05/06/08 - Doug Hiatt

Douglas Hiatt a Seattle attorney discusses the death of Hep C patient Tim Garon who was refused a liver transplant because of his use of medical marijuana. Noted chemist Sasha Shulgin and his wife Ann discuss the passing of Dr. Albert Hofmann. Steven Wishnia gives the reasons why pot will soon be legal (and why it won't). Doug McVay with Drug War Facts

Century of Lies
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Doug Hiatt
Download: Audio icon COL_050608.mp3


Century of Lies, May 6, 2008

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.

Dean Becker: Hello, my friends. Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. Today we’ll hear a report from Sasha and Ann Shulgin talking about their friend, Dr. Albert Hofmann, who passed from this Earth about ten days ago. We’ll also hear from Steven Wishnia, former High Times reporter, who’ll give us the five reasons why the marijuana laws are going to change and the five reasons why they probably won’t. We’ll also hear the Drug War Facts from Doug McVay.

But first up I want to present this interview I did with Douglas Hiatt, a Seattle Attorney.


Douglas Hiatt: My name is Douglas Hiatt and I’m a criminal defense attorney in Seattle, Washington. I get a small grant from the Marijuana Policy Project and I defend folks, generally pro bono, charged with medical marijuana offenses and I try and help doctors and patients, make sure the medical marijuana law is working in Washington State. And I’ve been doing work related to either the medical necessity defense for AIDS patients starting in 1996 and then, after our law was passed in the late ‘90s and since 2000 I’ve been working under the Washington Medical Marijuana Use Act and just attempting to make sure people who are are sick, who are using marijuana, are not prosecuted and don’t have their lives ruined.

Dean Becker: Now, we had a horrible situation develop in, over the last many months really, but came to focus just last week. One of your clients, a Mr. Timothy Garon, a man with Hep C which millions of Americans have, by the way, was denied a liver transplant. Please tell us about his case.

Douglas Hiatt: Well, unfortunately, Tim is, in a number of ways, another casualty of the drug war in its broadest sense. Tim was arrested late last year for growing medical marijuana just north of Seattle in Snohomish County. That started a process which put him under a lot of stress, triggered further decline in his liver functioning and caused him to become ill and need to receive a liver transplant.

Because Tim had been a medical marijuana patient the liver transplant programs here would not accept him. We first took him to Harborview Hospital where a Dr. Shuhart maintained that he had to be six months free from medical marijuana before she would even agree to put his paper work through to get him on the list. He didn’t have that kind of time. At that time we were looking at a very high mortality rate if he did not get a liver within about ninety days he really didn’t have a chance. But when we started on this he still had a very good chance. But Dr. Shuhart was the first one where we ran into the problem.
We then went to the University of Washington, he had gotten quite a bit sicker at that point, and his only chance of survival was a transplant. And at the University of Washington the transplant committee told Tim that he needed to do sixty days of drug treatment before they would consider him for a transplant.

At that point, I blew up at one of the doctors and told them quite frankly that I thought that was Kafka-esque, that there was no way, that they knew this man was going to die very quickly, within a matter of days, if he didn’t get a transplant and that they needed to reconsider. That doctor got the transplant committee to reconsider and I was there when the same doctor had told us that the transplant committee had again denied Tim, for reasons that they weren’t entirely clear about, but definitely it was clear from the first denial that the medical marijuana was what the question was.

It was also clear from interactions with the social worker who worked with the transplant program, Stacey McCandlish, at the University of Washington. It was also clear from her questions and her approach to this case that she had a lot of ignorance about medical marijuana and had some prejudices in that regard.

Dean Becker: I’ve never quite understood the basis for the objection, the basis for the denial.

Douglass Hiatt: There is no credible medical evidence. I’ve spoken with experts. There is no credible medical evidence that suggests that marijuana would have any impact on liver transplant decisions. There are problems after transplants with any organs, especially livers. There are problems with rejection and there are problems with susceptibility to infections because of the need to suppress the immune response and there are concerns about that post-transplant process but those concerns shouldn’t have been relevant at all in Tim’s case and, in fact, weren’t relevant in Tim’s case.

Dean Becker: My understanding of that objection to the potential for an infection, that the basis there lies in the susceptibility to, and I’ll butcher this, but I think it’s called aspergillosis.

Douglas Hiatt: It’s aspergillus, aspergillus is a type of mold, fungus, bacteria type thing. It’s a type of agent that’s present in soil and there are concerns that if you were, you can’t be gardening for example, it’s like--I mean that’s post again, post-transplant and it’s based on, I think, a report of one case where a liver transplant patient developed an aspergillus infection and died. That can happen from smoking cigarettes, that can happen from gardening.

You know, there are lots of nasty bugs out there you’ve got to be careful of and especially when you’ve got a compromised immune system which anybody who’s a transplant recipient has a compromised immune system by definition. It’s a total red herring. There is no credible medical evidence that medical marijuana would make any difference whatsoever for a liver transplant, period. There’s some conflicting evidence, although there’s a growing body of evidence that shows that medical marijuana is appropriate for treatment of Hep C.

There were some early studies that were very flawed, that came out and said ‘maybe it wasn’t’ but it’s quite clear that now there are numerous studies, including a Canadian study that’s come out, and said that ‘Yes. Medical marijuana is an efficacious treatment for Hepatitis C.’

In our state, it’s an approved condition that doctors are able to write an authorization for in compliance with the state law. So our medical board has already made a determination that it’s helpful and it’s not a question under our state law. So, there you go.

Dean Becker: Once again, we’ve been speaking with Attorney Douglas Hiatt, based in Seattle, right Doug?

Douglas Hiatt: Yes.

Dean Becker: And you guys have made great progress toward medical marijuana, towards understanding the needs of the patient, but just like most of the rest of the country you still have a ways to go apparently, right?

Douglas Hiatt: Well, I’m afraid that medical marijuana patients are getting treated like second class citizens everyday and I’m also afraid, until the larger drug war can be overcome, that nobody’s going to be safe. This kind of ongoing harassment of our own citizens is just disgusting.

Dean Becker: Next up, our interview with Steven Wishnia.

Well, the other day I was on the ‘net, alternet in particular, and I saw a piece by Steve Wishnia. He’s the author of ‘Exit 25 Utopia’, ‘The Cannabis Companion’ and ‘Invincible Coney Island.’ He wrote a piece ‘Will Pot Ever Be Legal in This Schizoid Country?’ and I’m glad to have him with us. Hello, Steve.

Steven Wishnia: Hi. How are you?

Dean Becker: Steve, outline this piece for us. I found it to be very compelling.

Steven Wishnia: Well, basically the reason I wrote it, aside from that Alternet’s paying me, is that pot, as I said in the lead, occupies this bizarrely paradoxical place in American culture, which is that its use is commonplace, so there--but it’s highly illegal and arrests have set records four years in a row. So I came up with five reasons why it should be legal soon and five reasons why it probably won’t.

The five why’s I think it should be legal soon are just signs--indication one is that it’s part of the cultural mainstream, from movies to music to whatever. Medical use is increasingly accepted by the scientific and medical communities. We’ve seen the first federal decriminalization bill in about 25 years introduced last month. State budget crunch, maybe not in Texas or Louisiana, but there’s some states--in New York the number of prisoners has actually declined---and states with some resistance--but the states are taking a second look at where can you save money? Why keep all these people in jail for minor drug offenses? And, fifth, that, I’ve been covering this issue for a long time and have been following it for much longer, and there are no rational arguments that I’ve heard against legalizing cannabis under regulation similar to those for alcohol. Not even ones that I disagree with, but...

On the other hand, the reasons why I think it’s not likely to become legal in the near future is, one, pot smokers aren’t well organized. They don’t stick up for themselves. Very few politicians support legalization. The government certainly isn’t letting up. Marijuana arrests continue at record levels. There are 830,000 in 2006. In New York City, which is where I’m from, there were 40,000 last year. Baby boomer politicians sold us out. All the baby boomer politicians who smoked pot when they were in their twenties have, maybe not all of them but, a lot, many of them, have become prohibitionists or, at the very least, they won’t stick up for legalization. And, finally, there may not be any rational arguments for putting people in jail for pot but we don’t live in a rational society.

Dean Becker: Isn’t that the truth. Steve, you wrote for High Times for many years and have you seen changes? Are we making any difference in the last few decades?

Steven Wishnia: Well, the number of people, yeah, I said that pot smokers aren’t organized, and the number of, as I was writing this, the number of, the three leading anti-prohibition organizations, NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and the Marijuana Policy Project, which specializes in marijuana issues, and the Drug Policy Alliance, which covers a wider spectrum of drug issues such as harm-reduction--their membership from dues paying to email has increased by fifty percent in the last five years, roughly speaking.

Some organizations it’s more, so, but that’s still a very small fraction when you consider that MoveOn.org has 3.2 million people on their email list. The NRA has more than four million, that’s dues paying members. And these three organization have probably, if you account for duplication, maybe 30 to 50 thousand members out of four or five million people who smoke pot regularly, that’s one percent.

Dean Becker: Yeah. It’s just that fear of the inquisitor, in my perspective. The people know the truth. I think many of these politicians know the truth and yet they, as you said earlier, they’re just unwilling to step up to the plate and take a swing.

Steven Wishnia: I mean I think with individuals sometimes it’s fear, but I think a lot of it is just apathy. I think people are lacking in courage or energy or a sense that what they do will accomplish something. I’ve seen this in places where I work, where I tried to organize a union. They’re laying off people left and right and those people are like ‘Oh. You know if we try to organize a union they’ll fire us’ and three months later these people get layed off.

Anyway, so, I think people need more guts. My grandfather was five foot five and was an émigré who didn’t speak english very well but when he was a union member he stood up to mafia goons who came into the shop to intimidate them. And so I think that people need to stick up for themselves and we could use more courage from politicians. Like Barack Obama smoked pot when he was in high school, why doesn’t he come out and support legalization? He could say, if he’s really interested in change and a new style of politics, he’d say ‘Look. I did it.

Most people my age did it when we were young. A lot of people continue to do it and I wouldn’t do it before, while I was here working on some important memo on the Middle East’ or ‘You shouldn’t drive when you’re high and you shouldn’t sell it to kids but we shouldn’t put people in jail for it. It should be like alcohol.’ What would be the harm in that other than--we’ve got this ‘gotcha’ culture--

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Steven Wishnia: One of the things in the last bit of the article is something like ranting. It was set off by watching the last Clinton/Obama debate where he had the top, among the top paid journalists in America, George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson, asking the most inane, stupid, ridiculous questions--I mean which is more important, Reverend Wright or the war in Iraq?

Which is more important, the economy or whether Barack Obama wears a flag pin? Which is more important, health care or whether Hillary Clinton prefers diamonds or pearls? We’ve got this really inane ‘gotcha’ kind of media so it’s--especially on an issue like drugs where there’s so much hysteria. I think, ‘Soft on Drugs! Soft on Drugs! You want to let drug dealers out of jail! You want to sell methamphetamine to nine-year-olds!’

If you had a remotely sane position on it you open yourself up to that and you need, God said, I’d like to have faith in the American public that if someone spoke out clearly and courageously on the issue people would say ‘You know what? They’re making sense’ but people aren’t.

Doug McVay: Evidence the gender gap is closing.

Historically there have been marked differences between men's and women's rates of substance use and substance abuse, with men being more likely to use and use heavily. The traditional view of substance use and gender has always been that men abuse substances because of unchecked thrill-seeking behavior, while women abuse because of emotional problems, physical pain, poor self-image, or a some combination thereof.

It's an oversimplification and much worse. Those are horribly sexist attitudes in that they imply men have no deep emotional concerns, never feel hurt, are always confident and never have problems with their self-images, and that women never willingly take risks or engage in any thrill-seeking behaviors because they are emotional basketcases. Obviously untrue, nothing but social artifacts.

But I digress.

Researchers in Missouri studied national surveys of alcohol use to examine lifetime rates of alcohol use and alcohol dependence of people born between 1934 and 1963. They took this large group and broke it up into three subsets based on year of birth -- 1934 to 1943, 44 to 53, and 53 to 63. They found that among men there was little variation. Among women however, the researchers found a marked difference. Women born between 1944 and 1953 were more likely to drink than their older sisters, and the 1953 to 1963 group were even more likely.

Lead author of the study Dr. Richard Grucza commented to Reuters that "Clearly there were many changes in the cultural environment for women born in the 40s, 50s, and 60s compared to women born earlier. Women entered the work force, were more likely to go to college, were less
hampered by gender stereotypes, and had more purchasing power. They were freer to engage in a range of behaviors that were culturally or practically off-limits, and these behaviors probably would have included excessive drinking and alcohol problems."

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay, editor of Drug War Facts dot org.

[MPP PSA] This may sound strange but I want to pay taxes. See, I don’t drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. I relax with something science has proven is much safer--marijuana. And I want to buy it somewhere that charges taxes to pay for schools and roads just like alcohol and tobacco. What do you think should profit? Our schools and roads or drug dealers?

Visit the Marijuana Policy Project Foundation at JoinMpp.Org or call 1-877-joinmpp.

Dean Becker: Doctor Alexander Sasha Shulgin, a pharmacologist and chemist, is known for his creation of new psychoactive chemicals. He and his wife, Ann, have written many great books on the subject and I recently got the chance to talk to them about the passing of their associate, Dr. Albert Hofmann.

Today we’re honoring the passing of a great man, Dr. Albert Hofmann, and I’m glad to have online with me here Ann and Sasha Shulgin. And I was wanting to get your recollections, your thoughts about Dr. Albert Hofmann. Let’s begin with you, Sasha.

Sasha Shulgin: Mine are very, very positive. We actually got to really know each other meeting at Esalen. I knew him from way, way back when he had first worked with LSD and other things of the ergot world. But I really got to know him quite well in Esalen some two or three decades ago and really spent a little time with him in a quiet way that was very nice. Subsequently both Ann and I had visited him at his home near the French border in Switzerland.

Ann Shulgin: That was on his one hundredth birthday.

Dean Becker: That sounds like a wonderful opportunity to talk with the man. As I understand it, he lost his wife just about six months ago.

Sasha Shulgin: Yes, just the end of last year.

Ann Shulgin: That was a very, very long and solid and very loving marriage so we’re not exactly surprised that he didn’t stay around very much longer.

Dean Becker: Yes, Ma’am. Now Dr. Doblin told me that he was glad that the Swiss have decided to begin new studies of LSD and that both Dr. Hofmann and his wife were able to learn of that information.

Sasha Shulgin: Yes, that’s very nice. We met at his home and I remember very well the fact that Hofmann, at one point, sort of wiggled his fingers and asked me to come back into his office for a few minutes. And I had no idea what he had in mind and I did that and he said ‘Sit down. I have had many, many consultant meetings with people, this newspaper and that journal and that writing, but I have not had a chance in a decade or two to talk a person who’s a chemist.’

Ann Shulgin: (laughter)

Sasha Shulgin: And he said ‘I’d just love to talk a little bit of chemistry.’

Dean Becker: Well, between the two of you I can’t imagine the rest of the world even stacking up.

Sasha Shulgin: (laughter) But it was delightful. We just exchanged comments on FM2 reactions and other strange little things known only to chemists. And he was very happy with that and he went out and joined the small party he had in the living room.

Ann Shulgin: And I have a story from Esalen where I first met him. Esalen is rather well known on the West Coast. It’s not far from Big Sur.

Sasha Shulgin: Down the coast from San Francisco, maybe an hour.

Ann Shulgin: Yeah, an hour to an hour and a half drive.

Sasha Shulgin: The meetings there were by invitation only and it was sort of a tucked away, private world in which you can stay, you can have meals, but also you’d have little get-togethers that were totally off the record. A delightful place.

Dean Becker: Yes, sir. Sasha, are you still involved in the laboratory?

Sasha Shulgin: A little bit of laboratory work. I’m primarily being disturbed by the fact that my vision is gone.

Dean Becker: Oh, my gosh.

Sasha Shulgin: And it’s awfully hard to read labels on test tubes when you can’t see the test tube. (laughter)

Ann Shulgin: Yeah, but there a couple of friends who are willing and more than willing to help him read anything he needs because that’s where Sasha does his best work.

Sasha Shulgin: And these people have actually funded people to come and work with me in the laboratory. And it’s just absolutely marvelous because they know their chemistry and they can read. And now I’m finishing up with Ann this large book and I’ll be back in laboratory in a matter of a couple, three months.

Dean Becker: That’s wonderful news.

Ann Shulgin: I’d like to tell a quick story Esalen, about Dr. Hofmann at Esalen. When he first got there I remember it was evening and he was dressed like any Swiss gentleman with a suit and tie and white shirt. And these young, nubile, very eager pretty young girls rushed up to him and took him by the hand and one would say ‘Dr. Hofmann, you shouldn’t be wearing a tie. This is a very, very relaxed place. Come, let me take your tie off.’ And he would grin and the girl would take off his tie. And he seemed to come back the next day with a tie back on. And we finally caught on to the fact that he was just waiting for the pretty young girl to come rushing up to him and take his tie off. (laughter) He was a scamp.

Sasha Shulgin: A very pleasant one. Actually, one thing I did learn early in my meeting with him, that his name has one ‘F’ and two ‘N’s’ It’s very often misspelled. It’s Hof with one ‘F’ and Mann with two ‘N’s’.

Dean Becker: He sounds like quite the raconteur, I suppose, as you say, Ann. I think we should celebrate the man’s life. He has left so much for us.

Ann Shulgin: Absolutely. Very much so. I don’t know how to explain to anyone who’s not familiar with the world of psychedelics and psychoactive visionary plants how important Dr. Hofmann was. He was a ground breaker and LSD has been very much maligned but it is one of the most extraordinary compounds ever discovered. And we have him to thank for that.

Dean Becker: And, for, was it Aldous Huxley that said ‘Opening the doors of perception’ for so many.

Ann Shulgin: Exactly.

Sasha Shulgin: Exactly correct. Yes.

Dean Becker: I know in the 60s and 70s it was truly an awakening for me. It helped mold and shape my personality and perhaps my perseverance.

Sasha Shulgin: Uh-huh.

Ann Shulgin: Oh that’s great. That really is very good to hear. Oh, one of the funny things that happened at Esalen was that we, we and several other people introduced Dr. Hofmann to MDMA, which is sometimes called ecstasy but that’s a name we never use, and he loved MDMA.

Sasha Shulgin: In fact he asked for a sample to take home to his wife. (laughter)

Dean Becker: (laughter)

Ann Shulgin: And I think he liked it more than his problem child, LSD. But one of the things that I should mention is that everyone thinks his longevity was perhaps due to his having taken LSD but he told us when we saw him in Basil, when he was a hundred, that he and his wife had spent twenty years of their lives, every single day, putting themselves in a position of being upside-down. You know, a lot of people do that but they had persisted in putting themselves in upside-down positions for about ten minutes a day. And he felt that it really kept the blood flow going to the brain and he said he felt that his good health was probably due to that.

Sasha Shulgin: His wife was in her nineties.

Ann Shulgin: Yeah, a very, very beautiful woman.

Sasha Shulgin: A beautiful woman.

Dean Becker: He was a handsome man. I’ve seen some video of him from BBC, in particular. Any other stories y’all would like to share? Or just your thoughts on the future of psychedelic medicine?

Ann Shulgin: Oh, heavens. All we can do is hope.

Sasha Shulgin: Yeah, we just hope that eventually it falls out of the control of the government illegal side of things and gets into medicine. That’s what I like very much about the way it’s going in Switzerland. They have their drug problems, but to them, all these materials that are psychedelic are medical problems and medical concerns and not legal ones. Hence, the research is going on with Swiss support. It is not going on in this country.

Ann Shulgin: For people like me, LSD and other psychedelics and visionary plants are tools for spiritual searching and that is not the easiest path in the world but it is the spiritual path that many, many thousands of people all over the world follow. And someday that will be respected.

Sasha Shulgin: It will someday, I know.

Ann Shulgin: Uh-huh.

Dean Becker: Well, I hoped you’ve enjoyed this edition of Century of Lies and that you’ll join us on this week’s Cultural Baggage when our guest will be Clarence Bradford, former police chief of Houston, now running for District Attorney. 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.

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