02/06/15 Allen St. Pierre

Allen St. Pierre of Natl. NORML, Alex Rogers of ICBC conference, Heather Fazio of MPP Texas, Texas TV segments for legal cannabis, Kim Ogg Tex DA candidate & US Surgeon General for medical cannabis

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Friday, February 6, 2015
Guest: 
Allen St. Pierre
Organization: 
NORML
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CULTURAL BAGGAGE

FEBRUARY 6, 2014

TRANSCRIPT

DEAN BECKER: Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: It is not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally un-American.

CROWD: No more! Drug war! No More! Drug War! No More! Drug War!

DEAN BECKER: My name is Dean Becker. I don't condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison, and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.

Yes, indeed, the drug war is ending. It begins with marijuana, of course, and is beginning to happen even in Texas. Last night, Houston NORML held a Texas-wide seminar with folks from around the state gathering to plan how we move forward.

We're at the NORML gathering here, we just finished a panel with Mr. Greg Gladden and Kim Ogg, she was the Democratic candidate for district attorney of Harris County in the last election, did quite well. What's your thought of this meeting here, Kim?

KIM OGG: It was exciting. It's the first meeting post-election that I've seen a grassroots swell, and people turn out to promote the end of prohibition. Legalization of marijuana. As you know Dean, my platform was very moderate: no jail, no bail, no permanent record. Wasn't pushing legalization, wasn't even promoting decriminalization. It was simply an interim measure to make it more reasonable, the way we deal with people who are in possession of marijuana.

Right now, our state spends millions of dollars, just our county spends millions of dollars prosecuting people for this, and it doesn't help public safety, in fact it makes things worse. So it was very, I think, affirming to see this grassroots crowd in big numbers here, just to talk about the end of prohibition in Texas.

DEAN BECKER: You know Kim, I think back to that election, and, well I'll admit it, I was working for you. I was putting you on the airwaves because you had a legitimate, uh, presentation of fact that could benefit the county. Devon Anderson absolutely refused, heck they wouldn't even take my phone calls after a while. But she promised a big change, she said that they were going to lower the number of arrests, and help those caught with small amounts. Has it made any difference?

KIM OGG: The statistics that I've seen show no decline in the number of arrests for marijuana possession in Harris County. Roughly 1,500-2,000 people a month are being arrested for this. The few who qualify for the DA's new program, which is really just pre-trial diversion, an old program, an old option that I'm glad she's using. I think that our conversation and this issue in the election pushed Ms. Anderson into territory she wouldn't have otherwise gone into. So while ineffective, I'm grateful for her little program, I'm glad that it helps the few people that it helps and saves their records, but I think as a society and as Houstonians we have a responsibility to help all Houstonians, and that means not wasting taxpayer dollars prosecuting people for small amounts of marijuana, and instead using those public safety dollars, as few and far between as they are, to keep our streets safer from the real criminals.

DEAN BECKER: Dang right. You know, Kim, I've, uh, in the last few months since the election I've interviewed our Mayor, Anisse Parker, and she's come out saying that the drug war's not working, it's time to do something different. I interviewed our police chief Charles McLelland, who made national news when he said the drug war's a miserable failure, and yet Devon Anderson, a Republican, and Sheriff Garcia, refuse to come on my show, and I'm wondering, how do you explain that?

KIM OGG: I think that they're protecting their political positions by taking a stance on marijuana that is not realistic and not popular. Most people believe what we believe, that it is time to stop incarcerating folks who simply want to, uh, enjoy marijuana for personal use, many for medical purposes. Stop wasting our money putting those folks in jail at the expense of dangerous people who run our streets. We've seen a rash of serious murders lately, it sickens me to see how law enforcement resources are drained off and used for the wrong reasons, and persecuting people for possession of marijuana criminally is one of those wasteful reasons. We could really use those cops elsewhere, we need the protection.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Live from Victory Park, this is News 8 at 10.

CYNTHIA IZAGUIRRE: Parents, how far would you go to save your child? For weeks, we've followed the story of nine-year-old Alexis Bortell. She's the little girl from Rowlett who struggles with epilepsy, and whose parents believe cannabis oil can help her. But it's illegal in Texas, so two state lawmakers filed the bill to change that. Channel 8's Jason Whitely tells us why it's still not enough to help Alexis.

ALEXIS BORTELL: Come here, join the game. One, two, three, four.

JASON WHITELY: She is the unlikely face of a controversial issue.

ALEXIS BORTELL: Medical cannabis will help me. And it's illegal in Texas, and we're trying to change that.

JASON WHITELY: Alexis Bortell has captured attention across Texas.

DEAN BORTELL: A bill to be entitled an act …

JASON WHITELY: And two Republican lawmakers finally introduced legislation to legalize medical marijuana — not the kind you smoke, but cannabis oil.

ALEXIS BORTELL: It will help reduce my seizures.

JASON WHITELY: They strike twice a week, like this. Not violent ones, still serious, made more so because drugs don't work on the nine-year-old girl from Rowlett.

DEAN BORTELL: This may or may not work, but it hurts to know that there's something out there that could help her and we can't get access to it because of our zip code, and we kind of feel like we failed her.

JASON WHITELY: Alexis cannot ride a bicycle, she can't sleep over with friends or many other things that nine-year-old girls do at this age. An adult who can administer her emergency medicine always has to be around in case she has a seizure. The Texas bill is a good start, the Bortells say, but doesn't go far enough, so they are already planning to move out of state.

DEAN BORTELL: We will begin preparations for the actual physical move from this location to Colorado, and we'll begin treating her hopefully in late June.

JASON WHITELY: The Bortells already have so-called “red card,” allowing Alexis to get cannabis oil in Colorado. They are resigned to the legislative odds in this conservative state.

ALEXIS WHITELY: I'm doing this the right way.

JASON WHITELY: And plan to keep fighting until the gavel falls in May. Right now, Alexis plans to testify before lawmakers in Austin when this bill ever reaches committee. Even though they are moving to treat Alexis in Colorado, the Bortells say they still intend to try and change laws here in Texas.

HEATHER FAZIO: My name is Heather Fazio, I'm the Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. We are working to mobilize the grassroots here in the Lone Star State to reform marijuana laws, and a big part of that is getting folks into their offices with the legislators to express their feelings about how marijuana laws in Texas are failing us, and that it is really time for reform.

DEAN BECKER: Well, you know, Heather, you talk about the importance of getting people to uh, to visit their elected officials, and I don't know the exact formula, but I think they say an email's worth one point, a phone call's worth two points, a hand-written letter is three points, but to visit them is ten or more points.

HEATHER FAZIO: Well, that's exactly right. It's all about humanizing with those who have been elected to represent you. And if they don't know who you are, if they don't know what you're about and what you think about these policies, they can't possibly represent you. And so it's of the utmost importance to be getting in there, having real conversations about how these policies are affecting our communities and how you want to see change made.

Now luckily, there are offices not only at the capitol for legislators, but also, nearly all legislators have a district office, which means they have an office with staff that is very close to your home because they are your neighbors, they live in the area that you do, they have an office set up there generally with a constituent coordinator or director of some kind, where they can work with you to schedule a time when you can come in and chat with them for, you know, ten, fifteen, thirty minutes, depending on how the conversation goes, on how you want to see marijuana policies reformed in Texas.

DEAN BECKER: And that's, that's really a big issue. I think most of these politicians now understand it is, well it's past time for change, and they know something needs to be done but they need that little nudge, that kick in the butt, don't they?

HEATHER FAZIO: They sure do. The vast majority of Texans are on board with marijuana law reform. Even up to 58 percent are in favor of a completely legal market, where marijuana is regulated and controlled similar to alcohol. But you know, when it comes to medical marijuana, even more Texans are on board with that. According to the UT and Texas Tribune poll that was done last year, 77 percent of Texans, who are mostly Republican, are in favor of safe and legal access to medical marijuana for patients in Texas. So it's all about getting into their legislator's office and communicating with them so they know that their constituents, that they have the support of their constituents, and that you are there to back them up on doing the right thing, which is at a bare minimum decriminalizing small possession and allowing patients that safe and legal access.

DEAN BECKER: Well Heather, we're going to have to continue this discussion throughout the spring, but in the meanwhile, where can folks learn more about Marijuana Policy Project and maybe the focus of your efforts?

HEATHER FAZIO: We have a really broad and diverse and strong coalition, Texas for Responsible Marijuana Policy. Our website is TexasMarijuanaPolicy.org. That's Texas, spelled out, Marijuana Policy dot org. And you can find more information about the coalition we're building, the kinds of policies that we want to see instituted, you can sign up for our email lists, which is where you can take action when the time for action comes during the legislative process, and you can also register for lobby day, which is Wednesday, February 18th, and on this day at the capitol we'll be training advocates on exactly how, how it's going to, how they can effect policy, how they can get into legislator's offices, and make a difference and get comfortable with the process, and then we'll all be going to be going in teams so you won't be alone, into our legislators' offices to share our perspective on how marijuana laws should be reformed in Texas.

So again, the website is TexasMarijuanaPolicy.org, our coalition is Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, and we are looking forward to reforming marijuana laws in Texas this year.

DEAN BECKER: The following segment courtesy KHOU TV, CBS Houston.

LISA HERNANDEZ: Most of us like to bring home souvenirs from vacation, you know, t-shirts, snow globes, but what about a bag of marijuana or some pot brownies?

GREG HURST: Well it's unclear just how many Texans are doing just that after using legal marijuana in Colorado, but we know it's happening.

LISA HERNANDEZ: Tonight Marcelino Benito takes us back to Denver, where some say it's a calculated risk many are willing to take.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: Step on over, we'll get you some edibles.

MARCELINO BENITO: For Texas pot smokers.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: I'll probably take that one there.

MARCELINO BENITO: Colorado offers a mile-high oasis.

TIM CULLEN: A lot of people are visiting Colorado for the slopes and for the cannabis, and they go together on someone's vacation pretty well.

IAN WILLIAMS: Hey, while we're here, let's go stop by, see what's going on with that, enjoy a little slice of the mile-high pie.

MARCELINO BENITO: But when the vacation is over, some tourists want to take the fun back home, and that's where the problems begin. Because while this pot is totally legal in Colorado, it's still very illegal across most of the country, including here in Texas.

BRETT AHROON: We understand that the whole eyes of the world are upon us, so we want to make this look good. You know, we want to give it a, we want to give it a good start, a good clean start.

MARCELINO BENITO: Denver dispensaries like Starbuds advise buyers, beware: use your weed in Colorado. And Starbuds complies with state laws that limit each customer to just a quarter ounce of pot per day.

IAN WILIAMS: Number thirty-two.

MARCELINO BENITO: But there's nothing to stop ambitious shoppers from hitting multiple pot shops and buying as much as they want, and then stashing their stash and heading home.

BRETT AHROON: We get just tons of calls from the airport, Hey, I've got a four-hour layover, could I get there and get back?

MARCELINO BENITO: Texas travelers like Bill and Sue say it's crazy to take a chance. They smoke all they want in Denver. But it's an open secret here that many others stock up and split.

SUE: You just don't talk about it, because it's not legal.

MARCELINO BENITO: Will you get caught at the airport? Maybe. But the TSA doesn't actively look for pot on travelers, if they do find some small amount, they'll most likely call local police. That's what happened a couple of months ago at the Denver airport when they found a pipe and some edible pot buried inside a jar of peanut butter, stuffed into a checked bag.

TIM CULLEN: I call these scratch and sniffs, and these are all, uh, these are all just sample jars that are out purchasing cannabis.

MARCELINO BENITO: One year since Colorado passed Amendment 64 and launched its pot experiment, demand for weed is higher than ever.

TIM CULLEN: Hundreds of people coming through the door, seven days a week. These are vegetative plants here ….

MARCELINO BENITO: Tim Cullen co-owns Colorado Harvest Company and Evergreen Apothecary, sister dispensaries making one huge profit.

TIM CULLEN: The wine cellar of cannabis.

MARCELINO BENITO: They're growing a hundred pounds of cannabis a month.

TIM CULLEN: These are not basement grow operations, these are professional organizations.

MARCELINO BENITO: And if you still don't believe Colorado's pot experiment is working, look no further than this one mile stretch just south of downtown Denver known as the Green Mile. Here you'll find more packed dispensaries than any other place in the world. Dispensary owners say Texas could see the same thing, in fact, places like Colorado Harvest would love to expand into Texas.

TIM CULLEN: We'd certainly be happy to have Texas welcome into the experiment.

MARCELINO BENITO: But until that day comes, Texas tourists will continue spending their green in Colorado, fueling the state's budding $295 million marijuana industry.

SUE: I don't see why we can't legalize it everywhere.

MARCELINO BENITO: That way the weedcation doesn't have to end when the plane takes off for Texas. In Denver, Marcelino Benito, KHOU 11 News.

DEAN BECKER: And now it's time for Name That Drug By Its Side Effects.

ALEX TREBECK: a 2009 study recommended treating heroin addicts with Diacetyl Morphine, the active ingredient in this:

DEAN BECKER: The time's up, the answer:

ALEX TREBECK: Karen.

KAREN: What is heroin?

ALEX TREBECK: Yeah.

BROOKE ALVAREZ (SUZANNE SENA): Our Onion News Network medical correspondent Alex Edelman filed this report about the controversial issue.

ALEX EDELMAN (LOGAN CRAWFORD): Thanks, Brooke. To some, smoking marijuana to relieve pain sounds like an idea thought up by Bob Marley, not a doctor. But the push to legalize marijuana is gaining momentum, and doctors say these prescription doobies will do a whole lot more than just give patients a case of the munchies. Proponents are piping up to say that medical marijuana can help patients with some of the chronic illnesses that have been majorly killing their buzz. To those who have been sick and dying, this could be very groovy news indeed.

DR. J. BOUCHER (AVACADO PITT): Prescribing medical marijuana to patients with terminal illnesses is often preferable to more traditional forms of pain management.

ALEX EDELMAN: Unfortunately 36 US states are still not a kind bud of the legalization argument. But in states that do have the plan, the results have been, well, pretty far out, man. To help him cope with the total bummer of stomach cancer, Fred Galen took the trippy advice of his doctor and sought out the second opinion of Dr. Feelgood. Hey, high five, how's that girlfriend of yours?

FRED GALEN (MATTHEW FABER): Girlfriend?

ALEX EDELMAN: Mary Jane? Helping you take the edge off of cancer.

FRED GALEN: Yes actually, marijuana is making my final months much more comfortable.

ALEX EDELMAN: Oh yeah, I bet. What a long, strange trip it's been, huh?

FRED GALEN: What do you mean, cancer?

ALEX EDELMAN: Cancer.

FRED GALEN: Yeah it has. Even though I'm dying, the states still say they might prosecute me, and, uh, it's crazy. It's not fair.

ALEX EDELMAN: It's reefer sadness. Patients nationwide are bluntly asking state legislatures to finally mellow out and let them score some primo prescription pot, so that they and their doctors can work jointly to stop the suffering that's making a hash of their lives.

BROOKE ALVAREZ: So it's clearly an issue that means a lot to these patients.

ALEX EDELMAN: It is, Brooke, so states shouldn't toke their time with this policy. Weed be upset if patients had to wait a bong time.

BROOKE ALVAREZ: Thank you, Alex. It's interesting to learn that marijuana can help patients by getting them high. You wouldn't think that a drug could act as a medicine for cancer.

DEAN BECKER: Drug Truth Network. Teaching the choir to sing solo.

Well, we're here at the NORML gathering, I'm here with the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Mr. Allen St. Pierre. How're you doing, sir?

ALLEN ST. PIERRE: Good evening, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Allen, I imagine it brings a smile to your face to see stuff like this going on, even in Texas.

ALLEN ST. PIERRE: Oh yeah, we have 160 chapters around the country, and the ones in Texas, I have to say, have the most fun with prohibition, particularly the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter, always comes to mind. If legislation can't necessarily move in that year, that's not going to stop them from having a lot of fun making, making, uh, parody and satire and serious commentary about the failure of prohibition, and nowhere else is this done with the same panache as done in the state of Texas.

DEAN BECKER: Well, you gotta just be bold here, don't you? You know, the thing is, things are changing, the nuance of it all is changing, where we're starting to see more and more Texas politicians, even a couple of Republicans, speaking more boldly of that need for change, are we not?

ALLEN ST. PIERRE: Yes, and I think a lot of that is probably predicated on the changing of generations. I know it's not binary, doesn't follow completely, but generally speaking across the country we see men and women who are today 73 and older, if they are still holding power and they're in law enforcement, there's a good chance they are a rock-solid prohibitionist. But if they're younger than that, and particularly say 30 to 55, and that's really the next generation that's taking the reins of leadership, they have a primary or secondary experience of marijuana and the drug war that I think's informing them that we need to do something different. Sometimes they're not bold enough to say what that is, but they acknowledge it's a failure.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Yeah. Like my interview with the police chief last December, he said it's a miserable failure, went on to recount the racial bigotry involved, the, just the inequity of it all, right?

ALLEN ST. PIERRE: To have him acknowledge that is a clear indication that here in Houston, of all places, to get that. Sure, we would expect that in the Cambridges and the San Franciscos, but when you get it in Houston, it's a good indication that we're probably seeing some nationwide change.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. And, uh, Allen, you're here with Mr. Keith Stroup, the founder of NORML, and you guys get to tour to the various NORML chapters around the nation on occasion, and I guess the thing that surprises me is that in Houston, and you've been talking about it, that, and the, Texas less specifically, but the major cities of Texas, I think if we could vote on this, we could pass it pretty handily. What do you think?

ALLEN ST. PIERRE: Yeah, if there was a home rule situation, uh, the local municipalities, the big ones: Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antone, if I'm forgetting any forgive me, I know those are all, all of these are huge compared to the little town I grew up on Cape Cod. All of these places would be terrific to see that. And all of these bubble up from the bottom up. Politicians in Austin and politicians in Washington, they don't move until they get to see what's going on down the feeding chain of politics.

These initiatives that have been changing marijuana law in the United States, four states have legalized marijuana, 17 states have decriminalized it, 23 states have what we call functional medical marijuana laws, there's another 12 states that have what we call dysfunctional medical marijuana laws, those are the CBD-only states. So, you know, you'd have to be a pretty dumb and blind politician to miss this big upward trend in American politics, moving toward ending marijuana prohibition.

DEAN BECKER: Yep. All right, once again we've been speaking with Mr. Allen St. Pierre, head of national NORML. They're out there on the web at NORML.org.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: Okeh, let's say that drug prohibition does support terrorism.

DEAN BECKER: And murder.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: And murder.

DEAN BECKER: Torture.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: And torture.

DEAN BECKER: Corruption. Bribery.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: And, whatever.

DEAN BECKER: What's your point?

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: Change the law.

DEAN BECKER: I got you. Make it cheap, more available. Everywhere. Like soda, or cheesy puffs.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: Exactly.

DEAN BECKER: Cocaine at the playground, crack stands at the laundromat, heroin at the minimart. Like that?

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: Face it old man, that's what we've got now.

DEAN BECKER: Please, visit the website of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition: LEAP.cc.

The following segment with the new US Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, is courtesy CBS News.

NORAH O'DONNELL: Mr. Surgeon General, while we have you here I wanted to get you on the record about whether you support the legalization of marijuana, and what concerns do you have?

VIVEK MURTHY: Well, marijuana is an interesting story that's unfolding in our country right now. And, I, we have, you know, had a long history of discussion around the benefits and risks of marijuana. We have experiments that are going on in many states right now where medical marijuana has been legalized, and in at least a few states where it has been legalized even for recreational use.

NORAH O'DONNELL: We know all that, we want to know your position, Mr. Surgeon General, with all due respect.

VIVEK MURTHY: Yes, well, my position is that we have to, we have to see what the science tells us about the efficacy of marijuana, and I think we're going to get a lot more data on that. We have some preliminary data showing that for certain medical conditions and symptoms, that marijuana can be helpful, so I think that we have to use that, that data to drive policy making and I'm very interested to see where that data takes us.

DEAN BECKER: You know it seems the news about marijuana in particular is just booming all around this nation. And here to talk about a forthcoming conference out in San Francisco in that regard is Mr. Alex Rogers, who heads up this event. Tell us about this event, please.

ALEX ROGERS: Uh, yeah, Dean, uh, there is a lot of news around, uh, the United States and the world about cannabis and medical marijuana and drug policy reform in general, and, uh, what we're doing is we're kind of, uh, we're an informational conference, and what we try to do is kind of give people the upper hand in terms of not only business information but the culture and politics that surround cannabis also, because if you're going to be a proficient cannabis business person, we feel it's really imperative that you understand the culture and politics around this because so many of those variables will determine your success in your respective cannabis business.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, and you know Alex, I talk about it's happening all around the country, heck it's happening in Texas for god's sake, we have a couple of conferences coming up, I think three in the next week, dealing with that around the state. We've got the local broadcasters talking in support of medical marijuana, the benefits etc. etc., it's just a new era, is it not?

ALEX ROGERS: It is a new era, and, uh, you know, everyone's really coming out of the closet, and it's good, there's security in numbers. You know, us pot smokers – I'm a pot smoker, proud, smoking pot all my life, I'm a magna cum laude graduate from Oregon and, uh, political science, and you know, I know a lot of people who smoke pot, especially on the west coast. You know, it's been, a lot of people have been out of the closet for a long time so it's part of our culture. You go to a business party, and people will be smoking pot and it will be like no big thing.

And now what's happening is that west coast mentality is now, it's, you know, just every state that goes, more people feel comfortable talking about it. You know, just ten years ago you'd say I think all drugs should be legalized, and you were, it was like saying, you know, you were, you know, it was almost, you know, blasphemous in a certain way, committing treason almost, you know. And now that, you know, you mention things like that and, and, you're part of the, it's becoming part of the rule rather than the exception.

And it's refreshing, and at conferences like mine we definitely mainstream the, help mainstream it and push the public policy forth also. You know, our two keynote speakers are Dr. Carl Hart and Rick Steves, you know, it doesn't get much more professional and, and, you just never know, everyone's smoking pot, everyone's using cannabis, you know, they've just been secretive about it, you know, but now it's okeh, it's just like, it's going to be just like having a beer or something like that, just what you do when you come home from work in your own house it's your own business, and pot of course is one of the most benign substances, non-toxic substances on the planet, so this all just makes sense and now it's really time for the federal government to get in line.

DEAN BECKER: Well now again, coming back to this forthcoming conference, I will be there in attendance, reporting for the Pacifica listeners, the Drug Truth Network listeners. Give us the details, when does it start, where is it, how can they learn more?

ALEX ROGERS: Yeah, sure. It's at the San Francisco Hyatt Regency at the Embarcadero, beautiful place, and it's coming up this February 15th and 16th, that's a Sunday and Monday. And you can learn more about it at internationalcbc.com, www.internationalcbc.com, and it's going to be, it's shaping up to be the preeminent business conference in the world. There's a couple others that are comparable, but we, our content for this conference is ridiculous. We've got the most amazing speakers of, top politicians, top business folks, top cannabis industry folks, it really is a be all, tell all, end all of cannabis industry folks.

DEAN BECKER: That's about all we can crowd in this week. I urge you to check out our 7,000 shows at DrugTruth.net, and please, do your part to end the madness of drug war and as always I remind you because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag so please be careful.

To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Drug Truth Network archives are stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Policy Studies. Tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.