01/10/23 Jeffrey Steinborn

Century of Lies
Jeffrey Steinborn
Drug War Facts

This week on Century of Lies: Remembering Jeffrey Steinborn. Jeffrey Steinborn was an attorney, a marijuana legalizer, and social justice revolutionary in the city of Seattle who passed away in early January. On this edition of Century we’ll hear an interview with Jeff from 2015. Plus, Stella Bivol, Strategic Adviser in Infectious Diseases at the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Europe in Copenhagen, speaking on Displaced people and EU preparedness and response — lessons from Ukraine.

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01/03/23 Mike Crawford

Century of Lies
Mike Crawford
Drug War Facts

This week on Century of Lies: The Marijuana Industry and Workplace Safety. Host Doug McVay speaks with Mike Crawford, a Massachusetts journalist and host of the award-winning podcast THE YOUNG JURKS, about activism, the marijuana industry, and the death of Lorna McMurrey. Find and sign the petition Mike and Doug discuss at

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12/27/22 Dean Preston

Century of Lies
Dean Preston
Drug War Facts

This week on Century of Lies: San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston questions Mayor London Breed’s commitment to harm reduction and overdose prevention. Plus, Paula Migliardi, a Program Specialist in Healthy Sexuality and Harm Reduction for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, talks about harm reduction and safer bathrooms.

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08/31/22 Maia Szalavitz

Century of Lies
Maia Szalavitz
Drug War Facts

This week on Century of Lies: Undoing Drugs Pt 1 - A conversation with award-winning journalist and best-selling author Maia Szalavitz whose most recent book Undoing Drugs: The Untold Story of Harm Reduction and the Future of Addiction has just been released in paperback.

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08/10/22 Sen. Scott Wiener

Century of Lies
Sen. Scott Wiener
Drug War Facts

This week on Century of Lies: California Senate Bill 57, sponsored by Sen. Scott Wiener, legislation that would allow some jurisdictions to authorize the establishment of supervised consumption sites, goes to the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom; the Senate Judiciary Committee hears from Dr. Malik Burnett about equitable marijuana legalization; and from Canada we hear from Rivka Kushner with CATIE about preventing, detecting, and treating hepatitis C.

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04/27/22 MP Gord Johns

Century of Lies
MP Gord Johns
Drug War Facts

This week on Century: Legalization and the art of the impossible. The Canadian Parliament is currently considering Bill C-126, A Health-Based Approach to the Substance Use Act. We hear from the sponsor, MP Gord Johns. Plus Eris Nyx with the Drug User Liberation Front.

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03/23/22 Joao Goulao,

Century of Lies
Joao Goulao,
Drug War Facts

This week on Century, it’s part two of our coverage of the 65th annual session of the UN’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which took place March 14-18 2022 in Vienna, Austria. We hear from Dr. Joao Goulao, President of the Pompidou Group and Director-General of Portugal’s Service for Intervention on Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies; Ambassador Aldrik Gierveld, permanent representative of the Netherlands in Vienna; Jindrich Voboril, representative of the Czech Republic; Kasia Malinowska with the Open Society Foundation; and Elina Steinerte, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on arbitrary detention of the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights.

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02/23/22 Shaun Shelly

Century of Lies
Shaun Shelly
Drug War Facts

Justice Edwin Cameron and Shaun Shelly discuss stigma, racism, and drug policy in South Africa; and we learn about safer smoking kits and harm reduction from Lindsey LaSalle from the Drug Policy Alliance; Daniel Raymond with the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable; Shilo Hassan Jama, a longtime activist formerly with the People’s Harm Reduction Alliance; Isaac Jackson, PhD, president of the San Francisco chapter of the Urban Survivors Union; Mindy Vincent, founder and executive director of the Utah Harm Reduction Coalition; and Michael Discepola with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

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02/02/22 Smriti Rana

Century of Lies
Smriti Rana
Drug War Facts

On the new edition of Century: Smriti Rana with Pallium India on barriers to access to controlled pain medications and how to overcome them; plus Petra Schulz from Moms Stop the Harm on the drug poisoning crisis in Alberta.

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01/19/22 Richard van Breemen

Century of Lies
Richard van Breemen
Drug War Facts

On the new edition of Century: Newly-published research shows that compounds in hemp may prevent coronavirus from entering human cells. We speak with lead author Richard van Breemen, PhD, a Professor of Medicinal Chemistry in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, Oregon State University, and a Principal Investigator at the Linus Pauling Institute. Plus the city of Toronto seeks to decriminalize simple possession of drugs.

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12/29/21 Ngaio Bealum

Century of Lies
Ngaio Bealum
Drug War Facts

On this edition of Century we'll hear archived audio with Oregon activist Anna Diaz, Wisconsin activist Dennis Doyle Brennan, Oregon attorney Leland Berger, internationally renowned comedian Ngaio Bealum, and best-selling author Johann Hari.

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08/16/21 Doug Kress

Century of Lies
Doug Kress
Drug War Facts

This week on Century of Lies: The San Diego Sheriff’s Department fakes an overdose video, and residents of Somerville, MA work to save lives by opening a supervised consumption site.

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08/09/21 Maia Szalavitz

Century of Lies
Maia Szalavitz
Drug War Facts

On this edition of Century of Lies, part two of my conversation with Maia Szalavitz, her new book is Undoing Drugs: The Untold Story of Harm Reduction and the Future of Addiction. Plus we speak with Wanda Bertram, Communications Strategist with the Prison Policy Initiative, about PPI’s new report “Building exits off the highway to mass incarceration: Diversion programs explained.”

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07/12/21 Annajane Yolken

Century of Lies
Annajane Yolken
Drug War Facts

Rhode Island is now the first state in the United States to authorize the establishment of supervised consumption sites. To learn more and find out what this legislation will mean for the people of Rhode Island, host Doug McVay speaks with Annajane Yolken, co-chair of the Substance Use Policy, Education, & Recovery (SUPER) PAC and Director of Programs at Project Weber / RENEW, a Providence, Rhode Island, nonprofit providing services to the community.

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06/07/21 Professor Peter Hendricks

Century of Lies
Professor Peter Hendricks
Drug War Facts

This week: Century does psychedelics. We hear from Professor Peter Hendricks, PhD with the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham on special considerations for evaluating psilocybin-facilitated treatments in vulnerable populations; and from Jazmin Pirozek, HBA, MSc on her work developing a traditional medicine strategy for the diabetes epidemic in First Nations communities in Canada.

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05/31/21 Kojo Koram

Century of Lies
Kojo Koram
Drug War Facts

Harm Reduction International recently organized a panel discussion entitled “Decolonizing drug policy: Dismantling racism and colonialism through drug policy reform.” We hear from some of the speakers including Kojo Koram, a writer, attorney, and lecturer in law at the Birkbeck School of Law; Shaun Shelley, the Policy, Advocacy and Human Rights Manager at TB HIV Care in South Africa; and Tripti Tandon, Deputy Director of the Lawyers Collective.

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05/26/21 Impacts of Covid-19 on the drug market

Century of Lies
Monica Barratt
Drug War Facts

Australia’s Alcohol and Drug Foundation recently hosted a panel discussion entitled “Impacts of Covid-19 on the drug market: a multi-country multi-study analysis.” On this week’s show we hear from some of the panelists including Dr. Monica Barratt, a social scientist at the Drug Policy Modelling Program, which is part of Australia's National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales; Dr. Laura Garius, a criminologist who is a Policy Lead with the UK nonprofit Release; and Dr. Jack Cunliffe, a Lecturer in Quantitative Methods and Criminology at the University of Kent.

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04/21/21 Ganja in the Caribbean

Century of Lies
Faith Graham
Drug War Facts

This week on Century of Lies: A discussion about the future of ganja in the Caribbean with Faith Graham, CEO of the Jamaican government’s Cannabis Licensing Authority; Vicki Hanson with the International Center for Cannabis Research, she’s also a PhD candidate in public policy at the University of the West Indies and a member of the board of directors of the International Drug Policy Consortium; and Pien Metaal, Senior Project Officer with the Transnational Institute.

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04/07/21 Penny McCanny

Century of Lies
Penny McCanny
Drug War Facts

Anyone’s Child and the Transform Drug Policy Foundation hosted a webinar recently entitled Take Drugs Seriously: Voices on the ground. On this week’s show we hear from some of the speakers, including Penny McCanny, the mother of Aidan and a campaigner with Anyone’s Child; Peter Krykant, a harm reduction activist from Scotland and the founder of Glasgow’s Safe Injecting Van; and Chris Rintoul, a social worker who works as a drugs and alcohol consultant with Extern, a social justice charity in Ireland. Plus, Vinay Krishnan, national field organizer with the Center for Popular Democracy, on harm reduction, stigma, faith, and public policy.

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02/10/21 Geert De Bolle

Century of Lies
Geert De Bolle
Drug War Facts

This week on Century: Homelessness and Substance Use. We hear from Geert De Bolle with Housing First LAB in Belgium and Cristiana Merendeiro with Associação Crescer in Portugal. They spoke recently on a webinar held by the European Monitoring Center on Drugs and Drug Addiction entitled “Responding to drugs and homelessness: innovative approaches in Europe.”

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02/03/21 Nicola Sturgeon

Century of Lies
Nicola Sturgeon
Drug War Facts

This week on Century of Lies: Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on harm reduction, supervised consumption facilities, heroin assisted treatment, and the need to end stigma and treat people who use drugs with dignity and respect. Plus, we hear from Dawn Wooten, LPN, a nurse at a detention center in Ocilla, Georgia, who was demoted after raising concerns about inadequate medical care.

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01/13/21 Naomi Burke-Shyne

Century of Lies
Naomi Burke-Shyne
Drug War Facts

This week on Century: Faith, Community, and Harm Reduction. We hear from Naomi Burke-Shyne, Executive Director of Harm Reduction International, about The Global State of Harm Reduction; we hear more about harm reduction from Ricky Bluthenthal, PhD, Associate Dean for Social Justice and a Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and the Institute for Prevention Research at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California; plus, some thoughts about recent events from former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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01/06/21 Ann Fordham

Century of Lies
Ann Fordham
Drug War Facts

Health Poverty Action recently held a webinar series entitled “A World With Drugs: Legal Regulation Through A Development Lens.” On this edition of Century of Lies we hear a portion of the most recent webinar in that series, which was entitled “Community Participation and Legal Regulation.” Speakers include Ann Fordham, the executive director of the International Drug Policy Consortium, who facilitated the panel; Charan Sharma, a Program Manager with the Drug Use & Harm Reduction Alliance in India; and Emma Campbell, an activist with the Alliance for Choice in Northern Ireland.

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12/23/20 Doctor Bruno Casal Rodriguez

Century of Lies
Bruno Casal Rodriguez
Drug War Facts

The European Monitoring Center on Drugs and Drug Addiction has been holding a series of panel discussions on the impact of Covid-19 on drug markets and on people who use drugs. EMCDDA’s most recent webinar was entitled “Covid-19 induced recession and drug related problems. On today’s show we hear from two of the panelists, Doctor Bruno Casal Rodriguez, a Professor of Applied Economics at the University of A Coruña in Spain; and Doctor James Windle, a Lecturer in Criminology at University College Cork in Ireland.

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12/16/20 Frank Chapman

Century of Lies
Frank Chapman
Drug War Facts

This week on Century: The Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression recently held a People’s Hearing Against Racist and Political Repression. We hear from some of the speakers including Frank Chapman, a leader of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and a field organizer and co-chair of CAARPR; Troi Valles, a Chicago area activist, writer, and actress who’s an experienced community organizer and member of Black Lives Matter Chicago and Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression; and Berma Escamilla, one of the family members speaking out against police violence. Plus, the Reverend Sarah Howell-Miller, Associate Pastor at Green Street United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, introduces a new training guide called the “Spirit of Harm Reduction: A Toolkit for Communities of Faith Facing Overdose.”

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12/02/20 Donald MacPherson

Century of Lies
Donald MacPherson
Drug War Facts

The city of Vancouver, BC, is asking the Canadian federal government for an exemption to national drug laws in order to allow the city to decriminalize simple possession of currently illegal drugs. On today’s show we hear from Donald MacPherson, Executive Director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, and from Annie Foreman-Mackey, a first year medical student at the University of British Columbia.

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11/11/20 Haven Wheelock

Century of Lies
Haven Wheelock
Drug War Facts

Oregon Ballot Measure 110, the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act, was approved overwhelmingly by voters in the November general election. On this edition of Century of Lies we speak with Haven Wheelock, MPH, one of the chief petitioners for Measure 110, about the vote and what it means for the future of drug policy reform. Plus we hear from Lisa Sanchez, Executive Director of México Unido Contra la Delincuencia, and Ray Lakeman, a campaigner for the UK nonprofit Anyone’s Child, about the need to regulate the stimulant market.

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Dean Becker1 (00:00):
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 a century of lies.
Doug McVay (00:18):
Hello and welcome to century of lies. I'm your host, Doug McVay editor of drug war Well, most of the results from the 2020 general election are in, there were a number of ballot measures up for a vote. One of the most important measures in many years was on the ballot here in Oregon, where I live ballot measure one 10, the drug addiction treatment and recovery act was approved by an overwhelming majority. This measure reduces penalty classifications on low level possession, which means that police will no longer be able to waste time processing minor possession offenses measure one 10 also puts money into treatment and support services. Now this is important funding treatment is good, but it doesn't really address any of the underlying problems that may exist. People experiencing housing insecurity or homelessness, for example, food and security, joblessness, mental health issues, physical health needs, conventional treatment doesn't address.
Doug McVay (01:15):
Any of that people need the whole package measure. One 10 is a groundbreaking initiative. That's as close to the Portuguese model. As anyone in the U S has gotten, it should provide a model for the rest of our nation. Rest assured that we will be reporting regularly on the implementation of measure one 10. It goes into effect at the beginning of February, 2021, advocates and supporters have a lot of work to do between now and then my friend Haven Wheelock was one of the chief petitioners for measure one 10 Haven runs the syringe services program at outside in a Portland area. Nonprofit she's worked for many years in harm reduction and recently earned her master's in public health from the Johns Hopkins school of public health. She took time out of her very busy schedule to talk with me recently about the vote and about implementing measure one 10. I expected this to pass. I really did, but I wasn't quite expecting this much of a blowout. I mean, 58 and a half percent. That's huge. How do you feel about the, how do you feel about the endorsement that the citizens that the voters of Oregon have given this measure?
Haven Wheelock (02:22):
It's amazing, right? Like, I mean, when I signed on for this to over two years ago now I never thought it would pass. Honestly, I went into this being like, we're starting a conversation, we got it. Like, it's going to take time. We got to start this conversation sometime let's start it now. Right. I honestly didn't think it would pass when I signed onto it, but I thought it was important to start the conversation because eventually we're going to have to have it anyway. So let's start it now. Um, and so, you know, and then when the pandemic hit, I was like, there's no way we're getting this on the ballot. Like, how do you get anything on, like, how do you collect signatures and understand home orders? Um, and I, and then when we started, when I came home from work the first time and saw 15 petitions in my inbox or in my mailbox, and then they just kept coming and Oregonians across the state were, you know, literally having to print off sign and mail with a stamp petitions. I started to change my thinking and I started to believe we could pull this off. And I never thought we would be coming in at just under 60% of the vote.
Doug McVay (03:47):
I just, I was just checking the records to make sure measure 91, the, the, the marijuana measured legalization measure that got 56%. You, you beat marijuana.
Haven Wheelock (03:58):
Yeah. I mean, it's, you know, over 300,000 people voted more people voted yes than voted now in our state. So, I mean, to me, it's just, it blows my mind and it like brings me such joy to know that something that like, I mean, I've been doing drug policy work for almost 20 years, right. I've been in harm reduction for pushing 20 years. And the change I've seen in how we talk about the work and how we talk about the people has been huge. And this is just more proof that we are moving in the right direction. And, you know, in a year that's been really hard. Um, it's been, it's brought me such joy and hope to see that we are going to be able to build something that is right. And like it's making big news across the country because we are setting the example.
Haven Wheelock (05:06):
And to me, I take that, I take that weight very heavily. Like I want to make sure that getting something passed is easy, making, creating a system that works, that saves lives that is strong and resilient. That is hard. And so I'm very excited about how we implement this and how we make it work in the way that the voters said they want it to work going forward. And I'm not naive enough to think that that's not going to be a lot of work. I've been doing this work long enough to know that it's some work and it's so it's, it's crucial work. And if we can demonstrate that this is works right, if we can show the rest of country that you don't have to punish people for them to seek help, you don't have to punish people to like, make sure people are safe. Then we can be a model for other places. And that makes me really proud.
Doug McVay (06:15):
That was Haven Wheelock. She's the syringe services coordinator for the Portland area. Nonprofit outside in Haven was one of the chief petitioners for Oregon ballot measure one 10, the drug addiction treatment and recovery act, which was approved overwhelmingly by voters in the November general election. You're listening to century of lies. I'm your host, Doug McVay editor of drug war Loyal listeners will recall that a couple of weeks ago, we heard from Lorenzo a rebate, a graduate student who helped to draft a cocaine regulation bill that's been introduced in the Colombian legislature. He talked about that measure at a news conference, announcing the release of a new book by the UK nonprofit organization, transformed drug policy foundation. That book is entitled how to regulate stimulants. A practical guide let's hear from that news conference. Lisa Sanchez, the executive director of [inaudible].
Lisa Sanchez (07:08):
So first of all, what the cocaine market means to Mexico? Well, cocaine is the second most consumed and persecuted truck in the country just after cannabis. But although the cocaine cocaine use in the last year, for example, which is one of the most relevant indicators or the past month only represents 0.8% of all Mexicans from 12 to 65 years old, cocaine processors and users represent 17% of the total of adults that actually have been prosecuted for drug offenses and were charged with simple possession. It also represents 6.3% of all the miners that have been charged with drug offenses and had been prosecuted for possession, uh, within the criminal justice system in Mexico. Um, the same thing happens when you actually go and see what are the numbers for incarcerated people for drug offenses and at the federal and state level here in Mexico, 23% of the total amount of the people that are behind bars for violating our drug laws are actually there in, were incarcerated for cocaine offenses, mostly for cocaine possession in very small amounts that actually don't exceed $30 or $50 each.
Lisa Sanchez (08:26):
Um, cannabis of course still represents the majority of, um, uh, the drug crimes that had been committed in Mexico with 61% of the incarcerated people, but still cocaine. Uh, um, despite of the fact that Mexico is not a producer country is actually concentrating quite an enormous amount of, or drug enforcement activities and the criminalization against drug users that we're enforcing through those laws. Um, just give you, um, a very quick, um, overview of what's the size of this market, according to the Mexican government, the government, the cocaine illicit market in the countries worth around, uh, $345 million a year. Um, it's, um, it involves a lot of public resources that are being spent in enforcement actions and in particular in militarizing drug operations in drug enforcement actions, um, and around, um, in, in average, Hmm, every single year Mexico ceased around, um, 10 tons of cocaine either in, um, throughout the territory or airports, ports, and, uh, also in the scene.
Lisa Sanchez (09:43):
Um, although the quantities that we're ceasing are significantly lower, right? And those registered in previous governments, for example, in the past government that ended in 2018, we, um, we integrate sees 10.5 tons per year. And in the previous one that ended in 2012, the average was 19 tons per year. And before that 23 tons per year, um, these quantities are still particularly high. And most importantly, they're, they're relevant to us in the agenda of drug policy reform because they are squeezing very scarce public resources, and they are, um, you know, directing these various course resources into enforcing laws that are mostly affecting people who use drugs and people that are assessing very small quantities of drugs. Um, this is particularly relevant for the entire Latin America can read gem because as Gloria said that it happens to, so in Southeast Asia, there is a human rights component to that.
Lisa Sanchez (10:44):
There's also a gender dimension of these drug Wars. Um, there is targeting actively, um, and it's punishing, uh, very on proportionately women who are forced into trafficking, small quantities of drugs. And all of our presence in all of our countries are actually filled with women and had no other choice or that we're forced by gender reasons to enter into these trade, um, without the possibility of ensuring a decent livelihood recurring to other, um, other activities. So no that this is a problem to us because we don't use it as much cocaine as other countries, but we actually suffer the negative consequences of the cocaine trade and the cocaine prohibition, um, what we have been doing in, uh [inaudible] and with other local partners from Mexico and the region such as Institute Rhea or [inaudible] in Columbia is to advocate for drug policy reform and our goals in this advocacy work.
Lisa Sanchez (11:50):
And that also includes education, uh, public opinion efforts and strategic litigation, which is I'm going to, um, uh, give a little more detail in a few seconds is to promote a different animal [inaudible] policy that actually minimizes the risks and the negative impacts and maximizes the potential upsides of having a regulated market. So long story short, and this, you know, because you've read most of the transform material when we're looking for is to have a safe, um, um, uh, a safe, safe policy that promotes an improved public health because we understand drug policy and we understand, uh, drug, um, efforts primarily as a public health issue also in producing and transit countries as a human rights and social justice issue. Um, we're promoting ways to reduce harm. I've heard the stories of the people that aren't, uh, are, that are using these substances without knowing the quantities to dosages and the potential risks to their health and lives.
Lisa Sanchez (12:58):
Um, we want to distinguish between the harm score by consumption and the harm schools by drop policy itself. I also want to improve security. We want to reduce crime corruption, violence. We want to defend the most vulnerable groups in our populations, particularly attending the needs of women, young people, children, and growers. And we want to defend and ensure the full exercise of human rights, which is basically what we're doing through most of the actions that we've been, um, taking in Mexico to promote drug policy reform. So other than the traditional work at most of them or organizations to which include advocacy, public opinion, citizen diplomacy at the international level, most of the people that are connected to this webinar also go to the commission on narcotic drugs of the United nations, or are involved somehow in regional discussions within the European union or the curriculum or the organization of American States.
Lisa Sanchez (13:56):
What we also do is to defend and to promote strategic litigations. What we do is that we create landmark cases for, um, the legal system in Mexico to analyze and have rulings that can advance the cause of drug policy reform, but also that can enhance our understanding of what does it mean to have, or to adopt a human rights approach to drug policy. Uh, we started doing these with another organization called essays back in 2012, we started promoting, uh, cases on cannabis, uh, consumption basically, um, saying, or arguing, um, that cannabis prohibition was unconstitutional because it allowed the state to defend just one way of, of living. And one way of being healthy, which was not using drugs. And that involved a very harsh prohibition on cannabis that, um, basically, uh, forced kind of base users to go to the criminal market, to the black market to ensure, um, their consumption.
Lisa Sanchez (14:59):
Uh, and, and we also argued that that particular model that the state was, uh, enforcing into everybody or was imposing to us, uh, was also, uh, in a very, an intrusive way for the government to be part of our private lives. And that what we wanted was to give a, to have a permit at this, that the health authorities would issue. So we, as users could, um, grow or own cannabis harvest our own cannabis use or our own cannabis privately without the intention to sell it. And we basically convinced the Supreme court back in 2015 and got the first ruling that the Clare cannabis prohibition unconstitutional fast forward to that in 2018, we finally got the jurisprudence that we needed, you know, uh, for the court to order the Congress, the Mexican Congress to legislate in our favor and regulate entirely the market from production to consumption something that, um, should have happened already.
Lisa Sanchez (16:05):
Uh, but because of the, um, because of the elections first and then because of the pandemic, um, the Supreme court has issued two new has extended the deadline for that to happen until the end of this year, but using those, um, precedents using that particular strategy that we use with cannabis, medicinal cannabis that we basically won in the Supreme court. We also started defending some cases on, um, cocaine use, um, based on the same premises that it's unconstitutional for, um, or laws to prohibit, to absolutely prohibit access to these particular substances, forcing, uh, citizens to, uh, incurring crime, but also forcing citizens to live in a particular way, um, in which the state is, um, um, being quite intrusive and limiting the rights for people to express themselves and develop their own personality without harming third parties. Um, we won that particular case on cocaine last year, um, within a first level court, uh, and two of our cases are now have now reached the Supreme court one.
Lisa Sanchez (17:15):
We actually withdrawn the case from the Supreme court because the ruling was negative. They were not going to give us a permit and we were, were not going to win the case. Uh, but we actually took it to the Supreme court. As Lorenzo said, to make this conversation a national conversation, to speak about this issue, to educate decision makers about the real risks of cocaine, uh, the risks of cocaine prohibition and the risks of not regulating a substance and enhancing the power, not only the economic power, but also the firepower of criminal organizations in Mexico, they're actively undermining security, the rule of law and human rights. There are two more cases that are also at the Supreme court. We don't, we don't know yet what the ruling would be, whether it's going to be whether if the ruling is going to be positive or negative, but once we know exactly what's in that ruling, we will make the decision to whether with run the case or actually going forward with it, just to have this conversation.
Lisa Sanchez (18:18):
I think that the experience that, uh, we in Mexico have had with strategic litigation and advocacy work in advancing Trump policy reform has been instrumental for other jurisdictions to learn, but also to educate or decision makers, do they not even the worst prohibitionists in Mexico, agree with the fact that drug use itself should be criminalized and people put the Dale just for their use. Um, they're more open to harm reduction at the moment. And they're more open even to the idea of regulating markets in order to reduce the harms that provision causes and re reduce the harms that the war on drugs as a political choice in a political approach causes to countries like ours. So I just want to thank transform because as Lorenzo said, we use, um, a blueprint blueprint for regulation tools for the Bain, how to regulate cannabis. And now we're definitely going to use how to regulate stimulants, um, all these materials to provide evidence for basis to educate the public. And of course, to continue this conversation in, in, in targeted messages, in an advocacy work to advance drug policy reform. So thank you so much for having me thank you so much for inviting me and particularly for the amazing work you guys do.
Doug McVay (19:40):
That was Lisa Sanchez. She's the executive director of [inaudible]. She was speaking at a news conference on the release of a new book from transform drug policy foundation, entitled how to regulate stimulants, a practical guide. You're listening to century of lies. I'm your host, Doug McVay editor of drug war, One of the other speakers at that news conference was Ray Lakeman. He's a campaigner for anyone's child, a nonprofit based in the UK.
Ray Lakeman (20:07):
All right. Um, yeah, my story, um, it's my son's actually, I, I had two sons, uh, Jack and taurine. Um, they were born 15 months apart and, uh, they grew up together here on the iron man, which is a lovely place. Um, they did all kinds of things together. They, they, uh, played football, uh, swam Saudi outs, all kinds of things. All the kinds of things is the kind of lifestyle that you'd like to bring your boys up in any children up in, um, they were good musicians that were very talented and for 18 years they were together. They didn't do very much then totally went off to university. And Jack went across to London to get some work because it's seasonal work, the sort of things that he was doing. And they arranged to meet up. And the 29th of November, 2014 to watch a football match in Manchester because they were great Manchester, United supporters.
Ray Lakeman (21:24):
And, um, they went along to the football match and I'd arranged to meet Jack a few days later in London. And I did actually get to see him, but he wasn't in London. Um, he was actually on a military slab, uh, in Bolton nine alongside his brother Turin. It turned out that I bought some, uh, AME DMA on the light, dark web, uh, taking it while they were, um, just, uh, and it killed them both. And I didn't even know that Tori was interested in drugs. I knew that Jack had dabbled a little bit, but I, I didn't have a clue about Tony knew. I seemed to be totally against drugs and things like that. Anyway, within a few, few days, everything was cleared up and we had the, um, uh, cremation. Some of these friends came up from university and one thing struck me straight away was we would talk in about it and they were thoughtful about it. They were obviously very sorry. They love, they obviously thought a lot with my son, but they were talking about drugs. And what they were saying is that he was unlucky. Um, they want these drugs to be made safer.
Ray Lakeman (22:53):
And that came up similarly in the inquest. About five months later, when somebody actually said to me, uh, the, during the inquest, the pathologist, the coroner and everybody, they would, they were talking about this MDM, a dose that they'd taken. And they were talking about, uh, uh, regulation, trucks, uh, dosage, something that they knew could be actually safe. And I thought, well, my boys are going to take this there. They're obviously going to tell you, you know, that there is a safe dosage, you know, that this can be made safe and yet it's illegal. We're not going to stop. Yeah. The kids were saying, they're going to continue taking drugs. They want them to be made safe. And it was, uh, it was an eye opener to me. I thought, wow, how are we going to stop this in the future? I talked to my drugs, my boys about taking drugs in the past.
Ray Lakeman (23:57):
And it was quite clear that, um, you know, that message hasn't got through. I could tell them how dangerous it was. In fact, the more I think about it, you know, if I told my boys their own story, they would probably have said, well, yeah, that's what happens to other people that doesn't happen to people like us, but it does happen to people like us. It does happen to people like them. It does happen to families like ours. And I want to change that. I don't want families to go through the things that my family has been through. And since I've learned so many other families that are going through, you know, since my boy has died, there's been something like 25,000 or six years ago. Something like 25,000 people over here have died from using class a drugs. Most of these things were preventable.
Ray Lakeman (24:53):
I don't want people to take drugs, but I'm pragmatic about it. In fact, I've learned, I've learned a lot about why people actually do, why young people do it. And it worries me. Uh, you know, we've got the pandemic and things, but it is young people. If young people who are experimenting, uh, curious, uh, and people, what they want authorities need to understand is why they're taking it. I think I've come to understand that. One of the reasons why Taryn did when he was first at university was he was a bit lost. He was a bit lonely. He'd come from the Island, man. He was in accommodation. It didn't know people. And he was confused and somebody gave him something that helped him fit him. That made him feel good and confident, and people need to understand why people are using these drugs. I was listening to the radio this morning and they were talking about cocaine use amongst women.
Ray Lakeman (26:00):
And that that's gone up there. And they were saying, you know, the reason why women in particular using or using cocaine, you know, it's depression, it's it activates them. It makes it makes them, um, it's not just a party drunk anymore is they're actually using it as medication. And the authorities need to know that that is what is happening. These people are not just fun, loving, pleasure, seeking people. Yes, they exist. But most of the time, you know, they're self-medicating and we need to treat is, is that kind of an issue as a health issue? Um, and, and not as a criminal issue. And I think the more we understand this, uh, the authorities need to understand it. I've come to understand it. Um, and to me, it's, it's, it's quite obvious. And the more I speak to people, uh, and I do speak to a lot of young people in particular, I went to a, uh, a funeral would be young guy who died, um, from heroin last year. And again, the same thing was they were all young people and they would turn around the same, Oh, we know that he's died. We know that he took drugs, but nearly everybody there had taken drugs and were going to continue taking drugs. We have to try to make it as safe as we possibly can.
Doug McVay (27:35):
Was Ray Lakeman. He said drug policy reform and harm reduction advocate in the UK, who campaigns for the nonprofit anyone's child. He was speaking at a news conference, held by the transformed drug policy foundation to announce the release of their new book, entitled how to regulate stimulants, a practical guide. And that's it for this week. 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 of drug I'm your host, Doug McVeigh editor of drug war The executive producer of the drug truth network is Dean Becker. Be sure to check out Dean's new video project claiming the moral high ground find or search for Becker's buds and claiming the moral high ground on YouTube drug truth network programs are available by podcast. The URLs to subscribe are also on the network You can follow me on Twitter. I mapped Doug McVey and of course also at drug policy facts, we'll be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed war on drugs for now. This is Doug McVeigh saying so long, so long for the drug truth network. This is Doug McVeigh asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition. The century of lies, drug truth network programs, our conduct, the James J. Baker, the third Institute for public policy.

10/28/20 Dr. Emily Wang

Century of Lies
Emily Wang
Drug War Facts

On this edition of Century of Lies: Dr. Emily Wang, Associate Professor of Medicine at Yale School of Medicine, on the new report by NASEM entitled Decarcerating Correctional Facilities During COVID-19: Advancing Health, Equity, and Safety. Plus, Lorenzo Uribe, a graduate student at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago and lead drafter of the cocaine regulation bill that’s currently before the Colombian Senate, on regulating stimulants.
Transform Drug Policy Foundation’s new publication, How To Regulate Stimulants: A Practical Guide, can be found at the TDPF website,

Audio file

10/14/20 Doug McVay

Century of Lies
Steve Bloom
Drug War Facts

Live from this year’s virtual Seattle Hempfest, a discussion of activist journalism featuring Kymone Freeman, a writer and organizer whoco-founded and operates a radio station in DC called WeAct Radio;Vanessa Maria Graber, a journalist and radio producer from Philadelphia;Angela Bacca, a freelance writer from California; Tauhid Chappell, a journalist in Philadelphia and a board member of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists; and Steve Bloom, a journalist based in Brooklyn, New York who is publisher of and a former editor at High Times Magazine.

Audio file

09/30/20 Jesse Rawlins

Century of Lies
Jesse Rawlins
Drug War Facts

This week on Century: European Drug Report 2020. Plus, a presentation on supervised consumption facilities featuring: Brad Finegood, Strategic Advisor at Public Health – Seattle & King County; Jesse Rawlins, Public Policy Manager, Public Defenders Association; Mark Cooke, ACLU-WA Policy Director Washington Campaign for Smart Justice; Richard Waters, MD Physician, Site Medical Director at NeighborCare Health - Housing & Street Outreach; Michael Ninburg, Executive Director, Hepatitis Education Project; Lisa Etter Carlson, Co-Founder and Director of Programs at Aurora Commons in Seattle; and Lisa Herbold, Member of Seattle City Council.

Audio file

09/09/20 Kevin Zeese

Century of Lies
Kevin Zeese
Drug War Facts

This week: a conversation with the author, activist, radio host, and distinguished long-time drug policy reformer Kevin Zeese; plus, White House Communications Director Sean Spicer on likely new directions for this administration's marijuana policies.

Audio file

NOTE: Kevin Zeese passed away on Sep 5, this show is in memorial to him.

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 I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of

I first met today's guest when I was a young pup going to school at the University of Iowa. He was speaking at another school in the state, so my friend Jack Clubb – the Boston spelling with two Bs – and I drove up to Ames to meet him. Now at that time, he was the executive director of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Previously he'd been their chief legal counsel, even sued the federal government over paraquat.

Now by the time I went to work for NORML in 1987, he was off working at another organization that he co-founded called the Drug Policy Foundation, which eventually became the Drug Policy Alliance. A little more than a decade after that, he got together with Robert Field, Mel Allen, and Mike Gray and created Common Sense for Drug Policy, and in April of 2000 he hired me to work on that group's websites and to work on this little project called Drug War Facts. Some of you may have heard of that.

I am of course talking about my friend, mentor, and role model, Mister Kevin Zeese, and I am unspeakably honored to have him on the phone here with us today. Kevin, how are you doing?

KEVIN ZEESE: I'm doing great, and that's a nice introduction, I remember all those steps in our history together, and I really appreciate, you've done such great work. And I've wanted to do your show, often we've tried to connect and for various reasons didn't make it, so I'm glad to do this. Thanks for having me on.

DOUG MCVAY: Well, again, it is an absolute honor. You know, I gave folks -- I at least brought, in terms of your background and our association, I brought folks at least into this century. Getting people up to speed, tell us -- tell me about some of the stuff you're up to these days.

KEVIN ZEESE: Well, a lot, especially these days, with the new Trump administration. The major project that we work on, I co-direct with Margaret Flowers, is Popular Resistance, so it's, and that is a site that covers the resistance movement. It puts forward our own agenda of campaigns. We were very involved in getting Net Neutrality approved during the Obama years, and we'll be very involved in protecting that in the Trump years.

We were very key in the campaign against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was -- we successfully stopped, with a bunch of other people. Everything we do is with other groups, and building a -- because we're trying to build basically a mass movement that can have a bigger impact than Trump will have.

I think anyone looks back at the 60s, when there was a multi-faceted popular movement, on a lot of issues, the movement had a bigger impact than the presidents did. I think the same can be true now. We have a movement that has been growing since the economic collapse. It grew during the Obama administration with very key campaigns, like the Occupy, and like #BlackLivesMatter, and the Fight for $15, student debt issues, a whole slew of issues, really.

And now that movement's in another phase, with the Trump experience. We've been covering and participating in the protests around Trump, and we've always tried to push to make it clear that Trump is a symptom of a system that's sick, a democracy in crisis, two parties that don't -- that really represent the oligarchs, and not the people. That the people are really cut out of governance, unless they really stand up and push hard.

And we've had some successes doing that, but we really see a need for transformational change, and we hope that we're seeing now, in this Trump protest, the beginning of a movement that really is bigger than Trump. And that -- so that's what we're mainly doing. It's been a decade, you know, since ending your biography of me there.

This century has been one where I've gotten more involved in a diverse number of issues, from the economy to racism to the environment, climate change, and continue to work on marijuana and other drug issues, too. It's been one -- I've also been involved in trying to help develop an independent alternative to the two parties. That included running, working on Ralph Nader's independent campaign in 2004, where I was his spokesperson and press secretary. And I worked with Ralph after that for many years, and still do, on other issues.

And then, you know, working on Green Party campaigns. I was an adviser -- a senior adviser to Jill Stein this last campaign. And the third party movement needs a lot of help, we have a lot of work to do, but we have to develop an alternative that can threaten the two parties, especially the Democratic Party, in order to keep it honest and not just an oligarch party, as it has been, really, for most of its existence. So, that's an update of what I'm doing. And, a lot going on, and glad to discuss with you the current issues.

DOUG MCVAY: Our current president has only said a little bit about drug policy so far, mostly that he blames Mexico for everything and believes that a slab of concrete will take care of everything. He's an idiot. But I was thinking, Kevin, you first started work on the drug war when an American president was doing something stupid by ordering that marijuana fields in Mexico be sprayed with paraquat, which is a terribly dangerous herbicide. Different president, different approach, but, I'm wondering if you're getting even a little hint of deja vu?

KEVIN ZEESE: Yeah, there's a lot of deja vu. And of course, Carter was followed by Reagan, who was the first to use the military in drug enforcement, escalated the drug war, and again focused on trying to stop the so-called supply at the border. And every time that we've done this, it's always had the reverse impact.

We would not have a US marijuana market if it had not been for paraquat, if it not had been for the war on Colombia by Reagan, if it had not been for the use of the military in trying to stop bales of marijuana from being dropped off in the Gulf waters. And so, the US marijuana market was the result. My expectation with Trump, and Sessions, is that no matter what they do, we're moving toward full regulation, and a legal market, of marijuana. We will have a legal market, you know, because of whatever they do.

Sessions has been -- and Trump, you know, by the way, supported legalization early in this century. He was a -- he came out in favor of legal marijuana a long time ago. He hasn't said that recently but even during the campaign he said he supported medical marijuana being legal, and otherwise he hasn't said anything too bright.

But, Sessions has also been, you know, very hard to gauge on this. I mean, he has said that, you know, as Attorney General, his job is to enforce the law, and that right now, possession's against the law. And so, he's not -- his job's not to select which laws to enforce. But he also has said that it's a question of resources, and we don't really have the resources to enforce the marijuana laws in that way. He's also been somewhat positive about Eric Holder's position on allowing the states to experiment with legal marijuana markets. He's been critical somewhat of the way that that's been enforced, as far as going to other states, and some of the restrictions that are in there, he doesn't think those have been enforced enough. But he's been relatively supportive of that approach, so that's interesting.

So we don't know what he's going to do yet. He has said some pretty stupid things, like, good people don't use marijuana, and, you know, that legalization's the wrong course, and, you know, he's said a lot of things that aren't very smart. But, you know, the reality is, the marijuana market has become something you can't just wipe away. It's an eight to nine billion dollar a year market now. That's a significant market, and it has grown, you know, faster than the technology growth in the Clinton era. It is now, you know, legal in eight states, and in 29 states you have medical marijuana.

So it's not something that's easily erased, and I suspect if they try to erase it, they would have a tremendous backlash, that you'd see an even more energized marijuana legalization movement. In large part because Trump is so unpopular, I think that would help to advance it. It's -- so if they take that approach, I think there will be a blowback that will help us. If they take the approach of allowing this to go forward, that will mean that Jeff Sessions, an anti-marijuana senator, is allowing legalization to go forward. That's a tremendous advance as well.

So I don't see what -- and our job, I think, as a movement, and this is true in every movement I work in, is whatever the government does, to turn it to our advantage. Just like I said, if there's an economic collapse or a new war, we have to turn that to our advantage on those broader issues. If there is a crackdown and an escalation of the war on marijuana, or if there's acceptance of a legal market, either way, we have to turn that to our advantage and advance further. That's our job, is to keep pushing forward.

And so, I think that we're positioned, the marijuana movement is positioned well. I've been very pleased to see the comments made by people in the marijuana market, it's not -- the marijuana reform movement on Sessions and on Trump. They've been keeping a very open mind on this and not been antagonistic toward Trump, and I think that's wise.

I mentioned the marijuana market in a slip there because I was thinking about one of the biggest concerns I have, which is that, one thing that's going to help us advance with the two parties is that marijuana's becoming corporatized. It's becoming a big, business-run industry. And I think that is losing a lot of the flavor, so to speak, of marijuana. I think that it being a non-big business, you know, dispersed market with a wide range of growers developing new strains, new ideas, new approaches, has been one of the things that's made marijuana really interesting substance that really could even advance further.

The corporatization of marijuana is not something I'm happy about. In many ways I like the DC model best, and they took their model because they are living inside the federal government. You know, their budget is reviewed by the federal -- by Congress, and they can undermine anything that DC does, so they voted for basically allowing individuals to grow their own marijuana, and share the marijuana. And that cut out the big business aspect of it. In many ways, I like that better than the regulatory approach. I mean, I see advances to the regulatory approach too, but as I say, I do worry about the corporatization.

So I think no matter what Trump does, and what Sessions does, the movement is positioned to advance further. And that's the power of this movement that's developed so beautifully. When I got involved back in 1979, I full-time focused on it into the early part of this century, but along the way, and beyond my time as a full-time marijuana reform activist and drug policy reform activist, beyond that time and during it, I saw so many good people come into the movement, bringing their own skills, their own perspectives, their own energy, and I think that's still true today. We are seeing a lot of new people getting involved and I'm very confident about the future of this issue, going forward.

DOUG MCVAY: You are 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 My guest today is Kevin Zeese. He is now a political consultant, activist, and organizer living in the Baltimore area. Kevin has also had a long and distinguished career in drug policy reform.

Kevin is also my friend, and one of my mentors. And I must add, for full disclosure, I currrently serve with Kevin on the board of directors of Common Sense for Drug Policy, and I must also note, again for full disclosure, that a resource I compile and edit,, is a project of Common Sense for Drug Policy.

We'll be back with Kevin in a moment. But first …

On Thursday, February Twenty-Third in the James A. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, the president's communications director, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, took a question about marijuana.

SEAN SPICER: I’m going to go to Roby Brock from the Talk Business & Politics in -- where is he from? Arkansas.

ROBY BROCK: Thanks, Sean. Roby Brock with Talk Business & Politics here in Arkansas, the home of the rowdiest town halls in the nation.

I have a question on medical marijuana. Our state voters passed a medical marijuana amendment in November. Now we're in conflict with federal law, as many other states are. The Obama administration kind of chose not to strictly enforce those federal marijuana laws. My question to you is: With Jeff Sessions over at the Department of Justice as AG, what’s going to be the Trump administration’s position on marijuana legalization where it’s in a state-federal conflict like this?

MR. SPICER: Thanks, Roby. There’s two distinct issues here: medical marijuana and recreational marijuana.

I think medical marijuana, I’ve said before that the President understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing especially terminal diseases, and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them. And that's one that Congress, through a rider in 2011 -- looking for a little help -- I think put in an appropriations bill saying the Department of Justice wouldn’t -- wouldn't, wouldn't be funded to go after those folks.

There is a big difference between that and recreational marijuana. And I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing that we should be doing is encouraging people. There is still a federal law that we need to abide by in terms of the medical -- when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature.

So I think there’s a big difference between medical marijuana, which states have a -- the states where it’s allowed, in accordance with the appropriations rider, have set forth a process to administer and regulate that usage, versus recreational marijuana. That’s a very, very different subject.

And I think -- Shannon.

GLENN THRUSH: What does that mean in terms of policy? A follow-up, Sean. What does that mean in terms of policy?

SEAN SPICER: Shannon. Shannon. Glenn, this isn’t a TV program. We’re going to -- Shannon.

GLENN THRUSH: What is the Justice Department going to do?

SEAN SPICER: Okay, you don’t get to just yell out questions. We’re going to raise our hands like big boys and girls.

GLENN THRUSH: Why don’t you answer the question, though?

SEAN SPICER: Because it’s not your job to just yell out questions.

GLENN THRUSH: Can we have some follow-ups in the conference?

SEAN SPICER: Shannon, please go.

SHANNON PETTYPIECE: Okeh. Well, first, on the manufacturing summit, was the AFL-CIO invited? And then, yeah, I did want to follow up on this medical marijuana question. So, is the federal government then going to take some sort of action around this recreational marijuana in some of these states?

MR. SPICER: Well, I think that’s a question for the Department of Justice. I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement of it. Because again, there’s a big difference between the medical use which Congress has, through an appropriations rider in 2014, made very clear what the intent of -- what their intent was in terms of how the Department of Justice would handle that issue. That’s very different than the recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice I think will be further looking into.

DOUG MCVAY: That was from a White House press briefing on Thursday, February Twenty-Third. The president's communications director, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, was answering a question about marijuana that had been posed by Arkansas journalist Roby Brock. The reporter who tried to follow up, and got shut down in that condescending way by Spicer, was Glenn Thrush. Glenn Thrush is the Chief White House Correspondent for the New York Times.

On Friday, February Twenty-Fourth, the White House Press Office did not hold its regular daily press briefing in the Brady Press Room. Instead, Spicer held what's called a “press gaggle” in his office. There were no cameras allowed, but one or more reporters in attendance did record the audio.

Spicer and the White House Press Office refused to allow reporters from several major outlets to attend. News organizations that were shut out of Friday's gaggle included the New York Times – there's a surprise, huh? – also the Los Angeles Times, The Hill, Huffington Post, the New York Daily News, and most of the foreign press, including the BBC and the Daily Mail. Time and Associated Press boycotted the gaggle in solidarity.

Reporters who were allowed to attend Friday's gaggle, and who did not join AP and Time in the boycott, obviously, represented Reuters, Bloomberg, NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, the Washington Times, Breitbart, and the, uh, One America News Network. Yeah, me neither.

Fortunately, CBS reportedly made its audio recording of the gaggle available to those who had been excluded. And, I have to wonder whether that is going to get CBS excluded from future gaggles.

Sorry, just I love that word. Gaggle. Gaggle, as you may know, is the collective noun for a flock of geese when they're not in flight, so really it means a group of geese waddling about, messing up the place, honking loudly. Gaggle is also the collective noun for the group of reporters covering the White House. Gaggle.

According to one of the best and most respected reporters in all of American history, Helen Thomas, the word gaggle was first applied to the White House press corps by Dee Dee Myers, who at the time was serving as White House Press Secretary. She was there for two years, the first two years of the Clinton administration. Myers had also been the chief spokesperson for Clinton's first presidential campaign.

Considering how much time Myers had to spend in those days answering questions about Bill Clinton's various and legendary “zipper problems” and every other kind of thing that had nothing to do with policy, you can kind of understand why she called the White House press corps a gaggle. All things considered, it's a rather quaint and remarkably polite term.

I mean, gaggle was not meant as a compliment, and yet, you know, it really is a kind of a badge of honor. Reporters are supposed to annoy public officials. That's part of the job, we have to speak up in order to get their attention, especially when officials are giving non-responsive answers or just ducking questions entirely. I mean, this is a reporter's duty. We owe that to the news outlets we work for. But more than that, it's our responsibility to you.

Yes, you, dear listener. As a reporter and as host of Century Of Lies, I work to provide you with accurate news and reliable information that you can use and that I hope and pray is of interest. Doing that involves finding answers to questions, especially the questions that some would prefer go un-asked. It involves raising concerns, especially the concerns that some would prefer be dropped. And it involves pointing out lies, especially the lies that some would prefer go unchallenged. As a journalist, those are my responsibilities, and my duty to you.

At this point I feel I should mention that this is a volunteer-produced program. I am a volunteer. I am not paid to do this. I put in several hours every week reading news articles, finding new reports and research, talking to people, doing interviews, recording events, getting material, and recording and producing this show. I do it, first and foremost, because I love it. I'm a news junkie and a drug policy freak, I have been that my entire adult life. Producing this show is a huge honor for me, I feel incredibly blessed.

Also – and this is just between you, me, and the fence post, all right? – I do this because I really love radio. It's my favorite medium. I've had dreams of being behind a microphone since I was a little child. This is literally a dream come true -- the good kind of dream. I left it a bit late to start, but, you know, better late than never.

The path I've taken in life brought me here, to this very seat, here behind this microphone. This microphone into which I have the great honor and pleasure to say that you are listening to Century of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at I'm your host, Doug McVay, editor of

Let's get back to that interview with my friend, mentor, colleague, and one-time boss, Kevin Zeese.

People may think this is just a couple of old lefties talking about, you know, having some pipe dreams, but you've got to -- you know, just to remind people, Kevin and I started doing this stuff back when the idea of marijuana legalization, yeah, sure, it's a great idea, but that's politically impossible. It would never happen.

KEVIN ZEESE: Well, exactly. And that's the -- that really is almost always the case with every correct solution. Net neutrality, we were told, was politically impossible. And yet it happened, and now we're going to fight to preserve it. Stopping the TPP was politically impossible, and yet it became politically inevitable. It died out with a whimper. That's always our task, is to turn the politically impossible into the politically inevitable, and I think when you look at something like most, almost all of these issues, you find it's not even a left issue.

I mean, you know, I ran for office as a Green in 2006, just to challenge the Democrat who claimed to be an anti-war Democrat, but really was voting for all the war funding and is now, he's leading the effort to stop peace with Russia, Ben Cardin. I got the nomination not just of the Greens, I got the nomination of the Populist Party of Maryland, which was a Nader party, and with the Libertarian Party.

The first question I was asked by Libertarians was, but you support socialized medicine, how can you be a Libertarian? And I explained that actually single-payer provides the most choice to people, they could choose whatever doctor or health provider they wanted. It provided the flexibility for people to leave their job, come home, take care of kids, take care of an elderly family member, and still keep their healthcare. It provides businesses with the most choice, because they knew what they were going to be paying, it was not this constant premiums rising situation that we're currently in for businesses, that makes things very unstable. Allows for US businesses to compete with other countries where they had a single payer system, it had their healthcare under control.

Right now, our healthcare is approaching 20 percent of the GDP. That's not sustainable, we cannot be spending, you know one out of four or five dollars on healthcare, that's absurd. We've got to reduce that down to what other countries do, you know, which is 10 or 12 percent of their GDP.

So, when you look at the issue, and get over the labels, this is not a leftwing issue, this is a pragmatic issue, and that's true with almost everything that we work on, including marijuana legalization. That is a pragmatic issue. It makes sense economically, it makes sense healthwise, it makes sense, you know, as far as the role of police, the role of health providers, it gets everything in sense. What didn't make sense was the marijuana war. That was the radical option that made no sense.

Just like having the insurance companies in charge of healthcare, it makes no sense. It's absurd. And that's why everyone is suffering today. So, on almost every issue we face, when you actually get down to it, it's not a left or a right issue, it's a pragmatic, what works policy-wise type issue.

DOUG MCVAY: Let's, do you have any closing thoughts for the listeners?

KEVIN ZEESE: Yeah, I think the most important thing for people to take away is that we have tremendous opportunity right now, as people. And there are -- we're lucky in many ways, the challenges that we face can be overcome, and we're lucky in ways that, because we have a lot of people with experience from multiple generations, we have youth who are questioning the status quo, and that's a combination for incredible -- an incredible movement.

We're lucky to know the hundred years of resistance movements, and what's worked and what hasn't. There are books about what makes movements succeed, and we can learn from that success. And, we have people who worked in the 1960s era, 70s era movements, we have people who worked in the anti-corporate globalization era movements, we have the experience of the Obama years, and what's succeeded in those years.

And we have the challenges of Donald Trump, who is bringing forward all of the flaws of our current oligarch system of governance. He's just -- he's like an open book, he isn't, unlike Hillary Clinton, who has her two faces, you know, the public face and the private face, and Obama who was very -- and of Bill Clinton, who are both big, smiling guys who showed empathy and then went around and did things that really were totally corporate in nature.

We have a guy who's clear on all these issues of racism, anti-immigrant issues, on the corporate power, on big business power, and he's mouthing some, you know, populist falsehoods that are going to become very clear in the future. So I think we're in a really good position as, in our own strength, and in where the two parties are, both in very fragile states, and where the government is also in a very fragile state.

So, this, these next 20 years are going to be so key. So if you have any sense of getting involved, this is the time to do it, and to get in and play your role, because movements are made up of lots of people who make things happen. And every person can make a tremendous difference.

I think, you know, Doug, when I first met you in that Iowa event, there were about six people in the room. I was on this tour of Iowa, and I went to a college, and like six people showed up. Turned out like five out of 6 of the people in the room -- Sandee Burbank was one of them -- five out of six people in the room became like lifetime activists. So, you know, it's interesting that you can even speak to a small group and get a lot of action out of it. And each person in that room made a difference. You're making a difference. Each person who was in that room has made a difference in how the movement has progressed.

And so, don't underestimate your power, and recognize this is the time to use it, because we are in a critical phase in the next ten to 20 years, so, it's a great opportunity to create something that will be very long-lasting and very positive.

DOUG MCVAY: Kevin, thank you so much, for all your time, and for all your work, and for, well, just for everything, man. Just, yeah. Thank you.

KEVIN ZEESE: Thanks for having me on, I appreciate the chance to talk to you.

DOUG MCVAY: All right.

That again was from a conversation with Kevin Zeese, he's a progressive political activist, organizer, writer, radio host, and a leader in drug policy since 1979.

And, well folks, that's it for this week. 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 I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of The executive producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker.

The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give its page a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give it a like and share it with friends. Remember: knowledge is power. 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.

09/02/20 Doug McVay

Century of Lies
Doug McVay
Drug War Facts

This week on Century: Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt and Oregon Justice Resource Center Executive Director Bobbin Singh on recent events in the city of Portland, Oregon. Plus, Virtual Hempfest will be October 10 and 11! To whet everyone's appetite we look back at some previously unaired footage from the Ric Smith Hemposium featuring Ed "New Jersey Weedman" Forchion, Keith Stroup, Vivian McPeak, Kari Boiter, Gloria Kalteich, and your COL host/producer Doug McVay.

Audio file

08/26/20 Doctor Theresa Tam

Century of Lies
Theresa Tam
Drug War Facts

This week on Century: Canada’s chief public health officer, Doctor Theresa Tam, on decriminalization of drugs; University of Washington Professor Edwin Lindo, JD, on police brutality; and Yale University Professor Lisa Puglisi, MD, on prisons and Covid.

Audio file

08/12/20 Dr. Zian Tseng

Century of Lies
Zian Tseng
Drug War Facts

What Does An Effective Drug Policy Look Like?
This week on Century we speak with Dr. Zian Tseng, professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco Medical School, about his new article, entitled “Occult Overdose Masquerading as Sudden Cardiac Death: From the Postmortem Systematic InvesTigation of Sudden Cardiac Death Study.” Plus Niamh Eastwood, executive director of the UK drug policy reform nonprofit Release, speaking on What Does An Effective Drug Policy Look Like?

Audio file

07/15/20 Sanho Tree

Century of Lies
Sanho Tree
Drug War Facts

This week on Century: Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, talks about “COVID, Modernity, Lifeways & Drug Use.” His talk was part of an IPS webinar series entitled “Progressive Politics and the Time of Pandemic" and comes to us courtesy of the Institute for Policy Studies.

Audio file


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 led us to investigate a century of lies.
Hello, welcome to century of lies. I'm your host. Doug McVay SanJo tree is the director of the drug policy project at the Institute for policy studies. He gave a presentation recently on COVID modernity Lifeways and drug use as part of an IPS webinars series entitled progressive politics in the time of pandemic. We're going to hear portions of that on today's show.
Uh, there's nothing quite like, uh, having your, your life and your world come to a crashing halt for several months to really ponder, um, the meanings of, of, of Lifeways and maternity and how we got to be here and what is normal. And, uh, so I want to talk about drugs from that perspective, uh, and I'm going to do so by, uh, talking about a number of, of different stories then yes, that will, uh, at the very end I will tie together and if I fail to do so, please remind me. But, uh, one of the reasons front policy's been so baffling, uh, and so difficult to reform and, and to, to fix, um, is that we don't really, uh, situate the problem, uh, properly historically, but also, uh, it is one of the most interdisciplinary problems I've ever studIED. And I used it world war two historian.
Right. And what were two was pretty interesting interdisciplinary. It was very complicated. Uh, but it, there was a lot of clarity in terms of who the good guys and bad guys quote unquote were. Uh, and, uh, so when you talking about drugs, however, you're talking about an incredible supply chain that affects millions of people around the world from, uh, peasant farmers to, uh, noodles, to the traffickers, to dealers, to money launderers, uh, to, uh, all these different, uh, people. And, uh, and so you have to know a little bit about each of these things to get the big picture. And the big picture is, is hard to explain to policy makers because, um, our bloodborne establishment, both in terms of the bureaucracies involved, but also the congressional committees that do oversight and appropriations for these things, as well as the universities that train, uh, these bureaucrats, uh, and other academics are, are very much, uh, as well as the, you know, the, the journalist who covers they're also, you know, beat journalists or they specialize in certain aspects of this.
Uh, but there are so many different silos that it's difficult to, uh, get a top down overview. And when you begin to do that, but the whole thing starts to look quite insane. Right. And so, uh, what I want to do is try to break down some of those silos and, and talk about, uh, how we got here. Um, and as historian, I'm going to talk about the past first, before I talk about the present. Uh, and so, you know, whose job is it to, to make sense of all these different things? Stop the drugs, ours job, because we put that office in the white house and we politicized the, uh, uh, the, the national, uh, office of drug policy control. It's situated in the white house. So it's become a partisan issue as well. But let me start by telling you a story about, uh, how we got here in this hemisphere.
Let's start with the basics, um, out, uh, 15 years ago, or so I was asked to give a talk at a Boulder high school. Um, and it's a kind of an alternative high school in a sense that the students looked at your bio and, uh, they looked at the different things you've done. And then they come up with a title for your talk that you have to speak to it. Uh, and so these high school students being teenagers, uh, came up with a rather unique title for me to speak to. It was about sex drugs and international relations. And I thought, Oh Lord, how am I going to tie all of these things together? Um, and it, of course, Don, I made the last minute how to bring it together. And if you ask the question, well, how did we end up here in this hemisphere, the Western hemisphere, most of us store non-indigenous, um, and it actually has to do with, uh, how's back to drugs.
Um, when Columbus went sailing across the ocean, uh, what was, what was his purpose? What was his objective? Why, why they do that take undertaking this very risky voyage? Um, it wasn't, uh, gold and the search for lands and, and, you know, uh, you know, Christian crusaders, primarily, it was for spices, right? And so why spices, why were spices so valuable back then? Uh, it wasn't just because the food in Europe was bland and boring, which it was pretty much at the time. Uh, but, uh, each of these new spices, um, whether it's cinnamon or clove or nutmeg or any of these things, whatever it's new and exotic came from somewhere else. And this is how we think about drugs in our society, right? Drugs are what other cultures do. They're foreign they're alien. And, and we imbue these substances, uh, with offensive alien properties.
Uh, we imagine they're associated with, and back in the day, when Columbus went looking for these splices, these drugs, these new drugs, uh, had a word of mouth reputation, they were thought of as drugs, uh, because, uh, all these exotic new spices were thought to, you know, um, how do I put this delicately put lead in your pencil? Right? Uh, it was the Viagra of the day, uh, and of course, uh, aphrodisiacs are mostly working the head anyway. Uh, and so people were willing to pay a lot of money for these things. And, uh, so I guess you could make the argument that half the world's got colonized, because a bunch of old white men in Europe, couldn't get it up. And thus kids, you have the linkage of sex, drugs, and international relations. Uh, I'm being facetious here, but, but, but you get my point that these things have a deep roots.
Speaker 3
And if you take a look at the past five years,
A hundred years of colonization and development in this Western hemisphere, uh, it becomes apparent just how profound, um, the role of drugs and, and what are thought to be perceived as drugs at the time, uh, what the role they played in the development of this hemisphere, fat for a good 400 years of that first period. Uh, they drove the development in many ways of this hemisphere when we're talking about crops like, uh, uh, you know, uh, sugar. Well, we get run from, uh, sugar was an incredibly valuable commodity and sugar is a drug. Um, if you don't believe me, try giving it up for two weeks. And at the time of the, uh, uh, American revolution, the Island of Barbados was worth more to the British empire from the 13 colonies in North America, simply because of the profitability of sugar. And of course, run that came along with it, but also things like coffee, uh, tea, tobacco, and spices, just take tobacco, right.
Uh, what would the United States look like today? Uh, what would Virginia or North Carolina or Kentucky look like today if we never had tobacco? Um, that was the backbone of, of, of, uh, much of the economy in nearly two years of these colonies, uh, and, uh, sugar, uh, you know, was a horrendous, uh, commodity. Um, if you look at what it took to produce that sugar, and by that, I mean, it took in slate in it. So that Europeans went to an entirely different continent to kidnap and enslaved Africans to come and work on plantations in the new world to generate these, these profits that make these European empires very, very wealthy and creating some of the banking fortunes, uh, that played a role later on in history. But, uh, the conditions in the, in the, uh, uh, certain plantations in the Caribbean, uh, were just off the charts horrific compared to, well, there's no point in comparing pain and suffering, but it was an order of magnitude different. And, and, uh, and so throughout this history, uh, drugs or things that were proceeding drugs, played a big role in how we got here and how we live our lives today, and who has power, who has land, um, and access to capital. Um, much of this has passed on generationally. Uh, so if you're, if you're talking about black lives matter today, a lot of that, uh, is, is, is generational wealth that was never passed along because it was stolen from, uh, people of color, particularly African Americans.
Speaker 3
Uh, and, uh, in, in all this,
It comes back later on in the drug policy. We'll get to that. Um, but so I just wanna give you a sense of, of, of some of the timescales we're talking about here. We'll talk a little bit about my own, uh, background. I'm a Chinese American. I was born in Taiwan and came to this country at the age of four, but my father, uh, and my mother were from mainland China. And, uh, they left and moved to Taiwan. I fled to Taiwan in 1949 during the revolution, but a few years ago, uh, about a dozen years or so, my father, uh, went back to our ancestral village in China, and he brought back a digital copy of our family's scrolls, the family tree, so to speak no pun intended. Uh, and I knew it went back a few generations. I had no idea I was not prepared for how far it went back.
Um, and we believe, uh, it's hard to beat them the old script, and they use a different calendar system, but we believe it goes back at least 26 generations approximately to the year six 37 the other day. Um, and when I think about all of those generations that came before me and the lives that they led, um, and I don't want to romanticize it because to be a, and there were some farmers in rural China, right. And to be a peasant farmer in rural China was not easy, especially if you're a woman in world, uh, as a peasant, but their Lifeways were very predictable and sustainable over many generations each, you know, and when I think about the last generation, my generation, um, I live a life that is completely alien to all of those, all of my ancestors that came before me, the energy resources I consume, uh, probably exceed all the energy resources my ancestors have ever used simply because I live a modern lifestyle.
I traveled a lot. Um, the food that I eat comes from halfway around the world very often. Uh, we have a very globalized world that my ancestors could never have envisioned much less learn to navigate. Um, and navigating this new reality is very, very, very important. Um, but in, in China, uh, and it's not unusual to have these long family trees because it's Confucian society, uh, and not the romanticized Confucius either, but it was Confucius lay down a formula for a super stable society to stable in many ways. And that's why China suffered for, for so long. Uh, but, uh, it was predictable and sustainable. Um, and we've since gotten rid of that, uh, particularly during the cultural revolution in China. And we haven't really replaced it with new values and new ways of living and being, and understanding our roles in this world. Right.
Uh, and this is a theme I'll come back to over and over again. Um, and so that's kind of, uh, you know, my, my family background, um, but let's take a look at more recent history. Uh, let's look at some commodities, for instance, uh, corn, a simple commodity what's the spec what's porn got to do with drugs other than corn alcohol? Well, uh, back in the mid nineties, uh, there was a big, uh, debate over the North American free trade agreement. It was ultimately passed a lot of us mourn a lot of the downfalls, the pitfalls of that agreement, but it was passed and the technocrats, however, who engineered this free trade agreement in Mexico city and Ottawa in Washington, D C very often, they basically, uh, their shoes, uh, never got dirty, right? They, they, they, they live and work in marble buildings and these technocrats just thought, well, uh, let's talk about efficiency. We fetishized efficiency. And, uh, American said, look, we can produce corn on an industrial scale in the Midwest through mechanized, industrial agriculture, uh, big agribusiness. And we can ship that corn, uh, to Mexico, thereby freeing up your farmers, uh, and your cool in Mexico can then develop a, with a industrialization, et cetera, et cetera,
Speaker 4
These types of crafts. However, uh, I don't think really understood what they were capturing with, uh, the Lifeways they were tampering with. So if you look at just one commodity of corn, uh, and how that played a role in anchoring a world, Mexican agrarian life or so many generations, uh, and including pre-Colombian times, right, corn was so central to people's Lifeways, it was a gift from the gods. It was, uh, your, your, your, your songs, your rituals, your holidays, or festivals, your feasts all revolved around the planting cycle. And that kind of kept the community together. It gave them a purpose and understanding of their role in the world and how to navigate that. And suddenly, uh, we flood that society with cheap, uh, North American corn, uh, from the United States. And suddenly he's thinking about torn asunder from the land, uh, and the crop that kept them rooted and stable for so many generations.
And they were thrust into a and many of them. And I'm oversimplifying this argument, uh, for the sake of argument, just as an illustration. This is not a direct line, and I'm not saying everyone went through this experience, but many of those people was suddenly pointed thunder from the land that had given them, you know, stability for, for so long and progressed into a brand new reality of concrete steel petroleum Silicon, uh, into an urban Lifeway, uh, very often going to kill the doors, the, the sweat shops, the factories along the border areas, uh, and other sources of employment. But suddenly you have rural people migrating to urban areas, and the technocrats would never asked themselves, how are we going? Who's going to teach them how to raise children in this new environment. Who's going to teach the next generation, what kind of values, songs, traditions, uh, that would route the next generation.
Our, our Lifeways are evolving so quickly now that, um, one generation doesn't understand what the next generation is going through. And that's always been a complaint, right? You could go back to Socrates complaining about the young, but in these days, we, we, we we've moved that evolution of the warp speed. And it's, it's always been hard to raise children under any circumstances, but now, especially right, because parents really don't know what the new technologies and the new environments, uh, that, that young people are going through. And so suddenly you've got this migration of rural people into, uh, into an urban reality. They don't know how to navigate both parents. Uh, very often are working. Now, who's going to raise the children. What songs will they teach them values? What traditions, what, uh, you know, and, and, and, and with both parents working, what are the influences on this next generation?
And, and unfortunately, if you're at the bottom of the exclusionary society, uh, in the ways that, you know, urban folk have always kind of looked down on rural folk, um, you know, city, mouse, country mouse, you know, you've heard the fables forever, but suddenly these kids don't have, uh, a God a guide, uh, to teach them how to navigate this new reality. And they're often excluded from a lot of things, but who's offering them a ticket out. Uh, and here's where the drugs come in. A lot of times the gangs and the Narcos will offer them, um, instant respect. If you have a gun, uh, you've got social mobility, you got cash for the first time. Um, you can gate people, you can go out and you can do all these things, um, rather than work as your, uh, parents did in sweat shops. Uh, and, uh, and so, you know, we'd have this inexhaustible reservoir.
It seems of, of, of people who would rather live as a, as a, as a King for a couple of years, and as a popper for 70 years, um, and attention must be paid to such people, right? Um, so this is a, it boomerang that took a quarter century to come back and hit us, but Mexico, uh, since president Calderon waged and launched it as disastrous drug war back in 2006, uh, by, you know, taking the beginnings of a turf war and, uh, uh, and just beating the hornet's nest to the point where now there are hundreds of thousands of deaths as a result of that policy, uh, over 200,000, at least. And they stopped counting a long time ago because it's 200 dis-aggregate who was killed over common crime versus drug crime, versus all these other things, et cetera.
We're listening to Sanho tree director of the drug policy project at the Institute for policy studies, speaking on COVID modernity Lifeways and drug use. This is century of lies. I'm your host, Doug McVeigh. Now let's hear some more from San Jose tree.
And so I think that the government of China has much to look forward to in terms of, um, uh, problems coming down, the line that traditional Lifeways had been severed, and we've all evolved new ones at Lightspeed, uh, without really giving thought to how they're going to fit in society and, and teach them how to, how could he be in this world? Uh, what is normal anymore, right? And this is what COVID, and this lockdown has got me thinking about is normal. And how do we find our place in society? How do we belong? Um, if, if, if, if four months in lockdown hasn't caused you to have some reflection about these things, I don't know what will, uh, maybe this thought what's, let's see, we look around the world. And again, when we see this world of, of concrete steel petroleum Silicon, uh, in my artificial background, this is a Stanley Kubrick.
The is my interior designer from 2001 space Odyssey. Anyway, this new mold of, of, of, of, uh, concrete steel, petroleum, Silicon, uh, that, uh, uh, and we think it's normal. We think it could only have been this way, right? This is how society was meant to evolve. Uh, but this wasn't inevitable. This was a result of choices that we made for failed to make asses in society, because we've privatized and deregulated all these, uh, sectors of our economy. So that the market now decides for us, what's going to, what's going to take place next rather than policy makers, uh, and the market doesn't really care about your, your children or grandchildren, uh, and, and their values and their, uh, the environment that are going to inherit. Um, put another way that the elders at the Iroquois Confederation had a saying, um, uh, we also stole, uh, in part our idea of a constitution, your voice, um, their elders were very wise and they would ask the study, simple question, how will the decisions we take today affect the seventh generation down the line?
That's I think good longterm thinking perhaps too long for a lot of people in the West these days. Uh, but, but I think it's a, it's a good way to approach the world, but whose job is it in our society to talk about, uh, these questions, right? Um, we are in fact, just making stuff as we go along, we're building new life ways without really much thought, put another way. Uh, I'm talking to you via an iPad. Uh, I'm very much addicted to my iPhone and my Twitter way too much, but 20 years ago, did anyone talk to Steve jobs? Did he ask anyone? It's just a good thing to unleash in the world? Um, I get a lot of benefit from it, but I also see a lot of problems as a result of this that we never thought through initially. Right. Uh, and I would, uh, I would even argue that Google and Facebook and Suscipe, and their subsidiary corporations have done more harm to this planet, um, than Goldman Sachs could ever dream of, um, simply because of, uh, what we're stuck with today in terms of Trump, in terms of Nazis, in terms of, uh, new realities that are being crafted with Q and on, on the internet, right?
People are going reality, shopping on the internet in ways that are their ancestors could never have dreamt off 50 years ago. If you were a, a Neo Nazi or a John Birch society member Navy, you got your, your monthly, uh, newspaper in the snail mail. Uh, but if you went down to your local bar, uh, and started, uh, you know, spout is validating your, your philosophy, you might get punched out fairly quickly, right? But today you can go online and find hundreds of thousands of people who will tell you that you're normal, that this is the right way to think that we've crafted new realities that are, and have nothing to do with reality anymore. And so, as a society, it becomes very difficult to have a rational discourse about public policy. If we can't agree on what constitutes a baseline for reality, that's a big problem now.
So we have not just Trumpism, but we have Bolsa narrow. We have Putin, we have all these things that a lot of this was done through social media, right. And it was a powerful tool, uh, that evolved probably from a lot of these technologies, like the iPhone, iPad and others. Uh, anyway, we didn't, we didn't really didn't think this through, right. And I'm not saying we shouldn't have these things. I'm just saying that, you know, it'd be nice if we had some room to think about these things. And so there's an old African proverb that says the last one to recognize the assistance of water is the fish because the fish is swimming through the water, right? And so we are the fish swimming through modernity, and we don't recognize that it's a fact that this is a reality that we created either intentionally or unintentionally, and we have the power and capacity to change the future trajectory of our society. Uh, but only if we take those decisions, that decision making back, uh, from, uh, the free market and from others who are unelected or who care only about short term, uh, objectives. Um,
If you look at our, how this intersects with our political system and solving complex problems, we have global warming be it drug policy. We have politicians that think in terms of two, four or six year election cycles, right? And once you're elected, your first concern is getting reelected. So you don't want to rock the boat too much. Um, so, uh, we can't look to them for longterm thinking and longterm solutions. Um, if you dare talk about, you know, planning even five years into the future, Fox news will call you a socialist, uh, our corporations think in terms of quarterly numbers, if you don't make your numbers or stock will tank, they'll be taken over your NOLA no longer be extent, and you'll be irrelevant, right? So who's job is it to look out for the interests of the seventh generation or even the next generation yet unborn.
Uh, we don't have elders in our society the way our ancestors did. Um, they revered elders for good reason because they'd been on this planet for many, many decades. And they've seen me to hubris and the impact of, of, of change on their local communities and societies. And so they can see trouble coming from around the corner, a mile away, uh, in ways our, our young technocrats don't, and there's a lot of hubris involved and the grease trying to teach patients about that thousands of years ago, but the joke is on us, cause you don't really get it until you get it. And by the time you get it, it's too late. Put another way. There's an old saying that, um, good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment. In other words, uh, we learn from making mistakes and it's important to, uh, it's not wrong to make a mistake, but it's important to learn from them to acknowledge them and then to evolve.
And so, uh, at the intersections of, of all these problems, and I think you're beginning to see the complexity of, of, of, uh, uh, how drugs fit into this, right. Um, people either turn to these substances through, uh, in search of, of, of, of solutions or insight and drums, particularly, uh, hallucinogens or entheogens, uh, are very useful candy. They're useful for offering tremendous insight. And in many ways could help heal our society, but also people who use drugs to escape that reality because they don't feel like they fit into this modernity, this world, that they had no role in creating and don't know how to navigate no one ever bothered pitching them. And you're just thrown into this and we're making this up as we go along and we're doing a very bad job of it, I would argue. And so, uh, we do a lot of scapegoating now with the drugs and say, aha, this is the problem.
We're listening to Sanho tree director of the drug policy project at the Institute for policy studies, speaking on COVID maternity Lifeways and drug use. This is century of lies. I'm your host, Doug McVeigh. There was a Q and a at the end. I had the good fortune to get in the first question. So here it is.
So here's one from, uh, Doug Mick Bay. It was announced this week that the state of Oregon will be voting on a ballot measure this November to decriminalize simple possession of most illegal drugs. You support broad decriminalization generally. And do you think it's a measure that could have an impact on broader drug policy debate? Uh, great question. Uh, I absolutely support it. The idea that we would incarcerate people for these problems, um, really solves nothing. Uh, and that, uh, it's also, uh, you know, an individual Liberty cognitive Liberty aspect of this. Um, I'm not a, uh, economic libertarian, but I'm a civil libertarian. And in that sense, uh, we give too much power to the state that a level of control, right? If you look at the, uh, uh, the, the, the founding, uh, the founders of the nation and the constitution, where in the constitution, because to give the right the government to, uh, kick down your bedroom door, to arrest you and throw you into prison for something that you do be your body absent harm to others.
If there's no one else involved, if you grew your own drugs or whatever, and you're only doing it to yourself, where does the state get the right to, to intervene at such an intimate level, uh, and to destroy your life? Basically, if you're doing that, um, that, uh, if the state is allowed to do that, and we get the drug war through our mother's milk, right, we get it from birth in our society. Uh, and so we assume these are normal state powers. They're not because for the state can intervene in such an intimate level, um, into your own Corpus. Um, what is the stop, the state from intervening, uh, in terms of sexual freedoms, reproductive rights, um, you know, if, if we're in the constitution, does it give the right to state, but the state to decide what you do to your lungs, to your mouth, to your stomach, to your brain, to any of your orifices, absent and harm to others. Uh, and should they be able to destroy your life? Uh, as a result, if you don't have the sovereignty of your own Corpus, you really don't have anything at all, right? That's the most intimate and basic level.
You just heard Sanho tree director of the drug policy project at the Institute for policy studies, speaking on COVID maternity Lifeways and drug use. His talk was part of an IPS webinars series, entitled progressive politics, and the time of pandemic, other installments in that series. And the full video of this presentation are available through the IPS and on their YouTube channel. And that's it for this week. Thank you for joining us. You have been listening to century of lies where a production of the drug truth network for the Pacifica foundation radio network on the web of drug I'm your host, Doug McVeigh editor of drug war The executive producer of the drug truth network is Dean Becker. Be sure to check out Dean's new video project Becker's buds. You can find The drug truth network has a Facebook page. Please give it a like drug war faxes on Facebook to give its page a like, and share it with friends. Remember, knowledge is power. You can follow me on Twitter. I'm Mac Doug McVeigh. And of course also at drug policy facts, we'll be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed war on drugs. This is Doug McVeigh 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, our conduct, the James J. Baker third Institute for public policy.

07/08/20 Anne-Marie Cockburn

Century of Lies
Anne-Marie Cockburn
Drug War Facts

Taking Drugs Seriously: Transform Drug Policy Foundation and Anyone’s Child recently held a webinar entitled “Take Drugs Seriously.” We hear from two of the panelists: Anne-Marie Cockburn, one of the founders of Anyone’s Child; and Johann Hari, author of the bestseller Chasing the Scream: The Search for the Truth About Addiction. Plus, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors adopts an ordinance to allow the establishment and operation a supervised consumption facility.

Audio file

Century of Lies

DEAN BECKER: (00:00)
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 a century of lies.

DOUG McVAY: (00:19)
Welcome to century of lies. I'm your host, Doug McVay, the San Francisco board of supervisors recently adopted an ordinance, allowing the establishment and operation of a supervised consumption facility in San Francisco. We're going to hear a portion of that meeting. Now, the first speaker is board of supervisors, president Norman Yee. He introduces the sponsor of the legislation, supervisor, Matt Haney.

Speaker 3: (00:42)
Okay. Supervisor Haney. Thank you. Uh, president ye and colleagues. Uh, I first want to thank mayor breed and her staff, uh, for their leadership and their partnership on this important piece of legislation. I also want to thank all of the many, uh, organizations and leaders who are a part of the safer inside coalition. Um, these groups have been driving this movement over the years and have been on the front lines with their outreach efforts to community members, most impacted by the drug overdose crisis in our city. Um, this is a, um, not a new issue or this board of supervisors. Um, there have been taskforce working groups, uh, committee hearing after committee hearing about a safe injection site. And the overwhelming consensus of all of those efforts has have been that this is something that San Francisco must do. Um, as soon as we possibly can, um, it will get, uh, drug use, uh, off of our streets.

Speaker 3: (01:48)
Um, it will get people into treatment and care and services. What's importantly, save lives. Um, this proposal for overdose prevention programs would extend the harm reduction strategies already in use, um, and is designed to further reduce the health and societal problems associated with drug use. Um, San Francisco has a very strong and long history of creating innovative programs to provide access to syringes, to prevent HIV, hepatitis C and other infectious diseases are running the use of the lifesaving drug Naloxone and expanding effective substance use disorder, treatment programs such as medication assisted treatment. Um, this is the next and most critical step forward in that, uh, process of, uh, preventing overdoses and saving lives. And what we are doing today is not a new or radical idea, a hundred overdose prevention sites now operate in over 65 cities around the world. No site has experienced an overdose death and many have transitioned thousands of people into treatment and detox services.

Speaker 3: (02:54)
Um, this legislation will create a permanent program so that health, um, can begin the process to set up overdose prevention sites. Um, this has to be a part of a multipronged comprehensive strategy to stop overdoses of which we had over 300 last year, a massive increase in the number of people who have died on, on in our city, um, prevent, uh, open, uh, drug use on our streets and sidewalks, um, which has devastated neighborhoods that I represent. And I know that many of you represent as well, um, and save countless lives. Um, so I want to thank again, the mayor for her leadership, both when she was a supervisor and now as mayor for standing strong in her support for this, uh, to Senator Wiener and our legislative delegation for their continued support and, uh, supervisor mandolin, uh, as well for being a cosponsor. Um, this is something that we must do, and this is the next step in opening, an overdose prevention site in San Francisco. Okay. Thank you. Madam clerk, call the roll

Speaker 4: (04:05)
On item 23 supervisor Peskin Peskin I supervisor Preston Preston. I supervisor Ronan.

Speaker 5: (04:14)

Speaker 4: (04:14)
Ronan. I supervise herself. I E a selfie I supervisor Stephanie.

Speaker 5: (04:21)

Speaker 4: (04:22)
Stephanie, I supervisor Wilton, Wilton. I supervisory E I supervisor fewer and fewer I supervisor Haney. Alright, Haney. I supervisor mandolin,

Speaker 5: (04:40)

Speaker 4: (04:40)
Middleman I supervisor Mark Maher. I, there are 11 eyes.

DOUG McVAY: (04:48)
Objection. The first reading you just heard the San Francisco board of supervisors vote unanimously to adopt an ordinance, to allow the establishment and operation of a supervised consumption facility in San Francisco. You're listening to century of lies. I'm your host, Doug McVeigh editor of drug war, the transformed drug policy foundation, and anyone's child held a webinar recently entitled take drugs. Seriously. First up here's one of the founders of anyone's child and Marie Coburn.

Hello everyone. I am off as mom. Many of you will have had my study before for those of you who haven't next month will be the seventh and the bassinet of the day. My life changed forever. That day has become the measuring point for my life. Now, the before and after it was a beautiful July Saturday morning, a day, just like today, skills have been about to bake up for the summer holidays. I was planning some day trips and things for us to do throughout the summer. Martha was making funds and had to arrange to meet up with her friends, to watch all the Pixar together. That's when that morning, well, the cycle from our home to the other side of Oxford to go kayaking, never in my wildest nightmares, could I have imagined what was about to unfold? I got the coal, the one that no parent wants to get, I got it.

The voice said your daughter is greatly ill and we're trying to save her life. Can you imagine that? I will never forget those words. They are etched to my very core after kayaking, Martha swallowed, half a gallon of white PODER. That turns out to be 91% pure ecstasy. She died three hours later, teenage Dublin gone horribly wrong. Her beautiful life wiped out so easily. I want to slip away in my days as an active mother, we're no longer this isn't a TV drama, or a box set or Netflix life. Carol became the headline. My only child died age 15 from an accidental ecstasy overdose. Those words make me shutter. As I say them, knowing the truth is so hard to accept. One minute I was planning was still on holiday. The next my life became blank. It was as soon as somebody had pressed the reset button, but the world carried on and the sun didn't fall out of this guy in time.

I started to piece my life back together again, and how to find strength from nowhere to start the journey of my life without my go. Martha was my future. She had so much potential waiting to unfold and her life contains many of my own hopes and dreams. The love we have for our children is like nothing else. That bond, hi, protective. You feel how much you want them to be happy and have a fulfilling life. Not going to still there. Despite the fact that she's not grief is a cruel, but powerful motivator. Since losing Martha, I have reluctantly been propelled into the world of drug policy campaigning, a frustrating world where the political disregard for scientific evidence is astounding. We've all witnessed that. And recently, during the Corbett places, when the government chooses to ignore expert advice that we know directly impacts all our futures.

So why am I campaigning for the legal control and regulation of all drugs? Well, the kind of drug laws have been in place for 50 years and they don't work every year. More and more people die due to their inadequacies inadequacies of the current laws, no substances made safer by leaving it unregulated on the black market. We knew that modern society needs a drug laws to be brought up to date and use the science and expert evidence available to us to follow new policies. Well, as he said, keep the young and bundle safe and laws that register harm to members of our society County lines and nighttime are caused by these modern day. Al Capone style took Wars Oh, due to prohibition. Prohibition has never worked. All it does is create a very lucrative black market. And there's no quality control, no health based approach, no regulatory framework, no concern for your wellbeing or your life.

That is why I want drugs to be legally controlled and regulated. No responsible period was to think of the child taking drugs, but had Martha taken ecstasy that was obtained from a regulated source that included a list of ingredients and recommended dosage. She would not have taken enough for five to 10 people in one goal. After all the difference between poison and medicine is dogs legal control and regulation. Isn't about a free flow and it certainly isn't about causing more harm. It's about responding to what's needed. The government's aim is to be just a number of people taking drugs, but you only need to look at how drugs are in our prisons to see how much of a failure that is. I believe that has success with drug policies should be measured by a reduction in the number of drug related deaths, rather than by counting the number of users.

The good news is that we've all seen a change over the past few years, as more and more NPS from across all parties have been willing to openly discuss this subject and then should it's kept on the agenda as there too to recognize high beta is that we sought this out as I think of Michael and of all the other families who are also suffering, I feel very proud to be part of the anyone's shell campaign together. We are resolute together. We are determined to do what we can to help keep this important conversation for change going and to collectively represent our loved ones who can no longer speak for themselves. I've discovered that embedded be that annoying people and then make an NP squirm. And I will continue to do that until change happens. So on behalf of my crashes, Martha, and in order to protect your loved ones, I asked you all to contact your NPS to ensure that they are actively playing their part in helping to place this problem firmly into our history books. Thank you.

DOUG McVAY: (11:13)
That was Ann Marie Coburn. She spoke recently on a panel entitled take drugs seriously. That was organized by the transformed drug policy foundation and anyone's child. You're listening to century of lies. I'm your host, Doug McVeigh. Now let's hear from another panelist. Johann Hari is the author of chasing the scream, the search for the truth about addiction.

JOHANN HARI: (11:35)
I've just been thinking about, well, I'm a Marine and sunny, and Chris was saying, how moving it? Wasn't there. There's so many moments I think on the subject, when you feel the weight of the grief of the unnecessary deaths and pain that the drug war is causing every day. And I wanted to just say about Ann Marie in particular, you know, I've been to lots of places in the research for chasing the scream. And then obviously talking about the book and in so many places, Amarie, your story has resonated with people. The amazing work that you've built around around the, around the loss of your daughter, Martha, and what you've done with that loss, obviously nothing can ever compensate for the horrific agony of what you've been through to build this extraordinary positive legacy for your daughter. I think saying you should be so proud of it.

JOHANN HARI: (12:26)
I think from, you know, off the top of my hand from New Zealand to Johannesburg, to Mexico city people talk to me about your story and how it had helped them. So you should be so proud of what you're doing. And I thought was saying, Chris said, we're really, it was really amazing as well. I'm going to order Chris's book. When we get off this call, I thought, what, well, I would talk. And it's very related to that thing that I've been thinking about. What I would talk about is the evidence about why this is so unnecessary. So a lot of people will hear the kind of things that we've been. We've all been saying, right? And they'll think, well, this is a tragedy, but drugs, addiction, drug use, this is just a tragic subject, right? And I think, you know, and there's just terrible tragedies.

JOHANN HARI: (13:05)
Cause cause people use drugs and tragedies calls cause people become addicted. And that's just a sad thing about life and things. And other people have said this so, so much better than I can. But one of things I really want to explain is that that's not the case that actually you could have all the drug use we currently have and all the addiction we currently have and far fewer deaths and far more people having good lives. And the reason I know that is because I went to the places that moved beyond the war on drugs. And I just thought, I'd talk about two of them. And they both started that change process in the year 2000. So in the year 2000 Portugal had one of the worst drug problems in the world. And 1% of the population was addicted to heroin, which is extraordinary. And every year they tried essentially the American way more.

JOHANN HARI: (13:52)
They arrested more people. They chased them around, they put them on trial, they imprisoned them. And every year the problem got worse until finally one day the prime minister and the leader of the opposition decided to do something really radical. Something nobody had done in the 70 years since the global drug war began, they said, should we like ask some scientists what the best thing to do would be? So they set up a panel of scientists and doctors led by an amazing man. I got to know them doctors. Ragula who some of you guys know as well. And I said to this panel, you guys go away, look all the best evidence, take as much time as you need go anywhere. You have to go and you come back and tell us what will genuinely solve this problem. And we've agreed in advance. We'll do whatever you recommend.

JOHANN HARI: (14:41)
So it was, the idea was to just take it out of politics. So the panel went away, they looked at loads of different things and they came back and they said, okay, here's what we're going to do. We're going to decriminalize all drugs from cannabis to crack the whole lot. But, and this is the crucial next step. We're going to take all the money we currently spend on screwing people's lives up, shaming them, arresting them, imprisoning them, punishing them, all the things that Chris was brilliantly exposing. And we're going to take all that money instead, and we're going to spend it on turning people's lives around. And interestingly, it wasn't really what we think of as drug treatment in Britain, right? So, and in most of the kind of Anglo American world. And so they do some residential rehab and that has some value, but actually the biggest thing they did was something in some ways, much simpler, they set up a big program of reconnection for people with addiction problems.

JOHANN HARI: (15:33)
So saying he used to be a mechanic, they go to a garage and they'll say, if you employ this guy for a year, we'll pay half his wages. They set up a really big program of small loans for people with addiction problems. So they could set up and run businesses about things they cared about. The goal was to say to everyone with an addiction problem in Portugal, we love you. We value you. We're on your side. We want you back. Right? Exact opposite of the message that the people that Sonny was brilliantly talking about, uh, getting right, the message that says you're nothing you're worthless. You're, you know, you're a criminal. It was T it was a big program of reconnection. And by the time I went to Portugal, um, the results were in, um, the, the best study of this is by the British journal of criminology.

JOHANN HARI: (16:22)
And the results that found were really unequivocal injecting drug use was down by 50%. Addiction was massively down. Overdose deaths were massively down. HIV transmission was massively down street. Crime was massively down. Um, Portugal went from being almost the top of the European league table for most of these problems to the very bottom, right in, in less than 15 years. And one of the ways, you know, it works so well. Is that almost nobody in Portugal wants to go back. I went and interviewed a man called wow. Fig where I'm sorry. It's anyone who speaks Portuguese. I cannot say these names better. That's how is that? Um, it's Ralphie Guerra, who was the top drug cop in Portugal at the time of the decriminalization. And at the time he said, well, lots of people, understandably, given what they've been told all their lives say, which is surely, if we decriminalize all drugs, we're going to have a, an explosion in drug use and children using drugs.

JOHANN HARI: (17:17)
It's going to be a nightmare. And Cheryl said to me, everything I said would happen. It didn't happen. And everything the other side said would happen dead. And he talks about how he felt really ashamed. That it's been so many years harassing people, punishing people, making their addiction worse when he could have been helping them turn their lives around. So that was one model that's decriminalization that deals with some of the problems. So decriminalization is it's worth defining it, decriminalization where you stop punishing drug users, but they still have to go to criminal gangs to get their drugs. And that still means a lot of promise. It's a huge step forward, obviously, but I still leaves a lot of problems cause there's still a prohibited market. Right. Which has all the problems the Amery talked about and that transform and Jane and everyone there do so much work to expose.

JOHANN HARI: (18:07)
So I want to look at what are models of legalization now, I don't think you need me to talk about cannabis legalization. I've seen that in Canada and Uruguay and Colorado and other places, but I think that's fairly well known. Let's talk about because often people go well, okay, you can sort of see that for cannabis, but what about, let's say heroin, right? And we had addiction in my family, so the same, but close to my heart. And so I went to a country, the legalized heroin. Um, so in the year, 2000 same time Portugal was having this crisis. Switzerland was having a really bad crisis. My dad's actually from Switzerland. It's why I've got this weird name. So I know it quite well, even from them. Um, so people might remember on the news at the time, you know, these images like dystopian images of parks in Switzerland, where people were like open the injecting in the neck, in public and really disturbing, chaotic scenes of really distressed and unwell people.

JOHANN HARI: (19:01)
And that would be bad for any country, but Swiss people are obsessed with order, right? It's not a coincidence. They invented clocks. So like for them, this is like the worst possible nightmare. And again, Swiss people are really right-wing right? Most Swiss relatives make Donald Trump look like Jeremy Corbyn, right? And the instincts of the people in Switzerland were very much authoritarian crackdown. So they were doing that for years, you know, punishing people more and more. And, and then I got a picture that this is one of the famous images from the, from, um, what's it called? Not girl, it's a Parker anyway, one of the parks in Zurich. And, um, it kept going on and kept going on. And then Switzerland got its first ever female president, a complete hero of mine. And when I got to know named Ruth Dreyfus and Jane loves stories, right?

JOHANN HARI: (19:49)
Everyone loves Ruth. She's my candidate for president of the world. And Ruth explained to the Swiss people. When you hear the word legalization, what you picture is anarchy and chaos. But she said, what we have now is anarchy and chaos. We have unknown criminals, selling unknown chemicals to unknown drug users, all in the dark, all filled with violence, disease and chaos legalization. She said, it's the way we're going to restore order to this chaos. So it's important to understand. And then she introduced this policy as she would say. And she always stresses very much backed by civil society from a local prostitutes to doctors, a whole big civil society coalition that was also fighting for change. And it's about to understand what legalizing heroin doesn't mean. Right? So no one, I mean, maybe there's some very hardcore libertarians, but um, virtually nobody thinks they should be like a heroin Ireland boots, right?

JOHANN HARI: (20:45)
That's not, that's not the plan. Right? So the way it works is you can't, you can't just go and openly buy it. The way it works is if you've got a heroin problem, you're offered a range of possible ways you can be helped, but one of them is you can be assigned to heroin prescribing clinics. I spent time in the one in Geneva. And, and so the way it works is you turn up, you have to go at seven o'clock in the morning because Swiss people believe in doing things insanely early. This is a constant source of disagreement between me and my dad. And, uh, you turn up, you go in and your, uh, you're given your heroin. There is medically pure heroin, not the contaminant you get from criminals. Um, and you can't take it out with you partly cause they don't want you to sell it on, but mostly cause they want to monitor you to make sure you're okay, so you shoot up there.

JOHANN HARI: (21:31)
Well, they'll help you. Um, and then you leave and you go to your job because you're given loads of help to get housing, to get work, to get therapy. And there was loads of things that were really striking to me about the Swiss clinics. First was that program has now been in place for 15 years. Does anyone I've just say anyone watching, try to guess how many people have died of heroin overdoses on legal heroin in Switzerland, since this began, Chris is indicating exactly the right number zero, not a single person, significantly more people have died of heroin overdoses in the United States. By contrast, since we started having this conversation, right? Um, no one has died in the legal program, in the illegal program. A small illegal market does persist, but it's fallen every single year. And overdose deaths have massively fallen because who wants to spend loads of money buying shitty contaminate the street heroin when you can get it for free from the government and they'll actually help you as well.

JOHANN HARI: (22:25)
But there were a few things that really surprised me about this program. And I realized that in some ways I was quite naive. So one of them was, if you're assigned to this program, they'll give you your heroine for as long as you want. They'll give you any dose you want, except for one that would kill you. And there is never any pressure to cut back. And when I learned that, I thought, well, surely everyone just stays on it for everything because we're told over the drug takes you over slaves. You can eat more and more of it. Rita manga, who's the psychiatrist. He runs the clinic. Look to me like I was stupid. She explained there's almost no. When I went in there, this is a few years ago. Now there was like, I think there were two people who were still on the program had been on there.

JOHANN HARI: (23:13)
Who've been there at the star. So almost everyone does cut back and stop using heroin on this program. And I was like, well, well how can that be? And she said to me, it was kind of obvious. Well, we help them. And as their lives get better, they don't want to be anesthetized so much. Which kind of obvious, right. Addiction is not primarily as Sonny was getting at addiction is not primarily about the drug. Addiction is primarily about the pain, your underlying pain, the opposite of addiction is connection, right? You're if you're in deep pain, if you want to understand what people seek out painkillers, you've got to understand why they're in pain. They've got to deal with that underlying pain. And one of the things I think is just to kind of wrap up on this one, things that's so important to know about Switzerland is should really give us hope is like I say, Switzerland's are really right-wing place, right?

JOHANN HARI: (24:03)
And yet Swiss people after this program had been in place for a couple of years, had a referendum on this. They have referendums on everything Switzerland, right? You can trigger one very easily. And you know, I think people thought, Oh, it's going to be overturned. Or they had a campaign. I really recommend people look up other, it's a very good observer about the book, but there's a very good for free, um, Joanne set, C S E T E that a very good report on how they won that campaign. It's just called from the mountain tops. If you Google from the mountaintop Switzerland drugs that will come up or yeah, that will come up. If you can't find it that way. Um, and 70% of Swiss people voted to keep her illegal. Not because they're so compassionate, right? I'd love to tell you it's that. That's not why rather than not.

JOHANN HARI: (24:47)
So compassionate is because it led to such a falling crime, right? For everyone street prostitution is, as Chris was getting ended, literally ended a massive falling muggings, Carfax, and it's much cheaper to help people then harass them and imprison them. Um, so Swiss parks stopped being full of the kind of images that we saw and there's been a massive fall in addiction. And the best research on this is by a guy called dr. Ambrose Oakton. Hargan who's done great work on that. And I think so. I think what that establishes is, um, two things that really important, firstly, there are alternatives that work, that work extremely well. They're not perfect. They still have problems in Portugal in Switzerland, of course, but everywhere I went where they moved beyond the drug war from Vancouver to Urgh Y to Switzerland, to Portugal, you sort of same pattern when it's initially proposed, it's seen as radical mad, wacky insane.

JOHANN HARI: (25:45)
And then people fight for it. It happens and very rapidly, it ceases to be controversial because the improvement is so significant. And so it's achievable in policy terms, it's achievable politically. If they can do it in Switzerland might go, they can do it anywhere also. And it goes back to, I think something that Chris was getting at really well as well. So with any, imagine you're a politician and it's a horrible thought, but imagine it for a second, imagine you're a politician, right? Um, you are constant. If you're a rational politician, you're constantly making a calculation. If I do acts, how much praise will I get and how much shit will I get, right? And at the moment, if you do the right thing on drug policy, the kind of thing that would have saved Martha's life that would have saved the lives of Sonny's friends that would have saved the lives of Chris's clients.

JOHANN HARI: (26:35)
Um, you'll get some price and you'll get a lot of shit, right? But that calculus, which politicians make it a moment, it can absolutely changed and it can be changed by us. And one of the ways I know that is I'm gay, right? And when I was a kid realizing I was gay when I was like nine or 10, that calculus was completely, there was a tiny benefit for standing up for the equality of gay people. And that's not one sentence, you know, I remember when the first gay kiss any standards, right? When I must have been an eight and the front page of the sun, the next day said, it's East benders right now, if the craziest UKIP counselor tweeted that they'd have to resign, right? What happened? The calculus changed because not because politicians changed their mind spontaneously and decided to be nice people.

JOHANN HARI: (27:20)
Although some of them were brave and actually people across the political spectrum were good from tiny band to Edwina Currie. Actually, I wouldn't want to agree with it, but was very good on gay issues. Some of them were brave, but what happened more was the ordinary people demanded change and made our country better. They persuaded their fellow citizens that appeal to people in a spirit of love and compassion. We did it on gay rights. Women's rights. We've done it on so many things. We can be better, right? But it will only happen if all of you sign up to support anyone's child, sign up to support, transform and build a big sustained movement. And we, and we don't give up. And every day the drug war goes on. More people like Martha dye, more people like Sonny's friends die, more people like Chris's clients die. And every person who joins the fight brings the day when we end that war closer and we save huge numbers of people's lives. So I'm really proud to stand a transform with anyone's child. And I urge all of you to, to do the same. Thanks very much.

DOUG McVAY: (28:18)
That was Johann Hari. He spoke recently on a panel entitled take drugs seriously. That was organized by the transformed drug policy foundation and anyone's child. And that's it for this week. Thank you for joining us. You've been listening to century of lies. We'll be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed war on drugs. This is Doug McVay saying so long

Speaker 8: (28:42)

DOUG McVAY: (28:44)
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, our conduct, the James J. Baker, the third Institute for public policy.

07/01/20 Sheila P Vakharia

Century of Lies
Sheila Vakharia
Drug War Facts

"Stimulants and Harm Reduction webinar. This week we hear portions of “Tweaking our Harm Reduction: A stimulants Webinar.” Participants included:
Dr. Sheila P Vakharia, Deputy Director of the Department of Research and Academic Engagement for the Drug Policy Alliance; Christine Rodriguez, a consultant in drug user health and harm reduction who recently founded Higher Ground Harm Reduction, which is focused at the intersection of harm reduction and climate change/systems disruption; Mindy Vincent, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker specializing in mental health and addiction treatment and the founder and Executive Director of the Utah Harm Reduction Coalition; and Brandie Wilson, the moderator, who is the Executive Director of the Chicago Recovery Alliance."

Audio file


JULY 1, 2020


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.

On June 29th, the Chicago Recovery Alliance hosted a webinar entitled "Tweaking Our Harm Reduction: A Stimulants Webinar."

Well, first we're going to hear an introduction and opening presentation from one of the participants. Christine Rodriguez. She's a consultant in drug user health and harm reduction who recently founded Higher Ground Harm Reduction, which is focused at the intersection of harm reduction and climate change and systems disruption. Before this, she developed a harm reduction-focused statewide capacity building initiative in Maryland.

CHRISTINE RODRIGUEZ: My name's Christine, some of my more recent stimulant related work, this year founded a small project to work on the intersection of harm reduction and climate emergency, and other sort of systems disruption. And two months after that COVID-19 hit the United States, which I completely did not anticipate before maybe, you know, January

But as part of that, I did some work on a toolkit related to COVID for harm reductionists. As a part of that, there's a piece that is specific to stimulant use. I'm going to pop the link to that in the chat box for you. And I just wanted to talk through some of these points, um, as sort of the structure of our conversation. Um, so a lot of the things that are included here, this is by no means exhaustive. If you see tips and tricks that are missing, I would love to hear from folks, I know there's extensive experience in our community.

Uh, so as a non exhaustive guide here, I'm speaking to some harm reduction considerations, particularly in the time of COVID. Um, the first thing that we wanted to raise is something that Sheila ended on talking about, right, are these drug shortages and bad cuts there that we're seeing across the country.

COVID-19, I think we weren't sure how to anticipate if and how the drug market would be disrupted, and because of all the different sort of routes and our country being so big, we've seen that, that has impacted the country in varying ways, right? So, whereas before COVID hit, we certainly saw as Monte put in the chat box, um, you know, fentanyl in the methamphetamine, particularly on the west coast, um, you know, creating a risk of opioid overdose among folks that are just not expecting to experience that are not necessarily thinking that they need Narcan for themselves.

We're also seeing the drug market disrupted different ways across the country. Anecdotally in Iowa, methamphetamine is, is essentially nonexistent anymore. Um, folks can't find it and the price of crack has skyrocketed in response. Um, we also heard in North Carolina that the fentanyl that's being sold is essentially white powder and to folks who are not, um, uh, opioid experienced, uh, looks a lot like the cocaine, right. And so really needing to expand like Sheila was talking about our conceptions of, um, how people use drugs, how stimulant use is related to opioid use, um, what overdose prevention education looks like and for whom we're giving that education.

So these are things that we really want to be talking to our participants about. They're our best source of information, our fastest source of information on how the supplies are getting disrupted, um, what might be happening out there and, um, respond accordingly.

You know, it's, it's hard when you're, um, when you're poor, when you're marginalized, the idea of stocking up on your preferred drug. Um, and if that's, um, a privilege that you have, it'd be great if you can, um, plan for those sorts of disruptions by stocking up, of course, starting low, going slow classic advice. Um, particularly when we're not sure what things are being cut with in the kind of disruption that is so widespread, that COVID is caused it's pretty unprecedented in our time, um, which leads us to overdose, right?

And over amping, um, Sheila raised this drug checking for fentanyl is going to be really important in this time and checking our stimulants, right. Or there was some great work done by harm reductionists out on the West coast. You can check basically anything for fentanyl, fentanyl test strips. Um, and I know Brandie has a lot of experience around drug checking.

And they've also found that when you're doing this with methamphetamine in particular, that the residue that you use, you're going to want to dilute it more than you would with another drug, maybe like a little half a cup instead of the couple teaspoons that you would use. Otherwise it tends to pop a false positive. And of course, if it pops a false positive, you know, there are worse outcomes.

Maybe you're a little safer with your drug than you otherwise would be because you think fentanyl is present, but it turns out fentanyl wasn't can always do more. You can't put less in your body once it's in there. Right. Um, so drug checking for fentanyl, we got a really great tip around checking your drugs for actual stimulants. So the same company that sells fentanyl test strips sells cocaine, test strips, um, and a number of others.

So if you want to check to see if your cocaine is actually cocaine, then that it's really handy tool. Um, we were told, um, by, um, a lovely man Patrick out in Salt Lake City with One Voice Recovery, um, about the, the utility of being able to test your meth with bleach, right, to make sure that if you want meth, that it is meth and you can put a tiny little shard in, in your bleach household bleach. Um, and it should start spinning around and going off like fireworks. Right.

Um, all of these strategies, I know Mindy can share a lot more about from a programmatic angle, um, we're to want to keep Naloxone handy. Right? Always, um, we just never know who we're with. What's in our drugs, what's in other folks, drugs. I just, we can't beat that drum, I think, hard enough.

Naloxone is all over my house, it's in my purse. Um, I have buttons that let people know that Naloxone is in my purse. Um, so anything we can do to stay prepared, particularly if our peers use drugs, if we use drugs ourselves, um, to prevent that overdose. Um, so over amping, um, a little more complicated, there's not the miracle drug Naloxone for over amping. We wish we had for almost everything in our, um, in our health system.

But we're gonna really want to remember, like some of the basics around staying healthy, keeping our immune system healthy, like staying hydrated, making sure we're eating food, doing our best to get some sleep, um, you know, breathing exercises, sometimes exercising. Um, if you have access to a shower sometimes getting that warm or that cool shower, whatever feels best, um, and really just, um, engaging and sort of, you know, this, uh, a lot of the ideas that we talk about around mindfulness and, um, and centering and those sorts of things.

And while it may be hard to think about in the moment, um, that's some of the planning that can go into, um, your setting, right. Drug set and setting before you use, if there are any things that you can put in place just in case, um, you do end up over amping or someone that you're with does, um, we put a little note in here around hygiene and cleanliness that's because of COVID, right?

So just another reminder to folks, to like wash your hands as much as, um, well possible or you see fit, right. Um, ideally you're washing your hands for at least 20 seconds before you're preparing your own drugs. Um, if you can't prepare your own drugs, um, you know, ideally the person who is washing their hands before and after, especially before, um, you know, especially in this time of just, um, incredible numbers of overdose, it's complicated, giving the advice to social distance, to physical distance from each other, while we know that drug use is, um, not just social, but sometimes by necessity you're with other folks. Right?

And if it's a concern that one of you has been covered exposed, if there's any way to at least stay maybe six feet apart, if you have masks that you can wear, um, these things can be incredibly important.

DOUG McVAY: That was Christine Rodriguez. She's a consultant in drug, user health and harm reduction who recently founded higher ground harm reduction. She was speaking recently in a webinar entitled "Tweaking Our Harm Reduction: A Stimulants Webinar" that was hosted by the Chicago recovery Alliance.

You're listening to Century of Lies. I'm your host, Doug McVay.

You know ever since college, I've been a social justice progressive. My interests and understandings have evolved and expanded, I appreciate nuance more, but those progressive values haven't changed really. Though, that was always focused on systems and on other people, my own behavior, I didn't really give it much thought wasn't that long ago that I started to understand that I do have issues that need to be dealt with, okay, heck there's no need to sugar coat it. I was a jerk, I am a jerk. Now I'm trying to be better, but it took me a long time to even start looking critically at myself.

And when I finally did, I didn't like what I saw. And that was back in 2012, 2013, like a year or two before I started hosting this show. I hope I've made some progress. Not real sure about that. And I'm not the one who gets to judge it. I do know that it's a continuing process. It's not some course that has a certificate. At the end. I got involved in drug policy reform as a marijuana legalized you're back in the 1980s, our movement reeked of toxic masculinity back then. And it still does.

We've gotten a little bit better, but my gosh, we have a long way to go. So here's the thing. I was a high profile drug policy reformer for a long time, I was big in the eighties. I was part of that toxic environment. I contributed to it. I am sorry. Of course apologies aren't enough. I have a lot of work left to do. Actions, not words.

I'm not a movement leader anymore, but I do have some degree of notoriety. I have a social media presence and I have a platform I want to do better, be better, and to be a good ally, and to do that I need to listen and to learn. It's a process. It's a journey and friends, however long you've been listening to century of lies with me as host. You've been on that journey along with me. In fact, we're still on that journey. So buckle up listener and let's get this show back on the road.

And by the show, of course, I mean, Century of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network on the web at I'm your host, Doug McVay editor of

We're going back to that recent webinar entitled "Tweaking Our Harm Reduction: A Stimulants Webinar." The participants included Dr. Sheila Vakharia, deputy director of the Department of Research and Academic Engagement for the Drug Policy Alliance; Christine Rodriguez, a consultant in drug, user health and harm reduction who recently founded Higher Ground Harm Reduction; Mindy Vincent, a licensed clinical social worker, specializing in mental health and addiction treatment, who's also the founder and executive director of the Utah Harm Reduction Coalition; and Brandie Wilson, the moderator, who's the executive director of the Chicago Recovery Alliance.

And we're also going to stay with the topic of toxic masculinity. It's a problem in society. No group is really immune, not the marijuana legalization movement nor the drug policy reform movement, nor the harm reduction movement. There was a Q and A at the end of the webinar, the question and the discussion were sparked by some recent news within the harm reduction community. You'll get the gist of it. I'm not taking time out of the show to go over the details cause you don't need them to follow along. You can find out all that on Twitter, go to my feed. I'm @DougMcVay. So here's that Q and A.

BRANDIE WILSON: I think Kiefer has a really important question, a comment, a conversation starter about, um, he would love to hear more about ways programs, which haven't historically served, sex workers, including stimulant using sex workers can step up in this movement - moment, moment of reckoning around sexual violence, exploitation, abandonment of sex workers by the majority of the harm reduction movement.

I have a whole lot of anger wrapped up in that currently. Um, the silence is goddamn deafening, um, and I currently am not engaged in sex work, but as someone that has had a pretty substantial history with it, I can not figure out how to compartmentalize what is not being said and what is not being done by cis male leaders in our movement.

Why are we the ones speaking where women, the ones, why are sex workers, the ones, why aren't programs, leaders, and why aren't, why don't we have to come up with the framework? Why do we have to say, if you don't call yourselves out, we're calling you out. Like, I mean, that, wasn't the rant that he asked for. Um, but it is so indicative of like the lack of value women trans and sex workers have in this goddamn movement. And if you are allies and you say you are allies, where are you? Where have you been it's days? And there have been lists for years. And these are your friends too, where are you? Why are we here by our goddamn selves? Um, anyway, uh, so

CHRISTINE RODRIGUEZ: Right. Yeah. That's right. Yeah,

BRANDIE WILSON: Someone else should probably ...

CHRISTINE RODRIGUEZ: I mean, I would, I would say that like some of it needs to start with acknowledging that there are far more sex workers in our movement than are out. Um, and far more people with sex work experience then feel comfortable sharing because of this because of knowing how vulnerable that makes you, um, to harassment and abuse and assault.

And I, you know, I think seriously, a responsibility to people engaged in sex work, um, which includes, you know, education, you know, not just, I feel like it's the same way that, um, you know, we reach out to people who sell, which are not necessarily different from people who use, but, um, we've reached out to people who sell to engage in harm reduction. Um, we have to talk about how to be a good client. Um, we have to talk about what it means to be, um, a responsible client, um, of sex workers to be a responsible man in particular, um, to women broadly.

And these things shouldn't be acceptable behavior to come into a drop in center, um, to come into a harm reduction space. There, there should be some, um, some codes of some kind of conduct, um, because it's, it's unacceptable and it's heartbreaking. And it, um, and it's been going on for so long. And I don't, I don't see it stopping. I just see a sort of baited breath hoping that it passes, um, and hoping that it stops with Devin Reaves and that it doesn't spread to others and that others are not impacted. And hopefully this will just blow over, um, the silence, uh, Brandie, um, I've, I am beyond disappointed.

BRANDIE WILSON: The other thing for me about the silence is historically a lot of these folks on these lists are white men in power. So y'all are letting a black man who is a young leader, take all the heat. Um, accountability looks like you stepping up and having faith in the community to let you grow and to apologize for potential harms. You've done. Like that's why we're here. Um, and so, maybe also consider your whiteness in all of your goddamn silence.

MINDY VINCENT: Well, here in Utah, we're so far away from everyone, I feel like, but, um, you know, I didn't know about like things that were happening elsewhere until it started coming up. And I do know though, as a female period in the world, like, I know what it's like to, you know, always, like, and I dare to use the word always, be inappropriately touched, hit on, harassed all the time.

I felt for me, like, one thing I that I have to do, like, I dismiss that behavior all the time because I'm just so used to it. I'm so used to it that I'm just like pfft, you know, cause it's just not, we're saying something every single time it happens. Right. And you know, so me as a female, I am willing to say something more often and continue to do that until I say it every single time that it's inappropriate, you know, so that people don't ever, so the men don't ever get the idea that they get to treat any of us, however they want any ever, ever, you know.

And it's funny, when I was teaching at the University of Utah, I was actually, I quit the University of Utah over this because I said that as a female in arenas of leadership in public administration, that I always have less credibility than any man.

And, uh, someone found that offensive and I don't care, um, because they have, I guarantee there's no man, including Devin Reaves, who's ever been in a meeting, embedded dressed as babe or sweetheart. I promise no one ever cut him off when he was talking over and over and over again, you know, and said, listen, babe, you know, I know you think what you're doing is this and this and that.

CHRISTINE RODRIGUEZ: Hey thanks kiddo.

MINDY VINCENT: Right. And it's like, Oh, and that's just infuriating in itself. You know? So I know I'm willing to step up and say more often and take up that space that like we've been told all of our lives to not take up because we're too much for too loud or too this, for to that. Right. And then as someone who, who runs a harm reduction organization, we do, I am a substance abuse treatment provider, like, I'm a substance abuse provider.

And that is where we serve people who are using drugs in that entire spectrum and everywhere it intersects. And that includes with our sex workers. And we hope to get the swap chapters started here. And when all this happened, I mean, most people on her probably know who Damon Harris is, Damon Harris. He's, he's been with me since day two and he's more of a feminist than I could ever be.

So I'm incredibly blessed to have this ally man at my organization. And as a friend who fights with me on all fronts, but he's so good at listening. And he's so good at leading and listening and saying, come on, let's go talk to the people we need to talk to and ask what they need for support. How do we stand be the best allies that we can be, you know?

And I think that's what everybody needs to do. We all need to, you know, just like with the Black Lives Matter Movement, you know, as a white person, I get to ask, well, how do I get to be the very most ally in the world? You know, how do I get to help? Because that's what I need to do because that's the privilege that I have. Now I’ll start going off. Sorry.

SHEILA VAKHARIA, PHD: And I think one of the things that we have to that I'm constantly reminded of is that we're more of a microcosm as a movement of the larger societal problems than we'd like to admit. And I think that there is this kind of exceptionalism that comes when you're part of a movement that has an issue or a cluster of issues or certain areas that you feel like are the, you know, the, the factors that brought you together, but that, that made you so, so aware that marginalization was a thing and that, that marginalized identity brings you all together.

And I think that in us being a microcosm of the larger world, a lot of the men in our space forget that women have always been aware and queer folks and folks with a variety of, of, of kind of nexus areas of marginalization and intersections is that we have always been aware that we don't live single issue lives.

So I think the unidimensionality of drug user identity for a lot of men is their spoiled identity or is their marginalized identity. And, you know, they've, they've done a lot of development and work around that as an issue for where their rights have been violated and where they need to move forward.

Those of us who've come in already aware that we did not live single issue lives, brought all of those with us and our spaces weren't ready for that because, um, because we have people who still, for some, for many privileged folks who live on these different, nexuses like, um, you know, that was the one issue that they did the most work in development around.

Yet, there were a variety of other issues and, you know, cause we are a transphobic movement. We are a heterosexist movement. We are, you know, there, there are so many other ways that, um, that we've become very like that. There are a lot of people in power who are still very unidimensional analysis of our issues.

I think this all brings that to light because, um, the other thing is too, and like this kind of goes into like kind of a larger critique. I think, of, of drug use, like, recovery kind of framings as well, is that, you know, those of us who don't even who pushed back against the 12 steps, I mean this idea of a rock bottom is very clear. And for a lot of folks, the rock bottom that was in their narrative was engaging in sex work or trading sex or selling sex.

And for a lot of people that narrative has spilled over into how they look at people who, who sell sex or trade sex, um, in our movement as seeing them as some people who it's a function of their survival, right? Like, you know, where do we, where do we add nuance to acknowledge that there are people in our spaces who engage in survival sex work and who, who do not identify with that as being a salient identity, you know, sex workers being a salient identity, but there are folks in our movement for whom being a sex worker is an identity.

And it has nothing to do with hitting rock bottom. It has to do with bodily autonomy, a choice that of a career or a way to make money that is flexible to their parenting responsibilities, to their disabilities, to their ability, to, to engage in meaningful work, to support themselves and their loved ones.

I think that we also have to kind of tie that in there somewhere and I still haven't fleshed out what that's about, but I do think there is this idea that that selling or trading sex has been framed as like a rock bottom indicator that we also just don't have space in our broader narrative to see sex work as work.

CHRISTINE RODRIGUEZ: It makes really clear to me that we need to develop some kind of internal accountability, healing, justice processes. Um, because we, like, in addition to all of that, Sheila, are also a movement of folks who are particularly averse to calling the police. And so when we are not, um, socialized to call authority, we're kind of, you know, quite the opposite. Um, then what what's available for us in place of formal authority, when we need some reckoning to occur, when we need someone to be held accountable for harm.

And those structures haven't been built up in parallel with our sort of the police mentality. Um, and I don't think police are the answer. Um, but something, something community-based needs to exist. And men have to be a part of that. That can't be just us, you know, talking to ourselves about it. Um, they have to buy into it and participate and hold each other accountable.

MINDY VINCENT: And it can't just be “I'm sorry.” Now, you know what I mean? Like the #MeToo movement started a couple years ago. So at very least, a couple years ago, people should've known that behavior was appropriate.

You can't take back damage that you've done to somebody. This is what I tell my kids all the time. Like you have to pay attention forward because going back and saying, I'm sorry, sometimes it's just not going to be good enough. You know? And you can't come back and say, I'm sorry, the, you know, I sexually assaulted you or I'm sorry that I harassed you and belittled you and treated you that way. And I'm taking accountability. That's that isn't enough

I guess if you didn't know that that behavior was inappropriate, you should have paid attention two years ago while you were posting all over Facebook and sharing all these things where it's about everybody else's defects, you know, because it's not okay to harm people in such a way. Like we all make mistakes and I don't think human beings should have the famous mistakes for the rest of their lives. Right?

However, there's mistakes. And then there's like a f***** up person, right? People don't get to just come forward and say, I'm taking accountability will ever be cheers and says, okay, good for you because you want some of the damage you've done. Can't be healed in the first place. Cause I'm sorry. It doesn't cut it.

CHRISTINE RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, it absolutely has to be centered survivor centered, right. Because accountability is whatever a survivor says. Accountability can be for a given offense. And I just, miss me with you all join book clubs and read about masculinity and that's accountability. That's, that's just not, if a survivor says it's not, um, that might be some good prevention for folks, learning is incredibly important and evolving is important and I believe it happens. Um, but, but we need to be able to define accountability for ourselves, for other folks.

DOUG McVAY: That was from a panel entitled, "Tweaking Our Harm Reduction: A Stimulants Webinar" that was hosted recently by the Chicago Recovery Alliance. Participants included Dr. Sheila Vakharia, Christine Rodriguez, Mindy Vincent, and Brandie Wilson.

You've been listening to Century of Lies. We're a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web of You can follow me on Twitter, I'm @Doug McVay and of course also @drugpolicyfacts.

We'll be back in a week with 30 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.

07/01/20 Doug McVay

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Doug McVay
Drug War Facts

Doug McVay who produces Century of Lies, talk about racism and the drug war. PLUS: the thoughts of Michelle Alexander, author of the New Jim Crow.

Audio file

I am Dean Becker. Your host, our goal for this program is to expose the fraud misdirection and the liars whose support for drug war empowers our terrorist enemies enriches barbarouscartels, and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent, US gangs, who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is cultural baggage.

All right, folks, I am Dean Becker. This is cultural baggage. We've got an interesting show for you this time. We're going to do a video series called, Becker's buds, Conscientious Objectors to Drug War, and the other day, me and Doug McVay who produces century of lies, uh, attempted the first one, that was a morning I was feeling particularly poorly. I looked like a hammered horse hockey, so that video is not going to air. And then secondarily, he and I are both white. We're trying to talk about racism and the drug war. So please forgive us if we overstep or miss the point so to speak. And we're going to close this out with the thoughts of Michelle Alexander, author of the New Jim Crow.

My name is Dean Becker. I call myself the Reverend most high. I run an outfit called the church of evident truth, but doing that for about 20 years, um, it is my pleasure to introduce the first guest for this, uh, um, Becker's buds, uh, video series guy. Who's been working with me now for years who has done hundreds of my, uh, well now his radio program, century of lies, uh, based up in Oregon. Now my friend, Doug Mulvanny how you doing Doug Dean. Good to see you. Good to see you. Thank you for joining us. Yes, I, I hope this is the first of many, uh, of these Becker's buds, uh, gatherings, if you will, um, got a database of many hundred approaching a thousand, uh, guests, who've been on my radio shows over the years and I'm hoping many of them will join us here to, uh, discuss the, the fallacy, the failure, the futility of this drug war. Now, Doug, you have been the editor of drug war facts for a lo these many years. Please tell the folks a bit about that endeavor.

Of course, drug war facts is a project that was started by common sense for drug policy foundation back though heavens more than 20 years ago. Um, it's in process of shifting, we're actually moving sponsorship from common sense drug policy to real reporting foundation because drug war facts facts really is a tremendous resource for any journalist out there. Anyone who's, whether you're writing a letter to the editor or researching an op ed or trying to do an a, an actual news article, um, or researching or a project at school, whatever drug war facts is terrific, direct quotes, complete citations, um, links to the original source materials, updated constantly and continuously and expanding at all, uh, in all kinds of directions. Um, it's a resource that's made available free of charge. We're a private foundation. So we just want to get information out there to try and inform the debate and try and help people, um, you know, reach good conclusions.

We think that an informed society will over time or should over time at least generate wise policies. Um, is he, it was started back in 98, uh, Paul Lewin and Kendra Zishe created the very first database and the very first, very small booklets. And then I came in in 2000, it grew and we grew and we created the blog. And I left for a time. And, uh, Jenny, Jonathan Crane and Amy Long, and, and Mary Jane Borden, uh, took over the, uh, the drug war facts for a few years. I came back in 2013, had been doing it since got it.

Now it occurs to me that we are now living in a new environment, a situation where, um, the obvious is being recognized. And by that, I mean, the fact that, uh, racism is, uh, being seen as the heart, the, the, the driving force behind much of the drug war tactics of law enforcement and the courts. And, uh, it it's, it's never been more obvious.

No, it's true. And that long history of drug war facts is partly to underscore what you're talking about is the fact have always been that we have a, just a criminally bad criminal justice policy. We have, uh, you know, it's, it's racist from one end to the other end and classes, and there are other issues within it too. Um, the facts have always been that reform is vital. The facts have always been that drug use should be decriminalized and legalized. I mean, the facts always been on our side. It's really been about getting people to, just to care, you know, and, and it's, it's, it's sad. It's, it's horribly sad that, um, that it took a murder live on film to get people caring, but that is what it takes. And it's getting that pushed right in their faces. I mean, I've been even back in eighties when I was working at NORMLl, the statistics and the data from the justice era, just, just explore was fascinating.

And again, it showed the same stuff that, that these harsh punishments don't really work. They don't really deter what deters people is the probability of actually being caught and what we've got you talk about racism, being apparent. When you look at drug use statistics, because you have so many people of color black and indigenous and people of color who are being arrested and prosecuted in so many more people who are white, who use drugs are involved in trafficking, but the problem [inaudible], the problem is much bigger than just that, because you can also look at for instance, criminal victimization. And we find that the vast majority of incidents of criminal violent victimizations in this country are committed by white people against other white people. And yet there's a higher proportion of blacks and indigenous people and other people of color in prison for those offense, if you're white, you're less likely to be arrested. You're less likely to be prosecuted. You're less likely to go to prison if you're found guilty

And less likely to spend more years behind bars.

Exactly. Exactly. It's not just with drugs. It's just more apparent when you look at drugs because we have this other use data.

Well, I would submit them that, um, because of this drug war mentality that the police carry with them, they have, uh, through the use of, uh, the legislature's, um, been given access to no knock warrants, then given access to stop and frisk by local authorities in essence, uh, and, uh, you know, three strikes, laws, and mandatory minimums and all of these things that are heaped upon the black community, um, most particularly, and, um, it, it has it's reared, its ugly head. And I dare say this carefully that the black community needs to, um, delve into this needs to, uh, use this as a means to, uh, to help make these changes occur. Your thought there, please.

Well, you know, one of the problems that in the 1980s, um, we had members of the congressional black caucus who were joining in the call for harsher penalties, Charlie Wrangle, and others were leading the charge and in the nineties Wrangle, and many others started to realize that they had been played. I mean, the, this sort of knee jerk response of, if someone's doing something you don't like then, and then punish them quickly and you have it, who's being punished and for watch and for how, and, and, um, I mean, in, in recent years, things have shifted and that's been important. Um, but it's, but yeah, I mean, it's, it's, it's, it's sorry. I was looking at a, I was trying to find a statistic that was going to be, that I think is quite interesting. You know, we have about (750) 700-4700 plus thousand people who are serving time in, um, counting, Oh, here we go.

738,400 inmates in jails around the United States. Um, last time we checked and that's a point in time, right? That's at one on one day during the year, there were that many people or actually 10 million people or 10 million people cycling through jail at any time during the year, all these people getting criminal records and you get the criminal record. And as you pointed out several times on, on cultural baggage, people get that record and it's a stigma, good luck getting a proper job, can't get licensing. And a lot of professions, even things like cosmetology. I mean, what in heaven's name are we doing? You're making it impossible for people to make a proper living, forcing them to live in the illegal economy or forcing them to accept really horrible, low wage jobs where they're treated badly, don't dare speak up or Jack, because he's going to be out on the street. If you do. It's a, it's, it's a ridiculous system and you're right. I mean, we've demonized the drug use so much all you really need to say, Oh, well they were a druggie and no one seems to care as much. You know? I mean, we still, there are still people, there are still people trying to justify what happened to George Floyd based on the criminal record he acquired while living in Harris County. I, I, on a social media, just, uh, my friends list just got one smaller today because of this.

Well, and that, that happens all too often ,that it happens to be, um, I don't know, I I've been on Facebook sharing this meme that, uh, um, people who are racist, seldom believe they are racist because it's like handed down from grandfather to father, to son. And it's just the family tradition, but that's, um, uh, and it needs exposed. It needs, uh, uncovered. Does it not?

You know, my grandfather was the, um, manager of industrial relations at a Maytag company's plant. Number one for many years after the war, they changed it to labor relations. Now we're back to being human resources. I'm not sure if that's progress in any case. He was one of the people who was charged with making sure that Maytag, um, you know, hired I, and I it's embarrassing and it hurts. And it hurts to say this. And if my cousins hear this, they're going to be upset with me for saying it out loud, but grandpa was sexist and he was racist. And he was one of the people made sure that the folks coming into Maytag companies plant number one in the forties and fifties were white folks, Protestant, maybe get a few Catholics saying, but only they're real quiet about it. And he was a, um, he was an old school Mason and he got a lot in my life that I need to make up for because of my insects.

Well, I, I, I don't know about my ancestors involvement in racism, but I do know the little town I grew up in Southern Illinois. And I don't know if I have the term, right, but it was a drive through town where blacks were not allowed to stop within city limits. Maybe if they were out of gas and they hurried, they could, they could fill up, but it was not allowed. And, um, I remember as a little kid, the, uh, the high school having a, you know, major events and, uh, the, the local, uh, Banker and mayor that would get on stage and do black face and sing Mammy.. And now all of these things that I, at the time, I didn't understand, but now I realize it was a perpetuation, even in Southern Illinois of this racist, uh, community standard, your thought, please,

I, I grew up in Iowa. We were really proud, you know, being a union state, my ancestors on both sides were in the union army, you know, so it's, um, on the one hand we have that, but yeah, I mean, Southern Illinois actually has more places like that. I was, and, you know, I mean, grandpa's ancestors may have bought on the side of the union, but it was trying to make sure that, um, and this was back in the old days when white also meant no people of Latin American ancestry, no Italians, because anybody who was, you know, Nordic and English and German is what, you know, white as an evolved thing. I mean, it's true. I mean, it has, it has changed in its definition and it's, um, and it's just, it's just everything. It's just stupid. What on earth do people think? I mean, for heaven's sake? Well, but then again, it's easy for me to say that here we are in the 21st century, right? I mean, we're, we're hopefully a little smarter, hopefully

To remind you, you are listening to cultural baggage on the drug truth network on Pacifica radio. We're speaking with mr. Doug McVay, DTN reporter. This is taken from a video that no one will ever see. Cause I look too Haggard anyway, back to our interview with Doug,

Oh, with our drug truth network, we're now producing nine radio segments per week of 450 something. I think it is per year, we're approaching our 8,003 radio programs. So, and this, our first video production of Becker's buds, the, uh, uh, conscientious objectors to the war on drugs. And I feel that, uh, the, the main thing is, you know, the truth. I know the truth about the drug where I think nearly knows a lot of the truth, but they're afraid to commit themselves their, their, their efforts, their words, their focus to actually exposing, to ending the stupidity. As you were talking about of this racist drug war, it's such an obstacle, you and I worked to help expose and motivate, um, people to, to take that step. Do we not?

Indeed we do. And you know, that's the thing I was thinking about recently, in fact, because there are, and I've seen people doing this, you know, policy experts and people who are, you know, on this, since I go, you know this, yes, but you're over, but you're underestimating the political problem. Oh, this you're making it sound so easy, but you're not, you know, the public health experts make it sound so easy to have track and trace, make it sound. You are going to have harm reduction and consent, but you're not accounting for the political difficulties. You just know. And it's like, no, keep we're not accounting, but we're not talking about the political difficulties. We're talking about what needs to be done. We're not trying to talk people into not wanting to do it. We're not trying to do you're right. It's going to be hard and it's going to be tough.

And that's why we got to bloody press on and make it happen. That's not why we decide, Oh, well, it's going to be too hard. So I guess we better just not bother. Those are the people that get on my nerves these days. It's the ones in there and they're out there, you know, smart people. Oh, you know, Oh, well obviously these systems don't work. Obviously this has to happen. But then the other shoe, of course it'll never happen because no one really cares that, that part. How many years have you been doing this since like 2000? Since the nineties?

Well, in 2098 when I was working with a New York times drug policy forum. And, and before that I was, you know, writing a screenplays and, and trying to delve deeper to find the, the heart of the problem and the deeper you dig, you just find it's evil. It's it's propaganda. It has no nexus with reality whatsoever. It's just, I call it a quasi religion,

My point is though half an hour of radio programming. You're doing each week, each week for 20 years, half an hour, a week, 50 weeks a year. Yep. Okay. Well, I'll give a, give them, give pledge drives. Rebroadcasts preempted bird for holidays, you know, but 50 to 52 half hours every single year, for that many years, you I've had the privilege of doing century of lies since about 2014. Is it so five, six years, once a week, 52 times a year, and they're learning stuff. And they're realizing that you can actually do this. You can speak out about how bad the drug war is. You don't have to worry that you're to be, um, you know, have your door knocked down and be thrown in jail doors over there. We're fine. You know, you can actually talk about legalizing. You can talk to the ledger, you can do all these things and make real progress. When I started out, I was at normal working in the 1980s when LV Noosa became the third federal marijuana patient, you know, the third person in the coal entire country to receive medical pot. And now here I am in Oregon, and this is a container that I purchased of legal marijuana at a dispensary, just a few blocks of what, just a few blocks away. You know, we did this.

Yeah, paramount. What is, is so necessary. As I mentioned earlier, is that the black community pick up this, this tool, put it to work that, uh, the it racist, there's no getting around it. It is ugly. It is continuous. And, and it plays out nearly every day on TV where some black man is, uh, being traumatized or murdered. And the heart of it is, is the mentality of the drug war, which gives license, which gives the, um, the, the police, the mentality that this is okay, cause he might have drugs or even if he doesn't, well, he probably did earlier or something, but it is always a means a, a motivator to law enforcement and, and it plays out so much more severely against the black community.

Oh, absolutely. I mean, honestly, this is the, this exchange between you and I are. It's the most that, you know, I love about your show and I love about the way that I do. I'm doing the same thing as we're trying to amplify the voices of others involved in this. We're trying to I'm I try to center my show around people affected by, by people who use drugs by people or within the community. I want those voices and those perspectives to be centered. Um, this is the most talk that I've ever done in a, uh, in a thing. I mean, you and I, we have to interview people, so we have to talk a little bit, but you know, it's, it's honestly, it's a little weird putting us because in a way we are centering ourselves right now. But, but then again, it's our, but that's because we're talking about our shows and we're talking about the future and the reality is that yeah. I mean, that's half the reason as I say that, I try and, um, bring in other perspectives and try and bring in the voices of other folks I'm needs to me the best show. The best show I do is one where you hear my voice, introducing it and closing it. And otherwise you got, otherwise, you've got people who you should be really listening to.

No, I that's so true. I, uh, well, I guess it's time to wrap it up here, but I want to say this, that our show has been diverted here in Houston to, uh, just before the prison show now on Friday nights. But, uh, you know, we get, uh, uh, shuffled around here and there, I guess like most radio programs too, but tonight my show features, uh, Roger Goodman, he's a representative up there in the state of Washington, very knowledgeable, very, intelligent man who, who is unafraid to speak of the same subject. You and I have been discussing, uh, openly boldly. And, um, you know, who's on your show tonight.

Well, this one is a, a broadcast where we were using some audio from a recent hearing. The Senate judiciary committee has been looking into police brutality. I mean, everyone on Capitol Hill right now is focused on police brutality, racist enforcement, the murder of George Floyd was a really strong trigger or a lot of things. And, um, I mean, it's not just his murder, it's the culmination of so many things. So many Briana tailored, Sandra bland, Freddie Gray. I mean, there's so much, but, um, we have been finally looking at it and, um, and having discussions. And so, uh, Vanita Gupta who we met years ago when she was still at the Washington, um, civil liberties union and working on some of their, uh, some of their projects up there. And then of course went to justice department and their sub had their civil rights division. And now she's the president and CEO of the leadership conference on civil rights.

Then you've got, um, a couple of other folks, Doug Logan jr. The Reverend Doug Logan jr. Who is a, um, really fascinating speaker. Um, and, and, you know, and I, and I appreciate that. He's got a positive message. I mean, as a, as a preaching, you kinda hope so. Right. Um, but it's, uh, it's, it's so easy to focus on the negatives and the uses and the tragedies and to leave off the, um, you know, the, what we must do art, but, um, but yeah, that's it. So we're, we're, we've been talking a lot about the racism and about the, the murder of joy Lord and the police abuses. And there's a, and there's bloody good reason, you know, because we need to, and, and again, kinda center other people. But at the same time, I also want to use the privilege that I know that I have to be able to push this stuff forward, to be able to push these ideas out there. And, um, you know, if people listening, the great leadership, we did say knowledge is like pollen, an idea, rather it's like pollen. Once it's in the air, you never know who's going to sneeze.


Well, real good. Uh, folks, once again, I've been speaking with mr. Doug McVeigh, uh, the, producer now of the, a century of lies show on the drug's truth network. You can access, 'em nearly 8,000 of our shows at, and you can access a lot of information. Doug edits and stores at, uh, drug war Thank you, Doug. Thank you. It's time to play name that drug by its side effects.

A fusion changes in breathing heartbeat or blood pressure or unusual changes in behavior agitation and irritability, worsening, depression, suicidal thoughts, leaking really large breasts, impotence, stroke, and death. Time's up the answer from Sunovion pharmaceuticals incorporated for depression.

All right. Now, as promised here's part of an interview I did with Michelle Alexander author of the New Jim Crow. Tell us about the, uh, escalation of the prison building era, uh, how this came about.

Yes, well, you know, within a relatively short period of time, we went from a prison population of about 300,000 to now nearly two and a half million in the space of just, you know, a few decades, our prison population quintupled not doubled or tripled quintupled. And this exponential increase in the size of our prison system was not due to crime rates as is so often believed. Um, and as told to us, um, frequently by politicians and media pundits, um, no, uh, rather than crime rates, the explosion of our prison population has been due largely to the drug war. Um, a war that has been waged largely, um, in poor communities of color, even though studies have now shown for decades, that people of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites people of all races and ethnicities use and sell, um, legal and illegal drugs in the United States.

But it has been primarily overwhelmingly poor people of color in the United States who have been stopped, searched, arrested, and incarcerated for drug offenses. And once you're branded a drug felon, uh, you're relegated to a permanent second class status, uh, once labeled a felon, you know, you may be denied the right to vote automatically excluded from juries, legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education and public benefits. So many of the old forms of discrimination that we supposedly left behind during the Jim Crow era are suddenly legal. Again, once you've been branded a felon and it's the drug war primarily that is responsible for the return of millions of African Americans to a permanent second class status analogous in many ways to Jim Crow.

And the thing that strikes me right between the eyes from this book is that we have walked away from our amendments. We have walked away from what was prior valid and useful law that the Supreme court and various courts have determined though. They say there is not one that in effect, there is a drug war exception to the constitution, which allows all this to unfold. Are your thoughts on that police?

Yes. Well, I devote, you know, a full chapter in the book to the shredding of the fourth amendment, um, in the drug war. Um, you know, once upon a time, it used to be the case that law enforcement officials, um, had to have reasonable suspicion, um, of criminal activity and a reasonable belief that someone was actually dangerous before they could stop them or frisk them on the street, um, on the sidewalk or, uh, stop and search their car. Um, but today, um, thanks to a series of decisions by the us Supreme court. As long as police can quote unquote, get consent from an individual, they can stop and search them for any reason or no reason at all, giving the police license to fan out into neighborhoods and stop in search just about anyone anywhere. Um, you know, consent, um, is a very easy thing to obtain. Um, if a law enforcement officer approaches you with his hand on his gun and says, may I search your bag? Will you put your hands up in the air, turn around? So I may search you and you comply, uh, that's interpreted as consent, but of course it's precisely that kind of discriminatory and arbitrary police action that led the framers of the constitution, um, to adopt the fourth amendment prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures.

I want to thank Michelle Alexander for having helped to educate me. I want to remind you that because of prohibition. You don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.

06/24/20 Lee Merritt

Century of Lies
Lee Merritt
Drug War Facts

Police Brutality and Community Relations. The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony recently on “Police Use of Force and Community Relations.” On this edition of Century of Lies we hear from some of the witnesses including S. Lee Merritt, a civil rights activist and attorney with Merritt Law Firm of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the Rev. Dr. Doug Logan, Jr., President of Grimke Seminary, Co-Director of Church in Hard Places Acts29, and Pastor for Church Planting at Remnant Church in Richmond, Virginia; and Vanita Gupta, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Plus we hear from US Senator Cory Booker, Democrat from New Jersey.

Audio file

DEAN BECKER: (00:00)
Failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, ordinance prosecutors and millions more. Now calling for decriminalization legalization. The end of prohibition, a lot of us investigate a century of lies. Hello,

DOUG McVAY: (00:19)
Come to century of lies. I'm your host. Doug McVay, the Senate judiciary committee recently held a hearing on police brutality, entitled police use of force and community relations. We're going to hear from some of the witnesses, but first here's us Senator Cory Booker Democrat from New Jersey.

CORY BOOKER: (00:35)
Uh, ms. Chairman, I think parting from my prepared remarks, just want to say, what does it say about a nation where two senators from the same state have very different wildly different experiences with law enforcement right here in these last few weeks, I've had conversations with black folks who work for the Senate. People on both sides of the aisle, who all have their shares of stories, of traumatizing experiences, of feeling like they were a one sudden move or one mistaken moment for experiencing violence. And the challenge is that this has been nothing new. Um, I think if we took the time to listen to each other, uh, we would see that we have a culture where so many parents have to teach their children to be afraid in order to be secure. I heard moving comments on the floor today about one of my colleagues who listened to their staffers, where their kids were told by their parents to keep your receipts because you'll be accused of stolen things.

CORY BOOKER: (01:38)
I know from my own experiences, having guns drawn on me being accused of stealing things. The challenge is is that this often is unfair. It is unacceptable. It is wrong, but when it explodes, like we see it where people capture on video tape, the kind of violence that you were traumatized and violence that you were going to show. I'm really grateful for Senator Harris. Who's been my partner over the last few weeks. And she and I did as was said by the ranking member, work together with a congressional black caucus leaders and ultimately chairman Adler, uh, to put together a bill called the justice and policing act act. We put it together, obviously in the wake of George Floyd, we put it in the wake of not just black men, a black woman sleeping in her home and the deaths that have brought to attention much of this in our national discourse. And indeed have brought in all 50 States, literally thousands of protests of people, of all backgrounds. I mean, all backgrounds, not just race, religion, that's, who've been calling for an end, a meaningful reform. And yet even in the days since Kamel and I put together our work with other members of this Senate, as well as people in the house, we continue to see things caught in videotape as was said before Rashard Brooks shot in the back.

CORY BOOKER: (03:10)
So we need to be very clear. What we're talking about is a nation that has two different justice systems, two different experiences with law enforcement that go all the way up to this body. If you stop and talk to the black people who work here who have very personal stories, including Senator Tim Scott's eloquent exposition on the Senate floor, The unmitigated killing of unarmed black people in America by law enforcement, not to mention the disparate treatment is something that we must do something about. We have a choice right now. Now I'm about 51 years old. And since a little bit before my birth, til now there have been so many studies, so many commissions from the Kerner commission all the way up to the 21st century task force on policing and nothing has changed.


CORY BOOKER: (04:04)
Cities from Ferguson to Minneapolis have done a lot of reforms. And as the data has shown, whether it's diversifying your police force, a lot of these things have been done before, but we still see the killing of unarmed African Americans. And so we really have a choice to make. And every day that we don't do something puts more and more of our fellow citizens in danger, not just of death, but of the kind of treatment we would never want our own family to face. We have a choice between us before us. And so this idea that there is a Republican bill and a democratic bill, we need to look beyond that for a second and simply understand that the things that are in the bill that Senator Harris and I worked on actually have wild popularity amongst Republicans.

CORY BOOKER: (04:54)
You hear Republican leaders from George bushes. First address to Congress said we should stop racially profiling Americans. That's not something radical. It's this idea that we're equal under the law from choke holes to no knock warrants, things that would have saved lives. We have failed to do in this country by making them the law of the land setting standards for practices and policing that reflect our common values. Republicans and Democrats overwhelmingly support these kinds of practices. Being banned in our country that are in our bill. They would save lives. Brianna Taylor would be alive today. Eric Garner could be alive today, but it's not just setting a standard. Accountability is having ways of measuring progress to those standards. We are a nation that doesn't even collect the data on how many people are shot by police. I ran a police department. I learned the hard way without data. There can be no accountability without measures. I played football. If not the standard has gotta be fast to be wide receiver. If you have no way of measuring that well, good as the standard Activists, local leaders, the federal gut, we all should have transparency into policing without that. No accountability. And finally, you said it yourself took note of what you said, mr. Chairman, that unless there are real consequences, when you fail to meet standards

CORY BOOKER: (06:19)
Where there's lawsuits Or federal action criminal court, there are two aspects of this bill changing a standard in the criminal courts. It's almost difficult if not a to meet the wilfulness standard, that's common sense and God qualified immunity. I could start listing and take a time. I won't all the conservative organizations from the Cato Institute, from the remarks of Clarence Thomas, that support getting rid of qualified immunity. And so I worry in this moment, I really do that. We're going to repeat history that this is the movie Groundhog day, because here we are, again, in a nightmare, not a comedy.

CORY BOOKER: (07:02)
The here we are here at talks of, again, a so-called reform packages, more studies, more nibbling around the edges, as opposed to acting boldly and doing the things that we actually know will hold police officers accountable for their conduct, which will set meaningful standards will allow us as a federal government to enforce a law. This is not an overstatement on overdrawn motivation to say that the stakes right now are high. Will we meet this moment in history and actually do something real? Or will we find ourselves back here again a year from now three years from now with mass protests in the state streets, by people of all different backgrounds, demanding change. And so mr. Chairman, the truth is I actually have faith in us as a country. I don't have faith. We're going to get there on time. And justice delayed is justice thigh.

CORY BOOKER: (07:55)
I though believe that there's going to be a time in American. When we in ban in human practices like Chouf, Colt, and religious profiling and, and no knock entries, I believe there'll be a time in America where we don't treat mental health issues with police and prison. I believe there's going to be a time in America where a black woman is safe to sleep in her own bed or a young man reaching for his cell phone. Won't get shot dead. I believe there will be a time in America when black parents like mine, don't have to fear for the safety of their child who just got their driver's license. I believe there'll be a time in America when we understand that public safety is not about simply the number of police on our streets, but about how number of people who no longer live in poverty or are safe to drink their water, or don't have to deal with addiction in prison, but can get treatment.

CORY BOOKER: (08:43)
There will be a time I know in this country, but if the arc of the moral universe is long and bends towards justice, we have to have the courage now to be the arc benders. The question is not, will we get the question is the time now how many more people have to die in our streets to get us there? How many more people have to suffer? The indignities that even our own colleagues have talked about in the United States Senate, I believe the time should be now for us to make bold change, or we will be back here. Again. These changes will happen, but they should not happen someday. This should be the day. This should be the time so that we can ensure that this nightmare ends in America.

DOUG McVAY: (09:24)
That was Senator Cory Booker speaking in the Senate judiciary committee and the opening of a hearing entitled police use of force and community relations. You're listening to century of lies. I'm your host, Doug McVeigh. Now let's hear from S Lee Merritt with Merritt law firm of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mr. Merritt is a civil rights attorney and activist,

S. LEE MERRITT: (09:44)
Senator Graham, other members of this honorable committee. We live in the deadliest police culture and most incarceration prone, please culture in the modern world. Our criminal justice and legal system is as ravenous as it is racist. Our law enforcement community racks up thousands of civilian deaths each year, tens of thousands, more brutalized injured in Maine. Millions more are arrested in jail, making the United States, the single most incarcerated nation in the entire history of the world.


S. LEE MERRITT: (10:18)
This is an American crisis, a genocide.

S. LEE MERRITT: (10:23)
This is not hyperbole, but rather a reality that demands a national response. And I want to thank this committee for taking immediate swiff and responsive action. I come before you today as a civil rights attorney, a practitioner, I am a, the legal director for the grassroots law project, and I represent families of citizens killed by police. Some of the names, you know, far too many of you have not heard. I represent the family of a Matar Berry who was murdered by a former police officer, Gregory McMichael, his son, Travis McMichael, and their neighbor, William Bryan. While I'm here to provide testimony about justice and policing and a Marbury was not killed, uh, in an officer involved shooting, it was failures in policing that directly contributed to his death and the delay of justice to his family. Neighbors initially sought help for the black jogger that frequented their neighborhood, that they considered suspicious from officer Ronald rash of the Glenn County police department. He encouraged them to pursue a course of vigilantism.

S. LEE MERRITT: (11:31)
He was aware for months that these men were actively hunting a black suspect to whom they intended to do harm. Once the deed was done, it was law enforcement that lied to Wanda Cooper Jones, a Mott's mother telling her that her son had been killed in the course of a robbery by the homeowner local DA's Jackie Johnson, George Barnhill participated in a coverup of his shooting and the gun police chief, where this crime occurred was subsequently arrested on completely separate criminal corruption allegations, along with a handful of his top officials. My story is not just tragic and unjust. It lays bare the need for every imagining of police in America and their mission in our society. I run a practice dedicated, exclusively to responding to police murders. I'm one of many attorneys that has this crisis at the root of their firm. As this nation churns out enough bodies and human rights violations to keep us all occupied for a very long time. I continue. I continue to stand for the family of George Floyd, Derek Sharvin and other officers of the Minneapolis police department held him down for eight minutes and 46 sexes under the unbearable weight of oppression. He could not breathe. And as the nation looked on and on horror, we could not breathe. Minnesota attorney general, Keith Ellis in Minnesota, Minnesota, top law enforcement official preemptively declared that this will be a case difficult to prosecute

S. LEE MERRITT: (12:57)
As hard as that is to accept given the evidence we have now seen with our own eyes. It is consistent with the American experience because of existing laws that basically give carte blanche to law enforcement to kill it will with the utterance of these three words. I'm sorry. These five words I feared for my life. Hard-fought rare prosecutions and difficult convictions have characterized the experiences of families like both from John. He was killed in his apartment complex. He's in a bowl of ice cream. Uh, his killer Amber Geiger said that she was instructed. She was trained that if she can't see the suspect's hands, shoot them. Uh, Tatiana Jefferson also gunned down in our own home. After leaving the door open to catch a cool breeze of relief from the heat of the night in Fort worth, Texas Fort worth police officer Aaron Dean crept around the back cartilage of her home. I saw her standing in the window and shot her through the bedroom. And she played video games with her nephew.

S. LEE MERRITT: (13:57)
The beautiful families that I've traveled with represent a cross section of America, disproportionately black, undeniably strong relentlessly committed to the cause of justice and policing. They include the father of a young woman named Maggie Brooks. Her father is a fire chief in Arlington, Texas. His daughter was accidentally shot by a police officer who recklessly shot at her six month old puppy, but struck Ms. Brooks instead of killing her qualified immunity has banned her family access to the court. Under the current federal laws, there will be no criminal or civil liability for this officer or his department. They include the family of Michael Dean who went out to get his six year old daughter, a birthday cake, and never made it home. I wish I could tell you what happened to Michael Dean, but the video has still not been released by the department. Although the officer has been indicted on manslaughter charges,


S. LEE MERRITT: (14:53)
This family has still not been allowed to sing. See the body or dash cam evidence of what happened to their loved one. They have been denied access to these videos by the city of temple, Texas and Belle County district attorney Henry Garza, Cameron lamb of Kansas city, Missouri was unarmed and shot in his bed in his place of business and his home. The chief of police in Kansas city, Missouri has broken with the local district attorney and refuse to submit a probable cause affidavit. In the case, making prosecution very difficult. Jamil Robeson was a hero from Chicago. He was working as a security guard at a nightclub when the nation was hobbling from one mass shooting to another, a gunman entered his club and began shooting indiscriminately at patrons, Jamil sprang into action, disarming him and he waited for police arrived to arrive when responding officer Ian Colby arrived. And when told that the suspect was being held around the corner, he quickly went to the scene and shot to Mel Roberson in his back three times, killing him. There has been no accountability in that case.

S. LEE MERRITT: (15:56)
Antwan Rose was a 17 year old unarmed when he ran from a traffic stop. If you could wrap it up, please. Thank you. Go ahead. Sorry. We're looking at the clock. It says, w I'm sorry. Am I over? Yes, sir. Just take your time. Write that up. Yes, sir. Answer on rolls was 17. When he ran from a traffic stop, the officer who killed him had just been sworn in the department that day after transferring from another jurisdiction, under concerns of racism and brutality. The question we must ask, we must be the generation answers. What are we going to do about all of this? Well, future generations, look back at this moment with the pride that we confronted our greatest evils with real courage, or will they be disappointed because we had a moment to make change possible and felt right now that answer still hangs in the balance. Thank you for your time.

DOUG McVAY: (16:49)
That was Lee Merritt with merit law firm of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mr. Merritt is a civil rights attorney and activist. He testified recently before the Senate judiciary committee at a hearing entitled police use of force and community relations. You're listening to century of lies. I'm your host, Doug McVeigh editor of drug war Let's hear now from the Reverend Dr. Doug Logan, Jr. Dr. Logan is president of Grimke seminary co-director of church in hard places, acts 29. And pastor for church planting at remnant church in Richmond, Virginia,

Chairman Graham and ranking member finds things, senators, brothers, sisters, and friends. My name is doctor Doug Logan, jr. I serve as the president of Grimke seminary and former pastor of epiphanies Camden epiphany fellowship in Camden, New Jersey. I serve now as a pastor in Richmond, Virginia at a church called remnant. I've been asked to talk about, um, um, the policing and the use of force. And I come to you today, not only as a black man, but also a Christian clergyman who worked, um, closely with, um, mayor Dana Redd, my friend in the city of Camden as, um, I don't want to use the word defund, but I'll use revamp reteam and retool the police department for more effective policing and a more effective police force in the city of Camden in 2012, 2013 and 2014. I have lived in inner city for most of my life.

Many Americans wouldn't drive through my Camden block after dark or my Patterson block and North Jersey after dark. I speak as someone who has not only observed great injustice, but also experienced them firsthand because of the color of my skin. In spite of all that. However, I speak today, not as someone who was filled with rage, but someone who was filled with hope. I am hopeful that we can recover some common ground in this country, starting with a renewed understanding of justice. I am, I must, it must be a vision of justice and equitable treatment of all people who are worthy of dignity, respect, and fairness, having been created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. And it must be a vision of justice built on a commitment of all people and their government to do onto others. As you would have them do onto you.

Anything less than this will not provide us with the common ground needed to strive for justice and more than name only yet. I am significantly hopeful. I'm a preacher. So I got three points. I pray that we would listen. I pray that we would learn. And then I pray out the listening, learning. We would legislate, uh, pray that we would listen to the cries, the shouts, the screams of black and Brown people, and many white people that are screaming on the streets for a new day and a new way and real justice and policies to be put in place. I am hopeful that we can create connect, reconnect such a vision of justice to our shared dream for society that promises Liberty and justice for all, it is clear from the cries in the streets that many of our nation's citizens do not feel they have equal access to these realities in view of America's long history of racial injustice.

That seems undoubtedly true. As a man who has grown up under the difficult circumstances of inner city America, I lived among what some would call the urban poor. I have been taught that racism is one of the many problems facing impoverished minority communities and anyone who blames everything just on racism past the present has failed to consider the complexities of those realities and frailties of the human soul. Yet I am hopeful. I am hopeful that we can restore the proper view of the police in our society. And those who have been entrusted by and thus will be held accountable to God, the government and the people. There's an entrusted sewage ship, which comes with responsibility and greater accountability since they are permitted to use force to secure order and to keep the peace yet without molesting or denying justice in the process, the police force is a necessary public servant to uphold justice in the midst of societal injustices and should be an agent of holding the good for all people towards this end, let us consider the best statistical data, wherever it is available to fairly evaluate the rates of police misconduct against minorities.

But let us also listen to the stories of the people from the minority communities who also, who almost invariably reports, statistically unquantifiable instances, and bias. Simply put the facts on the block. Aren't often recorded in any data, the cries of grandma, grandpa, and my friends and my cousins that we talk about in a barber shop often don't make it to statistical data we can do so we've listened. We learned now I pray that after listening and learning, then we'll legislate. We'll listen to the cried, listen to the pain, listen to the problems and legislative. We listened to the people in learn from our cities. I believe we can have comprehensive improvements. I pray for the day for my three biracial sons and my Puerto Rican grandkids that as I was given the talk and told to hold the wheel, right, and do whatever you have to do to get home. My father told me, do whatever you have to do to get on the best time to argue with a cop who was mistreating you is w is a mile down the road while you're alive. So I pray that the talk I'll have with my grandkids and great grandkids, won't be how to survive racist police, but it'll be the talk about in 2020 during a virus and riots that my country, the one I love came up with wise and radical laws that made them safer. Thank you.

DOUG McVAY: (22:59)
That was the Reverend dr. Doug Logan, jr. President of Grimke seminary and co-director of church in hard places acts 29. Now here's Vanita Gupta, president and chief executive officer of the leadership conference on civil and human rights.

Well, the recent murders of Ray shard, Brooks, Rihanna, Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of police officers have once again, put the issue of police brutality in the national spotlight, the outpouring of pain and anger is anything but a reaction to isolated incidents or the misconduct of a few bad apples. Instead, the outcry is a response to the long history of violence with impunity toward black people in our nation. And as law enforcement leaders themselves have acknowledged from early slave patrols to the modern day, criminalization of people of color policing has involved the unjust enforcement of unjust laws and help maintain structural racism in too many communities in this country. We are now at a turning point and there really is no return to normal. We have to create a new way forward. One that truly transforms policing and leads to more accountability for communities.

It is imperative that we get this right, and that Congress's response in this moment appropriately reflects and acknowledges the important work of black lives matter. And the movement for black lives that has brought us to where we are today. My tenure as head of the justice department, civil rights division began just two months after 18 year old, Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri by a police officer. And the justice department was hardly perfect, but we understood our mandate, which was to promote accountability and constitutional policing in order to build community trust. During the Obama administration, we opened 25 patterns or practice investigations to help realize greater structural and community center change often at the request of police chiefs and mayors from around the country. And after making findings, we negotiated consent decrees with extensive stakeholder engagement, to overhaul, unlawful policing practices and develop sustainable mechanisms for accountability police departments around the country studied these consent decrees.

They study president Obama's 21st century policing task force report to advance best practices. That is not the justice department that we have today under both attorneys, general, Jeff sessions and bill BARR. The department has abdicated its responsibility and abandoned the use of tools like pattern, practice investigations, and consent decrees, the disruption of crucial work of the civil rights division and throughout the department of justice to bring forth accountability and transparency in policing is deeply concerning in the absence of federal leadership, the leadership conference education fund launched the new era of public safety initiative with a comprehensive guide to support local communities on police reform and building community police trust. While a lot of these changes have to happen at the state local level, success is going to require leadership support and commitment of the federal government, including Congress on June 1st, the leadership conference, and more than 450 civil rights organizations sent a letter to Congress offering critical recommendations to move us forward on the path to true accountability.

They included creating a national standard on the use of force prohibiting racial profiling and requiring robust data collection banning the use of choke holds and other maneuvers that cut off blood and oxygen ending the militarization of policing prohibiting the use of no knock warrants, especially in drug cases, strengthening federal accountability systems and increasing the justice department's authority to prosecute under the color of law, creating a national and police misconduct registry and ending qualified immunity. These comprehensive measures are reflected in the justice and policing act. They are necessary for police accountability proposals for data collection, commissions, body cameras. These are insufficient responses to meet the moment that we find ourselves in and more people will die. Where we have seen these kinds of nibbling at the edges policies implemented. We continue to grapple with police officers killing African-Americans with impunity police accountability, and the framework that our coalition outlined must be the cornerstone of any meaningful first steps towards transformation.

Ultimately, however, this moment of reckoning really requires more than tinkering at the edges. It requires leaders together with communities from both parties to envision a new paradigm of public safety. That means not just changing policing practices and culture, but ultimately shrinking the footprint of the criminal legal system, including police and black and Brown people's lives. And it means shifting our approach to public safety away from exclusive investments in criminalization and policing toward investments in economic opportunity, health education, and other public benefits. I have heard police chiefs, police officers, bipartisan elected leaders and communities that have all been giving voice to these issues. This approach not only furthers equity, but also constitutes effective policy. When we finally stop using criminal justice policy as social policy, we will make communities safer and prosperous George Floyd's death has impacted the world, and now it is on us to change it.

DOUG McVAY: (28:22)
That was Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the leadership conference on civil and human rights testifying before the Senate judiciary committee at a recent hearing, entitled police use of force and community relations. And that's it for this week. Thank you for joining us. You have been listening to century of lies for the drug truth network. This is Doug McVay saying so long, so long for the drug truth network. This is Doug McVeigh asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition. The century of lies, drug truth network programs, our conduct, the James J. Baker, the third Institute for public policy.

06/10/20 Tony Duffin

Century of Lies
Tony Duffin
Drug War Facts

Outreach work and COVID-19. Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network recently brought together a panel of experts to share insights on recent developments in their harm reduction practices, the challenges experienced by their communities, and the impact of COVID19 on operations. We’ll hear from Jane Mounteney, Head of the Public Health Unit at the European Union’s drugs agency, the European Monitoring Center on Drugs and Drug Addiction; Sara Woods, Policy Officer at the Mainline Foundation; and Tony Duffin, CEO of the Ana Liffey Drug Project in Dublin.

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DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges cops wardens prosecutors and millions more now calling for decriminalization and 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 June 26th is a support don't punish Global day of action events and activities related to support don't punish willl go on all around the globe will hear about this year's Global day of action later in the show. But first on June 3rd correlation European harm reduction Network held a webinar entitled Outreach work during the covid-19 epidemic exchange of experiences and paths forward; a panel of experts shared insights on recent developments in their harm reduction practices on the challenges experienced by their communities and on the impact of covid-19 on operations. We're going to hear from some of the participants.

Jane Mountainy PhD is head of the public health unit at the European monitoring Centre for drugs and drug addiction.

JANE MOUNTAINY: I would like to just do two things one is just very briefly highlight the few of the resources and activities that people may be interested in and and II just to share of top-level results from a very recent study and and hopefully the bits that will be interesting for people here from Outreach background. So first of all, all the EMCDDA has set up some information is also is we've got a hub which is covid and drugs-related where we've put examples mainly of guidelines procedures health-related information that have come in from a range of countries so that everybody can access download, not have to reinvent everything from from scratch. So if you're looking to develop some, you know service level procedures or what have you.

The website resource, you may find some things in your language. Hopefully that's interesting. The second thing we've done a bit like this initiative is we've set up a series of webinars on key topics that we've had two so far one on services and one more General how people people's first responses and they're open to everybody. The next one is tomorrow and it's on prevention and impact of covid and then there will be one on the 17th, which Will be covid use and harms and will be won on the first of July which is on darknet markets. So again, you can check on our website. Everybody's welcome. It will be great. I have got an ice cream van that's just come down the street. So I might have some background music just to I'm not sure there's anything I can do about that. So just that just enjoy my voice floating over the, okay the second the second topic is just to share some results of a very recent study.

We have done what we call a trend spotter study, which is a quick rapid assessment methodology where we bring together all the data we can including expert opinion and we try and get the voices of front-line Professionals in there to try and understand a topic rapidly. We looked at Services. What's the impact of covid on Health Services both harm reduction and drug treatment. That's what I'd just like to share one or two of our findings before you go ahead. And what I realize is this is really fresh data, and it's from April, but it's out of date already and I think that's what's really interesting is if I was doing a focus group with people here today.

JANE MOUNTAINY: Would be asking questions. How is it now coming out of lockdown where I think what we picked up is people going into lockdown and containment measures. So I think we need to bear that in mind things are moving so quickly that it a questions need to change. Not not not just the answers and we are needing to look for the new methods to pick things up. So this is from this report came out last month. We based it on three online surveys a web survey with people who use drugs and we're got a good response yet about 11,000 people responding and we did some online facilitated groups with experts top-level. What did we find? I mean, there's no no big groundbreaking findings to say that as with all couples trip services. We saw a big drop in the provision availability of treatment and on this harm reduction provision across Europe in general. So we saw closures and reduced availability.

In all countries or in all areas of harm reduction drop-ins needle and syringe provision drug consumption rooms shelters and Outreach say so drops closures reduction in availability reported across the board some Services as you well know stayed open sometimes against the odds. And for those that were still running essentially everyone was reporting we have to very quickly put in into place new hygiene measures.

JANE MOUNTAINY: And new social distance measures. Those were the two big immediate changes that that Services were reporting. The other one was and I think again like us all there's an increase in the use of new technologies so drug services on reduction Services. We're getting the same kind of challenges we did are specifically and I'll just highlight one or two of the challenges that came up from respondents. So particularly at the start of the crisis and containment was accessing materials particularly protective equipment the issue of educating clients about the risks was repeatedly mentioned and particularly for some groups. There were there were issues around it was hard to to get the social distancing messages across that was a report and working with more or the particularly marginalized client groups and services were moving into prep slightly different areas to those.

They've been folks on or more basic hygiene food housing issues came to the fore and so they were working in those areas more than before managing infected clients covid. This was rare. Not many services were reporting a high level of infected clients with covid but but somewhere and they're the issues were more around quarantine and how to implement those sorts of measures Staffing shortages across the board was a problem for different reasons.

Sometimes it was around rotors and changes in the actual shifts some sometimes it was about quarantine and people having to be quarantined for two weeks, Child Care issues that many when kids out of school, but also in some services staff were moved and taken out and put into two other provision.

JANE MOUNTAINY: Enrolling new clients was an issue particularly with some of the drug treatment services and particularly where they needed a face-to-face contact at the start that was became more challenging and broadly managing demand for substitution treatment. Sometimes it was that there was increased demand services are closed. The ones remaining had struggle supplied medicines was also an issue for a few countries.

Just briefly then service demand, but I just looking here at the harm reduction issues that came up where unlike treatment harm reduction Services were more likely to have no change in the demand or actually increase whereas treatment it tended to be a drop, new requests was one of the issues and these were often around things like types of requests so that whereas before it more client where he was about Food hygiene.

Maybe income so pulled where people no longer had their tourists and sources of income. For example, sometimes it was two new types of services. So the service was demand was around low threshold OST. For example, there were some examples of new clients. So in some areas more drug-using sex workers were coming to Services people coming out of prisons and using services. So the worst time new clients completely new and some new needs one of the things

that's come up a few times is around client struggling with alcohol and benzos, but benzodiazepine issues and people working around support for anxiety Etc. So some slight differences reported their services adapting. I mean and I think this was a big finding how quickly the services that stayed alive adapted and their flexibility and there was more generally and moved from face-to-face to more online services from center-based often to try to avoid Gatherings to arrange a flexible options home deliveries of equipment and medications postal deliveries. Some self-service spots were set up in some countries where people could help themselves and more takeaways generally say just to summarize for those Services they'd open that our what else that you showed.

There was a fairly impressive response to be honest, and there were quite a lot of positives recorded. We were perhaps surprised initially a how many how many people are fairly positive in terms of what had happened how they've been able to innovate and adapt and particularly about the new low threshold services that were we're coming up as a response also policies around solidarity with clients into responding to the pandemic situation the stars and clients working together negatives clearly the closures and concerns about reopening and plans for reopening there were Concerns around the delays in HIV and hepatitis hepatitis C being flagged and also disruption in treatment of infectious diseases issues around drug-related deaths and certainly delays in confirmation their autopsies taking place. So a loss of the flow and our understanding in terms of Overdose deaths what's actually happening and I think the other thing was about does there were some concerns around unintended consequences and that the fact that

Are unknown so some people were a little bit concerned about the unsupervised access to OST concerns about overdoses, but we didn't have the information one way or another yet to know into the future last Point here into the future. We ask people, you know, what were their thoughts at this stage and many sort of window of opportunity and said while it been hard and within many problems there were this was perhaps for services window of opportunity.

Particularly in terms of new service models and hold on to the things that were positive and that we seem to be an improvement and also particularly in terms of new technologies and how can they continue to use the new technologies in their work and the telemedicine an ehealth that was a sort of Rapid tour of our first round round of findings. There's a report anybody that would like to know a little bit more you can find on our website and we're deep in the second wave now which is on harms and use just to say they'll be a report that we're writing at the moment that will hopefully come out in a couple of weeks on specifically looking at covid an impact on drug use and drug related harms. That's where we are now. Thank you for the opportunity.

DOUG MCVAY: That was dr. Jane Mountainy head of the public health unit at the European Union's drug agency the European monitoring Centre on drugs and drug addiction. She was speaking on a webinar organized recently by correlation European harm reduction Network on the Active Outreach work during covid-19. You're listening to Century of lies. I'm your host Doug McVay. Now. Let's hear from Sara Woods. She's a policy officer at the mainline foundation in Amsterdam.

SARA WOODS: Oh, I'll try to summarize non Outreach work as briefly as possible in the Netherlands. We haven't we have looked at the changes in the drug market and we haven't heard any consistent big changes in the drug Market as in availability or quality or price changes, so

Some say gets harder to some say it doesn't some say it's more expensive some say more cheaply. So there's no consistent changes in that and as for treatment and accessibility a lot has listening to all your other stories. We've had a very consequent a consistent availability of everything of course things have changed and I'll elaborate on that a little bit, Our heroin maintenance treatment, which we have in the country has continued OSD has continued and many have as others have mentioned as well have now received it as a take home. So they get it for the week whereas they wouldn't beforehand which which some appreciate but others. I think it was Portugal that mentioned that some were really Keen to get their supplies for a week. But now yeah, what you do see is that the contact is ready missed and that is I think a major thing that we seeing for ourselves for our own Outreach work.

But also what we've heard from Outreach workers all throughout the country that that has been a big challenge Morrow said it as well, you know, we need that physical contact that face-to-face With people you can call people but some people you can't reach over the phone and some conversations, You can't have over the phone. It's very, you know, you get these very short emergency conversations you can have but it's hard to really connect with people and it's hard to really see how people are doing that.

We've heard that from several Outreach workers throughout the country and I think it's a good practice worth mentioning that for this reason there are quite a lot of Outreach workers that started or even never stopped seeing several of their clients face-to-face all throughout the situation and it was something that we heard more and more especially in may we heard more and more Outreach workers picking that up again that they really made an effort, you know, just see people in front of, you know, go to their house and just meet them outside their house go for a walk with them. I heard a Beautiful story of a person a client who had found a plexiglass screen in the trash and had it installed it himself in his house so that he can have could have face-to-face contact with people. So so that was I think a very important change and also a major change in our work at Mainline. We the past few months together, With the trimble's Institute, which is a major drug Research Institute in the Netherlands and the MDX a which is the drug user Union. We combine our forces these past months and we did a lot of over the phone it it's signaling among perform reduction professionals, but also among the community we have several. We call them our drug Scouts. We have several Scouts throughout the country and over the phone. We asked professionals working with the with the community but also the community themselves.

SARA WOODS: What is it that you see? What do you see on the drug Market? What problems do you encounter? What what? How is your work what challenges are there? But also what are your best practice successes or what's working? Well, so that forced us to shift, but we're also not an you know, we're not a primary care provider we said but we shifted a lot to more signaling and

And reporting to to other professionals but also to the Ministry of Health, so we turn more towards that role the past two months rather than drug education and referral and some good practices while the one that I mentioned is that people really made an effort to do face-to-face contact. I think there's a good practice and not necessarily Outreach for good practice. I think is those who have Made an effort to continue the work the work programs. It has been a major impact on people's lives that the work programs were discontinued for income reasons, but also for daily structures and and life. So we've heard some very good situations all throughout the country where people continued to pay or organizations continue to pay even when work was

No, not possible. But also where they started cleaning the streets and and making it possible to get income through that then let's see now. My neighbor starts fixing his house. I hope you don't hear this then we as for drug education and support. Like I said we did most of it, over the phone in the costumes, but now since this month were doing more Outreach work again. So we're going to other other cities and seeing people face-to-face, of course, all Corona proved keeping distance and those those things and we've also for the we also do Outreach for men who have sex with men and who do chem sex. And for this group we have we now offer an online support group rather than in our office and it's well, it's quite well attended and we also see a bit more men coming to our chat and so coming to the chat and asking for advice there.

SARA WOODS: We're so there we see that the digitalization is having effect and making online services more interesting for people use drugs as well.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Sara Woods policy officer at the mainline Foundation. She was speaking on a webinar organized recently by correlation European harm reduction Network on the subject of Outreach work during covid-19. You're listening to Century of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay. Now, here's Tony Delfin CEO of the Ana Liffey drug project in Dublin.

TONY DELFIN: It's important to me to view to go to understand that that this is kind of a micro activities like a microcosm of what happened. We aren't the only service that bonded just want to acknowledge some of their services in the moment, but I guess drawing covid-19 crisis as it was in from March onwards the leadership from the state actually was very very good from the HCE at Health Centers executive in Dublin in the north city and county three Health office and in the midwest in Limerick, and it's really healthy State. I can say that the state agency really responded well and gave us leadership in terms of partnership.

We worked with Excuse me. We work with Community, Kumite Therapeutic Community things to diction support team. Sankalpa DePaul Islands, Chrysalis, Midwest Simon Novus and it's important to me for you to understand that we worked in partnership with higher threshold Services as well as harm reduction services, and of course it took a lot for the team at Ana Liffey to respond and Take the team of fantastic and we stayed out on Outreach from throughout from the beginning.

We stayed and we worked in the streets and I'll talk a bit more about that in a moment. But the first question I was asked was which covid-19 regulations are currently in place place in our city. I'll talk about something at the moment. But but this was a Cross Island and from mid-march, we regulations were brought in and we work, gradually slowly brought into lockdown and they've stayed in place until around the 18th of May when they became to be reopened the economy and will have more easing of restrictions next week. In terms of our client group. We were asked to suppose we already worked with that 80% of the people we worked with the homeless and our Focus turns to the homeless population in Dublin and and in the Midwest Liberty and we couldn't keep our services fixed Site Services open because we simply couldn't guarantee people's safety.

TONY DELFIN: So we moved out into Outreach. We already did Outreach Services Outreach has always been very important to us. But we slowly went on to our beach and one of the things that we noticed early on was that I had the people we were serving really didn't understand. What was what was happening whilst there was quite significant information going around for the wider population iconic group really didn't understand why were people wearing masks? Why would a shot shot? Why would a services that they normally go to closed?

So we spend a lot of time explaining to them what was going on and and what access then help them to Access housing and to access treatment, but I think I think the state's response of quite significant response of providing housing. people in terms of cooling units, under Services isolation units for people who are homeless was phenomenal in the early days of we were a job was to reach out to people do needle exchange get people that the equipment they needed but then also to help the meadow the conditions the doctors and nurses to assess people who were over the fun while we were in the street and assess the people who had Two symptoms of covid-19 and if they doctor said earlier said listen, we need to get them to an isolation unit.

TONY DELFIN: We've arranged for them to get their older bring their ourselves. So we recognized very early on that actually the public health response to covid one priority and that descriptors to stop the spread of it and actually harm reduction was now secondary to the public health response, but obviously those two things work well together. So how we did that we we obviously maintain social distancing in Ireland. We are asked to keep two meters apart. We've maintained hand-washing, cough etiquette and the appropriate use of PPE. So we didn't wear masks Etc. If someone had symptoms, we asked them to wear PPE and that was effective in terms of our outreach work we were able to- well nobody within the team contracted covid-19. I'm pleased to say so so that that was that was what we were at now. I suppose I go back to what Jane was saying at the very beginning. Now, we've had to adapt further. We as the economy opens up and services begin to to come back online. We are now providing Addiction Services on Outreach and in reach into the accommodation service because very few people are actually on at the Moment in Dublin and limited so we are really supporting people in the environment. They are so we're gonna be doing addiction Works harm reduction work things like Community detox as Asian relapse prevention those kind of pieces with people who are housed. So that's what we're working with the HSE Health Service executive now and I guess how did the next question was. How about the services adapt to these regulations were as I said response to lockdown means that people we work with are housed.

There was a really good outcome in terms of methadone on the streets for people who are homeless and people who need who are overextended and we went from a 12-week wait for methadone treatment to a two to three-day wait to get people on to methadone and as I've already mentioned that the work we did around assessments of symptoms.

TONY DELFIN: Then yet there was just it was just a great as I say great piece of work in terms of the joint work. We did with the existing Services who also had to adapt and redeploy their their teams. And then how does the impact of the situation of people who use drugs and other marginalized groups like homeless people or so delivery harm reduction services on that these places were an essential part of the public health response during the early days of the crisis and continue to be so and while has would adapt the delivery of services on that which basis will continue to be important. So I think what I'm saying is is that it was essential that Outreach Services State functional that harm reduction was available and low threshold Services were adaptable to get people into housing into treatment into drug treatment and into treatment for covid-19. So I will leave it at that. Is that okay?

HOST OF WEBINAR: That's okay, and it was very very good overview. I think was used did you say that methadone was easier accessible for people in the waiting lists shorter waiting times 2 to get in your room.

TONY DELFIN: Yes. So we had a 12-week waiting list prior to covid-19 and after covid-19 at the very beginning the or Internet so general practitioners and Clinics have caps as to how many patients they could have without those caps were with lifted and more people get on to methadone, which is great and we hope we hope that we will maintain that we on there and we certainly at the beginning. I think we worked obviously within within the perspective of what was possible, but I think during covid-19 at the beginning there was a real sense that you know do something don't be like the best video enemy of the good, you know, you're going to make mistakes but do something and yeah, we were allowed to take risks and we were allowed to to to get it to work differently.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Tony Delfin CEO of the Ana Levi drug project in Dublin. He was speaking on a webinar organized recently by correlation European harm reduction Network on the subject of Outreach work during covid-19.

And that's it for this week. Thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies where production of the drug truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation radio network on the web at I'm your host Doug McVay editor of

We'll be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform in the failed War on Drugs 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.

05/27/20 Tony Duffin

Century of Lies
Tony Duffin
Drug War Facts

This week on Century of Lies: the impact of COVID-19 on the provision of services to people who use drugs. This week on Century: How COVID-19 is shaping the future of drug services in Europe, featuring: Tony Duffin, CEO of the Ana Liffey Drug Project in Dublin, Ireland; Mat Southwell, a Partner at CoAct Expertise in Drug Use and HIV, located in Bath, England, and a Project Manager with the European Network of People Who Use Drugs; and Phaedon Kaloterakis, President of the European Federation of Therapeutic Communities.

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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 A Century Of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello and welcome to Century of lies. I'm your host Doug McVay editor of the European monitoring Centre on drugs and drug addiction is holding a series of webinars on drug policy.

Drug use harm reduction and treatment in the context of the covid-19 pandemic. We're going to hear some audio from one of those today the most recent webinar in the series entitled. How is covid-19 shaping the future of drug services in Europe.First, Let's hear from Matt South. Well, he's a partner at coact expertise in drug use and HIV, which is located in bath England. He also provides technical support to bridge Hope Health Organization and he's a project manager with the European network of people who use drugs.

MATT SOUTH: Thank you very much for to me to contribute to this webinar and Alexis. Thank you. Thank you for your public commitment to the meaningful involvement of people who use drugs. So this box represents for me the secondary needle and syringe program that we're running in my hometown of the bath. My normal engagement is to the other half of my work is to be a technical advisor supporting International Development on drugs and HIV and clearly that has closed down in the in the covid lockdown so and as drug Services withdrew to protect staff from delivering face-to-face Services. We scaled up our local peer-to-peer delivery of needle and syringe programs peer-to-peer naloxone distribution, and also then spreading messages around the new challenges around covid around trying to set up in our own.

We laid user base Supply or supplier based needle and syringe programs introducing hand-washing and trying to encourage people to adopt safer practices particularly looking at sustaining harm reduction around HIV and hepatitis and managing continued threats of opioid overdose. We had a spike of cannabis cocaine injecting during this period and that was the one of the underlying causes of the

Glasgow HIV epidemic and know we're clear that the numbers of needles and syringes been given out during that period we weathered that storm because we had three or four peer-based secondary needle and syringe programs giving out needles and syringes often alongside the sale of drugs to actually make sure that we didn't lose contact with the most vulnerable drug users during the during the lockdown.

We've also been playing a key role in terms of mediating as drug use groups to get our peers into OST services in my own town. We have 10 new people into Services partly because people feel that they are one they were very fearful and therefore entering OST was a protective engagement. But also the fact that treatment is not more liberal that we are getting weekly take homes at the was fast access to services and services weren't overly dominating and paternalistic and requiring people to engage in Daily supervise the distribution new people came forward because of that liberal liberalized approach and I think as we look to the future, I think we really need to ask questions about why it took a pandemic to introduce what we know is good practice around treatment. Notably. The version is almost non-existent all of our reports from all the drug user groups around Europe is that it's much much harder to secure Street methadone at this point in time.

So really, I think we were all looking to see what would happen when the majority of people were getting weekly take homes. And I think it's really positive evidence that know when people saw the value in their methadone and saw the protective function that that could promote could play if they were caught in a lockdown. Oh people responded by looking after that medication and using it in a really constructive and important way. So I think with the what one thing that's really missing in this picture is the issue of crack pipes. We've had a lot of frustration in the UK. We lobbied Public Health England to promote access to crack pipe distribution arguing that with the respiratory disease. It was critical that we promote crack pipe distribution.

MATT SOUTH:Unfortunately our home home office and said no on the grounds that it would be akin to drug liberalization make doctor Magdalena Harris is publishing a paper in the International Journal of drug policy setting out the case for crack pipe distribution and reminding us the early harm reduction in the Basin was offered achieved through Civil Disobedience and no watch this space So, yeah, so it's been an interesting time with really used Community mobilization across Europe and many of our different groups. I'm reflecting on my experience in bath, but it mirrors the work of drug user groups across Europe playing pivotal roles in helping to keep harm reduction from others.

At ease and to keep drug users engaged notes during these very difficult times.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Matt South. Well, he's a project manager with the European network of people who use drugs. He was speaking at a webinar entitled. How is covid-19 shaping the future of drug services in Europe that was hosted recently by the European monitoring Centre on drugs and drug addiction. You're listening to Century of lies. I'm your host Doug McVay.

Let's hear more from that emcde a webinar participants were asked if they had known back at the Of 2020 what we know now about the covid-19 pandemic what if anything would they have done starting on January 1st with that for knowledge in order to be prepared? Here's Phaedon Kaloterakis president of the European Federation of therapeutic communities,

PHAEDON KALOTERAKIS: the preparedness of any any intervention any treatment approach also has to do I think with the government's preparedness in some ways for Example we increase in our circuit communities with it not so far. We don't have any case of coronavirus infection and in any case but talking with colleagues in Spain or Italy they do have in their programs people who are affected. So because here the government was very quick to react to the coronavirus. I think that really helped us.

But at the same time I would like to make three points which sound more and they probably are more General, but to me, they're also very very important. The first point is that we do need a stronger voice for the most vulnerable groups of people who use drugs for example, the refugees people who are incarcerated mothers who have children just to mention a few examples and I'm talking now about the treatment programs and talking. I'm not talking about advocacy organizations and talking about treatment programs and we should be more political and I, I use this use of the term political in the Aristotelian sense.

Not not about partisan politics. I'm talking about a citizens who take a stand. I mean we do and we work against stigma, etc, etc. But we need that more because when a crisis like the coronavirus comes along then the ones who are more vulnerable than others really suffer. So we have to be prepared.

PHAEDON KALOTERAKIS: We have to do this beforehand, for example with the refugees that we have in Greece and we have many refugees as you as you might know because we were not prepared as treatment programs. Now, there is a problem and we're coming were running after it. Okay, so I think we need we need politically to take a stand as even as treatment programs.

Even if we are not advocacy as I said organizations, so that's one thing that I would have done differently if I had to go back to January. Now. The other thing is that we need he has he has a two-fold aspect. There is a two-fold purpose in this. I mean the one we have to put more specialized emphasis on personal health and personal hygiene. I mean, okay, but the second aspect is also political.

We have to push for for the treatment programs to become an integral part of any National Health System.

Because when as I mentioned before a crisis like a coronavirus and then it comes then we can see the big holes in the system and the holes in the health system have oh also to do again with the most vulnerable even a health matters because we focus on drug use, but we should also focus on personal health and personal Legend and we have that we have to

PHAEDON KALOTERAKIS: Leaves the policymakers that what we do should be an integral part of our national health system.

And the third one? Okay, it's quite obvious and everybody or you know, most people really realize that we can do we could have a more effective use of the internet. Okay. It is too generic. I realize that but for us, I mean you cannot substitute physical presence when it comes to treatment and therapy.

EFTC PRESIDENT: And especially when we're talking about the psychosocial approach you cannot you cannot do that that effectively online you cannot substitute if you can but up to a point, but again, we can do things on our own more or managerial level meetings and different managerial tasks. They can be done now more effectively online and we realized this and this will bring many changes in also.

PHAEDON KALOTERAKIS: It would be good for our budgets. For example, we don't have to travel too much to meetings anymore. So these are the three things that I would have done differently in general before

DOUG MCVAY: that was phaedon kaloterakis president of the European Federation of therapeutic communities. He was participating in a webinar entitled how is covid-19 shaping the future of drug services in Europe that was hosted recently by the European monitoring Centre and drugs and drug addiction. Here's Tony Deffin of Ana Liffey drug project with his response.

TONY DUFFIN: So thank you. So in classic response, if any of you ever get to be asked questions by journalists, you should thank them for the question and then answer the question you want to answer but but I will get back to the question. I'm going to stick to what's on the what's on the slide because it will keep me keep me on track but in March, March 2020 there was a heightened level of fear and anxiety as I've alluded to before.

Policymakers and practitioners were finding their way to respond to a crisis that no one had experience of and we were in Uncharted Territory and I did talk to Donald Cassidy yesterday on Monday and we talked at length about this this finding out at finding our feet and I think it's really important that I say now that with regards to working with people in Dublin who are homeless who are at risk of homelessness and who have complex and multiple needs like problematic drug use mental health issues physical health issues.

Hatred issues ETC the state's response of providing extra accommodation. So we provided cocooning units and isolation units for people who were homeless and improved accessibility of prescription drugs, like methadone and benzodiazepines and I'll come back to that in a moment, but suffice to say the moment in terms of methadone. We went from a 12-week wait to 2 to 3 days and we can talk about that in a moment and in terms of previously. It wasn't permitted to provide stabilization prescriptions and in certain circumstances now idiots. And again, that's something I'll come back to you. But this has helped to stabilize people and help them to remain in isolation for with their own choosing because obviously we've provided them with the options which helps to reduce the spread of covid-19. And that is very important.

I think at the beginning we were very clear very quickly many of us that that our primary job, even though we're a drug service was to reduce the spread of covid-19 and that was critical in you know, coming together and working together for example, as of the 24th of April 20 20 in Dublin City there had been 33 people within this cohort diagnosed with covid-19 three clusters of covid-19. IE two or more cases had been identified within homeless accommodation all clusters, were of two cases only and there have been no known covid-19 related deaths and I checked with Austin this morning and I'm pleased to say that that's still is the case. There has been no known covid related deaths amongst people who are homeless to cohort were working with and in terms of people use drugs as well. So that's very that's very positive, even though obviously there are other difficulties huge difficulties around covid-19 Island participate about discussions.

TONY DUFFIN: In the very early days for coming back to the question in the very early days of the covid-19 crisis many of the people we met on Outreach simply did not know about covid-19. So they had no knowledge of her latest advice what the restrictions were or how the service provision landscape had changed our team spent a lot of time explaining the situation supporting people around their fears and frustrations and getting them linked into treatment and housing options. So upon reflection.

And getting ready and I do think you know, we have to come to terms with the fact that we haven't already that we're going to be living with covid-19. And for the foreseeable future that we need to when you plan drug service providers care should be who are on the front line should talk to people as early as possible to use their services about the impact of restrictions and Link people into Services earlier on to ensure preparedness for future pandemics of color or covid-19 ways.

So I suppose I'm saying that we're really pleased with what we did and if we're looking back and looking back to January if we'd known what we know now, perhaps what we say. Well what we're saying you what I'm saying is we could we could have done it a little bit earlier, but without but you know, that's just looking to to find some sort of critical sort of observation we so that's my slight. Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Tony Duffin CEO of anonymity drug project. He was participating in a webinar. Entitled how is covid-19 shaping the future of drug services in Europe that was hosted recently by the European monitoring Centre on drugs and drug addiction. He was responding to the question of what his agency would have done in order to prepare for the covid-19 pandemic if we had known at the beginning of January 2020 what we now know about the disease, here's Matt Southwell project manager for the European network of people who use drugs with his response to that question.

MATT SOUTHWELL: Yes. I want you to pick one thing that I'm really People we all doing which is the we have to go to new project in Europe and put called the OST treatment literacy and rights project and this is funded through a unrestricted educational grant from cameras. And it's a key opportunity for us to Champion treatment rights and to Champion and more empowered engaged to relationship for people who are dependent on opiates within opiate substitution Therapy.

I think this key opportunity because we have suddenly gained many of the things we've been fighting for for many years. No rapid assessment and treatment entry weekly take-home Doses and into an overly restrictive and intrusive treatment relationship and suddenly we've gained these things but many countries have set it as a sort of temporary measure with the idea that that would then spring back at the end of this period so I think one of theM Ww're really Keen to do is to highlight how drug users are really responding progressively one by coming into treatment in greater numbers and to managing take homes, very positively and we hope this will lead to a new dialogue around the quality of users and the management of OST treatment in the future which could benefit of benefits as all by increasing the capacity of treatment and the accessibility of treatments as well.

And also allowing us tend to focus more Resources on those who have the most complex and challenging needs the this I wish we could go back to the January and changes the fact that we've been developing a project on peer-led harm reduction. We had funding in place which then fell to pieces at the end of the year at the beginning of the year and we've been subsequently tried to bid again and be an unsuccessful. That's really meant that in the mid to intervene with our country groups and support them to use community-led harm reduction to helped expand the not to sustain but also expand the reach of harm reduction in this period when drug services are necessarily pulling back to protect staff and to and and other manage their health and safety responsibilities. So yeah, I wish we had the resources. I mean we responded very rapidly by getting a leaflet called covid-19 advice for people who use drugs that was that went out in 20 languages Within About 10 days of the epidemic breaking really helping peers to prepare prepare for what was coming. I wish we'd had the resources to do more and go in and support Community LED harm reduction on the ground. I'm frustrated. We were left and just responding with a leaflet.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Matt Southwell, project manager for the European network of people who use drugs. He was participating in a webinar entitled. How is covid-19 shaping the future of drug services in Europe. That was hosted online by the European monitoring Centre on drugs and drug addiction the title of this recent EMC DDA webinar was how is covid-19 shaping the future of drug services in Europe with answers to that question. Here's Tony Duffin CEO of Ana Liffey drug project

TONY DUFFIN: Yes looks getting back to work safely too many people some Services had to close down at the beginning because they couldn't guarantee social distancing and such.

For our part we had to close our drop-in service with March and not do sorry not do group work and things like that. So so we're we're looking at how to reorganize ourselves but suffice to say that we did stay out and Outreach we did carry on with needle exchange. We did obviously do other things that we could do. So the team have been on the ground throughout and I just a few bullet points out.

TONY DUFFIN: The mobilization of drug services to reduce the spread of covid-19 has led to increased collaboration collaboration. Of course, there was collaboration before but this has lead to even further meaningful partnership, which has asserted was led by the HSC from the outset and focus on the primary goal of stopping the spread of covid-19. And I think I said it already but I think that that Focus really brought people together and then we had the removal of barriers to say Service provision.

So things like methadone waiting times will reduce significantly so prior to covid-19. It was 12 weeks to wait for Methadone. So three months and now it's two to three days and we want to retain that collectively talking to people we obviously want to collect the time that data going forwards. Also there has been an innovation with regards to things like benzodiazepine stabilization prescriptions in certain circumstances wasn't allowed before now with now in certain circumstances it is of course, it's no surprise that where as I mentioned providing the accommodation so many people are cocooning.

They're living in a hotel room a very nice hotel room perhaps with with an en suite they're having their prescription drugs delivered to them by Ana Liffey or indeed our colleagues a chrysalis and they have food they are warm. It's no surprise I can say

Say to you at least anecdotally that people are happier that they're in that situation that they are healthy. They are healthier and we need to evaluate that we need to be able to prove that but I'm just telling you from a harm reduction Services perspective know people in that situation for many people things were are improved their health has improved so that that's an outcome. There is a greater need for range of addiction specific interventions and supports to people in their accommodation people can't come to services.

TONY DUFFIN: We've got to go to them and deed we are doing that and we will continue to do that many many of the the extraordinary services that have been probably put in place for covid-19 ago to continue certainly to the end of the year and Beyond a little bit beyond so and we find our way forward what I mean by that is harm reduction Community stabilization and detox relapse prevention. So providing psychosocial support as well.

You know, it's important to me is my last bullet point harm reduction will remain an important part of the public health response to drug use in future pandemics or covid-19 ways to help reduce the spread of the virus and to minimize drug-related hard and listening to map talk about, you know, not being able to provide crack pipes. It's hugely disappointing to hear that we do provide crack pipes to people in Ireland and it is a home adoption intervention. It is apublic health intervention with regards to People's Health in terms of their chest and such so, you know, really we just want to hear that and any support we can give to them that we will so yeah, that's that's my slide. Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Tony Delfin CEO of an Olivia drug project. Now, here's Matt Southwell project manager for the European network of people who use drugs.

MATT SOUTHWELL: So I think the first key issue is I think there's a there's I think a shared commitment from drug users and also from drug services to sustain the gains that we've made around OST. I think people who are on OST of really demonstrated their ability to manage take him Doses and I hope we can move forward to a much stronger and sustained meaningful partnership that allows treatment to be something that is much more of a partnership where we respect multiple different treatment outcomes. We recognize the role of high-dose Perscribing.

If we recognize the role of choice around different types of OST treatment know from diamorphine through to Deco group an orphan and all the various options in between I think choices is key to people being able to pick the right option for them at the right moment in their life, which may also change over the course of their engagement with drugs. I think we need to really recognize the role that Community Based organizations drug user groups can play in brokering the relationship between people who use drugs.

MATT SOUTHWELL: I mean we have No choice in Social distancing or physical distancing. We are working and living in those drug scene. So therefore continuing to provide education support and to think how we manage that and I would endorse the UN AIDS but press release that no argued for governments to recognize the community services need to be supported with PPE and other issues as well and not to see us as somehow outside the Healthcare System. I think we need to recognize

the drug user groups play a pivotal role in harm reduction Innovation. It's not surprising that we came out with guidelines within no days of this issue breaking because now we have lived experience. We have privileged access into drug scenes and we have a really detailed understanding of how drug use takes place which allows us to very quickly get in and understand risk that may be changing because of the environmental context like covid-19 or new drugs.

New issues and the reality was all of those things have been happening while the covid-19 pandemic has been going on. We've had surges of high quality Harry and we've had surges of cocaine injecting and we've had to respond to those issues as well as covid-19. It's not just we can just we don't just stop doing that other harm reduction work. We have to maintain that as well. I think it's important to have this comprehensive understanding of harm reduction so that we don't get isolated into some Silo's around HIV allows us to do work with people who inject drugs. Oh, but if you're smoking crack, I can't intervene or if you're chasing Harry and I can't intervene. I think we need to be much more nimble-footed and I think the UK in its stepping back from harm reduction in the last period has fallen behind some of our European Partners in no seeing the Innovation when I go to Dublin when I go to Berlin and I know we as drug users in the UK are now really offering to our government to help them catch up.

In after the Prairie Court, no caution the lessons that we learn by having a Glasgow the HIV outbreak in Glasgow. And finally, I think the other key lesson is that housing and employment are harm reduction know the moving of in the UK. They were expecting to have 5,000 homeless people coming off the street 14,000 people came forward for housing off the streets. So I think we really need to understand the huge opportunities of finally getting the Street Homeless.

MATT SOUTHWELL: Population off the streets and we really need to take up the opportunities and think about how we engage that population lastly the people who've really really struggled a bit in the people who aren't able to beg on table to shoplift aren't able to get involved in low-level acquisitive crime that group of really struggled and I think we need to think about offering that group other ways of raising an income like recharging electric scooters and bikes no thinking of creative ways.

People at the bottom end of them of the society can make money without resorting to Crime when they're really struggling.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Matt Southwell, project manager for the European network of people who use drugs. He was participating in a webinar entitled. How is covid-19 shaping the future of drug services in Europe that was hosted recently by the European monitoring Centre on drugs and drug addiction and that's it for this week. Thank you for joining us.

DOUG MCVAY: You have been listening to Century of Lies where production of the drug truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Network on the web a will be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform in 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.

05/20/20 Dr. Rashawn Ray

Century of Lies
Rashawn Ray
Drug War Facts

The COVID crisis is having a particularly deadly impact within the criminal justice system. Unfortunately systems are slow to change, institutional inertia and the unwillingness of policymakers to do the right thing - quite literally a deadly combination. On this week's Century we hear from a panel of experts including Dr. Rashawn Ray from the University of Maryland and the Brookings Institution; Dr. Annelies Goger, also with the Brookings Institution; Marcus Bullock, founder and CEO of Flikshop; and Marc Schindler, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute.

Audio file





DEAN BECKER: The failure of the 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 A Century Of Lies

HOST DOUG MCVAY: Hello and welcome to Century of lies. I'm your host Doug McVay editor of Dr. Rashawn Ray is a David M Rubenstein fellow and governance studies at the Brookings Institution. Russian and an associate professor of sociology and executive director of the lab for Applied social science research at the University of Maryland in College Park

DR. RASHAWN RAY: we know the incarcerated population is being hard hit by covid-19. The infection rate in the Washington DC jail. For example is 14 times higher than the general population of the city in federal prisons. The infection rate is double the percentage of covid-19 diagnosis in the general population in Ohio about 20% of Covid-19 diagnosis can be traced to one Prison Correctional staff are not immune in Cook County, Illinois nearly 200 correctional officers and about 400 jail detainees have tested positive for covid-19 lawmakers are facing pressures from Criminal Justice and civil rights organizations to provide better healthcare for incarcerated people and even release nonviolent offenders those among the elderly and people in pretrial detention.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Dr. Rashawn Ray. He's a Davidson Rubenstein fellow in government studies at the Brookings institution and associate professor of sociology and executive director of the lab for Applied social science research at the University of Maryland in College Park. Dr. Ray recently moderated a webinar held by the Brookings institution entitled the impact of covid-19 on prisons will hear more from that webinar on today's show. The covid crisis is having a particularly deadly impact within the criminal justice system. Unfortunately systems are often too slow to change institutions, all inertia plus the unwillingness of policymakers to just do the right thing. This is quite literally a deadly combination. Let's hear from some experts. Here's Mark Schindler executive director of the Justice policy Institute.

MARK SCHINDLER: And in many ways that the answer to your question about why covid-19 is ravaging through prisons and the related racial disparities that we're seeing is because in essence we have what I would describe as a perfect and Indie tragic storm where we have long-standing racially disparate impacts of the justice system in the US and now covid-19 disparate impact on people of color. So what we have is far too many high-risk vulnerable people locked in small spaces where it's almost impossible to contain the spread of the virus. The result is a public health and social justice crisis happening in real time, you know, most of the people who are watching today are probably familiar with the concept of mass incarceration. But for those that aren't I just want to share a few data points to add to what you shared initially since 1980 in this country.

MARK SCHINDLER: We've had almost a 500% increase in the number of people incarcerated from about 200,000 to over two million people and this resulted in America today having by far the highest incarceration rate in the world. We get very little positive impact on public safety and many would say we've had the opposite impact in fact destabilizing communities and making us all less safe this growth and incarceration has impacted people of color more harshly and we see that across the board African-Americans incarcerated at five times the rate of whites, Latinos. Also many black men, one in three black men now expected to spend time in prison that's compared to 1 in 17 white men close to two-thirds of women in prison or women of color and in fact if African Americans and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rights the same rates as white white people we'd have prison and jail populations that would decline by almost 40% Now, I would submit that if these numbers were reversed if whites people who look like me were over-represented in our jails and prisons. It would not be allowed to stand. Now, of course the reasons for this mass incarceration or complex and include different policies and practices as it relates to policing and sentencing, but it's clear that both explicit and implicit bias as well as institutional and structural racism play a big role now on the covid-19, which was initially called the great equalizer because we thought the the spread would be in fact anyone and everyone but now we're seeing that's not true that it's hitting communities of color thebhardest and so why is this? Well, we know that people of color tend to have higher levels of chronic health conditions.

They are also more likely to live in higher density areas amongst other reasons. Notably. Those are two things we see with incarcerated people. So what are we seeing in covid-19 and jails and prisons you presented some data at the outset and I'll just add a couple of things the most recent reports show that over 20,000 incarcerated people and over 5,000 staff have contracted the virus and there's been over 300 deaths in total. We're seeing incarcerated people infected at far higher rates than the general population. And that's with very limited testing. Right? I want to emphasize that very limited testing. We can talk more about that. In fact where there's been widespread testing. We're seeing infection rates in jails and prisons as high as 70% So I fear that we are seeing just the beginning of this crisis.

In jails and prisons coming into view. I'll stop there. I look forward to the discussion including talking about strategies to address these challenges and I'll just reiterate that what we are seeing in terms of prisons and jails and covid-19 is a public health and social justice justice crisis happening in real time.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Mark Schindler executive director of the Justice policy Institute. He was speaking on a webinar hosted by The Brookings institution entitled the impact of covid19 on prisons now, let's hear from Dr. Annelies Goger, She's a David M Rubenstein fellow at the Metropolitan policy program of the Brookings institution.

DR. ANNELIES GOGER: I think you're exactly right. I think both in terms of the people that are cycling through in pre-trial stage has all the way through to visitors, but also staff, you know, you can't just hermetically seal off a facility and if you did frankly would be a humanitarian crime in my view to try to lock everyone in there.So you can't really think of these facilities as just being these closed off walls and one case that I'd like to draw people's attention to is the Marion Correctional Institution in Ohio and back in in late April.

We were seeing more than 80 percent of the people who are incarcerated there had tested positive for covid-19 and a hundred and seventy-seven till now have been tested positive as the staff members. And so those staff members are going home and their families are exposed and their Community is exposed and you know, the actually Ohio had to bring in the National Guard to staff the prison because they were so many staff affected their about 2500 people incarcerated in that facility. So we're talking about 20 almost over 2,100 people who had tested positive positive and Thirteen have died.

DR. ANNELIES GOGER: So that's just one facility. And if you look across the u.s. I looked last night at the New York Times. What are the top counties in terms of the per capita cases and five out of the top ten counties were counties that had prisons in them. And four more of those were Meatpacking facilities and poultry processing facilities. So you nine out of the ten top counties of per capita cases. Are either prisons or Meatpacking facility is and I think we need to ask ourselves. What, who are what is our value as a country?

If we don't pay attention to what's happening in these spaces and immediately intervene to make sure that the people inside are safe. Then the people outside are safe in these facilities…

DOUG MCVAY: that was Dr. Annalise Goger with the Metropolitan policy program of the Brookings institution. She was speaking on a webinar entitled the impact of covid-19 on prisons that was held recently by The Brookings institution. We'll have more in a moment. You're listening to Century of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay editor of on Friday, May 13th at the UN office on drugs and crime the World Health Organization unaids and the office of the High Commissioner on human rights issued a joint statement on covid-19 in prisons and other clothes settings. Here's the director general of the World Health Organization. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

DR. TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS: Today. I joined leaders from the global Health Human Rights and development institutions to draw the attention of political leaders to the heightened vulnerability of prisoners during the covid-19 pandemic along with who Zone guidance on prisons, I urge political leaders to enhance all prevention and control measures in respect, vulnerable populations in places of detention overcrowding in prisons undermines hygiene, health, safety and human Dignity. Health response to covid-19 enclosed settings alone is insufficient.

We urge political leaders to ensure that covid-19 preparedness and response has enclosed settings are identified and implemented in line with fundamental human rights and are Guided by who guidance and recommendations to protect human health. Furthermore today WHO announced the launch of the who Academy application.

Designed to support health workers and the who Info app designed to inform the general public health public during covid-19. The apps are available in all you and languages Arabic, Chinese English, French, Spanish and Russian with this new mobile apps the WHO is putting the power of learning and knowledge sharing directly into hundreds of health workers and people everywhere The WHO Academy a provides health workers with mobile access to a wealth of covid-19 resources developed by who that include up-to-the-minute guidance tools training and virtual workshops that will help them care for covid-19 patients and protect themselves furthermore in response to covid-19. WHO has utilized our open WHO platform and translated guidance into training including 68 online courses to improve the response to health emergencies it now has more than 2.5 million enrollments and hosts free trainings on 10 different topics across 22 languages to support the coronavirus response including our first course in Swahili this week.

DR. TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS: Every day, we learn more and more about covid-19 and new apps and courses for health workers and the general public allow us to disseminate information quickly and effectively. Sharing experience and best practices is critical for strengthening our response to the pandemic learning together is key to building National unity and Global solidarity.

so that together. We accelerate progress faster and build a better world for us all to live in. I thank you.

That was Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu of the World Health Organization. He was delivering a statement made jointly by the World Health Organization un-aids the UN office on drugs and crime and the office of the High Commissioner on human rights on covid-19 in prisons and other clothes settings you listening to Century of lies. I'm your host Doug McVay. Let's talk about jails for a minute in the u.s. We use jails to process people who've been taken into custody the Justice statistics reported recently that in 2018 quote about one-third or thirty four percent of jail inmates were sentenced or awaiting sentencing on a conviction while about two-thirds or 66% were awaiting Court action on a current charge or were held for other reasons and quote long way of saying 2/3 of the people who are in jail are not in there because they were convicted of any crimes the weekly inmate turnover in a u.s. Jail was 55 Percent in 2018 people who go to jail for whatever reason spent an average of about 25 days in there. The Bureau of Justice statistics also reported that on the last week day in June in 2018. There were a total of seven hundred thirty eight thousand four hundred people incarcerated in the U.S. Jails, but now during 2018 a total of 10 million seven hundred thousand people were admitted to U.S. Jails people who are being held because they were just arrested people who are being held pending some kind of an action every step along the way every step along the way people are at risk of being exposed a simple arrest everything done by the book can still turn into a death sentence prisons and jails are breeding grounds for infection and we've known this for a long time viruses like hepatitis or HIV bacterial infections, like tuberculosis, overcrowding lack of adequate sanitation, lack of proper personal protective equipment this problem has gone on for years for decades. It's not too late to change.

We can do better. We must do better. The problem is we too often limit ourselves and our thinking rather than look for solutions that will work and will last we just end up tinkering around the edges making some minor adjustments and then we keep on blundering on and more or less the same way drug courts are a great example. The idea was that some of the people getting arrested and put into the criminal system.

Would be better served by being forced into treatment for a substance use disorder. But why are we even arresting them people who have to deal with a lack of housing security a lack of food security lack of employment opportunities a lack of educational opportunities intergenerational poverty intergenerational PTSD, untreated or inadequately treated physical health issues untreated or in adequately treated mental health issues abuse folks in these situations are not helped by an arrest and incarceration but I suppose that's the point though, right and rather than help people will just sweep them under a rug or more precisely into a jail cell or prison yard so we can just forget them. Let's take a look at one of those underlying issues education. We've learned in this covid crisis that we can't do distance learning adequately because too many students don't have access to computers at home too. Many people don't have decent working internet.

Our response to the covid pandemic has had this perverse effect of reinforcing inequalities that already exists in our educational system. And the answer to this is not to just reopen schools too early. The answer is to get technology into people's hands and to give people internet access mean the problem is easily defined and so is the solution we have the resources to do it what we lack is imagination and we'll but we need our fundamental changes to the system in addition to a green New Deal. We need a new works progress administration one that has an education in stem component stem for those who don't already know stands for science technology engineering and math. We should be putting people to work building computers and installing internet laying fiber optic cable bringing this country into the technology age. We're two decades into the 21st century at were acting like it's the 1950s, build and distribute cheap computers like the Raspberry Pi Project.

Create Municipal Wi-Fi systems in For Heaven's Sake the web should have been made into a public utility years ago. The internet stopped being a toy for geeks. Well before the last AOL disc was mailed out. We have the chance to give people access to knowledge. We can help people in our communities to empower themselves educationally and economically we can help to restore Hope. Now a person could argue that I might have wandered away from talking about the drug war just now.

DOUG MCVAY:But I know that the wiser ones among you will realize that I've never stopped talking about drug policies and the implications of our misguided Drug War people get involved in the drug business for a lot of reasons. One reason is a lack of opportunity whether it's social economic or educational another is the fact that we live in a society where the powerful ignore the law and act with impunity. I mean faced with these realities. What did you expect?

These are things we can change. These are things we must change if we really want to address problematic substance use or other behaviors than we need to address the drivers of those behaviors. It won't be easy going but at least we'll be headed in the right direction for a change. You're listening to Century of lies. I'm your host Doug McVay

PRESIDENT OBAMA: if you planned on going away for college getting dropped off at campus in the fall. That's no longer a given.

If you are planning to work while going to school finding that first job is going to be tougher.

Even families they're relatively well-off or dealing with massive uncertainty.

Those who are struggling before they're hanging on by a thread- all of which means that you're going to have to grow up faster than some generations. This pandemic is shaken up the status quote and laid bare a lot of our country's deep-seated problems from massive economic inequality to ongoing racial disparities to a lack of basic health care for people who need it.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: It's woken a lot of young people up to the fact that the old ways of doing things just don't work, that it doesn't matter how much money you make if everyone around you is hungry and sick and that our society and our democracy only work when we think not just about ourselves but about each other.

It's also pulled the curtain back on another hard truth something that we all have to eventually accept once our childhood comes to an end.

You know all those adults they used to think or in charge and knew what they were doing.

Turns out they don't have all the answers. A lot of them aren't even asking the right questions. So if the world is going to get better, it's going to be up to you.

That realization may be kind of intimidating. But I hope it's also inspiring with all the challenges this country faces right now. Nobody can tell, you know, you're too young to understand or this is how it's always been done.

Because theres so much uncertainty with everything suddenly up for grabs. This is your Generations world to shape. Since I'm one of the old guys, I won't tell you what to do with this power that rests in your hands, but I'll leave you with three quick pieces of advice.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: First Don't Be Afraid America has gone through tough times before slavery Civil War famine disease the Great Depression and 911. And each time. We came out stronger usually because a new generation young people like you learn from past mistakes and figured out how to make things better.

Second do what you think is right. Doing what feels good. What's convenient? What's easy. That's how little kids think unfortunately a lot of so called grown ups including some with fancy titles and important jobs still think that way which is why things are so screwed up.

I hope that instead you decide to ground yourself in values that last; like honesty hard work responsibility fairness generosity respect for others. You won't get it right every time you'll make mistakes like we all do but if you listen to the truth that's inside yourself, even when it's hard even when it's inconvenient people will notice. They'll gravitate towards you and you'll be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

And finally build a community. No one does big things by themselves right now when people are scared. It's easy to be cynical and say let me just look out for myself or my family or people who look or think or pray like me, but if we're going to get through these difficult times if we're going to create a world where everybody has opportunity to find a job and afford College if we're going to save the environment and defeat.

Pandemics and we're going to have to do it together.

So be alive to one another struggles stand up for one another's rights leave behind all the old ways of thinking that divide us sexism. Racial Prejudice status greed and set the world on a different path.

DOUG MCVAY: Now while we still have time. Let's hear more from that Brookings institution webinar entitled the impact of covid-19 on prisons. Here's Marcus Bullock founder and CEO of Flick shop,

MARCUS BULLOCK: Thank you again. Thank you for having me on this on this panel. I think this is incredible. I love to see these kinds of conversations happening. I lived in those sales for quite a bit of time. When I was 15 years old. I made a decision stole a car from a guy certified as an adult as a fifteen-year-old and sent to adult maximum security prisons for the next eight years of my life because I stole that car. So I mean I spent all of my teaching on the rest of my teenage years in my early 20s growing up inside of a prison cell and first I Think that it's fair to acknowledge that my experience may be different from others as there's very little uniformity in the way that jails and prisons operate from state to state or even from state to Federal facilities and some facilities are they even designed to explicitly pay more attention to people with health issues that place them at a typical higher risk of other people in you know, in other populations, so I'm hopeful and least what those facilities that they have very clear plans to deal.

MARCUS BULLOCK: This kind of Crisis but the majority of the general population facilities like the ones where I was house. I'm focused more on the operation of the facilities themselves and less about the actual well-being of the people that live there. You know, I grew up in seeing- as a teenager, you know bodies get wheeled down the rec yard in a body bag in between count time with no one saying oh what happened this was going on like it was all in secret and then all of a sudden after a few days you like. Oh wow. What happen? oh so you know, you lock this whole Wing down because they don't know what's going on and they don't want to keep everybody's quiet because they want to keep you know, so these are the things that you're I grew up seeing the people who work in the kitchens the education wings of the prison the people clean the rec yard the people who even working in medical units, they're all the residents, you know, the incarcerated people that lived there and even when there's a lockdown to try to contain some sort of break out the people who are delivering the food trays to my door, the people sometimes bringing some form of medication to the door again. These are the costs for the residents that live there and I can only imagine how scary it must feel to live in prison during this time where you can't contain it says it has been straight time.

HOST OF SHOW: Yeah, Marcus, could you tell us about some of the ways that you think that people are trying to cope? So how do people COPE in prison? I mean and I think that some of the work that you're doing now, which our company I think lends itself to that. So could you kind of talk about what you're saying on this side in terms of the way that people on the outside of trying to connect with people on the inside and the impact that that has on on on incarcerated people. I mean, we all know that family engagement means everything right like,

MARCUS BULLOCK: you know, we all leave this you know panel today you like their families who are inside of our homes or at least on the other side of a Facebook post or other side of the Instagram post on the other side of a text message or email that we may receive saying that we're okay. I'm okay. My mom is okay. Something's going right like this is Major and we all acknowledge it as something that is necessary for us to be able to survive yet. There are millions of people that are living in those states right now who just don't have that luxury and that's even scarier think they're not only do I have to live inside of environment where I'm a contract something that will turn a two-year sentence a five-year sentence a three weeks in this and to death sentence that I'm also disconnected from my mother or my brother or my sister or my aunt or my best friend who similarly going through something and want to share inside of this moment. We're all dealing with this level of anxiety. This is again, I repeat this is a very scary time and so we wanted to be able to not only help keep families connected during the journey before it covid, right? So Flick Shop app, we built the technology to help keep families connected to their incarcerated loved ones. Take a picture and some quick text press in. Hey baby. I'm okay. I just wanted to see you a picture of the kids dancing in the living room. And then we print that picture and text on a real tangible post card. We ship it to any person in any still anywhere in the country because of the lack of a Facebook or Instagram or text messaging that you and I do every day and we when we believe that if we're being very intentional about building Technologies, @ scalable Tech that is allowing Folks at least communicate during this tough time.

Then we at least relieve some of that anxiety that we're all feeling at home. Some of us a little bit more than others because we know that we have a loved one on the other side of that wall that potentially is being exposed to something that is really crippling our country.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Marcus Bullock founder and CEO of flick shop. He was speaking on a webinar hosted by The Brookings institution entitled the impact of covid-19 on prisons, and that's it. Thank you for joining us.

You've been listening to Century of Lies. We're a production of the drug truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation radio network on the web a I'm your host Doug McVay editor of the drug truth network has a Facebook page. Please give it a like book to give its page a like share it with friends. You can follow me on Twitter. I'm at Doug McVay. And of course also at drug policy facts, will be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform in the failed War on Drugs for Now, 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 are stored at the James A Baker III Institute for public policy.

05/06/20 Doug Fine

Century of Lies
Doug Fine
Drug War Facts

This week on Century of Lies, part one of our conversation with the journalist, hemp activist and farmer Doug Fine. We talk about hemp, renewable agriculture, farming, CBD, and Doug's new book American Hemp Farmer. Plus we hear from Louis L. Reed, national organizer for #Cut50, on COVID in prisons.

Audio file


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 A Century Of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello and welcome to Century of lies. I'm your host Doug McVay editor of Doug fine is a solar-powered goat herder a comedic investigative journalist and a Pioneer voice and hemp and regenerative farming he's cultivated hemp in four US states and his weed genetics are in five more. He's an award-winning culture and climate correspondent for NPR, the New York Times And The Washington Post among others. His books include hemp bound, too high to fail, Farewell My Subaru, Not really an Alaskan Mountain Man and first legal Harvest Doug has a new book out. It's just been released. It's called American hemp farmer available at bookstores everywhere once book stores are open again. It's published by Chelsea Green publishing,  Doug. Thank you for joining us

DOUG FINE: It's always a pleasure to be with you Doug. 

DOUG MCVAY: So let's get right to it. Now. Your new book is American hemp farmer, the title kind of says it all but tell my listeners what it's about

DOUG MCVAY: the resurgent hemp industry worldwide is the economist side of folks likes to point out the fastest agricultural based economy to cross the billion dollar annual revenue generation of any industry. However, and that's fantastic, but for from my perspective, it only means something if the farmers are the beneficiaries of anything that comes out of the soil, especially with regenerative practices. Farmers have not been the primary Financial beneficiaries and we have the opportunity to change that in the hemp kind of a sphere. So I sort of explored what farmer friendly models farmer first models might look like as hemp. Continues to Surge.

DOUG MCVAY: you are a very strong proponent of organic farming in general. It's not just with hemp. But am I right you were into Organics prior to becoming a hemp farmer?

DOUG FINE: Yes. My second book is called Farewell My Subaru and it's about trying to live with modern Comforts. But without fossil fuels and embedded in that is organic and regenerative food practices and I like to think that I put very few non-organic Foods into my body.

DOUG MCVAY: Well you certainly seem healthy. So you look healthy, the so it must be working. I'm now I'm curious did getting involved with him have any impact on your perspective on organic farming. I mean you already into it, but it didn't have any impact on your your perspective on it. 

DOUG FINE: Huge impact. First of all a fun practical impact my home state of New Mexico, but I work in heaven cultivate have been a number of places around the world and one of the places where I have direct entrepreneurial effort a farm-to-table product growing is in Vermont. And when I and my farming Partners in Vermont had the or USDA certain, you know approved organic certifiers come out to our farm and then stamp our Crop Organic a crop that three or four years earlier was in the Orwellian final days of the war on cannabis, a schedule 1 felony.

That was a remarkably good feeling in general. just in terms of official that intimacy but when it comes to the idea of organic, I first of all think it's still valuable. It's a valuable stamp to have I look for it. If I'm not let's say at a farmers market or I'm not growing food myself. I'm actually in let's say a food co-op I look for it because it means a few important things. That's obviously not when something is federally mandated for 300 million people. It's Not going to be as strong probably as many of us would would want but it means something. These days, there's a lot of efforts on to improve on Organics. In other words alternate certifications that include things like fair trade and all that good stuff. I'm thinking of brother David's cannabis certification.

There's a lot of there's a lot of cool proposals out there. The main thing really is educated Customers knowing about asking the right questions about regenerative practices- organic is part of regenerative practices. My definition overall of regenerative, Doug is basically are you leaving everything not just your field in as good a condition or better as you found it, you know basic kindergarten stuff one example being I do a very small run Hemp products Farm stable organic product and I ordered composable non-tree labels with non-toxic Stickam and so expensive between front and back label.

We're talking a dollar a bottle, but it's like we were in the ninth inning for Humanity here from a climate change perspective, and there's no more time for putting these kind of decisions off. So I just bit the bullet and I encourage everyone else to do that. You could do every part of your Enterprise regeneratively these days and that also means
Focusing it regionally, you know not having an in-game of getting bought out by a hedge fund or going public but rather a long-term lucrative living for your family and your community. 

DOUG MCVAY: In fact, I was just just looking through Facebook saw some kind of product that was supposed to be a hemp-based plastic container for the weed for dispensaries to use. Hmm interesting. That's very good. 

DOUG FINE: Sorry to interrupt. What that sounds like is packaging. Those are nice. The folks on the radio won't be able to see this. But since you and I are communicating visually you have this in the U.S. Grown hemp plastic 3D printed in the form of a goat since I'm a goat herder. Really the goodbye Pacific Garbage Patch movement is on the end of trash is the current National Geographic cover story and hemp and other biomaterials. It can play a huge huge role in that. It's a real thing. It's not just, you know, a righteous cutesy thing. It's we need to make Every step in the Industrial Pipeline regenerative or or we go away as a species, you know, the Earth will be fine.

DOUG MCVAY: to talk a little more about the environmental impact of hemp production. It's a I mean the plant itself has some impact but also the products I Know Jack was you know, the everybody likes to focus on the drug products, but Hemp itself really does have a lot of potential and it just seems to have more. Oh God all say the word. Seems to have more and more applications every day. Yes. You got me to say it. 

DOUG FINE: I knew you were going to say we joked about it before we went on the air all the buzz words that we're working our way into our into our dialogue spider heavy. 

DOUG MCVAY: You're just you're just that kind of an influencer Doug. Oh gosh. 

DOUG FINE: Oh my goodness, um a little inside job here for the benefit of the pretty confident us. So you guys it's a touch me with the environment talk more about the environmental impact of hemp and pimp production cultivation wise hemp can be the best of Worlds of the worst Two Worlds and the argument that I make in the new book American hemp farmer. Is that if we who decide to do things for regeneratively are willing to make that our brand and to shout out that are top shelf products are just that they're actually Superior and things like bio availability and performance precisely because we're focusing not just on immediate bottom line, but on sequestering carbon through good soil building practices for instance that that's our brand and if we can educate customers.

That those are the products to seek out, you know, it's sort of an extension of the know your farmer concept for anything that you buy that's food. But beyond that know your regenerative farmer asked questions. Like are you building soil and to give you one example of you know, the side of it that is is not the way that I love to grow. I'm a little against the current Trend in the Hemp side of growing sensimilla style. And you know, don't get me wrong. I love all sides of the plant big fan of of sinsemilla, but I grow dioecious hemp male and female hemp with the argument that everyone's happier when they're dating that there may be a hormonal balance kind of thing and it's a little bit against the grain not against the grain for the last eight thousand years Against the Grain for the last 10 years when folks started cultivating cannabis hemp for for specific cannabinoids other than THC, you know, the first big rush was CBD, but now there's a big rush for CBG on I really like CBC but in truth, I'm a whole plant kind of guy inlife in general.

I don't extract lycopene and take it in a pill. I eat tomatoes for instance. So with with hemp cannabis, I'm not really that interested in jacking up one or the other. I'm interested in varieties that have developed in a Locale and have what you might call terroir like a fine fine wine or a fine cheese. That's the market that I'm interested not how many, you know milligrams of CBD are in every bottle this tincture or what percentage of this Flower is just one or two cannabinoids. I'm much more interested in the balance. Right? So when you are growing Outdoors under God's sun in the soil by organic regenerative means and growing dioecious. And by the way, the bees were all into save the bees were the new save the whales right?

That's they love mail hemp flowers by the way the best when you're growing deliciously you're kind of doing it as Farmers have always done it in a way that's very natural. And that doesn't mean that sinsemilla style can't be grown regenerative, organic, but when I hear folks making the pitch. Oh, I grow my CBD organically in this organic approved plastic wrapping. I plug clones grown out of state somewhere in the ground in soil that I bought out of a bag and plug it through class. And guess what? It's organic. Everything's organic. I mean, yeah, that's a lot better than spraying, you know a toxin poison all over it, but then you're plowing the plasttic back under and then folks are like, oh, it's biodegradable.

Yeah. God didn't didn't make petrol Plastics. Sorry. So, you know everything comes from nature of course, but it's all about how things are the environments in which our plants feel comfortable and I think many of us now I was late Doug coming to the awareness about plant intelligence. I was always an animal guy, you know got along great with cats and dogs and you know a Raven wants to talk to me in Alaska and I got to see, see a Jaguar with their kittens on a rafting trip in the Amazon.

I live always had these sort of totemic animal relationships and only through the the journalistic and then now personal work with the Cannabis hemp plant have I recognized plant intelligence and one of the things I believe plants are telling us is that what we see coming out of the soil beautiful hemp plant or tomato plant is the result of a very happy microbial Kingdom in that soil and that's not an overnight Phenomenon that's about things like building your local microbes just to give one quick example you can this is something I learned from a practitioner of Korean natural farming a type of soil building agriculture that you can go up into your Watershed and I've done this and it works gather mycelial like mushroom crust from what parts of your upper Watershed diluted in the sort of rice mixture and then use it as a compost tea and all of a sudden you have much higher Mushroom microbial my cilia live in your soil and it results I believe in a better hemp crop.

So when we're talking about the environment all of these type of practices which give you a better product in the end are actually the product that the practice is that sequester carbon and have a chance of giving us humans an option after fossil fuels.

DOUG MCVAY: you're listening to an interview with Doug fine the journalists and hemp activist. His new book is American hemp Farmer published by Chelsea Green publishing will have more in just a moment. You're listening to Century of lies. I'm your host DougMcVay; Louis Reed is the national organizer for the cut 50 Campaign, which is organized by The Dream Corps. He was one of the speakers in Council on criminal justice has recent webinar entitled Corrections and covid-19 challenges and strategies;

LOUIS REED: in our minds We don't think that this takes you have a more degrees than a thermometer in order to be able to do something first and foremost. We need to make sure that we are identifying people who are scheduled to be released from prisons or jails within the next six months and we need to get them those individuals out and to home confinement barring a specific specific reason not to do so, that's number one. The second thing is is that we think that we need to procreate people who are over the age of 65 with priority given to those individuals who have pre-existing and or other underlying health conditions that make them particularly susceptible to the virus.

That's with two number three, we need to suspend co-pays for medical visits for people who are incarcerated when they have to go down to Medical all that stuff needs to be suspended, the next thing we need to make sure that his sanitizer stations and or other personal hygiene products are available to people who are incarcerated free of charge. I personally as someone who did almost 14 years in federal prison, I think that it's absolutely asinine that you have a state like New York that are having people produced hand sanitizing equipment where the offender population can't necessarily use it because it's considered contraband and last but not least. We need to make sure that we are implementing smart social distancing policies to protect more than 4.5 million people who are under some form of Community Supervision. So look this is not a matter of our heads. This is a matter of our hearts and ultimately in time our values are going to be interrogated. They are going to be prosecuted and they are going to be evaluated by how we responded to the so-called least of us. 

DOUG MCVAY: That was Louis Reed National organizer for the cut 50 campaign. He was speaking in a webinar on Corrections and covid-19, which was organized by the Council on criminal justice. You're listening to Century of lies. I'm your host Doug McVay,  now let's get back to my conversation with the journalist farmer and hemp activist Doug fine. You've been on quite a journey with this plant this last eight, ten years. How did it all start?

DOUG FINE: Well, I'll answer that directly, but I'm really glad that you asked that question because have it having what you might call the creds of someone that clearly cares about all sides of the plant and the and the farmers of all sides of the plant my endgame, Not just mine. I'm just a mouthpiece for many for many people who feel this way is the return to the reality that this is just one plant that the delineation we have today between cannabis and hemp is something that hopefully will go away and can and should go away and if it's okay, I'll explain why first off.

The definition of hemp as we have it today legally was the result of a 1976 paper Canadian paper small and Shepherd researchers and they said that they arbitrarily chose this based on studying a whole bunch of different varieties of like well, hey, it makes sense that to call everything on this side of here hemp, and interestingly. They suggested a testing method that's much more friendly than the flower Cola Bud testing the top and done today.

They suggested testing the leaves of the plant which we know, You contain ratios of cannabinoids, but not nearly enough in the amount that the buds do I mention this only because it's an important wonky policy issues for him for me right now because we're trying to do everything we can to get the burden off of farmers during during tests. Right? So on the .3 delineation of 1976 people today just assume that there are these two different plants, but actually for all of history, it's been one plant whether or not you were looking for roofing, Sandals a superfood or a party favor. It was just your cannabis plant people didn't even know.

What was it 64 that THC even got isolated and identified. So I think it's important that we return back to this concept of one plant and to I'll give you two quick reasons. Why one is when you are growing for we talked a little earlier about hemp plastic when you're going for a fiber application like that or clothing or Camp Creek feedstock, For animal bedding or all that, you know rocket parts or any of it. You don't necessarily want the lowest possible THC to make the strongest fiber now, no one's going to smoke that flower at least not commercially, so it should be the completely the burden should be off the farmer on the THC. It should be completely irrelevant.

It should be cannabis that's legal to grow and no one, no farmer of any kind of cannabis even ganja farmers in the Emerald Triangle. No Farmers should be subject to THC testing until and unless a Final flower product that is potential psychoactivity is going to be making it to the public into the retail market and when I first floated this and others floated this a few years ago people thought it sounded so crazy. Now there's a whole movement on and it really just makes sense and it's about protecting farmers.

DOUG MCVAY: Of course you can you do a lot more than hemp. Obviously you have testified at the United Nations in Vienna before the commission on narcotic drugs where you represented encode the European Coalition for Just and effective drug policies. Are you still involved in the international scene? In your spare time. 

DOUG FINE: Yeah, when I'm not home schooling the kids and milking goats and stuff. Um, so um, by the way Doug I just have to say as I go in to answer this question that you are proof of what Bob Marley used to saying. I'm let's he didn't say Let's get high. He'd say, let's get steady. I mean you have like nearly photographic memory and that's I can't I can't believe that you can just off the top of your head remember and list all that stuff. But so yes the the hemp boom is very much an international phenomenon.

I've been participating in efforts to bring him back ranging from the Netherlands to Hawaii and talking now about places like Haiti and Ethiopia. So I'm interested in you know, we need to build soil. The the world over India is another place that has a lot of interest and a lot of potential and a lot of history. So it is an international phenomenon and just to tie a loose end on one of your earlier questions about how did this all start for me? It started for me since you've been working so so fervently to bring about the Cannabis peace for longer than I have.

You'll recognize the story that spurred me to first start researching cannabis and professionally as a journalist and as an author and that was I live really remote in New Mexico and you know, when there's a car where it's not one of the ranchers on the area coming in when it's like 30 Cars of all kinds of agencies with guys with ear pieces coming out and automatic weapons and helicopters flying overhead, you know that there's something weird going on and what was going on in 2010 was a close neighbor of mine like physically, you know, he was, you know, probably couldn't hear if I shouted to him right now, but what passes for close neighbor he was being raised as a retiree from a corporation, mellow guy has grown 11 or so plants for PTSD mitigation of Vietnam era veteran and someone who had a falling out with him tipped off our law enforcement folks in a millions of dollars were spent on these few plants put my family at risk with automatic weapons that could go off I to drive through them to get home and we know that kind of thing is insane.

We're going to be laughing about it when we tell our kids and grandkids about it, but it can answer your earlier question. This is actually what spurred me to spend a good, you know portion of my career energy for quite a number of years figuring out what the mutt we all knew we were going to we have a love affair with this plant, Humanity as love this plant. It was a camp follower anthropologists call it a camp follower. We were even sedentary Farmers. We were carrying it around in our pouches and Pockets because it provides a lot of great valuable things and we knew that we were going to return to the plant but the question was how would it look in a way that was good for Humanity and that's that's what I've been investigating the last 10 or so years. 

DOUG MCVAY: Let's get back to hemp. That's that's American Hemp farmer. That is the name of your new book. There are a lot of companies in the CBD Market these days hemp derived cannabidiol. CBD is everywhere. It's the big box stores the corner shops CBD, you know kind of seems to be the thing that's pushing him forward now is that is that a misperception is that actually the case are those other products going to become just buy products made with the waste material once CBDs been extracted?

DOUG FINE: Well, CBD is definitely a gold rush and there was gold. Let's say in the 49er gold rush in California. There was gold to be had people want CBD, you know as they should I eat cannabinoids every day as I mentioned. I'm more of a whole plant guy than isolating one cannabinoid, but it's a real thing feeding our endocannabinoid systems. I mean, there's a reason we evolved endocannabinoid system. So it's a real thing and it's worth many many billions of dollars, but as in the actual Gold Rush, it's very few of the actual Prospectors of the are the people who strike it rich. It's the people who sell them the shovels and the flower and all of that some of those businesses and stores are still like I lived in Alaska for a while some of the ancestors of the people that sold the coffee and the bags in the mules are still in Skagway Alaska because they did great.

So we're seeing that today through things like wholesalers people that sell processing equipment or just outsideside investors, so the task at hand is how does a multibillion-dollar market no matter what side of the hemp plant were talking about. How does that benefit rural communities and Farmers would be nice if we did not need a far made anymore just as you know as much as I love the music, it'd be nice if farming was a lucrative profession like Dentistry or something like it would be fantastic when we reach the point of 30% of Americans making their living from the soil as that as was the case when cannabis Federal cannabis prohibition started in 1937. So just as I was researching that started to research This Book American hemp farmer, and in fact after a field day, I was in my field.

I with my partners in Vermont. I was hanging out and I notice I had a voice mail and it was from Wendell Berry the great farmer philosopher from Kentucky now in his 80s. I had written to him on hemp paper at PO Box 1 and whatever Town Kentucky and ask him to attend a him conference and some friends were organizing not far from where he lived and he called back immediately and in his voicemail, which I've saved. He said my one real message for him Farmers is please do your own thing. I'm just paraphrasing here do your oh, he didn't say influencer or app.

By the way. He said, please do your Do Your Own Thing, Market your products, control your products, because if you just wholesale surf to the vicissitudes of the buyers, you're going to face the same, you know destitution and problems and not to mention environmental destruction that farmers of nearly every other crop have faced around the country and around the world. So that has that has stayed with me as a number one mission that regardless of what products the market demands that farmers be the ones who are benefiting at that retail dollar today farmers get about three percent three, 3cents on the food dollar and the goal that I and many other share. This was told by a told to me by a friend at a great organic hemp Cooperative in Colorado. We said our goal is Farmers getting 100 cents on the dollar less expenses. There should be nobody else involved just the farmers getting paid and you know, that's an extreme position and I support it, but it comes down to If you're forming an Enterprise. You should either be them in my view. Sorry to you should you should be the farmer or the farmer should be a co-owner a revenue share in that operation and not a not a wholesale wage slave and then just to come back to your original question while CBD is a gold rush.

It's also giving way to the next best thing. Now a lot of farmers now are looking for CBG heavy crops. We've got a hundred plus known cannabinoids, but the niche im going for side steps that a little bit and is looking for the idea of Imagine in your in Sonoma some beautiful Wine Country somewhere and you go into a wine fine. Fine wine shop that top shelf offering that has a particular varietal from that year. That's what I'm looking for is what I try to cultivate myself or if you know if somebody's inviting us over for dinner and we want to bring over wonderful hemp product, whatever, it is tincture book shirt.

Look for the real farmer cultivated top-shelf regionally made distinctive, you know product you go and take a trip to Botswana. You're not bringing home somebody. I hope you're not bringing home. Somebody, you know a fridge magnet that says Botswana you’re bringing home someone a really cool crafts from there, but someone made and that's how the the niche help Market the high-end Craft Market that that I feel I represented and Not exclusively speak for but the people that I'm trying to support our these type of family and Community Based hemp providers no matter what the side of the plan in my own product.

I don't just use the flower. I also use the seed the seed being a superfood so I don't think flower only, Let alone CBD only is the long-term play for hemp Farmers. The question is are folks in it for the long term play. If you're desperate farmer who's saying, you know, I'm about to sell to sub developer and not make any money for my GMO soy or whatever. I'd like to give this tempting a try. It's really easy really, you know read my book you'll see if we should have a three to five-year game plan. They've got mortgages this year. So it's a it's a gut check any entrepreneurial ism is gut check whether or not it's depending on the whims of Mother Nature but in particular it's important for hemp entrepreneurs to have a long-term game plan and not just chase the let the latest Gold Rush somebody else is going to grow The CBD for a chain drug store Coke CBD, you know, it's coming the big MickMac CBD or whatever is coming. That's not going to be you and me we're going to be the people that are doing something better and different and hopefully that is a market Niche that customers will patronize. 

DOUG MCVAY: That was my conversation with Doug fine. His new book is American hemp farmer published by Chelsea Green publishing find him on the web at And on social media where he's at @organiccowboy. And for now, that's it. I want to thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies where production of 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 are kept at the James A Baker III Institute for public policy.

04/08/20 Mitch Earleywine

Century of Lies
Mitch Earleywine
Drug War Facts

This week on Century: Doctor Mitch Earleywine on alcohol addiction, treatment, and recovery, plus a conversation with the comedian, journalist, and activist Ngaio Bealum.

Audio file



Mitch Earleywine


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 on Today's Show part of my conversation with the comedian journalists and activists Ngaoi Bealum, but first, dr. Mitch Earleywine is a professor of psychology at the State University of New York in Albany. He's also a widely published researcher and an author. He's on The Advisory board for NORML the National Organization for the reform of marijuana laws. And he's also the author of understanding marijuana and of the parents guide to marijuana many of you may be familiar with Mitch because of his work on marijuana, but you know Professor Earleywine also has a very Broad and deep knowledge of Substance abuse, addiction, Alcohol and Other Drugs. He teaches a class on drugs at Suny Albany. Now, of course currently schools across the U.S. are physically closed due to the covid-19 pandemic courses are still being taught remotely. Distance learning technology is becoming more widely used which is wonderful and Mitch's drug classes no exception. But what is exceptional is that he's making his lectures available to the public; the content he's producing and posting to his YouTube channel is tremendously interesting. It's informative. It's thought-provoking. I recommend it highly and right now we're going to hear a portion. This is from Professor Mitch Earleywine's class on drugs. The title of this lecture is alcoholism 2.

PROFESSOR MITCH EARLEYWINE: let's take a look at some of the Key activities that are associated with either the 12 steps or the traditions and then see how they relate to some other treatments. We know like behavioral activation. So Key activities literally almost every session of 12-step facilitation focuses on the key notion of getting active. So getting active means going to meetings going to multiple meetings finding a meeting where you eventually feel like you fit in, attending it regularly participating in those meetings, being the person who makes the coffee or you know arranges for things getting active also includes identifying 12-step peers. So you've got folks to also have committed to not using drugs or alcohol finding a sponsor literally getting somebody to commit to having an important kind of relationship with you wear because of some expertise they have their be willing to offer you some guidance and then having some folks talk to having some phone numbers calling the 12-step hotline, Regularly. This is the kind of thing that obviously increases commitment to a sober lifestyle and helps you occupy your day with activities that are essentially incompatible with alcohol consumption. Now when we talked about behavioral activation and when we talk about it again, we talk about depression. This is really just hey, let's make sure I spend my time doing things that are consistent with my values. I don't mean to minimize the spiritual aspects of this and if that is the mechanism we maybe need to find better measures of it, but this is really cool. So whats another level. Well, how about speaking at meetings? There are certain speaker meetings where one or two people are often the key speakers at that time and they go up and sort of tell their tale explaining exactly what happened to them, what they learned or focused on a couple of key steps and how they were instrumental in their recovery. This is really an opportunity to also make a public commitment as we talked about in motivational interviewing and, Oh that stages of change model. What's going to get activity to Really Happen? Well, if I've suddenly told everybody. Hey, I am an alcoholic and by the way, I'm making this public commitment to no longer consume alcohol. That's a pretty impressive kind of public commitment and sets us up for this cognitive dissonance where I no longer going to be able to behave in that way. Without really challenging my beliefs or I have to change my beliefs, what I love about this. Is it really boils down to an intriguing? Quotation that has been attributed to a whole lot of different people but faith without works is dead. It's one thing to say. Oh, yeah. I am making this commitment and I'm going to confess it to myself and a deity that may not be invisible but it's another thing to start walking the walk and as we walk the walk particularly if we take on the identity of someone who is in recovery, we start behaving in that way more and more often and lo and behold as the Days without drinking add up and particularly as we endure challenges without running to alcohol or a drug. This eventually becomes particularly informative and maybe even easier so a few of the 12-step terms that I think in a sense can be translated into behaviorism terms, but really have a nice. Accessibility if you will a certain intuitive appeal that a part of 12-step either Traditions pretty much the Traditions one is including enabling. So anybody who minimizes the negative consequences or facilitates, the drinking of someone else is said to be enabling. So if I know the dean calls me on a Monday and I had my wife answer the phone and say oh Mitch has the flu but really I'm all hungover. We would say she's enabling and that that, the Hallmark of codependency as if that's going to happen in so many ways that you guys know my wife. I do think of the behavioral expression of secondary gain. What does a person get by engaging in this behavior is certainly working on an intriguing set of contingencies and something to look at it from that perspective as well the expression people places and things meaning, who are the folks. Who've been paired with alcohol consumption or drug use, where are the places that have been paired with alcohol use or drug use and what are the things where the couch ramones if you will this is a lot like the Queue reactivity work when we talked about what the opiates were folks would you know shoot up with water or essentially expose themselves to the cues for the drug in an effort to extinguish some of those classically conditioned responses. Truth be told this is not something you want to do on your own and I've told a number of stories where folks kind of inadvertently find themselves in these situations that tend to elicit craving. But if you can identify these and make a relapse prevention plan for running into somebody who used to be when your drinking buddies or eventually ending up near a bar that used to be your hangout that sort of stuff. It's from a cognitive level a great plan. And if you can expose yourself to the idea time and again, and even the spaces under safe circumstances, some of those classically conditioned responses are bounded down. And then the halt expression which is literally hungry, angry, lonely and tired in a sense. These are internal states that have often predicted alcohol consumption in the past. Why not take advantage of that knowledge and either think about this from a cue reactivity perspective or as signs that it's time to, you know, reach out to 12-step buddies or sponsor pray whatever, you know. Being the technique you want I like this because in the sense it's saying let's go ahead and attend to our internal State our own effects etcetera. Whereas people place and things are often a kind of external outside your own body approach fault is really saying hey, we need to learn to attend to our own inner experience and have that be whatever it's going to be. It may not always be pleasant but certainly something I could tolerate and maybe even saver if I let myself, so now if I can have a range of a affect whether it be delighted or depressed can I do that without drinking and under those circumstances take care of myself by intervening when I'm hungry angry lonely or tired in a way that doesn't involve drug use so I don't end up at high risk for relapse, right? Well if you're hungry eat something as we learned in, in, one of my favorite can do any movies if you're angry. Can you work something out? Is there a way to make it a series of requests are you lonesome by all means request some support if you're tired; sleep and it's stunning the number of cognitions we have around each of these. Oh my God, I'm not allowed to eat because -no everybody needs to eat. Oh my God. I'm not allowed to get angry because trust me plenty of things can make you justifiably angry. It doesn't mean you have to behave in a hostile or aggressive way. It just means it's time to intervene. What about being Lonesome? Well, we have individual differences on this. But hey, if you haven't been around folks or if you're around folks in just don't feel connected by all means. Let's talk about building some social skills and making that feeling not only something you can tolerate but something you can intervene with and finally tired this American Butch presentation of oh, I only need five hours of sleep. That's a biological phenomenon. You guys have heard me for celebrate on the love, the Heaven of sleep before so I'll leave that at that. Bottom line is so she'll know these terms for test. If you happen to be taking a test in the class that may or may not be presented related to this material. Those are the definitions your professor might be going for. Curious other set of 12-step terms that I just think are intriguing include moral inventories. These are hard to describe without some sounding judgmental, but they're really about taking a look at pretty much every Behavior. You've ever admitted all you're a prince and saying what were my motivations here? Was this really about genuine contribution or was this some Machiavellian self-gain and if so, what do I want to do about it, building up to essentially one of the steps that's really all about repair. So if I make this inventory and realize inventory and realize hey, there's some folks who I have wronged. I need to get in touch with them and offer to make amends if I can do so in a way that sounds productive and isn't going to essentially create even more trouble why not go ahead and do this. So I like this approach to all of life and got to admit. I have mailed a few checks in my day and made some apologetic calls, and we could all just take a look back at anybody we may have wronged and try to essentially reach out and offer to make amends. What a wonderful approach to life allanon. So if you happen to be related or associated somebody with an alcohol related problem. Is it worth going ahead to connect to that community and talk to those folks and see if they can offer some support and then the slogans as I realize these get minimized and ridiculed frequently, but the method behind the madness and the Delight behind the message is actually pretty intriguing. So the first one is first things first, essentially if I make sobriety less than type priority. What's going to happen odds are high I'm going to increase my probability of at least a laps if not a relapse and the other expression that I don't have on here one drink one drunk. This notion of control drinking is really counter to the disease model. That's Central to the 12-step model. So there isn't going to be a little lapse anything like that should be taken super seriously now my friend stand people who you guys have heard me talk about before has ribbed this whole movement and talked about it as cultish, but I do want to focus on the positive on this at least for now fake it till you make it is unfortunately one of the most misunderstood Expressions, but what we're really saying is act as if you have faith faith will be granted to you, right? If I omit the opperance if I walk the walk even if the chatter inside my head is not consistent. What could possibly go wrong? Right if I don't feel like getting out of bed and staying sober that day and I do it anyway? wow, there's one time when I have challenged a serious set of cognitions dealt with a serious set of negative emotions and in some ways built up some self-control for when these events invariably happen again in the future easy. Does it make you have dose and in parentheses here because that was one of the big Jokes, at least among the real answers was easy dose it but easy does it just means hey, let's make sure consistent with the first things first notion. We take our lives only so seriously, and we only demand reasonable amounts from ourselves each day. I think oh coincidentally if you happen to be dealing with oh a coronavirus and it coronavirus and a national quarantine. It's kind of an American tradition to start sitting outrageous elaborate goals when in fact just getting through this time would be completely delightful and an admirable achievement. There's no need to have to learn a foreign language and master the Ocarina at this time. Right? So let's make sure our goals are reasonable and our expectations for ourselves include plenty of time devoted to self-care and finally turn it over whatever that higher power is and folks who are atheist but you know definitely relish and appreciate nature and the Delights that are inherent in the universe why not appreciate the fact that that is so huge and that my little problems could be turned over to it in a sense. Let me let the reverberations of the Big Bang handle some of this let me let the god I happen to love who I'm praying to when I'm on my knees with my hands as pressed together, handle that and there's an opportunity here to then look upon my problems from more distance treat my own cognitions with a little more flexibility and then behave in ways so that my negative effect isn't a disaster that has to send me towards some kind of negative reinforcement model where I have to consume alcohol.

DOUG MCVAY:You're listening to Century Of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay. You just heard a portion of a lecture by Professor Mitch Earleywine PhD a psychology professor at Suny Albany and a renowned researcher and author will have part of an interview with Mitch on next week's show Ngaoi Bealum, is a comedian journalists activists good friend and a friend of the show. I caught up with him recently to see how things were going in the shutdown. Here's part of that conversation. What's it like for a for a for a marijuana smoker, down in, down in Cali these days

NGAOI BEALUM:. Well, we're fortunate in that cannabis is considered an essential service so you can find it and I had some stockpiled so I don't really have to leave the house and delivery services will bring it over for you. So that part is not too bad. Of course the challenge of having cannabis and being stuck in the house is you have to ration your snacks because I just found a big chunk a hash and I'm going to smoke part of it, but I know it's going to give me the munchies and not just the munchies the out-of-body experience munchies. And so I have to make sure I have some healthy snacks on hand first and and not eat all the snacks, right, you know, you don't want to kill off all that Honey Nut Cheerios before the end of the of the quarantine.

DOUG MCVAY: That's an aspect that I had never considered but you're right. It's the oh my goodness that a portion control takes on new challenge,

NGAOI BEALUM: right? And you know, what is portion control to a person with the munchies means is that you is that even a thing you just eat to you're not hungry now that can take a minute that could be a whole pizza that could be a pint of ice cream. You never know. You never know what's going to happen. It could be a bunch of Pancakes, the whole loaf of bread.

DOUG MCVAY: There are people who consider it can you know, basically a serving is more like a Boehner so, you know to bottle this is a container it's several glasses.

NGAOI BEALUM: I still have been in Jerry's ice cream where it'll say the Pint will say for is the amount of servings. Nope. I didn't you I've never eaten a fourth of the midi Jerry. I throw the top away. It's not coming back. It's ah, we're gonna eat that whole thing man. That's just how it goes. We're older now. We're a little more responsible. Let me be now we eat half of it. but still he

DOUG MCVAY: and I might actually be the one good thing about the quarantine is I'll drop a couple of the excess pounds that I've put on over the last few, you know, getting old you is the sedentary life thats that,

NGAOI BEALUM: That's the thing. Like I'm more sedentary, you know, I they still let you Golf out here for now. As long as you don't touch anybody. They reconfigured the golf holes. You don't have to touch the flag stick. It just kind of rolls toward the cup and as long as it hits the cup or the flagstick that counts so it's actually improve my score one person to a golf cart and they sanitize all the cards and I carry hand sanitizer with me everywhere I go and I apply Liberally, I handed out to people I throw it on people's faces. Just whatever whatever I think will work. I'm very careful that like careful about these things. But yeah, but yeah, so that's the challenge. I've become a juggler again to so we'll see. Maybe I'll be really good at that again. We'll see how it goes.

DOUG MCVAY: Very cool. Very cool. That Is it, making the productive use and I can imagine I mean we're supposed to remain active. There's some you know, stay indoors stay indoors. But what if you really do only have a small space say a cramped attic room and you just, you know, barely enough space to like, you know stand up and try and do yoga, you know thats tough, right?

NGAOI BEALUM: Yoga, Tai Chi all these things. I guess you could run in place right treat your house like it's a treadmill Pace a lot. I'm a Pacer anywhere, anyway, so he's walking around trying to sit hit your step count in the kitchen in an hour clean your house. That's my advice everybody which I'm not taking to myself do as I say not as I do

DOUG MCVAY: that was part of a conversation with the multimedia Entertainer comedian journalists and activists Ngaio Bealum, you can find him on Twitter and Instagram. He's at Ngaio420. That's at Ngaio420; you're listening to Century of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay, you know, I was looking through some old files recently looking at old photos and some sound recordings and I found a recording of Ngaio that I thought I'd lost I saw him at Seattle Hempfest back in 2015 doing set and recorded it enjoy.

---- Audio 2015 HempFest ----

NGAOI BEALUM:Let's hear it for New Jersey Weed Man, by the way. Who says people in New Jersey are rude, that was very polite. He brought me a joint and a lighter now. He's going to smoke it for me, right? I will pass through this delicious. Is that a terpenes the listerine, got some purple lean sizzling in there. I can taste the list of reasons that make your breath great. This is great effects of breath. Look at all these old older people. We're all getting old right some of his men here. Here's the thing though. Here's the thing. This is what I noticed we keeps you cute old Stoners are way cuter than old drums. You know, that's what I'm saying. If you do, Jersey- right, Toledo wasn't Toledo window box, George Carlin. Somebody from the old elephant castle. It's the Bellas Fair Bud. Someone swam over the river from Canadia. I don't even know how you get to Canada- practice what everybody's Fancy with the weed now, it's all like, oh, you know everybody like has tasting notes. This delightful train wreck has notes of limonene and Munchies. I don't know people just make, All so crazy who's in charge of naming weed. By the way, do we need we've named Green Crack. Do you want weed that makes you act like crack? That's not cool. Let's change it up Nah man weed after people is also weird. My boy called me up the other day, right? He's like, hey, man, I crossed a white widow with a train wreck. I call it Courtney Love. That joke always kills it Seattle. Oh take your time. Where did he go? There was we named after Charlie Sheen for a minute. Charlie. Sheen is not a weed head. Charlie Stevens a crackhead. Would you smoke weed that makes you act like a crackhead? No, you wouldn't I'm good on the Charlie Sheen. Do you have some Willie Nelson in the back? Perhaps right. Let me get an eighth of the Miles Davis right a half ounces of Jerry Garcia. Right and a couple grams of Snoop because I'm going to a party later and we don't love these hoes. There's Obama kush get you so high you stare off into space like a president. Thank you. We need more minorities in the Cannabis industry by the way. Can you guys work on that? Yeah, you can help me fund my new business. I got a new business we're going to it's a minority staffed cannabis concentrates extraction company- black lives shatter.

I wrote that joke Friday. here I'm hogging somebody I don't want to be that guy right off, weed, the joint and the microphone then I believe that's all right, because I will take your lighter right if I leave the house with three ladders. I come home with three letters. They're not always the same three lighters. You guys don't talk about its conservation of life; lighters are neither created nor destroyed. They just spontaneously generated and liquor stores and Costco's you guys though. I'm getting to that rambly point. See there's probably some hash happened this morning. I just ramble you have a ramp like see I can smoke weed and come out and tell jokes I practice at but has makes me rambley like an old hippie. You know what I mean? You were hanging out with those guys going on, it gets tangential. You know what I mean? You ask them how to make a pie? He'll tell you how to grow a tree. You want my apple pie recipe man. That's great. That's fantastic. We've been friends long enough. I think you're ready. The first ingredient is love. Listen. I know it sounds corny man, but people don't say it enough and everybody acts like it doesn't matter. If you don't start with love is then we're going to taste right? So right there first you start with love and then it's 2 cups of apples. I recommend a cross or a mix of the Fuji and the pink lady the Fuji comes from Japan, Which is interesting. It's one of the older variations that started in because a Christian, which is the birthplace of all apples. I was in Kazakhstan one time after college because I follow the Silk Road on my Vision Quest and it was there and this little hut that I met this cat. I think he was like a cougar r or whoever or whatever but he had this hash. It was all brown and crumbly and delicious and kind of spicy it smell like cinnamon. It's 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. It just went on and on for days and days. let's talk about crust brother. Follow me. I want to show you these seeds I got from my friend Running Bear. I met him at a rainbow Gather in Wyoming a 1982 and we stayed up all night. We did psilocybin mescaline and we hybridize these gluten-free seats, but they keep a flaky crust because the government spiked the food supply and I look what are your intentions with this pot supply of wooing or a pie. It affects the magnets, took a week and a half and it took me five years to actually make, their pie but it was the best pie I've ever had in my life because I was finally ready, for my tree had grown. I'm Glad You Stoners could hang on for the end of that story. I know it's hard out there sometimes wait what how much cinnamon? I'm a good cook though. I love to cook. I'm a good cook because of weed right because I don't have a lot of money. So I will invent food to eat you understand and we have bisquick and peanut butter. We got peanut butter rolls coming in 10 to 12 minutes. You know what I'm talking about 12 to 14. Really I read the box. I looked in the pantry one time. We have marshmallows margarine and Top Ramen. I'm making ramen treats. They were hella good too

----Audio End----

DOUG MCVAY: That was Ngaoi Bealum performing live at Seattle HempFest in 2015 now so far as I know we are still planning for Seattle Hempfest to take place in August this year. I'll keep you informed as things progress as far as schedules or if there are changes and for now, that's it. I want to thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies where production of the drug truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation radio network on the web at I'm your host Doug McVay editor of the executive producer of the Drug truth network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs including this show Centre of Lies as well as the flagship show of the drug truth Network cultural baggage. And of course our daily 420 drug war news news segments are all available by podcast the URLs to subscribe our on the network homepage at The drug truth network has a Facebook page. Please give it a like, to give its page a like and share it with friends. Remember knowledge is power you Follow me on Twitter. I'm at DougMcVay. And of course also at drugpolicyfacts 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 are kind at the James A Baker III Institute for public policy.

04/01/20 Jumaane Williams

Century of Lies
Jumaane Williams
Drug War Facts

This week on Century of Lies: Prisons, jails, and pandemic. In this time of pandemic, correctional institutions are like Petri dishes in which the novel coronavirus COVID-19 grows and spreads. Public health experts and criminal justice advocates around the nation are demanding that jails and prisons release some of the people being held behind bars in order to stop or at least slow the spread of this deadly disease. The organization Just Leadership USA recently held a web seminar on COVID-19 and the New York City jail on Riker’s Island. We hear portions of that seminar on today’s show, including: Jumaane Williams, Public Advocate for the City of New York; Doctor Bobby Cohen, member of the New York City Board of Correction; Marlene Aloe, whose son is being held on Rikers Island awaiting a retrial; Janet, whose son is being held on Rikers awaiting sentencing; and Tahanee Dunn from Bronx Public Defenders. We also hear from Nick Turner, president and director of the Vera Institute of Justice.

Audio file




DEAN BECKER: The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens prosecutors and millions more now calling for decriminalization or 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 In these days of pandemic people are learning a lot of new words.

Pandemic, take for instance. And one of my favorites petri dish according to the Smithsonian's national museum of American History quote- Petri dishes are named after German physician Julius Petrie in the late 1880s Petrie developed a set of nesting glass plates that created an ideal environment for growing microorganisms. The Deep flat dish filled with a nutrient-rich gelatin provided a place for growth. The lid protected the sample from contamination and facilitated. Its viewing under a microscope. Public health and criminal justice experts are now referring to jails and prisons as Petri dishes. Thanks to the spread of covid-19 social distancing as every expert has been telling us for weeks and months now is one key to slowing and possibly stopping the spread of this deadly virus incarceration makes social distancing damned impossible prisons and jails around the country are now reporting confirmed cases of covid-19 among inmates, as well as guards. Advocates around the country are begging Corrections Officials and law enforcement and public leaders to open the doors and release people before it's too late,many people held in jails haven't even been convicted. They're being held pending trial no conviction, yet we may have already given them a death sentence by exposing them to this virus; in New York City, there's been a strong Progressive Movement building for some time to close that cities complex on Rikers Island, the movement has gained a lot of momentum thanks to this virus the organization just leadership USA recently held a web seminar on Rikers and covid-19. We're going to hear some of that audio now first up the public advocate for the City of New York. Jumaane Williams.

JUMAANE WILLIAMS: All right, thank you so much for having us and everybody on the call. And I thank the speaker for his leadership and first just to echo what you said which is critically important all of these issues that we have spoken about it. If we had really invested them if we had really taken the time to try to fix them we may not be such a dire situation as we all right now. I want to be clear just recently just now the governor put out his most dire prediction yet about what is going to happen to people in New York City and in New York state and those numbers frankly are frightening. He put out some numbers yesterday. I think people have the concern about putting them out, but we have to and I say that all to say if it's a dire situation, for all of us who are outside or who have a larger space in the city in the state. What is the situation for people who are in Riker's, people are in DOCs across the state. It is literally a petri dish if you wanted to talk about a place. That was the worst place we can create for a viral outbreak of people who are housed and incarcerated that's it. And it's just just so disturbing all the slowness in which many of our leaders are acting on behalf of everyone in this city. And in this state and I want to push back on people some people ask why do I keep lifting up the people who are incarcerated trying to dehumanize them? This is not a time to play who is worthy of care who is worthy of being saved. No one that I know was sentenced to death by viral disease and so we have to make sure we lift up and continue to humanize everyone this state arrests people for simple technical violations at twice the rate of the national average. We are among the worst states in doing that so immediately there are hundreds of people like the speaker say we have a number of slightly over 700, but it's around the same range that can be released right now. There are over 900 senior citizens, who are all in Rikers Island and right now two-thirds of them are there for technical violations. These are people that we don't even need to think about our mayor is moving too slow. I also want to add our governor is moving too slowly when it comes across the state. I wanted to make sure that we are speaking up for everyone very often. We like to say that we are one of the among the most Progressive cities and states. We are always far behind when it comes to these things. There are states and cities across the country that have already done this. We are not trying to put the public at more risk. We are simply trying to protect people who are housed in Rikers and DOCs across the state many of them particularly Rikers who may not have even be census there awaiting trial many of them who are there because of simple technical violations many of them who are sentenced to minimum sentences, which means they weren't grave crimes to begin with and probably won't bring any other kind of risk to the public. Lastly, I want people to remember this is about the people who are housing these facilities in the cages. It is also about the people who are working the correctional officers and the support staff, the people who are going back to their families. What we need now is courageous leadership. It's fine to go up and try to be a calming influence because we definitely need that and let people know what's going on. But we need action. There was a cost a human toll to in action. There was a cost and a human toll to waiting in other places across the world where we see people have acted. The one thing that we hear is we wish we had acted sooner and so I'm calling on our leaders, on our mayor, on our government, on DEA, and DOCs and the corrections to move now time is a luxury that we just don't have.

DOUG MCVAY: that was New York City public Advocate Jumaane Williams. He was speaking in a web seminar organized by justice leadership USA on the incarcerated populations and covid-19. You're listening to Century of lies. I'm your host Doug McVay; Robert L Cohen MD is a physician in practice in Manhattan. Dr. Cohen worked on Rikers Island as the Director of the Medicine Rikers Island Health Services. He served as vice president for medical operations at the New York City Health and hospitals Corporation. And is the director of AIDS center at st. Vincent's Hospital, Dr. Cohen is a member of the New York City Board of correction. He also spoke on that web seminar organized by just leadership USA. Here's dr. Bobby Cohen.

DR. BOB COHEN: Thank you Brandon. And thank you. Thank you all on this call into the councilman, the public Advocate. I'm honored to be among this group. The Board of Correction has called on them, on the mayor and the governor and the chief judge of the state of New York and all of the district to immediately release up to 2,000 people from the city from the city's jails. This is a public health crisis. There are many people on Rikers Island who are older, who are older than 50 who have many many medical problems. There are people that we know have very serious medical problems and these people have to be released because without, if they are still there the population they were going to get sick. They're going to get very sick because they have underlying Equal problems and the medical staff are at Rikers Island and the security staff will be overwhelmed in taking care of them. If we can drastically decrease the population in Rikers Island as has been stated here. There are now six hundred some-odd 475 City sentence people the mayor released at least 70. I just have to say that having at least 70 people or so in the past three or four days that happens every day on Rikers Island. That means, that means nothing in terms of the of the volume of people being discharged at the mayor can himself accomplished he's getting good advice from some of his commissioners. He's getting bad advice from other of his Commissioners and he should immediately release these 475 city people he has the authority of the to do that people who are in real situation are over a thousand people there the people who are in technical parole violation, and there arr the people who are have open cases and are don't have access to bail because they have of a technical parole violation and the number of people over 50 is over is over 700 people. So they're about 2,000 people who can be be released. I think that the city has already recognized that the better population on Rikers Island is 3300 people. That's what the city of,with the city council is committed to that's what the mayor is committed to and there are 53 hundred people in the cities jails today. 2,000 of them can be can be can be released. I agree with the with the Advocate that this is this is not based upon people's charges. This is based upon the fact that almost everybody on Rikers Island has been is there and has not been convicted of anything they're there because the because even though bail has been, made more available there. There are many people who do not have eligibility for bail, are on technical parole violations, but they were all innocent of the other because they have not been convicted. I talked to doctors on Rikers Island today. They are begging the mayor to cut down the population. They and the security staff for doing everything they can to make it as safe as possible for everyone who's there, but they cannot cope with the population that is there right now so though, I as a member of the board of Correction and collectively the board calls on the city and the chief judge and the DA's and the governor to release as many people as possible and rapidly to give to give them medical and security staff, the chance and to decrease the number of people who will die from this disease. No one should die in jail. Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Dr. Bobby Cohen member of the New York City Board of Corrections speaking about covid-19 and incarcerated people. He was part of a web seminar held recently by justice leadership USA. This is Century of lies. I'm your host Doug McVay. Let's stay with this web seminar next speaker. You'll hear is Marlene Aloe. we’ll have the moderator of the seminar Brandon Homes introduce her.

BRANDON HOMES: So one of the key demands and solutions presented by Advocates and the board of Corrections in their letter to the mayor is to release people who are immunocompromised, right? This should be a no-brainer. This should be one of the highest priorities when we are looking at folks who need to be immediately released and put it in to save your settings will learn at home with their loved one. We actually have the mother of an individual who is currently on Rikers, awaiting an appeal after an earlier hung jury and who has been is living with leukemia to speak about you know, how her son is at risk, Marlene, Hello. We're going to pass over to you now. Thank you.

MARLENE ALOE: Good afternoon, first and foremost. I speak on behalf of my son David Aloe and other people that are in custody who are human beings and for their release. My son is currently incarcerated at North infirmary Commander Rikers Island of facility ravished with unsanitary conditions giving the growing coronavirus already identified a trike is my concern is for my son and other people in custody me who have compromising health conditions. He has, he's been battling aggressive lymphoma leukemia for three years. He goes back to Bellevue every 30 days to get chemo and it has been stated to me that the mayor wants everyone in six feet of distance of each other and everybody in the jail is in close proximity of each other spreading can be deadly items such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizers and considered contraband. So these people in custody cannot protect themselves if they're released they can go home and they can be safe and it's very demising and very compromising to people who have health conditions in the jails and he's been battling this cancer for three years and it's a very deadly situation. It's a plague in the jails. It's a plague

DOUG MCVAY: that was Marlene Aloe, Her son is being held on Rikers Island, awaiting a retrial after his first trial resulted in a hung jury, even if he is found not guilty. We may have sentenced him to death. We'll have more of that justice leadership Web Conference in just a moment. We're going to stay with covid-19 and the penal system for now the president and director of the Vera Institute of Justice Nicholas Turner, issued a statement recently about the lack of immediate action from federal and local stakeholders. Here's Nicholas Turner

NICK TURNER: I'm Nick Turner the president of the Vera Institute of Justice. I'm making this video right now from Brooklyn, New York. And as everyone probably knows by now New York is the epicenter of the U.S. Coronavirus crisis. We have to do everything that we can to protect our most vulnerable people and some of the most vulnerable people right now are in jail and prison and detention centers where they are at extreme risk of infection from coronavirus and have no ability to protect themselves for the last 60 years Bureau has worked with our advocacy partners and with government leaders to do what we could to provide a greater degree of justice and fairness in the criminal legal system and to end mass incarceration today. I'm doing something different. I'm speaking publicly to the government leaders who we work with and saying that now is the time to be bold and we have to take immediate action. We have to stop arrests and immigration raids that put people into a system where they are incapable of protecting themselves have to release people with discretionary release mechanisms and with medical furloughs and we have to identify people who have underlying conditions who, over 55 years old or who are pregnant and we have to get them out of a system where they have no ability to protect themselves and where the system has no ability to protect them right now. People are watching New York. We are a week ahead of where the rest of this country is and we have to take bold action. We have to act now and we have to act with Humanity. People's lives are depending upon it. We have to protect the safety of everyone.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Nick Turner president and director of the Vera Institute of Justice. You're listening to Century of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay. Now, let's get back to that Web Conference held recently by just leadership USA. We're going to hear now from Brad Landers, Brad Landers is a member of the New York City Council representing the 39th District in Brooklyn Brad serves as the council's deputy leader for policy.

BRAD LANDERS: Thanks Brandon, and thanks to everybody on this call for raising the alarm Bell 12 days ago. The doctors on Rikers Island who serves folks there, published the open letter that I put up on medium on March the 12th. I just linked it in the chat 12 days ago. That was when we had time to implement these policies to stop bringing people in through more broken windows policing during the crisis and to start moving on the board of Corrections recommendations. And here we are 12 days later and only 70 people have been released of the hundreds were talking about and more people are going in. I don't know if you heard but at a press conference just two days ago. The police commissioner said that he and the mayor feel good and are comfortable with their policing strategy right now in that its continuing with the same policing strategy. It is not being changed as a result of the crisis 12 days ago. We could have started moving. We've got to start moving right now; shutting down broken windows policing letting all the folks out that you've heard about. I do want to urge people. Put pressure on the governor as well as the mayor the mayor can do a lot more releasing, but the governor and the Corrections Department could just remove all the technical violations from folks who are on parole. So then they wouldn't be being held on technical violation. So there are hundreds of folks in there that the governor and state action could remove and then I also want to urge people to join the call addressing Federal jails and prisons at Metropolitan Corrections Center and at NBC in Sunset Park this is also happening and I got an email yesterday from a woman whose 72 year old sister is being held at MCC on a mail fraud charge. So charged with mail fraud 72 year old woman can barely stand up and she's in a place where we know coronavirus is spreading and her sister reached out to me and pointed out that New Jersey has released a thousand people, in Iran they released fifty thousand prisoners and in New York City, we have released 70- it's a crime. It's way past Time for Action. Thanks to everyone for being on this call. And we're just going to have to keep shouting. Thank you

DOUG MCVAY: That was New York City councilor. Brad Lander speaking in a web seminar held by just leadership USA on covid-19 in jails and prisons specifically in the New York City Jail of Riker's Island. Let's hear now from Janet whose son is on Rikers. She's introduced by the moderator Brandon Homes,

BRANDON HOMES: and our next speaker is going to be Janet, her son is currently on Rikers and has been for three and a half years. He is awaiting sentencing at which he could be granted time served and be released but with sentencing and many court hearings now delayed. We don't know if there's any end in sight so Janet for passing the mic to you.

JANET: Thank you very much. Yeah. I mean I want to bust this open a little bit because I think of all the other men and women on Rikers and in the other Jail for systems aren't going to fit into these cohorts that of the 2000 which are really important. And so it completely important that we start at the top and we keep digging and we dig and dig in to dig until we release more than 2,000 people because what's happening is that these are Petri dishes and currently what my son tells me is is so disturbing because most of the people will remain in these prison their risk for getting it just like, like all of us are and we're trying to you know self isolate. They can't do that. There are a lot of men and women on Rikers Island.They have to look to the people who are running those those jails in order, to- as their you know, people who are going to protect them. So identified the number one thing I think is that these men and women lack information. No one's no one's telling them. What the status is on Rikers Island. So rumors abound tensions become very hot. And I think violence is something we haven't talked about but this is we're looking at if we don't pay attention to also the people that are there and how this is being dealt with by the docc and what the mayor says and what the governor says and and impresses on the importance of all this they're going to be problems Beyond also a virus. So for example, there is just you know, there's a lack of information. There's a lack of coordination of efforts these men and women don't know what's going. What's the status of the island? They don't know if there is any plan or plans and what they are they have very little feeling to very little ability to feel that what is being done. If things are being done are really in their best interest COs come in and out Corrections Officers in and out everyday people that work on the island in and out every day. Somebody just mentioned arrests, so they're sitting in dorms of 20 and 30 and 40 people without proper with people coming in and there's no there's no way to protect themselves. Social distancing is not possible in a jail yard, which maybe they could actually distance themselves has been suspended in many cases these men and women can't even get outside to get some fresh air and to distance themselves somewhat. The cleaning is questionable hygiene and Disinfecting is haphazard. Everything is made out of metal in a jail. And we know we've been talking we've been told how metals have to be cleans their beds their toilets their sinks the tables they eat off of them and a best somebody comes in a team of three or four and clean something every other day. Every three days these men and women aren't given any training or any of the supplies to do their own self cleaning. So I really think,We need to have some leadership. They are human beings. They need to know what the plan is. We get a plan every day three times a day, you know from our government they get nothing they get nothing. So there'll be a lot of people there that are not going to be able to be released and that we can mitigate their health issues and the spread of that virus if we pay attention to some of that and I would also just go on to say that I really think that we need to continue to identify you Above and beyond these very important cohorts that we've listed before with the numbers of people that we go deeper find find all the know and low-risk men and women who can be taken off that Island we could not but I would say these are warning signs and you know, you can't there's going to be violence. You know, we don't talk about it, but it's going to happen if people are not treated like human beings and made to believe that they are being protected when they don't have that agency themselves because they're in a prison it's wrong it's wrong and it's going to be on our heads and this mayor’s head and shoulders and and our governor if they don't do the right thing

DOUG MCVAY: that was Janet her son is awaiting sentencing on Rikers Island you listening to Century of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay. This is Tahanee Dunn from Bronx public defenders.

TAHANEE DUNN: My name is Tahanee Dunn. I'm a public defender and the prisoners rights attorney at the Bronx Defenders the confirmed cases of covid-19 in our city jails confirm what we already know incarcerated people are particularly vulnerable in the event of a Public Health crisis, like the ongoing spread of covid-19 our attorneys and Advocates continue to hear from our clients. They do not have access to soap cleaning supplies, hand wash eating and showers housing areas are not being cleaned and people are being forced to remain in close proximity to others who are exhibiting flu-like symptoms. There are extreme delays people requesting to go to clinic people are not receiving their medications lockdowns are being used more frequently with without much communication as to why and although there have been many confirmed covid-19 cases amongst incarcerated people and DOC staff. No one is communicating this so that the people can engage in self care and self-advocacy to the extent possible while in jail. We are deeply concerned for the health and safety of our clients as the threat of a widespread scale outbreak of covid-19 at Rikers Island continues to grow while the Bronx Defenders has had some success getting clients released. The city's response has been far too slow. We are asking the mayor to do all that is within his power to ensure the safety and well-being of incarcerated people and those who work in NYC jails. This includes securing the immediate release of people incarcerated, Pretrial and serving City sentences in our cities jails, especially people over 50 people with chronic illnesses such as HIV and respiratory issues like asthma, pregnant people, people in pretrial detention and people on probation violations. The mayor should also direct DOC in Correctional Health Services to better collaborate with attorneys and other stakeholders so that we can advocate for early release allowing for incarcerated clients and people to have hand sanitizers and disinfectant products relax rules about how much so people can possess allow paper allow for paper towels for hand drying and increase access to running water and showers. Condemned DOC on use of excessive force isolation and lockdowns insist that DOC expand their video conferencing capacity and availability to make sure and I'm sorry and make sure that people are produced and produced on time. This is incredibly important because of this the safest and virtually only way that attorneys and Advocates are able to communicate with people who are on the inside about their ongoing cases release of advocacy release advocacy and health conditions. Lastly many of our clients are in for a technical parole violations. We ask that the mayor, urged the governor to work with parole to help facilitate the release of people on parole technical parole violations and parole holds. This is the time for the mayor to take action to empty out our City's jails . It is only with an immediate direct action of Cities jails that we will guarantee that this Public Health Care Health crisis will not become a full-fledged humanitarian crisis. Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Tahanee Dunn from Bronx public defenders speaking on a web conference organized by just leadership USA on the topic of Riker's Island covid-19 and how we deal with the pandemic among institutionalized populations. Maybe now finally in the time of a deadly pandemic maybe now we can finally rethink our policy of arresting and incarcerating people for minor offenses and really for lifestyle choices is our war on some drugs and on some drug users really worth the cost?

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America's Public Enemy Number One in the United States is drug abuse in order to fight and defeat this enemy. It is necessary to wage a new all-out offensive. I've asked the Congress to provide the legislative Authority, and the funds to fuel this kind of an offensive. This will be a worldwide defensive dealing with the problems of sources of Supply as well as Americans who may be stationed abroad wherever they are in the world. It will be government-wide pulling together the nine different fragmented areas within the government in which this problem is now being handled and it will be Nationwide in terms of a new educational program that we trust will result as from the discussions that we have had

---End of Audio---

DOUG MCVAY: On that note That's it. 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 @ I'm your host Doug McVay editor of, the drug truth network has a Facebook page. Please give it a like. You can follow me on Twitter. I'm at DougMcVay. And of course also at drugpolicyfacts will be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform in the failed War on Drugs 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 are kind at the James A Baker III Institute for public policy.

03/25/20 Bill Panzer

Century of Lies
Bill Panzer
Drug War Facts

This week, we bring you an archive edition from August 30, 2015. It’s one our of Hempfest specials. Seattle Hempfest is a brilliant event, bringing together a couple hundred thousand beautiful freedom loving marijuana legalizing drug policy reforming people to a few mile stretch of park land along Puget Sound in Seattle, Washington. Speakers include CA attorney Bill Panzer, Montana medical marijuana activist Kari Boiter, and Canadian attorney John Conroy. Hempfest is still scheduled for August this year and the good lord willin’ we’ll actually have that event once again, but for now, while we’re sheltered in place in self-quarantine trying to survive this novel coronavirus, COVID-19, let’s go back to August of 2015 and Seattle Hempfest.

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 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

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

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

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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.

02/05/20 James Meritt

Century of Lies
James Merritt
Drug War Facts

This week on Century of Lies: The city of Baltimore considers supervised consumption facilities; the state of Indiana takes a step backward in public health; and we hear from the US Dept. of Health and Human Services about the benefits of syringe service programs.

Audio file



FEBRUARY 5, 2020

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

DOUG MCVAY: Hello and welcome to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of

The Indiana State Senate is trying to take a giant leap backward in public health. Syringe service programs were approved by the state in 2015, but Indiana legislators decided that approval for these programs had to be renewed every other year. A measure to fix this frankly stupid rule was defeated on the floor of the state senate on Tuesday, February 4th. We will hear more about that in a moment.

The City of Baltimore is moving closer to opening a supervised consumption facility on January 13th, the Baltimore City Council approved a Resolution to schedule a hearing on establishing overdose prevention sites in Baltimore. We are going to be hearing some audio from that meeting. The Resolution was sponsored by Council President Brandon Scott. We hear from Council President Scott right after the clerk reads the Resolution.

CLERK: City Council Resolution 20-0189R Informational Hearing on Overdose Prevention Sites for the purpose of inviting representatives from the Health Department, the Baltimore Police Department, the Fire Department, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, and the Law Department to provide information about Overdose Prevention Sites and how they could be established in Baltimore City. Sponsors: President Scott, Henry, Costello, Burnett, Pinkett, Cohen, Dorsey, Clarke, Middleton. Co-sponsors: Stokes, Sneed, Bullock, Reisinger.

PRESIDENT SCOTT: Please add Councilman Bullock, Councilman Reisinger, Councilman Stokes, and Councilwoman Sneed as co-sponsors. Thank you to all of my co-sponsors. Let me be clear – Baltimore has had an overdose crisis my entire life and what we have been unafraid or unwilling to do is address it as a public health issue that it is. Since 2015 there has been 3,500 fatal overdoses in Baltimore and that outweighs the number of people that we lost to gun violence in Baltimore City. We have to take a deeper look at the city’s needle exchange program that is administrated by the Health Department and the role of community based, direct role service providers in providing these services. I am also calling for a hearing to explore overdose prevention sites, the services that they provide, and how they fit in to an evidence-based harm reduction approach to address Baltimore’s overdose epidemic. This is also personal for me because it is a part of my personal growth. When you grow up in Baltimore City in neighborhoods like the one I grew up in which was Park Heights, culturally you are taught to look at people who are struggling with addiction as less than human. This is about us humanizing people and understanding that our brothers, sisters, mothers, and sons who are struggling with addiction are human and they deserve treated fairly and to get the help that they need. The number one responsibility of any government is to save and protect the lives of its citizens. Overdose prevention sites have been proven to do this across the globe and is becoming something that is coming slowing and surely in to America and what we are going to do at these hearings is not only build momentum, but also educate all of us here on the Council and all of the public about what Baltimore could be doing to join the rest of the world in how to deal with addiction and overdose in a different way because we know that we have a problem and we know that the way we are currently attacking that problem is not working. This is just the beginning of a lot of work that we have ahead of us to get ahead of this crisis. I want to also take time to ask some very special guests to stand and be recognized for being a part of this effort in Baltimore. OSI Baltimore is here with a delegation of harm reduction advocates from other countries. I want to recognize Beverly Lightfoot and Russell Maynard who are here all the way from Vancouver, Canada and Ora Roick who is all the way here from Barcelona, Spain which is one of my favorite international cities to visit. I also want to recognize the Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition, CHARM City Care Connection, Power Recovery Center, Parents (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and the many people who serve our communities in need each day and advocate on behalf of harm reduction. Thank you for your great work and please stand to be recognized.


Thank you so much. I look forward to working with each and every one of you. This has been assigned to the Health Committee.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott. The City of Baltimore is working to establish legal, supervised consumption sites in order to reduce the number of overdose deaths and prevent the spread of Hepatitis C, and HIV. You are listening to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVay.

Now let’s stay with harm reduction and turn to the state of Indiana where they are about to get things very, very wrong. Syringe service programs were finally approved by the state of Indiana in 2015 in response to a declared public health emergency. Indiana legislators approved this harm reduction intervention but a lot of them didn’t like it so they decided that approval for these programs had to be renewed every other year. Currently, Indiana’s Syringe Exchange Program is scheduled to expire on July 1, 2021. SB207 was a measure sponsored by State Senator James Merritt who is a Republican. The measure would eliminate that renewal requirement but the bill was defeated on the state senate floor on Tuesday, February 4th. There was a hearing on SB207 before the State Senate’s Committee on Health and Provider Services on January 29th and the bill was approved by that committee on a vote of 9 – 1 and went on to the senate floor with a ‘do pass’ recommendation. There were two witnesses who testified before the committee on SB207, Senator Merritt who is the bill’s lead sponsor and Madison Winetrout who is the Program Director of the Marion County Public Health Department’s Safe Syringe Access and Support Program.

Today we are going to hear part of that hearing. The next voice you hear will be that of State Senator James Merritt.

SEN. MERRITT: Good morning everyone. Mr. Chairman, members of the Senate, members of the Committee thank you very much for hearing SB207. As you can see from the digest this deals with the Syringe Exchange Program we have in this state which is local in nature. I wrote this bill in a broad sense. There is consensus that we are not ready for a lot of the information in the bill. You might have an amendment in front of you that just leaves in the bill itself but removes the sunset of the Syringe Exchange Program so that we don’t have to look at this again every few years. SEPs (Syringe Exchange Program’s) in nine counties are going well. There are 50 SEPs in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and they are doing very well. I have come here today to talk to you and ask you for your support for the amendment which deletes the sunset in the law regarding SEPs.

CHAIRMAN CHARBONNEAU: I think you’ve explained the Amendment well. I will move the Amendment.


CHAIRMAN CHARBONNEAU: Okay. Can we take the Amendment by consent?


CHAIRMAN CHARBONNEAU: Okay. Just a reminder since this is the first time we are going to get testimony. We have listed on every one of the bills that there will be limited time for testimony so I want to refresh everyone’s memory if they have forgotten that. We will be adhering to that admonishment as we move through this day. Senator Merritt, Madison Winetrout.

MADISON. WEINTRAUT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. My name is Madison Winetrout and I am the Program Manager for the Safe Syringe Access and Support Program at Marion County Public Health Department. I am here today to voice our strong support for SB207. I want to sincerely thank Senator Merritt for his efforts to support syringe services in this state. As you may know, syringe service programs are a vital component to addressing the drug epidemic here and across the nation. Such programs are one of the most effective ways to prevent Hepatitis C and HIV cases as well as providing support to influence positive behavioral change that will reduce risky behaviors. People who participate in syringe service programs are five times more likely to enter in to drug treatment programs and they are three times more likely to stop using drugs altogether. Through these programs we get people in the door to provide teachable moments as well as services that reduce risky behaviors and help open the door for rehabilitation. Thanks again to Senator Merritt. I would like to support this bill and I am open for any questions.

CHAIRMAN CHARBONNEAU: Thank you very much. Senator Leising?

SENATOR LEISING: You head up the program in Marion County? In Marion County is it primarily an exchange – needle for needle – or not?

MADISON. WEINTRAUT: It is not. One for one needle exchanges are proven to be the least effective way to prevent HIV and Hepatitis C. The primary goal of the program is to reduce infectious diseases related to injection drug use. The secondary goal is to promote the health of people who use drugs through other services such as getting them in to rehabilitation, getting them in to infectious disease treatment. When you limit the number of syringes a person has access to, you are encouraging syringe reuse and sharing.

SENATOR LEISING: Do you have an average number of syringes that are doled out per person at your facilities?

MADISON. WEINTRAUT: It varies greatly. People may inject anywhere from one time to ten times a day. We try to tailor the number of syringes that a person receives based on their need.

SENATOR LEISING: If I am a drug user do I come back every day? Do I come back every week? How many approximately would you give me if I was a heavy drug user?

MADISON. WEINTRAUT: Approximately anywhere from 50 – 80.

SENATOR LEISING: 50 – 80 at one time. How many dirty syringes do you anticipate that I might give you back?

MADISON. WEINTRAUT: Typically anywhere from 60 – 80. We conducted a study with IMPD and IMPY where we found that officers are supportive of people who inject drugs having access to clean needles. We also found that 66% of our participants in our data collection are homeless, which means that they don’t always have a lot of access to their supplies at any given time and this is why we might not have a 100% return rate and cannot expect that.

SENATOR LEISING: I was a strong proponent for needle exchange a few years ago when we implemented this because one of my areas had a big addiction problem and they still do. I really thought that I was supporting needle for needle exchange and I now have real reservations about the number of syringes doled out at one time. I have had law enforcement in my area and neighboring counties tell me that they busted a drug dealer and in his backseat was a box of clean syringes that he has probably gotten from the needle exchange program so that when you buy your drugs he hands you a few clean needles. I have to admit that this sounds more like enabling rather than – and I am an old nurse and I really wanted to deal with Hepatitis C but I really have concerns about how it is being managed. I think most of my constituents would be shocked at how many syringes are being given out to drug addicted. Isn’t there a better way to deal with the drug addicted than this? I don’t know, but I wanted to express my concern.

MADISON. WEINTRAUT: I absolutely understand those concerns and I think that we could do a better job promoting what syringe exchange is. I would argue that when you bust somebody and they have clean syringes in their backseat that it is a good thing because it is preventing HIV and Hepatitis C. As I said, somebody coming to the syringe exchange is five times more likely to enter treatment because we are providing a non-coercive environment for them and we know that self-motivation is the greatest predictor of a person’s recovery success. While I understand the concerns about enabling drug use, I wish that I had a projector so that I could show you pictures of needles that we collected that people have made themselves out of straws, duct tape, and hot glue guns. Access to clean syringes has never prevented anyone from injecting drugs.

SENATOR LEISING: You don’t think there is a big problem with used syringes in parks and public places as a result of not requiring the syringes to be returned?

MADISON. WEINTRAUT: I think it is a problem in the sense that people that don’t have access to syringe exchange and they fear being prosecuted because of possessing syringes due to the unlawful possession of a syringe law, it encourages them to discard those syringes inappropriately because they are afraid of being caught with them. Syringe exchanges have existed in the United States for 30 years and multiple research studies have shown that inappropriate syringe disposal does not increase when you have a Syringe Exchange Program, it actually decreases.


SEN. BROUGH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I know this bill doesn’t deal with this aspect but aren’t there wraparound services available to individuals who participate in Syringe Exchange Programs and have you tracked the success rate of those who participate in this program by taking advantage of the services and then are able to seek help and start on a straighter path?

MADISON. WEINTRAUT: Yes. Absolutely. We are not just a syringe exchange. We offer Hepatitis C and HIV testing and pretty well all of our participants utilize that service. The ones that don’t already know that they are infected with HIV or Hepatitis C. We also provide insurance enrollment for people who are ready to go in to treatment so that barrier is eliminated as far as being able to get in to a treatment program. We provide vaccine services to people as we are in the middle of a Hepatitis A outbreak. Syringe exchange is one of the most effective ways to vaccinate that vulnerable population. At Marion County staff Peer Recovery Coaches and most of the other programs throughout the state also staff Peer Recovery Coaches where we can help guide somebody towards recovery by removing the barriers and helping to facilitate their success moving forward.

SENATOR BROUGH: To your knowledge is that typically how most Syringe Exchange Programs are fashioned?

MADISON. WEINTRAUT: Absolutely. Yes.

SENATOR BROUGH: Okay. Senator Merritt this question is for you. What is the benefit of removing that a public health emergency must be declared as a prerequisite?

SENATOR MERRITT: Madison can probably answer that better than I, but from what I can see from the SEPs we are able to reach out to those that need our help and it is just another bureaucratic hurdle to surmount that I don’t believe is necessary any more.

SENATOR BROUGH: So does that mean that we will see the institution of more Syringe Exchange Programs across the state where there are none now?

SENATOR MERRITT: I would think that the more success we have in the nine counties we have, the more Syringe Exchange Programs we will have.

SENATOR BROUGH: Removing this declaration does not remove the oversight so that if a county or city doesn’t have a Syringe Exchange Program today there is still a procedure and a process they have to go through to get –

SENATOR MERRITT: Yes. That is exactly right.

SENATOR BROUGH: --Okay. Thank you.


SENATOR VERBAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am curious to know if there is anything in your program or policy where there is a limitation of how long you can keep getting these new syringes.

MADISON. WEINTRAUT: I am sorry, can you please speak up?

SENATOR VERBAN: Is there a policy and a measurement of success for a wise guy who keeps coming and getting syringes over and over again? Do you have a time element or a policy that says you can only go so far?


SENATOR VERBAN: So I could be on this program for years?

MADISON. WEINTRAUT: The current law says that syringe exchange must be renewed within the local county or city every 1 – 2 years. We will be up for renewal in June 2020 and fully expect to continue as long as we need. A part of this program is that it is reactionary to a Hepatitis C outbreak. We would like to continue this program as prevention to ensure that people do not contract Hepatitis C or HIV related to injection drug use until they can get in to treatment.


CHAIRMAN CHARBONNEAU: Okay. One more question. What we are doing is we have cut the whole bill and just removed a date.

FEMALE VOICE: It is all about the registration of the syringe exchange. How successful has it been using participation in a Syringe Exchange Program as a defense to having the needles and the drugs that go in the needles? I know this bill says that you can use your participation in a Syringe Exchange Program as a defense to any kind of arrest procedure. Has that been done and how successful are you guys in doing that?

MADISON. WEINTRAUT: No other state has established a syringe exchange registry. To my knowledge, every syringe exchange across the United States is anonymous because injection drug use is an illegal behavior. Creating a registry would deter individuals from participating for fear that it would be used against them. It is a well-intentioned thing but trying to explain that to participants is difficult. Fear of prosecution is one of the main reasons that people do not participate in Syringe Exchange Programs, specifically if a local health department or other government entity is operating it. They worry that it would be used against them.

FEMALE VOICE: Okay. I am a little confused but I will talk to Senator Merritt. Thank you.


SENATOR LEISING: One last question. In Marion County where you have the ability to collect data, have you seen any improvement in your Hepatitis C rate?

MADISON. WEINTRAUT: Not yet and it is not expected because we test more people so it is the same as if you put more officers on the street, you get more arrests. Because we are testing people that have never been tested before we are going to get more diagnosis originally and as the year’s progress you will see a decrease.

SENATOR LEISING: So there has not been a decrease and how long have you had the program in place in Marion County?

MADISON. WEINTRAUT: We launched in April of 2019.


CHAIRMAN CHARBONNEAU: Thank you very much for your testimony. Senator Merritt would you like to close?

SENATOR MERRITT: Yes. Thank you very much, I appreciate you. You have a very busy schedule and you are hearing this bill, Senator Charbonneau. Thank you very much to the Members – have you adopted the Amendment? I don’t recall. Okay. Well thank you very much for adopting the Amendment. This is counterintuitive as it is working in Marion County, and it is working in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. This is just one more tool in the toolbox.

CHAIRMAN CHARBONNEAU: Thank you. We have an amended bill. Please call the roll.


CLERK: 9 – 1

CHAIRMAN CHARBONNEAU: Thank you, Senator Merritt. The bill moves to the floor 9 – 1.

DOUG MCVAY: That was a hearing at the Indiana State Legislature on SB1207, which would have allowed syringe service programs in Indiana to continue operating in that state without the need for the legislature to reapprove those programs every two years. The people you heard were State Senator James Merritt who is a Republican and the bills’ lead sponsor, and Madison Weintraut who is the Program Director of the Marion County Public Health Department’s Safe Syringe Access and Support Program. As it stands now, Indiana’s Syringe Exchange Program will need to be reapproved before it expires on July 1, 2021.

Sharon Ricks works for the office of the Assistant Secretary of Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, she spoke in and facilitated a webinar back in November sponsored by HHS that was entitled Syringe Service Programs: The Essential Roles of Non-Governmental and Community Based Organizations. Let’s hear some of that now.

SHARON RICKS: Our department recognizes that Syringe Service Programs, or SSPs are a key component in reducing the transmission of infectious disease, preventing overdoses, and promoting long-term recovery. These programs can offer access to sterile syringes and injection equipment as well as other healthcare services such as vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B, and influenza; testing for infectious diseases such as HIV, viral Hepatitis, and other sexually transmitted infections; naloxone and training to prevent overdoses; linkage to medication assisted treatment for Substance Use Disorder and other needed services such as primary care.

We know that people who participate in SSPs are five times more likely to enter drug treatment and 3.5 times more likely to stop injecting compared to those who don’t.

Opioid and drug misuse is linked to marked increases in Hepatitis and HIV. This slide highlights 46 states including DC, and Puerto Rico which are experiencing or are at risk for significant increases in Hepatitis infection or an HIV outbreak due to injection drug use. The green areas show those jurisdictions that are experiencing or are at risk for outbreaks. The pink areas show the top 220 vulnerable communities in 25 states. For those of you who noticed that pink cluster around Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia please know that plans are underway at multiple levels to develop a regional framework to address infectious disease associated with drug use in that area of the country.

In 2017, HHS launched a comprehensive five-point strategy to empower local communities on the front lines of the opioid crisis. The strategy focuses on being better in five areas.

1 Better access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services and that includes SSPs.

2. Better data that is more timely and specific and improves our understanding of the crisis.

3. Better management for pain approaches that are healthy and evidence-based.

4. Better targeting of overdose reversing drugs and SSPs can help in that area as well.

5. Better research on pain and addiction.

HHS is dedicated to informing communities about SSPs as a critical public health intervention and on November 6, 2019 ADM. Brett Giroir, our Assistant Secretary for Health released a blog highlighting the fact that comprehensive Syringe Services Programs have the proven ability to help combat the opioid crisis and prevent the spread of infectious disease linked to injection drug use.

HHS has several resources available to support the implementation of SSPs. You will find a suite of materials at Also, CDC recently awarded funding to the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors to develop a national network that provides harm reduction and technical assistance that is responsive to the needs of state and local jurisdictions. Also Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, and the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block grant makes additional resources available.

Today’s webinar is a part of an effort led by the office of the Assistant Secretary for Health to collaborate with federal, state, and county stakeholders to create and expand Syringe Service Programs in vulnerable communities across the nation.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Sharon Ricks with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She spoke in a November 2019 webinar from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services entitled Syringe Service Programs: The Essential Roles of Non-Governmental and Community-based Organizations. Members of the Indiana State Senate should listen to that.

The U.N.s Commission on Narcotic Drugs will hold its 63rd Annual Session March 2 – 6 at the U.N.s Vienna Headquarters. Only a few details about the session are available so far. The program has not yet been posted. The first Intersessional Meeting of the 63rd Session will be February 17th. Once again, I will be staying up overnight with a pot of strong coffee to record the proceedings. If there is anything of note, I will bring it to you. That is it for this week. I want to thank you for joining us.

You have been listening to Century of Lies we are a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network. You can find us on the web at: I am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of

The Executive Producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give it a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook as well, give its page a like and share it with friends.
You can follow me on Twitter: @DougMcVay, and @drugpolicyfacts. We will be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed war on drugs. This is Doug McVay saying 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 are archived at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy.

01/15/20 Jennifer Smith

Century of Lies
Jennifer Smith
Drug War Facts

The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing January 14 entitled “A Public Health Emergency: State Efforts to Curb the Opioid Crisis.” On this edition of Century of Lies we hear from: Jennifer Smith, Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Dept. of Drug and Alcohol Programs; Monica Bharel, MD, MPH, Commissioner of Public Health at the Mass. Dept. of Public Health; Christina Mullins, Commissioner of the Bureau for Behavioral Health at West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources; Kody Kinsley, Deputy Secretary for Behavioral Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities at North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services; and Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health.

Audio file



JANUARY 15, 2020

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

DOUG MCVAY: Hello and welcome to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of

On Tuesday, January 14th, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing entitled, “A Public Health Emergency: State Efforts to Curb the Opioid Crisis”, the hearing was chaired by Representative Diana DeGette who is a Democrat from Colorado. The next voice you hear will be that of Representative DeGette introducing the witnesses.

CHAIR DEGETTE: I now want to introduce the witnesses for today’s hearings. Jennifer Smith, Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Dept. of Drug and Alcohol Programs; Monica Bharel, MD, MPH, Commissioner of Public Health at the Mass. Dept. of Public Health; Christina Mullins, Commissioner of the Bureau for Behavioral Health at West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources; Kody Kinsley, Deputy Secretary for Behavioral Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities at North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services; and Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. I want to thank all of you for appearing in front of the Subcommittee today.

Ms. Smith, I am pleased to recognize you for five minutes.

JENNIFER SMITH: Thank you Chairman, Ranking Member, and Members of the Subcommittee. My name is Jennifer Smith, and I am Secretary for Pennsylvania’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs as well as a member of the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors. Thanks for your interest in how Pennsylvania is using the State Opioid Response Funding to promote prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts.

Acting as the state’s single authority for Substance Use Disorder services, my department coordinates efforts with federal and local entities as well as across state departments. Our ability to orchestrate resources and direct policy during the opioid crisis has been a crucial component in affecting long term change and maximizing resources available to our communities. We are grateful for these federal grant opportunities at a time of hopelessness and despair for families and communities. I can say with certainty that this funding has saved lives.

With a population of 12.8 million, Pennsylvania is the fifth most populace state consisting of 67 counties that range from large urban centers to rural counties. Our state is among those hardest hit by the nation’s prescription opioid and heroin epidemic. In 2014, we lost more than 2,700 Pennsylvanian’s to drug related overdoses, which equates to seven deaths per day. By 2017, that number had tragically doubled to more than 5,400 lives lost or 13 deaths per day.

As statistics rose year over year our primary focus became simple. Keep Pennsylvanian’s alive. That meant infusing naloxone in to communities, implementing warm handoff protocols to transition overdose survivors from emergency departments in to treatment, expanding access to evidence based practices such as Medication Assisted Treatment, and launching a 24/7 Get Help Now Hotline. I am proud to say that in 2018, Pennsylvania reported an 18% decrease in overdose deaths. While it’s not clear whether this promising trend will continue in 2019, it is clear that the more than 230 million dollars in federal funding that the state has received is making a tremendous impact.

We have used these resources and the momentum of the crisis to collaborate, modernize, and innovate using dollars across the full continuum. As far as prevention is concerned we reduced opioid prescribing by 25%, developed prescribing guidelines, incorporated addiction content in to medical school curriculums and established over 800 Prescription Drug Take Back Boxes across the state. With regard to treatment we established a naloxone standing order and distributed over 55,000 free kits, we developed a Warm Handoff model that has been used over 6400 times, expanded treatment capacity through 45 Centers of Excellence and 8 Hub and Spoke Programs, increased our DEA ex-waiver physicians to over 4,000, offered loan repayment, awarded 3 million to expand supports for pregnant women and women with children, and expanded MAT in to our state correctional institutions. In terms of recovery support we awarded 2.1 million to expand Community Recovery Services, developed a website to share recovery stories and spread hope, and awarded grant funds to build Recovery Housing Supports.

In coming months, Pennsylvania will be focused on integrating quality in to our four major goals of reducing stigma, intensifying primary prevention, strengthening the treatment system, and empowering sustained recovery. Without sustainable federal funding the collaboration necessary to accomplish these goals will be greatly diminished. Although we have made significant strides, our work is not done and we need your help.

In terms of funding we need flexibility to address the system, not a substance. We need consistency with funding vehicles and reporting mechanisms where possible such as utilizing the Block Grant, as well as continued use of the Single State Authority as the central coordinating entity, sustainability to allow for the continued relationship fostering, stigma reduction, and integration of services.

Moving an entire system of care is a monumental task. We are working diligently and we have made staggering progress but please don’t give up. The long term success of our programs and communities depends on sustained funding and support. Two other quick considerations would be to address stigma in a more uniform way across the nation through language and action, and to seek ways to address the dire workforce shortage challenges by every state. Thank you again for allowing me to share what Pennsylvania is doing and our suggestions for moving the system forward. I look forward to answering any questions you may have.

CHAIR DEGETTE: Thank you so much. Don’t worry, we don’t intend to give up. Dr. Bharel, you are recognized now for five minutes.

DR. BHAREL: Chair DeGette, Ranking Member Guthrie, and Members of the Subcommittee thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. In my role as Commissioner of Public Health and as the states Chief Physician, I am dedicated to addressing the opioid epidemic in Massachusetts. I commend Congress and our federal agencies for funding those working tirelessly on the front lines every day. Our data indicates that in Massachusetts our public health centered approach to the opiate epidemic is working. I am heartened to let you know that from 2016 – 2016 our opiate overdose deaths have declined by 4%. We continue to focus on prevention and education, naloxone availability, medication treatment, behavioral health counseling, and sustained recover supports. We have made progress but it is still unacceptable that nearly 2,000 individuals in Massachusetts die from this preventable disease each year. In my clinical practice I cared for people with this disease and I never forget that behind these numbers which we will talk about today are real people, their families, and their communities. Since 2016, we have been awarded approximately 159 million dollars in federal funding specific to Opioid Use Disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery. We have allocated approximately 111 million of those funds. We have used federal funding to support expansion and enhancement of our treatment system through a data driven approach that targets high risk, high need priority populations and disparities with the goal of reducing opiate overdoses and deaths. In 2015, Governor Baker appointed a working group who developed an action plan emphasizing data to identify hotspots and deploy appropriate resources. Additionally, a law referred to as the Public Health Data Warehouse enabled us to link 28 different data sets across state government and establish a public private partnership to maximize the use of data to study this major public health crisis. This was unprecedented in Massachusetts.

Our approach started with data analytics and research allowing us to gain a deep understanding of who was dying where and why so that new investments could be strategic and impactful. Our data led us to quickly focus our efforts on five key populations that we saw were still suffering from overdoses and overdose deaths and those are people released from incarceration, communities of color, people with co-occurring mental health and Substance Use Disorders, people with a history of homelessness, and mothers with Opioid Use Disorder.

Our data showed that the rate of overdose death from mothers with Opioid Use Disorder was more than 300 times higher than mothers without it. In response one of the programs we set up was Mom’s Do Care, which is currently 100% federally funded. This innovative approach built a seamless, integrated continuum of care for pregnant and parenting women with Substance Use Disorder. It provides access to medications, prenatal and post-natal care, maternity and pediatric care, behavioral health counseling, and peer to peer recovery supports, and so much more. With federal funds we are also supporting and expanding our Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, allowing all Massachusetts prescribers enhanced access to this vital system.

While we have had many successes, we do see opportunities for federal assistance so that we can continue to make progress. This includes funding that is flexible. When funding requirements restrict us to addressing only opiates states are limited in our flexibility to address the changing landscape of Substance Use Disorder. Flexibility would enable to address other substances connected to this epidemic such as cocaine and methamphetamines. Additionally, there are currently federal barriers to Medication Assisted Treatment such as methadone and buprenorphine and these barriers should be removed. This would allow Medication Assisted Treatment to be regulated more similarly to other chronic disease treatments and available in traditional healthcare settings to increase access and reduce stigma.

In conclusion, we are grateful to Congress for the commitment to address this opiate epidemic. Much of our progress can be attributed to federal funding we receive and I encourage Congress to continue these critical funding efforts. This crisis did not build overnight and it will take time to reverse. Addiction is not a choice, it is a disease and with the continued support of our federal partners we will build a solution to tackle this epidemic in Massachusetts and in this country. Thank you.

CHAIR DEGETTE: Thank you so much. Ms. Mullins you are recognized now for five minutes.

CHRISTINA MULLINS: Thank you. Chairwoman DeGette, Ranking Members, and Members of the Subcommittee. My name is Christina Mullins, and I am the Commissioner for Behavioral Health within the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. I also serve as a member of the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors. First I want to thank you for your commitment to address this crisis. Without the resources provided by this committee West Virginia would be in a considerably worse position. I also want to thank you for the opportunity to discuss the importance of the initiatives in West Virginia to address the opioid crisis and the impact of funding made available through this committee to promote prevention, treatment, and recovery for Substance Use Disorder.

It is no secret that West Virginia has been Ground Zero of the opioid crisis with the highest overdose rate in the nation. There are award winning documentaries and Pulitzer Prize winning stories that describe what happened to our state and I am sure these efforts have played a significant role in bringing much needed resources to West Virginia. Today I would like to tell you a different story.

With your help West Virginia has reduced overdose deaths for the first time in over ten years. Both opioid prescriptions and opioid doses have decreased by about 50% while naloxone prescribing has increased by 208%. Additionally, we have distributed over 10,000 of naloxone to local health departments. Treatment capacity has been transformed. The number of people that can prescribe buprenorphine has more than doubled from 243 to 584 since 2017. We have increased the number of residential treatment beds from 197 to 740 and our records indicate that those beds are about 85% full at all times. Nearly all birthing facilities have access to integrated Substance Use Disorder treatment in their community. This extraordinary increase in infrastructure and capacity is the result of the significant financial investment of federal, state, and Drug Settlement Funds. West Virginia leveraged federal investments to increase outpatient treatment capacity, increase the number and quality of its workforce, distribute lifesaving naloxone, and conduct rigorous provider education on opioid prescribing, increased evidence-based prevention programs and quick response teams to follow up on individuals who experience non-fatal overdoses. In addition to these efforts the state also increased its infrastructure for surveillance and data analysis and this work drives all of our programmatic decision making. The state complimented the work of its federal projects by using Settlement Funds and general revenue to undertake the development of construction projects that expanded the availability of residential treatment including facilities that specialize in pregnant and post-partum women. The scope of this problem required a historic financial investment to adequately respond to this crisis. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) allowed West Virginia to balance the need for immediate interventions and services with a long-term need to address the systemic issues that serve as an ongoing challenge to the state’s opioid response. While significant progress has been made certain barriers and challenges remain. West Virginia continues to experience substantial workforce shortages, gaps in training related to psycho-stimulants and polysubstance abuse, a lack of capacity to serve children impacted by this crisis. In addition, a key concern when utilizing time and limited grant dollars, is sustainability of efforts in thinking about a bigger, longer term investment if these endeavors are to have a continuing impact in increasing treatment availability and reducing overdose death. The predictable and sustained provision of resources is key to allow states and providers to plan and rely on future year commitments. It can be tough to successfully plan and operate programs if providers are not confident resources will be available beyond a one year commitment. It would be difficult to believe that West Virginia could have accomplished so much without the support of this committee. These funds have allowed West Virginia to have the resources that it needed to respond to this crisis and resulted in a decrease of overdose deaths and transformed our system of care. Our overdose deaths are down at this point by 10% according to our records. The financial resources are crucial to our continuing success and maintaining momentum. Ongoing funding for state alcohol and drug agencies to coordinate substance use prevention treatment recovery services at the state level will ensure continued progress. While barriers remain, West Virginia is better poised to address future challenges and continue its forward progress.

In summary, West Virginia wishes to say thank you to this committee, Sansa, and CDC. Thank you for the support, the resources, and for allowing us to share what is happening and what is working in West Virginia.

DOUG MCVAY: You are listening to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVay. We are listening to a congressional hearing held Tuesday, January 14th on state efforts regarding illegal opioids and other drugs. The witnesses you just heard were Jennifer Smith, Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Dept. of Drug and Alcohol Programs; Monica Bharel, MD, MPH, Commissioner of Public Health at the Mass. Dept. of Public Health; Christina Mullins, Commissioner of the Bureau for Behavioral Health at West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources

Now let’s hear from the final two witnesses: Kody Kinsley, Deputy Secretary for Behavioral Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities at North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services; and Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health.

CHAIR DEGETTE: Now Mr. Kinsley I would like to recognize you for five minutes.

KODY KINSLEY: Good morning. Thank you, Chair DeGette, Ranking Member Guthrie, and the Honorable Members of the Subcommittee for this opportunity to testify on North Carolina’s response to the opioid epidemic.

On behalf of the 10.4 North Carolinian’s approximately 426,000 of whom misuse prescription or illicit opioids. I wanted to express my deepest gratitude for your support of funding that has helped us turn the tide on the epidemic. This investment has saved lives, transformed communities, and it has made the down payment on breaking the cycle of addiction, trauma, and poverty in our state.

I am also grateful to the committed staff of numerous federal agencies that have worked quickly to support a concerted strategy working across interconnected systems of healthcare, housing, employment, and justice. North Carolina was hit hard by the crisis. In 2016, 1,407 North Carolinian’s died of an unintended opioid overdose. For each death there were six overdose hospitalizations. We were one of the top eight states for fentanyl overdose deaths. Since the start of the epidemic nearly 100,000 workers have been kept out of the workforce because of opioid misuse alone. Today close to half of the children in North Carolina’s foster care system have parental substance use as a factor in their out of home placement. The human cost and the loss to communities and families is immeasurable. The scale of the problem underpins our magnitude for accomplishment. Our states comprehensive response, the North Caroline Opioid Action Plan, is organized in to three pillars and they are prevention, harm reduction, and connections to care. These pillars encompass numerous strategies all made possible because of federal funding such as: cutting the supply of inappropriate opioid prescriptions; making access to life saving naloxone ubiquitous; supporting Syringe Exchange Programs; making addiction medicine a core of medical education; partnering with county and local communities; launching interventions at the start of treatment; starting treatment at the time of overdose reversal; and blending together broader efforts that support recovery including housing and employment and address the root cause of Substance Use Disorder.

With these efforts, North Carolina saw the first decline in deaths in five years with a decrease of 9% between 2017 and 2018. We have also seen a 24% decline in opioid prescribing and a 20% increase in the number of uninsured individuals receiving treatment. One million North Carolinian’s do not have health insurance and half of the opioid overdose visits to the emergency room are uninsured. Therefore, our highest priority has been expanding evidence-based treatment to those without insurance. We have focused on Medication Assisted Treatment as the gold standard of care providing treatment to an additional 12,000 people. Our success is clear but with your help there is much more we can do. We could stretch grant dollars further if doctors were no longer required to obtain a separate DEA waiver to prescribe buprenorphine for addiction. There is no additional waiver requirement to prescribe the exact same medication when it is being prescribed for other conditions. We should strengthen our focus on justice involved populations. A recent study found that prisoners leaving North Carolina prisons were 40 times more likely to die of an opioid overdose than the general population. We are grateful to have recently received a 6.5 million dollar grant from the Department of Justice to create Pre-Arrest Diversion Programs and expand jail based treatment in our state but with 56 prisons and 96 jails, we have a long way to go. Most significant of all would be giving us more time. Sustaining funding over longer windows of time or permanently would allow states to ready systems for the next wave of the epidemic. That wave is already cresting as we are starting to see rising rates of overdose deaths from methamphetamine and benzodiazepine. Before major federal funding for this epidemic became available, 12,000 people in North Carolina had already died. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s share of the Substance Abuse and Treatment Block Grant had not changed in recent years what North Carolina was one of the fastest growing populations in the country, growing 9% between 2010 and 2018. Growing the block grant at pace with population and inflationary costs in an updated allocation formula would allow states to make better use of short term funding, prevent the next epidemic, and save lives.

Most of all safeguarding Medicare Expansion and the Affordable Care Act is critical to our long term success in fighting the opioid epidemic. States with higher rates of insurance coverage have a more sustainable way of providing treatment and are able to prioritize their federal block grant dollars and opioid response grants on system investments. This is why we are working hard every day to expand Medicaid in North Carolina.

In closing, I want to applaud the flexibility of much of the federal funding we have received which has allowed each state to respond to its own pressing needs. Our strategies are working but our eyes are on the horizon. We appreciate your leadership and I welcome your questions.

CHAIR DEGETTE: Thank you. Dr. Alexander Scott you are now recognized for five minutes for your opening statement.

DR. SCOTT: Thank you. Chairwoman DeGette, Ranking Member Guthrie, and Distinguished Members of the Committee thank you for inviting me to join you today to discuss Rhode Island’s efforts to address the opioid overdose epidemic. Collaboration between states, federal agencies, and federal leaders such as yourselves is critical to our shared goals of preventing overdoses and saving lives. This issue has taken a staggering toll on my state. Since I became the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health in 2015, an overdose death has occurred in every city in town in Rhode Island. During this time more Rhode Islanders have lost their lives to drug overdoses than to car crashes, firearms, and fires combined. Almost immediately after coming in to office in 2015, Governor Gina Raimondo formed an Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force to develop a centralized strategic data driven, comprehensive plan to prevent overdoses. The taskforce includes stakeholders and experts in various fields including public health, law enforcement, behavioral health, community based support services, education, veteran’s affairs, and recovery. As a co-chair of this task force, I have helped steer our efforts in to our four focus areas: prevention, treatment, recovery, and rescue or reversal. We have changed the culture of prescribing in Rhode Island and have dramatically reduced our prescribing numbers. We now have a vast statewide treatment network in place. We have cultivated a group of certified peer recovery specialists who walk side by side with people in recovery. We have put thousands of naloxone kits on to the streets. Most importantly, we have started to give people hope and we are focusing at the community level. We have learned that regardless of your race or ethnicity, regardless of your zip code, income, or insurance status every door for every person should make treatment and recovery services available. We believe that addiction is a disease and recovery is possible. One prime example is the story of Jonathan Goyer from East Providence, Rhode Island. Jonathan became dependent on opioids at 16 years of age. At 25, after more than 30 tries and after reaching depths that many of us could not fathom he was finally able to find, sustain, and maintain a life in long-term recovery. He is now thriving as an expert advisor to Governor Raimondo’s task force and he leads our states Recovery Friendly Workplace Program. When you talk to Jonathan about his journey he says the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection. This is true for every community. We are trying to make the connection and the sense of community that brought Jonathan and so many others back from the brink a part of every overdose prevention effort we put in place in Rhode Island. We have had some success. After the number of drug overdose deaths increased each year in Rhode Island for the better part of a decade, that number decreased by 6.5% between 2016 and 2018. However, significant challenges remain. Fentanyl related overdose deaths continue to increase and the opioid conversation must be considered within the larger context of an addiction epidemic that has alcoholism, tobacco use, cocaine use, and other substances. We can broaden the scope even further to talk about the health implications of social and emotional isolation and the need to address the root causes of these challenges in our communities. All of this requires us to look beyond what many believe to be our traditional focus areas in public health. We need to look at the socioeconomic and environmental determinates of health which determine roughly 80% of what makes you healthy and what makes me healthy. These are factors like access to quality education, access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and reliable transportation. We need to ensure that all children grow up in homes and go to schools where they feel safe, supported, and loved. We need to ensure that people have the houses that are healthy, safe, and affordable, and to ensure that people have jobs that offer fair pay. This is a part of our response. The efforts and the progress that I have outlined today would not have been possible without the tremendous contributions of Congress and the federal agencies you fund. I thank you for that sincerely and I look forward to partnering with you to address what lies ahead on behalf of Rhode Island and on behalf of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials where I serve as Immediate Past President. Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: You have just heard part of a congressional hearing held Tuesday, January 14th on state efforts regarding illegal opioids and other drugs. The witnesses you just heard were Kody Kinsley, Deputy Secretary for Behavioral Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities at North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services; and Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health.

That is it for this week. I want to thank you for joining us.

You have been listening to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give it a like. Drug War Facts is also on Facebook, give its page a like and share it with friends. Remember, knowledge is power! Follow me on Twitter, I am @DougMcVay and of course also @drugpolicyfacts. We will be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed war on drugs. For now, this is Doug McVay saying 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 are archived at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy.

12/25/19 Kees De Joncheere

Century of Lies
Kees De Joncheere
Drug War Facts

On this installment of Century of Lies, we hear from Kees De Joncheere, President of the International Narcotics Control Board, plus Just Say Know parts one through four by DrugReporter and the Rights Reporter Foundation.

Audio file



DECEMBER 25, 2019

DEAN BECKER: The failure of the 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 am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of

We are coming to the end of 2019 and before we start I want to thank everyone out there. All of our listeners, all of our guests, all of our friends and family – thank you for your support. You are the listener and you make it all worth it. Now let’s get on with the show.

Friends of mine – I do have friends you know. Friends of mine at the Rights Reporter Foundation in Hungary have a project called Drug Reporter. You can find them at: Peter Sarosi and Istvan Gabor are civil and human rights activists who have been recording and producing videos for years now on drug policy, human rights, and harm reduction. They have a video series called Just Say Know as in K-N-O-W and its brilliant. Fortunately they licensed their content via Creative Commons and allow reuse with attribution so right now let's hear from Drug Reporter. This is Part One of Just Say Know – What are drugs:

PETER SAROSI: What are drugs? This question seems to be self-evident but you soon realize that it is more complicated than you thought. When people think about drugs they usually associate to plants, pills, injections, liquids, and powders and actually these are only the forms in which drugs are used. They don’t tell much about what drugs really are and how are they different from other things such as bread or tomato. According to the broad definition, drugs can be everything that change how your body works. Some drugs are psychoactive and that means that they alter how your brain and mind works. They are like keys that fit in to special locks in your nerve cells called receptors. This way psychoactive drugs activate or block the release of certain molecules produced by our body which change our mood, our perception, and our behavior. However, there are a whole lot of other things that can change our mood and perception such as eating foods, falling in love, or even riding a bicycle. That’s why people can get addicted to certain behaviors or even to people. Drugs can be sorted in to different categories according to how they change our minds. Stimulant drugs such as cocaine or amphetamine increase our energy and alertness. Depressant drugs such as alcohol or heroin repress our arousal and stimulation. Psychedelic drugs such as LSD or mushroom change the ordinary way that we perceive reality and can trigger mystical experiences. However, the lines are not always clear cut. For example, alcohol can act both as a depressant and a stimulant. What is really important to understand is that even the same drugs can act in very different ways depending on three factors; set, setting, and dose. Set is your mental and physical condition, your expectations, and your mindset. Setting is the environment in which you use drugs including the people with whom you use drugs. Dose is how much drugs you use. Even one of these factors can make the least harmful substance become lethal. For example, water can be toxic if you drink too much. The ancient Greeks knew this. Their word for drug is farmako which means both medicine and poison. It was also the name of a human scapegoat which was sacrificed to purify the community from its sins. So the meaning of drugs has been ambiguous from the ancient times. Today most drugs can be used for both medicine and recreational purposes. For example, cannabis as medicine can treat steroid resistant multiplex but it can also help you to relax after a hard day. MDMA can be used to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder but when it is used by young people at dance festivals it is called ecstasy and it is considered a dangerous, illegal drug. The molecular structure of Adderall, a medication widely used to treat young people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is very similar to a street drug called “Ice” methamphetamine which is an illegal drug and its users are criminalized. So the difference again is not in the molecular structure of drugs but how people perceive these drugs and how we use them. Many people think that illegal drugs are more dangerous than legal drugs but this is not the case. Professor David Nutt and his colleagues assessed the risks of 20 popular illegal and legal substances and they found that some legal substances such as tobacco or alcohol were among the most harmful substances while some illegal substances such as cannabis or ecstasy were among the least harmful substances. So if it is not about the risks why some drugs are legal and others are illegal. In the next video we will tell you the story. Please stay with us on Drug Reporter, follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.

DOUG MCVAY: Now for Part Two: Why are Some Drugs Illegal?

PETER SAROSI: Have you ever wondered why some drugs are illegal and others are not? Because illegal drugs are more dangerous you may think but you are wrong. It is important to understand that the legal status of a drug has nothing to do with the risk it carries.

Although mind altering substances are as old as human civilization they are known to virtually all cultures in the world. The attitudes to drugs and drug users have been changing throughout history. Only a few people know that when coffee arrived to Europe it was banned by many European countries. For example, in 1623 Murad IV, the ruler of the Ottoman Empire banned coffee drinking and established a system to punish its users. Gustav III, the King of Sweden also banned the drinking of coffee and tea because of excessive and misuse of drinking of coffee and tea. When tobacco – a plant native to America – arrived to Europe in the 16th Century, it was also banned in most European countries. Pipe smoking was not only punishable by death but it was declared an evil custom by the Pope himself.

After a brief period of prohibition, tobacco was completely legalized. It even reached a point in the mid-20th Century that tobacco products were advertised with a picture of babies and with doctors who were telling you how good it is for your health. It took another half century to convince people that tobacco is actually harmful for your health and now governments increasingly control its use and distribution.

Alcohol – one of the most popular drugs in the Western world – was brought under federal prohibition in the United States in 1919. President Roosevelt decided to legalize it in 1933 and it was not because he realized it is not a dangerous substance but because prohibition created a huge black market feeding violent criminals such as Al Capone. That was a long time ago in the early 20th Century. Currently illegal drugs such as opium and cannabis were legal. You could walk in to a drug store and buy them. Soft drinks such as Coca Cola and Vin Mariani contained cocaine. By the second half of the 20th Century, most countries outlawed non-medical and non-scientific use of these substances. Why some drugs became illegal was not because of science; it was more because of racial prejudices. For example, the first opium ban in San Francisco was introduced because of the fear of Chinese migrant workers. The first cannabis ban was because of the fear of Mexican migrant workers. The first cocaine ban was because of the myth of black people raping white women under the influence of cocaine. The United States of America played an important role in exporting prohibition and framing the international drug control system marked by three United Nations drug conventions that made the non-scientific and non-medical use of certain substances illegal.

Those drugs that were used by Europeans such as alcohol and tobacco remained legal while drugs used by non-European cultures such as coca leaf were declared illegal and to be eradicated. Drug prohibition is not a successful system. Part of the next step is the Just Say Know series and you will learn why. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook and share this video with your friends.

DOUG MCVAY: This is Century of Lies, I am your host, Doug McVay. We are listening to the Just Say Know series by the Rights Reporter Foundation and Drug Reporter. The voice is Peter Sarosi. Now for Part Three: Five Reasons Why We Cannot Make the World Drug free.

PETER SAROSI: A drug free world – we can do it. This was the slogan of the United Nations Drug Summit in 1998, where governments adopted an action plan to eliminate or significantly reduce drug use and drug trafficking. Many world leaders still believe that they can get rid of drugs once and for all but history teaches us another lesson. In this video we will present you five arguments why the pursuit of a drug free world is not only an utter failure but a harmful experience for humankind.

First, drug prohibition simply doesn’t work. Although it is estimated that 100 billion dollars are spent on drug law enforcement every year we could not eliminate or even significantly reduce drug use and drug trafficking. According to an explanation given by the experts at the London School of Economics in a world with constant demand for drugs the harder you try to suppress the supply, the more lucrative you make the market for criminals.

Second, drug prohibition creates a huge black market the size of which is estimated to be 300 billion dollars every year. This is the single largest illicit market on earth enriching criminal organizations that are responsible for growing violence across the world. In Mexico for example, the government declared a war on drugs in 2006 and tens of thousands of innocent people were killed. In some Central American countries where the murder rate is the highest on earth illicit drug trafficking is a major factor behind violence. Money generated by illicit drug trafficking is laundered by big banks increasing inflation and weakening economies.

Third, the global war on drugs undermines development and fuels civil wars. Warlords, insurrectionists, and terrorist groups are funded by illicit opium production in Afghanistan and Myanmar. Guerilla and paramilitary groups profit from illicit cocaine production in Latin America. Cocaine is often smuggled to Europe through West Africa where poor countries are turned in to “Narco” states. Aggressive eradication campaigns could not eliminate drug cultivation in producing countries but they did take away the livelihood of the farmers and contribute to deforestation and pollution.

Fourth, the global war on drugs leads to human rights violations. 1,000 people are executed every year for drug related charges in the world. 500,000 people are detained in so called rehabilitation centers in Southeast Asia where they are often abused in the name of treatment. The war on drugs fuels mass incarceration in many countries. For example, the United States has 5% of the global population but 25% of the global prison population. The negative consequences always fall the heaviest on minorities. African American men in the U.S. are sent to prison for drug charges 13 times the rate of white men.

Fifth, criminalization and repression threatens public health and pushes people who use drugs to take more risks. The black market generates ever more potent and risky substances often cut with contaminates encouraging high risk behaviors in unsupervised and unhygienic environments. As a result, Americans are now more likely to die of a drug overdose than in a car accident. Outside of sub Saharan Africa, the sharing of injecting equipment accounts for one-third of new HIV infections. Criminalization undermines efforts to stop the epidemic. Some people think the idea of a drug free world is a nice dream like world peace but they are wrong. This dream turned to be a nightmare. Leaders of the world must fix the dangerous dependence on repression but what are the alternatives? We will explore them in the next episode of the Just Say Know series. Please share this video with your friends. Stay with us. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

DOUG MCVAY: Here now is Part Four: What is Harm Reduction?

PETER SAROSI: In the latest episode of the Just Say Know series we explain why punitive drug policies don’t work. Now we present you an alternative approach to drugs and people who use them based on the principals of harm reduction.

Harm reduction is not only applicable to drugs but to several other activities involving high risk. For example, it is also harm reduction when you drive a car and you fasten your seat belt, or when you ride a bicycle and you wear a helmet. Similarly, you can provide people who use drugs with sterile needles and syringes to prevent blood borne infections such as Hepatitis C or HIV. This is called Needle Exchange. Or you can prescribe opioid medications such as methadone, or even diacetyl morphine which is the medical form of heroin to heroin dependent people to prevent them from buying dangerous drugs in the black market. This is called opiate substitute treatment and it is not only affective in improving the health and well-being of patients but also in reducing crime.

You can train people how to use naloxone, an antidote that can be used to reduce the effects of heroin overdose to save lives.

You can test illegal drugs for adulterants to prevent accidental poisoning. This is called drug checking service.

We can create hygienic and safer environments where people can use their own drugs with sterile equipment under medical supervision so we can prevent overdoses and infections. This is called drug consumption room.

Harm reduction can not only reduce the negative consequences of drug use itself but also the harms of depressive drug policies. It’s also harm reduction when we mobilize the communities of vulnerable drug users and empower them to fight for their rights.

Harm reduction is often contrasted with abstinence and recovery but that’s not true. They are not opposites. For some people, abstinence might be the only right choice but other people may not be ready or they don’t want to quit drug use.

Most people who use drugs are not dependent. Dependence is often associated with childhood traumas, social marginalization, and poverty. When you ask a person who lives on the street to quit drug use it’s like asking someone to go in to the storm without an umbrella or remove his hat in the desert.

Harm reduction is also essential for long time recovery. These programs reach out to drug users on the street and they serve as the first step to other services. Therefore, they need to be part of an integrated drug treatment system. Harm reduction is a philosophy that is based on compassionate pragmatism. This means that we would like to help people where they are at as fellow citizens in need of help while treating them with respect without shaming or judging them.

Countries that moved away from repressing drug policies and provide a wide access to harm reduction programs for drug users could significantly reduce death and suffering related to drugs. In the next episode of Just Say Know we will provide you examples of how. Stay with us. Follow us on the, on our Facebook and Twitter channels and support us so we can do videos like this one.

DOUG MCVAY: That was the voice of Peter Sarosi with the Rights Reporter Foundation and Drug Reporter with their Just Say Know series. Their videos are posted at YouTube and on their website at: It is an excellent resource that I highly recommend. You are listening to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of

Now I was hoping to bring you a couple of interviews this week but I just couldn’t get them on to this week’s show so we’ll have those for you next week. Meanwhile, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs met in Vienna for its reconvened 62nd Session on December 12th and 13th. This meeting was held in conjunction with the U.N.’s Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice which was holding its reconvened 28th Session. According to the UNODC website, “The CND and CCPCJ are functional commissions of the United Nations Economic and Social Counsel or (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and governing bodies of the United Nations office on Drugs and Crime”. Loyal listeners will recall that I have long complained that U.S. drug policy is viewed first and foremost as a criminal justice concern. I mean sure, policy makers have learned to say the right buzz words. Even drug warriors these days will say that drug use is a health concern and we can’t arrest our way out of the drug problems. All true – and yet the Senate Judiciary Committee still has oversight authority over the U.S. office on National Drug Control Policy. Similarly, at the international level responsible for drug policy is handed to UNODC rather than the World Health Organization. I mention this because that’s the thing about buzz words and catch phrases; anyone can use them. The meanings can sometimes be diluted and even lost. It’s called co-option. That is appropriating something or some idea as one’s own. When people say that we can’t arrest our way out of the drug problem if they are not really working to stop drug arrests then they are just bloviating. For the longest time drug policy reformers were ecstatic when a politician would just avoid calling us by our names and talking bad about our mommas. Then finally some politicians started to notice that drug policy reform is more than just a very good idea – the time for which has come – it’s popular with people. So they picked up on the buzz words and the catch phrases and we celebrated because they were saying the right things but you know talk is cheap. Actions are what count. They are deeds. That is my rant for the day. Now as I climb off my high horse, let’s hear a portion of that recent meeting of the U.N.s Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Here is the President of the International Narcotics Control Board, Kees De Joncheere.

KEES DE JONCHEERE: Just a few weeks ago at our 126th Session we finalized the INCB Annual Reports for 2019. I look forward to presenting these to the Commission in March 2020, and sharing them in advance with the permanent missions in February. Our automatic chapter this year focuses on improving prevention and treatment services for young people. Also at our session we decided to recommend to the Commission the international control of MAPA, Methyl Alpha Phenyl Acetoacetate. A precursor use in the illicit manufacture of amphetamine and methamphetamine. I will brief you more in detail on this matter later under Agenda Item 9. I will highlight again the need for a more encompassing solution to address the continuing emergence of designer precursors used in illicit drug manufacturing. The Commission’s ministerial declaration of March this year and the 2016 Special Session of the General Assembly both reaffirmed the centrality of the three conventions to international drug control and the importance of ensuring availability of controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes while preventing their diversion trafficking illicit production and manufacture and abuse. INCB continues to engage and redouble its dialog with member states towards achieving the implementation of the three international drug control convention in what is becoming an increasingly complex environment. In 2019, we had the opportunity to conduct 15 country missions thanks to the cooperation of governments in accepting our proposed missions and organizing constructive programs and we greatly appreciate this opportunity to engage more in detail with countries around their national situation on drugs. We are also pleased to meet with civil society representatives during our missions to the countries and here in Vienna, which we have done at the meetings of the Commission for many years and in our May sessions this and last year – a practice that we hope to continue. Equally, we are pleased with the outcome of our open dialogue meetings with member states that we have now held for two years during the boards November session and again a practice that we look forward to continuing.

Our last year’s supplement expressed our concern about the global imbalance in availability of controlled substances for medical purposes which still prevails. While some progress is observed, much remains to be done and we really look forward with UNODC and WHO to further join us in this area that we can together intensify our efforts to improve this situation.

Through the INCB Learning Program, we have trained over 337 officials from 88 countries and territories towards improving the regulatory control and reporting related to international trade and internationally controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes. With support of the Russian Federation, we recently completed a successful training course in Moscow for many of the Russian speaking countries. We are pretty grateful for that. The regional training seminars and national awareness raising workshops delivered in cooperation with WHO and UNODC are aimed at building capacity and knowledge to improve the availability for medical use while preventing diversion and abuse. E-learning modules are available for national authorities to use on demand.

This area of work is largely funded by extra budgetary contributions for which the board expresses its gratitude. At UNODC we also established the international import/export authorization system, the High to ES, to facilitate the electronic exchange of import and export authorizations between trading partners. This should contribute to improving the availability for medical purposes. With increased take up and used by national authorities of this free of charge system the administrative load associated with paper-based international control requirements will be significantly diminished. And again, INCB learning and High to ES depend on your active participation as countries earn financial support.

The INCB Pre-export notification depend online systems and the precursors (UNINTELLIGIBLE) as well as the task forces help governments monitor and control illicit international movement of precursors. These activities which have been underway for the past three decades support governments in implementing the Article 12 of the 1988 Convention and is largely funded by your extra budgetary contributions for which again, we are very grateful. The INCB project ion and its ionic system are helping your national authorities address the ongoing emergence of new psychoactive substances. We are working to address the challenge posed by the nomatical synthetic opioids. I look forward to your continued collaboration in these areas.

In closing, allow me to say that the international community can feel proud of its achievements in agreeing to and implementing two to three international drug control conventions. Yet we should also be concerned about the mounting new challenges that we are all facing. The emergence of the new classes of synthetic drugs that are changing the world drug landscape. The enormous illegal drug market and the links with organized crime, the role of dark web and internet purchasing, but also the developments of legalizing cannabis for nonmedical use from which the board has repeatedly indicated that this is not in line with the conventions. As the international community just celebrated World AIDs Day and World Human Rights Day, I also want to stress that actions carried out in the name of drug control must not violate human rights. In our 2019 Annual Report, WHO reiterates the importance of ensuring that drug control efforts fully respect human rights. We again urge the immediate cessation of extra judicial actions against suspected drug related behavior and again call on countries that maintain capital punishment for related drug offenses to consider abolishing that. Any drug control activity that violates human rights also violates the drug control conventions. With that, I thank you. I wish you a very fruitful meeting. Thank you Mr. Chairman.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Kees De Joncheere, President of the INCB addressing the reconvened 62nd Session on Narcotic Drugs which met in Vienna December 12th and 13th.

That’s it for this week. Thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies we are a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network. On the web at I am your host, Doug McVay, editor of The Executive Producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs are available by podcast, the URL’s to subscribe are on the network homepage at

The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give it a like. Drug War Facts has a Facebook page, too, give it a like. Share it with friends. Remember, knowledge is power. We will be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed War on Drugs. For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying 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 are archived at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy.

12/18/19 Justice Tettey

Century of Lies
Justice Tettey
Drug War Facts

This week on Century of Lies, UNODC's Justice Tettey, PhD, talks about new psychoactive substances, plus we bid farewell to UNODC's outgoing executive director Yuri Fedotov.

Audio file



DECEMBER 18, 2019

DEAN BECKER: The failure of the 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 am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of

On December 12th and 13th the Commission on Narcotic Drugs held its reconvened 62nd session it was held in Vienna once again they webcast live. They do have a copy of these proceedings on the YouTube, however it's an unlisted video so unless you can find the URL, you can't watch or listen. They still have a lot to learn when it comes two transparency and considering this is the United Nations you would think they would understand stuff like that. Oh well. In the meantime I went ahead and got a copy of the proceedings and I am going to be bringing some of that to you today. First up the big news which is that the Director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, Yuri Fedotov, is stepping down. The new Executive Director of UNODC is Ghada Fathi Waly of Egypt. So right now let’s hear the farewell address of Yuri Fedotov.

YURI FEDOTOV: Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Everything has a beginning and its end and today I am addressing you for the last time. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNINTELLIGIBLE) able to provide full support to you, the Commission on quitting drugs. Our (UNINTELLIGIBLE) experience we pass through the preparation and important meeting of 2014 high level review, in August of 2016 another important benchmark, and finally this year the Ministerial segment of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the ministerial declaration.

We have worked together to put these commitments in to effective practice to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) balance this process to the (WRONG) drug problem that are based on evidence and focused on health. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) international cooperation to address challenges across the UN pillars of peace and security, human rights, and sustainable development.

I am very proud of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) has benefitted from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the recognition of our work and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you, to thank your country for their support. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in this nine years of intensive work to protect the humanity, the human kind from the worldwide problem. New rules have changed and created in terms of funding but even as regular budget resources have decreased, we have been able to rely on your voluntary contributions to ensure that we could continue delivering the expectations to the high standards that we and member states expect. However, our delivery has come under increased pressure as the entire UN Secretariat faces severe budget challenges. To continue providing support to you, to people in the field we need predictable and stable financial resources and that is very important. We rely on you, we rely on your understanding, and your support.

In terms of our operations, I often say at UNODC as we can only deliver in the field through our global, regional, and country programs. When we committed to seeing through the forms implemented of priorities and support enabling an inclusive work environment that includes and retains a highly skilled, competent, geographically diverse, and gender balanced staff.

We rely on your commission to support the finding of sustainable long term solutions to our financial situation. (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The commission on quitting drugs as well as the commission on (UNINTELLIGIBLE) criminal justice as many of you are representing your countries in both commissions it remains a clear example of multilateralism in action during a time when the rate of consensus has come under question. The work of the Commissions based on what we call a famous period of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) provides irrefutable evidence that preparation based on shared commitments is the only sustainable response to shared challenges. I have no doubt that working together you will continue to find common grounds and to develop common solutions; that is highly important. (DOC AND THEIR COLLEAGUES) have lost no time in taking forward the commitments of the administrative declaration and before the (UNINTELLIGLE) with the adoption of multiyear work plan and concrete timeline. I welcome these sort of steps to strengthen integrated comprehensive responses to the world drug problem and UNODC is here to support you. You can always count on our support and our assistance.

Your session will have on its agenda urgent drug control issues facing the international community. I would like to wish you every success in your liberation and also in your future work with my successor and I hope she will also get support from you. Thank you very much once again and I will be able to see you privately in the next life. Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Yuri Fedotov, the outgoing Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime giving a farewell address to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs which met for a reconvened 62nd session in Vienna, Austria December 12th and 13th. This is Century of Lies, I am your host, Doug McVay. Now let’s hear a presentation by Justice Tettey, PhD. Dr. Tettey heads up the laboratory and scientific section of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

JUSTICE TETTEY: The international drug control system experienced a defining moment at the start of this decade with an unprecedented emergence of new psychoactive substances. These are substances which are not under international control but which produce the same effects as those under control. Today over 110 countries and territories worldwide have been affected. An (UNINTELLIGIBLE) noted a number of these substances have been associated with harms and adverse events such as fatalities and emergency room admissions.

At the peak of this problem in 2015, at least one new substance appeared on global markets each week. Today the number of MPS reported each year on global markets as civilized. However, you can see from the charts that it remains at a very high level of about 550 substances on global markets each year. As of this morning, 930 unique substances have been reported to UNODC from countries and territories worldwide.

UNODC has been very nimble in its response to these challenges in drug control. Our tools have evolved and have been refined to offer effective forward looking strategies. Strategies which are called the basic tenant of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) International Drug Control Conventions and that is protecting the health and welfare of humankind. In 2013, UNODC established the first group of early warning advisory on new psychoactive substances. Today it features a network of over 282 national drug testing laboratories in 90 countries. It has over 21,000 unique data points of information on MPS from over 120 countries including substance related fatalities, emergency room admissions, and drug use and driving.

Multiple disciplinary resources including national legislative responses. Pharmacology and toxicology data and analytical information to aid in identification of substances. We have also built on strong partnerships. Partnerships with the law enforcement and forensic communities in countries with international and regional organizations such as the International Narcotics Control Board, the World Health Organization, Organization of American States, and the EMCDDA and these partnerships have helped in promoting a better understanding of the phenomenon. These partnerships have also been critical in attaining the August 2000 vision of being able to prioritize the most harmful, persistent, and prevalent of these substances for international action. For example, the first UNODC, MPS Threat Assessment Report, which was released this year highlighted the role of synthetic cannabinoids and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in fatalities and emergency room admissions and Mr. Forte rightly mentioned those categories in his statement. The report also drew attention to the increasing use of benzodiazepines in drugged driving and these are substances which have been covered by the World Health Organization and they are recommendations.

So what do we know today in addition to the red flags from the last UNODC MPS threat assessments? At least 74 synthetic opioids have been reported to UNODC by 2019 representing a 131% increase in just three years. Sedative hypnotics, particularly benzodiazepines are following the same trend as opioids and have been implicated in fatalities and drugged driving. At UNODC we do not only identify the problems; we try to offer tools to help you generate better data to aid in evidence based responses and you’ve noticed guidelines (at least two) on the slide which are helping countries to be able to report more on the fentanyl analogs and also on the benzodiazepines.

Mr. Chair, in August 2016 member states dared to be ambitious in aiming toward the ability to identify the most harmful, prevalent, and persistent substances for international action. Strong interagency partnerships, financial, and political support from member states and UNODCs leadership in providing innovative approaches in such challenging times have all contributed to make this happen.

Where are we today? 48 of the most harmful new psychoactive substances have been controlled by the CND since 2015 under the 1971 Conventions. The current recommendations from WHO will take out another 12 harmful substances, most of which have no established medical or scientific use. Should these recommendations be accepted by the CND, the international response to the problem of MPS will see 60 substances scheduled over the period of 2015 – 2020. It is important to note in terms of implementation. Now this will represent 20% of all substances under international control since the 1961 Convention came in to force. Mr. Chair, at this point I will comment on the recommendations presented by Mr. Dijonker under the 1988 Convention and then come back to address the overall challenges we face moving forward.

The 2009 Plan of Action noted that improving understanding of the synthetic drug problem is a necessary first step to addressing the issue. The UNODC Global Smart Program, which was established in 2009 with operations in key regions such as Southeast Asia in the Pacific, Latin America in the Caribbean, and with a strong partnership with EMCCDA has worked to achieve the necessary understanding of the global synthetic drug problem. If you look at the chart on the slide it compares seizures at a time of the 2009 political declaration for amphetamine and methamphetamine to what we have almost ten years after the political declaration. Just looking at methamphetamine, seizures globally have increased over seven-fold. It is more readily available, it is cheaper, it is purer, and it is more potent. This is certainly not because of the lack of effort from member states, it is because like Mr. Dijonker mentioned precursor control is a complicated issue. One which is plagued by remarkable innovation from organized crime to circumvent legislation. If you look at the slide – and I hope you are as color active as I am – you have got amphetamine and methamphetamine at the bottom and right above it you see substances which were under international control before 2010 so the precursors are amphetamine and methamphetamine. Between 2010 – to date, the INCBS worked fervently to place precursors of those precursors under control. So the green substances highlights the pre precursors. The game keeps changing. We have now moved to the upper level where we are having to deal with a precursor of a pre precursor, MAPA.

Excellences, Ladies, and Gentlemen it is obvious that progress has been made with the control of a number of substances over the past decade but the biggest challenge will be the implementation on the ground. The schedules of the conventions have experienced a 25% increase in just over five years. In surveys we have conducted in countries indicates that some countries are not yet able to identify some of these recently controlled substances and this is a first step to any successful implementation.

As our colleagues from WHO indicated, we continue to see the natural quality data to aid in evaluations and to lead us to evidence based policies. In this context, I would like to encourage states to continue to use the UNODC Early Warning Advisory, which is today providing a lot of evidence based for some other recommendations which have been presented to you today. I thank you, Mr. Chair.

DOUG MCVAY: That again was Justice Tettey, PhD. He is head of the laboratory and scientific section of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. He was giving a report to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, a lot of it having to do with new psychoactive substances. Now we have been talking a lot about those in the last few weeks and it is really important. There are hundreds of these things out there on the market – new drugs that are making their way in to the drug supply in nations all over the world. In the United States we have heard of things like fentanyl and carfentanyl, we have heard of Spice and K2 synthetic cannabinoids; but what people don’t realize is that there are dozens of synthetic opioids hitting the market as well as the synthetic cannabinoids. There are dozens of these things out there on the market including new synthetic stimulants, new traditional hallucinogens and psychedelics and all of this is being caused because of our prohibition. If we had been smart 30 years ago and just legalized and regulated plant drugs like marijuana, opium poppies, and the coca plant we probably wouldn’t be looking at such a situation today. It’s not too late, we can still do a better job.

You are listening to Century of Lies, I am your host Doug McVay. Now while we still have time, people will recall that the Commission on Narcotic Drugs at its last session was briefed by the World Health Organization on the report by the 41st Expert Committee on Drug Dependence. That was the WHO body that recommended that marijuana and marijuana products should be rescheduled and taken off of the schedule that calls for a complete ban, which would have allowed a lot more leeway among the various member states of the U.N. It would have given people a lot more discretion in terms of how they deal with marijuana. They have yet to vote on those recommendations. It was a thrill to know that the WHO Expert Committee had made that recommendation but the reality is the Commission on Narcotic Drugs has to vote and approve that recommendation before it can go in to effect. Technically speaking, it’s a majority vote so it would be possible for there to be a split among the delegates and for reason and rationality to win out and the majority to call for marijuana to be rescheduled. That would be great. Unfortunately, this is a diplomatic process and these are all diplomats. They do not do confrontation and they prefer to handle everything with consensus. They want a broad agreement. So while it is possible that the Commission on Narcotic Drugs could have a division and have people voting yes or no, it is also possible that they will do the diplomatic thing and try to reach consensus. So long as loud voices are saying no, no, no then it is likely nothing is going to change. Let’s hear from some of those voices from the Delegation of China and see what we have to deal with and what we have to counter.

MALE VOICE: Thank you Mr. Chairman. With regard to the items under 9 and the sub items I would like to make a comprehensive statement. Since this year member states have provided comments on two rounds on WHO ECCD six recommendations related to the rescheduling of substances such as cannabis. Cannabis is the most abused and most widely available category of drugs in the world. THC is the main psychoactive ingredient of cannabis. Both of them strictly under the UN International Drug Control Treaties and Chinese laws and are widely recognized as the gateway drugs. Cannabis may have some potential therapeutic value and some effects against pain, spasm, vomiting, and epilepsy. However, evaluation by our experts show that the evidence is not conclusive enough and the effects are not irreplaceable. Generally speaking globally cannabis is not the first line drug in clinical treatments and there is no sufficient evidence rescheduling cannabis and THC under International Drug Control Conventions will undoubtedly send the wrong signals to the international community that cannabis use by the public is not harmful enough for it to be strictly controlled. This will mislead the public in particularly youth.

In recent years with the announced legalization of recreational and medical cannabis in some countries and regions, China has witnessed an increase of cases involving smuggled cannabis from foreign countries in particular from North America. In 2018, China cracked 125 cases of cannabis and some suspects ordered online drugs outside of China and some of them even learned how to grow cannabis on foreign websites and obtained cannabis seeds through illegal channels before growing and selling cannabis in China. By the end of 2018, China had 24,000 people abusing cannabis – a yearly increase of 25.1%.

We would like to express our concern in this regard and caution against rescheduling of cannabis legalization by certain countries and regions in breach of the Drug Control Treaties. We have also noted that the INCB and the Secretariat are faced with the financial challenges. The shortfalls in the regular budgets has hampered the ordinary functioning of the INCB Secretariat. The sufficient and adequate funding is very important for INCB to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a fair and impartial functioning. From this particular angle in consider the specific features of INCB, voluntary contribution should only serve as a supplement to the regular budget. The acceptance of the contribution should be transparent and should be in line with the mandates and functioning of the INCB. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

DOUG MCVAY: That was the delegate from China at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs speaking about the possible rescheduling of marijuana. As you have noted, they are against. Russia, Nigeria, China, and a number of other nations that are simply going to follow along in lockstep with them. It would be great if the CND would reschedule, and they should. They must. The fact is that they may not do it this time. We have got to keep up the pressure. We can’t relax, we can’t celebrate a victory because we ain’t won one yet.

MALE VOICE: Marijuana for me is like the ewe momma. You understand? It’s the soy sauce, it’s the ranch dressing, and it’s the ketchup of life. Baby (BEEP) you put some weed on it and it’s even cooler. Right? Maybe it’s not so cool – you dip it in some weed. Alright! You hear where I am coming from? Things I don’t wanna do. I don’t like to wash dishes but I don’t mind getting high and washing dishes. You know what I am saying, where I am coming from? Right. It takes an extra hour because I have to make a playlist. Right? When I was the dishes the playlist is off the hook though. You feel me? It’s got a different song depending on how many dishes and what kind of dishes – if there are extra spoons there is more Soundgarden. Right? So I just love it. I love it! I am so proud of Washington for being one of the first states to legalize weed. That is awesome. I live in California and I can’t wait until they legalize weed because I would like to open a Bud and Breakfast. Right? Would you come see me at the Wakin Bakin? Would you visit me? Good morning! Good afternoon, really because we are not going to get up that early you understand? Matter of fact I am going to put a chocolate on your pillow that is gonna knock you out. You are gonna wake up refreshed wandering in the kitchen just in time for bluntch. Who doesn’t want to have blunch? Right? Perfect. (LAUGHTER) We will have our own proprietary strains. That is the thing about the weed – all the growers always mix and match and Dr. Dankenstein and make crazy hybrid (BEEP) all the time. My boy Mike called me up the other day, man. He was like “I did it, man – I crossed a Train wreck with a White Widow and I call it Courtney Love. (LAUGHTER). She knows.

DOUG MCVAY: Thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies, we are a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network. On the web at I am your host, Doug McVay, editor of The Executive Producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs are available by podcast, the URL’s to subscribe are on the network homepage at

The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give it a like. Drug War Facts has a Facebook page, too, give it a like. Share it with friends. Remember, knowledge is power. We will be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed War on Drugs. For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying 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 are archived at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy.

12/11/19 Pedro Arenas Garcia

Century of Lies
Pedro Arenas Garcia
Drug War Facts

On this installment of Century we hear from Pedro Arenas Garcia with the Colombian NGO Corporación Viso Mutop-Observatorio de cultivos y cultivadores; plus an interview from 2012 with activist and journalist Kevin Zeese and the late activist, documentary filmmaker, and writer Mike Gray.

Audio file



DECEMBER 11, 2019

DEAN BECKER: The failure of the 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 am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of

On this installment of Century of Lies we are going to hear about Afro Colombian and indigenous cultures in Colombia, coca growing, and cocaine. Before we get in to that I was recently in Berkeley, California for some meetings and I took a walk through campus and found myself in Sproul Plaza. The following was recorded 55 years ago on December 2, 1964 in front of

You know, I just wanna say one brief thing about something the previous speaker said. I didn't wanna spend too much time on that 'cause I don't think it's important enough. But one thing is worth considering.

He's the -- He's the nominal head of an organization supposedly representative of the undergraduates. Whereas in fact under the current director it derives -- its authority is delegated power from the Administration. It's totally unrepresentative of the graduate students and TAs.

But he made the following statement (I quote): "I would ask all those who are not definitely committed to the FSMcause to stay away from demonstration." Alright, now listen to this: "For all upper division students who are interested in alleviating the TA shortage problem, I would encourage you to offer your services to Department Chairmen and Advisors." That has two things: A strike breaker and a fink.

I'd like to say -- like to say one other thing about a union problem. Upstairs you may have noticed they're ready on the 2nd floor of Sproul Hall, Locals 40 and 127 of the Painters Union are painting the inside of the 2nd floor of Sproul Hall. Now, apparently that action had been planned sometime in the past. I've tried to contact those unions. Unfortunately -- and [it] tears my heart out -- they're as bureaucratized as the Administration. It's difficult to get through to anyone in authority there. Very sad. We're still -- We're still making an attempt. Those people up there have no desire to interfere with what we're doing. I would ask that they be considered and that they not be heckled in any way. And I think that -- you know -- while there's unfortunately no sense of -- no sense of solidarity at this point between unions and students, there at least need be no -- you know -- excessively hard feelings between the two groups.

Now, there are at least two ways in which sit-ins and civil disobedience and whatever -- at least two major ways in which it can occur. One, when a law exists, is promulgated, which is totally unacceptable to people and they violate it again and again and again till it's rescinded, appealed. Alright, but there's another way. There's another way. Sometimes, the form of the law is such as to render impossible its effective violation -- as a method to have it repealed. Sometimes, the grievances of people are more -- extend more -- to more than just the law, extend to a whole mode of arbitrary power, a whole mode of arbitrary exercise of arbitrary power.

And that's what we have here. We have an autocracy which runs this university. It's managed. We were told the following: If President Kerr actually tried to get something more liberal out of the Regents in his telephone conversation, why didn't he make some public statement to that effect?
And the answer we received -- from a well-meaning liberal -- was the following: He said, "Would you ever imagine the manager of a firm making a statement publicly in opposition to his Board of Directors?" That's the answer.

Well I ask you to consider -- if this is a firm, and if the Board of Regents are the Board of Directors, and if President Kerr in fact is the manager, then I tell you something -- the faculty are a bunch of employees and we're the raw material! But we're a bunch of raw materials that don't mean to be -- have any process upon us. Don't mean to be made into any product! Don't mean -- Don't mean to end up being bought by some clients of the University, be they the government, be they industry, be they organized labor, be they anyone! We're human beings!

And that -- that brings me to the second mode of civil disobedience. There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that you can't take part! You can't even passively take part! And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus -- and you've got to make it stop! And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it -- that unless you're free the machine will be prevented from working at all!!

That doesn't mean -- I know it will be interpreted to mean, unfortunately, by the bigots who run The Examiner, for example -- That doesn't mean that you have to break anything. One thousand people sitting down some place, not letting anybody by, not [letting] anything happen, can stop any machine, including this machine! And it will stop!!

We're gonna do the following -- and the greater the number of people, the safer they'll be and the more effective it will be. We're going, once again, to march up to the 2nd floor of Sproul Hall. And we're gonna conduct our lives for a while in the 2nd floor of Sproul Hall. We'll show movies, for example. We tried to get (Un Chant d'Amour). Unfortunately, that's tied up in the court because of a lot of squeamish moral mothers for a moral America and other people on the outside. The same people who get all their ideas out of the San Francisco Examiner. Sad, sad. But, Mr. Landau -- Mr. Landau has gotten us some other films.

Likewise, we'll do something -- we'll do something which hasn't occurred at this University in a good long time! We're going to have real classes up there! They're gonna be freedom schools conducted up there! We're going to have classes on [the] 1st and 14th amendments!! We're gonna spend our time learning about the things this University is afraid that we know! We're going to learn about freedom up there, and we're going to learn by doing!!

DOUG MCVAY: That was Mario Savio speaking at Sproul Plaza at the University of California Berkeley on December 2, 1964. Audio came to us courtesy of the Pacifica Radio Archive 55 years ago and today his words ring truer than ever.

You are listening to Century of Lies, I am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of

Back in 2012 I had the pleasure of attending the national conference for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. While I was there I saw my good friends and mentors, Mike Gray and Kevin Zeese. I managed to talk them in to letting me record some audio with the two of them and here it is.

KEVIN ZEESE: What is great about having victories is that you can see that what we are doing actually works and does not create the crisis that the prohibitionists feared or that they propagandize. It actually creates a safer environment. There have been so many positive changes and so much evidence that what we are doing is actually going to make a better society. We have an incredible opportunity and I hope that we can all stay organized. I wanted to reemphasize the point about solidarity. It is so important. So often in politics it is the side that is divided that loses and divide and rule is the classic strategy of those in government who want to stop things from moving forward. It we are going to have divisions they should be in private rooms where we can talk and debate and discuss but once somebody is on the ballot we need to come together and support it and make whatever change we can make within the reality of the political sphere and push from there to the next level of change. Let’s see more solidarity and less division as we get closer and closer to our ultimate goal.

MIKE GRAY: When did you first get involved?


MIKE GRAY: In ’78!

KEVIN ZEESE: I remember coming in to the NORML office as Keith Stroup was leaving. He was carrying a box out as I was walking in. He was leaving under a cloud and thankfully that cloud is removed and he’s continued to do good work but I do remember me coming in and him going out. I was a law student at that time.

MIKE GRAY: Wow. That is amazing.

KEVIN ZEESE: Yeah. Scary, isn’t it?

MIKE GRAY: Yeah. Well you have sure proven yourself to be unstoppable.

KEVIN ZEESE: Persistent?

MIKE GRAY: Unstoppable. Persistent at the very least.

KEVIN ZEESE: That is a huge part of politics –

MIKE GRAY: It’s not only that – in Hollywood that is the one thing they can’t handle.

KEVIN ZEESE: Persistence?


KEVIN ZEESE: What do you mean?

MIKE GRAY: Well if you keep coming back finally the guy says, “If that sonofabitch comes back again”, and then you show up again and he says alright he will talk to you.


DOUG MCVAY: That was an interview with Kevin Zeese and the late Mike Gray that I recorded back in 2012. We were at the NORML National Conference in Los Angeles. Mike and Kevin were both board members of Common Sense for Drug Policy, a nonprofit for which I work, and who sponsors the website, Sadly, Mike passed away in 2013. He is sorely missed.

You are listening to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVay. The Commission on Narcotic Drugs will meet in Vienna, Austria on December 12, 13 for its reconvened 62nd Session. Those meetings are webcast live and until recently were only webcast live with no archived copies being made available; that has changed slightly. Their October Intersessional meeting was webcast and in addition to the UNODCs usual livestream the webcasts were streamed via YouTube on a channel belonging to the Secretariat to the Governing Bodies UNODC. Those videos are still on YouTube but unfortunately they are unlisted which means that they don’t appear on the user page for Secretariat to the Governing Bodies UNODC, nor are they listed in YouTube’s search results or in Google search results. You can only view those videos if you can find the actual URL, which I am glad to help you with. I have those URLs on my Facebook page at Now hopefully CND will continue to use YouTube to stream their meetings. It would be great if they would also make those videos public. Crossed fingers they do. I will still record the audio just in case as these are major policy discussions that have lasting impact. They should not go on in darkness. All right, enough of my rant. Let’s get to the next segment.

One of the people who spoke to the delegates at that October Intersessional was Pedro Arenas Garcia, an NGO Representative from Colombia.

PEDRO ARENAS GARCIA: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Good afternoon. My name is Pedro J. Arenas Garcia. I'm Colombian. In the 80s, like many other people, I went to work in the field collecting coca leaf, from the crops that grew in the region. I was just 13 years old when I started to earn my own income. After I was the mayor of my local city I was a congressman from 2002 – 2006. Currently I am the Director of the Corporación Viso Mutop-Observatorio de cultivos y cultivadores and my role consists in accompanying communities where they are implementing the crop substitution program starting with the last Peace Corps in my country. As a leader of civil society and a decriminalization lawyer for farmers I work from a human rights perspective where I have been working for the defense of human rights. I have witnessed the organization of Colombian farmers who came together under an umbrella association including indigenous individuals. There are people who depend on the culture of coca, poppy, and poppy crops. I would like to state that we stood against the glyphosate air campaigns where they were dropping this pesticide over a period of 25 years. More recently though I have also witnessed the commitment taken by these indigenous farmers who decided to rebel against their own bosses as for the cultivation of coca from 2017 to 2018 almost 40,000 hectares were destroyed in a voluntary manner through the families who committed to the program and national plan for crop substitution. This was a high point but let’s look at who was behind these programs. Each hectare is about 500 tons of cocaine. In my country each hectare produces about 2.5 kilos of paste which is then made in to cocaine through a processing process which leads to one kilo of cocaine per base input. There are five crop harvests of coca each year so you can calculate that for yourself. We are talking about an equivalent to what the Counter Narcotics Authorities get when they seize an international delivery.

According to the Colombian government, just this year more than 400 tons of cocaine were ceased. We are seeing an increase in seizures of cocaine in Africa, Asia, and in the Americas yet Colombia without a doubt is the country doing most when it comes to seizures. This being the case, in Europe and America there continue to be deliveries of alleged bananas which actually contain cocaine. Cocaine is also camouflaged in other types of export products. This is a containerization if you like of cocaine and it is obvious even if you just follow the media with regard to Colombian seizures of cocaine. This is what we must address because programs such as (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the U.N. are good, but this container issue has to be addressed. Now when it comes to initiatives allow me to point out that civil society which I represent here sees alternative development as a way for risk and damage reduction in productive communities. This is a human rights based strategy and one which reduces risk when it is done in a participatory manner. When you voluntarily replace crops you see that local communities are able to take part in the implementation of programs but crop substitution and alternative development in general are processes. It is not possible to require short term results as we heard this morning from other panelists. This is because the type of short term projects as was stated this morning are simply not lasting or sustainable in nature. Very often you are talking about weak results – short term results. This is what happens when there is obligatory irradiation of crops. In India we saw that when this strategy is not a part of integrated alternative development what you get is the reseeding phenomenon after forced eradication. At that point you get a 60% increase according to UNODC of crop production than before the forced eradication. In countries like Colombia we saw that families engaged in crop substitution one year after having pulled out illicit crops don’t go back to reseeding them so you don’t get that phenomenon. With crop substitution an alternative development you still need to visit other measures in terms of the hectares. You have to measure efforts with respect to development across the entire territory impacted. This is about land ownership for families without land, ensuring that the process is a way to substitute as well as provide technical assistance, food security, and long and medium term production strategies with added value crops such as food crops. There has to be infrastructure for access to markets and ensuring security. When it comes to access to markets the statement made by Senegal this morning was extremely relevant. What he said was that there had to be focus on the substitution strategy but not just about coffee or cacao. Mexico also said this morning that there was need to ensure that alternative development with regard to illicit crops would take in to account the context of the behavior of other farmers. Coca leaf for an example is a crop just like potatoes or grapes in another context. Those are crops that feed millions of families in terms of sustenance. In Colombia we are talking about 200,000 families in more than 100 municipalities in 2017 and 2018.

Moreover, more recently there have been changes in the laws ensuring that medical use of marijuana is permitted. This means job creation, scientific progress, and the development of new medications for people. Indigenous persons and farmers often lack access to opportunities offered by this new market. In the majority of cases this is a new market which as Jamaica said, could be an opportunity for alternative development and for indigenous communities yet this is impossible as long as this sector remains in the hands of the pharmaceutical companies whose sole interest is increasing profit. This market must be open to small communities as well by way of conclusion as for civil society we ask for the United Nations to fully integrate in to crop substitution strategy as the guiding principles of alternative development ordered logically including local communities in the development process and with regard to the SGGs and human rights. This means the nonuse of force from government with respect to these communities but instead acknowledging the fact that these people are fully fledged citizens. The U.N. should adopt measures providing for new opportunities for indigenous communities when it comes to legalized cannabis. We have just published the report that I am showing you here and it is exactly about this topic finally for the U.N.s role. Most respectfully, we think that the UNODC could provide technical assistance to governments promoting alternative development without undermining the sovereignty of states. In some cases, the UNODC could monitor commitments undertaken for progressive reduction of crops for illicit production and this could be through financing national governments ensuring that they become driver and participant in the process also increasing their accountability to citizens. This is the challenge, ladies and gentlemen. Better understanding crop trends in the current context of international trade.

Another challenge, and we agree with many who said this this morning is better accessing the production of certain crops and I am talking about follow up from international organizations on crops based on true productivity indicators, or yield indicators. One might say that an increase in seizures in South America and in the rest of the world could be replaced by new crops in other countries with available land for cultivation and with governance issues. There is another challenge that is according priority to integrated agriculture as a way of risk prevention in agricultural communities. Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Pedro Arenas Garcia who is a representative from a Colombian NGO. He spoke to the U.N.s Commission on Narcotic Drugs at their most recent intercessional meeting. Again, the CND will meet for its reconvened 62nd Session on December 12, 13 in Vienna, Austria. The 63rd Session of the CND is tentatively scheduled to be held March 2 – 6, 2020 in Vienna, Austria.

DOUG MCVAY: For now, that is it. I want to thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies, I have been your host, Doug McVay, Editor of We will be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed War on Drugs.

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 are archived at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy.

12/04/19 Gilberto Gerra

Century of Lies
Gilberto Gerra
Drug War Facts

By the end of 2018, the European Center on Drugs and Drug Addiction was monitoring 731 new psychoactive substances. This week on Century, UNODC's Gilberto Gerra, MD, discusses new psychoactive substances, plus we hear from EMCDDA Director Alexis Goosdeel about the release of the new 2019 EU Drug Markets Report.

Audio file



DECEMBER 04, 2019

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

DOUG MCVAY: Hello and welcome to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of

At the end of November the European Union’s drug monitor agency, The Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) released a 2019 EU Drug Markets Report. This report, which was co-produced by the EMCDDA and Europol. According to the news release, “Covers trends along the supply chain from production and trafficking to distribution and sales. It describes how the drug market has wide ranging impacts on both health and security and how a holistic approach is crucial for affective drug control policies”. Later in the show we are going to hear a portion of the news conference on the report’s release.

One of the items in this report that is of great concern is the increasing number of new psychoactive substances (NPS) on the drug market. Yes, it is an EU drug report but the drug market is global. We don’t talk about NPS very much in the United States and that is a problem. Sure people in the U.S. have heard of fentanyl and know that it is a synthetic opioid but there are dozens of synthetic opioids on the market and the number continues to grow. People in the U.S. have heard of “Spice” and “K2”, which are synthetic cannabinoids but there are dozens of these things these days and I am understating things when I say dozens. By the end of 2018, the European Union was monitoring 731 new psychoactive substances. The number of NPS is currently growing at the rate of one a week and that is a big improvement from 2014 when there were 101 new psychoactive substances detected – that is almost two a week. According to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), 36% of these new psychoactive substances are synthetic stimulants, 30% are synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists which are commonly referred to as synthetic cannabinoids, 15% are classic hallucinogens, 7% are synthetic opioids, 3% are sedatives and hypnotics, 3% are disassociates, and the remaining 5% have yet to be assigned a category – who knows what they are.

Before we get to that EU Drug Report, we are going to hear first from the Chief of UNODCs Drug Prevention and Health Branch, Gilberto Gerra, MD. Dr. Gerra gave a presentation to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs on October 16th during its Intersessional Meeting. Here is Dr. Gilberto Gerra.

DR. GERRA: I start with a question to you and that is are you concerned about stimulants in general. I say that we have to be concerned about depressant of the central nervous system by heroin, opioids, and synthetic opioids. We cannot joke or wish away the stimulants and we cannot (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the problem created by stimulants. The number of stimulants in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) report this year we have presented 68.2 million people using amphetamine, cocaine, and ecstasy and only 53 million people using heroin and prescription opioids which means that most of the people exposed to stimulants is larger than that exposure to depressant of the central nervous system and this is not including the new psychoactive substances because most of the families of the new psychoactive substances is a very (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Synthetic cannabinoids have a stronger (UNINTELLIGIBLE) but the service for people affected by Stimulant Use Disorder and NPS are not available or nonexistent. There is nothing offered that is appealing for the patient and the laboratory is unable to detect the substances. We offering only counseling and some psychosocial intervention if you are very lucky. In spite of this, in Sweden 189 cases of drug intoxication in the emergency room or intensive care unit you find that around 50 substances out of these 189 cases is an enormous amount with the 50 substances belonging to the families of the NPS and related stimulants. These drugs – and particularly the NPS – are utilized as adulterants. You buy MDMA (ecstasy), amphetamine, cocaine, methamphetamine. But in reality they are selling you New Psychoactive Substances (UNINTELLIGIBLE). In this case they evaluated 173 samples at the laboratory and they found that in 20 cases there was an association of the classic drugs with NPS. In 49 cases the classic drugs were not there, only NPS were replacing them. There is also some good news from the world of the New Psychoactive Substances. We have interviewed the people using these drugs and they are saying that they like the old stuff better. They are seeking their own cocaine, heroin, and cannabis (UNINTELLIGIBLE) synthetic drugs should produce more depression and more concentration on difficulties as well as fear and anxiety and problems with the legs.
These drugs are deeply affecting the brain simply because they are mimicking the effect of a stimulant neurotransmitter in the brain that releases dopamine. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is very similar to the cut coming from the plant (UNINTELLIGIBLE), it is very similar to dopamine. We find the group within the amphetamine family that are mimicking (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and other stimulants of our brain and we found anti-wormer medication that was used before to treat a worm infection in the intestines. This has been used by illicit traffickers to produce medication that acts as a hallucinogen mimicking the serotonin effect in the brain. The line between legal and illegal drugs is subtle as you will see here with the first two in blue. You see clozapine and alazopene of the pyrazines family are not sold in the illegal market. They are sold in the pharmacy as one of the most modern and effective antipsychotic medication. The other drugs are not usable for these medical purposes and they are sold as ecstasy and considered a stimulant and a hallucinogen in the illicit market. In the family of synthetic cannabinoids that are mimicking THC in the marijuana. It is also mimicking the neurotransmitter in the brain that is a natural, neurological cannabinoid (UNINTELLIGIBLE). In this case with the strong (UNINTELLIGIBLE) not only using (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for cardiovascular disorders. When you see this so-called herbal medicine, it is actually not herbal medicine but a way to present the synthetic cannabinoids that could have problems such as mitochondrial infarction, ischemic stroke, acute kidney failure, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE). When you see young people in the emergency room with cardiovascular symptoms you should think immediately about synthetic cannabinoids. When we have more hallucinogenic NPSs (UNINTELLIGIBLE) coming from “magic” mushrooms.

I want to show you some different settings and party reviews. For example, this NPS is utilized at a rave party where they say no drugs, no party. No NPS – no party. Among this population, 75% of the participants were positive on the toxicology analysis but 36% of the 75% were positive for NPS. This was so-called “recreational” use but there is also no recreational use but more of a self-medication of these substances by children, adolescents, or young adults with a higher level of psychological distress. In Japan there was an increase in the numbers of people using the NPS but they are calling this user a dysfunctional user that is not for recreational use. There is a group of people using these drugs to medicate their lack of capacity to establish friendly relationships. For example, they want to have an increased ability to socialize through these substances. There are sensation seekers who want to feel stronger emotions and we can’t forget that 22% of the admissions in the psychiatric hospitals are positive for NPS, stimulants, and methamphetamine. This use of drugs is going to exacerbate to aggravate the already existing (UNINTELLIGIBLE) psychologies. We have a group of people that consider themselves (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they don’t (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they want to navigate the mind and the soul and better understand. You can call them philosophers, alchemists, psychedelic researchers and these are using the most hallucinogenic NPS. It is sort of a new Shamanism when you can mix the effect of rhythmic music together with substances obtained and modify status of conscious and it is also sort of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) status to look to yourself from outside and understanding an advanced self-knowledge. All of these groups are totally different from a cultural point of view and they need a different approach as the outreach that was done before was totally not valued for this kind of new drugs. For example, new psychoactive substances and methamphetamine are accompanying the mystical beliefs of the range of experiences and the perception of being in an oneness with God and the Universe as well as values of spirit quality. Remember the famous movie, “The Matrix”, where you have two tablets and with the use of the tablets you have the capacity to understand the reality as it is in your reality because the reality you see and your opinion of this group is not the true one. You can have a professor at the university in chemistry and physics want to have an effect on students who want to have effect on brain enhancing, increasing the capacity of their brain and cognitive capacity and that they are using these drugs without considering the consequences. About methamphetamine, you don’t need to travel to East Asia to see methamphetamine. This is very impressive (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in my opinion because you have methamphetamine 34%, which is more than one-third among those who are asking for treatment for a period of time in the United States, so the people are going to say they are heroin dependent, or fentanyl dependent (UNINTELLIGIBLE). More than one-third of them have methamphetamine in their urine which means that these sort of mixed use to balance the effect of opium and living a so-called normal life. The people risking overdose are among those who have opioid dependency in North America. The people are at risk for overdose are 2.8 fold times increase in reported overdose if they at the same time use methamphetamine, which means that these are the most severely affected patients with more risky conditions. We have an increase in our (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The people dependent on methamphetamine almost doubled in the last decade, and you have an increase in fatal auto accidents where there are 89% alcohol and drugs in the blood, as well as a large amount of methamphetamine in their blood. We cannot forget that methamphetamine and using terrible psychology or regulating psychologists – we cannot forget that methamphetamine in the last decade is not only taken orally but it is also injected, provoking terrible endocarditis, or viral endocarditis. In Europe there was a shortage some years ago of heroin so people started injecting methadone and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) provoking a resurgence of HIV in countries where HIV had been at one time defeated. HIV or Hepatitis is also among people who are not injecting, but using methamphetamine (UNINTELLIGIBLE) because of their mental condition they are not having safe sex, they are having unprotected sex. Arrhythmia’s induced by methamphetamine and cardiovascular disorder can be fatal and they want to conclude with lies. As a practitioner when I think of the people affected by heroin, fentanyl, synthetic opioids, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I think that the depressant of the central nervous system is making my target patient in a certain sense a (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

These people are injecting or using these drugs, sleeping and waking up with a negative effect, regret, and withdrawal searching for new heroin to inject, and sleeping again. Clearly these patients have their personality characteristics and cultural background, but we cannot say that they are equal to each other but they are all (UNINTELLIGIBLE). If you look to what happens when you have to treat or to approach people affected by psychostimulants and NPS, you find this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from drivers to poly-drug abuse from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) starting from brain enhancing party drugs, mental health problems, unsafe sex, doping in bodybuilding, religious experience and so on. Imagine going out with a normal outreach unit as we think normally. In Europe for example, it would be completely ineffective and we should have a differentiated and personalized and specific approach, taking in to account and tailoring the intervention on the basis of the culture and needs of this population. Thank you for your attention.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Gilberto Gerra, MD., Chief of the UNODC Drug Prevention and Health Branch. He was speaking before the Commission on Narcotic Drugs during its 6th Intersessional Meeting on October 16th. You are listening to Century of Lies, I am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of

DOUG MCVAY: Now let’s turn to that 2019 EU Drugs Market Report. There was a news conference November 26th to discuss the release. Here is EMCDDA Director, Alexis Goosdeel discussing the reports’ findings.

ALEXIS GOOSDEEL: First I would like to thank all of the staff at the EMCDDA and the staff of Europol that have been working for three years collecting information and making all of the analysis. I owe a special thanks to my close colleague Catherine De Bolle who is the Executive Director of Europol for her support and for close and fruitful cooperation.

The report covers trends along the supply chain from production and trafficking to distribution and sales. Today we are going to speak more about the market than about the problems associated with the use of those substances. As the Commissioner said, this puts us in a challenging position because together we launched the previous report. What’s new is that the European Drug Market is changing faster than before both under the influence of internal and external drivers and you will find in the report a very detailed and holistic analysis of those changes. What we observe today is the hyper production of drugs within and beyond EU borders, which is leading to higher availability of natural and synthetic substances. This means that now consumers have access to a diverse range of highly potent and pure products at a very affordable price. As the Commissioner mentioned, a mounting concern is the rising drug related violence and corruption within the EU and this is a very worrying evolution of the situation over the last five years.

First of all, the drug market remains a major source of income for organized crime groups. In the EU we estimate that the Europeans are spending around 30 billion in euros every year for the (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It doesn’t encompass the value or the potential values of seizures or any interference with the drug business. Here we talk only about the money that is spent by people who are using drugs in Europe.

Around two-fifths of this total or 39% is spent on cannabis, 31% on cocaine which has now taken second place not only as the second most used drug but also in terms of market value. Heroin is the third with 25%. Finally, amphetamines, methamphetamines, MDMA/Ecstasy represent 5% of that market.

Let’s have a quick look at the key drug markets and put them under the microscope. Cannabis is the largest drug market in Europe worth at least 11.6 billion in Euro, with some 25 million Europeans who have used cannabis at least once in the last year. While cannabis (UNINTELLIGIBLE) still dominate, we see new products that are appearing on the drug market and this makes monitoring of the potency and potential effects essential. We also observed increased violence that is associated with the cannabis business between organized crime groups and this is putting an added strain on law enforcement activities.

Let’s have a look at heroin and other opioids. Opioids still account for the largest proportion of harms associated with drug use and the heroin market is estimated at least 7.4 billion in Euros per year. There are approximately 1.3 million people who are considered to be problem opioid users and are mainly heroin users. Talking about market and trafficking; the Barcon route remains the key corridor for heroin in to the EU, but there are signs of increased heroin trafficking along the southern route particularly through the Suez Canal. There is also evidence of the diversion of the chemical precursors that are needed to produce those drugs and those precursors that are being produced in Europe and they are being smuggled from EU to heroin producing areas. We also noticed, although not in the same proportion, that in the United States there are highly potent synthetic opioids like the fentanyl derivatives that are responsible in the U.S. for the big wave of drug related death, while they represent in Europe a growing health risk, it is still not in the same proportion. These are increasingly (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and dispatched by (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Let’s come now to a drug that has gotten a lot of attention in the recent years, which is cocaine.
There is a record production and corresponding expanding markets for cocaine with a market retail value that is estimated at a minimum of 9.1 billion euros. This is the second most common commodity consumed of the illicit drugs in the EU, we have around 4 million Europeans that report having used the drug in the past year, but you need to add to those people those who have more recently joined and are consuming not only cocaine, but also crack cocaine and there are worrying signs in the increased use of crack cocaine in Europe as well. Use is still concentrated in south and west Europe but the market appears to be spreading, including outside of Europe in places like the Western Balkan’s. Recalled production in Latin America has intensified trafficking to the EU, mainly through maritime containers where RICO seizures have been recorded. The presence of European organized crime groups in Latin America is also changing the dynamic allowing them to manage the supply chain end to end. It is also disrupting the market not only in Europe but in Latin America and there are a lot of changes intervening in the organization of those trafficking routes between the sources and the EU. It seems that the EU is emerging as a transit area for cocaine that is destined to other markets such as Middle Eastern Asia. For amphetamine, methamphetamine, and MDMA the estimated value is 1.5 billion euro a year and they are produced for domestic production and export. They make up for around 5% of the total EU market. More recently, we have noticed that not only the market is controlled but there are also other organized crime groups that are intervening in the market. For instance, Mexican cartels who are controlling the entire logistic chain.

Finally, with regard to the NPS, we discovered 55 new substances which equates to one per week on the European market last year and the source countries are China and India. The total of substances that have been detected and that are monitored by the EMCDDA together with Europol and with the support of other EU agencies amount to 731 substances. The NPS continue to represent a very important threat to health with the potency in synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic opioids, and fake benzodiazepines appearing on the market. These create the surging of more health emergencies such as acute intoxications and death.

Dear Commissioner, Dear Colleagues, Ladies, and Gentleman; the contemporary drug market is increasingly complex, adaptive, and dynamic and it is also more global in nature and more interlinked than in the past. In addition, as the Commissioner highlighted of the direct impact on health and security, the drug market also has indirect and wide ranging negative consequences on other important policy areas, including violence and community safety, economy development and governance, and the environment.

Finally, the human and societal cost associated with the drugs market remain considerable. The reduction of the harm associated with the drug market should remain a priority. If you were to ask me what we can do as well as what was done, as the Commissioner explained we made some good progress in the recent five years, we still have a lot of work in front of us. The work in that area must remain an absolute priority, and this report is a clear wakeup call for policy makers to address the rapidly growing drug market. Our message is that important progress has been made but more needs to be done. At the time we are in a new European Commission, we take its duties in the coming days when the EU and the Member States are discussing the political priorities and actions for the next European budget for 2021 – 2027. We jointly call together with Europol for an upgrade of priorities and resources proportionate to the importance of the emerging threats. Thank you very much.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Alexi Goosdeel, Director of the European Monitoring Center on Drugs and Drug Addiction. He was discussing the 2019 EU Drug Markets Report, which was released on November 26th.

Now while we still have a few minutes left let’s hear from Nuria Calzata, Coordinator of the Spanish Harm Reduction Organization Energy Control.

NURIA CALZATA: Drug checking services are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) marked monitoring tools that are complimentary to other sources of information and their added value lies in the fact they allow contact with hard to reach populations. They not only provide information about the composition but also on other aspects such as acquisition roads, prices, forms of use, experienced problems, and so on. They also allow the early detection of emerging phenomenon of its use and the periods of time of reaction. In the case of NPS, drug checking has made important contributions to the European Early Warning Systems. They inject credibility among drug users and allow early warning to be more effective than official institutions. Finally, they have contributed to the improvement of our knowledge through publications and scientific papers. These are other valued elements have allowed information from drug checking services to be considered by public institutions such as European Monitoring Center or United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. However, we know that drug taking can be controversial like other harm reduction interventions such as supervised consumption rooms, naloxone distributions, or syringe exchange programs. This may be difficult for those countries that despite seeing the relevant drug taking may not want to face a heated debate around them. In any case, our accumulated experience during the last two decades allows us to recommend to other countries the incorporation of drug checking to the monitoring tools with appropriate financing and the integration in the National Health Systems and the encouragement of scientific research to evaluate (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

To conclude, we would like to make a global call for a self-critical reflection. We are agreed that never before in our history have we had so much quantity, quality, and diversity of drugs and the easy access to them. It is clear that we are doing something wrong and yet we continue to insist on the same approaches. It is time for political courage and to take action by applying a number of different strategies without fear of being judged as crazy because as someone once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results”.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Nuria Calzata. She was addressing the Conference on Narcotic Drugs on October 16th during its 6th Intersessional Meeting. That is all the time we have this week. I want to thank you for joining us.

You have been listening to Century of Lies, we are a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network. This is Doug McVay saying, “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 are archived at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy.

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The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give it a like. Drug War Facts has a Facebook page, too, give it a like. Share it with friends. Remember, knowledge is power. We will be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed War on Drugs. For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long.

11/27/19 Ngaio Bealum

Century of Lies
Ngaio Bealum
Drug War Facts

This week on Century of Lies, a conversation with comedian, activist, and journalist Ngaio Bealum.

Audio file



NOVEMBER 27, 2019

DEAN BECKER: The failure of the 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 am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of

There has been a lot happening in the cannabis world the past few weeks. HB 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Equity (Expungement) Act of 2019 was recently approved by the House Judiciary Committee by an overwhelming 24-10 vote. The Chair of that committee is Representative Gerald Nadler. He is the lead sponsor of this bill and he says that he expects it to go to the floor of the house sometime this session and he expects it to be approved by the house; the senate is another story. To talk about that and other things I have Ngaio Bealum. He is a comedian, musician, writer, actor, juggler, publisher, and activist. According to Wikipedia, he cohosted Cannabis Planet and published West Coast Cannabis Magazine. He writes a column in Sacramento News in Review where he answers questions from readers about marijuana and its politics. He is a very, very funny man. He is also somebody whose opinion I respect greatly and who is one of the smartest people in this marijuana issue. Ngaio Bealum, how the heck are you?

NGAIO BEALUM: After that introduction how could I be anything other than great! That is a lot to live up to! Apparently I have done a lot; I am shocked. Shocked!

DOUG MCVAY: The only comedian to speak truth to power. You have been a leader for a long time and it is time for people to acknowledge that. Let’s start out with the biggest news of the week and that is HB 3884 –

NGAIO BEALUM: This is big news, Doug!

DOUG MCVAY: The House Judiciary Committee approved a marijuana legalization measure by a vote of 24-10. The chair of the committee, Gerald Nadler is the lead sponsor. When he says he expects this to go to the floor of the house while I am not a gambling person, you could probably put money on that. What do you think?

NGAIO BEALUM: I am not holding my bald head. How many times is something going to get somewhere and then nothing happens? Even if it does get through the House, which it does stand a good chance which is a good first step but I don’t think that “Moscow Mitch McConnell” and all of his cronies – they are already holding up approximately 200 bills that have come from the House that Mitch has refused to put on the Senate floor; so why would they put this bill on the floor? You would think that the Republicans would see that this is in their best interest according to the latest (UNINTELLIGIBLE) poll. 67% of Americans think that cannabis should be legal now but I am pretty sure they have other things on their plate of (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You thought that was funny, didn’t you? Because that is a Russian joke.


DOUG MCVAY: I agree with you wholeheartedly and in fact it is worth pointing out that there is a version of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Equity (Expungement) Act (The MORE Act) is in the Senate already in a sense as it is sponsored by Senator Kamala Harris. Nothing has happened with it, and you are probably right that nothing is going to happen. Remember a couple of years ago they were talking a good game and Dana Rohrabacher was talking himself blue in the face about how Republicans secretly believe in all of this stuff.

NGAIO BEALUM: That guy also has problems. The challenge I think is on the list of priorities the Republicans want to get done, cannabis legalization is not high on that list. First of all private prison industry loves cannabis crimes and secondly they have bigger things to worry about. They have to prop up a failing President and a bunch of other things. If they were to decriminalize and reschedule cannabis federally I think it would be a big feather in their little Republican caps and I think it would bring around some poor, misguided people who don’t have any other reason to support Trump. They would all be saying that Trump legalized weed blah, blah, blah. It would be a good thing for them to do but when was the last time Republicans did a good thing?

DOUG MCVAY: The sound of crickets in response to that question. They don’t need to do anything. How many years have we seen this stuff about his secret plan to legalize, or that they are secretly behind us. No more secrets. Be public and vote yes. Simple.

NGAIO BEALUM: Yes. It is not that big of a challenge. I don’t think we are going to see any legalization until and unless we see a sweeping change in the Senate and the Presidency. If we get some Democrats, Progressives, or some “Greens”, or social democrats in there we maybe have a better chance but as it stands now I am not optimistic. I am not the young idealist I was in 1992 when we thought Bill Clinton was going to legalize weed, which he could have done in ’96. Obama could have rescheduled it in 2008 and 2012. There are billions of dollars to be made now and we know Republicans love billions of dollars but if they can’t really control it or get their billions of dollars first I don’t see how interested they would be in it. They already get billions of dollars from the private prison industry by locking people up, from using drug prisoners as a form of legalized slavery. I know I sound like a crazy Leftist and progressive right now and I am most of the time, but these are the bigger issues. I want to be excited about this first step and that it is going to pass but it is not. It is not. If it does, I will buy weed for everybody, but as it stands right now I am not optimistic.

DOUG MCVAY: I have to agree. It is dead in the water once it gets across to the Senate. I hope to God it actually does pass the House –

NGAIO BEALUM: If it even gets out of the House.

DOUG MCVAY: You don’t think it will?

NGAIO BEALUM: I don’t know. There are too many people who get too much money from weed being illegal. You can make more money from weed being legal but you would have to set up new revenue streams and these guys already have a thing happening so why would they even want to change it? It is not affecting them. Right? Rich white kids don’t go to jail for weed so it is not going to bother any of those guys.

DOUG MCVAY: You have a good point. Like I said, he is a smart man! On the other hand, you have also got the legal weed industry that is doing its own campaign contributions. Some of these companies’ stock values are horribly inflated. They are not worth even a fraction of what –

NGAIO BEALUM: Don’t get me started on those guys! I am glad they are spending money to lobby and things of that nature but those guys also have problems. An algorithm and five million dollars behind you doesn’t mean you know anything about the cannabis industry, cannabis culture, or even how to grow good cannabis. You would think that would be the first step would be to have good weed but these guys don’t seem to understand that.

DOUG MCVAY: That leads me to the next question which is about the California industry. There have been a wave of layoffs in the industry over the past couple of months by some big companies like FloCanna, Eaze, and MedMen have all seen layoffs. Some are saying that this is a sign that this industry is in trouble and overregulated while others are more skeptical. People like myself are saying that this is nothing but hypocrisy, cost cutting, and an attempt to boost profits so that the owners can make more money. Maybe during the next investment wave investors will think that because they fired a bunch of people they must be a good company so they want to pour a few million dollars in to that weed business.

NGAIO BEALUM: I think there are a lot of different factors here. First of all I would like to say that I feel bad for all of the people at FloCanna and some of the cats at Jedi Extracts because those two companies seemed to have the right idea and they have a decent amount of hippies on their staff so they seem to be wanting to do the right things. A lot of these other guys just show up with money and think that they are going to jump in the middle and take over everybody creating a Weedopoly and that is not how it goes.
Cannabis is decentralized due to its very nature even while federally illegal, it has been a decentralized industry forever so to think that you can just come in and take it over – have you ever hung out with hippies? Do you know how obstinate these people are? Do you know how headstrong hippies are? You can’t do that, especially if you are going to overregulate. California has overregulated and overtaxed the industry. They are raising the taxes again in 2020, which is not helping anyone in the legal regulated market. If it is cheaper to buy it from the black market, why not buy it from the black market? I know you could point to the vape crisis with regard to the unregulated, untested products causing severe health problems and that is true but it is different with flower. If slightly bad grown weed was going to kill you; we would all be dead. Weed is still weed and you can still find underground organic, fantastic weed everywhere for much cheaper than you can get in the club, even if the price is the same the weed club is going to add another 20-30% in taxes so now your eighth that was forty bucks is now sixty bucks. What are you going to do if you are working in this economy? If you have two minimum wage jobs saving twenty bucks is important to you and you need a little weed to get through your day sometimes because people can stress you out. I think they are going about it all wrong. I feel like Oregon had the right idea where they didn’t overregulate and they didn’t overtax. I felt bad for the growers because the prices dropped precipitously but also pushed out the weed man because the weed man is not going to be cheaper than the club. The club is going to sell you a joint for a dollar and an eighth for fifteen bucks – and it’s pretty good weed for that fifteen bucks. The growers don’t make what they used to make but the industry is thriving out there as opposed to what is happening in California. 70% of California cities and counties still prohibit weed businesses. You can’t always find a weed club if you are in Modesto, or Fresno of some of these other towns so I don’t know how they expect the market to grow if access is not opened up.

DOUG MCVAY: I live in Oregon so I can only say that you are absolutely right. It is so much nicer to live in Oregon.

NGAIO BEALUM: One of the coolest things about Oklahoma’s medical cannabis law is that they said that cities and counties could not prohibit cannabis cultivation and cannabis businesses. They have got to figure out a way to work with everybody. It is a weird analogy but it’s like a strip club. You gotta have a strip club. If the state allows strip clubs; cities can’t prohibit it. It is a first amendment thing, an access thing, and a freedom and liberty thing. I think California could not have messed it up any more than if they had actually tried to mess it up.

DOUG MCVAY: I don’t know. I give your legislators more credit than that. I think they could have easily screwed it up even worse.

NGAIO BEALUM: I don’t know if they could’ve because they are going about it the wrong way. They don’t think that they are making the money they thought they were going to make so they raised the taxes and said it was to keep up with inflation, but really it is not. They are going to kill the golden goose. The underground scene is thriving out here. Instead of what we used to call Farmer’s Markets, now they are called Sessions. There are so many different sessions you can go if you still have your medical letter of recommendation you can find a session on Instagram probably a half hour from your house. You can drive out and buy all the unregulated weed you want for super cheap and you can talk to the grower and the guys who have it. It is much more cannabis culture centered vibe than you get in a lot of these sterile clubs where the people working there don’t even know anything about weed, they are all brand new and they just see it as a business and not a lifestyle which I guess is cool but even the guy who runs the liquor store or book store; they know something about books and liquor. These cats only know money, units, market share, and disruption but they don’t have a fundamental understanding. I feel like Obi Wan Kanobi – you perceive the force as the spoon perceives the taste of food. (LAUGHTER).

DOUG MCVAY: Just to remind folks, you are listening to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVay and my guest here with me on Skype is the Jedi master of weed, the connoisseur Mr. Ngaio Bealum. He is an activist, writer, and professional comedian. One of the things that you have been involved with over the last few years is the Minority Cannabis Business Association. You are outspoken on issues involving equity and social justice within the cannabis industry and in general. How are things shaping up? Are we talking a good game and falling short? Is anything actually happening?

NGAIO BEALUM: I have to smoke a joint before I talk to you. You are just pressing all of my buttons today, man. (LAUGHTER). I feel like Oakland is the only place that is doing it kind of right in the sense that they have opened up some minority clubs, their Equity Program seems to be proceeding at a pace. A lot of these other places up here in Sacramento are just now getting their Equity Program going even though they announced it two years ago but it is almost too late. They are not going to allow too many more licenses and it is still going to cost a person $200,000 to get in the game. There are no black owned clubs up here and there are very few in San Francisco and only a couple in Los Angeles if there are any at all. Last time I was there I think there was one or two but I don’t know if they have shut down. I don’t feel like the Equity Programs are doing what they are supposed to do and I don’t know if that is by design. They say never look for conspiracy when you can find incompetence. So I am not sure what the whole plan is on that but I wish it was better. I wish people would be more proactive about it. Up here in Sacramento we have an FBI probe, Ukrainian money, accusations of bribery and money laundering. Things happen when big money gets involved. People look at clubs and think that is an easy way to make a million dollars a year. Out of 30 Sacramento clubs they grossed about $140,000,000 in gross sales last year. When you look at that it is about 5,000,000 per club and think that is a pretty good deal, but that is not all profit. I just wish it would be better and I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t know how to change human nature. Greed is the one god that can never be appeased or even sated. It is the whole nature of greed worship.

DOUG MCVAY: I was doing an interview not long ago with Professor John Pfaff from Fordham Law School and we were talking about mass incarceration in prison and he was telling me how his thinking on this has evolved. Mass incarceration is the problem but the root of that is this culture of mass punishment. It’s not just about incarceration it is all the rest of it. If you fall short they feel they must smack you down. It is not just a question of changing the policy it is a question of changing the mindset that is really pushing this stuff.

NGAIO BEALUM: Yeah. It is the same kind of thing and I don’t know what can be done about changing human nature. When it comes to prison reform some of the Scandinavian countries seem to have a better idea. It should be about rehabilitation and reforming people to help them become productive tax paying members of society. If you have a private prison it is in your best interest to create more criminals so why would you want to help someone not be a criminal as that will just eat in to your profit. You want them to come back to jail; you want them to get out and come back six months later. They already know the routine. You don’t want to never see them again. You want to see them as often as possible. That is just one of those things when it comes to prison reform. I think private prisons should be abolished; it’s a farce and a scam.

DOUG MCVAY: And if it’s a private prison, it is also the private companies that are vendors to the publicly owned prisons. It’s the prison guards themselves! In California for instance they even have a union –

NGAIO BEALUM: That’s right. So powerful!

DOUG MCVAY: People get enough of my nasal whine and stammer, it is you that we want to hear from. You have a new writing gig that a little bird told me about. Why don’t you tell my listeners what you are doing these days/

NGAIO BEALUM: Yes, I am the new Cannabis Equity writer for Emerald Media. They have a print magazine as well as a really nice website. I am also starting a new podcast that should be premiering in January called Equally High, which will focus on social justice, social equality, and cannabis equity issues throughout the nation. We will be interviewing a lot of people and tell their stories and see what can be done. We will discuss the successes and failures and see what can be done to make the world a better place. I got in to cannabis activism first because I really like weed in general. I like the way it tastes, the way it smells, the way it’s grown. I also see cannabis activism as a social justice issue and that was one of the things that I like about weed activism – you are striking go on all kinds of fronts. Relegalize weed and that is a blow for personal freedom, and personal responsibility. It helps cops be less racist if they can’t just pull over black and brown kids because they smell weed or because they think that they have weed in their possession. They can’t just harass people for that anymore. These are all good first steps but we have to take it further because the same people who were making money from throwing us in jail are now making money from selling us weed and that is not fair to the people who used to have good jobs. You probably knew a cat or two that was the “weedman”, and I say weedman as a gender neutral term, I spell it with an ‘M’, so it’s W-E-E-D-M-A-N. If you spell it with a ‘Y’, you are probably not a weedman who had to get a job in a dispensary after everything got legalized and set in because they couldn’t make the money that they used to; at least in Oregon. In California, the weedman is still doing alright. We just want it to be better and these guys just can’t seem to get it together and I don’t think that they really listen to anyone who knows. Maybe they do listen to those guys, I don’t know. I have been to too many city council meetings where people make logical, thought out, persuasive arguments that make great sense and then they are completely ignored so what can you do about that? I used to be much more idealist; they say that a cynic is a lapsed idealist. They say that the cynic is a disappointed idealist and I think I am entering in to that phase in my career.

DOUG MCVAY: I know what you mean exactly but we can’t quit.

NGAIO BEALUM: There is nothing to do but continue to fight against it. I am not giving up, my eyes are just more open about it.

DOUG MCVAY: Do you remember P.D.Q Bach and Professor Peter Schickele? He had a saying that is practically my motto and should be my mantra and that is that ideas are like pollen, once they are in the air you never know who is going to sneeze.

NGAIO BEALUM: Fair enough. Fair enough. This is true.

DOUG MCVAY: That is why it is so exciting to me at least that you are going to be doing this podcast and that you are working on this equity stuff.

NGAIO BEALUM: Good ideas are also like pollen because some people are just allergic to them.

DOUG MCVAY: You do have a point. I was in debate for the longest time and I never really figured it out until recently that you are not really going to end up convincing the person on the other side; they are not ever going to just say that you were right and they were wrong all of this time. It is a competitive thing and they view it that way so they are just not going to do that but the judge – that is the person that you are trying to convince. In policy what we are trying to convince is the majority of folks who really haven’t given it a thought and don’t have a feeling one way or the other. If they are forced to they may make up their minds and it might be a knee jerk reaction in the wrong way but if we can keep putting out good ideas and calling people out for being jerks. I will never apologize for that. I think we need to continue trying to promote people to just be better. I think eventually it is going to work.

I was on the phone with the reporter right before Elvy Musikka got her federal marijuana card and became the third person in the country to legally receive medical pot so I have a different perspective on progress.

NGAIO BEALUM: We have come a long way. I can walk around California now with an ounce of weed in my pocket standing in line at the Starbuck’s with cops walking in and my blood pressure does not change. I was sitting on the corner smoking a joint on K and 8th Street the other day and two sheriffs walked by and one of them just nodded at me. It was great! They are also letting people out of jail and that is great. These are all great steps but we can definitely do more and people can definitely do better. This is what I am saying.

DOUG MCVAY: As long as you are out there encouraging it; it will happen. Again, my guest on today’s show has been Ngaio Bealum, he is a comedian, activist, writer, and many other things. We are coming up to the end of the half hour so I have to ask you if you have any closing thoughts and can you please give me all of your social media sites where people can find out where you are and what you are up to. You also perform a lot so I have to ask you what you have going on with your performances?

NGAIO BEALUM: I do. When does this show go on the air?

DOUG MCVAY: This show will be first broadcast right before Thanksgiving on my birthday.

NGAIO BEALUM: Okay. Happy birthday, Doug.

DOUG MCVAY: Well thank you very much.

NGAIO BEALUM: December 1st I will be performing at A Simple Bar, located at 3256 Cahuenga Blvd W, Los Angeles, CA 90068. It is a free show, come on out. You can follow me on all the social media at: ngaio420 on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. You can read my articles in the Sac News in Review and Emerald Media. I am the 3rd most popular Ngaio in the world so you can just Google me. I have to get my website up, I have been lazy. You can also listen to my latest album, “Weedier and Sexier”, you can stream it on all of the popular streaming platforms.

DOUG MCVAY: One of my favorite comedians, activist, and writer and a good friend. It is such a pleasure to have you on the show. Happy holidays to you.

NGAIO BEALUM: Always a pleasure. Happy Thanksgiving to you as well, Mr. McVay.

That was my interview with Ngaio Bealum. He is a comedian, activist, journalist and good friend. If you have a chance to see him live, do it! That is it for this week. I want to thank you so much for joining us.

You have been listening to Century of Lies we are a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network. On the web at I have been your host, Doug McVay, editor of The Executive Producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs are available by podcast, the URL’s to subscribe are on the network homepage at

The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give it a like. Drug War Facts has a Facebook page, too, give it a like. Share it with friends. Remember, knowledge is power. We will be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed War on Drugs. For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying 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 are archived at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy.

11/20/19 Damon Barrett

Century of Lies
Damon Barrett
Drug War Facts

November 20 2019 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child, a human rights instrument ratified by every other nation on earth but not by the United States. This week on Century we have a portion of my interview with human rights and drug policy expert Damon Barrett, plus we hear part of a news conference from UN Headquarters in Geneva on the report Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty.

Audio file



NOVEMBER 20, 2019

DEAN BECKER: The failure of the 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 am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of

This week we come to you live from the Bay Area. It is a long story; let’s get on with the show shall we? November 20th is the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Almost every nation on the planet has gratified that convention. There is only one country – I am embarrassed and deeply saddened to say that that country is the United States. We will put children in jail to protect them from jail; we will try children as adults and throw them in to adult penitentiaries; we will target pregnant women with criminal law and throw them in prison and put them in shackles to deliver their child if they do drugs because we care about the children. What a crock!

We are going to hear a briefing by Manfred Nowac, he is an independent expert who led the U.N. Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty. He issued his report to the United Nation’s office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and we are going to hear a portion of his news conference on the release of that global study. But first, since it is the anniversary of the convention of the Rights of the Child, I wanted to go back to an interview I did a while back with a friend who is human rights and drug policy expert, Damon Barrett.

DAMON BARRETT: I lived in London for a very long time. I left Ireland in 2001 and lived in London for 12 years, and now I live in Sweden. At the risk of changing the subject from me to something that matters, things are getting better. This is an important human rights conversation. Sweden has this reputation for being very tough on drugs when compared to most other places it is really not just that. It has had a very ideological position about a drug-free Sweden and a drug-free society; and it does have some laws that I very much disagree with but there are two things to say. First of all, unlike Sweden, Russia and Brazil, which I believe how has the fourth highest decarceration rate in the world. Sweden has less people in prison for drug offenses now with the current rate being the lowest it has been in 50 years and that is intentional because Sweden values not putting people in prison. Similarly although Sweden for a long time was against harm reduction, the central government now is not. They say they took that position in the past but the evidence says otherwise now. Coverage of substitution therapy in Sweden is approximately 50% and there are problems with the program where you can be kicked off for a failed urine test which is not good and they have nothing in prisons but a tiny pilot program. There are only five needle exchanges in the country but that is three more than it was a few years ago. There have been two in the south of Sweden that have been running or 25 years.

The central government fights with the regional authorities to get more going because health spending has devolved so it is not as simple. One of the best things is that Sweden has been paying for drug user organizing for 15 years because it values drug user’s voices. It pays for the Swedish Drug Users Union, or (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in Swedish. They are a wonderful group of my friends who are invited on to the main public health committee’s to deal with Hepatitis C in the country. This is the reality of Sweden. The problem is that Sweden goes to the international stage all of these years and says we need a restrictive approach, and let’s not reform drug laws. In that way it misrepresented itself, it actually is more uncommon with Switzerland or Portugal than it does in Russia, but it seems to find itself sitting alongside Russia because it doesn’t like reform. I think maybe they started to realize this because that is an embarrassing and unhelpful diplomatic seat to have. The human rights message of that is two things. One is that Sweden really values civil society voice and it values these things more broadly so its drug laws can only do so much damage not matter how much I disagree with them. It is held back by everything else that Sweden does so the way I put it is if you want to attempt prohibition of all of these drugs and attempt this idea of a drug-free society then let’s look at Sweden. You should have everyone paying high taxes and be happy about it; paying for incredible social services; incredible social safety nets. You should divert everybody possible from prison, you should have low income inequality, low gender inequality, universal access to healthcare, excellent education system and all of that in place first and then maybe you can attempt prohibition and even then you will run in to trouble. If you take the same policy and you dump it in the United States of America, Russia, Indonesia, Mexico where there is corruption, poverty and all of these things and you are asking for an enormous mess. The only thing you can say with Sweden is that you are going to get a fair trial. If you go to Indonesia you are probably not. These things matter and these are the things that human rights analyses really unpack and then pull out. I think that is important because in the end what we are doing is just not all about drug laws. I know people have different visions here but if everybody got exactly what they wanted tomorrow however they envision it. Someone might want a free market dream, someone might want a state monopoly but if everybody in their own heads got exactly what they wanted tomorrow would they go away as social justice activists, would they leave the party and suddenly those of us who as Ethan would say, don’t give a damn about drugs; would we be left picking up the pieces of the drug war, which take long-term healing I think.

DOUG MCVAY: I think you are right that it was an incredibly important thing. The fact that Sweden has five needle exchanges and it is a government sanctioned approval, right?

DAMON BARRETT: Absolutely. It is paid for by the taxpayer. Absolutely. This is important as well in that not only does it see the benefit in preventing disease transmission they also see it as a component of social welfare and care in that the Stockholm Needle Exchange opened and they were already in contact with loads of people that social welfare and health services hadn’t reached before. It was a new service that they could go to and they found out that almost all of them (above 80%) were Hepatitis C Positive. This is all hugely important stuff. There are huge downsides in Sweden as well with the highest per capita overdose drug rate in Europe and the fourth highest amphetamine use rate. On the positive side they do have very low rates of use among adolescents and school (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they do have that, too, so it is a bit of a paradox. You have to take every country as it is. My answer to my question is that I don’t think a lot of these people would go away. There are a lot of people here that see drug policy the way that I and some of my colleagues see it. It happens to be a center of gravity around which a lot of the things that we do care about revolve because of prohibition and punitive drug enforcement and when this goes away a lot of those things will still be there.

I talked a lot in my speech about the threat narrative around drugs that we all know about; the drug scourge and all of that kind of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) but it is very insidious. What I said was that if you set up a threat and point the finger at who to blame then human rights abuses are coming and what I don’t get is how people who support prohibition cannot see that they are essentially making a rod for their own backs because there will be another threat tomorrow, something else; and all you have done is set up institutions and a legitimacy for that level of oppression in the name of whatever threat they see. It is the war on terror, the war on drugs and it is going to be something else. What is missing is some kind of empathy with the current victims in order to see that one day that could be you. This is the golden rule in every society, every culture, and every religion which is ‘don’t treat others the way you would not like to be treated’ and ‘do unto others’. They are different translations of the same thing and everybody knows it. This is very simple but the problem with drugs is that people can’t identify and they can’t empathize which is the real reach of stigma. Either because people are too far away or in the case of drugs, they just can’t see that that is somehow their own brothers and sisters. Similarly with the refugee crisis right now if that were my children I had to send away running I would hope that someone would look after them and if it was just me and I didn’t have children I would hope that someone would help me. We have a lot of jargon and big words to describe very basic concepts of what if it was me.

We heard from Kimba Smith on Day 1. I would not want anybody I know getting 27 years for no more than carrying some money around the place. That is not okay. I would not accept that for me, I would not accept a criminal record for my kids however old they might be because they experimented with something and ruining so much for them. I would not accept that for them. I would not accept a noose around my neck, so I can’t accept it for anybody else. It is just that simple. I think one of the problems with the supporters of prohibition is a lack of empathy, a lack of ability to see who is at the receiving end of all of this and if they could then maybe they would see that ‘But for the grace of God, there go I’. It is the same thing as the Golden Rule. I think that is something that is missing and it requires a huge amount of demonization and stigma to achieve it on this scale.

DOUG MCVAY: That was my interview with Damon Barrett. We got together a few years ago at a Drug Policy Alliance conference. He is a brilliant man and an expert on human rights and drug policy.

You are listening to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVay. November 20, 2019 is the 30th anniversary of the U.N.’s Convention on the Rights of the Child. We are going to hear a portion of a news conference with Manfred Nowak is a professor in Vienna, Austria, and he was the expert who led the U.N. Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty. Let’s hear from Professor Nowak.

PROFESSOR NOWAK: We were requested to address 60 foreign situations of depravation of liberty of children and of course children means all human beings up to the age of 18.

One of the situations was with institutions depriving children of their liberties starting with orphanages, institutions for children with disabilities, for children in drug and alcohol rehabilitation, for children who need educational supervision, etc. All together there are about 5.4 million children to date in institutions around the world and that is a conservative figure. It is less than (UNINTELLIGIBLE) estimated in 2006 when the figure was still 8 million children. In reality, these children are deprived of liberty and that means they cannot simply leave of their own free will. Although a certain percentage, which we approximate as 670,000 are really formally deprived of liberty by a decision of a court or an administrative agency because very often it is the parents who feel they cannot deal with the child that place them in an institution or others that are caregivers and that is why there is this big discrepancy between the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) factor. The same is true in the administration of justice. If you take the very conservative estimates it is 410,000 children in prisons after convictions and in pretrial detention. Again, this is a lower number than the number that UNICEF has sited since the late 90s, which was about 1 million children. There might also be reasons that there are more child justice systems that this number has actually dropped but if you add about 1 million children on an annual basis in police custody you come up to a little more than 1.4 million children. The third one is migration related detention. Our conservative estimate is 330,000 children around the world are currently detained in immigration detention. The fourth one is children in the context around conflict. You know that many children today are reported by terrorists or extremist groups with the most well-known at the moment being the Islamic State, and then they are arrested by governmental authorities partly accused of being child soldiers and part of them being accused of being terrorists. There are only 29,000 to date held in Syria to the north and the Kurdish dominated areas where now the Turkish Invasion took place, as well as in Baghdad. Many of those children’s were themselves recorded but also were brought by their parents some were even born in the Kalifate and now are detained under very deplorable conditions. We also have children that are living with their primary care givers and that means in reality they are with their mothers. We estimate that number conservatively to be around 19,000, and this is a very difficult issue. In fact our main recommendation there is that mothers with small children should simply not be deprived of liberty as there are always alternatives. That brings me to the legal side of things.

Article 37B of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is very, very clear. It states: No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. This means that in principle, children should not be deprived of liberty and states should look to find non-custodial solutions which are usually available; it is simply a question of politics. Either you invest primarily in the criminal justice system or you invest more in the child welfare system and support the families. Very often families are lacking the support and therefore children end up in institutions or in the criminal justice system.

Our main conclusions are fairly clear with respect to institutions deinstitutionalized. Children should live and grow up in families whether it is their own family, a foster family, or a family-type setting and not in institutions where they are deprived of liberty and treated with strict discipline and there is a lot of violence and there is no love, etc.

The criminal justice system states should adopt specific juvenile justice systems, special juvenile courts, and apply diversion at every stage of the criminal procedure which can be done by the police when arresting children to find a way that the family or the child welfare system takes care of a child in conflict with the law. It can be done by the prosecutors or the judges finally and we see when we look at children that this happens at a much higher level with girls. The reason might be about attitudes. If the girl is accused of having committed an offense they can give her back to the family or find another solution but we should not deprive her of liberty under pretrial detention or police custody. About one-third of criminal offenses by children are committed by girls, but in the end it is only 6% of all children deprived of liberty in prisons or pretrial detention. 94% are boys and that is also a very interesting finding in the study. The third item is migration related detention. There is a lot of evidence from different treaty monitoring bodies of the United Nation’s, UNICEF, The High Commission of Refugees, International Organization for Migration, along with many others and I share that migration related detention for children can never be considered as a measure of last resort or in the best interest of the child. There are always alternatives available and there are quite a number of states that have decided already that they will no longer put children in migration related detention. With respect to national security and armed conflict I think the main recommendation is to treat those children even if they were recorded as child soldiers and have committed crimes; treat them primarily as victims and not as perpetrators. Try to find ways for rehabilitation and reintegration in to society and this applies to children primarily from European origin or central Asian origin who were recorded by the Islamic State so that they should actually take them back in order to deal with them in the child welfare system. These are some of the main conclusions and I will leave it at that for the time being and I am happy to answer and respond to any questions or comments that you might have. Thank you.

MALE VOICE: The floor is open for questions. Yes, the lady at the front.

FEMALE VOICE: Thank you and good morning. My name is Lisa Schlein, and I am with the Voice of America. It is nice to see you. I did follow you when you were the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture for a number of years and I would like to welcome you back.

I would like to know if during your investigation you dealt with these issues on a regional basis and do you have a breakdown in terms of where the problems exist. You listed six of them so one would have to delineate them but whether there were certain area, regions, or countries where these problems where more acute than others and more specifically; my own country, the United States of America where there seems to be an enormous problem regarding children who are migrating to the United States and many of them are being put in to detention. Did you look specifically in to that issue and if so, what are your main observations and conclusions in that regard?

PROFESSOR NOWAK: Thank you very much. Separating children from their parents as was done by the Trump Administration at the Mexican/US border is absolutely prohibited by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. I would call it inhumane treatment for both the parents and the children. There are still quite a number of children that are separated from their parents and the parents don’t know where their children are, nor do the children know where their parents are. That is something that definitely should not happen again and I am happy that within the United States politics there was a lot of criticism of this inhumane treatment. Overall, and I am talking about children with their parents and unaccompanied children or minors and the United States is one of the countries with the highest numbers with more than 100,000 children in migration related detention in the United States of America. That is far more than all of the other countries where we have reliable figures.

In the area of criminal justice the situation is unfortunately also not that different in the United States of America if you relate them in general to the incarceration rate of adults is very high. It is about 60 out of 100,000 and that is the highest we could find followed by others like Bolivia, Botswana, or Shri-Lanka.

You referred to my function as Special Rapporteur on torture. It was really fact finding that I did in relation to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) who invited me. We did not really do fact finding in the sense that we would go somewhere and really try to establish the facts, we relied on one hand on the responses to our questionnaire that is sent out to all U.N. Member States, but we also sent it out to U.N. Agencies, non-governmental organization, national human rights institutions, and national preventive systems, etc., and we used a lot of official data. The United States of America, unfortunately did not respond to our questionnaire. Most of the data is publicly available by U.N and U.S. Statistical Offices. In general the North American region has the highest regional imprisonment rate of children. In the United States it is about 60, Canada about 14-15.

LISA SCHLEIN: I am sorry – 60 out of –

PROFESSOR NOWAK: 60 out of 100,000 children in the country.

LISA SCHLEIN: So 60,000 children out of 100,000?

PROFESSOR NOWAK: No. The rate is the proportion so out of 100,000 children, 60 are deprived of liberty. If I compared it with the average invest in Europe, it is about five. The second highest is in the Central American and Caribbean region at 16, and in South America at 19. We could say that the American hemisphere has the highest rate of children deprived of liberty in the Administration of Justice. Compared to others like Asia, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they are all below 10%. The lowest being in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in Africa. So there are quite a bit of differences and again you will find them in the global study. .So we have to be very careful because they are partly based on official statistics and replies to the questionnaire but partly on other sources and we had to compile them. These are all very conservative figures where we were 100% sure that we can base ourselves on these figures.

DOUG MCVAY: That was a portion of a news conference with Professor Manfred Nowak, he is an independent expert who led the U.N. Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty.

For now that is all the time we have. I want to thank you for joining us. For the Drug Truth Network this is Doug McVay saying 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 are archived at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy.

You have been listening to Century of Lies we are a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network. On the web at I have been your host, Doug McVay, editor of The Executive Producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs are available by podcast, the URL’s to subscribe are on the network homepage at

11/13/19 Michael Botticelli

Century of Lies
Michael Botticelli
Drug War Facts

The Massachusetts Legislature's Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery held a hearing recently on harm reduction sites and supervised consumption facilities, so on this edition of Century of Lies we hear from MA State Sen. Cindy Friedman, Fenway Health's Carl Sciortino, and former US "Drug Czar" Michael Botticelli.

Audio file



NOVEMBER 13, 2019

DEAN BECKER: The failure of the 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 am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of

The Massachusetts Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use, and Recovery held a hearing on harm reduction sites. They were considering two bills, H1712 an act relative to preventing overdose deaths and increasing access to treatment which was introduced by Representative Dylan Fernandez, and S1134 an act relative to supervised injection facilities introduced by Senator Joseph A. Boncore. We are going to hear some of the testimony from that hearing. The first person we are going to hear from is State Senator Cindy Friedman.

SEN. CINDY FRIEDMAN: Thank you to the Chairs and members of the committee. I am here today to testify in support of S1134, an act relative to supervised injection facilities sponsored by my colleague, Senator Boncore.

As you know, S1134 is now being discussed by its sponsor and several of my colleagues as a bill that could be redrafted based on the Harm Reduction Commission’s recent report and recommendations – a commission I had the great opportunity to serve on. I support any state efforts at harm reduction and specifically today to support the pilot program for safe consumption sites.

As you know, the 2018 Opioid Treatment Bill signed in to law last August created the commission to study harm reduction activities including the feasibility of implementing a harm reduction site pilot program in the Commonwealth to help curb the opioid epidemic, save more lives, and get more people in to treatment. We included this important provision in the bill because despite all of our efforts to date to combat this enormous public health crisis, an average of five people die from an overdose each day in the Commonwealth, and this is just not okay.

The increasing deadliness of Fentanyl further heightens this crisis. Frankly, it has become clearer that the tools and strategies we have employed to date – while helpful – were not enough. We have a moral and public health imperative to consider any and all evidence based harm reduction strategies; we cannot simply keep doing the same over and over. The Harm Reduction Commission was chaired by Secretary Sudders, and Commission Members included Representative Roy and myself, DPH Commissioner Bharel, and the Mayors of Boston and Cambridge, along with experts in the fields of addiction medicine, psychiatry, and psychology, law, public safety, plus those with lived experience and after months of thoughtful discussion, investigation, and soul searching we developed a set of meaningful, evidence based recommendations like access to clean needles, Fentanyl testing strips, increased outreach to those on the margins of substance use disorder and co-occurring mental illness. These all have been shown to have a very clear public health benefit and should be rolled out on a large scale and more broadly across the Commonwealth. You’ve heard all of this in previous testimonies and the recommendations of the Harm Reduction Report and I am very pleased that we as a Commonwealth, have begun to take meaningful steps to implement several of those proposals. Now these are very important steps to take but these strategies are not enough; we cannot stop and claim success. All of the evidence and studies the Commission reviewed, and all of the first hand reports from safe consumption sites in Canada and Europe where there are decades of experience and data available – all point to safe consumption sites as an evidence based harm reduction strategy and we can’t afford to dismiss it.

I know this is difficult for some people, the idea of safe consumption sites is uncomfortable but if it is proven to save lives then we have a moral obligation to at least give it a try. It can’t be about our feelings, it has to be about the evidence and what tells us works.

What does the evidence in harm reduction sites tell us? It tells us that a harm reduction site where one can use and consume substances in the presence of healthcare workers who can immediately intervene to prevent overdose. This absolutely, positively saves lives and reduces health issues associated with intravenous drug use. At the first harm reduction site in North America, which opened in Vancouver in 2003, there was immediately a 35% reduction in overdose deaths in the immediate vicinity compared with 9% reduction in the rest of the city when they applied other harm reduction strategies. The evidence tells us that the availability of clean needles at safe consumption sites reduced the transmission of diseases like Hepatitis C, and HIV and the evidence tells us that these harm reduction sites can be so much more than a safe place to use substances. Instead they can and should be a place where health care workers can develop a trusting relationship with those they seek to treat by offering a wide variety of additional services including drug checking, blood born virus testing, injection site wound care, initiation of medication assisted treatment for Substance Use Disorder, and referrals to health and social services. Let’s be clear, we must keep people alive first before we can help them and providing Narcan – which is critical, is not enough to keep everybody alive. This epidemic is far from over. People are still dying and we need to consider all of the evidence based and informed interventions that have proven track record of saving lives. There must be multiple doors to treatment, all with a very low threshold of entry. For this reason, the Commission made clear in its published recommendations that the Commonwealth should take the steps necessary to create a pilot test to impact the safe consumption sites here in Massachusetts. As I mentioned earlier, we must continue to evaluate all of these programs and the recommendations in the context of the ongoing public health crisis that we find ourselves in and while the deaths from overdoses are down in some areas; this crisis is far from over. In several of your communities the death toll rises. We still had 938 confirmed and estimated opioid related deaths in the first six months of that year so that doesn’t include July, August, and September. We continue to be in the midst of a public health crisis, plain and simple. We need to use every tool in the toolbox in order to address it and it would be irresponsible if we did not explore every opportunity as a means of tackling this epidemic and that includes establishing safe consumption sites. Lives are at stake! I ask every member of this committee to both recognize the magnitude of this epidemic and very seriously consider this very important bill. We cannot hold back in addressing this crisis. This epidemic is not only affecting those with Substance Use Disorder, but their children who are flooding our foster care systems and creating huge challenges for grandparents and family members. It is ravaging families and causing untold heartache – no one has not been affected. I strongly urge, plead, and beg the committee to report the bill out favorably. Thank you very much.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Massachusetts State Senator Cindy Friedman. She was testifying before the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use, and Recovery in October at a hearing on harm reduction sites. She was testifying in support of two bills, H1712 introduced by Representative Dylan Fernandez, and S1134 introduced by State Senator Joseph Boncore. Both of them regard supervised injection facilities.

You of course, are listening to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVay. I am the Editor of Drug War Facts at

Now let’s get back to that hearing shall we? There is a lot to listen to. Let’s hear from Gary Langris.

GARY LANGRIS: Hi. I am Gary Langris. I am a resident of Gloucester, Massachusetts and just a citizen. Thank you Sir and Madam Chair and the Committee for hearing us today. I am here today as a witness. I have witnessed the heroin world – my first overdose I witnessed was 53 years ago. I have lived through it and am still living through it today. I have seen a lot of people pass on including family members – the list is just too long and you have heard it here today, you have heard the science, you have heard the numbers about the stigma and it is about time we need to really care about all of us here and not just a few. Where did this stigma come from? Did it come from us? No. I think a lot of the drug related stigma stated back in the 1800s – 1870s, passing the first opioid laws in San Francisco and it has progressively gotten worse. The last 70 years the people who use drugs have been treated like sub human beings, called every name in the book. There is not junky. That is something that somebody came up with – somebody that lays a stigma on us. When harm reduction came to this country and it started happening with small needle exchange people. It wasn’t like legislators. It wasn’t medical professionals, or public health professionals that stood up and said we are losing our friends from AIDs, what are we going to do? Do you think there were laws passed to protect those folks? No. We had to go out there and be people that do things illegal for years and years to get them done. That was in the mid-80s and my wife was HIV positive. I remember I put pot in a lot of the stuff back then. Have we gotten better? Sure. The stigma remains. The stigma is going to be there. When I get laid out there is going to be somebody there talking about the “junkie” hanging down on Shirley Ave. I know that! But there are other folks out there including our sons, daughters, grandchildren that are experiencing this right now. We can undo a lot of that stigma that started with legislation back in the 1870s in to the Harrison Act and all of that good stuff. The only option for a drug user back in the 50s was like Kentucky and Texas. There were two places. We have come so far but we still treat people who use drugs like criminals. Guess what? We are not all criminals! We are not all criminals. That is a label that has been put on us through legislation and its time now to legislate our way out of some of this stuff. We are not going to arrest our way out of it, we are not going to legislate our way out of it, but we can work on providing services for a group of folks that have been neglected for a hundred years. Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Gary Langris. Gary was testifying before a hearing of the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use, and Recovery.

Next up, this year from Carl Sciortino. Carl is the Vice President of Government and Community Relations at Fenway Health and he is also a former member of the Massachusetts Legislature.

MALE VOICE: Next I would like to call up Carl Sciortino for the identification of members, Carl Sciortino is a former colleague.

CARL SCIORTINO: Good morning Chairmen and members of the committee. Thank you for your time and attention to this issue this morning. I am here in support of H1712 and S1134. Fenway Health is a community health center that offers a wide range of services to people struggling with Substance Use Disorder and I want to share with you a little bit about our perspective on why we are supporting this legislation. As a community health center we are able to provide a full range of services. The medical department provides primary care, support for infection control, and a whole range of medical related services. The behavioral health department can provide counseling, support, and access to treatment referrals. Between the two we have medication assisted therapy. We provide MAT to our patients and those numbers are only growing right now.

More importantly than either of those services we also provide harm reduction services. The Access Drug User Health Program provides clients with a range of harm reduction program services including HIV/STI testing, Hepatitis C testing, treatment navigation, syringe exchange, nursing care, integrated behavioral health care, and more important than any of that; a friendly face. These are staff that build trust on the front lines, on the streets of the greater Boston area with people who inject drugs to give them an access point to treatment services that we provide at Fenway.

So what is the problem? The problem is we still have (despite the services like those that we provide) 2,000 people on average per year dying in the streets of Massachusetts. That exceeds the death rate from the AIDS epidemic at the height of its crisis. Despite the really valiant efforts of this legislature, of this committee, of the governor, that death rate has barely budged. We have celebrated to some extent small decreases, but overall we still have around 2,000 people on our streets dying.

So what do we need? We need a comprehensive approach to the opioid crisis. There are four prongs to the intervention that we should be deploying. 1) Prevention, 2) Treatment, 3) Law Enforcement. Those three this legislature has taken on full throttle. The fourth pillar of an intervention for the opioid crisis is harm reduction. The budget this year with the leadership of members of this committee and others invested over five million dollars in harm reduction, an increase this year and that is excellent. Yet with the harm reduction services that we are currently able to offer we still have to tell patients and clients when they are ready to use they have to leave our doors. They have to go in to the streets, in to public bathrooms, in to homes, in to unsafe injection facilities. We urge you to use your authority. As you have heard here this morning, Massachusetts has never waited for the federal government to take action, to be a leader on a whole range of issues including in public health. I urge your support. Thank you.

MALE VOICE: Thank you, Representative. I would like to recognize Representative Dan Ryan who has joined us. Questions from the committee, Chair Decker.

CHAIR DECKER: Thank you. It’s really great to have you here. I miss you as a colleague but I am so deeply grateful for your work and the role that you have taken on since leaving. Can you tell us a little bit more about what we are also seeing, if I understand this correctly, pockets of the state where they are experiencing high rates of overdose along with higher rates of new cases of HIV and AIDS.

CARL SCIORTINO: Sure. So as was mentioned by Representative Fernandez, for many years we saw a decrease in HIV transmission among people who inject drugs. In fact that was one our Massachusetts miracles; one of our success stories we told around the country. From the late 90s when we established syringe exchange programs until 2014, we saw an almost 90% reduction of HIV transmission among this population down to a low of just about two dozen cases in 2014. Two dozen cases statewide in 2014 which is nearly zero cases of HIV transmission – a real success story! What has happened since 2014? You have heard about the outbreak in Lawrence and Lowell? Roughly 150 cases (the number has changed a couple of times going up). The number of identified cases was approximately 125 – 150 of HIV tests in those communities alone during that outbreak. That is alarming to say the least. In Boston we identified a cluster through our program (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and others in the city of over six cases and that number has grown in the last several months as well. We have seen an outbreak in Worchester. We are seeing signals of HIV upticks across the state in communities – a reversal of the trend towards getting to zero so we have a lot of alarm in that arena. As was mentioned, we are now seeing thousands of new Hepatitis C transmissions among people who inject drugs. With Hepatitis C we saw Baby Boomer (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that was going to age out over time or be cured once the cures came online. The number of young people and people who inject drugs that are getting Hepatitis C today far exceeds the Baby Boomer generation of Hepatitis C from 20 – 30 years ago.

CHAIR DECKER: I want to thank you and I want to also thank you for bringing this to my attention early on in this session. I guess I continue to struggle with tying this to rates of usage to the issues of safe consumptions and finding it alarming that while we are acting quickly to address the vaping crisis – and I do think it is a public health crisis – but I you look at the numbers compared to overdoses or the alarming numbers of new individuals who have contracted HIV and AIDS. The fact that this isn’t public, this isn’t front page news; that I find alarming. If you could just talk a little bit more about tying the story in to why you are here today.

CARL SCIORTINO: Absolutely. So when I think about the history of Massachusetts public health interventions, the AIDS crisis has always been our success story. We took a leading role in showing the country how to respond, removing stigma, and doing services in a whole range of ways including ways, as was mentioned, that were considered illegal under federal law because we had people dying in our streets of AIDS. We now have more people dying of opioid related overdoses than the AIDS epidemic at its height. Take a look at what the harm reduction programs we currently offer: syringe exchange provides sterile equipment, testing provides intervention if someone has an HIV diagnosis to get them in to treatment. If someone is treated on HIV and they are undetectable, they are also not transmittable to other people which is also part of prevention. When you look at what is happening now with Fentanyl in the system there is no heroin on the streets of Boston or Massachusetts. Every bag, every supply is laced with Fentanyl. We know that from the testing that we do – that our clients do themselves I should say. When you have Fentanyl in the system it is actually a harder high that causes more overdoses, but it also crashes sooner. So what does that mean for someone that injects drugs? It means they are injecting more frequently, they need more access to clean syringes on a more regular basis. We cannot keep up with that demand sending people off in to their communities with a supply of syringes for how much they need to be injecting today with Fentanyl in the system. This legislature has done really great work expanding harm reduction programs. We have invested in syringe exchange programs and went from only five programs statewide three years ago to over 30 communities today that have approved syringe exchange. That is a remarkable improvement yet most of the people that have Substance Use Disorder, most of the people that inject drugs in this state do not have access to one of these programs readily available. Even when they do geographically have access it is not necessarily a place they can go with the frequency that they might need, especially when dealing with barriers of homelessness, housing, and mental health issues that are all in the mix of what these individuals are facing. The last thing I will say on that point is that I speak with humility about these issues because the people that have the real expertise as I know you know, are the people with lived experience and for this committee I urge you to give them the respect that I know you will because their experiences today on the streets of this community tell me as an individual why this issue is so important for us to move forward.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Car Sciortino, he is the Vice President of Government and Community Relations at Fenway Health and a former member of the Massachusetts Legislature as a State Representative. He was testifying at a hearing on harm reduction sites before the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use, and Recovery. He was testifying in support of two measures which relate to supervised consumption sites.

You are listening to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVay. We are talking about harm reduction, supervised consumption sites, and we are also talking about the progress that drug policy has made. Here is Michael Botticelli.

MICHAEL BOTTICELLI: Chair Decker, Chair Seer, Members of the Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today in support of harm reduction sites. My name is Michael Botticelli, I am the Executive Director of the Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine at Boston Medical Center and the former Director of Drug Policy for President Obama.

Boston Medical Center (BMC) has been a long standing national leader in Substance Use Disorder research, education, and treatment. In 2017, BMC established the Grayken Center for Addiction to accelerate innovation and care delivery and maximize the impact of addiction services. While Massachusetts has seen a decline in overdose deaths they remain tragically high with close to 2,000 deaths. Alarmingly, non-fatal overdoses continue to rise. Overdose deaths in Massachusetts have been increasingly related to the presence of illicit Fentanyl analogs accounting for the vast majority of overdose deaths. Since Fentanyl is much more powerful than heroin and prescription opioids it precipitates a quick onset of overdose death. Coupled with data that shows an increase of deaths occurring in isolation our current overdose prevention strategies are insufficient to meet this challenging landscape. This has also affected our campus in a very dramatic way as we have seen a significant increase in overdoses in our own bathrooms and have taken the unprecedented step of installing motion detectors to make sure that we are preventing overdose deaths. In addition to drug overdose deaths, the epidemic has caused a significant increase in cases of viral Hepatitis and increased incidents of HIV associated with needle sharing which is threatening to erase years of decline in HIV incidents. While the causes and drivers of this epidemic are complex and require a comprehensive response that expands prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery support services; additional approaches that reduce the harms associated with this epidemic must be a critical and necessary part of our efforts. The establishment of medically supervised harm reduction sites would fill a critical gap in our current efforts, especially given the scientific consensus on their effectiveness. I know you already heard from the Massachusetts Medical Society, but the existing research is rigorous and has been endorsed by many experts in published and peer reviewed journals including (UNINTELLIGIBLE) The New England Journal of Medicine providing solid scientific evidence that states consumption facilities achieve positive outcomes. For example, we just heard out of Vancouver, British Columbia utilization of sites reduced opioid overdose mortality by 35%, and significantly increased access to treatment. Given the magnitude and scope of the epidemic and the devastating toll it continues to take on families and communities across the Commonwealth, Boston Medical Center supports the establishment of such facilities. On behalf of our clinicians who focus on addiction and treating our patients with kindness and compassion, we support the establishment of such facilities consistent with the findings of the Harm Reduction Committee. Thank you for your time today to testify. Thank you very much.

MALE VOICE: Questions from the committee?

CHAIR DECKER: First I want to say thank you for your service to our country and thank you for what you continue to do today here in Massachusetts. What would you say, given your experience both at the federal level and now at the state level and on the ground to those who raise legal issues at the federal level as being an obstacle or being a red flag to put a pause on moving forward on recommendations that are being made by the medical establishment as a way of dealing with a medical crisis?

MICHAEL BOTTICELLI: By full admission I am not a legal expert as it relates to federal law and there many people who I am sure are familiar with this committee who can navigate the tricky legal landscape. I will say this and I am probably a little bit out of my element here; at the federal level they have a tremendous amount of prosecutorial discretion as it relates to how they enforce federal law. I think that this could be an instance where they could also exercise that jurisprudence. I will also say (again, not being a legal expert) having a state sponsored, legally sanctioned site could provide some level of legal protection as it relates a state sponsored facility. I go back to our area of clinical and scientific expertise and it I think most people on this committee agree that the scientific evidence is pretty clear in terms of the effectiveness of it. I think Massachusetts has been a leader in this epidemic as it relates to its state services and I think this is another example where Massachusetts can demonstrate federal leadership in continuing to respond to the epidemic.

CHAIR DECKER: Thank you. So if I am correct in what I hear you saying -- because we have various opinions on what the legal implications would be or won’t be – but what I hear you saying is that the interpretation of legal implications should not be the barrier to medical recommendations on how to best address an epidemic.

MICHAEL BOTTICELLI: That is coming from a clinical background that I think we would recommend.

CHAIR DECKER: Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: That was former Drug Czar Michael Botticelli, testifying before the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use, and Recovery. The hearing was on harm reduction sites. Michael Botticelli was testifying in support of H1712 an Act relative to preventing overdose deaths and increasing access to treatment, and S1134 an Act relative to supervised injection facilities. For now, that is it.

You have been listening to Century of Lies we are a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network. On the web at I have been your host, Doug McVay, editor of The Executive Producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs are available by podcast, the URL’s to subscribe are on the network homepage at

The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give it a like. Drug War Facts has a Facebook page, too, give it a like. Share it with friends. Remember, knowledge is power. We will be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed War on Drugs. For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying 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 are archived at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy.

11/06/19 John Pfaff

Century of Lies
John Pfaff
Drug War Facts

This week on Century of Lies, part two of our conversation with John Pfaff, JD, PhD. Dr. Pfaff is a professor of law at Fordham Law School and the author of Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Real Reform.

Audio file



NOVEMBER 6, 2019

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

DOUG MCVAY: Hello and welcome to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of

On today’s show we are going to have Part Two of my conversation with Professor John Pfaff. He is a Professor of Law at Fordham Law School. He is also the author of “Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Real Reform”. Let’s get to it.

DOUG MCVAY: What can we do to move forward in a progressive way and to start resolving some of these problems. How do we achieve real reform?

PROFESSOR PFAFF: I will admit that of all the chapters in my book, the last chapter focusing on reforms is probably the weakest and I am okay with that because I don’t think that anyone has thought hard enough in a wide ranging kind of way about how to respond to a lot of the issues. My three main points is that we need to focus much more on prosecutors than on long sentences, we need to focus much more on how we respond to violence and how we respond to drugs, and we need to focus a lot more on the public sector issues rather than private prisons. Private prisons are kind of a side show relative to the much greater power of the public sector. Only about 8% of all people are held in private prisons and while private prisons get about three billion dollars in revenue and make about 300 million dollars in profit, the payroll alone for the public sector prison system is in the range of 30 billion dollars, so ten times the revenue of the private prisons and 100 times the profit of private prisons is just the payroll component to the public sector. Many of these prisons are located in fairly remote areas where the prison – as awful a job as being a prison correctional officer is, and correctional officers have levels of PTSD and suicidal ideation that rival combat veterans who have seen active combat. It is still often the only decent job in the area. To complicate matters even further often times those communities that have prisons where the prison is the one good job there actually tend to be more minorities than other similarly situated small towns in the rural south and this is why these towns ask for a prison because they couldn’t get other good jobs to come there. The racial justice implications and decarceration, prison closers in the south is substantially more intractable than elsewhere. It is possible to think of various policy fixes for these things and there are a lot of small subtle things that we can do as well as some bigger things. I think in many ways my views have shifted a bit since the book came out. At the end of the day there are a lot of policy fixes that we should do but none of these policy problems that I identify and try to fix other people are identifying and trying to fix. All of them predate mass incarceration by a century so none of them caused mass incarceration, they facilitated trends. Once those trends got started something else got that ball rolling and I think it is helpful to think of mass incarceration as far more a political ideological failure than a policy failure. How do we change the way we think about things? I think two really striking examples of this is the dominant political model we face these days is you have these elected prosecutors, elected judges, parole boards, elected governors; we are the only country in the world with elected prosecutors, we are the only country in the world with elected judges. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we are the only country where parole boards respond to an elected governor as opposed to being part of a completely politically independent judiciary. Our criminal justice system is much more sensitive to political shocks than other systems are and the classic example of this is the famous Willie Horton story.

Just like approximately 40 states and the feds in the 70s and 80s, Massachusetts had furlough programs that would allow people in prison to go home on the weekend to see their family, stay connected and start looking for jobs in anticipation of their release. In the Massachusetts case they even let people like Horton who had been convicted of felony murder (it is not clear that he did the killing but was part of a group of people who killed someone) who was serving a life sentence with parole to go home. Horton didn’t go home. At one point during one of his releases Horton ran off down to Maryland, broke in to a home, and committed a vicious assault including raping the people living in the home and gets rearrested. Horton was a tremendous outlier by Massachusetts standards. At that time that this happened back in the mid-80s, there was an article pointing out that over 99% of all people furloughed in Massachusetts came back without incident. The program as a whole worked but those successes aren’t politically salient/, the failures are. Willie Horton got turned in to what was viewed at the time (although by 2018 standards it’s not really so bad) as one of the most racist campaign ads during the George H.W. Bush/Michael Dukakis presidential election.

Even though the actual impact of Horton on Dukakis’ performance is generally oversold. The lesson people took away was that if you have one mistake you will get punished for it so don’t take any chances, just lock everybody up. Here is the interesting thing, several years before there had been another case exactly like Horton. I should point out that by the time the dust settled from the Horton case, every state including the feds had abolished their furlough programs. They do not exist anywhere because of the sensationalism around the Willie Horton case. Approximately 15 years before that the exact same thing happened. Someone got furloughed, left the prison and committed a murder and was rearrested. Law enforcement demanded that the state cut their furlough program due to lawlessness and anarchy and the governor fired the head of the furlough program and tightened the rules a bit but he said that the furloughs were an incredibly important aspect of rehabilitation and he was not going to let one act derail a successful program. That progressive minded governor was Ronald Reagan in California.

We are at a level now where we are actually less progressive than Ronald Reagan was in the 70s. There was a governor many years before who furloughed for the holidays. For Christmas she allowed one third of the prison population out of prison to go home for the holidays and 15 of those people did not come back. The media said it was a great idea and my guess is the average random citizen would have returned the same success rate. They thought it was important and wanted to maintain the furlough program. That was Alabama in the 30s! At this point we are actually more punitive than the Jim Crow south which on one hand profoundly depressing yet on the other hand it really highlights the fact that with all the defects in place, Ronald Reagan in the Jim Crow south didn’t do what we are doing now. We don’t have to do this, we don’t necessarily get the legislature to actually change all of our laws and fix all of these defects. It is about our willingness to change what we demand from our officials. The double edged sword of the vast discretion we grant police and the vast discretion we grant prosecutors is that while in recent history we used to be harsh and we can use it not to be. They can simply stop making arrests, they can simply stop arresting marijuana cases even if the state legislature can’t bring itself to repute the law. They can stop prosecuting cases even though legislature will keep them on the book. So it is a question; how do we get people’s attitudes to shift? That is an incredibly difficult question. My concern is that if you change all of the policy issues the system adapts very smoothly and you can fix one defect. People just shift their views and people shift their actions getting back to where they always wanted to be all along. If you want to change their attitudes you don’t have to change the underlying policies at all, we can just use the discretion we already have to do better things. I think we are starting to see drifts in that direction; even when it comes to violence we are starting to see efforts to embrace less harsh, punitive punishment with street level intervention and preventative approaches along with more restorative justice approaches and public health approaches. These shifts are happening albeit slow and tenuous. It would not take much of a spike in crime to undo many of them but it is suggested that there is some hope there that we really are starting to address the ideology of this more than the policy of it.

DOUG MCVAY: Drug courts were a good example of that, as you mentioned. Things would go much smoother and there would be less pressure. I watched the number of drug arrests and the number of drug courts and they rose alongside one another. It was easier to process so they just processed more. It was a great idea until it backfired. You can correct me on that if you like. That was at least my perception back then.

PROFESSOR PFAFF: I am not too up-to-date on the statistics on this but there is a general concern that people have with what is called “net widening” when you introduce an alternative it doesn’t divert people from prison to the alternative; we just take more people who would have otherwise dropped out of the system and pulled them in to the alternative. Net Widening is not inevitable but if you try to create alternatives any system that defaults automatically to be more punitive then you are just pulling more people in. If you create alternatives to a system that generally doesn’t want to punish anymore in the same way that we do it wouldn’t lead to net widening. It is not necessarily that these net widening effects are an inevitable result of creating alternative to traditional punishment, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) start from a presumption of punitiveness that is how they will use the alternatives. If you don’t change that underlying attitude you are not going to change the underlying behavior. I would not say that we are far along the path toward changing attitudes. I just saw something the other day about a community in Virginia that passed an ordinance last year saying that the punishment for trick or treating over the age of 12, or if you trick or treated after 8 pm at night, regardless of age you would face a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to $100 fine and 30 days in jail. How do you get people to stop knocking on doors at 9 pm, well I guess we should arrest them because what else could we possibly do? So our punitiveness is still very deep and instinctive and you certainly see it any time people point to disparities in punishment. Why is Paul Manafort getting this number of years and the sentencing of somebody less is getting far more years? The adage there is always motivated from a position of everybody should get the longer sentence, not everybody should get the shorter sentence. We have a very, very long way to go from moving away from the harsher sentencing that we have almost come to accept at a profoundly instinctual level. If we don’t do that with the drug courts and everything else punitive actors will figure out ways to work around reforms to preserve the punitiveness that they want to impose.

DOUG MCVAY: You are listening to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVay. This is a conversation with Professor John Pfaff. He is a Professor of Law at Fordham Law School, and he is the Author of “Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Real Reform”. Now let’s get back to that conversation with John Pfaff.

So that is the limitation of reform, the system makes a couple of adjustments in order to get people to calm down and stop making trouble and then continues on with the same attitude.


DOUG MCVAY: What are you working on now? You said you’ve shifted your thinking, are you working on a new project?

PROFESSOR PFAFF: My next project isn’t so much about the policy versus politics point. I am trying to undertake (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to really get a sense of what the full social cost of incarceration is. We spend about $50 billion dollars a year on prisons and $30 billion dollars a year on jails, but those aren’t really the right costs to think about. In part because they are not entirely costs. About two-thirds of that spending on prisons and I think even a greater fraction of spending on jail is wages and wages aren’t entirely costs – it is a strange multiplier thing. I didn’t do well enough in graduate school in economics to fully grasp it. They are not entirely costs. The real social costs of prison is the fact that even when people go to prison after they get out they earn less money. They are also physically and sexually assaulted while they are in prison. The risk of death from an overdose skyrockets upon release from prison and that is true in the United States as much as in Germany and Holland. This is a universal (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that drug overdose deaths rise significantly within the first few weeks of release from prison. Overall one thing that New York State suggested that a short to medium term with one year in prison cuts two years off of your expected lifespan. Families are weakened and strained, there is shame and stigma. There are health costs as prisons are vectors of tuberculosis, STDs, and HIV. What are the total human costs of punishment? Remarkably despite the fact that from the 80s to today we have made close to half a billion arrests and admitted about 20 million people to prison and despite this massive social experiment that we have engaged in with this mass punishment unseen anywhere in the world, or even unseen in our own history we have never bothered to actually figure out what the real costs of it are.

My next goal is going to be to try to understand what the actual human cost of what we are doing with regard to mass incarceration; not the financial costs. Once we see those human costs I think it will put whatever punitive benefits prisons and punishments have more broadly – we need to be able to put them in proper context and I think this is the key contextual piece that we just don’t have.

DOUG MCVAY: Fascinating. There is research out of England showing that it took an average of about two hours of police time to take care of one simple possession arrest. They did the math and saw how many police hours were spent dealing with possession. Give me your opinion please because I think that is a reasonably strong argument. What do you think about that argument?

PROFESSOR PFAFF: I think that is a legitimate question. Communities with high rates of crime especially poor communities and communities of color are over-policed. My perspective on that is to better think of it as mis-policed. The police then waste their time focusing on low level stuff while our homicide clearance rate is abysmal for the offense. This is actually a point that Jill Leovy makes in her book, “Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America”, where she is an L.A. Times reporter who was embedded with the homicide unit in south central Los Angeles for several years. She points out that the clearance rate for murders and homicides were solved with arrests and for L.A. County as a whole it is about 60%, which is about the national average. Two-thirds of all murders produce an arrest and about one-third of murders never see anyone arrested but in L.A. County if the victim was a black man that clearance rate drops from 60% to 30%. So two-thirds of all murders of a black man produced no arrests at all.

Her sense is that a lot of the frustration and hostility that African Americans in particular felt in south central towards the police was their sense of why were the police making so many drug arrests while their son’s homicide continues to remain unsolved? If we could focus on those homicide offenses that could actually have some real benefits.

There is this gross misallocation of policing that takes place and I think that focusing on those costs is spot on. I would just say that I am focusing solely on prisons for my project. The way I describe it to my students is that the criminal justice system is like a giant burning sun of failure and if you try to stare at the whole thing at once you are going to go blind. So you have to picture one little sliver as best you can and trust that other people are going to study other parts and try to fix other the other parts.

If I were to try to measure the entire social cost of punishment, arrests, electronic monitoring, jail time, probation, parole, prisons, sex offense registries and all of those things my grandchildren wouldn’t live long enough to get it done. I have chosen to focus on the prison aspect because it is an area I am most familiar with. If you don’t limit your analysis it becomes impossible. That said, I think it is important that we talk a lot about mass incarceration and try to change it in this country.

As someone who has studied prisons his whole life I understand that but mass incarceration and mass punishment are two very different things and in many ways while prison gets all of the attention; it is very much just the tip of the ice burg. I think that one thing that confuses people is that when they hear the statistic of approximately 1.5 million people in prison and about 750,000 people in jail, and those are one day counts. On December 31st, how many people do we have in these facilities and it was about 1.5 million and 750,000. The catch is that jail which is used primarily for pretrial detention has a massive turnover rate in the way that prisons are used for felony convictions that generally have a sentence of a year or more are not. So we have a prison population of about 1.5 million and we admit about 600,000 people to prison every year. On any given day there are about 750,000 people in jail but we make 10 million jail (UNINTELLIGIBLE) annually. One recent study suggests that about five million unique people make up those 10 million people each year. The actual impact of jail is far vaster than the impact of prison because it impacts far more people. Ten times as many unique people get admitted to jail every year than get admitted to prisons every year. We make between 10-12 million arrests and while some of them are not unique people; but a lot of them are. As you work your way down the system different things matter more.

Drug arrests are one of the larger arrest categories with more than ten percent of all arrests being for drugs, and a large fraction of those are for marijuana but marijuana makes about one percent of all prison population. Decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana will probably have next to no impact on prisons but it would have a significant impact on arrests and a bigger impact on jails. Each of these institutions impact different communities, different offenses, and different strategies in different ways. I have been increasingly finding myself using this term “mass punishment”, to say mass arrests doesn’t inevitably lead to mass jail and mass jail doesn’t necessarily lead to mass incarceration even to the extent that they are connected to each other, they are sorting people and impacting communities and people in different ways each of which demands its own type of attention. So I am focusing on prisons and I want to make it very clear that my prison results won’t tell us about the jail or the policing parts those are other aspects that demand their own separate analysis.

DOUG MCVAY: That gets to the big question from before and that is how to change the attitudes because mass punishment is less about policy and more about the attitudes that are driving the policy.

PROFESSOR PFAFF: Right. I think a lot of it is about actually paying attention to these down ticket elections. We have started to acknowledge the importance of the prosecutor which is fantastic but now we are starting to realize that if we just change the prosecutor but not the judges that can be a problem. Kranser is finding that problem in Philadelphia where a lot of the judges are resisting his changes. Chicago has tried to change its courts and the judges are balking there. It suggests that outside of cities in to more rural America sheriff elections matter tremendously. Like the district attorney, the sheriff is a county elected official who runs the jail outside of incorporated towns and make all of the arrests. In rural America they are hugely powerful and utterly not removable absent an election. There is one sheriff somewhere that is currently under indictment for trying to hire a hit man to kill one of his own deputies who had been a whistleblower on him. He is also still the sheriff because there is no way to make him step down while he is being investigated for attempting to murder one of his own deputies. There is a case in Alabama that had this ancient depression era provision that would actually allow sheriffs to keep any remaining funding for the jails in their own pockets and these sheriffs were actually buying summer homes while they were feeding people in jail food that was not fit for human consumption. They had tremendous impact on day to day lives on people in their jails and in their communities and like prosecutors ten years ago they had generally flown beneath the radar and only now are starting to get attention. I think we need to mobilize people to understand that they get to make these choice. These county officials have tremendous power over day to day lives and we need to get people to become energized about that. I think there are a lot of groups that are really starting to take that seriously. These groups are starting to work hard to mobilize communities to get more involved and take these elections seriously and get out to vote in order to make these elections count.

DOUG MCVAY: The sheriff that you were referring to is in Granville County, North Carolina. In a USA Today article from September reads, “North Carolina sheriff has been indicted for allegedly plotting to kill one of his deputies after learning the man had a tape of him making “racially offensive” comments. Indicted Monday on two counts of Felony Obstruction and blah, blah, blah.

PROFESSOR PFAFF: Yes, and he is still the sheriff.

DOUG MCVAY: Again folks, Professor John Pfaff, PhD., JD. He is a Professor of Law at Fordham College of Law. His book is “Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Real Reform”. It is a terrific book.

What else is on your radar? What other stuff are you looking at?

PROFESSOR PFAFF: Project-wise it is obviously this cost of prisons project and while it is not my area of research, I find it most interesting is really thinking more carefully about how we frame reform efforts because we get very focused on rehabilitation to the overreach and then we swing back to being punitive, then overreach and back. It is like an inevitable, swinging pendulum. I read a great book last year entitled “Breaking the Pendulum” that argues that it is the wrong way to think about it. That is how things look ex post but at the time what is happening is that during any period of reform the tough on crime people are there trying to lay the trap and push us back in to a tough on crime direction. Even in the most “tough on crime” phase progressive reformers are there with perhaps little or no attention but they are trying to build the framework to push things in a more progressive direction when more macro-level conditions change the political story.

I think often there is a concern that the reform effort is falling in to those traps and I think one example of that is one of the ways they frame the decarceration efforts. They keep saying that we need to look at all of these states that are cutting their prison populations and their crime rate has been falling, therefore it is safe to cut prisons and we should continue doing it which is true. The challenge of that framing is that it suggests that if crime goes up the justification for cutting prisons goes down and that is actually not true. Prisons have bad response to crime whether crime is going up or going down. We know with practical certainty that there are far better ways to respond to crime than prisons. Even if you are not an abolitionist and you are not saying that we should get rid of prisons altogether we should focus far more on non-prison interventions than where we are today than on prison as a way to respond to rise in crime. I get the politics of continuing things while things are good but it sets up the simplistic message that when things get bad maybe the argument for decarceration goes away and that is exactly what happened in Alaska.

Alaska passed a really sweeping reform bill and the next year for reasons completely unrelated to that crime bill, crime went up and they immediately repealed the whole bill including half of the revisions that had not yet gone in to effect and they could not explain the crime rise. It was sold as a way to do this because crime was going down and when crime went up they undid it. I think there is a lot (UNINTELLIGIBLE) how do we think about the political framing of what an effort to scale back punishment is because we want to be careful not to slip in to a framework that actually ends up going the tough on crime component for them. It is clear that as a purely public safety policy matter, tough on crime is not the right way to respond but it is a very easy political path to go down.

DOUG MCVAY: Professor John Pfaff, Author of “Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Real Reform. He is a Professor of Law at Fordham College of Law. For now, that is it. I want to thank Professor Pfaff for being my guest, and I want to thank you for listening. This has been Century of Lies. This is Doug McVay saying 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 are archived at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy.

10/09/19 Liz Evans

Century of Lies
Liz Evans
Drug War Facts

A federal judge has rejected the Justice Department's attempt to stop Philadelphia nonprofit Safehouse from setting up a supervised consumption facility. On this week's Century we hear from Liz Evans, one of the founders of North America's first supervised consumption site, Insite, in Vancouver, BC. Plus, an update on the vaping crisis.

Audio file



OCTOBER 09, 2019

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 am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of

On today’s show we are going to talk about harm reduction and supervised consumption sites. On October 2nd, a federal judge ruled that the federal Crack House Law does not apply to supervised consumption sites clearing the way for Safe House, a Philadelphia nonprofit to start opening a legally sanctioned, supervised consumption site. It would be the first in the United States. Activists around the country are celebrating that victory and are moving forward with plans for their own areas. We will be talking about that and hearing about that in a bit, but first loyal listeners will know that I have been talking quite a bit about the vape crisis over the last few weeks. There is a lot of misinformation that is going out, especially via social media about what’s happening.

The bottom line is that the Centers for Disease Control and state health agencies do not yet know what is causing these vaping illnesses – these vaping related lung injuries. They do not yet know why people are getting sick and dying. Anyone who is telling you that they know the cause or that it is this thing or another is blowing smoke. The reality is that we don’t yet know what is going on. There is some misinformation out there and I think the best way to counter it is just to give you some of the facts. For instance, this is a portion from a news conference on September 26th, Oregon’s State Health Officer, Dr. Dean Sidelinger, MD, MSEd, FAAP. This is Dean Sidelinger’s response to a question from a reporter.

MALE VOICE: Speaking of those products, let’s say there were cannabis products – were these products that were licensed to be sold in the state of Oregon or are these for lack of a better term, black market?

DR. SIDELINGER: For the products that were used by the people in Oregon were all from licensed retailers. That is not the case in all of the cases across the nation where there has been a mix of products that come from licensed retailers as well as unlicensed retailers but in Oregon all of the folks who have been reported to have this injury have reported having licensed cannabis products.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Dr. Dean Sidelinger, MD, Oregon’s State Health Officer. To repeat – patients in the state of Oregon with vape related lung injury including the two who died appear to have gotten their vape carts from legal, regulated dispensaries. They were not coming off the illicit market. We do know that there are problems with illicit market out there but we do not know that this is entirely what the source of these problems are. In fact, in the state of Oregon it seems that these folks got them through the regulated market. So there is more going on than we know about. Now I have been trolled on Twitter a bit from some of the people from the vape industry. They have been claiming that they are regulated by the FDA, they have to jump through so many hoops. The problem is that they haven’t actually done that. These premarket tobacco product authorizations have not actually been filed. Most of the industry is actually operating in some respects illegally and the FDA has been letting them get away with it. You don’t have to take my word for it – straight from the horse’s mouth – acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless. He testified before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and the Committee on Energy and Commerce on Wednesday, September 25th. The hearing was entitled “Sounding the Alarm – The Public Health Threats of E-Cigarettes”. We are going to hear now an exchange between Ned Sharpless, acting Commissioner of FDA and Representative Diana DeGette who is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

REP. DEGETTE: Now, Dr. Sharpless, the 2009 Tobacco Control Act gave the FDA the authority to put e-cigarettes under its regulatory authority which the FDA did in the 2016 Deeming Rules, is that right?

DR. SHARPLESS: That’s correct.

REP. DEGETTE: And in 2017 the Administration extended the compliance deadline by four years for companies to submit materials to the FDA for review of the public health risks of e-cigarette products, is that right?

DR. SHARPLESS: That’s correct.

REP. DEGETTE: Is it accurate to say that e-cigarette products are only on the market because the FDA has exercised its enforcement discretion to allow them to remain on the market and not because the products have been reviewed by the FDA?

DR. SHARPLESS: All Enz products currently on the market are illegal. They have not been reviewed by the FDA specifically.

REP. DEGETTE: Okay. In fact your testimony says, “No Enz product in the United States is on the market legally”. Right?


REP. DEGETTE: Okay. So you also agree with the CDC that e-cigarette products are not safe, is that right?

DR. SHARPLESS: E-cigarette products are not safe. They are not without harm.

REP. DEGETTE: Okay. So here is my concern, both FDA and CDC says e-cigarettes are not safe. We are seeing an explosion of young people using the products and now we are seeing serious illnesses around the country – but FDA still allows these products to stay on the market even though they haven’t undergone a full market review. I think time is of the essence. When does the FDA intend to use its regulatory authority to assess the health impact of these products?

DR. SHARPLESS: I agree with you. I think time is of the essence. I think the context of the history is perhaps important. In 2017 when that light regulatory touch was taken the data at that time showed that youth use for those products was leveling off or going down and therefore I think the FDA being a science driven organization opted for that policy at the time. Then what happened, as you described, is this epidemic of youth use.


DR. SHARPLESS: And now we have accelerated our timeline, we have stepped up enforcement, we have stepped up education, and I can tell you we are on this problem –

REP. DEGETTE: So what is your timeline?

DR. SHARPLESS: --the next major development will be the finalizing of this Compliance Guidance which will have the effect of removing nontobacco flavors from the market and we expect that to be weeks.

REP. DEGETTE: Okay, and then what are you going to do after that?

DR. SHARPLESS: Typically when a Guidance is finalized it has 30 days to go in to effect or some period along those lines and then we apply an enforcement strategy which –

REP. DEGETTE: Is the flavor strategy the only thing the FDA intends to do?

DR. SHARPLESS: I can’t speak to the Guidance and process but it is certainly the major target of that effort.

REP. DEGETTE: Why is that? Do you think that is going to solve the youth vaping epidemic?

DR. SHARPLESS: No. We do not believe that any single policy or process will solve the vaping epidemic. It is a combination of enforcements, education, and multiple policy things that we are doing.

REP. DEGETTE: And are you continuing to review these products to see if they are inherently safe or unsafe?

DR. SHARPLESS: All Enz products will have to submit an application to the FDA by May 2020.


DR. SHARPLESS: So very soon everything should be coming in, but flavors would be removed from the market sooner than that because of our concerns about the youth epidemic of use.

REP. DEGETTE: Okay. Just one last question. How far is the FDA prepared to go to protect the health and wellbeing of young people if it determines that these are unsafe?

DR. SHARPLESS: The FDA is a science driven organization. If the data supports more aggressive measures than we will take those measures.

REP. DEGETTE: How far?

DR. SHARPLESS: We could ban all flavors for example.

REP. DEGETTE: Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, MD., testifying before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and the Committee on Energy and Commerce on Wednesday, September 25th. He was being questioned by the Subcommittee Chair, Representative Diana DeGette. Again, to emphasize what Dr. Sharpless just said, the reality is – none of these nicotine vape companies are technically operating legally because none of them have actually filed their Premarket Tobacco Product Authorization’s. We don’t know what is in those products. The companies are able to hide their ingredients. Sometimes they call them a proprietary mix – trade secret. RJ Reynolds has a product that they use for flavoring, they call that product simply Butter Starter Distillate. Sounds innocent until you check what the FDA says Butter Starter Distillate is and then you find out it is largely Diacetyl. Diacetyl has been implicated in lung injuries, especially with workers in microwave popcorn plants because although it is a food additive that is relatively safe when you put it in to food and then consume it normally. When you heat it to the boiling point and then inhale the hot gases that result, Diacetyl can be dangerous and Diacetyl is going in to tobacco products. Is it going in to the vape products? Maybe, but a lot of them are withholding their ingredient lists.

Now take whatever position you want to take on bans. Bans are a stupid idea. Prohibition never works. If we don’t have full disclosure of what is going in to these products. Isn’t that the purpose of regulation? We need to have drug safety testing at festivals. We should have it in city streets and in supervised consumption facilities which we will talk about in a moment. We should have it there and the reason is that you need to know what is in that product. You need to know what is in that drug you are taking. People are selling these products legally and yet we don’t know what is in them. That is wrong. Regulation is supposed to mean enhanced product safety. It is supposed to mean testing. It is supposed to mean that we know what the ingredients are and yet we are allowing the tobacco and vape industry to get away with – well I won’t say murder because that would be jumping to judgement. What they are getting away with is lying to consumers. They are lying to you and me and that has got to stop.

You are listening to Century of Lies, I am your host Doug McVay. We have been talking about vaping and harm reduction and now we are going to talk about harm reduction and supervised consumption sites.

On October 2nd, a federal judge ruled that the federal Crack House Law does not apply to supervised consumption sites. The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Philadelphia had sued to stop a nonprofit called Safe House from setting up a supervised consumption site there in Philadelphia. Fortunately with this judge’s ruling, Safe House will be able to push forward. Around the country activists are also moving forward with supervised consumption facilities. A lot of people have been waiting on this decision and so this ruling by the judge that the feds were wrong is really, really encouraging and heartening to people around the country. Today we are going to hear a little bit more about harm reduction and about supervised consumption sites. Liz Evans is the Executive Director of Syringe Exchange Programs for the Washington Heights Corner Project and the New York Harm Reduction Educators. Liz is also one of the founders of Insite, which is North America’s first sanctioned safe injection site located up in Vancouver, BC. Back in 2015, she was honored by the Drug Policy Alliance at their International Reform Conference in Crystal City. We are going to hear Liz’ address to the Drug Policy Reform Conference.

LIZ EVANS: I am just going to first thank you for having me here. It is a really big honor to be around such incredible people and to be part of this struggle. I feel like everyone has already said everything there is to know about the War on Drugs, but I am going to share a little bit of my perspective on the human rights and how really the War on Drugs has created the condition to make it absolutely impossible for drug users to have their human rights acknowledged and also how that has resulted in a situation where there is pretty much no public outcry about that fact. I know you all know that and many of you are working tirelessly to create the kind of structural changes that we need to change things while others of you who are here have had your rights stripped so you know how fundamental this experience is because you are walking it every day in your lives.

From my perspective this war against drug users has raged on so long that the values of it have become almost like – that they have seeped in to our societal DNA and they afflict people around the world in every corner of the world every day and yet the values that we have adopted make us blind to seeing it.

For the last 25 years I have been working with people who use drugs and some people have described my in the past as a harm reduction activist but my feelings about this term are very mixed That is because I think that the violations that have taken place against people who use drugs can’t really be remedied just by simple things like giving people clean needles. While I know that is part of the solution the human rights abuses extend far beyond these sorts of interventions. Whether it is gun violence the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of Brazil or torture in the name of treatment in Cambodia, or mass incarceration in the U.S., I just really resent a monumental waste of resources being channeled in to barbaric policies that only serve to oppress human beings. But what personally upsets me the most is that I have known so many – and do know so many beautiful, kind, funny people who use drugs who in their lifetime feel characterized by an unutterable shame. They feel personally responsible for what is ultimately arbitrary and random but an attack on people. In Bogota two days ago I was asked by a T.V. reporter why we should even help people who use drugs because they are delinquent, unproductive members of society.

Like the refugees from Syria, we are blaming the victims the war has spat out – a war people are running from every day. Refugees of our drug war also seem to be threatening somehow by their very existence. We are afraid of them, we other them, we treat them with contempt and we push them aside. For many people simply using public spaces like a park bench is a problem. You get hassled by a police officer or a security guard or even arrested. Community centers put on extra security guards to keep people who use drugs out. They can’t walk in to banks. They get refused service in restaurants. They get threatened by neighborhood vigilante groups and they are often just randomly beaten up. None of this is grounded on anything real except for the brutalizing conditions that we have created and forced people to live in. Where there is a palpable fear of people who use drugs and it permeates everywhere.

The start of my career was as a nurse in a psychiatric emergency room in a very large hospital where I was young, idealistic, and naive as a nurse. I found I became very uncomfortable in this environment as I watched how certain patients would just annoy the staff. They do things that are irritating to the staff and the staff would respond with sarcasm or rudeness and sometimes even anger which then created a series of reactions. The patient would slam a door or say something threatening followed by being jumped on by an orderly, injected with heavy tranquilizers and then the series of behavioral therapies. People being deprived of a towel, slippers, toothpaste, or locked in a Quiet Room. Drug users typically were denied pain medication, they were accused of pill seeking and by almost care provider in the city we felt justified kicking drug users out of healthcare. This was seen as appropriate. They didn’t deserve help because they weren’t “treatment ready”.

We created these circumstances in which we dehumanized people from the very beginning. First, we robbed them of their rights. Second, we didn’t provide them with any respect or dignity. Third, we blamed and punished them. So for the patients that came in to the hospital with the most complex problems we did almost nothing. In fact, we did the least. Can’t medicate out poverty. Can’t medicate homelessness. We don’t have medicines that heal social exclusion or end racism and medication doesn’t replace the inhumanity of the war on people who use drugs.

I couldn’t really articulate at that point why I felt so depressed and angry but I left the hospital and I went to work in the community directly with people in an area in our community disparagingly known as Skid Row where I started running a hotel housing project. Idealistically I thought I could help people here and we housed people that just didn’t fit but it was in this environment that I was forced to see my own human limitations when I was confronted by very complex and intense human suffering and it was here that I had to embrace my own human frailty and pain because it was being mirrored back to me in everybody I met.

While obviously people are not defined by their labels, 90% of the people that we housed were injection drug users and lots were involved in the sex trade. About 50% had HIV and everybody had a criminal record. Malnourished and suffering from third world diseases I ran around trying to do stuff but instead I just watched people dying.

I found Freddy, who was hanging out of his bed having aspirated on his vomit and Joyce who died of an overdose when she working in the sex trade at another hotel and Barb who was Alexandria’s grandmother – - I found her alone in a rocking chair with the needle still in her arm.

Each day I would walk to work feeling nauseous wondering what it was I was going to find understanding I couldn’t do much, but at the very least I could provide space. Space for people who were abandoned, people who were alone, people who I was watching suffer but at least we could be with them together. What was happening in our building was a microcosm of what was taking place across our community. With about 15,000 low income residents, 6,000 were roughly injection drug users and we had a very open public drug scene. We had very aggressive policing and by 1998 the infection rate to HIV had reached what was known as saturation point.

Across our province in that same year we had one drug related death every single day. Our neighborhood was called “four blocks of hell” by the media. Over an eight year period over 60 women went reported missing. Women mostly aboriginal, mostly drug users, and mostly working in the sex trade. Angela I knew well. When I filed the Missing Person’s Report, I was told by police that she had probably gone on holiday to Florida. Instead we discovered that a serial killer had been driving women out of our community on to his farm for almost a decade and he slaughtered them and threw them away with his pigs. Angela’s DNA was found on the farm. In this brutalizing context we struggled with what we could do but creating space was actually radical and controversial, because we made a commitment to house people regardless. We created a non-eviction policy because we said our goal was just to create space where we didn’t allow people to keep on renting. Here we talked openly about drug use rather than trying to hide it. We handed out needles, we trained staff to do CPR, we used Narcan, and we equipped ourselves with Ambu bags and airways. Just creating this space was controversial and challenging because it went against all of the dominant values and beliefs people had about addiction. We were told that people on crack were crazy, out of control, prone to violence, incapable of reason – that we should be careful not to house people on crack and we have many and this was never our experience. We were criticized by doctors who called our approach dangerous. They said we were doing something grossly irresponsible, we should force them to leave the neighborhood – not let them live in our project. We were making them more likely to use drugs; we had to move them in to an abstinent environment.

Counter to this our community was a place where people felt accepted. While we were bereft of institutional supports or care it was a community of misfits who were able to find friendships and when we were able to provide this space of acceptance, their will being improved. Over the years we opened many other such spaces – places like a community bank, a dental clinic, hundreds of housing units, a drop-in center with a crack pipe dispensing machine, alcohol maintenance programs, an emergency shelter with a crack inhalation room, a woman-specific low barrier treatment program, art gallery, grocery store, and a soccer team. (MUSIC FROM 22.10.6 to 22.36.4) and we were able to open Insite.

(MALE VOICE): Drug use patterns, why they are here, why they need to use the site and we told them what the site could offer and we make sure that they know that the site is for them; it is for their healthcare. It is an important social contact for people and it is an important place of respite. So after we have had that conversation if they decide to sign up, we will sign them up quickly and we’ll give them a code name that they can use so they can use the site anonymously. After that, people can go in to the Wait Room where they wait to get in to the Injection Room (IR) and there is staff there to chat with them – find out how they are doing and make sure that they feel comfortable at the site. They will go in to the IR where they will be given a booth and shown the array of clean equipment that we have which is broader than most needle exchanges can offer. We will show them things like where the sinks are so they can wash their hands with soap and water before they use. It is incredibly important, small things like that. They can talk to a nurse while they inject. They can learn safer injection techniques. They can see the nurse after they are done for some wound treatment if it is necessary then they can go and grab a cup of coffee or juice afterward and chill out and we can talk about some of the broader issues. We can talk about what it is like living in downtown east side. If this person is homeless we can talk about housing. If this person needs methadone we can get them in touch with that. If the person wants to talk about detox we can tell them about Insite upstairs. It is a great site for people to go to where we can just look at them, treat them as human beings, treat them with respect, and ask what their needs are.

LIZ EVANS: These spaces together created what we sometimes think about as a state within a state. This was essential to be able to legitimate the lives of the people that we were surrounded by. In a community where almost everybody felt a profound sense of self-hatred and a deep sense of shame, having this approach replaced punishment with kindness and coercion just simply with space.

One day my friend Bud, who was on those previous slides – he was doing a writing group at our hotel and he came to me with tears in his eyes and he said, “I have had enough”. Whether it was the murdered missing women, the daily funerals, or the generalized horror of watching so much suffering, our paths and frustrations converged. We realized that talking about these things was no longer good enough. Action was required, we had to do something and this was the beginning. We blocked traffic, we burned reports, we built banners, we disrupted meetings, and we found many flashpoints for activism – lots of them. Whether it was police abuses in the media where they wrote weekly salacious columns against drug users or when our mayor put a moratorium on funding for drug use programs, or when there were not enough needles being distributed and HIV was still raging

We decided to focus on opening an injection site as our goal and the journey to keep this site open and to keep it open required unbelievable tenacity and an enormous commitment right up until the end. In spite of hundreds of opposing forces in the form of politicians, community business leaders, scathing media articles, and a federal government that we had to fight all the way to the Supreme Court. Insite opened 14 years ago and it remains the only legally sanctioned demilitarized zone on this continent.

It redefines the concept of inclusion for drug users because it tells drug users that above everything else it is your life that matters. When I walked in to that run down hotel 25 years ago, I had no idea what I was getting in to but just opening that space and fighting back was all we could do. Our community has always been a place of resistance and the battle continues. However, there are some key shifts that we can celebrate that have taken place as a result of this approach. We now have hundreds of housing units – some of them are new. We have innovative and creative healthcare services that have specifically been designed to create space for drug users. Police don’t arrest people for possession in our neighborhood instead they direct them to Insite and they give them access to what is now a pretty big array of housing and supports because they know what people need is access to care and support.

HIV transmission in our community have been virtually eliminated and the life expectancy of people in our community has increased by ten years. All of this is a drop in the bucket, however, in the fact of how much work we obviously have left because we have to move human rights forward everywhere for people who use drugs and this shift has to happen by us.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Liz Evans, Executive Director of Syringe Exchange Programs for the Washington Heights Corner Project and New York Harm Reduction Educators. Liz was also one of the founders of Insite, North America’s first sanctioned safe injection site. She was speaking at the Drug Policy Alliance’s Reform Conference about supervised injection sites and harm reduction. The Drug Policy Alliance has its International Reform Conference the beginning of November. It is in St. Louis, Missouri this year. You can get information at the Drug Policy Alliance website:, or go to the conference site at:

For now that is it. I want to thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies. We are a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network. On the web at: I have been your host, Doug McVay, Editor of

Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page – please give it a like. You can follow me on Twitter, I am @dougmcvay, and of course also @drugpolicyfacts. We will be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed War on Drugs.

This is Doug McVay saying so long.

10/02/19 Phillip Atiba Goff

Century of Lies
Phillip Atiba Goff
Drug War Facts

This week on Century we look at reforming police practices and efforts to get a handle on police brutality. The US House Judiciary Committee recently held an oversight hearing on police practices. We'll hear audio from Committee Chair Rep. Jerrold Naddler, Gwen Carr, Ron Davis, and Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff.

Audio file



OCTOBER 2, 2019

DEAN BECKER: The failure of the 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 am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of Well folks on this show we are going to be talking about police practices, police abuse, and how to get a grip on police brutality. Recently, the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary held an oversight hearing on police practices. We are going to hear portions of that hearing now. First up Representative Jerrold Nadler, Chair of the Judiciary Committee.

REP. NADLER: Today’s hearing furthers our committee’s long standing commitment to conduct a meaningful oversight of state and federal law enforcement. It’s initiated by former Chairman Goodlat and his establishment of the bipartisan Policing Strategies Working Room. Together we’ve had productive conversations about improving relations between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve and today we continue that important discussion. Without question the vast majority of law enforcement officers serve honorably under difficult conditions, often risking and sometimes losing their lives to protect us.

There have been, however, a disturbing number of incidents of excessive force used by policing its civilians many of whom were either unarmed, most of whom were people of color and many of which resulted in tragic death and it put incredible strain on the relationship between law enforcement and their local communities. For example, on July 17, 2014, five New York City Police Department officers attempted to arrest Eric Garner, a 42-year old father of six for allegedly selling loose cigarettes by tackling to the ground and placing him in an illegal choke hold. He repeatedly told the officers, “I can’t breathe”. The officers ignored his pleas as he slipped in to unconsciousness and death. No one was held criminally responsible for Mr. Garner’s death. We are fortunate to be joined by Mr. Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr – and I say to you that the criminal justice system and the justice system failed you, your son, and your entire family. Shockingly the officer responsible for placing Mr. Garner in a departmentally banned choke hold he remained on the force for five years before being finally fired this past August. On September 9th, 2015, James Blake, an African American professional tennis player was standing outside the Grand Hyatt hotel in midtown Manhattan when Officer James Frescatory – for no apparent reason – charged him, wrestled him to the ground, and placed him handcuffs. New York’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent agency –-it reviews complaints of police misconduct – determined that Frescatory used excessive force and recommended that the officer be punished with departmental disciplinary charges that could lead to suspension or dismissal. Instead his only punishment was to lose five vacation days. Mr. Garner’s death and the assault on Mr. Blake – both at the hands of police officers sworn to protect and serve should alarm all Americans regardless of party; regardless of political ideology; regardless of race, religion, or gender. This is not a partisan issue, there are no sides.

Too often the discourse and police misconduct descends in to a false dichotomy of us versus them. Blue lives versus Black lives – this is a false and dangerous dichotomy. The United States stands as the world’s greatest experiment in self-government. Legitimacy and authority of our nation’s government rests upon the consent of its people – We the People. Its principal particularly applies to law enforcement which has been given the authority to use deadly force under color of law, there can be no doubt unfortunately. Communities of color perceive law enforcement as a threat to their everyday freedoms.

These perceptions go back decades, predating both the 1994 Los Angeles riots and the 1965 Watts riots. Both of which were sparked by a lack of accountability for incidents of police brutality. These perceptions are reality for African Americans. According to the Center for Policing Equity, African Americans are two to four times more likely than white Americans to have force used against them. For far too long, however, policing with just and humane treatment from law enforcement have often fallen on deaf ears. Claims of police misconduct coming from communities of color have often been ignored or not believed. Mr. Garner’s killing and a series of other examples of police misconduct against African Americans – many of which were caught on video – make it unmistakably clear that claims of police misconduct are all too often real.

On August 5th, 2014, John Crawford was shot and killed by a police officer at a Walmart store in Beavercreek, Ohio while holding a toy B.B gun. On August 9th, 2014, Michael Brown who was unarmed was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri. On November 22nd, 2014, twelve year old Tameer Rice who was unarmed was shot and killed by police in Cleveland, Ohio. On April 2nd, 2015, Eric Harris who was unarmed was shot and killed by police in Tulsa, Oklahoma. On April 4th, 2015, Walter Scott who was unarmed was shot and killed by police in North Charleston, South Carolina. On April 19th, 2015, Freddy Grey who was unarmed died in police custody in Baltimore, Maryland. On July 6th, 2016, Samuel DeBose who was unarmed was shot and killed by police in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The frequency of these killings and the absence of full accountability for those responsible sent a message to members of the African American community that black lives do not matter. Let me state clearly for the record that black lives matter.

Our criminal justice system including our police departments cannot function without African Americans knowing that their lives matter equally where the system works to protect them just as it does every other citizen. We must also be able to put ourselves in the shoes of our law enforcement officers. We must be able to celebrate the service and sacrifices of our men and women in law enforcement who put their lives on the line day in and day out. We must recognize the psychological toll that serving such an inherently dangerous job can take on individual law enforcement officers and their families. It is also critical that we not paint law enforcement with a broad brush. The vast majority of officers execute their jobs with dignity, honor, and respect for the citizens they serve and protect. Every American should take pride in that.

Research shows that a small percentage of repeat offenders are responsible for the majority of incidents of misconduct. Today’s hearing presents a unique opportunity for us to hear from some of the individuals of families affected by police misconduct. I want to personally thank Ms. Carr for speaking at this hearing on behalf of her son, Mr. Blake, for sharing his personal story with us.

Today presents an opportunity for us to explore bipartisan solutions to make policing a safer more fulfilling job for law enforcement officers by restoring the trust and good will between police and the communities they serve. We can reexamine the effort to see reforms advanced by President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and determined what further solutions are warranted. For example, we should examine whether the incentives created by the doctrine of qualified immunity remain useful in today’s environment. We should consider legislative proposals to end racial profiling and to restore trust between law enforcement and the community and we should explore ways to strengthen data collection on use of force and racial profiling so that police departments can measure the practices they manage, but most important – we can all agree that too many lives are put at risk and have been lost in police/citizen encounters and that it is incumbent upon each of us to work together as fellow Americans to solve this problem.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Representative Jerrold Nadler giving his opening statement at a hearing before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee – an oversight hearing on police practices. Now let’s hear from some of the witnesses. First up Ms. Gwen Carr.

MS. GWEN CARR: My name is Gwen Carr, I am the mother of Eric Garner. Five years ago my beloved son Eric was murdered by people who were supposed to serve and protect. On July 17th, the NYPD police officers approached my son – one of them put him in an illegal choke hold. Eric cried out 11 times, “I can’t breathe”. Eleven times he said, “I can’t breathe”, but those officers who were on the scene that day didn’t seem to care. Eric died that day. There was a video that captured the incident including the choke hold and my son’s cry saying that he couldn’t breathe –this went viral around the world. So my thought is today how come no one was held accountable? No one was held in charge for my son’s death – not only the officer that murdered my son, but all of the officers who were on the scene need to stand accountable for his death that day.

I will never forget that day in July. I got up that morning and I spoke to Eric. I spoke to him for about ten minutes and afterwards we said our goodbyes. He said, “I love you, Mom”. I said, “I love you, too, Eric” – never knowing that would be our last and final conversation. My entire life was uprooted on that July day. I felt helpless, in a dark place scattered in millions of pieces. It is impossible to describe the pain that I felt that day, losing a child is just indescribable. Having the burden of finding out exactly what happened to your child by the police who was responsible for his demise. How is a person supposed to get answers? Who does she go to for help? Most people can’t even comprehend how difficult it is to suddenly lose a child and to fight for five years and just get an ounce of accountability. It has impacted our lives in many devastating ways.

Almost two months ago I lost my husband. He was my partner in every sense of the word. He fought the long fight with me even though he wasn’t in front of the cameras he supported me and he really supported the cause. My granddaughter Erica died December 17th of a heart attack. She was only 27 years old but when my son was murdered she fought the good fight. She fought until she became ill. I say she died of a broken heart. These are the wounds of the seen and unseen from the police brutality. The loss of loved ones and no recourse, no accountability. The entire family is traumatized. Each and every time we enter the courtroom or watch the officer responsible for my son’s death get a pay raise, or hear the Department of Justice saying they’re not going to seek charges, or when the officer who is the commanding officer of the person who was on the scene when my son was murdered said it was not a big deal that Eric laid on the ground D.O.A.

I come before you today not only to share my son’s story or the long quest of justice that we’ve been seeking for five years but I urge you to take immediate action to imply the national changes and standards towards policing. In 2015, I stood with Representative Hakeem Jeffries as we introduced the bill that would make choke holds illegal under federal civil rights law. Once the bill is reintroduced – this season I call for you to support and vote for legislation. The Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act of 2019, please vote for it.

Violent police have no place in this society so like you said, Mr. Nadler, let’s get them out of there. No officer who is not there to do his job should be on the police force so again, I ask you to please vote on this bill.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner a young man who as murdered by New York Police Department officers. He had been selling lose cigarettes on the street. He was put in to an illegal choke hold and he was killed. You are listening to Century of Lies, we are a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network. On the web at I am your host, Doug McVay, the Editor of

On today’s show we are looking at police abuse and how to get a handle on police brutality. Recently the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary held an oversight hearing on police practices. We are hearing portions of that today. Now let’s hear from one of the other witnesses. Ron Davis is the former Director of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Police Services office. He is also a retired police officer.

RON DAVIS: My name is Ronald Davis and I had the distinct honor of serving as Director of the United Stated Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services in the Obama Administration. I also served as the Executive Director of President Obama’s Taskforce in 21st Century Policing. Before my service in the Administration, I spent close to 30 years in local policing. Twenty years in the great city of Oakland, California and eight years as Police Chief in the great city of East Palo Alto. My testimony is based on these perspectives as well as my perspective as a black man and the father of black children.

First as a 20-year police veteran I know firsthand the complex, challenging, and dangerous nature of being a police officer. As a police chief I had to tell a wife that her husband – one of my brave police officers – was shot and killed in the line of duty. I have personally seen the toll being a police officer takes on so many. I have lost friends and colleagues to suicide – a threat which is now really at an exponential rate but I have also seen a lot of positive changes in policing in the areas such as technology, crime reduction, diversity training, and in community policing. However, as a black man I know that despite these efforts significant racial disparities still exist in our policing and criminal justice system. I do not believe the disparities exist because the profession is full of racists. I believe they exist because of structural racism. Many of the systems and practices in policing that exist today were designed in the 1950s and 60s to enforce discriminatory laws and to oppress black Americans. We must acknowledge the history of policing in this country and the role that police have played in enforcing discriminatory laws and continue to play through draconian discriminatory policing practices. With that being said I think it’s fair to say that positive changes have started, especially through some of the work with President Obama’s Taskforce on 21st Century Policing.

So I testify today here, Mr. Chairman, my concern is not that we haven’t made progress. My concern is that this Department of Justice is attempting to stop this progress by returning to the failed policies and practices of the 80s and 90s, policies that resulted in unequal justice.

I was a street cop in Oakland during the 80s and 90s and I can tell you first hand that this nostalgia for the policing practices of those years is dangerously misplaced. I worked in units that made thousands of arrests and most of them men of color while simultaneously watching the homicide rate climb to record levels. I also witnessed these practices destroy the future of thousands of young men of color with unfair sentencing practices. We now know that these practices cause significant collateral damage and they did not work. What did work in Oakland and so many other communities was community policing and the use of evidence-based programs such as Operation Cease Fire have focus-deterred strategies.

Now there will be those that will argue that the tactics of the 90s did work and I guess if taking a lot of people to jail and having statistical crime numbers go up and down for a couple of months is success, then it worked. But in our democracy public safety is not just the absence of crime it must include the presence of justice and this idea taken from Dr. King’s quote on peace must serve as the foundation for how we evaluate all policing practices in our criminal justice system. As most of you know the American Policing System is by design decentralized and controlled locally so that policing practices are accountable to local community values and their priorities. It is especially disheartening to hear the Attorney General of the United States attack local mayors and prosecutors for their efforts to respond to their local community. It is also disheartening to hear people including those in this administration talk about how they support the men and women of law enforcement yet their actions do not back this rhetoric. Don’t tell me you support law enforcement and look to control the police then threaten to take away grant funding if local police refuse to enforce federal immigration laws. Don’t talk about cops having the resources necessary to their job then vote against funding for the cop’s office to hire and train more cops. Do not demand community respect from law enforcement while advocating for those very policies that you know will destroy that trust.

I remind you that in New York it was first the officers and their union that was against Stop, Question and Frisk but it was implemented nonetheless and when we were bad the officers were blamed. Now the Justice Department is advocating for return to those same types of policies. They are ignoring the lessons of the past while ignoring the voices from the field. Once again, placing officers and the community in untenable positions. This is why this hearing was so important. Through its grants program, technical assistance and civil rights enforcement, the Justice Department can play a role to help out the 16 to 18,000 police agencies in the United States.

To make sure that whether the department has four cops or 40,000 cops that they have access to the best policies and training and practices in the country. There is much the federal government can do to help police and since my time is winding down let us give you a couple direct recommendations.

The first recommendation is that we rescind the Sessions memo and restore the ability for the Civil Rights Department to conduct pattern and practice investigations. That we work collaboratively with law enforcement and communities to develop and implement new and innovative strategies to enhance public safety. That we restore funding to train officers and deputies in implicit bias and procedural justice. That we increase funding to the National Institute of Justice to expand its capacity to conduct research and evaluate crime strategies. That we work with local prosecutors instead of criticizing them to reform the criminal justice system. That we expand the efforts to develop strategies to enhance officer safety and wellness and that we support the end of racial profiling act to make sure that that accountability is in every department in this country. As a black man and as a former cop I should be able to drive anywhere in this country and expect the same constitutional treatment and it should not be depending on how big the department is or how much money that they have. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Mr. Ron Davis. He is the former Director of the community-oriented Policing Services Office in the U.S. Department of Justice and he is a retired police officer. He is testifying before the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary at an oversight hearing on police practices. Next up let’s hear from Dr. Phillip Attiba Goff, the Co-founder and President of Center for Policing Equities and professor at John J. University in New York.

DR. GOFF: My name is Phillip Attiba Goff, I am a professional nerd I am also by disposition relatively conflict-diverse person but my love of country and my respect for this body and mostly my vocation as a scientist would not allow me to move to my prepared remarks just yet. I feel I must at least correct the record on some statistical elements.

The fall of crime over the course of the last quarter century is just abjectly not in response to police behavior alone. If the members would like for the reading on this, I can highly recommend Pat Sharkey’s Book, Uneasy Peace, which identifies quite clearly that community-based anti-violence work is a large and underappreciated component of reductions in crime not just police behavior. I should say that I believe that a 2015 Quinnipiac poll was just cited as evidence perhaps implying that black people actually liked broken windows policing.

If memory serves, that exact same Quinnipiac poll showed that black people were concerned about racial bias within law enforcement, a trend that has escalated over the period of time since 2015;

To suggest that black people enjoyed the treatment in New York or any place else with broken windows policing is what scholars (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Weaver and Elizabeth (UNINTELLIGIBLE) were referred to as selective hearing. Hearing only what is convenient to an ideological narrative and not the fullness of what those communities are calling for which is safety and justice at the same time – surely not too high a bar for law enforcement.

Last in terms of clarification a study in the proceedings of National Academy of Sciences was just cited and I have to say first of all, no, that is not what it said. Most importantly the authors of that study have recently acknowledged to the rest of the scientific community, or I should say to some members of the scientific community that their central causal claim is unsupported by the data and factually wrong. This committee hearing should not be dumping for bad faith arguments –

REP. NADDLER: Mr. Goff, we’ve heard a lot of witnesses and you’re testifying now about a central causal claim. Could you just tell us which causal claim you are refuting, I mean what you are talking about?

DR. GOFF: The study just cited by Ms. McDonald in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences does not show that white officers are less or more likely to be involved in deadly shootings. It simply does not. It’s a correlational study and the authors themselves have admitted to others in the scientific community that the central causal claim that they make which is that there is not biased in this is unsupported by the data that have been made public and have been publicly analyzed by scholars like Johnathan Momalow at Princeton University. I do not like to be part of anything that becomes a laundry mat for junk science and so I apologize for stepping out of my character to say so.

I would like to thank you for the privilege of being invited to testify. Now I return to my prepared remarks. In my day job I am a professor as I said, I am a nerd at John J College of Criminal Justice which I accepted after receiving tenor at UCLA in the psych department, I as a witness for the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, a member of the National Academies of Sciences Committee that issued a consensus report on proactive policing and I was one of three leads on the recently concluded Department of Justice National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, but I am likely best known for my work with the Center for Policing Equity. For the past decade I have had the pleasure of being in the President of the Center of Policing Equity (CPE), which is the largest research and action organization focused on equity and policing. My testimony today is in that capacity. CPEs host to what is to our knowledge the largest collection of police behavioral data, the National Justice Database funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Today I have been asked to talk about what science has to say about public safety. So what does it have to say? Well first as with all science it is important that we define the problem correctly. We speak only about the role that law enforcement has in keeping communities safe are conversations we’ll never elevate above blaming people or communities for crime rates, public mistrust, or violence. Framing should be public safety not just law enforcement and I cannot echo the comments of Mr. Yost strongly enough. If we’re talking about public safety both communities and law enforcement understand the officers that patrol these neighborhoods need to be of sound mind. They need to have the resources to make sure that mental health and officer wellness are central.

Now having defined the problem as public safety, what are some of the solutions? My colleagues at CPE and at the Yale Justice Collaboratory recently articulated five policies rooted in science and practice called for by the large majority of our law enforcement partners that we believe have the best chance to produce the biggest returns in law enforcement reform. They are from the front to the back end of accountability, a national model policy for use of force similar to the one recently articulated by the Camden Police Department. Previous research demonstrates this can reduce harm both by communities and officers without elevating risk. I see I am out of time because of my impromptu remarks at the beginning.

Those five policies are all also introduced in to the record and I would encourage the members to look at it One last word. Within this we have heard a lot of talk about data. I think it’s important that we move the conversation from data to analysis. My recently released TED Talk this past September 9th, we talked about an initiative called Comstat for Justice, because it’s possible to measure crime, and Ms. McDonald was quite right that Comstat was a revolution in policing and helped to reduce crime across the country but you can measure not just racial disparities but the portion of those disparities for which law enforcement is responsible. Importantly, this initiative at CPE and similar initiatives elsewhere is at the request of law enforcement. They want to know and they want to lead on that and I would be remiss if I got out of here without saying that – or leaving you with the impression there wasn’t already legislation that has been introduced that moves us forward. Obviously the End Racial Profiling Act sets up the infrastructure for that. I apologize for going over my time. I thank you for the invitation and I absolutely look forward to your questions.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Dr. Phillip Attiba Goff, Professor at John J. He is co-founder and President of the Center for Policing Equity.

That’s all the time we have this week. I want to thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies. For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying 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 are archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.



09/11/19 Jimi Devine

Century of Lies
Jimi Devine
Drug War Facts

This week on Century, a conversation with journalist and cannabis connoisseur Jimi Devine, senior staff writer for Cannabis Now and a contributing writer for the LA Weekly.

Audio file



SEPTEMBER 11, 2019

DEAN BECKER: The failure of the 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 McVEY: Hello and welcome to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVey, Editor of, my guest this week is for my money one of the best cannabis journalist in the business, Jimi Devine. Jimi Devine is a journalist he is based in California. First let’s get to this piece that you just got published in the L.A. Weekly.

JIMI DEVINE: Well I think – and this is how I started the story and so I am gonna start here the same way. In the context of this conversation it’s important to remember that these dispensaries – all the research points to that they make the neighborhoods there unsafe, but even with that generalized fact that is now proven, these giant piles of cash that dispensaries are forced to accrue for these quarterly tax payments are just too lucrative of an opportunity for the criminal class in California and that’s what we’re seeing as legalization has – even though the black market is three times larger than the legal market, as legalization has moved on and people feel like they’re getting less and less money for their product, its dark times. A lot of these industry insiders – a lot of people have a deep understanding of how the security aspects of this industry works and then furthermore, these operators are forced to file these in-depth security plans which you’ve got to remember the operator is looking at it, the consultants are looking at it, the city is looking at it – there’s a lot of places in various municipalities where you could see these spring a leak and the actual information getting out if it’s not public already. So that is the context that these operators are working in and now in the recent months the cannabis industry has always been a target, especially during the harvest season which we’re starting to enter in to, “Croptober” as it’s known. But recently these operators have been taking a serious hit – San Jose has had 6 people hit in the last few weeks. Sacramento has had even more. Two operators hit in the same night – one hit for $160,000 plus $1,000 cash tax payment – an actual safe was cracked in that one so that’s far beyond stick up kids getting a big score. But that happened, too, some stick up kids in Oakland scored twenty pounds so this is happening in so many different ways and so many different municipalities. It’s a statewide problem and a lot of people believe it’s a banking access problem as well.

DOUG MCVEY: What are people doing to try and work through this?

JIMI DEVINE: I interviewed L.A. PD for the piece. They’re convinced people are using armored cars to transport their money and stuff like that, but there’s only so much you can do. You have to pay your taxes. If you have merchant services, it’s probably gotten shut down a thousand times and it’s a tough situation. The best thing people can do is contact their congressman to support things like the Moore Act, the Safe for Banking Act. It’s actually interesting – I interviewed the Cannabis Caucus Co-Chair people, Rep. Lee from Oakland, and Rep. Boomanouer from up your way and I asked them how important the banking access issue was right now to what they have going on and in that time I was asking them in context of equity programs – you know, how important is it for the lowest tier operator to have access to the market. But the Cannabis Caucus is all in on banking. Now they’re putting their full weight behind the Moore Act, which they think is better than the Safe Banking Act. Regardless, now there’s this chatter on Capitol Hill that something should pass in October. So in some context, if something were to pass, I am sure the mechanisms would be they’d be able to create the mechanisms they needed rather quickly so in this crime wave, it’s actually interesting that this might be the twilight of these kinds of opportunities for the criminal class because these cash piles are not gonna last much longer it looks like. I doubt too many are thinking ahead like that but it may be a reality of the situation.

DOUG MCVEY: Of course if people could use credit cards at dispensaries that would – I mean yeah, boom. Problem solved.

JIMI DEVINE: Amen – Amen, and then you know then those neighborhood safety statistics go by even further because the only people taking the hit in the neighborhood is the dispensary but per capita, that brings the crime wave up even if the wider crime rate has been dropped by the dispensaries precedence, so once you get rid of that aspect it’s gonna be even wilder to see what the real data looks like from Rand and stuff like that in a few years. L.A. PD tracks burglaries and robberies as separate incidents and I wasn’t able to get the breakdown between retail operators – excuse me, legal retail operators and the widely, most prolific black market in the world in Los Angeles but if you look at the data there are still a ton of people getting robbed at dispensaries because they have to use cash and it just is what it is.

DOUG MCVEY: Well we’ll be following this, we’ve been of course following this the whole time but will continue and hopefully we’ll see some kind of a resolution. I mean, God knows we need it. Let’s talk about some of the other stuff that you’ve been working on that’s a little lighter. You are also a cannabis correspondent as well?

JIMI DEVINE: Yeah. I am one of the main guys in the world covering high end genetics, like elite boutique stuff.

DOUG MCVEY: In fact you’re senior staff reporter.

JIMI DEVINE: I am the Senior Staff Writer at Cannabis Now, and pretty much a weekly contributor at L.A. Weekly, and then sometimes I’ll have appearances on other reputable publications.

DOUG MCVEY: L.A. Weekly is pretty reputable. Not bad.

JIMI DEVINE: It’s a great platform. I love it. It’s been really cool. I can imagine it would be similar to writing about wine in Paris, you know what I mean? I live out with where all the dope weed is and get to cover. With all of the problems that have come with the Adult Use of Marijuana Act implementation. One thing for me as a journalist it’s kind of simplified my life is the way the distribution system works I can find that weed and I know where it’s going all over the state. It’s easier for me to track the best cannabis and tell people – not because I’m getting paid for it, because I am hunting down these strains. I am spending a lot of my own time and money trying to really find these best cuts and then when I eventually find them – the way the systems works now, it’s a lot easier for me to tell people where to go get it as opposed to pre-2016 where dudes are selling pounds, it was a lot harder to track everything. It was a lot harder to pick things because I wanted to make sure I picked things that people would actually have access to and not something that was under two lights in Billie’s closet.

DOUG MCVEY: Friends, just a reminder that I am speaking with Jimi Devine, he is a journalist currently based in California, Franklin Pearce College, New Hampshire – are you still on SSDP’s board?

JIMI DEVINE: No. No. I got off – I was on when I got out here. I moved out here in 2009, right after I graduated. I was off in 2010, and got more involved in more local stuff. Ace of Protests, stuff like that when the big Harborside protest happened in Oakland I was one of the volunteers there helping coordinate traffic. But there was a gap too, as I got my feet wet in the dispensary – I came out here to work in the dispensary. I still work at a dispensary 6 days a week. But as I came out here to get my feet wet in the industry there was a gap before I got my foot in the door in the media. Since I graduated in 2009, so many major newspapers closed in 2008 and now all of these amazing writers are out there looking for work. So how does a kid compete against that? Eventually I got my foot in the door in the podcast world selling advertisements and then the podcast owner and host, David Downs, Leafly’s California Chief, he was working with S.F. Gate at the time and told S.F. Gate, hey, Jimi knows the industry really well – you should bring him onboard. I got my shot and here we are four years later. It’s been a wild ride! But SSDP (Students for Sensible Drug Policy) was dope because it gave me the backbone in covering this industry being 33-years old saying that I’ve done it for 14 years people look at me like what? So that’s always fun. A lot of people now that are new in the industry you always hear about people talking about what they did before cannabis. I went to prom. (LAUGHTER).

DOUG MCVEY: Jimi, I love you and I love your writing, too, I think that you experience as a drug policy reformer and doing all of this stuff really does inform your work and I just love what you do, man. I love what you do.

JIMI DEVINE: That’s great – and it also really helped me build trust with these growers – these legendary killers that didn’t want to talk to anybody. They were like, oh, would you, Jimi – I was a normal kid that – an SSDP kid that moved out here to try and do a right and everyone knows I am nobodies cousin – I am nobodies brother. This whole industry is so deeply interconnected up here. I am a fair set of eyes. I never (BEEP) with anyone, I have had zero complaints about the strain list I have written over the last three years. The only complaint I get is why wasn’t I on it. (LAUGHTER). So I am loving it. I called the Emerald Cup – something on the podium at the Emerald Cup the last two years in a row. I pick five strains every harvest, like, keep an eye out for these. 2017, Rose came in 2nd place, won the Breeder’s Cup. I had it on my list two months earlier, and then last year Cherry Pie came in 3rd place in one of the personal cultivation categories and I had that on my list two months earlier. So I am trying to triple up on the Emerald Cup this year, find that flame. Its nice when you are covering the depressing things like the crime stories, the failure to implement equity programs properly and when you are covering all the roadblocks, as the snowball has rolled down the hill and I am super thankful for how far the snowball is – sometimes there’s these things that kind of irk you and you hope the system can figure it out. So when I have those days when I get to just look at amazing cannabis with the world’s best cultivators – and those are some of the people that treat me the best. Those are the people I hug – like, thank you for what you do! Its awesome. I love covering strains. There are so many amazing people and so many are working their way in to light or are already there and it’s beautiful.

DOUG MCVEY: So what kind of strains should I be looking at – I mean obviously I live in Oregon, so we have a –

JIMI DEVINE: Yeah – you’ve got some good cuts up there for sure. In Oregon you’ve got a couple of options. My first picks if I were up that way; Green Boatie – very fantastic cuts. I forget the name of the dispensary they are affiliated with – but I know it’s available up there. Then Benson Elvis. Benson Elvis was one of the best cultivators in California, they headed north post 2014 to start the process of being a legal cannabis company. They came back to California, crushed it. They had some 24K that was dope, beautiful. Now I am seeing they are back in Oregon again so those guys are fire. But actual cuts – like the genetics that are getting me the most excited right now – I really like the stuff from C Junk Genetics, the Wedding Cakes, the Animal Mints variants – excuse me, the Kush Mints variants, like Animal Mints, the Sunday Driver is super good. Stuff from Canarado – they have a lot of beautiful cuts right now. The Village, of course, Budologists, Cymbiotic Genetics – Cymbiotic Genetics won everything at the last great Chalisse before everything fell apart. The event scene – there’s another tragic conversation, but those are the strains that are really – you get in to some that are really like – there are different strains that are more exciting to smoke as like Diamonds and Sauce than flower. Because when you’re smoking flower you are always looking to get high, that’s the whole point. But when you start talking about the subtle flavor hints and do you want something that’s creamy like a Gelato or something that’s a little bit more vapory – the way it hits your lungs – blah, blah, blah. So it’s a personal preference thing, but I just try and smoke for every tax bracket and tell the truth and so far so good.

DOUG MCVEY: Especially for every tax bracket. I will see these like, ah, this is fantastic! Ah this is the most expensive thing you can find – it’s like, NO. Just no. I have been a value shopper for too long and if I can’t even afford to look at the top shelf – I don’t even wanna – but I would like to know something about the things that I could afford, you know?

JIMI DEVINE: I hear you, this is how I respond to that – and I totally get that. It’s important to remember these boutique growers can only scale up so far and still be boutique. Eventually it’s going to be a supply and demand issue and those guys are in a situation where they can keep raising the price because for those people first in line, it is the flame. I hear you, but there’s a lot of these guys doing slightly less nice things in a wider capacity and that’s cool. It’s really a race to the bottom. Who’s gonna grow the best pot for cheapest, the fastest. That’s who’s gonna win and that’s the biggest spot up your way – isn’t it, like the biggest spot in the state is the one that sells the value ounces, right? That’s what I have heard.

DOUG MCVEY: Well we have a couple of places up here that advertise the $40 ounce and then we have a lot of other ones where the lowest end is more like around 80-100 and even there too, its whatever. I’ll just take whatever smells good, but something that I am not sure who will be the Two Buck Chuck of weed I guess. That’s the big question.

JIMI DEVINE: There’s a lot of people trying right now for sure. I see all these – and it’s interesting to see the varying quality. Like I saw a $15 half ounce up in California that was just so dirt – it was offensive. I wouldn’t even tell someone to cook with it (LAUGHTER) But on a more – let me state my fav list, I meant to say a couple more strains that I know I need to make sure I give proper credit to –


JIMI DEVINE: Big strains this summer for me; Gelanaid, Gelato 41 by Connected crossed with Lemon Tree – fantastic! That was so good! Alien Labs Area 41, that’s the Gelato 41 crossed with their old school L.A., OG Kush cut that’s really dope. Mendo Brathis, gassy phenotypes and MendoBreath are always like super special for me. The Cherry Pie that I already mentioned – super special for me and Skittles, whenever you can get your hands on the real Skittles from Mendocino – there’s a couple of people in the Bay Area that do it well, particular IC Collective and Craft Cannabis, those are probably the two best versions that I have seen outside of Mendocino – yeah, whenever you can get your hands on that, that’s the hype. It’s hard to grow, its super velvety, its connoisseur weed that has to be grown by a connoisseur person that wants to smoke it themselves, because that’s the only way it’s going to be done. When you get it, it’s a beautiful thing and its super exciting whenever you see these new phenotypes come down from these mythical strains and it takes a couple of years for these things to propagate enough for the masses to really see them – get a little wind in their sails. So you will hear about the new seed drop and if you’re lucky a couple of years later maybe it will be available on shelves. Right now you see The Mack, The Miracle Alien Cookies. It’s been hyped for a couple of years now. But now you’re seeing it get to real production levels, blah, blah, blah and it’s so great.

DOUG MCVEY: Interesting. Some very cool stuff. Again, folks we are speaking to journalist and cannabis connoisseur, Jimi Devine, based down there in California, writing for L.A. Weekly, writing for is it Cannabis Now?


DOUG MCVEY: Cannabis Now. I met him back when he was with Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

JIMI DEVINE: I think we met in ’06 at Georgetown and then we probably chatter at the Freedom Rally the year after because I was - -

DOUG MCVEY: Would have done that and then I came up to Franklin Pearce for a regional conference that you guys sponsored.

JIMI DEVINE: Yeah! That was ridiculous – oh man, we had so much fun.

DOUG MCVEY: Yeah, that was fun. First time I had ever been up in New Hampshire and it really was a beautiful area. I am from the Midwest so –

JIMI DEVINE: It was primary season, too. So that made it fun. It was just at the end – the conference ended up happening right after the New Hampshire Primary so my whole time in college was the build up to the ’08 election and learning journalism in that area at that time was super fun.

DOUG MCVEY: Brilliant stuff. Hey, you mentioned the election back then, I gotta ask you – what do you think we’re looking at for this circus coming up next year?

JIMI DEVINE: Full disclosure, I would work the door at Bernie Sanders’ in San Francisco, so I am fairly biased on this but weed wise, I think the biggest – I think Florida is going to legalize. I think now that they have the whole team back together because first what happened was the medical – I am so glad – because I cover the whole country so sometimes I am bad with names, John Morgan, right?

DOUG MCVEY: John Morgan – that’s the one.

JIMI DEVINE: Yes, that’s the one. Thank God. So the way the Florida legalization started was some of John Morgan’s homies that he worked with on medical were like let’s get this conversation going and started working on language a couple of years ago so on and so forth and they got their petitions. They hit that threshold that requires the Florida Supreme Court to take a look at the petition and not long after that, John came on board. The ball was already rolling. There were saying if they could make it over a few more thresholds and the industry saw that it was real why wouldn’t they back it? It’s the people – it’s the same people that helped them open the dispensaries. But John – the figure head of medical marijuana – the face of medical marijuana in Florida came onboard and that changed everything. A lot of people in Florida when they listen to John speak they feel that they are listening to a public servant speak even though he is a private practice lawyer. You can hear the conviction in his voice when he speaks about the patients. With John coming onboard, it changed the game in Florida so 2020 legalization for Florida looks like it’s going to be serious. There is other stuff going on, but that’s the one I think is going to make the most waves.

DOUG MCVEY: While we still have a few minutes – vape carts. Oil – all this stuff happening. What are you seeing, what are you hearing down there in Cali – how are consumers reacting as far as these illnesses?

JIMI DEVINE: It’s crazy because the underground sesh team – because now we’re at 6 fatalities as of today. Wild, wild. Let me preface this with the just coverage – the wider media coverage. I think the wider media coverage has not separated the legal market enough from what’s happening with these people supposedly using honey cut, which allegedly contains Vitamin E, but that’s generally what people are saying is happening. These producers are getting thrown under the bus with these you gotta remember there was a time just like it took time for the wind to get in the sails of those strains I mentioned, it took time for people to find out what was happening with this honey cut stuff. I am sure there are some producers out there that thought there were just gonna stretch their product – make an extra buck, had no ill will or intention to make anybody sick. Once word got out what was happening they stopped. It is those people. I worry about the people who heard about it and didn’t stop doing it. You know what I mean? Now there are at this wave of national media. You turn on CNN at 8:30 AM, and it’s about the vape crisis. I would imagine those black market producers that were messing around in the dirtiest of stuff – what’s gonna happen to these people? We don’t know. There might be a crime bill about this, you know? Heads are going to roll for this for sure – for sure. It’s crazy to see how heinous – somewhere between stupidity and heinousness. It’s just so sad. That’s where it all falls – every time somebody poured honey cut in to their product to make more of it to stretch – to keep the viscosity and not lose any THC value – it fell somewhere between being an idiot and being an asshole – somewhere in the middle.

DOUG MCVEY: The Washington Post is reporting today that the State of New York is subpoenaing three different companies, Honey Cut Labs of Santa Monica for its’ Honey Cut diluting agent. Floraplex Terpenes in Ipslany, Michigan for its Uber Thick agent and the other one is Mass Terpenes in Amherst, Mass, for its Pure Diluent.

JIMI DEVINE: Yeah. It was wild because so much stuff happened on Friday. Friday was a big day for this. The CDC dropped an announcement. They released a preliminary results of their investigation that’s been going on since August 1st and found there was no infectious diseases associated with it so it must be from being exposed to chemicals. On the same afternoon, the LA County Health Department announced the first death in Los Angeles, and it seems like someone is dropping every day since. It’s wild. I feel like every news cycle over the last week it just feels like there’s another one and it’s wild. I spoke to some of the world’s best cartridge – legal cartridge manufacturers, I spoke for a piece for LA Weekly that hasn’t dropped yet. I spoke with Raw Garden, I spoke with Field – Field won the Emerald Cup. Field won the Secret Cup. Field won the Cannabis Cup. If it’s a bad PR situation for that guy, it’s a PR situation for everyone if the most legit names are being hit by this than how can the more middle of the pack people not be, you know.

DOUG MCVEY: Again, it’s a sad situation and condolences to all of the families and friends of those who’ve died or been affected by all of this.

JIMI DEVINE: They are putting a lot of resources in to it. The FDA, CDC, everyone is working very hard with local officials to try and figure it out. But like I said, now that the word is out we can only hope that these illicit operators are not using this stuff anymore. It’s sad and it’s crazy because within the regulated operators and these illicit operators there’s a third group of underground, illicit operators that knew what they were doing and still know what they are doing but they just had the bar set too high for them in California. It was just a little bit out of their reach so they took their skillset that would be totally acceptable in the regulated market that they couldn’t afford to get in to to the underground market and those other guys that are making underground cartridges but they are safe – God, those guys. Those guys that’s who’s having the most sleepless nights for sure!

DOUG MCVEY: Well hey, we’re coming up to the end of the show. Again folks, I have been speaking with Jimi Devine, journalist in California, writer with Cannabis Now, LA Weekly, former SSDP (Students for Sensible Drug Policy), activist, chapter leader, board member and a good friend and a great writer. Give folks your social media so they can follow you. Any website that they should know about.

JIMI DEVINE: For sure! @jimidevine, I am pretty active on Instagram, too; thejimidevine. Otherwise, it’s Jimi Devine on everything. Shout out to you, Doug. Thanks for having me. Super fun time. I always love talking shop.

DOUG MCVEY: Jimi, you take care, man. I will just keep on looking for your bi-line.

JIMI DEVINE: Thank you, Sir. Appreciate you! I ran into so many different people I tell the people that really want to creep on me, my Muckrack page is good, cuz it gets everyone. (LAUGHTER)

DOUG MCVEY: I subscribe to Muckrack, so I will – of course!

JIMI DEVINE: That’s the spirit – thank you again and keep crushing with the show.

DOUG MCVEY: Alright, brother. Thank you. Well folks, that’s it for this week. I want to thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies. I’ve been your host, Doug McVey, Editor of The Executive Producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs are available by podcast the URL’s to subscribe are on the network homepage at The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give it a like. Drug War Facts has a Facebook page, too. Give it a like, share it with friends. Remember, knowledge is power.

You can follow me o Twitter; @dougmcvey and of course, at drugpolicyfacts. We’ll be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed war on drugs. This is Doug McVey saying, so long.

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVey asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition, the Century of Lies. Drug Truth Network programs are archived at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy.

06/26/19 Jamie Bridge

Century of Lies
Jamie Bridge
Drug War Facts

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs met in Vienna on Monday June 24 to
hear a report by the World Health Organization's Expert Committee on
Drug Dependence recommending that cannabis be rescheduled and removed
from the list of banned substances. We hear from the WHO, from
national delegates, and from Vienna NonGovernmental Organizing
Committee Chair Jamie Bridge.

Audio file



JUNE 26, 2019

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.

Hello, and welcome to Century of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of

Well, on Monday, June 24, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs held an intersessional meeting in Vienna, Austria. Loyal listeners will recall the Commission on Narcotic Drugs holds its annual session every March, and every March I stay up overnight in order to record as much as possible of the proceedings because the Commission on Narcotic Drugs keeps no archive at all of their meetings.

It's the twenty-first century. They webcast live using multiple cameras with audio feeds in English as well as the original language of the speaker, and yet, they can't keep a copy on their servers.

But enough of me griping. The point is, they held an intercessional meeting. Now, loyal listeners will also recall that at the last CND in March, they had been scheduled to discuss recommendations from the World Health Organization's Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, which had examined cannabis and cannabis derivatives as well as CBD and other -- and THC.

They postponed that discussion back in March. They decided to hold part of that discussion on June 24. So agenda item two, quote:

"Preparations for consideration by the Commission of the proposed scheduling recommendations by the World Health Organization on cannabis and cannabis related recommendations". End quote.

I'm kind of thinking that last "recommendations" was a typo and they meant to say "preparations" but, you know ... wow. Anyway, so Monday June 24 is when the CND was officially informed by the WHO about that expert committee's recommendations.

Now unfortunately a technical glitch meant that I do not have audio from the very first few minutes of the meeting, so we're going to start listening partway through the WHO representatives presentation on cannabis and cannabis related substances, specifically on cannabis and cannabis resin.

The WHO expert committee is recommending that cannabis and cannabis resin be deleted from Schedule Four of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961. Unlike current US scheduling and really unlike current international scheduling, in 1961, they made four schedules.

The first schedule was potentially dangerous drugs, strict controls. Second schedule, less dangerous, less strict. Third schedule, less dangerous, less strict. Fourth schedule, very dangerous, must be banned. Why they did it that way, who knows?

In the '71, it went schedule one, most strict, must be banned, then schedule two, which was less strict, schedule three, and on down.

In 1961, cannabis and the cannabis plant was placed in schedule four of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as well as Schedule One. What the WHO's expert committee is now recommending is that cannabis and cannabis resin be deleted from Schedule Four of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

They are not recommending that cannabis and cannabis resin be removed entirely, and they are recommending that it remain within the 1961 Single Convention's Schedule One.

So, this would not be a total descheduling, this would not even be down in Schedule Two or Three, so it would still, on the international schedules, be tightly regulated.

Having said all that, let's start. The first voice you're going to hear is the World Health Organization speaking at the CND. You'll also hear the Commission president [sic: Chairperson], who's chairing the meeting, and various national delegates.

REPRESENTATIVE OF THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: -- under the critical review, on each of the items that we're discussing today.

So, the public health problems of major concern were the rates of abuse and dependence. They're sometimes grouped as cannabis use disorder, and it has been estimated from epidemiological studies that are conducted in a number of countries that approximately one in ten cannabis users do develop a cannabis use disorder.

So that was a public health problem of concern to the committee. We are also concerned about other problems. Another example which has been mentioned is driving under the influence of cannabis, as this occurs at a relatively high rate among cannabis users and cannabis does increase the rate of traffic accidents.

With regard to comparison amongst other substances, it is only within the ECDD's remit to compare to substances that are currently scheduled. We cannot compare to substances that are not scheduled, nor can we compare to other types of disorders.

The questions from Russia addressed several issues. One is publications and again I would suggest looking at the critical reviews. The critical reviews form an important part of the material that's used by the ECDD for arriving at its decisions. It is not the only information.

Some of the other information has been outlined already, information from UNODC, from INCB, from member states, from other sources. The ECDD members also conduct their own research into these issues to supplement what is included in the critical reviews.

With regard to the timing, I think that has been outlined already. There have been a number of developments that have occurred over the years, and these developments as well as the resolutions of the CND influence the WHO to consider conducting reviews of cannabis and related substances, it convinced the ECDD as well that it was timely to do so.

Some of these other, increasing medical use of cannabis, another one is the use of some of these high potency cannabis preparations that I mentioned. But there are a number of developments that occurred along the way because of the increasing amount of research on -- on cannabis.

Now with regard to chemical use, I would emphasize the point made earlier that the chemical use is not the main reason for suggesting that cannabis be removed from Schedule Four. The major reason was because it was not considered to be similar to those substances compared to the substances that are in Schedule One but not in Schedule Four.

It -- there is evidence concerning the clinical use, and this is outlined again in the critical review, and I would note, as, the point that has been made earlier, that a number of cannabis medications have been approved by regulatory authorities in a number of countries, which obviously indicates that they recognize a degree of clinical effectiveness for these medications.

H.E. AMBASSADOR MIRGHANI ABBAKER ALTAYEB BAKHET: Thank you. The floor is still open for further questions and comments, and I now give the floor to the representative of Canada. The floor is yours.

DELEGATE TO THE CND FROM CANADA: Thank you very much for the floor, Mister Chair, and thank you very much to the WHO for the explanation for this particular recommendation.

I have to admit, we had a, as you know from our written questions, we had similar concerns as expressed by our colleague from Mexico, that we wondered whether or not a comparison could be drawn, or whether or not a comparison was drawn between cannabis and other substances in Schedule One but also other substances that may not be international control such as alcohol and tobacco.

And I think you've answered that question, that it's not really within the ECDD's remit. However, we do think that that is quite an interesting question.

The two concerns that ECDD has flagged with regard to -- as justifications for this recommendation are the prevalence of cannabis use disorder, but also its potential impact on driving.

And of course those are both issues that are of concern with respect to use of alcohol, and they are of course both issues that we are trying to address in our own cannabis regulatory regime.

But anyway, you've already answered the question, but I do think that that's a policy question that will bear more discussion, perhaps not in the ECDD, but in the CND down the road. Thank you very much.

H.E. AMBASSADOR MIRGHANI ABBAKER ALTAYEB BAKHET: Thank you, the representative of Canada, and now I give the floor to the representative of Singapore. The floor is yours.


I just want to seek clarification from ECDD. So far you have you talked about cannabis and preparations. I was wondering, for cannabis resin, was similar considerations for cannabis resin or it's a different set of considerations? Just want to clarify on this point. Thank you.

H.E. AMBASSADOR MIRGHANI ABBAKER ALTAYEB BAKHET: Thank you, the representative of Singapore. And now I give the floor to the representative of Nigeria. The floor if yours.

DELEGATE TO THE CND I thank you very much, Mister Chair. I want to first express appreciation to the ECDD for their presentation this morning.

Please permit me if I have to give a general background. In our effort to ensure that our drug policy is evidence based, scientific based, we, Nigeria, conducted a drug use survey, championed by the CND, including the relevant authorities in my country. And that report was launched in January 2019.

And the report's actually reveal that in 2017, about fourteen million people used drugs in Nigeria, and when we say used drug, we mean sometimes they abused drugs. And also, the report revealed that the drug that was mostly abused within this report was cannabis.

And evidence as well in the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria indicates that each time the Nigerian military take over Boko Haram camps, what they pick and find in those camps were samples of cannabis, and we actually worried that the growing evidence of cannabis abuse around the world, which evidence abounds in several drug reports, that we are going along this line in terms of the [unintelligible] of cannabis.

And when this report first came out last year and my country was asked for some comments, we did submit comments in that regard where we raised a lot of concerns along these lines, and not just for Nigeria, but we within the sub -- our own subregion, that this abuse is growing by the day and this is supported also by the various world reports we've seen over time.

I have listened to responses and comments this morning, and from my understanding, one of the major reasons why the ECDD actually took its position was first in Schedule Four, you observed that most of those substances under Schedule Four do not have actually therapeutic value, therapeutic -- any therapeutic use.

And that was why they thought cannabis, having discovered, unlike when it was placed in 1961, and now has some therapeutic evidence. We think that this is wholly against the current report in this regard. The INCB in their latest report noted that the therapeutic use of cannabis is usually, medically is not always the first line of treatment, as it were.

And if it is not the first line of treatment, and we consider even in the report written by the ECDD, the growing abuse of cannabis, why the ECDD insists that it should remain in Schedule One, because of the growing abuse as well as the [unintelligible] it causes in terms of the impact on driving.

These are perhaps the fears [unintelliglble] not available to us but the fact is that cannabis -- cannabis abuse is growing and it is doing a lot of damage and that is why perhaps you notice that sometimes people tend to move away from the technical discussion to the political aspect, in fear of impact of any idea to give some kind of flexible control to this substance.

So that brings me to my question. I was thinking that you noted, because in Schedule Four, state parties required to take additional measures. I was thinking that, don't the ECDD believe that additional measures in terms of the control, if it is retained under Schedule Four, is still necessary in view of this growing evidence of abuse, like highlighted by the ECDD?

And my second question is, how do you reconcile the incompatibility between your own conclusions in terms of the therapeutic use and the reports and the position of the INCB that in terms of medical application it's not usually the first line of treatment to be applied? Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: You're listening to Century of Lies, I'm your host Doug McVay, and we are listening to proceedings from the Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting on June 24 in Vienna, Austria. They were discussing cannabis and cannabis related substances and the international scheduling.

WHO's Expert Committee on Drugs and Drug Dependence [sic: Expert Committee on Drug Dependence] has recommended a number of changes to the status of cannabis and cannabis related substances on the international schedules. The CND is scheduled to discuss these changes. This intersessional meeting on June 24, the WHO's recommendations were officially presented to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

Let's get back to listening to some of that.

REPRESENTATIVE OF THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Thank you. With regard to the question from Singapore about cannabis resin, the comments concerning cannabis, yes, also apply to cannabis resin.

The term in the 1961 convention, cannabis resin, was really the only preparation from cannabis. We now recognize that there are a range of illicit preparations for cannabis, of varying strength, but cannabis resin is specifically mentioned alongside cannabis in the schedules, and yes, our comments apply equally to cannabis resin.

With respect to the questions and comments from Nigeria, I would make the point that therapeutic use was not the principle reason for recommending that cannabis be removed from Schedule Four.

The principle reason was that it was not considered that cannabis was similar to the substances in Schedule Four, but it was more similar to the substances that are in Schedule One but not in Schedule Four.

So it was the criterion of similarity that was most important. The committee did also note the therapeutic uses, which is an aspect to be considered with a regard to Schedule Four, but that was less important than similarity.

With regard to the clinical use of cannabis, it is true that for a number of indications cannabis is, or cannabis preparations, are not first line medications, but it's common in many medical conditions to have several levels of interventions because first line interventions don't work for everybody, but also sometimes two different types of interventions have to be -- have to be used, particularly in some of the more difficult to treat conditions.

So, having a second or third line medication is still clinically important. That does not diminish the importance of cannabis based medications for a significant number of patients.

In regard to the question about additional measures, I would just note that additional measures can be put in place by countries. Schedule Four encourages countries to do so, but countries can still put in their own additional measures if they feel it necessary in their own context.

H.E. AMBASSADOR MIRGHANI ABBAKER ALTAYEB BAKHET: I thank the representative of the World Health Organization, and I still opened the floor for questions, and I give the floor now for the representative of -- the representative of the United Kingdom. The floor is yours.

DELEGATE TO THE CND FROM THE UNITED KINGDOM: Thank you very much, Chair, and good morning to everybody.

The UK aligns itself with the statement made on behalf of the European Union and its member states, and allow me to join others in thanking representatives from the WHO and the ECDD for joining us today.

Indeed this process of consultation is critical in the way forward, and given the complexities of the recommendations and the far reaching implications, we welcome the suggestion that there is time for further consultation between member states and WHO.

During Mister Forte's presentation, he made a very pertinent point that by removing cannabis from Schedule Four of the 1961 Convention, we are not weakening the international control of cannabis.

Nevertheless, having read some of the media articles this morning on the way out here, this isn't, at times, the interpretation that's being -- that's being realized amongst the media and other bodies outside of the CND. So my question for the WHO is whether there are any plans for communications outside the CND in order to clarify the recommendations and this message that you've put forward to us today, that this, the recommendations don't intend to weaken the international control?

Thank you. And, sorry, I should add, I do recognize that there is also responsibility for member states in which regard as well. Thank you.

H.E. AMBASSADOR MIRGHANI ABBAKER ALTAYEB BAKHET: I thank the representative of the United Kingdom. I give the floor to the representative of the United States of America. The floor is yours.


Our question relates to one of the prior presentations, responses provided by the WHO. The question was asked, I believe by Mexico, about the -- why scheduling the plant as a whole as opposed to its component parts. And the response was that cannabis and cannabis resin must be scheduled per the treaty.

And we were curious whether this was the result of a legal opinion of the WHO or UNODC, or perhaps of the UN? We just would be interested in knowing the source for this, because this seems to be a pivotable -- pivotal issue. Thank you.

H.E. AMBASSADOR MIRGHANI ABBAKER ALTAYEB BAKHET: I thank the representative of the United States of America, and I give the floor to the representative of the Russian Federation. The floor is yours.


I am sorry for asking this questi