04/08/08 - Richard Lee

Reporting from the International Cannabis Therapeutics Convention in Monterey California with Richard Lee, Dr. Steve Hosea, Professor Joe White, Don Duncan of ASA, Jeff Jones and Nurse Francis Deforest.

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Guest: 
Richard Lee
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Century of Lies, 04/08/08

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.
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Dean Becker: Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. I’m glad you could be with us. Today we’re reporting from California. Our visit to the northern counties where most of the marijuana growing occurs. We made some stops in Oakland, San Francisco and several other West Coast cities in our journey south to the Monterey Peninsula to report on the International Cannabis Therapeutics Convention.

The good folks at KMUD were kind enough to provide us with information and supplies on our journey north but our first report is from Oakland and perhaps the entrepreneur of the year.
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We’re here in beautiful ‘Oaksterdam’ enjoying a beautiful day and I’m here with Mr. Richard Lee, local entrepreneur.

Richard I’m amazed at the growth, the enhancement of this neighborhood year to year as I come to visit Oakland and Oaksterdam. Tell us about what’s going on in this part of the city.

Richard Lee: Trying to revitalize this part of Oakland with cannabis businesses.

Dean Becker: All right. Let’s talk about some of those businesses. It’s a growth industry, is it not?

Richard Lee: Yes, it is. There’s currently 500 outlets in California paying about $100 million in sales tax already.

Dean Becker: $100 million. In this time our infrastructure is crumbling that’s going to be very beneficial to the State, is it not?

Richard Lee: I think so. We have about a $16 billion dollar deficit, I think, this year.

Dean Becker: Let’s talk about how it impacts the community, the jobs created, and so forth. How many businesses do you have here in Oaksterdam?

Richard Lee: Right now there’s half-a-dozen or so, maybe ten different cannabis businesses such as the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative--the first one, that first opened here to dispense cannabis. They were prevented by the Federal Government from dispensing cannabis in 1998 but since then they’ve run other businesses to keep the idea going, revitalizing Oakland with cannabis.

Dean Becker: What businesses’ operations can you tell us about? What’s going on?

Richard Lee: Well we have the City-permitted medical cannabis dispensaries and then there’s other auxiliary businesses that go along side of those and, of course, Oaksterdam University, a trade school teaching people how to work professionally in the cannabis industry. T-shirt, gift shop, souvenirs--a lot of different businesses like that. Publications, advertising businesses like Oaksterdam Magazine and West Coast Cannabis.

Dean Becker: You guys have the new newspaper. I was surprised at its professionalism. I mean it looks like a very useful business product for the man out there in the industry, right?

Richard Lee: Yeah. Right. It has listing of all the different clubs in California. It’s an easy directory, informational guide.

Dean Becker: Now a lot of folks may not know that you were a Houstonian at one time, working there to bring forward this same truth, but it’s blossomed out here in Oaksterdam, right?

Richard Lee: Right. It’s sad I had to leave Texas to pursue my career. But hopefully maybe someday we can come back to Texas and help bring cannabis, the cannabis industry back to Texas.

Dean Becker: I know one of your favorite avenues of changing this situation is the Fully Informed Jury Association and we had a situation happen just last week in Texas where the jury acquitted a medical marijuana patient. Your thoughts on that?

Richard Lee: Yeah, it’s great news to see juries standing up for their rights, to just say ‘not guilty.’ This is one of the things I’ve definitely been promoting for a long time is that we need to look at jury service as a right and a power to help stop bad laws. Don’t look at it as just jury duty and something to get out of. You should be proud that you have the right to serve on a jury and to prevent bad prosecutions.

Dean Becker: Exactly. And, again, it being in Texas it’s an especially sparkling ray of hope I think. Richard, you have been in Oakland now about, is it eight or ten years?

Richard Lee: Twelve years now.

Dean Becker: And, even from my perspective, I talk about, I come out here and it’s like visiting another planet. Certainly another nation and that the liberties afforded here by the local laws are so different from much of the rest of the United States. But it can be done elsewhere, can it not?

Richard Lee: Right. I mean, when I first got here it was nothing compared to what it is now. So, yeah, I’ve seen the hard work and how it can pay off and how things have moved forward here.

Dean Becker: Is there a website where folks could tune in, learn more about the work you guys are doing out here?

Richard Lee: Yes. OaksterdamUniversity.com. Also, OaksterdamInfo.com has more information about the area in general.
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Dean Becker: Following our visits to Oakland we toured down the Pacific coast headed toward the Monterey Peninsula for the International Cannabis Therapeutics Convention. I want to take this time to apologize for the irregular programming over the last couple of weeks. My trip to Atlanta and then to California has put a crimp in my style, if you will.

But next we’re going to hear from many of the participants in the Cannabis Therapeutics conference.
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Dr. Jose: My name is Steve Jose. I’m a physician from Santa Barbara. California.

Dean Becker: All right, Sir. We’re here at the international conference on Cannabis Therapeutics. You’re going to be giving a presentation. Could you give us a quick summation of that presentation?

Dr. Jose: I’m going to be talking about cannabis from a physician’s perspective and the issue for me really is, why don’t more physicians prescribe, recommend or approve the use of cannabis?

Dean Becker: Yes, Sir. It seems that there are more and more physicians investigating this subject, even the American Academy of Physicians, 124,000 members strong, came out for at least nuanced changes to the perspective towards marijuana, right?

Dr. Jose: That’s correct and those guidelines are certainly helpful in convincing physicians that there’s not anything to fear about approving or recommending marijuana, but I think many still aren’t convinced of that.

Dean Becker: Right. There are those who say that perhaps it should be the first choice instead of perhaps the last choice. Your thoughts on that?

Dr. Jose: When you say the first choice rather than the last choice, I’m not exactly sure what you mean, but certainly I have seen situations where prescription medicines have a lot of side-effects whereas the use of marijuana can accomplish the same thing with less in the way of side effects.
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Dean Becker: Next up, we hear from Joe White, Professor of Philosophy, Santa Barbara College, Santa Barbara, California.

Prof. White: I’m the Chair of the department presently and I write and teach.

Dean Becker: We’re here at the international conference on Cannabis Therapeutics and I was much enamored of your presentation. As I introduced myself, I told you I see this as an inquisition, but you have a more nuanced approach to this. Tell us, if you will, kind of a summary of your presentation.

Prof. White: Well, today what I wanted to talk about is, and it should be placed in a historical context, I encourage people to study history to see that we’ve been through so many similar processes as we’re involved right now with this whole discussion of marijuana as medicine, and what I was wanting to get at today is the fact that, for human beings, we try to deal with these issues that create conflict between us by trying to get at something like the truth, what is it that we can claim to know, and as reasonable beings then come to a consensus over. So that, my tradition that I come out of in philosophy, going back to the Greeks, is that somehow ignorance is the root of misfortune. When we’re in conflict there seems to be, at core, something that we’re disagreeing over. Which is kind of an optimistic view because then the claim is that there’s something that we’re disagreeing about which is rooted in ignorance, then if we had knowledge maybe we could get beyond that and find some consensus, some community amongst us and get on to our next problems.

Dean Becker: And the term you used was new to me. Ero.…?

Prof. White: Erotetic. The erotetic has to do specifically with questioning and probably yourself and most of your viewers who’ve had algebra classes or even logic classes in college, what you study primarily there and learn about is what is know as inferential logic. How do I justify my conclusions? What’s the best evidence to support this particular kind of claim so that I can be, in a sense, in a position of knowledge? That’s all on, if we talk about this in terms of Q and A, it’s all on the A side of the equation. So inferential logic is what we usually learn in schools.

Erotetic logic is about the Q’s. It’s about asking questions and how do questions function in terms of seeking answers. But if we take a historical example like, say, the study of Ptolemy and the solar system. What most Homo sapiens believed for thousands of years was that the Earth was at the center of the universe, at least the solar system, they knew of that, because what they took was that the motion they experienced of the sun and of the celestial bodies they assumed was absolute motion--you see these things moving, so the questions you start to ask are based in the context of saying, ‘what would explain the motion of these objects?’ By this time in Homo sapien history what we realize is that there’s relational motion. Maybe the sun’s not moving. Maybe the earth is moving. that’s the genius of a Copernicus to realize not all motion is absolute, so you start to ask a different question. When you ask a different question you realize you start coming up with different answers. The same thing goes on in medicine today. Most medical practitioners today do not deal with epilepsy as demon-possession. If the question you ask in terms of epilepsy is how do we get rid of the demon you’re going to have a whole different set of answers than if you ask about epilepsy in terms of brain function and neurology.

Dean Becker: Now, the one quote, I didn’t catch who it was attributed to, but basically it indicated that for the change to these marijuana laws to come about we’re just going to have to wait for some folks to die.

Prof. White: (laughter) Probably you will have to wait for some folks to die and part of that is a reflection, that was from Max Planck in which he said, you know, you come up with these scientific breakthroughs but oftentimes the senior scientists, they don’t change their minds. You wait for them to die and a new generation to come along. The reason that I used that quote is that oftentimes when people are in disagreement with each other they will attribute to their adversary something like stupidity or hard-headedness or they’re just plain dumb. And what happens, what makes this particularly difficult is that that’s not true.

Oftentimes adversaries are quite bright, as we talked during the previous session I had some examples from Galileo and the Inquisition, Galileo’s antagonists in the Inquisition were not stupid people, so it makes it particularly difficult because that’s where this talk of cognitive dissonance comes in--you can have very bright people but something about the Homo sapien, and it may be neurologically based, is once we are strongly attached to beliefs it’s very difficult to dislodge those beliefs, even when the evidence goes against it.

I would recommend to your readers to have a look at this recent book that’s come out called ‘Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)’ by Elliott Aronson and Carol Travis. What Aronson and Travis go through are a whole series of cases involving lawyers and doctors and they discuss the whole phenomena of cognitive dissonance, which is, again, where a person ends up in a situation where they simply cannot deal with the evidence that’s coming in contrary to their beliefs, so they end up in a belief preservation, or self-justifying, mode which then takes them away from knowledge and they’re ignorant again and so we usually end up in conflict and misfortune.

Dean Becker: We have to get back to the next presentation. I wanted to throw one more thought at you and that is, this is a legacy, this is a history, this is the reputation of generations, reaching back to people like Sam Rayburn and coming forward, that these people have-quote-made their bones being tough on crime and calling for the arrest and incarceration of millions of their fellow citizens, and to now back down and admit that that was wrong...isn’t that another complication in this equation?

Prof. White: It’s a big complication. I think, as you mentioned a moment ago as well, in terms of having to ‘wait-out’ generations, I think Mr. Walters who is now our drug czar, to confront him with evidence, I think, he won’t change his mind. He’s made up his mind. I don’t know the man personally. I would hope that, in some sense, as a kind of existential juror he could sit down and say ‘Present me with evidence and let me make a decision,’ but I don’t hold out hope that, he’s politically invested, I think the research indicates that once you end up going through a gauntlet that is required to become a federal office holder at this level, and I think that our President and Vice-President, maybe a recent Secretary of Defense are examples of this as well. The evidence is comp----not all evidence is heard by them in the same way that we would hope it would be heard by others. I worry myself about having these kinds of biases and not being able to judge things fairly but that’s the daily goal of life, to be able to see life as it is and not the way we want it to be, because our natural dispositions are toward ideology and tribalism and ethnocentrism and to start to see the whole world through these kinds of very familiar lenses that we grew up with, and they’re oftentimes not that accurate, and so it’s an ongoing process to try to get to the accuracy, or as philosophers would say, be epistemically privileged, to be able to actually have knowledge and see the world the way it is, or at least glimpse it on occasion.
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Dean Becker: You are listening to the Century of Lies program on the Drug Truth Network and Pacifica Radio. We’re tuning in to a recent conference on Cannabis Therapeutics.

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Don Duncan: Hello, my name is Don Duncan. I’m the California Director of Americans for Safe Access. Americans For Safe Access is the nation’s largest organization, made up of patients, and researchers and community members who are working to eliminate federal barriers to safe access and implement the state laws.

Dean Becker: It’s been my fortune to observe the members of ASA, Americans For Safe Access, in action. I’ve seen them respond to the DEA raids on a dispensary and that’s one of the main ways you can challenge this-quote-moral sanctitude of these DEA agents being allowed to do their-quote-job.

Don Duncan: That’s true. Americans For Safe Access actually had its origin, its very first project was our emergency response to DEA raids, because we wanted to shine a spotlight on the, what was happening in California for the whole country to see. And so our initial protests were a way to galvanize media coverage for an issue that was being pretty much ignored in the mainstream media. And so we set about to do that and no sooner than we set about to do it that we realized it was a much larger issue than just a media campaign. And so we started from those grass roots beginnings and sort of built ourselves into a much larger and more comprehensive reform organization.

Medical cannabis is an idea whose time has come in medicine and we do have a lot of evidence now about the efficacy of the drug to treat AIDS, to treat cancer, to treat multiple sclerosis and even the Institute of Medicine in their ground-breaking report in 1999 found tremendous medical evidence for the efficacy of cannabis and the tremendous need for more research into its uses. And so I think that while cannabis, as a medicine, has come of age in the scientific arena we’re lagging behind in the political arena. And that’s the challenge that patients are dealing with right now, is that their doctors know it’s good medicine and they know it’s good medicine but their elected officials are still decades behind and so we have to get the officials caught up with the science that they claim to be waiting for.

Dean Becker: Americans For Safe Access is probably most active in the State of California but you have chapters across this country, do you not? Others who are fighting for that right to take their doctor’s advice, right?

Don Duncan: Yes. American For Safe Access was born in California, in Oakland, as a response to the situation that was happening in California but we have grown since then and we have chapters or affiliated organizations now in 40 states and we’re also very proud of the fact that we have the first full-time office in Washington, D.C. working exclusively on medical marijuana. And one of the things we discovered when we got to Washington, D.C. is that no other organization was focused exclusively on the issues around patients in Washington, D.C. and so a lot of the work we’re doing there is the first time it’s ever been done in our nation’s capitol. And that’s really important.

Dean Becker: It is growing in acceptance, is it not?

Don Duncan: The idea that cannabis is good medicine is growing in acceptance all over the world and especially here in the United States. And to have the American Academy of Physicians stepping up to the plate and advocating for a change in policy makes all the difference in the world to the people who are counting on this medicine to treat their symptoms.

Dean Becker: And, y’all’s website?

Don Duncan: It’s AmericansForSafeAccess.org.
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Aaron Smith: Hi, I’m Aaron Smith with the Marijuana Policy Project and I work in California to shore up support for medical marijuana legislation now pending in Sacramento. We’re an organization that works to improve medical marijuana laws in states that already have them on the books and also works to enact sensible policies for marijuana throughout the nation.

Dean Becker: I know that here in California the, gosh, there are several hundred dispensaries open in L.A. The north country is growing as much or more marijuana than ever before but it’s not over here, it’s not settled by any means, is it?

Aaron Smith: No. I mean ultimately we still have a draconian federal law that allows paramilitary style raids on medical marijuana patients and providers. And, really sadly, in many cases in California local law enforcement is cooperating with the DEA and actually helping them come in and terrorize patients who are acting within state law. And so this is a, we have a bill in the legislature right now that’s been sponsored by Assembly Woman Lori Saldaña, AB 2743, and what that would do is prevent local law enforcement from assisting the DEA and their undermining of state law.

And the work we do wouldn’t be possible without support of other individuals throughout the nation, both, not only financial, but we need people to stand up and talk to their representatives in congress and in their state legislatures and their county supervisors, city councils, to let them know that medical marijuana patients are out there. This is a mainstream issue and it’s time to get the laws changed.

Dean Becker: All right and y’all’s website?

Aaron Smith: Yeah, I would certainly encourage people to visit MPP.org and sign up for our legislative alerts so that they can keep abreast of what’s going on in their states.
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Jeff Jones: My name is Jeff Jones I'm Executive Director and cofounder of the Patient ID Center which was formerly known as the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative. We’ve been involved in a ten year civil lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justice in Federal Court relating to our dispensary that we started in 1997 and just came to a close this last month and we decided to make our name a little bit more streamlined to what our current activities are which is just issuing ID cards for qualified patients in California that have doctor’s recommendations.

Dean Becker: Now, this has been a ten year, and actually many more years, battle to establish the right for compassionate use of marijuana, to implement state regulations, but it’s just ponderously slow that the finalization, if you will, of all this is seeming to take years, is it not?

Jeff Jones: Yeah, and I think it’s because of the deep-rooted stigmatization that’s related to marijuana and its sense that was put upon it by Congress and people that were not really supportive of it as a therapeutic plant. But that’s changed slowly in California and throughout the states that have passed laws, mostly on the West Coast, and I think that it’s kind of stuck because of the one agency in the Federal government, the DEA, that has taken upon itself to both label this a dangerous drug and say that it has no accepted medical value. They’re the ones that have to be questioned and make the decision about changing into a therapeutic substance as defined by Congress. So, I think it’s just arbitrarily stuck in that spot because of that one agency.
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Francis Deforest: My name is Francis Deforest and I’m a Registered Nurse in Montana and a patient advocate.

Dean Becker: Now, we all have our own experiences, good and bad, with cannabis. You mentioned one earlier that wasn’t so good. All too often terrible things happen to people simply for using cannabis. Let’s hear your story.

Francis Deforest: My story is--it began when I was a teenager and I had used different substances and I recognized cannabis as an exit to addiction and stopped using those other substances but continued with cannabis use. Shortly, at that time period I was living at home with my children and also their father in my father’s house and we were raided at at a city level, there had been a bust all throughout town and we were also arrested, two days before Christmas. We were actually convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession and misdemeanor paraphernalia possession. I would have been facing five years in prison had I not plea bargained. This was in the State of Delaware which I believe currently has the most restrictive drug laws in the United States.

I went on to become a nurse later in life. I became interested in medical cannabis advocacy through a close friend who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, otherwise know as ALS. At that point I became minorly involved in some activism in Montana, helping host the Montana Drug Policy Conference. Now, that initiative has passed in Montana with the help of a large group of people there and what I am trying to do is educate health care professionals, specifically nurses, who make up a large population of the health care professionals in the United States. And I hoped to reach more patients that way and also have the nurses help with education, educating the physicians.

This seems to be a problem in Montana. I’ve recently came up across that problem at my job that I had at the University of Montana and had advocated and worked on medical cannabis as an employee there. I had stopped working there for a year and was re-hired recently, brought up information about medical cannabis, had some nurses that were interested, shared some information in a common area where people often put down political information, it’s the University. I maybe did this a little bit too soon. I felt very comfortable and familiar in the place, I had worked there for many years, but I was re-hired so I was still on a probationary period. That’s my fault, I realize that.

But anyway, there seemed to be interest in this and as a medical professional I gathered professional information, a list of organizations that support medical cannabis and information on a medical conference that was being put on for medical professionals. And when I returned to work to go to the nurses’ meeting everything had been removed from the table on that day. The next day when I reported to work I was told by a good friend and my now nurse-manager that I was no longer wanted there as an employee. And this really surprised me--originally they were very happy to have me there, I’ve never been fired from any job and have excellent references so it seemed to be in relation to this. I’m currently looking into if there’s anything I can do, they didn’t give it as a reason, stating the probationary period no reason was needed.

So I accepted that but, to me, that just showed the resistance in the medical community. They’ve had medical cannabis in services there and they’ve had students inquire and I think what’s important is that the health care professionals need to utilize the information they’re being educated with. They seem interested but they have to realize that state laws have been passed and people are actively using this and it is a valid medication for patients. And they should be keeping the applications in their drawers in the medical office just as they would for any other medical condition or request and I think that’s where it should lead to in the Western medicine part.

I also think that the social model that’s being set up with the cannabis clubs fulfills a great need in the community by offering a social space and counseling and support services and that it fills a niche that the Western medicine community does not, for their patients. And hopefully it can grow and develop into better healthcare for everyone.

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Dean Becker: Well, I hope you enjoyed this edition of Century of Lies and that you’ll tune in to this weeks Cultural Baggage Show when our guests will be Dr. Donald Abrams of USC, San Francisco, and Dr. Donald Tashkin of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And as always I remind you that there is no truth, justice, logic, scientific fact, no medical data, in fact no reason for this drug war to exist. We’ve been duped. The drug lords run both sides of this equation.

Do your part to help end this madness. Visit our website, EndProhibition.org.

Prohibido istac evilesco.

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition.

The Century of Lies. This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.

Our engineer, Philip Guffy.

Transcript provided by Gee-Whiz Transcripts. Email: glenncg@zoominternet.net