08/07/16 Doug McVay

Seattle Hempfest is August 19-21 this year! This week we look at marijuana legalization, and how medical, adult social (recreational), and spiritual uses of marijuana can co-exist.

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Sunday, August 7, 2016
Guest: 
Doug McVay
Organization: 
Drug War Facts
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CENTURY OF LIES

AUGUST 7, 2016

TRANSCRIPT

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.

Well folks, it's August. We're just a few weeks away from the 25th Anniversary Seattle Hempfest, that will be August 19, 20, and 21. I love going to Hempfest. It really is the largest marijuana protestival in the United States, it's three days of music, politics, and cannabis. The music stages have great crowds, really supportive and enthusiastic, it's great fun, though my favorite stage is the Ric Smith Hemposium. That's located in a tent at the south end of the venue, it's where they have keynote speakers and panel discussions. With the Hemposium stage, Hempfest becomes like a conference that just happens to have a music festival going on out back in conjunction.

This year, I'm scheduled to speak at a Hemposium panel on cannabis and the news media. Last year, I spoke on a panel that was about the future of legalization, whether medical, adult social, and spiritual uses can co-exist, and how they can co-exist. Spoiler alert: they can and they must.

The panel last year featured Keith Stroup, Kari Boiter, the New Jersey Weedman Ed Forchion, Gloria Kalteich, and Vivian McPeak alongside yours truly. I recorded the audio, but for some reason never used it on the show – well, until today, that is. The next voice you hear will be the panel moderator, Don E. Wirtshafter, he'll introduce the panelists for our opening remarks.

DON E. WIRTSHAFTER: Let's let each speaker introduce themselves and what they're doing about cannabis reform. And, let's start with Doug there on that end and work our way across.

DOUG MCVAY: Good morning, good morning. I am Doug McVay, as he said, I am, oh, I do a bunch of stuff: freelance journalist, I'm a reporter for KBOO radio in Portland, and I am also the host of a show called Century Of Lies, comes out every week, newest is going online today, oh my gosh. I'm also the editor and compiler of a resource called Drug War Facts at DrugWarFacts.org. Every bit of information you could want, and all presented in a kind of plain vanilla way, we don't have potleaf graphics, I don't have weed ads, I don't have bud babes -- sorry -- I don't have any music, and that's because I want a website that your kids and your grandkids can go to in their middle school and the school librarian will look at it and bookmark it because it's such a great resource. I want something you can send your grandparents to and they can have their church prayer circle look at, because they're interested in getting this information, and they know that when they get all these people going boo and scaring them, that it doesn't work.

That's sort of what I do. My purpose in life is to learn and to then communicate what I learned to other people. You folks are the ones who have to make people care. Well, you already care, you figured that out, what you need to do is communicate your passion. And the spiritual use for me has been the passion. I found that I've become a better person, concerned about things and people and stuff like that after I started smoking weed, and the more I got into my marijuana activism, the more I realized it's not really about pot. Like I say, you did a great job out here legalizing weed. Good start. There's a long way to go and god, do you have a lot of work left. Yeah, I think that's enough of an introduction.

DON E. WIRTSHAFTER: Gloria.

GLORIA KALTEICH: I'm Gloria Kalteich, I am a co-founder of the Continuum Fellowship of Universal Understanding. We are a group that meets on a regular basis, mainly made up of local activists, of varying religious backgrounds who share in the spiritual communion of cannabis, and, as well as the changes that we're working to create. Some of us have different viewpoints, I have friends that are on the fight that are medical users, I have friends that are recreational users, I know people who use for other purposes. I kind of come from the perspective that if your body is not well, your spirit is not well.

So, medical use serves the spirit, and part of the purpose of spirit is to have a good time in our life, and to be able to share in the joy of being alive, and recreational allows us to do that. So for me, it doesn't matter whether you're using it for recreational or for medicine, or strictly because it's a religious thing, they're all good for your spirit, and for what makes life good. And that's kind of what we teach and what we practice and do other community outreach. We have a garden, we share food, we do a lot of other things that are supportive of the spirit beyond cannabis.

DON E. WIRTSHAFTER: Keith.

KEITH STROUP: I'm Keith Stroup, I'm legal counsel at NORML, and NORML has always been a consumer lobby. It grew out of some work I had initially done with Ralph Nader. But, the consumer in this instance is the marijuana smoker, so we've always tried to represent the interests of marijuana smokers regardless of why they're smoking. Seems irrelevant to me, as to why you smoke. The government has no business knowing whether we smoke or why we smoke.

Now, interestingly, I spent a lot of my work and writing and speaking focusing on the fact that I think it's only incidentally about marijuana anyway. I think it's about personal freedom, and I do indeed believe that that's a universal concept, that you can connect with people, many of whom do not smoke marijuana. I think the reason we're winning this issue nationwide right now is because the majority of the nonsmokers, of the 86 percent who don't smoke, nonetheless have recognized that prohibition is a failed public policy, that it destroys the lives needlessly of hundreds of thousands of good, productive citizens. So they're anti-prohibition, they're not pro-pot, but that's all right, it means they vote our way. So, I think all of -- most of these reasons that we smoke may disappear in the bigger picture.

Now, I will say this, that I had a case in my own life where I began to have seizures, when I was 65 years old. And I didn't even know what a seizure was, or an epileptic was. Well, I am an epileptic. It's anyone who's had more than two seizures. My seizures were under control, but I can't help but tell you, when I first experienced the first seizure, it was very frightening, not being familiar with it. I called my good friend Lester Grinspoon at Harvard, who I thought, man, he knows everything, so Lester, what the hell's going on, I'm a 65 year old man and I just had a seizure. And he said Keith, you probably would have had seizures most of your adult life except you've been taking the best anti-seizure medication for all those years. And he's right, I've been smoking for 50 years. So, even without intending it as medical use, I suspect that it probably was keeping me from having seizures before they finally broke through. As you get a certain age, your neurons quit firing right, and seizures are more common.

Now, there's one other thing to I think's worth mentioning. I talk about this occasionally publicly, but I think one has to be careful. I think marijuana is more than just okeh, and I think it's more than just fun to get me high. When I have to do any serious writing, or thinking, if I'm trying to work on a speech and I'm, nothing's coming to my mind that seems worthwhile, I lock myself in my home office and get as stoned as I can in front of my computer and I write down every thought I have.

And the next morning, I look at them and some of them I laugh at, I mean, it's stoner stupid stuff that I should have recognized. But almost every time, there's one or two insightful thoughts I have that help me analyze an issue, and I'm surprised I wasn't able to come up with those when I was straight, but I wasn't. And so for me, and I think for a lot of people who use marijuana, part of the benefit is that it opens your mind up, it expands your mind, it's a little of the Andy Weil theory of life. Sometimes, experiencing expanded consciousness allows you to look at your life and your work and your family in a little better perspective. So, mostly I like getting high, but I think it also has a lot of other helpful aspects.

DON E. WIRTSHAFTER: Right on. Viv?

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Hello. My name is Vivian McPeak, I'm the executive director of Seattle Hempfest. I'm really honored to be at this table with all these absolutely wonderful people that I love and care for very much. I'm very proud to be here.

I've been smoking pot only for 40 years, Keith, I'm embarrassed, I'm kind of a newcomer, you know, I just started recently. But, and also, you know, I'm also like what Steven Gaskin used to call a traditional American hippie, and still proud of it, I'm still a hippie, believe it or not. To me, it was about a state of mind and lifestyle and a belief system rather than a time period or a fad or something like that. And to me, cannabis is a method, a upaya, a vehicle for introspection, for connection to the natural world, for reflection, for centering and grounding. I believe that cannabis prohibition is just a symptom of much greater and systemic war against the natural world that's global. On every level, when it comes to our food, when it comes to our medicine, when it comes to our energy, when it comes to our environment, when it comes to our marketing, our lifestyle, our packaging, you name it, synthetics. There's a war against the natural world and it's a war that if we win, we lose.

You know, at the very least, it's a feeling that we have to compete with the natural world, at the worst it's this feeling that we need to defeat the natural world, which is defeating ourselves, because we're part of that. And I believe that religion, just like cannabis use, is a -- just like the war to legalize cannabis and repeal prohibition, it's really about freedom of choice. You know?

The reason we do Hempfest isn't because we think that pot's for everybody, or that everybody should do pot. We think that everybody should have the choice, the right, every adult should have the right and the freedom to make that choice for themselves, just like they should be able to choose their medicine and their medical treatment, and what food they want to eat and whether it's GMO or not, or whether it's organic or not, and they should be able to also choose what religion, you know. This country is supposedly founded, literally founded, upon a belief of religious freedom. And so, we need to walk our talk, if we really mean it, if it means anything at all, then Americans should have the right to use cannabis if that's the way that they worship, the way they connect, the way that they project, or get grounded and centered with the spirituality of theirselves.

I do apologize, my stage, my first speaker starts at 11:35, so I daresay I'm going to have to bug out a little early, and apologize for that.

DON E. WIRTSHAFTER: Ed?

ED "NEW JERSEY WEEDMAN" FORCHION: My name is Edward Forchion, publicly known as the New Jersey Weedman. The question here is medical, recreational, spiritual use, can they co-exist. Yes, they can co-exist. They exist because I know I exist. I belong to all three fronts here. On the recreational side, which I prefer to call social, I've been smoking a little less than these guys. I think, I'm at around 35 years, though, I started at 15 and I'm 51 now, so, I'm right up there with you, though.

Medical, I got diagnosed in 2000 with a form of bone cancer. I've had a couple different procedures to take tumors out. Some of them just exist and don't bother me, other ones exist and they, they're extremely painful. Most people with my condition are hooked on some type of painkillers, Percocets, or, you know, oxycodones, or something. And I'll admit, I've used them, but I think the reason why I'm not hooked on any of those things is because I smoke as much marijuana as I do. You know, I even tell, you know, I tell people all the time, you know, even if I get, just get a headache, I'm not going to pop a Tylenol, I'm going to twist one up and smoke it all.

On the religious side, same thing. I was brought up a Baptist, you know, I think like most black people were brought up in a church setting. I went to church quite a bit when I was a kid, with my mom, with my grandmom, it seemed like with every family member in the world. And at some point when I was a teenager I kind of rejected it. I think for years I called myself an agnostic, only because I was too afraid to say I was an atheist. At some point, I even did call myself an atheist. And then sometime in my thirties, I started, you know, getting into Rastafari, and I think the reason why I even paid attention to that religion was because of the marijuana use. For years, I called myself a Rastafarian. At this point, I'm just a spiritual person, I'm not following anybody's particular religion. But, I do believe marijuana is spiritual. It was put here by a higher power. People who use it, and people who use it religiously, I always think are good people. I don't think I ever ran into a spiritual pot user who I also thought was an evil person. You know?

So, to answer the question, can they exist, yes. They can exist. Anyway.

KARI BOITER: Hi everyone. I'm Kari Boiter, and I am an advocate for criminal justice reform in a broad sense. And I say that because one in three of us, including myself, is a criminal, and has been through the criminal justice system. Most of us because of drugs. And it shouldn't be that way. The criminal justice system was made for violent offenders who harm people, for people in society who just can't take part without threatening others. And I certainly don't feel like I fall into that category, and that's why I have become an advocate for broader criminal justice reform. But I'm also a medical marijuana patient. I have a genetic condition that I was born with, it's nothing I did, it's not my fault. But it affects every system in my body. I have a lot of chronic pain, I have a lot of nausea, and I deal with vomiting. I lost actually 60 pounds from a lot of the stress that I've gone through in the last couple of years, and I couldn't stop losing weight. And cannabis helped me kind of keep it at bay a little bit, and so I certainly am a medical user.

But I also am an advocate for recreational use. I worked in the state legislature on the legislative proposal that ended up becoming 502, and I had to make some really difficult decisions for me, based on my own personal principles, that were not easy, and even though I had worked pretty hard on that policy, I ended up choosing to oppose the initiative at the ballot because of some criminalization of users that were happening in that initiative. However, it has changed the paradigm. There are less arrests in Washington. People can drive around and not worry about being stopped in a traffic stop and being searched simply because of the smell of marijuana.

Now, they do have to worry about, you know, being accused of driving impaired when they aren't impaired, but the actual use of marijuana and smelling it is no longer cause to pull people over and search their vehicles. So that's a huge, huge paradigm shift, and we can't deny that just because it wasn't necessarily the popular choice for everybody. And certainly spiritual use, I've been enlightened in ways that I can't even begin to sum up in this movement, not only because of the cannabis use, but because of the people that I've met that use cannabis, and they've been enlightened by it.

So I think the spiritual use is undeniable, and I do feel all three can co-exist, and I feel that on all three levels, we have a lot more work to do. And so that means we need to figure out a way for us all to co-exist and kind of, you know, work together some more, because we haven't won. It may be legal in Washington but people are still going to prison, people are dying in prison in this state, and so that means we need to continue to figure out a way to move forward together, because we aren't going to win if we're fragmented into three separate categories, when we all know in our own lives we've used this in all three ways.

DOUG MCVAY: That's from a panel at Seattle Hempfest's Hemposium stage featuring myself, Keith Stroup, Kari Boiter, Ed Forchion, Gloria Kalteich, and Vivian McPeak, moderated by Don Wirtshafter. We'll have more from that in a moment. You are listening to Century Of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Seattle Hempfest, the world's largest marijuana protestival. It will be held in parks along the Seattle Waterfront on August 19, 20, and 21. Marijuana, cannabis, hemp, whatever the word you use, the plant is the main focus, yet many of us will also be talking about broader issues, like harm reduction, access to treatment, decriminalization of all drugs, and much more.

On the show today, we're listening to portions of a panel discussion from last year's Hempfest on whether, and how, the medical, adult social use, and spiritual uses of cannabis can co-exist. The big question for everyone was how the roll-out of adult social use was going to impact the medical program and Washington patients. That's the big concern in my home state of Oregon, and in every state that has medical and is considering legalizing adult social use of marijuana. This audio is from last year yet in this election year, it's even more timely as more states consider legalizing some form of adult social use. So, let's get back to it. Don Wirtshafter, the moderator, asks the big question about how medical and adult social use will co-exist.

DON E. WIRTSHAFTER: So, two years ago, we had our debate here about I-502. Keith, Kari, were on opposite sides of that debate. The premise at the time was that I-502 would not affect the medical program that the voters of Washington initiated 15 years ago. Kari and others said it will, and, in retrospect, that seems right. Right? It, from our perspective, medical use in Washington has been totally run over in the implementation of I-502. What's NORML going to do about that, what can we do about this?

KEITH STROUP: Well, I think the first decision has to be made, and I know it's easy, that a lot of people confuse this, but what happened is, you lost control of your state legislature. In other words, when all of the people were voting, there was nothing in I-502 that limited medical use, as you know. But, there is some impression, it's not just here, Colorado's dealing with it, and I think other states will be soon, too. There's a -- there are a lot of experts who will say you can't maintain two separate markets, at some point it may be one market, where you simply don't have sales tax for example for patients, or you, you know, you've got to recognize that they can't all afford to pay the same high price that consumers pay. But I don't think the drive to unify the markets is mistaken. I think that will happen over time, period But we've got to be sensitive that we don't leave needy patients out.

Now, I will have to say this. When I sometimes hear this argument made, it was that we used to be able to have 28 plants, or something, and now we can't have more than 8 plants.

DON E. WIRTSHAFTER: And we can't get a recommendation for those 8 plants.

GLORIA KALTEICH: 24 to 6.

KEITH STROUP: Oh, 24 to, how many?

GLORIA KALTEICH: Six, I believe. 24 plants to six plants?

KEITH STROUP: You know -- I guess we're not quite sure what the minimum is. But, I think it's 8, but I may be wrong. But what I'm saying is, before you start making the case that patients are dying in Washington because they can only grow 8 plants, I don't think that's happening. Okeh? I think they're -- we've got to be --

GLORIA KALTEICH: Keith, if I might interject.

DON E. WIRTSHAFTER: Well, we're being busted. We're going through the criminal justice system.

KEITH STROUP: Not if you are following the terms of the law, it's just that the terms of the law have changed now, you know, because of the legislature. But I'm saying, I don't think you can fairly blame that on those who were wise enough to stop arresting smokers. What you can do is you can work to go back and improve it, and I'm all for that. I think in fact there are major efforts underway. You had personal cultivation in this latest amendment, up until some jackass in your legislature took it out. So, I mean I think it's possible to correct the problems with I-502, but I don't think you should blame the voters that approved the end of arresting marijuana smokers for the fact that you have problems in medical use.

DON E. WIRTSHAFTER: Viv?

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Yeah, I apologize, I'm going to have to leave pretty soon because I've got to introduce some folks, and I don't have anybody to cover for me. I voted against I-502 because of the DUI provision. However, I was glad it passed without my vote. I was glad it passed. In the long run I think, when the bigger picture nationally was more important. If Colorado would have passed and Washington hadn't, oh it's an aberration, those crazy Coloradans or those crazy Oregonians -- Coloradans, sorry. And I think it's been a tipping point, a critical mass to end this critical mess that we've had the four states pass.

But I think, even though the state legislature does look at -- some of the state legislature looks at marijuana as Oxycontin, cannabis, I think there's something deeply wrong, and that was, that is we have all of these medical dispensaries in Washington state that had supply chains, they did huge investments of money and capital getting established, they had supply chains, they had customer bases, they had point of sale systems, they knew the in and outs of the industry, they already were taking in money and selling cannabis, and instead of allowing them to transition into stores that could also serve the general public, we created an entirely new separate, let's create a new wheel, and we didn't even do it on a merit based system, we did it on a lottery system. Whoever wins the lottery gets to open a recreational store. And I think that that was a huge mistake that hasn't been replicated in some of the other states. I think they did it a lot better than we did.

I think that, I think that you could have 15 ounces and 24 plants, if I remember correctly, am I right, Alison? Previously, but now you can have I think 3 ounces and 6 plants.

VOICE FROM AUDIENCE: Yeah.

VIVIAN MCPEAK: I think is what it is.

VOICE FROM AUDIENCE: Four if you don't go on the registry.

GLORIA KALTEICH: Yeah, you can only have six if you put your name on a federal registry.

VIVIAN MCPEAK: All right, four plants if you don't go and sign to a registry, which we all know that there's a huge data breach where millions of peoples' SSI numbers from the government were costing millions, from China, so if you think that we can keep that registry out of the hands of the federal government, I think that's naive. So, I think you'd have to be a master gardener to grow four plants and create a month's supply of cannabis. A master gardener, and I think most patients are sick, they're broke, they don't know what they're doing. They can't produce for theirselves, and I think that it's terrible what's going on in Washington state, but I think it's complicated stuff, you know.

Ruben Carlisle, who was the sponsor of Senate Bill 2136, which just made it a class C felony, so that we couldn't have our adult use areas here at Hempfest this year, like we had last year, that were sealed off from children, which I thought was a model for the future, because there could be an adult use area in every event, every public event in Washington state, maybe all over the country eventually if we made those work, which is why we cooperated with the city and of course 15 days before Hempfest, the city said, you know those use areas we made you do, that you spent thousands of dollars on, and you bought $8,000 worth of fire retardant stuff that we made you put on them? Well, you can't do those this year. Fifteen days before the event, and we had sponsors lined up. It was a nightmare.

Anyway. Ruben Carlisle didn't want that in his bill. Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles voted for it, didn't even know it was in there. Pete Holmes, our city attorney, is furious about that, because he wants pot clubs. So it's a sausage factory in the legislature, it's very complicated stuff. And, you know, the guy that made that happen so that the bill could even pass at all was a rightwing Democrat who still looks at cannabis like it's Oxycontin or worse. I think we moved from the plutonium model to the Oxycontin model, and even the alcohol model's not good enough for cannabis. We need the cannabis model and it hasn't been done yet.

That said, there's a lot of, well, there's division in our community like I've never seen in my life. There are people that despise me because I didn't vote for I-502, didn't support it. Now there's people that despise me because people are saying that I was behind it. I've never seen the vitriol, I've never seen the vitriol like this before. And unfortunately, it's a part of the process of democracy. There's a lot of uninformed people that want to make this about personalities rather than issues, that want to blame people, they want to point fingers, they want to create hate, they want villains, and I think that that's a massive mistake, because this community was kumbayah for 35, 40 years, all totally in harmony. Not because we agreed on the implementation of the fine points of legalization, because it was so damn far down the road it seemed irrelevant. And now that we're doing it, we're being divided and that's a mistake.

We need to come back together and respect ourselves, respect the differences of opinion, the differences in strategy, the differences in versions of implementation, and I'll wrap up, because I think that we made a terrible mistake by allowing ourselves to be divided, because we can only go forward, go forth, when we're united in unity even though we may disagree. And as far as patients go, I think that the focus shouldn't be on who's the villain or who was behind I-502 or against it, or anything like that. It needs to be, how are we going to mobilize our legislature to protect patients, because I think what's happening is the state's looking for money. They're like, we need taxes, and like any large group that has armed people that can enforce things, takes over the black market. Right? Even, it was the mob, they eliminate the competition. And I think that's what we're seeing in Washington state.

DOUG MCVAY: You just heard Vivian McPeak, director of Hempfest, and Keith Stroup, founder and chief legal counsel of NORML, speaking on a panel at the 2015 Seattle Hempfest. This year's Hempfest is August 19, 20, and 21 in Seattle, Washington. Information, maps, schedule, and a lot more at their website Hempfest.org.

And well, that's all the time we have today. Thank you for joining us. You've been listening to Century Of Lies, we're a production of the Drug Truth Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org. 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.