02/26/16 Svante Myrick

Prof William Martin of James Baker III Institute re Mar 9 panel, "The Ithaca Plan" with Mayor Svante L. Myrick, Lillian Fan, Assistant Director of Prevention Services ├ö├Â┬úÔö£├é├ö├Â┬úÔö£┬║├ö├Â┬ú├ö├Â├▒ Harm Reduction, Don MacPherson, Director, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, Kassandra Frederique, NY State Director, Drug Policy Alliance + DTN Editorial

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Friday, February 26, 2016
Guest: 
Svante Myrick
Organization: 
Mayor
Share

Comments

CULTURAL BAGGAGE

FEBRUARY 26, 2016

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.

Thank you for joining us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. Here we go, folks. I'm proud to be a contributing expert with the James A. Baker III Institute, and I'm proud that on March 9, I'm going to be moderator of a great panel there at the Baker Institute, and here to talk about that and much more is my boss, Professor William Martin, of the Baker Institute. Hello, sir.

PROFESSOR WILLIAM MARTIN: Good morning, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Bill, I wanted to kind of get your take on, well, first, the election season that's coming forward. What's your take on the candidates?

WILLIAM MARTIN: Well, it's been quite interesting. I mean, look, I don't think anybody's going to decide how to vote in the presidential election based on a candidate's past position on drug policy, but I've been following this, and the candidates, including some who've already dropped out, have talked about their opinions and have listened to the concerns of people who came to their gatherings. We can really see significant change. Every one of the candidates was at least somewhat open to medical marijuana. Most of them were uncertain or opposed to recreational use, but several of them said that they believed -- for instance Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Rand Paul, all of them said they supported the right of individual states to make their own decisions. And probably even more significant than that was that very high number, I mean a strong sense of at least open to some form of decriminalization. And they recognized that drug abuse can cause problems, but they're, the enthusiasm is definitely down, or really opposed to continuing the war on drugs the way it's been pursued, just relying mainly on strategies of eradication, interdiction, and incarceration.

You know, Donald Trump wants to build a wall, Ben Carson also mentioned a big wall, but most of them agree with Bernie Sanders when he says, we have to rethink the so-called war on drugs, which has destroyed the lives of millions of people. And pretty much all the others say something very similar to that.

DEAN BECKER: And, Bill, this, I don't know, I feel the dam is breaking, the ice is cracking, something's going on here. Can I just share with you right quick, I think two days ago, Kofi Annan, former head of the UN, came out for ending the war on drugs, we had a great piece in the Wall Street Journal from Tom Wainwright talking about the economy of it is stupid, the New York Times today had an editorial, End the Ban on Denying Drug Users a College Education. Bail reform is being put forward today in the US Congress. And just today, the mayor of Ithaca, New York, called for safe drug injection sites and a revamping, a realignment of their drug war policy. Things are changing, aren't they, Bill?

WILLIAM MARTIN: Oh, yeah, well, I think the mayor of Ithaca with this new report that they presented, which I just saw a little bit of it, even includes heroin assisted treatment, doesn't it? At least considering that, looking at it, because it has worked in other places.

DEAN BECKER: And, I think that's just indicative of the, oh, I don't know, not turning tail and running, but politicians across the board are starting to realize what they previously endorsed is not working. Correct?

WILLIAM MARTIN: Well, I think the example of the new head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, which used to be called the Drug Czar, Michael Botticelli, the new, on 60 Minutes, said, this has been a -- this 40 year war on drugs has been a miserable failure. And of course, our local, former local police chief said very much the same thing.

DEAN BECKER: The fact that some people are stating this, have the courage to say so, does give others the incentive and the courage to speak up as well. Right?

WILLIAM MARTIN: I think that's clearly true, and we really need those numbers to continue to mount. Legislators unfortunately, for example in Texas, a lot of the legislators will indicate that, well, they just are afraid they'll get primaried, and of course that's a reasonable fear. But, I think definitely, as more and more speak out, then others will gain courage to do it as well, so I'm optimistic. And I know you've been on this a long time, even longer than I have, on this whole cause for reform, but as our friend from the Drug Policy Alliance, Ethan Nadelmann said, it's good to feel the wind might be at your back for a while.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Yeah, and it's a pretty good gust at the moment, I think. Yeah. Bill, I wanted to come back to this March 9 event that's going to be at the James A. Baker III Institute there at Rice University. And we're going to have panelists, including our district attorney, Devon Anderson, the Baker Institute's own Gary Hale, one of the founding members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition Mister Howard Wooldridge, and we're going to have Texas Representative Gene Wu. Now, I'll be putting forward the questions, along with help from others at the Baker Institute. But this is a real chance for the community to come listen, to get involved, and become part of making that change. Correct?

WILLIAM MARTIN: That's correct. And this has been organized by my colleague, Dr. Katherine Neal, Katy Neal, who has been working and has done some work that Devon Anderson, the DA, has taken seriously about, she's very interested in diversion. You know, keeping people from getting a criminal record for minor drug use, or even for nonviolent drug use, is really, that's just such an important thing. It's often been noted that one of the worst things that can happen to you from, let's say smoking marijuana, is getting a criminal record for something that you shouldn't get it for. And Katy's been working on that, and has organized this program, and I think it's going to be really good. The DA is seriously open to listening, and to, she's actually made some pretty significant changes.

Gary Hale, you mentioned him, I think this is -- here's a good example. Gary Hale was a 31-year DEA agent, and for the last nine years of his career was the intel chief for the Houston field division with responsibility for the Mexican-Texas border, US border, for a great deal of it. And then after that was a liaison between Mexico and the US in the Merida Initiative. I mean, this is a guy who's been involved for a long, long time, and he believes we ought to be changing our drug laws, he certainly believes in medical marijuana, and says recreational marijuana is coming so let's think about ways to do this, let's do this in the right way. So, yes, there is, that is, and some of his former colleagues are worried about that, but we've -- yes, things are really changing and it's good to be on the side that's helped bring some of this change about.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed. Friends, we've been talking with Professor William Martin of the James A. Baker III Institute, and if you'd like to be a part of this, it's free. But we'd like to get you to RSVP so we'll know how many chairs, or how big a hall, to set up. And you can learn more at BakerInstitute.org.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Dehumanization, solitude, degradation, deprivation, dehydration, starvation, injury, humiliation, torture, suffocation, untimely teenage deaths. Time’s up! The answer is not a drug. It is drug treatment. Tough love.

KASSANDRA FREDERIQUE: Good afternoon everyone. My name is Kassandra Frederique, I'm the New York State Director at the Drug Policy Alliance, to talk about the Ithaca Plan: A Public Health and Safety Approach to Drugs and Drug Policy. Today, we are really fortunate to be hosting this call with the city of Ithaca to talk about their comprehensive drug strategy that they have just released today, which is available on the city website, CityOfIthaca.org.

Just want to take a couple of minutes just to provide the context of what happened today and the last couple of days. I'm sure you've all seen the media already about some of the announcements from Mayor Myrick. We are in the middle of a very publicized heroin and opioid epidemic. Overdose deaths have passed, again, accidental vehicular deaths. And what we know from the research and the science is that most overdoses are preventable. And we also know that we're in the middle of an explosion around mass incarceration, which has led to the criminalization of communities across this country. For a long time people have been building the kinds of conversations to say that we are ready to take a new approach to drug policy. States around the country are having conversations about what they can do to deal with the heroin crisis, what they can do to turn the clock back on mass incarceration, and how we can build healthier and safer communities.

However, there hasn't been much, there's been a lot of red tape, and the amazing thing about the work that is happening in Ithaca is that it follows in the footsteps of Frankfurt, Germany, in 1988; Vancouver, Canada, in 2001, and Toronto, Canada, in 2005, which have all created city-based strategies to deal with drugs and drug policies in their jurisdictions. They've realized that in order to get to the healthier, safer communities that they want, that promotes saving people's lives over stigma and shame, that they have to take their policies into their own hands. And so cities have created their own strategies. There has never been a United States, US jurisdiction that has created a city-based strategy to deal with drugs until today.

So first, I'd like to turn it over to Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick.

SVANTE MYRICK: I want to not recite every point of the plan, because the plan's now online on the city of Ithaca's website, and on my own facebook page. So you can read those 65 pages of recommendations. I want to talk instead about how we got here, here being a place in which we spend more money on locking people up, spend more money on policing the streets, and we still have more drug users and drug addicts than we did when we began the war on drugs.

That's something that has bothered me my entire life. I have personal experience with addiction, my father was a drug addict, and I saw that the way the system treated both him and our family only made the situation worse. Always knew that. Nine years ago, I was elected to the city council, I was only 20 years old, and when I was 24 I was elected mayor. Last year I was reelected mayor, so now for nearly a decade, been at the head of a system, I've been in charge of a system, and I've watched that system continue to make the same mistakes and use the same failed policies, while hoping for a different outcome.

So, three years ago I'd had enough, and I approached the Drug Policy Alliance with about 45 people in my community, and I told them that I wanted different answers. I didn't know what the answers were, but we had to try something else. And they really attacked this idea of attacking the problem of drugs as a problem of health policy. So they began doing focus groups, they talked to 350 people, they worked for two years, they traveled all over the country to look at best practices, and the plan they recommended is the Ithaca Plan. It's something that I didn't write, but I'm incredibly proud to have my name on it, I'm incredibly hopeful for. I believe it will save lives. I believe it will keep people in our community alive, and I believe it will also help them, give them the treatment, and they'll eventually recover.

So, I, so I'm super excited about that for my community. I also believe this will be a model for communities around the country. In the last 48 hours, I have heard wrenching stories from policy makers, elected officials, business leaders, pastors, and regular citizens from all over the world, who have read about our plan and want to look at it. So, as more information becomes available I think more communities will take matters into their own hands, and decide that they cannot wait for the federal government to fix this problem. They'll have to do it themselves.

KASSANDRA FREDERIQUE: Now I'm going to pass it over to one of the co-chairs of the Municipal Drug Policy Committee here in Ithaca, Lillian Fan.

LILLIAN FAN: Thank you. So, first I will read the prepared statement from our District Attorney, Gwen Wilkinson:

I'm disappointed that I'm not able to be here this afternoon, but I am grateful to have the opportunity to share some brief thoughts. Today with the release of the Ithaca Plan, I am prouder than ever to be an Ithacan. Because we are community willing to say, No more war, and to embrace a new approach to municipal drug policy. With the creation of the Ithaca Plan, we position ourselves to tackle challenging issues with policy recommendations that prioritize harm reduction, prevention, and treatment.

For years, law enforcement has carried the burden of dealing with substance abuse, mainly alone and without sufficient tools to do more than arrest offenders and seize drugs. Now law enforcement agencies are taking a new approach to direct drug users to find treatment outside the criminal justice system. The Ithaca Plan recognizes that addiction must be addressed as a public health issue, and that treatment must be more accessible than jail. Thank you to the Municipal Drug Policy Committee for your hard work, and thank you to the hundreds of community members who shared their experiences, ideas, and vision, which have shaped this report.

And for my remarks: I've been working in Ithaca with people who use drugs for over eight years. I've seen how harm reduction and compassionate care have prevented illness and death. I have injected people with naloxone and watched them come back to life after overdosing. The recommendations within this plan are not new, and many of the proposed strategies have been used successfully around the world. This is our opportunity to translate their success to ours.

KASSANDRA FREDERIQUE: Now, I'm going to pass it over to Don MacPherson, from Vancouver, Canada, who has been, who has for the last 20 years been a part of moving a four pillars approach through the city of Vancouver, which was one of the, he wrote the report, A Framework To Action: A Four Pillars Approach to Drugs, which was one of the lynchpin documents that Lillian and Gwen used, and the Municipal Drug Policy Committee used, to build out the process around the Ithaca Plan. Could you say a few words, Don?

DONALD MACPHERSON: Thank you very much, and it's a pleasure to be here, coming down from Vancouver to join Mayor Myrick and the rest of the team in launching this municipal drug strategy. Municipal drug strategies are not new, they're something that has emerged over the last number of years. In 2001, we developed a municipal drug strategy that had similar components to the Ithaca Plan. We were struggling with the same issues in Canada as people in the United States were struggling with: injection drug use, overdose deaths, HIV epidemics among injection drug users. And our mayor was very clear that we needed to do something, but we didn't know really what to do. It was a terrible situation.

So we looked around, and we put some pieces of the puzzle together. We talked to people outside of Canada, in Europe, in the US, across Canada, and we developed a municipal drug strategy that we felt would make the city of Vancouver a safer city for everybody, a healthier city. And it did. It was comprised of the four pillars of drug treatment, prevention, harm reduction, and law enforcement. And it was really important to have all of those pillars working together, and have the police inside the tent. Often the police are left to their own devices to try and solve the problem, and the police were calling for help in Vancouver at that time.

The program was launched in 2001, and it's evolving to this day. It's taking on more issues, mental health issues, housing issues, supportive housing issues. It has some of the components of the Ithaca Plan, some of them are controversial, but they're not, they're new to Ithaca, they were new to Canada at the time. But they were not new to other jurisdictions in Europe, they were highly evidence-based approaches: heroin assisted treatment, supervised injection sites, those sorts of programs. And the development of the four pillars drug strategy in Vancouver sparked a national discussion in Canada, and led to about 20 other municipalities taking on the job of putting together local drug strategies, to bring people together from the community, from the various institutional sectors, and police, to work together to reduce harm and save lives in our communities.

UNKNOWN: The first question comes from Michelle Faust with the public broadcasting in Rochester, New York.

MICHELLE FAUST: How are you looking at the legalities? I mean, the way this works in other countries, they have different laws. Are we concerned about, especially for the safe injection site, any repercussions on the federal or state level?

MAYOR SVANTE MYRICK: Sure. It's the mayor here. We hope to change the laws, so what the -- the plan fully recognizes that this is impossible in the current framework, points out that the current framework is broken, and suggests that it be changed. So, we hope to work with the folks in Albany to make this legal, and then to enact it.

MICHELLE FAUST: On the federal level, do you think that you will be getting the support that you're looking for? Drug policy in New York does recognize addiction as a health condition, but that's not the way it's looked at throughout the nation.

SVANTE MYRICK: Yeah, that's a good question. I think it depends on who is in the White House. I think it is very important who is in the White House. And, well, I probably can't say that sentence enough for the next year. I believe it is very important who is in the White House. I think it also -- we've seen over the last several years that the federal government is struggling to, and slowly coming to grips with the fact, that each state is going to create its own framework, and that they're going to respect whatever framework is established in each state. So our hope is that we can convince Albany and the folks there that this is good public policy, will save lives and help people, and we hope we can convince the federal government for the time being to stay out of our way while we enact policies that we know are good for our community.

MICHELLE FAUST: Is there any other lobbying that you hope to do to maybe get more funding so that there can be more beds? I spoke to a medical professional this morning before coming on this call, who said that maybe having safe injection sites isn't the right answer for a community the size of Ithaca, but maybe it would be best to have on-demand treatment, which is not available because of the amount of beds that are available.

SVANTE MYRICK: Yeah, it's great, so if you actually, if you get a chance to read the plan you'll see that we spend little time talking about supervised injection facilities, and much time talking about increased medical treatment and on-demand medicated treatment. So, that is one of the recommendations, it's an important one, and we do think we'll need resources. So, I've got a Prius here from that city of Ithaca that I've worn the tires out on already going down to Albany and driving to Washington, DC, and I'm going to continue doing that to try to bring the resources home.

There's always a question of resources. You know? Do you have the money, do you have the people power to get it done. I think we have both the money and the people power to get it started, but we're going to need help from the outside. We'll need support from the state, and we'll need support from private foundations to do this. And now I'm talking broadly about the plan. With, your question was in regard to supervised injection facilities. There, the largest roadblock is actually not financial but probably legal. You know, financially, these facilities are not that complicated, and they look like primary care facilities. Maybe even a little bit more stripped down. So, there it's not so much the money but the power to do it.

UNKNOWN: Thank you. Our next question comes from Andrew Casler with the Ithaca Journal. Thank you. The next question comes from Patrick Hilsman with TheInfluence.org.

PATRICK HILSMAN: What kind of pushback have you faced from the local community in Ithaca, if any?

SVANTE MYRICK: It is Ithaca. We're one of the most opinionated cities in the country, and people have not been shy about sharing their opinion. I would say the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Those who do not like the plan, specifically don't like supervised injections, I mean, what they're concerned about is whether or not this will enable people, you know, somehow encourage more heroin use. And what I've tried to communicate is that that's not likely to happen, for a few reasons.

First, if you believe that providing safe, clean places will encourage heroin use, then you must believe that what we currently have would discourage heroin use, which it doesn't. Right? People shoot up, the power of this drug is that people shoot up in dumpsters. Right? In gas station bathrooms. You know, people shoot up on the sidewalk. We have, our police officers are pulling over people who are shooting up while they are driving. While they are driving. So, you know, and conversely, the reasons why people use drugs are far more complicated than simply having a safe space to do it.

In Vancouver, where they've operated this for 10 years, nobody has ever -- nobody has ever walked into that facility and said, you know what, I have a meeting in half an hour, I saw this place, seemed interesting, I want to try some heroin. I mean, it's not how this works. It's the same thinking that caused us to not teach teens about safe sex, to not show them what condoms were, because we thought if they know what a condom was, they would want to have sex. Well, turns out they wanted to have sex anyway. And they were going to have sex, and by teaching them about condoms, we reduce the negative impact of that use. The teen pregnancy rate went way, way down.

The same thing with syringe exchanges. Everybody thought, up until recently, everybody thought if you have syringe exchanges you are somehow enabling people to use heroin. You know, let them keep the dirty needles and then they won't use the dirty needles, so they won't get high. Of course, that was madness. I mean, that's how we ended up with losing so many people to HIV and AIDS, not to mention hepatitis. All blood borne illnesses. So this is the same thing, you know, we are not enabling or condoning. We are protecting people, and introducing them to treatment in a time and a place where they're most likely to be subject to that treatment.

PATRICK HILSMAN: Many thanks, Mayor.

SVANTE MYRICK: Thank you.

UNKNOWN: Our next question comes from Dean Becker with Pacifica.

DEAN BECKER: Hi, Mayor. Thank you for your courage. My question, sir. I toured the Vancouver injection site, and much of the discussion has been focused around heroin users, but as I understand it, in Vancouver, those cocaine users, those using amphetamines, are welcome there as well. Will this be similar there in Ithaca?

SVANTE MYRICK: Yes, thank you for asking that. Yes, and the entire plan, the Ithaca Plan, is about all drugs, and there are recommendations in there that focus on marijuana use, and alcohol use, and even tobacco use, which of course kills more people than any illicit drug, and not even by, not by a close margin, by a long shot. So, yes, supervised injection facilities, particularly the 24 hour crisis center that we're recommending, and the detox facilities will focus on other drugs as well as heroin.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you, sir.

The following is a Drug Truth Network editorial.

I am Dean Becker, a former policeman and now a speaker for LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. I'm author of To End The War On Drugs, I'm a contributing expert to the James A. Baker III Institute, and for the last 14 years I've reported the drug war news for the Pacifica Radio Foundation. In 2012, I drove the LEAP-mobile more than 6,000 miles in support of the Caravan For Peace, Justice, And Dignity, along with Javier Sicilia and one hundred family members of those butchered in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. I work daily to expose the fraud and misdirection of the war on drugs. I've interviewed in excess of one thousand experts on the drug war, to include congressman, scientists, prosecutors, cops, wardens, and many others.

However, the top leaders around the world, especially in the US, the adamant proponents of the drug war, absolutely refuse to be a guest on my radio program. I have only fundamental question I want to ask all the world's leaders, the question: this prohibition enriches the barbarous cartels south of our border, and who have killed in excess of one hundred thousand individuals, mostly innocents, driving tens of thousands of mostly youngsters to the US, seeking shelter from the horrendous violence, only to be sent back to their home countries and a looming death sentence.

This everlasting war on plant products gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent US gangs who prowl our neighborhoods with high-powered weapons, selling contaminated drugs to our children, enticing them to lives of crime and addiction. We have ever increasing numbers of overdose deaths, and truth be told, despite the arrest of more than fifty million US citizens for drugs, and the expenditure of well over a trillion US taxpayer dollars, we've never managed to prevent even one child from getting their hands on their drug of choice.

So, I ask, what do we derive from this policy that even begins to offset the horror we inflict on ourselves and the whole world by continuing to believe in this prohibition? What is the benefit of drug war? The only way to stop the frenzy, the madness, is to destroy the three hundred billion dollar a year black market via regulation and state control.

We're flat out of time. I ask you to please go to our website, check out the video, it will help me win a contest to go to Honduras. It's available at DrugTruth.net. And as always I remind you, because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.