08/10/14 Doug McVay

Doug McVay reports DC will vote on marijuana legalization this November so we speak with Adam Eidinger of the DC Cannabis Campaign, and Congressman Beto O'Rourke participates in the summer reading assignment for US officials.

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Sunday, August 10, 2014
Guest: 
Doug McVay
Organization: 
Drug War Facts
Download: Audio icon COL081014.mp3
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Century of Lies August 10, 2014

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DEAN BECKER: 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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DOUG McVAY: Hello and welcome to Century of Lies. I'm your guest host, Doug McVay, editor of Drug War Facts dot org. Century of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network, which comes to you through the generosity of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and of listeners like you.

Find us on the web at drug truth dot net, where you can find past programs and you can subscribe to our podcasts. You can follow me on twitter, where I'm at drug policy facts, and also at doug mcvay. The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, be sure to give its page a Like, you can find Drug War Facts on Facebook as well, please give it a like and share it with friends.

Before we start, I want to say hello to a few of the stations out there that carry Century Of Lies, including KRFP 90.3 FM in Moscow, Idaho; WIEC 102.7 FM in Eau Claire, WI;A WGOT-LP 94.7 FM in Gainesville, FL; and WERU 89.9 FM in Blue Hill, Maine.

Century Of Lies can be heard on 420 Radio dot org on Mondays at 11 am and 11 pm, and Saturdays at 4 am. We can also be heard on time4hemp dot com on Wednesdays between 1 and 2pm pacific along with our sister program Cultural Baggage.

Let's get to the news.

On August 6, the District of Columbia Board of Elections certified a marijuana legalization measure for the DC general election ballot in November. Ballot Initiative 71 has succeeded in its attempt to qualify. Adam Eidinger from the DC Cannabis Campaign spared me some time for an interview recently:

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ADAM EIDINGER: Thank you. The initiative would allow people to grow minimal amounts of marijuana at home, allow them to possess up to 2 ounces anywhere. They would be able to give marijuana to their friends up to an ounce but no sale of marijuana.

We have a strange restriction on ballot initiatives here. They can’t actually effect revenue or appropriate funds in any way so they really can’t create an agency that would be necessary for tax and regulate. We can give rights to people and we can sort of take a referendum of sort on the question of legalization. So while this initiative is not everything we need it really does give the voters a chance to weigh in and say, “Yeah, I want simple use and personal use to be legal. I want simple cultivation for yourself to be legal. If you have to grow it for somebody nothing should be stopping you from doing that as long as the person is over 21 years of age and as long as they are living and still taking place in the District of Columbia.”

Most of your listeners are probably not in the District of Columbia so they should be aware that we are not a state and we are not a territory. We are a special federal district created under Article 1 of the US Constitution. Our challenge here is not so much passing it as there seems to be according to polling a very strong public support here in the mid-60s.

So really the problem is congress and even the city council itself has...which is kind of our only legislative body here. We don’t have a state government here so they kind of serve the roll of state legislature and city council all rolled into one with the mayor kind of like being the governor. We have more people than two other states – Wyoming and Vermont – so this is a group of people who have been disenfranchised, mostly African American and who’s mostly ending up in jail are African Americans.

This initiative is really “thumbing the nose” at federal overlords and telling them we have the right to write the laws as we see fit and it’s really promoting...there is going to be a fight going on between the extreme wings of the Republican party. I’m not talking about Libertarians now. I’m talking about fundamentalists, sort of Christian fundamentalist types that want to take away people’s rights, that want to restrict the federal government’s power especially when it comes to things like the drug war and raiding people’s homes - they want to expand it.

There’s a guy named Andy Harris who has introduced a rider to stop a decrim law that we fought for here and is already on the books. His rider passed the House and is now held up with budget negotiations which I don’t think are going to go anywhere before the election.

Really we have decrim. It’s the law here and we have also been...you are given the right to put an initiatives on the ballot by congress. This is different than a state having its own initiative and its own state constitution. We were given this right by law by our home rule charter which allows us to have a legislature, to have ballots and referendums.

Once congress gave us that right they can’t then pick and choose which issues are going to be on the ballot or what issues we are going to count the votes on. They tried to do this once already in 1988 and a lot of people are having a flashback right now of that time period of what congress did to us and how it was deeply unsettling that a nation that prides itself on being democratic would overturn an election in its own capital in such an undemocratic way and such a tyrannical way.

DOUG McVAY: Remind the listeners...in 1998 that’s when DC passed its medical marijuana law, correct?

ADAM EIDINGER: That’s right. We passed it but we didn’t actually get the votes counted until 1999. We had to wait a full year.

DOUG McVAY: Once again it was because of congress. It’s not like the District was dragging its feet. This is directly because of those people from all over the country that said...

ADAM EIDINGER: People we don’t elect at all. Not a single one of them is elected to vote for us. That congress at that time passed a law called “The Barr Amendment.” It was an amendment to the budget of DC and said no funds whether local or federal should be spent implementing any marijuana law reform of any kind – like medical, legalization, anything.

The vote took place after this law...actually this became law I believe before the election and we had the election and the city was under advisement to not count the votes. They count all the votes at the same time so this is just another line...they would have had to not count all the votes for every single race and they said, “No, just don’t count the votes for this race.” Even though it was already on the ballot and it was put there primarily by AIDS activists who put their blood, sweat and tears into it. I really understand that now and it was a very disturbing abuse of force upon the city to overturn an election.

Ultimately the votes were counted because the Supreme Court ruled that it didn’t cost anything to count the votes and they are already being counted so that information can be released. There is no reason to keep the information from the public.

Well, congress still had the authority to deny us implementation of the law and so knowing that full well the city council decided not to send the initiative up for final consideration and they sat on it essentially waiting on a more friendly environment. That occurred three, well, four years now when the city started having hearings and looked at that initiative essentially through a new medical marijuana law.

It had a lot to do with the fact that the riders that were on the DC budget had been removed. Even Bob Barr said he was against the Barr Amendment. It was total flip in people’s position that made it possible for this amendment to just go away. It says now that DC can spend its local funds but no federal funds on its implementation of its marijuana laws and that is currently how it is. Our medical program is administered with local funds.

That’s part of our moot point because we actually make the federal government more than a couple billion dollars per year in taxes. The capital city makes its own money. They don’t give us back more money than we give them. It is the reverse. We are paying taxes right here and we don’t even have representation in congress.

It’s really sad. What’s happened here over the years has been a lot of neglect. Because the city is very affluent today it is becoming whiter. It is becoming harder to live in, harder to find affordable housing. I think the issue is just slightly more attention now. That may be part of it. There is a well-funded DC vote campaign here that’s been out there campaigning.

I expect this thing to pass but I’m more concerned about just passing it this time. I think that’s the next thing I would like to talk about if you want to go on to that - what it is going to take to pass it because it is not a guarantee that it is going to pass.

DOUG McVAY: The history is great but I want to find out about I-71, http://dcmj.org. What is it going to take to get the District of Columbia to actually legalize. This isn’t another regulate, setting up a commission or creating some kind of oversight board for the state. This is what some activist would call a much truer kind of legalization.

ADAM EIDINGER: This creates a foundation that the plant itself is not criminal. You don’t have to have any sort of license to have the plant in your possession. The plant just like a tomato plant can be grown but you do have to be an adult and that’s going to be the one thing. So the only government interference is some sort of proof of age.

Minors...it’s just something that we know it affects brain development. We know that brains are still developing. I’m not saying that teen marijuana use is necessarily worse than alcohol use by teens. I think that we can make the case that alcohol use by teens is probably worse for their brain.

That being said we don’t want people with developing brains to use mind altering substances if we think that it might actually harm them. There is some evidence and there is more research needed but why not take the precautionary approach. That’s my feeling about it.

We actually are putting a pretty big regulatory hurdle over who can have access to cannabis. We are saying you have to be an adult. You have to be 21 and not 18. I’ve had parents call up and say they are not going to support this because it should be 16. “We don’t want to criminalize any activity at that age.”

This is a major shift. It is going to create a legal state and, yes, if you grow marijuana and start selling it that is going to be illegal. We want the city council to pass regulations so people can grow marijuana and sell it for making a living.

We already have a pretty good...I have to say the medical marijuana program has gotten better. The city council has been responsive to our legalization push by saying let’s make the medical marijuana more inclusive so now there are no conditions. It is up to a doctor’s discretion to recommend cannabis. They’ve taken a lot of paper work out of it in the last month or so...six weeks ago, actually and the medical program has met its target for the first year with over 600 patients and I think the program is about to explode to thousands of patients. I predict it will be 3,000 patients one year from now so the program is working.

Many of the dispensaries – all but one has indicated support for the ballot initiative and I think they feel that will lead to them ultimately being able to sell to adults and they’ll have to reserve medical marijuana for patients but they could be the first in line for public sales like in Colorado.

We also have...I think we have to have more locations so we would have to come up with some sort of licensing program for places to sell it. For you to grow it I think home cultivation should play a role in what is sold but it just needs to be licensed as well. I think you can have two different types of licensing where some people are really producing a lot of plants and some people are just producing under 2 dozen plants. I don’t know what the number is exactly but something reasonably low or maybe by square footage but there are going to be home cultivators who are going to have surplus and rather than go underground essentially with their access and selling it which would be very tempting we could give them a legal way to sell it so they’ll never sell to the underground as there would be no reason to go there. You would always go to a legal dispensary and sell to them.

We need to democratize the production and democratize the cultivation and the distribution as well. It needs to not be tied up in the hands of the few corporate interests. We need to make this open. I feel our initiative is doing that. It doesn’t even talk about sales. We are creating a space for anything on the table for the city council to figure it out.

We are not like a lot of states. We are the capital. We have a very large transient population – maybe 100,000 people per year shifting in and out every two years. Some people have lived here for many years who have made their homes here and are very sensitive to this issue.

There is a sense that there is already too many drugs in our community and the response to that is this is going to take the drugs off the playground. This is going to give marijuana users a legal way to use marijuana and anyone who is an adult and that is going to change the way marijuana use in the city which is very public. It is very disturbing to parents when they go to a playground and they see guys [inaudible] and we are sensitive to it.

It is a family kind of town. Crime is way down just like New York City is way down. People want this to be regulated. They want it to be done in a way that is smart and you have some benefits for the schools or for the overall budget.

We actually don’t have a budget problem here. We have a surplus here of a couple billion dollars sitting around not even being used. This is a weird place. A lot of rules of politics don’t apply here.

One of the things I want to talk about is how we are going to pass this and why I’m worried about passing it even though things look so positive. People like Kevin Sabet and Project SAMM have been in the media in Washington, D.C. and have been getting a lot of press. They have a full page spread in the south section and it was like the only story in the south section and it was all about how...it was called “Just say whatever.”

Where is the “No” campaign? Where is the opposition to legalization. It seems like there is none. It described the legalization of the marijuana side as having one thousand people deep willing to go lobby or go anywhere in America to legalize and described Wall Street money and we were like the big business and we are putting all this pressure on politicians and we have all this political power. It is not true. None of that is true.

We are actually still a very small movement and if there is big money in it it’s not being put it our initiative. There aren’t businesses on the sideline like salivating to give us money to be successful. It’s not like gambling. It’s like turning a dry county wet. We don’t have that here in DC. Maybe in other states they do but we do not.

DOUG McVAY: If people want to find out more about the initiative and donate to it and support making marijuana legal in the District of Columbia showing congress how the people really feel – how could they most easily?

ADAM EIDINGER: I’m so glad you asked that question. All they have to do is go to http://dcmj.org. They can donate. They can see some videos about the campaign. We have the initiative there as well as press clips. So http://dcmj.org – please donate, you know...4,200 dollars...there is no limit ...we will put every dollar to work to assure victory this November.

DOUG McVAY: Fantastic. If they want to find out more about more about the initiative you are doing are you on Facebook? Are you on Twitter?

ADAM EIDINGER: I don’t really do Facebook but I do Twitter – it’s aeidinger on Twitter. If you want to look up dcmj2014 on Twitter and dcmj2014 on Facebook.

I just want to end this on a little bit of a light note. We have a campaign now of perforating our handouts and printing them on untreated paper and they are set up so you can make filter tips for your joints so people don’t throw away our flyers as they can use them to roll joints. We are doing this to kind of make sure that we are not stuffy people as policy doesn’t have to be stuffy people. Changing the law can be fun and we wanted to have a little bit of humor in our flyers. It’s hard to imagine maybe over the radio but something to check out.

DOUG McVAY: I think radio has got the best visuals but that’s just me.

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DOUG McVAY: We all wish the DC Cannabis Campaign good luck with Ballot Initiative 71!

Staying in DC for a bit, on July 29th Drug Truth Network Executive Producer Dean Becker was in Washington, DC to kick off To End The War On Drugs: A Summer Reading Assignment for US Officials. He was joined for the news conference on capitol hill by a number of leading drug policy reformers and a member of Congress. Let's hear a small part of that news conference, this is Representative Beto O'Rourke, Democrat of Texas:

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DEAN BECKER: While he is here we should take advantage of the fact that we have the congressman from the Texas 16th district, Mr. Beto O’Rourke. Beto, would you come up and say a few words, please.

[applause]

BETO O’ROURKE: What kind of politician would I be if I didn’t accept an opportunity to speak into a microphone?

I really can’t add and hopefully won’t take away anything of what Dean has done with this book. I’ve known Dean for at least since 2009 and I have to tell you that I’m very grateful for him and others who have been working in the trenches on this issue on an idea whose time has finally come. As the old saying goes, “There’s nothing more powerful than that.”

Dean has written something here that is critically important for me and my colleagues and our staffers to digest and understand and when we do it’s really hard to escape the conclusion that the war on drugs has failed and that there is something far more rational, humane and arguably more responsible should take its place.

Recent events whether it’s closing in on half of our states have adopted or are considering adopting measures to allow the medicinal or recreational use of marijuana or the New York Times editorial board taking an unprecedented step in campaigning for a federal end to the prohibition policies when it comes to marijuana or people like me who prior to my exposure to this issue because of the drug violence and prohibition-related violence in Ciudad Juarez this was something that I didn’t really think about, care about, think it affected me and it wasn’t until it came to my attention from the violence in Juarez and I got a chance to listen to people like Dean and others who pointed out that we imprison more of our own fellow citizens than any country on the face of this planet, that we spend billions and now well over one trillion dollars on this war on drugs and that something like marijuana today is just as available if not more so to young kids, middle schoolers, elementary school kids than it was when we spent the first dime and we are nowhere closer to reducing its access, reducing its potency, keeping money out of the hands of criminals, thugs and cartels.

For every reason and anyway you can measure it the right thing to do is now before us and that is to end the prohibition on marijuana and replace it with a much more logical, sensible, rational, humane plan to regulate and control its sale, keep it out of the hands of kids, help those who may need help if they have issues with addiction and make sure that we take the least bad option before us.

Dean, I just wanted to come here today and thank you and commend the representatives of my colleagues to pick up a copy of this book, read it. Make sure, if you can, to get your boss to read it. Then let’s do the right thing. I think the choice is very clear before us right now.

It used to be that we wondered that if in our lifetimes we would see the right decision made. I think it is going to be within the next term or two in congress that we will see historic change here and it will be thanks to people like Dean and others who have been pursuing this issue in the trenches and on the front lines.

Dean, thank you and I’ll turn it back over to you.

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DOUG McVAY: And finally: Seattle Hempfest is coming up next weekend on August 15th, 16th, and 17th, that's Friday through Sunday. It will be held once again along Seattle's waterfront, it actually spans three parks: Centennial Park, which is the North Entrance, Myrtle Edwards Park, which is the Central Entrance, and Olympic Sculpture Park, which is the south entrance. I will be speaking once again this year, you can hear me on the Seeley stage Friday, the Hemposium stage on Saturday, and the Main stage early Sunday. I'll also be getting as much audio as I can during the fest, interviews with people as well as speeches and panel discussions so even if you can't make it this year, you will be able to hear some of the fest on the next Century Of Lies. I'll also be taking photos of the event from the crowd, from backstage, and from on stage, from everywhere, really, you will find those and some words about the fest on my blog at celebstoner dot com. I'll also be tweeting quite a bit during Hempfest so be sure to follow me on twitter, that will be through my personal account which is @DougMcVay.

If you're interested in checking out some pictures from last year's HempFest, see my blog at CelebStoner dot com, I covered last year's fest for them as well.

That's it for this week. I'm Doug McVay and this was Century of Lies. Thank you for listening. You can find a recording of this show and past shows at the website drug truth dot net, where you can check out our other programs and subscribe to our podcasts. Follow me on Twitter, where I'm @ Drug Policy Facts and @ Doug McVay. The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, be sure to give its page a Like, you can find Drug War Facts on Facebook as well, please give it a like and share it with friends. Spread the word. Remember: Knowledge is power.

We'll be back next week with more news and commentary on the drug war and this Century Of Lies. For now, for the drug truth network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

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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 Pacifica Studios at KPFT, Houston.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org