11/27/15 Cory Booker

2015 Drug Policy Alliance Conf with Senator Cory Booker, DPA Exec Dir Ethan Nadelmann, Michael Krawitz Dir of Veterans for Medical Cannabis, Nurse Ken Wolski of Coalition for Med Marijuana New Jersey, memoriam to Professor Buford Terrell & Tom Angel of Marijuana Majority

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Friday, November 27, 2015
Guest: 
Cory Booker
Organization: 
Senator
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CULTURAL BAGGAGE

NOVEMBER 27, 2015

TRANSCRIPT

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

DR. G. ALAN ROBISON: 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.

Hello, my friends, welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. We've got many segments from the recent Drug Policy Alliance international drug conference. We're going to start it off with the first speaker that kicked it off.

US SENATOR CORY BOOKER: Hi everyone. I'm United States Senator Cory Booker and I want to welcome you to the 2015 International Drug Policy Reform Conference. This is such an important conference, and I tell you, I've been working with drug policy advocates from really the beginning of my professional career. I've learned from them, they've informed a lot of the policy I've pursued, from the city council to being a mayor, to now, in the United States Senate. And there is an urgency, and that's why I want to thank everyone for attending this incredibly important conference and conversation that we're having now internationally.

It's been two years in the United States Senate, and one of the important, urgent issues I've been pursuing is overall criminal justice reform. We have so many challenges today because of a failed war on drugs, and the war on drugs as well know was a war on people. Right now, as a result of that war on drugs, as a result to over-incarceration, to changing laws, mandatory minimums, to three strikes you're out, to all of this together, has created an enormous waste of human potential, causing so much more poverty in the United States than we should have, has destroyed lives, have wasted taxpayer dollars.

In fact, right now in the United States, we are so over-incarcerating, that we're closing in on one out of three adults having an arrest record and even more than that, we now have only five percent of the globe's population but about 25 percent of the globe's prison population. At a time that America is not adequately investing in their infrastructure, the United States was building a new prison every ten days between 1990 and 2006. I know we can do better by investing our resources in the kind of things that produce growth and jobs, that raise the wellbeing of our citizenry, and make us more safe.

I believe in my heart of hearts that what we are doing right now is a self-inflicted wound and a punishment that has a generational impact. Right now, over 2.7 million American children have a parent behind bars, and about 10 million kids have experienced parental incarceration. This really does mean that those children of incarcerated adults face much more difficult challenges in their lives, and often what we see is a creation of a generational problem. And so now, I want to focus on changing this. Enough is enough.

We can do better. And this is why I focused a lot of my work here in the Senate on these issues. In drug policy especially often ends up reflecting the worst of who we are. We know in America that there's no difference between blacks, whites, and Latinos in using drugs. We know there's no difference between blacks, whites, and Latinos in actually dealing drugs. In fact, young white males have a little of a higher rate, according to some studies. But what we see now is that blacks are arrested almost -- four times more likely to be arrested than whites, and that Latinos are almost twice as likely. And so change, to me, reform to me, is the call of our country.

And so I hope that you all will join me with trying to do real substantive things. In the Senate, I've been working on everything from making sure that medical marijuana, the decisions that states have made are respected by the federal government and not punished. And I've focused on changing a lot of our mandatory minimum drug laws. I've focused on trying to do common sense things, like making sure people have access to treatment, and mental health care, common sense things. Making sure that we as a country empower people when they come out of prison, and don't make an arrest for a non-violent drug crime in your teenage years punish you in your 30s, 40s, 50s, and throughout your life.

There is much that we can do, and I've been trying to put a full court press along with other senators here in Washington. This is not a partisan issue. This is an issue that effects all Americans, regardless of party, race, or background. And so, today, I'm excited to have this chance to talk to you, because this is going to have to be a movement. This is not something that's just going to happen because leaders in elected office are going to decide to do it. It has got to be a demand from our community as a whole. It's got to be a call to the conscience of this country and beyond. It's got to be people coming together and demanding that we do the common sense thing when it comes to our drug laws.

Together, we can do better. We must do better. Much depends upon this. This nation of America has this ideal of liberty and justice for all. Every generation has to prove worthy of the blessings we've inherited. We have a country here in America to be proud of, but we have so much more work to do. You all right now are working on an issue that, for me, puts you in the trenches of the front lines of the fight for the ideals of this country and indeed I believe humanity. I wish you all the best on your work. I hope that we can find more ways to partner. Together, we can make a difference. There's an old African proverb that I love: If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together. Let's continue to deepen our bonds, one to another, on the difficult yet important work to reform our drug laws in this nation and beyond, and to bring common sense, to bring enlightment, into how we deal with these issues. Thank you very much.

DEAN BECKER: Next up, we're going to hear the opening thoughts of the Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Mister Ethan Nadelmann.

ETHAN NADELMANN: So, now in keeping with the theme of: drug policy reform, a human rights imperative, there's one other announcement I want to make, which is, as most of you know, what's coming up on April, in April, in fact 420 it's coming up, is the next United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs, the first one since 1998. 1998, the UN General Assembly Special Session on drugs was a colossal nightmare, right? Where the rhetoric was "A Drug Free World, We Can Do It," and all sorts of absurd claims that helped to advance the drug war and punitive drug policies around the world.

Well, you know, some of us stood up then and launched a public media campaign around that, that helped transform the debate in the early years. But what's coming up now is going to be something very different. We know that most of the governments will still have things wired on the inside, but what's emerged is a global network of over a hundred organizations from every continent except Antarctica, committed to trying to use the opportunity of the UNGASS in April to try to open up this debate, to inject principles based upon science, compassion, and most of all human rights, into this mix.

Now, there's a specific campaign called Stop The Harm that is going to mobilize hopefully hundreds of thousands if not millions of voices. Almost all of the leading organizations are part of this campaign. It's the way to make our voices heard as this event approaches. So I want to encourage all of you to go to StopTheHarm.org/join, sign up, share the link with your friends, if you want to learn more visit the booth at the conference out there. But this is the way, I mean, look, they're not going to change the conventions next year. But if we want those conventions, those global drug prohibition conventions being changed at the next UNGASS in 10 or 12 or 14 years or whatever it's going to be, this is the moment when we need to be heard, so please sign up for StopTheHarm.org.

MICHAEL KRAWITZ: I'm Michael Krawitz, and I'm the executive director of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access.

DEAN BECKER: Michael, the news is, on a daily basis, almost astounding, the recognition of the futility of the drug war and incremental steps towards solving those problems, and one of the ways in which it's really got a laser focus is in regards to veterans and their rights to choose the medicine of their choice. Right?

MICHAEL KRAWITZ: Absolutely. Well, I think there's certain things that are assumed when you're talking about a military veteran in the United States, and one of them is, and this is certainly something that we've experienced, the veterans are sent out of the VA hospital with entirely too many pills, a big bag full of prescription medications that they're sent home with. And one thing that we definitely see very consistently amongst those that are telling us they're using cannabis as a medicine under state programs is they're able to put a lot of those pills aside. And I think that is going to prove to be very valuable. It already has.

DEAN BECKER: Well, you know, we have a gentleman here who's manning a table, 22 Too Many, which speaks to the same situation, that in many ways those pills complicate a man's mental reasoning capacity, I think, and too often leads to a dismal scenario. Correct?

MICHAEL KRAWITZ: Well, that's it. And if, you know, such a veteran is telling the public, telling their doctor, telling their family, that, you know, that cannabis is helping them, then we know that this isn't some effort to get drugs, because they're already being given the drugs. They're putting the drugs aside. And, I've met a lot of doctors in my time, I've never met one yet that favored putting cannabis aside and using more morphine. It doesn't work that way.

DEAN BECKER: And, that's the case. I mean, we ask so much of our soldiers, our servicemen, to commit to service to our nation, our nation should provide that same commitment back to them. Am I right?

MICHAEL KRAWITZ: Well, that's a promise we've, I guess, made to our military service people, men and women, since the very beginning of our country, you know. George Washington, the first president, military general, I understand worked quite hard to make sure that those coming back from the Revolutionary War were given some respect and benefits, but it's been an ongoing fight, all the way through, right til the present day to make sure that veterans receive the care that they need.

Sometimes it's very political, as in the case of the Gulf War Syndrome. I worked on issues through that time period, and I can tell you that there's a lot of politics involved there that, you know, the government really didn't want to admit to a lot of the things that the military service men and women were getting involved with, and that may have actually caused the respect and implementation of services for those benefits for those disabilities to be delayed. And in fact, today, we've had to overcome obstacles where the military didn't want to admit how many people were suffering from post traumatic stress. And post traumatic stress sufferers were, up until rather recently, being ejected from the military, as those with some sort of emotional disorder.

I mean, and I can tell you that the science, you know, I'm not a scientist, I'm not a doctor, but I can tell you from a layman's perspective, it's so clear that, when you are suffering an injury, in combat or in a combat zone or from horrible trauma for those that aren't even in the military, even though that trauma may not be physical, there is physical damage that's done, that causes these post traumatic stress symptoms. They're able to look into the brain of someone that suffers from post-traumatic stress and see definite changes that have occurred in a physical way. So this isn't some emotional issue that can be counseled away. Cannabis seems to help with some of the symptoms of post traumatic stress, it helps veterans get a better night's sleep, it helps reduce the amount of pain medications, which also by extension helps reduce overdose rates connected to those opiate pain medications.

And we're looking at, again, this overwhelming number of patients that tell us that they're able to lower the number of prescription pills that they're taking. Well, the prescription pills that are approved by the FDA for post traumatic stress are Zoloft and Paxil, and both of them carry a black box warning of suicide. So, you know, if we can reduce that, we know we can reduce the suicide rate, never mind the fact that preliminary data coming back from medical marijuana states shows us also a trend toward lowering suicide just connected to medical marijuana anyway. So we're looking at this as a win-win.

Now, I've got to mention, we've treaded very carefully, I had to tread very carefully because of the American Psychiatric Association that's been adamant, adamant, that here's a population of veterans that, post traumatic stress sufferers that in their eyes are very prone to drug abuse, and you want to give them another drug of abuse, marijuana? I mean, from their perspective, it was so horrifying a thought that it really did slow us down, and it made us take pause. I mean, we usually like to have the protection and security of knowing that we're working with the medical profession on this. And we are, except for the American Psychiatric Association, who happens to be tasked with this particular area of expertise, of treating patients that suffer from post traumatic stress. And again, their number one drugs that they're using are Zoloft and Paxil. They're so ineffective that what we're actually seeing in practice is that doctors are sending them out with what they're calling a dangerous cocktail of off-label medications, that that's what's filling those bags that the veterans are leaving the VA facility with.

And let alone the couple of medications, so often Paxil, and the negative implications that they may represent, the combination of drugs in that bag makes it almost impossible to predict the negative outcome, and they all have really -- your show has really done a great job, Dean, of talking about the medications in the abstract, I love that sequence where you guess the medication based on its negative side effects. And if I read all the negative side effects of all the medications in that bag, I think just listening to them would cause you some trauma.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, we're speaking with Mr. Michael Krawitz. He heads up Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, and he's a pioneer, he's a veteran, he stands with you guys out there that have served our nation, and it's time for a little more bravado from all of us who served, to stand up to these politicians, tell them they're just wrong. Am I right?

MICHAEL KRAWITZ: Well, I think the veterans have been kind of leading a fight, here, in some respects, because, you know, at least at this time in history, the politicians and the powers that be, and the media are listening to veterans. I want to add though that just about every veteran I've talked to has been very clear to me that, hey, we're doing this for all patients, this isn't just for vets. And we recognize that all patients out there have, you know, a chance to experience some of these negative problems that are associated with trauma and associated with injury. Just veterans do it at a greater percentage, you know, at a greater likelihood, than the general public, that's all.

DEAN BECKER: Well Michael, what's your website where people can learn more about the work you do?

MICHAEL KRAWITZ: The easiest place to find us would be on Facebook, actually, you go to Facebook.com/USA.VMCA, Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Fever, anxiety, nausea, delayed ejaculation, shakiness, profuse sweating, decreased appetite, bedwetting, suicidality, and death. Time's up! The answer: Zoloft, from Pfizer Incorporated.

KEN WOLSKI: Hi, I'm Ken Wolski, I'm from New Jersey, I'm executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana in New Jersey.

DEAN BECKER: Now, Ken, you're also a nurse, correct?

KEN WOLSKI: Yes, I'm a registered nurse, I've been an RN for 39 years, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Now, you've been observing the mechanism of this drug war and you've objected to many portions thereof. Tell us about the work you've done over the years.

KEN WOLSKI: Well, I formed the Coalition for Medical Marijuana in New Jersey in 2003, and we've been working to have a medical marijuana program in New Jersey. We got the bill introduced in 2005, the Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana in New Jersey, introduced into the legislature in 2005. We went through five years of hearings, and then we finally got it passed into law in 2010. And, you know, we thought our work was going to be over, but unfortunately, Governor Christie came on board and he's been delaying the meaningful implementation of the medicinal marijuana program, such that in the last six years, only 5,000 people have actually gotten medical marijuana in New Jersey, and we're a state with almost 9 million people, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: You know, I think it was the head of the DEA recently called medical marijuana a joke, created quite a firestorm, and people like Governor Christie, who think they speak with authority and knowledge, are just seen now as stumbling blocks to your efforts. Am I right?

KEN WOLSKI: Yeah, absolutely. That was such an embarrassment for the head of the DEA to say that. You know, I was one of the people, many tens of thousands of people, who are calling for his resignation or firing right now for saying that. You know, there's no question about marijuana is medicine, there's a whole science that's developing, Dean, you know, the science of the endocannabinoid system, how marijuana, the components of marijuana, the cannabinoids, actually work in the human body because of these receptors for -- in every organ of the human body for the components of marijuana. You know, this is a very well-recognized science, it's an emerging science for sure, only been developed since the 1990s, only been discovered since the 1990s. But there's no question about the science and the medical benefits of marijuana. No question at all. And it really is an insult to the 23 states that have medical marijuana programs. to the millions of patients who have, who use marijuana under the recommendation of a physician, and to the many health care organizations such as my own American Nurses Association that has endorsed medical marijuana.

DEAN BECKER: The unveiling of this, the Century Of Lies, one of my radio shows, is starting to gain traction. More and more people, even politicians in office, are starting to agree with you. Have we rounded the corner, Ken?

KEN WOLSKI: Well, that's a funny thing. You know, we've certainly, in medical, we have tremendous support among the people of the United States, you know, support is around 70 percent, in New Jersey it's 86 percent of the voting people support medical marijuana. But you know, politicians don't necessarily reflect the will of the people. You know, they're, that's a whole different animal, when you talk about the elected officials who are necessarily dependent on their campaign contributions to stay elected, so you know, they have many people that they have, are beholden to, and not just the will of the voters.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Ken, you know, this conference, once again it's like a shot in the arm, it's a reinvigorater, it will keep us going for another couple of years. What's your observation about this conference?

KEN WOLSKI: Well, so far I've been very happy with it. You know, the plenary sessions that I've gone to have been just wonderful and inspirational. And, you know, the networking is absolutely astounding. You know, it's so great to see some of the drug policy reformers that I've been involved with and meeting for decades, like yourself, Dean, you know, we go back many, many years. So, I think we roomed together at one point at one of these conferences. So, you know, these national conferences really are a great experience and it's wonderful, a wonderful reinvigoration of our efforts to make some meaningful drug policy reforms.

DEAN BECKER: Now, I, you know, I'm not any kind of medical practitioner, but I often think of that thought, that doctors are first to do no harm, and I think in ignoring the possibility of the benefit of cannabis, they are in essence many times doing harm. Not to say they're all culpable, we've all been brainwashed. But, if folks would like to learn more about the truth of this matter, I'm certain you could provide that to them, please, share your website and point them in that direction.

KEN WOLSKI: Well, thank you, Dean. Yes, it was very disappointing for me to learn recently, when I was testifying in Pennsylvania for their medical marijuana bill -- I'm also licensed in Pennsylvania as well as New Jersey. I learned that not a single medical society in the entire country has endorsed medical marijuana. Now that's a real embarrassment, especially when you look at one of the old statistics of, from 1990, where 44 percent of the oncologists in the country recommended marijuana -- recommended that their patients obtain marijuana illegally. You know, they're just not really taking responsibility for this. Now, you know, for their own recommendations. And you can learn more, thank you, our organization is the Coalition for Medical Marijuana in New Jersey, it's CMMNJ.org. But there's also other wonderful national organizations that I'm affiliated with, including Patients Out of Time, MedicalCannabis.org, and the American Cannabis Nurses Association, so, you know, these are some wonderful organizations for people who are interested in medical marijuana and learning more about it.

DEAN BECKER: You know, Ken, I may not use this, but I want to talk to you a bit. I'm in Houston, I'm well known, I get emails and phone calls from friends and relatives of people whose doctors have quietly told them perhaps medical marijuana would help your conditions. And I won't say too much about how they acquire it. But, it works. There was an 82 year old man with bone, bowel, and liver cancer. He was on his way out. He didn't like the morphine, he didn't want to go out that way. And his relatives arranged for him to try some cannabis products, but he wound up liking the marijuana butter, that suited him just fine. And he's gone now. But his last days were better and much appreciated by him and his family, because of medical marijuana. Your thoughts, Ken Wolski.

KEN WOLSKI: Yeah. Marijuana helps with the dying process in so many ways, Dean. You know, it controls pain without over-sedation, it improves the appetite of dying people, you know, you have a more robust patient who's dying, and it lifts his spirits, you know? It's a mild euphoric. And for some people, it even controls bladder, their bladder, it helps with bladder control. So you know, the difference between lying in wet sheets and lying in dry sheets, you know, is a world of difference in quality of life for, you know, for the dying process. So, you know, New Jersey does recognize marijuana as a qualifying condition for any terminal illness, but so few people know this, and so few people really take advantage of this, that it's really a sin. It should be immediately available to anybody who has a terminal illness, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: You know, even before Cory Booker gave his speech, the Drug Policy Alliance did a memoriam to the dozens of people in drug reform who have died since the last conference. One who was not on the screen, one who was not recognized because he passed away so recently, was my good friend, sometimes mentor, a long time member of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, Professor Buford Terrell

PROFESSOR BUFORD C. TERRELL: On my show, we have live call-ins, so I get a little more direct feedback. But, when I start talking about repealing the drug laws, one of the things I get from people is, but won't that put a lot of drugs available for kids and teenagers? And the thing that most people overlook is that in a hundred years, these laws have not made drugs unavailable to anyone. Marijuana is easier to find these days, I think, than coffee. It's pathetic hysteria. The whole drug surge thing at schools was blown all out of proportion, there was never any need for it in the first place. The sad thing is, if we look at schools that have gone to random drug testing, they normally get less than one percent positive results. What these searches do is basically tell kids that it's okeh to live in a police state. And in this case, what they were searching the girl for was ibuprofen. It's pathetic when a teenage girl can't even carry pain medication for pre-menstrual syndrom.

DEAN BECKER: Again, we're recognizing the passing of a great drug reformer, Professor Buford Terrell. He'll certainly be missed, especially in the state of Texas. Thank you for your instructions.

Here to close us out, we have Mister Tom Angell, Director of the Marijuana Majority. Tom, your thoughts, your words, are being shared, not just in the US, not in every state, but hell around the world, because of the focus you bring to bear on this subject. I first want to congratulate you on that. And secondarily, we need to recognize that today, here at the, during this DPA conference, you and associates went to DEA headquarters. What did you do there, sir?

TOM ANGELL: We were pretty perturbed by some comments that acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg recently made, in which he characterized the medical use of marijuana as a joke. And now, you know, whoa, hang on a second. You know, you can say, you know, maybe the research isn't there, although I disagree with that, you know, you can say there are components of cannabis that show promise but we need more research, of course, you know, I disagree with that, we need to have medical marijuana available for patients right now. But to go so far as to call it a joke, to say that my mom, who uses medical marijuana to deal with the severe pain caused by multiple sclerosis, to say that that is a joke, you know, there's nothing funny about that to my family, you know.

And so, what we did is we started a petition on Change.org and we've succeeded in collecting over one hundred thousand signatures on that petition to date, in two weeks since we uploaded it. And today, since the DPA conference happens to be a 12 minute walk from DEA headquarters, we went over there with some medical marijuana patients and some family members of medical marijuana patients, and we delivered those petitions to the DEA, to let them know, you know, to put them on notice that these type of disrespectful comments are not acceptable in 2015.

Yeah, I mean, the evidence is overwhelming: the scientific evidence, major medical organizations are weighing in and saying marijuana has medicinal benefit for people dealing with a variety of serious ailments. The American public is there, time after time, poll after poll, 80 percent, 90 percent, bipartisan support across the board for passing laws to protect patients from arrest. And increasingly politicians are there, you know, members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, came together and passed a series of recent amendments to advance medical marijuana reform on the federal level. And so, the drug war bureaucrats, you know, who have waged this war, who spent their careers waging this war, it's like they're almost sticking their fingers in their ears and they don't want to hear it. They're like ostriches with heads in the sand, you know, the evidence is there whether they like it or not. The political winds are shifting whether they like it or not, and the 100,000 petition signatures we just delivered today. You know, they can try to ignore that, but we're not going away. This is going to continue to be a political problem for the Obama administration until there's a change made at DEA.

DEAN BECKER: Again, we've been speaking with Mister Tom Angell. Tom, your website, please.

TOM ANGELL: Our website is MarijuanaMajority.com.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you for joining us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. I close with the thought that because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.