09/27/09 - Mike Gray

Reports from the NORML conference in San Francisco with Mike Gray, Mike Bifari, Tom Ammiano, Bruce Mirken, Dr. Robert Melamede, Jeff Jones, Harry Levine, Steve Kubby and Cannabis Cup winner

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Guest: 
Mike Gray
Organization: 
Common Sense for Drug Policy
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Century of Lies, September 27, 2009

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: Hello my friends. Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. I am in San Francisco reporting on the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws conference. It is a busy show. We have got lots of interviews to share with you and let’s get to it.

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Dean Becker: Here with Mr. Mike Gray author of Drug Crazy, wrote the screenplay China Syndrome and you have seen many of his movies and TV shows where he has produced and acted and directed, been involved with the Hollywood scene. Mike, you have observed the drug war for decades you have seen perhaps some changes. Are they improvements? Where are we at?

Mike Gray: Oh, this is absolutely a tipping point, Dean. We are at a point finally where this argument now has broken out in public and it is being seriously debated by people across the spectrum. I just did a video for ASA, Americans for Safe Access. It was a congressional briefing film and we interviewed a dozen California state officials about their attitudes about medical marijuana specifically and this is to be part of a campaign to influence the California congressional delegation in Washington.

So the answer is that we have got from these – Senator Mark Lenno, Orange County Supervisor Chris Norby, incredibly very, very right wing strong conservative from very conservative Orange County and he came out. I mean his statement was just dynamite. We have got you know that this is the law, the people have spoken.

We have got to make medical marijuana accessible and we have to stop trying to dodge this issue you know and calling on the Washington delegation to legalize medical marijuana and that’s you know this is all front page stuff. And for a long time we have been just hammered down by the general press. Now all of a sudden they have kind of awakened to discover that maybe we had something to tell them all along.

Dean Becker: Powerful words, Mike. And you know each time I come to California I get this feeling that I have entered a world where truth is examined. Where people take the chance to you know provide for each one another and to eliminate such hysteria that seems so prevalent in the rest of the nation. Your thoughts?

Mike Gray: Well I think California is certainly unique and there is no question that I guess it’s the sunrise or something but we tend to wake up here you know to the changes in this society a little quicker than they do perhaps in my home state of Indiana where they are somewhat more protected from intrusive changes and so forth.

But we live with it all the time here in California. And I think that we are going to be leading this parade just as we have so far with medical marijuana. We are going to be legalizing cannabis completely.

Dean Becker: Well mike as always it is a treat to see you. I am glad we got to bump in to one another here at the NORML conference. And as always let’s give a send off to Common Sense for Drug Policy. Your website?

Mike Gray: www.csdp.org and you will find all kinds of interesting information there and some YouTube videos about recent developments in medical marijuana.

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Mike Bifari: Ah, well my name is Mike Bifari and I live in the middle of the Argentine mountains. And I have been in the cannabis activism in my country for the last ten years. I have smoked cannabis since thirty years ago. Well after my first NORML convention two years ago I went back home with this big amount of information to spread around to spread the word.

And it has been so inspiring the results about our job in the last two years. We have an organization called Cogollos which means buds in Spanish and we have been we have been tireless working very hard these last two years. And finally this year about a month ago the Supreme Court made a decision over decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana for simple possession. We have, we had before this we had twelve thousand cases in a year and only three of them for marijuana possession. Twelve thousand cases in a year and only three of them went for a final trial oral trial.

So we thought that was stupid and was a waste of money and resources for even for the Supreme Court or for the justice system. And so fortunately people from the government acknowledged this and they have now a different policy. They are the government is talking about the end of the war on drugs and human rights and harm reduction policies for the future. And the Supreme Court gave this decision four days after Mexico also decriminalized drugs for personal use.

What I can tell you is my name is Mike Bifari: M-I-K like Mike and then B as in boy, I as in iceberg, F as in Frank, A-R-I. If you look you google me in a searcher they find lots of web pages and also if you google Cogollos which means bud in Spanish. That is our webpage for the medical marijuana association and we have in Cordoba which is the second city of the country, we have three main cities Buenos Aires, Cordoba and Rosario. If you put Cogollos in a web searcher you also find information: C-O-G-O double L-O-S.

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Dean Becker: Hi this is Dean Becker. You are tuning in to the Century of Lies program on Pacifica Radio, the Drug Truth Network. Dozens of independent college and pirate stations world wide. We are reporting on the conference held in San Francisco for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. While in San Francisco I got a chance to talk with Assemblyman Tom Ammiano about his bill to legalize marijuana.

Dean Becker: Like to get your perceptions. Are we making progress or is this just more smoke?

Tom Ammiano: See, it’s so easy to make a pun. No I really see substance in this discussion particularly as a matter of public policy. And you know it is certainly grab the attention of the federal government. You know Barney, Congressman Frank and some other congressmen have introduced bills similar to mine, my state legislature.

There has been a dictum from the attorney general Mr. Holder that there should be no more raids of medical marijuana dispensaries. The governor of California actually said that this is a good issue to debate. And so I feel that for the first time we are going to have this perfect storm of popular will as well as political will to have some kind of effective decriminalization of marijuana and also to tax it. So we are very excited by this. You know I don’t know what the time line is going to be but I think we are closer to the goal than we have ever been.

Dean Becker: There are a growing number of voices – major media from around the world starting to challenge, to question this policy of drug prohibition. And even many current and former law enforcement officials are speaking up in this regard. Your thought?

Tom Ammiano: Yeah. I think that that again is a good sign but the opposition is not as monolithic as it used to be. And some of the hysteria has been dealt with you know with medical marijuana. A lot of the Reefer Madness kind of mentality has been debunked. And we have great statistics. You know there is a lot of [ ] working on this issue. You know people are very scholarly about how they go, how they dissect this issue. So I think we are going to have a very, very important breakthrough in the near future.

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Dean Becker: We are at the NORML conference, San Francisco. I am here with the director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, Mr. Bruce Mirken. Hello sir.

Bruce Mirken: Hello. Good to be here.

Dean Becker: Bruce, what is you observation? What the heck is going on? Where are we going?

Bruce Mirken: Well, what is going on is that this is a really energized gathering. I think that people have a sense that this movement is making more progress than it has in a very long time. That the public is coming to understand more and more that our current marijuana laws don’t make a whole lot of sense. And you know we are getting there. It is not going to be easy necessarily but there is a real sense that we are making progress.

Dean Becker: You know I just returned from a conference down in El Paso and Ciudad, Juarez, Mexico talking about the forty year anniversary of the US war on drugs as designed by Richard Nixon. And I have noticed that the cartels are kind of showing their horns in the marijuana wars as well, right?

Bruce Mirken: Well, indeed. And this is in some way is sort of a textbook example of why what we have been doing for the last forty years is completely dysfunctional. You know we have got these gangs in Mexico that are really frankly pretty scary folks. We have been effectively subsidizing them with bad laws and lots of other things too.

You know I live in California where there is a very serious problem with environmental damage caused by clandestine marijuana farms in national forests, national parks. One of the recent very bad wildfires seems to have been connected to one of these. And you know there is a reason you never see beer cartels growing hops and causing these sorts of problems. This is not a complicated problem to solve and what we need is the political will to solve it.

Dean Becker: The ramifications, the blowback of the drug war is so enormous sometimes they are just hard to see, right?

Bruce Mirken: The proponents of the drug war will always say oh marijuana is bad. It’s harmful. You know we can’t have this. But look at the harm caused by trying to wipe it out. And you know acknowledging no drug is completely harmless especially if you use it stupidly and some people will be reckless.

But the harm we cause to individuals and to all of society by taking this huge industry and forcing it into the criminal underground, turning eight hundred and fifty thousand lives a year upside down with marijuana arrests, giving people criminal records that get in the way of careers, education, all sorts of things. It is just nuts.

Dean Becker: Alright, once again we have been speaking with Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project. And Bruce, that website…

Bruce Mirken: …is mpp.org. www. mpp.org. Please come and visit us!

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Dean Becker: OK we are here with Doctor Melamede. Doctor, tell us where you are based these days.

Robert Melamede: Well, I am based in Colorado Springs both as a professor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs as well as our home base for Cannabis Science Incorporated, a publicly traded company, symbol CBIS, aimed at bringing cannabis medicine to everybody in their drugstores with doctor’s approval to get an FDA approved drug and have it covered by health care.

Dean Becker: Well yesterday I took a tour of exhibitors here at the NORML conference here in San Francisco and I stopped at one table that seemed to have good gosh twenty, thirty, forty types of products, different ointments, extracts, sprays, et cetera.

And I tried one of them. Kind of had a fruity flavor to a couple of squirts and its effects were noticeable about forty-five, fifty minutes later. Very soothing and you know effective product during a stressful time here at the conference. Made me want to buy stock in the company but of course haven’t had a chance to talk with them. And I guess the point is marijuana is real. Marijuana is making its come back to where its stature it has lost through the hysteria, right?

Robert Melamede: Well, it is going to go beyond its historical past because of the truth as demonstrated by the science on the one hand and the people using it on the other hand. It is something that is built into our very fabric of our life. The marijuana that we make, the endocannabinoids and because they literally regulate every thing in our lives on the one hand and because essentially the thermostat for cannabis activity is set to low because it was set in the past when we didn’t live very long and when we were living in much greater degrees of squalor than most people fortunately are no longer in in this country.

So today we live longer and we die from age related illnesses and cannabis helps counter act all of those age related illnesses because in fact it is an anti aging drug. So what we really need is to consume more of this essential nutrients so that we can turn up our cannabinoid activity thermostat so that we can live longer, healthier and have a better society and world.

Dean Becker: Alright, is there a website where folks could learn more about that?

Robert Melamede: Well, we have cannabisscience.com on the one hand and I have got a number of YouTubes all over YouTube addressing various aspects of this issue. My scientific comprehension is very, very large and it is addressable to all of the issues that concern you know conscious, intelligent people looking for you know a healthier environment and a healthier life for themselves and their family.

Dean Becker: Now, I would bet that knowing the proper way to spell your last name would help them find those YouTube videos. Share that with them as well.

[laughter]

Robert Melamede: You think I know that? No, M-E-L-A-M-E-D-E and probably you could just type in Doctor Bob and marijuana and come up with it.

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Dean Becker: We are at the 2009 NORML conference, San Francisco. I am here with Mr. Jeff Jones. Hello Jeff.

Jeff Jones: Hello. Thanks for having me on.

Dean Becker: Jeff, I walked around the display area here. All the vendors have so much information so much to learn and you have quite a great sampling of ideas and brochures here in front of you. Tell us what you are up to today.

Jeff Jones: Well what we do is network patients that have recommendations with other agencies to help them get medicine or to get the growing supplies to grow on their own. We teach medical patients in classes in our offices twice a month to grow because it is legal for them. And we also network them with places where they can get plants and the medicine if they are not growing already. So we consider ourselves to be a patient support center along with issuing a secure photo identification card if they have a doctor’s note.

Dean Becker: And you know it is amazing every time I come out here it’s a little bit better. A little more refined. A little bit more protective and helpful to the patients, right?

Jeff Jones: Well, we are trying to make our environment more patient friendly because a lot of our future is what we make of it here in California. The future is really I think bright for us in the sense that we have an adult use taxation regulation measure that might be put on the 2010 November ballot which could change things considerably making it a lot easier for patients not to be targeted by police.

And also making it maybe subsidized for them to use because the adult users would be paying more of the taxes and excise fees and maybe subsidizing medical patients. I would like to see sales tax or excise maybe use tax completely sun setted for medical patients once we were to allow adult users to be taxed. I think we open the door for adults to have it but we shouldn’t be paying the fees that medical patients shouldn’t need to be burdened with.

Dean Becker: You know you have been involved with this since well before prop 215, before the Oakland Cannabis Buyer’s Club. You have seen the progress. How much further do you think we will get in the next couple of years and how soon will it be safe to smoke marijuana?

Jeff Jones: In California after the November ballot in 2010 it will be legal for adults over the age of twenty one to possess an ounce and to grow in their own home a limited amount. That is a guarantee as long as we are able to garner enough votes.

It is immediately effective as soon as we vote on it the next morning and I do believe that in the gubernatorial race that is coming up here in California that we are going to garner more votes than the governor potentially. And that isn’t going to be something that is going to be taken lightly by the political establishment.

Dean Becker: Now Jeff as I said you have got all these different brochures in front of you. Point us to a website that might help tie all of this together. Help people bring focus to bear on all these different issues.

Jeff Jones: Well we have a couple of different websites that are out there. Of course ours is thepatientidcenter.org. and probably one of the more updated ones about policy and guidelines is California NORML at canorml, N-O-R-M-L, dot org. they keep a lot of guidelines and updated information about statistics that are happening here in California

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[PSA]
Dean Becker: Drug prohibition – ninety years of success lead us to this day. Our children pick up the phone and drugs are delivered within the hour because that is how we like it. Over dose deaths prevented by a phone call are assured by paranoia. Yes, we are number one. Violent drug gangs are the scourge of our continent. We insist that their jobs pay so very well. terrorists turn flowers into billion dollar bank rolls to buy bigger weapons to kill us. So each year we give them five hundred billion dollars to make it so. We are the champions of the world.

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Dean Becker: You are listening to Century of Lies on the Drug Truth Network on Pacifica Radio via scores of broadcast affiliates worldwide. Just after he walked off stage after giving his presentation to the NORML conference I got a chance to speak with notable New York college professor Mr. Harry Levine.

Harry Levine: I am a college professor and we have a freedom that law enforcement doesn’t have which is to say what we think and to tell the truth. So I have actually been writing about drug policy and drug prohibition for decades. I did a book called Crack in America: Demon Drugs and Social Justice with Craig Reinarman who is actually talking right now. And have written about global drug prohibition and about marijuana prohibition for a long time.

So I grew up – I am a child of the sixties at a time where marijuana use was normal. And I lived in California in the 1970s a place where California has penetrated middle class culture in a way that is just not in much of the rest of America. And so I think that basically I have regarded, like lot’s of people I know regarded, marijuana use as normal – as the name says – for virtually all my adult life.

Dean Becker: Right. Now you were talking earlier about the situation in New York. They have laws that say basically these people shouldn’t be getting arrested in the first place and yet you were indicating that police maneuver things, trick people into getting themselves busted.

Houston has, Texas has a law that says they no longer have to arrest people, incarcerate them for under four ounces and yet every district attorney in the state refuses to obey that. This is cops not following the law. What is your thought?

Harry Levine: Absolutely what you describe is going on. New York since 1977 the possession of seven eighths of an ounce of marijuana or less in your pocket or in your backpack or in a purse or in your home is not a crime. It is a violation like rolling through a stop sign punishable by a hundred dollar fine.

But what the police do is they make in New York City they make half a million stop and frisks a year. They will stop people. They will ask for ID. They will run background checks on them and then they will frisk them and in the course of frisking them, they will either go in their pockets or they will trick them or manipulate them or intimidate them in to taking out what they have.

The classic thing that the NYPD does is will say to a teenager or young adult, we’re going to – they can lie, of course as you know. Police officers can lie.

They will say we are going to have to search you. We are going to go through your pockets. So if you have got anything you are not supposed to have, take it out and show it to us now. If we go in your pockets and find it then it is a much bigger deal. We are going to arrest you. We are going to put you in jail. You will spend twenty-four hours in lock up. It is going to be a mess. However if you take it out and show it to us now and you don’t have very much like maybe you just have a nickel bag or a dime bag or a little tiny amount, a few joints or something – well then we can write you a ticket or maybe we can just let you go. So if you have got anything you are not supposed to have, take it out and show it to us now.

And at that point the sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen year old or whatever with a little bit in his pocket will take it out and hold it out open for the police. At that point that marijuana is now quote open to public view in the law, in the words of New York State law 221.10 it is now a crime. And when they take it out and show it to the officer as he directed them to do they have now they have now committed the crime for which they then slap on the handcuffs, put them in jail and spend twenty-four hours.

Somewhere between two thirds and three quarters of the arrests in New York are made in something like that. They are not people smoking in public; these are not people walk, smoking marijuana on the streets or whatever. These people walking around with a small amount in their pocket and getting arrested for it. The police do it as I just said [ ] the panel because it gives them productivity because it gives them over time because they are safe and easy. They are not going to get shot or stabbed.

As you know when you make a collar when a police officer makes a collar he gets he is married to somebody for three or four hours. Marijuana arrestees are fairly desirable people to spend three or four hours with. They are not smelly. They don’t have body lice. They probably don’t have AIDS or hepatitis. They are not going to throw up on you like like drunks or junkies will or soil the back of your police car. They are often dressed up nice because they are on their way to a party or something like that with a little bit of marijuana in their pocket.

So for the ordinary cop it is actually a desirable arrest to make. They are certainly not violent. Their commanders like it. In New York City the supervisors get over time when the police under them get over time. It allows them to get the information of people into the system: fingerprints, photographs, in some places like California nowadays DNA never to be gotten back.

There is nothing the police can do that gets more new people in to the system meaning getting photographs and fingerprints on than the big net of marijuana arrests. It is the single if you said how do we get more new people into the system the answer is marijuana arrests.

So the police and police supervisors like the arrests as you know because it allows them to keep track of what the cops are doing. If they are making lots of stop and frisks if they are making lots of petty busts they are keeping busy. They are writing it down. We have a record. They live on this street. They live on that street. We know where they are. They are not off eating donuts or watching porno movies or dong something else. They are keeping busy. And they are certainly not shooting anybody because they are just looking for marijuana.

So it is a way to keep the cops busy until something big comes up. And then something big comes up and you can take them off of their college squads or off of these petty busts and shift them off – the presidents in town, we have a fire, we have a bombing. We need police for an emergency. We can pull them off of that. It gives the police departments lots of flexibility. They are going to fight hard to keep that flexibility.

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[PSA]
Hi it’s Marc Emery, Canada’s prince of pot and you are listening to the Drug Truth Network

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Dean Becker: OK we are going to wrap it up with a couple of quick segments but listen close kids.

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Dean Becker: This is Steve Kubby.

Steve Kubby: Yeah well I am playing fireman tonight. I got all kinds of fires because our competitors showed up late. They were lost. But we are finally underway. We have got a packed house. We are sold out. We got some awesome bud, awesome competitors and it is just literally looking good.

Dean Becker: Now what is the name of the event?

Steve Kubby: This is the AMA Cup. We are judging different strains, medical strains for the best strain of the year. We have got this huge trophy that is beautiful, gold plated trophy. Everyone is excited and we are going to start judging in just a few minutes.

Dean Becker: And I heard an approximate count of the number here is one twenty-five?

Steve Kubby: One twenty-five guests, a hundred sixteen paid guests.

Dean Becker: Alright Steve Kubby. Thank you much. We will be reporting more on this here in a little bit.

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Dean Becker: OK I admit it. This Texan was there but I did not get to partake of the five varieties because well I didn’t have the fifty dollar entry fee. But I did get a chance to speak with the winner following the awarding of the cannabis cup.

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Dean Becker: Alright the cup is over. I am here with the winner and I am wanting him to tell us about the strain and what it took to win this.

Winner: I think the strain that brought it home today was the Sour Grapes. A friend of mine made it. It’s [ ] Sour Diesel is the father, the mother is Purple Elephant and we grow it with love all the time. Its available at Harborside. Its great weed. It is fifty fifty sativa indica mix and its certified mold free every day. You know we take great care of it. We grow it hydroponically deliver hydroponic nutrients and we are really happy with it every time.

Dean Becker: Alright and this is a sign that regulation control is bringing about a better product and happier customers, right?

Winner: For sure. We came out here from the east coast. We were growing underground for many, many, many, many years. We came out here because of the regulation the control. We are able to now not only grow the best weed in the world; we are able to teach other people how to do it.

We run the Cannabis Career Institute dot com. And you can go to our classes anywhere. We teach classes up and down the coast of California region and throughout the country. So you can just look us up online at cannabiscareerinstitute.com and we will teach you how to do and show what we do and you can grow the best weed in the world.

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Dean Becker: Now insofar as this reporter is concerned it is hoped that some way the adults in all the other states will finally grow up and we too can smoke and grow the finest weed in the world.

Alright my friends that about wraps it up. I urge you to please tune in to this week’s Cultural Baggage program it was produced down in El Paso, Texas and Cuidad, Juarez, Mexico dealing with the forty year old Nixon drug war. Once again, I remind you once that there is no truth, justice, logic, scientific fact, medical data - no reason for this drug war to exist. We have been duped. The drug lords run both sides of this equation. Please visit our website: endprohibition.org. Prohibido esta evilesco.

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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.