

Yet, the coverage of harm reduction programs remains woefully inadequate. Among the 108 countries that reported data to UNAIDS in 2017, only 53 countries reported explicit references to harm reduction in national policies.

Amongst 140 countries that reported to UNAIDS in 2018, only 86 countries said that needle exchange programs were operational. Only 44 of 177 reporting countries said that opiate substitution therapy programs were operational.

Between 2010 and 2014, only 3.3 percent of HIV prevention funding went to programs for people who inject drugs. This is inconsistent with their acute risk for HIV infection. This in spite of the fact that we know that harm reduction approaches that prioritize people's health and human rights work and are cost effective.

Evidence supports the need for a shift in the global approach to drug use. The UNAIDS report, Do No Harm: Health, Human Rights And People Who Use Drugs, show that what works to reduce the impact of HIV and other harms related to drug use, countries that have increased investment and support for harm reduction have significantly reduced HIV infections and improved overall health outcomes.

For any country with a population of people who use drugs, this is essential to end AIDS and reach the sustainable development goals. Of course, this is not a new message from UNAIDS, but it's a message we will continue to share.

UNAIDS and its co-sponsors continue to support a people-centered public health approach to reduce HIV, hepatitis C, and other vulnerabilities among people who inject drugs. A comprehensive package of interventions, including needle exchange programs and opiate substitution therapy, provided in a legal and policy environment that enables access to services, prevents infections, and reduces deaths from AIDS related illnesses, tuberculosis, viral hepatitis, and sexually transmitted infections.

Putting in place services without changing laws and policies will not work. Legal and policy reform must be based on the evidence of what works. Ending punitive and repressive approaches, and protecting health and human rights, will guarantee greater access to services for the people most in need. It will also greatly reduce the harms of drug use.

If the annual investment in harm reduction in just low and middle income countries increases to only 1.5 billion dollars per year by the year 2020, which is just a fraction of the estimated one hundred billion dollars already spent each year to reduce the supply of, and demand for, narcotic drugs, we would be able to reach 90 percent of the people who inject drugs with evidence based HIV prevention and harm reduction services.

But despite the evidence, we still see signs that things are standing still, or in some cases moving in the wrong direction.

Currently, only 13 percent of needed funding for harm reduction is available, and the majority comes from international funding sources, in particular two-thirds from the Global Fund, and we know that the Global Fund is already in transition out of middle income countries, where the majority of people who use drugs live. So without a greater commitment from member states, the current harm reduction crisis could quickly turn into a catastrophe.

Adequate funding for harm reduction will need more leadership from the AIDS movement, but it cannot come from the AIDS movement alone. It will require an urgent shift in funding and policy to support harm reduction as an integral component of universal health coverage. Drug policies and programs must be people-centered, evidence informed, and based on human rights.

Extrajudicial killings and other violence against people who use drugs must end.

Let me conclude by quoting UN Secretary-General António Guterres, from June 2018: "My own experience reinforces my strong conviction that we can chart a better path to counter the world drug problem. I urge countries to advance prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and re-integration services; ensure access to controlled medicines while preventing diversion and abuse; promote alternatives to illicit drug cultivation; and stop trafficking and organized crime; all of which would make an immense contribution to our work to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals." End of quote.

UNAIDS remains committed to support all UN member states in enabling drug policies and services that meet both the HIV related needs of people who use drugs and at the same time contribute to more inclusive and productive societies. Thank you, Madame Chair.

DOUG MCVAY: You are listening to Century of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay.

We just heard Vinay Saldanha with UNAIDS, he was speaking at an intersessional meeting of the Commission for Narcotic Drugs on September 25 in Vienna, Austria.

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs is a very important part of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. The CND holds its major session in March of each year. They just completed their third set of intersessional meetings. CND will hold two more sets of intersessional meetings this year, one from October 22 through 25, and another from November 7 through 9.

All of these CND meetings are webcast live, and only webcast live. They do not maintain any archive of either the video or the audio from their meetings, at least none that are known, let alone available to the public. The only way to hear what is actually being said at these meetings is by either being there, or by listening to the live broadcast. I record as much of their content as I can, and I’ll bring you the highlights.

You can also get a written summary of the discussions at all CND meetings by going to CNDBlog.org. The CND Blog is a project of the International Drug Policy Consortium, in collaboration with NGO partners. Their aim is to ensure transparency and provide live records of the discussions taking place at these meetings. Again, CNDBlog is located at CNDBLOG.org.

We’ll have more from the Commission on Narcotic Drugs meetings next week.

Now, let’s turn to the United States, specifically to Portland, Oregon. The International Cannabis Business Conference held an event there recently, I attended on September 28 and met a lot of great people, saw some old friends, made some new ones. One of those new friends is Joseph Stovall II. He’s an attorney from Maryland, we sat down for an interview. Let’s listen.

Joseph, you're from Maryland?


DOUG MCVAY: Okeh, so, now, what do you do there?

JOSEPH STOVALL II, ESQ: So, my background is law, I'm an attorney, so I've been involved in law and real estate. Currently, I am involved in cannabis. I do consulting in the DC region as well as, I operate with a medical dispensary in Baltimore.

DOUG MCVAY: So, I haven't had a chance to visit any of the dispensaries, last time I was in Baltimore was 2016. How has the roll-out been going, what's the medical scene like there in Maryland now?

JOSEPH STOVALL II, ESQ: So, Maryland issued, I believe it was around 14, somewhere in that ballpark, grow licenses, so there weren't a ton, and about 90 dispensary licenses. So those have all been snatched up pretty quickly.

There was some controversy initially around the grow licenses because two of the companies that were on the list to receive licenses, the state spent about two million dollars doing this double-blind study to make sure everything was fair, and the only minority companies that ended up on that list, that should have gotten their licenses, were kicked out at the eleventh hour and supplanted with some other companies. So there's been lawsuits filed and that kind of thing.

So that's sort of the, you know, background, social justice issues that are going on, but in terms of the roll-out, you know, there have been a few speed bumps. Right now, everything's pretty much up and running. It's -- everything's been up and running for about six or seven months now, I think in February is when we started to see the first dispensaries open up.

So they're rolling. The state has been backed up with applications for the medical cards. I think right now the wait time is six weeks or so, at least last time I checked, about a month ago, was, but, you know, otherwise, once you get your card, it's pretty smooth sailing.

DOUG MCVAY: Very cool. Now, I know that patients have to have their recommendation from a physician.


DOUG MCVAY: I live in Portland, and I worked down in the bay area at a dispensary, so I'm familiar with how those operated: check at the door, the ID, the card, go in and, I mean, how does it -- for the benefit of folks who haven't been in a dispensary yet -- there we go. For the benefit of folks who haven't been in a dispensary yet, tell me, how does one of them operate?

JOSEPH STOVALL II, ESQ: Sure. So, in Maryland, first you need to get your patient number from the state. So you have to apply to the state, give them your driver's license, they want to check your criminal record, all those standard things. Once you get your patient number, you can then go to your doctor with the patient number and they -- your doctor also has to be registered with the state to provide recommendations, and you give them that, they evaluate you, and your doctor will then write you the recommendation.

With the patient number and the recommendation, you are now licensed to purchase medical cannabis in the state, and you can then go to a dispensary. If you want a medical cannabis card, to carry one on you, there's an extra fee for that. So not every medical patient gets a card automatically, you have to request one from the state and pay for that, but you don't need the card to go into a dispensary. You just need your patient number and your doctor's recommendation.

Once that happens, you're in the system, every dispensary should be able to find you, and you can just kind of go in with your ID and then purchase.

DOUG MCVAY: Okeh, so, I'm just -- I just need to make sure I heard you say that right. First you apply to the state and get a patient number --


DOUG MCVAY: -- and then you go to the doctor.

JOSEPH STOVALL II, ESQ: Then you go to the doctor. You can go to the doctor first, but the doctor, even if they say yeah, you've got a qualifying condition, what they're going to say is I need your patient number, because the doctor, you have to give the state your information first, and let them know that this is what you want to do, and with the state's patient number and the doctor's recommendation, those two items qualify you to purchase medical cannabis.

DOUG MCVAY: Yeah, like I say, here, you go first to the physician --

JOSEPH STOVALL II, ESQ: Doctor. Right, I know.

DOUG MCVAY: -- and then you submit all your material to the state, and that's -- okeh.

JOSEPH STOVALL II, ESQ: Right. Most places it's like that. Maryland's a little quirky, but, you know, it's always been a quirky state, so ....

DOUG MCVAY: But it's working out, I mean, you're getting -- they're, patients are getting -- are patients actually getting cannabis now?

JOSEPH STOVALL II, ESQ: Oh yeah. Patients, and I see everybody from, you know, I've seen patients who have serious, debilitating conditions like cancer, or seizures, you know, things for which, you know, they've either been medicating previously, just sort of under the table, or, you know, they've been dying for some relief, medically. So there's those patients and then there's people who have, you know, chronic pain, anxiety, so the conditions sort of run the gamut, for what we see.

It's not quite as lax as somewhere like California was when they were medical [sic: California still has a medical cannabis program], but, if you have a condition and, you know, you go see a doctor that's familiar with the system, then you have a pretty good chance that you should be able to get your card.

DOUG MCVAY: Now, you also, you work down in DC, is that right?


DOUG MCVAY: Okeh, so, now of course DC passed its legalization a few years ago, theirs only allows, I mean, you can cultivate, you can possess, you can use at home, but there's no provision for actual sale.


DOUG MCVAY: So, how's it working out in DC?

JOSEPH STOVALL II, ESQ: So, DC is really a unique animal right now, sort of, on the east coast. DC has been at the forefront of the marijuana reform movement, when they legalized, I think it was three years ago that DC legalized [sic: 2014]. Massachusetts also legalized but they haven't rolled out any dispensaries up there and it's a big issue.

But, in DC, so in DC it's legal to grow up to six plants in your home, up to three can be flowering plants, and if you have a roommate you can grow up to 12 plants. No more than 12 plants per household though, no matter how many people live there. And you can possess up to two ounces if you're 21 or older. You can give away up to one ounce to somebody else who's 21 or older, but you cannot smoke in public, there's no cafes, there's no pot shops, and you also are not permitted to sell.

So there's no recreational dispensaries in DC, there's only medical dispensaries. So for people who are seeking recreational cannabis in DC, there are sort of pop-up shops that have sort of come up. Now, the DC authorities look disfavorably upon these. The idea is that you're supposed to be giving it away, not finding a loophole to sell it, that's sort of the argument.

But the criminal law in this area is very gray, so lots of people are operating in that gray area. So what you have is, people do donations, and the other set-up, which I think is more legally sound, is people will sell other items, legitimate items, sometimes for what some people might say is more than that item should normally cost, like a sticker for fifty dollars, or a pen for a hundred dollars, or whatever.

But with this purchase of this fifty dollar sticker, or pen, or coffee, or juice or whatever it is, you get a free gift of some cannabis. So, that's sort of what's been happening in DC. These events, there's various venues that throw them. They sort of crop up all over the city.

With a little research online anybody could find one, although as I said these are looked disfavorably -- looked upon disfavorably by the authorities, so these events do get raided. People do get arrested, sometimes people get robbed. You know, there are -- it's sort of a wild west kind of situation right now, but you have people coming from all over, you know, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, people who want to get recreational cannabis. They do a little research, they find a pop-up in DC, and they can go in there and have, you know, five or six vendors of their choice.

It's -- in some cases, you have more options than you have at a dispensary. It's really a pretty unique animal. And in addition to that, you have people consuming in public, often, at these events. You know, sort of smoking or doing infusions and things like that, even at recreational dispensaries in legalized states you don't have that happening.

So, DC's sort of like a giant pot party right now. And a lot of people like it, and for the most part, it's been safe. There haven't been a lot of reports of overdoses, or, you know, car accidents and things like that. We actually have more of a situation with the synthetic cannabis [sic: synthetic cannabinoid], K2, which a lot of people who aren't permitted to smoke cannabis for whatever reason, they're in federal housing or they have to take drug tests, and they can't smoke regular cannabis, they go for the synthetic stuff. We've been having a pretty significant problem in DC with overdoses related to that.

DOUG MCVAY: That's really sad. The synthetic cannabinoids are a thing we don't have a lot of here, but we do see occasionally, because of course, as you were saying, if you're drug tested, the state, you know, the courts here have determined that even a medical patient can lose their job if they turn up positive for marijuana.


DOUG MCVAY: Yeah. I worked at NORML in the late 1980s, so, you know, the last year of the Reagan administration, walking through Dupont Circle ... yeah, there was plenty of weed smoke in Dupont Circle back in 1988, I can imagine that in 2018 it's probably not changed all that much.

JOSEPH STOVALL II, ESQ: No, it definitely still happens. I mean, if you walk through DC on any given day, if you're outside long enough, you will smell a whiff of cannabis smoke at some point, which, you know, I'm fine with, I like the smell, it's pleasant. It's better than the smog or the car exhaust.

But, you know, what you do end up having though are these sort of disparities that we see in every aspect of life. If you're a minority, low income person, particularly a person of color, living in an apartment complex or subsidized housing, or, you know, in an ungentrified part of the city, then you're going to experience a higher police presence. You're going to be harassed more likely, maybe cited for public consumption, whereas, you know, if you're a white person or an affluent person in an affluent part of town, smoking a joint outside, you're probably not going to get bothered, and if you do, they'll probably just tell you to put it out kind of thing.

So, we do still see those disparities occurring, although DC is attempting to minimize that gap.

DOUG MCVAY: Walking down Connecticut Avenue, after I got past Dupont Circle because I didn't want to be surrounded by couriers who wanted to get a puff, so I'd walk to the other side and start, and go on down Connecticut Avenue and light up as I'm going, in a suit, tie, and all that, it was fun watching, because occasionally people would turn and sniff, what in?

JOSEPH STOVALL II, ESQ: It's not coming from him.

DOUG MCVAY: Ah, it couldn't be, no. I mean, short hair and everything.

JOSEPH STOVALL II, ESQ: So you've been causing a ruckus for a while?

DOUG MCVAY: We do this. We try. We try, we try.

So, yeah. We're at the International Cannabis Business Conference. It's out here in Portland, and, so what do you think of the event so far?

JOSEPH STOVALL II, ESQ: So far it's been great. I've met some really nice people, very informative. Stopped at some of these vendors, they've all got really good information, really exciting products coming out, sort of cutting edge stuff. So this is my second International Cannabis Business Conference, the last one I attended was in DC, and -- I'm sorry, not DC, San Francisco, a few years ago, and it was also good.

But, yeah, this is really exciting, especially because of everything that's going on in Oregon right now, you know, sort of the forefront, has been the forefront on the west coast. I think California might try to steal the thunder, you know, in the next couple of years, but it will take them a little while to get their stuff together. I think Oregon's got it rolling pretty good right now.

DOUG MCVAY: They're going to be setting up for lunch in a minute, there's still a panel that's going on, I should let you get to all that stuff. Do you have any closing thoughts for our listeners, and how can, do you have like social media, do you have a website, that kind of stuff?

JOSEPH STOVALL II, ESQ: No, I really just operate through word of mouth. I'm kind of old school that way, you know, I like to meet people and work with them on that level. I suppose maybe I may get to the point where -- I used to do Instagram and stuff like that, and after a while just maintaining it, and keeping it up, and always having to have something up, just -- I kind of tried to get away from that. So, I work with individuals directly, or I get referrals and that kind of thing.

I would encourage people, if you're in the Baltimore region, check out Pure Life Wellness. It's a really good dispensary, very professional, in Baltimore. And also, you know, to keep in mind the social justice aspect of this, this whole movement, because that gets lost, you know.

Some cities like Seattle, or New York, they're trying to address it by vacating cannabis convictions for small time users, but you know, you have people, particularly minorities, people of color, particularly black people, who've been arrested for decades, you know, for possession, for selling, and things like that, some people still being in jail, and now, you know, because you have -- the majority have decided we want to make money off this drug now, they've legalized it, and you've got guys who are making million and billions of dollars, whereas the same guys who were doing, you know, this years ago are in prison for it.

And it's an issue. The social justice aspect of this, I think, gets lost, in a lot of situations, and I think we need to be sensitive to that, and, you know, where we can, try to make it fairer, because we do have room in this growing industry to do that.

DOUG MCVAY: Joseph Stovall, I thank you so much.

JOSEPH STOVALL II, ESQ: Thanks, Doug, I appreciate it.

DOUG MCVAY: That was my interview with Joseph Stoval II, Esquire, he’s an attorney in Maryland. We met September 28 at the International Cannabis Business Conference in Portland, Oregon.

And that's it for this week. I want to thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies. We're 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.

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We'll be back in a week with thirty more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed war on drugs. 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.