08/20/17 Betty Aldworth

Live from Seattle, it's Part One of our special coverage of Hempfest 2017! We talk with Betty Aldworth about her new project #JustSayNoToHate, plus words from Tim Pate, Sharon Whitson, Elvy Musikka, Vivian McPeak, Ben Livingston, and Big Mike.

Century of Lies
Sunday, August 20, 2017
Betty Aldworth
Download: Audio icon col082017.mp3



AUGUST 20, 2017


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

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

Got a lot for you this week, starting with a friend, she's a longtime drug policy reform and harm reduction activist who's the executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Betty Aldworth.

There's an upcoming event, one of these major Cannabis World Business Expo things, that has as its keynote speaker a man named Roger Stone, Junior. Roger Stone is notorious, one might say, because he was a Reagan worker, but beyond that, he is an unabashed apologist for the current president. He has earned a lot of enmity among decent people.

So, earlier this week, Amanda Reiman, PhD, a professor, a good friend of the program, publicly withdrew this conference, citing concerns over Stone and not wanting to be seen to be associated with his particular politics. Stone was a keynote speaker at this event. Sorry for the noise, loud, but we're outside of the VIP party. It's Friday night, and what can I say?

Shortly after that, Mara Gordon, who's a well known cannabis activist and business person also withdrew from the program. Then recently Jesce Horton from the Minority Cannabis Business Association has withdrawn from that expo. So, that leads to me talking to Betty Aldworth. Betty, what were you doing today?

BETTY ALDWORTH: Today, I got to take a day off from organizing activists, which is how I usually spend my days, to actually do some hands on activism myself, working with Amanda and a handful of other extraordinary women: Wanda James, Shaleen Title, Lauren Padgett, and Leia Heise, to develop a very specific action for the Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo to oppose Roger Stone's presence by encouraging people to either -- you know, if they have to go, to engage in some direct action while they're there, and if they are able, if that's the choice that they'd like to make, to withdraw from participation in the conference.

We wound up with a, you know, a large number of supporters, speakers and sponsors, on the sign-on letter that we created, to --

DOUG MCVAY: Hold on, hold on, hold on. Sorry for that, but a train just interrupted us, so.

BETTY ALDWORTH: So, you know, we started a private conversation a couple of days ago, really frustrated with the situation, and decided to take the matter into our own hands and develop an action. I'm really delighted to say that we've received a great deal of support from the cannabis industry, and let's be very specific about this. Roger Stone has for many, many, many years, made comments that are so incendiary, so inflammatory, personally attacking women, people of color, Jews, members of the LGTIQ community, and others, that are so offensive and horrifying and dehumanizing that he is not even allowed on CNN. He's been banned from CNN for years.

And, listen, I'm as much of an advocate for free speech as anybody else. However that doesn't mean we need to give everybody a platform. And in the cannabis community, what we're doing here is trying to undo some of the harms of the war on drugs. The war on drugs is an unabashedly racist. The war on drugs, which has been used to marginalize precisely those people who Roger Stone marginalizes on the day to day.

And we released an open letter this afternoon to the CWCBE to ask them to not give Roger Stone that platform, and to let them know that if they choose to go through with that, that there will be direct action at their conference, and that there will be people standing up for what is right and decent in this world, which is equity, which is human rights and respect, and this man has undermined all of those values, all of those values that we should hold so dearly in the cannabis community, for decades.

So, I got to do a bunch of work today around putting that action together. We released it this afternoon. I hope that folks will head to twitter or facebook to search for the hashtag #JustSayNoToHate [note: also the hashtag #DisownStone], and you will find our petition. You can sign on as a cannabis consumer, as a member of the community, as a stakeholder here in what we're creating together, and, you know, make sure that people understand that the cannabis community ought to represent those values.

DOUG MCVAY: And all drug policy reform. I mean, it's -- it's like I said earlier on Main Stage, the -- we are part and parcel of the social justice movement, we're the bastard child of the social justice movement, but, it's okeh that it's not a specific drug policy thing, because there's a reason we're doing the drug policy. It's not an end of itself. We're not in this to go into business and we're not in this because we want to get high. It's because it's a real issue, and it needs to be addressed, and it's -- it's times like that, it's things like this, I think, that kind of define that. Your thoughts on my rambles.

BETTY ALDWORTH: Yeah, you know, I think you're right, Doug, like, you know, no matter what it is that brings us to this community, it might be about liberty, it might be about human rights, it might be about justice, it might be about racial justice, no matter what it is that brings us to this community, with just the tiniest bit of investigation, we're going to figure that we've got to center our work around racial justice. We've got to make sure that we are centering our work around those who are most harmed by the war on drugs.

And, you know, the cannabis industry, for all of its challenges and complications, receives an enormous pulpit from which they get to talk to people about cannabis, and about how they want to build their industry. I don't think that it is unreasonable to demand that this industry, which is a gift from the activists who were here doing this work, you know, which is a byproduct, a complicated byproduct of human rights work, fundamentally.

I think it's incumbent on us to hold that industry accountable to the values that brought them there, that brought them here to where they are today. And that's what this is about. This is about making sure that people who espouse hate, people who, you know, regularly use the n-word and the c-word to describe prominent, brilliant members of communities who are speaking up for other people's rights, those people don't deserve a platform in our space. They just don't.

And, you know, I think that we need to have a vibrant airing of, you know, ideas, discussions that are challenging, where we, you know, where we talk to each other and, you know, may or may not convince each other of our ideas and the reasons why we're here, our values and the rest of it. All of those conversations should absolutely be taking place and I'm not asking everybody to agree with us. I'm not asking everybody to agree with me. But what I am asking is that we don't give space for hate.

DOUG MCVAY: Again folks, been speaking with Betty Aldworth. You have several affiliations, but for the purpose of this interview, it's #JustSayNoToHate.


DOUG MCVAY: People can find that, do you have a facebook thing too, or just on twitter?

BETTY ALDWORTH: Yes, facebook or twitter, just search that, it's a coalition of folks who are trying to do what's right and decent around this, and certainly plenty of members of my organization, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, are supporting this. This is an individual effort, where people, whether they be individual activists, whether they be cannabis consumers, leaders in the movement, leaders in the industry, or people who get to make decisions for their companies, are signing on to say that they won't stand for hate in this community.

DOUG MCVAY: Betty, thank you so much. #JustSayNoToHate. Make that go trending.

That was a conversation with Betty Aldworth, her new project to get the cannabis industry to live up to the values and the ideals of the marijuana legalization movement that created it. And that project is #JustSayNoToHate.

[sic: and also #DisownStone, plus there's an online petition at https://www.change.org/p/create-an-inclusive-cannabis-community-disownstone ]

You're listening to Century of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. This week's show comes to you live from Seattle Hempfest, and for the moment the Green Tortoise Hostel.

It's an amazing event, incredibly energizing, it's such a powerful thing, and it's an honor to be able to bring you some of it This next bit was Friday afternoon, Main Stage, first speaker is Hempfest director Vivian McPeak, he'll do the introductions.

VIVIAN MCPEAK: We are missing two stages, we're missing the 19 year Seeley Stage this year, and the EDM Starborne Stage as well, so, we're hurting, man, because nobody's putting money in the donation bins. Seven hundred fifty thousand bucks this costs to give it to you for free, and we've done it 25 years, so please kick down.

You know, Tim Pate is the guy that's been up here for over 20 years, with me, showing you what he's going to raffle off to all you guys, for almost nothing. But he's not talking about that right now, because my brother's talking his other truth. Give it up to Seattle Hempfest Core Member Tim Pate!

TIM PATE: Thank you. Thank you, Vivian, very much. Hello, folks. I have been with Seattle Hempfest for a really, really long time, since 1995, actually. Before that I ran the rock medicine team for the Grateful Dead, from '88 until Jerry died in 1995. So this makes 30 years in a row that I've been helping put on some kind of public festival or another, and it's my privilege to help raise money, and do all the things that I've tried to do over the years, but that's not what I want to stand here to tell you about right now.

I live in Oregon, just a little ways down the road right here. For the last five and a half years, I have been serving on the administrative rules committee for industrial hemp for the state of Oregon. I helped write the current regulations that govern our laws in Oregon.

Now, I'm an old long-haired hippie, worked for the Grateful f-----' Dead, and I know that they didn't expect me to show up and be sitting next to the head of the Oregon State Police Drug Enforcement Division, in committee with me. You know? And our state senators, in committee with me. And our Congressman, appointing me to the committee. But here I am, and I'm an old man in the committee. And everyone there pays attention to me because I'm the only one who walked in the room and understood what hemp was all about anyway.

You know, and so, now, five and a half years later, we in Oregon have the most progressive, available to a farmer, regulations in the United States. So, two years ago, we had eleven farmers give applications to grow hemp. And we had at least five different acres growing in Oregon. Last year, we had 75 acres. This year, we have 200 applications and 3,000 acres of industrial hemp growing in Oregon.

Now I've got to tell you, you can see that, if that was charted out, that would be exponential growth. And we ain't stopping there, I promise you, we are not going to stop, because we know that industrial hemp has the ability to grow so much more available raw material for us to work with than any forest in the northwest United States. And even though they are the most productive forests on the planet, they don't even hold a candle to industrial hemp.

So, what we're going to do is we're going to make non-toxic building materials out of industrial hemp. And we're not going to stop, because I know there are people who would love to have houses that are not toxic to them. And I think that's a very important thing. When you have the ability to change the world, even though it's just you, take that chance.

That's why I'm here, to say that to you right now. I took that chance years ago, when the Congressman said, would you like to be on this committee, and I said yeah, I do. I will. Abraham Lincoln said, a long time ago, that the best way to create the future is to change it yourself.

And that's what you have to do. I'm asking everyone of you here, because I'm an old man, I'm tired, I've been raising money a long time, I don't know how much more I can do this. I need you to step in and do it for me soon. I need you to become the activist that you really want to be. I want you to show all of your friends why this is important to you, and never quit, never give up, never think that we can't be victorious, because we have been, and will always remain on the right side of this question.

If it's a moral question, trust me, you are on the right side of morality, what you're doing right now, just the fact that you are here. I want to say thank you, I want to say god bless you, and I want to say keep up the good work, because your presence shows you believe in what we are doing. So thank you very much.

VIVIAN MCPEAK: My good brother Tim Pate.

Ben Livingston is CEO of Canna Zoning, is a dedicated activist for cannabis for over 20 years. Ben was the yard sign coordinator for Washington's 1998 medical cannabis initiative, and the treasurer of Seattle I-75, that made marijuana the city's lowest police priority. He co-founded an activist cooperative focused on sending courtroom observers to cannabis trials. In 2013, the city issued him the first ever permit for a cannabis consumption space at Seattle Center. He wrote the pot column for The Stranger, reviews vaporizers for The Cannabist, and now develops Canna Zoning to help locate compliant cannabis real estate.

What it doesn't say on this introduction is that Ben was also a long, long time Hempfest Core Member and he did so much to make Hempfest the spectacular event it is right now, he did so much. Give it up to Ben Livingston.

BEN LIVINGSTON: Hello, Hempfest. Quick question: Do you like cannabis? Right. A little luke-warm? What kind? Indica, sativa? Did I hear both? The correct answer is actually both. There's going to be a test tomorrow and the next day. Remember it.

I want to kind of follow up on, in the vein that Tim's talking about. I tried to think about, what can I tell people to leave them with that's more useful than just telling about what I've done in my life, and what I frequently come to is, I believe that we make our own reality, and we start that in our heads. That ultimately begins in our mind, and that ultimately ends in our mind. And this is probably really good to be talking about after 4:20, so, I think you can feel this a little more deeply.

But the reason cannabis is legal is because we thought it should be legal. We though it is legal. And that's, you know, there's some more mechanics to it, it's maybe not quite that simple, but ultimately that's the reason cannabis is legal. It starts in our heads. So we, you, I, make our own reality. And that's one thing I want to say, very basically.

The other is, you know, put your flag in the wind, you know, if you're interested in getting involved, get involved. There's all kinds of opportunities out there. After -- my path was that I was a cannabis activist for a long time before we legalized cannabis. That's just my path. There's all kinds of other folks out there who have different paths. You don't have to be on that path, but there are so many opportunities.

After we legalized cannabis, I was writing for The Stranger for a while. I started reviewing paraphernalia for The Cannabist, which is actually a publication of the Denver Post, and I would have never thought, when I was a cannabis activist before we legalized pot, first that there would be a position, that the Denver Post would have someone reviewing bongs, and second that that would be me, and that just happened because I stuck my flag out. I said, yo, Ricardo, I'm in Seattle, you need some writing? And he said, well, you want to review bongs? I said I've no idea, I've never done that, but whatever, man. If that's the path, then, sure.

And so I stuck my flag out there and I just, you know, there's all kinds of opportunity. And if you don't want to be in the cannabis industry, that's totally fine, and maybe even that's better. Tell you what, man, all kinds of jobs outside of the cannabis industry have way better benefits, like, your mom's going to be way more proud if you get a job in the tech industry. So, don't feel like you've got to get a job any particular place, or you've got to put your, you know, stake your, stake your flag anywhere, but just know that that's an option for you, that that opportunity exists there.

And then the third thing I'll try to wrap up on is, my dear friend, Nora Callahan from the November Coalition, taught me long ago that your activism is around you, it's where you stand. It's where you live. And so, in my life, most of my activism has started from that, what I saw around me, things that I saw. I'm a member of a police accountability group with two other civil rights activists, and we've sued three police departments, including the State Patrol, Seattle Police Department, and the Tacoma Police Department, and we actually won in court against the Tacoma Police Department.

And all this journey for me started from a personal ticket that I got, where they basically wouldn't give me a video when I went to court, and that was just what I saw around me, and it sort of blossomed into something more, where we've settled or won court cases against three major police departments, and have, you know, $75,000 to work with on police accountability, just because we started from where we stood and what we saw around us.

So, that's all I want to leave you with, is, you know, your activism is where you stand; you make your own reality; and if you want to, put your flag out there, man. Try it out, see what happens. Get involved. Thanks a lot.

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Love you, Ben.

DOUG MCVAY: You just heard Tim Pate and Ben Livingston, both longtime activists and reformers, speaking from Main Stage at Seattle Hempfest on Friday August 18. They were being introduced by Vivian McPeak. You're listening to Century of Lies, I'm your host Doug McVay.

The annual Friday night party for speakers and Hempfest VIP members was off the hook, as usual. The music was terrific, and of course we took time to honor people whose work has made all this possible. Here's some audio from that.

JOHN DAVIS: So, I've been doing this a minute. This is my twenty-third Hempfest, and there are people that kind of refer to me as oldtimer, which, I guess we're all getting older, but that's -- 23, a little bit more, I did some stuff before I came onto Hempfest, that I've been working, but there are people out there that predate us. There are people out there that have worked, been working tirelessly for a long time, and fighting battles way before we even knew there was a fight.

I'll tell you a little bit about my first Hempfest in 1994. After we built the stage, and it was very ad hoc back then, and I was walking in the dark in Gasworks Park, which is the one year we had it in Gasworks Park, 1994, and I came upon a couple of people. And we started talking, and one of the people asked me, have you ever seen government weed? And I said, no, I don't think that I've seen government weed. And she said, would you like to? And I'm like, is this Candid Camera? And it turned out, as a young activist, that I had stumbled upon Jack Herer and Elvy Musikka.

And, they were -- they were very cordial, and very nice, and were telling me things, from a young activist, that, you know, I'd never heard of or thought of, because these people, by, you know, when I was a young activist, had already been in the fight for many, many years. And we need to remember those amongst us that have given their lives for this, and those that came before us that have given their lives for this cause. And it's very, very proud today to be giving an award to Elvy Musikka.

ELVY MUSIKKA: Thank you very much. What a thrill, what a nice surprise. An award from Seattle Hempfest. Really? Wow, that's exciting. I have been with you guys right from the beginning, I met Vivian and Kanti in '91, right after they did the first one. And I've been here ever since. Every year.

But there is no way I can accept this award without thanking every single one of you, who has done anything to keep this prohibition from taking over our lives. I don't care if all you ever did was just bought a joint and smoked it, whatever, or planted one seed, or talked to someone that knew something and made that spirit keep moving, whatever you've done, it's what we have all done. Not one person can take credit for any of these incredible wins we've had. It took all of us, grassroots, and you have been at the forefront of that forever, the whole northwest. I am so proud to be one of you, I moved to the northwest back in 2000, that was it. Been here enough, you know?

But there's no way that I could be especially to this festival every year, especially after the funding got taken away and now has to go to insurances, and police, and city taxes, and what else, I don't know. Anyway, I could never make this journey because I live on a very limited income, Social Security, some of you know that one.

But this man, Mike Barnes, where are you? Come on. There, you'd find him anywhere, won't you? You can't miss him. Anyway, he has been incredibly instrumental in my being able to accomplish anything at all in this movement, because he has walked with me ever since I met him back in 1994, and he told me the best thing he could do for the movement was to drive me wherever I needed to be, and he had no idea what he just asked for. He can tell you more about that, but this is my very dear friend, Mike Barnes, I mean, Big Mike, 420 Mike!

BIG MIKE: Ah, I'm not here to speak, it's all her. Thank you very much, Elvy, it's been amazing driving you all around. Vivian has an award for you here, and it's my honor just to stand here while you get it. This is amazing.

ELVY MUSIKKA: Oh, thank you.

BIG MIKE: Awesome. Elvy Musikka, everybody. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for her. What an inspiration.

CROWD: We love you, Elvy!

VIVIAN MCPEAK: How about a "we love you elvy" on the count of three. One, two, three:

CROWD [LOUDER IN UNISON]: We love you, Elvy!

VIVIAN MCPEAK: That's how you do it. That's how we roll.

Now, we previously gave two awards out. I want to -- you know, you do know that there are Americans serving life in prison right now for cannabis? Did you know that? There's Americans serving life in prison. And there was one recently, American serving life in prison for cannabis, who's here tonight. His name is George Martorano, he's right back there. Wave your hand, George. George is free after serving decades, decades in prison.

And I'll tell you, the person responsible for George being here at Hempfest is also one of the primary people responsible for there even being a Hempfest. I mean, I've worked with a lot of organizers the last 26 years, but there is a power organizer in this tent right now, this is one of the most amazing people I've ever met. I struggle so hard just to keep up with her, her desk is four feet from my desk, and I am constantly blown away, stunned, amazed, intimidated, by her sheer organizational ability even, and her amazing power, and she's going to give the first ever lifetime achievement award from Seattle Hempfest, and her name is Sharon Whitson, the general manager of Seattle Events, Seattle Hempfest.

SHARON WHITSON: I don't want to say it's easy, but it's such a passionate thing, and I mean, I work long hours, but I'm lucky I work with people I love. I mean, I'm in the office, tirelessly with Jill, I don't know where she's at right now, I mean, she deserves so much credit for everything going on here, today too. Girl power. And then that crazy girl Vivian that I sit next to all day long, too. But --

DOUG MCVAY: You just heard John Davis, Elvy Musikka, Big Mike, Vivian McPeak, and Sharon Whitson. That was recorded at the Speakers VIP party at Seattle Hempfest 2017. They gave out three lifetime achievement awards that night [sic: the first two were local and national person of the year awards, the other was the only lifetime achievement award]. In addition to Elvy and Dennis, they also honored Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes.

That's it for this week. Thanks for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies, I've been your host Doug McVay. Century of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. The executive producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs are also available via podcast, the URLs to subscribe are on the network home page at DrugTruth.net.

The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, please give its page a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give its page a like and share it with friends. Remember: Knowledge is power. Follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts.

We'll be back next week with thirty more 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.