07/03/16 Doug McVay

This week: the Adult Use of Marijuana Act is officially Proposition 63 on California's November election ballot; many medical marijuana dispensaries have closed in Washington state as the adult use system rolls over the medical program; and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime releases the new World Drug Report.

Century of Lies
Sunday, July 3, 2016
Doug McVay
Drug War Facts
Download: Audio icon col070316.mp3



JULY 3, 2016


DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century Of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello, and welcome to Century Of Lies. Century Of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

In the state of Washington, medical marijuana dispensaries were forced to close on July First as a result of the merger of the medical and adult social use markets. Dispensaries were for the most part allowed to compete for regular commercial licenses, which some were lucky enough to obtain. Those who want to continue servicing the medical market were required to get the medical endorsement from the state of Washington. Some were successful, which means they were required to hire a trained consultant to work with the patients.

By registering with the state, patients are allowed to purchase products sales-tax free; purchase up to three times the current legal limit for recreational users; purchase high-THC infused products, grow more than four plants in their residence, and have full protection from arrest, prosecution, and legal penalties, although patients will still have an affirmative defense.

Unfortunately, shortly before the system was to go into effect, the state announced that its database was not ready. Patients could only shop at adult use shops like a regular customer, paying sales taxes and being limited in what they could purchase or have in their possession. Then on the morning of July First, the day the new rules took effect, the state announced that its database was up and running.

We knew going into it that broader legalization was going to create problems in the medical market as legislators rush to bring in more tax revenue, the questions are, how many problems, and how bad will things get?

My home state of Oregon is beginning to experience these issues as well, as the adult use market rolls out and rolls over medical users. The lessons learned in Washington, Oregon, and in Colorado are extremely important moving forward, as other states follow suit and create their own legally regulated adult use marijuana programs.

That leads us to the other big news of the week: California voters will have the opportunity to decide whether or not to approve the Adult Use of Marijuana Act in this year's general election. On Friday, the California Secretary of State announced that the AUMA will be Proposition 64 on the November ballot.

Prop 64 is controversial. Some medical marijuana advocates have spoken out against it, others have embraced it reluctantly. The majority of drug policy reformers, along with most of the major drug policy reform organizations, have either already endorsed it or are likely to. As far as the adult social use market is concerned, Prop 64 is definitely an improvement over the status quo. The initiative was written in a way to minimize the impact on patients yet as we've seen in Washington and Oregon, even with the best of intentions things change after the election. The medical market in California is still trying to come to grips with the new rules in the recently-enacted Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, so really, it's hard to say what the impact of Prop 64 will be in the end, presuming it passes.

And now, on with the rest of the show.

Tony Papa is the manager of media and artist relations at the Drug Policy Alliance. He's just released a new book, titled This Side Of Freedom: Life After Clemency.

TONY PAPA: Well basically, in 1985, I made a big mistake. I got involved with drug activity. I was bowling in a team in Younkers, New York, and I kept coming late to the league, and a teammate said, hey, why are you coming late to the league? Because my car kept breaking down. So, well, why don't you fix it? I had no money. So, he says, well, you want to make some money? He introduced me to a guy who was actually dealing cocaine in the bowling alleys of Westchester County. I met him, he started talking to me, asked me if I wanted to make money. At first, I said no, I didn't want to get involved.

So, a couple of months later, when things -- it was like, you know, Christmas time, things got slow in my business. I owned a radio installation business. I needed money for rent, Christmas gifts. Things got bad. And desperate. And when things get desperate, you do stupid things. Guy wound up calling me up again, and he asked me if I wanted to make some money. This time I said yeah. So, like a carrot dangling on a string, he says, look, bring this envelope up from The Bronx to Mount Vernon, make an easy $500, it could be a steady thing. So, I said okeh. I wound up bringing the envelope up, and I walked into a police sting operation. Twenty cops came out of nowhere, I was placed under arrest. I did everything wrong I could do. The guy actually was working with the police. He had three sealed indictments, the more people he drew into the case, the less time he supposedly was going to get.

So I wound up, not knowing what I was doing, did everything wrong, and I wound up being sentenced to fifteen years to life under the Rockefeller drug laws. I went to Sing Sing Prison, in Ossining, New York, where I was lost. Didn't know really what to do. And then, I discovered my talent as an artist from another prisoner, and that I used as a tool to transcend the negativity around me, to find meaning and purpose in my life. So I became a painter.

One night in my cell, after three years, I picked up a mirror, I looked in the mirror, I saw an individual who's going to spend the most productive years of his life in a cage. And then I picked up a canvas, and I painted this self portrait. I titled "15 To Life." Seven and a half years later, wound up at the Whitney Museum of American Art. While I was in prison. I got a lot of publicity on my case, and about two and a half years later, Governor George Pataki of New York granted me executive clemency. So I literally painted my way to freedom.

Came out, didn't know really what to do with my life, then one day, I was invited to speak at this, this center -- it was actually a prison for kids. Spofford Correctional Facility. I went there to speak to these ten to fifteen year old boys and girls, and I walk into the cafeteria, and I was blown away seeing all these young kids in this prison for kids. And that changed my whole life, from that point on, you know, I said I want to do something about it. I want to save, I mean, if I can save one of these kids' lives, from not doing -- walking the road I walked, I want to do this.

So then, I began my activism. A rescue mission to save those I left behind. I co-founded a group, Mothers of the New York Disappeared, with Randy Credico of the William Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice, and on May 25th, 1998, it was the 25th anniversary of the Rockefeller drug laws, we staged this rally on 50th Street and Rockefeller Center. And basically we had about 20 people, loved ones of those incarcerated, ex-prisoners, and we started this movement. All New York press showed up, and at that point we said this is how we're going to, you know, change the Rockefeller drug laws in New York state, by putting a human face on this issue, which was not done before.

A lot of people joined us. Al Lewis, "Grandpa" Al Lewis, politicians, but it took a while. You know, I went to Albany, I was lobbying, and then I found out, we weren't going to change the laws from the top down. When I talk to these assemblymen, and, you know, they'd say look, I understand these laws are good, and this and that, but that was the public view. Behind the closed door, they had a different view. Look, we know these laws don't work, but if we try to stop them, change them, we'll look soft, we'll lose our jobs. So it was at that point I said, you know, we've got to change this, not from the top down, from the bottom up. So we started this street movement. And it took us about 8 years, and we finally, we changed public opinion, where at that point about 85 percent of New Yorkers wanted to change the Rockefeller drug laws. Then all the politicians started coming aboard, and took us a few years, and eventually we got reform of the Rockefeller drug laws in 2003, 2004, and then 2009 we got historic reform under Governor Paterson.

So I've been -- dedicated my life to the issue of fighting the Rockefeller drug laws. And now, in my work at Drug Policy Alliance, it expanded to, you know, around the country, on federal laws, and this is what I do today. I work for DPA, with our leader, Ethan Nadelmann. It's a great organization, we've got about 75 people, 8 offices around the country. And we tackle the tough issues, and we fight the drug war.

So that's how the story started, that's how I got involved with this. I wrote my book, my first memoir, was published in 2004 by Feral House, and it was called Fifteen To Life: How I Painted My Way To Freedom. And, it was a good book. I got a lot of great endorsements, Susan Sarandon, Russell Simmons, even Andrew Cuomo. Jack Black, Tim Robbins, Frank Serpico, "Grandpa" Al Lewis. All great endorsements, and the book was mostly about, that memoir was about my prison experience, and how I survived being in prison, serving that 15 to life sentence.

Now, recently, just last month, I came out with my second memoir, called This Side Of Freedom: Life After Clemency. And it talks about my life as a free person, and what I've been doing for the last 18 years. I wanted to write a book basically talking about my life and using it as a hook, actually, about the issue of re-entry for other prisoners. You know, because, in the world we live in, recidivism exists. About 70 percent have returned within three years, but I'm one of the few that have not returned. So this story is about my life, and what I've been doing, and trying to change the laws, going on a rescue mission, saving those I left behind. And, I must say, it's not an easy thing, but I enjoy what I do.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Tony Papa, an artist and writer who is the manager of media and artist relations for the Drug Policy Alliance at their New York office. Information about his new book This Side Of Freedom: Life After Clemency is available through his website, which is 15ToLife.com, that's 15ToLife.com.

You're listening to Century of Lies. I'm your host, Doug McVay.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime recently released its annual World Drug Report. They had a press event to announce the launch. Let's listen to some audio from that. Here's Anja Korenblik, chief of the program development and management unit of the research and trend analysis branch for UNODC.

ANJA KORENBLIK: This year's thematic chapter of the World Drug Report provides a special focus on the world drug problem within the context of the new Sustainable Development Goals. In analyzing these linkages, as you can see on the screen, we have divided the SDGs into five broad areas: Economic Development; Social Development; Environmental Sustainability; Peaceful, Just, and Inclusive Societies; and Partnerships.

In the analysis, we have tried to divide this in four arrows. What you can see on the screen, the relation between drugs and development, between development and drugs, between the drug response and development, and between the development response and drugs.

This is of course, sounds quite complicated, and it's very comprehensive, and I will only highlight a few things of these. I would like to mention also that, in order to do this analysis, we had to use a wide range of sources for this chapter, including officially reported data and academic literature, as little information is available on the analysis -- little official information is available on the analysis of the links between development and drugs. So you -- you can also see in the report the wide range of sources we used.

Actually, I should be starting here with the SDG number three, Health and Wellbeing, but since Jean-Luc has explained already a lot about that relationship, and the whole Chapter One of the World Drug Report actually looks at that, I will now here focus on the Economic Development, and how we analyzed that.

Under Economic Development, we looked at the goals, Poverty, Goal One; Economic Growth, Goal Eight; Education, Goal Four; and Inequalities, Goal Ten. And first, we asked ourselves, what is the difference between developing and developed countries in terms of drug use? And comparing countries income levels and prevalence rates for the main drug categories, we found that high income countries tend to have higher prevalence of past year drug use across the drug categories. This you can see clearly on the screen, if you look at cocaine, which is the ones you see below. You see the very high bar on the high income level countries.

In, with amphetamines it's a little bit different, because amphetamines are of course produced all over the world, and they're relatively cheap, so you don't see this clear pattern. But if you take all the drugs together, you do see this pattern, that in high income countries the prevalence rate is higher.

And specifically the drugs that command a relatively high price, and ultimately higher profits for the traffickers, find an easier foothold in countries with relatively higher levels of income. Now, this is a macro analysis, of course, and that doesn't mean that other factors do not play a role, such as geographic location, being close to countries that produce drugs, or cultivate drugs, and proximity to trafficking routes. So for example in West Africa you find higher cocaine prevalence rates because of the trafficking route.

Now, if we go from macro to micro level, then we see something different. We look at what is happening within countries, we see that there's a strong link between poverty and several aspects of the drug problem. In rural areas, poverty and the lack of sustainable livelihoods are important risk factors leading farmers to engage in illicit cultivation. Generally, economic and social disadvantage is a significant risk factor for drug consumption to develop into drug dependence. Poverty is associated with drug use disorders because poor people are more vulnerable, and more likely to live on the margins of society.

Now, if you look at the screen, you see something interesting, meaning higher socio-economic groups may play a separate role in facilitating the onset of recreational use as a first step in the formation of illicit drug markets. This example you see is from Colombia, which shows a very distinct pattern for past year drug use, and for drug dependence. On the left side you see past year, on the right side you see dependence. And you see the different socio-economic classes from one to six, with one being poor and six being the more wealthy. So the blue is the more wealthy, and the red is the poorer. And you see that between past year drug use, where the blue is the highest, you move to abuse/dependence, and then suddenly the red becomes the highest.

So these are data from one country, and it shows actually quite clearly what we have written down there, that higher socio-economic groups have a greater propensity to initiate drug use than lower socio-economic groups, but it's the lower socio-economic groups that pay the higher price, as they are more likely to become drug dependent. So it's also to appreciate the difference where we say past year drug use, and abuse/dependence, which is mostly when you use monthly or even more.

We also looked at the link between unemployment and drug use, and here you see data from the United States, where a detailed breakdown of unemployment status among past month, so past month drug users in the United States, shows differences across drug types. Heroin, methamphetamine, and crack, so those are the ones on the left side, were the drugs most associated with unemployment. And this relation works both ways. Drug users are more likely to be unemployed, but unemployed are more likely to be drug users. So there's in the report you'll find another graph that looks at the relation the other way around.

Environmental Sustainability. One of the key elements of the Sustainable Development Goals is Environmental Sustainability, and the main link with the drug problem is through illicit cultivation and production, or manufacture. Illicit cultivation contributes to direct and indirect deforestation. This little picture that you see there is supposed to show you that. It's, what it shows is already the direct and indirect relationship. Direct, when you grow poppy or coca and you replace forest, but indirect when you do associated activities that then also cause deforestation. This is actually putting it a little bit in perspective, because the area is a little bit smaller than maybe one would have expected. And indeed, the analysis we do in the report does not really support a claim that illicit cultivation is the major driver of deforestation, and research actually suggests that a lack of rural development is that, what drives the phenomenon of deforestation.

We have also done an analysis of drug trafficking and the impact on deforestation, and there we have indeed seen some cases where there's a direct impact on deforestation through the construction of landing strips and roads, as well as through the privatization of public lands to create narco-states.

I have listed some other factors that play a role, and of course the obvious one is drug processing, but to be honest, there is very, very little hard evidence of this because practically nobody is measuring that, so it's very difficult to attribute, you know, environmental degradation to actually drug processing.

In urban areas obviously we also have the issue, because in amphetamine production etc., they dispose of the chemicals just in the water.

Then, the important Goal Sixteen. Goal Sixteen seeks the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies, and calls for reduction in violence, illicit financial and arms flows, and corruption and bribery. The World Drug Report sheds some light on the ways in which the drug problem results in different manifestations of violence. While the intensity of drug related violence is greatest when associated with drug trafficking and production, they do not necessarily produce violence, as illustrated by this graph here, which shows homicide level as an indicator of violence, and the size of the cocaine trafficking flow passing through the countries. You see data from 13 countries in Latin America, and you see actually that in all the boxes there, in all the quarters, there are countries. So when there's a high flow of -- high cocaine trafficking, high homicide rates, but also high cocaine trafficking, low homicide rates. Or low cocaine trafficking, high homicide rates. So you have all the combinations, which makes us conclude in the report that violence is not a forgone conclusion of drug trafficking.

There's other factors that play a role, other variables that are inside that graph, that play a role, and I've listed some of them on the slide.

The Criminal Justice System. The report analyzes the influence of the criminal justice system on drug trafficking as well as on drug use. For example, the enforcement of drug related laws may result in a corresponding burden on the system and require resources, which may be limited. We see on the left side that at the global level, drug related offenses, both for trafficking and consumption, have slightly increased over the past decade. You have to, this is an index put at 100 on the year 2003, so if it then, from 2003, increased or decreased, that's what you see. Now we see that for the drug related offenses, it increased, but all -- for all the others which we are listing there, rape, robbery, etc., it has decreased. So that's actually slightly worrying.

Among, if you now look at the other graph, among the convicted prisoners, 18 -- 18 percent are in prison for drug related offenses. But there are quite some differences between the regions, as you can see.

Partnership. So, the provision of assistance for Global Sustainable Development is another key goal, key Sustainable Development Goal. And the efforts of the international community in countering the world drug problem have long recognized the importance of partnership, as embodied in what we call common and shared responsibility. This was confirmed again at the recent UNGASS. But if you now look at the data on provision of official development assistance by OECD countries, show, they show that while official development assistance has been increasing overall, commitments for drug related sectors have gone down. In 2014, it was 0.14 percent of ODA. So less than 0.2 percent. Given the strong links between drugs and development, this seems rather unbalanced.

So, this is, now we get two sort of summarizing slides, that puts, basically, everything together. This one focuses on drug use, on drug problem use, problem drug use. Already the links between marginalization and problem drug use were discussed, and what we summarize it here, and we put there the need for certain policies to break this cycle. So it highlights the need for drug policies to be based on human rights, to be sensitive to gender, based on scientific evidence, overcome stigmatization of drug users, and ensure that no one is left behind. But it also shows the need for development policies to take into account the interconnectedness and the potential risk associated with social and economic change. And you see that sort of in the, on the left side. These risk factors, they are influenced by development policies also. So they can have a great impact also on breaking this vicious cycle.

And then, the last slide, this you already heard from previous speakers also. The two streams of intervention, developments and countering the world drug problem, need to work in symbiosis. Development initiatives need to be sensitive to drug vulnerabilities, and responses to the drug problem need to be mindful of the broad development aims. That this can work, we have shown already in last year's World Drug Report that focused on alternative development, where we saw that successful alternative development experiences have shown that sustainable development can be achieved when targeted drug responses are mainstreamed into broader development programs.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Anja Korenblik, chief of the program development and management unit of the research and trend analysis branch of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. She was speaking at the launch of this year's World Drug Report.

And well, that's it for today. Thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century Of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org. The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, please give its page a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give it a like and share it with friends. You can follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts.

We'll be back next week with thirty minutes of news and information about the drug war and this Century Of Lies. For now, for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition: the century of lies. Drug Truth Network programs archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.