03/09/18 Marsha Rosenbaum

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This weeks one hour show features: Marsha Rosenbaum of DPA, Tx Judge John Delaney, Denise Cullen of GRASP, Mary Lynn Mathre of Patients Out of Time, Irv Rosenfeld Fed Cannabis patient, Phil Smith of Alternet and Troy Farah of "The Fix"

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TRANSCRIPT

CULTURAL BAGGAGE

MARCH 9, 2018

TRANSCRIPT

DEAN BECKER: 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 barbarous cartels, 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.

Hi, my friends, this is Dean Becker. Thank you for joining us on this edition of Cultural Baggage, which is jampacked full. Let's go.

TROY FARAH: My name is Troy Farah, I'm an independent journalist, and I cover drug policy, harm reduction, and psychedelic medicine.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Troy, you had an article posted recently in TheFix.com, I think it's showing up elsewhere now, but it was titled up, "First Supervised Inhalation Site Opens In North America." Tell us about that. Our focus today is on all the kids and the folks that are dying from opioid abuse these days, and, it's a terrible problem, but this is perhaps a means to lower that number. Am I right?

TROY FARAH: Yes. Supervised consumption is not a new idea. It has been around for decades, literally. And all the research on it, the -- most of the research anyway indicates that it helps save people's lives. It reduces the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis C, and it helps get people into treatment.

In Canada, there are about 17 supervised consumption sites, and most of them allow injection drug use or snorting drugs, and it's all under medical supervision. So if anything goes wrong, they're immediately there to intervene and prevent people from dying.

No one has ever died at a supervised consumption site, to the best of anyone's knowledge. They exist all over the world. In Europe, there's a lot of them. There's one in Australia, and there are -- there are literally zero in the United States.

But, the one that opened recently, Arches in Lethbridge, is the first one in Canada to offer inhalation. So, smoking crack or meth or smoking heroin, or any drug that you can smoke, really. Yeah, that does that answer your question?

DEAN BECKER: Well, yes, it does, and Troy, I see there's a picture that accompanied your article there in The Fix, that showed these little rooms, I guess where people could close themselves in, there would be no fear of quote "contamination" or leakage going out to others in the building. Correct?

TROY FARAH: Yes. I don't want to say it's overkill, but they definitely thought of everything to make sure that these rooms are as safe as possible. There's a kill switch on them, so if somebody overdoses, or passes out in one of these rooms, and then a nurse or a firefighter needs to go in there, they flip this switch, it sucks out all the air and they can go in there without having to worry about breathing in any toxic fumes.

DEAN BECKER: Well, this is, you know, again, I hesitate to use the term, but it kind of applies across the board in the drug war, it's a reefer madness, drug war madness, that so much overkill is built into any harm reduction, just because, I guess, the nay-sayers demand it. Right?

TROY FARAH: Yeah. I think there's a lot of misconceptions about drug use, and when it comes to supervised consumption, it's always pretty much a last resort. The public is just so sick of people dying, or using drugs in the street, that they eventually will throw up their hands and be like, okeh, we'll allow this. Whereas the harm reduction community is more on the lines of, we know this helps people. It's an effective strategy for reducing drug use, and at least keeping people safe.

But, for the most part, the public just, well, there's a lot of stigma involved. I've done a lot of reporting on supervised consumption, and every single health official that I've talked to about it, it's not encouraging drug use at all. They're encouraging safe drug use, and that distinction is important because they're not saying hey, let's all have people do heroin, who cares, they're saying, these people are already doing heroin, it's much better for them to do heroin under the supervision of a nurse, in a room where if they overdose they can be revived, rather than in a McDonald's bathroom or on the street somewhere, or in their bedroom alone.

It's about meeting people where they are and not judging them, and not making them feel like horrible people for what chemicals they put in their body, in order to make them -- if you humanize them, it's more successful into getting them into rehab, or onto medicated assisted treatment, such as buprenorphine or methadone.

And also getting into counseling. A lot of supervised consumption sites offer more than just a safe place to do drugs, they offer resources for housing, family planning, all that stuff.

DEAN BECKER: Well, again, thank you Troy. Stay in touch. I'll be looking for further writings from you. I really appreciate that article in The Fix.

TROY FARAH: Thank you so much, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me.

DEAN BECKER: Oh, you bet.

This week we're looking at harm reduction, ways that we can cut back on the death and the disease involved in drugs, but there's another area where, well, the harms are not so significant, but the prohibition and the perspectives are. Here to share with us her opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, from the Drug Policy Alliance, I'm now glad to welcome Marsha Rosenbaum. Hello, Marsha.

MARSHA ROSENBAUM: Hi, thank you very much for having me, I appreciate it.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, Marsha, your piece talks about harm reduction, and changing of perspectives, does it not? Would you share with us that, your thoughts on that recent piece?

MARSHA ROSENBAUM: Yeah, I think, basically, the point of my op-ed was this: you know, we're in a new era now, with legalization of marijuana, and we're also facing all kinds of crises, like the opioid crisis, and so, it seems to me that our approach to teenagers, which is my main concern, is protecting children, ought to really come into the 21st century now.

And so that's what my piece was about. It was, a couple of -- well, last month, in San Francisco, ten middle schoolers were hospitalized, taken to the hospital, for some unknown ailment. Just, when I read that in the Chronicle, at that point, I thought, what is this? Sure enough, the next day it turned out that they had ingested edible cannabis.

I don't know what it was, how much it was, but what I did know, and do know, is that those kids are going to be fine. Nothing bad is going to happen to them. And that they ingested too much. And so, my approach to this is that we're -- much as we might like to, we're never going to completely eliminate drugs for teenagers. They find ways to get marijuana and alcohol and all of that.

So, since, you know, marijuana is here to stay, how do we approach this issue with kids? What do we do? And, so again, my approach has always been that abstinence would be our best choice, their best choice, but since that doesn't seem to be the reality for many of them, what's the fallback strategy now? What do we do? We can keep telling them no, no, no, no, no. We can punish them. But really, safety ought to be the bottom line, and how do we ensure safety?

So, that's why we at Drug Policy Alliance have created a curriculum for high schools based on the principles of harm reduction which really educates young people about a variety of drug classes, including cannabis, alcohol, and such. And so that they can make informed decisions about whether or not to use these substances, and basically to stay safe. How to stay safe, because for me, safety's always been the bottom line with my children.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, and --

MARSHA ROSENBAUM: So --

DEAN BECKER: Marsha, I, you know, I concur with you, that education is really where it's at, it's the only place where it's really at, is that in so doing, they can make educated choices, yes, and further that as prohibition loses its luster, so to speak, as we move towards a more regimented and truly control these substances, people will know better what they're taking, because I would imagine those kids just took a guess at how much they were ingesting, and it was just way too much for their inexperienced brains. Your thought there, please, Marsha Rosenbaum.

MARSHA ROSENBAUM: Yes. That's -- that's basically probably what happened, and, you know, anybody who's been around at all knows that for fifty plus years, as long as marijuana has been on the scene at all, that you hear people tell stories about how they ate a brownie at a party, and nothing happened, and so they ate another brownie, and, you know, part of the education is how long it takes to metabolize an edible. It takes much longer.

So, and then they have stories about how they couldn't get off the couch. So, this is all part of education.

DEAN BECKER: Yes.

MARSHA ROSENBAUM: It's really simple. It -- you know, ingesting too much cannabis is not a pleasant experience. It's -- we call it dysphoric, and those ten kids in that middle school are not going to do that again.

DEAN BECKER: No.

MARSHA ROSENBAUM: And, so, it's just -- it's just a matter of transforming drug education from the old just say no, punishment, scare tactics, to real, scientifically based, reality based, drug education, is what we're about.

DEAN BECKER: Right. And as I recall now, your article was "Just Say Know", and that --

MARSHA ROSENBAUM: Know. Yeah.

DEAN BECKER: Marsha, I think we need to educate the media as well, because oftentimes, those kids who take too much edibles are considered to be overdose victims, but I don't think that word truly applies in this situation. There's got to be an inbetween word there, don't you think?

MARSHA ROSENBAUM: They took too much. There is no set dose, or dosage. Everybody's different. That's --

DEAN BECKER: I guess what I was trying to get to is that overdose, to me, tends to mean near death experience, and it's just not -- that's not the case.

MARSHA ROSENBAUM: No, definitely not. They were not near death, nor is anybody who takes too much marijuana. You can't get off the couch, and maybe you get sick, but, you know, you're not going to die, so, yeah.

DEAN BECKER: Well, okeh. Anyhow, right. I just thought that overdose was overkill in the description. But anyway, Marsha, I do appreciate your time and, you know, the work of the Drug Policy Alliance is making progress. I like to think we're getting a lot of traction, despite Sessions and Trump and whoever else, because the majority of people just see through this BS, and are starting to react accordingly. Your closing thoughts, Marsha.

MARSHA ROSENBAUM: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the fact that we legalized marijuana in California, sixth largest economy in the world, biggest state in the country, it was a real feat. That shows you that we've made incredible progress. And you, I mean, you see it all over the country. So, yeah, I'm very pleased about that.

Now, if we can just get drug education for teenagers in line with the reality of what's happening, and move to just say know from just say no, then we'll have made real progress.

DEAN BECKER: All right, friends, there you have it. Marsha Rosenbaum of the Drug Policy Alliance. You can learn more truths and what you can do about this drug war on their website, DrugPolicy.org.

Earlier this week, the Dallas Morning News had a story about a judge's ruling on a young woman with autism, and we have another working Texas judge with us to discuss that situation, and the perceptions, the harm reduction, that is beginning to take place, even in states like Texas. With that, I want to welcome Judge John Delaney. Hello, sir.

JOHN DELANEY: Good morning, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you, sir. You got to see that story in the Dallas Morning News. Your thoughts there, please.

JOHN DELANEY: Well, a case that was described -- was about Mark Zartler and his wife, Christy, and one or both of them were seeking legal guardianship over their autistic daughter, who was about to reach her legal majority soon, as I recall.

And one of the impediments to getting the guardianship granted was the fact that they had been treating her autism with some cannabis products. And, obviously, a violation of Texas law and federal law. And the Zartler family had in fact been investigated by Child Protective Services over this, a year or two ago, when the story about their daughter and the cannabis first broke.

And, as related by the news article, the Zartlers were very gratified that the trial judge there in Dallas granted the guardianship, notwithstanding the brush with CPS, and the conflict with state and federal law.

My take on it is, frankly, just another example of courageous parents doing what they think is in the best interest of their child, even if it's in conflict with state or federal law. And a courageous, reasonable judge doing the right thing for the child, notwithstanding potential conflicts with other laws.

DEAN BECKER: And, judge, I felt there was a great deal of, I don't know, resolute belief in what they were doing, these parents in fact had videos online showing the change from use of cannabis and without cannabis, and how it effected the behavior of their daughter.

JOHN DELANEY: Certainly, when you mention the Zartler family, the word courage comes to mind right away. The Zartler family up there in Dallas - Fort Worth is an example of the reality that parents all over the country are experimenting with treatments using cannabis products that are the only thing that give relief to their children, and they are kind of the figurehead, I guess you might say, full of courage, to go public with it, that inspired confidence for others to try.

And someday, when the book is written about the revolution, I think that the Zartlers will be featured somewhere.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. To do so in the state of Texas required a substantial amount of courage and commitment, I've got to agree with you, sir. And it brings to mind the fact that there have been, I don't know, fifteen hundred studies, depends on how you want to count them, how substantial they may have been, but many hundreds of studies have been done on the medical benefits of cannabis, and yet, most politicians are still saying, oh there's not enough information yet, we can't allow things to move forward.

But, families like this prove the point that it does benefit at least some people, and is worthy of respect. Your thought there, judge.

JOHN DELANEY: Well, I couldn't agree more. I'm not an elected official anymore, and I'm certainly not, and never have been, in the legislature. There are substantial hurdles in the Texas Legislature, as you're probably aware, and I'm afraid that we're going to run into those hurdles again in the 2019 session, because we still have the players in place that simply are not willing to vote in substantial reforms to marijuana laws.

DEAN BECKER: No. We certainly have just a few blocking the road, so to speak. I thank you for your thoughts there, judge. We've been speaking with Judge John Delaney, he's a senior district judge in the state of Texas, on the board with me at the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, and a man who has examined this situation, and is also courageous and willing enough to speak in this regard. Thank you, judge.

DENISE CULLEN: Hi, my name's Denise Cullen, and I'm the co-founder of Broken No More, which is an advocacy organization to help change the failed drug policies that are effecting so many areas of society, and are hugely impacting the incredible opioid overdose epidemic.

We started this in 2009, after our own child, Jeff, died of an overdose after struggling with addiction for 12 years. He overdosed one time, and that was the last time. So, we, along with a lot of people that have come on board with us have been working to do a lot of things to change the mind, which is at the root of all the issues of policy, if you don't care about the people then you're not going to change the laws, because those people don't matter.

Everybody matters, and as we know, in recent years, the drugs that are out there are being more powerful and more impactful, and are killing people before they're -- they've even -- it doesn't -- my son died over three to four hours of an overdose of two, an opiate and a benzo, and now, people are dying immediately, because of the -- they don't know what they're getting, they have no idea what they're getting because of prohibition.

So, we're really kind of panicked about that, and doing some, with other organizations, we're trying to get harm reduction techniques in place, getting naloxone out there even more than before, and fentanyl test strips, and doing education as much as we can to not only the people that use but their families and people who would not like to have this in their area, period.

The other part of what we do is GRASP, Grief Recovery After Substance Passing. We provide face to face support groups for anybody who's lost anybody that they care about to drug use of any kind.

And these groups are peer led. We have about 120 across the United States and in Canada, and a very, very active Facebook closed group, so that there's someone there almost all the time.

In a year and a half period, we went from 3,000 members to 7,000, because of this opioid overdose epidemic. We're trying to just teach people about language in both areas, about language and stigma and how the things that a lot of people think make sense in the current drug war are the exact things that make the situation worse.

We're trying to help other people save their kids. It's too late for us, for my son, and for many of the people I work with, they don't have children, some don't even have grandchildren, but we're trying to make a difference.

And we have a lot of other organizations that we partner with and that work with us, in conjunction with and have the same ideas, and that's always helpful.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Denise, you know, just to kind of throw in a little side point, and that is, president Trump and my local sheriff all agree on one thing, that there are those who benefit from medical marijuana. And we have a new awakening taking place now, more and more politicians at every level are beginning to recognize that someone they know, someone in their family, on their block, is dying, is being impacted by these drugs, as you say, that are of unknown quality, are dying.

DENISE CULLEN: Yes. Any less harm you can do, with someone that's using drugs, is helpful. If someone, say the, you know, the scariest scenario that your child or your loved one is injecting drugs, and they're doing it seven times a day. If you can get them to do it five times a day, or four times a day, that equals harm reduction. It may not seem like much, but it is something, you know.

Any little step is helpful in trying to get somebody who's doing something, and especially if they don't want to be doing it, to improve their life and the lives of those around them by doing it more safely and -- physically safely, and for the community.

So, harm reduction effects people who use drugs in so many ways. But as I was saying, we can't get to that until we get a culture shift of people paying attention and realizing that these are human beings.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah.

DENISE CULLEN: And that their lives are worth saving, they're not trash to be thrown away.

DEAN BECKER: Oh my, so true, so true. Well, we're going to Lisbon, Portugal. We're going to study their -- their ways of doing things, their way that has lowered their incidence of death and disease, and has led more people to treatment, to leading productive lives.

DENISE CULLEN: Right.

DEAN BECKER: Your thoughts there please.

DENISE CULLEN: I don't know why we haven't done this before, and I don't know why right now, when there's this idiocy conversation going on about, in the Trump administration, about what to do about our drug problem. I don't know why no one's mentioned that, they just want to keep going backwards and do the same things that cause so much trouble.

So, learning about that and coming back and having a lot of press and media and all of our organizations talking about it, you know, in social media and everywhere, will help, because a lot of people don't even know that this exists, that it's an 18 year long program that's providing almost everything that we need. It's not perfect.

DEAN BECKER: No.

DENISE CULLEN: And I'm excited to go there to see firsthand how they do what they do, and, you know, we've all read a lot about it, and it's like a no brainer. Not only is the crime rate down, but the addiction rate is down. People are not getting addicted, and when they go, they -- when they are, and they want help, there's treatment for them, on demand, and free.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah.

DENISE CULLEN: And the harm reduction work that they're doing is amazing. That's what I mean about the culture shift. What I've read and seen about Portugal is that everybody has to be on board. It's -- you can't have that not in my back yard thing, and make this happen right.

And they need -- they need more, they need -- they're not the ideal place, but, compared to us, it's like nirvana. They --

DEAN BECKER: Yeah.

DENISE CULLEN: I'm telling you, you can't get any better, and people are treated like they're, you know, people of value, and that changed pretty quickly. They just changed their language, and the doctors are involved in giving out the medication treatment, and they have these women they call the needle ladies, they're psychologists but they're on the streets, and they're welcomed, and they treat people, and they have relationships with them, and they treat them with respect, so they come to them.

It's not just an issue of, you know, handing out needles, it's an issue of having people be comfortable with you, and want to come back and talk to you, and say one day they want to stop injecting, and then, that's their entrée to more services.

So we do have some of those things here, but, the incarceration is one of the biggest parts, to me, because that just puts people on a revolving door of never being able to manage to have a life after that. And they, since they decriminalized it, they'll, you know, fine or ask you to go to treatment, but people are not looked at as criminals, and as bad people.

DEAN BECKER: No. Denise, you know, you mentioned that people say, oh, we don't want it in my back yard, but the truth be told, it is already in everyone's back yard.

DENISE CULLEN: Right.

DEAN BECKER: There is opiate use and abuse in every neighborhood in America, whether they want to realize it or not.

DENISE CULLEN: Exactly. And that's why the safe injection facilities and consumption rooms are so important. People complain about trash and about having people injecting in bad places, and they're injecting in those places anyway, and if we had these facilities, then people would be safe, the community would be safe, everything would be clean, if someone overdosed there's people there to help them and they won't die.

And, I mean, it seems to make so much sense, and I know we're close to that in some areas.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah.

DENISE CULLEN: So, things have changed a lot since I've been doing this work.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh. Well, Denise, I thank you for your thoughts, and your efforts, and your commitment to solving this problem. Would you please share your website with the listeners?

DENISE CULLEN: Sure. Broken No More is Broken-No-More.org. And GRASP is GRASPHELP.org. That's GRASPHELP.org.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Thank you so much. I --

DENISE CULLEN: Okeh, thanks, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Bye bye.

DENISE CULLEN: See you in a few days. Bye.

DEAN BECKER: You bet. Yeah.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects!

COMMERCIAL ANNOUNCER NUMBER ONE: When you have insomnia, it may affect the wake neurotransmitters in your brain.

COMMERCIAL ANNOUNCER NUMBER TWO: Do not take Belsomra if you have narcolepsy. When taking Belsomra, don't drive or operate heavy machinery until you feel fully awake. Walking, eating, driving, or engaging in other activities while asleep, without remembering it the next day, have been reported. Belsomra should not be taken together with alcohol. Abnormal behaviors may include aggressiveness, confusion, agitation, or hallucinations.

DEAN BECKER: Time's up. Here's some advice from the manufacturer.

COMMERCIAL ANNOUNCER NUMBER ONE: Ask your doctor about Belsomra.

DEAN BECKER: You know, it's seldom that I get this specific, but I want you to get out a pencil, paper, I want you to write down this date: May 10 through 12. I want you to go to Jersey, New Jersey, and attend a conference where you can become more knowledgeable about the benefits of cannabis.

Get your tickets now. Save some bucks.

You know, once a year, I get the chance to meet up with a lot of experts, doctors, scientists, patients, providers, folks who understand marijuana, medical marijuana, folks who have devoted much of their lives to making things better for all of us. I get to attend the Patients Out of Time conference. This year's going to be in Jersey City, New Jersey. I've got to make my travel arrangements and save some money on airfare, but I'm proud to be speaking with one of the directors of this organization, who's going to tell us all about it, nurse Mary Lynn Mathre. How are you doing, Mary Lynn?

MARY LYNN MATHRE: I'm doing great. So good to hear from you again.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I mean, fill us in, you know the details, I'm just excited to, as I say, attend and meet all you guys again.

MARY LYNN MATHRE: Well, thanks, Dean. Yeah, this will be the Twelfth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, and the theme we've chosen is a little bit similar to last year's conference in Berkeley, but it's "Cannabis: Relieves Pain, Treats Addiction," and as you can imagine, it's because we still have this terrible opioid overdose epidemic.

You know, and it's so frustrating. We hear about it on the news, hear about trying to get patients into methadone clinics or doctors to prescribe Suboxone, or get patients and their families some Narcan to reverse the effects of an overdose, and yet on the national discourse they aren't saying anything about cannabis.

But the science is really clear, that cannabis is really good for chronic pain. Patients who use it, as we learned from a study by Marcus Bachhuber a couple of years ago, in states that have used cannabis, they've seen an almost 25 percent lower incidence of opioid overdoses, because the patients are going to cannabis rather than using hard narcotics for their chronic pain.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and Mary Lynn, this, it's exemplary of the truth. It's sneaking out of Colorado, it's coming forth from California, it's growing out of Oregon, it's hitting those local media outlets, it's sneaking on the NBC, ABC, it's becoming recognized by more and more people, because it's so powerful, the message that it helps for these terrible situations.

MARY LYNN MATHRE: It really is, and that's our goal here. It's funny, I was -- I was talking to someone the other day about, they were just saying something about, boy, you've been working on this a long time, and I said, you know, when I got interested in it, I was actually nursing for about ten years, and I had gone back to school to get my master's degree, and I did my survey on disclosure of patients use of marijuana, back then when I called it marijuana.

And I was saying, and the survey was about, would they admit to use with their -- to their physician or a nurse taking care of them. But the -- what was funny was, I was reminding them, when I did that, back in the '80s, at that time, the computers we had to do that, you know, it was the binary coding, you either put a zero or a one in for your answers.

You know, I'm thinking, oh my god, look at how long ago that was. And now we're not only everybody's got their own laptop computers, and, you know, you can do anything you want on them, surveywise, but, everybody's got a cell phone, and, you know, and they're interacting all the time, and that, you know, that's going -- that's stopping this silence.

Too many people are talking. We're finding out the truth about cannabis, and it's good to see that most Americans understand it.

DEAN BECKER: Well, today, I have an interview with a Texas judge who's been following a case here in Texas where a couple were providing medical cannabis for their autistic daughter. The state was considering whether or not to take that daughter and put her into, you know, Child Protective Services.

But the judge determined that those two, her mother and father, were the best possible guardians. There was no mention made of their courage or their commitment, they put their story on the web, and succeeded, because that truth, again, it's trickling into the brains of judges and representatives and senators. It's -- it's gaining traction, thanks to good folks like you.

You know, I want to bring folks back to the conference, the Twelfth National Conference, Jersey City, as I understand it, it's about 15 minutes by car from New York City, and it's going to be held in what looks to be a very beautiful Loew's Jersey Theater, one of the original elaborate, multi-tiered theaters that's been restored to a great bit of beauty. Going to have a lot of room for exhibitors, and all the hundreds of folks that tune into these conferences.

Tell us a little bit about the venue, please, Mary Lynn.

MARY LYNN MATHRE: Yeah, the theater does provide a really great location, and part of it being that it's a historic theater. We thought a little bit of this is going to be bringing in the history of cannabis. You know, it's been around so long. I'm sure people who went to the theater when it was first out there probably were using cannabis as medicine back then, when it was well known as a medicine.

But, in addition to that, we're going to have our benefit dinner in the -- in the old, historic railroad station, that literally ends right at the Hudson. So Jersey City, as you said, it's short from New York City, it's literally under the tunnel, so the view is New York City. It's kind of like how I like to view it.

DEAN BECKER: From a distance, yeah.

MARY LYNN MATHRE: From a distance, but it's a beautiful, beautiful view, beautiful venue. And once again, we've got some, you know, top researchers. I think many folks have heard the name Ethan Russo, who's --

DEAN BECKER: Doctor Ethan Russo, yes.

MARY LYNN MATHRE: Yeah, a wealth of information. He's the one that's introduced the concept of the endocannabinoid deficiency, which is, we're finding out many things, fibromyalgia, and many other disorders could literally be a result of a deficiency in our own body's endocannabinoid system.

But, we've got -- the other, another exciting speaker we've got is Staci Gruber, Doctor Gruber, from New York, has been studying the brains of cannabis users for over 20 years, primarily recreational users, but more recently she's been looking at folks who've used it for medical purposes, and I think her findings are going to surprise some folks. You know, but basically try to relieve fears of brain damage because of cannabis use.

DEAN BECKER: Well --

MARY LYNN MATHRE: That's more of a -- of a, you know, a myth.

DEAN BECKER: And, I wanted to address that for a moment. It seems that with every change in marijuana laws, they -- they put aside a little section that makes it different, makes it different from pharmaceuticals, or alcohol, or any other drug, that somehow marijuana's still suspect. That somehow, it needs more control than a bottle of Jack Daniels, and I just -- that's reefer madness, it's clinging to life as best it can. Am I right?

MARY LYNN MATHRE: You are. You know, and it -- you know, it's different in that it's a plant. And we're using this botanical medicine, and because of that, it's got a lot of different chemicals in it. And so they -- they're afraid of it, we don't know it, and it's hard to do a random controlled double-blind, placebo controlled study with this plant that could be in many, many different formulations, you know, depending on the constituents.

But, the main thing is, this is an old plant, and it has been studied more than anything else to find the harm, and it just is not harmful. It just does not compete with many of the pharmaceuticals out there today.

And I would challenge the listeners out there to just listen to any TV ad, and you -- listen to those commercials for pharmaceuticals, and they paint a pretty picture, but then, you know, they're listing all the warning signs, you know, be careful, it could cause liver damage or kidney damage, or suicidal or homicidal ideation, or don't use if you're pregnant, don't use if you're on these other meds, don't use if you have, you know, a heart problem.

It goes on and on, and here's cannabis, and people are trying desperately -- I shouldn't say people, the government, trying desperately to continue to instill fear, that something terrible's going to happen, and nothing terrible's going to happen. If there's any negative, it's very temporary, and minor.

DEAN BECKER: Hey, compared to the crazy things, these pharmaceuticals can do, and yeah, I do a segment on this show, Name That Drug By Its Side Effects, because it's just -- it's just so crazy. Once again, we're speaking with Mary Lynn Mathre, one of the directors of Patients Out of Time, got a great conference coming up here in just a short while. I'd urge you to make your reservations for airfare now. I'm going to do mine right after this interview to save me some bucks.

But it's going to be in Jersey City, New Jersey. What airport would we fly into there, Mary Lynn?

MARY LYNN MATHRE: You know, I think any of them are good. There's Newark, JFK, LaGuardia, all have pretty easy transportation over there to Jersey City. It's right on public transit, so it's very easy to get to, and you're right -- that's one of the things we liked about it, was easy for folks to get to, as well as train, by train, for folks in the New England area or the east coast, might want to take -- even take the train.

And I didn't say anything but it's May Tenth through Twelfth, if I didn't say that already.

DEAN BECKER: Right. May 10 through 12. I'm really looking forward to it, and to seeing you again, just all the great folks, the knowledge that I gather there, the interviews I'm able to obtain, and I think about it this way, Mary Lynn. I've been smoking over 50 years now. I don't know why they don't study me.

You know, I have been a roofer, a carpenter, I was a machinist, I was a machine inspector, I became an auditor, a project analyst. Last job I had, major job, was a hundred million dollar oversight of a project in Nigeria. And I did a good job, I had teams of CPAs working for me, even though I've never had one hour of accounting in college.

And I guess, what I'm trying to say here is that marijuana did not deprive me of the ability to function as a, you know, a human being, as a mature individual, as a contributor to society. And, I just think that the reefer madness has got to die. It's like the vampires, you've got to drag it out into the sunlight, I suppose. Your closing thoughts, Mary Lynn.

MARY LYNN MATHRE: Well, I couldn't agree with you more, and one thing that I've been really trying to help people understand is, it's not to push this on people, but cannabis really is for everyone. To start with, they might want to think of it literally as a green leafy vegetable, to start putting in their diet, and one -- I discovered recently that Whole Foods in Florida actually was selling baby hemp leaves and kale in the vegetable department.

But, you know, it provides the essential building blocks we need to stay healthy, and that's the whole purpose of the endocannabinoid system, you know, so it's -- this is something to help maintain your health, and then for those who are sick, you know, the use of medical cannabis literally is something that is a very healing botanical medicine.

So, last closing words would be for folks to please check out PatientsOutOfTime.org, or MedicalCannabis.com, to find more information about our conference, and I sure hope to see folks there. And if they can't make it, if anything, try to encourage their healthcare professional to come. We're, you know, trying to wake folks up. If your own healthcare professional isn't on top of, you know, the new research about the human body, they're missing some vital information in taking care of you.

DEAN BECKER: One of those I'm certain you'll meet at the Patients Out of Time conference is a gentleman you've probably seen on TV countless times, NBC, Fox, wherever. He's one of just a couple of folks left who are part of the compassionate use act that was cancelled back by George the first, but he receives 300 pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes that pass through the DEA and are delivered by the US Postal Service every 28 days.

You see, this gentleman has a debilitating bone disorder, and is a stockbroker who has I think made millions of dollars, had a very successful career, but he smokes ten joints a day provided by the US government, prescribed, not recommended, but prescribed, by his doctor. His name is Irvin Rosenfeld.

IRV ROSENFELD: About three years ago, the urban league in Overtown, or Miami Gardens, I forget which, had a what happens if marijuana passes in Florida, what happens to the kids? And it was like a town hall meeting, but it was an all day Saturday meeting.

DEAN BECKER: Wow.

IRV ROSENFELD: And this is a black area, and so, there were ten of us that went that were white.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh.

IRV ROSENFELD: Okeh. Including the person with NORML, and I had called them in advance about letting me speak, and they said, no, it's all been set, you know, the speakers, and who was giving the keynote speaker at lunch? Calvina Faye.

DEAN BECKER: Wow. It should be noted that Calvina Faye is the executive director of Drug Free America Foundation and of Save Our Society From Drugs (SOS). We continued.

IRV ROSENFELD: Yes. So, okeh, but they wouldn't let me speak. I tried, but they wouldn't let me. They said, but Irvin, we're going to let everybody ask questions, and we're going to give you five minutes to plead your case.

DEAN BECKER: Right, all right, right.

IRV ROSENFELD: So we're going to give you a little time, you know, so don't worry about it, you know? Okeh, so we go down there, and sure enough, they had a judge who was in favor of kids helping kids out, I mean, they had both sides, they really did. And they had a cop, they had a cop that was -- school cops and everything else, you know, talking about it, and even the cops that spoke that were against, you know, using marijuana, against medical marijuanan.

DEAN BECKER: Right.

IRV ROSENFELD: The point was, is you could ask them questions, and they answered them. I mean, it was a good give and take. I may be on one side, you may be on another, but let me hear your reason, I'll give you my reason. It was great. It was fine. Okeh?

So, now, lunch comes, and there's like 200 people in the room, and they're going to serve Subway sandwiches for lunch, and who was the speaker but Calvina Faye. Well, she starts talking and giving her, you know, her Powerpoint presentation.

DEAN BECKER: During lunch?

IRV ROSENFELD: And she was going -- yeah, during lunch.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah.

IRV ROSENFELD: Well, people had gotten to go to Subway and most of them left, okeh? Like a hundred fifty to two hundred people left after they got their Subway sandwich. But the point was, again, I was trying to be very good.

DEAN BECKER: Right.

IRV ROSENFELD: And she made a statement that no one has a prescription for marijuana in the United States. I jumped up, I pulled out my bag, and again here were all the policemen from Miami and everything else there. I jumped up, I pulled out my bag, I said, here is my prescription for marijuana. You do not have a prescription for marijuana, yes I do, from the University of Miami, here it is. Okeh?

You're wrong, as wrong about this as everything else you've said. So now the guy who was six foot five who's in charge of Urban League said Irvin, sit down. You know, hand out, sit down, okeh. So, I sat down. I sat down.

So now she finishes speaking, and now it's time for questions. And of course, a lot of people raised their hands, including me, and who does he call on first but me? You know? Okeh, so now, I go to ask my question, he goes, no Irvin, we only have one mic, it's up front. Why don't you go up front with Calvina Faye and talk to her, you know, directly, and ask her your question.

DEAN BECKER: Wow.

IRV ROSENFELD: Okeh? Okeh? You know, so, I go up front, you know, I said, Ms. Faye, I said, you know, you said it has all these detrimental blah blah blah blah blah, how do you explain me, the federal patient? She said, I don't have to take this, and ran out of the room. Okeh?

And I looked at the guy from Urban League, I said that's your keynote speaker? I said, I told you -- I told him that was going to happen, you know, and that's, you know, but the point was, everybody else, even against us, was really cordial, I mean, it was a great meeting. It really was. I mean, you know, I gave my opinion, and if the people were against me, it wasn't that the booed or whatever, that was my opinion, they respected it, and vice versa. I mean, I just -- but not Calvina Faye.

DEAN BECKER: She couldn't [unintelligible] her BS, that's it, man.

IRV ROSENFELD: Exactly, exactly.

DEAN BECKER: Again, that was Irvin Rosenfeld, one of a few people, couple or three I think left that still get marijuana provided by the US government because of their participation in the compassionate use act. Irv gets 300 joints in a big tin every 28 days. He's a stockbroker in Florida. He's author of My Medicine. And he's a reason you ought to come to the Patients Out of Time conference. It's going to be in Jersey, New Jersey, May 10 through 12.

PHIL SMITH: This is Phil Smith with the Drug War Chronicle, that's a publication out of a small nonprofit called StopTheDrugWar.org. I'm also the editor of the AlterNet Drug Reporter, providing coverage of drug culture and drug policy and all that good stuff.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Phil, you know, the news, it's like the biggest wishy washy thing in the world right now, as far as drug policy. We've got Trump saying one thing and Sessions saying another, we've got senators calling for change, we've got congressmen calling for no change, we've got people wanting to re-institute asset forfeiture like it was ten years ago, and yet we've got people talking about there's too many people dying and we've got to do something about it.

Your response to that summation there. It is really a mixed bag at the moment, isn't it?

PHIL SMITH: It is a mixed bag. One thing I would point out is that there's an awful lot going on at the state level. You know, what goes on in Washington is important symbolically. It's also important in terms of federal drug policy and drug prosecutions. But we have to remember that the feds only account for a very tiny percentage of overall drug arrests and drug war.

So while it's disappointing to see things like president Trump talking about executing drug dealers, I, you know, I don't worry that much about what he mouths off on any given day, because there's such a disconnect between his mouth and actual policy most of the time.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I would agree with that, and, you know, it's true that at the state level, even at the local level, the city level, there are -- there are cities that are wanting to decriminalize drugs, even if the states haven't done so as yet.

PHIL SMITH: Places like Baton Rouge.

DEAN BECKER: Ann Arbor, Michigan was among the first to do that, if I recall.

PHIL SMITH: Well, Ann Arbor decriminalized marijuana way back, almost 50 years ago now. But, you know, we're seeing this pop up in places like Baton Rouge now, and Jackson, Mississippi. These aren't exactly, you know, places you think of when you think of progressive cutting edge drug policy, but there it is.

DEAN BECKER: Well, even my city of Houston. We just celebrated the one year anniversary of our Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program, which has kept thousands of kids from getting that permanent black mark on their record, and from having to go to jail and pay bondsmen and all of that crap. So, it is catching on.

PHIL SMITH: And I also want to mention that we're seeing progress in terms of de-felonization of drug offenses. You know, it's one thing to decriminalize weed, that's good, you know, it's a nice step towards legalization, but it's another thing to actually decriminalize possession of methamphetamine or heroin or other hard drugs, and that's actually going on in some states now, including places like California, which did it through a popular initiative a few years ago, and Oregon, which did it through the state legislature last year. But also surprisingly Oklahoma, which did it through a voter initiative last year. Go figure.

DEAN BECKER: Well, yes, and again, my fair city of, I don't think there's an exact, a specific amount, but for minor amounts of, you know, the near empty bag of heroin, or whatever, they are tending to just toss that out the window.

PHIL SMITH: They used to charge those trace amounts, and that was just absurd.

DEAN BECKER: Up to, I think it was one one-hundredth of a gram could get, and again that's scraping the bottom of the bag, you know, that's --

PHIL SMITH: Literally.

DEAN BECKER: -- shaking it and beating it up to get that much out of it. But they've stopped that here in Houston, which again is a sign of intelligence, if you ask me. And --

PHIL SMITH: Yes.

DEAN BECKER: And, which brings to mind, there's a nation that has, I think it's for 18 years now, gone a different route than the mass incarceration of the United States, and tht is Portugal, and they have made some changes that are really impacting lives and livelihoods there in their country, and you and I are going there just next week. Let's talk about Portugal.

PHIL SMITH: Very exciting, Dean, I look forward to this trip. I've been watching Portugal from afar for low these many years since they decriminalized the possession of all drugs back in the year 2000. They've had very good results with that. They have drug use levels that are roughly the same as the rest of Europe. But they also have like the lowest rates of HIV transmission among people who are shooting up. They have very low drug overdose rates. They have better health consequences for drug users.

And one big thing they don't have is spending a whole lot of money on arresting and imprisoning people. So, this is very exciting. I look forward to talking with the people who are behind these programs. We're going to have a chance to meet them when we're over there, as well as seeing some of these programs at work, and hopefully we can take some of the lessons we learn in Portugal and come back here and begin trying to apply them in the United States.

DEAN BECKER: Well, that is my hope, to bring back the hows and whys we should do this to my local officials, to the state officials, to diminish the problems caused by drug prohibition, because folks need to realize, most of the problems about quote "drugs" have nothing to do with drugs. They have more to do with the mechanism of prohibition, and Portugal has certainly done that.

I'm really proud of the fact that, thanks to Mister Lucas Wiessing and the good folks at the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction, I will be speaking to them in a meeting there at their headquarters on March 19. It's the biggest step I've ever taken here as a reporter or an activist, and I'm really thrilled and excited and scared all at the same time to be addressing these people who have figured it out already.

PHIL SMITH: Don't you have some other travels planned along with this -- along with this trip to Lisbon.

DEAN BECKER: Going to Zurich and to Bern, Switzerland, to visit their heroin injection sites and speak to a couple of the doctors and scientists there as well.

PHIL SMITH: Well, I also am going to places beside Lisbon in Portugal. I'm going to fly into Barcelona, and drive across the Iberian peninsula. Now, Spain has decriminalized marijuana possession. They also have social use clubs in Barcelona. I may try to check those out. Though I understand you're supposed to be a member to be able to actually purchase weed there. We'll see how that works.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Well, I'm -- well, typically when I travel in the -- no, I ain't going to say that.

PHIL SMITH: You have the right to remain silent, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, we do. We do, I'd best do it. Well, you know, Phil, it's -- it is exciting that -- it is exciting that we get this opportunity to learn from them how to go about this. And I think just having that, another arrow in our quiver, another bit of knowledge that we can share, that we can refute the BS that comes from the prohibitionists who just lie for a living.

PHIL SMITH: Well, that's right. Portugal is a country that has actually enacted serious drug reforms, largely removed law enforcement from the equation, and this is not a theory. This is practice. It's been happening for 18 years. And it's working pretty damn well. And it's, you know, much less expensive than spending billions and billions of dollars on cops and prisons.

DEAN BECKER: Yep. Well, very true. Well, friends, we've been speaking with Mister Phil Smith of AlterNet and Stop The Drug War. Phil, some closing thoughts, and if you want to share a website with the listeners.

PHIL SMITH: Sure. If you want to check out what I write, go to AlterNet.org/drugs, and StopTheDrugWar.org/chronicle.

DEAN BECKER: Earlier in the show, Mister Irv Rosenfeld was talking about he drove Calvina Faye, the executive director of Drug Free America Foundation, off the stage down in Florida. And she sets an example of how her and all her like minded prohibitionists, the ferret fornicating, evil mothers that they are, have never come on my program because they're cowards. I don't think they ever will, and I remind you once again, because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag? Please be careful. Come on, sue me, Calvina.

To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacifica Radio Network. Archives are permanently stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. And we are all still tap dancing on the edge an abyss.

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